Who Does Antony Flew Belong To?

You may have already heard about how the famous atheist philosopher, Antony Flew, converted to deism a few years back. He now has a book out entitled There Is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Since then both atheists and Christians have reacted in predictable ways. While some Christians crow and flaunt Flew as some kind of trophy, some atheists have suggested that perhaps Flew is going senile in his old age and was simply seduced into becoming the pawn of manipulative Intelligent Design folks.

However, in a recent article at the God’s Politics Blog, Becky Garrison, editor of the religious satire magazine The Wittenburg Door, suggests that both sides are going too far. She suggests that we need to take a closer look at what Flew has actually said. For instance he told Christianity Today, he feels more spiritual kinship with the skeptical Thomas Jefferson than with Jesus. ‘I understand why Christians are excited, but if they think I am going to become a convert to Christ in the near future, they are very much mistaken,’ he said.

Garrison goes on to say:

Pick up a copy of Flew’s latest book… and you’ll see that a thinker of his stature can’t be painted in simple monochromatic colors. Rather, this biography, co-written by Christian apologist Roy Abraham Varghese, reveals that Flew’s lifelong mantra was to follow the policy of Plato’s Socrates: “We must follow the argument wherever it leads.” After this preacher’s son penned his infamous short paper,”Theology and Falsification” in 1950, he assumed the position as the leading atheist apologist. Later in life, the evidence led him to conclude that the complexity of nature and the origin of life can only be explained by the presence of a super-intelligence.

Whether or not you agree with his conclusions (and even as a theist I have issues with some of his arguments myself) I think we ought to respect a man who, even in his 80′s, is still in pursuit of truth and willing to follow wherever he thinks that it leads. It’s disrespectful, I think, to pull the ageism card and accuse a brilliant thinker of senility simply for changing his mind.

At the same time, as a Christian, I find it immensely annoying when fellow Christians make a big deal whenever some celebrity converts. And in this case it’s not like we can really claim Flew as a convert anyway. There is a big difference between Jeffersonian Deism and Christian Theism. It is equally disrespectful of Flew to try and fit him into our own “Christian” boxes and co-opt him for our own agendas (not that I personally agree with the agenda – or the philosophy – of the Intelligent Design folks anyway).

As Garrison asks:

The flurry over Flew raises this question for me. Why do we feel the need to put the other in a prescribed belief box instead of allowing space to differ and dialogue?

Indeed.

  • http://australianatheist.blogspot.com Australian Atheist

    You seem to have forgotten to block quote some of the post.

    I thought you’d converted for a second.

  • Raghu Mani

    Well, there seems to be some evidence that Mr. Flew’s intellect is not what it once was. Please check out this article in the New York Times. It has been written by a person who has talked extensively to Flew and his impression was that Flew hardly seemed aware of what he had written in his own book!! Turns out that pretty much all of it was written by “co-author” Roy Abraham Varghese.

    Richard Carrier, one of the more prominent non-believers on the internet and former editor-in-chief of the Internet Infidels website had a long correspondence with Flew when he first announced his conversion. His take on the entire matter is here.

    Based on the above two articles, I think we can conclude that the accusations of senility do seem to have some basis in fact.

    Anyway, all of this is moot. In the end, the important thing is the quality of the arguments and not the person they come from. Anthony Flew changing his mind is not going to make any impression on me. It would matter if he had any interesting new reasons as to why. I haven’t read the book yet but based on what I read about it, that does not appear to be the case.

    Raghu

  • http://australianatheist.blogspot.com Australian Atheist

    Ah, sorry. This post was not written by Hemant. My bad.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Yes Raghu, that NY Times article was already linked to in my post as an example of those who try to explain away Flew’s “conversion” by claiming senility.

    But are they his doctors? Do they have the right to insinuate that he is losing his mind based on a couple of interviews?

    Though I agree with you, the important thing are the arguments, not who they come from. Nonetheless, I have respect for anyone who is still willing to change and reconsider their ideas that late in life.

  • Ben

    It’s disrespectful, I think, to pull the ageism card and accuse a brilliant thinker of senility simply for changing his mind.

    Absolutely. However, no one has done that in this case. The ‘ageism’ card is pulled because he can’t remember and can’t discuss much of what is in the book anymore.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    (not that I personally agree with the agenda – or the philosophy – of the Intelligent Design folks anyway).

    Mike, can you clarify that? Is it the intelligent design part you don’t agree with of the folks?

  • Aj

    …we ought to respect a man… …to pull the ageism card… …simply for changing his mind… …to explain away Flew’s “conversion”…

    I guess you couldn’t be bothered to actually read the article you posted or the account that you’re dismissing out of hand, that isn’t about “simply changing his mind”, or “explaining away” anyone’s conversion. Faithheads do find reality to be disrespectful.

  • Steven Carr

    Has Flew written a book?

    2 years ago, Flew was writing ‘Perhaps I should always have called myself an agnostic’, and now he ‘approves’ a book calling him the ludicrous title of ‘The Worlds Most Notorious Atheist’.

    The book is ‘a hack Christian tract’, ‘dishonest’, and ‘bogus’.

    Some words from reviews on Amazon.com, where even Mark Tauber say there have been attacks on the integrity of Varghese.

    Guess what? Varghese has to sit there and take being called ‘dishonest’, because he cannot sue for libel.

    He dare not risk Antony Flew being put on the stand being asked questions about ‘his’ book.

    Varghese dare not have Pastor Bob Hostetler being put on the stand being asked about his role in the book.

    So we can say what we like about Varghese.

    Fun, isn’t it?

    As for the arguments, Flew is on a video on You Tube rambling about ‘The Integrated Complexity Argument’ , and has to be prompted by the interviewer as to what is meant.

    Flew clearly has read lots of book on Intelligent Design.

    I guess Flew can’t even remember what Irreducible Complexity is called.

    Not that theists care if Flew calls it Integrated Complexity , Irreducible Complexity, or Complex Algebra….

    Why should atheists be convinced by people who can’t remember what their arguments are called, and have to be prompted about what it is?

  • grazatt

    if Flew feels more spiritual kinship with the skeptical Thomas Jefferson than with JesusWhy is he in such a buddy buddy position with so many evangelical Christian?

  • Kate

    sigh

    Faithheads do find reality to be disrespectful.

    And I find you to be a disrespectful jackass (pssst – I’m an atheist, not a “faithhead”, either!).

    If the world had more (or even all!) Christians like Mike Clawson, and more (or even all!) atheists like Richard Wade…it would be a good place.

  • stogoe

    The flurry over Flew raises this question for me. Why do we feel the need to put the other in a prescribed belief box instead of allowing space to differ and dialogue?

    Because grouping and lableling people quickly as ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ helped our primate ancestors survive against other primate tribes who were in direct competition for resources?

    And this is just funny:

    If the world had more (or even all!) Christians like Mike Clawson, and more (or even all!) atheists like Richard Wade…it would be a good place.

    Most Christians aren’t like MikeC. They are ignorant, violent, petty narcissists with delusions of grandeur, and they will not brook any dissent from their imaginary skypapa. They attack and smear and tear down anything and everything that they see as a threat. I see why they do it; their thought-virus is in full red alert because it senses competition for the brain capacity it occupies.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    God is an axiom, not a theory. It is no wonder people fail to prove or disprove God. At most, science can show what God is not.

    The instruction “Believe in God” presupposes the axiom. So what, then, does it mean to “Believe in God”? You first need to figure out what the axiomatic God is.

    And you know what? No one can tell you what God is. You have to experience God for yourself.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    I see why they do it; their thought-virus is in full red alert because it senses competition for the brain capacity it occupies.

    God is an experienced reality for them. They have experienced that which they label as “God”. They have not personally witnessed evolution or evidence of evolution. As long as you keep on convincing them that evolution requires a rejection of that which they have experienced, you will be busy convincing them that they cannot accept evolution.

    Voilá: you have contributed to fundamentalism. Congratulations. Isn’t the human an interesting animal.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    if Flew feels more spiritual kinship with the skeptical Thomas Jefferson than with JesusWhy is he in such a buddy buddy position with so many evangelical Christian?

    Maybe because he discovered the beauty of diversity. Maybe because he discovered God. If you don’t know what God is, why don’t you go read Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That guy was a genius. We should include his work in the Bible.

  • http://humaniststudies.org HumanistPR

    I interviewed Antony Flew by phone on Dec. 2004, when the story was all over the news.

    No longer atheist, Flew stands by “Presumption of Atheism”
    Humanist Network News, Dec. 22, 2004
    http://humaniststudies.org/enews/?id=172&article=0

    The big question that no one was asking him was whether or not he stood by his argument for the presumption of atheism — isn’t that the only reason that he matters in the first place? Back then he told me:

    Flew, 81, told HNN that he has indeed abandoned his atheism for a type of deism. When asked if he still stands by his landmark argument for atheism, The Presumption of Atheism, Flew said: “Oh yes. Yes I think so. That’s how you should deal with any question which is seriously controversial. You don’t wonder whether the evidence is something that other people know much more (about) than you do. But in a serious controversy this is the proper way to proceed.”

    He seems to have drifted from that position according to the New York Times Magazine article. I was pretty bummed that my interview with Flew wasn’t referenced in that piece, since I was the only person who bothered to ask him that question at the time and his answer was pretty significant.

  • K

    “As Garrison asks:

    The flurry over Flew raises this question for me. Why do we feel the need to put the other in a prescribed belief box instead of allowing space to differ and dialogue?

    Indeed.”

    Because, “Do you believe in god?” is a yes or no question.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    They are ignorant, violent, petty narcissists with delusions of grandeur

    It strikes me that you’ve described not just Christians, but pretty much the entire human race.

    Though I wince think how badly you must have been burned by Christians in the past to caricature the majority of them in this way. I’m sorry.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mike, can you clarify that? Is it the intelligent design part you don’t agree with of the folks?

    Hey Linda,

    This probably isn’t the best post for me to use to expound on your question, but the short answer is that I disagree with the arguments made by the Intelligent Design camp. Their approach is essentially a “God of the Gaps” argument which tries to appeal to God as an explanation for any phenomenon science currently can’t explain.

    I think that approach is fundamentally misguided and doesn’t even square with Christian theology. If Christians believe that the entire universe, including the natural, scientifically-discovered processes within it, was created by God, then we ought to look at the whole thing, not just the unexplained parts, as her handiwork.

    So while I do believe in an intelligent Designer, I don’t at all mean the same thing by it that the ID folks do, nor do I endorse their arguments (nor most of Flew’s arguments either for that matter).

  • Steven Carr

    What exactly is the difference between an atheist and a deist?

    Alan Guth , in one of his books, speculated about how a universe could be created with sufficiently advanced technology.

    So atheists have no problems with the idea that the universe may have been created.

    It just seems unlikely, that’s all, and there is no evidence for it. In fact , there may never be evidence for it, even if the universe was created.

    So, in practical terms, there is very little difference between an atheist and a deist.

  • Ben

    Maybe because he discovered God. If you don’t know what God is, why don’t you go read Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That guy was a genius. We should include his work in the Bible.

    If you don’t know what God is, why don’t you check the dictionary?

    God – the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.

    As far as Douglas Adams:

    “Life, the Universe, and Everything: An Interview with Douglas Adams”

    AMERICAN ATHEISTS: Mr. Adams, you have been described as a “radical Atheist.” Is this accurate?

    DNA: Yes. I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god – in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism – both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much.

    People will then often say “But surely it’s better to remain an Agnostic just in case?” This, to me, suggests such a level of silliness and muddle that I usually edge out of the conversation rather than get sucked into it. (If it turns out that I’ve been wrong all along, and there is in fact a god, and if it further turned out that this kind of legalistic, cross-your-fingers-behind-your-back, Clintonian hair-splitting impressed him, then I think I would chose not to worship him anyway.)

    Other people will ask how I can possibly claim to know? Isn’t belief-that-there-is-not-a-god as irrational, arrogant, etc., as belief-that-there-is-a-god? To which I say no for several reasons. First of all I do not believe-that-there-is-not-a-god. I don’t see what belief has got to do with it. I believe or don’t believe my four-year old daughter when she tells me that she didn’t make that mess on the floor. I believe in justice and fair play (though I don’t know exactly how we achieve them, other than by continually trying against all possible odds of success). I also believe that England should enter the European Monetary Union. I am not remotely enough of an economist to argue the issue vigorously with someone who is, but what little I do know, reinforced with a hefty dollop of gut feeling, strongly suggests to me that it’s the right course. I could very easily turn out to be wrong, and I know that. These seem to me to be legitimate uses for the word believe. As a carapace for the protection of irrational notions from legitimate questions, however, I think that the word has a lot of mischief to answer for. So, I do not believe-that-there-is-no-god. I am, however, convinced that there is no god, which is a totally different stance and takes me on to my second reason.

    I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid” – then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

    http://www.americanatheist.org/win98-99/T2/silverman.html

  • grazatt

    Hugo you said Maybe because he discovered the beauty of diversity. Maybe because he discovered God. If you don’t know what God is, why don’t you go read Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That guy was a genius. We should include his work in the Bible.

    Evangelical Christians are not the only group that believes in God, you did not answer my question!

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    If you think of me as a Christian, you make a big mistake.

    The dictionary does not define words, the dictionary explains how words are used. And the dictionary can be wrong. That dictionary of yours is wrong. That dictionary has been brainwashed by fundamentalistic Christians.

    “God exists.” is an axiom accepted by theists. It is a paradigm. A language. “Do you believe in God?” becomes the question “do you follow that thing that you call God?”

    So if God is love, the question “do you believe in God” becomes “do you live according to compassion”.

    If you fail to understand this, you will never understand humanity.

  • QrazyQat

    They’re not suggesting Flew is senile “because he changed his mind”, they’re suggesting it because he cannot remember people he’s had a lot of contact, and worked with, fairly recently, and can’t remember or define basic concepts he used in his field. Those things are signs that his mind is not working well.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    And most atheists are asking the wrong questions. Most fundamentalistic Christians are asking the wrong questions as well.

    God is passion. Passion is God. And the atheist does not even want to recognise that, which is what gives atheism such a bad name. Theists are talking a different language, and you are not making enough effort to understand. That is why you don’t understand. Also true that they do not know how to talk to you. That is where I come in, I’m fully bilingual. I can talk both languages.

    But if you don’t want to listen, it is extremely hard to undo all the brainwashings that you have suffered all your life. Jesus’ advice was “be like children”. This does not mean just believe, this means, ask why? why? why? How? What? Be malleable. Be open to new understandings. Otherwise you are living in hell, and death will be freedom, for there is no life after death.

    Hell is not being able to communicate. Here, on earth, right now. Hell is us killing each other, for we do not even realise that we speak different languages. (Hint: the myth of Babel maybe?) And we kill each other. Atheists are unwittingly busy tearing the heart out of humanity. And the theists don’t like their heart being torn out, so they fight back. And we have war. The atheists are also to blame. Humanity as a whole is to blame, for we fail to communicate, for we do not try.

    Try to understand humanity and passion, and try to find the truth in this post, before you criticise it. It speaks mostly to atheists, so I’m not demonising atheism to the religious people:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/27/the-evil-committed-by-atheism/

    Now think again (aka repent, for repent is also misunderstood by all modernistic people), and read the passionate explanation of why atheists fail to reach the fundamentalists, if you are sharp enough, you will see how blind “Savage” is (the post is in Afrikaans, but skip to the English comments):

    http://prometheusongebonde.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/bybelse-dwaalleer-of-bloot-rasionele-denke/

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    And read this. Three times, or more, until you understand what I’m trying to say. If you don’t want to understand, because you prefer to believe you are God, then you shouldn’t even bother taking a look:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/26/what-is-god/

    Think people. Think. The zeroth commandment, is to think, for you have been given a brain. Else you are just an animal.

  • http://http:/.religiouscomics.net Jeff

    IMO, there will always be some people converting from atheism to theism (or sometimes deism) and always some people converting from theism to atheism (or sometimes deism). I only hope that the trend is away from theism. I’m fine with deism. Theism, though, has too many man-made concepts (anthropomorphisms) for my taste. Religion (applied theism) can cause trouble. Be careful not to name your teddy bear Muhammad in certain parts of the world! You might get 40 lashes.

  • Ben

    The dictionary does not define words, the dictionary explains how words are used. And the dictionary can be wrong. That dictionary of yours is wrong. That dictionary has been brainwashed by fundamentalistic Christians.

    A dictionary does not have a brain to be brainwashed. The common meaning of the word ‘God’ is as listed, the first definition. If you are understanding the word ‘God’ to mean something else in common usage, you are incorrectly interpreting what people are saying.

    So if God is love, the question “do you believe in God” becomes “do you live according to compassion”.

    That’s nice. In the real world, what is commonly meant by the word ‘God’ is NOT ‘love.’ If you define God as my wife, I am no longer an atheist. But since the word already has a perfectly good definition, why not stick to that?

    If you fail to understand this, you will never understand humanity.

    I do my best, which includes not re-defining others’ words for them.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    A dictionary is written by a human, who has a worldview. Just like the Bible was written by humans.

    God is a personal “experience”, for the theist. The fact that this experience is then attributed to the beginning of the universe, is not relevant. If you want to reach a theist, you need to accept that God is love and compassion and all that.

    I have written enough at the links I have provided. If you want to understand humanity and escape the hell that is believing you are surrounded by 5 billion morons, you are free to go read. The Christian “truth” that captures this idea, is “if you seek, you shall find”.

    I’m putting the Jesus back into Christianity, is all. Or rather, forget about Christianity. Jesus was a human, or a syncretism of humans. If you look at the whole thing in context, suddenly everything makes sense. If you would prefer to not understand why theists believe in something they call “God”, no one is forcing you to drink.

    *sigh*.

  • Karen

    Because grouping and lableling people quickly as ‘friend’ or ‘foe’ helped our primate ancestors survive against other primate tribes who were in direct competition for resources?

    Yup, that’s about it, I think.

  • Ben

    Three times, or more, until you understand what I’m trying to say. If you don’t want to understand, because you prefer to believe you are God, then you shouldn’t even bother taking a look:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/26/what-is-god/

    Think people.

    I read it. It’s asinine. An axiom that conveys nothing. When you drop all pre-existing meaning from the word ‘God’, as required by the linked post, you are left with ‘That which exists exists’ as an axiom. It’s empty gibberish.

    http://prometheusongebonde.wordpress.com/2007/11/27/bybelse-dwaalleer-of-bloot-rasionele-denke/

    I skimmed it. Sorry, but non-informational statements like “The attempt to prove or disprove, is already searching for him in a box that he is not to be found in” are nothing but noise. You’re making ‘God’ a placeholder term conveying no information or concept at all.

    “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them…” – Thomas Jefferson

  • Ben

    God is a personal “experience”, for the theist. The fact that this experience is then attributed to the beginning of the universe, is not relevant. If you want to reach a theist, you need to accept that God is love and compassion and all that.

    If theists are this intellectually dishonest – that when they define God they mean something other than what they say – there is no escaping the “hell that is believing you are surrounded by 5 billion morons.”

    But, heck, I’m game. Mr. Clawson, when you use the word “God”, what is the meaning of the word?

  • Siamang

    If you don’t know what God is, why don’t you go read Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. That guy was a genius. We should include his work in the Bible.

    Now why would you go and ruin a perfectly good book by doing such a thing?

    (That answer works no matter what your perspective!)

  • Sobex

    God is a personal “experience”, for the theist. The fact that this experience is then attributed to the beginning of the universe, is not relevant. If you want to reach a theist, you need to accept that God is love and compassion and all that.

    How can you assert this as true for all theists? In case you weren’t aware, most of us atheists in the USA were brought up as christians, and we left the fold of our own accord. And let me tell you, god was not a personal “experience” for me back in my theist days. I didn’t feel like he was riding shotgun with me wherever I went, or that he spoke directly to my brain. Neither did I think that god was all love and compassion — it’s hard to think that way even as a 10 year old theist when your god is the one who created lucifer. Now, you may claim that I was never a true christian, but i’m not interested in hearing any “no true Scotsman” fallacies.

    Most of us used to be christians, don’t presume we don’t know how (the ones we grew up with) think.

  • Siamang

    Ben wrote:

    But, heck, I’m game. Mr. Clawson, when you use the word “God”, what is the meaning of the word?

    The poster named Hugo is not Mike Clawson.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    The poster named Hugo is not Mike Clawson.

    Nope I’m not Hugo. I’m not bilingual, I’m not from South Africa, and I don’t really agree with a lot of the stuff he is saying. Sorry.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    I’m sorry Ben. You miss the point. I’m beginning to realise how hard it is to teach people to communicate. And the internet is that much tougher.

    So I’m just leaving you with this thought: fundamentalism, both atheistic and theistic, is purely the result of an inability to communicate, typically due to excessive focus on modernism, and modernistic interpretations of words. What you mean when you say “God”, and what the theist means, is actually not the same thing. We have all started to ask the wrong questions, when we got caught in the “creator of the universe” nonsense.

    Or wait, one last try, point-wise:

    1. God, if defined as the creator of the universe, does not exist. We all know that.

    2. The theists experience something they call God. Let us therefore assume God exists. As an axiom.

    3. God, therefore, should not be defined as the creator of the universe, as that does not “exist”.

    4. If you accept the axiom that God exists, then you can tell me about God, what God is, and what God is not.

    Substitute “Flying Spaghetti Monster” if you like. You will be closer to the truth than you realise, but you will make it even harder for yourself, because you have an axiom that says the FSM does not exist. I’m trying to realign your axioms so that you can communicate to theists. What I hoped to hear you say, then, is this:

    God does not intervene in a supernatural way with the universe, on behalf of those that worship him. If people are considered, um, defined, to be the hands and feet of God (ancient Christian theology, don’t let the evangelicals fool you with their modern reinterpretation), then God can actually accomplish something. Y’know? Even stuff like flying into buildings.

    The point you missed, was that I want you to drop any assumption that convinces you that God does not exist. The point being, God has only been defined according to these things, which is why you are left with nothing. Traditional “theism” is more than that: it is compassion, love, and all that stuff that you argue you can have without God. True. But you’re talking a different language.

    The point is, the stuff you do believe in? Love, compassion, honesty, inquisitiveness, some meaning in your life, that kind of thing? If you call that God, because you do believe in that, then you can tell me about your God. And you can communicate with the theists, which you are unable to do until you accept “God exists” as an axiom.

    The statement “you should believe in God” does not translate to “you should believe that there exists a creator of the universe”, but it translates to “you should believe your life has meaning, that compassion and honesty matter, that inquisitiveness matter, etc.”

    If you can understand this, I can make you fishers of people. We can turn this world around. We can all understand one another.

    Now if I don’t get at least one person saying “hey, I think I’m beginning to see what you are saying”, then I will not comment again, for you are not even trying. You have to assume there is some truth in my statements, before you will be able to find it. By your definition of God? I am definitely an atheist. But I know how to reach theists and teach them science.

    If any of this made sense to you, you might find value in this passionate post (and passion? passion is also God… if you catch my drift here…):

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/27/the-evil-committed-by-atheism/

    Yes, the title is provocative. Try to get past the passion. If you cannot learn to combine passion and emotion with reason, humanity is doomed. See “I Robot”.

    The Douglas Adams reference you are clearly not ready for. You need to laugh more, seriously. Seriously. And I must learn to have more patience and to lecture less, and that not everyone will understand my humour. Life is humorous. Sorry for the inconvenience… ;) God, God is incredibly humorous. If you can appreciate that, you can start communicating.

    I did not take your baggage into account.

    OK, too much ranting. Too much verbosity. Just know that I can teach you to speak theist, even though you are an atheist, and I want you to remain an atheist as well. If you can speak theist, you can help me educate the theists about science, because I cannot do it alone. However, I know how to do it. You can trust me, or you can ignore me. Your choice.

  • Ben

    The poster named Hugo is not Mike Clawson.

    I know that. But Mike Clawson is a theist. In any case, since Mr. Clawson said:

    I don’t really agree with a lot of the stuff he is saying.

    I’ll take that as saying Hugo is at the very least mis-representing Mr. Clawson’s views as a theist.

    Sorry, Hugo, you cannot escape your ‘hell’ by insisting people don’t mean what they do, in fact, mean.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C.

    as her handiwork.

    Oh no… don’t tell me you’re one of them… :)

  • Kevin Malone

    Richard Carrier wrote a worthwhile article on this matter titled “Antony Flew’s Bogus Book.”

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    And one more attempt to explain my Douglas Adams reference:

    Life, my friends, is one big misunderstanding. Huge. What we lack is communications skills. That is all. If we had better communication skills, earth would be heaven. (The myth of Babel is therefore interesting.)

    If we were to call “good communication” God, then we could say all we are missing, is God… don’t let your baggage with the word “God” mislead you here. I’m talking pre-modernistic understanding of the word, which is a pre-modernistic word, rather than the modernistic misunderstanding.

    Get the communication right, and we have heaven.

    Sorry for the inconvenience.

  • grazatt

    Hugo I think you need a helping of humble pie

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I’ll take that as saying Hugo is at the very least mis-representing Mr. Clawson’s views as a theist.

    There are many different kinds of theists. It’s not a monolithic philosophy. I speak only for myself, as does Hugo I assume.

  • Ben

    What you mean when you say “God”, and what the theist means, is actually not the same thing. We have all started to ask the wrong questions, when we got caught in the “creator of the universe” nonsense.

    Horse-snit. I have no definition or use for the word “God” beyond the one used by theists. They define it, I accept their definition, and I am either an atheist (for most definitions) or a theist (for some, like pantheism.) For my own epistemology, there is no question “Does God exist?” because there is no reason to even propose the idea in the first place.

    God, if defined as the creator of the universe, does not exist. We all know that.

    You’re responding to a blog post by someone who does NOT know that and actually believes the opposite. Pull your head out of the sand.

    The point you missed, was that I want you to drop any assumption that convinces you that God does not exist.

    Considering your usage of God is an empty group of syllables, I have no assumptions about it. I have no assumption that adfsf does not exist, either – the sentence is empty gibberish.

    And you can communicate with the theists, which you are unable to do until you accept “God exists” as an axiom.

    Only if I ignore their definition of “God” and assume (to use your terms) ‘that I’m surrounded by 5 billion people who wish to utter empty sounds instead of communicate.’

    If you cannot learn to combine passion and emotion with reason, humanity is doomed. See “I Robot”.

    I – and probably all the other atheists here – already do that. We just do it without twisting other people’s meanings or pretending they don’t mean what they say they mean.

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/27/the-evil-committed-by-atheism/

    I read it. It’s ridiculous. People who use words are communicating their own ideas. Being modern people, they are using modern usages. You can’t pretend they don’t mean what they themselves will tell you they mean! You are claiming to know people’s minds better than they themselves do.

    If listening to another’s proposition in their own terms and evaluating it in their own terms is evil, I’m evil and you’re not.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Oh no… don’t tell me you’re one of them… :)

    Oh, you’d better believe it. :)

    In fact, my wife will be writing a book on that very topic, as soon as she finishes her current book.

  • Richard Wade

    Karen said this:

    If the world had more (or even all!) Christians like Mike Clawson, and more (or even all!) atheists like Richard Wade…it would be a good place.

    Thanks, Karen. It feels weird and a little embarrassing to be a reference for a good character trait, but okay I’ll go with it until I stumble and treat someone disrespectfully. No statues, please.

    Then stogoe said this:

    Most Christians aren’t like MikeC. They are ignorant, violent, petty narcissists with delusions of grandeur, and they will not brook any dissent from their imaginary skypapa. They attack and smear and tear down anything and everything that they see as a threat. I see why they do it; their thought-virus is in full red alert because it senses competition for the brain capacity it occupies.

    Given my limited exposure to Christians, I would agree that Mike C’s particular patient and thoughtful traits and views are in the minority. I would also have to say that Christians with the rabid and hostile traits and views you are describing are also in the minority. I have heard some of those rabid ones using the very same terms to describe atheists, and sadly there are enough of us who give them cause, but I hope that those rabid atheists are also in the minority.

    The germane point that I take from Mike’s post is about rising above our hurt and fear. These cloud our outlook and weaken our arguments, and so an old man becomes a rope in a frantic, absurd tug-of-war. We all, both believers and non, have some hurt and fear from and about the other group, and some of us have quite a lot. Those of us with a lot tend to spread it around, causing more of it to grow in others. It’s a kind of hurt and fear breeder reactor.

    A few people, both believers and non are attempting to start a new process, to first climb out of our own personal hurt and fear hidey-hole and then to patiently coax others to do so as well. The first part is very difficult. The worse the hurt and fear the harder it is to heal, but the more important it is to heal. The second part is actually enjoyable, once you accept that it’s a very slow process.

    So when Aj uses a disrespectful term when complaining about disrespect, I don’t disrespectfully call him a disrespectful jackass, I gently point out that his term discredits his stance and weakens his argument. And when stogoe generalizes Christians in very negative terms I don’t negatively chide him, but respectfully suggest that he is practicing the very behavior that he is complaining about, and that it weakens his argument. And when Hugo argues passionately about passion and thinking openly, but his passion begins to sound like anger and hostility I dispassionately point out that he may be inadvertently pushing the people away to whom he is appealing, and it weakens his argument.

    Rising above our hurt and fear does not mean we will become milquetoasty or nicey-nicey. It only means that our vision will be clearer, our arguments will be stronger and we might, just might actually be creating positive real world consequences from incessantly clicking these keyboards.

  • Ben

    There are many different kinds of theists. It’s not a monolithic philosophy.

    Of course. But as a minister, I would expect your usage of the word to better reflect common usage. I realize no two people will mean the exact same thing.

    When you use the word “God”, what meaning of the word do you wish me to receive?

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    Well we’re back to the very thing the article warns against — putting people in convenient boxes so we don’t have to address what they are really saying.

  • Claire

    While communication can require words to be redefined so that all can agree on them, a phrase like “I’m talking pre-modernistic understanding of the word, which is a pre-modernistic word, rather than the modernistic misunderstanding” is not communication, it’s post-modern claptrap. I kept expecting the word “suchness” to crop up….

    Here’s an example I once read, that addresses how real communication starts: “You can’t argue birth control with a Roman Catholic, because while you are talking about social planning, the catholic is talking about the will of god.” Now that lays it out, that provides a framework for people to either genuinely discuss a topic, or agree to disagree.

    Telling people to define a word however they want and then you can discuss it, that’s silly. Putting forth a new idea that there is no current word for and then discussing it, that would be legitimate. Unfortunately, that requires someone to put enough thought into it to explain it clearly rather than hint vaguely around the margins. If it’s a good idea, it would be worth the work. Otherwise, just keep hinting. No, I take that back, please don’t…

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Sorry Ben. We have a breakdown in communication.

    I am using the word as it was used two thousand years ago. In a pre-modern sense. In order to facilitate communication. If only we could communicate better, we would not be killing each other. It takes two to communicate though, and it typically requires a relationship in order to understand one another’s context better.

    Post-modernism is probably not something you like much. It seems to me you are a big fan of modernism. Modernism is going to get us killed. Modernism is what causes people to fly into buildings. Because not everyone is at the same place. And your insistence that everyone uses the same words that you do is not beneficial to communication, but rather detrimental.

    Thanks for stopping by, anyway.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    I wrote a relevant post on this topic a while ago. I was in a cynical mood at the time, but I still agree with my major points. I’d be happy to think that Flew is of a perfect state of mind. But you know, Richard Carrier and PZ made a pretty compelling case.

    The fact that Flew, as opposed to any other convert, became such big news suggests that people are more interested in “notorious” conversions than, well, “good” ones. They’re more interested in looking to authority than to the ideas themselves.

  • http://ashujo.blogspot.com Ashutosh

    I agree; to tout atheism because someone became an atheist and to tout Christianity because someone became a Christian are both meaningless activities after an extent. Atheism should be judged on its own merit. People like Dinesh D’Souza do not understand this:
    http://www.townhall.com/columnists/DineshDSouza/2007/11/19/the_atheists_who_came_in_from_the_cold

  • Ben

    And your insistence that everyone uses the same words that you do is not beneficial to communication, but rather detrimental.

    But I don’t insist they use the same words I do. I DO insist that they make their best effort to tell me what they mean by the word, and then I use their meaning. How else can I try best to understand what they’re saying? How is your method of ‘ignore what they say they mean and substitute your own interpretation’ going to result in ANY communication?

    If only we could communicate better, we would not be killing each other.

    Oh? And ignoring what the other person says they mean results in better communication?

    Post-modernism is probably not something you like much.

    You ain’t kidding.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Putting forth a new idea that there is no current word for and then discussing it, that would be legitimate. Unfortunately, that requires someone to put enough thought into it to explain it clearly rather than hint vaguely around the margins. If it’s a good idea, it would be worth the work. Otherwise, just keep hinting. No, I take that back, please don’t…

    You want a new word for God thus. Let’s make it Foo.

    Foo is the essence of human irrationality, because of that, Foo is extremely hard to define. It is a whole mix of stuff. Modernism has forced Foo into a very specific definition, and then proved that Foo does not exist, based on that definition. Nevertheless, the human condition is such that we still experience the mystery that used to be called Foo. Except, modernism has defined Foo to the point where we’re arguing about what Foo really is not.

    I want us to get back to the essence of Foo. The very Foo that the pre-modern people experienced. The very Foo that is the essence of human nature. Modernism has not made space for Foo because we tried so hard to define everything in neat little boxes. The enigma that is human irrationality is not accessible in modernistic language, so those that still feel their humanity are prone to choosing pre-modernistic language to express it.

    And this is the thing: the human condition is much older than modernism, which is why we can learn so much about Foo, our irrationality and what it means to being human, from pre-modern texts, that happen to call Foo, “God”. Those pre-modern texts evolved over time, as it was a story culture. As we all should know, natural selection processes has a way of getting useful stuff to survive. Because of this, there is heaps of useful stuff in the ancient texts, which talks about Foo. However, when reading that with modernistic glasses, we simply do not understand. But we still feel a slight ring of truth, because it echos with our very being, our very irrationality, our very animal chaotic nature.

    Those that embrace the language of Foo, are those that feel stronger about the human condition and less strongly about rationality. And we cannot suppress our irrationality, our animal instinct. If we do, we kill each other. It’s as simple as that, it is a survival instinct. Attack the theist, attack his Foo, and he feels his very being threatened. Understand what this Foo really is, and it is not what the modernistic label “God” really is, which is why I asked you to drop modernistic assumptions. The atheists are convincing people that Foo and rationality are not compatible. In the process, they convince those that experience and love Foo, that rationality is not an option. Foo is a reality of human nature.

    What is much more important, is to realise that Foo exists, and then to tell people what Foo is *not*. And Foo is not the creator of the universe. If you are able to use the word God for Foo, you can talk to the theists. If you cannot, you will be misunderstood, and they will experience you tearing their very hearts out.

    Atheists have brainwashed Christians into thinking that rationality means to let go of Foo, but Foo is reality. A very real reality in human nature. And we cannot deny it, or we kill each other.

    If that made any sense, you could try and read these posts again, and try to dig into the Foo, connect with the Foo, that you may understand why passion is so strong, and why attacking passion and Foo leads to the shut-down of rationality instead of the encouraging of it:

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/27/the-evil-committed-by-atheism/

    You will have to forget your definitions of “evil” as well, probably. Try your best to deduce the meaning from the context. Assume I’m hyper intelligent, I just don’t know the right words. Assume I’m a pre-modern Einstein, that is unaware of modern culture. Now try to deduce the meaning of the words from the context.

    This is what linguistics is all about. Sorry about the verbosity, I tried my best.

  • Kate

    Richard!

    Ahem, it’s Kate. Kate said that nice quote. ;)

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    You can substitute “Foo” with “The Matrix” if you like.

  • Claire

    Ok, better. I still think it’s a lot of hooey, but I understand it much better.

    Foo is the essence of human irrationality

    The atheists are convincing people that Foo and rationality are not compatible

    Atheists are convincing people that irrationality and rationality are incompatible? How fiendish!

    Oh, and by the way, that’s not what linguistics is all about – at least it wasn’t when I got my BA in it. Although, granted, that was a while back, I would hate to think the field had changed that much.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    OK, sweet. Now realise that Foo, to the theist, is the very essence of love, honesty, passion, meaning in life, everything. And you tell them that rationality requires them to let go of Foo.

    The theist chooses love, honesty, passion, meaning in life, everything, above rationality any day. Because without love and compassion, rationality looks cold and bleak and miserable and absolutely pointless.

    You’ve heard the statement that “without God, there is no meaning in life”? Irrationally, that reduces to “Without meaning in life, there is no meaning in life.”

    We’re not talking rationality here, we’re talking subconscious. Animal survival instinct. I think I should read some Jung, he has some words for this, I think. I’m trained as an electronic engineer, which is why I lack the fancy words.

    But that’s the thing: you will always communicate with people that don’t have all the right words. Expecting them to have them, is to expect too much of them. It is expecting them to be perfect, God-designed machines, rather than the imperfect chaotic animal at the end of an evolutionary process. In that sense, the atheists and the fundamentalistic theists are sitting in one boat, fighting one another, while the moderates are sitting in another boat, wondering why they take life so seriously.

    Which is why I say read Douglas Adams. ;-) Pity he called himself a radical atheist, because if he called himself a Christian, but had exactly the same views, he could literally have worked miracles.

    Labels are not important, meaning is. And we suck at getting the labels right, which is why communication is so difficult, which is why we need to dig deeper and try to understand what the other person is trying to say, rather than what they are actually saying.

    Fundamentalistic modernism doesn’t work, because humans are not perfect. We can strive, but we will fail. We can dream, but in the mean time we fly into buildings. Because modernism and our little boxes have destroyed our ability to really listen to one another. We listen to our imperfect words, and we end up defining our concept by the words, rather than by the actual concepts.

    And yes, this is post-modernistic, in the sense that it recognises the problems of “fundamentalistic modernism”, if you catch my drift. While there is a lot of clap-trap in post-modernism, it’s just beginning. And you can help. The aim is to improve communication skills, not destroy them.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Ah, sorry, “linguistics” is obviously completely the wrong word. You can tell me what the right word is. I’m uneducated in that matter. Unfortunately. But if that stops me from communicating, that kills me. For I am human. We are gregarious, and we have an innate need to communicate. Modernism has suppressed this because “we don’t know enough to communicate perfectly”.

  • stogoe

    Though I wince think how badly you must have been burned by Christians in the past to caricature the majority of them in this way. I’m sorry.

    I despise this type of thinking, as it assumes I’m simply mad at the people who claim to represent a God Who Exists on earth and if only I hadn’t been hurt by His Representatives, I wouldn’t be mad at God Who Exists.

    I both do not believe in your god or any others for that matter and I find the church’s promotion of archaic, hateful taboos and the inherent authoritarianism of the church structure morally repugnant. I’m doing both at the same time.

    And yes, there are violent, petty narcissists everywhere you look. Even in the mirror, sometimes.

  • Richard Wade

    Oops, sorry, Kate! (My apologies to Karen as well.) Not that anybody besides you or I are paying any attention to my comment amidst the babel.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    The theory is that every human has a “God”. Um, wait, “Foo”. Though now, I need a new word, I think? For my previous definition of “Foo” is a little wrong. A new Foo.

    Every human has a Foo. Their Foo is the thing by which they run their life. For some, it could be cold rationality. I hope they mix in some compassion. Compassion is the thing that works the best, we believe. And the “older” Christianity believes. The Christianity which is not defined in modernistic terms. The “gospel” becomes a “go and be compassionate” thing, not the absurd reduction that the evangelicals have made of it.

    The church has become something evil, yes. Rather than what it was supposed to be about. And I think this was caused by modernism, and in that other hyperbolic post, I called it “atheism”, because that’s the word that works best to achieve what I want to achieve with the subscribers to my blog. We have walked a journey together and they are beginning to understand what I’m on about. I want to get that old essence of Christianity back into it, that it is not the burnt-out shell it has become.

    Having read some about the historic reconstruction of Jesus, in an incredible twist of irony, Jesus is who the Christians need most. The atheists, on the other hand, kinda already have him. Or what he stands for, more specifically. Which is what it was supposed to be about. Which is what the pre-modern person meant when he said “Jesus is God incarnated”. The stories they told about him were the ideal they wanted to strive towards. And things went bad when it became the official state religion, and was used to control the masses.

  • Steven Carr

    Mike C
    It strikes me that you’ve described not just Christians, but pretty much the entire human race.

    CARR
    Not really.

    When you consider that ‘The Worlds Most Notorious Atheist’ was Professor Antony Flew, you have to admit that atheists cannot be that bad if he was the world’s most notorious.

    Stalin must be spinning in his grave at being pipped for the title of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist.

    Didn’t Varghese realise that he had to at least make the book seem believable?

    And Varghese could at least have paid somebody to do an index, as would be standard practice for any famous philosopher writing what was allegedly his ‘last will and testament’.

    No index. A shoddy bibliography. Hack quotations and arguments from authority.

    That is how Flew will go down in history?

    I hope Varghese is sorry for what he has done to somebody who is his friend.

  • Claire

    Ah, sorry, “linguistics” is obviously completely the wrong word.

    I suspect you meant semantics.

    Now realise that Foo, to the theist, is the very essence of love, honesty, passion, meaning in life, everything

    Earlier, you said foo was the essence of irrationality. Now it’s the essence of love, honesty, passion, etc. To me, these are not equivalent statements, not even close. Irrationality and emotion are not the same.

  • Ben

    The enigma that is human irrationality is not accessible in modernistic language, so those that still feel their humanity are prone to choosing pre-modernistic language to express it.

    Is being ‘one who does not still feel their humanity’ an improvement over being ‘one who is corrupt, whose deeds are vile, and does not do good’ ? I’m not sure. It’s at least close.

    Understand what this Foo really is, and it is not what the modernistic label “God” really is, which is why I asked you to drop modernistic assumptions.

    How are you able to read these theist’s minds to know what they mean better than when I ask them what they mean by Foo / God and they tell me?

    If that made any sense

    Only as I’ve outlined above.

    If that made any sense, you could try and read these posts again, and try to dig into the Foo, connect with the Foo, that you may understand why passion is so strong, and why attacking passion and Foo leads to the shut-down of rationality instead of the encouraging of it:

    No. I refuse to be so rude and condescending as to tell people that they don’t really mean what they tell me they mean and that they actually mean ‘irrationality.’

    By the way, do you similarly explain to theists that atheists don’t mean what atheists say they mean? Or to theists that theists don’t mean what they say they mean? If so, I’d love to read it for better context. Because I don’t think you’ve done it. I bet you’ve only taken atheists to task for speaking and listening plainly (!), a criticism which flabbergasts me.

    Until some Ecumenical Council or something fixes the Nicene creed to be more like a Hugo version:

    We Believe in One Foo,
    The Irrational, the Human,
    The Passion and Compassion,
    etc.

    I don’t believe that what most Christians believe is what you say they believe.

  • Richard Wade

    There once was a fellow named Hu
    Who tried to describe God with “Foo.”
    But then lingo fog
    Confused the whole blog
    And now some think he’s full of poo.

  • http://paxnortona.notfrisco2.com Joel Sax

    On the senility issue: a recent study sought an answer to the fact that apparent IQ scores decrease as you get older. They outfitted a group of students with special glasses, gloves, and earmuffs that would replicate the infirmities of old age. And what happened? They scored less well on their IQ tests — on a par with the scores the elderly receive.

    In the case of Flew, it could well be that he is hard of hearing, listening for phrases that might cue him in. When he hears one, he spews out his automatic answer. It’s a ~coping strategy~ that should not be mistaken for senility. Unfortunately, he was evaluated by someone who was out to discredit what he says now.

    It’s that second perception that we should treat as suspect.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    The thing is this: The Bible expresses the very core of human nature, very chaotic, very well. And the concept of “God” as presented in pre-modern terms, is extremely touching to the human spirit. It runs deep. It works very very well.

    If you have journeyed with it for a long time, you understand how well it touches your psyche. All these things are connected, in an irrational sense, in the irrational brain. It defies rationality, for it lies not in the part of the brain that is rational. It is raw. It is reptilian.

    And this is what you attack, when you attack someone’s notion of “God”, which is connected to the subconscious part of the brain. Success therefore, in helping out people compassionately, is to connect with them, with their words. Which means you need to understand “God” before you attack the theist. And this is what I’m trying to share, but it is way too complex for comments in a blog. It is a life journey. Captured by the statement “God is a life journey”.

    The emerging church is getting back to this. Through post-modernism they are able to drop the bullshit that is “the creator of the universe, in six days, six thousand years ago”. They understand the culture, the context, and the truth that is found. The Bible resonates. If you look deeply enough, and you understand it in the right context, it really does make sense. But you cannot read it literally, which is a modernistic approach to a pre-modernistic text, and is what the fundamentalists are doing.

    The Emerging Church is where the hope is, for the Christians. The truth that resonates via pre-modernism was distorted and made ugly by modernism. But still it resonated. And it survived as a beast. It became Satan. Human nature. The Bible is precious to humans because of the resonance, and those caught up in the resonance, need to learn how to accept rationality without letting go of that resonance, which is about so much more than the supernatural. It is raw and it is natural.

    And atheists that attack fundamentalistic theology make it much harder for people like me to reach them. I can speak both languages because I managed to break free from a long lifetime of fundamentalism. This is why I feel so passionate about killing the beast. My target is fundamentalistic Christianity, but I witness what I believe to be damage done by the atheists, because they do not understand the theistic psyche. You cannot attack it directly. It must be subverted. The concept of Jesus was supposed to do this for the Jews, but human psyche sucked itself back into institutionalised evil. Jesus will continue to live on, even if he did not exist, because he is the original martyr in the western world. The original example of how to break free from tyranny. Even if people don’t see it, they feel it.

    It goes deeper than rationality. It is merely us being human.

    If I seem more coherent now, it is because I just had the opportunity to let out some emotion which was cropped up for years. (Unrelated to this discussion, by the way, though related to my fundamentalistic heritage.)

    I wish only for peace, and improved understanding and communication. For this, I shall “bear my cross”, I’m trying to prepare to follow in the example of the martyr that actually did set me free from fundamentalism. When I understood the original context, the story was so beautifully liberating. I am free because of Jesus, whether he existed or not. And I hate the fundamentalists for what they did to him. You must forgive me if I call Jesus my God, by that I mean only that the stories I know of him, resonates deeply with my own being. This actually required dropping the supernatural. The supernatural is the hurdle to “belief” that makes it hard for the modernist to understand.

    Drop the supernatural, and you get to the human essence of Jesus, the very thing Christianity needs.

    Rationality has left Christianity with only the supernatural, because they have proven they have everything good that Christianity already has. What’s left is a burnt-out shell of evil. Let the Christians go free from the tyranny of modernism, so that they may reclaim the very essence of “Jesus” that they so terribly need.

    You try to steal Jesus from them, you steal their very salvation, and you doom them to hell. The hell you see in the bible belt. Give them back their Jesus, let them believe in Jesus. Let them believe in God. Within this context that resonates so well with humanity, they can learn that they can let go of the supernatural, for that is not the essence of God.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    “Though I wince think how badly you must have been burned by Christians in the past to caricature the majority of them in this way. I’m sorry.”

    I despise this type of thinking, as it assumes I’m simply mad at the people who claim to represent a God Who Exists on earth and if only I hadn’t been hurt by His Representatives, I wouldn’t be mad at God Who Exists.

    No stogoe, I didn’t say anything about you being mad at God. I’m not sure how you got that out of my comment. I just assumed that your obvious anger towards Christians had to do with some negative experiences you’ve had with them in the past. That’s it.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Of course. But as a minister, I would expect your usage of the word to better reflect common usage. I realize no two people will mean the exact same thing.

    When you use the word “God”, what meaning of the word do you wish me to receive?

    Ben, I’m not sure why you’re trying to drag me into this debate between you and Hugo. Did I give any indication that I meant something different than the “common usage” of the term “theism”? I’m pretty sure I mean essentially the same thing you mean by it. I have no idea what Hugo means by it. I can’t really make much sense out of the things he is saying.

  • Ben

    Ben, I’m not sure why you’re trying to drag me into this debate between you and Hugo. Did I give any indication that I meant something different than the “common usage” of the term “theism”?

    Sorry about that. It was always possible Hugo knew something I didn’t, and people have been speaking in code for the last few decades and I hadn’t picked up on it. So I figured I’d ask and you were handy.

    I’m pretty sure I mean essentially the same thing you mean by it. I have no idea what Hugo means by it. I can’t really make much sense out of the things he is saying.

    Thanks for the data point. I think I’m supposed to ignore your disclaimer and claim to know your thinking better than you do at this point, according to Hugo, but instead I’m going to be evil and accept you at your word.

    - Ben, evil guy

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    I think it’s pretty grossly dishonest for people who are basically using Flew as a trophy and argument from authority to complain when others examine whether that authority is reliable, informed, and trustworthy or not. Given that Flew did not write “his” book, and cannot even follow the arguments in it, and given the fact that he doesn’t seem able to understand even his own writings or remember things he’s said, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the line of “well, brilliant philosopher Flew converted so there must be something to these arguments” is simply exploitative.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard Wade,

    It’s not only you and Kate paying attention. I heard you too. :)

    Rising above our hurt and fear does not mean we will become milquetoasty or nicey-nicey. It only means that our vision will be clearer, our arguments will be stronger and we might, just might actually be creating positive real world consequences from incessantly clicking these keyboards.

    Great point. But just how do you propose we do that? Just stating that we want to does not make it so. Rising above the hurt requires forgiveness, and rising above the fear requires unconditional love. They are not something that we can just call up at will. Some of these hurts and fear are very deep seeded…

    Hugo,

    I feel your passion. I get you. But you need to slow down a bit. Let us digest a little bit at a time… ;-)

    Is this where you’ll be proving your ‘theory?’

  • Karen

    Thanks, Karen. It feels weird and a little embarrassing to be a reference for a good character trait, but okay I’ll go with it until I stumble and treat someone disrespectfully. No statues, please.

    I didn’t say it, but I should have! I completely agree with giving you accolades. I’m working on casting your statue right now, in fact. :-)

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    That long post is my understanding of the psyche.

    To prove the theory, I’d need to give them Jesus. You have just pulled me up for air, I’ve depsyched myself. I’ve lost my steam. However, I will get it back, I’m sure. I feel passionate enough.

    That’s the thing: they *want* to see passion. Passion in the context that they understand. They want to see the original Jesus. (Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time, The Last Week, stuff like that. That’s the way out.)

    If Marcus Borg sold as well as Richard Dawkins, Christianity would again become the good that it used to be. The message of Jesus? It’s really just “live a life of compassion and love, use your mind to understand your fellow human beings, and break free from the tyranny of institutionalised evil”. Yea, that last bit? That’s what it’s supposed to be. That’s what they need. They need their second coming, for the first was obviously not enough for them.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    What is there to prove? That this approach works best? Yea, I suppose my own experience counts as anecdotal, eh. That, and my immediate family. I shared Jesus with them, and now they don’t mind if I call myself an atheist. But I don’t call myself an atheist anymore. I’m post-atheistic, post-theistic.

    And I love the Bible, because it reflects humanity.

    And Jesus remains my “God”, because that way? I can talk to my friends. And I can help them out. (Ever seen the “Atheists for Jesus” article by Richard Dawkins? Wearing an “Atheists for Jesus” t-shirt no less. ;) )

  • Karen

    There once was a fellow named Hu
    Who tried to describe God with “Foo.”
    But then lingo fog
    Confused the whole blog
    And now some think he’s full of poo.

    ;-)

    Hey, whatever happened to the limerick contest? did I miss the crowning of the winners?!?

  • Karen

    I have no idea what Hugo means by it. I can’t really make much sense out of the things he is saying.

    Well, I’m surprised by that. He’s talking postmodernism and the emergent church. I’ve never been able to follow that stuff, but I figured if anyone here could it’d be you! :-)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Well, I’m surprised by that. He’s talking postmodernism and the emergent church. I’ve never been able to follow that stuff, but I figured if anyone here could it’d be you! :-)

    Is he? I didn’t pick up on that. I think he’s using the terminology in a rather different way than most emerging/postmodern people I know. Perhaps it’s a language/cultural issue – it might be losing something in translation. Didn’t Hugo say he is not a native English speaker?

  • Ben

    I think Hugo has made his point in sufficient detail. If not, here it is, from his blog:

    And let me translate to atheist-speak then:

    I insist that you believe there is a meaning to your life, that morality matters, that thankfulness and a sense of wonder are paramount to living a fulfilling life.

    This is exactly what the Christian really means when he says “You must believe in God”, even if he doesn’t know it.

    (emphasis added)

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/26/what-is-god/#comment-3303

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Thanks Ben. Yes. Other bits include “help the poor” etc. Good moral teachings you’d agree with. They need to get that back. Brian McLaren’s latest book deals more with political issues. Some Christians complain that he didn’t even touch on the whole “atonement doctrine”.

    And in a way, you saying “God does not exist”, counters those things. Even if he doesn’t know it.

    Sorry guys.

    So here is what I should have done: gone to more trouble to think from *your* perspective, try to figure out how you would understand the stuff that I am writing. Then I would realise how badly it would go down.

    And now the pre-moderns are still talking to the modernists. And they’re not aware of the cultural difference, it seems.

    /me shuts up and disappears now. I’m drained and embarrassed. (I assume you saw my last long comment above, http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/11/28/1982/#comment-95732 ? How was that one? Was it coherent and easier to understand what I was trying to communicate?

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Nope, one more. Thinking about what context is necessary in order to understand the stuff I’m trying to say, I realise what a niche suggestion I have made.

    *sigh*

    You think this is all just the death-spasms of my memes trying to claim they are useful? Yea. Possibly.

    I realise I must have sounded like a nut-job. Poo. I was psyched up to go take down the local fundamentalist church. Maybe that is self-destructive. Maybe I should let the Vendetta go. But don’t you agree that killing the beast is worthwhile? The tools to do so are found in the very book they love, in the history and context of that book. That’s really my point. My highly ironic point. And that this kind of subversion will be more effective on a grand scale. Celebrate the existence of the “emerging church” even if you cannot understand them, they’re doing good work.

    (That, and that without the fundamentalism, the book is rather remarkable, understood in context. If it were possible to get well-trained teachers in every school, teaching the context of the Bible would work wonders. But we know why that won’t work.)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Hugo, I have to confess that I’m having a very hard time following you. I think that may be a language difficulty. It seems that you may be saying some good stuff, but I think you tone is getting in the way. (Again, maybe that’s simply a culture/language thing.) You might have better luck if you stop speaking in such absolute terms (as if your definitions and understandings are the only right ones) and start using more phrases like “this is how I see it”, or “this is how I’m using these words. Others may define them differently.” I think people will be open to hearing your opinion, but not to being told that your opinion is the only possible one out there – that seems like a particularly un-postmodern attitude anyway, right?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Words of wisdom. Write each word as if each word cost money. Be as concise as possible. The more your write, the less people will read it. The less you write, the more people will read it.

    I’m intrigued by a post-modern redefinition of God. My little agenda is to get people to drop all notions of an afterlife (heaven or hell after you die). If people stopped believing in an afterlife, what sane person would decide that a reasonable way to eternally provide for their family is to die as a martyr killing infidels. Some extremists believe that if you die as a martyr, then you and all your family are guaranteed entrance to heaven.

    To get back on subject, I wonder if Flew is simply adopting a post-modern definition of God and really hasn’t changed at all?

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    It’s not that atheists are annoyed that he interpreted evidence differently; most atheists will tend to respect someone who looks at the evidence first and then makes their conclusions, wherever that leads them, and they should also continue to have a dialog with that person. Anybody can see that. What the problem is is that there’s actually good reason to believe that he is going senile and that he allowed another person to write his book for him.

    Your point about pulling the ageism card would be a great point — I too think it’s a great thing for older people to continue to learn and change their minds — but the problem is that nobody is pulling the ageism card… they are saying that Flew seems senile because of the evidence of how he is acting and talking. He seems not to recall many of the arguments in his own book (and this, of course, is because he didn’t write it).

    See comment #2 by Raghu Mani, who I completely agree with (he said it much better than I did).

  • Richard Wade

    Well, if what Ben quoted to capsulize what Hugo was getting at is correct, then I say “Amen to that.” If you will excuse the expression.

    Hugo, thank you for coming. You sound like you’re about to go, but before you take a well-earned rest, please consider that most atheists do not say “God does not exist.” That is an incorrect, reactionary characterization by some theists. Most atheists just don’t believe in God. There is an important difference that I won’t go into here. Similarly, to something you said way up near the top of this post about atheists insisting that evolution requires that theists must reject the personal experience that they call God, no, that also is an incorrect, reactionary characterization by some theists, primarily of the fundamentalist/literalist kind. Evolution only requires that they give up a literal interpretation of Genesis.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    You are all correct. I thank you for your patience, I hope you have allowed me to get the last remnants of the demon out of me.

    Here is a summary, by the way, but I will repeat the basics.

    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/11/27/the-evil-committed-by-atheism/#comment-3348

    I was speaking in absolutes. The reason for this was I was psyching myself up for direct confrontation. I was learning and practising pre-modern language, because the local fundamentalistic church likes that language. And I clearly let it get to me, as I was unable to write clearly here.

    My pain is my extended family. They are sending me to hell. ;-) I don’t really have to fight fire with fire, yes. I can fight fire with ice, and show people how much passion can be found in ice. So that’s it then. Coolness… May the fires of hell freeze over.

    Right, post-modernism and Christianity: everything becomes much more fluid. All the labels that cause the evils of “modernistic Christianity” become flexible. That allows gradual redefinition to the meanings they likely had in pre-modern times. Heaven and hell are places on earth, and the Gospel and Jesus’ message is how to fight hell right here right now. He taught helping the poor and breaking through the purity code. Based on those actions, he would be at the forefront of the gay-liberation movement and women’s rights. And you can argue that from scripture. And the emerging church is doing that.

    Check this out, for salvation:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvation#Emerging_Church.2C_Liberal_Theology.2C_and_Liberation_Theology

    And this isn’t new, this is really old. Well educated theologians and pastors should know, as far as I know, that the question “how do I obtain eternal life?” asked somewhere in the New Testament is really not about the afterlife, but more a case of “how do I live a life that matters and makes a difference?” Getting this message back makes Christianity beautiful again. The supernaturalism just has to go.

    My conjecture therefore is that fundamentalism can be blamed on mixing modernism and the Bible. It is not the Bible’s fault. Teaching context requires much more effort than ridiculing, but it could be more successful. Fundamentalism is when you lead the congregation with uneducated people.

    In South Africa we have a strong national church that is quite attached to its creed. The leaders know the creed has to go, but the congregations won’t allow it, as there are still fundamentalists there. Getting these people to start thinking for themselves is very difficult. In such churches, the leaders are a blessing, not really the problem. I don’t know what the world-wide matter is.

    In trying to redefine God: if I could teach atheists the post-modernistic emerging-church definition of God, they can take part directly in the conversation. The problem is you do need some passion for it. And it’s a lifestyle. And it’s not your cup of tea, that’s why you’re an atheist.

    We need more diversity. We need more churches, aka communities, consisting of both atheists and Christians. Erwin McManus has a church like that, it contains atheists, Christians and Buddhists, if I recall correctly. That kind of embracing of diversity is how we avoid war. Oh, wait, sorry, biblical prophetic language, I have delusions of being a prophet. I suspect that kind of embracing of diversity and cross-cultural understanding is how we achieve peace.

    If a Christian asks you “do you believe in God?” he is asking the wrong question. And there exists a better answer, in my opinion, than “no”. You can reply directly with “I believe in compassion”. Just that. That would do great to undermine misconceptions. Compassion and positive values first, before a statement of “oh, and by the way, my label is ‘atheist’.”

    If they know your label first, they judge you. If they know your values first, then you can do de-stigmatisation. Oops, I think. Something like that.

    I’m planning a “p” campaign to complement the “a” campaign, the “out-campaign”. This campaign is based on bridge-building and cross-cultural understanding. There’s a little piece of post-modernism mixed in, but it will be an evolving meme-complex. May it permeate all cultures, and evolve as necessary, that we may recognise the continuum and break down the walls.

    The boxes have got to go.

    Christians have found their identity in the label “Christian”. That label has taken a life of its own and become a new demon governing their lives, rather than the salvation it was supposed to be. If Christians can escape the “Christian” label, by focusing on the “Jesus” label even, realising that Jesus was a real human, a real man, with an X and a Y chromosome (yea, that messes with some of their dogma), and they are more flexible in escaping evil.

    I suggest they need to be given bridges. I suggest we must not box them in and show how stupid Christianity is, I think we must coax them out by embracing the good. Embrace and extend. Syncretism. The same way (good?) Christianity spread in the first place. Time to take back Christmas.

    BTW, my local fundie church does not celebrate Christmas, for it is a pagan festival.

    Sorry about the verbosity. I hope this was more useful.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Jeff, I shall decrease my verbosity. Was that previous one too verbose? It was lots of text, but hopefully decent enough content?

    Richard, thanks. I do understand atheism. Today I was just upset at inability to get some of them to understand (not you, locals). Just the same-old communication difficulties. Or me being too pre-modernistic.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    The problem is you do need some passion for it.

    Hugo,

    Americans are not very good at it, as I have found. It’s not just the atheists. Everything seems to end up with “how does this effect me personally?” It’s really difficult to see things outside of ourselves here. IMHO, it has something to do with being too comfortable. Living a generally “easy” life. Not knowing what it means to lose our freedom. Your kind of passion is very rare here. Of course, there are exceptions, but it’s generally the norm. It’s very sad.

    I am often accused of having too much passion and being too “intense.” Caring too much… I applaud you, and I hope you don’t put yourself in danger by being the one who is passionately speaking out against the majority. Hang onto your passion and keep searching. Keep digging. Keep loving. :) Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with us and showing us how it looks on the other side of the world. I hope you’ll continue to contribute your ideas here.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Hugo,

    I liked your summary post. Come up with a “P” logo and I will post it in the left-nav of my blog. I also believe that that the world would be better with changing the context of how we see the bible. Many authors have written on how the modern context of understanding the bible is vastly different than the context of back when it was written. I think that any change in the current viewpoint will be for the better.

    I have always thought that the term “fundamentalist” is being mis-applied to Christianity. I don’t think the modern “fundamentalist” has an understanding of God anything like the 1st (or 2nd) century Christian.

    I would consider you to have a more fundamental understanding of Christianity and the modern “fundamentalist” as having a grossly distorted and perverted notion of Christianity.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Similarly, to something you said way up near the top of this post about atheists insisting that evolution requires that theists must reject the personal experience that they call God, no, that also is an incorrect, reactionary characterization by some theists, primarily of the fundamentalist/literalist kind. Evolution only requires that they give up a literal interpretation of Genesis.

    You’re right, Richard, that evolution and theism are not at all incompatible. (A point I’ve made here many, many times myself.) However, you have to admit there there are more than a few atheists who do seem to agree with the fundamentalist’s assumption that you cannot believe in both God and evolution. I have heard this false dichotomy repeated here on many occasions.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Oh, my. I’m skimming through this thread, and all I see is a lot of “foo” this and “post-modernism” that.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike,
    It’s absurd for either side to say that Genesis equals God, and so one has to believe in both or neither. I don’t believe in either, but not by that process.

    Back to Mr. Flew, I want to say that I couldn’t care less about who converts to what or why, and I’m especially contemptuous about making a big deal over celebrities’ beliefs, whether of literary, sports or entertainment fame. I form my own views and I follow, as Flew’s Plato/Socratic credo said, wherever the argument leads.

    Screw celebrities and screw those who try to gain credibility by their association.

  • Lethe

    God is not love or compassion or any other feeling, emotion, or concept. Making God an (less) abstract concept is unfair, and actually makes him/her/it easier to disprove.

    To simplify: Don’t redefine God.

  • Siamang

    However, you have to admit there there are more than a few atheists who do seem to agree with the fundamentalist’s assumption that you cannot believe in both God and evolution.

    Who?

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    I’m sorry, another long one,

    Yes, my suggestions are biased, because my audience is biased. I learned that from Paul. ;-) The early Christians embraced every religion they came across, and reinterpreted their symbols to stick “the gospel” in there. (Assume for your own sanity that “the gospel” really was good, back then.)

    I have commissioned a p logo. I will turn it into a little memetic game, and eventually trace the genealogy and mutations. I hope. Maybe more trouble than it’s worth? We’ll see. You can make of it what you want. We’ll build as many bridges as we can. For example this meme: “For an abstract enough definition of God and prophet, I am happy with the statement that there is only one God and Muhammad can be considered to be his prophet”. Thoughts?

    The memes/bridges challenge the “next generation”, and should serve to encourage the opening of dialogue about core values. You’ll need to see the whole complex first though. Accept the complex, then you can change anything. (But because of certain memes I will include, the act of acceptance typically implies agreeing with the purpose. We’ll see how many generations that takes to get lost in translation.)

    As soon as I can, I will continue dismantling the most recent creationism seminar we had. I have only really characterised the audience and explained what science is, so far. Though they will throw some more weird science philosophy at me next time, I know. It’s localised, targeted dismantling, so that if they ask me about anything they know, I’ve already debunked it. I also intend to take the, um, “conversation”, to the creationism headquarters in our province. Because I’m still naïve and suffer from chronic hope.

    BTW, started here:
    http://thinktoomuch.net/2007/09/29/the-first-creationism-confrontation-the-first-of-many/

    A group of us hope to organise a series of lectures next year. This is a university town. (!!!) Supposedly a leading university in South Africa, and this is where fundamentalism brings its demons.

    We will make use of not only various experts in various, diverse fields of science, hopefully, but also the local “emerging” church and educated theologians, that understand “God does not exist” in the “modernistic” sense. They will then explain what the context of Genesis is. The “emerging” church (the one I attend, where I’d like more explicit-atheists for faster improvement/change) often preaches the flaws and contradictions in the Bible. Our pastor is a great crusader against fundamentalism, and cooperation brings progress.

    I even thought of giving the fundamentalistic church a chance to “preach”, for contrast firstly, and to get more of them to attend the series, secondly. And then, maybe a psychologist, to explain cognitive dissonance and the psychology behind religion.

    Giving them the avenue of moderate Christianity as a stepping stone is more compassionate/forgiving to their poor souls. ;-) Getting out can be really really painful. I’m glad we have an emerging church so close to this mecca of fundamentalism.

    When I get to it (when my thesis is finished), I will hopefully commence systematic dismantling of their sermons, with contextual reinterpretations of “emerging/pre/post-modernistic” nature to give them bridges. We will see how well this experiment works, and you can see what I mean. My “knowledge” of the Bible must come in useful somewhere in my life. ;-)

    I will give them Jesus. I will hit them with Peter. For they are still converting people to Judaism before they convert them to Christianity. The Bible has “answers” for that too. I hope to demonstrate how and why the early church worked. (While I think it struggled at first, the advice and techniques they probably used are valuable. Though translating them into our context is not necessarily trivial.)

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Siamang, Dawkins et al? But they are really dealing with a very specific notion of God, as given to them by the evangelicals. God as intelligend creator, they say, seems unlikely.

    That does not take the pantheism strains into consideration, I think.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hugo,

    I’m a little bit confused. So would you consider yourself born-again as described in the scripture? I know you are completely against the Old Testament legalism, and I am too. But the way you speak is so very confusing. :-(

    I understand your reluctance to call yourself a Christian, but we still have to be unashamed of the true meaning of the term, don’t we?

    Nevertheless, I admire your conviction.

    Have you read “A Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris? I think you would like it.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Hehe. Pre-modernism. It’s fun stuff, so raw.

    I have reinterpreted “born-again” to the point where I will say, yes, I am. (I was born again into atheism. Muhahaha! Through the sacrifice of Jesus.)

    If I can confuse the fundamentalists, maybe they will start thinking? Hehe, naah, I just want to point out that they cannot not think. When their leader accuses me of being a false prophet, I’ll say, great! Keep that in mind! Because that’s skepticism. I ask only one thing: you wonder the same thing about your pastor.

    So sorry, Linda, if you misunderstood me. I believe in syncretism. Temporary atheism has left the role of “God” in my life, wide open and vacant, and I have placed Jesus, the human, in that role. As my understanding is that that is what Christianity was supposed to be about, my personal conviction is that I am seriously a follower of Jesus. I think Jesus was a humanist.

    Sam Harris is on my reading list. I like the guy much more than Dawkins, and I really can’t stand Hitchens. The first page of his book already repulsed me, somehow. But that’s all I’ve read of the “New Movement”, being pressed for time. (You wouldn’t say it, would you.)

    OK, I gotta go sleep. It’s nearly 5am.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    It’s absurd for either side to say that Genesis equals God,

    Richard Wade,

    I say Genesis equals God. Not necessarily in a literal sense, but it’s true. And I’m on neither “side.” Only on the side of the truth.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    No wait, maybe I misunderstood you. Yea, I’m tired.

    The first Christian creed, I hear, was something in the line of “Jesus is the Lord”. (As far as The Lord exists, Jesus is indeed a prime candidate.) But they didn’t exactly call themselves “Christian”. Nowhere in the Bible does it say “thou shalt call thyself Christian!” ;-)

    to bed

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    My gosh, Hugo!

    You’re worse than me. ;-) I’ve often said I identify with the atheists more than the Christians. I’ve always said that the atheists’ arguments against God is closer to the truth than most Christains’ arguments FOR God. I sometimes go as far as to say that the Christianity as a religion (that forces legalism) is the anti-Christ. I have said that there are atheists who are better Christians than the most devout Christians.

    But I’ve never called myself an atheist. Now that’s a new one. But go for it! Whatever will keep your fire burning! Do your friends call themselves atheists also?

  • Ben

    Sam Harris is on my reading list. I like the guy much more than Dawkins, and I really can’t stand Hitchens.

    I loved reading Hitchens because he can write. I couldn’t finish either of Harris’ or Dawkins’ books. My favorite of the genre is Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.

  • Maria

    So, in practical terms, there is very little difference between an atheist and a deist.

    as a deist myself, I agree with you. I’ve had people try to lable me both as theist (in the religious sense) and atheist and insist I have to be one or the other. People just love to put others in boxes I think.

    They’re not suggesting Flew is senile “because he changed his mind”, they’re suggesting it because he cannot remember people he’s had a lot of contact, and worked with, fairly recently, and can’t remember or define basic concepts he used in his field. Those things are signs that his mind is not working well.

    I think he was taken advantage of. At first he just talked about classical deism and that didn’t bother many people. What happened was he started talking (it sounds like) and lending some credence to what sounded like intelligent design, and people got confused. Then it seems some christian authors hopped on the bandwagon and now we have the book. The article posted about that was good, here it is again:

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2007/11/antony-flew-bogus-book.html

    I think it’s a combination of him getting older and being taken advantage of (I have to say I’m surprised he didn’t see it coming). If he really didn’t write that book, he should come out against it and have it taken off the market.

  • http://badidea.wordpress.com Bad

    Maria: Flew is the one that basically told people that he didn’t write it, and he didn’t seem to be bothered by the idea. I don’t think he is ever going to say or do much straightforward about the problems being raised with how the book was put together. He really doesn’t seem able to engage in debate, and he likes Varg. personally, so he’s not going to turn on him at this late stage even if he realizes how he’s being pitched and what it implies.

    I have to second the “who?” question on the matter of whether atheists insist that you cannot believe in evolution and a God. Certainly some atheists have argued that evolution weighs against religion, for all sorts of reasons, but those very same people all agree, that I’ve heard, that you can certainly still believe evolution is true and also believe in God: that the two are not incompatible. They just happen to have opinions on the matter of what evolution implies about God. Even Dawkins takes this line.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    However, you have to admit there there are more than a few atheists who do seem to agree with the fundamentalist’s assumption that you cannot believe in both God and evolution.

    Who?

    Aw hell, Siamang… Are you really gonna make me name names? :)

    Honestly, it’s been so long since we’ve had that conversation that can’t recall anymore. But surely you remember several occasions both here and at the OTM sites when at least a few people suggested that Evolutionary theory was a reason to no longer believe in God? (was it isaone? or David?) I know that at least a few times I’ve had to explain that it is possible for a Christian to believe in both God and evolution. I don’t know why I would have done that unless someone had suggested otherwise.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike, maybe it’s the “more than a few” part that could be revised. I mean, I”m sure there must be some, but I haven’t met any.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    It’s not that important Richard. As long as we’re all on the same page now that Christianity and science are not incompatible, I have no argument.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Making God an (less) abstract concept is unfair

    Unfair? You make it sound like this is a game or a contest or something. If this is how he honestly personally conceives of God, then how is that “unfair”? I mean, you might disagree with his definition and that’s fine, but it’s not like he’s just inventing his beliefs on the spot just to win an argument against you.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    BTW, many have pointed out that this recent book appears not to have been primarily written by Flew and that he is not fully cognizant of the arguments made by it. That may very well be the case. However, the original announcement of Flew’s Deism occurred back in 2004 by means of an interview between him and philosopher Gary Habermas in the philosophical journal Philosophia Christi. You can read the article here. While one may of course disagree with Flew’s statements (as I do myself on several points), he doesn’t come across as unaware or unthoughtful about his views. On the contrary, he is very cogent and specific. And he does not give the impression of merely being manipulated into supporting Christian viewpoints. On the contrary (as Garrison pointed out in the article I mentioned originally) on several points he affirms his disagreement with key Christian beliefs. It doesn’t appear to me, at least in this article, that he has been co-opted by anyone. These appear to be his own views based on his own independent reasonings.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    In words you understand, I hope:

    The Matrix.

    My problem was I was trying to tell people what The Matrix is. And I discover how incredibly difficult it is to express in words. My conclusion, I realise, is that I cannot tell you. You have to experience it for yourselves. Simple as that. But I can help you. I can help you understand. You have to give me a chance though. It will be a journey, it will take time. Because humanity is stuck in The Matrix. We need to break through the bonds, and really, it is not easy.

    I request only one thing: that you trust me. Trust me, and follow me. I will try to keep the words and posts few, I will try to accompany you on your journey. But if you do not trust that I know exactly what it is that I am talking about, you will only find flaws, because your modernistic definitions have blinded you to, um, the Truth. Don’t let the Christians fool you.

    You, my fellow atheists, I love you all, for you have seen that all is not well with The Matrix, and you wish to understand. Let me show you how. Journey with me. It will take time.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    And again I’m being too biblical in my word choice, and that scares you away. Oh well.

  • Ben

    Hugo, the problem is not that you’re being too biblical. It’s that you’re not clearly saying what you mean. I guess that’s me being ‘modern.’

    I would still like an answer to my earlier questions, please.

    By the way, do you similarly explain to theists that atheists don’t mean what atheists say they mean? Or to theists that theists don’t mean what they say they mean? If so, I’d love to read it for better context. Because I don’t think you’ve done it. I bet you’ve only taken atheists to task for speaking and listening plainly (!), a criticism which flabbergasts me.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Yes, I do. I tell people that atheists and theists are actually at the same place. They are all in the chaos that is humanity.

    When an atheist says to a theist, “I don’t believe in God”, what the atheist is saying, I tell the theist, is that “God did not create the universe six thousand years ago in six days”. The atheist is saying “God is not something you can prove rationally, so stop trying”. The atheist is saying “your God? Your concept of God is not good enough.”

    Does that help? Modernism has destroyed human ability to listen, because perfectionism in communication is a myth. Perfectionism is satan. When we realise that perfectionism can be strived towards, but not reached, we get to the point where we can communicate more clearly, because we are not so focused on the words, but instead, the meaning behind those words.

    Words do not carry meaning. Words are used as symbols for meaning. Communication breaks down when symbolmeaning is misunderstood by one or both parties.

    God is a story. God is a myth. God is a journey. God is humanity. Kill the irrational, kill the beauty of our story culture, kill the beauty of seeing meaning in things, just because that meaning cannot be proven, that is killing our communication, and causing death.

    Biblical language, sorry. It just works best. And it’s good training for you, to learn how to listen to a premodernist. Keep your wits about you, keep your critical thinking skills, and dig deeper. Dig past the words and get to the meaning.

  • Aj

    Richard Wade,

    So when Aj uses a disrespectful term when complaining about disrespect, I don’t disrespectfully call him a disrespectful jackass, I gently point out that his term discredits his stance and weakens his argument.

    It doesn’t discredit my stance or weaken my argument. It may weaken my rhetoric or opinions of me, if you do not like the terms I use. If I was trying to persuade someone, I might care.

    I don’t think the article is written in honesty addressing the concerns raised, because it’s clear that the concerns were not read or deliberately ignored, even the ones reiterated in the comments. They’re dismissed without there even being an attempt at addressing them. The drivel is just being added to:

    MikeClawson,

    …he doesn’t come across as unaware or unthoughtful… …he is very cogent and specific… …he does not give the impression of merely being manipulated… …he affirms his disagreement with key Christian beliefs… …these appear to be his own views based on his own independent reasonings…

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Oh, and there exists no such thing as an unbiased human. We all have biases. Life, life is biased. Life is biased towards the telling of stories. Interesting, intricate, chaotic stories. Stories of great beauty and significance.

    ;)

  • Julie

    I am biased against you, Hugo.

    You’re a blowhard. If people don’t like what you’re saying, that doesn’t mean they don’t understand you. If people don’t understand you, that doesn’t mean you’re offering up complex wisdom.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Yes Julie. Thanks for sharing. That is completely true. *snip more blowhard*

    Now switching to cold rationalistic analysis of what I think I’m up to. It seems to me I am experimenting on you. And for that I must apologise. Please be careful, I am dangerous.

    The thing I think I’m trying to get across, is an understanding of pre-modern context. This is extremely hard. In some senses, it is primal. And I think it looks a little irrational from a modernistic perspective. I think I’m doing this, because I’m trying to break through modernistic labels that have fixed meaning. I think I’m trying to cut to the core of the source of religion. (Not calling it God now, for that seems too easily misunderstood.)

    I’m not exactly sure why I’m doing it, I suspect I am trying to share an appreciation of, uh, majesty and “infinity”, I think I’m trying to share concepts that cannot be expressed well from a modernistic perspective.

    How’s that for a little bit of context? I can stop. Actually, I think I should stop. I have work to do (but I struggle to focus on it), and you guys need “rest”, I hope you know what I mean. I mean I’m being a blowhard, and it is a fine line to balance.

    Thanks for your patience. Again, apologies for any offence I might cause. (Offence == UK, Offense == USA?)

  • Darryl

    This is irrelevant for anyone’s purposes but Mr. Flew’s, most certainly for Christians. Theism isn’t what Christians have to offer or defend–Christianity is. Theism is a conclusion to a syllogism. Christianity is an archaic blood-sacrifice cult that worships a menacing god who sends souls to an eternity in hell-fire, and who had an incarnated son who was born by a virgin who was killed but rose from the dead, a cult that believes in miracles, a devil and demons, that prayers are answered, and that god actually acts in the universe on behalf of its adherents. Christianity has a precise set of ethical prescriptions for its adherents. Theism has none of this

  • Maria

    This is irrelevant for anyone’s purposes but Mr. Flew’s, most certainly for Christians. Theism isn’t what Christians have to offer or defend–Christianity is. Theism is a conclusion to a syllogism. Christianity is an archaic blood-sacrifice cult that worships a menacing god who sends souls to an eternity in hell-fire, and who had an incarnated son who was born by a virgin who was killed but rose from the dead, a cult that believes in miracles, a devil and demons, that prayers are answered, and that god actually acts in the universe on behalf of its adherents. Christianity has a precise set of ethical prescriptions for its adherents. Theism has none of this

    interesting point

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ Hugo

    Modernistic words, to describe a pre-modernistic idea. In my opinion? You guys are wasting your time. But that’s just me, and I’m a bit of a nut-case. I have a foot in modernism, and a foot in pre-modernism, for I have searched long and hard to unify humanity in my mind. And in my mind, I have succeeded. Now the impossible task is just to share my madness with the world! Muhahahahaha!

    OK, my apologies, I will not comment here again. Thank you for your patience.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    This is irrelevant for anyone’s purposes but Mr. Flew’s

    I’m sorry, but I’m confused. What is the “this” that you are referring to?

  • Loren Petrich

    Seems to me that Hugo is misusing the word “God”, using the word to mean something that would have been considered totally heretical in centuries past. It’s almost like he wants to believe in the word “God” than what is traditionally meant by that word — and what the writers of the Bible clearly meant by that word.

    Consider what happened to Giordano Bruno and Baruch/Benedict Spinoza, who both meant by “God” something like the laws of nature. Did Bruno become a great Archbishop? Did Spinoza become a great Rabbi? NO. Bruno got burned at the stake and Spinoza got excommunicated.

  • Darryl

    Mike, I’m referring to Mr. Flew’s conversion to deism, which I view as a subcategory of theism. Christians and atheists (and deists for that matter) may rejoice or grieve over this act, but to do so is to misunderstand its meaning. It only has meaning for him.

  • Darryl

    When I refer to myself as an atheist I’m thinking in terms of the monotheisms–the gods of actual religions, not in terms of abstract notions like theism or deism. If there were no actual religions and only logical syllogisms that end with theistic gods, there likely would be few if any atheists in the world.

    The great thing about deism is that you can believe it, but it requires nothing of you, and changes nothing about how you carry on your life. You can be a scientist and never include god in your equations though you believe it is responsible for all the order around you. At some point notions like that of the deistic god become semantically indistinguishable from other notions like pantheism, or the less specific belief that something in the universe accounts for the emergence of what we call life, mind, consciousness, intelligence, etc.

    Putting aside the possibility that life as we know it may be much less significant than we think, or only significant for its rarity (if in fact it turns out to be rare, which remains to be demonstrated), it is a simple and uninterpreted fact for me that since life as we know it has emerged from the universe, then the universe is life-creating, or self-organizing, or whatever terms one prefers. If one prefers to think of this universe, or whatever is in it, that is responsible for life-creation as god, that’s fine with me. As I say, this is a very non-committal faith with a no-maintenance god. Since it claims so little, it means little. It is in effect nothing more than a way to assent to the self-ordering nature of the universe while postponing accurate descriptions of it.

  • Darryl

    Excuse me, but one final thought: I choose not to be a deist because I know the idea of god(s) is a primitive idea rooted in superstition. Judging by what I know of the universe, the truth, when and if we get it, will surprise us all. The scenario of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, is much more likely than that a spirit-being–invisible, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, etc.–is responsible for this wondrous cosmos of ours.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Mike, I’m referring to Mr. Flew’s conversion to deism, which I view as a subcategory of theism. Christians and atheists (and deists for that matter) may rejoice or grieve over this act, but to do so is to misunderstand its meaning. It only has meaning for him.

    I agree. That was one of the points I was making in my post.

  • Maria

    The great thing about deism is that you can believe it, but it requires nothing of you, and changes nothing about how you carry on your life. You can be a scientist and never include god in your equations though you believe it is responsible for all the order around you. At some point notions like that of the deistic god become semantically indistinguishable from other notions like pantheism, or the less specific belief that something in the universe accounts for the emergence of what we call life, mind, consciousness, intelligence, etc.

    well put!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I have no problems with deism. If a Christian lynch mob shows up at my door, I’ll profess deism and maybe they will go away (confused). Deism can therefore be a very useful position to take. It could help someone better integrate in a larger religious society. Although, for me, until that lynch mob shows up, I’m an atheist.

  • Darryl

    Jeff, I like your idea about the practical use of deism.

    I must say that from the reading on this blog that I’ve done lately I can see a general trend toward greater understanding and less substantive disagreement on the things that matter most between believers and non-believers of moderate sensibilities. Maybe it’s just me; perhaps I’ve mellowed somewhat. Or, perhaps it’s that my desire that people stop fighting over religion makes me see signs of hope when nothing really has changed. I guess, when it comes to this, I’m optimistic–I do believe that we will work out our differences, I think we have no choice.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ lousirr

    We have no choice. We must learn to live with diversity. It is the only way.

    Find yourself something to hold on to. Make it the FSM if you want, or Deism if you want. Or love, or compassion. Or even mammon. If you want. Mammon. Not a good choice, but better than the alternative.

    You have something to live for. Grab it. Run with it. Live for love and compassion. But live! Be human!

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ lousirr

    The point is, create! Stop destroying!

    Create!

    The destroyer is a waste. An absolute waste of potential.

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I just received a book by Allen Watts as a gift from a friend, and he states in the first chapter:

    The more one studies attempted solutions to problems in politics and economics, in art, philosophy, and religion, the more one has the impression of extremely gifted people wearing out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to get the water of life into neat and permanent packages.

    So true…

  • http://www.ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Typo. Alan Watts…

  • Darryl

    The more one studies attempted solutions to problems in politics and economics, in art, philosophy, and religion, the more one has the impression of extremely gifted people wearing out their ingenuity at the impossible and futile task of trying to get the water of life into neat and permanent packages.

    This is a statement that you might expect from someone who looks at life through the prism of religion. It’s difficult for specialists to resist the urge to see everything in terms of their specialty, but it’s necessary.

    Some people do not require the water of life–life is enough. Seeing the history of our species as a grand exercise in futility is a poor choice of views.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ lousirr

    We must but realise
    there is no spoon

    The water?
    It is.
    It was.
    It will be.
    Life,
    nothing else.

    Truth?
    Eat, drink,
    wine, water,
    A BANQUET!
    TO LIFE!

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ lousirr

    *sigh*

    It seems,
    no one cares.
    Or they do,
    they just don’t know how.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Darryl,

    Seeing the history of our species as a grand exercise in futility is a poor choice of views.

    I think you’re missing the point of what he’s saying. I guess it’s kind of hard to know without reading the whole book. BTW, the book was recommended to me by an atheist.

    Lousirr,

    they just don’t know how.

    Correction. They don’t “want” to know how.
    It’s too scary to jump. It’s so much easier staying in the Matrix. I find myself often tempted to just go back there.

  • http://thinktoomuch.net/ lousirr

    Now I am a post-nihilist. Yin/yang. Don’t we need more of a yin/yang concept in the west? Or does it not matter?

    The ring of doom.
    Can you throw my comments in the flames?


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