25 Reasons We Don’t Live in a World with a God (Part 7)

Do we live in a world with a god? It doesn’t look like it (part 1 of this series here).

Let’s continue our survey with the next clue that we live in a godless world:

14. Because not even Christians take their religion seriously

Christianity makes bold claims: that prayers are answered. That God protects his own. That Jesus heals disease. It’s one thing to blithely support these claims, as some Christians feel obliged to do, but it gets messy when those claims crash into real-world facts.

Take, for example, the claim that Jesus miraculously heals disease. A New Zealand church put up a billboard in 2012 that said, “Jesus Heals Cancer,” but if you’re advertising an important claim, belief is not enough. You need the evidence to back it up, and the government authority in charge of advertising unsurprisingly concluded that the evidence wasn’t there. One observer objected, “As the mother of a three-year-old boy who has spent the past 18 months fighting against leukemia, I find the above billboard offensive and upsetting.”

Most Christians expect a cultivated person to have the decorum to avoid actually testing Christianity’s claims (even if they’re begging to be tested). The problem arises when someone doesn’t have the good taste to resist that temptation.

In another example, a Pennsylvania couple let their two-year-old child die of bacterial pneumonia in 2009 when they chose prayer instead of medicine. Knowing first hand that prayer doesn’t heal, they did it again with another child in 2013.

Contrasting a similar series of preventable childhood deaths in Oregon with the national motto “In God We Trust,” an American Humanist article made an incisive observation. In response to Oregon’s removing laws protecting parents who reject medical care for their children in favor of prayer, it said,

[These changes to the law are] tantamount to the state saying, “Sure, it looks great on a coin, but come on you idiot, it’s not as though this god stuff actually works.”

Think about a church steeple with a lightning rod. The steeple proclaims that God exists, and the lightning rod says that it can reduce lightning damage. Which claim has the evidence?

In its early days, some saw the lightning rod as interfering in God’s divine plan. If God wanted lightning to burn down a building, who was Man to interfere? When an earthquake hit New England in 1755, one pastor concluded that it was God’s punishment: “In Boston are more [lightning rods] erected than anywhere else in New England, and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. Oh! there is no getting out of the mighty hand of God.”

Possibly even more ironic than a church with a lightning rod is a Popemobile with bulletproof glass (necessary after the 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul II). Christians’ actions speak louder than words, and they make it clear that in any situation where you expect God to step in, you will be disappointed.

Do Christians really believe in heaven? Ian McEwan neatly contrasted seeing a loved one off at a funeral versus seeing them off on a cruise ship. When you wave to friends on a cruise ship, you know that you’ll see them again. No one thinks that they’re going away and never coming back, though at a funeral, people might be sobbing uncontrollably. The priest can offer comfort with “You’ll soon see them in heaven,” but few really believe it.

In perhaps the most extreme collision of Christian faith with reality, one man filed suit against Satan in U.S. district court in United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff (1971). The plaintiff charged: “Satan has on numerous occasions caused plaintiff misery and unwarranted threats, against the will of plaintiff, that Satan has placed deliberate obstacles in his path and has caused plaintiff’s downfall.”

Christians must laugh at this like the rest of us do, but why would they if indeed the Dark Lord causes people real injury in the real world? This is like the movie Oh, God, where God-believing people couldn’t believe that God (played by George Burns) would actually show himself. People are so comfortable with zero evidence for the most important person in the universe that they balk at the idea of real, convincing evidence.

Robert Price* used Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life to illustrate taking the Bible literally vs. taking the Bible seriously. Warren said that the Noah story is literally true. But what about the self-contradicting inconsistencies in the story? What about its unscientific claims? What about the cruelty? These don’t trouble Warren, who cheerfully imagines God saying about Noah, “This guy brings me pleasure. He makes me smile. I’ll start over with his family.”** And by “start over,” he means murdering millions of people by drowning.

Warren takes the story literally, which means that he’ll assure you that it happened. But he avoids taking it seriously so that he needn’t lose sleep over the illogic and the violence.

You can just believe that Tinker Bell will get well, but there are standards in the real world. A real god who wanted to interact with us would provide real evidence. Christians’ weak support for God in the real world make clear that they know that we don’t have it.

Continued in part 8.

* Robert M. Price, The Reason-Driven Life, pp 105–6.

** Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life, p. 71.

I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father,
expects or requires no worship or praise from us,
but that He is even infinitely above it.
— Benjamin Franklin

.
Image via Courtney Carmody, CC license

 

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  • Halbe

    The funeral examples are really good. One would expect deep sorrow and mourning at the funeral of atheist uncle Bob, and a cheerful party at devout Christian aunt Betty’s funeral. Or even a cheerful party at both: uncle Bob is finally getting the ultimate justice he deserves and so is aunt Betty.

    • Doubting Thomas

      Little are you aware that Uncle Bob made a death bed confession and is now in heaven while Aunt Betty, one wild college night, took it up the butt. Mourn accordingly.

      • Halbe

        Uncle Bob now has eternal fun in heaven playing poker with Jeffrey Dahmer, while Aunt Betty has to settle for eternal philosophical discussions with Anne Frank while being roasted over the fires of hell. Not sure how to mourn…

    • RichardSRussell

      FWIW, in New Orleans they really do whoop it up after a funeral. I appreciate the consistency, even if I think they’re nuts.

  • Cozmo the Magician

    I’ll bet NOT ONE SINGLE church in the whole world has ever paid for insurance… cause that would like be betting against god.

  • Jim Jones

    A Texas Bar Sues Local Church Over Lightning Strike!

    http://www.preparingforeternity.com/bar.htm

    (Snopes say not true).

    • I think I heard a similar story with the bar replaced by a cathouse.

  • skl

    “Do Christians really believe in heaven? Ian McEwan neatly contrasted seeing a loved one
    off at a funeral versus seeing them off on a cruise ship. When you wave to
    friends on a cruise ship, you know that you’ll see them again. No one thinks
    that they’re going away and never coming back, though at a funeral, people
    might be sobbing uncontrollably.
    The priest can offer comfort with “You’ll soon
    see them in heaven,” but few really believe it.”

    Maybe even Jesus didn’t believe in heaven.
    Because the bible says “Jesus wept” when he was told of a friend’s death.

    Trivia: Someone told me it’s the shortest verse in the bible.

    • Halbe

      Of course Jesus wept. “No one comes to the Father but by me.” So, Jesus knew his friend would go straight to hell.

      • skl

        Maybe he cried because his friend wasn’t going off on a cruise ship.

        • Greg G.

          Jesus brought the guy back, though.

          John 11:35 is the shortest verse in English (maybe it should be qualified as “most English versions”) but 1 Thessalonians 5:16 is shorter in Greek.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Yeah but Matthew says the people in graves came out like zombies when Jesus was killed.

        • Bob Jase

          And apparently they’re still around somewhere because there is no account of them returning to their graves.

        • al kimeea

          Windsor Castle?

    • JP415

      Maybe Jesus was chopping onions at the time. There are many possible explanations.

  • Castilliano

    To be fair, I have met Christian’s that let the horror of Noah’s story stun them, even lead to worry or a sense of their moral dissonance. The flood isn’t a bad talking point with them, especially if they see themselves as reasonable people because there’s no reasonable counterargument.

    It’s the rationalizations of the others that disturb me: “God has the right to kill us (and on a genocidal scale!),” is one of the most inhumane thoughts ever, while “They (babies, puppies, & all) deserved omnicide” is a runner-up, vying alongside Nazi propaganda. I have to imagine that one’s moral integrity could not survive such mental contortions. Humans are reduced to ants by such awesomeness…right? *blech*
    “Yahweh is good” as a presupposition leads to such a horrible, circular, agenda-driven, humanity-demeaning definition of good that it undermines empathy, reason, and all that really is good in our world.
    (I guess I had to vent a bit there…)

    • Halbe

      Reasonable people immediately recognize The Flood for what it is: a myth. If you think it really happened you’re by definition completely delusional. However, even as a myth it is terrible. WTF is the moral of the Flood story?

      • JP415

        Noah’s Flood is probably the craziest story in the Bible. The logistics of getting all the animals into the boat, feeding them, disposing of waste, and so on would be impossible without constant divine intervention. And then there’s the problem of getting all the animals to and from the Ark—Kangaroos and Penguins and what not. When I hear fundamentalists try to explain away all the difficulties (“The animals went into hibernation so they wouldn’t need to eat.”), I just laugh.

        • Way easier to just describe the before and after and then have a poof of magic in between. God can do that, right? I wonder why he never does.

        • Kodie

          No! This is the idea that made sense to people at the time. Pairs of animals they could think of boarded the boat, and that’s that. The cartoon children”s book versions with giraffes and lions and elephants weren’t even mentioned. But…. obviously, or else why would there be odd animals pictured in those books instead of horses and cows and ducks and dogs and cats. There is a huge problem getting all the animals on the ark and feeding them and scooping them and oh god the smell. You know those luxury cruises where they have no plumbing all of a sudden and people have to poop in the hall? And that’s like, 5 days:

          http://www.businessinsider.com/how-carnival-went-from-fun-ship-to-poop-cruise-2013-2

          The only reason to try to make the Noah story plausible is insanity. If you need this childish fairy tale to be true, you are insane.

        • Chuck Johnson

          The fundamentalists minds go into hibernation so they don’t need to think.

      • ephemerol

        There are probably many reasons why it was included in the Jewish texts: perhaps it was too well-known to be left out, it explains why there are three races and rainbows, etc. The moral of the flood story is that the worshipers of the right god survive, and everyone else is SOL, so make sure you’re worshiping, and make sure it’s the right god. This must have been a common interpretation for Jews in antiquity given how often the Hebrew texts explain disasters as divine punishment for theological infidelity.

        In the Christian texts it takes on a distinct air of fearmongering.

        Matthew 24:
        36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. 42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. 45 “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47 Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48 But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49 and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50 The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51 He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

        • Halbe

          You have a point, but still The Rapture / Second Coming is not a completely indiscriminate killing of all life on the planet to “reset” creation, like The Flood. Probably the takeaway from the Flood story is (as you say): “Our God is very powerful and He is not afraid to use His power in brutal ways if you disobey His rules.”

        • JP415

          Well, I don’t know about weeping, but the whole “gnashing of teeth” issue can be solved quite easily.

          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/126e64c69a409eae018f4ec10b3a303de427264b95dc7ffd2efa847f82e2953b.png

        • TheMountainHumanist

          I always found that weird…I have never seen a person literally gnash their teeth…not even sure what that would look like?

        • Greg G.

          They give lessons when you arrive. If you have no teeth, teeth will be provided.

          My mother told me I had a birth defect. I was born with no teeth.

        • JP415

          An evangelical website has this to say:

          When a person hits his thumb with a hammer, he will commonly squeeze his eyes closed and grind his teeth together hard. The weeping and gnashing of teeth in Scripture, however, is much more dreadful, partly because it lasts for eternity.

          https://www.gotquestions.org/gnashing-of-teeth.html

          So, after an eternity of teeth-gnashing (tooth-gnashing?), your teeth would be worn down to nothing by erosion—unless there are dentists in Hell. Or maybe the damned just subsist on protein shakes or something.

        • Kodie

          Of course there are dentists in hell. I don’t think they’re there to fix your teeth though.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Interesting that we only read that from a sect dedicated to proving the bible is infallible 😉

          “When a person hits his thumb with a hammer, he will commonly squeeze his eyes closed and grind his teeth together hard.”

          Literally has never happened.

        • Perhaps you’ve heard the story of the “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Someone asked, “But what if they don’t have teeth.”

          The answer: “Teeth will be provided.”

          Apocryphal, I understand, but still amusing.

      • I wonder if a moral isn’t the point. Rather, it’s a just-so story. “Hey, y’know how some other tribes look a little different and talk funny? I wonder why that is.” The Noah story explains that.

        • Halbe

          Not sure. The Tower of Babel story explains that as well, without the genocide. The indiscriminate drowning of all life on earth except a chosen few should convey some moral I think. I will try to look up what out friend Luke Breuer had to say about it some time ago. I vaguely remember something about Stalin and Hitler being the consequence of us not taking the moral of the Noah’s Flood seriously.

        • Kevin K

          Oh dear. I’m afraid if you’re looking for a coherent and logical explanation of some point of (any) theology, Luke is not the place to go.

        • Halbe

          Of course, but just in this case he buried an interesting viewpoint somewhere deep in his walls of text.

        • Keep in mind that, even if Babel was such a story, that doesn’t mean that the editor(s) were at liberty to drop a competing story. Heck, they had two separate Noah stories, and they kept both of those! (And 2 creation stories, and 2 Ten Commandments stories, and even 2 Goliath stories.)

      • Bob Jase

        LEARN TO SWIM!

      • Chuck Johnson

        “WTF is the moral of the Flood story?”
        The moral is that everyone needs to be very devout and obedient to the local religion or they will be in big, big trouble.
        How can you have missed this moral ?

      • Kevin K

        Rainbows!!

        Seriously. That’s it. The entire thing is about rainbows.

        • Bob Jase

          I thought Lucky Charms & leprechauns were about rainbows.

        • Kevin K

          Well, it is. But they stole it from Yahweh.

        • Well … it’s actually about bows. You know, the kind that shoots arrows to kill people?

          God hung up his bow (it’s gay-hued, but that’s probably a tangent) in the sky so that everyone could see it to verify that no, he wasn’t going to shoot you with a flood again.

        • Kevin K

          He used the bow to break open the dome of the sky so the waters would rush in. Kinda like punching a hole in one of those above-ground swimming pools that were popular in the 1970s.

        • Bob Jase

          Dumbass god didn’t know how to create windows.

        • Lerk!

          After it rains there’s a rainbow, but all of the colors are black.

        • RichardSRussell

          “Every Time You See a Rainbow God Is Having Gay Sex” —bumper sticker

    • Yes, I’m amazed at God’s apologists who excitedly tell us that we’re not worthy of life and that God can squash us in any way he wants simply because he made us.

      And Christians wonder how atheists find negative traits within Christianity…

      • Bob Jase

        Dog gives us free will but we can’t choose to use it or he’ll torture us forever because its all part of his unchangable plan.

        • OK, now my brain hurts.

        • Kodie

          No, Bob, that’s your soul.

        • RichardSRussell

          I’m re-reading Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here (last encountered in high school back in 19-mumblety-2) because of its relevance to current events (or, as Stormy Daniels would phrase it, “current affairs”), and early on there’s a reference to the protagonist’s home town, the fictional Fort Beulah, Vermont, as comprising about 10,000 souls in 20,000 bodies. I had undoubtedly passed right over that bit of snark the 1st time thru, but it sure resonated with me this time.

      • RichardSRussell

        God can squash us in any way he wants simply because he made us.

        Every mom I know feels the exact same way about her babies.

        • Nothing says love like, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out!!”

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Sadly a Cosby quote 🙂

      • epicurus

        God gave a pretty disappointing answer to Job after God allowed the devil to kill Job’s family and torture Job just as a fun bet. Basically that we are worms and have no right to question anything. Beats me what lesson there is in the story- that God’s a heartless trickster that can’t be trusted? – maybe even the holocaust might have been another bet along the same lines.

        • Bob Jase

          Only psychopaths are truly created in god’s image.

        • JP415
        • JustAnotherAtheist2

          Yeah, he acted like a prick who knew he was wrong but was too defensive to admit it. It’s unfortunately an easy behavior for me to recognize.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          The answer to Job was very much South park: “Whatevah — I do wha’ I wan’!”

        • TheNuszAbides

          Cartman ripped that from a Jerry Springer guest.

          or maybe it was a Maury Povich guest. can’t be arsed to check …

        • al kimeea

          The same weekend an entire state was praying for 14 trapped miners, someone in a trailer park “knew Jesus was listening” when their numbers won the Powerball lottery…

          bonus woo – a famous psychic was live on-air and declared the miners were alive before the tragic result

        • Lerk!

          Even when I was a believer I didn’t understand why Yahweh wouldn’t simply say “you were being tested, Job. Well done, good and faithful servant.” Instead he said “you’re just a stupid human. Quit asking questions!”

        • Greg G.

          How about, “My friend Satan and I had a friendly wager about your reaction to your life turning miserable. I won. Thank you, very much, Job. In return, you will get a new wife and a new family. They will die, too, but you will already be dead when that happens.”

        • Kodie

          That seems to be the abusive magic words that motivates most Christians.

        • epicurus

          Yeah, God is either incredibly moody, or not the New Testament God (hello Marcion!)

    • Lark62

      I have a friend whose daughter just gave birth to her first grandchild. The daughter named him Noah, in part because she really loves animals. My brain did three backflips.

      Out loud I said “Congratulations.” There’s a time for everything.

      But I’m still shaking my head at the utter cluelessness.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      “The Bible says killing is bad…except in the places where it says killing is good.”

  • Michael Neville

    one man filed suit against Satan in U.S. district court in United States ex rel. Gerald Mayo v. Satan and His Staff (1971).

    The case was dismissed because the plaintiff had not included written instructions for how the U.S. Marshal could serve process on Satan.

    • Dang! It’s always the fine print that gets you, right?

      If they’d gotten that right, Satan would be serving 10 to 15 in San Quentin (though I imagine he’d be pissed once he got out).

    • JP415

      “Satan and His Staff!” Are the staff regular employees or independent contractors? In any case, I admire the guy’s attention to detail.

      • Just because you got poked with a pitchfork doesn’t mean that Old Scratch himself was on the other end of it. He’s like Santa–he’s got lots of little helpers.

        • JP415

          Outsourcing!

      • Otto

        Sounds like a bad porn movie

  • RichardSRussell

    Hypocrisy is the saving grace of religion.

    • TheNuszAbides

      now i want to commission a Saint Hypocritus medallion.

  • Michael Neville

    Not only don’t Christians believe their dogmas, they can’t even agree on what they don’t believe in. I can’t think of a single dogma which all Christians accept. Christians can’t even agree on how they’re redeemed. The Calvinists claim there’s a divine lottery where it doesn’t matter what sort of life you live or how firmly you proclaim your faith, if you lose the lottery then you lose forever. Other Christian sects hold that if you merely profess faith in Jesus then you’re getting harp lessons in the afterlife.

    • Bob Jase

      Every believer knows that only their version of Christianity, no matter how many times they’ve changed it, is the only true one.

    • Halbe

      The RCC now more or less states that anyone can enter heaven by living a good life, even atheists. However, “a good life” is dogmatically impossible for lgbt+ people and for “fallen women” (sluts) that have ever even considered to have sex without the express purpose of getting pregnant within wedlock. And of course no heaven for anyone that has come within 60km of a “fallen woman” (slut) that has even contemplated abortion. Oh, I almost forgot: men that ever touched their willy when not peeing are not welcome either. So, in short: RCC heaven is empty.

    • Max Doubt

      “Other Christian sects hold that if you merely profess faith in Jesus then you’re getting harp lessons in the afterlife.”

      If the Harp Twins are teaching, I’ll be professin’ faith like nobody’s business!.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kIPj3hLNYls

    • TheNuszAbides

      i appreciate that the more loosey-goosey they get, the more harmless/congenial they tend to be – Unitarian Universalists being the prime example. thinking positive – coincidence?

  • quinsha

    We had a wake when my father died. A mix of atheists, fundamentalists, and Catholics.

  • Kevin K

    Of course, the fine folks from ISIS would agree with you. That’s why everyone is obliged to convert to Islam (mass-fuck-murder branch).

  • I’ve got to agree with Franklin. What would need with prayer or worship?

    • TheMountainHumanist

      by definition..an all powerful god should have neither desires nor needs. If an entity does…it is not god.

      • I’d agree. What could it want? It’s perfect to begin with.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Which I guess would mean that..given the universe exists…no god is possible.

        • At least “God”, with the usual features. They aren’t interested in any lesser.

        • Bob Jase

          Well Yahweh is perfect and Jesus is perfect and the Holy Spook is perfect – all that perfect has to be annoying to one another.

        • God has multiple personalities. That explains a lot.

    • A deity who wishes that we would reconnect word with deed in a non-deceptive way might want to wait to act until we use words. As to worship, we humans are worshiping beings; it’s more of a question of what or whom we worship. I would rather worship truth, beauty, goodness, and excellence—rather than [at best] mediocrity.

      • I’m not sure what the first part means. As for the second, it seems to be about human need, not a divine one.

        • I’m not sure what the first part means.

          I’ll let Jacques Ellul explain:

          No longer does it occur to anyone to offer a solemn oath as a guarantee, or to put any faith in the oath of another. The oath has been completely devalued and no longer carries any weight. This is undoubtedly part of the general “desacralization.”
              Yet its significance is important. It is precisely the fact that the word is entirely dissociated from the person. It is no longer the person in action, the person fully involved in his word. It is, to the contrary, a means of disguising the person, of concealing the self. The word is no longer a commitment and a disclosure of oneself. With reference to oneself it is a pure sound, a sound I can utter without putting myself into it and which, by that very fact, is always a useful instrument for deceiving my hearer. That is the real significance of today’s universal devaluation of the oath. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 31)

          As for the second, it seems to be about human need, not a divine one.

          So? If God wants what’s best for us …

        • What does that have to do with prayer though?

          Why is worship good for us?

        • What does that have to do with prayer though?

          Prayer is a way to reconnect word and deed.

          Why is worship good for us?

          Why is aspiring to be more than we are good for us? If you say we just shouldn’t aspire, then I’ll agree that worship is bad for us—on your system. But I would then just say that your system imprisons us in pathetic mediocrity. Otherwise, aspiring to be more than we are would seem equivalent to worshiping the “more”.

        • How so?

          I don’t see how prayer is aspiring. We can’t be God. Unless you mean aspiring to be better people? Then why does that require worship? My “system” certainly doesn’t say we shouldn’t aspire to become better at all.

        • I don’t see how prayer is aspiring.

          You’re conflating my discussion of prayer & worship.

          We can’t be God.

          “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph 5:1) It would seem that you disagree with that verse being anything like a good idea; is that correct? BTW, it was originally the serpent who said “you will be like God”. Unfortunately, that was an illusionary shortcut; to actually do it is really hard. (It’s like becoming disciplined to be a scientist, but 10x as hard because this deals with who you are in all aspects instead of just a [single] professional aspect.)

          Unless you mean aspiring to be better people? Then why does that require worship?

          I agree that there’s a kind of no man’s land, here. That was probably a good way to describe Rome pre-fall:

          Modern times are often compared to the years the Roman Empire went into decline: Just as moral rottenness is supposed to have sapped Rome’s power to rule the West, it is said to have sapped the modern West’s power to rule the globe. For all the silliness of this notion, it contains an element of truth. There is a rough parallel between the crisis of Roman society after the death of Augustus and present-day life; it concerns the balance between public and private life.
              As the Augustan Age faded, Romans began to treat their public lives as a matter of formal obligation. The public ceremonies, the military necessities of imperialism, the ritual contacts with other Romans outside the family circle, all became duties—duties in which the Roman participated more and more in a passive spirit, conforming to the rules of the res publica, but investing less and less passion in his acts of conformity. As the Roman’s public life became bloodless, he sought in private a new focus for his emotional energies, a new principle of commitment and belief. (The Fall of Public Man, 3)

          It isn’t the loss of morality that’s a problem, but the loss of attempt to contribute to a social whole in any robust way. I suspect that people are either on a trajectory to contribute more to the social whole or less, but not the same. When too few people contribute to it, bad things happen. Like we’re observing now, all across the West! As it turns out, Enlightened self-interest isn’t all that Enlightened—in the long term.

          My “system” certainly doesn’t say we shouldn’t aspire to become better at all.

          Then evolution will [probably] make your system go extinct. Or if we don’t like to call it ‘evolution’, then ‘cultural/​artificial selection’.

        • Susan

          Then evolution will probably make your system go extinct.

          Maybe. Maybe not. Evolution makes most things go extinct.

          This does nothing to address the problem with your (to this date) imaginary deity.

        • epeeist

          This does nothing to address the problem with your (to this date) imaginary deity.

          You know this song would make an ideal theme when it comes to demonstrating the existence of Luke’s deity.

        • LB: Then evolution will probably make your system go extinct.

          S: Maybe. Maybe not. Evolution makes most things go extinct.

          What’s the difference between “probably” and “Maybe. Maybe not.”?

          This does nothing to address … your … deity.

          Did I claim, imply, or presuppose that it does?

        • Susan

          What’s the difference between “probably” and “Maybe. Maybe not”?

          “Probably” means that the odds are in favour of your guess.

          “Maybe, Maybe not.” is meant to indicate that I have no confidence in your probability guesses and also that it has nothing to do with whether your deity exists.

          Did I claim, imply or presuppose that it does?

          This gets tiresome, Luke. You want to talk as though your version of Yawhwehjesus exists but do nothing to show that it does.

          It was the serpent who originally said, “You will be like God.”

          That’s just you doing your standard fanfic routine.

          But this:

          Unfortunately, that was an illusionary shortcut; to actually do it is really hard.

          The implication being that thee’s a Yahwehjesus that exists that we can imitate, even if it’s really hard.

          Or just more fanfic slobbering?

          Are you talking about a story Yawhehjesus and serpent? Or a real Yahwehjesus and serpent?

        • N.B. In my response, I failed to see that @mcc1789:disqus had employed a double negative:

          M: My “system” certainly doesn’t say we shouldn’t aspire to become better at all.

          LB: Then evolution will probably make your system go extinct.

          S: Maybe. Maybe not. Evolution makes most things go extinct.

          LB: What’s the difference between “probably” and “Maybe. Maybe not.”?

          S: “Probably” means that the odds are in favour of your guess.

          “Maybe, Maybe not.” is meant to indicate that I have no confidence in your probability guesses and also that it has nothing to do with whether your deity exists.

          Erm, the tangent wasn’t about whether God exists, but about whether Michael’s “system” will go extinct. Given that the vast majority of species go extinct, why did you downgrade from “probably”“Maybe. Maybe not.”?

          S: This does nothing to address … your … deity.

          LB: Did I claim, imply or presuppose that it does?

          S: This gets tiresome, Luke. You want to talk as though your version of Yawhwehjesus exists but do nothing to show that it does.

          First, you have an obsession. Second, making claims about what I “want” is a violation of:

          S: Let’s all stop talking about him. It’s what he wants. It seems to be what he wants most.

          I do most want you to stop talking about me and stop flagrantly overriding my own stated intentions and desires—unless you have a really, really good reason to justify that you know my own internal state better than I do. You have provided no such reason—nothign even close.

          M: We can’t be God.

          LB: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph 5:1) It would seem that you disagree with that verse being anything like a good idea; is that correct? BTW, it was originally the serpent who said “you will be like God”. Unfortunately, that was an illusionary shortcut; to actually do it is really hard. (It’s like becoming disciplined to be a scientist, but 10x as hard because this deals with who you are in all aspects instead of just a [single] professional aspect.)

          S: That’s just you doing your standard fanfic routine.

          I was referencing what is contained in Genesis 3; do you really wish to disagree with what is contained in the text (you may include variants)?

          LB: Unfortunately, that was an illusionary shortcut; to actually do it is really hard.

          S: The implication being that there’s a Yahwehjesus that exists that we can imitate, even if it’s really hard.

          I was merely charitably interpreting what one character said in a text, and noting that becoming like God is surely going to be harder than (i) eating some fruit; and (ii) disobeying God. Do you disagree with this? Do you think you can be like a person via doing the opposite of what the person says? If so, the class of persons for whom that works is a pretty terrible one. Keep your role models away from young ones, please!

          Are you talking about a story Yawhehjesus and serpent? Or a real Yahwehjesus and serpent?

          What difference would it make, in this particular conversation?

        • I mean worship.

          Okay, how do we imitate God?

          That didn’t answer my question. Nor do I agree on many points, but it’s best we not grow sidetracked so I’m going to leave the rest.

          I’m not sure you understand here. My “system” says we should aspire to grow better, and thus not become extinct.

        • Okay, how do we imitate God?

          Suppose you had asked me “How do I become a research scientist?” and I were to answer “Ask good questions, use good techniques, be honest, and learn to collaborate.” What would you make of that answer? There’s a longer answer that takes years of training to answer where much of the learning is embodied, but I fear that if I try and say the answer to your question is a more intense version of that, I will get excoriated (at least by someone in the peanut gallery).

          M: Unless you mean aspiring to be better people? Then why does that require worship?

          LB: [contribute to the public good in a researchy-way]

          M: That didn’t answer my question. Nor do I agree on many points, but it’s best we not grow sidetracked so I’m going to leave the rest.

          Do you think there’s any sort of malaise going on, where people aren’t trying very hard to be good citizens and contribute to society, such that fissures are opening up, within countries and between countries? I’m basically saying that if people aren’t contributing to some public good in a way that makes it more than it was before (vs. just sustain some static status quo), they will grow apart. It is the ‘more‘ which requires some standard of measure which can be connected to ‘worship’.

          M: My “system” certainly doesn’t say we shouldn’t aspire to become better at all.

          LB: Then evolution will [probably] make your system go extinct. Or if we don’t like to call it ‘evolution’, then ‘cultural/​artificial selection’.

          M: I’m not sure you understand here. My “system” says we should aspire to grow better, and thus not become extinct.

          My apologies; I didn’t see the double negative. Do you think there is any definition of ‘better’ other than merely “do not go extinct”? For example, one could consult “Give me liberty or give me death!”

        • Sounds fine. I’m not sure what the analogy to imitating God is though.

          Yes, we go through these cycles often. However they occur I highly religious eras too, so I’m not sure how worship will help.

          Of course. I don’t think mere existence is good. Quality not quantity. I find our happiness to be the standard, thus the “better” is “happier”.

        • Sounds fine. I’m not sure what the analogy to imitating God is though.

          Do you have any sense of what the Enlightenment philosophes understood by ‘Reason’? That might be a good starting place.

          Yes, we go through these cycles often. However they occur I highly religious eras too, so I’m not sure how worship will help.

          The term ‘worship’ is rather like the term ‘power’—both can be used for good or for ill.

          I find our happiness to be the standard, thus the “better” is “happier”.

          Ahh, but how plastic is what we consider “happy”? The more society can impact what we consider “happy”, the less stable of a standard it is. Can society teach us to be “happy” about harming other persons? I suspect you want to reach outside of society to get your standard, and yet is that possible? Rousseau played with the idea of a “noble savage”; I don’t think that ended well.

        • Not really, no.

          All right.

          There are of course difficult issues, but that goes for any ethics I think. It also doesn’t seem to be the case that society entirely sets what happiness is. How this relates to the noble savage idea I’m not clear on though. I don’t at all support that.

        • I don’t know enough about you to start explaining pretty much anything about imitating God.

          As to happiness, either it gets its definition solely from nature such that nurture only distorts it (therefore the noble savage has the best understanding of happiness), or it also gets some definition from nurture such that how society shapes it is important. But if the latter, can society not shape it in bad ways as well as good? Your standard appears to be rather … unstable.

        • Okay.

          I see what you’re getting at now. Yes, it seems that society can indeed shape this in bad ways. For instance, I think many things people believe will make them happy won’t.

        • M: My “system” says we should aspire to grow better, and thus not become extinct.

          LB: Do you think there is any definition of ‘better’ other than merely “do not go extinct”?

          M: Of course. I don’t think mere existence is good. Quality not quantity. I find our happiness to be the standard, thus the “better” is “happier”.

          LB: Ahh, but how plastic is what we consider “happy”? The more society can impact what we consider “happy”, the less stable of a standard it is. Can society teach us to be “happy” about harming other persons?

          M: There are of course difficult issues, but that goes for any ethics I think.

          M: Yes, it seems that society can indeed shape this in bad ways. For instance, I think many things people believe will make them happy won’t.

          In that case, how much of a stable, knowable, helpful standard is “happiness”? We haven’t even dealt with issues such as “ignorance is bliss”. Furthermore, your definition of “we” might get interesting when asking just what/​who can “become extinct” and what/​who can survive.

        • I never said there are no difficulties, as mentioned previously. “We” here was humanity. I don’t know what this has to do with the original post however.

        • You originally said:

          M: What would such a god need with prayer or worship?

          If prayer and worship can help us come up with better and better ways to be happy, that would seem to be a good reason for God to care about them—assuming he loves us, of course.

        • Thanks for the reminder.

        • Priya Lynn

          “Prayer is a way to reconnect word and deed.”

          Can you point to a single peer-reviewed scientific paper which supports
          this belief of yours? I’d love to examine it and citations thereof.

          You hilarious hypocrite you.

        • epeeist

          You can’t mean that Lukey boy is makes isolated demands for rigour? I’m shocked I tell you, shocked.

        • You hilarious hypocrite you.

          Where did I say, imply, or presuppose that I exclusively form my beliefs “based on the evidence”? (That’s a lower standard than only believing something if there is a single peer-reviewed paper which supports it.) You might need to review that word ‘hypocrite’.

        • Priya Lynn

          No, I have the word hypocrite down pat. That’s where you demand something of someone else you won’t provide yourself.

          You hilarious hypocrite you.

        • No, I have the word hypocrite down pat. That’s where you demand something of someone else you won’t provide yourself.

          Whoops:

          dictionary.com hypocrite
          1. a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.
          2. a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.

          I don’t ever recall pretending that “I exclusively form my beliefs “based on the evidence””. That I’m a Christian is not exactly hidden around here.

        • Priya Lynn

          Your actions belie your stated beliefs – asking someone for peer reviewed scientific research supporting their beliefs when you won’t do the same.

          Whoops.

          You hilarious hypocrite you.

          Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

        • Your actions belie your stated beliefs – asking someone for peer reviewed scientific research supporting their beliefs when you won’t do the same.

          But what if:

               (1) I don’t claim to base all my beliefs on “the evidence”.
               (2) The other person does claim to base all his/her beliefs on “the evidence”.

          ? Is it wrong for me to hold the other person to his/her chosen standard? (Is it wrong for me to guess that this is his/her chosen standard, always being open to correction?)

        • Priya Lynn
        • Yes, that is the fallacy you are committing.

        • Susan

          So? If God wants what’s best for us…

          But “God” is an imaginary being. This is the bit you have always skipped over.

          When Michael said “It seems”, you ignored him.

        • But “God” is an imaginary being. This is the bit you have always skipped over.

          Do you know the underlined? I thought the fashion these days was to assert no positive belief, but simply claim lack of belief.

          BTW, why the quotation marks—”God”? In your book, what is the difference between:

               (I) “God” is an imaginary being.
              (II) God is an imaginary being.

          ?

          M: What would such a god need with prayer or worship?

          LB: As to worship, we humans are worshiping beings; it’s more of a question of what or whom we worship. I would rather worship truth, beauty, goodness, and excellence—rather than [at best] mediocrity.

          M: As for the second, it seems to be about human need, not a divine one.

          LB: So? If God wants what’s best for us …

          S: When Michael said “It seems”, you ignored him.

          I’m more inclined to think that your single-minded focus on “God” being imaginary has distorted your understanding of what Michael is getting at. Worship is commanded not because it is good for God but because it is good for us. If we worship what/​who is of value, rather than mediocrity or worse. To the one who conquers, «good things».

        • Kodie

          Your personal affect demonstrates zero or even negative consequence of worship of an imaginary being. Anecdotally, but still.

          You are MEDIOCRITY OR WORSE. Worship has not done any good for you that anyone can objectively see. It has made you stubborn and awful.

        • Susan

          Do you know the underlined?

          No more than I know that the Boogeyman is imaginary. So many times, I’ve placed “seems” and “you have done nothing to demonstrate” and other more disciplined language. But that was useless.

          It is an imaginary being based on superstition until someone shows it to be something else. You’ve made it clear that you’re not going to be the guy who shows it be something else, but prefer to ramble on about it as though it were real.

          Why the quotation marks?

          1) Because capitalizing “god” when you really mean Yahwehjesus is cheating. So many gods. Yours doesn’t seem to exist any more than any of the other ones.

          As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m an igtheist.

          2) Because it is a vague, shapeshifting term that can have all sorts of qualities, often qualities that are contradictory from believer to believer (hence, the “True Christian” problem non-christians endlessly need to engage), and often has qualities that are contradictory even in the claims of a single christian.

          If you are claiming an agent exists, be clear about it and support your claim.

          I’m more inclined to think that your single-minded focus on “God” being imaginary has distorted your understanding of what Michael is getting at.

          I’ve long ago lost complete interest in what you are inclined to think.

          MIchael said:

          As for the second, it seems to be about human need, not a divine one.

          See how nicely he put that? “It seems”?

          Your response:

          So? If God wants what is best for us…

          Another “if… then…”

          But no support for the existence of your Yahwehjesus that should make anyone bother to proceed to “then”.

        • Priya Lynn

          “If God wants what’s best for us …”.

          Few people get what’s best for them, there’s all manner of evil in the world that happens to good people.

          Either god does not want what’s best for us, god is incapable of giving us what’s best for us, or god does not exist.

        • Or … God isn’t the only moral agent in the mix.

        • Priya Lynn

          Nope, you only have the three choices above. If god exists and another moral agent prevents him from giving us what’s best for us then god is incapable of giving us what’s best for us. Or he does not want what’s best for us or does not exist.

        • I see no reason to believe you.

        • Priya Lynn

          That’s not surprising for the logic challenged and wilfully blind. You have no qualms about lying to yourself in order to cling to your irrational beliefs.

          If god is omnipotent and omniscient then the world with all its evil is exactly how he wants it. If he didn’t want the way it is he would change it.

        • You have no qualms about lying to yourself in order to cling to your irrational beliefs.

          “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

          If god is omnipotent and omniscient then the world with all its evil is exactly how he wants it. If he didn’t want the way it is he would change it.

          Assuming God is the only moral agent, yes. But why assume that? The Bible seems rather insistent that people have moral freedom—for good or for ill. But you would deny this. Why?

        • Priya Lynn

          The vast majority of educated people accept that the onus is on the person making the positive assertion to prove it, not on the skeptic to disprove it.

          Regardless, I didn’t say “assuming god is the only moral agent”. What I said was “If another moral agent is preventing god from giving us what’s best for us then god is incapable of giving us what’s best for us. Or does not want to give us what’s best for us or does not exist.

          You’re scuppered anyway you slice it.

        • PL: You have no qualms about lying to yourself in order to cling to your irrational beliefs.

          LB: “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

          PL: The vast majority of educated people accept that the onus is on the person making the positive assertion to prove it, not on the skeptic to disprove it.

          Excellent. So prove that (a) I am “lying to [myself]”; (b) that my beliefs are “irrational”. You shouldn’t need anything additional from me, to carry out the proof of (a) and (b). Let’s see if you can even figure out what I did and did not claim/​imply/​presuppose.

          Regardless, I didn’t say “assuming god is the only moral agent”. What I said was “If another moral agent is preventing god from giving us what’s best for us then god is incapable of giving us what’s best for us. Or does not want to give us what’s best for us or does not exist.

          Now you’ve tied yourself in knots, because just a minute ago you allowed that maybe some of what’s best for us needs to [partly] come from other people: “If god restricted our free will such that we have to do whats best for each other …”. In other words, we can move the presupposition from the above to here:

          PL: There is no excuse for god not to eliminate the evil in the world and give us what’s best for us.

          That certainly seems to presuppose that it is God who is solely responsible for giving us what’s best for us. That seems like a rather childish attitude. Or maybe worse:

          You’re scuppered anyway you slice it.

          Perhaps if you model humans as suckling babes.

        • Suppose that what’s best for you is to give of yourself to the other person and what’s best for the other person is to give of himself to you—but both of you refuse to give of yourself to the other. Is the fact that God cannot force you to give of yourself without compromising your very identity somehow a bad thing? I thought we moderns adored our autonomy!

          tl;dr You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

        • Priya Lynn

          So, you’re using the free will excuse. Free will is not absolute. I cannot free will myself to look like Jessica Alba, I cannot free will myself to be 30 years younger, I cannot free will myself to levitate or walk through walls, etc. etc. So god has not given us unlimited free will. If god restricted our free will such that we have to do whats best for each other that wouldn’t mean we don’t have free will, just like our present restrictions don’t mean we don’t have free will. We would still have free will to choose what to eat for breakfast, free will to choose what to do for a career, free will to choose where to live, what kind of house to live in, what kind of car to drive, what kind of hobbies to have, what to do with our leisure time and on and on.

          There is no excuse for god not to eliminate the evil in the world and give us what’s best for us.

          You’re spinning pretty hard and trying to weasel your way out of reality and logic. I’m not going to waste anymore time on you pretending relality and logic don’t exist.

          Bye bye.

        • I doubt that “absolute” or “unlimited” free will would even make sense. What makes sense to me is a small Δv model of free will.

          I doubt that the choices you list which are supposed to be irrelevant to pursuing the best for other people are in fact irrelevant. What career I choose will impact how I contribute to others’ good—or detract from it. Same with where I live, how much of my income I divert to house and car. Even hobbies can matter; the electronics work I did as a hobby in high school is now helping me build a Peltier cooling/​heating setup for a scientist friend of mine. I’m making his life markedly better, in large part because of my hobby over ten years ago.

          It sounds like you envision a liberal order where I pay my dues to society and then get to enjoy myself and my friends after work and on the weekends. What if insisting on that is the problem? What if we were meant to live in rather deeper relationship with each other (while not oppressing or even manipulating each other), but we prefer a mediocre sort of existence?

          I will agree with you on one thing: one of us is pretending that reality and logic don’t exist.

      • Kodie

        You use the word “might” a lot. Why should we pay attention to your superstitions?

  • eric

    Warren takes the story literally, which means that he’ll assure you that it happened. But he avoids taking it seriously so that he needn’t lose sleep over the illogic and the violence.

    Your logic is flawed because you’re assuming Christians aren’t so bloodthirsty as to believe the story and yet sleep soundly/happily while contemplating the murder of billions of sinners. But historically there’s pretty good evidence that official church policy was bloodthirsty, and that historical peoples didn’t see this as a problem. Instead of murder and hellish torture bothering them, they reveled in the thought of watching it being done to people they didn’t like. Prior to the 20th century, watching the torture of sinners in hell was considered a benefit of being in heaven. This horrific bloodthirstiness is now downplayed in public, but I expect it’s still there in a lot of Christians’ minds.

    Some relevant quotes:

    Aquinas: “In order that the happiness of the saints may be more delightful to them and that they may render more copious thanks to God for it, they are allowed to see perfectly the sufferings of the damned.”

    Augustine: “They who shall enter into [the] joy [of the Lord] shall know what is going on outside in the outer darkness. . .The saints’. . .
    knowledge, which shall be great, shall keep them acquainted. . .with the eternal sufferings of the lost.”

    1960s Catholic Truth Society pamphlet: “What will it be like for a mother in heaven who sees her son burning in hell? She will glorify the justice of God.”

    Peter Lombard, 12th cent. Bishop of Paris: ““Therefore the elect shall go forth…to see the torments of the impious, seeing which they will not be grieved, but will be satiated with joy at the sight of the unutterable calamity of the impious .”

    Lastly, a quote about Martin Luther: ” When questioned whether the Blessed will not be saddened by seeing their nearest and dearest tortured answers, “Not in the least.””

    ***

    So, there’s the riddle to how they can take it seriously yet sleep soundly. Many Christians take the torture and murder by God seriously…and look forward to the day when they can have a front row seat at it.

    • Ficino

      That’s how they roll. People of good heart have to join to stop them.

    • Otto

      God is Love

      • TheMountainHumanist

        God is a neurochemical reaction?

        • Otto

          Why yes, and all those holy men reveling in the eternal agony of others proves it.

        • Jesus reveled in the eternal agony of others?

        • Otto

          No, the holy men quoted by Eric reveled in the idea, and yet they are held up as some of the greatest Christians by many.

        • Ahh, I see. So if those people accept the truth of the following:

          Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1–4)

          —how do they justify being very dissimilar to Jesus on this point? Surely they also believe:

          Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1–2)

          and:

          So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:19–24)

          ? It seems to me we have an exclusive dichotomy:

               (I) either Jesus revels in the sufferings of the damned
              (II) or those who do are flagrantly disobeying scripture

          Have I missed something?

           
          P.S. All humans have bad spots (see Heb 11), so perhaps this is just a bad spot for said “holy men”. What is and what is not a mortal wound is not always clear on first inspection.

        • Otto

          Well Luke as far as flagrantly disobeying scripture I think you know my position. People see in scripture what they want to see. All humans do have bad spots, and unfortunately when it comes to said holy men the bad spots are minimized or even eradicated, while their musings on the ineffable are held up as unimpeachable.

        • Well Luke as far as flagrantly disobeying scripture I think you know my position. People see in scripture what they want to see.

          But is that how it really works? Can we really interpret that freely? Or is it the case that some interpretations of a text really are wrong? (An alternative is that said Christians were just ignoring certain texts. Perhaps you are claiming that?)

          All humans do have bad spots, and unfortunately when it comes to said holy men the bad spots are minimized or even eradicated, while their musings on the ineffable are held up as unimpeachable.

          We know quite a lot about Augustine’s (and Ambrose’s) hangup on sex, for said “minimized or even eradicated”. But perhaps we can agree that we in the West (and perhaps a lot of history) let others do way too much thinking for us, such that the masses are permitted to stay forever immature. You would think this would be seen as countering that phenomenon:

          And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11–16)

          —but I have found that the “until” is generally “pushed into the eschaton”. Most Christians I know are quite content with Jn 17:20–23 and 13:34–35 being flagrantly false—it’ll happen “in the future”, they say. You know, when Jesus comes back and there’s no need for evidence of his existence. For a good counterexample, see Francis Schaeffer’s Mark of a Christian. For a scholarly criticism, see Ephraim Radner’s The End of the Church and A Brutal Unity.

          Beware false prophets and teachers, Jesus and others said. Tru dat

        • Otto

          >>>”Can we really interpret that freely?”

          Well I think there is plenty of evidence to that effect. It seems to come down to what emphasis is put where. As an example 2 people can verbalize the exact same sentence but depending on how it is said can have very different meanings or be perceived by the listener very differently. Of course only the person verbalizing knows what the true meaning.

          So when it comes to a collection of writings from various authors who did not know each other, and then assembled by other people who didn’t know the authors, I have no idea how 1) there could be only one way to interpret them and 2) which interpretation would hold sway, the author of the particular passage or the editors who put it together and their intent in doing so? And even that short summary of the assembly of the Bible really doesn’t do my point justice, but I think you get the idea.

          >>>”But perhaps we can agree that we in the West (and perhaps a lot of history) let others do way too much thinking for us, such that the masses are permitted to stay forever immature.”

          I do generally agree with this, but of course the counter to this would be the Catholic Church position that any interpretation other than with and through them is flawed. They would argue the reason there is so many interpretations is because they are not given the authority in the situation they deserve.

        • O: Well Luke as far as flagrantly disobeying scripture I think you know my position. People see in scripture what they want to see.

          LB: But is that how it really works? Can we really interpret that freely? Or is it the case that some interpretations of a text really are wrong? (An alternative is that said Christians were just ignoring certain texts. Perhaps you are claiming that?)

          O: Well I think there is plenty of evidence to that effect. It seems to come down to what emphasis is put where. As an example 2 people can verbalize the exact same sentence but depending on how it is said can have very different meanings or be perceived by the listener very differently. Of course only the person verbalizing knows what the true meaning.

          Yes, but there is a *major* difference between only verbalizing some words vs. verbalizing all of the words.

          LB: But is that how it really works? Can we really interpret that freely? Or is it the case that some interpretations of a text really are wrong? (An alternative is that said Christians were just ignoring certain texts. Perhaps you are claiming that?)

          O: So when it comes to a collection of writings from various authors who did not know each other, and then assembled by other people who didn’t know the authors, I have no idea how 1) there could be only one way to interpret them and 2) which interpretation would hold sway, the author of the particular passage or the editors who put it together and their intent in doing so? And even that short summary of the assembly of the Bible really doesn’t do my point justice, but I think you get the idea.

          My underlined does not imply your underlined. The rejection of your underlined therefore does not imply the rejection of my underlined. A plurality of plausible interpretations is not the same as “any interpretation whatsoever”.

          LB: But perhaps we can agree that we in the West (and perhaps a lot of history) let others do way too much thinking for us, such that the masses are permitted to stay forever immature.

          O: I do generally agree with this, but of course the counter to this would be the Catholic Church position that any interpretation other than with and through them is flawed. They would argue the reason there is so many interpretations is because they are not given the authority in the situation they deserve.

          Woah, “deserve”? No, I don’t think so. Authority is earned by proven ability to love (build up) other people while leaving nobody behind (the Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get the 1). The RCC (and Protestants) burned more people than Jesus. One of the most powerful aspects of postmodernism has been to push back against the idea that only one person, or only one institution, is permitted to speak. By “speak“, I mean this:

          Proposition 1: Power defines reality    Power concerns itself with defining reality rather than with discovering what reality “really” is. This is the single most important characteristic of the rationality of power, that is, of the strategies and tactics employed by power in relation to rationality. Defining reality by defining rationality is a principle means by which power exerts itself. This is not to imply that power seeks out rationality and knowledge because rationality and knowledge are power. Rather, power defines what counts as rationality and knowledge and thereby what counts as reality. The evidence of the Aalborg case confirms a basic Nietzschean insight: interpretation is not only commentary, as is often the view in academic settings, “interpretation is itself a means of becoming master of something”—in the case master of the Aalborg Project—and “all subduing and becoming master involves a fresh interpretation.”[4] Power does not limit itself, however, to simply defining a given interpretation or view of reality, nor does power entail only the power to render a given reality authoritative. Rather, power defines, and creates, concrete physical, economic, ecological, and social realities. (Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice, 227)

          No other speaking matters, in the end. Either you are permitted to meaningfully impact social reality with what (who) is uniquely you, or you are cast into the outer darkness. If the West epitomizes the latter, Sartre’s “Hell is other people” makes perfect sense.

          One of the most damaging aspects of postmodernism has been what I call the “infinite interpretations hypothesis”, which is well-represented by Derrida getting a text to say anything he wanted. The death of the author is followed by the death of the other author; example:

              The idea of the death of the author is the brainchild of Roland Barthes.[11] He suggests that there is in fact now such thing as an “author” and correspondingly no such thing as a “text.” Here, then, is the dilemma for me. Inadvertently, perhaps, but nonetheless ironically, the death or suspension of the author seems to me unavoidable “a murdering” of a person. Erasing an author—and this is to some extent what some of the thinkers examined in these essays cannot avoid—is a kind of taking hostage of the author-person, in our case the life and teaching of Paul.[12] In the words of Emmanuel Levinas: the grandeur of modern antihumanism (his term) “consists in making a clear space for the hostage-subjectivity by sweeping away the notion of the person.”[13] (Paul in the Grip of the Philosophers, 8)

          Some contemporary philosophers, such as Badiou, have no interest in the theology of Paul and, indeed, care absolutely nothing about the good news of the risen Messiah. Their interest in Paul lies outside the message of Paul, outside his letters, and thereby outside the Scriptures and the demands they make on the Christian. Badiou, for example (as most others as well), already has a philosophy, an ideological system of his own. Their starting point is their own philosophy, and not the Pauline corpus. In their philosophizing, they need Pauline thought only to the extent that it corroborates ideas already articulated in their systems of thought. This applies more or less to all the Continental philosophers. They are not pursuing Pauline studies because they want to discover Pauline theology or how Paul’s thought shapes the Christian church. Quite to the contrary, they use Paul as if his thought is a quarry from which they can pick up a few useful stones for their own ideological buildings. (Paul in the Grip of the Philosophers, 7)

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

        • Otto

          >>>”My underlined does not imply your underlined. ”

          The problem is if you claim some interpretations are wrong, but at the same time claim some are not wrong (would that make them correct?), how exactly is one to be differentiated from the other? What if we can identify multiple interpretations that are not wrong, how are the ‘not wrong’ interpretations to be weighted?

          >>>”Woah, “deserve”? No, I don’t think so.”

          I am guessing you know I don’t agree it is deserved, I was merely speaking from their perspective.

          >>>” Authority is earned by proven ability to love (build up) other people while leaving nobody behind”

          That is your criteria (and I am not saying it is a bad one), but I don’t think you can speak authoritatively for all…;)

        • The problem is if you claim some interpretations are wrong, but at the same time claim some are not wrong (would that make them correct?), how exactly is one to be differentiated from the other? What if we can identify multiple interpretations that are not wrong, how are the ‘not wrong’ interpretations to be weighted?

          You’ve gotta distinguish between syntax and semantics. In a given sociolinguistic context, a given utterance has some range of possible meanings, with different probabilities and uncertainties for each option. But in some sense you can prescind from the full meaning, as if retreating from a full “spirit of the law” closer to some “letter of the law”. But there is always a question of whether there was a full, definite meaning. Sometimes people say something up to some level of specificity, but no further. Sometimes they intentionally mean to allow two different options with what they say. There’s a lot of complexity, complexity which I suspect the better diplomats are intricately familiar.

          To answer your first question more directly, I think we have to allow for concepts which are not 100% filled, but have “degrees of freedom” which have not been specified. If we do that, then those concepts can be right, while not meaning exactly one thing (that is, there are still degrees of freedom). This is how I read Timothy Ware describing how Christians operated when they were the most ecumenical:

              The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church’s teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as ‘mysteries’ which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (The Orthodox Church, 10)

          As to your second question, I suggest asking a seasoned diplomat or politician. I’m actually rather bad at this; I think I’m just good enough to know that there’s a massive tangled Gordion knot of complexity. Partly due to this:

          No longer does it occur to anyone to offer a solemn oath as a guarantee, or to put any faith in the oath of another. The oath has been completely devalued and no longer carries any weight. This is undoubtedly part of the general “desacralization.”
              Yet its significance is important. It is precisely the fact that the word is entirely dissociated from the person. It is no longer the person in action, the person fully involved in his word. It is, to the contrary, a means of disguising the person, of concealing the self. The word is no longer a commitment and a disclosure of oneself. With reference to oneself it is a pure sound, a sound I can utter without putting myself into it and which, by that very fact, is always a useful instrument for deceiving my hearer. That is the real significance of today’s universal devaluation of the oath. (Hope in Time of Abandonment, 31)

          But perhaps the situation was even worse in Jesus’ time; I have suspicions of what Pilate might have meant by his question “What is truth?”, but I haven’t chased them down. There is also Jesus’ adjuration to “Let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’, no.” A deep study of inter-class deception is James C. Scott’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts; I’m only partway through at the moment. I do suspect that these words, used in Eph 5:4, have to do with deception and not mere swearing. Indeed, the fact that “shit” is now considered coarse may be classist; see etymonline.com shit. If I’m right, that would be an incredible perversion of the text, worthy of:

          Woe to those who call evil good
              and good evil,
          who put darkness for light
              and light for darkness,
          who put bitter for sweet
              and sweet for bitter!
          (Isaiah 5:20)

          I am guessing you know I don’t agree it is deserved, I was merely speaking from their perspective.

          Yep.

          LB: Authority is earned by proven ability to love (build up) other people while leaving nobody behind (the Shepherd leaves the 99 to go get the 1).

          O: That is your criteria (and I am not saying it is a bad one), but I don’t think you can speak authoritatively for all…;)

          Correct, but I’ll fight for it. Like YHWH clearly fought for the oppressed in the OT, and Jesus fought for the oppressed in the NT, I will fight for the oppressed in our day and age. At least, that’s the story I tell myself; I will let others judge to what extent it is true. (e.g. “(Though as always, you show no concern for our fellow non-human earthlings,)”)

        • Greg G.

          As an example 2 people can verbalize the exact same sentence but depending on how it is said can have very different meanings or be perceived by the listener very differently.

          The following sentence can have seven meanings depending on which word is emphasized:

          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.
          I didn’t say we should kill him.

          I wouldn’t want to be him.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Of course you would say that.
          Of course you would say that.
          Of course you would say that.
          Of course you would say that.
          Of course you would say that.

    • TheMountainHumanist

      Does that ticket include popcorn?

    • So, there’s the riddle to how they can take it seriously yet sleep soundly. Many Christians take the torture and murder by God seriously…and look forward to the day when they can have a front row seat at it.

      Dominic Erdozain takes material like what you cited and argues that it helped create unbelief. See his 2015 The Soul of Doubt: The Religious Roots of Unbelief from Luther to Marx. But there’s a rub: the righteous reaction against this stuff was drawn from … gentler Christian theology and practice. It was the presence of a major perceived internal contradiction which ended up expelling a number of people. For example, I don’t know how Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, et al would deal with:

      “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live.” (Ezekiel 18:30–32)

      But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8–9)

      I think C.S. Lewis presented some of the best thinking we currently have on the topic, in The Great Divorce. Some people just won’t leave their delusions and insist that they’re loving others when it’s really an attempt to control and dominate. (Till We Have Faces also deals with this.) Sadly, what atheism/​modernity has also wreaked massive havoc on precisely this point:

      For one way of framing my contention that morality is not what it once was is just to say that to a large degree people now think, talk, and act as if emotivism were true, no matter what their avowed theoretical standpoint might be. Emotivism has become embodied in our culture.

          What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. (After Virtue, 22–23)

      We today have no way to distinguish between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations—except by how it makes people “feel”. The Enlightenment promised to take us to the bedrock of reality and yet our only way to distinguish between manipulative and non-manipulative interactions with other humans is via the most subjective and unreliable of sensations. (Scholars might think they have ways, but the fact that they haven’t caught on ought to be deeply troubling.)

  • Chuck Johnson

    Many Christians do take their religion seriously (emotionally), but don’t take it seriously (intellectually).
    It’s that compartmentalized mind thing again.

    • Lerk!

      I think what’s happening (and what happened with me for many years) is that there are Christians who do, in fact, read and study their Bibles, but it’s always with a mind of using it to find out how I should be living or what the god thinks about certain things. It’s used to develop one’s religion, to either prove what they already believe or to lead to small changes. But because it starts with the idea that the book is 100% correct and 100% consistent from front to back, any contradiction has to be “reasoned” away, and by “reasoned” I mean simply explained away. The easiest thing to do with some passages is to simply say “that’s a difficult passage.” Another method is to say that it must all agree, so if something stands out as being different or contradictory, the apparently I just don’t understand it. I can try to dig deeper, or I can just move on.

      If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time. But it’s really hard to do when you’ve spent your entire life approaching it with the preconceived notion that it’s perfect, and that anything that seems wrong must be due to your own lack of understanding or wisdom. And the book itself tells you that!

      The idea that most Christians have never read the Bible may be true, but there is a significant number on the fundamentalist denominations who have read and studied it. They’re just approaching it too credulously to see what it really says. I look at it now and am just shocked that I was 52 years old when I figured it out. I only thought I knew it like the back of my hand.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Over 2000 years, the Bible has acquired an immense reputation.
        That reputation often fools people.

      • If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time.

        Can you point to a single peer-reviewed scientific paper which supports this belief of yours? I’d love to examine it and citations thereof.

        • Priya Lynn

          Such research is impossible because you can’t force a christian to look at it with fresh eyes. You’ll just have to take the word of those former christians who have looked at it with fresh eyes.

        • Bob Jase

          Get me the melon-baller!

        • Good job recapitulating WLC’s “witness of the Holy Spirit” with “fresh eyes”.

        • Priya Lynn

          All mimsy were the borogroves.

        • Lerk!

          If you understood context you’d realize my statements here are what’s called “opinion”. I’ve explained this through the lens of personal experience. I know how I spent my life studying the Bible and I know that this is how Christians claim that the Bible is supposed to be treated. Because of this, and because the Bible’s beginning is so obviously ancient mythology (a talking snake, for crying out loud!), I am of the very strong opinion that a person who truly takes a step back before reading it from the beginning would reject it very quickly. I understand why you doubt that — I would have doubted it, too.

          Do you think it would be ethical to devise a double-blind experiment that might cause the participants in the non-control group to become atheists?

        • L: If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time.

          LB: Can you point to a single peer-reviewed scientific paper which supports this belief of yours? I’d love to examine it and citations thereof.

          L: If you understood context you’d realize my statements here are what’s called “opinion”.

          What it looks like to me is just another version of Craig’s “witness of the Holy Spirit” thing. (see Bob’s recent More Sloppy Thinking from William Lane Craig) In your opinion, you can see more clearly than poor blinkered religious folks like yours truly. You are … a Bright, talking to a dim. Except if Brights can demonstrate no superiority in regular life to religious folk, ceteris paribus, then the standard atheist evangelist response is to mock such alleged “superiority”.

          I know how I spent my life studying the Bible and I know that this is how some Christians claim that the Bible is supposed to be treated.

          Fixed that for ya. When I look at the Bible, I see it being harshest on religious and ruling elite who claim to know YHWH best. It’s just obviously there; see for example Ezek 24 and Mt 23. Actually, the fact that the OT lays any blame at the feet of the masses was arguably new:

              To be sure, Mesopotamian cultures also believed that nature could be altered by the divine reaction to human behavior.[32] But the scrutinized behavior that would determine the future of the Mesopotamian state never had to do with the moral or spiritual fortitude of the population. Instead, disaster was explained as either a failure to satisfy the cultic demands of the gods, or a failure on the part of the king in the affairs of state. The covenantal theology of the Pentateuch, by contrast, places the onus on the moral and spiritual strength of the people at large. (Created Equal, 141)

          Because of this, and because the Bible’s beginning is so obviously ancient mythology (a talking snake, for crying out loud!), I am of the very strong opinion that a person who truly takes a step back before reading it from the beginning would reject it very quickly.

          You’ve outed yourself as having a literalist, fundamentalist background. Were you to compare Genesis 1–11 to contemporary creation and flood myths, you would find some interesting things. For example, the Babylonian creation myth, Enûma Eliš, has humans being created from the blood of a slain god after a war between the gods, so that the humans can be slaves to the gods and do the menial labor they no longer want to do. And of course, one of the humans gets to be liason between the humans and the gods—the divine image-bearer. What does Genesis 1 say about who bears the divine image? Yeah. That was an absolutely momentous shift and you would just piss on it.

          Do you think it would be ethical to devise a double-blind experiment that might cause the participants in the non-control group to become atheists?

          If the truth is spoken in love and some become atheists, I think that is ethical. If you’re going to intentionally deceive the participants or intentionally shroud their ability to see the vast majority of reality, I think it is unethical regardless of whether anyone becomes an atheist. Might does not make right.

        • Lerk!

          “You are … a Bright, talking to a dim. Except if Brights can demonstrate no superiority in regular life to religious folk, ceteris paribus, then the standard atheist evangelist response is to mock such alleged ‘superiority’.”

          You’re being rude. Accusing me of thinking that I’m superior? And if I understand your cryptic statement (I’m not sure I do) then when I say I don’t claim to be superior I’m somehow guilty of something.

          I believed this stuff until I was 52 years old. I understand why I believed it — I believed it for the same reason that I know the names of the colors — it was what I was taught from the time I was able to understand things and I encountered no reason to doubt it. I understand how it affects people when they start to doubt — the fear caused by having been taught that good people who aren’t believers will go to Hell; the anxiety of starting to realize that something you’ve believed for your whole life was just plain wrong.

          And why should a non-believer be required to demonstrate some sort of superiority in regular life to the believers? I haven’t read Michael Shermer’s “The Moral Arc” but the concept seems reasonable on the surface. While there is still a lot of awfulness in the world, the general trend is that there is more good and less willingness to put up with meanness. That trend is reflected across all religions and in the non-religious. I do believe that I’m a better person in some ways than when I was a believer. I’m more patient and less judgmental. But I know that many Christians make the same sorts of changes in their lives while remaining believers.

          “You’ve outed yourself as having a literalist, fundamentalist background.”

          Actually, I’ve spoken about this many times, but you’ve outed yourself as being a snob. When I first realized that the literalist view of at least the first part of the OT couldn’t possibly be true, I considered whether liberal Christianity was the correct path. The problem was (and is) that if the book begins with myths, transitions to legends, and has a good bit of embellished or just plain inaccurate history throughout the last half, at what point is one to conclude that any of the thoughts on the gods at the beginning, the one God in the middle, or the Trinity at the end, are to be believed?

          Should I take the view that Randal Rauser espouses that God is just teaching us as time goes along? That He never intended for slavery to be a thing and that it took Him until the 1800s to get His point across? It all seems to be just so much speculation. Again — the moral arc. No guidance from gods is required for humans to learn over time that life in general is better when people are treated kindly.

          Was Genesis 1 a shift from prior mythology? Sure, but it’s still El Elyon and his sons doing the creating. It’s still polytheism. It’s still mythology that liberal Christians today insist is not to be taken literally. You can see the evolution of religious beliefs throughout the books of the Bible. You can see in the New Testament that they still took Genesis to be literal.

          I don’t know you. I haven’t seen you around on the blogs before so I haven’t read anything you’ve written except for what’s in this thread, and I can’t tell what you believe about how your god supposedly works through his followers. Clearly you aren’t a literalist when it comes to Genesis, but I can’t tell how much of the rest of the Bible you believe is true and how much you believe is simply fables that teach moral lessons that the god wanted us to understand. Maybe you accept the idea that Jesus died for the sins of humankind and was resurrected, and beyond that simply philosophize to arrive at your morality as seems to be the way of liberal Christianity, or maybe you believe more of the Bible than that.

          It hardly matters. I’m glad that I was raised in a fundamentalist tradition, because it made it much easier for me to see that what I had believed all of my life was untrue.

        • Paul B. Lot

          Should I take the view that Randal Rauser espouses that God is just teaching us as time goes along? That He never intended for slavery to be a thing and that it took Him until the 1800s to get His point across? It all seems to be just so much speculation.

          Hear hear!

          (Also: why multiply unnecessary entities?)

        • Before I begin: If you want to know why I may be a bit acerbic and hostile, note that the following kind of statement is celebrated on CE:

          Michael Neville: I like to talk to Luke Breuer every few months. I enjoy feeling superior to a pedantic, pompous, intellectually dishonest, not as bright as he thinks he is, verbose twit. But after a day or two the thrill goes away. It’s like feeling superior to a slug.

          The owner of this blog, @BobSeidensticker:disqus, upvoted it. Fortunately, nobody upvoted his subsequent comment. But it is not always easy for me to completely and utterly divorce the social dynamic from the next person I talk to in the same social situation. I’m working on it. My apologies for sending any harsh criticism your way which you do not merit.

          L: If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time.

          LB: Can you point to a single peer-reviewed scientific paper which supports this belief of yours? I’d love to examine it and citations thereof.

          L: If you understood context you’d realize my statements here are what’s called “opinion”.

          LB: What it looks like to me is just another version of Craig’s “witness of the Holy Spirit” thing. (see Bob’s recent More Sloppy Thinking from William Lane Craig) In your opinion, you can see more clearly than poor blinkered religious folks like yours truly. You are … a Bright, talking to a dim. Except if Brights can demonstrate no superiority in regular life to religious folk, ceteris paribus, then the standard atheist evangelist response is to mock such alleged “superiority”.

          L: You’re being rude. Accusing me of thinking that I’m superior?

          Are you saying that if you have “fresh eyes” while the religious person is blinkered, you aren’t thereby somehow superior? Your claim to be “more patient and less judgmental” seems like a claim to superiority. This is somewhat contradicted by the next sentence—“But I know that many Christians make the same sorts of changes in their lives while remaining believers.”—but that itself is contradictory to your “fresh eyes” comment. How do you suggest I resolve the incoherence?

          And if I understand your cryptic statement (I’m not sure I do) then when I say I don’t claim to be superior I’m somehow guilty of something.

          If you don’t claim to be superior, you’re not guilty. If you do claim to be superior and yet cannot demonstrate that with empirical evidence, you are guilty of either arrogance or a employing a highly nonstandard definition of ‘superior’. That guilt is lessened by the fact that the Christians you have escaped seem to define ‘superior’ in non-empirical ways. But then you’d be guilty of thinking you have “fresh eyes” when you don’t.

          And why should a non-believer be required to demonstrate some sort of superiority in regular life to the believers?

          It is required if “fresh eyes” is to have empirical meaning rather than dogmatic meaning. I was extending you the benefit of the doubt, that you meant the former. Was I in error?

          I believed this stuff until I was 52 years old. I understand why I believed it — I believed it for the same reason that I know the names of the colors — it was what I was taught from the time I was able to understand things and I encountered no reason to doubt it. I understand how it affects people when they start to doubt — the fear caused by having been taught that good people who aren’t believers will go to Hell; the anxiety of starting to realize that something you’ve believed for your whole life was just plain wrong.

          I was taught to critically examine my faith from at least sixth grade, in Sunday School and by my father. I was able to use those thinking tools to reject young earth creationism via online discussion in my late high school years and early college years. I remain a Christian. And yet, according to you, I don’t have “fresh eyes”. It sounds like you’re improperly universalizing parochial judgments and recapitulating WLC’s “witness of the Holy Spirit” thing in an atheistic key. That is, the thought-patterns which characterized you as a fundamentalist literalist Christian are still with you—pace your self-evaluation of having “fresh eyes”.

          Now, I have no doubt that many atheists have gone through pretty much the experience you lay out. Many pre-atheists are going through it now. However, it is not at all clear to me that they have actually abandoned ‘certainty’. Logical positivism, for example, is a kind of certainty. The truest lack of certainty I know of is a full and thorough rejection of epistemic foundationalism (IEP, SEP, WP) and that is arguably the same thing as eschewing idolatry, per Owen Barfield in Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. Idols can be concepts you think [sufficiently] perfectly match reality. (see תְּמוּנָה, ‘likeness’, in Exodus 20:4–6) The replacement for foundationalism is, as best I can tell, admitting the existence and importance of the unarticulated background. To do so, as far as I can tell, is to have a heart (“seat of the understanding”) of flesh instead of stone.

          I haven’t read Michael Shermer’s “The Moral Arc” but the concept seems reasonable on the surface. While there is still a lot of awfulness in the world, the general trend is that there is more good and less willingness to put up with meanness.

          My observation and judgment is that said argument is atheistic propaganda. For example, the amount of cruelty dished out via social media is astounding. See for example the studies Jean M. Twenge references in iGen. Or consider that without firing a bullet or dropping a bomb, the Troika, headed by Germany, was able to cut Greece’s GDP by 25%. That’s economic violence, and most people in the West appear to not care. Now if you only focus on per capita physical violence, Better Angels will sway you. But is that the right focus?

          Actually, I’ve spoken about this many times, but you’ve outed yourself as being a snob.

          You’re uttering opinions and I’m making arguments with excerpts & citations; if that makes me a snob and you not-a-snob, I will treat the word as meaning … the opposite of what I thought it means, in my discussions with you. If you think I’m wrong in my arguments or interpretation of experts (or think the experts are wrong—and they often are), you are welcome to articulate that. If however your rebuttal is merely the ad hominem, who is anti-intellectual and who is trying to understand reality and people better will become rather clear.

          When I first realized that the literalist view of at least the first part of the OT couldn’t possibly be true, I considered whether liberal Christianity was the correct path.

          Those aren’t the only two options. See for example Nancey Murphy’s Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.

          The problem was (and is) that if the book begins with myths, transitions to legends, and has a good bit of embellished or just plain inaccurate history throughout the last half, at what point is one to conclude that any of the thoughts on the gods at the beginning, the one God in the middle, or the Trinity at the end, are to be believed?

          Political liberalism is founded on the idea of a social contract. Which, as it turns out, is a myth. Hume knew this:

          [Hume] did not believe that states had been created through a social contract as Locke and Hobbes had argued, because social contract theory (with perhaps the exception of that of Hume’s sometime friend Rousseau,) implies that men acted on pure reason to determine their decisions, and this seemed to Hume unfounded and unlikely. He therefore also disputed Locke’s and Hobbes’ theories about a state of nature, arguing that “men are necessarily born in a family-society at least.”[22] Any notion of a sharp break in the flow of experience, particularly if such a break is explained as a function of human reason alone, seemed to Hume unlikely to have occurred in the past or to work if tried in the future. (Tyranny of Reason, 161)

          So, to the extent that our modern political institutions are built on the idea of a social contract, should we do with them what you did with Christianity?

          Should I take the view that Randal Rauser espouses that God is just teaching us as time goes along? That He never intended for slavery to be a thing and that it took Him until the 1800s to get His point across? It all seems to be just so much speculation.

          I suspect that the precise slavery we see in the OT—with the 7 year release and don’t return escaped slaves clauses which are so often conveniently omitted, was the best option of a set of mutually terrible options in the social, economic, and political setting in which it was given. You will notice the neither of those clauses was obeyed by allegedly Christian slaveowners in the American South. You might also note that while Jesus is supposed to be Christians’ chief cornerstone, a rather different cornerstone was picked out in Alexander H. Stephens’ 1861 Cornerstone Speech. Finally, you might also take note of Sublimis Deus. To top it all off, my pastor is working on an essay titled something like “Slavery as theological heresy”. Whether I know enough to help him with it is an open question.

          What I think is the case is that humans are notoriously stubborn, arbitrary, fickle, arrogant, self-deceptive, etc. This means that teaching them to be humane to each other is ridiculously hard. The Bible seems to deal with that difficulty head-on, while almost all secular writing I’ve read, including material in the human sciences, is Pollyannish. A wonderful book on the former is Orthodox Jew Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. Of all the books I would recommend pretty much any of my atheist interlocutors to read, it would be that one.

          Again — the moral arc. No guidance from gods is required for humans to learn over time that life in general is better when people are treated kindly.

          You’re going off a book you admit you have not read. How are you acting any differently from a religious person who is told X, finds X pleasing and doesn’t try to corroborate/​falsify it, and thereby uncritically believes X?

          You can see in the New Testament that they still took Genesis to be literal.

          I don’t think the NT folks would have understood what you mean by “literal”.

          Clearly you aren’t a literalist when it comes to Genesis, but I can’t tell how much of the rest of the Bible you believe is true and how much you believe is simply fables that teach moral lessons that the god wanted us to understand.

          I think the Bible teaches us profound things about human nature and human relationships and society which we Moderns desperately want to suppress. We can do the hard sciences just fine—all we need there is a sufficiently strong belief in (i) the uniformity of nature; (ii) the capacity of centuries of human effort to understand it. That’s easy, in comparison to treating one’s fellow humans with dignity and respect. Where we need the most help is that, and I think the Bible speaks most strongly to that. This is so far from “fables that teach moral lessons” that I wouldn’t put them on the same planet. Society is *built* on one or more understandings of human nature and humans’ role in the world. And it’s rather like an iceberg: unless you look under the surface (e.g. via sociology of knowledge), you only see 10% of the thing. Christianity, I claim, is uniquely subversive to bad understandings of human nature and humans’ role in the world. The ancient Israelites were pretty awesome at it, too. (e.g. Created Equal: How the Bible Broke with Ancient Political Thought)

          One thing I’m sure of: when we humans self-justify that evil we did or allowed to happen was actually good or we weren’t at fault, we set up a kind of falsehood within ourselves which cannot be purged by merely “seeing the light”. Instead, we must carve our sins into the flesh of other human beings who are sufficiently innocent such that we are forced to come to terms with who is righteous and who is not. I can say more on this, or you can check out René Girard’s scapegoat mechanism. What I’m less sure of: We thought we were righteous and just when we weren’t, we had to kill Perfection—Jesus—to be convinced that we actually weren’t perfect or righteous or just or any of that. God couldn’t just force us to see the light, lest he reinforce the reigning paradigm that “Might makes right.”

          If you can be a good human being while being a believer in this triune god, that’s great.

          Is this entirely consistent with what you originally said:

          L: If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time.

          ?

          I’m living my life mostly as a closet atheist because the family problems were going to be too much to deal with (that’s a story I’ve told elsewhere),

          I’m sorry to hear you live around such pathetic Christians. My best man was an atheist, BTW.

          but I have made progress as a human being very much as a result of no longer believing that there are such things as minds without bodies, that we have to look out for and help each other because there’s no magic that’s going to help us.

          I’m sorry to hear that the Christianity you were immersed in did not have a strong component of “look out for and help each other”. As to “minds without bodies”, that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax. Suffice it to say that I think Descartes’ dichotomy had historical motivations and revealed a lot of terrible in the thinking of that time, and I think the same dichotomy holds in science today, in the form of: inner “perceptual experience” vs. outer “states of reality”. For more on that, see David Braine’s The Human Person, which rejects both explicit and crypto Cartesian dualism.

          And it is still my opinion that if you were able to take that step back and read your Bible again, you likely would cease to believe in a god-man that was raised from the dead. Reading it without the baggage is just terribly difficult to do.

          If doing this is not going to make me a demonstrably (that is empirically rather than dogmatically) better human being—better at treating other humans better and/or better at doing science—why would I do it? Can you, for example, show me evidence that either:

               (1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
                       [s]he does better science.
               (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
                       [s]he does worse science.

          ? If your answer is “no”, then I haven’t a clue as to what empirical evidence could have produced the opinion you are here voicing. I do know of a great deal of dogma which could have led to it.

        • Dang! You don’t get the respect that you deserve. Maybe you should find a place where people love you.

        • I don’t recall saying I “deserve” any respect. And I’d rather not be loved by people solely because I’m sufficiently like them. You can do much more interesting things with difference than sameness.

        • Kodie

          The only good thing about Luke is that he gives no other Christian the “too much for a combox” excuse.

        • Lerk!


          There’s way too much there to respond to. You seem to have a background in philosophy. While I believe that’s an incredibly important field, I have zero training in it and I get lost very quickly.

          “If doing this is not going to make me a demonstrably (that is empirically rather than dogmatically) better human being—better at treating other humans better and/or better at doing science—why would I do it?”

          Perhaps you wouldn’t. I didn’t ask myself that question. I simply had an “oh, wow!” moment when I realized that something I’d believed since I was old enough to believe anything wasn’t true. I pursued it because I didn’t want to believe a myth — I wanted to know what was real.

          “(1) When a scientist becomes an atheist,
          [s]he does better science.
          (2) When a scientist becomes religious,
          [s]he does worse science.”

          Those questions don’t comprise enough information to be answered. Did their past religiosity or new religiosity involve fundamentalism? Does their field depend upon knowing the truth about things that their religion insists upon false belief? The answer could be “yes” or “no” depending upon the circumstances. I know a geologist who understands the age of the universe and the solar system, which she has to for her work, but she’s a member of a denomination (same one as me) that insists upon a young earth. If she accepted YEC should wouldn’t be able to do her job. She just keeps her mouth shut in church because there’s no point in arguing. (Perhaps she’s willing to talk to people privately about it.)

          “Those aren’t the only two options. See for example Nancey Murphy’s Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.”

          Now there’s some good information. I really didn’t know there was something else out there. I’ll check it out — I’m always looking for something to read on Sunday mornings when I’m supposed to be listening to a sermon.

        • There’s way too much there to respond to.

          Yeah, it was hard to avoid. Unless you want just a “no” or “it’s more complicated than that”, with no explanation. I do want to repeat that I’m sorry you were raised among the Christians you were; it appears to be a Christianity almost completely opposite in spirit of the one I was raised in. (I do suspect I have much to learn from it where it isn’t completely opposite in spirit.)

          You seem to have a background in philosophy.

          I took a few classes in college before I dropped out. The rest is self-taught—with all the attendant strengths and weaknesses. A key though, is that I refuse to get very disconnected from reality, unless there are all sorts of bread crumbs to get me back. That’s actually part of the reason I dropped out of college; it was too abstract. I felt like they were trying to break me.

          L: If a person can truly look at it with fresh eyes, they’ll be an atheist in no time.

          LB: Can you point to a single peer-reviewed scientific paper which supports this belief of yours? I’d love to examine it and citations thereof.

          L: If you understood context you’d realize my statements here are what’s called “opinion”.

          L: And it is still my opinion that if you were able to take that step back and read your Bible again, you likely would cease to believe in a god-man that was raised from the dead. Reading it without the baggage is just terribly difficult to do.

          LB: If doing this is not going to make me a demonstrably (that is empirically rather than dogmatically) better human being—better at treating other humans better and/or better at doing science—why would I do it?

          L: Perhaps you wouldn’t. I didn’t ask myself that question. I simply had an “oh, wow!” moment when I realized that something I’d believed since I was old enough to believe anything wasn’t true. I pursued it because I didn’t want to believe a myth — I wanted to know what was real.

          Ahh, but if you want to know what is real, then relying on ““opinion”” is a rather poor way to do it—right? Perhaps, for example, there is just a lot of bad Christianity. Pretty much every author in the NT warned about false teachers and prophets and antichrists. Maybe … they were right? BTW, even nature knows the value of mimcry, where you pretend to be able to do the thing that has a high cost, while not actually doing it. In order to avoid No True Scotsman, I suggest clustering Christians according to their abilities instead of their self-labeling, your labeling, or my labeling. That which is real has causal power, no?

          Those questions don’t comprise enough information to be answered.

          Good. Now let’s add exactly one thing: the belief that Jesus is God become man, crucified to death by self-righteous/​politically-expedient humans, raised bodily on the third day. Do you think that belief necessarily damages one’s ability to explore reality and act well in it? Let’s assume that if there is any cognitive dissonance, it is “leaky”.

          L: When I first realized that the literalist view of at least the first part of the OT couldn’t possibly be true, I considered whether liberal Christianity was the correct path.

          LB: Those aren’t the only two options. See for example Nancey Murphy’s Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda.

          L: Now there’s some good information. I really didn’t know there was something else out there. I’ll check it out — I’m always looking for something to read on Sunday mornings when I’m supposed to be listening to a sermon.

          Oh there’s a wealth of stuff on postliberal Christianity. A tab I have open on my browser is the Christianity Today article What Evangelicals Can Learn from George Lindbeck. Another person who has struggled mightily with this is Alasdair MacIntyre; he actually lost his faith in Marxism and Christianity, due to false Enlightenment beliefs which forced the conservative–literal/​liberal–metaphorical dichotomy on him. He later figured out what was going on and ended up converting to Roman Catholicism. (They have a richer tradition of thinking deeply than Protestants, sadly.) A good book on both of them is David Trenery’s Alasdair MacIntyre, George Lindbeck, and the Nature of Tradition. If you want to take a deep dive, read MacIntyre’s After Virtue.

          However, I would still heartily recommend Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture. I suspect he will open your eyes to seeing the OT in a very different light than it is traditionally taught by pretty much any Protestants in America, if not almost all Christians everywhere in the West. (Maybe the Eastern Orthodox are a good exception—I need to learn more about them.) Jesus made much more sense to me after reading Hazony.

        • Lerk!

          The simple belief that Jesus was God in the flesh, was crucified, and raised, ie that that part of the Bible story is real, would probably have no bearing on one’s ability to do anything. The questions I would have are 1) why would I believe that when I know so much of the rest of the book is impossible? and 2) isn’t any affirmative belief about Jesus being deity simply the result of motivated reasoning? IOW “I want to figure out a way to still believe this.” If it is that difficult, requires a grounding in philosophy, and whatever you come up with will contradict the source document, then I really don’t see the point unless it is to overcome cognitive dissonance in order to better assimilate.

        • Greg G.

          Great points! Why would the epitome of all wisdom hide important information in a book full of nonsense?

        • Kodie

          I have to start this post by saying you are the foremost reason I know almost anything about the bible. One of the things I have learned over the years about the bible is that it is not just a book full of nonsense. It is a book with something for everyone. Almost everyone. I feel like one of the selling points to this book of garbage is that almost anyone inclined can take something from it, even if it’s not the same thing as someone else. We don’t talk a lot about it, but, well, we know Christians brush off different interpretations, but I also think it impresses them that folks from all walks of life can find something applicable to them in the bible. It has stories about a lot of ideas and situations that a human might fucking find themselves in, or what ancient characters would do in a wide variety of circumstances. It’s not a quick little storybook about how the earth started and who were the first humans, myth-like. It’s about why humans can’t be perfect, why we experience pain, what we’re supposed to do when we don’t want to do the right thing, etc.

          As far as I can tell, if the bible weren’t so comprehensive of human experiences, Christians would have to make up new chapters or walk away. A human fanatic cult leader character dying and then disappearing from his grave, assumed to have ascended bodily to heaven? Fuck, I am totally skeptical of the claim. I was reading some other comments that were probably in another thread, but I don’t even know how to begin believing that. I do believe ancient humans had cultural advice how to deal with certain life situations that may or may not still be applicable. I believe in folk stories, just not the advice, per se. I believe folks worked their favorite deity into that advice, but I cannot fucking fathom why modern humans still find this shit plausible. A miracle. A dead guy rose from the dead so I don’t have to die… sure sure, that’s appealing to some extent, but I can’t fucking fathom a rational grown-up who thinks that’s the case.

        • Greg G.

          There is a lot of folk knowledge in the Bible. It’s just that people take the way that wisdom is presented literally, and miss the wisdom. It’s like believing Aesop’s Fables that animals talk and do human things but missing the moral of the story. It’s exactly like that as many people believe the stories about the talking serpent and the talking donkey. But it is far worse that they disbelieve science because it doesn’t agree with the talking serpent tale.

        • Kodie

          While all that is true, I also imagine if you record the particular superstition of a particular culture in a particular span of history, it’s eventually going to cover every topic from various angles and fashions, such that anyone can read it and find something they agree with, and because it’s called “the bible” and is about “god,” they think he thought of all that stuff and gave it to us, even (especially?) if some of it contradicts, or changes over time. You can have people think x is ok or not ok, because both are in the bible, so it always agrees with your opinion. If you can only read one book, it’s the only book we have that has everything you want advice about. Now we have the internet for that.

        • Greg G. is indeed insanely knowledgeable. I wish he weren’t so damn lazy so he could write some of this stuff.

        • Kodie

          You mean guest posts? Isn’t blogging the dream? I wouldn’t want Greg G. to spend any less time posting his comments. What do you want a guest post about? Is it up to someone to pitch you their own idea?

        • I believe I’ve prodded him before, but I think blogging just isn’t his thing. Which is cool. He makes a great contribution with his comments. If that works for him, it certainly works for me.

          But if he (or other commenters with good ideas that I haven’t covered) are motivated, I’m happy to entertain blog post ideas. They can pitch me by contacting me with either an idea or a completed article through the information on the About page. You don’t get anything except glorious fame and my undying appreciation, but if that works for anyone, let me know!

        • Kodie

          I think I write long enough posts to take a stab, but then again, I need a call to respond to. I also think I’m not a coherent writer. Thinking again about Greg G., while he knows a lot of stuff, where should he begin? I cannot answer for him, but I think his writing implies he also needs a mess to fix. Someone interprets the bible like so, and he knows exactly where to look and what to say, but how does one start a blog topic out of just having something they need to say? I think that’s the hard part.

        • The topic that Greg G. often returns to, which I’m not well read up on, is the question of why the gospels say what they do–the precedents to the gospel stories that we find in prior literature (Josephus, the OT, novels of the time like The Bacchae, and so on).

          He does us a great service by showing how this thesis can be supported (with his comments), though a several-part blog post series to give the complete picture would be nice.

          That’s the topic which (off the top of my head) is the best example of where he’s strong and I’m not. There are others, of course.

        • Greg G.

          I’m like Chet Atkins’ Yakety Axe lyrics:

          I’m confessin’
          I never took a lesson,
          all my notes are a matter of guessin’
          Hopin’ they’ll come out
          in some kinda manner
          that’ll make the yakety sound

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xu5JDoMgY44

        • Michael Neville

          I want to be Greg G. when I grow up but maybe not so indolent.

        • Greg G.

          I am embarrassed by this but my face is too lazy to turn red.

        • The simple belief that Jesus was God in the flesh, was crucified, and raised, ie that that part of the Bible story is real, would probably have no bearing on one’s ability to do anything.

          Neither negative nor positive? There’s a lot in just that religious belief about how the powerful ought to act toward the less powerful and how God deals with evil. It seems to me that we need some way of thinking about both of those things in day-to-day life, especially as one gets higher up in power structures.

          So, what exactly has to be added to a belief in Jesus in order to necessarily decrease one’s ability to treat other people well or have a damaged ability to do science? BTW, if “cognitive dissonance” is leak-free, then one is claiming there is an effect with zero evidence.

          The questions I would have are 1) why would I believe that when I know so much of the rest of the book is impossible? and 2) isn’t any affirmative belief about Jesus being deity simply the result of motivated reasoning?

          1) If God can raise Jesus from the dead, what else is “impossible”?

          2) Maybe. That depends on whether you define “motivated reasoning” in a dogmatic way or an empirical way. In some sense, virtually all reasoning is “motivated”; Heather Douglas gets at this via attacking the fact/​value dichotomy in Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. Just remember: if some way of thinking or behaving doesn’t actually decrease a person’s fitness at navigating the world and understanding it, how exactly is it “wrong”? I’m not saying that there is no answer, but I am saying that both Christians and non-Christians have a problem saying things are “wrong” without evidence—or with parochial/​anecdotal evidence.

          IOW “I want to figure out a way to still believe this.” If it is that difficult, requires a grounding in philosophy, and whatever you come up with will contradict the source document, then I really don’t see the point unless it is to overcome cognitive dissonance in order to better assimilate.

          Perhaps, but I was raised on three-column charts with headers of topic, “God’s Way”, and “The World’s Way”. I learned to see claims in the Bible as deeply applying to reality and giving us choices on how to live, so we couldn’t make bad ones and profess ignorance. A lot of the way I was taught that the Bible carves up and explains reality still makes a lot of sense to me—and slots in with the science I encounter. A great book on the OT which will push in this direction is Yoram Hazony’s The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture.

          Here’s a concrete example. I was flying to South Bend for a cousin’s funeral when my flight from DTW → SBN was canceled. The next flight was the next afternoon so I was going to miss most of the activities. So I rounded up some Midwesterners and we rented a car. For most of the ride, we heard fascinating stories from a clinical and forensic psychologist who used to work for the state but had moved on to an “academy” system, whereby troubled youths were given room and board for the week so that they wouldn’t return to a toxic environment every night and have their chances at a good education be mostly killed. He told me that they had just instituted a conflict resolution system, based on principles awfully like what you see in Christianity, and it had reduced the amount of conflict by half. Should we spit at such things, or should we be amazed at them? Should we investigate why such knowledge/​wisdom is not more widespread?

          I believe that my faith is increasing my fitness in the world. (I could be horribly wrong.) Maybe it’s just because society hated on me when I was young and so I learned to be incredibly skeptical of it, but there seem to be a lot of truths in the Bible about human nature and society which we Westerners do not want to believe. Should I just throw the Bible in the trash? I don’t think so. But you might say that I should treat it as a cafeteria, picking the good parts while deleting the bad parts. Well, Thomas Jefferson famously did that; see the result[1]. I don’t find it that hard to imagine that if I were God but valued creaturely freedom, I would have to achieve theōsis via kénōsis. Humans are incredibly stubborn (see Hazony’s explication in his book), incredibly resistant to listening—truly listening—to anyone outside their group. Most of the time, when I see an atheist say, “Well if God existed he’d do X”, I find that to violate what I know about human nature and society. What am I to conclude, rationally, about such instances?

           
          [1] Anecdotal, but better than arguing in the vacuum of abstract-land:

              Later Jefferson wrote even more extravagantly to William Short, his private secretary, about the execution of Louis XVI (“the expunging of that officer”). The logic of his words has rightly been described as closer to Stalin, Mao Tse-tung and Pol Pot than to Washington, Hamilton and Burke.

          The liberty of the whole earth was depending on the issue of the contest, and was ever such a prize won with so little innocent blood? My own affections have been deeply wounded by some of the martyrs to this cause, but rather than it should have failed, I would have seen half the earth desolated. Were there but an Adam and an Eve left in every country, and left free, it would be better than as it is now. (The Long Affair, 147)

          (A Free People’s Suicide, KL 766–72)

    • Many Christians do take their religion seriously (emotionally), but don’t take it seriously (intellectually).
      It’s that compartmentalized mind thing again.

      This is precisely what I see when just about any atheist qua atheist makes claims about the subject matter of the social sciences (e.g. psychology, sociology, economics, politsci). They just check their brains at the door. I attended a talk by an atheist friend of mine at East Bay Atheists and we went out to dinner after. I asked them if they use science to better spread atheism and criticize religion. The answer was “no”. Then after a while, someone recalled seeing a plot somewhere one time.

      As it turns out, the hard sciences do just fine if one understands all causation as impersonal and mechanical. But not the human sciences and especially not the social sciences. If you think you have the correct understanding of reality and just need to impose it on them religious nutjobs (rather like the equations of GR are “imposed” on reality—uniformly as far as we can tell), you’re not going to do all that well. Indeed, you’re going to recapitulate the errors of the RCC, in thinking you get to tell others how to think and act. The details are different of course, but the result is an arrogant, domineering attitude cloaked in the righteousness of Reason.

      See, virtually nobody takes the intellect seriously when it comes to social matters. If anything, the intellect is currently used to distract from what’s really going on. It used to be thought that Reason would bring unity and peace; now we know differently:

      No one expects that anything called “reason” will dispel such pluralism by leading people to converge on a unified truth—certainly not about ultimate or cosmic matters such as “the nature of the universe” or “the end and the object of life.” Indeed, unity on such matters could be achieved only by state coercion: Rawls calls this the “fact of oppression.”[36] So a central function of “public reason” today is precisely to keep such matters out of public deliberation (subject to various qualifications and exceptions that Rawls conceded as his thinking developed). And citizens practice Rawlsian public reason when they refrain from invoking or acting on their “comprehensive doctrines”—that is, their deepest convictions about what is really true—and consent to work only with a scaled-down set of beliefs or methods that claim the support of an ostensible “overlapping consensus“.[Political Liberalism, 133-172, 223-227] (The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, 14–15)

      We don’t reason with each other socially, we manipulate each other. It was happening well before Trump, but it was below the radar of those who desperately didn’t want to see it. The ick shows up more strongly in religion than science because religion focuses mostly on the social sphere and very little on the photons and electrons and quarks sphere. Atheists draw most of their “Science works, bitches!” from the hard sciences, and so can avoid that when science gets seriously political, it so easily gets seriously compromised. Not to mention the incredible complexity of the full human psyche and society. The Higgs boson is rather simple in comparison.

      • Chris Morris

        Luke, I find it interesting and unusual that a Christian (I’m presuming that you are, forgive me if I’m wrong) would use postmodern analysis to support their view; most of the Christian apologists I read, certainly in the USA, object to postmodernism almost as angrily as do Dawkins et al. I would agree with your view that our reality is an almost unfathomable blend of the mental and the physical and scientific absolutists are just as wrong as religious absolutists. However, in my experience, scientific absolutists are slightly less inclined to tell people how to live and are generally more open to reasoned argument. I think most of us atheists recognise that science and atheism are not identical but admit that the few who do tend to get more publicity. I would recommend Max Horkheimer’s ‘The Eclipse of Reason’ as an essential text for anyone interested in this debate.

        • Luke, I find it interesting and unusual that a Christian (I’m presuming that you are, forgive me if I’m wrong) would use postmodern analysis to support their view; most of the Christian apologists I read, certainly in the USA, object to postmodernism almost as angrily as do Dawkins et al.

          I am a Christian (nondenominational Protestant and I would characterize myself as “fairly orthodox”). I think postmodernism has some stuff right; in particular Alasdair MacIntyre’s treatment of epistemology and embedding it in what he calls ‘tradition’ seems right to me. But I don’t mean to embrace the insipid relativism that exists in the extremes of postmodernism (many were afraid that Kuhn was headed in that direction with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). MacIntyre himself struggled with this and shed his Marxism and Christianity, until [at least] he [fully] realized that the modern sundering of fact and value is itself an ideological move and not a “natural” one.

          All you have to do is go into an actual science lab and compare & contrast how they do science, and how Internet Defenders of Science say that science happens. They’re worlds apart. (A nice intro is the Wired article Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing up.) My wife got her PhD in biophysics and is finishing up her postdoc in a biochemistry lab; as it turns out, the ‘rationality’ of your average biochemist is rather different than the ‘rationality’ of your average biophysicist. The differences really, really matter. It’s not just some generic ‘science’ thing that’s being done. And this is how the world works. But what do you see among Internet Defenders of Science? Simplicity based on caricatures of how physics works.

          However, in my experience, scientific absolutists are slightly less inclined to tell people how to live and are generally more open to reasoned argument.

          Yes and no. Scientific absolutists do let you have whatever sex you want however you want wherever you want it (obeying the harm & consent principles, of course). But they don’t necessarily carve out spaces for humans to be truly human, unless all you mean by that is the ability to enter whatever professionalized discipline you want and submit to its morals there, then retreat to the home where you can be whomever and whatever you want to be—all the while noting that the choices you make in private life are 100% shielded from professional and consumer life. You can be whatever gender you want because it doesn’t matter. But actually, the only reason the gender stuff is hitting it big is that it currently does matter, to a lot of people. Once it ceases to matter, the psychological energy will have to be obtained by challenging some other aspect of society. Humans want to either build or destroy; doing neither doesn’t really work all that well. It is awfully hard to build in our current world except in very, very restricted ways. There is a lot of freedom-from, but very limited freedom-to. The latter matters and has gotten very short shrift by scientific absolutists—in my experience.

          I would recommend Max Horkheimer’s ‘The Eclipse of Reason’ as an essential text for anyone interested in this debate.

          Thanks; I’ve come across it before and since this is the ≥ 2 time, I have requested it from my library. I’m aware of Jacques Ellul’s criticism of technique and I’ve also read most of Richard J. Bernstein’s Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis. There’s also the anthology Rationality and Relativism. But more of this stuff can’t hurt.

        • Susan

          All you have to do is go into an actual science lab and compare & contrast how they do science, and how Internet Defenders of Science say that science happens. They’re worlds apart. (A nice intro is the Wired article Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing up.) My wife got her PhD in biophysics and is finishing up her postdoc in a biochemistry lab; as it turns out,

          That’s why science doesn’t depend on a single science lab. Humans make thinking errors.

          But light bulbs work.

          Once again, the problems with science are not evidence for your version of Yahwehjesus.

          They are sorted out by science. (And occasionally philosophy, depending on the problem.)

          None of that is support for your personal version of Spiderman vs. Dracula.

          How Internet defenders say that science is done.

          Exactly, how do they say it is done?

          Even if they are all wrong, that doesn’t make Yahwehjesus exist.

          You can’t shake your old, creationist ways, can you?

        • That’s why science doesn’t depend on a single science lab. Humans make thinking errors.

          I’m sorry; I don’t see how that connects to anything.

          But light bulbs work.

          The hard sciences and related are doing fine. The human sciences, less so. The social sciences? Not so much. Religion? Even worse. What’s the pattern? The more political, the less reason and the more rationalizing & ideology. That is the problem, and merely pointing out how light bulbs work does absolutely and utterly nothing to deal with issues like WP: Wolfgang Schäuble § Criticism (the Troika, led by Germany, cut Greece’s GDP by 25% without firing a bullet or dropping a bomb—a first in world history). The problem is humans dominating and manipulating humans (with the dual of lazy humans who don’t want to mature and grow up, partly because this is made exceedingly hard for many). The Enlightenment did not make domination and manipulation go away; if anything it gave us more refined tools for doing these things better. (See Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, for example. Or Facebook.)

          But go ahead, insinuate that humans just need to gain more power over reality (including other humans) and that will solve our problems. The nuclear bomb was good but an energy source 100x as dense (and can create an explosion 100x as terrible) is surely better. And hey, let’s call the indoctrination and condition of humans “education”. When the religious folks do this it’s bad; when the secular folks do it is [by definition!] good.

          Once again, the problems with science are not evidence for your version of Yahwehjesus.

          Someone hasn’t been paying attention to reproducibility studies. Or taken note of the consequences of ignoring the Monihan Report. Or cognizant of the huge illegal drug problem the US has (which surely the social sciences should be able to cure/solve if science is so awesometastic). But hey, can you tell us how awesome antibiotics and clothes washing machines and air conditioning are? Just carefully stick to politically irrelevant areas of science and you get to win.

          None of that is support for your personal version of Spiderman vs. Dracula.

          Straw man.

          You can’t shake your old, creationist ways, can you?

          Projection.

        • Susan

          The hard sciences and related are doing fine. The human sciences, less so. The social sciences? Not so much. Religion? Even worse.

          K.

          But go ahead, insinuate that humans just need to gain more power over reality

          I haven’t.. Or if I have, that wasn’t my intention.

          Someone hasn’t been paying attention to reproducibility studies. Or taken note of the consequences of ignoring the Monihan Report. Or cognizant of the huge illegal drug problem the US has

          Not true. So, now you are talking about the consequences to earthlings of the thinking problems of earthlings. (Though as always, you show no concern for our fellow non-human earthlings,)

          Just stick to politically irrelevant areas of science and you get to win.

          Yay! What do I win?

          (Just kidding.) No. The problems you raise are about human earthlings screwing up when it comes to comprehending larger issues, many of which we agree on. That is, what matters? (Imperfect but important moral concepts that humans care about)

          And what can we do about it? (Also imperfect, because our knowledge and means are imperfect. It has always been so. Knowledge and means are not irrelevant. In fact, they seem necessary, but not sufficient.

          Superstitious beliefs don’t seem to be necessary at all. That is, the belief in an unevidenced agent whose existence is accepted because of a book of superstition that doesn’t stand out among any book of superstition, let alone all the superstitions that haven’t assembled books.

          Social science, politics, ethics, etc.

          Starting with the assumption that we live on a planet full of earthlings seems to be a rational approach.

          How does invoking Yahwehjesus do anything? Especially when it doesn’t seem to exist and people can claim anything they’d like when they invoke it?

          (This includes you.)

        • LB: But go ahead, insinuate that humans just need to gain more power over reality (including other humans) and that will solve our problems.

          S: I haven’t.. Or if I have, that wasn’t my intention.

          Excellent. Do you believe the underlined? (The strikethrough is what you omitted in your quotation.) Because if you don’t believe the underlined, then how could God possibly help us out in the ways that don’t involve [merely] giving us more power over reality? I worry that your answer to this question is the null set, but I would love to be surprised.

          LB: Just stick to politically irrelevant areas of science and you get to win.

          S: Yay! What do I win?

          You would have said that some particular way of thinking and acting is good for domains which aren’t very political. I might even agree with that. But you’d be leaving out a *massive* portion of human existence. And yet, your language seems to indicate that you think that what works fairly well in non-political domains will work at all in very political domains.

          The problems you raise are about human earthlings screwing up when it comes to comprehending larger issues, many of which we agree on. That is, what matters? (Imperfect but important moral concepts that humans care about)

          But I don’t see how we could make any progress whatsoever on “what matters”, given:

          LB: As far as I can tell, you find matters of the good/​beautiful/​excellent to be 100% subjective.

          S: I can certainly say that you haven’t shown that your claims about any of the above are anything but subjective. Also, you haven’t shown that your agent exists. Also, you haven’t shown that it is a source of any of the concerns you list above.

          The very belief I say prevents God from interacting with you in a non-manipulative way (such that you can recognize it as God interacting with you) is what sustains the “100% subjective” viewpoint. It’s Cartesian dualism back with a vengeance: if what exists in the mind (subjectivity) is 100% divorced from what exists in the body (reality), then there is no way to get signals from body → mind such that they will be interpreted non-arbitrarily. And yet, you ask for “evidence of God’s existence” which you insist start at the body (the senses).

          Superstitious beliefs don’t seem to be necessary at all.

          If by “superstitious beliefs” you mean those beliefs John Calvin excoriated with his “seed of religion” diatribe, I agree! If on the other hand you insist on a metaphysics which renders goodness, beauty, and excellence 100% subjective, then you destroy any possible distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. All that is left is force, coercion, and manipulation. Some just call it the deterministic march forward in time. That last formulation gets rather interesting:

              In his historical tracing of the meaning of the word “supernatural,” de Lubac further noted that, despite the specifically Christian shift in its range of implication, the essential contrast, up until the High Middle Ages, remained one between natural and moral and not natural and supernatural. The former distinction though, de Lubac argued, itself reflected the authentically Christian sense of the notion of the supernatural. For on the one hand there was created nature; on the other hand there was created spirit, which was free, and intellectually reflexive (‘personal’). This ‘moral’ realm was in some sense not just created; it bore a more radical imprint of divinity: the imago dei. (The Suspended Middle, KL 156–65)

          Josef Garlinski, for instance, in his Fighting Auschwitz[1] shows how resistance among the Poles in Auschwitz far exceeded what has hitherto been generally believed or even regarded as possible. The choice to resist has in fact to be made before it needs to be put into practice. This is indeed implicit in Barrington Moore’s argument that revolt is conditioned by the presence or absence of the possibility of moral choice. The strength of totalitarian regimes lies not in the direct subjection and demoralization which they are able to achieve in the concentration camps but in the fact that they have already succeeded in establishing a broadly based popular belief in the values which make concentration camps a necessary part of the system. (NY Books: Why Men Do Not Revolt)

              Finally, consider the libertarian notion of dual rationality, a requirement whose importance to the libertarian I did not appreciate until I read Robert Kane’s Free Will and Values. As with dual control, the libertarian needs to claim that when agents make free choices, it would have been rational (reasonable, sensible) for them to have made a contradictory choice (e.g. chosen not A rather than A) under precisely the conditions that actually obtain. Otherwise, categorical freedom simply gives us the freedom to choose irrationally had we chosen otherwise, a less-than-entirely desirable state. Kane (1985) spends a great deal of effort in trying to show how libertarian choices can be dually rational, and I examine his efforts in Chapter 8. (The Non-Reality of Free Will, 16)

          But no, screw this “free will” garbage, even the small Δv model. What happened was always going to happen, what will happen has already been determined, and you can do nothing to fight it. Contrast this with mapping out the ITN in order to use one’s limited thruster fuel (willpower) intelligently.

          How does invoking Yahwehjesus do anything?

          I have no idea what you mean by “invoking Yahwehjesus”. You know I don’t think Jesus is a genie who does exactly what we want whenever we rub the lamp invoke his name.

          Especially when it doesn’t seem to exist and people can claim anything they’d like when they invoke it?

          (This includes you.)

          I … don’t seem to exist? If I attempt to simulate Paul B. Lot‘s perspective I agree (see “infinite interpretations hypothesis” / death of the author); if I attempted to simulate your perspective before the your sand and water comment I would be tempted to agree; I don’t think I’d ever agree when attempting to simulate Otto‘s perspective over our history discussing various and sundry things.

        • Paul B. Lot

          But hey, can you tell us how awesome antibiotics and clothes washing machines and air conditioning are? Just carefully stick to politically irrelevant areas of science

          Lol, of course you try to score points by attacking the “political irrelevancy” of something like washing machines. And also of course: they are *not* irrelevant, not to the people that don’t have them yet.

          It’s okay though, don’t worry too much about it dear. While you’re sitting on your computer shrieking about how awful modern society is and how manipulative and how turning away from “god” has made things worse….

          …better people than you are slowly (and not so slowly!) making things better for lots of people:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FACK2knC08E

          Just carefully stick to politically irrelevant areas of science and you get to win.

          Sure, you didn’t get to “win” in online arguments; no you are made to look like an arrogant piece of shit that never fully grokked this aphorism:

          “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt”

          But cheer up, bucko!

          While it’s true that you don’t get to win….millions and billions of others do.

        • LB: But hey, can you tell us how awesome antibiotics and clothes washing machines and air conditioning are? Just carefully stick to politically irrelevant areas of science

          PBL: Lol, of course you try to score points by attacking the “political irrelevancy” of something like washing machines. And also of course: they are *not* irrelevant, not to the people that don’t have them yet.

          I’ll keep this as evidence that you either cannot distinguish between pragmatic relevance and political relevance, or that you refuse to so-distinguish. As to the point-scoring thing, I’ll let others judge whether that says more about me or you.

          While you’re sitting on your computer shrieking about how awful modern society is and how manipulative and how turning away from “god” has made things worse….

          [citation required]

          …better people than you are slowly (and not so slowly!) making things better for lots of people:

          Ahh, you think I’m retarded for working on “tools for scientists”, to make their lives easier and make dollars spent on science more efficient? Do please tell me why you think that, because maybe I should stop doing this thing. (I’ll happily assent to other being being “better” than me though—whatever the hell that means.)

          Sure, you didn’t get to “win” in online arguments; no you are made to look like an arrogant piece of shit that never fully grokked this aphorism:

          “Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt”

          I’m actually not interested in winning. I’m interested in learning things. It’s clearly you who are interested in winning—as your entire comment demonstrates. I would rather learn more about e.g. the following:

              What is the key to the social content of emotivism? It is the fact that emotivism entails the obliteration of any genuine distinction between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations. (After Virtue, 23)

          But you seem more interested in practicing the lack of a distinction.

        • Paul B. Lot

          I’ll keep this as evidence that you either cannot distinguish between pragmatic relevance and political relevance, or that you refuse to so-distinguish.

          I do, in fact, refuse to allow arguments to proceed based on premises consisting of a distinction without a difference.

          Odd that you seem to think that I shouldn’t want you to “keep this”!

          Ahh, you think I’m retarded for working on “tools for scientists”, to make their lives easier and make dollars spent on science more efficient?

          Why on earth would you think that? More importantly:why on earth would you write it?*

          Do please tell me why you think that

          Why do you beat your wife? 😛
          😛

          I’m actually not interested in winning.

          Lol.

          I’m interested in learning things.

          I disagree.

          I’m interested in learning things. It’s clearly you who are interested in winning—as your entire comment demonstrates…..But you seem more interested….

          I disagree. Both on your characterization of [my intent], and on your [self-description].

          You are, it seems quite clear to me, attempting the non-explicit argument that scientific/rational/reductionist thinking cannot solve difficult problems. This argument relies on a mixture of [No True Scotsman] ad-hoc rationalization and [Appeal to Ignorance] fallacious thinking in order to convince at an emotional level (eg. *), rather than an intellectual one.

          Of course, if you were thinking and reasoning clearly, in a good-faith manner, I’d be deeply interested in what you had to say. Unfortunately, that hypothetical seems unable to move out of the subjunctive mood.

        • LB: But hey, can you tell us how awesome antibiotics and clothes washing machines and air conditioning are? Just carefully stick to politically irrelevant areas of science

          PBL: Lol, of course you try to score points by attacking the “political irrelevancy” of something like washing machines. And also of course: they are *not* irrelevant, not to the people that don’t have them yet.

          LB: I’ll keep this as evidence that you either cannot distinguish between pragmatic relevance and political relevance, or that you refuse to so-distinguish.

          PBL: I do, in fact, refuse to allow arguments to proceed based on premises consisting of a distinction without a difference.

          Fascinating! Do you think there’s a difference between manipulative and non-manipulative social relations, or is that another “distinction without a difference”?

          Odd that you seem to think that I shouldn’t want you to “keep this”!

          With your clarification, I understand much better—thank you.

          PBL: …better people than you are slowly (and not so slowly!) making things better for lots of people:

          LB: Ahh, you think I’m retarded for working on “tools for scientists”, to make their lives easier and make dollars spent on science more efficient? Do please tell me why you think that, because maybe I should stop doing this thing. (I’ll happily assent to other being being “better” than me though—whatever the hell that means.)

          PBL: [1] Why on earth would you think that? [2] More importantly:why on earth would you write?

          [1] I thought you were insinuating that I was not making things better for any people, in anything like the sense outlined by the video you linked. Was I wrong?
          [2] I don’t understand the question. Write … what?

          LB: I’m interested in learning things.

          PBL: I disagree.

          I responded both to the substance and to the character assassination. I would prefer not to have to do the latter, but you keep insisting on making it personal. I suggest listening to Susan:

          S: Let’s all stop talking about him. It’s what he wants. It seems to be what he wants most.

          I [think I] agreed with her.

          I disagree. Both on your characterization of [my intent], and on your self-description.

          Yes, I am used to you thinking you just get to override the intent of others. @JoshuaSayre:disqus called you out on it:

          j: You see, in this hypothetical you almost immediately weren’t mindful of the speakers context and intent. You concluded that they made an error when, from their perspective, they hadn’t. You then insisted that if they didn’t agree with you it was an insult.

          —while you failed to respond.

          You are, it seems quite clear to me, attempting the non-explicit argument that scientific/​rational/​reductionist thinking cannot solve difficult problems.

          Nope; “difficult problems” is much too vague. What I will say is that I agree with Steven Ney:

              What gets in the way of solving problems, thinkers such as George Tsebelis, Kent Weaver, Paul Pierson and many others contend, is divisive and unnecessary policy conflict. In policy-making, so the argument goes, conflict reflects an underlying imbalance between two incommensurable activities: rational policy-making and pluralist politics. On this view, policy-making is about deploying rational scientific methods to solve objective social problems. Politics, in turn, is about mediating contending opinions, perceptions and world-views. While the former conquers social problems by marshaling the relevant facts, the latter creates democratic legitimacy by negotiating conflicts about values. It is precisely this value-based conflict that distracts from rational policy-making. At best, deliberation and argument slow down policy processes. At worst, pluralist forms of conflict resolution yield politically acceptable compromises rather than rational policy solutions.

              This book sets out to understand how policy-makers deal with messy or wicked policy problems. It does so by looking closely at the value-driven conflict messy policy problems generate. Somewhat against the grain of received wisdom, the following chapters argue that conflict about messy issues is not a distracting nuisance to rational policy-making. On the contrary, this book suggests that value-driven conflict is not only inevitable but also a crucial resource for dealing with messy policy challenges. (Resolving Messy Policy Problems, 3,5)

          Continuing:

          This argument relies on a mixture of [No True Scotsman] ad-hoc rationalization and [Appeal to Ignorance] fallacious thinking in order to convince at an emotional level, rather than an intellectual one.

          I have no idea what you’re talking about with the non-underlined so I shall [attempt to] address only the underlined; feel free to clarify what you meant with the rest—preferably with concrete examples.

          The intellectual/​emotional dichotomy seems to be a veiled form of the fact/​value dichotomy. The latter dichotomy cannot be sustained in the social sciences. See for example Davydova & Sharrock 2003 The rise and fall of the fact/​value distinction. For an extended treatment that deals with philosophy and economics, see Hilary Putnam’s 2004 The Collapse of the Fact/​Value Dichotomy. For an extended treatment that deals with philosophy of science and public policy, see Heather Douglas’ Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. For a criticism of value-free rational choice theory, see Margaret S. Archer and Jonathan Q. Tritter (eds), Rational Choice Theory: Resisting Colonisation. What happens when you attempt to be only “fact-driven” is self-reflective ignorance:

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

          The result is this:

              Personalist theory claims that all adequate understandings of human life must take seriously the fact that human beings are persons and not something else. This requires that we understand what persons are, what distinguishes them from nonpersonal entities. It is not enough to know something about human bodies or genetics or social interactions. We need to understand more of the fullness of what it means to be a person. Only by understanding the personhood of human beings will we adequately be able to understand and explain people and their social relations, because humans cannot be properly understood apart from their personhood.[15] To ignore personhood is to evacuate the central and most important features of the basic unit that social science studies.[16] That creates a major blind spot that prevents us from seeing important facts we must observe if we wish to adequately understand human life. To ignore human personhood is to self-compromise our own ability—as social theorists, social scientists, and persons trying to negotiate ourselves and life—to understand ourselves as particular kinds of beings in the larger order of reality. (To Flourish or Destruct: A Personalist Theory of Human Goods, Motivations, Failure, and Evil, 8–9)

          [15] The psychologists Jack Martin, Jeff Sugarman, and Sarah Hickinbottom (Persons: Understanding Psychological Selfhood and Agency [New York: Springer, 2010]) correctly observe that “the concept of the person has all but vanished from psychology” and “while psychologists lavish their attention on the study of personality, they devote surprisingly little to the question of what is a person” (57, back cover).
          [16] Margaret Archer correctly notes that “sociological imperialists ha[ve] labored long and hard with a vacuum pump on humankind, sucking out the properties and powers of our species-being, to leave a void behind to be filled with social forces” (Being Human: The Problem of Agency [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000], 315–16).

          The dichotomy you are drawing between ‘intellectual’ and ’emotional’ doesn’t even survive basic scientific knowledge:

          When emotion is entirely left out of the reasoning picture, as happens in certain neurological conditions, reason turns out to be even more flawed than when emotion plays bad tricks on our decisions. (Descartes’ Error, xii)

          Nor does it appear to allow for scientific creativity:

              Polykarp Kusch, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, has declared that there is no ‘scientific method,’ and that what is called by that name can be outlined for only quite simple problems. Percy Bridgman, another Nobel Prize-winning physicist, goes even further: ‘There is no scientific method as such, but the vital feature of the scientist’s procedure has been merely to do his utmost with his mind, no holds barred.’ ‘The mechanics of discovery,’ William S. Beck remarks, ‘are not known… I think that the creative process is so closely tied in with the emotional structure of an individual … that … it is a poor subject for generalization.'[4] (The Sociological Imagination, 58)

          Your ‘intellectual’ vs. ’emotional’ dichotomy seems absolutely abysmal outside of a very restricted domain. You probably got it from the Roman Catholic Church if not earlier—see their longstanding intellectualism vs. voluntarism debate—so I don’t blame you too much. Unless you continue to cling to it after this comment. I’ll leave you with two more excerpts, the first from Arne Johan Vetlesen:

          Love, Compassion, and Empathy
          My remarks on empathy have sought to bring out its difference from simple identification and its closeness to love. What separates empathy from identification is its recognition of the otherness of two persons, of their difference and distinctness as something to be maintained rather than annulled. This statement echoes that in the chapter on Hannah Arendt, where I stated that the essence of empathy lies in one subject’s retaining rather than abandoning his or her own standpoint and identity in the course of his or her endeavor to recognize the other as other. Empathy thus entails a Sichmitbringen, not a Sichaufgeben. Furthermore, I have just shown that the relatedness between empathy and love consists in both seeking the conscious recognition of the otherness of the other as “in itself” deserving recognition. Yet, though related, it is clear that empathy and love are not the same, that they differ. (Perception, Empathy, and Judgment, 204)

          and the second from Christopher Lasch:

              Recent controversies about the contemporary culture of “narcissism” have revealed two quite different sources of confusion. The first, alluded to already and examined in some detail in the first of the following chapters, is the confusion of narcissism with egoism and selfishness. An analysis of the siege mentality and the strategies of psychic survival it encourages (the subject of chapters II, III, and IV) will serve not only to identify characteristic features of our culture—our protective irony and emotional disengagement, our reluctance to make long-term emotional commitments, our sense of powerlessness and victimization, our fascination with extreme situations and with the possibility of applying their lessons to everyday life, our perception of large-scale organizations as systems of total control—but also to distinguish narcissism from ordinary self-seeking. It will show how the prevailing social conditions, especially the fantastic mass-produced images that shape our perceptions of the world, not only encourage a defensive contraction of the self but blur the boundaries between the self and its surroundings. As the Greek legend reminds us, it is this confusion of the self and the not-self—not “egoism”—that distinguishes the plight of Narcissus. (The Minimal Self, 18–19)

          Now, I wonder if there are any connections between ’emotion’ and ‘intention’ …

          Of course, if you were thinking and reasoning clearly, in a good-faith manner, I’d be deeply interested in what you had to say.

          I doubt it—not unless we violate your maxim and choose non-“common/​prominent meanings” for ‘clearly’, ‘good-faith manner’, and ‘interested’.

        • Chris Morris

          Luke, I share your admiration for McIntyre’s views. It was reading ‘After Virtue’ about 30 years ago that began the process of making postmodern ideas meaningful for me but I have to confess that I am a relatively insipid relativist as this seems to me to be a reasonable inference from the recognition of over-arching theory as being just another ‘ideological move’ and that it’s not just a consequence of some extreme form of postmodernism. The questions I have struggled with since then are ‘what does it actually mean to say that I’m a relativist?’ and ‘what does the alternative look like?’ For me, Rorty’s vision of human being as a continuing open conversation is a good description of what I feel about relativism in that it allows us to negotiate something such as the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights through general agreement rather than, as the Enlightenment would have us do, discover a universal principle and then use it as a foundation for a set of absolute laws (and, of course, the reason we have ‘postmodernism’ is that the Enlightenment project failed to discover any such universal principle, as McIntyre pointed out). As for the second question, McIntyre also emphasised the other side of that coin in that, in itself, the aspiration to discover a universal principle was an enormously important step forward in presenting the possibility of an alternative absolute to the Christian god, making comparative analysis possible in a way that had not happened previously and setting up this dichotomy between Christianity and science that is still so clearly (judging from the comments on this blog and others) a problem today. I’ve asked a few Christian apologists to give me an example of a moral absolute derived from Christianity but on the very rare occasions that I’ve had an answer it generally looks a lot like relativism to me.

          Although I only have a layman’s interest in science my daughter has recently graduated with a degree in physics so I agree that, as your wife’s experience shows, science is best understood as a varied set of human activities and that the ‘caricature’ presented by defenders of science and the opposite, but similarly caricature-level idea of science presented by, for example, Alvin Plantinga stand as walls behind which those with a siege mentality can throw rocks at each other. This, for me is the most important lesson from relativism: this idea in Western society that every dichotomy has to be resolved absolutely, a view in some ways derived from the rediscovery of Plato that led to the scientific revolution of the 17th century, can better be thought of as simply another step in the historical development of human consciousness. You give a good example in your post: the idea that being ‘truly human’ is to be separated in to just two genders and, presumably, always has been. This is quite clearly something of an advance from the pre-modern view that men and women were almost two different species but I would see it as being part of the continuing movement towards individual equality.

          One of the apologist bloggers who almost answered my questions invited me to contribute an article to his blog:
          https://anotherapologeticsblog.com/2018/02/07/scientism-monster-or-myth-christopher-morris/

        • Chris Morris

          Luke, I did respond to your post but it has been marked as ‘spam’ by the ghost in the machine. I’ve ticked a box saying that it’s not spam and there is a message saying that ‘we’ will look in to it. It may have something to do with a link to a Christian blog site in my reply. If this is the case I’m disappointed; I tend to expect that sort of thing from Christian blogs as I’ve written quite a few polite, reasoned criticisms of articles on sites such as Life Training Institute, Faithful Thinkers and others that have never appeared with no explanation provided but I would hope this one to be different. I’m always amazed by how much we can learn from silence.

        • I did get an email notification about it, but then didn’t see it so wondered if you had deleted it. I must remember that the more common occurrence is being marked as spam. I’ll wait a day or two to see if it gets un-spamified; if not ping me again and I’ll just respond by quoting from the email contents.

        • Chris Morris

          I can imagine that moderation on these blogs is a bit of a nightmare!

          Luke, there’s no sign of anything happening with it so if you want to comment on the bits that interest you I would value your opinion.

        • I attempted to leave a comment on your guest blog post Scientism: Monster or Myth on 4/5; so far it hasn’t showed up. I did save it just in case; shall I post it here?

        • Kodie

          OH MY FUCKING CHRIST ON A CRACKER, Luke! You can’t just go to some other blog to carry on a useless argument you’re having with someone.

        • I should think that @disqus_TloUppAkh3:disqus gets as much a vote as you do and I thought that it would be a topic that CE would be amenable to, but I’m happy to heed the wishes of Bob. Perhaps he’d accept said blog post as a guest blog post here. Barring that, Chris is welcome to email me directly; my email is in my Disqus profile.

        • Kodie

          I thought you agreed to leave.

        • Dude, the last comment on this page before I piped up was here, 2018-04-01. Do you really need to police every thread on CE? And no, your recollection is flawed.

        • Kodie

          Last I noticed, I get email notifications from every thread I participated in. You are attempting to take over the thread with your personal conversation because it didn’t appear at another blog where you were previously communicating, which seems fucking rude to me. Do you think this is your blog where you can move your conversations to whenever it’s convenient for you?

        • Chris Morris

          Luke, Kodie,
          Sorry for not seeing this, my daughter has been in hospital having fairly major surgery.
          I absolutely have no problem with you (or anyone else) putting comments on that blog. It’s actually the blog of a Christian apologist that I met on an online course and who invited me to write a piece about scientism. Presumably, he will eventually get around to OK-ing your comment.

        • Man, sorry to hear that. I hope the surgery goes well!

          As to that blog entry, I’m not going to hold out hope that the comment gets moderated. Feel free to email me if you want the response; my email is in my Disqus profile.

        • Chris Morris

          Thanks Luke, she’s recovering well. I’ll e-mail when I get time.

        • I attempted to leave a comment on your guest blog post Scientism: Monster or Myth on 4/5; so far it hasn’t showed up. I did save it just in case; shall I post it here?

        • Clint W. (Thought2Much)

          The Disqus spam filter is pretty bonkers. It flags all kinds of things that aren’t spam as spam. As a moderator for a couple of Patheos blogs (not this one), it drives me nuts.

        • Hmmm, said comment appears to be stuck in the spam-box. You could ping Bob Seidensticker about it.

        • Hmmm, said comment appears to be stuck in the spam-box. You could ping Bob Seidensticker about it.

  • TheMountainHumanist

    “Because not even Christians take their religion seriously”

    I have often heard people say they want to follow the commands of Jesus.

    My response: So you plan to give away all you own except staff and/or sandals and wander the land as a hobo?

    Then I watch them drive away in their HummVee

    • Greg G.

      I have often heard people say they want to follow the commands of Jesus.

      You don’t see many one-eyed, one-handed Christians, either.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        i have seen a one eyed one horned flying purple people eater

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9H_cI_WCnE

        • Greg G.

          Do you remember the scene in Star Wars where Luke and Leia are about to swing over the shaft and Luke shoots a stormtrooper who falls and screams? The scream was recorded by Sheb Wooley about forty years earlier.

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

          I think BobS mentioned this in a comment.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          Yeah the famed Wilhelm Scream….I think it has been in every Star Wars movie and most Indian Jones ones.

      • Bob Jase

        Hmmm…apparently only pirates follow the commands of Jesus.

    • sandy

      And of course you must hate your mother, father, brothers and sisters if you wish to be a disciple of Jesus. Jesus, what a nice guy.

      • TheMountainHumanist

        “well now when the Bible says words…..they do not mean what the words say if the words are inconvenient”

        • Lerk!

          If I don’t believe what a passage plainly says, I can just claim that it’s a difficult passage.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          That seems to be the dodge.

      • Bob Jase

        Jesus hated his father – self-loathing deity that he was.

    • My response: So you plan to give away all you own except staff and/or sandals and wander the land as a hobo?

      Where did Jesus command that all who would follow him do this? I do recall this:

      And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35–38)

      • TheMountainHumanist

        Since most Christians see the Great Commission as applying to all …it follows that other commandments Jesus gave to his then followers must be applied as well…can’t have it both ways.

        • What commandment did Jesus give to a “then follower” which is sufficiently equivalent to “give away all you own except staff and/or sandals and wander the land as a hobo”?

        • Greg G.

          If each follower gets different requirements for eternal life, why would any believers think they have satisfied what is expected of them.

        • TheMountainHumanist

          You do not know your bible?

          Mark Chapter 6 is one example.

        • You mean this:

          And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, “Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you depart from there. And if any place will not receive you and they will not listen to you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should repent. And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. (Mark 6:7–13)

          ?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          sounds like a hobo lifestyle to me.

        • So … screw Luke 22:35–38, which I excerpted?

        • TheMountainHumanist

          What has that to do with the debate?

        • It comes after (clock time) the passage you were apparently referencing.

  • It’s much simpler than all of of this: had YHWH created this ‘Verse or us, we’d see see in our body, say, those initials as sort of a manufacturers’ tag, not to mention all those vestigial features of our body that would be absent and things as our aging, etc. would be different (“The Fall” BS does not convince me, animals that cannot sin would probably not have those things). Same for spotting said letters on maps of the large-scale structure of the Universe, up to the CMB.

  • TheNuszAbides

    Christians must laugh at this like the rest of us do, but why would they if indeed the Dark Lord causes people real injury in the real world? This is like the movie Oh, God, where God-believing people couldn’t believe that God (played by George Burns) would actually show himself. People are so comfortable with zero evidence for the most important person in the universe that they balk at the idea of real, convincing evidence.

    nice insight.