On Fear and Seeking

Slacktivist, a progressive Christian blogger whom I read regularly, has some words of advice for the new atheists on how best to win converts. You’d wonder why a Christian would want to give advice to atheists about how to do this – indeed, such “advice” is usually just concern trolling when it comes from the religious right – but Slacktivist is a different kind of Christian, emphatically not a member of that political group, and his advice is doubtless in good faith and worth considering. In this post, I’ll say a few words by way of reply.

According to these Dawkins- and Hitchens-style arguments… religious belief arises from a core emotion of fear — fear of death, fear of the unknown, fear that the universe might be an unjust and meaningless place.

I’m sure that there are some believers and some forms of religious belief — particularly those unsatisfying, white-knuckled varieties — that are in large part motivated by fear. But not all forms or all believers. And not most. And never entirely.

I think there’s ample reason to believe that many forms of religious belief are motivated by fear – not necessarily metaphysical fears about death or meaning, but more tangible phobias. Consider the evidence I cited, in posts like “Groundhog Day“, that many who call themselves Christian consider legalized gay marriage the worst disaster that could possibly strike a society, worse than Hurricane Katrina, worse than 9/11. They say this because the god they believe in is a psychopath, and they consider themselves hostage to his whims; if they don’t succeed in ordering society the way he wants it, he will strike that society indiscriminately with disaster and catastrophe, causing them to suffer as well as many others. This dynamic of vicarious punishment, of causing the innocent to suffer for the sins of the guilty, is prominent throughout the Bible, as Slacktivist surely knows.

Or take the many charismatic churches, popular in Africa but also some of high prominence in the West, that see daily life as a continual struggle against demonic attack and worldly culture as an ever-present source of temptation to sin, and believe that putting even one foot wrong can lead to an eternity of damnation. Fear pervades every aspect of their belief system and forms the background of their daily lives. And what is the point of books about the Rapture if not to evoke terror in people at the thought of being left behind?

Or, again, take the Muslim world. What motivates so many Islamic states to force their women to veil and shroud themselves, to forbid them to drive or get an education? What is behind this if not fear – fear of women’s sexual power, of their autonomy, of their independent thought?

The first problem with this diagnosis is that these arguments don’t follow through on it. They’re not providing a prescription to match their diagnosis. It does little good to argue that religious believers are responding to a core emotion of fear unless you’re also willing to address that fear.

Very much to the contrary, I think atheists do offer an antidote to the irrational fears described above. Our solution is the simplest imaginable: the recognition that there are no gods, no demons, no hells, that there are no divine overseers standing over your shoulder with whips at the ready, that society will not be punished if we recognize the equal rights of gays, and that you will not be boiled in oil for eternity if you vote Democrat, have premarital sex, or learn about evolution in school. For people afflicted with these superstitious terrors, atheism is a release and a source of peace and contentment, as many former believers have testified.

To disabuse us of belief in the transcendent, you will need to convince us that we are seeking the wrong thing or that we are seeking in the wrong place.

But again, this is a major part of the new atheists’ campaign. Sam Harris, for instance, extensively discusses mindfulness meditation, Richard Dawkins the awe and wonder of knowledge gained through science. Though we lack belief in supernatural beings, we do find ample reason to believe in the transcendent, and say so; we just believe it’s found in different places than traditionally conceived. And why do atheists continually cite the absence of evidence for the existence of God, the contradictions and flaws within all the major holy books, the lack of clear answers to prayer, if not in an effort to persuade theists that they are seeking in the wrong place?

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • mikespeir

    The fear isn’t always fear of God, though. Sometimes God is seen as a palliative for fears of other things. But that fear, too, drives people to religion.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    From my own experience, when I decided to truly embrace Catholism as a teenager after being forced to attend weekly mass by father, it was more about trying to empower myself. I had a low sense of self esteem, and for me, the idea of serving God was about giving myself of a feeling of importance. If I had the most powerful being in the universe on my side, then I could accomplish anything.

    Of course, after several years had passed, I did not see any noticeable improvement in my life, and I began to have doubts about my faith. It wasn’t the only reason I lost my faith, but it certainly was a part of it.

    I suspect that for a lot of Christians who are really fired up about their faith, personal empowerment is a big part of it. The belief that you are carrying out the will of the creator of the universe can give someone a real sense of purpose and drive. That is why I believe that ultimately religious faith is selfish at its core. It is about an individual trying to save him or herself by submitting to the perceived will of a celestial despot. Rather than viewing morality as a guide to conducting relationships between people, morality is seen by the believer as following dictates from up on high, and other people are viewed through the prism of religious texts and beliefs. Picture it as Person 1 – GOD – Person 2, rather than Person 1 – Person 2.

  • Penguin_Factory

    For some reason I thought Slacktivist was a woman. I really love his comprehensive takedow of the Left Behind series.

    Personally, I’m always wary of ascribing any motivations to other people, because they’re usually wrong.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Slacktivist’s article correctly pegs fallacious, “religion is based in fear,” arguments for what they are – broad strokes applied to a large and diverse group and presented as the only option when other options clearly exist. We can see such from Slacktivist’s response, which clearly attempts to establish viable middle ground:

    I’m sure that there are some believers and some forms of religious belief — particularly those unsatisfying, white-knuckled varieties — (that) are in large part motivated by fear. But not all forms or all believers. And not most. And never entirely. (emph. mine)

    Slacktivist takes time to put things in their proper scope, and I will concede that many, perhaps even most religious belief systems are based on fear. This does not mean they all are, as Dawkins implies in TGD, for example; and this does not mean that those religious beliefs which are based on fear retain correct motive.

    Not incidentally, fear-based religion describes perfectly the rigid and loveless religion of the Pharisees, which Jesus criticized for its undue and morbid focus on the fear of punishment and condemnation. But a reasonable believer is not unduly or morbidly focused on the fear of punishment and condemnation, for reasonable believers believe that forgiveness exists. And a central tenet of reasonable belief is that there is no condemnation for those who ask for forgiveness.

    TommyKey’s comments about wrong motives for morality are spot-on, and directly relevant to the fear-based approach to religion the OP takes to task. And I agree – we shouldn’t avoid sin to preclude our own punishment, for that is selfishness. We should avoid sin because it causes real privation in the lives of our fellow beings; we should avoid sin because that’s the correct thing to do.

    Writes Dick Innes in Why I Hate Witnessing,

    Jesus didn’t have a need to control people. He loved them. Rules make people feel safe. There are no risks involved. The answers are all predetermined-by someone else. There is less chance of making mistakes or getting hurt. People don’t have to think for themselves, determine what is right or wrong for themselves, or trust God for themselves. It is all done for them. But they are kept over-dependent and immature. Furthermore, hiding behind rules, they don’t open up and reveal their true selves; consequently, they don’t grow or experience in-depth relationships. They can’t. Their souls or deeper feelings are repressed, cut off. Taken to the extreme, legalists become non-persons, programmed to blindly follow rules. They ask no questions; they dare not or they’ll be penalized or rejected…

    If you ask me, those whose religion is based on fear and rule-following are seeking the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Reasonable belief, OTOH, is based on love, as Jesus implies many, many times.

    mikespeir,

    If you’re at all interested anymore, I created a post on my blog to continue the discussion from On Inerrancy. It’s generated a few comments and I’d be interested in hearing your response. Or anyone’s.

  • mikespeir

    If you’re at all interested anymore, I created a post on my blog to continue the discussion from On Inerrancy. It’s generated a few comments and I’d be interested in hearing your response.

    I’ll take a look, but no thanks as to continuing the “debate.” You had your chance to say something substantive here. You never bothered. I’m glad to be unstuck from that “tar baby.” Never again!

  • David Ellis

    Define “transcendent”.

  • http://thechapel.wordpress.com the chaplain

    This dynamic of vicarious punishment, of causing the innocent to suffer for the sins of the guilty, is prominent throughout the Bible

    Yes. The culmination is the sacrificial death of Jesus.

  • goyo

    tommykey:
    You hit on something. I remember when I was fired up about xtianity and I was witnessing and debating “the masses”. I felt invincible at the time, not caring if I was going to get punched in the face or cussed out. I was on god’s side and doing his warfare. It felt great.
    You’re right. I was totally selfish, and man, did it feel good. For once in my life, I had somebody backing me up that was invincible.

  • Chet

    Reasonable belief, OTOH, is based on love, as Jesus implies many, many times.

    I love. How do you get from “love” to “faith”?

    “Fear” to “faith” makes sense; in response to something you fear, you construct something bigger than your fear to shield you from it. God, by definition, is bigger than anything else we could fear (except God himself.)

    But “love”? If two people are in love, what need have they for faith in God? Why should they have faith? They have everything their love already needs; each other.

    On the other hand, if the fear you feel most, cl, is the fear of not being loved, then it would make a lot of sense for you to construe God as loving, because your fear is then defeated. And that would feel to you like it was a faith based on love, even though it was actually based in fear.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    I will respond, but please, out of respect for Ebonmuse, after my response let’s not continue another word about this here. The intent of the comment I made here to you was to inform you that my response to your last comment had been posted on my blog, and that if you wanted, we could restart the debate there (as in not here). I didn’t expect the little jab that followed:

    You had your chance to say something substantive here.

    Certainly, as does anyone. However, in my defense, your final comment January 11, 2009, 10:09 am introduced new points that I was literally not allowed to respond to here. Hence the continuation on my own blog.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I also found this Slacktivist post interesting. It was like a beautifully worded, carefully thought-out essay on why birds don’t fly. Take this assertion:

    It got me to thinking, actually, about the 2008 presidential campaign. And also about why missionaries for unbelief like Richard Dawkins fail to be persuasive. (emphasis added)

    It would seem patently obvious that Dawkins et. al. have been wildly successful. Rates of non- belief in the US are going up dramatically. I myself didn’t start calling myself an atheist until I read The God Delusion. Slacktivist may not have been persuaded; but many others have been.

    Plus there was this:

    To disabuse us of belief in the transcendent

    and:

    Just don’t try to convince us to give up on seeking entirely.

    Why would we want to do that? What atheist has ever tried to disabuse believers of belief in transcendence, or convince them to give up on seeking? We’re simply trying to persuade them that the experiences of transcendence and seeking do not require belief in the supernatural… and reassure them that these aspects of life don’t have to be lost when you let go of religion. (Thus addressing both the “fear” and the “seeking” parts of the argument.)

  • mikespeir

    Give it up, cl. I’m not biting.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Greta said,

    Slacktivist may not have been persuaded; but many others have been.

    And Greta makes a good point. Slacktivist saying that Dawkins, et al. are not persuasive is basic continuum fallacy. Dawkins, et al. are persuasive to many, just not Slacktivist (or myself for that matter).

    mikespeir,

    Maybe I’ll see you at my blog, maybe not. But since I didn’t know of any other way to get a message to you except through DA, I wanted to let you know that I’d responded, and that you have the opportunity to further respond there if you wish. Now you know. So, thank you for not biting here, because I didn’t want you to, and I mean that sincerely.

    Chet,

    Can you supply one valid reason why I should take as serious somebody who arbitrarily cherrypicks when they are done with me vs. when they are not done with me? Are you (1) innocently forgetful, (2) intentionally dishonest, or (3) changing your position? At any rate, I’ll let this pass temporarily to address your argument.

    You’ve proposed a conditional IF/THEN statement, which we can represent by the formula (p -> q):

    On the other hand, IF the fear you feel most, cl, is the fear of not being loved… (caps mine)

    But that’s not what I fear most, which means we actually begin with (~p), and that your conclusion is irrelevant.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    If you ask me, those whose religion is based on fear and rule-following are seeking the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Reasonable belief, OTOH, is based on love, as Jesus implies many, many times.

    Luke 12:4-5:

    “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    In the event you feel like answering my questions directly today, tell me Ebonmuse, who was Jesus speaking directly to in the verse you cited?

  • Paul S

    In the event you feel like answering my questions directly today, tell me Ebonmuse, who was Jesus speaking directly to in the verse you cited?

    Instead of playing this little game, end the suspense and just reveal the intended recipient of Jesus’s dire warning. Then maybe you can explain how you can claim to know this since; 1) no one was there transcribing Jesus’s admonition and 2) the general consensus is that the Book of Luke wasn’t written until at least 94 A.D. (and possibly much later).

    While you’re at it, perhaps you can enlighten us all about which parts of the Bible should be taken literally, metaphorically, and in what historical context each and every verse should be viewed. I, for one, have no intention of wasting my time becoming a Biblical scholar to determine what God/Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Noah, et al really meant. I also don’t feel I should be required to become a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic linguist, grammarian and/or interpreter in order to comprehend what should be the clearest and most concise set of instructions and teachings the world has ever seen.

    But hey, that’s just one guy’s opinion.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Paul S,

    I can’t help that you’ll see my question to Ebonmuse as a little game. People will see what they want to see where they want to see it. It’s not a game, and if he wants to answer the question directly, I’ll proceed. If not, then not. No big deal.

    Then maybe you can explain how you can claim to know this since; 1) no one was there transcribing Jesus’s admonition and 2) the general consensus is that the Book of Luke wasn’t written until at least 94 A.D.

    Epistemology and biblical criticism don’t relate to the OP or my argument at all. If you really want to discuss these issues, you know where to find me.

    While you’re at it, perhaps you can enlighten us all about which parts of the Bible should be taken literally, metaphorically, and in what historical context each and every verse should be viewed.

    That’s for each and every intelligent person to decide for his or her self. I think we’re all quite capable of reading and forming our own conclusions. Don’t you?

    I, for one, have no intention of wasting my time becoming a Biblical scholar to determine what God/Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Noah, et al really meant.

    Then why should I waste my time answering your question? Do tell.

    I also don’t feel I should be required to become a Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic linguist, grammarian and/or interpreter in order to comprehend what should be the clearest and most concise set of instructions and teachings the world has ever seen.

    One is not required to be a scholar to grasp the Bible’s meaning. Isn’t a standard skeptic complaint that unintelligent people are generally the ones believing the Bible? However, if we’re going to be discussing textual criticism, contradictions, historical accuracy, theology, or any other detailed and intricate subject, well, some degree of scholarly competence is absolutely necessary – that is, if we’re seeking to arrived at an educated conclusion.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    In the event you feel like answering my questions directly today, tell me Ebonmuse, who was Jesus speaking directly to in the verse you cited?

    Let the record show that I predicted earlier this month that this facetious apologetic would soon show up:

    I suggest you’ll want to respond with some whining about how I’m taking this verse out of context. Let me offer you a line of argument to start off: This promise is only applicable to the specific people Jesus was speaking to at the time he said it, and not to anyone else who later heard about it, read about it, or was told about it by those witnesses. Discuss.

  • http://liquidthinker.wordpress.com LiquidThinker

    Interesting topic. Certainly no disagreement on the general premise. Fear is a huge factor motivating much religious belief. I also agree that the response you propose is sufficient to address those fears. But I know for some Christians there is a different more positive factor.

    For some moderate Christians I talk to, the core element that seems to drive their faith is this. That the core of Christianity, beyond the central idea of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus (the basic absurdity of which we don’t need to get into here) is the basic goodness of people (contrary to the idea of Original Sin, I know, but just play along with me). What some people I have talked to focus on are some of the parables of Jesus. One of them which spoke about when one had helped the poor, visited the sick, etc. Letting X be good stuff then, the master in the story said when you did X to the least of these, you did it to me. The interpretation is that we should be recognizing the Christ-like or divine factor in each of us. This is one of the driving inspirations behind many of the moderate Christians I know. Yes, I am certainly aware that this cherry picking some verses while downplaying the harsher verses, sometimes allegedly spoken by the same guy. I’m not justifying the interpretation, only stating what it is.

    The question now is, what is the atheist or humanist response? I would argue that we don’t need the supernatural divinity. We should recognize the basic humanity in each of us and recognize how precious life is. This also ties back to essays you’ve written on ethics. Within the context of the larger picture of the grand scale of the cosmos and our evolutionary history, I personally think this makes a much better story.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Well, again, Ebonmuse refuses to answer my question directly, and instead commits the genetic fallacy by assuming he knows where I was going with my argument on the basis of past arguments. What is a reasonable person to do? If you don’t want to answer, then don’t answer. No big deal. But belittling me isn’t going to persuade me that your position is correct.

    BTW, what’s this about you not liking to restart old debates from other threads, now?

    The point of closing threads is so that unfruitful discussions can die peacefully, and I take a jaundiced view of people trying to restart those debates in other threads. (Ebonmuse)

    Do you take a jaundiced view of yourself, then? The even funnier thing is, your prediction was wrong the first time; I didn’t argue the out-of-context defense. Much like yesterday, I asked you a direct question which you refused to answer. Now, if you want to re-open the thread, I’m game, but don’t act hypocritically.

  • mikespeir

    Well, again, Ebonmuse refuses to answer my question directly…

    Well, go ahead, cl. I’m sure you came here because you’re concerned about our misapprehensions of your faith and how those misapprehensions are hurting us. Enlighten us to our good. Tell us: to whom was Jesus speaking in Luke 12:4-5?

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    LiquidThinker,

    The question now is, what is the atheist or humanist response?

    Here is the response I’ve used in the past: “What do we need Jesus for then?”

    Paul S.,
    *Applauds*

    Ebon,
    Your skills at seeing the future are almost divine…

  • http://liquidthinker.wordpress.com LiquidThinker

    OMFG,

    I quite agree. We’re all divine. But I just don’t seem to have that water to wine skill worked out yet, no matter how hard I try. That pretty much drives home the point I often make to Christian friends. Jesus may have been reported to have said some really inspirational or even memorable things (along with some pretty petty and bizarre things) along with the characters in practically any other religion. But we don’t really need Jesus death, resurrection, or even existence to make the good ideas good ideas. They are simply a reflection of human nature.

  • Leum

    Ebon, there’s a name for people who accurately predict the future: witch! He’s a witch, burn him!

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    LiquidThinker and cl,

    I agree that Jesus represented some very good ideas about human nature.

    However, my response to your cherry-picking friends is that most of the Bible and much of Christian theology does not fall in line with Jesus’ and other early Christians’ teachings about unconditional love. 1 John 4:18 says that “there is no fear in love” and that “the one who fears is not made perfect in love”. Therefore, we could argue that the value of unconditional love (which all humans are capable of displaying) does not match a belief in the vengeful, fearful god of the Old Testament or the doctrine of fire and brimstone favored by many modern-day fundamentalists. We should argue that the universal values which Jesus represents do not mesh with many Christian teachings, and therefore it is better to embrace true human love, and not the perversion of it which is found in much religious teaching. Humanists can have the moral high ground, even in a discussion about Jesus’ positive teachings, by contrasting the positive things he said with other negative teachings of the Bible and Christianity and showcasing how Jesus’ words fit into a model of universal human love, but not into a predetermined matrix of religious teachings, such as that embraced by the Pharisees or today’s fundamentalists.

    Also, for cl, this argument is perfectly compatible with the view that much of religion derives from emulation of love, not fear, which is true for many religious moderates whom I know personally.

  • MS Quixote

    The question now is, what is the atheist or humanist response?

    Liquid,

    The atheist response here should be the same as the Christian response. They’ve already abandoned Christianity in the main. To be consistent, they should do as you suggest an abandon it altogether. Or they could return to the faith, but let’s not have this halfway-house faith.

    Luke 12:4-5:

    “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

    EM,

    You’ve identified some good instances of bad reasoning from fear in the OP. No worries. And with the quote above, you’ve correctly demonstrated that there is an element of fear in faith. We could supplement this verse with several more; the Bible is replete with them. However, I don’t see any reason for a Christian to shy away from this verse, or attempt to apologize for it. Any Christian should embrace it.

    It’s really a matter of the de facto truth or falsity of the Christian claim. If the God of the Bible is indeed who he claims to be, who in their right mind would not experience fear? If you were convinced he was in the Rotunda or the Observatory presently, wouldn’t you be a bit fearful?

  • http://liquidthinker.wordpress.com LiquidThinker

    Teleprompter,

    I can’t really argue against that. In fact, this is often the sort of thing embedded in responses I use in discussion with these cherry picking friends. Several of them will often retort with the new true Scotsman argument, of course. I suppose the main gist of the point I’m trying to give them is that the divine nature they ascribe to Jesus is actually part of us, and has simply been an aspect of human nature all along. Without all the superstitious baggage. Human nature which then gets reflected in the religions, sayings, and gods we create, with all the good, bad, and the ugly.

    That is not to say, of course, that fear plays no factor in the pull of religions, especially in the fundamentalist perspective where God was constantly smiting and so on for getting him a bit upset. That is in the Bible after all, and we’re supposed to be a “Christian nation”, eh? But the discussion on fear did remind of a recent discussion I had with a relative who is, well, somewhat less than moderate. In response to an email I sent discussing what science could or could not say about god or gods, the response was only: “Well, I know where I’ll be when I die. Do you?”. Ah. Fear. Atheism is a wonderful antidote.

  • Eric

    Slacktivist is a Christian? Seriously, I NEVER owuld have guessed. Had me fooled. Let’s be polite to him so that he will come to understand what he really is. If all liberal Christians were like Slacktivist, I could live with that. Most liberal Christians are fellow-travellers who give aid and comfort to fundamentalists

  • Virginia

    Ebonmuse, I do think there’s another topic of interest — Christianity also lure people to believe by appealing to people’s emotional yearning — yearning for unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness, the community (being with others “similar” and supported), consoled etc.
    Many friend I know was drawn to Christianity less by fear, but more because their heart strings are tugged, their deepest yearnings are invoked — and with their emotions dominant — a moment of emotional weakness, they will respond to the altar call.

  • Jim Baerg

    Leum said

    Ebon, there’s a name for people who accurately predict the future: witch! He’s a witch, burn him!

    But does Ebon weigh less than a duck? ;^)

  • http://piepalace.ca/blog Erigami

    And why do atheists continually cite the absence of evidence for the existence of God, the contradictions and flaws within all the major holy books, the lack of clear answers to prayer, if not in an effort to persuade theists that they are seeking in the wrong place?

    There’s no sense in being evangelical. That’s one of theism’s alienating habits.

    It doesn’t matter if someone is a theist, until they use their beliefs as a reason to harm others (viz: gay marriage, setting school curriculum, racism, various wars). It’s at that point that we need to step up and defend the rights of those others.

  • Libby

    If anyone is interested, Jesus was speaking to his disciples in Luke 12: 4-5.

    Last I checked, we were supposed to follow most of the things he said to his disciples, right? Hmm.

    Of course, if you have some obscure reason that excuses Jesus in this instance, please, feel free to share it.

  • nfpendleton

    Fred Clark (Slactivist) has one whole foot and 3 toes of the other foot in our bathwater already. His time will come when he’ll realize Jesus for what he really is – a worn out security blanket.

    As someone who’s also been through this, I hope his moment comes soon so he can focus his talents on real pressing issues, other than apologetics.

  • Leum

    I disagree, nfpendleton. This attitude is actually part of a major problem I’ve noticed within the atheosphere: the belief that liberal Christians are moving towards atheism or are actually there and don’t realize it.

    I don’t think Fred (or Obama*) is anything but a firmly committed Christian, one who finds meaning and purpose within his faith and believes that his belief is completely reasonable. For him, contradictions in the Bible (and immoral commandments) are not a challenge to the faith, because he can seem them within a context of reason, tradition, and experience. We should accept this, and find different ways to challenge beliefs of liberal theists.

    This is not to say that no liberal Christians are not moving towards atheism, many of them may well be. But it is wrong, and probably insulting, to claim that most of them are.

    *A lot of the commenters at Pharyngula (and also Bill Maher) seem to believe that Obama’s a closet atheist. I have seen this belief elsewhere, though not here.

  • http://avertyoureye.blogspot.com/ Teleprompter

    I think it’s an absurd speculation to suggest that Obama is a closet atheist. I have many close friends who are liberal Christians who do see contradictions in Christianity within a matrix of “reason, tradition, and experience”. The best thing we can do as skeptics is to make ourselves more visible. The biggest problem is that many people don’t know that there are viable alternatives to religious belief systems. If I had known that people were questioning my beliefs when I was younger, perhaps I would’ve had a much easier time coming to terms with my atheism. We don’t need to denigrate religious believers but we need to instead emphasize our values that we have as individuals.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Libby,

    …if you have some obscure reason that excuses Jesus in this instance, please, feel free to share it.

    That excuses Jesus from what?

    Teleprompter,

    We don’t need to denigrate religious believers…

    I agree, many here should take notes on this. I mean come on, these are debates. We win some, we lose some. That’s how it goes. But now people from here are coming to my blog and sockpuppeting with commenter names like “cl is a coward and a liar?” Will it get any more childish?

    mikespeir,

    I’m sure you came here because you’re concerned about our misapprehensions of your faith and how those misapprehensions are hurting us.

    Not really. We’re all responsible for our own beliefs and I don’t expect that my arguments are ever going to persuade any of you.

  • mikespeir

    Uh, cl, did you just forget to answer? Who was Jesus speaking to in Luke 12:4-5?

  • nfpendleton

    @ Leum:

    By your wording, I can’t tell if you inferred that I believe all liberal xians are two cogent thoughts from deconversion – I don’t. I was talking specifically of Clark, from what I’ve read at his blog. His apologetics have gotten SO nuanced that I see a bubble about to burst. An opinion. All I’m saying.

    I try not to talk in general terms (except for articulating my basic thesis, which is simply: Religion is bullsh*t).

    I actually subscribe to the idea that liberal/moderate theists are major contributors to the “religion problem” our world faces. Not to seem like some sort of sheeple, but I found S. Harris’s argument against liberal theism very convincing in EoF. I also know a small number of what I call “Hippy Christians,” and I find the “God is Love” lie even more revolting that the “Fire and Brimstone Jehovah’s Gonna Melt Yer Arse” that some of my close family members believe in.

    Now I don’t even have a point anymore. I’ll stop typing.

  • Jim C.

    Paul S. asked, “While you’re at it, perhaps you can enlighten us all about which parts of the Bible should be taken literally, metaphorically, and in what historical context each and every verse should be viewed.”

    cl responded, “That’s for each and every intelligent person to decide for his or her self. I think we’re all quite capable of reading and forming our own conclusions. Don’t you?”

    My question of cl is Do you mean the bible is whatever you want to make of it, or even whatever you want it to be? That’s what it looks like to me, and if so why do you or anyone debate what it means?

    This dynamic of vicarious punishment, of causing the innocent to suffer for the sins of the guilty, is prominent throughout the Bible
    Yes. The culmination is the sacrificial death of Jesus. from the Chaplain

    A Priest scholar I read said (paraphrasing), don’t look for violence in the context of the bible. Violence is the context of the bible. A common response is that violence is most common in the Old Testament and Jesus loves us. But as I ponder a god who sent himself to sacrifice himself to himself for sinners he created (huh?), I also think of the trinity and ask if Jesus and the Father are one, isn’t Jesus just as responsible as Yahweh for the violence in the OT?

    Jim

  • Leum

    nfpendleton, I think I did misinterpret you, my apologies. Not sure I agree that Fred’s going to join us any time soon, though. Then again, Camus said Christians could be absurdists (who by his definition cannot believe in God), so I could be wrong.

  • Chet

    Can you supply one valid reason why I should take as serious somebody who arbitrarily cherrypicks when they are done with me vs. when they are not done with me?

    Um, what? Is that sentence supposed to have meaning in English?

    But that’s not what I fear most, which means we actually begin with (~p), and that your conclusion is irrelevant.

    Good for you, I guess, but as always you’ve failed to actually answer the question. Here it is again: how do you get from “love” to “faith”? “Fear” quite naturally goes to “faith.” I think we all see how that’s obvious. Love to faith? Maybe you could explain the steps.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Uh, cl, did you just forget to answer? Who was Jesus speaking to in Luke 12:4-5?

    If cl acts according to type, his next comment will say that he doesn’t know who Jesus was speaking to in that verse, but he doesn’t need to know, and we can’t use it unless we can prove to his satisfaction exactly who the intended audience was. We, in turn, will observe that he never attempted to apply the same standard to his argument that Jesus describes reasonable faith as based in love.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    For Quixote’s earlier comment:

    It’s really a matter of the de facto truth or falsity of the Christian claim. If the God of the Bible is indeed who he claims to be, who in their right mind would not experience fear?

    The god described in the Bible is a capricious psychopath with a violent temper, so yes, I would be justifiably afraid if such a being existed. I would not be afraid of the existence of a just or rational god.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    mikespeir,

    The person who asks the question is not the one who’s supposed to answer it.

    Jim C.,

    My question of cl is Do you mean the bible is whatever you want to make of it, or even whatever you want it to be?

    No, I meant exactly what I said – nothing more, nothing less. Paul S. asked me to enlighten him as to when the Bible should be read metaphorically, literally, etc. You are all quite capable of spending the time to go through the scriptures and deciding this for yourself. Why anyone would ask me to tell them how to think just seems strange, honestly.

    Chet,

    Can you supply one valid reason why I should take as serious somebody who arbitrarily cherrypicks when they are done with me vs. when they are not done with me?

    Um, what? Is that sentence supposed to have meaning in English?

    Come on Chet, don’t act childish. You don’t get to retreat into, “I’m done talking to you,” when the argument is not going your way, then turn around and say, “Hey cl, I wanna talk to you now,” because we’re in a new argument. Your actions betray your words, and that’s why I asked for one valid reason why I should take you seriously. And I’m still waiting for one.

    “Fear” to “faith” makes sense; in response to something you fear, you construct something bigger than your fear to shield you from it…

    I think that’s silly and irrational. I don’t invent things to assuage my fears. I deal with them head-on, and attempt real-world precautions to avoid their realization. Say that I fear more accidents with cars – do I invent a bicycle god that will protect me from cars? Of course not. I attempt to ride more safely, and with more awareness. Nonetheless there is still some risk and I accept the consequences. Say that I fear death – do I invent a fairy that will protect me from dying? Of course not. I’m going to die and I may or may not wake up. Hence, I attempt to live the most conscious, righteous and fullest life I can, and I accept the consequences.

    Love to faith? Maybe you could explain the steps.

    I don’t posit that one goes from love to faith.

    Ebonmuse,

    If cl acts according to type, his next comment will say that he doesn’t know who Jesus was speaking to in that verse, but he doesn’t need to know, and we can’t use it unless we can prove to his satisfaction exactly who the intended audience was. We, in turn, will observe that he never attempted to apply the same standard to his argument that Jesus describes reasonable faith as based in love.

    It doesn’t impress or surprise me at all that you’d rather spend your efforts assuming what my argument might be than actually finding out for yourself by drawing it out. How you suppose that’s logical, rational, or intellectually honest is beyond me. Your assumption also happens to be 100% incorrect. I suppose that doesn’t matter, though, because you seem convinced unto yourself, and you’ve got all your supporters around you, so all you have to do is sustain the illusion and I lose by default.

  • mikespeir

    The person who asks the question is not the one who’s supposed to answer it.

    LOL! You’re becoming too predictable, cl. But it’s okay. Anybody who can read can easily see the answer.

  • MS (Quixote)

    The god described in the Bible is a capricious psychopath with a violent temper, so yes, I would be justifiably afraid if such a being existed.

    So despite our divergent conceptions of the Chrisitan God, we are agreed that the element of fear in the Christian religion is reasonable?

    I would not be afraid of the existence of a just or rational god.

    Ultimately not, I’d agree, but I’d also argue there would always be some apprehension, an adrenaline sensation, fear most likely, when confronting the numinous initially.

  • Paul S

    No, I meant exactly what I said – nothing more, nothing less. Paul S. asked me to enlighten him as to when the Bible should be read metaphorically, literally, etc. You are all quite capable of spending the time to go through the scriptures and deciding this for yourself. Why anyone would ask me to tell them how to think just seems strange, honestly.

    Let’s get this out of the way immediately. cl, you’d be one of the last people I would ask to tell me how to think.

    And that wasn’t even close to what I was asking of you. My question was rhetorical. Because once you attempted to answer my question, I would be able to illustrate other “believers” who have a totally disparate view of the same scripture. Who’s interpretation or conclusion is the correct one? And how do you know (besides a feeling that you are correct)? The point being that the existence of differing interpretations of scripture (metaphoric, allegorical, or literal) illuminate the fact that the supposed “word of god” is unclear and ambiguous at best. It doesn’t seem like too much to expect a clear, concise account from the creator of the universe’s to instruct me on how I can be saved from eternal damnation. But if everyone is supposed to decide for him or her self how to interpret scripture, then there are no wrong answers. That sounds like some sort of theological relativism. Is that your view?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Paul S.,

    Paul S. asked me to enlighten him as to when the Bible should be read metaphorically, literally, etc. (cl)

    …that wasn’t even close to what I was asking of you. (Paul S.)

    …perhaps you can enlighten us all about which parts of the Bible should be taken literally, metaphorically, and in what historical context each and every verse should be viewed. (Paul S originally to cl)

    Sounds pretty close to me, but you say you were speaking rhetorically, so I’ll take your word for it.

    I would be able to illustrate other “believers” who have a totally disparate view of the same scripture. Who’s interpretation or conclusion is the correct one?

    I can equally produce other scientists who have totally disparate views about theory X, Y, or Z. Who’s interpretation is the correct one? How do you know? Objective questions have objective answers. Incidentally, when the question is, “Who was being spoken to,” such is an objective question with a correct answer. In some cases, insufficient evidence exists, and we cannot reasonably establish who a speaker was speaking to in a piece of literature.

    The point being that the existence of differing interpretations of scripture (metaphoric, allegorical, or literal) illuminate the fact that the supposed “word of god” is unclear and ambiguous at best.

    This is irrelevant to the OP, so I don’t want to spend too much time on it. People have differing interpretations of all sorts of things. Perhaps the Bible is unclear in your opinion, or in someone else’s opinion, but those are entirely subjective claims. The Bible is overwhelmingly clear in my opinion, and note that such is not an argument. Subjective opinions masquerading as arguments don’t really do much for me.

    It doesn’t seem like too much to expect a clear, concise account from the creator of the universe’s to instruct me on how I can be saved from eternal damnation.

    Again, although this has nothing to do with the OP, I happen to think the Bible’s criteria for salvation are delineated rather clearly. And please don’t point to Ebonmuse’s counter-argument in this regard. I’ve already offered why I think it fails, with evidence. If this is what you really want to discuss, you know where to find me.

    Incidentally, was universe’s meant to be plural? If so, how do you know more than one universe exists?

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Paul S.,

    Sorry, forgot this one:

    But if everyone is supposed to decide for him or her self how to interpret scripture, then there are no wrong answers. That sounds like some sort of theological relativism. Is that your view?

    It is my view that everyone should read scripture for themselves to decide the pertinent matters. It is not my view that such entails an absence of wrong answers. And although it’s silly to assume I know what you mean by the term, I’m pretty sure I don’t subscribe to theological relativism.

    Honestly – what is the extent of your scripture reading? If one does not read the entirety of a testimony, their criticisms about said testimony lose strength.

  • Anon

    I cast a benign Lvl. 10 Rhetorical Question, followed by the painful Lvl. 35 Prediction of Opponent’s Comment, leading into my more damagier yet Lvl. 40 Doesn’t Impress Me Much, finally ending the contest of showmanship anticlimactically with a Lvl. 22 Hey Look, He Must Be Biting His Tongue Now!

    So… I can haz 1-UPz now? Oh, I see how it is. Fine; I’ll do all the mind-bogglingly challenging dirty work:

    Luke, Chapter 12, Verses 1 – 12

    Warnings and Encouragements

    Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

    “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

    “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

    “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

    Have at it, noble and endearing Knights of the Internet. Or, perhaps for the sake of progress in this little spot of discourse, we either (a) look at the Bible more generally to see if it should induce fear, or (b) look at the cultural and personal manifestation of fear within the religion and sects of Christianity, all the errors of judgment involved in such, plus potential remedies (beyond the merely rational form of cures). Or perhaps both options (a) and (b), if we’re so inclined.

    If this is too challenging, we can always keep trying to get inside each other’s minds. That’s always a hoot!

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Anon,

    If this is too challenging, we can always keep trying to get inside each other’s minds. That’s always a hoot!

    Tell me about it. Now that two people have answered for Ebonmuse, perhaps he’ll explain how or why he feels an arbitrary citing of Luke 12:4-5 relates to my comment whatsoever. Incidentally, I would go with (a) first, then (b).

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    So I’m one of those “moderate” or “liberal” Christians who believes faith comes from the “Perfect love [that] casts out fear” of 1 John 4:18 rather than the “Fear the one who can destroy both body and soul in gehenna” of Luke 12:4-5.

    I’ve been reluctant to post, because I know I’ll be asked what makes me choose one verse over the other, and I don’t really have an answer other than the one fits better with my own experience.

    But perhaps there is a little truth in both: As a person makes the decision, either to take the faith they’ve been raised with and make it their own, or to take a leap to a religion that is new to them, there will be a certain amount of fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of commitment, fear of confinement, fear of all kinds of potential pitfalls. As the person matures, they should be able to get past these fears. But many seem to get stuck in that first stage, and many churches seem to encourage that.

    To be honest, I’d rather see someone abandon their faith than live in constant fear. A fear-based faith is toxic.

  • mikespeir

    cl:

    Now that two people have answered for Ebonmuse, perhaps he’ll explain how or why he feels an arbitrary citing of Luke 12:4-5 relates to my comment whatsoever.

    And in case we’ve forgotten, here’s the question you asked:

    In the event you feel like answering my questions directly today, tell me Ebonmuse, who was Jesus speaking directly to in the verse you cited?

    Okay. Now that you have your answer (Jesus was speaking to–warning–his disciples/friends), what was your object in asking it? You must have had some reason. I mean, if Ebon’s citation really didn’t pertain to your comment, what would who Jesus was speaking to have to do with anything? Why would you ask? Why didn’t you just say his quote was irrelevant instead of asking for to whom Jesus was speaking? It seems an awfully specific question for something that has, as you appear to suggest, no bearing on your point. I doubt you’ll tell us, but I thought I’d inquire, just for the record.

  • Chet

    Your actions betray your words, and that’s why I asked for one valid reason why I should take you seriously. And I’m still waiting for one.

    Cl, in all honesty I don’t give a shit how you take me, seriously or not, and yes, quite frankly I have all the right in the world to ask you whatever questions I feel like, regardless of what you or I have said in other threads.

    It remains the case that I’m simply asking you one reasonable question, and you’re continuing to evade it. I’ll ask it again.

    I don’t posit that one goes from love to faith.

    That’s not what I asked.

    Do you not understand the question? You said:

    Reasonable belief, OTOH, is based on love, as Jesus implies many, many times.

    What I’m asking you is: how do you base belief in God on love?

    It’s a simple question. Why haven’t you answered it yet?

    I don’t invent things to assuage my fears. I deal with them head-on, and attempt real-world precautions to avoid their realization. Say that I fear more accidents with cars – do I invent a bicycle god that will protect me from cars? Of course not. I attempt to ride more safely, and with more awareness. Nonetheless there is still some risk and I accept the consequences. Say that I fear death – do I invent a fairy that will protect me from dying? Of course not.

    This is a pretty good illustration of what Ebon is talking about. Sure, you may not fear car accidents enough to create a god to protect you from them – but somebody did, which is why we have images of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, in various forms for you to affix to your car’s dashboard or wear around your neck.

    You may not fear dying enough to create a god who promises that you will never die – but somebody did, which is why they wrote into the Book of John:

    Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my words and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but has passed from death into life.

    Sure, you may not have done those things. I didn’t say that you did. But it’s absurd to deny that a great many features of religious belief – Christian belief, in this case – exist, obviously, as mental shields against things that are scary, like death and tragedy and being alone.

    But none of that is on point. What I really want to know – the only thing I want from you and you can ignore me if you like – is an explanation of, in your view, “reasonable belief…is based on love.” How can a belief be based on love? How, specifically, is your belief based on love?

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    mikespeir,

    Look, here’s the deal. Ebonmuse cited Luke 12:4-5 as if it somehow refuted my argument. When I asked him who Jesus was speaking to, instead of just giving a simple, direct answer, he decided to belittle me and pretend to be psychic. As I said, the funny thing is, argumentation over context was not at all where I intended to go. That’s why Anon’s comment was spot-on:

    If this is too challenging, we can always keep trying to get inside each other’s minds. That’s always a hoot!

    As for,

    Why didn’t you just say his quote was irrelevant instead of asking for to whom Jesus was speaking?

    I don’t think the quote is entirely irrelevant.

    Now that you have your answer (Jesus was speaking to–warning–his disciples/friends), what was your object in asking it? You must have had some reason. (mikespeir)

    Of course I had a reason. And that reason was to figure out how Ebonmuse thinks his arbitrary scripture citation refutes anything I said. Hence, I replied, again:

    …perhaps he’ll explain how or why he feels an arbitrary citing of Luke 12:4-5 relates to my comment whatsoever.

    And no answers are forthcoming. Would you rather I also pretend to be psychic, assume I know what Ebonmuse’s argument is, and attempt a response to an assumption? Sorry, but to me, there’s no point in such. If you want to hear my reasoning, then perhaps you can persuade Ebonmuse? That’s where your energy would be more appropriately directed, IMO.

    Chet,

    Cl, in all honesty I don’t give a shit how you take me, seriously or not, and yes, quite frankly I have all the right in the world to ask you whatever questions I feel like, regardless of what you or I have said in other threads.

    Well, then I don’t either. And it’s not a matter of your rights; it’s an issue of character. I just find it silly that when the argument isn’t going your way, you say, “I’m done with you.” Then, whenever it arbitrarily fits your desires, you’re not done with me.

    I don’t posit that one goes from love to faith. (cl)

    That’s not what I asked. (Chet, January 21, 2009, 2:42 pm)

    Yet,

    Here it is again: how do you get from “love” to “faith”? (Chet, January 20, 2009, 12:03 am)

    Anyone see what I mean? How am I supposed to take this seriously? I did answer this exact question. I don’t posit that one gets from love to faith. (see below)

    As for,

    This is a pretty good illustration of what Ebon is talking about. Sure, you may not fear car accidents enough to create a god to protect you from them – but somebody did, which is why we have images of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, in various forms for you to affix to your car’s dashboard or wear around your neck.

    I agree that certain people use religion to assuage fear, but why should I accept your subjective opinion that somebody created religion to assuage fear? What is your evidence? As for religious images, sounds more like voodoo to me. Crucifixes, virgin Mary’s and religious iconography (non-art, at least) creep me out.

    You may not fear dying enough to create a god who promises that you will never die – but somebody did…

    The statement that somebody created God out of fear is a subjective opinion. What’s your evidence? If you cannot provide any, then, per rationalism, will you reject this idea that cannot be supported by evidence?

    But it’s absurd to deny that a great many features of religious belief – Christian belief, in this case – exist, obviously, as mental shields against things that are scary, like death and tragedy and being alone.

    So, if the purpose of creating God was to shield us from fears, what might be the purpose in creating demons and Satan? To create more fears to shield us from? Seems counterproductive to say the least.

    How can a belief be based on love?

    Is this the question you truly intend to ask? Because I don’t want to answer only to have you come back and deny that you asked it, then further clarify, as you did the first time. So let me know if this is your actual question, and perhaps I’ll proceed.

  • mikespeir

    Of course I had a reason. And that reason was to figure out how Ebonmuse thinks his arbitrary scripture citation refutes anything I said.

    But why that question in particular? Why did you choose that rather than, say, What was the weather like when Jesus said it? Or, What had Jesus had for lunch? Or, How many people in the crowd? Could it be that you knew very well how that scripture pertained? Wasn’t Ebonmuse giving an example of how Jesus used fear to motivate his “friends”? (Remember, Jesus is the one who supposedly said that in order to be his friend one has to obey him. [John 15:14])

    This is your comment that inspired Ebon’s citation:

    If you ask me, those whose religion is based on fear and rule-following are seeking the wrong thing for the wrong reason. Reasonable belief, OTOH, is based on love, as Jesus implies many, many times.

    Do you remember that? But, on the contrary, Jesus himself seemed to use fear quite prominently in establishing his religion. He apparently saw it as a proper motivational tool for keeping his disciples/friends in line.

    Now, if all you mean to say is that fear isn’t the only motivation to follow the Christian religion, I couldn’t agree more. I was a Christian for a lot of years. Fear wasn’t the only reason I stayed with the Faith as long as I did. But I don’t see that Ebonmuse is arguing that fear is the only factor in belief, only that it is a prominent one. So, if you’re arguing against him, it would seem you’re arguing that it never is. Now, I won’t try to speak for you. I will say that I suspect fear plays a bigger role in your religion than you let on. That comes of my experience over many years with lots of kinds of believers. That aside, I think it’s impossible to argue successfully that Jesus wasn’t emphatically using threats to keep his followers in line.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    So despite our divergent conceptions of the Chrisitan God, we are agreed that the element of fear in the Christian religion is reasonable?

    I agree with that, Quixote, but I suspect we arrived at that conclusion for different reasons.

    BruceA:

    But perhaps there is a little truth in both: As a person makes the decision, either to take the faith they’ve been raised with and make it their own, or to take a leap to a religion that is new to them, there will be a certain amount of fear: Fear of the unknown, fear of commitment, fear of confinement, fear of all kinds of potential pitfalls.

    I respect that position, but I don’t think it has much to do with the verses at hand. The Bible doesn’t say to fear any of the things you listed; it says specifically to fear God because he is terrible and vengeful. And I do agree that a fear-based faith is toxic.

  • Chet

    I just find it silly that when the argument isn’t going your way, you say, “I’m done with you.”

    I don’t do that, but if I did, sure, it’d be pretty silly. And I just find it silly that you refuse to answer even plain, simple questions. I mean this is the fourth time you’ve evaded the question so far?

    I don’t posit that one gets from love to faith. (see below)

    And I never said that you did! Honestly, CL. Do you see why I wonder if English is your first language? The question has always been the same – how can belief be based on love? How do you get from “love” to “faith”? Not, “how does one go from love to faith” but how do you, in your argument, reason from “love” to “faith” in order to say that a reasonable faith is based on love? How does one follow from the other? How do you go from the first to the second? Not “how does one do it.” That’s not the question I’ve asked at all.

    How do you do it? Why won’t you answer the question? I don’t know how to make it any more transparent than I have; it’s hard not to see your misinterpretation as a deliberate attempt to evade.

    Is this the question you truly intend to ask?

    God, yes, you buffoon! I’ve only asked it over and over again. It’s a fairly simple question. Why am I still asking you for an answer? Don’t you ever get tired of these absurd evasions?

    So, if the purpose of creating God was to shield us from fears, what might be the purpose in creating demons and Satan? To create more fears to shield us from? Seems counterproductive to say the least.

    Counterproductive in what way? The purpose of creating devils is to make others more afraid, and then you can sell them the antidote to your own poison – God. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you of the temporal advantages that come from being a leader in a popular religion.

    Seems perfectly obvious to me.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Sorry, cl, but we won’t be talking any more. (Chet, December 17, 2008, 2:32 pm)

    Perhaps you’ll turn around and argue limited scope when none existed in your original statement, then ironically, further attack my English?

    The question has always been the same – how can belief be based on love?

    Hogwash. Although you did change the wording of the question four comments later, will someone else please tell Chet that the first two times he asked his question, it was exactly,

    How do you get from “love” to “faith”? (Chet, January 17, 2009, 5:41 pm)

    Here it is again: how do you get from “love” to “faith”? (Chet, January 20, 2009, 12:03 am)

    And will someone else then please tell Chet that I answered the exact question he asked with,

    I don’t posit that one goes from love to faith. (cl, January 20, 2009, 3:48 am)

    Why do you blame me and insult my English because you failed to properly articulate the question you wanted to ask? If I don’t posit that one goes from love to faith, that includes anyone, which includes myself, right? The way you phrased your question the first two times, I honestly didn’t know what you were getting at, and I didn’t want to assume anything. So I took it at face-value. How am I supposed to know you actually meant, “How can belief be based on love?” Say what you mean, and more importantly, mean what you say.

    Incidentally, instead of further belittling me about my English, or resorting to name-calling by saying I’m a buffoon, why not simply say, “Oh, my mistake, perhaps I phrased my question inaccurately the first two times, I actually meant to ask you this?” I mean really, is this the atheist’s sandbox or what? In doing the former, you’re simply playing into a lame and childish stereotype I’d think you’d want to avoid.

    So, no further comment to you in this thread my friend, and despite your protestations, not for lack of a cogent response on my behalf. Getting cussed at, insulted and belittled just gets old after a while, and honestly I liked it better when you weren’t talking to me anymore.

    mikespeir,

    Man, you are persistent! I’m sorry, but you’re simply wasting your time. I’m not going to argue with you about where we think Ebonmuse might have been going by citing Luke 12:4-5 sans explanation. If you find this disingenuous, again, I’m sorry, and I can’t stop you from forming opinions about me, but realize that’s exactly how I feel when people start arguments, then simply ignore their opponent’s questioning.

    Ebonmuse,

    1) Regarding Luke 12:4-5, so what? Anyone can quote-mine to create illusions, right? What does verse 7 read?

    2) Maybe you’ll feel like answering this one:

    [The Bible] says specifically to fear God because he is terrible and vengeful. (bold & ital mine)

    Although certainly not in the everyday context that we use the word, in the original languages the Bible does in fact say that God is terrible, and also that vengeance is reserved for God. However, does the Bible say specifically that believers should, “…fear God because he is terrible and vengeful?” By all means, show us where those specific words occur in the specific order you quoted them. But this time, be sure to cite the verse and the edition of the Bible, and I’ll be glad to take a look.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    By all means, show us where those specific words occur in the specific order you quoted them.

    cl, you’re really just a troll looking for attention, aren’t you?

  • mikespeir

    I’m not going to argue with you about where we think Ebonmuse might have been going by citing Luke 12:4-5 sans explanation.

    Perhaps that’s fair enough. At least it’s clear we’re not going anywhere with this.

    …and I can’t stop you from forming opinions about me…

    Understand that when I said I suspect your religion is at least partly based on fear I wasn’t necessarily talking about you to the exclusion of all others. I think all religion has some tincture of fear in it. Life has a tincture of fear in it. Religion is, among other reasons, contrived to allay those fears. Consequently, I doubt I could be convinced that anyone’s religion (or worldview, for that matter) isn’t to some degree held to cope with fear.

  • Chet

    Does anybody see any place in cl’s intemperate screed where he actually answers my question?

    Yeah, didn’t think so. Is there any evidence that cl is anything but an evasive troll?

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I’ll third that.

  • mikespeir

    Does anybody see any place in cl’s intemperate screed where he actually answers my question?

    And you can be confident he won’t, either, Chet. Even Ali knew he couldn’t play “rope-a-dope” for fifteen rounds and declare victory. You’ve got to throw a punch now and again. Problem is, that opens you up to counter punching and, thus, risk. cl is careful to avoid all such risk. And because there are no judges and no limiting number of rounds, he can keep dancing forever, until he wears us out with frustration. I’m guessing he somehow sees that as a win.

    That said, there are theists who come to this site who don’t play that kind of game. While I can’t agree with a lot of what they say, they at least lay out their beliefs plainly and subject them to examination. That’s honorable.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I’m guessing he somehow sees that as a win.

    Very astute Mike, and anyone can confirm that this is indeed the case just by reading back over his comments or going to his website.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Funny, that when it gets down to it, all we get is more ad hominems and zero argument.

    mikespeir,

    Think what you want. The reason I’m not going to answer Chet’s question is because I’ve had several experiences with Chet and each one has proven increasingly unfruitful, distilling down to him cussing, insulting, and name-calling. If that’s what passes for debate and argument around here, I don’t know what to say. As far as your confidence that I won’t answer Chet, you’re correct, but it’s not for lack of a valid response. I simply see no need to get into arguments with Chet or cl is a coward and liar (OMGF) anymore. Many others around here have noted several times that such exchanges are wearisome for everyone. And no, this is not a win, for anyone. If the only conclusion you folks can reach about me not wanting to go this route over and over again is that I’m an evasive troll, well, so be it.

    Ebonmuse,

    It’s fine if you want to denounce me as a troll, but again, I’m asking you, what does Luke 12:7 read?

    And again, I’m asking you, please show us what verse you had in mind that specifically says believers should, “fear God because he is terrible and vengeful?”

    There’s a one-two punch for you right there, for the second time. Honestly, if you’re so confident in the superiority of your position and your logic, then why not simply answer the questions? If you can’t or won’t answer, perhaps that’s not what the Bible specifically says, and you’re just passing off your own personal paraphrase as something the Bible specifically says. It wouldn’t be the first time.

  • mikespeir

    Well, cl, I’m not convinced you’re kidding yourself as much as you’re letting on, but I’m sure you’re not fooling anybody here. Of course, you can hang around until Ebon completely loses his patience with you. But you’re running out of people to talk to. You’ll be happy to know you’ve heard the last from me.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    Mike,
    I’d like to add something to your earlier analysis. The reason cl thinks he’s won is because he no longer has to actually answer the questions posed. He dances so long that we lose patience and then he simply claims that he has an answer, but since we are so rude/mean/uncaring/impatient/etc. he doesn’t feel like supplying it anymore. Thus, we get lines like this:

    Funny, that when it gets down to it, all we get is more ad hominems and zero argument.

    And this:

    The reason I’m not going to answer Chet’s question is because I’ve had several experiences with Chet and each one has proven increasingly unfruitful, distilling down to him cussing, insulting, and name-calling. If that’s what passes for debate and argument around here, I don’t know what to say. As far as your confidence that I won’t answer Chet, you’re correct, but it’s not for lack of a valid response.

    Not for lack of a valid response…one that cl has been completely unable to provide given multiple opportunities. So, he gets to claim that he has an answer, but doesn’t have to provide it.

    This leads me to further submit that what cl fears is being wrong. He is so afraid of it, that he will pursue any tactic necessary in order to avoid being wrong, from not putting forth any arguments to avoiding questions about what he does happen to say, to putting the worst spin on what his opponent says or outright misrepresentation of his opponent in order to make it appear that the objections are absurd, thus saving him the pain of having to face them.

  • mikespeir

    I think you’re right, OMGF. But I’m not going to keep on bashing him. And I really don’t like ignoring people, either. I just don’t see any alternative that leaves my sanity intact.

  • http://www.whyihatejesus.blogspot.com/ OMGF

    I don’t like ignoring people either, especially when I see so many errors, fallacies, and evasions popping up. As for bashing, I’m not above that, for reasons that are already pretty well documented. I believe that cl is getting what he deserves for being dishonest, hypocritical, etc.

  • http://www.thewarfareismental.info cl

    Doods,

    I’m done with the nonsense. I’ll post some final words later that address all your questions and that will be my last word on this thread.

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    Ebonmuse -

    I respect that position, but I don’t think it has much to do with the verses at hand. The Bible doesn’t say to fear any of the things you listed; it says specifically to fear God because he is terrible and vengeful.

    Specifically, this passage says to fear God because of his power. It was written probably to those who were hesitant about following Jesus because of the power of the Romans, “those who can kill the body,” and is arguing that their power is nothing compared to God’s power.

    But (as CL points out) the passage then turns around and highlights the worth of the individual, saying God even remembers every sparrow, and, “Do not fear, because God loves you more than the sparrows.”

    So in context it’s not a passage about fear but about moving beyond fear. So I think my examples are relevant. While few people today can legitimately fear being killed for their religion, fear in general is still a motivator for many people.

    Still, I’ll repeat, some churches try to use passages like this — and people’s innate fears — to scare people into belief, and that’s both counterproductive and immoral.

  • KShep

    OMGF and mikespier:

    You guys have finally run out of patience with that clown? I’ve read through many of the threads he posts to, and it always goes like this one, where he dodges questions, constructs strawmen, quotemines (see the Rick Warren thread for the finest example of that you’ll ever see), demands yes-or-no answers to nuanced questions, and gets everyone arguing about something entirely different, eventually steering the conversation so far away from the original subject that Ebon closes it. Then he gets to whine that the mean ol’ atheists are not letting him play.

    He’s just a jerk that likes to argue—it isn’t about making a point, or presenting a different opinion. He just wants to argue. Really, do any of us know of any position he holds other than “attack?”

    I hate ignoring people, too, but he’s not worth the time wasted arguing with him.

  • MS Quixote

    Specifically, this passage says to fear God because of his power.

    I think Ebon’s right on this one Bruce. Jesus specifically says to fear him that can use the power you mention to cast into hell. The plain reading of a text is always to be preferred, and this one does not seem to offer rationale for interpreting the verse any differently, including the context. Moreover, the underlying Greek supports his conclusion, in addition to the multitude of similar passages and the overwhelming tenor of Scripture as a whole.

    Your context of moving beyond fear is appropriate, but there’s a real fear to move beyond :)

  • Chet

    I’m done with the nonsense.

    Oh, if only, cl. If only.

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    MS Quixote -

    I don’t see any way to resolve the paradox of “fear him” in verse 5 and “do not be afraid” in verse 7 unless it’s understood as saying that if you get past your mundane fears and trust him, you will have nothing to fear. But this is probably not the place for that debate.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    I think the most likely explanation for that odd juxtaposition is that those two verses weren’t originally part of one argument, but were separate sayings from an oral tradition or a piece of wisdom literature like the Gospel of Thomas or Q. The gospel author, for whatever reason, chose to put them together when he wove that material into his narrative.

  • http://www.brucealderman.info/blog/ BruceA

    Ebonmuse -

    That’s certainly possible, although the same juxtaposition occurs in Matthew 10:28-31, so if they were originally separate sayings, they must have been combined before the gospels were written (unless Matthew is Luke’s source for this, or vice versa). Still, whoever combined these sayings must have recognized the paradox they created.

    Also, we can see from other passages that Matthew and Luke were not hesitant to rewrite or rearrange material if it didn’t fit their overall message. So the fact that they left “fear him” next to “do not be afraid” suggests that they intended to keep the paradox, regardless of how it arose.

  • http://thewarfareismental.typepad.com cl

    Personally, I’m always wary of ascribing any motivations to other people, because they’re usually wrong. (Penguin_Factory, January 17, 2009, 3:35 pm).

    We don’t need to denigrate religious believers but we need to instead emphasize our values that we have as individuals. (Teleprompter, January 19, 2009, 8:06 pm)

    If this is too challenging, we can always keep trying to get inside each other’s minds. That’s always a hoot! (Anon, January 20, 2009, 11:38 pm)

    SUMMARY:

    Standard example of a thread gone awry that I got blamed for. I entered with a good faith comment attacking nobody, complimenting TommyKey, and relaying pertinent information about a past issue to mikespeir. Chet, mikespeir, Libby, Paul S, Teleprompter, Jim C., and Ebonmuse all engage me. Over 12 comments to me are either belittling, contain direct insults, or ad hominem remarks. mikespeir gets away squeaky-clean when he antagonized and attacked me on the same point for well over 6 comments. Chet gets away squeaky-clean with foul language and direct insults in 3 comments. Ebonmuse gets away squeaky-clean with a legitimate quote-mine, four evasions of a basic question, and finally, a red herring in attempt to justifiy the quote-mine.

    Let the record show that not a single time in this thread did I engage any other person, and noting the aforementioned exception of my comment to mikespeir, not once did I address any other person in this thread until they addressed me.

    ANALYSIS:

    (Covers comments made from January 17, 2009, 4:08 pm to January 23, 2009, 10:58 am)

    My first comment attempts to expose the misplaced scope of typical, “religion is based in fear” arguments. The comment digs into Slacktivist’s reasoning and suggests that Slacktivist, like myself, feels such arguments are sweeping generalizations that lack proper scope. My original comment was to nobody in particular, made a clear and succinct point, and did not attack anybody. Contrary, I complimented TommyKey, then in good faith told mikespeir we could continue dialog on a closed thread at my place if he liked (January 17, 2009, 4:08 pm). mikespeir takes an unnecessary jab by responding with judgment related to that thread, going further than my comment required (January 17, 2009, 5:12 pm).

    Chet engages me with two questions (January 17, 2009, 5:41 pm).

    I make it clear to mikespeir that I didn’t wish to restart our debate in this thread, both out of respect for Ebonmuse and to demonstrate clear desire to stay on topic and avoid thread derailing. (January 17, 2009, 5:53 pm).

    I compliment Greta Christina, then further emphasize my desire to steer clear from mikespeir. I give Chet a little grief via a reminder, because previously, in an argument that was not going his way, he declared emphatically that he wouldn’t be talking to me anymore. Regardless, in a spirit of rational rigueur, I answer the latter of Chet’s two questions (January 17, 2009, 7:44 pm).

    Ebonmuse engages me by quoting Luke 12:4-5 with absolutely zero further explanation of its import to my original comment (January 18, 2009, 1:41 am). I reply with some snark, asking Ebonmuse to answer a very straightforward question (January 18, 2009, 2:32 am). Ebonmuse declines, and continued to decline answering this question throughout the remainder of this thread.

    Paul S engages me, accuses me of playing a little game, asking me to answer my own question, and introduces side issues not relevant to the OP (January 18, 2009, 1:09 pm). I decline to answer my own question for Ebonmuse’s to Paul S, then I address Paul S’s tangential concerns, and end by telling Paul S that if he wishes to pursue those concerns, we should do so at my blog (January 18, 2009, 3:26 pm). Again, I demonstrate clear desire to stay on topic and avoid thread derailing.

    Ebonmuse returns, does not answer my question, and instead, rehashing something from another thread, presupposes he knew what my response to his answer would have been (January 18, 2009, 3:57 pm).

    Earlier in this thread, Penguin_Factory made what is IMO the thread-winning comment, completely relevant to Ebonmuse’s strategy here: “Personally, I’m always wary of ascribing any motivations to other people, because they’re usually wrong” (January 17, 2009, 3:35 pm). In fact, Ebonmuse’s presupposition was wrong, but you’ll just have to accept my word on that. I reply showing frustration with the repeated belittling, the masquerading of presupposition as cogent argument, and with Ebonmuse’s impolite refusal to finish the engagement he started. I take a counter-jab of my own, reminding Ebonmuse that he takes a jaundiced view of people who rehash stuff from old threads (January 18, 2009, 4:41 pm).

    mikespeir engages me, pestering me to answer my own question when I stated clearly to Paul S that such wasn’t going to happen (January 18, 2009, 5:15 pm). OMGF salutes Ebonmuse for belittling me (January 18, 2009, 5:17 pm). Teleprompter engages others and me with a thoughtful comment as usual. Libby engages me indirectly, answering Ebonmuse’s question (January 19, 2009, 5:27 pm). I address mikespeir, I address Libby, and I agree with Teleprompter (January 19, 2009, 8:36 pm).

    mikespeir replies, for the second time, badgering me to answer the question I asked Ebonmuse (January 19, 2009, 9:59 pm). Jim C. engages me on tangential topics related to Paul S’s tangential topics (January 19, 2009, 11:47 pm). I decline, to demonstrate clear desire to stay on topic and avoid thread derailing.

    Chet responds to my reminder by belittling my English, then charging me of not answering his question, when I actually did answer one of them (January 20, 2009, 12:03 am).

    Ebonmuse returns with nothing positive to say whatsoever, further presupposing things about my argument, even to the point of writing hypothetical responses to his presupposition of my argument (January 20, 2009, 12:05 am). Ebonmuse promptly and directly answers MS (Quixote)’s question (January 20, 2009, 12:59 am).

    I reply, and to mikespeir I restate my refusal to finish Ebonmuse’s argument with other people. I banter some more with Chet about his indecision, and I answer his question exactly as he stated it two times. I criticize Ebonmuse’s strategy and inform him that his initial presupposition was wrong (January 20, 2009, 3:48 am). mikespeir replies with further antagonization when I have made clear my disinterest in pursuing Ebonmuse’s argument with him (January 20, 2009, 8:17 am).

    Paul S responds and claims he did not ask what he did ask, because his question was rhetorical (January 20, 2009, 3:33 pm). I respond in detail when I shouldn’t have, because as I’d previously stated, Paul S’s questions were thread drift, and up to this point I deflected three comments whose answering would have influenced the derailing of the thread (January 20, 2009, 4:43 pm).

    Anon pops in with a keen and witty observation: “…we can always keep trying to get inside each other’s minds. That’s always a hoot!” (January 20, 2009, 11:38 pm). I get quite a kick out of this and reply positively to Anon (January 21, 2009, 2:09 am).

    mikespeir replies again in spite of four previous refusals to continue with him (January 21, 2009, 10:13 am). Chet comes back with cussing, and denies asking the very question he asked, then clarifies said question (January 21, 2009, 2:42 pm). I reply, again telling mikespeir that I’m not going to finish Ebonmuse’s argument with other people.

    I address Chet’s comments, and ask if he’s sure that this new, rephrased question is the exact question he wants me to answer. I state that if it is, perhaps I’ll answer it (January 21, 2009, 5:56 pm).

    mikespeir replies again, completely irreverent of my clear attempts to refuse his engagements and clearly in an antagonistic manner (January 21, 2009, 8:34 pm). Chet replies and denies claims that he previously stated he wouldn’t be talking to me anymore, calls me a buffoon, and takes more jabs at my English (January 21, 2009, 11:44 pm). Ebonmuse replies to BruceA and says the Bible, “specifically says we should fear God because he is terrible and vengeful” (January 21, 2009, 11:09 pm).

    I reply, quoting Chet’s previous claim of not talking to me anymore, and suggest humility as an optional response. For the fifth time, I tell mikespeir that I’m not going to give in to his badgering. I reply to Ebonmuse, claiming he committed a quote-mine, then asking for the verse he had in mind that specifically states what he stated (January 22, 2009, 4:22 am). Ebonmuse responds by calling me a troll looking for attention (January 22, 2009, 7:54 am).

    mikespeir returns and, six transactions later, finally gets and accepts my hint (January 22, 2009, 8:23 am). I breathe a sigh of relief.

    Chet returns, and under the presupposition that he knows my motives for not wanting to answer him, calls me an evasive troll (January 22, 2009, 10:33 am). OMGF buddies up with Chet as usual (January 22, 2009, 10:41 am). mikespeir returns to antagonize me some more, and also presupposes he knows my motives for being silent, and further belittles me (January 22, 2009, 11:43 am). OMGF takes another jab (January 22, 2009, 12:16 pm).

    I return and state to mikespeir my reasoning for refusing to answer Chet’s question, namely that discussion with Chet has proven increasingly unfruitful, distilling down to Chet cussing, insulting, name-calling and saying he’s not talking to me anymore. I reply to Ebonmuse, asking him to justify his quote-mine, and to produce the verse from scripture which justifies his earlier comment (January 22, 2009, 1:18 pm).

    mikespeir returns with nothing to say that relates to the OP or the actual arguments (January 22, 2009, 2:19 pm). OMGF returns and also takes a stab at psychoanalyzing me (January 22, 2009, 2:44 pm). mikespeir and OMGF cuddle up and tease me some more (January 22, 2009, 3:42 pm, January 22, 2009, 4:06 pm). I return to state I’m done with the nonsense, and that I would return with one final comment to this thread (January 22, 2009, 4:41 pm).

    KShep pops into the thread, says absolutely nothing relating to the OP, brings up past issues from closed threads, then hops on the ad hominem bandwagon (January 22, 2009, 10:10 pm). Chet takes another jab (January 22, 2009, 11:31 pm). Ebonmuse says nothing about KShep reintroducing old issues into new threads, nor a peep about anyone else’s personal insults.

    BruceA returns and politely backs me up on the quote-mine charge (January 22, 2009, 5:02 pm). MS (Quixote) disputes BruceA, but apparently isn’t concerned about the quote-mine (January 22, 2009, 10:22 pm). BruceA holds his ground, further asking how to resolve the paradox the quote-mine raised, and politely informs Ebonmuse that indeed, verse 7 does not support verse 5 (January 23, 2009, 1:36 am). Ebonmuse claims the verse was an “odd juxtaposition” and provides zero explanation for why he only quoted the part of the paragraph that supported his point in the first place, while excluding the part that directly challenged his point. BruceA responds (January 23, 2009, 10:58 am).

    NOTES:

    A quote-mine occurs when material that ostensibly bolsters position X is taken out of context. A tell-tale characteristic of quote-mining is the exlusion of exposition in the same text which is reasonably construable as at odds with position X. Ebonmuse did exactly this by cutting Jesus’ paragraph in half and omitting verse 7, which was exposition in the same text that was at odds with Ebonmuse’s position. Ebonmuse’s attempted defense is also a red herring, because whether the verses are oddly juxtaposed or not neither excuses nor explains the fact that Ebonmuse quoted only the part of the paragraph the supported his point, while ignoring subsequent verses in the same paragraph that directly challenge his point.

    To answer Chet’s question, reasonable belief is based on love when we act from love as opposed to fear. Being moral only so that we might escape punishment is self-serving, and true religion cannot be founded upon self-serving belief systems. We shouldn’t love others because our religion, our mom, or our government tells us to. We should love others because it alleviates genuine privation and suffering in the lives of our fellow beings. Not incidentally, selfish, fear-based religion perfectly describes the rigid and loveless religion of the Pharisees, which Jesus criticized for its undue and morbid focus on the fear of punishment and condemnation. But a reasonable believer is not unduly or morbidly focused on the fear of punishment and condemnation, for reasonable believers believe that forgiveness exists. And a central tenet of reasonable belief is that there is no condemnation for those who ask for forgiveness. So in fact, it’s not that I didn’t have an answer to Chet. And I had a cogent response to Chet’s question the whole damned time. Rather, as I stated, I see no value in debating with an irrational child who resorts to insults and cussing when losing patience.

    My own feelings, as well as other people’s expressed reactions to typical discussion between myself, Chet, mikespeir and OMGF, have made me realize how annoying these little tangos are to the rest of the community here. Yet, when I take clear effort to avoid them, I get heckled for evading. What’s a rational person to do?

    I asked Ebon a very simple question – not Libby, not mikespeir, not Paul S, not the trashman or the prep cook, but Ebonmuse. Ebonmuse spends four comments belittling me and presupposing he knew where I would go with my argument. Had Ebonmuse simply answered the damned question, all of this might have been avoided. Yet, strangely, it’s all my fault because I refused to argue Ebonmuse’s point with other people, and because I wanted to avoid further draining conversation with Chet. So, I’m the evasive troll, and of course, Ebonmuse, Chet, OMGF, Paul S, and mikespeir’s incessant badgering of over six comments had nothing to do with it. They somehow imagine I think I won, when the debate could never even start because Ebonmuse simply eschewed the first question I asked him, a question that I asked him only after he engaged me.

    I’ve learned enough about Chet, OMGF and now mikespeir to know that debating with them is about as productive as washing clothes in soiled petroleum. And you all continue with your pseudo-Freudian, self-righteous, pontificating psychoanalyses of me and what you presuppose I fear most in life.

    This is of course wildly off-topic, not to mention rude and immature. But in all honesty, my feelings aren’t at all hurt. I got some uproarious laughter out of this one, and learned quite a bit about you people along the way.

    And presuppostion, ad hominem horsepuckey, quote-mining and mind-reading pass for rationalism around here.

    What a joke.

  • http://whyihatejesus.blogspot.com OMGF

    I return and write a 5 page, 2446 word comment where I complain endlessly and play the martyr card once again, make more wild accusations, retell history, and give a bunk “answer” to Chet which I’ll pretend is the most rational thing that you all have ever heard. Then, I declare victory, because you atheists are soooooo mean (January 26, 2009, 11:35pm).

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    cl

    To answer Chet’s question, reasonable belief is based on love when we act from love as opposed to fear. Being moral only so that we might escape punishment is self-serving, and true religion cannot be founded upon self-serving belief systems. We shouldn’t love others because our religion, our mom, or our government tells us to. We should love others because it alleviates genuine privation and suffering in the lives of our fellow beings. Not incidentally, selfish, fear-based religion perfectly describes the rigid and loveless religion of the Pharisees, which Jesus criticized for its undue and morbid focus on the fear of punishment and condemnation. But a reasonable believer is not unduly or morbidly focused on the fear of punishment and condemnation, for reasonable believers believe that forgiveness exists. And a central tenet of reasonable belief is that there is no condemnation for those who ask for forgiveness.

    Which is a perfectly cogent and rational explanation of your position, or against which others may be interested in arguing. If this was your normal style of debate, I for one would have no issue with you. It’s all the peripheral confrontational nitpicking that gets boring.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    cl

    But a reasonable believer is not unduly or morbidly focused on the fear of punishment and condemnation, for reasonable believers believe that forgiveness exists. And a central tenet of reasonable belief is that there is no condemnation for those who ask for forgiveness.

    While noting your qualifiers “unduly” and “morbidly” I would argue that for a reasonable believer to find comfort in forgiveness requires 1) something to be forgiven and 2) punishment to be avoided. Both of which assume that God is to be feared as he defines the sin and the penalty.

  • Chet

    The majority of your post indicates that you’ve had a psychological break with reality. Nonetheless, I feel I should address your “answer.”

    To answer Chet’s question, reasonable belief is based on love when we act from love as opposed to fear. Being moral only so that we might escape punishment is self-serving, and true religion cannot be founded upon self-serving belief systems. We shouldn’t love others because our religion, our mom, or our government tells us to. We should love others because it alleviates genuine privation and suffering in the lives of our fellow beings. Not incidentally, selfish, fear-based religion perfectly describes the rigid and loveless religion of the Pharisees, which Jesus criticized for its undue and morbid focus on the fear of punishment and condemnation. But a reasonable believer is not unduly or morbidly focused on the fear of punishment and condemnation, for reasonable believers believe that forgiveness exists. And a central tenet of reasonable belief is that there is no condemnation for those who ask for forgiveness. So in fact, it’s not that I didn’t have an answer to Chet. And I had a cogent response to Chet’s question the whole damned time.

    That doesn’t even begin to answer my question, because you’ve still not explained how a reasonable belief is based on love. “Cogent” is the last word I would use to describe this answer, it’s more like “evasive written diarrhea.”

    You’ve explained how a reasonable love might be based on belief, but that’s not what I asked. According to you, a reasonable belief – in God – is based on love. But love does not prove the existence of God. Love does not give you a basis for your belief – your belief gives you a basis for your understanding of love, at least from what you’ve written here.

    So despite what you consider an “answer”, you still haven’t explained how a reasonable belief in God could be based on love.

  • http://www.myspace.com/driftwoodduo Steve Bowen

    “Cogent” is the last word I would use to describe this answer

    Actually all I said was it was a cogent explanation of his position. As an argument and answer I don’t think it stands either. To even postulate that belief in God is based on love is question begging because it seems to assume that “love” has some special, spiritual place in the emotional spectrum.

  • Chet

    Actually all I said was it was a cogent explanation of his position.

    I apologize, I wasn’t actually referring to your remarks. Cl himself referred to his answer as a “cogent” response to my question; but it should be obvious to the most casual observer that it was just another dishonest evasion, tantamount to simply saying “love is awesome.” Sure it’s awesome, but how does it give merit to belief in God? That’s the question before Cl, the question that he has repeatedly avoided.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X