Maybe People CAN Change Their Minds After All

confirmation bias backfire effectI’ve written before about the discouraging studies that illustrate the Backfire Effect. If someone has a belief that is objectively wrong—that is, a belief that an unbiased observer equipped with all relevant facts would judge as false—giving the correct information isn’t likely to get them to change their mind.

But it feels so right! The other guy has come to the wrong conclusion, and once I give him the correct facts, he’ll cheerfully thank me and switch to the correct opinion, right? That sounds reasonable, but no—he will instead very likely double down on the false belief. Changing one’s opinion is painful, and this response to his error only makes the problem worse.

I explored approaches that minimize the Backfire Effect, but a recent article, “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds” by Elizabeth Kolbert, has an approach that should be more productive. But more on that shortly. Getting there is an interesting journey.

Study 1: biased weighing of data

The article gives a number of studies that reveal the embarrassingly inept way our minds sometimes work. In one study, half of the participants were in favor of capital punishment and half not. Each participant was given two studies that argued the two sides of the issue. These studies were actually made up, but they presented data that was equally compelling. Participants reported that the one that supported their own opinion was far more compelling than the other (this is confirmation bias). Afterwards, they were asked about their views. Unsurprisingly, they were more entrenched than they’d been at the start. This is the Backfire Effect.

Why are we susceptible to poor thinking?

This human failing enables America’s new vogue of alternative facts. But since this thinking isn’t logical, why do people do it? Why are they biased toward confirming evidence, and why does presenting disconfirming evidence force them to double down?

Since this is pretty much universal, it’s an evolved trait, but what value could it have to outweigh the downsides? Some researchers say that it developed in a society where humans had to work together. A cooperating society wants to encourage members who contribute, but it must punish freeloaders—possibly even to the point of exile. That’s a substantial punishment because, in a primitive society, living on your own is much harder than being a contributing member in a tribe.

Human reason didn’t evolve to weigh economic policy options or evaluate social safety nets, but, according to this theory, it evolved to defend one’s social status. Winning arguments is important, and self-confidence helps. Doubting your position is not a good thing. The thoughtful tribal member who says, “Well, that’s a good point—maybe my contribution to the group has been sub-par” risks exile.

(Another area of thought where we are surprisingly poor is probability—surprising because we seem to bump into simple probability questions all the time. I’ve written about the Monty Hall Problem here and about simple puzzles that reveal our imperfect thought process here.)

Study 2: explain your answer

In this study, graduate students were first asked to evaluate their understanding of everyday devices—toilets, zippers, cylinder locks, and so on. Next, they were asked to write a detailed explanation of how the devices worked. Finally, they again rated their understanding of these devices. Being confronted with their incompetence caused them to lower their self-rating.

It’s easy to think of the user interface alone and overestimate our understanding of how it works inside. This encapsulation is important for progress—you don’t understand how a calculator works but you know how to operate it. The same is true (for most of us) for a car, a computer, a cell phone, or the internet. We know how to buy hamburger or a suit, but we don’t understand the particulars of how they got to the store. This encapsulation extends into public policy—we (usually) don’t understand the intricacies of policy proposals like cap and trade or trade deals like NAFTA or TPP. Instead, we rely on trusted politicians and domain experts to convince us of the rightness of one side of the issue.

Study 3: policy questions

That brings us to one final study, modeled on the last one. Participants were asked their opinions on policy questions like single-payer health care or merit-based pay for teachers and then were asked to rate their confidence in their answers. Next, they were asked to explain in detail the impact of implementing each proposal. Finally, they were asked to reevaluate their stance. Having just struggled to explain the details of their favored proposal, they dialed back their confidence.

This finding may be relevant to our interactions with people arguing for scientific or historical claims like Creationism or the Resurrection, or for social policies like making abortions illegal or “natural marriage.” Instead of pushing back, ask them to explain their position. Let them marinate in their own confusion. Avoid the snarky retort (tempting, I know), which would trigger the Backfire Effect.

This research is equally applicable to ourselves. Find or create opportunities to explain how your favored policy, if implemented, would work and then ask yourself how this exercise changes your opinion. Is it still a no-brainer? Or have you uncovered obstacles that might make success more elusive?

Let me end with one final cautionary observation. When you ask someone, “Do you accept evolution?,” you may see this as a straightforward question about opinion or knowledge. For some, however, you’re asking about who they are. “I am a Christian,” they think, “and my kind of Christian rejects evolution.” Your straightforward question becomes in their mind, “Do you reject Jesus Christ as Lord and savior?,” to which the answer is, obviously, No. Other personal questions potentially fall into the same trap—questions about abortion or same-sex marriage or even climate change.

There is security in obscurity.
Precision invites refutation.
— Walter Kaufmann

Image credit: Wesley Eller, flickr, CC

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Alfred Kamal Etheredge

    I hope you’re right, but that “my kind of christian” thing eliminates a lot of rational discussion.

  • Mark in Ohio

    Another excellent reference to understanding how and why people think and react the way they do is the book “Political Animals”, by Rick Shenkman. It’s a fascinating and well referenced read that covers how and why people think (or don’t think) they way they do.

  • Sophia Sadek

    And here I thought the Backfire Effect had to do with the way that some war vets hit the deck when they hear a car backfire.

    • Jim Jones

      I thought it was when we blamed the dog.

      • Sophia Sadek

        Either that or the Tupolov supersonic bomber.

  • guerillasurgeon

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/10079244/The-911-conspiracy-theorist-who-changed-his-mind.html
    I’ve posted this before. But if you haven’t read it it’s well worth a read.

  • quinsha

    You sound like my civics teacher, he would make us write two papers on a subject, like abortion, the death penalty, etc. One for, and once against. We had to write the papers well enough to get a passing grade, one grade for both papers. Write one paper badly and it brought down the grade of the paper that was well written.

    • RichardSRussell

      In HS debate class, the teacher had us switch sides halfway thru the season. Very enlightening. (Of course, debate topics are always specifically chosen because they’re well balanced between the pros and the cons.)

      • Ignorant Amos

        That was my experience too.

        Also, when we would compete at inter-school competitions, it would be a normal tactic to be given the contrary position, for or against the proposal depending on ones opinion, in order to hone skills and techniques. No one likes to lose regardless of the subject.

      • Jim Jones

        > Of course, debate topics are always specifically chosen because they’re well balanced between the pros and the cons.

        You can’t do that with religions.

  • Foxglove

    Instead of pushing back, ask them to explain their position. Let them marinate in their own confusion.

    I think this is very relevant. I can say that as an LGBT person, it does happen from time to time that you encounter someone who confesses that in the past they were very anti-LGBT but eventually changed their minds. And they’re always somewhat embarrassed and ashamed of themselves.

    It’s quite clear to me from arguing with the anti-crowd that you cannot batter down their opposition. It seems to me that their answer has to come from within them. They have to find it for themselves.

    Exactly how they do it, I’m not sure. I know from personal experience that when I’ve changed my mind on topics (e.g., religion) it comes after a long period of mulling things over and letting them gradually sink in. It hasn’t come from anybody trying to pound truth into me. It’s more a process of gradually becoming aware of things and accepting the consequences.

    I did once read a blog by a guy who had been fiercely anti-LGBT. He said that a couple of people challenged him, and that spurred him to start doing some real research in the area, at the end of which he changed his mind completely and dropped his opposition to LGBT rights.

    I think such people are extremely rare, and I have to say my hat’s off to that fellow. To be challenged straight up on a point that you’ve got a lot invested in, to accept that challenge fair and square and frankly acknowledge what you find at the end of it–there are not many people who can do that sort of thing. I wouldn’t swear that I’m one of them myself.

    • ZenDruid

      Maybe all it comes down to is asking the right question; pushing the right button.

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

        Pushing the right button … that starts them on that long road ending in the progressive view. I don’t think it’s often a quick process.

        • ZenDruid

          I just wish they could register some sign that ‘the button’ has been pushed, at which point it would be proper to back off and let nature take its course.

        • Foxglove

          You can always tell when it hasn’t been pushed: they carry on as nastily as before. On occasion, though, one of them will go away without replying. It makes you wonder if you didn’t get through to them in some way.

        • Kodie

          There’s at least a couple prongs if you can call them that:
          (1) Lurkers who are already in doubt and looking for support and information, even if they never speak up.
          (2) Lurkers who are already in doubt and in a terrible struggle of guilt and desperation that they create an account and unload all their crappy arguments in an effort to save their faith.
          (3 – and this is important) True believers who are looking for an argument, and repeat their played apologetics… while they have no choice but to get angry and save face, who knows what kinds of doubts infect them during the rest of their days and keeps them awake at night.

          The urge to double down seems to be a natural human defense mechanism – especially during a dogpile such as when they visit an atheist blog forum. They are alone, and there are all of us. They have just fought us, so they are unlikely to come to us again with earnest curiosity that eats away at their faith, because that’s embarrassing. You don’t know that they didn’t read your links or at least develop some insecurity about their faith because we made them feel stupid. I’m not saying it’s surefire because it isn’t, but being made to feel stupid and embarrassed does tend to eat at people even if they don’t admit it.

          (4) The worst. People who just hate atheists so much. Now a lot of people who are raised in an environment exposed to predominant religion are also trained in lies about atheism. They don’t come here to save us like they say they do. They know what they believe and don’t care what we have to say, they are sure we are losers and they need to feed their belligerent religious egos. They are mad at someone or something, they want to kick a dog, so they are online looking to confirm their bias by getting insulted so they can hate us more.

          I would suspect all of the groups are pretty familiar with the usual arguments we use and whatever lies they are fed to interpret them ridiculously and respond to us with the usual propaganda, but I like to think if you can make them cry a little in their private world, I mean they fight back because they don’t like those thoughts and ideas gnawing at them. They may never leave their beliefs, and their whole belief system is set up to prepare for objection, and they are fueled to fight against the objection because they are a sucker for their faith and any authority over them, and there’s either nothing we can do for them (pearls before swine, if you will!), or we’re reaching someone, them and/or someone else.

        • ZenDruid

          Hi Kodie. In my naïveté, I’m going to ascribe a live-and-let-live modality to categories 1-3, and suggest that the fourth just piss up a rope. But in circumstances where people get along because it’s the logical thing to do, I find a soft-sell statement works to positive effect, something like:

          “If God really had a plan for us, he would have written his word into our native consciousness. It is that which we need to acknowledge, and there that we need to look, instead of some old story-book from an age of ignorance.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          (4) … They don’t come here to save us like they say they do. They know what they believe and don’t care what we have to say, they are sure we are losers and they need to feed their belligerent religious egos. They are mad at someone or something, they want to kick a dog, so they are online looking to confirm their bias by getting insulted so they can hate us more.

          funny how “sadomasochism” gets pinned on ‘pervy’ aristocrats just because they articulated their notions so blatantly, when theists of all social classes have been pulling that shit (even in less ‘refined’ forms) for millennia.

      • Ignorant Amos

        I’ve been able the “push the right button” in meat world a few times. Then again, the typical theist weighing in on an atheist forum is usually not there through curiosity. They are usually on a mission.

        • Kodie

          I do not get into real-life discussions about this at all. I know we had one guy at the old blog I used to like before it went out of business who eventually admitted he was convinced by the arguments against his faith to drop it. But damn, he was behaved and well-liked. I don’t know if I was mean to him … probably I was tough as I do, but there’s one on-line guy I know of. I have fuzzy memories of his initial break-in, what he was about, or the kinds of questions he asked or misconceptions he probably repeated despite being corrected. Nice guy.

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

          How come we don’t get more nice-guy Christians around here?

        • Max Doubt

          “How come we don’t get more nice-guy Christians around here?”

          Christians, or any god believers for that matter, cannot with honesty defend the claim that gods exist because, let’s face it, there simply is no honest defense. So this god belief thing is a fundamental element of their perception of reality, and it requires dishonesty in order to maintain it. And when we catch them at it, since they have no honest defense, they’re backed into a corner. They could admit they can’t defend their claims, but then they feel like they’ve surrendered an important piece of their self. Or they could get angry at their own dishonesty and inability to rationally hold on to a belief most of them didn’t actually choose to have in the first place. That’s how most of them seem to manage their moral deficiency, and when the dust settles that doesn’t leave very many nice-guy Christians.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i guess the closest thing is the lit prof[?] who almost ‘went atheist’ except he’s terribly uncomfortable with the idea that doing so would inextricably associate him with [the non-totality of] atheists who dare to say such awful things as “moral opinion is like color preference”. i keep forgetting his name. he’s basically stuck on Process Theology, argument-from-the-unthinkability-of-relative-meaninglessness type stuff. oh, and he was almost instantly shunned by the first group of atheists [some Unitarian group somewhere, iirc] he tried to reach out to.

        • Greg G.

          I used to hang out on talk.origins. There was a Christian there who argued for a while, disappeared for about six months, then came back to say that he realized we were right and he dropped his faith. I can only wonder whether there were others who did the same but didn’t go back.

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

          It’d be nice to get more instances of closure like that one.

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

      I was somewhat anti-gay as a teenager in the 70s, not because of any thought but just because that was what the crowd was doing. Then there was the Tailhook scandal, due to the Tailhook party thrown annually for navy pilots. Apparently there was this tradition that the women (secretaries? I don’t know where the women are in the story) would run a groping gauntlet of drunken pilots. I guess the idea was to have something of a bacchanalia for these guys who work so hard otherwise. Or something.

      Once this became public, one comment I read said, “Well, what do you expect from avowed heterosexuals?” This was during a time when there was pushback against gay teachers and this was the line used against them: they’re homosexual, so of course they’ll do inappropriate homosexual things to their students.

      Remove the sarcasm from that line about the pilots (yes, they’re heterosexual, but that doesn’t mean we can’t expect them to follow societies boundaries) made me realize the analogous thing about the teachers (yes, they’re homosexual, but that doesn’t mean they can or would cross the line with students).

      • Michael Neville

        the women (secretaries? I don’t know where the women are in the story)

        Many of them were Navy or Marine pilots or flight officers themselves.

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

          I could’ve looked it up, but I was lazy. And you see where that got me.

          I’m surprised the Navy had female pilots back then. Maybe for transports but not fighters?

        • Michael Neville

          I was a submariner. I don’t know what women were flying in the early 1990s. Just as an aside it wasn’t until 2010 that women were assigned to submarines.

        • Herald Newman

          Everyone knows that women on ships is just asking for trouble. Women on submarines can only invite disaster. And let’s not even begin to speak of the rapes that will occur. /s

        • Michael Neville

          Actually that was the sort of argument that kept women out of submarines for decades.

        • Ignorant Amos

          We were the same in the British forces.

          The first WReNS only got there “Dolphin” clasps in 2014.

          I remember back in 1881 we were on exercise in Schleswig-Holstein, part of the then West Germany. Anyway, we got a couple of days off and we got an invitation to a US military base in Flensburg for a bit of a drinking session. Us Brits were surprised that you yanks had mixed sex accommodation back then…we are always playing catch-up with the good stuff.

        • Michael Neville

          I remember back in 1881

          Damn, you’re older than I thought.

        • Foxglove

          He’s not so old. I remember how my mates and I were cursing those iron ships they brought in. As far as we were concerned, wood was what we were honed on, and wood was what we were going to go down with, if necessary. But the navy’s always the navy, and the higher-ups overruled us.

        • Michael Neville

          I remember when I was Leading Seaman on Columbus’ ship the Santa Maria. It was hard, the wine was bad, the water stank, the bread was wormy, but the main problem was I didn’t speak a word of Spanish.

        • Foxglove

          That sounds pretty bad–but you have to expect that sort of thing. I remember my aunt’s story about how she started out, telling Cleopatra before Actium that Antony was a rat and a coward and his heart wasn’t in it. That was fine with her Ladyship. She knew the jig was up and preferred to party to the end. So off she went, and didn’t Antony tail her just like she knew he would? She had him eating out of her hand. And my aunt was OK with that, too. Better on dry land, that was her opinion. Or if you have to be aboard ship, there are worse places than a barge on the Nile. Can’t say I’d disagree with that. I’ve seen much worse.

        • Kodie
        • Michael Neville

          It’s not my fault I only speak English and French well. My German is rusty and my Vietnamese has almost completely disappeared.

        • Kodie

          I am somewhat famous in my family for getting nearly perfect grades my first few semesters of Spanish, which I owe entirely to Sesame Street recall, which I think you are older than that. I also know exactly one phrase in Vietnamese. My friend was born in Vietnam and her mother married a different American guy than her biological father. I would totally love to know what that phrase actually means. It is an utterance of sheer annoyance, but as an adult, I asked my friend’s mother, and she pretended it was actually tame. To be honest, I still say it when I am utterly sheerly annoyed to fucking hell, in public, and I don’t care who hears it.

          But I have no idea what it means.

        • Michael Neville

          I remember several swear words and phrases in Vietnamese. “Du ma nhieu me” means “go fuck yourself”, “mẹ y chết đi” means “fuck off and die” and “lỗ đít” is “asshole”.

        • Kodie

          None of those seem phonetically close, and for that matter, she said this in front of her children, so I think the approximation “goddamn little bastards” would be the harshest thing she might say – when she was really annoyed, but maybe they didn’t know what it meant either, as they never learned to speak Vietnamese. In general, if you hear someone speaking foreign language (not necessarily at or about you), go look online for a list of curse words in that language and see if any of the words you heard are on the list. Or if you aren’t sure what language you want to learn, just learn how to say “go fuck yourself” in all of them. Or “hello, nice to meet you.” Whatever.

        • Greg G.

          I think one reason my wife and I get along so well is that when she just HAS to say something, she says it in Vietnamese and no feelings are hurt.

        • Greg G.

          Is that a soft D in “Du ma nhieu me”? I want to ask my wife what it means.

        • Michael Neville

          I don’t know the difference between a soft D and a hard D. The word is pronounced similarly to the English “do” or “due”. But please remember that I spoke Vietnamese with a strong American accent and almost 50 years ago.

        • Greg G.

          A hard D is how it is said in English. A soft D is more like “dz”, but I hear more of the “z”. It’s sort of like the difference between a hard G and and a soft G in English but the Vietnamese use the bar in the straight vertical line of the D to denote a hard D.

          I had learned some of the basics so when we did karaoke for my birthday in Saigon a while back, I was able to pick up what the diacriticals did by listening while watching the lyrics. I started singing along by myself and somebody handed me the mike. Everybody was amazed that they could understand my lyrics… that is, everybody except me.

          BTW, my wife confirmed your translations. I had to show her your first one because she couldn’t believe what she was reading. She assumed it had been a typo of some kind. The only word I recognized was “đi” for “go”.

        • Michael Neville

          BTW, my wife confirmed your translations.

          They say the swearwords are the last part of an almost forgotten language to go. No, I don’t know who “they” are.

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

          And you’re going to stop there? What’s the phrase??

        • Kodie

          Something like unkwa eena. The tone was more like “goddammit to hell not this shit again” than “oy vey”.

        • TheNuszAbides

          intent is [practically] everything.

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

          And the scurvy must’ve been a bitch.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Think that was bad…try discovering the New World in a coracle…that was a month a never wanna repeat.

        • Ignorant Amos

          How do ya know I can’t time travel?

          Fuckin’ typo…mind you, there are some days I feel that old….

        • epicurus

          Say hello to Gilbert and Sullivan for me!

        • Kodie

          Sometimes if I think the cashier would get and enjoy the joke, I’d say something about the year I was born if something like 18.81 was the total.

        • Jim Jones

          The US had some very brave women pilots in WWII. Of course they got little respect for what they did until long after the war ended.

          http://www.waspmuseum.org/‎

          “Learn more about the unsung heroines of WWII – the Women Air Force Service Pilots”

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

          Cool story. Thanks.

        • Kodie

          The women’s narrative is Rosie the Riveter. As in, while men were busy fighting the Nazis, women stepped up to build the planes. After the men came home, women were expected to step back into their normal homemaker role and let men get their jobs back. Nobody ever told me that women flew planes in WWII.

        • Jim Jones

          They built them and they flew them.

          Willow Run – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

          The Willow Run manufacturing complex, located between Ypsilanti and Belleville, Michigan, was constructed in the early years of World War II by Ford Motor Company for the mass production of war munitions, especially the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber.

          The government hoped it would produce one bomber a week. Ford hired many young women, people of color, anyone who could handle the hard work. Many couldn’t.

          At its peak, it produced one bomber every 63 minutes. They did this 24 hours a day, seven days a week!

          That’s a 4 engine bomber with 1.5 million parts.

          Instead of the anticipated 200 – 300 planes, they built over 8500 by war’s end. And I thank them all.

        • Kodie

          I am torn between what was expected or needed to be done and used as a pawn of the war machine. If WWII role of women had not happened, would the cause of feminism been postponed? I cannot fucking imagine a world in which everything that was happening now except for women and excluded women and did not offer opportunities for qualified people including women. I do live in a world that has promoted the “support” role of Rosie the Riveter, but obscured the role of women pilots. I live in a world in which women are still treated such ways by men and expected to let remarks roll in order to be treated at all equally. I recently watched an episode of the PBS series Makers. about the military role of women and what they put up with. I recently listened to a news story about women in the US Marines being sexually objectified in a massive online group of Marines and former Marines.

          Yeah, they flew planes. Men seem to be sore about it.

        • Jim Jones

          Yep. FWIW, I told my aunt how to work the system to get a plum job over several men. She got it.

        • MNb

          “If WWII role of women had not happened, would the cause of feminism been postponed?”
          That rather applies to WW-1. It’s no coincidence that women received voting rights in Europe around 1918. They had kept the factories running for four years. I don’t like it either, but what can I do?

        • Michael Neville

          My aunt flew bombers across the Atlantic from Canada to Britain. She had over two thousand hours in B-17s and B-24s.

          Many pilots in the Soviet air force during WW2 were women. Also most of the Soviet heavy artillery personnel were women. After the war several hundred of these women remained on active duty to teach the men replacing them how to fire and maintain the guns.

        • Kodie

          I am not exactly thrilled when women have to fill in for men, or the establishment considers women only after they have run out of men. But it was a long time ago and how things happened. It was a step on the way. Consider how many other countries have had a female leader, and I’m not going to say Hillary lost only because she’s a woman, but why is America so fucking backwards?

          We’re people, we can do shit. Some men can’t do some of the shit some women can do, so why should they be automatically qualified before women?

          We’re also people, we feel shit. We’re not doing stuff to make men feel bad, but by the reaction, often it seems men are the sex that’s too sensitive.

        • Michael Neville

          often it seems men are the sex that’s too sensitive.

          Many men feel their manhood attacked when women show they can do the same job as men, especially when that job is supposed to be macho. That’s the real reason why women didn’t become U.S. Navy submariners until quite recently. Submariners are an elite group and many of the senior people, both officer and enlisted, saw women submariners as evidence that submarining was not quite as difficult and hazardous as the image demands.

        • Greg G.

          Many men feel their manhood attacked when women show they can do the same job as men, especially when that job is supposed to be macho.

          A woman I knew was the first female mechanic in a large facility with lots of mechanization. There were so many stories about her sleeping with supervisors and managers, it became obvious that the guys felt their manhood was threatened.

          She was also the only single custodial parent in her department back in the days before the FMLA so she was given some leeway when her child was ill. She couldn’t send him to school, she couldn’t leave him home alone, and she couldn’t take him to work, so she had to stay home. The guys who called in sick with hangovers resented that she wasn’t punished like they were.

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

          In manufacturing jobs, the early argument was that the work required more strength than women could provide. Of course, if that were the issue, the job requirements wouldn’t include “must be a man” but “must be able to lift X pounds” or some other strength test.

          But ignore that. A job that has a lot of strength requirements is going to be taxing on anyone. It can be optimized. And, of course, manufacturing jobs have now been optimized–for the benefit of male workers as well as female, for strong workers as well as not so strong.

        • Susan

          The women’s narrative is Rosie the Riveter.

          I had relatives whose mother was referred to disparagingly by christian brothers as “Rosie the Riveter” because she went to work every day as did her husband.

          They had ten children as the church instructed. But they weren’t rich. They worked hard to be good catholics and good parents. The christian brothers (at the catholic school) would sneer at the poor catholics with hard-working parents and especiially at mothers who made catholic babies and worked in factories.

          Don’t get me started about christians and women and babies.

          “Rosie the Riveter” was a term of derision by the christian brothers back then.

        • Michael Neville

          After my younger brother was in high school in the 1960s, my mother went to college, got a Masters in library science, and became an archivist for the local public museum. One priest told her that since my father made a good living that she shouldn’t work anywhere but in the house. My mother basically told him to fuck off, only more politely.

        • Kodie

          Wow, don’t those christians suck.

        • MNb

          Oops. Female Soviet pilots were the most bad ass pilots of the entire war.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Witches

        • Michael Neville

          From MNb’s first link about the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment:

          It was the most highly decorated all-women unit in the Soviet Air Force…and twenty-three having been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union title.

          Hero of the Soviet Union was the equivalent of the Medal of Honor or the Victoria Cross.

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

          On the topic of badassery, I remember reading about female snipers. Scary.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i made one for Fallout 4.

        • MNb

          The second link talks about one.
          The third one about a commander of a frigging T-34.

      • TheNuszAbides

        I was somewhat anti-gay as a teenager in the ’80s, not because of any thought but just because that was what the crowd was doing.

        edited in the trivial difference in my ‘same’ experience. just like a schoolmate began to bust my received wisdom of “girls are icky” at age 9 with a simple question (“what’s wrong with girls?” … MIND. BLOWN.), so did a brilliantly non-conformist friend several years later begin to bust my unexamined homophobia with clear-headed questions and statements about basic human dignity. also, i worked alongside an out’n’proud man at my second job and got much closer to figuring out the (a) sheer insignificance of our differences and (b) irrelevance of those to any remotely-open-minded morality of which i could conceive.

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

          In thinking further, the ease of my falling away from the idea that being anti-gay was OK may be due to my not having invested much in that position. If it had been an important part of my character to my friends (“I ain’t no goddamn faggot!”), maybe it would’ve been a tougher transition.

        • TheNuszAbides

          agreed; there were no interactions or exercises in my day-to-day (nor even Sunday-to-Sunday) life that reiterated/stoked such hatred, and fortunately the ‘crowd’ i generally ‘ran’ with was more than a little inclined/trained towards detached contemplation and away from bandwagon bigotry.

    • Greg G.

      Exactly how they do it, I’m not sure. I know from personal experience that when I’ve changed my mind on topics (e.g., religion) it comes after a long period of mulling things over and letting them gradually sink in. It hasn’t come from anybody trying to pound truth into me. It’s more a process of gradually becoming aware of things and accepting the consequences.

      I think it sometimes takes multiple experiences to start the long mulling period. The pounding of truth does make an emotional impact that opens a door for the gradual process. That’s how it worked for me.

      • Foxglove

        My feeling is that this is a very personal thing. Everybody who finds their way to “cop-on land” will do it by their own road.

        I know for me the greatest factor was the authoritarian house I grew up in. I was simply not made to put up with that kind of stuff. I think I was born a natural rebel, but the environment I grew up in certainly helped me on my way. I was pretty much an atheist, e.g., by the time I was 16.

        For other people it can be different. Again with LGBT issues, there are lots of people who wake up when they find they have a child who is LGBT. Sadly, that’s not always the case by any means. Some people simply dig their heels in.

        So part of copping on can be aided by outside factors, but your own character is an extremely important factor. Some people have what it takes, some don’t.

        Or as you’re pointing out in your own case, it might take multiple experiences. Or I could see how perhaps in some cases, it wouldn’t take any significant experiences at all. Some people simply grow up as they get older, and as they mature, their values change. What was once important to them is no longer so, or what used to be unimportant to them has become so.

        We’re all individuals, and if we’re going to find our way, we do it our own way.

    • TheNuszAbides

      I think such people are extremely rare

      i concur in principle — given much evidence of so many societal majorities letting heaps of cruelty, apathy, etc. go unchallenged/undiscovered — yet i suspect our sample size is skewed because of the countless persons who have had such changes of perspective/’heart’/etc. but not bothered to record/report such occasions. of course, this lack of reportage could be considered ‘part of the problem’ as well …

      • Foxglove

        I’d go along with this in one sense. There are certainly lots of people changing their minds on one issue or another. The fact, e.g., that support for LGBT rights is increasing proves it.

        But that’s not what I’m really talking about here. I was talking about someone who is firmly committed to a position–whatever the issue may be. That’s when someone is going to have trouble changing their mind.

        With people who are changing their minds about LGBT rights, my feeling is this: lots of them were never terribly anti-LGBT to begin with. They may well have not liked the idea of LGBT rights, but neither did they dwell on them. And once they see those rights being pushed, and they realize that acceptance of those rights isn’t going to have any huge effect on their lives, they drop whatever opposition they may have had. They’ve got other things to worry about.

        • Ignorant Amos

          With people who are changing their minds about LGBT rights, my feeling is this: lots of them were never terribly anti-LGBT to begin with. They may well have not liked the idea of LGBT rights, but neither did they dwell on them. And once they see those rights being pushed, and they realize that acceptance of those rights isn’t going to have any huge effect on their lives, they drop whatever opposition they may have had. They’ve got other things to worry about.

          The same might be said of a lot of those claiming to have lost their belief in God.

          Lot’s of folk may be nominal believers, not really invested in any real belief at all.

          Those clerics that make up the clergyproject.org would be the exceptions.

        • Foxglove

          Interesting. I don’t know if I’d heard of the Clergy Project before. It’s easy to see how useful it could be.

        • Ignorant Amos

          TCP was co-founded by Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola as a result of the research and paper they wrote for Tufts University some years back.

          https://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/dennett/papers/Preachers_who_are_not_believers.pdf

          The two felt the need to create a space for these folk to congregate and muddle through their issues with one another…anonymously if needs be.

  • Kevin K

    Critical thinking is a learned skill.

    Like math. Some people get as far as understanding 7th grade geometry and muddle their way through the rest. Others go on to calculus and other advanced mathematics.

    It’s also like a muscle in that it must be practiced regularly or else atrophy.

    The fact is that critical thinking skills aren’t really necessary for the vast majority of what humans do to keep themselves whole. Heuristics are just fine for just about everything we do. It’s sometimes surprising to me that we have the capacity at all, given how little it impacts us for the majority of our lives.

    • Phil Rimmer

      This is why P4C, Philosophy for Children is a brilliant program for schools.

      Essentially its a free form debate about any and every sort of topic between children and essentially selected by them with the teacher simply acting as facilitator. The need to build arguments from scratch, from general knowledge and the evidence each brings to the discussion, makes it an act of sustained explanatory synthesis that they never get usually. Contribution in class is usually single facts and regurgitation of rote learning.

      P4C continues to make slow inroads into some schools but the consensus is that it tends to lift pupil performance all round, not least for this need to develop narrative coherence.

      A teacher friend who acts as a demonstrator facilitator points out the further benefits of all getting to know the varieties of attitudes and experiences of others in the class. It stops that childhood solipsism in its tracks very usefully.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        Wow, that sounds fascinating, especially:

        P4C continues to make slow inroads into some schools but the consensus is that it tends to lift pupil performance all round, not least for this need to develop narrative coherence.

        That idea of “narrative coherence” has popped up in several very distinct places in my reading over the last few years. Can you tell me more about this, or recommend me some literature on it? I’ve long thought that we should teach solid philosophy to children. How exactly to do that, I haven’t much of a clue.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Hi, Luke.

          I’ve lost track of most of my P4C material and articles.

          A lot of it (in the UK) came from here,

          http://www.sapere.org.uk/

          the rest from chats with my mate the teacher using this stuff.

          This really has little overlap with formal philosophy or indeed simple logic. It is rather more pragmatic and entirely more engaging. Narrative coherence (rather a description I and my friend are inclined to use in our analysis of the results) is the compound-skill of using consistently, reason, logic’n’evidence, negotiated vocabulary, emotion reined in to effective rhetoric and even the value of turn taking. These aren’t words the teacher/facilitators are directly encouraged to talk about. It all pretty much happens in the doing.

          I was lucky in my school. Debate was fierce and fun and often spilled into the form common room. We talked and talked and in lessons much time was given over to our collective musings.

          These days the opportunities are restricted to the debating society,….. if there is one, with arid topics chosen by others. The loquacious rather than the informed generally win in the sport through force majeure.

          The ideal place for P4C is in the Religious Education periods where the comparative religion syllabus is increasingly spreading out to concerns about ethics and civics and the more practical matters of personal moral authorship.

  • TheNuszAbides

    — Walter Kaufmann

    if it’s the same guy, i’m just a hair away from reading his Nietzsche.

  • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

    Let me end with one final cautionary observation. When you ask someone, “Do you accept evolution?,” you may see this as a straightforward question about opinion or knowledge. For some, however, you’re asking about who they are.

    Interesting. That wasn’t the case with me when I was argued out of creationism to ID, then out of ID to evolution, all via online conversation. But perhaps this was just a statistical average or something. (Where’s the empirical evidence?)

    But I wonder, do atheists have any topic where if you ask a question, “you’re asking about who they are“? Or are they immune to this? Yes, I realize that we can’t generalize over all atheists, as they don’t even agree about the definition of the term. So I’m happy to explore some sizable clusters.

    • Phil Rimmer

      The problem is indeed about a consistent use of the term “A/atheist”.

      I am atheist. I lack any investment in gods.

      I am an Atheist because I support Atheism that political movement in support of those who are atheist and given a hard time because of it. I am not an Atheist where Atheism is the political movement promoting the suppression of religious expression.

      I am anti-theist having an aesthetic repugnance to a closed, curated universe.

      I am anti-dogma of all stripes, but faith-sufficient based particularly so. Truths are directions and processes, never achievable destinations. Always to be tested and revised.

      What I wish for the progressive subliming of faith-sufficient dogma we see unfolding, is the realisation of a more secure footing for the development of personal moral authorship. I am not too exercised that religion necessarily confounds that. My moral exemplars are the UK Quakers (though 50% are estimated agnostic. If all you need to for a religion is at least one super-empirical idea that affects your daily life, I am happy that it might be that aesthetic view of the universe that confers it a cheshire cat smile.)

      So, I am atheist, a Secularist, aesthetically god hating, anti Dogmatist, trying to find the trick of a more moral mode, but happy with the toolkit of mammal and primate sensibilities and capabilities, and the new problem solving and adventuring engine of culture, because I don’t know any better…

      Atheists and those who are atheist truly are a diverse, widely motivated bunch. Their kids show the widest religious outcomes of any religious themed groups. They tend to indoctrinate least. Maybe this is the most common key. They respect the need for kids to be autonomous as adults, with as many choices for themselves as possible. Maybe a common identity is found most here (though we all know a few rabid religion-damaged Atheists, inconsolably angry at the continuation of the theft of choices from children.)

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        I lack any investment in gods.

        That was fun to read in the light of Brandon Sanderson’s fictional universe which involves the concept of Investiture. :-p

        I am anti-theist having an aesthetic repugnance to a closed, curated universe.

        Is theism necessarily connected to “a closed … universe”? The word “closed” is especially interesting to me, given that physicalism tends to go hand-in-hand with causal closure. BTW, the recent big science discovery, time crystals, require causal openness. So do CCDs. Indeed, life itself requires causal openness. It might even be the case that the existence of time itself requires causal openness. There might be a way to marshal Michael Tooley’s Time, Tense, and Causation and David Braine’s The Reality of Time and the Existence of God to support that, replete with some solid physics/​mathematics. See the non-equilibrium requirement atWP: Fluctuation theorem.

        When it comes to “a … curated universe”, I’m not entirely sure what that means. Is it so bad if God prevents a false vacuum from collapsing? Perhaps you are only against some notions of “curated”?

        I am anti-dogma of all stripes, but faith-sufficient based particularly so. Truths are directions and processes, never achievable destinations. Always to be tested and revised.

        Do you see the vicious circularity in what you’ve just said? Furthermore, the power of your actions in reality is quite related to the strength of your foundation in reality. If you don’t have a firm foundation, then this situation threatens:

        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.

        Indeed, one might say we inhabit that situation in a decent chunk of the West, including the US. The worst do seem full of passionate intensity. What are the best doing? Do any exist?

        What I wish for the progressive subliming of faith-sufficient dogma we see happening, is the realisation of a more secure footing for the development of personal moral authorship.

        So that humans are the sole authors, Nietzsche-style, so that they co-author with God, or something else?

        Atheists and those who are atheist truly are a diverse, widely motivated bunch.

        As are Christians. And blacks. And gays. And … pretty much everyone else?

        They tend to indoctrinate least.

        I require empirical evidence of this. :-p

        • Phil Rimmer

          Not cosmologically closed, Luke. Closed like a playpen. Nor does a local minimum/false vacuum seem to have any pertinence to curated environments. If the concept means nothing, then you are a lost cause to those of us preferring our worlds to be bleaker and more windswept.

          There is no circularity. Not the least. You’ll need to be explicit. I am happy that the scientific method works. I am happy that UK Quakers continue to strive for greater identification of harms, finding groups they failed to identify earlier, needing their help and compassion now. Whether guided by the “Inner Light of Jesus” or our evolutionary and cultural heritages topped off with reason and new evidence, the moral requirement is not to shirk or subcontract our daily moral due diligence, but check it through yet again in the light of today’s new knowledge and insights.

          Moral dogmas especially the Catholic denial of the option of the less evil path cannot encompass the needs of our decision making unless they come as complex moral algorithms. Morality is always choosing a better path

          A society’s moral norms reside in the continual conversation between free moral authors, each with their concerns, insights and sensitivities. For it to work at its best it is important that thinking is kept free and not fritzed by parroting dogma.

          Atheists are the least indoctrinating group-

          http://www.cara1964.org/staff/webpages/reverts2.jpg

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          Not cosmologically closed, Luke. Closed like a playpen. Nor does a local minimum/​false vacuum seem to have any pertinence to curated environments.

          Oh. Do you think the Bible advocates for any of this? If so I’d like to know why, because I think it does precisely the opposite. We want to stay in our little Tower of Babel and not explore, or we’d prefer to go back to Egypt where there are pots of meat. God, on the other hand, wants theosis for us. See Jeremiah 12:1–6 and Job 40:6–14.

          If the concept means nothing, then you are a lost cause to those of us preferring our worlds to be bleaker and more windswept.

          Bleaker and more windswept? I’m not sure what that means; surely it doesn’t mean you want there to be more starving kids in Africa. Surely it doesn’t mean you want more people jumping off of Golden Gate Bridge. So what do you mean?

          There is no circularity. Not the least.

          “There are no dogmas” is a dogma. “Question everything” is just the thing which cannot be [effectively] questioned. “Truths are directions and processes” is a truth that is neither a direction nor a process. What this makes me think of is that you went from ‘being’ → ‘becoming’, with no sense that one can do both. (See for example F. F. Centore’s Being and Becoming: A Critique of Post-Modernism.)

          I am happy that the scientific method works.

          But does it? See, for example:

              There are several reasons why the contemporary social sciences make the idea of the person stand on its own, without social attributes or moral principles. Emptying the theoretical person of values and emotions is an atheoretical move. We shall see how it is a strategy to avoid threats to objectivity. But in effect it creates an unarticulated space whence theorizing is expelled and there are no words for saying what is going on. No wonder it is difficult for anthropologists to say what they know about other ideas on the nature of persons and other definitions of well-being and poverty. The path of their argument is closed. No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, because a theory of persons tends to be heavily prejudiced. It is insulting to be told that your idea about persons is flawed. It is like being told you have misunderstood human beings and morality, too. The context of this argument is always adversarial. (Missing Persons: A Critique of the Personhood in the Social Sciences, 10)

          Is that science working, or not working? Beware of No True Scotsman, I can say that Christianity works when you do it right with the best of them. G.K. Chesterton famously said “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” We also have Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government and this from Jonathan Haidt:

          And when we add that work to the mountain of research on motivated reasoning, confirmation bias, and the fact that nobody’s been able to teach critical thinking. […] You know, if you take a statistics class, you’ll change your thinking a little bit. But if you try to train people to look for evidence on the other side, it can’t be done. It shouldn’t be hard, but nobody can do it, and they’ve been working on this for decades now. At a certain point, you have to just say, ‘Might you just be searching for Atlantis, and Atlantis doesn’t exist?’ (The Rationalist Delusion in Moral Psychology, 16:47)

          So … there seems to be more required than just the scientific method.

          Moral dogmas especially the Catholic denial of the option of the less evil path …

          Huh?

          Atheists are the least indoctrinating group-

          Umm, where are the data for that plot? In the Pew 2015-05-12 report we find:

          Compared with 2007, the retention rate of the religiously unaffiliated has increased by seven percentage points (from 46% to 53%). Chapter 2: Religious Switching and Intermarriage

          There is also a figure near that text with the title, “Among Millennials Raised as “Nones,” Two-Thirds Still Unaffiliated as Adults”.

        • Phil Rimmer

          “God, on the other hand, wants theosis for us.”

          Perfect! Thank you.

          The scientific method works upon itself and has evolved and will still evolve, as, usefully, will our ideas and sentiments if we treat all our absolute certainties as less so. Intolerance of intolerance is only a show stopping paradox in some world of actual, rigid Platonic ideals. We most certainly don’t live there. We live in a world of shifting shades. Better is far more discernible than Best, especially given that we are not made in anyone’s image. (We are self and mutual making without a known terminus, rather bleak and windswept as that may feel.)

          Is the scientific method the solver of our moral problems? Nope, though it can clarify such evidence as exists. How we feel about things today in the light of yesterdays news needs our daily due diligence. Also it can shed light on why we are conflicted, how as Haidt explains, our moralities left and right can never fully converge. The Quakers simply take themselves to be properly equipped as autonomous moral authors. Me too. They think they are built for the job. Godly inputs are there already. I too think I am built for the job. I just presume a little less of my introspections.

          ” No one wants to hear about alternative theories of the person, “

          Untrue. Offered without explanation this is useless. Offered as a means to, say, give your child more choice as an adult , e.g. by pointing out the effects of “over-imitation” on forming early personalities and seeing all early education as effectively indoctrination, we might choose a more open path for our children. Rather than at bedtime, “let’s pray for Nana”, “let’s think of what will cheer her up, Lets make her a card and take it to her tomorrow.” Thoughtfulness and mutuality are built just as much. Leave out the other habit forming stuff until they can choose for themselves.

          My claim that A/atheists may indoctrinate less, does not shut off quite other means for manufacturing the godless. Indeed, a broad secular education, even after the early indoctrination we all have in our different ways, mitigates some of that. You’ll figure out how the numbers can work.

          My daughter, most interested in religion, was encouraged to go look for herself (she chose Buddhism and Quakerdom). She found karma to be deeply immoral as an idea, blatant, shallow and self-serving. Quakers, rather good. She is currently atheist.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          You haven’t explained how the Bible necessarily leads to “Closed like a playpen” or “curated environments”. Now, there is a verse you might think establishes this point:

          I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. (1 Corinthians 4:6)

          But it is a grievous error to read that outside of the context:

          But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. (1 Corinthians 3:1–5)

          Children cannot be exposed to all of reality, instantaneously. Nor is it healthy to let the more precocious think that they can advance ahead and then lord it over those who are either not as intelligent, or not as intelligent in enough of the domains currently rewarded by society. The ultimate goal was made clear by Jesus:

          For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. (Mark 4:22)

          And he was really just echoing the following proverb:

          It is the glory of God to conceal things,
              but the glory of kings is to search things out.
          (Proverbs 25:2)

          We can raise our children to be kings, although often we kill their creativity instead:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

          Are you under the impression that the Bible is in favor of killing creativity?

        • Phil Rimmer

          “Children cannot be exposed to all of reality…etc.”

          This is a fire hazard. I don’t know what is in your head to say this stuff.I can’t see anything in my posts to prompt it. I proposed merely taking away certain habituating behaviours and thought processes to allow children’s readier coming to grips with navigating their world. I proposed a slower start than you would have, not faster.

          “Are you under the impression that the Bible is in favor of killing creativity?”

          I think the bible has virtually nothing to say on creativity. I am quite indifferent to it. What I care about is the behaviours of religious parents, particularly fundamentalists. These folk hate, hate creativity with a passion.

          Sometimes its not even the fundamentalists. The shittiest religious book I ever encountered was a knowing gift from my daughter, The Little Lion Book of First prayers, for pre-schoolers.

          Three times a page, gratitude to God for the services actually rendered by others; the endless stifling of other narratives of the real world, with God’s all encompassing handiwork…”Thank you God for giving the whale the big sea to swim in”. Nor are these told like Kipling or Aesop. God’s for real, tiger. Hands together eyes closed…Hands together eyes closed…H

          Stories are wonderful when they are like the stories in comparative religion classes, they inspire, entertain, and by their very conflict inoculate against such facileness.

          FWIW it is meddling Creator, Theo, in theism, that triggers my claustrophobia not the bible particularly, though I have aspirations way above wanting to be a King. I wanted and want to be a Father of far greater skill than any of those supernatural deadbeat dads. I tell both my kids, they owe me nothing, They asked for none of this, and in having them we were being selfish. I/we owe them everything.

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

          LB: Children cannot be exposed to all of reality …

          PR: This is a fire hazard. I don’t know what is in your head to say this stuff.I can’t see anything in my posts to prompt it. I proposed merely taking away certain habituating behaviours and thought processes to allow children’s readier coming to grips with navigating their world. I proposed a slower start than you would have, not faster.

          Your “Closed like a playpen” or “curated environments” prompted it. As to your “slower start”; where did I suggest a faster start?

          I think the bible has virtually nothing to say on creativity. I am quite indifferent to it. What I care about is the behaviours of religious parents, particularly fundamentalists. These folk hate, hate creativity with a passion.

          I see. So if it turned out that the Bible had some powerful things to say about creativity or its preconditions, might that be a good weapon to use against fundamentalists? Note that you won’t necessarily convince the die-hard members, but you don’t have to convince them. You can work from the fringes inward. Maybe that ends up with an isolated kernel that can be marginalized.

          Sometimes its not even the fundamentalists. The shittiest religious book I ever encountered was a knowing gift from my daughter, The Little Lion Book of First prayers, for pre-schoolers.

          Ezekiel 5:5–9

          FWIW it is meddling Creator, Theo, in theism, that triggers my claustrophobia not the bible particularly …

          Interesting. So do you think humans are doing a pretty good job of keeping things together? No divine assist required? No properties of the universe that might be important to be just so, such that infinite amounts of science and other awesomeness can be obtained without e.g. an asteroid impact which ends all life [on earth]?

          BTW, I’m completely down with some Christians having ridiculously small conceptions of God. That much is obvious. But it seems like you might be targeting all [remotely orthodox] Christian conceptions of God. If so, I’m curious about why.

          I tell both my kids, they owe me nothing, They asked for none of this, and in having them we were being selfish. I/we owe them everything.

          By this reasoning, God creating anything would be “selfish”. Is that your stance?

        • adam

          “By this reasoning, God creating anything would be “selfish”. Is that your stance? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8f82147c8efa48709931146100a7df8d385664f36cdcdc777d2f5005d4938345.jpg

        • Phil Rimmer

          “Your “Closed like a playpen” or “curated environments” prompted it. As to your “slower start”; where did I suggest a faster start?”

          Meh. Don’t see how my aesthetic take on Theo prompted teaching kids about everything at once. I proposed simply holding back on religious rituals and ritualised thinking, prayers, endless gratitude, goddidit mindfritz until later when they could decide for themselves, there being no evidence and much faith required. Mine is the slower path to the same education,

          “So if it turned out that the Bible had some powerful things to say about creativity or its preconditions, might that be a good weapon to use against fundamentalists?”

          Go for it! Far too often there is honour amongst theists. I would love to see actual moral disgust from theists for the frequent, downright immorality of fundies.

          “Ezekiel 5:5–9”

          Shitty, but fucking with kids minds aces it.

          Fine tuning, deflected meteors? Not going down that black hole even though it may lead to multiverses of multiverses. It could indeed end tomorrow….shitty things happen, yet somewhere….somewhen…

          Yaweh selfish? You bet.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Luke,

          Thank you, thank you, thank you for reminding us of the Ken Robinson TED talk. Its been a decade since I last saw it.

          Ken is a fellow scouser (Liverpudlian, OK, from Liverpool) a few years older than myself.

          It was a hugely creative place when we were growing up, with two great theatres and actually a great university where I went to study physics. It is great to see his narrative coherence gather force with this great beguiling meander.

          I started as an actor mid teens in Liverpool, learned the joys of being in a creative team, all writing and performing, did a physics degree and a free maths one, shunned research as dull and industry as duller and became a lecturer in a dance and drama college (in Liverpool) teaching photography and printmaking, then moved to and acted in London (and Europe a bit) for another five years, before the bank manager locked the door and cut through my first credit card. I discovered I could invent tech and many other things and do this even better working in creative teams. Everything I had done helped. I could sell my ideas to others, I could listen to others and riff on their ideas. And I would love their successes, because honest mutuality performs better than the sum of the individuals.

          Ken speaks exactly for me. When education is for life (its quality) everything gets better.

        • Ignorant Amos

          God, on the other hand, wants theosis for us.

          First, Gods existence is not substantiated, so how anyone knows what an unsubstantiated being wants for us is beyond me.

          See Jeremiah 12:1–6 and Job 40:6–14.

          But Luke, this is an non-argument. A person who believes in the veracity of a book, using said book to prove the veracity of something in that book, to folk who do not believe in the veracity of that book, is a fallacy.

          You wouldn’t accept it from any other religion or their book, why do you think it is fine and dandy to use it here with us, who think the book is a parcel of shite as anything other than made up yarns?

          You might just as well have said an elfish warrior said…

          “That is a fair lord and a great captain of men. If Gondor has such men still in these days of fading, great must have been its glory in the days of its rising.”~ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Last Debate, The Return of the King

          …because it says so, right there in the book…Legolas talking about Prince Imrahil.

        • Ignorant Amos
          Atheists are the least indoctrinating group-

          Umm, where are the data for that plot? In the Pew 2015-05-12 report we find:

          Compared with 2007, the retention rate of the religiously unaffiliated has increased by seven percentage points (from 46% to 53%). Chapter 2: Religious Switching and Intermarriage

          How does your cite Pew 2015-05-12 report rebut “Atheists are the least indoctrinating group-“?

          Umm, where are the data for that plot?

          Ya see Luke, it’s this sort of nonsense that make me think that you are not at all serious…or as smart as you think you are…or both.

          While it is true that it is possible that people can be indoctrinated into believing just about anything, most atheists come by their disbelief by de-indoctrination.

          Most atheists believed something prior to their disbelief. In other words, they were already indoctrinated. They lost said belief by investigating that belief and found it wanting for one reason or more. They de-programmed themselves through research, reason and critical thinking.

          Those that did not believe in a god ever, could hardly be indoctrinated into a position they already held.

          All of us know that childhood indoctrination is how religions work. It is a proactive endeavour. My two children are not atheist because I told to be. It wasn’t because they were not confronted with religion, it is everywhere here and is taught in schools from day one. It is because they never had it shoved down their throats at home. They were given a choice.

          My current partners was a Christian all her life, the only thing I told her was to read the Bible, cover-to-cover, because even as a Christian for 50 years she hadn’t. She read it. Couldn’t believe the crap in there she read in it, doesn’t believe any more.

        • adam

          ” I’m not sure what that means; surely it doesn’t mean you want there to be more starving kids in Africa.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4ee57cb233d671c38fb55fe6e7f6f030457fc4070e7ae4a15a1e148e58eba246.jpg

        • TheNuszAbides

          Indeed, one might say we inhabit that situation in a decent chunk of the West, including the US. The worst do seem full of passionate intensity. What are the best doing? Do any exist?

          what of the leftovers after isolating this “decent chunk” for assessment? what of “the East”? what filters must you adjust to make comparable observations regarding these slices of Earthling?

      • Kevin K

        Is there an atheist who supports suppression of religious expression? I don’t think even Dawkins goes that far, does he? Surely, his desire to not have children indoctrinated into a church, but to be able to make up their own minds when their brains can process the choice isn’t the same thing as “suppression of religious expression”, is it?

        I think you’ve created something of a straw atheist.

        I’m a Jeffersonian atheist myself. It neither breaks my leg nor picks my pocket if someone believes in 1 god or 12. What I do care about, apart from religious expression/belief, is the use of god as a cudgel to impose religiously based practices on non-believers. Abortion rights being a bright shining example, but certainly not the only one.

        Pray all you want. Pray unceasingly. Just don’t force/coerce my kids to pray in school, or prohibit me from doing something based on your god’s sayso and nothing else.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I’ve illustrated these rare beasts, Atheist (II)s, and accounted for them in a somewhat forgiving light not least to serve my immediate purpose…

          (though we all know a few rabid religion-damaged Atheists (II), inconsolably angry at the continuation of the theft of choices from children.)

          At least I know of them even if you don’t. I don’t approve of their silencing stance, but I have a degree of compassion for their position. I don’t believe there are unharmed Atheist (II)s except for the inevitable psychopath contingent. Fully one percent of any broad type is likely to be a self serving shit. The religious, though, attract them rather more than the godless, because religion is a power play first,

          It is essential to be as open handed in our accounts in front of others. I would rather under-claim than over-claim. The latter is poor strategy.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Sorry. Can’t quite let this go.

          Just don’t force/coerce my kids to pray in school,

          Kevin, are you American?

          Are kids property?

          Who should try and do something for their kids if fundamentalists are doing a sub optimum job and denying them the opportunity to develop a full range of adult choices?

          I’m betting here that Luke might even be an ally in at least expressing outrage at certain parenting aspects of the religiously dogmatic. (That is unless there really is honour amongst theists.) I think he’s moral, genuinely trying to get things right.

          I’m a Secularist and fixing the moral aspects of religion is in the interests of the compassionate religious and irreligious alike.

        • Ignorant Amos

          But as you know, Just don’t force/coerce my kids to pray in school, is not the reality here in the UK.

          So whether Luke agrees with it or not is academic, he is fortunate that he can enjoy the separation of Church and State that he can, even if it is an unspoken joke.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Ig.

          The comment wasn’t about that. It was about a concern only for ones own kids.Hence the run on comment about kids as property, a view more persistent in the states.

          Though, cheeky, this was a goad to Luke, in effect, should he ever read it, to consolidate his views on child potential (creative and other) and agree that early habituation of rituals is not the way to go about it, as I’d proposed.

          This looks like another of my comments where too much has stayed in my head again.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Apologies chum, mea culpa for misunderstanding your intentions. You know me long enough to know it is a failing of mine. Soz.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I have eye planks enough.

          I think I just haven’t got good enough at understanding how effective human mind reading actually is. You lot do it so well, but I’m starting to suspect its some sort of fallible trick.

      • TheNuszAbides

        If all you need to for a religion is at least one super-empirical idea that affects your daily life, I am happy that it might be that aesthetic view of the universe that confers it a cheshire cat smile.

        hear, hear.

        barring even that, i have no complaints about The Satanic Temple.

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

          Their special angle has allowed them to make good progress on some church/state separation issues. Bravo for them.

    • Greg G.

      But I wonder, do atheists have any topic where if you ask a question, “you’re asking about who they are”?

      Yeah, “Who are you?”

    • adam
    • eric

      do atheists have any topic where if you ask a question, “you’re asking about who they are”? Or are they immune to this?

      I would guess anyone heavily psychologically invested in an ideological cause could suffer the same problem. Questioning the presence of ancient Jews in North America is going to be perceived by some Mormons as attacking who they are. Questioning Xenu etc. may be perceived by some Scientologists as questioning who they are. On the non-religious side, questioning American exceptionalism will probably offend some conservative Americans; they won’t see it just as an academic question, they’ll see it as an attack. Another example: AIUI, third-wave feminist responses to the question of whether there are cognitive differences between men and women based on genetics range from “yes” to “good question – but no, it’s all nuture” to “even posing the question is an affront to women.” I would consider anyone using the last response to be communicating that to question their position is (in their minds) to attack who they are.

      It’s also worthwhile noting that this effect can occur even when the topic is something largely uncontroversial and something most people agree on. The effect doesn’t just occur in regards to sectarian beliefs; non-sectarian beliefs can provoke it too, as long as a person has a strong psychological investment in it. Most people of many faiths and none all accept that the holocaust happened. It’s not a sectarian belief, it’s not very controversial, and it’s well supported by evidence. Nevertheless, question the holocaust and a lot of people are going to take it personally, as an attack on who they are. They aren’t going to just take the claim academically.

      What should be clear from these examples is that “atheists” as a group probably don’t have any singular question that they all consider an attack on who they are – just like “Christians” as a group don’t have such a question. Individual atheists will differ in what ideological positions they give strong weight to, just as believers will. Moreover, some atheists may not be bothered by arguments against even their most strongly held ideological beliefs, while others will – just like Christians. So IMO Bob’s use of the word some is very important here. I am hard-pressed to come up with anything linked to atheism per se that would provoke this response. But each atheist may also be an American, or a German, or a liberal, or a conservative, or belong to some other group to which they are committed. And as such, some of them likely take those commitments as strongly as a YECer takes their commitment to a young earth.

      • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer

        I would guess anyone heavily psychologically invested in an ideological cause could suffer the same problem.

        Is there anyone not invested in an ideological cause who has any appreciable power? Recall W. B. Yeats’ observation:

        The best lack all conviction, while the worst
        Are full of passionate intensity.
        (The Second Coming)

        To not have an ideological cause seems to be to have no systematic idea for how you think the world would be a better place. That means that those who do have systematic ideas will probably dominate you if they wish to. Or have I made an error in logic?

        The effect doesn’t just occur in regards to sectarian beliefs; non-sectarian beliefs can provoke it too, as long as a person has a strong psychological investment in it.

        Isn’t that kind of the definition of “strong psychological investment”? I mean, can you have anyone who is particularly effective in the public domain who doesn’t have “strong psychological investment”? BTW, scientists have “strong psychological investment”. If you need evidence, I can provide it.

        Nevertheless, question the holocaust and a lot of people are going to take it personally, as an attack on who they are.

        I would take it as an attempt to deny [part of] the darkness in human nature. That would be oh so much worse than someone attacking “who I am”. To deny the Holocaust is to make the next Holocaust more likely. I’ll bet I could drum up a terrific amount of psychological motivation on this basis. Therefore, I question what % of people your explanation properly characterizes.

        They aren’t going to just take the claim academically.

        What does this even mean? I mean, what would the world be like if every single claim were merely treated “academically”? But perhaps you mean that people should be able to switch into a “dispassionate mode” of sorts? Sort of like John Preston could go emotion-free near the end of Equilibrium? But what on earth does it mean to switch back to a connection between the academic and the existential? (This is a major research problem I’m studying; it seems full of fuzziness, irrationality, and denial that it’s even a problem.)

        Moreover, some atheists may not be bothered by arguments against even their most strongly held ideological beliefs, while others will – just like Christians. So IMO Bob’s use of the word some is very important here.

        Bob‘s argument radically changes if atheists are no less prone to this problem than theists.

  • DennisLurvey

    Yes being atheist is who we are. Most christians are born into christian families and locked in for life. For a christian to announce to family and friends he no longer believes normally results in complete abandonment by them. Most atheists come from religious families and once we become skeptics our road to disbelief is long, emotional, and difficult. We go through stages of grief over and over about why we were taught a lie by people who claim to love us, and loss of our entire worldview when we learn the whole of religion is man made. It isn’t a decision that there is no god based on some guess, it usually starts with reading the whole bible over and over to get closer to god, and years and years of trying to prove the bible true only proves it is not.

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    Bob’s frame does not account for the connective wiring between morality and politics to religion.

    In the Judeo-Christian tradition, Bob forgets (I guess) that in both cases those movements began with people who had lost all arguments. Granted, subsequent development of the official tradition resulted in an array of factoid cluster claims indictable by Bob’s frame. But, the beginnings of the historical tradition correlate to what are often the beginnings of faith with individuals in any generation.

    Atheists have, currently, no actionable or meaningful address of the plight of millions who currently have lost all arguments. On this, both atheism and religion be damned.

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

      Huh? Are you talking about the millions of people in desperate situations (starving, war zone, etc.)?

      Atheism itself says nothing about that because it isn’t a moral position. Secular or humanist views do, however. Foreign aid is one example. Modern medicine is another.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        The fact is: From the myriad of death camps, there is no atheist, secular, or humanist entity that is positioned to take down the infrastructure of industrial genocide. The Pottery Barn Rule abides. At its worst, Christianity has been the Saddam Hussein of cultural rule at times in the past. Post Christendom….you have “now what?”

        As Marx and James Cone have indicated, human beings under ultimate stress will choose or even fabricate a deliverer God as prescriptive against insanity over against plain naked genocide around which may arrive from time to time a faint whiff scent of care from an NGO.

        On one hand, you wish to insulate atheism from moral agenda. On the other hand, religion often has its roots in the moral/political problem you don’t wish to address.

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

          What I wish isn’t the issue. There simply isn’t any overlap between atheism and morality, by definition. If you want to get into that, you should be talking about humanism (or similar) instead.

          You’re speaking in shorthand. What industrial genocide?

          You referred to “no actionable or meaningful address of the plight of millions.” Again, I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean, but is it the case that modern medicine and foreign aid have done precisely nothing to help whatever it is that concerns you?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          In long hand, industrial genocide is the targeted mass destruction of groups of human beings as a matter of economic ambition and policy. The destruction is achieved at various speeds. Presently, in the U.S., the ebbs and flows of historic genocide of African-Americans is being throttled forward again. Obviously, Black Lives should matter….but in the agenda of the moneyed, they don’t….unless they are incarcerated in the increasing number of for-profit prisons.

          The poor in the U.S. are targeted for denial of health care. The Republicans answer one can simply go to the ER, get treated, and not pay…or something like that. You can’t get heart surgery or cancer treatment in the ER. The cracks that people fall through are very very wide.

          When those who fall through the cracks are children, then we’re looking into the deepest pit of industrial genocide hell.

          Then one can look at Syria et al, and who can’t be allowed refuge.

          Jews first believed in a deliverer God in the context of slavery…when they had lost all argument…when they had fallen totally through the cracks.

          Black Americans accepted Christianity through the primary lens of Exodus-Slavery paradigm.

          Religion, fully developed, becomes a business. But, a business has two sides: sellers and buyers. You may assign whatever malevolence you wish to the sellers. But, then there is the matter of the buyers. They buy because they have no better offers.

          You may assume that whatever partial remediation, important as it is, in the way of “foreign aid and modern medicine” should be good enough. Well, if the aid doesn’t reach a bunch, and many others are precluded from access to medicine, then to them the rhetoric is just the sound of a bunch of “white people” being “white”. On the side of those slugging it out in the helping professions…indeed, the stark reality of laboring so hard only to see the needle not move very much is exactly why burn out and constant seeking of lateral career changes goes on among them. They are the extremely thin membrane that “white people” use to claim that “aid and medicine” are adequately applied.

          It seems to me that a typical atheist agenda is reduce the matter to a mere selectively framed mathematical thought exercise: “Does God exist or not?” But, at the same time, it can be easily demonstrated that many atheists talk of their own journey in terms of their atheism starting from questions regarding theodicy. So, there is a primary irony: that both religion and atheism in their most primitive forms can both begin as a wrestling with a primary moral problem: the problem of evil.

          In the case of evil imposed by humans on other humans, the question is begged why atheists do not consider the social-psychological dimensions of why people cling to religion. When the “white people” never show up for any good, and the “black” are in the cracks, I would suggest that religion might be seen as a rather elegant way of the blacks to say to the whites: “Fuck You”. It’s a way to feel better in the cracks. Then. Primitive Christianity (as opposed to developed commercial Christianity) is even more obnoxious….for there you have a God (Jesus) who becomes one of the Poor. And so then: God says to Whitey: “Fuck You, and the horse you rode in on.”

        • Joe

          Could you possibly make a succinct point? That post is almost impossible to unpick.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          No. Art is like that.

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

          Just for us philistines, could you write in prose and not free verse or whatever it is you’re using now?

        • Michael Neville

          And ev’ry one will say,
          As you walk your mystic way,
          “If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
          Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!”
          –W.S. Gilbert Patience

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Uh, no.

        • Michael Neville

          Could you at least try to be a little more coherent?

        • adam

          “Could you at least try to be a little more coherent?”

          Funny, funny stuff, Mr. Neville….

        • Michael Neville

          I’ve now got an earworm: “To dream the impossible dream.”

        • adam
        • Joe

          No art is like that.

          I’ve made a minor punctuation change to your post which made it make more sense.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          On the other hand, art is what people often do to survive. Primitive religion is art.

          But, then if oppressed people actually survive off their art, well, there’s that.

        • adam

          “art is what people often do to survive. ”

          Almost never.

          “Primitive religion is art.”

          All religion based on MAGIC is primitive.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/b771a4ec57ad060b4acaad214ae436df6fd8facae4a468d9a6df580cb6f8dc21.jpg

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

          You may assume that whatever partial remediation, important as it is, in the way of “foreign aid and modern medicine” should be good enough.

          I didn’t say they were good enough. It was my attempt to suggest the beginning of a response to your vague complaint.

          Secular government has eliminated smallpox worldwide (to take just one example of a medical advance). You’re welcome, Third World.

          No, that’s not sufficient. But it does refute your “Atheists have, currently, no actionable or meaningful address of the plight of millions.”

          just the sound of a bunch of “white people” being “white”.

          Trying (incompletely) to help the less fortunate is white people being white?

          It seems to me that a typical atheist agenda is reduce the matter to a mere selectively framed mathematical thought exercise: “Does God exist or not?”

          That is an important discussion. Yes, there are other important discussions.

          both religion and atheism in their most primitive forms can both begin as a wrestling with a primary moral problem: the problem of evil.

          Some (curiously, not all) forms of Christianity have a problem with the PoE. Atheism doesn’t.

          In the case of evil imposed by humans on other humans, the question is begged why atheists do not consider the social-psychological dimensions of why people cling to religion.

          Marx’s observation is on target. Religion has value to the disadvantaged.

          I would suggest that religion might be seen as a rather elegant way of the blacks to say to the whites: “Fuck You”.

          They’re saying “fuck you” by putting a gun to their head?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          In my poetry, of course “black” and “white” are “haves” and “have-nots”. One can directly extend the metaphor to the American healthcare problem. Currently, not everyone has a right to health care. Obama improved the math on that, but still many were left out of a right to health care. And, now the math gets worse again. There is a third world America. We shall have to just wait and see if the Humanists win the have-nots over. If that is the agenda, the question is begged who the foot soldiers in that are:

          Social Workers?

          .

        • adam

          “Currently, not everyone has a right to health care. ”

          Well not in the richest, most power country on the planet at least.

          “Obama improved the math on that, but still many were left out of a right to health care.”

          And Trump promised to make it all.

          “The president-elect says: “We’re going to have insurance for everybody.
          There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you
          don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.””

        • TheNuszAbides

          Trying (incompletely) to help the less fortunate is white people being white?

          afaict he was only speaking for those who don’t benefit from the [currently] limited efforts*. which makes sense insofar as the most-not-having folks who fit

          They buy because they have no better offers.

          , who ‘have no better offers’ than the far-flung religious noise from cynical leadership and zealous followership alike.

          i’d certainly like to see whether Daniel can (or even imagines he needs to) pick a fight with, e.g., Sikivu Hutchinson.

          *and of course he dodges any form of speculation as to whether such efforts might increase/improve, instead pretending that you pretended that all that needs to be done is being done.

        • adam
  • Clement Agonistes

    SOME people can change their minds. Not me, of course, because I am right. No matter how many times I point out other people’s factual errors and poor logic, they just don’t seem to get it. What is wrong with them?

    • Daniel G. Johnson

      I like your post. But, on the serious side, what Bob and Co. do not factor is that there IS something wrong with a lot of human beings. They will cling to bad religion because of their wounds and deprivations. What is the moral address of those persons? The typical atheist intellectual sport appears to assume that all human beings are on the same intellectual and emotional stability plane…so all is fair game to pick at.

      • Ficino

        Yes, atheists can slip into mockery of believers.

        I think much of the time, they are really aiming to discredit belief systems that they think are false but which get a pass because they are treated, unjustifiably, with reverence in society in general. I think that’s why mockery often emerges. Sort of as with the moral impulses behind classical satire.

        I don’t like to see some individual mocked for belief, and I think most atheists do not like to see or do that. It’s not the individual but the meme that many try to “pick at.”

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I agree. I guess I’d like to see some consensus on where the lines are and some sense of a safety valve. A couple of examples:

          1) In the helping professions it’s common to see terminally ill people or very aged people cling more strongly or revert to substantial religious symbols.

          2) Mentally challenged people often exhibit substantial religious orientation. A few months ago I was in a group home where a profoundly DD man exhibited very strong religious affect.

          A social worker or a health care provider is not going to negatively engage such a person on the matter of religion. I hope that it’s a given that that should be a universal.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I guess I’d like to see some consensus on where the lines are and some sense of a safety valve.

          consensus among atheists in general? a rather absurd concept (i mean, good luck polling a population that is more closeted than not in many regions — let alone the proportion of pedants who insist that agnosticism and atheism are utterly separate). consensus among subgroups of atheists who have already identified shared conclusions/guidelines [including matters which they may or may not tie to atheism per se]? not that hard to spot.
          one of the few respects in which a-theism and the-ism are significantly similar.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I meant people in general, but I understand your point. Indeed, the only place I encounter atheism in particular is online. I guess, as with any ism, there’s a spectrum.

        • TheNuszAbides

          yeah, i’m generally impressed with Pew’s efforts, but it seems like polling has an awfully long way to go to get some Real Answers … and without going Too Far, of course …

      • Kodie

        Religions do everything they can to get people to pay to stay ignorant and broken.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Well, fine. But, then what?

          When I taught public school, a 4th grade student of mine was killed by a drunk hit and run driver. I was very close to the family. They were very religious and availed themselves of comfort in their religion…and you would do what with that scene in the heat of the moment?

        • TheNuszAbides

          Well, fine. But, then what?

          are you suggesting that vocal atheists are obliged to devise some sort of ‘cure’ for what they/we see as unhealthy habits/organization? that there is no point to criticism if it isn’t accompanied by clear alternatives? sometimes the point is simply to discourage special pleading and/or wishful thinking — not retroactively of course, since one tends not to believe in magic-bullet solutions.

          and you would do what with that scene in the heat of the moment?

          you weren’t asking me, so for the moment i’ll just turn it around — you’d just leave them be, yes?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          The “then what?” is simply an experiment in looking at the same point I’ve been making from different angles. Yes, religious industrialists have been malevolent. But, then there is the question of why there is a market for religion.

          Putting it another way: If people weren’t such utter assholes to each other…thus creating a bottom stratum that is refuse to the upper stratums, there would be no need for God. The people on the bottom make up religion out of having absolutely nothing else to medicate by. That upper stratums pick off their art and make a business out of it is another issue. Then on God’s side, narratively speaking, if people weren’t such assholes to each other, he/she wouldn’t have any cause for interaction…if what was made ain’t broke…no need to fix it.

          So, yeah. I would not mess with down & out people on religion…unless there is a safety issue…like parents withholding medical treatment from children or religiously addicted people threatening others…we could come up with a lot of scenarios for ethical intervention. But, to mess with oppressed people who are not harming others on account of religion doesn’t seem right.

        • Kodie

          What do you think I would do? I would tell them I’m sorry for their loss. What do religious people do when someone else has suffered a loss? They leap right in with “god’s plan” and other insensitive bullshit like that. But me, I keep my thoughts to myself.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I agree.

      • TheNuszAbides

        what Bob and Co. do not factor is that there IS something wrong with a lot of human beings.

        citation?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          It seems that way to me.

          It seems that these type of discussions always assume that the matter of religion is to be settled among those above those on the bottom…when my point is that religion comes…originally…from the bottom.

        • TheNuszAbides

          only now you bring in the ‘seems’? you don’t start with “what Bob and Co. seem to not factor …”? do you prefer corrections to be more defensive or pointed?

        • TheNuszAbides

          i usually assume there’s a case-by-case basis that deserves scrutiny, where some leaders may be highly responsive to followers; some followers are unjustified in the degree to which they trust their leaders; some at either end may be practically detached from the other end, regardless of other considerations; some radicals might actually be as communistic in their operation as is recorded in scripture. but such dynamics are often somewhat demonstrable by thin slices of a given subgroup that play out anywhere between official encyclicals and snarky comboxes. it seems to me that most of the discussions that happen here are in reaction to both general and particular claims, made by or on behalf of various (but rarely that various) believers, and quite often hinge on how little believers (to the extent they have declared anything significant) have thought their beliefs through, and similarly often on how little believers presume we know about how their beliefs work, where they come from, etc. (let alone how little they presume we know/grasp about morality).

          surely it’s no surprise that there’s little-to-no discernible traffic from poor/’primitive’ religious practitioners/representatives. but i certainly wouldn’t assume that nobody here is ready to enter a discussion with ‘them’, even though many such threads may well end in “this post/comment was actually in response to people who are at least as ignorant of your situation as we are”. i could be wrong … more than a few steerings get shut down for being relatively off topic … but those are usually for lack of practical application or immediate relevance, e.g. too academic/abstract.

          i personally enjoy abstraction, more than i probably have time for, especially if i start having kids soon … but since this isn’t my space, i’m also learning to help/try to coax out the practical thrust of responses that seem to be at odds with the critiques offered. which (coaxing out the practical thrust) i can see you’re doing in your own way, if i hold certain comments in the ‘right’ light at the ‘right’ angle …

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Religion and hip hop could be similar. By the time “it” reaches this arena, it has already been co-opted and commercialized. In addressing the commercialized version, one doesn’t get at why the primitive genesis happened in the first place…it seems to me. Again, I find Black religion interesting. I was taught in a Liberation Theology class that James Cone taught that Christianity…that is Black Christianity kept Black folk from going crazy (relative to the absence of Black Christianity). So, you have that. But then, I observe how Black Christianity did not serve the justice agenda of some Blacks, and so we see other movements like the Nation of Islam and Rasta. All those Black religious movements had their genesis in social justice agenda.

          Today, religious institutions decline across the board for the most part, and data increasingly comes in that poor people are dumping out of organized religion…I assume on the account of both economics and disappointment in institutions which the broader culture at all class levels exhibits. That people dump out of institutions is not historically novel, and the record also shows human proclivity to create brand new religious paradigms out of the utter dust of misery. I don’t think atheists typically think about that. Conversely, if the poor do not have religion as their opiate, could that be why we see recourse to actual opiate addiction ravaging so many communities? Increasing poverty is going to have its outcomes one place or another.

        • TheNuszAbides

          all worth chewing on.

          brand new religious paradigms out of the utter dust of misery

          or even Scientology. i’m sure plenty of scientologists consider themselves atheists. and then of course there’s The Satanic Temple, though that particular paradigm is arguably more of a legal exercise than religious expression per se (as could be argued of the praxis of some scientologists, no doubt). i suppose the former could be seen as grounded in the misery of LRH’s fevered ego, and the latter as grounded in the poverty of consideration that broad masses of theists seem to possess for Other viewpoints.

          recourse to actual opiate addiction

          i’m still hungry for anthropo/socio-logical data on a historical scale as far as this goes. i certainly don’t credit Teh War On Drugs with anywhere near net-positive results for humanity, but given my limited actual knowledge and substantially less limited imagination, i could spin a different skeptical or conspiracy-drunk trajectory for each contributing factor such as invention, control of production/distribution, specific pharmacologies, miseducation etc.

          Increasing poverty is going to have its outcomes one place or another.

          i hear that.
          reminded of an exchange between liberal ‘statists’ and libertarian ‘fantasists’ somewhere somewhen on the interwebs. one of the former attempted to explain the reasoning behind various administrations/organizations supporting welfare, almsgiving and so on, framed pragmatically in the sense that “the folks in charge spend to pacify the poor because of their understanding that desperation breeds uprising”. one of the latter essentially responded “sounds like a threat. what’s mine is mine.”
          i don’t expect atheism, to whatever extent it is ever ‘organized’, is going to flip a switch and end religion-generating habits. i’m easily convinced that poverty per se is a more immediate/urgent evil than religion per se. though the ‘chicken/egg question’ between the two, or how one feeds/exacerbates the other, is well worth pondering. i just wish [i had more compelling means of expressing that so] that more people with time on our hands would ponder it into progress.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          On the historical, again I would draw attention to the difference between the very beginnings of street religion in the context of oppression and later co-opted industrial versions that leave the street religion in the back alley.

          In the west, we have something quite odd. Judaism is not western by genesis, yet informs the trajectory of the Judeo-Christian tradition in the west. I continued to be astounded that so many atheists only look at so called truth claims, and seem not curious about the moral/political reasons why primitive religious movements got started and took hold. Judaism’s beginnings are odd. Ignoring their oddity odder. Judaism did not begin in the Garden of Eden or Mesopotamia. It began in Egypt. In slavery. Likewise, Christianity began in the nexus of Roman occupation. Constantinian Christianity (Christianity co-opted) did a good job in glossing over the network of Jewish nationalism that the primitive Jesus movement was part of aka “Jesus was not political” (the hell he wasn’t).

          So, in the spirit of the weekend: I pose this question:

          Don’t you think it odd that a PHYSICAL resurrection is the ultimate claim in the Judeo-Christian tradition? It’s really a pretty rare thing compared to all the religions that are quite content with some some sort of spiritual resurrection. But, the Jews came up with PHYSICAL resurrection. Why? Why wasn’t spiritual resurrection good enough? Christianity has rather a split personality about this. Most Christians grant a physical resurrection concept to Jesus, but they themselves prefer a spritiual one. While, many Jews today do not take any kind of resurrection idea seriously, the historical fact remains that the Jews came up with the idea of physical resurrection. Why?

        • TheNuszAbides

          It began in Egypt. In slavery.

          from what i gather of [for all i know] relatively reliable scholarship, at best it begins in Babylon. sure the narrative goes back farther …

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Memory of pre Exodus was composed in written form long after even the Exodus. Pre Exodus memory is prologomena to the foundational covenantal event at Sinai. A symbolic tradition pointing to the foundation is that all Jews who have ever lived, even converts, were present at Sinai when the Torah was given.

        • TheNuszAbides

          the historical fact remains that the Jews came up with the idea of physical resurrection.

          they didn’t derive it from the surrounding Hellenism? they almost certainly contracted the monotheism bug from Persia.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          What Hellenistic bodily resurrection tradition are you referring to? And, monotheism is a different topic than bodily resurrection. I suppose current zombie movies might qualify better than alternative monotheisms.

          I am talking straight bodily resurrection. Who else was doing that concept for regular everyday people (not stories about gods and goddesses who have a a whole different deal from regular humans.)?

          I am talking about the Mt. of Olives where Jews want to be buried because that’s where the first folks to raise from the dead raise. The rest have to bust out of their wooden coffins and tunnel to Jerusalem. Quite odd. Why did Jews come up with this?

      • Clement Agonistes

        You went in an entirely different direction than I was going. While I was trying to use humor to make a point, that point was serious. We don’t view ourselves as the ones who are not thoughtful. We are the ones who are who looked dispassionately at the evidence and used solid logic to arrive at our conclusions. The only reason anyone could disagree with us is that they have not done either of those.

        Well, no. That’s not true. We beknight ourselves with all of those wonderful intellectual virtues. It’s not based on merit, but on ego.

        With regard to moral addresses, I think there is a nuanced distinction between morals and values. The relative values that people place on things can vary wildly. but morality is far more stable. Morality is what argues against my values. Morality demands I respect other people’s conclusions even when I disagree with them.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I think I understand your point of view. In regard to morality, I tend to think in a socialist paradigm. I’m interested in what social consensus or majority report can be had. That has implications for functional politics and public policy. I am currently struggling with a decision as to whether I will enter a MSW program. Professional social work puts one directly in the lives of religious people with profound human need and in networks in which religious entities participate.

        • Clement Agonistes

          You’re thinking, fix the broken leg rather than the broken stair?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          As I understand the history thus far, ideally the practice of social work was/is concerned with both direct service and formation of public policy. It hasn’t turned out that way in actuality, but it’s still an aspiration of many in the field.

          As religion recedes institutionally and culturally, the question will be what to do with the residual both in social networks and in the lives of clients. It will be a mix of recession and remnant that will be part of the task of serving and adjusting public policy. Meanwhile, math will rule. Meanwhile the amount of human dislocation and disposition already in the pipeline will continue to flood out…with less resources to attend to it. Non-governmental institutions will not emerge in sufficient scale to attend, and increasingly self-preserving electorates will not see to expanded government capacity to attend. So, no stairs at all, but Mad Max. I lived this years ago when I was a middle school teacher in an inner city neighborhood run by a gang that the local police totally threw their hand ups over. It took the feds to come in and rout the gang, which did nothing to alleviate the conditions the gang preyed upon to run their drug business. Some years before that, my wife and I were assistant social workers in a community health clinic. Reagan had just come into office and went on a welfare attack, and I had people coming into the clinic with bills from the government claiming they had been overpaid for years and so, they could either pay the bill or be cut off from welfare until it was paid (like til the end of time)…and this was when the clinic was running cheap in the basement of a church and using seminary students like us on federal work study funds to help run the place.

          Today, attending to people in dire need is like the slaughter house business…many just don’t want to know about it. My daughter has worked for 6 years with developmentally delayed adults in very very difficult circumstances. She took her childhood religious upbringing and converted it to secular practice. I bear responsibility for that. We will be doing the MSW program together…if I do it.

          My guess as to the possible ideological impact of the above upon culture, politics, and religion/humanism inheres in the social practicioneers successfully announcing in public just what the facts are over against peoples preference to stop their ears and blind their eyes. We’ll see.

        • Clement Agonistes

          Fascinating stuff! Where I was going with my previous comments was asking whether your aim was to relieve existing suffering or tackle the underlying causes. The second option could involve a lifetime of effort with a payoff that might not happen for several lifetimes. I am kind of the instant gratification kind myself.

          IMO, the decline of religion is inversely related to the increase in prosperity. You point to all of those people with shattered lives, but money can cover up a lot of dysfunction. Without the desperation and hopelessness, the need for religion wanes. 100 years ago, the father abandons the family, and starvation ensues. Today that kind of thing is virtually unheard of.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I don’t quite know what to make of your post. Are you saying that poverty and oppression are not wide scale problems in the world today?

        • Clement Agonistes

          Suppose we divided the population into 3 categories:
          1. Rich
          2. Middle
          3. Poor.
          Now, let’s pick 2 scenarios:
          A. The Rich make $10,000/ yr, the Middle $5,000, and the Poor starve to death.
          B. The Rich make $100,000, the Middle make $50,000, and the Poor make $10,000

          In Scenario B, the Poor are as wealthy as the Rich in Scenario A. Is the suffering of the Poor in Scenario B identical to the suffering in Scenario A?

          Of course not. But, they are still the poorest 1/3rd of the population. Poverty continues, yet it is not the poverty of the first scenario.

          People, as you seem to point out, turn to religion when their lives are out of their control. Money = control. When people feel like they control their lives, they do not feel the need for religion as much. i submit that the nations where we see religion in decline are those characterized by prosperity. In almost all of those countries, there is vast government assistance to the Poor.

          Many (easy) problems can be solved by writing a check. The more resilient problems are going to take enormous amounts of effort with very little progress. In fact, we could be exerting effort in the wrong direction, and would not know for decades.

          So, let’s say I am dealing with a drug addict. He is in pain because he is in withdraw. I could easily resolve his pain by purchasing the drug for him. Solving the underlying problem is a far bigger, more daunting, and resilient problem.

          Socially, either religion has a darwinian benefit or it has a supernatural component. Either way, people are naturally charitable, and will simply choose to express that charity through non-religious means. There will be no decrease in the resources to help those in need.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          The nation state is not a real unit of measurement as to what is really going on with human beings. It is one of the chief western institutions which, with religion, has declining trust.

          As to the mechanisms of nation states, the claim of “vast assistance” needs to be set against two factors: 1) Nation states are increasingly controlled by plutarchy beyond the nation state administration; 2) Under the control of plutarchy, nation state administrations extract from and oppress the poor at a much higher percent than window dressing “assistance”.

          The nation state is just another closely held business. It does not establish a uniform culture from area to area within the official geographical lines of its claimed domain. It is obvious that secularism in a wealthy New England community has very little to do with a much more religious coal-country culture in West Virginia.

        • Clement Agonistes

          As I said, one could spend an entire lifetime expending effort in the wrong direction and never see evidence one way or another. IMO, your premises are wrong, and the conclusions you’ve drawn from them never had a chance. If you want to make a real difference in the lives of people, the places to do it are far removed from America. That means taking risks that not that many people are willing to take.

          You are looking for your lost keys where the light is best rather than where you lost them.

          But, that’s just me. . . . .

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          ….and the horse you rode in on.

        • Clement Agonistes

          LOL. The milk of human kindness flows freely. I can feel the love. I apologize for having an opinion different than yours. Are you sure you want to devote your life to dealing with people (who might not agree with you 100%)?

        • Ignorant Amos

          A. The Rich make $10,000/ yr, the Middle $5,000, and the Poor starve to death.

          The old goalpost move. Now there ARE people in poverty dying of starvation through that poverty, but that was not what your initial comment inferred with regards to waning religious.

          In the UK, severe hunger, or starvation, is on the increase.

          Nearly 400 Brits died from malnutrition or hunger last year, shock new figures have shown.

          http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/number-brits-dying-malnutrition-hunger-8611991

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger_in_the_United_Kingdom

          Which is ironic, given your hypothesis, because Brits are walking away from religion in their droves.

        • Clement Agonistes

          In 1945, the population of GB was somewhere around 27 million. The famine of 1845 caused the starvation of 1 million people. I’m not talking, “food insecurity”; I’m not talking “vulnerability to disease due to improper nutrition”. I am talking the real deal – death due to starvation.

          You are equating 400 deaths (out of a population more than twice that of 1845) due to side effects of poor nutrition with the deaths of 1 million people due to starvation. How many more must have experienced “food insecurity” or susceptibility to the plethora of diseases of that time?

          Dude, honestly. I don’t even know what to do with that.

        • Ignorant Amos

          In 1845, the population of GB was somewhere around 27 million. The famine of 1845 caused the starvation of 1 million people. I’m not talking, “food insecurity”; I’m not talking “vulnerability to disease due to improper nutrition”. I am talking the real deal – death due to starvation.

          Oh, it’s a numbers game now is it? That’s an argumentum ad numerum fallacy.

          Have you a reading comprehension issue?

          I already said, “Granted, it isn’t as prevalent as 100 years ago,…, so your numbers game is also non sequitur too.

          My beef was with your initial erroneous assertion.

          Today that kind of thing is virtually unheard of.

          To which my reply was…“… but let’s not pretend it is virtually unheard of, at least not in a vast number of places in the world.”, which you have so far failed to rebut.

          You are equating 400 deaths (out of a population more than twice that of 1845) due to side effects of poor nutrition with the deaths of 1 million people due to starvation. How many more must have experienced “food insecurity” or susceptibility to the plethora of diseases of that time?

          More red herring and straw man. I was equating fuck all of the sort. I was pointing out that…

          100 years ago, the father abandons the family, and starvation ensues. Today that kind of thing is virtually unheard of.

          …is a loada bollocks. The father doesn’t even need to abandon the family. In a world where 98% of the starving are in developing countries, there is still poverty and starvation in the developing world AND it is regularly heard of, plus it’s on the increase.

          http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/number-brits-dying-malnutrition-hunger-8611991

          https://nsnbc.me/2013/12/05/poverty-uk-causes-alarming-rate-starvation-malnutrition/

          Dude, honestly.

          Yes, honestly.

          I don’t even know what to do with that.

          And I could give zero fucks, so pah!

        • Clement Agonistes

          LOL. You criticize the “fallacy” of evidence. I presented those numbers because you challenged my assertion. You presented a false equivalency, and changed the terminology (your cites) of the discussion – a red herring. “as prevalent” is an absurd characterization of my comment – a straw man fallacy. Lastly, your bluster is no substitute for evidence and logic.

          The good news is that i now know what to do with such absurd spin – ignore it. If you cannot do better than that, cuss away if it brings you joy – you bring nothing to the discussion from a rational perspective.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Jesus H.Christ on a rubber cross.

          LOL. You criticize the “fallacy” of evidence. I presented those numbers because you challenged my assertion.

          Evidence of what? Challenged your assertion of what? The assertion I challenged is that of starvation being virtually unheard of today…an assertion which is fuckwittery of the highest order.

          You presented a false equivalency, and changed the terminology (your cites) of the discussion – a red herring. “as prevalent” is an absurd characterization of my comment – a straw man fallacy.

          Yeah…when you can demonstrate where I did that instead of just stating it as a fact, maybe I’ll pay a bit of attention…otherwise it’s just a parcel of shite.

          Lastly, your bluster…

          Bluster? Ha…

          …is no substitute for evidence and logic.

          Spooooiiiiinnnngggg!

          The good news is that i now know what to do with such absurd spin – ignore it.

          Yeah…except you didn’t do that ya dick, so pah!

          If you cannot do better than that, cuss away if it brings you joy –

          Ah, a bit of tone trolling to add to your asininity.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_osQvkeNRM

          …you bring nothing to the discussion from a rational perspective.

          You’ll need to understand that I don’t give a flying fuck for your opinion in this matter. I bow to my peers on this site, one of whom you most certainly are not.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Today that kind of thing is virtually unheard of.

          Granted, it isn’t as prevalent as 100 years ago, but let’s not pretend it is virtually unheard of, at least not in a vast number of places in the world.

      • Michael Neville

        I’ve just read this post.

        They will cling to bad religion because of their wounds and deprivations.

        This is what Karl Marx referred to when he called religion the “opiate of the people.” People in poor living conditions with little hope of improvement will become or stay religious because it offers them solace. “There’ll be pie in the sky when you die” as Joe Hill said, albeit sarcastically.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Yes, I’ve been making that point from a Marxist perspective. The implicit point is that it is unrealistic for atheists to think that religion shall fade as long as poverty and oppression exists in such strength.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I read somewhere, Carrier perhaps, that the driving force behind Christianity’s early success was the charitable attitude it had to the needy, when other religions didn’t give a fuck.

          One could understand the attraction to a group who rally round and look after the sick and needy, when others neglected same. Who wouldn’t appreciate a stranger pitching up at the door with a bowl of hot broth and some firewood for the hearth if ya were laid up sick in bed with no one else to care for ya?

          It would also appeal to the philanthropist nature of those that had plenty and enjoyed the feelgood factor in helping others.

          Then once it had power, it became a carrot and stick routine.

          Of course in this modern age, secular institutions are doing just as much as religious institutions and even the poor in the first world countries can attain an education of some degree. Also, religion has lost its clout. So what was the opium of the masses even a century ago, is not so much these days. And more and more people are acknowledging that “there’ll be pie in the sky when ya die” is just pie in the sky.

          To quote Muhammad Ali…

          “You don’t want no pie in the sky when you die, You want something here on the ground while you’re still around.”

        • Ignorant Amos

          To follow on from the educational angle, particularly via the internet, I’ve just watched this YouTube video produced by a very ballsy Egyptian atheist.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7q6QWF9EDo&feature=youtu.be

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    Well, all is quite silent on the “broken people” who cling to religion or revert to it.

    In the field of gerontology, one runs into a lot of broken down old people whose story is difficult to uncover. You find them as they are: pretty alone. A lot of these are in the situation where no one gives a shit about them: neither family, society, or religion. If they are “lucky”, Medicaid will see to basic food, shelter, and maintenance drugs. Nothing fancy. If they are in a nursing home, they may agree to be wheeled down to the multi-purpose room when Brother Ernie comes to do his once a month “chapel service”. Brother Ernie don’t give a shit about Ethel who just sits there for the 45 minute gig which Brother Ernie does to just write it up on his monthly report to justify his paycheck with the church council…”community outreach” they call it. The nursing home don’t give a shit either as they are just doing this shit to put it in their marketing brochure. The family of Ethel…if any…just plain don’t give a shit, period. Since Ethel don’t say nuthing, we don’t know what she gives a shit about. She may think Brother Ernie is full of shit. But, she agrees to let them wheel her down there. Maybe she would agree to being wheeled anywhere, even to hell. So, in the midst of everyone who doesn’t give a shit…clearly, what if Ethel found a modicum of comfort in imagining the Old Man In The Sky giving a shit about her? She’s got her bed, some nasty clothes, some food, some medicine, and the Old Man. There’s a lot of that among old folk. So, if you take away the Old Man…I suppose to the typical atheist that just leaves Ethel no worse off. But, in her situation where no one truly gives a shit…what gives anyone else who don’t give a shit the right to fuck with Ethel’s Old Man?

    • Greg G.

      Reminds me of a movie line, “What if I define ‘crazy’ as working for 40 years so you can afford a nice place to die?” (or something like that)

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        Yeah, and it’s usually worse. The spend-down thing is interesting in a perverse way. What I have observed is that nursing homes really don’t like the the spend-downers because the POA is spending Mom’s real money…and so POA has a moral right to cop an attitude about this or that…unless it’s totally a don’t give a shit MIA family…which is okay with the nursing home. What the nursing home likes is the Medicaid gig…just bill it. Complaints go in a file somewhere….somewhere.

    • TheNuszAbides

      if Ethel is wandering online and praising the Old Man in comment threads, then yeah, she might get a nasty shock from an atheist jerk in response. (though surely there are still more ‘theist-safe spaces’ online, vigilantly patrolled by believer-moderators, than there are blogs like C.E., or the likelihood that Ethel’s going to stumbleupon 4chan or an uglier neck of reddit.) beyond this, how do you imagine anyone is “fucking with” her Old Man? if no one around her is giving a shit, that would seem to indicate she’s having her fantasy essentially in private, which by definition says nothing about what anyone else is doing (or even possibly could be doing) to “fuck with” the Old Man in her head, let alone deprive her of such activity. is Brother Ernie the only reason Ethel is ever reminded that her Old Man exists? do you know how to do this poetry of yours with maybe one or two more real-world nuances installed?

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        There is only one real-world instance…the one that has always been ground zero of the matter…that counts:

        That’s about whether Ethel has a right to say No to those who want her to die sooner than later.

        Here’s what’s going on these days. (What’s new is old stuff come back around.) Every hospital and nursing home has an unofficial backdoor “thang” they offer families or whoever who are economically motivated to off Ethel as soon as legally possible. Hospice “helps”. All ya have to do is hold Ethel’s hand to the document and get a scribble, and it’s all legal. Or, the longer route…you just sort of brow beat old people generally and let them know they are a “burden”…and hell, they might feel obligated….

        ….or not. Ethel’s Old Man might have another opinion on the matter.

        • TheNuszAbides

          too bad this Old Man only seems to have mere mortal instruments to articulate this [clear? from the horse’s mouth?] opinion when it seems to count the most for the rank’n’file.

          not that i’m not eager to hear a compelling argument for More Life!

          (What’s new is old stuff come back around.)

          oh, do expound, Mr. Ecclesiastes 1:9. paint us the glorious window that was Human Society’s Golden Age of Life Extension At Any Cost.

          is it too utilitarian for your sensibilities? how has it been so easy to install this back door thang? does it typically have nothing to do with direct observation of just how many people give or don’t give a shit on a case by case basis?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Historically, cultures apply and dispense with veneers quite often.

          Presently the cost of health care inspires legal alternative use for the health care POA in the economic interest of those other than the patient.

          But, the question as to whether everyone has a right to live has always been about the money.

          And money is the thing folks lie the most about. It’s not about the money?

          It’s always about the money.

          You said “cost” now didn’t you?

        • TheNuszAbides

          It’s always about the money

          and what, either theism has a solution to this problem, or atheism has to in order to somehow fix/improve humanity?

          even if you hate the expression “time is money” as much as i do, doesn’t either extending life for Ethel, or even convincing her it’s worthwhile in the first place, take time? i’m happy to volunteer and i’m not a booster for any system that Requires Money. but like you indicated elsewhere, creativity can make a living without generating income … if your only point railing against “Bob & Co.” is that [some amorphous monolith of] atheism needs more creativity to be in some way more viable, to somehow ‘overtake’ theism, then … oh. maybe more bedtime stories that don’t rely on appeals to authority/special pleading/circular reasoning? do you assume most atheists just kick back and give a contended sigh about how accurate our pictures of reality are? i get that where we find blogs we still most often find First World Problemz, so do you have different advice for atheists whose lives are actually at stake?

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmwAD7nHqaY

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          It IS always about the money.

          People lie about it.

          It’s not a railing actually, but rather an anthropological reality. It seems to me that Bob & Co., are kind of ferklempt that people hang on or revert to religion. I’m just sayin: it’s about the money. Poverty and God go together. People who are weak in the world are The Poor. The question as to whether there is a remedial solution to that poverty is a separate matter from the fact of the poverty…and how it engenders deities. I am highly interested in the history of rastafarianism. It seems to me that without the oppression of lower class Jamaicans, it would not have been born.

          Do you eat animals?

        • TheNuszAbides

          It IS always about the money

          i’m sorry if you thought i was dancing around a denial of this idea; i guess i’m more interested in either the “what now” from that starting point, or your impression of the chain of causality by which humans have come to the supposed constancy of it? what’s different if one says instead “it’s always about power“?

          Do you eat animals?

          yes, though i find the arguments of “Breeze” Harper increasingly compelling. i don’t have any difficulty “letting go” of meat for indefinite periods, but i am rather attached to various applications of eggs and milk.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Yes, money and power are roughly the same thing. Money is an abstraction of power.

          So. I question why the suffering of animals does not count for much in “humanity”. We tell ourselves pretty lies that somehow, for the most part, the suffering is a minority report. That’s not true. But, the “minority report” device is itself part of the currency of power…it buys an awful lot of shit. Even the Democrats use it in health care. Obamacare left a “small” segment of people totally out in the cold…they say….and then the rhetoric goes on about making the law better…yada, yada, yada. But. The people who are actually those “small” shit-out-of-luckers don’t get shit out of those who are using them as a utilitarian comparison statistic. They are scheduled to die next year, not 10 years from now when supposedly a good thing gets better.

          So. Why does it not matter what a pig goes through in factory farming to slaughter? In a world where many human beings are dehumanized…what’s the difference between the pig and the Gypsy or Black woman in the economy of those holding power? Not too many centuries ago, among the “civilized of Europe, they had Gypsy hunts….where upperclass men mounted horses and went out and bagged human beings, even children…who weren’t really “human”.

          Still, today Roma/Dom/Sinti (more proper terms) and Travelers in Ireland are still dehumanized. It’s about the money-power.

          Hatred of Vegans is interesting…even Vegans who never talk about being Vegan…they’re just doing it. I should think the topic of Vegan Hating a right fine one for a doctoral dissertation.

          And then on the other side, what is the economic-power root of meat-eating? I get that it is about satisfaction, but that satisfaction is on a fulcrum across from a power grab over another living being. If that’s all there is to being human, then that’s a good example of why humans on the bottom of the human pile have cause to conclude they’re totally fucked, and so, hell…why not…make Haile Selassie…God?

          I’m going to bed now because I am old.

        • TheNuszAbides

          and Brother Ernie doesn’t express this opinion? Ethel can’t articulate it? that certainly sounds like tough fantastical shit for Ethel. literal tragedy, even. what a shame the Old Man has to rely on mere mortals to get that special message across. does Ethel have any specific opinions regarding what the Old Man is actually capable of? is it just that there are no longer enough Brother Ernies (or improved versions of such) for every Ethel? or is it just a coincidence that the doings of puny mortals [who don’t give a shit] must reflect His Plan [for Ethel or anyone else Ethel’s ever heard of or anyone really]? does Ethel believe in an afterlife with this Old Man, and if so, why cling to this shitty life in which [apparently, by design] nobody else gives a shit? oh, wait … does faith not actually move mountains? wouldn’t that be a kick in the pants …

          i’ve seen hospice work at various points along the needs/wants spectrum … are you suggesting that any/most atheists especially dismiss aging/death/dying or expect any/every dying person to ‘go gently’? or do you have compelling evidence of some more-than-correlation between euthanasia policy and declared atheism? (i’m itching to guess where you might go with this, but i’m straining to keep that whole Being White thing in check.)

          anyway, the “explain your answer” portion of the OP seems particularly relevant to this “Old Man might have another opinion on the matter”. i realize it’d be more like “explain your vague reference” than “explain your answer“, but even so … any pointers?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I think people on the bottom identify with a deity when their right to live is denied by other human beings.

          Old age is but one exemplar of folk on the bottom. Consider disabled people…of all ages. But, all these and others on the bottom do not, in social fact, have a right to exist. As long as that goes on, so also notions of God. The two are married to each other.

        • TheNuszAbides

          education in reality seems pretty crucial. i don’t know where my mind would be right now if the bandwagon effect hadn’t been clearly explained to me in middle school. i’m not interested in [directly] fucking with Ethel’s Old Man. i’m interested in encouraging as much early education in logic and rhetoric as possible, and discouraging the saturation of under-25-year-olds in dogmatic horseshit. i don’t think those are magic bullets, but i do think they clear the way for more effective generation of both interesting and useful ideas (and consistent methods of communicating and establishing them). at the same time, i’m all for eating the rich, but that whole self-preservation thing that means so so much to poor old Ethel has an entirely different significance when i want to be subtle about it for the sake of, i dunno, kids or something.

          these and others on the bottom do not, in social fact, have a right to exist. As long as that goes on, so also notions of God. The two are married to each other.

          i sure wish prosperity gospel flocks would get that memo.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I’m hooked up with change.org. So, I see a lot of petitions from parents trying to get support for going up against insurance companies which have denied treatment to their children.

          Apparently, the question of extending life at any cost ain’t just for old people.

          Since you announced the “any cost” issue, such begs the question of where, in fact, the cut off should actually be for people. What is the number at which any uninsured or under-insured person should be said No to? Insurance officials make these decisions every day.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i’ve no love for the insurance racket; all it can look back to for operating ‘successfully’ is as an effectively [eli/whi]tes-only club. i used to like change.org’s grassroots-clicky style; with your emphasis on art i’d’ve thought movements.org was more your speed.

    • Kodie

      Yeah, I had to work all day Saturday and Sunday, come home and there’s 18 threads in my email, so I start from the bottom and go up. I finally got to yours. You’re talking about people who are already broken and clinging to religion. I was talking about religion running their business by breaking people and offering them the cure. I don’t have a problem if that’s how people get their comfort, if that is all they have left. I would much rather address the problem by getting people to give a shit about each other. You see where was the religion for Brother Ernie? He didn’t personally visit the old folks, he didn’t sit with each one of them and give them some time? He’s the religious one using his religion to bait the old folks. Hey you’re going to die soon, better get on board before it’s too late, and then leave. Religious people are always substituting a fake action, a platitude, or whatever, for actual action. Brother Ernie thinks he’s doing a good deed for these people. Religious people come here thinking they have to warn us, and when we dismiss their childish panic fantasies, they accuse us of being pigs and that is why we won’t accept their wisdom. Where is the reality?

      I am not about taking away what comforts people, but on the other hand, religious people will often go ahead and insult people because they think they have to save my soul or something. They will insult grieving parents, or old people, they don’t care if it’s really cruel or badly timed. I would not say to someone at a critical moment, hey there’s no god. I am here on the internet on an atheist blog having the conversation when Christians and other theists come to it. I am not going to them, or opening my mouth to have an argument just because someone says a religious thing. If they want to praise Jesus for something, and they’re not in my face about how Jesus this or that, I don’t really care. I think there are a lot of Ethel’s out there, but there are also so many Brother Ernies who think they are doing the lord’s work, so why would Ethel be so lonely? If the caregivers in a caregiving facility are neglecting her social needs, and bringing in Brother Ernie to serve some purpose he doesn’t serve either, then what kind of savage people are we to leave Ethel in her fantasy instead of giving her live and present company by the people whose actual career choice is made by a need to help people?

      You have it backwards.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        I agree with you. One thing I think about is the black box of the situation. Ethel, who doesn’t say anything, may well have some established religious orientation…what Brother Ernie’s impact on it is…who knows? Not good to be sure…one could hope for no impact.

        I saw Brother Ernie in the flesh while visiting a love one. He was from the Gideons.

        • Kodie

          Does Brother Ernie take time to sit personally with anyone, or is he just doing his “good deed” and leaves? I feel like that’s another thing religious people do is offer to pray for someone without actually giving their own time right at the moment someone needs them. They say the thing like all other phatic expression, and is meaningless. It fills the space of any other small talk. If someone tells you something bad, and your answer was “I care”, wouldn’t that seem weird? You either ask for more details so you can listen, or you look for the easy way out of that detour. The religious think they are doing all the charity, but are they? Aren’t they just dressing regular human social interaction with a religious brand?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I really dislike Brother Ernie as a person. No, he just comes in and does is gig and leaves. But, the thing with people, even religious, there’s good and unhelpful and in between. Another act I’ve seen at the home is a school teacher who comes in with music students and they just play and sing old hymns. They’re lay people from a church, but they don’t preach…just do the old songs….and I think the old folks there like them better than the preachers.