Open Thread: Questions for Atheists

Per user suggestion, consider this an open thread for Christians (or anyone) to pose questions to atheists.

Anyone is welcome to respond. (Keep it clean, please.)

If you’re an atheist who would like to ask questions to Christians, go to this thread.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

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  • http://foo.ca/wp richard

    Your favourite Standard Question (or statement) from a Believer?

    The “Atheists have killed more than Christians / Hitler was a Christian” option will not be accepted here. :)

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Where can I find an atheist book, website, magazine, etc. that doesn’t mock or attack or deride religious people or beliefs, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be an atheist?

  • http://thewayward1.blogspot.com/ Brett

    Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lali

  • Devin

    As an Atheist, what is the one thing you would like Christians to understand about you?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    To Macht:
    Hemant’s book of course! (link on the upper right, I get no kick backs ;-)

    To Richard:
    My favorite question because it is such a non sequitur is, “So you don’t believe in anything?” (My standard reply is, “I believe in the truth, and I also believe that science, evidence and rational thought are the best ways to get as close to the truth as possible. We might never get there, and we might be wrong about a lot of things we think are true now, but I’m OK with that!”)

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    To Devin:

    That atheists can’t hate something they don’t believe exists. I always say (unlike Hitchens) that I would love it if a god existed. It would be cool if there was an afterlife and some kind of justice for the wicked who died rich and comfortable, and rewards for the innocent who suffered and died young. But wishing something were true doesn’t make me believe it. I’m just not wired that way.

  • ellen

    to Devin: I’m an atheist because the evidence of the universe led to atheism. It was a traumatic discovery after 40+ years of believing in a loving, benevolent god.

    I didn’t turn to atheism because I wanted to “sin” or because I had a bad experience in church, or because I “rebelled” against god’s authority. I loved my church and my religion. My view of god was comforting and wonderful.

    The evidence just doesn’t support the theory.

  • http://ozatheist.wordpress.com/ Oz Atheist

    To Devin

    that atheists (or anyone for that matter) don’t need a god to have good morals.

  • Mriana

    Devin said,

    December 16, 2007 at 10:29 pm

    As an Atheist, what is the one thing you would like Christians to understand about you?

    I don’t have a God concept, so I can’t be angry with something that doesn’t exist or something I have no concept of. The closest thing I’ve ever conceived of a god is an extremely strong emotion that caused me to feel as one with everything, but that is only a chemical reation in the brain- totally lobe. So, it has nothing to do with anything, except finding the answers to my questions via studying the human condition- psychology and myth/religious exploration.

  • Darryl

    To Devin: It took quite some time and a lot of struggle to get free from religion. Like the Apostle Paul, before my conversion (out of faith) “I was zealous more than you all.” I had dedicated my life to religion. I had a lot at stake there. But, my loyalty to myself, to be truthful with myself, took precedence over everything else. I went seeking the truth in religion, and found it, to the detriment of religion.

  • SunWorshiper

    Where can I find an atheist book, website, magazine, etc. that doesn’t mock or attack or deride religious people or beliefs, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be an atheist?

    While not an athiest book, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos has deepened my appreciation of life and the universe.

    Being an atheist only means a lack of belief in a deity, so I’m not sure that I can really answer your question. I don’t think I’ve ever read something that espouses a positive vision for an atheist in particular.

    My vision is to be a better human being. Towards that goal, I do things such as read philosophy, volunteer in educational settings, maintain positive relationships, remain active in my community, continually learn, be a productive member of society, maintain a fit mind and body, and so forth.

    I find many universal truths in Buddhist philosophies and wonder in the universe as revealed by science. I enjoy simple pleasures, such as hiking and stargazing. I begin each day by asking myself, “What is my purpose today?” And at the end of the day, I reflect on what I’ve done.

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com I Could Use My Real Name But I’m Too Chicken

    Ok, so I’ve just seen the Golden Compass and was wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

  • Claire

    wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    For the most part, I think not, although I could be wrong. I personally don’t think so.

    That actually bothered me when I read the book when it first came out, that it had too much of a sappy sort of spirituality. It was only the second book that won me over.

    If Pullman has ever explained why he stuck souls in those books, I would appreciate a link to the explanation.

  • valhar2000

    Atheists believe that we have souls?

    I’d say that in the US, no. Technically, atheist means lacking belief in god, so you could beleive in all sorts of supernatural flapdoodle and not in a god an dthus be an atheist, but it is unlikely that a person like that would not move on to god-belief, given how ubiquitous it is.

    That’s the US. Here in Spain, where god-belief is not considered compulsory, I have seen atheists who beleive all sorts of weird stuff.

    Your favourite Standard Question (or statement) from a Believer?

    Whenever they throw Bible verses at you. The people that do that seems to find it so hard to understand that we don’t grant the bible any special credibility. It seems the authority of the Bible is such a deep axiom for them that they cannot even bring themselves to think about it.

    I sometimes find that funny.

    As an Atheist, what is the one thing you would like Christians to understand about you?

    That religion is not interesting. Not to me, certainly.

    For theists, obviously, religion is very important, given that it informs their morality and sense of purpose (or so it is said). However, religion does none of those things for me, so to me it is just a morass of incoherence and banality (this may sound cruel, but bear with me).

    Therefore, if you meet atheisst that are at all like me, they will likely not want to talk about religion all the time, and may very likely ignore or dismiss your penetrating theological inquiries for the simple reason that there are a million other things they would rather do with their time.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    As an Atheist, what is the one thing you would like Christians to understand about you?

    Philosophically and theologically, Atheists do good things because doing good things is good. Theists do good things to please God.

    Practically speaking, Theists also sometimes do good things just because doing good things is good. Therefore, sometimes theists operate like Atheists. Atheists just don’t operate with the “pleasing god” motivation. Atheists give higher value to the intrinsic goodness of an activity. Theists split their motivation (of doing good things) between “intrinsic goodness” and the “pleasing God” motivation.

    It should also be noted that both groups can also do good things for less noble reasons
    1. pleasing other people
    2. self-serving reasons
    Both groups occasionally also do bad things.

  • Tolga K.

    Your favourite Standard Question (or statement) from a Believer?

    “Explain how humans evolved [morals/traditions/religions/etc].”

    It doesn’t take much to explain in general how a non-physical human attribute can evolve, so I like the questions because my thinking skills go towards making it understandable towards the asker, which in turn improves my oratory and persuasive skills.

    As an Atheist, what is the one thing you would like Christians to understand about you?

    Besides what the others have said… why I don’t say “bless you” when someone sneezes. I’ve been reprimanded by teachers, strangers, and Christian classmates for not saying it; even when I believed in a god (used to call myself Muslim because my parents were).

    I don’t believe in anything to bless someone who sneezes, and I don’t think a sneeze warrants something as important as a divine blessing would be if it were real.

    So the answer in short is: I’m not rude because I refuse to take part in your traditions.

    wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    While I can’t say I believe in a soul in the religious sense, I do believe that consciousness will come again to me in some other form of life.

    The universe (as we know it) is 15 billion years old, with the possibility of multiple universes and infinite time before and after us. I’m experiencing all the senses of a human now, so it seems likely that some time after I die I’ll be experiencing consciousness as another form of a thinking entity. Whether that’s in some sophisticated computer or a form of life in some other galaxy billions of years from now, the fact that I can experience consciousness means it’s certainly possible again given the infinite amount of time that is to come.

  • Linda Lindsey

    To Macht: There’s a Yahoo Group called atheism2008 that is very positive. The moderator is an author collecting opinions for a book he’s writing. He’s asks questions to atheists about various things each week and we do our best to answer. He welcomes non-atheists who want to read our responses in order to learn more about us.

    You might want to skip over the first couple of posts until you get to his first question. A couple of people didn’t quite grasp his concept in the beginning.

  • http://heathendad.blogspot.com/ HappyNat

    That religion is not interesting. Not to me, certainly.

    I’m on the other side of the fence on this topic. I find religion extremely interesting, in fact I find it much more interesting now than I ever did as a Christian. As a Christian I accepted that God was working in my life and didn’t question it much. As a non-believer I find it fascinating to sit back and watch what believers do and say in the name of something I don’t think is real. But that might be the sociologist in me.

  • Stephen

    Ok, so I’ve just seen the Golden Compass and was wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    Your question seems to be founded on two misconceptions: one, that atheists have an overarching belief system. Naturally, most atheists don’t believe in souls, but belief or non-belief in souls isn’t inherent to atheism. This has already been explained better above, so I’ll move on. Second, you seem to be implying that there need be some connection between the supernatural elements that are real in a fantasy story, and the supernatural elements that the author believes to be real in the real world. Did Tolkien believe in elves?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    I’m with HappyNat in that I find religions to be fascinating. I also enjoy the art that comes out of religious belief like the music, paintings and architecture. (But I sometimes hope I am not admiring the carvings on the outside of an iron maiden. Would that be OK?)

    Anyway regarding:

    I’ve just seen the Golden Compass and was wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    I think Stephen already answered this question very well. I would also reply by asking, “what do you mean exactly by a ‘soul’?” All of these words used in religion (“god”, “soul”, “grace”, “spirit”..) are so foggy and obscure to me. I have the feeling that people who believe in a soul imagine it to be some kind of luminous vapour inside their bodies. I know physicists can’t even define exactly what an electron really IS for example, and they can actually measure these things! A “soul” seems completely out of the realm of comprehensible definition.

    I get into similar discussion with new agers who always use the word “energy”. I studied physics so I have some idea what the word “energy” actually means, and new age supernaturalists are not using the word correctly. I think people have been somewhat brainwashed by art (from paintings to modern Hollywood SFX) so they can easily picture in their mind’s eye things like “spirit” or “energy”. They imagine glowing fluids flowing around like magic. Maybe all these imaginative images come from cavemen staring at the flames of their campfire.

    That last idea reminds me of a conversation I had with someone where I asked them what exactly the flame was of a candle. They replied “pure energy”. In some indirect sense they are right, but the better answer would have been “electromagnetic radiation given off by excited electrons in the hot products of combustion”

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  • valhar2000

    Happynat: When you put it that way, it is interesting. However, what I actually mean is that I do not find things like discussing the Blood of Christ or Jesus’ Love with a missionary in a street corner interesting, or explaining for the tenth time that I don’t know where the universe came from or what if anything happens after death, you don’t either, and I am not worried about it in the slightest.

    The fact that I am commenting here shows that I do occasionally take an passing interest in religion (and other topics), but if you come up to me at a random time of the day and introduce religion to the conversation there will be a greater than 90% probability that I really won’t feel like it right now.

  • http://www.sexysecularist.com SexySecularist

    Where can I find an atheist book, website, magazine, etc. that doesnâ??t mock or attack or deride religious people or beliefs, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be an atheist?

    While our personal relationships with the faithful can be friendly and respectful, I hope we can be excused for taking no prisoners and making no exceptions in public discourse. The goal, quite honestly, is to make the religious ashamed of their bedfellows. To use the Papists as an example, no matter how reasonable and moral a Catholic is, his or her money is still going to the Catholic church, which is a disgusting organization. And the fact that there are kind, moral, otherwise reasonable religious people doesn’t make us think better of religion itself.

    Just because some people can enjoy a hamburger or a candy bar and still keep healthy doesn’t mean it’s out of line to write about an epidemic of junk food consumption and obesity, you know? If you consume a few Newman-Os and popcorn buckets every now and then, you shouldn’t be bothered by that book. But you can’t ignore the overwhelming evidence that junk food is bad for you.

    As for playing nice, showing respect for the faithful and helping them to understand that atheism isn’t satanism is an entirely different public relations campaign.

  • Mriana

    wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    Since I believe this is it- that we make earth heaven or hell or both then a soul is only metaphor- ie I feel it in the very depths of my soul. This is not the same supernatural concept of a soul, but only metaphor for an indescribably strong feeling. It is a talent that many humanistic writers develop and in my own writing I confuse both religious and non-religious alike- unless they know me. A really good writer will cause you to wonder what they believe, if they are speaking metaphorically or if they really mean what they said.

    Prime example is when I described, in a paper, childhood feelings of awe and wonder as god. No, that was not the god of the religious, but a child confusing what is purely emotional- an intense emotion at that- as god. If one reads further, I end up passing these off as emotions at least once if not twice.

    It can be confusing, the author of the Golden Compass does indeed label himself as a Humanist, he just doesn’t advertise it. He also admits to using words metaphorically too, which can be very confusing to some.

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com/ Should I Really Use My Real Name?

    Your question seems to be founded on two misconceptions: one, that atheists have an overarching belief system. Naturally, most atheists don’t believe in souls, but belief or non-belief in souls isn’t inherent to atheism. This has already been explained better above, so I’ll move on. Second, you seem to be implying that there need be some connection between the supernatural elements that are real in a fantasy story, and the supernatural elements that the author believes to be real in the real world. Did Tolkien believe in elves?

    Stephen, it was just a question. No implications, just curiosity. From my viewpoint over here in New Zealand, listening to what American Christians were ranting about, one could believe that The Golden Compass was the most evil movie imaginable. Now I do know not to take my American brothers too seriously from time to time, but imagine my surprise on seeing a media screening of the movie and finding plenty of Christian beliefs in the movie (it all comes down to how you interpret stuff really).

    Personally I thought the movie was rubbish, it lacked any real passion, but I’m guessing that comes down more to New Line sitting on the fence rather than the source material. It’s a pity really, as The Golden Compass, from what I’ve heard could have been the start of a really interesting trilogy of movies.

    And no, I’m not sure that Tolkien did believe in elves ;O)

    If you’re interested, my brief review can be found on filmguide

  • http://fthisnoise.blogspot.com Freelancer

    Where can I find an atheist book, website, magazine, etc. that doesnâ??t mock or attack or deride religious people or beliefs, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be an atheist?

    Honestly, the book meant for theists that best addresses the concerns of non-believers, I think, would have to be Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. It is short, to the point, and while not containing a positive argument for theism, it is overtly polite and is not mocking, or condescending to its intended audience. Sure, most of the people who bought the book were probably atheists who passed it on to religious fence-sitters or family members, but the point of the book is a call to action for believers to critically examine with logic and reason WHY they believe what they believe.

    If a chemist wrote a 70 page essay called Letter to the Pharmaceutical Industry it would be silly and equally irrational to conclude that the author was mocking or attacking any individual taking prescription drugs.

    Critical Discourse and skepticism exist in almost every facet of Western Civilization, (you don’t buy a car without kicking the tires, you don’t make a major purchase without checking out Consumer Reports, you don’t send your kid off to college without looking into it at least a little, etc)
    and if believers are offended because some now feel that religion is not special in its exemption from examination, that a critique of what they believe about the nature of reality is taboo, then they need to re-examine their worldview.

    As far as Atheists’ Positive Worldview, there’s no set dogma. We come together because of our lack of belief, and the steady encroachment or stigma on our right to live without belief.

    Sometimes, when colleagues or relatives ask me how I know so much about a certain topic, I remind them that I READ. I take all the ideas in, I read everything I can get my hands on. Good ideas, bad ideas, and I judge ideas based on the merits of their own reason and arguments. I don’t know about other atheists, but there are no subjects that are off limits to me, or immune to criticism to me (except maybe the 1st amendment).
    As an atheist, or a freethinker, I will never boycott a movie, or burn a book, or protest a play or work of art because it contradicts my worldview in a public forum. So yes, while Harris and Dawkins address religious claims without being conciliatory, they do not go out of their way to offend.

    /rant

    Nick

  • Arlen

    How different do you believe atheists and theists are, really?

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    Just a follow-up to my question. Not really another question, just a clarification in response to the “rant” above. First, notice I said “a” positive vision, not “the” positive vision. Second, I am not “offended” by atheists who mock or attack or argue against religious people or beliefs, I am just looking for those who don’t since they are much, much more difficult to find than those who do. Third, surely there has to be a better example than Harris’ book. (God help the atheists if there isn’t.)

  • Siamang

    realname asked:

    Ok, so I’ve just seen the Golden Compass and was wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    It depends on the person. I can’t say if we have souls or not: Define “soul”. I have no evidence that would compel me to believe that our consciousness suvives the death of our bodies. If that fits disbelief in your opinion and your definition of soul, then so be it.

  • Siamang

    Macht:

    First off, I’m about to give a light, flippant answer to your considered statement here… hopefully to make a point. Apologies in advance.

    … I am not “offended” by atheists who mock or attack or argue against religious people or beliefs, I am just looking for those who don’t since they are much, much more difficult to find than those who do.

    Hey, Macht, where can I find in the Christian Bible, a prophet, sage or indeed Savior who doesn’t mock or attack or deride Jewish or other religious people’s beliefs or practices, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be a Christian?

    Good question, eh?

    To answer your question directly, yes Hemant’s book, absolutely. As far as other inspirational literature, maybe atheists need to write some more. I find “Letting Go of God” by Julia Sweeney to be uplifting, positive and inspirational, but it does include some loving humor directed at her own Catholic upbringing.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Devin: That atheists are the same as them. We work, live, love, laugh, and have the same sort of personal triumphs and defeats. We’re not a faceless scary group of others. We’re all just… people.

    I Could Use My Real Name But I’m Too Chicken: I have seen no evidence suggesting that a thing such as souls exist. But if I was given good proof, I’d be open to the possibility. Until such time, it’s just not something I worry about, because it doesn’t impact my life.

    richard: Definitely when they quote Bible versus in that sort of, “Oh yeah, well, refute THIS, atheist girl” tone, like there can be no defense against that book.

    Arlen: I don’t think we’re different at all, other than the superficial veneer of belief or non-belief. If you looked at our lives, they’d be almost the same. Atheists just spend their Sundays differently.

  • Claire

    Second, I am not “offended” by atheists who mock or attack or argue against religious people or beliefs, I am just looking for those who don’t since they are much, much more difficult to find than those who do.

    “Atheists who do not mock or attack religious people” – that’s probably doable.

    “Atheists who do not mock or attack or argue against religious beliefs” – Let us know if you find such a site, it would be interesting to see what it looks like. I can’t image what they would be discussing that makes it an atheist site, if they aren’t rejecting religious beliefs. What you are looking for seems pretty much a contradiction in terms.

    Are you sure you aren’t really looking for secularists instead? They could fit that description.

  • Claire

    How different do you believe atheists and theists are, really?

    As an illustration, my first response to your question was “it’s not about belief, has any research been done on the differences?”. So, yes, I do think they are quite different types of people.

    Or, to be more clear, I think there are lots of different kinds of people, and some kinds mostly end up as theists, and other kinds mostly end up as atheists. So, not homogenous groups, but I suspect there would be some quantifiable differences, if someone did the research.

  • Mriana

    Arlen said,

    December 17, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    How different do you believe atheists and theists are, really?

    That’s a really vague question. In part, because as Claire stated, there are differences in types of people. However, even within both groups there are differences. First off, are you asking between Humanists and Progressive Xians? Even then you’d have to break down Humanists, because they all think differently. An atheist that does not ascribe to any other label v. a Baptist? or an agnostic v. a Jehovah Witness? It’s really difficult to say.

    I can get along quite well with some Progressive Christians and sometimes very well with Liberal Christians. The only difference is they believe in a supernatural being and I don’t, but the humanistic values are pretty much the same.

    On the other hand, I have to work really hard to get along with a fundie or avoid them. Either way, I have to bite my tongue sometimes and it can be quite difficult at times. There is a big difference- in values and beliefs.

  • Mriana

    Are you sure you aren’t really looking for secularists instead? They could fit that description.

    That’s not exactly true, Claire. I know Humanists of different varieties- Secular, Religious, Cultural, etc who poke fun at religious ideas. Not all do, but some do. They are after all human- no pun intended.

  • Claire

    Sure, Mriana, I know they can if they want, and do sometimes, I just thought Macht’s odds of finding what he was looking for would be better with secularists. He was looking for a site full of positive and not-anti-religion atheists. Then again, he may well believe in miracles….

    I guess I just think of secularists and humanists as more tactful, but that might be a misconception on my part.

  • Rob

    was wondering if Atheists believe that we have souls?

    I certainly don’t believe we have “souls” in the supernatural sense. I believe all we are is contained in our brain and when that stops so do we. I have caused all sorts of discomfort with religious friends when I start asking simple questions about what happens to people suffering from Alzheimer’s like my father in law. You get it and your brain starts slowly dying over a period of years. Memories slip away to the point you don’t know anyone around you. You eventually become a comatose vegetable with minimal brain activity. Then you die. Since the essence of who we are is memories most religions people I know believe you get these memories back somehow years after they slipped away. Where have they been stored while your brain was dying? Is there some sort of giant heavenly mainframe repository for them? I just don’t believe in any sort of life beyond the grave because I cant come up with any logical explanation as to how it would work and I can think of a lot of reasons why it makes no sense. The last time I discussed this with a good friend they just got mad at me and said “I don’t care how it works it just does…..”. My mind does not function like that.

  • kwrigh5

    I’ll talk about this more in detail on the friendly christian website in a few days.
    http://www.friendlychristian.com

    Disclaimer: I come in peace with this/these topic(s). If you are part of the Rational Response Squad, I mean no harm but I do have my thoughts.

    But I wonder about certain outlets that some atheists use to response to Christian fundamentalism. Like the Rational Response Squad and their Blasphemy Challenge. I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism? Why can’t these people simply accept their beliefs and not “sink” to certain people’s level with assumptions and accusations? I just seems as if these people are judging the very people that they say judge everyone else.

  • Karen

    Claire, there has been some research done that supports your hypothesis about quantifiable differences. I can’t find it right now, but a sociologist did a study of kibbutzes in Israel and he got some interesting findings on personality traits.

    Also, studies have been done on religiosity and intelligence, finding an inverse relation between the two in the United States:

    In 1986, the Council for Secular Humanism’s Free Inquiry magazine summarized studies on religiosity and intelligence. In it Burnham Beckwith summarized 43 studies on religiosity and its relation with attributes that he considered were positively linked with intelligence: IQ, SAT scores, academic ability and other measures of overall “success”. Although conceding that it was easy to find fault with the studies he reviewed, “for all were imperfect,” he contended that the studies he examined, taken together, provided strong evidence for an inverse correlation between intelligence and religious faith in the United States.

  • Claire

    I believe all we are is contained in our brain and when that stops so do we.

    Rob, that fits with what I have seen and read. There is nothing about who a person is, nothing at all, that can’t be changed by brain injury or disease. I don’t see any way that fits in with a soul, or at least not with a soul that has memory, personality, and/or identity.

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  • Mriana

    Claire said,

    December 17, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Sure, Mriana, I know they can if they want, and do sometimes, I just thought Macht’s odds of finding what he was looking for would be better with secularists. He was looking for a site full of positive and not-anti-religion atheists. Then again, he may well believe in miracles….

    I guess I just think of secularists and humanists as more tactful, but that might be a misconception on my part.

    :lol: He may well believe in miracles. Claire, I’m a Humanist and I don’t think I’m always tactful. There are times I think I get too much in Christain faces when they get on my nerves. Of course, if not, then don’t let me ruin your misconception. ;)

    kwrigh5 said,

    December 17, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    I’ll talk about this more in detail on the friendly christian website in a few days.
    http://www.friendlychristian.com

    Disclaimer: I come in peace with this/these topic(s). If you are part of the Rational Response Squad, I mean no harm but I do have my thoughts.

    But I wonder about certain outlets that some atheists use to response to Christian fundamentalism. Like the Rational Response Squad and their Blasphemy Challenge. I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism? Why can’t these people simply accept their beliefs and not “sink” to certain people’s level with assumptions and accusations? I just seems as if these people are judging the very people that they say judge everyone else.

    I’m not UnRRS, but what gave you the idea that everyone here sunk to some level? I try to avoid such things. I personally don’t embrace anything in particular about my beliefs/non-beliefs and I try to avoid judging anyone.

    Like the Rational Response Squad and their Blasphemy Challenge. I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism?

    I had no respect for their Blasphemy Challenge. It just seemed a bit rude.

    However, it is a misconception to think, if I understand you correctly, that people are atheists solely due to bad experiences. That’s not entirely true. Some of us did educate ourselves and came to the conclusion on our own. Some of us are very learned concerning religion/religious texts and mythology, and can even out do our own families- sometimes long before we took courses on the subject. So, it is not always bad experiences alone and sometimes there is no bad experiences. Yes, there are atheists who have not had a bad experience with the religious, but they are atheists.

    Claire said,

    December 17, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    I believe all we are is contained in our brain and when that stops so do we.

    Rob, that fits with what I have seen and read. There is nothing about who a person is, nothing at all, that can’t be changed by brain injury or disease. I don’t see any way that fits in with a soul, or at least not with a soul that has memory, personality, and/or identity.

    I second all of that.

  • Siamang

    I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism?

    I didn’t agree with the Blasphemy Challenge and spoke up against it at the time. I didn’t take part. I spoke against it. I’ve spoken against a number of the RRS’s stunts.

    But as often we have to remind ourselves when talking about Christians, they’re only human, and some of them aren’t always polite. That’s no reason to beat up on the polite ones.

    You ask a similar question as Macht did above, and so I’ll similarly turn it around on you:

    Did Jesus really need to insult an entire group of Pharisees and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to promote Christianity?

    Anyone looking for a person who “only ever sets a positive example and never says anything bad about the other guy, ever, ever, ever…”

    Well, even Jesus didn’t live up to that one!

  • Rob

    Yes, there are atheists who have not had a bad experience with the religious, but they are atheists.

    That would be me. I occasionally attend my wife’s church and find her Methodist buddies to be warm caring people. I have not had a bad church experience at all. I think they are a little nutty and I’m not happy about my kids being taught supernatural theism, but it does not cause me any serious grief because as they get older I will use logic to “subvert the dominant paradigm”.

    Some of us are very learned concerning religion/religious texts and mythology, and can even out do our own families- sometimes long before we took courses on the subject.

    I’m no religious scholar but I find the subject fascinating and spend a lot more time than most of the religious people I know reading a wide variety of information on the subject. I created a stir with my Methodist wife the other day when I pointed out that December 25th was not Jesus Christ’s birthday at all, that it was picked by a 4th century Pope so it would coincide with a pagan winter festival. (The stir was my eldest daughter repeating this loudly to a friend during my youngest daughters Christmas pageant). I think many religious people really don’t want to know the truth about the history of their religion and go out of their way to remain ignorant.

    I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism?

    Of course not. Ranting disrespectful atheists are just as bad as Baptist presidential candidates who say that Mormons believe Jesus Christ and the Devil are brothers. I think mean disrespectful people exist in the ranks of the religious just as much as in the ranks of atheists.

  • Mriana

    I’m no religious scholar but I find the subject fascinating and spend a lot more time than most of the religious people I know reading a wide variety of information on the subject.

    I spend more than my far share of time studying religious texts and mythology too.

    I think many religious people really don’t want to know the truth about the history of their religion and go out of their way to remain ignorant.

    Nope, they don’t. If they knew some would either deny it to themselves or go nuts. It is just rewritten myths- Egyptian, Mesopotamian, etc etc They won’t believe you if you try to tell them either.

  • kwrigh5

    To Mriana,
    I didn’t mean to imply that bad experiences with Christians are the main reason for atheism and I also did not mean to imply that everyone on this site has sunken to a judgmental level. I am aware of atheists who do become atheists by choice and research. I just notice that certain atheists have played the judgmental card by labeling Christianity as a whole as nothing by hypocrisy, judgment, and hatred. This seems hypocritical to me. For those who have made such statements, I want to know why.

    To Siamang,
    As I think about my previous comment, I realize that criticisms against Christians are not what bothers me the most. I can see where people would get the idea that Christians are not all they say they are when looking at the media or personal experiences. However, it is the whole concept of insulting Jesus and the religion of Christianity that really gets to me. It would be like me blaming Islam as a whole for 9/11. With the Blasphemy Challenge, it seems as if a person mocks Christianity as a whole instead of criticizing individuals who have a particular interpretation of Scripture. This is different from Jesus and the Pharisees because Jesus called out people on their interpretation of the law but he did not hate on the law itself. He only talks about the people not their belief system and he brought a different perspective but never hated it.

  • kwrigh5

    Oh and to Rob, why do you believe that many religious people really don’t want to know the truth about their religion?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    that atheists (or anyone for that matter) don’t need a god to have good morals.

    That reminds me of Hot fuzz. It’s a good movie.

    Anyway, my questions for the ATHEISTS:

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    2. What exactly is the difference between pure atheism and Humanism? Is there a difference?

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    4. There are a broad spectrum of atheists and theists alike. I’ve noticed there are some grey areas where the opposite sides overlap. Do you think it’s possible to gradually increase this area and eventually do away with the labels? Or is that too idealistic?

    5. Going off of #4, do you think us moderate/liberal Christians would be more effective in the fundie circle than here? Maybe we should become members of a fundie church? It’s a very scary thought…

  • Tolga K.

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    Many of us have grown up religious and know those answers. Some wish to discredit those beliefs because they did so themselves and feel it is beneficial for others to do so.

    2. What exactly is the difference between pure atheism and Humanism? Is there a difference?

    Atheism is just the one belief that there are no deities. Humanism is a system of beliefs that people can base their lives off of (making it a religion).

    The association that Humanism has with atheism is that humanistic beliefs (with or without knowledge of the belief system) are often naturally adopted once a person becomes an atheist.

    Also, you don’t have to be an atheist to be a Humanist.

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    The atheists that choose to identify themselves as such do believe in something, that we must band together to overcome oppression against us. Identifying ourselves as a group makes it possible:

    1) For the religious to recognize we exist.
    2) For the religious to recognize that there are a substantial number of us.
    3) For the religious to understand that being non-religious should not be grounds for poorer treatment (see the rules regarding Conscientious Objection as an example)
    4) Meet other atheists and share our stories/philosophies/etc.
    5) All sorts of other benefits that result from banding together.

    4. There are a broad spectrum of atheists and theists alike. I’ve noticed there are some grey areas where the opposite sides overlap. Do you think it’s possible to gradually increase this area and eventually do away with the labels? Or is that too idealistic?

    People will always have such a variance in philosophies and beliefs that what you said may never happen. It isn’t a good thing either, because I think it’s healthy for a society to hold such a variety of views (as long as they don’t harm people in the name of those views)

    5. Going off of #4, do you think us moderate/liberal Christians would be more effective in the fundie circle than here? Maybe we should become members of a fundie church? It’s a very scary thought…

    In what way?

    If you mean politically, you would be more effective of you collaborated with atheists than fundies. The fundies already have legions of other similarly obsessed people to get power from.

    Liberal/Moderate Christians siding with, at the very least, the secularist movement, would have a huge impact on policy because there are so many Christians in that area of the political spectrum.

    I wish you moderates would join our cause, because fundamentalism would be a lot worse for you (and all other non-fundamentalists) than secularism in government.

    And please, for your health and ours, don’t join a fundamentalist church. I know you weren’t being serious, but most attacks on secularism and atheists come from fundies. We can’t take our chances.

  • Claire

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    Normally, I only have to hear their views and a dozen rebuttals come to mind, but yes, there are times when I am genuinely puzzled. Not by what they believe, and not so much by what one person believes, but when lots of people find validity in something that makes no sense, I do want to understand.

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    It isn’t always, but this might be an exceptional case. Tolga listed a lot of good reasons to do it publicly and as a group. I rarely have to label myself as such in person, somehow they just always seem to know. Funny, that….

    And I’m pretty sure from your other postings that you didn’t mean to imply atheists believe in nothing, but that second sentence might be subject to misinterpretation, so you might want to clarify it.

  • Rob

    Oh and to Rob, why do you believe that many religious people really don’t want to know the truth about their religion?

    Personal experience kwright5. Lots of conversations with friends that stop in anger the minute I ask a difficult question that points out a discrepancy in their belief. Conversations with my wife who is a devoted Methodist (for the record I love her dearly and we have a great marriage despite our deep religious differences). She freely admits that she does not want to think hard and critically about her religion- to her it just feels good and that is what is important. My wife knows for example that there never were three wise men following a guiding star but at last count I see 6 little nativity scenes proudly displayed in our home. My wife really avoids any situation that would force her to logically question her faith. It is something we just cant talk about.

    Another example is the Mormon faith I was raised in. The Pearl of Great Price written by J.Smith states that God’s throne is on the planet Kolob (!). The Mormons I know really get uncomfortable and change the subject quickly when you bring this and some of the other truly bizarre Mormon factoids up. They just don’t want to know the real factual history behind Joseph Smith and will come up with all kinds of conspiracy theories to debunk the facts.

    Probably the best example is a long conversation I had with my wife’s pastor over a sandwich in a local park last year. I would consider him to be an good hearted and intelligent person (Ivy league educated), at least in his ability to articulate himself. We were meeting so that I could express some of my concerns about my child’s involvement in my wife’s church and I had a really enjoyable conversation. What hit me though is an admission he made that my wife seconded – he said he was “Very simple minded”. He didn’t mean stupid, he just meant that he didn’t think about things in too much detail or too critically. He just accepted the doctrine of the church and had no burning desire to challenge it. To me that is an unthinkable way to live.

  • Mriana

    For those who have made such statements, I want to know why.

    Maybe they forget that the Religious Reich is not the whole and sum total of Xianity, so they lump them all as Xians. I try to clarify which group I am talking about, but then as I commented above, I realize there are different groups on both sides.

    Linda asked:

    Anyway, my questions for the ATHEISTS:

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    I think you have an idea concerning myself. For those who don’t, I’m not anti-religious or anti-god. I am anti-dogma though. I have very good friends who are liberal and progressive Xians. They also know that I have nothing against their beliefs- I just don’t necessarily agree. We can agree to disagree about the god of religion, yet I have found we agree very much about other things- such as the dogmatic ideology of religion. Most agree with my statements concerning dogma.

    2. What exactly is the difference between pure atheism and Humanism? Is there a difference?

    Well, there is a difference, but there isn’t. I think Tolga pretty much summed it up fairly well. Except I would refer you to the American Humanist Association: http://www.americanhumanist.org/index.html and Council for Secular Humanism: http://www.secularhumanism.org I also pointed out else where that there are Christian Humanists too, so you may want to check out the Sea of Faith website: http://www.sofn.org.uk I would also check out Positive Atheism (I can’t find the link off hand) and Strong Atheism website: http://www.strongatheism.net

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    Linda, that’s just it, I don’t believe in nothing. I believe in the ability of human beings to better themselves and society. I believe people have a lot more power than they think they do. I believe in many of the things that the Humanist Manifesto states (found on virtually every humanist site). I go by the Humanist Manifesto II and III, but CSH has the Manifesto 2000 (long story). This is not a belief in nothing. For me, Humanism is very spiritual, very liberating, and life affirming. Humanism is reason, compassion, and freedom.

    4. There are a broad spectrum of atheists and theists alike. I’ve noticed there are some grey areas where the opposite sides overlap. Do you think it’s possible to gradually increase this area and eventually do away with the labels? Or is that too idealistic?

    Ooo! That’s a hard one, Linda. I’m with Joyce Carol Oates who said in the most recent The Humanist mag, “It has always been something of a mystery to me that intelligent, educated men and women-as well as the uneducated-can “have faith” in an invisible and nonexistent God. Why is humanism not the preeminent belief of humankind? Why don’t humans place their faith in reason and in the strategies of skepticism and doubt, and refuse to conced to “traditional” customs, religious convictions, and superstitions?”

    As much as you believe Christianity is so great, I feel strongly that Humanism is the best stance to hold in life. Now, this does not mean I do not believe in the wide umbrella I spoke of, but the main focus should be the human, the human condition, without reliance on the supernatural. I do believe that Spong and Cupitt (see the Sea of Faith link) are Christian Humanists as much as I am a Religious Humanist, but none of use rely on any supernatural deity.

    5. Going off of #4, do you think us moderate/liberal Christians would be more effective in the fundie circle than here? Maybe we should become members of a fundie church? It’s a very scary thought…

    I don’t think anyone should be involved with the Fundies and/or Religious Reich. To get involved could cause more people to become delusional. No, they need to be dragged out of their little world and into reality. They need to know just how much damage they are doing to people- including themselves. Religious extremism is what cause problems in society and that needs to be fought and avoided.

    As Tolga mentioned about joining our cause, this goes back to my statement about not knowing why Humanism is not the preeminent belief of everyone. I do not know everything about Humanism, but I know the basics and a little about individual subsections of Humanism. If I don’t know the answer, I know where I might be able to find it, yet at the same time, Humanism is also individual too. One can find the basics virtually on any Humanist site, but it is also as individual as the person.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    But I wonder about certain outlets that some atheists use to response to Christian fundamentalism. Like the Rational Response Squad and their Blasphemy Challenge. I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism? Why can’t these people simply accept their beliefs and not “sink” to certain people’s level with assumptions and accusations? I just seems as if these people are judging the very people that they say judge everyone else.

    I participated in the Blasphemy Challenge, and I honestly don’t feel bad about it at all. The reason behind it is frustration. We’re not saints, we’re just people. And sometimes we get really, really frustrated and just can’t take it any more. Is that a good thing? Who knows. But I can tell you that making the video felt good. It was like standing on my roof and screaming at the top of my lungs that I was sick and tired of people trying to save a thing (a soul) that I don’t even believe in, and I wanted them to stop it and get out of my life, because it’s my life and none of their business.

    I really couldn’t say how a Christian would feel about me declaring that I don’t believe in any gods, and that I deny the holy spirit. But I know how I feel every time I hear a politician talking about using their religion in their decisions, every time I’m exposed to one more person wanting to curtail my rights and shame me as a woman because of a religious dogma. And I get really, really upset and really frustrated about it, and scared. I guess it’s a way to take a stand – an immature way, perhaps, but a way nonetheless – that not everyone believes in the same thing that Christians do, and not everyone wants to, and we have a voice and a face.

    So I guess the question is one I’d turn back on the Christians (and I know, not all of you are like this – I have a great many Christian friends who are just lovely and wonderful and accepting, but it doesn’t make me feel much better when a man that doesn’t even know me looks me in the eye and tells me I deserve to suffer eternally) and say why can’t you just accept that we don’t believe this, that we’ll never believe this, and we don’t want to?

    Atheists get insulted and belittled as a group all the time. After a while, some of us just run out of other cheeks to turn.

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

    And I’m pretty sure from your other postings that you didn’t mean to imply atheists believe in nothing, but that second sentence might be subject to misinterpretation, so you might want to clarify it.

    Yes, Claire. Thank you for pointing that out. I did not mean nothing. I meant absense of belief in a higher/bigger being. The word “atheist” implies the absense theology. So I just meant why not have a name that is the presence of something instead of the absence of something. “Humanism” is a word. “Secularism” is a word. “Christianity” is a word. But “Atheism” is a non-word. It’s a word that indicates that something is missing. I don’t know… It was just a fleeting thought. Just a fleeting question… I just wished you all had a name that meant the presence of something, to fit the respect I have for you. And then I can really try to convert you… (just kidding!) ;-) It doesn’t matter to me, really. It was a dumb question.

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

    Tolga and Mriana,

    By question #4, I meant should the liberal Christains be talking to the fundamentalists to get them to have a more open mind rather than continuing to defend ourselves to atheists about their preconceptions about Christians? It seems to me that most atheists already have open minds about most things. It’s the religious who are close-minded. But they are not bad people. They are not (at least not the ones that I know) dangerous people. I was wondering if we, the open-minded Christians, should be wreaking havoc in their churches to help them think out of the religious box. Do you think they would kick us out?

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

    Atheists get insulted and belittled as a group all the time. After a while, some of us just run out of other cheeks to turn

    Katsu, thank you for such an honest comment.

    Believe me, I get insulted and belittled for being a Christian as well. Sometimes by my own family. But please allow me to apologize as a member of the group that has insulted and belittled you. It’s wrong for anyone to judge anyone else. We are all humans who are doing our best to survive and make sense of things… We are all trying to live the best way we know how.

  • Claire

    Linda said;

    “Humanism” is a word. “Secularism” is a word. “Christianity” is a word. But “Atheism” is a non-word. It’s a word that indicates that something is missing.

    I have to disagree on this, Linda. It’s a good word, and part of what it means for me is “no”. It means, stop assuming I believe what you believe. It means, stop trying to force a religion on me. It means, I know where I stand, so back off and leave me be.

    Sometimes “no” can be a very positive word.

  • Mriana

    I just wished you all had a name that meant the presence of something, to fit the respect I have for you.

    Linda, I think you have fallen victim to a way of thinking that society has imposed on everyone and that is a stigmatizing of the the word atheism. I am even guilty of that somewhat and prefer the word non-theist. The words atheist and atheism have been made to sound distasteful and shameful to the human mind by society- esp in the Bible Belt. It is far worse in the Bible Belt, but it is definitely a societal problem that needs to be change. The words non-theist and non-theism can sometimes get one into just as much of a headache sometimes too.

    The difficulty is changing that. I don’t know how, esp when hardline Evangelical Bible Thumpers throw stones. Figuratively of course and if you live in the Bible Belt too, then you may understand the difficulty as well as the stigma I am talking about. Using the word and refusing stigmatism is the only way to overcome it though.

    Linda said,

    December 17, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    Tolga and Mriana,

    By question #4, I meant should the liberal Christains be talking to the fundamentalists to get them to have a more open mind rather than continuing to defend ourselves to atheists about their preconceptions about Christians? It seems to me that most atheists already have open minds about most things. It’s the religious who are close-minded. But they are not bad people. They are not (at least not the ones that I know) dangerous people. I was wondering if we, the open-minded Christians, should be wreaking havoc in their churches to help them think out of the religious box. Do you think they would kick us out?

    Given what has happened in the Episcopal Church, they might kick you out or you may find others who are thinking as you are and form a team. Then you may get kicked out together. The thing is, there are progressive Christians speaking out against these Religious Reichers, Fundies, whatever other label you can think of and sadly they have received death threats for speaking out against them. Death threats they had to take seriously. :( Supposed Christians threatening the lives of other Christians. Nothings changed. It’s still the same historical story.

    I can say, at best, they will just call you names. If that is all you have to deal with for speaking out against them to them, then be greatful that is all. You also have to ask yourself if you are willing to deal with the flap you may receive.

  • Tolga K.

    By question #4, I meant should the liberal Christains be talking to the fundamentalists to get them to have a more open mind rather than continuing to defend ourselves to atheists about their preconceptions about Christians?

    Since I don’t know what you should do, I can only tell you what I’d want you to do.

    I think that if you feel you want to open people’s minds a bit, then you should try it. I see already that you at least are trying to understand our point of view. If you are willing to talk to the fundamentalists about us, at least help them understand our positions. I’d rather them see us as lost then as baby killers.

    It seems to me that most atheists already have open minds about most things. It’s the religious who are close-minded. But they are not bad people. They are not (at least not the ones that I know) dangerous people.

    Religious people aren’t bad or dangerous on their own. The problem is their susceptibility to religious authority and the voting power they grant them. The fundies do what they think is right according to their churches, and the moderates don’t want to be caught on the other side. I know a guy that will only vote Republican because his church leaders tell him to.

    Religion is government is dangerous, and as long as the moderates still sway in the direction of the fundamentalists in their political views, they will keep helping the fundies get power. The people aren’t dangerous, but their beliefs have much potential to be.

    I was wondering if we, the open-minded Christians, should be wreaking havoc in their churches to help them think out of the religious box. Do you think they would kick us out?

    Like I said, understanding and tolerance are the goals. Their religious convictions may be too tough to get them to think anything more regarding the issue. I think that if they understand what secularism is, why it’s important, and why all humans must have the same humanistic rights, their actual understanding of atheism will also increase.

    As for being kicked out:

    If a system that’s supposed to be accepting of believers and that claims to be the link to the all-lovingness of the deity you believe in kicks you out of their church for extending love and understanding to outsiders… why would you want to stay?

  • http://enklabloggen.blogspot.com simple z

    Ellen
    “to Devin: I’m an atheist because the evidence of the universe led to atheism. It was a traumatic discovery after 40+ years of believing in a loving, benevolent god.”

    My interpretation of the info about big bang and stuff, gives me, at least arguments to believe that believing in a God can be as sane as being an atheist.

    I think of the Necessary being as the prime cause of all existence (particles, quantum, energy)

    Some atheists say, that instead, it is the universe itself, which has necessary existence (and therefore; has been around forever)

    Friendly atheist
    By the way, i like your name, it makes me smile to the ears (a sense of humour?)

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Here’s my attempt to answer Linda’s questions:

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    To discredit something I have to understand it first. I think religion is an interesting topic and I do want to understand it.

    2. What exactly is the difference between pure atheism and Humanism? Is there a difference?

    I keep harping on capitalization but you got it right in your question. Atheism is just disagreement. I can capitalize Humanism because it’s a positive philosophy on how to live life. Some self-described “Atheists” might disagree with me, but what can I do? I’m not their pope. ;-) To me capitalizing “atheism” and calling it a world view is almost as silly as capitalizing “theism” and calling it a world view. I’ll have to disagree here with Tolga, since I think the more useful definition of atheism is “lack of belief in any deity”. Actually this broader definition does include those strong atheists who truly have a positive belief in no gods because they still lack a belief that any exist.

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    It’s only necessary in our current social context. We wouldn’t need to describe the donut hole if there was no donut. I always say if the naturalistic world view was dominant then the minority of theists would be called “anaturalists”. Maybe someday the need for atheists will disappear, just like we don’t see many abolitionists in this country anymore.

    4. There are a broad spectrum of atheists and theists alike. I’ve noticed there are some grey areas where the opposite sides overlap. Do you think it’s possible to gradually increase this area and eventually do away with the labels? Or is that too idealistic?

    It’s possible. I wouldn’t bet on that outcome though.

    5. Going off of #4, do you think us moderate/liberal Christians would be more effective in the fundie circle than here? Maybe we should become members of a fundie church? It’s a very scary thought…

    Everyone on the Internet would be more effective if they were out doing something instead of ranting on various blogs. I often feel guilty about that. There are many areas of the world that need improvement, but it seems that most of us can’t get beyond complaining about it to each other. Everyone is so caught up in the machine of daily life that the idea of going out and becoming an activist of some kind seems impossible and overwhelming. I guess knowing and being concerned about the problems of the world is better than complete ignorance, but the lack of action is something I worry about. Is the Internet really helping people communicate and organize, or is it just another distraction?

  • kwrigh5

    To Katsu,
    I appreciate your honesty as well. I understand that frustration
    However, I still do not understand why a person could have simply stated as high as the sky “I’m an atheist and I want to stay that way.” To me, this is just as effective because you are completely honest but it does not go into the core of the religion of Christianity. I mean I am curious. What did your Christian friends say about you taking the Blasphemy Challenge?

  • stogoe

    I mean does one really need to insult an entire group of people and their beliefs because of bad experiences with some in order to embrace their atheism?

    Maybe not, but I thought the Blasphemy Challenge was hilarious. Popping the unthinking mass of the religious in the nose was one of the best ways to wake them up, to make them take notice that hey, there are a bunch of people who aren’t in agreement with the march of Christianity over all other beliefs. Controversy works.

    Besides, your silly beliefs are not off-limits to criticism. Not any more. There’s nothing special about Jebus or Yahweh that we can’t speak up against them. I know you people got in to some kind of power and started thinking you were above reproach, but it comes to this: Your god is a fiction, made up whole-cloth to make Bronze-Age goatherds less afraid of the dark.

  • kwrigh5

    Maybe not, but I thought the Blasphemy Challenge was hilarious. Popping the unthinking mass of the religious in the nose was one of the best ways to wake them up, to make them take notice that hey, there are a bunch of people who aren’t in agreement with the march of Christianity over all other beliefs. Controversy works.

    Besides, your silly beliefs are not off-limits to criticism. Not any more. There’s nothing special about Jebus or Yahweh that we can’t speak up against them. I know you people got in to some kind of power and started thinking you were above reproach, but it comes to this: Your god is a fiction, made up whole-cloth to make Bronze-Age goatherds less afraid of the dark.

    See this is what I question. People could have easily criticized Christians and their actions and not mock the core of Christianity. Atheists can be honest about people without being mean about it. And we don’t always need controversy to prove a point. Oftentimes, all it does it get people heated and angry without thinking things through and being mature about it. Being open without being obnoxious can be just as effective.

  • Pingback: Life before death :: Answers from an Atheist, contd. :: December :: 2007

  • Siamang

    Stogoe said:

    Maybe not, but I thought the Blasphemy Challenge was hilarious. Popping the unthinking mass of the religious in the nose was one of the best ways to wake them up, to make them take notice that hey, there are a bunch of people who aren’t in agreement with the march of Christianity over all other beliefs. Controversy works.

    kwrigh5:

    I still do not understand why a person could have simply stated as high as the sky “I’m an atheist and I want to stay that way.” To me, this is just as effective because you are completely honest but it does not go into the core of the religion of Christianity.

    As stogoe implies, a video saying “I’m an atheist and I want to stay that way” wouldn’t have gotten national news coverage.

    As someone who personally didn’t like or want to do “The Blasphemy Challenge” I nevertheless concede that it, and other polemical broadsides, have brought atheists out of the shadows in this country.

    You may be aware of the CNN Paula Zahn story about atheists where they had a panel of “experts” none of whom were atheists, and they proceeded to say that atheists should “shut up” and saying atheists “inspire hatred”. The panel DIDN’T even have one atheist on it. Can you imagine a panel on black people in America, and then you go to an all-white panel and they say that black people should just “shut up”? How do they do such a stupid thing? Go to that link and watch the video. Realize that atheists have had to push even to get included on CNN panels ABOUT ATHEISM. Yes, we’re silenced… but only if we let outselves be.

    As the bumpersticker says “well-behaved women seldom make history.”

    I’m sorry if the words “I deny the holy spirit” are offensive to you. But I’m offended by the idea that there is such an thing as blasphemy. I’m offended by the idea of eternal damnation. I’m offended by the idea of an unforgivable sin. I’m offended by a lot of the ideas in Christianity… slavery, the subjegation of women, the sacrificing of humans and their foreskins, the stoning of homosexuals for acts of loving and caring.

    These horrors are not isolated to time periods thousands of years ago. These ideas continue to harm our world today.

    Sometimes we need to speak up and say that.

  • Rob

    People could have easily criticized Christians and their actions and not mock the core of Christianity.

    I would agree that “mocking” the core of Christianity in a nasty way is unproductive, but I would also argue that disagreeing strongly with the core of Christianity is appropriate. My personal opinion is that there is no God and that Jesus was just a Jewish Rabbi with a radical message. All the supernatural theism that goes along with the core of Christianity is, I believe, rubbish. I personally believe the idea of him being literally brought back from the dead after a few days to be downright silly and representative of a scary mindset that will believe just about anything without thinking critically about it. Does not mean I think everything Christians represent is bad or that Christians themselves are bad, certainly the message of love and concern for others is positive – I just dont believe the supernatural theism at the core of Christianity is a plus. Is that mocking the core of Christianity or just expressing a valid opinion? I believe it is the latter. The core of Christianity should not be off limits to critical discussion just because people feel threatened by it.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    To Katsu,
    I appreciate your honesty as well. I understand that frustration
    However, I still do not understand why a person could have simply stated as high as the sky “I’m an atheist and I want to stay that way.” To me, this is just as effective because you are completely honest but it does not go into the core of the religion of Christianity. I mean I am curious. What did your Christian friends say about you taking the Blasphemy Challenge?

    Because it doesn’t do any good when we do. To our friends, sometimes, to our families, maybe, it will make a difference. Because those are people that love us, and will eventually come to terms with the fact that they must accept who we are if they want to remain a part of our lives. Or not. My grandmother still doesn’t know I’m an atheist, and I let her keep believing that some day I will turn to the church because it makes her happy and I don’t have it in my heart to let her die believing that her granddaughter is going to spend an eternity separated from the love of her non-existent deity. I also do this because my grandmother doesn’t actively try to convert me. The aunt I have that sends us presents from Focus on the Family gets a much less polite treatment.

    But to strangers? To the people that run this country, that try to manipulate the schools, try to push their beliefs on us? It doesn’t make a difference. They don’t care that we’re happy the way we are. When people are LYING to teenagers about abortion and condoms, it’s not because they have an interest in letting us be what we want to be and live our own lives. It’s because they think they’re right, we’re wrong, and they’re going to save our souls whether we believe in them [souls] or not.

    And no doubt, a video on the internet isn’t going to change that opinion. But it will remind people that some of us are strongly opposed to their beliefs and are not willing to be quiet about it. Because silence implies consent. And sometimes it seems that not beating someone over the head with a difference in opinion implies consent as well. Christians are the majority in America, and it’s so very easy to forget that other people think and live differently without the reminder. And maybe a reminder sticks better when it’s passionate and frustrated.

    Also, I would point out that while there is no set of core beliefs for atheists beyond the lack of belief in a deity, I think we all also believe we are good, moral people. And being constantly, loudly told by certain sectors of the American majority that we all must be immoral murderers in waiting (and then Hitler!) is an insult to our very core as well.

    I think it’s a valid point that it’s better to rise above the bad behavior of one’s opponent. But as I said before, we’re only human. And we’re hoping that since being polite didn’t make our point, being strident will. I know to me, a lot of it feels like I’m saying, “Look, I know this is your deeply held belief, but I think it’s crap and definitively want no part of it.” Which is pretty much what Christians say to us when they say we’re going to rot in hell for not believing in god. It also seemed to me not necessarily an attack, but a way to show how strong our convictions are. We believe so strongly that the Christian god is not there that we will stand up and publicly make the finishing move that – if by some chance we are wrong and god does exist – is our spiritual execution warrant. I think some people, judging from the videos, hoped that it would encourage the people who watched them to question their deeply held beliefs by seeing that other people can have equally strong convictions. We’re asked to question our own beliefs all the time. Seems only fair.

    But mind you, this is also a lot of post hoc reasoning on my part, looking back on it and seeing what could have been, what ways it might go. At the time, I was just frustrated and happy for the chance to let the world know about it.

    As for my Christian friends… I don’t know if I actually ever told any of them about it. I certainly haven’t concealed it. I can’t recall if I posted about it in my LJ or not, though they’ve all had to suffer through my occasionally ranting about how I don’t understand how a rational human being could value a wad of cells in my uterus more than a contributing member of society such as myself, or how a supposedly intelligent person could look at the Grand Canyon and say the flood did it. But they’re also not the ones that I get angry and frustrated at, and they know it. We’re all pretty live and let live.

    My Baptist friend once told me, “You know, you’re going to burn for all eternity. But I still love you and think you’re cool.” Maybe part of respecting differences is respecting the fact that she thinks I’m hell-bound and I think she’s following a fairy tale, and we both know how the other person feels and can be at peace with that. Because we’re not trying to run each other’s lives.

    And in my opinion, that’s what’s going to see us through this, if anything. I can’t respect my Christian friends’ beliefs. Because I think they’re crap, and I can’t understand why an otherwise rational human being would believe such things. (Same with pretty much every other religion I’ve ever encountered.) And I’m sure they feel the same way about me. I think the key is being able to accept that it’s another one of those things, like a pot habit or a love of ugly shirts, where if it’s not hurting anyone else, just let it go and love them anyway. Honestly, I think the entire problem is encapsulated by people trying to coerce others into behaving how they think they should instead of just accepting that if it harms no others a person should get to make their own decisions. Most of us don’t like someone else telling us how to live our lives, and that’s what makes us angry.

    Maybe other atheists get mad about the philosphical questions, the silliness of it all, but I really don’t as long as people aren’t trying to run the country with it, or lie to kids about it, and that’s where I’m coming from. I just wish people could live and let live, and understand that it’s okay if other people think you’re full of crap sometimes, because the spiritual journey isn’t a popularity contest anyway.

    Woo, yay, I am rambling. And that’s more about me than anyone in the world ever wanted to know.

    As an aside, I’m studying for my Shakespeare final, and doing my workup of The Merchant of Venice. And this just struck me as perhaps relevant to this discussion, though not necessarily the point I am trying to make:

    He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian, what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction.
    (3.1.54-73)

  • Noble

    Science is a Christians best weapon, it totally destroys evolution and atheistic theories while at the same time it validates core Christian beliefs. I guess that’s why the greatest and most tangibly productive scientists throughout history have been creationists, they worked with facts as opposed to really asinine theories. Evolution must be the world’s silliest religion! It has become totally pointless debating evolutionists/atheists, they reject science and have generally become people that lack reason and common sense. Some Christians groups have recently begun to study and question on a more deeper level why people claim to be evolutionists/atheists, some results have pointed to poor emotional and psychological conditions, there is also evidence of low self esteem due to a lack of any exceptional physical attributes. Anger and hatred also seem to be motivating factors which is sometimes caused by what they perceive to be unanswered prayer and also because of the poor behaviour of some that profess to be Christians, unfortunately this often leads to a negative judgement and a rejection of the Lord. There really seems to be a general lack of understanding about Jesus and His Word. Now having said all that there really is no need for you guys to fret too much because evolutionists/atheists along with those of the ‘enlightenment’ will get their way, albeit only for a few years, just as the Scriptures have prophesied in both the Old and New Covenants. Burn me at the stake, chop my head off or even throw me to the lions, I’m ready! History sure does have a way of repeating itself don’t you think?

    I’ll see you all in Glory…some through the fire, some through the flood, some through great sorrows, but all through the blood!

  • http://breakfastindavenport.blogspot.com markbt73

    Just found this thread… Thank you, Linda, for giving me something to do this afternoon. I will answer your questions as honestly and as politely as I can.

    1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?

    I have studied enough religion to reject it, and enough psychology to understand why some people accept it. It is my firm belief, based on the experiences of the many people I have met who have carefully examined (and in almost all cases rejected) their religious beliefs, that the truth, or as much of it as we can uncover through careful study, is a more positive force than blind obedience to dogma. So I will certainly encourage, whenever I have the chance, everyone to carefully consider their beliefs, about religion and everything else, to see if there is something they have missed.

    2. What exactly is the difference between pure atheism and Humanism? Is there a difference?

    One of my favorite quotes, and I don’t know who said it originally, is “Atheism is a religion in the same way that not collecting stamps is a hobby.” An atheist (small “a”) is simply someone who does not have a god in their life. This same person may also be a non-smoker, not a football fan, and not drive a Toyota, and all of those labels are equally useless, because they are all examples of what that person is not.

    Humanism, on the other hand, is indeed a belief system, based on the simple fact that we’re all in this together, so we’d better make the best of it and help each other out. It really has nothing to do with a person’s religion, other than the fact that humanists won’t place the desires of an unprovable, invisible, and by all tests nonexistent entity ahead of the desires of the actual flesh-and-blood person in front of them.

    3. Why is it necessary to label the absence of belief? If you believe in nothing, does nothing need to be labeled?

    Well, like I said above, it isn’t necessary, really. But please understand that saying that I “believe in nothing” is extremely insulting. I do not believe in any deities, true, but I believe in the love of my family and friends, and I believe in the majesty of the world all around us, and I believe that Fender guitars are superior to Gibson, among other things.

    There is a term for those who really do “believe in nothing:” Nihilists. I’ve met a few. Believe me, they’re not humanists.

    4. There are a broad spectrum of atheists and theists alike. I’ve noticed there are some grey areas where the opposite sides overlap. Do you think it’s possible to gradually increase this area and eventually do away with the labels? Or is that too idealistic?

    Certainly. On a day-to-day basis, a person’s religion is about as important as the color of their underpants, and equally nobody’s business. We would happily ignore the whole thing, if the theists would stop trying to impose their beliefs on us. Religion is a big deal because the religious make it a big deal. We make noise because we have to.

    5. Going off of #4, do you think us moderate/liberal Christians would be more effective in the fundie circle than here? Maybe we should become members of a fundie church? It’s a very scary thought…

    If you mean, should you be doing more to make them tone down the craziness a bit, then maybe so. But we know, and recognize, the difference. Just stop voting for the crazies, and we’ll be happy.

    Oh, and in answer to the question above concerning reading material, Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World is the best argument for science, science education, critical thinking, and humanism that I have ever read, and it has none of the invective that turns people off to Harris and Hitchens. I highly recommend it.

  • Claire

    Kwrigh5 said:

    People could have easily criticized Christians and their actions and not mock the core of Christianity. Atheists can be honest about people without being mean about it.

    Generally, from what I have seen on this blog, it’s considered more polite and productive to criticize the beliefs rather than the believer. It’s viewed as ruder to say “you’re an idiot to believe that” than to say “that’s a stupid belief”, on the grounds that people have feelings but ideas don’t. Some would say that it isn’t necessary to say either, but seriously, sometimes there’s just no really kind way to put it.

    So, since what you propose is pretty much the inverse of what is considered courteous here, so could you expand on why you think this is better?

  • Claire

    Noble(?!?) said:

    Science is a Christians best weapon, it totally destroys evolution and atheistic theories while at the same time it validates core Christian beliefs.

    By science I presume you mean pig-headedness, or stupidity, or willful blindness? Because you clearly don’t mean what the rest of the world means by science.

    Please do you self and everyone else a favor, buy a dictionary, get an education, and get your head out of your ass bible.

    Oh, and by the way, this is a thread for questions from people who want to learn, not preach their idiocy, jerk. If you really have a legitimate question and want real answers, feel free to repost and ask nicely, and you’ll most likely get a nice response. I’m not holding my breath, though…

    No, I’m not always nice.

    Fucking trolls…..

  • Rob

    Science is a Christians best weapon, it totally destroys evolution and atheistic theories while at the same time it validates core Christian beliefs.

    Noble – My first reaction was that you were trying to be funny, but now I am wondering if this post was serious. Do you really believe Science is a Christians best weapon? Can you give us specific examples of why this is true that dont involve incorrect “if evolution were true we would ocasionally find life in jar’s of peanut butter” arguments? I really am curious.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Science is a Christians best weapon, it totally destroys evolution and atheistic theories while at the same time it validates core Christian beliefs.

    …crack is bad for you. You know that, right?

  • Mriana

    WHAT?! :? Noble, you make no sense and obviously I’m not the only one who thinks you make no sense.

    Humanism, on the other hand, is indeed a belief system, based on the simple fact that we’re all in this together, so we’d better make the best of it and help each other out. It really has nothing to do with a person’s religion, other than the fact that humanists won’t place the desires of an unprovable, invisible, and by all tests nonexistent entity ahead of the desires of the actual flesh-and-blood person in front of them.

    Exactly, Mark. :)

  • kwrigh5

    Generally, from what I have seen on this blog, it’s considered more polite and productive to criticize the beliefs rather than the believer. It’s viewed as ruder to say “you’re an idiot to believe that” than to say “that’s a stupid belief”, on the grounds that people have feelings but ideas don’t. Some would say that it isn’t necessary to say either, but seriously, sometimes there’s just no really kind way to put it.

    So, since what you propose is pretty much the inverse of what is considered courteous here, so could you expand on why you think this is better?

    Because to me it is interpretation of the law. Some have taken Christianity to do horrible acts. Some have used to do great things. When you mock the core of Christianity, you mock both the people doing good along with the bad. When you mock the individuals themselves who are doing bad, you exclude the ones who have used their faith to do great things.

  • Don

    “1. Do you have any intention of trying to understand the opposing views and why they believe what they believe, or do you only wish to discredit them?”

    I’m always open to opposing views. Show me what I consider to be valid evidence for the existance of God and I’ll be right there with you. And I don’t feel that I need to discredit people for their beliefs unless they are trying to force those beliefs on me.

    “Where can I find an atheist book, website, magazine, etc. that doesn’t mock or attack or deride religious people or beliefs, but only puts forth a positive vision of what it is to be an atheist?”

    Although the name sounds like it might be mocking or deriding Christians, I have found that http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.com/ is actually a safe place for christians to intelligently debate atheists in without fear of personal attacks. I’m not saying that beliefs won’t be attacked… that’s the whole point. But the terms of use explicitly state that the converstions be civil, and I’ve seen plenty of people on both sides of the subject get booted for violating the TOS.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Noble said:

    Some Christians groups have recently begun to study and question on a more deeper level why people claim to be evolutionists/atheists, some results have pointed to poor emotional and psychological conditions, there is also evidence of low self esteem due to a lack of any exceptional physical attributes. Anger and hatred also seem to be motivating factors which is sometimes caused by what they perceive to be unanswered prayer and also because of the poor behaviour of some that profess to be Christians, unfortunately this often leads to a negative judgement and a rejection of the Lord.

    Where do you get your study subjects? Are you sure? Because that does not at all describe the atheists that I’ve been talking to. Actually, it seems to more closely describe many of the Christians that I know.
    Hmm… I don’t get it.

  • Claire

    kwrigh5 said:

    When you mock the core of Christianity, you mock both the people doing good along with the bad.

    You make a good point, I hadn’t thought of it that way.

    However, what if my problem is not with how people use the religion, but with the religion itself? Or all religions? Or with belief itself? Are you upset only by the mocking (as in the blasphemy challenge) or is the criticizing also something you find unacceptable? Because I’m afraid that’s something that isn’t going to go away.

  • kwrigh5

    Are you upset only by the mocking (as in the blasphemy challenge) or is the criticizing also something you find unacceptable?

    I guess it’s the hypocrisy of people saying they are “enlightened” or “above pettiness” but then contributed to trivial mockery.

    Also, I know this isn’t going to go away. I never expect it too. All I want is to offer a different side and bring a different perspective

  • Mriana

    Where do you get your study subjects? Are you sure? Because that does not at all describe the atheists that I’ve been talking to. Actually, it seems to more closely describe many of the Christians that I know.
    Hmm… I don’t get it.

    I’d like to know who their subjects are and see the stats, Linda, because I know what he is saying is not true. Maybe for Xians as you say, because the DSM-IV has religious delusions as a symptom of schizophrenia and they haven’t taken it out of the latest edition of the DSM either. Thus why he makes no sense at all to me. What he is saying is psychologically bogus.

  • Claire

    kwrigh5 said:

    I guess it’s the hypocrisy of people saying they are “enlightened” or “above pettiness” but then contributed to trivial mockery.

    Maybe part of the problem is the ‘trivial’, then, rather than the mockery. I think a lot of the people who did that didn’t consider it trivial at all. Of the videos I saw, they mostly seemed like personal declarations of independence.

    I’m not sure what appeared petty to you about that, and I’m not sure why you would think atheists have declared themselves to be above it. I’m not. What piece am I missing here?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYC Atheist,

    It’s only necessary in our current social context. We wouldn’t need to describe the donut hole if there was no donut. I always say if the naturalistic world view was dominant then the minority of theists would be called “anaturalists”. Maybe someday the need for atheists will disappear, just like we don’t see many abolitionists in this country anymore.

    I like that answer. :) Anaturalist is too hard to say, so I’ll just stick to Linda.

    Is the Internet really helping people communicate and organize, or is it just another distraction?

    It’s helping me big time. I’ve learned so much since I’ve been participating in the discussions here, as well as elsewhere, with people of all different ideas and beliefs. It really makes me think, and my own beliefs are being confirmed and evolved at the same time through the thought process. And I’ve grown to love you. I tell everyone about you guys… at church, to my neighbors, to my friends, to the women at my Bible study. My family now considers you a big part of my life. They all know your names and what you’re like. They ask me about you when they see me. My pastor knows all about you and respects you, because he knows I’d beat him up if he didn’t. ;-) They don’t look at you as villains anymore. It’s one very small step (I hope).

  • Claire

    Mriana said:

    What he is saying is psychologically bogus.

    Did you notice the one line in his diatribe, about “there is also evidence of low self esteem due to a lack of any exceptional physical attributes”. Yes, it’s either the “atheists are ugly” or the “atheists have small penises” offensive tactic, take your pick. I think he pretty thoroughly discredited himself.

  • kwrigh5

    Maybe part of the problem is the ‘trivial’, then, rather than the mockery. I think a lot of the people who did that didn’t consider it trivial at all. Of the videos I saw, they mostly seemed like personal declarations of independence.

    I’m not sure what appeared petty to you about that, and I’m not sure why you would think atheists have declared themselves to be above it. I’m not. What piece am I missing here?

    See here is my thing. I feel as if these people could have done the challenge differently. Like declaring “hey I’m an atheist. I like my life and nothing is going to change me.” It’s still a declaration of independence. To then go to an extreme of mocking the entire religion of Christianity appears to be childish. There are atheists out there they hate religion because of hypocrisy and child-like behavior. If these guys/gals are not like this, then why would they need to resort to childish attitudes? Is that hypocritical?

  • Claire

    kwrigh5, I think I’m beginning to see. You think these people deliberately did something you find childishly offensive. Frankly, I don’t know what that was. They are atheists, like me, so maybe the line you think they crossed, they didn’t even see. What exactly was it they did that you find to be that bad? I don’t have the background to know what specifically disturbed you, and they might not have either.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    kwrigh5 said:
    When you mock the core of Christianity, you mock both the people doing good along with the bad.

    I struggle with this. I recognize that there are good Christians that do good things for the right reasons. But I do think it is valuable to openly question (and yes, sometimes mock) aspects of the “core” that are unnecessary or can actually work against other parts of the core. Personally, I believe that the concept of an afterlife irrevocably corrupts religion. I think this after-life belief should be mocked. Mocking gets people’s attention. It (the mocking) may have a short-term effect of causing more neocons to be elected and the consequences there of, but it (the mocking) may also cause the next generation to start noticing and realizing that there are other ways to think besides our religiously framed society.

    Oh, and Linda… great questions as usual. I don’t really have anything to add over and beyond all the other great comments by all who replied.

    With the internet, we are truly entering uncharted territory. Who can predict the long-term consequences for the both atheism or theism. Since atheism has historically been in the “dog house”, change can only be for the better.

  • Mriana

    Claire said,

    December 18, 2007 at 9:35 pm

    Mriana said:

    What he is saying is psychologically bogus.

    Did you notice the one line in his diatribe, about “there is also evidence of low self esteem due to a lack of any exceptional physical attributes”. Yes, it’s either the “atheists are ugly” or the “atheists have small penises” offensive tactic, take your pick. I think he pretty thoroughly discredited himself.

    Missed that one. That could be an insult to little women like myself, but I’m a proud little woman. 4′ 11″ isn’t all bad. :D I can attract those tall men he tried to slam just by asking “Is there a tall man in the room?” They all come running to assist cute little old me. :lol: So who has the low self-esteem? No one in this room except the TROLL! He must be REALLY little.

  • kwrigh5

    For me the line is crossed when people go against aspects of the belief system rather than the individual. With the Holy Spirit, to many Christians, this part of your identity guides you in your spiritual walk. It’s a part of you. It’s like the most valuable toy that you have and you treasure it greatly. When people insult the Holy Spirit, they end up generalizing a group of people, including many Christians who do follow Christ’s commands.

    See if a person is secure enough in their belief in atheism, then they would not resort to making fun of another’s beliefs. In my case, I don’t agree with atheism but that does not mean I should go around and belittle an atheist’s morals and intelligence.

  • Claire

    kwrigh5 said:

    See if a person is secure enough in their belief in atheism, then they would not resort to making fun of another’s beliefs.

    Where to start….. apparently, you haven’t been here long enough to figure out what offends us, either, so I guess that’s mutual.

    We don’t have a “belief in atheism”, atheism is not a religion. We pretty much don’t believe in religions, it would be really stupid for an atheist to have one.

    To say that atheists are mocking someone else’s beliefs because they are insecure is to assign motives to us out of ignorance. We are skeptics – finding fault with things that don’t make sense, and doing what (to you) seems to be mocking them, is just who we are. Not every one of us, but most.

    For me the line is crossed when people go against aspects of the belief system rather than the individual.

    I don’t agree with atheism but that does not mean I should go around and belittle an atheist’s morals and intelligence.

    You are switching sides here – first you are saying that we shouldn’t belittle religion, then in the second quote you speak of not belittling individuals. It seems to me that you are saying everything is off limits.

    You will find atheists that are going to belittle your religion on this site a lot more often than you will find ones who belittle you. Most often they aren’t trying to deliberately offend you, it’s just that the holy spirit (or most any other religious concept) that you value so highly, means nothing to them, or to me.

    Although, there will be some who are intentionally offensive on occasion (myself included, although not at the moment) about various beliefs. That’s not being childish; it’s completely legitimate to treat a religious belief like any other idea, including questioning it, making fun of it, and even tearing it to pieces, and even if it happens to be a belief that some nice people hold dear.

    Religious beliefs don’t command automatic respect just because they are religious beliefs, and it’s a very dangerous thing to maintain they should. It can end up with, say, people dying over cartoons of Mohammed, because they were ‘disrespectful’.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    kwrigh5 said:

    For me the line is crossed when people go against aspects of the belief system rather than the individual. With the Holy Spirit, to many Christians, this part of your identity guides you in your spiritual walk. It’s a part of you. It’s like the most valuable toy that you have and you treasure it greatly. When people insult the Holy Spirit, they end up generalizing a group of people, including many Christians who do follow Christ’s commands.

    I can only speak for my own Blasphemy Challenge video, but I didn’t insult the holy spirit or mock it, as far as I could tell. I denied its existence. Which I tend to think is a slightly different thing, but maybe that’s just me. I suppose the generalization is that we reject the beliefs of the group as a whole… because we kinda do.

    I mean… I imagine, if asked, you would deny that there is no God but Allah and Muhammed is his prophet. (Or maybe I’m wrong here.) That is a tenant of faith as deep as that of the holy spirit.

    I am sorry if you feel it is a deliberate insult. I don’t think most of us meant it that way. But I think it’s hard to see people rejecting something that you cherish so deeply and not feel hurt or upset by it. (I mean… man, you should see how I get when people attack the scientific method.)

    I think it would be unfair of any of us to ask you to play lip-service to something that you feel in your heart is wrong. You’re out there speaking your mind, and I think that’s awesome, and I think you’re doing a lot of good by having conversations like this. :) But it should really be the same for all of us.

    I want people to be as comfortable hearing me say that there is no god as I am with hearing people say there is a god, or there are many. But I think… trying to “behave” and respect something that we think is ludicrous when it comes to our personal statements is too much like betraying ourselves. It feels like lying.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I have copied and pasted many of the question on this entry to the Friendly Christian forum. I’ve almost certainly missed a few but please feel free to add them there if I have. I hope people will continue the debate there as it’s getting difficult to keep track of the questions and answers over here.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    I have copied and pasted many of the questions on this entry to the Friendly Christian forum. I’ve almost certainly missed a few but please feel free to add them there if I have. I hope people will continue the debate there as it’s getting difficult to keep track of the questions and answers over here.

  • Pingback: FriendlyChristian.com » Archive » The forum

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Linda, thanks for your kind and encouraging remarks. :-)

  • Rob

    When people insult the Holy Spirit, they end up generalizing a group of people, including many Christians who do follow Christ’s commands.

    kwrigh5 – That sounds like something a fundamentalist Muslim would say. Not allowing critical discussion (and parody) of a groups beliefs is dangerous in a relatively free society.

    I don’t know if you have kids but if you do consider this scenario. Your daughter comes home from college and tells you that she has joined a wonderful group that teaches we are the descendents of a space faring race, we are not evolved from terrestrial life, and that she and this group hold ceremonies on the third Tuesday of every month in the middle of a wheat field and go through all sorts of ritualistic acts in order to convince our alien parents to come pick the believers up. She talks about ancient alien cow abductions and alien experiments on human subjects. She tells you that these beliefs bring her great comfort and strength, and that she is dedicating her life to this belief system.

    As bizarre as this sounds there is a group (small fortunately) that believe this stuff deep in their heart every bit as much as you believe in the Holy Spirit. Look me in the eye (CRT?) and tell me you would not speak to your daughter and seriously criticize (mock?) the “core beliefs” of her religious group. If you didn’t you would be a crappy parent. This analogy may be lost on you but this is how I and I think many other atheists feel about your Christian religion. To us many of the ideas are as crazy as alien cow abductions and deserve thoughtful criticism

    When my daughter came back from a Christian summer camp in tears because “Dad, they said you would burn in hell for not believing” I decided that the more extreme and dangerous core beliefs of Christianity were not off limits for criticizing.

  • kwrigh5

    Where to start….. apparently, you haven’t been here long enough to figure out what offends us, either, so I guess that’s mutual.

    We don’t have a “belief in atheism”, atheism is not a religion. We pretty much don’t believe in religions, it would be really stupid for an atheist to have one.

    Ok I am quite aware that atheism is not a religion. When I meant belief, I meant more of a certainity. I should have just said “secure in their atheism”.

    You are switching sides here – first you are saying that we shouldn’t belittle religion, then in the second quote you speak of not belittling individuals. It seems to me that you are saying everything is off limits.

    First off, I didn’t mean to switch sides. What I was originally getting at was you look at the individual. I guess for my example I should have said “I don’t agree with atheism but I am not going to belittle atheism (and its moral implications) as a whole because a group of people decide that anyone who isn’t an atheist doesn’t have the ability to be moral.) My apologies for the confusion. Also, I don’t believe that everything needs to be off-limits. I am fine if you disagree with what I believe and you say that you don’t get the whole concept or parts of it. It’s good to ask and question. But I always think that it is hypocritical when certain people say they are enlightended and above judgment and then they judge everyone around them. Not question. Judge.

    You will find atheists that are going to belittle your religion on this site a lot more often than you will find ones who belittle you. Most often they aren’t trying to deliberately offend you, it’s just that the holy spirit (or most any other religious concept) that you value so highly, means nothing to them, or to me.

    When they mock the holy spirit, they mock me. They mock a part of who I am. Sure I don’t mind intellgenit questions but making fun of it is another story for me.

    Although, there will be some who are intentionally offensive on occasion (myself included, although not at the moment) about various beliefs. That’s not being childish; it’s completely legitimate to treat a religious belief like any other idea, including questioning it, making fun of it, and even tearing it to pieces, and even if it happens to be a belief that some nice people hold dear.

    Again, I have to disagree. You can question an idea without making fun of it.

    Religious beliefs don’t command automatic respect just because they are religious beliefs, and it’s a very dangerous thing to maintain they should. It can end up with, say, people dying over cartoons of Mohammed, because they were ‘disrespectful’

    I say that you can pick apart an idea without going the “extra mile” and mocking it. I don’t mean that you have to agree with my beliefs or understand them. But if you mock them, then you insult people who have done nothing to you. You can say you don’t believe in something or it doesn’t make sense to you without taking it to the extreme. For example, there is a big difference btw “I don’t buy the resurrection story” and “Holy Jesus on a popsicle stick”. One demonstrates your opinion. The other one is just in bad taste.

  • Siamang

    kwrigh5 said:

    See here is my thing. I feel as if these people could have done the challenge differently. Like declaring “hey I’m an atheist. I like my life and nothing is going to change me.” It’s still a declaration of independence. To then go to an extreme of mocking the entire religion of Christianity appears to be childish. There are atheists out there they hate religion because of hypocrisy and child-like behavior.

    I think you’re looking at “atheists” like we’re one block with one mind.

    Isn’t it possible that there are “childish” atheists? Are the non-childish ones to blame for them?

    For the record, I don’t hate religion because of hipocrisy, though I do hate hipocrisy. I’m not religious because I don’t believe a word of it. I have a dislike for certain forms of religion because I see their harmful effects on families and controlling and dominating tendencies within society as a whole.

    But kwrigh5, we aren’t one big person with one big self-consistent viewpoint. Some atheists are childish. Some atheists are assholes. Some atheists are the nicest, sweetest, most loving, giving people on the planet.

    I think that the BC was a way for some atheists, especially young ones, some childish, to yell a big “fuck you” to their parents, and sometimes that’s cool and needed and neccessary. I know a guy who was BEATEN… physically and mentally beaten througout his childhood by his mother because he didn’t have faith in her church. He didn’t post a blasphemy challenge (he’s a rather older adult now). But if he was a teenager in the YouTube era, I can well imagine he’d have some choice words for the ears of the faithful.

    And yes, his outburst may have been quite “childish”. The tragedy of “the Blasphemy Challenge” may be that it looks like folks are lashing out at something, and invisible is the years of abuse they’re lashing out at. I hope you’re more offended by my friend’s abused and lost childhood in the name of religion than all the BC Youtube videos put together.

    There’s a beautiful and tragic reconciliation in this man’s life, that it’s not my business to tell. Suffice it to say that he’s given his full measure of love and devotion (even though an atheist) to a mother who long ago put religion before the love, care and protection of her child.

  • kwrigh5

    That sounds like something a fundamentalist Muslim would say. Not allowing critical discussion (and parody) of a groups beliefs is dangerous in a relatively free society.

    I don’t mind criticism. I don’t mind disagreement. I guess I just thought that if certain atheists who say that religious people (particularly Christians) are judgmental of others and they say that their beliefs are bumkus and then they turn around and mock Christianity, then to me that is hypocritical.

    As for your example, I must admit that if I had a kid and she said what you said, I would have acted the same way. A little contractionary from the previous statement I know.

  • kwrigh5

    I am aware that there are atheists that are tools. I don’t believe that all athesist think alike. I guess I just want to bring to attention those who claim that they are above a religious person’s judmental behavior and yet they do the same thing when they mock religious beliefs. Not critize. Mock.

    I hope you’re more offended by my friend’s abused and lost childhood in the name of religion than all the BC Youtube videos put together

    Oh yeah. Don’t worry. I am. One thing that bothers me a heck of a lot more than non-Christians mocking Christianity is Christians who do crap like this “in the name of Jesus”. ( A billion times more)

  • Rob

    I just thought that if certain atheists who say that religious people (particularly Christians) are judgmental of others and they say that their beliefs are bumkus and then they turn around and mock Christianity, then to me that is hypocritical.

    kwrigh5 – I think I agree with you here. If your going to dish it out you need to be willing to take it with a smile.

  • Noble

    As this appears to be a site used by those who profess atheistic/evolutionist beliefs there needs to be a much deeper discussion on why some people adhere to this religion. Most reasonably minded people know that using science as a reason is totally dishonest and it also shows a lack of basic scientific principles. Someone recently lead me to discussions and debates held between creation believing scientists and evolution professing scientists found on the internet, they can quite easily by located by doing a search on google or google video, creation scientists always win quite easily using science as the foundation of their beliefs. Evolutionists tended to lie and use deceitfully crafted arguments. This raises the question that I tried to raise earlier, what are the real reasons that motivate people into professing atheism/evolution. It certainly takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in Jesus! People need to lift the veil off their true thoughts and be honest with themselves and with others, I understand that this may not be possible with some so called atheist because knowing the importance of being honest is primarily a Christian principle. I have worked with a guy for the past 4 years who has always professed to be an atheist, recently I discovered that the loss of his father many years ago lead to a distorted emotional and mental state that ultimately triggered his acceptance of atheism as his own personal religion. Why do evolutionists/atheists have so much indignation towards the Lord’s Saints and towards His Word yet at the same time are very accepting of religions other than their own. Christianity in it’s purest form has never been a religion, it’s all about love! Love the Lord and love people! It’s as simple as that! Jesus is not a religion! I guess that’s why it’s not very surprising that you guys along with all the other religions are slowly merging into a force that will someday control this earth for a few short years. Are there any atheists on this forum that have ever prayed? Be honest!!!!!!

  • chancelikely

    Question for atheists and theists alike: does Noble actually believe that what he’s saying is potentially effective, or is he just a troll?

  • monkeymind

    I think he has a sincere belief that piling up a bunch of vague unsubstantiated accusations will effectively yank some people’s chains and get them to waste their time answering him. On the other hand, looks like he’s exposed the atheist/islamic/bahai/buddhist/animist/FSM/santeria/jainist/hindu conspiracy to take over the world and stamp out christianity. Curses! we will have to think of another plan.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Evolutionists tended to lie and use deceitfully crafted arguments.

    Please give an example.

    Why do evolutionists/atheists have so much indignation towards the Lord’s Saints and towards His Word yet at the same time are very accepting of religions other than their own.

    I don’t. Maybe some Americans do because they were raised in a Christian culture and feel some resentment for various reasons. Can you give an example of an atheist rejecting Christianity but accepting another religion?

    Christianity in it’s purest form has never been a religion, it’s all about love!

    Oh, in that case I have no complaints. Please send a memo to the majority of Christians in American who haven’t heard. I look forward to your true and pure Christianity becoming the dominant meme.

    I guess that’s why it’s not very surprising that you guys along with all the other religions are slowly merging into a force that will someday control this earth for a few short years.

    Evidence? I don’t see Dawkins teaming up with Islamic radicals anytime soon.

    Are there any atheists on this forum that have ever prayed? Be honest!!!!!!

    Sure. I’ve also meditated, practiced seeing auras, and looked for UFOs. So what? (BTW, I didn’t see any auras or flying saucers…) What’s the point of this question?

    I’m assuming you are not a troll, since I always like to assume the best in people. Are you going to engage in a real dialog with people here or just type out a long list of baseless assertions? Will you actually read our comments and answer our questions? Here are some additional points and questions:

    Please define “religion”. Why is evolution a religion and Christianity not a religion?

    I don’t “believe in” evolution, anymore than I “believe in” the theory of gravity. I accept both theories based on evidence. (Am I now a gravityist? Or maybe Newtonist?) Please remember nothing is ever proven in science.

    There are plenty of religious scientists who accept the theory of evolution, and believe it or not, I have met atheists who don’t accept it. (Go watch some of Ken Miller’s videos on YouTube.)

    I am hopeful that your reply will be filled with great examples and supporting evidence, and no more “atheists/evolutionists are such and such and so and so” assertions.

  • Mriana

    chancelikely said,

    December 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Question for atheists and theists alike: does Noble actually believe that what he’s saying is potentially effective, or is he just a troll?

    He probably does. Excuse me while I have my moment of being offended and ranting.

    Noble said,

    December 19, 2007 at 11:47 am

    As this appears to be a site used by those who profess atheistic/evolutionist beliefs there needs to be a much deeper discussion on why some people adhere to this religion.

    It’s not a religion. It changes too much to be a religion. Religion, esp religious dogma, rarely changes. Science changes as it aquires new information.

    Most reasonably minded people know that using science as a reason is totally dishonest and it also shows a lack of basic scientific principles.

    How so? Basic science principles are based on whether or not a theory is testable and retestable. If it get the same results are acheived everytime, it becomes a theory, which means it is a fact of science, something most people don’t understand. The theory of evolution is testable and you are an ape- you evovled from apes and are related to apes. Sounding like an Xian concerning the idea of a deity: How can you not see we are apes just by observing? Apes look like us, only with more hair and they do much similar things as we do. This something I saw as a little kid- it’s elementary.

    creation scientists always win quite easily using science as the foundation of their beliefs.

    No they don’t. There is not and never has been a crocaduck and evolution does not work that way. That creature is something a cartoonist would create or a writer of the Bible, not evolution.

    Evolutionists tended to lie and use deceitfully crafted arguments.

    RIGHT! And crocaduck is not deceitful? Please! That is just plain ignorance about evolution thus Creationist lose by default.

    This raises the question that I tried to raise earlier, what are the real reasons that motivate people into professing atheism/evolution.

    I’ll apologize to the liberals now for what I’m about to say, for I mean no offense to the liberal Christians here. Noble… Phhht! All of you will see how I end up offended by certain statements made by Evangelical Religious Reich Know Nothing About their own religion Fundies.

    My brain- in answer to your question, Noble. No one has stopped me from thinking and sorry, we’ve been to the moon and back, there are no angels holding up the earth. A bat is not a bird, like the Bible says. The Sun is the Sun of god- it gives life, dies and rises, Solstice means “Sun stands stills” (to the naked eyes at least) then it in three days it rises again. At this time, the Sun is “crucified” on the Southern Cross, thus the Gealic (Episcopal) cross. The Sun walks on water and it’s hair (Samson) are solar rays. Without it’s hair (rays) it loses it strength. Sorry, but I hate to tell you this, there is more astrotheology in the Bible than anywhere else. The whole story takes place in the “heavens”, meaning the space, the stars, etc.

    Sorry if you can’t handle the truth, but the fact is, the Son of God IS the Sun of God. That is NOT evolution, but the truth behind religion and it is astrotheology. Sounds to me like religion is doing the deceit, because your Jesus/Yeshua/Joshua IS in reality the SUN of god and nothing but pure paganism.

    It certainly takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in Jesus!

    Nope! It takes more faith to believe that a piece of literature is real and there lies a real man. Sorry, but there is NO historical Jesus. It’s just rewritten literature and alike. Your Jesus is a series of midrashes from Elijah, Moses, Horus, Krishna, etc.

    People need to lift the veil off their true thoughts and be honest with themselves and with others, I understand that this may not be possible with some so called atheist because knowing the importance of being honest is primarily a Christian principle.

    Yes, people do need to lift the veil… Off their religion. Once you realize, do REAL study, REAL research, and alike, you will find that what I have said is true- only a short summery though.

    have worked with a guy for the past 4 years who has always professed to be an atheist, recently I discovered that the loss of his father many years ago lead to a distorted emotional and mental state that ultimately triggered his acceptance of atheism as his own personal religion.

    Ha! You moved in on him at a time when he was psychologically vulnerable. That was deceit BIG time and very shameful in my opinion. Sorry, but when my grandmother died in her sleep at 94, I knew her brain just shut down- esp her brainstem, which gives a person life. That was it. The good thing is, she will never know that she is being recycled back into the earth. Yes, I’ll give the Bible credit for that small bit- You were made from the earth and when you die “Remember you are dust and dust you shall return.” Yup! The Jews got that right. However, your Jesus is not better or worse than YHWH, Krishna, Ra, El Shaddai (who was demonized in Psalm 106:37) El Adonai (who is really Adonis), Mithra, and esp Joshua. Joshua means “saviour” too. The Joshua cult was a mystery cult not much different from the Kristos (the anointed) mystery Cult and long about the Council of Nicea was the first time Jesus and Christ were put together- making it “the anointed saviour” in an effort to unite the pagan religions under Rome’s authority. What we have to today is Roman Christianity, not the original Christianity.

    Why do evolutionists/atheists have so much indignation towards the Lord’s Saints and towards His Word yet at the same time are very accepting of religions other than their own.

    What you say is an insult to my roughly 23 years of theological study under some of the best theologians. Granted I don’t know as much as Robert Price or Bishop Spong or others, but from what you have displayed here today, is an insult to my intelligence as a student of theology and mythology.

    Christianity in it’s purest form has never been a religion, it’s all about love! Love the Lord and love people! It’s as simple as that! Jesus is not a religion!

    Alright, John, it’s not Rosh Hashana, so we don’t need the street preaching. But the fish came first and ushered in the Age of Pisces as it ushered out the age of the Ram. The cross was added later, just as the story of the Crucifixion was added later. The original Christians did not have crosses nor was it a symbol of Christianity- the fish was. I’m not sure where you get the idea that Christianity in it’s purest form is love. Sorry, but if you go back to the original Christians they never heard of a real live Jesus that was born of a virgin, died on a cross for our sins and rose again. It was all allegory and metaphor to them.

    I guess that’s why it’s not very surprising that you guys along with all the other religions are slowly merging into a force that will someday control this earth for a few short years. Are there any atheists on this forum that have ever prayed? Be honest!!!!!!

    At one time, until I realized I was just doing more thinking… to myself. At times, it could even be called meditation. There is no invisible Zeus-like deity in the sky judging us and ready to throw lightening bolts at us when we screw up. There will be no god decending from the sky ever, unless the Arma gettin’ outta here zealots start their little war, then the only god decending from the sky will be a nuke!

    Atheist, Humanists, and other non-theists don’t want to take over the world. It’s the Religious Reich that wants to do that. We non-theists just want the truth to be known and we don’t want to be bothered by trolls who know nothing. But if you like, I can give you a further education about your book, rauch, nephesh, etc etc etc Thing is, you aren’t going to like it and the liberal Christians around here are probably sick of me already and this wasn’t even meant for them!

  • Claire

    kwrigh5 said:

    I guess I just thought that if certain atheists who say that religious people (particularly Christians) are judgmental of others and they say that their beliefs are bumkus and then they turn around and mock Christianity, then to me that is hypocritical.

    Actually, that is the least of my quarrels with religious people. They can judge me or anyone else until they are blue in the face, and I don’t care – as long as they don’t try to put it into law or discriminate against them. So, I guess that means I’m free to mock without hypocrisy, next time I’m in the mood…

    When they mock the holy spirit, they mock me. They mock a part of who I am. Sure I don’t mind intelligent questions but making fun of it is another story for me.

    While I don’t agree with that, I can respect it, and I’m sorry your feelings were hurt.

    Still, it is part of the price we pay for living in a free society, that the right of free speech extends to everyone regardless of how they intend to use it, and it’s better than the alternative.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    From “Noble”:

    First off, evolution isn’t a religion. Give it a freaking rest. I think most of us are sick of hearing that line. We don’t go to evolution churches, Darwin is not our pope, and we do not express blind faith in the natural process of how species originated. You claiming that we do doesn’t make it so.

    It certainly takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in Jesus!

    On the contrary, evolution requires no faith at all. I can see evolution, look at the fossil record, go through the countless pieces of evidence that have made it the robust theory that it is. For Jesus, there’s a single book that contradicts itself constantly, that people claim is holy, and a bunch of fuzzy, subjective experiences that can’t hold up to scrutiny to back it up. No wonder it takes faith and belief.

    …so yeah, I’m going to stick with evolution and give that whole faith thing a pass. It has evidence and makes sense to me. (Far more sense than a deity that supposedly is infinitely loving yet will banish me to eternal torment for the horrid crime of not believing in him.)

    creation scientists always win quite easily using science as the foundation of their beliefs. Evolutionists tended to lie and use deceitfully crafted arguments.

    Actually, you have it backwards. Creationists distort the evidence and lie constantly, ignoring what doesn’t support them. They often have a poor understanding of the science, and like to demand unreasonably higher and higher levels of proof as soon as their original demands are met. It’s intellectually dishonest, and I’m not sure where you’re getting this crap, other than that’s what you’ve been told.

    I can throw some great real geology versus flood geology examples at you, if you’d like.

    Why do evolutionists/atheists have so much indignation towards the Lord’s Saints and towards His Word yet at the same time are very accepting of religions other than their own.

    Because most of us are Americans and it’s some Christians that are threatening our rights and freedoms and it kind of pisses us off?

    …and yes, before I was an atheist, I prayed. And it didn’t make me feel better and accomplished absolutely nothing each time I did, which was my first hint that no one was listening. I was a lot better off talking to my mom about my problems.

    “chancelikely”:

    Question for atheists and theists alike: does Noble actually believe that what he’s saying is potentially effective, or is he just a troll?

    My vote is troll, but I’ve been wrong in the past, so I answered anyway.

    …it helps me avoid studying for my last final. XD

  • Ben

    @Macht

    Third, surely there has to be a better example than Harris’ book. (God help the atheists if there isn’t.)

    Check out Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism by Richard Carrier.

  • tim

    what do you think of the most recent edition of “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary” defining religion as any “strongly held belief system”.

    The new definition does not mention the necessity of believing in a deity(ies). So, it seems reasonable to conclude (since definitions are really important in any communication) that atheism, naturalism, scientism, agnosticism, etc. would all be classified as “religions”. Where does that leave separation of religion and state?

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com/ Should I Really Use My Real Name?

    and we do not express blind faith in the natural process of how species originated

    I have this theory, and Richard Dawkins pretty much says the same thing at the end of his two part doco DVD The Root of All Evil:

    Christians adhere to blind faith, Atheists adhere to blind luck.

    So which is worse?

  • Siamang

    Explain, please, Should.

    How is it that atheists adhere to blind luck?

    I’d put it more that atheists adhere to rolling up their sleeves, pulling themselves up with their own bootstraps, spitting on their hands and getting the job done discovering the universe and learning, building and helping, instead of pleading skyward for rescue or rapture.

  • http://www.popcorngallery.blogspot.com Max

    If Pullman has ever explained why he stuck souls in those books, I would appreciate a link to the explanation.

    Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy (beginning w/ The Golden Compass) is a critique on religion (specifically Christianity). One is most interesting about the world that Pullman created in order make this critique is that he made all the things that Christians believe in actually exist. So there is no doubt that people have souls and that there is a higher power. And yet given that this is true, the Church (Magisterium) is still portrayed as the enemy because they are so obsessed with policing their dogma that they ignore anything that contradicts their narrow view of the world. It gets more specific than that but I don’t want to give anything away. The basic point is that even if we did have souls and we discovered the world was created, there is still no reason to adhere to strict religious dogma that is not rational.

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com/ Should I Really Use My Real Name?

    How is it that atheists adhere to blind luck?

    To paraphrase Richard Dawkins in The Root of All Evil, we are where we are due to luck, not a creator god.

    Evolution is a theory that relies on luck, it’s only through luck (and not a creator god) that we evolved into humans.

    Fair enough?

  • Siamang

    I don’t think “fair enough.”

    First off, I don’t think evolution relies on “luck”. I don’t think “luck” is a precise enough term, as it means different things to different people. It’s absolutely not a scientific or mathematical term. One might as well say that evolution relies on “pluck” or “effort”. So it’s a useless term. When Dawkins says at the end of his video “we are the lucky ones”, he is doing nothing more than expressing wonder at the sheer number of possibilities that the natural world is capable of producing.

    There is an aspect of evolution that is partially random, but natural selection is absolutely nonrandom.

    “…it’s only through luck (and not a creator god) that we evolved into humans.”

    I wouldn’t say that at all. Who’s to say that we are “lucky” that we are humans?!? There may be a very good number of better things that might be here on earth if we humans weren’t here. I imagine being a sentient Tyrannosaurus might be WAY luckier! Perhaps some other self-aware creature running this planet might be kinder to the other life-forms. Perhaps something closer in tempement to the peaceful gorillas than the violent chimpanzees.

    But also, are THOSE the only two options, either a creator God or luck? That’s it?

    You haven’t thought about this deeply enough, I’m afraid. There are an infinite number of other possible scenarios.

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com/ Should I Really Use My Real Name?

    But also, are THOSE the only two options, either a creator God or luck? That’s it?

    No, there are infinite possibilities, I was just taking a common objection (and misconception) to Christianity – that we adhere to Blind Faith – and applying it to a narrow view of Atheist mentality…

  • Siamang

    Then you’d probably do better to argue with someone who holds that view, rather than try to jump on a rebuttal to the troll named Nobel, who claimed we adhere to a “religion” of evolution by a leap of faith greater than that required to believe Jesus was the son of God.

    It was Nobel who first brought the idea of faith to this thread, and accused atheists of it, and a blind form at that. Rather than rely on him to be a starter pistol, ask the questions YOU’D like to get answered. Most folks on “friendly atheist” aren’t here to scrap or pick fights. Here’s an opportunity to gain some insight on what other people think and feel.

    Just ask your questions. We’ll respond. If you didn’t like Katsu’s response to Nobel, you could just tell her.

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  • http://literaghost.blogspot.com/ literaghost

    My question for atheists:

    Does anyone know a good way to get a Jesus fish off of a car (preferably without damaging the paint job)?

    Hey, no one ever specified the type of questions this thread was for…why not some practical advice? :)

    – Miz L.

  • Mriana

    literaghost said,

    December 20, 2007 at 10:37 am

    My question for atheists:

    Does anyone know a good way to get a Jesus fish off of a car (preferably without damaging the paint job)?

    Hey, no one ever specified the type of questions this thread was for…why not some practical advice?

    - Miz L.

    :? I never thought about it. I never had a fish emblem on my car before either. If you didn’t care about the paint job, I’d say, just rip that sucker right off! However, that has it’s problems too because the outline is still there, BUT you can solve that problem by replacing it with an Evolve fish from evolvefish.com . EVOLVE IT! :D Points the same direction is the same shape, but has feet and all. :lol: I’m very resoureful when I need to be.

  • ash

    tim said,

    December 19, 2007 at 6:05 pm

    what do you think of the most recent edition of “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary” defining religion as any “strongly held belief system”.

    The new definition does not mention the necessity of believing in a deity(ies). So, it seems reasonable to conclude (since definitions are really important in any communication) that atheism, naturalism, scientism, agnosticism, etc. would all be classified as “religions”.

    it’s a useless definition, way too inclusive. by this definition, sports teams, political systems and clear preference in comedic styles are all religious in nature.

    that being said, there is a known and acknowledged problem with defining what a religion is, and most western dictionaries go too far in the other direction – i.e. definitions that cater only for commonly western/abrahamic religions, and exclude those such as buddhism. from a scholarly viewpoint, i was recommended Ninian Smart’s 7 dimensional model as a useful foundation.

  • Noble

    I had an interesting discussion with a few people at work yesterday over lunch, we talked about evolution, the question of what do evolutionists/atheists think about cannibalism was raised and if they believe it to be wrong. Evolution/atheism preaches that all living organisms evolved from a single living organism. As we munched away on our sandwiches and fruit we realised that if evolution/atheism was correct we we eating our relatives, I’m related to wheat, lettuce and bananas! We share the same ancestry!

    This is what I know about evolution and it’s core beliefs as it’s taught in schools and so called scientific text books, please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Billions of years ago something went bang, it was a really big bang! They’re not quite sure what went bang or where the thing that went bang came from or even how the thing that went bang came into being, it just miraculously, mysteriously, magically against all known scientific laws appeared. Nonetheless this thing that appeared out of nothing went bang. Out of the bang a big rock was formed that today we call earth. Now this rock was hot, very hot, fiery hot! Then miraculously, magically, mysteriously, against all known scientific laws it started to rain on that fiery rock. It rained for a few billion years on that rock and the rock eventually cooled down. The rock was now covered with a murky cocktail of soup like liquid which miraculously, magically, mysteriously, against all known scientific laws, gave birth to a living organism which in turn birthed all known living organisms that have ever existed. We descended from a rock! Apart from all of that a whole heap of technically sounding and deceitfully crafted mumbo jumbo has also been added in order to try and convert people to this belief.

    Honestly, the amount of blind faith needed to believe this religious nonsense is unimaginable! In fact I believe it is totally impossible to truly believe in evolution. I am lead to this verses of scripture, “who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise they became fools.” And, “who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather that the creator.”

    I just finished reading the following in the local newspaper, “scientists estimate that they could fill a 1000 volume encyclopedia with the coded instructions in the DNA of a single human cell, if those instruction could be translated into English.” This world is truly a wonder don’t you think?

  • Claire

    Noble, do you understand what a discussion is? You don’t discuss, you preach. Either discuss, or find a better place for it.

    FYI, the reason that DNA is so complicated and contains so much information is because it’s full of useless, outdated, no-longer-used junk coding left there by….. yup, evolution! Thanks for pointing out another piece of evidence showing that evolution is valid.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    In reply to Noble’s previous post, I wrote, “I am hopeful that your reply will be filled with great examples and supporting evidence…”. Obviously I was wrong in assuming the best in people, you really are a troll.

    Here’s my new futile reply: your post isn’t anything more than an appeal to ridicule and the standard straw man fallacies.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appeal_to_ridicule

    “Appeal to ridicule, also called the Horse Laugh[1], is a logical fallacy which presents the opponent’s argument in a way that appears ridiculous, often to the extent of creating a straw man of the actual argument. For example:

    * If Einstein’s theory of relativity is right, that would mean that when I drive my car it gets shorter and heavier the faster I go. That’s crazy!”

  • Richard Wade

    literaghost,

    Does anyone know a good way to get a Jesus fish off of a car (preferably without damaging the paint job)?

    There is a solvent called “Goof Off” (dumb name) that is basically a solvent that dissolves the usually rubber based adhesives that hold stickers on bottles, price tags on products and fish on cars. It should not have any effect on the lacquer paint on your car, but test it first in a place that doesn’t show. There may be other products by different names with the same solvent so ask at your friendly neighborhood hardware store.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Noble, in the interest of saving time, I’m going to conduct our entire discussion from this point to its conclusion, in this comment.

    You: Baseless assertions, science is faith, evolution is a lie, logical fallacy, logical fallacy.

    Me: Respectful, thought-out reply with supporting evidence. Offer to supply more evidence.

    You: Repetition of baseless assertions, science is faith, evolution is a lie, logical fallacy, showcasing of misunderstanding of simple concepts such as the formation of the Earth.

    Me: Slightly less respectful but still thoughtful reply. More evidence in answer to baseless assertions.

    You: Repetition of baseless assertions, science is faith, evolution is a lie, logical fallacy, banana.

    Me: Annoyed reply, some evidence, insult regarding your intellect, honesty, and ability to listen. Banana joke.

    You: Repetition of baseless assertions, science is faith, evolution is a lie, logical fallacy, peanut butter, Hitler.

    Me: Query regarding the marital status of your parents when you were conceived.

    You: More relentless godbotting.

    Me: *bashes own brains out with keyboard*

    Fin.

    Epilogue:

    I’m related to wheat, lettuce and bananas! We share the same ancestry!

    I’m thinking you’re more of a nut, really.

  • Mriana

    As we munched away on our sandwiches and fruit we realised that if evolution/atheism was correct we we eating our relatives, I’m related to wheat, lettuce and bananas!

    Oh brother. :roll: It seems to me some people need a real education. Reading the rest of your post (obviously a one-way street, given others have read yours and you have not return the favour) I’d say most definitely. Seems to me an Evangelical Fundie needs lessons in courtesy and social relations too.

    Claire said,

    December 20, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    Noble, do you understand what a discussion is? You don’t discuss, you preach. Either discuss, or find a better place for it.

    You maybe wasting your post, just as I am. He’s probably too afraid to be polite and read anyone’s comments for fear it would make him into a non-believer, there by be damned for all time. :roll: I say, if he refuses to read any of our posts, esp those by us nice enough to reply to him, and converse with us like a civil human being, then we should ignore him like we do wild deer who cross our paths.

    NYCatheist said,

    December 20, 2007 at 12:50 pm

    In reply to Noble’s previous post, I wrote, “I am hopeful that your reply will be filled with great examples and supporting evidence…”. Obviously I was wrong in assuming the best in people, you really are a troll.

    He was quite rude and didn’t read any of our posts. I agree, he is an anti-social troll who does not want to have a conversation with us- it might make him an atheist. :roll:

    Katsu, why bother being respectful to the troll? He’s rude to us.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Katsu, why bother being respectful to the troll? He’s rude to us.

    So I should skip right to the bit about his parentage? ^^

  • Mriana

    Katsu said,

    December 20, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    Katsu, why bother being respectful to the troll? He’s rude to us.

    So I should skip right to the bit about his parentage? ^^

    :lol: You could, but he probably won’t read it. He hasn’t read anything else we’ve said to him. You would think he would return the favour and read out post, if only to be polite, but obviously he doesn’t wish to be polite.

  • Lauren

    Billions of years ago something went bang, it was a really big bang! They’re not quite sure what went bang or where the thing that went bang came from or even how the thing that went bang came into being, it just miraculously, mysteriously, magically against all known scientific laws appeared. Nonetheless this thing that appeared out of nothing went bang. Out of the bang a big rock was formed that today we call earth. Now this rock was hot, very hot, fiery hot! Then miraculously, magically, mysteriously, against all known scientific laws it started to rain on that fiery rock.

    My question for you athiests is how does nothing get hot and explode against all scientific laws?

  • Claire

    we should ignore him like we do wild deer who cross our paths.

    Actually, those I will brake for…

    You: More relentless godbotting.

    Katsu, such a masterly summary! And damn funny. I’m guessing anime fan….

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Katsu, such a masterly summary! And damn funny. I’m guessing anime fan….

  • http://www.popcorngallery.blogspot.com Max

    My question for you athiests is how does nothing get hot and explode against all scientific laws?

    There are constantly stars that are extinguishing and new ones being formed in fiery explosions. Here on Earth, volcanoes erupt and earthquakes shatter the landscape. The Universe is extremely volatile, filled with forces so powerful, temperatures so great, distances so vast that it is impossible for us to comprehend.

    The theory of the big bang isn’t that there was nothing and suddenly it magically exploded. What it says (and I might get this a little wrong because I haven’t really studied it or read about it recently) is that the evidence available to us from our observations of the universe in its current state seems to indicate that celestial bodies are expanding outward from a central point of origin and have been doing so for billions of years. Extrapolating from how massive structures in the universe are formed and taking this motion into account, it is logical to form a theory that all the matter we are able to observe was at once point in time condensed into a small point that–perhaps because it contained such a massive amount of energy in so small a space–caused an enormous release of that energy in the form of a big bang. Its also reasonable to conclude that universes have formed in the past and will form in the future in similar ways.

    THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO GET OUT OF THIS EXPLANATION IS THAT THE BIG BANG THEORY IS BASED ON EVIDENCE THAT WE CAN OBSERVE AND GATHER USING OUR SENSES. IT IS RATIONAL.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Katsu, such a masterly summary! And damn funny. I’m guessing anime fan….

    Hm, weird, my first attempt at a comment imploded!

    But anyway, thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week, make sure to tip your waitress. *bows*

    And yes, anime fan. ^_~ Really, I’m part of all sorts of terrible geekery.

  • Richard Wade

    Katsu, why bother being respectful to the troll? He’s rude to us.

    Only so he can’t go back to his friends and say we’re hostile and rude without bearing false witness. Wasting a lot of time on him is probably not worth it, even for practice. Just say something like:

    Nobel, there are two kinds of ignorance, one where you simply don’t know something, and the other where you work hard to keep accurate information from getting in. There is no shame in the first kind but there is much shame in the second kind.

    You don’t know what you are talking about and dismissing evolution as just “a whole heap of technically sounding and deceitfully crafted mumbo jumbo” is not an excuse for remaining ignorant. That’s not going to cut it with thinking people here nor should such a dismissal ever be acceptable to you.

    If the subject of evolution is so important to you then get yourself an education about it free of the twisted mockery and deliberate deception of creationist sources. You don’t have to accept it as you learn about it from the real experts, and then you can argue against the actual theory rather than a silly characterization that you heard from another ignorant person. You can find several sources that explain it in layman’s terms starting here:
    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

    When you understand it well enough so you don’t have to rely on ridicule, character attacks and all the other weak arguments you’ve tried here, then come back and we can have a conversation that might be worthwhile.

    Until then good day.

  • Mriana

    Claire said,

    December 20, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    we should ignore him like we do wild deer who cross our paths.

    Actually, those I will brake for…

    I would do too, but wild animal didn’t seem right.

    Richard, that sounds good, but I’ll be surprised if he’ll be considerate and at least read your post. He hasn’t read anyone’s yet.

  • Claire

    Mriana said:

    I would do too, but wild animal didn’t seem right.

    I know you would, I can tell. That’s not really what I was getting at, so let me repunctuate for clarity:

    Actually, those I will brake for…

    Does anyone have any insight as to why Noble, or pests like him in general, do this? Why post and repost with no intent to have any dialog? It would be easier not to be rude if I had any idea why…

  • Rob

    Claire – You are asking why someone with an obvious mental impairment is making insane posts? There is no point in arguing with the mentally ill, if you do it long enough no one will be able to tell which of you is really insane.

  • Claire

    Rob – ok, maybe I’m just asking which form of mental impairment, so I know what I’m looking at. Even the not-so-mentally-healthy still have motivations. I’m less interested in engaging him than finding out more about troll types. I’m not that silly.

    The really sad thing is that nothing he said really seems to point to anything worse than willful ignorance, a bully’s ego, and anger issues, and his choice of his religion to use to (attempt to) hurt and insult others. It’s really easy to sound like a complete loon when you’re angry, and he seems to be angry all the time.

    It could be worse, we could be his coworkers.

    The nice folk on this blog are inspiring me – there were two, count’em two!, cheap shots about believers that I thought of and didn’t use. Go Team Friendly!

  • http://literaghost.blogspot.com/ literaghost

    I’ve thought about one of the discussions on here for a bit, so I think I’ll revive with my two-cents something that was buried with “Noble”‘s trolling:

    kwrigh5 said,
    December 19, 2007 at 11:01 am

    When they mock the holy spirit, they mock me. They mock a part of who I am. Sure I don’t mind intellgenit questions but making fun of it is another story for me.

    The entire “mocking/criticizing beliefs (vs. the believers)” argument reminds me of my days running and participating in various writing groups. The most common problem less-mature writers had – that is, those not used to having their writing peer-reviewed – was separating their work from themselves when their works were critiqued. It’s understandable (and it’s something you’ll hear all over) – when you put so much effort, creative and otherwise, into making something, it becomes a part of you. It becomes your “baby.” And when you take your “baby” out into the world, and someone criticizes it, it hurts – whether or not they’re trying to make the criticism hurt.

    But when what’s being criticized are ideas – whether in writing, religions, government, or whatever – those who got the most out of it were those who could take the criticism with open ears. In the context of the writing group, often the less-mature writers I mentioned would respond to something like “there’s a gaping plot hole on page 25″ or “this character’s too obviously a deus ex machina” as if they were personal insults (“I can’t believe you’d say that! I thought you were my friend!”). But they are their friends, and that’s why they’d give honest criticism – because they respected the writer’s intellect, and wanted to help improve their work.

    Now, this isn’t to say that all critiques are devoid of any mean-spiritedness (is that a word?). But you can’t even discern those that might have merit from those made out of malice if you don’t listen to what they say first. Being hurt may be a natural reaction – but, like scratching a rash, it may not be the most healthy one. And it’s hardly a legitimate reason to silence the critics (or to ask them to silence themselves, for that matter).

    – Miz L. [Vodoun queen, reviving topics from their graves to walk among the living and eat their braaaaaiiiins!]

  • Lauren

    “…celestial bodies are expanding outward from a central point of origin and have been doing so for billions of years…”

    Okay if this comment is true then life couldn’t have possible existed on earth millions of years ago. If the universe is expanding outwards from a central point then the sun would have been very close to the earth all those millions of years ago, and the temperature on earth would have been too high to sustain life. Not to mention the tide changes etc etc

    I don’t believe that evolution is a logical argument at all. How did all the little pieces from the big bang come together to create such wonderfully complex human beings? We can’t even create robots that even come close to being able to do what we are able to (see, taste, feel) How can you logically say that these things happened at random? How amazing is the newborn fetus growing in it’s mother’s belly and the birth process etc etc… how can you logically say that it all just exploded into being? That is not logical at all.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana,

    Richard, that sounds good, but I’ll be surprised if he’ll be considerate and at least read your post. He hasn’t read anyone’s yet.

    Ah well at least you read it, so I’m happy.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    December 20, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Mriana,

    Richard, that sounds good, but I’ll be surprised if he’ll be considerate and at least read your post. He hasn’t read anyone’s yet.

    Ah well at least you read it, so I’m happy.

    I try to read every post I have time for. :) Maybe Lauren to read the link you posted, if she hasn’t already. It might help her understand a little better.

  • Richard Wade

    Lauren, you are getting confused in the sequence of events and the amount of time involved. Keep in mind that a billion is a thousand millions. The evidence we have so far suggests that the universe in its present form was initially in a single point and then space, time and all matter expanded rapidly from that point about 14 billion years ago. What was going on “before” that moment scientists don’t know YET, and the concept of “before” is a little difficult because apparently time as we presently understand it also started at that moment. It’s difficult to grasp, I know. From that expanding realm matter and stars condensed, taking hundreds of millions or even billions of years. Stars were formed, ran their course and cooled or exploded. New ones continue to form, and we can see it happening.

    The sun is a relative newcomer, having condensed from a cloud of mostly hydrogen gas and dust of heavier elements only a little more than 5 billion years ago. The Earth and the other planets in our Solar system also condensed from this same cloud swirling kind of like a huge whirlpool or a hurricane. When the Earth condensed into a sphere it was still very hot but was basically the distance from the sun that it is today. For almost another billion years the Earth was lifeless until conditions were right for life to begin, about 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists don’t pretend to know exactly how this began YET, but they simply keep following the evidence that they find. Eventually we may be able to create life from inanimate matter, once we understand the conditions on Earth so long ago, which were not at all as they are today.

    The complex structures that we call life were probably far simpler at first. They did not simply come together all at once randomly as you put it, but followed a sequence of small steps and stages dictated by natural laws.

    Lauren, I agree with you that life is amazing, and we should cherish and nurture it. If you wish to learn more about evolution from the people who really understand it, there are several resources, but stay away from websites run by creationists because they will only distort and omit things in order to discredit the theory. Learn from real experts and then you can argue effectively about the parts that you don’t agree with. Here is one of several resources:
    http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

  • Claire

    Lauren said,

    How can you logically say that these things happened at random?

    Evolution doesn’t say they happen at random. Nature has a learning curve, just like we do. Nature tries something new (like legs or photosensitiviy) and if something works, it’s added to the genetic code. If it doesn’t work, it disappears. That’s not random at all.

    (most of post deleted because Richard was already explaining it more thoroughly).

  • Richard Wade

    Aw Claire, I’m sorry. Don’t hold back just because big mouth me blunders in ahead of you. You never know how just your turn of a phrase about the same idea may jump out at someone and make the difference of understanding. I always look forward to your comments because you always live up to the meaning of your name, “clear.”

  • Claire

    No, no, truly, your explanation of the formation of solar systems was better. Mine was about three sentences. We were just typing at the same time….

    Oh, and, *blushing now*. Shucks….

  • Richard Wade

    Maybe three sentences would be better. I’m reminded of the scene in the wacky 1980 comedy “Airplane” when Robert Stack, faced with an escalating emergency asks the total fruitcake in the control tower, “How did all this happen?” The fruitcake replies, “Well, first the Earth cooled. Then the dinosaurs came, but they got fat and turned into oil. Then the Arabs came with their Mercedes Benzes…”

  • AJ

    Lauren,

    Wow, I can’t see how your comment could show more ignorance about such a wide range of subjects. It’s incredible that you would comment on logic when you show such disregard for it.

    Okay if this comment is true then life couldn’t have possible existed on earth millions of years ago. If the universe is expanding outwards from a central point then the sun would have been very close to the earth all those millions of years ago, and the temperature on earth would have been too high to sustain life. Not to mention the tide changes etc etc

    The centre of the universe isn’t our solar system. Even in your fictional account of the formation of our solar system, you don’t explain the time of the origin of life, the rate of expansion, the temperature of the Sun, or anything that would justify the statement “the temperature of the Earth would have been too high”. It’s no better than “not to mention the tide changes etc etc”, as an argument.

    I don’t believe that evolution is a logical argument at all. How did all the little pieces from the big bang come together to create such wonderfully complex human beings? We can’t even create robots that even come close to being able to do what we are able to (see, taste, feel) How can you logically say that these things happened at random? How amazing is the newborn fetus growing in it’s mother’s belly and the birth process etc etc… how can you logically say that it all just exploded into being? That is not logical at all.

    How can you say you don’t believe evolution is a “logical argument” (valid theory support by evidence), when you don’t know what it is? Evolution doesn’t suggest that complexity arises at random, please read an explanation of Natural Selection, I hear the Origin of Species is a good start.

    How amazing is a fetus, compared to other biological processes? How amazing is the birth process, is it more complex, logistically significant, unlikely, and how so?

    The thing that isn’t logical is an explanation of anything you don’t understand with an unknown agency. It doesn’t do its supposed job as an explanation, it explains nothing of how the agency came to be, or how the agency actually did the feat.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    Does anyone have any insight as to why Noble, or pests like him in general, do this? Why post and repost with no intent to have any dialog? It would be easier not to be rude if I had any idea why…

    Think about it this way. Pretend for a moment that there is something to you that seems an obvious truth, because it was told to you from birth and you know nothing else. This is a truth that required no evidence, no argument, it’s just the way the world is. So if you’re looking at something like that, you probably do just think that repeating it over and over will get through to people that it’s a universal truth. Because you don’t know how to argue, and further don’t see the point in debate because there is nothing to debate. It just *is*.

    That said, I don’t think that attitude is anything to be proud of, and it’s quite possibly the most annoying thing I’ve ever encountered in my life. It’d be like if we taught science using the, “Because I said so,” method.

    “How come the speed of light is 3×10^8 m/s?”

    “Because that’s the speed of light.”

    “But why?”

    “Because that’s the speed of light.”

    “But isn’t there some math or something to back it up?”

    “BECAUSE I SAID SO.”

    * * *

    So… that said, I can understand the origin of the attitude. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating and annoying. Just because you know how a brick wall got built or why it’s there doesn’t make it any more pleasant to beat your head against.

  • http://katsudon.livejournal.com Katsu

    I don’t believe that evolution is a logical argument at all. How did all the little pieces from the big bang come together to create such wonderfully complex human beings? We can’t even create robots that even come close to being able to do what we are able to (see, taste, feel) How can you logically say that these things happened at random?

    Lauren, there’s a couple of big problems you have.

    First off, the concept of deep time is a very, very, very, VERY difficult one to grasp. I honestly don’t think that human beings are made to understand the concept of such an enormous amount of time. Because it is a really, really, REALLY long time we’re talking about here. The Earth is around 4.5 billion years old.

    Here’s a good take on the geologic time scale that ought to give you some perspective:
    http://www.uky.edu/KGS/education/geologictimescale.pdf
    It’s the geologic time scale as if the entire “lifetime” of the Earth thus far were a single calendar year.

    It’s been 4.5 billion years – that’s billion with a B! So think about it like this. Think of how much progress mankind has seen in just a single century – how much we managed to do by working our butts off between 1900 to the year 2000. All that technology, all those advances. The Earth has been around 45,000,000 TIMES more years. That amazing century of advance and discovery and understanding is 0.000002% of the Earth’s entire “life” thus far! Given 45,000,000 more lifetimes, a guy probably could invent a robot that could do anything a human could.

    Frankly, with the consideration of deep time, I don’t find much of anything in geological or biological history all that surprising.

    Also, thinking that everything has been an act of random chance is definitely not the right way to look at it. Evolution is not a random process – it’s determined by natural selection. Even more basic things are not what I would call random processes. Sodium and Chlorine ions coming together to form salt isn’t the felicitous act of random chance – it’s because one’s positive, the other’s negative, and so they are attract to each other. Hydrogen and Oxygen coming together to form water is because the atoms share electrons because that is the most stable state for them to be in. Everything obeys the physical laws of the universe.

    The universe is an amazing place indeed.

  • Claire

    Katsu said:

    So if you’re looking at something like that, you probably do just think that repeating it over and over will get through to people that it’s a universal truth.

    Don’t they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Not that I really buy that, seems more like a definition of stupid married to stubborn, except that occasionally it does work. That’s how they learned it. Sigh…..

    Thanks for the insight!

  • Claire

    Katsu said:

    Lauren, there’s a couple of big problems you have.

    I think it’s actually two problems. I think she’s really young, and time will fix that (maybe).

    The other one is bigger, and more general, since clearly, her school did not do right by her in the area of science education. It’s not just the evolution/creation problem, either, they completely ignored astronomy and physics as well. This is just sad.

    Which leads me to another thought – I wonder why the creationists always go after evolution and leave astronomy alone..

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Ignorance of the basic “geography” of the universe is very very common. Early this year a survey said 20% of Americans think that the sun orbits the Earth. I bet an even higher percentage doesn’t even know that stars are other suns. (I base this guess on the number of people I have met who didn’t know.)

    Most people just aren’t interested. Their lives are caught up in that thin two dimensional surface of our biosphere. It’s no surprise really, since that is where the human brain evolved.

    It’s my feeling that people should be interested, and it’s the fault of our education system that they are not. The bread and circuses of our media outlets and the false sense of wonder provided by our superstitions keep most people in a trance. Then again, contemplative scientists and philosophers don’t make good consumers.

  • Noble

    Hello again you beautiful little critters! I really hope that some of the points I raised previously can be the catalyst for some interesting and constructive discussions, especially the question of cannibalism and what atheists think about the subject. Even though my example about wheat, lettuce and a banana may have been simplistic you must admit that it was still very accurate. This subject has the potential to cover a wide range of issues associated with atheism/evolution/enlightenment. Questions about human morality and where it came from, questions regarding relationships, have Christian laws and beliefs had a positive impact on our world? etc etc etc. Hopefully there is an atheist here that can muster up enough courage to debate this topic.

    I recently discovered that a nova or super nova is the destruction of an existing star that has sadly run it’s race and exploded into obliteration, nothing actually evolves out of this, in fact the total opposite occurs, what’s left is junk! This is the absolute opposite of atheistic/evolution/enlightenment preaching! Observers have seen stars exterminated but have never, and again I stress never, one more time for those really slow critters out there NEVER seen one formed. People that have admitted to this truth are still writing and publishing literature claiming that stars have been observed being formed. This raises important questions. Why the lie? What is the motivation behind the lie? When religions need to resort to dishonesty to preach their doctrines and win over new disciples they need to be exposed. Unfortunately the powers that be in the world today are fostering the growth of atheism/evolution/enlightenment. It’s preached in schools! That to me is a disgusting form of child abuse. Religion should have no place in the public school system, if people want to preach this nonsense they should do it in the privacy of their own homes! Loans made to poorer countries by the world bank and the international monetary fund under the guise of the united nations are only handed out when nations agree to certain conditions, I believe one such condition requires the implementation of a school curriculum as ordained by united nations science/education committees, and yes, you guessed it, preaching evolution in science classes is part of the curriculum. It’s amazing to see prophecy come to life before one’s very eyes. It may be prophetic but I’m still allowed to hate it.

    Leave science alone, it’s a wonderful gift that has been given to us in order to make our stay in this world a lot easier, creationists originated scientific study, evolution has no place in it whatsoever!

    I’ll see you all in Glory, you actually will make it there. Don’t believe the nonsense that some religions preach stating that when you die you’re going straight to a burning hell where you’ll be tormented forever and ever, the Lord loves you too much to ever allow something as horrendous as that to happen. You do get to choose the route to Glory though! Choose wisely!

  • Siamang

    ” I really hope that some of the points I raised previously can be the catalyst for some interesting and constructive discussions,”

    Why does this phrase, and indeed the entire content of this post lead me to think that the poster has a one-way connection to the internet?

  • monkeymind

    Siamang, more like one-way connection with everyone else in the world.

  • Mriana

    I really hope that some of the points I raised previously can be the catalyst for some interesting and constructive discussions

    Why would it? You aren’t discussing anything with us.

    especially the question of cannibalism and what atheists think about the subject.

    Communion isn’t cannibalistic? Crucifixion isn’t barbarism? Couldn’t prove it by me.

    Once again, you obviously have not read anybody’s posts in this thread nor did you follow the link Richard gave you to read.

  • Lauren

    Ok, I’m trying to work out this evolution theory once and for all and want to spend some time studying it.

    Do athiests believe that time and space have always existed? Someone mentioned “mother nature”, do you guys consider that to be part of evolution or do you consider it an intelligent force or something that is actually in control in some way?

    And also, do all atheists agree on the same theory? Or do different atheists believe different things?

    Off to check out that website link now, thanks.

  • Siamang

    Lauren, I don’t get your questions…

    You say “evolution theory” then talk about space and time…

    “Evolution theory” is not a blanket term that you can apply to ideas that encompass cosmology, physics, the origin of the universe, etc. Evolution is not even about the beginning of life on earth. It can only describe why life has many forms. It is an explaination of life’s diversity, and ONLY that. It cannot describe what happened before life. It cannot describe why volcanoes erupt. It cannot describe how radio waves work. It is the central organizing principle undergirding the science of biology.

    It says nothing about how the universe formed. It is not the answer to all questions.

    Do athiests believe that time and space have always existed?

    Some might, some might not. Many might think the question as phrased doesn’t make much sense. By a certain definition, time has “always” existed, if “always” means “at all times”. In order to have at all times, time has to exist. Therefore time has always existed, from that point of view.

    Someone mentioned “mother nature”, do you guys consider that to be part of evolution or do you consider it an intelligent force or something that is actually in control in some way?

    I don’t know any atheists who consider an intelligent force might be controlling evolution, if that is your question.

    And also, do all atheists agree on the same theory? Or do different atheists believe different things?

    I think there’s some diversity.

  • Claire

    Lauren said:

    Someone mentioned “mother nature”

    Hi, Lauren! I just said nature, not mother nature. It’s just a way of saying “life as it works on this planet, with its interrelated biology”, nothing supernatural about it.

    And also, do all atheists agree on the same theory?

    Evolution is a scientific theory, not really anything to do with atheism. It does often become a bone of contention though, with creationists on one side and scientists and educators on the other. Those scientists and educators are often christians or believers in other religions too, not always (or even mostly) atheists. Atheists usually only get upset about it when someone wants it taught in schools instead of science, because creationism isn’t really science at all, it’s religion.

    Do athiests believe that time and space have always existed?

    Once again, it’s not an atheist thing. It’s the kind of thing that’s best addressed by a scientist, for a real answer, or possibly a philospher for an interesting discussion. You’ll need to ask a physicist about this one though, I don’t really know.

    I hope you enjoy your reading!

  • Lauren

    Okkkayyy I think I am getting this, so athiests focus just on science and that’s all? So the theory of evolution is seperate to that somehow? So an atheist is just someone who is against the theory of creation and is that the end of it?

    So is an athiests beliefs system just based on 1. there is no God and 2. you are free to do anything

    Forgive me if I am wrong, I am genuinely trying to understand.

  • Claire

    No, scientists focus on science, atheists only help to defend science when it is under attack.

    The theory of evolution is part of the science of biology, the study of living things. And don’t get the scientific use of the word “theory” mixed up with the general word “theory”. Evolution is a theory like gravity is a theory, this doesn’t mean that either is just an idea to dismiss lightly.

    Atheism means for most that 1) there is no evidence that god exists and 2) morality and ethics can be found in other places than religion.

    Creationism is biblical stories mixed with bad and inaccurate science. Since atheists don’t think the bible is true, neither is creationism.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Lauren, I think I see your confusion. Atheism is not a belief system. Rather it is a lack of belief in any God. Now because we lack belief in a supernatural entity we are left with rational thought and scientific knowledge to make decisions.

    Your assumption that we are free to do anything assumes that morality is divinely granted or enforced. It isn’t. I believe (and the evidence supports it) that morals developed from our ancestors need to protect members of the group. Humans aren’t equipped with fangs and claws like other animals and so cooperate in order to be successful. Cooperation is enhanced by sharing and suffers when one member works against the group (by killing another member, stealing, etc) and so we are encouraged to work towards the group’s objectives. Simultaneously the group works to suppress behaviour that goes against the group.

    I hope that helps.

  • Karen

    Claire:

    Does anyone have any insight as to why Noble, or pests like him in general, do this? Why post and repost with no intent to have any dialog? It would be easier not to be rude if I had any idea why…

    Evangelical preachers teach that “nothing goes out void.” In other words, the Christian’s job is to spread the gospel and the Holy Spirit’s job is to use that Christian’s “witness” to supernaturally transform the listener’s heart so that they are converted. If that’s too much Christian lingo for you, let me rephrase:

    It doesn’t matter what words you use to try and convert people, or how logical, coherent or clever your arguments. All you need to do is 1) have a sincere desire to convert people to Jesus, 2) act on that desire (say, by posting on a blog for atheists), and 3) god will magically use your words to make people become Christians.

    Many heroic figures in the bible were said to be poor speakers, Moses in particular. Paul also laments his poor chances of persuading anyone to Christ using his own words and logic. The conversion is not supposed to come about through logic and reason and eloquence, it is supposed to come about magically through spiritual means. It’s almost like the worse your communication skills, the more glorified god will be when your readers or listeners convert, because there won’t be any question that god did it. Your own argument was so bad it couldn’t have persuaded anyone by “human means” alone! ;-)

    I think this is why people do these “drive-by” postings that are completely ridiculous to the readers here: They’re just upholding their part of the evangelical bargain. God’s supposed to do the rest. Of course, when he doesn’t magically convert people, the posters don’t worry about that. They’re trained never to question god.

    literaghost:

    The entire “mocking/criticizing beliefs (vs. the believers)” argument reminds me of my days running and participating in various writing groups. The most common problem less-mature writers had – that is, those not used to having their writing peer-reviewed – was separating their work from themselves when their works were critiqued.

    That’s a great point. I’m a writer and I know how tough it is to separate from one’s own work, particularly when it’s a creative “labor of love.” However, no one who wants to be successful can afford to eschew honest, direct criticism. It just takes some time to develop a thick enough skin; and some people never get there. They’re typically never successful, either. ;-)

    Now, this isn’t to say that all critiques are devoid of any mean-spiritedness (is that a word?). But you can’t even discern those that might have merit from those made out of malice if you don’t listen to what they say first. Being hurt may be a natural reaction – but, like scratching a rash, it may not be the most healthy one. And it’s hardly a legitimate reason to silence the critics (or to ask them to silence themselves, for that matter).

    Again, I agree. Trying to silence criticism or engender self-censorship is very dangerous to the functioning of a free society. Becoming “offended” because someone else criticizes a concept that you hold dear encourages self-censorship, and I think that’s dangerous too.

    Like the person who really wants to produce excellent writing, the religious person needs to “toughen up” a little and not get offended anytime their beliefs are criticized or someone else declares that they don’t share those beliefs and finds them ridiculous. Many people find atheism horrible, and while I’d like to change that perception by my own argument and example, I’m not “offended” about it.

  • Siamang

    Okkkayyy I think I am getting this, so athiests focus just on science and that’s all?

    No! We focus on love, humanity, charity, art, science, family, friends… all the stuff of life! We just don’t worship a god, or we’re unconvinced of the existence of any gods.

    So the theory of evolution is seperate to that somehow?

    The theory of evolution is like the theory of gravity or a theory of economics. They explain certain aspects of the physical world… nothing more. There were atheists long before Darwin.

    So an atheist is just someone who is against the theory of creation and is that the end of it?

    No, an atheist is just someone who doesn’t think there are gods, or is unconvinced of their existence. It should go without saying that if one doesn’t think there’s a god, then they don’t believe in miracles as well, including the Biblical creation account(s).

    So is an athiests beliefs system just based on 1. there is no God and 2. you are free to do anything

    No. I usually put it this way:

    An atheist’s belief system is based on one day, a long time ago, someone got up in the front of the tribe and said “I know the will of GOD, and God tells me that all of you must do what I, I mean God, tell you to do!”

    Well, on that day someone in the back row shook his head and said “I don’t buy it.” That person was the first atheist.

    I don’t believe “there is no God”. I say “I have not seen evidence sufficient to convince me that an interactive God exists.”

    I don’t believe I am free to do anything. I believe I am free to think for myself, and I am free to believe as I will, and I am as free as my brothers and sisters will let me be, to find my own destiny, so long as I fight for their freedom as well.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Just to add my two cents…

    atheism is nothing more than “not theism”. If someone is an atheist it doesn’t tell you much about their world view. Yes, I have met atheists who don’t accept the theory of evolution, and other atheists who believe in UFOs, big foot and ghosts, BUT I think they are pretty unusual. Most atheists take a naturalistic view of the world.

    Evolution is a scientific theory and neither evolution nor science have anything to do with atheism, which is about the lack of belief in deities. Some atheists stopped believing in their religion through the study of science, others through the study of philosophy, and still others for no good reason at all. Yes, I think some atheists are atheists for good reasons and others for not so good reason. (Just like I have met Christians who have told me about amazing personal experiences, that if I had would be pretty convincing. So I consider those experiences pretty good reasons that are almost beyond debate.)

    So to reiterate, there is no “atheist belief system”. To modify the standard line, atheism is a belief system like baldness is a hair color.

    Although I’m sure there are some sociopath amoral atheists (just as there are insane Christians or Muslims, etc.) I think most atheists believe in a set of ethics based on Humanistic principles. I would say Humanism is a belief system. But atheists can be anything from Objectivists to Marxists, from Nihilists to Buddhists. There really is a lot of diversity.

  • http://lifebeforedeath.blogsome.com Felicia Gilljam

    Lauren,

    Here’s my attempt at breaking it down for you:

    To be an atheist means that you don’t believe in any gods. This has no implications for anything else in your worldview. Many atheists are true skeptics, but there are atheists who believe in astrology, homeopathy and other things that science has shown has no foundation in reality.

    Similarly, atheists may have different beliefs/opinions on where morals come from. But very few people actually believe that we are free to do anything we please. Humans are moral creatures – exactly where those morals come from might be debated, but there’s no question that it takes some amount of brain damage to act entirely amorally!

    Personally I am a Humanist. Humanism is an atheistic worldview. You can read more about it on for instance wikipedia if you look for Secular Humanism.

    As for evolution and science, please remember that “theory” does not mean “belief” or “guess”. A scientific theory is so much more than that. And, by using that definition of theory, you also need to understand that there is no theory of creation. The only scientific theories we have today of how the world came to be and how life has developed are those described by physics, chemistry and biology – not the bible. The bible is not scientific and there is no “theory” there, only a myth.

    Evolution is a scientific theory that explains how life has developed on earth. It does not describe how it began, only how it has gone from one or a few forms to many diverse forms. Evolution is defined as changes in allele frequencies in a population over generations. This is technical jargon for the fact that in every generation, different proportions of a population will carry a specific gene. For instance, in one generation 60% of a population of bugs might carry a gene for being green, but in the next generation only 50% carry that gene. That is evolution. Natural selection is one of the forces of evolution and can be summarised like this:

    1. In every population of organisms, there is variation. (Some bugs are green, some bugs are brown, some are red.)
    2. The variation is heritable. (If you two green bugs mate, their offspring will probably be green too.)
    3. In every generation, some individuals will be more successful at reproducing than others.
    4. Which individuals survive and reproduce is not random, some will reproduce more than others. The individuals with the most favourable variations in their respective environments will have more offspring than other individuals: They have been naturally selected. (In a population of bugs that live on green leaves, green bugs are less likely to be eaten by birds, and hence they will have more offspring than brown bugs.)

    This has been amply demonstrated both in the lab and in nature. Given long enough time-spans, and keep in mind that life has been around for about 2.7 billion years, new species will develop.

  • Lauren

    Thank you everyone for that, that really helps clarify it for me.

    Okay some more serious questions from me. (I’m not trying to convert anyone I’m genuinely interested in honest answers)

    What would it take for you as an atheist to believe in a God?

    Or what would you as an atheist consider to be absolute proof? Proof that would be enough to completely change your belief system (or lack thereof)?

  • Claire

    First, Lauren, I gotta ask – why that question? It’s the same question that christians always ask. I plugged it into google and got 155,000 hits, and it makes me wonder if somewhere out there there isn’t a handbook that says “when you meet an atheist, ask him this”.

    So, why do christians ask this question? What insight will an answer bring you, and what will you do with that answer?

    From what I have seen, christianity prides itself on not needing evidence, since that’s what faith is for. So why ask about evidence?

  • Claire

    Karen, you have enlightened me once again! Ok, this time you scared me too, but it was worth it to know. Frankly, it sounds a lot like knocking on wood or some other superstitious behavior. Can’t these people find a streetcorner somewhere?

  • Lauren

    Maybe you have been hanging around christians for too long? haha I asked the question as I’m trying to get an insight as to what “the other side” thinks/believes. I’m not naive enough to think I can convert an unbeliever, I’m just honestly interested. Perhaps I should try google first.

  • Claire

    Lauren, you still haven’t answered me – of all the things you could ask to get an insight, whythat particular question?

  • Siamang

    I agree with Claire… we get that question here at least once a week.

    I’ll try and answer, though, Lauren:

    What would it take for you as an atheist to believe in a God?

    Just a feeling in my heart that it was true.

    Or what would you as an atheist consider to be absolute proof? Proof that would be enough to completely change your belief system (or lack thereof)?

    Here’s something I wrote, awhile back on this question:

    There are lots of signs which would have no possible other explaination.

    That’s what would make them signs in the first place. Stuff with other possible explainations utterly fail as signs.

    A dude walking on water, if examinable and repeatable just isn’t possible under any other explaination.

    Spontaneous amputee healing, as David explained. Or words written in the stars that say “I am that I am”.

    A star hovering motionless over bethlehem.

    Animals talking.

    Angels appearing.

    Etc,etc.

    The fact that none of this stuff ever happens, but we are supposed to believe it did, to save our eternal souls, tells me that either the Christian definition of God is so off-base as to be nonexistent in that form, or God is one incredibly manipulative guy to have sent Cecil B. DeMille type special effects in the old days when people were more credulous, and stopped it down to a trickle here in our modern world.

    What kind of God demands faith and belief in the frankly unbelievable special effects extravaganzas of the past? Especially when he births us into a world where these miracles are long, long gone, if they ever existed (and we conveniently have no photos or videos).

    Just last week when this topic came up, a poster named Bruce wrote:

    Actually, I’m kind of tired of the whole “What would make you believe in God” meme. If there truly is a god and this god is as all knowing as it is claimed then this god should know exactly what it would take for me to believe. And since god knows this and is all powerful, then god can easily make it so. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet means either god doesn’t care to make me a believer or god doesn’t exist. I’ll let you be the judge of that one.

    Like I said, all I’d need would be a feeling in my heart that it was true.

    And yes, I’ve tried prayer. I’ve done everything I can be expected in good conscience to do to seek God. I’ve humbly and beseechingly asked for whatever grace can be afforded me to come into my life. I’ve stilled my mind, quieted my doubts, and whispered the question into the darkness.

    Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

    Some Christians have told me I didn’t do it right and am still damned. Some have told me that I’m probably saved, and I just didn’t feel it. I shrug.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Also I would add (since the questioner is usually a Christian) the assumption behind the question, “what would it take for you to believe in God” is that the god is Yahweh. But I can imagine so many other kinds of gods. If a god really existed once, created the universe, then “left” as in deism, then to believe such I would have to find some amazing evidence. Maybe like the “artist’s signature” encoded in the number Pi in Carl Sagan’s novel Contact.

    Or what if god is really the universe, as in pantheism. Maybe that kind of god would leave no evidence since in the process of becoming all that is including us, he has forgotten. When we die and the universe ends, all is one again and god “wakes up”.

    What if an omnipotent god does exist, but it isn’t omnibenevolent? It’s just a neutral observer.

    Or maybe all the cosmos is evolving towards god (as in the omega-point theory) so that god doesn’t exist… yet!

    There are so many possibilities, and since we have no evidence any which way you can imagine almost anything! But just because I can imagine something doesn’t mean I’ll believe it.

    Then again, if a being appeared that could do amazing miracles how can we be sure it is a god? Primitive cultures were fooled into thinking Europeans with advanced technology (guns, armor, etc.) were gods. A technology millions of years ahead of ours may very well appear to be magical or omnipotent. Who knows?

  • Lauren

    Lauren, you still haven’t answered me – of all the things you could ask to get an insight, why that particular question?

    I guess I just know that anything I have to bring to the table wouldn’t be enough for an athiest to question his or her beliefs. So you kind of just have the urge to ask what would be proof… out of curiousity I guess.

    Siamang, I don’t believe that God can do anything when a person doesn’t believe in him. So just praying for a moment in hope for an answer isn’t enough. I don’t know why.

    You will all think I’m deluded (but hey.. you think all Christians are anyway! hehe) but I did ask God why he hides himself from people as I thought it was unfair and he said it was because the question isn’t about whether or not he exists, the question is ‘Will you follow me? ‘ and the question would be the same even if Jesus stood before each person and asked it, and the answer would be the same also.

  • Mriana

    What would it take for you as an atheist to believe in a God?

    Which god are you talking about? One of the Hindu gods? the Islamic god? Christian god? Hebrew god? Buddha? A volcano god? A sun god? Or a non-metaphorical one called love?

  • Claire

    Lauren said:

    I guess I just know that anything I have to bring to the table wouldn’t be enough for an athiest to question his or her beliefs.

    Don’t take this personally, but that’s pretty much true. You (or anyone else) could tell me things and make persuasive arguments for hours, but none of that is evidence.

    The thing is, most hard-core believers just aren’t good at things like evidence, logic, and proof. The ones that do understand those things generally admit that they don’t really apply to religion. That’s why that question makes me suspicious. Evidence will never make anyone believe in a god, it would only convince them of the existence of one.

    The other problem is that it’s disingenous – it’s the wrong question, and you knew that. You said it yourself, Lauren, it’s not about whether a god exists, it’s about following one. So why did you ask the wrong question?

    The last reason is it’s a bad question is that the asker already knows the most likely answer. So, ask yourself – what would it take to convince you that Zeus or Hera exists? Or Shiva, or Vishnu? Whatever your answer is, that’s probably about what it would take for anyone.

    I don’t mean to imply by this that you were being dishonest. It’s just that asking the right question is really important. If you don’t do that, then there’s really no point in the answer.

  • Siamang

    Lauren, I just find what you’re saying confusing.

    You say God can’t do anything if I don’t believe in him, but then when you talk to him he says that believing isn’t important, following is.

    Isn’t that contradictory?

    How can I follow what I don’t think is there, and what won’t even answer me when I speak to it? Why follow your god, when the followers of Allah, Buddha, Rama and all the other gods also say that they talk to their gods all the time and they want me to join them as well? They are utterly convinced that they are right and following the One True God. So why will none of their gods speak to me, when they speak to you all the time?

    and the question would be the same even if Jesus stood before each person and asked it, and the answer would be the same also.

    You just can’t seem to grasp that I don’t deny God or Jesus… I just can’t bring myself to think they are true things. I think you’re implying that if Jesus stood right in front of me and asked that I wouldn’t follow Him. I think you’re writing me off too easily there.

    How can you say that? Do you know me that well? Have you looked into my heart and seen this? Do you know I’m a writer who blogs for a Christian ministry? How do you know that I don’t serve Christ in my own way, for whatever ends He has in mind? I don’t think you know or I know for sure. I don’t expect that’s the case, since He does not talk to me. I don’t believe He exists, but I’m still a good, loving, kind, giving person with a seeking, inquisitive nature.

    It seems to me that you’re much more hung up on belief than you say your God is. Why bother with atheists like me, unless it’s about getting your heaven ticket punched, and racking up a few “saves” on the scoreboard?

    Listen, I’m a human being, with my own thoughts and beliefs and path I’ve walked in life. I don’t come to you on a Christian website and say “you should believe what I believe”. Please come here to ask questions, (and as Claire points out, please ask the correct ones), to learn, to make friends and satisfy any needs for understanding those different from you.

    PEACE

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

    Siamang,

    Do you know I’m a writer who blogs for a Christian ministry?

    That is news to me… I didn’t know. Fascinating, puzzling, and… intriguing. Do they know? (If you talked about it before, I must have missed it.)

  • http://www.popcorngallery.blogspot.com Max

    the question isn’t about whether or not he exists, the question is ‘Will you follow me? ‘ and the question would be the same even if Jesus stood before each person and asked it, and the answer would be the same also.

    I’m going to take this opportunity to try a new argument I’ve been wanting to test out against a believer:

    Ok, let’s assume that God does exist in some form, revealed himself to me and asked me to follow him. I would probably say no. Because there is nothing that I see looking at the world today and examining its history that seems to indicate that following a religion leads to a better life. Religious people fight wars, get sick, get frustrated have bad luck, are homeless, get divorced, etc — just like non religious people. At least they don’t have to do the bidding of a being that is capable of making the world better but apparently doesn’t.

    In order to believe that God exists AND follow the doctrines of a religion — which is what believers really want when they argue for God’s existence, I would need not only to see verifiable evidence of the reality of a Supreme Being, but I would also need to be shown conclusively that my behavior in relationship to that being has tangible benefits (ie. getting into Heaven). Convincing me of all of this would require using facts and proven scientific laws. The only God I can conceive of actually existing would be a super intelligent alien that has been evolving for millions of years so it could create an artificial universe replete with artificial environments like heaven and hell–etc. And we’re all part of some kind of experiment or something. That sounds completely ridiculous but honestly makes more sense to me than any real religion.

  • little bird

    Guys, I think the best thing to keep in mind regarding Noble is that wise phrase: don’t feed the trolls. They thrive on the attention they get from running conversations off into the ditch. Just ignore him/her/it.

  • Allison

    tim asked:

    what do you think of the most recent edition of “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary” defining religion as any “strongly held belief system”.

    The new definition does not mention the necessity of believing in a deity(ies). So, it seems reasonable to conclude (since definitions are really important in any communication) that atheism, naturalism, scientism, agnosticism, etc. would all be classified as “religions”. Where does that leave separation of religion and state?

    Tim, I didn’t see anyone answering you so I thought I’d take a stab at it.

    Under this definition, atheism and agnosticism themselves would still not be considered religions as they are not belief systems. A belief system requires more than one belief to be involved. Atheism simply means that one does not believe a deity exists. Agnosticism simply means that the person believes the existence or non-existence of a deity is not knowable. However, there are religions that do not involve a belief in God. Some kinds of Buddhism have no God-concept, for example. There’s naturalistic pantheism http://pantheism.net/, which would also be considered a religion. There are groups that call themselves humanistic religions — for example, the American Ethical Union http://aeu.org/ . Some atheists and agnostics have found a nice home in the Unitarian church http://uua.org/ .

    So it is possible to be religious and still be an atheist or agnostic. It’s also possible to not have thought out a full belief system and still be an atheist or agnostic. I hope that helps rather than simply being confusing!

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Max said,

    In order to believe that God exists AND follow the doctrines of a religion — which is what believers really want when they argue for God’s existence,

    I’m a believer, and I don’t want that. To me, the Spirit of Jesus is freedom — Freedom from the bondage of religious law. When Jesus asked me to follow him, I began to feel freedom. Although the old habits still remain, because they are ingrained in my brain, I am becoming more and more free each day. When someone becomes a true believer (I don’t mean the go-through-the-motions Christians), then the spiritual battle begins. The true battle is within oneself…the process of metamorphosis. I’ve always thought this transformation was that of becoming a good Christian (as defined by religion). That’s what they teach, and most remain in that constant state of struggle.

    But now I believe with every cell in my body that the transformation is that of breaking free… Free to be oneself without any fear… freedom to express oneself fully… freedom to be unique, abnormal. Freedom from religion…

    That is who Jesus Christ is to me. I know who and what I am in Christ. So I call myself a Christian. But I don’t completely belong in the Christian camp. I love to come here to think freely with you, because oftentimes, I think you guys are closer to the real truth than the Christians are; but I don’t really belong here either. I am a half breed, and I am alone. A while back, a guy named Hugo came and ranted for a while. He called himself an atheist. and a Christian. No one knew what the heck he was talking about. But I did. It’s a lonely place.

  • tim

    Nontheists seem to rely heavily on fallacious thinking in criticizing theists. Ad hominem attacks and the genetic fallacy seem to dominate their thinking. It seems antiintellectual to argue the truth or falsity of Christianity by attacking its adherents. Usually, when individuals lack a body of knowledge in a subject and are in a debate, they resort to these tactics. Is this the case here?

  • Noble

    I thought this was an open thread titled “questions for atheists”! It seems impossible discussing anything with atheists, the responses I’ve had to my posts have been replete with insults, bullying, distortions, dishonesty, ridicule and deceitfully crafted comments. I have even had my parentage questioned! Your behaviour at times is totally disgusting! Just grow up! Intellectual jousting is fun, a bit like playing chess, but sometimes you guys need to bite the bullet, show some maturity and discuss topics openly and honestly without deceit, malice and craftiness. It appears that when certain truths are put forward you immediately go into denial. Nobody believes the old “we atheists are just poor innocent victims of those big mean Christians” crap. Are they loving you to death? It is doubtless that some of you two footed critters possess a whole lot of potential, stop wasting it on fables and intellectual bullshit! Now, dishonesty and craftiness can lead to illnesses of the central nervous system just as unforgiveness can lead to certain forms of cancers, so have fun but keep these thing in mind.

    Have a very merry day and a happy new tomorrow!

  • Karen

    Can’t these people find a streetcorner somewhere?

    I guess the Internet is the ultimate “street corner” in today’s global society!

    Seriously though, evangelical Christians have been at the forefront of using technology to preach the gospel since the very beginnings of radio and TV, and they are all over the web too.

  • Mriana

    Noble said,

    December 22, 2007 at 10:51 am

    I thought this was an open thread titled “questions for atheists”! It seems impossible discussing anything with atheists, the responses I’ve had to my posts have been replete with insults, bullying, distortions, dishonesty, ridicule and deceitfully crafted comments.

    That’s your perception. From our end you have been doing what you accuse us of doing. It seems to me your projecting. The conversation has been one way and needless to say, you haven’t asked any questions or read our responses.

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

    Noble,

    I feel sorry for you. Why did you come here? To learn? To understand? To attack? To rant? You obviously had some unanswered questions within yourself to look for answers outside of your religion. But you did not come here with an open mind. I wish you well in your ongoing search.

  • Allison

    Tim:

    It seems antiintellectual to argue the truth or falsity of Christianity by attacking its adherents.

    I agree here. Personally, I don’t think it’s so much anti-intellectual as it is not helpful.

    Truth is, there are jerks on both sides of the theist/nontheist fence. There are good people on both sides of the fence as well. Neither side has a monopoly on morality, compassion, etc. Similarly, neither has a monopoly on bad behavior.

    OTOH, you might note that farther up in this exchange someone else told us that they’d rather we attack the actions of some Christians rather than deal directly with the core elements of the faith. *shrugging*

    From what I’ve seen, sometimes we discuss people’s actions here and sometimes we discuss ideas here. Which we do really depends on the topic we’re discussing. Sometimes the actions of some Christians do merit comment.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Lauren, I honestly can’t think of anything that would make me reject reason in favour of mysticism. There may well be something but I’m damned if I know what it is. ;)

    What would it take for you to reject Christianity? I suppose that should be a question for the other thread…

  • Noble

    Mriana and Linda, thankyou! :-) I gambled on getting a response that would justify my last post and you guys delivered! That was fun! I think I could get really good at this. I must admit that it wasn’t much of a gamble though, the odds were heavily stacked in my favour.

    For anyone here that is feeling a little frustrated getting reasonable and honest answers out of atheists do a google search on ‘creation versus evolution’. There are lots of really good sites that provide honest and scientifically accurate answers about questions you may have about atheistic/evolution/enlightenment religions. Many sites use creation believing scientists from all the differing branches of science. I was pleasantly surprised with just how many creation believing scientists there are throughout the world including many eminent scientist. Don’t be mislead by atheists when they claim that science confirms their faith, they’re not telling the truth!

    Some sites I found were as follows: drdino.com (lots of articles and videos), ucg.org.au (interesting quotes from experts), gennet.org, icr.org, biblicalgeology.net, anointed-one.net, answersincreation.org and pathlights.com.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ Siamang

    HA! “Dr.” Dino Kent Hovind (not an actual doctor, he got his fraudulent degree from a diploma mill) is in prison for tax evasion. I hope that antisemetic UFO-nut wacko rots there. Great “science reference” you have in that guy — convicted felon. Brilliant!

    Linda, yes, they know. It’s why I was asked to take part in a sharing conversation as part of the ministry called Off the Map. It’s the same ministry that paid Hemant to go to church.

    http://www.otmatheist.com/

  • Darryl

    Noble, you’re a sick fella; I’ll pray for you.

    Linda, you’re framing people the wrong way if you think you’re alone. If you’re alone, we’re all alone. I choose to see the connections; we’re all one big fucked-up family. Happy holidays family!

  • Mriana

    Noble said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:06 pm

    Mriana and Linda, thankyou! I gambled on getting a response that would justify my last post and you guys delivered! That was fun! I think I could get really good at this. I must admit that it wasn’t much of a gamble though, the odds were heavily stacked in my favour.

    What the heck are you talking about? Sounds like Trollism to me.

    There are lots of really good sites that provide honest and scientifically accurate answers about questions you may have about atheistic/evolution/enlightenment religions.

    Yes, like Scientific American website: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=15-answers-to-creationist

    Don’t be mislead by atheists when they claim that science confirms their faith, they’re not telling the truth!

    We never said that. Again, do read our posts, you might learn something if you take the blinders off.

    Answers in Creation website? ROFL! In case you didn’t know, Ham is being charged with various crimes. Fine Christian example he is and the website is full of anti-intellectual information.

    Siamang said,

    December 22, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    HA! “Dr.” Dino Kent Hovind (not an actual doctor, he got his fraudulent degree from a diploma mill) is in prison for tax evasion. I hope that antisemetic UFO-nut wacko rots there. Great “science reference” you have in that guy — convicted felon. Brilliant!

    Thanks Siamang. Two wonderful Christian examples there who are supposed truth seers. (sarcasm) I bet if Siamang and I dug into the other sites, we’d find the same thing about those guys too- all being charged with some crime or another.

  • monkeymind

    gambled on getting a response that would justify my last post

    I thought gambling was a sin.

    Deliberately baiting and provoking a desired negative response from others may not be a sin, but it’s certainly not the mark of a mature intelligence.

  • Richard Wade

    I think the troll has been fed enough. I suggest ignoring him and concentrating on responding to Lauren’s honest questions.

  • Mriana

    I agree Richard and Lauren I was not joking when I asked which god, I had a purpose behind that and not devious either.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Lauren, it isn’t that atheists completely discount the existence of a god. The universe is, after all, a rather large place and just about anything is possible. What I can determine is that no religion has ever provided sufficient answers to life’s many questions. Every religion that I have ever looked at has shown itself to be illogical, dogmatic and unreasonable. I am forced to conclude that religions simply do not have the right answers. In fact I’d go so far as to say that they do not even ask the right questions. Therefore if there is a god, and I see no reason to believe that there is one, then god isn’t the god that any religion says it is.

    I think that if you ask most atheists if they accept the possibility of there being a god then they will give a similar answer to mine above. Your comments seem to want to paint atheists as close minded and unaccepted of the viewpoints of religious people. Forgive me if this isn’t true but I have only your typed phrases to go on and the written word is often limiting and I may be reading more into what you’ve said than you meant. The key thing that you have to understand about atheists is that most of us have looked at religion and found it wanting. We have examined it and rejected it as lacking in basic reason and sense.

  • Mriana

    Therefore if there is a god, and I see no reason to believe that there is one, then god isn’t the god that any religion says it is.

    HoverFrog, I am inclined to agree with you. Thus why I say I don’t believe in the god of religion- any religion.

    Forgive me if this isn’t true but I have only your typed phrases to go on and the written word is often limiting and I may be reading more into what you’ve said than you meant. The key thing that you have to understand about atheists is that most of us have looked at religion and found it wanting. We have examined it and rejected it as lacking in basic reason and sense.

    Thus why I asked for clarification. I was not being fictious or devious with my clarification, but even then, depending on the answer, I would have had to clarify my position in a way that would hopefully communicate.

  • Noble

    Siamang! What has being convicted for a crime have to do with his beliefs and teaching? Have you got any character flaws? Have you ever done anything wrong? If you answered yes then does that mean everything you say and believe is inaccurate? Did you thoroughly investigate all your teachers/lecturers before you ate up the crap that they were feeding you? Richard Wade deliberately lied in an earlier post when he wrote that “new stars are continuing to form and we can see it happening”. You and I know that’s not true and so does Richard Wade! Dishonesty and deceit are very serious character flaws, don’t you think? Do you disregard everything Richard Wade says and believes because of his character flaws? Or are you a person of unjust scales? You and Mriana are insinuating that all Christian scientists are criminals! Wow! You do realise that there are some excellent medications out there these days that can really help with this sort of psychotic thinking! Those ‘felons’ at Mississippi State University have an excellent page listing many eminent creation believing scientists and their achievements, society owes much to these fine men which you guys would love to disparage. msstate.edu/org/sacs. You may know of evolution-facts.org which I found excellent and has free downloads. Revolution against evolution rae.org is also very good for those that are serious about science as is tccsc.tc. There are hundreds more, do you honestly believe these people are all criminals? Even if they are what has that to do with their science? Have you read ‘Darwin’s Black Box:Biochemical Challenge To Evolution’? It was recommended to me recently, is the author of this book a criminal too?

    Gambling is a sin? I suppose that drinking alcohol is too! Monkeymind! Where do you guys get this bullshit from? I enjoy gambling, I’m actually quite good at certain forms of it. I have owned racehorses in the past and will hopefully be renewing that interest early in the new year. You sound like a real square!

    May the Lord bless you all abundantly and grant you the righteous desires of your heart!

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

    Noble,

    If you have something to say, and if you think that you have some truth to share, please do so with some respect and without accusations and judgments. And speak from your heart, not your head. You think you can go head to head with these people? They probably are out of your league, I’m afraid. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but your condescending tone is starting to bore me. Exorcise the troll-ness out of you! Heal thyself!

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

    Linda, you’re framing people the wrong way if you think you’re alone. If you’re alone, we’re all alone. I choose to see the connections; we’re all one big fucked-up family. Happy holidays family!

    Darryl,

    Thank you! That means a lot. Here’s a cyber hug! (***) I’m skipping church today in honor of you. ;) (jk. I was planning on staying home anyway.) It’s our Christmas service, and I hate Christmas…

  • Jesus

    Noble, is that you? What are you doing goofing around on the computer? I thought I told you to go out and love your neighbor as yourself 2000 years ago! Get off you butt and do it! And while you’re at it, clean up this place! It’s a mess! You ought to be old enough by now to take care of your planet without me having to remind you every 5 minutes!

  • tim

    Blaise Pascal was a bright mind (mathematician, scientist, philosopher) and a Christian and lived in the 1600′s. When studying vacuums, he made the analogy that each of us (the way we are designed) has a “god-shaped” vacuum within, that can only be filled by our relationship with god. If not by god, then we find “substitutes” of worship such as money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.

    When I look at human behavior, including my own, I think this observation is quite true. What do you think?

  • monkeymind

    I agree that Pascal was a smart guy, but the god-shaped hole concept just seems the flip-side of the “religion is a crutch” argument used by atheists. I also think that some people, esp. fundamentalists, do use god/religion as a drug, to avoid having to really think or examine their lives. This is not true of all religious people of course and I admire those whose spiritual practices lead to greater self-awareness and consideration for those around them.

    Tim, I wonder why you have chosen not to respond or even acknowledge the very thoughtful responses Allison gave to your previous questions?

  • tim

    I was unable to find the post in this long thread, but sometime back someone said Christianity (and other religions) didn’t really help much to the condition of the world, nor did they answer the BIG questions of existence.

    Just a quick response, if I may: Christianity does answer the BIG questions: 1) Where we came from and what our purpose is. 2)What went wrong with the whole scenario) 3)What the fix is. 4)Where we go from here.
    Whether these questions and the Christian answers hold up to the evidence and reason is a different matter, and certainly a grand discussion. I think the Christian worldview holds up quite nicely with solid evidence—not absolute certainty, for sure, but holds up with the preponderance of evidence.

    Your thoughts?

    —————————————————————

    Another point earlier in the thread was made that probably most atheists were Naturalists. I think this is probably true, I would also add that most believers, agnotiscs in their core are naturalists, as well, because I think this is the most generally accepted worldview in our culture.

    Question: One satisfying argument for god’s existence, is the argument from the Mind. When one observes the capacities, properties and capabilities of the mind, naturalism comes up quite inadequate when positing possible explanations.

    What do you think?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    tim

    Thank God, finally, a believer that actually can discuss things fairly and openly!

    When studying vacuums, he made the analogy that each of us (the way we are designed) has a “god-shaped” vacuum within, that can only be filled by our relationship with god. If not by god, then we find “substitutes” of worship such as money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.

    I agree with that statement completely. My questions to you are:

    1. How would you describe this “relationship” with god?

    2. Do you believe it only exists in Christianity?

    3. I would describe the “worship” that you mentioned as allowing something outside of ourselves to have power over us. So when religion has power over us (i.e. guilt and shame from ‘sins’, trying to please God with good deeds, etc.), we are worshipping religion. In your opinion, can God exist without religion?

    4. And if so, what does that God look like?

  • Claire

    Tim said:

    When I look at human behavior, including my own, I think this observation is quite true. What do you think?

    I think I know the people you are describing here. I think of them as ‘seekers’. They do seem to have some sort of hole on the inside that needs filling, although I disagree that it’s “god-shaped”. Did Pascal or you have any reason to think it was god-shaped rather than just a hole? I have known some that seemed to fill it positively with other things than god.

    On the other side, though, are the people without holes. I’m one of them, and I know a lot of others. We just live our lives happily and healthily without subsituting ” money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.” as you put it. And no god. No religion. We don’t feel the need, we don’t have that hole. How do you explain us?

    And if those other things seem to fill the hole, even temporarily, maybe we need to look at how religion is similar to those things.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Someone mentioned Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box. A lot of creationists have pulled away from their old poster boy Behe because in his latest book he suggest that the “intelligent designer” mutated malaria to be more deadly. Not exactly the work of a benevolent creator, but Behe takes the standard position that such seemingly evil actions are actually good in the overall mysterious plan.

    Back to the thread topic, Tim wrote: “I think the Christian worldview holds up quite nicely with solid evidence—not absolute certainty, for sure, but holds up with the preponderance of evidence.”

    That claim touches on the key issue here. The debate between atheists and theists often takes place before the background idea that theists believe things on faith, and faith is belief without evidence. I think this assumption is not quite right, because of course the believer has their own evidence. They might consider the Bible to be evidence, or a personal experience, and so on.

    So the real question here is what do we consider to be good evidence? It is easy to say, “My [insert belief] is based on good evidence”. But how will you demonstrate the evidence is good?

    Regarding Tim’s other question on the mystery of the mind, there are many mysteries that science hasn’t solved and might never solve. What is called the “hard problem” in consciousness or questions on the origins of the universe. However the “answers” that religious claims provide are not really answers. Where did the universe come from? Saying that “X” created it doesn’t satisfy me. What is “X”? Why isn’t it “Y”? Or is it something we can’t even imagine? And although I can entertain the idea that a “creative force” possibly started it all, how can I jump from that to any particular god of human religion which have many specific characteristics? If you could possibly prove to me that a god created the universe, why shouldn’t I then believe that god is actually Brahman?

    To questions like these many theists mischaracterize atheists saying we have faith in the Big Bang or some other materialistic theory of the origin of the universe. But most atheists I have talked with are very comfortable saying “I don’t know.” The irony of science is that the more we learn, the deeper and more mysterious the unknown parts become.

  • Karen

    Blaise Pascal originated the “god-shaped hole” argument hundreds of years ago?! Wow. I had no idea. I heard that constantly in every church I attended and every evangelism class I took – no clue it was that old. I thought some 20th century apologist or pastor came up with that.

    Thanks, Tim! We learn something new every day around here. :-)

    And by the way, Claire’s right when she says that argument is completely empty for a whole bunch of people who find fulfillment without something to “worship” in their lives. Pascal’s argument is about as valid as Pascal’s wager (i.e., not).

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist said:

    The irony of science is that the more we learn, the deeper and more mysterious the unknown parts become.

    Yes. and I would say the same for theology. and philosophy. and life in general…

    Claire said:

    On the other side, though, are the people without holes. I’m one of them, and I know a lot of others. We just live our lives happily and healthily without subsituting ” money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.” as you put it. And no god. No religion. We don’t feel the need, we don’t have that hole.

    Wow, Claire. That’s wonderful. I envy you.

    How do you explain us?

    I would explain you as young. Or maybe it’s another side of humanity that I’m not at all familiar with. Enjoy it while you have it.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    And Karen, you too?

    I am very, very confused. I thought we all had at least that in common… the fact that we are searching for truth. … a better understanding of why things/people are the way they are. If you are completely fulfilled and satisfied in and of yourselves already, then why… why do you waste your time looking, asking, discussing, and trying to understand others? Or are you?

    I don’t know if you’re understanding the concept of what tim (or Pascal) is saying… Or is it that I’m the one who doesn’t understand?

    Could that be the difference between theists and atheists? The presence of the hole? It’s really hard for me to imagine a person so complete. I’ve never met one in real life.

  • Mriana

    You and Mriana are insinuating that all Christian scientists are criminals!

    No, I insinuated animals, not criminals. You are in fact an animal- we all are.

    tim said,

    December 23, 2007 at 10:10 am

    Blaise Pascal was a bright mind

    Except his wager was extremely flawed.

    Just a quick response, if I may: Christianity does answer the BIG questions: 1) Where we came from and what our purpose is. 2)What went wrong with the whole scenario) 3)What the fix is. 4)Where we go from here.

    I disagree. It does not. Christianity answers nothing and the Bible is full of stories. We are the one’s who answer the first, we have to figure out via science what went wrong and then we have to fix it and decide where we go from here. No religious text can tell us that.

    BTW, this is ask an atheist thread, isn’t it? I haven’t confused the two have I?

    I don’t think naturalism comes up short at all. If you can feel at one with yourself, others, and your environment, then the rest is easy, but you have to take care of your environment and yourself too. Then again, I’ve always had a passion for nature and everything/one within it.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    NYCatheist said,
    Someone mentioned Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box….

    I have read Behe’s book and thought he had some good points. But it should be pointed out that there is a BIG difference between criticizing evolution theory as an explanation for “irreducible complexity” and jumping to the conclusion that therefore there must be a supernatural creator to explain “irreducible complexity”. Scientists should critique all theories and explanations and I commend Behe for critiquing evolution theory. To say his analysis proves there is something supernatural involved in nature is not founded, though.

  • ash

    Jeff, one of the biggest problems with Behe’s arguments for irreducible complexity, whatever conclusions he felt that led to, were that he failed to provide any instances where evolution could not be explained as the mechanism behind the outcome. wikipedia will give you ideas of where to look for refutements if you’re interested…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    There are 20 other things I should be doing, but I can’t tear myself away. I feel like I’ve just been hit over the head with a bat.

    Question for all atheists here:

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves? I am shocked and stunned enough to go back and question everything that I thought about you guys.

    I’m either misunderstanding this or you are not who I thought you were.

    I’m sure our definition of terms such as worship, hole, etc., differ, and that must be where the confusion is for me. To me, there’s a big difference between not believing in a god and thinking that you are god.

  • ash

    Linda, yes i think you are misunderstanding, as your question (or rather, the reasons behind you asking it) presumes the existence of a god. i do not believe in a god, i have seen no reason to suspect there may be a god, and i find the idea that i may have a hole for a non-existent deity a little…silly.

    this does not mean that i am automatically a complete and fulfilled person, and for those atheists that consider themselves to be such, that does not mean that they have any less of an inquiring mind, or believe themselves to have all knowledge. at a guess, i would presume many atheists would consider having an open and inquistive nature to be part of their, well…nature. BUT, for atheists, there’s no way we’d presume that seeking answers and ‘truth’ would in any way lead to a god.

    i actually thought you put it better here –

    If you are completely fulfilled and satisfied in and of yourselves already, then why… why do you waste your time looking, asking, discussing, and trying to understand others? Or are you?

    like i said, i wouldn’t consider myself either as ‘completely fulfilled and satisfied’ or as having a god-hole. however…i enjoy debate, i find religions (and all the related stuff) endlessly fascinating, i study religions so getting different perspectives is useful, i wish to understand some of my real life theistic friends/family better, i appreciate the fact that explaining myself out loud helps clarify some of my own opinions, i like learning, i think it’s wrong to knock something you know nothing about…etc, etc.

    and, yes, i don’t have much of a social life!

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves?

    Not me. I love discussing these deep questions, and I don’t make any claims to having any answers. But then knowing that someone is an atheist won’t tell you anything about that aspect of their personality. Maybe some atheists do feel fulfilled and content? I bet the same could be said of believers. Maybe some Christians feel content and others are always searching for more.

    In fact I think most people I meet are neither content, nor searching. They seem to be mostly apathetic to these questions, and such apathy has no correlation to their religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

  • ash

    Linda, i’m currently hoping i’m misunderstanding you…

    Wow, Claire. That’s wonderful. I envy you.

    “How do you explain us?

    I would explain you as young.

    To me, there’s a big difference between not believing in a god and thinking that you are god.

    hmm…

  • Mriana

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves?

    Linda, if we stop questioning, we stop learning. I do feel fulfilled and complete, but I am always trying to acquire more knowledge and learn everything I possibly can. I actually love learning. However this does not mean I am not fulfilled and complete though.

    On the lines of what ash said, I’d be the last person who would say seeking answers and truth leads to God. It’s hard to explain, but sometimes you have to face the dark in order to see the light – I’ve faced the dark and I believe I have seen the light, but I have not stopped seeking honest answers to my questions.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Linda,

    I think terms such as “fulfilled” and “complete” hark back to a Platonian ideal that doesn’t really exist. To even consider such a “perfect” existence pre-supposes some kind of perfect divine higher plane or level above the imperfect world. I agree with others that your world-view already assumes a God (or a supernatural ideal). That is why it is sometimes hard for you to understand atheists who don’t assume a God. But I commend you for trying. I’m also trying to understand the religious mind and value your friendship.

    For myself, I don’t think the human mind is even capable of completely understanding the natural world…. but I also think that there is a LOT more that we can understand (naturalistically) so I am inquisitive. Learning and exploring is fun and I hope to continue learning and exploring until the day I die. After that, I don’t suppose I will be doing much of anything at all. ;)

    And Linda, shame on you for skipping church today ;)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Ash said:

    Linda, i’m currently hoping i’m misunderstanding you…

    Ash, don’t take everything I said to heart. And besides, you left out the OR. I said “Or maybe it’s another side of humanity that I’m not at all familiar with.” That wasn’t sarcasm. I was just thinking out loud to make sense of what was said.

    And the other comment you referred to… You have to understand that it is my belief and the belief of most Christians (I think) that no one is fully complete (perfect) without God, except for God himself. Therefore, when someone tells me that they are complete and whole, that leads me to think that they are claiming to be perfect, satisfied, full, in need of nothing, in want of nothing… That’s why I made that statement. Did not mean to offend. Sorry, Claire.

    You know, maybe I’m the only loser here who constantly feels like I’m lacking and in want, in hope, of more answers. …wanting to always add to what I already know to continuously see the bigger picture. …trying to make better sense of life in general, so I can get the most out of life from moment to moment.

    I enjoy every moment for what it is, but I also hope that there is more, and I’ve been finding more. Whole and complete? I don’t know what that is. Not yet. I hope I never get there. I hope there is always more to be found and enjoyed. That’s why I’m excited to face every single day.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    ash said,
    Jeff, one of the biggest problems with Behe’s arguments for irreducible complexity, whatever conclusions he felt that led to, were that he failed to provide any instances where evolution could not be explained as the mechanism behind the outcome. wikipedia will give you ideas of where to look for refutements if you’re interested…

    I’m be sure to check out the appropriate pages on Wikipedia. I have read Dawkins’ (and others) counter arguments to Behe. I wasn’t implying that I thought Behe’s arguments were convincing. Just that Behe had a right to criticize evolution as part of science’s methodology of self-criticism.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Linda said

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves?

    Yes, most of the time. However, unlike car keys, I keep looking even after I’ve found the answers.

    The Saxons had a blessing: ‘Flags, Flax, Fodder and Frig’. May you always have a home to live in, clothing to wear, food to eat and someone to love. Having these things I am fulfilled. I don’t need Gods to make up for something that I am missing. That doesn’t mean that I’m ever going to stop asking questions though.

  • Richard Wade

    Noble, you said:

    Richard Wade deliberately lied in an earlier post when he wrote that “new stars are continuing to form and we can see it happening”. You and I know that’s not true and so does Richard Wade!

    I am reluctant to respond to you because your comments are getting increasingly abusive and have not yet expressed a genuine interest in respectful dialogue. Calling anyone who brings you information that you did not know a “liar” is not any way to learn something new and not any way to treat people.

    In an earlier comment you complained that this thread is supposed to be for asking atheists questions but in your seven comments you have not yet uttered a genuine information-seeking question. So far, all your sentences ending with a question mark have been rhetorical questions, disguised statements mostly to the effect that we are liars.

    Notice that several people here are engaged in an on-going conversation with another Christian, Lauren. She is asking honestly curious, information-seeking questions. Whenever her questions are based on misconceptions, people here are politely and respectfully helping to clear those misconceptions up before going on to address the questions themselves. Lauren is probably not in any danger of losing her faith in the essence of her religion. She is only going to lose her misconceptions about a couple of concepts in science, and some stereotypes about atheists. I commend her open-hearted and open-minded approach.

    You are not getting that kind respectful response because so far your tone has been superior and preachy. Your attitude seems to reflect a desire to provoke others into insulting you, in fact one of your comments actually said so. If that is so, why you would want to do that is not clear. Perhaps you simply want to confirm your prejudice about us, but I don’t pretend to know your motives. I am trying hard not to fall for that provocation and instead to offer you some suggestions about how you might be able to engage in a respectful dialogue.

    Regarding the formation of new stars, I am providing some links to sites about this. I don’t think all the people at NASA, JPL, Caltech, Harvard and Cambridge are “liars,” so give them a chance to show you what they have found. The software on this site limits me to how many “live” links I can post but Googling phrases like “stellar birth” or “observe young stars” will give you dozens of references. If you won’t look at them then maybe at least others here can enjoy them.

    Astronomers are observing stellar birth in every direction except one: straight down. Lift your eyes up and you will see an amazing universe that is still constantly unfolding.

    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/pia09411.html

    http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2004-22/release.shtml

  • ash

    Linda, ok, that’d be a yes then. no worries (please ‘scuse the frequent times my skin appears a little thin).

    You know, maybe I’m the only loser here who constantly feels like I’m lacking and in want, in hope, of more answers. …wanting to always add to what I already know to continuously see the bigger picture. …trying to make better sense of life in general, so I can get the most out of life from moment to moment.

    if being a loser is continuing to ask questions, then no, you are not the only loser here by a long shot. if being a loser is lacking a god belief, then i proudly claim that title!

    Jeff, yep, every right, and if he hadn’t done that i wouldn’t have learnt about another fallacious creationist argument, nor would i have ‘discovered’ Ken Miller, whose scientific talks i really enjoy. it’s entirely possible his dissent actually led to the furthering of scientific knowledge as people sought to address his claims, which can’t in itself be a bad thing (unless it’s one of those claims that flies in the face of already established scientific fact, which i do see as time wasting).

    Hover,

    talking of learning….frigging saxons…hahaha.

  • monkeymind

    Richard, nice response. You have such patience. And beautiful photos on the NASA site.

  • Allison

    Linda asked:

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves?

    I’m always asking questions and looking for new knowledge. Heck, that’s part of my job!! And, similarly, I do believe there is something bigger than I am, but I stop at the universe whereas you would take it a step farther and stop at a supernatural being outside the universe. The universe is huge, amazing, and I am just a small part of it for a short time. We’ll never know it all and there’s always more to be found and enjoyed.

    OTOH, Linda, I would classify that as different from having a “god-shaped hole.” Maybe some people who grew up religious feel that sort of gap, I don’t know. I grew up in a non-religious family and the idea of a deity like Christianity describes…..well……I’ve never found any expression with a personal God feeling right or clicking with me emotionally. Probably the closest I get is scientific pantheism.

    HTH!

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    I would explain you as young. Or maybe it’s another side of humanity that I’m not at all familiar with. Enjoy it while you have it.

    I’m in my fifties. I do try to preserve my child-like sense of wonder, though. Sometimes I’m told that going place with me is like going with a six-year old, so I guess it’s working.

    I think you may just not have met any of us, or maybe not recognized us when you did, because your description is a little wide of the mark.

    the fact that we are searching for truth. … a better understanding of why things/people are the way they are. If you are completely fulfilled and satisfied in and of yourselves already, then why… why do you waste your time looking, asking, discussing, and trying to understand others?

    That makes it sound like we are monsters of complacency, and really, we aren’t (and I know you didn’t mean to insult anyone, Linda, no need to apologize at all). I just don’t feel like there is anything missing in myself that needs completed from outside. At the same time, I don’t have any illusion that I’m particularly amazing or important in the grand scheme of things. And that’s ok – I’m important to me, and my friends and family, and the world has its own concerns. Casting that in the light of either humilty or pride misses the point.

    It also doesn’t mean I’m not interested in anything outside myself. I KNOW me, all the amazing new things of interest are out there. The world is fascinating – complicated things are always fascinating, nature and the natural world are amazing, and people are about as complicated as it gets. Not only in themselves, but in the things they create with their minds and their hands. How could I NOT be interested?

    Could that be the difference between theists and atheists? The presence of the hole?

    I have always thought it was part of it for the ones that seem to be natural non-believers. From junior high on, I noticed that there were people who seemed to always be looking for something (or had already found it), and people who just …. didn’t feel the need.

    The latter category were not a homogenous bunch, don’t get me wrong. There were some people who were so self-centered or shallow, so dull or stupid, that the rest of the world didn’t really seem to matter to them. Can you tell I didn’t much like those people?

    Then there were those like me, who found the universe endlessly fascinating and other people most intriguing, but… I’m not sure if I can explain this very well, Linda, but I’m going to try. I don’t know that there is or isn’t a universal truth, or if there is an answer to any of the big questions. I just know that I don’t need to know them to be happy. The world is enough for me.

    I hope that helps, Linda.

  • Karen

    Linda, I don’t feel complete and utterly fulfilled in the sense that my life is perfect or I have everything figured out – far from it!

    On the other hand, I’ve concluded that the only “meaning” in life is exactly what we make it. In other words, I don’t look outside myself to some larger supernatural entity to give my life meaning. I make meaning for myself by being aware of and enjoying every moment (as much as humanly possible); helping others; laughing with my kids; learning everything I can absorb; dialoguing on this site; doing meaningful work where I strive for excellence, etc.

    I don’t have a “god-shaped hole” in my life that needs to be filled by a supernatural being. I sometimes think I don’t have a “god gene” because I just don’t have that kind of hunger or longing for an ultimate truth or “big happy ending” to the universe. Yes, it’d be great to know what – if any – big picture there is to life, but I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea that it won’t be discovered during my lifetime, if ever. That said, I don’t worry or mope or get depressed about it because I’m too busy learning and doing and growing.

  • tim

    Allison said:

    “”Tim, I didn’t see anyone answering you so I thought I’d take a stab at it.

    Under this definition, atheism and agnosticism themselves would still not be considered religions as they are not belief systems. A belief system requires more than one belief to be involved. Atheism simply means that one does not believe a deity exists. Agnosticism simply means that the person believes the existence or non-existence of a deity is not knowable. However, there are religions that do not involve a belief in God. Some kinds of Buddhism have no God-concept, for example. There’s naturalistic pantheism http://pantheism.net/, which would also be considered a religion. There are groups that call themselves humanistic religions — for example, the American Ethical Union http://aeu.org/ . Some atheists and agnostics have found a nice home in the Unitarian church http://uua.org/ .

    So it is possible to be religious and still be an atheist or agnostic. It’s also possible to not have thought out a full belief system and still be an atheist or agnostic. I hope that helps rather than simply being confusing!””

    Thank you for your response, Allison.

    I think a synonym for the the broader definition of religion is the term “worldview”, that is the basic core presuppositions about existence, purpose, important definitions, etc. one has about life. Another way of saying it is one’s “map” of life. When one says, for example, there is no god; that is quite a truth claim about existence and origins and therefore by this definition would be a religion. If one says god’s existence in not knowable that is also a giant truth claim about what god is like and therefore a religion as well by Webster’s definition. I’m not sure this is all very useful but I thought quite interesting.

    Allison also said:

    “”Truth is, there are jerks on both sides of the theist/nontheist fence. There are good people on both sides of the fence as well. Neither side has a monopoly on morality, compassion, etc. Similarly, neither has a monopoly on bad behavior.””

    I agree, if one refers to “both sides” here; neither has a monopoly on virtue or vice nor brilliance and ignorance.

    Allison further said:

    “”From what I’ve seen, sometimes we discuss people’s actions here and sometimes we discuss ideas here. Which we do really depends on the topic we’re discussing. Sometimes the actions of some Christians do merit comment.””

    Point well made, but often I hear the behaviors of Christians as an argument against the existence of God and the veracity of Christ. The most important thing about a belief is whether it is a true belief or not, wouldn’t you agree?

    monkeymind said,

    December 23, 2007 at 10:33 am

    “”I agree that Pascal was a smart guy, but the god-shaped hole concept just seems the flip-side of the “religion is a crutch” argument used by atheists. I also think that some people, esp. fundamentalists, do use god/religion as a drug, to avoid having to really think or examine their lives. This is not true of all religious people of course and I admire those whose spiritual practices lead to greater self-awareness and consideration for those around them.

    Tim, I wonder why you have chosen not to respond or even acknowledge the very thoughtful responses Allison gave to your previous questions?””

    Thanks for your comments. I’m not quite sure I understand the flip-side point. Could you further explain? It is certainly true that religion can be used to comfort oneself. Perhaps, atheism could as well, if one has been abused by previous religious or church experiences. In either case, that fact that one is comforted by his or her beliefs, has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of the belief. I appreciate your comments about thinking and examination of one’s life. Regarding Allison’s comments; I was also impressed with her thoughtfulness and also the kindness in the way she worded the responses. Sometimes I am a better question asker than answerer. I am glad that this seems like a good place for discussion of important things.

    Linda said,

    December 23, 2007 at 11:11 am

    “”tim

    Thank God, finally, a believer that actually can discuss things fairly and openly!

    When studying vacuums, he made the analogy that each of us (the way we are designed) has a “god-shaped” vacuum within, that can only be filled by our relationship with god. If not by god, then we find “substitutes” of worship such as money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.

    I agree with that statement completely. My questions to you are:

    1. How would you describe this “relationship” with god?

    2. Do you believe it only exists in Christianity?

    3. I would describe the “worship” that you mentioned as allowing something outside of ourselves to have power over us. So when religion has power over us (i.e. guilt and shame from ’sins’, trying to please God with good deeds, etc.), we are worshipping religion. In your opinion, can God exist without religion?

    4. And if so, what does that God look like?””

    Those are wonderful questions and in many ways beyond my abilities and understandings, but will give a bit of of a stab at them.

    1. This is probably the most difficult of the questions, since the word “relationship” is so comprehensive. To start with God is already relating to each of us no matter what we believe. Our own relationships, caring and loving others, are totally dependent upon His nature as a being in loving relationships Himself, and each of knowing that loving others is so important. Our inherent knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, beauty and ugliness that is in each of us, exists because He is relating to us at our core of being every moment, whether we acknowledge Him or not. He wants to relate to us on a conscious level as well and this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Usually when I am most selfish and self-centered and unwilling to take myself off the pedestal is when I shut Him out. It is also the times I am most likely to be unloving and unkind to myself as well as others. So, this part of the relationship is the most difficult to live by from my side of it, because I shut Him out so often. When I don’t shut Him out, I must say it is generally an overwhelming sense of being loved and at peace. This answer is very incomplete, but will most-likely bore everyone if I keep going.

    2. No, but Christ is real and is who he said he was.

    3. There are several parts to the question; so several answers. We most often worship the “self”, so “worship” certainly can be from within. If God exists, He obviously would be THE AUTHORITY, wouldn’t you agree? I do believe that religion as an institution can be over-controlling, and sometimes religious leaders may put themselves in the center of worship rather the God. This does not apply to all, by any means. God is God, religions are organizations of people and have all the attributes of any man-made organization or institution. God’s existence is independent of anything including His creation.

    4. I don’t know. Probably has no physical characteristics in general, but was incarnate in Christ, but that was a self-limitation and not representative of overall physical appearance. He seems to be a non-material, non-physical being; so physical description eludes me. Also, He is without gender, but I use the word “He” to describe Him because lack of appropriate pronoun. There may be other reasons to use the word He, now that I think about it, however.

    Claire said:

    “”On the other side, though, are the people without holes. I’m one of them, and I know a lot of others. We just live our lives happily and healthily without subsituting ” money, material things, power, sex, drugs, food, other addictions, etc.” as you put it. And no god. No religion. We don’t feel the need, we don’t have that hole. How do you explain us?

    And if those other things seem to fill the hole, even temporarily, maybe we need to look at how religion is similar to those things.””

    Claire,
    I wouldn’t try to explain, I would simply say you must have a wonderful life and my only thought is to enjoy it. It was Pascal’s analogy and not mine.

    The last part of your comment suggests that perhaps religion is another one the things that we “substitute” for our inner holes Pascal speaks of and not THE thing that can ONLY fill the holes. Well, this goes back to religion as an opiate of the people or is for people who need some sort of “fix” to get by. This line of thinking does not lead to truth about the existence and nature of God. So what if God wants to make us feel comforted or not?? Maybe that’s part of who He is.

    Karen: I am not overwhelmed by Pascal’s wager, either. But in so many ways he was truly brilliant.

  • Richard Wade

    Tim, you ask really good questions and two of them I would like to respond to. The first one Mriana answered a little but I would like to address the premise behind it. The second is one I don’t think anyone here has responded to yet.

    The first question was number two in your series of four “big questions”:

    2)What went wrong with the whole scenario

    What’s wrong? What makes people assume something is “wrong?” That the world is a dangerous place from natural hazards? Yeah it is. What were you expecting? From where comes the assumption that it is not supposed to be dangerous? That people can sometimes be horrible to each other? Yeah, and sometimes they can be wonderful too. What were you expecting? From where comes the assumption that we were originally all supposed to be wonderful? The question “What went wrong” is based on a fantasy about the world and people and then comparing that fantasy to the way things actually are. That fantasy is a man made concept that has no more basis in reality than any other fantasy.

    Would making people safer from natural hazards be a worthwhile goal? Sure! Study how nature works and learn to predict and prevent hazards. Support your local scientist. Would finding ways to coax more wonderful behavior out of people and minimizing horrible behavior be a good goal? Sure! Study how people grow and develop, how they interact, make note of what actually works and forget all the “shoulds” like “they should do this for this reason,” and gradually come up with new ways that work better than the old ways.

    Letting go of the idea that there is somewhere a lost “way it was supposed to be” will free us from the futile and fruitless quest for a remedy from some mysterious thing outside of ourselves. Want things to be better? Work together with others who have the same goals even though they may have different beliefs.
    _____

    Tim, the second question you asked that I don’t think got any response yet was:

    Question: One satisfying argument for god’s existence, is the argument from the Mind. When one observes the capacities, properties and capabilities of the mind, naturalism comes up quite inadequate when positing possible explanations.

    This sounds like other arguments I have heard that I’d call argument from amazement or argument from incomprehensibility. The mind is amazing. When we find it amazing we are using our minds to find mind amazing. The fact that we cannot yet comprehend the intricacies of our own minds does not at all require the conclusion that “Therefore mind must have been created by a supreme being with a mind far beyond ours.” There is no logical step between the emotional appreciation and the conclusion. Just because someone finds something beyond their present comprehension does not require that God had to do it.

    We will always find the universe astonishing and incomprehensible, regardless how much we learn. That’s great. We should use our astonishment to spur us toward finding more answers to our questions, not use our astonishment AS the answer to our questions.

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

    Linda’s question:

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves?

    I’m constantly searching for an intermediate-level explanation of advanced physics. Does that count?

    The way I interpret it, when people talk about a God-shaped hole, they are talking about a need for some sort of spiritual experience. Some scientists, including Richard Dawkins, like to say that this need is fulfilled by their study of the universe. If you said they were filling a God-shaped hole with science, they could easily respond that you are filling a science-shaped hole with God.

    But that’s not how I feel. I don’t feel the need for any sort of spirituality, not even in the sense that Dawkins uses. I think the universe is merely extremely interesting, not awesome. It lacks a heavy emotional quality, and that’s fine with me.

    On topic: see this webcomic

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

    Thank you, everyone, for giving me such honest answers to my question! I do have a better understanding of your perspectives now. I’ll consider that my Christmas present. ^_^ The best ever!

    Claire said:

    I’m in my fifties. I do try to preserve my child-like sense of wonder, though. Sometimes I’m told that going place with me is like going with a six-year old, so I guess it’s working.

    Claire, you’re my kind of woman! Your youthful spirit does show through your writing. I do apologize for assuming, though. My tendency to ASSume does always come back to bite me on the… you guessed it! Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. And I do envy your self-assuredness. Maybe some day, I’ll grow up to be as “young” and confident as you!

  • Richard Wade

    I’ve got to share this magical moment with someone! I was just outside (7:20 Pacific time) and a big round full moon is right next to a bright Mars just to the right of the moon! My neighbor was softly playing “Christmas Time is Here,” that lovely lullaby from “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the sense of wonder at the universe combined with the sublime beauty of a man-created piece of music was a moment I will cherish in my memory all my life. What a simple thing: some planetary geometry and a sweet song to produce so exquisite an experience.

    GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW! If the sky is clear and the moon is still up and see a rare sight, music or not. That bright starlike object just to the right of the moon is Mars, much much farther away.

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

    tim,

    Thank you for attempting to answer my questions. I do agree with your answer to #2. I don’t know if you fully understood my other questions, though. However, I do have a better understanding of where you’re coming from. I appreciate your considered response.

    Richard Wade,

    Study how people grow and develop, how they interact, make note of what actually works and forget all the “shoulds” like “they should do this for this reason,” and gradually come up with new ways that work better than the old ways.

    When you said that, it reminded me of something I read recently where the author said that when we’re only focused on the “should’s,” we’re should-ing all over ourselves. I laughed so hard when I read it. :-)

    We should use our astonishment to spur us toward finding more answers to our questions, not use our astonishment AS the answer to our questions.

    I don’t know many people who uses their astonishment AS the answer. I, for one, never run out of questions, as I know is the case for many other theists. I think most of us are continuously searching for answers. Perhaps the main difference is that theists search for answers thinking that we know where the answers will point to, and atheists search for answers thinking that they know the answers will not point in that direction. But are we not in the same place and moving in the same direction while we are in the process of searching?

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

    I SAW IT! I SAW IT! I SAW IT!! (I always say things three times when I’m excited!) Thank you, Richard Wade! It was beatiful. I wish I had a telescope.

  • Darryl

    Is it true that you feel fulfilled and complete in and of yourselves? That you are not searching for something… knowledge… truth… whatever… answers bigger than what you can find in yourselves? I am shocked and stunned enough to go back and question everything that I thought about you guys.

    Linda, first of all, thanks for the cyber-hug (my first). To answer your question, yes, I do feel fulfilled and complete, but I have never been, and am not now, “in and of” myself. Family and friends and the kindness of strangers have sustained me all my life. I don’t think I can be right with myself without my people.

    But, to the heart of your question, think of this: for those of us, like me, that were once believers and at some point put away religion, consider what it was that we were doing. Since, as believers, we had similar experiences to other believers, and were just as devout and attached to our faiths as others, we must have had a capacity that other people have. If some people can believe, then why not all people? How were we any different than any other people? Indeed anyone can believe in any faith for any reason. Look around at the peoples of the world: how else can we explain the diversity of belief? We all share the same capacity.

    Now, if by faith I could find contentment, and yet faith was just the exercise of a capacity that all humans share, then it was me, and the wonderful mind that life has given me (and all people) that was the source of my contentment. This is why I, and other atheists, can be content. We know that it is not something other-worldly that is the origin of our life and health, but it is the entire cosmos: me, and you, and all of us, in this beautiful world. None of us ever stops wondering, or learning. This is what Mriana was talking about. None of us has all the answers. We just believe that any answers that we have will come from us, and only be meaningful to us. The ultimate questions of life are just as perplexing for us as anybody else. But we don’t sweat those. What good would it do? We refuse to be satisfied with old, superstitious understandings and myths. We’d prefer to die without knowing the answers to some of life’s big mysteries than to deceive ourselves with make-believe answers. This is why most atheists are optimistic about science. Science is the best shot we’ve got of cracking some of the mysteries.

    I don’t denigrate anyone who believes in a religion merely for believing. I once believed, and I was earnest, and I was dedicated. I gave it my best. I honored myself. How can I who once taught others to believe and preached the Gospel, now feel proud about leaving faith behind. I don’t feel proud; I just feel free. This is why I’m content: I’m as free as I can be, and I hold nothing between me and my world. I love the world and everything that is in it. I know that we’re all one people, if we could just quit fighting long enough to reflect on that.

  • tim

    Richard Wade said:

    “”Tim, you ask really good questions and two of them I would like to respond to. The first one Mriana answered a little but I would like to address the premise behind it. The second is one I don’t think anyone here has responded to yet.

    The first question was number two in your series of four “big questions”:

    2)What went wrong with the whole scenario

    What’s wrong? What makes people assume something is “wrong?” That the world is a dangerous place from natural hazards? Yeah it is. What were you expecting? From where comes the assumption that it is not supposed to be dangerous? That people can sometimes be horrible to each other? Yeah, and sometimes they can be wonderful too. What were you expecting? From where comes the assumption that we were originally all supposed to be wonderful? The question “What went wrong” is based on a fantasy about the world and people and then comparing that fantasy to the way things actually are. That fantasy is a man made concept that has no more basis in reality than any other fantasy.

    Would making people safer from natural hazards be a worthwhile goal? Sure! Study how nature works and learn to predict and prevent hazards. Support your local scientist. Would finding ways to coax more wonderful behavior out of people and minimizing horrible behavior be a good goal? Sure! Study how people grow and develop, how they interact, make note of what actually works and forget all the “shoulds” like “they should do this for this reason,” and gradually come up with new ways that work better than the old ways.

    Letting go of the idea that there is somewhere a lost “way it was supposed to be” will free us from the futile and fruitless quest for a remedy from some mysterious thing outside of ourselves. Want things to be better? Work together with others who have the same goals even though they may have different beliefs.
    _____

    Tim, the second question you asked that I don’t think got any response yet was:

    Question: One satisfying argument for god’s existence, is the argument from the Mind. When one observes the capacities, properties and capabilities of the mind, naturalism comes up quite inadequate when positing possible explanations.

    This sounds like other arguments I have heard that I’d call argument from amazement or argument from incomprehensibility. The mind is amazing. When we find it amazing we are using our minds to find mind amazing. The fact that we cannot yet comprehend the intricacies of our own minds does not at all require the conclusion that “Therefore mind must have been created by a supreme being with a mind far beyond ours.” There is no logical step between the emotional appreciation and the conclusion. Just because someone finds something beyond their present comprehension does not require that God had to do it.

    We will always find the universe astonishing and incomprehensible, regardless how much we learn. That’s great. We should use our astonishment to spur us toward finding more answers to our questions, not use our astonishment AS the answer to our questions.””

    Wade:

    Thanks for the complement about questions; and I would like to respond.

    The question of what is wrong is certainly not of my origin. Since recorded history all cultures and individuals have an inner sense about good and bad, right and wrong. Certainly natural disasters, events and the natural dangers that are present are one form of misfortune. Individuals as agents, making choices for whatever reasons that harm others is another form of evil, if you will. The question of what went wrong, is not fantasy but an accurate description of reality. Even in your arguments of “neutrality” of such events you are choosing safety of people over not caring and you are using “wonderful” behavior instead of good behavior. You seem to be smuggling morality in the back door by using different words to mean good. If all events are neutral, why pick safety of others or wonderful behavior over not wonderful behavior or harm to others. What is your reference point, or is it strictly arbitrary and up to you? Your comments about events and behaviors that should be minimized or eliminated does not follow logically from your premise that there isn’t such a thing as good and bad. It is a nonsequitur. By the way, I love science. It seems, however, that scientists generally make poor philosophers.

    As far as your second rebuttal let me say this: I am most interested in the capacities of the mind; and yes they are amazing. However, let’s not get carried away in emotional bliss, here. The capacities of the mind eludes naturalistic explanations, not my words but those of many research psychologists. The “problem of consciousness” is no longer studied in any major brain research centers at present because scientists can’t even grasp a way to define the issue. With our current understanding of the physical universe, and subscribing to the worldview of naturalism, there are many, many inadequate implications and deductions about the mind that one must accept if he is a consistent and coherent naturalist. Your response suggests a “God of the gaps” mind set on my part for my view. This is not the case. My conclusions that the capacities of the mind cannot be based on naturalism are based on evidence and logic. Your implicit conclusion that science will someday understand the “intricacies” of mind, is what I call “science of the gaps”–same error in thinking as “god of the gaps” mentality.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Forgive me for butting in to someone elses’ conversation, but from what I’m observing it seems some of you here are denying the existence of a “hole” because you disagree with the idea that such a hole is “god-shaped”. Would it help if we just said there was a “hole” – i.e. a sense of longing, discontent, desire, needfulness, etc. – in most of us, and we can disagree about what shape it is? It seems kind of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater to deny you have longings just because you don’t think your longings have anything to do with god.

    And I can accept that some of you honestly don’t have that sense of longing/desire/discontent (I don’t mean for “god” necessarily – just that general sense of wanting… something), I just can’t personally fathom what that must be like. I guess I’ve always assumed it was part of the universal human condition. When Bono sings “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, I resonate with that. I don’t know that I’ve met very many people for whom it doesn’t.

    At the very least, if you don’t feel longing for yourself, don’t you at least look at the world and long for it to be better? Don’t you at least look at all the injustice and suffering in the world and long for things to be different?

    I’m sorry, I guess I’m just trying to figure out what it would be like not to feel that kind of deep, gutteral sense that “this is not the way things should be”, and hope and long for something better.

  • ash

    tim, i responded to this before, but you may have missed it –

    what do you think of the most recent edition of “Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary” defining religion as any “strongly held belief system”.

    ash said, December 20, 2007 at 11:54 am

    it’s a useless definition, way too inclusive. by this definition, sports teams, political systems and clear preference in comedic styles are all religious in nature.

    that being said, there is a known and acknowledged problem with defining what a religion is, and most western dictionaries go too far in the other direction – i.e. definitions that cater only for commonly western/abrahamic religions, and exclude those such as buddhism. from a scholarly viewpoint, i was recommended Ninian Smart’s 7 dimensional model as a useful foundation.

    if you’re going to keep using this definition, as here –

    . When one says, for example, there is no god; that is quite a truth claim about existence and origins and therefore by this definition would be a religion. If one says god’s existence in not knowable that is also a giant truth claim about what god is like and therefore a religion as well by Webster’s definition.

    you’re going to have to explain how Revlon or X-men, for example, aren’t in themselves religions/religious experiences. “I’m not sure this is all very useful but I thought quite interesting.”? exactly.

    Since recorded history all cultures and individuals have an inner sense about good and bad, right and wrong.

    well, taking aside the fact that different historical periods, cultures and individuals have had very different inner (and so, outwardly displayed) senses of good and bad, this to me speaks of evolution, of a natural development of moral sensibilities in order to protect and further the survival of the species. the context of the question “what went wrong” certainly suggests that at some point, there previously existed a utopian ideal where the concepts of good and bad either did not exist or were not relevant. i would suggest that as soon as humans existed in social groups (and i would doubt the likeliness of humans ever NOT existing in such, you’d have to go a fair way back from our common ape ancestry to find our ancestors not living in such ways) the idea of allowable and prohibited behaviour became a necessity. this is not ‘smuggling morality in the back door’, rather it is saying that moral sensibilities are evolutionarily advantageous, and have no reliance on any god concept. you could argue that i am using the premise of ‘no good and bad’, but i feel that’s more a difference in terminology, and i find it easier to use such words to communicate. if you prefer, you can replace ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with terms such as evolutionarily dis/advantageous, but understand that these days you’d have to conflate that with concepts such as socially acceptable, status affirming and legally viable. good and bad just seems easier.

    The capacities of the mind eludes naturalistic explanations, not my words but those of many research psychologists. The “problem of consciousness” is no longer studied in any major brain research centers at present because scientists can’t even grasp a way to define the issue. With our current understanding of the physical universe, and subscribing to the worldview of naturalism, there are many, many inadequate implications and deductions about the mind that one must accept if he is a consistent and coherent naturalist.

    ok, but you’d have to accept that ‘many’ does not mean all, and ‘at present’ does not mean never will. you might like to try Stephen Pinker – how the mind works for an up-to-date synopsis of modern understandings of mental capacity and workings. no, there is no claim to this being definitive science.

    Your implicit conclusion that science will someday understand the “intricacies” of mind, is what I call “science of the gaps”–same error in thinking as “god of the gaps” mentality.

    nice point, however, there is a difference in how the two work and are understood. god of the gaps is usually comprehended in several ways, the most likely being
    - goddidit is an adequate explanation for anything we do not understand
    - if goddidit, there is no need for further explanation; it is either irrelevant or we are not supposed to understand.
    - seeking to comprehend a phenomena that may be classed under goddidit may even be blasphemous, and therefore not encouraged.

    science of the gaps
    - we do not know, therefore we must make effort to find out. these explanations must stand up to the scientific method to move into the realm of fact.
    - previously unanswerable questions (including those with GotG answers) have been answered by science, there is a precedent in believing this is likely in future.

    i’d say that god of the gaps is more likely to stifle inquiry, whereas science of the gaps demands further questions.

  • ash

    Mike – i think the use of the word hole or gap is entirely misleading, i tend to think that most people have a sense of “longing, discontent, desire, needfulness, etc. ” to a greater or lesser extent, and for me, those that can completely denounce such are possibly the ones with something missing. to not have any of those qualities suggests complete self-satisfaction/reliance or a lack of conciousness.

    I’m sorry, I guess I’m just trying to figure out what it would be like not to feel that kind of deep, gutteral sense that “this is not the way things should be”, and hope and long for something better.

    can’t say i have the first, but yay to the second.

  • Claire

    Tim said:

    Well, this goes back to religion as an opiate of the people or is for people who need some sort of “fix” to get by. This line of thinking does not lead to truth about the existence and nature of God.

    But perhaps it does lead to the truth about people and why they needed to invent god.

    It’s not really valid to decide what direction the conclusion lies in and then reject an argument because it doesn’t head in the ‘right’ direction (ie. about god instead of about human nature). The way you phrased it kind of sounds that way.

    My conclusions that the capacities of the mind cannot be based on naturalism are based on evidence and logic.

    Ok, I’ll bite – what evidence and logic? If you don’t feel like typing all day, can you direct us to a website where we can find that?

    Your implicit conclusion that science will someday understand the “intricacies” of mind, is what I call “science of the gaps”–same error in thinking as “god of the gaps” mentality.

    I don’t really see the two as equivalent. In a minor way, perhaps – both are saying “we don’t understand this, but that doesn’t mean that X can’t explain it”, X standing in for either god or science, depending.

    Where it stops being alike is after that. The religious version goes on to say that this gap is evidence of god, a standard argument from ignorance.
    The scientifc version does not postulate that this gap proves anything at all. It just says “it’s a gap, it’s not yet explained, someday we hope to”, but does not offer that gap as proof or evidence of anything. They really aren’t equivalent.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Tim,

    Since recorded history all cultures and individuals have an inner sense about good and bad, right and wrong.

    How do you know that this didn’t come from religion? How do you know that the forbidden fruit was not, in fact, religion? (knowledge of good and evil… you shall surely die…) Up until just recently, I would have agreed with your statement, but I’m now beginning to wonder if morality came from humans and their religion and not God himself. I was re-reading Mere Christianity, and this thought suddenly dawned on me. What do you think?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mike C.

    Thank you for clarifying… Whew! I’m glad I’m not the only one! I was somewhat bewildered yesterday when I thought for a moment that I was the only one with the ongoing… well.. “the longing for the longing,” as C.S. Lewis put it in Surprised by Joy.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    In fact I think most people I meet are neither content, nor searching. They seem to be mostly apathetic to these questions, and such apathy has no correlation to their religious beliefs, or lack thereof.

    Yep. I’m surrounded with these people as well. They go through the motions of life in general with not much zeal. Thinking is a chore for them. Now, that’s hard for me to fathom. There are just so many thinks to think, discoveries to be made, and life to experience. It’s sad that people aren’t more excited about that. My daughter just told me yesterday that she heard a statistic that 50% of Americans read one or less book per year. How tragic…

  • Mriana

    Claire said:

    I’m in my fifties. I do try to preserve my child-like sense of wonder, though. Sometimes I’m told that going place with me is like going with a six-year old, so I guess it’s working.

    Oh I’m so glad I’m not the only one. :D I’m 41 and I have fun being childlike just as my grandmother did. I learned from the best. :D

    Richard, great response to the rest of Tim’s questions and thanks for sharing that moment you had last night. I’m in the city, so it’s virtually impossible to see any in the night sky, except maybe the moon.

    MikeC, I think I said I hunger for knowledge. Unlike many people, I never stopped asking questions. I can drive people like professors, scholars, etc nuts with my incessant question asking. I have to hold myself back to so they can catch up- I guess it is my form of awe and wonder with the universe. I am content and fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have wants and needs that always need filling- that’s life.

    Maybe I have a touch of my younger son’s autism, but I don’t know what people mean when they talk about a hole in them or someone else. I know you don’t mean a literal hole, but it still makes no sense.

    Then again, C. S. Lewis rarely made sense to me. Screwtape I thought was in a mental ward until the chapter that stated he wasn’t- I think that was chapter 4. I still didn’t get it even after that prof explained it to me in class. She literally had to set my questions aside until after class during her office hours. I still don’t get it. Too bizarre.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Maybe “hole” isn’t the best term, but what I and most Christians I know mean by it is simply that sense of “longing”. It is what Lewis described with the German word Sehnsucht, which combines both joy and longing into a single emotion – the idea sometimes the having is in the the wanting, that joy itself is a kind of desire. (Mriana, you might find Lewis’ non-fiction and non-apologetics stuff more accessible – e.g. his autobiography “Surprised by Joy”, or his short book “The Four Loves” – though he is a mid-20th century British academic, so you have to be able to stay with him through all of his tangents, asides, and parentheticals.)

  • Noble

    Oh no Richard you’re doing it again! Why write “I don’t think all the people at NASA, JPL, Caltech, Harvard and Cambridge are liars” when you know very well that there are many people in those institutions that don’t believe in false religious nonsense? A more honest statement would have been “some of the people”. That was very deceitful of you! You do realise that it was Christian organisations that created and nurtured the growth of most of the western world’s educational institutions. Also, you’re not bringing me “information that I did not know” you’re preaching the same old scientifically unfounded religion which I’ve heard before. Again, another crafty and deceitful comment! You and I both know that what observers see are existing stars blowing up, they have come to their natural end and what’s left is debris. They have never obsereved a new star being formed! I’m still waiting for you guys to give me some information that I don’t already know, I would genuinely love to know why atheists believe in a religion that is scientifically unfounded, is without any evidence whatsoever and that requires as much blind faith, if not more, as other weird religions do. Why do atheist believe what they believe? I’ve never actually heard or seen a satisfactory answer to that question.

    I have a few wonderful quotes for you Richard and seeing that you brought up NASA I’ll begin with this one:

    “Manned space flight is an amazing achievement, but it has opened for mankind thus far only a tiny door for viewing the awesome reaches of space. An outlook through this peephole at the vast mysteries of the universe should only confirm our belief in the certainty of it’s Creator. It is in scientific honesty that I endorse the presentation of alternative theories for the origin of the universe, life and man in the scientific classroom. It would be an error to overlook the possibility that the universe was planned rather than happening by chance. Atheists all over the world have called upon science as their crown witness against the existence of God. But as they try with arrogant abuse of scientific reasoning, to render proof there is no God, the simple and enlightening truth is that their arguments boomerang. For one of the most fundamental laws of natural science is that nothing in the physical world ever happens without a cause. There simply cannot be a creation without some kind of Spiritual Creator. In the world around us we can behold the obvious manifestations of the Divine plan of the Creator.” – Dr Wernher von Braun, NASA director and “father of the American Space Program”.

    “The more I study nature the more I stare amazed at the work of the Creator. A bit of science distances one from God, but much science nears one to Him”.- Louis Pasteur

    “The theories of evolution with which our studious youth have been deceived constitute actually a dogma that all the world continues to teach, but each, in his speciality, the zoologist or the botanist, ascertains that none of the explanations furnished is adequate. The theory of evolution is impossible. At base, in spite of appearances, no one any longer believes in it. Evolution is a kind of dogma which the priests no longer believe, but which they maintain for their people”.- Paul Lemoine, director Paris Natural History Museum, president Geological Society of France, editor Encyclopedie Francaise.

    “To postulate that the development and survival of the fittest is entirely a consequence of chance mutations seems to me a hypothesis based on no evidence and irreconcilable with the facts. These classical evolutionary theories are a gross over-simplification of an immensely complex and intricate mass of facts, and it amazes me that they are swallowed so uncritically and readily by so many scientists without a murmur of protest”.- Sir Ernst Chain, Nobel prize winner for isolating and purifying penicillin, director Rome’s International Research Centre for Chemical Microbiology, professor of biochemistry at Imperial College, University of London.

    May the Lord bless you all abundantly and grant you the righteous desires of your hearts!

  • Mriana

    Mike Clawson said,

    December 24, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Maybe “hole” isn’t the best term, but what I and most Christians I know mean by it is simply that sense of “longing”. It is what Lewis described with the German word Sehnsucht, which combines both joy and longing into a single emotion – the idea sometimes the having is in the the wanting, that joy itself is a kind of desire.

    I have often desired for something better than I have, but as Spock said something about desiring for something is often better than having. I have often found that once I got what I thought I wanted, I didn’t really want it as bad as I thought I did. So, I am happy with longing for things, rather than getting them, because I remind myself that once I get my wants/wishes I didn’t really want it.

    (Mriana, you might find Lewis’ non-fiction and non-apologetics stuff more accessible – e.g. his autobiography “Surprised by Joy”, or his short book “The Four Loves” – though he is a mid-20th century British academic, so you have to be able to stay with him through all of his tangents, asides, and parentheticals.)

    MikeC remember I took a class on his books- Surprised by Joy and alike would either bore me or anger me. He did not treat Old Knock very well after he converted to Xianity. He even stated Humanists hoodwinked the world in Surprised By Joy. PLEASE! He obviously didn’t learn enough from Old Knock nor was he ever an atheist. IMHO he never was. I have not like a single one of his books and I wasn’t too keen on his Narnia books in part because people have no clue as to what they are talking about Alsan refers to Norse mythology- Asgard to be exact. I can go on and on how Xians are trying to claim as theirs just because he was an apologist- and not a convincing one at that.

    But I won’t trouble you with my dislike of C. S. Lewis.

  • Mriana

    Noble, what the devil are you rambling about? Would you please try to communicate in a way everyone can comprehend what you are saying? There’s no dogma or religion in science. There most definitely is in religion though and it barely changes with new findings. IMHO not changing is a bad thing. It cause one to get stagnet.

  • little bird

    Has no one who is bewildered by the fact that some/many of us are living fulifilling lives without god(s) ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

    don’t you at least look at the world and long for it to be better? Don’t you at least look at all the injustice and suffering in the world and long for things to be different?

    I’m sorry, I guess I’m just trying to figure out what it would be like not to feel that kind of deep, gutteral sense that “this is not the way things should be”, and hope and long for something better.

    Of course we do, but I don’t see how that has anything to do with belief in deities. Besides, just “hoping and longing” for the state of the world to become better is a waste of time. It’s just the very least (literally) you can do. However, many non-theists I know are very pro-active about learning and studying the things that Richard mentioned earlier and general progressiveness for society. (It would be really terrific if we could get elected to office to speed this up, but alas… the bigotry of the theists keeps this from happening.) THOSE things are what will eventually get us “something better” – not a fervent belief in/wish list written to some Santa Claus-type figure.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Mriana,

    I know that you don’t like C.S. Lewis, as you have expressed before. And you don’t have to. I just happened to be a huge fan of his, although I don’t always agree with everything he said. I love the way he thinks. And he was also a poet. We all connect and identify with different ways of thinking, that’s all. You cannot disqualify EVERYTHING he wrote, however. He did write much that makes sense to all types of people. I still love you, though, and think you’re one of the smartest women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, who also has a big heart.

    Something that Lewis wrote that you might agree with:

    “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

  • Mriana

    I’ve heard of Maslow’s Heirarchy of needs, but then again, I’ve studied psychology, live without gods, and I’m also not bewilder.

  • Mriana

    I still love you, though, and think you’re one of the smartest women I’ve had the pleasure of knowing, who also has a big heart.

    Thank you, Linda. Today I really needed that. :)

    “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

    That’s generally when they take a fall too. :lol:

  • Claire

    Mriana said:

    Oh I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I’m 41 and I have fun being childlike just as my grandmother did. I learned from the best.

    Not even close to alone! Do you still read kid’s books, too? That’s probably what I get the most strange looks for, these days.

    But I won’t trouble you with my dislike of C. S. Lewis.

    And a fellow Lewis-loather! I am impressed that you lasted through a class, I doubt I could. I find his works and ideas to be appallingly ugly and the products of a nasty mind. Eeesh.

  • Allison

    Tim replied to me:

    I think a synonym for the the broader definition of religion is the term “worldview”, that is the basic core presuppositions about existence, purpose, important definitions, etc. one has about life. Another way of saying it is one’s “map” of life. When one says, for example, there is no god; that is quite a truth claim about existence and origins and therefore by this definition would be a religion. If one says god’s existence in not knowable that is also a giant truth claim about what god is like and therefore a religion as well by Webster’s definition. I’m not sure this is all very useful but I thought quite interesting.

    Actually, Tim, part of my point (I thought) was that atheism is not a full worldview. The statement “I don’t believe there is a God,” by itself, doesn’t give much of a map. Some atheists believe in supernatural things that aren’t gods, some believe in reincarnation, etc. There’s a big difference between, say, strains of Buddhism that do not recognize the existence of a deity and the humanist type of atheism often seen in the west. I suspect that some of the confusion stems from the fact that most of the people here in the US who call themselves atheist subscribe to the humanist worldview or something like it. Most of the time atheists who are Buddhists or something else like it will use the name of their religion rather than saying they are atheist. If, when someone asked what religion I am, I answered scientific pantheist, well, usually then I’d have to explain what it is as most people don’t recognize it.

    When you make that leap to “there IS a god,” (and I grew up not believing, so you have to understand that’s a HUGE leap IMO) well, if you don’t go on to say what that god is like, then you don’t have a religion yet although it is something that will definitely affect your worldview.

    We may have to agree to disagree here, I don’t know. I would consider myself a religious sort of atheist, but when I say that I mean that I subscribe to a worldview that goes beyond just saying “I don’t believe there’s a god” and gives some more definite ideas about how the world works and how I should behave.

    He went on to say:

    The most important thing about a belief is whether it is a true belief or not, wouldn’t you agree?

    Absolute agreement there.

    Mike asked:

    At the very least, if you don’t feel longing for yourself, don’t you at least look at the world and long for it to be better? Don’t you at least look at all the injustice and suffering in the world and long for things to be different?

    Mike, mostly I just don’t think there’s that gap that could be filled by a deity. Of course I look at the world and would like for it to be better. There are these big human constructs (yep, Linda, I think morality came from humans, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing!) like justice and duty. People are always going to disagree on what they are, of course.

    While the longing is important, I do try to turn it into action rather than just an “I wish…..” I know there’s only so much I personally can do about it, but OTOH, you know what they say about a butterfly flapping its wings……

  • Mriana

    Claire said,

    December 24, 2007 at 2:03 pm

    Mriana said:

    Oh I’m so glad I’m not the only one. I’m 41 and I have fun being childlike just as my grandmother did. I learned from the best.

    Not even close to alone! Do you still read kid’s books, too? That’s probably what I get the most strange looks for, these days.

    Oh I want someone to read them to me, if they can. :lol: If not, I read children’s books to them. :) I’m so terrible, I make little kids read to me, but that’s the way it’s always been in my family- we read to each other. :lol: I had my older son reading Dr. Seuss when he was around 3 1/2. :D

    But I won’t trouble you with my dislike of C. S. Lewis.

    And a fellow Lewis-loather! I am impressed that you lasted through a class, I doubt I could. I find his works and ideas to be appallingly ugly and the products of a nasty mind. Eeesh.

    I hear you. I almost didn’t last through the class. :lol: Esp after reading him say that Humanists have hoodwink the world. PLEASE! I can find the page number if anyone wants to know- it’s in my final paper which insists that Lewis was NEVER an atheist. That and I’m still trying to pawn off his books. My aunt who loves Lewis refuses to take them, because she insists I should read them again- not being pressed for time in reading them I might enjoy them, she theorizes. I don’t think so.

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  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Mike, mostly I just don’t think there’s that gap that could be filled by a deity.

    Yes, I realize that. That’s why I suggested that we take the question of whether the “hole” is “god-shaped” out of the equation. Linda was speaking about longings in general (as was I), not about what we think can or cannot fill them. I think there’s a lot of common ground to be found if we can start to agree that many of us long for similar things.

  • Mriana

    I think there’s a lot of common ground to be found if we can start to agree that many of us long for similar things.

    We could start with love, compassion, peace/non-violence, human dignity, anything else?

  • Allison

    Mike wrote:

    I think there’s a lot of common ground to be found if we can start to agree that many of us long for similar things.

    Yep, I agree, and I think we do often spend too much time focusing on our differences rather than our similarities.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Linda was speaking about longings in general (as was I), not about what we think can or cannot fill them. I think there’s a lot of common ground to be found if we can start to agree that many of us long for similar things.

    Yes, exactly! Thank you, Mike!

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    We could start with love, compassion, peace/non-violence, human dignity, anything else?

    Can we add ecological sustainability (what theists like me call “Creation Care”) to the list?

    And perhaps this is covered under “compassion” and “human dignity”, but I’d also add economic/trade justice too.

    And community. I think our society sucks at creating truly loving, life-giving community.

    And, just speaking personally, but I also long for personal transformation. I can talk a good game when it comes to all these things like “love” and “justice”, but when it comes down to actually “living it”, I fuck it up more often than not.

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    You know, maybe I’m the only loser here who constantly feels like I’m lacking and in want, in hope, of more answers. …

    then Mike Clawson said:

    I can talk a good game when it comes to all these things like “love” and “justice”, but when it comes down to actually “living it”, I fuck it up more often than not.

    What IS it with you christians constantly beating yourselves up? I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest differences between religious people and atheists is that we know how to forgive ourselves on occasion. Christians are supposed to be big on forgiveness, how about some of that charity starting at home? Lighten UP, people! I’m quite sure you’re not all that bad….

  • Mriana

    Mike Clawson said,

    December 26, 2007 at 12:36 am

    We could start with love, compassion, peace/non-violence, human dignity, anything else?

    Can we add ecological sustainability (what theists like me call “Creation Care”) to the list?

    And perhaps this is covered under “compassion” and “human dignity”, but I’d also add economic/trade justice too.

    And community. I think our society sucks at creating truly loving, life-giving community.

    Sure why not. I am often concerned about our environment too.

    And, just speaking personally, but I also long for personal transformation. I can talk a good game when it comes to all these things like “love” and “justice”, but when it comes down to actually “living it”, I fuck it up more often than not.

    Ooo! Mike! You naughty minister. I didn’t know you had such language in you. jk I tease ministers quite often. :lol:

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

    Claire said:

    What IS it with you christians constantly beating yourselves up? I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest differences between religious people and atheists is that we know how to forgive ourselves on occasion.

    Claire, it’s called admitting to our imperfections. It’s called humility. It’s not “beating ourselves up,” as you say, although I do that also on occasion, I have to admit. We cannot improve something unless we can see its flaws and admit that they are flaws. It’s not necessarily a ‘Christian’ thing. It’s a ‘Jesus’ thing. It’s a ‘love’ thing. It’s common in those of us who choose to see the imperfections in ourselves before we go out to face others. So when we do see what appears to be lacking in others, we recognize it as something that is lacking in us as well. That’s what helps us to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves.”

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Claire said,
    What IS it with you Christians constantly beating yourselves up?

    IMO, it all goes back to a basic fundamental Platonic belief that perfection exists in a spiritual plane (or level) and we exist in a lower corrupted plane (or level). According to Christianity, Jesus, therefore helps us to “fill the whole” and become perfect. This partly happens in this life and completely happens in the afterlife.

    If you take away the fundamental belief of corruption in the here and now and perfection in a higher plane, then the specifics of religious belief seem a little silly, but fascinating nevertheless.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Jeff said,

    According to Christianity, Jesus, therefore helps us to “fill the whole” and become perfect. This partly happens in this life and completely happens in the afterlife.

    Hmmm… interesting thought. Forgive me in advance, as I’m about to get on my soapbox.

    I cannot speak for all of Christianity, as my ideas may be off the mark. The way I see it, Jesus helps us to understand that we are already perfect. We are perfectly human. We cannot be perfect the way God (or our perception of God) is perfect, no matter how much we kick and scream and try. Our flesh is our flesh, and that’s all that is and that’s all that it will ever be. There is, however, a part of ourselves that is beyond the flesh. We call it the spirit, some may call it contiousness, and others may have other names for it… i don’t know.

    I don’t know if anyone can deny that we are much more complex than what meets the eye. There are some aspects to our minds, our intellects, that science cannot explain or prove. Not yet, anyway.

    All that does not mean that we cannot look at ourselves the way we are and be real about what we see. What is more powerful, the mind or the flesh? The Christian mind tries to conquer the flesh with the mind of Christ. The atheist mind seems to deny the inadequacies of the flesh. Or have you already mastered the conquering?

    True Christians only have one objective. It’s not about making everyone a Christian, as so many blind-following-the-blind kind of Christians are led to believe. The only ultimate objective is LOVE. Unconditional love. I believe we need to constantly remind others and ourselves that we are given the grace (Christ) to love (God) in total freedom (Holy Spirit).

    Afterlife? Who knows for certain what that is? We can speculate and argue until we’re blue in the face, but it remains a mystery to all. Even to the Christians and other religious people. From personal experience, though, I know that I am more than just my body. What that means, I’m still trying to fugure out. When given the choice of believing in something and believing in nothing, I always choose the something. I choose hope. I choose faith. I don’t necessarily have to know exactly what it is that I have faith in or what I hope for. The mere idea of hope and faith in and of themselves are enough for me to face what comes next with anticipation and excitement.

    Alan Watts writes,

    “Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown. Belief clings, but faith lets go. In this sense of the word, faith is the essential virtue of science, and likewise of any religion that is not self-deception.”

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    It’s not “beating ourselves up,” as you say, although I do that also on occasion, I have to admit. We cannot improve something unless we can see its flaws and admit that they are flaws.

    Sorry, but that explanation doesn’t really explain what I’ve seen here and elsewhere. I also see my imperfections, I try to improve, I know what that’s about. But the way you guys phrase it (not just you but other christians as well), the words that you use, the sheer amount of it goes way beyond – that’s not humility, that’s wallowing. It’s like schadenfreude, but taking joy in your own pain and imperfections rather than someone else’s. Now that I think about it, I wonder, if Karen’s post on the other thread doesn’t explain this too.

    Maybe buying in to that “original sin” derangement is also the source of this hole we’ve been discussing.

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    The atheist mind seems to deny the inadequacies of the flesh. Or have you already mastered the conquering?

    No, it’s just that you do your best, and if you fail, there’s no shame in it. Then you try again, if it seems reasonable, and sometimes, if it’s really important, you try again even it it doesn’t seem reasonable.

    It allows people to achieve without the self-loathing. That’s a good thing.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire,

    You seem to be making many assumptions without knowing the individuals. You cannot group Christians together anymore than you can group atheists together. I happen to be the type to always analyze myself and overexplain things, but that has nothing to do with me being a Christian. I was born that way.

    From what I have seen here, you have many qualities to admire, including speaking your mind without the fear of affending someone. I admire that a lot, as a matter of fact. But sometimes, you draw conclusions and make judgments unfairly.

    Self-loathing? I’m afraid that does not describe me in my current state. Yes, I have been there, but that’s when I had no idea who I was. Just because I throw myself out there for all to see, warts and all, does not mean that I have self-hatred. It’s just the opposite. It’s because I have no shame that I can show you my blemishes. It was when I was wearing my “perfect” and “put together” mask that I had shame. I try not to play that game anymore. I can laugh at myself and I can cry in front of you with no shame. I can say that I’m wrong, I don’t know, I’m sorry, you’re right, thank you, and I love you with absolutely no shame.

    The only frustration I have is that I cannot be as articulate as you in expressing myself. (which may explain my habit of over-explaining)

  • Claire

    Linda said:

    You seem to be making many assumptions without knowing the individuals.

    You are the one making the assumptions here. Twice now, in this thread or the linked one, you have said things that sounded insulting, and both times my response was “Linda, I know you didn’t mean that”, because I’m not in the habit of assuming people mean the worst.

    I didn’t say you had problems with self-loathing, I just said that christians tend to wallow in their perceived badness, and the liberal ones certainly do (the fundamentalists tend to wallow in other people’s badness, which is possibly just displacement).

    Frankly, I can’t think of another reason that the whole “original sin” concept should have such wide acceptance other than self-loathing. It also explains the ‘hole’ we’ve been discussing. It also explains why christians are so fond of C. S. Lewis, the master of telling people that they are crap and therefore need god. It explains just too many things to be dismissed out of hand.

    I’m sorry you took it personally.

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

    Claire,

    I didn’t want to continue this ping-pong match with you, because I do respect you, but now I’m having fun. Please don’t get mad at me.

    Twice now, in this thread or the linked one, you have said things that sounded insulting,

    I’m sure it was more than twice, because I’m very good at inserting foot in mouth. ;-)

    both times my response was “Linda, I know you didn’t mean that”, because I’m not in the habit of assuming people mean the worst.

    “I know ______.” Hmm… sounds like an assumption to me.

    I didn’t say you had problems with self-loathing,

    Yes you did. You included me in your generalization.

    You said, specifically,

    “But the way you guys phrase it (not just you but other christians as well), the words that you use, the sheer amount of it goes way beyond – that’s not humility, that’s wallowing.”

    I don’t want to assume, but by “you,” I thought you meant me.

    I can’t think of another reason that the whole “original sin” concept should have such wide acceptance other than self-loathing. It also explains the ‘hole’ we’ve been discussing.

    How do you figure that? Nothing explains the ‘hole’ that we’ve been discussing. That’s why we’re still searching for answers. Spiritually AND scientifically. You said that you are hole-less, and I said good for you and I envy you. I meant that. I wasn’t being sarcastic. But I haven’t met many people who are like that, regardless of what their religious beliefs or non-beliefs are. umm.. come to think of it, I have met none. That’s why I find you fascinating. I think I can learn much from you.

    It also explains why christians like C. S. Lewis, the master of telling people that they are crap and therefore need god.

    That’s not why I like C.S. Lewis. I love his writing because he’s not afraid to look at himself and be honest about what he sees. Despite all his education and his intelligence, I feel the kindness, humbleness, and gentleness in his writing. (After I look up all the big words in the dictionary, that is.) I don’t get the tone of arrogance and self-importance as I do in some of the things I read. Have you read Four Loves? Have you read Surprised by Joy? Have you read Grief Observed? Have you seen his heart? I have. That’s why I like him.

  • Mriana

    That’s not why I like C.S. Lewis. I love his writing because he’s not afraid to look at himself and be honest about what he sees. Despite all his education and his intelligence, I feel the kindness, humbleness, and gentleness in his writing. (After I look up all the big words in the dictionary, that is.) I don’t get the tone of arrogance and self-importance as I do in some of the things I read. Have you read Four Loves? Have you read Surprised by Joy? Have you read Grief Observed? Have you seen his heart? I have. That’s why I like him.

    Linda, I’ve read Surprised By Joy and IMO he sounds like an arrogant boob in some places, esp where he says the Humanists have hoodwink the world p. 145 SBJ. He says so many things against atheists, that he seems to know nothing about atheism- thus my paper concerning him never being an atheist. He did not learn one thing from Old Knock, his atheist/Humanist/Rationalist mentor, for if he had he would not have said 1/2 the things he did. In my favourite words of Old Knock on p 138 “You can have enlightenment for ninepence, but you prefer ignorance.”

    I hardly believe Old Knock ever hoodwinked him. Atheists (p. 226) have no faith to guard. So he knows not what he is talking about. IF we did, then why would Hemant “sell his soul on EBay” and go to church? Why would any atheist, like Robert Price go to an Epsicopal Church? Lewis speaks so many fallacies to have ever been an atheist and there are plenty more in SBJ, that was just for starters. Grief Observed? You really want me to pull that one out too and show how he never had any comprehension? Oh yes, I’ve seen his heart in his books and he is an arrogant boob, who never was an atheist, and just wanted to impose his beliefs on everyone, including his misconceptions about atheists. I feel sorry for people who like him and miss all his bigotry. :(

    We read several of his books in that class, so I, for one, am not nieve to his ignorance, arrogance, and perpetuation of misconceptions. BTW, I made an “A” in the class, even though I learned to loath Lewis’s work.

  • Claire

    Linda – ok, first of all, how do you get the little smiley faces into your posts, I know there are times when I could use those…. I’m not mad, by the way, why would I be mad?

    “I know ______.” Hmm… sounds like an assumption to me.

    Nope, I had evidence. I’ve seen you misstate things and apologize before, and you seem really nice. See? Evidence!

    I don’t want to assume, but by “you,” I thought you meant me.

    Nope, I only accused you of wallowing, because you called yourself a loser.

    How do you figure that? Nothing explains the ‘hole’ that we’ve been discussing.

    Actually, it pretty much does for me. If someone doesn’t like themselves, I can see how it would feel like a hole. I can see how thinking a deity loves you unconditionally would feel like filling that hole. I’m not saying it’s absolutely the answer, but it seems like a reasonable hypothesis to me.

    I feel the kindness, humbleness, and gentleness in his writing.

    Whereas I find just the opposite in the books I have read. I’ve read the Narnia books, the Perelandra books, and “Till We Have Faces”, and they are full of ‘gotchas’. By ‘gotchas’ I mean that he constantly finds fault with his characters (which is not the same as writing about a flawed character, I mean something different). Any time one of them is trying to do the right thing, trying to be decent, right around the time they are starting to feel a little like they are succeeding, then comes the whammy – they didn’t do the right thing, they didn’t do good enough, they have failed, failed, failed, but it’s ok because god forgives them – after they have been punished, of course (and there’s a whole lot of emphasis on punishing people who have already seen the error of their ways, as with Aravis in “A Horse and His Boy”). That’s not kind and it’s certainly not gentle, nor is his clear delight in the violence in the Narnia books. And “Till We Have Faces” is nothing but one giant gotcha….

    An author’s characters may not always reflect the author’s views, but how he treats his characters, how he writes about them, says a lot about how he feels about people. In his books, nobody is good enough, ever, and they had better admit it really humbly or else, even if it was an honest mistake or if they didn’t do anything wrong in their own eyes, because their ideas of right and wrong just don’t matter. It’s self-loathing as the path to salvation, and it’s ugly and manipulative.

    And that doesn’t even address the whole misogyny thing. Girls are fine, women are not, and a girl that wants to be a woman is beyond redemption, as Susan was. Then there’s that poor woman in the Perelandra series, I forget her name, that caught hell because she didn’t want to have kids, so as a woman, in his world, you just can’t win.

    And of course, there’s the whole “death is better than life” thing, which permeates the Narnia books. There’s a positive message for the kiddies…

    I can’t get through his non-fiction at all, it’s just too self-righteous and smarmy. But I did try.

  • Mriana

    Oh yes, Till We Have Faces I remember that one too and not only was I bored with it, I was also appaulled. It gave me some things to mention for my paper too, if I remember correctly.

  • Claire

    Oh yes, Till We Have Faces I remember that one too and not only was I bored with it,

    I actually liked this one, up until the gotcha at the end. Poor Orual – first life treats her badly, then the author does….

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Claire,

    Just your basic colon-hyphen-parenthesis… and they turn into smiley faces when you post, like magic! :-)

    Nope, I had evidence. I’ve seen you misstate things and apologize before, and you seem really nice. See? Evidence!

    Awwww… *blush* Thank you! *blush*

    I only accused you of wallowing, because you called yourself a loser.

    When I mentioned loser, I was only asking if having a ‘hole,’ a missing piece of the puzzle, and continuing to search makes me a loser. And besides, being a loser is not so bad. Sometimes losing is winning. But that’s another topic.

    If someone doesn’t like themselves, I can see how it would feel like a hole. I can see how thinking a deity loves you unconditionally would feel like filling that hole.

    Entirely different kind of a hole. I’m gonna write something about the hole when I finally get sober from all the wine and chocolate I’ve been consuming.

    As far as C.S. Lewis, I can’t comment on his fictional work, as I haven’t read any. I don’t read much fiction anymore. But enough of that. I think we can agree to disagree about him. I still say that you haven’t given him a fair chance, but oh well…. I suppose A.W. Tozer’s out of the question? How about Mehta… have you heard of him? ;-)

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    What IS it with you christians constantly beating yourselves up? I’m beginning to think that one of the biggest differences between religious people and atheists is that we know how to forgive ourselves on occasion.

    Pardon me for asking Claire, but in order to forgive oneself, isn’t it first necessary to admit that one has a problem? How can I forgive myself if I don’t first open my eyes to the things I may need forgiveness for? I’m all about forgiveness, but just because I’ve forgiven myself doesn’t mean I want to just keep on fucking up. I want to do better next time.

    Mriana asked what we long for, I was simply being honest: I long to be better than I currently am – more just, more loving. That’s not beating myself up, that’s just admitting that where I am and where I’d like to be are still pretty far apart, which is why I’m still on the journey. To not admit that – to think either that one has already arrived, or that one needn’t bother with the journey in the first place – makes one into either a self-righteous prig or a self-absorbed boor in my experience. And I should know, that was me for far too long of a time.

  • Ben

    And I can accept that some of you honestly don’t have that sense of longing/desire/discontent (I don’t mean for “god” necessarily – just that general sense of wanting… something), I just can’t personally fathom what that must be like. I guess I’ve always assumed it was part of the universal human condition. When Bono sings “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”, I resonate with that. I don’t know that I’ve met very many people for whom it doesn’t.

    It doesn’t resonate with me at all. I also often find myself under-estimating the cognitive differences between people and running up against my own limits of imagination or empathy in trying to put myself in another’s shoes.

  • Ben

    Can we add ecological sustainability (what theists like me call “Creation Care”) to the list?

    And perhaps this is covered under “compassion” and “human dignity”, but I’d also add economic/trade justice too.

    And community. I think our society sucks at creating truly loving, life-giving community.

    Agreed.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Ben, please explain to me how your last two posts go together. In the first one you say that you don’t resonate with the sense of longing that Bono sings about, and yet in the next post you agree that you long for some of those same things that I had listed as part of my own longings. Is it just that those things I listed are too “external” or what? I’m sorry, I’m just sort of confused. I agree with you about underestimating cognitive differences, so I’m just trying to grasp how those two things – longing but not longing – go together for you in your own mind.

  • Ben

    Mike:

    I don’t get the sense that Bono is singing about making decisions. Those things I listed are things I value, things that I like, where we have obtained very imperfect results.

    Bono seems to be singing about some perpetual sense of dis-satisfaction. The song does nothing for me (I had to go and re-read the lyrics to refresh my memory.) I seem to be viewing things from a completely different perspective than Bono.

    The closest I can come (I think) would have leaving my wife to go on deployment for 6 months. That was some serious dis-satisfaction and longing. But now I’m a happily married guy with a job that lets me go home EVERY NIGHT. (I love that. Going home every night rules.)

    From a philosophic materialist perspective, what would I be longing for, big picture? Seeing myself as an evolved human animal of limited rationality and knowledge, I am painfully aware of how much I don’t know and can’t anticipate. I look at things from a much more limited perspective both in epistemology and action. I don’t look for an explanation of everything, I look for lessening what I see as our fundamental ignorance one difficult bit at a time. I don’t look for everything to be better, I look for enhancing those things I value one decision at a time, exerting one person’s worth of influence to make one person’s worth of difference – very little.

    Going back to those things on the list – sustainability, compassion, human dignity, and community, I can’t picture an ideal.. I don’t know what a truly sustainable compassionate community that enhanced human dignity looks like – there is no picture concrete enough for me to long for. Nor does my desire for those things emotionally feel like anything I would describe as longing / desire / disconnect. I don’t know if that helps you or not.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Smiley faces.

    If you ever see a smiley face in a comment that you yourself want to use, just mouse-over the smiley face and the code will appear. Then you will know what to use yourself. BTW, I was never told that by anyone. It must have been the Holy Spirit moving me. ;)

    ;) :) :( :lol: :roll: :D :?

    Some of the smiley faces can be made with a couple of different codes (like with or without a nose).

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    Thanks for the explanation Ben. I suppose maybe I’m just more naturally discontent. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what I do have, but I have yet to find anything that is ultimately fulfilling, that doesn’t leave me still wanting something “more”.

    And I guess I feel more of an existential connection to my ideals and values. My desire for a more just world is a deep personal longing for me. And perhaps I can picture it more easily because I believe there are examples within the Christian tradition that exemplify the kind of society I am longing for. As just one example, check out The Simple Way.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Jeff,

    Thank you so much for that info! Now we can all make smiley faces to our hearts’ content! :)

  • Karen

    Thanks for the explanation Ben. I suppose maybe I’m just more naturally discontent. It’s not that I don’t appreciate what I do have, but I have yet to find anything that is ultimately fulfilling, that doesn’t leave me still wanting something “more”.

    I think the whole longing/discontent thing is much more a personality trait than anything having to do with whether one is religious or not. I didn’t have a major sense of existential longing or discontent as a Christian; nor do I as an atheist.

  • http://atheists.meetup.com/531 Ben

    And perhaps I can picture it more easily because I believe there are examples within the Christian tradition that exemplify the kind of society I am longing for. As just one example, check out The Simple Way.

    I only clicked as far as the intro page, but intentional communities are not exclusive to the Christian tradition. There’s one out in Ithaca, NY that I want to check out sometime.

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    intentional communities are not exclusive to the Christian tradition.

    I never said they were.

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

    I think the whole longing/discontent thing is much more a personality trait than anything having to do with whether one is religious or not.

    Karen, you may have a point there. Perhaps whether one is religious or not has something to do with it also. I’ve been thinking about that the last couple of days…

  • tim

    #

    ash said,

    —————————————————————

    Tim said:

    “Since recorded history all cultures and individuals have an inner sense about good and bad, right and wrong.”

    well, taking aside the fact that different historical periods, cultures and individuals have had very different inner (and so, outwardly displayed) senses of good and bad, this to me speaks of evolution, of a natural development of moral sensibilities in order to protect and further the survival of the species. the context of the question “what went wrong” certainly suggests that at some point, there previously existed a utopian ideal where the concepts of good and bad either did not exist or were not relevant. i would suggest that as soon as humans existed in social groups (and i would doubt the likeliness of humans ever NOT existing in such, you’d have to go a fair way back from our common ape ancestry to find our ancestors not living in such ways) the idea of allowable and prohibited behaviour became a necessity. this is not ’smuggling morality in the back door’, rather it is saying that moral sensibilities are evolutionarily advantageous, and have no reliance on any god concept. you could argue that i am using the premise of ‘no good and bad’, but i feel that’s more a difference in terminology, and i find it easier to use such words to communicate. if you prefer, you can replace ‘good’ and ‘bad’ with terms such as evolutionarily dis/advantageous, but understand that these days you’d have to conflate that with concepts such as socially acceptable, status affirming and legally viable. good and bad just seems easier.
    ————————————————————–
    Ash,

    The evolutionary explanation of morality i.e. “monkey morality” falls way short and is inadequate in capturing the complete meaning and definition of morality. A full articulation of the reasons evolution fails is a hour discussion.

    Please give me examples in history where major cultures have said that dishonesty is a virtue, torturing innocent children is the good, being a traitor is desirable, stealing is the norm. I think you will find throughout recorded histroy moral similarity between cultures and individuals is by far the norm.
    —————————————————————
    Ash also said that Tim said:

    “The capacities of the mind eludes naturalistic explanations, not my words but those of many research psychologists. The “problem of consciousness” is no longer studied in any major brain research centers at present because scientists can’t even grasp a way to define the issue. With our current understanding of the physical universe, and subscribing to the worldview of naturalism, there are many, many inadequate implications and deductions about the mind that one must accept if he is a consistent and coherent naturalist.”

    ok, but you’d have to accept that ‘many’ does not mean all, and ‘at present’ does not mean never will. you might like to try Stephen Pinker – how the mind works for an up-to-date synopsis of modern understandings of mental capacity and workings. no, there is no claim to this being definitive science.
    —————————————————————

    Ash, when and if science explains the mind’s capacities on nautralistic basis,then I will say I was wrong and the mind can be explained purely on cause/effect, physical laws and chemical and electric reactions. Until then science has very little to add to our understanding of such things as what a thought is, what is choice, what is intention, desires, creativity, agency, etc. etc. I would recommend J.P. Moreland’s SCALING THE SECULAR CITY and his sections on the mind.
    —————————————————————-

    Ash also said that Tim said:

    “Your implicit conclusion that science will someday understand the “intricacies” of mind, is what I call “science of the gaps”–same error in thinking as “god of the gaps” mentality.”

    nice point, however, there is a difference in how the two work and are understood. god of the gaps is usually comprehended in several ways, the most likely being
    - goddidit is an adequate explanation for anything we do not understand
    - if goddidit, there is no need for further explanation; it is either irrelevant or we are not supposed to understand.
    - seeking to comprehend a phenomena that may be classed under goddidit may even be blasphemous, and therefore not encouraged.

    science of the gaps
    - we do not know, therefore we must make effort to find out. these explanations must stand up to the scientific method to move into the realm of fact.
    - previously unanswerable questions (including those with GotG answers) have been answered by science, there is a precedent in believing this is likely in future.

    i’d say that god of the gaps is more likely to stifle inquiry, whereas science of the gaps demands further question
    —————————————————————

    I agree with some of your points. The God of the gaps may seem to stifle inquiry on the one hand, but you must remember it was Newton, Corpernicus, Koepler and so one who were Christians and believed that an ordered creation by an intelligence was the only way that the natural world could be understood by Science.
    Certainly many natural events that were once attributed to God have been explained by Science.

    The main point I was making is this: It is an error in thinking that all knowledge and facts are based on science or the scientific method. This is a philosophical viewpoint and not a scientific fact. The notion that all that exists and the events of existence can be eventually explained by science is nonsense.

  • Darryl

    I think the whole longing/discontent thing is much more a personality trait than anything having to do with whether one is religious or not.

    I agree with Karen. I think I’ve noticed that certain psychological profiles are apt to be empathetic/concerned/spiritual or whatever you might call it, as opposed to those that find it more natural to take a rational/critical approach to life. I’ve never yet read a serious study of the role of mental illness in religious experience. I know of people who are admittedly mentally-ill and use their religion to get through life. The possibilities are virtually limitless, e.g., from people who are mostly okay, but have some mental troubles that are manageable with prayer and rituals, tp people who require some life-organizing scheme to cope, to those that cling to faith because they are seriously ill, or cannot bring themselves to deal with underlying issues.

  • tim

    ————————————————————-
    Allison said,

    December 24, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Tim replied to me:

    I think a synonym for the the broader definition of religion is the term “worldview”, that is the basic core presuppositions about existence, purpose, important definitions, etc. one has about life. Another way of saying it is one’s “map” of life. When one says, for example, there is no god; that is quite a truth claim about existence and origins and therefore by this definition would be a religion. If one says god’s existence in not knowable that is also a giant truth claim about what god is like and therefore a religion as well by Webster’s definition. I’m not sure this is all very useful but I thought quite interesting.

    Actually, Tim, part of my point (I thought) was that atheism is not a full worldview. The statement “I don’t believe there is a God,” by itself, doesn’t give much of a map. Some atheists believe in supernatural things that aren’t gods, some believe in reincarnation, etc. There’s a big difference between, say, strains of Buddhism that do not recognize the existence of a deity and the humanist type of atheism often seen in the west. I suspect that some of the confusion stems from the fact that most of the people here in the US who call themselves atheist subscribe to the humanist worldview or something like it. Most of the time atheists who are Buddhists or something else like it will use the name of their religion rather than saying they are atheist. If, when someone asked what religion I am, I answered scientific pantheist, well, usually then I’d have to explain what it is as most people don’t recognize it.

    When you make that leap to “there IS a god,” (and I grew up not believing, so you have to understand that’s a HUGE leap IMO) well, if you don’t go on to say what that god is like, then you don’t have a religion yet although it is something that will definitely affect your worldview.

    We may have to agree to disagree here, I don’t know. I would consider myself a religious sort of atheist, but when I say that I mean that I subscribe to a worldview that goes beyond just saying “I don’t believe there’s a god” and gives some more definite ideas about how the world works and how I should behave.
    —————————————————————

    Allison,

    Thanks for your response. I think the term “worldview” or the term religion cannot be summarized in a phrase like I believe in God or I don’t believe in God. A Worldview is much more comprehensive than that. Everyone has a worldview (religion, if you will) whether we realize it or not. It is what makes a tick. Oftentimes what makes us tick is much deeper and automatic than we consciously realize. I think in assessing one’s worldview, it is most informative to do a time audit on oneself or another. That is, how do they spend their time, talents and treasures—-say, for one week. Their behaviors will most accurately tell you of their worldview. For example, I’m a Christian but I spend much of my time doing totally non Christian things. Not necessarily bad things, (although there is some of that too!) but things that to an observer would not tell them that I am a follower of Christ. I find the term worldview very satisfying because it is more inclusive than exclusive.

    Your thoughts?

  • http://emergingpensees.com MikeClawson

    I agree with Karen. I think I’ve noticed that certain psychological profiles are apt to be empathetic/concerned/spiritual or whatever you might call it, as opposed to those that find it more natural to take a rational/critical approach to life. I’ve never yet read a serious study of the role of mental illness in religious experience. I know of people who are admittedly mentally-ill and use their religion to get through life. The possibilities are virtually limitless, e.g., from people who are mostly okay, but have some mental troubles that are manageable with prayer and rituals, tp people who require some life-organizing scheme to cope, to those that cling to faith because they are seriously ill, or cannot bring themselves to deal with underlying issues.

    So longing for life and the world to be better than it currently is is signs of a mental illness?

    Good things atheists are never patronizing or condescending towards religious people or I might be inclined to take this the wrong way.

  • Mriana

    So longing for life and the world to be better than it currently is is signs of a mental illness?

    No it is not. Humanists want the world to be better and they strive for it to be better. They also want the good life and they strive for that too.

    I know of people who are admittedly mentally-ill and use their religion to get through life.

    Darryl, this is true and some with Schizophrenia have religious delusions of granduer, but what Mike is talking about is NOT a mental illness.

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

    How do you define mental illness, anyway?

    As someone once pointed out to me, what is mental illness to one person may be just creativity to another. People think Van Gogh was mentally ill, but I think he was just misunderstood.

    Darryl may have overused the word “mental,” but I know what he means. And it is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I don’t know if we should completely dismiss it, even if it makes us uncomfortable to take a look. I find it fascinating.

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    December 28, 2007 at 4:21 am

    How do you define mental illness, anyway?

    Mental illness is an extreme of the norm. I said this to a prof when I was working my bachelors in Psychology and they agreed. If you look at the DSM-IV or even the revised one, you will see a lot of it is an extreme. I won’t got into details on how and why it’s extreme, but basically it is the extreme of the norm.

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

    tim said,

    A Worldview is much more comprehensive than that. Everyone has a worldview (religion, if you will) whether we realize it or not. It is what makes us tick. Oftentimes what makes us tick is much deeper and automatic than we consciously realize.

    I agree with that completely. I wrote something called “Why I call everything a religion” a while back. Some of my views may have changed slightly since then (as my thoughts are always evolving); but I do think that everyone, even the non-theists, follow a form of religion whether they admit it or not.

    Yep.

  • Darryl

    Jeez, relax people. How about taking the benign interpretation? The first two sentences refer to mental states of “normal” people. The rest of the paragraph addresses the possibility of mental illness and its place in religion. The two separate ideas belong together because they both refer to states of mind.

  • monkeymind

    Darryl, have you ever read Wm. James’ “The Varieties of the Religious Experience?”

  • ash

    hi tim

    The evolutionary explanation of morality i.e. “monkey morality” falls way short and is inadequate in capturing the complete meaning and definition of morality. A full articulation of the reasons evolution fails is a hour discussion.

    a brief summary would be good then? like i also mentioned, i don’t consider just the evolutionary argument sufficient in itself, but you need to point out the flaws in ‘monkey morality’ (jeez, who came up with that term?!) combined with “concepts such as socially acceptable, status affirming and legally viable” for me to debate them. frankly, it’s a far better explanation than “Since recorded history all cultures and individuals have an inner sense about good and bad, right and wrong.”, and the inference that this somehow automatically leads to god-imposed morality. you do know that according to the bible, god was well up for slavery (as long as you treated them ok [!]), don’t you? seems a bit odd that there should have been such a huge moral shift if morals are imparted by an abrahamic-style deity, surely?

    Please give me examples in history where major cultures have said that dishonesty is a virtue, torturing innocent children is the good, being a traitor is desirable, stealing is the norm.

    dishonesty – politics (!), ‘white lies’ are also considered acceptable, and often desirable in most cultures.
    torturing innocent children – until recent history in western countries, and ongoing in some third-world countries, child labour was/is viewed as anywhere from acceptable to virtuous.
    being a traitor – any traitor, in any political system, is seen as virtuous from the perspective of an insider from an opposing political system. there are also examples where ‘traitors’ have improved a system and become exemplified for their behaviour.
    stealing is the norm – can’t think of an example, but i also can’t think of a circumstance where widespread stealing wouldn’t go against my arguments, so i’m ok with that!

    I think you will find throughout recorded histroy moral similarity between cultures and individuals is by far the norm.

    similarity maybe, continuity, yes, consistency, no. evolutionary morality and the other concepts i mentioned would explain this and your statement in a way that god-based morality would not.

    Ash, when and if science explains the mind’s capacities on nautralistic basis,then I will say I was wrong and the mind can be explained purely on cause/effect, physical laws and chemical and electric reactions. Until then science has very little to add to our understanding of such things as what a thought is, what is choice, what is intention, desires, creativity, agency, etc. etc. I would recommend J.P. Moreland’s SCALING THE SECULAR CITY and his sections on the mind.

    cheers for the book recommendation, i shall add it to my ever expanding reading list. however, you have made claims about modern scientific understandings of the mind + brain, and i noticed that this book is 20 years old…and written by a philosopher/theologian, not a scientist. i’m not trying to suggest that science has got much farther than theorising, i’m not saying you have no good reason to feel as you do, but could you share why you feel science is inadequately equipped to ever broach the subject of mind and brain?

    The main point I was making is this: It is an error in thinking that all knowledge and facts are based on science or the scientific method. This is a philosophical viewpoint and not a scientific fact. The notion that all that exists and the events of existence can be eventually explained by science is nonsense.

    can you give me some examples of knowledge or facts that are not based on science or the scientific method? can something be described as fact (rather than, say, assertion) without referring to science or the scientific method? is there any evidence to suggest that ‘all that exists and the events of existence’ cannot be addressed by science and the scientific method? if something exists in a realm outside of reality and cannot be measured, examined, tested etc. in a physical manner, is there any reason or precedent to consider that such would be even remotely relevant to us?

  • http://my-faith.blogspot.com I Could Use My Real Name But I’m Too Chicken

    Please give me examples in history where major cultures have said that dishonesty is a virtue, torturing innocent children is the good, being a traitor is desirable, stealing is the norm.

    There is a fantastic moment in the Kite Runner where the boys father is trying to teach him about sin. Rather that what he has been told by his religious teachers, his father tells him that there is only one sin; stealing.

    Stealing is the norm in modern society. Especially when you follow this fictional fathers advice; when you tell a lie, you are stealing the truth.

    Is there anyone here who hasn’t sinned according to this logic?

  • Mriana

    Well… Teachers complained to my mother that I was too good when I was a kid. I’ve not intentially lied and the most I’ve ever stolen was a little (3 cents back then) chocolate football. Didn’t get caught or if they did see me, they said nothing. :oops:

  • Abu Ahzab

    Just wanted to ask, one single straight forward question. Can someone help me define atheism and who is an atheist?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Abu Ahzab a little late to the party aren’t you?

    Can someone help me define atheism and who is an atheist?

    Atheism is a lack of belief in gods. Atheists lack belief in gods.

    Hope that helps.


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