Morality’s Ruby Slippers

red shoesNear the end of the movie The Wizard of Oz, after the wizard has been exposed as a fraud, he still tries to grant the requests of Dorothy and her friends. The scarecrow wanted brains, the lion courage, and the tin man a heart. To the scarecrow, the wizard gives a diploma; to the lion, a medal labeled “Courage”; and to the tin man, a pocket watch shaped like a heart. They’re delighted, but the wizard doesn’t give them what they wanted. Instead, he gives them only an acknowledgment of what they already had.

Throughout their journey these characters had already been developing the very traits that they said that they wanted most of all. Though the wizard no longer stands behind a curtain pretending to be what he isn’t, he still takes credit for giving everyone what they already had.

God as wizard

Sound like Someone we know? Christians tell us that God gives us morality, purpose, logic, and meaning, though this is the same morality, purpose, logic, and meaning that other believers get from their god(s) and that atheists get from reality.

The Christian may respond that objective or absolute version of these traits must come from a supernatural source, but until the Christian shows that there are objective versions of these traits, this is an empty claim.

No, these are traits that we have always had. They’re borrowed by Christianity, and much is made of God’s generously giving us back what we already had.

Christianity’s most generous gesture would be to drop the imaginary gatekeeper role. Draw back the curtain to show Christians that the power to improve or destroy is (and has always been) ours, not God’s. Help Christians grow and reject their dependence on the supernatural.

Want a better society? It’ll happen only as a result of our hard work. Want to improve yourself? There’s no higher power guiding your progress in AA or any other self-help program. If you went through such a program and have gotten rid of some dependence, congratulations, because it was you (with the help of supportive friends and family) that made that radical change. God did nothing.

Use your ruby slippers

At the end of the movie, it’s Dorothy’s turn. Glinda the Good Witch tells Dorothy that her ruby slippers can return her home. She had been able to get what she wanted all along.

And so it is with us. Morality and meaning are to us what Dorothy’s ruby slippers were to her. We’ve always had the answer, and the supernatural claims were all lies. We just need to realize that.

Dorothy: You’re a very bad man.

Wizard: Oh, no, my dear; I’m a very good man.
I’m just a very bad wizard.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 1/8/14.)

Image credit: Cary Bass-Deschenes, flickr, CC

 

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  • blogcom

    We’ve always had the answer …….how so? You mean like the Germanic barbarians and others- Christianity’s influence on civilization is not in dispute.
    Society has reaped the benefits of a traditional civilization based on Christianity like it or not.
    At least thus far.

    • lady_black

      Nope.

    • John Morris

      Germanic barbarians? you mean the ones the pagan Romans were fighting with? If you believe the pagan Romans they were the civilized ones before Christianity was even a thing

      • Joe

        The Romans would never exaggerate the savagery of foreign tribes now, would they?

      • Jim Jones

        When do we beat the pagans at the border? They’re laughing at us, at our stupidity. And now they are beating us economically. They are not our friend, believe me. But they’re killing us economically.

        Rome has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems.

        (APPLAUSE)

        Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When the pagans sends us people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

        But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people.

        It’s coming from more than the pagans. It’s coming from all over east and west of Rome, and it’s coming probably — probably — from the north. But we don’t know. Because we have no protection and we have no competence, we don’t know what’s happening. And it’s got to stop and it’s got to stop fast.

        (APPLAUSE)

        Pagan terrorism is eating up large portions of Europe. They’ve become rich. I’m in competition with them.

      • TheNuszAbides

        the ones Rome fought with for a bit, then decided were worth hiring to overextend the Empire’s conquests; who conveniently converted to various aspects of Xianity around the same time as Constantine, then grew bored and sacked Rome once in a while; who carried on the pretense of the HRE for well over a thousand years after the Western empire collapsed.

    • Mark Landes

      I greatly dispute xtianties supposed claim on civilization. Hammurabi’s code (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi) and the Code of Ur-Nammu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Ur-Nammu)existed 1000-2000 of years before xtianty and is recognizes the as the start of civilization and building societies. Laws and social contracts are what make societies successful not religion morality.

      Those laws also pre-date the best guess of when Moses received the Abrahamic god’s law by 200-500 years.

      “Scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person.[8][9] Rabbinical Judaism calculated a lifespan of Moses corresponding to 1391–1271 BCE;[10] Jerome gives 1592 BCE,[11] and James Ussher 1571 BCE as his birth year.[12][a]” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses

      • blogcom

        Wikipedia has a specific slant and is unreliable- read up on the controversy surrounding this website over the years.
        Religious morality was broadly supported by laws and social contracts.

        • guerillasurgeon

          Wikipedia has approximately the same rate of error as Encyclopaedia Britannica. Someone checked.

        • Jim Jones

          I don’t trust them on religion or crime.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you mean, in areas of human endeavor where anything open-source is most saturated with overblown/misinformed/deluded opinion?

        • Jim Jones

          Sounds right. Both are areas where thought is more important than rote memorization.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i try to save my wikipediting energy for simple nitpicks of clarity, punctuation etc., and hunting down a citation when arm’s reach permits. too exhausting to take issue with the editorializing and “just-so” that slips into anything with an overlap of religion + history/legend.

        • Mark Landes

          Weak argument as those Wikipedia rely on Christians and Jews for the dates of Moses life and expert analysis of the dates associated to the time frame of the laws mentioned. What evidence do you have that the FACTS the actual data points in those links are incorrect? I would take the facts mentioned in Wikipedia that are linked to other corroborating data and reference before I would accept the “Internet’s” ideas of reliability. Just because there might be some issues with bias in some parts of Wikipedia it does not negate the facts stated.

          By your own statement laws and social contracts occurred before religious morality as they only broadly “supported” not the other way around.

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

          What good bit of morality has Christianity given us that we didn’t already know? It gave us quite a bit of bad stuff, but I can’t think of much on the other side of the balance.

        • TheNuszAbides

          yeah, still waiting for the open-and-shut Uniqueness of ____ism case.

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

        Laws and social contracts are what make societies successful not religion morality.

        How can we test such a claim? One option would be to learn from those who’ve seen how things work; from Chris Hedges:

            The anemic liberal class continues to assert, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that human freedom and equality can be achieved through the charade of electoral politics and constitutional reform. It refuses to acknowledge the corporate domination of traditional democratic channels for ensuring broad participatory power. Law has become, perhaps, the last idealistic refuge of the liberal class. Liberals, while despairing of legislative bodies and the lack of genuine debate in political campaigns, retain a naive faith in law as an effective vehicle for reform. They retain this faith despite a manipulation of the legal system by corporate power that is as flagrant as the corporate manipulation of electoral politics and legislative deliberation. Laws passed by Congress, for example, deregulated the economy and turned it over to speculators. Laws permitted the pillaging of the U.S. Treasury on behalf of Wall Street. Laws have suspended vital civil liberties including habeas corpus and permit the president to authorize the assassination of U.S. citizens deemed complicit in terror. The Supreme Court, overturning legal precedent, ended the recount in the 2000 Florida presidential election and anointed George W. Bush as president. (Death of the Liberal Class, 8–9)

        I’m not saying that the law is somehow insignificant, but that it is insufficient. That is the lesson that everyone learns who understands that there is a key difference between “letter of the law” and “spirit of the law”. Anecdotally, attitudes on this matter may be on the mend. While at a Stanford conference on the separation of church and state, I asked a member of the law faculty whether students had too much trust in law; he responded that no, it was actually the faculty who are guilty of this. So perhaps the situation will be rectified, in the way Planck described when he said [paraphrased] “Science advances one funeral at a time.”

        In addition to law, I claim we need a shared vision of the kind of world we want to bring into existence. This vision will necessarily have quite a few characteristics similar to religion. Here is an example, described by sociologist Peter Berger:

        Even if it were true that socialism is the only rational conclusion, this would not explain its dissemination among specific social groups. Modern science, for example, may also be described as the only rational conclusion for certain questions about nature—and yet it took millennia before it came to be established in specific groups in a specific corner of the world. Ideas neither triumph nor fail in history because of their intrinsic truth or falsity. Furthermore, the affinity between intellectuals and socialism is clearly more than a matter of rational arguments. It is suffused with values, with moral passion, in many cases with profoundly religious hope—in sum, with precisely those characteristics which permit speaking of a socialist myth (in a descriptive, nonpejorative sense.) (Facing Up to Modernity, 58)

        Note that my argument here is not rationalistic, based on some model of human nature, but empirical. Law and social contract doesn’t seem to be enough for humans.

        • Tommy

          Note that my argument here is not rationalistic

          That’s obvious.

        • Mark Landes

          I would agree that we need a shared vision and I was thinking about a Humanist belief system would work. Not from a religious standpoint but from the betterment of all mankind rather than specifically for a country.

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

          What Humanist belief system do you think is best working, as judged by the evidence?

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

          Ahh. Have you thoughts on the sub-replacement birth rates in the countries you’ve referenced?

        • Mark Landes

          Not sure what you are asking. What does sub-replacement birth rates matter? That are are fewer people on the only planet that we have proof that sustains life within our current technological capability. I have no problem with that.

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

          Do you believe that those Humanist cultures will be sustained, given the sub-replacement birth rates? Note that there are other cultures on the planet, with different values, with birth rates well above replacement level.

          My point is that if your idea of a successful culture leads to extinction, that is a basis to question your judgment.

        • Mark Landes

          And your proof that people moving to those successful humanist to take advantage of how good life is there are somehow going to discard the reason that the country is successful is what?

          I would prefer that other countries see how successful these countries are and adopt their morality. Get ride of all religion and we could actually be successful other wise the divisions that religion creates will destroy us all.

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

          And your proof that people moving to those successful humanist to take advantage of how good life is there are somehow going to discard the reason that the country is successful is what?

          I think it is a plausible danger; my reasoning is that many aspects of culture operate on a multi-generation timescale. We can look at the failure to establish democracy in many of the Arab Spring countries; as it turns out, democracy is really hard to pull off. Those unwilling to consider this danger as plausible would appear to be dogmatic ideologists.

          Another suspicion I have is that the Humanism you espouse (which I can only indirectly guess via your comment linking to Bob’s Does Christianity Lead to a Better Society?) leads to a loss of will to press onwards and upwards. Humans can be motivated by the promise of a white picket fence until they get it; once they do, it turns out that is not enough. But perhaps I am wrong in this and Fukuyama right with his The End of History and the Last Man; perhaps consumerism and the modern liberal state is the best we can do. Maybe our imagination really is that pathetic.

          I would prefer that other countries see how successful these countries are and adopt their morality. Get ride of all religion and we could actually be successful other wise the divisions that religion creates will destroy us all.

          I have never seen evidence which indicates that religion has any increased ability to cause division than other bases. I’ve seen plenty of correlation, but I happen to believe that correlation ⇏ causation. Perhaps you have some evidence I’ve missed?

        • Mark Landes

          I have never seen evidence which indicates that religion has any increased ability to cause division than other bases.

          So the Spanish and other inquisition against Jews, crusades, jihads, killing people for blasphemy laws, Donald Trump’s supports are mostly if not all evangelical Christians, the holocaust of Jews, genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Sudan, terrorist attacks on US and England soil and vested interests in other parts of the world, Catholics vs Protestants in Ireland ….

          Humanists believe in the betterment of all mankind not just our individual satisfaction. We also believe that mankind can only grow, survive and thrive by working together. That can easily be passed to the next generation or learn in a an already existing democracy. The key part is to keep religion and dogma out of the political scape. You still have not proof only your feeling that is is a problem.

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

          LB: I have never seen evidence which indicates that religion has any increased ability to cause division than other bases.

          ML: So the Spanish and other inquisition against Jews, crusades, jihads, killing people for blasphemy laws, Donald Trump’s supports are mostly if not all evangelical Christians, the holocaust of Jews, genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Sudan, terrorist attacks on US and England soil and vested interests in other parts of the world, Catholics vs Protestants in Ireland ….

          How do those examples demonstrate “that religion has any increased ability to cause division than other bases”? I see absolutely zero comparison to non-religious division.

          Humanists believe in the betterment of all mankind not just our individual satisfaction.

          Yeah, and once you have two different definitions of “betterment”, you have division. Did you somehow think that humans would automagically settle upon exactly one [general] understanding of “betterment”—one which lines up with your view, at least in general outline?

          That can easily be passed to the next generation or learn in a an already existing democracy. The key part is to keep religion and dogma out of the political scape. You still have not proof only your feeling that is is a problem.

          Heh, that isn’t even happening in the first democracy to exist: the US. But perhaps I ought to ask you to define ‘religion’. Let’s see if you can avoid being ideological in your definition.

        • Mark Landes

          This discussion is no longer of any value. The fact that you do not understand how divisive religion is and blindly hid behind textual tricks, clearly shows you have no evidence nor can present any further value on this discussion.

          All your suppositions are based upon faith, belief and fears. I wish you all the best.

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

          The fact that you do not understand how divisive religion is …

          Ideas about how the world ought to be can be extremely divisive. The question is whether there is some special essence to ‘religion’ which adds extra, unnecessary division. Such a thing ought to be established by evidence, no? And such a thing would necessarily involve comparison of well-sampled data sets, no?

          … blindly hid behind textual tricks …

          I’m sorry, what “textual tricks” have I employed?

          All your suppositions are based upon faith, belief and fears.

          Ironically, this is a claim without evidence.

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

          Ahh yes, Christianity is precisely one religion where anyone who claims to be a Christian automatically is one. Just like Islam is precisely one religion, such that the 9/11 terrorists are just like the friendly Muslim I met at my local coffee shop. I thought we had gotten beyond such terrible stereotyping by the end of the 20th century; we’re now well into the 21st.

        • Greg G.

          Ahh yes, Christianity is precisely one religion where anyone who claims to be a Christian automatically is one.

          Not only that, anyone who claims to be a Christian can judge who is a Christian and who ain’t.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Ahh yes, Christianity is precisely one religion where anyone who claims to be a Christian automatically is one.”

          Well, Jesus says they are Christians they tell us. I can’t remember Jesus saying anything despite people claiming he is alive- pretty sure NONE of those people are Jesus!

        • Nonsensical

          Being Cheistian is a very specific thing, and it involves being a part of the Church God left for us.

          You cannot merely claim membership out of the blue, nor have some mentally ill anime avatar make a strawman.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “You cannot merely claim membership out of the blue, nor have some mentally ill anime avatar make a strawman.”

          Huh, God disagrees. Saying God says stuff without actually requiring God to say anything is sure great Christian honesty Christian honest people like you have taught me….
          what is this anime you type of?

    • GubbaBumpkin

      Christianity’s influence on civilization is not in dispute.

      I imagine you’re talking about the crusades, the witch hunts and the inquisitions.

      • Annerdr

        Don’t be silly. Blogcon means the denial of scientific facts, the silencing of scientists, the silencing of women, the support for slavery, and the abuse of children.

      • Jim Jones

        And the triangular trade.

      • islandbrewer

        Man, I didn’t expect you to bring up the Inquisition.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAn7baRbhx4

        • Greg G.

          Nooobody expects….

    • Phil Rimmer

      As a Corrective I recommend Charles Freeman’s The Closing of the Western Mind. Constantinople and Rome are not on the rout-map of our eventual Enlightenment. The Dark Ages are to be contrasted with the brilliance of Ancient Hellen, its treasuring and Augmentation in “The House of Wisdom” (Jim Al Kahlili) and Hellen’s rebirth in Spain and Italy, peaking perhaps…well…now.

      The Dark Ages had a few notable glimmerings. Greek dribbled back a little but there was far from sufficient to create a thriving intellectual culture like in the East.

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

        Do you know any reputable scholars who still use the phrase “The Dark Ages”? I specifically refer to the derogatory sense, as if the people living in that age were being particularly irresponsible with the project of bettering humankind.

        • Tommy

          So you don’t take issue with era, just the name?

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

          I am interested in an accurate description of that era which does not distort manners in order to support a particular ideology.

        • Tommy

          The Dim Age it is, then.

        • Phil Rimmer

          They certainly tend not to use that phrase these days. There is certainly quite a push back from Catholic historians who view it as something of a theological peak and a Golden Age. Historians don’t so overtly pass negative judgement these days, but whilst they are finding these “glimmers” of intellectual activity (acknowledged in my rhetoric) that argue against the absolutist epithet Dark Age, the contrast remains. It was a darker age for the west. The isolated sparks of genius never reached the critical mass to produce a thriving intellectual culture.

          Historians have learned more of all cultures in the interim and whilst the gloom of Europe was not absolute they have also learned increasingly the richness of the east and its truly thriving intellectual culture creating a proper market place of new ideas on all fronts. My Jim Al Kahlili reference should be joined by his book Pathfinders.

          This account of my cultural roots is a thing of real substance to me. Democritus, on so many fronts, has his two modes of knowing woven into my own sense of what knowing is. A culture of science and art from the east so rich it can with unruffled composure produce an atheist poet that spoke to modern me and sweeten the rest of my brief life. A scientist/philosopher with the clarity of thought that could see that identity died with the man.

          I had a book when younger Timetable of Science and Technology I think it was called (my son since swiped it). It detailed discoveries and inventions and put them on a time line over its hundreds of pages starting from deep pre-history. The two great shocks for me was that China invented much stuff a thousand years and more before the West did. (Drilling for gas 2,000 years ago, I think.) The other was this stark absence of entries for Europe after the Roman fall until Bacon, but the prodigious creativity of eastern cultures, Islamic and Hindu, even on social fronts like healthcare and the provision of free hospitals.

          We may have had the occasional brilliant monk concocting deep philosophical theological might-bes by candle light in his lonely cell. But there is no sense of a culture collectively engaged in creating a contiguous account of all of everyday experience and working to everyday social betterment, the precise mathematics of refraction, the height of the atmosphere (52 miles), the psychology of distance scaling and that optical illusion is everyday what we must live with, that free healthcare is civilising.

        • Michael Neville

          I was once involved in a discussion of the Dark Ages. I argued that one of the most important pre-mechanical inventions for farming, the horse collar, came out of that period. I discovered that while the horse collar became widely used in Europe in the 12th Century CE it had been invented by the Chinese in the 3rd Century BCE.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I suspect there is still a long way to go before Western Solipsism is finally brought fully into the light. The blinkers are still very much on.

          A Muslim friend of mine (quite long ago) ran a story/play writing competition to reestablish Modern Muslim identities with this richer, open and rather magnificent past. His intent to make Muslim identity cultural and far less dependent on mere religion. I have always been happy to help. We all win with that.

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

          It was a darker age for the west.

          It is rather different to suggest that the fall of a great empire would stymie certain intellectual pursuits for a while, than to use an epithet which explicitly lays the blame at the feet of religion (and in particular, Christianity).

          The other was this stark absence of entries for Europe after the Roman fall until Bacon, but the prodigious creativity of eastern cultures, Islamic and Hindu, even on social fronts like healthcare and the provision of free hospitals.

          That’s interesting, because eyeglasses seem to have been invented in Italy between 1268 and 1269. Beethoven could compose music while deaf, but it’s not clear how well one could do empirical research with sufficiently bad vision.

          But there is no sense of a culture collectively engaged in creating a contiguous account of all of everyday experience and working to everyday social betterment, the precise mathematics of refraction, the height of the atmosphere (52 miles), the psychology of distance scaling and that optical illusion is everyday what we must live with, that free healthcare is civilising.

          So did Bacon, Galileo, Newton, et al just sort of pop out of nowhere, such that people who had the impact they did could have appeared in any other of the times and locations you’ve specified and spark the rise of modern science, such that ember turns to flame and flame does not get puffed out? Or might you not be valuing enough of the prerequisites of modern science?

        • Phil Rimmer

          See where optics comes from

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

          Further, Ibn Sahl is the first to get the laws of refraction mathematically correct. Ibn al-Hayatham understood the mechanism to be about different speeds of light within the media and the bend that would happen at the interface! (This best described as imagining columns of soldiers perhaps five abreast with linked arms. They march into a field of corn from cropped grass at an angle less than 90 degrees. The first to hit the corn get slowed up. The outer soldiers still marching fast on grass swivel the column around, more towards ninety degrees.)

          There is simply nothing like this kind of insight at the time for western thinkers.

          More to the point, glimmers like glasses are glimmers (and rather at the point of transition between the two).

          Even Catholic art historian, Kenneth Clark, in his magisterial essay, “Civilisation ” (intending Western Civilisation) talked of the Dark Ages (sic) after the Roman collapse and that Western Civilisation survived “By the Skin of its Teeth”. because of the Carolingian Renaissance, a little, mostly clerical affair.

          The chalk and cheese difference is simply the relative, literal poverty of the of the Catholic venture at the time compared to the prodigious wealth of the Islamic. Nor was this wealth squandered but put to wide intellectual use. Through the thirteenth century the pendulum swung back to the west, precisely because this treasury of wealth became more fully available there.

        • epeeist

          The chalk and cheese difference is simply the relative, literal poverty of the of the Catholic venture at the time compared to the prodigious wealth of the Islamic.

          Hence Gerard of Cremona’s lament about “the poverty of the Latins”.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Certainly the sectarian squabbles left space for the Islam explosion in the area. I wonder if this self inflicted impoverishment was later maintained by, for instance, an architectural arms race in ridiculous spending on Cathedrals to try and match the magnificence of Mosque-cathedrals.?

        • Michael Neville

          Big cathedrals were built before the Muslims came on the scene. The Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was completed in 537, about 30 years before Mohammad was born.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I fully grant that but impoverishment followed the schisms and may well have been compounded by the mass of huge gothic enterprises across Europe hundreds of years later.

        • Michael Neville

          I understand and agree with your point. There’s a market town in Yorkshire called Beverley, about halfway between Hull and York. Beverley Minster is an absolutely gorgeous example of the English Perpendicular style of Gothic architecture. It’s larger than many cathedrals and is said to have brought the Percy family (Earls and Dukes of Northumberland) to near penury.

          http://www.ncem.co.uk/uploads/ncem/mainsite/images/website_pages_placeholder/Beverley_Minster.JPG

        • Joe

          I never thought I’d see a picture of Beverley Minster in these blog posts!

          It’s my parents home town. I used to live there. Beautiful town but too small for me at the time.

        • Michael Neville

          I had an aunt and uncle, now both deceased, who lived in Beverley. They met during WW2 when he was in the Royal Navy and she was in the US Navy, both stationed in Gibraltar. After the war they got married and he became a solicitor in Beverley. I visited them a couple of times, the last time in 1989 just before I retired from the Navy. Their son, my cousin, is an architect and he gave me a tour of Beverley Minster.

          It’s a beautiful church and way too big for a town of less than 30,000. Besides the Minster there’s also St. Mary’s Church, more suitable for a market town.

          http://www.hu17.net/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/IMG_1009.JPG

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

          Let us suppose you are correct. Let us suppose that Europe was an intellectual wasteland in comparison to India and China and the Middle East. Why then did modern science arise in Europe and not India or China or the Middle East?

        • Phil Rimmer

          Modern science arose with the likes of Democritus and the Greeks, continued with good progress (better than we used to think) through the middle east and Islamic culture then moved to the commercially ascendant west by the start of the fourteenth century

          This is about the start of the Renaissance and its roots in the intellectual wealth treasured and grown in Islamic culture in al-Andalus and traded in through Italy with gatekeepers exactly like epeeist’s Gerard of Cremona. But also as noted the likes of Venetian traders bringing wealth of all sorts that could be lavished on artistry and great civic works. Money and trade get clever minds working like no other….

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

          But surely the Middle East had been trading with China and India for a while. If the Europeans brought approximately zero assets to the table, surely modern science could have arisen in the Middle East, China, and/or India. Why did this not happen?

        • Phil Rimmer

          “We” really got our commercial mojo going through the Renaissance and after, We had more productive land in a broad temperate lateral band. We properly experienced the wealth hike of under-populated, under–exploited geography just like the US was to do 500 years later. Best of all we shook off the dead hand of cloned people (Catholics) inventing the individual (!) and the commercial self. Roughly speaking the number of scientists/technologists of some sort that could be supported went from say ten in the fifteenth century up an order of magnitude each century subsequently.

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

          Ahh, so pretty much the only thing Europe brought to the table was better land for growing crops and natural resources? The idea would be that there were no social assets of any appreciable value. As you have repeatedly indicated, they had nothing but glimmers to hold up in comparison to the awesome that was the Middle East, China, and Greece?

        • Phil Rimmer

          Without wealth and a little security there really isn’t time t look up. The odd Bishop fed by others might manage a little….

          Awesome…haha…is a relative term here

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

          Do you have any scholarly references on the stuff we’ve been talking about, here? I’m interested in seeing some of your claims tested by peer review. I am very interested in what it takes for science to be healthy and that requires understanding what its prerequisites are. I’m less interested in the prerequisites as dictated by Enlightenment dogma and more interested in the prerequisites as suggested by the evidence.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Read Physicist Jim al Kahlili’s books quoted you for starters (Pathfinders, The House of Wisdom). John Gribbin’s Science, a History. As someone interested in and having a job in science and technology and with a Physics degree I have quite a pragmatic approach to science. Popper not Kuhn is as philosophical on the matter as I usually get. A few others here would be much stronger.

          Enlightenment thinking can have no purchase on this stuff, surely?

          Show me, if you have time, Catholic Science culture pre thirteenth century (to exclude the turning point when Islam suffered its own fairly rapid darkening…) to show me what I am missing.

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

          Those are good starting points, but how about works by historians where they are going to be subject to the intense peer review that a layperson like myself cannot do? Surely you know that a person with superior knowledge in some field can make many false theses appear true. I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable of Europe between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance/​Enlightenment to compete with you in this realm.

          What doesn’t yet fit, in my mind, is just why modern science took off in Europe and not in the other places you’ve mentioned. You’ve noted some necessary prerequisites, but I’m not sure you’ve hit sufficiency in your list. It rather looks like you’re working very hard to discredit any contribution Christians qua Christians have made to any of the prerequisites. And I take there to be quite a few social prerequisites: (i) some sufficient approximation of egalitarianism; (ii) a balanced focus on both the theoretical and the practical; (iii) belief that humans are well-suited to understanding reality increasingly well; (iv) a belief that there is that much more to discover; (v) fortitude to embark on a path of discovery which may not bear significant fruit for two hundred years.

          In the background of my comments has been the belief that scientific and technological superiority does not necessarily lead to better society. See for example this summary of Bertrand Russell’s thoughts on the matter, from his The Impact of Science on Society. This is combined with a theological suspicion that God has designed reality to thwart too much scientific and technological advancement if/when humans are being awful to each other. What this suspicion predicts is that improvements in the treatment of fellow human beings will lead to improvements in scientific and technological endeavor. That prediction is falsifiable.

        • Phil Rimmer

          In reverse order

          In the background of my comments has been the belief that scientific and technological superiority does not necessarily lead to better society.

          I think I would broadly agree. Of itself there is no necessary, direct path to betterment. If we look at happiness, beyond a threshold of meeting needs, happiness scales to fit the space allowed it by your psyche. Happiness is best served by being distracted from your own navel to enjoy mutuallity or if you are a bit aspie, adventuring.

          The boons of technology though can serve these past times well enough. Further we might properly assert the moral necessity for science, is to do our day job of relieving suffering and anxiety, thwarting those slings and arrows, one day tsunamis and earthquakes, now plagues and cankers, colic and jock itch. But also (though its a race between kill or cure) extending our mutual adventure down the generations finding sustainability and safety in a young planetary disk still playing billiards.

          Science grows freedoms of choice and this is how we might slowly emerge, slowly learn to have something that starts to properly feel like freedom of will.

          Going back.

          Modern science started before Europe. There is no new quality, utterly original that could only arise because, X. Experiments were performed by Eratosthenes. He didn’t need Bacon.

          Your list of requirements notably lacks the key requirement I’ve been flagging repeatedly of wealth/leisure, and I will add a second here. A lack of cultural intellectual oppression.

          In fifteenth century Japan in the matter of guns and ordnance they were quite the European equal. In many ways ready to surge ahead. The Samurai, with decades of training in the sword, and perhaps channeling Indiana Jones street market encounter, banned the whole enterprise. Science was pretty much closed down as a result being seen as a threat to the power of the ruling elite.

          The sudden shutting down of the Islamic scientific and philosophical enterprise, followed increasingly insistent assertions from the ruling elite that everything was now known and that it was OK to stop now. Stop now.

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

          Science grows freedoms of choice and this is how we might slowly emerge, slowly learn to have something that starts to properly feel like freedom of will.

          Possibly. Works like Fahrenheit 451 and Nineteen Eighty-Four paint alternatives we ought not ignore. Should a terrorist attack or two strike the US, Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein plan to ram through a bill through Congress which would require all internet-connected devices to silently accept a rootkit delivered by internet. Do you think such an ability would be overall good, or bad, for human freedom? Who knows, even contentious scientific results could be construed as threats to national security.

          Your list of requirements notably lacks the key requirement I’ve been flagging repeatedly of wealth/leisure, and I will add a second here. A lack of cultural intellectual oppression.

          Sure. There was much less intellectual oppression before the Reformation; the cultural environment inhabited by Enlightenment philosophes was much more oppressive than had existed even a hundred years before. I don’t know how the requisite availability of wealth/​leisure varied between Europe, the Middle East, and China in the period prior to the scientific revolution; do you?

          Now, why didn’t I see much of a hint of (i)–(v) in your comments? Do you think they aren’t actually that important, or mostly happen automatically?

        • Phil Rimmer

          I think I specifically identified science’s potential for being mishandled with my kill or cure comment. For me this is simply turning up the moral volume. Like the innocent and dangerous Iron Giant stumbling into things and causing harms, we have to grow into our burgeoning capacities fast enough. I could even argue that acquiring powers is moralising, by amping up the stakes and forcing us to notice the same sorts of conflict at different levels of consequence.

          As an aside on bugging. I will admire a society more the more it can tolerate free speech. Likewise I will admire a society more the more there is mutual trust.

          Like charity, bugging marks a failure, a “can do better”. Bugging with due and continual shame and a wish to grow to not need it may be an effective moral path.

          the cultural environment inhabited by Enlightenment philosophes was much more oppressive than had existed even a hundred years before.

          Could you illustrate? Is this a qualitative, quantitative thing?

          I was not overly persuaded by your list one to five. I thought yes of course, but….. I wanted to qualify or change most of them. I could see arrangements of individuals with different characteristics achieving scientific progress. I thought the idea of societal chaos impeding progress was obvious and hardly a good candidate divine moderation.

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

          I could even argue that acquiring powers is moralising, by amping up the stakes and forcing us to notice the same sorts of conflict at different levels of consequence.

          I think the Nazi gas chambers and slavery-via-globalism put this to question. Or you can look at how the austerity forced on Greece cut its GDP by 25%—something which had only ever before happened during wartime. Bureacratic rationality allows vast separation between cause and effect; evolution did not prepare us for that.

          As an aside on bugging. I will admire a society more the more it can tolerate free speech.

          Ahh, are you aware of what is going on at some of the elite US universities? Even Berkeley couldn’t handle protestors for a controversial speaker—Berkeley, an origin point of the free speech movement. Perhaps they bought into Marcuse’s “liberating tolerance”?

          I’ve been meaning to do a study of free speech; what are the social conditions which result in it being abridged? Maybe it can be most free when it is most powerless.

          Could you illustrate? Is this a qualitative, quantitative thing?

          I’m keying off of historian Stephen Toulmin’s work; here he is responding to a received view:

              We also assumed that, after 1600, the yoke of religion was lighter than before; whereas the theological situation was in fact less onerous in the mid-16th century than it became from 1620 to 1660. Despite his radical ideas, Nicholaus Copernicus in the 1530s or 1540s did not suffer the rigid Church discipline that Galileo was exposed to a hundred years later. After the Council of Trent, the confrontation between the Protestant and Catholic heirs to historic Christianity took on a fresh intolerance. This set “papists” and “heretics” at one another’s throats, and made the Thirty Years’ War, from 1618 to 1648, a particularly bloody and brutal conflict. In any event, the cultural break with the Middle Ages did not need to wait for the 17th century: it had taken place a good 100 or 150 years earlier. When we compare the spirit of 17th-century thinkers, and the content of their ideas, with the emancipatory ideas of 15th-century writers, indeed, we may even find 17th-century innovations, in science and philosophy beginning to look less like revolutionary advances, and more like a defensive counter-revolution. (Cosmopolis, 16–17)

          My suspicion is that social stability in Europe could tolerate less free speech in the 17th century than the 15th and 16th centuries. But I’m not sure there’s a nice, quantified account for you. But if you require it for me to sustain my point, I’ll ask for your quantified account. :-)

          I was not overly persuaded by your list one to five. I thought yes of course, but….. I wanted to qualify or change most of them. I could see arrangements of individuals with different characteristics achieving scientific progress. I thought the idea of societal chaos impeding progress was obvious and hardly a good candidate divine moderation.

          Well it’s hard for me to respond without seeing the magnitude of your qualifications/​changes. But if we want to look at what allowed science to take off in Europe and not stop—unlike other cultures you’ve mentioned—then it seems prudent to investigate all of the necessary conditions we can. As it stands, you seem to have chosen those necessary conditions which paint Europe, and Christianity, quite badly.

        • Phil Rimmer

          We’ve had many narrow squeaks with the burgeoning power unlocked by science but you have managed to mention none of them. Genocides don’t depend on them. Oppressive practices by the uber rich on trading partner nations are old (British) school skills. Bureaucratic oppression of “defeated nations” (sic).

          Despite this the point was indeed a kill or cure brutal lesson involving potential total demise (much like the life of a teenager).

          I have written often on the problem of the catastrophic silencing that comes from the growing numbers of the hyper-pro-social, and the new sensitivities that cannot distinguish the actual from the meta. Toxic Werdz are ipso facto Toxic Deeds, and with a new generation of the heart-on-sleeve-morality-bannering (the religious “Badge of Goodness” superceded by the crafted Facebook account) we see the new-fangled need to punish the non compliant, by inventing triggering and micro-aggressions to claim regular transgressions. The problem is for such a contrived response the lie has to be lived for the effect to convince everyone. Swedish educationalists and psychiatrists report a 500% uptick in female students seeking help and medication for formerly prosaic ills of unhappiness or horrid boyfriends.

          It makes my job of taking offense less as the morally improving stance rather harder….

          Work intrudes alas. The last two paragraphs later or tomorrow…

        • epeeist

          Other books that I like are Edward Grant’s A History of Natural Philosophy and David Wootton’s The Invention of Science. Both of these are from historians.

          A history of science from the view of a scientist is Steven Weinberg’s To Explain the World.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Many thanks! Exactly who we needed to hear from. The Wootton has just arrived my Kindle tells me.

    • Rudy R

      When you say traditional civilization, how far back do you go? Before the Civil War, where Christians justified slavery based on Bible teachings? Or do we go before the Spanish Inquisition? And you conflate “Society” with Western culture, for which I’m sure Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Taoism, and Shintoism would beg to differ.

    • Joe

      You mean like the Germanic barbarians and others-

      Yes, they had the answer too.

      Christianity’s influence on civilization is not in dispute

      Straw man. How apt given the article above! It’s the direction of the influence that’s in question.

      Society has reaped the benefits of a traditional civilization based on Christianity like it or not.

      Somebody read Bob’s article and didn’t understand it. The citizens of Oz benefited from the Wizard’s magical protection.

    • adam
    • RichardSRussell

      Society has reaped the benefits of a traditional civilization based on Christianity like it or not.

      I’m sure they’ll be fascinated to hear of this in China and India.

      • Tommy

        They seem to forget that Arabic numerals, Algebra, lateen sails (a sail that enables a ship to sail against the wind), ship rudders, paper money, gun powder, etc were invented in non Christian civilizations.

        • Joe

          lateen sails (a sail that enables a ship to sail against the wind)

          Well I’ve learnt a new word today, thanks, so blogcom’s inane post wasn’t in vain.

        • RichardSRussell

          And fireworks! Without which, what would the “Christian” 4th of July look like?

        • Jim Jones

          And paper.

        • Joe

          And, most importantly, beer.

        • al kimeea

          yes, you very often see this very myopic view of our beautiful blue marble from many Xians

    • Jim Jones

      Society has suffered the losses of a traditional civilization based on Christianity like it or not.

      Without Christianity, Columbus would have landed on the moon.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        Okay, that I’ve got to take issue with. There’s no way we can know such a thing.

        • Jim Jones

          Irony & hyperbole. Still, who knows what might have been without the parasite of religion.

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          It seems to be old as civilization itself. Even older, perhaps.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “which came first, the chief or the priest”?

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Hard to say. Perhaps they were simultaneous.

        • TheNuszAbides

          I would certainly be surprised to discover that brute dominance was predated by symbolic rationalization, but can’t rule it out …

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          I’m not sure which you think corresponds with either of those things. However, chiefs existed before civilization, though religion may have too (at least in a sense).

        • TheNuszAbides

          the original comment was really rather throwaway, which is why i put it (and not the question mark) in quotes, but okay, let’s tease it out.

          i’m thinking of ‘chief’ as ‘recognized ruler of an in-group’ and ‘priest’ as ‘presumed intermediary for what a presumed-deity/force-that-is-beyond-human-control wants a presumed-reverent in-group to do’. at our speculatively most primitive [though obviously subsequent to making a habit of forming in-groups], i can’t think of why the former would necessarily need anything other than brute dominance to maintain its position, whereas the latter seems definitively more sophisticated in terms of symbolism, variety of job-security rabbit-holes, etc. sure, we can boil them both down to some broader authoritarian prototype, but by then the choice of two terms is already meaningless, let alone positing “which came first”.

          as human interactions develop intricacy/complexity and coherent [sub]groups grow in size, certainly both types could employ a variety of physical and mental advantages/leverage/theatre, but ‘chief’ seems to me an unambiguously simpler concept.

          however, if we somehow evolved nifty nonviolent strategies for persuading each other of things like “how/why we are required to appreciate the sun” before we ever killed each other over perceptions of authority/leadership, perhaps the distinction is that much more academic/irrelevant.

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          Sorry, I was unaware.

          You could be right. I don’t know enough of “primitive” peoples (that term isn’t favored anymore, though I’m not sure what should be used instead) to say for sure. A chief also might have only had to command sufficient respect. Priests (or shamans, holy men, whatever you call them) seem to have been around forever too in some forms.

          I understand now “chief” is just shorthand for any heads of a society. Sorry, earlier that wasn’t clear to me.

          I don’t know whether primitive religion had much violent enforcement, or conflicts. Probably taboo was enough in a lot of cases. Many more animist/polytheist religions were quite tolerant. It’s when you get into the monetheist faiths that changed. One god has by definition, this exclusive position.

        • Greg G.

          I reckon the first was a bit o’ bo’.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Too easy! Away wi’yer nuancese!

        • Jim Jones

          Yes. IMO a mental illusion like optical and other illusions we are subject to.

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          In many cases, though a lot of times it just seems to be some explanation that fills the gaps in our knowledge.

        • Jim Jones

          Interesting how often they go the the Big Daddy in the Sky explanation.

          Always worth reading this once:

          “Where is the Graveyard of Dead Gods?” by H. L. Mencken.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Nice one….puts a bit of perspective on the whole ball of nonsense.

        • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

          A lot of fantasy stories have the idea that gods disappear when no one believes in them. It appears that happens in reality too. Makes you think, right?

        • TheNuszAbides

          which is as good a point as any to split into determinist, compatibilist, etc.

  • busterggi

    In the book the Scarecrow has pins inserted into his head to give him sharp wits. I’m guessing Ray Bolger didn’t agree to that.

    • Michael Neville

      In the movie the Scarecrow receives his diploma and then misquotes the Pythagorean theorem:

      The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.

      The Pythagorean theorem actually says that the sum of the squares of the shortest two sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the remaining side.

      • Tommy

        a² + b² = c²

        • Michael Neville

          I know. I put it simply because many people don’t remember what the hypotenuse is.

        • Tommy

          True. Most of us only remember the formula 😉

        • epicurus

          “About binomial theorem I am teeming with a lot of news, with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.”
          :-)

        • Pofarmer

          Pirates of Penzance? Really? Lol.

        • epicurus

          I try to work in G&S whenever possible.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Of course.
          Who else would have the creative juice
          to make a rhyme with hypotenuse?

      • Jim Jones

        The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides.

        BTW, it works for other shapes like circle, semicircle etc as long as the shapes are identical.

      • wtfwjtd

        I’ve always found the Pythagorean Theorem to be far more useful than any religious teaching. It’s surprising to a lot of people how often it comes up in the building trades, for example.

        And, Pythagoras had a Virgin Birth, just like you-know who! So you know that whatever he came up with had to be fabulous.

  • watcher_b

    I hear all the time about how Christianity provides “meaning” to people’s lives. The problem is that it is not any sort of objective knowable meaning. It is just this trust that there is meaning, whatever it is. The bible doesn’t say “here is the meaning of your existence”. There is nothing like that. And “Yahweh” sure as hell doesn’t come into each individual’s life to give them their meaning.

    I know some people find comfort in thinking that at least some meaning exists, but often times it is overblown to think that the meaning is actually known if it exists at all.

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

      I hear all the time about how Christianity provides “meaning” to people’s lives. The problem is that it is not any sort of objective knowable meaning.

      I’m curious; what would it look like for there to be “any sort of objective knowable meaning”? Surely we couldn’t use science to see it, given that science is explicitly dysteleological. But I worry that the definition of ‘objective’ is inextricably tied to ‘science’. If that is the case, then your statement would need to be edited:

      wb′: I hear all the time about how Christianity provides “meaning” to people’s lives. The problem is that it is not possible for there to be any sort of objective knowable meaning.

      • Tommy

        What would objective morality look like?

        • Greg G.

          Q: What’s red and smells like blue paint?

          A: Red paint.

        • Michael Neville

          What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?

        • Max Doubt

          “What do you get when you cross a joke with a rhetorical question?”

          Some antics with semantics?

        • Greg G.

          Q: What’s orange and sounds like a parrot?
                                         
          A: A carrot.

        • Michael Neville

          I owe a lot to sidewalks. They’ve been keeping me off the streets for years.

        • Kuno

          Do the one with the stick!

      • adam

        “I’m curious; what would it look like for there to be “any sort of objective knowable meaning”?”

        https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86effa5e2bc761ae95f687bf44f1632c13ebd40a54b07502d779f242a887cc3e.jpg

        • al kimeea

          ahhh, the classics

      • Otto

        >>>”I’m curious; what would it look like for there to be “any sort of objective knowable meaning”?”

        Me too…

    • evodevo

      Yep. And if you have trouble discerning the “meaning” you are supposed to fall back on “faith” in “God’s ultimate plan’, but no one ever seems to ask “why am I just a cog in the wheel, what happened to that personal relationship thingy??!”

      • TheNuszAbides

        the ‘personal relationship thingy’ is a late encrustation that is a valuable distraction in communities that cannot sufficiently isolate themselves from the seductive influences of an Individualistic (or Communistic, for that matter) society.

    • Kodie

      People love to be validated, that their life is a reality story of epic proportions and of ultimate consequence when they look around at themselves like everyone else, doing chores, fucking up, and having a dead-end kind of life. They dream of a way out, they want to be a movie star, and that all the choices they’ve made and all the circumstances they’ve been dealt add up to something more interesting than it is.

      Edited to add: I wanted to say a tiny little bit about “journeys”. I’m sick of hearing about people and their journeys. Something about calling whatever bullshit a “journey” makes people think it’s interesting when they want to talk about it.

    • MR

      I’ve asked several times what their objective meaning, value or purpose is. I’ve only gotten crickets. You’ll notice that the omvp argument is invariably tied to mortality. “If an atheist dies tomorrow, then his life had no meaning!” Yet my life is filled with meaning. No, the argument isn’t really about omvp, it’s about not wanting to die. “Why, I’m so important, I deserve to live forever!” If the message of Christianity was that your omvp meant in the end you ceased to exist, that your whole meaning, value and purpose was that you were to exist for a time and then cease to exist forever, I wonder how popular Christianity would be.

  • Phil Rimmer

    Now where have I heard this argument made to Christians (well Christian) recently???

    Bob, you do know that the Wizard of Oz was a commentary on the political and economic policies of the USA in the 1890 involving the fight between the Silver and Gold standards and the agrarian Populist Party . Oz was ounces of Silver (as were Dorothy’s slippers in the book).The yellow brick road, well gold leading to the fraudulent city of the Greenback. The Wizard a political fraud. Dorothy is every American. The Scarecrow represents the farmers, The Tinman industry and The Cowardly Lion, this man

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

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

      I’d heard the basic idea (silver shoes on a gold road, for example), but thanks for expanding. In particular, I hadn’t seen the Oz/ounce comparison.

    • Michael Neville

      That interpretation, first presented in the 1960s, is cute and silly simultaneously.

      There’s the atheist interpretation which claims that the Wizard is God, being not a real wizard but a mortal behind a curtain. This idea corresponds better with the book, where Oz is more about duplicity and illusion, than the movie. In the novel, the Emerald City is only emerald because the Wizard makes everybody wear green glasses there. The moral of this interpretation is that humanity’s strengths come from within and are not God-given.

      • Phil Rimmer

        For those in the UK, let me offer this great bit of US political and economic history

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08tbf4g

        freshly broadcast this morning. L. Frank Baum somewhere in the last ten minutes. The injection of political figures in the text of the play rather suggests a political satire, though families and brute politics make rich religious allegories all the time….

      • Chuck Johnson

        They also recommend that you watch the movie with “Dark Side of The Moon” as its soundtrack.

        • al kimeea

          it doesn’t really work, but then I wasn’t on lsd at the time

        • TheNuszAbides

          there are a few ‘meh’ coincidings, but yeah, nothing inherently special. and any/everything is ~Deep~ if one is already having a good trip. or smoke. or drink. hype is hypey.

    • Only Some Stardust

      Have you ever heard of the concept of “Death of the Author”?

      Things can have more than one ‘sacred’ interpretation.

  • Joe

    Christians tell us that God gives us morality, purpose, logic, and meaning,

    It should ring alarm bells in their heads when only positive traits are assigned to something, and nerver ever negative.

    Even though the writers of the Old Testament (and the new) were quite happy with a God that had human failings.

  • RichardSRussell

    Math problem

    Given: Religion + Good Works = Good Works

    Solve for Religion.

    • Joe

      I thought the equation was:

      Religion + Good Works = Bad Works.

    • Chuck Johnson

      You can’t wish it away.
      Religion historically, has provided good things and bad things.

      • Joe

        The points Bob, and many of us here have made are:

        1. What’s unique to religion that other philosophies or systems don’t have?
        2. If religion produces good and bad, what is the point of choosing it above other systems?

        • Chuck Johnson

          2. If religion produces good and bad, what is the point of choosing it above other systems?-Don

          Your question is vague and general to the point of being meaningless. Everything that we choose in life can be analyzed for its benefits and drawbacks. That doesn’t force us to choose nothing at all.

          Also, your question ignores the supernatural content of religion.

          Once its falsity is recognized, then religion is something that should be avoided.

          Saying that religion is nothing at all (as Richard’s math joke adds up to) is the wrong way to criticize religion. Very specific things can be said about religion, some flattering, some quite ugly.

        • Joe

          Your question is vague and general to the point of being meaningless.

          No, it’s straight to the point.

          Also, your question ignores the supernatural content of religion.

          Rightly so. There has been no supernatural content demonstrated so far.

          Saying that religion is nothing at all (as Richard’s math joke adds up to) is the wrong way to criticize religion. Very specific things can be said about religion, some flattering, some quite ugly.

          Which comes back around to my question.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Which comes back around to my question.-Joe

          The answer to your question is that driving a car produces both good and bad. This doesn’t stop people from choosing it above other modes of transportation.

          Your question is so vague that it’s pointless.

        • islandbrewer

          An individual car driver weighs the good and bad of driving a car, and finds the good outweighs the bad.

          Religion provides no actual “good” that can’t be found outside religion.

          Joe’s question isn’t vague in the slightest. It’s either mendacious or ignorant to suggest otherwise.

        • al kimeea

          Cars are actually useful

        • Chuck Johnson

          It’s Quite vague. Your dishonesty doesn’t change that.

        • islandbrewer

          Aww, touched a raw nerve there, did I, puddin’? Resorting to the “I know you are but what am I”?

          My fault for engaging in conversation with an idiot.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Aww, touched a raw nerve there, did I, puddin’?-islandbrewer

          Resorting to insults is a method to move the discussion from the field of fact to the field of emotions.

          Religious fanatics and atheist fanatics to try to win an argument this way.
          You lose.

        • islandbrewer

          Resorting to insults is a method to move the discussion from the field of fact to the field of emotions.

          Which begs the question as to why you act so emotional and insulting, of course.

        • Chuck Johnson

          No, not this time, either.
          You lose.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Religion provides no actual “good” that can’t be found outside religion.-islandbrewer

          Your comment provides no actual “good” that can’t be found outside of your answer.

        • Joe

          This doesn’t stop people from choosing it above other modes of transportation.

          But those methods of transportation never include a flying donkey or a broomstick, do they?

        • Chuck Johnson

          And that’s what I referred to from the beginning.
          The argument must include a logical description of a downside to religion, or it is a non-argument against religion.
          Superstition will do.

        • Michael Neville
        • Chuck Johnson

          There has been no supernatural content demonstrated so far.-Joe

          You need to know what “supernatural” is.

          The concept was created as the ancient magic and miracles of the Bible and ancient stories began to be viewed skeptically. To the ancients, the miracles were (or were supposed to be) natural events little different from rainfall, sunrise and sunset, etc.

          Supernatural is a weasel word. It was built to supply equivocation. To the skeptic, it means false and magical. To the faithful it means a natural miraculous part of our universe. They both see the same word, without actually seeing the same concept.

          To me, the supernatural exists as stories which turn out to be false when properly examined.

        • Joe

          You need to know what “supernatural” is.

          Yes I do.

      • Jim Jones

        The good needed no religion.

        The bad is impossible without it.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The bad is impossible without it.-Jim Jones

          Good and bad are widespread with or without religion.
          Your confirmation bias is showing.

        • Jim Jones
        • Chuck Johnson

          Your view is more limited than mine.
          The Soviet Union touted science and atheism, but exhibited some very rotten morality.

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk

          Viewing human morality through the lens of religion is very limited.
          The best way to understand the evolution of human morality is through the lens of cultural adaptive evolution.

          Religions brought benefits in the past which are failing in the twenty-first century.

        • Jim Jones

          > The Soviet Union touted science and atheism, but exhibited some very rotten morality.

          It also claimed to be Communist. It was none of those things. It was the old Russian Empire with a new Royal Family and millions of serfs.

          > Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          Hilarious! Have you heard of the Inquisition? Not to mention what the church did to native peoples world wide? Western civilization evolved improved morality after it became more secular.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after it became more secular.-Jim

          Yes, increased secularity is now necessary for human civilizations to evolve better moralities. Examples of this show up in the news all the time.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Soviet Union touted science and atheism, but exhibited some very rotten morality.

          Indeed, but not because of science and atheism, so pah!

        • Chuck Johnson

          Indeed, but not because of science and atheism, so pah!-Amos

          My answer is to Jim Jones. – – – Read back that far.

          The Soviet system relied upon blind obedience to authority.
          Many religions (fundamentalist especially) rely upon blind obedience to authority.

          That is an ancient system of organizing civilizations.
          The twenty-first century requires much better techniques than that to guide the progress of civilizations.

          Donald Trump’s ongoing lack of success as President is an example of the obsolescence of authoritarian politics.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The Soviet Union touted science and atheism, but exhibited some very rotten morality.

          “Look!…. Over there….Squirrels.”

        • Ignorant Amos

          Religions brought benefits in the past which are failing in the twenty-first century.

          I’d be interested to see some examples?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Religions helped to turn tribes into civilizations.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          “Invented”…upvote for that.

          Whose morality improved and how soon after this invention?

          I’d say the biggest advance in the morality of western civilisation began with the Enlightenment.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Whose morality improved and how soon after this invention?-Amos

          You are looking for a simple cause-and effect relationship between Christianity and morality.

          You won’t find it.
          Human morality is far more complicated. To explore the evolution of human morality, this needs to be viewed as human cultural adaptive evolution.

          It seems that thousands of years ago, humans had a need to believe supernatural stories. Now, in the twenty-first century, those needs have largely disappeared, and we now need stories and understandings that are based upon the kind of confidence that empiricism and science can provide.

          The culture wars are a chronicle of this stage of cultural evolution.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You are looking for a simple cause-and effect relationship between Christianity and morality.

          Nope…I’m questioning your erroneous assertion.

          You won’t find it.

          Of course I won’t…neither will you…hence me asking.

          Human morality is far more complicated. To explore the evolution of human morality, this needs to be viewed as human cultural adaptive evolution.

          Absolutely. Even among the many and varied Christian cultures and individual flavours of the Christian cults. So I’m wondering why you made your erroneous generalisation? Care to recant it?

          It seems that thousands of years ago, humans had a need to believe supernatural stories. Now, in the twenty-first century, those needs have largely disappeared, and we now need stories and understandings that are based upon the kind of confidence that empiricism and science can provide.

          Not a friggin’ chance of it. Non belief was the worlds fastest growing point of view between 1900 and 2000…up from 3.2 million in 1900 to 918 million in 2000. According to the World Christian Encyclopaedia anyway.

          The number of nonreligionists… throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900… to 918 million in AD 2000… From a miniscule presence in 1900, a mere 0.2% of the globe, [atheism and agnosticism] are today expanding at the extraordinary rate of 8.5 million new converts each year, and are likely to reach one billion adherents soon. A large percentage of their members are the children, grandchildren or the great-great-grandchildren of persons who in their lifetimes were practicing Christians.

          But belief in the supernatural hasn’t waned much among the vast majority who are also gullible and the increase in belief in all other kinds of mumbo jumbo is also quite prevalent.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Now, you are into a Gish Gallop of ignorance and dishonesty.
          It’s ridiculous when the religious fanatics do it, and it is ridiculous when the atheist fanatics (such as you) do it.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Now, you are into a Gish Gallop of ignorance and dishonesty.

          You really shouldn’t use turns of phrase when ya haven’t a feckin’ clue what they mean.

          http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Gish_Gallop

          Try pointing to where I’ve been ignorant and/or dishonest and perhaps someone will take your drivelling whinge seriously.

          It’s ridiculous when the religious fanatics do it, and it is ridiculous when the atheist fanatics (such as you) do it.

          Well since you haven’t demonstrated with example or evidence my having done what you are asserting, I could give zero fucks for your conjectured opinion.

          On the other hand…YOU have made the unsupported claim …

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          Which is obviously a loada ballix, and can’t be supported.

        • Chuck Johnson

          You really shouldn’t use turns of phrase when ya haven’t a feckin’ clue what they mean.-Amos

          And then to support your rant, you offer another Gish gallop of ignorance and dishonesty.

        • Ignorant Amos

          And then to support your rant, you offer another Gish gallop of ignorance and dishonesty.

          Repeating your mantra doesn’t make it true. You need to demonstrate your accusations have veracity…something you fail to understand is a basic requirement.

          I invoke Hitchens’ razor…

          “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” (Christopher Hitchens).

          In the meantime, you seem to be confused on the issue of the historical drop in violence and conflating that with a rise in morality. Then attributing both sets of data as the result of the invention of Christianity. Another claim you have failed to demonstrate. Yet those calling you out on it here are dishonest, biased, Gish galloping, ignorant’s. Projection much?

          Demonstrate your baseless assertion that Christianity was instrumental in evolving the improvement in Western morality and therefore contributed to Pinker’s theory…or don’t, but don’t expect to be taken seriously otherwise.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Demonstrate your baseless assertion that Christianity was instrumental in evolving the improvement in Western morality-Amos

          I didn’t say that, you did.
          The evolution of Christianity was a part of the evolution of the morality of western civilization. If the pantheon of ancient Roman gods had persisted, and Christianity had failed, then the Roman polytheism would have been the religion that evolved along with the rest of Western civilization.

          That’s the lesson to learn from Pinker’s research. Cultural adaptive evolution discovers ways to make improvements in human moralities. All of the various human inventions, including Christianity have evolved and improved through the learning and work of people. History shows this.

          An additional improvement to Christianity (which we are now seeing) is its disappearance.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Repeating your mantra doesn’t make it true. You need to demonstrate your accusations have veracity…something you fail to understand is a basic requirement.-Amos

          Its not just Gish gallops, you also do strawman arguments and you try to turn the commenting from fact-based to emotion-based. You do this with your insults.

          My comments on this are often brief because I don’t like to feed the trolls. – – – That’s you.

          And if you respond by telling more lies, my comments will again be brief. I am writing science while you are writing dishonest politics which are not especially interesting to me.

        • Chuck Johnson

          I’d say the biggest advance in the morality of western civilisation began with the Enlightenment-Amos

          Yes, but take a wider view.
          Western civilization is part of a tradition that goes back tens of thousands of years.

          Long ago, religions were a part of the advance of human cultures.
          http://tinyurl.com/l9vmnza

        • Ignorant Amos

          Yes, but take a wider view.

          Spoiiinnnng! It was you who set the focus on Christianity that piqued my interest. If it is good for the goose and all that jazz. Or are you going to recant?

          Western civilization[s] is part of a tradition that goes back tens of thousands of years.

          FTFY.

          Long ago, religions were a part of the advance of human cultures.

          So was the use of a rock as a club for fighting. Look where that has lead us.

          Do you see a correlation between the rise in unbelief and the decline in violence? If not, why not?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Do you see a correlation between the rise in unbelief and the decline in violence? If not, why not?-Amos

          I see a correlation between the rise of belief and the decline of violence when we are looking at the distant past.

          When we are looking at the not-so-distant-past, I see a correlation between the rise in unbelief and the decline in violence.

          Also, it appears that it probably has a two-way cause and effect.
          Secularization can cause a decline in violence, and a more peaceful society can better proceed towards secularization.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I see a correlation between the rise of belief and the decline of violence when we are looking at the distant past.

          Really?

          From what I’ve read, belief, and religious belief in particular, has been one of the top driving forces in violent conflict throughout human history. None more so than than Christianity…both with the out groups and between factions of the in group.

          https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/The-Main-Reasons-For-War

          Also, it appears that it probably has a two-way cause and effect.
          Secularization can cause a decline in violence, and a more peaceful society can better proceed towards secularization.

          You won’t get too many here arguing against that observation.

        • Chuck Johnson

          From what I’ve read, belief, and religious belief in particular, has
          been one of the top driving forces in violent conflict throughout human
          history. None more so than than Christianity…both with the out groups
          and between factions of the in group.-Amos

          I followed your link, and it does not refer to religions’ distant past. That distant past is thousands or tens of thousands of years ago.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I followed your link, and it does not refer to religions’ distant past. That distant past is thousands or tens of thousands of years ago.

          Then it is as I suspect and your reading comprehension is at fault.

          The opening paragraph clearly makes the case…

          Wars have been a part of human history for thousands of years, becoming increasingly destructive with industrialization and the subsequent advances in technology.

          The article goes on to say…

          Many theories have been put forward over the years for why wars happen and some of the greatest minds have offered their ideas.

          The 8 main reasons for war are listed below.

          Reason #3 on the list is religion….

          #3 Religion

          Religious conflicts often have very deep roots. They can lie dormant for decades, only to re-emerge in a flash at a later date.

          Religious wars can often be tied in with other reasons for conflict, such as nationalism, or seeking revenge for a perceived historical slight from the past.

          As well as different religions fighting each other, different sects within a religion (for example, Protestant and Catholic, or Sunni and Shia) can fight each other.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Then it is as I suspect and your reading comprehension is at fault.-Amos

          You are lying, again.
          My comment is brief because I don’t like to feed the trolls.

        • Ignorant Amos

          You are one ignorant cunt……you can’t provide any evidence of lying….because you are a fucikn ‘arsehole…..

        • Ignorant Amos

          You are the troll ya imbecile….look it up.

          I think I’ve clearly demonstrated that you are the pig thick moron between the two of us. You have presented noting but the equivalent of navel fluff…go away ya bore.

        • adam
        • Chuck Johnson

          The idea of gods and goddesses was invented thousands of years before the history that you display.

          Also, by careful selection of historical facts, it is possible to prove that atheism is the real cause of human violence and misery.

          That is what I call an argument from an abundance of evidence, and it is successful when people are guided by confirmation bias. With it, you can prove any damn thing that you and your confirmation bias want to.

          Your political motivation is obvious.
          My motivation is to explore the truth.

        • adam

          “Also, by careful selection of historical facts, it is possible to prove
          that atheism is the real cause of human violence and misery.”

          by a careful selection of historical facts, you OBVIOUSLY mean cherry picking.
          As religion is fundamentally based on DIVISION.

          “My motivation is to explore the truth.”
          As is mine, nowhere does atheism tell anyone to enslave or kill anyone.

          Religion DOES

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86effa5e2bc761ae95f687bf44f1632c13ebd40a54b07502d779f242a887cc3e.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/3d75f40886a30963d29f96e7ac5c05cad2aeb7bf5d71b350bbea60643eeff355.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dc554b74af68425056b8a4228b7f09490a1e80f6c6bf14f85bbce2e8015a0bfb.jpg

        • Chuck Johnson

          By a careful selection of historical facts, you OBVIOUSLY mean cherry picking.

          By a careful selection of historical facts, you OBVIOUSLY mean cherry picking.-Adam

          Cherry picking is a common name for it.
          I also call it arguments from an abundance of evidence.

          The religionists will “prove” the evil of atheism using the Soviet Union and other atheist societies as examples.

          The atheists will “prove” the evil of religion using the history of religion-inspired evil.

          These are political arguments. I am interested in what evil consists of and where it comes from. The arguments that I mentioned are examples, but not the logical explanations that I am looking for.

        • adam
        • epeeist

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          And yet by that time Aristotle had written his Nichomachean Ethics, Confucius had produced The Analects and the Buddha’s teachings had led to the Noble Eightfold Path.

          And then of course there are the Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans, all ethical systems that predated Christianity.

        • Chuck Johnson

          All that you mentioned and more are ingredients of Western civilization. To congratulate or blame any element for what we have become would be foolish and narrow-minded.

          ——————————————————————————————-

          “What is Fate?” Nasrudin was asked by a Scholar.
          “An endless succession of intertwined events, each influencing the other.”
          “That is hardly a satisfactory answer. I believe in cause and effect.”
          “Very well,” said the Mulla, “look at that.” He pointed to a procession passing in the street.”
          “That man is being taken to be hanged. Is that because someone gave him a silver piece and enabled him to buy the knife with which he committed the murder; or because someone saw him do it; or because nobody stopped him?”

        • Ignorant Amos

          All that you mentioned and more are ingredients of Western civilization.

          Well, no…Confucianism and Buddhism are eastern philosophies that predate Christianity. And the point of mentioning those Greek schools is to demonstrate that morality was well on it’s way prior to Christianity. If anything, the rise of Christianity set the west back at least a millennia.

          The bits of Christianity that displayed any moral fortitude were plagiarised from existing cultures it would appear. The problem we see is that when Christianity gained control, morality as we recognise it today went right out the window for those in positions of power.

          To congratulate or blame any element for what we have become would be foolish and narrow-minded.

          But it was you that said….

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          …which gave the impression at least, that you were tipping your hat to Christianity for giving the western world a leg up on the morality scales. Seems like a congratulatory note to Christianity for an improvement to me, but perhaps I’m reading you wrong here?

        • Chuck Johnson

          Seems like a congratulatory note to Christianity for an improvement to me, but perhaps I’m reading you wrong here?-Amos

          The politics that I am promoting are the politics of science.

          To the extent that Christianity brought benefits, we should recognize this. To the extent that it brought harm, we should also recognize this.

          This is the case for all phenomena that we consider.

          You can “prove” anything that you would like to using confirmation bias. The religionists do this, the secularists do this. I call it “arguments from an abundance of evidence”.

          The phenomenon that I find interesting is that superstition-based religions for thousands of years seem to have brought cultural benefits to humanity, and now not only are the superstitions losing their benefits, but the harms that superstitions do are becoming unacceptable.

          When a person takes one side or the other concerning religions, this (scientifically speaking) tends to blind them to this reality.

          Religion is a cultural phenomenon with past benefits.
          Our present and future depend upon getting rid of superstitions, including religious ones.

        • epeeist

          All that you mentioned and more are ingredients of Western civilization.

          Neither Confucius or the Buddha were “ingredients of Western civilisation”.

          But the fact that these and the other people I listed existed are sufficient to refute your claim about improved morality improving after Christianity was invented.

          It is further refuted by the fact that Christianity imported much of its ethics from Plato, Aristotle and the neo-Platonists.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Neither Confucius or the Buddha were “ingredients of Western civilisation”.-epeeist

          Yes they are.
          This has been true for centuries. Your claim is an artifact of your narrow-mindedness.

        • epeeist

          Yes they are.

          That’s a subtle tense change, you will note that I used “were” in that we were referring to the development of Western ethics and the invention of Christianity.

          But I like the fact that you implicitly accept that Confucianism and Buddhism has improved the ethics of Western civilisation since the West came to be aware of them.

          Simply another conformation that so-called “Christian ethics” is inadequate.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Simply another conformation that so-called “Christian ethics” is inadequate.-epeeist

          Definitely.
          And Steven Pinker’s research shows that today’s religious and secular moralities are inadequate compared to future moralities.

          That supports my description of cultural adaptive evolution.

        • epeeist

          Definitely.

          And yet you cited “Christian ethics” as the base for this improvement.

          And Steven Pinker’s research

          Some of us have actually read his The Better Angels of Our Nature and not just watched a video.

          That supports my description of cultural adaptive evolution.

          And further discredits your initial claim.

        • Chuck Johnson

          But the fact that these and the other people I listed existed are
          sufficient to refute your claim about improved morality improving after
          Christianity was invented.-epeeist

          Sufficient in your own mind.
          I prefer the scientific evidence.
          Watch the Steven pinker video.

        • epeeist

          Sufficient in your own mind.

          Nah, quite sufficient in that I have shown that there were many other ethical systems that were extant across wide swathes of the world before your “Christian morality” was even invented.

          Quite sufficient in that any perusal of writers such as Augustine and Aquinas borrowed heavily from Greek sources of ethics because “Christian ethics” is vacuous without them.

          Whereas you, having made the claim, have produced nothing to substantiate it.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Whereas you, having made the claim, have produced nothing to substantiate it.-epeeist

          You are lying.
          I am not fooled when Christian apologists do it.
          I am not fooled when you do it.

        • epeeist

          You are lying.

          And yet you don’t substantiate this either.

          I usually find that when someone resorts to ad hominem it is because they lack an argument.

        • Ignorant Amos

          I prefer the scientific evidence.

          It would be nice if you presented some.

          Watch the Steven pinker video.

          I just did…nowhere in it does Pinker support your….

          Western civilization evolved improved morality after Christianity was invented.

          …nonsense. It’s just as I suspected, a loada ballix.

          Pinker’s claim in the video is that it can be demonstrated that human violence has been continuously on the decline since prehistoric times. The only inference to morality is the poor do morals in the OT in relation to punishments and genocides.

          You might as well have said,“Western civilization evolved improved morality after the wheel was invented.” It has as much relevance.

        • Chuck Johnson

          You might as well have said,”Western civilization evolved improved morality after the wheel was invented.”-Amos

          The wheel and Christianity.
          Very good. Such inventions help humans evolve cultures that exhibit better morality.

          That’s what the business of inventing is all about.
          Better lives for humans.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The wheel and Christianity.
          Very good. Such inventions help humans evolve cultures that exhibit better morality.

          You can’t really be so thick as to let the point fly right over your head…can ya?

          By your logic then, every invention conceived by humans have contributed to improved morality. Which is more nonsense.

          That’s what the business of inventing is all about
          Better lives for humans.

          More erroneous nonsense. You are confusing invention with innovation.

          https://www.wired.com/insights/2015/01/innovation-vs-invention/

          I can’t think for the life of me how the invention of the “dirty bomb” will add to the betterment of human lives.

          Purpose of Invention

          An invention can serve many purposes, and does not necessarily create positive value. These purposes might differ significantly and may change over time. An invention, or a further-developed version of it, may serve purposes never envisioned by its original inventor(s) or by others living at the time of its original invention.

          Christianity is a cultural invention, like Islam, Scientology, or the Branch Davidians…their impact on adherents morality has left a lot to be desired.

        • Chuck Johnson

          By your logic then, every invention conceived by humans have contributed to improved morality. Which is more nonsense.-Amos

          All inventions which are used and persist contribute to advanced human morality. The ones that don’t last might be too trivial to matter.

          When an invention persists, this is because humans make use of it. Such an invention will have benefits for people, and it will also cause harm. All significant inventions (ones which persist) deliver both benefits and harm to humans.

          Maximizing the benefits and minimizing the harm is then the job of additional research. New inventions are usually created to help maximize the benefits.

          If the morality of all this seems mysterious to you, then you need to know that I am defining good human morality as surviving and evolving.

          This includes genetic adaptive evolution and cultural adaptive evolution.

        • adam
        • adam

          “Religions brought benefits in the past which are failing in the twenty-first century.”

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86effa5e2bc761ae95f687bf44f1632c13ebd40a54b07502d779f242a887cc3e.jpg

        • Ignorant Amos

          I think what JJ means is that it is hard to find someone doing bad because of their non belief in any gods, but take just two steps in any direction and you can easily trip over a woo woo believer with a hatred of some sort, precisely because of their belief in a god.

          As Christopher Hitchens frequently posed the questions….

          Name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever?

          The second challenge. Can anyone think of a wicked statement made, or an evil action performed, precisely because of religious faith?

          The second question is easy to answer, is it not? The first awaits a convincing reply.

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

      Do you often win arguments by making your conclusion “Given“?

      • Tommy

        He made more sense than your long-winded drivels. Any other questions?

      • Greg G.

        That’s how math problems are shown on the test.

  • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

    There have been claims of religions providing objective morality, meaning etc. So far I find they all fail. It seems to me those things can be had without religion. Yet even if that isn’t really true, we’d all be in the same boat.

    • TheNuszAbides

      hence the insidious motivation for Chosen Orgs to paint their boats a special shade, require ideological entry requirements, and pretend these things make their boat uniquely seaworthy.

      • http://musingsfromacorneroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/ Michael

        What a colorful metaphor. I like it.

        • TheNuszAbides

          you get royalties for the boat-core. 😉

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

    …Christians tell us that God gives us morality, purpose, logic, and meaning, though this is the same morality, purpose, logic, and meaning that other believers get from their god(s) and that atheists get from reality.

    No, these are traits that we have always had.

    Alasdair MacIntyre might disagree:

    There is no word in the Greek of Aristotle’s age correctly translated ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ or ‘charity’. (After Virtue, 174)

    With 19,000 ‘citations’, I don’t think we should just dismiss such claims. MacIntyre continues:

        Charity is not, of course, from the biblical point of view, just one more virtue to be added to the list. Its inclusion alters the conception of the good for man in a radical way; for the community in which the good is achieved has to be one of reconciliation. (174)

    It seems to me that there are good and bad reasons for forgiveness and absolving the other party of some or all responsibilities and punishments. To a priori rule out the plausibility that what Jesus did could provide good reasons is to reveal great prejudice and display a deep disinterest in how society actually developed, how conflicts were or were not actually resolved. I’d say that those interested in actually resolving conflicts in the twenty-first century ought to respect the evidence at least as much as what their ideology tells them.

    • Tommy

      Zzzzz…..

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

        Charity is overblown, eh?

        • Tommy

          You’re overblown.

    • Phil Rimmer

      MacIntyre’s thesis is simply nonsense. Given no detectable teleology one can have no reasonable expectation that moral authorship would be easy. It may be that this lack of ease creates the achievement only of better and never best moral solutions. Thus a finer more context sensitive morality that changes as we discover more about ourselves, our varieties and conflicts and the varieties etc. of others may evolve as absolutely everything else seems to do.. Unslick as the process actually is it demands far more attendance from us. It becomes the stuff of our daily lives, our novels and soap operas. It is living itself. Assume a fixed outcome, a best solution, (for no good reason) and you can manufacture a nice unfixed problem. Crass.

      All acts of charity are failures of the state. It has almost poisoned the USA, offering feelgood and leverage to the givers and not the least fairness of mitigation to the unfortunate but only obligation. It is notable that less religious modern societies think it their job to mitigate against misfortune (especially with regard to children) through paying sufficient taxes to allow the state to offer relief professionally and consistently managed as a civilised right for all and not as the subject of a partial, personal, conscience-salving bribe.

      Having said that, states don’t reach everywhere or are themselves impoverished, so I donate to international disaster relief, especially in poor countries, donate to education for women in third world countries (like some others here), and the victims of a horror like the recent fire in London where palpable loving gestures of neighbours may ease the littlest bit the trauma, like prayers only with a real and needy recipient.

      • Eric Sotnak

        There are plenty of grounds to take issue with MacIntyre’s treatment of ethics, but I don’t think it is fair to say “MacIntyre’s thesis is simply nonsense.” On the contrary, After Virtue is a carefully argued work of moral philosophy that at least attempts to engage dissenting points of view responsibly.

        And I will agree here with part of what Luke wrote: The concept of forgiveness is really very interesting within moral and political philosophy. Just as an example, consider the fact that most people (whatever their religious orientation may be) think there are some cases where the appropriate response to a moral offense is forgiveness. When people seem disposed not to forgive in cases where we think they should, don’t we fault them on grounds of moral character? (“I said I was sorry, what more does he want? The jerk!”) A core feature of MacIntyre’s ethical view is that moral philosophy is better off for taking questions of character (virtue) seriously.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I will amend.

          MacIntyre’s central thesis (restoring a teleological perspective) is nonsense.

          A core feature of MacIntyre’s ethical view is that moral philosophy is better off for taking questions of character (virtue) seriously.

          I have no particular problem with this, though I would wish to talk rather of folk with a desire for maximal integrity as a specific, rather than possessing “character” and that the focus of that integrity is the wished for self, most introspected upon and rehearsed, and an active strategy to deal with the impulsive and automatic self where it conflicts with this.

          Morality has much mechanism, the which reveals why better and not best is what we achieve. Understanding that there is mechanism, the antique amygdala that won’t shut up, the parental indoctrination (thanks to over-imitation) to take care of number one, unlocks forgiveness like no other. The fact that we are made not in God’s image or, for that matter, at all consistently, deserves….latitude granted.

          Ultimately, the moral virtue, not taking offence greatly exceeds the moral virtue of seeking not to give it. It serves both participants and the truth, better.

        • TheNuszAbides

          “antique amygdala”, that’s lovely. especially in certain fonts/calligraphy!

        • Phil Rimmer

          You’re right about the visuals! I think you may have given me the title I’m looking for.

          the
          antique amygdala

          and other tales

          (but centered…)

          I’ve been accumulating material for a book on neuro-psychology for quite a while. There’s never time, of course and the various other titles seemed rather flat. “The Evolution of Thinking” to be followed by a full on attempt to make memes scientific, “The Evolution of Thought”. Maybe these are subtitles and the second book becomes “the tale of tales”?

          Thanks for noticing!!

          Incidentally, “Tale of Tales” by Mateo Garrone is a great movie. Fairy tale like it should be. Visually stunning and wonderful performances from the likes of Toby Jones. Leaves Oz in its dust.

        • TheNuszAbides

          thanks for the tip! also reminds me to see how “neuropolitics” is being defined this year…

          and for a possibly amusing diversion from collecting serious material, the late Timothy Leary’s late chapters of Neuropsychology or Exopsychology. his Personality Wheel was excellent modeling, but i suspect he overextended himself somewhere around the 7th neurosomatic circuit.

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

        I do not see how you have demonstrated MacIntyre’s thesis to lack sense or logic. Indeed, you rather seem to like charity, merely charity practiced by the State and not the individual.

        • Phil Rimmer

          There are different things here. I object to fixing morality by putting back teleology. Quite separately, charity and the concern for the harms of others and its amelioration can take a variety of forms. In one form most often identified with the term it is poisonous and too often a sham. Having separated them with illustrations, you must do more than simply put them back together to claim they are one. Forgiveness/tolerance is a further issue.

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

          You have yet to show what was “nonsense” in what I quoted.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I called the main thesis of the book nonsense not particularly anything you wrote about it. To be honest I wasn’t too engaged with that…

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

          I object to fixing morality by putting back teleology.

          That’s fine, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with my original comment.

          Quite separately, charity and the concern for the harms of others and its amelioration can take a variety of forms. In one form most often identified with the term it is poisonous and too often a sham.

          Of course. A secular example of said “poisonous” is articulated by Peter Buffet in his 2013 NYT piece The Charitable–Industrial Complex. But this has nothing whatsoever to deal with the origin of the notion of charity, of which you criticize many of falling short. What one first needs is the idea that it is a standard of which one could possibly fall short.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I don’t think I objected to your comment particularly. I did think the central thesis of the book discounted it as reliable in any sense . The work arguing for this or that position would need to be built up again from scratch. I did with my preferred take on concern for the harms to others and concerns for the harms to myself from others.

          What one first needs is the idea that it is a standard of which one could possibly fall short.

          I set the standard I needed.

          Big Business Charity is part of the PR/Advertising budget. Nothing ethical here. Companies don’t have a heart not being people (USA corporations indeed!) Moral Authors, customers, though, have the ethical job to make demands against custom.

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

          I did think the central thesis of the book discounted it as reliable in any sense .

          Seriously, you judge that way? If someone puts together an assortment of facts as [s]he sees them into a big normative complex and you don’t like the result, then none of the person’s assessment of the facts is reliable at all?

          I set the standard I needed.

          Yeah, but you’ve not accounted for where that standard came from, how you knew to set it as the standard instead of something else. This happens to be precisely the topic of the OP.

          Big Business Charity is part of the PR/Advertising budget.

          Sure. But MacIntyre was not talking about Big Business Charity.

        • Phil Rimmer

          If someone puts together an assortment of facts

          A cruel, trivialising judgment on MacIntyre’s careful construction

          I set the standard I needed.

          Because I am a moral author. My point in all this. I even stated the standard explicitly.

          compassion/compensation for outrageous fortune as a right

          Now negotiations between moral authors can begin.

          Elsewhere on Cross Examined, very recently, I gave an account of how this concern for harms to others evolved. We can re-run this if you wish?

          I’m clearly not getting your point on Charity and Industry. Can you take another swing at it?

        • http://labreuer.wordpress.com Luke Breuer
          There is no word in the Greek of Aristotle’s age correctly translated ‘sin’, ‘repentance’ or ‘charity’. (After Virtue, 174)

          PR: I don’t think I objected to your comment particularly. I did think the central thesis of the book discounted it as reliable in any sense .

          LB: If someone puts together an assortment of facts …

          PR: A cruel, trivialising judgment on MacIntyre’s careful construction

          Seriously? You say that MacIntyre’s argument for teleology discounts fact claims such as the one I’ve included at the beginning of this comment, I place that in question with the kind of concision you seem to appreciate, and you complain about it? C’mon.

          Because I am a moral author.

          You do nothing more than stand on the shoulders of giants and add a little bit when you come up with a morality. Unless perhaps you are Jesus, although I prefer to think of him as restoring relationship, not coming up with morality.

          I’m clearly not getting your point on Charity and Industry. Can you take another swing at it?

          The idea that good charity (what you want the State to do, with professionally trained social workers and such) is actually good, was not always an idea entertained by humans. It used to be that you might show charity toward promising individuals, not all individuals. Some just did not deserve it.

        • Phil Rimmer

          Incidental facts are incidental. I will go back and check incidentalness or otherwise with MacIntyre.

          Personally, morality, is whatever stands between my impulsive self and my actions. Socially morality is a negotiated thing with the personal as feedstock. Giants would do well to be sure to have a toe at least on my shoulder, knowing my particular capacities for suffering, knowing my cares and non-cares and my mitigations and their failure. Our approximations of sensibility and experience in a unique mix, make our reports at least of equal merit.

          State charity can be described with equal accuracy as enlightened self interest. Enabling all folk to be happy consumers/participants may simply drop the cost of achieving stable productive societies in which one can invest. The point Wilkinson and Pickett make in The Spirit Level is that everyone profits most when taking care of all including the unfortunate. Its just happens that way…. which is most probably why we are genetically and memetically evolving that way.

          More importantly this is the route to creating more compassionate people in themselves.

          Children from different societies were compared for two types of fairness detection. All groups identified when they themselves were treated unfairly, but only those from well to do societies flagged unfairness to others when they themselves were treated favourably. One may imagine in marginal societies parents may well urge their children (out of love for them) to push themselves to the front, for simple survival. Compassion breeds compassion.

          Having your “undeserving” neighbour helped out of her troubles without judgment is profoundly and comprehensively civilising. Whilst we have the problem of psychopathy to deal with at its peak and on the lower slopes, moral judgment beyond that might yet be the biggest barrier to enabling societies to maximally flourish and experience compassion.

          I’m stalled in reading Larry Siedentop….other books. I suspect it of supplying me with unintended pathways….to walk back from the insane, self-saving, individualsitic, punitive Christo-American mindset.

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

          It’s really hard for me to take what you say here too seriously, when the standard of living of those well-to-do societies is so ridiculously higher than the standard of living in many of the societies which make goods (and increasingly, services) available at prices cheap enough that whole countries can be well-to-do.

          But let’s put that aside and ask, how can your claims be falsified? For example, is it possible that enlightened self-interest just doesn’t cut it? That could be because the theory is bad (the better we match it, the worse things get), or because humans don’t fit it psychologically/​sociologically.

          In contrast to your nice descriptions, the Christian narrative is that gains are all too often acquired only via self-chosen suffering, via a willing forgiveness and thus taking the consequences upon oneself and not requiring that the other repay in full. When one iterates from generation to generation the benefits accrue—perhaps wildly—but any given generation does not necessarily have a positive bank account when it’s funeral time.

          Now of course, I’ve just started playing with fire: if killing infidels results in me getting 72 raisins virgins in heaven, I am willing to do terrible things. But if my sacrifices, for which I am never properly compensated in this life, lead to something better which I am then able to enjoy—then things change rather dramatically. Sharp knives are sharp.

      • TheNuszAbides

        Assume a fixed outcome, a best solution, (for no good reason) and you can manufacture a nice unfixed problem. Crass.

        a particular trap Luke can’t seem to escape (can’t be seen to escape?) is the presumptive “these were extra-special ideas put forth by extra-special personality” [at arguably-ish key points in recorded history?]. his rendition of “no good reason” is more like “the transcendent grounding-thing knows what’s best”, characteristically impervious to judgment.

        • Phil Rimmer

          I genuinely think Luke is doing less of that here. I think he is trying to do make arguments I will accept. Old thinking habits die hard for all of us, especially if we’re fond of them.

        • TheNuszAbides

          we already have the inspiring story that he followed evidence and patient explanation to be talked out of YEC and into evolutionary biology … who knows where else such talks could go?

  • Sophia Sadek

    Hypocrisy is a gift from the material Creator of the flat and immobile Earth.

    BTW, that looks like Norteño footwear.

  • Rational Human

    Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didnt, didn’t already have.

    • Michael Neville

      I’ve always hated that line because of the lousy grammar.

      • Kodie

        Soapsud green like bubbles, it’s poetry.

  • Phil Rimmer

    I rather liked James Franco’s Wizard. Accused of being the familiar charlatan he shows himself rather the champion of reason. No magical nonsense his, but science, strong and true….

  • rubaxter

    Sooo, you’re saying people think with their feet?

    Hardly the kind of people who are Paragons of Virtue.

  • Daniel G. Johnson

    Okay.

    So, now lay out a imperative moral agenda.

    • Michael Neville

      No such thing is possible. For something to be imperative it needs an authority to make it imperative. No such authority exists.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        Well, that’s disappointing to people on the bottom. Not sure then, why Bob wants to talk about a better society. Define better. And, how much better? Better than what?

        • Joe

          Well, that’s disappointing to people on the bottom.

          People at the bottom of where?

          If there’s no ‘top’, nobody is on the bottom.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Obviously not true. The people on the bottom are those who suffer the most deprivation of resources needed to sustain truly human life.

          Republicans invent new variations on this daily. For example, if you were a middle class parent…but then your child became subject to a medical condition that society will not pay to treat….now you is dead ass poor. You can’t save your child, but the rich can.

        • Joe

          Obviously not true

          Obviously it is, because you don’t show how it’s untrue.

          The people on the bottom are those who suffer the most deprivation of resources need to sustain truly human life.

          Why is that the bottom?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I would refer your game to experts in personality such as is measured by the MMPI and other such instruments. For example the MMPI is normed (they claim) according to how most people shake out. It’s a bean counting thing mostly. Moral positions are a part of such instruments…so one could, I suppose, play your game there.

          But, most people I know would prefer, that children and others least able to defend themselves not be left to suffer in abandonment…and such is often considered as the bottom of the human experience. That you want to play a rhetorical game with any of that probably will not get you laid by anyone worth getting laid by.

        • Joe

          I struggle to follow your train of thought.

          Why ask for an ‘imperative moral agenda’ if you already have one?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          If you find it a struggle to put suffering children first, I guess your sense of “imperative” is statistically remote compared to, say, the 2017 graduates of social work programs across the nation.

        • Joe

          If you find it a struggle to put suffering children first

          Where did I say that?

          I’m just trying to ascertain your motivations. You ask a very open ended question, then follow up with what is basically obvious to the humanists among us.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i think it’s a safe assumption that when DGJ refers to people at levels, it’s in the socioeconomic sense. though i do grok the impulse to coax specificity/context out of him much of the time.

        • Michael Neville

          Better than the hatred and bigotry towards GLBTs and women that we see from Christians like Kim Davis and Pope Francis. Yep, Frankie made a couple of remarks basically calling transsexuals untermenschen and condemning homosexuals as “unnatural”.

          EDIT: Not having a set of testicles is still disqualifying for women to be priests in the Mormon and Catholic churches.

          Better than the Hadism in Brooklyn who put up signs like the one below. A rough translation is “Precious Jewish daughters, please move over to the side when you see a man coming towards you.”

          http://www.brooklynpaper.com/assets/photos/34/41/dtg_hasidicsidewalks_2011_10_14_bk01_z.jpg

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Okay. But, as distressing as that is…you would rank it worse than children being denied life saving health care?….and elderly people not being able to have food and shelter?

        • Michael Neville

          It’s been a good while since churches were the only operators of hospitals. In the US fewer than 20% of all hospitals are church affiliated (autocorrect tried to make that afflicted). I have no idea where you get the idea that the elderly are only supported by churches.

          Here’s a historical note for you: The reason why Western governments got into the welfare business was that private charities, both church and secular, weren’t able to carry the load. During the Great Depression there were fears of widespread starvation in Western countries so various government programs were instituted to prevent that. Few people starved, but during World War II several thousand men in the U.S, Britain, Canada and Australia were rejected for military service due to the effects of malnutrition.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I did not even mention churches in regard to the social concerns I mentioned including the elderly!

          I am speaking in the context of the need itself. If Atheists want to make a rhetorical assertion that society will be better if x happens…fine. I am in interested in the “better”. Certainly a starving child needs food, and certainly society has a duty toward that situation. This is not academic or rhetorical. It actual physical flesh and blood reality every day. Who is to do what toward it?

          Does, for example, American society have a moral core that tends to the most vulnerable? If so, what and who does that moral core (or a claim that it exists) rest on? You mention “government”. Well, let’s talk about WHO the government workers actually are who are charged with delivering “the welfare business” you refer to. Who are those people?

        • Michael Neville

          I understand now. You have a mental picture of atheists as spiritual descendants of Ebenezer Scrooge, proclaiming: “Are there no prisons, are there no workhouses?” when asked to give to charity and muttering “bah humbug” when taxes are raised. An easy mistake to make for someone who considers atheists to be anti-social nihilists. You have us confused with libertarians and Tea Party Republicans

          Most American atheists are secular humanists.

          Secular humanism is a comprehensive, nonreligious lifestance incorporating:

          * A naturalistic philosophy
          * A cosmic outlook rooted in science
          * A consequentialist ethical system

          To quote further from the link:

          Secular humanists hold that ethics is consequential, to be judged by results. This is in contrast to so-called command ethics, in which right and wrong are defined in advance and attributed to divine authority. “No god will save us,” declared Humanist Manifesto II (1973), “we must save ourselves.” Secular humanists seek to develop and improve their ethical principles by examining the results they yield in the lives of real men and women.

          Because the religious right has demonized the term “secular humanism” many Humanists prefer the unmodified but capitalized word Humanism be used. Personally I don’t care either way.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          No. I am concerned about American class structure and public policy.

          The objective fact is that much improvement needs to be achieved in regard to the poor and oppressed. That is not going to happen without major economic and political investment.

          So. Let us take up the statement from the Humanist Manifesto “We must save ourselves”. Do you construe that to be an issue of volunteerism? If so, I think it can be easily predicted that such volunteerism shall not be of sufficient scale to make a scratch or dent in the moral social needs agenda. It seems to me that only a social legal/compulsory structure shall have the scale to effect any real relief of suffering.

        • Joe

          Do you construe that to be an issue of volunteerism?

          Not in the long term. Perhaps you should do a bit of reading on secular humanism? It might clear up some misconceptions of yours.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Questions are not a conception. Questions are questions. You rather sound like Trump’s adviser Stephen Miller…something like “the powers of secular humanism are vast and not to be questioned.” But, more to the point, my questions are in the context of atheists here name-dropping “morality” and not ever articulating what exactly is contained in the “morality” they name-drop. If they cannot articulate it here…then, the default is what?…”Google ‘secular humanism'”????? I can get more specificity out of Bernie Sanders democratic socialism. It seems to me that the most practical current thing for an atheist wanting to articulate a moral agenda would be to latch onto the Sanders/Warren agenda.

          Or. Go ahead. If we can dispense here with bourgeoisie notions of voluntary charity, then it seems to me that leaves us with the question of actual political work that produces laws that create a real safety net for the most vulnerable.

        • Joe

          But, more to the point, my questions are in the context of atheists here name-dropping “morality” and not ever articulating what exactly is contained in the “morality” they name-drop.

          I’ve pointed you in the right direction but to no avail. Basically my morality is geared towards minimizing harm and discomfort to sentient creatures.

          It seems to me that the most practical current thing for an atheist wanting to articulate a moral agenda would be to latch onto the Sanders/Warren agenda.

          I’d wager you’d find support for Sanders higher amongst atheists/nonreligious. As opposed to the evangelicals who overwhelmingly voted for Trump.

          If we can dispense here with bourgeoisie notions of voluntary charity,

          Please, lets.

          that leaves us with the question of actual political work that produces laws that create a real safety net for the most vulnerable.

          Which would be socialistic or, and here’s the kicker, humanistic.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Socialism (Sanders). Say it loud. Say it strong. Sanders actually made a real showing.

          You prefer “humanistic”

          I prefer “Marxist”.

        • Joe

          The two aren’t the same, so I’d prefer you didn’t conflate the two.

          Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with either.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I’m not conflating. I think Marxism is better.

        • Joe

          I’m not sure I agree.

          Humanism is wider ranging, Marxism focuses more on economics and politics.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I agree with you on that. It’s just that a Marxist perspective is more important to me. I generally do not find myself disagreeing much with people who label themselves “humanist”. But, as a Jew, I am more inclined to law. Marx at times claimed not to be moved by morality and that his law was scientific, but then again historians have caught him in some places using moral language and concepts. One reviewer mused that Marx was kind of fuzzy on morality. Either way, the outcome of legal provisions/protections for the poor whether by humanist morality or theories of scientific sociological justice achieve a moral end (by Jewish standards)…and so that would be what I would be going for.

        • Michael Neville

          I gave you a link to a Secular Humanist site. Read it over carefully and you will not see anything Marxist about it. You’re either ignorant about humanism, Marxism or both. My guess is both.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I did not assert a relation. I was stating my preference for a Marxist perspective.

        • Michael Neville

          I think you and I are talking past each other. I’m withdrawing from this particular conversation.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I’m sure you’re right there. Peace.

        • Joe

          You’re either ignorant about humanism, Marxism or both. My guess is both.

          Why do I suddenly feel like Tacos for dinner tonight?

        • Susan

          I am concerned about American class structure and public policy.

          So am I. I’m fairly sure many others here agree.

          What does that have to do with Yahwejesus atheism?

          It seems to me that only a social legal/compulsory structure shall have the scale to effect any real relief of suffering.

          Yes. That is usually required to effect anything on any level.

          So, give me an example.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Bob brought this on y’all. He’s applying some standard of “hard work” as a matter of “morality” to result in a “better society”. What exactly does that mean?

          Who does what work?

          As it is, a lot of the hard work is done by working class grunts in social services for $8-$9 an hour.

        • Joe

          Who does what work?

          Let me give you a hint: It’s not pixies.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Yes. Let’s talk about who staffs homeless shelters and group homes for profoundly mentally challenged people.

        • Joe

          Lets not, this thread has been derailed enough as it is.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Well, me, for starters. And I can verify how few in this particular trade are actually practicing Christians. Interestingly, with one exception every single person on my staff is non cisgender.

          So what point, exactly, are you pretending to make here?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          You assumed I defend Christian agenda?

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          No, it’s not an assumption.

        • Kodie

          Religious people know it’s not pixies either. I am reading down this part of the conversation and now that Daniel mentions it, what is better, and what is hard work? This is the religious right defining better as gays can’t marry, and doing the hard work to make their morality a reality by refusing to do business with them or stamping their marriage licenses. Religious people are doing a lot of hard work to make society better according to them.

        • Joe

          I don’t know Daniels motivations. On several posts now, he starts off with an abrupt question that makes me think he’s a religious moral objectivist.

          Then the conversation veers off track into humanism. Now he’s claiming to be a Marxist? Forgive me for taking that with a pinch of salt.

          *Edit: He now claims to be a Marxist Jew. Time will tell if he sticks to his story.

        • Kodie

          I’m not really paying that much attention to his position, but in this post, it kind of assumes that religious people just pray and get nothing done, and we’re assuming they even have the same goals as most of us do. In actuality, they’re more organized and they do not share our goals, and they do work really hard to make the world a better place accordingly. It’s just that it’s not better for a lot of other people.

          Edited: And then we work hard to make the world a better place and that motivates the religious because our “better” is their “totally getting worse and worse every year”.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I see you have worked on your post, so I will respond in kind.

          Example: Many social service agencies today run on ever thinning shoestrings where the bottom workers are more and more tasked at lower rates of compensation increasing burnout and overall dysfunction. It’s something akin to what has happened in higher education where someone above has pocketed money while the day-to-day functions of education are serviced by impoverished adjunct faculty who often have to go on public assistance of some kind on the side. So in social service agencies, you have this whole underclass of bottom workers…some have no degrees or licenses…they are trained in-house by others just above them with some minimal credentials…some may be on a very slow trek of trying to get a degree…some may have a bachelors…some may have an initial license…but they all have very heavy work burdens; very high stress and burnout rates…if they stay in social services they often do so by way of making lateral moves just to change the channel. These are the people who do the actual physical work of social service… many for $8-$9 an hour. This is what America’s “morality” actually rests on…while others talk about “work”. The LPN…the shelter worker….the group home staffer…the assistant case worker (who is the real case worker working for cheap under supervision of a credentialed case worker overseeing too many underlings)…the childrens services case worker who just graduated from college and has a case load so heavy that it endangers children by virtue of it not being mathematically possible to handle such a case load.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          And interestingly, it’s the Christian centric group voting to keep it this way by refusing to actually provide any funds towards the operations, whether via taxation or charitable contributions.

          So I ask again, what point are you pretending to make here?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I agree with you. I think these facts need to be specifically articulated. Too often I think issues of social work and economic deprivation are not sufficiently included in rightful critique of religion. It seems to me that it’s not enough to just state it’s the job of the government to provide (it is) without acknowledging or detailing the present under-support. A lot of people just don’t think about that unless they are given a reason to think about it.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          —-Too often I think issues of social work and economic deprivation are not
          sufficiently included in rightful critique of religion.—

          Then you really haven’t been paying attention to the conversation.

          Also? Marxism? Yeah, that won’t help the issue of my work being understaffed and underfunded. If anything, it would make it worse, as has been demonstrated every time any form of Marxism has been applied. Why? Because of that whole tribalism thing, which is rooted in identity politics, which is why we keep bringing up identity politics.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I disagree with you there on two points. First, I think more detailed information needs to be articulated on how the inner workings of religious institutions fail the poor. It is not enough to just generally critique. Second, there is a difference between movements claiming Marxist identity and in engaging in Marxist economic analysis…the latter being my frame of reference. In the current American (and western) context, there are no viable credible Marxist parties or movements. There is however in Europe and to a lesser extent in America a resurgence in varieties of Marxist thought. In general, I think such thought distills to some affiliation with the most viable socialist movement currently at work….you take what you can get. In recent history though, I think the most credible actual Marxist movement(s) were the liberation theology circles in Latin America. They did not survive in the strength they were in..in the 1980s…due to the conservative power elites in the Church(es).

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          —First, I think more detailed information needs to be articulated on how
          the inner workings of religious institutions fail the poor.—

          Right, cause there haven’t been books, blogs, papers, magazine articles, scholarly works, historical treatises, and doctoral theses written on that particular subject all over the damn place and easily available, so clearly we need to restate all these things each and every time we post on a thread related to this subject.

          I apologize for the assumption that you’ve been paying attention to anything going on for, oh, the past… Hang on, are we limiting this to Christianity or just religion in general? Cause it’s either the past two thousand years or the past, you know, forever?

          I also apologize for assuming that if you were going to come in and try arguing like you knew what you were talking about that you’d done your basic homework first.

          —Second, there is a difference between movements claiming Marxist
          identity and in engaging in Marxist economic analysis…the latter being
          my frame of reference.—

          Ah, so you’ve only looked at Marxism wholly in the abstract and then only on the surface. Allow me to reiterate :

          I also apologize for assuming that if you were going to come in and try arguing like you knew what you were talking about that you’d done your basic homework first.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I would be interested to hear what you have read as you are into homework. In regard to Liberation Theology, can you discuss the central book and its author in regard to that movement…since you know books?

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Honey, I’m not here to do your homework for you. I’ve already put in time explaining things to you nicely at the 101 level only to have you repeatedly keep pretending you’re an expert. But sure. We’ll play.

          I’m guessing you’re talking about Gustavo Gutierrez, but that assumes you’re talking about the Latin American Liberation Theology, which involves Catholicism. You could be talking about the Palestinian version, which is a bit more Protestant. To sum up Gutierrez, he is one of the many, many self-righteous buffoons out there who thinks poverty is a result of not being religious enough and that if people just put god first then life will be hunky-dory and everything will be A-Okay because once everyone is all ‘yay god’ they’ll start loving their neighbor and valuing life. Because apparently, like so many other self-righteous buffoons, he slept through 90% of his history classes. I mean, he’s better than most, because he at least doesn’t think being poor is the fault of the poor, but he still thinks the solution is god and church.

          Either way, you do prove that your goal here is in fact trying to support a religious objective morality and you chose a very half-assed way of going about it that just demonstrates how incredibly unprepared you were for this discussion.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Your evaluation of Gutierrez has the sound of an overly fast read of a wikipedia article. That he and his clerical followers were Catholic did not seem to impress the Papacy and Vatican establishment to the point of they opposing the movement. In that context, many were happy to remove the Catholic context and consider and emulate and apply the principle of a preferential option for the poor with no religion attached…which was the optimal benefit of the concept…that it could be secularized.

          In regard to more recent faux Palestinian liberation theology, most notably led by Sabeel and within them the Lutheran and Episcopal endeavors, all of that has proved itself to be largely just a compartment of neo-anti-Semitism. And as such, it will never garner wider support than it has now, and which is not conducive to brokering a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          My evaluation of Gutierrez is brief because A) I’m not a Catholic and B) Once I’ve ascertained something is the same bullshit that’s been proved by the long weight of history not to work I tend to toss it aside and move on with life. So no, I haven’t done an in depth study of your pet theory, just as I haven’t done an in depth study of the various works of Flat-Earthers and Young Earth Creationists. Doing so would be a complete waste of my time.

          But I did know what the fuck you were talking about, that it’s bullshit, and that it showed your intentions. Now, are you done trying to play your little ‘gotcha’ game with the rather sad attempt to make yourself not look like the uneducated one here?

          Do you even have a coherent argument you’d like to make?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          As I alluded to before, the trajectory of possible Marxist applications was said Liberation Theology and it indeed, for all intents and purposes was abandoned. Now you may consider all abandonments (even people?…I hope not) proof of worthlessness…only you can say. But, life does go on, and people do re-tool best they can. In the field of economics, in recent years, such is the case with a book like “Capital In The Twenty First Century” by Thomas Piketty. Although, Piketty is quick to state he is not a Marxist, his work sparked wide evaluation that it was Marxist-esque…so, in general a signal that the historical process continues in some evolutionary process with ideas such that it produces neo-somethingorothers. But, in general Piketty’s work fell into positive reviews of many who are looking at Marx again (and again).

          So, it remains to be seen how a present and future generation might apply Marx-ist thought. If any can agree with Gutierrez that the poor are to have a preferential option, the endeavor seems to have moral merit. Otherwise, if one is interfacing with the poor and NOT putting them first, then the question is begged just what IS first in that endeavor.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Lot of words in which you pretty much said nothing, and since you aren’t doing us the courtesy of reading and responding to what we say, I’m not going waste my time trying to figure out what it is you think you are trying to say. You have fun tilting at those strawmen now.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I think putting the poor first, especially the clients in my care is something imperative…and not “nothing”.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Yeah, there you go again with the strawmen. Honey, do try to remember who you are talking to here. I’ve already explained what I do for a living. I know you really weren’t counting on someone like me being in the thread when you started in with the self-righteousness, but frankly if your argument had been coherent in the first place it would have survived and you wouldn’t be scrambling right now.

          Here is a tip for the future – if you have a point to make, just make it. Don’t play the BS games. Don’t try to be ‘clever’. And stop playing like you’re the only one that’s ever taken a philosophy class. Many of us have. And we’ve also taken history classes, have been involved in politics, and perhaps the other part you really need to work on – we’ve been paying attention.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          So, what philosophy class did you take?

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Really? This game again?

          Sorry, sweetie. Not playing this round. I’ve already taken you to school enough this week. Since you’ve nothing of substance to add and are simply trying a sad little ‘gotcha’ game that puts me in mind of the whole BS ‘well if you don’t know this obscure fact about X game you obviously aren’t a real gamer so I can dismiss everything you say’ line, yeah, been there, done that, not playing. Done.

        • Michael Neville

          Some of us have also studied economics and political economics, including classical Marxism.

          Marxist theory has long been criticized for being economically deterministic. Marx argued that economic laws determined not only the shape of society but also the direction of history itself. On reflection it is clearly the case that other factors shape history as well. Different societies have responded differently to the global spread of capitalism. Some have pushed neo-liberalism. Others like the Scandinavian countries have taken a social democratic line and used the state as a buffer to protect citizens from the worst excesses of capitalist exploitation. China has developed a form of autocratic-capitalism. Cuba and more recently Venezuela have rejected capitalism in favor of a socialist dictatorship.

          I would also argue that Marx’s theorizing about the world is no longer relevant. Rather than researching with the intention of creating the perfect society, we should be focusing our attention on much more specific and localized social issues.

        • Michael Neville

          This is Sociology 101 stuff. If you’re concerned about American class structure and public policy then why are you discussing them on an atheist blog? A political blog or a sociological blog would be more appropriate for that discussion.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          The topic is concerned with morality and a better society. Bob says, “Want a better society? It’ll happen only as a result of our hard work. ”

          I want to hear what the work is.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          No, you really don’t, because that question has been answered already. Multiple times.

          So I ask again, what point are you pretending to make here?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I disagree that it has been well articulated. The most I have seen is vague references to “tribe” and various sexuality issues (which are important). I think the political and economic policies of Republicans et al producing poverty and oppression are primary…which swells the number of clients in need of social work…underfunded and understaffed. I would like to see Bob affirm that he understands that.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          —I disagree that it has been well articulated. The most I have seen is
          vague references to “tribe” and various sexuality issues (which are
          important). I think the political and economic policies of Republicans
          et al producing poverty and oppression are primary…which swells the
          number of clients in need of social work…underfunded and understaffed.
          I would like to see Bob affirm that he understands that.—

          The only person having trouble understanding is you. You seem to be convinced these are separate issues. The political and economic policies of the Republicans follow from the tribal identity issues. They are a consequence of Republican tribalism.

          Folks like Bob understand that, which is why they are trying to address the underlying issues.

          If all people were treated as human, then certain groups wouldn’t be forced into poverty and oppressed, my work wouldn’t be underfunded and understaffed, and we certainly wouldn’t be in dealing with an asshat like 45 in office.

          My line of work is underfunded and understaffed due to poverty and oppression due to Republican politics and economics which is due to Republicans seeing folks that aren’t them as ‘the other’ and not wanting ‘the other’ to have the same rights and benefits they do.

      • TheNuszAbides

        would Starfleet’s Prime Directive suffice? or does that go in the “not-morals-but-ethics” box? (leaving aside that it ultimately depends on the official words from an actual Starfleet being actually conceived)

    • Kevin K

      Why?

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        Again, Bob said, “Want a better society? It’ll happen only as a result of our hard work.”

        So. I would like to know what his program is there. What IS “our hard work”????

        • Kevin K

          Well, “the program” can be encapsulated quite simply….”Don’t be a dick.”

          Putting that into practice is somewhat difficult, because we’re trying to overcome several millions of years of evolutionary history that developed us as both social animals that need to cooperate in order to thrive, AND as tribal species that compete against the out-groups for limited resources.

          That’s where the hard work comes in, realizing that we have strong cultural and perhaps even instinctual reasons to behave aggressively against those not in our “tribe”.

          You’re more than a little bit bigoted against people who don’t eat the same foods you do, or wear funny hats, or point in the wrong direction when they pray to a different imaginary creature that you do. It’s not your fault that you are bigoted. It is your fault if you act on those biases unthinkingly.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Oh. I thought you were going to tell me that you would support a mandatory minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.

          Hey, I thought I was the one with the funny hat.

        • Kevin K

          Do you have a point?

          You asked the question…I answered. “Don’t be a dick.”

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          It seems that you and some others have articulated something that asserts that identity issues or perhaps identity politics is the primary thing that has to be worked on toward a “better society”. As important as that is, I believe that economic issues are the primary task…specifically in the context of a “preferential option for the poor”.

        • Kevin K

          Where did I assert that?

          It’s purely about our evolutionary heritage. In-group versus out-group is certainly not specifically about gender, sexual orientation, skin color, or religion, or language, or anything else. You see it everywhere…as an example, if I ask you to finish the phrase “Yankees _____”, if you’re not from the NYC area or didn’t grow up a Derek Jeter fan, you will fill in the blank with the word “sucks”. That’s out-group bias.

          It was a pro-adaptive behavior that is now mal-adaptive in our global world. We have to recognize and overcome it on all levels. Because it’s toxic on all levels.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          In my value system (and tribe), there is a more primary issue: life and death. In my view, people who lack basic resources for life…who are likely to die in that condition should be of primary concern.

        • Kevin K

          No. In your “tribe, the primary issue is whether you get the kitchen upgrade in your after-death apartment.

          And if you and your in-group truly believe that assisting those who lack basic resources for life is the prime directive, you wouldn’t be arguing with people on the internet. You would be selling everything you have to give to the poor, which is what that fellow in ancient times allegedly said was the only way to get that particular after-death kitchen upgrade you so desperately seek.

          And even then, proximity matters. It’s the availability heuristic. You care more for your family than your friends, more for your neighbors than for those far distant from you. In the time it took you to write that post, approximately 3 people died of starvation (1 every 10 seconds). Most of them in places you probably couldn’t point to on a map. You don’t have a primary concern about them. If you did, you’d storm the halls of power demanding that something be done.

          Instead, you offer platitudes — as if that elevates you from people like me who don’t believe in your myths and superstitions.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Although I am not aware of scientific surveys, I believe that it’s been fairly established that many if not most in my tribe are fairly dubious about after-death apartments…which is why we concentrate on this life on the planet….and public policy.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          Ah. Here we go. You are one of those who think a person can only support one cause at once.

          Just to let you know, it doesn’t actually work that way.

          See, here I am, agreeing with them that identity issues (such as not treating the mentally ill, minorities, and poor as subhuman) is what will help with the whole mandatory minimum wage thing. The reason there is no mandatory minimum wage is because certain assholes (predominately Christian) think certain types of people aren’t worth paying a living wage.

          Thus, we come into identity politics. Caring for a mentally ill person is important and necessary work, but because certain groups (predominately Christian) want to pretend mental illness is just sin, they think people like me don’t actually deserve money and want to just ignore us and hope we go away and take the mentally ill with us. They assume we can just warehouse people forty to a room because they are mentally ill and thus don’t deserve basic human rights and compassion.

          So I get paid shit because of identity politics. How do we fix the problem? Well, for starters, we fight for all people to be recognized as people.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I see your point in regard to religious prejudice against mentally challenged people and mental challenge in general. A very good point.

          I would like to see Bob acknowledge that you and others are paid shit. It’s a fact. That denotes a political task of holding power accountable to actual outcomes. I think that is the hard work.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          —I would like to see Bob acknowledge that you and others are paid shit.—

          Why? They aren’t arguing otherwise.

          —That denotes a political task of holding power accountable to actual outcomes. I think that is the hard work.—

          Okay, maybe you should try going back and rereading what I wrote, because you missed like 90% of it.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Not arguing otherwise is not the same as specifically detailing justice issues pertaining to the poor and oppressed.

          Yes, you actually did write to the matter of actual power and outcomes on issues such as we are discussing. That does not happen very often. I think it should happen more.

        • http://withinthismind.com/ WithinThisMind

          —That does not happen very often. I think it should happen more.—

          Then I state again, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to the conversation.

          Because that’s what all the other people in this conversation have been telling you. I’m just the one who was nice enough to do it at the 101 level.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          That shit pay means it is hard to keep people (I am working 65 hours overtime this upcoming week!). A few weeks ago we lost five people we just got. If they keep cutting Medicaid funding I don’t know what is going to happen!

        • Joe

          It seems that you and some others have articulated something that asserts that identity issues or perhaps identity politics is the primary thing that has to be worked on toward a “better society”.

          Yet, most of us here are telling you differently. You keep forging blindly ahead with your presumptions though.

        • Joe

          I signed a petition in Australia to keep weekend penalty rates.

          I would support such a level for the minimum wage.

          Why do you assume we’re all Ayn Rand fans here?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          (I don’t assume that about “you all”). I’ve had my wonderings about Bob.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Do you think a mandatory minimum wage of $15.00 per hour will sort it all out for you over there?

          Can you not think of any reasons why such a strategy is not the long term answer?

          There is a difference between a mandatory “minimum wage” and a “real living wage”….while the later is preferable, neither can alleviate poverty unfortunately.

          We’ve had both here in the UK here for quite a while now…the “minimum wage” from 1998…it didn’t result in a poverty free utopia am afraid.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I agree with you. It’s one part of a step forward. It would have had more impact earlier. 40 years of wage suppression is a generational thing.

        • Ignorant Amos

          The jury is still out on that one.

          Where I live there was a lot of industry up until the 80’s…textiles mostly…then manufacturing went to the far east because of costs…salaries mostly. Cheaper to ship materials to overseas destinations for manufacture and ship back.

          While the “minimum wage” had some positive impact to begin with in the short term, the problems have now appeared and the situation looks gloomy going forward.

          http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/inadequate-minimum-wage-isnt-working-says-its-chief-architect-sir-george-bain-8737169.html

          “The Wage Flaw: Why Minimum Wage Isn’t Working”

          https://iea.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/EA-all-lores.pdf

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Interesting. I wonder what impact the difference in scale of the two economies might have in possible results. Politically, here, I think the attempt to do “something” would be received favorably by enough to produce, at least in social psychology, that short term benefit. Whether such can be leveraged toward expanded broader initiatives that actually help would be a further chink in the experiment. I suppose the unspoken point here has to do with technology and a segment of the workforce that is just behind no matter what. I fear that point gets overused to justify all kinds of decisions not to invest in new avenues. When I was an inner city school teacher…one thing that drove all us teachers nuts….liberal or conservative…was the outright refusal of policy makers to consider appropriate new vocational education programs that would apprentice our kids from middle school through high school. They would have found teachers eager to help build that.

    • Chuck Johnson

      So, now lay out a imperative moral agenda.-Daniel

      I have a fact-based, empirical, science-based moral agenda for you.
      Good human morality values and promotes the survival and the evolution of life here on Earth.

      Survival allows evolution to proceed. Evolution helps life to survive in improved and more efficient ways.

      Such morality puts a high value upon the survival of human individuals, groups of humans, and the entire human race.

      • Daniel G. Johnson

        I like it. I like it a lot. On the survival aspect, I assume a psycho-social component. One of my frames of reference on that is my experience as an urban school teacher. Too many children doubt their survival and/or their worthiness to survive which directly impacts their capacity to attach to educational endeavor. Thus public policy and educational methodology need to be configured to attend to the moral imperative of helping kids build a belief system and self-concept such that they can learn and benefit from learning.

        • Ignorant Amos

          Thus public policy and educational methodology need to be configured to attend to the moral imperative of helping kids build a belief system and self-concept such that they can learn and benefit from learning.

          How’s that working out in places where religious education is mandatory and the majority of schools are sectarian…like here in the Northern Ireland?

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I cannot comment on education in Northern Ireland. I can imagine it’s quite different.

        • Ignorant Amos

          It is quite different…but not in a good way….which is my point. It is divisive.

          The teaching religion/beliefs should have no place in schools.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Too many children doubt their survival and/or their worthiness to
          survive which directly impacts their capacity to attach to educational
          endeavor. -Daniel

          And they need to also be taught that their thoughts, their actions, and their understanding can also help their friends and family to survive.

          Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          I think that it is true. At the same time we need to be aware that kids can take on too much. In an alcoholic family, there can often be an “honor child” who ends up taking responsibility for everything and that can have a lot difficult impact on that person down the road.

        • Chuck Johnson

          Secrets, lies and child abuse take their toll.
          Much more needs to be done to protect children and provide an environment that is physically and emotionally safe.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Yes indeed. School teachers, among others, are mandated reporters. The most frustrating thing is that we had all these kids in trouble and we would report until we were blue…and very little was done by Childrens Services. Our school counselor was also a licensed MSW who I worked closely with. One day I just bluntly asked her, “Basically, does a kid have to be on the very edge of possible death before the system moves?” She said, “Unfortunately, yes. The case loads are just out of control.”

        • Chuck Johnson

          The problem is easy to state.
          Children are raised by untrained amateurs.
          With billions of children to raise, this poses a big challenge.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          My first school assignment was in an inner city middle school in a neighborhood run by a gang operated out of Chicago. It was more than the local police could handle, and ultimately the feds came in and broke the gang up. But, the damage was far done. My second school was an elementary in the area I grew up in…working class, but no gangs or much violence. A lot of economic loss which had stressed marriages and families. Both those neighborhoods looked entirely different in the 1970s.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          “Too many children doubt their survival and/or their worthiness to survive which directly impacts their capacity to attach to educational endeavor.”

          *raises hand* That was me when I tried to get through university.

        • Daniel G. Johnson

          Yes. It’s really weird how schools have personalities. Some are really mean. A lot just don’t give a shit. I’ve been a student at lot of different ones. And I taught for one…a community college that treats students like crap. I only did it for one quarter. I really liked the actual job and the students…I had two sections. But, my supervisor would come and give me shit for passing too many students. She actually had the theory that if I failed more of them, a good chunk of them would actually re-enroll for another try…which is mo money. Bullshit. I didn’t need the job…they were night classes and I was teaching elementary school in the day. On the other side, I cannot say enough good for the school where I got my teaching license…a very unusually human place.

      • sg

        “Survival allows evolution to proceed.”

        Can you explain what you mean by this?

        How does selection figure into this?

        • Joe

          It’s basic evolutionary theory.

          Surviving organisms are able to breed and pass on their DNA.

          Selection, in Chuck’s example, is whatever fails to kill said organisms.

        • Chuck Johnson

          “Survival allows evolution to proceed.”Can you explain what you mean by this?-sg

          Survival and evolution mutually support each in multiple ways, and in ways that are not always obvious.

          Those species or organisms which do not survive make room for the survivors. Evolution can only proceed to modify the survivors.

          Here, I am stating the obvious in order to create a mental image of “surviving and evolving” referring to each other and being a necessary condition for each other.

          An example would be to imagine that evolution would stop today.
          Life on Earth would then persist for a while, but in the long run, extinction of species would remove all life from the planet.

        • Chuck Johnson

          How does selection figure into this?-sg

          I’m not sure what you’re asking, but the definition of “selection” here is survival combined with having offspring or descendants.

          “Un-selected” would then mean either dying or having offspring which are not well-suited to survive.

          Selection refers to surviving and having survivable descendants.
          Both are necessary.

  • JustAnotherAtheist2

    I’ve already laid out my stone tablet analogy, so instead of doing that again I’ll ask…. how are theists defining, “objective”? Outside of human minds? Outside of all minds? Literally having platonic independent existence?

    • Kodie

      I think they think it’s similar to gravity – it just is, and has the sort of reliability and consistency that you can almost make a formula for what is good or bad. So far, the only item on the list that I’ve seen is raping and torturing babies for fun is definitely bad. They don’t seem to think moral relativism is at all valid, even when they would sometimes seem to agree that some things are worse than others, else why bring up torture and raping of innocent children for fun instead of cutting people off in traffic or taking credit for someone else’s work.

      • Giauz Ragnarock

        Except, gravity is objective. One cannot have an undersized part of their brain that makes it so they can’t feel anything about violating gravity, and then they start making themselves and other things float around chaotically. However, morality does depend on the actions and mental state of each individual, rather than just being an unvarying quality of the actions individuals are able to take across the entire population.

        • Nonsensical

          There is nothing more concrete than the truth.

          To quote Roger Scruton:
          “A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative,’ is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.”

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          Sounds like he is equivocating different meanings of the same word, a common trait of Christian honesty.

  • sandy

    The search for peace of mind and happiness has always been a search from inside ourselves. Atheists have figured this out and no longer rely on an outside agency such as god or religion for answers. It is also so much more satisfying to know YOU ultimately are in control of how you feel and accept the challenge to take charge of yourself. Great article!

  • Sheila Warner

    This is one of your best posts! I’m saving it.

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

      :-)