Who’s In the Wrong?

Oh boy.

A Christian preacher starts saying a Muslim woman is ignorant. He later says “Mohammad was a pedophile.”

A Muslim girl punches him back.

She then adds, “Don’t talk about my prophet! I’ll kill you!”

From what I can tell, the video is in favor of the preacher, as it tries to show that Islam is not a religion of peace.

(Then again, Christian fundamentalists have no shortage of instances in which they’ve killed on behalf of their god.)

Frankly, I’m scared of both people in the video.

So, be honest: What was your reaction to that?

  • I’m gonna just step back and let this thing play out…
  • The preacher was right about his take on Islam.
  • The girl was provoked and did the right thing.
  • The preacher was trying to provoke violence and got what he deserved.
  • I am so glad I’m an atheist.

Something else entirely?

Is it possible to avoid situations like this or is this an inevitable consequence of conflicting beliefs on a small scale?

  • http://madmansparadise.blogspot.com Asylum Seeker

    I think that the preacher was in his rights at the beginning, and the Muslim woman overreacted to what was at first condescending free speech. But, after seeing that she was already offended, it seemed like he said the “Mohammed was a pedophile” not only directed at her, but to deliberately get a rise out of her. So…I really don’t know if one side is more guilty than the other, so I guess my reaction is number 5: “I am so glad I’m an atheist.”

  • Korinthian

    Aww, so he didn’t say “SILENCE! I kill you!” ? Disappointed!

  • Radovan Karadzic

    I vote for “Something else entirely“.

    6. she got in his face, tried to take his magical book away, he snapped and called her magical deity a pedophile, at which point she assaulted him and threatened to kill him (in front of witnesses).

    as a result, she belongs in jail (and needs to take Anger Management classes) and the Christian preacher needs to stop being a Dick.

  • Joseph R.

    They are both in the wrong.

  • Old Geezer

    About a week ago, an upstanding member of the Christian community just down the road from us, walked into a church and opened fire on the congregation. He did so, not with a suicide belt, but with a shotgun. I guess shotguns are good Christian tools but suicide belts (which take out the killer as well as his victims) are evil. His reasons included that he believed this particular church was “too liberal.”

    I’m glad I don’t rely on the teachings of a fictional character.

  • Korinthian

    Except being a dick, I don’t think the priest did anything wrong. What he stated was true under today’s standards, threatening to kill someone without being funny is a crime.

  • http://unreasonablefaith.com/ Dan Florien

    I don’t like street preaching, and he was trying to be insulting. But from my understanding, what he said was true — Muhammad married a 6 year old and consummated their marriage when she was 9. That goes under pedophilia to me.

    She was more in the wrong than him, though. She shouldn’t of hit him or threatened his life, just because he said something she thought was insulting about a man who has been dead for over a thousand years.

  • http://blueollie.wordpress.com ollie

    “something else”: provocative moron vs. violent moron.

    I don’t have a dog in this hunt.

  • absent sway

    I agree that he was being inconsiderate and provocative and that this still didn’t warrant such an attack. I am irritated by the message printed at the end of the video; am I to assume that no Christians in a crowd could be provoked to physical violence or threats by someone making negative claims about Jesus? Please.

  • TheDeadEye

    Preacher was a bit of an a-hole (nothing wrong with that) but that doesn’t excuse the woman from assaulting him. And to answer the question, both Christianity and Islam can have violet fundamentalist followers–but Islam seems to reek of it.

  • Ngeli

    I think they both are wrong. And to say it with nethack: Two wrongs don’t make a right but three lefts will.

  • Polly

    I am unable to view video clips, so I haven’t seen the video. But I’m fairly sure that no matter what the specifics this is still the case:

    I am so glad I’m an atheist.

  • skathach

    I found myself wishing that she had a suicide belt on.

    Also that I’m glad I’m atheist.

  • Varda

    I can’t believe i’m saying this…but other than being a fool and an ass the Christian did nothing wrong. I can even see the point he was trying to make…..but in the end I am so glad I’m an atheist.

  • http://blargen.com/blog/ postsimian

    Wow, a video of religions being intolerant and violent. Who’da thunk it?

  • Lorem Ipsum

    He was provoking her and got, not what he deserved, but what he was possibly hoping for – a violent reaction that puts him in the right. He’s a professional dick and religious zealot, she’s clearly an amateur.

    So very very glad I’m an atheist, every single day.

  • http://mcdevzone.com/ Mike Cohen

    The preacher was wrong. I’m not a Muslim, but I tend to take their side against Christianity or Judaism because I feel that they’re always being unjustly maligned.

  • Nancy

    The “preacher” was provoking a woman he knew to be Muslim in the hope that she would do just what she did. Then he could smugly and sanctamoniously say “See, Muslims are violent”.

    He’s a creep and she needs to get a grip!

  • elianara

    The preacher was an a-hole, and was trying to provoke something, but from my understanding he was right about the pedophile thing. Muhammad married a six year old, consummated the marriage three years later, and that’s just wrong. What the preacher did was wrong, but so is what the woman did. Provoked or not, you don’t assault somebody, violence is never the answer.

  • Sheila

    Both of them suck, but physically attacking or threatening to kill someone in anger makes her worse than him. She could have chosen to be the bigger person and walk away from the dickhead preacher. Nobody was forcing her to stand there and listen to his ridiculous rant.

    I’m glad I’m an atheist.

  • Vincent

    I don’t know what started it. The video picks up in the middle of his responding to something she said.
    However, just what’s in the video, he did nothing wrong.
    What he said at first was just dumb apologetics (they criticize not the scripture but the misinterpretation of it – no, it’s the scripture. You can interpret away what it says, but you’re the one getting it wrong), and what he said later was true (well, not sure about “murderer”).
    However, she was totally in the wrong. Alonzo Fyfe spelled out a great principle: the only ethical response to words is words. She turned the situation into a physical one.

    That said, I don’t blame her faith. You can see the same thing happen in any urban neighborhood over a sports team. Religion is just the excuse, but that woman would have done the same thing if he’d insulted her high school.

    The end of the video is terrible though. Plenty of Christians turn to violence. And I’m pretty sure there have been Jewish suicide bombers in Palestine. On the bright side, I can’t think of any atheist mass murderers.

  • Reynvaan

    Lorem Ipsum and Nancy, you took the words right out of my mouth (off my keyboard? I dunno). I particularly liked: “He’s a professional dick and religious zealot, she’s clearly an amateur,” and, “He’s a creep and she needs to get a grip!”

    Also, I agree with Mike Cohen.

  • Axegrrl

    Vincent said:

    Alonzo Fyfe spelled out a great principle: the only ethical response to words is words.

    I think that sums it all up right there :)

  • Larry Huffman

    Right or wrong…it is religious stupidity…people butting heads over beliefs they both will readily concede cannot be proven. When lunacy and passion collide.

    Empiraclly, they are both wrong, because for there to be someone right they would first have to be forwarding a viewpoint that is based on truth. So, before anyone actually does anything inappropriate…they are both squarely standing in the wrong…again, empiracally speaking. (If any christian or muslim disagrees, I will gladly look at proof that your god(s) do in fact exist…and if you prove it to me, I will offer a full apology)

    Of course…they have free speech…and the right or wrong of that is not based on whether they are speaking truth. It is based on the individual’s treatment of others in the effort of speaking freely.

    I would say that the preacher is ignorant of how to speak appropriately to others…others he does not know. The woman is wrong to even think she can make a statement that would change the preachers minds…and the preacher is ignorant of the same fact in reverse. The preacher is ignorant of the fact that his religion is just as hateful and murderous as the woman he is harrasing. The woman is in fact ignorant of the fact that Islam is hateful, intolerant and murderous…just as christianity. Lots of ignorance all over this video. It really just shows that both sides will do whatever and avoid logic, reason or even proper ways of dealing with other people…in order to forward their message. And they all are in denial about just how few people even respect their methods or think they know anything at all.

    In fact…it is beginning to feel like christians and muslims are just preaching to their own choirs anymore…as more and more people are ignoring religion in pursuit of other, more rewarding endeavors.

    But…the right or wrong of this situation can be discussed on many levels.

  • Carly

    “It’s the unfortunate ignorance of people like this young lady….”

    Religion aside, if somebody had called me out like that and then continued to demean something that is dearly important to me, with no other intention than to provoke/insult me, I probably would have punched him too. The death threat might have been overkill though….

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  • http://sheisgod.blogspot.com/ Colleen Chaos

    That’s crazy. Just one of the many reasons I’m an Atheist. Fools fighting over the supernatural.
    Well anyway, I think they were both out of line. The preacher for starting the crap saying the Muslim lady is ignorant and calling Mohammed a pedophile. Then the Muslim lady for saying she’s going to kill him. Hasn’t enough blood been shed in the name of god.

  • Alex

    I’m with Radovan @1:19.

    No one has the right to not be offended. Furthermore, escalating a confrontation of ideas to a confrontation of physical force suggests the inability of the idea to be defended rationally, and the inability of the perpetrator to exercise civil restraint.

    “I kill you”. How insane. Not if I kill you first.

  • dbest

    Alex, you took the words out of my mouth.

    It’s very childish of both parties. One side can’t provide good enough evidence to convince another to instantly drop their view of reality that probably is rooted in the core of her being, so he resorts to “my daddy is stronger than yours!” and kicking sand in the other’s face. The other side is very angry and hasn’t developed the emotional skills to deal with it, so she lashes out physically. Just like four year olds in a sandbox…

  • anom

    Wow, Muhammad was indeed a pedophile. I learned this today.

    They were both being ridiculous, but the Muslim women was out of control, and she was definitely in the wrong. The catholic shouldn’t have deliberately pissed her off, but whatever, he has the right. She does NOT, however, have the right to physically assault him.

  • James Koran

    Kudos Alex!

  • wwyoud

    Ditto, Alex. The preacher had the right to say what he did–free speech. He also had the right to verbally provoke the woman, as I think he did, to prove his point about Islam. She had the right to argue with him, but when she went on stage and touched him and his book, that crossed the line (the assault clearly was wrong). She fell for his setup hook, line, and sinker.
    That both of them acted as they did because of their invisible friends is stupid, but irrelevant.
    I vote “I’m gonna just step back and let this thing play out…” – no reason to hang around an angry crowd.

  • anom

    Also, I must say Alex gave a terrific answer, almost poetic.

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

    like many others here, I think the christian was being a dick and provocative, but the muslim overreacted.

    I am so glad I’m an atheist.

  • http://atheistagogo.wordpress.com/ Gregory

    Something else entirely. Firstly, let me add my shout out to Alex for getting it in one. Mostly, though, I’m bugged by the video for a lot of reasons. Vincent noted that we pick up the action already well into it. Would the missing context change things? It’s possible, for instance, that the guy was really trying to wind her up. That wouldn’t excuse her actions — we all have an ethical obligation to resist falling for that kind of baiting — but it would change our interpretation. I can’t help but be suspicious of why we are shown so little.

    Did anyone here actually hear “I’ll kill you” *before* the words were put up on the screen at the end? I didn’t — which isn’t to say I don’t think she said it, but there is that text portion after the raw footage, which is a clear case of priming. And now I can’t watch the raw footage without hearing it, but I don’t know if it’s actually there or not. Thoughts?,

    And that whole last portion. Wow, just clearly messed up. One woman’s issues with anger management can’t be used to make a sweeping statement about an entire group (of over a billion people, no less!), and the idea that there haven’t been Jewish and Christian terrorists is absurd. And there have been murderous people, like Pol Pot, who didn’t believe in God. It’s clearly a video intended to smear Muslims, and as such — even though, mind you, I”m no fan of the Muslim faith — I’m deeply, deeply suspicious of the video.

  • Alex

    Thanks anom. I just get really irked at how the religious feel that everyone should respect their unsupportable ideas because they themselves think the ideas are respectable. We’re all familiar with the “war on xmas”, this latest cracker “desecration” from PZ. When their ideas are attacked, it seems that they immediately want to resort to intimidation and violence, instead of rationally debating the issues.

    “There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed.” [Bertrand Russell, "Human Society in Ethics and Politics"]

  • Alex

    Any idea a person can think of deserves consideration, but most of them deserve ridicule. Out of all the ideas people have had over the vast expanse of time, very few deserve respect. But those that do, earned it through dialog and demonstration, not physical violence.

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  • Javier

    Both are wrong there is no such thing as a religion of peace. The mere audacity that it takes to make a claim of any kind is ludicrous. Religion is and will also a bane on the world resulting in pain and suffering until the day is it put to death.

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

    Wow, Muhammad was indeed a pedophile. I learned this today.

    And Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. And while both of those things are clearly despicable to those of us living in the bright light of the 21st Century, its not entirely fair to judge these men for acting within the moral constraints of their own time and culture. By today’s standards Joseph, the supposed step-father of Jesus, was also probably a pedophile, as Mary was probably in her early teens at the time of their marriage. And I guess if you believe the whole story that makes God a pedophile too.

  • Jason

    This guy was looking for trouble. Replace his rants against women and Islam with “The stupid n****** were only useful picking cotton, letting their vote count as 3/5 of a vote was 60% too much”, and he’s in for just as much trouble. Granted, he’s more then free to hold, and to a certain, non-violent extent, express his beliefs, but at that point, he’s just being an idiot looking to piss off and infuriate a group of people.

  • PrimeNumbers

    If I get a religious doorstep caller, I’ll call the god of the Bible’s acts genocide (story of Noah), and I’ll accuse him of incest, rape and of being an atheist. I’ve not been hit once. Accuse Muhammed (pedophilia be upon him) and you get hit. I think that says it all. I’m glad I’m an atheist.

  • Erp

    Both in the wrong but the one who resorted to violence is further in the wrong. BTW if we substitute PZ and Donohue for the two, does that fit?

    Also on “Muhammad was indeed a pedophile”. Society at that time did not seem to have considered it to be unusual or wrong for him to have married Aisha that young or to have consummated the marriage as soon as she reached puberty even if it was at the age of 9. We can’t classify a person as a pedophile solely because he does what society expects of him. Note that by all accounts Aisha was the only virgin Muhammad ever married; all the rest of his wives were older, often (always?) widows. One would expect a real pedophile with his power to have arranged for a lot of child brides. On the other hand we would have expected that if God was actually intervening that God’s sense of right and wrong would have stopped it (just as God should have not ordered the slaughter of various groups including infants in the Tanakh).

    I’ve also wondered about the accuracy of the report that he consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was 9. Some people claim other Hadith would calculate her age to have been in the mid-teens when the marriage was consummated. We also have politics to consider. Aisha was a major political figure after her husband’s death and it would have been in her interest to emphasize his love for her from a young age.

  • Xeonicus

    I’ve noticed for awhile now that there is this tendency amongst many groups of Christians to malign the Islamic faith. My guess is that it helps to deflect attention away from their own misbehavior. Especially since 9-11 happened, there seems to have been a rise in this kind of fear mongering. Not to say there isn’t anything to criticize, but… pot. kettle. black.

    Glad I’m an atheist.

  • J Myers

    This thread is bewildering – are you folks serious?

    The woman does nothing wrong; she acts as if she actually believes what she claims to believe, and defends her faith as it requires of her. The pastor… the condescending, antagonistic, sniveling bastard… he was doing his damndest to elicit precisely that reaction. Nothing in his faith justifies his behavior; in fact, he was acting contrary to most interpretations of his faith (amorphous, arbitrary contrivances, that they are…)

    Both of them hold unjustified beliefs; one of them abides by their convictions, the other betrays what they claim as immutable truth. You can’t have your faith and eat it, too (unless you’re Catholic).

    Yeah, Mohammad was pedophile… guess they aren’t all clergymen.

  • philosophia

    I agree with Nancy: he’s a creep and she needs to get a grip. Also, morally speaking, I would say she’s definitely in the wrong — no matter how much of a jerk that guy was, that does not excuse physical violence and death threats (assuming, of course, that it was a death threat — it was kind of garbled, and I don’t necessarily trust the maker of that video).

    In any case, count me in as another vote for “so glad I’m an atheist”!

  • Alex

    The woman does nothing wrong;

    If lashing out physically when only provoked by ideas is not wrong, then the other idiot should have just walked up and punched her first without uttering a word.

    It IS wrong to unilaterally up-the-stakes of any competition. Thoughts (and words) are not capable of inflicting physical damage. The principals of the Enlightenment are based on these facts. No man should fear another man in the arena of ideas. If you can’t handle someone’s criticisms of your ideas then either refute them with countering ideas, concede, or walk away. Escalating to physical violence only expresses an inability to defend an idea rationally and is a fundamentally flawed tactic and/or strategy – hence my remark about taking the first strike and saving one’s breath.

    I guess we should just all walk around killing each other if we even think we may not like a person’s ideas. That is irrational and illogical.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/mosquewatch Jeff

    I posted this video.

    Would I punch an Atheist for calling my belief system stupid, dumb ? No. Would I harm an Atheist for berating me and what I believe in ? No. Atheists, you of all people should understand, on the rung of the ladder of islam, you are the worst of the worst. Please feel free too berate me, call Jesus a dead man on a stick, what ever you wish. I’ll just disagree with you.

    In Saudi Arabia they have just jailed and deported Christians. I wonder what would happen in Saudi if an Atheist openly said ” Allah (God) does not exist., he’s a fake !”

    Make no mistake about it, I defend Atheists. They have the right too speak their mind and say anything they want.

    EXCEPT IN MUSLIM LANDS.

  • sj

    Move on — there’s nothing to see here. It was like a thousand fights in a thousand bars that break out everyday — doesn’t prove anything about anything other than that. People insult each other and get slapped for it. And “slap” is about it. A small woman lands one on a big guy without any apparent damage and says “I’m going to kill you.” Oh boy, what a rumble. If a couple of six foot Muslim guys had beat up a woman Christian preacher the size of the Muslim here, I’d be a little more excited.

  • Maria

    I vote for “Something else entirely“.

    6. she got in his face, tried to take his magical book away, he snapped and called her magical deity a pedophile, at which point she assaulted him and threatened to kill him (in front of witnesses).

    as a result, she belongs in jail (and needs to take Anger Management classes) and the Christian preacher needs to stop being a Dick.

    agreed, and dick that he is, it is free speech. threatening to kill someone is against the law. she needs to get a grip-she’s in the us, not the middle east.

  • rememberer

    “On the bright side, I can’t think of any atheist mass murderers.”

    Here’s the most glaring example

  • Richard Wade

    This was like watching two drunks fighting over their honor and virtue in a back alley. What a pathetic and tragic demonstration of how they both have been debased by their drug. A pox on both their houses.

  • Darryl

    This shithead of a preacher was baiting her, and her violent reaction says nothing about Islam. If, when I was a fundy, someone had called Jesus a pedophile to my face I might have slugged him. I don’t excuse her outburst or her threat, but I can put it in context. In some places he could be charged with inciting a riot. I hate Christians like that.

    Darwin’s Dagger and Erp have it right: Mohammad was no pedophile. That is a false slur that is highly offensive to Muslims and shouldn’t be repeated. I know this may come as a shock to some of you who have been lulled by our permissive culture into thinking that it is normal and universal to push social maturity well beyond biological maturity, but when you reach puberty, you’re ready to make babies. Do a little reading on other cultures.

    Check your own family genealogies on marrying ages: you may find some ‘pedophiles’ in your family tree.

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org/ cognitive dissident

    The enemy of my enemy is…my enemy. Therefore,

    a). I’m gonna just step back and let this thing play out…
    and
    e). I am so glad I’m an atheist.

    “God is Love,” my ass…

  • Magpie

    FFS.

    If someone openly derides, over and over, something I hold dear, and if tempers get heated, I may punch that weasel in the face. In fact, I’ve done exactly that in the past (when some arse accused me of gross breaches in conduct, repeatedly, despite an glaring lack of evidence). I felt bad about it afterwards, but I thought the provoker was equally to blame.

    So these people have what we think of as nutty “things they care about”, but can you really say that you can’t be provoked? Do you guys really think that atheists are all magical scions of patience and virtue, who don’t get irrationally angry, ever? If so, I’m going to have to turn in my red-A badge.

    These are humans being humans. These humans happen to be religious. Wow. Nice catch! Now we get to scoff and feel superior!

  • justin jm

    I choose e).

    And Darryl,

    I know this may come as a shock to some of you who have been lulled by our permissive culture into thinking that it is normal and universal to push social maturity well beyond biological maturity, but when you reach puberty, you’re ready to make babies. Do a little reading on other cultures.

    I’m not sure where you got this idea. I cannot think of anybody on this blog who has said that. What do you mean exactly by social vs. biological maturity? I, for one, do not think it is okay for teenagers to have children. They aren’t ready. Don’t assume we’re moral relativists.

  • Darryl

    I’m not sure where you got this idea. I cannot think of anybody on this blog who has said that. What do you mean exactly by social vs. biological maturity? I, for one, do not think it is okay for teenagers to have children. They aren’t ready. Don’t assume we’re moral relativists.

    Justin, you have said it all.

  • gmcfly

    My thought is that the preacher was really trying to provoke the girl and get her to lash out like this on camera. Unfortunately, she took the bait.

    In hindsight, her attack may have been wrong, but I tell ya, I’ve been there. And when someone disses you and everything you believe like this in front of so many people, something just snaps.

  • J Myers

    Nothing wrong in the context of her belief system, Alex. I admit I could have been more explicit, but I thought it was obvious from the context of my post. Of course I think it is wrong to attack or kill someone on the basis of religious beliefs, but that is because I believe all religious beliefs are utterly baseless, and therefore cannot provide sufficient justification for any act.

    If lashing out physically when only provoked by ideas is not wrong, then the other idiot should have just walked up and punched her first without uttering a word.

    Mischaracterization followed by a false analogy. Her attack had nothing to do with “being provoked by ideas”–he blasphemed her holy prophet; he committed a horrifically evil act for which he must be punished. To us, it surely is wrong, but to her, it is her moral duty. Your alternative scenario does not fit the mold; there is no corresponding directive in Christianity. Whatever her supposed trespass, our good pastor should–how do they like to put it?–turn the other cheek. It would not be ethical for him to do as you say from our perspective, nor from his.

    It IS wrong to unilaterally up-the-stakes of any competition.

    I’ll see your assertion, and raise you my declaration that this is not necessarily so.

    Escalating to physical violence only expresses an inability to defend an idea rationally…

    This is patently untrue; one might be able to refute a point perfectly well, but might choose instead to bludgeon their opponent. And as I’ve already discussed, the defense of ideas was not the issue here.

    I guess we should just all walk around killing each other if we even think we may not like a person’s ideas. That is irrational and illogical.

    Here we agree–and this is why the very idea of religious freedom is incompatible with egalitarian society. What if the practice of your religion necessarily infringes upon the rights of others, as in this case? At least in the US, the law trumps that particular aspect of your faith. But how can that be? How can the legal constructs of a particular society override what you consider absolute metaphysical truth? Well, if your view if metaphysical truth is indeed true, the laws of humans would be secondary. This is why evangelists get punched, why abortion clinics are bombed, why the perpetrators express no remorse, why their sympathizers applaud, and why civilization will continue to endure this sort of inanity until religions and all their inherent lunacy are marginalized or abandoned altogether.

  • Happy Christian

    How can atheists write about “good” or “evil”? In a supposed godless universe there is none of either, right?.

    Just wondering.

  • J Myers

    How can atheists write about “good” or “evil”?

    Hey, HC… opinion on the matter varies widely among both atheists and (if you hadn’t noticed) theists. As I’ve recently had my fill of this topic elsewhere, I’ll simply refer you to a post where a recent conversation (as it was) transpired (it was not the topic of the original post; it all starts with comment #4). It’s on Pharyngula, so the tone is a bit more, uh, strident that what you might read here. It’s a long thread; I’d recommend at least searching for posts by commenter “Sastra.”

    I am obliged, though, to ask your opinion on Euthyphro’s dilemma. Is “good” merely what God arbitrarily declares to be good (in which case, good is nothing more than a command to act a certain way, in the absence of any justification for doing so), or is there some objective criteria that qualifies something as “good” (in which case, we can talk about good and bad on the basis of that criteria, with no need to reference God)?

  • Siamang

    How can atheists write about “good” or “evil”? In a supposed godless universe there is none of either, right?.

    No, there actually is.

    That you are blinded to that simple fact by your religion says more about you than it does about me.

    To save me typing and explaining something others have explained better, I’m going to wholesale quote Ebon Muse:

    http://www.daylightatheism.org/2008/08/morality-is-not-by-fiat.html

    As we’ve all seen, this is a common response of theists to atheists who offer principles of ethical behavior: the claim that, because we do not believe in an absolute Authority, we have no way to justify the principles we propose.
    But morality cannot be a matter of “who”. Plato showed why over two thousand years ago in the Euthyphro, and his dilemma still stands: Does God command something because it is good, or is it good because God commands it? If it’s the former, then there is an absolute morality that is not the creation of God, and the question “Says who?” becomes irrelevant – morality exists regardless of what anyone says. If it’s the latter, then there is no morality at all, merely the exercise of God’s whim.
    If you assume that morality is a question of “says who” – that what constitutes morality is defined by the decrees of some authority figure – then you must believe that that authority figure could change the morality of an action by mere fiat without changing any of the relevant facts. Could the very same act be either good or bad, based purely on how God chooses to view it? This is clearly absurd.
    Treating morality as if it had to be the decree of someone is the theistic conception, not ours. We should decline to play their rigged game. Instead, rather than a matter of “who”, we should argue that morality is and must be a matter of “why”. That is, rather than something imposed by an external authority, morality should be viewed as a set of rational principles which intelligent agents freely agree to abide by – not because they are commanded to do so, but because reason prescribes it as the best course of action for the benefit of all. This rational, humanist worldview, not a list of arbitrary commands decreed by fiat, is the only philosophy that truly deserves the name of morality.

  • Aj

    I don’t know whether the claim about Mohammad is true. I don’t think many 9 year olds are biologically mature, although it’s possible, puberty takes time. I don’t care whether a practice is common or sanctioned by a society, and I’ll judge it by my standards. Relativists… sheesh.

    The preacher clearly said that for the muslim woman’s benefit, it wouldn’t have been said if she wasn’t there. She also seemed to be acting in an antagonistic manner, I think both parties were looking to escalate the situation. There’s no excuse for hitting someone for saying things you don’t agree with, even if it’s about someone magical.

    The preacher wasn’t necessarily right about Islam that doesn’t matter either way. Provoking people i.e. “baiting” is wrong, but she shouldn’t have assaulted him, that doesn’t really compare to what he did. You have no right to not be offended, and you have no right to hit people if you are offended. I am so glad I’m an atheist.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    Mike Cohen said:

    The preacher was wrong. I’m not a Muslim, but I tend to take their side against Christianity or Judaism because I feel that they’re always being unjustly maligned.

    You’ve gotta be kidding me. “Unjustly maligned”? Here’s a few examples: teddy bear, Danish cartoon, 9/11 and others, Salman Rushdie, that lady who wrote Infidel, Iranian president, the entire Middle East, I could go on. Currently, no religion, not even Christianity, can hold a candle to the danger of Islam and its followers. Let me guess. In addition to the big bad Israeli oppressors, you think “the man” is deliberately keeping down all the minorities and poor people in this country too, right?

    On a side note, I find your opinion very odd considering you’re most likely Jewish given your last name. I thought Jews and religious Christians and honest, non-liberal atheists were the only ones willing to see the truth about Islam. oh well.

    Due to my utter disdain for Islam, I’d be the first to condemn her actions as indicative of that religion. But I simply can’t do it in this situation. I don’t think Islam is what provoked her to lash out at him. Another poster commented and I agree that this woman would’ve reacted in a similiar fashion to any perceived slight, whether about her neighborhood, her street corner, her mother’s weave. She’s clearly an unhinged, angry woman who can’t keep her crazy ass in check. That being said I found the preacher’s (who I admit is clearly an ass) words to be sarcastic but ultimately valid. Well I don’t know if Muhammed was a pedophile, but surely, Islam is a violent and destructive ideology, more so than even Christianity as it’s currently practiced.

  • Jen

    Darwin’s Dagger and Erp have it right: Mohammad was no pedophile. That is a false slur that is highly offensive to Muslims and shouldn’t be repeated. I know this may come as a shock to some of you who have been lulled by our permissive culture into thinking that it is normal and universal to push social maturity well beyond biological maturity, but when you reach puberty, you’re ready to make babies. Do a little reading on other cultures.

    I am hardly inclined to judge historical people outside of the context of their… context, but how many nine year olds are actually physically ready to make babies? I know its not unheard of, but I hit puberty early and I still didn’t get my period till I was 11- and these days, American women tend to get it much younger due to a variety of factors. I doubt many nine year olds back then- with less to eat and no hormones being pumped into their cows- had gotten their periods.

  • Darryl

    I am hardly inclined to judge historical people outside of the context of their… context, but how many nine year olds are actually physically ready to make babies? I know its not unheard of, but I hit puberty early and I still didn’t get my period till I was 11- and these days, American women tend to get it much younger due to a variety of factors. I doubt many nine year olds back then- with less to eat and no hormones being pumped into their cows- had gotten their periods.

    Since we can’t know, let’s just let it go and quit provoking the natives with “Mohammad was a pedophile!”

  • Darryl

    Due to my utter disdain for Islam . . .

    Un, why the “utter disdain?” Rather harsh, don’t you think? Am I wrong in my impression of you as a right-winger?

  • Jen

    I never said I would say it, I was merely pointing out that, if it is true she was nine, and I am not saying it is or isn’t, I don’t think we should assume nine year olds in any context or time period are physically ready to make babies (though a girl gave birth at six, once, according to snopes.com).

    But, regardless, I am still going to be a little disgusted at the thought, just like when I read about the cultures and times when the English married off their kids at twelve, or when the Americans bought their ten year olds thongs at the GAP.

  • The Unbrainwashed

    @ Daryl:

    I don’t consider myself a right-winger, especially with how the Republican party has been stolen by religious nuts. I’m somewhat conservative but more libertarian. But with relation to most of the atheists who post here, I’d say I’m very conservative.

    And yes I have utter disdain for Islam. It’s violent, oppressive, and fuck it, you know the rest. Do I think there’s a difference, fundamentally, between the three big ones? No, not at all. All three holy books are vile creations that advocate genocide, ethnocentricity, oppression, racism, war, bigotry, and much else. But while I have frustration with the Religious Right, I’m not deluded enough to believe the practical application of Christianity/Judiasm to be the same as that of Islam. Islamic countries and the fundamentalist ideals espoused amongst their constituencies are far worse than any other type of religion. Again, I highlighted just a handful of incidents in my previous post that occurred on the sole basis of Islam. Of course, the other two have similiar incidents, but not to the same degree.

    Are you defending Islam? I’ve noticed many liberals (atheist or not) have a higher prevalence for defending Islam than conservatives. I’ve come up with a theory, but it’ll take awhile to write and I’ll refrain if you’re not actually defending Islam.

  • remember

    “On the bright side, I can’t think of any atheist mass murderers.”

    Here’s the most glaring example

  • remember

    “it seemed like he said the “Mohammed was a pedophile” not only directed at her, but to deliberately get a rise out of her. So…I really don’t know if one side is more guilty than the other”

    “I think they were both out of line. The preacher for starting the crap saying the Muslim lady is ignorant and calling Mohammed a pedophile. Then the Muslim lady for saying she’s going to kill him.”

    “This shithead of a preacher was baiting her…. I don’t excuse her outburst or her threat, but I can put it in context. In some places he could be charged with inciting a riot. I hate Christians like that.”

    “If someone openly derides, over and over, something I hold dear, and if tempers get heated, I may punch that weasel in the face. In fact, I’ve done exactly that in the past.”

    “I found myself wishing that she had a suicide belt on.”

    “My thought is that the preacher was really trying to provoke the girl and get her to lash out like this on camera. Unfortunately, she took the bait. In hindsight, her attack may have been wrong, but I tell ya, I’ve been there. And when someone disses you and everything you believe like this in front of so many people, something just snaps.”

    “Religion aside, if somebody had called me out like that and then continued to demean something that is dearly important to me, with no other intention than to provoke/insult me, I probably would have punched him too.”

    And most apropos:

    “He was provoking her and got, not what he deserved, but what he was possibly hoping for – a violent reaction that puts him in the right. He’s a professional dick and religious zealot, she’s clearly an amateur.”

    and

    “The “preacher” was provoking a woman he knew to be Muslim in the hope that she would do just what she did. Then he could smugly and sanctamoniously say “See, Muslims are violent”. He’s a creep.”

    All right, everybody together now…

    “Give me a P! Give me a Z! Give me a P. Z. Myers!!!”

    Y’all’s logic and judgment are a bit inconsistent.

  • Grimalkin

    He was in the right to be out in the street preaching. That’s first amendment, right there. As long as he wasn’t unlicensed in an area where a license was needed, he was there by all rights. She came up to him and started touching him and his bible, that’s a minor assault right there. As far as I’m concerned, she started (this is assuming, of course, that he hadn’t located himself right outside a mosque or something similar).

    When he said that Muhammad was a pedophile, he certainly had a legitimate reason to think so (Muslim texts themselves certainly paint that picture), but he was a jackass for saying it. That being said, there’s no law against being a jackass, so while I probably wouldn’t like him personally, he’s still in the right.

    Then she physically assaults him and threatens to kill. That’s NEVER okay. As far as I’m concerned, she’s entirely in the wrong (again, assuming that he was there legally and that he wasn’t deliberately trying to get a reaction by parking himself right in front of a mosque, for example).

  • Happy Christian

    Thanks J. Myers and Siamang for your responses. I couldn’t help but notice that both of you referred to God. Why did you write about Someone who in your universe does not exist?

    Just wondering.

  • TXatheist

    Free speech issue. She doesn’t like the fact muhammad had sex with aisha when she was 9? Then don’t honor the pedophile. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are luckily in our Constitution.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    Two stupids don’t make a smart.

  • Darryl

    Unbrainwashed, I haven’t learned enough about Islam to make any general statements with complete confidence. And, I am not inclined to summarily condemn it as you have. In the present state of affairs in this country I am not surprised by fundy Christians trying to vilify Islam–they feel threatened by any religion that competes with their’s, and they are using this phony “war on terror” as a pretext for their hatred. And, I am not surprised that many people, like you, would have formed such an opinion as you seem to have. So, in my view it is short-sighted to dismiss Muslims whole-sale as you have.

    While pleading mostly ignorance, I do know a few things about Islam: As I’m sure you know, any religion this old and this widespread undergoes significant variation. I know there are fundamentalists of different sects and moderates of different sects. I know that there are separate traditions within Islam (we all know now about the Sunni and the Shia). I know that, like any religion, the practice and the tone of Islam varies with the culture in which it is located. For example, there generally is a noticeable difference in attitude between Muslims in Indonesia vs. Saudi Arabia vs. Mauritania vs. the U.S. The Taliban are insane, cruel bastards, but all the Muslims that I have met here in the U.S. are hospitable, friendly, solid people.

    Al Qaeda is as much a political movement as it is a religious one (though Islam doesn’t separate these categories in theory as we have tended to do in the West), hence its war-like methods have as much to do with secular war as sacred war; and as we know from what our own soldiers have done in wartime, bad things are done in defense of high-sounding principles.

    People tend to be people, no matter where they are and no matter what they believe. Ignorance and cruelty is found everywhere, just as are reasonableness and goodness.

  • Gullwatcher

    Why did you write about Someone who in your universe does not exist?

    Just wondering.

    It was shorthand for “that imaginary being you worship”, which should have been obvious. You try discussing something, imaginary or real, without naming it.

    And in case you were wondering, we all know what you’re up to with the “just wondering” closer that you always use. It’s dishonest and you aren’t fooling anybody.

  • J Myers

    HC, you’re welcome… though I’m having difficulty determining if you are sincere but extremely naive, or just trolling. I’ll play along for now:

    Why did you write about Someone who in your universe does not exist?

    Because that is the matter in question, is it not? Does God exist? We can’t very well argue one way or the other if we don’t address the topic. And it’s certainly not, as you say, that any gods exists or do not exist in “our” (personal atheist) universe; they either exist in the universe, or they do not. Neither my preference nor yours has any bearing on the reality of the matter; we’d best examine the evidence.

    Why argue? Well, many people claim that some god or other exists, and that its existence implies all sorts of things, some of which are merely absurd, some aggravating, and some dangerous. Many people who claim that God exists wish to impose all sorts of unreasonable conditions on everyone else; they want to force others to live by their contrived and preposterous rules, they want to punish people for imaginary crimes, and some of them even want to hurt or kill those who disagree with them (refer to the video above). You see, whether or not any gods exist, these wacky people exist, and as long as they continue to make unsubstantiated claims upon which they base unjustified, often detestable actions, folks like me will challenge them.

    As to the specific reference I make above, I have to ask: are you familiar with the concept of a hypothetical? I’d think you’d understand that an often useful approach in such discussions is to assume, for the sake of argument, that part or all of what your opponent says is true. What, then should we expect to see? What are the implications? How does this provisionally granted condition comport with reality? In the case of morality, we can consider God as the “source” of morality, as Christians generally claim… and we’re led immediately to the Euthyphro dilemma. The obvious question for theists is then “how is any god relevant to morality?” While we’ve been patiently awaiting an answer to that question for the past two-thousand years, we’ve been developing and discussing theories of ethics amongst ourselves.

    As I noted at first, your questions are naive; there are many sites on the internet that answer these basics, and if you visit any other atheist blogs, you’ll see responses popping up in the comments quire regularly. If you genuinely want to understand atheism better, I highly recommend “Atheism Explained” by David Ramsay Steele. It’s about $12 on amazon.com, and though I don’t agree with ever particular, it is an excellent overview of atheism (and a fascinating exploration of some of the implications of classical theism). As for our discussion here, I find it decidedly one-way, and it’s unlikely I will engage you further unless you care to respond to at least some of the points I’ve raised.

  • Gullwatcher

    Here’s the most glaring example

    Sorry, remember, he couldn’t think of any examples because that example isn’t one. That topic has been discussed to death several times on this blog, so feel free to do a search and find the rebuttals so we don’t have to go into it all again for the n-millionth time.

  • Happy Christian

    TXatheist said

    “She doesn’t like the fact muhammad had sex….”

    How can a mindless universe produce an emotion described as “like” ?

    Just wondering.

  • Darryl

    Happy, you’re just being a disingenuous annoyance now. Do you actually think that such questions will accomplish anything? We’ve read all the bullshit arguments that theists have invented, and none of them holds up. Why don’t you just start adding value?

    Just wondering.

  • Polly

    Has anyone addressed the fact that it was a woman vs a man? Women in this society (the USA) tend to be permitted much wider lattitude with respect to violence against a man.

    Women slap men all the time on TV and it’s not viewed as abuse or a hate crime. If you can slap for an offensive pickup line, you can slap for “deeper” offenses, no?

    The very fact that she wasn’t arrested and prosecuted says something.

    I’m only going off of what I’m reading in the comments, I haven’t been able to actually watch the video.

  • Happy Christian

    Darryl wrote-

    “Do you actually think that such questions will accomplish anything? ”

    Do you have an answer to the Question- How can a mindless universe produce an emotion described as “like” ?

    Are you still wondering?

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    Happy Christian, I have no problems with the idea that an essentially impersonal, mindless, random universe can come up with an organism that possesses emotions and desires, including the idea of “liking” something.

    Sure, we don’t understand all the mechanisms that led from A to B, but I’m perfectly satisfied that we don’t need “God” in there somewhere to explain the (as yet) unexplainable.

    Still wondering?

  • Siamang

    Happy Christian said,

    Thanks J. Myers and Siamang for your responses. I couldn’t help but notice that both of you referred to God. Why did you write about Someone who in your universe does not exist?

    I didn’t write about any such thing. I quoted Ebon Muse. If you want to ask him why he referred to your claimed deity, take it up with him. His blog is linked from my post. I quoted him as rebuttal to your assertion based on the deity you claim exists. It was you who brought those claims into the discussion. If you want people to discuss your argument without in fact referring to any of the specifics of your argument, I will not comply.

    Similar to what I said before, your contributions to the conversation are saying much more about you than they are about any of us.

  • Magpie

    Happy, how can you talk about “Santa” when such a being does not exist? You ARE able to tell people that Santa doesn’t exist, aren’t you? Go on, try it and see.

    You’re a troll. No-one is that stupid.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    Seems like Happy Christian is putting forward the impression that he is not arguing in good faith. May I suggest that he quit the “gotcha” questions with its passive-aggressive posturing (“just wondering!”) and get to the point?

    Are you saying that it’s impossible for a dumb universe to come up with intelligent, emotional beings?

    Of course, that’s only if you’re really interested in discussing the issue, not just trolling for cheap thrills.

  • Happy Christian

    Magpie says Santa does not exist. Come on guys-
    Some of you have gone from atheist to athesanta.
    How bad can this world get?!!

    micketymoc wrote

    “I have no problems with the idea that an essentially impersonal, mindless, random universe can come up with an organism that possesses emotions and desires, including the idea of “liking” something.”

    In other words, nothing produced something.

    In the real world nothing does not produce something. Or to put it another way- nothing produces nothing.
    You still need to answer the Question- “How can a mindless universe produce an emotion described as “like” ?
    At least one of you is will to admit that you don’t understand. If you are going around saying God does not exist, then you need a well thought out answer to the Question.
    Best wishes to all

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    And….back to the video. Did anyone consider that this was a set up in order to make a point in a video? Not seeing the entire content/context makes me wonder if this was a convenient and possibly contrived result to capture on film.

    And another thing! When people argue like this is it 100% about their heart and soul convictions or is there some/large part of it that is about winning the argument for argument’s sake? I hate that. ‘Cause when I lose my mind and rant, its usually all about me.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    “nothing produced nothing” – that’s a rather clumsy straw man argument, Happy Christian. Undeniably, matter organized in an interesting way, a way that can understand and organize data. It happened, i.e. us. The probability of this ever happening naturally is not absolutely unlikely, but actually approaches “1″ when you consider the timescale involved. Wait, you don’t believe that the universe is billions of years old, right? Oops, my bad.

    In other words, if you had been paying attention, you would have realized that I had already answered your question. That is, of course, assuming you weren’t just playing this for all the “gotcha” you could get, and were consequently determined to misconstrue any answer that didn’t reflect the response you wanted.

    Sorry to disappoint.

  • Siamang

    Keep talking, HC. You’re doing an excellent job making our points for us.

  • JimboB

    Pitiful… just pitiful.

    ^ I’m referring to the video, of course. Though HappyC might also fit the bill. S/he doesn’t seem to understand that the universe IS something in itself. (i.e. something ‘created’ something else) I suppose we can then back up the question even further and ask where the universe came from, but then we’re all in over our heads. As micketymoc said a few hours ago, I’m satisfied with not having all the answers yet. Filling the unexplained gap with a “goddidit” just doesn’t do much for me.

    Cheers!

  • Happy Christian

    If I ever started down the path to becoming an atheist I would hit a brick wall after a few steps. That wall would be “cause and effect” which we all must deal with daily. It is highly impossible for any natural thing to be the sufficient source of its own existence. In order to cause itself, that thing would have to exist before it existed. That is not only absurd it is impossible. Therefore there must be a first and sufficient Cause. That Cause is what we usually call God (the uncaused Cause). In a sense, for me it would take more faith to be an atheist than it takes to be a theist.
    Best wishes to all

  • http://joniruhs.wordpress.com Joni

    btw I meant the arguing in the video.

  • J Myers

    HC, I see now you are troll. You’ve been given some answers, which you’ve given no indication you comprehend; you’ve been given some references, which I’m guessing you ignored; and you asked progressively sillier and sillier questions.

    In other words, nothing produced something.

    Wrong; as another commenter noted, the universe is something. Things arise withing the universe according to the properties of the universe. When it rains, puddles form. When stars burn, heavy elements form. And when imperfect replicators are subjected to selection pressures, life forms.

    In the real world nothing does not produce something. Or to put it another way- nothing produces nothing.

    Wrong.

    You still need to answer the Question- “How can a mindless universe produce an emotion described as “like” ?

    We need to answer the question? That’s some gall there, HC… you keep ignoring all the points we raise and the questions that we’ve put to you. But anyway, beneficial behavioral tendencies offer competitive advantages just as well-adapted physical structures do; I suspect they arose in precisely the same manner (ie, they evolved).

    If you are going around saying God does not exist, then you need a well thought out answer to the Question.

    Super-spectacularly WRONG. Not knowing the answer does not mean that therefore some god exists–all it means it that we don’t know the answer! In no way is this evidence that we were created by any god, by a council of intergalactic space nymphs, or by a flock of invisible winged monkeys. You don’t get to claim that any of these things exist simply because humans haven’t solved every (or a particular) mystery of the universe. God either exists or does not exist, regardless of what we know or don’t know.

    You’re all hung up on “something from nothing,” and yet, what do you do? You posit the grandest something imaginable, an all-powerful god, and you’re somehow comfortable with this thing–that’s right–coming from nothing. If I might borrow a phrase: If you are going around saying God exists, then you need a well thought-out response to the first-cause issue, to the Euthryphro dilemma, to the problem of evil, to the utter lack of evidence for God, and the ever-expanding body of knowledge and theoretical framework that scientists are able to advance without the need to invoke any deity.

    Good luck.

  • J Myers

    Ah, now you explicitly invoke the “first cause” argument… as I’ve just shown, it’s more an issue for you than it is for us. Either something can exist without a cause, or everything needs a cause. If something can exist without a cause, why can’t the universe exist without a cause? We at least have some pretty good evidence that the universe exists. If it’s God that exists without a cause, well, I’m open the possibility, but given the lack of evidence, it doesn’t appear likely. If everything needs a cause, and God is the cause of the universe, then what is the cause of God?

    As I’ve already explained, lack of knowledge is no justification for proclaiming the existence of your deity of preference. There are things we will surely never know, and several reasons for this: there are things we will not have time to investigate before the extinction of our species; there are things that are potentially discoverable, but will never occur to anyone; and there are things that are surely beyond our ability to comprehend (alas, ensuring the persistence of the god-of-the-gaps “argument”). The underlying cause of all existence may be such an unknowable, and if it is, our inability to explain existence does not and never will constitute an argument for any god.

    You’d do well to remember that an explanation is only an explanation if it’s 1) true, and 2) comprehensible. Consistency will be a feature of an explanation (ie, it cannot contradict other things known to be true), but does not, in itself, offer any actual support for the proposed solution.

    As for the faith cliche you throw in at the end… well, for reasons given above, I disagree.

  • Siamang

    Hey Happy Christian…

    I was wondering if your internet was working.

    Mine is two-way, I can read what other people say, as well as type what I want to say.

    Hoping yours gets fixed soon,

    Siamang

  • Richard Wade

    Is it time to sing “Bloghide” again?

    Trollin’ trollin’ trollin’…

  • Polly

    I guess the original topic has officially been crowded out.
    Oh well.

    Troll:1

  • Darryl

    J Myers said:

    You’d do well to remember that an explanation is only an explanation if it’s 1) true, and 2) comprehensible. Consistency will be a feature of an explanation (ie, it cannot contradict other things known to be true), but does not, in itself, offer any actual support for the proposed solution.

    This is debatable. Truth is a philosophical notion. As such, it is whatever we say it is. There are many definitions of truth depending upon the sphere to which it applies. If, as I assume you are, referring to scientific truth, then the degree of fit or correspondence with the larger system previously propounded is a test for truth, and implies that truth is a “fuzzy” category–it may be thought to come in degrees.

    The history of science shows, among other things, that truth changes over time as the system changes and as models of increasingly better fit are advanced. I’m sure you can give examples of models or theories that are true in some cases, but untrue in others.

    Thus, an explanation may be true here and false there without losing its status as an explanation.

  • J Myers

    Darryl, it’s true ( :) ) that anyone can introduce difficulties by toying with definitions… by “true,” I simply mean real; actual. We can get into an epistemological discussions about how we can actually know what is true, but as long as we agree that objective truth (ie, reality) exists independent of our knowledge and opinions, my point stands. God either created the universe, or he did not; arguing that he hypothetically could have (as HC seems to be doing) simply because you haven’t received incontrovertible evidence to the contrary does nothing to support the contention that he actual did.

    The history of science shows, among other things, that truth changes over time as the system changes and as models of increasingly better fit are advanced.

    History shows that our understanding changes; whatever we know (or think we know) about a particular phenomenon does nothing to alter the actual phenomenon itself.

    I’m sure you can give examples of models or theories that are true in some cases, but untrue in others.

    If an otherwise flawed model happens to predict a correct result in a particular circumstance, it’s “truth” status remains unchanged; we may have a limiting condition in which the model is useful (e.g. Newtonian mechanics at non-relativistic speeds), but the overall model is, fundamental, unsound.

    The point is that an explanation, by definition,, must be true in order to be an actual explanation. I can say that my neighbor planted the flowers in my back yard, and that’s perfectly plausible, but in what sense does this account provide any useful information unless it actually happened?

    I’m going to be unavailable for a bit; I’ll check back tomorrow to see if this thread is still chugging along….

  • Darryl

    by “true,” I simply mean real; actual.

    We can get into an epistemological discussions about how we can actually know what is true, but as long as we agree that objective truth (ie, reality) exists independent of our knowledge and opinions, my point stands.

    The “real,” “actual,” and the “objective truth” are all philosophical categories that are assumed to exist as a matter of practicality.

    History shows that our understanding changes; whatever we know (or think we know) about a particular phenomenon does nothing to alter the actual phenomenon itself.

    We never know the “actual phenomenon itself.” That is a metaphysical category that gives ground to theists who depend upon such things.

    You’re trying to be positive about something that resists positive terms. I agree that “. . . anyone can introduce difficulties by toying with definitions . . .” But, I’m talking about the meaning of terms you are using as they bear upon the substance of argument, and I’m not trying to introduce difficulties for their own sake.

  • Happy Christian

    I thought this would be a “friendly” blog.

    J. Myers wrote-
    “Things arise withing the universe according to the properties of the universe.”
    Definition of property “1 a: a quality or trait belonging and especially peculiar to an individual or thing b: an effect that an object has on another object or on the senses”

    See the word “effect” in the def? Reminds me of pool balls on a table. In the game they are not supposed to move unless hit by the Q ball. In turn the Q ball is set in motion by a moving Q stick. The Q stick cannot move unless something already moving moves it, etc, etc. In order to avoid an infinite regress there needs to be an unmoved Mover. This is What we usually call God.

    Would you agree that it is reasonable to believe that all events have a cause?

  • Jeff Satterley

    Happy Christian:

    We have no idea what the first cause was (or if it actually exists). You can call it whatever you want, but that does not give us any information about any property of that first cause. Unfortunately, calling it God leads others to believe that this first cause is intelligent and supernatural, when if fact there is no evidence of this. If I decided to call the first cause “Joe Pesci”, it doesn’t mean that first cause has any of the characteristics of the Italian actor (although I’ve heard it doesn’t like the be told that it’s funny).

    As for proving there was a first cause, it is still an open question. What seems intuitively true is not always the case when you spend some time looking at what is known about Physics. Things we take or granted as true at the macro level of objects we can see and touch don’t work the same way when we talk about atomic structure (i.e., quantum theory and the Schrodinger’s cat scenario). I’m not claiming to know there was no first cause, but I’m definitely not knowledgeable enough to claim there MUST be a first cause. Even the leading scientists can only trace back in time to just before the Big Bang happened; we have no idea what came before that. It’s conceivable that the universe has always existed, or that our universe is one of many in a multiverse, which has always existed. Again, these are just conjectures, but they leave the door open for no first cause to be needed.

  • Happy Christian

    The world I live in there is a cause and effect connect. The def of property includes that idea- “b: an effect that an object has on another object or on the senses” The connect is so strong that it is called the Law of Cause and Effect.

    Jeff Satterley mentioned the Big Bang.
    A. All events have a cause.
    B. The Big Bang was an event.
    Thus: C. The Big Bang had a cause.

    Like I say, for me, it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a theist.

  • Darryl

    A. All events have a cause.
    B. The Big Bang was an event.
    Thus: C. The Big Bang had a cause.

    Like I say, for me, it takes more faith to be an atheist than to be a theist.

    Happy, syllogisms prove nothing because their suppositions cannot be proved. We cannot be sure that “all events have a cause.” Neither can we be sure that “the Big Bang was an event.”

    But, to the salient points here:

    First, as others have said, to fill a void of knowledge with such an idea as god is pointless if your goal is to understand what happened and how.

    Second, as I love to tell theists who use the old arguments about ‘Unmoved Movers’ and ‘First Causes’ and all that jazz, if we really talk about the kind of Universe that you, as a Happy Christian, believe to exist, we’re not talking about an Unmoved Mover as Aristotle might have understood it–not the deduction of a syllogism in Natural Theology–we’re talking about the God of the Bible; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; we’re talking about the God that requires worship and obedience; the one that has a Chosen People; etc.

    Now, to modern minds like ours, which is more likely to be your First Cause, if we suppose that there was one, though we cannot prove it, an undefined, omnipotent Designer or Builder of Universes, or the God that commanded his people in ancient times to go into a city, take it by force, and kill every living thing in it–Oh, and also wanted some of the booty for a sacrifice?

    I’m going for the first One. But, as I said above, it’s pointless to use what we clearly don’t know exists to fill in the missing pieces of a puzzle that we are slowly putting together, though we have no way to know if we shall complete it.

    It would take more faith than I can muster to be your kind of theist than to be my kind of atheist. I have to have a good reason to believe.

    I have to have a cause.

  • monkeymind

    HC, you are right. The universe was sneezed out of the nose of the Great Green Arkleseizure. I know because I read it in a book.

  • Happy Christian

    Darryl wrote-
    “I have to have a cause”
    I get it! The old cause and effect thing, right? I think I’m catching on!

    Also he said, “We cannot be sure that “all events have a cause.”
    That’s good. We need to question “scientific things” because mankind makes scientific progress by asking and answering questions. And we all know that science is very unstable and fluid. Are there many absolutes in science? Little should be considered absolute in science. To do so is a good way to see scientific progress slow or stop. There are perhaps some questions that science cannot answer. We may need philosophy to help us so don’t throw it under the bus yet.

    Keep wondering.

  • http://micketymoc.bluechronicles.net/ micketymoc

    Happy Christian: “Little should be considered absolute in science.”

    If you noticed, nobody claimed that science was absolute in the first place. However if you’re suggesting that we can somehow find god between the gaps in science, I find that very difficult to support.

    The idea of a “Prime Mover” doesn’t solve anything, because it’s just a philosophical device to bring an end to infinite regress. It’s the metaphysical equivalent of the edge of a flat earth, a projection of a finite intelligence that can’t see beyond the horizon yet!

    It’s an even taller order to attribute the usual powers of god to this Prime Mover, like begetting sons to be crucified, forgiving sins, or standing in our judgment!

    There’s lots of room for wonder, Happy Christian, but really, it’s far more rewarding to wonder about the Universe without the idea of a god getting in the way!

  • HeavyThinker

    And the troll officially won. Way to go guys. You should’ve stopped responding a long time ago.

  • Happy Christian

    Another person willing to ask questions was the German born U. S. biologist geneticist, and physicist. He is considered the preeminent biologist of the 20th century and was winner of the ’69 Nobel Prize (impressed yet). In ’86 he produced a work called Mind from Matter in which he asked a question- “How can we construct a theory of a universe w/out life and therefore w/out mind and then expect life and mind to evolve, somehow, from this lifeless and mindless beginning?”
    Keep in mind that this guy is not a philosopher using a philosophical device.
    O, the wonder of it all!

  • Jeff Satterley

    Happy Christian:

    You have failed to answer my initial objection. Even if we concede that there is a first cause, that it must be supernatural or intelligent? If its not both of those things, calling God attaches a misleading label to that first cause. I doubt you have even the slightest amount of evidence to decide what the first cause was, so to assume that it is God is a huge leap of faith. Somehow, it seems to require more faith to jump to a conclusion than to say that I, nor anyone else, know what the first cause was, or if it existed at all.

    I mentioned the Big Bang because that, so far, is the farthest back in time we know anything about. It had nothing to do with my argument that you, and anyone else for that matter, knows that at an atomic level every event must has a cause. If we take a look at, for example, quantum mechanics, we can see that causation may not work in a way that is intuitive.

    Philosophers and physicists have debated about the possibility of backward causation, where an effect can precede its cause. Quantum theory suggests that one interpretation of the positron is for an electron (which has a negative charge) moving backwards in time would appear to have a positive charge (i.e. a positron). Or, if hypothetical tachyons (particles which theoretically move faster than the speed of light) actually do exist, they could transfer information backwards in time depending on reference frames. Scientists have not been able to prove or disprove the existence of these particles.

    Obviously, the above does not prove or disprove a first cause; it is meant to show that intuition does not come close to adequately understanding the way things work, especially when we talk about things much smaller than we are used to observing (i.e. subatomic particles).

    By the way, I’m a big computer nerd, so for anyone interested in quantum theory (or computing, for that matter), check this article out:
    http://www.mcgilldaily.com/view.php?aid=5062

  • Darryl

    Heavy, I see your point. On the other hand, Happy, by responding as he has, has further discredited his position, and possibly learned something that he is too proud to admit.

  • Darryl

    Happy, anyone may wonder about anything–that’s a good thing to do. The point is what one will do about the wondering. Will one open the Bible to answer questions, or will one trust the latest knowledge? You weren’t trying to imply that your famous biologist was using the Bible to answer his question were you?

    I think Heavy may be right about you, that you are a troll. You seem to just be throwing out objections without any relevance.

  • Happy Christian

    Jeff Satterley,
    Do you want to discuss
    causality- the principle that there is a cause for everything that happens
    or causation- the process of causing something to happen or exist?
    Just wondering.

  • Jeff Satterley

    HappyChristian:

    I have no interest in discussing anything with you, since most people learn that circular definitions are invalid after they’ve left grade school. You’re definition of causality is laughable, and no philosopher or scientist would dare provide such a childish explanation.

    According to Sowa (2000), up until the twentieth century, three assumptions described by Max Born in 1949 were dominant in the definition of causality:

    1. “Causality postulates that there are laws by which the occurrence of an entity B of a certain class depends on the occurrence of an entity A of another class, where the word entity means any physical object, phenomenon, situation, or event. A is called the cause, B the effect.

    2. “Antecedence postulates that the cause must be prior to, or at least simultaneous with, the effect.

    3. “Contiguity postulates that cause and effect must be in spatial contact or connected by a chain of intermediate things in contact.” (Born, 1949, as cited in Sowa, 2000)

    However, according to Sowa (2000), “relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions as exact statements of what happens at the most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience.”

    (I stole this from Wikipedia, so everyone is aware that any idiot can find out about the basics if they take a second to look. Here’s a link to Sowa’s full article if anyone is interested, I’ll be reading more later on: http://www.jfsowa.com/ontology/causal.htm)

    I’m not an expert on the subject, but I’ve done 10 minutes of work and backed up my claim that you can’t rely on simple human experience to deal with the fundamentals of causality.

    You also STILL haven’t addressed my initial objection, which seems to be a common technique among argumentative Christians when dealing with something they know nothing about.

  • Happy Christian

    Jeff Satterley,

    You can quote from Wikipedia if you want. Reading Wiki is like talking to your back door neighbor over the fence. He has a lot to say, but you wonder how accurate and reliable his info is. Wiki is a good jumping off place, but I’m careful not to come to any final conclusions based on what I read there.
    Yes, I’ve read briefly about Sowa’s conclusions. I’m in the process of more study on his work.
    I think what we are dealing with can be reduced to the following- Is matter eternal or is Deity eternal?

    Here is a way to look at the long term effects of our different worldviews-
    If you are correct, It all ends at death and I lose nothing.
    On the other hand, if I am right, you lose everything and I gain eternal life in heaven. I will have e.l. not because I deserve it, but because it is given to me as an absolutely free gift. I’m sure you are not offended when I say that I hope you will change your mind.
    By the way, I’m not a troll as much as I am a fisherman as in “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.”
    Its been an enjoyable conversation. Thanks for your time.

  • Darryl

    I will have e.l. not because I deserve it, but because it is given to me as an absolutely free gift.

    You’d be advised to put off studying Sowa and get back to studying what Christianity actually entails. Eternal life given as an absolutely free gift? Hardly. Free stuff is always cheap stuff. You’re right about this much: you probably don’t deserve it. If you had given your all and spared yourself nothing in the pursuit of truth, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, and you’d be worthy of everlasting life. It’s clear to me that you have not.

    Happy, I doubt it.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Happy Christian:

    I’m not the one coming to a conclusion. I’ve said multiple times that I don’t have the information to decide whether there was a first cause or not, or what the first cause was if it does exist. You are the one making a positive claim, and thus you are required to present some evidence, which you have failed to do. I have no reason to believe that a first cause must exist, or that it must be supernatural and intelligent, based on your account. Your evidence consists of you saying that it is obvious. Using the word ‘obvious’ simply shows that you don’t have any evidence beyond your intuition, which I have already shown to be suspect when talking about the beginnings of the universe. It’s rather arrogant to claim something to be obvious when the world’s best physicists still claim to be in the dark about these questions.

    Your objection to Wikipedia is true of all encyclopedias, because they are all secondary sources. As I said in the post, I went on to read the primary source (Sowa’s paper) to make sure the information from Wikipedia was presented accurately. You can’t claim that Wikipedia is the problem when the primary source is cited for you to see yourself. I heard no objection from you that Wikipedia mischaracterized Sowa’s work, or that Sowa is grossly mistaken.

    I think what we are dealing with can be reduced to the following- Is matter eternal or is Deity eternal?

    I’m not sure what you even mean here. Of course a deity is eternal, its definition requires that it be eternal. However, you need to prove that one exists, which is where I have the problem. You can’t simply define something to be eternal, and then claim that it must be the first cause. You also haven’t shown why matter (or energy) cannot be eternal.

    Pascal’s Wager is a bogus argument; so many have already discredited it. Even if I wanted to believe in order to save my soul, who exactly am I supposed to believe? You haven’t given me any reason to believe the Christian doctrine over the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, various Ba’alists and pagan religions, and countless others. The likelihood that you are right is incredibly small.

    Just because you like your version or reality better than mine doesn’t make it correct. I prefer to base my beliefs on evidence rather than what makes me feel good. When I don’t have enough evidence to prove either side of an argument, I reserve judgment, which I have done here.

    I understand you hope that I would change my mind, but I am more likely to do that if I see some real evidence, rather than scare tactics (i.e., you’ll go to Hell if you don’t believe).

  • RocketRoach

    You know what’ is ironic?
    I always thought that early indoctrination (which is especially strong in Islam) completely atrophied critical thinking skills.

    Yet, this fervent believer presented a fairly rational, lucid
    argument against the concept of Trinity and its implications.
    She can connect several dots to achieve this, but she can’t (or
    refuses to) connect the two dots which separate “old man”+”preteen” from “pedophile”.

    I don’t want everyone to be an atheist like me, but if people
    applied the same standards they use on other people’s beliefs
    on their own, there would be many less bigots (like these two) around.


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