Questionable Motives

March 13, 2011

Why is suffering a fatal flaw for belief in a benevolent creator?

Most of us know of Epicurus’ succinct summation evil causes belief in a benevolent god:

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

The slippery term in this paradox for believers is ‘evil’. I think we can reveal the same fatal paradox without the metaphysical baggage that accompanies such a term by replacing it with the word ‘suffering’. I am certainly not the first to do so and I think it tears away the comforting veil of ignorance that infuses belief in a benevolent god when we look at how the world actually and factually operates.

Life and death on this planet has come about as we know it by the process of evolution, a system Lord Tennyson accurately describes as “red in tooth and claw.” Suffering by sentient beings is simply part and parcel of this mindless, unguided, undirected, indifferent biological mechanism. This is a problem for those who would prefer to believe in a benevolent creator. As blogger and ex Anglican priest, Eric MacDonald so eloquently describes the problem evolution creates for the believer this way:

If this is a consciously designed process (evolution by design as held by many notable people such as Francis Collins and those allied to the same notion endorsed by the rc church and many other denominations), as Christians must maintain — for, from the Christian point of view, god’s first priority is the creation of human beings and their redemption — then all the suffering is an intentional part of god’s purposes. And this is simply intolerable. It cannot stand a moment’s moral reflection, and certainly the doctrine of double effect won’t change the mind of a reasonable person on this matter, for you cannot not intend suffering if you create by means of natural selection.

From an academically and scientifically honest standpoint, evolution is fact that is fatal to the argument that a creator god is benevolent.

So what’s a believer in a benevolent creator to do? In England, an imam with the audacity to suggest evolution is compatible with islam if the Koran is interpreted just so, one must apologize and retract such a statement if one wishes to avoid being killed as an apostate. In the US, one must contend with repeated attempts by the religiously misguided to keep creationism from being inserted into the science classroom, spending untold millions  of taxpayer dollars to continue this separation intact. The latest attack against science is in Tennessee. The one is Kentucky has just died… for this session. The one is Texas is still going strong as it works its way towards approved legislation. Florida tries every year and this one is no different. Louisiana has already passed it’s anti-evolution bill as if this will magically improve the state’s dismal showing in student science knowledge. And so on, and so on, and so on, even after creationism has been soundly defeated in every federal court case brought against its insertion into the public school science curriculum. (The latest was in Dover in 2005.) Religious beliefs about a creator – no matter under what recent title it tries on for public acceptance – have no scientific credibility nor validity. This is not a preference or belief by people who would prefer this not to be so: it’s a fact… and a fact that far too many religious people seem unable and unwilling to grasp. When such facts are contrary to what is believed to be true by those who respect faith-based beliefs, then obviously the facts must be wrong! There’s nothing like a legislative act to set the facts on the path to redemption.

Good grief.

The world, however – and  no matter where we look at it – continues to offer up the brutal fact that creationism is not only a fairytale but that its supposed benevolence is identical in all meaningful ways to that of a delusion. For example, the latest and devastating earthquakes in New Zealand and China and  Japan is accompanied by undeniable indiscriminate death and much human suffering.  Tsunamis add their additional effects. Plate tectonics and the accompanying geological and hydrological effects are just as mindless, unguided, undirected, and indifferent a physical mechanism as biological evolution is and the resulting human suffering just as obvious. The physical evidence for mindless cause and effect of these mechanisms is overwhelming. Where is the evidence for benevolence versus the suffering these mechanisms cause?

No where.

Let us now turn to the pious who feel some level of compassion and empathy for the suffering of their fellow creatures in the wake of these disasters. A.C. Grayling offers us this glimpse into the reasoning that is avoided by those who decide to offer up their prayers to some benevolent creator for these distant folk suffering from calamity. Following the same reasoning of Epicurus’s paradox, he wonders about why anyone would show fealty to such an obvious metaphysical monster some think of as a benevolent creator:

For if he is not competent to stop an earthquake or save its victims, he is definitely not competent to create a world. And if he is powerful enough to do both, but created a dangerous world that inflicts violent and agonizing sufferings arbitrarily on sentient creatures, then he is vile. Either way, what are people thinking who believe in such a being, and who go to church to praise and worship it? How, in the face of events which human kindness and concern registers as tragic and in need of help – help which human beings proceed to give to their fellows: no angels appear from the sky to do it – can they believe such an incoherent fiction as the idea of a deity? This is a perennial puzzle.

Indeed it is.

This desire by the pious to believe in a literal Santa Claus-ian benevolent creator is not just foolishly childish and comforting as only a delusion can be; it is a faith-based belief that incessantly gives god-sanctioned motivation to those who directly attack both evidence-based fact as apostasy and intellectually honest reason as some kind of evil plot to undermine god. That some continue to insist that we can accommodate religion and science – allow respect for what some believe is true as well for what IS true – is foolhardy as well as intentionally dishonest. It is foolhardy because it interferes with folk who think there is a legitimate choice to be made between accepting what is factually true and faith-based beliefs as some kind of equivalent source for knowledge in spite of no evidence for this to be the case (and much evidence in stark contrast to this case), and dishonest because for these same folk it reduces  what is true to be conditional on some collection of faith-based beliefs they have chosen to accept as true first. Yet faith-based beliefs add nothing honest to our understanding of the world nor any true appreciation for the dependent role we suffer for our lives on it and much disinformation and misrepresentation of how the world actually is and how it actually works and how we actually cause effects in it.

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166 Comments »

  1. “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” (Epicurus)

    What if God is willing ‘we’ prevent evil? See the question is placing sole responsibility upon God, when the earth is clearly a domain we can change and shape. So from where comes evil, God or man? I don;t even know if that is part of the question. Isn’t from where it originates (ie: evil) is where responsiblity should be placed?

    As for the question of God’s omnipotence, well its also not in question. Do parents let their kids do things they should not do (ie: make mistakes)? Is that parent still not the head of house and could really make some very harsh decision if need be? Is his power undermined by allowing someone to make a mistake? Or is it re-inforced when the lesson is learned?

    As for accidents, again in the case of the guy in the house with his family, what if their furnace blows up from wear and tear on the wiring? Now its obvious it wouldn’t have happened years back to this furnace but things wear down. Including the environment.

    As for the ‘ability’ of God to intervene and the non ‘willingness’ of that endeavor, some small problems.

    How do we know there isn’t some level of intervention occuring? Maybe within the mind of a person God is relating to them – yet that goes unheeded, forgotten, and plainly ignored as meaningless.

    Why should God intervene when we create the problems around us? Isn’t this a tad irresponsible for us to ask? Or are we into bail-outs when everything we have chosen turns around to bite us in the *ss? Maybe we are doing it so often that pattern of human responsibility still hasn’t been learned or heeded?

    Then why the need for a God? I still think there is an aspect of us that is ‘spiritual’ – kind of where creativity and imagination meet conscience, something like being a child.

    Comment by SocietyVs — March 14, 2011 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

    • If spirituality had nothing to do with the supernatural, I don’t think many people would have any issue with it at all. But there is a real push on lately to equate religious faith with spirituality, as if the two notions were synonyms. This remains a real problem.

      As I wrote in my post, the slippery term here is ‘evil’ and what that means. Again, if good and evil were descriptors to human-based effects and intentions alone, then I think we have common ground based on knowledge for discussions of morality. But when good and evil are transported by winged horse to the realm of a supernatural god who dispenses it in some kind of arbitrary manner, then we have no common ground of knowledge to associate it with human-based actions. So Epicurus addresses this god-soaked version with typical aplomb and reveals why it is an incoherent supposition. After all, to address your first point, if it’s a matter of human cause and effect, then why make room for any god at all?

      But I take issue with omnipotence; it is here where god if real has much to answer for. Your suggestion that we are like god’s children in being allowed to figure this stuff out presumes the analogy holds… a parent is allowing a child to learn through experience (by withholding his or her power) so as to allow the child to learn how to become an independent and responsible adult free and clear of continued parenting! I don’t think this can be said of god’s intentions through any theology I have read; the object seems to be to keep humanity in a perpetual state of parental need!

      For the claim to hold that perhaps there is intervention on some smaller and more personal scale, it is (admittedly) difficult to know. As a card player, I know I gain a great deal (excuse the pub) of knowledge by what isn’t said, isn’t played, isn’t done. This presumes freedom to make choices and a freedom to act thus. Do we have any evidence what isn’t done to suggest some divine intervention… something like a person claiming to have heard a voice telling him not to open up the generators at Fukushima so that they could not be flooded by a tsunami, versus doing so for the past 30 years? I haven’t heard of any such occurrences. Have you?

      Comment by tildeb — March 14, 2011 @ 5:28 pm | Reply

  2. Whence cometh evil? Good question. Do you have any answers for it? If it’s just part of the machinations of evolution, why does it bother you?

    Comment by Daniel — March 15, 2011 @ 10:16 am | Reply

    • As I’ve pointed out, I don’t much like the term ‘evil’ because it is so difficult to nail down what it actually means. I like the term ‘suffering’ much better because it indicates a negative change in the state of well-being that is understood to be a comparison to some other state of well-being. This approach helps to better understand that such a change in state of well-being is due to certain causes… causes that can be affected by factors both within and beyond our control. When we switch to the term ‘evil’ we tend to lose this understanding of cause and effect on various states of well-being and start to think of it as a noun that exists independent of our well-being (that is then visited upon it) rather than as a descriptor of a negative change in our well-being.

      The question of why does it bother me is that I have mirror neurons that allow me to empathize with the suffering of another sentient creature. Because I don’t like to suffer (without appropriate benefit), I feel compassion for another. This a biological response and obviously comes with huge social benefits for social creatures.

      Comment by tildeb — March 15, 2011 @ 10:51 am | Reply

      • Why doesn’t your logical brain overtake your empathy and remind you that if the suffering people were fit to survive they would have survived? The ones that perished were rightfully pruned from the world because they didn’t adapt to change fast enough. The tsunami is just chance happening of an indescriminate process of evolution that has no regard for life. There is no evil, just chance. Suffering exists as a reminder for us to adapt.

        Comment by Daniel — March 15, 2011 @ 11:32 am

      • Daniel, evolution is about common decent and the ‘fitness’ you mention is based on our observation that critters best suited to thrive in an environment tend to produce more offspring with those successful characteristics passed on to the next generation. We call this successful reproduction ‘natural selection’ meaning that those critters who are not as well adapted to a particular environment will not produce as many offspring in comparison and that this selection ‘process’ when taken in the whole is mindless and unguided and based on the way things are for these critters.

        People can build their own environments and mitigate this ‘process’ significantly. This is just a blunt fact immune from thee or me calling this ability good or evil. You assume that survival from some disaster is a part of an evolutionary process when, in fact, human life is significantly insulated from such occurrences in countries with modern infrastructure. The ‘pruning’ as you call it is no such thing in fact. We intervene and alter ‘natural’ outcomes all the time. Again, this practice is immune from thee or me calling it good or evil. Nor are tsunamis a part of the evolutionary process that determines in any meaningful and significant way successful traits for survival passed on through human reproduction as a species. And yes, suffering can be and often is used as a motivation to adapt our technologies and choices to reduce it. That’s probably why you don’t keep sticking your fork in a nearby socket… the suffering you experience without any compensating benefit is a good indicator and reminder that your behaviour needs changing.

        But you don’t want to understand and appreciate any of this. You are simply trying to equate the recognition and acceptance of the biological mechanism of evolution we understand and utilize in practical ways that continue to work in reality to your notion of immorality. It doesn’t wash. You are also unsuccessfully trying to equate disciplined reasoning and the acquisition of knowledge to be somehow counter to appropriate compassion and empathy. Again, it doesn’t wash. What you believe to be the result of knowledge – a lack of humanity, if you will – does not bear up under scrutiny. Your belief is wrong because it’s not true. Now the question is can you adaptto that fact or will you continue to delude yourself in order to maintain your (false) belief?

        Comment by tildeb — March 15, 2011 @ 12:50 pm

  3. “We intervene and alter ‘natural’ outcomes all the time.”

    This is called artificial selection – which is how we hybridise plants, dogs, cows etc.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 16, 2011 @ 3:02 am | Reply

  4. From Sam Harris:


    Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.

    The only sense to make of tragedies like this is that terrible things can happen to perfectly innocent people. This understanding inspires compassion.

    Religious faith, on the other hand, erodes compassion. Thoughts like, “this might be all part of God’s plan,” or “there are no accidents in life,” or “everyone on some level gets what he or she deserves” – these ideas are not only stupid, they are extraordinarily callous. They are nothing more than a childish refusal to connect with the suffering of other human beings. It is time to grow up and let our hearts break at moments like this.

    Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 9:56 am | Reply

    • God must have a reason for allowing evil to exist. I see no reason to connect that with a lack of compassion.

      Comment by Daniel — March 21, 2011 @ 10:00 am | Reply

      • What possible reason could there be?

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 22, 2011 @ 4:51 pm

    • Misunderstoodranter,

      How much evil would you like to be taken out of this world? If you want all of it gone, then you would either have your will severely limited (no lying, cheating, greed, selfishness, stealing, sex before marriage, free love, adultery, rebelliousness, envy, covetousness, pride, foolishness, filthy communications, blasphemy, drunkenness, malice, strife…. basically no freedom) or you would no longer exist because you committed just one evil act. What about the evil things we think and don’t do? Should those be gone as well?

      Evil must be allowed to exist so that we can continue to exist. There will be a time when all evil is taken care of, but for now God is holding back judgment till a later time so that we can have the opportunity to choose him over ourselves.

      Comment by Daniel — March 23, 2011 @ 8:31 am | Reply

      • But Daniel, you’re looking at the world as if only human ‘choice’ mattered and presume as much in this argument but completely fail to account for the pain and suffering that occurs (needlessly if it had been ‘designed’ differently) by other sentient creatures throughout the biosphere. Believe it or not, we are not alone in our suffering so whatever argument is put forth to promote a benevolent creator has to account for all sentient suffering.

        Comment by tildeb — March 23, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

      • Could you explain the needless suffering you talk about? I know what I mean when I say that, but I don’t know what you mean. What type of suffering do you think is evidence against God?

        Comment by Daniel — March 23, 2011 @ 12:43 pm

      • The evidence throughout the biosphere is legion that any so-called ‘designer’ is a malicious and vile entity who cares nothing for the suffering of his creations. For Darwin, it was the ichneumon female wasp that finds a live host and lays an egg inside it. Upon hatching, the larval ichneumon feeds eats the host from the inside out, eventually killing it only when they themselves are ready to pupate. How can we see this evidence produced again and again throughout nature and not directly question the assertion that nature’s creative ‘designer’ is actually benevolent when there are other ways we know of that involves reproduction without such horrific suffering of others.

        Comment by tildeb — March 23, 2011 @ 2:09 pm

  5. Compassion can be understood to be a compilation of empathy and sympathy. The root ‘com’ meaning ‘with’ and ‘passion’ meaning ‘suffering from a very strong feeling’ allows us to combine our ability to feel another’s situation with a strong sense of sharing it (this seems to be the role of mirror neurons). When we explain another’s situation to be ordained, to be caused justifiably, as if the person suffering brought it upon him or herself as the locus of blame, we create a separation in our mind from honest compassion. We can no longer share this suffering as if we were in the place of that person because we have already stepped away from it through some belief in assignment. “Everything happens for a reason” is one of the most common yet banal false uttering we hear from those who have decided it must be so. Such a belief inoculates one from appreciating the fact that suffering from something like a natural disaster is random; in place of this appreciation is inserted a false belief that such suffering is only right and proper because it has been so ordained. This is an excuse to create a baseless feeling of false security… this other person’s suffering is somehow deserved whereas god has seen fit to spare me. Because I’m spared, I’m special… although I cannot admit as much without appearing sanctimonious so I’ll pretend we’re all equally subject to god’s plan… one that just so happens to favour me over you. (This is the root of survivor guilt where the question “Why spare me?” cannot be answered, no purpose divined, no special meaning assigned except by trial and error accompanied by never knowing if this path or that one is the ‘intended’ one.)

    Faith-based belief that our destinies are written by an omniscient critter before we are born who has planned and implemented our later suffering – that everything happens for a reason yet no reason is ever made available – competes with honest compassion: for these folk who believe suffering of others happens for a reason, they cannot honestly put themselves in the place of others because they believe they do not share the same plan.

    If that plan includes mass suffering for no obvious reason whatsoever except capriciousness, then we define such a plan as evil. When that evil plan belongs to a god described as benevolent, then we have cognitive dysfunction: the evidence doesn’t match up with our belief. This is why the problem of evil – what I prefer to call the problem of suffering – is fatal to the belief that god is as you believe him to be. God cannot be both benevolent and omnipotent when we are faced by so much overwhelming evidence against it. The belief must be wrong.

    Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 10:43 am | Reply

  6. I grow tired of watching you choose a series of logical paths that lead to a conclusion which reinforces your own beliefs while ignoring other logical paths that exist. Your rhetoric is painful and doesn’t describe the way I approach this issue, nor does it describe other Christian people I know.

    However, I’m not going to lead you back the other way down the logical paths to show you the different options you ignored. I think it would be useless because you’ve already made up your mind that you are correct. I see little difference between you and fundamentalist Christians who willfully ignore logic on the other side of the issue.

    You know, for once I would really like to argue with an atheist who knows exactly what I believe and is willing to debate about it. I’m tired of atheists who misrepresent what I believe and describe my beliefs with a skewed view.

    I will end with this: When life is over God will ask us if we fed the poor and helped the suffering saying: “when you have done it unto the least of your neighbors you have done it unto me.” Most Christian want to answer that question positively regardless of where the suffering came from.

    Comment by Daniel — March 21, 2011 @ 11:24 am | Reply

    • As long as you continue to assert such beliefs as “When life is over and God will ask us…” you will fail to appreciate that you have no way at all of backing up such a truth claim because you don;t care about what’s true. If you did, you wouldn’t pretend such imaginings were anything more than imaginings. If you wish to help those you can help, you don’t need any imaginings to justify it and, in fact, your imaginings draw into question your real motivations for helping. If helping is used merely as a tool to spread your imaginings, then you have reduced that help to a selfish manipulation for your own ends. That is a moral failing even though the act of helping is not. Someday I hope you can understand the difference and why your faith reduces rather than enhances your compassion.

      Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 12:09 pm | Reply

      • Again you display such a narrow understanding of Christian beliefs. Things only work one way in your world.

        You wrongly assume that no other principles affect Christian behavior in this matter except the one I quoted. And I didn’t quote it to make a truth claim. It seems to me, that when anyone on the other side builds any sort of substancial logical argument, you switch subjects instead of arguing about the foundations of “real” Christianity. Attacking fake Christianity doesn’t help your cause.

        Comment by Daniel — March 21, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

      • Of course, the usual fallback position of anyone who believes theology offers us anything of value is to classify all criticisms as “But that’s not my religion.”

        No one can possibly know what it is you believe because how you inform such imaginings as the term ‘god’ eludes even you. But when you assert something about this imagined unknowable critter as if it were true and are called on it, you continue to deny that you’re imagining anything at all. That’s not a narrow understanding on my part, Daniel: it is a lack of intellectual honesty on yours.

        Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

      • If you want to avoid the criticism of “that’s not my religion”, then let me suggest a tactic that’s very simple to use. Pick up a Bible, look up all the verses (and their contexts) that deal with what Christians think on the issue you want to bring up, formulate a Christian proposition based on your findings, and then argue against it using logic and reason.

        Comment by Daniel — March 21, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

      • So simple, in fact, that we have some 30,000 different christian denominations!

        Funny, that, when it’s really so clear and simple… to Daniel.

        Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

  7. nah. i’m thankful for existing and see this planet as supporting life, and radically so. The world is an ecology of life and death, of good and evil, and it was made that way. What we decided at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, though, was that we wanted to run the ecology a different way. We wanted to run it so we could make the good better and get rid of the evil altogether. But look what we’ve done with that as a result. We’ve made death a problem to be solved. Death is not a problem to be solved. It’s a mystery to be entered and embraced. For everyone. Not just for Christians. For ducks and geese and mice and men.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 21, 2011 @ 1:51 pm | Reply

  8. An ecology of good and evil? …it (the world) was made that way.

    Here we go again, with more creationist imaginings followed by empty assertions. But at least we can agree that death naturally follows all forms of life… with a caveat for true believers, of course, and that’s what makes christianity just another death cult. Yup, death is to be embraced not because it’s a natural and permanent end to the life just lived but as a magical doorway for the in-group to gain entrance to the next ‘life’. And many christians have the temerity to hold this central tenet to be true while proclaiming themselves ‘pro-life’. Religious folk who believe this don’t even think themselves at home here on earth! Just a quick temporal visit before returning to the real one!

    Good grief, but the hypocrisy runs deeply in the river of theology.

    Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 2:30 pm | Reply

  9. we all die. thus that makes how we live life all that much more important.

    you rage and no not what you rage against.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 21, 2011 @ 2:36 pm | Reply

    • I’m not raging at all: I’m pointing out the incoherence of trying to hold contrary ideas – belief in benevolent and powerful god – at the same time. And yes, death is an important end point for helping us to define how we live a full and meaningful one. Pretending that death doesn’t really matter with a new and better one waiting just beyond undermines this entirely and substitutes wishful thinking and imaginings in place of what’s true.

      Comment by tildeb — March 21, 2011 @ 3:32 pm | Reply

      • no, you were raging. you picked up “it (the world) was made that way.” and labeled it a “creationist imaginings.” without thinking and stated “followed by empty assertions.” which you, btw, agreed with. what the point was is that the world simply is this way despite our wishing it wasn’t. it just is. made could be substituted with is, no skin off my back.

        and i agree to a point that pretending death doesn’t really matter has some serious theological and philosophical ramifications that lean towards “bad” yet look at the context that those ideas were spawned in and are often most popular in: oppressed and marginalized groups. so yes, wishful thinking and imaginings are incredibly important to such people in place of what’s true, because what’s true, totally sucks. rampant poverty, systemic oppression and prejudice, lack of medical care or opportunities to better one’s life here, no hope, no salvation, no chance to “pull oneself up by the bootstraps” because there aren’t any boots! to dream of a place where you have boots and are feed and loved and wanted is completely logical and in a sense, a rejection of “what is true” it is the first step towards liberation. however, the problem is that many groups don’t take the next step towards liberation, they stay in a static, tribal mindset.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 22, 2011 @ 11:40 am

      • I highlighted your use of the word “made” because it implies intelligent agency, which I correctly point out is an empty assertion. That’s not ‘raging’ any more than you using the word ‘nah’ and me asserting that the word shows you are ‘raging’. It’s a misrepresentation.

        And let’s be honest about oppressed and marginalized groups: are imaginings and wishful thinking an important coping mechanism (as you assert) or a cause of oppression and marginalization? Until we know which of these roles imaginings and wishful thinking plays in fact then your assertion is premature. What we do know is that imagining away one’s problems doesn’t cause solutions. Recognizing first what’s true and then setting an obtainable (realistic) goal for altering those conditions is in comparison far more efficacious.

        There is often an assumption that wishful thinking never hurt anyone and that doing so is benign… perhaps even adding some measure of comfort. Perhaps this is so in part, but what is often overlooked is just how malignant the belief can be if it interferes with choosing more efficacious actions. This is the point with complimentary and alternative and homeopathic woo that substitutes magic pills and mystical forces in place of medicine. Not getting efficacious and available treatment results in unnecessary harm. Nowhere is this more relevant than in vaccinations. People who choose not to vaccinate increase the risk of preventable disease for those who do. Parents who turn to prayer rather than medicine for their child’s health care end up killing too many children from preventable diseases and complications from injuries. So wishful thinking and imaginings may appear harmless but in fact can cause unintended harm by irresponsible omission and ineffective faith-based beliefs of improper substitution.

        Comment by tildeb — March 22, 2011 @ 12:04 pm

  10. “And let’s be honest about oppressed and marginalized groups: are imaginings and wishful thinking an important coping mechanism (as you assert) or a cause of oppression and marginalization?”

    like most things in nature, you’ll have a both/and scenario. plus most don’t care nor have the rational capacity, intellectual or material resources to figure this out. nor would they care to, they know they are oppressed, and they know how to resist it in some small ways and look forward to an eschatological vision and future date where their suffering is justified.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 22, 2011 @ 12:32 pm | Reply

    • “…and look forward to an eschatological vision and future date where their suffering is justified.”

      I bet they are DYING to find out!

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 22, 2011 @ 4:56 pm | Reply

      • har har

        ugh, a little grave-side humor, huh? 😉

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 23, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

      • I wasn’t joking.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 23, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

      • well it was very punny.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 23, 2011 @ 4:47 pm

      • Punny it may be – but it is not a joke, if you apply some critical thinking to it… if religious people really did believe in sin, evil and the afterlife – they would be thankful when they get diagnosed with terminal illness; a wake would not be wake, a funeral would not be funeral. On hearing their fateful diagnosis, they would be happy that there were finally going to meet their maker – but this is not so, everyone I have met religious or otherwise who has been given such a trial of life has sobbed, ad would do anything to have a little more time.

        Furthermore, if religious people really did believe they wouldn’t risk their children going to hell, so they would kill their children before they had chance to sin.
        Or you can flip the pun, some religious people really cannot wait to meet their maker – they tie explosives to themselves, walk to place where people are going about their daily business and push the button – they really do believe in an afterlife don’t they.

        Religion even under the simplest examination makes no sense at all.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 24, 2011 @ 3:58 am

      • that’s not critical thinking, that’s an Equivocation fallacy among many others.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 10:21 am

    • Equivocation – how so?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 24, 2011 @ 2:12 pm | Reply

      • oppressed religious people believe in the afterlife
        the afterlife would be better than this life
        therefore oppressed religious people should want to die.

        this is an equivocation of fallacious reasoning and an improper reductio adsurdum with the comment “Religion even under the simplest examination makes no sense at all.” if you have been to an African American funeral you’d see a celebration of that person’s life and a rejoicing that they have “loosed the mortal coil” and are now with their maker. you’d see that here in my church too, albeit we’re a bunch of white protestant. if you’d look at the liturgy of most funerals you’d see this too, even in the Church of England’s liturgy (see #8).

        Christianity is about this life and the next yet i would say it’s extremely focused on the here and now. Islam is too. some do rejoice at a terminal illness or respond that they will beat it despite the odds and live like they don’t have the illness and sometimes they make it and sometimes only a psychological victory can be declared. to blow oneself up in the name of religion is actually a contradiction in terms and is throughly denounced save for the most fundamentalist believers… and i think those are a blight on the earth.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

      • I see no use of a term used with two different meanings. You argue that the comfort derived from belief helps people cope in this world by promising a better life in the next. When MUR points out that if this belief were held honestly, there would be a rush to death. Because we do not see this, he’s pointing out that people only pretend to hold this belief. That’s not an equivocation fallacy but a logical deduction. Yet you call the deduction a reductio adsurdum. But why is it absurd? We are well aware its statement is found in many liturgical traditions but that only highlights that few people honestly believe it to be true. And that’s a good thing. It would be even better if no one believed it to be true!

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    • I see – that would explain why the suicide bombers want to go to heaven then – and why their families congratulate them arriving there…

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 25, 2011 @ 5:50 pm | Reply

  11. “How can we see this evidence produced again and again throughout nature and not directly question the assertion that nature’s creative ‘designer’ is actually benevolent when there are other ways we know of that involves reproduction without such horrific suffering of others.”

    this only theologically works out through a puppet-master, predestination model. mainly a Calvinist model. however an Armenian or free-will model shows that all of this is evidence from “the fall” and one day shalom and harmony will be restored or reached. this depends if the theology starts from a literal “fall” basis and eden:like there was a shalom in the first place which is a common one… but Ireanaus didn’t believe this, he was a 2nd century theologian that claimed the world came from chaos and order will win out.. so his fall was a “fall upwards” that humanity would lead creation into a new paradise where such things wouldn’t happen. again this involves an Arminian viewpoint.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 23, 2011 @ 2:31 pm | Reply

    • Again, the excuse of suffering resulting only after “the fall” utterly fails to account for why nature itself is red in tooth and claw. In other words, how does “the fall” justify in any way the design of the ichneumon wasp, for example, to first paralyze and then implant its egg within the body of a living caterpillar, so that the larvae can then eat this host alive until it pupates and only then finally kill it? Nature is filled with such examples and theology – no matter how ‘sophisticated’ – cannot balance this inherent cruelty with a benevolent and powerful creator of this very system without presenting such a god to some innocent critter who never had any choice in the A&E story as capricious and vile.

      You suggest that the kind of theology I am criticizing depends on its creator being viewed as a puppet master, as if sophisticated theology gets beyond (or helps explain) this naive belief. Is that true? Well, even if we use probably one of the most ‘liberal’ churches I can find, we read here:

      “Article I—Of Faith in the Holy Trinity

      There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible.”

      Theological arguments about free will continue to focus only on a possible explanation for suffering by humans – we DESERVE suffering from natural disasters! – and avoid the overwhelming evidence that nature is simply indifferent to it. From a designed perspective, this simply makes no sense if the designer is truly both benevolent and powerful. As the the lyrics to a child’s game reveals: One of these things just doesn’t belong here.

      Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 8:56 am | Reply

      • “cannot balance this inherent cruelty with a benevolent and powerful creator of this very system”
        -sure you can. it was created and the laws of physics are harmonious and benevolent. yet as life started and things were taken to the biological level, that’s when things went wrong. free will corrupted the design. there, done.

        you think the UMC is liberal?! moderate at best and even then leaning right. equivocation fallacy again. please stick to the theology already presented… which would be process theology which would never say anything as stupid as “we DESERVE suffering from natural disasters!”

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 10:29 am

      • it (evolutionary biological process we call life) was created and the laws of physics are harmonious and benevolent. that’s just wrong. Factually wrong. The earth’s tectonic activity is a process of physics that is neither ‘harmonious’ nor ‘benevolent’ by any stretch of the imagination. Again, you make a ludicrous assertion to try to fit your theology to the facts and fail. Free will has nothing to do with plate tectonics, a process that causes effects that produces enormous suffering of the biology that lives upon it. Your assertion “there, done” misses the target entirely. The theology ‘already presented’ under critical review is a faith-based belief in a creative designer that is both benevolent and powerful. The argument stands that such a belief is incoherent. That you wish to alter this theology to what you call ‘process’ theology can occur to your heart’s content in your own mind. But this post is about how suffering is fatal to this faith-based belief.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

      • nope, not in the least. Meister Eckhart once stated “God is not good, I am good and yet i am not God.” then there’s the whole “God’s ways are not our ways.” and then you get the whole thing from Job which is a HUGE book all about whether God is good and why there is suffering in the world. the answer: there just is.

        so process theology shifts the question to state these processes just are. the math is flawless and beautiful. yet all is connected and if you thug on this string, everything shifts (Chaos Theory). the world is not static nor entirely causational.

        so the assertion that “a creative designer that is both benevolent and powerful” still stands as life has won out over 4 or 5 mass extinctions and still continues in a largely lifeless quanity of space. what you argue for is that nothing comes from nothing, that there is no design, that life can just “happen” which is like asserting that a bomb goes off in a junkyard and magically forms a fully functional 747. that seems much more crazy than any assert i could possibly make, including “God is Good.”

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 12:21 pm

      • Oh, man, that’s SUCH a bad argument because it is EXACTLY what you are proposing: god takes nothing and goes ‘POOF’ and creates everything… equating god to the very bomb you claim defeats non belief in such a magical occurrence!

        So just to be clear: you don’t believe god has created the world as it is. You don’t believe god has allowed the world to become as it is. You don’t believe god has any obligation to intervene when suffering of the innocent can be mitigated. But you still believe god is both benevolent and powerful?

        As Epicurus would then ask: why believe in such a god?

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

      • “god takes nothing and goes ‘POOF’ and creates everything”

        nope, not at all. God is the something that creates something. there is no “poof” there is a process. thus it rules out the bomb analogy on my side, there is no bomb but a process that is going somewhere.

        “you don’t believe god has created the world as it is. You don’t believe god has allowed the world to become as it is.”
        -yup, it’s a simple way of putting it but pretty much. yet this is not a deist move, it’s a panentheistic move where God is in all and through all and throughout infinity. there is a call response through the whole of creation.

        “You don’t believe god has any obligation to intervene when suffering of the innocent can be mitigated. But you still believe god is both benevolent and powerful?”

        i don’t believe in a puppetmaster God. i believe God is present in every situation and presents us with the better alternative, a harmonious way. this way is best found in the teachings and life of Jesus… and this did not free him from suffering but in fact caused more suffering for him and his followers. which is completely logical because when you care for the suffering of others your suffering is then multiplied. yet in our shared suffering we learn we’re not alone. that there is common humanity and a share experience.

        so why believe in such a god? because it is an image of personal transformation and confrontation with the domination systems of the world.the church’s role is then as a community of servants looking for transformation into an identity in Christ.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

      • You’re suggesting a theistic universal evolution, are you? It’s an unnecessary complication in that you cannot show what the universe would be like without this prime mover; it would look exactly like it already does. And belief in this prime mover you’re going to try to argue is really a pantheistic belief! This’ll be good.

        But I guess when everything-everywhere-always-forever is this pantheistic god, then every fa8ith-based belief arrow hits this all encompassing target. The drawback is that such a pantheistic god is meaningless because something that pretends to answer everything answers nothing. Maybe that’s how you can get something from nothing!

        Your allegiance to Jesus is touching but it is meaningless in any practical theological terms if it involves details. Again, you pretend that such an allegiance is really just a more effective sociology than studying just people that also happens to maintain a kind of hero worshiping for a particular man. You gloss over the man’s insistence on the reality of eternal torment for those who do not believe and I have little doubt that you shall argue to your dying breath that this is just another example of the man’s divine love for his fellow creatures… with the right interpretation, of course.

        You deny trusting and having confidence in your knowledge that bodies dead for three days don’t come back to life, that spontaneous pregnancies do not produce children, that water will not support the weight of a walking man, that a loaf of bread and bottle of wine will not miraculously regenerate. You know all this, yet you are willing to prostitute your knowledge for what? A role model?

        I find on the face of it your faith assertions difficult to believe as being honestly held. You seem too clever by far to fall for such pantheistic general claim for god but such a poor historical foundation for turning an ancient carpenter into the being due your hero worshiping. Methinks you doth write as much with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

      • panENtheistic. important difference. and yes, i am advocating that because while i can’t prove it you can’t disprove it either because existence is as it is. there is enough evidence and what you would call “coincidence” to support such a claim and that’s what i go on. plus there is the abjectly subjective experiences that have lead to this point.

        “Your allegiance to Jesus is touching but it is meaningless in any practical theological terms if it involves details.”

        of which you have asked for none nor explored this area of practical theology at all. and being a practical theologian and not at all a systematic one, this further shows you have no idea who you’re talking to. so that blame lies solely on you and this claim is empty and unjustified. for one who claims to love the scientific method, you never seem to use it on here.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

      • I misread panentheism as pantheism. My mistake. I apologize.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

      • Regarding panentheism, I see no good reason to suggest that god is both of this world and yet above this world. I fully appreciate the platonic roots to this unnecessary metaphysics and I fail to see any meaningful difference between the world without such a god and one with. To me they look identical.

        But the belief that god and the universe are synonymous stands in contradiction if one believes that god is an interventionist deity with supernatural power. That directly contravenes the epistemology we utilize throughout our lives we call methodological naturalism and make a special exemption from that epistemology to maintain a belief in such an agency. The two notions are contradictory.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

      • “I see no good reason to suggest that god is both of this world and yet above this world.”
        -because you see no god.

        “I fully appreciate the platonic roots to this unnecessary metaphysics and I fail to see any meaningful difference between the world without such a god and one with. To me they look identical.”
        -which confirms my assumption about you tildeb. that you know a lot about science but little about philosophy and theology. pantheism would have us BE gods. we’re not. we’re human. panENtheism is the bridge between classic theism and pantheism. jewish theology and pagan theology if you will. throughly christian.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 26, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

      • Again, you’d be wrong about my knowledge of philosophy and theology. My honours degree begs to differ: it shows I know a little bit about them. And I assume you use the main source I do for jesus: the NT, although I still fail to see any compelling evidence whatsoever that god is in the world and the world is in god. When the term itself – ‘god’ – is carefully placed to mean ‘whatever I choose it to mean’ it draws into question the intellectual integrity of the person who adheres to it as something theologically descriptive. The gap you say is being ‘bridged’ by panentheism is filling in all the blanks that classical theism – meaning simply belief in a creator god – and worship of nature reveal by painting the entire plane with god and calling it complete. Likewise, it reveals as much.

        Comment by tildeb — March 26, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  12. i don’t know if you’ve seen the stink over Rob Bell’s new book “love wins” but it makes me think of this conversation.

    Like some progressive and process theologians, Bell nuances his universalism by his affirmation of human freedom to say “no” to God. This “no” can thwart God’s vision for our life. God wants all to be saved, but the nature of that salvation is contingent on our use of freedom. In making this statement, Bell comes close to process theology, although his view is more lyrical and less worked out than the process theologians. According to process theologians, God’s aim or vision of possibilities is the “best for the impasse.” The intensity and scope of divine possibility is related to the interdependence of choice, environment, and personal history. Life is a dynamic call and response in which God calls and we respond, and our response leads to new embodiments of God’s call in our lives. When we open to God’s presence, God can be more active in our lives, providing a greater range of possibilities and the energy to achieve them.

    Still, God is always present in our lives, seeking wholeness even in our waywardness.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 23, 2011 @ 2:35 pm | Reply

    • Ah yes, the god-is-love-and-we-have-been-granted-the-power-to-choose-to-accept-or-reject-it-because-god-loves-us-so-much-that-has-endowed-us-with-choice message that bubbles up in popularity every few years.

      I have a better answer for Epicurus’ question: “none of the above, because all these claims involving a god or gods are figments of human imagination that are symbolic of nature at best.”

      Until believers gets that answer right, they’re inevitably doomed to be wrong on everything else about proclaiming god’s intentions, god’s characteristics, god’s ‘dynamic call’, god’s aims, god’s purpose for us, god’s moral law, and so on.

      Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 9:11 am | Reply

      • and the resolution to this problem would be what? you could easily write “Until scientists gets that answer right, they’re inevitably doomed to be wrong on everything else about proclaiming existence’s intentions, existence’s characteristics, existence’s aims, if there is any purpose for us, any moral law, and so on.”

        still people would be arguing and bickering. so what? how does that change the conversation aside from the pronouns used?

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 10:32 am

      • Because it alter the focus from empty assertions and assumptions about oogity boogity to what is true: we are subject to the universe and must look to knowledge about it to best endow humanity with the required understanding to reduce suffering where possible. It is OUR responsibility to deal with what is honestly and openly without trying to pretend that things are different and magical to promote our feelings of comfort over and above promoting human rights, freedoms, and dignity.

        The problem of suffering is not a problem that can be solved but mitigated based on human well-being. Knowledge – not faith-based beliefs – offers us the best means to accomplish this.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  13. we are subject to the universe (aka Love God/existence/something greater than yourself and all those things about being humble or as Paul put it, you are not your own/not the center of the universe or as st augustine stated “don’t be humble, you don’t deserve that much.”) and must look to knowledge about it to best endow humanity with the required understanding to reduce suffering where possible (love your neighbor as yourself?) that all seems to line up with where i’m coming from.

    “The problem of suffering is not a problem that can be solved but mitigated based on human well-being.”

    sounds like Henri Nouwen’s wounded healer or a Mother Teresa model of social justice and action.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

    • Yes, treat others as you would like to be treated is good advice to follow. No god required. Recognizing the indifference of the universe to you and your well-being? Yes, and no god required. Mitigate suffering on the model of the Albanian dwarf? Umm, no. She celebrated suffering and thought it brought god honour, although at least she was honest enough in her private letters to admit she doubted in the existence of any god. Still, she enhanced human suffering tremendously on the basis of her faith and used her fame and fortune to do so. As for HN? I don’t know anything about him.

      Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

      • and now you’re getting to a place where progressive Christianity has been for centuries… namely that Christianity is not about some afterlife but THIS life.

        take the Our Father:
        Our Father, Who art in heaven, (this part is rather theisty and afterlife-y)
        Hallowed be Thy Name. (fair enough…)
        Thy Kingdom come. (whoa.. what? come where? here!)
        Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. (in the here and now) Give us this day our daily bread. (may all be fed)
        And forgive us our trespasses, (we know we’re not perfect)
        as we forgive those who trespass against us. (and other’s aren’t also)
        And lead us not into temptation, (like using religion as a means to harm rather than heal, science to blow stuff up than allow things to prosper)
        but deliver us from evil. Amen.

        yup! aside from the two opening lines, the rest is practical stuff concerned with every day living.

        i’m not surprised you don’t know HN, and Karl Barth prolly for that matter. i’ve been saying this in every post, you only know conservative Christianity and a strawman version at that.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

      • Getting to a place? No, I have arrived by rejecting claims in a supernatural divine agency for lack of evidence. You’ll get there eventually, just like Mother Teresa.

        What you call ‘conservative christianity’ recognizes that which you do not, namely, belief in a supernatural divine agency that created and intervenes in this world in the here and now. All you’re doing is trying avoid stating this belief and, instead, pretend that your theology is really a sociology. I don’t but it for a minute.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  14. “belief in a supernatural divine agency that created and intervenes in this world in the here and now.”
    -i absolutely believe that, the details aren’t the same however. so you trying to complex question me back to a conservative stance which you can thus refute which won’t work cause you’re not dealing with what is presented.

    my theology is indeed a sociology as well. faith, according to the Gospel of John, is never a noun; never a thing. it is a verb, and with it all the ambiguity of a verb and being in action. believing IS doing; or as James put it “faith without works is dead.”

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

    • Yes, the devil is always in the details, isn’t it? Just like details we call ‘evolution’ and ‘astrophysics’ has really mucked up the ‘knowledge’ we had about god for the longest time. Now thanks to inquiring honestly after these details, we can safely say that if he is real then he lurks somewhere in the deepest recesses of time after merely starting the laws of physics. By the time our science drives him into the realm of pre-Big Bang, he’ll be in just the right place to avoid any further inquiries into his whereabouts.

      Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

      • god of the gaps much? no. not at all. have you ever considered how it is that we can do science? why it works? because there is order. there is order in a supposed random, pointless, and accidental universe. we can explore it, but we can never be fully free of mystery. questions lead to more questions. we are always seeking. is that science or does that sound like the Christian mystics through the centuries? sounds like a Hafiz poem to me.

        so can i define God, like you are asking me to do? can i point and say “here is God!” no. i can’t. i look at existence and i see God period, full stop. it is divine. we can see and explore it and never figure it all out and science and theology agree on this.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 4:18 pm

      • You presume order is indicative or an ‘order-er’. Not so. We can do science because the epistemology works.

        Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

      • still doesn’t really answer the question does it. you’ve pretty much said “it works, because it works.” great metaphysic. the more we talk, the more i think you’re actually a philosophical Taoist. not a bad thing actually.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 26, 2011 @ 4:28 pm

      • I’ve said no such thing. I’ve said science works because its epistemology works. Theology doesn’t work to produce knowledge because its epistemology is broken.

        The more we talk, the more I realize you like to jump to unjustified conclusions. A bad thing, actually.

        Comment by tildeb — March 26, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

      • the philosopher Hume, a fellow atheist of yours, would happily prove you wrong on epistemology. the epistemology is largely a empirical one with lots of assumptions built in that just so happen to work on many occasion but yet do nothing to show how these process initially took place. they report, they have no meaning aside from what we philosophically attach to it.

        plus i just read the book The Eerie Silence by Paul Davies states that life is not a matter of random assemblies, you could put all the elements of life in a jar and wait a trillion years and it will still just be there. the real deal is “i have no idea what turns nonlife into life. i get irritated by people who say life can emerge in earthlike conditions.” he states.

        plus our scientific methods are hopeless poor because all our theories of life are drawn from the only place we know it exists. when your sample group is so vanishingly small, when n=1, every statistician states that you have a long way to go before you reach statistical significance.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 27, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

      • Listen to you ramble! Science works because it epistemology works. And you pretend that’s a weakness! Hilarious!

        Then you pretend that unless you accept Oogity Boogity as a meaningful starting point, we cannot possibly lend trust to that which works reliably and consistently well. Oh yes, that’s a really good point you make worthy of deep consideration. Or perhaps I could simply name drop and tell you that Einstein would probably disagree with you but we know that Hawking does so. And for good reasons.

        Davies is irritated that people have the gall to suggest that life can emerge in earthlike conditions? But my dear buy, it already has. That’s not gall; that’s a recognition of what is true.

        And pray tell, where should we get our distrustful knowledge about life… from more oogity boogity?

        And you think any of these points are legitimate contenders for serious consideration about the epistemological trustworthiness of science?

        Please.

        Comment by tildeb — March 27, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

      • so science has no limits? nothing comes from nothing? the universe is teeming with life, you must be right!

        name dropping is also a fallacy, at least dawkins states so. that’s a courtier’s fallacy isn’t it? see, i have learned something from you!

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 27, 2011 @ 4:14 pm

      • Note how quickly you try to avoid legitimate criticism. Have I said science has no limits? Of course not. But have you addressed why belief in oogity boogity is a necessary starting point? Of course not. And the name dropping doesn’t help your cause when its intention is only to divert. I can play that stupid game, too. Big deal, or as you like to say, pin a rose on your nose.

        Comment by tildeb — March 27, 2011 @ 5:54 pm

  15. “understanding to reduce suffering where possible. ”

    i don’t settle for such a limited view. i will attempt to reduce suffering where it is impossible. to those families in generational poverty which so often the “facts” and “what is true” say that there is no hope for them. funny, science hasn’t rescued them. yet faith has time and time again. the gospel proclaims and demands it. “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released” these are the first words of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in Luke. i will and have been following suit in one of America’s most impoverished cities where we rank #4 in Human Trafficking. what have you done? with your reasons and method, where are you? how are you working to better you neighborhood, your community, your world? fighting fairy tales hasn’t done much aside from reveal your ignorance about religion in general and Christianity specifically.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 24, 2011 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

    • I have done much, not because I claim to be moved by some unnecessarily complicated god in and of the world but, because I see need and respond because I am able. No gods are necessary. You presume far too much about my ‘ignorance’ in theology in general and christianity in particular because I disagree with many of your claims on the basis you have no way of knowing.

      As far as the problem of suffering is fatal to a creator god who is both benevolent and powerful, panentheism simply makes the terms ‘universe’ and ‘god’ synonymous but pretends that god is also above as well as part of the world as if this is knowable. From where I sit, it’s simply another unnecessary complication that in no way justifies the belief that a creative god that allows such suffering is both benevolent and powerful.

      Comment by tildeb — March 24, 2011 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

    • pin a rose on your nose.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 26, 2011 @ 4:26 pm | Reply

  16. The building of mosques in the UK has divided cities in two – that’s not helped our community at all.

    You don’t need religion to have ‘community’ – in fact I would say that religion – blocks community. The best community projects have been inclusive of all members of society (e.g. Comic Relief, WWF) – not just the ones who believe one form of ‘voodoo’ is better than another form of ‘voodoo’.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 26, 2011 @ 3:00 am | Reply

    • the exception that proves the rule fallacy is used with abandon on here, isn’t ranter?

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 26, 2011 @ 4:27 pm | Reply

      • That would be true if it were an exception – but it isn’t. Again you let your beliefs obfuscate the truth about the nature of religion, and the general nature of its followers. Religion is a social tool that has a purpose to unite people against people – the concept of community, is only as broad and deep as the community of its own followers – beyond that demarcation boundary conflict and disagreement arises. Multi-faith community doesn’t generally exist, and if it does, it is because those who participate water down their beliefs – i.e. they become more secular, and ignore their rituals and rules of worship in favour of ‘getting on with each other’.

        Religion has no place in a modern society – it is socially unacceptable, demeaning, divisive, childish and irrelevant on almost every level – the sooner people start to recognise what religion is (a psychopathic delusion), the sooner the world will move to a more inclusive and progressive way of living. Unless of course you wish that every country and every city and every town is divided into sects that are working against each other?

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 27, 2011 @ 3:40 am

      • is every congregation and mosque out there in complete and total chaos? are they agents disrupting the social order every chance they get? i notice how every town and city only has one church from one denomination with no room for interfaith dialog, shared service projects, or even other religions within their jurisdiction, so you must be right! you’re claim is 100% right and the rule rather than the exception. excellent work! your middle school teacher must be so proud of you.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 27, 2011 @ 3:16 pm

      • “is every congregation and mosque out there in complete and total chaos?”

        Nope – and this is relevant how?

        “are they agents disrupting the social order every chance they get?”

        Yep – there are plenty of examples where religious nut jobs try to push their authority and influence into education, healthcare and law – this happens all the time.

        “i notice how every town and city only has one church from one denomination with no room for interfaith dialog, shared service projects, or even other religions within their jurisdiction, so you must be right!”

        Having a denomination is one thing, building a religious temple to a different god is another – would you want to start a mosque building project on the site of the twin towers? How about a Christian church in Egypt (http://www.compassdirect.org/english/country/egypt/69546); how about setting up a protestant only pub in a catholic village in Ireland? I could keep finding these examples, but it is pointless – you are looking at faith with your rose tinted god goggles on. So blinded you are by your faith that you do not see the true purpose of religious good. Why did mother Teresa have the best healthcare money could buy, while thousands suffered in filthy catholic aids hospitals, being treated with nothing but filthy suffering and indignity? A cult that feeds the poor for the purposes of marketing the cult – is still a cult!!!

        My idea of community is where people work together towards a common practical goal for the interest of the community; that is inclusive of everyone regardless of their sex, sexuality, race or ability – name me one core religion that supports and practices this belief.

        “you’re claim is 100% right and the rule rather than the exception. excellent work! your middle school teacher must be so proud of you.”
        My middle school teacher was a religious nut job – but you can rest assure that my values and outlook on humanity and life are far more realistic, well-rounded and knowledge based than he ever intended them to be.
        You seem to think that Atheists have no experience of religion – you are categorically wrong. Like many atheists, I was religious – I tested my faith to destruction, there isn’t any evidence for god – there is just a bunch of very vulnerable and deluded people making some pretty deluded untestable, unverifiable, indemonstrable claims.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 27, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

      • “Yep – there are plenty of examples where religious nut jobs try to push their authority and influence into education, healthcare and law – this happens all the time.”

        is that not what you and tildeb are doing? pushing your own ideology in reaction to these types? is every church and faith community out there doing this? no. i don’t think so, not even close. your fallacy still stands firm.

        “How about a Christian church in Egypt”

        how about muslims in alexandrai and nag hammadi being a human shield for their christmas services this past 1-6? a community protecting it’s own from intolerant attacks? how about muslims, christians and jews uniting and taking to the square. i have many coptic friends from Egypt, and they totally refute that and state that “right now we are all Egyptians. every person from every faith are working together to build a better Egypt.” that is the rule, you raise the exception once again.

        “My idea of community is where people work together towards a common practical goal for the interest of the community; that is inclusive of everyone regardless of their sex, sexuality, race or ability – name me one core religion that supports and practices this belief.”

        Sufi Muslims, Christian Mystics, scholastics, and humanists, Unitarian Universalists, my denomination of UCC, the UCC (Canada), Chaitanya Hinduism, Kabblah and reform Judaism, and all most all of Buddhism and Taoism.

        “Like many atheists, I was religious…”

        until you were in h.s. big whoop. you left early with a surface understanding and a slanted view on church history. have i said the church and all religions were perfect? no. there are very dark moments in history. there are also extremely bright moments. you deal in the exceptions.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 10:44 am

  17. “Again, you’d be wrong about my knowledge of philosophy and theology. My honours degree begs to differ:”

    rather shoddy place then if it graduates students with honors that don’t know the difference between pantheism and panentheism. pretty basic stuff.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 27, 2011 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

    • On the polite side, you’ll note I apologized for missing that difference. My education is not to blame.

      On the rude side, there is no qualitative difference between made-up shit and other made-up shit.

      Comment by tildeb — March 27, 2011 @ 3:36 pm | Reply

      • on the polite side; thank you for your apology, it was a first.

        on the rude side; it’s hard to think you had any study beyond age 12, much like your hero Ricky Gervais, on anything theological or religion oriented period, let alone an honors degree. unless the honors degree was from your confirmation class. yet again, that presupposes a religious history, of which i see no evidence of. you know only what Dawkins tells you.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 27, 2011 @ 4:11 pm

      • Oh, that’s so much bullshit. If you expect me to repost my thesis on Job (or Galileo or Pope… yes, I’ve prepared several master thesis paper) or my many thesis papers on Plato and Aristotle and Sophocles and Thucydides and Augustine and Kant and Hildegard of Bingen and Descartes and James and David Hume (don’t forget there are others) et alii, or and wade through the tortuous writings by Aquinas and so on, then you will remain sorely disappointed. My education has revealed the same tired metaphysical assumptions necessary to justify faith-based beliefs over and over again. At their core, these assumptions are either unknowable or wrong. Do I know of them? Yes. Can I speak in depth about them? Yes. Do I care to? No. Get over it.

        But what is important is that you offer nothing more to your empty theological assertions you vainly try to defend with these same old tired metaphysical answers than with the sanctimonious Courtier’s Reply criticizing those who would dare to point out the obvious make-believe outfit of the Emperor:

        I have considered the impudent accusations of Mr Dawkins with exasperation at his lack of serious scholarship. He has apparently not read the detailed discourses of Count Roderigo of Seville on the exquisite and exotic leathers of the Emperor’s boots, nor does he give a moment’s consideration to Bellini’s masterwork, On the Luminescence of the Emperor’s Feathered Hat. We have entire schools dedicated to writing learned treatises on the beauty of the Emperor’s raiment, and every major newspaper runs a section dedicated to imperial fashion; Dawkins cavalierly dismisses them all. He even laughs at the highly popular and most persuasive arguments of his fellow countryman, Lord D. T. Mawkscribbler, who famously pointed out that the Emperor would not wear common cotton, nor uncomfortable polyester, but must, I say must, wear undergarments of the finest silk.

        Dawkins arrogantly ignores all these deep philosophical ponderings to crudely accuse the Emperor of nudity.

        Personally, I suspect that perhaps the Emperor might not be fully clothed — how else to explain the apparent sloth of the staff at the palace laundry — but, well, everyone else does seem to go on about his clothes, and this Dawkins fellow is such a rude upstart who lacks the wit of my elegant circumlocutions, that, while unable to deal with the substance of his accusations, I should at least chide him for his very bad form.

        Until Dawkins has trained in the shops of Paris and Milan, until he has learned to tell the difference between a ruffled flounce and a puffy pantaloon, we should all pretend he has not spoken out against the Emperor’s taste. His training in biology may give him the ability to recognize dangling genitalia when he sees it, but it has not taught him the proper appreciation of Imaginary Fabrics.

        Comment by tildeb — March 27, 2011 @ 5:49 pm

      • i see no evidence of your scholarship. i would love to read these papers and i think they would do more for your cause than your soapbox antics you love to engage in. monkey see monkey do i guess, your hero dawkins does so, might as well follow.

        i would improve on your master’s tactics though. i would paint an alternative vision over and opposed to religion, right now you’re just “against.” and what good does that do? mite in your neighbor’s eye, log in your own sort of thing. what vision are you casting for the world? how do you want the world to be? what’s the alternative to what is currently out there? you’re firmly apophatic right now, so is dawkins. care to risk a kadaphatic step?

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 10:36 am

      • Of course, I failed to mention other important authors I have studied: Bertrand Russell, Antony Flew (in his atheist days), Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, John Mackie, Diderot, Paul Edwards, as well as Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, Blackford, Onfray, Stenger, Twain, Wilde, Wolstencraft, Machiavelli, de Beavoir, Mann, Nietzsche, and of course Darwin. And let us not forget a rather notable one I started this post about: Epicurus.

        The ‘scholarship’ you attempt and fail to find in my writings and comments is there in black and white. That you disagree with my connections is your right but that’s not to say it’s not there as if your conclusion is true.

        Comment by tildeb — March 28, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  18. “But have you addressed why belief in oogity boogity is a necessary starting point?” oh, have you asked? that would indeed be a great conversation!

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 10:31 am | Reply

    • Repeatedly. The answers you have offered are nonsensical in any meaningful way beyond wordplay: panentheism. I call it oogity boogity. You assert it is a necessary starting point without explaining why and then hold me to account for not specifically asking? That’s cheeky.

      Comment by tildeb — March 28, 2011 @ 11:05 am | Reply

      • absolutely cheeky because it shows your bias is upfront and active, skewing your perspective and anything i write is tossed out on it’s ear without being dealt with. for every scholar you name i can refute with a point and counter point, esp for Antony Flew who is now a deist.

        plus the whole question of why you pursue this subject in such a fundamentalist way has yet to be answered. the issue of people believing in God appears to bother you greatly. why would you spend so much time, attention, and energy refuting something that you don’t believe even exists? what causes you to do that? you have no deconversion narrative to speak of, there was that business about being spat at by someone during apartheid, but largely no personal history, background, or faith walk to speak of. ranter has this, he left early but your own claim states you never really believed in the first place.

        what’s going on here that causes you to pursue this?

        here’s what i think i know: you are in your final years of college or just recently graduated.. you’re in England or some part of Britain. you’re smart and well read and know science. you seem to have an utter disdain for all things “religious” without putting up parameters to what that means, which is exactly what Dawkins does. when he says religion, he usually means the conservative to fundamental western expressions of the Abrahamic faiths (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and nothing else. you have little to no knowledge of the varied traditions and denominations within said religions. even worse, in your more philosophical posts, like the one about the bike, you’re throughly Taoist.

        so the question that i hear you asking would be “why are you a panentheist?” is that right? or another way “why is it that you start with the assumption of an oogity boogity?” so the question isn’t really “is God benelovant what-have-you?” it really is “why even start there?” correct?

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 11:42 am

      • Z1G – this is about what is important in life, religion frankly isn’t important.

        I didn’t ‘leave’ the faith – I out grew it, because religion (like a ‘belief’ in anything else that is imaginary) is pretty childish. In the short time I have been on this earth, I have not seen god or heard god, or felt him physically, spiritually or mentally, and the strange happenings and claims of prayers being answered that are made by those who are religious can be explained by simple deduction, probability and the same level of scepticism that I would apply to someone who claimed that an “alien ate their homework” or that “the voices told me break into the house and murder those old ladies.”.

        If I told you that your daughter had murdered someone – would you believe me? Or would you demand evidence? And what sort of evidence would you require? Physical evidence? A psychological profile? DNA and time recorded video? Witnesses? Finger prints? A motive? A confession? And what value you put on these pieces of evidence – what would convince you that she had done it?

        However, if I told you that your daughter had powers to heal amputees through the power of prayer to her lord Jesus, would you believe me? What evidence would now require?

        If a child is always told that there is a Santa, and that “he brings presents to good children” they will believe me.
        However, eventually their excitement gets the better of them, and one night they set a trap. They hide behind the sofa and wait to get a glimpse of Santa – they believe, they believe so much that they even write a letter to give to him, and practice their lines (after all Santa is an important man!!!). But what happens when they really discover that Santa does not exist? Do they carry on believing – when they see their parents sneak into the room and arrange the presents for the morning? Do they make up excuses like “Err – Santa knew we were there so – he sent mum and dad instead?” OR “I really doubt I saw mum and dad with my own eyes, I must have had a bad dream.” OR the brother says to the sister “you didn’t see Santa – you weren’t looking hard enough – I saw him – I did – I did – I did – honest – I did.”

        Has the fact that Santa has been discovered to be fake smashed that child’s moral compass? Does it make them less well behaved as a result? Has it ruined their lives? Or do they keep the magic of Santa alive for when they have children – because the notion of Santa while serious for the child, is actually just a bit of fun and a good lesson in life.

        Interestingly, we don’t like our children to know too early that Santa is a fake, we like them to discover it for themselves – and most people do. And indeed children of a young age can get quite upset being told that Santa does not exist and will argue and have an emotional breakdown (they will cry!).

        Now ask yourself this – do you know any mentally sound adults that still believe in Santa? Why is that? What would YOU think if a war started over the truth claims related to the existence of Santa and his elves? Would you be disturbed by the news of this war – would you want to speak out against this stupidity?

        Imagine, if parents went to the extreme, and they faked Santa with ‘high tech special effects’; projections, actors, laser displays, smoke, mirrors, hundreds of testimonials and they kept the illusion alive in their children until they grew up to be adults – would you consider the parents to be honest decent people? Or would you start to question their motives?

        Now – all that an atheist has done is replace the word “Santa” with the word “God” – for which there is even less evidence for and no special effects – [remember Santa used to provide presents (the convincing evidence of Christmas present delivery was faked!). ].

        There is no god – the concept is made up – therefore it has no place in rule of society to positions of authority any higher than that of Santa. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous – it is laudable that adults believe in this rubbish (and actually I don’t believe many do – I think they go through the motions and pretend to be believers, just in case there is god and he is watching, or to not rock the boat and cause conflict in a relationship with an individual or local community, or some other cowardly reason). In other words they are intellectually dishonest. They lie to themselves and their loved ones out of convenience, so as not to offend.

        The reason why we dedicate time to the topic of religion is that it does cause suffering and untold damage to the world, and as a result religion is offensive to the extreme. You seem to think that because you are not a suicide bomber that you are somehow different to the believers that are – you are not; all you are doing is suspending your beliefs to ‘get along’ in a society that has ‘out grown’ out of religion and will not tolerate it’s true core beliefs. Christianity was no different to the Taliban at several stages in its LONG dark history, and this was normal – not the exception – heretics were burnt at the stake, witches hunted, murdered and tortured. There are cases of this happening, and considered normal practice into the nineteenth century! Imagine if we still did that now in the west?

        Your views however moderate, however well meaning, justify and re-enforce the deluded loons who do kill, who do challenge the teaching of science, who do lobby governments for the criminalisation of abortion – who do believe the bible word for word (or just the bits that want to cherry pick to justify their prejudice). Your voice, your view, your belief that is based on hearsay, made up stories, chanting, strange rituals, and whatever is used to justify budgets that are spent on faith based schools that indoctrinate children; which in turn have the ability to grow up to be religious nut jobs who do the same. You are no better than a pair of crackpot parents who keep the belief of Santa alive in a child until adulthood. Religion isn’t opium for the masses, it is nothing short of the systematically psychological (and physical) abuse of children and it is nothing short of repulsive. The fact that you will invent literally any excuse to justify you silly little claim that there is a god, and that this is based on the same level of integrity as the theory of relativity just speaks volumes about how little you value the truth – that you will devalue science to the same level as a dusty old book and a load of deluded people wearing silly hats I just unbelievable. I actually cannot put into words how utterly disappointed I am that a grown man who has had all the benefits of living in an age of discovery, and all the privileges of modern science still cannot see the reasoning behind why science is more valuable than wishful thinking and magic.

        Atheists do not care what people believe in, so long as they masturbate their religion in private, and do not make ‘truth’ claims that are based on improvable, non-demonstrable, fakery, quackery and hearsay.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 28, 2011 @ 4:37 pm

      • And the standard response by theists everywhere is “But that’s not MY religion he’s describing with these specifics,” without ever taking the time to responsibly look at what empowers the faith-based belief. And it is not based on what’s true or what can be known. We can find out if Santa Claus is true and knowable because people don’t subject him to the same method used to keep god hidden and herein lies the problem for those who wish to remain honest: faith-based beliefs are justified only by positive effects attributed to the faith (“But my religion promotes LOVE, CHARITY, FORGIVENESS, COMPASSION, yada yada yada) but negative effects are blamed only on people. Causation is thus assumed to be true for the positive (the sole survivor is testament to a MIRACLE) but denied for the negative (God didn’t make the plane crash). This is incoherent. This shows just how broken is the epistemology cherry picked by the believer for god but not for Santa… intellectually zipping back and forth and contorting like a gymnastic to keep the justification for the god faith immune from rational criticism used everywhere else in life on a daily basis. And every tool in the social toolbox is also recruited to help the theist’s beliefs remain privileged from a single application of honest and cohesive cause and effect. Special exemption for god is the rule for the theist and it’s necessary for god to remain believable. As soon as you apply the same cause and effect to god, you find out just how incoherent such faith-based beliefs really are.

        Comment by tildeb — March 28, 2011 @ 5:26 pm

  19. still going on the exception fallacy and then adding a slippery slope with “Your views however moderate, however well meaning, justify and re-enforce the deluded loons who do kill, who do challenge the teaching of science, who do lobby governments for the criminalisation of abortion.”

    as for this claim “his is about what is important in life, religion frankly isn’t important.” i haven’t yet seen a positive stance laid out on here that isn’t somehow connected to religion and ranting against it. so apparently it is MASSIVELY important for you and tildeb or else you’d have nothing to fight against and Dawkins couldn’t milk you out of your money.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

    • And which individual are you talking about for your fallacy?

      I question your motives if they are based on promoting some kind of faith as if that was justifiable. I give you the opportunity to show this. I question what you offer based on the underlying reasoning that empowers them. I show why the reasoning is poor. I do it because it’s important to show why faith-based beliefs are grounded in ideas that do not stand up well to critical reasoning, that have obvious gaps between what is knowable and what is not, to reveal just how ripe are the biases and bigotry poorly dressed up with rationalizations that accompany faith-based beliefs, to show how people who support faith-based beliefs fail to consistently apply their reasoning across the board but cherry pick to bring only outside support to specific effects but a bewildering lack of integrity to apply the reasons consistently to contrary evidence. I do this to show why we cannot trust faith-based beliefs to bring us knowledge and how a lack of knowledge about what’s true cannot lead to a greater understanding of what is.

      If you don’t understand why I do this, the lack of understanding is solely on your part. Because you are used to filling in what you don’t know with all kinds of made up shit from a variety of favourable sources, it is no surprise that you attempt to do the same to me and in this latest example to MUR. Our honest revelations are met with disdain and arrogance and negative assumptions and some dig about being acolytes of Dawkins… who must be quite the burr under your theological saddle. But then, you only think of your own theology rather than the same core you share with extremists: accepting faith-based beliefs as justified in and of themselves.

      Comment by tildeb — March 28, 2011 @ 7:24 pm | Reply

  20. “And which individual are you talking about for your fallacy?”

    MUR.

    “Our honest revelations are met with disdain and arrogance and negative assumptions and some dig about being acolytes of Dawkins…”

    doesn’t help with MUR posts a dawkins thing in defense now does it? negates your whole defense and it’s intellectually dishonest. plus you don’t believe in revelation, so don’t use it, it’s a poor choice of words. plus you give yourself way to much credit.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 28, 2011 @ 7:37 pm | Reply

    • How is MUR the exception for the fallacy to hold?

      You’ve been pestering me as an acolyte of Dawkins for some time before MUR posted this excellent rebuttal. And in no way does being offended by the absurdities of faith-based beliefs – the point raised by Dawkins when theists whinge about being offended by what’s true – negate my point that they are based on poor reasons. And you are in no position to tell me what words to select about revealing evidence against your assertions that I’m theologically ignorant. I know enough to know that you have yet to provide anything more than diddly squat to back up your truth claims that god is both in the world and the world is in god. If your theological education has brought you to this impotent point, then stop looking to me to fill in what you yourself so obviously lack: knowledge to inform your theological truth claims.

      Comment by tildeb — March 28, 2011 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

    • I didn’t use Dawkins as my defence – I used Santa. However, Dawkins is right – I am offended – deeply offended by religion in all forms because it is repulsive, patronising, childish and stupid. I speak out against it because it needs to be shown up for it is – fakery!

      In this modern age we still have men who wear silly hats running countries, who’s only authority to do so is given to them by something they imagine to be there BY THEM. It is YOUR belief in the imagined that gives them that right.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 29, 2011 @ 2:31 am | Reply

      • What’s childish is believing the fairy tale of subjective truth.

        Comment by Daniel — March 29, 2011 @ 10:06 am

      • Not sure I am following you Daniel – can you explain further what you mean?

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 30, 2011 @ 12:58 am

  21. ‘How is MUR the exception for the fallacy to hold?”

    reading comprehension skills: MUR uses the exception fallacy.

    “the point raised by Dawkins…”

    any point raised by him or the other four horsemen are out the window. i stop listening as soon as his name is mentioned. i have no respect for him whatsoever so any “excellent rebuttal” with his name invoked and his tactics used, i discount immediately.

    “know enough to know that you have yet to provide anything more than diddly squat to back up your truth claims that god is both in the world and the world is in god.”

    and you have yet to disprove the prime mover argument or the fact that life can exist by accident. i don’t buy either of these. plus there are too many “coincidences” and patterns to lives and human interactions that theology has talked about for centuries to discount. what the early and the modern mystics all describe is really a history of hope and liberation of human passion from melancholy forms of satisfaction which we so pitifully turn to.

    once again you ask me to prove to you God and i ask “why?” i noticed you skirted all the questions i asked above… what’s up with that?

    “I speak out against it because it needs to be shown up for it is – fakery!” -MUR

    fine, rail away. but i always ask what are you for? i know you’re against religion, but what exactly are you hoping to build once you tear down this impediment. what’s your end game? how will life be different in the vision you cast? i can’t hear this because you’re too busy using logical fallacies and incendiary attacks against religion that i can’t hear at all what you’re proposing, how to get there, and how the world will be different. how will the poor, hungry, old, and homeless be taken care of in this model?

    “In this modern age we still have men who wear silly hats running countries,”
    -the smallest one on earth, Vatican City. reductio ad adsurdum. are you trying to go through the whole book of fallacies? you’re well on your way. ironic for a guy who claims to uphold logic and reason.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 29, 2011 @ 9:25 am | Reply

    • The fact that you dismiss the points raised by the four horsemen is not surprising. Those who assume they know enough to dismiss their points obviously do not know what the points are but are certain enough in their own comfortable bias to incorrectly assume this is a point in their favour. It is not. It is is an indication of just how colossal is their own arrogance to enunciate such a willfully stupid position of ignorance as if it were an intellectual strength.

      It is unsurprising then to note how easily you accuse others incorrectly of logical fallacies with an argument from ignorance. Disappointing, but not surprising. Your counter argument to me is to prove a negative – pointing out that I have neither disproved a prime mover nor revealed abiogenesis – somehow translates only in your mind to countering the call on you to account for causal claims you make about some god you believe exists in fact. It doesn’t. It still leaves your claims hanging out there unsupported and leaves intact the problem of a creative agent who is both benevolent and powerful. As a safety valve from dealing with the issue at hand, you then switch to demanding that the raising of such a question must now pass a test of proper motivation that you will determine. The reason why everyone should raise the question how a benevolent and powerful god that allows suffering to occur by design is not dependent on you deciding if the motivation is proper; it is a damn good question that reveals the incoherency of the belief! The answer seems rather obvious: one cannot have a god worth worshiping if it is either unable or unwilling to stop all this unnecessary suffering.

      Not satisfied to avoid the fatal problem that suffering brings to the belief in a benevolent and powerful creative god, you then try to justify continued incoherent belief by demanding that others now offer a solution solving the problems of poverty and hunger and the aged and the infirm as if failing to do this means that the incoherent belief should be left alone. This is just broken thinking. Problems in the here and now are better addressed by admitting that the problems fall to us to solve than by believing that some powerful and benevolent god is ready and able to intervene but chooses to hold out hope that perhaps a few of us will step up in his place and earn afterlife brownie points for doing so. How the former is assumed to be less able to address real and pressing issues compared to the latter is simply a mystery that has yet to be explained with any sense.

      Your accusations of fallacies grows wearisome. You are quick to paint a point to be an example of a fallacy based on what you presume it means rather than what’s true in fact. What’s true in fact is that people who believe in the existence of gods are granted privilege in many political arenas and this occurs around the world. Many of them wear funny head coverings. That you assume this to mean the pope alone is being held up as the only example shows just how narrow you allow your comprehension of another’s point to be and not that of a logic fallacy made by others. The tactic you use repeatedly of first accusing someone of using fallacious reasoning based on a single reference you comprehend in isolation from some general point and then using that conclusion to justify in your mind alone that that person is thus disrespecting good reasoning on purpose throughout the general is a cheap and smug tactic of personal attack. By all means point out errors in thinking, but don’t presume that your quick identification of a singular example justifies a general application of fallacious intent unless you can show how this is so. These stupid digs are simply mean spirited.

      Comment by tildeb — March 30, 2011 @ 9:03 am | Reply

    • my bias is stated up front. i don’t try to hide them.

      the logical fallacies hold and i have shown how they have. you can ignore that to your own peril.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 30, 2011 @ 7:51 pm | Reply

  22. oh, and as theologian once stated: ‎”We often live as people who are defined by what we are against and not necessarily, what we are for. Imagine how our lives can be an agent of change when we live FOR truth, beauty, meaning, and causes.” Eugene Cho. so… what are you for? be specific and not reactionary. i don’t think that’s possible for you both because you’re adherents to Dawkins and his ilk whose foundation is built on being solely against something. so in the future, i’d challenge you to not mention religion, church, or faith in an upcoming post. i don’t think you’re capable of doing it.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 29, 2011 @ 9:28 am | Reply

    • I’m for intellectual honesty, intellectual integrity, and granting respect first and foremost to what’s true and the reliable method we have at our disposal to determine how we can know that.

      What is the bug up your ass about Dawkins, the man you refuse to listen to, the man whose every utterance you discount immediately?

      Not surprisingly, I know having read many of his books and listened to his many of his narrations, presentations, and debates that he too is standing up for intellectual honesty, intellectual integrity, and granting respect first and foremost to what’s true and the method how we can know that. You claim this to be ‘against something’ as if support for something precious and worthwhile like respecting the results gained from the scientific method is a negative if it stands against that which would undermine it. Your view is highly biased when you paint opposition to beliefs that you think have merit as ‘negative’ and ‘against something’ rather than representing a standing up for something.

      You need to reflect on this.

      Comment by tildeb — March 30, 2011 @ 9:20 am | Reply

  23. “any point raised by him or the other four horsemen are out the window.i stop listening as soon as his name is mentioned.”

    And this fact strengthens your argument in someway?

    “i have no respect for him whatsoever so any “excellent rebuttal” with his name invoked and his tactics used, i discount immediately.”

    You have no respect for him, because you bias your opinion of him and his work based on what YOU believe, and not on the reasoning Dawkins makes. This bias that you apply to your reasoning is the self-delusion that undoes your argument. Just because you don’t like someone does not make what they are saying less true does it?

    “i can’t hear this because you’re too busy using logical fallacies and incendiary attacks against religion that i can’t hear at all what you’re proposing, how to get there, and how the world will be different. how will the poor, hungry, old, and homeless be taken care of in this model?”

    Well religion obviously works in this respect doesn’t it? The hungry don’t exist, the church deals with it all. And there are no secular charities at all. Get a grip – there are many secular charities doing work because it is the right thing to do, and not because they need the good publicity to make up for all the crimes they have done against humanity. And actually when you examine the Churches role closely, you find some pretty horrible examples of charity, from the buggering of boys through the mistreatment of aids victims, to the mis-information of contraception advice. These examples are not the exception – they are numerous if you bother to look.

    “-the smallest one on earth, Vatican City. reductio ad adsurdum. are you trying to go through the whole book of fallacies? you’re well on your way. ironic for a guy who claims to uphold logic and reason.”

    Wrong again: My country has silly men in silly hats in the house of lords, they are called the ‘Lords Spiritual’ or ‘Spiritual Peers’ they have this seat in the house of power because they believe in magic. The world also has the Islamic states – or did you forget that uncomfortable fact?

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 30, 2011 @ 1:17 am | Reply

  24. i don’t read dawkins for the same reason i don’t read lee strobel. all claims, no argument. when dawkins is in his arena, i respect him.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 30, 2011 @ 10:49 am | Reply

    • Yet you don’t see the unbelievable irony in your statement? Wow. Just… wow.

      Religious beliefs about creationism have crossed the same boundary you wish to apply to Dawkins but you seem completely willing and even supportive to grant such beliefs full freedom to be all claims, no argument! No problem! But when these foot-loose fancy-free merit-less religious claims about creationism directly and adversely affect Dawkins’ ‘arena’ of expertise you pretend to respect, suddenly you become filled with righteous anger about HIS lack of sophisticated theology if he dare to explain why!!!!!

      You are unbelievable in your favouritism and bias toward privileging religious belief and seemingly quite content to stay that way. Hence the need for gnu atheists to take people like you to task for supporting the unsupportable and undermining that which you pretend to respect: what’s true.

      Professor Dawkins and his opinions are not the problem here.

      Comment by tildeb — March 30, 2011 @ 11:38 am | Reply

    • They are all claims – the difference is that Dawkins claims are supported by evidence – or do you think he got to be the professor of biology at one of the world’s top universities because he talks shit and can back up his conclusions?

      There are some pretty remarkable claims in the bible – do you hold the authors of the bible with the same level of contempt that you hold Dawkins?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 30, 2011 @ 4:15 pm | Reply

      • note your own words: “professor of biology.” not theology. not sociology. not religion. he’s a damn good scientist. that’s where it ends.

        “There are some pretty remarkable claims in the bible – do you hold the authors of the bible with the same level of contempt that you hold Dawkins?”
        -this analogy doesn’t hold in the least. i hold some theologians with the same contempt as dawkins, the aforementioned lee strobel being one of them. the claims in the bible can be examined through critical methods, esp. form and historical to determine how to read them. are they making a historic claim or is it metaphor? ex: the plagues set on pharaoh are metaphors, political ones at that, each symbolizing an egyptian god, to show that even nature is protesting the enslavement of the israelites. this knowledge has been around since Calvin was writing the institutes.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 30, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  25. “Hence the need for gnu atheists to take people like you to task for supporting the unsupportable and undermining that which you pretend to respect: what’s true.”

    here’s what’s true and what constitute the Christian faith and why i follow it. Christian hope is not a Pollyanna like attitude that every mushroom cloud has a silver-lining (as Dawkins likes to compare it to), but is a much more specific expectation that God can bring reconciliation out of sin, liberation out of oppression, and life out of death. Christian love is neither a romantic attraction nor the warm fuzzy feeling of being gathered around the thanksgiving table but the unstinting concern for the well being of others, friends, strangers, and enemies; it is a reckless concern for others that is will to dethrone the impervious demands of self-protective and self-aggrandizing ego. it is a love that is prepared to suffer and rejoices in emptying itself.

    yes i believe in God as existence, that we’re not here randomly or by accident and that we’re home here and supposed to be here with some purpose. the “Good News” that Christianity dares to offer to a broken, hurting world is that love does beat at the heart of the universe, justice will be triumphant, that reconciliation is deeper that alienation, that death is no the final word, and that a joy awaits us that cannot be imagined. Christianity makes specific claims about where we come from, why we’re here, and what we can hope for. these convictions are the food that feeds my soul. and while science helps me understand the world in which i live and the processes that exist there in, it gives me no guidance on how to orient my life and how to live it.

    in no way shape or form does this imped your life and how you choose to live it. it should make it better, aside from a lot of fundamentalists running around stating otherwise and acting contrary to these beliefs and goals. i don’t like those folks either. but your constant attempt to lump me with them is misguided and untrue and is ironic in the fact that you uphold a method which is all about correct categorization and identification of genus and such. Dawkins needs to apply his own skill set to what he’s doing because all it is accomplishing is making rabid fundamentalists out of others who miss these points.

    am i frustrated? yes! hell yes! more than you! here are these idiots befouling my tradition and faith, betraying it on every sense of the term and on every level. why you’re so ramped up about this makes no sense as it largely doesn’t affect you aside from minor annoyances you read on the news. funding is still flowing to science, and it’s still taught in the schools, despite some idiots trying to take that away. why? because evolution is the process, no purpose is taught and humans, if you haven’t noticed, need purpose and direction in their life. period. full stop.

    you have my 2 cents. that’s all i can offer.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 30, 2011 @ 12:07 pm | Reply

  26. I still don’t get why faith isn’t important?

    Comment by SocietyVs — March 30, 2011 @ 1:00 pm | Reply

    • So you think religious faith is important – then state why?
      Try measuring your subjective view of importance.
      For example – do you think that a belief in god is worth dying for or killing for?
      And who’s faith is the most important?
      Would you respect the wishes of a faith which believed in the sacrifice of animals to appease their god?
      Would you respect a faith that approved of slavery?
      Are all faiths equal – or is it only your faith that is?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 30, 2011 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

  27. “…but is a much more specific expectation that God can bring reconciliation out of sin, liberation out of oppression, and life out of death.”

    I have not seen any evidence that god can do this beyond anecdotal evidence and personal belief – which is comparable not just to a belief in god, but also with people that have a belief in sugar pills, or rabbits feet… this is not evidence for the existence for god anymore than footless rabbits are evidence for good things happening to people who carry their feet.

    “…and while science helps me understand the world in which i live and the processes that exist there in, it gives me no guidance on how to orient my life and how to live it.”

    But neither does the Christian religion, you only think it does because of the society that you were brought up in. If you were born in Iran you most likely be Islamic and would have a completely different understanding of sin – as is evidenced in the way that Muslims dress. Same for any other religion. The core sins “though shall not kill” etc. are common to most people. Again this is evidenced by the seriousness of the sin – adultery I more common because it is less serious to most reasonable people. Murder is less common because most people don’t like the idea of anyone going around murdering other people – for good reason. You don’t have to be religious to have core values about what is wrong or right. I am not religious, and I have been happily married for 17 years, with two children who I love dearly – religion is not needed by everyone to experience the rapture you describe, atheists feel alive as well. Have you thought about what love actually is – what its purpose is or what it might be? Perhaps you should – like many Christian’s you use the word flippantly and mystically, but I doubt for one moment you have thought about love is from a natural sense. Love is an emotion, and all our emotions have purpose – and those purposes are not unexplainable without attributing a supernatural agency to them.

    “…Dawkins needs to apply his own skill set to what he’s doing because all it is accomplishing is making rabid fundamentalists out of others who miss these points.

    How so? And do you have evidence of this sweeping statement that you are making?

    “why you’re so ramped up about this makes no sense as it largely doesn’t affect you aside from minor annoyances you read on the news.”

    Wrong – it does affect me massively, it affects us all massively whether we want it or not. I might not fight directly in the wars in the middle east, but my taxes certainly pay for them – I would rather were spent on schools instead.

    “because evolution is the process, no purpose is taught and humans, if you haven’t noticed, need purpose and direction in their life. period. full stop.”

    Wrong again – there is a natural purpose to evolution, if you bothered to take the matter as seriously as you appear to take your ‘faith’ you would know what it was. I have no belief in any god(s) or supernatural things – and my life I full of meaningful purpose. I just get on with life making the best of it that I can, knowing that it is probably the only life I will have, and knowing that I am extremely lucky to be here. I don’t need to be taught morals, I have morals – built in, and I can’t understand why some people need a bible to tell them how to lead their lives.

    Look at it this way – if you walked into a department store looking for a suit and the store was full of suits, and you found one that fitted – would you think this is situation was unusual? Now consider if you walked into the same department store on a different day, looking for a suit and there was only one suit to choose – and it fitted. Would you consider it a miracle or that it was meant to be? Or just dam lucky? And this I think is the core difference – I don’t assign a special meaning to human life, we are just another part of the animal kingdom, who’s closes species is just another ape that shares similar physical attributes, and one day we will all be as extinct as the dinosaurs.

    Prayer is easily reasoned as well. If 10 people catch a cold and they are all religious and pray to god, and all of them die except for one – that survivor will thank god, and spread the good news to everyone he knows. The people who died though are forgotten about because they are no longer living to tell anyone else about it… it’s not a miracle it is urban legend.

    Considering that we cannot believe the newspapers that were written yesterday, how can you believe anything about the ‘so called’ recorded life of Jesus? A man ‘walked on water’ and ‘raised the dead’ are you really sure about those sort of claims? Or could it just be a rumour or hype. If Jesus exited at all – he was probably just a teacher who was liked and got reasonably popular – it is more likely that he was a cult figure than the son of god. And the reason for this is simple – there is no convincing evidence to the contrary outside of scripture – which itself is inaccurate.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 30, 2011 @ 3:50 pm | Reply

    • “I have not seen any evidence that god can do this beyond anecdotal evidence and personal belief…”

      and i have seen whole communities rise from the dust and begin again. those things can be measured and are being done in my area and in places like Detroit, Gary IN, and Cleveland. the biggest example is Pittsburgh in the states which used to be the dirtiest city on the planet but because of the world of church communities and city organizers, the place is now a thriving arts district with a great community.

      “If you were born in Iran you most likely be Islamic…”

      so? i don’t see how this matters in the least?

      “but I doubt for one moment you have thought about love is from a natural sense.”

      and you’d be an idiot. i believe in the words i uttered at our marriage and i work to uphold them day in and day out. love is a multifaceted word which means both “loyalty to” and “faith in.” i work every day to ensure marriages last and couples are putting the work in to be married. there is belief involved beyond biology, beyond measurement, and with much faith involved.

      “And do you have evidence of this sweeping statement that you are making?”

      this and past conversations with you.

      “and my life I full of meaningful purpose.”

      great! never claimed otherwise. i was recounting my own which was begged for and now scoffed at. i think y’all have great lives and much meaning. i can’t seem to find any meaning beyond being against your own 2 dimensional view of all things religious though. i would love to know more about you both, y’all seem interesting and smart… just a little emotional and crazy when it comes to this topic.

      “I don’t assign a special meaning to human life, we are just another part of the animal kingdom, who’s closes species is just another ape that shares similar physical attributes, and one day we will all be as extinct as the dinosaurs.”

      and that’s sad. every day i live is special. every person i meet is special. sure we’re part of the animal kingdom, but we’re conscious and such. we can ask why, we can figure stuff out. that’s a little more special in the scheme of things.

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 30, 2011 @ 8:05 pm | Reply

      • “and i have seen whole communities rise from the dust and begin again.”

        So have I – I just gave the praise to the people who did it and not an invisible man who lives in the in the sky.

        “so? i don’t see how this matters in the least?”

        It matters, because your values are religious values, and not all religious values are equal. As tildeb writes below – your religious freedom is another religons blasphemy.

        “i believe in the words i uttered at our marriage and i work to uphold them day in and day out.”

        Love is word that is used to describe an emotion – it is not a contract as the religious texts want us to believe.

        “just a little emotional and crazy when it comes to this topic.”

        I am not emotional or crazy about the topic of religion – until it pisses in the pool of human freedoms – and even then, all I do is question the importance and the authority that religion claims to have.

        “and that’s sad. every day i live is special. every person i meet is special. sure we’re part of the animal kingdom, but we’re conscious and such. we can ask why, we can figure stuff out. that’s a little more special in the scheme of things.”

        And other animals are not conscious? How do you know? How does a cat decide which path to take on its hunt, and how does it remember the way home, or decide when to go home. I would argue that most animals have an element of consciousness, and all life is special in this respect. But when you consider that most of the things that have ever lived are in fact extinct – it sort of puts human life into perspective doesn’t it.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 31, 2011 @ 1:22 am

      • “So have I – I just gave the praise to the people who did it and not an invisible man who lives in the in the sky”
        -this does not help your case in the least that you don’t react emotionally and rant. proves the contrary.

        i love your comment “anecdotal evidence and personal belief…” that’s all we have to go on. you say your life is meaningful, i can only take that on those categories. i believe you. when i talk to my peeps at the AA group that meets in our church, i believe them. when i see a crack-head turn their life around and risk the hell that is withdrawal all because they gave me a story that an angel or Jesus or “the man in the sky” told them to, and i see them live out this belief and re-established relationships and live clean, i can only reason that there is some power in personal belief and stories. i think there is.

        “until it pisses in the pool of human freedoms”
        -so everything is in bounds? we are completely free do whatever? i doubt you believe that. religions don’t believe that and any society with laws don’t believe that. this also suggests that there is no case law in holy texts, and upon a brief glance and some form criticism you’ll find this not to be true. case law is everywhere in the bible and koran and such. we are not free. we are bound to one another. we are bound to our environment.

        “And other animals are not conscious? How do you know?”

        i know they are. to the level of us? that is also debatable but given the level that we explore the world and manipulate it, it would seem we are the most conscious. and with that conscious awareness we thus have the most responsibility to creation because we can do the most damage. i mean, don’t you think it seems kind of cruel to do testing on them, wouldn’t you think? unethical to put another being through torment. just say’n.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 11:44 am

  28. “So you think religious faith is important – then state why?” (MUR)

    It helps to develop a workable paradigm by which things can be measured and bounced off concerning ethical behavior and building one’s ‘way to live’ (ie: rules for living).

    In fact, Christianity’s first name was ‘the way’. This is loosely based Judaism’s idea about halakh law – being ‘a way to live’. Religion, in and of itself, is about building a workable structure by which to construct one’s life. This is focus exercise in some regards, goal setting in another way, and therapeutic as well.

    “Try measuring your subjective view of importance.” (MUR)

    What do you want measured I guess? An example of a measurement would be ‘comparison’ – which is basically used in scientific reasoning as well.

    So I would try out an idea I believed to have merit and true value in it – then compare the outcome with the other times I have tried the idea. If I find my action does not produce a desirable outcome then I need to change what it is I am doing. A good case for this would be to love one’s eneemies and what this means to someone as far as ‘actions’.

    “For example – do you think that a belief in god is worth dying for or killing for?” (MUR)

    Define ‘dying for something’? The case can reasonably be made that we are all ‘dying for our love of something’ via ‘living for that something’ (ie: dedicating our life to that something). It’s the old glass if 1/2 full or is it 1/2 empty. Because each day we live we are actually one more closer to our own demise.

    In that exact sense, I would say that my living by my faith is also an admission to dying for it. I also see much honor in the idea of ‘sacrifice’.

    As for killing for my religion – I am non-violent as a stance – so killing in the name of Jesus (for example) makes absolutely no sense to me.

    “And who’s faith is the most important?” (MUR)

    Whose isn’t? Its like this discussion, whose ideas are more important, mine or yours, or tildebs or Z1g’s? I find value in each perspective being given, I may not agree with all that is said but this does not mean it is still not valuable.

    “Would you respect the wishes of a faith which believed in the sacrifice of animals to appease their god?” (MUR)

    No. I cannot find an adequately good reason why anyone should feel the need to sacrifice an animal to a ‘god’. That being said monoculture and herding of cows, chickens, and pigs is pretty much as disgusting – but I am guessing we all still like a burger, some kfc, or even bacon.

    “Would you respect a faith that approved of slavery?” (MUR)

    No. Slavery, as we have seen in the America’s, was used a way to dehumanize and colonize a nation – then exploit that same land and remove the people from it for their own selfish and lazy gain. There is no room for slavery in my faith system, nor for my family, nor for my community.

    “Are all faiths equal – or is it only your faith that is?” (MUR)

    If all humans are equal – all viewpoints have some equality as well. I see everyone as having some form or faith within their lives – making them all equal in validity…maybe not in content – but definitely something we can all discuss on equal footing.

    Comment by SocietyVs — March 30, 2011 @ 4:46 pm | Reply

    • Christianity in the West is a defeated religion in practice. What we have left today are the flotsam and jetsam of religious notions that do not directly compete in law with our constitutional base of liberal secular values. One of these values is freedom of religion… to believe whatever we wish, and it is this right that allows you in law to pick and choose to your heart’s content for what various religious beliefs do and do not work for you. You can put these beliefs into practice to test how well they work for you enhancing your life or not at no personal cost to others… as long as your beliefs in practice do not cross that legal boundary. I’m sure you are well aware of this legal constraint and respect it as much as the next person, but it needs to be established in this response as a first premise: religious practice to be free of authority must be subordinate to the laws of our civil society.

      I highly doubt I am educating you whatsoever to next point out that it hasn’t always been this way, that christianity in the West has a long and bloody history stretching out behind it while becoming subordinate to civic, rather than the enforcer of religious, law. And make no mistake about it: this battle over who controlled the legal power over a population forced to submit to it has been the cause of much suffering. I recognize that isolating religion is merely a convenience in this response and by no means a complete picture of this hard-won struggle. But what I am suggesting is that before the secular political and economic powers we have today (that affects the exercise of power and influences over civic laws) took root throughout our society, the central impediment to having any supreme secular authority at all (in whatever form it took) was in direct conflict with the primary allegiance to the supremacy of some kind of religious authority.

      My point is this: if we had not shifted the power and allegiance from religious authority to the secular state, you would not have the freedom you do today to sift through and select the beliefs you currently hold.

      So why is this important to remember?

      Some secular values are more important to maintain and protect than the right of others to exercise certain faith-based beliefs that do not share the same values but are contrary to them. This is once again the same battle: an issue of appreciating which hierarchy to support – a necessary re-examination – that returns us to the heart of this struggle between religious and secular authority in matters of law. For defenders of those who demand the right to exercise their faith-based beliefs that are contrary to the very primary allegiance upon which secular law is built, what they are in fact doing is undermining the right to be tolerant in action… for without question a primary allegiance to religious authority undermines the secular right to freedom of religion. And this is an important consideration because the freedom to hold beliefs is not the same thing as having the right to act upon those beliefs if that action undermines the right to hold them.

      So why am going over this in response to your comment?

      What you suggest to be true for you regarding religious beliefs must hold true for all. If you are willing to grant religious belief a role to play in how you live, then you must be willing to grant the same to others. And this is where we hit a snag: many others honestly and without reservation look upon you and your beliefs as apostasy. This is a high crime. What you consider a freedom, others consider a blasphemy. Does your comment about christianity hold up against these charges made against you? What is your argument against the charge’s legitimacy? If you grant others the right to use religious beliefs as an authority for action, I think you’re sunk. And along with you, so too am I. And this is a problem of no small scope. I do not think granting religious authority to other beliefs that are not yet tamed, not yet broken and/or matured into a subservient role within secular law is benign. I think this opinion is toxic to our fundamental rights and freedoms no matter how beautifully you might craft its loving and caring sentiments about our welfare. And the greatest component of our welfare is not ‘love’ derived from religious authority but freedom from it.

      Comment by tildeb — March 30, 2011 @ 9:27 pm | Reply

    • See tildebs post below – as this answers your reply far better than I could. The only thing I would say in addition is that if you do not value slavery, sacrifice and murder in the name of your own faith and religion – you don’t know your own faith and religion very well.

      The values that you hold high are mostly secular. The values that you have contempt with are repeated frequently in the bible and other religious texts… it is just that you choose not to adhere to them.

      This is why religion is not important – because if it was, you would still think slavery is important.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 31, 2011 @ 2:33 am | Reply

  29. “What you suggest to be true for you regarding religious beliefs must hold true for all.”

    nope not at all. can someone hold a belief and not think it universally binding for all? are you not on here trying to persuade people to your style of life? your philosophy of living?

    “for without question a primary allegiance to religious authority undermines the secular right to freedom of religion.”

    read that again closely. allegiance to religious authority undermines the secular right to freedom of religion… how? this model only deals with intolerant sects that have no need for interfaith dialog. can one be religious and still value other religions and secular philosophies?

    when i declare Jesus Lord what that does is take out any divine mandate. it divorces religion from nationalism, which is widespread throughout history. this is a radical stance, it means no authority will go unchallenged. so i have given a gift of life from God and it must be an exercise of love for my neighbors as Christ has mandated. have Christians bickered over how exactly this is to take place and one’s truth is another’s blasphemy? yup. and every person runs that risk. as Voltaire stated “one man’s firmly held convictions are another’s belly laugh.” and that’s largely what we’re talking about here. convictions and how to make meaning of our experience of life.

    when i declare God is sovereign is to say that the uncertainties of the precarious life should be faced with courage and confidence. it is also to say that no earthly power should be unconditionally obeyed. to affirm God is Trinity is to claim that the individual should cultivate gratitude for the gift of life, take comfort in the good news of reconciliation, and to nurture the extravagant hope that the yearnings of all creatures will somehow be satisfied. in that sense, this is a strictly humanist endeavor. all religions are at their core. yet the doctrine of sin also states that all human endeavors, no matter how noble, can be twisted for evil purposes. religions and their wars and power struggles, the societal neglect of the poor, sick and old, the social stigmatization of the aforementioned folk, the misuse of science to proliferate war and be co-opted by corporations, the dehumanization that the industrial era has brought to our daily interactions. those are real. but to focus on only the bad seems just as misguided as focusing only on the good. i know my history. i see it’s dark sides and never have denied them. can you claim the same?

    “This is why religion is not important – because if it was, you would still think slavery is important.”

    my denomination started the abolishionist movement. they were also fundamental in nonviolence although the Quakers get the most credit for that. this makes no sense and another reductio ad absurdum.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 10:35 am | Reply

    • Let me respond to the two points you raise at the beginning. You disagree with my assertion that what you hold to be true for you regarding religious beliefs must hold true for all. I think you disagree because you isolate the sentence on its own and seem to suggest that what I am am saying is that it is the truth of the beliefs that religious adherents want to impose on others. Your further comment about ‘binding’ seems to me to indicate as much. But that’s not what I’m saying here. What I am saying is described in the next sentence: that what I mean is that if you are willing to grant religious belief a role to play in how you live, then you must be willing to grant the same to others. If you do not grant this right (or privilege) to others that you grant to yourself, then your religious beliefs become a tyranny imposed on others and I don’t for a moment think this is what you honestly mean to justify. At all.

      This leads to the second disagreement you have with my linking this privilege you grant to yourself (and presumably to others) to what authorizes this freedom: not the religious beliefs you hold (which tend to be quite selfish meaning these beliefs are held to be the correct beliefs) but the secular state. It is the state that authorizes this privilege, right, or freedom (and it doesn’t matter in this context which term you prefer to use to describe the means by which you select your religious beliefs). What I’m saying here is that it is vitally important that we recognize where this authority to believe what you wish to believe originates and from where we derive it. It does not come from the religious beliefs we choose to hold dear. It comes from the very foundation of what constitutes a secular country: secular law. It is this secular law that we have to hold in the highest esteem if we wish to support your right, your privilege, your freedom (RP&F)to hold religious beliefs. If we pull out this pillar from what constitutes the authority – the secular state based on secular law – that allows you to choose your religious beliefs, then we are undermining respect for the very organ we must have functioning in order to have any RP&F to so choose. I call this necessary respect a ‘primary allegiance’. When religious beliefs and secular law conflict, what I am saying is that we need to recognize which side butters our RP&F religious bread. When push comes to shove, we must hold our primary allegiance to secular law because it is that law that then authorizes our RP&F to select our religious beliefs.

      Please note that what I am describing is any religious belief that comes into conflict with secular law. You assert this is only true for ‘intolerant’ sects, but I think it casts a much wider shadow than that. I think it covers any and all beliefs whose exercise comes into conflict with the principles of equality and fairness and individual RP&Fs upon which secular law claims authority. As soon as a religious belief is used to justify some kind of constraint on the exercise of these principles (let’s say the ordination of women just to be contentious), then our allegiance needs to be with the principles of secular law, which in this selected case is gender equality. When we begin to allow religious authority to be a determining factor in our actions contrary to these principles, then we hit what I have called the snag. Regardless of the specific issue, when we grant religious belief rather than the principles of secular law greater authority to determine such contentious issues, then I argue we undermine that which authorizes us to exercise the very rights, privileges, and freedoms we enjoy to be able to select our religious beliefs rather than have them imposed upon us.

      God can be sovereign within our belief systems and how we view and explain the world all we want regardless if they are true or not. These religious beliefs can motivate us, can offer us comfort and guidance and a moral framework on how to live well. But this belief cannot be carried into our temporal actions if they conflict with the principles of secular law. As soon as they do, all of us must bend the knee to secular law, to grant to Caesar what is Caesar’s, even if our beliefs try to mandate that we should not do so. We must. Our religious freedom depends on it.

      Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 11:36 am | Reply

    • You believe your beliefs about a sovereign god are benign. But is it?

      You assign the ‘gift’ of life to this god. And you do it with flowery language that oozes the pretense of love and respect when in fact it is opposition to it. This belief carries with it an intentional loss of my dignity, in that you grant to god that which is mine: my life and my right to do with it as I choose. Not your god and you have no right to assert that your belief outweighs my right to my life. And yet, this is exactly what we find driving the anti-euthanasia issue in law today.

      When faced with issues such as euthanasia, it is this central belief about ownership that plays a central role in determining in law what my say is in the matter of my dying. And this noxious belief that god owns my life only seems benign to you. In fact it is at the heart of such obscenities as the planned interference with the Terri Shiavo and Baby Joseph cases. Such a belief about the ownership of my life when passed into law directly undermines my personal dignity – which must contain my freedom to choose and be responsible for that choice if the word is to have any meaning – and it is disgusting that anyone would DARE to support the removal of this ownership to belonging to some sky fairy.

      You claim all religions are humanistic at their core, that we should cultivate gratitude for this ‘gift’. Easy for you to assert when you live a life of your choosing. When the indifference of nature imposes dreadful suffering as this ‘gift’ you call life, I think your benign assertion becomes full of toxic shit., and when your belief empowers others to pass laws that make it a crime for me to deal with my suffering and my death according to your beliefs, then you are a supporter of tyranny. If imposing intentional suffering on others to merely satisfy your religious convictions, then I think your beliefs become an active evil. In effect, this turns your ‘humanistic’ religion into a totalitarian tyranny of evil not for the benefit and consideration and welfare of real people but slaves to a theocratic and imaginary dictator, a Dear Leader for whom no amount of suffering will satiate. This is the kind of comfort you presume raises the nobility of real people. This is not a twisting of some religious beatitude into evil by people who abuse it but a central tenet of religious belief that life is a precious gift bestowed by a benevolent god. At its heart this belief itself is nothing less than a capitulation of human dignity to a totalitarian overlord who demands our suffering as its property.

      You claim to see religion’s dark side but I don;t think you do. I think you see some of its overt history and the payment in blood it has stolen but not for a moment do I think you truly realize the scope of its ongoing casualties. You see only what you wish to see: human responses to human tragedies which if noble and moral you then bequeath to god as if it is your right to do so. I beg to differ.

      Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 10:29 pm | Reply

  30. “then you must be willing to grant the same to others.”

    when have i ever claimed the opposite? what evidence to you have for this line of reasoning? seems a red herring to me.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 11:46 am | Reply

    • Exactly. That’s why I wrote what I did, that I sincerely doubted you were advocating others did NOT have the same right you yourself have. Either I didn’t make myself clear or you are jumping into commentary without reading my entire response.

      Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

      • i’ve read your response and it seems incredibly binary and leading towards total war. i don’t buy into that. i don’t see Jesus doing this in the gospels, there is an allowance for lots of belief. he didn’t run around telling people how to live, he forgave them left and right and sought to bring down those who were hard-hearted and thought they had it figured out. plus given the history of how that law came to be, it is a religious based conviction. there is no separation between sacred and secular for me as you’re trying to make it seem.

        plus you really misuse “render unto Caesar.” ouch. painful.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

      • Leading towards war? No. It’s leading to the necessity of a gnu response. For example, your trust in the benevolent nature of jesus’ message is not all one-sided, is it? And the religious based conviction jesus is reported to have is OT, isn’t it?

        Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 10:02 pm

  31. and wait, are you claiming that freedom of religion is a secular thing that was completely unmotivated by religion?! KNOW YOUR HISTORY! it started with William Penn and his Quaker belief that the light of God is in everyone. it is that belief that sprung that right.

    Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 11:58 am | Reply

    • It was probably more of a business thing at its most distant origin!

      No, I’m not suggesting that freedom of religion is a secular thing unmotivated by religion. I am suggesting that the authority by which you have the right to pick and choose your religious beliefs comes from the secular state founded in secular law derived from secular principles. That you can point out various historical religious figures who share a respect for the principle does not mean that the principle thus derives from religious authority. And that’s my point.

      Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 3:24 pm | Reply

      • fail. Quaker. Penn’s colony which is now the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. simply no way of getting around it.

        Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

      • No, it’s not a fail. It’s an enlightenment value based on the political – not theological – authority of the individual. Without that authority recognized in law – and not from a colony of quakers, for crying out loud – you have no claim. You are confusing a belief to have merit BECAUSE it happens to agree in a particular but consider: if you endow such a belief as authority derived from god, then you’ve got fuck all to argue against another believer who says you don’t according to his beliefs about his god. Belief alone grants you zero authority in practice.

        Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 5:32 pm

  32. my denomination started the abolishionist movement. they were also fundamental in nonviolence although the Quakers get the most credit for that. this makes no sense and another reductio ad absurdum.

    Z1G – You are missing my point some what, which is that people do not get their morals from the bible – the fact that your denomination saw the injustice in slavery is in spite of the teaching of the bible – not because of it. I am happy to accept that Christianity is a lot more gentle than it ever has been, but this is not so true of other faiths. Slavery is a case in point, the fact that reasonable people are disturbed by the notion of slavery, does little to enhance the hypothesis that the bible (and any other religious text) is the word of god – how could god get something so massively wrong?

    I don’t think ALL religious people are bad people (which you seem to think I do) – I think they are deluded, and I also think that they do not think about the wider consequences of their religion. For me religion IS offensive, especially when it is used to control my life.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — March 31, 2011 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

    • who said the bible is the word of God? where is that? how did that pop up? do you think ALL Christians believe that? that’s you’re assumption mi amigo. since the critical methods and even before, this hasn’t been the case. even Calvin stated that the bible was written by man and inspired by God and thus the bible is not the word of God but contains it. there’s whole traditions built around methods of finding that word.

      plus your view overlooks the radical notion of the biblical jubilee year where ever 7 years all debts are forgiven and all slaves set free. cool notion. it is this notion that the abolishionist moved on as well as Paul’s words that in Christ there are no male or female, jew or greek, slave or free, all are one in christ. they started integrating, crossing gender and socio-political lines as well as racial lines. thus you have the women’s suffrage movement and black colleges throughout the south. all based on biblical ideals, faith, and vision of what the world could be, and now is.

      “I think they are deluded,”
      for me, deluded is bad. calling someone deluded automatically sets you in a intellectually superior place. and that maybe justifiable as you feel that religion is used to control your life, but don’t become the thing you hate. once again, your assumptions only direct you to conservative versions of faith, of which, both you and i are fighting. you call them deluded, and i use exegetical methods and beat them at their own game. i can “out bible” them and even show how their lives being lived aren’t matching up to their belief. your method is a divide and conquer, preach and teach. mine is through relationship and communion. which one do you think will work?

      Comment by zero1ghost — March 31, 2011 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

      • I want to address the very first point you raise here with some information that may help.
        During 2007-DEC, The Barna Group poll found that of the christians interviewed 1000+, plus or minus 3% 19 times out of 20
        75% believe that the virgin birth is accurate.
        69% believe that Jesus actually changed water into wine at the wedding feast at Cana.
        68% believe that Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed five thousand men.
        64% believe in the flood of Noah and his ark.
        56% believe in the devil having tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Among Atheists/Agnostics, this was believed by 8%.
        9% believe in the story of Sampson losing his physical strength when his hair was cut.
        On average born-again Christians were 40 percentage points more likely to believe these stories than non-born again adults.
        On average, those who considered themselves as political conservatives were 26 percentage points more likely to believe the stories as literally true.
        Southerners and persons of lower earnings were more likely to treat the stories as literally true.

        I don’t know how trustworthy is the Barna group’s info because I can’t link directly to it but I do hold a great deal of confidence in the PEW Forum that shows much more information here.

        Now, you can claim that so many of your ‘brethren’ are quite misguided in the source for their religious beliefs, but the vast majority of people who identify themselves as ‘christian’ most assuredly do think the bible is if not the literal word of god then at least a pretty reliable source for their religious beliefs or as you admit are ‘inspired’ to be the word of god. It bothers me that you continue to deflect criticism about what the vast majorities of religious believers actually believe because you do not share them. You seem to be suggesting if ALL do not share the beliefs under criticism, then the charge is false. But the central point remains: if not from biblical scripture, then from where do you draw your ‘christian’ beliefs? From Hinduism? Political treatises? Public radio? Come on…. Of course it is from the bible. So why divert MUR’s point here? To what ends?

        Comment by tildeb — March 31, 2011 @ 8:00 pm

      • A delusion is a ‘fixed’ belief that is false, fanciful, or derived from deception.

        I would say that a belief in god is false – as there is no evidence to support this claim, not a single shred.

        I would say that a belief in god is fanciful – as I have not been spoken to by burning bushes, booming voices from the sky, and I have never seen angels, or the dead rise, water turned to wine or men walking on water…

        I would say that a belief in god is deception – mostly self-deception, because those who do believe in god or scripture choose to be ignorant of facts that contradict their faith, or will argue the case for god into those facts. For example “dinosaurs didn’t exist, Satan or God put the fossils there to test our faith!” in otherwords they behave like a child who refuses not believe in Santa even when they have seen their parents deliver the presents. Or religious person who refutes the evidence for human evolution in the face of overwhelming evidence for it because it contradicts their life long belief in Adam and Eve.

        The difference between the fundamentalism that I have for science and truth, is that it is not ‘fixed’. If there is strong evidence for god, I would believe in god, if there is strong evidence that disputes evolution I would disbelieve in evolution. The important thing here is I know what is needed for me not to believe in the things I believe.

        The term deluded, might well indicate that they are less superior intellectually – it isn’t my FIXED belief that puts them there, it is theirs.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 1, 2011 @ 1:24 am

  33. “The only thing I would say in addition is that if you do not value slavery, sacrifice and murder in the name of your own faith and religion – you don’t know your own faith and religion very well.” (MUR)

    Interesting equation you have here. So if I believe in the teachings of Jesus I ‘must’ accept slavery, sacrifice, and murder? Why exactly?

    So I cannot see slavery as an evil even if the bible has examples of slavery; even Torah law has a teaching on it? Is this correct?

    As for sacrifice of animals and murder those are easily debateable but I think you know the answers to those ones.

    But let’s also get this crystal clear, what is it you think the scriptures are exactly and how should I view and use them?

    “The values that you hold high are mostly secular. The values that you have contempt with are repeated frequently in the bible and other religious texts… it is just that you choose not to adhere to them.”

    I did mention ‘love your enemies’ – thats not really too secular a notion. Again, we will need to define the lines of what is secular ideals and what are Christian ones…and that is a very length comparison and contrast. Then we need to factor in the fact you and I likely came from different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds and how that effected perspective. Then we need to a real historical analysis of the stories you mention and all of scripture so we can decipher ‘intent’.

    I think you want to take the easy route and say – ‘well you don’t know your religion’. No, I don’t know your version of what religion is and what you feel the way you do.

    “This is why religion is not important – because if it was, you would still think slavery is important” (MUR) my addendum to this quote ‘to you’.

    The NT never asks me to support slavery – in fact the opposite argument can also be made from those same scriptures. So you picked the side slavery is something that has to be adhered to, I really don’t see it that way.

    Slavery is still happening in the world, so this argument does have some present tense to it. And I stand opposed to any of those uses of slavery…which could could be massive wage inequities, support of guerilla tactics for diamond mining, child labor, or actual slavery as some countries still use it.

    This may come as a shock but slavery is a secular idea as well. You can pin the tail on the religious donkey but explain Wal Mart’s of the world and their exploitation of workers in 3rd world countries? Business is anti-religious in it’s very stance. So as a secularist, do you support slavery?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 1, 2011 @ 11:01 am | Reply

  34. I think you are missing the point – I am not saying you must believe in slavery if you are a Christian… I am saying that your morals do not come from the bible – and this is something that I think you agree on. Your compassion is nothing to do with the fact that you are Christian it is just that YOU are a good person and modern Christianity is relatively tame. The fact that you have compassion is worthy of high respect – far higher than I think you give it credit for.

    Why let the Church take the credit for your good nature? Church history is littered with bloody crimes against humanity that were justified on the texts written in the bible.

    Secular law does not make me a good person either – there are many things in secular law that I disagree with, for example: the death penalty.

    Your argument about the NT not supporting slavery is blinkered because it doesn’t factor in the contents of the Old Testament – again you are cherry picking what you agree with from a scripture that is supposed to be representative of the truth (God’s truth). That aside there are passages in the NT that appear to condone slavery:

    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

    “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

    “he servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48)

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 1, 2011 @ 1:28 pm | Reply

  35. “So why divert MUR’s point here? To what ends?”

    because you have no knowledge of non-binary theology, of the liberal tradition, nor of the nuances of the faith. like MUR’s claim never to see someone rise from the dead. literally, me either. metaphorical, tons of times! crackheads, homeless, suburbanites breaking free from the chains of consumerism, relationships resurrecting after decades of neglect. Barna Group is a good group, they wrote “UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and what to do about it.” great book might be helpful to you.

    “I am saying that your morals do not come from the bible ”

    not solely no. never have been and i’ve given you my rubric which you scoffed at. but does the bible have authority? yes. is that the first stop? yes.

    “Church history is littered with bloody crimes against humanity that were justified on the texts written in the bible.” it is also littered with absolute self-giving. the same can be said for scientific achievement. we’ve done great things, but we’ve also created atomic weapons. while the assembly line can be used to build up the world it can also be an effective means to remove ‘unwanteds’ from society. humans are dangerous animals, in groups and otherwise. switching from a religious based society to a scientific society will not change that fact. in fact, it may do the opposite. i have requested you guys to cover this, but you always run back to God and metaphysics because it’s easy to shit on someone else’s beliefs and to declare your own. easier to show the mite in your neighbors than see the log in your own. until you do that, i’ll just lurk.

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 1, 2011 @ 3:07 pm | Reply

    • If you pardon my French, that is bullshit.

      You repeatedly claim that there is a straight line (your rubric) between religious faith (yours) and all kinds of altruism (charity, self-giving, selflessness, etc.). MUR and I keep pointing out over and over that same straight line ALSO leads to this, and this, and this. These examples are extraordinarily common.

      The point you continue to evade is that both MUR and I point out that the straight line you assign to faith can be explained without it. No faith is necessary although you continue to point out that it motivates. Fine. It can motivate, but it is not a required component for the same actions to be carried out. As MUR writes, these are as much secular values as you claim them to be religious.

      But here’s the kicker, Z1G, and the one you continue to evade as if your life depended on it: THERE IS NO STRAIGHT LINE FROM THE NEGATIVE EXAMPLES THAT CAN BE DRAWN TO SECULAR VALUES. People who value freedom of expression, for example, simply don’t form a mob and go kill fifteen unfortunate people for the actions of a person half a world away who burns a book! THAT requires religious faith. And note that no god, no angels, no divine intervention stopped this atrocity from being carried out.

      All you’re willing to do is admit that sometimes bad things happen that is motivated not by faith if correctly interpreted from scripture but from sinful people. It is transparently obvious that you are rationalizing the examples of faith to shift much of the good stuff to being reflective of the value of religious faith while shifting much of the negative stuff onto people who don’t understand their religious faith correctly. It’s a cheap subterfuge but fails to address how so many horrific examples REQUIRE religious faith to motivate these people into this kind of revolting ‘sin’. Also, you attempt to divert again and again from dealing with this distasteful fact that many terrible actions REQUIRES religious faith straight up by pointing to science and pretending it fails in its attempts to adjudicate morality as if the two somehow balance. The problem is, no one is attempting to abuse science this way and secularists condemn any action that harms the rights and freedoms and personal dignity of real people.

      As to your assertion that MUR and I fail to address with evidence the notion that the world would be better off if there were no religion is a lie. I have repeatedly written about how the more secular the liberal democracy, the lower the rates of all kinds of anti-social behaviours. Over at Triangulations today, we have Sabio pointing out that the secular Japanese don’t loot like has happened after natural disasters elsewhere. There is also a strong correlation that more religious people are, the higher the rate of many anti-social behaviours in these liberal democracies. Heck, it’s even true in a comparison of US states! (I don’t feel like looking up the links yet again.)

      So MUR and I do not go “running back to god and metaphysics” but keep pointing out real life examples of why religious faith remains a strong motivator of anti-human, anti-intellectual, anti-life set of beliefs that is unnecessary and unfortunate. As for holding out for our ‘beliefs’, why the intentional misnomer to try to confuse the notion of faith with values as if they were similar beliefs of slightly different kinds after MUR takes the time to explain that opinions and positions formulated on good reasons is not a similar kind of belief AT ALL?

      Stop pretending that the problem here is a log in the eye of me and MUR. We see both sides, thank you very much, and we know a fair bit, too. We are critical and skeptical and we express our views with lucidity and consistency. That you fail to find these views valuable in pointing out your unwillingness to discuss matters honestly and with intellectual integrity shortchanges you.

      Comment by tildeb — April 1, 2011 @ 5:17 pm | Reply

  36. “THERE IS NO STRAIGHT LINE FROM THE NEGATIVE EXAMPLES THAT CAN BE DRAWN TO SECULAR VALUES.”

    really? you’re really going to try to argue that?! consumerism, materialism, nationalism, etc. There’s no set of values you could call secular. It’s a term for values that don’t derive from “oogity-boogity” or those holy books. you could say sociopath “values” are secular, in that he/she values themself, at everyone’s expense. more normally, it seems to refer to a semi-consistent set of humanist concepts about minimizing harm.
    Both these sets are secular, but radically different. Same as suicide bombers and saints both have religious values. so once again, we’re back in the same boat.

    religious faith is quite important to me, because as a kid born ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’ with no father to speak of, the church greatly helped me out in my formation and my mom in not only supporting her emotionally but in keeping her filled with hope. the church has very much been ‘my father’ so to speak and i have yet to see a similar community form based on the jello-word you offer of ‘secular values.’ in fact, in secular society we see the opposite happening, where people are becoming more insular and disconnected from one another save online media which leads to conversations like this that really don’t go anywhere but constitute as neighbors shouting over the fence when they could be doing much more pragmatic and neighborly things.

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 3, 2011 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

    • Yes, I really am going to argue that there is no straight line from the negative examples I have mentioned that can be drawn to secular values.

      So what are secular values? Although commonly understood to be values NOT derived from religious authority, I think a better definition of secular values is a recognition of the fundamental importance of human reason combined with a rejection of any authority which can not be justified by reason alone.

      So if we remove the religious authority in each of the cases I’ve outlined, what are we left with? Upon what reason do the faithful go forth and kill in retaliation for a book burning?

      There is none.

      But of course you cannot accept this so you take only that part of the definition that resists religious authority and think yourself done in your description o9f secularism. But you miss the central tenet of secularism: a respect for reason. Once you include that, all your counter examples fall apart. That’s why your disregard for the reasons we outline as centrally important considerations in the matters discussed above continues to reveal a failure on your part to address the issues raised: a god believed to be both benevolent and powerful is irrational in the face of such overwhelming evidence of its consistent non intervention in the face of massive suffering. And that’s why the problem of suffering is fatal to this belief in terms of reason.

      Comment by tildeb — April 4, 2011 @ 8:58 am | Reply

      • I think a broad view of history proves that humans do not need religion to give them an excuse to be cruel to one another. In fact, religion is one of the few things that strives to give them a reason not to. Blaming religion for the actions of mankind is giving mankind to much of a pass. We, as a people, need to step up and take responsibilty for our actions. Thinking that “rationality” is some kind of magic bullet is as much a fairy tale ending as religion offers.

        there are too many secular states which act awfully. the Khmer Rouge, Stalin, north korea, how is what you propose different from these places? now i’m all for reason. i like it. it’s good stuff. but humans aren’t rational creatures but creatures who can reason.

        “Upon what reason do the faithful go forth and kill in retaliation for a book burning?”

        if you’re talking about afghanistan, then the context will provide you LOTS of reasons. kinda of a no duh, really. you’re a smart guy, i’m sure upon examination you’d find tons of reasons.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 4, 2011 @ 10:16 am

      • You assert that religion is one of the few things that strives to give them (people) good reasons not to be cruel to each other. I cannot disagree strongly enough: religion grants AUTHORITY to be cruel as well as kind. And therein lies the problem. That authority is without reason and that’s why it is reliant on faith-based belief.

        You claim certain totalitarian states to be examples of secularism in action. They’re not. At all. Again, they may not allow the religious component that you equate to mean secularism but once again ignore the central tenet: reason as the basis for authority. Do honestly think the Kmer Rouge represent a state built on respect for reason? Is North Korea a bastion in the world for respecting reason? When people are cruel to each other, do you think this represents an overuse of too much reason?

        In each case the use of reason as an authority is not represented. You are misrepresenting secularism when you do this.

        Of course people are creatures that reason. That’s not to deny other aspects of our humanity but to put them into proper order for authority: the secularist argues that authority must come from reason that must stand or fall on its own merits. Good reasons are better than poor reasons for the granting of authority. Granting authority for people to go forth and kill on behalf of a perceived theological insult is not a good reason but a very poor one. Clearly, if you removed the religious authority that motivates this response, you have no reason at all. And that’s the secular point being made.

        Comment by tildeb — April 4, 2011 @ 10:58 am

  37. “religion grants AUTHORITY to be cruel as well as kind.”

    corporations are built on reason and have the same ability. most actually could be deem pyschopathic. reason is not the magic bullet here.

    “That authority is without reason and that’s why it is reliant on faith-based belief.”

    i think religion has reasons for why it has authority and who is placed in charge.

    you’re right on the secular states thing but not on the Afghan thing. Mainly, I think that if Christians and Muslims had to switch places culturally, economically & politically the reaction would have been the same if the Bible had been burned. Keep in mind that most of the middle eastern world has been forced into a very narrow view of Western motives & attitudes. When we knowingly reinforce these ideas we betray our ability to be peace-makers, which is what Jesus primarily calls us to be. Maybe it is unfair to ask Westerners to take this role, but to do it costs nothing but pride & understanding. I think that is a small price to pay when the human dignity & lives are at stake. also we’re dealing with a pre-modern, tribal people who have experienced total war for 30+ years.

    funny thing is, i’m actually a fan and a supporter of the secular state. i like it. the division between church and state was to benefit the church actually. no church could be state-funded, like Maryland would have been catholic, and Mass. would have been congregationalist. i don’t think the marriage of religion and nationalism is a good thing because it takes away the prophetic stance that the church should have. it also takes away the servant role. i don’t think Bonhoffer or MLK Jr or Elizabeth Cady Stanton were bad and there are plenty of examples of religion being good. yet at the same time, there are plenty of examples of secularism being bad, like the mixed use of nuclear power (awesome energy, awful bomb) and such like. the question still stands from the other thread: “how do you keep a secular state or scientific research from selling out to corporate or military ideals?” religion has the same problem and so will a ‘secular’ anything.

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 4, 2011 @ 11:14 am | Reply

    • Corporations have the same ability but are subject to criticism and sanction. They do not possess authority above the secular state – although many are allowed to be so because of various regulatory failures and compromises by political means.

      I agree that religions have reasons for their being… just really terrible reasons. And the only people who empower religions are those who support them. I think this is disgraceful. I think religious belief held personally and without effect in the public domain is a right beyond reasonable accountability. A person can believe whatever. But beyond that strict personal boundary, it is not a right but a position that is then subject to secular law.

      On the Afghan thing, let’s be clear: my point is that these killings simply would not have happened except for religious motivations. You will also note that it is not due to a gnu atheist carrying out this act of book burning. By and large, gnu atheists look at such acts as unnecessary; reasonable argument suffices.

      And we are in the same camp regarding freedom of religion: separation of church and state grants advantages to both believers and non believers. My complaint is when religion leaves the personal and enters the public domain, meaning in public policies, laws, institutions, governance, and so on.

      As for the ‘selling out’ notion you’ve raised, the great advantage of scientific inquiry is its useful applications. Those will run the gamut from the dangerous to the helpful and other than the usual methods of informing practices with best methods based on reasonable discussions, I see no way to impose some arbitrary benchmarks to these applications except on a case-by-case basis. Your notion that secularism produces ‘bad’ still eludes me when it means respect for reason to inform issues. I see no ‘bad’ side to this.

      Comment by tildeb — April 4, 2011 @ 2:25 pm | Reply

  38. “corporations are built on reason and have the same ability.”

    Wrong – corporations are built on profit, and sometimes profit can come before reason – if this happens too often they go bust or they are prosecuted by the secular state.

    “i think religion has reasons for why it has authority and who is placed in charge.”

    Bollocks! Religion has self-appointed its authority on the people by claiming that it has an open channel direct to the all-knowing creator of the universe (no less!). The trouble is religion has habit of killing people who challenge or doubt this self-appointed authority.

    “Mainly, I think that if Christians and Muslims had to switch places culturally, economically & politically the reaction would have been the same if the Bible had been burned.”

    Yep – I agree, economics does have something to do with the issue, mostly because Muslims think that they are the true believers and everyone else is a fraud, so the fact that the west is now more prosperous and more powerful than the chosen people is a double insult. But there is a deeper mentality here – destroying a society is much easier than building one. And if you can’t find a good reason to destroy one, why not invent one that is not real!

    “also we’re dealing with a pre-modern, tribal people who have experienced total war for 30+ years.”

    Do you have any idea how ironic this statement is – you make this observation while still defending your own Stone Age beliefs in Yahweh and his son.

    “the question still stands from the other thread: “how do you keep a secular state or scientific research from selling out to corporate or military ideals?” religion has the same problem and so will a ‘secular’ anything.”

    We work together, and put our silly Stone Age beliefs where they belong – in the museum along with the others, and look back at them patronizingly stating that they were “prehistoric, primitive and tribal people – that didn’t know any better.”

    And then we use our secular laws to provide the freedom to allow all people from all races and post religious backgrounds to work together to build a better future for everyone.

    We say to our kids “look what happened when people had religious tribes – they actually killed each other over things that they had no evidence for!?!”

    Let’s face it – we have prayed for 1000s of years, and it has never worked has it – time to try a different strategy.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 5, 2011 @ 1:02 am | Reply

  39. “Wrong – corporations are built on profit, and sometimes profit can come before reason – if this happens too often they go bust or they are prosecuted by the secular state.”

    here’s the thing about reason: you can reason around things so well and say “no, not really.” like in this case. everyone has their reasons, the only test is by their fruits. your binary thought process doesn’t help you here, WallMart has done crimes against humanity and the environment and they have yet to be prosecuted and are no where near being bust. same with Monsanto, Halliburton, and Blackrock.

    “Let’s face it – we have prayed for 1000s of years, and it has never worked has it – time to try a different strategy.”

    i await the details of the strategy. as i have stated to you both before, i’d love to see what it’s for, not what it’s against.

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 5, 2011 @ 9:39 am | Reply

    • You keep pretending that non believers have an empty cupboard of ideas when it comes to offering something in place of religion. Yet they have been offered to you time and again: respect for what’s true, what’s knowable, authority from reason, human rights, human freedoms, dignity of personhood, and so on. Religion undermines each of these directly. And before you try to offer examples where you say religion motivates actions that respect some of these, please remember that religion is not required. But if you stay true to form, you will avoid dealing with those aspects of fundamental tenets required for religious that do stand opposed to these offerings: respect for what i believed to be true, respect for assertions about god – his nature and intentions and desires and plans and purposes for us – that are unknowable, respect for the authority of god, respect for beliefs that infringe on gender equality and biased against sexual orientation, a willingness to respect other religious faiths in spite of their direct support for the suppression of these rights, human rights, respect for ownership not of each person of his or her freedom but a claim that each person belongs first to god to support movements that curtail and restrict human freedom as well as undermine autonomous and responsible dignity. Without religious belief to run purposeful interference, we can advance towards obtaining all of these offerings based on good reasons rather than bad. The strategy, therefore, is to challenge religious belief in every area where it pretends to possess knowledge and reveal it’s empty cupboard. Whatever you think can motivate religious belief to be a force for good, I can replace this superstitious nonsense with good secular reasons. No god belief, as I pointed out before and no doubt will have to many more times, is required.

      Comment by tildeb — April 5, 2011 @ 10:39 am | Reply

      • “Yet they have been offered to you time and again: respect for what’s true, what’s knowable, authority from reason, human rights, human freedoms, dignity of personhood, and so on.”

        reason isn’t the magic bullet. getting rid of religion doesn’t solve all of these things. nor does religion undermine any of these. in fact religion has specific answers to each of these and supports it in it’s own way. Karen Armstrong states that the one thing religions all have in common are commands on hospitality and compassion. you ignore this and that is where my argument lies, not with reason. plus you show no structure to show how your vision of the world will support “the least of these.”

        i will now address each of your claims directly:

        “respect for what i believed to be true, respect for assertions about god – his nature and intentions and desires and plans and purposes for us – that are unknowable,”
        -we all come with assumptions on how the world operates, why we’re here, and how the world works. all of these things are subjective and unknowable and rather personal whether derived from reason or religion.

        “respect for the authority of god,”
        -i’m not in charge of the world and i’m subject to natural laws outside my own choosing… the serenity prayer comes to mind here… i’m not in control. i respect that.

        “respect for beliefs that infringe on gender equality and biased against sexual orientation,”
        -you ignore those who worked in the church to bring these things about. each culture has gender roles and expectations, those won’t go away without religion.

        “a willingness to respect other religious faiths in spite of their direct support for the suppression of these rights,”
        -there are good things in each religion. there are also bad things. i focus on the good and fight the bad. these things have been around for thousands of years and have cultural roots going back centuries. you wanting to do away with all of this is impractical and idealistic beyond measure.

        “human rights,”
        -same claim can be leveled at science and corporations. but you and MUR claim “oh, that’s not us..” just as you accuse believers of doing the same.

        “respect for ownership not of each person of his or her freedom but a claim that each person belongs first to god to support movements that curtail and restrict human freedom”
        -that’s fatalism. some religions practice that, some not. belonging to God first and each other second are radically humanitarian. that means that national lines don’t register when human rights are being infringed upon and slaughter, plague, and famine ramp up. this explains why only religious people are the only ones still operating in new orleans some 5 years later, when everyone else has abandoned it and gone on to the next tragedy. plus this rules out participatory eschatology which is foundational to all Christian traditions save the fatalistic ones like the JW’s, Adventists, and some holiness traditions. the Christian religion is inherently founded on responsible dignity but not on autonomous because it recognizes the social aspect each individual action has on the group. autonomous persons is an enlightenment concept and one i think is wrong and has had morbid consequences.

        and finally. we disagree. full stop. we won’t convince one another because we’re coming from such different places. i see your approach as quite a privileged one that will not be able to be achieved by everyone. what will you do with the rest? going against religion is fine in critique but in trying to remove it from society is completely misguided. offering nothing in it’s place puts in a vacuum, one you’re unwilling to fill.

        “Whatever you think can motivate religious belief to be a force for good, I can replace this superstitious nonsense with good secular reasons.”
        -and whatever secular reasons you offer, i can show the religious origins of the idea or a corresponding doctrine or belief. looks like we’re both wasting our time.

        Comment by zero1ghost — April 5, 2011 @ 11:02 am

  40. “we won’t convince one another because we’re coming from such different places.”

    I don’t think we are – in such polarised places. I just think Tildeb and I extend our scepticism to all our beliefs, and you exclude religion from your scepticism.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 5, 2011 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

    • you haven’t read much of my blog have you? and what is sceptism, is that like being septic? ;-P

      i think we have much in common but on this issue of religion i feel like i’m talking to two pro-lifers. unyielding and purposely overstating the case just to get a decent half-compromise. i think in real time, we’d get along and possibly hang out and have a few drinks.

      plus in real life, i don’t make a face that looks anything like this: ;-P when making jokes… imagine if we did that… anyway, i digress. i think we are coming from much different places on the topic of theology, faith, and all things religion to qualify my last comment.

      Comment by zero1ghost — April 5, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

      • What’s the problem with faith-in-action if it leads to good stuff? You write i think we are coming from much different places on the topic of theology, faith, and all things religion.

        Yes, I agree, because I don’t think you grasp the problem that separates us: the willingness to embrace faith, whereas you see no problem with just your faith. But it remains just as problematic:

        “Religion unites its members by creating a division between the sacred and the profane, and the religious and the secular. To this I would add a belief in supernatural or transcendent truths unavailable to outsiders — whether those outsiders are members of other groups, or simply people who seek to understand reality without special revelations given to the privileged few.

        You were suggesting that religion adds nothing particularly unique or damaging to existing disputes. The disputes would be there regardless, and just as intense.

        I disagree. Faith is a very dangerous element, because it removes the ‘sacred’ from public scrutiny, critique, or negotiation. And it ups the ante.

        Your enemies, are now God’s enemies: and God’s enemies, are yours. The conflict has gone cosmic, and against the purpose of humanity. Consider any of the common causes of strife — and now add religious justification to it. It becomes intractable in a way it wasn’t before.

        The “sacred” creates scarce resources that would not otherwise exist. It creates needs for purity or orthodoxy which would not otherwise exist. And it creates crimes of profanity or heresy that would not otherwise exist.

        But can’t religion inspire peace as well as strife? Can’t it be reasonable? Sure.

        But the religious are not ultimately resting their choices on the rational, but on the irrational — those sacred things set apart and forbidden to outsiders. And we have lost the common ground.

        There is nothing in that definition of religion which anchors any of the beliefs to fair test for reasonableness and sense. When religion is reasonable, and advocates behavior which makes sense otherwise, regardless of the fact that it was inspired by religion — we got lucky.

        There is nothing more arbitrary than a morality based on facts known through faith. It can go anywhere. Religions improve as they take on elements of humanism: but that is not an argument in favor of religion. It’s an argument in favor of humanism.”

        (h/t to Sastra in comment #29 for this astute observation)

        Comment by tildeb — April 5, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

  41. Do you think if there is god – he is an atheist?

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 5, 2011 @ 4:52 pm | Reply

  42. “I am saying that your morals do not come from the bible – and this is something that I think you agree on.” (MUR)

    Its complex but many of my moral foundational points do go back to bibilical teachings – and why this is mystical is really beyond me.

    The complex part is I use the bible as an inspirative tool – I am the one making the decisions and interpretations and changes based on what I do study from biblical texts. So in one sense it is me, in another sense I draw much of that inspiration from biblical texts…which I call building a ‘paradigm’.

    “Your argument about the NT not supporting slavery is blinkered because it doesn’t factor in the contents of the Old Testament – again you are cherry picking what you agree with from a scripture that is supposed to be representative of the truth (God’s truth).” (MUR)

    Again, this all comes dows to one’s stance on how to interpret what the bible means – then and now. I think you think I need to see the bible as God’s complete and authoritative word that never changes for all of time? Kind of like the conservative churches…maybe?

    However, I know it is a book(s)/letters written by humans as they were inspired to write. Like humans change, so do times and eras. What was feasible in the West 60 years ago would not fly in today’s society. Things are more progressive and I see the bible in that same historical light.

    Slavery was a lawful part of those 2 societies – Tanakh Judaism and Roman era Christianity. Nothing being said there is really all that mind-bending or surprising for their time frames. But the thinking in both societies has presences of progressiveness from the form of just slavery to inclusion as 100% equals in society. I think we look back and place our own judgments in a self-righteous manner thinking ‘look at us now’. I get it though, I absolutely detest slavery – and I think some of the intent in both books gives this same sense; sometimes it sits on the fence and supports societial norms.

    “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” (Ephesians 6:5)

    Needs to be balanced with Ephesians 6:9 “And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him” (note the no partiality part)

    “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them.” (1 Timothy 6:1-2)

    We need to remember this letter for Timothy means masters and slaves would be considered equals since they are both subject to the same teachings about faith in Jesus. So the same teachings the slave follows, so will his master – and the church will show no partiality based on ‘position’ ie: job) or ‘status’.

    “he servant will be severely punished, for though he knew his duty, he refused to do it. “But people who are not aware that they are doing wrong will be punished only lightly. Much is required from those to whom much is given, and much more is required from those to whom much more is given.” (Luke 12:47-48)

    (a) this is a parable (ie: a short story) and can no way be construed as advocation for ‘slavery’.

    (b) Read that parable. I know hotel workers and people in restaurants to this day that could be considered the same as the ‘slave’ in that story…but that’s just me showing the progressive angle and not just being a literalist (I am an ‘intentist’).

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 6, 2011 @ 1:26 pm | Reply

    • “Its complex but many of my moral foundational points do go back to bibilical teachings – and why this is mystical is really beyond me.”

      So you need to be told to be moral from a book? Or you wouldn’t be moral – is that what you are saying?

      Write a list of the morals and behaviors you think you have learnt from the bible – with the references.

      Now write a list of all the morals and behaviors you would not wish to be associated with.

      Now count them and tell me which list is longer – bad things, or good things.

      “Slavery was a lawful part of those 2 societies – Tanakh Judaism and Roman era Christianity.”

      And so that makes slavery ok then – if it is lawful? If it does then the wisdom in the bible, when slavery was legal was ignored then? Or did people just pick the bits of the bible to support their view?

      “….. I think some of the intent in both books gives this same sense; sometimes it sits on the fence and supports societial norms.”

      Yeah like this example: Exodus chapter 12 verse 43:
      The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.

      God again shows that he is completely comfortable with the concept of slavery and singles out slaves for special treatment.
      “(b) Read that parable. I know hotel workers and people in restaurants to this day that could be considered the same as the ‘slave’ in that story…but that’s just me showing the progressive angle and not just being a literalist (I am an ‘intentist’).”
      Yeah and the normal treatment of slaves would have been according to the bible Exodus Chapter 21, verse 20:
      If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.

      Not only does God condone slavery, but he is also completely comfortable with the concept of beating your slaves, as long as you don’t kill them. [well that’s ok then!]

      And you still reckon you get morals from the bible – yeah? – Get a grip.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 6, 2011 @ 3:40 pm | Reply

  43. “However, I know it is a book(s)/letters written by humans as they were inspired to write.”

    Inspired to write by what?

    Does this mean you could get inspired morals from ‘Harry Potter’ or how about ‘Lord of the Rings?’.. three little pigs? Robinhood?

    Why do you value this book over any other work of fiction?

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 6, 2011 @ 3:43 pm | Reply

  44. “So you need to be told to be moral from a book? Or you wouldn’t be moral – is that what you are saying?” (MUR)

    I am saying it helps shape my morality and inspires me…personally I actually enjoy the teachings of Jesus. However, in your deduction of how values are formed, it’s not necessary that morals would not exist without scriptures. I just prefer them is all.

    “Write a list of the morals and behaviors you think you have learnt from the bible – with the references. Now write a list of all the morals and behaviors you would not wish to be associated with. Now count them and tell me which list is longer – bad things, or good things.” (MUR)

    Or I could take the much easier test and just evaluate my life from the ages of 17 – present where I have been influenced by the scriptures and see exactly what it is that influences what within my decision making processes.

    But if I were to do a list – I would say the list of valuable morals would outweigh the bad morals easily 10:1. Problem is MUR Jesus’ teachings – which is the lense I start with – are not really asking me to treat people badly. From that starting point to a whole inclusion of scriptures into my paradigm I really do come out with something quite wonderful.

    “And so that makes slavery ok then – if it is lawful? If it does then the wisdom in the bible, when slavery was legal was ignored then? Or did people just pick the bits of the bible to support their view?” (MUR)

    I have stated I oppose slavery and no amount of how someone interprets the bible will change my mind. Again I am fairly progressive on this issue though – same with equality for gay people.

    See there is no picking and choosing going on – which was what I pointed out – only by later interpreters is this ever a problem. Within the passages of the bible themselves slavery was part of the known cultures – just like working a 5 day – 40 hour – work week is our norm in the West. What if in like 200 years someone says ‘they worked 40 hours a week for 5 days in the 2000’s – that’ s stupid and its slavery!’. Being that we cannot see what the future will bring forward, they may be right to make that claim…seeing that our work weeks are leading to added stress and lack of family time.

    So I am looking from 2011 and saying to the past ‘I can understand how they can view slavery as part of the norm of society – but from this window in time it seems stupid’.

    “Yeah like this example: Exodus chapter 12 verse 43: The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover: No foreigner is to eat of it. Any slave you have bought may eat of it after you have circumcised him, but a temporary resident and a hired worker may not eat of it.” (MUR)

    What’s wrong that exactly? Israel is a nation – and why should someone partake of the national identity if they are not? All it means is the foreigner is not required too partake – if they want to – well it’s a national identity celebration which they can partake of ‘if they choose to’.

    “Yeah and the normal treatment of slaves would have been according to the bible Exodus Chapter 21, verse 20: If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property.” (MUR)

    Well good to see slaves do have value – in this case the murder of a slave is considered ‘murder’ – meaning the slave was worth as much as the master. I don’t like the fact the owner can beat the slave, much hasn’t changed I see…ever get fired wrongfully from a job? Oh sure it’s not physical violence but it’s just as bad when you have mortgage, food, and bills all riding on that ‘paycheck’. Also a good study into Capitalism (as a system) will only produce the fact we are also slaves to economic market run by the large companies. Ever try to live without money?

    Regardless, I detest slavery and have made that point earlier.

    I would also like to point out the obvious about Tanakh and NT. As a Christian, and not a Jewish convert, I am not required to follow the Torah Law – not being part of that community and tradition (this according to Judaism itself). I am required to follow ‘just laws’ – which can be inspired by the Torah Law – but don’t have to be – since I belong to a different community. This is the case within early Christianity as well – at least according to Paul’s letters.

    “And you still reckon you get morals from the bible – yeah? – Get a grip” (MUR)

    Got a pretty firm grip here – of both history, cultural relativity, reality, and cross comparisons of societies. I think you figure I am making an unfair judgment based on ‘reason and knowledge’…what do you suppose I use now? What are you using exactly – I might wanna try that next?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 8, 2011 @ 6:04 pm | Reply

    • I think you are twisting your world view to fit with a twisted world view, to justify a belief in something that has no hard evidence.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 9, 2011 @ 1:54 am | Reply

  45. ““However, I know it is a book(s)/letters written by humans as they were inspired to write.” Inspired to write by what?” (SVS and MUR)

    Really? Take a wild guess – it’s a 3 letter word that starts with ‘G’.

    “Does this mean you could get inspired morals from ‘Harry Potter’ or how about ‘Lord of the Rings?’.. three little pigs? Robinhood? Why do you value this book over any other work of fiction?” (MUR)

    Define fiction again? I am thinking you are getting that class of literature and a book from antiquity mixed up. Again, fiction is your personal classification of the scriptures, fine – I can accept that. Now tell me something you place value in – maybe a philosophy or some political system – and we can start bantering about more fiction.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 8, 2011 @ 6:12 pm | Reply

    • And God exists then? How do you know that Zeus does not exist, or the Egyptian god do not exist? Their texts exist, their inspiration exists – why not believe in that?

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 9, 2011 @ 1:56 am | Reply

  46. “Regardless, I detest slavery and have made that point earlier. ”

    This is the point I am making that you seem to be having a problem understanding – you detest slavery in spite of the bible, not because of it – it is not the bible’s teachings that give you your morals, they come from somewhere else – a society that no longer supports the idea of slavery.

    I am not going to sit here cutting and pasting Jesus’ contradictions because it is pointless – what I will say though is that not everyone Jesus said made moral sense, and not everything Jesus commands you to do – do you do, therefore you do pick and choose what to interpret to support your view that a book of fiction was inspired by god.

    The other thing you forget is the context of the bible – Jesus, was a Jew. Christianity, was written 40 years after Jesus’s death – by Paul, who wrote about 80,000 words about the Christian religion – and he got this inspiration from a dream.

    If I had a dream and I said it was inspired by God, and it commanded that all the Christian’s in the world to do something would you believe me?

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 9, 2011 @ 1:50 am | Reply

  47. “I think you are twisting your world view to fit with a twisted world view, to justify a belief in something that has no hard evidence.” (MUR)

    You have the right to have your opinion of what I believe, granted. What you see as twisted I actually don’t. Concerning evidence, well this is really a game of rhetoric about what constitutes ‘evidence’. You have you version of what is permissable evidence and what isn’t, I likely will not convince you to accept that I find the evidence ample enough for having a ‘faith system’. Again, most things I do are social science measurable but that’s apparently neither here nor there.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 13, 2011 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  48. “And God exists then? How do you know that Zeus does not exist, or the Egyptian god do not exist? Their texts exist, their inspiration exists – why not believe in that?” (MUR)

    I think the Exodus story and the NT contain as aspect of credibility those myths do not – namely very human figures within a context of reality tied closely to some level of actual history. I just cannot believe in Egyptian gods that seem faked and same with Greco-Roman myths which have a form of godlikeness but replace that with some weird and quite unacceptable figures for God. Those 2 seem very mythical to me – just saying – whereas Judaism and Christianity have much less of that ‘twinge’ and can be seen working in actual human history and reality – maybe this is a case of historical analysis.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 13, 2011 @ 11:48 am | Reply

    • Really – I don’t see that… holy ghosts, Satan, angels – god parting the seas booming voices from the sky, Jesus walking on water, raising the dead etc… you reckon that is less myth like than the god of the sun?

      I can see the sun.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 13, 2011 @ 2:34 pm | Reply

    • Just a quick note: you DO know there is zero anthropological evidence to back up the story of the exodus, right? Well, perhaps you didn’t, whioch may explain why you suggest it contains ‘aspects’ of credibility that other myths do not. And those aspects might be, what… faith perhaps?

      See, the thing is if people were to simply admit that they believe all kinds of made-up shit simply because they choose to do so for whatever personal reasons turn their cranks, then this honest admission would go a long way to helping us know where such belief ranks in real life, factual situations rather than pretending this made-up shit contains some greater bearing on whatever. But by pretending that this made-up shit is the basis for it being a valuable contribution to real world factual situations is problematic, as is pretending that is is AS valuable as anything else and deserves an equal place at the table of consideration in just about any issue. Made-up shit is not equivalent to knowledge, nor is it a path to knowledge. It’s just made-up shit but with a long history of respect arbitrarily associated to it and culturalized (if that’s a real word).

      If we change the specific and insert some other belief held for what people assume are good reasons – let’s say belief in spooks – then such a personal choice doesn’t matter. Believe in them or don’t, it matters not. But when spook believers amass and claim privilege because they believe, now we have a problem. When we bring the problem up and try to explain why it’s unfair, we get vilified, thus compounding the problem. When we argue why belief alone is no reason for privilege, we get labeled as immoral because without belief in spooks, one cannot be moral! And the problems get worse. Special vouchers are provided for people to raise their children in a privatized education system so that a deep and abiding respect for spooks becomes inculcated. When the argument is sustained that belief in spooks alone alone is not justified to claim legitimacy in other subjects, those who do this are called a different kind of fundamentalist believer with a different set of clerics who militantly support non belief in spooks. And the argument continues to become ever more ludicrous. When science as a method of inquiry is brought to bear showing why there is no evidence for spooks that justifies widespread respect and privilege, we find some scientists arguing that such a belief in the absence of evidence is perfectly compatible with respecting a method based on it… as if that made any sense at all. And always, the fallback position when privilege of belief is challenged openly is to suggest that personal belief in spooks is really know one’s business, failing to appreciate that it becomes everyone’s business when such an evidentially challenged belief is promoted in the public domain as a virtue!

      Just saying…

      Comment by tildeb — April 13, 2011 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

  49. “This is the point I am making that you seem to be having a problem understanding – you detest slavery in spite of the bible, not because of it…” (MUR)

    And you are missing a point I am making – which is based on nothing more than reality. I grasp that I did not grow up in ‘slavery’ or a country ‘that had it as its base’ – so obviously I am not going to think much of slavery. So some of what you are saying is accurate – contextually I am a product of the 20th century in Canada. But you only see an angle when there is whole surface to be uncovered.

    The bible has not helped me lessen my detest for ‘slavery’. I do not accept slavery more because of the NT or the Tanakh…is there any reason I should? But again, I am asking you to view the bible as a piece of literature in a certain time frame – which you fail to accept. As well, the scriptures do not ask me to advocate for the institution of slavery – if so – show me. As well, contextually the role of slavery is quite similar to our working a job these days (and I can actually prove that). Yet all of this is not enough – you play captain caveman with scripture and pretty much remain as dis-enlightened in the convo as you can with ‘bible says this, bible bad, see?’. For someone as reasonable as you are I find it strange the topic of Christianity and Judaism can almost make you go backwards in your reasonableness.

    “what I will say though is that not everyone Jesus said made moral sense, and not everything Jesus commands you to do – do you do, therefore you do pick and choose what to interpret to support your view that a book of fiction was inspired by god.” (MUR)

    For some odd reason, and I am not sure if I am just reading this in, you act as if I should be somewhat scared of your reason and logic concerning my own faith? Cut and paste the contradictions – lets discuss them – I have very little problem with tough questions. I know they exist – you know they exist – but what level of meaning are they given is a whole nother question.

    As for choosing – well I am person born with ‘choice’…and this is really not something ‘bad’. I will admit I face all interpretive problems head on and do not duck and hide from these issues – I am not ashamed of having faith – what’s wrong with that exactly? However, your demonizing choice when you say ‘therefore you do pick and choose’ – when it is my God given right to do exactly that. In fact, you do exactly that as well in basic society and daily living – and I am not about to demonize that. For example, you like a certain type of potato chip from a certain company perhaps? Well it’s taking money from another business yet I think that’s perfectly fine. You will vote for a certain political party which supports many of the views I disagree with (putting as in some opposition perhaps)…but hey – what’s choice for if not that?

    So let’s get off this ‘high horse’ of cutting and pasting when you do the same thing with your version of reality as well. Yet, I am demonized for doing so? Odd really. I tend find myself your equal – maybe I was wrong?

    As for your problem with picking and choosing – the core issue – let’s discuss ‘why that is’?

    “The other thing you forget is the context of the bible – Jesus, was a Jew. Christianity, was written 40 years after Jesus’s death – by Paul, who wrote about 80,000 words about the Christian religion – and he got this inspiration from a dream” (MUR)

    Oh read my blog – no one gets more into the fact Jesus was Jewish than me – in fact I personally promote this fact to Christians in general. So I already have that in the back of my head when I speak of Jesus and his faith in God (ie: himself being a follower of Judaism).

    As for Paul, I think he is massly misunderstood. He see’s 2 paths to God, Gentiles via Jesus and Jews as Jews (via their faith system). Paul understands clearly that a Gentile need not follow Jewish law to follow God, not a requirement (not even in current Judaism).

    As for the ‘dream’ part – don’t you think thats a tad simplistic? But what else can be said to someone who does not believe their may be a spiritual aspect to humanity. Viewing Paul in that light changes it from merely a ‘dream’ (one time thing) to a experience or aspect of his being? It’s gonna be very hard to convince me this is not realistic – since my own cultural tradition teaches spirituality is part of making the person ‘whole’ (ie: First Nations Canadian). Is it a bias, maybe?

    “If I had a dream and I said it was inspired by God, and it commanded that all the Christian’s in the world to do something would you believe me?” )MUR)

    I would say ‘lets hear it’ and ‘lets discuss it’. I wouldnt ask people to willy-nilly accept something because you think you have the authority for it to have meaning. Even Jesus and Paul had to put some work in to be accepted.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 13, 2011 @ 12:15 pm | Reply

  50. “I am asking you to view the bible as a piece of literature in a certain time frame – which you fail to accept.”

    I do accept it – and it is precisely why I don’t believe in it – because it doesn’t deliver any knowledge that I can find out without using it about anything. If you want to hold up some dusty old text as having the answers to life and universe then that is your choice, but it doesn’t answer those questions – it just says “god did it”.

    “However, your demonizing choice when you say ‘therefore you do pick and choose’ – when it is my God given right to do exactly that.”

    It is not your ‘god given right’ it is a right that the political system in your country gives you – god has nothing to do with it.

    “As for your problem with picking and choosing – the core issue – let’s discuss ‘why that is’?”

    Again you are missing the point – the point is the bible does not teach you to be good, you are good person anyway. I don’t get my morals from the bible – not one of them. Instinctively I know right from wrong – and this is my point. The bible has a lot of really bad stuff in it – that people think is the word of god – it isn’t it is the word of man.

    “Oh read my blog – no one gets more into the fact Jesus was Jewish than me – in fact I personally promote this fact to Christians in general. So I already have that in the back of my head when I speak of Jesus and his faith in God (ie: himself being a follower of Judaism).”

    Good – because this brings the old testament back into scope. Jesus was a Jew – he claimed to be God’s son. The God he is referring to is the god of the Old Testament. Do you think the god of the Old Testament is wise and just? I don’t. By comparison Jesus is a pot smoking hippy compared to God – there is a massive contrast between the NT and the OT – but by definition you cannot separate the two – as they are intrinsically linked.

    “I would say ‘lets hear it’ and ‘lets discuss it’. I wouldnt ask people to willy-nilly accept something because you think you have the authority for it to have meaning. Even Jesus and Paul had to put some work in to be accepted.”

    And what type of work would that be? And what would you discuss, and how would you be convinced that it was true? It is interesting that you will accept some hog wash about Jesus in the bible performing some miracle – but you wouldn’t believe someone who was alive without putting it to a test first – this seems very irrational.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 13, 2011 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

  51. “but it doesn’t answer those questions – it just says “god did it”” (MUR)

    Again, simplistic piecemeal sentence about a whole body of works – and I should agree with that conclusion? MUR said it.

    “It is not your ‘god given right’ it is a right that the political system in your country gives you – god has nothing to do with it.” (MUR)

    Well, prior to any of these politics we see now it was my ‘God given right’ to have choice within Canada – in Indigenous lands and under Indigenous ideas – history my man. The First Nations people believe choice is a God given right.

    The weakness in your argument is to also assume politics = my ability to choose. Take note from the revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and other places – is the gov’t defining their right to ‘choose’? The day a gov’t defines my ability to be me (ie: freedom of choice and thought) – I am in serious trouble or am a robot of some sort.

    So where does this fire for existence come from – the drive of decision and choices that makes me ‘me’ and you ‘you’?

    “the point is the bible does not teach you to be good, you are good person anyway” (MUR)

    Whoa, that’s not true. Define ‘good’? As someone that respects many fields of science you must be aware that they do think someone people are sociopathic in nature – nature/nuture controversy withstanding. Are they also good? In fact, prior to coming to a faith paradigm I was not a very good person at all. I grew up in the conditions ripe for someone to end up in jail on serious crimes – and almost every single one of my friend has been through the prison system a time or three. They say we can be defined by our ‘friends’ – so as an adolescent – define me? I don’t exactly society would have out the ‘good’ label on me (my opinion)…and to be perfectly honest – I did not feel ‘good’ about me at that time in life.

    And this is where the ‘faith paradgm’ came in. So it is a little hard for me to buy that everything about religion is ‘bad’.

    “Jesus was a Jew – he claimed to be God’s son” (MUR)

    Very debateable. Also the term ‘God’s son’ was used in a variety of ways in that era – Israel was ‘God’s son’ for example. Nonetheless, was the term attributed to him in a literal way or was it a writer’s viewpoint? In Mark, for example, Jesus makes no claim to such an idea…in fact the 3 synoptics can be viewed with that lense. Jesus’ only real claim was about ‘messiah’, which never had a connotation of ‘God’s literal son’. I think the lense your using comes from John, the latest of the gospels and appears to have a very Gentile leaning viewpoint or a mystic Jewish viewpoint (meaning literalness needs to be tapered).

    “The God he is referring to is the god of the Old Testament. Do you think the god of the Old Testament is wise and just?” (MUR)

    Judaism seems to think so. I have read a lot of rabbi’s and people from that tradition (ie: Heschel) – the God you seem to refer to and the one they find in the texts is quite different. The question is: who’s to be believed concerning their viewpoint? Honestly, and you talk about academics quite a bit, should I not lean in favor to the rabbi’s that study the Hebrew and linguistics of the texts? The rabbi’s that also have dedicated a fair portion of their life to studying the traditions and interpretations?

    “And what would you discuss, and how would you be convinced that it was true? It is interesting that you will accept some hog wash about Jesus in the bible performing some miracle – but you wouldn’t believe someone who was alive without putting it to a test first – this seems very irrational” (MUR)

    Lol, you must take me for an idiot…I mean you’d pretty much have to to write that sentence. Do you think I accept the bible at face value and what people say about it? Or do I seem a little more critical than that?

    As for the Jesus stories, I accept them as are – but they are under criticism in my head as well. For example, one has to consider a few things about the gospel narratives – (a) they are narratives and a pseudo-history (they are not altogether factual events nor are they trying to be); (b) A lot of allegory and metaphorical comparison is being used (ie: Matthew writes a tale of Jesus like the great prophets – namely Moses); (c) I am aware there is an agenda to the gospels – a slant concerning winning the people over to the ’cause’.

    So before you jump the gun and critique me for not being analytical – stop and think about that one.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 14, 2011 @ 12:54 pm | Reply

    • “So before you jump the gun and critique me for not being analytical – stop and think about that one.”

      I have done – and you are irrational and utterly deluded to the point where you will deny the fact that Jesus was Jew.

      IESVS·NAZARENVS·REX·IVDÆORVM

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 16, 2011 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  52. primetime.com

    Why is suffering a fatal flaw for belief in a benevolent creator? | Questionable Motives

    Trackback by primetime.com — February 23, 2015 @ 9:45 am | Reply


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