Why I’m Not An Angry Atheist

Recent comments:

…you’re entirely too nice and not forthright enough in your attacks on religious belief. You also seem to cozy up with the delusional too much and aren’t willing to engage them or challenge their inane ideas. Sarcastic comments like the ones you often provide don’t force the religious to examine their faith.

Cut the not-holier than thou stuff, Hemant.

I can’t believe I have to defend myself for not acting like a douchebag.

Not every discussion with religious people needs to be about how ignorant and wrong they are.

I certainly don’t believe in God and I do think those who believe in God are wrong in their thinking, but the best way to convince the majority of people that living without religion is even possible is to show them that atheists are kind, happy, and approachable– we’re not the bogeymen we’ve been made out to be for so long. If that happens, the logical reasoning behind atheism will follow.

Unfortunately, this “friendly atheist” image is not the one being presented. How often do you see an atheist on TV with a smile on his face?

Too many atheists wrongly believe that rational thinking is common sense. It’s not. It needs to be taught. And no one will listen and understand unless the teaching is coming from the mouth of someone whose trust has been earned.

Of course I’m against extreme religiosity, because it has caused so much harm in this world. I believe we’d be better off in a world where supernatural thinking didn’t play a role at all and I commend brilliant atheists like Richard Dawkins for bringing the intellectual challenges against faith to a broader audience than ever before.

But if your religious beliefs (illogical as they may be) are doing something positive for our community and our world, and in the process, you’re not trying to stop scientific progress, impede promising research, hurt my gay friends, control another woman’s body, force your beliefs upon anyone else, ask the government to give you special privileges, or make me fear coming out as an atheist in public, why should I be attacking you?

If you’re religious and you’re not doing any of that, I’ll be honest: I don’t really care what you believe. I’m glad you’re helping make the world I live in a better place for everyone. If the subject of faith comes up in conversation, I will hold my ground and challenge your beliefs. I’m confident that atheists will always have an upper hand when it comes to these discussions.

There are so many religious figures that all of us– Christian, atheist, anything– need to universally condemn. We can’t lose sight of what the real problem is. It’s not always “religion” itself. It’s the people that use religion as a tool to separate one group of people from another. Atheists know that we are all brothers, sisters, distant cousins; we’re all truly interconnected through evolution. Let’s bring down those people that use religion to ruin the lives of those who think differently, not the people that agree with us on the issues that really matter. Is our ultimate approval of others only stemming from their non-belief in God? Shouldn’t we be somewhat happy that they don’t believe the literal words of their holy books? Why not at least acknowledge that interpretation of the books might be a step forward?

For the “faithheads” who feel the same way I do, let’s start working together on the myriad of problems that religious and non-religious people agree need fixing.

When faced with those issues, there are more important things to worry about than why the good, intelligent religious people in our midst hold their beliefs.

And I’m sure there are many atheists that are reading that last sentence, ready to lash out at me because I used the words “intelligent” and “religious” together.

Being angry and antagonistic isn’t helping our cause. It never has. There are times and places when we need to be assertive, like when our rights are being violated. Usually, this is not the case.

Let’s give friendly atheism a chance here.

[Update: I removed one comment from the beginning of this post because I had misinterpreted what the author was saying. More info can be found in the comments.]


[tags]atheist, atheism, God, Richard Dawkins, Christian[/tags]

  • http://danharlow.com Dan Harlow

    I completely agree with you. Too often us atheists run around with a smug look on our faces – that same smug look we can’t stand coming from the preachers on television. I do not believe anything can be achieved by telling someone you disagree with that they are stupid – in fact most of us learned that back in grade school.

    My brand of atheism comes from the younger Carl Sagan school of atheism. In Cosmos he laid out the facts of the universe (evolution, the big bang, etc) without acting smug about it, he just taught the facts. He changed my life when I was just a kid and I still believe that knowledge and understanding are the most powerful tools a person can ever hope to obtain. That goes for people on both sides of the debate.

  • Bart Dorsey

    The only thing I would caution against in this approach, is by cozying and being friendly with liberal religious people in order to defeat extremist religious people is that many of the liberal and moderate religious people are apologists for the extremists. Many of the best arguments against religious extremism are also good arguments against moderate religious belief. They are in essence formed from the same mold in the end. In fact all of the reasoned rational arguments against belief in the supernatural apply to both camps. All you are left with are pragmatic arguments, which in the end are not as strong in my opinion. I do think it is possible to be friendly and still make the logical arguments against ALL supernatural belief however. There’s no reason to get nasty. Unfortunately to most religious people ANY criticism of supernatural beliefs is considered nasty, no matter how you say it. I believe there is a different standard applied to religious belief that is not applied to say, politics or any other ideological belief.

  • Bart Dorsey

    Theist: “I believe there are faeries in my garden”
    Atheist: “That’s not true”
    Theist: “Yes it is,I believe it on faith”
    Atheist: “That doesn’t make it true. I’ll show you a logical proof and scientific evidence that proves the unlikelyhood of fairies in your garden”
    Atheist goes on to talk and show logical proof and scientific proof.
    Theist: “Quit being arrogant and a show off. I have every right to believe what I want! Quit calling me STUPID!”

    Unfortunately this is what happens most of the time when the topic is personal religious beliefs. It is almost impossible to criticize the religious belief without the person who holds those beliefs feeling insulted. I don’t know what the solution is to this problem.

  • http://importreason.wordpress.com Simen

    Bart Dorsey said,

    The only thing I would caution against in this approach, is by cozying and being friendly with liberal religious people in order to defeat extremist religious people is that many of the liberal and moderate religious people are apologists for the extremists

    For their beliefs, perhaps, but certainly not for their actions.

    Many of the best arguments against religious extremism are also good arguments against moderate religious belief. They are in essence formed from the same mold in the end. In fact all of the reasoned rational arguments against belief in the supernatural apply to both camps.

    The intellectual arguments against faith apply equally well to all brands of believers, but the really nasty accusations come when the actions of believers are discussed, and that is where moderates and fundamentalists differ.

    All you are left with are pragmatic arguments, which in the end are not as strong in my opinion.

    The difference between the moderate and the extreme lies mostly in the pragmatic concerns, so I wouldn’t think arguments over the real-world effects of moderate vs. extreme faith are too far off.

    I believe there is a different standard applied to religious belief that is not applied to say, politics or any other ideological belief.

    Agreed.

  • http://atheistrevolution.blogspot.com/ vjack

    I hear you. I tend to be a bit less friendly on my blog than you do here, and I’ve still been accused of not being harsh enough. Some atheists appear to believe that one cannot say anything positive about religion or religious people. I like to think that the world is big enough for atheists to adopt several different approaches simultaneously. You do not need to be a douchebag because there are many out there who are all too proud to do that themselves.

  • http://everydayatheism.wordpress.com Zach Thomas

    I totally agree with you Hemant. I definitely think we need to work together with religious liberals to help create a more tolerant world where science can go on unimpeded, and people keep their basic human rights that fundamentalists want to take away. For me it isn’t so much about the supernatural beliefs people have, but how those beliefs impact everyone else, both politically with issues like creationism and stem cell research, and personally when it comes to bigotry against groups who are different. I tend to agree with religious liberals on everything but the God question, so why not work with them? That why I disagree with the approach of Sam Harris, as much as I love him.

  • http://atheistself.blogspot.com David W.

    I agree very much. It is a matter of leading by example. If we want them to be tolerant of us, we need to be tolerant of them. I think on the whole, we’re pretty good at this. Many atheists are very tolerant. So tolerant — or at least so closeted — that the problems we face as a group are being underrepresented in government and appearing weak and unorganized.

    We need a middle ground where we can speak out, but without being disdainful, disrespectful, or intolerant of the religious population. I believe we are starting to find this balance — with such great books as Letter to a Christian Nation and The God Delusion staying on the bestseller lists (and soon I Sold my Soul on eBay, too!) I think we are finally starting to look stronger and more organized. LtaCN and TGD are a bit on the strong side, but they’re a lot more civilized than this guy, or these people, which I am ashamed to have representing my beliefs.

  • http://lfab-uvm.blogspot.com/ C. L. Hanson

    Here’s one more atheist who completely agrees with you.

    I’m completely out in the open about my beliefs (and disbelief), but I don’t have a problem with religious people who want to cooperate across faith lines so that we can all live in an open and pluralistic society. I’d rather have these people as allies than alienate them by constantly telling them they need to change their cosmology.

    The goals of peace, tolerance, cooperation, and understanding are vitally important to me. I think a goal of “we must deconvert the whole world” is extremely counterproductive because it pushes people who should be our allies into the enemy camp.

    That said, I also believe in being up front about why I believe the way I do if anyone wants to know, and if I inadvertently persuade some people to give up belief in the supernatural, well, I won’t kick them off my blogroll… ;)

  • QrazyQat

    I have only a small bone to pick. I think that at times it does help to be “angry and antagonistic” — the problem is that people who have objectionable beliefs too often are able to go through life never really having those beliefs met with the kind of objection that wakes the person up to the fact that the beliefs are truly objectionable.

    This isn’t everyone. This is, for instance, for the religious types who are the equivalent of people like Klansmen wannabes in racism. These people may be truly horrible people and unreachable, but they may instead be people who’ve just never seen anyone get really upset at what they spew, and so have no idea that what they are saying — day in and day out — is objectionable. They’re living in a bubble, and the bubble needs bursting, and bursting it very often requires a sharp jab of “angry and antagonistic” reaction.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Hemant,

    I’m a Christian and I agree with you. In fact, you mentioned Rob Bell in a previous post and one of his NOOMA videos could very well apply in this situation, too. It is his “Bullhorn” video, which you can watch here. It probably doesn’t completely apply, but from experience I’ve found that many Christians view people like Dawkins and Harris as the “bullhorn guy.” Specifically when Bell says “…you think you are giving people the ‘good news’ but it doesn’t come across that way …”

    You can’t just shout truths in any way you want and think people are going to hear them. There are also “psychological” and “social” truths that deal with how people hear and receive “intellectual” truths.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    The only reason people don’t like the ‘bullhorn guys’ is due to their brutal honesty. Religious topics are either true or not and to partonize those that do not have the correct answer (e.g. the religious) is absurd. If I have a completely incorrect and illogical approach to a math problem, it does me no good for my teacher to try to reach a compromise with me. Rather, i expect that my teacher tells me straight up what I am doing incorrectly. Dawkins and Harris engage in this and the religious willingfully ignore them on the shallow grounds of their brash approach. It’s simply another cop-out for the religious. The means of which a message is spread should be of no importance when compared to the veracity of that message. The religious, in their delusion, simply do not want to hear their faith being portrayed as it is and thus prefer those that won’t fully challgene them.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    A note to Hemant regarding my criticism of this blog: Don’t get my wrong. I read this blog daily and thoroughly enjoy it. Even though I disagree with your approach, I still find your viewpoints worthwhile and often times spot-on. I personally enjoy Dawkins and Harris becuase they state the ideas so often silenced and deemed taboo by the religious majority. Maybe the debate needs more people like you because I don’t think that religious belief is going anywhere. I assume you hold many of the same views about the religious that I do, but in a public forum such as a blog, you don’t find it necessary to advertise them.

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    “The only reason people don’t like the ‘bullhorn guys’ is due to their brutal honesty.”

    No, it’s because they are obnoxious and annoying.

  • champ

    You honestly believe that everything came from nothing and then worry about calling Christians ignorant? lol!

  • http://www.funnylonelylife.blogspot.com mr k

    I completely agree… my feelings on atheism are actually similar to me being a vegetarian- I believe I am right to believe these things, but generally won’t lecture about them unless challenged to do so. People are free to believe what they want, and it generally is pointless to tell them what they believe is heavily unlikely…

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Champ:
    You are a prime example of religious blindness. Let’s review your borderline retarded comment.

    “You honestly believe that everything came from nothing.”

    In fact I don’t believe that. I believe the universe began (let’s assume a beginning is even a viable concept) with a big bang. String theory is approaching how to explain the origins of this event. Yes science seeks to explain natural phenomena, unlike religion which does nothing of the sort. And of course you so conveniently allow God to escape the cause and effect law that you impose on the universe. Did God come from nothing? Did God magically appear? Oh I forgot, God is eternal and outside the laws of nature. I’d call that a massive cop-out, but stating the obvious might come off as arrogant. Of course, I’m not doing justice to the wealth of philosophical opposition to your inane comment above. You should read Russell or Mills or Dan Barker for refutations of this arguement. Well after you put down C.S. Lewis.

    “and then worry about calling Christians ignorant.”

    Umm I never specified Christians in any of my comments. Funny how you added that in there yourself. My comments could be applied to any religious group (including Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc..).

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    many of the liberal and moderate religious people are apologists for the extremists.

    I know Harris likes to make this claim as a justification for his hostility towards all people of faith, but do you actually find it to be true? Have you ever known a Jim Wallis to defend the rhetoric of a James Dobson? Have you ever heard a Brian McLaren make excuses for the intolerance of a Jerry Falwell? Do you ever hear a Bishop Spong or even an NT Wright defend the theology of a Tim LaHaye?

    Let’s use unbiased empirical observation here: when have these kind of liberal and moderate Christians ever been apologists for the politics or the theology of extreme fundamentalists?

    If you use too broad of a brush, you end up painting a lot of things the wrong color.

  • Richard Wade

    To Bart Dorsey,

    Theist: “I believe there are faeries in my garden”
    Atheist: “That’s not true”
    Theist: “Yes it is, I believe it on faith”
    Atheist: “That doesn’t make it true. I’ll show you a logical proof and scientific evidence that proves the unlikelyhood of fairies in your garden”

    Do you really argue with theists that way? Why are you working so hard? That tack puts the onus of proof on you. Lots of luck proving a negative, especially about something that’s supposed to be invisible and evasive like faeries.

    I would respond to your theist’s initial statement with a series of levels of interest, depending on how much time I had and how looney the person seemed to be:

    Theist: “I believe there are faeries living in my garden.”
    My response, level 1: “Oh.”
    That usually ends the conversation, and I have enough time to escape or at least look around for something I can use as a weapon if need be.
    My response, level 2: “Oh? That’s an extraordinary thing to say. Can you show me what causes you to believe that?”
    Theist: “I believe it on faith.”
    My response, level 1: “Oh.” (Conversation probably ends.)
    My response, level 2: “Oh, so you don’t have any physical evidence?” (said calmly)
    Theist: “No I don’t need any physical evidence, my faith is enough.”
    My response, level 1: “Oh.” (Conversation probably ends.)
    My response, level 2: “Oh, so if I were to disagree with your claim of faeries living in your garden, and if I were to base my disagreement only on faith, would you accept that as a sufficient argument, or would you require me to prove it with physical evidence?”
    Theist: “Of course I’d require you to prove it, because you’re wrong.”
    My response, any level: Oh, so when you make a claim based on faith you don’t have to prove it, but when I make a claim based on faith I do have to prove it. Is that what you’re saying?”
    Theist: “Well, yes, because my faith is true and yours is not.”
    My response, any level: “I see. That’s why I never make any claims based on faith.”
    Theist: “Oh.” (Conversation probably ends.)

    Never defend your disbelief. Make the other guy defend his belief.

    For my part, I never engage in conversations like this in the first place because they’re almost 100% futile. Nobody’s coming out of it with changed beliefs or views.

  • Joanna

    I encounter similar problems as an atheist and a vegetarian … there are so many aggressive proselytizing vegetarians and atheists who give the rest of us a bad name. Just because I neither eat meat nor believe in god(s) doesn’t mean I have a problem with people who do. Thank you for your cry for polite and friendly atheism!

  • http://importreason.wordpress.com Simen

    The Unbrainwashed, nothing good ever came out of regarding those who disagree with you as stupid. I think there’s a useful line to be drawn between attacking someone’s belief on the one hand and attacking them as a person on the other.

  • http://awaitingrain.typepad.com Bill Huffhine

    Hello Mr. Mehta.

    I am Christian minister. I just wanted to post a quick hello to thank you for your blog and let you know that I’ve linked to you on my blog which is http://awaitingrain.typepad.com.

    I appreciate your voice. We Christians need to hear it to be driven to deeper places of understanding why we believe what we believe. I will enjoy following your posts.

    Bill

  • http://None K.C.

    Not having read any of the above and as a happy atheist I’m keenly aware of major benefits the world gets from having religious believers. Religion has helped bring people together (unless your against that) instead of remaining in small klans/tribes units. I can walk amongst all kinds of people groups without worrying about being shot (I was thinking arrows however guns can apply). And while some may argue that religion has cost the world many deaths I wouldn’t be at all surprised that religions has probably saved even more lives. Now while religion may be one of the biggest factors why the human population exploded on this planet, it doesn’t address how others will argue that religion has cost the world the natural places that we’d all prefer exist as in a pristine condition. I don’t ever want to let the religious right know that they’re wrong, you can’t argue with them and win. They do help us get along with our neighbors, without killing each other outright. Oh well, supposedly that’s progress.

  • Richard Wade

    Unbrainwashed,

    If I have a completely incorrect and illogical approach to a math problem, it does me no good for my teacher to try to reach a compromise with me. Rather, i expect that my teacher tells me straight up what I am doing incorrectly.

    Would it do you any good if your teacher started by saying that your mathematical approach is “borderline retarded,” as you said to Champ? If your teacher went even further and deeply humiliated and discouraged you, would you then be more likely to hear and understand his correction of your approach?

    Simply refraining from ridiculing and insulting someone is not “compromising.”

    Perhaps we should ask Champ if your approach with him helped him to see things your way.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant

    Unbrainwashed– Don’t get me wrong, either. I know what you’re saying is just a general difference of beliefs. But you’re not the first to say such things to me, so I just wanted to address it altogether.

    As a vegetarian, I’m not a huge fan of PETA either, for what it’s worth.

  • roo

    While I certainly agree that civilised discourse and a positive environment are of paramount importance, there are those among us that believe all religiosity is inherently dangerous. Therefore, ‘encouraging’ the liberal theists may allow it to survive longer.

    The pragmatic counterbalance is that there is a good possibility that first teaming up with the liberals to eradicate radicalism and then gradually leaving the religion-light behind would be more effective and faster.

    Spirituality seems to be an innate trait for a good portion of mankind. Redirecting it to some buddhist-type inner ascension or simply study of philosophy could be an important part of the weaning process.

  • http://www.conversationattheedge.com/ Helen

    The Unbrainwashed wrote:

    The only reason people don’t like the ‘bullhorn guys’ is due to their brutal honesty.

    If I have a completely incorrect and illogical approach to a math problem, it does me no good for my teacher to try to reach a compromise with me. Rather, i expect that my teacher tells me straight up what I am doing incorrectly.

    The means of which a message is spread should be of no importance when compared to the veracity of that message.

    The Unbrainwashed, if I didn’t know you were an atheist I would have guessed one of the more extreme conservative Christians I’ve encountered wrote these comments.

    You sound so much like them.

  • Devika

    Hemant, I appreciate your approach. In some ways, it’s what sets you apart from other atheists. I firmly believe that being at peace with oneself means one feels no need to control the thoughts and feelings of another. That belief meshes well with your approach, in my mind. I don’t like fundamentalists of any kind – religious, atheist, vegetarian, organic, etc. Scientists humble themselves to the data – they think critically, not dogmatically, about the world around them.

    We learn from example. When we see someone who is living/thinking differently than we do and experiences happiness, we take notice. We learn from example when we’ve developed our observational and critical thinking skills. I think this is the most “culturally competent” way to spread rational & scientific values. Keep up the good work. There is great potential for you to help others understand atheism.

    Let natural selection take care of the rest…

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    For those who think it is so important to get others to agree with your particular metaphysical beliefs (whether theist, atheist, or something else) I’d ask: will it greatly love and justice in the world? In a world where millions are still held in slavery so that we can have cheap chocolate and coffee and clothes; where women are sold into forced prostitution by the thousands; where we are plagued by war and racism, and systemic economic inequalites, should belief or disbelief in God really be where we draw our battle lines? Aren’t there much bigger fish to fry? Billions of people don’t have access to any kind of education at all, and yet we still act as if those who want to teach intelligent design are the biggest enemy to be faced? If there are progressive “liberal” Christians out there whose primary expression of faith is to fight these great social evils, will you really continue to shun and attack them merely because they still happen to believe in God?

    What, really, is most important? Is this really what ought to be dividing us?

  • Richard Wade

    Mike C,
    I’ll stand shoulder-to-shoulder with a Christian who fights the injustices you mentioned.

    In the meantime, “Intelligent Design” won’t get by me either, because that threatens to undermine science, and without a strong public understanding of science we won’t solve many of those other problems.

  • Richard Wade

    roo,

    The pragmatic counterbalance is that there is a good possibility that first teaming up with the liberals to eradicate radicalism and then gradually leaving the religion-light behind would be more effective and faster.

    Exactly. If your house is on fire, you put out the damn fire before you go about all the other things your house needs, like a coat of paint or redecorating.

    Radicalism-fundamentalism-extremism is threatening to consume the world. Fires on one continent light fires on another. I’m concerned with civilization physically surviving the rising lunacy over the next 20 years. If we can do that then the weaning process, as you call it, off of religion will take the next 500 to 1,000 years.

  • Oliver Savage

    Very much along the lines I am thinking/working. Some great comments, Devika and I are on the same wavelength. Control, and meddlers is what I avoid now. Much of my life I was an angry atheist, screaming at the wall of others glacial movements. Letting it all go freed me. Now I concentrate mostly on myself, how I can become a better person, to most effectively change the world through my actions.

    Where I can do good I do it. Where I can help change anothers ideas by them seeing what I “do” so much the better. When does pushing ideas on people work? Real belief in anything comes from a persons desire to investigate. Thus I try to be a spark, silent in the night.

    Right now I work at a Methodist church. It is one of the best jobs I have ever had. The office politics and drama are very low level. The social programs and thoughtful examination evinced by the church (and by church I mean congregation, staff, and clergy) are amazing. These are real, nose to the grindstone, Christian’s who for the most part make the world a better more peaceful place everyday.

    What has struck me the most is how invisible those who are following their faith, and are making a positive impact on the world go unnoticed. Another interesting tidbit is that although I have been, and continue to be, up front about my atheistic beliefs not once has anyone tried to convert me, not even subtlety.

    Taking this job was a concious challenge of my atheism. It has made me a stronger, more peaceful, less controlling atheist. As you would challenge those of belief with science, maybe you to could gain from exposure to others sentiments.

  • Joe

    It’s to bad when a group you are “part of” gives you a bad reputation. Being an athesist and you get lumped in to the group of “angry ” athesists because they are the ones the public get to know about.

    It ‘s unfortunate that moderates don’t get noticed. “hey look over there. it’s a group of people going on with their lives and being respectful and reasonable.” doesn’t quiet get headlines.

    As far as I can tell many of the angry athesists treat athesim similar to a religion.

    The Unbrainwashed laid down a perfect example. He feels that his faith in science gives him an unassiable position and that anyone with sense will have to bow to the absolute truth of his argument. If they do not agree then they can be tossed aside as stupid. So anyone that doesn’t see his side is less than a person. When you deal with everyone who disagrees with you as below you it is hard to hide your feelings of superiority and contempt. Many people don’t even bother to hide it.

    Richard Wade illustrated a great point about the religious versus athesist argumnet. I’m not sure all to that was his intent. No side can win the argument.

    I am a corporate research scientist. I can say without doubt that science can only answer simple simplistic questions with certanity.Even then the answers come from abstract science that is seperate from the real world. Eventually any argumnet in science comes down to the fact that you have faith in the scientific process and while theories can not explain every detail of a situation you have faith in the general results of the theory. If a religious person were to produce a device that science couldn’t explain and claimed it was from God, people who are reason based athesists would not fall on their knees and convert, they would simple wait for science to offer an some sort of reason.

    The exact same can be said for religion. In the end it offers no more proof than science. I believe in god because I look at all of the scattered evidence in the world and choose to have faith, even when other people look at same evidence and choose not to.

    When you realise that the only thing the seperates your argument from the other side is a simple act of faith it’s a lot harder to be angry.

  • http://www.feeltheitch.info kamy

    I just want this to end. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and should not try to enforce theirs on anybody else.

  • http://www.whatbox.blogspot.com Jennifer

    *Stands up applauding Hemant. Good work, brother.

  • LazyLightning

    Right on. I don’t go around bragging about my (lack of) belief. And when people find out about it, they’re always really surprised because I don’t seem like I’d be “that kind of person”. (A mean old jerk, I guess?)

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    And the more rabid brand of atheism begins to look suspiciously like an intellectual crusade, which only reinforces the theistic notion that atheism is indeed a religion. Atheists betray themselves by casting their arguments in the same “I’m right and you’re wrong” mold that the theists have been using for millennium. Not only have the theists had much more practice at defending their beliefs in such arguments, but it suggests either laziness or a profound lack of creativity on the part of those atheists making the argument. If atheists are so sure that they are smarter than theists maybe they should prove it by arguing their points smarter and not harder.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com Mike C

    If atheists are so sure that they are smarter than theists maybe they should prove it by arguing their points smarter and not harder.

    Very well said Darwin’s Dagger!

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com Mike C

    Oliver, that was beautiful. I’m very encouraged to hear about your experiences. Thank you.

  • Karen

    I know Harris likes to make this claim as a justification for his hostility towards all people of faith, but do you actually find it to be true? Have you ever known a Jim Wallis to defend the rhetoric of a James Dobson? Have you ever heard a Brian McLaren make excuses for the intolerance of a Jerry Falwell? Do you ever hear a Bishop Spong or even an NT Wright defend the theology of a Tim LaHaye?

    Let’s use unbiased empirical observation here: when have these kind of liberal and moderate Christians ever been apologists for the politics or the theology of extreme fundamentalists?

    Sam Harris understands this and would appreciate your point, which is accurate.

    However, his objection is to the broader promotion of “faith” itself. So where he objects to liberal believers, it’s not because they support the fundamentalists’ theology or politics (he knows they don’t), it’s because they persist in defending faith as a legitimate way to understand the universe.

  • Karen

    The pragmatic counterbalance is that there is a good possibility that first teaming up with the liberals to eradicate radicalism and then gradually leaving the religion-light behind would be more effective and faster.

    As a pragmatist, I don’t see that we have any choice in the matter. Nontheist numbers are growing, which is great, but we still don’t have clout to make a difference without the support of liberal believers of all stripes who are also committed to the ideals of separation of church/state, promotion of science, nondiscrimination and civil rights for all. Those angry atheists who want to piss everybody else off and go it alone are terribly impractical, if nothing else.

    Anybody familiar with geneticist Spencer Wells, who recently did a National Geographic special called the Journey of Man? I think his tone – calm, polite but unyielding when he talks about scientific fact – gets it just right. He doesn’t ridicule people who believe inaccurate ideas about their genetic origins (like Native Americans who insist their people arose on the plains of Arizona, when genetics show they came from Asian nomads), but he also isn’t deferential to that mythology in an effort to “respect” something that’s an error. He strikes a really nice balance.

    Spirituality seems to be an innate trait for a good portion of mankind. Redirecting it to some buddhist-type inner ascension or simply study of philosophy could be an important part of the weaning process.

    I would say that in a limited manner that’s already starting to happen, and it’s an encouraging trend.

  • Richard Wade

    Joe,

    Richard Wade illustrated a great point about the religious versus atheist argument. I’m not sure all to that was his intent. No side can win the argument.

    Thanks, Joe. I make a lot of great points so I’m not sure which one you’re referring to. So I’ll just make another:

    “Winning” a typical theist-atheist argument is not universally agreed upon because both sides use completely different criteria for defining what winning is.

    The only outcome where most people would agree that someone won would be where one side concedes, “You’re right, I’m wrong,” and unconditionally converts right then and there to the other side’s views.

    Don’t hold your breath for that one.

    The atheist criteria for defining winning is usually something like, “Did the atheist build a rational, logical argument based on credible evidence, and/or did he show the other side’s argument to be illogical or not based on credible evidence?”

    The theist criteria for defining winning is often something like, “Did the theist show steadfastness in his faith, even when faced with credible evidence contradicting his belief?”

    This is why both sides can come out of it thinking they won.

    What has actually happened is that both sides have lost time, breath, and respect. They have only won more contempt for and from the other side.

    Occasionally theists try to use the logic-evidence criteria, as in the recent “intelligent design” court cases. When they do, they invariably get pulverized.

    Occasionally atheists, especially the really pissed off ones get too shrill in their statements, and stray from their logic-evidence base. They come off looking like unhinged asses.

    None of these arguments are really for changing the views of the participants. They’re usually very entrenched and intractable. It’s the fence sitters watching from the sidelines who might be swayed one way or the other. That is why one’s tone and tactics are so important. Even if one side’s argument is weaker, if it has a respectable delivery it is more attractive to people who are still trying to decide.

  • Jen

    Here’s the problem I see with your argument. I disagree that religious people, even very liberal people, aren’t part of the problem, and here is why. Every time a form is filled out and a person ticks the Christian box, every time a person tithes to a church that is more conservative than their personal beliefs, every time they wear a fish shirt, they are helping to spread more conservative Christianity. Supporting the Bible supports an unedited book, and that unedited book is always going to inspire fundamentalists. These fundamentalists are going to do whatever these liberal Christians won’t- being mean to your gay friend, stopping me from controling my body, stopping our children from learning about science.

    I also hate the idea that we need to be quiet about our atheism. Sometimes, people need to run smut-for-smut campaigns to draw attention to their cause. Emphasizing the need for rational thought in regards to religion or anything else is a wonderful thing to spread.

    Joe- Science is not a religion, its a method.

    Mike C- I agree that there are more important things in this world than arguing religion, and certainly it is a modern, first-world thing that we can waste our time doing rather than helping people in the millions of ways people need help. On the other hand, there are many ways we spend our free time besides helping people, because one can’t just burn themselves out with causes. If I spend the morning at the soup kitchen, can’t I spend the afternoon arguing religion, politics, vegetarianism, whatever I want? Its a false idea that one can only argue religion or help people.

  • stogoe

    Eh. You’re probably right that religion won’t go away in your lifetime, and that there are religious progressives working for the good of freedom. Good for you.

    What I want to do is to destroy religion’s cloak of immunity to discussion and criticism +5[/geek]. It disgusts me that belief in gobbledygook nonsense is so fetishized that any hint of non-reverence towards it causes a pandemic of the vapors. NOMA nicey-niceness won’t help tear down their shroud of ill-gotten deference.

    Plus, any belief in a god is still pretty silly, even if the believer is one of those ‘good progressive liberals’. But there are a lot of silly things in the world. Oh well.

  • Joe

    Richard Wade:

    “What has actually happened is that both sides have lost time, breath, and respect. They have only won more contempt for and from the other side.”

    I do not believe this to be necesarly true. Unless you have more contempt for me then when we started; since you do not know me I can only assume you had none.

    “The theist criteria for defining winning is often something like, “Did the theist show steadfastness in his faith, even when faced with credible evidence contradicting his belief?””

    Yeah some thesist aren’t that bright. I guess than can be said about anyone. It’s more important for faith to be questioned and for the believer to reconcile what has been presented. That should be a part of intellegent discourse any any topic even religion.

    Jen – as someone who argues against religion you need to realize that the bible is an extremly edited and condensed book that has been subject to traslation and rewritting over a great deal of time.

    Here is a great argument to use against people wo do not speak ancient greek. Any time the pull out a bible quote as truth tell them that the original texts were written in ancient greek or hebrew. Since most people who literally interpet the bible are not Catholic remind them that a bunch of papists decided what books to pick and choose to assemble as a “bible”. Also nowhere in the bible does it say that God wrote it. So it could just be a pack of lies.

    Also science is very much treated as a religion by many. The scientific process is sound. The interpertaion of the results of that process are highly flawed. A large amount of faith is placed in scientific research. Any theory that is used without personal rigorous testing and reproduction of the results of that research is simply faith.

    Even within working theory there are quite simply large gaps of information that must be bridged by faith in the process as being able to provide an answer. Evolution has large holes in it, that doesn’t make it untrue in any sense. The gaps require a leap of faith in the theory of evolution for research to continue.

    Most people are highly ignorant as to what the results of scientific research actually mean and when they do and do not apply.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    On the other hand, there are many ways we spend our free time besides helping people, because one can’t just burn themselves out with causes. If I spend the morning at the soup kitchen, can’t I spend the afternoon arguing religion, politics, vegetarianism, whatever I want? Its a false idea that one can only argue religion or help people.

    I agree… but my point was not about wasting time or only being able to focus on one thing. You’re quite right to say that we all have to potential to engage in many different causes and issues.

    My point was that we are dividing over the wrong things and losing potential allies for the fight over issues that are far more important than differences in metaphysical beliefs. Some here have suggested that it is a good idea to attack and ridicule theists, even the more progressive ones. But if you do that, I suspect that many of us will then be far more hesitant to work together with you on any of these other issues that matter far more.

    In other words, while your time may be a resource that you can afford to “waste”, collaborative friendships are not – those kind of friendships are some of the most valuable resources we have in the fight against poverty, injustice, war, and ecological catastrophe. If you undermine and destroy them through pointless hostility, what will you be left with? Will you be able to change the world if the only help you’re willing to receive is from those who already think exactly like you?

  • Jen

    Joe- Of course I realize the Bible has been edited by people over time. This is why I do not believe it to be a sound document on which to base my life. However, certain people, such as many Christians, either don’t realize this, think the editing doesn’t matter, think God directs the edits and translations and whatever. My point was not that, it was that Christianity takes a particular book and, to various degrees, holds that book up to be the basis for laws, thought, and morals. The problem arises because that book is full of incidences where God is morally suspect (for instance, take the story in Judges where God commands a man to slaughter his daughter in exchange for a victory) or full of laws and rules that we as a general rule no longer believe in (say, that rape victims should be stoned to death, or that slavery is AOK!) There will be some Christians who explain away these types of things, and can somehow turn out alright. However, as long as verses like those stay in the Bible, people are going to read them and be inspired to follow them, to the detriment of others. Therefore, it does not matter how many people can read the Bible and turn into liberal, loving people- my point is that there will always be the Jerrys and the Bennys and the 700 Club, because that is the natural path for someone who reads the Bible and believes it to be the Word of God, No Really. Because these people are, in my opinion, following the Bible closer than the my liberal Christian friends (YMMV).

    There, you may agree or disagree with that, but this is what I was trying to get across.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “Winning” a typical theist-atheist argument is not universally agreed upon because both sides use completely different criteria for defining what winning is.

    For me “winning” a discussion usually only means that the other person said something like “I can see where you’re coming from. I still may not agree, but you have a valid perspective even if it’s not mine.”

    Of course, very few people (whether atheists or Christians) are willing to give an answer like that because it requires a kind of postmodern humility that believes there are often multiple potentially right answers to a question depending on one’s foundational starting assumptions (all that “worldview” stuff we talked about in the other thread) or on one’s particular interpretation of the limited set of data; and that because of our epistemic limitations as human beings, we often can’t know what the ultimately right answer is.

    If one does have that postmodern perspective it is easy to say to someone “Your point is valid, I just don’t share your presuppositions.” For instance, even though I am a theist, I do not think that atheists are wrong in their rationale for being atheists. I just think they’ve chosen to interpret the data differently than I have – probably because they share a few different foundational presuppositions from me.

    However, in a more Modern (black & white) mode of thinking, there can only ever be one right answer to any question, and you’re either right or you’re wrong (there’s no room for differing interpretations) and thus you can never admit that someone you think is wrong still may have a valid way of looking at things.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Therefore, it does not matter how many people can read the Bible and turn into liberal, loving people- my point is that there will always be the Jerrys and the Bennys and the 700 Club, because that is the natural path for someone who reads the Bible and believes it to be the Word of God, No Really. Because these people are, in my opinion, following the Bible closer than the my liberal Christian friends (YMMV).

    I’ve found it so fascinating this past year to discover how many atheists think that the Fundamentalists are essentially correct in their interpretation of the Bible and subsequent practice of Christianity. It’s strange to me that they’d be willing to let the Fundies frame the debate in this way. And it’s also strange to me how unsupportive most atheists are of more “liberal” (I would say more historically and culturally contextual and therefore more accurate) interpretations of the Bible.

    Here’s what’s so weird about it: most atheists will say that they value intelligence and education – and yet when it comes to biblical interpretation they trust the people who are the least educated and most ignorant about history and culture and literary context. Why would you take their word for it? Why not trust the more progressive Christians who tend to interpret the bible through a much more educated lens?

  • puto

    could it be because you’re a pussy and can’t atack religion for what it is? I mean c’mon grow a fucking spine…

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Hemant, what did you do to call out the trolls?

  • Pingback: Why I’m not a “friendly” atheist. at Hanlon’s Razor

  • Simon

    “I can’t believe I have to defend myself for not acting like a douchebag.”

    Me neither, considering I doubt that anybody who has ever commented here wants you to act as such, Hemant. The comments you quoted at the beginning of this post certainly don’t support that view.

    As for some of the people (and I’m not talking about Hemant here) who think they are so very friendly, unlike those “angry” atheists over there…I dunno, you yourselves sound pretty angry about those so-called angry atheists who annoy you. Does that mean that somebody should label you as “angry”? Of course not, because you are merely expressing frustration with somebody who you disagree with in some manner. Which is exactly what they have done.

    If the friendly atheists are going to split atheists into “friendly” and “angry” camps, I’m going to have to think long and hard about which side to join (if I’m even given the option). I’d rather not have a label forced on me though.

  • Jen

    Mike C- I didn’t see your earlier comment directed towards me, and I would also like to respond to your second comment, so here goes.

    I wasn’t trying to support the idea that we can ridicule theists, so I think I misinterpreted what you said. I was arguing that religious debate is important and will not get in the way of doing good things as allies. You were saying the same thing, except I thought you were against all religious debate, and now I am understanding you really were focusing the problems with spuring your allies over theological differences. I think we are on the same page, here, then.

    On to the Bible- again, I think we are on a similiar page here, but correct me if I am wrong. I am saying that the Bible is full of objectional material, and so are you. You are saying that educated Christians can explain away certain verses for historical, theological, etc, reasons, and I am saying that people I know tend to ignore those verses because they know these verses don’t make sense for some reason, but can’t really put their finger on why. This is probably because you are a pastor and I am a recent college grad, so your Christian friends are more educated about religion than mine, and thus can know all the historical, theological, etc ideas. I suppose I just don’t understand how a God who is supposedly guiding the writing (and rewriting and translating and etc) can allow his scribes to include passages allowing slavery when it was the culture allowing it, not the God. Wouldn’t he stop these things from being included? Its like this when I see progressve Christians telling me that they are ok with gay people- I like it, because I am pro-gay, but on the other hand, I don’t really think all six verses against it can be explained away so easily, so it makes more sense when Phelps is protesting it than when Christians are ok with it.

  • Karen

    Richard Wade:

    Thanks, Joe. I make a lot of great points so I’m not sure which one you’re referring to.

    snicker, snicker … you really need to bolster that ego, y’know? ;-)

    What has actually happened is that both sides have lost time, breath, and respect. They have only won more contempt for and from the other side.

    Hmm. That may be true for virulent back-and-forth online arguments between atheists and theists, but it’s certainly not true in the “friendly” discussions we’ve had here and at some of the related sites in the past year or so. I would say in many cases both sides have gained respect and new understanding, while in other cases people on both sides have become more hardened in their original positions.

    The real impact, which you alluded to, is on the sidelines lurkers who are pondering silently and whose minds are often more open to new information. I know firsthand because I was one of them a few years ago!

  • http://mayamasquerade.blogspot.com/ maya

    This is such a great post. It’s so annoying when people seem to interpret atheism as automatically being antagonistic toward religion. I agree so much with this — my philosophy is simply this: if you’re using religion to make yourself a better person or to improve something about the world, good for you. If you’re using it to condemn or control or opress others, shame on you.

    You make an excellent point when you say it’s not the religion that causes the most trouble, but its practitioners.

    This made my day. The next time someone lumps me in with angry atheists, I’ll point them towards this blog, because, unfortunately, people don’t hear about the friendly ones enough.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    say it with me: AGNOSTICISM

    Not the act of faith: THERE IS NO GOD
    Not the act of faith: THERE IS GOD

    No, the middle path: I don’t see any overwhelming evidence for there being a god, and until some shows up, I happen to believe X, Y or Z.

    You can’t go beyond the evidence and still claim to be a scientist. You can’t – as a scientist – ignore the fact that religious beliefs are as universal in humankind as sex. Something – even if it’s neurological – is going on, and it demands at least enough respect to say “religious belief is an unexplained phenomena.”

    Whether you think that the eyewitness reports recorded in religious texts are hallucinations does not change that these things are still reported, over and over again, particularly in countries like India. The phenomena that caused the formations of religion still occur, which is why the Indians keep producing new stuff.

    But that’s an aside: agnosticism is rational. Both atheism and religious belief involve staking a claim on something unseen and demanding it be accepted as truth.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    On to the Bible- again, I think we are on a similiar page here, but correct me if I am wrong. I am saying that the Bible is full of objectional material, and so are you. You are saying that educated Christians can explain away certain verses for historical, theological, etc, reasons, and I am saying that people I know tend to ignore those verses because they know these verses don’t make sense for some reason, but can’t really put their finger on why. This is probably because you are a pastor and I am a recent college grad, so your Christian friends are more educated about religion than mine, and thus can know all the historical, theological, etc ideas. I suppose I just don’t understand how a God who is supposedly guiding the writing (and rewriting and translating and etc) can allow his scribes to include passages allowing slavery when it was the culture allowing it, not the God. Wouldn’t he stop these things from being included? Its like this when I see progressve Christians telling me that they are ok with gay people- I like it, because I am pro-gay, but on the other hand, I don’t really think all six verses against it can be explained away so easily, so it makes more sense when Phelps is protesting it than when Christians are ok with it.

    Jen,

    These are some great questions. I wish it were possible for me to explain to you how I look at each of these difficult passages in the Bible, but obviously I don’t have the time to go issue-by-issue and verse-by-verse with you. However, I hope I can explain just one of the biggest “lenses” that I use when interpreting scripture.

    I don’t view scripture as a word-for-word dictation of God’s unchanging will for all time. The Bible, IMHO, is primarily a story, a narrative of God’s constantly evolving interactions with humanity. God doesn’t deal with all people in all cultures and time periods in exactly the same way. Instead he meets us where we are at, communicates only what we are able to handle at that time, and gives us just enough to keep us (individually and societally) moving on an upward journey of moral development. God doesn’t just give us absolute rules for all time – her goal is to form us, shape us into his agents of love, justice and reconciliation. Thus, the Bible, IMHO, should be seen as a record of this ongoing social and spiritual transformation, and should also be seen as one of the tools God continues to use for our ongoing formation – again, not by telling exactly what we’re supposed to do, but by telling us a provocative story of God at work in the world and then inviting us to write our own selves into the story and imagine together what the next chapter might be.

    So when I come to the parts of the Bible that offend me – the violence, the intolerance, the injustices – I don’t assume that was God’s perfect will for all time. I assume that that was where the story was at back then, and how they understood God and her will from their own historically and culturally limited points of view (just as we do from ours). It was perhaps a phase we had to go through to get to where we are now.

    I know that’s just a rough sketch but I hope it’s a little helpful. Believe me, I’ve wrestled with a lot of these same issues that you raise here. This is just how I have come to make sense of them. YMMV.

    Peace,

    -Mike

  • Will

    You can’t go beyond the evidence and still claim to be a scientist. You can’t – as a scientist – ignore the fact that religious beliefs are as universal in humankind as sex. Something – even if it’s neurological – is going on, and it demands at least enough respect to say “religious belief is an unexplained phenomena.”

    Vinay, scientists have been undertaking very good attempts to understand why religious beliefs are a human universal for quite some time now. Maybe you should take a look at books like Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained or Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. I fail to see why they should regard it as simply unexplainable. No scientist worth his/her salt would say “this is unexplainable” about a certain phenomena and give up. The whole point of science is to investigate that which is unexplained to see if one can discover how it works.

  • http://www.letstakeover.blogspot.com/ David Jackmanson

    I wrote the ‘politeness carbs’ comment and I think you’ve taken it the wrong way. It was meant to be a light-hearted remark pointing out that eating all that bread to be polite, instead of contradicting or arguing with your hosts meant you might put on weight.

    I am a materialist atheist who also gets annoyed with horoscopes, crystal power etc.

    This is the only atheism website I bother to read, precisely because I am tired of self-righteous atheists who keep turning up when I use StumbleUpon, and who appear to be under the illusion that Christianity will collapse once we demonstrate that the Bible has contradictions in it.

    I fully support the ‘friendly’ approach of this site, which seems to me to be one of the very few atheist sites actually thinking about what strategies might be sucessful, instead of promoting smug agreement about how smart we atheists are.

    For more of an idea about how I think atheists need to approach those with religious beliefs, you can read a 900-word comment I wrote over 6 months ago , as a response to an article called “Religion, Theocracy, and the Left“.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com FriendlyAtheist

    David– Wow. Ok. You’re right. I completely misinterpreted that one. (In fact, now, it’s downright funny.)

    Perhaps the “ambiguosity” of it all just shows how easily comments can be taken the wrong way even if it’s not the author’s intent.

    I apologize. I’ll remove the comment from the piece.

    – Hemant

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    David,

    Please join us at http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ where we continue the positive tone of discussion.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Vinay, scientists have been undertaking very good attempts to understand why religious beliefs are a human universal for quite some time now. Maybe you should take a look at books like Pascal Boyer’s Religion Explained or Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. I fail to see why they should regard it as simply unexplainable. No scientist worth his/her salt would say “this is unexplainable” about a certain phenomena and give up. The whole point of science is to investigate that which is unexplained to see if one can discover how it works.

    Yeah, I’m not unfamiliar with Penrose, Dennett, Blackmore etc. However, if you take the standards of proof expected in physics, and apply them to the work done so far on human religiosity, I think you’ll agree that we’re not really dealing with “science” here quite yet. There’s a lot of speculation but very little actual insightful experimentation and still less verifiable result. I think it’s a gross overstatement to stay that anybody has a solid handle on these phenomena or tendencies yet.

    “We don’t know” is a really powerful foundation for science. Consider the evolutionary biology of homosexuality – from our current models, it just makes no damn sense. Could it be like sickle cell anemia? If so, what’s the pressure equivalent to malaria? Why the prevalence across species?

    “We don’t know!”

    Same with questions like the origin of mass, or the particle zoo.

    It’s an act of FAITH – yes, faith – to assume that the scientific method will continue to solve all of these problems.

    The “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” for example may have simply come from mining a particularly deep vein of correspondence between the physical universe and our mathematical models around the Calculus. Work by guys like Chaitin (see Omega Numbers) casts real doubt on whether we can *assume* that mathematics will *always* tightly couple to physical phenomena.

    Nowhere does the scientific method get a “by” – we can’t assume it goes on forever, we can’t assume is solves all problems. We can only look at what has been done and guess – and hope – that we’ll continue to make progress.

    But I think we can agree that if we look at the woeful state of physics right now: stuck in the intractable quagmire of the particle zoo, string theory falling to pieces and little hope of a direct theoretical replacement… what if that situation simply never resolves because either

    1> the problem is too hard
    2> the assumptions about modelability and predictability which lie at the heart of science turn out to be local to areas of experience like relativity or thermodynamics, but don’t generalize to QM

    in either case, science runs aground.

    If you can think about that clearly as something that really *could* happen, I think you’re still on solid ground as a scientist.

    If it seems unthinkable, really ask yourself why? If the answer is “I have faith in the scientific method” then it’s time to declare Science a religion, get non-profit funding for the churches, and turn out the lights in the lab.

    It’s a mode of inquiry which has produced very good results so far. Nothing more, nothing less. You’ll find, if you read the esoteric texts on yoga (see, say, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra – BKS Iyengar translation) that they also have a rational procedure of inquiry, where observed mental states are modified by a series of experimental practices. It has it’s areas of utility.

  • Richard Wade

    Joe,
    I have no contempt for you, not at all. We haven’t even been disagreeing much, if at all. Even if we were, I don’t form hard feelings because of someone’s opinions, beliefs or arguments; I only disapprove of someone if their methods, tone or tactics are impolite, rude, vulgar, unkind, snide, or the rest of the host of negative stuff that I so often see over at places like OnFaith. So much of that venom is both distasteful and boring.

    Karen,
    Yes, I was referring to those annoying playground style arguments of “Is not.” “Is too.” “Is not.” “Is too.” ad nausea using the same tired handful of arguments for and against the existence of God that don’t work either way. If the only thing that gets these masterpieces of tedium interesting is someone getting snotty, then it’s time to change the channel. That’s why I hang out over here. People here generally use their brains for more than creating clever put-downs.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    But I think we can agree that if we look at the woeful state of physics right now: stuck in the intractable quagmire of the particle zoo, string theory falling to pieces and little hope of a direct theoretical replacement… what if that situation simply never resolves because either

    1> the problem is too hard
    2> the assumptions about modelability and predictability which lie at the heart of science turn out to be local to areas of experience like relativity or thermodynamics, but don’t generalize to QM

    in either case, science runs aground.

    If you can think about that clearly as something that really *could* happen, I think you’re still on solid ground as a scientist.

    If it seems unthinkable, really ask yourself why? If the answer is “I have faith in the scientific method” then it’s time to declare Science a religion, get non-profit funding for the churches, and turn out the lights in the lab.

    Wow! You just blew my mind. I had never really thought about it in these terms before. Thanks for this Vinay.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    History and philosophy of science, mate :-)

    The *real* revolution of science is the idea that the universe is regular: that if you do the same thing in two places, at two times, the result should be the same.

    That was, as I understand it, a pretty major innovation. These axiomatic principles of science are scarcely understood because people think of science as a set of facts they found using the method, rather than the method and what lies behind the method.

    And, thanks :)

  • Karen

    It’s an act of FAITH – yes, faith – to assume that the scientific method will continue to solve all of these problems.

    I don’t buy that assertion for a nanosecond.

    “Faith” is believing in something in the absence of evidence; or believing in something in the face of contradictory evidence.

    The scientific method has given us 400 years of solid evidence that it’s a valid means of getting good information about the universe. Expecting that it will continue to do so is not a faith-based expectation but a reason-based expectation backed up by solid data.

    Will it someday be proven inadequate? Anything’s possible. But unless or until it goes down in flames, it’s the best thing we’ve got by far. There’s no reason not to keep pushing its limits and keep relying on it instead of on faith-based methodology, which has proven over several millennia that it doesn’t work. (Which worked better to eradicate or at least vastly reduce virulent diseases that used to kill millions of kids under 5: Prayer, supplication, temple offerings, devotion, faith? – or the scientific understanding of the germ theory of disease?)

    But I think we can agree that if we look at the woeful state of physics right now: stuck in the intractable quagmire of the particle zoo, string theory falling to pieces and little hope of a direct theoretical replacement… what if that situation simply never resolves because either

    1> the problem is too hard
    2> the assumptions about modelability and predictability which lie at the heart of science turn out to be local to areas of experience like relativity or thermodynamics, but don’t generalize to QM

    in either case, science runs aground.

    If you can think about that clearly as something that really *could* happen, I think you’re still on solid ground as a scientist.

    You’re vastly jumping the gun, I’m afraid. If you study your history of science, you’ve undoubtedly run across multiple roadblocks over the centuries wherein problems were declared simply Too Tough to handle, or people were declared Mentally Unsuited to solve.

    At each of those junctures there arose a Copernicus, a Newton, an Einstein, a Hubble – some genius who could see the problem from a different angle, devise a new experiment, and make a breakthrough. It’s way too early in the brief history of quantum mechanics to throw the hands up and say “Science simply can’t solve this.” And even if it proves too difficult to solve with today’s understand and today’s technology, that surely doesn’t prohibit holding the question up for future generations to tackle.

  • http://www.letstakeover.blogspot.com David Jackmanson

    Thanks very much Siamang, I just had a quick look and your site seems very promising. Will dig deeper after work.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    “Faith” is believing in something in the absence of evidence; or believing in something in the face of contradictory evidence.

    Karen, I’m surprised. I’d have thought that you have been in this conversation long enough to know that this definition of faith is not accurate to the way most religious people actually use the term.

    Honestly, the only people I know who define faith this way are atheists trying to use it against people of faith.

  • Karen

    Karen, I’m surprised. I’d have thought that you have been in this conversation long enough to know that this definition of faith is not accurate to the way most religious people actually use the term.

    Honestly, the only people I know who define faith this way are atheists trying to use it against people of faith.

    I’m using the Hebrews 11:1 definition I committed to memory many, many eons ago in Sunday School: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

    i.e. – Being sure (“assurance”) of something we only hope is true, and sure (“conviction”) of something for which we have no evidence (“things not seen”). That’s how it was parsed in my church, and that was an explicitly stated goal for all of us to work toward.

    Hebrews 11:1 is one of the first verses I ever learned. And I also recall that the idea of believing in something without evidence was considered a very high and worthy ideal, ala John 20:29:

    “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

    I agree that nobody but an atheist would summarize it as bluntly as I did, however. ;-)

  • QrazyQat

    When Vinay says, “what if that situation simply never resolves because…” you have to ignore what Karen points out: “Expecting that it will continue to do so is not a faith-based expectation but a reason-based expectation backed up by solid data.” To expect that what has happened repeatedly, time and time again, in fact, every time is rather like not expecting the sun to be there tomorrow — sure, it could happen, but anyone seriously offering a “what if” about it is being very foolish.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Karen, the issues is this: we’ve had *four hundred years* of _partial_ success from the scientific method.

    The areas of failure, so far, include:

    * the particle zoo
    * nonlinear dynamics
    * psychology beyond a very simple level
    * sociology
    * economics

    These are areas where “science” has produces results which fall so far below the level we expect from, say, physical chemistry or genetics, that we don’t even honor these fields with the name “sciences” in some case.

    This is like doctors burying their mistakes. Not all areas are equally tractable, and those areas where we meet limited success we demote from the rank of Science to an “ology.”

    Freud and his early cohorts were *certain* that they were on track to putting the study of the human mind on a basis as certain as physics. Didn’t turn out that way, which is why it’s an “ology.”

    So, yes, for four hundred years, we’ve had _partial_ success. Some problems have gone down, some haven’t. Now, what’s your **RATIONAL** basis for claiming that, because we’ve kept finding tractable areas for 400 years, we’ll continue to do so long into the future.

    That, my goodness, is a pure expression of faith. “It was this way yesterday, so it will be this way tomorrow.” Well, no. It’s not like the sun continuing to rise – for that, we have a *very* long history, in an unchanging physical situation. Tractability of intellectual problems is not an unchanging landscape: over time, the easy stuff gets done, leaving harder and harder problems to the subsequent generations – it’s a selective pressure (not an evolution, but a selective pressure.)

    What if the next Newton – the guy who’ll fix the Particle Zoo or unify gravity with electromagnitism or whatever – what if they aren’t born for another 200 years? And the one after that six hundred years, simply because the problems get harder and harder and the level of insight required gets pushed further and further out along the bell curve?

    *Quite* plausible, if you assume that we are surrounded by problems of varying tractability littering our intellectual landscape.

    I’m not sure I *agree* with the case I’m making here – I think that there are at least a dozen ways of modeling the scientific process relative to the problem landscape, but, from my perspective, what you said here:

    The scientific method has given us 400 years of solid evidence that it’s a valid means of getting good information about the universe. Expecting that it will continue to do so is not a faith-based expectation but a reason-based expectation backed up by solid data.

    Will it someday be proven inadequate? Anything’s possible. But unless or until it goes down in flames, it’s the best thing we’ve got by far.

    This is a pure example of Faith In Science. This is exactly how religious people feel about their traditions: “it worked well since 4,000 BC and, yes, there are some problems, but why would you doubt what has worked so well for us?”

    “It worked before, so it will work again” ignores the fact that the situation has changed: simple problems have been solved, harder ones remain. The areas that could be tested with the instruments we could construct have been mined out: if the unification principles in physics can’t be seen until we can build galaxy-sized colliders, the field is going to stall for Quite Some Time.

    You can’t take science on faith. **EVERY** individual discovery, every place we find order in the universe, is a surprise.

    I strongly suggest you look up Chaitin’s work on Omega Numbers for some more of the context. Godel’s work on the incompleteness of mathematics is only the beginning of discovering the mathematical constraints on order and logic.

    I don’t mean to sound high handed here, but it’s not like I haven’t thought about these issues long and hard. If my religion (I’m a Hindu) forced me to choose between it and Science, I’d pick science. But, fortunately, it doesn’t.

    But I recognize the smell of faith in your words, and I think that you could find a lot of empathy for religious people if you understood that the trust you place in Science – that it will continue to work – is exactly the feeling they have for their religions.

    Science may one day end. The rules of the game do not say it will always be there, only that the procedure, repeated, seems to work, at least for now.

    An agnostic stares at the universe as a scientist.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Vinay,

    I look at that list and say “Big deal”. If that’s your list of failures in science, those are entire realms of knowlege and questions we didn’t know even existed until recently.

    Contrast that with the strides in germ theory, medicine, antibiotics, space exploration, cosmology, etc. etc. etc. We’ve sequenced the human genome. We’ve found the grand theory unifying and undergirding all of biology. There are areas of study in science where our knowlege of the natural world doubles every five years. We are currently living in a golden era of expansion of human knowlege and understanding that makes the Rennaissance look like kindergarten.

    Oh, whoopee… we don’t understand everything about economics yet. What a huge CRASHING FAILURE of science! (BTW, we walked on the fucking moon.)

    HELL YES I have admiration of science. HELL YES I look at it as the best tool in our arsenal for understanding the universe. Jesus healed a couple lepers and was called a God for doing so.

    Modern medicine healed all of the lepers.

    Jesus walked on water. The Wrights walked on air, and Armstrong walked on the moon.

    I don’t have “faith” in science, if “faith” means I cannot be shown a better way.

    I’m just waiting for science’s superior.

    Let me know when someone prays themselves to the moon, or uses a ouija board to sequence the genome of a filovirus.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Siamang, listen to what I’m saying: this is not about science vs. religion. This is about you misunderstanding *what science is and why it works.*

    If you don’t understand that the idea that science will keep working is a dogma building up around science like plaque building up around an artery, or a cavity under a tooth.

    The scientific method works *one event at a time.* You start expecting it to keep working and you’ve lost touch with *what it is.*

    The fact that some areas are intractable to science is not small news: it means that we’re going to have to live with some pretty major unknowns for a long time. It also suggests that we might “mine out” the area we can know, leaving us surrounded by intractable problems we can only very, very slowly advance on.

    That’s a major shift – nobody expects science to plataux, but this particle zoo business is serious: physics is the spearhead, and it’s currently badly blunted and much in need of a clean sweep theory. And it’s been that way for about 60 years depending on how you count.

    Consider this, if you will:

    http://www-2.dc.uba.ar/profesores/becher/ns.html

    Solid math, from Godel’s successor, Chaitin, suggesting that the aristotelian dream is, indeed, completely dead.

    Please read it, and see if you can see where I’m coming from better afterwards. The case is just this: that we can’t have faith in science, more than we can have faith in anything else. It works for as long as it works, where it works, but it’s not a final answer to anything and pretending that it is contaminates the practice of finding truth where we can (science) with the insistence that the truth make itself known to un on terms we can accept (a form of religion.)

    Faithless.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Karen, I see what you mean. I don’t want to get into a big discussion here about how I think that verse should be more rightly understood (I don’t think it’s talking about epistemology – it has more to do with trusting that God will fulfill his promises), but I can see how you could get your definition of faith from (one common interpretation of) that verse.

    I just don’t think it’s a good definition. At least, it’s not how I would define/describe faith for myself (in the sense that we talk about it here). And despite how the fundamentalists interpret that verse, I don’t think most other Christians use it in that way either.

  • Stephan

    Just Curious.

    What evidence would convince you Evolution Theory was wrong?

    What evidence would convince you God was real?

  • http://www.hanlonsrazor.org/2007/03/12/why-im-not-a-friendly-atheist/ Pat Swanson

    I’ve included the link to the article “why I’m not a friendly atheist”. It’s good reading.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Funny thing Stephan, I don’t think evolutionary theory is wrong, and yet I still believe God is real…

    It’s not always an either/or.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Cool article, Vinay. Thanks for the link.

    Vinay wrote:

    The case is just this: that we can’t have faith in science, more than we can have faith in anything else. It works for as long as it works, where it works, but it’s not a final answer to anything and pretending that it is contaminates the practice of finding truth where we can (science) with the insistence that the truth make itself known to un on terms we can accept (a form of religion.)

    I didn’t say Science was the final answer to anything. Someone tomorrow may write a work of literature or compose a song that answers questions science can never answer. I think you may have built a straw version of my beliefs.

    As far as insisting that the truth make itself known to us on terms we can accept… well sorry, Mammalian brain here. I’m kind of stuck with the one I have. My brain was formed by the needs of millions of years of survival, and other physical limits. So, to truth I say, “Sorry, there, but my brain’s only so big.”

    I dropped religion when I realized I couldn’t tell my WISHES from my UNDERSTANDING of the world. I dropped religion when I could not devise a test to tell between things I HOPED were true and things I knew couldn’t be true. I dropped religion when I couldn’t tell the difference between what God wanted and what my Imagination wanted.

    I dropped religion when I realized I couldn’t devise a test to tell the difference between a true supernatural belief and a false supernatural belief.

    Now, if you HAVE such a test, I’d be happy to hear from you. But until then, I had to let religion go, for me, because it was making me a crazy person. I was literally leading a troubled life full of beliefs that got in the way.

    I never said that science has all the answers or will always have the answers or whatever you seem to think I believe. I’m a professional artist for crying out loud. That’s got to say SOMETHING about my belief that we need to express things in ways outside of strictly scientific knowing.

    I do not know what you propose we do about things we cannot learn through science. You say it’s not about science vs religion, and okay, I hear you loud and clear on that one. I thought you were proposing that religion fill in the holes where science fails. And to my mind and in my experience, religion doesn’t fit that bill.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    I said :

    I thought you were proposing that religion fill in the holes where science fails. And to my mind and in my experience, religion doesn’t fit that bill.

    To clarify myself….

    For instance economics. One of the areas where science has made less than spectacular headway was in economics, according to Vinay.

    I may agree with that, but if you are proposing that a faith-based or religion-based model of economics is the answer, I don’t think you’re going to get better results.

  • Karen

    Mike C

    but I can see how you could get your definition of faith from (one common interpretation of) that verse.

    I just don’t think it’s a good definition. At least, it’s not how I would define/describe faith for myself (in the sense that we talk about it here). And despite how the fundamentalists interpret that verse, I don’t think most other Christians use it in that way either.

    I appreciate that you have found different interpretations for various scriptures, Mike C. I only wish more religious believers did share those interpretations. I find them far less objectionable than the “traditional” ones I was raised with in evangelical churches.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Stephan wrote:

    Just Curious.

    What evidence would convince you Evolution Theory was wrong?

    If the preponderance of the evidence showed it to be wrong. Right now we have millions and millions of different pieces of mutually-supporting interlocking evidence showing that all life on earth is descended from either one or a very few original microscopic organisms which lived billions of years ago.

    If Michael Behe or his ilk can prove every single one of billions of fossils found around the world to be fake, that might do it. They better get cracking, since there are billions of them.

    I work with brilliant mathematicians and computer programmers. If even ONE of them told me that Dembski’s math wasn’t totally made up and pulled out of his rear end, that might help.

    I have friends who work at UCLA on the inner workings of the cell, and if they told me that they had discovered something so impossible, but were required to fake their results to fall into line with the big secret darwinist conspiricy….

    But really it could be something quite simple.

    I live close to the Los Angeles La Brea Tar Pits. According to mainstream science, this asphault bubbled up during the last ice age. So in there we find mammoths, mastadons, sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, giant ground sloths etc. Ice age animals. According to 99.9999999% of scientists, you will never, ever, ever, ever find a mesozoic dinosaur in there. According to these same scientists you will never find any ancient mammals in there that predate that ice age. You will never find the ancient mammal Brontops there, even though we find their skeletons just a couple of hours drive to the east. This is because they had been extinct millions of years before the ice age.

    So what would convince me that we had a problem here? A dinosaur skeleton in the tar pit. Or a brontops. Or anything that falsified the time scale.

    No creationist has ever been able to explain why there are no animals that “shouldn’t be there” in my local la brea tar pits. You can go and watch them dig. You can volunteer there and dig yourself. Friends of mine have.

    In other words, I’ll trust my friends who actually have dug up these fossils over creationists who seem to only attend school board meetings and make fancy websites.

    What evidence would convince you God was real?

    I’ve answered it before. It’s simple: “A feeling in my heart.” I’ve knelt and prayed with all humility for Jesus to come into my heart. I know what I’ve done to chase God and to not chase God. I know what I’ve done and what steps I’ve taken in humility and openness and a desire to serve the Creator of the Universe.

    If He exists, He has a different plan for me than that, is all I can surmise.

  • Karen

    Vinay:

    But I recognize the smell of faith in your words, and I think that you could find a lot of empathy for religious people if you understood that the trust you place in Science – that it will continue to work – is exactly the feeling they have for their religions.

    I have tons of empathy for religious people, Vinay. I was an extremely religious person for 30 years, and I’ve only recently shed that belief. Most of my family members are still religious, and many of my oldest and dearest friends are as well.

    As far as placing “trust” in science – I do so only so far as having reasonable expectations of its efficacy based on solid past performance. It worked before, I have reasonable expectations it will work again. Like I said in my original response:

    Will it someday be proven inadequate? Anything’s possible. But unless or until it goes down in flames, it’s the best thing we’ve got by far.

    Listen, I’m a pragmatist not an idealogue. If one day the scientific method utterly fails us, I’m optimistic enough to hope that we’ll find a better way of understanding the universe. Until then, I’ll put my money on science continuing to be valid.

    Science may one day end. The rules of the game do not say it will always be there, only that the procedure, repeated, seems to work, at least for now.

    Agreed. And I’m interested in the very difficult problems facing mathematics and physics right now – though truly understanding them is way, way beyond the capacity of my English-major brain!

    The reason I’m not worried about science running into a dead end next year is because history tends to repeat itself. And as I said, every 50 or 100 years, some pundit declares that we’ve discovered everything we need to know, we’ve gone as far in understanding as our brains will allow, and science is coming to a close.

    Those kinds of pronouncements, instead of discouraging scientists, perversely seem to trigger an explosion of new research, revolutionary theories and whole new areas that are suddenly open to being explored. Maybe younger researchers need those kinds of challenges!

    And if it takes 200 years, or 600 years, for physics to develop a unified theory, that doesn’t bother me. I won’t be around to enjoy it, but I will spend my life hoping that it happens some day. ;-)

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Hm. Extremely interesting points, all.

    Remember that I’m advocating *for* Agnosticism and against Atheism on the basis that Atheism actually represents a massive dilution of the scientific method.

    So I’m saying, recognizing the limits of science – that there are entire domains where the scientific method cannot be applied because the axiomatic framework of repeatability and experiment cannot be fit to the problem, say – recognizing these limits is key to preserving the integrity of Science, and stopping it degrading into just another religion.

    THERE IS A GOD is a simple contradiction of THERE IS NO GOD.

    There is no HARD EVIDENCE of God therefore we have no opinion is not a simple contradiction: we introduce a new test, that of “hard evidence.”

    That’s the key here: the modern form that Atheism is taking, this Dawkensian antigeligiosity, has a lot in common with both Communism and Satanism. It is mainly defined by what it is against, and not what it is for, or how to get to some better state. It is inherently defined by its negatives and what it negates.

    Agnosticism, on the other hand, simply ignores things there are no evidence for yet as speculations.

    “You speculate there’s a god. He speculates there’s a tooth fairy. We’ll talk when you’ve got some evidence.”

    This satisfies the political goals of atheism: a staunch stance against the insane march of the idiots – without sacrificing the jewel of the scientific method in the process.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I appreciate that you have found different interpretations for various scriptures, Mike C. I only wish more religious believers did share those interpretations. I find them far less objectionable than the “traditional” ones I was raised with in evangelical churches.

    Thanks.

    I don’t think all Christians operate on my definition either (though perhaps more do than one would expect). But in my experience I don’t think most Christians (even conservative ones) operate on a “faith=belief without evidence” either. As you know, I was raised as a conservative evangelical too; but in my church (and most streams of the evangelical subculture that I was exposed to) the operative definition of faith was “belief because of the evidence”. That’s why we had piles of apologetics books and whole conferences about how to rationally argue the existence of God, the truth of the Bible, etc. In their definition all the evidence would naturally point to Christianity’s truth, so faith was just a matter of openly admitting what was right before your eyes.

    Just for the record, I think that’s a pretty poor definition of faith too, and it was my disillusionment with this whole way of thinking that eventually led me into a more postmodern definition of faith, which has more to do with the acceptance of certain foundational assumptions (and with the basic existential choices we all make in life) than with how much evidence (or lack thereof) one has. In my mind faith is not rational or irrational, it’s pre-rational and supra-rational (cf. Kierkegaard or Paul Tillich for more on this).

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  • MTran

    Devika said :

    In some ways, it’s what sets you apart from other atheists. I firmly believe that being at peace with oneself means one feels no need to control the thoughts and feelings of another.

    Although I really like Hemant’s observations and communication style, he is really very much like every atheist I know other than myself. Now I’m speaking about only a few dozen people, but most of my atheist friends have absolutely no interest in even talking about religion, let alone arguing about it. I have always been interested in ancient myth, primitive religions, ethics, evolution and neuro-psychology. So I tend to talk about them, usually with friends who are biologists or priests.

    For several years the lunatic fringe of religious wackos (who are quite different from the believers in the main-line Christianity I was raised in) have dominated far too much of US policy, making me a rather politically angry atheist. But it took the cry of the loons to wake me up to the gross dangers with which superstition continues to threaten our national, educational, moral, and emotional health. So I’ve come to side with Dawkins, et al., who I do not consider to be extreme in most of their positions or offensive in their expression.

    kamy said

    I just want this to end. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and should not try to enforce theirs on anybody else.

    What do you want to end? I’m personally pretty disgusted with having a bunch of dangerous political loonies making policy decisions to satisfy some extreme religionists.

    If people didn’t try to legislate their religion into our government and public life, I would not be irritated at all by their personal beliefs.

    Vinay Gupta,
    Well, I was going to go into some sort of detail regarding some of those comments but I think I’ll stick to just one, for the benefit of those who might be misled my your use of vocabulary.

    The notion that the word “faith” in the religious sense carries the identical meaning and connotation in any other context is false. It generally does not. And I get pretty cranky when people conflate religious faith with a necessary or at least sufficiently consistently useful reliance on rationally designed methods of observation and analysis.

    Misusing equivocal phrasing may reflect nothing more than a lack of understanding about the multiple connotations of the word. But all too often in these types of discussions, it’s deliberate sophistry and damages the ability to accurately communicate.

    When Vinay says “I think that you could find a lot of empathy for religious people…” it betrays a lack of insight and respect for the vast majority of atheists who have experienced religious faith and teaching just as thoroughly as believers have. Perhaps more thoroughly than many of the believers whose voices assault and insult non-believers in multiple forums. The greatest need for “empathy” seems to reside among believers who refuse to recognize the essential humanity of non-believers.

    Jen said:

    I am pro-gay, but on the other hand, I don’t really think all six verses against it can be explained away so easily

    Yet the same people who claim that “teh gays” must be legally discriminated against seem to have no compunction about explaining away their own failings and misrepresentations.

    The Bible may contain six admonishments regarding homosexuals but I’ve read that it has something like 300+ admonishments against heterosexuals. I lost count when I got bored trying to verify the number, but it’s a lot.

    Using the logic of the far right wing Christianists, it’s heterosexuals who should be banned from marriage, housing, insurance, military service, teaching and the Boy Scouts. Because it’s pretty clear that god doesn’t trust them very much. I mean, just look at the numbers! ;-)

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    MTran, I think you’re taking a small piece of my stance out of context and distorting it.

  • Stephan

    Simang,
    If i understand correctly, your problem is not that you didn’t want Jesus, the problem is you seem not to have understood the Biblical way to get Him.
    “Asking Jesus into your heart” is found no where found in the Bible. That’s sort of a modern, western , “easy way in”. I’m serious, get a Bible, even search an Online-Bible for anywhere where Jesus or the apostles ever said anything like that.
    There really IS a Biblical way to know God though Jesus Christ, the EFFECT of which is His Spirit coming to live within you. And yes that DOES feel wonderful.
    But it is always preceded by one thing: Repentance. But you may ask:
    Repentance of what? Repent why? Repent how? Repent to whom?
    Good questions.
    After all a “good person” doesn’t NEED to repent of anything right? So why would God require that?
    I encourage you, no, i plead with you, to take this good person “test” to see if the need to repent ( in Gods eyes) includes you. It illustrates the Biblical truth very well:

    http://www.livingwaters.com/good/

    Only sinners need a Savior.

    About God not wanting to include you…well the devil would LOVE for you to believe that. The problem is Gods Word says differently:

    “Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord SHALL be saved.”

    “God is no respector of persons” (ie. He doesn’t play favorites)

    “God is not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL should come to Eternal Life.”

    “God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten Son, so that WHOSOEVER believes in Him SHALL NOT PERISH but SHALL have everlasting life.”

    Lastly, I’m glad you mentioned Humility in approaching God, because truth be known, Some people cant find God for the same reason a criminal cant find a police station. We have to recognize who we are talking to here and act accordingly.
    I GAURANTEE you that, if you approach God on the terms He has set in His Word and you WILL NOT be dissapointed.

    Love and Blessings,
    Stephan

  • Stephan

    If you look to God, you will end up with tons of amazing experiences, but if you look FOR experiences you will get neither the Lord OR experiences.
    Again (and I’m not even sure you are saying this), but… the BASIS for seeking a relationship with God is NOT for a psychological experience, it’s for a Spiritual Transformation that would make you acceptable before a Holy God, and yes that experience DOE HAVE psychological and physiological consequences.

    Or to put it bluntly, God is not a prostitute existing solely for our pleasure. Neither is He Santa Clause looking to give gifts and then disappear requiring no commitment. (which is often how some TV preachers present him…is it any wonder THEY often end up with prostitutes and tons of materialistic stuff?)
    Again,

    If a decent woman knows you could give a rip about her but you just wanted sex, then buddy, you get neither her or sex. But if a woman knows you want HER, for who She is, if she knows that you LOVE her, no matter what she does or doesn’t do for you, then you very well may end up with both…in marriage.

    Jesus didn’t come to make men happy, he came to make men Holy.
    But…need I add it’s pretty darn hard not to be happy as a result? ;)

  • Karen

    That’s why we had piles of apologetics books and whole conferences about how to rationally argue the existence of God, the truth of the Bible, etc. In their definition all the evidence would naturally point to Christianity’s truth, so faith was just a matter of openly admitting what was right before your eyes.

    Hee, hee. Yup, that’s just another weird dichotomy of the evangelical world.

    On one hand, scripture said the highest goal was to believe “on faith alone,” without demanding evidence.

    But then we also had all these “reasons to believe” conferences, and books like “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” which attempted to do just the opposite!

    One of these days I’m going to start a list of those dueling concepts that were somehow held conjointly in the fundy mind even though – technically! – they kinda contradicted each other.

  • Karen

    When Vinay says “I think that you could find a lot of empathy for religious people…” it betrays a lack of insight and respect for the vast majority of atheists who have experienced religious faith and teaching just as thoroughly as believers have. Perhaps more thoroughly than many of the believers whose voices assault and insult non-believers in multiple forums. The greatest need for “empathy” seems to reside among believers who refuse to recognize the essential humanity of non-believers.

    Wow … I’m going to frame that paragraph and put it up on my wall.

    Hear, hear, MTran!!

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Look, I’m a Hindu, of a sect which is completely open to science and rationalism (traditionally we were weavers, and as such, quite technical and rational.)

    The Bible says that I’m going to hell, along with everybody like me, up to and including Mahatma Gandhi, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharishi and Amritananandamayi Devi. If you were surrounded by an entire world full of perfectly nice and good people who you knew, in your heart, God (the all loving) was going to fry in hell for all eternity on after the Day of Judgment you’d be pretty frosty towards atheists etc. too – the sheer *guilt* of believing that your god is going to do this to the entire world just because of their beliefs – when this God made the entire system – would drive you nuts.

    At the level where people have these kinds of beliefs literally wedged in their head, Christianity is just a bad religion. Dumbass Islam is clearly awful too.

    But this stuff is the tar in the bottom of the barrel. Look at the writing of Thomas Keating in the Christian tradition or some of the Sufis, or any of the four people I namechecked above, and you get an entirely different, more balanced, better understood perspective on religion.

    I’m not saying that this kind of fundamentalism is inherently bad, but if you wonder what’s going on with those people, I think it’s the internal stress of trying to function in a world filled with people that your loving god is going to torture without letting them die for aeons.

    But it’s not accurate to judge all religion, or all religious people, by the standards of a minority who are stuck in such a hellish belief system.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Stephan wrote:

    “Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord SHALL be saved.”

    I did that. In humility and repentance, with an open heart and an open mind and a loving and beseeching nature.

    I encourage you, no, i plead with you, to take this good person “test” to see if the need to repent ( in Gods eyes) includes you. It illustrates the Biblical truth very well:

    Hmm.. that website isn’t the bible. It’s a website to a flash quiz. I don’t put a flash quiz as the authority of whether I’ve sinned or not, because that breaks the first commandment, according to its own interpretation of the first commandment. The question asked “have you put anything before God?” Well, this website puts its own judgement before God’s judgement, thus breaking its own interpretation of the first commandment. Only God can judge me, not a website.

    Jesus represents a new covanant between God and man, according to Christians. I have been saved from that anyway, because I called upon Jesus with openness and humility in my heart.

    When I did it, and I made my mind silent. I let go of my doubt and skepticism, and honestly and quietly asked. I felt no response. There was no change in my heart. I went as far as I was possibly able to meet Jesus and do what was neccessary, what was told to me by numbers of people just like you as to what I had to do. They Guaranteed that this would work, just like you did.

    But I opened my heart to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If God exists, He knows that. If He exists, He alone can see what’s in my heart, not you, and I can tell you that I sleep like a baby at night with that. I asked openly and honestly, with humility and a true seeking heart. If He saves people for that as the scripture above says, then I’m already saved. Neither you or any website can change that, unless you put yourself above God.

    I GAURANTEE you that, if you approach God on the terms He has set in His Word and you WILL NOT be dissapointed.

    I asked, deeply and quietly in my heart, with humility and penetence and contrition, and yet had no spiritual feelings as a result. Perhaps spiritual feelings are something that some people are just born “deaf” to. Who can know? If He burns honest contrite, humble beseechers in Hell for merely not beling able to feel spritual feelings, I’ll have to accept that, for He is the God of the Universe, author of all things seen and unseen. If an infinity of torture awaits me for this, all I can say is that I do hope it serves some higher purpose, something far beyond me and my limited scope of understanding.

    All my life I have sought to serve God. I have come to the current understanding that religion is not God’s plan for me, if He exists and if He interacts with humans.

  • Stephan

    Siamang,

    Your supposedly sincere seeking of a relationship with God got stuck on the fact that it was a website ?? That’s how lightly you value your salvation?

    What does the medium matter? Is the MESSAGE Biblical?
    If not, show where it is in error.
    If so, humble yourself before God man!

    I’m afraid Siamang that what I suspected to start with may just be true concerning you. You’re not interested in coming to God to have Him change your life on the terms He has so clearly laid out in His Word, you just want to say that “I tried and it didnt work” to discredit the Gospel. I used to be like you.

    But, when you’re more interested in being real than sounding cool, try it again.

    Your sad situation proves my point exactly Siamang about the false Gospel you have believed about “asking Jesus in your heart”. You can pray ALL DAY, you can go to church you can get baptized you can be a preacher, sing in the choir, and even toss a few coins to the poor. But if you do not first acknowledge you condition before a Holy God, you are, and will be eternally seperated from God because you are still self-rightous and refuse to admit that you have voilated Gods commands (and instead pin the excuse on someone elses “bad interpretation” when in fact it’s the historical interpretation and yours the modern one ) and because you remain in your sins and refuse to acknowledge Gods Law, His GRACE will continue to mean NOTHING to you. I say again, Jesus came to make men Holy. Are you un-holy? If not, you have no need of Him.

    “Where sin abounds, Grace (Gods ability to forgive and change a sinner) much more abounds”

    But since you are sin-less you will remain Grace-less.
    The Scripture clearly says

    “If i hold on to sin in my heart, God will not hear me when I pray.”

    So no “interpretations”, here’s what Jesus said:

    Luke 18: 9 – 14
    9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10″Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’
    13″But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

    14″I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

  • Stephan

    last comment Siamang,

    If you are serious…and I really pray that you are…

    I just want to leave you with a little challenge:

    You’ve tried approaching God using the “right” interpretation of Scripture and nothing happened. By your own admission.

    I (and a BUNCH of people i know) have apprently approached God using the “wrong” interpretation of Scripture and every one of us to the person ( I can collect testimonies if you like) have had an undeniable, life altering, WORLD shaking, PRIDE shattering experience with the Lord Jesus Christ and CONTINUE to have a living relationship with Him.

    Since you know your way doesnt work, you admit that It simply doesnt give the results the Bible clearly promises despite all you desire for an experience, then before you conclude that God lied when He promised an answer, I challenge you to approach God my “wrong” way…see what happens.

    Swallow the Pride, see if He just might want to use something as “stupid” as a flash website “good person” test.

    http://www.livingwaters.com/good/

  • Karen

    I’m afraid Siamang that what I suspected to start with may just be true concerning you. You’re not interested in coming to God to have Him change your life on the terms He has so clearly laid out in His Word, you just want to say that “I tried and it didnt work” to discredit the Gospel. I used to be like you.

    But, when you’re more interested in being real than sounding cool, try it again.

    Stephen, when you’re more interested in actually communicating with people and listening to what they’re saying, instead of making offensive assumptions and preaching Ray Comfort hellfire-and-brimstone theology, try visiting here again.

    Until then, you’re not going to be very successful. We’re all familiar with Comfort and Cameron and we’re not impressed.

  • Stephan

    Vinay,

    “If you were surrounded by an entire world full of perfectly nice and good people who you knew, in your heart, God (the all loving) was going to fry in hell for all eternity on after the Day of Judgment you’d be pretty frosty towards atheists etc. too – the sheer *guilt* of believing that your god is going to do this to the entire world just because of their beliefs – when this God made the entire system – would drive you nuts.”

    Yep….but now to figure out who’s a “good person”, because of course you’d wouldnt be upset if a “bad person” (like a Hitler) went to hell. You would applaud the Justice of God. Hmm…i wonder what His standard of Justice is?
    oh look…this is a helpful synopsis of what the Scripture teaches :)

    http://www.livingwaters.com/good/

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Stephen, son, I’m a Hindu. Christianity, while revealing some beautiful divine truth, also carries along much that is very easily misinterpreted, leading people into all kinds of pride, falsehood and misdeeds. We were here long before Abraham, and long before Christ, and long before Muhammad. We don’t believe in your hell or your heaven, and we think most of you misinterpret your own teachings horribly, making you miserable.

    Do you think that, if you had the chance to sit at the feet of Christ, he’d approve of every little thing you think and say in his name? Or is there some chance you’re learning?

    A Guru – a real Guru, not some faker – knows everything that Christ did. There are still many living examples in India, like Ammachi and Gandhi in recent years. We get our truth not from the old texts alone, but from a living, breathing tradition of wisdom transmitted down the generations without loss, because it is reinvigorated and recharged, attuned to the present time, and passed on by each generation.

    Do not think you can claim religious superiority over me, and over us, on the basis of one teacher and one book.

  • MTran

    Stephan,

    When Vinay said:

    the sheer *guilt* of believing that your god is going to do this to the entire world just because of their beliefs – when this God made the entire system – would drive you nuts.

    I can only say I wish his sentiment that True Believers(tm) could feel, if not guilt, at least some repugnance at the behavior of a petty, capricious, vindictive, amoral sky pixie. Instead, far too often the loud Christian voices we hear wish to emulate that loathsome behavior and inflict punishing legislation on those believers and non-believers who don’t agree with their brand of religion.

    So when you say:

    Yep….but now to figure out who’s a “good person”, because of course you’d wouldnt be upset if a “bad person” (like a Hitler) went to hell. You would applaud the Justice of God.

    Don’t bet on it. Hitler was a grossly corrupted, cruel, evil s.o.b., but there are plenty of ethicists who would argue that even Hitler’s crimes were not infinite so that infinite punishment is not approrpriate.

    How much more ethically reprehensible is eternal damnation for those who simply disagree with your interpretation of divine retribution?

    You may call it justice, but divine retribution and vengeance are not the same thing as justice. Any entity that punishes anyone for eternity is not worthy of respect, let alone worship. And let’s be clear here, not every Christian subscribes to your interpretation of scripture.

    I’ve got to second what Karen says above, proselytizing and making offensive assumptions is not going to get you anywhere here. I may disagree with Vinay, but Vinay expresses ideas that have been given some genuine thought with an attempt at being ethical and just, as well as persuasive.

    You seem to make no effort to do anything other than preach then cut and paste stuff that we’ve all seen before. You will convince no-one with sort of approach. You might, however, cause those questioning the validity of the Christian faith to decide against it. There are a lot of interpetations out there more rational and moral than yours, including those of many Christian denominations.

    oh look…this is a helpful synopsis of what the Scripture teaches :)

    You can worship any sort

  • MTran

    Vinay Gupta said

    MTran, I think you’re taking a small piece of my stance out of context and distorting it.

    Which part?

    PS: I’ve just gotten a sudden call that requires my immediate attention. If I don’t respond right away, I’ll try to get back when this (one in an endless chain, it seems) crisis calms a bit.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    I think that I’m raising genuine questions about the distinction between the practice of the scientific method, which is a “one event at a time” iterative process, and the “faith that Science has all the answers” which is so much of the science vs. religion debate.

    “I don’t know” is how real science responds to unknowns and imponderables. “That’s not a question science can answer” is also an important category.

    This is not, at all, the same as suggesting that the Tooth Fairy and God are equally likely reasons for the origins of matter. It’s all in the distinction between “I don’t see any hard evidence for god” and “THERE IS NO GOD.”

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Stephan, I’m saying this as a fellow Christian in all brotherly love: shut up. Just shut up now before you dig yourself in any deeper.

    I know what you’re trying to do and you’re not at all succeeding at what you want to accomplish. You can’t just show up at a blog and start preaching at and judging people you don’t know at all and expect them to respect your opinion. Until you learn to listen more than you preach, no one is going to give a damn about what you have to say.

    You’re not even hearing what Siamang is telling you. He’s saying that he’s tried your method and it didn’t work for him. That’s what a lot of Christians don’t seem to be able to handle: when the perfect method that they’ve been told ABSOLUTELY WILL work for everyone, doesn’t. And so you assume the individual must have gotten the method wrong (maybe they weren’t sincere enough) rather than asking yourself whether it’s maybe your method that’s flawed. Maybe it doesn’t actually always produce the results you’ve been guaranteed that it would. Maybe you should ask for your money back, as you seem to have a defective product.

    Or maybe you should ask yourself why God would be so hung up on a method in the first place… is that what it’s really all about?

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt Vinay Gupta

    Mike C, if you extend that further, you might ask “why would got be so hung up on one religious tradition rather than another?” You know… if you believe in some kind of figure who made all people, there is a pretty good argument – particularly given that, at least in the Hindu world, personal appearances by divine / enlightened beings are reported quite frequently (note: scientists, these are *stories that could be investigated* and are not to be taken at face value!)

    We have a pretty good story about how all this works – one which admits to the divinity of, say, Jesus Christ, but without requiring the entire hellfire trip. Oh, and it also acknowledges the divinity of everything else, be not separating the creator and creation into two separate categories, but rather by conceiving of the universe as, in some sense, “imagined in the mind of God.”

    This is also how we integrate Science: science is a portion of the creation where things operate in a very regular, orderly and predictable way. We can study that part of the creation in specific ways to great benefit: not unlike the “reading the Book of Nature” approach of the early scientists. We just think there’s something outside of the scientific domain.

    Make sense?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Mike C, if you extend that further, you might ask “why would got be so hung up on one religious tradition rather than another?”

    Oh believe me, I have gone further… :)

    And I am familiar with Hindu beliefs. I find a lot that I like there, and a few things that I don’t like so much as well. But as you say, I don’t think the point is really about choosing the right religion anyway.

  • http://off-the-map.org/atheist/ Siamang

    Mike C wrote:

    That’s what a lot of Christians don’t seem to be able to handle: when the perfect method that they’ve been told ABSOLUTELY WILL work for everyone, doesn’t. And so you assume the individual must have gotten the method wrong (maybe they weren’t sincere enough) rather than asking yourself whether it’s maybe your method that’s flawed. Maybe it doesn’t actually always produce the results you’ve been guaranteed that it would. Maybe you should ask for your money back, as you seem to have a defective product.

    I kind of shrug at this because I’m not the one telling him what to believe. Rather he’s the one telling me what I should believe. If he does a bad job of it, he chalks it up to cotton stuffed in our ears or willful denial of God or a sin of pride or whatever.

    I’m not going to christian websites or “The Friendly Christian.com” and telling the Christians there that they’re wrong. In which case the onus would be on me to plead my case. It’s him coming here, and as you pointed out Mike, the point here is dialogue and listening.

    Obviously I don’t find his method or his message convincing, but no sweat. I don’t believe my life or my eternal salvation depend on following the beliefs of Stephan.

    I had been a part of the atheist/christian dialogue for long enough, with enough open, considerate and kind, not to mention respectful Christians that I felt moved to quiet my mind and listen for God again, in the manner I did when I believed. It was important to me and my respect for believers and my self-respect that I give that a shot and continue to give belief as fair a shot as I can. Others in the dialogue have described spiritual feelings as being fact for them, and so in deference to them and a desire to search and search HONESTLY, I found myself in prayer.

    So, okay, given that a shot, and I continue to give it a shot. I do my best to pry open my skeptical mind, and continue to do so, to let whatever openness I can muster. Whatever the needs or the pathway to God is, If He’s there He knows I’m searching, and He knows that I’m doing it as honestly as I know I am doing it.

    If God exists and interacts with people, He knows I’m open. And that gives me hope. In a strange way, even His silence gives me hope. Perhaps it means He knows I’ve done all I can, and that’s okay too.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Obviously I don’t find his method or his message convincing, but no sweat. I don’t believe my life or my eternal salvation depend on following the beliefs of Stephan.

    Oops, I guess I wasn’t clear in what I was saying. I didn’t mean his “method” of trying to evangelize you wasn’t working. I meant that the method of coming to God that he was trying to sell you on hadn’t worked for you when you tried it. Which seems to imply that there is something wrong with that method – it’s not as universally effective as he would like to believe.

    I had been a part of the atheist/christian dialogue for long enough, with enough open, considerate and kind, not to mention respectful Christians that I felt moved to quiet my mind and listen for God again, in the manner I did when I believed. It was important to me and my respect for believers and my self-respect that I give that a shot and continue to give belief as fair a shot as I can. Others in the dialogue have described spiritual feelings as being fact for them, and so in deference to them and a desire to search and search HONESTLY, I found myself in prayer.

    So, okay, given that a shot, and I continue to give it a shot. I do my best to pry open my skeptical mind, and continue to do so, to let whatever openness I can muster. Whatever the needs or the pathway to God is, If He’s there He knows I’m searching, and He knows that I’m doing it as honestly as I know I am doing it.

    If God exists and interacts with people, He knows I’m open. And that gives me hope. In a strange way, even His silence gives me hope. Perhaps it means He knows I’ve done all I can, and that’s okay too.

    Wow. That’s really cool to hear that. Even as one who believes in God I can’t tell you whether anything will come of it or not (as you say, who knows what God’s plans are for any particular individual), but I think he’ll honor your openness regardless.

    Keep searching.

  • Tony F

    I think that there is a real cultural bias going on here. I suspect that this website is from the USA? Interestingly, here in Australia, we have almost the opposite situation: athiests are generally regarded as trusted “normal” folk, and anyone admitting to full-blown Christian belief is often ostrasized as being either an idiot or untrustworthy. For example, we have the case here at the moment where the guy who wants to be the next Prime Minister of the country is also a committed Christian (Anglican brand I think, but maybe Catholic – I’m not sure). Anyway, our media is already saying that his acknowledged faith is political poison and won’t go over well with voters. You should move to Australia!

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  • zenabowli

    atheism… just another conviction taken on faith…mmmm…seems that the foundations of human belief is based on speculation… convince me that atheism isn’t just another idiology based on unproven assumptions. any body that tells me that they know what’s beyond mortality is either a fool or a liar… i do agree that we should all transcend our preconceived notions and attend to our mortal existence in a meaningful way…”we are all looking for a vision that all living things can share” i believe we have to attend our collective destiny or suffer a collective fate.

  • Richard Wade

    zenabowli,
    Get to know what you’re talking about thoroughly before you make blanket statements, or you’ll just be displaying your ignorance.

  • http://normdoering.blogspot.com/ normdoering

    In situations where you’re not in a dialogue or a debate with the person you’re calling stupid, or any insult you like, it’s for other readers, not the guy you’re insulting. For example, on my blog:

    http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

    I’ve done posts where I call Deepak Chopra stupid, pointing out his glaring ignorance of sciences he tries to criticize. Chopra isn’t going to get in any debate with me no matter how polite I am about pointing this stuff out. It’s for the benefit of other people who might be conned by him.

  • http://dmacdoesjapan.blogspot.com darrell

    But if your religious beliefs (illogical as they may be) are doing something positive for our community and our world, and in the process, you’re not trying to stop scientific progress, impede promising research, hurt my gay friends, control another woman’s body, force your beliefs upon anyone else, ask the government to give you special privileges, or make me fear coming out as an atheist in public, why should I be attacking you?

    So you’ve actually met a religious person who fits the above criteria? I have to say I don’t believe it. There may be some theists out there doing some good, but I’d say that the chances that they aren’t doing/thinking at least one of the above negative things is slim to none. And as has been argued time and time again, even the most moderate, intelligent theists, as harmless as they may seem, enable other hardline theists by lending their inane beliefs credibility. And you’re indirectly lending them credibility as well by “respecting” those with the softer god beliefs. You know damn well that moderate theists don’t stand up to their fanatical cousins, especially when it comes to the political sphere. Let me know how your ridiculous double standard for arguing with theists works out for you. These maniacs have already seized control of our country, I don’t think playing nice is the answer.

  • MTran

    So you’ve actually met a religious person who fits the above criteria?

    Quite a few actually, and througout my lifetime. If you have been stuck in a community full of literalist fundamentalist loonies, then you may not have had a chance to ever see a theist who is a well educated, pro-science, socially tolerant, professional. But they do exist and in significant, though not overwhelming, numbers.

    Nonetheless, I concur that in the political landscape of the US, the moderate or liberal sides of faith do provide a sort of polical cover for the nut jobs. I think that much of this failure to challenge the whackos comes from a mistaken belief that our prohibition on governmental entanglement with religion requires everyone to “respect” (meaning to stfu about) the actual beliefs that people have.

    That’s nonsense, of course. A bad idea is a bad idea, even — or maybe especially — when its only support is religious.

    Just so you don’t mischaracterize my position, I am adamantly atheist and have been for a rather long time. And I don’t think Dawkins is nearly aggressive enough. Just so ya know…

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    So you’ve actually met a religious person who fits the above criteria?

    I know of thousands of people who fit the description. I lead a whole church full of them.

  • http://howtolivewiki.com/hexayurt/ Vinay Gupta

    But if your religious beliefs (illogical as they may be) are doing something positive for our community and our world, and in the process, you’re not trying to stop scientific progress, impede promising research, hurt my gay friends, control another woman’s body, force your beliefs upon anyone else, ask the government to give you special privileges, or make me fear coming out as an atheist in public, why should I be attacking you?

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/03/the_hexayurt_ef.php is what I do for a living. It’s a public domain / open source housing solution, which includes things like electrical lights, a water sterilizer and many other basic facilities. Estimated volume production cost per unit: $100 for the house, $100 for the stove, toilet etc. Open source: I gave the design away, for free, for everybody to use.

    Right now you can have the house for $300 (good for 20 years or more easily) and the infrastructure, excluding the toilet, for about $100. Pretty widely acclaimed as the best damn thing to happen in sustainable development in years.

    Now – as to my religious beliefs, I’m a Hindu. We believe that modern teachers are absolutely as definitive as the 4,000 year old teachers which means we can tweak the religion to fit the needs of the modern age. We’re ditching the caste system, expanding roles for women, blessing transplant surgery – you name it. Some bits of the tradition are more progressive than others, and I’m rather “leading edge” in many areas, but you should not judge all religions by the standards set by the Three Monotheisms: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

    Once you decide that truth resides in a book, and not in the human heart (except where it agrees with the Book) you have a huge problem: books do not change to meet the conditions of the time. This is why (by default) dislike and distrust large organized religious groups which operate from a book, rather than from a living teacher (still dodgy) or, better still, a living tradition with many teachers, from whom one can draw a consensus opinion.

    Not all religions are the same, and it’s foolishness to treat them that way. The whole western conception of “RELIGIOUS TRUTH” just looks like foolishness and arrogance in the face of the infinity of The Divine (i.e. the Creation, and everything in it – including any Creator that may exist, and you need evidence if you want to claim one is literally there, even in Hinduism you still need evidence.)

    Anyway, it’s long it’s complicated, but judge the fruit by the tree: our response to British occupation, and the Second World War, was not the nuclear bomb, or to raise an army. It was Gandhi. Gandhi stopped protests against the British during the second world war so not to impede your fight against the Nazis, and many Indian troops fought the Axis (not that Gandhi would have approved… nor did he stop it.)

    A lot of exiled Jewish scientists, and a nation many claim to be Christian, gave the world the Nuclear Bomb, and we’ve all been cowering in fear of the damned thing ever since. Fruit from the tree: the Apocalypitic vision of John fills people’s heads with the desire to destroy the world to bring their teacher, Jesus, back.

    You need a much higher level of understanding to make Christianity work. Thomas Keating, of St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado is a Benedictine (I think) who I was privileged enough to spend some time with. Those guys have a Christianity That Works, free of obsession with the End of History, and full of a communion with the spirit within (yes, I can translate that into neuroscience if you *really* insist.)

    So, yeah… I’m a Hindu. I’m also an Agnostic. I just saw really good evidence that, when I turned within according to the principles passed down in our tradition, something happened. Something real, something documented, and something which constituted evidence.

    But you have to learn to meditate to see that evidence, just like you have to build a telescope to see the moons around Saturn.

    That’s a topic for another day.

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  • sam

    I too am a friendly atheist. There are far too many people out there that attack all those with faith. Surrounded as I am by family and friends with strong beliefs covering different churches and different gods, I have learned acceptance on most things.
    There are however, certain things I disagree with such as their views on homosexuality and pre-marital sex/birth.
    Too many angry folk are trying to find a new religion in atheism, which it is not.
    Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion to find atheism slipped in nicely beside christianity, Islam, hinduism etc.
    I approached the BBC and they said an atheist group asked them to put it there.

  • MTran

    I approached the BBC and they said an atheist group asked them to put it there.

    Heh! I guess we atheists are a varied lot ;-)

    I’m highly social and friendly in real life, less so on-line… I think it’s partly due to the high noise factor on most of the net and my tendency to sound a lot more academic or aggressive on the written page than I am in person. Probably a hazard of my profession.

    Still, I’ve spent many years attending and teaching at church affiliated institutions and I know for a fact that most believers I’ve met are intelligent, decent, capable sorts of people. But I don’t think that’s the type of believer who posts most frequently on-line.

  • Daniel Lucas

    There’s one thing I really don’t understand:
    Why every atheist in the world needs to tell everyone that he’s an atheist?
    Why every atheist in the world feels the pride to say he is an atheist in a blog?
    Why the atheism in the U.S. is becoming nothing more than a new religion?

  • MTran

    Daniel Lucas,

    There’s one thing I really don’t understand:
    Why you would think that “every atheist in the world” needs to tell anyone that he’s an atheist?
    Why you think that the few atheists who talk about their positions in a blog constitute “every atheist in the world”?
    Why you think that atheism should not be a point of pride when it is typically a position arrived at after much thought and investigation and in the face of ubiquitous social hostility by the unthinking nut-jobs that are claimed to constitute a majority of the US population.
    Why you can’t comprehend the fact that atheism is nothing at all like a religion?

    Well, Daniel doesn’t have to answer these questions directly since his prior post already demonstrates that he suffers from severe deficits in rational thinking and lacks the ability to count to three.

  • Siamang

    Daniel,

    Most people I know don’t know I’m an atheist. I’m in the closet about it, except to close family.

    I even post under a pseudonym.

    Now, that said, can you explain to me this:

    Why every Christian in the world needs to tell everyone they’re Christian?
    Why every Christian in the world needs to wear a gold cross around their necks? Is it a jewelry religion?
    Why does every politician need to say loud and proud that they’re a Christian?
    Why do sports figures pray, kiss crosses when hitting the baseball, etc? Does God have a favorite team? Shouldn’t they be praying for something other than sports victories?

  • Daniel Lucas

    Hey, Guys!!

    You don’t need to be so rude. I beg your pardon for my english. As a brazilian born, I always get confused with these “everyones” and “anyones”.

    People who believes in God, and have love and comprehension in their hearts, costume to be more polite when someone asks something or criticizes their religion.

    I was just testing you, and – this is no surprise – your atheism isn’t so “friendly” as you think it is. I give you an “F” degree.

    By the way, I am atheist, even though I think people who believe in a God or Godess or Whatever Else Above Us, seems to be more “close”, more “friend” of the things of Earth, the human beings, the forests, the deserts, and the animals.

    Bye.

  • Siamang

    Thanks for the drive-by judging.

    Instead of that, why not interact here more and you might find that your snap judgements are wrong. This is a warm and welcoming community of people who tolerate and seek out understanding of other people’s beliefs.

    All we can do is lay out the welcome mat. Sorry that you came only to shit on it.

  • MTran

    I was just testing you

    Yeah, right.

    Your thinking sounds more pathetic now than it did in your first post. Not just pathetic but petty, spiteful, arrogant, and dishonest.

    You are the one who failed here, and there wasn’t even a test.

    You’ll be welcomed if you return as another student rather than a crappy, self-styled “teacher” with a flame baiting pop quiz.

  • Richard Wade

    Dear Daniel,
    This actually is generally a friendly website. Hemant, the moderator encourages open and respectful discussion. A few people who regularly post here have chips on their shoulders, and some just have bad hair days.

    But atheists tend to like to argue and they tend to be good at it.

    Your original post seemed to me to express and provoke hostility because your three “questions” were clearly rhetorical, wanting to make mildly insulting statements rather than sincerely seeking information. That kind of indirect approach to making statements of your opinion isn’t going to promote an open and respectful response.

    If as an atheist you have opinions about other atheists, express them in clear sentences and give your reasons. Then you will get clear, reasonable responses.

    The statements implied by your three rhetorical questions could have been expressed something is this way:

    “Hi, I’m Daniel Lucas, and I’m an atheist. I have three opinions about other atheists that I’d like to offer, and perhaps someone could respond:

    1. I think that many atheists are too eager to tell everyone else that they are atheists.
    2. I think that many atheists on blogs such as these seem too proud of the fact that they’re atheists.
    3. I think that atheism in the U.S. is becoming just another religion.

    Here are the reasons I think so: …blah blah blah…
    Please let me hear your viewpoints on these ideas. Thank you, Daniel.”

    Daniel, if you had used a straight forward and respectful approach we probably would be having an interesting conversation right now with several very thoughtful people including Mtran and Siamang.

    Skip the whole “testing” people thing. It sets up resentment because people immediately wonder who the hell are you to test us, and we didn’t take your class so we don’t need to pass your test. As friendly as people can be here, nobody likes the arrogance implied by an unsolicited test.

    You’ve actually raised an interesting question about atheists’ vs. theists’ attitudes toward the environment. Try posting your ideas and opinions again in an open-handed way and even if some people disagree with you the resultant discussion could be positive and useful.

  • Daniel Lucas

    Ok, Guys,

    I think I must apologize to anyone here.
    I had a misbehavior with my words. I am really sorry.
    I had no right to write in somebody else´s blog the way I did. Mea culpa. Mea culpa. Mea massima culpa.

    In truth, I am not “so atheist”. I had realized this since I had lost my parents and friends. They have gone and, now and them, I found myself asking the same old questions: Who Are We? From Where We Had Come? Why Are We Living For?

    I know that I will never have the answers.
    But something is always confusing my mind: We are the results of the gathering of athoms. Aren’t we? If we assume that, then we got to admit that our feelings (love, angry, tenderness, passion etc) have origin in these athoms.

    Isn’t it a little bit crazy? My athoms and cells feel love, and angry, and tenderness and passion and etc? Isn’t it wonderful to see so many different people in the world with so many distinct caracters, and, at the same time, think that they are formed by the some kind of product: athoms?

    Why (the heaven) we are so different (in feelings) if we have the some structure?

    What happens with the love, the tenderness, the benevolence of a person when he or she pass way?

    Maybe the fanatic people has a little reason to believe that we are not just a material body, but something more… something divine…

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Daniel,
    Those “same old questions” are wonderful questions to keep asking yourself. They’re questions most people have wondered about at least once in their lives. They cause some people to search all around the world and deep into themselves. Some people delve into religion, some into science, some philosophy, others perhaps seek in art or in relationships. Some people both ask and answer these questions in their service to others, whether they are helping their loved ones, their community or faceless strangers far away.

    They may or may not ever find specific answers but perhaps the discoveries they make along the way during that search are more important. I have met people whose search has led them in completely opposite directions from mine, yet we recognize this very human trait in each other and despite our differences we can enjoy a moment of connectedness.

    Your remarks about atoms are very interesting. Particles combine to become atoms, atoms combine to become molecules, which can combine to become amino acids, then combine to become genes, then chromosomes, cells and organisms. Organisms have behaviors that help them survive. In our case, complex social and psychological behaviors have developed including the ones that you mentioned: love, anger, tenderness, compassion. They’re so complex that they are a constant puzzlement to us.

    You asked why are we so different if we all share the same atomic makeup. Matter and energy, my physicist friends have told me, are two aspects of the same thing. Matter tends to clump together as I described above, but energy tends to spread out. Living things tend to diversify. They must. So too the energy of human ideas tends to spread out, diversifying again and again. Two identical groups of people living in just slightly different environments will over time become very different. It is inevitable. Religions branch off and branch off again and again. Scientific ideas will also branch off, and over time only those ideas with good evidence to support them will continue.

    Daniel, whether you see yourself as a huge pile of self-replicating molecules or as a divine being doesn’t really matter. The wonderful thing is that you recognize the importance of love, anger, tenderness, compassion, as well as the honesty and humility with which you came back and asked these questions.

    I think that when a person passes away, their love, tenderness and benevolence lives on in the behaviors of the people they helped. If because of that help those people are just a little more able to give love and benevolence, then that kind of energy is not lost, it’s just spreading out, the way all energy does.

    Keep asking and living your questions.

  • Daniel Lucas

    Hi Richard,

    Thank you for the words. Your exposition synthesizes and clarifies many things, and, beyond that, helps me increasing my poor english. :) )

    Daniel

  • MTran

    Daniel,

    Thank you for coming back and letting us get to meet a more “real” you.

    I can definitely sympathize with people who have lost family, friends, and loved ones. It is a painful experience, one I do not like at all. And it often seems to be terribly unfair, especially when a young person dies or death is the result of some freak accident or, worse yet, deliberate violence.

    What happens with the love, the tenderness, the benevolence of a person when he or she pass way?

    I am convinced that at a large part of the appeal of most religions is that they explain or explain away death, comforting people when they need it most.

    For me, those who I have loved remain in my heart, my thoughts, and some of my activities, long after they have died. Sometimes memories are all we have left.

    Long ago, a person I scarcely knew helped me to get a “dream” job. I told her I didn’t know how to begin to thank her. She said, “If you help someone else the same way, then that would be thanks enough.” As it turned out, I passed on her kindness to several others when I was in a position to do so. Each time, I tell them the story of the woman who helped me and ask them to do the same if they ever have the chance to help another.

    Why (the heaven) we are so different (in feelings) if we have the some structure?

    Good question. Perhaps you can think of it in terms of cooking and recipes. You can use the same ingredients to make bread, crackers, cookies, biscuits, cakes or sauces. The differences may be only the proportions of the ingredients, the length of cooking time, or temperature. Yet the end products can be very different. All of them good, but different.

    Daniel, I can be cranky but I’m always willing to talk when I think someone really wants to. Thanks for giving me that chance today.

  • http://keithneilson.co.uk mandrill

    Wow, what alot of comments. I only had time to read a few unfortunately so If what I’m about to say has already been said I apologise.
    I’m an atheist, I’ll get that out of the way up front before my next statement is misunderstood. I have faith. Not a faith, but faith. We all do. We all have faith in the fact that what our senses and minds tell us is real, is real, when it might not be.
    I think whats missing from the whole atheists vs religious debate is a differentiation between faith and religion. Faith is the act of believing something that you cannot be 100% certain of. Religion is a tool used to control people. Religion may have had something to do with faith a long long time ago when man was young and needed the protection of large groups of like minded individuals, but no more. Religion is undoubtedly one of the tools used in the building of this great edifice we call civilisation, but like any tool it has outlived its usefulness and now it is being used to manipulate and control large segments of our societies and make them easier to manage.
    I don’t see anything wrong with having a little faith, it is our belief in the impossible which makes up a large part of what it is to be us. The argument is not a scientific or theological one in my opinion. It is an argument between those who want to control and those who don’t, though more and more I see those on the atheist side seeming to reach for the same powers and control that the religious want. It’s basically an argument about freedom and tolerance. We should each be free to believe whatever we want, the price of that freedom is allowing others to believe whatever they want, no matter how wrong we might think they are.
    On another point I had time to read, there are two kinds of extremists. There are those in control, who put up the facade of peity as a means to manipulate the faithful, and the followers who have been manipulated and warped, either by their environment or those in control, to such an extent that they have lost all connection with reality. Don’t blame the suicide bomber, blame the one who sent them. The bomber is as much a victim as those they destroy. Their religious leaders have already killed them before they even strap on the explosives. Their faith has been twisted until their minds break. The same goes for the religious right in the US. Their leaders are only after power and they manipulate the faith of their followers to get votes. I would be extremely surprised if either the extremist mullahs or right wing preachers actually believed the religion they peddle, there’s no way of knowing unfortunately. We only have their word for it.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Well said Mandrill. I agree.

  • derek ellis

    I describe myself as christian but that is not all I am, I to see the dillusion in the religious “world” and I hate it as much as most atheists do. The fact is the supernatural either exists or it doesnt and it is only common sence that some people will believe in god while others wont. I want anyone who reads this to know that if you dont believe in god I do not condemn you for that reason, but I will condemn you for saying that I am dillusional because I believe in a god that could very well exist. Look at the beauty in this world, look into the eyes of someone who you love, look up into the stars and tell me who has not wondered if there is somthing we dont understand at play in this existance, Then call me dillusional and “brainwashed”.

  • MTran

    Mandrill,

    I think many discussions / arguments about theism are doomed from the start because people fail to define what they mean by the words they use. There are a number of words and phrases that get tossed about with little effect other than more misunderstanding.

    For instance: religion, faith, belief, god, and theism don’t all mean the same thing yet I often see those terms used interchangeably. And there are equivocal for most of those words.

    I have a pet peeve about the way theists tend to equate religious belief and faith with non-religious uses of the words. Saying that scientists have religious “faith” in the scientific method mistakes pragmatic reliance on observed consistencies with some sort of supernatural faith in (insert religious term here).

    derek, I’m not going to call you delusional because you believe in a god or the supernatural. Religious belief is a learned behavior, culturally approved and instilled in almost everyone. But I agree with Dawkins that religious institutions tend to encourage delusional behavior and often deliberately (and cynically) delude their followers about any number of things.

    I’m no psychologist, so I don’t think I’m the best person to define “delusion,” but widely held “delusions” may well be a special category of thinking when compared to the disturbed delusions of individuals, such as those experienced by the truly paranoid.

  • derek ellis

    Thanks mandril for not calling me dillusional and I agree that religious belief can be a learned behavior. I myself was a “strong” atheist before I started to believe in what I call god. Over the years though I hit some VERY low points in my life and feel that somthing much greater than me interviened many times. I would still be an atheist otherwise.

  • MTran

    I myself was a “strong” atheist

    By strong do you mean your attitude was strongly atheistic or do you mean that your reasons for being atheist were “strong” reasons?

    before I started to believe in what I call god.

    Can you describe what you believe god to be?

    Over the years though I hit some VERY low points in my life and feel that somthing much greater than me interviened many times. I would still be an atheist otherwise.

    Well I’ve had plenty of low points at many stages of life. Including years of rather extensive motor paralysis, among other serious health difficulties. I’ve also had too many out of body experiences to count, along with experiences that other people would label ESP or NDEs. Still, I’m an atheist notwithstanding the odd experiences and would have felt much more negative and helpless during long illnesses if I had been a believer.

    Guess we have different reactions!

  • derek ellis

    Hey Mtran By “strong atheists” I am refering to strengh of conviction. There are atheists who are so for reasons, then there are atheists who are so because they deem it popular in thier social circles, those people I call “weak athiests” because they dont even understand why they are atheists.

    In answer to your question “what do I call god” that’s hard to put into words but I will try.

    “God is an intelligent, loving, being who created the universe and all life. this being cares deeply for all people regaurdless of beliefs, character or background, This God is willing to suffer mans abuse and is not hatefull of anyone despite what anyone says to the contrary”

    Also I realise that everyone has low points and the fact is they often end in tragity, I cannot prove my god brought me through my low points but it is somthing I feel as a conviction. Im happy you have gotten through whatever you went through as this life can really be painfull as I am sure you know. I hope your experiences have made you a stronger person as mine have.

  • Daniel Lucas

    Hello, my good friends.
    We all know that this kind of conversation will never lead us for any point.
    For me, to believe or not believe will always be a hard choice to make. I don´t know about you guys, but I live in a eternal inner contradiction: sometimes I see myself just as a simple form of life, nothing more than an ameba or a vulture or a little red fish, lost in a huge ocean. Other times, I think that I am a part of a supernatural plan, that has been orchestrated by the Gods.
    Everything seems so weird for me.
    I feel that I am not just an amount of cells, but one part of me refuses to believe that I am better than the chicken served in my lunch.
    That same part of me is always trying to get answers for the injustices that are seen in everyday life. Why do the Creator, with all His Love and Benevolence, allow the existence of hunger, and misery, and muders, and illness, if He is suppose to have the power to take everything in His Own control? And if He is unsatisfied with the world, why doesn’t He appear to everyone and say, for once: “I am your Creator, and I am very sad with you guys, so it is time to you love each other, because I am exist and if you want to live forever, you got to follow this and that way of life”?
    Why everything got to be so complicated, so obscure, so hidden?
    I got to tell you something, guys: I really don´t know if I am a believer or no. But, one way or another, with the form that I have been educated, I even got the blame, the fear, of asking something like this, Deep in my heart, I feel I had the sin by questioning the existence of God.

  • Derek

    Daniel, you make some good points. I believe in a loving god and I still often question why he allows such suffering to exist in this life. one of my thoughts is that god has given us as people tremendous power to either hurt or help each other, Sadly we have so often CHOSEN to hurt instead of help, so we cant blame god for that. I believe that we as people can change so much that is wrong in this life and ease or eliminate the suffering of many people which I believe is a noble calling. keep asking tough questions, you are not commiting sin by doing so.

  • MTran

    For me, to believe or not believe will always be a hard choice to make.

    You are not alone in that at all. From what I’ve seen of people, many, if not most, feel that way either sometimes or always. For me, the choice is an easy one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t recognize the tension that arises in people as they struggle to make their own choices about matters that are important to them.

    [S]ometimes I see myself just as a simple form of life, nothing more than an ameba or a vulture or a little red fish, lost in a huge ocean. Other times, I think that I am a part of a supernatural plan, that has been orchestrated by the Gods.

    I don’t think those two views are neccesarily incompatible. Perhaps they are only two points along a continuum or different lanes along the same road.

    If you replace the words “supernatural plan” and “god” with “an unfolding of nature beyond comprehension” then you’ll come pretty close to how I often view things. But I seldom feel “lost” in a huge ocean, though, perhaps, I should!

    Although the ocean is a very large place, that littly red fish might not be lost at all and is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Maybe instead of a fish in the ocean, you could try to compare yourself to a single, but inevitable & necessary, note in an endless symphony.

    I think most people have the ability to experience the ineffable, though not everyone recognizes it and fewer still talk much about it. But I think that may be what you are experiencing.

  • Darryl

    Mike C.,

    Karen’s definition of faith is correct. You’re equivocating.

    Love,

    Darryl

  • Darryl

    Mike C.,

    Here’s what you said:

    I’ve found it so fascinating this past year to discover how many atheists think that the Fundamentalists are essentially correct in their interpretation of the Bible and subsequent practice of Christianity. It’s strange to me that they’d be willing to let the Fundies frame the debate in this way. And it’s also strange to me how unsupportive most atheists are of more “liberal” (I would say more historically and culturally contextual and therefore more accurate) interpretations of the Bible. Here’s what’s so weird about it: most atheists will say that they value intelligence and education – and yet when it comes to biblical interpretation they trust the people who are the least educated and most ignorant about history and culture and literary context. Why would you take their word for it? Why not trust the more progressive Christians who tend to interpret the bible through a much more educated lens?

    I don’t view scripture as a word-for-word dictation of God’s unchanging will for all time. The Bible, IMHO, is primarily a story, a narrative of God’s constantly evolving interactions with humanity.

    Concerning the fidelity of the “practice of Christianity,” no sect has a lock on that. It is wishful thinking that some present form of an older religion (like Christianity or Islam) most accurately conforms to that religion as it was at the time of its origins. A cursory overview of the history of religions will be sufficient to cast doubt upon this notion. Religions are constantly changing. They always have and they always will. To an atheist, to argue that a particular branch of some faith is more authoritative, or deserving of more respect, or is in any sense superior, based upon fidelity to the original, is beside the point. There is no authentic Christianity, there is only Christianity as it is practiced: it is what it is. Atheists could care less about a competition for who’s the truest of the true.

    I’ve read some very sound and well researched Biblical interpretation, and from this I think I have come as close to a ‘proper’ interpretation of the Scriptures as is possible. I am an atheist, as you know, and I am also one with an extensive background in Biblical and theological studies. I know what the Bible teaches, and I also know that liberal interpretations of it are NOT the interpretations that the first Christians would have had. I know what the first Christians believed and I reject it. You, unfortunately, are in the position (as a believer) where you have to interpret the Bible so as to retain your liberal values. I respect and share your liberal values; but, please, do not distort the meaning of the Bible to fit your views. This only confuses the matter.

    “I don’t view scripture.” “View” is the operative word here. Treating the Bible as one huge metaphor is entirely your choice, but let’s not overlook the fact that you’re making a choice. Once you treat it as an evolving document, you never know where that might lead. The Bible can mean anything any of us want it to mean, or it can mean nothing. With this metaphorical view we can make any book a holy book–why the Bible? Why not the Koran? Why not the Philokalia or the Philosophical Investigations?
    The fundies have many errors of interpretation, but don’t fault them for taking the Bible as it was intended. If you don’t believe parts of it, then be straightforward and say so, but don’t try to convince us that it is something other than what it is. Your “more educated lens” is a filter that suits you; one that filters out those objectionable portions that don’t fit your beliefs. So, what is leading, your Bible or your beliefs? Why not be economical and get rid of the Bible, or better yet, pick and choose from all the best parts of the best holy books. Isn’t the Bible a pretext for your faith?

  • MTran

    The fundies have many errors of interpretation, but don’t fault them for taking the Bible as it was intended.

    Okay, I’m an atheist from way back but this sentence is very problematic. First, what do you mean by “intended”? Because the various contributors and redactors of the many books of the bible often had violently conflicting “intentions” in their production of the text. The pentateuch and history sections of the Old Testament show this sort of internal rivalry rather strongly.

    Some may have been “literalists” but there’s good evidence that many portions of the text (particularly the NewTestament) were intended — by their initial drafters — to be readable at more than one level, with the superficial literal one being meant only for “beginners” and the metaphoric or “hidden” meanings to be understood by those who were more fully versed in the underlying purposes.

    That most of the “metaphoric” or mystery tales were eventually rooted out by pure politics (purges, beheadings, general slaughter of rivals etc.) does not mean that the “literalists” were right in their interpretation, only that they had the will and ability to literally destroy most of their rivals or, at best, marginalize them and wipe them from most histories.

  • Darryl

    MTran,

    I agree with most of what you said about the Bible, and I don’t think it nullifies the point I was making that you quoted. Let’s be specific. I’m not talking about books like Revelation or the O.T. Prophets. Most fundies wouldn’t know how to begin to interpret these books, and there isn’t just a single interpretation. These are not the kind of books of the Bible that my comment had in mind–they don’t pose the problem for liberal or moderate Christians. But, take the letters of the Apostle Paul for example. You will find in them very little that requires non-literal interpretation. These are letters intended for regular folk, concerned with practical as well as theological issues. Paul is plain-speaking and doesn’t mince words. For instance, his teaching concerning certain kinds of conduct is not compatible with my views or that of most liberals. Just read his letters for yourself. Read what he says about fornication (I Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; Ephesians 5:3) and homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27, I Corinthians 6:9-10). I will admit that the fundies have their interpretations right about what Paul says will be the fate of unrepentant fornicators and homosexuals–I just don’t believe it. Interpreting the Bible in such a way that you can get around such nasty passages only keeps this book from being regarded as what it is: an historical document, not a guide-book to living.

  • MTran

    Interpreting the Bible in such a way that you can get around such nasty passages only keeps this book from being regarded as what it is: an historical document, not a guide-book to living.

    We may be largely in agreement, it seems. And I don’t want to speak on behalf of believers, since I’m not one myself, but my experience has been that many Christians I have known see the Bible as one of many attempts by humans to capture the underlying purpose of a supposed deity, and they are quite happy reinterpreting, or simply ignoring, text that is contrary to their vision of that deity.

    Now many may say that those people aren’t “real” Christians, but I tend to accept people’s religious self-identification. If you tell them that they are “misinterpreting” their own religion, you’re not going to get anywhere because you are speaking right past them.

    So, to my way of thinking, it isn’t any verse in the Bible that persuades me that god does or does not exist. It is the fact that there is clearly no evidence that any supernatural entity or force exists. So I don’t usually waste time debating scripture with those who use a metaphoric interpretation. Literalists, though, that’s another story.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Darryl, I hate to say it, but again I feel like you’re arguing against a strawman version of myself. I don’t fault you for that, perhaps I wasn’t clear enough about how I interpret scripture, but nonetheless, I don’t really match either side of the dichotomy you paint between “fundamentalist literalists” and “liberals who treat it all as metaphor”.

    Again, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the emerging church movement, but it represents a kind of “third way” between these two caricatures – and it’s based on some very sound scholarship. I’d point you to NT Wright (on this particular topic try his book “The Last Word”) for an example of excellent historically & literarily contextual readings of the text. It’s that contextual reading that I think sometimes both the fundamentalist and liberal camps miss.

    I agree that we can’t ever have a perfect understanding of the original intent of the text – in large part because of exactly what MTran described: the text itself is multi-layered and represents more of a dialogue about the nature and actions of God, not just a single uniformed perspective (for more on that, see “How (Not) to Speak of God” by Peter Rollins).

    However, even with that being the case, we can do a better job of understanding the bible for what it is – i.e. a multi-layered, multi-vocal, dynamic text that expresses an evolving understanding of and relationship to the divine. This is more than just a mere “literal” reading that takes the text simply at face value, and assumes that all of it should be read in exactly the same way (i.e. as direct divine dictation). But on the other hand, it is vastly different than a purely “liberal” reading that just tries to make the text fit whatever our Modern sensibilities want it to say or throws out the parts it doesn’t like. It’s all just way more complicated than that.

    Anyhow, you’re right that there is no one sect that has a lock on the perfect interpretation of scripture, but then you confuse me by saying that you think that you’ve got it. I know you’ve studied theology and must certainly have a good knowledge of the text, but what makes you so sure that you’ve succeeded where everyone else has failed? What gives you the authority to declare that the fundies have it right and the rest of us don’t?

  • MTran

    Paul is plain-speaking and doesn’t mince words. For instance, his teaching concerning certain kinds of conduct is not compatible with my views or that of most liberals. Just read his letters for yourself.

    Yes, Paul may be plain speaking, but he isn’t god or Christ. I’ve heard quite a few commentators refer to certain styles of Christianity as being more “Paulist” than Christian. To me, that seems to be true of the Roman Catholic church but not very true for some of the other protestant denominations whose services I’ve attended.

    Have you ever read the Jefferson Bible? TJ did a rather convincing edit on the New Testament, and plenty of Christians take a similar, if unofficial, approach. If Paul says something that seems ethically questionable, he can be placed in his historic context and safely edited around.

    Darryl, I have defended Dawkins rather strongly on various discussion boards but I haven’t said much about Harris because 1) I’ve only read snippets of his books and 2) his insistence that literalists are the “true” believers and that non-literalists “wish” they could be as strongly “Christian” as the literalists is utter BS. It makes me wonder if he has ever met a non-literalist believer.

    So I’m inclined to say that there is not a lot of support for the notion that only a literal belief in scripture is true belief or that Christians who reformulate the texts so that they read in a morally coherent manner are not true believers.

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    I did not assume that you were a caricature. I was generalizing—I thought that was clear, but I guess it wasn’t—I just didn’t want to get down into the weeds on this complex subject.

    There is never “a perfect understanding of the literal intent of the text” for any text, so this is not a point at issue. Just try to get a room full of Americans to agree about what the Constitution means.

    You say that your “third way” is “based on some very sound scholarship.” In my view, how the Bible is interpreted is more about intention than the quality of scholarship. Every denomination has its scholars and they all come to different conclusions about the meaning of scripture. Some of the best Biblical scholarship that I’ve come across has been from atheists. The atheist Bible scholar has this advantage: he or she has nothing to gain or lose. As MTran has said, most folks just choose the parts they like and avoid those they don’t. I have no problem with anyone that does that—I just expect them to say so and not try to tell me that they have some superior way of interpreting the Bible that gets at its true intent. Why is this important? If Christians are just picking and choosing, then the Bible is not authoritative for faith and practice, because parts of it can be ignored without injury to one’s faith. It challenges the vaunted position of this book.

    If the Bible is not a uniform document but a mish-mash of conflicting materials that must be side-stepped when it is convenient to do so, then another layer of the Church’s authority and witness to the faith has been underminded. The question ultimately becomes: “On what are you basing your faith?” This is where I at least have some sympathy for the fundies, just as I do for the Constitutional-originalists. If the meaning of the Bible is always changing, then of what can Christians ever be sure? What will keep the faith from morphing into some terrible apostasy, or from being taken over by heretics? Now, of course the Church will say that the Church itself and its traditions, etc., will stay the course, but just look at how churches have and are changing. This is a constant. So, the Bible has to be viewed differently as times goes on, and it is.

    In short, IMHO, there is no church today that understands and follows the doctrines of the Bible as they were understood and followed at the time of the founders of the religion. When any church makes that claim, they are in error. All churches pick and choose; so, if you’re going to pick and choose anyway, then why not include other books, and why not do what Jefferson did and eliminate the objectionable or useless passages from the Bible?

    Anyhow, you’re right that there is no one sect that has a lock on the perfect interpretation of scripture, but then you confuse me by saying that you think that you’ve got it. I know you’ve studied theology and must certainly have a good knowledge of the text, but what makes you so sure that you’ve succeeded where everyone else has failed? What gives you the authority to declare that the fundies have it right and the rest of us don’t?

    I have an understanding that satisfies me for those areas of the Bible that interest me. There is much in the Bible that I don’t know about, and frankly, I’ve spent too much time on this book already. I have no interest in the architecture of the Temple or who begat whom and how. Once I threw off my faith, studying the Bible dropped down to the bottom of my list of things to do.

    Contrary to your statement, everyone else has not failed in understanding certain portions of the Bible. This understanding is not the matter of degrees—good, better, best, perfect. Sure, we’re all waiting breathlessly for that one archeologist to make that one find that will open up an extra layer of meaning in that verse of scripture upon which millions of words have been spent. But, it doesn’t take that degree of knowledge to understand the passages that I mentioned to MTran. I have claimed no authority to declare who’s right and who’s wrong on anything. But, I do have an opinion on the matter. I’ve come to an understanding of certain parts of the Bible having to do with the issues that are most problematic for liberal or moderate Christians and most interesting to the fundies—the moral matters. I say again, I know what the Bible teaches on these matters and I reject it. The Bible is not a guide-book for living for me because I do not make it that. It is neither compelling nor relevant.

  • Darryl

    MTran,

    So I’m inclined to say that there is not a lot of support for the notion that only a literal belief in scripture is true belief or that Christians who reformulate the texts so that they read in a morally coherent manner are not true believers.

    I agree with you on this. Belief cannot be accounted for, and ‘true’ belief says nothing about its contents.

  • MTran

    Darryl,

    I certainly agree with you that there is no one “right” way of “correctly” reading the Bible or that, if Christians were just diligent enough, they could learn what it was really all about and thus do it right.

    But since there is a long tradition (from before the thing was committed to writing) of reworking or working around troublesome portions of the Bible, then you won’t get very far in arguing against someone’s interpretation of a text.

    You especially won’t get very far if you insist that a believer doesn’t really understand the meaning or application of any particular verse of the Bible. With literalists, you can show pretty definitively where they and the text are clearly wrong. Not so much with non-literalists.

    There is an anecdote I once read by a theologian (who I seem to remember being a Jewish theologian but I could be mistaken about that). His response to people who told him “I don’t believe in God,” was “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in, because I probably don’t believe in him either.”

    Of course, he was completely missing the point of not believing in any god and his retort may have seemed clever to him but nonsensical to an atheist. Still, it demonstrates a mind-set that is extremely common. And if your primary argument about the invalidity of belief is that believers should understand the Bible the way you do and with that new, proper, understanding reject it, you just won’t get anywhere.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    If the meaning of the Bible is always changing, then of what can Christians ever be sure? What will keep the faith from morphing into some terrible apostasy, or from being taken over by heretics?

    Yeah, I’d probably just ask why these are bad things to begin with. In my view, the doctrines and practice of the church (along with its understanding of the Bible) has been changing and morphing all along, and this is a good thing! A static, unchanging faith, IMHO, is a dead faith, and not one that is worthy of a living God who continues to be engaged with a changing world.

    Maybe conservative Christians just need to get over their desire for “being sure”, and their fear of heresy. Maybe the point isn’t really about having the right belief in the first place – maybe it’s okay to say “we don’t really know” and for all of our theological statements to be provisional. (Actually, given human limitations and God’s transcendence, I don’t see how they could be any other way – again, for more on that, see the book I recommended, “How (Not) to Speak of God”.)

  • Darryl

    Mtran,

    And if your primary argument about the invalidity of belief is that believers should understand the Bible the way you do and with that new, proper, understanding reject it, you just won’t get anywhere.

    I think I have been clear about what my argument is. Believers will do as they please. I think your view of the Bible is problematic. Your line of reasoning leads to epistemological uncertainty. By that way of thinking one cannot interpret the intended meaning of any text with assurance. The Bible becomes off limits as to its meaning. Analogously, I’ve heard Constitutional scholars give good readings of the original intent of the document that both liberal and conservative judges can agree with. Where they differ is about the purpose of the document: does it evolve or not? I can no doubt sit down with Mike and we can come to agreement upon what a given verse means, but we will still disagree about the nature and purpose of the document.

    Concerning the letters of Paul, what we know to be his intention in writing the letters–what he asserts–and our assumption that he was not toying with the recipients but wanting to be understood, can only lead us to conclude that it is possible to understand their meaning. I mentioned specific passages so that we wouldn’t be dealing in generalizations about this subject and its implications.

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    Maybe the point isn’t really about having the right belief in the first place – maybe it’s okay to say “we don’t really know” and for all of our theological statements to be provisional. (Actually, given human limitations and God’s transcendence, I don’t see how they could be any other way . . .

    Wow. Suddenly you’re sounding like an agnostic. If you “don’t really know,” then what does that mean for your theism? And how do you have a faith with any certainties at all if all your theology is provisional? If God is transcendent, as you say, then this whole matter of understanding God is pointless. This sounds to me like I was asking the right question when I wondered if the Bible was but a pretext for your beliefs. It might be that any holy book would do the job for you, seeing that you want to be a religious person.

  • MTran

    I think your view of the Bible is problematic.

    Perhaps I have not been clear. This is not my view at all.

    This is the view that I have heard espoused by numerous educated believers in both casual and academic situations. It is also a view that I heard in many of the churches and church supported bible study courses I took in grade school and highschool. It is consistent with undergraduate religion and mythology courses I took. But it is not mine.

    You seem to be frustrated with the observations I have tried to describe to you. You will continue to experience such frustrations if you think that believers with “problematic” interpretations will listen to a single word you have to say if you insist that they accept your view as being relevant to their own.

    On the occassions when I have spoken with believers who are truly curious about why I am an atheist, and there is sufficient time to do so, I can go into ancient parallel mythic literature, problematic translations from several dead languages, the archaeological record, and dozens of other things to show why I do not specifically believe in a Biblical god, why I do not accept the historicity of most Biblical passages, and why I do not believe in any god or supernatural entity or force.

    Thereafter I will explain the scientific bases that support my naturalistic view of the universe, life, spirituality, and my place in it.

    But you seldom get the luxury of an interested, intelligent, educated, unprejudiced audience willing to put real time and thought into such discussions.

    Attacking someone’s interpretations of the Bible is fine if you want to try to convince them that they should switch to another, “truer” denomination. It does nothing to convince them that the “right” answer is “no god.”

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Wow. Suddenly you’re sounding like an agnostic. If you “don’t really know,” then what does that mean for your theism? And how do you have a faith with any certainties at all if all your theology is provisional?

    Uh yeah, I am an a-gnostic – i.e. without knowledge – not just about God, about anything. I’m a postmodern, which means that I don’t think “knowledge” or “certainty” is possible for human beings on pretty much any subject – we can have probability and working theories, but absolute certainty and unshakable knowledge are just pipe-dreams – relics of the flawed Modern project.

    (BTW, the AgnosticAtheist, who posts here occasionally, has a great explanation of the degrees of theism, agnosticism, and atheism here. I’m #2 on his taxonomy.)

    So I am an agnostic theist – I don’t know for sure God exists or what s/he is like, but at this point I think it is more likely than not – and frankly, I’m just as agnostic about the other options too. (I don’t think anyone has the right to say any more than that, no matter what their worldview is.) But I have committed myself to pursuing the possibility of God, and living my life according to it, because from what I’ve experienced so far it seems to me to be the best possible way to live.

    If God is transcendent, as you say, then this whole matter of understanding God is pointless.

    Yes and no. I’m not sure that “understanding God” was the point in the first place. Experiencing, celebrating, responding, following – these seem like better descriptions of the life of faith, IMHO.

    Let me put it this way. My journey into a postmodern/emerging Christianity has been one of rejecting faith as a set of absolute doctrines, and rediscovering faith as a way of life.

  • MTran

    Mike C.,

    Interesting link you provided.

    The Agnostic Atheist’s site lists varieties of belief that leaves out some of the possibilities I’ve seen on other such lists, though, and I don’t agree with the tag “Fundamentalism” to denote those who are simply “theists.” Fundamentalism has a whole truckload of connotations to its standard definition that I think it’s a mistake to use that word at all.

    What I’ve seen in the past goes something like: Theist, Agnostic Theist, Unaligned Agnostic, Agnostic Atheist, Atheist. Other people have argued that agnosticism is a variety of atheism because it does not, in itself, include a belief in gods.

    I end up at the Atheist end of the spectrumo according to most definitions of God. But my priest friends have told me they believe God will set aside a special place for me in heaven. I could not have asked for a higher compliment.

  • Richard Wade

    But my priest friends have told me they believe God will set aside a special place for me in heaven.

    I think God is very fond of atheists for a very specific reason. They’re not constantly pestering him with, “Thank you for this, forgive me for that, Please do this, please don’t do that, should I do this, should I do that, I dunno, you tell me, are you really there, sorry for asking, what’s it all about, no, don’t tell me, save me, kill them, kill me, save them, take me, not her, take him, not me, gimmie this gimmie that, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa it’s enough to make even an all benevolent supreme entity go completely nuts and yell SHUT THE HELL UP!!! But he can’t do that, he’s too nice. I mean multiply that stuff six and a half billion times day and night no wonder he’s kind of scarce. He’s probably 13.7 billion light years away trying to get away from all the incessant chatter. Astronomers have found that the universe is accelerating in its expansion. That’s ’cause he’s still trying to get even further away. Even if prayers only travel at the speed of light they’re still gonna catch up with him, and the poor guy lasts forever.

    Did you ever have to work outside on a dirty, difficult job and while you’re up to your elbows in muck some little kid comes up and says, “Whatcha doin’?” Almost always it’s a four-year-old boy and for some reason his name is usually Max. No matter where you go he follows you around asking you stupid questions and telling you inane stories without a single pause. You try to be nice and listen for a while, but then you realize that was a mistake but you can’t be rude and tell him to shut the hell up ’cause his mother lives next door and she’ll be pissed if Max runs home crying about the mean man. So you bite your tongue and hope to God that the little pest will finally go away. But hoping to God has already driven him out of earshot long ago, so you’re on your own.

  • Darryl

    Mtran,

    Attacking someone’s interpretations of the Bible is fine if you want to try to convince them that they should switch to another, “truer” denomination. It does nothing to convince them that the “right” answer is “no god.”

    I’m not attacking anyone’s interpretations, and I’m not trying to convince anyone to switch to a truer denomination. And you are right, my questions about the Bible are not likely to lead anyone to reject the idea of God. I have made this point myself a number of times in my previous posts. Nevertheless, I am interested in how the Bible is understood, or should I say, how it is manipulated.

  • Darryl

    Mike,

    You have an interesting view of postmodernism. I would think that you would have no need to argue about faith versus reason or science ever again. You can easily skirt the whole issue. Why do you defend faith and reason?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    You have an interesting view of postmodernism. I would think that you would have no need to argue about faith versus reason or science ever again. You can easily skirt the whole issue. Why do you defend faith and reason?

    Indeed Darryl, I don’t see much reason to argue about faith vs. reason or faith vs. science. I’ve never been interested in arguing them since I don’t really see much contradiction between them.

    But I don’t reject them either. Of course I’ve given an oversimplification of postmodernism, but on the whole it’s not a rejection of things like faith or reason, just an acknowledgment of their limitations.

  • Darryl

    I was watching the first episode of Robert McNeil’s “America At A Crossroads” last night and it made me wonder: what will be the effect upon religion in America (and in the world) as the West challenges Islamic radicalism? I can see that Christian fundamentalism will react to the challenge (it is already), but will religious feeling on the whole increase here, and, perhaps later, will the larger lesson we take from this “global struggle” lead to a reform of religions that moves them in a direction similar to Mike’s emerging faith?

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I don’t agree with the tag “Fundamentalism” to denote those who are simply “theists.” Fundamentalism has a whole truckload of connotations to its standard definition that I think it’s a mistake to use that word at all.

    I like Peter Rollins definition of fundamentalism (from “How (Not) to Speak of God”):

    Very briefly, fundamentalism can be understood as a particular way of believing one’s beliefs rather than referring to the actual content of one’s beliefs. It can be described as holding a belief system in such a way that it mutually excludes all other systems, rejecting other views in direct proportion to how much they differ from one’s own. In contrast, the a/theistic approach can be seen as a form of disbelieving what one believes, or rather, believing in God while remaining dubious concerning what one believes about God (a distinction that fundamentalism is unable to maintain.)

    BTW, by “a/theism” Rollins is denoting an atheistic approach to theism, not necessarily to the kind of atheism that some of you here espouse.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    will the larger lesson we take from this “global struggle” lead to a reform of religions that moves them in a direction similar to Mike’s emerging faith?

    I’m already seeing some indications of an “emerging Islam”.

  • Siamang

    Mike C,

    I remember reading someone who wrote that he holds religious beliefs, but the primary aspect of that belief was that the beliefs were personal and provisional.

    He seemed very much in line with that a/theism point of view… he recognized that his beliefs were correct and true for him, but did not neccessarily point to an absolute truth from all possible perspectives.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Yeah, that might be another way to put it – though I’m not sure I’d put it quite that way. Provisional, yes, but “personal” smacks too much of Modern Individualism to me. I’m more of a communitarian when it comes to epistemology. We don’t just have personal truth, we have social truth.

  • MTran

    Mike C.,

    About this part:

    BTW, by “a/theism” Rollins is denoting an atheistic approach to theism, not necessarily to the kind of atheism that some of you here espouse.

    Could you explain a bit more about the difference(s) between Rollins’ definition of atheism and some other popular definition?

    Darryl,

    You’ve got a pretty big job ahead of you If you hope to find out how others interpret / understand / or rationalize the Bible! Though I suppose the same thing could be said about any other human activity.

    On another blog, I recently read comments by a young woman who chastized those who claimed that there were contradictions in the bible. According to her, the Bible was free from contradictions and was clear in it’s meaning throughout. Guess that’s why there have been so many schisms throughout history.

    So when you say:

    Your line of reasoning leads to epistemological uncertainty.

    It’s rather beside the point for the great majority of people I have encountered. Most of the run-of-the-mill believers of any pursuasion don’t seem to care about epistemological anything, or even know what it is. And plenty of them, if you even mention such issues, will respond with hostility because, clearly, you are just a deceitful troublemaker.

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  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    Could you explain a bit more about the difference(s) between Rollins’ definition of atheism and some other popular definition?

    I’ve posted an excerpt from Rollin’s book that describes what he means.

    Just to clarify. He’s not proposing a “better” definition. The standard definition still applies. He’s just suggesting another use of the term atheism specifically in relation to the way in which theists think about God.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C
    Your line of reasoning leads to epistemological uncertainty.

    It’s rather beside the point for the great majority of people I have encountered. Most of the run-of-the-mill believers of any pursuasion don’t seem to care about epistemological anything, or even know what it is. And plenty of them, if you even mention such issues, will respond with hostility because, clearly, you are just a deceitful troublemaker.

    And then there are those like me who will say “Woo-hoo for epistemological uncertainty!” :)

  • MTran

    And then there are those like me who will say “Woo-hoo for epistemological uncertainty!”

    Exactly. This was a common attitude within the churches I grew up in. And as a consequence, I had very little (essentially no) animosity toward believers in general until the nut-cakes started flying planes into skyscrapers.

    Actually, it wasn’t the suicide jet crashes themselves that turned my attention to serious problems with American religious literalists. It was the literalists themselves, seeking a holy war and invading the public school rooms.

  • Richard Wade

    …until the nut-cakes started flying planes into skyscrapers.

    9-11 seems to have been a turning point in many of our inner lives, mine certainly so. Sam Harris said he started writing “The End of Faith” on that day. That would make a very interesting and perhaps therapeutic thread for Hemant to start here; to discuss how we responded and how our beliefs and views have changed as a result of that terrible day. I would only want to discuss such things with the mutual input of of others.

  • MTran

    Richard Wade,

    I would certainly be interested in seeing the thoughts of others, and sharing my own, in a thread related to the lasting effects of 9-11.

    But I don’t normally like to commit myself to on-line exchanges because I never know when my health will make it impossible to respond. People complain often enough about my opinions, which is to be expected, but I don’t like to give the impression that I am ignoring questions, or worse yet, am “chickening out” on some argument.

    As I’ve told others, I don’t want to be mistaken for a dilatory jerk when I’m really just a plain old debilitated jerk. ;-)

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  • Richard Wade

    MTran,
    You and I are always the night owls. In addition to insomnia, I suspect we’re both further west than most of the others who post here.
    If Hemant started a discussion on that topic I think there would be so many people eager to speak that if you couldn’t contribute, while I’d certainly miss your input, the talk would roar on its way until you could join in. This thread is too long and old. A new one would be better. Hey Hemant, what do you think?

    MTran, only a true jerk would mistake you for any kind of jerk.

  • Richard Wade

    Holy smoke. Ask and it shall be given, even before you ask. Thanks, Hemant!

  • Andygal

    I think God is very fond of atheists for a very specific reason. They’re not constantly pestering him with, “Thank you for this, forgive me for that, Please do this, please don’t do that, should I do this, should I do that, I dunno, you tell me, are you really there, sorry for asking, what’s it all about, no, don’t tell me, save me, kill them, kill me, save them, take me, not her, take him, not me, gimmie this gimmie that, blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa yaketa it’s enough to make even an all benevolent supreme entity go completely nuts and yell SHUT THE HELL UP!!! But he can’t do that, he’s too nice. I mean multiply that stuff six and a half billion times day and night no wonder he’s kind of scarce. He’s probably 13.7 billion light years away trying to get away from all the incessant chatter. Astronomers have found that the universe is accelerating in its expansion. That’s ’cause he’s still trying to get even further away. Even if prayers only travel at the speed of light they’re still gonna catch up with him, and the poor guy lasts forever.

    Did you ever have to work outside on a dirty, difficult job and while you’re up to your elbows in muck some little kid comes up and says, “Whatcha doin’?” Almost always it’s a four-year-old boy and for some reason his name is usually Max. No matter where you go he follows you around asking you stupid questions and telling you inane stories without a single pause. You try to be nice and listen for a while, but then you realize that was a mistake but you can’t be rude and tell him to shut the hell up ’cause his mother lives next door and she’ll be pissed if Max runs home crying about the mean man. So you bite your tongue and hope to God that the little pest will finally go away. But hoping to God has already driven him out of earshot long ago, so you’re on your own.

    Thank you for making me smile, Richard.

    I am strongly atheistic when it comes to all personal gods, I suppose I am an agnostic atheist when it comes to an indifferent, impersonal “Prime Mover” god which doesn’t interact with people and doesn’t really care all that much, maybe the univese was an egg he left in the microwave for too long and it exploded and someday he’ll come along and scrub the universe off the inside of the microwave.

  • Richard Wade

    Andygal,
    Your exploding egg cosmology is very funny, and the cosmic microwave background radiation could confirm it. Thank you for making me smile in return. I think a “sense of humor” is a real sense that we use to perceive the universe’s absurdity all around us. A very important sense for our survival.

  • Derek Ellis

    Hey guys and gals. You people seem to have alot to say about me and my faith so Heres somthing I wrote about you

    MY VIEVS ON NON CHRISTIANS.

    I believe in the God of the bible alone, though I dont always obey him I believe in him. I have to accept the fact that not everyone shares my faith, theese are my general beliefs about non christians.
    1.I believe that lack of belief in christ can lead to sin but it doesnt make someone into an evil person, There are many non christians (atheists included) who do more good to people than me.
    2. I believe that apart from christ there is no salvation yet I dont think it is my place to say who will be saved (live eternally) I believe that God will call who God will call and I cannot know in advance whom that will be. 3. I believe non christians fail to percieve some or all spiritual realities yet this does not mean they are foolish people with nothing to add to the world.
    4. I believe God loves non christans as he loves me and he wants all people to come to faith in him (and obedience) yet I dont believe God hates non christians (with possible exeptions for truly vile, evil, unrepentant people).
    Often the words and behavior of everyone (christians included) upsets me.
    I am upset by atheists who disregaurd my intelligence, muslims who kill innocant people and fanatical christians who do more harm than good.

    I hope you see that we christians are not all about condemning you to hell and that we do accually think about our views from time to time.

  • danasue

    Hi, Hement! Just wanted to let you know I saw you on James Robison’s show and I really appreciate you being there. It’s nice to see someone who isn’t beligerant about what he believes and will listen to opposing viewpoints without getting angry. You know, I don’t agree with my husband on everything, but we still coexist quite well, and I really don’t see any reason why the same can’t be true of you and I.
    Something I would like everyone to understand, though; when a person has a life-changing experience, no matter the origin, they are compelled to share it with those they care about. This is the driving force behind many (sadly, not all) Christians who share their views with others. It’s like finding a great sale at the store – you call your friends and tell them! The news we share is so much more than that, obviously, and because we have truly experienced freedom from the things that have been plagues in our lives, it is all the more compelling to us.
    I am sure that you feel equally compelled to share your views with Christians. It is refreshing to know that we can just discuss our differing views without animocity.
    Thanks again for your apperance on the show. I pray that God will bless your life!
    ds

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  • jEdijAy

    It’s very easy to be atheistic when you’re sure who you are and you see the world the way it is naturally, perceived by our natural senses.our 21st century intelect,knowledge of the physical world and observation of our species up to now,it seems to appear almost provable that God doesn’t exist. But now science is being made to change it’s mind about creation of the universe,evolution,Darwin (What a guy!). Soon there will definitive answers across the board on the whole arguement.
    People who are athiests and people who believe in God have a few things in common,they both have their belief systems. neither can proove God does or doesn’t exist, for the moment. And we’re all going to die some day, but the big big difference between being athiest and believing in God is, the athiest will take his or her last breath and die without any hope…..
    I’ll bet many bold and devout atheists become pleading repenting believers in their last moments of life on Earth.Thank God!

  • jEdijAy

    It’s very easy to be atheistic when you’re sure who you are and you see the world the way it is naturally, perceived by our natural senses.our 21st century intelect,knowledge of the physical world and observation of our species up to now,it seems to appear almost provable that God doesn’t exist. But now science is being made to change it’s mind about creation of the universe,evolution,Darwin (What a guy!). Soon there will definitive answers across the board on the whole arguement.
    People who are athiests and people who believe in God have a few things in common,they both have their belief systems. neither can proove God does or doesn’t exist, for the moment. And we’re all going to die some day, but the big big difference between being athiest and believing in God is, the athiest will take his or her last breath and die without any hope…..
    I’ll bet many bold and devout atheists become pleading repenting believers in their last moments of life on Earth.Thank God!

  • bluefireiceeyes

    “So you’ve actually met a religious person who fits the above criteria? I have to say I don’t believe it. There may be some theists out there doing some good, but I’d say that the chances that they aren’t doing/thinking at least one of the above negative things is slim to none. And as has been argued time and time again, even the most moderate, intelligent theists, as harmless as they may seem, enable other hardline theists by lending their inane beliefs credibility. And you’re indirectly lending them credibility as well by “respecting” those with the softer god beliefs. You know damn well that moderate theists don’t stand up to their fanatical cousins, especially when it comes to the political sphere. Let me know how your ridiculous double standard for arguing with theists works out for you. These maniacs have already seized control of our country, I don’t think playing nice is the answer. ”

    Well, maybe you haven’t MET such a person, but there’s one right here, and I know PLENTY of others. The question is, are you so closed-minded that even if you met one of us, you’d refuse to acknowledge it? If you don’t want people stereotyping atheists and saying “all atheists are angry, mean people” based on the actions of some, don’t do the same things to us. Try and keep an open mind. Before I got on this website, I didn’t think there was such a thing as a friendly atheist, now I know better. I hope the same happens to you with regards to not labeling all religious people the same. And I don’t “lend credibility” to anyone. I fight fundies every chance I get, and I haven’t been treated too well by them as a result, but that doesn’t stop me. And there are plenty of others like me. Newsflash: fundies hate people like me even more than they hate you, b/c you they can dismiss as a “crazy nonbeliever” in their minds. Me, they can’t understand how I can believe in God and not stick to their interpretation, when in reality, it’s quite easy. So keep an open mind and don’t close your eyes when you see one of us, cause you will. The question is, can you accept it? I hope you can.

  • tonja johnson

    I am enjoying your book and and wanted to share my simple solution on the Pledge of Allegiance issue. I simply recite it as it was originally written. I just don’t say the two words “under god”. Don’t have to set it out, leave the room or draw attention to myself.

  • M

    The Unbrainwashed said,

    March 11, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    The only reason people don’t like the ‘bullhorn guys’ is due to their brutal honesty. Religious topics are either true or not and to partonize those that do not have the correct answer (e.g. the religious) is absurd. If I have a completely incorrect and illogical approach to a math problem, it does me no good for my teacher to try to reach a compromise with me. Rather, i expect that my teacher tells me straight up what I am doing incorrectly. Dawkins and Harris engage in this and the religious willingfully ignore them on the shallow grounds of their brash approach. It’s simply another cop-out for the religious. The means of which a message is spread should be of no importance when compared to the veracity of that message. The religious, in their delusion, simply do not want to hear their faith being portrayed as it is and thus prefer those that won’t fully challgene them.

    So in otherwords, only atheists can decide what’s true and what’s right?

  • jEDijAy

    Dear brainwashed,
    What a bunch of utter crap!
    like Sculley once said: The truth( is) out there, The truth is, you guys don’t really want to know the truth, be it theological or scientific….
    Physics , nano technology.astronomy,archeology, they’re all pointing to a creator.

    The reason why you don’t see it is because you’re so intellectually arrogant, the thought of there being an omnipotent , omnipresent, omnicient”Supernatural being”who created all things, who actually is in control and ultimately in control of your final destiny, pisses you off.
    It’s your self indulgence that feeds your ignorance and denile of what really IS the truth . And that’s pathetic and very dangerous………
    check out this website:www.leestrobel.com (ex-athiest)

  • http://no derek ellis

    Jedijay, I like you and agree with you in everything you say. However this website is becoming boring so im never coming on it again. M-tran, you are highly decieved and so is you messiah dawkins (or whatever his name is).

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  • bloo

    Hi Hermant,
    I am happy to see that you want to be peaceful with everyone and work together. I am not an atheist, however, I believe in tyring to come to a middle ground between an atheist and a person of regious faith. You are right about atheists being seen as angry and hateful individuals, but there are far too few who are kind and peacemakers.

    There are individuals from both camps who are extreme and think “you believe as I do or else!” This is never the way to approach a different culture, religion, or otherwise. However, I do notice you calling religious people uneducated, wrong, illogical, or lacking in critical thinking skills. This doesn’t speak well for peacemaking abilities. You have to realize that religious people also think you and other atheists are uneducated, wrong or “stupid” if you want to throw that out there. So, you see, it is an opinion, not a matter of education. In order for the two groups to co-exist, you have to be accepting of the other persons beliefs so that you can be accepted too or at least treated with respect.

    I have atheist friends that I love dearly. They respect my faith, as I respect their belief that there is no God. Isn’t that the way it should be? I know you don’t believe, but according to Christian faith, God gave man free will. This means you and I have the freedom to believe in Him or not. I believe that with all my heart.

    You are right, we need to address the real issues, but you have to also realize that those of religious faith will have a different view on how a situation needs to be addressed. To be a true peacemaker, you have to give a little to both sides and come to a middle ground. I am not going to have the same beliefs that you have. Not ever, but I think there is always room for compromise in a situation that needs to be addressed.

    Don’t ever assume that you can change people. I tried to change my spouse and it didn’t work, but I ended up respecting and loving my spouse for who they were. The same approach needs to be applied in a relationship with an atheist and a religious person.

    You have gay friends . . . great! I have family that is gay. You will find that those that are hateful to gay people do not follow Jesus’s teachings. He was not hateful to the whore that approached Him, but told her out of love to “go and sin no more”. This is the true Christian. We are not supposed to be haters, but to reach out in love to others and share our faith without being pushy and shoving it down someones throat. If someone chooses to close their ears to the message . . that is their God given choice. I don’t hate gay people, I dislike the act or sin as Christains would call it. I love my family, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree with their practice of homosexuality and I don’t. This goes for abortion too. I feel life is precious and no matter what life brings, a baby has a right to life as well. That is an opinion just as it is your opinion that the government has no right to tell a woman what to do with her body. That is a whole other debate, that doesn’t need to be addressed here. My point is, if you want to work together, you have to be willing to give too. Don’t be so eager to take our faith and flush it. If you respect us, we will (at least some of us) respect you.

  • http://www.carm.org jonathon

    Im a born-again Christian. Too many times Christians give up their intellect when they become Christian, it’s a shame really. I must admit it perceives the faith as a ‘bunch of unintelligent kooks who don’t know how to reason and use rationality’.
    Most are afraid of anti-God websites, refuse to be friends with atheists (but will gladly hide behind their computer and tell someone they are “going to hell”..etc…
    I would rather chat with atheists most of the time. At least they haven’t given up their intellect. (On the contrary I’ve debated many atheists who are losing the debate and bring out the “Oh religion is an emotional crutch-It gets a little old that one, and the whole bible being a ‘fairy-tale’ etc, these people in my opinion have given up their own rational thinking, that is to only repeat what they’ve heard rather than do the digging themselves)

    I like listening to Podcasts that include Atheist vs Theist. I encourage you all to listen to them.

    Best advise I can give to people (especially my daughter) is “Don’t follow the crowd, don’t make assumptions based on the majority, and think logically, rational and respectful”

    Take care all… Hope to get an email off someone.

  • Lauren

    yay Jonathan! A man after my own heart! I am tired of athiests using “faith” as an excuse to say that I will believe in anything. (fairies, santa, spagetti monster) The reason I became a Christian is because I studied evolution and looked through history and compared that to the predictions in the bible and I had no choice but to convert. I based it on logical, rational thinking and I gave evolution a really good shot because I didn’t really want to be a “christian”. (being honest) So please don’t call me irrational, illogical or someone who bases christianity on faith alone. Belief got me to repent, experience keeps me at church with God.

  • Johnrap

    I have an idea that might solve the problem. Stop judging people. That’s what’s happening right? You have judged someone incorrect and you want to straighten them out. But, the thing is, we’re all incorrect.

    It is not only religious ideas from a hundred or a thousand years ago that seem laughable, it’s scientific ideas too. People believed a lot of crazy stuff in the past. People in the future will laugh at what we think now. So, atheists may feel like they have the “upper hand” on religion. But that’s only because the atheists are a seemingly cohesive minority and religious are a split majority.

    The majority of people do not believe that science has answered all of their questions yet. But the minority that thinks science can explain our world feel that they are on the same page with the other atheists. They likely are not. I don’t think all atheists are geniuses at math and physics and statistics. Everyone just sort of assumes that the scientific community has this solved, even if as an individual they don’t follow it.

    You might be surprised to learn that many people have been persuaded to religion by their studies of science. Most people who have been dissauded from religion, I believe, is because of human failures of religious people. But are human failures of smug evangelists a fair basis to judge the question of religion? In other words, just because Jerry Falwell is a dick doesn’t mean Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount wasn’t brilliant

    Fact is that religious people were the first recorders of history, the first astronomers, the first doctors, the first philosophers, the first mathematicians, the first chemists, the first physicists and the founders of many other scientific communities. I’m confident that if someone invented a time machine and we could travel to the year 2108 we would look back at the year 2008 and find that most of the significant scientific advances from that year came from people with religion.

    The reason a religious person, I believe, is more likely to advance science is because a religious person is humble. Someone who believes man has all the answers is more likely to defend his/her turf than to look for new answer. But someone who believes in an omniscient God is continually looking for what God has created that man has yet to understand.

    With that all said, I do very much appreciate the “friendly atheist” approach. I think there is more common ground between atheists and religious than not. And we only benefit from bringing our differing perspectives together to search for solutions to common problems. For example, you believing in chaos theory and me believing in intelligent design isn’t really a problem; as long as we both are determined to unravel all the individual mysteries that make up the labels. Because, honestly, gravity works exactly the same whether you think it was designed or whether it was random.

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  • plutorip

    Hi there,

    As a Christian who has had an interesting faith journey, I would like to say that first, I was really pleased to stumble across this website. Here’s a little outline of my journey to this point, because I think it’s important for us to understand each others journey’s if we are to understand each other.

    I was raised in a moderately religious household (i.e. we went to church regularly, and we were brought up on what some might call “christian morals”, but we were also free to choose our own religious paths.) As a teenager, I because one of the angry atheists mentioned here, in part because of some negative experiences I had with the church, in part because I was a more scientifically minded individual, and in part because of the injustice I saw in the world, and the WASP guilt I felt imposed on me. I couldn’t change the WAS part, but at least I could change the P part!

    As I matured, and in part due to my moderately religious parents responses to my attempts at teenage rebellion, the recognition that many of my well respected friends were Christian (the horror!) and just my need to become a happier individual, I grew into a friendly atheist with more agnostic leanings. I recognized that we really couldn’t know for sure that God did exist or that God did not exist. That is still a pretty major part of what I believe today.

    At university, I started to see the question of God and religion in a different light. Perhaps somewhat ironically, as someone who was originally lead away from belief in God, in part due to science, it was my continued studies of science which lead me back to belief in God. I now find it quite difficult to look at the wonderous universe and not see in it the hand of God.

    It is almost impossible to criticize the religious belief without the person who holds those beliefs feeling insulted.

    and

    I believe there is a different standard applied to religious belief that is not applied to say, politics or any other ideological belief.

    I would disagree with the first statement, and agree with the meaning, if not the intent of the second. I think it is possible to criticize religious beliefs without insulting the individual. If someone says to me that they don’t believe in God, argues against belief in God using Occams razor, etc. I don’t get offended.

    As for the comparison to politics, as I stated, I agreed, but probably not with the actual intent. Democracy relies compromise and as such, I think there is more toleration and respect for opposing political viewpoints than exists for opposing religious viewpoints.

    So how do we move forward? How do we learn to discuss our differences without inadvertantly insulting each other. I think Mike C hit upon the answer. Our way forward lies in not trying to win arguements by annihilating the opposition, but rather in getting others to see the validity of our perspective, even if they don’t actually agree with it.

  • Richard Wade

    Hello Plutotrip, and welcome to this site. You may not get much response on this thread because it is so old and most of the regular commenters tend to follow the more recently posted articles. Anyway, I appreciate your thoughts, your story and your positive and inclusive outlook. I’m one of those atheists who agree with Mike C that “winning” arguments around here is futile most of the time and seldom productive even if it can be done. I prefer to work toward getting past misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes so that mutual understanding can grow even when we disagree.

    As for the problem of criticism of a religious belief inadvertently resulting in feelings of insult, It has been my experience that it is very hard to avoid. The person challenging another’s belief may be trying very hard to be tactful and respectful, with no intention to insult the holder of the belief, but sadly very often the believer takes offense. Here the phrase “takes offense” is often very appropriate, since even though the offense is not offered or intended, the owner of the belief chooses to be offended and to feel insulted. So insult has happened but in such cases it is the creation of the person who feels insulted. From that point the dialogue usually deteriorates rapidly despite attempts to reconcile things.

    I avoid psychoanalyzing people but if the damaged conversation staggers on long enough it often reveals that the person has become so attached to the belief that he or she identifies with it, so that they perceive any criticism of the belief as a personal attack on their very being. This makes any further critical discussion too touchy to continue.

    Fortunately this is not always the case and we have enjoyed some very stimulating and informative conversations between believers and those who refrain from believing. I hope that you can continue to engage with others here about topics which you find significant.

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  • tiredoldbruce

    Hemant-

    I read your original blog posting at the top of your page and started to mellow out on my militant atheistic views.
    Then I read all of the responses and now I’m all pissed off again.
    I don’t believe there is any point in sharing my atheistic views with religious people. It is possible to live a normal life and be a social person without having to discuss religion with non-atheists (theists, I guess). I feel no need to try to convince people to reassess their beliefs. I also feel no need to put on a show to convince everybody that atheists are kind happy and approachable. Cause I’m not. Come to think of it, what kind of a coalition can atheists form when they only really have one thing in common: they do not believe in something. We could all also form a “we don’t believe in talking bears” group. Atheists are about as widely spread out as a group of people can be. And I for one am pissed off most of the time. And not because there’s no Jesus in my heart either. Just everyday stuff- you know.
    I used to have a roommate who would put food in the microwave, start it up, then run into the other room because he was afraid of microwave radiation. I told him “you’re a frickin idiot”. He’s an idiot for believing it would harm him and more of an idiot for continuing to use it anyway. Why can’t I tell my 70 yr. old aunt that because she prays a rosary every day? “You’re an idiot for mumbling to yourself while holding a string of cheap plastic beads for an hour every day”. I could most definitely say to Stephan he’s an idiot but there’s two billion other people in the world who worship his god- why would he care what I think?
    Ugh. Maybe I would be happier if I found god. I’m gonna beat my head against a wall until I dumb myself down enough to get suckered into some born-again crap.
    God bless you all-

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  • ByGrace

    I have enjoyed reading the comments on this blog. Great conversations! I’d like to pose a question. I’m not looking for a “right” answer, I do not think there can be because it is purely hypothetical. Just curious about the thoughts it may evoke.

    What would the world be like if everyone where indeed atheist?

  • GullWatcher

    ByGrace, you would probably have better luck posting that question to the forums (see upper right part of this page) than adding it to the end of a post nearly two years old.

  • Lyn

    I could state many bible verses on non believers, but you wouldn’t believe it
    anyway.

    But the one that sticks out the most:
    Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, or put your jewels before pigs, for fear that they will be crushed under foot by the pigs whose attack will then be made against you.

    This is a parable, I am not calling you dogs, or pigs. Jesus doesn’t want to waste
    our time on people with hardened hearts against him. We still will pray for you,
    and one day I know, I’ve seen it, some of
    you will change your views. Only passing
    through…you can start your attacks now :)
    Peace be to you, Lyn

  • Anthony

    I completely agree with what you are saying here, being angry really serves no purpose and, in my opinion, makes us just as petty and infantile as the theists. Getting angry only makes people throw up walls and stop hearing what you are trying to tell them.

  • Pearl

    As a Christian I enjoyed reading your blog and I am happy to see people in your walk of life take a more positive view of their choices in life. Honestly, I get tired of the snark and smug behavior of many atheists on the internet and this was a refreshing/positive change. Good luck to you and I hope others in your follow in your footsteps and go in a more positive/loving direction :)

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Pearl,
    Please feel free to hang around the more recent posts. You are welcome. It’s nice to meet with positive and open-hearted Christians. We don’t need to agree, just keep trying to understand each other.

  • http://www.angryatheist.net AngryAtheist

    I am an angry atheist. I try not to be a douchebag, but there are so many things to be angry about :)

  • Gatogreensleeves

    While I, of course, believe that people should always be civil over any discussion that merits it, this post is verging on a strawman, because atheists generally don’t get “angry,” except where it is warranted (you excepted “trying to stop scientific progress, impede promising research, hurt my gay friends, control another woman’s body, force your beliefs upon anyone else, ask the government to give you special privileges, or make me fear coming out as an atheist in public”). That’s a lot of ‘excepts’ already and it certainly isn’t all of them, which must have given you pause after writing it. My point is that there are a lot of angry atheists, because there are a lot of reasons like you mentioned to be angry about, but IMO, atheists generally don’t get “angry” (there are exceptions to that too) about religious issues that don’t warrant it, such as a theistic label or a ritual or some texual discrepancy like they would about actual acts of religious bigotry, female subjugation, etc.
    Also, everyone should understand one thing:
    ideas do not have rights, people do.
    When passion or even immense distaste from both parties is honestly focused solely upon the ideas and not upon the other person, there should be no personal offense. That should be openly discussed. There should never be ad hominems anyway. Last, IMO when you actually truly believe that someone is wrong- even willfully ignorant sometimes, it should inspire pity and compassion rather than hatred, but that said, political correctness should never take away from anyone’s conviction over an issue.

  • Zenabowli

    I have a hard time considering right and wrong, when it comes to the issue of atheism vs. religion. There is a culture of us that share the opinion that there is no definitive answer, nor proof, on either side of this debate. Both sides seem to cling to their point of view with an unbending fervor that, in itself, reeks of religious FAITH.

    Now, this is an obtuse point of view that needs no pity. What is pitiful is the relentless posturing on an issue that does not have a conclusion… other than the fact that no one has proven any thing for sure.

  • http://angryatheist.net ANGRYATHEIST

    Nothing wrong with being angry once in awhile for things that are worth being angry about :)

  • Louise

    I doubt any of the original posters will see this, years on, but may I say what a pleasure it’s been to read this most civil and thoughtful blog? I have enjoyed most of the contributions (the 2007 ones – haven’t got any further yet) and found all of them interesting, if in many cases WAY over my head.

    I believe in the Divine Creator, but don’t follow any religion.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Louise,
    I still haunt this post, and it’s always nice to meet new people like yourself who have positive and civil attitudes. I hope that you hang around and visit more recent posts as well.

    Don’t worry about some of it being “over your head.” Much of it is for me too, but I just ask frankly for someone to explain. If they’re not willing to educate me directly, usually people are willing to refer me to some resource where I can learn about whatever it is myself.

    Some conversations are not quite so thoughtful and civil, because the door is open for anyone to comment. Just enjoy the roller coaster parts as well as the canal cruise parts, and don’t take stuff too personally.

    I hope to see you around.

  • Louise

    Thank you, Richard!