On Atheist Blogger Leah Libresco's Conversion to Catholicism and Her Atheistic Detractors

Yesterday, the atheist blogosphere and social networking sites were abuzz about the conversion of an atheist blogger, named Leah Libresco, to Roman Catholicism.

I would like to address two topics. One is the substance of the arguments she made (or alluded to) in her post and in its comments section. I want to address the problems with her line of reasoning, as far as I can infer what it was, and where there are lessons atheists should learn about how to discuss metaphysics and ethics in general.

But first, in this post, I would like to quickly address several kinds of reactions atheists have had to this news. Even though most people adopt faiths as children, before they are not yet good enough critical thinkers to find the whole thing nonsense, there are still plenty of people out there who come to religious belief later in life. It is not everyday that you find someone who was an avowed atheist writer who does this, but it is not unheard of.

In either case, we self-conscious identity atheists of the blogosphere are not used to it happening often and, as we see no good reason for someone who presumably understands and endorses our usual views on epistemology and ethics to turn around and start believing in patently fictitious and morally dubious nonsense, it is a little baffling to see one of us become a Roman Catholic.

And also, the atheist movement is filled with people who want to morally blame religious people for spurning people who think different from them and for (either formally or informally) excommunicating family, friends, and members of their churches when they deconvert.

So what has the reaction been like amongst a somewhat shocked and dismayed atheist commentariat as it has learned of someone who identified as “one of us” turning around and saying she thought we were wrong and publicly submitting herself to the Roman Church?

1. Some atheists are trying to take a magnanimous high road, congratulating Libresco on following her intellectual conscience wherever it led and bravely being willing to alienate people in order to be honest to what she now believes. These atheists seem to be at some pains to avoid being atheist analogues to the religiously excommunicating tribalists that so many atheists suffer so much grief from.

2. Some atheists (including me) are primarily baffled at how her metaphysical and moral philosophy concerns that make her think there is something to Catholic philosophy at all justify the leap to the numerous wild beliefs of Catholic theology. Personally, I will say, having studied philosophy at a Jesuit university, that there is a fair degree of sophistication to Roman Catholic philosophy. While I think Catholic philosophers are needlessly and culpably closed-minded (for dogmatically theological and covertly misogynistic reasons) when it comes to applied ethics in a number of areas, I can see where someone could rationally appreciate some of the metaphysics, as stripped of its mythological public face.

I know many Catholic philosophers and most of them are quite far afield from superstitious creationist Protestants (or average Catholic laypeople). What they mean by words like “God” is quite abstract and in many ways not that offensive to reason. But it is the theological fictions that I find so hard to swallow any people of reason buying into. The philosophical types do not actually believe many of the literal superstitions but simply chalk them up to analogies and metaphors and “God’s use of imperfect human vehicles to convey Himself”.

But at least some of it has to be literally believed and it is, to me, beyond ridiculous that a rational person not already raised and indoctrinated to powerfully identify as a Catholic (or at least as a supernaturalist) would just pick up and start believing. Rude (and potentially ad hominem) as it is to start questioning someone’s psychology as a matter of understanding their changes in beliefs, the very premise of Libresco’s blog was that she was romantically involved with a Catholic and, therefore, did have a powerful non-rational incentive to embrace the faith, even if it was not the usual one.

3. Speaking of psychological explanations, a surprising number of commenters at blogs have been seemingly accusing her of some sort of literal mental deterioration, judging that that is the most rational inference as to how a thinking and blogging atheist could become a Catholic. That sort of psychological analysis just reinforces the inference that at least some members of the atheist movement are still woefully unwilling to understand or to take seriously either the powerful psychological mechanisms by which religions work within sane, neurotypical, average human brains, or the actual metaphysical arguments and rational priorities that sophisticated religious thinkers at least give more well-developed (if not actually better) answers to than the average atheist.

Writing off religious conversions as a sign of mental degeneracy is a nice way of Othering converts as just incapable of rational thought so that one can continue to feel superior. But it is quite counterproductive to introspection or philosophical development among atheists. What we need to learn from these cases is the need to proactively develop both more robust, well-publicized, and debated accounts of metaphysics and metaethics, and better institutions that preemptively meet people’s “religious” needs and desires without bogus supernaturalism and dangerous authoritarianism.

4. Another major response to her has been moral condemnation for aligning herself with an institution as corrupt as the Roman Catholic Church. The heinous ways that it has actively accommodated and shielded child raping priests and has fought tooth and nail against progress for women and LGBT people has made the Church so basically evil to many atheists that deliberately joining it is interpreted as an act of betrayal against LGBT people, women, victims of rape, and people of conscience everywhere. Libresco’s reasons are particularly cause for head scratching in this regard because she cited Roman Catholicism’s supposedly better account of metaethics, and particularly its supposed robust account of moral truth, as its main point of convincing philosophical superiority over atheistic philosophies.

Even in converting, she admits to not agreeing (at least yet) with the Church’s position on gays. Many atheists are quite understandably both bemused and angry that someone ostensibly so very concerned with moral truth would choose a tidier metaethics that came with morally objectionable conclusions over adherence to her moral convictions on practical matters, even if it meant not being able to fully square her metaethics.

5. Finally, some atheists want to write her off as never having been sincerely an atheist. Others say we should not do that because the apostates among us do not like having the sincerity of our prior religious commitments and beliefs doubted. All I have to say about that is the very premise of Libresco’s blog, at least with the 20/20 hindsight of retrospective perspective, gives the impression she was leaning towards converting from its inception. And, in fact, when I was first told the premise of her blog months ago, I already found it dubious. And so did the close atheist blogger friend of mine who told me about it.

Below is her narrative in which she describes the origins of the blog and some of its influences upon her. It looks to have been written when she was still identifying as an atheist. You can hear in it all sorts of ways she is describing her boyfriend as opening her eyes and making her think. And while she may have come in non-religious, in the beginning of the narrative, she essentially chalks up her non-religiousness to the way she was raised and her having only been exposed to completely idiotic forms of Christianity prior to college:

I was raised by in a non-religious household on Long Island, so I didn’t meet any outspoken Christians in real life until I went to college. I had seen people like Jerry Falwell on TV, but my community was so isolated from religion that, when we learned about the Reformation in AP European History, one student raised his hand to ask if Lutherans still existed.

When I went to college, and started hanging out with a politics and philosophy debating group, I met smart Christians for the first time, and it was a real shock. My idea of a Christian was the Young Earth Creationists, and now I was meeting people who not only were converts to Russian Orthodoxy and math majors, but they thought the beauty of mathematics was evidence for God. I still thought my new friends were wrong about the existence of God, but I had to recognize I’d been pretty wrong why they believed what they did. And if I hadn’t really understood their arguments in the past, it was only prudent to give them a second hearing.

I was ready to cross-examine them, but there were some big gaps in my defense of my own positions.  When a friend turned one of my own questions around on me and asked “What would convince you that Christianity was true?” I came up with bupkis.  I realized I didn’t have a clear enough idea of what Christianity entailed to be able to imagine a world where it was true.  I felt embarrassed and told my friends to take their best shot at convincing me.

I started dating one of these smart Christians. We knew that religion could be a pretty big impediment to our relationship (the title of this blog comes 2 Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers”). We ended up making a deal: I’d go to Mass every week with him, and he’d go to ballroom dance class with me. And we both recommended books or blogs to each other that fueled our all-night debates.

He gave me Lewis and Chesterton (I’ve got an apologetics bookshelf, now), and I kept having trouble finding books to pass back. A lot of atheists are focused on rebutting evangelicals –after all, they tend to be the biggest political threat — but I had more trouble finding people who address the more sophisticated ideas. Atheism spends a lot of time playing defense, so I had even more trouble finding books and blogs talking about what we should believe instead of what we reject.

So I started this blog to try and crowdsource my arguments and to find more people to ask me tough questions and force me to burn off the dross in my philosophy. I talked with deacons, priests, and Dominicans and attended RCIA classes (until I got kicked out). Neither my boyfriend or I looked likely to switch teams in the near future, and, after two years of dating, we were at the point where a relationship that was incompatible with marriage seemed foolish, so, regretfully, we had to split up.

I hadn’t changed my mind about the existence of God, but here are some things that arguing with people on the internet and in real life has convinced me I was wrong about: I’m now in favor of covenant marriage, I’ve abandoned my former commitment to stoicism, and I think some forms of Christianity are internally consistent and even attractive.

I just still don’t think they’re true.

I’m still seriously exploring Christian claims, especially as atheists and Christians have ganged up to tell me that some of my beliefs (objective morality, teleological sympathies, transhumanism that bears a passing resemblance to Gnosticism) logically imply the existence of a God, and probably a Christian one. So I look at Aquinas and Augustine to see if they’re right, and I post about my best understanding of ethics and metaphysics so people can call me on my errors and be swayed by what I get right.

On this blog, I try and skip past the normal scripts and have the weird arguments. You can go somewhere else on the internet to find Christians who rely on Leviticus to explain why they disapprove of gay marriage, and don’t understand that the people they talk to don’t accept the bible as authoratative. The Christian who guest-posted here for a debate on gay marriage wanted to talk about the importance of having friendships that you know will never be sexually charged. And I talked a bit more about the way marriage restricts our choices (in a good way), and a lot less about the live and let live arguments you may be used to from my team.  (Other guest posters welcome!).

The one thing I’m certain of after a couple years of blogging about religion is that a lot of our arguments are unproductive because we don’t understand what the other side is saying. I set up an Ideological Turing Test, where atheists and Christians tried to imitate each other well enough to pass for each other, and we found a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings on both sides.

So welcome to the conversation. Play nice, but play to win. And don’t be afraid to show your hand. If you’re doing someone a service by pointing out their errors, be grateful when someone catches you out in one.

Based on that narrative, no, she was not exactly a fire-breathing New Atheist with a well-developed scientific or philosophical approach to the world. Nor was she one with a strong sense of her own epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics in naturalistic terms. Nor was she one who had already, within that context, investigated serious Christian thought much at all before defaulting to non-belief. She was clearly a genuine atheist insofar as she did not believe in gods, but it is not clear she was not like most of us well-educated movement atheists/identity-atheists/New Atheists who have a clear sense for naturalistic epistemology or science. It’s not that one of us in that sense has suddenly realized these things were false and explained to the world at last why our shared epistemological standards and naturalistic metaphysics are false based on rational conclusions.

Of course that’s not to say that will never happen and one of us could never become a Catholic either. It’s not that simple of course. But she sounds from that self-description like someone who was an emptier philosophical vessel to start with who then was exposed to robust Catholic tradition and philosophy and thin, blogworthy, atheistic philosophy and under those conditions she not-so-stunningly opted to believe the more rounded out philosophical option of the two. What does she really know about naturalistic philosophy as developed by academic philosophers who do not write for popular audiences? From her own account of major influences and conversation partners, probably not much.

So that’s a summation of what I am gleaning from atheist replies to Libresco’s conversion about various response inclinations the identity atheist movement has to public betrayal of our little tribe, with my own initial impressions and responses to both the atheists I’m reading and to Libresco herself thrown in.

In another post, I would like to address her actual stated reasons for converting and the few arguments she has made.

In the meantime, Your Thoughts?

For more Camels With Hammers on Catholic philosophy and theology:

On God As The Source of Being But Not of Evil

Religious Privilege and Grievance-Based Catholic Identity Politics on Full Display

“Should Catholic Employers Be Exempted From Paying For Health Insurance Covering Contraception?”

The Cosmological Argument, The Composition Fallacy, And More Reasons Not To Believe In God

6 Basic Kinds Of Answer To The Question “Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing?”

What Are The Limits of Church Authority in the Public Sphere?

“Must (or Can) the Religious Engage in the Secular Sphere ‘Non-Religiously’?”

Defending The Catholic Faith, But Not The Pope. A Conversation with Mary the Catholic Graduate Student

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • karmakin

    For what it’s worth I don’t think it’s that surprising. I don’t think that religious theists are delusional, after all, I think that primarily it’s an error of misattribution.

    You’re told, that if you go to a religious ceremony, you’ll feel the touch of God. You go to said religious ceremony, and you feel something, ergo God exists. I don’t think that’s as irrational as a lot of people do. I think that this is false, as someone who grew up religious. While the feeling is there, one gets the same feeling at a lot of other events. It’s a combination of catharsis (shared emotion) and frission (physical reaction to intellectual/emotional stimuli), that I strongly believe people think is “God”. At least it was that way for me.

    I’m not big on the philosophy of it all. While it’s interesting, I also think that more or less it’s culturally irrelevant. As such, I think a lower level emotional view of belief is needed.

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

      Culturally irrelevant? Do you have any idea to the extent that ethical debates, which are philosophical debates through and through, are essentially constitutive of the majority of cultural and legal debates? Or the extent to which ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics are the decisive points of conflict between religions and between theists and atheists?

    • karmakin

      They are for you. For the rest of the world? Not so much. That’s what I meant when I said culturally.

      My experience when it comes to religion is that it tends to be very high on emotional and social triggers and very low on philosophical and metaphysical concepts. Maybe I’m wrong on this..but I don’t think so. We don’t see religious leaders in front of the pulpit going over philosophical concepts in great detail after all,

      You’re probably right that there’s “low-level” metaphysics and philosophy going on, but I do not believe that there’s anything at all clear or consistent about them. Our religious culture simply does not talk about these things. For what it’s worth I suspect that when people start talking about these things and what they actually believe it’ll come out that we’ve been a nation of non-theists (some atheist, some deist, some pantheist) all along! Oops.

      But this means that yes, in terms of mass culture, sophisticated philosophy, theology and metaphysics really don’t have that big of an influence, other than the influence that they have on opinion leaders who then translate that information to their followers. And I don’t believe that this is that big of an influence. (Said religious opinion leaders seem to value tradition more than theological and philosophical progress)

    • skepticalmath

      You’re probably right that there’s “low-level” metaphysics and philosophy going on, but I do not believe that there’s anything at all clear or consistent about them.

      I agree that theistic philosophy isn’t clear or consistent. And I think Dan probably does too.

      But I think you seem to be assuming that “low-level” metaphysics/philosophy don’t count towards Dan’s point, but I disagree. I think these philosophical ideas that have been absorbed into our cultural understanding of the world are so incredibly powerful in part because people don’t realize that they are philosophical concepts and arguments, and instead simply treat them as the world-as-it-is. I’ve met Christian fundamentalists who will expound their philosophy, which is presuppositionalism, without realizing that that’s what it is, without being cognizant of the assumptions and arguments and debates surrounding it. The “low-level” nature of this cultural engagement with philosophical ideas is precisely what gives them so much power: if everyone engaged with them on a philosophical level, they would no longer be the world-as-it-is, but instead the world-as-these-assumptions-make-it-seem, or the world-as-I-want-it-to-be, or whatever.

      Or just look at the economic debates of the last few years. Sure, most people are aware of Keynes and Hayek now, but even politicians literally repeating arguments line by line seem unaware that they are taking part in a centuries old philosophical debate over the nature of economics as a science and as a tool of governance. The fact that they know these arguments without knowing the source, without being appreciably aware of the rigorous philosophical arguments, is a testimony to how much philosophy becomes part of our cultural understanding — hell, the Republican (and, largely, Christian) obsession with pulling oneself up by the bootstraps is the product of centuries of philosophical and theological argument, of which they are unaware, but nonetheless reproducing.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m a theist who came here because Mark Shea introduced me to Leah, and I was searching for the address of her blog that I’d forgotten when I found this.

      I’m also an autistic and have *NEVER* felt either group emotions nor frission. It is not something those with my specific mental illness are capable of; I’m not neurotypical at all.

      And I was, at one time attracted to atheism. I’m a theist because the theist answers are actually *better* at promoting civilization, where the atheist answers I’ve seen are only good for the extraordinarily talented hermit.

      New Atheism turned out to be as thin for me as Protestantism. Buddhism and Catholicism attracted me the most because of the depth and richness of the philosophy; but I did go searching. What I found when I dug into naturalism, back in time, was NOT atheism. ALL of the natural philosophers in the Western World before 1500 were Catholic. All the natural philosophers in the Eastern World were either Confucian or Buddhist. Theistic evolution makes sense to me because quantum mechanics does not. The Bible makes sense to me ONLY as an allegory that *MUST* be interpreted by our scientific *knowledge*- and only Catholicism among Christianity does that. Buddhist and Confucian scriptures are too nonsensical for me- or maybe you just have to have Asian Genes to truly understand them, I’m not sure- but I find all the beauty of the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch in the Parables of Christ and then some.

      Atheism isn’t knowledge, it’s ignorance, and ignorance that is unwilling to accept anecdotal, subjective, and sometimes even empirical evidence in favor of a predetermined conclusion. That predetermined conclusion is based largely in what Catholics call the Americanist heresy: I don’t want to be controlled so I’m going to reject any form of authority that tries to control me. Religion is all about control, and so the atheist will reject whatever evidence he needs to to maintain control over his own life and exclude all other control. What morality he has, he either made up himself, or it has been proven to him that it is in his own best interests to follow it; there is no outside morality because outside morality requires an authority, and an authority is trying to control you.

      It’s a wonder more atheists are not fiscal libertarians, but the other end of the spectrum makes sense as well, because if everything one needs to survive comes from the impersonal state, one can once again reject the control of parents, priests, bosses, etc.

  • Robert B.

    I never much read her blog (though I liked the Turing Test) but I did see her write in her final post that she was a dualist. Dualism has always struck me as the most basic first cut for determining whether someone has a realistic metaphysics. I’m sure Libresco was an atheist in the sense of not believing in gods, but I don’t see how not believing in gods does any good if you still believe in other supernatural entities like souls. (Literal souls, that is – I’m fine with “soul” as a metaphor for emotional state and moral character.) When I saw that Libresco was a dualist, my reaction was basically “Oh, so she was only technically an atheist to begin with.”

    • jamessweet

      Although I use different words, that was basically my reaction. She certainly wasn’t a materialist. There is less of a leap from materialist atheist to theist than there is from dualist atheist to theist.

  • raven

    Or the extent to which ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics are the decisive points of conflict between religions and between theists and atheists?

    WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.

    They are generally profoundly ignorant of their religion and the churches very deliberately keep it that way.

    To take the ubiquitous example, the xians are quite sure they have a magic book called the bible. The vast majority haven’t read it and have no idea what is in it. It isn’t magic at all, it is a horrible book of obsolete morality, genocide, and mythology.

    To take another one, according to a poll, half of all Catholics don’t even know what transubstantiation is and that the bread and wine are really godflesh and godwine. They don’t even know or care what the central mystery of their own religion is.

    Most people are whatever sect they are because of chance, where they were born. And they stay that way out of apathy, inertia, and tribal identity. It certainly has nothing to do with reason or reality.

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

      WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.

      So what? Everyone has implicit epistemological and metaphysical beliefs, whether they know it or not and when argued with they start philosophizing and formulating them explicitly, regardless of whether that’s what they call it.

      They are generally profoundly ignorant of their religion and the churches very deliberately keep it that way.

      Does not matter, they still have implicit and explicit philosophical beliefs and if not taught better epistemology and metaphysics and philosophy of mind and philosophy of language and ethics, etc., they will default to the only explicit training in these issues most people get—folk philosophy and folk theology.

      To take the ubiquitous example, the xians are quite sure they have a magic book called the bible. The vast majority haven’t read it and have no idea what is in it. It isn’t magic at all, it is a horrible book of obsolete morality, genocide, and mythology.

      To take another one, according to a poll, half of all Catholics don’t even know what transubstantiation is and that the bread and wine are really godflesh and godwine. They don’t even know or care what the central mystery of their own religion is.

      Most people are whatever sect they are because of chance, where they were born. And they stay that way out of apathy, inertia, and tribal identity. It certainly has nothing to do with reason or reality.

      All true, but they still have a view of reason and of reality that makes this minimally possible.

    • Ted Seeber

      Once again, you’re making the mistake of thinking that all Christians are Biblical Fundamentalists (“Magic Book Called the Bible”) when in reality, slightly more than half of them aren’t (To a Catholic, the Bible is scripture, every word within is true- but it’s philosophical truth, not literal truth, and anybody past the age of 10 who thinks Noah was really floating around on a world-wide flood is an idiot who failed to understand the point of the story, for instance).

    • David

      “anybody past the age of 10 who thinks Noah was really floating around on a world-wide flood is an idiot who failed to understand the point of the story, for instance).”

      You might be right, if the Bible was merely a clever story book, conjured up to placate and control the ignorant/primative masses. Here again, if you believe that, you have much more faith than any “believer” ever will.

    • Ted Seeber

      Actually, I’ve got the exact same faith as 1.1 billion Christians worldwide. It’s the other .9 billion that I worry about. Especially the ones hired by the military to have their fingers on the triggers of nuclear devices. Or the ones that protest military funerals because “9-11 happened because God Hates Gays”.

      On the Islamic side, I worry about the Muwahiddun, who are not only all of the worst that fundamentalist Christianity has to offer, but they believe God speaks to them *personally* and tells them to blow up unbelievers.

      In comparison to all of that, atheists are fairly rational with just some strange quirks.

  • Matt Penfold

    I have to say I regard converting willingly to Catholicism today is a moral failing. No person, at least not in the West, converting knows of the abysmal record of the Church on issues regarding the cover-up of sexual abuse by clergy and laity, the position of the Church on woman and its position on homosexuality and its position on the use of contraception. To willing join the Catholic Church is to give your support to its position on these issues, even if you do not actually agree with them, and to offer support for such positions can only be regarded as immoral.

    • Art Vandelay

      I agree, and not only supporting them by aligning with them but even worse…presumably you’d be funding that shit. I mean, there isn’t one Catholic that’s not a pedophile that supports pedophilia, and yet many of them are happily giving them a percentage of their income knowing damn well that a percentage of that money is being used to settle pederasty accusations. Not to mention the money that goes towards infiltrating the political system in order to oppress gays, women, poor people, etc. If there really is such a thing as objective morality…that just can’t qualify. Cognitive dissonance should not be that easy.

    • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

      Well said, Matt. Leah’s sudden and seemingly unprompted decision to embrace Catholic theology… that just baffles me. But her public expression of support for a religion that’s one of the primary enemies of moral progress in the world today… I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me upset.

    • Robert B.

      This. If you insist on becoming a theist, and further insist on joining a theistic organization, still, why the crispy crap would you pick the Catholics? Why not, say, a liberal branch of Episcopalianism? Or something? Even other religions with terrible records overall don’t have the central organization Catholicism does – it would be perfectly possible to join, say, Islam while still effectively opposing the crimes committed by and in the name of that religion. You can’t do that with Catholicism, because they’re not just a religion, they’re also a single, coherent, centrally controlled organization, corrupted at every level.

    • http://fromtheashes9000.bandcamp.com/album/incendiary Mandrellian

      Precisely.

      I didn’t even blink when Tony Blair converted to a Papist, spineless, murderous lying little toady bastard that he is.

      But it’s bound to – and bloody well should – raise eyebrows (and ire) when a female atheist decides to join the most reprehensible, anti-woman, anti-knowledge, anti-sex, anti-freedom, anti-child, anti-accountability cult known to humanity (who also, thanks to being born from the rubble of the Roman Empire and funded for 1500 years through conquest, theft and genocide, are also the most powerful).

      We shouldn’t even need to mention Ratzinger’s publicly-proclaimed hatred for the non-religious or secularists (and his Godwinesque conflation of same with the fecking Nazis!).

    • raven

      The Catholic church and morality don’t belong in the same sentence or universe for that matter.

      The history of the church is one atrocity after the other. The first anti-Jewish laws in the 300′s CE, the first time they had state level power.

      The Albingensian genocide. The war against the Eastern Orthodox with the sack of Constantinople.

      The crusades, genocides of the New World, Reformation wars, witch hunts, heretic hunts.

      The RCC has rarely been for social justice, usually they oppose it. They were one of the last groups to oppose slavery, which they used to practice, long after most countries had abolished it.

      And of course, it isn’t all ancient history. Today it is misogyny, homophobia, and child rape.

      Anyone who converts to the RCC because of their sense of morality is blind. They certainly never had any that we know of.

    • Ted Seeber

      What if the Catholic Church is morally right and you are morally wrong?

      Let me give you an example- the child abuse sex scandals. We know for an absolute fact that it is the priests who did not believe, that committed the crimes. We know this because if they did believe, they wouldn’t have been naked with another person in the room AT ALL, let alone a child- the vow of celibacy forbids those kinds of interactions. So let’s consider- you have a misbehaving priest who has harmed children. What do you think the best way to handle it is? Should we make the priest face his accusers, and give him a chance to reoffend? Have you ever read what the victims of rape say about the criminal court process? Or do we keep it as quiet as possible, to protect the victims? And let’s take a look at how the current Pope handled it as head of the CDF- case after case he recommended dismissal from the priesthood and sometimes even locking the guy up in solitary within the church under a vow of silence.

      Now, why is your way better?

    • ‘Tis Himself

      What if the Catholic Church is morally right and you are morally wrong?

      When the Catholic Church is acting in obviously immoral ways then the claim it is “morally right” can be shown to be false.

      Let’s ignore Ted Seeber’s No True Scotsman excuse for child raping priests. Let’s look at how the bishops and other senior management of the Church dealt with child raping clergy. Did the hierarchy inform the appropriate civil authorities about the child rapers in the Church? Not only no but HELL NO! Back when he was head of the Inquisition* Benny Ratzi (he was Joey Ratzi at the time) sent a letter to all bishops forbidding them to turn over child raping clergy to the police on pain of excommunication. As a result, child raping clergy were shifted from parish to parish instead of being dealt with in a reasonable, effective, moral manner. The Church’s official policy was to support and protect pedophiles. While Benny has wrung his hands and bemoaned the child rapists’ exposure, he has never rescinded that letter. Quite obviously Benny is more concerned with the prestige and dignity of his cult than with the welfare of children.

      So let’s have no further nonsense about the Catholic Church’s morality other than to note the lack of it.

      *The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is its modern title.

    • Ted Seeber

      Art, would you rather the pedastery accusations were not settled, and that the victims would get nothing?

  • baal

    who then was exposed to robust Catholic tradition and philosophy and thin, blogworthy, atheistic philosophy and under those conditions she not-so-stunningly opted to believe the more rounded out philosophical option of the two

    I read many of the blogs here since (especially over time) I don’t necessarily agree with some of the on-going but well developed (or thought about) ideas. I’m committed to understanding views I don’t necessarily hold, seeing why I agree or not, up dating my thinking and then (when bored?) moving on.

    This is the first time I’ve seen merit to your proposition that atheism needs a robust academic philosophy. I had several philosophy classes in undergrad and wasn’t generally impressed with its utility.

    That being said, I’m not fully converted to your view on the matter but rather see that it’s not a useless endeavor.

    My personal view is that decisions are least likely to be in error when made ‘bottom up’ and most likely in error when made ‘top down’. Philosophy tends to be ‘top down’.

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

      Can you clarify the distinction you intend by “bottom up” as opposed to “top down”?

    • jamessweet

      I am guessing baal is making a distinction between conclusions arrived at via pure reason vs. empirical conclusions? Or something along those lines?

      I am always suspicious of claims arrived at via pure reason. At the very least, empirical results trump logical conclusions. If you have an empirical result which contradicts with your logical conclusion, no matter how bulletproof your logic may appear to be, there is something wrong with either that or your assumptions; you don’t get to say there is something wrong with reality because it contradicts your logic.

      It is this preference for evidence which lets me know, for example, that Plantinga’s modal version of the ontological argument must be wrong even before I attempt to reason out why. The empirical evidence is strongly against his conclusion, therefore I can be pretty certain there is something wrong with his logic before I’ve even found it.

    • Enkidum

      I’m thinking “bottom-up” = “emotionally/based on implicit beliefs”, while “top-down” = “explicitly rational”. I tend to agree, if that’s the case.

      That’s not to say that I’m opposed to philosophy. Just unless you do it very carefully, it’s liable to lead you into error in any practical matter, unlike just going with what you believe is correct without examining it very much. But that’s going far afield…

    • Robert B.

      Just unless you do it very carefully, it’s [philosophy is] liable to lead you into error in any practical matter, unlike just going with what you believe is correct without examining it very much.

      Enkidum, did you mean to say that “just going with what you believe is correct” is not liable to lead you into error? Because that’s not right at all.

    • baal

      I think the other commenters on my post did get it essentially right (and more succinctly than I have here).

      When you start with a pile of facts, descriptions of circumstance, whatever evidence is available and then use rationality to arrive at a conclusion, way forward or new hypothesis, you’re acting bottom up.

      If you start with a ‘true proposition’ and then make decisions or try to order reality to fit that proposition, you’re acting top down.

      I generally don’t like personally activists or people who identify strongly with narrow interests. They tend to take whatever their group wants and think they thought of it themselves – even when it’s a position 100% contradicted by recordings of them saying the opposite. The Daily Show makes a ton of hay pointing out rank hypocrisy.

      There is another type of thinking error that results from top-down processing. Intellectual blinders.

      You’re in academia so I think you’ve run into it. 2nd year med students all have hypochondria – they are in training to see the world from illness framing and tend to over diagnose until they get some experience. Psych students start thinking everyone has a mental disorder when they exhibit the least aberrant behaviour. <examples from sociology and -studies omitted, I don’t want to characterize their over use of certain framing, it’s fraught.> In each of these examples, the details that support the frame of analysis dominate the reasoning and lead to devaluing of other relevant frames and supporting details.

      Over time, I’ve come to view the various academic analytical frames as tools that help your understand how other people are thinking. Notice that I didn’t say they help you to understand reality.

      My general beef with philosophy is that while it makes very pretty self consistent arguments (which I appreciate the same way I like art), folks who overvalue philosophy have a tendency to ignore reality. They most often skip the consequences / impacts of their beliefs as being a relevant part of the discussion.

      I can’t imagine that Libby is alone in needing or wanting a pretty philosophy and this instance (these facts & circumstances) pretty clearly show that it’d be useful to have a formal philosophy to hand to folks like her.

      My usual response, (rather than say go read Finke’s Guide to Atheistic Philophy) is to point out that reality exists. And if you’re really hung up on knowing what’s going on, learn some science. Lots of commenters (including the comments in this blog post) are taking exactly that approach as well as bringing up the consequences of Catholicisms and the impacts of the Church.

      tl;dr – mental constructs are fun and can be compelling (certainly so for Libby) but it’s better to make your decisions, including those about morality, based on the real world impacts of your choices.

    • Enkidum

      Yeah, that is more or less what I said. Let me clarify: for most practical decisions, we employ heuristics (this isn’t debatable, it’s just what humans and all other life forms do). These heuristics are, almost by definition, going to get us to make the right choices on average (otherwise we would be dead). Once we start second-guessing ourselves and trying to work everything out in a principled manner, we often shoot ourselves in the foot.

      A few things to point out:

      (1) This may be controversial to many in our community, but there’s a wealth of evidence for it (I could easily come up with a list of a dozen cognitive psych studies which find exactly this advantage for implicit over explicit decision-making, if anyone cares).

      (2) Practical decisions are not the same as determining philosophical principles. I mean everything from deciding which way to jump to stop a soccer ball from going into a net, to deciding which apartment to rent or which college to go to. This is different, however, from deciding “what do I believe about the nature of reality?”, or “what makes an action good or bad?”.

      (3) Just because they are on averagegood doesn’t mean that they always are – indeed, the point of the averaging is to smooth out the horrific mistakes that heuristics can lead us into. Heuristics can and do screw us up royally on occasion – i.e. one could argue that, say, blind allegiance to a church or party is almost exclusively heuristic-based, and we all know the horrors that can lead to. Here especially rational thought is particularly useful. “Whoah…. this sky-fairy that I’ve always followed without question is telling me to sacrifice my son, but I’ve always believed that murder is wrong, and harming one’s own family is especially wrong, perhaps I should think about this some more!” Rationality and explicit thought can act as a very good flagging system (indeed, I would suggest that that is largely what consciousness is for, evolutionarily speaking, but that’s getting too far afield).

      (4) In practice, most of our decision-making is really going to be a seamless blend of implicit and explicit processes. But in general, philosophers (particularly of the Anglo-American tradition) over-prioritize the explicit. This isn’t surprising, since almost by definition explicit thought is what they do for a living. But focussing on the explicit is very much looking at the tip of the iceberg. Consciousness is slow, clumsy, and largely driven by non-conscious processes. Believing that it is somehow better than these processes is a serious mistake.

    • Robert B.

      It’s not so much that you’re wrong, Enkidum, as that you’re oversimplifying.

      Yes, human brains have some common heuristics, and as you say, they will on average do pretty well – specifically, they will succeed at the most common forms of the situations they evolved to face. But to just accept those heuristics as usually effective and move on is to set yourself up for trouble. You need to know how your heuristics work so you know when to override them.

      For example, humans have a “contamination” heuristic – when two things touch, we tend to think of each as taking on the properties of the other. This is very effective at, for example, keeping us from eating waste-contaminated food. But the same heuristic has led to folks making up and believing in all sorts of misguided folk magic, not to mention homeopathy.

      There’s also an “unsupported objects fall straight down” heuristic, a “listen to your parents” heuristic, and a “more worthwhile things require more effort” heuristic. It’s easy to see how all of those would be very effective most of the time, and yet predictably lead to critical errors if you obey them all the time.

    • Enkidum

      Robert: yes, exactly. Cf. my point #3.

      Oh, and clearly I interpreted Baal differently than was intended.

  • Kevin

    First of all, if there were no converts, there’d be no religion.

    There is some research into conversion. I’m a bit pressed for time or I’d look it up. But my understanding of the research is that conversion rarely is a rational decision.

    Francis Collins being a notable exception — at least according to him.

    It is interesting that recent converts to a religion are more likely to be hyper-vigilant and hew extremely strictly to the new religion’s dogma. So, Leah’s profession to not believe the Catholic Church’s teaching on gays is puzzling.

    I suspect something’s going on here that we haven’t been made privy to.

    But it’s a private decision and hers alone to make.

  • Darrin

    Based on that narrative, no, she was not exactly a fire-breathing New Atheist with a well-developed scientific or philosophical approach to the world or a sense of her own epistemology, ethics, and metaphysics in naturalistic terms, or one who had already, within that context, investigated serious Christian thought much at all before defaulting to non-belief.

    Do you feel that this is something unique to Leah, or do you feel that all atheists who convert to some form of theism generally lack a proper study of academic naturalism and its reply to theistic claims?

    Rude (and potentially ad hominem) as it is to start questioning someone’s psychology as a matter of understanding their changes in beliefs, the very premise of Libresco’s blog was that she was romantically involved with a Catholic and, therefore, did have a powerful non-rational incentive to embrace the faith.

    I had to hear about this all the time, since my wife is a theist and her family is Roman Catholic. In response, why couldn’t things have gone the other way? If Leah found methodological naturalism a defensible truth and had passion for it to begin with, why couldn’t the incentive have equally been to convert her loved one, instead of the other way around?

    I know many Catholic philosophers and most of them are quite far afield from superstitious creationists. What they mean by words like “God” is quite abstract and in many ways not that offensive to reason. But it is the theological fictions that it is hard to swallow people of reason buying into. Many of them, the philosophical types do not actually believe but simply chalk up to analogies and metaphors and “God’s use of imperfect human vehicles to convey Himself”.

    … OK, I’ll chalk one up for you there. Although I’m almost exactly aligned with Thomistic thought in a metaphysical and broadly theological sense, I don’t understand the direct path to Catholicism. My opposition to the RCC is based on more than just their sexual views (I don’t know about a man with the ability to speak infallibly, and I take umbrage with some other deeper theological irritations they hold), but their positions on homosexuality and contraception are primarily what prevents me from accepting their claims. I’d like to see why she has no problems with going ahead with the Catholic Church despite her similar opposition.

    • Deepak Shetty

      If Leah found methodological naturalism a defensible truth and had passion for it to begin with, why couldn’t the incentive have equally been to convert her loved one, instead of the other way around?

      Because we mostly aren’t evangelicals. You’ll find it when the topic of raising kids comes up as well. Secular people will usually want to introduce a variety of thought and critical thinking to their kids and will usually phrase it as “let the child decide when he is an adult – I will provide the tools for him to make an informed decision” and we will fret and worry of we are brainwashing our kids to have our views etc. A religious person mostly doesn’t have these concerns and just tells his kids they belong to his religion.

      My wife is a theist and I really have no interest in converting her – and while she might say “come to mass with me” – I don’t really want to say “only if you read The God Delusion”.

  • Loqi

    I don’t get it. If you reach conclusions that you know are morally abhorrent by being consistent with your metaethics (I have no philosophy background, so I’m using your word and hoping it’s the appropriate one), wouldn’t the reasonable conclusion be that your metaethics are wrong and you need to rethink them?

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

      Metaethics is about the reality of morality itself. What kind of reality is it? Is it somehow real in a way independent of humans or of human desires? Is it a projection of human interests or emotions? Is it created by acts of human will?

      If she thought that without a personal theistic deity then nothing had legitimate moral wrongness, then she may have reasoned that on those grounds there is no objective reason to condemn homophobia either. So her choices were, in her mind, a metaethics that offered a foundation for numerous moral claims but brought with it a puzzle about what to do about LGBT people (of which, as a bisexual she is one), or she could stick with what she (I think falsely) judged to be the only atheistic option, one in which all moral judgments, whether about accepting gays or anything else was denied any reality and truth and bindingness.

      I disagree with her reasoning, but that’s the best spin for it, I think.

    • Albert Bakker

      I think what Loqi alluded to is the following. Given that your meta-ethical position is moral realism in the sense she described, that “the Moral Law” as she called and in a (classical) Platonic sense it is supposed to exist autonomically in a parallel world, independently of human influences, coherent and internally consistent. And given that this “Moral Law” is accessible through revelation. And given that one accepts that the authority of the Catholic Church is the best source to interpret these revelations and codify these moral truths in whatever form. That given all these things you have now submitted yourself to criticism of inconsistency whenever you second guess the Church’s ethical positions and allow your malleable opinion to prevail over Church’s unique authoritative access to this “Moral Law” concerning also LGBT issues. That would mean that you either deny objective morality or ignore it, when neither options are particularly attractive if the reason that you joined a church is based on their presumed (revealed) access to objective moral truths in the first place.

      And of course it is a very demanding task to fabricate enough ambiguity with respect to the ethics of these issue (and many others) in interpreting Scripture so as to make it fit with human conscience, while standing firmly in a present day world. It is also very unappetizing to devout believers, for one has to allow for the primacy of ethical judgements that are very much at odds with those the original authors held in their days.

      The implications therefore carry much further than moral realism as a purely philosophical position. The main point is here not whether moral propositions are either immutably true or false independently of (informed) opinions, but about having the authority to dictate final answers to moral questions, and the pressure put on followers to obey them. And of course why many are so disheartened is because the incongruity between independently justifiable ethics and revealed ethics is large and so unmistakably obvious in Catholicism.

  • John Morales

    Of course that’s not to say that will never happen and one of us could never become a Catholic either.

    Once a Catholic, always a Catholic, there is no way to leave.

    Therefore I am a Catholic.

    Therefore I cannot become one.

    It will never happen.

    (Well, according to the dogma, anyway)

    • Bob Jase

      I don’t see how liking some philosophical positions of an organization (which doesn’t actually practice those same positions) while disliking others can cause someone to believe intalking snakes & zombie messiahs.

      Honestly, there is no need for a Jesus without the whole talking snake bit and the evidence for the former is about equal to that of the latter.

  • http://adultonsetatheist.blogspot.com/ Adult Onset Atheist

    “The Raving Theist” who converted to Christianity in Decmber of 2008 (and then went off line October 2009) was from Long Island. I think he also “grew up in a secular household”. I wonder if they know each other?

  • F

    (from point 3)

    That sort of psychological analysis just reinforces the inference that at least some members of the atheist movement are still woefully unwilling to understand or to take seriously either the powerful psychological mechanisms by which religions work within sane, neurotypical, average human brains,

    Part of the issue here is overestimating, uncritically, the human brain and cognition. This is hardly limited to this discussion, the general idea behind point 3, or religion in general. It’s magical thinking about neurology, and human capability of reason and logic what does it.

  • New England Bob

    The so-called sophisticated theologians that you speak about and seem to admire is a falacy.

    It is all a house of cards, a spider web, based in false premises and lies. Even supposed highly elevated theological philosophers like Plantinga write utter nonsense. Those are my thoughts.

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

      The so-called sophisticated theologians that you speak about and seem to admire is a falacy.

      It is all a house of cards, a spider web, based in false premises and lies. Even supposed highly elevated theological philosophers like Plantinga write utter nonsense. Those are my thoughts.

      Where did I call theologians sophisticated? I was talking about the philosophers. And I was not talking about Plantinga but Catholic philosophers. They are, quite typically, quite different than Plantinga. And while I think they are wrong, they have fairly sophisticated conceptual development on a lot of issues that are entirely to the side of their theological nonsense.

      A good example of what I am thinking about is their answer to the problem of evil which I explicate and then criticize in my post On God as the Source of Being, But Not of Evil.

      They’re not stupid or terrible pseudo-philosophers. They’re just too obstinate about moving past the middle ages philosophically even when describing what “nature” requires of us and they’re too beholden to accommodating nonsensical (and too often pernicious) dogmatic theology. But get them into a straight philosophical discussion about general philosophical matters and they can be quite interesting and illuminating people.

  • nicksabot

    I don’t know if you saw my reaction over at Left Hemispheres. I’m definitely in the “Catholicism? You’ve got to be shitting me!” camp, along with with the bafflement over her reasoning.

    shameless plug
    http://lefthemispheres.blogspot.com/2012/06/coming-out-is-hard-to-do-especially-if.html

    • nicksabot

      Wow, I was hoping for some kind of constructive criticism. Even “don’t post on someone else’s site.”

    • John Morales

      A conversion to Roman Catholicism, however, is worth a
      rebuttal.  Of all the religious traditions
      available, she chose one of the most wretchedly immoral of the lot.

      I can think of worse.

    • nicksabot

      So can I, that’s why I said “one of”. However as far as the continuity of physical and intellectual horrors, you’d be hard pressed to find worse. There isn’t another institution that has the RCC’s history.

  • http://fluxandfire.wordpress.com Juno Walker

    Her account makes me wonder what she would think of Nietzsche’s criticism of Kant’s (and pretty much every other moral philosopher) failure to question the existence of the so-called “Moral Law” to begin with.

    It seems to me that she’s just like Kant – she assumes or presupposes that the Moral Law comes “from somewhere”. So she’s left herself with a choice between a largely irrelevant and nebulous classical philosophy (Plato), and one that is more recent and constantly “in your face” (Christianity – and Catholicism).

    And of course Nietzsche called Christianity “Platonism for the people” lol.

    • nicksabot

      Classical Christian philosophy is largely built on a framework of Plato and Aristotle.

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

      Yes, classical Christian philosophy contains numerous versions of Platonism and Aristotelianism.

      Juno, I wouldn’t blame Kant so much. There is a case to be made that his theistic moments were more a matter of concessions to the powers that be than his own convictions. Plus he did great services to secularism by defeating the ontological, cosmological, and teleological arguments for the existence of God within his system. And his moral philosophy is far subtler and more brilliant than Nietzsche gives it credit for. I cannot full endorse it but there is a wealth of insight there.

      I try to account for Kantian insights within a Nietzschean view of value in my post Why Be Morally Dutiful, Fair, or Self-Sacrificing If The Ethical Life Is About Power?

      I exposit Kant’s philosophy on its own terms in the posts:

      Philosophical Ethics: Kant, The Good Will, And Rational Actions

      Philosophical Ethics: “But Why MUST I?” Kant’s Ironic Formulation Of Liberty As Duty

      Philosophical Ethics: A Possible Kantian Formula For Determining The Permissibility Of Self-Defense

      But overall, you (and Nietzsche) are quite right in taking Kant to task for taking moral categories of thought as a basis for overblown metaphysical claims. Ultimately, as I try to do in the first post above, moral categories need to be reconceptualized and limited in their scope and truth within a naturalistic metaphysics rather than be interpreted as justifying an overly ambitious non-naturalistic metaphysics.

      And any given culture’s explicit moral concepts and judgments need to be vigorously scrutinized for their real worth, rather than taken prima facie as absolutely true. (See Nietzsche: Moral Absolutism and Moral Relativism Are “Equally Childish”).

    • http://fluxandfire.wordpress.com Juno Walker

      Thanks for the links, Dan. I actually haven’t read Kant in a long time, and I’m not sure I ever even knew that there was a possibility he succumbed to the ecclesiastical pressures of his day.

      But one of the things I like most about Nietzsche is his severe skepticism. I have several evangelical friends, and I always feel that they’re not skeptical enough with regard to their beliefs.

  • jamessweet

    Some atheists (including me) are primarily baffled at how her metaphysical and moral philosophy concerns that make her think there is something to Catholic philosophy at all justify the leap to the numerous wild beliefs of Catholic theology.

    I don’t have quite the same respect for Catholic philosophy as you (then again, IANAPhilosopher, so maybe I am just ignorant), but: Yeah.

    So she’s got a hard-on for Catholic meta-ethics. Okay, fair enough. I don’t get that, but maybe with different foundational assumptions, I guess… But if that’s the case, there exist quite a few liberal congregations in the Catholic tradition. Why not join one of those?

    As I mentioned in an earlier comment, she was never a materialist, so the transition to theism is not tremendously surprising. She was already a self-described dualist, so… there ya go. But the Catholic church? Really????

    • John Morales

      But if that’s the case, there exist quite a few liberal congregations in the Catholic tradition. Why not join one of those?

      ‘liberal Catholicism’ is oxymoronic; one either is Catholic, or one is liberal.

      She was already a self-described dualist, so… there ya go. But the Catholic church? Really????

      Meh.

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      Bit of a shame the Church can’t deal with heresy as in days of yore, eh?

      (It dealt with liberal heretical congregations quite decisively, back when it still had temporal power, for the greater glory of God)

    • jamessweet

      ‘liberal Catholicism’ is oxymoronic; one either is Catholic, or one is liberal.

      I agree; but perhaps I wasn’t clear. There exist liberal congregations “in the Catholic tradition” (i.e. not Catholic per se) which are not associated with the Vatican or any aspect of the RCC.

      So you can believe in saints and St. Peter and all that malarkey, without believing in the anti-woman anti-gay anti-condom stuff. Not that I’m endorsing/i> this, but it’s no worse and no more self-contradictory than any other liberal Christian sect.

      That’s why I say, if you’re taken with Catholic meta-ethics but have a problem with the actual ethics of the Vatican, there are options… (Which for me is kind of like saying, if you like the awful taste of McDonald’s food but don’t want the extra calories, but anyway…)

    • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

      I have altered my attitude – slightly towards to liberal, or even just keep it to yourself mentality of some Christians, for the better.
      This place I have been taken into their addiction recovery program has facilitated my rescue, so to speak, and their primary mission (Hope Mission is the place)is to help people like me recover, and to run a meal line for homeless and hungry street people.
      There is thick, fundamentalist religion integrated into the system and is the primary focus of the program I’m in, but they genuinely believe that helping people is a pathway to salvation, and many of them are indeed very compassionate and understanding. They accept any type of religious persuasion, include my lack of one, just asking for respect and an open mind, and accept that the treatment program is Christian.
      I’m not going to deny my thoughts and stance about religion dogma and indoctrination, and the magical thinking they foster and promote, but at the same time I can hardly fault them for the way they help in a judgement free manner.
      Outside of the program I joined(and caused a lot of shit, especially the Purpose Driven Life classes!), there is zero religious pressure to use the homeless shelter, or get meals.

      They are providing a fuck of a lot more help for us than is available secularly or through gov’t resources, so I am not going to condemn them whatsoever.

      They don’t see their help as an reason or excuse to ‘carry the message’, but merely make the offer available, and even then, at the meals and dorms, there is no mention of Christianity or garish posters or any promotion to join in order to be saved.

      This, I can easily live with, and even help support, which I do by volunteering when I have time from school or part time computer work.

  • Clifford Baines

    I was looking forward to your reaction to this, since you’re the most abstractly philosophical blogger here, and her thought processes seemed along those lines. It’s a little heartening to hear that you’re as confused as I am about what she means when she describes Catholicism’s appeal. Either she’s so wrapped up in the abstract that she can’t see pertinent down-to-earth elements, or she’s letting herself be too influenced by her friends and more-than-friends, or… I dunno. She’s really vague about a lot of it.

    And as much as I hate to skirt no-true-Scotsmanism, I also very much agree that her pre-conversion writing sounds like she’d had one foot in theism all along. Her conversion entry even mentions that she’d spent a lot of time “translating from Catholic” when expressing her own philosophy. Like you, I looked a little askance at her blog before this simply because of its title and suchlike. Who or what was she unequally yoked with after that one relationship ended?

    The most dismaying thing to me is the bit about her being “still confused” about the Church’s attitude toward gays, not just because of pure moral outrage, but because that’s the classic theistic catch-all defense of the indefensible. So many substantial discussions I’ve had with theists who couldn’t refute the points I was making ended with them shrugging and saying they didn’t know everything about God, and that they’re “still learning every day” or some other such platitude. It can apply to any kind of problem – ethical, theological, evidential – and protect any position. Libresco seems bright and curious enough not to let herself stay “still confused” forever, but I hope at the very least that she resolves the issue by deciding that not all Catholic doctrine needs to be followed.

    Basically, I’d prefer that if she’s going to convert at all, it would be to lapsed Catholicism.

  • http://brucegerencser.net Bruce Gerencser

    I tend to view religious belief from a economic viewpoint. People embrace a religion because the benefits outweigh the costs. It is never just about the evidence.

    I agree with you. I think this person had one foot in the door the whole time. While I certainly think everyone is free to walk whatever path they wish, I don’t get going from atheist to Catholic.

    Some of the atheist commenters on her blog reminded me of Baptist fundamentalists, Attacking and devouring anyone who dares to leave the fold. I want nothing to do with this kind of atheism. Nothing is gained by textually brutalizing people, especially those making a hard decision to leave the fold.

    • Jon H

      I totally agree with you, I find the anger her way unsettling. It’s also telling that the anger aimed at her seems to be greatest when it’s coming from people with no clue about her. It truly is a sort of atheist fundamentalism.

  • Patrick

    She’s been LARPing as a Catholic for ages.

    She constantly expresses non-Catholic ideas by translating them into Catholic terminology. It makes basic communication with her very difficult. For example, her idea of “virtue ethics” is basically antithetical to actual virtue ethics, but she phrases it in a way that passes for Catholic-speak. I once told her that the only difference between her and the Catholics in my neighborhood was that they’d gone one step further, and were willing to do the same thing to the word “God.” So… I think she’s BEEN Catholic for a while now. If my friends and family count as Catholic, then she’s been a Catholic for a few years, identification as atheist notwithstanding.

  • left0ver1under

    Libresco did not “convert” to catholicism.

    She was perverted to catholicism, brainwashed into believing bunk, into joining an ideology that promotes hate against her on several levels.

    She should not be insulted or abused for her decision. That would make atheists no better than the religious.

    She should, however, be pitied, and the facts politely pointed out to her.

  • http://fromtheashes9000.bandcamp.com/album/incendiary Mandrellian

    A wise man once said “I would never want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.”

    To flip that around, I’m having trouble understanding why any woman with a shred of rationality or self-respect would join an organisation that not only barely tolerates her as a member, but would also never, ever let her be even a junior manager (much less CEO!). In fact, if women couldn’t reproduce (i.e. provide more Catholics) I’m not convinced they’d be allowed in the door.

    I don’t want to pull a “No True Scotsman”, but I have trouble (yes, more trouble) understanding how, if you’ve arrived at the position of atheism via a process of logical and reason and evaluation of theistic claims (et al), how in the world you’d reason yourself into a position which could be said to be the complete opposite. It really does make me wonder if Leah’s atheism was well-informed and if she’d given it a great deal of thought. From the few comments I’ve read from people who read her regularly or interacted with her, it seems she had, as someone above said, “one foot in theism” the whole time.

    But it’s not like I’m wailing and gnashing and lamenting her “defection”. I honestly hadn’t heard of Leah until this news broke and it’s not my concern if someone wants to jump off the boat because they think that once they drown they’ll gain the power of flight. I’m just honestly baffled as to why anyone, female or otherwise, would convert to Catholicism if they knew anything about the organisation, its history and present behaviour at all.

    • Patrick

      Leah was a very smart person who was still prone to believing that morals were objective because they feel that way.

    • Brian

      Well, if you are truly interested, you might want to look into why someone like Leah would convert to Catholicism. That would require good-will and patience on your part, and, lol, some money to spend on books. I converted to Catholicism based on the compelling rational strength of classical realism and Catholic fundamental theology. Classical realism eventually leads to a natural theology that demonstrates all you can know by reason about the existence of God, his nature, his attributes, etc. Fundamental theology, then, takes you from that natural religion to the supernatural religion of Catholicism.

      If you need book recommendations, I’d be happy to help.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Brian,

      Even though I’m at least nominally Catholic, I might be. My contact information is in the “About” on my blog.

    • John Morales

      Brian:

      Well, if you are truly interested, you might want to look into why someone like Leah would convert to Catholicism. That would require good-will and patience on your part, and, lol, some money to spend on books.

      Poor thinking skills and intellectual dishonesty account for it quite handily.

      (Reading fanfic is a waste of time if you don’t buy into the franchise)

      I converted to Catholicism based on the compelling rational strength of classical realism and Catholic fundamental theology.

      I rest my case.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    While atheism is a rational and consistent position, lots of people believe it for irrational positions and can’t come up with consistent justifications. Someone who doesn’t believe in God because that’s how she was raised is no more justified than someone who does for the same reason. I don’t find this very surprising.

    I shoudl alsopoint otu religions look a lot different from the inside. Most of the things that look really bad to us rarely come up. You can bet that the discussions she was having that convinced her were not about how birth control is bad and the details of how transubstantiation works. It was fairly abstract philosophical stuff.

  • Brian

    I understand the bewilderment of many atheists Leah’s conversion. Those familiar with Catholic intellectual thought, though, it is clear why Catholicism is very attractive. Catholicism has achieved an internal consistency and coherence that very few other world views, if any, have achieved. Personally, as an agnostic convert to Catholicism, I am convinced that if more people immersed themselves in Catholic thought, there would be more conversion to Catholicism and more people friendly and respectful of Catholicism.

    • John Morales

      … it is clear why Catholicism is very attractive. Catholicism has achieved an internal consistency and coherence that very few other world views, if any, have achieved.

      You make me laugh.

      Personally, as an agnostic convert to Catholicism, I am convinced that if more people immersed themselves in Catholic thought, there would be more conversion to Catholicism and more people friendly and respectful of Catholicism.

      Personally, I think you are a fool.

    • Brian

      So which works of classical realism/natural theology/fundamental theology have you read to be so sneering? Genuinely interested.

    • John Morales

      You might care to expound on the internal consistency of the Trinity: the Mother, Daughter and the Holy Spirit.

      <snicker>

    • John Morales

      Seriously, Brian, you recite the Credo with intellectual honesty, or not?

    • raven

      Those familiar with Catholic intellectual thought, though, it is clear why Catholicism is very attractive.

      It isn’t attractive at all. It’s silly and foolish and wrong, one step above a con job if that. On a slow day we sometimes blog some for an easy laugh.

      I have some familiarity with so called Catholic thought. Plantinga is an idiot and dishonest.

      He is a Presuppositionalist. Everything starts out assuming god exists. And then proves god exists. It’s just words strung together.

      BTW Brian, most US atheists are ex-Xians. We know what it is like from the inside. Some of the atheist leaders are ex-biblical scholars or ex-ministers. They know too.

    • raven

      Brian the kook:

      I am convinced that if more people immersed themselves in Catholic thought, there would be more conversion to Catholicism and more people friendly and respectful of Catholicism.

      Oh gee. I can’t believe someone has the scrambled brains to come up with that one.

      Catholicism has been overtly hostile to people like me and 3.5 billion other people since it was invented. I’d be better off finding a large snake, forcing its mouth open and jumping in.

      This is just wrong. In the last few years, 22 million people have left the US church, 1/3 of their membership. The rank and file voted with their feet. They know.

      I was a Protestant xian for 5 decades. But half of my extended family is Catholic. AFAIK, none of them go to Mass anymore and one is a mid level lay official. In a Protestant church.

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

      I have some familiarity with so called Catholic thought. Plantinga is an idiot and dishonest.

      He is a Presuppositionalist. Everything starts out assuming god exists. And then proves god exists. It’s just words strung together

      Again, Plantinga and presuppostionalism are Calvinist, not Catholic. Whole different ballgame requiring a whole different set of arguments.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      But if you are looking for Catholic philosophy to read or sneer and laugh at, you can read Edward Feser’s blog. I’m not sure I agree with him most of the time and not sure I understand it some of the time, but he really does go into massive detail on it, and he seems to be an expert on the Aristolean roots.

  • Brian

    Oh yeah, for sure. I believe all that the Catholic Church teaches.

    I understand how bewildering that is to atheists. I was once similarly bewildered. From my own experience, though, so much of that is due to an extremely disbelieving attitude that has built up over time. I remember being very amused when I saw people pray, thinking to myself that they were uttering nonsense to a non-existent entity. It took time to get over those deeply held prejudices, even when I had convinced myself rationally of the truth of monotheism and then Catholicism.

    I still would like to know, though, which books have you read on philosophia perennis, natural theology, and/or fundamental theology from a sophisticated Catholic perspective.

    btw, your counter-Protestantism apologetics will be vastly improved by reading Catholic apologetics.

    • John Morales

      [ot + meta]

      Brian, this ain’t the place and time to discuss your putative “fundamental theology from a sophisticated Catholic perspective”.

      So, you’re for it, I sneer at it.

      Two voices on the internet, we are.

      (There’s TZT in Pharyngula, should you care to discuss this matter ;) )

    • Brian

      All I want are titles, man. I can give you the names of books I read on atheism, materialism, etc.

    • John Morales

      All I want are titles, man. I can give you the names of books I read on atheism, materialism, etc.

      None.

    • Brian

      Thanks for the honesty.

    • Ysanne

      Seriously, without any insult implied:
      How do you manage to do this?
      E.g. the transubstantiation thing, to quote one of the more absurd examples.
      Or why humanity would need to be saved by a Messiah if the story of creation is not really a factual account (I highly appreciate that the RCC is not going for that creationism BS) and therefore the world as we know it is not god’s punishment for eating a forbidden fruit? (Alternatively, if we go for the symbolic take, what would be the symbolic state of salvation that frees us from the state of being able to think about moral dilemmas?)

    • Brian

      Ysanne? I want to understand you. Are you saying how I could believe things that seem so fantastical to you?

    • raven

      I’m not John, but I’ve read some Plantinga. You can spot the lies and logical fallacies per page easily.

      I refuse to waste much time on him. My life is busy and finite and time is valuable. Aquinas was no better.

      What I have read is a huge amount of biblical scholarship. That would be Avalos, Mackie, Spong, Borg, Crossans (a Catholic), Ehrman, Wilson, Jenkins, and maybe 20 altogether.

      The overwhelming scholarly consensus is that the bible is just most or all fiction. It is a kludgy and horrible book of contradictions, obsolete morality, atrocities, and tribal politics.

      Your own cult tried to hide it. One of the many high points of Catholic evil was burning Tyndale at the stake for translating it into English.

      What your religion lacks is any tangible proof that what it believes is true. The bible is fiction. It’s not even known for sure if a guy named Jesus even existed. The concept of god is unprovable or unfalsifiable. Every falsifiable claim that xianity makes has been falsified.

    • Ysanne

      Brian,
      yes, that’s exactly what I’m curious. I am really completely at a loss about how a generally sensible person can actually believe this very obviously made-up stuff.
      And by “believe” I don’t mean “find some value in” (after all, completely bogus stories can occasionally make good points), but “actually think this happened/happens”.

    • Tony… therefore God

      You believe all the Catholic Church teaches?
      Thank you so much for telling me there’s something wrong with me.
      Thanks for telling me I can’t get married.
      Thanks for telling me I’m going to hell.

      You such a nice person to tell a complete stranger they’re going to spend an eternity being tortured and burned.

      (oh, and thanks for telling women everywhere that they don’t have the right to do what they want with their bodies).

      I’m so disgusted I can’t even string together the words to insult you properly.

  • raven

    Another one who misses a crucial point.

    Most atheists in the USA are ex-xians!!!

    The stork theory of reproduction of atheists is just wrong.

    We know all about “religion from the inside”. I was a xian for nearly 5 decades.

    We also know all about deconversion. It is what we went through.

  • raven

    raven

    I have some familiarity with so called Catholic thought. Plantinga is an idiot and dishonest.

    He is a Presuppositionalist. Everything starts out assuming god exists. And then proves god exists. It’s just words strung together

    DF: Again, Plantinga and presuppostionalism are Calvinist, not Catholic. Whole different ballgame requiring a whole different set of arguments.

    That isn’t what Plantinga calls it. They use a different terminology, “reasonable belief” or some such.

    But that is what it is. Plantinga assumes god exists because god exists and then proves god exists. It’s trivial and faulty logic.

    • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

      Yes, it is one thing ‘to have read stuff’, but quite another to apply critical evaluation to ‘stuff you have read,’ and to have continued on to have read discussion on the stuff. ;)

      Brian, you up to TZT?

    • Albert Bakker

      It is a bit more subtle than that. Plantinga’s argument is that a believer is entitled to call herself rational and be entirely within her (epistemic) rights to say that she believes or even ” knows” God exists (and in every little detail of the particular creed she believes in) if that belief is properly basic and ‘warranted.’

      A ‘properly basic belief’ is a belief that is not inferred from other beliefs, but that you are entitled to nevertheless. Like for example the belief that the screen you look at actually exists. If you think that not all beliefs can be derived from other beliefs then you adopted some or other form of foundationalism. Plantinga opted for weak foundationalism in the sense that the requirements for basic beliefs need not be self-evidently true or direct input from the senses or otherwise undeniably true in such a direct sense.

      A belief is warranted if a person’s belief is the result of cognitive faculties that work properly (1) in a cognitive environment sufficiently similar to which those faculties were ‘designed’ – like humans on Earth (2) according to a design plan aimed at the production of true beliefs – or iow God must not be deliberately deceitful (3) and the probability that beliefs that are produced in this way are true, must be very high (4).

      On the (pre)supposition that God exists and implanted in humans a certain cognitive module that produces in humans on Earth who are honestly investigating whether God exists with a high probability true beliefs about the existence of God, the belief that God exists thusly established can be called properly basic and be said to amount to knowledge.

      But the conditions that are required for this to work is that God exists and this dedicated cognitive module, or sensus divinitatis, works properly and that the other aforementioned requirements are met.

      So this argument is not a proof of the existence of God, rather the opposite. It is an argument that you don’t need to have a proof, not even the slightest amount of evidence and still hold the position that you ‘know’ God exists while also be entitled to call yourself rational.

  • John M

    I have been Catholic and latterly evangelical Fundie. 50 odd years later woke up. I don’t care about no dreamy afterlife; dead is dead but for now there is eat drink and be merry, oh and think of the children and grandchildren. There is no supernatural basis for morality; it only feels that way. Have your intuitions by all means but put them to the test. All I can say to Leah is I am shaking my head in disbelief, maybe some other day the dissonance will get too much. Oh and peace, we’ll all be here if you change your mind again as is your entitlement!

  • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

    One of my first thoughts on reading it was similar to yours, I think, which is that maybe she just needed to do more philosophical reading. Maybe a Stoic Virtue Ethics would have appealed to her, or maybe she neede to go deontological and perhaps Kantian. That being said, with the personal being idea she’s going with, I can easily see how she ended up where she did, and only time will tell if her philosophical push is sufficient for the change she made.

  • Tyrant of Skepsis

    I am one of the people guilty of calling her stupid (not mentally deteriorating though!), and besides the fact that it’s a bit of a blunt rhetorical device, I almost, but not quite, feel like withdrawing it. I know many religious people well (yes they use my bathroom), some of them YEC, and I know of course that most of them are not stupid. These people for the most grew up in fundamentalist christian tradition, and if that’s what you have absorbed at the core of your personality, there is an incredibly strong bias of remaining in this faith to a certain extent. What gets me in LL’s case is the apparent moving from a (at least superficially) rational position to one of willful ignorance and acceptance of dogma on the one hand, and joining the catholic church for reasons of morality on the other. The more I hear about her pre-conversion ideas and the way she has argued them, the less I am surprised about her conversion however. As cheap as it sounds, I was assuming that she came from a position similar to mine to catholicism, and that’s what prompted my reaction, but that’s simply not the case. If she was an atheist before, and I am an atheist, the label is obviously too imprecise to be useful for much. I’m a materialist maybe? Or a monist? What’s the difference between those two again?

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Materialism is a specific monist position, saying that there’s only one kind of stuff, and it’s physical. Idealism is, if I recall correctly, also a monist view, arguing that there’s only one kind of stuff, and that’s ideas. You can also have neutral monism, which argues that there’s only one kind of stuff, but it has both what are called physical and what are called mental properties.

      Dualism in this vein says that there are two kinds of stuff: physical and mental.

      (Note that materialism about mind specifically can reduce to claims that there are only “bodily” things, so a dualism about mind can be materialist in the sense given above but reject that mind is body. That we use the same terms for things like that can indeed get massively confusing).

    • Tyrant of Skepsis

      Thanks a lot for the elaboration, I just don’t understand your last paragraph

      Note that materialism about mind specifically can reduce to claims that there are only “bodily” things, so a dualism about mind can be materialist in the sense given above but reject that mind is body. That we use the same terms for things like that can indeed get massively confusing).

      at all. Can you restate that somehow?

      I am also confused about what you call “neutral monism”. Every material thing it seems has many properties. Can you say a bit more about characterizes a mental property as opposed to a run-off-the-mill physical property?

    • Robert B.

      I can answer the first one. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Stoic.)

      Materialists claim that there are only material things, like matter and the sort of energy physicists know about. That implies that even minds must be composed of those things – i.e. that the human consciousness is just a configuration of physical stuff. Presumably that’s the brain, so materialists sometimes say “the mind is the brain” or “the mind is a physical process in the brain.” (Verbose Stoic is the first person I’ve heard phrase it as “the mind is the body,” but the brain is of course part of the body, so I don’t object to it.)

      Other people have a problem with that, because our experience of consciousness feels completely different than our experiences of physical stuff. Dualists of mind (I think I have also heard them called “limited dualists”) are generally materialistic but hold that there must be something non-material that minds have. Hence “the mind is not the brain/body” – minds, by this view, have some other essential part.

    • http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com Verbose Stoic

      Tyrant,

      What I was doing there was distinguishing between dualist positions, mainly, where you can have:

      a) There are two kinds of stuff, physical and mental, and the mind is obviously mental.

      b) There is only one kind of stuff — physical — but mind is not brain/body, but a separate/separable entity.

      Both of these are dualists, and I think that most people would call the opposition to that materialism, but they aren’t the same position at all. I raise it because depending on how physical is defined I might be either a) or b). And yeah, it’s confusing.

      As for neutral monism, it’s not a very popular theory anymore, but it helps explain challenges like Descartes’ that say that mental properties are so much different than physical ones. The argument is that this doesn’t mean that they have to be different substances — as dualists claim — but that we can claim that they have fundamental differences that do mean that they should be categorized differently, which is what materialists might deny. A good analogy might be over states like solid, liquid and gas. Yes, at the level of description we’re talking about they are different states and have wildly different properties, but surely that does not mean that we require different substances. You can’t really describe most of these states in terms that apply to all of them, but they are still all the same substance. The same, then, might be the case for what we call “physical” and what we call “mental”; they have wildly differing properties but inhere in a substance that can take on either at any time.

    • Robert B.

      In that case, I was getting the two kinds of dualists mixed up.

  • Tyrant of Skepsis

    Thanks for the details,

    Other people have a problem with that, because our experience of consciousness feels completely different than our experiences of physical stuff. Dualists of mind (I think I have also heard them called “limited dualists”) are generally materialistic but hold that there must be something non-material that minds have. Hence “the mind is not the brain/body” – minds, by this view, have some other essential part.

    I think I understand at least superficially, but that is a very implicit definition, basically “whatever it is that is responsible for this thereness feeling of our own consciousness” with the implicit assumption that this thing must necessarily be something beyond matter/physical energy.
    I don’t buy it for a second, but for the sake of the argument:

    You and Verbose Stoic differ in that one mentions non-material components of the mind, the other mental properties of matter. That’s not the same, is it?

    • Robert B.

      No, that’s not the same. “Mental properties of matter” was part of Verbose Stoic’s description of neutral monism. I wasn’t addressing that part, since I’ve never heard of neutral monism before now. I was talking about dualists of mind, which is a whole different thing. They’re the ones who propose non-material components of the mind.

      Also, I may be presenting the dualist of mind position poorly/unconvincingly, because I am a materialist. I’m very bad at explaining things I don’t agree with.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      I wasn’t addressing that part,

      Ah that solves it, I misunderstood that part.

  • raven

    Dualism in science was dead a century ago. Your mind is an emergent property of 3 pounds of meat in your skull. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a soul. Soul is unprovable or unfalsifiable, like fairies or leprechauns.

    Empirically dualism is just wrong.

    This is why a lot of people have nothing but contempt for philosophy. A lot of it seems to be navel gazing or a circle jerk irrelevant to the real world. (Hmmm, does the real world even exist. I suppose if Solipsism comes back in fashion, it won’t, LOL.)

    I’m not one of them. But when I read some of the trash like PLantinga, WL Craig, or Aquinas, I have to make a conscious effort to not over stereotype.

    • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

      The irritating thing is Craig, is so f***ing arrogant and pretentious. He is shit, but he loves to brag that he’s a ‘profession’ philosopher. I don’t know about the other two, but substitutes arrogance for knowledge.

  • CBrachyrhynchos

    Writing off religious conversions as a sign of mental degeneracy is a nice way of Othering converts as just incapable of rational thought so that one can continue to feel superior.

    Thank you for this. In addition to othering religious people who are otherwise neurotypical, this line of argument excludes non-neurotypical people who might be skeptics or religious, and might have unique perspectives on how and why we believe.

  • David

    As an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive. Why would anyone want to be part of such a group, even if they agreed with the underlying philosophy?
    As to the arguments, only an academic elitist could say something like, “WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.” Is it necessary to know your terms to understand intuitively what these are? The implication is that only someone educated like you are has any value at all. This is the tone, but do you really want to communicate that idea?
    By contrast, somehow it is acceptable to talk like a street urchin, “fucking” this and that, and “spineless, murderous lying little toady bastard”, and “circle jerk”, WTH, etc. Why is that? The Atheist claims to be intelligent, and by implication everyone else is stupid, mentally deficient, idiotic, deluded, inferior, childish, has “scrambled brains”, etc. but somehow he often can’t make an argument without trying to marginalize, demean, insult, harass, etc. his “opponent”.
    In the end, conversations like this are, at best, preaching to the choir or non-productive pat-on-the-back fests.

    • raven

      tone troll:

      As an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive.

      So you thought you would show up and sling some more insults around. There isn’t anything else in your trolling that qualifies as “thought”.

      You are tone trolling. The refuge of the intellectually and morally bankrupt. It’s boring. We’ve already seen it on these threads.

      Why would anyone want to be part of such a group, even if they agreed with the underlying philosophy?

      What group? There are around 60 million No Religions in the USA and they are diverse and disorganized. We don’t have Popes.

      Why would anyone want to believe in delusions and lies? The fundie perversion of xianity is based on pure hate, lies, and hypocrisy. It works or they wouldn’t use it but hate just isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

      I walked my talk. When Xian started becoming synonymous with liar, ignorant, hater, crazy, and sometimes killer, I took a good hard look and left the religion.

    • raven

      David the tone troll:

      extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive academic elitist street urchin,

      Other than a few insults, there is nothing intelligent and on topic in David’s tone troll rant.

      If that is all David has, he might as well just tell us we are all going to hell and threaten to kill us. We get that a lot from xians.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      Why would anyone want to be part of such a group,

      Anyone who bases their evaluation of religious truth claims on the conversational tone of those adhering to it, is a fool. Yes, I’m looking at you.

      only an academic elitist could say something like, “WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.”

      I am definitely an academic elitist (I even have a fucking certificate somewhere…), yet I constantly keep forgetting what the fucking definition of epistemology is. You on the other hand are a worthless tone troll. Therefore, I feel superior to you even so.

    • busterggi

      SAy, are you the David from Texas that I know so well from the Skeptics Annotated Bible?

      If not, fine.

      If so, will you answer my questions here that you ran away from there?

    • David

      @raven
      Where and whom did I insult?
      I happened upon this blog, noticed the vitriol and insults of those who claim to be open minded and intelligent, and commented. How does that make me a troll, especially when I hold the same view of secular and religious people?
      I was referring to this group, not Atheists as a whole. On the other hand, Atheists generally communicate this way so maybe it is a group.
      Not sure why you are referring to me as a Christian, assume that I support hate, lies, hypocrisy, ignorance, craziness, and/or murder. Nor do I remember making mention of anyone’s eternal state or threatening to kill anything or anyone, or uttering threats of any kind.
      Perhaps the one true thing said is that my post is (somewhat) off topic, in the purest sense. Guilty as charged.
      @tyrant
      I don’t remember expressing any judgements about Atheist views based on the vulgar, abusive words in this blog.
      The profuse profanity was terribly amusing and clever.
      Please add “worthless” to the list of pejoratives in the original post, and thank you for further proving my point.

    • David

      @busterggi
      Nope, not that David

    • David

      @raven
      Well, let’s take stock…

      You can’t respond without insult, but I am dumb
      You claim that I lie even though I used your exact words in context
      You state categorically that you know what all converts think, then claim the knowledge comes from sociology
      You claim you can’t understand a coherent sentence, then call me mentally ill and/or crazy
      You quote statistics and ignore the underlying data, but claim I am acting, and a troll
      And, as the topper, imply I am not even worth a response

      Yup, now I’m sure I want to “learn” even more

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

      Will the atheists here, please stop defending abusive, schoolyard worthy bullying insults and whining about “tone trolling” about people who quite rightly say it makes us look like tribalistic, self-absorbed, know-it-all jerks?

      If we cannot criticize religious ideas without being belligerently one-sided and Othering and demonizing religious people we are going to rightly disgust people away from ever listening to us. I will go so far as to say it is outright immoral to lose one’s cool and reduce one’s discourse to a tirade of overblown epithets. Please stop defending and asserting your right to blind, childish cruelty towards your enemies. It is unbecoming and makes other atheists look bad.

      Here are my ten tips for dealing with religious people (this is a link to number 10 and it has links to the other 9 posts). I think those guidelines should be followed on the internet almost as much as in real life. Additionally, here are 10 reasons specifically not to call people stupid (or treat them as such). Here is my broader case against all name-calling. And last week I debated the issue with PZ Myers (midway through the interview) so you can see his replies to my views. Here’s how I answer any knee jerk defensive accusations that I am being a tone troll for making these arguments.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      Please stop defending and asserting your right to blind, childish cruelty towards your enemies. It is unbecoming and makes other atheists look bad.

      You realise you’ve just claimed it’s a right, right?

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

      You realise you’ve just claimed it’s a right, right?

      HA. They have a legal one but not a moral one.

    • http://qpr.ca/blog Alan Cooper

      David, This “group” is just the collection of all random readers who have felt moved to comment either on Daniel’s article or on any of the previous comments. They include a range of perspectives including several who claim to be christian. Most are polite to a fault, so even if you are so sensitive that some strike you as “abusive”, it is abusive and dishonest of *you* to attribute abusiveness as a characteristic of the entire discussion. There is no common characteristic of the participants other than having commented. It is not a club and it’s too late to say that you don’t want to “join” it. You already have (and unfortunately have lowered the tone by doing so).

    • David

      I have “lowered the tone” by expressing my opinion that people ought not be abusive and condescending? More curious logic…

      I did not say everyone is abusive, but it is definitely characteristic of this discussion. Many posts addressing Leah say something like, “moral failing, mentally deficient, stupid, intellectual dishonesty, lost their mind”. It is little credit if people are polite to a fault with the like-minded.

      This “it is abusive and dishonest of *you* to attribute abusiveness as a characteristic of the entire discussion.” is a nice try at making me the bad guy.

      I didn’t say I didn’t want to “join the club”, which would be absurd since I am here by choice, but again to suggest that I have lowered the discourse by suggesting that people not abuse “others” is equally absurd.

  • Deepak Shetty

    I think one of the problems we face with Leah’s conversion is that we simply cannot identify with how one chooses to believe. How does someone who didn’t think God exists now think that God is a trinity and that the Vatican is the one true church. I think the path from atheism to deism can be somewhat understood but to move directly to theism – especially a revealed one like Christianity is well , hard to imagine.

    • raven

      I think one of the problems we face with Leah’s conversion is that we simply cannot identify with how one chooses to believe.

      Most of us are used to making rational choices using reason, data, and proof.

      Most religous conversions seem to be emotional or socially based, joining a tribal group. They may give reasons but those are post hoc rationalizations.

      For someone who reasoned their way out of xianity, which isn’t hard, it is hard to relate to. For anyone aware of the millennia of Catholic evil, it’s even worse.

      At some point, you just have to shrug your shoulders and realize much of human behavior isn’t based on reason.

      I’ve only seen a few conversions to xianity in my entire life. They were usually young people in psychological stress who were grasping for straws. Not crazy, just typical young person angst and confusion.

    • David

      @raven
      You have an amazing dual life!

      “Most of us are used to making rational choices using reason, data, and proof.”. but the masses’ “behavior is not based on reason.”

      “Most religous conversions seem to be emotional or socially based, joining a tribal group. They may give reasons but those are post hoc rationalizations.”
      How have you gained the ability to know the thoughts and intentions of other people’s minds?

      “For anyone aware of the millennia of Catholic evil, it’s even worse.” but I have to think you would agree with tyrant that it is foolish to judge people by tone, and presumably by the actions of others. I don’t claim to know your thoughts, so you will have to tell me.

      “I’ve only seen a few conversions to xianity in my entire life.” but still you know for a certainty that they are going “tribal” and rationalize post hoc.

    • raven

      David the lying troll:

      “Most of us are used to making rational choices using reason, data, and proof.”. but the masses’ “behavior is not based on reason.”

      I didn’t say that. You altered my words. You are a liar.

      David being dumb.

      How have you gained the ability to know the thoughts and intentions of other people’s minds?

      I didn’t.

      This is the result of a century of sociological research. The correlation between what religion your parents and surroundings are and your religion is over 90%. Chances are you aren’t a Moslem suicide bomber because you were born a fundie xian instead. You are dumb.

      David confused:

      “For anyone aware of the millennia of Catholic evil, it’s even worse.” but I have to think you would agree with tyrant that it is foolish to judge people by tone, and presumably by the actions of others. I don’t claim to know your thoughts, so you will have to tell me.

      This whole paragraph doesn’t make any sense. In any event, David seems way off mentally and I don’t even care to try to figure it out. David is crazy.

      OK David. You are tone troll, a liar, dumb, and possibly mentally ill. You aren’t much of an advertisement for xianity.

      BTW, according to the NCC and other survey data, 2-3 million people left the US churches last year. People like you are why I left. Keep up the xian troll act for us, OK.

      Someone else can play with the troll although this one isn’t much fun. I have work to do right now.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      but I have to think you would agree with tyrant that it is foolish to judge people by tone, and presumably by the actions of others

      Are you fucking kidding me? Are you illiterate? If you are going to quote me again, please run it by my press office first (tyrant@suckit.invalid)

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      possibly mentally ill.

      ???

    • David

      @tyrant
      Ah, another brilliant, eloquent missive! I feel so much more informed and intelligent.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      No David, you don’t even seem or seem to want to come close to understanding what is being said. My “missive” was not there to help you out with that because I don’t feel like it because you don’t appear to argue in good faith.

    • David

      Hmmm, I address each issue, without insult, but somehow I don’t want to understand.

      And again, I address each issue but don’t argue in good faith.

      Curious logic…

  • tmaxPA

    I don’t think she was ever an “atheist”, though that was the label used. She was simply “non-religious”, because it was socially advantageous for her, until it was socially advantageous for her to be religious. I don’t mean to impugn her integrity, but rather her self-awareness. I suspect most people who are raised without religion adopt a religion later in life for what may appear to them to be philosophical reasoning, but, examined more empirically, appears to everyone else as adopting whatever set of beliefs is socially advantageous, regardless of the details.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      That’s the problem with definitions of atheist I alluded to before. She was a dictionary atheist, but not a materialist, monist, nor, for that matter, a critical thinker or a liberal.

    • busterggi

      Yeah, well, that’s kids today.

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      Get off my godless lawn!

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper of Maine

    I guess I’m just not that upset or concerned. Sometimes, people lose their minds. It happens.

  • anon101

    Maybe one should add two facts that might be interesting:

    1) Leah has a Jewish maternal grandmother http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2011/05/a-duty-to-disclose.html
    2) She has repeatedly claimed to be bisexual. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked/2011/10/why-be-out-as-bisexual.html

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      Why are either of those relevant?

    • Tyrant al-Kalām

      But what about her great-grandfathers second cousin? Was she maybe bisexual, too? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • Tony… therefore God

      Leaving aside the whole irrelevancy of these two tidbits…
      Why didn’t she turn to Judaism?
      Why didn’t she drop kick the bible because of its views on homosexuality?

      The info you provided doesn’t help to clear up the issue of confusion (re: Leah’s conversion). They muddy the waters more.

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    As an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive. Why would anyone want to be part of such a group, even if they agreed with the underlying philosophy?

    YOU find whatever it is that bothers you. This does translate into a sweeping generalization based on your opinion . That is called th Illicit minor fallacy:you are an observer of this page. You think it’s shite. Therefore, all observers think it is shite.
    You whole comment is based on this incorrect starting point. The rest of your argument/comment is a bait and switch. A red herring. How does your opinion turn into an argument: You think it’s shite, therefore why would others who think it is shite(rude) want to join? We don’t know what other’s reasoning and feelings are, why would we argue about them? You only create an argument about others based on your assumption, and is irrelevant.

    As to the arguments, only an academic elitist could say something like, “WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.”

    WRONG. Ad hominum is a non sequitur! ‘Academic elitist’ is a.h., and it does not follow that only ‘an academic elitist’ could say “WTH? I doubt if…” I say shit like that all the time, and I never graduated high school. And anyways, this quote you used is taken out of context, and therefore disingenuous. It(OP argument) says that the Church is the cause of promoting ‘academic elitism’ by keep the flocks ignorant. Glad to see that you actually agree with that opinion.

    Is it necessary to know your terms to understand intuitively what these are?

    That doesn’t even make sense, FFS. Usually, one has to know what the words mean to understand them, FFS.

    The implication is that only someone educated like you are has any value at all.

    You should know by now what the problems with this statement are, does anyone actually have to explain it to you? Mind reading, non sequitur, ad hominum.
    You don’t know what the OP had in mind, and even then, your insult(elitism) has been shown to be invalid. You just read it higher up in my reply, did you forget it *already?

    This is the tone, but do you really want to communicate that idea?

    Red herring/a>. How the fuck did this turn into a conversation about the attractiveness of this site to others????
    That is what tone trolls do, and now you know how we can tell you are one. I’m sure this has been pointed out numerous times already, but I think that on a technical level, you have a shite load of explaining and refuting to do.
    If you gots a problem with the terms I use, look them up. It is your fucking responsibility to learn how to make valid, and on topic comments. Otherwise, you are categorically behaving like a troll, here.

    * Humor

    • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

      Son of a gun!

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    Hmmm, I address each issue, without insult, but somehow I don’t want to understand.

    What the fuck do manners have to do whether or not you want to understand? You are making a fool out of yourself, and I, at least, am more than happy to toy with you. I am ‘falling for your troll game’ by paying your statements mind, but it serves an educational purpose for others on what is proper, or not proper, to do here, and why. More importantly, It is an excuse to practice the skill of disrobing you to show your substance, and I’ve proved, “The clothes have no emperor!”

    And again, I address each issue but don’t argue in good faith.

    Curious logic…

    Smart person: I say this for these reasons.
    Dave: (Pouting, whiney voice)You are an asshole, and I’m right.

    Smart person: I also say this for these reasons.’
    Dave:(Pouting, whiney voice)You are an asshole, and I’m right.

    S.M.: I also say these other things for these other reasons.
    Dave: (Pouting, whiney voice)You are an asshole, and I’m right.

    Gotcha. (double meaning, insipid little troll)

    • David

      Manners have nothing to do with understanding, my point was simply that, unless one is already predisposed to agree with you, the manners here will put everyone else off and you will reach no one but yourselves.

      You and others here take every opportunity to insult me and say how ignorant and (insert list of pejoratives here) I am, but I am making a fool out of myself?

      “More importantly, It is an excuse to practice the skill of disrobing you to show your substance, and I’ve proved, “The clothes have no emperor!”
      Interesting since I have not made one single comment about about Leah or Atheism. The emperor is commenting on the approach, not the substance. But I am the one who refuses to understand? So far, out of all the people who are reading these comments, only Mr. Fincke has understood, but non-Atheists are the intelligent ones?

      As to your Curious Logic section, this might make sense if I were addressing Leah’s points, or Atheist points. As it is, and as I said, I am merely addressing the approach. Where is the evidence that I think Atheist views are s___? There is none. Why is this so difficult to understand?

      As to your final insult (insipid little troll, again you (like everyone but Mr Fincke) further prove my point.

      As to understanding terms, your point is obviously untrue. If I use a term like excessive negative camber, that doesn’t mean that you can’t understand that your tire is wearing badly, it just means you don’t know the terms. My point was that people understand many philosophical concepts intuitively though they may not know the academic terms.

      As to the one word that *might* be considered an insult (elitist), the attitudes here are clearly, by the definition of the word, elitist. As a result, the use of the word, like every other point i have made, is simply my opinion. That’s how this became about attractiveness. I posted, and a few people have made it into and abuse-fest, proving my point.

    • David

      Um, you don’t have to be an Atheist to believe in evolution, thus I have indeed not said anything about atheism.

      “How have you gained the ability to know the thoughts and intentions of other people’s minds?”
      Nice attempt at turnabout, but misapplied and irrelevant.

      “Then, I find David has also said:”
      “Yes? Do continue, David”
      “Ummm…David!”
      “David, I believe you speak from experience?”Education is important so that people don’t wind up like raven, who simutaneously holds conflicting veiws but maintains that he/she is consistent.
      “What was that you said before you spoke?”

      Another nice attempt, this time at paternalistic condescension (sorry, not an attempt, but accomplished except that you forgot to put [exasperated sigh] in somewhere), which of course is another form of verbal abuse.

      What I said about raven is both true and not insulting. As I illustrated above, he/she (presumably) thinks he/she is consistent, as everyone does, but does in fact hold contradictory views. No insult, just fact.

      So, I have indeed stuck to my subject despite false accusations to the contrary.

      It is abundantly clear that those who see the obvious aren’t going to comment, and those who refuse won’t deal with the issue, but instead are only going to try to obfuscate. You have succeeded in wearing out the only person not part of this echo chamber (I can hear the cheering already) so, I will check back now and then to see if there is anything worth commenting on, but again aside from Mr Fricke, I have little hope, but I wish you all well.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      David:

      So, I have indeed stuck to my subject despite false accusations to the contrary.

      Let’s review your point: “As an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive.”

      You’ve made a dozen comments, so far; looks like you fit right in.

    • David

      If you mean quantity, agreed. If you mean in tone, abusiveness, invective, etc., clearly false.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      “Mr Fricke”?

      (Such punctiliousness!)

    • John Morales

      David:

      I wish you all well

      In turn I wish that your wish may come true, in the poetic tradition.

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

      [meta]

      “Mr Fricke”?

      (Such punctiliousness!)

      Hahaha I missed the “Fricke” because I stopped reading at “Mr.” and went to brood.

    • David

      Sheesh, bad mistake! Very sorry Daniel. [embarrassed look, downcast eyes]
      Incidentally I read your post on tone. Excellent! I have been saying the same to religious people for years.

  • jesse

    Reading through this, and taking a cursory look at her blog…

    Seems to me the simple explanation is that she’s involved with a religious person. If you are involved with a person for whom religion or religious ritual means a load more to them than to you, and you’re not strongly a-religious, then it seems odds are you’ll convert to make them happy, if nothing else.

    There’s also the sharing of intimate space with a partner. That’s harder to do if your philosophies differ by too much. It’s hard enough when they are reasonably close; I often think that my wife doesn’t “get” why certain Jewish holidays are important to me even though I was raised in a largely atheist / nonreligious household. (Hint: God isn’t the issue. It’s the brisket. My aunt’s brisket is damned good).

    There’s also the issue of markers of identity, and wanting to be in-group. This never struck me as particularly weird, though I wouldn’t do it myself.

    Joining the RCC is problematic, but I don’t think she is stupid or anything like that. I do think that the question “what would convince you christianity is true” is trivial, though. Empirical evidence that

    - Jesus existed and really did come back from the dead
    - Eden exists
    - A truth claim in the Bible that was, well, true

    Any of those would go a long way. Seems to me that she came at being an atheist without understanding at least some physical science, which would have gone some way. But again, I don’t think the decision had anything to do with deep philosophical thinking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ssbayoud souheilbayoud

    By definition of man an atheist is a person who denies or disbelieves in a supreme being.By definition of God an atheist is a fool (wicked) person.Definitely it is better to believe God the creator and not a miserable wicked creature.As for the Catholic Church it will be very valuable to study the history of the Church.

    • raven

      By definition of God an atheist is a fool (wicked) person.

      Psalms: The fool says in his heart there is no god.

      Atheist: The brave and wise man says it out loud and often.

      1. You misquoted the bible. God never said atheists were wicked. BTW, god also has a lot to say about liars and you just lied.

      2. God doesn’t exist so it can’t have any definition. You are making an assertion without proof and that can be dismissed without proof.

      3. Which god anyway. There are thousands of gods at least. Brahma the real god doesn’t have a problem with atheists.

      Definitely it is better to believe God the creator and not a miserable wicked creature.

      Why not the Easter Bunny, fairies, invisible pink unicorns, or Thor instead. If you are going to believe in imaginary friends, there are better ones than the xian god.

      As for the Catholic Church it will be very valuable to study the history of the Church.

      2,000 years of atrocities. The Protestant churches aren’t much better. The churches are more often a source of evil than of good, which tells you a lot about how likely the Invisible Sky Fairy is to exist.

  • Tony… therefore God

    Ace of Sevens @21:

    You can bet that the discussions she was having that convinced her were not about how birth control is bad and the details of how transubstantiation works.

    that makes me wonder if she’s read the whole bible…

  • Tony… therefore God

    Brian @22:


    I understand the bewilderment of many atheists Leah’s conversion. Those familiar with Catholic intellectual thought, though, it is clear why Catholicism is very attractive. Catholicism has achieved an internal consistency and coherence that very few other world views, if any, have achieved. Personally, as an agnostic convert to Catholicism, I am convinced that if more people immersed themselves in Catholic thought, there would be more conversion to Catholicism and more people friendly and respectful of Catholicism.

    1- What is this “Catholic intellectual thought” you’re talking about?
    I think ‘intellectual dishonesty’ is more accurate (look at the RCC’s position on condoms, which is not at all scientifically based; or their perception that there’s something wrong with gays, despite the fact that they haven’t proven that, merely asserted it; or the belief that Noah’s flood happened, despite…geez..nearly everything about it being virtually impossible).
    Or perhaps you’re thinking of ‘imagination’. As in “it took a lot of imagination to come up with the stuff in the bible. None of it shows a hint of divine origin, but human imagination? Sure.”

    2- What part of Catholicism is internally consistent? The bible?
    I can’t recall, did god create Adam one or two times?
    Did god not know that plants can’t exist without sunlight?
    Did god forget he created night and day, so he did it again?
    Did god forget he never told Eve to eat from the tree (he must have forgotten, since it’s right there in the book… he only told Adam)?
    Why did god not realize that without any concept of good & evil, that Adam and Eve had no reason *not* to eat from the tree?
    Did god forget that he knows everything that’s ever happened, or will happen? He shouldn’t be surprised when his pets don’t do what he wants (by the way, when my pets do something I don’t like, I don’t kill them).
    Why are human monsters condemned because of genocide, yet god can take a worldwide piss on everything, killing virtually every living thing in the process and he faces no criticism?
    When did god change his mind about disliking babies and being pro-abortion? A worldwide flood sure is going to kill a lot of of babies and the unborn.
    There’s precious little about the bible that’s consistent. Of course, that’s what one expects when multiple people over a few millenia rewrite it for their own goals.

    3. Tell me why I should respect your religion when it continues to impose its views on people? I’m gay, so the RCC tells me I can’t get married, I’m going to hell, and that there’s something wrong with me.
    I’m a man of color, and according to the bible, there are ways that slaves are supposed to be treated and god has yet to send that “no more slavery” memo.
    The RCC has aided and abetted the raping of children by priests across the planet through much of the 20th century. They’ve shielded the clergy from justice and blamed the victims.
    The RCC has sold newborns to families they deem appropriate.
    The RCC has spread disinformation about condoms and AIDS throughout Africa. This disinformation continues to foster an environment where millions of people are dying.
    Why should I respect a religion that treats women like cattle?
    Why should I respect a religion that doesn’t respect me?

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:

    s an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive. Why would anyone want to be part of such a group, even if they agreed with the underlying philosophy?
    As to the arguments, only an academic elitist could say something like, “WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.” Is it necessary to know your terms to understand intuitively what these are? The implication is that only someone educated like you are has any value at all. This is the tone, but do you really want to communicate that idea?
    By contrast, somehow it is acceptable to talk like a street urchin, “fucking” this and that, and “spineless, murderous lying little toady bastard”, and “circle jerk”, WTH, etc. Why is that? The Atheist claims to be intelligent, and by implication everyone else is stupid, mentally deficient, idiotic, deluded, inferior, childish, has “scrambled brains”, etc. but somehow he often can’t make an argument without trying to marginalize, demean, insult, harass, etc. his “opponent”.
    In the end, conversations like this are, at best, preaching to the choir or non-productive pat-on-the-back fests.

    1-I need you to define what parts of this conversation are condescending and why.
    I need you to define what parts of this conversation are arrogant and why.
    I need you to define what parts of this conversation are abusive and why (and this one needs to have substantial explanation, as the criticism of religious belief is not abuse)

    2- What does epistemology mean?
    What does metaphysics mean?
    Would you please explain why you think only an academic elitist (rather than the average person on the street) would say “WTH? I doubt if even 1 out of 100 xtians knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.” ?
    Do you believe that people intuitively know concepts that they are unable to explain? If so, why?
    Also, if people can know concepts intuitively, why is education important?
    If people can know concepts intuitively, no one needs to study math. They’ll already know it.
    The study of philosophy would be pointless if everyone understood it intuitively.
    Creationism would be dead in the water if people intuitively understood evolution.

    3- I need you to explain why you feel anything in this conversation can be seen as treating you without value.
    I need you to explain to me how being ignorant about the definitions of two words could devalue someone.
    I need you to explain how someone who is not properly educated could know what epistemology and metaphysics means.

    4- I find your dislike of terminology to be quite confusing. I need you to explain why using vulgar terms is frustrating. It’s not like the argument isn’t there along with the vulgarity. If you don’t like bad words, that’s fine. If you do, that’s fine. Adding colorful words into a conversation doesn’t negate the idea behind the conversation. Why do you feel it is important for people to use language you approve of?

    5- I’m curious why you think The Atheist claims to be intelligent. Have you seen this happen before? Has an atheist told you they’re intelligent?

    6- How does “I’m an atheist. I’m intelligent.” imply “I’m an atheist. I’m intelligent. You’re stupid/childlike/mentally inferior, etc”?

    7- I need you to understand that some people will understand conversations like these with little difficulty.

    • David

      Wow, a coherent response without profanity.

      1-Condescending: It seems obvious that telling me multiple times and multiple ways that I am stupid is condescending and abusive. As obvious is that acting as if I know nothing and others know everything is arrogant.
      As I said before, I have not made one comment about Leah or Atheists. You are quite correct in saying, “criticism of religious belief is not abuse”. The only criticism has been of me expressing a simple opinion, and of respondent’s horrible treatment.

      2- As to epistemology, the average thinking person (since I am unconcerned with the unthinking person) does not just believe, there is some justification for that belief. The Atheist does not accept their reasoning, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person don’t have a system. This is my point, that it is not necessary to know the terms to understand the concept. People display what they believe by what they do, so unless their actions are totally random, they show by their actions that they have an epistemology.
      As to metaphysics, I doubt there is a person in the world who doesn’t think about their, and the world’s, origins. I have had conversations with people ranging from beer-swilling rednecks to radical Muslims, and I have encounted talk of origins from all. Here again, the fact that they don’t know the terms means nothing. Education is important so that people don’t wind up like raven, who simutaneously holds conflicting veiws but maintains that he/she is consistent. The fact that people understand concepts does not mean they understand them fully, or correctly, just that they are not unthinking animals.
      This is the point of OBJECTIVE study. While it is a extremely rare person who can truly study without bias, I think many can come very close.
      Your statement about Creationism is false, or at least hopelessly biased. Both it and Evolution carry a heavy load of assumptions, and articles of faith. The Creationist requires belief in a being far beyond humanity in power and intelligence. The Evolutionist requires belief in the generation of matter from nothing, or the eternal existence of matter. Both these are not possible with our current understanding, so they require faith (in some hoped-for physical explanation) just as the Creationist does.

      3- As to being treated without value, it again seems obvious that being called a WORTHLESS troll, among other things, means I am worthless, aka have no value.

      4- I have no dislike for terminology, I didn’t say vulgar terms are frustrating, I can see an argument in the midst of the vulgarity, and I don’t “feel it is important for people to use language [I] approve of”. This issue is not profanity per se, it is that many here can’t seem to communicate without it and/or verbal abuse. I don’t think anyone likes to be abused, and the larger point was that few people are likely to listen to others who will flay them for asking questions.

      5- If someone says you are an idiot, and effectively says if you don’t believe/think like they do then you have “scrambled brains” or “have lost your mind”, etc. the clear implication is that they are intelligent and you are not. Here again, really obvious.

      7- “I need you to understand that some people will understand conversations like these with little difficulty.”
      What makes you think I don’t understand “conversations like these”? Here again, this issue is not that I don’t understand, it is that the mode of conversation is poisoned by abusive language, Othering, insults, etc.

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      The Evolutionist requires belief in the generation of matter from nothing, or the eternal existence of matter.

      Neither of these have anything to do with the theory of evolution, which only describes pattens of genetic change among living organisms among multiple generations. The theory of the creation of matter properly belongs to an entirely different branch of the sciences: cosmology.

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:

    Manners have nothing to do with understanding, my point was simply that, unless one is already predisposed to agree with you, the manners here will put everyone else off and you will reach no one but yourselves.

    This is not true. You will likely find some people that will be put off. You will just as likely find some people that won’t be put off. After all, not everyone shares your opinion that some conversations should not contain vulgarity.


    You and others here take every opportunity to insult me and say how ignorant and (insert list of pejoratives here) I am, but I am making a fool out of myself?

    Thankfully, there are many others reading this thread and realizing that you haven’t been insulted at every opportunity.
    In addition, being called ignorant is not an insult. It’s a statement of fact. We’re all ignorant about something.

    Speaking of ignorant:

    If I use a term like excessive negative camber, that doesn’t mean that you can’t understand that your tire is wearing badly, it just means you don’t know the terms.

    I’ve never heard of ‘excessive negative camber’. I was ignorant of that. As a result of not knowing the term, and having no reason to have known about it, I most definitely had no idea it meant ‘your tire is wearing badly’.


    As to the one word that *might* be considered an insult (elitist), the attitudes here are clearly, by the definition of the word, elitist. As a result, the use of the word, like every other point i have made, is simply my opinion. That’s how this became about attractiveness. I posted, and a few people have made it into and abuse-fest, proving my point.

    Hmm, perhaps you’re right. Let’s see:

    1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain classes or groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority, as in intellect, social status, or financial resources.
    2.
    a. The sense of entitlement enjoyed by such a group or class.
    b. Control, rule, or domination by such a group or class.
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/elitist

    So the attitudes here show that atheists feel they deserve favored treatment based on perceived superiority?
    Interesting.
    Though I disagree with you, I must ask:
    What is wrong with that?
    There’s no reason to think that within the context of this discussion, atheists being elitist even matters. Atheists being right or wrong is unaffected by elitism.

    I posted, and a few people have made it into and abuse-fest, proving my point.

    You posted but provided no support nor explanation for your opinions, as if you expect people to know why you feel the way you do. Additionally, one can comment to their hearts content, but no one is obligated to give your opinions any consideration. Especially when you don’t explain yourself.
    Please note that even if you explain yourself sufficiently, no one is under obligation to respect your opinion or refrain from criticizing you.

    • David

      “Thankfully, there are many others reading this thread and realizing that you haven’t been insulted at every opportunity.
      In addition, being called ignorant is not an insult. It’s a statement of fact. We’re all ignorant about something.”

      I am “ignorant” of the point here. No one, including me, thinks every word has been an insult (except maybe in #37), nor would I ever claim to not be ignorant of something.

      The camber illustration assumed you were at a tire shop and the tech was telling you, in technical terms, why the tire in front of you was wearing badly. Sorry, that was not as clear as it should have been.

      Regarding elitism, I was using this definition:
      adjective
      1. (of a person or class of persons) considered superior by others OR BY THEMSELVES, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth, or position in society
      noun
      3. a person having, thought to have, OR PROFESSING superior intellect or talent, power, wealth, or membership in the upper echelons of society

      “Atheists being right or wrong is unaffected by elitism.”
      This is quite true, but again I have not once addressed Atheism, only behavior on this site.

      As to supporting or explaining my opinion, if I give examples of what I (and most people) consider abuse, name-calling, condescension, or arrogance, how is that not supporting or explaining?

      Also, even if I support or explain myself I would not consider anyone obligated to do or say anything, nor, in any circumstance, would I think I shouldn’t be criticized.

  • Tony… therefore God

    Jesse @39:

    Joining the RCC is problematic, but I don’t think she is stupid or anything like that. I do think that the question “what would convince you christianity is true” is trivial, though. Empirical evidence that

    - Jesus existed and really did come back from the dead
    - Eden exists
    - A truth claim in the Bible that was, well, true

    Any of those would go a long way. Seems to me that she came at being an atheist without understanding at least some physical science, which would have gone some way. But again, I don’t think the decision had anything to do with deep philosophical thinking.

    I can agree with pretty much all your possibilities accounting for her conversion. What I don’t understand is how she can join the Raping Children Church for morality reasons when the RCC is one of the most immoral organizations on the planet.
    As for claims that “christianity is true”, I can’t say any of the evidence you list would work for me. If Jesus existed and came back from the dead…if Eden exists…if a claim in the bible came true…none of that means the *rest* of Christianity is true. That religion is such a mashup of ideas pulled from prior religions combined with clergyMEN rewriting the books to suit their puposes that it lacks cohesiveness.
    The god concept is so vague, I’m not certain what proof it would take to convince me.
    Sky writing and a simultaneous telepathic message to everyone on Earth? That would convince me that something fantastic happened. Something maybe even divine. It doesn’t prove that one specific version of god was responsible. It doesn’t prove what entity is responsible. It could be Loki. It could be a demon. It could be a traveler from a parallel universe. It could be a trickster god. Or it could be god.

    • jesse

      My point was just that the question itself is pretty trivial, intellectually speaking. There are lots of ways that the Bible / Torah could be proven more valid than it is, and a start is when it makes a baldly empirical claim. When you say “there was a flood that wiped out all humans” then there are readily physical lines of evidence that would bolster that claim. An extra-Biblical account that mentions Jesus would help a lot too. But there isn’t one single empirical claim the Bible makes that is supported by anything.

      Yeah, this kind of thing would likely not do much for the Christian concept of God (though the simultaneous telepathic message would go far, if it said “X version of the Bible is right; here’s the Aramaic one for reference.”).

      Anyhow, that’s what I was getting at– Libresco treats it as a deep philosophical matter when really, it isn’t, anymore than gravity is.

  • Tony… therefore God

    “By definition of man an atheist is a person who denies or disbelieves in a supreme being.By definition of God an atheist is a fool (wicked) person.Definitely it is better to believe God the creator and not a miserable wicked creature.As for the Catholic Church it will be very valuable to study the history of the Church.”

    An atheist does not deny that which he does not believe in. Additionally, many atheists do not believe in any divine creatures. Unless you have proof that Odin exists.
    Your definition of atheist is accurate for one religion. Is that definition shared by Jainists? Sikhs? FSM followers? Did the Greco Roman gods define atheism that way? How about the gods of Incan mythology? Perhaps the gods of Mesopotamia defined atheism that way. I don’t know if they did or not. I suspect you don’t either.
    If you read the bible for comprehension, you’ll discover that god does not like women. Or gays. Or babies. Or Adam. Or Eve. Or plants. Or animals.
    If you read the bible for comprehension, you’ll discover that your god does not condemn slavery or rape. He doesn’t believe in equality of the sexes. He doesn’t endorse democracy.
    You’ll also see that god forgets things (silly me, I shouldn’t blame humans for doing the things I knew they were going to do when I created them; after all, I’m all knowing and all powerful; how did I forget that?)
    If you read the tale of Noah for comprehension, you’ll see why making a GODWIN would be incredibly accurate right now. After all, god did kill an awful lot of plants, animals and humans for the crime of doing what he created them to do.

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:
    I am “ignorant” of the point here. No one, including me, thinks every word has been an insult (except maybe in #37), nor would I ever claim to not be ignorant of something.

    You’re ignorant of a point you made yourself?
    In response to mikmik @38, you said this:

    You and others here take every opportunity to insult me and say how ignorant and (insert list of pejoratives here) I am, but I am making a fool out of myself?

    My response to you was:

    Thankfully, there are many others reading this thread and realizing that you haven’t been insulted at every opportunity.
    In addition, being called ignorant is not an insult. It’s a statement of fact. We’re all ignorant about something.

    I was correcting your dishonesty by pointing out that you *have not* been insulted at every opportunity. For some reason you feel that is the case. Simply rereading the thread shows that you’re wrong. Perhaps you’ve been insulted at times, but certainly not at every opportunity.
    RE: Ignorance-In the same context that you incorrectly assert that people insult you at every opportunity, you mention that people have been tossing perjoratives at you. Between both of those assessments of how you feel you’ve been treated, you lumped in the comment about “…and say how ignorant…” You made it clear that you feel insulted at every turn. You make it clear that you don’t like being called bad names. If you did not mean to complain about being called ignorant, why did you include it amongst other things that you feel are wrong?

    The camber illustration assumed you were at a tire shop and the tech was telling you, in technical terms, why the tire in front of you was wearing badly. Sorry, that was not as clear as it should have been.

    Ok, you’ve cleared that up, but that doesn’t really make your case for you. You used your camber illustration to explain how someone could intuitively understand a concept without knowing the words. Unfortunately, in your scenario, you have a physical object to look at. You have a visual reference point (the tech telling you and you seeing the tire). A concept such as metaphysics or epistemology, AFAIK, have no physical reference points that people immediately can understand define those terms. So no, I think you’re absolutely wrong about people being intuitively able to know what “epistemology” or “metaphysics” means. They have to be educated on the terms first. Just like math. Or science. Or sociology. Etc.

    Re: Elitism,
    Ok, you’ve cleared this up too. Again though, what’s the point? There’s nothing about being an elitist that means one is right or wrong. It has no bearing on any arguments here (and if you feel that it does, you haven’t adequately explained why you feel this way). So I will ask you:
    What relevant point are you trying to make about elitism with regard to this discussion? Or put another way:
    You say some of the comments have been elitist? Why does that matter? The comments stand or fall on the merit of their arguments, not whether or not the commenter is snobby.

    As to supporting or explaining my opinion, if I give examples of what I (and most people) consider abuse, name-calling, condescension, or arrogance, how is that not supporting or explaining?

    You’re not going to convince anyone that “most people” feel the same way you do. Perhaps you should stick merely to “I feel this way”. Unless you’ve polled “most people”, you have no idea how they feel about a given topic. You’re projecting your opinions onto others in an attempt to bolster your position.
    Giving examples of what you consider abuse, name calling, condescension or arrogance =/= an explanation. Your examples aren’t explanations.
    For example, if someone called me a faggot and I responded by saying that was hurtful or homophobic, if I just stopped there, that would be the equivalent of what you’ve done. However, if I’m trying to convey the reason *why* being called a faggot is hurtful or homophobic, I would need to explain why I feel that way. I can’t expect that person to understand why I feel the way I do. I would need to [at least] say “You’re reducing me down to my sexuality in an attempt to demean and dehumanize me”

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:
    1-Condescending: It seems obvious that telling me multiple times and multiple ways that I am stupid is condescending and abusive. As obvious is that acting as if I know nothing and others know everything is arrogant.

    It may seem obvious to you, but that doesn’t make it so. Perhaps you’re reading something in some of the posts that isn’t there.
    From my perspective (ie. the perspective of going back and looking at the actual posts), you’ve been called dumb and a fool. You overstate the extent to which you’ve been called “stupid” (which technically, no one has said you’re stupid; yes, I’m splitting hairs here). Once again you project intent onto others that is not apparent in their comments. Where is a comment by someone that acts like you “know nothing and other know everything”? You’re not going to find it. No one has said they know everything. No one has implied that. Additionally, no one has said *you* know nothing.

    2- As to epistemology, the average thinking person (since I am unconcerned with the unthinking person) does not just believe, there is some justification for that belief. The Atheist does not accept their reasoning, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the person don’t have a system.

    Here you go again. Why do you insist on speaking with knowledge about how other people think? You DO NOT KNOW what the average thinking person thinks. All you can know for sure is how you feel. You’re not bolstering your argument here. Additionally, you need to cite your sources when you state something as fact. You say the average person has justification for holding a belief. I don’t believe you. Please cite your source. Many atheists come from strong religious upbringings (take a look at PZ Myers’ “Why I Am An Atheist” series at Pharyngula for many, many examples). As a result, this gives them the perspective to realize that they did *not* have a reasonable justification for holding their beliefs. I am of the belief that children are frequently brought up in the religion of their parents, and through indoctrination they come to adhere to religious beliefs without the critical skills to analyze whether or not their beliefs are valid. Religious indoctrination is no different in principle than Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy. Children are told these fanciful tales and think that they’re true. Children are young and malleable, and haven’t developed the skills to see through the BS. Of course unlike Santa or the Tooth Fairy, children aren’t told that god is make believe as well.
    Here is some information about religious indoctrination of children.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_and_children
    Children usually acquire the religious views of their parents, although they may also be influenced by others they communicate with such as peers and teachers. Aspects of this subject include rites of passage, education and child psychology, as well as discussion of the moral issue of religious education of children.

    and this:

    http://www.alternet.org/story/142605/the_nightmare_of_christianity%3A_how_religious_indoctrination_led_to_murder/
    At the Charter School for Excellence, a school in South Florida inspired by Gothard’s draconian principles that receives $800,000 in state funds each year, children are indoctrinated into a culture of absolute submission to authority almost as soon as they learn to speak. A song that the school’s first-graders are required to recite goes as follows:

    and this site has an extensive list of links to videos and blog posts about how children are indoctrinated and how abusive that often is:

    http://exposingreligionblog.tumblr.com/post/8158528933

    David writes:

    Your statement about Creationism is false, or at least hopelessly biased. Both it and Evolution carry a heavy load of assumptions, and articles of faith.

    Statements like this are why people have thrown insults at you.
    That you can say this shows that you know nothing of evolution. Educate yourself on how evolution actually works and then compare it to creationism. Faith-specifically the type of faith (and there are several definitions) that religions embrace-is believing in something for which there is no evidence. Evolution is based entirely on evidence. Creationism is based entirely on a collection of writings by men over several thousand years that do not accurately reflect the way the world works. I’ve read about evolution. I’ve read about creationism. I know one has massive amounts of proof and the other has nothing.

    • David

      “Faith-specifically the type of faith (and there are several definitions) that religions embrace-is believing in something for which there is no evidence.”

      Hmmm, no evidence. Cambrian Explosion? and while a belief in parallel creation (the idea that God created life in all its diversity in a relatively short period of time) is not evidence, it certainly explains life and the fossil record better than evolution.

      “Evolution is based entirely on evidence.”

      Man, this is funny. No real transitory species, no real existing transitory species, no real trans-species breeding (that produces fertile offspring). “Darwin described the perceived lack of transitional fossils as “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory”, but explained it by relating it to the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”
      The fossil record is pretty darn good now, yet nothing. If this is evidence you have much more faith than I ever will. Evolution depends on the (unsupported) assumption that one species evolves into another. By contrast, the believer explains diversity by parallel creation.

      “Creationism is based entirely on a collection of writings by men over several thousand years that do not accurately reflect the way the world works.”
      While Creationism started with the ancients, it is by no means “based entirely” on such. If that were the case you probably wouldn’t be able to read much about it.

      As to “massive amounts of proof”, hardly, unless you accept the articles of faith.

      Finally, it is extremely disingenuous to compare evolution and creationism, and ignore the fact that evolution, science, and every other non-religious attempt to explain the ORIGIN of life comes up with nothing of substance, unless you are willing to accept supposed parallel universes, ET’s, and other utterly unsupported theories. Again with the articles of faith.

      Ok, now officially I have posted something other than comments on the toxic and exclusionary tone of this thread.

    • ‘Tis Himself

      David, all you’re doing in the above post is showing how ignorant you are about evolution.

      Hmmm, no evidence. Cambrian Explosion?

      The Cambrian Explosion lasted for 70 to 80 million years. As wikipedia puts it:

      Before about 580 million years ago, most organisms were simple, composed of individual cells occasionally organized into colonies. Over the following 70 or 80 million years the rate of evolution accelerated by an order of magnitude (as defined in terms of the extinction and origination rate of species) and the diversity of life began to resemble that of today.

      You then continue:

      and while a belief in parallel creation (the idea that God created life in all its diversity in a relatively short period of time) is not evidence, it certainly explains life and the fossil record better than evolution.

      GODDIDIT doesn’t explain anything. “How did life begin? How do lifeforms change? A miracle happened” just mean “I don’t know, so I’m going to have God wave his paw and pretend that explains what I don’t know.”

      Incidentally, evolution is not about the origin of life. That’s something called abiogenesis. Evolution is about how lifeforms change over time.

      No real transitory species, no real existing transitory species, no real trans-species breeding (that produces fertile offspring).

      Google “Lenski e coli” for an example of evolution happening in the laboratory. As for “transitory species”, ALL species are transitory. Just because you don’t know what transitory species are doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Your ignorance is not evidence for anything except your ignorance.

      “Darwin described the perceived lack of transitional fossils as “the most obvious and gravest objection which can be urged against my theory”, but explained it by relating it to the extreme imperfection of the geological record.”

      When Darwin wrote that the study of fossils was in its infancy. In the over 150 years since Origin of Species was published paleontology has become a mature science. Maybe if you were to learn something about paleontology you wouldn’t use a 150 year old quote to justify your ignorance.

      While Creationism started with the ancients, it is by no means “based entirely” on such. If that were the case you probably wouldn’t be able to read much about it.

      I’ve read a fair number of creationists’ books and articles. The “evidence” they offer consists primarily of “the Bible says God did it”, ignorance and incredulity about evolution, and flat-out lies. Ray Comfort spun a story about evolution requiring males and females of each species to evolve separately. He had the evolution of sex explained to him and he even acknowledged the explanation. Several months later he was back telling his story about males and females evolving separately.

      Finally, it is extremely disingenuous to compare evolution and creationism, and ignore the fact that evolution, science, and every other non-religious attempt to explain the ORIGIN of life comes up with nothing of substance, unless you are willing to accept supposed parallel universes, ET’s, and other utterly unsupported theories. Again with the articles of faith.

      Again all you’re showing is your ignorance about science. Read a book or two about evolution before you spout off about it. It’s easy for me to dismiss your creationist arguments because you make it plain you’re arguing against a strawman.

      I suggest you read this article about St. Augustine and creationism. 1600 years ago a theologian considered creationism and rejected it not only on theological grounds but also for pragmatic reasons:

      Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking non-sense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.

      The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of the faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men.

      If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

      Reckless and incompetent expounders of holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion.”

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    What everyone’s missing here is that it’s very unlikely that she was strictly convinced by apologetics. She has a serious long-term Catholic boyfriend. I’m not saying that she pretended to convert to smooth over problem, but it takes a lot less convincing to get someone to believe something that’s convenient.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      Or she was, rather. I get the impression she was well on her way already.

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    David =“Atheists being right or wrong is unaffected by elitism.”
    His response=This is quite true, but again I have not once addressed Atheism, only behavior on this site.

    But, then David writes:(Via Tony… therefore God – who has done an eloquent job here)
    “Your statement about Creationism is false, or at least hopelessly biased. Both it and Evolution carry a heavy load of assumptions, and articles of faith. The Creationist requires belief in a being far beyond humanity in power and intelligence. The Evolutionist requires belief in the generation of matter from nothing, or the eternal existence of matter. Both these are not possible with our current understanding, so they require faith (in some hoped-for physical explanation) just as the Creationist does.”

    David =How have you gained the ability to know the thoughts and intentions of other people’s minds?

    Then, I find David has also said:
    “I don’t think anyone likes to be abused, and the larger point was that few people are likely to listen to others who will flay them for asking questions.”
    Yes? Do continue, David
    “If someone says you are an idiot, and effectively says if you don’t believe/think like they do then you have “scrambled brains” or “have lost your mind”, etc. the clear implication is that they are intelligent and you are not. Here again, really obvious.”
    Ummm…David!
    “The Atheist claims to be intelligent, and by implication everyone else is stupid, mentally deficient, idiotic, deluded, inferior, childish, has “scrambled brains”, etc.”

    David, I believe you speak from experience?Education is important so that people don’t wind up like raven, who simutaneously holds conflicting veiws but maintains that he/she is consistent.

    What was that you said before you spoke?

  • http://haphazardhermit.blogspot.com/ michaeld

    hmmm I think I fall squarely into camp 1,2 and 4 ;p

  • John Morales

    David:

    If you mean quantity, agreed. If you mean in tone, abusiveness, invective, etc., clearly false.

    Your purpose was and is to judge and condemn the attitude and tone of this conversation, and then to righteously justify your adjudication to respondents.

    (Futile, but mildly entertaining)

    • David

      “Your purpose was and is to judge and condemn the attitude and tone of this conversation,”

      NO KIDDING! Is this supposed to be a revelation? I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t think insults, vitriol, and invective is indicative of bad attitude/tone.

      “and then to righteously justify your adjudication to respondents.”

      There should be no need since it is self-evident, but all except two people (I had missed #17) claim to not see it.
      I don’t get the “righteously” part though. My statements have been based strictly on consensus (though apparently outside this blog) and not on any religious standard. If not using bad tone makes me righteous, I gladly accept the charge.

      (Futile, but mildly entertaining)
      *sigh*, you seem to be right, it is proving futile. You are also right that it is mildly entertaining. The extreme reaction to rational words would be amusing if it didn’t *suggest* such bitterness. For the record, and contrary to accusations, I have no idea what people think or feel unless they state such.

    • Ted Seeber

      A hint David, about online conversations- I find it’s best to ignore the insults, and focus the conversation on the facts.

      Text communications are essentially autistic- it’s really easy to misunderstand the emotion, which isn’t transmitted properly. Usually all the anger you feel is only on your side of the screen.

    • David

      “A hint David, about online conversations- I find it’s best to ignore the insults, and focus the conversation on the facts.”

      Hmmm, I know this and agree, but if insults ARE the point then I am focused on the facts.

      “Text communications are essentially autistic- it’s really easy to misunderstand the emotion, which isn’t transmitted properly. Usually all the anger you feel is only on your side of the screen.”

      Generally speaking you are correct. On the other hand, words have meanings, so unless one ignores the meaning of troll, liar, mentally deficient/degenerate, worthless, dumb, killer, etc., I am quite sure I have not misunderstood.

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    David @ #

    Manners have nothing to do with understanding, my point was simply that, unless one is already predisposed to agree with you, the manners here will put everyone else off and you will reach no one but yourselves.

    You read other’s minds? I’m not convinced, “so, in the few minutes we have left, I want to talk, right down to earth, in a language here that” David “can easily understand”:
    Thanks for your concern, really.
    I want the data, man. Unless you’ve taken a sample from a relevant portion of the audience here, and drawn the conclusion, validly, that everyone is either predisposed or put off, then you are putting the cart before the horse. Data first, conclusion follows.

    “More importantly, It is an excuse to practice the skill of disrobing you to show your substance, and I’ve proved, “The clothes have no emperor!”

    Interesting since I have not made one single comment about about Leah or Atheism. The emperor is commenting on the approach, not the substance. But I am the one who refuses to understand? So far, out of all the people who are reading these comments, only Mr. Fincke has understood, but non-Atheists are the intelligent ones?

    Mr. Fincke didn’t say you weren’t tone trolling; he said you have a point. It is still off topic. However, as I said, I’ve willingly joined you.
    Also, did you say that Dr. Fincke has understood, but then ridicule him for saying that non-atheists aka theists, or aatheists, are intelligent? Maybe it’s because I’m not intelligent(possible, really), but something isn’t right here.
    Finally, my point was that you are talking about fashion, and that that is irrelevant to the topic(which has become one, evidently).

    David says:
    June 20, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    @raven
    You have an amazing dual life!

    “Most of us are used to making rational choices using reason, data, and proof.”. but the masses’ “behavior is not based on reason.”

    “Most religous conversions seem to be emotional or socially based, joining a tribal group. They may give reasons but those are post hoc rationalizations.”
    How have you gained the ability to know the thoughts and intentions of other people’s minds?

    Well, I would give raven the benefit of the doubt here since she has the inside track, and has her own experience of that which she talks.
    Curious that you change her words to “masses’.” I guess you must have read her mind, and interpreted what she really meant to say, for the rest of us.
    BTW, Christians have no data supporting their beliefs – none, so I think it is very likely safe to say that their reasoning is post hoc, wouldn’t you?

    “For anyone aware of the millennia of Catholic evil, it’s even worse.” but I have to think you would agree with tyrant that it is foolish to judge people by tone, and presumably by the actions of others. I don’t claim to know your thoughts, so you will have to tell me.

    Then why did you say that you “would have to think she would agree with something,” and then explain that she would have to tell you? You just built an argument out of air, contingent on hir telling you what (s)he meant in order to give your statement meaning? Isn’t that called ad hoc reasoning? You give an argument, and then say it might not be valid? Consistency, David.

    “I’ve only seen a few conversions to xianity in my entire life.” but still you know for a certainty that they are going “tribal” and rationalize post hoc.

    I believe that when I ask you for a citation to support your contention that raven “knows for a certainty that they are going tribal” that you will be uncomfortably able to comply.

    Anyways, I do accept your opinion, As does Mr. Fincke, that belligerence is the wrong way to express oneself, and that a lot of people find that off putting. Many may find it entertaining, however that is beside the point. For the record, I am immature, but I do not want to advertise that fact ;)

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    “(Futile, but mildly entertaining)”

    That’s the second time tonight that you posted an idea that I was in the process of composing, only to discover this after I submitted! Twice, and our comments appeared one-two on the threads, LOL

  • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

    and while a belief in parallel creation (the idea that God created life in all its diversity in a relatively short period of time) is not evidence, it certainly explains life and the fossil record better than evolution.

    No it doesn’t. Hoards of little faeries descending onto the planet, changing the chemistry and atmosphere and rotational speed of the earth, transferring a whole ecosystem from another virtually identical planet here, making sure the vent bacteria and worms and flues got placed properly, transferring the whole surface of vast areas of the other planet that contained the correct fossils, I forgot to mention that, then there is the oil etc. I’m sure you can work out the logistics for yourself, but that scenario is more plausible than Goddidit, because it does not require the assumption of a parallel, or existent, meta-reality that conforms to the necessary parameters to affect, or even detect, this one.
    Any non external reality, of the universe, is better than goddidit, FFS.

    • http://windaelicker.worpress.com mikmik

      Okay, maybe that’s not what you meant by parallel, but it still makes more sense for reasons covered already, like even the mere existence of fossils of extinct species representing points on a linear transition. Like genetic relationships between similar species.
      Don’t give me the ‘DNA just means God did it that way to save time’ crap, because your God wouldn’t face any limitations of time, and why would he use inordinate amounts of chromsomes for simple life forms, like 1440 for certain ferns. Doesn’t sound very efficient to me, so that argument fails. Only evolution could explain that through the accumulation of chromosomes with little relative ‘active’ genetic instruction. At least the faeries placing life here, as above, accounts for that.

      No argument for god is ‘a simpler way of explaining’ anything. Like why?

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:
    Finally, it is extremely disingenuous to compare evolution and creationism, and ignore the fact that evolution, science, and every other non-religious attempt to explain the ORIGIN of life comes up with nothing of substance, unless you are willing to accept supposed parallel universes, ET’s, and other utterly unsupported theories. Again with the articles of faith.

    If you were to describe evolution to someone-in your own words-, what would you say?

    • David

      “like even the mere existence of fossils of extinct species representing points on a linear transition. Like genetic relationships between similar species”

      This is one way to explain it. Another way is to say that there were hundreds or thousands more species, perhaps even a bunch more genuses, that are now extinct. In other words, the diversity of life we see today is a fraction of what it once was. So, while it might look like linear transition if that is your presupposition, it isn’t necessarily so.

      “Don’t give me the ‘DNA just means God did it that way to save time’ crap, because your God wouldn’t face any limitations of time, and why would he use inordinate amounts of chromsomes for simple life forms, like 1440 for certain ferns.”

      So far I haven’t identified with any belief system.
      As to this argument, it makes no sense to me. You of course are right, if God is who the Bible claims He is, He is in no need of speed or efficiency. What if He is just creative, in both senses, beyond our wildest imagination?

      “Doesn’t sound very efficient to me, so that argument fails.”

      You are working on the assumption that efficiency is a primary value in a religious system. More on that below. As above, if He is who He claims to be, efficiency is irrelevant.

      “Only evolution could explain that through the accumulation of chromosomes with little relative ‘active’ genetic instruction.”

      This statement seems to depend on the assumption that life forms evolve based on the accumulation of chromosomes. If that were true we wouldn’t hold a candle to ferns, and the distribution of chromosomes among life forms in general makes no sense.

      If efficiency is a high value in evolutionary theory (I don’t know if it is or not, help me out here), why such complexity in a relatively simple life form?

    • CBrachyrhynchos

      “This is one way to explain it. Another way is to say that there were hundreds or thousands more species, perhaps even a bunch more genuses, that are now extinct. In other words, the diversity of life we see today is a fraction of what it once was. So, while it might look like linear transition if that is your presupposition, it isn’t necessarily so.”

      Excepting, of course, that almost all of these species are located to specific strata around the world, which in turn, is nicely correlated with decay ratios of inorganic elements.

      But here is the basic problem with evolution skepticism. The fossil record is relevant to only one of the half-dozen (at least) converging lines of evidence in support of the theory of evolution. The presence of at least six lines of evidence, supported by millions of points of data in thousands of independent studies over the course of a century, makes evolution a stronger scientific theory than heliocentrism. In fact, that makes it a stronger theory than almost everything else taught in science classes as a “fact.”

      And it’s not as if fielding a competing hypothesis, assuming you have the data, is impossible in biology. The theory of evolution has gone through at least five revolutions by my count starting with Darwin. It’s gone through three in my lifetime. It’s in the middle of another two right now.

  • Tony… therefore God

    David:
    Here again, this issue is not that I don’t understand, it is that the mode of conversation is poisoned by abusive language, Othering, insults, etc

    By the way, if the ‘mode of conversation’ is so poisonous to you, why are you here (only thing worse than Tone Trolls are Proselytizing Believers)? You don’t get to dictate how anyone speaks. Sure you have the right to complain. Just as we have the right to not care that you don’t like bad words. You’re the one who jumped in to complain. You are choosing to wade through the ‘poison’.
    For what?
    Your arguments will need to be a thousand times better before you’re going to have a chance of convincing anyone that god is real, evolution is wrong, and harsh words are bad form.

    (another reason tone trolling is disliked is evident in this very thread, as you’ve managed to turn this away from discussions about leah to discussions about you; yeah, I’m following along, as are others, but it doesn’t change the fact that your initial comment:

    As an outsider (non-Atheist) I find the attitude and tone of this conversation extremely condescending, arrogant, and abusive. Why would anyone want to be part of such a group, even if they agreed with the underlying philosophy?
    As to the arguments, only an academic elitist could say something like, “WTH? I doubt if 1 out of 100 xians even knows what epistemology or metaphysics even means.” Is it necessary to know your terms to understand intuitively what these are? The implication is that only someone educated like you are has any value at all. This is the tone, but do you really want to communicate that idea?
    By contrast, somehow it is acceptable to talk like a street urchin, “fucking” this and that, and “spineless, murderous lying little toady bastard”, and “circle jerk”, WTH, etc. Why is that? The Atheist claims to be intelligent, and by implication everyone else is stupid, mentally deficient, idiotic, deluded, inferior, childish, has “scrambled brains”, etc. but somehow he often can’t make an argument without trying to marginalize, demean, insult, harass, etc. his “opponent”.
    In the end, conversations like this are, at best, preaching to the choir or non-productive pat-on-the-back fests.

    failed to address the substance of Daniel’s original blog post. Then you continue to dig your hole deeper with your complete ignorance about evolution, evidence, and faith.)

    • David

      “By the way, if the ‘mode of conversation’ is so poisonous to you, why are you here (only thing worse than Tone Trolls are Proselytizing Believers)?”

      I happened upon this conversation, and decided to post. It’s that simple.

      “You don’t get to dictate how anyone speaks.”

      Quite true, never tried to dictate though, just commented on it and I am sure I have not told anyone what to do or say. Is suggesting that people do or say something differently a dictation?
      Related to the above, I identified myself as an outsider. If the opinions of anyone outside the group are unacceptable, perhaps the blog should be closed.
      Why do I wade in the poison? Sometimes people put up with things because no one speaks up.

      “Just as we have the right to not care that you don’t like bad words.”

      True again. I appears that most don’t care, and the post-ers mostly don’t like to be questioned about tone.

      “Your arguments will need to be a thousand times better before you’re going to have a chance of convincing anyone that god is real, evolution is wrong”

      The bulk of my posts have no relation to God or evolution, and I have said that the tone/attitude stuff is just my opinion. Thus, again you are correct, to argue about the other things will take better arguments, but that wasn’t my aim.

      “(another reason tone trolling is disliked is evident in this very thread, as you’ve managed to turn this away from discussions about leah to discussions about you”

      As you said, you and all are free to not care, and I had no intention of talking about me. The only reason there is any talk of me is because most have made this about how horrible I am, rather than about the tone/attitude, which was my point.

      “failed to address the substance of Daniel’s original blog post. Then you continue to dig your hole deeper with your complete ignorance about evolution, evidence, and faith.)”

      Again, you are quite correct, and again I did not intend to address the post, just the tone.
      I was and am unaware of being in a hole, perhaps since again the bulk of my posts have had little or nothing to do with evolution, evidence, or faith.

  • fernandomacias

    One of the things I find disturbing in this article is the fact that God is reduced to a philosophy. God is not a philosophy He is a living person. So to begin with your whole premise is wrong. To try and come to God with your brain is a rather absurd and laughable exercise in futility. One only has to read the book of Job to get an idea of how hard it is to comprehend the things of God. Job was unable to answer any of the questions posed to him by God. I find it quite interesting that we all believe that pride, greed, anger, lust, envy, etc., exists and the fact remains we can’t measure, see or analyze in a test tube any of these attributes. The reason we do believe they exist is their manifestation. We can see their manifestations through our interactions. To take such great pride in our feeble ability to reason philosophically is really quite shameful. To think you have cornered the market in science is also disappointing. What do you know and understand of cutting edge quantum physics, from a mathematical understanding. Here is a youtube video that I find clearly illustrates my point of view. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px8fXwAXi_s.
    Unfortunately or fortunately the only way to understand God is through experience. To the uninitiated He is an enigma. Through true conversion which only God can initiate we come to know Him by the act of faith, which is not belief , but is knowing through supernatural infusion. Today however science is beginning to bridge the gap between the natural world and the supernatural though quantum physics. With such understandings of the fractal universe, and our holographic nature, science is pushing the outer limits of the study of consciousness.

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

      There is no reason to think whatever being or beings are fundamental to the universe as “God” would be are personal. None. You emphasize the limits of human philosophy and yet then you endorse a sheer anthropomorphism and projection of human personality into the most basic reality and call it God. If you really respected the limits of human understanding you would be silent about what (if anything) can be said to be beyond our universe (or a possible multiverse). Instead you anthropomorphize something you cannot understand at all, by your own admission, and call it “God” and wrap it up in a whole dubious tradition of symbols and mythologies and falsified historical accounts and THEN call yourself the humble one!

      Here are four posts I recommend you read to explore the problems with your belief in God from a wide array of angles:

      Is It Just A Mystery Whether God Exists?

      Hell as the Absence of God

      God and Goodness

      Examining Some Alleged Divine Attributes

  • fernandomacias

    Gees Daniel, I guess “understanding” is the key word here. You either have an ego as big as all outdoors and hiding behind that Phd. or you do believe in God and are on a crusade to actively oppose Him. I am well aware that there are people who know there is a God and also a draconian side who choose to side with the draconian entities and besmear God. How do you know I can’t understand things just because you can’t. Does that Phd. give you absolute knowledge. The things you can not understand you simply dismiss, and I guarantee there is a lot you don’t understand. Besides where in my comment did I call myself humble or even implied it? I’m not one to beleaguer argument so I’ll stop here, since I’ve said what wanted to say.
    P.S. Your comment doesn’t even make sense!

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

      Fernando cut out the personal attacks.

      You don’t give the impression you want to learn anything. You want to just throw up a shield by saying “You don’t understand God” to me and then insult me when I make pretty basic arguments that apparently you don’t even understand.

      But quite simply Fernando if we use a word that we genuinely do not understand, then we are not thinking of anything when we use that word. We are speaking nonsense. Any word we can competently use must have something about it which we understand. And anything we say exists we must say we have some access point to know exists. Now either you specify what you mean by God and the reasons for believing it exists and we can assess their plausibility (as I do at length with a wide range of theistic proposals in my dialogues I took the time to linked to above for you) or just claim you cannot at all understand what God is and I will just dismiss you as using a nonsense word that has no actual meaning or relevance to any known reality, possible or imagined.

      But get off your condescending high horse and stop preening as supposedly more humble than I am simply because you have a different metaphysical viewpoint than I do. Stop trying to condescend to my credentials while you’re at it. Humble people respect when people are more knowledgable than they are and seek to learn from them, they don’t try to project their resentment onto those people—especially when those people are actively giving their time to try to teach them.

  • Aarondamus

    I didn’t read every comment, or track where the discussion is, but my take the “conversion” of Libresco is this:

    How does a person go from believing in no god or gods, to not only believing in a god, but believing that this god wants you to be Catholic?

    I just don’t buy it. The “empty philisophical vessel” arguement sounds plausible, but so does the arguement that Libresco is a fraud.

    And for the record, the only part of the news story I had a problem with is that they refered to Libresco as a “prominent” atheist blogger, but no ones has ever heard of this person until today.

    • Ted Seeber

      “How does a person go from believing in no god or gods, to not only believing in a god, but believing that this god wants you to be Catholic?”

      By not being a skeptic to begin with and simply having no contact with rational religions. In other words, by looking at the end point, you’re utterly neglecting her starting point- which was really Intelligent Agnostic, not Militant Evangelical New Atheist.

      It’s easier for an Intelligent Agnostic to convert to Catholicism than it is to convert to Evangelical Protestantism. Or for that matter, it’s easier for an Intelligent Agnostic to convert to Catholicism than it is for an Evangelical Protestant to do so.

      That’s the problem with Militant Evangelism of any form- it turns off the intellect in favor of subjective personal morality. Does not seem to matter what you are evangelical about- Islamics, Buddhists, and Hindus all have the same problem.

      Most of what people find distasteful about ANY philosophy are the militant evangelists in their midst.

  • Judgement

    Let me understand this? She is in the process of converting to a religion that she does NOT agree with? Good luck with that.

    She basically wants to be come Catholic because she thinks it sounds “really cool” but doesn’t agree with the principles of the religion, including it seems NOT being with her boyfriend until they are married.

    Oh, and if you didn’t know, she’s also bisexual.
    That should go well with the church

    • Ted Seeber

      It actually goes very well with the church, which is a hospital for sinners not a hotel for Saints.

      And she’s handling the bisexuality *right* by Catholic standards. Being Bisexual isn’t a sin. ACTING homosexual is. So by choosing to date only men while she comes to an understanding of what the Church is really asking her for, she’s perfectly in line with the church.

      What Calvinists and Atheists lack, philosophically, is the entire concept of forgiveness.

    • David

      I think you are interpreting her actions through a lens, and as a result misunderstand what might be happening. I should say though that one should not immediately assume that Leah’s conversion is real or permanent. If the Christian God exists, only He knows that, and if He doesn’t none of it matters anyway. The rest of us will only know it if she sticks with it over years. No insult intended, just reality.

      “Let me understand this? She is in the process of converting to a religion that she does NOT agree with? Good luck with that.”

      A true Christian comes into a relationship with God, so it’s not a religion in the sense that one joins a belief system. When that person accepts who God is, she must then accept the whole package. If she doesn’t, she can’t be a Christian since she has effectively created her own system. If Leah decides she will pick and choose what she likes/dislikes/agrees/disagrees with, she becomes a religion unto herself. Such acceptance of a complete, comprehensive system of belief is abhorrent to everyone but the believer, in fact it is unacceptable to most who claim to be believers. The truth is that most people want to, and do, pick and choose, and are therefore not real believers.

      “She basically wants to be come Catholic because she thinks it sounds “really cool” but doesn’t agree with the principles of the religion,”

      Related to the above, if she picks a belief system (religious or otherwise) because she likes it or agrees with it, then in effect she has simply joined a group of the like-minded. On the other hand, if she has encountered what she believes to be the Creator of the universe, she would be foolish to not conform herself to His understanding of His creation. Again, this is absolute madness to anyone but the unbeliever, but consistent within the system.

      “including it seems NOT being with her boyfriend until they are married…Oh, and if you didn’t know, she’s also bisexual.”

      Relatively speaking, miniscule points. These are huge points humanly speaking, but in comparison to who her God claims to be, tiny.

      “That should go well with the church”
      The Catholic church is incorrectly assumed to be the spokes-organization, and expounder of all truth, for Christianity.


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