More Religious Projection on Atheists

One of the more annoying things to me is hearing religious people project their inadequacies onto atheists and tell us what we must be feeling — especially when we don’t feel it. This is an anonymous letter on the website of a South African TV station but it’s a good example of this behavior:

As an atheist you may be able to fulfil or satisfy some of your material or physical needs, e.g. cars, house, food etc. but atheism will never be able to satisfy man’s spiritual needs. Atheists will experience feelings of emptiness, a gap or void in their lives. “Something is missing in my life.” They will resort to try to fill that gap with various things but inevitably those feelings of emptiness will return. Atheists will of course vehemently try and deny this.

Yeah, and what do we know about our own feelings? Who are we going to believe, ourselves or some random and presumptuous stranger who knows nothing about us? I don’t feel any such feeling of emptiness. And even if I did, believing in something that isn’t true is hardly a rational way to deal with it.

I am sure many of you have questioned your reason for being here. I know I did. Many times. “Why am I here? Surely there must be more to life than this?” Belief in God and the Bible answers those questions and fills that void. It gives Believers purpose, adds value to our lives. Can atheism claim something similar? I think not.

But it goes further than that. Belief in God and the Bible brings something more which sets Believers apart and which will outshine atheism any day of the week and that is a message of hope and redemption. Atheism can and will never ever even come close.

And if that hope was actually based in reality, he might have a point. But if it isn’t true, it isn’t any different from thinking that a fairy tale or an illusion fills some void within us.

Believers have a hope, an expectation, a promise of eternal life in heaven, while atheists have, well, nothing. I believe that the Bible is telling us that there is more awaiting Believers after their lives on earth have ended. Ultimately if it turns out there is no God and no heaven, Believers would have lost nothing while atheists have lost everything.

Yes, yes, yes. We’ve all heard Pascal’s wager and it’s as absurd today as it was when he came up with it. And if you just replaced the Bible with the Quran or the Bhagavad Gita in that paragraph, he would easily recognize the absurdity.

About Ed Brayton

After spending several years touring the country as a stand up comedian, Ed Brayton tired of explaining his jokes to small groups of dazed illiterates and turned to writing as the most common outlet for the voices in his head. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and the Thom Hartmann Show, and is almost certain that he is the only person ever to make fun of Chuck Norris on C-SPAN.

  • http://www.electricminstrel.com Brett McCoy

    My life is plenty full and enriching, I have a good job as a software engineer, a fabulous wife and son, I compose music, I paint, I brew beer, I am an amateur gourmet cook, I read a wide variety of books on many different topics, study biology, physics, etc etc etc. Ain’t a damn thing missing from my life (except my dad, I wish he were still around, he was a staunch up to the day he died)

  • http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    C’mon, Ed! Fill your heart with something you don’t believe! Fill it with…imagination!

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Belief in God and the Bible answers those questions and fills that void. It gives Believers purpose, adds value to our lives. Can atheism claim something similar? I think not.

    Would he say the same thing about Islam or Paganism? I think not.

    Generally speaking, if someone goes on and on about some horrible void, inadequacy or emptiness in the lives of people he’s never met and doesn’t give a shit about, chances are the emptiness and inadequacy are in his own life, and he’s trashing others to compensate.

  • Sharpur

    Actually he/she/it hasn’t even got Pascal’s wager right:

    “Ultimately if it turns out there is no God and no heaven, Believers would have lost nothing while atheists have lost everything.”

    No, if there’s no god or heaven, believers have lost everything, atheists nothing. I know it’s hard to maintain concentration all the way to the end of your own sentence, but please try!

  • heddle

    Same thing happens in the other sense. It is easy to find examples where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc. The psycho-babble is strong, and it flows in both directions.

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

    Humans are conquerors. We’re do-ers. We’re explorers. We like to do things. We have an insatiable appetite for the new, and are disgusted by the stagnant.

    It’s just to be expected that we’re going to have needs and desires. So yes, we do all have “that void”.

    It just that we’ve figured out how to fill that void with real things – art, volunteering, productivity, etc.

    … and they decided to fill it with the Tooth Fairy.

  • Doug Little

    Yes because falling in lock step with an ideology that promises eternal torture by an unobserved entity if you don’t comply with it’s wishes to believe in it sounds very fulfilling to me. That some of the people who believe in such a thing cling to the concept of an afterlife so tightly that it negatively effects their actual life.

    No Thanks.

  • birgerjohansson

    I thought projection was the defining feature of fundamentalists and most of the Republicans.

    -Anyway, the Republicans are no longer even “conservative”. If you compare them with mainstream conservative parties around the world, the Republican party is an outlier, alongside radical right parties and populist movements like Berlusconi’s Forza Italia.

    Those marginal parties always project their inadequacies on others.

    — — — — —

    “Surely there must be more to life than this?”

    Monthy Python addressed that issue in a film more than 30 years ago.

  • concernedjoe

    The flip side of coin is:

    When your god fails you horribly and inexplicably do you get angry? depressed? confused? self deprecating?

    Do you fear your minor doubts and rulebook transgressions (especially thought sins) that you really know you are unrepentant about will doom you to eternal misery? Do you ruminate over how unworthy you are in the eyes of your tyrannical and self-serving god?

    Does it bother you that you really have to suspend reality and common evidence to believe all you are suppose to believe FAITHFULLY if you are to be 100% true blue believer? Does the cognitive dissonance that every sane thinking modern person must have plague you deep in the recesses of your mind?

    Two can play your game…

    Oh.. and I have NOT felt – not for a nanosecond – any serious need or desire for a make-believe friend since my mind matured; that is aside from the occasional desire to get lost in good sci-fi or other fictional escapism – which BTW I recognize as ENTERTAINMENT!

  • jnorris

    heddle,

    Many atheists offer their personal experiences as evidence for why believers believe.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Believers have a hope, an expectation, a promise of eternal life in heaven, while atheists have, well, nothing.

    That’s not true. Many of us have a promise of riches right here on Earth if we will just help out that nice Nigerian lawyer with a minor money transfer…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    heddle #5: It is easy to find examples where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc.

    There is no evidence of these things, you clueless git? I cite the letter quoted in the OP as evidence of fear of death and anxiety over the unknown by a religious person.

  • Doug Little

    Reg @11

    FTW!

  • http://www.atheist-faq.com Jasper T

    I’d also point out that we do have religious psychology studies, as well as the fact theists tell us so.

    Whereas they base their projection on Biblical doctrine, and make all assessments based on that.

    If they actually talked to atheists, they’d find that this idea that we’re all empty and depressed is factually incorrect.

  • Michael Heath

    Anonymous letter writer:

    Atheists] will resort to try to fill that gap with various things but inevitably those feelings of emptiness will return. Atheists will of course vehemently try and deny this.

    Ed responds:

    Yeah, and what do we know about our own feelings? Who are we going to believe, ourselves or some random and presumptuous stranger who knows nothing about us?

    I see this response as a great first step given the ludicrousness of the assertion. However I think we should also follow-up by pointing out there is a continuum of possibilities where any one individual can overlap with a different population’s results. We know there are fulfilled atheists and fulfilled Christians, and we also know the opposite is true. So the more relevant question is whether there’s a difference between atheists and believers in general and if so, whether it’s their faith or lack of it which drives this difference or whether other factors results in a particular fulfillment outcome. It’s an empirical question where we can measure the populations to discover the validity of the claim.

    This challenge is also analogous to believers claiming that their god has answered their prayers. If that were true we’d encounter one of two possible results: the population of people who pray experienced statistically significant and differing results from those who don’t, or a specific population of like-minded believers who believed their religion was the sole method to dialog with the deity(s) enjoyed the same.

    I think our most effective weapon against woo and faith is evidence; so we should exploit that advantage every opportunity we get. We won’t get the oldsters; but we have and will get an increasing share of the smart youngsters. Which means the population of believers will get progressively smaller and stupider, exactly what we now observe as the mainline church membership declines and what increasingly remains is a disproportionate share of uneducated middle- and working class voters.

  • KG

    Reginald Selkirk,

    Ah, but heddle is only referring to True Christians™ such as himself. True Christians™ believe because God has poked his celestial digits into their brains and implanted therein The Truth™. The Gospel according to St. Heddle tells us that the only possible alternative to this scenario is that heddle is “nuts”, and he’s fairly sure he’s not.

  • heddle

    Reginald Selkirk,

    There is no evidence of these things, you clueless git? I cite the letter quoted in the OP as evidence of fear of death and anxiety over the unknown by a religious person.

    You can site all you want but you’d be wrong in the particular, and at best you’d be arguing by anecdote. I could counter with anecdotal evidence by presenting those believers who will claim that as atheists they felt exactly what the writer has projected on to all atheists. That would again be anecdotal.

    In truth you have no clue whatsoever why, in general, believers believe, just as I have no clue how fulfilled or unfulfilled atheists are, in general. The difference is that you appear to be as stupid as the writer Ed quotes–you both think you know, in general, what is going on in the heads of the other group. You are two peas in a pod.

  • http://faehnri.ch/ faehnrich

    Ah, Pascal’s wager. If it can be defeated by Homer Simpson, you know it sucks.

    Asking questions like “Why am I here?” or looking for reasons implies you’re already assuming an agent with a purpose. There doesn’t have to be reasons or purpose behind things.

    It gives Believers purpose, adds value to our lives. Can atheism claim something similar?

    No, atheism doesn’t give me purpose or value to my life. I do.

    Believers have a hope, an expectation, a promise of eternal life in heaven, while atheists have, well, nothing.

    Wishful thinking. It’d be rad to go to Valhalla after I die and drink mead and fight all day, but no reason that’s true and I shouldn’t believe it just because I’d like it.

  • Anri

    Same thing happens in the other sense. It is easy to find examples where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc. The psycho-babble is strong, and it flows in both directions.

    I was going to make the point that many of the atheists posting here were, in fact, Christians (or some other flavor of theist) previously, and therefore might have a pretty good insight into why they believed, at least.

    But KG is right. If I recall heddle correctly (please correct if I don’t), faith is something god does to you, not something you strive for. If you’ve been given sufficient grace, you believe, and are saved. If you’ve not, you don’t and aren’t. So, for heddle, there is no such thing as an ex-Christian. Only Christians and non-Christians, and never the twain shall meet.

    In fact, even proselytizing is a required but ultimately futile side-effect of being filled with grace. It can’t change anything, but you do it anyway, ’cause god wants you to.

    If I’m straw-manning at all here, I’ll be happy for the correction.

  • http://faehnri.ch/ faehnrich

    faith is something god does to you, not something you strive for

    So we don’t have a choice to believe and be True Christians™, it’s something god does? Cool, so if god does exist he shouldn’t send me to hell for not believing in him since he’s the one that makes that happen and it’s not my fault.

  • The Lorax

    Christians are confused people who are presented with scientific facts about evolution and a multi-billion year old universe, facts that they cannot refute, and so they panic and project their inadequacy onto the largest constituency who is delivering those facts to them: atheists and scientists. Essentially, everything bad they say about us is projection; they actually feel that way about themselves. Christians will, of course, vehemently try and deny this.

    … hey, I like this game! 😀

  • heddle

    KG #16,

    Really, that is your argument? Of course you never have anything substantive to say, but usually it is not quite as pathetic as the gazillionth rendering of TrueChristians with the attached oh-aren’t-I-just-OM-quality-clever-look-at-me-PZ!!   “™”   symbol.

  • Michael Heath

    heddle writes:

    Same thing happens in the other sense. It is easy to find examples [1] where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc. The psycho-babble is strong, and it flows in both directions [2].

    A giant strawman [1] coupled to an enormous fallacy of balance [2]. Science has learned what drives belief where in both Ed’s previous blog and this one the assertions from Ed and the posters I see are largely consistent with those findings. On the other hand the assertions I see from biblical inerrantists and other theologically conservative Christians are largely premised on falsified assertions and logical fallacies.

    Please provide me with one theologically conservative expert, just one, who makes arguments which are structurally sound and compelling, Hell, just use the former criteria. I’ve yet to encounter such a person who can do the former let alone build a sound compelling argument. And yet those who are scientifically literate can count not just on the consensus view of experts in the relevant fields who premise their findings on evidence, but many laymen as well.

  • DaveL

    It is easy to find examples where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc. The psycho-babble is strong, and it flows in both directions.

    Actually, the same thing also happens among believers towards believers. If you ask someone why they believe, the most common answers involve things like “apparent design in the universe” and “personal experience of the transcendent.” If you ask the same people why they think other people believe, the most popular answers are “childhood indoctrination” and “fear of death.”

  • heddle

    Anri #19,

    I am not making any sort of theological argument. I am not talking about Calvinist soteriology. I am stating that atheists do not know, in general, why believers believe–although they often think they do (the dumb ones, anyway) and engage in the same kind of projection Ed is talking about. But they don’t know, not anymore than theists know, in general, how fulfilled atheists are.

    Who cares if many on here are former theists? I can counter with any number of former atheists, myself included. I was quite happy as an atheist–but I know others (such as my wife) who will say they felt a great emptiness. There simply is no common condition we felt, just as there is no common atheist mind set.

  • Anri

    So we don’t have a choice to believe and be True Christians™, it’s something god does?

    That’s my understanding of it.

    Cool, so if god does exist he shouldn’t send me to hell for not believing in him since he’s the one that makes that happen and it’s not my fault.

    Au contraire, god has decided ahead of time who will go to heaven, and gives them the requisite grace – everyone else is just sort of background noise. This can’t be evil, because god is god and is therefore by definition good. The only reason you can even question god’s goodness is because you haven’t been filled with sufficient grace.

    Have I got this right?

  • rjmx

    “Why am I here?”

    Reminds me of the old joke about the preacher in the mental hospital:

    “Why are you here?”

    (in chorus) “Because we’re not all there.”

    Yep. Sorry. Apologies. I’ll find my own way out …

  • http://umlud.blogspot.com umlud

    C’mon people, let’s not make fun of heddle. He’s obviously got it in his mind that he’s correct, and no amount of evidence will show him that he’s wrong.

    He’s just like the Hindu who believes that Christ was a reincarnation of Vishnu. Try to tell that believer the errors of this viewpoint, and you’ll be met with either blank stares or with a mountain of “evidence” showing how wrong YOU are.

    The point that heddle’s construction of his argument is clearly a straw man followed by a false equivalency is besides the point. Since he’s the person who can’t see it, who refuses to see it, and therefore ignores its reality, he is not going to be the person who will then turn around and say, “You know what, guys? You’re right. I’m wrong. What I wrote was a patently obvious straw man statement followed by a false equivalency. I’m sorry.”

    Still, it’s good to see some commentators who know how annoying heddle can be (with his shifting of the goalposts, denying he shifted the goalposts, and pulling out the no-true-scotsman line of “argumentation”, usually followed by being annoyed and flouncing away after some form of “you don’t understand me” line is given) still commented on the blatant errors in his statement. That heddle responded in the manner that was characteristic of his normal pattern shouldn’t surprise anyone. Indeed, if he admitted that he understood why he was wrong in his statements, THAT would surprise me (and no doubt many others).

  • heddle

    Michael Heath,

    Your point is totally irrelevant–you do have a knack for missing the boat. We are not talking about which side is rational. My opinion, which I have stated many times, is that religious belief is inherently irrational. That is, the presuppositions of the existence of God and the truth of the bible are irrational. And you and your fallacy of balance–oh, brother–you employ it as a blunt instrument: if the offense occurs on my side of any debate, it is unsporting of you to point it out! Your side does it more often and more egregiously– fallacy of balance!!

    If we accept for the sake of argument that there is no god, then there are purely natural, psychological reasons why every believer believes. But neither you nor anyone else has a clue what they are, just pat psycho-babble projections.

  • KG
    True Christians™ believe because God has poked his celestial digits into their brains and implanted therein The Truth™. The Gospel according to St. Heddle tells us that the only possible alternative to this scenario is that heddle is “nuts”, and he’s fairly sure he’s not.

    Really, that is your argument? – heddle

    No, heddle, it’s yours. Or at least, it was. Have you realised just how ridiculous it is?

  • Anri

    I am not making any sort of theological argument. I am not talking about Calvinist soteriology. I am stating that atheists do not know, in general, why believers believe–although they often think they do (the dumb ones, anyway) and engage in the same kind of projection Ed is talking about. But they don’t know, not anymore than theists know, in general, how fulfilled atheists are.

    Well, unless I misunderstand your specific type of faith (which is quite possible), I’m not really sure how you can make any sort of distinction between theological arguments and reasons for belief.

    I mean – again, if I understand you – you do think you know why every believer believes: they were filled with grace. Any ‘real world’ reasons are just window dressing.

    Who cares if many on here are former theists? I can counter with any number of former atheists, myself included. I was quite happy as an atheist–but I know others (such as my wife) who will say they felt a great emptiness. There simply is no common condition we felt, just as there is no common atheist mind set.

    So, if I understand you correctly, you would be willing to say that you have no insight into why an atheist might not believe?

    Other than the real, bedrock ‘not filled with sufficient grace’ bit, I mean.

  • scienceavenger

    atheism will never be able to satisfy man’s spiritual needs

    Meh. Atheism will never satisfy my astrological needs, or my homeopathic needs. I’ll deal.

  • KG

    If we accept for the sake of argument that there is no god, then there are purely natural, psychological reasons why every believer believes. But neither you nor anyone else has a clue what they are – heddle

    This really is transcendentally stupid. Of course we have a clue what they are, at least in the majority of cases: children tend to believe what the adults they have most to do with tell them is true, and people tend to maintain beliefs that are important to their social identity in the absence of compelling reasons to change them. That’s why the vast majority of Christians grew up with Christian parents (or substitute parents), Muslims with Muslim parents, Hindus with Hindu parents, and so forth. I’m sure you would find that the proportion of atheists is much higher among those with atheist parents. What requires additional explanation are those cases where people change their religious beliefs in important respects.

  • Doug Little

    If we accept for the sake of argument that there is no god, then there are purely natural, psychological reasons why every believer believes. But neither you nor anyone else has a clue what they are, just pat psycho-babble projections.

    Neurotheology

    Uh Oh… Looks like there is a whole science based around the reasons why people believe. I suggest you go and argue the point with them, as they seem have a clue.

  • heddle

    Anri #31,

    Even if Calvinism is correct, and it might not be, every believer, or most every believer, still has human reasons for why they believe. My wife is as Calvinist as I but she will tell you that in human terms she believes because her family’s Buddhism scared her to death and she felt like a worthless person.

    In other words, if you asked her why she believes when she was a new Christian (and had never heard of Calvinism) she would say: “Buddhism scared me and…”

    If you ask her today she will likely to say the same thing, unless she knows it is a theological discussion in which case she will say “After I was regenerated, God used my fear of Buddhism… to draw me near.”

    So again, this has nothing to do with a particular doctrine (Calvinism) which may in fact be wrong. Because even Calvinists have reasons for their coming to believe “in human terms”, so we can agree to consider only those.

  • heddle

    Doug Little,

    Uh Oh… Looks like there is a whole science based around the reasons why people believe. I suggest you go and argue the point with them, as they seem have a clue.

    I would be glad to. Do you also think evolutionary psychology (Let us explain why men prefer blondes!) is a science too, just because its practitioners say so, and because it makes arguments that sound plausible and has a wiki page? Man, you’re easy.

  • dingojack

    And is your ‘human reason’, David, that you wanted get laid, or was it that you’re (possibly) crazy? 😉

    Dingo

  • Doug Little

    Even if Calvinism is correct, and it might not be

    Whoah, WTF are you talking about. Hasn’t god diddled you with his mighty regeneration ray so you can believe in him? You seem pretty sure about this in other posts, so are you now questioning whether this diddling ever happened? If so, what do you put these feelings of violation down to if in fact you are mistaken?

  • heddle

    DJ,

    “Wanting to get laid” is why I, though an atheist, went to a Catholic mass in college–I had a huge crush on a Catholic student. (It didn’t work.) I was already married when I became a Christian so “wanting to get laid” was not an issue. Craziness–now that I can’t rule out.

  • KG

    Because even Calvinists have reasons for their coming to believe “in human terms”, so we can agree to consider only those. – heddle

    I take that as an encouraging sign that you are not wholly immune to argument, since you have in the past insisted (I’ll go back and find an instance if necessary, but I’m sure Michael Heath, for one, will recall this) that the only possibilities in your own case are that your conversion was a supernatural event and Calvinism is more or less true, or that you yourself are “nuts” or suffering an organic brain disorder.

  • bryanfeir

    @Michael Heath:

    If that were true we’d encounter one of two possible results: the population of people who pray experienced statistically significant and differing results from those who don’t, or a specific population of like-minded believers who believed their religion was the sole method to dialog with the deity(s) enjoyed the same.

    I seem to recall Arthur C. Clarke (in Childhood’s End?) had a passing mention of ‘statistical theology’ or something similar as part of the world background, where there was actually some serious study of relative probabilities of events to believers and non-believers. The end result being, not unexpectedly, that any difference was below the statistical noise floor.

    (Hmm, I just did a Google search on ‘Arthur C Clarke statistical theology’, and got an E-zine article called ‘Brilliant Visions but Bad Scientific Blunders’ from some guy calling Clarke a ‘Darwinist’ as a result of views like that, and talking up ‘Expelled’. Lovely.)

  • Brownian

    There simply is no common condition we felt, just as there is no common atheist mind set.

    Heddle loves playing both sides of this game (does he love it? I guess I don’t know how he actually feels about it, just that he does it all the fucking time), because he will, without any direct knowledge, make absolute claims about what Calvinists think and don’t think, because he’s been in all of their heads apparently, and unlike every other religious group they’re all aware of an in agreement with official Calvinist doctrine.

    No need to mention my propensity for Missing the Point™ (in case PZ is watching.), you’ve done that clever little riposte to death already.

    My opinion, which I have stated many times, is that religious belief is inherently irrational.

    What’s irrational is how fucking much time you spend arguing religious belief, since we all agree it’s irrational. I mean, given a set of conjectures that are simply asserted by religious folk and don’t rationally entail anything, why does it matter to you whether or not religious beliefs are stated accurately or not? Whether you believe in God and—I don’t use ‘because’ since irrational—here’s a bunch of rationally unrelated statements, or you believe in God and colander on your head, what does it actually matter, other than as a point of anthropological interest?

    But it’s a clever, if dishonest, trick of yours to nitpick over theological minutae as if it fucking mattered in the least, only to then claim that you agree it’s all Irrational™ (that one’s just for you, Tiger) when you can’t defend any of it.

  • scienceavenger

    Of course we know why most believers believe: because growing up those around them did. The greatest predictor of one’s religious views is those of one’s parents. All else is post-hoc rationalizing. If Heddle and I had been born in Madras, we’d be Hindus.

  • Anri

    Even if Calvinism is correct, and it might not be, every believer, or most every believer, still has human reasons for why they believe. My wife is as Calvinist as I but she will tell you that in human terms she believes because her family’s Buddhism scared her to death and she felt like a worthless person.

    But stating this, for you, is disingenuous, yes?

    The human reasons given are just an imperfect understanding of god’s decision, yes?

    To put it another way: if god has decided to give someone enough grace to cause them to be a believer, did a human reason cause god’s action? Could a human reason have halted or altered it?

    If not, can we agree that, as far as you are concerned, human reasons are totally irrelevant in the discussion of faith?

  • dingojack

    Heddle – You do realise I was gently teasing you, right? :)

    Dingo

    —–

    Still, whatever the reason, it worked out well for you. So what does the reason matter in the greater scheme of things?

  • heddle

    Brownian,

    because he will, without any direct knowledge, make absolute claims about what Calvinists think and don’t think, because he’s been in all of their heads apparently, and unlike every other religious group they’re all aware of an in agreement with official Calvinist doctrine.

    That is just stupid. Calvinism is a fairly well defined doctrine, so when I talk about Calvinism I am arguing what Calvin or Luther or Jonathan Edwards or RC Sproul would say–there is not much disagreement among them.

    Have you never used “What Republicans say” even though their “doctrine” is much less constrained than Calvinism? Have you ever used “what the Stoics believed” or “what the Epicureans believed?” Never? Have you never, ever referred to what a group, based on its literature and history, generally affirms?

    If I said “Calvinists deny free will” “Democrats want to let the Palestinians overrun Israel” would you respond “Democrats want no such thing” or would you say, “well, I can’t speak for the group Democrats, but I know 67 people registered to that party and I will ask them individually if they affirm that position and report back to you.”

    Have you never argued what Christians say or attribute positions to MRAs or libertarians?

    Have you always been pure of heart and only referred to what individuals say, in which case there is no need to even identify their group?

    I friggin’ doubt it, you hypocritical jackass.

  • Doug Little

    I would be glad to. Do you also think evolutionary psychology (Let us explain why men prefer blondes!) is a science too, just because its practitioners say so, and because it makes arguments that sound plausible and has a wiki page? Man, you’re easy.

    Well I guess we would have to make an evaluation by doing the due diligence and examining the material. Nice straw manning there BTW. I was merely pointing out that some people are taking it seriously and are studying the mechanisms that bring about religious feelings that are rooted in brain chemistry and electrical activity, not psychological babble as you state. Psychological babble on the other hand is a good description of where you say belief comes from.

  • heddle

    Anri,

    To put it another way: if god has decided to give someone enough grace to cause them to be a believer, did a human reason cause god’s action?

    A fair question. The standard Calvinist answer (oh noes, I am peaking in every Calvinist’s head again!) is that God ordains the ends and the means, and the means are by secondary causes–which are the reasons in “human terms” I discussed. I would refer you to the Westminster Confession.

    If Calvinism is wrong, then the secondary causes are the primary causes.

    DJ,

    Yes I did know you were teasing.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches Ed Brayton

    Jasper T wrote:

    Humans are conquerors. We’re do-ers. We’re explorers. We like to do things. We have an insatiable appetite for the new, and are disgusted by the stagnant.

    I’m not sure what planet you live on, but that does’t describe the human species I know. The vast majority of people are passive participants in life if they are participants in any meaningful way at all. The vast majority of people I know have an insatiable appetite for the same crap over and over again (food, music, thoughts, etc) and are disgusted only by being roused from their apathetic slumber.

  • http://umlud.blogspot.com umlud

    (oh noes, I am peaking in every Calvinist’s head again!)

    Really? That’s piqued my interest. Still, though, your last few comments read as quite peaked in their content. Still, if you are about to come peaking in Calvinists’ heads, then that’s an amazing feet feat.

    Seriously, that mistake’s about as annoying as “your” and “you’re” as well as “there,” “their,” and “they’re”.

  • KG

    when I talk about Calvinism I am arguing what Calvin or Luther or Jonathan Edwards or RC Sproul would say–there is not much disagreement among them. – heddle

    If there’s not much difference between what Calvin and Luther would say – and if this is generally agreed – why are there separate Calvinist and Lutheran churches? But as a matter of fact, it doesn’t seem to be generally agreed.

    Someone called Johan D. Tangelder says they disagreed over “The Lord’s Supper”. I won’t try and convey the difference between two variants of gobbledegook in my own words, so here is what Tangelder says:

    Against Calvin, Luther taught the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. Luther did not agree with the Roman Catholic dogma of transubstantiation, which teaches that “In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ‘the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained’…. It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament” (p. 383 f. Catechism of the Catholic Church). Luther taught instead the doctrine of consubstantiation. In his Small Catechism, he defined the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper as “The true body and blood of our Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink.” Its purpose, he continued, “is shown us by these words, ‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins.’…For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.” Luther stated that “Even though a knave takes or distributes the Sacrament, he receives the true body and blood of Christ, just as truly as he who [receives or] administers it in the most worthy manner. For it is not founded upon the holiness of men, but upon the Word of God.”

    Calvin criticized Luther’s view because it involves a localization of Christ’s presence. In a letter to Martin Bucer in 1538 he wrote regarding. Luther, “How foolishly he erred when he stated that the bread is the body itself.” He also wrote to the Council of Geneva stating that he could not change his mind about Luther’s view as he didn’t want to betray the truth.

    Calvin affirmed the presence of the living Christ in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by the action of the Holy Spirit. Despite the vast distance of space between us and the ascended Christ, we are united with Him through the hidden power of the Holy Spirit. Calvin believed that Christ was “truly and efficaciously” present in the Lord’s Supper, but in a spiritual sense, and through the mysterious intervention of the Holy Spirit, the communicant partakes spiritually of Christ’s body” (cf. Institutes IV, 17, 18). He said at the Synod of Berne (1537), “Thus we must recognize that his Spirit is the bond of our participation with him, in such a way that he truly feeds us on the substance of our Lord’s flesh and blood, to give us by sharing in them life and immortality. This communion of his flesh and blood Christ offers in his holy supper under the symbols of bread and wine, and he presents this to all who celebrate it duly in accordance with his lawful institution.” Neither Luther nor Calvin changed their minds. For sound Scriptural reasons, Calvin could not accept Luther’s view. This break with the Lutherans deeply hurt Calvin.

    So presumably Calvin thought the difference important. Also, a certain Arthur A. Preisinger, of the University Lutheran Church at Texas Tech says:

    I must take issue with several views/statements of J.M. Cameron’s review of John M. Todd’s Luther: A Life, and Peter Manns’ Martin Luther: An Illustrated Biography [NYR, February 17].

    Mr. Cameron sees little difference in the Lutheran and Calvinist conception of the church. There is, in fact, a great deal of difference. For one thing, Lutherans (of the sixteenth century, at least) did not use the visible/invisible distinction which Cameron implies by his placing both Lutheran and Calvinist ecclesiologies into the Anglican Articles framework. The territorial churches of northern Europe turned out quite differently in polity, depending on whether they were Calvinist or Lutheran. Even after the Prussian Union of 1817 differences, based on quite different ecclesiologies, existed. [emphasis added]

  • Anri

    A fair question. The standard Calvinist answer (oh noes, I am peaking in every Calvinist’s head again!) is that God ordains the ends and the means, and the means are by secondary causes–which are the reasons in “human terms” I discussed. I would refer you to the Westminster Confession.

    I’m not asking what other Calvinists believe*, I’m asking what you believe.

    Can god grant grace without any intermediary agency or events?

    I mean, he could (and you could argue that he does) conceal his action behind worldly circumstance, but it’s not required for him to do so, yes?

    He’s free to grant grace to anyone, at any time, in any manner, for his own unknowable reasons?

    . . .

    *In this thread, you appear to be arguing that the details of what others believe and their motives for doing to are generally speaking, unknowable. Therefore, asking you to comment on what other believers believe, or how they arrived at those beliefs would be begging the question on your position.

    Of course, you asserting that you had some substantial insight into the way others arrived at their beliefs would be conceding your argument, so…

  • Nemo

    How is Christianity supposed to give someone “purpose”, anyway? I never really got that. It may tell you how to live your life, but as far as explaining why you’re here, I can’t see that it offers anything but “to be God’s amusement”. Which doesn’t really warm my heart.

  • heddle

    Umlud,

    Regarding my typos: byte me.

    Anri,

    Can god grant grace without any intermediary agency or events?

    Yes, he does.

    I mean, he could (and you could argue that he does) conceal his action behind worldly circumstance, but it’s not required for him to do so, yes?

    Correct.

    He’s free to grant grace to anyone, at any time, in any manner, for his own unknowable reasons?

    The very essence of Calvinism. He will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

    KG,

    1) The Lutheran church is not Calvinistic, even though Luther was–in fact Luther wrote more on predestination than Calvin did. After Luther’s death, the Lutheran church went its own way under Philip Melanchthon and diverged from Reformation Calvinism.

    You are correct that the primary difference among the big three of the Reformation was the Lord’s Supper. Luther’s position of consubstantiation is, to me, indistinguishable from the Catholic position in any meaningful way. Zwingli’s position is similar to the modern Baptist position of “commemoration.” And Calvin sort of split the difference.

  • Anri

    The very essence of Calvinism. He will have mercy upon whom he will have mercy.

    Gotcha.

    Given this, can we agree that, as far as you’re concerned, this talk about ‘reasons’ for faith or lack thereof is just a smokescreen? That’s there’s no point in you talking about reasons, because there’s really only one reason, over which we have no control, and of which we can have no understanding (while on earth, anyway).

    Am I still following along this line of thought properly?

  • heddle

    Anri,

    Am I still following along this line of thought properly?

    You are not. As I have said, for the sake of argument we can use the reasons people perceive without regard to Calvinism. We can even, for the sake of argument, assume god does not exist. Otherwise the Calvinistic argument “you believe only because it was granted to you by grace” is an argument stopper, and it wasn’t my intention to argue as such.

  • Anri

    You are not. As I have said, for the sake of argument we can use the reasons people perceive without regard to Calvinism. We can even, for the sake of argument, assume god does not exist. Otherwise the Calvinistic argument “you believe only because it was granted to you by grace” is an argument stopper, and it wasn’t my intention to argue as such.

    But it’s all hypothetical to you, isn’t it?

    By which I mean that you’ve got the answer, you’re just interested in seeing what those who are out of the loop try to justify their delusions.

    You’re presumably like an astronaut at a Flat Earth convention – politely listening along, nodding at the appropriate places, but knowing that nothing said will actually make any difference to what you know to be so.

    I guess my point is – since you know the truth, why shouldn’t it be an argument stopper? Why should the argument continue when the issue’s been settled?

    Air is not an element – the Classical Elemental System is wrong, full stop. Why (except for the purposes of fiction writing, I guess) would you bother trying to figure out the best method for refining the quintessence of Air?

  • heddle

    Anri,

    How many times do I have to say it, and in how many different ways:

    I believe Calvinism to be true. That is not the same as I know Calvinism to be true.

    Nor do I know that god exists, nor do I know that the bible is his word.

      Believe ≠ Know

    Are you another person for whom the tried-and-true starting point of “for the sake of argument” is beyond your grasp?

    Air is not an element – the Classical Elemental System is wrong, full stop. Why (except for the purposes of fiction writing, I guess) would you bother trying to figure out the best method for refining the quintessence of Air?

    I don’t know wtf this means. I do know that I do not believe String Theory is the fundamental theory. But I am perfectly happy to–for the sake of argument–assume it is true and discuss the consequences and ramifications.

  • Chuck

    Atheists will experience feelings of emptiness

    That’s why evolution made cows.

  • Anri

    I believe Calvinism to be true. That is not the same as I know Calvinism to be true.

    How would you differentiate between your certainty of something you ‘know’ and something you ‘believe’?

    Are you saying you’re not convinced that Calvanism is true?

    Depending on what you hear here, you might change your mind about where faith comes from?

    Are you another person for whom the tried-and-true starting point of “for the sake of argument” is beyond your grasp?

    No, I’m just trying to figure out why you’re bothering.

    I don’t know wtf this means. I do know that I do not believe String Theory is the fundamental theory. But I am perfectly happy to–for the sake of argument–assume it is true and discuss the consequences and ramifications.

    I was attempting to point what a massive waste of time an energy that arguing after an ‘argument stopped’ has been found.

    String Theory might be correct in part, or may serve as a useful stepping stone to a beter theory. To the best of my knowledge (again, please correct), it has not been difinitively falsified as of yet.

  • http://umlud.blogspot.com umlud

    Note to heddle, turning the other cheek means the one on your face. Cheeky bugger’s got thin skin. 😀

  • http://last-comments.blogspot.com Aratina Cage

    It is easy to find examples where atheists assume, with no facts in evidence, reasons why believers believe. We are afraid of death, we have been indoctrinated, we are stupid, the unknown makes us anxious, etc. etc. etc. The psycho-babble is strong, and it flows in both directions.

    Replete bullshit. Heddle never seems to remember that many of us were theists at one point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.hallquist Chris Hallquist

    One of the more annoying things to me is hearing religious people project their inadequacies onto atheists and tell us what we must be feeling

    Ed, did you just call yourself an atheist? You never do that.

  • http://noadi.etsy.com Noadi

    I am sure many of you have questioned your reason for being here. I know I did. Many times. “Why am I here? Surely there must be more to life than this?”

    Yes, I have. Why do you think I’m an atheist? The difference is that when I questioned those things it fired up my curiosity so I learned everything I could find in regards to science, religion, and philosophy instead of clinging to the Bible as my sole source of answers. In the end I came to the conclusion that science has far sounder answers about our origins than religion and that religion is neither reliable nor consistent on questions of morality and ethics while there are a number of good non-theistic models of morality and ethics put out there by philosophy.