Follow up on Dan Savage's Attack on the Bible That Inspired Walkouts

Yesterday’s post of a Dan Savage video has been unusually popular and continues to get hits so let me add a couple follow up links on matters of interest related to it, for all those trafficking through on the video’s account:

For one, there is a controversy which lies in the background of the video, one about whether or not it is fair to consider Christian students who object to the morality of homosexuality in school to be engaged in intolerable bullying simply by voicing such views. I recommend a dialogue I wrote on this topic last fall called Bulling or Debating? Religious Privilege or Freedom of Speech which attempted to give an evenhanded consideration of the complexities of that issue. For a particularly strong case for the position that religious students should be curbed in their right to condemn homosexuality in public school settings, even when they are only speaking in the abstract, see James Croft’s remarks in the comments sections of that post.

Secondly, Dan Savage has, subsequent to this video going viral, posted follow up clarifications and retractions. He rightly apologized for his use of the word “pansy-assed”. But, more annoyingly, he has tried to water down his condemnation of Christianity, making very unconvincing appeals which amount to implying that it would be wholly unreasonable to infer he would ever denounce the religion in which he was raised!

He has tried to delicately parse a tenuous distinction between calling parts of the Bible bullshit and calling Christianity, in turn, bullshit. He is squeamish on the word bullshit, half-apologizing for using it. I can understand the desire not to alienate people who would otherwise listen to arguments if the word bullshit were not included in them (though I still think it is valuable for reasons explained below). But implying that Christianity itself is not deserving of criticism itself, but only the bad parts of the Bible are, is cowardly weaseling from a man who surely knows better. It’s also a troubling acquiescence to advice he says he received which was along the lines that one simply cannot call anyone’s religion “bullshit” in today’s America.

Such demands make it clear to me that it is absolutely incumbent on those of us who think religions are bullshit to start saying so more frequently and to fight to stop this trend of insidious undue deference to baseless believing. It is the result of decades’ worth of concentrated effort by the Religious Right to make politics bow the knee to fundamentalist religion, combined with the Left’s confused understanding of the value and limits of multiculturalism. Of course no one deserves to be made into a second class citizen on account of their beliefs. But American freedom of speech has to not only politically but morally and intellectually guarantee that all beliefs are open to rational scrutiny by public figures and intellectuals without fear of career reprisals.

Religions do not deserve the support of the rules of politeness when it comes to their truth and falsity. The public sphere should not revere indiscriminately everything that tries to halo itself with the name of religion. The secular public sphere should feel no such shyness about sacrilege, blasphemy and treating religion rudely less it implicitly be in the political thrall of the religious sphere. To so refrain from unabashed, scrupulously rational, public criticism of religion is to favor and support it implicitly. This is intolerable. Forcing atheists to honor the excessive reverences of religious feelings is coercing atheists to treat as sacrosanct that which their own consciences do not judge to be genuinely sacrosanct. This goes beyond normal social politeness and deference to other cultures’ traditions to the point of atheists having to de facto accept religious restrictions in their own right, on account of their being religious. That’s intolerable to my atheistic conscience and should be to other atheists’ consciences as well, as it cuts to our very right to live thoroughly independent of deference to all religious authorities which we don’t believe in.

Finally, Savage’s distinction that he was not attacking Christianity when attacking the Bible on account that he knows there are some good Christians whom he very much appreciates, seems to confuse attacking Christianity with attacking all Christians whatsoever. Christianity can still be directly attacked even if there exist some more (thankfully) progressive strands and virtuous individual Christians just as much as America or Americans as a group can be justly criticized for our government’s behavior or our fellow citizens’ regular, overall patterns of behavior—even if some of us individual Americans disassociate ourselves from our corporate behavior and personality. That’s how groups and group membership works. It sucks, but it’s part of the reason group members have a vested interest in not letting the collective they contribute to be a rotten one.

Your Thoughts?

  • Statistician

    My usual response to belligerent atheists is that I do not care if they respect my beliefs because they will get no respect from me for their beliefs (or, perhaps more appropriately, lack thereof). As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think “New Atheism” appeals to the low IQ set.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Whatever helps you ignore arguments you can’t refute, I guess you’re welcome to it. Enjoy the cocoon.

    • Nomad

      As a Statistician, which is partially a science field, shouldn’t you know better than to accept fairy tales?

      Unless you chose Statistician in name only, in which case, try a new name. I have a good one. Sheepistician, or Sheepocrite. Either works well here!

    • Erista (aka Eris)

      It always amuses me and makes me a little sad when people go around advertising firmly held beliefs for which they have no backing. Seriously, “As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I think ‘New Atheism’ appeals to the low IQ set.”? So you not only made this statement once without any kind of supporting evidence, but after having said it once, felt no need to go out and actually get some evidence before you said it again? Because usually when I say, “I think blah blah blah,” it’s based on the underlying assumption that the information is out there, but I don’t currently have access to something that can get me the information (like the internet) B) I don’t think the information is out there because we don’t have enough data, and I’m speculating from insufficient information. In either case, running around acting like my statement should be taken as fact rather than uninformed speculation is never a good plan. Or do you just not CARE if what you’re saying is true?

    • http://becomingjulie.blogspot.com/ BecomingJulie

      I could make several pages of subtle, nuanced argument against your unfounded assertions; but since brevity is a virtue, all I feel the need to say is: Bollocks.

    • jamessweet

      Whatever helps you ignore arguments you can’t refute, I guess you’re welcome to it. Enjoy the cocoon.

      QFT. Love it! :D

    • Dustin

      Yes, we should respect your belief, as you should respect mine that Star Wars is actually based off fact. I believe Darth Vader sent his only son to Earth to pass down the ‘Good News’ to George Lucas to create the movies so we’re all prepared for the real rapture when the Sith come to cleanse us. Realize this was a long time ago in a galaxy far far away, we’re just waiting for them to reach us. It will be glorious! I’m working on campaigning for local Governor here, then maybe Senator, or President, so I can bring my beliefs to the American people. It’s time we enact laws to prepare for the war, our children will begin their training almost when they start to walk; tough disciplinary training where they will learn to fight for the Force. Unfortunately if you are found to lack any sort of Force powers, or you’re just unable to tap into them, you will be considered an abomination. You will be ridiculed and shunned because it is YOUR fault you won’t submit to the Force. If you doubt what I’ve brought to your attention here, I must remind you that these stories are written down in a book written by men (perhaps just the one), however most have been exposed to the truth in its movie adaptation. I suggest reviewing these movies and tapping into your ability to use the force now, before it’s too late! Jedi Bless you

  • Statistician

    Don’t flatter yourself Dan. I’ve seen the arguments of “New Atheists” and they are intellectually inept, Dawkins’ God Delusion being an outstanding example.

    • Erista (aka Eris)

      Erm, or maybe you’re having trouble with the term “IQ.” If someone is making arguments that you disagree with, arguments that you do not find convincing, that is not the same as having a low IQ. Whatever you feel about Dawkins, he clearly doesn’t have a low IQ, or he would never have received his PhD, to say nothing of having made a successful career as a scientist. Unless you’re trying to argue that ones IQ has nothing to with one’s ability to succeed in academics, which would be a strange argument to be making.

    • Nomad

      Erista, I am sad to say that IQ has very little correlation with success.

      However, generally, people who are religious are proven, in a study by Richard Lynn, and the University of Ulster, to have lower IQs.

      In the study, it found that 80% more Atheists had a higher IQ than Theists, in over 137 countries that the study took place in.

      It also concluded that those who have financial trouble, are more inclined to be religious, out of necessity to cope with the lack of schooling (and lack of gaining reason through schooling), which is why many poorer countries are more religious.

    • Tony

      Ok, so now we know how you feel. Would you care to explain why they’re intellectually inept?
      Perhaps you’d care to discuss why you singled out Richard Dawkins’ book too?
      Do you have any support for your opinions? If so, please state them.
      If not, then we’re simply going to laugh at your unsupported opinions, which clearly are meant to appeal to those of a low IQ.

    • electrojosh

      Don’t flatter yourself Statistician. I’ve seen the arguments of “Old Theists” and they are intellectually inept, The Bible being an outstanding example.

      (Hey look, I can make the same sort of unsuported attacks you can – its a lot easier than presenting actual arguments or evidence but I get to feel just as smug).

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Here’s a statistic for you, “Statistician”—roughly 75% of professional philosophers report being one variety or another of non-theist. Only 14.8% outright accept theism.

      Those are not just biology professors writing popular books on atheism for non-philosophers, but the actual experts in the issues related to metaphysics and epistemology that bear on the question of the existence of God. The consensus is overwhelmingly against theism. But they probably just have low IQs I guess.

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2010/05/18/69-7-of-philosophy-phd-holders-accept-or-lean-towards-atheism/

    • F

      Show how atheist arguments are inept. So far, you have no argument whatsoever. Even assuming you are right on this point, you are still more inept than atheists.

    • mikmik

      That’s a real nice opinion you’ve got there. Nothing to corroborate it, mind you.

  • Statistician

    @Tony

    See here for one of my criticisms of TGD.

    @Erista

    Obtaining a PhD is not necessarily correlated with a remarkable degree of intelligence, although my comment re: “the low IQ set” was mostly directed at Dawkins’/Dennett’s/Myers’ etc. hangers-on. Still, I am not particularly impressed with Dawkins’ reasoning or his scientific output. (Even if I didn’t consider ethology to be essentially worthless, his contributions appear to be pretty trifling. He is far more of a populizer than a scientist.)

    • Drivebyposter

      Your criticisms are utter shit.

      I’d go into detail as to why, but hey, brushing aside arguments with a single sentence is a precedent set by you.

    • http://www.hyperdeath.co.uk hyperdeath

      Statistician / Robert O’Brien:

      See here for one of my criticisms of TGD.

      So that’s why “Statistician” seemed familiar, he’s the infamous Robert O’Brien. For those unfamiliar with the name, this guy is a fucking legend. He’s like a high(er) functioning David Mabus. He’s who Ed Brayton refers to with his Robert O’Brien Award, and has had a place in the Pharyngula Dungeon since birth.

      Needless to say, he likes to mix first-paragraph-of-the-Wikipedia-article grade philosophy with malignant arrogance.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Is this him?

    • http://www.hyperdeath.co.uk hyperdeath

      I very much doubt it, unless you have additional evidence. The Robert O’Brien in question has a blog, which gives a long list of interests in the profile section. Psychology and criminology aren’t mentioned.

  • alexmartin

    Just a funny thought about the BS in the Old Testament.

    There are three types of Jewish laws, ceremonial, civil, and moral. Guess under which one would it be “abominable” or an “abomination” to sacrifice crayfish to their god?

    Parents stoning their sons? Of course Dan knew that within the primitive cultures of the day, infanticide was common and that children were considered the property of their parents. The Jews adopted those attitudes. Children had little to no recourse and could be slain virtually at will, particularly within the surrounding “pagan” societies. Child sacrifice alone was common and prevalent. What the OT introduced was a barrier to this practice. No longer could a father slay his son at will. Mothers were taken into account and esteemed for the first time, as both parents had to petition the leadership–FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER– to have THEM kill their child.

    Instances of child killing would have necessarily DROPPED after that policy change. So, what initially may have appeared as no more than mere ignorant, savage barbarism turns out actually to have been a means to save lives and to institute a better system of justice WITHIN accepted societal norms. Context is everything.

    But of course, Dan savage knew that all along. He just got a lot of mileage out of parroting these and other, er, misunderstandings. I’m sure.

    Just a thought, if you cared.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke
    • http://www.myspleenwelcome.blogspot.com/ Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

      But listen to Savage’s argument again: He wasn’t making a point about whether or not the OT laws were better than what they replaced; he was pointing out that modern Christians don’t really follow them… except, of course, when they cherrypick the ones that support their prejudices.

    • Statistician

      My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament. This might put me outside of “orthodoxy” but my nontrinitarianism already places me there anyway.

    • John Morales

      Statistician:

      My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament.

      Mmmhmm.

      (How much is left? ;) )

    • GMacs

      Really? You know for a fact that child-killing was rampant?

      I don’t buy it. This kind of behavior would be strongly detrimental to a society, and such cultures would probably be weakened and conquered within a couple generations, unless of course these people were humping like rabbits. I may be wrong though. I would like some evidence or citation here.

      This still, however, does not excuse what the Bible says. Every time the Bible is criticized I hear Christians say something along the lines of “well, it’s not the worst moral code, so is it really that bad?”.

      And so many Christians criticize the left for being morally relativistic.

    • snebo154

      Are you actually praising the wisdom of a merciful God whose inerrant book REDUCES the incidence of infanticide by limiting it to the cases where not one but both parents want it? You are not even a passable apologist and I wonder if this may warrant the shouting of “Poe”.

    • sqlrob

      My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament.

      How do you justify that when Jesus said the old still applies?

    • Anat

      My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament.

      So the rules on slavery stand, as the Greek Scripture demands that slaves obey their masters? Or should we agree with Dan Savage that the Bible (Hebrew or Greek) is wrong about slavery and can be ignored on that matter? And if it is wrong about slavery what else might it be wrong about? Why not conclude it is not useful as a moral guide – sure, it gets the occasional thing right but one only knows which if one has a system of thinking on moral issues independent of the Bible?

  • Erista (aka Eris)

    I’m not saying that a PhD means a high IQ or that a high IQ means success; I’m saying that having a low IQ is generally an indicator of problems. It is my understanding that high IQ doesn’t really correlate with much of anything, but low IQ correlates with mental retardation and the like.

  • BeckyK

    Well, there has been some effective diversion from the blog post by a couple of theists.

    I agree with you Dan and isn’t this exactly what the Gne Atheists are about? I think your point about having to accept religious restrictions is very important.

    I’d also like to say that the kids who walked out did not look offended or upset for the most part. Many were smiling as the left the room. People who are offended or upset or angry don’t generally smile as they leave a room they have just been treated offensively in.

    • Nomad

      BeckyK, I’m thinking that they are smiling because they’re laughing to themselves about how Savage is going to burn in Hell, or be judged poorly, or whatever they think happens after someone who is truly enlightened dies.

      If I believed in something enough to devote my life to it, and someone told me that it was wrong (and let’s face it, any religion is wrong) than I too might laugh at the sheer idiocy that I perceive that person as having, even when they make valid points.

    • snebo154

      It is entirely possible that they are smiling because they are participating in something that was planned beforehand and they are pleased at the consummation of there plan.

    • snebo154

      Their, I sewear I tyoed their.

  • Statistician

    @Dan

    It is quality, not quantity, that counts, and the truth is not decided by a majority vote. Moreover, philosophers who are not PoR typically do not understand the classical arguments for God. Here is an illustrative example:

    The Cosmological Argument, which in its simplest form states that since everything must have a cause the universe must have a cause–namely, God–doesn’t stay simple for long. Some deny the premise, since quantum physics teaches us (doesn’t it?) that not everything that happens needs to have a cause. Others prefer to accept the premise and then ask: What caused God? The reply that God is self-caused (somehow) then raises the rebuttal: If something can be self-caused, why can’t the universe as a whole be the thing that is self-caused? This leads in various arcane directions, into the strange precincts of string theory and probability fluctuations and the like, at one extreme, and into ingenious nitpicking about the meaning of “cause” at the other. Unless you have a taste for mathematics and theoretical physics on the one hand, or the niceties of scholastic logic on the other, you are not apt to find any of this compelling, or even fathomable.–Dennett, Breaking the spell

    • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

      Actually, it makes sense if New Atheists have low IQs. Any idiot can see how full of shit Christianity is.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It is quality, not quantity, that counts, and the truth is not decided by a majority vote.

      There’s a difference between expert consensus and “majority vote”.

  • Statistician

    @Dan

    Even if the survey truly reflects the opinions of philosophers (and does not, for example, suffer from non-response bias), I absolutely do not care. Philosophers in general are not experts when it comes to arguments for the existence of God; philosophers of religion are a different story. But more importantly, it is the cogency of the arguments that matter, not “consensus.”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      No, Statistician, for obvious reasons, philosophers who work out their views on God in the negative are, understandably, unlikely to continue on in the field of Philosophy of Religion when the field is dominated (as it is) by discussions which take the god of theism as a starting point (either hypothetically or from a position of belief).

      Unless one is to do the non-progressive work of reiterating the reasons for disbelief one’s whole career, there is not much in philosophy of religion for most atheists. But that HARDLY means that philosophers don’t become atheists in the first place out of ignorance of the issues.

      So while 72% of the surveyed professional philosophers who were straight up philosophers of religion were theists. The broader discipline of metaphysics counts less than 20% theists. Metaphysics, unlike, Philosophy of Religion, does not self-select for believers in the first place. And yet the numbers are consonant with the larger profession.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      and the relatively small numbers of philosophers in total bothering with philosophy of religion (on account of its frequent collapse into theology) is also telling about its comparative philosophical worth.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Philosophers of math, presumably those less likely to wave away mathematical issues as Dennett did above? 74.5 atheists, 20% theists.

    • Nomad

      As stated, it is completely obvious that someone who has no tie to something would not follow through with that thing. So, an Atheist Philosopher is less likely to follow the Philosophy of Religion.

      If you were to just believe the Philosophers of Religion, there would be a cognitive bias towards religion and aspects of a religion being true. It can easily be assumed that the majority of the minority (Dan states 14.8%) will be Philosophers of Religion, or focus on religious philosophy, however, that does not mean that they are the only ones who hold any weight in the discussion of religion.

      You can not discount any Philosopher that has dis-proven the existence of a God, or religious ideas, because they do not agree with you. Just because the minority agrees with you, it does not mean that the minority is right. I could go on forever about majority consensus, and how it is more rational to believe the majority (as well as the various studies done about majority consensus) however, that would take a massive chunk of time and energy, as well as an entire blog of it alone.

      If I may use your namesake, you can not discount a Statistician’s ability to do long division, just because it is not their main focus, or they say that they do not believe that long division is right.

      (I also realize that, depending on your preferred form of English, the term “Majority Consensus” may be redundant. I apologize for that.)

    • http://ms-daisy-cutter.dreamwidth.org/ Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform

      Not even smart enough to reply properly in a comment thread, but insists that those who disagree with him are “low IQ.”

    • Kevin

      Statistically speaking, people who start with a presupposition that god exists (philosophers of religion) are more likely to believe that god exists than people who don’t start with a presupposition that god exists.

  • David Fagan

    Your last paragraph is not as incisive as the earlier commentary. It is entirely possible to dissect the bible as it has influenced and been used by societies historically without addressing (or attacking Chrisitanity or Christians). And one does not have to beieve in the bible to recognize the fact of its influence and reverance and therefore danger to a society made up of equal individuals. You should rewrite the last paragraph.

  • =8)-DX

    But, more annoyingly, he has tried to water down his condemnation of Christianity

    Perfectly consistent with Dan’s behaviour in the past. Having listened to every single one of his podcasts, I can assure you that he always tries to be non-offending and actually does think that there is a “distinction between calling parts of the Bible bullshit and calling Christianity, in turn, bullshit”.

    • =8)-DX

      Oh, and another thing – Dan Savage is primarily a sex-advice columnist a promoter of sex-positivism gender and orientation equality, his atheism is secondary to that. The stuff he criticises about religion are exactly the hypocrisy and bigotry surrounding sex. His goal is for people to have happy and well-informed sexual and romantic lives, not to argue for atheism.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Whatever his goals may be, the truth is the truth.

  • jamessweet

    I actually think there is a valid “distinction between calling parts of the Bible bullshit and calling Christianity, in turn, bullshit,” and as I said in my comments on the last post, even Savage’s initial remarks very much fell on the former side. (To be clear, I’m not at all saying one ought to avoid the latter — in fact, it’s my preferred M.O.!)

    And I do think it’s important to have people doing both. There are some people who will be receptive to a selective critique of their religion, but not a blanket critique. (There are also people who will be shocked out of complacency by a blanket critique but would ignore a more selective critique; and there are also people who have already responded to the selective critique and are now ripe to hear how the whole thing is rotten all the way to the core) But one thing that the over-the-top reaction to Savage’s — let’s face it — pretty mild criticism has shown is that those who fear that what our incurious Statistician friend would call “belligerent atheists” are going to drive people away, well… Even just saying, “You know, the Bible might have got it wrong with the whole KILL ALL THE FUCKING GAYS bit” is enough to drive people away, so why sweat it?

    We need a variety of approaches because there are a variety of people with a variety of different responses. And we should not at all be worried about some approaches going too far and creating a backlash, at least not in this point in history, because even the most mild approach creates a backlash.

    • leonpeyre

      Agreed. We need the diplomats as well as the firebrands, as any movement does. The firebrands push the Overton window, making it possible for the diplomats to look less threatening.

  • Robert B.

    @ Statistician:

    You mention the ethos of the New Testament, as opposed to contradictory statements made in the old.

    I’ll give you credit for not insisting that the whole thing has to be true, which is more clear-sighted than some. But you really think that just cutting that musty old stack of books in half is enough to get down to a coherent position? All right, then, tell me about it. What is the ethos of the New Testament? I’m a fair literary analyst, and since we’re on the Internet, I have a searchable Bible at my fingertips. I won’t dispute facts, and I won’t dispute morals: I only ask you to show that the New Testament has a coherent ethical position. Just prove that it even exists.

    IQ is about 50% bullshit, but if you really think 150 is “low”, then show me how a real smart person argues. I’ve set you quite a low bar, and you’re apparently brighter than me, so it ought to be easy for you. C’mon – grind me into the dust.

    • Kevin

      Mines 165. And he hasn’t yet offered an argument, only claimed that others’ arguments aren’t coherent.

      Meh. That’s what you get when a statistician tries to argue epistemology.

    • Robert B.

      Ah, well, then, Kevin, you’d best leave the Statistician alone. He came here to talk to dumb people like me. With a middling IQ like 165 you might not count as a real New Atheist. It’s us slow folks, who are less than four standard deviations above the mean, who he means to criticize.

      If we were really smart, of course, we would be able to deduce his logic and evidence from just his insults. Folks with high IQ’s, unlike us, don’t need arguments.

    • John Morales

      I know of more than a few Mensa members who are idiots about certain things.

      (Fine engine, shame about the transmission)

  • http://chainthedogma.blogspot.com/ Perry Bulwer

    “An obsession with polite or correct public language is a sign that communication is in decline. It means that the process and exercise of power have replaced debate as a public value.

    “The citizen’s job is to be rude — to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of DOUBT. Politics, philosophy, writing, the arts — none of these, and certainly not science and economics, can serve the common weal if they are swathed in politeness. In everything which affects public affairs, breeding is for fools.”

    John Ralston Saul, The Doubters Companion, p. 237

    • http://ms-daisy-cutter.dreamwidth.org/ Ms. Daisy Cutter, Gynofascist in a Spiffy Hugo Boss Uniform

      Copied and saved. Thank you.

    • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

      Ditto!

  • http://blogingproject.blogspot.com/ Ing: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream So I Comment Instead

    But, more annoyingly, he has tried to water down his condemnation of Christianity making wholly unconvincing appeals which amount to implying that it would be wholly unreasonable to infer he would ever denounce the religion in which he was raised!

    Especially hollow since he freaking HAS denounced the religion in which he was raised. Often. Good Catholics do not denounce the Pope as a “Prada Wearing Closeted Queen”

    • http://blogingproject.blogspot.com/ Ing: I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream So I Comment Instead

      Bad Catholics don’t either…frankly you’d have to have rejected Catholicism to do so.

  • jay

    Statistician: “My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament.”

    So this is the problem with that approach: How do you know which ‘inspired’ teachings are true? In deciding which to accept or not accept, you have to use some external judgement as to which is ‘true revelation’ and which is not. So suddenly the Bible is not an authentic guide, you need some of your own judgement in addition. So if it needs to be measured against an outside yardstick, why not skip the middleman and go right to the yardstic.

    • Corey

      This is where they all run away and start hurling insults. Right here with the absurdity of claiming to follow the word of the “all-powerful all-knowing god” and then having to admit that a large percentage of that perfect word isn’t really perfect at all.

      So, either you have to give up on the “perfect word of the perfect god” (rewrite the bible according to your own moral instincts), OR you have to give up sanity (become a deranged anti-social fundy bible-literalist), or give up honesty (do neither and console yourself with false platitudes while willfully remaining ignorant about anything that might diminish your faith). There are no other options for the rube, I mean, believer.

    • Corey

      So, Statistician, you’ve already admitted to giving up on the perfect word of the perfect god BS, so what else will you give up? Sanity or honesty? I’m guessing you’ll keep sane and BS yourself with willful ignorance– that’s what most of you half-baked clowns fall back on, but if you had any integrity at all you’d be an insane fundy…. or an atheist…

  • blindrobin

    I get the felling that the status-titian spent a great deal of his youth looking through the telescope from the wrong end and that this habit has resulted is a permanently distorted view of everything.

  • Spirokeat

    I’m an example of someone who studied philosophy and ended up as an atheist. Admittedly I was quietly agnostic but filled with classical imagery of multiple myths and fables previously but held a basic belief that there ‘might’ just be something to it all.

    I started my degree in Philosophy with the intention to teach in the UK and added a second specialism in Religious studies which in contrast to the last 2 years of western academic tradition that I had spent studying was a horrifying mess. It cured me of any pretentions of theism instantly.

    I went on to spend a few years teaching RE in secondary education but have lost even the limited enthusiasm I had for it when I was using less known traditions to engage the kids.

    I’m just starting my masters and I’ll be avoiding anything further relgion wise for the sake of my IQ.

  • Zengaze

    This thread was severely derailed by the “I define my god by what I think he would want” asshat. Seriously is this moron classified as part of the same species?

    Dan is doing himself a disservice, for a moment on that podium he emulated the incisive hitches style of calling it what it is. Cutting through the disgusting platitudes, qualifications, and homage the religidiots expect for their delusion, and calling them for the non thinking conditioned purveyors of fascism that they are.

    For a moment dan told them what he really thought, qualifying it now will not do himself or reason, any favours, he may believe that by redacting and softening his tone, the core of the message may resonate. It won’t. The abhorrent blight on morality that is the Christinsanity cannot be reasoned with. Articulate deconstruction of its insane tenets does not convince the masses huddled to their favourite security blanket.

    Blunt, direct explanation of the horror of what being Christian actually means you accept, and fuck your belief selecting cognitive dissonance, is the hammer which needs to ring their bells.

  • http://disagreeableme.blogspot.co.uk Disagreeable Me

    I think the Bible is bullshit and I think Christianity as a whole is bullshit… however

    There is a Christian viewpoint which is relatively reasonable and holds that the bible is not inerrant and largely disregards the old testament, concentrating instead on the life and teachings of Jesus.

    These Christians are often socially liberal. In toning down what he’s saying, I think Dan Savage is simply trying not to alienate these people who are his natural allies in the fight for equality.

    And I think that’s perfectly reasonable. These are good people, they’re just wrong in some of their assumptions about reality. There’s no need for Dan Savage or those who share his agenda to “denounce” their world view, although perhaps there’s no harm in gently persuading them that it may not be correct.

    For those who think religion is fundamentally harmful, there may indeed be a need to denounce it. But whether that is so is debatable.

    • Robert B.

      I do think that religion is fundamentally harmful and there is a need to denounce it. But it doesn’t then follow that everyone needs to denounce religion, or that anyone needs to denounce religion in every situation, any more than there is a universal moral imperative to constantly volunteer in New York City soup kitchens.

    • sqlrob

      So they’re ignoring the teachings of Jesus that say the Old Testament still applies?

    • John Morales

      There is a Christian viewpoint which is relatively reasonable and holds that the bible is not inerrant and largely disregards the old testament, concentrating instead on the life and teachings of Jesus.

      But even that is problematic, since it can (I submit it does) describe a cult.

      (e.g. Matthew 10:37)

    • John Morales

      And I think that’s perfectly reasonable. These are good people, they’re just wrong in some of their assumptions about reality.

      Bah. Persistent Christians are not just “wrong in some of their assumptions about reality”, they are wilful about it.

      (Hardly reasonable, that)

      For those who think religion is fundamentally harmful, there may indeed be a need to denounce it. But whether that is so is debatable.

      There is no such need; you refer to a predilection.

  • naturalcynic

    Statistician:

    My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament. This might put me outside of “orthodoxy” but my nontrinitarianism already places me there anyway.

    Jot and tittle much? or are you a strict Paulian?

  • Lars

    @Statistician: If you really are a statistician, don’t quit your night job.

  • Statistician

    So that’s why “Statistician” seemed familiar, he’s the infamous Robert O’Brien…He’s who [sic] Ed Brayton refers to with his Robert O’Brien Award, and has had a place in the Pharyngula Dungeon since birth.

    Yes, serial failure Ed Brayton renamed his “idiot of the month trophy” after me some years ago, but what most people don’t know is that we used to be the best of friends. You see, I knew Ed back when he was merely obese, instead of morbidly obese, and when he actually had a girlfriend. (Her name was Lynn; I could never tell who was the chaser in that relationship.) Our fallout occurred when I was visiting with him in his kitchen one day and he stepped out to take a phone call. While he was away, I made the mistake of eating his last krispy kreme dough nut. (Very inconsiderate of me, in retrospect.) When Ed returned and saw the dough nut missing with a spot of chocolate on the corner of my mouth, he flew into a rage, damned me to hell, and threw me out of his house. This was several years ago, but to this day he maintains an unhealthy, Ahab-like fixation with me, hence the “trophy.”

    Needless to say, he likes to mix first-paragraph-of-the-Wikipedia-article grade philosophy with malignant arrogance.

    I try to teach to the level of my audience.

    • John Morales

      I try to teach to the level of my audience.

      You obviously fail to fathom that level, so your aspiration to reach it is futile.

      (But you are unwittingly amusing)

    • John Horstman

      Have you anything other than ad hominem (low IQ, Ed is fat, etc.) turdbombs?

      Also, this guy is clearly not debating in good faith, considering he’s mostly making baseless assertions (and not producing any evidence when asked) and slinging ‘insults’. All this is doing is derailing. Ban hammer?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Ban hammer?

      Yes, I have already banned him, due to his legacy of trolling at Pharyngula and Dispatches.

  • Statistician

    Is this him?

    No. That Robert O’Brien is about a decade older than my parents, judging from the dates of his degrees. Also, my degrees are in mathematics and statistics.

    • John Morales

      Also, my degrees are in mathematics and statistics.

      Have you ever tried applying Bayes’s theorem to Christianity’s supernatural claims, such as the resurrection of days-dead people? ;)

  • Statistician

    Have you ever tried applying Bayes’s theorem to Christianity’s supernatural claims, such as the resurrection of days-dead people?

    Charles Babbage already did that 175 years ago to refute Hume.

    • John Morales

      Such evasiveness is revealing.

      (I didn’t ask whether Charles Babbage had done so, I asked whether you had)

  • Statistician

    Jot and tittle much?

    I am aware of that language.

    or are you a strict Paulian?

    Johannine

    • John Morales
      Jot and tittle much?

      I am aware of that language.

      There’s but an iota between homoousios and homoiousios. ;)

  • Statistician

    Dan,

    Your attempts to argue against theism and philosophy of religion by appealing to the results of that survey are transparently fallacious. But you’re welcome to whatever helps you ignore arguments you can’t refute, I guess.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan,

      Your attempts to argue against theism and philosophy of religion by appealing to the results of that survey are transparently fallacious. But you’re welcome to whatever helps you ignore arguments you can’t refute, I guess.

      No, you falsely equated atheism with a position requiring a low IQ. The consensus of qualified authorities in favor of atheism is a perfectly logical piece of evidence against your position. I have not bothered to refute your arguments for theism or philosophy of religion, namely because you haven’t offered any. I did not claim that their authority alone disproves the existence of gods. It just makes it reasonable for philosophical lay atheists to trust that their own judgments are vindicated by the agreement of philosophical experts as well.

    • John Morales

      Such sophistry.

      I’ve seen the arguments of “New Atheists” and they are intellectually inept, Dawkins’ God Delusion being an outstanding example.

      Here’s a statistic for you, “Statistician”—roughly 75% of professional philosophers report being one variety or another of non-theist. Only 14.8% outright accept theism.

      Your attempts to argue against theism and philosophy of religion by appealing to the results of that survey are transparently fallacious.

      You are in effect claiming that the large majority of professional philosophers are intellectually inept.

      Do you stand by this claim?

  • Anri

    Stat:

    My approach is to reject as erroneous those parts of the Hebrew Scriptures that are not consonant with the ethos of the New Testament. This might put me outside of “orthodoxy” but my nontrinitarianism already places me there anyway.

    Well, thank goodness we’ve got you here to tell us what god really meant. After all, the alternative would be to presume that the contradictory nature of biblical lessons comes from the fact that it is a co-opted set of sky-god myths and apocalyptic preaching entirely typical for the time and place.

    And that’s unpossible. Because of *mumble*.

    Also:

    Moreover, philosophers who are not PoR typically do not understand the classical arguments for God.

    But you’re welcome to whatever helps you ignore arguments you can’t refute, I guess.

    Can we presume it would be just plain mean-spirited unfairness to actually ask for your presentation of such an argument?
    You know, to help enlighten dullards like me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cosmicaug augustpamplona

    There’s a form at the National Organization for Marriage set up to e-mail the president & your representative. I think it would be good to make use of it. I would suggest a rewording it to show support for Dan Savage. It’s at http://goo.gl/rZAFW

    I reworded mine as follows (I added a sexual orientation category):

    Support Dan Savage against unfair, false demagogic accusations

    I see that Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign is prominently recognized on the White House website as a model for anti-bullying programs across the nation. I am grateful for the White House’s emphasis on creating a safe and civil school environment for children of all ethnic, social and religious backgrounds and sexual orientations as this is a goal that we all can share.

    This is why I was appalled at the obviously politically motivated accusations of anti-Christian bullying made against him mostly by conservative news outlets with regard to his recent speech at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. No fair reading can construe his speech as an attack on Christianity or as “bullying” of Christian students.

    It is clear that certain parties are intentionally distorting the import of his speech for political gain to demagogically fabricate a controversy where none exists.

    I urge you to publicly support Dan Savage, making it clear that your administration stands on principle supporting Dan Savage and does not kowtow to pressures related to this politically motivated attack.