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Does Prayer Actually, Y’know, WORK?

Brethren, I will speak today on the gospel of John, the sixteenth chapter, verse 24. Jesus said, “Ask and you will receive.” As the National Day of Prayer approaches, this verse is both relevant and unambiguous.

Apologists like to water down this verse and many others like it to say that they doesn’t mean what they obviously mean, so let’s be sure we have this right. Here it is in context.

Jesus said,

I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete (John 16:23–4).

A few verses later, we read,

Then Jesus’s disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech” (:29).

Clearly, we are given no choice but to consider it at face value. “Ask and you will receive”—okay, got it.

National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer task force (“Transforming our Nation Through Prayer!”) is eager to harness this power. It says

We have an unprecedented opportunity to see the Lord’s healing and renewing power made manifest as we call on citizens to humbly come before His throne.

Is this just feel-good handwaving, or are you making specific, testable predictions?

Our theme for 2013 is Pray for America, emphasizing the need for individuals, corporately and individually, to place their faith in the unfailing character of their Creator, who is sovereign over all governments, authorities, and men.

Not in the U.S., pal. Religion operates as it does because, and only because, it is permitted to by the Constitution. You can pretend to elevate your deity above government, but let’s be clear about what document actually governs this country.

This year’s national prayer seems to push all the right buttons. There’s some thanksgiving and praise, there’s some confession and contrition. But, as Jesus recommends, it also asks.

Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms and culture. … Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again.

Just because it’s alliterative doesn’t make it profound. The Constitution prohibits Christianity in government buildings such as courtrooms and classrooms. That’s the way it’s been since ratification 224 years ago—deal with it. But its First Amendment makes Christianity (and other religions) welcome in culture.

In America, the buck stops with the Constitution, not the Bible. Why is this hard to understand? It’s simply unpatriotic to push society in a way prohibited by the Constitution (more here and here).

What does the task force imagine will happen (besides strengthening their brand, I mean)? Let me admit that there may be a benefit to the person praying. Prayer can be beneficial in the same way that meditation can. But when you’re praying for someone else, that’s not the point. The idea behind person A praying for person B isn’t for person A to feel better, it’s for something specific to happen to person B!

Does prayer work?

In Matthew, Jesus says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” In Mark, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” In John, Jesus says, “He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.”

The New Testament unambiguously claims that prayer works, but we all know that that’s wrong, or, said charitably, prayer doesn’t work that way. Apologists handwave that prayer works … for the person doing the praying. Or we’re told that prayers are always answered, but “not yet” or “maybe” are valid answers. This reinterpretation of reality is worthy of North Korea or Animal Farm.

It’s like Harriett Hall’s Blue Dot cure, where the doctor paints a blue dot on the patient’s nose. Suppose the patient gets better. Great—the blue dot worked! Or suppose the patient gets worse. Ah, the doctor says, you should’ve come to me sooner. Or suppose the condition is unchanged. The doctor recommends continued treatment (and it’s lucky we caught it when we did)!

No outcome will make this imaginary doctor reconsider the treatment. Reality is redefined so that the doctor is immune to evidence that shakes his preconception that the cure works.

If the roles were reversed and it was Christians critiquing the supernatural claim of someone else’s religion, I imagine they’d be as skeptical as me. The simple explanation is that there is no God to answer (or not) your prayers. Prayer is simply talking to yourself. There’s no one on the other end of the phone. (More on prayer here and here.)

I’ll close with the wisdom of Mr. Deity:

Mr. Deity: Prayer is not for me, okay? I mean, I like it and everything, I think it’s sweet that people think of me, but I’ve got a plan, and I’m staying the course. But it’s great for them, it gets them focused on what’s important, it’s meditative, I hear it does wonders for the blood pressure. Plus it’s a chance to connect to me. How’s that not going to be good? You should know.

Jesus: Oh yeah, yeah. So what you’re saying here, sir, is that you never answer any prayers?

Mr. Deity: Not really, no. There’s just no incentive. I mean, look—if somebody prays to me and things go well, who gets the credit? Me, right? But if they pray to me and things don’t go well, who gets the blame? Not me! So it’s all good. I’m going to mess with that by stepping in? Putting my nose where it doesn’t belong?

Thus endeth the lesson for today.

Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day;
give him a religion, and he’ll starve to death while praying for a fish.
— Anonymous

Photo credit: kymillman

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    “Really, when you come right down to it, there are only four basic prayers: Gimme! Thanks! Oops! and Wow!” —Rabbi Gellman

  • Question Everything

    I’m sure my parents think prayer works. I had cancer, and thanks to treatment, I was cured back in my 20′s. I credit science and my doctors. My folks are proud that they put me on a prayer list in their church.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

    Hey, there. Just checking to see if comments are working OK …

  • http://www.facebook.com/norman.donnan Norm Donnan

    Oh dear Bob,prayer is conversation with God,not a wish list. This is the sad part of reading atheist blogs,you think you know but you havent got a clue.The spiritual realm that you dismiss isnt threatened nor needs acknowledgment.Most parents want the best for their children and will give them what they can but when a child asks for things that they can see no reason you should withhold from them and you dont for what ever reason,the child is disappointed.We are the same.

    • Baby_Raptor

      Your view isn’t supported by the bible. The bible doesn’t say “Go converse with God.” Nor does it say “Ask God for what you need and maybe he’ll give it to you.”

      It says “Ask in my name and it shall be done.” He quoted the verse right there in his post.

      So who doesn’t have a clue again? Because it sure isn’t us Atheists. That’s the sad part of listening to theists…They talk of their own translations as if they’re actually quoting God’s word. And then they get butthurt when someone disagrees with them…Much like children do.

      You may be a child, in need of someone else to make your decisions and shoulder your blame, but I am not. Keep your immaturity to yourself…Don’t project it on me. That’s offensive.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        But are you asking in His name, and for His Will to be Done?

        Not YOUR will- but HIS?

        Unlike what some American Protestants and atheists believe, the Bible isn’t for prooftexting- you need to read the WHOLE story, not just parts.

        Anything less- is most certainly childish and selfish. And the answer to childish and selfish prayers, is usually no- because such prayers aren’t His will, they’re Yours.

        • Baby_Raptor

          Again, the bible says nothing about asking for god’s will. It says “Ask in my name and you shall receive.” There are no modifiers in there, no conditions, no limits. It says “Ask and you’ll get it.”

          And I *have* read the whole bible-several times. Reading the bible and actually looking at what it says was what caused my exit from Christianity…In fact, that’s what causes a good portion of most Atheists to leave the religion. So you can stop ragging on us about not having read the whole thing. Statistically, Atheists know the bible better than it’s followers.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Then how did you miss “Thy will be done” in the Lord’s Prayer?

        • Kodie

          What is the difference between “his will” and statistics. Seriously, you are basing an entire religious belief that a deity has a will because you don’t understand probabilities. Life is tough sometimes, must be trying to teach me something! Life is great sometimes, he is rewarding me. You have an imaginary friend and you tell stories about him a lot.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          There should be absolutely no difference between his will and statistics, because He invented statistics.

          Between YOUR will, Kodie, and statistics, I expect there to be a large difference indeed, but that is because you dissent rather than accept.

        • smrnda

          As a person who uses a lot of statistics, this statement just sounds like nonsense. Statistics just tells us facts about what we see in the world, like how many people die of heart attacks, and provides us with some potentially useful correlations (how often people who smoke die of heart attacks.)

          In terms of our will or statistics, our will can change both our own behavior and the behavior of others, so nothing about our will can really defy statistics, it just shapes future data so that statistics in the future will be different. A good example of this is how knowing more about health can result in better health outcomes.

          If what you mean is that certain people are denying facts, yeah, that happens, but I don’t exactly note that atheists are worse at this than religious people, and given how many religious people reject scientifically verified conclusion in which statistics plays a great role, it appears that religious people are often immune to statistics.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “As a person who uses a lot of statistics, this statement just sounds like nonsense. Statistics just tells us facts about what we see in the world, like how many people die of heart attacks, and provides us with some potentially useful correlations (how often people who smoke die of heart attacks.)”

          Yep. Exactly. Or for another slightly more controversial point, how acting out on homosexual behavior will put you in a larger danger of contracting an STD.

          I see lots of atheists denying THAT fact.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          how acting out on homosexual behavior will put you in a larger danger of contracting an STD.

          Than being a celibate person, yeah. Obviously. Same is true for heterosexual people.

          What I hear you saying is that sexually active people should practice safe sex practices (one of which is being monogamous with a clean partner). I like what I’m hearing!

          You do know that HIV is transmitted mostly by heterosexual people, right?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “Than being a celibate person, yeah. Obviously. Same is true for heterosexual people.”

          Yes it is. But you won’t hear Planned Parenthood letting that secret out.

          There is no such thing as safe sex except in monogamy.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          So again, you agree with me. It’d be great if you’d just man up and say so.

          Unsafe sex can bring on STDs. Doesn’t really matter what your sexual predilection.

          There is no such thing as safe sex except in monogamy.

          And we could have a Pollyanna-ish attitude and imagine that everyone’s going to do it your way, or we could admit that people starting in their mid-teens have pretty strong sexual urges. Saying, “Just gotta wait till marriage!” is insanely and almost criminally naive. Works for some people, but not for most.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Worked for all people until Planned Parenthood started producing pornography to encourage the opposite.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Whaaa … ?? It’s Planned Parenthood behind pornography? Gimme details.

          And you’re saying that people need porn to raise their libido? Must’ve been a long, long time since you were a teen, my friend.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          The latest: http://takecaredownthere.org

          But this goes back to Margaret Sanger and the Comstock Law; I know history isn’t popular among New Atheists but this was only a hundred years ago.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          I know history isn’t popular among New
          Atheists

          Those sweeping generalizations can bite you. I love history. I use it to spank the Bible all the time.

          And I don’t know what the point of the PP link was. You’re going to show us that “Planned Parenthood started producing pornography…” I’m waiting to see the argument.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “Those sweeping generalizations can bite you. I love history. I use it to spank the Bible all the time.”

          Which proves that you don’t know the first thing about history- only the postmodernist mythology that you are currently biased towards.

          “And I don’t know what the point of the PP link was. You’re going to show us that “Planned Parenthood started producing pornography…” I’m waiting to see the argument.”

          That link is pornography. Soft porn, but still pornography. And it is produced by Planned Parenthood. Of course, it’s only the latest version of the violation of the Comstock Law that got Margaret Sanger in trouble to begin with.

          But hey, just stay ignorant of history whose only use to you is to “spank the Bible”, whatever that means. My guess is that you’re using it to claim the Bible is wrong, without understanding that the Bible has to be interpreted by history, not by you, but that’s the same mistake all the Sola Scriptura Bible Believers make.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Which proves that you don’t know the first thing about history- only the postmodernist mythology that you are currently biased towards.

          Big words. Now back them up by pointing out specific historical errors that I make in my posts.

          That link is pornography. Soft porn, but still pornography. And it is produced by Planned Parenthood.

          Wow. It all fits into place now. The very foundation of modern porn can be traced back to Planned Parenthood. Golly—you’re right!

          Who’d have thought that hormones weren’t enough to make teens interested in sex?

        • Kodie

          You continue to tell stories about your imaginary friend based on nada, and you are beginning to tell stories about me based on rumors you heard while discerning truth by compiling your religious beliefs among your community. Because you don’t know what it’s like to look at your beliefs and find them silly, you have to tell me why I think the way I do. Who do you think knows that better than I do – you? Your church? The voices in your head? I accept statistics because I understand them. You don’t understand them, and you attribute them to a decision-making invisible power who loves you even when you invent lies.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I look at your beliefs and find them quite silly, so yes, I know what it is like.

    • Kodie

      That is the conclusion that you settle for. Talking to god is talking to yourself. Who is at the other end of the line, and do you wonder why they so often agree with what you really want? Don’t you have any actual friends to talk to?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The other end of the line stopped agreeing with what I wanted the day I stopped talking in prayer.

    • Rain

      Yeah if we don’t have a clue then neither does your Bible. Often times people will blame atheists for not having a clue when it’s just something they got from the Bible. So you can ignore the Bible if you want but don’t say you don’t ignore it though if you do. Yeah we all know it’s full of ridiculous things. Glad somebody agrees for once.

      The spiritual realm that you dismiss isnt threatened nor needs acknowledgment.

      You don’t know that but you talk like you know it for sure. Your credibility just went down the tubes, I’m sorry to say.

    • Kodie

      Speaking of spoiled children:

      Lord, we need Your help in America. In recent days, we have done our best to remove Your Word and Your counsel from our courtrooms, classrooms and culture. … Lord, You have not forgotten us! You can bless and help and revive our country again.

      Now that I’ve read the whole blog post, it’s obvious to me that you did not.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Awesomely Ripped Norm:

      Oh dear Bob,prayer is conversation with God,not a wish list.

      Tell that to Jesus. He didn’t seem to get it. I’m simply letting the Bible speak for itself.

      And it seems to me that you’re not. Jesus doesn’t say that prayer is a conversation; he says it’s a gumball machine that gives you what you ask for. Yes, I see that you don’t agree, but take that up with the Big Man, not with me.

      The spiritual realm that you dismiss isnt threatened nor needs acknowledgment.

      Good to hear that you don’t think your supernatural views are vulnerable to criticism. But do you want to advance any support to convince the rest of us that your views are more than mythology?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Except he doesn’t. Because you failed to read Matthew Chapter 6 along with John Chapter 16. What? You think those two are contradictory? That’s your own bad thinking.

        • Baby_Raptor

          “You didn’t read these two entirely unconnected chapters that I think support each other! Wait, you think they’re unrelated? Well your thinking is wrong, only mine is right!”

          What happened to the bible being easy to understand and worded plainly enough that anyone can get the meaning? Why do we suddenly have to go jumping across books and matching chapters up?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Nothing is unconnected. That’s a fallacy of shallow thinkers. Doesn’t even just apply to the Bible- NOTHING in the universe is unconnected from anything else.

          It is all interwoven into a tapestry of truth, from the smallest boson to the largest galaxy.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Stuff like this is, for me, the best proof possible that God doesn’t exist. The God of the bible would smite the hell out of people for demanding something that specifically contradicts his commands.

    Jesus cursed a fig tree for not producing fruit when it wasn’t in season…You think the God third of him is any more stable?

  • Frank

    I’m sorry I must of missed the lesson. All I read was a bunch of nonsense.

  • Hanan

    >Clearly, we are given no choice but to consider it at face value. “Ask and you will receive”—okay, got it.

    Well, not necessarily. After all, even the readers back then knew very well that prayer did not work that way (they lived to see it not always work after all), yet still believed in the concept of prayer.

    • Kodie

      It obviously doesn’t work as described, so in order to maintain belief in a superior god, they have to invent his intentions of making it not work as described. If someone told you that ordinary toothpaste gets rid of skin wrinkles, you might try it and see for yourself that it doesn’t work. A normal person would not use toothpaste on their wrinkles anymore, they would conclude that the person telling them was mistaken or a liar, and not pass this advice onto others. They would not invent conditions where it would have to be true anyway. It only works if your expectations of eradicating your wrinkles could be appeased by believing it works none of the time.

      “Toothpaste gets rid of skin wrinkles” does not mean it gets rid of them by brushing your teeth with it. It does not mean you have a sacred tube of toothpaste on a shelf in your home while your beauty regimen includes an actual skin cream. It doesn’t mean you string together hardened toothpaste beads on a necklace and wear it to keep away wrinkles. BUT that’s what everyone who believes prayer doesn’t work that way and hassles atheists that we just don’t understand your tricky superstitions sounds like. If something doesn’t work then it just doesn’t. You don’t keep saying it does and expect anyone to believe you.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Rick:

    tell me again where in the Constitution it says that Christianity (or any religion, for that matter) is prohibited “in government buildings such as courtrooms and classrooms.”

    In the First Amendment (I’m referring to the Constitution as amended)—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” as you note. “Congress” has been extended to mean “government at all levels, not just federal” by the 13th or 14th Amendment, I believe.

    Are you saying that you’re against this idea? You’re saying that you’d be OK with proselytizing messages from Islam or Mormonism in public school classrooms?

    So history and traditional usage are against your position

    And the Constitution is in favor of it.

    Any prohibition (there have been some in more recent years) certainly doesn’t go back 224 years.

    That seems to me like a small point, but yes, you’re right. The Bill of Rights was ratified four years after the Constitution.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      What does outlawing slavery and creating citizens have to do with it?

      I agree that the MODERN interpretation of the First Amendment makes all public religion illegal. That’s the reason I’m against the Federal Government itself. But I see nothing in the 13th or 14th Amendments to extend this to lower levels of government below Congress. So I’m calling you an outright LIAR on that one.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        Theodore:

        And I’m calling ignorant on that one.

        You do understand the odd separation of powers between the federal government and state governments in the US? After slavery was declared illegal, what would’ve stopped a state from saying, “Fine, but that applies only at the federal level. In the good ol’ state of [fill in the blank,] slavery is A-OK.” The result was the amendment and interpretation that had the Constitution applying to everyone, not just at the federal level.

        And I’ll ask you the same question I asked Rick: are you saying that you want to allow proselytizing from Islam or Mormonism in public schools?

        • Rick

          Proselytizing is not the issue you raised originally. But since you brought it up, if an elected official supported this for Christianity, Islam, or Mormonism, he would have to answer to the electorate. This behavior is self correcting.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          If the proselytizing is done in an atmosphere of open debate, I have no doubt in the ability of the Catholics to win, and thus, no, I don’t fear it.

          I find it interesting that you don’t have the same faith in your skepticism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          If the proselytizing is done in an atmosphere of open debate, I have no doubt in the ability of the Catholics to win, and thus, no, I don’t fear it.

          Gotta stay on topic, OK?

          We’re talking about the National Day of Prayer, not a debate. I’ll try one more time, after which I’ll assume that the question is simply too uncomfortable for you to answer honestly: are you saying that you want to allow proselytizing from Islam or Mormonism in public schools?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I’m fine with Islam and Mormonism being taught in public schools, up to and including required reading from the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon, with commentary.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS: In a course on comparative religions? I like that idea as well. But a public school class on just one religion is a violation of the First Amendment.

        • Kodie

          I agree that comparative religions could be, in a perfect world, taught responsibly. Many parents would complain about the exposure and the subject would be eliminated, for one thing. Secondly, it cannot be a comparative religions course in which the purpose is deciding which religion is true. They are all not true, but we cannot ignore the impact on the culture of what people believe. Ted is imagining that his Catholicism would win the most converts in an open debate at school if we talked openly about all the religions. That’s a misuse of school, properly, and violates the 1st amendment for the school to support such a course. Teachers, as agents of the government, cannot use classroom time to influence students what to believe nor insinuate that conversion is vital to pass the class or get special treatment in the class. ILLEGAL. You seem to be confident that your child would not be converted upon hearing the merits of Islam if left to a debate on which religion is true, and that’s why you’re ok with it, so what makes you think the Muslim kids are easily converted? This kind of debate divides people and alienates people – not ok for a school to encourage that in the course of learning.

          There is no law as far as I know prohibiting one child to talk to another child about Jesus during school hours. What is prohibited is disrupting classes and threatening and harassing people, and as long as Christians understand that the other child does not have to stay and listen to anyone telling him something he chooses to walk away from, we’re good. What Christians seem to be responding poorly to is that people they talk to freely also have the freedom to disagree with them or walk away, so they keep trying to make listening to their freedom of religion mandatory. The dictionary does not support this warped definition of “freedom”.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “That’s a misuse of school, properly, and violates the 1st amendment for the school to support such a course.”

          And thus the 1st Amendment has become, in and of itself, supportive of proselytizing for atheism, to the great detriment of learning how to think.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          In a course on proper civilized behavior, I’m willing to accept it. In a course on comparative religion I’m willing to accept it. In a teacher-led course on Mormonism I’m willing to accept the book of Mormon, and in a teacher led course on Islam I’m willing to accept the Qu’ran.

          The First Amendment as currently interpreted, however, only supports the teaching of the single religion of atheism. Which is precisely why it has become self-contradictory.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          The First Amendment as currently interpreted, however, only supports the teaching of the single religion of atheism.

          Does it?? Score! I guess atheism has won after all.

          But give me the details. This is remarkable news. I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that this is true. Show me where the teaching of atheism is allowed in public schools.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          By removing all other teaching of religion and enforcing a lack of prayer in schools, obviously. Of course, that also means the kids don’t learn to think any more than you have.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          By removing all other teaching of religion and enforcing a lack of prayer in schools, obviously.

          Obviously. That’s what the First Amendment demands. The Constitution—love it or leave it.

          But this is merely an aside. You promised to tell me how the First Amendment “only supports the teaching of the single religion of atheism.” You’ve made the (obvious) point that proselytizing within public schools is unconstitutional. Show me where atheism is taught.

          that also means the kids don’t learn to think any more than you have.

          Zing! And my mother dresses me funny, too? You’re a witty one.

        • smrnda

          Regrettably, the statistics seem to be against you here, with the Catholic church losing numbers in most of the industrialized world.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Funny, the numbers don’t seem to hold that out, smrnda. Are you reading your biases into the data again?

    • Rick

      Bob,

      You apparently agree that the first amendment does not apply to your stated purpose, and that something was needed in order to your use of restricting religion from the public sphere effective. You then refer to the 13th OR 14th amendment. You then say that the Bill of Rights passing four years after the Constitution indicates that only for the past 220 years would religion have been banished from influencing government. But the 13th amendment wasn’t passed until 1865, and you didn’t specify what it was about the 13th OR 14th amendment made the change. So we are now down to not four years after 1789, but at earliest 1865. (That’s down to under 150 years, if you can back up your assertion about the 13th or 14th amendment.)

      Hugo Black wrote some irrellevant things (for your purposes) about states as well as the federal government being restricted from establishing religions, and he used the terminology you referred to (“government at all levels, not just federal”), but that was in 1947. Surely that isn’t what you were thinking of? Even there, he still didn’t suggest that people with religiously motivated morality should be restricted (i.e. disenfranchised) from expressing their views with a purpose of influencing government policy decisions.

      So to your point about “The Constitution prohibits Christianity in government buildings such as courtrooms and classrooms,” I’m still looking for your reference on that.

      Rick

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

        Rick:

        You apparently agree that the first amendment does not apply to your stated purpose

        Because the definition of “Congress” has changed now compared to its restricted meaning when the 1st Amendment was first accepted? Yeah.

        You then say that the Bill of Rights passing four years after the Constitution indicates that only for the past 220 years would religion have been banished from influencing government.

        You raise a good point. This would’ve been only for the federal government.

        Surely that isn’t what you were thinking of?

        The Civil War is over, and the federal government abolishes slavery through the 13th amendment. So then the state governments say, “Hey, not a problem. Don’t have slavery then. But we will, thanks.” The result was an amendment that redefined “Congress” so that it meant government, not just federal government.

        So to your point about “The Constitution prohibits Christianity in government buildings such as courtrooms and classrooms,” I’m still looking for your reference on that.

        1st Amendment.

        And I’m still trying to get your response to my question about whether you’d be OK with a First Amendment defined in any way other than the way I’ve defined it. You can’t be saying that you’d be OK with government (legislature, courtrooms, public schools) praying or otherwise proselytizing from a Wiccan, Satanist, Mormon, or Scientology standpoint, right?

        • Rick

          I understand that the meaning of “government” has been expanded to include the state level as well as the federal. This has absolutely no bearing on the point I made, which was that the First Amendment was written and is still defined as having restrictive powers on government (both federal and state) from ESTABLISHING a religion.

          Individual members of government, including Congressmen, Senators and dog catchers, are free to express their positions in support of religiously (or not) moral issues. That is not establishing a religion.

          Regarding your interpretation of the 13th amendment, this has no bearing on using the Capitol building or other federal buildings for prayer, worship services, or seances.

          I already responded to your question about Satanists and Wiccans, et al. But it was in a different post, so I will state it again. I don’t care what government officials do to promote what they think is in the best interests of their constituents. If they think promoting Satanism on federal property is a good thing and is what their constituents sent them to their elected position to do, then God bless ‘em—(so to speak) and they should go for it. If it turns out it wasn’t what the constituents had in mind, they will discover what the ballot box term limits can do to their political aspirations.

          In the 1990s, the Supreme Court refined a number of provisions of the First Amendment to more narrowly define what can and cannot be done on public property. This reference (http://www.freedomforum.org/publications/first/findingcommonground/B04.SupremeCourt.pdf) is a pretty good source if you are interested.

          But we are well inside your asserted 224 year limit. Some limits go back as far as, well, not quite 24 years. So you are about 200 years off, and that is only on certain narrowly defined cases. Schools and other public buildings can still be the site of religiously inspired events in many cases.

          That was my original point and still is.

          As for whether or not prayer works, that is a subjective determination on which you and I will never agree in all likelihood. But perhaps we can find common ground on this 224 year bit being a stretch.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Rick:

          I agree with the first 3 paragraphs. Did you think I wouldn’t?

          I don’t care what government officials do to promote what they think is in the best interests of their constituents. If they think promoting Satanism on federal property is a good thing and is what their constituents sent them to their elected position to do, then God bless ‘em—(so to speak) and they should go for it.

          Senators are required to swear that they will “support and defend the Constitution.” Your laissez-faire approach is interesting and even handed, but that’s not the way it works.

          Thanks for the link. I’ll try to get around to reading it soon.

          perhaps we can find common ground on this 224 year bit being a stretch.

          Good catch. You’re right that ratification of the 1st Amendment was 4 years later, which makes it 220 years. The President is part of the federal government, so we don’t need the 14th Amendment’s making the Constitution binding on all governments (1868). The President declaring a National Day of Prayer is pretty clearly an establishment violation.

        • Rick

          We are still off on the math. The Supreme Court has changed SOME definitions in the last 20 years (not 220) to fit your understanding. But they have allowed some forms of religious expression in public buildings to continue to the present day. You are completely off on this part. And even if you were completely right you’d have to go with 1868 and 145 years. I’m not sure why you are clinging to 220. But I’d go with 20 at most and that’s only for part of your claim.

          As for the “support and defend the Constitution” requirement for senators, congressmen and presidents (among others), if we held them strictly to this, most would be impeached. There is no Constitutional mandate for much of what the US Government authorizes in the areas of social activism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Rick:

          I read your PDF on how the First Amendment works. Very helpful, thanks.

          The Supreme Court has changed SOME definitions in the last 20 years (not 220) to fit your understanding.

          I don’t see how. The Establishment Clause says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion …”
          Whether Congress ordered the President to establish a National Day of Prayer yesterday or 220 years ago, it doesn’t matter. The First Amendment is there to say that that’s a violation. What complexities am I missing?

          And even if you were completely right you’d have to go with 1868 and 145 years. I’m not sure why you are clinging to 220.

          Since we’re talking about the National Day of Prayer (every player is part of the federal government), the 14th Amendment (ratified in 1868) is irrelevant.

          Do you now see why I’m “clinging” to 220 years?

          As for the “support and defend the Constitution” requirement for senators, congressmen and presidents (among others), if we held them strictly to this, most would be impeached.

          Technically, I’m not sure that violating that oath would lead to impeachment (very restricted in how it can be applied), but I think I understand your point nonetheless.

          I don’t care for many politicians’ shenanigans. (Didja hear about your own Congressman Lamar Smith’s “High Quality Research Act”? The mind boggles.) However, I don’t think I’ll go as far as you here.

          But politicians’ underhandedness is beside the point. Let’s stay on topic. You said: “If [government officials] think promoting Satanism on federal property is a good thing and is what their constituents sent them to their elected position to do, then … they should go for it.” I made clear that, while they certainly should do what’s best for their constituents, that is overridden by their obligation to the Constitution. No, they shouldn’t do whatever is best for their constituents if it violates the Constitution.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

    Hey, gang:

    This new commenting system is taking longer to settle down than I expected. If your comments have been put into moderation, apologies. I’m working to get that fixed. My own policy is to have an open forum where you’re assumed to have a valid point of view first, and in only rare cases will I later have to take some sort of action (I hate having my own comments being moderated at other blogs, because I suspect that anything not toeing the party line will be deleted.)

    I’m not comfortable with things quite yet, but I hope that we all will be shortly. Thanks for your patience.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The older I get, the more I think that the First Amendment as written is only compatible with atheism.

    Oh, and your definition of prayer is cute and childish, but I wouldn’t expect anything more from a modern American who never learned to pray.

    • Baby_Raptor

      You must be getting dumber as you get older, then. It is perfectly possible for the First Amendment to work for any and all religions in the country. It’s been working for every religion that’s not Christianity for a long time now.

      The problem is that the majority of Christians in this country cannot grasp the concept of respecting other peoples’ rights to live by their own beliefs. You feel that you’re special, and you should get to force your views on everyone else. Your version of God says you’re right, so you should be able to base laws on your religious book. You really, really believe whatever it is you’re spouting, even if actual fact doesn’t back you up, so you shouldn’t have to adhere to actual fact.

      If Christians could get over their own egos, everyone could live happily under the First Amendment.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        “You must be getting dumber as you get older, then. It is perfectly possible for the First Amendment to work for any and all religions in the country. It’s been working for every religion that’s not Christianity for a long time now.”

        Depends what you mean by work. If you mean “lock them away in a deep dark closet never to be seen”, sure, it works.

        “The problem is that the majority of Christians in this country cannot grasp the concept of respecting other peoples’ rights to live by their own beliefs”

        Belief should not be subjective.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          If you mean “lock them away in a deep dark closet never to be seen”, sure, it works.

          The 1st Amendment does this to all non-Christian religions? I’m missing this completely. Explain.

          Belief should not be subjective

          Give me an example of a correctly objective belief. And maybe you’d better define “objective,” if that’s what these correct beliefs are.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Under the current interpretation of the 1st Amendment favored by the courts and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, any attempt to use religion to build community in public is forbidden. That’s why we get such things as the HHS mandate and pulling dusty old plaques off of school walls that nobody ever paid any attention to anyway. That’s enforced atheism in my book- but it is also completely subjective.

          An example of correctly objective belief is heterosexual monogamous marriage as the basis for parenthood. Tried and true for several thousand years, data that is utterly ignored by modern subjective moral relativists for no reason other than subjective bias.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS: Why is it not forced secularism?

          If plaques are unconstitutional, don’t complain when they’re removed. I’m not sure about “forced,” but I guess I can accept it. The Constitution is plainly secular. Love it or leave it.

          An example of correctly objective belief is heterosexual monogamous marriage as the basis for parenthood.

          I think you mean: heterosexual sex as the basis for parenthood.

          And what does “objective” mean here? I can’t think of any definition that would fit what you’re trying to say.

          While you’re at it, explain to me how the Bible missed the monogamy thing so blatantly. From the Bible’s standpoint, marriage is obviously the union of one man with one or more women.

        • smrnda

          I don’t think the historical record on these marriages is that sound. We don’t exactly have child abuse statistics from those time periods, we don’t have data from those time periods on the frequency of child sexual abuse, spousal abuse, or anything else. We don’t have statistics on marital fulfillment. All we have are traditionalists who have some Just So Stories about the Good Old Days. By the standards of what would be considered ‘data’ or ‘evidence’ for what works in families, you’ve got zero data. Got that? ZERO DATA. A longstanding preference is not data, got that?
          We didn’t even know how to investigate things like family wellness and dysfunction until recently, so we can’t have anything that should be called ‘data’ from those times.

          However, contemporary studies indicate that same-sex parents are not having a bad effect on kids.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “I don’t think the historical record on these marriages is that sound. ”

          Until you know, don’t discuss the topic. You are speculating and you don’t know.

          A longstanding preference IS data. To ignore it because YOU think that the record is inaccurate without proof is biased and stupid at best.

          And no, not all contemporary studies indicate that same-sex parents are benign. Just the ones bought and paid for by the gays.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Marriage is about a heckuva lot more than screwing and making babies.

          Just sayin’.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          And the human race doesn’t continue without babies, but I’m sure you knew that. I find this bigotry against children to be major proof that good without God is a lie.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          And the human race doesn’t continue without babies, but I’m sure you knew that.

          And I’m sure that you knew that the conversation was about marriage. Talking with you is confusing enough–let’s stay on topic.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          You don’t get functional citizens without functional families- which is why the United States is so screwed up over the last 40 years.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          You’ll have to go slower. I’m just an unenlightened atheist. Why, precisely, is “the United States so screwed up over the last 40 years”? Gay marriage? Unwed mothers? Less church attendance? What?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Libertinism in general. All of the above, and then add the fiscal libertinism on the other side.

          “Morality doesn’t matter” or is mythical, and it doesn’t matter what you do even if it harms your neighbor or the next generation, as long as you can bribe a judge, a scientist, or a politician to say it is ok.

        • Kodie

          This is where your dead reckoning takes you – paranoia.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Any evidence that it’s libertinism? Unfortunately, the caricature that pops to mind is an old guy shaking his fist and saying, “You young kids these days! You’re all worthless. Why, back when I was your age …”

          Yeah, things change. If you want to pick some negative traits in society and point to their source, that’d be great, but we need more than just a vague feeling that it was better back when you were young.

          I have no idea where your second paragraph is going. It certainly doesn’t fit my view of reality.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          You can’t have moral relativity without libertinism. And with libertinism, nothing can be called wrong.

          So you think that killing a child is just hunky dory as long as it hasn’t taken it’s first breath, why was Hitler wrong to believe that killing the Jews was just hunky dory after they have taken their first breath?

          After all, it’s all relative, right?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          You can’t have moral relativity without libertinism. And with libertinism, nothing can be called wrong.

          Golly, things are so much easier when you can just redefine ’em to fit your biases!

          My view isn’t the typical apologist caricature of “moral relativism.” My view is “not objective morality.” I will, with pleasure, call something morally wrong. But where is the objective morality? I see no evidence of it.

          You believe in objective moral truth, and you say that this truth is accessible to we mortals? Show me.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Without objective morality, there is no rational reason to call something “right” or “wrong” at all. Your view is incoherent to the point of being chaotic; it’s just personal preference, nothing more.

          At least mine has 2000 years of study behind it, of observation and empirical data, quite accessible to anybody willing to work for it and be humble enough not to reject it. The Zen Buddhists have even more in this arena- another 3000 years worth of data to pour over. Both are completely accessible to “mere mortals”, but both reject subjectivist moral relativism of any sort.

          There is either a universal right and wrong that continues to be right and wrong whether or not we believe in it, or there is no right and wrong at all. There is no halfway- this is a boolean.

          It takes humility to realize that objective morality exists. It takes great arrogance to claim that it doesn’t. And it takes psychopathic insanity to proclaim shades of grey on this.

          There is no way for you to know right and wrong, or even act like you do reliably, if there is no objective morality- and as soon as you are willing to say “this moral principle is always right, and this moral principle is always wrong” then you have proof of objective, observable morality.

          A good example of objective, observable morality is that it is always right to eat food, and always wrong to eat radio waves.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Without objective morality, there is no rational reason to call something “right” or “wrong” at all.

          Fail. Look up “right” and “wrong” in the dictionary and see if your definition matches what Webster says. Show me the objective grounding in the words.

          Try again: show me that objective morality exists and is accessible to ordinary people. Take a moral issue that society struggles with today, tell me the objectively correct answer to it, and show me that this objective truth is reliably accessible to we mortals.

          There is either a universal right and wrong that continues to be right and wrong whether or not we believe in it, or there is no right and wrong at all. There is no halfway- this is a boolean.

          Wrong again. There is no concept of universality in the dictionary definition of these words. The Boolean is: either rights and wrongs are universal or they’re not. There’s no evidence that they are (and you aren’t doing much to convince me otherwise), so I conclude that they’re not. Does that mean that we have no shared sense of right and wrong? Of course not. Laws are made without appeal to universality; same with moral instincts and opinions.

          It takes humility to realize that objective morality exists. It takes great arrogance to claim that it doesn’t.

          I’m humbly asking you to provide evidence for your remarkable claim.

          as soon as you are willing to say “this moral principle is always right, and this moral principle is always wrong” then you have proof of objective, observable morality.

          I say, “X is always right from my standpoint.” Why I would want to pretend that I can tap into some supernatural something-or-other so that I can declare this objectively true, I can’t imagine.

          A good example of objective, observable morality is that it is always right to eat food, and always wrong to eat radio waves.

          And you’ve blundered out of the domain of morality.

          Take the statement “abortion is wrong.” Qualify it if necessary, and show me how it’s (1) objectively true or false and (2) that this moral truth is accessible by every human able to think.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Webster isn’t an objective source.

          Abortion is a good example of an objective wrong that society struggles with today ONLY because people like you preach there is no universal right and wrong.

          It isn’t my job to teach you right from wrong, since your parents failed to do so.

          The rule of law is worthless in a morally relative society.

          “I say, “X is always right from my standpoint.””

          Why should anybody believe YOUR standpoint, if all morality is relative?

          “And you’ve blundered out of the domain of morality.”

          No, in fact I haven’t- because if morality isn’t scientifically true, then it is neither universal nor objective. You can’t even have scientific truth without universal morality.

          “Take the statement “abortion is wrong.” Qualify it if necessary, and show me how it’s (1) objectively true or false and (2) that this moral truth is accessible by every human able to think.”

          Every human being was once a fetus, and so if you support killing fetuses, you support the right of other people to kill you.

          Drop dead simple and accessible by every human actually able to THINK- but the reason you can’t see this is because you’ve failed to THINK.

          You are not as smart as you think you are.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Webster isn’t an objective source.

          “Right” and “wrong” are English words. Are you saying that we don’t know what they mean? Or that you can redefine those words (and insert the word “objective”) as you see fit?

          Abortion is a good example of an objective wrong that society struggles with today ONLY because people like you preach there is no universal right and wrong.

          And if people don’t agree, then what does “objective moral truth” mean? Not much, apparently.

          To cling to your definition, you’ve watered it down so much that it doesn’t mean much. “Abortion is a kinda wrong thing that may not be apparent to everyone”? Is this what you’re trying to say?

          It isn’t my job to teach you right from wrong, since your parents failed to do so.

          Whoa—must be cool being clairvoyant as well.
          Do another one! Tell everyone whether I favor boxers or briefs.

          The rule of law is worthless in a morally relative society.

          Laws aren’t objectively true—that’s the point. And yet we still stumble through life governed by them.

          Gee, maybe it’s like that with morals—no objective morality, and yet we have a fairly similar idea of what morality is, enough to create a society. Maybe the idea of objective morality isn’t necessary to explain what we see in reality after all.

          Why should anybody believe YOUR standpoint, if all morality is relative?

          You do know how arguments work, right? You’ve convinced someone to change his mind at least once, I’m guessing?

          If so, I don’t see what you’re confused about.

          You can’t even have scientific truth without universal morality.

          Show me.

          Every human being was once a fetus, and so if you support killing fetuses, you support the right of other people to kill you.

          So “abortion is wrong” is objectively true, is that your position? What then does “objectively” mean since probably no more than one person out of a million will change his mind to your position from this statement alone?
          Maybe “objectively true” means “what I think is true”?

          You are not as smart as you think you are.

          There’s a lot of that going around.

        • Kodie

          Believe it or not, the universe doesn’t care what Hitler did. Why wasn’t it wrong for Hitler to kill all the Jews at the time, to millions of people who agreed with and weren’t horrified by what he was doing and assisted him, but it’s wrong some time after the fact? Why do people still, in some circles, uphold Hitler as a role model and a hero? You seem to have gotten away from the topic of how prayer actually works, well it didn’t work for 6 11 million Jews, homosexuals, Romani, and disabled people, among others. I mean, is that what god’s answer was? Why do you think it’s your job to dissent god’s will here and not accept what Hitler did as purposeful?

          Because what Hitler did is a humanitarian tragedy. Your god played no part, you will excuse him somehow, but there is no god to judge Hitler – that’s why you have to. God doesn’t answer prayers to end abortion either. People who oppose abortions enact laws and spread exaggerations and outright lies to convince others to take up their cause. Why can’t they just pray for god to change everyone’s mind? And why are they also then working so hard to limit solutions that would alleviate the frequency of rock-and-a-hard-place abortions? Can’t they understand that outlawing abortion will not reduce abortions and actually endangers women and the children they hoped to save? Because Christians don’t hear anything from “god”. They listen to their own weak logic and spread it around like a virus of ignorance and harsh judgement. Why can’t they just pray to god people get what they think these people deserve? Why do your people cause more problems than they solve and cause more suffering than they relieve?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          well it didn’t work for 6 million Jews, homosexuals, Romani, and disabled people, among others.

          The 6 million were just the Jews. The rest (Russians, political prisoners, and others, as well as your list) was another 5 million.

        • Kodie

          See Ted, Bob knows history.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “Believe it or not, the universe doesn’t care what Hitler did”

          I believe it, and neither do you care.

          It wasn’t a humanitarian tragedy- it was a humanitarian act. Humanitarianism supports the eugenic elimination of the unfit. That is why humanists are for euthanasia and abortion. There is no discernable difference between what Hitler did and your humanism. And under moral relativism, you’re both right- so start celebrating Hitler as your hero!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Humanitarianism supports the eugenic elimination of the unfit. That is why humanists are for euthanasia and abortion.

          Bro, seriously, you gotta respond to what people actually say. Making up a straw man just makes you look like an uninformed idiot.

          If you wonder if someone thinks something, just ask. It makes you look like a decent guy (you’re just checking your data before you act on it). People will appreciate that and get a decent impression of you. As it is, you sound like Fred Phelps.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Your version of a “decent guy” is exactly what I never want to become- because you just sound like Hitler to me.

        • Kodie

          I don’t see any atheism when they take down a dusty old plaque that nobody ever paid any attention to anyway. What I do see is religious people gnashing and wailing that god will, out of spite, fail to protect the school (or whatever) without its magical idol. If they wouldn’t be so superstitious about a physical list of biblical laws and expected to be respected for living in childish fear of god’s statistical whims, I mean, accepting rather than dissenting, we could have unfettered secularism throughout the land. The only reason y’all see it as “enforced atheism” is because atheists are the ones bringing the cases. You don’t seem to think teaching your kids at home and bringing them to church protects them enough that you have to make up shit like “nobody reads the plaques anyway” – so take them down and put something on the wall people would read. I don’t see what’s atheistic about taking away something nobody reads.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          religious people gnashing and wailing that god will, out of spite, fail to protect the school (or whatever) without its magical idol.

          Yeah, well, 9/11 and Katrina were because of all the gays, after all, so it does happen.

          The only reason y’all see it as “enforced
          atheism” is because atheists are the ones bringing the cases.

          There are lots of Christian excesses grandfathered into society. Instead of seeing this as righting the balance, many Christians see this as encroachment. Human nature, I guess, but it’d be nice if they’d take more notice of the Constitution. Isn’t that the patriotic thing to do?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          If, as I stated before, God’s will and statistical probability is one and the same, why are you so afraid of God’s “statistical whims” that you have to remove the myth to prevent people from knowing the real probability?

          What if the taboo actually has some real objective truth behind it (as most of them do, such as the fact that male homosexuals are 48x as likely to develop complications of sexually transmitted diseases)? Are you really being good by kicking out the religious taboo merely because it is religious, without bothering to ask why the taboo works in the first place? Or are you just condemning homosexuals to horrid deaths by failing to warn them that their behavior might be risky?

          That’s the problem with you brights, you’re too arrogant for your own good.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          the fact that male homosexuals are 48x as likely to develop complications of sexually transmitted diseases

          What I hear you saying is that when a homosexual couple wants to turn their back on promiscuity and enter into a monogamous marriage, you give them two thumbs up. Good for you.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          That’s not marriage- that’s a civil union. I’ve been for civil unions for the last 20 years. Of course, now I’m an evil Catholic bigot for being for civil unions, because I won’t let them get married supposedly; which just goes to prove that the gays are as illogical as atheists and can’t recognize a friend when they see one.

        • Kodie

          Even if you were correct, and you’re not, seeing a pattern is not the same as cause. You see homosexuals being punished – that’s because you’re crazy. What about cancer? What is the taboo being punished? You can find one example you love to trot out because it fits your story. You are ignorant if you think that example is impressive or proof that your story is true.

          Besides which, yay humans! God didn’t cure HIV, humans are doing that. People love to see people survive diseases and not die from them anymore.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          God didn’t cure HIV, humans are doing that.
          People love to see people survive diseases and not die from them anymore.

          God didn’t make antibiotics or anesthesia. In the 20th
          century, smallpox killed (not just infected, but killed)
          500,000,000 people. Today, none.

          Thanks, science!

        • Kodie

          Unfortunately, I know what Ted will say as he talks out both sides of his mouth whenever convenient – that god invented science and revealed it to humans who apply science to fix problems created by god to reveal himself through purposeful obstacles we spend our lives overcoming so that we might meet god.

          So AIDS is revealed to be punishment because it’s a disease you catch while being gay and should be taken as a sign from god not to be gay, while cancer is an awesome problem, as being made in the likeness of god, we can have pain in our lives so that we may know joy and use our capacity for science to level up another notch that the previous generations did not have access to.

          I mean, look at how we used god’s science for him to eradicate smallpox and the joy at finding another edge piece of this mysterious puzzle! Smallpox served its purpose and we are getting nearer to god. We could pray and pray and pray for smallpox to end, and god would not just do it, and that’s fine! We accept and not dissent his methods. He gave us the clues and we solved the mystery and that’s how god works all the time. Half a billion people died on the way who ostensibly weren’t being punished for any sin whatsoever, but that’s great! We figured it out in time to save everyone else, didn’t we? God is great!

          Human innovation and problem-solving and tool-using, to him, is evidence of god’s handiwork, not evidence that god is absent. He can’t ignore major aspects of the world as it is, so shoehorns god as conducting earth like a rat maze, intentional frustration for the purpose of revelation, lather rinse repeat.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie: Talk about your unfalsifiable hypotheses …

        • TheodoreSeeber

          One taboo that is being punished with cancer is the externalization of costs.

          What is the problem with dying?

        • Kodie

          When you don’t have to, kind of a lot.

        • Kodie

          Belief should not be subjective.

          Excuse me?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Which word are you having a problem understanding? Or is it the concept that we should base our beliefs on objective observation of our universe and culture?

        • Kodie

          The concept that we should base our beliefs on objective observation of our universe escapes you as far as you’ve demonstrated. You want to keep insisting that I live in a world of denial because I don’t want to follow religious laws – to tell you the truth, if there were any evidence of the sheriff in the sky, I would! I would hate it, but I hate to be in trouble more. Keep insisting you know me better than I know myself – the voices in your head are your own unintelligent, illogical, immature thoughts, not god.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Why would you hate to be in trouble more, when the only punishment is separation from God? Isn’t that, in fact, what you really want, is to not have limits on your behavior?

        • Kodie

          In fact? Why do you say that’s what I really want, in fact? These are clues that help me determine that you have no idea what you’re talking about, by the way, and that you listen to your crazy thoughts and your crazy friends’ thoughts more than you’ve ever once read what an atheist has said to you. I don’t want there to be no god so I can do whatever I like. I don’t merely pretend there is no god or deny there is no god so that I can do whatever I want. What kind of coloring book did you read that about me in?

    • Kodie

      Every Christians rationalization of prayer is cute and childish, by the way. It doesn’t work, it’s just a superstition. A modern American who never learned to make excuses for god not being evidently better (or evidently more evident) than there being no god. A modern American who never learned to look around and imagine they are being accounted and manipulated like dolls in a dollhouse. That’s what you meant to say, I’m confident.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        It works if you listen instead of talk. But hey, that isn’t prayer to you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS: Nor is it prayer to the Bible.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Only YOUR reading of the Bible. Seems to have been prayer in that other Gospel that you decided to ignore, but hey, you don’t believe in objective morality or taking things as a whole, just prooftexting out of context like the fundamentalists do.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          How many places must the Bible say, in one form or another, “ask and you shall receive”? Just one to the honest Christian, I would think, and yet it’s there in many places.

          You’re telling me that an honest reading of the NT, letting the Bible speak for itself, makes clear that prayer is “listening, not talking”? With no contrary sentiments?

          No, I don’t believe in objective morality. I’ve seen no evidence for it. If you have any, define “objective” and show me the evidence.

        • Kodie

          If you hear something, you are hallucinating. If you don’t hear anything but new thoughts occur in your head, that’s called “thinking”. Just FYI.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      Theodore:

      The older I get, the more I think that the First Amendment as written is only compatible with atheism.

      You mean secularism? The Constitution does indeed define a secular government.

      Oh, and your definition of prayer is cute and childish, but I wouldn’t expect anything more from a modern American who never learned to pray.

      You get no pangs of conscience when you use the Bible like a sock puppet to make it say what you want it to? You sleep just fine?

      What does it say about Christians like you when the atheists are the ones who give the Bible the chance to speak for itself without having to jump in like a defense lawyer and say, “Uh … what the Bible actually meant to say is …”?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        “You mean secularism? The Constitution does indeed define a secular government.”

        No, I mean atheism, the outright denial of faith in the public sphere (especially in employment or financial transactions).

        “You get no pangs of conscience when you use the Bible like a sock puppet to make it say what you want it to? You sleep just fine?”

        I don’t need to do that as a theist. My theism is based on observation of reality, not the Bible Alone like a Sola Scriptura Protestant.

        “What does it say about Christians like you when the atheists are the ones who give the Bible the chance to speak for itself without having to jump in like a defense lawyer and say, “Uh … what the Bible actuallymeant to say is …”?”

        I am aware of fundamentalist Christian Atheists, but they long ago ceased to be entertaining.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

    jason: Just wait. I’ll get them posted ASAP.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “Well, Ted, if we are not reading your holy book right, then why doesn’t your sky buddy give us a Bible 2.0? ”

    He did, it’s called the scientific method.

    “A being that can create a universe should be able to write or inspire a book that can be read without any misinterpitation. ”

    Uh, do you know the meaning of the word inspire? Or do you think, like a fundamentalist I once knew, that it is something akin to channeling?

    Or are you just one of those poor idiots who denies the existence of free will in human beings?

    Got to be one of the three to have THIS make any sense at all.

    “Human authors can make their opinions and messages plain”

    Does that mean you aren’t human? Or that you have failed to notice that your messages aren’t plain?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

      TS:

      When I upgrade software, I have no use for the prior version. Does the same apply here? If the scientific method is the Bible 2.0, we discard that old Iron Age version, then?

      • TheodoreSeeber

        The Bible isn’t software, it’s data. If you know the difference, then you know the trick is to convert the file format, not throw out the data.

    • Kodie

      Only you’re one of those poor idiots who thinks free will is a decision made by an invisible power to give humans to explain why all of us don’t fucking see him and you choose to attribute everything to your private illusions.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        Oh, I think it is MUCH more personal than that. I think that you, personally, have abused your free will to ignore objective data and over 5000 years worth of empirical evidence because you think that accepting that data will limit your freedom (and you’re right, it will).

        • Kodie

          I’m not ignoring it – I’ve assessed it and it’s crap. I can’t help you figure out why you believe it and I don’t. It could be how gullible you are to believe anything that lines up with what you already believe, and it could be how willing you are to attribute your own thoughts to god, rendering your own thoughts infallible. Hey Ted, you do think you are god. I’m not going to voluntarily restrict myself because of a delusion, much less your delusion. How convincing do you think you are?

          Furthermore, what are you implying by “accepting that data will limit your freedom“? What kind of life do you imagine I lead?

        • TheodoreSeeber

          The same as any other moral relativist- a life free from the restrictions of merely considering the past to determine the future.

        • Kodie

          So you’re admitting you’re delusional, then.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    There’s also a kind of loophole where atheism is the national religion.

    • smrnda

      You mean that people have been prevented from establishing churches, attending them, and getting tax breaks?

      You seem to be just like other religious imperialists, your basic mindset is the “Us vs. Them” war, and you mistake neutrality on religion for official atheism, probably because religious people want hegemony, dominance and control. Just being able to practice their own religion isn’t enough…

      • TheodoreSeeber

        You can’t build a chapel on public land at all. To establish a church in this country, you have to pay for the land, and to get the tax break, you have to shut up and play nice. Try to actually LIVE your religion, they’ll take away your tax break, the homosexual will paint swastikas on your church, and apparently any practice of your religion in public is to be punished.

        It isn’t the religious people who want hegemony, dominance, and control. near as I can tell- it isn’t the religious people asking to have “Freedom From Religion”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          To establish a church in this country, you have to pay for the land

          Ouch! That is draconian! :)

          … and to get the tax break, you have to shut up and play nice. Try to actually LIVE your religion, they’ll take away your tax break

          If “living your religion” means interfering with the electoral process, yeah. But not a problem—just don’t be a 501(c)3, and you can say whatever you want about any election. Good deal, eh?

          apparently any practice of your religion in public is to be punished.

          Someone is denying you the right to proselytize or preach or hand out leaflets in the public square? If so, I’m on your side. If not, then what are you whining about? That someone is preventing you from taking an unfair slice of the pie?

          I’m not sympathetic.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          “Someone is denying you the right to proselytize or preach or hand out leaflets in the public square?”

          Or put up a war memorial. Or for that matter, even maintain a war memorial from previous generations. Or my favorite- putting up a menorah during Hanukkah.

          But worse than that, we’re forbidden from NOT paying for other people doing things that are against our religion, thanks to the HHS mandate, but I know you’re not sympathetic to that either.

          But I wouldn’t expect you to be sympathetic- you are for the suppression of religion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          Or put up a war memorial.

          I think what you meant to say was, “Oh yeah—now that I stop to actually think, Christians can proselytize or preach or hand out leaflets in the public square. My bad!”

          Put up all the war memorials you want. On private land, they can say whatever the heck you want. Paid for with my tax dollars, however, they need to be constitutional.

          putting up a menorah during Hanukkah.

          Do you not read the news? There’s no problem with a menorah, but any religious display on the City Hall land needs to be open to all faith beliefs.

          But worse than that, we’re forbidden from NOT paying for other people doing things that are against our religion, thanks to the HHS mandate, but I know you’re not sympathetic to that either.

          I want to see a Jehovah’s Witness business owner allowed to reject paying for blood transfusions. And a Christian Science owner allowed to not have any health care. (I bet you’d see a rush to Christian Science by business owners after that!)

          But I wouldn’t expect you to be sympathetic- you are for the suppression of religion.

          Y’know, if you’d actually read what people write, you might learn something. And avoid people getting enraged at your ignorance and straw manning.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Except for it isn’t straw manning when you run a blog whose express purpose is the proselytizing of atheism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:

          That’s your response? Just say, “You’re straw manning!!!”?

          Not here, pal. You’ve found an error? Great—show us. Making empty claims is just bloviating.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          I’ve shown you several errors. The primary one being the inability to admit you’ve made an error.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          TS:
          Snap! I think I just got my ass handed to me! (Note to self: don’t get into a battle of wits with TS.)
          Yeah, what I’m looking for, going forward, is a specific statement by me followed by clear evidence that I’ve made a mistake.
          Hey, I make mistakes; I think we’re on the same page there. I just need the evidence so that I can correct my error. Your simply stating that I’ve made a mistake won’t do.

        • Kodie

          But I wouldn’t expect you to be sympathetic- you are for the suppression of religion.

          I’m for the suppression of stupid decisions made from superstitious beliefs that affect policies that affect not just me but you too. I can’t respond to every post you made while I was out today – they are all too dumb. You don’t say anything except how much you hate atheists comes through very loud and clear. You listen to a lot of dumb people and you trust them, so you repeat lies. No proof that your beliefs are correct, you just insist that I’m denying something you haven’t gotten around to saying. Just a lot of opinions and off-topic gripes about how atheists are driving your religion back into the private sphere where it belongs. So what. I do not care about how bad that makes you feel.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          What makes my beliefs “incorrect” if nobody’s beliefs can be “incorrect”?

        • Kodie

          If you believe the earth is flat, it’s incorrect. Where did I say nobody’s beliefs can be incorrect? It’s your freedom to believe any dumb-ass thing you want, but it’s not your freedom to implore the government to legitimize your beliefs. When the government has to make a policy based on the shape of the earth, your beliefs about the flat earth would necessarily steer it in the wrong direction. Why do you think they should heed your beliefs when making important decisions that apply to everyone who isn’t a doorknob like you?

    • Kodie

      Explain to me this loophole where the official position is that there is no god. They leave it up to private citizens to decide if there is a god or not. I can decide, you can decide. The only thing also laws must consider a little less magical shit and a lot more reality. If reality offends you, god will eventually take you and you get to live in Candyland forever with your best friend.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        No, I can’t decide and you can’t decide. Mentioning our decision in public will get us fired or worse.

        • Kodie

          What are you talking about. The government doesn’t take your job, in fact, the government protects you from losing your job because of your religious beliefs. You liar. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/religion.cfm

          Nobody has to like you. If you are getting fired for being religious at work, it’s probably because you’re a disruptive douche about it. File a complaint and see what shakes out anyway. I’m curious.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Been there, done that, have a friend who is going through it right now, what shakes out is usually back pay and no job, that’s what you get for Right to Work.

        • Kodie

          What I don’t have is two sides to the story, but I will play “you” for a second and make broad assumptions that, because you’re living in a parallel delusion of reality, whatever your friend actually got fired for was not their religion. Since you and your ilk often have funny ideas what the 1st amendment does and does not apply, I have some idea that bleating persecution at the first sign of trouble is something you or your friend would do. I could be totally wrong and your friend shouldn’t have lost their job and their boss should be in more trouble, but this also reminds me how little sympathy you have for atheists when atheists’ rights are trampled. It’s not ok to be what’s good for me is good for you too, but when you find yourself in this position, I wonder if you would be sympathetic to an atheist losing their job for being atheist, and demand that the US government EEOC protect their rights too. I just don’t think you would. I think you think Christianity is being exterminated especially and this wouldn’t have happened to anyone but a Christian.

          Furthermore, it’s unlikely in 99% of workplaces that any Christian especially would be prone to lose their job illegally over their beliefs. Most people tolerate to the rooftops and accommodate Christians if not belong to your tribe and accept Christians in the workplace. If your friend had the simple dumb luck to work in the 1% of workplaces that might just hate you because you’re a Christian – most likely your friend was fired for just cause. You can and should be fired for making it your personal business to proselytize co-workers on company time, for example. You can and should be fired for stealing supplies, and you can’t get out of it by pretending it was because you had a picture of Jesus in your cubicle, for another example.

          I don’t have enough details but I can imagine what your friend is like if you are friends with them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          Since you and your ilk often have funny ideas what the 1st amendment does and does not apply

          The link that Rick provided (here) was a bit long but quite thorough in discussing how to test whether something violates the First Amendment.

          I wonder if yo u would be sympathetic to an atheist losing their job for being atheist

          I remember some Christian or right-wing discussion that said basically, “Hey, gang, you won’t believe this story! The ACLU is actually doing something right for a change…”
          The story was about the ACLU doing what it always does, standing up for the First Amendment rights of US citizens. This time, it just happened that a Christian was the injured party. I demand that Christians be treated right, the ACLU demands that Christians be treated right, and yet many Christians seem to only care that it’s the Christians that are being treated right.

          But perhaps TS is the exception.

        • Kodie

          Bob – 1. the link is broken and includes a ” after the url. 1a. the backtracked link would just bring me to the main blog and not Rick’s post, and 1b. From my email where I first tried to click it, it brought me to a foreign url about anime. I am getting used to disqus but that’s not cool.

          2. Ted doesn’t seem to be able to see anything from another point of view. He’s discerning with his infallible thoughts and not learning anything from responses from actual atheists. And maybe I’m mixing him up with someone else, but I think he’s getting stranger and stranger as the days go by with the things he thinks are true. I would LOVE to give him the benefit of the doubt, just like I would LOVE to believe his friend suffered an actual injustice if Ted says so, than a perceived injustice that was quietly settled like I’m 99% positive happened. I mean, imagine a real dick firing TS’s friend just for being a Christian and TS’s friend files a complaint, and the investigation concludes that TS’s friend shouldn’t get his job back or anything that they think is supposed to happen.

          Guess what – just because you believe something doesn’t mean it’s true. Explaining Christian privilege is getting more and more pointless. Just because you make a complaint doesn’t mean it is valid. Just because it is found invalid does not mean there’s a conspiracy to put Christians out of their jobs and defy the EEOC. For all I know, Ted doesn’t even know his friend’s whole story. I have a great imagination and one of the scenarios includes Ted’s friend having a valid complaint but didn’t accept his reinstatement because he didn’t want to work for the person who fired him and miscalculated how long his back-pay would last so he spun it. Another scenario involves “never happen in a million years” and Ted has two imaginary friends. Most cases filed by a Christian in which EEOC was supposedly violated are by people who don’t want to be scheduled to work on a particular day of the week, violate general workplace rules about decor, or who are disruptive to other employees or clientele. And when they stay fired, they believe they should have received special treatment and allowed to violate workplace policies that apply to everyone.

          Just think of how this started – Ted made a claim that even in the private sector, religion is censored and has dire consequences for admitting to having one – Christianity by name. How can I see excessive Christian privilege while he is under the misapprehension that admitting to being a Christian in the US will get you “fired or worse.” He never said what “worse” was either.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          Yeah, Disqus doesn’t handle HTML like I’m used to. I’ve fixed the link above.

          My thought on Ted’s friend: if he got fired for being a Christian, I’m totally with Ted. And that was the point of his story, right? To see which side of it we’d be on?

          We can just bypass what actually happened and take it as a hypothetical. Firing someone for their religion or lack thereof is wrong in this country.

        • Kodie

          I officially believe that if a person is fired for merely being Christian, it is a violation and should be addressed and corrected as per the EEOC.

          What I also officially believe is that most persons who believe they are fired for merely being Christian are mistaken in ways that Ted exemplifies. His stated belief reflects a paranoia that being openly Christian gets people “fired or worse”. That’s a mistake. I speculate that if Ted’s friend lost his job, filed a complaint and the complaint was determined to be invalid, someone’s leaving out a lot of details. I can believe the federal government agent sent out on this case may have erred on the side of “sorry buddy,” where Ted thinks they intentionally screwed over his friend also because he was openly Christian. It’s his thing, in case you hadn’t noticed!, to infer a specific motivation out of everything he sees, in this case, our government’s goal to secrete the openly religious, specifically Christian. I am just calling him out. He’s suspicious because he’s suspect.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ BobSeidensticker

          Kodie:

          It’s an odd combination of “everyone’s out to get us Christians!” and “we’re a Christian nation!”

          (I think you only get to pick one.)

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