Second verse, same as the first …

This is no laughing matter.

Your problem is a lack of faith. We are commanded to love the Lord our God with all our minds. That means we must submit all of our intellect and accept the authority of the text.

You’ve got it backwards. All that book learning has convinced you that your intellect should be applied to the text, when really it’s the other way around. And that is why you refuse to accept what the text plainly teaches: gorillas can talk.

It’s right there, plain as day. You either accept it as it is, or you reject it. But realize that in refusing to accept the word of the text, you’re elevating yourself above it. You’re acting like you’re God.

And I seem to recall another story about a  talking beast having something to say about that, hmm?

You’re always going on about there being “many different kinds of texts,” but really there are only two. There are texts whose authority you accept, and texts whose authority you despise.

And, no, I do not think “despise” is too strong a word for the fanciful way you’re twisting the plain, obvious meaning of this story — the gymnastics you resort to just to avoid reading it literally as it was meant to be read.

Not only are you rejecting the plainly stated reality of the story, but you turn it on its head! You insist that gorillas cannot talk and then you even claim — and here I quote — that this is somehow “the whole point!” That’s absurd. If you’re trying to teach that gorillas cannot talk, then you don’t tell a story about a talking gorilla.

When the text gives us a story about a talking gorilla, it can obviously mean one and only one thing: gorillas can talk. That is clearly what this story teaches us and it is clearly what this story was written to teach.

But you lack the faith that would let you understand that. I just feel sorry for you. But I will keep you in my prayers.

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  • AnonymousSam

    It took a moment to decide whether you were trolling atheists or literalists in this one.

    Then I figured that the answer is “Yes.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    So this snake walks into a garden… /repost

  • VMink


    So this snake walks into a garden… /repost

    What you did there, I see it.

  • Bificommander

    I think he was trolling atheists in the previous post and literalists in this one. Y’know, the last one was atheists who call the Bible worthless because there’s elements in it that aren’t literally true, and this one is their opposition who claims that of course those elements must be literally true.

    Speaking as an atheist, so long as the latter group is around, I tend to give the former the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re aiming their comments at the latter unless they show otherwise.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Y’know, the last one was atheists who call the Bible worthless because
    there’s elements in it that aren’t literally true, and this one is their
    opposition who claims that of course those elements must be literally
    true.

    I’m an atheist who is more than willing to give the benefit of the doubt to allegory.  My main problem is that I’m also a historian, and the parts of the Bible that are supposed to be historical are woefully terrible.  The “histories” get Persian history woefully wrong and do it in several different, contradictory ways.  One of the Gospels indicates that Jesus was born ten years before another one and it’s simply impossible to reconcile the difference.

    Of course, there’s also the problem that if the story of Noah is supposed to represent something allegorical, than what, precisely, is the allegory?  When you get into the official National Epic stuff in the Jewish Bible (Joshua, Samuel, Kings, etc.) Yahweh keeps commanding people to kill anybody and everybody.  How do you reconcile a history of exclusionist, Chosen People-based policy with Christianity and the supposed universal lovefest contained in that theology?

    Then, of course, there’s the part where Jesus said he came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.  But then some injunctions of the law were lifted.  So…how’s that work?

    Of course it all gets down to the fact that I’m perfectly willing to allow things in the Bible to reside on the same level as, say, the old Greek myths or Trickster tales.  But until everyone else puts Bible stories on the same level as Hermes stealing Hera’s sacred cattle or Raven stealing the Sun, we’ve got a problem.  Because the Bible’s not necessarily worthless to me.  I could tell Bible stories (or versions of Bible stories) exactly the way I can tell Norse myths.  But no one is telling me that I’ll be barred from Valhalla if I don’t believe that Odin sacrificed an eye and hung himself from the World Tree to gain knowledge necessary to hold off Ragnarok.

    In short, it ain’t me calling the tune on this one.  It ain’t Fred, either.

  • Magic_Cracker

    But no one is telling me that I’ll be barred from Valhalla if I don’t believe that Odin sacrificed an eye and hung himself from the World Tree to gain knowledge necessary to hold off Ragnarok.

    Of course no one’s telling you that, silly. The way to Valhalla is to die with a sword in your hand. 

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Of course no one’s telling you that, silly. The way to Valhalla is to die with a sword in your hand.

    Not if you’re a follower of Baldr.    See, after he was killed by the mistletoe it was revealed by the prophets that he’s the true conduit to Breidablik and soon he will return to Midgard bearing a re-built Rainbow Bridge to lead the true believers to their new forever homes.

    All that stuff about fighting and frost giants was just an allegory for the fight that is within all of us.  The frost giants represent our self-importance and coldness towards our fellow humans.  Fenrir is the beast within all of us.  Loki is our lying nature.  Jormungandr represents the endless desire that forces us to eat ourselves in an endless cycle that never actually gets us anywhere.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I’ve about had it with you hippy-dippy, snack bar Ásatrúar. You buffet berserks can allegorize my cold, hard steel for all I care. See you on the other side of Bifröst, not!

  • VMink

    My ability to grok sarscam and humor has kind of overloaded at the moment, so please have some mercy on me, a brainfried person, when I ask: “Huh.  Really?”

  • Magic_Cracker

    Can’t speak for Geds, but pretty much nothing I write is meant to be taken seriously — unless you agree with it.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

     Oh man, spike the ball when you are in the endzone!

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The way to Valhalla is to die with a sword in your hand.

    Or in childbirth.

  • Magic_Cracker
    The way to Valhalla is to die with a sword in your hand.

    Or in childbirth.

    With special honors to those who die in battle while giving birth … to a sword! /dada

  • AnonymousSam

    So Tōru Shirō and Kotori Monou are in Valhalla? *Shot*

  • Lunch Meat

    With special honors to those who die in battle while giving birth … to a sword! /dada

    Um. Ow. Owwwwwww.

  • The_L1985

    But Lliira, what if you give birth with a sword in your hand?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Maybe you’d become a valkyrie? As far as I know, that’s totally not where valkyries come from in the mythology, but I like the idea. 

  • Mark Z.

    When you get into the official National Epic stuff in the Jewish Bible (Joshua, Samuel, Kings, etc.) Yahweh keeps commanding people to kill anybody and everybody. How do you reconcile a history of exclusionist, Chosen People-based policy with Christianity and the supposed universal lovefest contained in that theology?

    I’m fine with Pratchett’s answer: the New Testament is what happened when Yahweh got religion.

  • vsm

    Then, of course, there’s the part where Jesus said he came not to
    abolish the law but to fulfill it.  But then some injunctions of the law
    were lifted.  So…how’s that work?

    I once read an essay that suggested Jesus’ original line was withering sarcasm that was passed on by some poor sap who didn’t quite get it.

  • http://www.xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    Reading the Bible with Jesus’s voice as a sarcastic hipster definitely makes you wonder….

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    Of course, there’s also the problem that if the story of Noah is
    supposed to represent something allegorical, than what, precisely, is
    the allegory?

    I don’t think it’s allegory, exactly. It’s more like the Rainbow Serpent.

    The Rainbow Serpent, for non-Aussies, is a traditional Aboriginal story about a humungous snake racing round Australia, leaving hills and river beds behind it (because its body is so big and heavy it’s displacing everything). You can picture tiny Aboriginal children asking “Daddy, why are there hills?” and the Rainbow Serpent story being the answer they get.

    Similarly, I can picture a little kid in Ancient Israel asking worriedly about natural disasters, and being told the story of Noah – with the nice reassurance that, no, it won’t wipe us out, because look! a rainbow! and God promised!

  • j_anson

    @Geds: It sort of seems to me that what you’re saying is, you’re fine with fantasy novels: that is, works containing fantastic narratives that everyone contemporary agrees have no basis in reality and shouldn’t have any influence on our behavior, but which are fun to read. But you have a problem with religious text: that is, works containing fantastic narratives whose connection to reality are contested (in terms of both existence and type of connection) and which some people say should influence our behavior in some (also contested) way.

    But this seems to me to be another way of saying you’d be fine with religious texts as long as we all agree they’re not really important in any way to anyone contemporary.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     But this seems to me to be another way of saying you’d be fine with
    religious texts as long as we all agree they’re not really important in
    any way to anyone contemporary.

    Nope.

    I’m a professional storyteller.  I’m a lover of the work of Joseph Campbell.  I occasionally jokingly call myself a follower of Coyote, because I loves me some Trickster tales.  I think that the stories we tell ourselves and each other are deeply important.

    I have no problems with people who think that myths and stories are important.  I do have problems with people who think that the myths and stories are telling us things that we have to follow or use to judge one another.  I have a real problem with people who think that it’s okay to ignore reality because some other people a few thousand years ago said something different.  I have a real problem with people who think we can ignore science and history just because the Bible says X even though science and history say X is/was impossible.

    What I’m saying is that it would be awesome if I could choose to tell a Coyote tale, a tale of Hermes, a Jack story, or a Bible story and have them all treated exactly the same.  That’s not to say that they aren’t important or useful to understand the human condition.  It is to say that they’re all open to interpretation and what they say about this life is suspect before we get into issues of the afterlife.

    See, one of the things I like to do as a storyteller is to take the traditional archetypes and break them by using them differently.  So if every story we tell is the story of a helpless damsel being rescued by a knight in shining armor the lesson we’ll keep absorbing is that women are helpless and only men can be active.  Sleeping Beauty, then, might be a useful story, but it still has an awful unintended lesson.  The Bible has a huge number of awful lessons, and I think the ones that encourage denying reality and ignoring this world in favor of some other paradise are the worst.

  • j_anson

    @Geds: Fair enough. Would you be bothered if someone said, “It’s fine for you to treat all these stories the same, but for me, the story of Hermes happens to be the most important and meaningful; it’s from that story that I derive my moral compass, and that story will always have special weight for me, even though I can learn about and have respect for other stories?”
    I’m not sure if you’ll find this interesting or not, but to me it’s actually quite important that the Bible have some “awful” stories in it. I don’t think scripture should be something you can simply take at face value and follow mindlessly. I think the effort of having to wrestle with problematic stuff and decide how you’ll react to it (which might be anything from changing your own opinions to conform with the troublesome stuff to reinterpreting it in a new and less troublesome light to simply deciding that that part is wrong and not valuable, at least for you) is part of how scripture teaches us to be moral people. Of course, the side effect is that there are always going to be people who take the awful stories and insist they must be taken at face value, always, for everyone.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     Would you be bothered if someone said, “It’s fine for you to treat all
    these stories the same, but for me, the story of Hermes happens to be
    the most important and meaningful; it’s from that story that I derive my
    moral compass, and that story will always have special weight for me,
    even though I can learn about and have respect for other stories?”

    No.  What would bother me is if you said to me, “Geds, you have to take the story of Hermes as the most important story of all time and believe it actually happened, otherwise you’re going to Hell forever.

    “Also, too, if you don’t believe in the story of Hermes I’m going to make sure that you are considered a threat to society and are considered less trustworthy than terrorists and rapists.”

    That’s where I have a massive problem.

  • Tonio

    Dammit, Fred, now I have a Herman’s Hermits earworm…

    Seriously, this follow-up satirizes the claim I was told years ago – that the Bible makes sense only if one reads it with faith. One weakness of that is the assumption that faith is something one can choose to have.

  • AnonymousSam

    I blame Paul. He was the one who demanded that faith be a prerequisite to understanding while simultaneously arguing that even those with faith were incapable of understanding. Between Corinthians and Romans, I start screaming and begging for Cthulhu as a more logical alternative.

  • The Lodger

    Ah, Paul… every time I see something in one of his letters that looks like a syllogism, I want to make a bowl of popcorn amd watch the show.  As I remember, and I’m not in a location where I can look anything up, Corinthians and Romans are particularly full of superficially logic-like verbal expressions.

  • AnonymousSam

    Let me quote a few of my favorites for you then, heh.

    I Cor. 1:25: For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

    I Cor. 2:14: The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

    I Cor. 3:18-20: Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

    Romans 8:6-7: The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

    Romans 11:33: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

    II Thess. 2:10-12: They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

    So. If you don’t believe, you’re incapable of understanding. If you believe, you’re incapable of understanding, but you understand that you can’t understand. Compound this with Hebrews 6:4-6 and you get an even better one: If you believed and then stopped believing, you stop understanding that you can’t understand and just don’t understand!

    CTHULHU PLEASE.

  • The_L1985

    Koans?

  • AnonymousSam

    Not paradoxical enough. Statement of fact which just happens to dismiss the listener’s objections to “why” or “why not.” “BECAUSE GOD.”

  • Mark Z.

    I’m fond of “If that’s what you think, why don’t you just chop your own balls off?” from Galatians.

  • AnonymousSam

    Butbutbut! The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control!

    (I saw the most recent episode of Alphas yesterday. “Fruit” forever means something else now.)

  • Tricksterson

    Chocolate fudge ripple please.

  • The_L1985

     Dammit, Fred, now I have a Herman’s Hermits earworm…

    You too, eh?

  • PJ Evans

     Not just you….

  • Mary

    Seriously, this follow-up satirizes the claim I was told years ago – that the Bible makes sense only if one reads it with faith. One weakness of that is the assumption that faith is something one can choose to have.

    Actually you can choose, as long as you ignore all the problems with it. It is called denial. It is like having the Elephant in the living room. Nope, no problems here!

  • Mary

    @Tonio: Sorry I tried to quote your comment but it didn’t work right so it looks like I said it.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    And what’s wrong with Herman’s Hermits?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Pfffft. You probably think they were real hermits. And that Herman owned them. How you can even breath?

  • Tonio

    Heh! Nothing’s wrong with Herman’s Hermits, just that earworms can be annoying at times. I didn’t know that the song originated in the old British music halls – the title of Fred’s post was apparently a Peter Noone addition to the lyrics.

  • Tricksterson

    Well, yes, they were a Hernit Collective.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

     Listen all I’m saying is that the facts of the historical Henry the Eighth don’t match up with the song!

  • Magic_Cracker

    If you love Henry VIII so much, why don’t you marry him?

  • The_L1985

    2 divorcees, 2 executed exes, and 2 women dead of natural causes can’t be wrong?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    If you love Henry VIII so much, why don’t you marry him?

    .

    But he’s already married to the widow next door.

  • Tonio

    Growing up, we has an old copy of the 45 with a picture sleeve. I wondered if the woman had been widowed seven times and the narrator was doomed to soon join the other Henerys in the cemetery.

  • The_L1985

    Murdering the Henrys?  Like a gender-reversed Bluebeard?

  • The_L1985

    But you have to admit that, at least, the 2nd verse was in fact the same as the 1st.

  • Damanoid

    Honestly, this is exactly what the Bible needs: talking gorillas.  If Jesus had really wanted people to pay attention to the substance of his teachings, he should have thrown in a few talking gorilla parables. 

    “The kingdom of God is like a talking  gorilla; for it is rarely seen, and at the price we demand of it, be not surprised.”

    –Koko 13:32

  • Tonio

    How about a Batman vs. Grodd battle as a King David allegory?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jon.maki Jon Maki

    Not that the Bible really needs it, but if anything can be learned from comics it’s that gorillas on the cover lead to a boost in sales.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Don’t forget “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall have talking gorillas.”

  • Tricksterson

    Can I trade mine in for a talking cat? (Promptly gets stoned as a heretic)

  • Jim Roberts

    Y’know who else liked cats? Mohammed. Sekrit Muslim alert! Sound the clarion!

  • Magic_Cracker

    I just KNEW that “The Cats of Ulthar” was a call for global jihad!

  • Kiba

    Given a choice I would go with the talking cat as well (don’t really like primates for some reason) but considering some of the looks my two cats give me from time to time…I’m not sure I really want to know what they’re thinking.

  • http://mordicai.livejournal.com Mordicai

     The Julius Schwartz school of biblical criticism.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

     I recently felt an overwhelming need to hunt down Robert Silverberg’s “The Pope of the Chimps”. Great story. 

  • mud man

    Don’t worry, people, nothing here you have to take personally.

  • Magic_Cracker

    Oh, no no no. I have to take it personal. If I don’t take it personal, then that means there might be things in this world that aren’t all about me. Besides, I have such awesome, deep wisdoms to share with you people. Stuff you’ve never thought about before, like how atoms resemble solar systems, even if they really don’t, so there might be, like, little planets and little people in your fingernail, man, and even if you did you think about such things, you did it wrong because it was you doing the thinking, not me. But now I’ve done the thinking for you, so your welcome, you ingrates. And don’t tell me I’m missing (or accidentally proving) Fred’s point; it’s much more fun (for me) to substitute it for my point, even if it’s beside the point, hell especially if it’s beside the pointless — better yet, even if it’s completely pointless. So don’t you tell me I don’t have to take it personally — I’m the one that gets to tell you that!

  • The_L1985

    This post just makes the last post that much more beautiful.

  • tiredofit

    It’s poor writing, in my opinion, that offers no clue what the hell it’s talking about.

  • http://veleda-k.livejournal.com/ Veleda K

    Between the two posts we’ve looked at two groups who love to take the Bible “literally”: Fundamentalists and a certain type of atheist.  But of course, neither group actually takes the whole Bible literally. They both cherry pick, and they both like to focus on the fire and damnation parts, while ignoring the parts about love and justice.  For Fundamentalists that helps them keep control, and ensures they don’t have to be nice to gays or treat women like people.

    The certain type of atheist uses the same passages to prove that Christianity is the worst thing since Thomas Kincaid paintings. Sure passages such as:

    “Give strong drink to one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress;
    let them drink and forget their poverty,
    and remember their misery no more.
    Speak out for those who cannot speak,
    for the rights of all the destitute.
    Speak out, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:6-9)

    sound good, but they don’t lend themselves to  high-larious “invisible sky daddy jokes,” so they can’t be important.

    I’m not Christian. I’m agnostic, and my views on God are closer to these obnoxious atheists’ than Fred’s. I resent American Christianity for its views on me as a queer person and a woman. I fully realize that it’s tough to be atheist in this country.

    But I’m also sick of invisible friend “jokes” and “Out of the elventy-billion laws in the Bible, we found two that contradict each other OMG! Christians sure are stupid for not noticing.” I’m tired of this brand of atheists telling people of faith that their religious beliefs come from ignorance and fear. (Because if you were strong and intelligent you’d be atheist, duh.)

    I really wish these nasty type of atheists would go away so I could go back to simmering, stewing, and loudly ranting about Christianity’s death lock on American culture. I’m so much more comfortable there.

  • JustoneK

    THANK YOU.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    I really wish these nasty type of atheists would go away so I could go back to simmering, stewing, and loudly ranting about Christianity’s death lock on American culture. I’m so much more comfortable there. 

    (nods)

    My own tendency is to want everyone to treat one another with kindness and
    compassion and acceptance, which can often lead to a desire to silence people who I perceive as being mean. This is especially true when the people being mean agree with me, or share a demographic with me.

    I try to remember that it usually isn’t my place to silence them.They can say what they want to say, and I can endorse or reject it. I find it helps, emotionally, to remember explicitly that even if we share a demographic, or agree on a point, that doesn’t mean they’re speaking for me.

    (Incidentally, I don’t mean to suggest here that I always treat everyone with kindness and compassion and acceptance. Merely that I tend to want to.)

  • Magic_Cracker

    Hear, hear.

    The “invisible friend” line is especially irksome in that it is (a) a strawman, (b) not very original, (c) insulting to the very people you claim you want to win over. It shows the exact same lack of care and attention that certain of the fundamentalist Christians show when they dismiss out of hand all questions and criticisms as “rebellion against God.” In short, it isn’t a good faith invitation to discussion and debate, but a bad faith dismissal of the notion that discussion and debate are even possible.
     
    As I see it, there haven’t been any new arguments against organized religion since — Thomas Paine? David Hume? Baruch Spinoza? Epicurus? I, for one, find their arguments persuasive, but clearly, axiomatically, for any number of reasons, current-day religionists don’t. Fundamentalists simply don’t care about those arguments, and non-fundamentalists have responses to and arguments against Paine, et al. Now I don’t find those counter-arguments to be especially persuasive, but I’ve concluded that it doesn’t really matter. I think Fred and I have more in common — ethically, politically, aesthetically — than Fred and Pat Robertson, despite the fact that they’re both Christians. I am willing to tolerate what I consider to be irrational beliefs on the part of Fred because Fred isn’t out there raping and pillaging in the name of those irrational beliefs.

    I really, truly don’t care what any one believes, so long as they’re not using those beliefs to rationalize hurting other people. I guess I don’t buy into the idea that irrational beliefs automatically, inevitably leads to harmful behavior in those who hold them, which seems to be tacit assumptions that motivates the nastier brand of internet atheist.

    Holy shit! I’m being serious and sincere! I fuckin’ hate it when I do that!

    So a Jesus, Odin, and Papa Legba were playing a round of golf…

  • JustoneK

    Great, I had to look up Papa Legba and now I’m gonna be reading about all of the loa for the next two hours…

  • Amaryllis

     I hope you enjoyed it. Because the loa are fascinating.

  • JustoneK

    They are.  And they get integrated into the prominent flavor of Christianity in the area.  It seems so thoroughly un-merican to integrate like that, and there it is in southern Louisiana.

  • Tonio

    Very good points. I’ve told anti-theists that the problem isn’t organized religion, but authoritarian and absolutism. These are found in some religions but by no means all of them, and they’re also found in some secular ideologies. As a matter of  principle regarding knowledge, the burden of proof is on any claim that one or more gods exist, just as it is on any claim that no gods exist. (As opposed to the burden being on any challenge to either claim.) But that’s separate from principles of morality, and I also agree with Fred on matters of ethics and politics even though I don’t share his beliefs about gods. What one believes about gods is less important than how one treats other people.

  • Pat B


    I guess I don’t buy into the idea that irrational beliefs automatically, inevitably leads to harmful behavior in those who hold them, which seems to be tacit assumptions that motivates the nastier brand of internet atheist.”

    Well, as a nastier brand of internet atheist, I can tell you that it comes down to the idea of “Garbage in, Garbage out.” If you begin with factually incorrect irrational beliefs, any time those beliefs intersect with your decision making it will reduce the quality of those decisions. And in a democratic society, that means that someone else holding factually incorrect beliefs at the core of their worldview has a measurable impact on my quality of life.

    I don’t go in for the “religion is at the root of mankind’s problems” thing myself; it doesn’t really make a whole ton of sense and conceals other equally destructive social ills. But religion is a problem the same way anti-vaccination-ism is; it is irrational and (very likely) incorrect, and leads people to make irrational and (very likely) harmful choices for themselves and the rest of society.

  • AnonymousSam

    That implies there are no benign fantasies, even discounting those which are not sincerely believed (such as science fiction — I don’t think anyone truly believes in Ringworld, but would that belief harm anyone?)

  • Magic_Cracker

    Well, as a nastier brand of internet atheist, I can tell you that it comes down to the idea of “Garbage in, Garbage out.”

    People are not computers.

    And in a democratic society, that means that someone else holding factually incorrect beliefs at the core of their worldview has a measurable impact on my quality of life.

    I believe I covered that with the hurting people thing.

  • Pat B

    People aren’t computers, but we are at least as fallible (if not more-so). If you start from an incorrect position, you can reason yourself back to fact with enough evidence, but inertia is an incredibly powerful force in the human mind.

    And people can make religiously-motivated bad decisions which hurt me without any intent to hurt me. After all, anti-usury laws and most drug/alcohol/gambling prohibitions are espoused as biblical solutions to social ills, and trying to base a foreign policy around turning the other cheek would be as disastrous as one built around taking an eye for an eye. 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So are you denying, then, that people who are in positions of power who base the decisions they make on their religious beliefs rather than on principles of secular governance could be making their decisions on the basis of falsehoods?

    Republicans get trashed for this a lot, but even the Social Gospel, while it dovetails well with left-wing concepts of social justice, is necessarily rooted in deciding that one’s religious beliefs motivate the governing legislation being written.

    Good results coming inadvertently from motivations not universally accepted is… I suppose better than bad results, but the fundamental principle really ought to be that secular governance must privilege none at the expense of others – especially when said privileging has the effect of worsening harmful social effects.

  • EllieMurasaki

    As a different flavor of Internet atheist: on my journal I inquired as to religious beliefs and the possibility of conversion with respect to my readership (I don’t want to fuck up any when I write a novel with this as a cornerstone), more than a dozen answers so far, and two of the publicly-visible answers to the tune of it’d be as easy to convince them that their god(s) don’t exist as it’d be to convince them that their mothers don’t exist, for much the same reason. And both of these hold the opinion that successfully convincing them that no gods exist would in the process destroy everything they ever thought they knew about the world. Small sample size, biased sampling, yeah yeah whatever–it’s still probably safe to say that there’s a substantial fraction of the world’s population for whom, if they can’t believe in the god(s) of their choice, they can’t believe in anything. In those cases I feel it’s completely true to say that their religion is less harmful than atheism would be.

    I’d much rather focus on the effects of religion. And I want to focus on the harmful effects of religion because they’re harmful, not because they’re religious, and leave be the benign or beneficial effects of religion because they’re not harmful, not because they are or aren’t religious. God says persecute LGBT folk? Fuck that noise, and here are all the reasons why your god doesn’t exist, and here are all the reasons why the book that tells you that God says persecute LGBT folk is, one, out of context, two, those bits were overruled by later bits as you know because you do some of the things forbidden by nearby earlier bits because the prohibition was overruled by that same later bit, and three, never said what you thought it said to begin with. God has no problem with gay sex as long as it’s between consenting adults? Allies! You don’t try to convert me, I won’t try to convert you, deal?

    Also Unitarian Universalism is a lot more friendly to queer atheist women than atheism is. Hello Elevatorgate. And the stories associated with various religious traditions are endlessly fascinating, and while there is of course no shortage of fascinating in science, my head is story-oriented, plot character theme imagery narrative. Atheism doesn’t have that. It can’t.

    So, basically, attack religion where it does harm to your heart’s content, but make sure there’s actual harm being done first, because if you attack religion where it’s not doing harm, the only person hurting anyone is you.

  • Froborr d’Wiggy

    Sing it, sister!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    So why, then, do we tell children that the friends they have that we can’t see are not real, but you get to privilege socially and culturally an entity that is… well, not real?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    Either ALL people should be allowed a greater latitude of imagination,
    or culture needs to stop giving special imprimatur to one set of beliefs
    about one set of entities.

    (nods) I agree with this strongly, and endorse the former.

    I have an assortment of stuffed animals who have names, identities,
    personalities, voices. At times in my life, they have expressed ideas or
    served as an audience for ideas that proved extremely valuable for me.
    We’ve grown apart since then, but they’re still around and we maintain a
    friendly relationship. Do they exist solely in my mind? Well, no; they also exist in the minds of several other people I know, among them the ex-girlfriend I was involved with when I first acquired most of them. (Most amusingly to me, an acquaintance I made years later, upon being introduced to said ex-girlfriend for the first time, exclaimed in shock that she “sounded just like Claire!”, Claire being a stuffed fox.)

    The young daughter of a friend of mine has an imaginary friend whom she talks about a fair amount; it’s one way she approaches topics that for whatever reason she doesn’t want to engage with in her own voice. Her parents are utterly matter-of-fact about this; they don’t pretend that the imaginary friend is a flesh-and-blood person, but neither do they insist that her imaginary friend doesn’t exist. Her imaginary friend is her imaginary friend, and her relationship to it is something that is worked out moment to moment, just like her relationships to flesh-and-blood people are.

    Several friends of mine engage with spiritual beings with whom they consult on various aspects of their lives. In some cases I consider those relationships healthy, in others I don’t. This is also true of the ways in which my friends engage with corporeal beings.

    All of this strikes me as both natural and valuable. To the extent that my culture insists that the important distinction is between real things and imaginary things, and decides that the former are important and the latter are not, well, so much the worse for my culture. To my mind, it seems far more valuable to start with the distinction between healthy relationships and unhealthy ones.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    To my mind, it seems far more valuable to start with the distinction between healthy relationships and unhealthy ones.

    Quoted for truth.

    I think the key point is that people should be able to distinguish healthy fantasying and unhealthy fantasying.

  • http://www.bipolarlessons.com/ Mary

    @Invisible_Neutrino:disqus Neutrino: I think you mean fantasizing. And what you call “fantasy” may be truth. There are still many things in the Universe that are unexplained by science. That doesn’t mean of course that it can’t be explained by science. But I myself have had profound spiritual experiences that I personally can’t explain. How did I know the exact day of the week, month and year that my mother would die? This came from a dream that was very explicit in it’s details.

    Now I can’t prove any of this to you but I will say that the mystical elements of our existence are always with us, whether we recognize them or not. One man’s fantasy can be another man’s truth.

  • Tricksterson

    How about both?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    “Second verse, same as the first ”

    Precisely. 

    Also, I hate you now because I’m going to have that song in my head for the next week ;-).

  • Michael Pullmann

    Applauding over here, Fred.

  • AnonymousSam

    Hm, observation: literalism is occurring in both cases. The major difference is in how the satirical narrator reports on them. The Bible literalist interprets the stories to be proof of God’s majesty and insists that you have to have faith in them in order to understand, whereas the aetheist interprets the stories to be proof of God’s absurdity and insists that giving them a crumb of credibility is the height of irresponsibility.

    The Taoist literalist replies to them both, “Why – so – serious?” and makes a hat out of the book.

  • Stone_Monkey

    For a lot of atheists, myself included, the talking-gorilla-in-the-room isn’t the utility of the lessons the Bible seeks to teach (when there actually is some utility to them) or the ostensibly good behaviours and lessons it seeks to teach (in those instances when they actually are good behaviours and lessons) but rather the a priori assertion that God exists. To my mind there are many good things you can take from the Bible without ever having to buy into the “God exists” angle, in much the same way as there are many good things you can take from say “Infinite Jest” without the need to google the Enfield Tennis Academy. That makes neither me nor the believer a better or worse person, just different. Which is fine by me, but not, it seems, by a significant number of believers.

    I’m of the stripe of atheist that thinks the existence of God is unknown and unknowable but also vanishingly unlikely (so unlikely, that is, that I can and do go about my life assuming it to be false until convincingly shown otherwise). So the “you must have faith” arguments tend to fall a bit flat for me. 

    I once had a discussion with a Christian  who was doing the street preaching thing (he came up to me to tell me I should and must believe in Jesus as my Personal Saviour), and used the Doubting Thomas story to educate me on the importance of faith, I think he was rather nonplussed by my reply that a) I had already heard the story and b) that I thought Thomas, within the frame of that story, was absolutely justified in asking to see Christ’s wounds before believing Him. His reaction seemed to be along the lines of someone confronted with an alien. To some extent, I feel, atheists (and agnostics) can be walking, talking affronts to believers. I think they sometimes regard us as missing some essential part of humanity (quite which part of humanity that is probably depends on their individual convictions).

    But my point, such as it is, is that these two parables, to my mind, may have missed their mark. The talking gorilla actually is important because, allegory or not, gorillas either talk or don’t. And there either is a God (or gods), however you choose to define/experience them, or there isn’t. Which of the two options you choose to believe in and why is actually important for all sorts of reasons.

  • AnonymousSam

    A lot of proselytizers are basically taught a script to follow, one which assumes that their audience is three things:

    1) Utterly ignorant of the Bible
    2) Inclined to immediately convert, or at least to start down the path of conversion, the moment they begin hearing the glory of the Gospel
    3) Only inclined to refuse if they are minions of Satan

    … so they tend to be rather confused when a well-mannered young man or woman kindly informs them, “No thanks, I’ve already read it. Paul’s a pretty okay read if you don’t take him too seriously, but John’s great, for the most part. Nice story, but not the kind of thing I want to use as the cornerstone of my philosophical existence.” It’s not ignorance, it’s not immediate conversion, and yet it’s not a snotty teen screaming “CHRIST SUCKS! MARY WAS A HAMSTER AND JOSEPH SMELT OF ELDERBERRIES!”

    They just… don’t know what to do. The script doesn’t allow for real people, just cardboard cutout approximations who define themselves as for or against the message of Christ. Most real people aren’t either one.

  • http://www.bipolarlessons.com/ Mary

    @AnonymousSam:disqus Sam:What you have said reminds me of my sister, who is a poster child for fundamentalism. One time we were playing Scrabble and I put down an archiac word from the O.T. She didn’t believe it was real so she looked it up. The word was “kine” which means “cattle.” The fact that I could know something about the Bible that she didn’t know stunned her. I think she thought that I had never read the Bible. After all, if I had read it, then it would be inconceivable that I wouldn’t agree with her interpretation! LOL

    Usually I wisely don’t discuss my views with her.

  • AnonymousSam

    Trivia: Kine is also the Norwegian short version of the name Kristine, which has its roots from the word Christian. The meaning of Kine is still considered to be “follower of Christ.”

    Lil’ something for ya.

    (I had a literary character named Kine and too much time on my hands. Behold the result.)

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

     I’m of the stripe of atheist that thinks the existence of God is unknown
    and unknowable but also vanishingly unlikely (so unlikely, that is,
    that I can and do go about my life assuming it to be false until
    convincingly shown otherwise). So the “you must have faith” arguments
    tend to fall a bit flat for me.

    Yup.  It’s the same for me.  I refer to myself as an agnostic in theory, atheist in practice.

    But it’s one of those things where I put the Bible in the same place as other mythologies.  They all belong in the same category to me and it makes just as much sense to say Yahweh exists as it is to say Zeus or Odin exists.

  • Joshua


    His reaction seemed to be along the lines of someone confronted with an alien. 

    In my experience, a proselytiser is not going to listen to your reply, and then say “Ah, well… OK, I got nothing.” At least this guy did the first part. If you carry on the conversation long enough, you’ll hear all sorts of silly things.

    In fact, it’s not a common thing to hear among people generally.

  • j_anson

    “To some extent, I feel, atheists (and agnostics) can be walking, talking affronts to believers. I think they sometimes regard us as missing some essential part of humanity (quite which part of humanity that is probably depends on their individual convictions).”

    In a way, there’s probably something to this. I know for me, the experience of god is a basic emotional experience that just happens to me. I don’t believe in god because I totaled up the evidence in the pro and con columns and decided to go the “believer” route, I believe in god because my hindbrain, for want of a better term, believes in god. It’s there in my fundamental make-up to do so, to have that feeling of wonder and being cared about and wanting to reach out to something greater. It certainly does feel like a basic building block of my human experience, like love or anger. (This is why any attempt by an atheist to convince me logically that there is no god is going to crash and burn. I experience god. Mind you, I don’t take that to mean that I have some sort of license to tell other people how to live their lives.)

    I can imagine how, to some people, your failure to display evidence of a god-experience might look in their eyes like you were missing something basic. My suspicion is that you’re not missing something at all, it’s just that what comes out for me as the god-experience comes out some other way for you: wonder at the boundless amazingness of the natural world and its awesomeness, perhaps, or maybe something entirely different that wouldn’t even occur to me. (And I’m cool with that. I have no interest in telling you how you ought to interpret your experiences. I’m me and you’re you.)

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    To some extent, I feel, atheists (and agnostics) can be walking, talking affronts to believers.

    So some believers. The same kind of people who think anyone who isn’t like them in virtually every possible way is Wrong and Bad and Stupid. The kind of meat-eaters who scoff at vegetarians; the kind of sexual people who tell asexuals they don’t exist; the kind of people who tell anyone not having sex in a certain way that they’re doing it wrong; the kind of mothers who say every decent woman wants to have babies; etc. There are atheists like that too.

  • AnonymousSam

    There are the ones who assume “atheist” = “Satanist” too, those are fun. They go that extra step beyond assuming you’re unsaved (or misled, if you worship another version of the same god; or deluded if you’re “Pagan,” which can mean any other religion that isn’t Abrahamic) and assume that atheists really are the kinds of people who’d kill old grandmothers with a rusty knife “just to mock THE LORD OUR G-D.”

    Though the atheist equivalent is “Oh, Christians? Those are the people who molest children.”

    Infinite recursive loop facepalming is not enough. There are no words. I kind of want to gather them all up, both sides, and put them on a little island with a private computer network somewhere so they can have theological flamewars until the end of time. :p

  • Tricksterson

    “I kind of want to gather them all up, both sides and put them on a little island with a private computer network somewhere so they can have theological flamewars until the end of time”

    Me too only instead of a computer network I’d equip them with mideval weaponry and broadcast the results.  Highest rated show in history.

  • AnonymousSam

    The George Carlin formula, eh?

  • Tricksterson

    I wasn’t aware that he had formulated it but I like to think that St. George would approve.

  • AnonymousSam

    He did indeed. It’s in his Back in Town CD- revamping the prison system by putting a 50 foot tall electric fence around entire states and dumping the population into them, letting them have free reign of supplies and weapons, and filming the whole thing for cable television.

  • Tricksterson

    Didn’t Heinlein write a story along a similar theme?  Except not cable TV (in fact it was completely cut off from the rest of the world with no communication possible) and he used a force field of some kind?

  • AnonymousSam

    Doesn’t ring a bell, but I haven’t read all his work and it’s been awhile since I read what I did. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress had some undertones of the same idea, with people who’d be considered criminals on Earth left to hash out their own life on on the moon, albeit not for the entertainment of Earth.

    On the other hand, a series called The Helliconia Trilogy also had shades of this. While not featuring people from Earth being exiled, it did revolve around people from Earth in exile recording the history of an alien planet for use as a reality TV show.

    The sad thing is, as much as the above sounds like satire, it was written with the kind of impartial disinterest as a history book.

  • Tricksterson

    It was called “Coventry”.  The protagonist is a guy with an overly romanticized and violent view of “doing your own thing” which gets him exiled.  Instead of the Rousseauian paradise he imagines lies beyond the Barrier he finds Coventry divided into a kleptocratic “democracy”, a military dictatorship and a theocracy.

  • LunaticFringe

    The point is, wherever he wants. 

  • MikeJ

    Wouldn’t have a willy?  Yeah that’s what she wants you to think.


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