Gods We Don’t Believe In

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[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Jesus[/tags]

  • Simon

    I still think that Buddha would be offended at being called a god….

    Other than that, this is a beautifully misleading comparison!

  • chancelikely

    I think it would have been funnier if they had alphabetized Yahweh correctly, just to have the list misalign twenty or so names from the bottom.

  • http://theframeproblem.wordpress.com Ron Brown

    Why is Buddha on this list? Wasn’t Buddha just a creative, deep-thinking, compassionate and insightful guy who developed some good ideas and practices? And isn’t he viewed by Buddhists as such?

  • The Unbrainwashed

    One of my favorite posts.

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  • James

    “Why is Buddha on this list?”

    Yeah, that is a mistake.

  • Mitchbones

    Budda is technically just the first person to become enlightened, and not a god. Buddists strive to become like him, but do not worship him like a deity.

    Atheists can technically be buddists. The religion is actually the opposite of mindlessly beliving something. Budda taught his followers to question all of his lessons, and not just mindlessly accept them.

  • Jeff

    Deity would have been more appropriate…

    In Buddhism, there are no external saviors; rather deity is often used as a translation for “yidam” representing an enlightened quality used as a meditation support.
    http://www.bodhipath-west.org/glossary.htm

  • anon

    Buddha is on the list because the Christians consider him to be a god and view Buddhism as a false-religion. So, there had to be a counterpoint for the atheists.

  • http://brownjs.wordpress.com/ J.S.Brown

    This goes along with the commonly recited line about how many gods atheists and christians don’t believe exist, and how, for atheists, it’s just one less. I’ve tried this approach on christians and been surprised to find that it isn’t always accurate. Some of them believe that a number (or all of) these gods also exist, but that they are lesser or false gods. For such christians, the argument of god-by-god atheism is ineffective. This amazed me at first, but then I realized that some people believe a realm exists which is populated entirely by supernatural good and evil entities. With this level of disconnection from reality, they have the capacity to believe that many gods exist. To me, this reveals one of the major problems with faith- to be honest about the unobserved, it is necessary to take an all-or-none approach. If faith is enough to declare that one incorporeal being is real, then it must be enough for them all.

  • http://mytensmakt.blogspot.com/ BryanJ

    Aren’t there some forms of Buddhism that do regard Buddha as a god?

  • Renacier

    J.S. Brown is right, though it’s not so much that they believe these other gods exist as gods.
    They are demons sent by Satan to tempt men away from the true faith or evil spirits hoping to gain earthly power through false worship.

    Growing up (Baptist) I was never taught that these entities don’t exist, but that they’re evil and in opposition to Jehovah.

  • http://randomnessisodd Random Christian

    1. For Christians, God is not “incorporeal”. Jesus Christ is God. Believe me, I know from experience that you don’t want in on the debate about how exactly this is. Just understand that Christians believe there is one God, fully Jesus Christ, who is a body, just like you or I. All Christians believe this – see the 3 basic creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, Athanasian).
    2. From a basically logical standpoint, this argument does not demonstrate anything. It would be like claiming that being from Canada and Russia are the same on the grounds that there are x number of countries two people aren’t from. “You aren’t from all these other countries, therefore you must not be from Canada.”
    3. This ‘argument’ misses the heart of the issue. Christians do not not believe in all those Gods for the same reasons as atheists (or, more accurately, based on the same more basic beliefs). Christians have a variety of reasons for believing in our God, and so do atheists have a variety of reasons for not believing in ANY God whatsoever.
    4. A related point might better defend atheism: Making a convincing argument for the existence of ‘god’ (a theistic argument) does nothing for proving the existence of a Christian God. Seriously atheists, get some real arguments. How about: How can God die? or How can Jesus be both fully human and fully divine? What does that even mean? Why no eschaton yet? etc…
    5. Why not rip on other theists, why always Christians?

  • Robert

    To me, any religon that outright bans any other “gods” is an obvious sign that it is a man-made religon. A truly almighty god would never so petty as to be jealous of other gods – real or imagined.

  • http://feedblog.org Kevin Burton

    Yes. Totally. Please remove Buddha.

    I’m an Athiest and have a great deal of respect for Buddhism. Hopefully, one of these days I’ll have time to start practicing.

    The Buddha was just a really smart dude which Buddhists have respect for…

    Kevin

  • Anthony

    How many gods you believe in is patently different from whether you believe in a god or not. There is a finite difference between theistic Faiths but an infinite difference between Theism and Atheism. This is the untraversable relationship between something and nothing whereas the gulf between Theists can be wide, but is always traversable.

    So if this list was used as suggesting that Christians are as bad as Atheists then you need to think a little more about your ridiculous assumptions.

  • rumbygum

    This is simply an illustration of the quote by Stephen F. Roberts: “I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    Christians hate this stuff, because they, like almost everyone else, INSISTS that there’s is the only true god. And they can use whatever justifications and anecdotes they want, because they can’t do just one tiny little thing: Prove it.

  • J W

    you forgot Paris Hilton…
    and several rock gods. ;)

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    BryanJ is right, some forms of Buddhism do regard Buddha as a divine being, although maybe not a full omnimax god in the Western sense. Most Westerners have only read about Zen Buddhism which is pretty atheistic and might be closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. Check out this Wiki page. It can get pretty complicated:

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

    Check out this guy from Tibetan Buddhism. He seems pretty god-like to me:

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

    I’ve been to many Buddhist temples in Japan and they are filled with statues of different gods or spirits (depending on how you want to translate it). There is a lot of variety in the world of Buddhism!

  • Hobbes

    YOU FORGOT ALLAH

  • ellen

    As a former believer, I’ve always thought this was another very weak argument. This and “who created god?” since you can’t have an infinite regression. As a believer, you think your god is a special case by definition.

    The better approach is to present the positive evidence against theism. There is a lot of it. I think many people are open to considering the evidence if they see it.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Random Christian,

    re: your points:

    1. I’ll take your word for it, because I certainly don’t get it.
    2. I don’t really follow your analogy, but before we get to that I have to disagree that this list is an “argument” at all. It’s more like an illustration or rhetorical device. So I don’t think it has much value beyond that.
    3. Good point! I agree.
    4. Sure, but I don’t think Hemant was posting this list as the final and best argument for atheism. You wrote, “Seriously atheists, get some real arguments.” Who are you addressing here? There are hundreds of books and web sites overflowing with real arguments. It sounds like you are judging the whole community of atheists and their world view on this single blog post.
    5. But we do! If you spend any time on atheist web sites you will see plenty of criticism of Islam for example. But 75% of of Americans claim to be Christian. Every other religion in the US is a small minority. Atheist bloggers are going to write about what they know best. If atheist bloggers could exist in the Middle East without being assassinated I’m sure they would harp on Islam most of the time. I visit some Japanese atheist forums and all they talk about are crazy Buddhist cults that are common there. So there you go.

  • http://crazyrainbowunderwear.blogspot.com yinyang

    Hindus believe that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu, so that might be why he’s up there.

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

    YOU FORGOT ALLAH

    Allah just means God (referring to Yahweh, probably) in Arabic, doesn’t it?

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  • Maria

    Allah just means God (referring to Yahweh, probably) in Arabic, doesn’t it?

    trust me, christians and muslims say there’s a big difference. also, Jesus should be included on there

  • david

    where is the flying spaghetti monster?

  • Buddhism 101

    There are no ‘gods’ per se in buddhism. Only people who have attained a high level of enlightenment. Buddhism acknowledges that the road to Nirvana has many paths – actually, everyone has a unique path (which encompasses all other religions and non-religions. As long as you feel at peace with yourself, you’re on the right path.)

    There are icons however but the purpose of these is to appeal the ‘lesser man’, who needs inspiration and guidace through iconic statues. Others will find hidden knowledge in these statues and icons.

    The closest God like concept in buddism is the ‘Cosmic Intelligence’ which is not an diety, but rather an entity composed of illuminated beings’s compiled knowledge…. a bit like the internet.

    So yes one reveres the different incarnations of said ‘cosmic intelligence’ to their liking. Christians labeled this a ‘god’ and gave him a human name. Arabs labeled this intelligence as the same ‘god’ as the xtians, but with a different label.

    Buddha was the 4th ‘prophet’ in buddhism cosmology, and the last prophet and 5th one will come… during the apocalypse

  • Tom c00ze

    You also left off Xenu and L. Ron Hubbard!

  • Mriana

    Amen/Ammon/Amen-Ra isn’t there or at least I don’t see it. Seems they left out one.

  • Benjamin Jones

    People need to look into this “Buddhism” thing they love talking about. Eastern buddhism has been so distorted by the west it’s hard to understand where people get their ideas about it from. I’m not going to get into talking about buddhism because I don’t have time, but suffice it to say that it’s no “atheists solution to spirituality” and it’s just as supersitious as any other religion (in general, obviously different people believe different things, I’m an atheist quaker but I do not an atheist religion make, nor do all these atheist buddhist westerners remove “Buddha,” a term they’re using improperly in the first place, from the standing of a god).

    Besides that, I think the use of shintou gods is funny, but obviously, you’ve missed a few thousand (notably elvis, depending again on who you talk to).

  • Saint Sainty Sainthead

    Um – ok I am REALLY offended. I do not see my name on the list.

  • Jason Weston

    All gods are the same God, call Him what you will.

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  • Sud

    You can also be a Hindu atheist. Hinduism is a way of life, more than it is a religion.

  • Ryan

    Allah means God in Arabic. Arab Christians also refer to God as Allah.

  • chris neglia

    I agree with others here. I am an athiest. I am also a Buddhist. Buddhism is non-theistic philosophy and practice, meaning there are no gods involved. Wikipedia it up and you’ll open the pandora’s box to a bunch of crap that people have added on to something that should be really simple.

    Buddhism to me is a philosophy, not a formalized, organize religion or practice, although other forms of buddhism involve ritual and addendums to the dogma that I don’t concern myself about.. I’m technically a ‘dhammist’- someone who adheres to dhamma principles as taught by the S. Gautama the Buddha in the Pali canon.

    Buddha is not a god, nor a diety in my opinion. Just a guy who made a deep realization and achieved something mentally/spiritually and then taught this powerful technique to the world. Someone to be revered, like MLK or Ghandi or Mother Teresa

  • Jon Dough

    you also forgot Jehovah you stupid piece of shit

  • JeffN

    I guess you have to be an Atheist to understand and appreciate this. :)

  • uramoron

    Buddha a god? You’re truly a moron. He was just a man, and a teacher. He himself specifically instructed people not to worship him as a god but to use his teachings as a tool to look inward and to achieve better understanding and unity.

  • Wall

    in other words…. EVERYONE is an atheist

  • Random random

    RE: Random Christian

    I don’t see the argument so much as being anti-Christian but rather as anti-monotheism.

    It is natural to think the sun goes around the earth, and it is natural to think that YOUR god is the correct one, but from a Copernican standpoint the atheist’s position is more logical (although that doesn’t make it more right).

    This is certainly NOT a strong argument for atheism, but it IS a very strong argument against believing that YOUR god is the correct one and that the others are all incorrect. To see it another way, it is not an argument against any of the 100 gods on the list, but merely an attempt to get their followers to look at their beliefs a little more closely and wonder why THEIR religion is special and the one Absolute Truth.

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  • SemiLOOSE

    there is some deep misunderstanding between western bhuddists and eastern bhuddists…

  • lesson

    why isn’t the scatman up there? or his commercial counterpart, the good humor man? why am i talking?

  • Aegle

    You forgot Lord Xenu!

  • http://jamesspratt.org James

    Great work. Gosh I wish the theists would understand the error of their ways.

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  • Nick Nolan

    Buddha is not god.

    A Brahmin once asked the blessed one, ‘are you god?’ ‘No Brahmin’, replied the blessed one. ‘Are you a saint?’ ‘No Brahmin’, the blessed one said. ‘Are you a magician?’ ‘No Brahmin’ said the blessed one again. Brahmin asked, ‘what are you then?’ ‘I am awake’.

    Buddha = “Awakened One,” from the root bodhi

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

    The post mainly illustrates how man-kind over the years have thought up (invented) lots of god concepts. It then suggests that the Christian concept of God is just one of many…. and maybe not so special as some seem to think…

  • Jose Hevia

    Hi,

    I’m Christian, I believe in God. Does this means that I know that God is exactly the way Jesus said? I don’t know. But I believe that there is a supernatural being, and I call him “God”. Therefore I accept other Gods too(that the real God could be different of what I believe in).

    You know you are here thinking, look at your hands, there is no robot that could do what they do, look at your eyes, we don’t know how to make a machine think, you are here. For you natural selection created everything, and what created sexuality before?, and what created ADN before sexuality, and what created live before ADN, and what created the world before, and what created the Via Lactea before, and what created big bang?,and what was before Big Bang.

    We don’t know, you don’t know, I don’t know. Your choice is believing, there is no supernatural being, my choice is the contrary.

    Oh, and personally I know people that are agnostic and Buddhist, so please remove Buddha from the list. My experience with people remembering past lives(look at any good hypnosis book) had made me believe in reincarnations too.

    Have a good day, when I see an article made by an atheist that is respectful with what he don’t believe I rejoice. I see a lot of unhappy people that don’t respect saying they are not respected.That’s a vicious cycle of war.

  • Claire

    Some of them believe that a number (or all of) these gods also exist, but that they are lesser or false gods.

    It does make a kind of twisted sense. If there were no other gods, what would be the point of the first (?) commandment about having “no other gods before me”. Kinda silly if there’s only one god….

    Is there someplace in the bible where it does say there’s only one, as opposed to only one right one?

  • Dave

    Dagon is in twice in each list

  • pau1

    i liked the concept. however you forgot allah, but conveniently remembered yahweh.

    apparently no axe to grind here.

  • Herman

    Claire ,
    the bible starts as a story of a god between many gods (i am a jalous god etc.), and only during the stay in babylon they switch from one-god-between-many to there-is-only-one-god. That’s the reason why the christian god has a name. The bible has been rewritten to accomodate his project, but many traces can be found.

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  • Michael Klier

    You’ve missed Azathoth, Cthulhu and a couple more…

  • Arksyne

    Perhaps Christians don’t believe in Buddha as a god, but I’m pretty sure that atheists believe he existed.

  • Roberto

    “Allah” is the Arabian word for “God”. Some Muslim people do translate it when talking in other language other than Arabian but other don’t (I think there are issues with the Koran being translated). On the other hand Christians talking in Arabian would use the word Allah to refer to their deity.

  • Stomper

    I have reached the point where I am actuallty amused by Dawkins and all the others who seem to think that religious faith can be subjected to rigorous logical analysis. Faith is the irrational belief in an unprovable proposition; if we could prove it, we wouldn’t need faith. Numerous medieval philosophers attempted to logically prove God’s existence, and they all failed.

    I’m a Christian. My faith is irrational and illogical, but it works for me. I am agnostic as to the other deities named here (even Buddha), mostly because I don’t see any need to care about their existence. Christianity is an arbitrary choice, primarily resulting from the fact that I was raised in the church. My faith brings me comfort, strength, inspiration, and (sometimes) joy. That makes it worthwhile for me.

    This list, like the other “arguments” against the existence of a deity, is only threatening to the believers who have shaky faith and want to bolster their faith with a little logic. Can’t be done. In the end, those who look to logic for support will only be disappointed.

    Empiricism answers a lot of questions, but I am not convinced that it can or will eventually answer ALL questions. There are many who believe differently, but they cannot prove empiricism holds all the answers. Perhaps for those people, we should put “Empiricism” in the second column..

  • http://betaparticle.com Matt

    What about Gods that atheist do believe in? Hitchens, Darwin, Dawkins, James Randi, Michael Shermer. They quote from their “authoritative” books just like any Sunday preacher.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    uramoron said,

    Buddha a god? You’re truly a moron.

    Wow, you convinced me. Good job.

    You Buddhism apologists are just like the “Those odd folks aren’t TRUE Christians” people who crop up all the time. Go do some research. Check out the wiki links in my previous comment. Yes, some forms of Buddhism are atheistic, like Zen, but many forms of Buddhism are not. Maybe you’re right and your personal belief is the TRUE Buddhism, but that doesn’t change how millions of self-labeled Buddhists actually practice their religion in the real world.

    Besides “god” is a vague term. Are all the so-called “gods” on that original list truly “gods”? What’s a “god”? Is Zeus a god? He didn’t create the universe, so maybe not if you’re going by that definition. Is Yahweh equivalent to Vishnu, or is Yahweh equivalent to Brahman? These questions are meaningless since every mythology is unique.

  • K

    HEY! Speak for yourself! I happen to LOVE inari! I have some in the fridge right now! I love me some kibi dango and tonkatsu too, but they’re not on the list.

  • Shane

    I think Stomper gets the award for honesty. If it feels good for you then do it regardless of the truth. Empiricism cannot answer ALL the questions and anyone who thinks so doesn’t understand the philosophy of science. But it is pretty much the only thing we have. It is a bottom-up approach where you build on what you know (with a certain degree of uncertainty) as opposed to starting at the very top with absolute knowledge of your concept of God and working down. Just because “empiricism” can’t determine everything doesn’t mean that things you make up to bring you comfort, strength, inspiration, and (sometimes) joy are equally valid.

    As for the list of gods it is only a tool to illustrate the fact that people throughout history have invented and worshiped different gods with contradictory values and abilities. And they all had just as much evidence as you do–nothing except for a deeply rooted tradition (and some oral or written stories passed down through the generations). So what makes you think you’re right? It’s more of a challenge just to try to get someone out of their ethnocentric world view than it is an argument.

  • http://enklabloggen.blogspot.com/search/label/Written%20in%20English simple z

    Yes, we’re very much alike, aren’t we?

  • Gordon

    I’m a Christian, but I love this post, thanks! I think people have way more in common than they think. If we’d all just sit down and talk, and agree that we will never be clones of each other and were never meant to be clones of each other.
    Yeah, we have more in common, and more to bring us together, than reasons to fight. I’m tired of it!

  • James

    “Hindus believe that Buddha is an incarnation of Vishnu, so that might be why he’s up there.”

    That was actually a propaganda tool used by the Brahmins to destroy and coopt the Buddhist threat. It worked to perfection since Buddhism is completely dead in India (not counting the insignificant “untouchable” conversion to Buddhism).

  • Stomper

    “Thank you, I will cherish this honesty award, and I want to thank the producers, the directors, and most of all my agent.”

    I like empiricism. I’ve spent a lot of money teaching my kids to be empiricists. I also take them to church and teach Sunday School, because I want them to develop their spiritual sides as well.

    Based on my empirical observations, most people have a rational aspect as well as a spiritual aspect. Some work hard to develop and cultivate one or the other while letting the other aspect wither. I prefer to work on both.

    The mystery of spirituality is a beautiful aspect of human nature. If you have that aspect and ignore it, then you are missing out. It is analogous to poetry or music. Most of us have the ability to appreciate it, but you have to put some effort in, if you want to get the most out.

  • Anon

    This list shows that we are more alike than different. Why see this as an issue of contention?

  • Chaote

    Where’s Cthulhu? Where’s Eris?

    Hail Eris!

  • http://typo180.com typo180

    I’ve heard Dawkins make this point, but besides being a clever little joke to stick into a talk, I don’t think it makes much sense.

    Theist – believes in one or more gods
    Atheist – believes in no gods

    You can’t be an atheist about a particular god, theism is a larger worldview or paradigm that includes any variation on believing in a deity or deities. To go from Christian Theism to Atheism does not require “just one more step,” but a major shift in your beliefs about the nature of the universe.

  • http://www.shadowdemocracy.org/ MJ “revoltingpawn”

    One of my favorite quotes… “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71)

    If interested check out our final post in the series “Does God have a Future?”

    Does God Have a Future? (Part 10)…Conclusions

  • Jaap

    ” That was actually a propaganda tool used by the Brahmins to destroy and coopt the Buddhist threat. It worked to perfection since Buddhism is completely dead in India (not counting the insignificant “untouchable” conversion to Buddhism).”

    Buddhism completely dead? Ever been to Ladakh, or Sikkim?

  • http://mcdowellcrook.com mcd

    This is great!

  • dboy

    All you buddha-is-or-is-not-a-god people; take one step back and think about this. This list points out that neither Christians nor atheists believe that Buddha is a real god. Get it? No one’s arguing with you.

  • Brian B.

    Fantastic list. You’ve really stuck it the Christians this time. Now they are sure to renounce Yahweh and become obsessed, like you, with disproving that which cannot be disproven.

    On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe they will go on keeping the faith and remaining perfectly content, despite the incessant ridicule, which is not intended to help them in any way, but only to make you feel better about the conclusion you have reached.

    If only your conclusion provided you peace. But apparently it does not.

  • Andrew Hanks

    #

    david said,

    February 12, 2008 at 12:14 am

    where is the flying spaghetti monster?

    there really should be flying spaghetti monster. because he plays an important role in my life

  • Bob Dobbs

    Regarding Buddha:

    My wife is buddhist. She is Vietnamese. I have been all over Vietnam with her and to many pagodas. They have statues of Buddhas everywhere and pray to them like gods and ask them for things etc. To a Christian I can sure see how that would seem to put Buddha up there with the gods. Buddhists pray to many different gods/buddhas also. So you could probably add all of them to you list. They are a bit like the Romans in that they have a god of the house, god of money, god of being safe, many things. You can pray to each one depending on what you need.

  • TomK

    My understanding is that Buddha was and is worshiped by many as a god. He did not intend for that to happen — it is counter to his teachings — but that generally doesn’t stop folks. Especially when it’s easier to just worship Buddha than to figure out what he was saying. Same goes for Confucius; he also ended up being worshiped as a god.

    Having said that, I continue to find it odd that Atheists are so often surprised and delighted that monotheists believe in only one god.

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  • http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/02/11/gods-we-dont-believe-in/ Frankie Stone

    Overall, I’m with you, but Buddha is not a god and did not advertise himself as one.

  • Stomper

    Brian B: well said. I’d love to see a thoughtful response to your post, but I suspect you will only be ignored or flamed.

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

    Reposted from the FAF:

    I know everyone in the atheosphere likes to put forth Buddhism as an example of an atheistic religion, but it’s not really so straightforward. Most Buddhists see the Buddha as some sort of cosmic being. Why, just the other day I was visiting a Buddhist temple. They were talking about how Damu Amida Butsu (a Buddha) was willing to save everyone, even people in hell (much nicer than Jesus, huh?). Then they’d talk about a place that sounded remarkably like heaven. They don’t think this is in contradiction with the Buddha’s original teachings, so why should I?

  • Huffy

    Yes…I must chime in here…The Buddha…Sidarta…specifically told his followers he was NOT a god, but a man who had found enlightenment. I realize that from the monotheistic religious perspective they will lump Buddha in with all of these others…but I think that as rational people we have to exclude a man who said he is not a god and who is not considered a god by his followers.

  • Spurs Fan

    Matt,

    Okay…that is just ridiculous. Those entities you mention are called PEOPLE or AUTHORS, not gods. To claim that we atheists worship Dawkins like a Christian might worship Jesus is just a bad comparison all around. A better comparison would be Christians and C.S. Lewis. You don’t worship him (after all, HE did not rise from the dead), yet you highly regard him. Same with Atheists and Sam Harris. In fact, you may find some disagreement over his viewpoints. Hmmm…Christians do the same with Jesus. Maybe you’re right…..

    On a side note, Dagon is probably listed twice in each list because of the god of Copy and Paste!

  • Nick Nolan

    I think this Buddha into god question is important from atheistic point of view. I think most Buddhist scholars and biggest Buddhist traditions agree that Buddha was not god (might have perfected supernatural skills tough). But how did he become godlike person for so many people even when he specially said he is not god, and said that Buddhist should not practice any “supernatural” stuff of his time.

    Buddhist texts explain this by saying that most people are “hearers”. Those are people who don’t have deep spiritual need to know things intimately, but still have deep need to hear how things are and how people should behave. Thus when authoritative figure lays out how they should act and behave, they happily try to follow the rules.

  • Voidgazing

    While Sidartha did teach that he was not a god, he did so in a different context. Westerners are used to thinking of the supernatural as a special, not everyday kind of thing. You can tell by the way they stick ‘super’ on the beginning.

    They have their Jesus, but they have Him in Heaven, where He belongs. Kind of like the canned peas are in the cabinet by the fridge. You only see those Peas on a special occasion like death.

    Sidartha taught in a context of the everyday supernatural. Genus loci were not supernatural in his day- they were natural phenomena. A fox might have certain powers. So might your neighbor the sage. That the dead were not always quiet was a simple fact of life.

    To understand the buddhists who pray to spirits, one must first accept that the word supernatural as used today derives from a rationalist standpoint, and so does the concept. For many (if not most) human beings today, this remains the case- there is no supernatural, merely natural phenomena westerners describe as such.

  • noru

    to all the buddha-is-not-a-god-people: do you realize that “standard buddhist mythology”, if such a thing exists, deals with more than one buddha? the best known one, and the one with the qoute about not being godly, is shakyamuni, but maybe you should read up on Amida or Amitabha, another buddha who has been and is still worshipped as savior of the weak and creator of the pure land in Pure Land Buddhism, the dominant form of buddhism today together with Chan(Zen).
    gosh, know what you’re talking about before you start talking about it.

    and yeah, right, this list is not an argument (or not a good one) to use in a debate. well, duh. glad you figured this out, sherlock. it’s just something like a “fun fact”, since it doens’t prove anything. it’s as valuable as an argument as “it’s true because it says so in the bible” is.

    and matt, we do not “believe” in these people. we agree with them to a certain point and respect and hold up their scientific work. well, most do. atheism is constantly mistaken for just a different approach on religion, without naming a god. but here’s the important part: faith. speaking as an atheist, i have faith in other beings in a sociallly interactive way only, e.g. that my girlfriend will not cheat on me, that my mom will be there when i need her etc., but no religious faith here. no sir.
    furthermore, there is no canon to atheism. you can live under a rock in a cave somewhere in papua-new guinea and never have heard about dawkins. NOT BELIEVING IN ANY GOD suffices. atheism is not a religion, it is the lack thereof.

  • ahora

    The other gods are parties, events and elements of nature, but: to worship nature if I can worship their creator? And God spoke at least, not nature, but nature is alive.

    While atheists benefit from the adjustments heathen of the Catholic Church to say that Christ is a myth, I will continue testifying of God’s love.

    Well, I am a Christian, and for me, the other gods exist: they are events and parts of the wilderness, sometimes statues, sometimes feelings. For worship nature if I can worship their creator? But nature does not speak, if it does its creator.

    “I simply believe in a God more than you. Where understand why I do not dismiss God, understand why if discard the other gods.”

    In God we do not believe, as is done with other gods, because God is owed KNOW, and Christ taught us how to do it very well.

    If atheists do not want to enjoy, nor does it want to try a fraction of God’s love, because sorry for them because seek refuge in a diminishing success, and its purpose of life will be passenger, but Christ remains the rock, which always stays.

    I could believe that the universe has always existed, but would be discarded life, because life itself tells me: God loves you and wants what is best for you.

    Religion does not necessarily leads to God, in fact, Christ taught us to know God through faith, not through any religion.

    Furthermore, the Greeks believed in God unknown, which is not related to nature, and that they felt the presence of God, even when nature was still their gods.

    God loves atheists, Christians, Muslims and others. bye.

  • ahora

    In Buddhism there are no gods, but there are spirits (which is almost the same thing), ancestors, reincarnations, karma, other worlds, and so on.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Noru, thank you. Anyone who has visited a Buddhist temple in Japan with people praying and incense burning knows that it is far from the yuppy weekend philosophy in the West.

    Listen, if in 100 years people are truly worshiping Elvis as a god, and building churches to Elvis, then he should be on the list! Yes the real Elvis was just a guy, and he never said he was a god, but it won’t change how this future Church of Elvis views him.

    My guess is that the the “sterilized” Buddhism popular in the states is mostly due to the majority of importation coming from Zen Buddhism which lacks much of the spiritual decoration adorning other Buddhisms.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Ahora, which Buddhism are you talking about? It’s like saying “In Christianity there aren’t any Saints.” (Which version?) Did you see the Wiki links above? Look at this guy:

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

    “In Buddhism, the Adi-Buddha is the “Primordial Buddha.” The term refers to a self-emanating, self-originating Buddha, present before anything else existed.”

    That sounds like more than a spirit. (Assuming Wiki is trustworthy, who knows?) But you’re right, where do you draw the line between a “spirit” and a “god”. How the heck should I know? The words don’t have any meaning for me in reality. (Maybe if I was playing D&D: A spirit becomes a god when it goes above X hit points! etc.)

  • Paul Bridges

    You forgot Jehova. And the christian god has no name for it is too great for our plebian ears.

  • Paul Bridges

    and the christian god has no name

  • Stomper

    In at least one version, Buddha expressly denied being a deity. There are many who follow Buddhist teachings without worshipping Buddha as a deity. However, there are many others who DO worship Buddha as a deity. Because of those people, no matter how misguided they may be, Buddha belongs on the lists. Why is this discussion still going?

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  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Brian B. said:
    If only your conclusion provided you peace.

    For many, there is an emotional and psychological need for a framework in which to live their lives. Religion offers one such framework which has been manifested in different ways throughout history and in different cultures.

    Atheism is a skeptical challenge to religious frameworks. Atheism by itself, though, isn’t a replacement or alternative to religious frameworks. If one has a psychological need for a framework, then atheism by itself will not be enough. One must add something like Humanism or Buddhism (that is Buddhism without the supernatural elements). Another option is Christianity without the supernatural elements. See Thomas Jefferson’s bible

  • Ramtha

    Speaking of supernatural, I wonder if any of you have a sound theory explaining “paranormal” activity.

  • Alexander

    Did Jesus ever say that he was God and not just man? I’ve searched and searched, but I can’t find any place in the Bible for this.

    PS. Stomper, thanks for what you wrote.

  • Stephen

    Several comments on this thread cry out for a response. To address a few:

    - Altogether mankind has almost certainly believed in thousands of gods. I don’t suppose for a moment that the compiler of this list (of around 600) thought it was complete, so criticising the list by pointing out a few others is pointless.

    - Jehovah is certainly not missing; the people who say this have missed the entire point of the list. Jehovah is the last entry, in the alternative spelling of Yahweh, and the only difference between the two lists.

    - While the name Jehovah/Yahweh is not (AFAIK) used in the New Testament, the god there is unambiguously identified in numerous places with the god of the Old Testament. The Christian God is thus Jehovah/Yahweh.

    - Allah and the Christian God undoubtedly share a common origin, but they are equally undoubtedly not the same. To take the most obvious point: the central tenet of Christianity is that Yawheh/God had a son who came to earth in human form. The central tenet of Islam is that Allah is one alone, and thus has no relatives or competitors. The Koran explicitly denies the existence of a son.

    And finally, yes these sorts of lists are a relevant part of the atheistic argument. They demonstrate that inventing gods is a common human occupation. They demonstrate that the reasonable position is to assume that all gods are invented unless and until someone provides evidence to the contrary. And they also demolish the commonly heard (though frequently incorrect) Christian claim that atheists reject Christianity without knowing anything about it, and that atheism is therefore invalid. After all, Christians happily reject huge numbers of gods without knowing anything about them.

    • sudon’t

      If not Al-lah, it would be nice to include Al-lat. Talk about a glass ceiling!

  • AK

    My sympathies to all of you.

  • http://enklabloggen.blogspot.com/search/label/Written%20in%20English simple z

    And neither of us believe in the spagetti monster.

    Now go figure.

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  • Swede

    Budha was himsef a hindu and thats true that he is now worshipped as a god. Allah an Christian God “share” the same origins just because of man called Mohammad, who copyed stuff from scriptures to his “bible”.

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

    I wonder if any of you have a sound theory explaining “paranormal” activity.

    “Paranormal activity” is pretty broad, but I’ll say it all falls into the category of “bullshit”.

  • Nick Nolan

    I think most westerners mistake Buddhist ceremonies as worship when they actually are more like reverence and directing your mind towards your goal. Physical actions like bowing talk directly to unconscious mind. Bodhisattvas and “non-historical Buddhas” are mental ideals, usually representing perfection of some desirable mental aspect X, when you pray to them, pray for ideal within yourself.

    What makes things even more confusing is the concept of Upaya (skillful means, similar to Platos golden lie). Buddhists don’t think that it is so important that people have precisely right concepts in their minds (mental constructs are always imperfect), but that they make right actions and have right intentions. Thus it may be OK to even pray and worship Buddha as god. That is just bakhti-yoga, practice of devotion.

    This relaxed attitude towards philosophical truth is what emphasizes the practical and personal training aspect of Buddhism. Buddha himself describes his teaching as toys or leaves made of fake gold. They are used to lure children out of burning house. In other sutra he likens his teachings to raft, when you get to the other side you are fool if you carry the raft in your back.

    Fischer goes on to explain to his students that bowing is a mental training method that helps us cultivate an attitude of love and appreciation for the Buddha-nature within our own nature. Piety and devotion are okay as long as one doesn’t get hysterical about it; they are tender and splendid states of mind.[xlii]

    He says that by appreciating how the figures are actually symbolic manifestations of oneself, then we become more comfortable with them as “other,” and external. The more familiar we get with ourselves as we actually are, the more comfortable we get with the images that are “other.”

  • Buddhism 101

    Worshipping Buddha as a God doesnt make him one.

    “Ordinary people often wish to see the immortals and to meet the Buddha and they firmly believe that only by their prayers ad their entreaties will these come to their assistance.
    The “well-understood” acts otherwise: when he believes that he may be in the presence of these superior beings he immediately goes in search of them. The “all-understood” seeks nowhere, knowing full well that the Buddha is omnipresent and dwells within oneself.”

  • roopa

    Brian B said:

    Fantastic list. You’ve really stuck it the Christians this time. Now they are sure to renounce Yahweh and become obsessed, like you, with disproving that which cannot be disproven.

    On the other hand, maybe not. Maybe they will go on keeping the faith and remaining perfectly content, despite the incessant ridicule, which is not intended to help them in any way, but only to make you feel better about the conclusion you have reached.

    If only your conclusion provided you peace. But apparently it does not.

    If only YOUR conclusion provided you peace, you wouldn’t have such a pathetic little persecution complex, and you wouldn’t have flipped out over such a harmless and fun little comparison. It was to simply show that we’re all atheists in one way or another. Get a grip.

    Due to such a defensive post, I’m guessing you’re not one of those who are “perfectly content” with your faith.

  • Scotty B

    Andrew Hanks said,

    February 12, 2008 at 11:59 am

    #

    david said,

    February 12, 2008 at 12:14 am

    where is the flying spaghetti monster?

    there really should be flying spaghetti monster. because he plays an important role in my life

    Thats part of the beauty of Pastafarianism. Everyone believes in His Noodliness!

  • Iggy

    It is missing “Satan” in the atheists list, as christians believe in the existence of an anti-christ, an angel once named “Lucifer” that changed his name, as if it is the “bad” power that mislead people from their god’s “good” power. So, if you believe in two powers, you believe in two gods. And as some christians religions refer to Jesus Christ as a god, you should put also “Yashua” on the atheist’s list.

    Speakin of that, where’s the greek god named after the planet that stays near Neptune? (I don’t know his name in english, Uranum maybe)

  • atheistgirl

    i was gonna say they forgot yahweh (which is like, a biggy) but then i got to the bottom. so…yeah. anyway, i agree with the “buddha would be insulted” thing.

  • Buddhism 101

    Iggy,

    Satan is not a god, he’s a fallen angel. So no, he shouldnt be on that list. Jesus is not different from ‘God’, so no need to point out 2 entities.

    Mara – the buddhist equivalent of satan – isnt there either.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Worshipping Buddha as a God doesnt make him one.

    Can’t the same be said about Jesus? But doesn’t Jesus deserve to be on the list as well? I assume he isn’t because supposedly Jesus = Yahweh, right?

  • http://kiraxmanga.blogspot.com kira

    buddha was a real person

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Was he? How do you know? Can you find any reference of Buddha actually writing anything himself? I couldn’t. It’s the same for Jesus.

    It seems perfectly reasonable to me that a historical Jesus existed, as did a Buddha so they seem equivalent to me with regard to the issue at hand. (Ie. candidacy for this list.)

    I’m reminded of this cartoon:
    http://www.cartoonbank.com/product_details.asp?sid=45041

    ;-)

  • satan

    god owes me money!

  • ynot

    Buddha, the enlightened one, came to believe, not that he was God, but that he was ONE with god and all that is. This, for Buddha was a realization the He was One with this Ultimate reality.
    While I’ll not argue here why Buddha was deceived, he would be on the list because he (and others) therefore thought that he was god – and that ALL was god. That there was no distinction.
    Pantheism isn’t far from atheism in the sense that for the material atheist all that is, just is and we are just part of what is – for no REASON whatsoever.
    Buddha, however believed in an intellect (buddhi) that was driving the expression of the ALL.

    EVERYONE has a god (ultimate meaning), while not a relational God as Christians believe is possible. While many atheist will try to deny a meaningful claim about reality while unkowingly making one. You cannot meaningfully affirm that reality has no ultimate meaning without making a meaningful claim about reality. And backing off from the attempt dilutes the argument.
    Of course it would also take absolute knowledge to absolutely eliminate God.
    Regardless of how many gods there are – in fact this list could be MUCH larger, there could be only ONE God that would be worthy of ultimate worship. A God, if he exists that is the Uncaused Cause of all contingent existence. A fully actual being that transcends space, time and matter (that we KNOW is finite). A fully ACTUAL being that has no potential whatsoever in regard to its existence. An existence that causes all other potential existences.
    While I undeniably exists, I cannot cause my own existence. I am contingent upon the actualizing act of another. This “Other” is the cause of all contingent beings and cannot also be contingent. There cannot be an infinite regression of causality. If there were you’d never get to the current effects. You cannot have an infinite number of seconds prior to this one – it would never be reached. And contingency is an effect and the Uncaused cause cannot be both contingent (caused by another) and fully actual, therefore it must be necessary. There must necessarily be a cause of all contingent reality. And it must necessarily be absolute and fully actual.

    And if you say that all reality necessarily exists – there’s your god and Buddha was right.

    And if this is true – then why are the atheists working so hard to “dis-prove” god? For even the theist is a manifestation of, or a part of, this ultimate reality. EVERYTHING IS!!! which is why Buddha sat and did nothing.

    For me ultimate reality is not created by the minds of mere men, but one that REVEALS and has PURPOSE and has WILL and is universally TRUE.

    much to be discovered!!!

    Peace

  • True_believer

    Oh, you forgot to put Science, Own Ego, Hollywood and such in first column. Do so and I shall join your superior and friendly Church of Atheism.

  • brainwashed

    dude, you are sooooooooo cool, you can’t imagine. like, the coolest person walking on the earth. coolest person existing in the Universe. i might even build a temple for your coolness and awesomeness and start a new religion.

    please, I’m begging you, give me some guidelines, anything, a direction for becoming as cool as you are, having your intellect, your sense of humor, your talent of writing amazing posts like this one. please, give me just a particle, an atom of your awesomeness.

    * bows you eternally *

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    And if this is true – then why are the atheists working so hard to “dis-prove” god?

    We are? That’s news to me. As has been said over and over, the burden of proof does not rest on the atheists’ side. It might be possible to disprove certain logically contradictory god models, but I don’t think atheists are “working so hard” in that department. We are more concerned with political issues like separation of church and state, and trying to live freely without oppressing or being oppressed by others.

    Heck, your pantheistic god model could be right. How should I know? I admit it seems more reasonable than the more popular mythologies, but the hierarchy of reasonableness is still not evidence.

    On a side note, quantum theory says there are uncaused causes happening all the time. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but there it is.

    There cannot be an infinite regression of causality. If there were you’d never get to the current effects.

    Are you sure? You’re right, it sounds crazy, but it could be true. What about causal loops? In the end it all boils down to: Why is there something (universe, god, whatever) rather than nothing (or something else)?

    I don’t mean to nitpick. I do enjoy discussions along these lines, but for me, entertaining these interesting ideas doesn’t mean I will invest actual belief in them without good evidence.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Oh, you forgot to put Science, Own Ego, Hollywood and such in first column. Do so and I shall join your superior and friendly Church of Atheism.

    We have a church now? Does that mean I have to wake up early on Sundays?

    Are you saying Hollywood is like God, or God is like Hollywood? Either option intrigues me.

  • Spurs Fan

    True_believer,

    As mentioned earlier, these items you mentioned are not even close to comparable to the way that Chrsitians worship God (Yahweh? Jehovah? Yeshua? I’m so confused!) or Muslims worship Allah.

    We Atheists admit science has been wrong at times and could be wrong now on certain items. That’s why we keep challenging it and looking to improve it! Besides, it’s a method.

    You would also be hard pressed to find any of us that agree we “worship” Hollywood. I, for one, think that Hollywood has put out some crappy stuff sometimes. As for ego, well, we all do that! Even you “believers”!

    So, let’s dispense with the Atheist worhip nature, Richard Dawkins, science, etc. It’s just not comparable and it’s foolish to pretend it is. I like Dawkins, but if he coerced me to kill my own son, slaughter innocent people, stone homosexuals,tell people how they could avoid being tortured in hell eternally, I’d drop him like Preisdnet Bush drops the word “nuculur”. I can’t see Christians doing the same with Jehovah-Yaweh-Jesus-Holy Ghost, etc.

  • ynot

    NYCatheist:
    “We are? That’s news to me. As has been said over and over, the burden of proof does not rest on the atheists’ side. It might be possible to disprove certain logically contradictory god models, but I don’t think atheists are “working so hard” in that department.”

    Hasn’t there been a recent string of atheist writings that argue their point?
    THE ATHEIST MANIFESTO, THE GOD DELUSION, ATHEISM, GOD IS NOT GREAT, just to name a few of the many books that have come out in recent years.

    “Heck, your pantheistic god model could be right. How should I know? I admit it seems more reasonable than the more popular mythologies, but the hierarchy of reasonableness is still not evidence.”

    There are so many holes in the pantheist model, I don’t know where to begin. But let’s suffice it to say that there would be no distinctions between ANYTHING. For ALL would be a manifestation of the IS. There also would be no reason to spend so much time on political issues, as ALL just IS and there is no ground for what is good or evil. No such thing as “bad politics” or “good politics”. ALL JUST IS.
    And of course what has caused this amnesia that Buddha “enlightened” himself free of. Why do we experience OURSELVES as selves and not ONE with this ALL. If Buddha was right there would be no YOU & I.

    “On a side note, quantum theory says there are uncaused causes happening all the time. Yeah, I don’t get it either, but there it is.”

    Making the claim doesn’t make it so, as atheist like to say. Perhaps they just haven’t discovered the cause of those effects yet. Just like the Big Bang itself. They really don’t have a clue as to its cause (oh, they like to pretend – that’s how they get grant $$$). Yet they do not deny it was CAUSED.

    “Why is there something (universe, god, whatever) rather than nothing (or something else)?

    EXACTLY!!! WHY is there anything at all??? WHY, WHY, WHY???

    Peace

    P.S. I have to figure out that quote feature.

  • Claire

    ynot said

    EXACTLY!!! WHY is there anything at all??? WHY, WHY, WHY???

    Why does there need to be an explanation? Or, in a less rhetorical fashion; there doesn’t need to be an explanation, and the explanation doesn’t have to be god. There are only people who need an explanation, and people who need the explanation to be god.

  • Claire

    ynot said:

    Hasn’t there been a recent string of atheist writings that argue their point?

    Their point is not, as you put it, “to dis-prove god”, but to make the case that religion is not a good thing. Either you didn’t read them, or you have sorely misinterpreted them.

  • Stomper

    The abuse of religion is not a good thing, but the same can be said for children or most anything else of value (power, money, prescription medications, etc). There is nothing wrong with religion itself, and I am beginning to resent the attacks.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Ynot,

    Re: the atheist books, Claire made the important point already. I will also add: have you looked in a book store? What’s the ratio of pro-religion books to anti-religion books? Something like 1213423 to 1 (exact of course.) Not all atheists agree with all those books anyway. We don’t recite Dawkins writings like it’s the Nicene Creed or something.

    Please banish the word “prove” from your mind. There is no proof in science. There is only proof in mathematics, whose models might have nothing to do with reality.

    I’m not going to argue about pantheism with you. When I said it was “more reasonable” than other models (Eg. Christianity) that was like comparing 1 and 2 on a scale of 100. I agree with you, it really doesn’t make any sense, but the same can be said for the more popular monotheisms.

    Re: quantum mechanics:

    Making the claim doesn’t make it so, as atheist like to say. Perhaps they just haven’t discovered the cause of those effects yet.

    Of course! I’m glad you’re learning atheist catch phrases. Einstein didn’t like it either. He could be right, or he could be wrong. How do we find out? We need to do a lot of experiments. Get data. Keep researching.

    Just like the Big Bang itself. They really don’t have a clue as to its cause (oh, they like to pretend – that’s how they get grant $$$).

    I think saying “no clue” is going too far, but what’s wrong with saying “we don’t know yet”? Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. Don’t you want to try? It sounds like you don’t think fundamental research should be done at all. You want to fire all the theoretical physicists in the world and rehire them to design new plastic toys for Chinese factories? Aren’t you curious about the universe? We’ll find out more truth about the foundations of reality through “Big Science” research projects than ancient stories about Adam and Eve, or Buddha’s “all is one”, etc.

    On the other hand, the Dalai Lama has said, “”If science found a serious error in Tibetan Buddhism, of course we would change Tibetan Buddhism.” How about that? So props to his version of Buddhism there.

    Yet they do not deny it was CAUSED.

    Depends which physicist you talk to.

    EXACTLY!!! WHY is there anything at all??? WHY, WHY, WHY???

    I don’t know.

    Do you? Why do you think you know?

    P.S. I have to figure out that quote feature.

    The way I do it (is there another way?)
    1. Copy and paste the other person’s text into my comment box.
    2. Highlight it.
    3. Click the “bquote” button above. (Same as “b” for bold, “i” for italics, etc.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Stomper wrote:

    The abuse of religion is not a good thing, but the same can be said for children or most anything else of value (power, money, prescription medications, etc). There is nothing wrong with religion itself, and I am beginning to resent the attacks.

    Which attacks are you referring to? I hope not on you here because I’ve enjoyed the comments you have made. Do you mean books like Dawkins, Hitchens, etc?

    Whether there is anything wrong with religion is one of the key questions. The second question is whether a god actually exists. Those two questions can be discussed separately. I think Dawkins is more interested in the latter. Sam Harris makes a clearer point that the problem is not rooted in religion itself but in blind faith in dogma, which doesn’t have to be religious. Whether it’s a religion, or a political system, etc we should be able to question and criticize in a free manner. Intellectual honesty and free inquiry are the ideals we (ie. most atheists) are striving for. (I say most, because every demographic has its nutters.) ;-)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    *sigh*

  • True_believer

    Point on my previous comment was that OP is trying to compare atheism and religion where such comparison is impossible. Most religions got something in common, because every religion sets some rules of conduct for its followers. However they may seem irrational, they are practical. Atheism is very different in that context, and only common ground between atheists is their nihilism and its implications.

    I meant there Hollywood as in (false) idols, examples, moral code, “only truth”, etc. Could’ve been Money, or anything else atheist people chose to be their temporary values.

    There is ego, and then there is Ego. Difference might seem small until you face it.

    Ok, how about this? Science is the main excuse for not believing that there is “something else” whatever you call it, which we are unable to calculate or even comprehend, yet science itself is just as irrational as any religion. You disagree? Please talk to quantum physicists first.

    It’s just that people chose to believe it’s not, which I reckon it’s all about: what we are prepared to accept as true on hand of our experience. I am convinced that more you know, more you are able to distinguish. And I don’t mean “knowing” as in science “methods” only, I mean experiencing as well. Heck, whole science starts with at least one big dogma, which is that this world is real. That should teach you atheists something, unless your always present fear of consequences is still too great to learn anything. You see, I think one is atheist only for one of those two reasons: don’t know much or petrified that there is something (not you) controlling everything and calling you to judgement. I would love to be proven wrong.

    And atheism can be misused same as any religion. For example, Nazi ideology was mainly atheistic.

  • I like tea

    Oh, you forgot to put Science, Own Ego, Hollywood and such in first column. Do so and I shall join your superior and friendly Church of Atheism.

    and only common ground between atheists is their nihilism and its implications.

    Troll detected.

    Heck, whole science starts with at least one big dogma, which is that this world is real.

    Correction: Descartes detected.

  • Stomper

    Descartes had been drinking all night in a bar. As the sun rose, the bartender asked, “Would you like another?”

    Descartes replied, “I think not.” Then he disappeared.

  • Stomper

    Call me pedantic, but I do have a problem with the frequent abuse of the term “atheist.” Many who profess to be atheist are actually agnostic (i.e., willing to believe, but for the absence of proof), and simply choose to ignore agnosticism (perhaps it seems too “wishy-washy”?). Then Dawkins attempts to re-define “atheist” by appending modifiers: “strong atheists” who affirmatively deny the existence of a deity, and “weak atheists” who (to me, at least) are indistinguishable from agnostics. So many of the people who describe themselves as “atheist” really mean “weak atheist,” but provoke a reaction from others who conclude that “atheist” really means “strong atheist.”

    Of course, atheists don’t have a monopoly on that sort of imprecision. As detailed above, “Buddhist” can mean many different things. And “Christian” beliefs are like snowflakes: no two are exactly alike.

    By the way, a “strong atheist” who affirmatively denies the existence of a deity is affirmatively advancing a proposition. By the rules of logical discourse, that strong atheist thus has the burden of proof. It’s a burden that can’t be met, and can justly be characterized as simply another brand of faith (ie, belief in an unproveable proposition).

    Seems to me these discussions would be more civilized if people used the terminology more clearly and consistently.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    True_believer wrote:

    Atheism is very different in that context, and only common ground between atheists is their nihilism and its implications.

    Are you saying every atheist is a nihilist? Wikipedia definition: “Nihilism (from the Latin nihil, nothing) is a philosophical position which argues that Being, especially past and current human existence, is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.”

    I’m sure some atheists are nihilists, but most I know are not. The only common ground between atheists is their lack of belief in deities. Some think there is no ultimate meaning, others do, others just have no idea (me).

    I meant there Hollywood as in (false) idols, examples, moral code, “only truth”, etc. Could’ve been Money, or anything else atheist people chose to be their temporary values.

    Can you give some more specific examples. I’m imagining some atheist worshiping Steven Spielberg. (Although I do know some who worship George Lucas, but they might be jedi not atheists. hehe) Some people do seem to worship money (atheists and theists alike), but is it really the same kind of “worship” as religious worship? Or is it just plain old greed?

    There is ego, and then there is Ego. Difference might seem small until you face it.

    I don’t really understand you here. Do you mean considering yourself a god?

    Ok, how about this? Science is the main excuse for not believing that there is “something else” whatever you call it, which we are unable to calculate or even comprehend, yet science itself is just as irrational as any religion. You disagree? Please talk to quantum physicists first.

    Sure I disagree! ;-) Are there really atheists who say “I don’t believe a god exists because of science”? I haven’t met any. Science is just a method for answering questions. Certain scientific theories might lead people to atheism. (See Dawkins who once believed a god created life (it was the only explanation he knew of as a child), but then learned about evolution so the god hypothesis was no longer needed.) As for me the more I learn about science the more I realize I don’t know and how mysterious the world really is. The mysteries of the world are much deeper in modern cosmology than in ancient flat earth Biblical models.

    Which part of science is irrational? Are you talking about the implications of quantum theory? They are unintuitive, and maybe they aren’t rational, but that is the data. Don’t confuse the experimental results with the method. Question: Why is the sky blue? What methods would you use to answer that question? Do you really think such methods are irrational?

    It’s just that people chose to believe it’s not, which I reckon it’s all about: what we are prepared to accept as true on hand of our experience.

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Are you saying I chose to believe science is rational? I have studied and done science. I only choose it as an appropriate method to answer questions because it works.

    Heck, whole science starts with at least one big dogma, which is that this world is real.

    Wiki:”Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization, thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or diverged from.”

    I’m not sure your example is a dogma. And some physicists have even discussed the possibility that our universe is just a virtual simulation (ie. not “real”). They can discuss these ideas freely, there is no authority. The only “dogma” in science is intellectual honesty. That’s the ideal of course, but some people will lie and science tries to minimize it with various checks etc. but no human endeavor is perfect.

    That should teach you atheists something, unless your always present fear of consequences is still too great to learn anything.

    I don’t know what you mean here.

    You see, I think one is atheist only for one of those two reasons: don’t know much or petrified that there is something (not you) controlling everything and calling you to judgement. I would love to be proven wrong.

    Hmm, maybe you’re right! I am an atheist because I don’t know much. I don’t know anything about gods or ultimate truth. How can I believe something exists that I don’t know anything about?

    I think your second reason is wrong though. But I can’t prove it. I can just say I’ve never met any atheist who is afraid of something controlling or judging them. If such a person existed who had such a fear, why would they be an atheist? It doesn’t make any sense.

    And atheism can be misused same as any religion. For example, Nazi ideology was mainly atheistic.

    That’s news to me. Do you have references? Wiki says:
    “Volkism was inherently hostile toward atheism: freethinkers clashed frequently with Nazis in the late 1920s and early 1930s. On taking power, Hitler banned freethought organizations (such as the German Freethinkers League) and launched an “anti-godless” movement. In a 1933 speech he declared: “We have . . . undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” This forthright hostility was far more straightforward than the Nazis’ complex, often contradictory stance toward traditional Christian faith”

    It doesn’t matter though. Other tyrants, like Stalin, were atheists. But he was dogmatic pushing his ideology of Stalinism. Atheism is not a value system or a way to live life. Many atheists are humanists, but Stalin wasn’t. Atheism is just lack of belief in gods. It doesn’t tell you how to live life. I assume Stalin also didn’t believe in fairies. Why people don’t talk about Stalin’s “afairieism”. It’s irrelevant. Stalin was more concerned with any competition threatening his power, whether it was a church or a god people believed in.

    I’m game to continue the discussion here, but if you want we can move it to the new friendly atheist forum.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Stomper,

    I agree the terms cause a lot of confusion. Depending on who’s asking I’m either an atheist or agnostic. Dawkins didn’t start the strong/weak qualification. He did confuse matters by asserting agnosticism was on the same “scale”.

    I think a lot of atheists prefer the weak/strong qualification because as you said there are hardly any people in the “strong” department, but “agnostic” was not quite accurate either. If you look up “atheism” on Wikipedia you can see all the various nuances and semantic controversies laid out. Technically I should be an agnostic, but the problem with that term is that the “man on the street” would think that it means “undecided” (somehow 50-50) and wasn’t a firm philosophical position.

    But I also have a problem with some agnostics who claim it is impossible to know about god(s). That’s going too far. So maybe I’m a double weak agnostic atheist. (Can I order that at Starbucks?)

    I still like “ignostic” best though.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Stomper

    You made me think. Yes, you are right. And I keep hearing over and over again that most atheists are actually agnostic. And the term “weak atheist” always intriqued me.

    You said that an agnostic is someone who is “willing to believe, but for the absence of proof.” But what of the kind that is “willing to believe, but for the absense of dis-proof.” Is that person also an agnostic?

    What you said got me thinking, and I think perhaps most theists are also actually agnostic.

    And the die-hards on either side of the spectrum are just people who are extremely fearful or extremely angry.

    Do you think it’s possible that most of us who classify ourselves as theists are just part of that grey area who are confused as to where they stand? Are they the same kind of people who identify with the majority just for the sake of being agreeable?

    Just thinking…

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    And NYCatheist,

    What was the definition of ignostic again? (i’m slow) Can we think of something else that does not start with “igno?” It sounds too much like another word that does not describe you at all… ;-)

    But I also have a problem with some agnostics who claim it is impossible to know about god(s).

    So you think that it is possible to know all about God?

    BTW, i always order a triple. :-)

  • Stomper

    Linda:

    Your question comes at NYCatheist’s point, but from the other direction. I am a Christian, but I am also an agnostic (I choose to believe, but I cannot KNOW). Many theists claim to KNOW, but that is just another example of linguistic imprecision.

    So agnosticism is not really just the middle area on a spectrum that runs from theism to atheism (one of NYCatheist’s points). This is where I have to go to meeting, though. I’ll check back later.

  • MrDuck

    Where’s the Great Purple Anteater of Bad Axe, Michigan?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    What was the definition of ignostic again? (i’m slow) Can we think of something else that does not start with “igno?” It sounds too much like another word that does not describe you at all…

    But I am!

    Wikipedia has a page on ignosticism, here’s the intro:
    “Ignosticism is a word coined by Rabbi Sherwin Wine to indicate either of two related views about the existence of God.

    The first view is that a coherent definition of God must be presented before the question of the existence of God can be meaningfully discussed. Furthermore, if that definition cannot be falsified, the ignostic takes the theological noncognitivist position that the question of the existence of God (per that definition) is meaningless.

    The second view is synonymous with theological noncognitivism, and skips the step of first asking “What is meant by God?” before proclaiming the concept meaningless.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignosticism

    Regarding the strong/weak qualification on atheism, Wikipedia says this:
    “The strong and weak names did not come into common usage until the early 1990s, their popularization assisted by their common usage in the alt.atheism Usenet group at the time. While the terms themselves are relatively recent, the concepts they represent have been in use for some time. In earlier philosophical publications, the terms negative atheism and positive atheism were more common; these terms were used by Antony Flew in 1972, although Jacques Maritain used the phrases in a similar, but strictly Catholic apologist, context as early as 1949.[3]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_and_strong_atheism

    I discussed the confusion caused by different definitions in my blog post here:
    http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/semantic-taxonomy-of-non-theism.html

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Oops, forgot this one:

    So you think that it is possible to know all about God?

    I didn’t say all, but then again why not? It depends what kind of god you are talking about. If a god wants to stay hidden, we will never know. Or if it’s like the god of the Mormons maybe they do end up knowing all because they can become gods.

    In short there is no way for me to predict what is and isn’t knowable about any subject.

    Re: Stomper’s comments I don’t have much to say since I agree. So I’ll just say “hear hear”!

  • Stomper

    So if everyone else was as smart and perceptive as we are, there’d be love and flowers everywhere, and peace in the Middle East? It MUST be true!

  • Claire

    “willing to believe, but for the absence of proof.”

    I keep looking at that, and it just doesn’t make sense to me, for two reasons: A) Doesn’t this describe everyone? If something is truly and unarguably proved, then who could dispute it?, and B) if something is proved, then it becomes fact and is no longer a matter of belief, which may be more of a quibble, but still…

    “willing to believe, but for the absense of dis-proof.”

    If I’ve parsed this correctly, it means someone willing to believe, since no one has managed to disprove it. Did I get that right? If so, that describes people who will believe in anything (unicorns, pixie dust, aliens) just because no one can prove it’s not true. I’m thinking that must not be what was meant. Is it?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    So if everyone else was as smart and perceptive as we are, there’d be love and flowers everywhere, and peace in the Middle East? It MUST be true!

    I like the cut of your jib sailor! ;-)

    I hear Linda is busy working on plans for a new utopia so we’ll see! (No pressure Linda!)

  • Pingback: Just One God is the Difference « Archies Archive

  • Stomper

    Claire:

    Taken literally and carried to extremes, but yes, that’s what “agnostic” means. For a more formal definition, try dictionary.com:

    ag·nos·tic
    –noun
    1. a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.
    2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.
    –adjective
    3. of or pertaining to agnostics or agnosticism.
    4. asserting the uncertainty of all claims to knowledge.

    Of course, the word kind of loses any significance when it is applied too literally and universally. That’s why you usually only see it in discussions like this one. Well, that, and because a lot of people just don’t have that word in their active vocabularies.

  • Marko

    **QUOTE- Robert said,

    February 11, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    To me, any religon that outright bans any other “gods” is an obvious sign that it is a man-made religon. A truly almighty god would never so petty as to be jealous of other gods – real or imagined.
    —————————————————————

    Robert, here’s where you’re wrong.
    Look at it from the perspective of a “Parent-Child relationship”.
    Let’s say you have children. YOU were responsible for the creation of these children. They are YOUR’S & YOU are their father.

    However, your children insist on calling someone else their father, rather than you. They reject YOU as their father, & give the credit & love to someone else.

    They also think that you’re being “petty or unfair” because you’re jealous, or upset, or angry about it. After all, a “Real Father” wouldn’t be bothered in the least bit that his own children refuse him, and prefer to honor someone else.

    THAT is essentially the same relationship with US & GOD.

    I think this is something many people fail to think about, & assume it’s some sort of impersonal relationship between God & man.

    Hopefully this will help some people understand the context of the situation.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    I hear Linda is busy working on plans for a new utopia so we’ll see! (No pressure Linda!)

    Be patient… These things take time, you know! ;-)

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Look at it from the perspective of a “Parent-Child relationship”.

    OK, but this is how I see that analogy: my children have been sent away to live in another country from when they were babies. They don’t even know I exist because I have not given them any clear communication. Why should I care if they believe in me? I would only hope they were living good lives, helping others and doing as little harm as possible. I certainly wouldn’t punish them for doubting I exist. In fact, given the situation I would expect them to have such doubts!

  • Claire

    Marko said:

    Hopefully this will help some people understand the context of the situation.

    So what you are saying is that god has the same issues and level of immaturity as the average deadbeat dad? Nice.

    I don’t know why religious types complain so bitterly about what atheists say – we can never show religion in as harsh and unflattering light as they do themselves.

  • Claire

    Stomper – I wasn’t actually questioning the definition of agnostic in general (just that one definition), but the definition you posted is most interesting, especially #2. So, I can be agnostic about anything, not just god? I can be agnostic about art, I can be agnostic about conciousness, I can even be agnostic about kittens. I like it!

  • ynot

    Claire,

    Why does there need to be an explanation? Or, in a less rhetorical fashion; there doesn’t need to be an explanation, and the explanation doesn’t have to be god. There are only people who need an explanation, and people who need the explanation to be god.

    Isn’t ALL of this discussion about WHY? If there is no answer to the ultimate why, then why bother with anything? Why not just eat, drink and be merry and not worry about any consequences? Why worry about social order and justice, and select the right candidate and saving the planet when ultimately it has zero meaning whatsoever.
    Is it for the future generations? wouldn’t they be better off not existing at all?

    Why do you spend time on these sites? Why are you in this dialog? Is it just to score mental points of some kind? Is it strictly entertainment? Really, why?

    I am not going to answer the question why, because you already presuppose it’s not real. I will argue, however that there IS a why.
    My existence is undeniable, yet I am not a necessary being. My existence could cease. I am not the CAUSE of my existence and the cause of my existence MUST necessarily exist. Why necessarily? Because I do exist. There must necessarily be a cause of my existence, because my existence is undeniable.
    The WHY I exist would come from this Ultimate cause of reality. While I may not know it, it is there because I do exist.
    While the explanation doesn’t have to be “god” an explanation of the ultimate WHY exists necessarily and would necessarily point to the Ultimate Reality. The nature of this Ultimate Reality I’ll leave up to you to figure out, but I’ll say the REASON for our existence would be objective and universal.

    Their point is not, as you put it, “to dis-prove god”, but to make the case that religion is not a good thing. Either you didn’t read them, or you have sorely misinterpreted them

    .

    Good point. I have never read them entirely, just bits and pieces. I do think though, that their writings (and you are missing the point) do point to the ultimate question of WHY while not always explicit.
    Perhaps we should, instead of trying to convince theists of their errors, just eradicate them from existence. Think of how much better our world would be? There really would be world peace!!!

    I think you should start a movement.

    Oh wait, Stalin tried that.

  • ynot

    NYCatheist,

    What’s the ratio of pro-religion books to anti-religion books? Something like 1213423 to 1 (exact of course.) Not all atheists agree with all those books anyway. We don’t recite Dawkins writings like it’s the Nicene Creed or something.

    Theist out number atheist by a ratio of 1213423 to 1 (not exact, of course). so this is not surprising.

    Please banish the word “prove” from your mind. There is no proof in science. There is only proof in mathematics, whose models might have nothing to do with reality.

    No proofs in science? has this been proven? scientifically? (sorry I just can’t banish it)

    And are you saying that science is the only method of knowing reality? Has this been proven scientifically or mathematically?

    Let’s see if I understand this: there are no proofs in science, but it’s the only way to know reality and the “proofs” of math don’t correspond to reality.

    Has this been proven? (sorry, I just can’t help it)

    While a mathematical model might not correspond to reality, there are real numbers. As are the rules of logic real: such as the Law of non-contradiction and the Law of the excluded middle. Even though “science” cannot prove (sorry again) their existence, they are nevertheless REAL.

    I think saying “no clue” is going too far, but what’s wrong with saying “we don’t know yet”? Maybe we’ll find out, maybe we won’t. Don’t you want to try? It sounds like you don’t think fundamental research should be done at all. You want to fire all the theoretical physicists in the world and rehire them to design new plastic toys for Chinese factories? Aren’t you curious about the universe?

    There’s nothing wrong with saying “we don’t know yet”. and I never said anything about not looking.The point is they are looking and for OBJECTIVE REALITY and a CAUSE. It’s because there IS something there and it has LAWS or as John Warwick Montgomery put it “The Law Above The Law” that we look. the Buddhist doesn’t look because he believes it’s an illusion. The Christian looks because he believes he is “fearfully and wonderfully made” with purpose and order and design and intelligence.

    We’ll find out more truth about the foundations of reality through “Big Science” research projects than ancient stories about Adam and Eve, or Buddha’s “all is one”, etc.

    So there is TRUTH?

    Do you? Why do you think you know?

    I do think I know, but you already PRESUPPOSE it’s not true or real.

    And I like this quote from Blaise Pascal:

    “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

    Thanks for the tip on the quoting feature.

    Peace

  • Claire

    ynot said:

    If there is no answer to the ultimate why, then why bother with anything? Why not just eat, drink and be merry and not worry about any consequences? Why worry about social order and justice, and select the right candidate and saving the planet when ultimately it has zero meaning whatsoever.

    Your conclusion does not follow from your premise. Just because there is no ultimate ‘why’ does NOT mean there is no meaning in life. Life has the meaning you give it. It’s possible to worry a lot about justice and the right candidate and saving the planet, and work on those as well, without ever worrying at all about the ultimate ‘why’.

    Just because some people can’t see a meaning without god, that doesn’t mean that other people can’t.

    I submit that time spent worrying about the ultimate why (and if there is one and what it is), instead of “about social order and justice, and select the right candidate and saving the planet” as you put it, is time more or less wasted.

    I do think though, that their writings (and you are missing the point) do point to the ultimate question of WHY while not always explicit.

    No, it’s you who are missing the point – just because you project your questions onto works you admit not having read, doesn’t mean that that’s what they were really about. They weren’t.

    Perhaps we should, instead of trying to convince theists of their errors, just eradicate them from existence. Think of how much better our world would be? There really would be world peace!!!
    I think you should start a movement.
    Oh wait, Stalin tried that.

    I’m getting really tired of the Stalin thing, so let me give you a different example. Under the suppression of religion by the USSR, the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians in Yugoslavia lived side by side, intermarrying and integrating just fine – not perfect, but good enough. Then that oh-so-nasty atheistic government went away, and then there was genocide, so many dead they still can’t agree on the count, orthodox christian against catholic against muslim. Hmm…. on one side, no religion and no genocide, on the other side, religion and genocide. Tell me again, how is the second one better?

  • Claire

    ynot said:

    No proofs in science? has this been proven? scientifically? (sorry I just can’t banish it)

    Wow, you really don’t get science, do you? Science is a way of acquiring knowledge, and it doesn’t have ‘proof’ because it’s never done. Oh, and to add to what NYCatheist said – logic as well as math does have proofs.

    While a mathematical model might not correspond to reality, there are real numbers.

    Ok, I guess you don’t get math either. Real numbers don’t have much to do with ‘reality’, as the word is generally used.

    The point is they are looking and for OBJECTIVE REALITY and a CAUSE.

    Well, I suppose it’s reasonable that if you don’t get science, you won’t get scientists, either. That’s not what scientists are doing. They are trying to figure out how the universe works, and deciding that there is some big primal cause of it all, in advance of the evidence (of which there isn’t any), gets in the way of that.

  • Troyster

    It’s just as much a religion to believe there are no gods as it is to believe their are gods. Either way, a person is believing totally on the basis of faith with no scientific facts to back him. As far as I know, nobody really know for sure it’s there’s a god or not.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    No proofs in science? has this been proven? scientifically? (sorry I just can’t banish it)

    Nope. But science is a defined method, and there is no proof involved. Your question sounds like this:
    Me: Cooking spaghetti doesn’t require any proofs.
    You: Can you prove that?
    Me: There’s boiling and straining, but no proofs. It’s jut not how the method is defined. I probably can’t prove that because it’s apples and oranges.

    I’m curious what method you would use to try to prove another method doesn’t use proofs.

    And are you saying that science is the only method of knowing reality? Has this been proven scientifically or mathematically?

    Re. 1st question. I don’t think I said that. I said I think it’s our best method, not only. I’m interested in answering questions: Why is the sky blue? How did I get sick? Is there life on Mars? My question to you is, what method would use to answer these questions?

    It sounds like you want answers to very hard questions like the meaning of life and origin of reality. These questions are currently beyond our scientific knowledge. So why complain science can’t answer them? It’s like complaining your spaghetti recipe doesn’t make toast.

    Re. 2nd question: Whether the answer to the 1st is yes or no, the answer is no.

    Let’s see if I understand this: there are no proofs in science, but it’s the only way to know reality and the “proofs” of math don’t correspond to reality.

    Right there are no proofs in science. Wrong, I didn’t say it was the only way. Regarding mathematical proofs: they only prove things within their own formal systems, which don’t necessarily correspond to reality. You still have to assume certain axioms to be true.

    While a mathematical model might not correspond to reality, there are real numbers.

    How real numbers and mathematical constructs are is a deep topic with no consensus among people much smarter than I am. Here’s stuff better than I can write:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_mathematics#Mathematical_realism

    The point is they are looking and for OBJECTIVE REALITY and a CAUSE. It’s because there IS something there and it has LAWS

    What else would they do? I don’t think there are any other options for scientists than to work with our objective reality.

    Using the word “law” sounds like the fallacy of equivocation (ie. Scientific “law” = God’s “law” = the “law” of the land.) Science has found reality follows certain patterns, but we can never prove those patterns have always been the same or always will be the same.

    Example: Boyle’s Law. Robert Boyle discovered various gases behaved in the same predictable way with regards to pressure and volume. Is it exact? No, it’s for an “ideal gas”, but it is a pattern. How do we jump from that to a cosmic law giver? Especially a certain specific law giver.

    Regarding Christians and science, you could very well be right. I don’t know enough about history and psychology to know if Christian cultures have directly caused science to flourish more than in other cultures. But if it is true, so what? A certain religion may encourage scientific advancement, but that doesn’t demonstrate their particular doctrines are true. And it certainly hasn’t been ideal. Maybe if we had a different religion it wouldn’t have taken 2000 years to get to the Moon. And look what happened to poor Giordano Bruno.

    So there is TRUTH?

    I think so. As Mulder always said, “the truth is out there”.

    I do think I know, but you already PRESUPPOSE it’s not true or real.

    No I don’t. I try to keep an open mind. I also don’t think I know the truth.

    And I like this quote from Blaise Pascal:

    “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.”

    I like it too. I do my best to try and believe as many true things as possible, and disbelieve as many false things as possible. Of course I’m not perfect and the amount I don’t know is overwhelming.

    Are you suggesting by this quote that you have proof for what you believe in?

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Actually, Christians DO believe in El and the Eloim. Yahweh, El and the Eloim are all mentioned in the Torah (first five books of the Christian Old Testament) and are translated as “God” or “Lord”. The idea that the Jews have always only worshiped one super powerful god is a convenient illusion of translation.

    According to mainstream Biblical scholars, Yaweh was one of the Elohim and thus a minion under the god El. Not a very nice one, apparently. In fact, there is some confusion over whether Yaweh and one of the entities which Christians amalgamate into a devil god are identical.

    In fact Christians believe in a serious of devil gods called Satan, Prince of Darkness, Beelzebub, Lucifer and so on. Once again, these are conveniently mistranslated as if they were all one entity.

  • ynot

    NYC,

    Nope. But science is a defined method, and there is no proof involved. Your question sounds like this:

    Me: Cooking spaghetti doesn’t require any proofs.

    Science means KNOWLEDGE and USES a method to determine what is TRUE
    While I’ll agree is doesn’t PROVE as in logic or mahematics, it may make statements about reality that are TRUE.this reality is KNOWABLE. Otherwise why ask the questions?

    I’m curious what method you would use to try to prove another method doesn’t use proofs.

    My point exactly.

    It sounds like you want answers to very hard questions like the meaning of life and origin of reality. These questions are currently beyond our scientific knowledge. So why complain science can’t answer them? It’s like complaining your spaghetti recipe doesn’t make toast.

    I don’t think I ever complained about science. I trust it as much as you do as a method of learning about reality. But I don’t believe it’s the only method.

    Using the word “law” sounds like the fallacy of equivocation (ie. Scientific “law” = God’s “law” = the “law” of the land.) Science has found reality follows certain patterns, but we can never prove those patterns have always been the same or always will be the same

    My use the the word law, as in first principles that are universally true. The Law of non-contradiction is a principle that is universally applicable for all time. It’s inescapable. And these laws imply intelligence. Why? because they are about knowledge and communication. It is a universal law governing thought and communication and is not selected at will, but ABOVE. They trandscend.

    And because it’s intelligent and communicable, it’s source MUST be also. for a giver (cause) cannot give what it doesn’t have

    And I completely agree with everything else.

    I do my best to try and believe as many true things as possible, and disbelieve as many false things as possible.

    But what is YOUR test for “true” and “false”?

    As to your last question – no I do not have “proof”, but I have very good REASONS for my belief. and if you really do have an open mind – maybe you’re not looking in the right places.

    Peace

  • http://www.rmcomics.com Chuck Rowles

    Geez, the comments – pro and con atheist – seem to be totally missing the point.

    The arguments I’ve seen here are:

    1. Some gods are missing from the list…an inevitable truth for almost all lists.

    2. Some gods listed aren’t considered as gods by some – though others obviously do…a fight over the mortality of a religious figurehead…what a waste of time. This has all the practicality of a Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument.

    3. Some Christians believe in other gods, but think they’re lesser dieties – or demons. Interesting, I suppose, but the list seems mostly to deal with broad generalizations, not specific sects. The idea that some Christians believe in everything in every other religion does not surprise me, as one that door of belief without proof is open it’s hard to rationally disbelieve in all sorts of things.

    4. The insoluble disagreement between people who will believe anything told them by authority, and those who have a more skeptical view…classic God vs. No God talk. The ultimate boil-down point between religious and non-religious persons. I make a prediction: no one will change their mind as this argument progresses. Anyone think anything different here?

    …it seems the list here was a funny commentary on exactly how many religions and deities a Christian has to reject to be “true believers”.

    Anyway, it got a laugh from me, and all the other arguments were interesting but beside the point. Thanks for taking the time to make the list Friendly Atheist.

  • ynot

    Claire,

    Your conclusion does not follow from your premise. Just because there is no ultimate ‘why’ does NOT mean there is no meaning in life. Life has the meaning you give it. It’s possible to worry a lot about justice and the right candidate and saving the planet, and work on those as well, without ever worrying at all about the ultimate ‘why’.

    But what if the meaning you give it – is meaningless. A meaning you give it is just a justification for why you do what you do. My WHY goes much deeper in that it’s from the cause and effect relationship. All causes are the why. Cause = why. This effect occurred BECAUSE of this cause (why). We have a cause for EVERY effect and an effect cannot cause itself. You cannot have a self-caused cause either.

    Because we have this long chain of cause and effects. The WHYS producing effects, we have to have a beginning. You cannot have an infinite cause and effect series going backward just as cannot reach the end in an infinte series going forward. You will never reach the end. And if there were an infinte series backward, you would have never reached the current cause and effect.

    Point is, all these causes are WHYS and it stands to reason that the first Un-caused cause is a WHY as well. And this WHY gives us our TRUE meaning of life.

    Just because some people can’t see a meaning without god, that doesn’t mean that other people can’t.

    I submit that time spent worrying about the ultimate why (and if there is one and what it is), instead of “about social order and justice, and select the right candidate and saving the planet” as you put it, is time more or less wasted.

    I’m getting really tired of the Stalin thing, so let me give you a different example. Under the suppression of religion by the USSR, the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians in Yugoslavia lived side by side, intermarrying and integrating just fine – not perfect, but good enough. Then that oh-so-nasty atheistic government went away, and then there was genocide, so many dead they still can’t agree on the count, orthodox christian against catholic against muslim. Hmm…. on one side, no religion and no genocide, on the other side, religion and genocide. Tell me again, how is the second one better?

    We do have a body count of the atheist regimes – they are in the TENS OF MILLIONS. You could add all the deaths of the religious caused wars in history and it wouldn’t come close to those numbered by the atheist regimes – not even close.

    but all the is justifying bad behavior by pointing to bad behavior and is realy going nowhere.

    Peace

  • ynot

    Claire,

    Oh, and to add to what NYCatheist said – logic as well as math does have proofs.

    Agreed and logic implies first principles that govern all thought and communication. They trandscend and are universally TRUE.

    Ok, I guess you don’t get math either. Real numbers don’t have much to do with ‘reality’, as the word is generally used.

    A lot of mathematicians that would disagree.

    Well, I suppose it’s reasonable that if you don’t get science, you won’t get scientists, either. That’s not what scientists are doing. They are trying to figure out how the universe works, and deciding that there is some big primal cause of it all, in advance of the evidence (of which there isn’t any), gets in the way of that.

    Duh, They’re not looking at objective reality in trying to figure out how the universe works??? If they’re not looking at and for reality, what are they looking for that determines how it works?

    “trying to figure out how the universe works”? DO YOU MEAN THE CAUSE(s)!!!

  • ynot

    Claire,

    In my first reply there I meant to edit portions. Anyway, you can see the mistake where I had some of your reply mixed in with mine.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Ynot wrote:

    Science means KNOWLEDGE and USES a method to determine what is TRUE
    While I’ll agree is doesn’t PROVE as in logic or mahematics, it may make statements about reality that are TRUE.

    That’s OK, but I’d like to stress that the “truths” science uncovers are always provisional, and aren’t the capital “T”, “Truths” that are discussed in philosophy. Depending on the amount and quality of evidence scientific truths cover the complete range of confidence, from completely hypothetical to confirmed facts. However everything is open to new data, tests, and theories.

    At least that is the ideal. Remember scientists are just people with the usual faults and foibles. Some are protective of their pet theories and others lie, but the majority due their best to be intellectually honest.

    My use the the word law, as in first principles that are universally true. The Law of non-contradiction is a principle that is universally applicable for all time. It’s inescapable. And these laws imply intelligence. Why? because they are about knowledge and communication. It is a universal law governing thought and communication and is not selected at will, but ABOVE. They trandscend.

    I’m not sure I can follow you down that same path. Could the god you are imagining have created the laws of logic without the law of noncontradiction? I’m also not sure they imply intelligence, but I don’t deny it either. I really have no idea.

    Some laws of logic might not work at all levels though:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_logic

    But if you could convince me that an intelligence is behind the laws of logic and mathematics then I would just be a deist (or pantheist, or panentheist…) The jump from atheism to deism is very short compared to the jump from deism to Christianity, Hinduism, etc.

    How do you know the true creator god isn’t waiting for us to find his true revelation deep in mathematics or physics?

    But what is YOUR test for “true” and “false”?

    I try to think scientifically about things. I don’t believe claims without good evidence, and I try not to cling to attractive conclusions or “facts”. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m always trying to learn more. I value skepticism over faith. (And before you ask, yes even skepticism of skepticism whatever that entails.)

    if you really do have an open mind – maybe you’re not looking in the right places.

    Oh, I don’t know. Maybe. But I’ve been around. Read this and that, talked to all kinds of people in my life. The quest for truth is never ending. Anyway, the same can be said about anyone. There is always more to learn and nobody is an expert on everything.

    From your dialog with Claire, you wrote:

    We do have a body count of the atheist regimes – they are in the TENS OF MILLIONS. You could add all the deaths of the religious caused wars in history and it wouldn’t come close to those numbered by the atheist regimes – not even close.

    Is it really that much? The big ones are Stalin and Mao, right? They are atheists, but they were pushing their own oppressive personality cults. Atheism is not a world view or a way to live life. It’s just lack of belief in deities. Most atheists are humanists, which is their positive philosophy on living the good life. Stalin was not a humanist. Stalin also didn’t believe in fairies, should we blame his regime on that lack of belief? Stalin was more concerned with eliminating any competition for his power.

    I should also point out that religious wars and the inquisitions of the past didn’t have the “advantage” of modern death technology and the dense human populations of the 20th century so the comparison isn’t really fair.

  • Ralph

    The real problem is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Chuck Rowles said:

    …what a waste of time. This has all the practicality of a Star Wars vs. Star Trek argument.

    You’re just annoyed because my Federation star ship blew your star destroyer out of the sky! Photon Torpedos for the win! ;-)

    Serious reply: I don’t think it’s a waste of time. I enjoy having these discussions sometimes. It’s good brain exercise. Also it’s not true that no one ever changes their mind. You can read countless de-conversion stories on various forums and often online discussions were a big part of the process. It usually doesn’t happen overnight from one blog thread though.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Troyster said,

    It’s just as much a religion to believe there are no gods as it is to believe their are gods. Either way, a person is believing totally on the basis of faith with no scientific facts to back him. As far as I know, nobody really know for sure it’s there’s a god or not.

    That idea is repeated often. Do you really think the typical atheist is just as religious as the typical Christian? The average Christian is going to church, studying the Bible, praying, etc. What are the equivalent behaviors that an atheist is doing that makes you think they are religious?

    Some atheists (the “strong” ones) do have a kind of faith that no possible gods exist, but I think the majority just lack belief. How can the lack of a belief become a religion? An atheist is not pushing any religious dogma. (Note this does not make atheists immune from other dogmas, like marxism, conspiracy theories, racism, radical environmentalism etc. On a side note I heard Penn of Penn & Teller tell a story about their show Bullshit. Out of all their shows attacking religion, psychics, environmentalists etc. the scariest people were the 9-11 conspiracy theorists. Only from that group did Penn get numerous death threats, and had people calling his home and stalking him. So there you go. I’m not saying those nuts were atheists, but atheists can be as nutty as anyone else.)

    Anyway here’s the standard snappy reply: “If atheism is a religion, then baldness is a hair color”.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Ralph said,

    The real problem is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Not always. Example:

    http://www.overcomingbias.com/2007/08/absence-of-evid.html

  • Matthew

    What does Siddhartha not wanting to be seen as a God have to do with anything as far as THIS argument concerning whether or not Buddha is considered a God NOW? Yeah, he may have been against having his followers consider him to be a God, but that does not change the fact that MANY sects of Buddhism DO consider him a God nowadays, does it now?

    Also, I find it highly irritating that many in the “Buddha is not a God” camp see certain Buddhists’ prayers and idol-worshiping as “anti-deity behavior,” where as similar practices by people of the Hindu faith are unequivocally deity-worshiping. I highly suggest some of you folks do some research on Hinduism and see the similarities between it and Buddhism. The fact that the latter essentially pulled many of it’s doctrines from the Hindu and Brahmin faith should raise an eyebrow or two regarding the true intentions of Hinduism. Yes, it has many “Gods,” but ultimately, the Hindu faith is about the procurement of knowledge and the truth–areas that Buddhism is widely associated with.

    It can be argued, and quite easily at that, that Hinduism is a “way of life” just as much as Buddhism is. One need only take more than a cursory glance at what is behind the rituals and idol-worshiping to see this.

  • robin

    I’ll stray from the religious discussion…why is this list an image (jpeg)? Is it some feeble attempt at copy protection? It doesn’t look good (visually), and seems a little silly.

  • joseph

    Darwin are christian.

  • Ralph

    Thanks for posting the info on absence of evidence.
    Re the followers of founders of religions, followers will always distort the original teachings. Hence Buddhists turn the Buddha into something to worship. They worship the finger that is pointing to a way of life.
    I think Bertrand Russell said that there was one christian, and he died on the cross

  • Kimmy

    One more thing we both have in common…we will both spend eternity somewhere! (Don’t worry, it won’t be in the same place.)

  • Siamang

    You getting your ashes shot into space, Kimmy?

    Otherwise I plan to be spending eternity six feet under.

  • Richard Wade

    Hey Kimmy,
    Being smug is a deadly sin.

  • True_believer

    I submit that time spent worrying about the ultimate why (and if there is one and what it is), instead of “about social order and justice, and select the right candidate and saving the planet” as you put it, is time more or less wasted.

    The question is never Why, it’s always How. How to hell are you going to know what’s “right”? HOW? Its just rethorical question I know you can’t answer if you are atheist. If you really need to spend time asking Why, then ask your self why is your “right” right? How are you going to decide what is “saving a planet”, “justice”, etc?

    “If atheism is a religion, then baldness is a hair color”.

    Signed.

    However, I changed my mind about one thing at least, and that’s this discussion’s cause. The intension of OP was probably to show similarities, and in that way was positive. Although the amount of ignorance contained there is almost unbearable, that intention makes up for some of it I guess.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    The question is never Why, it’s always How. How to hell are you going to know what’s “right”? HOW? Its just rethorical question I know you can’t answer if you are atheist. If you really need to spend time asking Why, then ask your self why is your “right” right? How are you going to decide what is “saving a planet”, “justice”, etc?

    You were replying to Claire, but I’ll jump in here if you don’t mind. I’m an atheist, and I think I can answer your question. How do I know an action is right? Off the top of my head there are two ways. One is my gut feeling. I feel murder is wrong. It’s just like my other senses, like my sense of taste. I feel (sense) sugar is sweet? Why? How? That’s the way my brain is wired. I can’t choose to taste sugar as bitter anymore than I can choose to feel murder is right. (Note my analogy does not rule out a theistic explanation of why the brain wiring is the way it is, but it does not necessitate it.)

    The second way for less black and white issues is to use my judgment and reason. I look at the consequences and try to minimize harm. But why is my ultimate goal to minimize harm? Because that is what I feel as I wrote above.

    How does a theist know what is right? From written scriptures? How do you know the author is a trustworthy moral authority? How do you know the Bible is true, and not the Koran or Book of Mormon? (At least the Book of Mormon has actual signed witnesses!) Personally I trust a person as a moral agent more if they are basing their ethics on their own common sense and good nature, than on a book or religious authority.

    Signed.

    Signed?

    Although the amount of ignorance contained there is almost unbearable

    Welcome to the Internet. Are you referring to the original list of gods? What part is ignorant? Do you mean the choice of gods? Just curious.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    NYCatheist,

    Personally I trust a person as a moral agent more if they are basing their ethics on their own common sense and good nature

    If I may interject, where do we get this common sense and good nature? Could it be that we learned through co-existing together (for many many years) what works and what does not work in order to continue and grow as a species that loves life?

  • True_believer

    You were replying to Claire, but I’ll jump in here if you don’t mind. I’m an atheist, and I think I can answer your question. How do I know an action is right? Off the top of my head there are two ways. One is my gut feeling. I feel murder is wrong. It’s just like my other senses, like my sense of taste. I feel (sense) sugar is sweet? Why? How? That’s the way my brain is wired. I can’t choose to taste sugar as bitter anymore than I can choose to feel murder is right. (Note my analogy does not rule out a theistic explanation of why the brain wiring is the way it is, but it does not necessitate it.

    That’s one way, and what you are saying is wrong. It’s not that you feel something is sweet, you feel something that someone or someting compared with tells you that it’s sweet. Eg. if everything is sweet, what’s bitter?

    Your broken logic would then mean that if my “gut feeling” tells me you it’s “good” to kill you, I’m right because you agree with it. Values must be universal, and “gut feeling” is hardly such.

    Truth is, whatever you consider “good” or “better” is based on values that you learned through your experience, and all your values are defined by some religion. They defined your virtues long ago, and you are now accepting them thinking that it’s your “gut feeling” when it really isn’t.

  • Siamang

    Values must be universal

    Prove it.

  • Stomper

    Boy children are more valuable than girl children? Gay people are evil? Those are widely held beliefs in many parts of the world, many people would call them “gut feelings,” but they are not values I share. Values are NOT “universal,” as proven by those two examples.

    As a Christian who happens to be a United Methodist, I base my values on prayerful consideration of (1) the Bible, (2) tradition, (3) reason, and (4) personal experience. See:

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

    Scripture is paramount, but it informs only my spiritual and moral decisions — the decisions in which empiricism offers little help.

    The Bible is not a scientific document, and was never intended to be treated as one, while empiricism is ill-suited as a moral or spiritual resource. The Old Testament provides a historical and mythological foundation fior the New Testament, and the New Testament contains the new covenant found in the teachings of Christ. Christ taught through stories and stated principles, but He avoided the Old Testament trap of laying out detailed rules.

    This means there is room for differences of opinion between people who can follow different rules and still consider themselves followers of Christ. (See Romans, Ch 14). Values vary, and that is okay — so long as the innocent are protected from the selfish values of others..

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    That’s one way, and what you are saying is wrong. It’s not that you feel something is sweet, you feel something that someone or someting compared with tells you that it’s sweet. Eg. if everything is sweet, what’s bitter?

    I disagree. The sensory impression of sweetness is not dependent on other tastes. Color is the same. If I was raised in a room with only white objects and one day someone showed me a rose I would experience the color red. It won’t matter that I have never seen blue. (Likewise if I was blind and my sight was restored, it wouldn’t matter that I was seeing nothing before.) Or closer to your point, if I was raised in a red room my whole life I would still be experiencing the color red and I could compare it to the “nothing” of closing my eyes (comparable to not having food in my mouth for sweetness, or the choice of not murdering someone.)

    Your broken logic would then mean that if my “gut feeling” tells me you it’s “good” to kill you, I’m right because you agree with it. Values must be universal, and “gut feeling” is hardly such.

    You would think it was right, but then you would be a sociopath. Your brain is broken. I think the majority of humans tend to operate along certain universal values. Cultures vary a great deal, but those differences are just details.

    Truth is, whatever you consider “good” or “better” is based on values that you learned through your experience, and all your values are defined by some religion. They defined your virtues long ago, and you are now accepting them thinking that it’s your “gut feeling” when it really isn’t.

    Personally I wasn’t raised with a religion. I never went to church.

    Maybe we are leaning towards a nature vs. nurture debate. Certain cultures might encourage their members to do actions that another culture would deem immoral, but again I think those are just details. Many anthropologists have shows that there are certain universals that transcend all cultures, such as “murder is a bad thing” or “you should respect elders” etc. Other things that people still call “values” are not universal, such as “sex before marriage is bad”, so it depends what you are talking about.

    I think evolution has worked on the brains of social primates causing human brains to tend towards a certain general system of ethics. It’s not exact, and can be influenced and pushed this way and that. Who knows, maybe our brains will continue to evolve to develop an even finer moral sense. This subject is very complicated and I’m no expert.

    Check out this article by Steven Pinker who knows a lot more than me:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Linda wrote:

    If I may interject, where do we get this common sense and good nature? Could it be that we learned through co-existing together (for many many years) what works and what does not work in order to continue and grow as a species that loves life?

    Yes, but I think it’s two things. The “software” given to us by the things you mention; our family and culture. Plus the “hardware” of our brain structure that is the legacy of our evolution as social primates.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer asks

    How to hell are you going to know what’s “right”? HOW? Its just rethorical question I know you can’t answer if you are atheist. If you really need to spend time asking Why, then ask your self why is your “right” right? How are you going to decide what is “saving a planet”, “justice”, etc?

    Research by behavioral scientists has shown that a person’s moral beliefs and behaviors are the result of the combination of innate trends, education, social development, intelligence. and the influence of mass communication. Kohlberg’s moral development scale, which has been around for half a century, provides a schemata which parallels the stages of intellectual and cognitive development outlined by Piaget.

    Here is a summary of Kohlberg’s six moral stages.

    1. The child assumes that powerful authorities hand down a fixed set of rules which he or she must unquestioningly obey.

    2. Children recognize that there is not just one right view that is handed down by the authorities. Different individuals have different viewpoints.

    3. (Early teens). Good behavior means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern for others.

    4. People at this level make moral decisions from the perspective of society as a whole. The emphasis is on obeying laws, respecting authority, and performing one’s duties so that the social order is maintained.

    5. People at this level believe that a good society is best conceived as a social contract into which people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all

    6. The principles of justice require us to treat the claims of all parties in an impartial manner, respecting the basic dignity of all people as individuals. Democratic processes are insufficient because a majority may vote for a law that hinders a minority.

    The Yaweh god depicted in the Jewish and Christian scriptures is stuck on the lower rungs of this scale and often does not even make the first rung. Directing his followers to engage in the wholesale and complete slaughter of innocent women and children in neighboring tribes can only be termed “moral” by impressive linguistic gymnastics or by redefining the meaning of that word.

    American-style fundamentalist Christians have generally developed morally beyond the god they think they worship but are frequently still stuck in the childhood stages of moral development. They use a text book written from the perspective of Stage One morality, cherry-pick the contents to match their own level of moral developement vis a vis current society and then arrogantly assume that they and/or their current leaders can infallibly interpret the passages. They ignore the ominous sign that there are almost as many moral interpretations of these writings as there are followers who believe themselves to be divinely inspired while interpreting them. The result is a group of dangerous individuals who believe that their stage of moral development is benignly divine and who are not open to the higher forms of moral reasoning.

    The intension of OP was probably to show similarities, and in that way was positive. Although the amount of ignorance contained there is almost unbearable, that intention makes up for some of it I guess.

    As is usual in these kinds of discussions, most of the ignorance is unfortunately displayed by those who believe that they are supernaturally guided. The ignorance which most Christians have about their text book and the development and history of their current belief set is absolutely extraordinary. While all devout Muslims read their religious text book from start to finish on a regular basis very few Christians have managed to read their text in this fashion even once.

    The American Gideon Society promotes this by distributing Bibles which are poorly translated from the original languages into a language which no-one speaks and few can fully understand these days. Try asking a Gideon member how long it last took them to read their distribution material from cover to cover. Then ask them why a book which they claim is at least divinely inspired is so unclear and/or unreadable that it is necessary to include instructions on “How to become a Christian” at the front of the manuscript. Can it be because people who do manage to read the book sequentially in its uncensored entirety are unlikely to come up with the same “executive summary” of its contents? Is it put there as an easy-reading alternative to the turgid text to follow in order to lure people away from discovering the moral bankruptcy of the main god described within? It is sad but true that the higher one rates on the Kohlberg moral scale the more likely it is that reading the Christian text book will result in a-theism rather than continuing theism.

  • Siamang

    Rosemary,

    What a wonderful post. Fantastic answer. I’m going to post it, if you don’t mind, to a discussion thread on the Friendly Atheist Boards.

  • True_believer

    Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    “Higher forms of morality”! :)

    It sounds somewhat arrogant, don’t you think? I might be mistaken.

    Other problem I got with your scripture is that you name people, like Christians, Muslims and Jews. That is pretty much one and a same culture. How much you know about truly different societies and cultures, their customs, values and moral codes? (Kohlbert and Piaget excepted, good and extensive knowledge on them I guess ;) )

    Oh, and ignorance is exclusively displayed by ignorant people. OP qualifies 100%, whereas I’m not too sure about your “fundamentalist Christians”. There are many that call themselves Christians, but are light-years away from being what they claim. Obviously there might be some ignorance involved, I agree. It’s not limited to Christianity of course. People claim to be Muslims same way, without accepting basics of Islam. You can’t take them as example for the rest of people who really are practicing their religion. It’s also a little bit ignorant from your side.

    And you NYC didn’t understand my comparison. Let’s try again with your room and colors:
    You live in a room where everything is blue, and there are 5 other people in there. One of them makes red pile of poo in the middle of the room. Now, it happens that you are color blind. Two people will tell you that poo is red; two other people will tell you that they would rather call that color green, and to you it looks bluish like everything else. My point is that you are probably not going to start investigating its color, because it’s still piece of shit. You might try to get bastard who did it to clean it up as well.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer said,
    “Higher forms of morality”! :)
    It sounds somewhat arrogant, don’t you think? I might be mistaken.

    Yep. You’re mistaken. :-)

    There is a mathematical formulae for deciding what is “higher” or “lower” on psychological scales of development. Mathematics does not possess human emotion or characteristics. Progression from one stage to another on a developmental hierarchy requires demonstration that the movement is linear and uni-directional. You cannot progress to a higher stage until you have mastered the earlier ones. Regression to earlier stages is only seen during the transition period and thereafter only in times of stress, illness and cognitive impairment.

    True_believer said, Other problem I got with your scripture is that you name people, like Christians, Muslims and Jews. That is pretty much one and a same culture.

    “My” scripture??? What is that? While Christianity, Islam and Judaism originated from the same source I cannot agree that they are the same “culture”. Not even the various Christian belief sets could be defined as “one and the same culture”. When you add the Christian derivatives the cultural clash is even greater.

    True_believer asked: How much you know about truly different societies and cultures, their customs, values and moral codes?

    It’s irrelevant to the argument, but since you asked: I am a multi-cultured person who spent my formative years in a highly integrated and very multicultural country before spending months to years in several others. My profession requires that I am very aware of the differences between the culture I once took for granted and the cultures and belief sets of the people I work with. How about you? How many countries have you lived in? Do you work closely with foreign nationals?

    True_believer states: Oh, and ignorance is exclusively displayed by ignorant people.

    No. Ignorance is displayed by absolutely everyone. “Ignorant people” are usually those people who think that they are the exception.

  • Claire

    NYCatheist said:

    Not always. Example:

    Thanks for that example and the link! I never liked that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” chestnut, it’s just not always true. If you can’t find evidence of a rhino in your bathtub (such as, for example, the actual rhino), I’m thinking it’s just not there.

    You were replying to Claire, but I’ll jump in here if you don’t mind.

    By all means! I’ve been in and out with something nasty I can’t shake, so I keep dropping threads. It’s nice to know someone out there will set straight those who need to be set.

  • True_believer

    No. Ignorance is displayed by absolutely everyone. “Ignorant people” are usually those people who think that they are the exception.

    Please refer to part of my reply to NYCatheist, you know, room, poo, color of it … :)
    I will probably never be as multi-cultural as you, and for that I envy you. I only lived in 5 countries so far for longer period of time. I’m planning to visit some more in the future hopefully. But I didn’t mean how well you communicate or interact with your environment, what I mean is full grasp of what they deem as virtues, ethics and morality. It doesn’t include customs, local fashion or trends that come and go, I mean real deal.

  • Claire

    True_believer said,

    That’s one way, and what you are saying is wrong. It’s not that you feel something is sweet, you feel something that someone or someting compared with tells you that it’s sweet. Eg. if everything is sweet, what’s bitter?

    Complete and utter crapspackle! Sweet is sweet, and the brain is hard-wired to recognize that. It’s not comparative – if someone never tasted anything bitter in their life they would still recognize sweet. It’s a damn bad analogy. Now, the fact that you consider bitter instead of sour to be the opposite of sweet, that’s cultural.

    Your broken logic would then mean that if my “gut feeling” tells me you it’s “good” to kill you, I’m right because you agree with it. Values must be universal, and “gut feeling” is hardly such.

    Nope, NYCatheist and Siamang were right – anyone who feels that way has a broken moral sense, not fixable by religion or probably by anything, and values are NOT universal. You just think they should be. Oh, and by some interesting coincidence, those ‘universal values’ should no doubt be the ones you like, not the ones currently preferred by other cultures…..

    If you really think all cultures share a universal set of values (which, again, is no doubt one you approve of) then you are very much seeing only what you want to see in those other cultures.

  • Claire

    Rosemary Lyndall Wemm said,

    Kohlberg’s moral development scale, which has been around for half a century, provides a schemata which parallels the stages of intellectual and cognitive development outlined by Piaget.

    Thanks so much for solving a decades-old question for me! I read about Kohlberg’s stages of moral development in high school, and wished I could remember the name and the levels often in the intervening years. It explains so much, so very well.

  • True_believer

    Nope, NYCatheist and Siamang were right – anyone who feels that way has a broken moral sense, not fixable by religion or probably by anything

    That was exactly my point. You seem to side with them regardless. What does that makes you I wonder?

    Besides, any cognitive scientist will tell you that you are wrong about perception, but that was only example anyway, so it’s irrelevant.

    What is relevant was in that copy/paste Rosemary’s essay:

    Research by behavioral scientists has shown that a person’s moral beliefs and behaviors are the result of the combination of innate trends (religion influenced), education (religion influenced), social development (religion influenced), intelligence (own choices probably) and the influence of mass communication (religion influenced).

    So yeah, thanks for confirming it.

  • Claire

    True_believer said,

    That was exactly my point.

    That’s an old dodge, trying to claim that people are now agreeing with you, thus making you right all along. Ha! Not even close, unless your point was that we don’t need religion to tell us what’s right and what’s wrong. In that case, yes, glad you agree.

    Besides, any cognitive scientist will tell you that you are wrong about perception, but that was only example anyway, so it’s irrelevant.

    Name one. Cite me a reference.

    What is relevant was in that copy/paste Rosemary’s essay:

    Research by behavioral scientists has shown that a person’s moral beliefs and behaviors are the result of the combination of innate trends (religion influenced), education (religion influenced), social development (religion influenced), intelligence (own choices probably) and the influence of mass communication (religion influenced).

    Exactly how dishonest are you, anyway? That is ABSOLUTELY NOT a quote of what Rosemary said – all that stuff about religion was added by YOU. That’s about the level of intellectual dishonesty I’m coming to expect from you.

  • True_believer

    Well, that was ABSOLUTLY OBVIOUS, captain. I just couldn’t be stuffed putting quotes 10 times in there, and I put brackets instead. Since you are such hypocrite, she actually copy/pasted someone else’s work without link or quotes. Come down, I don’t see a reason for such hostility, especially from someone atheistic (as in “religion causing wars” and similar accusations here somewhere). You may want to discuss it if you don’t agree with me, but please don’t lie or call me dishonest. There is not much point in it, proves nothing and puts us both in bad situation. Try to prove me wrong with real arguments instead.

  • Darryl

    Rosemary, will you marry me?!

  • Darryl

    I think I see now why true believer is such an expert on that red poo he’s always talking about.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    True_believer wrote:

    You live in a room where everything is blue, and there are 5 other people in there. One of them makes red pile of poo in the middle of the room. Now, it happens that you are color blind.

    I’m not sure what your analogy is illustrating. I was showing that my “feeling” of murder being bad is similar to my “feeling” that sugar is sweet. In your example the person is color blind which corresponds to someone being “morally blind”. In other words, the person is a sociopath and their brain is broken.

    I know my original analogy isn’t perfect, but I think people are born with a general ethical tool kit that needs to be nourished and educated just like our potential for language. A baby raised by wolves might not develop a healthy moral sense just like they won’t develop language. But I think it’s easier to raise a child to be a good person, just as it is easier to raise a kid to speak a language. (Ie. they seem to just vacuum up new words and sentence patterns they hear in the environment. To raise a serial killer would take a concerted effort to “break” the inherent good nature of a child, and would require a warped moral sense in the parent as well.) So it is not as “hard wired” as our sense of color. (The wolf baby would still perceive the color red and the taste of sweet for example.) If I were to guess why I would say that the modules in the brain which process basic senses like color and taste evolved billions of years before the moral sense which evolved relatively recently in social primates.

    Also it may seem I am diverging from other atheists here in supposing there actually are universal values, but I am talking about a certain specific subset of “values” which do tend to cross all cultural lines.

    True_believer, did you read the Steven Pinker article I linked to? It’s very interesting.

    To Rosemary Lyndall Wemm,

    I also must say, excellent!

  • Stomper

    Kohlberg’s scale is interesting, but I am highly doubtful of claims that it is mathematically proven and not subject to dispute. As I understand it, Kohlberg also concluded that very few people reach the highest level of development: Christ, Buddha, and Kohlberg himself being among the elite.

    It is a useful tool, and it agrees with my own perceptions (sent my kids to a pre-school based on Piaget’s constructivist development model), but I just don’t see any possible way for Kohlberg’s hierarchy to be evaluated as an objective truth, rather than a subjective belief. Somewhere, somehow, you have to make assumptions — and those assumptions WILL be subject to challenge. In fact, I understand that his hierarchy HAS been challenged by scholars who are far more qualified than I.

    Not saying Kohlberg is wrong. Just saying you don’t want to be . . . dogmatic about it.

  • Claire

    True_believer said,

    Try to prove me wrong with real arguments instead.

    I have, more than once, but you keep not replying to those parts. Still waiting for that citation from a cogitive scientist, by the way….

    Well, that was ABSOLUTLY OBVIOUS, captain. I just couldn’t be stuffed putting quotes 10 times in there, and I put brackets instead.

    I guess I mistook sloppy scholarhip and incorrect use of conventions for dishonesty, that can happen. But if that’s what you intended, all you had to do was end with ‘parts in brackets are mine’ and that would have been clear, but clarity doesn’t seem to be your strong suite.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Stomper said

    Kohlberg’s scale is interesting, but I am highly doubtful of claims that it is mathematically proven and not subject to dispute. As I understand it, Kohlberg also concluded that very few people reach the highest level of development: Christ, Buddha, and Kohlberg himself being among the elite.

    Kohlberg’s model is as open to question as any other. It does, indeed, have its critics and several holes in its logic have been established, including Kohlberg’s self-established status at the top of the moral rung. :-)

    As you point out, it cannot be mathematically proven in the same sense of rigorous physics or chemistry can be proven. The mathematical aspects of the model refer to its claim to provide a description of a valid heirarchy. Kohlberg himself has questioned this in relation to his 6th rung. Like every other scientific theory, its acceptance depends on its ability to withstand constant review. Like them, it needs to be revised or abandoned in the light of new evidence. So far it has survived with modifications and waivers.

    Like intelligence and cognitive style, there are few absolute universals in the moral sphere. Like them, however, there is evidence that mankind is continuing to develop. Much of what was “intelligent” behavior in the iron age would be described as evidence of mentally deficiency in this century. Much of what was deemed to be “moral” in the iron age would be described in criminal terms today. In fact, we only have to look back fifty years to see how our concepts of intelligence and morality have developed. There is a curious phenomena in the US, however, where absolute measures of knowledge and intelligence strongly suggest that the average citizen’s intellectual competence has fallen dramatically over the last century. But let us not be side-tracked on that issue on-list.

    Whether Kohlberg’s model is the ultimate descriptor of moral development is actually irrelevant to the original point of this on-line discussion. The point is that there is a well-established and well-supported consensus among behavioral scientists that there is ample evidence to support the notion that moral development is a natural phenomena which occurs regardless of exposure to belief systems which claim a supernatural backing. There is an equally strong and well-supported censensus that moral development may be hindered by over-exposure to environments which stress compliance with authoratively-based moral systems. This, however, needs to be put in context.

    The main causes of what is collectively labeled as “immoral” behavior are neurological developmental defects and poor nurturing, especially in the early years. This is somewhat problematic for those who believe that a supernatural being creates people with such defects and/or places them in harmful environments without also providing the means of escape. It raises insurmountable conflicts relating to the benevolence and powerfulness of the supernatural entity.

  • Stomper

    Rosemary:

    Ah, I see. I certainly agree that the concept of moral/immoral behavior has changed substantially over time. In the Bible, this is reflected by profound differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament (in the values reflected by the stories, as well as in the covenants between God and the faithful).

    I also agree that children learn (or fail to learn) moral values from their environment. Religion certainly does not have a monopoly on moral behavior, but it can be a useful tool for teaching moral values. Religion is not an exclusive tool — there are others.

    The evidence seems to suggest that moral behavior is a social construct, and thus changes as society changes. The few “universal” moral rules (if any) would arguably reflect universal traits of all successful human societies, rather than any hardwired instinct to behave morally.

    If true, then this presents a problem for traditionalist, fundamentalist, and literalist approaches to faith — as society’s needs change, adherence to old rules can become silly or even counterproductive for society as a whole.

    Example of non-universal rule: Cannibalism is “universally” prohibited and condemned in all human societies — except in small, isolated (and sometimes temporary) societies in which cannibalism is necessary for survival (i.e., plane crashes in the Andes, stranded wagon trains, life boats, and islands with insufficient protein sources). If there are exceptions, then it is not “universal.”

    Another example: Killing other people is also “universally” condemned — except as to warriors in battle, government execution of criminals, self-defense, defense of loved ones or property, or (in some minds, at least) euthanasia.

    Anyone who claims there are universal moral rules should provide at least one specific example. I’ll bet posters here can identify at least 3 exceptions for each alleged example. There are no “universal” or “instinctive” moral rules — but society can instill the required rules without resort to religion, and it is a mistake to suggest that religion is an essential component of moral teaching.

    You are certainly correct, that most believers struggle with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good (or innocent) people?” The Roman Catholics fabricated the concept of “limbo” or “purgatory” to address this very question. Other answers are likewise a bit strained or contrived.

    I frequently ask God that question, and I’m still waiting for a satisfactory answer. It is entirely possible that I am incapable of being satisfied by the answer, due to my own limitations. That possibility does not stop me from asking.

  • Ramtha

    Whenever you pray to “god” you are in fact praying to yourself. Because you are god! Give yourself some credit for creating reality as you see fit. Only god can do this!

  • Stomper

    Ramtha:

    Interesting notion, but that does not square with my beliefs. If it works for you, though, then feel free.

  • Old Mormon Guy

    Fascinating list, but you could add Allah, Jesus, Jehova, eloheim, creator, Master, etc. etc. The God or Gods of the Bible have numerous names. I can’t think of any post you could have made that would elicit more comment than this one. Thanks for stirring up the dialogue.
    Some of us look out there to the ever an expanding, infinite universe and hear modern science suggesting that galaxies rise and fall over time in some system of forces that we do not yet understand well and so they call it dark energy and dark matter because they have no idea yet what it is, but are quick to agree that it controls everything out there. Some of us prefer to think that these are tools of a supreme being, or prefer to just call it God. Am I right in my understanding that Atheists agree the unexplained forces are out there, but prefer to not agree that they are God centered?
    Whether we view those infinite creative forces out there as God-centered or not, one still cannot answer the questions about where and how it all started, and why? Nor the questions about why it continues to perpetuate itself , with some galaxies and solar systems burning out while others are being created, on a perpetual basis. If there is either an Atheist, agnostic, or God believer out there that can answer those kinds of questions, I would be interested. Both science and religion know so very little so far about how it all came about and where it is all going from here. This earth is such an infitesimal small part of the whole, that it is scarcely a sand on the seashore. So, info on the creation of this earth only does not answer my questions.
    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  • Jerry

    Flying Spaghetti Monster needs to be up there and the list is even because Atheists believe in him, hell they created him.

    Buddda is worshipped by a lot of Eastern cultures so he is considered a man that became a Deity.

    I don’t know why everyone has such respect for Budda, he is a fat ass that would have diabetes if he lived today in America. He supposedly floated to Heaven, now thats a damn miracle getting his lard ass off the ground.

  • True_believer

    You are certainly correct, that most believers struggle with the question, “Why do bad things happen to good (or innocent) people?” The Roman Catholics fabricated the concept of “limbo” or “purgatory” to address this very question. Other answers are likewise a bit strained or contrived.

    I frequently ask God that question, and I’m still waiting for a satisfactory answer. It is entirely possible that I am incapable of being satisfied by the answer, due to my own limitations. That possibility does not stop me from asking.

    Most educated believers do not struggle with that question. I’m not educated, but I could try to explain it to you the way I understand it and I’ll even try to generalise as much as possible to include most religions.

    This life to me is a test, greatly simplified comparable to a game or even a race. In this “game”, I am given rules I am not bound to obey and rules I can’t avoid to obey. Ones I can disobey will influence my path, but my start and end point are always the same. Ones I can’t disobey will insure that I’ll get there. I am born, and I will die. No matter what I do, it’s inevitable. Where my path leads, how it’s laid out is more-less irrelevant to end result. Only relevant thing is how I do things, what I take as my guide on my path, all because of afterlife.

    My path might have many obstacles, I might encounter terror, grief, sorrow, etc but that is only way to actually give me opportunity to make my choices, make my path, to do something with what I’m given. I can’t truly know if I can overcome such obstacle without facing it, no matter what I think, wish or declare. I could claim anything, but that is pointless without me acting accordingly and proving I really mean it.

    The way I “played my game”, “ran my race”, “walked my path”, “fought my battle” or (to call it right name) lived will determine how I will be judged in afterlife. That judgement will decide how my afterlife will be. I of course know that there is afterlife. Compared to afterlife, length of this life is infinitesimal. That does not mean that life is not valuable. A chance to show how you are is precious gift. Cutting short someone else’s ability for same is hideous crime.

    There is way more to this “game”, but I might spoil enjoyment of finding out on their own for some, so I’ll stop my theistic “game model” at this. I’ll only add: “Why do bad things happen to good (or innocent) people?” is in my eyes just plain whinge. See under here. You should be thankful for your chance and for everything else. I hope this is at least close to satisfactory.

  • http://www.rmcomics.com Chuck Rowles

    If there is either an Atheist, agnostic, or God believer out there that can answer those kinds of questions, I would be interested. Both science and religion know so very little so far about how it all came about and where it is all going from here.

    You know, the simple fact that you know of theories regarding dark matter, collapsing galaxies — or even the shape of the Earth or the makeup of our solar system is entirely due to science.

    You are correct that science does not know the answers to the origin of the Universe question – yet. And science may never figure it out, but they’re the only ones trying to in a way that has a proven track record of working.

    What gains in science can we credit religion? There were some religious people in the past (and present, I assume) who use the scientific method and learned more about our world, but religion and religious belief itself has not progressed man beyond creating bigger tribes of us vs. them (necessary as our civilization grew, but not a factor in scientific development).

    …some system of forces that we do not yet understand well and so they call it dark energy and dark matter because they have no idea yet what it is, but are quick to agree that it controls everything out there. Some of us prefer to think that these are tools of a supreme being, or prefer to just call it God.

    Feel free. And if science figures out what they call “dark matter” is and exactly how it works, you can do what all most religous folks do and stop seeing God in solved science and marginalize him further into the things science has not yet figured out. Or you can deny the science and instruct people to not learn it, I suppose.

    There will always be mysteries in this universe we live in. If it makes one more comfortable to believe that the answer is God, that’s fine. Just don’t get upset if the people who want real answers keep looking.

  • Stomper

    Chuck Rowles: You are reacting to a vocal minority of ignorant believers. Most of us have no objection to science answering questions. Many of us no longer see religion as a tool for explaining the physical world. Religious faith is a tool for addressing our spiritual needs and desires. I don’t expect science to ever fill THAT role.

    True_believer: If that explanation works for you, then I’m happy for you. But it is still true that most believers struggle to understand why “bad things happen to good people,” and most believers are at least uncomfortable (if not outright horrified) by the idea that birth defects, child abuse, rape, torture, starvation and genocide are all part of some “game.” Have you ever attended a funeral for a child? If most believers are not concerned about the issue, then why are there so many books, sermons and essays attempting to address this issue?

    Fact is, a just, loving, wise and powerful God (the God I believe in) is not going to cause (or allow) the innocent to suffer and die without a really, really good reason. I have not yet seen any scholars, theologians, or religious leaders offer a reason that qualifies as more than “possibly good enough.” For me, the idea that this is a “game” or a “test” is a really BAD reason. So you’ll forgive me if I keep looking.

  • Old Mormon Guy

    There will always be mysteries in this universe we live in. If it makes one more comfortable to believe that the answer is God, that’s fine. Just don’t get upset if the people who want real answers keep looking.

    Stomper: I hope people everywhere and of every persuasion keep looking for better answers. I assure you I will not be upset with the search or with the results. What does upset me is religionists or scientists who start to think that they already have the final and total answers. Combined, I think they both know almost nothing compared to what there is to yet learn and to understand.
    The world’s largest particle accelerator is under construction at an underground facility on the French/Swiss border. Its purpose is to try and discover more about the make up of matter. The scientists there jokingly say they are searching for the “God” particle. The current issue of National Geographic has a good spread on this. Maybe their serious work will contribute a little more to our fields of knowledge over the next decades. Tell me, Stomper, do you think that if they do discover some more basic elements of matter and/or forces that hold matter together at the microscopic level, that it will give us any hints as to how the infinite, macroscopic existence of universes and worlds without number that are out there, ever got started or what is in play to perpetuate their continual cycle of creation and re-creation?
    I don’t think that anything is created from nothing. There is something out there that is causing matter and energy to be organized, then unorganized, then reorganized, and then re unorganized, etc, etc, in a perpetual process of creation. Now, I am not real good at philosophy, but I like to think that this perpetual process applies not only in the massive sense, such as with universes, but all the way down to blades of grass and microscopic life on any one specific planet out of the numberless ones, such as ours. Somewhere there is a controlling, driving, organizing force that is keeping it all in synch. I cannot see how any true scientist or searcher for truth can think that the process is haphazard.
    Anyway, thank you for your response.

  • Stomper

    Old Mormon Guy:

    I saw the NG article. I hope they find the Higgs Boson. Better yet, I hope it doesn’t behave the way they expect it to, so they can learn more than merely confirming current theories. I want science to explain as much as it possibly can, and that means we can never assume that we already know all we need to know.

    Either way, I believe that basic research ALWAYS pays off in the long run, and the US is losing its lead because it mostly quit investing in basic research after the Apollo program. We coasted on that research for a long time, but now we have lost our momentum. Remember the Supercollider project that was started in Texas, and then abandoned?

    This new accelerator will teach scientists something, but I will not pretend that I can predict what it will teach them.

    Sounds like you are talking about Intelligent Design, at least as a gap-filler. I am open to the possibility of Intelligent Design, but I will not be surprised if science fills in those gaps during my lifetime. My faith does not depend on God being an Intelligent Designer. In any event, ID is not science, and should not be taught as science — it is a matter of faith, and I do not trust our schools to teach faith appropriately.

  • Bob

    What about the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Old Mormon Guy said,

    Somewhere there is a controlling, driving, organizing force that is keeping it all in synch. I cannot see how any true scientist or searcher for truth can think that the process is haphazard.

    I have absolutely no problem with viewing the process of creation and maintenance of the physical world and the universe as a haphazard process. What I do have a problem with is your suggestion that this disqualifies me as a “true scientist or searcher for the truth”. I think this qualifies as “wish fulfilment” on your part.

  • Karen

    Fact is, a just, loving, wise and powerful God (the God I believe in) is not going to cause (or allow) the innocent to suffer and die without a really, really good reason. I have not yet seen any scholars, theologians, or religious leaders offer a reason that qualifies as more than “possibly good enough.” For me, the idea that this is a “game” or a “test” is a really BAD reason. So you’ll forgive me if I keep looking.

    Bart Ehrman, former evangelical Christian, current agnostic and author of the best-selling “Misquoting Jesus,” has got a new book out right now on this very question: The problem of suffering.

    He was interviewed on Tuesday by Terry Gross on Fresh Air. He goes through all the various Biblical explanations for suffering (free will, god’s punishment, etc) and concludes that none of them work. Which is a major reason he’s no longer a theist.

  • Old Mormon Guy

    Stomper said: “Sounds like you are talking about Intelligent Design, at least as a gap-filler.”
    After all these years on the earth, and being in technical and scientific work, I do not think my idea about God and science really fits the ‘intelligent design’ mantra, at least not precisely. I think that I am closer to the idea of a supervised or watched over or guided evolution. I am not willing to give up the idea of God. You are right, my soul seems to require a gap filler between my faith and my science.
    Yes, I do remember the super collider. I was involved in helping my company get some nice contracts to help build some of the paraphenalia that was going to go into the project, and they all evaporated when the project was cancelled. So, I remember it well.

  • Old Mormon Guy

    Rosemary:
    I did not mean to imply that you or anyone else is not a searcher for the truth. Please forgive me. Let me try to make my point another way.
    As I can allow my searching mind to get further and further out there into the expanse of universes, and try to look at the big picture from out there instead of a myopic view from this one little planet on which I live, I think I see a synchronous rythm in what is happening and what has happened, so far as I am able to learn about it. As I am moving along now into the last quarter of my life, my internal compasses and decision makers tell me more and more that it is not all by chance. I can see how many, perhaps like yourself, prefer to view it all as random, and that is ok with me. I just am coming toward the end here with a different set of understandings. It is not clear to me how the organization that I see in it all is not visible to everyone. PEACE.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Old Mormon Guy:
    No great offense taken. The comments was meant to help you see that your world view may be a little bent :-) I recall engaging in similar rationalizations when I was in the middle of exploring the beliefs which had meant so much to me in my younger years. It is an uncomfortable experience and I applaud you for hanging in there.

    - Rosemary

  • True_believer

    I frequently ask God that question, and I’m still waiting for a satisfactory answer. It is entirely possible that I am incapable of being satisfied by the answer, due to my own limitations. That possibility does not stop me from asking.

    Fact is, a just, loving, wise and powerful God (the God I believe in) is not going to cause (or allow) the innocent to suffer and die without a really, really good reason. I have not yet seen any scholars, theologians, or religious leaders offer a reason that qualifies as more than “possibly good enough.”

    Yes, it’s definitely your “limitations”. You already answered it and I was aware of that, I just wanted you to contradict your self, so you may see it as well, all because I like you.

    As for Science, I capitalised it there for a reason. Many (atheistic) people abuse science as their surrogate religion. Some science methods are very similar to religion. Sometimes you must believe in a theory beforehand to be able to prove it. You can prove prety much anything if you start with stuid enough presumtions. I don’t think that’s their main reason, it’s just because they feel empty and need something, anything to fill them. I’m just repeating what someone else said here in previous post, can’t be stuffed quoting. (please don’t kill me Clair, I really like you too, you must be redhead like me “You are not f-ing bleeping me!” :)

    Good day.

    Your Unfriendly Theist

  • Stomper

    Perhaps I should have more clearly said that the reasons offered to explain suffering do not satisfy ME as more than “possibly good enough.” I did not intend to suggest that there is any objective, measurable standard for saying any particular answer is sufficient. In fact, I thought I was suggesting otherwise. Sorry if I confused you about my position.

    There is no comfort in exploring the limits of our beliefs. Whether atheist, agnostic, or faithful, we accomplish nothing — either spiritually or intellectually — if we stay in our comfort zones. We can only learn and grow if we are willing to objectively confront our own comfortably-held beliefs.

    If you are 100% comfortable with your beliefs, and you have nothing more to learn, then your spiritual and intellectual growth have atrophied. That’s common, but it is not good.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    True_believer said,

    Some science methods are very similar to religion. Sometimes you must believe in a theory beforehand to be able to prove it.

    Example?

    You can prove prety much anything if you start with stuid enough presumtions.

    Really? Where’s my Mr. Fusion then? ;-)

    I don’t think that’s their main reason,

    What wasn’t their main reason?. I’m not sure what “they” and “that” is referring to in your sentence. (atheists? scientists?)

    it’s just because they feel empty and need something, anything to fill them.

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re talking about, but if you mean scientists doing science, they’re doing it because it’s their job. I assume they chose that career because they were curious about the field they are working in. If you’re talking about atheists treating science like a religion I haven’t met any atheists who do so. There might be some out there, but I would say they are nuts. Can you give an example of an atheist who treats science like a religion? Also, what do you mean by empty? How do you know they (whoever) are feeling empty?

    I’ve never seen scientists praying to Darwin or Einstein. I’ve never seen them chant the scientific method before doing an experiment. And I certainly have never seen a scientist appeal to faith to back up a hypothesis.

    I’m just repeating what someone else said here in previous post, can’t be stuffed quoting.

    What part are you repeating?

    You didn’t really reply to my following comments:
    http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/02/11/gods-we-dont-believe-in/#comment-128701
    http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/02/11/gods-we-dont-believe-in/#comment-131088

    Not every question is rhetorical. ;-)

    I know you said you can’t be stuffed quoting, but it really helps make the discussion easier to follow.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer

    Yes, it’s definitely your “limitations”. ……

    As for Science, I capitalized it there for a reason. Many (atheistic) people abuse science as their surrogate religion. Some science methods are very similar to religion. Sometimes you must believe in a theory beforehand to be able to prove it. You can prove prety much anything if you start with stupid enough presumtions. I don’t think that’s their main reason, it’s just because they feel empty and need something, anything to fill them, just impulse or instinct. ..>.”

    ======
    True_believer:

    Implying that someone is an idiot when you are confronted with your own lack of knowledge is not an endearing feature. Unfortunately it conforms to the stereotype which many thoughtful theists and non-theists have formed of the average American-style Fundie. If this is not the image you wish to portray, and you find yourself unable to refrain from this habit, then you may wish to examine your reasons for involving yourself in a forum which is likely to uncomfortably challenge your world view and painfully expose the gaps in your knowledge and understanding.

    Forgive me for expressing my frustration but it is becoming increasingly obvious that you are out of your depth in this discussion. It is impossible to have a reasonable discussion with you when you persistently fail to understand the logic of what is said, insist that we answer questions which make no sense and repeatedly attribute thoughts and feelings to other people and to groups which you acknowledge you have never been part of.

    For the record:

    • Non-theists are no more likely to feel emptiness or lack of meaning in their life than someone who has given up a belief in Santa Claus, Fairies, the Easter Bunny or the omniscience and total benevolence of their parents. The transition period from belief to non-belief can be extremely uncomfortable. After that, the rest of life simply continues from a different perspective. There is no “gap” to fill. The gap is a mental projection of those who are terrified of losing their familiar world view. They think it should exist so they invent it. It does not exist in reality.

    • Educated and intelligent people throughout recorded history have struggled to resolve the cognitive contradiction between the concept of an all-knowing, all-loving and all-powerful entity and the pain and suffering which happens to innocent and good people. Short of throwing out the god-concept or changing the characteristics attributed of the god, the only safe haven from this discomfit is the possession of an authoritarian personality with a narrow construct tolerance. This largely genetic feature allows the person to engage in ostrich-like denial of logical conflicts. The rest of us are not so lucky.

    • It is extremely difficult to treat the scientific method as a religion. It is designed to prevent people’s prejudices from interfering with their observation of cause and effect. Most of the advances in knowledge and understanding over the last few centuries have come from the application of this method. It is not a perfect model but it has a far better track record than any religious method of obtaining knowledge.

    The application of this method is not without problems.

    It possible to bias research outcomes if the study is based on unfounded assumptions or the researcher fails to consider and control certain variables. This is bad science but it is generally caught out by other scientists who apply the scientific method by considering the methodology of the study. If the way in which a study was conducted or statistically analyzed can be faulted then the findings of that study are open to question. Those with a limited scientific background cannot be expected to tell the difference between good science and bad science, reliable findings and doubtful ones. That is why the Creation Hypothesis is almost exclusively entertained by those who do not rigorously practice the scientific method.

    Likewise, the interpretation of scientific findings can be manipulated according to someone’s prejudices or ignorance. That is why scientific journals exist and why scientists provide a review of the findings and conclusions of other scientists before reporting on their own contribution in the area.

    It is also possible to treat the products of the scientific method as a religion. This is very unscientific because the essence of the scientific method is to question everything – and go questioning it, even when it appears to be extremely well founded. That is where science differs from religion.

    A good science education includes a unit on the essential differences between a “science” and a “religion” or other “ideology”. Popper’s definition is that science sets things up so that they can be falsified whereas religion sets things up so that falsification is impossible. For example, there is no way of disproving the existence of a god: your version or anyone else’s. All gods are equally probable and equally incapable of disproof. Which is where we began this discussion, I believe.

  • Stomper

    Rosemary:

    I agree that True_believer is clearly out of his/her depth, but it appears you’ve let True_believer get to you. Your generalization about non-theists not feeling a void is . . . well, a generalization about a large group of people and therefore patently false. I am sure there are some non-theists who never really needed or wanted a spiritual side, and those people lose nothing they value when they give up faith. I am equally sure there are non-theists who seek substitutes for the spiritual fulfillment they have abandoned.

    Most people do have a spiritual side, whether they neglect it or not (one big reason for the pervasiveness of religion). There ARE people (I’ve encountered many online) who may not worship Empiricism in any traditional, religious sense, but who nevertheless show absolute faith in Empiricism as the source of ALL power, knowledge and happiness. If that is true, it cannot be proven — it is just a Theory ;). A case can be made that these people “worship” science. I am certainly not contending that anyone here fits that description.

    Truth is, empiricism and religion are not comparable — they are apples and orangutangs. Many of these disputes seem to arise from people ignorantly (or deliberately) overlooking that point. Faith should not be taught as science, and it should not shape public policy. Faith should be taught in the family and the church, and it should shape our personal decisions.

    God is not subject to empirical proof, and (as you pointed out) empiricism works best when there is no faith involved. Which brings me back to MY first comment.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Stomper.

    Admonishment accepted. Mea culpa :-)

  • Claire

    Stomper said;

    Your generalization about non-theists not feeling a void is . . . well, a generalization about a large group of people and therefore patently false.

    No, not patently false at all, if you are using the word in a general sense, rather than in its specific meaning in logic. Without generalizations (by which I mean statements that include such words as ‘most’, ‘many’, ‘some’, or Rosemary’s ‘no more likely’ and make general inferences), we would be unable to discuss anything that wasn’t all or none. As long as we don’t forget that ‘most’ doesn’t mean ‘every’, they are useful.

    I am sure there are some non-theists who never really needed or wanted a spiritual side, and those people lose nothing they value when they give up faith.

    I think it’s more than some who never needed one, although I have no statistics.
    When a person gives something up because they have outgrown it, can they really be said to have lost anything? Growth and change can be painful, but if someone puts faith behind them because they have outgrown it, why should that create what you called a void?

  • Stomper

    Rosemary compared the abandonment of faith to giving up belief in Santa Claus, Fairies, or the Easter Bunny, and that comparison made her generalization overly broad. I called her on it, because giving up those beliefs is so nearly universal as to be 100% for all practical purposes (particularly when we exclude the mentally challenged and mentally ill), which makes the comparison to them a gross over-generalization. She very graciously acknowledged that.

    As I noted, I have met a number of self-procaimed “atheists” (particularly the so-called “strong atheists” ) who have merely substituted one form of faith for another. The most common substitutes I have encountered? Faith in Empiricism, or faith that God does NOT exist (those “strong atheists” again).

    Many other “atheists” have essentially abandoned faith altogether (if we disregard the faith/assumptions that existential philosophy says we ALL get by on). Those are the kind I have encountered here. Setting aside the arrogant, patronizing and otherwise insulting implications from saying these people “outgrew” their spirituality, I would (and already did) agree that some people never miss the spiritual life they abandoned.

    In short, I have met far more “atheists” who have substituted some other form of faith (30+), than I have met legally competent adults who still believe in Santa Claus, fairies, or the Easter Bunny (none).

  • Claire

    Stomper said:

    I called her on it, because giving up those beliefs is so nearly universal as to be 100% for all practical purposes

    Why should the numbers matter, in this case? As long as the central matter in question is the same (something a person believed in and valued is shown to be false), that seems to be more important than the fact that more people have done the one than the other.

    Setting aside the arrogant, patronizing and otherwise insulting implications from saying these people “outgrew” their spirituality

    This is not an experience I have had, as I never was religious. But I have read many first-hand accounts, mostly on this blog, from people who used to believe and now don’t. The only common thread I have found that runs between them, the only word I can find that describes all of them, is ‘growth’. Hence the use of the word ‘outgrew’ in reference to what happened. It wasn’t intended to insult, it’s just the most accurate word I could find to describe what those accounts all had in common.

  • Stomper

    It is insulting, whether intended or not. There are many content-neutral words which convey the idea without insult: people can change their beliefs, give up their beliefs, adopt new beliefs, abandon their beliefs, etc.

    Numbers matter only in the sense that you were defending Rosemary’s comparison, by saying Rosemary offered a generalization with an implied “but of course there are exceptions.” The comparison she used, though, does not have any competent, adult exceptions.

    If you can’t see the distinction — if you honestly think that belief in God is equivalent to belief in Santa Claus, fairies, or the Easter Bunny (an argument I have heard numerous times) — then it is hard to believe that your insult was inadvertent.

    My faith is genuine, and not a show I put on to entertain the kids. If you cannot respect that difference in belief, then I have nothing further to say to you.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Claire,

    Thanks for the support. Stomper, however, is right to admonish me for falling into the trap of doing exactly what I was upbraiding True_Believer for: generalizing for an entire group of people for whom I do not have good sample statistics.

    While I have yet to meet an ex-theist who believes that their belief loss has caused a void in their life, I have not meet all of them so it is conceivable that some do feel this way.

    Personally (that’s safe, I think), I don’t experience a void. I have fond memories of some of the emotional aspects of my former beliefs but I have experienced similar feelings in other contexts since then.

    “Spirituality” and altered states of consciousness are not the exclusive domain of religion or god belief. Buddhism can attest to that. So can Yoga and Eastern meditation practices.

    So can the well known atheist, Richard Dawkins. He has a positively delicious account at the beginning of “The God Delusion” about his communion with nature.

    There are times when I miss the certainty and closure which some aspects of my previous belief set provided. I find it disturbing to consider my mortality and eventual death, especially now that I have reached the age where there are too many funerals for close friends and relatives. It is distressing to acknowledge that man’s life on this planet is not eternal and we may even be witnessing the beginnings of a climate change which will ensure that it ends within a couple of centuries. I find it frightening when faced with evidence that the planet Earth is doomed, and the milky way will eventually be swallowed by a neighbouring galaxy. None of this is in the least bit comforting.

    But my intellectual integrity will not let me revert to something which I believe has no basis in reality simply to escape from the cold hard facts of life – or lack of it. It would be so nice to re-believe in Santa, too. Not to mention the fairies. It was such a disappointment to have to discard them.

  • Claire

    Stomper, I think I see your objection now- you divide beliefs into those suitable for children but not for adults, and those suitable for adults. Is that it?

    And is that what you meant by “difference in belief”?

  • Stomper

    Rosemary:
    I’m not going to claim that I encountered any atheists who expressly acknowledged feeling a void. That is an inference I drew, from my observation that many of them HAVE merely substituted a different form of faith.

    Claire:
    No. Children can (and are) harmlessly fooled by adults who know better. My faith is an illogical choice based on my own conscious decision to believe, and based on the teachings of others (like my parents) who also genuinely believe. My faith is not a game.

  • Claire

    Rosemary Lyndall Wemm said,

    Claire, Thanks for the support.

    Actually, it wasn’t so much that, as it was that I was disgreeing that all generalizations are ‘patently false’.

    I find it disturbing to consider my mortality and eventual death, especially now that I have reached the age where there are too many funerals for close friends and relatives.

    I’m there, too, and you’re right – there’s not a lot of comfort to be had. Climate change is my worst nightmare.

    Not to mention the fairies. It was such a disappointment to have to discard them.

    Dammit, now I’m jealous! I don’t remember ever believing in fairies, that would have been so cool…

  • Claire

    Stomper, I’m finding you increasingly hard to follow. I still don’t understand your objection, and statements like “my faith is not a game” seem to come from nowhere and I have no idea how they are supposed to relate…

  • Stomper

    Claire:

    I can only write it for you. I can’t understand it for you.

    Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny are part of a game adults play with children. When children come to understand this, it provides a minor rite of passage into adulthood. None of these characters are intended to fill a role in the child’s spiritual life.

    My faith is something I chose as an adult. If you really cannot see how patronizing it is to compare my faith to childish fantasies, then I suppose I should feel sorry for you, rather than insulted.

  • True_believer

    Ok, this site is broken, I’ll repost that one since it’s confusing the way it is now:

    I frequently ask God that question, and I’m still waiting for a satisfactory answer. It is entirely possible that I am incapable of being satisfied by the answer, due to my own limitations. That possibility does not stop me from asking.

    Fact is, a just, loving, wise and powerful God (the God I believe in) is not going to cause (or allow) the innocent to suffer and die without a really, really good reason. I have not yet seen any scholars, theologians, or religious leaders offer a reason that qualifies as more than “possibly good enough.”

    Yes, it’s definitely your “limitations”. You already answered it and I was aware of that, I just wanted you to contradict your self, so you may see it as well, all because I like you.

    As for Science, I capitalised it there for a reason. Many (atheistic) people abuse science as their surrogate religion. Some science methods are very similar to religion. Sometimes you must believe in a theory beforehand to be able to prove it. You can prove prety much anything if you start with stuid enough presumtions. I don’t think that’s their main reason, it’s just because they feel empty and need something, anything to fill them. I’m just repeating what someone else said here in previous post, can’t be stuffed quoting. (please don’t kill me Clair, I really like you too

  • Claire

    Stomper said:

    If you really cannot see how patronizing it is to compare my faith to childish fantasies,

    Thank you for not only using using the word ‘patronizing’ in a sentence, but also giving me an example of it in your ill-natured comment “I can’t understand it for you”. All it took was explaining that you considered Santa, etc, as “games” that adults play with children, which is not a word I had ever heard used in reference to those things. That made the rest of what you said clear – finally.

  • True_believer

    Look, I’m getting tired of retyping this because someone (OP? Flying Spaghetti Monster? Stephan?) may or may not deleted my post. Could’ve been me, not clicking “Submit” before closing my browser, could’ve been you broken friggin page. Whatever the cause, this post doesn’t look same, and it pisses me off. I got an idea: you could scratch that “friendly” from “Friendly Atheist” and leave just plain “Atheist”, or maybe change it to: Friendly if you agree, in any case ignorant atheist=nihilist who is sometimes “ignostic” and may or may not delete your post. And better add Chopper Reid on that list OP or you’re going to have fuming religious fanatic on your atheistic or agnostic arse and I’m sure you don’t want that. (nor me, although, it would be rather hilarious)

    You also may want to change “friendly” to “happy” because I’m gone. Maybe someone else could do some more service to this discussion other than spamming clichés like me or unrelated psychology and other dogmas like some otherwise very nice people.

    “You are not f-ing bleeping me!” :)

    Good day.

    Your Unfriendly Theist

  • Claire

    Not as broken as you are, True_believer. Why are you reposting stuff that has already been responded to/ completely rebutted? If you didn’t read the responses before, you won’t read them now. You are one seriously broken troll…..

  • True_believer

    Clair, you need medical attention. This is missing part of that damn post thet gets cut off f-king each time:

    Otherwise, I think that science is very positive, since it’s giving us better view of the world around us. It’s great insight into God’s majesty. I don’t think science clashes with true religion. Science can’t prove of disprove God’s existence, since being like Him, that might not even have any substance in common with this world cant be described with its laws.

    It would be somewhat equivalent of trying to fit Pacific Ocean into my pool. For many analogy blind people here: Yes, it’s too f-ing small. (o c e a n s _ m u c h _ l a r g e r _ t h e n _ b a t h t u b s, no links available, and I won’t give three examples, sorry) :)

    Someone said before that “science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind” and I would in every respect agree with that. Only things that clash ever are Science and fanatics, or pseudo-science and “believers”, never science and religion.

  • True_believer

    You didn’t really reply to my following comments:

    NYC, please don’t take this wrong way: answers are there and obvious, I can’t make them more obvious to you. Eg. you ask me to post you links on something I said is irrelevant, and that I don’t want to go that direction. Do your own resarch if you think it’s important and prove me wrong. That poo analogy was obvious joke, if you take that seriously, something’s wrong with you. Reason that you don’t understand me seems to be that you are not trying to understand, only trying to contradict me and that is why I didn’t bother to answer. I did tried to answer when I thought it neededs clarifying, like now.

  • True_believer

    Everyone that replied on that crippled post:

    One part of that post you replied to was missing for whatever reason. I tried to repost it in whole again and then I reposted only missing part when it didn’t work. Read it as one and whole please and then ask me then if you still don’t understand what I’m saying there.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    answers are there and obvious, I can’t make them more obvious to you. Eg. you ask me to post you links on something I said is irrelevant, and that I don’t want to go that direction. Do your own resarch if you think it’s important and prove me wrong.

    I don’t know what you’re referring to. Can you give an example of one of the obvious answers?

    That poo analogy was obvious joke, if you take that seriously, something’s wrong with you.

    Yes, but the original discussion was serious. You said my logic was broken, and I was trying to understand why you thought so.

    Reason that you don’t understand me seems to be that you are not trying to understand, only trying to contradict me and that is why I didn’t bother to answer.

    I am trying to understand, which is why I keep asking you questions and requesting examples or clarifications.

    I don’t think I am only trying to contradict you (oops, another contradiction!). Since we are having a debate/discussion contradicting one another is inevitable. I only hope to understand your reasons, and that you understand mine.

    Did you read the Steven Pinker article from the NY Times Magazine I linked to? What did you think of it?

    I’m sorry you are having so much trouble with posting here. Are you using IE? I’ve had trouble with IE here, but I’ve never had a problem with Firefox. Or if you want to continue this discussion in the forum, the software there might be more manageable.

  • True_believer

    You said my logic was broken, and I was trying to understand why you thought so.

    Ok, let’s back track it. You said that “gut feeling’ is your only moral standard. I said that your logic is broken after you did not understand my analogy regarding that. I’ll explain my analogy and my conclusion in detail as much as I can.

    If “gut feeling” is your only guidance, then you must accept it to be same valid for other people, since you are not better than anyone else. Do you really think that all people got same “gut feelings” regarding different issues? I mentioned killing in that analogy. Reason was that killing is thrill and joy for many, much bigger then their suffering from consequences. Their “gut feeling” you approve would then tell them: to kill is “right”. Since you accepted their “gut feeling” to be valid evaluation, you accept their action to be “right”. Therefore they would kill you with your approval. Moreover, you approve all killings decided out of “gut feeling”. Someone said I (using your “gut feeling”) got logic of a serial killer, and that is exactly where such moral standards would lead.

    That clear enough? There must be something outside of us both that tells us what’s right or wrong, otherwise we will astray sooner or later. That is why I said “universal”. Don’t cling to murder I use in analogy and say that your “gut feeling” tells you it’s wrong, and therefore your standards are right. There are millions of other issues you might have to deal with and your “gut feeling” may be wrong in some, same as you accuse other moral standards to be.

    My other point regarding your “gut feeling” was that you are not even aware how that feeling works. I said that you are influenced by your upbringing, and your “gut feeling” is a combination of your nature and nurture. Your reply about atheistic roots means nothing unless you grew up isolated from this whole human society that is mainly guided by religious moral standards. Someone else was saying that this goes into discussion about nature/nurture because of what I said. They are probably right so I didn’t go into it deeper.

    Needless to say, I really don’t mind anyone contradicting anything as long as they bring up valid point with some understanding of what we are talking about.

    I use Firefox and I discovered reason for my previous posting problem: this site can’t handle use of two simbols located on the right from M key on your keyboard when you press Shift key. Site thinks that symbol is part of its code and everything that comes after it is invisible.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer said:

    There must be something outside of us both that tells us what’s right or wrong, otherwise we will astray sooner or later. That is why I said “universal”. Don’t cling to murder I use in analogy and say that your “gut feeling” tells you it’s wrong, and therefore your standards are right.

    The “something outside of us” that forms our “gut” feeling is society. People accept the mores of the society around them, unless they have been damaged by poor nurture and upbringing or they have a genetic or acquired brain defect.

    Actually the consideration of murder as a comparative moral issue is interesting. It is interesting that secular European countries, including the UK, have a much lower crime rates than the religious USA. In the US the crime rate increases in line with the degree of theism. The Bible Belt States have the highest crime rates, including murder.

    Do we interpret this as “Christianity causes crime” or “crime causes Christianity”? As a social scientist I would suggest that a series of “third” factors causes both of these phenomena. The main culprits are probably poverty and poor education which lead to a way of thinking which encourages crime as well as heavy handed “law and order” which many would also view as “criminal”.

    Whichever way you look at it, there is no support whatever for the notion that a personal god belief or living in a culture which supports one is in any way necessary or useful for developing a moral code which is universally applauded.

  • True_believer

    Rosemary Lyndall Wemm said

    But my intellectual integrity will not let me revert to something which I believe has no basis in reality simply to escape from the cold hard facts of life – or lack of it. It would be so nice to re-believe in Santa, too. Not to mention the fairies. It was such a disappointment to have to discard them.

    Just to inform you Rosemary that you were never even near to be religious. You are longing to go back to Santa? You just followed customs and your environment like a little monkey without actually understanding the meaning of all that. When you got tempted, you gave up for convenience reasons. That is not even near to believing. Religiousness is not just visits to some temple of choice; it’s actual understanding and accepting base of that religion. I am sure that once you truthfully do that, you never capable of “reverting” to nothingness and staying sane. It’s not possible. Whoever claims different is mistaken. You can only replace it with something else, never nothingness (atheism).

    Sorry for the tone, but your arrogance and previous comments called for it. I try to avoid judging other people and their religion but I deem it necessary this time. You were what I would name “believer” (not to be mistaken with true believer), someone that’s claiming association with religion of random choice without knowledge or readiness to follow its guidance. It might be of comfort to you that you are not alone, there are many like you. If they have even slight trace of religiousness, they usually turn to eastern philosophies, butcher them into their trendy liking and call that “Buddhism”. Reason for their choice is typically that little Buddha figure is so cute. I promise I won’t make further uncomfortable comments on your personality if you restrain your comments about mine and concentrate on subjects we are discussing.

  • True_believer

    Do we interpret this as “Christianity causes crime” or “crime causes Christianity”? As a social scientist I would suggest that a series of “third” factors causes both of these phenomena. The main culprits are probably poverty and poor education which lead to a way of thinking which encourages crime as well as heavy handed “law and order” which many would also view as “criminal”.

    I partly agree with you. Poverty and education are playing great role there. However, main problem is lack of moral values. That is one of the reasons I have problem with atheism. It makes even easier for media to further degrade our society, because those people look up to media only for their guidance.

  • True_believer

    Stomper said:

    There is no comfort in exploring the limits of our beliefs. Whether atheist, agnostic, or faithful, we accomplish nothing — either spiritually or intellectually — if we stay in our comfort zones. We can only learn and grow if we are willing to objectively confront our own comfortably-held beliefs.

    I admire some things you said here mate, one of them being this. :)

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer said,

    Poverty and education are playing great role there. However, main problem is lack of moral values. That is one of the reasons I have problem with atheism.

    True_believer: You failed to get the point. The lower the moral values, the more religious the area. The country with the lowest crime rates (Sweden, I think) is also reported to be the one with the most atheists per capita.

    In order for your argument to work you need to explain why religion fails to raise universally accepted moral values (as opposed to religious “moral” codes which are condemned as immoral by those of different or no religion.)

    Just to inform you Rosemary that you were never even near to be religious. …You just followed customs and your environment like a little monkey without actually understanding the meaning of all that. When you got tempted, you gave up for convenience reasons. That is not even near to believing. Religiousness is not just visits to some temple of choice; it’s actual understanding and accepting base of that religion. I am sure that once you truthfully do that, you never capable of “reverting” to nothingness and staying sane. It’s not possible. Whoever claims different is mistaken. You can only replace it with something else, never nothingness (atheism).

    {sigh}. Here you are again telling me what I have and haven’t believed and/or done. And you are way, way off.

    I am an ex-soul-saving Evangelical who had a profound and meaningful experience of what I thought at the time was “God”. It was so intense that I commenced training for the ministry. My first problem was that I had an enquiring mind that asked awkward questions and persued them to where-ever they led. I was introduced to the fascinating world of modern Biblical scholarship, which still intrigues me. Then I read the Bible all the way through instead of in my previous piece-meal fashion. That was my final undoing. I could not square what I found there with the God I had been taught was described there. I was reading about a mean and racist god of wrath, not a god of love who cared about the well-being of non-Jews.

    I found my research talents and desire to do good for humanity were better suited to the profession of psychology. The more I studied this subject the more god beliefs I shed until finally I woke up one morning and realized that there were none left and life had not imploded.

    None of this matches your description of my life and belief history but I am almost certain that you will ignore this and continue to insist that your fanciful version is the real reality. You will not delude anyone else on this forum but yourself.

  • True_believer

    None of this matches your description of my life and belief history but I am almost certain that you will ignore this and continue to insist that your fanciful version is the real reality.

    Oh, but I strongly disagree. You just confirmed what I said. And I did notice slight trace of psychology there, didn’t I? It’s not me trying to act smart, it’s just that people fall to same old trap thinking that they are so much different/better then everyone else, and doom them selves to repeat other’s mistakes.
    “Quod sum eris.”

    Then I read the Bible all the way through instead of in my previous piece-meal fashion.

    Once? ;)

  • Claire

    So, True_Believer, how do you account for the fact that countries with the most atheists have the lowest crime rate, as Rosemary pointed out? And the group with the smallest percentage of prison inmates is atheists, far smaller than their percentage in the general population? As measured by behaviour, atheists are more moral than religious people.

  • True_believer

    The country with the lowest crime rates (Sweden, I think) is also reported to be the one with the most atheists per capita.

    Reason might be that because Scandinavian people are far more educated on average, they declare their religion or lack of it more accurate. Or they might have surrounding’s pressure regarding religion going in opposite way then in US, i.e. atheism might be trendy declaration there. I personally think that one’s religious belief is God’s gift and not affected by anything else. Obviously, since I believe that Got is almighty, it means that He could have made us all members of one religion, yet He did not. Unlikely that one’s geographical location plays any role in that.

    Are you two in full seriousness trying to say that believing in nothing makes one less criminal then someone that truly believes in eternal and severe punishment for their crimes? Please explain withot using statistics, it can be “adjusted” to show anything.

  • Claire

    True_believer said,

    Are you two in full seriousness trying to say that believing in nothing makes one less criminal then someone that truly believes in eternal and severe punishment for their crimes?

    I can’t speak for Rosemary, but yes – I am saying that a thoughtful, reasoned moral code, not based on religion, leads to better behaviour than thoughtless, blind faith. That is not the same thing as ‘believing in nothing’ (as you characterized it with the usual insult of the willfully ignorant – so trite). And if I remember correctly, those states without the death penalty (similar to your punishment view) have a lower crime rate than states with the death penalty. Such a lovely moral code you describe, behaving well not because it’s right but because of fear of punishment.

    Please explain withot using statistics, it can be “adjusted” to show anything.

    Ah, yes – the attack on statistics: the last refuge of the desperate, when the facts show them to be wrong.

    Oh, and those statistics on Sweden are not an anomaly. A high rate of atheism and a low rate of crime go together in many countries.

  • True_believer

    A high rate of atheism and a low rate of crime go together in many countries.

    What else they go together with? What countries? What crimes? Which institution(s)? Links? And is ignorance a bliss or damnation?
    Well, in this case, I don’t really want to know your answers since they won’t change a thing. I assumed that your statistics are really reflecting what you are seeing in them, and I answered mainly because Rosemary asked. You conveniently ignored it like you did with every answer I gave you, Claire.

    In case someone else is interested, Sweden is one of European countries that avoided destruction during WWI and WWII, hence they high living standard and wealth. Understandingly, when you are wealthy, you are not too interested in petty crime activities. Your statistics could be reflecting many other things, and that is why I have problem with it. World is way too complex to be described with statistics. If that is satisfactory to you, go ahead, but don’t be upset when I call that Science again, as in surrogate religion, something irrational you chose to believe.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    True believer,

    My, you are the lone ranger here, aren’t you? You’re doing a great job sticking it out! Please know that these are all good people asking honest questions. Don’t think of them as the enemy as you may have in your mind. But they are irritatingly smart, aren’t they? ;-) I don’t like how they often put me me in my place, but I still highly respect them. I think of them as my teachers. :-)

    I do want to point out one pet peeve of mine. Maybe it’s a pet peeve because I found myself doing it sometimes too… when people write or say f–ing… Either say/write the word or don’t do it at all. What the heck is f–ing? It’s like saying “I want people to know that I’m cool, but I’m too chicken to prove it.” That’s just something that I self-analyzed about myself when I found myself doing the same thing. Just my opinion, which you can choose to ignore.

    Anyway, everyone, if I may interject with a thought…

    A high rate of atheism and a low rate of crime go together in many countries.

    Even if the statistics show the numbers in that way, how do we know that other factors are not involved? Such as gun laws? I highly doubt there is a direct link between religion and crime rates in the big picture. It may possibly be one of the factors, but it’s not conclusive enough.

    I’m somewhat surprised that it was even brought up by people who love to focus on real evidence and solid facts.

  • True_believer

    But they are irritatingly smart, aren’t they?

    I wouldn’t say irritating and smart in same context, but why else would we still hang around? F-ing is the way around profanity filter. I was more using it as a joke in reference to that Chopper Reid video and my disappearing post. I guess sense of humour is like spirituality these days, rare. :(

  • Stephen

    For the correlation between religiosity and crime, see for example Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies.

    For those who don’t want to work their way all the way through, I offer the following snippet: ” In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion …”

    Well, in this case, I don’t really want to know your answers since they won’t change a thing.

    Well, True Believer, at least you are honest on this point. You are so attached to your fantasies that facts are of no interest at all. Further comment from me would be superfluous.

  • True_believer

    I wonder what instrument they used to measure belief.

    You are so attached to your fantasies that facts are of no interest at all. Further comment from me would be superfluous.

    How do you know? I didnt see any facts from you yet. Add your last comment to the rest as well.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Have we broken the record yet for number of comments on a blog post here yet?

    True_Believer wrote:

    If “gut feeling” is your only guidance, then you must accept it to be same valid for other people, since you are not better than anyone else. Do you really think that all people got same “gut feelings” regarding different issues? I mentioned killing in that analogy. Reason was that killing is thrill and joy for many, much bigger then their suffering from consequences.

    I’m not saying my gut feelings are the standard for everyone to live up to, nor would I respect someone’s gut feelings which told them murder was pleasurable. I am saying that there is a general moral base that is common to all cultures about certain fundamental issues like murder, rape, and so on. The people you mention who do experience a thrill and joy from killing are a minority, and have, in my opinion, “broken brains”.

    I think we are arguing nature vs. nurture here. From what I have read about research on primates and human cultures is that humans are born with an innate moral “tool kit”. Of course these innate moral tendencies must be nurtured or they will become warped or broken.

    That clear enough? There must be something outside of us both that tells us what’s right or wrong, otherwise we will astray sooner or later.

    Yes, I understand your point. I would say that the “something” is inside us. Ie. our biological nature. It isn’t perfect or absolute, but I think it is evident in the common basic morality shared by all humans, including partially by other primates.

    I’m no expert, and you may be right that a large part could be due to nurture, which may be rooted in a society influenced by religion. There are so many variables here and feedback loops, such as our biology affecting society, which affects are biology etc. We have only scratched the surface and a lot more research needs to be done.

    So you think scientific research in psychology, anthropology and cognitive science is worthwhile? Or is the morality in the Bible the final word and no more investigation needs to be done?

    Did you ever read that Steven Pinker article? It is quite good and an excellent review of the kind of research going on.

    And to the rest of you reading this thread, you might like this post I saw recently which coincidently touches on everything we are discussing here:

    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2008/02/darla-she-goat.html

    PS: Yeah, it’s a good idea to stay away from the “greater than” and “less than” brackets. I’ve had trouble with them before too. Maybe there is an escape sequence out there so we can use them? How will I show that 3 is bigger than 2??? ;-)

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    rue_believer said,

    I said:

    None of this matches your description of my life and belief history but I am almost certain that you will ignore this and continue to insist that your fanciful version is the real reality.

    True_believer replied,

    Oh, but I strongly disagree. You just confirmed what I said.

    Which is what I predicted. I rest my case.

    True_believer demanded:

    Please explain withot using statistics, it can be “adjusted” to show anything……….
    Your statistics could be reflecting many other things, and that is why I have problem with it. World is way too complex to be described with statistics. If that is satisfactory to you, go ahead, but don’t be upset when I call that Science again, as in surrogate religion, something irrational you chose to believe.

    Statistics can be used to prove anything only to those who do not know how they work. Trash news is full of journalistic conclusions based on the writer’s faulty understanding of statistical method. Behavioral scientists, as well as researchers in other scientific areas, are given a very thorough grounding in this aspect of mathematics. For a research paper to make it into a peer reviewed journals it has to meet a rigorous standard of statistical competence. In the non-absolute human sciences the degree of certainly must be expertly calculated and stated along with the conclusions which it supports. Popular journalism does not talk about degrees of certainty but if they are quoting the results of a reputable scientific report then that degree of certainty is at the 95 percent level.

    In laymen’s terms that means that the observed effect could happen by chance in less than five percent of random observations making it much more than likely that the effect is real and not accidental.

    If the journalist is not quoting a rigorous scientific study then skepticism is warranted until the statistical data and reasoning is known. Any statistically ignorant journalist can “prove” that motor vehicles accidents are increasing every year by quoting the raw figures. This kind of “statistic” is meaningless until it is mathematically compared with the annual population increase.

    What else they go together with? What countries? What crimes? Which institution(s)? Links? And is ignorance a bliss or damnation?
    Well, in this case, I don’t really want to know your answers since they won’t change a thing. I assumed that your statistics are really reflecting what you are seeing in them,

    I think that sums up your attitude perfectly. You don’t want to be confused with the facts because your mind is very firmly made up. So why are you here on this forum?

    For the benefit of others on this forum, the factors which similtaneously cause a decline of religion, a decline in crime and an advance in moral development appear to be an increase in the standard of living brought about by scientific advances and an increase in the quality, level and pervasiveness of education, particulary in the sciences.

    The reason that the US is an out-lier is that education is a commodity and not a right in this country. This leads to the ability of parental and community groups to control and influence what is taught and how it is graded. The anti-science pro-Creationist Kansas school board is an obvious example of what this means.

    It also leads to a model of education which stress nominal prestige in lieu of competence. This inevitably leads to the use of marketing strategies to increase the level of participation and economic investment in the college industry. These are coupled with the active suppression of international comparisons which reveal uncomfortable truths. Statistical manipulation is rife.

    For example, the average American believes that they live in the best educated country in the world although this is very far from the truth. The educational industry continues to inform the average American that the US has the highest proportion of people with Bachelor degrees or better and the best doctoral programs in the world.

    What Americans are not told is that in other developed countries American college level material is routinely completed in the last few years of secondary school (Years 11, 12 and 13), the Bachelor degree is often the primary professional degree (medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, psychology ….), post-graduate and professional Masters studies provide post professional specialist education (surgeons in the UK, Australia and New Zealand are awarded a Masters degree) and the PhD is frequently defined as a complex senior research-only degree which is insufficient and inappropriate for professional licensing. Nominal comparisons are therefore spurious.

    Last year the university of Melbourne in the Australian State of Victoria persuaded the Australian government to allow it to convert to an American-style senior secondary and tertiary prestige naming system. Government permission was required because funding was legally tied to the definition of the bachelor degree as the basic professional degree, the masters degree as a specialist degree and the doctoral degrees as an independent research degree which required few academic resources.

    This year international studies reveal that the educational level in the Australian State of Victoria has fallen dramatically in comparison to the other Australian States and in comparison other nations. The US press has not seen fit to report this phenomena which is no doubt of great relief to those who make a living from selling prestige-style American education.

    So beware of statistics which hide the truth because they compare unlike things.

    Linda said:

    Please know that these are all good people asking honest questions. ….But they are irritatingly smart, aren’t they? I don’t like how they often put me me in my place, but I still highly respect them. I think of them as my teachers.

    I am at your annoying service, Ingratiating One. :-) Perhaps I should change my tag to Irritating Guru. What do you think?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    True believer,

    I guess sense of humour is like spirituality these days, rare.

    I don’t think the sense is what is rare, it’s the humor. ;-)

    And I said irritating, because I end up having to re-think everything when someone here makes sense. And it was my attempt at sense of humor. Oh well… I tried.

    Rosemary said,

    I am at your annoying service, Ingratiating One. Perhaps I should change my tag to Irritating Guru. What do you think?

    Now, that’s funny. :lol: See? Smarter AND funnier. It’s not fair! *sigh*

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Rosemary,

    The reason that the US is an out-lier is that education is a commodity and not a right in this country. This leads to the ability of parental and community groups to control and influence what is taught and how it is graded. The anti-science pro-Creationist Kansas school board is an obvious example of what this means.

    It also leads to a model of education which stress nominal prestige in lieu of competence. This inevitably leads to the use of marketing strategies to increase the level of participation and economic investment in the college industry.

    I agree with you completely, Rosemary. That is my frustration with our education system. Something needs to be done.

    However, I still don’t know how atheism is defined in those studies. Skepticism, maybe. Getting away from blindly following religious teachings, maybe. But atheism? Unless you want to group everyone outside of the religious brain-lazy people as atheists, I don’t buy those statistics.

    I really don’t believe it’s as black and white as that.

  • Old Mormon Guy

    When I was involved in governing industrial enterprise in the last half of my career, I learned very emphatically that there are diminishing returns for spending time, energy, or resource on small issues. I learned that if one could get the larger issues right, then many of the smaller ones just took care of themselves.
    Now, it is my impression that some bloggers on this site are straining over a lot of minor issues, and not addressing the major ones. Top of the list of issues in descending order of importance is the question, “Is there a God or is there no God?”
    In my long life, I have never met anyone who could prove the answer to those top tier questions using the scientific methods taught to me in engineering school nor could they prove it by using the dogma of competing religions or the testimonies of individuals in those various faith systems. The best answers I feel that I have discovered are very personal and come from use of my own intellect, my own observations, and my own internal promptings. So, I see the existence or non-existence of God as being a very personal thing with each individual. And, I think my own moral compass derives from the same sources: personal intellect, observation, and internal promptings. Observation, of course, would include the mores and conditions in whatever society I find myself a part of, here upon the earth.
    I cannot deny that internal promptings are an important part of this process, at least for me. So, what are their source? Strictly psycological? Or cerebral? Or do they emanate from some other energy or spiritual source which can not yet be duplicated in man’s physical laboratories? It is my sense that these promptings do not come from anything in the physical world of which I am a part. My sense is that they emanate from a spiritual world that man cannot measure with instruments or with intellect alone. It is this sense that keeps me on the side of theism, as opposed to atheism.
    I am an old guy and quite new to blogging, so please give me a little slack. Thank you.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Old Mormon Guy,

    How old is old? I think old is only a state of mind anyway. I’m very happy that you are here sharing your thoughts with us. You will find that slack is not something that you find often here. People usually say it like it is. That is what’s so great about this place. When I am brutally challenged, it hurts for a moment, but it makes me grow. ^_^

    I’ve never known much about the Mormon religion other than the fact that it is known to be a cult in the Christian circles that I’ve been in. But a few of the kindest people that I have known have been Mormons. One of my daughter’s best friends is a Mormon, and I love him to death.

    Outside of all of the religious differences, I believe we all are searchers of truth.

    One thing I have to disagree with you is the following statement:

    Top of the list of issues in descending order of importance is the question, “Is there a God or is there no God?”

    Is that really the most important question? I agree that belief in God is a very personal thing. The question regarding the existence of God is talked about here a lot, believe it or not, and it never goes anywhere but in circles. It escalates into a battle of the brains and then we’re right back to where we began. I find it a futile effort, except for the fact that each time, we learn a little more about the others and our own strengths and weaknesses. So in that sense, I love the discussions. But I don’t think we will ever be closer to proving or disproving God as a group.

    I’m so glad you’re here, Old Mormon Guy, to share your wisdom and insights. I hope you will stay. I’ve only been blogging for less than 6 months as well. So don’t feel bad about being new.

    I do have one question for you, which was asked of me a while back. What exactly are you thinking of when you are speaking of God? What is your definition of God?

  • Old Mormon Guy

    Linda:
    OK, no slack. I should have known better than to ask for any kind of special treatment.
    How old? Well, I remember very well the depression days of the 1930′s. You do the math
    Age a function of attitude? I agree with you so long as the body is reasonably healthy. I try to think young and stay young. I recently spent a week in Hawaii with 8 of my great granchildren who live in New York and Nevada, so I do try. However, my brain gets periodic messages from my body that say,”Hey there, guy, you aren’t as young as you think you would like to be.”
    About the cult thing. I do not think this blog site would be an appropriate place to discuss that. It would be a very, very circular discussion. I would like to stick with what we really do and do not know about the existence of God.
    My definition of God? I am not sure I have that all sorted out yet. I don’t know enough yet. The promptings I receive from time to time when studying or considering some particular challenge in my life, perhaps describe God to me. Let me think about it some more. One thing for sure I do not accept is the Nicene creed description of the Trinity.
    Do you have a description of God you would like to list? I could not tell from your post if you were on the theist or atheist side. No matter, I appreciate your response.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Claire asked of the Old Mormon Guy:

    I do have one question for you, which was asked of me a while back. What exactly are you thinking of when you are speaking of God? What is your definition of God?

    This is the right question, Claire. When people talk about proof of the existence or non-existence of a god, what they mean is proof of the existence or non-existence of their particular version of the dominant deity of their culture or religious group.

    Biases show up immediately in the way the question is framed. People from Christian or Muslim dominated cultures rarely, if ever, think of framing the question to entertain the possibility of the similtaneous existence or non-existence of multiple gods. Or the possibility that a god existed who is now dead.

    The details of the deity they want to discuss generally pins the person down to a community, a culture, a decade and a personality. The god whose existence is important to them conforms to the characteristics which are personally familiar to them. If their god is conceived of as “good” then it conforms to the values they hold most dear. If they are aggressive and authoritarian then their version of god will be the same. A person’s idea of what “god” is like tells you a great deal about them.

    A discussion of the existence of a god soon runs into big trouble.

    Are we discussing the existence of one god or a group of them? Bear in mind that the Jewish book of Genesis combines at least two gods (El and Yaweh) and also refers to the Elohim, or the group of gods under the El god. Modern biblical scholars argue that Yaweh was one of the Elohim (that is, a minor god under El).

    Are we confining our discussion to the existence of “nice” gods, or do we include “nasty” ones? Main stream biblical scholars point out that Yaweh was not a very good minion of El and made a mess of his part of the creation of the world. Some scholars even suggest that the Yaweh god is one of the selection of devil gods listed in the Jewish Scriptures which most Christians collectively re-name as Satan or The Devil. The described behavior certainly fits. It has been pointed out that the Jewish and Christian scriptures indicate that Yaweh was responsible for far more crimes, murders and attrocities than the rest of the devil gods combined. The list is somewhere on the Web. Can anyone supply a link to the URL?

    How much power does a particular god have and under what circumstances is it powerless? Is there a god-in-charge? How much knowledge does a god have and where are its limitations? Does the god relate to humans? Does it have any other interests or spare time to engage in them? What does it do for relaxation? Is it capable of reproducing? And we could get increasingly anthropomorphic ….(anthropomorphism — giving something human characteristics).

    Should the characteristics of a/the god follow those provided in the Jewish Scriptures (the racist god of wrath), the Pauline letters of the Christian New Testament (the anti-sexual misogynist), the god of the Canonic New Testament (the anti-family values god) or the god defined by the 3rd century Council of Trent (all-loving, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-damning, three-in-one and capable of inseminating virgins without their consent)?

    Should we consider the existence of a god who conforms to the texts of Mary Baker Eddy or Joseph Smith? What about a god who conforms to the writings of Mohammed?

    Why confine the discussion to entities derived only from the Abrahamic traditions? Should we consider the existence of all the Hindu gods? Should we consider proof for the non-existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn and Russel’s orbiting tea-pot?

    So Old Mormon Guy, first define the characteristics of the god you want to believe exists together with the characteristics of gods you don’t want to believe exist. Only then do we have the basis for a meaningful discussion. Does it sound so simple, now?

    There is another aspect to the does-god-exist question which has been ignored to date.

    Most theists insist on thowing subjective data into the barrel of “proof”. This argument is some variant of “I know god exists because I experience this special feeling that I can only explain as the presence of god.”

    This argument does not survive psycho-biological examination.

    Altered states of consciousness which are indecipherable from religious experiences can be induced by means of altered chemistry, physical exertion or meditation and trance activity. Whether people interpret these states as god-derived or not is entirely dependent on the surrounding environmental triggers.

    One psychological study gave people a drug which induces mild euphoria. Half of the subjects were then sent to a religious meeting and the other half to a waiting room. The ones in the religious meeting (mis-)interpreted their symptoms as a religious experience; the subjects in the waiting room did not.

    Another study involved comparing the brain scans of yogis in self-induced trances and Christains engaged in prayerful meditation. The brain scan activity showed identical trance wave form but the Christians reported a god experience and the yogis reported “enlightenment” without a god experience.

    Not everyone is equal in their ability to experience ecstatic and meditative states. People with neural conditions which affect the brain’s ability to focus find it difficult or impossible to achieve such states. People with certain forms of epilepsy or its sub-clinical form have intense and frequent experiences of this nature. These are the people who have been labeled as possessing a “religious personality”. There is a strong concentration of these neurologically abnormal individuals among the adherents of charismatic type religions.

    In other words, subjective experience of “god” is not a valid proof that one exists. At best, it proves that a person is capable of trance phenomena.

  • Mriana

    Mercy! How did this thread get so long over a bunch of dead deities? You know how to kill a god?

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    {Giggle} That would be deicide, I think. There’s no manual for that.

  • True_believer

    Regarding “humor”:
    Let’s just use smiley only to mark our feeble cracks at entertaining others. :)

    For whoever keeps clinging to those falsified statistical findings:

    Pseudoscience.

    See under 11. and 12. please. You also ignored my comment on how did they determine that regions they selected for research really contain truly religious people and not just atheists that will claim tomorrow when their basic instincts prevail that they just “lost it”?

    To Old Mormon Guy:

    Top of the list of issues in descending order of importance is the question, “Is there a God or is there no God?”

    This question is priority, but in my opinion, on personal level for each one of us, and is impossible to be answered through debate. Like you so beautifully expressed, it is product of personal experience and knowledge about things that can’t be just spoon-fed to lazy, ignorant people as easy as science research results. They would ridicule and disbelieve you until they face it them selves. They need to actively and alone go this way, hence why I said somewhere here that it’s a God’s gift.

    To NYC:
    By sending me to that link you confirmed to be a (dogs and babies eating) terrible person as I expected an atheist to be. :)
    I seriously got headache from reading such amount of stupidity, ignorance and adolescent interpretation in one spot. I did read it.

    “You should be moral because you will be happier as a moral person overall than if you become any other sort of person.”

    If you became “other sort of person”? What a bunch of bullshit. He believes it, not much more proof then for Hell or God, yet that’s totally acceptable as fact to him. I think he forgot to say that he got giant robot goat genetically mutating him into knowing what is right and what is wrong. He alone said before that “evolution made people greedy, evil, with no regard for moral authority”, … just plain stupid person with no basic logical reasoning.

  • Mriana

    NOPE! You stop believing in it. :lol: We’ve done it so many times and then turned around and make another almost like the last.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    By sending me to that link you confirmed to be a (dogs and babies eating) terrible person as I expected an atheist to be. :) I seriously got headache from reading such amount of stupidity, ignorance and adolescent interpretation in one spot. I did read it.

    Fair enough, but I didn’t intend to send you there. That’s why I wrote “to everyone else”. I have been trying to send you to the Steven Pinker article. I don’t think you mentioned if you looked at it yet, but maybe I missed it. Pinker’s article is worth a read since he’s a respected scholar at Harvard and a best selling science writer, not some guy with a blog like the link you’re talking about.

    If anyone else missed it the first time I posted it, here it is again:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html

    “The Moral Instinct”
    from the January 13, 2008 issue of the NY Times Magazine.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    True_believer said,

    For whoever keeps clinging to those falsified statistical findings:

    Pseudoscience.

    See under 11. and 12. please.

    That’s a very interesting link. It is an excellent set of questions to ask to determine whether something is a pseudoscience (specious rubbish) or a protoscience (a new science). Thank you. But is has little to do with the poor use of statistics.

    Item number 12, which you insist we take particular note of, says that those promoting junk beliefs attack the person who objects to their reasoning rather than the reasoning itself. That seems to be what you do on this forum in most of your posts. You describe people who express ideas which do not support your own as stupid, ignorant or {censored by focus on the family}. Then you describe their arguments in the same terms instead of providing a cogent response to the reasoning. Sadly, I think the significance of this escapes you.

    True_Believer said:

    You also ignored my comment on how did they determine that regions they selected for research really contain truly religious people and not just atheists that will claim tomorrow they just “lost it”?

    The researchers made use of various gallup polls which have been done by reputable research companies in the past few years.

    There is no way that such polls can determine which of those who say they believe in a god will lose that belief in the future. Nor can they determine if any of those who say they do not believe in a god will begin believing in one at a later date.

    But that’s actually irrelevant. If areas infested by god believers are actually full of “unreal-Christians” then such people are shown to behave less morally than the people who live in areas infested by real or unreal atheists. The only logical conclusion which can be based on your hypothesis is that bad or weak Christians are less moral than common or garden-variety atheists. Somehow I don’t think that is the conclusion you wanted us to reach.

    By the way, it is logically in-admissable to reclassify a Christian’s original faith as “weak” or “unreal” the minute they lose their beliefs. That is post hoc analysis and it is a great big scientific no-no.

    The scientific approach is to determine ahead of time which believer will recant and which will not. According to my research, you could make a better-than-chance prediction of a person’s eventual belief change of loss on the basis of knowledge about the believer’s intellectual potential, cognitive style and personality. The rest of the formulae involves environmental factors which are much more difficult to predict. Belief change of all kinds is facilitated by education which encourages critical thinking and analysis plus exposure to a variety of different environments, cultures and belief systems. People who are locked into a similar environment with like-thinking friends will have a hard time revising their beliefs or value system. Country towns and other isolated communities are a good example of endemic rigid thinking.

  • Richard Wade

    We’ve done it so many times and then turned around and make another almost like the last.

    Exactly right, Mriana. Which is why it isn’t enough to just stop believing in a particular god or even in any and all gods. It would be far better to rid ourselves entirely of the mental bad habit of belief. Stop believing period.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    NYCatheist:

    I enjoyed the Pinker article. Thanks for the link.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    February 23, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    We’ve done it so many times and then turned around and make another almost like the last.

    Exactly right, Mriana. Which is why it isn’t enough to just stop believing in a particular god or even in any and all gods. It would be far better to rid ourselves entirely of the mental bad habit of belief. Stop believing period.

    Well, the thing is, we’d have to get the Muslims to stop believing in Allah, the Jews to stop believing in YHWH, and the Christians to stop believing in God/Jesus, not to mention the Hindus to stop believing in Vishnu/Krishna, Brahma, Shiva, etc. There are so many little deities running around to this day, that I can’t list them all. The more hardcore the believer, the harder it is to convince them that it’s nothing more than a human concept, created by humans, and nothing more. Then get them to believe in love, compassion, and the potential of humans.

    Easier said than done, but we’ve killed other gods, who’s to say we can’t do it again?

  • True_believer

    That article is nothing new, nothing we didn’t discuss, but I guess it’s appealing to atheists since it apperas that it got some scientific value, which I see as flase. Example:

    “And according to the psychologists Elliot Turiel and Judith Smetana, preschoolers have an inkling of the difference between societal conventions and moral principles. Four-year-olds say that it is not O.K. to wear pajamas to school (a convention) and also not O.K. to hit a little girl for no reason (a moral principle). But when asked whether these actions would be O.K. if the teacher allowed them, most of the children said that wearing pajamas would now be fine but that hitting a little girl would still not be.”

    Their parents thought them both actions to be wrong. After teacher told them opposite, they accepted first one to be changed, because their parent probably only told them something along “It’s absolutely wrong to go to around naked”, whereas they only laugh them out if they tried to go to school in pyjamas, and pyjamas are still cloths. However, second one is direct clash of what their parents and teacher accept from them. They understandingly chose their parents guidance since they are children’s main authority.

    This is just one of many discrepancies I found there after critically reading it once. It is enough for me to establish picture on how thorough author goes into the subject. He made up his mind beforehand, so he will conclude accordingly.

    Ok, now I had enough of personal attacks on me when people got nothing to answer. I don’t want to waste my time. I think I’ll conclude my “visit” here, but not before I give you few more “bones to gnaw on”.

    You choose to BELIEVE that there is no God or gods without any proof for such, yet you demand proof for God’s existence. Claiming that God doesn’t exist since nobody saw him is absurd. Nobody also saw most of the Amazonian jungle, and probably never will, yet if I would claim it does not exist for that reason, it would be as ridiculous as your claim. Written books and documented experiences of God’s existence you choose to ignore, and instead jump onto every half-wit’s request-for-funding “research” as long as it’s contra-theism.

    You are and will be unable to establish any moral code based only and solely on atheism. It’s impossible. Atheism does not include anything else except claim that god(s) do not exist. You have to involve something more which nullifies your atheism claim, and makes something else out of it. All this examples of moral codes you mentioned, all are nothing to do with atheism. They are all based on some religious moral code, and you are just ignorantly introducing that into your “atheism”. Since true atheism doesn’t define anything else except God’s non-existence, sticking to it leads sooner or later inevitably into nihilism. There is no point denying this. Once you say “but there is this and that moral code …” you stop being atheistic and turn towards agnosticism, or similar, it’s as simple as that. It becomes different ideology.

    These false claims of affiliation to beliefs are slowly getting out of hand. We got “Christians” claiming that there is no God, “atheists” that agree to God’s existence when you pin them down with logic, etc. I personally don’t have anything against any religion or luck of it as long as it not denying me right to mine. Diversity is what makes this world (and couple of afternoons here) so fun. False claim that religion is creating criminals is very dangerous.

    My point is that nobody is prepared to spend some time on their own, research, learn, meditate and decide what they really think. Instead, in their ignorance and foolishness, they go around ridiculing other views without knowing anything about other’s or even their own. I am fully aware that this may include myself, but please consider you in this light as well. I think spirituality is main part of human being, but some are not prepared to even acknowledge its existence. I truly pity them.

    One more thing before I go: when you study any of holy books, you only find in them what you are looking for. They are your mirror, wether you like it or not. As analogy, do you think that 7 year old reading Freud will learn same things as you? Would that be Freud’s fault? One reading is not nearly enough, nor is one book. Imagine how good in psychology you would be if you stick to one book and one reading.

    As-Sal?mu `Alaykum

  • True_believer

    :)

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Thanks for reading the article! I would have liked to hear your other criticisms, but I can understand you’re tired of posting here. (There’s always the forum which is better suited for long discussions.)

    You choose to BELIEVE that there is no God or gods without any proof for such, yet you demand proof for God’s existence. Claiming that God doesn’t exist since nobody saw him is absurd. Nobody also saw most of the Amazonian jungle, and probably never will, yet if I would claim it does not exist for that reason, it would be as ridiculous as your claim.

    Well, personally I like to say I don’t have a positive belief in a particular god. I think the lack of belief position is default until further evidence appears. I don’t demand proof, just good evidence. I’m not sure the Amazon jungle is a good example since I have seen pictures and videos of it, and I would be curious what is filling up most of Brazil if the jungle wasn’t there.

    It’s all about how extraordinary a claim is. If a friend told me he saw a dog in the park I would believe him. He may be lying, but why would he? If he said it was a talking dog, I would demand more evidence.

    Written books and documented experiences of God’s existence you choose to ignore, and instead jump onto every half-wit’s request-for-funding “research” as long as it’s contra-theism.

    I don’t think I ignore them. I have read many. But people can write anything. I’m not sure Robin Hood actually existed, and people have written a lot about him. But he is just a man. Supernatural claims require more than just books. People write about UFOs, ghosts, psychic powers, miracle gurus in India, visions of Buddha, etc. How do you know what is real and what isn’t?

    I’m not sure what you’re referring to with the research funding comment.

    You are and will be unable to establish any moral code based only and solely on atheism. It’s impossible. Atheism does not include anything else except claim that god(s) do not exist.

    Well, we agree there! (Except for the definition of atheism. I prefer the general lack of belief definition.) Atheism has nothing to do with moral codes. I don’t think anyone here has ever said so.

    You have to involve something more which nullifies your atheism claim, and makes something else out of it. All this examples of moral codes you mentioned, all are nothing to do with atheism.

    I disagree here. I think most atheists are secular humanists. The humanistic morals don’t negate atheism. I think we have to involve nothing more than our innate goodness, reason, and social progress.

    Since true atheism doesn’t define anything else except God’s non-existence, sticking to it leads sooner or later inevitably into nihilism.

    I haven’t seen any evidence for this in the lives of the many atheists I know.

    There is no point denying this. Once you say “but there is this and that moral code …” you stop being atheistic and turn towards agnosticism, or similar, it’s as simple as that. It becomes different ideology.

    But I am an agnostic at the same time. I hate to open the can-of-worms of semantics but I think agnosticism is about knowledge, and atheism is about belief. Atheists can certainly have ideologies. Atheists can be objectivists, or communists, and I guess even secular humanism can be an ideology. But those ideologies have nothing to do with gods.

    My point is that nobody is prepared to spend some time on their own, research, learn, meditate and decide what they really think. Instead, in their ignorance and foolishness, they go around ridiculing other views without knowing anything about other’s or even their own.

    Yes there are people like that, but I don’t think most of the people here are like that. Many people used to be religious, some still are but have departed from the mainstream, others (like me) just find the idea of gods and religion to be a fascinating topic and want to learn more.

    If you do read this before I go, I guess the main point I’d like you to take away is that not all atheists are like you imagine them to be. There is a lot of variety in beliefs and no one is exactly the same. Of course, the same could be said about any group with a label. (“Americans”, “white or black people”, “Christians”, “hippies”, “lawyers” etc.) So I’d like you to think twice before saying “You atheists are like ….” or “You atheists believe … so…” etc.

    Anyway, so long, it was fun.

    PS :Are you sure you’re leaving? There is this cartoon to consider:

    http://xkcd.com/386/

    ;-)

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana,
    Oh I understand the enormity of the task you’re describing, which is why I am only speaking of myself and perhaps you. People who are determined to believe in things will invent them faster than an army of rationalists could discredit them. The only act we can clean up is our own. Our influence on others is very limited, but by being truly clean of belief we can at least enjoy a clarity of mind free of clutter and a lightness of heart free of resentment, fear, shame and pride. Maybe then our influence on a few individuals will be just a tiny bit more potent.

  • Claire

    Rosemary Lyndall Wemm said,

    Claire asked of the Old Mormon Guy:
    I do have one question for you, which was asked of me a while back. What exactly are you thinking of when you are speaking of God? What is your definition of God?

    Actually, that was Linda who asked that, but with so many posts things can get confused… It’s not a question I would ever have asked, considering it as just another exercise in re-inventing the gods we already invented. It’s more of a believer’s question.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    The only act we can clean up is our own. Our influence on others is very limited, but by being truly clean of belief we can at least enjoy a clarity of mind free of clutter and a lightness of heart free of resentment, fear, shame and pride. Maybe then our influence on a few individuals will be just a tiny bit more potent.

    Richard,

    I totally agree with that statement, and I was not (and occasionally even now) able to be free until I emptied my mind of all previous beliefs. But I still choose to believe in a something rather than nothing. As True-believer said, I don’t see how we can deny the fact that we are spiritual beings.

    Mariana, words: “Love, compassion and the potential of humans.” It’s something that’s in all of us. It’s also something that’s outside of all of us. We give and we receive. We learn, we grow… and we live. The essence of life, the essence of who we are… whole but separate, together but alone, same but unique… Humans are very complex. We are more than just our flesh.

    I believe in life, love, and nature. I believe in the “way things are.” I believe in the invisible thread that connects all of us. And I believe in freedom of expression, to express love and creativity in each of our fullness. That is my God and that is what I learned through Jesus.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    True believer,

    I’m sorry that you felt attacked. You had a lot to share. I hope you’ll be back.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    February 24, 2008 at 1:59 am

    Mriana,
    Oh I understand the enormity of the task you’re describing, which is why I am only speaking of myself and perhaps you. People who are determined to believe in things will invent them faster than an army of rationalists could discredit them. The only act we can clean up is our own. Our influence on others is very limited, but by being truly clean of belief we can at least enjoy a clarity of mind free of clutter and a lightness of heart free of resentment, fear, shame and pride. Maybe then our influence on a few individuals will be just a tiny bit more potent.

    I agree 100%, Richard. It’s a shame we can’t get other to do the same.

    Richard,

    I totally agree with that statement, and I was not (and occasionally even now) able to be free until I emptied my mind of all previous beliefs. But I still choose to believe in a something rather than nothing.

    Linda, atheism is not believing in nothing. Why not believe in love and compassion? I think it is far better than believing in some sort of sky daddy or some other superstitious deity. Madilyn O’Hair said something like, “An atheist believes in building hospitals, instead of churches.” Underlying message in that statement to me, is love and compassion for one’s fellow human. She didn’t believe in nothing. Gene Roddenberry, a Humanist, not only had a belief, but also a dream and both are well seen in TOS and TNG. Again, the bottomline was love and compassion for his fellow human beings.

    That is hardly a belief in nothing.

    Mriana, words: “Love, compassion and the potential of humans.” It’s something that’s in all of us. It’s also something that’s outside of all of us.

    No, it is not outside all of us. Is WITHIN all of us. As long as we see it as outside of us, we will continue to make deities.

    We give and we receive. We learn, we grow… and we live. The essence of life, the essence of who we are… whole but separate, together but alone, same but unique… Humans are very complex. We are more than just our flesh.

    Yes, I agree that we are more than just flesh, but what we receive, by way of love and compassion comes from within another person, not without that person. What we give comes from within us. It’s not some external force, not even hatred comes from without. If humans could turn some that hate they have for others that is based on external stuff: like skin, colour, religion, ethnic origins, into love and compassion, we’d be a lot better off, but the problem is religious beliefs is a source of some of that hate.

    Take for example the religious reich and their attitudes toward women and gays or even the Muslim extremists with their ideas about women, gays, and Infidels (and sorry to say, Christians, in their opinion, are infidels and losers who will go to hell). The list goes on and on as to the hatred religion can still cause.

    That is my God and that is what I learned through Jesus.

    Did you? I don’t know but reading the text, you would have to pick and chose to find that. I think it is very possible to learn these things through real tangible human beings, like MLK Jr, Gene Roddenberry, (granted they are dead, but there are living people too who we can learn from also.) The only picking and chosing we have to do when we pick rolemodels is to pick the ones who hold the values we would like to strive for- like Obama. Hopefully, Obama really means what he says, and I think he does, and lives up to what he says. Regardless, these beliefs and values of love and compassion came/comes from within them, not from some external source.

    I have yet to find any external deity that brings out the best in people. It is when they seek to bring out the best in themselves and in others that they shine most. When they bring out the best in others, that too comes from within also. Not some external source.

    Sure, you can say love and compassion, freedom of expression, etc are god, but you are placing them outside yourself and they are not outside you. Once we can put these things where they really are, then I think we can all throw away religious texts, because they are not needed, except maybe as a source of literature for entertainment purposes only, just as the stories of Hercules, Zeus, and the Illiad are. I truly believe this. We don’t need them as a source to live our lives.

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  • Richard Wade

    Let’s keep the two popular definitions of “belief” from being confused. When people say that they believe in God or that Elvis is still alive, that is the kind of belief I’m talking about cleansing ourselves of, the persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of credible evidence. The other definition is when people say that they believe in democracy or in love of their fellow human. That means to support it, or to value and want to promote and to practice it.

    Even with that distinction in mind, to say “I believe in love” can begin to turn you back toward conjuring up another love-entity to believe in as in the first definition. Try to think of love only as a verb and never as a noun. Then you will see it as an action that people practice, rather than a thing that somehow floats around us without need of us to make it happen. Love does not exist, love happens when people do it. To see love as a noun, an invisible thing like “the force” is to step toward eventually personifying it and soon you have invented another god.

    Don’t bother with concepts of existence. Observe actions happening in the world around you. Observe your own actions and improve them. You are what you do. You are what you do. Eventually the word “are” becomes superfluous. You do, you do, you do…

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Mriana wrote:

    I have yet to find any external deity that brings out the best in people. It is when they seek to bring out the best in themselves and in others that they shine most. When they bring out the best in others, that too comes from within also. Not some external source.
    Sure, you can say love and compassion, freedom of expression, etc are god, but you are placing them outside yourself and they are not outside you. Once we can put these things where they really are, then I think we can all throw away religious texts, because they are not needed, except maybe as a source of literature for entertainment purposes only,

    Mriana, I think that is a very good summary of the origins, importance and meaningful flavor of morality. Bravo!

    Richard, thanks for making a clear distinction between the two meanings of the composite verb to believe in. Namely:
    1. the persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of credible evidence.
    2.to support, value or want to promote and practice something.

    I am not ready to throw out the use of “love” as a noun but I appreciate your point that this abstraction can only occur as the result of an action.

  • Mriana

    Mriana, I think that is a very good summary of the origins, importance and meaningful flavor of morality. Bravo!

    Thank you, Rosemary. I truly believe what I said too.

  • Richard Wade

    Rosemary, I have been enjoying and admiring your comments since you first started on this thread. Reading them is like watching a combination samurai master and concert pianist. Any compliment from you is an honor.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Linda, atheism is not believing in nothing.

    Mriana, I did not say anything about atheism. I only said I want to believe in something rather than nothing, in reply to Richard’s statement that we should be “clean of belief,” which he clarified since then. I’ve been talking to you long enough to know that the atheists like you are about much more than nothing.

    No, it is not outside all of us. Is WITHIN all of us. As long as we see it as outside of us, we will continue to make deities.

    I said it’s within all of us first. When I said outside of us, I meant we can and should see it in others as well. If it’s in you, then it’s outside of me, no?

    And I no longer believe that it’s religion that causes hatred. It’s the human tendency to judge and reject anything that is different than us that causes hatred, I think. I agree with you that hatred, as well as love, comes from within us.

    The God I believe in is not anything that I can describe or define. The moment I open my mouth, the words get in the way.

    What I tried to explain in my previous post is that perhaps a small portion of that is what is inside all of us. What is outside of us is in every other human being. What I was pointing to was the very essence of life itself. What makes us thrive? Just as you said, I believe it’s love and compassion for each other. I also believe it’s about exploring, creating, and expressing our uniqueness. As Richard pointed out, when we are free of fear, shame and guilt, then we can truly be free to love… ourselves as well as others. (he didn’t exactly say those words, but that is my version.)

    I was wondering if the God that I believe in that I can’t describe is, in part, this… energy, idea, thought… something… the thread that connects all of us.

    See? I messed it up again. I tried to describe it, and it came out not making any sense…

    When I said I learned through Jesus, I meant that he showed me how to be free. When I read the NT and about Jesus’ teachings, all I get is freedom and grace. Maybe I’m slow and cannot follow what everyone else sees… :-(

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard, I seriously thought about what you wrote:

    Love does not exist, love happens when people do it. To see love as a noun, an invisible thing like “the force” is to step toward eventually personifying it and soon you have invented another god.

    Don’t bother with concepts of existence. Observe actions happening in the world around you. Observe your own actions and improve them. You are what you do. You are what you do. Eventually the word “are” becomes superfluous. You do, you do, you do…

    Maybe you’re right in that love is an action word. If you think of love as…hmm… sort of energy, then it makes sense. It does not exist unless there is action, friction… reaction. I’m thinking of fire, lightening, thunder, wind… even light, which is the source of life.

    C’mon… think with me! I think you’re onto something.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Love is a relational property between things that is dependent on the agents doing the loving. The same can be said of belief. God has no “existence” outside the people believing in him. Thats what I believe anyway :)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Love is a relational property between things that is dependent on the agents doing the loving. The same can be said of belief. God has no “existence” outside the people believing in him.

    Hmmm… Jeff, now you got me thinking even more…

    God “exists” when you believe, and He doesn’t when you don’t. Love “exists” when two or more relate, but it disappears when we separate. Jesus did say that the only true sin is unbelief…. It seems to have a ring of truth… I’ll have to stew over this a bit…

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  • Mriana

    If it’s in you, then it’s outside of me, no?

    No or at least I don’t see it that way. We are individuals, but what is within us is the same.

    Richard Wade said,

    February 24, 2008 at 11:49 am

    Even with that distinction in mind, to say “I believe in love” can begin to turn you back toward conjuring up another love-entity to believe in as in the first definition. Try to think of love only as a verb and never as a noun.

    I never said it was a noun or a verb. It is a neuro-chemical reaction within us though and it is generally the same chemical within all of us. In that respect though, it is a noun, but not a deity. It’s our action in response to that chemical reaction that makes it a verb though. One cannot make a neuro-chemical reaction in the brain a deity. So, in effect, it is both, even in the context of stimuli triggering neuro-chemicals. It IS that chemical that gives us feelings of love that IS a noun. Therefore, I cannot help but talk about it as such and personally, I don’t want to. I rather like the idea of talking about the neuro-chemicals that induce love and compassion for others- be it friendship love, parent-child love, or romantic love.

    To worry about a noun becoming a deity is shear silliness. IF that were the case, all nouns would turn into deities, see post below. A deity doesn’t happen because of a noun. :roll:

  • Mriana

    what you wrote:

    Love does not exist, love happens when people do it. To see love as a noun, an invisible thing like “the force” is to step toward eventually personifying it and soon you have invented another god.

    Don’t bother with concepts of existence. Observe actions happening in the world around you. Observe your own actions and improve them. You are what you do. You are what you do. Eventually the word “are” becomes superfluous. You do, you do, you do…

    Maybe you’re right in that love is an action word. If you think of love as…hmm… sort of energy, then it makes sense. It does not exist unless there is action, friction… reaction. I’m thinking of fire, lightening, thunder, wind… even light, which is the source of life.

    Not in the context of neuro-psych. IMHO It then turns into a noun or what have you, but it also turns into a chemical name/names. It is not inventing another god in this context, regardless of what Richard says, but then you have to be looking at it from this angle too.

    If that were true of nouns, my sons, my cats, my house, car, etc would be gods. They are nouns too. That’s just shear silliness. :roll:

  • Mriana

    Linda said,

    February 24, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    Love is a relational property between things that is dependent on the agents doing the loving. The same can be said of belief. God has no “existence” outside the people believing in him.

    Hmmm… Jeff, now you got me thinking even more…

    God “exists” when you believe, and He doesn’t when you don’t. Love “exists” when two or more relate, but it disappears when we separate. Jesus did say that the only true sin is unbelief…. It seems to have a ring of truth… I’ll have to stew over this a bit…

    Oh brother. :roll: Now that’s taking silliness to the other extreme. One extreme to that other. Where is the poetic justice. It doesn’t matter what form it, in this case love, is in, it’s not Zeus.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Whatever doesn’t make sense to us is deemed silly. Whatever we don’t understand is deemed ignorant. Whatever is different than us, we judge. I was just trying to get you to try to look at the God concept from a new angle.

    When the thought of love being an action word, it just made me think of energy, that’s all. …. how energy cannot be created or destroyed. It can only be transferred. So I thought maybe love could be thought of that way. Silly? maybe. But why not?

    And when Jeff mentioned that God only exists in the minds of people who believe, it sparked something in my thought process. I’m not done thinking through it yet.

    You know… Maybe it’s time for me to go. I’m really surprised I lasted this long.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana, love has been made into deities many times. The Greeks alone had three personifying it in some of its forms, Aphrodite, Eros and Cupid. There are deities for every neurochemical response that humans can have.

    Yes, you are right that love is a set of neurochemical responses, so yes it’s a noun too. But my point was missed; my fault. I’ll restate, and by the way I’m not implying that you are doing any of the following:

    I was speaking to atheists in general as a respectful warning about how easy it can be to slip into believing in magical things even after ridding oneself of believing in deities. I’m drawing on my own experience as well as that of two or three friends, so maybe it isn’t that common, I don’t know.

    Love is one of the things that both theists and atheists deem very important; they only sometimes disagree on its source. The verb instead of noun thing was just to emphasize that love is strictly a human creation that only exists/happens when humans practice it. If we as I once did, start entertaining fantasies of love being some kind of invisible force that flows through us, between, around, within and without us regardless of our actions, then we have invented a magical power or force or thing to believe in, to assume it has a reality in some kind of non physical/physiological way. If we as individuals do all that while living amidst a culture that is infused with notions of “God is love,” then there is in my opinion a good chance that some of us will arrive at the belief that “love is God,” and we’ll be back to theism again.

    It’s just an observation and a caution about how subtle and pernicious magical thinking can be, especially around a subject that we value so much, that is so complex and even bewildering at times, that even the most rational of us are fond of making mysterious, love.

  • Stomper

    Richard and Mriana:

    You apparently have no respect for religious faith, or those who believe in a deity. If you want to have open, honest, and intelligent conversations about faith and atheism, then you should refrain from plotting in this forum about how to kill a deity because (in Richard’s words): “It would be far better to rid ourselves entirely of the mental bad habit of belief. Stop believing period.” Even if this were meant in jest (how can you kill something that does not exist?), it is rude and in poor taste.

    I came in here to represent my Christian faith and address the views of others. I was civil, logical and consistent. I didn’t ask anyone to change their beliefs — I merely wanted my own to be respected.

    Instead, I get remarks comparing my belief in God to Santa Claus, fairies and the Easter Bunny. Yes, I lost my temper and made a patronizing remark to Claire in response to her patronizing post. I actually hoped that would help her see how her remarks made me feel. Now you assume that ANY religious faith is an “evil” to be destroyed, rather than a different way of life to be understood and respected.

    How is that consistent with the desired tone of this site? How can you expect to have any intelligent conversations with the faithful, if you denigrate our position and evince no interest in understanding? Why would we want to talk to you, when you embody the stereotype of the arrogant atheist who assumes that “believers are all ignorant yokels who would be atheists like us if they were as smart and educated as we are”?

    You are part of the reason these discussions usually seem to end in acrimony rather than enlightenment. I hope you will examine your role in the persecution complex so many atheists seem to share. Respect is a two-way street. You have to give it to get it.

    Oh, and I’ll say it again: Religious faith is a positive, not a negative.Yes, faith has been twisted and abused by unscrupulous and deluded people. That means those people did bad things; it does not follow that faith is bad.

  • Claire

    Stomper, I think you are misinterpreting something here. It is a perfectly valid point of view to consider that faith is something we would be better off without. If you disagree, fine, (and feel free to defend your views!) but to interpret putting forth that view as lack of respect for an individual (as opposed to an idea) is not really what is happening here.

    Granted, it’s a fine distinction, and it’s not uncommon for people to be offended, personally, when their ideas are controverted. You seem to have taken personal offense at word choice, and also because ideas you don’t like have been put forth. Have you considered that maybe it’s not about you, that it’s about the ideas? Because, bottom line, it usually is.

    Not all ideas deserve respect. Discussion, maybe, but respect, no.

    Seriously, if we aren’t to be allowed to make such statements as “we would be better off without beliefs”, here, then where IS the right place to discuss them?

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    February 24, 2008 at 7:48 pm

    Mriana, love has been made into deities many times.

    So were cats, but as much as I love my girls, I don’t see them as Bast. The word “cat” is a noun and since it too has been made into a god should we stop viewing the word cat as a noun and use it as a verb?

    This is why I say what you are proposing is just plain silly.

    The verb instead of noun thing was just to emphasize that love is strictly a human creation that only exists/happens when humans practice it.

    No more than a cat is. Love is completely natural to the human and not created by the human, but it is not an invisible force though, even though it comes from within us. Only the word was created by the human. I could be amor, amore, or what have you.

    If we as individuals do all that while living amidst a culture that is infused with notions of “God is love,” then there is in my opinion a good chance that some of us will arrive at the belief that “love is God,” and we’ll be back to theism again.

    I don’t think that will happen. Have you read anything by Don Cupitt? He calls himself a Christian humanist, does not believe in non-metaphysical, but does consider “love” god. Only thing is, he knows it is not some invisible deity in the sky, but rather comes from within us. The thing is, there isn’t anything to fight about because his concept is not a god. It gets confusing, but basically it’s what is called “God talk” and they know they aren’t talking about a real god. I have often asked such people, why bother? Why not call a spade a spade if you know it’s not a god? Whatever the case, they aren’t theists. You worry too much.

    Stomper said,

    February 24, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    Richard and Mriana:

    You apparently have no respect for religious faith, or those who believe in a deity.

    Huh? You’d be surprise, Stomper. IF one is like Cupitt, Spong, Freeman, and alike, I have plenty of respect. But dogmatism- there is no need to give that respect.

    If you want to have open, honest, and intelligent conversations about faith and atheism, then you should refrain from plotting in this forum about how to kill a deity because (in Richard’s words): “It would be far better to rid ourselves entirely of the mental bad habit of belief. Stop believing period.” Even if this were meant in jest (how can you kill something that does not exist?), it is rude and in poor taste.

    ROFLMBO! :lol: My Christian friend laughed and agreed that we have killed gods many times over just by not believing in them anymore. It’s nothing to take offense about because it’s true. She didn’t find it rude or in poor taste, but the truth. The way you kill a deity is to stop believing in it. It’s true too. I don’t know why you take offense. Unless you want to bring Hercules, Mithra and alike back to life. All you have to do is believe in them and in the case of Mithra, it won’t be too hard, because he’s the same as Jesus. Something tells me you are a hardline Evangelical if you find offense in the truth about deities.

    Not once have I said it needed to be destroyed either. I think you are upset over nothing, but then again, I don’t know if you are addressing me also or not. If you want to view love as god, I won’t stop you. It has to be better than this Allah deity who supposedly takes offense and wants death of the offender, when in reality it is the humans who took offense and want the offender dead. Just don’t go nuts with dogmatism or I’ll call you on it.

  • Stomper

    Feel free to take that postition, anytime and anywhere. Just don’t be surprised when you find that none of the intelligent, educated faithful are willing to engage in your discussion.

    Your distinction is meaningless. My faith is part of who I am. When you say ALL faith is something to be destroyed, then you attack my very essence — and without any logic or evidence that MY faith is bad. This is particularly true when I made it clear, very early in this thread, that I consciously and intentionally chose to take on this irrational faith. A broad denigration of all faith is an ad hominem attack on me. Where is the rational atheist, then, if you can generalize about ALL faith, as Richard, Mriana (and now you) have done?

  • Stomper

    Mriana:

    Your “Christian friend” may be unable to see it, but your reply merely digs a deeper hole, confirming your attitude. As I noted, your comment about killing deities was posted in agreement with Richard Wade’s comment that I quoted, saying ALL belief is bad. How can that possibly be construed as anything other than the deepest disrespect for the faithful?

    Your false assumption that I am a “hardline evangelical” seems to confirm that you are too deeply committed to your stereotypes about believers. For what it is worth, I am one of the more theologically liberal members of a very liberal United Methodist congregation. Church and state ought to be separated, gays should be allowed to marry, abortion rights should not be determined by government policy, and atheists should not be marginalized for their beliefs (or lack thereof).

    Rudeness and disrespect, however, should be rooted out wherever they are encountered. Laughing at my reasoned and justified opinion doesn’t make your rudeness any better, and it certainly does not qualify as a reasoned response.

  • Claire

    Stomper said,

    Just don’t be surprised when you find that none of the intelligent, educated faithful are willing to engage in your discussion.

    On the contrary, a few have. It was fun and educational.

    My faith is part of who I am. When you say ALL faith is something to be destroyed, then you attack my very essence

    Sigh…. this again. If you feel that any attack on religion is an attack on you, and chose to post on an atheist website, then you came here with the full intention of being offended. No matter how friendly, it’s not going to be pro-religion, so there was no way you would not feel attacked. There isn’t a lot anyone can do about that. Until you can discuss ideas wihout getting personally offended, perhaps you are better off sticking to places where people agree with you.

    A broad denigration of all faith is an ad hominem attack on me.

    Actually, I believe it would be ad hominem if we said faith was bad because you were part of it. You’ve got that backwards.

  • Claire

    accidental duplicate post, sorry….

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Stomper said

    You apparently have no respect for religious faith, or those who believe in a deity. If you want to have open, honest, and intelligent conversations about faith and atheism, then you should refrain from plotting in this forum about how to kill a deity ….. Even if this were meant in jest (how can you kill something that does not exist?), it is rude and in poor taste.

    Stomper:

    A wise theist recently suggested that I had let a deliberately rude theist get to me. May I reflect this suggestion in reversed polarity while also suggesting that the non-theists who are aggravating you are not being deliberately rude or disrespectful.

    Attacking ideas is common in academic circles and researchers expect to have their pet ideas trashed by others on the way to refining them. Problems arise when the researcher has an emotion investment in the theory they are investigating or proposing. The problem with religious beliefs is that people have a deep emotional investment in them. Unlike most academic theories, a person can build their whole life around a religious viewpoint. When these ideas are threatened then the person feels threatened as well. It is far worse than having one’s personal tastes in music, books and clothing trashed and far more damaging to one’s sense of self-worth.

    People who no longer have, or have never had, a personal and emotional attachment to a world view or unprovable belief set can be insensitive to the pain of others when they say something which ridiculous what they see as illogical, silly or immature. Because the person has such a strong emotional investment in the truth of these beliefs they behave as if they, too, are classed as illogical, silly and immature. Although we have all deserve these adjectives at times throughout our lives, none of us want to seen that way. The emotionally secure person can admit to these from time to time and no-one can admit to being this way at all times and retain an essential sense of personal worth and dignity.

    The trick, if you can manage it, is to separate your sense of personal worth from the need to have your emotionally held belief sets validated by those whom you care for and respect. I haven’t met anyone who can do this perfectly, so it is a goal, not an absolute prescription. It may, however, ease the pain you feel when something you hold dear is not esteemed by others.

    You are right to point out to this group, and myself, that belief in a divinity is not the same as childhood belief in magic and mythical creatures. The essential difference is that, at least until recently, officially recognised religious beliefs is socially sanctioned and protected by law, while belief in other kinds of supernatural beings is only sanctioned and encouraged for children.

    Figuring out the illogicality of the magical beliefs fed to children is considered to be a right of passage in intellectual and emotional development. Adults actively assist children to overcome these beliefs and are they are encouraged to ask the kind of questions which will help them do so.

    OTOH, society (at least until recently) actively discourages children and adults from asking the kind of questions which will help them think outside the religious belief box. Adults continue to be accomplices in maintaining the deception. Questioning such beliefs raises all kinds of trust and respect issues which are most unpleasant to have to work through.

    So let me get this straight with you: I enjoy my interactions with you on this forum. You have provided evidence that you are thoughtful, wise, intelligent and compassionate. I can accept that your current religious viewpoint is doing you more good than harm at this point in time. I maintain that this is not because your belief is logical but because you are mature enough and stable enough to cherry pick the best parts of the associated philosophy and use them for your own and others good. I applaud that.

    This does not mean that I think you are beliefs are sensible. I do not. It does not mean that I will provide these beliefs with false “respect”, because I will not. What is does mean is that I will respect your right to choose to investigate them with the intelligence you undoubtedly have at whatever speed and at whatever depth you want. I also respect your right to

    stop

    investigating these beliefs if it is providing you with emotional distress, especially if you lack adequate caring support and physical health.

    I also expect you to go on challenging my perspectives and conclusions, and allow me the right to back away for all the same reasons :-)

    Actually, I may have to back off for a while as I need the time and energy to spend helping a friend and colleague who is being administratively pack raped by his licensing board. It is horrifying what good people can be talked into doing by authorities. If you ever doubt that, try googling the “Milgram Experiment” (by Stanley Milgram) and the “Stanford Prison Experiment” (by Phillip Zimbardo).

    Do take care of yourself, Stomper.

  • Stomper

    No, Claire. I am quite willing to hold reasoned discussions. Except for one lapse, that is what I have been doing throughout. A difference of belief is not an attack on me. A reasoned position is always worth evaluating. But when you set aside logic and reason, and liken my beliefs to a child’s belief in Santa Claus, can’t you see that is a personal attack?

    I will listen, if you want to make a reasoned argument that all religious faith is bad ( I am actually curious as to how that argument would be presented), but when the comments simply assume that WHY OF COURSE RELIGION IS BAD AND MUST BE DESTROYED, without any reasoning at all, then that again is an attack rather than an argument.

    I accomplish nothing if I present reasons and arguments which are discounted simply because I am a believer. Your defense of these positions (and Mrianas defense as well) suggests that I am indeed wasting my time.

  • Stomper

    Rosemary: thanks, but that is not the problem. Nobody here has said anything which will cause me to question my own beliefs. I long ago came to terms with the notion that my faith is not subject to logic — I can’t prove it, but nobody can disprove it, either. I am very comfortable with my faith.

    I am not comfortable with being stereotyped or insulted because of my faith. Perhaps the insults weren’t intentional, but I have yet to see any of the perpetrators offer that excuse. Rather, they seem confused by the idea that I might have been insulted in the first place.

    Do you ever get articulate theists who return for more than one discussion here?

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 24, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    Mriana:

    Your “Christian friend” may be unable to see it, but your reply merely digs a deeper hole, confirming your attitude. As I noted, your comment about killing deities was posted in agreement with Richard Wade’s comment that I quoted, saying ALL belief is bad. How can that possibly be construed as anything other than the deepest disrespect for the faithful?

    And what would you say if I showed her this and she agreed with what I said? Well I did and she did. Good grief! :roll: I really don’t understand your attitude or why you took offense. I only stated the facts about gods and all. Since it was the facts, she didn’t take any offense. Guess some people don’t get it.

    Rudeness and disrespect, however, should be rooted out wherever they are encountered. Laughing at my reasoned and justified opinion doesn’t make your rudeness any better, and it certainly does not qualify as a reasoned response.

    It was NOT rudeness or disrespect, it was stating reality. The facts plain and simple. My friend is Church of Christ. She’s pretty liberal too and understands that all you have to do to kill a god is to stop believing in it. She also did not take offense of me criticizing an external god either. She agrees it should come from within- whatever you chose to call it. The thing is and the reason why she does not take offense and even enjoys my irrevernce is because she is “secure in her faith”, as she says. Could it be you are not so secure and questioning some things? Just a thought.

    Church and state ought to be separated, gays should be allowed to marry, abortion rights should not be determined by government policy, and atheists should not be marginalized for their beliefs (or lack thereof).

    This is good and for your information, I’ve come from a multiple Christian background- my relatives who took me to their church when we visited were Free Methodist (strict free Methodist) and Church of God. When my mother was “born again” at my minister great uncle’s FM church when I was 14, she took me to a Lutheran Church. When I left home at 19, I spent nearly 20 years in the Episcopal Church. I questioned the whole time I was there, which was cool, and I went from questioning what I was taught to something like Spong’s, and then eventually to something like Robert Price’s- except unlike him, I have not attended the Episcopal Church for a few years and even in the end it was sporatic because I could not believe in a historical Jesus or the god of religion.

    Be that as it may, I am not nieve about the superstitions in various churches and IF you think I’m rude now, maybe you would like to see me get really wound up and going?

    Reasoned and justified opinion? I don’t know about reasoned, maybe justified in your eyes, definitely opinion. Me laughing? I’m sorry, are you addressing me? When did I laugh? When I asked how you killed a deity, it was not laughing. It is fact and we have done it many times over. It now seems a real pity that not all of us can do that for fear of “deicide”. :roll: No, I’m not laughing. Humans created gods, not the other way around. God is NOTHING but a human concept. If you don’t believe me, take a look around. There is the deity in the OT called Jealous, there is YWHW, who is not so nice, then there is God/Jesus who suffered a barbaric death and resurrection (all fictional BTW), Allah who is just as cruel if not crueler than Jealous, Vishnu/Krishna… the list goes on and on about gods alive today and not a one of them are the same deity. Then there are individual concepts of what god is- sorry dear, but few are the same view.

    It also seems to me you are judging my Christian friend when you don’t even know her, much less me. However, if you want rudeness… I’ve only just begun with this post telling you that god is a human concept and humans made god. So, I can give you rudeness, but it will be the honest truth of the matter. You think I’m attacking YOUR religion? It’s not your religion. Did you make it up? I don’t think so. More than likely it was all packaged nice and neatly and given to you by others, and you were spoon fed it. I grew up in the same religon and I can interpret it anyway I want and I interpret it as non-historical, literature, and rewritten myth- astrotheology also to be exact. Jesus is nothing but another sun god, the Sun of God, AKA Amen-Ra, Ammon, Amen and the gig is up in Rev. 3:14 when it says, “These things says the Amen”. It is not “so be it” but the god Amen, esp in the original text. Purely superstitious story telling that is told and retold, just package differently with each new deity. Krishna was the incarnation of Vishnu, Jesus was the incarnation of God (same thing). Krishna was the beginning, middle and end, Jesus was the beginning and the end (same thing again). Krishna had a virgin birth, Jesus has a virgin birth. Krishna, Moses, and Jesus were all hussled out to keep the head hancho from killing them. Mithra, Horus/Osiris, etc were the same thing too.

    Now that, my dear, is disrespect and I’ve only started. At the same time, it is educating you about the TRUTH of your religion.

  • Mriana

    Rosemary, good post, as well as honest and up front, not to mention far better than mine. Then again, I guess I did tear up some of her ideas. I just did not elaborate much.

  • Claire

    Stomper said

    But when you set aside logic and reason, and liken my beliefs to a child’s belief in Santa Claus, can’t you see that is a personal attack?

    Possibly… except that that never happened. Rosemary made that comment to true_believer as a general statement, not targeting anyone. NO ONE compared YOUR PERSONAL beliefs to Santa et al. Go back and read the posts if you are skeptical. There was no personal attack.

    I will listen, if you want to make a reasoned argument that all religious faith is bad

    Actually, it goes beyond that. It’s all faith or baseless belief that I consider bad, not just the relgious type. I’m really hoping Richard jumps in here, his arguments on this are much more cogent than mine, but if he doesn’t, I may give it a go.

    Perhaps the insults weren’t intentional, but I have yet to see any of the perpetrators offer that excuse.

    On the contrary, when you objected to my use of the word ‘outgrew’, i explained that it wasn’t intended to be insulting, and gave reasons for my choice of words. Then, you refused to accept that explanation, and insisted I must have been intending to be insulting. Now, you say no one ever explained they didn’t mean to insult you, although I did do just that. This was another part of my reason for thinking that you came here intending to be insulted.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Stomper,
    I think that you are jumping to some conclusions that are causing you unnecessary upset and feelings of offence.

    Firstly about myself: I have not made any statement about “killing” deities nor do I harbor any thoughts or intentions of that sort. You seem to be associating me with others’ remarks, and even those remarks you may have misconstrued as being disrespectful to you.
    My statement about being completely free of the mental activity of belief is a personal goal of my own that I was sharing with other atheists here and has nothing to do with attacking or denigrating anyone else’s spiritual beliefs, such as yours.

    Secondly about respect and the friendly tone of this site: I appreciate that yes, you have tried patiently to remain civil in the midst of a challenging discussion. Bringing your personal beliefs to a forum like this and offering them to help us understand you is an admirable goal and it takes courage. But the atheists here are going to also share their views for you to understand them, and they are going to disagree with your viewpoints.

    To disagree with your beliefs is not to disrespect you.

    A figure of speech such as “killing deities” is perhaps a poor choice since it might likely be taken as aggressive or disrespectful by someone who believes in a deity, such as yourself, and shut down the dialogue. If you take it in the context of the original subject of this post, the long list of deities that have come and gone, that have been worshipped and then discarded, then the phrase “killing deities” may have a less threatening sound to it.

    Comparing belief in God with belief in Santa, fairies, etc. is not about calling your beliefs childish. It’s how an atheist explains his lack of belief in God because of the same lack of evidence that he would need to believe in any of those things.

    I acknowlege that there are some atheists in the world who are arrogant or who will imply or say right out that they are smarter than theists, but unless I have missed something, I haven’t seen much if any of that in the various conversations here on this post with you. A few like that will comment on this site from time to time, and everyone is subject to fits of temper, but they do not represent the overall character of this site. A wide variety of personalities goes with the territory in a forum that emphasizes freedom of thought.

    The opinions here about faith and religion in general vary from mild to very strong. People are drawing upon their personal experiences and their values to form those opinions. Many of the atheists here disagree strongly with each other on lots of issues. Sometimes they only have one thing in common: they have no belief in deities.

    Stomper, please consider continuing the dialogue with your original intention of better mutual understanding while keeping in mind that people here do not equate your beliefs with you. Some (not all) think faith and religion is bad for society. They are not saying that you are bad for society. Some may even say that faith and religion are evil. They’re not saying that you are evil. Your beliefs may be so important to you that you equate yourself with them, I don’t know But we do not equate them. From our viewpoint there is you and there are your beliefs. Your beliefs may be questioned, challenged, disagreed with and even attacked. That is not being done to you.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana, You’re probably right, I worry too much. I lose sleep wondering if maybe I do worry too much. :) I’m quite certain that you and I are disagreeing on the nature of love only on a semantic level. I agree with what you say while you disagree with what I say, but to me we are saying exactly the same thing. We’re lost in the tangle of words, vestiges of the Tower of Babble.

    No matter. What’s important is that love be done at every possible opportunity in any form of expression we can manage. I’ll set aside my worries about the possibility of superstitions growing from misunderstanding it, and just keep practicing it.

    Love ya.

  • Mriana

    Richard Wade said,

    We’re lost in the tangle of words, vestiges of the Tower of Babble.

    Yes, it would seem that way.

    No matter. What’s important is that love be done at every possible opportunity in any form of expression we can manage. I’ll set aside my worries about the possibility of superstitions growing from misunderstanding it, and just keep practicing it.

    You got it!

    Love ya.

    Back at you.

  • Stomper

    Mriana: I am not offended by the fact that belief in a deity CAN die off, or that you describe that as “killing” the deity. Rather, I am offended by the fact that you agreed with Richard Wade, to the effect that all deities SHOULD be killed, and the world would be a better place if all believers would just be smart enough to see through the sham of religion. Read the posts yourself. That was explicit or clearly implicit in your posts. If you disagree, then please explain how I SHOULD have understood those posts.

    Speaking of reading posts, perhaps you should take another look at your own. You ask when you were laughing? Oh, I don’t know, perhaps when you typed: “ROFLMBO.” Incidentally, characterizing the beliefs of the faithful as “superstitions” may be accurate in your eyes, but it is far from tactful.

    You are not telling me anything I did not already know about similarities between the mythologies of the different faiths. That doesn’t bother me, and I don’t find it disrespectful when you actually point out facts. My faith does not depend on the literal truth of any single passage or story in the Bible. If you wanted to have that discussion, we could have.

    And yes, that is why I speak only of MY faith. I did arrive at it myself. In fact, I have never yet met two “Christians” with an identical set of beliefs. Rather, our beliefs are like snowflakes. You can call all of them snow, but no two are the same.

    Mostly, your response confirms that you simply don’t understand the difference between an honest discussion of facts or beliefs, and the assertion of offensive and disrespectful opinions. Perhaps you need to give your posts some more thought before you hit the “submit comment” button.

  • Stomper

    Claire: Yes, let’s look at what was actually said.

    Rosemary said: “Non-theists are no more likely to feel emptiness or lack of meaning in their life than someone who has given up a belief in Santa Claus, Fairies, the Easter Bunny.”

    I chided her for this over-generalization, precisely because there is a difference between belief in a deity (which cannot be disproven) and belief in these mythical figures (the existence of which is disproven regularly). I said, “Rosemary compared the abandonment of faith to giving up belief in Santa Claus, Fairies, or the Easter Bunny, and that comparison made her generalization overly broad,” because there are no competent adults who believe in Santa Claus, Fairies or the Easter Bunny, and logical construction of this comparison meant she was asserting a claim about 100% of competent adult atheists.

    Rosemary gracefully acknowledged that her statement was too broad. Then you jumped in, arguing that Rosemary’s original assertion was correct, and asking “Growth and change can be painful, but if someone puts faith behind them because they have outgrown it, why should that create what you called a void?” In short, YOU equated religious faith with the childish fantasies of Santa Claus, Fairies and the Easter Bunny. As I tried to explain above, your attitude was patronizing and offensive. It still is. You just don’t see it, do you?

    Your “explanation” for your choice of words was so weak as to be pathetic. You said: “Hence the use of the word ‘outgrew’ in reference to what happened. It wasn’t intended to insult, it’s just the most accurate word I could find to describe what those accounts all had in common.” That was supposed to make it BETTER? The only term you can think of is patronizing and arrogant, so I’m supposed to ignore the insult because you didn’t have a thesaurus handy?

    If you want people to engage in this kind of discussion with you, then you really ought to be more careful about how you choose your words.

  • Stomper

    Richard: I recognize that you are not the one who advocated killing deities. That was Mriana’s response to your post, in which you said: “[I]t isn’t enough to just stop believing in a particular god or even in any and all gods. It would be far better to rid ourselves entirely of the mental bad habit of belief. Stop believing period.”

    You characterize my faith as a “bad habit,” and I’m not supposed to be offended, because I was supposed to use my telephathic powers to somehow know that you didn’t mean for me to take that personally? How am I NOT supposed to take that personally?

    I am aware that it is common for atheists to compare God to Santa Claus, Fairies, the Easter Bunny, unicorns, etc. This is a flawed comparison, because (unlike God) these are known by all competent adults to be false. Either atheists are not as logical as they’d like to think, or they are intentionally offensive. Which conclusion would you prefer I reach?

    Again, I am willing to discuss WHETHER faith and religion are bad for society (I briefly addressed that topic here already), but I am not willing to sit quietly and smile while people make remarks like yours, which assume that position without any justification.

  • Mriana

    I recognize that you are not the one who advocated killing deities. That was Mriana’s response to your post,

    There was nothing wrong with what I said, because it is true. We kill gods by stopping belief in them. Why in the world do you think this list of dead deities do not exist? We stopped believing in them. It seems naive to to believe that gods are not killed by disbelief. There is nothing wrong with disbelief or the statement that we kill gods via disbelief. It is an honest truth. In all honesty, nothing should be offensive about it. I have no idea why you take offense at a truism, esp if you understood why these gods don’t exist in this day and age. Apparently you don’t from your reaction to said statement. IMHO, to take offense must mean that you do not feel secure with you belief. What is wrong with you belief that such a statement would make you feel insecure about your current god?

    So what these gods are dead from disbelief. Why should it be a problem for your god? I did not compare your god to Santa or the Easter bunny, but your reaction makes me wonder how mature or stable said belief is if such a comment disturbed you. Even Bishop Spong compared “the invisible parent in the sky” to a “Santa Claus deity” in his video on YouTube. If you haven’t seen it yet you should. You might learn something from the dear bishop, but then again, it could destroy your belief too. I wouldn’t want to be blamed for that. Even so, you maybe interested in it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJw6TzYX31s&feature=related Of course, then again, if found my first statement offensive then you may find him offensive so. If so, I suggest getting a grip.

  • Karen

    Stomper, I mean no disrespect to you, nor do I mean to offend you, but I’d like to make a general observation:

    I find it depressing that so often these long conversations with theists devolve into accusations of “you insulted me” and “you’re not really friendly!” and then become more about long rehashes of what was said, and what tone was meant/perceived, and reassurances that no insult was meant – rather than sticking to the core points of departure. It happens over and over again.

    I suppose this is partially inherent in this written forum, and I think Rosemary’s explanation for how believers have highly emotional attachments to faith (one of the best I’ve read, by the way!) is instructive, but I also have another suspicion.

    I think that it’s not primarily unfriendly atheists who ultimately impede discussion with theists, rather it is this emotional tendency of theists’ to equate beliefs with identity and to be very touchy about criticism of specific beliefs. That quickness to be hurt closes off frank, honest conversation time and again, and I suspect it adds to the negative reputation that dogs atheists so pervasively (“they’re mean!”).

    I always get back to personality type, it seems, when I’m analyzing belief and non-belief and it occurs to me that it may play a role here, too. For instance, to answer Stomper’s question, we do have regulars here who are theists. But they seem to be the kinds of believers who are able to separate their faith from their identity or at least discuss it dispassionately from an objective viewpoint. Theists who can’t do that, or aren’t able to understand that it’s crucial, typically flee the discussion.

    Is this inevitable? Or is there some tone we atheists could take, without becoming apologetic about not believing, that would promote deeper discussion without constantly risking offense?

  • Claire

    Karen, I think you nailed it:

    I think that it’s not primarily unfriendly atheists who ultimately impede discussion with theists, rather it is this emotional tendency of theists’ to equate beliefs with identity and to be very touchy about criticism of specific beliefs. That quickness to be hurt closes off frank, honest conversation time and again, and I suspect it adds to the negative reputation that dogs atheists so pervasively (”they’re mean!”).

    I think that is exactly it. I’ve also seen this in political discussions, too. I remember one very lively discussion on politics, at work, with someone at the other end of the political spectrum where we walked away friends and smiling, and the two people sitting at the neighboring cubicles both had dropped jaws. I looked at them and said “What?” and one replied “But… but.. you’re not angry!” and I said “Why should I be?”. They just couldn’t get over that two people could disagree so passionately and profoundly, but without anger or taking it personally. It is possible. Not easy for some people, but possible.

  • Claire

    Stomper said

    In short, YOU equated religious faith with the childish fantasies of Santa Claus, Fairies and the Easter Bunny. As I tried to explain above, your attitude was patronizing and offensive. It still is. You just don’t see it, do you?

    Yes, I did do that. Beliefs in general, not YOUR beliefs. That you keep insisting on taking offense at this says to me that YOU still don’t get it. It isn’t personal. If that doesn’t describe YOUR beliefs, then why are YOU taking offense?

    It’s classic, really: I display a general garment, and you claim it’s cut to your fit. Then you get all cranky about it. That’s not my responsibility.

    The only term you can think of is patronizing and arrogant, so I’m supposed to ignore the insult because you didn’t have a thesaurus handy?

    I did have a thesaurus. It’s still the best word.

    You said no one explained the ‘insults’ were unintentional. Several of us have explained now, repeatedly. It’s still not good enough for you. We have explained it’s not personal. You refuse to accept that.

    I’m beginning to think that the truth is that you never wanted just an explanation, and you don’t want to understand. What you really seem to want is an abject apology for daring to think that religion is crap, and for us to listen like good boys and girls while you explain to us why we are wrong. And, oh, yes, disrespectful….

    You came to the wrong place for that.

    We would love to discuss religion and society with you, but what’s the point if you’re just going to get constantly pissed off because you can’t see the difference between the personal and the general?

  • Stomper

    Mriana: You are ignoring my point. Is that intentional? As I said, I have no problem with the concept that a deity can be “killed” by a cessation of belief. Rather, I am offended by the “of course” tone of your response to Richard, in which you agreed that ALL deities should die from lack of belief.

    I respect an atheist’s choice to refrain from belief. Is it so unreasonable to ask that others respect my choice to believe? I expect you will claim that you DO respect my choice, but that is not what your prior posts show.

    Karen: I appreciate your tone and your approach. Yes, it is an emotional issue. As a trial lawyer with 20 years of experience, I am actually quite good at separating my emotions from my reason. That does not mean I will tolerate rudeness or disrespect.

    “Unfriendly” and “mean” are not the right words to describe the atheists here. I would say “insensitive” and “tactless” would be more accurate, particularly in conjunction with “oblivious.” However, the more I have to explain, the harder it is to believe that these slights are really unintentional.

    You want to know what tone to take, to avoid being offensive? Here are a few suggestions:

    1. When generalizations are made, they should be clearly identified as such, using qualifiers such as “some,” “many” or “most.” Be prepared to back that up with statistics, or at least a common-sense argument. If the conclusion is based only on your personal experience, then you should say so. Otherwise, you appear to be stereotyping.

    2. Recognize (as you have done) that belief is intensely personal. Blanket condemnations of belief per se will not be well received. If you are determined to say all religious faith is bad, at least show the tact to present that as a proposition you can support, rather than a given. Give me something to respond to, so I am not left sputtering at an insulting conclusion.

    3. As any mediator or counselor can tell you, “I” statements are far less inflammatory than “you” statements. Instead of talking to me about believers and what we are like, why don’t you focus on atheists, and what YOU are like? Almost any proposition you care to advance can be expressed as an “I” statement. Example: rather than say “belief should be eradicated,” say “I would be happier if there were more atheists.” All of the arguments for the first proposition will fit under the latter proposition, but the latter proposition is far less accusatory. This rule also applies to the underlying arguments: focus on the positives of atheism, rather than the perceived negatives of faith. Same issues, but the way you phrase them makes them so much more palatable.

    4. Take the time to really examine some of the common tropes of atheism, before you advance them yourself. The comparison to Santa Claus, unicorns, et al. is common, but that does not make it accurate or friendly. Along with the idea that religious faith is something to be “outgrown,” this analogy is arrogant and patronizing. Please, don’t argue that I shouldn’t be insulted simply because so many people cast that aspersion. There was a time when “nigger” was a common word, too. You are smarter than to think that makes it okay.

    If you want to characterize your own arrival at atheism as a growth process, the implication is still there (that the faithful are somehow retarded in our growth), but at least you have limited that conclusion to your own development. The same reasoning applies if you want to talk about the development of specific people you have encountered — make it clear you are relaying their own evaluations, and NOT applying this to all atheists (and thus, by implication, to all believers as well).

    Better yet, if you want to be tactful and diplomatic you can make the same point by simply choosing other words with fewer value connotations: changed, revised, altered, amended, etc. are all better than “outgrew.” If you feel that “growth” is really the right word, then you should be aware of the impact when you choose to use that, rather than a neutral alternative.

    5. Be open to the possibility that you are wrong. As I stated in my very first post here, I recognize that my faith is irrational. The existence of God can neither be proven nor disproven. That means I could be wrong in choosing to believe.

    By calling yourself an athiest and posting here, you acknowledge that the question of God’s existence is important to you. When pressed, most atheists will CLAIM to be agnostics and “weak atheists,” who do not believe due to a lack of evidence for the existence of a deity. This means you don’t know, either, but you have staked out a position based on your evaluation of the available evidence and your understanding of what is meant by “deity.”

    If that really is your position (and not just something you say to avoid the “strong atheist’s” impossible burden of disproving God’s existence), then a little humility would be appropriate. You know, your own position implicitly acknowledges the possibility that we believers just might be right. Sure, the odds are against us, but it’s not a sure thing.

    Before you post, ask yourself if your post is consistent with that position — or if you are really just a “strong atheist” in sheep’s clothing. For example, remarks like “Wouldn’t it be great if there was no religious belief?,” implying that religious faith is responsible for more harm than good, seems inconsistent with a “weak atheist” position. Or maybe that’s just me.

    This list is not exhaustive, but it addresses the most glaring problems.

  • Stomper

    Claire: You didn’t just cut one garment. Your generalization was broad enough tio cover the entire world of believers, me included. How could I have possibly construed your remarks so that they did not apply to me?

    Protesting that insults weren’t intentional is not particularly effective, when you also claim I should not have been insulted anyway, and besides, the loaded connotations of “growth” were exactly what you wanted. You simply lose credibility that way.

    I’m outnumbered here, and it is certainly easier to blame me than to take responsibility for what you wrote. That doesn’t make it laudable.

  • Richard Wade

    Stomper:
    You came here to express your views and opinions. I come here to express mine. Our opinions do not match. We disagree. I don’t find that difference “offensive” but you do. No offense is intended on my part so your feelings of being offended are entirely your creation and your responsibility. You seem eager to feel offended.

    I’m not going to back off from or apologize for my opinion just because you keep choosing to feel offended. I’m sure that you would find it ridiculous if I said that your opinion about faith and belief is a deliberate, personal affront to me, and that you, just by having your opinion are offensive. But that is the absurd stance you are taking here.

    You said that you want to have civil and rational discussions here. I don’t see how that can happen if you decide that any disagreement with your opinion is an offensive, disrespectful insult. Never have I seen so much time devoted to taking care of someome’s hurt feelings. It has completely derailed the discussion. If you can’t distinguish between a counter argument and a personal attack then as Claire suggested you should never venture away from people who agree with you.

    You asked if “articulate theists” ever visit this site more than once. Yes, many do. One, Mike Clawson is a contributor who frequently writes stimulating posts here, and he bravely faces all manner of slings and arrows against his views, opinions and beliefs. I respect him for many reasons, one in particular is he doesn’t expect everyone to tiptoe around his beliefs for fear of offending him.

    This is the last I’m going to say about your assertion that my opinion is “disrespectful” or “offensive.” I’m going to explain my opinion now, to which I have as much right as you have to yours, and if you choose to take offense that’s you doing that, not me. Argue about my argument if you want, but I won’t respond to any more complaining about your feeling offended.

    IN MY OPINION belief, the persistent assumption of the truth of something in the absence of evidence is a bad habit. I mean any belief of that kind about any subject. That bad habit gets people to spend all their family’s money on fraudulent things, gets them to take useless or even harmful quack treatments for their illnesses, gets them to stifle their children’s education so they can only be farmhands their whole lives, gets them to feel justified in shunning and persecuting anyone who is different from them, gets them to join mobs intent on burning the local old widow as a witch, gets them to step on a bus with TNT and nails strapped to their chests, gets them to fly planes into skyscrapers, and gets them to follow a true-believing, lying leader into a disasterous, idiotic war.

    Those are just a few of the reasons why I say that the mental activity called belief is a bad habit. If there is no evidence, then don’t persist in assuming it is true. I’m not saying that all bad things come from belief and I’m not saying that only bad things come from belief, but a hell of a lot of bad things do.

  • Claire

    Stomper said:

    Please, don’t argue that I shouldn’t be insulted simply because so many people cast that aspersion.

    No one made that argument. I said that you shouldn’t be offended because it wasn’t targeted, not that it was a common aspersion. Why do you keep mis-stating our arguments?

    Your generalization was broad enough tio cover the entire world of believers, me included. How could I have possibly construed your remarks so that they did not apply to me?

    Again, you mis-state what I said. I wrote of ‘belief’, not ‘believers’. I have said nothing about believers, only beliefs, but you insist on misinterpreting that.

    You said you are a trial lawyer, and I can really see that. You ignore our strong arguments, ignore it when we prove that things didn’t happen the way you said, and try to shift the ground to where you think you might win. Those do seem like tactics that a trial lawyer would use to sway a jury.

    And no, that’s not an ad hominem attack, before you get that wrong again. I’m not saying we should ignore your arguments because of your profession, it was merely an observation of the kind of tactics I have seen you use and where they might have originated.

    And yes, the gloves are off now. We’ve apologized and explained enough.

    You are welcome here, but your easily-offended feelings are not our responsibility.

  • Stomper

    Richard:

    THOSE are the reasons I was looking for. I was not so much insulted by your opinion (you are certainly entitled to your own), as by the implicit assumption that your opinion was so obviously correct that it didn’t even need to be justified. I will happily respect your beliefs, so long as you at least show me the respect of providing REASONS when you challenge my beliefs.

    I have said this twice before in this thread: belief can be abused for bad purposes. But when you are blaming belief, you are blaming the victim.

    Skepticism is important. Empiricism is crucially important, and most of your examples actually address things that can be logically and empirically proven to anyone willing to overcome their own ignorance.

    “Wonder drug? What does the FDA say about it? Where are the peer-reviewed double-blind studies?”

    “Gays are evil? Have you ever MET one, and really gotten to know him or her?” There are many questions that can be resolved with critical-thinking skills and a little research.

    But there are some things that logic and evidence just won’t resolve. The existence of a deity is one of them. I submit that is an entirely different brand of belief, and one doesn’t lead to the other. You advanced a proposition based on a causal chain, and I’m challenging your causal link.

    Belief in something that can never be proven or disproven is on an entirely different level than belief in something that could be proven or disproven but for ignorance. On what do you base your conclusion that one leads to the other, or that they are otherwise causally connected?

    In addition, I should point out that belief in a deity has been associated with (note that I am asserting correllation rather than causation) a great deal of good in the world. My own church sponsors a food pantry and an after-school program for disadvantaged families, we regularly participate in Habitat for Humanity projects, and we sponsor a number of other groups, from scouts to AA. In addition, we have a foundation which provides educational scholarships. It is entrely possible that none of this would have happened without our congregation’s shared beliefs — and that is just one congregation.

    This approach makes me happier. Just in case anyone here cares about what makes me happier.

  • Stomper

    Claire: I’m not changing your arguments or assertions. I’m restating them to show the logical result of your assertions.

    The distinctions you make are meaningless. When you attack belief, you necessarily attack believers. How can you logically separate those? As a believer, how can I possibly conclude that I was not targeted? You are not making any sense.

  • Claire

    Stomper said,

    Claire: I’m not changing your arguments or assertions. I’m restating them to show the logical result of your assertions.

    Your restatements do change them, and go beyond misinterpretation to falsification. The way you ‘restate’ my assertions does not come close to my meaning and ensures that they are invalid. What you are doing is called the ‘straw man’ fallacy, but you knew that, right?

    When you attack belief, you necessarily attack believers. How can you logically separate those? As a believer, how can I possibly conclude that I was not targeted?

    Because they are logically separate. A believer is a human being, whose ideas may or may not change over time. A belief is an idea, which has no biological existence. How can you possibly conflate those two? They are clearly separate entities. Do you care to defend the position that they are not?

    Therefore, attacking a belief is NOT attacking a believer, because of the difference stated above. Unless a believer identifies so strongly that any attack on the belief is an attack on him (as you appear to), in which case that believer may feel attacked, but that is an individual misperception rather than an objective statement of events. This is exactly what Karen was talking about.

    It is, by the way, a bad and dangerous thing (for society) if people are not able to see this difference, or if they consider it unimportant. Not seeing the difference is part of why muslims riot and kill over cartoons of Mohammed, and not seeing the difference threatens freedom of speech, if protections are given to ideas or beliefs, so that that they become immune from challenge.

  • Stomper

    I know what a straw man is. I also understand the logical and practical consequences of your stated propositions. Your distinction between belief and believers is only valid on the surface. When your remarks are applied to the real world, you were disparaging believers, like me. Your argument is what we call “sophistry.”

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 25, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Mriana: You are ignoring my point. Is that intentional? As I said, I have no problem with the concept that a deity can be “killed” by a cessation of belief. Rather, I am offended by the “of course” tone of your response to Richard, in which you agreed that ALL deities should die from lack of belief.

    What is your point? There’s a problem with dead deities?

    I respect an atheist’s choice to refrain from belief. Is it so unreasonable to ask that others respect my choice to believe? I expect you will claim that you DO respect my choice, but that is not what your prior posts show.

    You get offended awfully easily. Have you been to UnRational Response Squad’s site? This is nothing. I assure you nor was my intent to offend. It’s just an opinion.

    Richard Wade said,

    February 25, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Stomper:
    You came here to express your views and opinions. I come here to express mine. Our opinions do not match. We disagree. I don’t find that difference “offensive” but you do. No offense is intended on my part so your feelings of being offended are entirely your creation and your responsibility. You seem eager to feel offended.

    Seems Richard and I are on the same wave length again. I honestly feel that if you were secure in your believes you would not be taking offense by people’s opinions who differ from yours so easily. I think even Mike would have taken my comment about “how to kill a god” well. I think even Linda, also a theist, did too. I already told you my friend did, so I won’t rehash her too.

  • Stomper

    Mriana: No, I have a problem with “evangelical” atheists, who feel the need to eradicate faith, rather than respect it as a valid alternative approach to the unknowable.

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 25, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    Mriana: No, I have a problem with “evangelical” atheists, who feel the need to eradicate faith, rather than respect it as a valid alternative approach to the unknowable.

    You know, you may feel I was disrespecting it, but I was not- at least not to start. I am not an “evangelical” anything. Far from it. However, I do believe we would be better off without any religion. IF you want to keep a god concept, that’s no skin off my back, as long as you harm no one with this concept, but you can do all of that without religion. Even my friend agrees with that. We don’t need religion, but lack of a religion doesn’t keep people from believing in something or prevent them from having a god concept.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Let me jump in here for a moment because I find the idea of separating the belief from the believer interesting. There seems to be some grey area there, and it reminds me of my mother saying “I’m not calling you stupid, but what you said was stupid.”. What if someone is always saying stupid things?

    I’ll play the “angel’s advocate” for a moment and take Stomper’s side with this question: How do you think a hard working evolutionary biologist feels when Ray Comfort calls the theory a “fairy tale for adults”? He didn’t (in this specific example) call the scientist a moron, but I could imagine the scientists feeling a bit miffed that all his hard work and research is being called a “fairy tale”.

    So I’m not sure it’s always the case that we can separate beliefs from believers so easily. Because what is a “person” actually? Yes, they are the physical body, but we also think of them as a personality with memories and so on. That personality is made up of certain ways of thinking, ideas, beliefs, habits and so on. If you criticize enough of those mental states eventually you will be criticizing the person.

    If person A thinks all of person B’s opinions are stupid, is it so easy to say person A doesn’t think person B is in fact stupid? That’s an extreme example, and I’m not sure where the line is crossed in practice. If my friend thinks my opinion that vanilla ice cream is superior to chocolate is wrong I’m not going to mind, but if he thinks all of my food choices are wrong I might start to get annoyed.

    What do you think?

  • Mriana

    NY, I never once said her belief was stupid. If she interpreted it that way, then I’m sorry she did, because that was not what was said.

  • Stomper

    Mriana:

    I don’t understand the distinction you are making between having “a god concept” and having religion.

  • Claire

    Stomper said,

    Your distinction between belief and believers is only valid on the surface.

    Saying it’s so doesn’t make it so. Care to back that up with some arguments, as I did? Or at least address my arguments?

    I know what a straw man is. I also understand the logical and practical consequences of your stated propositions.

    Of course you do, I’m sure it’s one of your favorite tactics. However, you failed to show how what I actually said let to those consequences, so there is no valid argument there.

  • Claire

    NYCatheist said,

    Let me jump in here for a moment because I find the idea of separating the belief from the believer interesting. There seems to be some grey area there,

    You have a point, but I think you also have to distinguish between day-to-day life and theoretical discourse, and what you said is more applicable to the former.

    In my day-to-day life, you are quite right – at some point, if everything someone does seems stupid, that’s pretty much the end of the relationaship.

    In a conversation about ideas, and their merits, with people I have never met and never will, how can we not separate the two? If the one and only thing I know about someone is that they have espoused something that seems complete nonsense, I have two choices: identify the person with the belief and dismiss them, or separate the two and continue the conversation to see if the idea itself has some merit that may not have been immediately visible. The person who put forth the idea has two choices also: he can defend the idea on its merits, or he can complain non-stop about how he’s being insulted because I don’t agree with the idea he identifies so totally with.

    I only see one of those paths being productive, so I took that one.

    If you’re wondering, NYCatheist, it does spill over a little to real life, within limits (see the above post regarding the political conversation with a coworker). If you find someone who can also make the separation to discuss things with, it can be eye-opening and tons of fun, and it’s quite a revelation to people listening in.

    I suspect that the inability of people to make that distinction, even for the space of a single conversation, is the whole reason for the usual workplace rules on not discussing religion and politics.

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 25, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    Mriana:

    I don’t understand the distinction you are making between having “a god concept” and having religion.

    They are two different things. For a better understanding of a god concept, see John Shelby Spong’s book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die”. The only issue I take with him on that is that his concept can be found in Humanism without calling “the ground of all being”, “source of life”, etc type god concepts. Like “love” they are inate to the human, but if you chose to call god “love” much like Don Culpitt does and calls it Christian Humanism(see his book Radical Theology in which he too discusses Christian Humanism, you really don’t need religion or scripture for that type of god concept, regardless if it can be argued that it is not a god. It comes from within the human being naturally and to make it an external force corrupts it.

    However, like I said, you don’t need any religious text or any religion for such a god concept. It is only Christian Humanism in that Culpitt uses Biblical text to support it, knowing full well it is not a true deity, but only human emotion. That is the difference though. He could easily drop religion and religious text and still have the same “god” concept, because it is not needed. Now if he placed the emotion solely on the human, he would have without a doubt, Humanism.

    Even what Anthony Freeman proposes in his book God In Us: A Case for Christian Humanism, one has the same story as what Culpitt and Spong proposes. All three discuss “God within” and technically, they could just drop the god idea if they wanted too with the concepts they have. Which, as a matter of fact, the Humanist Manifestos eventually did in the third manifesto, but until that time, the concept in which the three men I mentioned fits perfectly within the context of the first two manifestos because it is a non-metaphysical god concept. For a more thorough idea of what I am describing I do have an online source: http://www.sofn.org.uk/ However, what they discuss, I can easily chalk up to neuropsychology and many people attribute such numinous emotions to an external deity, when it is not. It’s not even a deity, but a human physical reaction that is extremely intense. However, as the concept of love, it should not be a threat, esp if one were to drop the religious aspects of it.

  • Stomper

    Claire: I already supported my position. You have not yet provided any practical basis for distinguishing between an attack on belief and an attack on believers. My charge of sophistry stands unrebutted.

    If it helps, I’ll repeat my summary from above:

    Rosemary gracefully acknowledged that her statement was too broad. Then you jumped in, arguing that Rosemary’s original assertion was correct, and asking “Growth and change can be painful, but if someone puts faith behind them because they have outgrown it, why should that create what you called a void?” In short, YOU equated religious faith with the childish fantasies of Santa Claus, Fairies and the Easter Bunny. As I tried to explain above, your attitude was patronizing and offensive. It still is. You just don’t see it, do you?

    Your “explanation” for your choice of words was so weak as to be pathetic. You said: “Hence the use of the word ‘outgrew’ in reference to what happened. It wasn’t intended to insult, it’s just the most accurate word I could find to describe what those accounts all had in common.” That was supposed to make it BETTER? The only term you can think of is patronizing and arrogant, so I’m supposed to ignore the insult because you didn’t have a thesaurus handy?

    If you want people to engage in this kind of discussion with you, then you really ought to be more careful about how you choose your words.

    You expressly supported the notion that abandoning faith in a deity is comparable to outgrowing belief in Santa Claus. I have not yet seen you back down from that position, even though I have repeatedly distinguished the two.

    Ball’s in your court. Can you show me some context I missed? What is the practical (or logical) difference between your express attack on belief, and the logical conclusion that you deem believers to be children who need to outgrow theism? How is that not an ad hominem attack on believers?

  • Richard Wade

    Stomper:
    Belief in the existence of a deity is by itself innocuous and has no good or bad effect on society that I can see. But belief in a deity rarely if ever comes just by itself. It comes with a huge package of other beliefs, many of which are very harmful to society. I did not list the isolated belief in a deity as an example of bad results from belief. I listed a few non religious examples and a few religious ones. The religious ones are the accompanying beliefs, not the central one. Most people don’t just stop at “I believe in God.” Many go on into believing they are morally superior to those don’t believe, some believe they are justified in horrendous mistreatment, even murder of those who don’t believe, and all the other examples I mentioned and so much more.

    Yes, some good things come from religious beliefs as well. Let’s look at your example. I think it is wonderful that your congregation does those things for the community. But it is not the isolated belief in the existence of a deity that brings you and your congregation to work to help your fellow human beings. It is another accompanying belief that goes with it, that your deity wants you to do that.

    So the strictly isolated belief in the existence of a deity has no effect on society for good or ill. It’s all the ancillary beliefs that go with it, and people pick and choose anything they want: “My God wants me to love and help those people.” “My God wants me to hate and kill those people.” “My God wants this.” “My God wants that.” “I can do this because God says so.” “God is on my side.” There is so much ambiguous language in the world’s holy books that any action can be and has been justified as “God’s will.”

    In order to decide how much good and how much bad comes from all this I can only draw from my own personal experience and my own observation of the world around me, and so far I have experienced and witnessed much more misery, waste, ignorance, fear and death from the consequential beliefs that go with deity belief than the good stuff. I’m open to it, I’m happy to hear about good things, but it’s still pretty rare. If you have seen more of the good than the bad, great. I’ll be glad to hear that there are places where things are better than what I’ve seen. The bad consequences far outweigh the good, from my point of view. Food pantries and after school programs are wonderful things but they’re not going to be useful if the whole world has been blown up by people who believed more strongly in what their God wanted them to do than what you believed your God wanted you to do.

    When the Twin Towers came down they were the last two nails in the coffin of my interest in the bad habit of belief. I saw that as the eventual consequence of a system of thought that encourages many, many assumptions without evidence, not just one assumption, a system of thought that even portrays gullibility as a virtue, characterizing those who believe without having seen as better people than those who withhold belief until they have seen. You talk about countering the superstitious beliefs with critical thinking, with research, empiricism and skepticism. Lots of luck. Most practitioners of religions are taught to be suspicious of such things, that doubting any peripheral belief will lead to doubting the core belief, and they must not do that.

    Having seen what it leads to, I cannot take part in such a dangerous and destructive activity as belief, hoping or assuming that I will somehow pick and choose the good beliefs and not the bad, that somehow I am immune from the possibility of ending up committing atrocities too. I cannot have anything to do with it.

    Persisting in the assumption of the truth of something in the absence of evidence is a bad habit. I will continue to strive to be completely free of it.

  • Stomper

    Mriana:

    Sounds to me like selective re-defining of the terminology. If there’s a deity, it’s a religion — with or without religious text. If there is no deity, then there is no religion. On what basis do these authorities say differently? Where are they getting their definitions, and precisely what definitions are they using?

    If I understand the basic concept, humanism can rationally meet the same needs served by religious faith, and religious faith is thus — what? Outdated? Useless? Cluttered with obsolete concepts? All of the above? That may even be true for many people.

    All of human history, though, shows us that most people NEED spiritual support, or at least find comfort in it. There’s NO history showing that a rational, humanist approach is sufficient to meet those needs for any more than a tiny minority. Interesting concept, but I am far from convinced that it is useful for anything more than a tiny minority of intellectuals.

  • Claire

    Stomper said,

    Claire: I already supported my position. You have not yet provided any practical basis for distinguishing between an attack on belief and an attack on believers.

    On the contrary, I did, but since you missed it, here it is again.

    “A believer is a human being, whose ideas may or may not change over time. A belief is an idea, which has no biological existence. How can you possibly conflate those two? They are clearly separate entities. Do you care to defend the position that they are not?

    Therefore, attacking a belief is NOT attacking a believer, because of the difference stated above. Unless a believer identifies so strongly that any attack on the belief is an attack on him (as you appear to), in which case that believer may feel attacked, but that is an individual misperception rather than an objective statement of events. This is exactly what Karen was talking about. ”

    You have NOT in any way, shape, or form responded to those arguments, you merely rehashed your earlier complaints about my word choice. Complaints are NOT arguments, and you are indulging in some serious sophistry yourself. I had such high hopes that you might be able to frame a cogent argument, but I’m afraid it is not to be….

    How is that not an ad hominem attack on believers?

    You are never going to get ad hominem right, are you? It would be ad hominem if we said faith was bad because believers were part of it, that the idea was bad because the people with the idea are suspect, which is not the case. This is the second time I’ve had to explain it to you.

  • Stomper

    Richard: Good luck. As any existentialist will tell you, we all have to adopt some core beliefs just to function. Once you get past “cogito ergo sum,” you are just guessing and getting by on what seemed to work before.

    I see how you reached your opinion, but your argument is far from persuasive. Yes, the impact is associated with ancillary beliefs. We agree that the belief in a deity, taken in isolation, is not itself harmful.

    However, I contend that the actions you complain of would happen even in the absence of religious beliefs. The crusades resulted from social and economic pressures that preceded the Black Plague, as too many younger sons were fighting over diminishing shares of land. Pope Urban’s speech was not a cause. At most, it was a catalyst.

    Likewise, the anger and strife in the Middle East is more about the economics of Oil and limited land resources than it is about religion. People use religion as an excuse, but the real issue is fierce anger over perceived cultural and economic inferiority, plus the competition for those limited resources.

    Thomas Friedman (the NY Times columnist) has a pretty good take on the underlying causes of terrorism. Sure, the terrorist acts are dressed up in religion, but that does not mean religious belief is the cause, or (put another way) that the anger, resentment and violence would go away if we could just wave a magic wand and make religious belief disappear. The resources would still be limited, ignorance and poverty would still exist, and crazy and/or desperate people would just find some other way to justify their violent acts.

    Actually, blaming religion is just falling into the terrorists’ own mistaken reasoning. Don’t make the same mistake. Look at the real underlying causes.

  • Claire

    Stomper said:

    People use religion as an excuse, but the real issue is fierce anger over perceived cultural and economic inferiority, plus the competition for those limited resources.

    Religion is not just an excuse, but a vital part of what feeds the anger and the feeling of cultural and economic inferiority. If they are allah’s own people, the ones with the truth, then it must be doubly, triply, infinitely galling to see the infidel west surpass them in wealth and strength. How could that NOT make them even more pissed off? Religion adds fuel to the fire and does nothing to put it out.

  • Stomper

    Claire: I directly responded to those arguments. I conceded that there is a technical distinction between the two, but responded that the distinction has no practical merit and is thus mere sophistry.

    This is now my third time to make that point, and YOU have done nothing but reiterate your point about that technical distinction. Can you provide even one example of a real, practical way that intellectual distinction matters in the context of your own original argument that there is no distinction between belief in God and belief in Santa Claus ? How is a rational believer supposed to say, “Wow, that is a really illogical and mean attack on my beliefs, and it implies that I am a child who has failed to grow out of my faith, but at least it is not an attack on ME!”?

    This is your third opportunity to answer these challenges. After three strikes, I will presume that you cannot.

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 25, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    Mriana:

    Sounds to me like selective re-defining of the terminology. If there’s a deity, it’s a religion — with or without religious text. If there is no deity, then there is no religion. On what basis do these authorities say differently? Where are they getting their definitions, and precisely what definitions are they using?

    No, you are not understanding. They are not saying “if there is a deity it is religion”. I said it is feesible to have a deity without religion. The deity they speak of is “the ground of all being”, “source of all life”, love. The thing is, what they are saying I am saying you do not need religion or religious text for any of that. You can still have a god concept without religion. You will have to look at the site and read the books to understand what they are saying and then compare it to what I am saying. They never once said there was no diety though. What they say is that it is non-metaphysical and non-realism. “Non-realism refers to the belief that God has no ‘real’, objective or empirical existence, independent of human language and culture; God is ‘real’ in the sense that he is a potent symbol, metaphor or projection, but He has no objective existence outside and beyond the practice of religion. Non-realism therefore entails a rejection of all supernaturalism- miracles, afterlife and the agency of spirits”~ from the Sea of Faith website. What I’m saying is that one can have the same “god concept” and drop the religion, if they wanted to.

    If I understand the basic concept, humanism can rationally meet the same needs served by religious faith, and religious faith is thus — what? Outdated? Useless? Cluttered with obsolete concepts? All of the above?

    Spong will tell you the old concepts are outdated. I’m saying it’s all outdated. The basic concept of Religious Humanism, though, does not (and I’m using the AHA’s definition) focus on the supernatural or an external realm separate from earth, but rather on a natural concept that is internal to the human, yet science and reason are important- which fits what Spong et al talk about. Now Humanism, again according to the AHA, is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity. Humanism can meet the needs of humans, as even Epstein has stated before. He does not say anything about religion being outdated though.

    All of human history, though, shows us that most people NEED spiritual support, or at least find comfort in it. There’s NO history showing that a rational, humanist approach is sufficient to meet those needs for any more than a tiny minority. Interesting concept, but I am far from convinced that it is useful for anything more than a tiny minority of intellectuals.

    No they do NOT NEED spiritual support. There is NO history for it, because the Church has imposed this belief that people NEED this or that. In reality, what people NEED is the support of other human beings. Not all people find comfort in “spiritual support” either. Many find it in the love and compassion of others, some not even realizing that is what it is, because they have taken it from the human and placed it somewhere out there. I don’t think you have studied Humanism enough to know what it is or even to understand it.

    Sadly, the history you know is that of the Church that has taken over people’s minds since before the darkages. Before that, yes primal man placed what they could not and did not understand on a supernatural entity and they eventually found out that it was just not so- i.e. volcano gods. There is no volcano god. That god died through human knowledge, enlightenment, and lack of belief, just as many other gods died the same way. It was through science we figured out that there was no volcano god among other deities and slowly we stopped believing it. At one time, Christians thought angels and/or God held up the earth. Through science, we found out there is no deity holding up the earth. That primordial Christian deity died out and evolved into a different view of a Christian deity and I do think the current Christian god concept is evolving once again.

    Again, you will have to read the books of Spong, Freeman, and Culpitt to get an idea of what they are saying before you can understand it, but you are not understanding it currently, probably because you have a misconception of Humanism to start with and if the adjective Christian is thrown in, your view due to lack of understanding is off base.

  • Stomper

    Claire: Interesting theory. I still contend that the violence would occur even without religion, but I can’t prove my point, either. Impasse?

  • Claire

    Stomper said;

    responded that the distinction has no practical merit and is thus mere sophistry.

    You gave NO arguments to support that it has no merit, not one, so that’s hardly a response. I gave a lengthy defense of its practical merit in my response to NYCatheist, in that it’s the only practical way to have an online discussion, among other things.

    Can you provide even one example of a real, practical way that intellectual distinction matters in the context of your own original argument that there is no distinction between belief in God and belief in Santa Claus ?

    Already did, see above, reply to NYCatheist, only way to have an online discussion. But more importantly, (and I can’t state this strongly enough) I never made that argument, ever. Rosemary did. The fact that you keep insisting that I did, despite the number of times I have shown that to be false, shows that all your ‘argument’ is, is nothing but one giant straw man, to take the focus off the fact that you can’t defend your ideas.

    My exact words were

    Growth and change can be painful, but if someone puts faith behind them because they have outgrown it, why should that create what you called a void?

    I never said children, I never said Santa. For the record, adults can outgrow things, too, not just children. Do I think that faith in general is something that needs to be outgrown, as adults outgrow other ideas? Yes. Do I think your faith is the same as a child’s belief in Santa? No, and I never said so. At first, I did not grasp exactly what your objection to Rosemary’s comparison was, but you explained it, and I accepted that. That’s NOT the same thing as me stating that they were the same, and I’m getting really tired of you saying that they are.

    Stomper, you truly suck at constructing reasoned arguments. I would have expected better from you, but upon reflection, I doubt that randomly-chosen juries are very good at picking apart seeming logical arguments, so I doubt you have had much practice at having to construct something that actually holds together under close inspection.

    The only question left is, what will your next straw man be? Or will it just be a random attack?

  • Claire

    Stomper said,

    I still contend that the violence would occur even without religion, but I can’t prove my point, either. Impasse?

    Maybe, maybe not. I didn’t say religion was the root cause, just that it made the whole situation worse, and that it was more than an excuse. Can you show any significant way in which their religion is lessening their anger, rather than becoming a focus for it? If so, then it may be a draw.

  • Stomper

    Mriana:

    I did not make myself clear, I guess. It is MY contention that there is no religion without a deity. And if a system of belief has a deity, then that system of belief is a religion. That is how I understand those terms to be defined.

    It sounds like I am actually pretty close to a Christian Humanist. Maybe that just means I am not understanding the term. Sorry, but nothing you have said gives me sufficient interest to want to read those books. I just don’t have time to read everything that sounds interesting.

    I understand your belief that people don’t NEED religion, but I still contend that history shows otherwise. Your ideals and theories do not find support in the way most people actually behave. I am not convinced that people have only flocked to religion because leaders have dragged them there. Rather, I suspect that leaders have emerged from among the religious.

    I agree that our Christian concept of God is evolving. The Bible itself shows how God’s role changes as the needs of God’s believers change. There’s no reason to conclude that stopped just because we stopped adding books to the Bible. The Wesley Quadrilateral used by us Methodists actually allows for that.

  • Stomper

    Claire: I can’t think of an example of religion decreasing or defusing someone’s anger, because that will never make the news. Doesn’t mean it’s not happening — just means I can’t offer direct proof.

    The vast majority of Muslims here in the US decry the terrorist interpretations of their faith as a terrible distortion. The Muslim faith does not have a centralized hierarchy or other way for the media to identify an authorized spokesman, so these voices largely go unheard. It also seems that the Muslims here in the US don’t have as many reasons to be angry. Nevertheless, it seems likely that some borderline cases are influenced by these peaceful Muslims to stay on the side of peace.

    Enough to prove a point? No way to know. But it should be enough to at least raise doubts about your contention.

  • Mriana

    Um… No. I don’t think you quite fit the definition of Christian Humanist, because a Christian Humanist does not rely on a supernatural being. It’s in the labelling of love and compassion that is within the person as “God”, not some external supernatural deity. IF you were to talk to Culpitt or Spong, you will soon find that you are talking something totally different and what they call God is not the same as yours. They place the responsibility of THIS life, possibly the one and only life we will ever have solely on the human, for we cannot wait for some supernatural deity, which does not exist, to save us. We have to save ourselves. They also rely on science, not I.D., but real science. Their ideas are much similar to the signers, many from the U.U., of the Humanist Manifesto I. Your view is not Christian Humanism though because you are stuck in a supernatural belief- no insult intended.

    I’ll put it to you this way then. I had a great uncle who was an atheist and he was not comforted by religion, but he appreciated and found comfort in the love and compassion that came from within people when he needed it. This is what Spong et al are calling “God in Us”- love and compassion, which is within each and everyone of us and when we give freely of it as a means to comfort others, it has a profound affect, more than religion does, because it is that human contact, that love and compassion within us that “flows” to one in need of comfort, not something out there. It doesn’t matter what Spong et al, or even us, label it, it is part of the human condition that is in all of us. Religion is not what is comforting to people, but rather love and compassion. IF one chose to call love and compassion God in Us, it does not need religion to sustain it and say this, because I have seen it in action without religion many times over in my life.

    Not only that, but because I have a psychology degree, in other words studied the subject, I know the external stimulus is the compassion of another human triggering neurochemicals in the receiver, thus making them feel better, not religion, not some deity out there somewhere, but rather what was within the human. There is your scientific proof that it is not some invisible external supernatural force in the sky, but the human and what was within the human to help comfort the individual.

    History does not show otherwise, what it shows is the imposition of a myth (and yes, Spong et al call Genesis, the Virgin Birth, etc etc etc a myth debunked by science and confirms this imposition) and the reality is that it is not some supernatural deity, but rather the human and their affects on others, this planet, etc that helps or hinders. So you see, your views are no where compatible with Christian Humanism. The only similarity is that they do read the Bible, but they read it as myth, metaphor, allegory, literature… You would have to take the supernatural ideas out of it and refer back to science as a source of knowledge about people and the universe before you came close to their views.

    I highly recommend you view the YouTube video of Spong that I posted earlier before you make that assumption that you are a Christian Humanist, but brace yourself, because he does call your deity a Santa Claus god.

  • Stomper

    Claire:

    If I may summarize, your response to NYCatheist made two points:

    1. For strangers having an intellectual discussion on the internet, the intellectual distinction is the only one that matters; and

    2. Sometimes people can have heated discussions about differing beliefs without getting personally offended.

    If I did not summarize your response accurately, you’ll need to clarify.

    I’ll concede point 2, but it also (implicitly) recognizes that people frequently ARE personally offended. Accordingly, if we are to have these types of discussions, then we should choose our words carefully, and be sensitive to context.

    Sure, if you take your quote out of context, then it can be explained away that even adults grow. But the context was your response defending Rosemary’s comparison to belief in Santa. In that context, your remark and your intentional use of the word “grow,” with all its connotations, was an insulting insinuation that faith is childish.

    As to point 1, I will reiterate: Faith is not an intellectual matter, in that it cannot be proven, disproven, or otherwise addressed by logic. Faith is the irrational and illogical decision to believe in that which can never be proved. A purely intellectual approach will not suffice.

    I can generally discuss these matters quite dispassionately, but not when there is apparent disrespect for my core position as a believer. Everything I argue here grows out of that position.

    When you insinuate that my faith is a childish belief I should outgrow, then everything I say here is tainted. In that context, I am not participating in an intellectual discussion with equals. I am diminished before I even start, and my goal of a dialog with peers is undermined. Since this is your stated goal as well, can’t you see that respect or disrespect for the opposing position matters?

    This is about far more than my hurt feelings. I am over that. I hold no grudges. At this point, I am trying to re-establish this as a discussion among putative equals. It is apparent that you cannot or will not see what you did, but I do hope that others will at least think twice and use a little tact before they post.

  • Stomper

    Mriana: I think you may be stereotyping me again. There is room in my beliefs for ID, but it is not an essential component of my beliefs. I simply withhold judgment until and unless science fills in the gaps. In the meantime, I continue to rely on real science, not ID. ID is a matter of faith, and should not be confused with science.

    I take responsibility for my life. I don’t rely on God or any other supernatural being to save me in this life. This may be the only life I have, but I choose to believe in an eternal life. In that life, my faith is crucially important.

    I don’t envision God as an old caucasian with a long white beard. I don’t envision God as a male, or even as a human-looking being. God is more of a concept, embodying love, justice, power and wisdom, and God cannot be bound by my puny visualizations. So I try hard not to limit God with any specific concepts. I may not quite qualify as a Christian Humanist, but your description suggests I am closer than you seem to think.

    I agree that neurology explains some of the phenomena that were once linked to faith. I don’t dispute that this applies to our response to comfort received from others. However, I can also experience that comfort even when there is no one else available to offer that. Neurology disproves one contention made by others (not by me), but it cannot disprove God.

    I am not disputing that the creation myths, stories of virgin births, and other miracles can all be debunked or explained mundanely (for example, a fertile woman can theoretically be impregnated without penetration, and thus with the hymen intact — thereby resulting in an apparent “virgin birth”). My faith does not depend on the literal truth of the Bible, because it is not literally true.

    After all, Jesus reportedly taught with the stories we call parables. The literal truth of the parables is not essential for the lessons to be derived from them. I see no reason to believe that this was something new, and only began with Jesus. I do not require that any of the miracles be literally true, that either of the two creation stories in Genesis be true, or that any of the Jewish history be true — though archeology suggests that a few parts are true.

    Your post clearly assumes that you know what I believe about the Bible. You are wrong. Be careful about those assumptions.

  • Mriana

    My faith does not depend on the literal truth of the Bible, because it is not literally true.

    After all, Jesus reportedly taught with the stories we call parables. The literal truth of the parables is not essential for the lessons to be derived from them. I see no reason to believe that this was something new, and only began with Jesus. I do not require that any of the miracles be literally true, that either of the two creation stories in Genesis be true, or that any of the Jewish history be true — though archeology suggests that a few parts are true.

    Why bother with trying to live your life by them since they are more myth? What purpose does it serve to live your life by myth? Since Jesus is just another sun god, why not just go out and worship the sun? Or follow the Egyptian Book of the Dead with the sun god Ra? Why not follow Horus/Osiris? Or even Aesop’s Fables?

    Neurology disproves one contention made by others (not by me), but it cannot disprove God.

    It doesn’t prove God either.

    I don’t envision God as an old caucasian with a
    long white beard. I don’t envision God as a male,
    or even as a human-looking being.

    I never said you did.

    for example, a fertile woman can theoretically be impregnated without penetration, and thus with the hymen intact — thereby resulting in an apparent “virgin birth”

    Yes, but there is no white elephant impregnanting her in a dream or some spirit impregnating her though. A human male was involved, always involved, not some supernatural being. Thus the virgin birth in the Bible is a myth. Buddha’s birth story (the white elephant) is a myth also. Krishna’s virgin birth story was also a myth, as was Horus and all the other virgin birth stories.

    My faith does not depend on the literal truth of the Bible, because it is not literally true.

    It’s not true at all. It’s rewritten myth and astrotheology.

    After all, Jesus reportedly taught with the stories we call parables.

    And those parables were written from the stories of the OT and other myths that I listed.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Claire, those are good points. You’re right, but also my purpose was to discuss theoretical discourse, not necessarily the actual discussion happening here. (I’m often more interested in theory than practice, often to my detriment!)

    So to Mriana: I wasn’t addressing you in particular, just the amorphous crowd here. I probably shouldn’t have used the word “stupid” in my examples. I did try to generalize my point by talking about ice cream flavors. In my theoretical example (admittedly extreme) it could have been any disagreement. (“your opinion is wrong” “Your choice of necktie is horrible” “Your support of Obama is unfounded… etc etc.)

    So in short, I was distracting everyone with a tangential topic. Sorry! (Recently I can’t post as much as I had been so I can’t really participate properly.)

    Just to throw in another meta-comment that no one asked for, I think a lot of these heated online discussions are exacerbated by the tone. Again, I’m not pointing fingers at any one person here. Everyone, including me, is guilty of this sometimes. What I mean is when you attack another person’s opinion or proposition (not the person of course, we don’t do that here! Haha) their reaction will be very different if you said “your idea is insane” compared with “I think you’re mistaken”. Yeah, that was an extreme example.

    So ideally we should be able to “attack” ideas and not people with no hard feelings, but in reality results are often better if the “attack” is more Aikido and less AK-47.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Hi! I’ve recovered from my disillusionment about atheists and now am back! :) Let me go back to February 25, 2008 at 10:22 am and start there.

    Mriana, I don’t believe that God is killed by disbelief. Can we ponder the possibility that when one loses belief, God just stops existing for that particular person? (I’m still thinking about what Jeff said.)

    Karen and Claire, please correct me if I’m wrong, but how can one not be attached to their ideas or their beliefs? When you say, “I was not disrespecting you personally, only your ideas,” that’s like saying, “I don’t think you’re stupid, only the things you say.” How can you separate the two?

    Claire, you have been generally fair and sharp, and I can’t say that I felt disrespected by you on any these discussions. I can’t say the same for some of the others, though. But the truth of the matter is, there definitely seems to be an air of intellectual superiority that is very thick around here, and sometimes it’s hard to see through that fog.

    Richard, you pointed out many arguments against irrational beliefs, but should we continue to blame the belief itself rather than the irrationality of the human beings who happen to believe in those beliefs? We continue to look at religion itself as a bad thing (including myself); but can we look at it in the same way as “guns don’t kill people; people kill people?”

    Okay… now I see NYCatheist made the “stupid” analogy as well. Oh well. Anyway, let me make it clear to the atheists that when someone is a believer, their belief is a HUGE part of their identity. When someone is a Christian, it basically IS their new identity. Your non-belief may be easily separated from who you are as a person, but it’s not that way for a believer. If you say to a childless woman that her child is ignorant, it means nothing to her. But if you tell a doting mother that her child is ignorant, you’d better be ready to get into the boxing ring.

    I do my best to take everything with a grain of salt and try to have a thick skin most of the time. I try to make light of everything and pretend I don’t even notice, but some of the comments still hurt nevertheless, especially since I highly respect all of you.

    Most people don’t just stop at “I believe in God.” Many go on into believing they are morally superior to those don’t believe, some believe they are justified in horrendous mistreatment, even murder of those who don’t believe,

    This is very true. That’s what motivates me to stick it out here, regardless of the constant temptation to walk away. I want to prove to myself and to other believers that no group is superior to another, morally or otherwise.

    When the Twin Towers came down they were the last two nails in the coffin of my interest in the bad habit of belief.

    I had a bitter taste in my mouth of religion after that also. But it made me search even harder for answers, and I found Christ. Or rather, He found me. And then my constant battle with religion began; but after much struggle, I am free (for the most part).

    I understand your belief that people don’t NEED religion, but I still contend that history shows otherwise. Your ideals and theories do not find support in the way most people actually behave. I am not convinced that people have only flocked to religion because leaders have dragged them there. Rather, I suspect that leaders have emerged from among the religious.

    Stomper, I agree with you.

    I agree that our Christian concept of God is evolving. The Bible itself shows how God’s role changes as the needs of God’s believers change. There’s no reason to conclude that stopped just because we stopped adding books to the Bible. The Wesley Quadrilateral used by us Methodists actually allows for that.

    I agree. I think that’s what Paul meant by “renewing of the mind” (Rom. 12:2) and “taking captive every thought” (2 Cor. 10:5)

    My faith does not depend on the literal truth of the Bible, because it is not literally true.

    Yep. Ditto.

    Stomper, I applaud you for your tenacity and patience, and the clarity with which you write. Thank you for sticking around… It means a lot.

    I’m too tired to look at the rest of the comments… but basically, what I want to say is that instead of constantly trying to discredit each other, I wish we could just listen to differing views/opinions and try to better understand each other by asking questions and thinking together… evolving together.

  • Mriana

    Mriana, I don’t believe that gods are killed by
    disbelief. Can we ponder the possibility that when one loses belief, God just stops existing for that particular person? (I’m still thinking about what Jeff said.)

    When everyone stops believing in a god, like the ones above for instance, they are for all intense purposes dead. Of course, you could argue that they just change into another deity, like Horus became Mithra and Mithra became Jesus. Then in that case, they changed names and cultural setting. Horus was Egyptian and Mithra was Roman. The problem with Mithra though, is that it didn’t allow for women and in came Christianity which did allow women- same story, different tune. Then there was the Joshua cult. It was the Jesus story and Joshua also means “the Saviour”. So in that respect a god could live on.

  • Stomper

    Mriana: The parables and other lessons in the Gospels (and throughout the rest of the Bible as well) provide me a focus for study, spiritual growth, and moral strength. The wisdom is there, regardless of whether it originated 250 years after Christ, or 3500 years before.

    I choose Christianity because it is the most comfortable fit for me (having been reared in the church) and because it comes with more established infrastructure (wider selection of denominations and congregations) than worshipping Mithra. Pragmatically, I choose Christianity because it WORKS for me.

    I get the impression that you are still trying to find arguments with me as though I am a fundamentalist. That is the only way I can make sense of some of your responses.

    1. I did not contend that neurology can prove God. In fact, I have repeatedly said that God can neither be proven nor disproven. That’s why we rely on FAITH. You and I don’t have an argument on this point.

    2. I know you didn’t say I envision God as a white male with a long beard. I volunteered that, as part of an effort to show how my beliefs come fairly close to your description of a Christian Humanist. My point is, I don’t have any definite preconceptions about the physical nature of God — if there is a physical aspect at all. In fact, your description of the God Concept found in Christian Humanism sounds awfully similar to my understanding of the Holy Spirit aspect of our Christian Trinity.

    3. You lose credibility when you overstate your position. As to the Bible, you incorrectly said, “It’s not true at all. It’s rewritten myth and astrotheology.”

    Some events from the Jewish history in the Bible are supported by archealogical evidence and other historical records. Some parts of the Gospels have not been traced to earlier mythologies (I know– doesn’t mean they weren’t, but it DOES mean you cannot support your assertion in that respect). The Pauline letters may not have all been actually written by St. Paul, but they do appear to be contemporaneous and accurate in their description of most events (at least, the non-miraculous events). I am not aware of any historical records that challenge their veracity.

    Were you actually under the impression that the Bible was 100% “rewritten myth and astrotheology,” or was that just sloppy language in your writing?

    There is certainly a lot of similarity between the more mythic elements of the Bible, and earlier mythologies. While those similarities provide some evidence that later mythologies “borrowed” from earlier mythologies, there is another explanation as well: God used similar tropes and themes to convey messages to different cultures.

    As noted above, our needs are evolving, and God has therefore changed the way our needs are addressed. Nevertheless, there are certain basic themes which resonate across cultures and across history. Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With 1,000 Faces” addresses that very concept. It is entirely possible that God used that same concept to create similar religious leaders in a variety of cultures, culminating (so far, at least) in Jesus.

    I don’t necessarily believe this possibility is an actuality. My faith does not depend on it. I am content with the notion that the Bible may itself simply contain an aggregation and recasting of earlier myths. That doesn’t shake me. I merely raise this alternate possibility because it interests me.

  • Stomper

    Linda: Thank you for your support. I am making an effort to move away from my hurt feelings to the actual issues.

    As a lifelong church-goer, it is refreshing to encounter an adult convert who does not automatically gravitate to fundamentalist literalism. Simple answers are more attractive, but they don’t hold up well. Looks like you have done your homework.

  • Mriana

    3. You lose credibility when you overstate your position. As to the Bible, you incorrectly said, “It’s not true at all. It’s rewritten myth
    and astrotheology.”

    Actually no I don’t because there are many books written on the subject that it is not a historical account and many of them modern research. They show good evidence that the Bible is just rewritten myth. Some of these authors are Robert Price, Victor Matthews, Tom Harpur and many more. Incidently Victor Matthews is not only Episcopalian and teach adult class there, he is also a uni professor who teach OT Parallel Myth classes. There is nothing historical about it. It is no more historical than John Jakes’s North and South.

    Some events from the Jewish history in the Bible are supported by archealogical evidence and other historical records.

    So does John Jakes’s North and South, but it also has more document historical sources than the Bible does. Much of what is in the NT is not recorded by Hebrew historians.

    The Pauline letters may not have all been actually written by St. Paul, but they do appear to be contemporaneous and accurate in their description of most events (at least, the non-miraculous events). I am not aware of any historical records that challenge their veracity.

    Yes, from a docetist and Gnostic view point, meaning they did not write about a real Jesus that actually walked the earth, but a spiritual one.

    Were you actually under the impression that the Bible was 100% “rewritten myth and astrotheology,” or was that just sloppy language in your writing?

    I did not say 100%, but there was no historical Jesus and over 80% of what is in the Bible accredited to Jesus, the Jesus Seminar (a group of religious scholars, archeologist, and alike) stated Jesus did not say. In fact, you can find a lot of what is attributed to the character Jesus, in previous myths. As I said, the NT is no more true than John Jakes North and South and there is substancial evidence for this and many books written on it. It is nothing but pure literature.

    While those similarities provide some evidence that later mythologies “borrowed” from earlier mythologies, there is another explanation as well: God used similar tropes and themes to convey messages to different cultures.

    Oh brother. :roll: Sorry, but not only did a majority of those myths come prior to the NT, (and to quote Bishop Spong) “Scripture is a human creation”. Meaning, God did NOT write it. It is NOT the inerrant word of God, but rather man’s word and many a scholar has said this. God used nothing, but rather man did. Secondly, IF the god of the Bible is god, then I want nothing to do with it, for even Spong points out the violent autrocities in the Bible and says, “A religious text that deminishes any human life is not of God.” IMHO, with statements like that he should just throw it out, but whatever floats his boat. Anthony Freeman, Robert Price, Don Cupitt (of course all of these men are of the Anglican Communion and are ministers or former ministers) and more state it is humans words, not God’s words. It is a human creation, inspired by no one but humans. Prior myths were used as templates for what we read in the NT.

    Joseph Campbell’s “Hero With 1,000 Faces” addresses that very concept. It is entirely possible that God used that same concept to create similar religious leaders in a variety of cultures, culminating (so far, at least) in Jesus.

    Ah, Joseph Campbell, yes. I know about him and have listened to some of his lectures. No criticism to him at all for he did some good work, but even Price has some quibbles with him too.

    I don’t necessarily believe this possibility is an actuality. My faith does not depend on it. I am content with the notion that the Bible may itself simply contain an aggregation and recasting of earlier myths. That doesn’t shake me. I merely raise this alternate possibility because it interests me.

    Blind faith is not rational or realistic, nor is it based on any scientific or scholarly study. It is just faith sustained by a fairy tale belief (again I am borrowing words from my mentors). As Spong said in his video I pointed out many post back, “No longer can prayer be adult letters to a Santa Claus god.” He says we no longer have to be bound by religious texts for God and again, I question why he even bothers with the Bible, because what he says doesn’t need any religious mythical text or even mythical religious belief. He calls it a security system and calls many things within the Church a means of control of the masses. He does not believe in an external deity, but internal and again, I say that does not need any religious text or the control of religion. It can be placed solely on the human and he quite often puts it on the human. I just take god out of it and call it that which is in the human, human nature, human ability, etc. Which is something that Robert Price recommends in his book The Reason Driven Life.

    Since the Bible and all other religious texts are a human creation, then I think, with all the human indignity within them, barring things like 1 Corinthians 13 and love thy neighbour as thyself, should be discarded and think Spong and others do a lot of this. Even Thomas Jefferson wrote his own Bible and lived by it.

    We have thrown out all that was attributed to Paul saying about slavery and no longer follow any of that and most churches no longer follow what the Epistles of Paul says about women. Again the Epistles are a literary style quite often used by writers, esp during times of government uphevel. Again, many Christians have disregarded so much that is inhumane in the Bible, that there is little left of it to be followed, so the original Roman Christian god, created by humans, is no longer around anymore in many circles.

    If one were to read the Quran with a skeptical eye, they would see many more inhumane writings written by man and inspired by man, attributed to one man. There is no need or use for either book in this day and age when we are forming our own humanity and ethics, which does not or should not include oppression of anyone.

    The parables and other lessons in the Gospels (and throughout the rest of the Bible as well) provide me a focus for study, spiritual growth, and moral strength. The wisdom is there, regardless of whether it originated 250 years after Christ, or 3500 years before.

    I have one question for you- Have you actually read the Bible? I mean really read it? I’m sorry, but if you base your morality on what is said in that book or even the Quran, I pity you. It is not dignifying to the human, but oppressive. Not only have some theologians, like Spong, pointed this out, but many others have too. No one in the modern world follows the laws about slaves in the Bible, not even the recommendations in the writings attributed to Paul. Very few Christians follow the rules about women in the Bible now days, no one in their right mind would sacrifice their child or even another human being even if Christ was said to be the last one needed (which is barbaric even to those priests and scholars I mentioned) and the list goes on and on. Christ wasn’t literally cruxified, it’s just a barbaric story, thank goodness, but it is still medevil doctrine, created by humans.

  • Karen

    Stomper:

    Karen: I appreciate your tone and your approach. Yes, it is an emotional issue. As a trial lawyer with 20 years of experience, I am actually quite good at separating my emotions from my reason. That does not mean I will tolerate rudeness or disrespect.

    “Unfriendly” and “mean” are not the right words to describe the atheists here. I would say “insensitive” and “tactless” would be more accurate, particularly in conjunction with “oblivious.” However, the more I have to explain, the harder it is to believe that these slights are really unintentional.

    Wow, I had a hard time finding this response in this huge thread!

    Stomper, thanks for your guidelines. I appreciate them and will hold onto them for future reference. I participate in some forums specifically designed for theist-nontheist interaction and I do see people on both sides imposing those kinds of controls on how they express themselves. I think you are right that “biting the tongue” almost has to be done on each side if long-term conversations are to take place. Otherwise, you get Christians making dire warnings about how Jesus is coming back in an hour or two and all us wicked atheists are gonna burn; and atheists blithely declaring that theists are stupid and deluded. Not the kind of thing that fosters ongoing conversation. ;-)

    This forum, however, is sponsored by an atheist and frequented mostly by atheists. As such, it’s a place where we can let our hair down and speak a little more openly, perhaps, than we might when we are deliberately trying to keep conversations up with theists. I think you should expect some rather blunt observations in a forum like this, just as I would expect the same (and far, far worse, actually) if I went into a community of theists and started posting. I’d expect slings and arrows from the start and would have to decide up front that I could take them if I wanted to stay there.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    This forum, however, is sponsored by an atheist and frequented mostly by atheists. As such, it’s a place where we can let our hair down and speak a little more openly, perhaps, than we might when we are deliberately trying to keep conversations up with theists.

    I was under the impression that we were “deliberately” trying to create a space where anyone can come and feel welcome. Was I wrong? I thought the very name of this blog – “Friendly Atheist” – was meant to invite theists to come and play, discuss, learn, and grow. I thought Hemant was trying to clear up misconceptions on both sides and promote a culture of acceptance.

    Did I misunderstand Hemant’s intention? Am I in the wrong place? I’m confused.

  • Stomper

    Mriana: You state everything with such absolute certainty, and without any qualifiers. Who are you trying to persuade? You are not persuading me of anything I did not already believe.

    1. I know there are a lot of books challenging the historicity of the Bible. I am not disputing those authorities, because I suspect that none of THEM said, “It’s not true at all.” You didn’t expressly use the term 100%, but those were your words, without any qualifiers. How was I supposed to understand that, if not as equivalent to an absolute, 100% assertion?

    I concede that the Bible is not a reliable historical account, but some of the Jewish history is supported by evidence. The churches to which Paul purportedly wrote all really existed. The names of kings and emperors are often correct, even if some of the dates and sequences are off. You appear to implicitly concede that almost 20% of the words attributed to Jesus cannot be traced to a prior source. I’m not offering or defending the Bible as a historical account, I am merely pointing out that your statement (“not true at all”) is far too broad.

    Besides, I read the Bible for spiritual guidance, not history. How many different times and ways do I have to say that I am NOT an inerrantist? I have not contended the Bible was literally true since I was 13. I am satisfied with your description of it as “pure literature.” That works for me.

    Moreover, I likewise disregard most of the strictures in the Bible. Rules that were designed for nomadic shepherds with no refrigeration don’t work anymore. I don’t keep kosher, and I don’t keep slaves. I don’t buy it when anyone claims that God is authorizing or requiring violence now, and I don’t care whether that happened BCE.

    Yes, I have really read the Bible. Not all the rules in Numbers and Leviticus, and I tend to skim past the “begats,” but I have read most of the rest several times. I am quite comfortable discarding the parts that don’t apply to me, and attempting to draw wisdom from the remainder.

    2. You keep quoting Bishop Spong, as though that should somehow influence my opinion. I do not recognize Bishop Spong as an authority over my spiritual journey, even though I may not dispute the facts or scholarship he asserts. Thus, I disagree with his positions, as attributed by you to Spong: ” As Spong said in his video I pointed out many post back, ‘No longer can prayer be adult letters to a Santa Claus god.’ He says we no longer have to be bound by religious texts for God . . . He calls it a security system and calls many things within the Church a means of control of the masses. He does not believe in an external deity, but internal.” I do not agree with his characterization of “a Santa Claus god,” or with any of his other beliefs as stated here. Maybe those work for him, but that is not what I believe.

    3. You are correct, that blind faith is not rational. I have said so from the beginning. I don’t mind being irrational on this point. Does that bother you?However, my faith IS realistic, in that it provides me strength, peace, comfort and joy. At a very pragmatic level, it works.

    Your posts seem to go way past an explanation of your own beliefs and how you arrived at them. Why do you seem to be trying so hard to “convert” me to atheism?

  • Richard Wade

    Linda,
    When you responded to Claire, Karen and NYCAtheist you made the case for people being part and parcel with their beliefs, so that attacking their beliefs is identical to attacking them. But when you responded to me, you made the case that believers and beliefs should be seen as separate, that we shouldn’t blame the belief itself but blame the irrationality of the people who have those beliefs.

    It sounds as though one argument is to protect the believers from attack while the other is to protect the belief from attack. But these two arguments seem at least on the surface to be contradictory. Which one, if either is correct?

    I’ll offer you one possible way out of this corner: Perhaps there is in the minds of some believers a distinction between what I call their core beliefs and their peripheral or ancillary beliefs. Perhaps the core beliefs “soak in” to some believers and become intimately part of their self identity, while the peripheral ones remain more on the surface. This is an idea I have proposed when talking to fundamentalist-literalists who are struggling with the conflicts they are having about young earth creationism and science. I offer them an out where they can keep their belief in God and the divinity of Christ but they can let go of beliefs about geology and biology that they are distressed to see no longer make any sense.

    Mind you, I don’t buy any of the idea that beliefs can become part of a person’s essence, whatever that is. I think all beliefs are just posessions that people acquire just like material things. They simply become more attached to some posessions than to others. This is why when some people let go of beliefs that they cherished so deeply that they thought they were part of their very being, they don’t die or become mindless vegetables. It may be a painful process for them but they survive the letting go. There are several “regulars” on this blog who can confirm this from their own experience.

    Regardless, I don’t think that religion, religious ideas and religious people should continue to enjoy the “hands off” policy that has allowed their peripheral beliefs to perniciously intrude unchallenged into our laws, education, science, domestic and foreign policy. Stomper’s suggestions for more tactful tones and terms in dialogues with theists have merit, but their immunity from challenge is something that the world can no longer afford. The world is too small, too crowded, and the potential for readily available destructive energies being misused by zealots is too great.

  • Richard Wade

    Linda, you are definitely in the right place. You enrich and stimulate the discourse here greatly. Karen’s characterization of this site is correct, but I think she would agree that that is not all of its purpose. Respectful theist-atheist dialogue takes place here much of the time, but respectful does not always mean gentle. I used to study Aikido, judo and karate in several dojos. We all respected each other and were careful to avoid seriously injuring each other, but bruises were to be expected. They came with the territory. We couldn’t learn our art if we were all too too gentle.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Richard,

    Thank you for your comments. I in no way think that theists should not be challenged. Of course we all should continually challenge and BE challenged on both sides. That’s how we learn and grow. I am fully aware of that.

    There’s a saying in Korean that “ah” and “uh” mean two totally different things. It’s the intention and the tone with which words are spoken that are sometimes more important than the actual words that are said.

    The unspoken or the unwritten words that hide behind the superficiality of what’s on the surface are what sometimes hurts more. I don’t know if that makes any sense…

    And for the record, I was NEVER offended in any way by anything you have said (or not said). You are a true gentleman. You are welcome to challenge me anytime! :)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Linda,
    When you responded to Claire, Karen and NYCAtheist you made the case for people being part and parcel with their beliefs, so that attacking their beliefs is identical to attacking them. But when you responded to me, you made the case that believers and beliefs should be seen as separate, that we shouldn’t blame the belief itself but blame the irrationality of the people who have those beliefs.

    It sounds as though one argument is to protect the believers from attack while the other is to protect the belief from attack. But these two arguments seem at least on the surface to be contradictory. Which one, if either is correct?

    Great observation and great question! I know I have a response to that, but let me organize my thoughts.

  • Stomper

    Karen: So, when atheists let their hair down, theists should not be surprised to find disrespect? Atheists are comfortable here, and that makes it okay to be rude and belittle theists? I’m not sure that’s the point you wanted to make, but I am having a hard time seeing what else you could have meant — at least, in the context of my specific complaints.

    As Linda suggested, this should be a civil place, where people can come and share ideas and opinions. I’m not much of an evangelist, and I wouldn’t come here to evangelize if I was. Candidly, I came in here to challenge a few commonly held stereotypes about believers, as well as some of the common (but illogical) arguments advanced by atheists. I’ve actually enjoyed myself for the most part, even though I got sidetracked by my efforts to improve the level of civility.

  • Mriana

    You didn’t expressly use the term 100%, but those were your words, without any qualifiers. How was I supposed to understand that, if not as equivalent to an absolute, 100% assertion?

    No Stomper, what I said was, the Gospels are no more true than John Jakes North and South. There is a difference. That is not 100%. It appears you don’t read many books to even know what I’m talking about.

    I am satisfied with your description of it as “pure literature.” That works for me.

    At least we can agree on that. :)

    2. You keep quoting Bishop Spong, as though that should somehow influence my opinion.

    No it is my background and the only way I know to relate to Christians is my own experience, even though I do not attend anymore- that was better than the one I knew of when I was a child. I don’t want to relate to anyone like that though. However, I don’t wish to attend, I am doing my best to meet you part way concerning a discussion of God with the use of Spong, Culpitt, etc. I could use Culpitt, Harpur, or other well known Anglicans if you wish, but that’s as close to Xianity as I get.

    Why do you seem to be trying so hard to “convert” me to atheism?

    I’m not, I’m just trying to help you understand another POV by going part way in to a theistic, albeit still non-theistic view. If I recall correctly, it was you who took offense at my original comment on how to kill a deity, which did apply to this thread because we were talking about dead deities. The way I see it, the original attack was my comment relating to dead deities.

  • Mriana

    Regardless, I don’t think that religion, religious ideas and religious people should continue to enjoy the “hands off” policy that has allowed their peripheral beliefs to perniciously intrude unchallenged into our laws, education, science, domestic and foreign policy. Stomper’s suggestions for more tactful tones and terms in dialogues with theists have merit, but their immunity from challenge is something that the world can no longer afford. The world is too small, too crowded, and the potential for readily available destructive energies being misused by zealots is too great.

    Precisely and think that is where this whole thing started. Unfortunately, some people took my comment about killing deities through lack of belief personally and as an attack on their religion, but the thing is, it’s not their religion. They didn’t make it up. It was handed to them all neatly package. The thing is, I, as well as others, grew up in that belief and IMHO, we too should be able to interpret it anyway we want too, even IF we don’t believe it.

    Respectful theist-atheist dialogue takes place here much of the time, but respectful does not always mean gentle.

    Quite true again, Richard, even though you are not addressing me, I support your statements. If a person is offended too easily then they might not want to crossover into territory that has the potential to offend.

    Typo I can’t fix now for some reason:

    The way I see it, the original attack was my comment relating to dead deities.

    That should have been, the way I see it, the original attack was ON my comment relating to dead deities.

  • Stomper

    Richard said: “I don’t think that religion, religious ideas and religious people should continue to enjoy the ‘hands off’ policy that has allowed their peripheral beliefs to perniciously intrude unchallenged into our laws, education, science, domestic and foreign policy.”

    I agree, Richard. Someone very wise (and possibly fictional) once said “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.” The line between church and state is awfully blurry, and that’s not good. References to God don’t belong in the pledge or on the currency. We don’t need Bibles when officials are sworn in — an oath on the Bible is not going to protect us from liars, cheats and frauds. The Ten Commandments aren’t even a particularly useful collection of rules anymore, and they certainly don’t belong in our courthouses.

    Mriana: I know who John Jakes is/was (though I don’t know if he’s dead). I didn’t watch the mini-series, but I remember when it came out. But you are using a strawman argument to avoid addressing your mistake. I never questioned your comparison of the Bible to John Jakes. I thought that comparison was close enough to accurate that I would let it go.

    Rather, I challenged YOUR assertion about the Bible that, “It’s not true at all.” When you quoted me to set up your John Jakes diversion, you misleadingly quoted only THIS part of my original statement:

    “You didn’t expressly use the term 100%, but those were your words, without any qualifiers. How was I supposed to understand that, if not as equivalent to an absolute, 100% assertion?”

    But a more complete quote shows that I was referring to your “It’s not true at all” allegation, rather than the Jakes comparison:

    “I am not disputing those authorities, because I suspect that none of THEM said, ‘It’s not true at all.’ You didn’t expressly use the term 100%, but those were your words, without any qualifiers. How was I supposed to understand that, if not as equivalent to an absolute, 100% assertion?”

    Sorry, Mriana, but you quote me out of context so you can make an unwarranted detour into Jakes? That smells of intellectual dishonesty. How hard is it to just admit that you got a little careless and overstated your case? That’s not nearly as big a deal as using misleading quotes out of context to set up straw man arguments. Don’t throw away your credibility over one little mistake.

  • Mriana

    Rather, I challenged YOUR assertion about the Bible that, “It’s not true at all.”

    Sorry, Mriana, but you quote me out of context so you can make an unwarranted detour into Jakes? That smells of intellectual dishonesty. How hard is it to just admit that you got a little careless and overstated your case? That’s not nearly as big a deal as using misleading quotes out of context to set up straw man arguments. Don’t throw away your credibility over one little mistake.

    Do you really want me to go down that road of debate in this thread? It could be a little off topic, even if it does include many of the gods above, as well as showing the literary techniques used by the writers, astrotheology, the relationship to previous myths, and much more. I don’t think you would appreciate anything I would have to say about it, which could be a book, but hardly intellectual dishonesty once explained in detail. Strawman? Depends on the person’s POV I guess. Or I could save us all the trouble and refer to many books, online videos and other sources. However, since it seems you are not interested in anything I have suggested so far, I’m not sure it would be worth my effort to do either.

    It would be a very interesting debate though. I just don’t think the fellow bloggers would want it in this thread and I don’t know if Hemant would approve it on his blog. Other than that, I would gladly take you up on the debate, even though I am fairly certain it may cause one of us to go off in a huff. I have the sources to back any statement or opinion I may make in the debate too, so anyone could refer to them, if they wanted.

    I will admit, such a debate could bring a lot attention to Hemant’s blog though. :lol:

  • Mriana

    OK, Stomper, if you would like to continue this discussion/debate, we could get a debate going here: http://forums.truthbeknown.com/index.php with no problems of interferring with threads or what have you. It’s not exactly neutral ground, but a place we could debate this further with no offense to others. No, I would not have to use her work if you take issue with it, but it would not hurt to read her work before criticizing it and she would want me to throw it in here and there too. However, I have plenty of other sources.

  • Karen

    aren: So, when atheists let their hair down, theists should not be surprised to find disrespect? Atheists are comfortable here, and that makes it okay to be rude and belittle theists? I’m not sure that’s the point you wanted to make, but I am having a hard time seeing what else you could have meant — at least, in the context of my specific complaints.

    Good grief, Stomper. I agreed with your list of civil discussion rules and told you I would keep them for future reference. I thought they were good.

    I just tried to explain why you aren’t always going to find people following such rules by giving you the context of this blog. Hemant does not take an active role in the comments, so there’s little/no moderation. None of us here can – or frankly would want to – police anyone else.

    You’re going to find super polite-posters and others who are deliberately rude and won’t ever apologize for it. That’s just how it is, not only here but basically everywhere online. I’ve been involved in online conversation for more than 15 years and this is easily one of the most civil and in-depth discussion sites I’ve seen.

    Second of all, we’re are only human, and even on our best days not even the friendliest among us is going to remember to qualify every statement we make with something like “just for me” or “your mileage may vary” or the redundant “IMHO.” When someone says they “outgrew religion” or they wish religion would go away, don’t get offended, argue with us! Give us reasons why we’re wrong about that. That’s what makes for good discussion, not all this carrying on about hurt feelings and so forth.

    My main point is that when you come into an atheist forum as a religious person, it won’t do you – or anyone else – any good for you to expect everyone to tiptoe around your beliefs. I wouldn’t expect that or get it from a religious forum. Indeed, I am sure every former Christian here can tell you stories of being repeatedly and personally insulted and disrespected by fundamentalists who make all kinds of wild assumptions and pronouncements about us without knowing us from a hole in the ground.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    Stomper,

    It looks as though your intention behind bringing this up in the first place will never be fully understood by some. It becomes a battle of prides. I’m sorry I’m not much of a debater and can’t help you.

    I’m learning that it’s a futile effort to get someone to see anything other than their own perspective when there is no willingness to look at a different angle.

    One of my favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis seems appropriate here. (BTW, he’s not very popular in these parts.) :-(

    “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.”

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Mriana wrote,

    OK, Stomper, if you would like to continue this discussion/debate, we could get a debate going here: http://forums.truthbeknown.com/index.php

    Wow, somehow I have never heard of that forum. I thought I knew all the atheist hangouts out there! Haha. But why not use Hemant’s forum here?

    http://www.friendlyatheist.com/phpBB3/

  • Dan

    I still don’t get Atheism. If they don’t believe in supernatural stuff how do they explain those dreams that feel realistic? Or how about other supernatural stuff like astral projection?

  • Mriana

    I still don’t get Atheism. If they don’t believe in supernatural stuff how do they explain those dreams that feel realistic?

    I hate to sound redundant, but it’s all in the brain- brain chemistry. Your brain does not fully go to sleep, just because you are asleep.

    Or how about other supernatural stuff like astral projection?

    Never heard of it.

    NYCatheist said,

    February 26, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Mriana wrote,

    OK, Stomper, if you would like to continue this discussion/debate, we could get a debate going here: http://forums.truthbeknown.com/index.php

    Wow, somehow I have never heard of that forum. I thought I knew all the atheist hangouts out there! Haha. But why not use Hemant’s forum here?

    http://www.friendlyatheist.com/phpBB3/

    Now you have learned about a new forum. :) Yes, Hemant’s forum is good too. That would work very well also. I’m sure Hemant would enjoy reading some of the posts concerning this conversation on his forum.

  • Dan

    I think most people are talking about contemporary conservative christianity on this discussion. If you ever go to certain places in Latin America or certain places in Europe like small villages in Portugal or Spain I think you could find a drastically different type of christianity. My grandmother lives in a communist village in Portugal and Christianity is basically paganistic there. There are all types of different spirits, demons, and humans that they talk about and apply to life lessons not just accept blindly but conceptually. Matter of fact I herd a story of how a church in a neighboring town started scamming people for money so most of the villagers of that church said fuck this shit and went to another church. (this would never happen in America or more contemporary churches) What we are all describing here is kind of the republican party of christianity.

    If you look at Latin American history(as I’m sure in other areas of the world as well), especially in places like Mexico, you’ll find that priests acted much like progressive activists do in America today. They organized grassroots efforts to help people start labor union movements, they help people start there own political parties against oppressive governments and many were killed for this.

    Another point is not to take the stories of the bible literally. For example, adam and eve. The main idea behind adam and eve was that they were kicked out of this place were food grew on trees and was free by some snake that bull shit them. Thats not such a bad lesson. Take bull shit seriously and you get screwed seems to be the main message. A message most of us can probably relate to.

    ok, bye bye

  • Dan

    O sorry I didn’t read all the comments before mine and was just wondering. My apologies

    Of course your brain never fully goes to sleep. You would probably die or become brain dead if your brain cycles down to 0. That doesn’t explain how you sometimes have dreams of being on different planets or the illusion of physically being somewhere else.

    Astral projection is the ability to leave your body and travel anywhere in the universe. hehe

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    I still don’t get Atheism. If they don’t believe in supernatural stuff how do they explain those dreams that feel realistic? Or how about other supernatural stuff like astral projection?

    Technically atheism isn’t about all supernatural phenomenon, just god stuff. Maybe “skepticism” is a better label for the subject of your question. Most atheists are skeptics, but not all. I have met atheists who believe in some new age stuff, but they are pretty rare.

    Asking how a skeptic explains dreams is just like asking to explain consciousness itself which is a very hard question. I don’t see much difference between a dream and what I’m experiencing now. Light is entering my eyes and my brain produces a world of color. When I sleep my eyes receive no light, so my brain produces its own images from memories and whatever creative resources it has.

    So how do brains produce consciousness is the root question. Answer: nobody knows! But they’re working on it. We’ll see what happens!

    But, do I have a brain, or am I a brain? So what exactly leaves the body for astral projection?

    Can you? If you can, astrally project yourself into Natalie Portman’s bedroom and tell me where the Darwin Fish tattoo is located on her body. That way I can test you ;-)

  • Dan

    Ah, sorry I didn’t realize the difficultly of the dream question. I do now

    Oh, I understand. So, your brain takes on the production of what your senses would normally produce. That does clairify an atheist approach to dreaming for me. Thanks

    From what I understand you’re mind leaves your body. By mind I am saying your consciousness or energy or soul or whatever name we want to give to “you”. I can not personally do this yet I have tried and have gotten frightened by it.

    However, I have a friend who has “visited” me in various ways (and a few others). He lives in California and I live in Connecticut and we both practice mediations of different kinds. Anyways, one day he visited me (psychically) and told me he was going to start writing a book. I called him and asked him if he was writing a book and he concurred. I can’t think of anyway I could have known that out of the blue since I only talk to him on rare occasions. Once a month at most.

    I believe there have been many researches done on astral projection in the post freud erea. I think I remember reading somewhere about a research that involved putting a projector in a room and giving him or her directions to a room with something in it and the projector would have to give an answer to what was in the room. Sorry I can’t give you resources to it since I don’t even know if I actually read this or where I read it.

    I also know that step by step books on astral projection and other psychic practices do exist and I own and use a few. Things that I can account for with my own experiences would have to be psychic healing, prophecy, telepathy and the example I gave above.

    I really appreciate your response. Thank you

  • Mriana

    Dan said,

    February 26, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    That doesn’t explain how you sometimes have dreams of being on different planets or the illusion of physically being somewhere else.

    Oh a Star Trek dream! That’s easy. Be a devoted Star Trek fan, watch a favourite episode before you go to bed and you will have such dreams. :D I have often had dreams that I was on the bridge of the Enterprise or um… well… even with Commander Riker… Not going to tell you about that one though. :twisted: It’s all a matter of what was the last engrossing thing on your mind before you go to bed. I can transport to any planet via the Enterprise in my dreams. Thing is, it’s just a dream and nothing more.

    Astral projection is the ability to leave your body and travel anywhere in the universe. hehe

    I don’t believe such a thing exists. UNLESS you are talking about a good Star Trek story. Sure, IF you are on the Enterprise, you can travel any place in the universe.

    My question is, how does this fit the topic of this thread?

    But, do I have a brain, or am I a brain?

    Brain! Brain! What is brain?

    From what I understand you’re mind leaves your body. By mind I am saying your consciousness or energy or soul or whatever name we want to give to “you”. I can not personally do this yet I have tried and have gotten frightened by it.

    Why do I feel like I’m in an episode of The Twilight Zone? Is this the one with William Shatner?

  • Stomper

    Mriana: Your offer to debate some unspecified topic on another thread was vague and meaningless, except as an attempt to change the subject. You and I have nothing to debate. We seem to agree on most points, and you don’t seem able or willing to dispute that I caught you in an act of intellectual dishonesty.

    What is it you think we still need to debate, and why would I want to debate any topic with someone who operates like that? How useful could it possibly be, to “debate” someone who avoids addressing my points, or quotes me out of context?

    Karen: I see. You are warning me not to be surprised that this unmoderated discussion will have some rude participants. Fine. Now I’m warning you: Don’t be surprised when I call people on their rudeness, each and every time I see it.

    Challenge my ideas or beliefs with reason and evidence? I’m fine with that. Attack my beliefs by subtly (or not so subtly) labeling them “childish”? I will continue to point out the rudeness (and ineptitude) of that approach.

    Looks like we should understand each other now.

  • Dan

    Mriana, your argument is so convincing. Thanks! You have great points. I am as serious in this comment as you are in your comparison with dreams and start trek. You have not convinced me you are at any understanding where as the person that commented on my previous post had some sigificant discussion on the topics.

    Yes, my comments do not have much to do with the post except that I was just interested in seeing how “atheists” think about questions or things I think about. Again thanks for the very convincing argument you put up, very solid….not!.

  • Mriana

    Stomper said,

    February 27, 2008 at 8:39 am

    Mriana: Your offer to debate some unspecified topic on another thread was vague and meaningless, except as an attempt to change the subject. You and I have nothing to debate.

    Fine with me. I take no offense and it doesn’t matter to me either way.

    Dan said,

    February 27, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Mriana, your argument is so convincing. Thanks! You have great points. I am as serious in this comment as you are in your comparison with dreams and start trek. You have not convinced me you are at any understanding where as the person that commented on my previous post had some sigificant discussion on the topics.

    Yes, my comments do not have much to do with the post except that I was just interested in seeing how “atheists” think about questions or things I think about. Again thanks for the very convincing argument you put up, very solid….not!.

    I wasn’t trying to put up a convincing argument. You seem to relate making Trek jokes to an argument. Just laugh and go on. Gee, I’m wondering if people have a sense of humour anymore.

  • Dan

    Well, I guess I was just expecting to have a reasonable conversation with people on things they and I were thinking about. I never tried to downgrade anyone else’s ideas and was hoping for the same.

    ok, bye bye

  • Pete

    Hello, I’m an atheist myself, and I’m not that experienced in religion, but at least I do know the basic stuff concern each religion.

    I’m wondering why Satan isn’t on the list?

    My own assumption of why he isn’t on the list is: Because Satan is a term for evilness and immoral idealism against the appropriate way of living: “God’s way” – according to christians.

    Well, I’m basically asking to obtain an answer that concerns religion, just to improve my knowledge.

  • dan

    What is “the basic stuff concern each religion”?

    I ask because I’m not really sure what the “basic stuff” really is and have never been satisfied with anyones response(atheist, Hindu monk, Catholic priest , random friends, family or otherwise).

    I look forward to your response.

  • Stomper

    I’ve heard of Satan-worshippers, but I’ve never actually met one.

  • Mriana

    dan said,

    February 28, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    What is “the basic stuff concern each religion”?

    I ask because I’m not really sure what the “basic stuff” really is and have never been satisfied with anyones response(atheist, Hindu monk, Catholic priest , random friends, family or otherwise).

    I look forward to your response.

    IF I understand you right, although I don’t know what “stuff” is, I think it depends on the religion. Christianity is salvation by faith, with a few exceptions depending on the denomination- some emphasize works, others both works and faith. Judaism, if I remember right, it’s a right relationship with God. I took Hinduism, but I don’t think I have the doctrine right- gaining good karma for rebirth in a higher status? Buddhism is to end the cycle of rebirth and suffering, if I understand right.

    The list of basic doctrines goes on and on, but I don’t think anyone can sum up the “basic stuff” and say it is for all religions. It would be like making the mistake of saying all fruits are citrus. It doesn’t quite work that way, even if many of the stories are similar and one built on an earlier version of another religion’s story.

    I guess, if you wanted to sum them up in a package, you could say a set of norms or values for a particular culture or group of people, but I don’t like the word norms and values doesn’t seem quite right either.

  • Stomper

    It also depends on cultural context. More primitive/ignorant cultures need a religion that explains things and gives them a sense (however false) that they understand and control their environment. Hence, creation myths, dietary restrictions, and other rules of behavior, enforced by a religious hierarchy which in turn gives people a sense of order. Any satisfaction of their spiritual needs may just be a bonus.

    More developed/educated cultures have found other ways to obtain that sense of understanding and control — primarily through empirical science and less theocratic governments. For these cultures, any religious faith will be devoted almost entirely to meeting its members’ spiritual needs.

    This response is kind of “off-the-cuff,” so it might not hold up well. Superficially, though, it seems reliable.

  • Dan

    Mriana, Yeah you are right about the individuality of religions. Thats what I ment. I was just using Pete’s words. I think what Stomper talked about was interesting. The sort of mutation of religion and other social, political or educational factors for different affects. This really touches base on how I feel about religion and politics and ideas in general.

    If there is a god or not I don’t think really matters; nor is the real point of any religion. What I think matters (and this is where religion and politics and other social ideas should come to play) is being alive and using that being alive for something. I think that “something” should be anything that person wants it to be and should be conformed to that person by that person. I think the problem with this idea comes for what happens when that “something” gets mass produced, is produced and manipulated for the exploitation of others and excepted by the majority of a society(this is where I believe religion and politics and other current social ideas DO come into play today)?

    This is essentially why my ideas got compared with star trek or whatever before.

    Am I explaining what I’m trying to say sensibly? Let me know if what I’m saying makes any sense or not.

    Thanks to everyone who has responded to my ideas.

    Ok, bye bye.

  • Mriana

    What I think matters (and this is where religion and politics and other social ideas should come to play) is being alive and using that being alive for something. I think that “something” should be anything that person wants it to be and should be conformed to that person by that person. I think the problem with this idea comes for what happens when that “something” gets mass produced, is produced and manipulated for the exploitation of others and excepted by the majority of a society(this is where I believe religion and politics and other current social ideas DO come into play today)?

    I think so and that’s why I say one could, theoretically, believe in some deity without religion. It’s the religion that messes up everything. If a person choses to call somethng god, it should not have to depend on religion. Their own set of ideas should be more than enough and it should be a personal thing. However, those same set of ideas though another person may share, value them just as much, and not call it anything except something that deals with the human condition. Even so, withing that shared idea those same two people can get together and enjoy life without too many quibbles. That’s where the human fulfillment (or spiritual needs, if you prefer) comes into play.

    Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for government, because I think it would be difficult to separate the two.

    This is essentially why my ideas got compared with star trek or whatever before.

    No, I’m a Star Trek fan and your comments caused me to think of Star Trek. So, it was a good thing. :)

  • Pete

    That went a bit off-topic from my question, which was: I wonder why Satan isn’t on the list?

    I can see your points etc., but it’s pretty irrelevant, as they go completely off-topic from my question. The relative philosofy is surely good, but if you didn’t get me right with the sentence “I do know the basic stuff concern each religion”, I can tell you it’s supposed to mean something like this: The most common facts people learn about any religion, for instance in institutions, but also from worshippers (to make the facts more objective than subjective – then again, the most common facts). All I know about Islam is just the significant parts of the religion, to get a relative good understanding of the religion. Now, that goes for any religion.

    So if you would kindly reply my question and/or confirming my assumption, which can be found above this comment, it would be highly appreciateable.

  • Mriana

    Sorry, Peter, I think we were answering Dan’s question. I was at least.

    As for why Satan isn’t on there, I don’t know. Lucifer, is not Satan, but he was a fallen angel and was demonized. I’m thinking it could be that Satan is demonized that that’s why he’s not on the list of deities. Then again… No. El Shaddai isn’t on that list either. He too was a god that was demonized in Psalms.

    I don’t know. I can’t answer your question as to why Satan isn’t on the list, except theorize that he was demonized. However, in a way, they all were depending on how you look at it. The list is also missing Ra/Amen Ra/Ammon/Amen/Ammon Ra (the Egyptian sun god, with different ways to spell it and all). It isn’t a complete list of deities. So who knows.

  • Pete

    Okay. Thanks a lot, Mriana! That was very helpful, as I thought the list was almost completeish. It might be very controversial to even find out if someone is a god according to people on the internet. So this is the best answer I could even receive, I guess. Thanks again man.

  • Mriana

    Thanks again man.

    I’m not a man, but you are welcome. Sorry I couldn’t do any better than to point out a couple more that aren’t on the list and theorize. :?

    Adonai/Adonis and Hercules aren’t on the list either. I bet if I keep looking it over, I’ll find more that aren’t there either. The African spider deity Anansi isn’t there either. See what I mean?

  • ash

    it’s worth noting that this is a very, very short restricted list by necessity. try this for a longer list (and there’s no guarantee this contains them all either).

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  • Beast

    I’m wondering why Satan isn’t on the list?

    Cause this list is made by ignorant li’l shit obviously.

  • Rosemary Lyndall Wemm

    Hi guys. I’m back.

    My friend’s legal and emotional crisis has lessened which gives me some breathing space. It has not, however, gone away so I will not have the time to be as active on this forum as I have been in the past. This does not mean that I won’t be reading your posts from afar. So be good. :-)

    I’m wondering why Satan isn’t on the list?

    That’s a really interesting question.

    Of course, the short answer is that it would destroy the argument of the list: that atheists only differ from Christians in their disbelief in one more god.

    The long answer is more complicated. Most Christians have no concept of good gods and bad gods or major gods and minor ones. The basic tenet of this religion is that there is only one god. This means that the other supernatural entities, which are are an essential part of the package of all varieties of Christian belief, cannot be classed as gods.

    What would be classed as demon-gods and demi-gods in other religious systems have been demoted in the Christian/Jewish/Muslim systems to inferior supernatural beings (demons, spirits, angels, saints) which are not “god” because they are not sufficiently powerful or “good” enough.

    In the Christian set of religions, the really bad god-lets deserve to be feared but not worshiped and the very good ones (which the Popes have been increasing over the centuries) deserve to be sub-worshiped with prayer and requests for help.

    This classificatory system does not work with the gods of other religions. Since it is not necessary for these pagan supernatural beings to exist they can safely be called (false) “gods”.

    The bottom line is that Christians, Jews and Muslims have never thought the concept of ” bad gods” through to its “logical” conclusion. Satan does not exist on the list which began this on-line discussion because the integrity of the Abrahamic religions require that he/it/them MUST exist and, at the same time, he/it/them must NOT be a god.

  • AL BArt

    I am a christian and I do not believe in Kaluannuunohonionio because it’s easier to say ‘Oh my God’, rather than ‘Oh my Kaluannuunohonionio’.

  • Joey

    We do not believe that budda is a god. Hes a false prophet.

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  • ian bragg

    i,m just curious to know what mohammad and jesus christ did before they became they became prophets , they were both over thirty both had to have had a childhood or is this all forgotten , but fiction turns into fact over time

  • http://hoverFrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Ian, the apocrypha has a book describing Jesus’ childhood. The Infancy Gospels didn’t make it to the current version of the NT, presumably for quality reasons. ;)

    Mohammed had that whole family tree thing. Is there no childhood reference in there?

  • andy

    budism should definitely be on there as it is worshipped as a god by at least a proportion of followers – ergo its a god. i watched this architecture program last week – it showed a colossal fuckoff buddah statue carved into a hill. worshippers believed he would return at some point to save the world or something (*shrugs* duh whatever). sounds like any other saviour diety to me.

    also, theres a huge amount of supernatural bullshit in buddhist religions; karma, reincarnation etc. all very cosy and lovely on the surface (like the little fluffy jesus) but built on very hideous ideas when you analyze it. thinki of the consequences of karma for instance. the disabled and mentally ill are being punished for past life transgressions. like thats gonna lead to humane treatment. naturalists should be fighting buddism not supporting it.

    jesus and allah should be on there. jesus is the architypal saviour sun god in the greek/roman tradition and allah is not considered precisely same god as the christian one by her muzzy followers -well enough to have an entirely seperate religion anyway ;) after all we dont lump jesus and horus together do we (and theyre virtually identical). ok we should but we dont. i mean what IS the difference between gods other than friggin names anyway.

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  • Zendrig

    All the listed gods were real to the people who believed in them.
    Some of them are still real to this day, but they will lose their divine status as soon as people cease to believe in them – because they only ever existed within our minds.

  • elise

    i love how some people use buddah not being a god as their only argument. its called a poisoning the well fallacy.. in other words, the people using “buddah being in the list makes it wrong” basically have no argument.

  • Dave

    Well, I finally got to the end of the thread and noticed a couple of points that may or may not be relevant to the discussion.

    The first is that, latterly, a number of posts show that the “three-in-one” god is common to a number of religions, including the “Christian” one. If you read the bible (a fascinating piece of literature), in a number of versions, particularly ones not selling this “three in one” idea, but based on original versions of the texts pre 4th Centuary, you will see exactly how Jesus responded to allegations that he was a god. Equally, looking at how Christianity was spread and adapted in the early days, it can be seen that it was made “all inclusive” so that the ideas of the sun gods and a number of other Roman ideas were incorporated to give the maximum mass appeal.

    Looking at the other side of the coin here, the theory of evolution seems to be just that – a theory, since there seems to be some aversion to genetic changes in humans – everything “out of the ordinary” is considered to be a problem – who is to say that people with autism who are savants are not a step up the evolutionary ladder for humans? However, most people look upon such people as disabled! Darwin came up with the idea of the survival of the fittest and, as part of his studies in the Galapogos Islands, studied the finches he found there was able to show that the birds he found were different is as much as they were suited for their particular environment – a bid with a beak suitable for eating seeds would struggle eating nuts, for example, so, over time the birds with the most suitable beak will become the most common.

    Looking at humans, before the age of mass migration via planes, boats etc. we also developed in specialised forms, so, in areas with high levels of sun, such as Africa, people developed/kept a dark skin whereas in Northern climes other factors kicked in so this was not a required survival requirement so the skin colour progressively lightened. Pygmy forms of humans developed where food was in short supply, because of this form requires lower calorie intake to keep alive – the Masai warriors are excellent long distance runners because of the distances they had to cover to hunt – and there are many other niche examples of humans who are brilliantly adapted to their surroundings by the process of survival of the fittest.

    Now, I’m sure people will correct me if they think I am wrong, but surely the idea of an evolutionary development of humans from some primeval soup in a sequential chain is an equally large leap of faith as believing in a deity? I have yet to see someone explain how a mixture of chemicals developed into a living entity capable of self reproduction. Equally I have yet to see an explanation of how vegetatative matter developed into, for want of a better description, animals (I include amoeba, bacteria and so in in this very loose definition), let alone multi-celled organisms that developed into a collection of specialised cells such as humans.

    I am not saying this is not possible spontaneously, I am just more than a little sceptical that it is a reasonable, rational explanation of how complex life developed.

    Now, just because, again, we cannot satisfactorily explain how or where an omnipotent god came from, it does not mean one exists or does not exist, rather like the problem I have with evolution, as explained above. I tend to try and keep an open mind, but at times this is difficult because it is a very muddy puddle to try and find out what is happening, or, more correctly, what is likely to have happened.

    One advantage of the god described in the bible, which is not the god believed by many Christians, is at least there seems to be some sort of rationale and consistancy behind what is described. In fact, I think there is probably more to him than to the ideas of evolutionists!

    Mind you, that could be because evolutionary theory has been adulterated in the same way the bible’s story has, to suit the maximum number of people who would not have to leave behind their pre-existing beliefs, but could simply subsume them into the “latest” thing, pretty much as happened to Christianity. And, I am pretty sure, most other religions.

    Now to a more important question.

    Do my concerns, as detailed above, make me theist, atheist or agnostic?

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    The thread lives on!

    Dave wrote:

    Looking at the other side of the coin here, the theory of evolution seems to be just that – a theory

    You were discussing the trinity, so I’m not sure why evolution is the other side of the coin. What do you mean there?

    Thinking evolution is “just a theory” is a common misconception. In science the word “theory” does not mean what it means it daily conversation, which is closer to “hypothesis”. Some folks think scientific ideas “graduate” from theory to law at some point, but there is no such hierarchy. We also have atomic theory, quantum theory, and gravitational theory. These, like evolution, aren’t just guesses or proposals but robust explanatory models supported by good evidence.

    Darwin came up with the idea of the survival of the fittest

    That is a wording Darwin himself did not create. “fittest” is a vague term. Evolution is more like “survival of the good enough” than “the fittest”. Cave fish evolved and lost the ability to see. Are they “better”? For their dark environment yes, but some people might mistakenly think they “devolved”. However they are measuring fitness based on a different environment.

    who is to say that people with autism who are savants are not a step up the evolutionary ladder for humans?

    There is no ladder, just descent with modification and natural selection. You can’t paste human concept of “progress” onto evolutionary change. I don’t know enough about autism, but in general a genetic change will increase in a population if the carrier of the new gene has more offspring, who also have more offspring. It really is as “simple” as that, and no different in principle from artificial selection which gave us dachshunds from wolves.

    but surely the idea of an evolutionary development of humans from some primeval soup in a sequential chain is an equally large leap of faith as believing in a deity?

    Why? The history of life on Earth is supported by mountains of interlocking scientific evidence from disparate fields such as genetics, paleontology, geology, astronomy etc. Having good evidence allows us to gain knowledge based on facts, not faith. Just to preempt other questions in this area, evolution explains the diversity of life, not the origin. Scientists are working on various ideas of how life started, but that is NOT evolution. Evolution can only work on replicators where this is descent with modification and natural selection. Explaining the first replicators will require new theories and new research.

    I have yet to see someone explain how a mixture of chemicals developed into a living entity capable of self reproduction.

    Because there isn’t a solid explanation yet. Again, that has nothing to do with evolution. We also don’t know the origin of matter, does that make atomic theory and the resulting field of chemistry useless? But there are lots of ideas out there. Google abiogenesis. The first hit is a Wiki article outlining various ideas. Do you think research in that area is futile because we can’t explain why now?

    have yet to see an explanation of how vegetatative matter developed into, for want of a better description, animals

    From what I’ve read they don’t think plants evolved into animals, but plants and animals have a common simple cell ancestor. I just googled for a few seconds and found this article:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071011142628.htm

    Again it is a work in progress. I always detect a note of futility in these criticism of evolution as if it is useless to investigate things that are unknown. For some reason I don’t see a similar attitude directed towards other fields of science.

    I am not saying this is not possible spontaneously,

    What do you mean “spontaneously”? What claim is that exactly?

    I am just more than a little sceptical that it is a reasonable, rational explanation of how complex life developed.

    It’s good to be skeptical. I’m interested in finding out answers to questions. Science provides us with great tools to get answers. Do you have a more reasonable and rational explanation? Can you support it through good evidence?

    Now, just because, again, we cannot satisfactorily explain how or where an omnipotent god came from, it does not mean one exists or does not exist,

    Of course, but we also have to know what you mean by “omnipotent god”. Science works with the natural world. We can investigate biology by looking at living things, DNA, fossils and lots of other physical evidence. We can test theories and make predictions. Supernatural claims of gods and other phenomenon are beyond the realm of science, unless you are making claims about the natural world. For example “what is God and does God exist?” is a question beyond science. However other religious claims like “There was a worldwide flood of supernatural origin in the past few thousand years” is a claim about the natural world that can bet tested. So it’s too simplistic to say “religion is beyond science”. You have to look at the specific claims and questions to judge.

    I tend to try and keep an open mind, but at times this is difficult because it is a very muddy puddle to try and find out what is happening

    If you have an open mind and honest curiosity have you read the various popular science books about evolution? Dawkins’ The Blind Watchmaker is good, as are books by Stephen J. Gould. Ken Miller has some good talks on YouTube as well. The web site talk.origins is another good resource.

    One advantage of the god described in the bible, which is not the god believed by many Christians, is at least there seems to be some sort of rationale and consistancy behind what is described. In fact, I think there is probably more to him than to the ideas of evolutionists!

    Who are these “evolutionists” you speak of? That term implies some kind of system of thought or world view, like “capitalist” and “communist”. Am I also an “atomist” or “gravitationalist”? I’m not sure what you mean that there is “more to” the god described in the Bible. There is certainly “more to” scientific theories about our natural world which are based on good evidence and research. Take any random question, “Why is the sky blue”, “What causes disease?”, “What happened thousands, millions and billions of years ago?” What tools will you use to answer these questions?

    Mind you, that could be because evolutionary theory has been adulterated in the same way the bible’s story has

    It sounds like you think Darwin’s book is considered to be holy scripture that cannot be doubted. Darwin started the ball rolling, but science has moved far beyond Darwin. He got some things wrong, and he had no idea bout genetics or DNA. Science is about building on and improving theories with new evidence. It is not a vague set of stories handed down that we have to analyze and interpret to find the grain of truth hidden within.

    Newton’s gravitational theory is much older than Darwin. We don’t test it by looking for some unadulterated “first edition” of his work. We test it now. Einstein discovered areas where Newton was wrong, so gravitational theory grew and improved.

    Do my concerns, as detailed above, make me theist, atheist or agnostic?

    Those terms are in reference to god claims, and have nothing to do with evolution so how could I possibly answer your question? I know people who accept or don’t accept evolution who are theists, agnostics and atheists. There is only a correlation between god belief and non-acceptance of evolution because of the century old propaganda campaign by certain religious groups who see scientific theories about the history of life on Earth to be a direct threat against their literal reading of Genesis.

  • Dave

    Hi NYC,

    Many thanks for your response.

    Ah,now,science I can understand. Atomic physics I can understand. Quantum physics, chemistry, biology – any of these I can undestand. I struggle with some of the more “leap of faith” assumptions put forward about how life began and developed.

    I’m sure you are aware that, when Darwin saw how people were looking at his published work of what he found in the Galapogos, he attempted to get them to see he was not taking anythng away from “God” but was trying to explain how nature developed to fill specifiv niches as he had observed. This plea seems to have been lost in the excitement caused by his observations.

    Yes, I can see that, taking the exmple of the Galapogos finches, isolation leads to a specialisation of the birds to fit the environment they live in, but is this evolution?

    Equally, looking at all the breeds of dogs in the world, although there is an enormous variety of physical attributes, at the end of the day they are all dogs and are even capable of interbreeding with wolves, whick would seen to indicate that the theory regularly put out about the relationship between man and dog starting in past time from wolves may not be too far off the mark. Am I saying that all dogs are wolves? I’m not sure – after all, with so many generations of separation it is possible that some genetic mutation may have taken place to provide the huge variety of dog breeds, but, without human intervention, dogs will hapilly inter-mate, rather than diverging further.

    So, what, exactly is evolution? You indicate you think that I have made a mistake in my thought that it suggests the development of more complex organisms from simpler ones.

    I look with awe and wonder at the range of dinosaurs that existed – they all filling various niches in their environment in a similar way that mammals do today. I look at the theory of the comet that is thought ot have chanded their world so dramatically over a relatively short period of time. Then I see that warm-blooded mammals supposedly suddenly appeared.

    Now I see that the theory is that some of the later dinosaurs were warm-blooded. So, where did these come from? Where did mammals come from?

    Now, I have been reading through “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and I see and can readily understand many of the points he raises, because those points he demolishes are, put simply, indefensible and are very obviously put up by uman self interest. A modern day parallel would be Weopons of Mass Destruction in Iraq which some religiously believed to exist, but close examination proved these to be false and non-existant but, hey, we got control of the oil, didn’t we?

    There are a couple of points, in this book at least – I’m afraid I have not yet read the others, where it does seem that Dawkins takes the view that “this idea is so silly and simplistic that no intelligent person will accept it”, rather than giving it the same calm forensic demolition job as other points.

    Now, ok, it will take a long time to explain everything, if we ever can, but surely it takes faith in something, whether a god or evolution until we can difinitively show how everything happened? I know some people want creationism taught as a fact in school. I know others who rabidly oppose this idea.

    Historically, people who said that the earth was not flat were villified, as were people who said that the Earth orbitted the Sun, not vice versa – some paying for this belief with their lives even though we now know that they were correct.

    I do not know who is right on the evolution/creationism front. I hope that you are right and the weight of scientific evidence will lead to a rational explanation of how complex lifeforms developed from simpler ones. Unfortunately, as of today nothing can be proved one way or the other.

    Oh, by the way, I think Darwins work is an excellent scientific treatise whice explains how specialisation can affect the physiological attributes of isolated populations. I most certainly do not view it as a complete explanation of how the whole animal kingdom has developed. I like good old Newton, he put some complex ideas in a simple set of rules which is good enough for “everyday” use, but,as you rightly say, he did not fully explain the physical world. Good empirical attempt, though.

    Einstein had some good ideas, but even his theories ar being found to not fully explain the physical world – look at the current theoretical models for the univers. Eventually we may be able to describe exactly how the known universe works – look how Big Bang currently appears to be universally accepted as the origin of the univers – we can detect radio frequency “noise” that is thought to demonstrate the residual heat energy from the very early stages. We may never be in a position to physically prove or disprove this, but it does seem to fit our current understanding of the universe.

    So, on he physical universe, I hope I have shown I am happy to accept what science shows.

    My problem is that I have yet to see an explanation of evolution that is as simple. When you have your genetic material, yes, everything happily flows. But how, and more importantly why, should genetic material spontaneously appear? E = mc**2 is an elegant simple explanation which, with the added work that has/is being done describes the physical observed facts.

    On the biological front it seems to be a case of reverse engineering, in that the simple becomes comples, rather than the usually observed degradation of complex into simple. That is where I think it takes an act of faith to accept the reality that this is how life evolved. So, please, show me how to reconsile this little problem. I have yet to see this explained. Usually it is stated as a “well, that is what happens” and anyone trying to question the how and why is accused of

    There is only a correlation between god belief and non-acceptance of evolution because of the century old propaganda campaign by certain religious groups who see scientific theories about the history of life on Earth to be a direct threat against their literal reading of Genesis.

    Now, anyone who considers the events described in Genesis to be literal is, in my opinion, at best in error and at worst deluded. The idea of “intelligent design” seems to offer a similar degree of proof as does what I have seen on the point I raise above on how the complex came from the simple spontaneously and I am not happy with either explanation – neither so far seems to explain properly what is going on – and if you believe in the ID theory, you then believe in a superior being, which is most unsatisfactoy from a scientific point of view, but which, until properly disproven, ought to be at least considered, I suppose, on the basis of what that great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, said (paraphrasing) “Examine all possibilities and weigh them against the evidence. When you have eliminated all but one then no matter how improbable, that must be the answer”. We are not yet at the only one item remaining stage, but we are narrowing things down. Of the two options I think are left, at present I cannot positively eliminate one, unless, of course, there are others which I have missed …

  • JeffN

    Having read your posts I leave you with this quote from Shakespeares Hamlet

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    Good Luck.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com/ NYCatheist

    Dave said,

    Ah,now,science I can understand. Atomic physics I can understand. Quantum physics, chemistry, biology – any of these I can undestand.

    Feynman said that if you think you understand quantum theory, you don’t understand quantum theory. But really I can make no claim to the quality of your understanding.

    I struggle with some of the more “leap of faith” assumptions put forward about how life began and developed.

    What assumptions are biologists making leaps of faith to?

    Yes, I can see that, taking the exmple of the Galapogos finches, isolation leads to a specialisation of the birds to fit the environment they live in, but is this evolution?

    Yes. Evolution is just descent with modification. If one gene changes, and spreads in a population, that is evolution.

    I’m not sure – after all, with so many generations of separation it is possible that some genetic mutation may have taken place to provide the huge variety of dog breeds, but, without human intervention, dogs will hapilly inter-mate, rather than diverging further

    I’m not so sure that is true. I would claim that if chihuahuas and great danes were released in the wild, and assuming they could survive, that they would naturally not interbreed because it would be physically impossible. This would isolate the populations and they would diverge further. Inability to breed doesn’t have to mean just genetic incompatibility.

    Now I see that the theory is that some of the later dinosaurs were warm-blooded. So, where did these come from? Where did mammals come from?

    These are all interesting questions. I don’t have the answers. Have you read a good gook about dinosaurs? I’m sure it would answer many of your questions, but not all. I am sure that researches are answering and finding new questions every day.

    Now, ok, it will take a long time to explain everything, if we ever can, but surely it takes faith in something, whether a god or evolution until we can difinitively show how everything happened? I know some people want creationism taught as a fact in school. I know others who rabidly oppose this idea.

    Again, I don’t have faith in evolution. I don’t have faith in quantum theory either. Both have a lot of evidence going for them. You say “surely it takes faith in something”, what exactly is the “it” you are referring to? I’m not following your line of thought.

    Who said we can ever find out definitively how everything happened? What do you mean by “everything”? Evolution attempts to explain the diversity of life, nothing more. Not it’s origin, not the origin of the universe, not the destiny of life itself, none of that. Those are other questions for other fields.

    I do not know who is right on the evolution/creationism front. I hope that you are right and the weight of scientific evidence will lead to a rational explanation of how complex lifeforms developed from simpler ones. Unfortunately, as of today nothing can be proved one way or the other.

    There is a misconception that science proves anything. Even many atheists (and scientists too) misunderstand this important point. Science can disprove theories, and science can increase confidence in the truth of theories by adding more evidence. But nothing is every proven. I think the evidence that evolution occurred is as good as almost as good as the evidence that the Earth is spherical(ish). How exactly it occurred is what all the biologists are still working on, and where the real debates are going on.

    My problem is that I have yet to see an explanation of evolution that is as simple. When you have your genetic material, yes, everything happily flows. But how, and more importantly why, should genetic material spontaneously appear?

    Once again, evolution does not explain the origin of the genetic material. Just like Newton and Einstein and all the laws of chemistry don’t explain the origin of matter itself. You are asking evolution to explain something that evolution never claimed to be able to explain. Evolution only works when you have some kind of replication with modification, and some kind of selection. That’s it. There are scientists working on how such replicators came into existence. Whatever theories they come up with will have nothing to do with evolution. Evolution only kicks in after they already exist.

    On the biological front it seems to be a case of reverse engineering, in that the simple becomes comples, rather than the usually observed degradation of complex into simple.

    It’s a minor point, but crystal formation is a process that goes from simple to complex. Like evolution it requires a net input of energy. There is nothing out of the ordinary there.

    That is where I think it takes an act of faith to accept the reality that this is how life evolved. So, please, show me how to reconsile this little problem. I have yet to see this explained. Usually it is stated as a “well, that is what happens” and anyone trying to question the how and why is accused of

    I think the claims you are accusing evolution of making require acts of faith, but once again, evolution is not making any such claims. Yes, you are right, there is a mystery of how the first replicators came into existence. Maybe it was a natural process that was inevitable due to the self-organizational properties of atoms or molecules, or maybe it was something else. Nobody knows the answer yet. I still have the feeling that you are proposing that evolution is useless because of this mystery, yet why isn’t chemistry useless because we don’t know the origin of matter?

    and if you believe in the ID theory, you then believe in a superior being, which is most unsatisfactoy from a scientific point of view, but which, until properly disproven, ought to be at least considered, I suppose, on the basis of what that great fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, said (paraphrasing) “Examine all possibilities and weigh them against the evidence. When you have eliminated all but one then no matter how improbable, that must be the answer”.

    Then I have to ask, how exactly will the scientific method “consider” the actions of a supernatural being? Science works with physical evidence and phenomenon in our natural world.

    The problem with Holmes’ usually good advice is that in this case the number of possibilities in the supernatural realm are effectively infinite and unfalsifiable. Maybe 1 god created the universe, and left. Maybe 1 god created the universe, and created life as a separate creation. Maybe 1 god created humans as a special creation. Maybe it was 2 gods, or many gods, or something else we couldn’t even call a god. Maybe it’s all a dream, maybe maybe maybe. It’s all speculation, and empty of content without evidence.

    We are not yet at the only one item remaining stage, but we are narrowing things down. Of the two options I think are left, at present I cannot positively eliminate one, unless, of course, there are others which I have missed …

    I agree science is narrowing some possibilities down, but as I described above there is no such narrowing being done for supernatural claims, and I suspect such an effort to be futile.

    JeffN said,

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    It’s a good quote that applies to everyone’s philosophy, whether atheistic or theistic.

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  • http://eshto.deviantart.com Eshto

    Ya know, it pains me how complicated and pedantic discussions about evolution can get, especially when it’s clear one person has no idea what they are talking about.

    A theory in science is not a guess. Gravity is also purely theoretical, and so is the idea that the earth moves around the sun.

    Evolution says nothing about the origin of life or the existence of god. It is not the “opposite” of religion.

    Evolution, both “macro” and “micro”, including speciation, has been directly observed.

    Every other scientific advancement, theory or discipline that has come after it and has had the potential to falsify evolution, for example genetics, has instead reinforced it.

    Scientists accept evolution because of the overwhelming evidence. They don’t need “faith” or leaps in logic to accept it.

    Hi. Evidence. Hi.

    This doesn’t require an extensive point-by-point essay explicating every erroneous comment posted here. Just go read the wikipedia article or something and then come back.

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  • Nanabozho

    I think a true atheist should believe in ALL the gods, including the numerous varieties of Jesuses of the different Xtians sects. What relationship is there between the Mormon Jesus and the Spanish catholic Jesus?
    Gods exist be it only for the sheer power of nuisance that they have upon human beings…

    By the way, the list forgot to name Nanabozho…

  • Nanabozho

    And myrdhyn is not a god, it’s only the welsh name of Merlin.

  • Really?

    Meanshile…
    Believe it or not, I haven’t read every comment. I did read this one, though, WAY back, from John Dough (?):
    “you also forgot Jehovah you stupid piece of shit.”
    Er…YAHWEH is a transliteration of the four hebrew characters otherwise written/pronounced as JEHOVAH.
    Same word, you even more stupid piece of shit ;-)

  • Really?

    I wasn’t allowed to edit (!?) so, to avoid confusion:

    *YAWEH*, above, should read YAHWEH.

    And by Meanshile is meant Meanwhile, geddit?

  • http://-- meridianwest

    Buddha wasn’t a god.

    and you have entered some gods twice — the Greek and their Roman counterparts (e.g. Jupiter and Zeus are one and the same thing).

  • Murphy

    Where is Alvis?!
    YOU BLASPHEMERS! I demand some Alvis Time spirit in this godless place.
    He killed for your sins!

  • Ralph Skinner

    re Buddha
    A nobleman once visited Buddha and asked him if he was a god.
    Buddha replied “No”
    Asked if he was a saint, He replied “No”
    Asked ” What are you then?”Buddha replied,” Awake”
    That is essential Buddhism. The rest is superstition

  • http://cellarconversions.blogspot.com/ Raymond Foulkes

    Interesting reading.

    Yet the main points seem to get missed for one reason or another either drowned out by semantics (was Buddha a God or wasn’t he? – this is hardly the point) or a simple lack of knowledge.

    The original point is quite humorous, it is a humorous way of pointing out to religious people (it can be applied to all religions not just Christianity) who fervently believe in THEIR god and no other, and to give them a way of seeing how their belief (blind faith) appears to a non-believer as they too are non-believers in those other gods.

    Obviously there IS a world of difference between believing in one or any god and no gods at all, one is theistic and the other atheistic, no one is suggesting that a religious person has 99% in common with a religious person (well i don’t think so any way).

    Another big misconception is to try and level science and rationality with a faith belief system / religion. Science is not a faith system and ‘believing’ in once scientific theory over another cannot be compared to faith in a religion.

    For those of religious faith who talk of evolution like it was some vague imaginary concept with little to support it – go read up on the evidence – it is massive, an edifice, fossils are a negligible part of it, comparative studies of genetics and other branches of molecular biology, physiology and biochemistry form a huge portion of the evidence as does embryology morphology statistics and mathematical modeling, the growing fossil record is the icing on the cake.

    Just because science has not explained everything yet does not mean it can be compared to a faith system which has NO evidence and does not even attempt to make progress towards the truth year on year, century after century because by definition it believes it has reached the truth through it’s faith.

    Science may never find all the answers but it will not stop in it’s endeavour until it does, and nowhere along the road of scientific discovery has anything been found to corroborate religious beliefs of a deity, or god induced ‘creation’. In fact a good chunk of what is claimed in the bible and other religeous texts has been debunked by science completely.

    Many modern religious people now say that the bible shouldn’t be taken literally – in order accommodate these discoveries. Hmmm… where will this process end? Not taking the bible as the word of god perhaps?

    Anyone who has been interested enough to read so far, thank you and you might find this blog interesting too: -

    http://blog.case.edu/singham/

    P.S. I understand that Christianity is supposed to be monotheistic. So was the God of the old testament the same as god the father in the new testament and who is the holy ghost? and who was Jesus? was he a god? or the same god incarnate and why the personality change? I mean Gentle Jesus meek and mild vs. the blood thirsty tyrant of the OT?

  • http://thoughtfulfaith.wordpress.com Chucky
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  • attic

    Guys, just because some western Buddhists don’t consider Buddha to be a god, that doesn’t mean that ALL Buddhists consider Buddha not to be a god. In China, for example, the English word Buddha is used to refer to tons of different deities/spirits/people/whatever, which are prayed to, and not just to that first intelligent guy from Nepal.
    There are as many different sects of Buddhism as there are denominations of Christianity.

  • Rosita

    @attic

    We know, but thanks for the reminder. OTOH, it is not only “some Western Buddhists” who do not believe that the Buddha is a god.

  • http://www.iphonecini.com iPhoneCini

    Ya know, it pains me how complicated and pedantic discussions about evolution can get, especially when it’s clear one person has no idea what they are talking about.

  • http://none dlskjfklsadjl

    i like how everyone is arguing about buddha. as if the creator of this list is going to be like, “oh fuck, you’re right! guess god does exist…” i call the buddha question unrelated. take buddha off both sides, or don’t. it has nothing to do with the point of this list.

  • Anders

    It is true that Buddha did not see himself as a God, but that has not stopped SOME branches of the buddhist belief to regard him as one, that either took the form of a man or became one after the enlightement. So even if the majority of buddhist do not regard him as a god, he still should be on the list.

  • Rafael Lins

    Haters gonna hate.


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