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Religion Urgently Needed - Or Not?
September 16, 2001 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Religion Urgently Needed - Or Not? Pat Robertson, that 700 Club freak, proclaims the attack on Tuesday was all our fault. Our pursuit of non-religiously good stuff (i.e, money, sex, power... how ironic) has caused god to 'lift his protection from us'.

Anyone wanna guess when we had god's complete protection? I can't seem to figure it out. I think it was a Thursday back in September 1981.
posted by jcterminal (149 comments total)


 
I remember hearing about this a few days ago when the quoted him saying it was the "homosexuals fault". I (as the news anchors) thought it was out of context. I guess not.
posted by geoff. at 3:46 PM on September 16, 2001


Please note that not all Christians think this way. Although any time is a good time to get God.
posted by Brilliantcrank at 3:48 PM on September 16, 2001


Although any time is a good time to get God.


Yeah, he has a lot of answering to do.
posted by skallas at 3:50 PM on September 16, 2001


Pat Robertson and his fundamentalist followers are no better than the suicide terrorists, Bin Laden, or any other extreme Muslim fuck in the world.

I say death to ALL fundamentalists.
posted by Aikido at 3:50 PM on September 16, 2001


I think death to these people is a little extreme, although I do see the parallel between the Christian fundamentalist thinking and that of the Islamic fundamentalists. I think that these idiots should use some common sense in what they say. Saying that this is a punishment for being such an immoral and secular society is just plain ignorant. I don't know why so many of these fundamentalists see God as a burden rather than a blessing.
posted by rift2001 at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2001


I say death to ALL fundamentalists.

<sadly> It really is a circle, isn't it?
posted by iceberg273 at 3:54 PM on September 16, 2001


</sadly>
posted by iceberg273 at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2001


Pat Robertson and his fundamentalist followers are no better than the suicide terrorists, Bin Laden, or any other extreme Muslim fuck in the world.

Yes indeed. Why, just last week Robertson and Falwell and a phlanx of "700 Club" mercenaries flew over to Iraq and invaded all the hospitals, murdering newborn babies in their cribs and tossing booby-trapped Bibles out of helicopters into the hands of the unsuspecting populace below.

Get a grip. What they said was stupid, but it's just theological BS and isn't even one millionth as bad as what was done to us on Tuesday.
posted by aaron at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2001



It often seems to me that if we act in a way that's consistent with human nature, and with the respect of that nature in everyone, then we end up having a whole lot less explaining to do in the aftermath.

It's when we decide to go on Crusades because someone in Rome has decided that it's the will of God, or when some insane so-called "student" decides to take over an airplane and murder innocents in the name of some fatwah, ordained not by God but by some cowardly rat living in a cave thousands of miles away, that things tend to go horribly wrong for everyone.
posted by clevershark at 3:56 PM on September 16, 2001


Please excuse the speech.

There's no doubt that religion afflicts us all, one way or another. Too bad ... we were just starting to discover our independence and this big ugly mess happens. Civilization was becoming just that and then our history crept up on us again and we reverted - all of us - to the animals that we are ... in an instant.

2000 years ago, a common thread was needed to give people a sense of purpose and to organize. A series of old, varied texts from different cultures (the Jews, Sumerians, Assyrians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks and so on) were put together in the form of the Torah and then later, the Bible. Even later, the Koran. All we've done is regurgitate the same old paranoid discriptions of why the sun sets, why there's stars. More importantly, we found a way to justify death.

Once the stories were put together, a group of people were more passionate than their oppressors. The Romans were toppled by their own size, might and inbreeding. Today, we have have oppressors, we just haven't decided who they actually are. Are they the fools that make up the faceless Taliban or are they fools like Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson? Are they God or Allah or are they Media, CNN and various software giants?

1000 years ago, people with fresh ideas were again crushed, this time by the 'winners' of the race. The Catholic church supressed the dialogue that existed between intellectuals who wanted to advance the human race rather than profit from it. After a long, arduous struggle, mankind evolved from the Dark Ages because it had to. Unfortunately, the grip of the Catholic church to this day is still tight. Many nations of the world, conquered by the Spanish, Portuguese and other catholic nations are overpopulated because of the apparent spiritual cost of abortion and contraceptives. Of course, this apparently is abhorent to an institution that has killed more people in its history than any one individual.

Ultimately, we can't protect ourselves from one class of people that continue to believe in puppet masters controlling our fate, but we can get on with our lives, we can make progress (choose your method) and we certainly can hope that 2000 years from now, someone is not reading our logs here and interpreting them as the "Gospel According to Geeks".

Do everyone a favor: deny religion and join the human race.

I'll end this post by making one simple request: if you're going to believe in anything, believe in yourself.
posted by orpheuswish at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2001


A fundamentalist is a fundamentalist no matter which religion he is pushing. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have a political agenda to push, and they just wrap it in their own brand of Christianity.
posted by bjgeiger at 4:01 PM on September 16, 2001


It really is a circle, isn't it?

Indeed it is... it's a never ending one....

Times like these make me proud to be aetheist. As we speak, Muslims in this country are being killed, and many more innocent people will die. I'm not a Muslim sympathizer, but the ideas vengeful behind religion will always keep the world in an unpeaceful state. I couldn't really care less if all fundamentalists were eradicated. Their arrogance is intolerable- they're worthless, and cleary only have use in the after life. Not in our present one.
posted by Aikido at 4:02 PM on September 16, 2001


Well, we have a Fundamentalist Christian in the White House, who literally believes that the end of the world will take place exactly as prophesied in the Book of Revelation. Fire and brimstone, Armageddon, the whole powder keg. A man who likely believes that he will be serving God if he is the one who lights the fuse on that powder keg.

Since we're not quite there yet, I think it may be a good time to start calling fundamentalists on this idiotic and dangerous way of thinking. Never has the term "self-fulfilling prophesy" carried more weight.
posted by Optamystic at 4:05 PM on September 16, 2001


"What they said was stupid, but it's just theological BS and isn't even one millionth as bad as what was done to us on Tuesday."

even tho i *do* agree with what you said, remember, what happened to us on tuesday once started as only 'theological BS'.
posted by jcterminal at 4:06 PM on September 16, 2001


You sound to me, Aikido, like an Atheist fundamentalist.

Fanatacism is never to be advocated.
posted by Marquis at 4:08 PM on September 16, 2001


not only is bush stupid but he's the harbinger of the apocalypse...that's going to look great on a bumper sticker in 2004...if there is a 2004.
posted by Mick at 4:09 PM on September 16, 2001


Too bad there's no such thing...

Aetheism and religion are two different things, the later using little to no logic the human brain has acquired through millions of years of evolution. Go look up the difference between the two, it may do you some good.
posted by Aikido at 4:11 PM on September 16, 2001


fun·da·men·tal·ism (fnd-mntl-zm)
n.
A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century in opposition to Protestant Liberalism and secularism, insisting on the inerrancy of Scripture.
Adherence to the theology of this movement.


Now... this doesnt say that anyoen who believes in a Allah,/Buddha/Christ etc is a fundamentalist. Only those who are closed minded and only accept their views as the true ones.

Basically what I'm saying is eliminate all "fanatics", not anyone who believes in a religion. And yes, I do see the irony in that... verdad?
posted by Aikido at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2001


even tho i *do* agree with what you said, remember, what happened to us on tuesday once started as only 'theological BS'.

Yes, I know, but someone has to take the active step of acquiring a mass of followers and then twisting the theology to urge their minions out into the streets to smite the infidels. I haven't yet seen any TV preachers doing that, and I don't think I'm going to.

A man who likely believes that he will be serving God if he is the one who lights the fuse on that powder keg.

Bzzt. Wrong. Sorry, but that's a total and complete misrepresentation of Christian beliefs, even fundamentalist beliefs.
posted by aaron at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2001



aaron, don't tell me about fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I was raised as a Fundamentalist Baptist. I went to Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. I personally listened to Falwell espouse these beliefs (and some that were even more moronic, if you can believe that) more times than I care to remember.

Armageddon is a predestined fact for these people. Not only is it unavoidable, it is widely believed to occur in the defense of Israel. Tell me, aaron. What have I misrepresented?
posted by Optamystic at 4:36 PM on September 16, 2001


"I'll end this post by making one simple request: if you're going to believe in anything, believe in yourself."
--orpheuswish

"Not that I condone fascism, or any ism for that matter. Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an ism - he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon: 'I don't believe in Beatles - I just believe in me.'"
--Ferris Bueller
posted by ChrisTN at 4:37 PM on September 16, 2001


orpheuswish, that was probably the most level headed thing ive read here in a long while.
posted by Satapher at 4:39 PM on September 16, 2001


I couldn't really care less if all fundamentalists were eradicated. Their arrogance is intolerable- they're worthless,

I can't decide which group I've heard the most hate-speech from the fundies or the hard atheists. Sorry Aikido, but you can't see the forest from the trees if you think fundementalists should be "eradicated" without taking the role of a zealous unfeeling nut yourself.
posted by skallas at 4:46 PM on September 16, 2001


I couldn't really care less if all fundamentalists were eradicated. Their arrogance is intolerable

"Hi, Kettle? This is Pot. You're black."
posted by ChrisTN at 4:48 PM on September 16, 2001


Do everyone a favor: deny religion and join the human race.

Good advice. Been there, done that, though.
posted by rushmc at 4:50 PM on September 16, 2001


I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.
posted by Danielle_T at 5:00 PM on September 16, 2001


I'm sorry to interrupt here, but this IS metafilter, right?

Y'all are right about RELIGION. it is a damnable detestable thing that has kept us from the one thing it has claimed to give us.

That is a real relationship -let me repeat that, I know you didn't get that the first time. RELATIONSHIP with the Creator of the Universe, the Most High, the Almighty God.

You know what? God has never been confused about himself. He has purposely set things up so that the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, while the simplicity of children is honored.

I could preach here but I won't. Suffice it to say if it wasn't for Jesus Christ I would be dead by now, most likely by my own hand. God is real in my life, no distant Deity who refuses to be pleased-He has set things up so that my job is to believe in the One he has sent, to love Him with all my heart , soul and spirit, and to love my neighbor as myself.
The true Gospel is both simple and deeply profound.....do I have all the answers to life's deepest questions? Of course not! But who am I to arrogantly insist that the one who created the universe answer to me? Give me a break.

I know that my Christian brothers and sisters have gotten stuck sometimes on minutiae-even worse been shipwrecked on the rocks of legalism-while those of you who wonder about this Jesus get such a skewed vision of him I don't blame you for being disgusted with Christianity.
Hey, I used to be in your shoes, I understand....

bunnyfire
posted by bunnyfire at 5:19 PM on September 16, 2001


"Death to all fanatics!"
   -- Malaclypse the Elder
posted by ook at 5:21 PM on September 16, 2001


(sorry. That was in reference to the mini-debate between Marquis and the sadly-misnamed Aikido up there. Now back to your regularly scheduled proselytizing)
posted by ook at 5:24 PM on September 16, 2001


Pat Robertson and his fundamentalist followers are no better than the suicide terrorists, Bin Laden, or any other extreme Muslim ... in the world.

If you think about it, there's no point in being of any religion or philosophy unless you go rigidly, hard-core, as a "fundamentalist." This is the best way religions and philosophies are tried and tested. Now, when some pervert the truth of the religion, and become fundmentalists, that misrepresents the religion.

Let's compare:

True Fudamentalist Muslims:
- Won't let women have jobs; won't let women medically be treated by men... Taliban has highest mortality rate among pregnant women in the world... Women are threatened with death if they don't wear head coverings.
- 72 virgins are offered for copulation for those who "die for Allah."

True Fundamentalist Christians:
- Won't facilitate and oppose utterly homosexuality and abortion.
- Believe everything is under God's control. Hence, anything that happens is either caused by God, or allowed by God. From that... you have the thought that Tuesday's tragedy was the cause of sin.

Christians aren't sending suicide bombers. And if anyone does such a thing, it isn't scriptural. After all, "If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth." (from 1 John)

Do Christian Fundamentalists deserve death like the Muslim fanatics do? Well, technically we ALL do, because we're all sinners. But... from a human standpoint in carrying out justice? You decide!

"With the measure you use, it will be measured to you--and even more."
posted by aaronshaf at 5:27 PM on September 16, 2001


Aetheism and religion are two different things, the later using little to no logic the human brain has acquired through millions of years of evolution.

You rail against fundamentalists for believing that they alone have found truth, for being unwilling to consider that they are wrong; but let me ask you: is there similar consideration on your part? Are you really so certain that God does not exist? How can you know for certain?

Further, and I apologize for saying so, but is there not a certain arrogance in believing that you, in your brief life thus far, have solved beyond all doubt the questions that have puzzled our greatest thinkers for ages? If you were to say "the bulk of the evidence supports atheism", I would support your determination as understandable, though I think it would be incorrect. But you go well beyond that.

"Logic" is biased; When people set out to "prove" that God does not exist, it's not surprising that they often find precisely that. Only a rare few have the courage to begin the inquiry with a truly open mind.

In my opinion, the objective evidence is clearly on the side of God; email me if you're interested in an objective exchange of ideas.

A man who likely believes that he will be serving God if he is the one who lights the fuse on that powder keg.

Optamystic: You're right; fundamentalist Christians do believe in Armageddon.

But that does not mean that John Ashcroft or GW Bush are going to try and nuke the world in the name of the Lord. Sorry, but that's either the result of a deep misunderstanding or just deceptive rhetoric on your part. Sure, you can probably find a few wacko's that believe that, but that does not represent cannon fundamentalist beliefs. And my sister is going to Liberty University; I know whereof I speak.
posted by gd779 at 5:35 PM on September 16, 2001


bunnyfire, well said...

In a world that regards tolerance as the ultimate virtue, I find it disturbing to find people who honestly believe that devout Christians should be killed, or censored in some way. Equally disturbing is that one is not a part of the human race unless they have cast off the "yolk" of religion.
posted by superbird at 5:36 PM on September 16, 2001


This thread is one of the better arguements I've seen for Atheism lately, and no I'm not, not that it matters.

Wanna fight about it?

Fine, you just proved the point why many people believe religion does more harm than good.

This makes more sense to me, anyway.
posted by BarneyFifesBullet at 5:44 PM on September 16, 2001


God has never been confused about himself. He has purposely set things up so that the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, while the simplicity of children is honored.

Wow. What screwed up priorities and values he has! (And your certainty about unknowable things astounds me.)
posted by rushmc at 5:56 PM on September 16, 2001


I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.

That is the most ignorant thing yet posted in this thread.

Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.
posted by rushmc at 5:58 PM on September 16, 2001


Not to cast a stone, there, Bunny, but there's a seriously twisted problem in all that:

If God has has purposely set things up so that the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, while the simplicity of children is honored, then he has built into the universe a system where xenophobia, racism, predjudice and hate are easily nurtured. Unquestioning Faith may be the gateway to the kingdom of God, but it is also the gateway to Nazism, Facism, and any shade of organized insanity you'd care to list - Jim Jones; David Koresh; Heaven's Gate; Our good friends in the Taliban; the Khamir Rouge and others that are sadly too numberous to mention.

To suggest that God WANTS people to act in blind faith and actively foils intelligence suggests that he undermines all of the principles the New Testament stands for - most of which are counter-intuitive to our basic natures. Is that really something you want to lay at his doorstep?
posted by Perigee at 6:01 PM on September 16, 2001


I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.

Amen. If you don't believe in an absolute, you are a relativist.

Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

Prove it.

P.S. gd779 and superbird, well said.
posted by aaronshaf at 6:22 PM on September 16, 2001


"Christians aren't sending suicide bombers."

naah, they just leave them near dumpsters behind abortion clinics.

/me runs off for his asbestoes suit.
posted by jcterminal at 6:25 PM on September 16, 2001


Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

How so?

If we are but random accidents of chance with no particular meaning or purpose, and no intrinsic value apart from being chemical equations and lumps of flesh and bone, then upon what do we rest this so called morality or decency?

If there is no universal 'higher being' then there is no universal basis for what is right and wrong. Certainly it would mean the individual imbibes his or her own sense of value and morality as a human being, but there would be no universal basis upon which all humans everywhere are required to observe.

Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

Again I ask...how so?
posted by Danielle_T at 6:29 PM on September 16, 2001


To suggest that God WANTS people to act in blind faith and actively foils intelligence suggests that he undermines all of the principles the New Testament stands for - most of which are counter-intuitive to our basic natures. Is that really something you want to lay at his doorstep?

Whoa, whoa. Where in the Bible does it say we are totally blind? We have so much already to make decisions off of. We have the testimony of Creation, our conscience, the scriptures, love.

Perhaps you should relate the "unquestionable faith" to the trust we have in God to carry out His will, and to the forgiveness of our sins (for all who believe!).

The Christian lives using what he has been given, to make more, to multiply, to flourish. To share the Light and to bring peace and justice. This includes using reason.

But make no mistake, we are NOT to base our faith on reason. That is impossible, for the odyssey of proving God exists requries omniscience.

In Him,

Aaron

PS jcterminal, those who murder aren't doing a Christian deeds, as in, something Christ would do. Is that particular act condoned or condemned in the Bible? You decide!
posted by aaronshaf at 6:30 PM on September 16, 2001


To suggest that God WANTS people to act in blind faith and actively foils intelligence...

Perigee, with a God who answers prayer, I do not believe with blind faith.
posted by crog at 6:30 PM on September 16, 2001


Excuse my spelling :)
posted by aaronshaf at 6:31 PM on September 16, 2001


hey Aikido, i got yer logic right here.
posted by brigita at 6:37 PM on September 16, 2001


Not responding to the bible, dogma, nor to prayer, folks, just to bunny's statement:

"You know what? God has never been confused about himself. He has purposely set things up so that the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, while the simplicity of children is honored."

I'm definitely Agnostic, but I know I wouldn't want to lay a claim like this one on anybody who's supposed to be running the big cogs. Would you?

Can anyone explain how God doing so - as quoted - can be considered as an asset rather than a liability to the spiritual journey of the human race?
posted by Perigee at 6:40 PM on September 16, 2001


Not responding to the bible, dogma, nor to prayer, folks, just to bunny's statement:

"You know what? God has never been confused about himself. He has purposely set things up so that the intelligence of the intelligent is frustrated, while the simplicity of children is honored."

I'm definitely Agnostic, but I know I wouldn't want to lay a claim like this one on anybody who's supposed to be running the big cogs. Would you?

Can anyone explain how God doing so - as quoted - can be considered as an asset rather than a liability to the spiritual journey of the human race?
posted by Perigee at 6:41 PM on September 16, 2001


(sorry about the dp - my ISP had a seizure...)
posted by Perigee at 6:43 PM on September 16, 2001


Equally disturbing is that one is not a part of the human race unless they have cast off the "yolk" of religion.

Boy, that sure leaves us athiests with egg on our faces!
posted by kindall at 6:54 PM on September 16, 2001


In truth who knows God becomes God

-Mundaka Upanishad, Part 3, Chapter 2

And the Lord said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.

-Exodus 33:20
posted by quercus at 6:56 PM on September 16, 2001


Not to silence anyone, but I find it strange that this thread has many more responses than the similarly named one about what America can actually do to prevent attacks like this one, which also poses extremely urgent moral questions, and ones that are less asked than the ones on this thread.
posted by Charmian at 7:01 PM on September 16, 2001


Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord

Danielle_T: Prove it


Huh? Are you implying (or stating) that only those who believe in some sort of a supreme being are capable, or "allowed," to live their lives via a moral code, or by adhering to a set of values, ethics, and principles? Sorry...as a lifelong atheist, I can tell you that many of us have very strict moral codes regarding right & wrong. It doesn't take an old book of fiction and a belief that it was dictated from god to Luke/Moses/etc to steer my life.

You want proof? First, you'd have to define "morality" and "decency." Whatever the criteria, I'd wager that I am at least as "moral" and/or "decent" than many of your theistic friends.
posted by davidmsc at 7:08 PM on September 16, 2001


Hrmmm, by that standard, I could choose my own Right and Wrong. I could say, hey, I'm an atheist, and I my morals are this: kill all black people and torture all children. Hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Why? Because there is no absolute standard or means of assessing the validity by which we can determine what is really Right and Wrong.

Morality and decency pertain to all things in God's character. Some examples for you: love, joy, peace, kindness, honestly, faithfulness, trustworthyness, steadfastness.

Whatever the criteria, I'd wager that I am at least as "moral" and/or "decent" than many of your theistic friends.

This is an interesting statement to make, because saying "just as" implies that you know we share a common standard as to what is really Right and Wrong.

... many of us have very strict moral codes regarding right & wrong

Adhering to what? If anything is done strictly it is done so to comply as much as possible to an external standard. There can be no true rigidity or strictness in following internal beliefs, as they are recursively chosen for the self.
posted by aaronshaf at 7:18 PM on September 16, 2001


Davidmsc,
Are you implying (or stating) that only those who believe in some sort of a supreme being are capable, or "allowed," to live their lives via a moral code, or by adhering to a set of values, ethics, and principles?

No, I am not implying or stating that at all. I think the past week has indeed shown that people of all "faiths" (and yes atheism is indeed a faith) are universally outraged at what happened last Tuesday. And that obvious fact is why I am asking this question.

What I am asking is why an atheist feels compelled to live their life via this set of moral code, values, ethics or principles.

I am asking an atheist to explain to me why they feel obligated to act morally or decently and why they feel extreme horror, outrage and anger towards those who do not obey the same code of morals, ethics and principals.

In terms of this "proof" (and you might note that not once did I ask you to prove it- I asked you to explain it) it doesn't particularly matter what we define as moral or ethical- the question is why, if there is no supreme, higher being... if we are just random accidents of no particular cosmic significance... if we have no intrinsic value, significance or meaning... if we were not created for a purpose but as the result of coincidence... then WHY do we place upon every human being an obligation to act in accordance with a universal "right" and "wrong" (regardless of what that may or may not entail for the sake of this discussion).

Why?
posted by Danielle_T at 7:19 PM on September 16, 2001


Well said aaronshaf
posted by Danielle_T at 7:20 PM on September 16, 2001


Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

How so?

Philosophers have bandied questions like this about for a long, long time. What is good? What is evil? Philosophers are not satisfied with answers like "good is whatever God says is good" and "evil is whatever God says is evil." Surely God, if He exists, did not give us free will and reason so we could simply do what He says because He said to.

One solution to this problem that is widely accepted among the non-religious is Kant's categorical imperative, which basically says that an action's goodness (or lack thereof) can be judged by imagining what the world would be like if it was universal. For example, it is often to your short-term selfish advantage to lie. However, if everyone lied when it was to their short-term selfish advantage, it would be impossible to trust anyone, which would obviously undermine civilization as we know it. Thus, if we value civilization greater than our short-term selfish advantage, we say that it is better to tell the truth, that telling the truth is "good" and that telling lies is "bad."

Kant's categorical imperative is essentially a secular version of the Golden Rule familiar to Christians, except that instead of being phrased as a command ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- because I say so, that's why!") it leads you to discover the underlying purpose of a moral system: to allow us to live together and cooperate, rather than forcing each of us to fend for ourselves. The value of cooperation is enormous and obvious, and anyone who attempts to undermine it is an enemy to civilization.

Of course, if you believe that a single Book has all the answers you will ever need, then there is no reason to educate yourself on matters of philosophy, and most Christians do in fact seem to be woefully ignorant of things they could learn in a philosophy survey course.
posted by kindall at 7:25 PM on September 16, 2001


Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

Prove it.


I do. Every day, in the way I choose to live my life.
posted by rushmc at 7:31 PM on September 16, 2001


Don't worry, Charmian, you aren't going to silence anyone. People seem much more interested in talking about how much more right they are than anyone else is, than in seeking constuctive solutions.

And now it's my turn :)

If there is no universal 'higher being' then there is no universal basis for what is right and wrong. [...] there would be no universal basis upon which all humans everywhere are required to observe.

I realize there's almost no point in my asking this, but what makes you think there is a universal morality we're all "required" to observe? Wishful thinking.
posted by ook at 7:33 PM on September 16, 2001


However, if everyone lied when it was to their short-term selfish advantage, it would be impossible to trust anyone, which would obviously undermine civilization as we know it

Who ever said that it is "right" to be trustworthy and "wrong" to be untrustworthy?

Interestingly enough Kant was a theist. Whilst he argued in Critique of Practical Reason that pure reason was unable to establish God's existence, he also argued that there was an area of human experience that demanded it.

"Two things fill my mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and more intensely the reflection dwells on them, the starry heaves above and the moral law withing"- Immanuel Kant
posted by Danielle_T at 7:35 PM on September 16, 2001


But make no mistake, we are NOT to base our faith on reason. That is impossible, for the odyssey of proving God exists requires omniscience.

I agree, yet I disagree. Reason alone is not capable of "proving" the existence of God, if by proving you mean "proving beyond all doubt". But when you stop to think about it, very few things can be proven beyond all doubt.

That does not mean that we must blindly accept whatever faith we happen to hear of first. God created the mind, and gave us the ability to reason. That would be wasted if he had not intended for us to use it. As Paul said, "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good." (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

The problem is, most people twist and pervert "logic", using it as a justification for whatever they want to believe. Further, (as much as I personally dislike this idea), human beings seem to need something more than just mental reasons to sustain them; the life of the mind, without more, leaves one empty in the end.

That's why the Christian faith, properly understood, is not about rules or laws or books; it's about a personal relationship with God.

most Christians do in fact seem to be woefully ignorant of things they could learn in a philosophy survey course.

Kindall: Why exactly, is "because God said so" an insufficient answer?
posted by gd779 at 7:36 PM on September 16, 2001


Ook,

That is the point I am trying to ask. What does make us think there is a universal mortality we are all required to observe?
posted by Danielle_T at 7:38 PM on September 16, 2001


and yes atheism is indeed a faith

Sorry, but it's almost impossible to even have a dialogue with people who make ignorant statements like this (not attacking you personally, whoever said this, just your reasoning). I realize that this is the party line drilled into people by fundamentalists, whom I can only conclude are so insecure about the foundations of their "faith" that they feel they must level the playing field by reducing the other side's position to mere "faith;" however, by any reasonable definition, it seems to me, "faith" must be defined as a belief IN something without evidence. To twist it around to somehow mean a lack of belief in something without evidence is a perversion of the etymology.
posted by rushmc at 7:41 PM on September 16, 2001


Kindall: Why exactly, is "because God said so" an insufficient answer?

Ooh, ooh, let me!

Because there IS no god to say anything; thus, any morality we are to have, we must discover or invent for ourselves.
posted by rushmc at 7:43 PM on September 16, 2001


Whilst he argued in Critique of Practical Reason that pure reason was unable to establish God's existence, he also argued that there was an area of human experience that demanded it.

And what, would you say, would this be? Because it is certainly not a part of MY experience as a human, nor have I heard any persuasive examples ever related to me thus far by anyone else.
posted by rushmc at 7:45 PM on September 16, 2001


Sorry, but it's almost impossible to even have a dialogue with people who make ignorant statements

Followed soon after by

by any reasonable definition, it seems to me, "faith" must be defined as a belief IN something without evidence

Are you serious?

Who decided faith stopped meaning an active belief in something (which you yourself emphasised with the 'IN') and added a "without evidence" tacked on the end.

My faith is based on much evidence. Just as you would claim yours is.

My comment that atheism is indeed a faith simply means that an atheist actively believes there is no god, a theist actively believes that there is a God.
posted by Danielle_T at 7:51 PM on September 16, 2001


remember kids, where faith starts, thinking stops.


"Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

Prove it.

I do. Every day, in the way I choose to live my life."


funny. so do i. and i don't need a make believe character to tell me what's right and what's wrong.

so there's your proof. you don't need god to make the right choice.
posted by jcterminal at 7:54 PM on September 16, 2001


if we have no intrinsic value, significance or meaning... if we were not created for a purpose but as the result of coincidence... then WHY do we place upon every human being an obligation to act in accordance with a universal "right" and "wrong"

That was a much more cogent post than the one I (rather snidely) responded to earlier (apologies. Temper, temper.) and I think I better understand what you're saying, now.

Kindall's mini-philosophy lesson is an excellent answer to this question. But a simpler one might be, just:

Because it helps.

Life is just plain easier when we're nice to each other than when we run around bopping each other over the head.

There may or may not be a god up there keeping score; it doesn't particularly matter to me. (Figger if he wants me to know, he'll tell me; till then I'll just carry on.) But whether there is or there isn't, s/he doesn't appear to be taking much of an active interest in refereeing at the moment -- the only ones who can tell us whether things are working or not is each other.

Personally, I don't think you need to posit a god in order for human life to have intrinsic value. Aren't we worthwhile on our own, without some "higher being" in charge? Even if life is just a coincidence or cosmic accident, I don't see how that makes it any less worthwhile.

Get this straight though: there ain't no universal moral law. Every religion, every culture, every nation follows a different "moral code," and except for the obvious bits, like don't go bopping each other over the head, it isn't nice, there isn't a whole lot of overlap between them.

And nobody should pretend to ask people to adhere to a universal moral code. Especially in America -- this is the heart of cultural relativism, innit? People are asked to adhere to the rule of law, the best parts of which are made by looking at what did and didn't work in the past, and the worst bits of which are made up of political expediency and of the stability of the community. Fanatics of all stripes (including the atheists) all claim to have all the answers. That's why we call them fanatics.

The rest of us just carry on, trying not to bop each other over the head.

I'm preaching. And worse yet I'm doing it in a down-home accent, which makes it all the more repugnant. So I'll stop now.
posted by ook at 7:58 PM on September 16, 2001


To the Christians on MeFi:

I have many Atheist friends (I am a Christian), and can say that they are all very intelligent, thoughtful, and moral people. It therefore seems very patronizing to lecture them (or anyone else) on the validity of their beliefs. And to argue with them by throwing around bytes of Scripture or Biblical concepts is impotent at best. It only serves to further alienate them from your point of view and reinforce the stereotype that Christians are close-minded bigots. Please remember that Christ reached out to people with whom He had established a relationship or were seeking after him (save Paul). He reserved His harshest words for the self-righteous religious establishment of His day.

To the Atheists/Agnostics on MeFi:

The characterization of Christians on this thread and others seems to be one of irrational loudmouthed simpletons. I can understand that this impression is not without merit, given the consistent outbursts of people like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. However, these characterizations are merely straw men. There are plenty of examples of rational Christians with compelling arguments in defense of their faith. If you are interested in reading a viewpoint you may have not considered before, I recommend Mere Christianity and
The Problem of Pain
by C.S. Lewis. The latter is particularly relevant in light of the WTC tragedy.

Respectfully,
posted by gazingus at 8:05 PM on September 16, 2001


What Kant really meant, although he made sure we'd have to work hard to get it, was no more than Hillel's enduring injunction, the basis of Judaism and Christianity, which is "Do not do unto others what you would not have done unto you".
Notice how different this is from "Do unto others what you would wish them to do unto you".
This is the Ten Commandments in a nutshell - unless you actually enjoy your neighbour coveting your ass - and Kant's categorical imperative is an enduring, philosophical elaboration of it.
"The rest", said Hillel, "is commentary. Go and study".
Perhaps the best modern interpretation of this fundamental insight is John Rawls's political philosophy.

Suffice it to say that if it was followed universally there would have been no WTC massacre or, indeed, any other wilful murder.

(This is a thread to be remembered. Problems are always better attacked from above and philosophy is still the best way to go about it)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:11 PM on September 16, 2001


rushmc seems to have misconstrued my post. My fault, because I quoted the wrong portion of kindall's statement:

Philosophers are not satisfied with answers like "good is whatever God says is good" and "evil is whatever God says is evil."

... is what I should have posted. Why, then, is "because God said so" insufficient to philosophers?
posted by gd779 at 8:12 PM on September 16, 2001


you say you're an atheist and i say i'm a theist
you say logic and i say gnostic
atheist, theist, logic, gnostic
let's call the whole thing off.
posted by brigita at 8:16 PM on September 16, 2001


Well said, gazingus. Well said.
posted by gd779 at 8:21 PM on September 16, 2001


My faith is based on much evidence. Just as you would claim yours is.

Wrong on both counts.
posted by rushmc at 8:22 PM on September 16, 2001


Who ever said that it is "right" to be trustworthy and "wrong" to be untrustworthy?

It follows from the fact that one upholds civilization, which benefits you, whereas the other tears it down, which does not. Which I just got done explaining in the very message you are replying to.

Kindall: Why exactly, is "because God said so" an insufficient answer?

"An invisible superman, of whom there is absolutely no evidence, said so, or else in the afterlife, of which there is absolutely no evidence, he will send you to a place of everlasting torment, of which there is also absolutely no evidence." In what way is this not insufficient?
posted by kindall at 8:24 PM on September 16, 2001


bleah. italics-be-gone.
posted by kindall at 8:25 PM on September 16, 2001


My comment that atheism is indeed a faith simply means that an atheist actively believes there is no god, a theist actively believes that there is a God.

There are many definitions of "atheist," ranging from skeptic ("convince me") to agnostic ("there's no way to know one way or the other") to hard atheist ("God does not exist, I'm sure of it"). The word simply means "without god," and that is the sense of it I was responding to.
posted by rushmc at 8:25 PM on September 16, 2001


so there's your proof. you don't need god to make the right choice.

Haha, well there's a "right" there, right in front of your face. The RIGHT choice means the choice that God would make. Saying that is like saying, I don't need an absolute to make a decision absolutely right. Hehe.

To the above remarks, we have free-will and "God says so" so that we may choose God. No, free-will was not given to us so that we may choose our own morals, but so that we may choose the right morals, given by God. Yes, I'm sorry, I know this will hurt, but humans aren't original. Everythings that has been, has already been, etc. There is no true creativity, except from the Creator!

Kant's categorical imperative is essentially a secular version of the Golden Rule familiar to Christians, except that instead of being phrased as a command ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto you -- because I say so, that's why!") it leads you to discover the underlying purpose of a moral system: to allow us to live together and cooperate, rather than forcing each of us to fend for ourselves.

You just assume absolutes... the absolutes that "cooperation" and "living together" and even that there is a "purpose to moral system"... Hrm... could I call this peace... is this an absolute? YES! It is.
posted by aaronshaf at 8:28 PM on September 16, 2001


Philosophers are not satisfied with answers like "good is whatever God says is good" and "evil is whatever God says is evil."

... is what I should have posted. Why, then, is "because God said so" insufficient to philosophers?


Didn't mean to misconstrue. My response to your reformulation is twofold:

A) Which knowledge is better, something you assume and mimic because someone told it to you, or something you learn for yourself, through experience and reason? I would rather discover good for myself, so that I might understand it in some meaningful way, rather than just carry around a mental list with "Good" and "Bad" columns based on what I'd been told things were.

B) Where is the proof that God is good? And if he is not good, why should we accept his definition of what is good?
posted by rushmc at 8:34 PM on September 16, 2001


If we are but random accidents of chance with no particular meaning or purpose, and no intrinsic value apart from being chemical equations and lumps of flesh and bone, then upon what do we rest this so called morality or decency?

speaking/writing as one who bounces between agnosticism, existentialism & paganism (it's a long story), what I rest my "morality" (see davidmsc's post above - nicely put, david) on is a simple, simple thing, which requires no god or religion, but which is also encoded into many religions, tho not often followed: do unto others as you would have done unto you.

it's a good rule for a civil society, and it's based on no value but consiousness, and one's desire to live a peaceful, happy life.

nor is it incompatible with religious belief...except when one's religion says that you have to treat other people in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated. which is when I want to tell religious folks to back the heck off.

and when I hit preview, I realized a bunch of other people were saying essentially what I wanted to say, and quoting Kant, no less.
posted by epersonae at 8:35 PM on September 16, 2001


The RIGHT choice means the choice that God would make...free-will was not given to us so that we may choose our own morals, but so that we may choose the right morals, given by God...humans aren't original. Everythings that has been, has already been, etc. There is no true creativity, except from the Creator!

Just a series of outrageous contentions without any objective support whatesoever. Nothing to see here, move along...
posted by rushmc at 8:36 PM on September 16, 2001


No, free-will was not given to us so that we may choose our own morals, but so that we may choose the right morals, given by God.

Then it is not very free. "You may make whatever choice you like, but if you make the wrong one you will burn in Hell for all eternity" is morally equivalent to "You have the choice between flying this plane to Turkey or not, but if you do not, I will kill all the passengers." It is a forced choice and it makes your God a terrorist. Are you absolutely sure you want to do this?
posted by kindall at 8:41 PM on September 16, 2001


*Sigh*

Well if anyone is interested, check the story of Jesus out.
posted by aaronshaf at 8:42 PM on September 16, 2001


i've heard Hell defined simply as a place where God isn't. the argument is that if you've chosen "not-God" your whole life, then a God-free afterlife shouldn't be such a huge difference.

then again, as a New Testament Xian, i think that God (with His infinite capacity for love and all that nice stuff) wants us to choose Him and will give everyone a last chance, if they want it.

wouldn't it be nice if we all got to be right?
posted by brigita at 8:47 PM on September 16, 2001


The consequence of Hell does not negate the freedom of choice, but rather, the consequence of free-will can be a factor in determining what it is a better choice. Ideally, the right choice for God is made in love, not out of fear of Hell (Jesus solves this problem, by taking away that fear, and giving me liberty to love freely).

Religion is about Heaven and Hell--it's about getting to God. Jesus is about God getting to man.
posted by aaronshaf at 8:48 PM on September 16, 2001


And Fundamentalism is getting on my nerves.
posted by Optamystic at 8:50 PM on September 16, 2001


Please to not be lumping in us agnostics in with the atheists. We have enough issues as is. :)
posted by owillis at 8:51 PM on September 16, 2001


All this "evil" going around has to make an atheist wonder, "is there really a Right and a Wrong?"
posted by aaronshaf at 8:54 PM on September 16, 2001


A quick correction on what someone said earlier, just to be fair: Dubya unquestionably pandered to the religious right in the 2000 election primaries (his favorite philosopher is Jesus, favorite book is the Bible, etc., when his wife's is Dostoyevsky and she was the original Methodist in the family, if I remember correctly). But he's actually a conservative Methodist, or specifically a member of the United Methodist Church. The latter are not identified anywhere as being fundamentalist, even if the theology in the church is quite diverse - e.g., Hillary Clinton is a liberal and at-times extremely active member of the same church. You're close, but no cigar.

For the record: The white UMC members are said to have voted more as a bloc for Bush in conservative areas (the rural and suburban Deep South, for one) than conservative evangelicals or fundamentalists.
posted by raysmj at 8:56 PM on September 16, 2001


...or us Xians with the Fundies.

"hello, my name is brigita and i'm a cafeteria Catholic."

"hello, brigita..."
posted by brigita at 8:58 PM on September 16, 2001


Danielle_T said: That is the point I am trying to ask. What does make us think there is a universal morality we are all required to observe?

I must be missing your point. I don' t happen to think there's a universal morality (as I've probably already made clear). The rules that seem "obvious" are so only because they function so immediately in terms of self-interest: do-unto-others (or Hillel's far better don't-do-unto-others -- thx, miguel) is almost as simple a self-reinforcing lesson as don't-touch-that-fire; you don't need a universal moral law to make it work. If you hit the kid in the playground, he's probably going to hit back. If you crash a plane into a building... well...

Many people obviously do believe in a universal moral law. (I bet aaronschaf does. :) Problem is, once they decide they've got it, some of them seem more interested in stuffing it down other peoples' throats than in settling down and following it.

I think that may be most of it, right there. X doesn't want Y to follow a universal moral law. X wants Y to act like X does, and the easiest way of doing that is by proclaiming it a Universal Moral Law. The second-easiest way to do it is by beating the cr*p out of Y and telling him it's for his own good.

May be a good thing, in the long view of civilization-building: maybe the only way to build up a consensus on what's right and wrong is for a whole lot of X's and Y's to battle it out, winner take all. Got to admit, history looks a lot like that, from a certain point of view.
posted by ook at 9:00 PM on September 16, 2001


Do unto others... doesn't seem self-serving to me. Charity, for instance, is that part of it?

I think the whole point of the saying is don't be self-serving. That was Christ's message, anyway.

Still, I think you're method for evaluating one's own actions (out of self-interest) presents part of the absolute: what in fact is good for the self.
posted by aaronshaf at 9:14 PM on September 16, 2001


2000 years...and no new God? Scandalous!
posted by quercus at 9:15 PM on September 16, 2001


You pop out for half an hour and somehow free-will enters the equation *lol*

Anyway a few quick points from the posts above-

1) Well if anyone is interested, check the story of Jesus out

Couldn't have said it better myself aaronschaf.

Perhaps some of the bible-toting and quoting politicians might have be better served in looking at what the Bible does actually say about the one who has conquered evil rather than self importantly proclaiming they are going to eradicate evil from the world themselves.


2) Wrong on both counts
Isn't it rather arrogant to claim that my faith is not based on much evidence when you don't know me, my faith, or the evidence I am speaking of?


3) An agnostic is not an atheist.

4) Lets be careful where we go with the "morality is what is best for the community" line shall we folks? If morality is what is best for the community there it isn't a far stretch for someone to justify (for example) the Holocaust in what was considered to be the long term interests of the German community... or to justify what happened last Tuesday in what was considered (by some) to be the long-term interest of the Islamic community. (Disclaimer: I completely disagree with both these propositions personally)
posted by Danielle_T at 9:24 PM on September 16, 2001


Just a series of outrageous contentions without any objective support whatesoever. Nothing to see here, move along...

Kind of like watching kids boot a stolen kickball back and forth, isn't it rushmc? Fun to watch at first, but after a while you want to go back inside with the rest of the adults and see what's on ESPN2 :)

My invisible magical overlord is tougher and cooler than yours! So there!
posted by UncleFes at 9:29 PM on September 16, 2001


Well the question seems to be why are you here kicking the ball around with us kids UncleFes?
posted by Danielle_T at 9:35 PM on September 16, 2001


Isn't it rather arrogant to claim that my faith is not based on much evidence when you don't know me, my faith, or the evidence I am speaking of?

Not really, since the commonly accepted definition of "faith" does not allow it to be based on "evidence." "Faith begins where reason ends," and all that rot. If you are using some idiosyncratic definition that differs from the common one...well, I'm not conversant with your dictionary. Every religious person I've ever discussed it with has ultimately had no choice but to admit that their faith was not based on reason or evidence. They do claim, of course, that it transcends those limited, petty concerns.

An agnostic is not an atheist.

I disagree. If "atheist" means "without god," it seems clear to me that an agnostic worldview is "without god" and therefore fits within that definition. But let us not argue semantics. I think we each know what the other means.
posted by rushmc at 9:40 PM on September 16, 2001


Tell me, aaron. What have I misrepresented?

That George W. Bush is currently rubbing his hands together with glee at his chance to "serve God" by launching some sort of Christian Jihad with the express intention of bringing on Armegeddon. That is EXACTLY what you have misrepresented, Opti.
posted by aaron at 9:43 PM on September 16, 2001



I agree, semantics are at times trivial. At other times they are important in understanding another person's point of view.

I disgaree with you on the agnoistic/atheistic front but you are right- it's not worth arguing over.

However, I disagree with your definition of faith rather strongly.

Perhaps to help me understand your POV you could tell me what verb you would you give to the active practice of your atheistic beliefs?
posted by Danielle_T at 10:05 PM on September 16, 2001


Well the question seems to be why are you here kicking the ball around with us kids UncleFes?

No kicking, just watching... and I think the Fall Bashos are on ESPN2 in like two minutes...

*back door slams*
posted by UncleFes at 10:05 PM on September 16, 2001


Can we bring Calvinism into the debate now, pleeeeeze?
posted by aaron at 10:05 PM on September 16, 2001


Perhaps to help me understand your POV you could tell me what verb you would you give to the active practice of your atheistic beliefs?

reason.
posted by UncleFes at 10:07 PM on September 16, 2001


That last comment was from a little pointy head peeking out the back door, which abruptly closed again right after :)

That fella is such a sucker...
posted by UncleFes at 10:11 PM on September 16, 2001


Morality and decency is in no way dependent upon a belief in an invisible overlord.

Morality and decency is really just the ability to fit into the society in which you live. Humans are social creatures, and usually attempt to find their place and fit in. Conflicts will occur of course, but usually people seek to avoid them when possible.

And the majority of people have a certain degree of empathy and so they will treat others the way they want to be treated.

And a little punitive force and threat of economic consequences never hurt anything either. I may rather tempted to sneak away with a new Britney CD when I'm at the mall but its really not worth the potential risk of jail time. My neighbors don't like each other very much but they seem to refrain from daily bonkings upon the head because that might lower property values.

No one will ever be restrained by the fear of Santa Claus bringing them coal. The only effect religion has is to cause someone to either have a bit of guilt about what they've done or to take a few minutes to devise a way that their sin was actually the will of God.
posted by pandaharma at 10:30 PM on September 16, 2001


That George W. Bush is currently rubbing his hands together with glee at his chance to "serve God" by launching some sort of Christian Jihad with the express intention of bringing on Armegeddon. That is EXACTLY what you have misrepresented, Opti.

Nah, Cheney's more the gleeful hand-rubbing and chop-licking type. George is just trying to be "Presidential". I'm not sure which one of these guys scares me more.

Oh, and I don't give a damn whether Armageddon is his express intention or not. I never said it was. I stated that Fundamentalist Christians believe that Armageddon is a predetermined event. He is a self-identified Fundie. So, if you follow the logic, he believes that this is going to happen, and he is one of the few people in the world with the power to bring it about. Those two factors are not doing much for my sleep, these days.
posted by Optamystic at 10:34 PM on September 16, 2001


Jesus Fucking Christ on a pogo-stick! Has this turned into Bizarro-Metafilter while I was away?

First off, as an agnostic, and for most intents, and atheist, I'll say that some of the atheists on this thread are doing themselves no favors by being just as inflammatory and irrational as those they claim to oppose. I know plenty of rational, thoughtful people of faith, and more than a few reactionary, ideological atheists.

That said, in response to those actually thoughtfully questioning the existence of an atheistic ethic or morality, I think the answers for me, are pretty simple. I look at human history, art, literature, philosophy, interpersonal relations, and so on. The world around me. I see what works, and what doesn't, as far as trying to avoid pain, suffering, and death(which we don't need any God to tell us are "bad things." Just living through this week ought to be enough for most.) And then I do my best to follow that. In the end, I think most of the Sermon on the Mount is wonderful. But, I just came to those same conclusions in a different way than a Christian might. I came to them myself by living and learning in the world.

And yes, having no otherworldly source, they are mutable, and constantly under revision, but I think that's a good thing. Everything else is in flux... identity, society, philosophy, nature, and so on, so why should moral conduct be an exception? As I grow and change, and those other things do as well, my moral outlook evolves to fit the situation I'm living in, and the knowledge I have. True, there are some proscriptions that are basically hard-and-fast... I'd compare those to conserved genes in the evolutionary model. Things like "thou shalt not kill" and "tell the truth" are pretty well-tested and established(if not necessarily followed) in human affairs. I don't need to reinvent the wheel here. But the fact that there are hypothetical and real exceptions to even the most sacred rules tells me that an absolutist approach just doesn't work in the complex real world of human interaction.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

"I have my own stern claims and perfect circle. It denies the name of duty to many offices that are called duties. But if I can discharge its debts, it enables me to dispense with the popular code. If any one imagines that this law is lax, let him keep its commandment one day."

I think that's a pretty good summation of a non-theist ethic, for me anyway.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:16 PM on September 16, 2001


Even if there is a god. One doesn't have to agree with how he's handled anything. I personally would have made, on a regular basis, better judgements than the Judeo Christian god ever has.

I've always thought, if all it takes to get into heaven is to believe that Jesus died on the cross, then that's a pretty good shoe-in for dangerous lunatics such as Robertson, Falwell et al. Think of the boring population of heaven people! The sheer numbers of NASCAR fanatics, WalMart greeters, I'd so much gladly spend eternity in hell with Carl Sagan, Jacob Bronowski, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking any old time. I mean shit, how do we know Hitler didn't accept old Jesus into his heart before he did himself in?

Furthermore, if there is this thing of supernatural forces of good and evil. Good being god. Evil being Satan. Satan must really either be stupid, ignorant, illiterate or powerless. Satan certainly has had the time to read Revelation. Does he not believe it? Knowing full well he's a supernatural being himself, like god--indeed spawned from god himself? He's seen god's power first hand unlike us mortals. Has he not read it? Does he not have the power to read the mortal printed page? If so, how then can he help compose death metal music?

Religion is superstitious quackery.
posted by crasspastor at 11:17 PM on September 16, 2001


Can we bring Calvinism into the debate now, pleeeeeze?

Why, that's Aaronism! ;)
posted by kindall at 11:18 PM on September 16, 2001


Also, a couple of other things. Religious people act like atheists and agnostics are simply not aware of Jesus, or Mohammed, or whoever they are championing.

Athei/nostics are generally(with exceptions, of course) a fairly thoughtful and open-minded bunch. Myself, I know the Bible better than probably 90% of Christians, and I've taken stabs at reading most other major religious texts, with varying success and understanding. My agnosticism, at any rate, arose from a quest for understanding.

A couple of links...

An interesting(and I would say, representative) atheist's response to the events of this week.

Here's a pretty good overview of the freethinker / nontheistic position.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:33 PM on September 16, 2001


Myself, I know the Bible better than probably 90% of Christians

Many of us were once Christians, in fact. I was baptized at the age of 13.
posted by kindall at 11:39 PM on September 16, 2001


Me too. Raised Presbyterian, but pretty much given the choice to think and believe as I pleased, luckily.
posted by jdunn_entropy at 11:43 PM on September 16, 2001



Jesus Fucking Christ on a pogo-stick! Has this turned into Bizarro-Metafilter while I was away?

<tangent>
Nope. MeFi has been bizarro for way too long now. I just spent an hour searching for an interesting site about Ted Nelson, Vannevar Bush, or Doug Englebart in the hopes of posting something that was vaguely web related. Unfortunately, I didn't find anything that grabbed my attention. Myself, I'm sick of public grieving, demonstrations of patriotism, and the latest WTC story. I'm not saying that people should stop doing it just that I'm not very interested in it.

To cut the flames down a little let me explain why. I distrust public collective grief in the same way I distrust public collective prayer, a distrust that harkens back to my childhood christianity. Part of it seems geniune but a good portion seems selfish and hollow. It seems especially hollow when the media are using it as a tool. You only have to think back to the media frenzy around Princess Diana, Columbine, or John Jr. to see a pattern. To learn of one person's death is a tragedy. The death of 5000 people is also a tragedy. However, I'm not interested in letting some news anchor or politician exploit my reaction to that tragedy.

I might have put this in MetaTalk but I'm not really trying to change other people's behavior here. I just wanted to express my frustation.
</tangent>
posted by rdr at 12:25 AM on September 17, 2001


[I know I came into this late]

I'm somewhat offended by a comment earlier that human life should have no meaning to an atheist. I haven't permanently set myself in the atheist camp but I frequently find myself leaning that way. I don't necessarily believe that there is a higher being (note that for me personally, this is not absolute). But where a religious person can console themselves by thinking that the innocent people killed in this tragedy are now enjoying some sort of afterlife, I am very doubtful of this. This saddens me and even makes me wish I could convince myself that these 5000 people are living in Heaven or some version of it. If you do not believe in a higher being (and thus, an afterlife) then living in the here and now is extremely important and I personally seem to be feeling this loss as heavily as my religious roommates (for the record, one jewish and one christian).

Additionally, the idea that morals have to be necessarily tied to the belief in a higher power seems illogical. Major religions disagree on a number of points but (as someone noted above) all seem to concur on basic ideas and practice such as do unto others. Simply saying that this is right because Jesus said it (or any other religious figures, being raised Catholic, Jesus is the one I use for examples) is silly - would it not be a good way to live if he had neglected to mention it?

If you have faith in a higher being, that is great for you. If it helps you get through the day or makes your life fuller, I'm all for it. However, when you disregard my beliefs (or lack thereof) or when you try to impose your belief on me or any other person it is not only condescending, but it unnecessary - I don't need anyone else to save my soul.
posted by Caz721 at 12:58 AM on September 17, 2001


To the atheists and agnostics on this thread: Just out of curiosity....if you just happened to be God (oh come on, you DO have an imagination, right?) tell us how you would handle people in the different categories represented on this thread-bearing in mind that as God you would be all-powerful, perfect in holiness, justice and mercy, full of grace and truth, and so on....what would your attitude be to Falwell, for example? to his detractors? his defenders? to the atheists and agnostics on this thread? etc etc...

Please take this seriously and give this some thought. I am not trying to be funny.
posted by bunnyfire at 2:42 AM on September 17, 2001


> if you just happened to be God...

I would turn everyone into darling handcrafted collectible miniatures.
posted by pracowity at 3:15 AM on September 17, 2001


bunnyfire: if you just happened to be God ...what would your attitude [be]?

I wouldn't care, and I wouldn't act, because I was perfect (and this is hypothetical how? :) ). I think such judgments are like layers of an onion. You can keep peeling back more and more layers, but inside there isn't some kernel or center to be found at long last. Rather, the onion was nothing but layers, all it ever was were layers. Peel away the layers, and the onion ceases to exist.

What I mean by that analogy is that it always seems, with enough reflection, that you can elevate your mind to a new perspective, taking a wider view of things and understanding a "bigger" picture- becoming for example more compassionate, understanding, or forgiving (Ex.: hating a child abuser, then understanding the abuse in his own childhood that made him that way, but then understanding that he's still responsible for his actions and knows he's doing wrong, but then understanding that even the best human beings are all too often trapped in emotional cycles they don't fully understand or desire, and on and on it goes).

But what if you did this to perfection, to its infinite boundary? Would you as a God ever find an "ultimate" level or perspective, a final center around which the onion was layered, or would you step outside all perspective itself- that is, would you become the nothingness of the onion with no layers? What would that be like- could you ever care about anything, or would you observe all in a state of infinitely compassionless yet compassionate bliss? I swear, this is making perfect sense to me, but as I re-read it, it sounds like a pot-fueled rambling, which it ISN'T thank-you-very-much. :)

What I do know is that I am not a God (no, seriously!), and right now I don't really "hate" Falwell or the people who flew those fateful planes (although both annoy me, in a morality-as-game-theory kind of way), and in many ways see little difference between them and some of my athiest and thiest compadres here at MeFi. Truth be told, I don't even "care" about the loss of life in the WTC- it saddens me, in that it accomplishes nothing, that it seems without point or purpose. Still, death is not an interruption of life; rather, life is an interruption in the otherwise unceasing void of non-existence. Life begins and ends always and everywhere, and the circumstances of birth and death don't enthrall me. Sometimes, though, I become too attached to things in between; I define my "self" in terms of an argument or stance (here on MeFi in particular), or in opposition or attunement to an Other, or as the pleasure or pain felt from an immediate stimulus. I feel sad afterwards when I do that, on reflection, but I still continue in this cycle I don't fully understand and desire, hoping someday I can step outside of that pattern. I hope you can understand and forgive that part of me, too. :)

Of course, maybe I'm just really fawkin' weird....
posted by hincandenza at 4:00 AM on September 17, 2001



I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.
posted by Danielle_T at 5:00 PM PST on September 16


That is an awfully cynic comment to make 5 days after religious fundamentalists have murdered thousands of human beings because they thought it good in their absolute view on the world.

-cB
posted by Berend at 4:11 AM on September 17, 2001


Damn, hincandenza. That was, simultaneously, the trippiest and the sanest thing I've read in quite a while. I owe you another cold one.

Attention, wankers: Yes, I used "trippiest" as an adverb. I'm a bit of a hippie. Piss off.
posted by Optamystic at 4:35 AM on September 17, 2001


er, adjective. I'm a bit of a drunk hippie.
posted by Optamystic at 5:27 AM on September 17, 2001


> I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist
> would have a moral or ethical problem with what
> happened last Tuesday.

That sounds like the sort of thing Tuesday's pilots believed: that they were absolutely right, that everyone else must be immoral, and that their particular kind of believer was assured eternity with God.

Is Jesus your co-pilot?
posted by pracowity at 5:40 AM on September 17, 2001


er, adjective. I'm a bit of a drunk hippie.

Well, I was gonna say...:)

Anyway, everyone knows God is as real as you think he is. He has, somewhat unsurprisingly, all of the characteristics you think he has. And he loves you as much as you think he does.

So wassa problem?
posted by Opus Dark at 5:50 AM on September 17, 2001


Bun, if I were God, I would simply not leave any of this junk to question.

I wouldn't Put a tree of life somewhere I didn't want it messed with, any more than I'd leave a bottle of draino in a playpen.

I would get my big head to fill up the horizon, and say - "Hey - you there - knock it off!", instead of flooding the earth. Probably would have been pretty damned effective in straightening out folks pretty darn well.

I would write the new testament myself, rather than leave it to people I constantly yelled and screamed weren't getting the message right.

I would make people responsible for their own 'sins'

Works WOULD count for extra points.

I would not BE a 'jealous God'... I think I'd be bigger than that, being creator of the universe and all...

I wouldn't speak in parables - I'd speak in plain instructions, and give comprehension tests afterwards.

I'd be Righteously cheesed off at any moron who dares try to twist the world into their image by trying to use my name in conjuntion with their plans. They would know the power of a cosmic lil bunny foo-foo, very quickly.

And I would make man VERY aware that if they want to come to the big party, they'd better USE their brains. I wouldn't want children; I'd want responsible, intelligent, ethical, independent and hopefully wise humans to be the archetype. If you're in the battle of Good Vs Evil, you don't recruit mental 4 year olds.

And Humanists would be OK in my book, entirely. Sunni? Muslim? Bhuddist? Whatever - just get the message right, the heavenly name and address all goes to the same place.

Oh - that's right - I wouldnt damn 9/10 of the world's population to eternal damnation because they didn't kiss my specifically named toes in specifically church-approved ways as a member of a specifically 'correct and true' church.

That covers most of the major points of the outline. I could give you more in the next six days.

No - make that five days. Weekends entirely are holy, and are to be kept exactly as you feel like it, as long as you keep your nose clean.

This is fun. I wanna be a God Now... where's the nomination list?
posted by Perigee at 9:18 AM on September 17, 2001


I'm somewhat offended by a comment earlier that human life should have no meaning to an atheist.

You may have been somewhat offended, but I was blindingly, spitting, red in the face angry by that bit of absurd offensive nastiness. I didn't post last night because it would have been all bilious vitriol and raw, bleeding nerves of emotion. Thank you to all who responded rationally when I couldn't.

Love is not dependent on the existence of a disembodied mind. Love is built by actual relationships that develop into a sense of empathy. I don't need to have known any of the people in New York or Washington to grieve for their families; I can imagine that many families affected are similar in most ways to families I know. Moreover, they are part of a general American and world community that is greatly disrupted and hurt by the attacks. I get sad when I see roadkill. Why wouldn't I be sad by the deaths of thousands of people? Why wouldn't I grieve at the damage done to families, and to the country, and to civilization?

Finally, to reverse the initial offensive question, if you think a redeeming God sent all or most of those killed directly to heaven, why would killing them be a bad thing?
posted by norm at 10:27 AM on September 17, 2001


Morality flows from an aversion to suffering.

I, like many atheists I know, am fascinated with religion. If there is not God, then religious belief flows not from some external force, but from our own human nature. In this light, religious dogma and can be seen as codification of our rational responses to our environment.

I know very few atheists who have problems with the basic tenants of faith that are shared by virtually every religious and philosophical movement (e.g., Buddhism): charity, compassion, love, self-improvement, kindness. For an atheist, as well as for many theists I imagine, these are "moral" responses not because they have been dictated by some outside force or being, but because they are the most rational way to achieve happiness and avoid suffering within the world we live in.

The disagreement begins at the point that religious dogma moves away from these basic, shared, human responses. Organized religion and philosophy, viewed in a historical light, are more often used as a means of societal control rather than a medium of edification. To this end they often undermine, or run counter to, the rational desire of our human nature to avoid or minimize suffering.
posted by theMargin at 11:13 AM on September 17, 2001


If there is no God...
posted by theMargin at 11:47 AM on September 17, 2001


you may be interested to know that my final exam in my philosophy class (metaphysics) at N.C. State University consisted of recreating the logical proof of the existence of One, and Only One God. Just in case you are wondering, the course was taught by an agnostic professor who by the end of the semester decided he was an atheist......oh, by the way-I made a B in the course.


Perigee, would you like to know where the logical inconsistencies in your godness are? I saw some, but it's not polite to point :-)
posted by bunnyfire at 3:23 PM on September 17, 2001


I would just like to make it clear once again for those who read one sentence and leapt to ill-informed conclusions about my question- not once did I say that an atheist or an agnoistic is immoral. I simply question the basis for their sense of morality (a sense of morality which I think has made itself very obvious over the past few days).

Stop reading what you want to read and read what I (and others) wrote.
posted by Danielle_T at 4:20 PM on September 17, 2001


I am asking an atheist to explain to me why they feel obligated to act morally or decently and why they feel extreme horror, outrage and anger towards those who do not obey the same code of morals, ethics and principals.
In terms of this "proof" (and you might note that not once did I ask you to prove it- I asked you to explain it) it doesn't particularly matter what we define as moral or ethical- the question is why, if there is no supreme, higher being... if we are just random accidents of no particular cosmic significance... if we have no intrinsic value, significance or meaning... if we were not created for a purpose but as the result of coincidence... then WHY do we place upon every human being an obligation to act in accordance with a universal "right" and "wrong" (regardless of what that may or may not entail for the sake of this discussion).


Well, to answer your question as a mystical spiritual atheist (and no, those are not contradictory terms). It is because our existence is an emergent process of the natural world (note, not random) that each individual human life is so valuable. There will never be another you, another Danielle_T, kirkjobsluder, bunnyfire, Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson in the history of this universe. You exist for a short period of time, after that time you are gone forever. This makes every human life, (even those of my bitter enemies) beyond all possible value.

So there is one answer. I'm certain that a bit of digging around would yield up some other answers. For example, from a purely games theory point of view, the golden rule along with a default position of helping others, yields the maximum benefit for all participants.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:56 PM on September 17, 2001


Stop reading what you want to read and read what I (and others) wrote.

The fact you are so defensive and are not stopping to acknowledge how deeply your careless assertion offended me and others makes me more mad. Let me repeat the supposed misunderstood phrase:

I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.

Yep. I'm still offended, and I still resent your mean spirited, careless, hateful implication beyond what I can express.
posted by norm at 5:09 PM on September 17, 2001


For the sake of spelling it out, Danielle_T, you wrote:

I'm still trying to work out why any committed atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with what happened last Tuesday.

That is not a question, by the way.
When I first read your statement, my interpretation was as follows:

Danielle_T cannot understand why an atheist would have a moral or ethical problem with the brutal symultaneous murder of a very large number of innocent people; an immoral act.

It must have occurred to her, therefore, that some, if not all, atheists might not have a problem with it.

For that thought to occur to her, she must have some reason to believe that atheists in particular are in some way less able to distinguish morally or ethically acceptable events than theists, otherwise she would not have isolated atheists as the group that are the subject of her statement.

Thus, for some reason, Danielle_T suspects that atheists are, in some unspecified way, less capable of moral or ethical judgement than theists.

As an atheist, I do not agree with her implication that I might be indifferent to such apalling events as happened last Tuesday.

Perhaps my interpretation is wrong. Perhaps not. But I hope, Danielle_T, that this maybe helps you to understand how some could easily find offence in your statement.
posted by normy at 5:34 PM on September 17, 2001


Perhaps to help me understand your POV you could tell me what verb you would you give to the active practice of your atheistic beliefs?

Word your question in a way that makes sense and isn't full of inaccuracies ("active practice," "beliefs") and I'll be glad to.
posted by rushmc at 6:28 PM on September 17, 2001


oh come on, you DO have an imagination, right?

You bet we do. We just don't confuse the products of our imagination with reality.
posted by rushmc at 6:29 PM on September 17, 2001


So how could you possibly prove that there is no God?

Of course if one believes in God then there is the realization, possibly uncomfortable, that one only has the illusion of being in control of one's life.....

and people in general do hate being told what to do, I have noticed........

I have gone outside, and looked at the stars, and the idea of no God is what seems to take a greater leap into imagination......

As an artistic sort, seeing patterns in nature, I enjoy seeing His handiwork. He is an artist, you know, among other things.....
posted by bunnyfire at 8:08 PM on September 17, 2001


"The human race would long ago have ceased to exist, if its preservation had depended solely on the reasoning of its members."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

P.S. Humans are stupid.
posted by aaronshaf at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2001


That was humor, if any of you took if differently ;)
posted by aaronshaf at 9:39 PM on September 17, 2001


Our country needs religion like we need to make more enemies.

I bet that God can't help but laugh at all this in spite of Godself.
posted by iamrobotandproud at 10:10 PM on September 17, 2001


P.S. Humans are stupid.


Speak for yourself.
posted by norm at 10:21 PM on September 17, 2001


and if there is a god
i know he likes to rock
he likes his loud guitars
his spiders from mars
posted by Satapher at 10:23 PM on September 17, 2001


Hey, Bun - I'm God, here - not Mr. Spock! ~grin~ Although, looking back, I am pretty satisfied with the choices. It's 3:00AM, and I'm not feeling very much on my toes, logically, so knock yourself out if you'd like to hit it on logic - I'd be interested. Of course, I'd be much more interested in hearing where those choices could be considered 'wrong'.
posted by Perigee at 12:01 AM on September 18, 2001


Well it is 6:20 here and I haven't had my coffee yet so I will simply start with your statement that you would want people to use their brains, not be mental 4 year olds-

I assume that means you wouldn't want robots....

The purpose for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (the tree of life was not off limits at the time) was to give humans the power to exercise their powers of free choice. Would they trust God or listen to the first lying snake that came along?

Many of the things that God does that people find incomprehensible goes right back to that principle of His respect for our free wills....now before you blow a gasket about Adam and Eve getting booted out of Paradise-they knew ahead of time what the consequenses were for what they did.......

as for being responsible for sin, we are all already responsible for our own sin-and everyone has some.
The bad news is it has to be atoned for as God is a God of perfect Justice. The good news is He took care of that detail Himself by the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ-because He is a God of infinite love.


Have a good day.....
posted by bunnyfire at 3:32 AM on September 18, 2001


Perigee, would you like to know where the logical inconsistencies in your godness are? I saw some, but it's not polite to point :-)

And if I was God I'd change logic to make Perigee consistent. ;->. Rule on, Perigee.
posted by boaz at 5:52 AM on September 18, 2001


I assume that means you wouldn't want robots....

I don't get this whole free will requires evil thing. I can't kill people using telepathy or telekinesis, but that doesn't mean I don't have free will. I would think an infinitely powerful, infinitely good god would just close all the remaining loopholes that let us commit evil and let us do anything else we wanted.
posted by boaz at 6:12 AM on September 18, 2001


He didn't choose that we would know evil. Adam and Eve chose to -of their own God given free will. if you are given the choice of vanilla or vanilla, have you really had a choice in ice cream flavors?
posted by bunnyfire at 12:35 PM on September 18, 2001


He didn't choose that we would know evil. Adam and Eve chose to -of their own God given free will.

But he made it possible to 'know' and commit evil, which I can not imagine he was under any requirement to do. I mean, who planted the tree?

if you are given the choice of vanilla or vanilla, have you really had a choice in ice cream flavors?

If all the evil ice cream flavors, like pistachio, banana or peppermint stick, were taken away, we would still have a wide variety of good ice creams, like vanilla, chocolate or strawberry (mmmm). Similarly, if all our evil actions were impossible, we would still have a wide variety of good actions to choose from.
posted by boaz at 1:01 PM on September 18, 2001


Adam and Eve chose to -of their own God given free will.

Yeah, and they had exactly what experience in dealing with temptation? It's like offering a child a nickel and a dime, and letting him take the nickel because he doesn't know any better. Innocent people are easily tricked. An omniscient God didn't know this about His own creation?
posted by kindall at 1:06 PM on September 18, 2001


Eve was deceived. Adam went into it with his eyes wide open. .....as to the example of "all the good ice cream flavors" there was a reason that tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil......

In other words something can be "good " without being the will of God.

For example, If I am trying to teach a grown child to budget his money better by not loaning him money for every little thing, but then you come along and hand him a one hundred dollar bill, was that a good or bad deed?
posted by bunnyfire at 5:02 PM on September 18, 2001


any arguments NOT using the bible as a reference?
posted by Satapher at 5:52 PM on September 18, 2001


.....as to the example of "all the good ice cream flavors" there was a reason that tree was called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil......

Why did the tree even exist in the first place? It sounds kinda like building a playground, then planting landmines in it.

In other words something can be "good " without being the will of God.

And something can be evil with the permission of God, but that doesn't answer why he gave the permission.

For example, If I am trying to teach a grown child to budget his money better by not loaning him money for every little thing, but then you come along and hand him a one hundred dollar bill, was that a good or bad deed?

I'm confused by your question: am I aware of this life lesson you're trying to teach this child or not? Would God give me a heads-up on the agony I could be causing for this child with my act of charity? Perhaps God allows my charity because he considers this child's suffering a good thing? as a just punishment for his sinful nature? Where are you going with this?
posted by boaz at 6:50 PM on September 18, 2001


Bunnyfire. . .

Whether true or not, the story is still a story. A myth. A fable. There is no difference between it and Grimm's Fairy Tales, except that you believe it to be true. That's it. That's all. You believe it to be true!

That said. Many people believe many different things. None or all of those beliefs, may or may not be true. Try explainging to half of the planet, "half" being Muslim, that you have a corner on ultimate truth. They disagree. You disagree. You get pissed cos they're wrong. They get pissed cos you are. "God" has assured both of you, each of you privately is right. What do you do then? Kill each other?
posted by crasspastor at 7:02 PM on September 18, 2001


Arguing with fundamentalists is nuts. They never stop because they are obsessed. Also, many of them have infinite time to argue about it because, well, that's all they have left.
posted by pracowity at 10:49 PM on September 18, 2001


Tell ya what...let's kill this thread then and perhaps meet again on a shorter one?

This is a subject more easily discussed with a nice fire in the fireplace, marshmallows in the cocoa, (or a beer if that is your preference ;-) )......there is a lot more to it (on both sides) than can fit on this thread.
posted by bunnyfire at 2:50 AM on September 19, 2001


Fair enough... and it hurts me to see my compatriots trolling so aggressively
posted by boaz at 3:19 PM on September 19, 2001


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