Regrets? Yes. Annoyance? Yes. Guilt? NO

Editor’s Note: More of Madison! Not only does he accuse the Apostle Matthew of lying; he feels no guilt about his days as a non-believing parish minister. David wrote this piece for the Rational Doubt blog’s series on clergy guilt. His essay stands out for its professed lack of guilt. Like him, I suspect there are many current clergy with similar feelings who have no intention of quitting. I doubt, though, that it they would be likely to admit to non-belief.

===========================

By David Madison, PhD

I was the contrarian seminarian.

My fellow graduate students at Boston University School of Theology flocked to chapel services every day, but I declined. Had I given up on God? No, but belief had began to fade—and worship was one of the suspect practices. Then too, while I understood that the very purpose of a seminary is to manufacture clergy, wouldn’t it have been academically sound—wouldn’t it have been honest—to put the God-question under the closest possible scrutiny? But daily worship at the chapel seemed to signal that the God-question was not on the table at all.

Not too far into my seminary career I wrote an essay titled, “On the Improbability of God”—not for any course, but just to get my thoughts down on paper. It was pretty damn close to atheism, so I guess my seminary pal Charlie—the only person I showed it to—qualifies as the first person to whom I confessed my deep suspicions that the god stuff just didn’t make sense.

He was not amused—and offered the kind of theobabble that has driven me up the wall so many times since. He assured me that he believed in “the God who resides in eternity, outside space and time.”

I did manage to hang on to theism—and yes I ended up in the parish ministry for nine years as I worked on my PhD—clinging to such esoterica as Paul Tillich’s thought that God is “the Ground of all being”—who would be limited by the concept of “existing.”

Paul_Tillich

I held onto the hope that I could find an academic niche somewhere to teach courses on the Bible. After all, you don’t have to be a Bible-believer to do that, and I’d been fascinated by study of the Bible since I was a teenager.

But as belief seeped away—I could hold onto Tillich only for so long—and I pursued my duties as a parish minister, the last thing I felt was guilt. I felt considerable stress/distress that I still had to play the role of devout believer; I was fatigued by the pretense.

“It’s your own fault,” might be one way to look at it—and I’m the first to admit that I’ve made some pretty bad decisions in my life, and—hey—when that happens you can get stuck in bad places. But there I was, trying to deal with it.

And yes, there was also the annoyance. More and more I wondered how people could be under the spell of indefensible theism. Leading Sunday worship was an endurance test. This is how I put it in my book:

I came to see the absurdity of people abandoning their mental faculties to religious sentimentality every Sunday morning. In the plush glow of stained glass windows, coddled by organ music and forced congeniality (yes, there are factions), they imagined that they were channeling a god. They seemed confident that this could be achieved by closing their eyes, earnestly thinking pious thoughts and muttering formulas. I wondered, What do you people think you’re doing? Had they given even one moment of critical thought to such piety and posturing?

And there I was presiding over it all, grinning and bearing it, even as the Ground-of-All-Being nonsense was wearing thin. The weekly worship services were torture–a pathetic blend of banality and silliness. No one from on high is paying attention, ladies and gentlemen, snap out of it.

Sometimes I wonder if I was really that much out of sync with many clergy. Not too ago I had a conversation with one of Italy’s leading journalists, who is an atheist and a critic of the Catholic Church. I asked him if he thought the cardinals in their highest drag, playing out all of the elaborate ceremony, as well as the layers of minions below them, really believed all the stuff that Catholics were supposed to believe.

“Not at all,” was his answer. It’s a business.”

I wasn’t quite that cynical, stuck in my role. But I do wonder how many clergy are really comfortable with the ideas about God that are bouncing around in their parishioners’ heads. I showed up on Sundays with The Ground of Being keeping me anchored, while the folks in the pews were there to keep on the good side of The Man Upstairs—literally, for most of them I’m sure, the Old Man in the Sky.

God Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detail

They had a Cosmic Buddy. Those clergy who have any depth of theological training know that this idea is not sustainable.

They aren’t atheists by any means, yet they still manage to minister to folks whose naïve god-ideas amuse or repel them. Which brings me to another important factor that eliminated the guilt factor: I was earning my paycheck. I did not shirk any of my ministerial duties, e.g., visiting parishioners in nursing homes—and taking them communion—attending countless church functions and committee meetings, doing the weddings, baptisms and funerals, and counseling folks going through bereavement and many other life crises. I wasn’t missing-in-action. I was committed to being a good pastor, despite the absence of belief in the deity.

My departure from the ministry came in 1977. I made my escape with the help of a parishioner who suspected that I might do well in sales. That proved to be a dead end, but it was a transition job; I eventually made my way into a career related to human resources.

I learned that there is a better way to help people, one free of useless dogma, accompanied by so much waste of time. A witticism from Catholic theologian Uta Ranke-Heinemann sums it up very well:

“Unbelievers are luckier, since they can spent their time on more useful things.”

====================

David Madison headshotBio: David Madison, Clergy Project member, was a pastor in the Methodist Church for nine years, and has a PhD in Biblical Studies from Boston University. His book, Ten Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith, was published last year by Tellectual Press.

>>>>>>>>Photo Credits:By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33757905 ; by Andrea Reese

“Creation of the Sun and Moon face detail” by Michelangelo – Unknown. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detail.jpg

 

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  • Kevin K

    I wondered, What do you people think you’re doing?

    I had much the same thoughts … from the pews. Going through the rituals, mouthing the words, became intensely uncomfortable for me.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Me too – even knowing I’d still be welcomed as a non-believer at my very liberal, Episcopalian church, I just didn’t want to spend my time there.

      • Kevin K

        I was part of that same church. The people were nice…I played on the softball team. Was a camp counselor. Helped out at the pot luck suppers. We had a lot of fun.

        None of that redeemed the fact that the services were painful for me to attend, because I did not believe the words that I was forced to say as part of the rituals. I could not wait to escape.

        • Linda_LaScola

          not quite the same church — at mine, a lot of people didn’t speak the words that were part of the ritual. I know because I’d look around to notice that a lot of lips weren’t moving.

          • ElizabetB.

            Our congregation still says the Apostles Creed. I was surprised to notice a while back that a very active lay leader doesn’t participate, and was interested when a minister from a tall steeple church visited to preach a special occasion & sort of hung his head during the creed. Didn’t notice any words : ) Myself, I’m compromised; I skip the “I believe” and chafe the whole time that “virgin” involves a mistranslation, etc — and keep encouraging our young minister when he substitutes a more recent statement that says more of what I think. Whew. Transitions can be painful, for sure. Thanks, Linda., Kevin, & David

          • Linda_LaScola

            Interesting! keep looking around for non-lip-movers and report back. Try not to stare though, I noticed that it can make people self conscious. Sometimes they’d look guilty and start moving their lips.

  • alwayspuzzled

    The essay is remarkably self-congratulatory, with a lot of smarter-than-you-are. This is the same mind-set projected by many Christian fundamentalists.

    • mason

      So why not offer an example of your critique instead of posting another vague generality?

    • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

      Though you’re obviously wrong about this author, what you’re describing is arrogance, which exists in all communities, not just fundamentalism.

      • Raging Bee

        Yeah, but Christian arrogance is SPECIAL!

        • http://timebottle.weebly.com/ Beau Quilter

          Yeah, it’s hard to beat the narcissism of Jesus:

          “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

          “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

  • mason

    David … “clinging to such esoterica as Paul Tillich’s thought that God is “the Ground of all being”—who would be limited by the concept of “existing.” Esoterica, IMHO is way to euphemistic for this kind of mental gymnastics and plain nonsense. Limited by the concept of “existing?” Really? Something doesn’t exist, but it’s the ground of all being. :)

    The type of fraud that’s engaged in by theistic apologists is even more bizarre than and dishonest tRump’s alternate facts. But it does demonstrate how desperately humans will cling to that which is non-existent.

    I had no guilt when I discarded my absurd theistic belief, but I did experience embarrassment https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fd08c7a88a5e22059778c21a375cc40f302b919be54d8f242ca23b07e6399023.jpg at times while a believer, thanks to cognitive dissonance, and after becoming secular to think how I and my parents were bamboozled.

    • Jim Jones

      > The type of fraud that’s engaged in by theistic apologists is even more bizarre than and dishonest tRump’s alternate facts.

      It’s also disturbingly incompetent. I’ve literally never seen even one good argument for anything religious. If apologists were con-men, I’d steal their money.

  • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

    “Unbelievers are luckier, since they can spend their time on more useful things.”

    The quote doesn’t quite get to the monumental uselessness and harm of religion. Unbelievers aren’t “luckier” – that suggests that believers have (in their belief) some merely lesser level of good luck. Also, the quote also gives the impression that believers “spend” their time on less useful things. They don’t – their time believing is completely wasted. The reality is that belief in a religious faith is a trap. Those caught in it are doomed to waste much of their life on a useless and harmful lie.

  • See Noevo

    “Regrets? Yes. Annoyance? Yes. Guilt? NO”

    An atheist with no reason for guilt.
    Makes sense to me.

    • mason

      So you’re saying an atheist does not or cannot experience guilt?

      • Linda_LaScola

        I think he’s saying some atheists don’t experience guilt — as evidenced by this post.

    • Jim Jones

      Odd, because you never make any sense. You also are stuck in the circular arguments which are your only stock in trade.

      “Why is Kim Kardashian famous?”
      “Because she is on TV.”

      “Why is she on TV?”
      “Because she is famous.”

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

    Patheos Nonreligious: content free if not whinging on and on about what they hate.

    • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

      Hey Johnny-boy! I pegged you as a Christian nutcase who just doesn’t like contrary opinions. I never figured you for a troll. Yet here you are.

      I think it’s ironic that someone whose blog often contains whingeing about how he hates atheists, comes here to accuse us of doing exactly what he does on his blog. Maybe if you permitted comments on your blog, we might be able to help you with some of your misconceptions about atheism. But let’s face it – you don’t want to be put straight – you’re much more comfortable with your delusions.

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/81ff5e0d6ba1fffb7ea4214e47bf0f5bd86d6690b1eefb12a5849c99004a6664.png

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

        I get atheism . I admire serious atheism. Come to Twitter or Facebook. That’s the medium I choose for discussion. Or you could dialog with me like Michael Shermer or Niles Eldridge did in a public forum. Perhaps you could publish a book like those of Russell we studied in grad school. We mostly don’t write about atheism on our site, but this area would wither without us.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          “I admire serious atheism. Come to Twitter or Facebook. That’s the medium I choose for discussion.”

          LOL. You criticize Patheos for being a forum for “pop atheism”, then you say you prefer Twitter? I mean, Twitter? Are you serious?

          The irony! So in your mind, a place where people can post their thoughts at length and invite comments and discussion is “not serious”, but a place where people can only post 140 characters is a better medium for serious discussion. Also, I think it’s ironic that a guy who will not open his Patheos page for any critical discussion whatsoever is criticizing other websites for not being serious.

          You crack me up. Before now, I thought you were just mildly nutty. Now I think you’re actually insane.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            It seems unlikely I am insane. What work is saying that do for a discussion? In fact, in years of blogging (including an open comment section on the Washington Post), I found conversations went better on Facebook (for long form where most of Patheos pieces are) and for short conversations Twitter. If I get a good critic, I invite them to submit a piece and I publish. In one case a critic sent 55 questions and I worked through them. Ignoring the fact that I have had uncensored dialog on Facebook where trolls are rare is odd of you. Come on over. Let’s talk.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I found your response to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” forum’s discussion about the original research on non-believing clergy: https://www.onfaith.co/onfaith/2010/03/18/doubt-truth-and-wonder-in-ministry/5463

            I remember you saying that “Recently a study showed that many ministers don’t believe what they preach” – when in fact, at that point, we had only reported on five. I remember thinking that it was perhaps a Freudian slip, in which you assumed, or knew, that there were “many ministers” and simply missed our assertion that this was a pilot study in which we interviewed five clergy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            This is relevant how?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So you had five liars taking money for falsehoods?

          • Linda_LaScola

            In the pilot study, there were five. In the second study, there were 32 and many more who expressed an interest in participating. Now there are over 800 members of The Clergy Project – a confidential online community for clergy who do not hold supernatural beliefs.

            They suffer greatly as they move from belief to non-belief. the progression is gradual and mostly they fight against it. They don’t want to lose their communities, their dedication to helping people, their families (in some cases) or their livelihoods.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Here is an idea: leave until you work out your beliefs. And yes, I have done it. Taking money to do or say thing you don’t believe is morally wrong. As for 800 … that’s not a big group compared to the number of clergy. Here is a second idea: spend one month advising a positive non religious agenda and belay the “sky Daddy” level talk.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I’m interested to know what you consider to be a “positive non religious agenda.”

            Also, while clergy may no longer believe in the supernatural, they still believe strongly in community and can be very effective with their congregations irrespective of their own beliefs. The clergy I’ve talked with struggle greatly with ethical issues and would like nothing more than to be honest with themselves, their congregation and their family. Unfortunately, life does not always sort itself out so easily.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So they lie to get money and do some “good.” Hypocrites. Cowards.

          • Linda_LaScola

            What would you consider to be a positive non religious agenda?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Stop talking endlessly about us for a month and tell us about your joyful secular lives in detail.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Thanks — I will give this some thought.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great. I spent most of a summer discussing Shakespeare from my perspective on this site. In general Patheos non-religion looks like they need us.

          • ElizabetB.

            John Mark N, I think you might find interesting this Rational Doubt post by a regular contributor… he talks about the joy and wonder he experiences, and there’s some academics in the discussion. I’d say there’s a pretty wide continuum of viewpoints on this site… Linda’s even asked me to contribute, as someone sorta “in the middle.” This is Chris Highland’s “Freethinker’s Trek Through Spirituality, Mysticism and Nature” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2017/03/freethinkers-trek-spirituality-mysticism-nature/

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Very cool. Step back and look at Patheos non religion in general. What do you see? How much is angst speech and how much is for their point of view? Atheism? Cool. Good mentors. This? Ugly name calling anti intellectualism

          • ElizabetB.

            That doesn’t sound like Chris’s post! Are you thinking of Patheos non-religious as a whole?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes! Of course… Good is always in chaff!

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks! I would say that the good is worth the chaff. These interactions have surely been helpful to me in figuring out what I agree with and don’t — along with reading theology, biblical studies, etc. And I surely take your point about people who have suffered under atheistic regimes. But I do think there can be value in venting, at least for some, and I support there being a place for that… Appreciate the tip about “On Faith” — the list of authors promises some good reading!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Study is great! That’s what restores my traditional Christian beliefs, even when I did not want them. The point is simply that when one advances one’s belief system primarily by tearing down another… not good.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks, John Mark N. That’s interesting… was there one thing in particular you found convincing, or one theologian especially, or a certain outlook or course of study….?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            My go to was Swinburne and Schmemann … I really like Dorothy Sayers, Plato, and Dante too on these topics.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks very much for the intro to Schmemann, and if you mean “Richard,’ to Swinburne – I haven’t been aware of them. …I hope your transition was not an angst-filled one!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            It was not fun, but a moral compass (from parents not me) helps. Of course, there were areas where I FAILED that moral compass, but that was wrong and one moves on. Richard Swinburne is a jewel. I don’t always agree with him, but he is world class.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Though his piece is very badly argued.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            That’s a good example of a positive post. Rare here. Look at the site as a whole. Again atheism is plainly got a case … secularism in general has something to say… but pop secularism that is focused on tearing down other points of view leads to the kind of hate that have made crimes against humanity the norm in atheist regimes.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I believe strongly in community. Could I join your organization, get paid, and pretend to be an atheist while encouraging community and writing anti-atheist stiff from what I discover at your group during my paid gig?

          • Linda_LaScola

            No one is paid to belong to the clergy project

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So you do not work for an atheist organization? There are no atheist organizations with payroll? If there is one, can I join to build community and get info for my blogs on my doubts about atheism?

          • Linda_LaScola

            I am not and never have been an employee of an atheist organization, nor of the clergy project, which has no employees.

            As a Patheos blogger, I think you can blog about your doubts about atheism if you want to. Let me know if you do.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I responded to 55 questions from an atheist recently. Who pays you?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You are an “independent qualitative research consultant ”. Who are your main clients? Are they atheist organizations? Don’t be coy!

          • Linda_LaScola

            I prefer not to respond directly to your questions. A quick Internet search would show you this:

            LASCOLA QUALITATIVE RESEARCH COMPANY DESCRIPTION
            Qualitative research: focus groups, depth interviewing and analysis in issues and services (e.g. public policy, mental health, health care, human resources, associations). Expertise in exploratory studies, sensitive topics and difficult respondents. Over twenty years interviewing experience in business and clinical settings.

            Also, Scott Douglas Jacobsen of Conatus News wrote this profile of me: https://conatusnews.com/interview-linda-lascola-editor-rational-doubt-clinical-social-worker-psychotherapist-qualitative-researcher/ and I published extensive excerpts from it here on the blog last February. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2017/02/4493/

            Scott also wrote profiles of several clergy project members which appear on the blog.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great. I thought so. Would it be wrong to lie about this if a lie was advancing the cause, the truth was difficult, or helped in a personally painful situation to lie? If yes, then how is that different than what a pastor does in his or her business relationship with his or her parish under the watchcare of your (unpaid) advocacy position? If no, then why would anyone trust your self-report here?

            This encouraging people not to tell the truth in their profession seems hard to reconcile with sound practice.

          • Linda_LaScola

            In my research interviews I don’t encourage people one way or the other. I listen to them and ask questions.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Of course. But is it wrong to lie to your employers, clients, and other people about what you are doing? Is it wrong to keep doing it under false pretenses?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Who are your clients? Are they atheist organizations?

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            He has attacked atheism, in about the most unreasoned way I’ve ever seen: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/2016/01/reason-is-not-skepticism/

            In it, he writes:

            “An atheist… often will make four basic assumptions about knowledge:

            Assumption 1: Reason is primarily about skepticism.
            Assumption 2: History shows that strong religion hurts science.
            Assumption 3: “Extraordinary Claims Need Extraordinary Evidence.”
            Assumption 4: Religious Faith is not based on or even cannot be based on evidence.

            These assumptions are wrong, but without them, much of the atheist attack on belief would be silenced.”

            Reynolds only actually addresses the first assumption, while he leaves the others as mere unfounded assertions.

            In regard to assumption 1, the premise is flawed. As an atheist, I have never assumed that reason is primarily about skepticism. Reason is about finding out what suits the evidence. Sometimes what we’re told is actually correct – for example, if someone tells me the Sun will rise tomorrow, I have reason to believe him – experience tells me he’s probably right, and I don’t need skepticism in order to prove the hypothesis. But if we want to find out for sure, we approach the issue skeptically and we use reason to figure out what’s true. Reason and skepticism are both tools, but they are separate.

            As for assumption 2, history does show that religion hurts science – one example is the Galileo affair. I think it’s deeply ironic that Reynolds asserts, as part of his argument, that ” the Sun certainly does not go around the Earth”. In 1600, the Christian authorities in Rome took a man named Giordano Bruno out of the dungeon he had been in for eight years, drove a nail through his tongue, tied him to a metal post, put wood and some of his books under his feet, and burned him to death. Among Bruno’s heretical writings were the ideas that the Earth revolves around the sun and that the sun is a star. Copernicus and Galileo later published books that made that same claim. Copernicus died before he could be tried by the Inquisition, but Galileo wasn’t so lucky – he was tried as a heretic and found guilty of spreading the hypothesis of heliocentrism (an idea we now know to be true). He avoided Bruno’s fate, but his sentence was that his book would be banned, he would have to publicly admit that he was wrong, and he would also have to be placed under house arrest and perform religious penance for an extended amount of time. In this case, and in many other cases, religion clearly harmed scientific progress.

            Assumption 3: “Extraordinary Claims Need Extraordinary Evidence.” is absolutely correct, ESPECIALLY when the claims affect a person’s life in important ways. If my wife tells me that she ate a bagel this morning, I have no need to dispute it, because it really doesn’t matter. But if she tells me that she saw a magical fairy who insists that we sacrifice our daughter to the Lord of the Harvest, I’m going to need to see some pretty conclusive evidence, because that’s going to affect our lives deeply. Christianity is a similar issue, since Christians have been known to kill based on Biblical texts such as 2 Chronicles 15:13, which demands that Christians kill unbelievers. We need proof before we start believing myths that urge us to do things that might adversely affect our fellow humans.

            Assumption 4 is also correct. Why? Because faith ALWAYS relies on faulty evidence. Neither the Bible nor personal revelation are the kinds of evidence on which people should be basing their faith, yet many people believe based on faulty or nonexistent evidence. Biblical evidence only shows that a book was written in which claims were made of a god – the Bible is not proof that a god exists. As for personal feelings, well, the brain can quite easily be fooled, even when a person is not under the influence of drugs or psychosis. If I’m going to believe in a god whose laws are written in a book that advocates murder, genocide and eternal punishment for disbelief (among other similarly immoral things), I’m going to need something a bit more substantial than a book and some emotional feelings that make me believe that I might be able to go to Heaven after I die.

            Reynolds also writes about atheism here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/2015/12/christmas-is-a-reason-to-be-christian-or-why-i-am-not-an-atheist-pagan-or-muslim/

            In this one, he writes:

            “Atheism is (by nature) godless. This would be good if there were not a God, but God exists and Christmas was the historic demonstration of the fact. There is more intellectual power in a Christmas children’s pageant at your local church, than in all of the red-hot rhetoric of Internet atheism.”

            …and so he continues, saying that atheists strain to account for Jesus’s life (we don’t), that we “decided” he must be a myth (rather than reasoning that it is probably so – see Dr. Richard Carrier’s “On the Historicity of Jesus” ) and he accuses us of using facts (yes, we do that, because they bring the beauty of truth, and unlike religion, they never try to fool us into believing a comforting lie).

            The fundamental problem with people like Reynolds is that they give gods the credit for what the human mind creates – and they dare to call atheists anti-intellectual. They fill their fictional and empty faith with human works, falsely attribute them to god, and then they have the gall to say atheism is empty.

            Yes, John, atheism lacks gods, but in return we atheists respect humanity, giving it its due. We even respect the works of those who created art in mistaken service to gods. You would steal art, music, and all the most beautiful products of the human mind to construct your false gods. You would empty humanity of what it creates, and you would give it all to gods who are figments of your superstitious imagination. Is that “faith”? I call it treason. There is no greater betrayal.

            And no, John, there is no God. It is a certainty that the Christian god doesn’t exist, because he is a divine comedy of contradictions: a God who is supposedly omnipresent yet also transcendent; a god who is omnipotent, yet so weak that he is incapable of simply forgiving humans without humans helping out by believing; a god who knows everything that will ever happen, but who is surprised and angry that Adam has eaten of the Tree of Knowledge; an omnibenevolent god who kills 2,476,676 people (yes, someone has counted them) and commands his believers to murder, rape and enslave in his name. He even kills children simply because they make fun of a man’s baldness (2 Kings 2:23-24).

            And if humans don’t believe in this ridiculous and unbelievable myth, they are threatened with endless torment in Hell, and the “omnipotent” Christian god is so weak that he cannot stop this from happening. Even if he did exist, this is surely not a god worthy of devotion.

            John, your god is the god of paradoxes, and he’s a vindictive mass murdering psychopath. It is good that he cannot possibly exist.

            As for Christmas, if it shows us anything, it is that not even the thief named Christianity can steal what is wonderful about humanity. The trappings of Christmas: the Christmas Tree, the wreaths, the mistletoe, the feast – all pre-date Christianity, as do the human traits of gladness, good cheer, friendship and community: these are traits that evolved as our society evolved. They have nothing to do with gods. But what Christianity (and all religion) does is lie to us about all of this – it co-opts everything, including people’s humanity, morality and the fruits of human ingenuity, and it demands the credit – on pain of eternal torture.

            Believe or die! Render unto God! Kiss the Godfather’s ring! John, your faith reflects the depraved philosophy of a Mafia enforcer. Shame on you for believing in such an abhorrent myth. It’s time we did away with such foolish and harmful ideas.

            As we know, Reynolds is an intellectual coward who doesn’t allow comments on his blog, which makes it difficult to disabuse him of his misconceptions and fallacies, unless we do it elsewhere, where he knows his readers won’t see them.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Thanks, Ian for the links and your responses.

          • ElizabetB.

            I see quite a difference between one’s beliefs changing while one is clergy vs. joining an organization one doesn’t believe in, in order to profit from it….

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            What about staying after ones beliefs have changed and writing about it negatively under a pseudonym ?

          • ElizabetB.

            Being in the midst of one’s views changing is quite complicated for anyone, and being clergy complicates it even more. I think it’s helpful to have a venue to air one’s thoughts, get feedback, and try to figure out the best path forward. For myself, so far I haven’t read a piece here that made me think the person was not working out their path with integrity.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I think you could stop taking a check once you start lying. It’s not complicated. And yes, I have done it.

          • ElizabetB.

            Well, that’s an interesting proposition : ) How much is too much “lying”? When there’s one tenet one disagrees with? Ten? Suppose one avoids preaching the items they don’t believe and focuses on those they do? ….The denomination I grew up in has declined to define “essential tenets,” tho there have been initiatives to do that over the years. It’s left to the individuals themselves and the local discerning communities to evaluate.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I think when I am attacking views my workplace thinks I support, I am a hypocrite. Look I have been there: if you say x is true for money you would believe it.

          • ElizabetB.

            Transition can stretch over months, due to both figuring out just what one does believe and logistics… During that time, I think clergy whose views are changing can critique their former views and advocate for what they think is more nearly true. What I have observed is people passionate to “do no harm” as they transition.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. I have no problem with that. I have a problem with snarking or putting down the beliefs of the “people in the pews” as one transitions out. Lying to people (the “little people”) is also not wholesome and feeds into the perception that pop atheism has a classist problem.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            It is until you state “I don’t believe x” knowing that your employer would not keep you for not believing x and you keep taking a check. Person up and do the right thing.

          • Linda_LaScola

            How about this scenario: Believing in substitutionary atonement seems absurd, so you read or reread the work of sophisticated theologians until you find an explanation that you feel comfortable with. Then, whenever Jesus dying on the cross comes up, e.g., in the liturgy or in a sermon, you are thinking in terms of your new rationale, while still using layman’s language to the people in the pews.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great example. Fits my real life… if I am in a group that makes substitutionary atomenment necessary, I explain my new views carefully. People then can choose to retain or fire me. Have seen both happen. Honesty works! Slipping one over on the poor laity is condescending and bad.

          • Linda_LaScola

            This scenario I described is one I heard in interviews with non-believing clergy describing techniques they used when they were trying to believe. Eventually the technique stopped working for the people I interviewed, but I imagine there are some practicing clergy that this continues to work for.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            They are lying for money. That should not be encouraged or held up as brave. Brave is having the courage of our convictions. Giving a platform to people who are taking money under false pretenses is sad. If you think it moral, why should people believe anything you say about your work? How do we know you are not spinning a tale for your cause while doing and believing other things?

          • Linda_LaScola

            Your initial response was very positive. You identified with the scenario I presented: “Great example. Fits my real life.”

            That changed when I added that it was a technique used by non-believing clergy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. I think the scenario is realistic, but the response (lying to people while taking their money) is very bad. Let’s get specific: if I decided I was an atheist (something I seriously considered), I would go to my faith based employer and say what I thought. I would make the case they should keep me or (out of Christian charity) give me 3 months for the good I had done. That would not be a right, but asking for mercy. This would not be easy, but would be ethical. Lying to people because the alternative is hard is a breech of ethics.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Non-believing pastors have told me how they avoid lying. For instance, they will say “Scripture says….” or “The Bible teaches….” and then teach a lesson around that about modern day life.

            I think a lot of believing pastors do the same — at least in progressive Protestant churches that I’ve attended. People are not told what they must believe, but instead are helped to apply the message of Jesus to their daily lives.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            That’s a classic way of lying. Leave the mark thinking you meant one thing when you did not. Scam 101

          • ElizabetB.

            I think “knowing that your employer would not keep you for not believing it” is a key — that varies widely, as do other factors.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Of course. That is why when I disagreed I privately explained my disagreement and tried to persuaded. Sometimes this went well. . . And sometimes not so well (in job terms). In any case, ethics are for when things are hard, not when they are easy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I encourage people to read my Post piece and compare it to the certainty (religion is absurd here!) here. This is just a sad mirror Fundie site.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I actually have had decent long conversations on Twitter, but for those I prefer Facebook. Almost no trolls . . . and everybody is using their real names.

          • Linda_LaScola

            except for the Russian trolls.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I block them. . . A rare thing for me. The alt-Right took to sending me and my students garbage pics. So they blocking started. . .

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

        In fact, as I often sat atheists have been mentors. This sort of pop atheism embarrasses good folk like they are.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          Okay, so you realize you’re not actually criticizing atheists with your initial comment, right? You’re actually criticizing people who post blogs on Patheos. You have a blog on Patheos. Nice self-loathing on display there.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am criticizing a site that is 90% anti religion. Patheos Evangelical does not write about atheism most of the time. This site does. Y’all wonder why most people don’t like you…

          • Linda_LaScola

            This is an atheist site, so it’s not surprising that it writes about atheism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Linda: take a look at Patheos non-religion. It is about 90 percent anti-religion. Positive secularism? Missing. If atheists want to know why they have a major pr problem, start here.

          • mason

            Everyone has a PR problem in this era of PC and social media. Theism has a rapidly growing morbidity problem.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You obvious have never been in the parts of the world having children.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Non-religion is growing, especially among the young. This does not suggest a PR problem.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Non-religion is disappearing in global terms. There are a few years where non-religion has been growing in certain demographics in nations that are declining as a share of the world population. The US growth of Nones should not be confused with non-religion. That is simply wrong.

          • Geoff Benson

            I agree entirely. Where reason is allowed to flourish religious belief reduces.

            Reynolds doesn’t like this thought. He’s a fundamentalist at heart who makes pretence at reason. He loves to quote his interactions with Michael Shermer and that he had some connection with the Washington Post. He feels as though Patheos non religious is constantly faith bashing. I suppose to some extent that’s true, but one has only to read Friendly Atheist for a very short time to realise that a) faith is a very easy target and b) it’s actually important to call out the stupidity that is generated by religious belief.

            There is also a great deal of genuine and positive posting in Patheos non religious, of a nature that is streets ahead of what is ever posted on the religious channels.

          • ElizabetB.

            [apologies for going off topic — when I discovered R.D., I think the channel was labeled “Atheist.” A few months ago I noticed it’s labeled “Non-religious.” Looking for a rationale, I didn’t see one… does anyone know?]

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I wish it would and leave Christianity out of it.

          • Linda_LaScola

            hard to do since so many atheists were once Christian – and Christianity rails against atheism and works to convert us to Christianity

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Harder that there are thousands of Christians who are once raised by atheists and got tired of the continuous hate and bad arguments In pop atheism. Linda: do more atheist kids leave atheism or say Orthodox kids leave Orthodoxy as a percentage? I know many former atheists and many more atheists in philosophy who view pop atheism (splintering over SJW vs old school scientism) as a mental distraction. Few Nones are here.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I manage to discuss Shakespeare, Plato, Disney films, business books, and many other topics without reference to irreligious. Patheos non religion could be called Patheos Obsessed with Certain Forms of American Religion.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Perhaps your ability is a benefit of being in the religious majority for such a long time.

            Christianity has been disparaging (to say the least) of atheism for centuries. I think it’s understandable that atheists work through their feelings about organized religion. I can also see how a religious group that has been in the majority for such a long time is put off by people openly expressing their non-belief. Perhaps it’s a phase we’re all going through that will pass. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if we atheists comment on the religion that has surrounded us for such a long time.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I belong to a church that is a minority in most places. We are killed daily for our beliefs. We spent a century being killed for not being atheists and this continues in the world’s most populous nation. Please avoid American-centrism. Many of my friends have lost jobs, college, and benefits for not being atheists. Your site is real pain to them.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I am American and do not attempt to avoid it. Please encourage your friends to avoid this site.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Why? Don’t you like non-Americans? They come here to escape atheist agitprop only to find it here. Idea: stop extremist rhetoric used to kill peoplein other nations. Look: you are an atheist. You think religion wrong. I think you are wrong. Difference? I don’t think your beliefs are absurd and spend my life attacking them! It is a side thing to help the millions of victims of atheism.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I am an atheist: I don’t believe in Gods. That’s all it means.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Not believing in gods, or God, does not imply that you should trigger people fleeing the very same agitprop. Yes?

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            “Don’t you like non-Americans? They come here to escape atheist agitprop only to find it here.”

            I come from a nation where there is no separation of church and state. Some of us come here to escape from Christian oppression. I find it much better here in the US, because my daughter will never have to go to a public school and endure a half hour of religion every morning (as I did when I was a kid). If you want to be safe from atheism, why swim against the tide? Why not move to a country like the UK, Denmark or Norway, that is more democratic than the US (see http://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index ) and has Christianity as its state religion?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You are welcome for the state the Christian super majority created and has sustained. Try to help us keep it. It is true that the UK, Germany, and other prosperous states come out of Christianity and still maintain many ties to Christian theism. That’s why they are pretty awesome places to live, even if in decay as they lose their roots. The good news is that the Christian super majority here took some Englightenment ideas (many by Christian apologist John Locke) and managed to build on general Christian morality without a state church. In fact, in the 19th century, when we were totally dominate, we turned down a cry to add a “Jesus” amendment to the Constitution. American Christians (almost the entire population at the time) had seen a better way. Welcome to America!

          • Geoff Benson

            Your ability to re-write history, and the complexion of many of the world’s countries, continues unabated.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I like the “complexion” of the worlds countries.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Christian state religions have led to Denmark. Atheist as state creed has led to North Korea.

          • mason

            This site was created for blogs/articles/posts by apostates, members (primarily) of The Clergy Project (all apostates former clergy now atheist) … maybe somewhere along the way you missed this clarification? It does at times seem to have the effect, like fly paper attracting flies, or attracting theistic apologists who get off on being trolls.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Do you stay Christian to be liked or because it’s true?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I stay Christian because it is true, but I do not spend all my blog time attacking other people’s beliefs because that would be boorish. Patheos Non-Religion is basically a hate site in its current configuration defined almost entirely, every day, by anti-religion screeds . . . none of which make the slightest impact in a generally religious or spiritual nation.

          • Linda_LaScola

            We are making an impact with people who question religion or no longer believe in it. I can understand how you would like that to change, but calling us a hate site is not accurate — and not nice.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sure. Spend a month advancing a positive agenda and I will believe you.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Please provide some examples of what you consider a “positive agenda”

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sure. Spend one month talking about living a secular life and the benefits with no ad hominem attacks on the religious. In hundreds of posts on Patheos religious sites we are able to leave y’all alone in most. Count the posts in non religion: the picture is a sad and hurting group working out anger and problems in public. No wonder the Nones don’t end up atheists and end up drifting back to low key forms of spirituality.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Not hard: write a month of columns on the site where most derive no content from being not Christian.

          • ElizabetB.

            Well… I may be weird (ok, I *am* weird), but as I try to figure out what I think about life, the universe, and everything, and Christianity in particular, Rational Doubt is a place I value for being able to say what I think on any “side” and count on getting feedback from people who’re familiar with theology and biblical studies. I read characterizations I dislike — like gospel writers are ‘lying’ (I would call it ‘creative interpretation,’ or maybe like Crossan, ‘writing parables about Jesus’) — but as I try to figure things out, I like having my feet kept to the fire so I’m less likely to sweep inconvenient facts under the rug. It’s sort of like a constructive theology course with a question to ponder every several days : ) — so I would miss the opportunity to focus on theology (& might have missed the tips on books that have been very helpful to me on the religious “side” – in particular, Crossan’s “How to Read the Bible…” and Kaufman’s “In Face of Mystery.”)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am very cool with that. I went through the whole “Jesus seminar” thing and came to doubt the “Scholarship” (many are not even scholars in the field) of it. Your mileage may vary. My problem is that Rational Doubt is embedded in endless hatefulness. The entire Patheos site is a paradoy of good atheism. . . Most posts are simply anti-Evangelicalism. OK. Free speech, but there is a limit to how helpful this is. In fact, for the most part I have to encourage my students not to read here as it makes them smug. They need to read Opy or thoughtful and charitable atheists. I agree with your general approach. Today I asked a center-left (political) friend to explain the Excutive Order repeal so I could understand her perspective. I then asked a center-right friend to explain why he thinks the Canadian system (which I have been studying) is bad. I am center-right myself, but this helps me. The same thing helped me in grad philosophy to get a better idea of the truth. Study the best of other people’s views . . . Don’t call names, don’t dismiss any real evidence, tell the truth.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Discuss life with no reference to us.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You are a site that is an embarrassment to serious atheists that has almost nothing positive to say. Sad to me.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am not criticizing serious atheism. I am criticizing the therapy session that is this site.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Nothing wrong with therapy. A lot of people exposed to religions can benefit from it.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            And hate and unserious arguments don’t help. Come on. Read this article and go read … say Swinburne… this is just a vent. And I could easily match this site with former atheists … none of whom spend most of their time emoting about their secular upbringing. Your kids (actual kids) attest at high numbers.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I would like to hear some of these stories. Where can I find more info?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Go to a Russian Orthodox Church and talk to ex pats. Go to any Chinese district and talk to ex pats . Try work by my former colleague Barbara Elliot: http://www.centerforrenewal.org/Publications,_Presentations/Entries/2007/5/20_Candles_Behind_the_Wall__Heroes_of_the_Peaceful_Revolution_that_Shattered_Communism.html

          • Linda_LaScola

            I saw nothing in this link about kids discussing their negative atheist upbringing. It seemed like a pro-Christian organization.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Read her book on dealing with post atheist Eastern Europe. And yes… most charitable organizations are Christian.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Do you know anyone raised in an atheist country? Seriously? Isn’t that weird for an organization making claims like you make?

          • Linda_LaScola

            I do not belong to an organization that makes claims.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Thais is self referentially incoherent.

          • Linda_LaScola

            ??

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Work through it.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Perhaps you could go to these places and write about their experiences. Otherwise, it’s just talk. Meanwhile, I don’t doubt that people will suffer in any situation where a certain belief system is enforced. This was the case with Catholicism for centuries in Europe.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Ha! I am not going to make your mistake and turn my blog into an atheist hate site. We create culture… we don’t live on our hate. You do know their large concentration camps for Christians in atheist nations?

          • Linda_LaScola

            You assert that stories of people being harmed by enforced atheism exist (which I don’t doubt) but that they can’t be told because doing so would be hateful. Do I have that right?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am not going to waste time documenting atheists killing record numbers of people. Start with the Black Book of Communism and notice being a Marxist did not keep Christians from being killed. Nothing fails culturally like atheism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Or your could start with Nobel Prize winner Solzhenitsyn on the ugliness of pop atheism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Maybe you could name one place at any time where atheism was dominant that was or is not a hell hole?

          • Linda_LaScola

            can’t do it — and can’t do it regarding Christian-dominant countries either. In my opinion, religion (or lack thereof) isn’t by itself good or evil – it’s how people react to it and whether or not it’s forced on you.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So you live in a Christian dominated country … we have a super majority and always have had , but here you are. When y’all get our degree of power we always die. Christians mess up … pop atheism always kills.

          • ElizabetB.

            John Mark N! what do you do with the Crusades, Inquisition, Huguenot Wars, etc etc? : )

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I apologize for them. No ethic can be so clear (“Love your enemies”) that we (humans) cannot mess it up. God is patient with us or we would perish quickly. The advantage of being a Christian is that we can condemn our horrible errors inside the system. Second, if we get the blame for the bad things (and we should) do we get credit for the good? Let me make a simple point: a small group of Christians (persecuted) head off and start something new. It becomes (for good and bad) New England. Atheists are a sometimes persecuted (larger and wealthier) minority, but have never managed to start their own place. When they have gotten the keys, it has been uniformly horrific. I think there is a deep defect in denying half of reality (metaphysics) that has led to near total cultural dependence in atheism (working in a system, instead of creating).

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Let me think… the governing party of Germany today is the … what? North Korea …atheist or Evangelical?

          • Linda_LaScola

            one person’s opinion — nobel prize or not. I’m sure there are bad atheists — because atheists are people too and there are all kinds of people out there, irrespective of their religious beliefs or non-beliefs.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I think his experience might, just might, show that the statement “religion is absurd” is … strong.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Where does the quote “religion is absurd” come from?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You

          • Linda_LaScola

            No — I didn’t say that. I said “What I am calling absurd is the concept of a deity sending his son to die a painful death…”

            I think the concept of crucifixion is absurd, not religion. Please don’t put words in my mouth.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So Jesus work is absurd based on your singular reading of one American view of the atonement?

          • Linda_LaScola

            I repeat — I think the concept of the crucifixion is absurd. I came to this conclusion on my own once I gave it serious thought as an adult.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            That’s fine. A bit arrogant really. Yes?

          • ElizabetB.

            It’s a surprise to see thinking for oneself termed arrogant! : )

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Thinking for oneself is only a virtue if one thinks well. Dismissing a complex set of ideas one shows no sign of understanding might be thinking for oneself, but it is no virtue.

          • Linda_LaScola

            FYI — I don’t value your opinion of my thinking process.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great! Then we can be free to disregard your opinion? That’s all it is after all. For example, what is your problem with Eastern views of the atonement?

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            I always find it funny when Christians call atheists arrogant. Christianity is a religion whose devotees believe the one true god made them, unique out of all creation in his own image, placed them on a single special planet in a vast cosmos of billions of galaxies, and tasked them with a special divine secret mission that only they can accomplish. And they call us arrogant.

          • Geoff Benson

            Reynolds is himself arrogance personified.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So calling an idea you don’t show signs of understanding is “absurd” and calling it out is arrogant? Again, atheism is serious and important. Dismissing big ideas held by serious people (people way above my pay grade) is highly arrogant. And lying about your beliefs for money is a scam.

          • Geoff Benson

            “And lying about your beliefs for money is a scam.”

            Now that I can agree with. Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker….

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Amen. Evil

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            That’s my problem with the clergy project… People should not find techniques to tell falsehoods well while getting money from people with whom they disagree. That’s not brave… That’s a scam.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Tele evangelism is far and away worse than the clergy project

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I repeat: you show know sign and have not in any interaction of having given serious thought to the topic.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Btw: who are your clients? Are you saying your money doesn’t come form atheist orgs?

          • Linda_LaScola

            That’s right. Except for a few speakers fees over the years (most talks are pro-bono) my money does not come from atheist orgs. The clergy study was sponsored by Tufts University, where my colleague Dan Dennett is a Philosophy professor. The Clergy Project, which I co-founded, but an not a member of, is a volunteer organization.

            I receive a small stipend from Patheos (as you do, I presume) for editing this blog, which I donate to The Clergy Project.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great. So atheist Dennet got you the money for your study?

          • Linda_LaScola

            The study was conducted through Tufts University, as stated above. We worked on it as a team. I was a consultant to Tufts. Dennett is a professor at Tufts. His religion or lack thereof was not a factor.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Maybe. Is it right to tell falsehoods in order to advance your cause? Can you take money from people and also disparage what they are paying you to believe under a pseudonym? That’s not complex. You seem to think that is ok. Why doesn’t this throw a great many things you say into question?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I should add DD is a very serious thinker and if this site were as serious as he is … good!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Crucifixion is an event. You seem to find one view of the atonement that came out of it absurd. There are others.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Do you have the training to say that?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Great! Religion is NOT absurd. I assume this includes the largest one Christianity?

          • mason

            Go to the dictionary and discover the difference between the meaning of ATHEIST and COMMUNIST … you’re using the false equivalency scam to try and smear atheist with the actions of a communist.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Mason: You might want to note that in atheist regimes “communism” (see China) might go but the atheism does not. You could be a full communist in the Soviet Union and still not be able to go to college if you believed the “nonsense” of theism. Read more.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            In the lives of men like Stalin, the atheism came first, then they looked for a view of reality that fit. When that view faltered, they might try a new economic program, but the atheism was non-negotiable. China might run a free economy, but I have set next to men who were in camps (still active today) for believing in God. The world is bigger than you think Mason. Oh. And the French Revolutionaries were not communist, but they butchered their way out of power. Name one atheist regime that has not. Here is a thought: nations that have had Christian super majorities (even if they are fading today) until recently are the best places to live in the world.

            In any case, the future belongs to booming religious places like India, Nigeria, and other areas where religion is thriving. I hope we team up with them.

          • mason

            Demons do not cause disease, germs/bacteria/viruses do, and atheism (disbelief in a deity) is not the cause of Communism, so quit trying to troll with this twisted equation you troll with.

            Maybe you can go to India and Nigeria and help feed and fan the flames of religious superstition. Belief in a deity will continue to thrive among the ignorant and poor, and be a tool for manipulators like you John. You have a huge vulnerable market to exploit.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            This is racist and ethnocentric… I will match Indian education with any nation.

          • Jim Jones

            > I will match Indian education with any nation.

            Germany? Sweden? India cannot offer free primary education to all children. You lose.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The Christians Democratic parties in tiny European nations have done a good job, but they are living on borrowed power. India has more honor students than either nation has upper level students or both nations combined.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Anybody else going to point out the racism?

          • mason

            Addressing poverty and ignorance here.

            In 2012, the Indian government stated 22% of its population is below its official poverty limit. The World Bank, in 2011 based on 2005’s PPPs International Comparison Program, estimated 23.6% of Indian population, or about 276 million people, lived below $1.25 per day on purchasing power parity.

            Poverty in Nigeria. Nigeria has one of the world’s highest economic growth rates, averaging 7.4% according to the Nigeria economic report released in July 2014 by the World Bank. Poverty still remains significant at 33.1% in Africa’s biggest economy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. And they both contain millions of people that are very highly educated (at 1 billion total, thre are US size highly educated groups and middle class groups), Nigeria the same . . . Using the stereotyped language you used is grossly offensive to Indian and Nigerian people. Try meeting some.

          • mason

            You have no idea who I’ve met or haven’t Mr. Troll … you’re grossly offensive to me.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Lol

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Describing Nigeria and India as you did was racist.

          • Raging Bee

            There’s nothing “racist” about pointing out the documented evils of superstition.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. But see comments on India.

          • Raging Bee

            In the lives of men like Stalin, the atheism came first…

            Assertion made without evidence or citation.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds
          • Geoff Benson

            Exactly. Stalin was actually a great advertisement for the religious method. Same with all dictators, though strangely Franco seldom gets a mention. Could it be because he was an obsessively staunch Catholic?

          • Jim Jones

            Same with Pinochet.

          • Raging Bee

            Here’s another thought: nations that have Christian super-majorities saw the most improvement in both progress and justice at times when Christian orthodoxy and authority was most effectively questioned and opposed by liberal secular movements. All that peace, freedom, advancement and prosperity you see in the Christian West? That all came from movements and innovations the Christian establishment bitterly opposed.

            And here’s a question: if you really think “booming religious places like India, Nigeria, and other areas where religion is thriving” are such wonderful Godly places, why are you not living in one such place? If you were, you could tell us, first-hand, what’s so wonderful about living there. Is it the kill-the-gays laws in Nigeria? The religious-fanatical-nationalism in India?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am an American. We built it and I am not leaving it to people who have never started a nation and have never run one without killing millions of people. And we are still the majority.

          • Raging Bee

            What, exactly, is this “it” that you refuse to let the untermenschen touch?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Culture. You are welcome as anyone is to use what a Christian super majority built (for good and bad). Make it better I hope!

          • Raging Bee

            We’ve BEEN making it better. And you Christian bigots have been screaming your heads off in opposition every step of the way. And now you’ve got one of your own in the White House, doing everything he can to help you roll back all the progress we’ve been making since the Civil War.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You are not large enough (especially for most of the period after the Civil War) to have done anything but be loud. You are welcome. And I did not vote for Trump.

          • Raging Bee

            Are you “larger?”

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I certainly am heavier than I should be, but yes my point is that Christians are and have always been a super majority in the US. We are rightly blamed for evils we allowed or committed, but nothing good happened we did not allow or do.

          • Raging Bee

            Who’s “we?” A lot of teh people who tried to do good were Christians — but they got labelled (and are still being labelled) as the wrong kind of Christians (or atheists, or Satanists) by other Christians who opposed them. So which “we” do you claim to represent?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Raging Bee: If you are basically the entire population, then you get the loons with the heroes. Atheism had, until recently, been a tiny group from the white, upper class. It had that advantage. Now that it is larger it is attracting more unhinged personalities.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, I’m sure you Christians call tell us a lot about attracting unhinged personalities.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            It’s true. We have our share. As atheist do (just smaller numbers) . . . two signs: authoritarian impulses, over weening confidence one is right, and a tendency to insults.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Raging Bee: the problem with your thesis is that if the Christian “super-majority” “bitterly opposed” an innovation it would not have happened. In fact, we are mostly a tolerant crew with awful exceptions.

          • Jim Jones

            > In the lives of men like Stalin, the atheism came first,

            Utter bullshit. Stalin had hundreds of churches opened once he had the ROC under his control. You live in your own little fantasy world.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So the 1970’s persecution of religious people, including people who were communist when it came to economics was not motivated by the atheism they claimed motivated it. Stalin “opened” churches, but going to them was a fast ticket to at best second class citizenship and often a way to put a target on your head for the gulag. I personally know victims of this atheistic regime.

          • Jim Jones

            > I personally know victims of this atheistic regime.

            No, you don’t. You know victims of this dictatorial regime. Atheism has as much to do with dictatorship as the leaders’ choice of mustaches or beards.

            Your sad prejudices betray your poor logical skill set.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. They were persecuted by atheists for not be atheists. One was not allowed college or higher technical training. It did not matter that these young people were Marxists and part of the regime. Atheism trumped Marxism.

            I qualified in logic in grad school You?

          • Jim Jones

            > I qualified in logic in grad school You?

            Before kindergarten I knew that wishing didn’t make things true. You? Not so much.

          • Raging Bee

            The same Russian Orthodox Church who support both ex-KGB-colonel Putin and prison-camps for gays and anyone who tries to say gays aren’t evil? Yeah, what a reliable source that isn’t.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Well, I am no Putin fan. And you have just made Orthodox Church relations in Russia (under a Brown Shirt thug) overly simple. It is hard to survive a tyrant.

          • ElizabetB.

            I think we can offer the same charitability to clergy who’re working their way out of a strong 2000-year tradition they grew up in : )

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sure. Charity as much as we can, but do not lie. Do not write posts (under a pseudonym) attacking things you are paid to assert. Why is Elmer Gantry bad and these folk not?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Last week after our college Thursday lecture got to talk to a Georgian (the nation) about the ugliness of atheism in his life and how Christianity was intellectually better.

          • Linda_LaScola

            can you provide any links?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            To a private conversation? No. Most of these people are still traumatized by atheists. Ugly atheist rhetoric triggers them. Try reading Barbara Elliot who has helped many of them.

          • Jim Jones

            > how Christianity was intellectually better.

            That literally made me laugh out loud!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You are welcome. I got to speak at the University in Ulan Bataar to the philosophy department there. They knew atheism. I started to explain why I was not a materialist and these scholars stopped me: “We know. We lived it.” We moved on to discuss forms of dualism.

          • mason

            Serious atheism? Really? Atheism simply and only means no belief in any deity. Is that so hard to grasp?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sigh. Go read some academic atheism. Seriously. First we get someone posting a Russell quote on religion and then someone else arguing that atheism says nothing about religion. Better idea: let’s see if Patheos non-religion could go a month advancing a positive vision of secularism. No Christian bashing. Note: Christians could do the counter easily.

          • ElizabetB.

            Hi John Mark N. I think a major difference is that many who dialog on ‘non-religious’ have suffered deeply from religion, whereas most Christians in the U.S. may have been offended by non-religion (eliminating partisan prayer at public school graduation, etc) but haven’t experienced the deep wounds of being shunned by their children or in extreme cases, having been abused by people claiming religious authority. There’s a passion for helping this not happen to others.

          • Linda_LaScola

            Well put, ElizabetB, I’m hoping that blogs like this and organizations like The Clergy Project will become obsolete because religion is no longer strong enough to harm people or to encourage people to enter a profession that depends on continuing to espouse beliefs they no longer hold.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The notion that there aren’t plenty of people escaping this form of hateful atheism is false. Thousand of kids of atheists leave non faith every year.

          • mason

            John, you’ve obviously adopted the tRUMP University method of attacking a reality with an audacious lie. The reality is millions are leaving hateful and nonsensical theism every year.
            https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/
            http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Since I was (and am) actively Never Trump (Google and see!) that is unlikely. Look up the retention rates of atheist kids. Atheism is so small in the US that any growth looks big as a percentage. Don’t confuse “nones” with atheism. Many “nones” are spiritual/theists. Globally (not all the world is Murica) atheism is fading fast as a percentage of population. In fact, it is only doing well in parts of the world that are shrinking. Look up the study on Pew just released.

          • Geoff Benson

            Absolute rubbish. You may choose to believe this, but it’s rare to be exposed to reason and then regress to superstition, in the form of religious belief.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yet in my class both HUD Hudson and Kelly Jolley are good examples. Excellent careers.

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            I never suffered deeply from religion. I used to enjoy every sermon I heard. My problem with religion was that I read the Bible from cover to cover and found that it is complete nonsense. I realized that I had wasted a lot of my time believing a lie. Soon I came to understand that many people are actually being harmed by religion, whether it’s just that, like me, they’re wasting time better spent doing something else, or whether it’s that they’ve been persecuted or had their lives threatened by religious folks. I spend my time on forums like these because I want to try to help people to stop wasting their lives on useless and often harmful myths.

          • ElizabetB.

            Thanks, Ian! I’m glad the transition was relatively smooth for you. …and I salute your concern for people and for what’s true

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Elizabeth… I have talked to many people abused by atheist celebs and with deep wounds from a mostly American, white pop atheist up bringing. This is true in all communities I don’t tbink running a blog on how “being raised by my atheist parents stunted me” or “I had to be an atheist to keep my job” (Russian and Chinese friends) is good.

          • ElizabetB.

            [Thanks very much… replied upstream: take point, but think there’s a place for venting, too]

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Agreed. Balance is key.

          • mason

            “I don’t tbink running a blog on how “being raised by my atheist parents stunted me” or “I had to be an atheist to keep my job” (Russian and Chinese friends) is good.”

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4c9c6efa1be186e2bd0dbb06a50f5c164c896357055fb6b6a6af1ba9dd2cae92.jpg Of course you wouldn’t, and you probably wouldn’t support a shelter for mentally and/or physically abused women and children, because you are willfully blind to comprehending the abuse.

          • mason

            Sigh. Go read the dictionary. Atheism. a·the·ism
            ˈāTHēˌizəm
            noun
            disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
            Atheism is not people. Atheists are. I realize I’m asking you, who lives in a world of vague generalities and superstition to make an intellectual distinction, and that seems impossible, quite willfully, for you.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            One form of atheism can be limited to a disbelief in God or gods. It can also form the basis for a philosophy of living and also for an attitude toward theists/theism in general. BTW: a popular level dictionary is not a great resource for defining philosophical terms. Stanford has a good resource. The atheists here are generally several common assumptions to go with mere “disbelief”. For example, they assert (despite the evidence) that materialism is true.

          • Raging Bee

            Do you even know what goes on in a “therapy session?” If you did, you wouldn’t use that label for this, or any other, blog.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Have supervised an accredited psychology undergrad and grad program.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Have supervised an accredited psychology undergrad and grad program.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Well, I was the CAO at a school with an accredited undergrad and grad psychology program. Hired psychologists and did know what they did.

          • Raging Bee

            You don’t sound very knowledgeable here.

          • Jim Jones

            Try some of the theistic sites which are mere circle jerks. Even the ones which claim to want ‘debate’ will only accept fawning praise.

    • mason

      It’s a tragic commentary on humanity that this absurd nonsense of a religion even exits today and actually has still has followers. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/67d622c9e9d234b989cd8bd68b8afe37ceadd7fb6727bd400d90bfd7d519f6d5.jpg

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

        So do you think this will help . . .anyone?

        • Linda_LaScola

          It can help people consider the absurdity of such an action.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            If you think calling theism absurd convinces any rational person… sad. Atheism is not absurd nor is theism. American (mostly white male) pop atheism is a globally dying phenomenon. Globally, people look at it and shake their heads in pity.

          • Linda_LaScola

            What I am calling absurd is the concept of a deity sending his son to die a painful death to compensate the sins of all humanity – as long as people will believe in him. If they don’t, they will be consigned to an eternity in hell.

            That seems absurd to me.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Well… great. That is a strong opinion. You have taken one view (a particularly American one) of the atonement and summarized it in a slanted way. We could discusss it. Your impulse that is absurd is like Christians who hear what atheist believe about morality or consciousness and overreact and think atheism absurd. This is bad. Instead, we need respectful dialog that eschews Mark Driscoll and Dan Barker anti intellectualism for mutual respect. Pop atheism and pop theism are toxic in their certainty and their violent claims.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I’m aware that there are sophisticated ways of looking at various aspects of Christianity, and frankly, I’m not interested in a conversation about the crucifixion.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I bet you are not. People reading this thread should note that is always the way. For my students: this pop atheism is not real atheism, but reverse Fundie certainty. Read thee some Hune!

          • mason

            Talk about the kettle calling the skillet black :) Your your pop theistic intellectualism is the pinnacle of anti-intellectualism, anti-reason, and anti-science.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Actually, I have training in the philosophical areas I discuss. It was not “popular” training. I am favor an intellectual approach to problems and oppose intellectualism and anti-intellectualism. I love reason . . . We just don’t agree on conclusions. I value and love science, we just don’t have th same philosophy of science. It is a complicated world, mason.

          • ElizabetB.

            I think it’s a great tragedy that in the U.S. “substitutionary atonement” overshadows any other understanding of the crucifixion. If one looks only at the idea of someone giving their life for others, it’s awesome, like the firefighters running up the World Trade Center steps. But when one looks beyond that at the idea that killing an innocent person does not add to the evil in the world, to me that does look either absurd or reprehensible. I am very happy that Abelard’s Romans has at last been translated into English, and was happy to see Richard Rohr’s “At-One-Ment” series last July linking to Borg, citing Duns Scotus, the Franciscans, etc
            https://cac.org/substitutionary-atonement-2017-07-23/

          • Linda_LaScola

            Substitutionary atonement overshadows other understandings of the crucifixion because that’s what’s taught to children in Sunday school and reinforced in church. I learned the term as a child in catechism. Quite a mouthful for a kid. People in other Christian denominations may not learn the term, but they get the message loud and clear: Jesus suffered and died for your sins so you won’t have to – as long as you believe in him. If you don’t, you will suffer for eternity.

            Theologians make such concepts more palatable to people who are sophisticated and interested enough to study theology, but religion at the church level seems content to teach and reinforce simple concepts that people are told they must believe.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. Or Christus Victor… see Orhodox icons which are not bloody.

          • ElizabetB.

            Appreciate your occasional mentions of Eastern Orthodox. I don’t know much about them but over the years liked what I heard of Irenaeus and ‘divinization’ etc. Our next door neighbors are Orthodox from Egypt. Their family back in Egypt are anxious as churches are being attacked. On the atheist side of things, are you familiar with Gretta Vosper (United Church of Canada) who decided not to call herself a ‘non-theist’ but ‘atheist’ in order to stand in solidarity with atheists being attacked in Bangladesh and Turkey? http://www.grettavosper.ca/the-reason-im-an-atheist/

            I agree with Linda that our problems seem to stem mostly from human nature — with its nobility and cruelty.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Our problems do seem to stem from human nature . . . As Christians predict theologically! And I do stand in solidarity with persecuted atheists. That is wrong. Very wrong. Proud the Christian super majority here in the US has led the way to moderating that even if we are not perfect (and never have been) at it. I am EO.

        • mason

          Yes, one cogent intellectually brave thought can free any human from this nonsense.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            One cogent intellectually brave thought can free any human from the egoism that other seekers striving for congency and bravery believe nonsense, while he is intellectually brave.

          • Raging Bee

            So you agree that comments like ours can help people free themselves from superstition and self-serving frauds. Great! Moving on…

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            LOL

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            LOL. Rage on.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            One superstition to lose is scientism. Self-serving frauds include unbelieving pastors who keep picking up checks while dissing their flocks in private.

          • ElizabetB.

            This certainly does not describe my experience of the Clergy Project… nor do suggestions that Linda is paid by an atheist organization…. are you familiar with the web site?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am. I think they are: 1. At a Dan Barker (low) level of understanding religion 2. disingenuous 3. Encourage unethical behavior

            I do not think Linda demonstrates even a basic understanding of anything she writes about. If one asks her even a rudimentary theological question, one gets an attack on Fundie stuff. Frankly, we have no reason to believe anything she says do we? She works with people who lie for money and we have no way of knowing her funding. It is all very vague. That is not true of most people.

          • ElizabetB.

            John Mark N., I regret to say that this requires an apology.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. I think saying a deeply held belief is “absurd” when you have or make little attempt to understand it is boorish. I also think helping people lie is wrong and justifying it worse.

          • ElizabetB.

            “Lying for money.” Mischaracterizing is not persuasive argument, and when directed at an individual, calls for apology.

            In regard to doctrine, the one in question is substitutionary atonement. U.S. Christianity has certainly asserted that a lay person is qualified to grasp it. Your assertion that the individual has made no attempt to understand it is not borne out in this dialog.

            This is very disappointing indeed.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The assertion was that the crucifixion is absurd. That’s offensive given the level of thought demonstrated. What do you call it when people pretend to believe a thing to keep getting paid?

          • Jim Jones

            > The assertion was that the crucifixion is absurd.

            Some people reportedly survived crucifixion. Unlike Jesus, those people existed. What is your point, unless it is to whine for special treatment for your myths?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            “Whine” “special treatment” “myths” This will help promote dialog.

            My complaint is not anyone disagrees with the view, it is using very strong language when the person shows no evidence of having mastered the topic. So the theology of the crucifixion was called “absurd” but the person using that language has no chops in the area that are discernible and when they do speak on the topic does so from only one perspective (American Evangelical).

          • Jim Jones

            You are imagining things that don’t exist.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            As an atheist, I could respond that you are ignoring things that do exist. Instead, can you try to dialog without insults and with an open mind?

          • Jim Jones

            Can you stick to facts?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes.

          • ElizabetB.

            The term ‘crucifixion’ was employed in the discussion that followed the substitutionary atonement meme, and the idea of s.a. was specifically stated as the issue. R.D. has explored other ideas about the crucifixion and atonement in the past.

            It is deeply disappointing to see the Clergy Project accused of something it was formed to avoid. Members typically began life seeking to do good, and as they discover the worldview they inherited is not sustainable for them, the Clergy Project is a help toward personal congruence.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            And yet it publishes people who continue to take money for ideas they attack under a pseudonym

          • ElizabetB.

            The Clergy Project is your ally! as it helps people move after their ideas have changed.

            Posts by active clergy who are not ‘out’ are rare… just for curiosity, I had to go back 28 posts, to July, to find one by someone still in active ministry but not ‘out.’ That person said they love their religion & still practice it, they don’t say things they don’t believe, their congregation enjoys their work, but so far they haven’t said how non-theist they are because they believe it would devastate their parents. Sometimes people may not be moving as quickly as critics think they should, but often they are still praying desperately to believe again because they have loved pastoring and the relationships they know they will lose. I have seen no sign of the cynicism you describe in the writers.

            Writers who are ‘out,’ otoh, can be pretty tough on religion! As I’ve written upstream, that is one reason I appreciate participating in R.D., because when I am saying something unsupportable, I can be sure it will be pointed out!!! : )

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            My reading finds people who took money after they knew they did not believe. Linda refuses to condemn this practice. That’s simply fraud. The average “out” minister has a story, but it is generally full of intellectual conclusions the education or reading of the person cannot support. Linda does this when she calls the crucifixion “absurd” (very strong conclusion) with inadequate knowledge.

          • ElizabetB.

            Again, I agree with her that substitutionary atonement, which was the topic, can be called absurd.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Actually when pressed, she broadened her view to the crucifixion qua crucifixion and did not want to discuss other views of that event. If she meant to limit her insult “absurd” to substionary atonement, and she has done reading beyond the almost a parody summary presented, then maybe she is competent to make the judgment absurd. I doubt it. I can think of very few sophisticated ideas defended by able people (this includes varieties of secularism) that I think merit the title “absurd.” I think it expresses disdain and contempt and darkens rather than illuminates.

            A thought: most of the atheism represented on this board will never appeal to a broad number of people, and is disliked by many people, because of these overstatements. To repeat: I am not saying atheism is bad or immoral. I am saying the Clergy Project encourages (tacitly) immoral behavior and the kind of folk atheism of people like Dan Barker makes claims that it cannot support. I am not saying this of atheism in general.

          • ElizabetB.

            When the the subject was broadened to crucifixion qua crucifixion, the comment was not “absurd” but being “aware there are sophisticated ways of looking at various aspects of Christianity,” but not being interested in discussing. I’ve seen other views highlighted here, so figured it a matter of going off topic rather than no study.

          • ElizabetB.

            I would add… if God is, I think God looks upon their struggles with mercy. And may meet them in other ways. My authority is Grandmotherhood : )

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I agree. Mercy for us all! However, there is a difference between looking with charity on people doing a wrong thing, even understanding why they are doing it, and then helping them do it. I have yet to hear anyone tell me how saying you believe something and taking money for it while having moved to the point where you do not is not wrong. This happens and the normal thing to do is to go to the Board, explain your position, ask for mercy and take lumps if they come. Often peole are quite generous . . . Offering sabbaticals to continue to think about issues . . . Or long severance pay. Here is what is not good: criticizing a view you are paid to promote under a psuedonymn while you keep getting paid. Of course I understand how hard it is to leave a childhood faith, I did it. It is wrenching and comes with a professional cost, but you must be willing to pay it.

          • ElizabetB.

            Yes, I have seen/read this happen while reading this blog. But in the lead-up to going to the Board, I think of critical posts by clergy in transition as a sort of theological/philosophical Moral Man in Immoral Society. People are doing the best they can. Reading their experience can help someone else work out what to do – maybe it will make them think, “I couldn’t stand for it to drag out like that – I’m having that discussion this afternoon!”

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Writers who are “out” should be held accountable for claims like: “after researching x, I found y was indefensible.” and then one asks, “But did you read basic text Z on the topic?” And one discovers they say “no.” Look: nobody has to be intellectual. We do the best we can with what we have and we make a call (theist/atheist). Radically overstating what one knows is just intellectually wrong. For example, I am not a scientist and so should never say: “I read up on this scientific theory and, man, it is stupid.” That’s . . . Stupid. Instead, I might say: “This theory does not make sense to me at a lay level. Some scientists I trust have said that the problems I see are real. Hmmmm…” That’s what I try to do (though I am sure I fail).

          • ElizabetB.

            Maybe a difference here is a difference between a philosopher of ethics and a counselor. The philosopher, we expect to discern bright outlines for behavior. The counselor, we expect to prod us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Thanks for the conversation, John Mark N.

          • Jim Jones

            I believe that if I plant key lime pie crusts in the garden, key lime bushes will grow there next year.

            What sort of attempt to understand if this is true will not be boorish?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            If you are comparing the amount of thought that went into your “key lime pie” piece with the amount of scholarship that went into Swinburne on Christian evidence or “Christus Victor” on the atonement, you might see the difference. But if you wish, if you asserted such a thing, I would ask the basis for your assertion, master whatever arguments you made, and then say that (in all probability) I found your claim dubious. I would then wait to see how your experiment went.

          • Jim Jones

            I’ve read most every apologist book I come across. They are universally horrible – utterly illogical – and only appeal to the convinced.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So you have enough modal logic training to dismiss the ontological argument?

          • Jim Jones

            “I’ll tell you what — if you think I need a “sophisticated understanding of theology” to debunk bad religious ideas, then I hope you are also criticizing all those people who believe this nonsense without an “expert level understanding” of it, too.”

            —Hemant Mehta, The Atheist Voice

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I do. If they make extreme claims like x is absurd.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            That’s bad comparison. If I say: “I believe x, but I could be wrong” then this is a modest claim. If you say: “I think x is wrong, but I could be wrong” then this is modest claim. Modest claims require modest amounts of evidence. If I say: x is absurd, then I better know the best version of x.

          • Jim Jones

            The Problem of Evil.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Theodicy. What are trying to prove? The problem of evil is a problem to certain forms of theism (mostly Christian theism), though not Platonistic theism. OK. There are responses that range from popular to learned. If you can’t follow the learned ones, for example you have no formal logic, then you might say: I don’t buy any of the solutions so far . . . And I doubt there are any (based on people who are skilled in the area), but not that you know that the problem of evil utterly smashes or destroys Christianity and it is ABSURD to be a Christian. This is like a Christian who is not persuaded by the kind of atheists on this board (see almost every Intro to Philosophy student) who then says that atheism is absurd. (And they do. . . ) I then say to this overly smug student: “Have you dealt with Opey? Can you?” They have not and cannot. As a result, they MUST temper their claims to: the kind of folk atheism one meets in discussion boards is full of insults and errors. I am not persuaded by them at all. However, there are obviously better atheists whose work I cannot deal with. Christian philosophers I trust say there are responses. . . So here I stay.” Modesty when you cannot do the work is the best policy. An example in my own life: I will debate or discuss philosophy of science (and do), but try to avoid discussing SCIENCE as I am not trained to do so. My lay knowledge is not adequate for me to make strong claims.

          • Jim Jones

            No, I just one one or more facts to draw conclusions from. So far every religion, at its base, is fact free.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. They are not.

          • Jim Jones

            Feel free to point to any religion – ever – which has facts at its base.

            Maybe you have a picture of Xenu?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Christianity.

          • Jim Jones

            No, I want an example of a religion based on facts.

            The fact that Jesus and the apostles were fictional and that none of the gospel events actually happened are not the basis for any truths.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The idea that Jesus did not exist is not taken seriously in the academy. I dont embrace conspiracy theories . . . Join me.

          • Jim Jones

            Indeed. In ‘academies’ which require a “statement of faith” this is a position never publicly taken, since it would lead to the loss of the job.

            Hell, even basic facts can’t be espoused at fake schools like Wheaton.

            Christian college professor to step down after saying Muslims worship same god

            Tenured political science professor Larycia Hawkins to ‘part ways’ with Wheaton College following a confidential agreement, says joint statement.

            The controversy began on 10 December, when Hawkins wrote on Facebook that she would don the hijab headscarf during the period of advent before Christmas as a sign of solidarity with Muslims.

            “We worship the same god,” she said in her post.

            The post drew criticism amid a broader debate regarding the role and treatment of Muslims in the US following the November mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, which authorities have said was inspired by the militant group Islamic State.

            The college placed Hawkins on administrative leave as a result. Last month, the school’s provost recommended Hawkins be fired.

            The school previously said Hawkins was disciplined not because she chose to wear a hijab but because her “theological statements seem inconsistent with Wheaton’s doctrinal convictions”.

            Sad. But it doesn’t change the facts: No Jesus, no apostles.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Jim: I did my PhD in a secular school (University of Rochester) with atheists who would scoff at the notion Jesus never existed. You are beclowning yourself by embracing this bizarre fringe view that Jesus did not exist.

            As for schools like Wheaton, they have a right to draw boundaries in a community of discourse. Every school draws lines and this allows research to proceed without always addressing first questions. One can leave if one wishes . . . As I have done when I could not “buy” what the community perspective. It is a big free country with lots of academic programs that do work for many perspectives. Don’t be narrow in addition to embracing a bizarre view.

          • Jim Jones

            > As for schools like Wheaton, they have a right to draw boundaries in a community of discourse.

            Including the core functionality of their myths: In this case, that Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the same ‘god’.

            Sheer lunacy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Using inflammatory language like “sheer lunacy” is why pop-atheism has such a rotten reputation. Try being calm, less hostile. We are not going anywhere, nor are you. Let’s discuss disagreements without such terms. Yes?

            Do you understand the word “myth?” It does not just mean “false” . . . But an explanatory likely story in the history of philosophy of science (see first use in Timaeus). You might want to read John Losee.

          • Jim Jones

            CHAPTER II.

            Silence of Contemporary Writers.

            Another proof that the Christ of Christianity is a fabulous and not a historical character is the silence of the writers who lived during and immediately following the time he is said to have existed.

            That a man named Jesus, an obscure religious teacher, the basis of this fabulous Christ, lived in Palestine about nineteen hundred years ago, may be true. But of this man we know nothing. His biography has not been written. E. Renan and others have attempted to write it, but have failed—have failed because no materials for such a work exist. Contemporary writers have left us not one word concerning him. For generations afterward, outside of a few theological epistles, we find no mention of him.

            The following is a list of writers who lived and wrote during the time, or within a century after the time, that Christ is said to have lived and performed his wonderful works:

            Josephus, Philo-Judaeus, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Arrian, Petronius, Dion Pruseus, Paterculus, Suetonius, Juvenal, Martial, Persius, Plutarch, Justus of Tiberius, Apollonius, Pliny the Younger, Tacitus, Quintilian, Lucanus, Epictetus, Silius Italicus, Statius, Ptolemy, Hermogones, Valerius Maximus, Appian, Theon of Smyrna, Phlegon, Pompon Mela, Quintius Curtius Lucian, Pausanias, Valerius Flaccus, Florus Lucius, Favorinus, Phaedrus, Damis, Aulus Gellius, Columella, Dio Chrysostom, Lysias, Appion of Alexandria.

            Enough of the writings of the authors named in the foregoing list remains to form a library. Yet in this mass of Jewish and Pagan literature, aside from two forged passages in the works of a Jewish author, and two disputed passages in the works of Roman writers, there is to be found no mention of Jesus Christ.

            Philo was born before the beginning of the Christian era, and lived until long after the reputed death of Christ. He wrote an account of the Jews covering the entire time that Christ is said to have existed on earth. He was living in or near Jerusalem when Christ’s miraculous birth and the Herodian massacre occurred. He was there when Christ made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. He was there when the crucifixion with its attendant earthquake, supernatural darkness, and resurrection of the dead took place—when Christ himself rose from the dead, and in the presence of many witnesses ascended into heaven. These marvelous events which must have filled the world with amazement, had they really occurred, were unknown to him. It was Philo who developed the doctrine of the Logos, or Word, and although this Word incarnate dwelt in that very land and in the presence of multitudes revealed himself and demonstrated his divine powers, Philo saw it not.

            Josephus, the renowned Jewish historian, was a native of Judea. He was born in 37 A. D., and was a contemporary of the Apostles. He was, for a time, Governor of Galilee, the province in which Christ lived and taught. He traversed every part of this province and visited the places where but a generation before Christ had performed his prodigies. He resided in Cana, the very city in which Christ is said to have wrought his first miracle. He mentions every noted personage of Palestine and describes every important event which occurred there during the first seventy years of the Christian era. But Christ was of too little consequence and his deeds too trivial to merit a line from this historian’s pen.

            Justus of Tiberius was a native of Christ’s own country, Galilee. He wrote a history covering the time of Christ’s reputed existence. This work has perished, but Photius, a Christian scholar and critic of the ninth century, who was acquainted with it, says: “He [Justus] makes not the least mention of the appearance of Christ, of what things happened to him, or of the wonderful works that he did” (Photius’ Bibliotheca, code 33).

            Judea, where occurred the miraculous beginning and marvelous ending of Christ’s earthly career, was a Roman province, and all of Palestine is intimately associated with Roman history. But the Roman records of that age contain no mention of Christ and his works. The Greek writers of Greece and Alexandria who lived not far from Palestine and who were familiar with its events, are silent also.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So yes. People have suggested this idea. Scholars have almost universally rejected the idea. To take one fringe idea in this article, the claim that all the mentions of Jesus in Josephus are forged defies the consensus of secular historians. Why go to the fringe like this? You want to cite the ancient history credentials of the person who wrote this?

          • Jim Jones

            > Scholars have almost universally rejected the idea.

            Because they find hunger unpleasant.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Are you suggesting that my atheist friends at Rochester rejected this idea because Rochester would have FIRED them for being . . . Opposed to Christianity? Let’s be plain: essentially every secular scholar rejects this idea. There is NO pressure in the vast majority of first-tier history, classics, or philosophy departments to protect Jesus or religion. Where do you do your grad work?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The implication that Yale, Harvard, or other scholars would be fired for embracing Jesus myth theory is implausible in the extreme.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Does anyone here work in a secular university like Rochester where they find that opposing the “life of Jesus” would lead to their going hungry? Anyone?

          • Jim Jones

            Not even a good try.

            Did historical Jesus really exist? The evidence just doesn’t add up.

            By Raphael Lataster

            Did a man called Jesus of Nazareth walk the earth? Discussions over whether the figure known as the “Historical Jesus” actually existed primarily reflect disagreements among atheists. Believers, who uphold the implausible and more easily-dismissed “Christ of Faith” (the divine Jesus who walked on water), ought not to get involved.

            Numerous secular scholars have presented their own versions of the so-called “Historical Jesus” – and most of them are, as biblical scholar J.D. Crossan puts it, “an academic embarrassment.” From Crossan’s view of Jesus as the wise sage, to Robert Eisenman’s Jesus the revolutionary, andBart Ehrman’s apocalyptic prophet, about the only thing New Testament scholars seem to agree on is Jesus’ historical existence. But can even that be questioned?

            The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith. These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify. Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

            The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. The criterion of embarrassment says that if a section would be embarrassing for the author, it is more likely authentic. Unfortunately, given the diverse nature of Christianity and Judaism back then (things have not changed all that much), and the anonymity of the authors, it is impossible to determine what truly would be embarrassing or counter-intuitive, let alone if that might not serve some evangelistic purpose.

            The criterion of Aramaic context is similarly unhelpful. Jesus and his closest followers were surely not the only Aramaic-speakers in first-century Judea. The criterion of multiple independent attestation can also hardly be used properly here, given that the sources clearly are not independent.

            ……..

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sadly for Mr Lataster (not doing work in history) repeating his errors led one of his profs to respond: http://www.abc.net.au/religion/articles/2014/12/24/4154120.htm. Mr. Lataster should work on finishing his dissertation and note that self-published books are that way for a reason. . . And it is not academic persecution. A university press does not mind your point of view, but you have to make arguments and not misuse history.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Again: please name someone with relevant qualifications who buys Mr Latastre’s fringe views. I can think of one person in the academy with somewhat relevant credentials. In short, the “Jesus myth” theory has been roundly rejected by most scholarly atheists as a quick google demonstrates to anyone listening. To my students reading. . . Don’t get too sanguine. This is not what you will find in grad school.

          • Jim Jones

            Name one person who met Jesus, spoke to him, saw him or heard him who
            wrote about the event, has a name and is documented outside of the bible
            (or any other gospels).

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Why? The Gospels are taken by almost every historian alive as containing at least basic historic facts (see the Jesus Seminar). Your standard is foolish and shows bias. One need not take the Gospels as gospel to use them for history.

          • Jim Jones

            I accept your admission of utter failure. We now agree: Jesus never existed.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            We agree that if you develop an ahistorical standard of evidence that you can win every argument. Too bad you have yet to cite a reputable historian who agrees with you. I know of one by the way. You are out on the fringe.

          • Jim Jones

            I don’t care how many alleged ‘scholars’ agree with me. The emperor has no clothes, because the entire religion is fact free.

            Your theological ‘science’ is as reliable as astrology or alchemy. You produce no results, just an endless circle jerk of self congratulation.

            Nonsense is nonsense. Men have flown to the moon and split the atom. Religion still seeks to control human sexuality and advancement.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Ethics are not science, because “ought” is related to “is” but cannot be derived directly from it. I am sure you don’t care about scholars or scholarship. Just yell atheist bromides and crudities.

            Sad.

          • Jim Jones

            No, Ethics are not science because we cannot agree on metrics for ethics — or morals. But we can know as a certainty that religion is in no sense a source of morality.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Actually, you are wrong even from your own point of view. Religion is a source of morality, just a bad one, if you are right. You should be glad that this is NOT true or the Christian super majority would have dealt with atheism the way atheism dealt with Christianity in the few places it has gained power. You are welcome.

          • Jim Jones

            Here’s your problem. You constantly refer to an argument from authority. I judge all statements by their own truths.

            Mao had a lot of valuable statements in his “Little Red Book”. Of course he stole them all from elsewhere, but they still had value. It never improved my opinion of him.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Arguments from authority are sound when the authorities are unified and critics present no scholarly case. Jesus-myth beliefs are beyond fringe. The existence of Jesus is as settled a fact as any in ancient history can be.

          • Jim Jones

            Torture and murder are very effective. North Korea proves that. And the church had almost 2000 years to force conformity on the masses, along with control of the bible and even of its language.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            And yet here we are. Some Christians certainly went that way. Other nations (like our own) that had Christian super majorities did not. Of course, when atheists take over a regime they have always killed millions so far. We aren’t forcing conformity on you right now. Relax.

          • Jim Jones

            Atheists have never taken over a regime. Dictators do that. And they kill millions. Atheists have no reason to do that, except in your sick, twisted fantasies.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Why did atheists find “scientific” materialism so attractive? Why did the atheism come first with the scientism and then tyranny later? Maybe it comes from the belief that “science” all the answers. Who knows. However, you might try AN Wilson’s After the Victorians to get a picture of what went wrong for atheists politically.

          • Jim Jones

            There has never been an ‘atheist’ government. But the countries with the more secular governments have far better quality of life for all people.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            There are actually two such states (minimally) China and North Korea which favor atheism. China does so in its post-Marxist phase. You can thank The Christian Democratic parties of Western Europe for the situation you cite.

            Your denial that atheism has never governed well and was a motive in Marxist states, the French revolutionary state (not communist), and in the post-Marxist Chinese state reminds me of Christians who deny religion motivated the Crusades.

            Can’t be done.

          • Jim Jones

            N Korea is a state with an official family of gods who are worshiped as such.

            And Mao’s China was the same. Even now, religion is controlled lest the party lose power. This is religion in another guise.

            Try Sweden for an actual atheistic state, or as close as humans come.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            You should let the State Department and the Korean government know your insight. The Obama administration (hotbed of theocracy) called them an atheist regime. They classify themselves as atheists.

            No true Scotsman fallacy at work?

            So an atheist who kills people for being religious is religious?

            As for Sweden: I don’t suppose you mean Sweden with a Christian cross on the flag and that (whatever the present beliefs) was created by a Christian majority after World War II? Is this the Sweden where Pew found almost 70% of respondents were Christians in 2016? The most atheist/agnostic friendly survey I could find (an outlier) shows less than half the population atheist/agnostic.

          • Jim Jones

            Where are all the examples of purely atheistic governments which are fully democratic and in no way dictatorial?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            There are not any. An odd thing about Western atheism is that unlike religious minorities, they do not leave and form new communities (ie Piligrims). The only times atheists have gained power they did so through violent revolution. China shows that the atheism stays when Marx is gone.

          • Jim Jones

            China shows that power is the most addictive thing on earth.

            “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

            — Abraham Lincoln

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I agree with this with all my heart. Power. . . Insert Lord Acton quote here.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I am qualified (work in ancient philosophy) to note that the claim that the Gospels were “heavily edited over time” is false. We have fragments of John from @120 AD. We could rebuild most of the Gospels from quotes from the early fathers . . . And they are are not edited. Lataster self-publishes this stuff, because no editorial board would print it.

          • Jim Jones

            > We have fragments of John from @120 AD.

            Hilarious.

            So if I write a book and use some phrases from Shakespeare that proves I wrote my book with a time machine?

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            Next he’ll be claiming that John could have lived until 120AD when the average lifespan at the time was about 40.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. It proves that the text was preserved well over time. If you wrote a book and quote Shakespeare and a future age found your book hundreds of years after you wrote it they could compare what they had to what you had of Shakespeare. Assume one first Folio made it, your text, and what they had. The comparison would show that text of Shakespeare was (or was not) consistent from the first document to you and then to that future age.

          • Jim Jones

            > after you wrote it they could compare what they had to what you had of Shakespeare

            Not if there was no copy of Shakespeare left.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes, so it is good that we have copies or fragments of the New Testament from the early to late second century. Really amazing by ancient manuscript standards.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Those are not facts. You have not cited one historian who believes this bizarre theory. There is more evidence that Atlantis existed (it did not) then there is for the Jesus myth view . . .

          • Jim Jones

            > You have not cited one historian who believes this bizarre theory.

            A Growing Number of Scholars Are Questioning the Historical Existence of Jesus

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Notice the list of of scholars (and bloggers!) includes Bart Ehrman who has written a whole book to debunk the Jesus myth idea. I would not take an article that lists Professor Ehrman as supported a theory he refutes as very good. That leaves how many names?

          • Jim Jones

            > Bart Ehrman who has written a whole book to debunk the Jesus myth idea.

            His book is a failure.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            So you say, but maybe the article you cite should not have used him as an example for an idea he opposes.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            This article lists how many scholars? If there were 0 and there are now . . . 2? That is “growing” I guess and good click bait, but this is sad. There are hundreds of historians of the era. There are hundreds of classicists. Most atheists think this idea is nuts. Why are you out on this fringe? Here is a good atheist response to this idea: https://strangenotions.com/an-atheist-historian-examines-the-evidence-for-jesus-part-1-of-2/

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            Edwin Johnson and Arthur Drews were historians who believed Jesus was not a real person. Earl Doherty has a bachelor’s degree in Ancient History – he believes Jesus was not real. Richard Carrier has a doctorate in ancient history from Columbia University – he believes Jesus was not real. If any theory is “bizarre” it’s the theory that Jesus – the water-walking, demon-banishing, dead-raising, water-to-wine-transforming, fig-tree-withering son of the one true god – was real.

            The same amount of evidence exists for the existence of Atlantis as exists for the existence of Jesus – i.e. none at all. Claims made in books are not evidence of a place or a person’s existence. If they were, Hogwarts and Harry Potter, Middle-Earth and Frodo Baggins, Krypton and Superman, and Arrakis and Paul Atreides would all be real places and real people.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Edwin Johnson died in 1901 with the Victorian era. His theories on Gnosticism were undercut by later evidence. Even at the time he was nearly unique. Drews died after his attempt to start a Volkish religion petered out. Though not a Nazi, he certainly was awash in the weirdness of volkish Weimer scholarship and is hardly mainstream. So we have a guy who died in 1901, a weird sort-of-racist who died in 1935, and someone with a BA. Wow.

            I wrote my dissertation on Timaeus. Plato signals it is a made up story, his usual technique. Jesus myth people show the same inability to read ancient books properly that Atlantis theorists show. Both groups, not surprisingly, come from the fringes of Victorian pseudo-science. The historical existence of Jesus is as settled a fact as any thing in ancient history can be.

          • Jim Jones

            Christianity IS a conspiracy theory.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes.

          • Jim Jones

            > One superstition to lose is scientism.

            Utter, meaningless nonsense. If you use a microwave – or a toothbrush – you believe in the reliability of science.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I believe in the reliability of science, but not that science is the only source of knowledge.

          • Jim Jones

            Science is a method, not a source.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Science has methods, actually. And science has limits. That is why metaphysics counts.

          • Jim Jones

            I see no sign that you understand science.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Why?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Why?

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Metaphysics is masturbation in thought form. The only purpose it serves is to make the one practicing it feel really smart and other-worldly. It does not pass muster within the scientific method and the best thing about it is that when the sun goes nova in x-billion years, those still practicing it will be as dead as those of us in reality land.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            The inability of most pop-atheists to avoid junior high sex references amazes my students. The reason that metaphysics does not “pass muster” within the scientific method is that the scientific methods (there are more than one) are a subset of metaphysics. In fact, “Thanks for All” has made a statement of metaphysics by dismissing it, though he has done so for a bad reason.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Well, I feel properly chastised. Do you feel better?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I did not feel bad and remain calm with a side of carrying on.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Likewise, nice chatting with you.

        • Raging Bee

          What, you think your content-free whiny comments are helping anyone?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Yes. They do. Most people who read this do not comment.

          • Raging Bee

            Non-sequitur. Go back to bed.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Sadly, I cannot. Preparing a Hume lecture.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            I write every so often on the non-religious site for all the people tired of how negative every single blog is toward religion . . . every day. Give us a secular worldview!

          • Raging Bee

            Ever heard of liberal democracy? The US Constitution, as amended? There’s your secular worldview.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Though it privileges no particular ecclesial organization, the US Constitution is hardly “secular” in the sense of “atheist”

            http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-nnSAkHxuogA/TeUD_Fn6IGI/AAAAAAAAC6E/7uoAs2dC2-U/s1600/in-the-Year-of-our-Lord03.jpg

            and it was amended, as you say, in order to better conform it to the metaphysical, supernatural aspects of the Declaration, to acknowledge invisible but very real, indeed “unalienable” human rights “endowed by their Creator”

          • Raging Bee

            Seriously? The only cite you have is a bit of standard language regarding dates? “In the year of Our Lord” is just the fancier version of “AD.” ANd you don’t even state which document that is, or what part of it — it looks like the end, preparatory to the signatures, not a particular article of the actual content.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Yes, “In the Year of Our Lord” is the English equivalent of “Anno Domini.” Neither of these, however are “standard language regarding dates” for atheist manifestos, although my point is not that the US Constitution is a specifically Christian document. However not only was it composed by men steeped in a Judeo-Christian worldview, even the deists among them didn’t merely believe in a watchmaker sort of god who made everything but subsequently fled the scene, they believed in a real, objective, overarching right and wrong and that all men would stand before God in judgement for their earthly actions. That is a pretty strong Deism.

            Moreover as I said they could not accept that human rights are alienable, held by sufferance, as a provisional, revocable, temporary political gift from one’s voting neighbors, but rather rights were viewed as unalienable, permanent, God-given, pre-existing, pre-political realities that all people and all governments are cosmically obliged to respect. So America’s Founding documents are ‘secular’ in that no state church is established, and no existing churches given official sanction or legal preference, but are not secular in the sense of derived from, embracing or promoting atheism.

          • Raging Bee

            No one ever said America’s founding documents “promoted atheism.” We merely said those documents give atheists the same rights as theists, and make no claim of deriving legitimacy from any religious belief, leader or doctrine. They say “we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights,” but they don’t specify who, or even what, that Creator is. It could, in their view, be the God of Abraham; but it could just as easily be “the God of nature” (their words, not mine).

          • Dr_Grabowski

            If it’s only “documents” that “give atheists the same rights as theists” then if those documents are repealed or overturned, by vote or invasion, don’t these (entirely alienable) “rights” go away also?

            The Founders’ alternative is that human rights are real, and “unalienable” because “endowed by their Creator,” thus long pre-date the Declaration, Constitution, and resulting Republic, so are not in any way dependent on these human inventions.

            You can say
            “Ever heard of liberal democracy? The US Constitution, as amended? There’s your secular worldview.”

            but we can see that it’s not really secular (in the sense of atheist) at all, but at the heart of it is a cosmic metaphysical claim, rooted in Natural Law, in “Nature and Nature’s God” as you say

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            “Unalienable” rights “endowed by their Creator” allowed people to own slaves. So does the Bible. We now have better laws that make slavery illegal. This is why secular laws – laws that change and evolve to suit society, are better than any laws set in stone that fail to improve..

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Welcome aboard, but you’re joining us in the middle of a conversation. Our friend Raging Bee had argued for the US Constitution, as amended, and of course some of those Amendments had to do with harmonizing the Constitutional understanding with that of the Declaration.

            Even the South acknowledged that the Founders, Framers wanted ultimately to end slavery, for example, in CSA VP Alexander Stephens’ notorious Cornerstone Speech he says,

            The prevailing ideas entertained by [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away…

            But I have to ask, when you–you’re an atheist, right?–say that laws outlawing slavery are “better” laws than ones allowing it, what do you mean by “better”? When you say that “laws that change and evolve to suit society, are better than any laws set in stone that fail to improve” what do you mean by “improve”? Clearly you have in mind some kind of moral hierarchy, in which some laws are “better” than others. Getting this right is important because the Confederacy, just as much as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot (to say nothing of ISIS or Boko Haram) also wanted laws changed to suit their society, and certainly all claimed that theirs were better. On the basis of Christian Theism it can be established that they were wrong. The question is, again, assuming you’re an atheist, where in atheism are you finding or establishing your moral hierarchy?

          • Raging Bee

            No, they were wrong based on the observable consequences of their policies and actions. No “Christian Theism” necessary (so you don’t have to bother trying to define that vague phrase).

            I find it amusing that Christians like you keep on trying to undermine and deny everyone else’s basis for moral reasoning, while insisting that it’s the atheists who have no basis for moral reasoning. Hypocrite much?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I’m not sure I see the hypocrisy, but in any event “hypocrite” is only a pejorative in a universe where it is wrong or bad to be a hypocrite. Such a universe would therefore have to have meaningful categories corresponding to “wrong” or “bad”, along with “right” and “good”.

            If atheism is true, the terms “wrong” and “bad” seem to be meaningless, descriptions only of any particular speaker’s likes and dislikes. Some people seem to enjoy committing genocide, others prefer ice cream or clogging. If there is a standard, a moral standard that can be supported by an atheist worldview, I’d actually be very glad to hear about this.

            Sam Harris, in his book The Moral Landscape tries, but I think fails, to provide an alternate, wholly secular account of morality.

            Harris begins by offering up two examples of contemporary humanity: one is a successful professional, with friends, family and travel. The other, as I recall, is being chased for her life through some hot oppressive jungle. Laying out the foundations of his system, Sam wants us merely to accept that of the two, it’s better to be the person in the first situation, which no serious theist is going to question, all things being equal.

            Got it. It seems, though, that he is using “better” to mean not morally better, but simply “better off”.

            To nail down “better” better, another scenario could be outlined, accepting the same examples Harris offers, what if we, for reasons of our own, deliberately drop off person A in a Boko Haram or ISIS encampment, thus instantly giving them the life and lifestyle of person B?

            Would that be a wrong thing to do ?

            What can “wrong” possibly mean in a universe that is a morally silent, blind swirl of meaningless particles?

          • Raging Bee

            You keep on pretending atheists don’t have any basis for objective morality, but you’re the only one here actually denying any basis for objective morality. We know right from wrong, while you keep on pretending no one else CAN know this without believing in your fantasy friend.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I’m not trying to insult atheists or their observable behavior. The question is, what do terms like “right”, “wrong” and “objective morality” even mean from an atheist standpoint?

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, that’s the question, and I just gave you an answer. Are you going to accept it, or are you just going to keep on pretending the question hasn’t been (or can’t be) answered?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Well, let’s see. Though you lumped me in with “bigots and liars”, you haven’t told me why, exactly, purely on the basis of atheism, people shouldn’t lie or be prejudiced.

            Are you just going to reiterate what we all know, that bigotry or lying can harm people, without first locating and producing for us some naturalistic basis for saying that people ought not be harmed?

            Now I believe in right and wrong, I’m not for harming anyone, rather, hopefully I’m for finding ever better ways to benefit the world.

            Also, one can of course hold any of a wide variety of religious beliefs and substantially honor the moral law, at least in principle. But atheism/naturalism/materialism seems a special case. How can moral direction be found in a universe without any direction?

            Right and Wrong as concepts are personal, whenever we use them there is some desired or ideal state or condition, and a telos, a purpose, intention or will to reach this goal that is alternately either followed or resisted. We may blame a vandal or saboteur, we do not blame the rain, even when the resulting damage is greater.

            But if the universe began and continues without the actions of Mind, if it is denied that there is any kind of cosmic design, or intention to it, how can concepts like “right” or “wrong” get traction on anything? What could they possibly correspond or relate to? Right or wrong according to…?

          • Raging Bee

            …you haven’t told me why, exactly, purely on the basis of atheism, people shouldn’t lie or be prejudiced.

            The reasons aren’t “purely on the basis of atheism,” they’re on the basis of observation of reality. I said this several times already, in plain English, and you respond by amending your demand with this “purely on the basis of atheism” nonsense. Evidence-based morality is something theists and atheists alike can use (and DO use, whether or not they admit it), so it doesn’t have to be “purely on the basis of atheism,” it just has to be based on REALITY, independent of anyone’s unfounded religious beliefs or fairy-tales.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            When I asked, “why, exactly, purely on the basis of atheism, people shouldn’t lie or be prejudiced?” what I meant was “without reaching over and borrowing from categories like objective morality.”

            Now you say that atheism is sufficient to sustain objective morality, yet all you offer is the good or harm enjoyed or suffered by the immediate participants in the human drama. It seems that you’re content to simply assert that if someone is avoidably harmed, that is wrong. You have yet to tell us why (on the atheist view) it is wrong, so that’s not the same as an overarching requirement of good behavior. Objective morality means that something is right or wrong above and beyond differing human opinions about a particular matter. In my example of the “stolen” car, one person’s loss was exactly matched by another’s gain. The car is in different hands now, but is the same car, it weighs the same, its chemical and metallurgical structure is unaltered, so (I argued) we have to step away from material considerations, step outside of materialism, in order to talk about an invisible cosmic Right and Wrong before we can consider what “rightful owner” could possibly mean.

          • Raging Bee

            …what I meant was “without reaching over and borrowing from categories like objective morality.”

            You ask me to support objective morality, but then you say I can’t “borrow” “categories” like objective morality? This hypocrisy pretty much proves you’re arguing an bad faith, and you have no intention of ever accepting any answer or argument I offer.

            And who, exactly, am I allegedly “borrowing” this “category” from? I wasn’t aware of anyone else legally owning it.

            Now you say that atheism is sufficient to sustain objective morality…

            No, you lying twit, for the umpteenth (and probably last) time, I’m saying observation of actions and their consequences is sufficient basis for objective morality — whether or not you’re an atheist.

            Your relentless distortion of my words, despite numerous attempts to correct you, proves your dishonesty.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            No distortion; I’m using all terms, such as “objective,” as they are normally understood.

            Yes, I’d like to see you accept, embrace the concept of objective morality. No, I don’t think an atheist worldview can support such a category, so I’m arguing that if you’re going to lay claim to it, you must obtain it elsewhere, “borrow” it from some other system or tradition than naturalism/materialism/atheism.

            No hypocrisy there.

            But if you won’t hear it from me, will you hear my argument, such as it is, from an atheist?

            At https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/5640 Ronald Lindsay allows all my points; he admits that from the atheist point of view, “morality is a practical enterprise, not a means for describing the world.”

            Indeed, Lindsay accepts my contention that on the atheist view, “morality” is merely social mores, the ultimately arbitrary polite conventions needed for all of us to get along together. Because he’d personally like to see a secure, stable society based upon mutual cooperation, he does not accept “subjective” dissent; so his version of what “objective” morality means is merely that all must participate for the project to succeed. But he seems to realize that such a society is itself an arbitrary goal, thus his “morality” is not really objective, as it isn’t (from the point of view of atheism) the real truth of things, indeed he allows that “it is not irrational to reject the institution of morality altogether. One can coherently and consistently prefer what one regards as one’s own self-interest to doing the morally appropriate thing”

            Relevant excerpts of Lindsay’s essay include:

            The thesis of this essay is that morality is not objective in the same way that statements of empirically verifiable facts are objective…Contrary to the theist, God cannot be the source of morality. However, this doesn’t address the concern that morality then loses its objectivity. It becomes a matter of personal preference. We cannot really criticize others for doing something morally wrong, because all we’re saying is “we don’t like that”…For these reasons—and also because we want a firm grounding for morality ourselves—it is incumbent upon humanists, and secular ethicists generally, to address squarely the contentions that without God there is no objectivity in morality and that this situation would be something dreadful. The problem is that most try to do this by arguing that morality is objective in a way similar to the way in which ordinary descriptive statements are objective. The better argument is that morality is neither objective nor subjective as those terms are commonly understood…

            Secular Attempts to Make Morality Objective
            Often, the starting point for such arguments is to point out undisputed facts, such that pain is a bad thing and, all other things being equal, people avoid being in pain… The argument will then proceed by using this foundation to argue that we have a moral obligation to avoid inflicting pain or to increase well-being. But this will not do. Granted, pain is “bad” in a nonmoral sense, and people don’t want it, but to say that inflicting pain on someone is presumptively morally bad implies we have some justification for saying that this action is morally bad, not just that it’s unwanted. The problem with trying to derive moral obligations directly from facts about the world is that it’s always open for someone to ask “Why do these facts impose a moral obligation?”

            [This] difficulty…was famously noted by…philosopher David Hume, who remarked that from a statement about how things are—an “is” statement—we cannot infer a moral norm about how things should be—an “ought” statement. Despite various attempts to show Hume wrong, his argument was and is sound…An “is” statement and an “ought” statement are distinct classes of statements.

            So secular attempts to provide an objective foundation for morality have been …well, less than successful.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            The word ‘moral’ didn’t exist before the 15th century. What gives Christian theists the right to hijack it? You keep talking about right and wrong and morals as if you have a patent upon them. You don’t. No one does.

            If I understand your argument, you seem to think atheists have some sort of manifesto in which we define the parameters of the human existence. I’m here to tell you, there is no such manifesto. Atheism is merely a rational statement that relies upon the total lack of empirical evidence showing the existence of [a] supernatural god or gods. That’s it.

            So to answer your question about what terms like right, wrong or objective morality mean from an atheist standpoint – they mean the same as from any other person’s standpoint. We’re not mindless bags of dirt, Dr. and you, your god or your religion don’t get to dictate what those terms mean to us or anyone else. Do you understand that?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Sorry, I seem to have missed this comment of yours, I normally try to be more prompt than this in responding.

            “Objective morality” cannot “mean from an atheist standpoint” what it means “from any other person’s standpoint”, it cannot mean anything, because on atheist assumptions, there is no objective point-of-view, no overarching standard or norm for humanity as a whole, there is only opinion, which cannot be wrong, in the sense of being against cosmic intent, against the structure of the universe. “From an atheist standpoint,” human moral opinion can only be “wrong” for achieving goals of individuals or societies, goals which are themselves ultimately arbitrary

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “”From an atheist standpoint,” human moral opinion can only be “wrong” for achieving goals of individuals or societies, goals which are themselves ultimately arbitrary”

            This is excellent. What you have just told us is there is no objective morality except in the abstract. Make up a god, tell the god what morals you want it to have, write it down in a holy book and voila! – objective morality.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Alternately, it might be that (to borrow a phrase) the “common core” of human morals such as described by um, secular humanist Ronald Lindsay here:

            It’s obvious that people disagree about moral issues, but the extent of that disagreement is often exaggerated. The reality is that there is a core set of moral norms that almost all humans accept. We couldn’t live together otherwise. For humans to live together in peace and prosper, we need to follow norms such as do not kill, do not steal, do not inflict pain gratuitously, tell the truth, keep your commitments, reciprocate acts of kindness, and so forth. The number of core norms is small, but they govern most of the transactions we have with other humans. This is why we see these norms in all functioning human societies, past and present. Any community in which these norms were lacking could not survive for long. This shared core of moral norms represents the common heritage of civilized human society.

            https://www.secularhumanism.org/index.php/articles/5640

            reflect a certain reality, namely that there already is a God, who wrote a book in our psyches, such that, for example, when an item of “ours” is “stolen,” we not only want to possess and enjoy it again, we think that it “ought to ” be returned to us, that this is “right” and “proper”

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “reflect a certain reality, namely that there already is a God, who wrote a book in our psyches, such that, for example, when an item of “ours” is “stolen,” we not only want to possess and enjoy it again, we think that it “ought to ” be returned to us, that this is “right” and “proper””

            I agree wholeheartedly with your summary except the part about God. I see no reason for a God to enter into our psyche any more than it enters into the psyche of any other living creature. When geese mate, they do so for life apparently because that is written into their DNA. Elephants mourn when they come upon the remains of other elephants. Many different species have been observed engaging in what we call homosexual sexual behavior. Female western lowland gorillas use a type of ‘baby talk’ to communicate with their babies. The echolocation in dolphins allows them to know that a human is a living being and to understand when he is in trouble and when he need protection. That is why they usually approach pregnant women carefully since they hear the beating hearts of two persons. None of these creatures have an objective moral hierarchy as you describe it and yet for thousands of years they all have thrived within their own communities.

            The more likely scenario is that mankind, not unlike its animal cousins has developed a hierarchal morality as a need to survive just as Ronald Lindsay surmised but to add the extra component of some supernatural agent directing this little life experiment is pure subjective supposition on your part. How do you fail to see that unless you are extrapolating that DNA, mutation, adaptation, etc. are all manifestations of God? If that is what you are saying, then I would be interested in you showing exactly how that mechanism works.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I believe that God created the Universe, yes, so there is no inherent problem believing that for the animal world, God puts some basis for individual-and-community, survival-oriented impulses into who they are, their essence or their DNA, etc.

            If all is here by chance, then the fact of some evolutionary behavioral programming, as soon as we come to know, or believe we can know that it is programming and therefore does not correspond to a real state of moral affairs, then we will increasingly disregard its “instructions” in favor of what we believe will benefit us as individuals

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Excellent. So you believe that a god created the universe but that comforting belief has nothing to do with what benefits you as an individual.

            I say this because I cannot automatically believe we are anything but another anomaly in space and I would submit that if we were having coffee together in a cafe, you would find that I, a lifetime atheist, are just as moral as you are.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            What I meant by “benefit us as individuals” was “benefit us as individuals at the expense of other individuals and/or the group or entire civilization”

            From a Theist, or even a specifically Judeo-Christian viewpoint, your outward, observable behavior may well be many times more wonderful than my own. For you to be “just as moral” as me would doubtless be a big step down for you. No, I’m not here trying to push some bogus notion that atheists are dirtbags. But it is still true that for you to be”just as moral” as anyone implies, requires the existence of a real morality, which you seem to have forsworn.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “I’m not here trying to push some bogus notion that atheists are dirtbags. But it is still true that for you to be”just as moral” as anyone implies, requires the existence of a real morality, which you seem to have forsworn.”

            How can we forswear something that only you say exists? The real morality you speak of doesn’t exist so to try and parse it out as atheist morality versus theist morality is moot. Morality is relative to the society in which these morals are established. It is ever-changing regardless of your unsubstantiated belief that god somehow ingrained an extra-special version within us. There are no theists vs atheists in the animal world yet they somehow manage to live peaceably without any objective morality. How is the structure of their DNA any different from ours? Is there some sort of morality string? You aren’t making any sense and this isn’t uncommon because we’ve seen time and again how theists twist themselves into unbelieveable knots while trying to explain the intangible as tangible. Why do this to yourselves? What’s the upside?

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            They hope that if they say it long enough, they might actually start to believe they will live forever in fricken Cloud City from The Empire Strikes Back.

          • Dr_Grabowski
          • Dr_Grabowski

            Hello again!

            I’m not seeing the knots, to me this is all entirely straightforward…

            You write that “…real morality…doesn’t exist” but this is just an assertion. It might possibly be a description were we able to somehow rule out the existence of a cosmic law and lawgiver, but in the meantime, I think having a discussion via these “squiggles” as you call them can be fruitful if only to clarify the questions before us, and/or our own true positions.

            To say that something is “right” or “wrong” beyond a statement of one’s own feelings finding it “agreeable” or “unpleasant” requires the existence of that objective cosmic standard. If such does not exist, then honesty requires using lesser words like, “I like it” or “I hate it”.

            (Oh, but absent this standard, “honesty” does not “require” anything, so one may, in theory, on the view of atheism be just as duplicitous as one um, likes!)

            It is interesting, just in passing, that those who do believe in a fixed, unchanging morality, mostly religious conservatives, also see America and the West on a steep downhill slope into barbarism, whereas those who believe that “morality is relative to the society in which these morals are established” think everything is hunky-dory, even improving, or would be if we could just successfully sideline the aforementioned conservatives, neuter their sociopolitical influence.

            : )

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “It is interesting, just in passing, that those who do believe in a fixed, unchanging morality, mostly religious conservatives, also see America and the West on a steep downhill slope into barbarism, whereas those who believe that “morality is relative to the society in which these morals are established” think everything is hunky-dory, even improving, or would be if we could just successfully sideline the aforementioned conservatives, neuter their sociopolitical influence.”

            Well that’s what happens when you try and apply iron-age morality gleaned from a very small group of people living isolated in only one very small part of the world to a 21st century geopolitical mix of cultures with advanced technologies and a very complex, integrated and fragile social structure. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            So the passage of time and the introduction of cultural innovations and new technologies somehow change morality? It might have been considered wrong in the ancient world to knowingly trip up someone walking, but now that we have aluminum and jet engines it’s o.k. to fly jetliners into buildings?

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            You missed the point completely.

            The morality you speak of from Biblical times lacked even the knowledge of Mayan, Jomon Period, Bosporan Kingdom and many other developed civilizations outside the sphere of the Roman Empire. Who are these primitive scribes to manifest the hubris to speak for God and define morality when they were totally unaware of entire civilizations that had risen and fallen completely outside their frame of reference? This is just further proof that these scribes were no more inspired by a God than I am. Don’t eat leavened bread during Passover – really?- this is God’s message to us?

            Does flying planes into buildings to speed along man’s desire to meet their maker make any sense to you at all? These terrorists think they are helping you – that is the degree to which their religious fundamentalism has degraded into the psychotic.

            I thought we were making progress here, but now I’m not so sure.

            Conservatives in the USA misuse this Iron-Age Biblical morality to mask their own personal bigotry towards issues and other people who do not fit within their myopic parameters of what is moral and God’s will. But to use this holy book as a bastion of morality is frankly, laughable and the last thing any objective person who has read the Bible from cover-to-cover would say, is that it was a guidebook for morality.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Hello again! You write:

            “Who are these primitive scribes to manifest the hubris to speak for God and define morality when they were totally unaware of entire civilizations that had risen and fallen completely outside their frame of reference?”

            –Actually, though it’s not needed to establish the point that atheism does not and cannot support an objective morality, since you brought it up, the Bible actually began with the scientific method!

            Moses in his decades in the desert had no doubt seen many plants catch fire in the heat, and quickly go up in smoke. . But one day he sees one that burns…and keeps burning. It burns…and burns…and burns…

            (Exodus 3): “…the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. So Moses said, “[c]I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

            The claim of the Jews is that their God is the One True God, who judges these other civilizations you speak of, whether it’s through Moses to Egypt’s Pharaoh, “Let My People Go!” or Daniel telling Babylon’s Belshazzar that “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end”

            “Don’t eat leavened bread during Passover – really?- this is God’s message to us?”

            –Bible scholars tell us that God gave the Hebrews a lot of word pictures. Leaven symbolizes sin; ultimately it’s wrongdoing we want to cast out of our homes and lives.

            “Does flying planes into buildings to speed along man’s desire to meet their maker make any sense to you at all? …I thought we were making progress here, but now I’m not so sure”

            –My point is that though technical craft may improve, and for the very most part we want it to, morality does not change. Harming innocents is (under Theism) objectively wrong whether a cudgel, a crossbow or a Colt is used

            “Conservatives in the USA misuse this Iron-Age Biblical morality”

            –Misuse? So there is a right use of history or tradition, and a wrong use? Again, you seem to be trying to smuggle in some standard of value that can’t be supported on atheist assumptions

            “to mask their own personal bigotry towards issues and other people who do not fit within their myopic parameters

            –Bigotry is wrong? If so, what does wrong mean, in the atheist perspective?

            “the last thing any objective person who has read the Bible from cover-to-cover would say, is that it was a guidebook for morality”

            –In a sense you are correct; for the immoral, which is all of us, better behavior is not the first item on the agenda, it’s not reform but renewal, a supernatural inner change we need.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            I think this is the point where I declare a victory and move on. You’ve ceased to answer my questions in an honest manner. You keep falling back on how you think atheists think and what you think atheism is or isn’t as some sort of proof for your assertions. It is abundantly clear that you don’t know anything about atheism (why should you – that frame of reference is totally alien to you) and your assertions about morality are limited by the theistic bubble in which you have surrounded yourself. It’s obvious that I have nothing of value to add to the conversation because my comments are always dismissed as assertions or anti-supernatural bias. Fine, it that works for you and you sleep well at night, who am I judge? It’s been real,…or surreal. Take your pick.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Thanks4AllTheFish ~

            Hey, you’re of course free to declare victory and check out, though I’m grateful that you stuck around as long as you did, invested as much of your time as you did.

            I hope I didn’t “dismiss” your comments, but if I found them unfounded, without a basis in your stated philosophy, I needed to let you know that, or we weren’t communicating.

            If you’d said, in effect, “I believe that ultimate reality is X because of Y”, we have something to talk about.

            But if you say that “Since of course reality is really X you Theists need to back off, to stop being bigoted” or whatever, then questions about what that means, why that is, questions about your level of certainty, and consistency of approach seemed appropriate.

            In fact atheism is not something alien to me. I was a self-declared atheist when I was 11, in fact when I was 12, I mistakenly evicted our non-theistic Unitarian minister from a room once, thinking he was a regular minister, bringing me religious superstition.

            But, if you’re gone, you’re gone. I would however have liked to know specifically how I failed to answer your questions in an honest manner, I’d want to give you an honest answer to all of your questions!

          • Raging Bee

            Given that “Christian Theism” was (and in some quarters still is) used to JUSTIFY slavery (and the war waged to keep it from being abolished), I’d say that’s not really a reliable basis for moral reasoning.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Certainly people, including myself, who have identified as Christian have done things that Christianity itself says are terrible.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “The question is, again, assuming you’re an atheist, where in atheism are you finding or establishing your moral hierarchy?”

            The same could be said of Christianity. Until you provide empirical evidence of the existence of your god, the book you ascribe to as the be-all and end-all of moral objectivity is merely iron-age nomads playing at being god.

            There is no difference whatsoever between the derivation of an atheist’s idea of morality and anyone else. They are all societal driven and religion or atheism is tangential to the outcome.

            And I’m going to throw this in here because it is vitally important that everyone understands that the United States of America was specifically formed as a secular nation and the primary reason for this was because of the inherent propensity of religion to force inhuman and irrational doctrines with little concern for basic human rights thereby making the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness impossible within an egalitarian society as envisioned by the founding fathers.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Even if it were proven untrue, Theism as a philosophy or system has a place to root morality and therefore a moral hierarchy, and atheism does not.

            If all moralities are socially driven, as in your view, there is no way to judge between the morality of rival societies, such as when the Allies liberated the Nazi death camps, nor when the British banned sati or suttee, the practice in India of burning a widow alive.

            You speak of “basic human rights.” Can you “provide empirical evidence” of their “existence”?

            The United States was founded without an official national church. To that extent it is indeed secular. But that is different from it being officially atheist.

            Up to a point, human beings have always been free to “pursue life, liberty and happiness” anywhere, even in an atheist nation’s gulag. The founding fathers however instead averred that individuals’ “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” were among the “unalienable rights” that were “endowed by their Creator.”

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “Theism as a philosophy or system has a place to root morality and therefore a moral hierarchy, and atheism does not.”

            That is absolutely correct. Atheism is merely a statement about the existence of a god or gods. It has no tenets, credos or manifesto. Unfortunately the moral hierarchy you speak of in theism is still dependent upon those in authority to dictate the morality. It is inherent upon the rest of society to determine whether those moral edicts by a particular sect of theists fits into the mores practiced by that society. IOW, just because a certain sect of theists has determined what they believe is moral or not does not require the rest of the society that may or may not include the theists, to agree with them. Further, if the society outside of these theists establish a set of morals that they feel better serve the community, then it makes their moral hierarchy no less important or significant that those of the theists.

            “If all moralities are socially driven, as in your view, there is no way to judge between the morality of rival societies, such as when the Allies liberated the Nazi death camps, nor when the British banned sati or suttee, the practice in India of burning a widow alive.”

            Morality, by definition is how we make a distinction between right and wrong, good and evil in a society and in individuals. In the abstract, your analogy would appear to be correct. However, real people don’t live in the abstract. In your first analogy, the determination of morality was between those societies who believed they were the master race and wished to subjugate, annihilate, torture and control the societies they captured and those who wished to allow people the freedom to determine their own destinies free of totalitarianism and fascism. I don’t think it takes a philosopher or theist to look at these two options and come to an understanding that one society was not acting in a positive or good moral sense to provide a good outcome for everyone in the societies they were subjugating. Because of their need to incorporate societies outside of their own, the overall makeup of their society was now different and their morality was looked upon as evil both within and without.

            Your second analogy is particularly interesting because it pits the morals of the British Empire versus the religious principles of the local Indian people. I’m tempted to show how that if morals are somehow god-given and absolute, why the British would have the chutzpah to interfere? Comparing this to Christians always claiming how their morals are absolute because…well, you know, seems apropos. The idea of do no harm comes to mind when discussing morality. If the morals within a society or community are beneficial to the community and the individuals living within them, and they are not harmful to them or others, then I think most rational people would come to the conclusion that that was a moral society. Obviously, burning widows isn’t exactly healthy for widows or anyone else, so maybe that kind of thing should cease.

            “You speak of “basic human rights.” Can you “provide empirical evidence of the existence” for them?”

            No, of course not. Life has opportunities, not rights and it was the founding fathers who spoke of these rights, not me. Life can choose to follow evolutionary trends that cause it to thrive or it can go extinct. We, as humans are no different or have any more right to exist than any other living organism.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Good morning!

            A number of folk here on this thread have asserted that one can find in the atheist worldview sufficient wherewithal to support an objective morality. You’re not making this claim, so apologies if I have at all misunderstood you.

            Even using the word “morals” instead of mores, for the agreed-upon customs of any society, however, seems problematic, as it carries with it at least the connotation of a real right and wrong. The charge of “Immoral!” still carries with it some rhetorical sting, even our friends on the ideological/political Left use it that way, as in the “Moral Monday” movement. But if all one means by such a charge is that “we do things differently around here (but concede that your behavioral selections are no more arbitrary than ours)” it seems wholly meaningless.

            You do, however, write that , “I don’t think it takes a philosopher or theist to look at these two options and come to an understanding that one society [we were discussing Nazi Germany] was not acting in a positive or good moral sense to provide a good outcome for everyone in the societies they were subjugating.”

            But purely on the basis of atheist presuppositions, aren’t your use of words like “good”, “positive”, and “beneficial” also meaningless? Isn’t this usage trying to (unknowingly) smuggle in some real standard of good beyond “things one happens to like?”

            Because, absent an overarching standard or standards, an ultimate law and a corresponding lawgiver, the things one happens to like need not be respected

            So the Nazis are then free to answer the analysis with, “We weren’t trying to be nice to the Poles. That wasn’t ever our goal, our goal was Deutschland uber alles!

            The consistent atheist can hardly reply with, “You ought to have been nice to the Poles” I think you have already ruled that move out of order…

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “A number of folk here on this thread have asserted that one can find in the atheist worldview sufficient wherewithal to support an objective morality. You’re not making this claim, so apologies if I have at all misunderstood you.”

            The problem with your contention is that there is no such thing as an “atheist worldview”. So to try and argue about an objective morality within this framework is purely an exercise in the abstract. Objective and relative morality have been debated to death and there is no clear consensus one way or the other. I am certainly no expert, far from it, but it appears to me that your primary intent is to pin down atheists as somehow being incapable of having morals, or understanding why they have them should they have them, or how atheist morals (if they have them) can’t possibly be as significant as godly endowed morals or some such? Unfortunately for you, you cannot make a clear case for objective morality dependent upon a deity unless you can provide proof of that deity existing. So any argument about morality with this premise, fails out of the gate from an empirical standpoint.

            “Even using the word “morals” instead of mores, for the agreed-upon customs of any society, however, seems problematic, as it carries with it at least the connotation of a real right and wrong. The charge of “Immoral!” still carries with it some rhetorical sting, even our friends on the ideological/political Left use it that way, as in the “Moral Monday” movement. But if all one means by such a charge is that “we do things differently around here (but concede that your behavioral selections are no more arbitrary than ours)” it seems wholly meaningless.”

            I’m certain the charges of immoral were never used by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority when defining the Right to Choose advocates. Right and wrong, good and evil are merely the words we use to point out behaviors. When you speak of objective morality, it implies that certain behaviors are etched in stone. I am unaware of any absolute morality not rooted in relativism except in the minds of theists and philosophers and even then they constantly shift the goalposts when confronted with conflicting arguments.

            “You do, however, write that , “I don’t think it takes a philosopher or theist to look at these two options and come to an understanding that one society [we were discussing Nazi Germany] was not acting in a positive or good moral sense to provide a good outcome for everyone in the societies they were subjugating.” But purely on the basis of atheist presuppositions, aren’t your use of words like “good”, “positive”, and “beneficial” also meaningless? Isn’t this usage trying to (unknowingly) smuggle in some real standard of good beyond “things one happens to like? Because, absent an overarching standard or standards, an ultimate law and a corresponding lawgiver, the things one happens to like need not be respected.”

            If you take away from atheists the words used to describe these behaviors, then how would we be able to trade squiggles? What atheist presuppositions are you talking about? The only presuppositions I’m aware of is the lack of evidence showing the existence of any gods. Are you implying that without some god-infused moral compass installed into our DNA we are being disingenuous about our premise that gods likely don’t exist? To the best of anyone’s knowledge after 100,000 years on this planet, the only presupposition is that human life will strive to do whatever is necessary to survive. A single cell will split into another and so on and so on. No soul has been discovered, no god has magically appeared and the human genome shows no map location for heaven or hell. These are the cold, hard facts. This universe is not friendly towards life, so my suggestion is to cherish and understand the one you have, while you have it. The “things one happens to like” are what got us this far along in spite of people like the Nazis or those in the Spanish Inquisition and I doubt anyone spent more than ten seconds worrying about whether there was an objective morality at play. Mankind kills, steals and participates in all sorts of anti-social, self-defeating and suicidal behavior, yet we are still here – until we aren’t. That’s the sum total of our morality.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Hello again! I don’t have an immense amount of time for this, but let me say that I’m grateful for your time and interest.

            Let me quickly try to address your copious points. You write:

            … there is no such thing as an “atheist worldview”.

            There are other shoes that drop when atheism is embraced, the absence of God necessarily logically entails certain other facts about the universe. Taken together, this is what I mean by an atheist worldview. There are implications to the absence of God, for example, the loss of meaning.

            you cannot make a clear case for objective morality dependent upon a deity unless you can provide proof of that deity existing.

            “Objective” morality by definition means a normative norm, some standard or standards that are true and binding upon individuals, groups, societies, whole civilizations, irrespective of anyone’s opinion about them. Whether or not I can prove God’s existence to your or anyone’s satisfaction, without God, from where will you source such a metanarrative?

            Right and wrong, good and evil are merely the words we use to point out behaviors.

            From the atheist standpoint, you’re right, no higher meaning seems possible. Yet many here on this thread seem to want what they happen to think to be right, to really beright. And there could be, at least in theory, such a “correct” view, from which, if we had something like certitude about it, we could not merely “point out” behaviors that we happen to dislike, as we might dislike rutabagas, we could “call out” people for persisting in behaviors that are actually identifiable as criminal, as at the Nuremburg Trials. But not from atheism.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “There are implications to the absence of God, for example, the loss of meaning.”

            I disagree. Non-belief or lack of belief in a deity frees up the human animal to pursue very meaningful endeavours. Frankly, I’m sorry your life lacks meaning without whatever god you’ve decided is the real one, but I, myself, and many other atheists in the world lead lives with purpose, enlightenment, empathy, love, caring, and hope in the here and now with every bit and most times more meaningful outcomes than those of you who look forward to a rapture and everlasting life. Most atheists only regret is that when they die, they won’t be able to say I told you so.

            Life isn’t some mysterious supernatural event. It is the inevitable culmination of time, energy and matter that randomly winks in and out of the fabric of the universe since forever. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

            “Objective” morality by definition means a normative norm, some standard or standards that are true and binding upon individuals, groups, societies, whole civilizations, irrespective of anyone’s opinion about them. Whether or not I can prove God’s existence to your or anyone’s satisfaction, without God, from where will you source such a metanarrative?”

            I know what objective morality means (to you). What I’m saying is that it doesn’t exist in the sense that you describe. Objective morality is only morality based upon facts. Those facts are obtained from experience or observation (not divinely endowed) and when applied to a specific situation within a social construct, they are subject to the relative morality or mores of that society. Further, You continue to argue that atheists cannot have a source for a metanarrative solely on the contention that since they have no belief in a deity they cannot borrow from theism what morality is. You are in the same boat – If you cannot prove that your deity exists, then that deity cannot establish an objective morality so even by being a deist, you have no basis for your claim that your objective morality isn’t just something that makes you feel good about yourselves.

            “And there could be, at least in theory, such a “correct” view, from which, if we had something like certitude about it, we could not merely “point out” behaviors that we happen to dislike, as we might dislike rutabagas, we could “call out” people for persisting in behaviors that are actually identifiable as criminal, as at the Nuremburg Trials. But not from atheism.”

            Waterboarding was defined in the Nuremberg Trials as torture and people were executed for participating. However, our own leaders decided that it was acceptable and not torture when they were caught doing it. So while you have made a false dichotomy about our ability to define absolute criminal activity, the morality of the society changed to accept the behavior.

            One of the most difficult things for theists to understand from an atheist standpoint is the idea of certainty. It is drilled into theists by their authority figures that there are absolute rights and wrongs, good and evil and that there is some super-smart and wise deity that will pass judgement and sort it all out once we leave this mortal coil. The bad guys will finally get their just desserts and the good guys will do whatever wonderful things their deity has in store for them. All of this is certain.

            I’m here to tell you there is only one true certainty and that is death. If anyone tells you any different, they have an agenda.

            So this is where you say “well if that’s how you feel, why don’t we all just go out and do whatever we like to whomever we want”?

            Because, through many thousands of years of doing just that, we discovered a sense of morality and laws that benefitted us more than acting like insane serial killers, thieves and rapists. It became self-evident that being pathological wasn’t in everyone’s or anyone’s best interests. It also didn’t require a belief in God to come to that consensus because if it did, places that eschew gods and religions like many Scandinavian countries, wouldn’t have the highest standard of living and the happiest people on the planet.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, the rights existed before the DoI, but people still need to form governments to uphold and enforce those rights — because no matter how loudly and repeatedly you insist they come from God, God’s never been known to show up when they need enforcing or defending.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            My point here is that, despite yourself, it’s you who is recognizing that human rights have a divine origin. I believe the same of course, I just don’t claim to be an atheist.

            You say that the rights outlined in the Declaration existed before the Declaration, great, I agree, only this view is unsupportable on the basis of the materialist, naturalist assumptions of an atheist worldview. If all that exists is material, what of human rights? What color are they? What is their atomic weight?

            If you go around speaking of “your” car, “your” phone, etc in the belief that these are properly to be understood as your property, you have left materialism and are now arguing for some mystical, invisible cosmic link between you and some stuff. Moreover if you believe that your property rights “ought to” be legally enforced, you’re similarly dragging in this mystical, invisible cosmic thing called morality. Again, I’m glad, but this is not a “secular worldview”

          • Raging Bee

            You’re lying about what I believe, and you’re also lying about the “atheist worldview.”

            If you go around speaking of “your” car, “your” phone, etc in the belief that these are properly to be understood as your property, you have left materialism and are now arguing for some mystical, invisible cosmic link between you and some stuff.

            So now you’re pretending the concept of property ownership is “mystical, invisible, cosmic” just so you can pretend it all comes from your imaginary god? Sorry, that’s bullshit. You can’t just assert that something is “outside materialism” and thereby validate your religious fantasies, or anyone else’s.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            If a stolen car still functions properly, if the person who made off with it is a competent driver, there is no necessary measurable, material difference between the current user and the one we traditionally refer to as the rightful owner. The invisible moral idea of “rightful,” the invisible connection between an “owner” and his “belongings” — these are obviously not material. If the material is all there is, then property and other human rights are by definition outside materialism

          • Raging Bee

            Wrong again. Just because people have thoughts, doesn’t mean any of those thoughts are “outside materialism.” (A term which you, like too many other Christian bigots and liars, neglect to define.)

          • Dr_Grabowski

            But the dude (it’s usually a dude) who makes off with your car may have “thoughts” of his own, thoughts that he has as much right to hang on to your ride while he can as you did. These of course will likely conflict with your own thoughts, along the lines of “No, the car ‘rightfully’ belongs to me.” And you both are free, on the philosophical basis of atheism, to go on thinking your respective thoughts about the matter. But to be able to meaningfully say that either your thoughts or his are more valid requires recourse to a metanarrative, something over and above both of you, and binding on both of you, namely morality, an invisible standard or set of standards. This is found in the universe posited by atheists where exactly?

            And I question your starting point, I think you are mistaken when you say that “Just because people have thoughts, doesn’t mean any of those thoughts are “outside materialism.”

            I think your thoughts are outside materialism. Do you view your thoughts as merely a result of cause and effect, such that you’re not really the one thinking them, or really thinking at all, but rather your thoughts are like stones rolling down a hill, thoughts thought somehow automatically, as a matter of brain chemistry, such that you believe the things you do because of some long chain of events, most recently the sound of your toaster this morning but going all the way back to the Norman Conquest or beyond?

            C.S. Lewis:

            The Naturalists have been engaged in thinking about Nature. They have not attended to the fact that they were thinking. The moment one attends to this it is obvious that one’s own thinking cannot be merely a natural event, and that therefore something other than Nature exists.

          • Raging Bee

            The mere assertion that thoughts are “outside naturalism” does not lead to the conclusion that we all have to believe in your particular set of supernatural fairy-tales, or anyone else’s.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            It wasn’t my assertion, but an observation, that either naturalism is true or it isn’t. If naturalism is true, then what of your thoughts, indeed, what of your “you?” If human personality is an illusion and all thoughts are just the cause-and-effect chemical outworking of an impersonal universe, doing what the impersonal universe does, it seems unlikely that we can trust them to arrive at any truth, and it’s similarly doubtful that truth in the classic sense exists. But if there’s someone home in there, if your thoughts, decisions, aspirations, motivations, likes and loves are really yours, and not the clanking of some automated machine, can’t we also say that they are not material, thus “outside materialism” and therefore a material explanation for life cannot be an accurate?

          • Raging Bee

            If human personality is an illusion and all thoughts are just the cause-and-effect chemical outworking of an impersonal universe, doing what the impersonal universe does, it seems unlikely that we can trust them to arrive at any truth…

            And how do unproven and unprovable fairy-tales about gods and other supernatural beings improve anything here? They don’t. If you want to cling to one such set of fairy-tales to make yourself feel more special, that’s fine. But it doesn’t make your favorite fairy-tales any more true or useful.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            In the sense you apply it to the existence of the supernatural, the non-existence of the supernatural is just as “unproven and unprovable” if not more so. Therefore to regard the supernatural as a “fairy-tale” is merely an assumption on your part, an assertion you’re making

          • Raging Bee

            Nope. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and claims of supernatural whatever don’t even have ordinary evidence.

            Furthermore, the total lack of evidence for any supernatural claims, is, for all practical decision-making purposes, sufficient proof of the non-existence of the supernatural.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Claims about a present-day or rather recent miracle, such as are discussed, processed by the Roman Catholic Church I will have to leave aside, in part because I’m not an official member of that body, and relatively unfamiliar with its modus operandi in this area.

            Historic or ancient miracles are, as I understand it, processed by believers on the same basis as other historic claims. The claim that Jesus (and other Biblical figures) rose from the dead is approached with the same legal-historical investigatory lens as the claim that George Washington crossed the Delaware. To say, without evidence of your own, that one of these claims is an impossibility is to rig the game, to apply a materialist bias

          • Raging Bee

            Bullshit. Washington passes the “legal-historical investigatory lens” test, and Jesus, as described in the Bible, does not. That’s not an assumption or bias, that’s an observation.

            Also, belief in a historical Jesus is not the same thing as belief in ANY supernatural beings or events. Once again, you’re showing your dishonesty, this time by moving the goalposts.

            … I’m not an official member of [the RCC], and relatively unfamiliar with its modus operandi in this area.

            Take it from those who ARE familiar with that body: it’s ruled by a bunch of lying bigoted misogynistic child-rapists, they’ve been proven dead wrong on a huge number of important issues, and nothing they say has any credibility.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Raging Bee ~

            You write that

            [George] Washington passes the “legal-historical investigatory lens” test, and Jesus, as described in the Bible, does not. That’s not an assumption or bias, that’s an observation.

            An observation of what, precisely? Why, absent an anti-supernatural bias, are not the accounts of miracles etc attributed in the Bible to Jesus just as worthy of historical investigation, or much more so, given the claims involved?

            And how did I “move the goalposts”?

            If you engage with the data, hear out the case presented by those claiming historical miracles, weigh the evidence yourself, the relative likelihood of fraud based upon the life and actions of those who at various places and times have given eyewitness testimony, etc etc and conclude that you need more information or something etc to make an informed decision, that is one thing.

            But if you are going to dismiss all reports of the supernatural becausethey are reports of the supernatural, that looks like bias, yes.

            But perhaps just nature is wild, amazing, mathematical and intricate enough to convince you of a God anyway

            http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2012/09/10/article-2201057-14F044FA000005DC-465_634x424.jpg

            https://thegardendiaries.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/picmonkey-collage.jpg

            https://dailyverses.net/images/en/NIV/romans-1-20.jpg

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Romans 1:20 makes a statement not in evidence. “What has been made” cannot arbitrarily be attributed to a god, Christian or otherwise. There is no excuse being made except possibly the gullibility of believers to credit their particular god of choice to anything they don’t understand or science has yet to explain. I personally find the intricacies of nature far more fascinating now that I understand better how adaptation, mutation, analogous structures, etc. explain what we all observe in the natural universe around us. Assigning some supernatural agent is not only unnecessary but counter-productive insofar as it automatically assumes that no matter what, why or how something exists, God did it. Great way to take the fun (and knowledge) out of science.

            Look at the pretty pictures everyone. God did that with his eternal power and divine nature. Class dismissed.

            Um,…professor? Just exactly HOW did God use his invisible qualities of eternal power and divine nature? Could you perhaps point us to some quantifiable theories, principles, or mathematical formulas that bear out this hypothesis?

            Mysterious ways my boy, mysterious ways. It’s supernatural………cue foley effects.

          • Dr_Grabowski
          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “But you seem to be using “science” as a synonym for “science conducted solely on the basis of assumptions naturalism, materialism.””

            That’s because I view science as empirical and theoretical, not as pseudo. I don’t make huge leaps like assuming mathematical precision in nature somehow proves the existence of a supernatural creator. Nobel prize winning astrophysicist Mario Livio tackled that problem in his book “Is God A Mathematician?” and though I have not read his book, the reviewers of it say he doesn’t know. Wise answer and much better than saying, since you don’t know then it must be god.

          • Dr_Grabowski
          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            deleted

          • Dr_Grabowski

            So it’s pseudoscience if other than naturalist/materialist. Got it.

            Can you see, though, that this is an assumption of yours, ideological baggage you are bringing to the scientific enterprise, rather than a product of investigation?

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Are you not assuming that the supernatural exists and doing so by cavalierly ignoring the empirical methods with which we now accept as the basis for acquiring knowledge? Where can we read your sourced investigative papers that prove the existence of the supernatural? What ideological baggage are you dragging into this conversation without a shred of empirical evidence?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            When you refer to “the empirical methods…we now accept as the basis for acquiring knowledge” I couldn’t help but think of the old Lone Ranger joke:

            https://4.bp.blogspot.com/-UBkJsIfsif8/WUdVOMqy8CI/AAAAAAAAXnk/MMgPmioS4PMAivPuJNIGyjB3JsJ8LygewCLcBGAs/s1600/Lone%2BRanger%2B%25231.jpg

            Seriously, I greatly value science and technology, knowledge and discovery. To insist, without any basis, that anything that the material tools of science can’t locate or measure thereby do not exist is anti-science, against knowledge

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Listen my learned friend, I am a pragmatist. So upon being labeled this, you cannot in any sense of the word expect me to just believe supernatural claims because…. You have yet to provide any non-material tools of science, whatever those might be, in which we could verifiably and irrefutably maintain the existence of the supernatural. Until you can do so, you are merely philosophizing a metaphysical ideology in the hopes that by repeating or repackaging it enough times, someone will be exhausted from trading squiggles with you. To what end this exchange of ideology suggests, I know not.

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e3a9b57e909412050c4100f95aaf1aa623cc947edc4343a322201eb6a7f876c3.jpg

          • Dr_Grabowski

            It may be that there are things that exist, that an empirical, material science cannot find. Other branches of human knowledge may be needed, for example, to establish the truth of historical claims of miracles. More than an anti-supernatural bias is required to pretty decisively conclude that Washington did cross the Delaware but Jesus did not walk on water. For now it sounds like agnosticism is a more honest response than atheism to the information immediately available to us

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            But one point you are consistently missing is that even if there are things that exist that empirical, material science cannot (yet) find, it doesn’t automatically default that they are miracles created by a god. Further anti-supernatural bias isn’t the reason we accept the fact that Washington eventually crossed the Delaware and Jesus didn’t walk on water. We accept that Jesus didn’t walk on water because there is no empirical evidence currently to show that is even possible.

            When you compare the miracle of Jesus walking on water and his miracle of touching a leper and supposedly curing him and then telling him to sin no more – you come to an understanding that Jesus believed that sinning was the cause of leprosy (and arguably other maladies) and the cure was belief in him and his miraculous hands.

            We now know the cure for leprosy even though it took nearly 1900 years to learn it and strangely enough, it isn’t caused by sin or cured by magical hands. This puts into doubt the basic inerrancy of truth in the Bible and at the same time casts doubt upon the actions and intentions of a god to not reveal the actual cause and treatment of this horrible disease especially as being an omnipotent entity, he supposedly had the knowledge to do so.

            I put it to you that if your god, who by your belief possesses this hierarchy of objective morality and also possesses the knowledge and capability to prevent and/or cure debilitating diseases but withholds this information – I submit that your god does not understand or practice objective morality the way that you believe he does.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            But one point you are consistently missing is that even if there are things that exist that empirical, material science cannot (yet) find, it doesn’t automatically default that they are miracles created by a god.

            I grant that, but that would indicate that materialism as a worldview is false.

            We accept that Jesus didn’t walk on water because there is no empirical evidence currently to show that is even possible.

            But to summarily rule out the possibility that He did at the outset does indicate an anti-supernatural bias. Agnosticism is thus as far as one could safely, honestly go before weighing any historical evidence for or against the proposition.

            When you [consider] Jesus…touching a leper and supposedly curing him and then telling him to sin no more – you come to an understanding that Jesus believed that sinning was the cause of leprosy (and arguably other maladies) and the cure was belief in him and his miraculous hands.

            Actually, no, that is not anything like a safe conclusion. Jesus own disciples asked Him about a blind man He healed, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus replied: Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” On another occasion, Jesus is recorded taking great pains to disabuse His followers of just the interpretation you suggested.

            In the Gospel of Luke we read that

            “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

            This puts into doubt the basic inerrancy of truth in the Bible and at the same time casts doubt upon the actions and intentions of a god to not reveal the actual cause and treatment of this horrible disease especially as being an omnipotent entity, he supposedly had the knowledge to do so. I put it to you that if your god, who by your belief possesses this hierarchy of objective morality and also possesses the knowledge and capability to prevent and/or cure debilitating diseases but withholds this information – I submit that your god does not understand or practice objective morality the way that you believe he does.

            You’re now bringing up what is known as the Problem of Evil, or theodicy, the question and matter of why, if God is good, and all-powerful, does He not act to reduce or eliminate what looks to us like needless suffering, especially for the most vulnerable or innocent.

            I’m not saying that there are not good answers or at least hints of the existence of ultimate answers suggested for the problem, for example here:

            http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

            but I also like what author and talk-show host Dennis Prager says: “The believer in a moral God must account for one thing, unjust suffering, while the atheist must account for the existence of everything else.”

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            I ‘m not saying that it is evil that your chosen god doesn’t give us the cures for disease or doesn’t prevent them. If I thought your god existed as told in the Bible, I would consider it to be either incompetence, ignorance or a total lack of concern about any of you. Jesus cured one leper and you call him a savior, science cured them all and you call science immaterial. How screwed up is that?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Actually, for pages here I have referred to science done on the basis of naturalist assumptions material, not immaterial.

            I’m actually very pro-science, technology, I was raised in the Space Age to think that applied science could accomplish almost anything: jetpacks, flying cars, space settlements. If you go out for a dinner or a beer with some guys after the service at a Bible-believing church anywhere near a metropolitan area, you’ll very likely find yourself in the company of various engineers and IT professionals

            https://i.pinimg.com/originals/92/22/02/922202985b3ab7ef0c0df5a0c7c64546.jpg

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Two of your quotes:

            “I grant that, but that would indicate that materialism as a worldview is false.”

            “Actually, for pages here I have referred to science done on the basis of naturalist assumptions material, not immaterial.”

            In the first, your response was to my assertion that there are things that exist that empirical, material science cannot (yet) find, it doesn’t automatically default that they are miracles created by a god. Your fallback position was adamant that the supernatural exists regardless of no empirical (material) evidence to sustain that premise and that when your spiritual universe finally is recognized, the materialist universe will suddenly be shown as false and just like the walls in Jericho, the laws of physics will come tumbling down.

            In the second quote, you defend your position by saying some of your best friends are science folks yet they still attend church and believe in Bible stories – but hey,science is great (until it becomes a false world view).

            Don’t think I didn’t notice you ignored the disconnect that science actually has provided credible and sustainable improvements to the human experience especially in medicine and hygiene and the understanding of germs and viruses and their impact on the immune system. This has resulted in a healthier population with extended life spans – no small achievement. Regardless of your argument around the word ‘immaterial’, it certainly places a poor reflection on your creator that you believe had the ability to make a huge difference in the human experience and instead decided to make it all about worshiping Him.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            You write:

            ” Your fallback position was adamant that the supernatural exists regardless of no empirical (material) evidence to sustain that premise”

            –Actually I hoped I was succeeding in saying that the supernatural exist without being detected by the tools of existing science, therefore agnosticism seems the furthest remove from Theism that the material evidence could support

            “and that when your spiritual universe finally is recognized, the materialist universe will suddenly be shown as false and just like the walls in Jericho, the laws of physics will come tumbling down”

            –The laws of physics aren’t problematic, aren’t related to the difficulty in assuming that the material is all there is

            “In the second quote, some of your best friends are science folks yet they still attend church and believe in Bible stories – but hey,science is great (until it becomes a false world view)”

            –Science can tell us certain things, it can tell us how to make an atom bomb. It cannot tell us whether using it is a good idea.

            “it certainly places a poor reflection on your creator that you believe had the ability to make a huge difference in the human experience and instead decided to make it all about worshiping Him”

            –Again, I think you gravely misunderstand the Theist position. For one thing, I grew up in a CDC household, I’m all for fighting germs, dangerous viruses (viri?),curing diseases etc. There is no disconnect between this and Theism.

            A lot of Theists do wonder about where, why and when God chooses to intervene or doesn’t. But I did not ignore your point, I referred you to this link, for example:

            http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/evil.htm

            And it’s not all about worshiping Him, or rather if it is, it is often through His commands to love and serve other human beings, so Theists of all traditions have built hospitals, etc

          • Geoff Benson

            Nobody is saying these miracles are ‘impossible’ (though use of the term possible in these conversations is, itself, one to beware of), rather there is almost no evidence for them. I use the term ‘almost’ in a charitable sense, because even that evidence that does exist is tantamount to ‘no evidence’. Comparing the contrived claims and lack of historical documentation of biblical miracles with the very recent, highly documented, information we have relating to people such as George Washington, is delusional. You are just plain wrong.

          • Raging Bee

            So I guess that means you’ll never be able to disprove the existence of the invisible pink unicorn in my backyard?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            No, no one can “disprove the existence of the invisible pink unicorn” in your backyard.

            We can, however, politely ask you reasonable questions as to why you’re convinced that there is such. If, for example, you believe the unicorn exists because you heard a voice, heard the unicorn announce, describe its existence, were there others with you there who heard it also?
            If so, how many others, and how reliable has their testimony been on other, more easily verifiable subjects? May we interview these men and women ourselves?

            Did the unicorn predict things about the future that either did or did not come to pass within a timeline specified by the unicorn? Did the unicorn pass along to you any messages or propositional content, urgent or otherwise, that you were to share with the rest of us, and if so, what is the basic substance of those messages?

            Did the unicorn tell you its name, and did that name have any cosmic significance in any languages that you speak?

            Did the unicorn claim to be the Creator of the universe?

            Did the unicorn perform any seeming miracles in your presence? Did these miracles seem to be merely just for show, or did you happen to notice, then or afterward, a seeming resonance between what was done and your own life story, or the story of the world?

            Did the unicorn make any testable, falsifiable statements?

          • Raging Bee

            No, no one can “disprove the existence of the invisible pink unicorn” in your backyard.

            Wrong answer. That’s why your sophistry fails.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            How is that the “wrong answer?” How could anyone disprove the existence of an invisible unicorn? Having consistent rules for evidence, following the argument where it leads is “sophistry?”

            Now, I may happen to hold a certain opinion, based on my experience and knowledge of the world, that it’s rather unlikely that you indeed have that invisible pink unicorn in your backyard, but that is different from being able to prove you don’t. Honesty–something you think I lack—requires that I humbly acknowledge that other people, lots of them, based on their own past experience, similarly discounted the possibility that they were sharing a room with an invisible, odorless, poisonous gas, and are dead now

          • Raging Bee

            How could anyone disprove the existence of an invisible anything?

            By noting the lack of evidence for its existence, and by noting the huge amounts of accumulated scientific knowledge and experience that all agrees that there’s no explanation for why even unicorns would be possible, let alone invisible ones. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence.

            Now, I may happen to hold a certain opinion, based on my experience and knowledge of the world, that it’s rather unlikely that you indeed have that invisible pink unicorn in your backyard, but that is rather different from being able to logically prove that you don’t.

            Seriously? Do you really expect me to believe you respond that way to every unfounded claim you hear? Do you really expect me to believe you wouldn’t just discount all such claims out of hand in all practical decision-making matters? Please. We all know you wouldn’t waste any time with claims of fairies, unicorns, or other gods. And you know it too — but you can’t admit this, because that would mean the same reasoning would have to apply to YOUR invisible besties.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            And I think that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

            Again, on the level of my opinion, I already stated that I doubted your claim of an invisible pink unicorn. But neither I nor anyone else can logically disprove its existence

          • Raging Bee

            What you think is wrong. And I’m pretty sure you know it, otherwise you’d be going about with a head packed full of nonsensical claims and beliefs that, in your mind, can’t be discarded because their nonexistence hasn’t been proven to your satisfaction. Do you think that way every day in every decision you make? No? Then for all practical purposes, you don’t really believe what you say, and you know I’m right.

            But neither I nor anyone else can logically disprove its existence

            Its existence is not disproven logically, it’s disproven EMPIRICALLY.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Empirically, with evidence, mentally processed according to rules of logic. If I’m using the wrong rules of logic, if you’re right and “absence of evidence” is evidence of absence then you’ve made a solid contribution here and I thank you. But before I convert to your position and approach on that, I’d like to see how it applies to those everyday “practical purposes” you mention.

            For example, in the earliest days of HIV in the U.S., no one had any “evidence” that they could suddenly, easily contract a fatal case of AIDS, but since the disease was out there, though no one yet knew it, the absence of evidence was not evidence of any real absence.

            No, I don’t live my life with my head packed by what seem like nonsensical claims. When you made your own claim, I didn’t just say, “Well, all right, then”, instead I asked a series of questions, aimed at understanding why you thought you had an invisible pink unicorn, and how credible your claim was.

            And again, if the unicorn is invisible, its non-existence is still harder to prove:

            https://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-sten-odenwald/exploring-the-invisible_b_5381644.html

          • Raging Bee

            WTF are you talking about? There was never any “absence of evidence” for HIV — people were getting sick and dying! That’s not “absence of evidence,” dimwit. (Oh, and the only people who said you could “suddenly, easily contract a fatal case of AIDS” were the right-wing bigots and liars who never gave a shit about the human lives at stake anyway.)

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I’d actually said “in the earliest days of HIV.” You could contract the disease in the “absence of evidence”, before people were known to be getting sick and dying from it

            While we’re at it, I don’t think it’s a “right-wing” lie that one could contract the disease suddenly and easily, especially when one’s immune system already was struggling.

            AIDS activist Michael Callen wrote about the

            concurrent epidemics of syphilis, gonorrhea, hepatitis, amoebiasis, venereal warts and, we discovered too late, other pathogens. Unwittingly, and with the best of revolutionary intentions, a small subset of gay men managed to create disease settings equivalent to those of poor third-world nations in one of the richest nations on earth.”

            Right-wingers indeed made unhelpful comments, but the truly heartless ideologues, who actually doomed countless lives at the time were on the sexual-revolutionary left.

            David Horowitz:

            Where were public-health officials as these epidemics took their toll? Why didn’t they intervene, close the bathhouses and undertake vigorous education campaigns among gays to warn potential victims of the danger? The reason was the revolution itself. So successful was the radicals’ protest campaign that it made the enforcement of traditional public-health practices politically impossible. Even when officials attempted to close the sexual bathhouses, which were the epidemic’s breeding grounds, their efforts were successfully opposed by gay political leaders who defended the disease sites as “symbols of gay liberation.” Don Francis, the Centers for Disease Control official in charge of fighting the hepatitis B epidemic, explained: “We didn’t intervene because we felt that it would be interfering with an alternative lifestyle.”

          • Raging Bee

            So you have absolutely no rebuttal to my arguments regarding proof of nonexistence, and you’re just changing the subject instead to some old grudge against gay people? And quoting loony-right punchline David Horowitz to boot? I think we’re done here. Buh-bye.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I have no grudge, old or new against gay people. And David Horowitz was on the hard ideological/political Left until he saw left-wing friends of his, most of them famous, then and now, flake out rather than resist murderous thuggery, even rhetorically.

          • Raging Bee

            Yes, rules of logic that remind us that nonexistent things and events don’t leave material traces of their nonexistence; therefore it is just plain stupid to demand “proof of nonexistence.” You know this is true, and you deny it simply because you’re trying desperately to avoid facing the fact that you can’t prove your God exists.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            In the illustration I provided previously, of the early days of HIV, it would have actually been very wise to demand proof of the nonexistence of some new fatal disease before proceeding on a path of promiscuity.

            Non-existent things indeed leave no trace of their non-existence, except where they were believed and expected to exist, a missing part in a now-compromised building, bridge, aircraft, or civilization constructed on the basis of belief in their existence.

            But that God actually is non-existent is just your assumption

          • Raging Bee

            So you’re blaming the victims for not demanding proof of the nonexistence of HIV before doing something that might cause them to transmit it? Got it. So what specific proof of nonexistence should they have held out for, exactly?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I’m not blaming AIDS victims. You’d said not only that absence of evidence is evidence of absence, but that it was “plain stupid” to demand proof of nonexistence. I argued that in this situation, where (c.1979) there just might possibly be some unknown fatal disease out there, it would have been wise

          • Raging Bee

            “… it would have actually been very wise to demand proof of the
            nonexistence of some new fatal disease before proceeding on a path of
            promiscuity.” Sounds pretty clearly like you’re blaming AIDS victims. (Oh, and it’s called HIV now — your vocabulary is as obsolete as your bigotry.)

          • Dr_Grabowski

            In a southern state recently, an escaped tiger wandered around for a time and turned up in someone’s back yard. If someone had gotten out of their car to change a tire nearby, they could have been in similar mortal danger and equally absent any evidence of being summarily eaten at the time they stepped out of their car. But their absence of evidence was not evidence of absence.

          • Raging Bee

            So WTF does that mean? Everyone should establish conclusive philosophical proof of the nonexistence of loose tiger before getting out of our cars? Piss off, you tired ignorant hack.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            To be able to definitively rule out the possibility of being eaten by a tiger before walking away from the relative safety of a car, one would have to know whether any tigers were on the loose, to prove the negative, yes.

          • Raging Bee

            You made an ass of yourself talking about proof of nonexistence, then you changed the subject to HIV, and made an ass of yourself again, and now you’re changing the subject to loose tigers. Do you really think you’re fooling anyone? Go fuck yourself.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            The situation of HIV just emerging, unbeknownst to anyone, and that of the tiger on the loose, also unknown to those in the area until sighted, were both illustrations where absence of evidence obviously did not entail any evidence of absence.

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, except, as anyone who actually gives a shit remembers, there was no “absence of evidence!” Do you even CARE what you’re talking about, or do you just enjoy making an ass of yourself in front of strangers? There’s better-looking exhibitionists than you, if I ever need to watch a show.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Of course there was an absence of evidence, no one knew this terrible disease could afflict them, because no one knew it existed, BEFORE people started showing up here and there with mysterious symptoms. Even then they didn’t know what it was or that it was sexually transmitted or what

            https://i.pinimg.com/236x/9d/0e/8b/9d0e8b0eb172dff857a9f48da609a226–newspaper-headlines-ronald-reagan.jpg

          • Raging Bee

            When you made your own claim, I didn’t just say, “Well, all right, then”, instead I asked a series of questions, aimed at understanding why you thought you had an invisible pink unicorn, and how credible your claim was.

            We’ve been doing that in response to Christians’ claims about God, and they fall back on “you can’t prove (our version of) God doesn’t exist!” So I guess everyone who believes in Zeus, Odin, Thor, Chango, Cernunos, etc. can shut you Christians up the same way, right?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I believe in what fellow Christian Os Guinness calls “soul freedom”, in a free and open marketplace of ideas:

            http://rzim.org/just-thinking/the-golden-key/

            So followers of Zeus, Odin, et al are welcome to make their case. However it is worth noting that the world of first-century AD was practically drowning in such “deities” yet multitudes found the Apostles’ collective case for embracing the infinite, personal, self-existent God of the Hebrews and His Son Jesus of Nazareth much more intellectually compelling, even in the face of virulent persecution.

          • Raging Bee

            None of that proves the existence of your god, or the nonexistence of any other, not does it validate your hypocritical claim that others have to prove the nonexistence of your god.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Again, “hypocritical” is just a synonym for “one of the stances I don’t happen to like” if there’s not objective morality, something inconveniently not on offer in the atheist system

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Then without conducting a really thorough, exhaustive investigation, it sounds as if agnosticism, not atheism is the more honest appraisal to make of competing truth claims, with the information immediately available

          • Raging Bee

            “The information immediately available” contains absolutely no evidence tor the existence of any supernatural beings. So yes, atheism is indeed “the more honest appraisal to make” for all real-world decision-making purposes. Go peddle your long-ago-disproven con-game somewhere else.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Of course this “information immediately available” to us is natural information, which is necessarily silent as to the existence or non-existence of the supernatural so while a certain agnosticism might be entertained, given our sense data, atheism is a bridge too far

          • Raging Bee

            Yeah, yeah, that’s what every fake psychic, charlatan and religious bigot says when he’s asked for evidence. You’re not fooling anyone. Go back to bed.

          • Raging Bee

            PS: Sorry, I posted at least one other comment in response to yours, and it/they seem to have vanished without a trace. Can you see them? Or did one of my IPUs bump into some part of the Internet and break it?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            I think they’re all here. You may have to reload the page, without the comment tag, like so:
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rationaldoubt/2017/10/regrets-yes-annoyance-yes-guilt-no/

            then scroll down, loading more comments as needed to get back here to find them

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            Substitute the god of your choice for each instance of unicorn and you’ll have been hoisted by your own petard.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Christian apologists disagree with you about this. Maybe they’re wrong, but your assertions are not arguments or evidence

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            “but your assertions are not arguments or evidence”

            They weren’t my assertions to begin with. I merely held a mirror to them.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Your “hoisted by your own petard” comment seemed an assertion that the historical evidence for miracles, whether in the New Testament or Old, or in accounts of countless individuals, could/would not withstand the mild interrogation that I suggested to Raging Bee would be appropriate for his claim of an invisible pink unicorn in his back yard.

            And you’re free to make that assertion, but it’s merely an assertion, it’s not evidence for your naturalism nor even an argument.

          • Thanks4AllTheFish

            There is no historical evidence for miracles, only anecdotes on old parchment.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Apart from actual artifacts still with us, the Great Wall of China, Roman Aqueducts etc (how much did a Grecian urn, anyway?) most of history is just “anecdotes on old parchment.”

          • Raging Bee

            I think your thoughts are outside materialism.

            Show some evidence to support that belief, and I’ll take it seriously.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Are your thoughts material?

            Does your personality, your “you”, exist?

            Or is everything on this forum only part of the natural order of things, like a calving glacier or a mudslide, such that if our brain chemistry or voltage were different, we’d all hold different views? You seem to morally blame white-supremacist Richard Spencer for holding the views he does, in doing so aren’t you allowing that his thoughts, at least, are beyond materialism, beyond a cause-and-effect natural process like erosion or fermentation?

          • Raging Bee

            Also, inalienable rights do not have to have a divine origin. The mere fact that we humans are capable of rational thought and communication, gives us the right to exercise our capabilities (and, of course, the obligation to use our super-powers for good, not for evil). Lower animals do not have such rights, because they don’t have such capabilities. This could be what the Founders meant when they referred to “the God of nature.”

            Basing our rights on our evolved capabilities is a much sounder foundation than basing them on imaginary sky-spirits whose existence can’t even be proven.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            “Good?” “Evil?” Where is this distinction found in the atheist worldview?

            http://www.azquotes.com/picture-quotes/quote-the-cosmos-is-all-that-is-or-ever-was-or-ever-will-be-carl-sagan-44-25-01.jpg

            What, where in atheism is the standard, the template against which human behaviors can be measured, sorted into these categories?

            With or without “evolved capabilities”, the existence of human rights cannot be proven (on the basis of atheism, materialism), any more than sky-spirits

          • Raging Bee

            “Good?” “Evil?” Where is this distinction found in the atheist worldview?

            If you actually listened to real atheists, instead of just parroting made-up shit about them, you wouldn’t have to ask that question. Atheists (like theists, whether they admit it or not) generally judge an action good if it’s observably beneficial to someone, and evil if it’s observably harmful without some other observable benefit. It’s really not that complicated or unusual a thought-process; and the fact that you have to keep on pretending it is, once again speaks volumes about your character.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            You’re perfectly free to condemn my overall character once we’ve established some philosophic basis for doing so. Certainly material harm, benefit can be identified, and often quantified, in dollar or other terms, for example if a friend you’re dining with picks up your lunch tab, or an enemy burns down “your” garage. So (as far as it goes) I understand your categories of “beneficial” or “injurious”. One can be beneficial or injurious to others, I get that. And every day we see atheists being beneficial in situations where they might have been injurious. And one can say that life around the world would seem much more pleasant if everyone chose to live beneficially rather than injuriously.

            But to go any further than this, to go on to say that there is an overarching Right and Wrong to this, that one “ought to” be beneficial and ought not be injurious is to bring in an outside element, over and above what we in fact do or might do, an element outside our likes and dislikes, an element not supportable on the basis of atheist worldview.

          • Raging Bee

            You’re perfectly free to condemn my overall character once we’ve established some philosophic basis for doing so.

            I’ve already established that basis, and you know it.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            You said that something is “good if it’s observably beneficial to someone, and evil if it’s observably harmful without some other observable benefit.”

            Got it.

            And (assuming that personality is not illusory, and that appearances of individual free will, etc are not deceptive) we can go about our day either materially benefiting those around us, adding value, financial or otherwise, to our neighbors and friends or subtracting value, causing damage to people and their property.

            https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/4/48/BetterKnownAsJohnnyAppleseed.jpg

            That choice is there all the time, for all people, theists and non-theists alike.

            Got that too.

            The question is, is there a basis in atheistic thought to prefer one of these options to the other? Either one is a personal choice. Where is it found or supported in atheism that human beings everywhere “ought to” make one kind of choice and “ought not” make another?

          • Raging Bee

            Although you assert that this is a prevailing view among atheists, and it well may be, that’s not the same as deriving this view from atheism.

            The view doesn’t HAVE to be “derived from atheism,” and I never said it was. It’s derived from observation of benefits and harms, and of the consequences of actions — as I’ve already said several times on this thread alone.

            We’d need also to know that atheists holding this view are being entirely consistent with their atheism…

            No, we really don’t. That’s irrelevant to moral reasoning.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Raging Bee ~

            If you’re going to cite the views of other atheists, implying that theirs is a widespread or prevailing view, in support of of your contention that morality can be said to meaningfully exist AT ALL in the universe posited by atheists then certainly it is relevant if they have reached over and borrowed categories and vocabulary from theists to make their system “work.”

            And: benefits and harms, consequences of actions to whom?

            That Annie Atheist realizes that a contemplated action of hers will likely be against her own interests, and does something else instead, is different from a scenario in which all indications are that Senator Sammy Secular will become wildly materially successful, rich and famous, win the girl, etc etc if only he’ll lie, cheat, steal in particular situations, in which he benefits from others’ harm, without any (earthly) consequences, because of his position, or because the laws and/or public opinion and/or the media are on his side.

            If you could go back in time, what would you say to the late Oliver Wendell Holmes, about statements of his such as:

            “I see no reason for attributing to man a significance different in kind from that which belongs to a baboon or a grain of sand.”

            “[T]he sacredness of human life is a purely municipal ideal of no validity outside the jurisdiction. I believe that force, mitigated so far as may be by good manners, is the ultima ratio.”

            “[Truth is} the majority vote of the nation that could lick all others.”

            White supremacist Richard Spencer says he’s an atheist, and he says that “You do not have some human right, some abstract thing given to you by God or the world or something like that. You’re part of a community, and that’s where you gain your meaning or your rights.” How do you as an atheist philosophically answer that? If real human rights are sustainable on the basis of atheism, I’d be glad to hear it, but I don’t see how

          • Raging Bee

            I would answer that by saying that Spencer is an evil bigot with demonstrated evil intent. And I would say that based on what he says, what sort of policies he advocates, and the likely consequences of said policies. I would also point out that, even if we were to accept what he says about communities, he’s still evil because he and his supporters are actively seeking to deny nonwhites and non-reich-wing-Christians the benefits of thriving communities.

            Philosophically, I would also repeat what I said earlier (you’re really not good at processing what other people say, are you?), which is that our rights are derived from our basic nature and abilities, not from community consensus: we are thinking, communicating and social creatures, therefore we all have the right to think, express our thoughts, associate with whomever we want, and act on our thinking, so long as we don’t harm others or infringe on their identical rights.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            To say that

            “we are thinking, communicating and social creatures, therefore we all have the right to think, express our thoughts, associate with whomever we want, and act on our thinking, so long as we don’t harm others or infringe on their identical rights”

            seems very close to expressing the Natural Law view of things, as I understand it.

            So I guess I don’t have any serious trouble with your formulation as such, although a specialist might add qualifications. No, as I understand it, the trouble is not with your formulation, but with holding this view and atheism, which says, in effect that “our basic nature and abilities” as “thinking, communicating and social creatures” is here only by random chance, without any cosmic significance, as there is no telos, no intent or purpose to the universe.

            If one afternoon, a randomly-formed significance-free accidental being goes out and randomly beats up another randomly-formed significance-free accidental being, how does this have significance? Suddenly the second being is now is to be viewed as having invisible cosmic-normative rights, which have been “violated?” Suddenly, in a blind purposeless universe there actually is some Law or standard binding on the first being, telling him what he can and cannot do?

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            Morality is both a mental concept and an agreement between an individual and a culture. It does not require any supernatural elements, including gods. It does not need to be absolute or objective. All it needs to do is to provide a workable framework that protects the members of the culture from one another. If it fails at that task, the culture becomes vulnerable to disintegration as people leave in search of a safer, saner place to live.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Morality-as-purely-a-social-convention such as you describe does not conflict with the claims of atheism, but is another way of saying that on the basis of those claims, morality is not objective, as you yourself allow. I was arguing for the existence of a stronger sort of morality, one in which it really is wrong, not merely in someone’s opinion, but really objectively wrong, to, say, needlessly harm someone. Our friend Raging Bee seems to be asserting that both atheism and this stronger, concept of an objective morality are true descriptions of the universe

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            You can argue for a “stronger sort of morality,” but the very act of deciding that a moral code is valid and worth using is itself subjective. I am definitely in the “no such thing as objective morality” camp.

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            Even the oft-touted “objective morality” of religion is subjective. After all, is not a god the one imposing his own personal idea of morality on the rest of us? The only kind of morality that in any sense approaches “objectivity” is one that is agreed upon by many or (preferably) most people.

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            Precisely! Either the morality is the god’s opinion (and therefore subjective), or it is based on an objective standard that the god uses (in which case the god itself is not needed for morality to exist).

          • Dr_Grabowski

            That “the very act of deciding that a moral code is valid and worth using is itself subjective” is true in the narrow sense that individual human beings are born and educated all the time, and though they grow up heavily directed and influenced by family and community, eventually they choose for themselves what sort of people they want to be.

            Can they make a bad choice? One of the philosophical options before us is that all moral codes are themselves arbitrary, so (on this view) we cannot say that one choice is better than another.

            But if there is no such thing as objective morality, then no actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, ad nauseum, can truthfully be said to be wrong, only merely disliked, as one prefers pistachio ice cream and another butter pecan, nor is there any basis whatsoever for human rights as such.

            That may–may–be where we are, but that most people find this conclusion revolting or impossible is seen by many theists as a clue about the nature of the universe, that morality does exist, that the traditional legal categories of cruelty, rape and murder are not arbitrary, fictional constructs, but correspond to acts that are actually wrong

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            *I* think that the actions of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Olaf Tryggvason, Charlemagne, Torquemada, Pope Innocent VIII, Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Daesh, the Lord’s Resistance Army, and the utterly barbaric and evil god of the Old and New Testaments (in the vanishingly unlikely possibility that it actually exists) are all wrong.

            I do not need a god to tell me this. All I have to do is imagine myself in the place of someone who is suffering, and my brain and nervous system react appropriately.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            As a theist who does believe in objective morality, I’m glad that you have sympathy for sufferers. But to say that some actions are “wrong” and that your brain, nervous system react “appropriately” is to say that there is a right and wrong, and an appropriate and inappropriate reaction to them, so you are not actually in the “no such thing as objective morality” camp after all

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            If I define something as wrong, it is wrong in my subjective morality. There is no getting around this.

            The way this actually works in society: A group of people forms a village and sets up a code of behaviour. If the code protects the well-being of the individuals, the group will be more cohesive and more likely to have a sustainable culture. If the code exploits the members of the group and causes hardship (for example, sacrifice your firstborn to the volcano god or the priests will kill all of you), there would be a strong tendency for people to break away from that culture to avoid being hurt. Thus, there is a natural tendency for groups with protective morality (do not kill, do not steal) to predominate in the long run.

            Is stealing wrong all the time? Not necessarily. Breaking into a pharmacy to steal an epinephrine auto-injector pen might save the life of someone in anaphylactic shock. Is killing wrong all the time? No. Killing a kidnapper before he can kill the hostages is generally a good thing to do.

            My reactions to suffering are a combination of my upbringing and of evolved empathy. They are definitely subjective, as they are rooted in my awareness and not someone else’s. Why are you so desperate to make up crap about my morality?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Sorry, I wasn’t trying to “make up crap” about your actual position, I was trying to understand that position. Your use of “wrong” and “appropriate” seemed to describe objective states outside your head.

            I take your points about killing and theft. And of course advocates for Natural Law aren’t opposed to codification, to revealed or human law. In the case of the former, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” is better rendered “You shall do no murder”. We do demand that man-made “positive law” not conflict with Natural Law, so, for example, innocent people are not threatened with fines and jail because a law has been enacted or so enforced as to punish innocent activities.

            Dr. Martin Luther King:

            You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”
            Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            “Natural law”? “Eternal law”? No, not buying it.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Your view, then, is that human rights as such do not exist, and that morality is just a matter of one’s likes and dislikes? One Pakistani packs his daughter off to school, another shoots her in the head, and this is the same, morally, as the fact that some people like butter pecan ice cream, and others pistachio?

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            Dr_Grabowski: “Your view, then, is that human rights as such do not exist, and that morality is just a matter of one’s likes and dislikes?”

            Incorrect. Human rights exist because humans value the concept enough to enforce it. Just because something is subjective doesn’t mean that it’s the opinion of a single person, nor does it mean that it’s imaginary.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Astreja ~

            If “the opinion of a single person” is not sufficient to create or establish morality, are the opinions of two people enough? Three? How many must be present to create your moral quorum, achieve a critical mass, suddenly transforming them into a collective law-giving God? Is your group of humans right to “value the concept” of human rights “enough to enforce it” on other humans? If so, there is a real right (with a corresponding wrong) thus also the Natural and eternal law you disavow.

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            The actual number of people subscribing to a particular moral viewpoint is not any particular number. Ultimately, though, whenever a majority of the voting population (or the ruling elite in a non-democratic nation) favours an idea, that idea will tend to dominate that culture until the numbers change.

            Unfortunately, superior numbers or superior power do not always translate into superior morality. There are countries such as Saudi Arabia that restrict the rights of women and mandate cruel and unusual punishment for dissenting religious views. In the end, morality should aspire towards minimizing interference in individuals’ lives, balanced against the need to protect other people from harm.

            No law is eternal. How could it be? No evidence for the eternal existence of any entity that might codify and use laws.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Astreja ~

            When you say that…

            “morality should aspire towards minimizing interference in individuals’ lives, balanced against the need to protect other people from harm,”

            …where is the “should” coming from? What do you mean by “should?”

            And when you say that “countries such as Saudi Arabia that restrict the rights of women” do not have a “superior morality”, from here it looks as if you are applying a standard, a moral standard, to their standards, implying that they have been weighed in your balances and have come up short.

            What, where is the standard you are applying here?

            If human rights do not objectively exist, as you seem to elsewhere allow, then the Saudi women have no such “rights” that could possibly be restricted.

            Similarly, you say that such nations “mandate cruel and unusual punishment for dissenting religious views”

            But on the basis of your materialist atheism, isn’t “cruel” without meaning? You seem to apply it in way that could mean “arbitrary, unnecessary, and/or excessive” punishment, which again presupposes that somewhere there is a standard of appropriateness which has been exceeded or violated.

            But if you disavow the existence of all such standards, isn’t Saudi Arabia off the hook?

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            The “should” comes from my own empathy — an evolved trait seen not just in humans but in many other mammals.

            Stop trying to deny me my morality so that your can shoehorn your imaginary fiend into the mix. Why do you criticize me and let that mythological planet-drowning, hell-creating SOB off the hook? Where is its moral standard?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Look, I wasn’t trying to criticize or upset you. I thought we were having a philosophicalish discussion about the validity of certain truth claims

            Best wishes

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            Answer my question. Why do you not subject your god to the same requirements that you arbitrarily place on human morality? Where is its “should”?

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Astreja,

            Hey, in our discussion, we’d not gotten to the matter of “my” God. We were trying, and in my view, failing to locate a basis for a moral standard or standards in atheism. One philosophical option or conclusion before us is that morality isn’t supportable at all. Another is that atheism isn’t supportable at all. But we’d not invested the concept of “God” with any specific theological content. So in effect it was atheism vs. Deism, belief in the bare fact of the existence of a God, such as was held by some of America’s Founders, although theirs was a pretty strong Deism, as they believed not only in a Creator/Ruler, but also that God would judge mankind.

            This brings us, now, to the matter of the God of the Hebrews, honored by Christians also (Christians, whether Jew or Gentile believe that Jesus of Nazareth was and is the Hebrews long-promised Messiah).

            Human criticism of God’s actions is old enough to be recorded in the Bible. Ezekiel 18:29: “Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?”

            The doctrine of hell is certainly controversial, but (rightly understood) all about justice.

            We don’t want Hitler (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al) to get off the hook, we want them held accountable. But the terrible truth is that I’ve done things that were gravely wrong also, so demanding justice isn’t in my best interest. Christians believe that what I need is precisely what God offers, forgiveness, a pardon.

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            The doctrine of hell is vile. I would sooner see every evil person who ever lived just go to the peace of the grave than for one sentient being to be tortured for eternity.

            I also see no sense in accepting a “pardon” from a god that would even think of torturing thinking, feeling beings for eternity. I consider such a god utterly untrustworthy and unworthy of respect.

            Your imaginary friend is worthless as a moral standard.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            The quality of mercy in your heart is commendable, admirable.

            But justice is a real principle also, and (Christian theists tell us) part of the character of God as much as mercy is.

            So God is caught: in Love He wants to love and embrace us, but we’re all jerks, ungrateful assholes, we’ve torn up the place, hurt, even killed each other, and Justice is rightly outraged, rightly demands that we get what we deserve.

            But is there a way for God to be both merciful and just?

            There is if He picks up our tab, if He Himself suffers in our place, accepts punishment due us.

            On such a basis alone could we walk free, be reconciled, brought back to life

            http://www.pictorem.com/collection/900_1824058HighRes.jpg

          • http://springygoddess.blogspot.com/ Astreja

            I reject substitutionary atonement unconditionally. I do not consent to my alleged debts being paid by the death (even a temporary one!) of anyone.

            The god you worship is a monster.

            No one who has ever lived, or ever will live, deserves an eternity of suffering. No exceptions. Not now, not ever. Your deity and its bogus “justice” can both take a long walk off a short pier.

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            “they could not accept that human rights are alienable, held by sufferance, as a provisional, revocable, temporary political gift from one’s voting neighbors…”

            Unless the humans happened to be black, female, or poor. Let’s not forget that the right to vote only extended to men who held land. The founding fathers (who were all landowners) may have believed that their rights were God-given, but they sure believed that everyone else’s rights were “provisional, revocable, temporary political gifts from one’s voting neighbors”. In short, they were hypocrites.

            Here is the problem with this idea that laws are God-given: those “God-given” laws exist only as long as they suit the folks in political power. When they don’t, all of a sudden they magically become merely human laws. God never gets the blame for bad laws (even if they are in the Bible). As usual, God gets to have his cake and eat it too, because religious folks are strangely blind to (or full of excuses for) any Biblical rule that doesn’t suit their preferences.

            As for the US Constitution, its secularism rests not on the foundational document, but primarily on the Treaty of Tripoli, which (under Article 6 clause 2 of the US Constitution) became part of the supreme law of the USA when it was signed into law in 1797. This secularism is not “steeped in a Judeo-Christian worldview”, but comes out of the need to exist in a world that had numerous very different religions, and which now has nations that are indeed “secular in the sense of derived from, embracing or promoting atheism.”

            This is why US law has become less “Christian deist” and, in effect, more “secular atheist” in recent years. The nation’s founding documents are living documents whose amendments, additional federal laws and treaties reflect the reality of the day, and today’s world is beginning to reject theism and embrace atheism. People can deny it all they want; they can claim that God’s laws can’t change all they want; they can claim that God’s laws are the basis of the Constitution all they want; and they can pretend that the Constitution is unchangeable all they want, but if they do, they are deluding themselves.

          • Dr_Grabowski

            Just have a second here, but if all you’re claiming for the Treaty of Tripoli is that the United States is not officially a Christian nation, well, excuse me for not being shocked. But “secular” in the sense of not authorizing a state church nor exalting one branch of religion over another isn’t the same as secular in the sense of “atheist”, indeed the whole basis for creating the government to begin with was to better secure inalienable, Creator-endowed human rights.

            You’re mostly right that often in practice,

            “those “God-given” laws exist only as long as they suit the folks in political power. When they don’t, all of a sudden they magically become merely human laws”

            but this sudden transformation, deformation exists only in the minds of those officials who have indeed betrayed innocent human beings, as the Supreme Court has done again and again, in service to its own idea of an infinitely malleable “Living Constitution” which ironically you seem to approve of.

            https://image.slidesharecdn.com/thesupremecourtandtheamendments-090524084322-phpapp01/95/the-supreme-court-and-the-amendments-3-728.jpg

            http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_1y91seHfDDk/TQkG5NihySI/AAAAAAAAACA/o-qc1jqK7j4/s1600/i%2Bam%2Bsomeone.jpg

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            In fact most young people in the US are theists (overwhelmingly) and they appreciate somebody calling out hate speech.

          • Raging Bee

            So go find some actual hate-speech to call out.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            OK. There is some racist views of India in this thread.

          • Raging Bee

            Criticism of atrocities committed in another country is not “racist.” You lie.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            True. Atheists murdered more -people last century than any other group in human history. That’s not racism. On the other hand, viewing nations like India as backwards or using stereotypes (primitive) about sub-Saharan African nations is.

      • Raging Bee

        Heavenly Father drinks because you cry.

    • Raging Bee

      John Mark N. Reynolds: content free if not whinging on and on about what he hates.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

        Go read my blog. Reviewed a business book. Did a parody. Talking about Plato’s Republic and answering questions on ETS from a student. Plenty of positive content.

        • Raging Bee

          Your “contribution” here gives me no reason to waste any time reading any more of your writing.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            OK. You should try calm. It is fun.

        • Geoff Benson

          Have you written any books on evolution?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            No. But edited one on the philosophy of science behind it. Not qualified to write on the science.

    • Jim Jones

      We don’t hate religion per se: just the depraved acts it permits to its ‘believers’ and leaders.

      Australia’s worst paedophile priest ‘molested every boy’ at school in Victoria

      Australia’s royal commission into child sex abuse told that senior Church leaders were aware of the crimes of Father Gerald Ridsdale and an “evil” paedophile ring that he operated for decades.

      The commission heard that, in 1971, each of the male teachers and the chaplain at the St Alipius primary school was molesting children.

      Philip Nagle, who was abused at the school, held up a photograph of his fourth grade class and said that twelve of the 33 boys had since committed suicide.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

        This is foolish. Anywhere there are children, there are bad people. Schools. Atheist groups. Churches. Don’t be a bigot.

        • Jim Jones

          Wrong. The bigot is you.

          No one ever escaped punishment for raping a child by saying “I don’t believe in god so I have no morals so I felt free to destroy children’s lives.”

          Meanwhile the pope ‘punishes’ kiddie rapers by ordering them to “pray for forgiveness”.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Seriously, what is wrong with you? I don’t agree with any religious person who excuses such behavior or any atheist either . I don’t agree with those who minimize it religious or atheist (such as Richard Dawkins with his infamous comments on “mild” harm to children). You might note that the church is not the civil authority and that “punishment” does not end or begin with prayer for forgiveness.

  • Jim Jones

    > More of Madison! Not only does he accuse the Apostle Matthew of lying;

    Huh! I accuse Matthew of never having existed.

    • http://www.tentoughproblems.com David Madison

      Well, the gospel “of Matthew” was written by someone. That name, however, was attached later by tradition. But whoever did create the gospel was fabricating, inventing, lying.

  • Joshua MacKaron

    What David Madison left is not Christianity.

    Research the likes of Chuck Missler or Ken Ham. Both guided my perception of Christianity and have forever solidified my faith in The Lord.

    • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

      Ah, the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. Always good to see Christians attacking their own kind. Any evidence that gods are real in your “real” Christianity? No, of course not.

      • Joshua MacKaron

        Good afternoon Mr. Ian Cooper,

        I will preface what I say with a disclaimer: I am still relatively new to the faith, so any inaccuracy or falsity that I convey is a result of a misunderstanding on my part and not an inadequacy in the faith that I am advocating for.

        I enjoy your response because it offers an insight that I would like to discuss.

        But before I do that, I would like to address your closing question: is there a God? Most definitely there is!

        Discovering that the Lord is who He says He is offers different avenues of proof that would not be apparent if unbelieving. An example would be of scripture that confirms belief, but to confirm one’s belief in God one has to believe in the first place. If unbelieving, these avenues of proof are of no use.

        So back to your insight. It is my understanding that these avenues of proof do not apply in this situation, so citing them here would be silly of me.
        Instead, I hope that you will take my claim that there is a God as an indication that you should continue on your journey for the truth.

        I am here for you if you have any questions.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          “I would like to address your closing question: is there a God? Most definitely there is!”

          Okay, that is a claim that you definitely know there is a god. If you’re sure, you must have a rational basis for your knowledge. How do you know?

          “Discovering that the Lord is who He says He is offers different avenues of proof that would not be apparent if unbelieving.”

          LOL! How convenient! So let me get this straight – before I can find real proof, I have to already believe gods exist. What would be the point of evidence when I no longer need evidence? Also, how would any rational person ever start to believe? Okay then, let’s figure it out this way: how would you, as a believer, be able to disprove the existence of your god? If the hypothesis that your god exists is not falsifiable, it is not a valid hypothesis.

          For example, if prayer was shown not to work, would that be evidence that there is no god? If not, what would be evidence of your god’s nonexistence?

          “I hope that you will take my claim that there is a God as an indication that you should continue on your journey for the truth.”

          You have provided no evidence on which to base your belief. So why should I take your claim as anything more than an indication that you can’t think clearly? So far, given your unwillingness to explain a single reason for your belief, it seems to me that you’re trying to lead me away from truth.

          • Joshua MacKaron

            I apologize, Mr. Cooper, as it seems that my point did not come across very clearly.

            I will elaborate on my point from a simplistic perspective.

            There are proofs of the Lord’s existence that offer themselves when one takes up the faith, but I also pointed out that such proofs do not apply to your current state of being.

            The purpose of my comment was to make it clear that to see the truth, you must open your heart to search for it. In other words, take up the truth that the Lord exist. If you are unwilling to do so, then it is not the truth that you are searching for.

            I am here for you. Please do not hesitate to respond if what I say is still unclear to you.

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            Your points were perfectly clear. I addressed them before. Posting them using different words to say the exact same thing is not a clarification. My heart was open to “the truth” for around 30 years. Your god said nothing. Searching for the truth led me to the inescapable conclusion that gods aren’t real.

            You still haven’t shown the slightest bit of evidence that your god is real. Nor have you proposed any method to show how someone might be able to falsify your god and thereby offer a methodology by which your god could be proven to exist. In all your posts here, you have given no reason to believe your god is real. If I were you, I wouldn’t pursue a career in Christian apologetics.

            Stop apologizing, stop dancing around the issue, and just give me some evidence and a reason to believe. If you can’t do that, why are you here? No one in the Clergy Project is likely to be swayed by the assertion that “You have to open your heart to Jesus” – THEY ALL DID THAT – some for decades. It doesn’t work unless you’re willing to delude yourself. What people need is a reason to believe that goes beyond “I really believe – a lot – so you should too”.

          • Joshua MacKaron

            I do not know your past, but I know the Lord is calling you now. He loves you, Mr. Cooper. This is the proof you need to begin your quest. Christianity was not meaningful to me until I began my search for the truth. Begin your search, know He exists, and find the truth.

          • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

            I know the Lord is NOT calling me now, because there is no evidence he has ever existed. He loves neither me nor you, because he’s not real. You have shown not a single piece of evidence – just claim after claim after claim. This is not proof.

            “Christianity was not meaningful to me until I began my search for the truth.”

            Then you were doing it wrong, because all you found is a big lie.

            “Begin your search, know He exists, and find the truth.”

            I have found the truth. The truth is, there’s no evidence for any god, so there’s no more reason to believe in any of them than there is to believe in the Tooth Fairy. I’m too old for imaginary friends. Maybe you’re not. That’s your loss. Time to grow up!

          • Geoff Benson

            Thi Is what we refer to in the trade, using its technical term, ‘bullshit’.

          • Raging Bee

            …such proofs do not apply to your current state of being.

            That’s what every fraudster and charlatan says when you try to verify their claims. And since you’re talking like a charlatan (repeatedly and robitically, I might add), it is reasonable to conclude that that is, in fact, what you are.

        • Raging Bee

          So you’re already finding something else to blame when it becomes obvious that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

          As you just admitted, you’re “new to the faith;” so take it from us: a lot of us been “in the faith” much longer than you’ve even been alive, and we know, from both extensive education and experience, that your religion is bollocks.

      • Raging Bee

        Yeah, they love to brag about their numbers and their unity, and then IMMEDIATELY start throwing each other under the bus as soon as their credibility is cast into doubt.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Ham and Missler “guided your perception”yes, but you still have no way of knowing they are right. Their form of Christiany suits you , just as no form of Christianity (or other religions) suits other people.

      • Joshua MacKaron

        Thank you very much for your response and for offering an opportunity to further my understanding of the truth.

        I will tell you one thing, discerning the truth is a difficult task, and it takes questions like yours to fully understand when I am in close possession of the truth.

        Let me break down to you what I mean by truth and demonstrate that I have different ideas I regard as true. Although I will concede to you that I am not certain of all the ideas I have, some of them are absolutely true: for example, God exists.

        I will now go back to your original point, which is excellent. How do I know that the teachers I referred to are correct in their teachings? I do not. I simply cannot know until I meet the Lord face-to-face on the other side of things. Of course, I can evaluate their claims against other claims of similar apologists and get close to the truth, but the ultimate truth is beyond our realm of comprehension in this form.

        That is not a satisfying answer to you I understand, but Christianity is wonderful in that one does not have to have all of the right answers to be satisfied. Only one thing matters, and that is you trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

        I am here for you in your quest for truth. If you look for it, you will most definitely find it.

        • Linda_LaScola

          Thank you, but I’m not in a quest for truth.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/eidos/ John Mark N. Reynolds

            Clearly.

        • mason
        • Raging Bee

          You’re “here for us in our quest for truth,” to tell us that you have nothing to offer, and no actual answers to our points that you praise as “excellent,” but you just KNOW you have the truth, even as you admit you don’t. How…generous?…of you…

        • Geoff Benson

          I don’t know you, but one thing I can be certain about is that you are not in a quest for truth, only delusion.

    • JEKinTX

      So tell us which Christianity is the correct one out of its 38,000 different sects? Tell us how you determined this and how you know with any certainty that you’re correct. Perhaps, you are worshiping the wrong god entirely and every time you worship Yahweh he just gets madder and madder!?

      • Joshua MacKaron

        Thank you for your comment, JEKinTX.

        I find the points you bring up both equally fascinating and crucial for others to understand while also offering an interesting insight that I would like to share.

        From my discussion with you and others, I have gauged that a good deal of misbelief stems from the fact that it is impossible to step in and believe in something without absolute proof of that something’s existence when unwilling. I can see how you have arrived to the point that you are at in your understanding, as you have made the progression of your logic clear.

        What I gather from our discussion is that you have created a fortress to defend your faith as an unbeliever. Your primary defense is an unrealistic burden of proof, yet you demand only logic can scale the walls of your defense.

        You understand that in your current state of being, no facts or logic chains will convince you of the faith, which is why you ask for logic so that you are not convinced of the faith.

        I will instead respond to your call for proof by telling you your walk with Christianity is not over.

        You will get the facts you want and the logic you crave when you search Him out with an open heart. The Lord assures us of this, so I hope you take what I say as a call to pursue the logic you request.

        He is the creator of logic, so it only makes sense that he can use it in your eternity’s favor.

        If you have any questions or want suggestions for teachers that have guided my understanding, feel free to contact me.

        • Raging Bee

          You totally failed to answer any of JEK’s questions. In fact, your “response” was totally unconnected to his/her comment in any way. If all you have is old boilerplate deepities, then no, you’re not “here for us,” and there’s no reason to waste any time asking you any questions.

        • mason

          Joshua, such an appropriate biblical name… you’re a tad creepier than the typical Xian apologist troll.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          Dear Joshua,

          Thank you for affirming my knowledge in empirical evidence-based logic as opposed to woo and starry-eyed wonderment and the gullibility required to believe in your specific god. I know you are absolutely certain you have chosen the number one best god and religion mankind has to offer but your certainty is actually your Achilles heel. Nothing is certain in life save maybe death and taxes and your acceptance as certainty of the Christian’s version of god just tells us that you have ceased to examine the many inconsistencies in the Christian religion starting with the inanity of creation itself.

          It’s kind of sad really that so many people like you have just opened up their ears as you say and basically turned off the skeptical side of their brain that tells them “hey, wait a minute, demons don’t cause disease and stopping sinning won’t cure me”, or “how can we see stars whose light takes 4-million years to reach us when the universe is only 6000 years old?” The answers to these questions become obvious when we use that grey matter between our ears and start treating the Bible as a glimpse into the primitive mindset of iron-age nomads rather than some spiritual talisman from god.

          The rational among us have come to this conclusion and that is why we come here to discuss how to deal with many like you who refuse to accept reason and evidence in favor of belief. Don’t get me wrong here, I have no problem with people believing anything they want as long as they cause no appreciable harm to others. Religion as a social construct can be useful in providing structure and meaning to many people but there is no evidence of a divine overlord that makes you or any believers any more knowledgeable or special that anyone else. This is an important distinction and one you would be well to observe should you decide to condescend to us as if you were the only adult in the room. In this space, you are the one considered as having an adverse opinion.

          Lastly, many of us here have literally decades of experience with religions and gods of all stripes and they have all been found to be lacking. One prevailing fact remains and it is the basic precept of atheism: There is no empirical evidence for the existence of God or gods therefore, there is no reason to think they exist.

          If you have empirical evidence, please show it to us as we would be thrilled to ask your god some very difficult and uncomfortable questions.

    • Raging Bee

      Right — the Christianity that can be refuted is not “True Christianity,” and we can’t say Christianity is false unless we read some OTHER mass of books written by someone other than the shmoes who have just been exposed as frauds.

      And of course if we debunk that mass of work, some other True Christian will point to yet another mass of books that we supposedly have to read.

      Apologetics: the bluff that keeps on bluffing.

      • Joshua MacKaron

        Good afternoon! Thank you for bringing a new perspective to the table. Every response means a lot to me, as each offers an opportunity for growth in my faith and also proves that there is an insatiable hunger out there for the Lord.

        Just a side-note: I will focus my response to all of your comments in this response.

        I will start out by clearing up the confusion my first comment may have caused.

        In Christianity, proof offers itself to those who seek it. If one has an open heart and is actively pursuing the truth of the Lord’s existence, then they will find it. If the truth was not found, then either the heart was not receptive or the mind, not actively seeking.

        The proof is there, but the problem is that the proof does not apply to those who are not receptive of it. Because the proof does not apply, it would be illogical of me to offer it to you. The truth requires an open ear before it illuminates itself.

        This understanding is what lead to my conclusion that David Madison did not depart from the faith. He was not in it, so he could not have departed.

        If that did not completely clear up my stance, allow me to further explain. A Christian acknowledges his or her part in the beautiful love story of a Creator and His creation. Without a creator, our lives are devoid of meaning. What purpose does my life have if everything is the result of a cosmic accident? You can offer me various contrivances of how you suppose the Lord is fictional, but not one will be able to address this simple quandry.

        My understanding is that the truth of the Lord’s existence and love for us is the sweetest truth one could ever possess. Why would someone in possession of the sweetest truth give it up for such a dark alternative? They would not unless not in grasp of it.

        Once one tastes the sweet truth of the Lord’s existence, there is no logical way that one can revert back unless the sweet truth was never tasted in the first place.

        If you wish for me to elaborate on my response, do not hesitate to respond. If you also wish for me to offer avenues of proof, I would be happy to, so long as you approach them with an open ear.

        I am here for you.

        • Raging Bee

          Every response means a lot to me, as each offers an opportunity for growth in my faith and also proves that there is an insatiable hunger out there for the Lord.

          Just like every Vegan who avoids McDonald’s proves there’s an insatiable hunger for the shittiest hamburgers on Earth.

        • Raging Bee

          In Christianity, proof offers itself to those who seek it.

          Our direct experiences prove you wrong.

          The proof is there, but the problem is that the proof does not apply to those who are not receptive of it.

          How do you know we’re “not receptive?” You don’t, of course — you’re just making up excuses for your ignorance and lack of real insight. If you have to blame other people for not believing your unfounded allegations, that’s just dishonest and cowardly.

          Without a creator, our lives are devoid of meaning.

          Speak for yourself. MY life has meaning, especially since I don’t have to pretend there’s some big spirit who wants me to drop everything meaningful to me just so I can praise and worship it 24/7, and subordinate my entire life and will to its (unspecified) desires.

          If spouting all that romantic bunnies-and-light nonsense makes you feel good, then good for you. But it does us no good, and just makes you sound like a starry-eyed teenage airhead in love with the dreamy-eyed celebrity. Seriously, you’re embarrassing yourself, and us. Go finish your Christurbation in private, and maybe get back and LISTEN to other people after you’ve cleaned up after yourself.

        • https://disqus.com/home/channel/atheismftw/ Ian Cooper

          “Once one tastes the sweet truth of the Lord’s existence, there is no logical way that one can revert back unless the sweet truth was never tasted in the first place.”

          So you’re saying God is kinda like heroin? I agree. Best never to start, but if you do, and you get off it, addicts will tell you you must never have really got a taste of the good stuff.

        • Raging Bee

          I notice you posted FOUR pompous comments full of the same empty deepities and word-salad, and the same salutation line, as if each comment is the first ever of yours, in response to four different commenters. That repetitive boilerplate copypasta pretty clearly proves you’re not “here for us,” and that you have no intent, and possibly no ability, to actually address and respond to our comments.

        • Thanks4AllTheFish

          That was really lovely. Unfortunately, it lacked any empirical evidence whatsoever. Proof is generally accepted by providing empirical evidence. In the material world, we find evidence in the observable, testable, and falsifiable. Supernatural claims such as the existence of gods, are called supernatural for a reason. They are beyond the natural world and do not meet the standards set forth in the scientific method with which we now accept as a valid form of ascertaining truth. Beliefs and faith are the words used to explain things in which we do not or cannot prove and are only useful in making one feel better about the uncertainty of the universe around us. But to mistake beliefs and faith for truth is pure folly.

      • http://www.tentoughproblems.com David Madison

        Hi Raging Bee, I’d like to make these words, “Apologetics: the bluff that keeps on bluffing” into a meme. Are you okay with that?… with the attribution: Raging Bee–or whatever handle you prefer. )

        • Raging Bee

          Sure, and I’m thinking it’s best to attribute it to “Motherwell, a.k.a. Raging Bee.” (Although I suspect it might be a bit awkward to add an attribution to such a short quote. I don’t normally see that in memes, except when the involve longer and more distinctive quotes from famous people.) But yeah, thanks for the compliment and meme away!

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Trust me, around here we all regularly laugh at the stupidity of Ken Ham.

    • Raging Bee

      Just popping in here to say I’m still amazed that this guy is citing Ken Ham as a “guide,” even though he and his entire Ark Park tourist-trap have been thoroughly exposed as absolute, obvious, unmitigated frauds. Even the most devout Christian can see how sleazy and bogus Ken Ham is, and Kentucky taxpayers are starting to see how he’s ripping them off; and yet this MacCaron guy is praising Ham as a virtual saint? The rot and corruption in Christianity are obvious, at all levels.