Questionable Motives

April 21, 2011

What do atheists hear when theology is debated?

Filed under: Atheism,belief,Hell,theology — tildeb @ 9:34 am

Amanda Marcotte has a pretty funny take over on Pandagon on a Chris Matthews round table ‘discussion’ about what if there is no hell? His panelists are fellow catholics Andrew Sullivan, Norah O’Donnell,  and Betty Quick, joined by Joe Klein who is jewish. The clip is under four minutes and the interpretation by Amanda only a few paragraphs long but is especially accurate. Her thesis is pretty simple:

Debating whether or not there is a hell on national television is one of those things that makes me wonder if we, as a nation, are collectively five years old. Since this is a claim that can’t really be dealt with on evidence, all the arguments basically fall along the lines of, “I believe X because I want result Y.”

For the answer to her question go here to see and read for yourself. After reading her short yet pithy article, you too will understand why it is pretty obvious (when such a discussion is interpreted by the rational mind of a non believer) why her answer is yes. But of course her answer doesn’t satisfy many who do not understand the humour, so a follow-up article is here.


  1. She makes a good point concerning the evidence, our time might be better spent discussing climate change or even basic economic problems in the economy and fixes/solutions. But hell.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 21, 2011 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

    • First we need to stop pretending that god has a plan – and is looking out for us; then people might actually take responsibility for the environment (and the economy) themselves.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 21, 2011 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  2. “Pretty much no religious person believes all the teachings of their traditions—they can’t, since many contradict each other—and so what people choose to believe from their faith traditions is based on what they want to believe. ”

    Very true.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 21, 2011 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  3. Hmmmm. because you can’t prove it?

    Yet you can’t prove evolution and you believe it

    You can’t prove how the earth was formed but you believe it
    Neither can be re created in a lab but you believe it…..

    Why is this ok for you but religion is not ok for others?

    We have historical proof – actual witnesses and you have THEORIES

    Comment by 4amzgkids — April 21, 2011 @ 3:44 pm | Reply

    • 4AK – Read something, visit a museum, go to science classes, study a plant species, breed fish; there are many things you can do to broaden your understanding of biology.

      When you have done so – please do come back to me with your case against evolution, and I will be all ears, but until that time I am going to choose to ignore you and your ignorance in the same way that I ignore the ignorance of the flat earth society. The earth is oblate spheroid, and evolution is true to believe any different in the absence of hard demonstrable evidence is stupid.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 22, 2011 @ 4:32 am | Reply

      • My ignorance – really MUR – the missing link is you? LOL!

        When you can prove it then you can prove something – right now you are just a hate breeder and it’s ridiculous!

        Evolution is NOT PROVEN! unless maybe you attended idiot university which is quite plausible with your comments I”m sure.

        Comment by 4amzgkids — May 1, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

      • 4AK – “Evolution is NOT PROVEN! unless maybe you attended idiot university which is quite plausible with your comments I”m sure.”

        I am just staggered and in awe of your incredibly stupid outbursts – evolutionary biology is a core science. If you are going to be a biologist it is the subject that is on the critical learning path for all undergraduates wishing to study biology and its related subjects – i.e. medicine, genetics etc.

        Every one of the top universities in the world has a research project or course within their prospectus that reflects this fact.

        As you are so sure that evolution cannot be proven – perhaps you should enrol on one of these courses, and enlighten the professors in the error of their ways, here are some links to get you started on your educational quest:

        Read something 4AK – because your continued outbursts are becoming very tiresome and cringing read.

        Comment by misunderstoodranter — May 2, 2011 @ 6:13 am

  4. “First we need to stop pretending that god has a plan – and is looking out for us; then people might actually take responsibility for the environment” (MUR)

    Blanket statement which is untrue. God does not neccesarily factor into the equation concerning how we are destroying the earth so your making a cause and effect that isn’t always true. For instance, I believe part A of your sentence but also part B.

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 21, 2011 @ 4:04 pm | Reply

    • What is it with religious types – either it is:

      “Strawman argument!”

      “A blanket statement”

      “False” (without providing a reason why).

      Let me put it this way – if it is a blanket statement and it is not true then why do people pray? Do they pray to ask for god’s help? And when they do pray, what help do they receive?

      Has praying improved the world demonstrably?

      Will praying resolve the world’s economic and environmental problems, or does policy have a better chance of working.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 22, 2011 @ 4:41 am | Reply

      • Yes, prayer works time and time again

        Comment by 4amzgkids — May 1, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    • Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

      Yet you assert that “God does not necessarily factor into the equation” of how christians practice behaviours that impact the environment. It seems to me that believing god has granted me the right to have dominion over my environment means I’m the boss and can do whatever I like according to god. That hierarchical assumption really does have a rather important factor in environmental ‘equations’, don’t you think?

      Comment by tildeb — April 22, 2011 @ 11:04 am | Reply

      • To care for it not destroy it – those that truly believe in God will care for all life on this planet and will work to keep it healthy.

        Comment by 4amzgkids — May 1, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  5. Can we pretend ‘humanity’ has a plan (that might work)?

    Comment by SocietyVs — April 21, 2011 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

    • Humanity exists – god is imaginary.

      Humanity doesn’t have all the answers to its problems – but the very fact that we can communicate over thousands of miles instantly is evidence that planning happens.

      There is no pretence in humanity planning anything; if humanity didn’t plan you wouldn’t enjoy modern air flight, telecommunications, summer fruits in winter, oil supply… the list is almost endless.

      Not one of these things happened because a prayer was answered – they happened because humans planned, and communicated with each other in order to overcome massive economic, intellectual, language and logistical barriers.

      Comment by misunderstoodranter — April 22, 2011 @ 4:49 am | Reply

  6. tildeb

    Your comment today on another blog prompted me to write to you. I suspect we live in the same province and have the same opinions on education. If you wish, you may contact me at the email address I provided in the email field.

    Comment by Veronica — April 22, 2011 @ 11:21 am | Reply

    • Well, you could have given me some feedback too Veronica. 🙂

      Comment by gabo — April 27, 2011 @ 3:13 pm | Reply

  7. so why pay attention to it? seems a lot of time wasted reacting to this stuff. once again, you can only react against, you can’t be for.

    Comment by zero1ghost — April 22, 2011 @ 4:28 pm | Reply

    • What is “it” in your comment?

      What I am for is Enlightenment values. I am for human rights, human freedoms, and the dignity of personhood. I am for gaining knowledge. I am for respecting what’s true. I am for intellectual integrity and honesty. I am for sound epistemology.

      Religious belief undermines and/or compromises each of these.

      Comment by tildeb — April 22, 2011 @ 5:31 pm | Reply

      • YES, you are for human rights and the dignity of personhood – LOVE it!! So no more abortion!!! Rock on Tildeb.

        Comment by 4amzgkids — May 1, 2011 @ 3:14 pm

      • I know you think of abortion as a great evil and I would hope you would feel strong enough within the secular law to be able to hold yourself to this standard without others demanding that you abort at their say so.

        That would pretty scary, wouldn’t it… having your reproductive desires and wishes over your body compromised by the desires and wishes of others able to enforce their preferences for you to abort enforced by law?

        That should scare you, even if this in effect is exactly what you support doing to others.

        Comment by tildeb — May 1, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  8. Religious belief undermines and/or compromises each of these(tildeb)

    Not necessarily true. What if someone is religious but they only base it on the scripture they choose to cherry pick? You know, like, “love your neighbour”

    Comment by Titfortat — April 23, 2011 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

    • It is necessarily true because in order to accept faith without knowledge to be a virtue, one must undermine/compromise the role of knowledge. Faith in place of knowledge in any other area of life is a vice and we rightly dismiss it as inadequate and untrustworthy.

      This person is cherry picking some scripture to back up what he or she already knows to be moral so he or she is not basing this selection on faith but its antithesis: knowledge. Religious belief tries to undermine exactly this.

      Comment by tildeb — April 23, 2011 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

      • But what about human dignity, human rights, human freedoms? Those dont have to be undermined by certain people and their faith.

        Comment by Titfortat — April 24, 2011 @ 11:48 am

      • You say they don’t have to be undermined – meaning, I think, that religious folk can still agree with why these are of central importance. But what I’m talking about is respect based not on assumption or willing of faith to accept them but on good reasons built out of knowledge. Because faith undermines knowledge, faith undermines human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity and that why when religious authority is exercised we see exactly this in practice. The difference is that in our western systems of government and rule of law, religious authority is subservient to secular. In other words, organized religious belief tries to undermine human rights, human freedoms, and human dignity in order to assert authority but it has forcibly stopped from doing so in practice by secular law. As for the personal, people of religious faith still live under the hierarchy that god rules supreme but have the luxury to determine what that looks like for him or her. This kind of personal interpretation allows for personal authority and autonomy even if these believers claim that authority comes from god. Still, the faith aspect undermines the recognition that the god claim for derived powers is empty.

        Comment by tildeb — April 24, 2011 @ 2:21 pm

  9. OT, tildeb–did you notice that Jerry Coyne changed his rool about not linking to nyms to anonymous blogs? It’s OK now!

    Comment by Diane G. — April 24, 2011 @ 1:49 am | Reply

    • I did, actually. The logging in and out was a pain. And I appreciate your own comments on the issue. For some of us, anonymity is important.

      I’ve been following every comment thread and even quoted one at length here. It is a very important issue and one that has been thrown up in defense of science/religion compatibility on more than a few occasions (if the NCSE doesn’t see it as a problem, how can we say it is?).

      Anyway, thanks for popping by DG.

      Comment by tildeb — April 24, 2011 @ 9:28 am | Reply

      • Looks like you’re doing excellent work over here! Will try to drop in more if I ever catch up on WEIT!

        Comment by Diane G. — April 26, 2011 @ 12:19 am

  10. This may be somewhat relevant- comments from the Pope’s Easter mass:

    “Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn’t a random product of evolution.
    Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point “in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it.”

    “If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature,” he said. “But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason.””

    See? In spite of comments that mainstream religions like catholicism have no problem with evolution, that’s simply not true. Look how evolution is constantly undermined by claims based on faith in favour of some kind of creative divine intervention absolutely bereft of any evidence. This is Intelligent Design by any other name and it is pure unadulterated speculation proposed ONLY to promote faith.

    Religion poisons everything because it undermines respect for knowledge.

    Comment by tildeb — April 24, 2011 @ 2:26 pm | Reply

  11. Voltaire once noted that if god did not exist, it would be necessary for Man to invent him. The same goes for all the other myths and mumbo-jumbo dreamed up by human beings (with their highly-evolved brains). Religion exists purely as a method of social control and the means to subjugate large groups of people to one’s will. Debating the existence of Hell (or heaven) is simply a way for people to hear themselves talk–or in this case a means of diverting us from real problems faced by the society in which we live.

    Comment by Davey — April 25, 2011 @ 6:21 pm | Reply

    • Voltaire can be excused, I think, speaking as he was from the front end of the Enlightenment. We today have no such excuses and although I think it is often a case of justifying some kind of power over others, the liberal use of faith-based beliefs is a sign of a desperate mind trying to control and subjugate to one’s will the way the universe works.

      Comment by tildeb — April 25, 2011 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  12. All of you that don’t believe in God – please tell me what your purpose in life is….why are you here? Where we truly born to suffer, grow old, do nothing but work and pay bills and then die? Please help me understand why you think you are here with no hope for an after life either.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — May 1, 2011 @ 3:18 pm | Reply

    • For the same reason you are, 4ak. If you think your understanding, desires, and beliefs about your life define your purpose, then surely can extend the same courtesy to others. If god has infused you with purpose, then obviously atheists fulfill exactly the same divine purpose.

      Comment by tildeb — May 1, 2011 @ 3:38 pm | Reply

  13. “Religious belief undermines and/or compromises each of these.”

    and yet, ironically, religious belief gave rise to each one of these. esp the enlightenment part as Aquinas is one of the fathers of it. and Galileo.

    Comment by zero1ghost — May 2, 2011 @ 4:42 pm | Reply

    • Oh good grief: Aquinas as a father of the Enlightenment? Please.

      Galileo, certainly… but not for his catholic church: he destroyed its fundamental basis, namely, the legitimacy of Aristotelian physics which underlies its entire metaphysics. He revealed the lie about the nature of things.

      Comment by tildeb — May 2, 2011 @ 6:51 pm | Reply

      • know your history:

        His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy was conceived as a reaction against, or as an agreement with his ideas, particularly in the areas of ethics, natural law and political theory. -Nichols, Aidan (2002). Discovering Aquinas. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 173–174

        Comment by zero1ghost — May 3, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

      • I do. Yes his influence was considerable – and still is. His five proofs remain the center piece for apologists like Lane and Gibberson, but they are insufficient because they are based on faulty premises. But these, at their heart, remain the root of religious metaphysics even though we know that metaphysics has no relation with revealing what’s true in fact. When you claim Aquinas to be a ‘father’ of the Enlightenment, you are quite mistaken because of his reliance on Aristotelian physics for his arguments. The Enlightenment was based on rejecting metaphysics as a way to know about the world. To suggest that Aquinas was somehow a willing promoter – a father – to this movement is absolute bunk.

        Comment by tildeb — May 3, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

  14. note the sentence again: “as Aquinas is one of the fathers of it.” his use of reason and work in ethics helped spawn the enlightenment. thus, he is ONE of the fathers of it. it’s a simple claim, peer-reviewed, and held in high esteem all over the place.

    i think you’re argue’n just to argue. i’ll leave you to it.

    Comment by zero1ghost — May 3, 2011 @ 4:34 pm | Reply

    • And note, this notion of yours is historically absurd when the Enlightenment is known as the age of reason – built upon empiricism and rationalism in competition with and opposed to traditional religious belief! To include Aquinas is like including Augustine and Luther: these powerful historical figures were the central pillars of European religion leading up to the Enlightenment where free thought brought about tremendous change against the pernicious clutches and influence peddling of traditional religion and all their institutions. That’s why we have the American and French revolutions produced by thinkers who attempt to curtail religion in governance.

      I am not writing this “just to argue;” I am doing so because your assertion is flat out wrong.

      Comment by tildeb — May 3, 2011 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

      • so you’re argue’n that the age of reason came from no where? or from only those opposed to the monolithic and corrupt medieval church? not from the religious scholastics and humanists which came to the forefront because of Aquinas. not from the scientist monks experimenting with plants and animals and math (pascal, stifel, and william turner come to mind).

        it’s not flat out wrong, it’s good, honest, and thorough history.

        Comment by zero1ghost — May 4, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

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