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"I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into"
July 31, 2011 8:12 PM   Subscribe

A few months ago, The New Statemen asked a number of public figures "why they believe in god." Last week, they asked a number of public figures "to explain why they don't."
posted by bardic (194 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
So... "why so I believe in God" tends to be answered "because I feel like I should", and "why don't I believe in God" tends to be answered "because there is no evidence supporting His existence".

Is that all that surprising? Aren't these the answers which have been given for these questions for as long as they've been asked?
posted by hippybear at 8:23 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


There was another answer, Hippybear, which I find compelling:

I think probably the main answer to your question is: I just don't have any interest either way, but I wouldn't want to understate how uninterested I am. There still hasn't been a word invented for people like me, whose main ex­perience when presented with this issue is an overwhelming, mind-blowing, intergalactic sense of having more interesting things to think about. I'm not sure that's accurately covered by words such as "atheist", and definitely not by "agnostic". I just don't care.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:39 PM on July 31, 2011 [43 favorites]


I'm not sure that's accurately covered by words such as "atheist", and definitely not by "agnostic". I just don't care.

My roommate refers to himself as "apatheistic".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:41 PM on July 31, 2011 [25 favorites]


Pretty sure that would be 'a-theist.' One who doesn't give a crap about theology. Now there are many atheists who would better be termed 'antitheist' as they believe theology is bad for people.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:42 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Atheist has a subcategory called post-theist that fits that description perfectly, munchingzombie.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:44 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


I suppose people can go through an entire lifetime without questioning God and a religion that they were born into (out of no choice of their own), especially if it doesn't have much of a say in their lives. If you live in France or Britain, there may never be a need to renounce God actively or come out as an atheist.

Absolutely true. It would seem to me that many of my Western atheist colleagues actively renounce God just to get a rise out of people who do believe ("because I'm a fool") in God. There is a certain smugness about atheism that makes me at times want to renounce it.

But when the state sends a "Hezbollah" (the generic term for Islamist) to your school to ensure that you don't mix with your friends who are boys, stops you from swimming, forces you to be veiled, deems males and females separate and unequal, prescribes different books for you and your girlfriends from those read by boys, denies certain fields of study to you because you are female, and starts killing in­discriminately, then you have no choice but to question, discredit and confront it - all of it. And that is what I did.

And then there's having religion forced onto you.
posted by three blind mice at 8:45 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There is a certain smugness about atheism that makes me at times want to renounce it."

And meanwhile, it's the height of social decorum to tell someone that if they don't believe in your personal skygod they will burn in hell forever.

Or that god hates fags.

You know, those acceptable forms of religious discourse.
posted by bardic at 8:48 PM on July 31, 2011 [39 favorites]


I like AC Grayling more than ever, now.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:51 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Next week, we ask a number of public figures why their hobby is 'not collecting stamps'.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2011 [33 favorites]


Do you also feel like Gay pride parades are simply trying to get a rise out of people who oppress gays, three blind mice? I'll admit that pride parades are way more fabulous than simply expressing your own atheism, but still.

If one wishes, one may obviously draw a line between simple atheists expression, or theist trolling, which might be analogous to a pride parade, and the anti-theist position of say Dawkins, but that isn't what your comment said.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:56 PM on July 31, 2011


"There is a certain smugness about atheism that makes me at times want to renounce it."

I'm just so motherfucking to live in a society where I don't have to go to church.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:57 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


...motherfucking glad, that is.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:58 PM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


I guess at this point I think of myself as a conscientious objector rather than any sort of ____ist. Whether there are supernatural beings or what people believe or don't believe about them is beside the point because I just choose not to participate in religion regardless. If Jesus or Lakshmi or somebody materialized tomorrow, I hope (probably unrealistically since I'm a big fraidy cat) that I'd have the strength of character to continue to opt out despite the unpleasant consequences.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:10 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is such a weird conversation. "There is no God"? Great. So there's only life and love and hate and kids and trees and all the other stuff without any "afterlife".

That's it?

So, it's God and all the stuff plus afterlife. Or, no God and all the stuff but no afterlife.

...whatever.

Personally, I don't believe it matters what any of us believe.

But then what I believe doesn't matter either, including the above.

And I'd bet just about anything that, no matter what I believe, I'm wrong.

This is what makes me happy!
posted by Mike Mongo at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


The non-god folks too often use the reprehensible and weak (ie. ridiculous) definitions of "god" posed by the least interesting sort of believers. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone can call out an uneven definition. This disappoints me about the arguments of atheists.

Like this cheekiness from Pullman: To that extent, I'm an atheist. I would have to agree, though, that God might exist but be in hiding (and I can understand why - with his record, so would I be).

In order to say that he does in fact have a pretty nasty definition for God in mind, which he previously says he finds no evidence to support. Isn't he making the same thinking error that many believers make? Anthropomorphising? What he's really complaining about is that often people do "nasty, brutish, and short" things, and then claim that God made them do it. Well that's not new, nor does it have much bearing on whether there's a divine entity in play. Hasn't he just made his own straw man, and then flamed it? Is this reasonable?

Thus, I prefer scientists responses to these questions, because they try to avoid the human element, which can only turn the discussion into a ranty debate where neither party can imagine being moved by the other.

So, Stephen Hawking: I am not claiming there is no God. The scientific account is complete, but it does not predict human behaviour, because there are too many equations to solve.One therefore uses a different model, which can include free will and God.

And, Paul Davies: I am not comfortable answering the question "Why do you believe in God?" because you haven't defined "God". In any case, as a scientist,
I prefer not to deal in "belief" but rather in the usefulness of concepts. I am sure I don't believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify.
I do, however, assume (along with all scientists) that there is a rational and intelligible scheme of things that we uncover through scientific investigation. I am uncomfortable even being linked with "a god" because of the vast baggage that this term implies (a being with a mind, able to act on matter within time, making decisions, etc).


I think I'd like to hear these two guys talk about what informs their answers, rather than hear Richard Dawkins debate Tony Blair on national radio in Canada. What right do either of those blowhards have to weigh in on the subject of evidence for or against anyway?
posted by kneecapped at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2011 [12 favorites]


We will worship Aphrodite
We will worship Aphrodite
'Cause we've seen her in her nightie
And that's good enough for me!

posted by jeffburdges at 9:19 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


In any case, it is a fatuously illogical jump from deistic Unmoved Mover to Christian Trinity, with the Son being tortured and murdered because the Father, for all his omniscience and omnipotence, couldn't think of a better way to forgive "sin".

yes yes yes yes

but he was in essence torturing himself - so I guess that's... ok?
posted by the noob at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I am not comfortable answering the question "Why do you believe in God?" because you haven't defined "God". In any case, as a scientist, I prefer not to deal in "belief" but rather in the usefulness of concepts. I am sure I don't believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify.

I do, however, assume (along with all scientists) that there is a rational and intelligible scheme of things that we uncover through scientific investigation. I am uncomfortable even being linked with "a god" because of the vast baggage that this term implies (a being with a mind, able to act on matter within time, making decisions, etc)."


I find it particularly interesting that he labels himself a theist with that viewpoint, but I, an atheist, have exactly the same beliefs.

It kind of reminds me of the republican friend I had in college who was diametrically opposed to me politically... except we never could find a single topic to disagree on.

Labels can get silly sometimes.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's funny to sit through another Dawkins rant. He is so dark and angry and uncompassionate -- easily the least persuasive of the bunch -- that it's hard not to wonder if he doth protest too much. Some people really do need a bit of the ol' spiritual intervention (or at least some ayahuasca) in their lives, to make them human again.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 9:25 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, subject_verb_remainder. And I find it interesting/cool/smart that Hawking's answer comes under the "no thank yous".
posted by kneecapped at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2011


I'm just so motherfucking glad to live in a society where I don't have to collect stamps.

Daniel Dennett: I am in awe of the universe itself, and very grateful to be a part of it. That is enough.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:27 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


Paradoxically, it has been where suffering has been most acute that I have also seen the greatest faith.

These also wouldn't be the places where access to education is non existent?
posted by the noob at 9:29 PM on July 31, 2011 [10 favorites]


I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors
posted by Sailormom at 9:30 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't have to collect stamps
Beware the tristero!
posted by kneecapped at 9:35 PM on July 31, 2011 [8 favorites]


There is a cute selection of old links here like Onion articles and :

"You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci." -- George Carlin
posted by jeffburdges at 9:43 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


It would seem to me that many of my Western atheist colleagues actively renounce God just to get a rise out of people who do believe ("because I'm a fool") in God. There is a certain smugness about atheism that makes me at times want to renounce it.

I think people stop believing in god to spite other people so I'm going to start believing in god to spite them.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 9:49 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


A few months ago, The New Statemen asked a number of public figures "why they believe in god." Last week, they asked a number of public figures "to explain why they don't."

Or to put it another way, a professional atheist writer asked a mostly indifferent bunch of believers (lacking a single individual of any particularly high distinction among religionists) why they believe and then proceeded to ask just about every heavy hitter on the proselytizing atheist circuit to hit back, along with a Nobel laureate and the most publicly recognizable physicist in the world. Wotta buncha chumps huh, still believe in the Tooth Fairy. Have a nice circle jerk, Metafilter.
posted by nanojath at 9:59 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm not sure that's accurately covered by words such as "atheist", and definitely not by "agnostic". I just don't care.

My roommate refers to himself as "apatheistic".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 4:41 AM on August 1


Yeah, "apatheist" seems to be the approved term. Personally, I'm not terrifically impressed by people who don't care about a subject which affects the entire world and the people in it to such a massive degree. It strikes me as a rather shameful abdication of moral concern.
posted by Decani at 10:05 PM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]


lacking a single individual of any particularly high distinction among religionists

Hello, Cherie Blair?
posted by the noob at 10:10 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


"why so I believe in God" tends to be answered "because I feel like I should", and "why don't I believe in God" tends to be answered "because there is no evidence supporting His existence".

I've got some curiosity surrounding a related question:

Are there people out there involved in this kind of discussion who spend time talking about what convincing evidence supporting God's existence would look like in a way that's at least somewhat detached from their own conclusions actual question?

I'm particularly interested in either atheists who say something like "I haven't ever encountered it, but if I did encounter ______, I might be convinced" or believers who say "Yes, the existence of God isn't established with objective and convincing evidence -- for that, we'd need to see _______."
posted by weston at 10:10 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Decani,

"God" doesn't affect the entire world and the people in it. Religion, perhaps. What people do in the name of god (or in the name of opposing that idea) certainly have impact, but "God" doesn't.

I guess I like the Diderot quote, as taken straight from wikipedia: "It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God."
posted by subversiveasset at 10:12 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]


a mostly indifferent bunch of believers (lacking a single individual of any particularly high distinction among religionists)

I'm sorry - Richard Swinburne? Michael Behe? Various bishops? Ken Miller(*), Hugh Ross? These aren't people who register on the religion-o-meter? Geez, sorry, maybe THE POPE was busy that week.

Swinburne in particular is right up there as a Christian philosopher with Alvin Plantinga, who you probably also haven't heard of. ;-)

(* Ken is a vocal opponent of intelligent design as well as a Christian, so many religionists may see him as "the enemy" but might still recognize the name from debates)
posted by fleetmouse at 10:17 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, "apatheist" seems to be the approved term. Personally, I'm not terrifically impressed by people who don't care about a subject which affects the entire world and the people in it to such a massive degree. It strikes me as a rather shameful abdication of moral concern.
posted by Decani at 10:05 PM on July 31


I think there's some people that think that adding another log to an already-burgeoning debate doesn't do anyone a whole lot of good.
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:17 PM on July 31, 2011


lacking a single individual of any particularly high distinction among religionists

I was under the impression that Richard Swinburne is considered to be a big deal.

But yeah, I definitely recognized more names on the atheist list, but I assumed that was just due to my prejudice.
posted by jcreigh at 10:18 PM on July 31, 2011


Weston - for discussion about what would be sufficient evidence amongst atheist bloggers of this stripe, you could try here and here (links to summaries of conversations).
posted by Sparx at 10:20 PM on July 31, 2011


Have a nice circle jerk, Metafilter.

Metafilter: Have a nice circle jerk.
posted by zardoz at 10:40 PM on July 31, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm just so motherfucking to live in a society where I don't have to go to church.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:57 PM on July 31 [3 favorites +] [!]


I wonder which church there is that would even ALLOW for mother fucking. Probably the Seventh Day Adventists, those people are nuts.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:45 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why is Paul Davies on the believer page? He makes no statement that could be construed as supportive. "I am sure I don't believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify."

When asked, it's important to make his first point straight-away if you want to speak against the madness (I am not comfortable answering the question "[...] do you believe in God?" because you haven't defined "God".). Just like if I were to ask you if you believe in the three-fisted-over-under-blue-bellied-double-ostrich with a half-twist-non-reconcilable-apple-grunty, the only sensible response is: what the hell are you talking about? Answering yes or no pretty much endorses the subject matter.
posted by fartknocker at 10:56 PM on July 31, 2011


throughout my 29 (and a half) years on this planet, i've found that the people with the strongest faith - in anything; themselves, god, g-d, dog, the universe, science, nutella, whatever - are the ones who never fucking talk about it.

i like it that way.
posted by thistle at 11:04 PM on July 31, 2011 [3 favorites]


As for the whole athiesm vs. agnosticism, here's a nice article that unpacks the language a bit.
posted by zardoz at 11:12 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Wow, I'm an atheist, and these struck me as pretty bad all around. Some ol' lazy favorites trotted out again, good ol' "I don't believe in the tooth fairy/Santa Claus", "there's no evidence", and "evolution". As a former Christian I can remember reading those short and snappy little cliches and never being convinced. I think many of these guys probably stopped believing at a very young age, like 10, or never believed, or never even really struggled with the question. Therefore they're probably not the best people to advocate for atheism, because people who are doubting want to hear detailed, nuanced explanations. Personally I think the psychologist (too lazy to look back and find her name) who mentioned study of the mind was on target-psychology of religion is a fascinating field and a more unique way to examine doubt. I remember reading some study that most children raised religious had a "god-image" by the age of six and that was very homogenous, and in general most people's private religious experiences share common psychological quirks.
posted by Nixy at 11:14 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


But yeah, I definitely recognized more names on the atheist list, but I assumed that was just due to my prejudice.

It's true, I think, that there are more rock star atheist thinkers than theists nowadays. Sadly the only ones I can think of on the theist side are evil nutters like Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps.

Why is Paul Davies on the believer page? He makes no statement that could be construed as supportive. "I am sure I don't believe in any sort of god with which most readers of your article would identify."

Yeah I don't get that. He was all "what on earth are you talking about? Get out of my lab."
posted by fleetmouse at 11:18 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way, a professional atheist writer asked a mostly indifferent bunch of believers (lacking a single individual of any particularly high distinction among religionists) why they believe and then proceeded to ask just about every heavy hitter on the proselytizing atheist circuit to hit back, along with a Nobel laureate and the most publicly recognizable physicist in the world. Wotta buncha chumps huh, still believe in the Tooth Fairy. Have a nice circle jerk, Metafilter.

Oh, the poor, under-represented, oppressed religious people! However will their voices be heard?

Personally I never had religious belief simply because no-one tried to inculcate religion from a young age.
posted by rodgerd at 11:25 PM on July 31, 2011


Some ol' lazy favorites trotted out again, good ol' "I don't believe in the tooth fairy/Santa Claus"

I think that's a more polite way of saying "fuck you and your burden shifting bullshit question", and I have no small measure of sympathy for the sentiment.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:33 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think that's a more polite way of saying "fuck you and your burden shifting bullshit question", and I have no small measure of sympathy for the sentiment.

I guess it depends on whether your strategy is to advocate for your beliefs in a way that doesn't alienate your potential audience, or to just assume alienation and defend yourself.
posted by Nixy at 11:38 PM on July 31, 2011 [1 favorite]


I guess it depends on whether your strategy is to advocate for your beliefs in a way that doesn't alienate your potential audience, or to just assume alienation and defend yourself.

Neither. I'm an atheist but I don't try to convince the religious of anything. Their belief in the supernatural is their problem, not mine. If you asked me why I was an atheist you'd get a sincere answer but not necessarily a flattering one.
posted by Ritchie at 11:51 PM on July 31, 2011 [15 favorites]


Wotta buncha chumps huh, still believe in the Tooth Fairy.

I see no problem with that statement.

People with rational belief systems will consider people with irrational belief systems to be irrational. Film at eleven.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most of these people have written reams and reams about why they don't believe in gods. So, this paper asks them to answer this question, on which some of them have written many thousands of pages, in a blurb? And some some mefites are disappointed that their answers aren't satisfactory? What did you expect?
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2011


If God showed up tomorrow, in whatever form you choose, and everyone on Earth unequivocally felt the divine presence, I suspect I'd think:

a) I'd gone stark raving mad

b) Everyone had gone stark raving mad

c) God was a scary alien overlord

or

d) God was an impostor

I also suspect most theists would deny his reality and call him out as a fake or devil. The divine is necessarily unreal. The moment the divine becomes real, the moment it is no longer supernatural but merely natural, it ceases to be divine, and become amenable to scientific inquiry.
posted by jet_manifesto at 11:57 PM on July 31, 2011 [14 favorites]


Have a nice circle jerk, Metafilter.

When you are done jerking off alone to your own faux-idiosyncratic sense of the faux-contrarian, you should totally join in!

Onanism: you are doing it wrong. And alone.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:12 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


What did you expect?

A miracle.
posted by Nixy at 12:14 AM on August 1, 2011


There are transhumanist fiction stories like Last Question by Isaac Asimov and Singularity Sky by Charles Stross that have humanity evolving into god, weston. And obviously Lovecraft's stories provide one classic take on humans interacting with far more powerful beings, gods or otherwise. I donno if you'll find anyone treating the question seriously outside a fictional context because well frankly mythology is a form of fiction.

Umm, Santa Claus isn't a lazy comparison, Nixy. Hellenic Reconstructionism has exactly the same claim to truth as Christianity. In fact, there are people who really do practice Discordianism, as opposed to say the IPU or FSM, which presumably nobody really 'practices'.

A postdoc advisor of mine once proposed that Santa Claus might function memetically as an "inoculation" against belief in god, i.e. train children that adults occasionally tell big lies. And maybe the inoculation historically helped people who learned god doesn't exist avoid becoming rebellious anti-theists too.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:17 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Personally I never had religious belief simply because no-one tried to inculcate religion from a young age.

As kids, we'd get sent to Sunday School, but I'm pretty sure it was only so my parents could get the kids out of the house for a bit of sexy time.

They *never* went themselves, and I stopped buying it about the same time I stopped believing in Santa Claus.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:53 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The non-god folks too often use the reprehensible and weak (ie. ridiculous) definitions of "god" posed by the least interesting sort of believers. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone can call out an uneven definition. This disappoints me about the arguments of atheists.

Sure, but haven't you pretty much done the same thing with your construction of ' the non-god folks', in that you put forward an uneven definition of atheists that anyone, even myself, can call out?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:57 AM on August 1, 2011


Umm, Santa Claus isn't a lazy comparison, Nixy.

Respectfully disagree. Of course the parallel between Santa Claus and God is blindingly obvious. But not many 7-year-olds are reading this article, nor do many adult Christians believe in Santa. So, yes, it is a pretty lazy and tired and exceedingly un-mindblowing point to make. (Your advisor's theory is actually interesting, however)

It's also silly to pretend this article isn't supposed to be reaching an audience. That's the point of it; like it or not, atheism is being advocated for publically, even if the atheists themselves are personally only concerned with "preaching to the choir" to use a hilariously apt metaphor.

But now having read the "pro-God" side to the argument, I really must concur with hippybear, the whole article is lazy and there's little new ground here.
posted by Nixy at 1:03 AM on August 1, 2011


Respectfully disagree.

Way to skip over the meat of the comment.

Hellenic Reconstructionism has exactly the same claim to truth as Christianity.

That's kind of a cool story. Well, it's cool while they're small and cute, and so long as they stay that way.
posted by rodgerd at 1:24 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


From Ellen DeGeneres:
I think the trouble with being a critical thinker, or an atheist, or a humanist is that you’re right. And it’s quite hard being right in the face of people who are wrong without sounding like a fuckwit. People go “Do you think the vast majority of the world is wrong?”, well yes, I don’t know how to say that nicely, but yes.
posted by tzikeh at 1:41 AM on August 1, 2011 [56 favorites]


What right do either of those blowhards have to weigh in on the subject of evidence for or against anyway?

Same as you. Same as any of us. Suck it.

The non-god folks too often use the reprehensible and weak (ie. ridiculous) definitions of "god" posed by the least interesting sort of believers.

All definitions of God are reprehensible and weak. He is the God of Pushing A Button And Then Leaving Everything Alone Because He Can't Punish You If You Don't Have Free Will. He is the God of Shit We Haven't Completely Worked Out Yet And When We Will He Most Certainly Won't Be There Either Just Like The Last Time But It's All I've Got So I'm Sticking To It. He is the God of Well You Can't Prove Nature Isn't God And You Say That's A Bullshit Claim But It's Good Enough For Me. He's a fucking joke, in all His incarnations, in all religions, forever.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:11 AM on August 1, 2011 [17 favorites]


gorgor_balabala: I really don't see the basis for your Dawkins hate. For me it didn't read especially differently in tone. He seems like a reasonable person to me from the videos I've watched. Here's Dawkins himself on this issue: "Shrill and Shrident"

I devoured the atheist views but could only tunnel partially through the believer stuff. Its such hard work that sort of thing, unless of course it involves Optimus Prime.
posted by Chekhovian at 2:28 AM on August 1, 2011


Wait, Dawkins doesn't believe in God? Boy did I misread that book.
posted by ciderwoman at 2:31 AM on August 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I'd agree that asking celebrities silly personal questions is lazy journalism, Nixy, but A.C. Grayling's "fairies, goblins or sprites" quip is a perfectly reasonable response, philosophical position, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:38 AM on August 1, 2011


If there was a just God, he would have abolished organized religion long ago.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:43 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thus, I prefer scientists responses to these questions, because they try to avoid the human element, which can only turn the discussion into a ranty debate where neither party can imagine being moved by the other.

Being an atheist means that there's only the human element. God is a human construct, that still persists and came about for these reasons...
Saying you want these self-avowed atheists to avoid discussing the human element comes down to you wanting them to discuss God on your terms as an immutable, supernatural force. It's still an interesting debate but you're asking them to beg the question.

Admittedly if atheists refuse the premise that God is an extra-human being then yes there's isn't much ground for discussion with a believer and it does turn into a ranty debate. Which is why people saying why they don't or do believe in God is kind of an exercise in futility.
posted by litleozy at 3:03 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


"I am not religious" is enough to state my position without leading to the inevitable "ah, but you can't know that for sure, prove it" burden-shifting nonsense. It also tends to stop the conversation dead, which is what it's intended to do.
posted by Summer at 3:04 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did enjoy this from Sir Roger Penrose because it acknowledges the almost religious basis for a number of philosophical standpoints (or the philosophical basis for a lot of religious standpoints as you will);

I suppose the closest I could get to anything that bears any relation to the kind of notion that the term "God" might be used for would be something along the lines of Platonist ideals. These could include some sort of objective moral standpoint that is independent of ourselves, and not simply definable in terms of what might be of benefit to human society. This would imply, for instance, that conscious beings such as elephants would have rights, in addition to those of humans.

I am also prepared to accept that there might be objective ("Platonic") elements involved in artistic achievement, and certainly I assign a Platonic objectivity to truth (especially unambiguous mathematical truth). But I am not at all sure that it is helpful to attach the term "God" to any of this.

posted by litleozy at 3:10 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm just about as tired of hearing people blather on about what gods they believe or don't believe in as I am hearing about what they like or don't like to fuck.

Which is to say: very.

It's an important thing to think about, certainly. Emphasis on the think.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:36 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


if you want to speak against the madness (I am not comfortable answering the question "[...] do you believe in God?" because you haven't defined "God".). Just like if I were to ask you if you believe in the three-fisted-over-under-blue-bellied-double-ostrich with a half-twist-non-reconcilable-apple-grunty, the only sensible response is: what the hell are you talking about?

It's more like asking if consciousness actually exists, perhaps based on some as yet unknown quantum interactions, or if it is merely a poorly understood but persistent and/or necessary illusion arising in meat.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:40 AM on August 1, 2011


I'm not sure what the politics of The New Statesmen is, but it speaks volumes that all of the believers are Christian. I couldn't even spot a Jew among them ... what about Muslims? Hindus? Sikhs? Are Christian theists the only ones worth quoting? Is the subtle message that Jesus is the only true God. Certainly, the lack of diversity in the article is odd.
posted by Azaadistani at 3:42 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


The non-god folks too often use the reprehensible and weak (ie. ridiculous) definitions of "god" posed by the least interesting sort of believers. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone can call out an uneven definition. This disappoints me about the arguments of atheists.

The problem is that the definitions of 'God' that you don't call reprehensible are functionally indistinguishable from God not existing at all. It's the Courtier's Reply. And once the most interesting believers (and I have a lot of respect for e.g. Karen Armstrong) have defined God to be functionally indistinguishable from a God that didn't exist then there's nothing left to oppose.
posted by Francis at 3:50 AM on August 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


The New Statesman is a famous and resolutely left wing journal, founded in 1913 by the Fabians, Azaadistani.
posted by joannemullen at 4:04 AM on August 1, 2011


I'm just about as tired of hearing people blather on about what gods they believe or don't believe in as I am hearing about what they like or don't like to fuck.

I have never been cornered by a group of people and asked if I've considered making the most of my brief, terminal existence in an uncaring universe, or had my doorbell rung by people who wished to leave me pamphlets about the latest scientific discoveries, or seen news stories about groups of unbelievers shooting each other based on their respective understanding of the atomic weight of tin.

I have also never had any experience with people holding up signs at funerals declaring the fuckability of a Hollywood star or starlet, or politicians who have to declare who they believe is most bangable before they can get elected.

I've never, ever had a non-crazy stranger say something like "I'd fuck Megan Fox so hard" or "I don't believe in any God, how about you?" I have had plenty of strangers ask me (not only that, ask 12-year-old me) "do you want to burn in the fiery pits of hell?" (in a public library, no less) and much more commonly "which church do you attend?"--the very first question I'm asked by (religious) neighbors, even before "where did you move from" or "how do you like your new place?" or similar new-neighbor small talk.
posted by maxwelton at 4:05 AM on August 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Your point being?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:13 AM on August 1, 2011


Mine, to clarify, though I don't understand why it might be necessary, is that I would prefer the god-struck (and their rationalist self-styled opponents) and the fuck-bedazzled would both shut the hell up and keep their passions to themselves. If others don't feel the same, that's fine. I wasn't talking about anyone else -- regardless of my stated preferences, they are nonetheless free to do as they wish.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:20 AM on August 1, 2011


I have never...had my doorbell rung by people who wished to leave me pamphlets about the latest scientific discoveries,

I totally want to start doing this.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 4:40 AM on August 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Some may find Dawkins severe or crabby or whatever. I find him pretty optimistic and cheerful, considering what he has to go through. He wrote books on biology which were attacked by religious nutjobs not because they disagreed with the content but because they disagreed with what some authority figure told them the content was and that it conflicted with what had been "revealed" as the truth, which were in fact "not even wrong". And not just attacked once, but attacked again and again and again and again, in person and every other conceivable way, held up as Satan On Earth and so forth.

How many illiterate letters could you get ranting on about seven literal days of creation and threatening you with death before you got a little testy?
posted by DU at 4:55 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most people I know have an LTR with children. Most people I know also attend a religious observance on a regular basis. It neither offends or imposes on me to hear about these sort of things.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:37 AM on August 1, 2011


Screw gods. I like to think my sense of morality is informed by a mixture of Spock and Quincy ME.

"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one" vs occasional finger-pointing social activism while caressing a woman's thigh on a yacht.
posted by TheAlarminglySwollenFinger at 5:56 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not one of those smug, snooty people who reject God because of a narrow definition that actually refers to "religion". Instead I'm an intellectual titan who has redefined "God" to refer to pug puppies, which are adorable. Does my open-minded philosophy frighten you?
posted by Legomancer at 6:08 AM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Does my open-minded philosophy frighten you?

God derped for your sins.
posted by griphus at 6:28 AM on August 1, 2011


Some may find Dawkins severe or crabby or whatever.

I guess you missed the time where he insisted his belief in rationality compelled him to mock a woman's complaints about sexism. Here you go:

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2011/07/richard-dawkins-draws-feminist-wrath-over-sexual-harassment-comments/39637/
posted by mobunited at 6:32 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


From Ellen DeGeneres...

I really want to believe Ellen said that, but I really doubt she's ever ever said "fuck", and then the "quite hard" makes me think it's more Tim Minchin, who Google thinks is the second most likely sayer of that.
posted by Evilspork at 6:32 AM on August 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


makes me think it's more Tim Minchin, who Google thinks is the second most likely sayer of that.

Well now I'm disappointed because I so pictured Dory from Finding Nemo saying that.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:37 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Instead I'm an intellectual titan who has redefined "God" to refer to pug puppies, which are adorable. Does my open-minded philosophy frighten you?

My heart palpitates in anticipation at the pending pug pentacost!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:39 AM on August 1, 2011


Jonathan Aitken, former politician
I believe in God because I have searched for Him and found Him in the crucible of brokenness. Some years ago I went through an all-too-well-publicised drama of defeat, disgrace, divorce, bankruptcy and jail. In the course of that saga I discovered a loving God who answers prayers, forgives and redeems.



This one.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:43 AM on August 1, 2011


Some ol' lazy favorites trotted out again, good ol' "I don't believe in the tooth fairy/Santa Claus", "there's no evidence", and "evolution". As a former Christian I can remember reading those short and snappy little cliches and never being convinced. I think many of these guys probably stopped believing at a very young age, like 10, or never believed, or never even really struggled with the question.

I was raised Catholic and a very observant Catholic I remained until, oh 21 or 22 and "no evidence" sums it.up nicely for me.
posted by adamdschneider at 6:46 AM on August 1, 2011


I have never been cornered by a group of people and asked if I've considered making the most of my brief, terminal existence in an uncaring universe, or had my doorbell rung by people who wished to leave me pamphlets about the latest scientific discoveries, or seen news stories about groups of unbelievers shooting each other based on their respective understanding of the atomic weight of tin.

If you are in your 30s or older you spent a part of your life in a world where you were continually threatened with murder via rocket science, and analytical philosophy was used to determine the best way to threaten you with murder.
posted by mobunited at 6:47 AM on August 1, 2011


a world where you were continually threatened with murder via rocket science

Funny, I lived through those times and I always associated that fear with American Christian fundamentalists and their bone-on for armageddon scenarios that would make Jebus return. They're still doing that, but now they're talking about the threat of a new caliphate rather than the Evil Empire of the Soviets.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:58 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Funny, I lived through those times and I always associated that fear with American Christian fundamentalists and their bone-on for armageddon scenarios that would make Jebus return. They're still doing that, but now they're talking about the threat of a new caliphate rather than the Evil Empire of the Soviets.

You're not much of an atheist if you believe ICBMs are conjured by the power of prayer.
posted by mobunited at 7:00 AM on August 1, 2011


And meanwhile, it's the height of social decorum to tell someone that if they don't believe in your personal skygod they will burn in hell forever.

Actually, many theists would agree with you that this is in fact quite rude. But, I suppose some people don't like to let facts get in the way of generalizations.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Dawkins just has to be an ass about it, doesn't he?
posted by clvrmnky at 7:09 AM on August 1, 2011


Ellen DeGeneres interview, from Entertainment Weekly (May 08, 1998):

"Ellen stays on the patio, talks for a few minutes about spirituality, and acknowledges that a number of people would be surprised that a gay person would talk to God every morning, as she says she does."

I mean, talk all the trash about no-god and God and and atheists and believers that you want ...but you leave Ellen out of this.
posted by Mike Mongo at 7:19 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


The non-god folks too often use the reprehensible and weak (ie. ridiculous) definitions of "god" posed by the least interesting sort of believers. That's like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone can call out an uneven definition. This disappoints me about the arguments of atheists.

You mean there is a non ridiculous definition of god?
posted by the noob at 7:22 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


People say God and there's such a huge difference between applying the concept of god to whatever it was that started everything off and so being amazed by this incredible organic creation that we are part of and the concept of god as being an omnipotent being who not only created this amazing organic universe that we exist in but is still hanging around, watching and noting everything that is done with occasional intervention.

It's possible to apply a word to an unknowable but undeniable thing and appreciate it every day and call it god whilst not believing in the whole interventionist thing.

I think there's a big divide there.
posted by h00py at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2011


There.
posted by h00py at 7:40 AM on August 1, 2011


You're not much of an atheist if you believe ICBMs are conjured by the power of prayer.

Do you think technology and its uses are entirely the province of atheism? Do Christians have agnostics and atheists work their guns and tanks for them like lethal Shabbos goys?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I am a disappointed at Michael Shermer's answer, especially as he is an editor. He takes about 200 words to say what Stanislaw Lem said in four: "All gods were immortal."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:07 AM on August 1, 2011


Argh, Stanislaw Lec. God, if you can hear me, please send me an edit window.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:08 AM on August 1, 2011


Do you think technology and its uses are entirely the province of atheism?

This is what happens when you think the process of discovery (ie science) is the same as a world view or a belief. It isn't. It's simply a process of discovery. What you do with that discovery is up to you, or your nihilistic warmongering government.
posted by Summer at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2011


"why don't I believe in God" tends to be answered "because there is no evidence supporting His existence".

I don't believe in God because there have been too many Gods. Every culture has had its God(s): Gentle God, Wrathful God, Mother God, Father God, Benign God, Interfering God, each culture so positive that their God(s) are the One and Only True God(s). With so many different manifestations it seems clear to me that there is no God, only wishful thinking or some other human brain function.

What would it take for me to believe in God? I would have to have first hand experience of his/her/its presence and it would have to give me a damn good reason for its long term obliqueness. Also I would want to know what I am supposed to do with this new knowledge and "worship Me" would not be a good enough answer.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:19 AM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


maxwelton: "I have never ... had my doorbell rung by people who wished to leave me pamphlets about the latest scientific discoveries"

It can be a lot of fun to listen politely to the religious guy at the door, when they come a-knocking. Usually you can find a nice way of making sure they understand you are not buying what they are selling. I had one guy stop by and after a few minutes of rambling he asked "I mean, you have to think there's something more out there, right? You can't believe we all started from NOTHING?!"

To which I replied, in no uncertain terms, that yes, I did believe we all came from nothing. He asked me how I knew. I told him I had a PhD in evolutionary biology. He paused for a minute, thanked me for my time and left.

5 minutes of my time, no unpleasant words on either end, no impolite slamming the door in anyone's face, but I made sure that our house was off the list of "places to stop and talk about Jesus" for that particular sect.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2011


Do you think technology and its uses are entirely the province of atheism?

When it suits certain atheists, as it did in what I was responding to? You bet your ass they'll portray it that way.

But let's instead look at it this way. The facetious argument about shooting over tin was supposed to highlight the fact that people who believe something the poster (and you) doesn't like were, as a class of people, prone to all kinds of dangerous nonsense. It merely burst your bubble to note that the most educated, secular group of people in the world -- people who rely on eliminating as much of the subjective as possible -- could also indulge in dangerous nonsense. Because it meant that dangerous nonsense is, on the whole, a matter of political expedience.

How will you get out of this one? Was it "inevitable" that scientists make ICBMs? Or will you say that they had to because the Jesus-freaks told them? I guess that would make rocket scientists and nuclear scientists appear to be spineless twits, and you would of course be indulging in a variant of the Nuremberg Defense (oh yeah -- I went there!).

But naturally, the argument is nonsense. Parody. Scientists are not bad people.

So cut it out with those kinds of arguments, folks.

People will shoot other people using any politically expedient justification, and providing politically expedient justifications is the route to institutional power. It's no coincidence that the scions of New Atheism saves its real venom for Islam -- Sam Harris gets applause for advocating targeted killings of Muslim radicals, and of course, back in the link up above Dawkins was eager to joke about genital mutilation in some Muslim groups just to tell a woman to shut up. And of course, there's Hitch, who was always an atheist but never really got into it until after he found synergy with his newfound chickenhawkism.

I know you probably think I don't know your pain, how you (think you've) heard it all before. But I also know that PZ Myers and Scott Atran have also been tossed into the B list for not being a part of that little party, where white male atheists with bad hair battle white male religionists with bad hair for the soul of neoliberalism. Atran is of course especially inconvenient because he has an in depth knowledge of Islam and the social phenomena of religious belief and extremism, and he keeps saying that the Popular Crowd is wrong. Myers, of course, occasionally ventures that his friends should stop behaving like pigs.

I guess evidence based reasoning is selective, right?

But don't worry. Atheists are only just as awful as everyone else.
posted by mobunited at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


This is what happens when you think the process of discovery (ie science) is the same as a world view or a belief. It isn't. It's simply a process of discovery. What you do with that discovery is up to you, or your nihilistic warmongering government.

The degree to which people did not detect the use of sarcasm underscores a certain degree of shallowness in thinking about what others are saying, might think, and might believe.

I wonder if there are any correlations between atheism and mindblindness.
posted by mobunited at 8:36 AM on August 1, 2011


If there was a just God, he would have abolished organized religion long ago.

I hate to spoil the Gospels before you've read them, but . . .
posted by The World Famous at 8:56 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hate to say it, but Poe's law as rendered me largely unable to distinguish the people who earnestly argue that secularism and modernism created the cold war, and those who make the claim sarcastically. Either way, it's safer to just skip on down the page.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:56 AM on August 1, 2011


I don't think I really understand what belief is. I mean, when I think and talk about what I believe, I consider "belief" to be analogous to "assumption": it's something I consider for the purposes of reasoning about other things--maybe not all other things--and, though I can't prove my beliefs true or false, I nonetheless prefer to choose the ones that provide the simplest explanations for my own experience. My "belief" in, say, evolution isn't actually the sort of thing I'd normally call belief because I'm not a biologist; I assume that evolution is true because I know some biologists and they've told me how the theory was formed and it seems pretty convincing to me. I could turn that assumption into a belief by breeding peas, I guess. It might be fun; I just haven't gotten around to it.

Most people I've known who say they "believe" in some entity named God are willing to assert that it exists and has certain properties, but if they use that belief to reason about the world it's certainly not obvious to me. Perhaps the moral principles they live by were said to originate from God, but I've never heard them bother to justify their moral principles on that basis, because those principles aren't subject to argument anyway. They "believe" in the principles, and the existence of God is just background material. Perhaps interesting background material, like how I use the concept of evolution as an analogy when I'm looking to explain the way businesses change over time.

If "belief" is just that which you're willing to assert, and unwilling to deny, then I have at various times really believed that Frodo Baggins delivered the One Ring to the Cracks of Doom; that when you step on a crack, you break your momma's back; and that various social institutions are Forces of Good and/or Evil, and never mind the bureaucracy that's keeping them alive that's actually the entirety of the organization when you think about it. And if that's all belief is, then lots of people who believe in God are nihilists in the ethical sense.

If that's the sort of belief we're talking about... and I guess it must be, since all the polls on religion I've read have simply asked people to identify their own religion... then "belief" is really just another marker, like how the clothes you wear signal your social class. That can be important, in the same way that social class is important, because it affects the way people organize themselves and relate to others.

But talking about social issues like that isn't really "talking about religion," is it? I mean, this thread here doesn't seem to be about sociology.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2011


I don't try to convince the religious of anything. Their belief in the supernatural is their problem, not mine.

Some of them have been known to be, uhm, rather aggressive sharers.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:11 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It has always seemed to me that, where the question is "does a god exist?" the burden lies exclusively with those who believe the answer is or might be "yes." Although I'm not a fan of the general tone of the various Santa Claus and Tooth Fairy-citing responses, I think they do get right to the heart of the matter, which is that it makes no sense for someone to believe in a deity unless they have some convincing reason, on a personal level, to believe.

The problem is that the whole discussion tends to be extraordinarily sophomoric from the get-go, on both sides. As some people here and in the articles have pointed out, the question "why do you or do you not believe in god?" should not even be allowed out of the box, given that it contains an undefined and extremely contentious central term or premise.

I imagine that a rational, civil discussion of the issue would go something like this:

Dear Prominent Atheist: Why do you not believe in any deity of any definition?

Prominent Atheist: Because I am unaware of any evidence that would lead me to such a belief. Also, I am not aware of any realistically workable definition of "god," and therefore cannot apply the sort of scientific analysis to which I subscribe.

Dear Prominent Theist: Why do you believe in a god, defined however you wish to define the term?

Prominent Theist: Because I have observed or gathered evidence that have led me to believe.

Follow-up to Prominent Theist: Is that evidence the sort of thing that you can share with other people and that they can use in applying the sort of scientific analysis to which they might subscribe?

Prominent Theist: No.

Aside from fighting over ill-defined terms and untestable evidence, what more is there to the discussion?
posted by The World Famous at 9:12 AM on August 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Some of them have been known to be, uhm, rather aggressive sharers.

On the one hand, it seems reasonable to complain about whatever breaches of social etiquette and decorum may be committed by people over-sharing their religious convictions - particularly when those people's efforts include starting wars and committing atrocities. On the other hand, it does not seem reasonable to, on the one hand, complain that there is no evidence of god's existence and, on the other hand, complain that people should not share what they think constitutes such evidence.
posted by The World Famous at 9:18 AM on August 1, 2011


Hm. Too many hands in that last sentence.
posted by The World Famous at 9:20 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Weston - for discussion about what would be sufficient evidence amongst atheist bloggers of this stripe, you could try here and here

Sparx: am I missing something, or is the answer pretty much that (at least among those atheists) "there just is no sufficient evidence"?

If God showed up tomorrow, in whatever form you choose, and everyone on Earth unequivocally felt the divine presence, I suspect I'd think: (a) I'd gone stark raving mad (b) Everyone had gone stark raving mad (c) God was a scary alien overlord or (d) God was an impostor

I donno if you'll find anyone treating the question seriously outside a fictional context because well frankly mythology is a form of fiction.


Yeah, I don't know. All of this kind of response tends to strike me as a form of epistemic closure (though I guess it might also be a time-saving heuristic).

What would it take for me to believe in God? I would have to have first hand experience of his/her/its presence and it would have to give me a damn good reason for its long term obliqueness. Also I would want to know what I am supposed to do with this new knowledge and "worship Me" would not be a good enough answer.

See, this seems like a proper response to me. While I can definitely see questioning my experience following this kind of event, I'd assume that it's at least possible that things happened as I experienced them.

The problem is that the definitions of 'God' that you don't call reprehensible are functionally indistinguishable from God not existing at all.

This seems false to me. Even if you read statements like those from Armstrong as saying more or less "God is in your head" , this is functionally distinguishable from "not existing at all": it has observable effects, such a God would be at least as real as currency. This kind of phenomenological argument may be fundamentally unsatisfying from the standpoint of someone who is examining the question of whether God has the same kind of observable and independently verifiable existence as, say, the planet Mars, but it's still functionably distinguishable from non-existence.

And I'd go farther than that. I think you could start with a general definition is precisely functional, and them come up with hypotheses that are neither "God is a phenomenon of individual human minds" and "God is literally an anthropomorphic omnipotent omniscient figure with a righteous large beard." "God is a scary alien overlord" being one, "God is a terrestrial superorganism" being another. Whether or not they test well or fill the role deities do for theists is another question, but all in all, I think it's fairer to say you can come up with all the functional definitions and hypotheses you chose to rather than that there's some inherent scarcity to them.
posted by weston at 9:32 AM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I was once in a conversation with a group of people, one of whom was a physicist. Somehow the topic of religion came up, and I asked the physicist if he was religious.

He looked thoughtful. "I feel that there is an organizing principle to the universe that is both self-aware and rational."

"What about an afterlife?"

"Don't be f***ing stupid."
posted by Ritchie at 9:40 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wonder if there are any correlations between atheism and mindblindness.

OK, you're just here to fling around strange insults (mindblindness?) so I'll leave you to it.
posted by Summer at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2011


I wonder if there are any correlations between atheism and mindblindness.

I have no scientific studies or statistically-significant datasets to support my opinion on this. But by way of anecdote and personal experience, I have to say I don't see any reason to believe that's the case. Some of the most empathetic people I have ever met are atheists.

I wonder, does your wondering (which does not appear to rise to the level of a hypothesis) have any basis in specific experiences or anecdotes (or data)? Or are you just wondering based on speculation without factual support?
posted by The World Famous at 9:49 AM on August 1, 2011


Even if you read statements like those from Armstrong as saying more or less "God is in your head" , this is functionally distinguishable from "not existing at all": it has observable effects, such a God would be at least as real as currency. This kind of phenomenological argument may be fundamentally unsatisfying from the standpoint of someone who is examining the question of whether God has the same kind of observable and independently verifiable existence as, say, the planet Mars, but it's still functionably distinguishable from non-existence.

I'm intrigued by this (particularly the currency bit). So could you replace "God" with "Santa Claus" in this paragraph and still have it work the same way? And I don't mean to be flip. I'm one of those atheists who would love to be wrong about this. The idea that there is no thought, interaction or any sort of stimulation after we die is frightening to me. But, having been raised religious and taught to pray every night, I came to the point where I had to ask myself if I really believed that I was talking to someone in my prayers or if I was just working out ideas in my own head. And, when I "look into my heart," as they say, I could not honestly believe the former.

But if a person's god exists simply because, as you've written (and please correct me if I'm misinterpreting), it exists in a person's head, how is that different from the "existence" of Santa Claus to a child? And taking all that into consideration, is it asking a lot of atheists to talk with respect about beliefs that only exist in someone else's head?
posted by zerbinetta at 9:52 AM on August 1, 2011


You mean there is a non ridiculous definition of god?

The problem is that the definitions of 'God' that you don't call reprehensible are functionally indistinguishable from God not existing at all.

Well, circle-jerking away, my definition of God, however idiotic or high-minded, makes a difference to me and the way I see who I am and explain why I do what I do. I'm wary of anyone whose definition works in such a way as to justify actions that most loving and compassionate humans find problematic.

Is this jizz-fest not just a discussion about whether or not we want to keep the term "God" in the lexicon? What happens if the idea of "God" disappears from human consciousness? Don't we, in some way, just replace it with some version of ourselves?

It is a ridiculous discussion, but I think it's inevitable. So either we choose to talk about it in such a way that alienates those on the other side, or we engage them in the way that we would hope to be engaged. As Karen Armstrong suggests in her Charter for Compassion TED talk, we might try to remind ourselves to see the golden rule as that universal guiding principle we all aspire to follow.
posted by kneecapped at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2011


kneecapped: Is this jizz-fest not just a discussion about whether or not we want to keep the term "God" in the lexicon? What happens if the idea of "God" disappears from human consciousness? Don't we, in some way, just replace it with some version of ourselves?

Something that I find to be annoying is how eurocentric this whole discussion and both of the links are. There are human cultures that treat the existence of a monotheistic deity as dubious, and largely irrelevant to human concerns.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:03 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


KirkJobSluder: There are human cultures that treat the existence of a monotheistic deity as dubious, and largely irrelevant to human concerns.

Right, but I do, actually, have a hard time entering the experience of cultures like this, and if I think I might understand, I am in fact viewing them through eurocentric lens. The significant element in the problem of God might just be a product of culture clash. If I'm part of a relatively isolated human culture with its idiosyncratic notions of itself in the world, and I come into contact with another heretofore isolated human culture with its notions ... suddenly I have to decide whether I'm going to seek to integrate or continue to isolate - and I'm confronted with "us and them-ness". And so it begins.

Still, as you say, it is amazing how sure some of us are of ourselves and our ability to get it.
posted by kneecapped at 10:17 AM on August 1, 2011


I think trying to start with a definition of God is a really bad place to begin as even within a religious tradition it's hard to agree on how to define God. I'd say the best place to begin is with what Leoben on BSG calls the "most basic article of faith" that "this is not all that we are." The idea that there is something to universe beyond the physical, material aspects that can be observed. To my mind this is what separates people who are in some sense "believers" from those who aren't.

Something that I find to be annoying is how eurocentric this whole discussion and both of the links are. There are human cultures that treat the existence of a monotheistic deity as dubious, and largely irrelevant to human concerns.

Isn't Eurocentric the wrong word? The existence of a monotheistic deity is a big deal in Europe, North and South America, large swaths of Africa, the Middle East, and a big part of Asia. The conversation excludes the perspective of some eastern religion (I'd say Buddhism, but not Hinduism, but we could argue about that), but that hardly makes it "Eurocentric."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:23 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that there is something to universe beyond the physical, material aspects that can be observed.

I'm troubled by the use of the passive voice in that sentence. Can be observed by whom, when, and how?
posted by The World Famous at 10:25 AM on August 1, 2011


It is interesting that Paul Davies is on the Believe page; he seems incredibly close to the formulations by Carl Sagan, who was very much on the Don't Believe side.

I remember hearing Sagan on NPR once, giving a description of cosmological wonder and physical laws and saying that if that was the definition of God, he believed (the unspoken point being that it wasn't and he didn't). I remember thinking, "Yeah, actually, that's pretty close to what I believe."

I can understand the complaints that "Why do you believe/disbelieve" are the wrong questions, and I tend to think that "What do you believe" is a lot more interesting, generally.

Ultimately, anything aside from hard determinism (which annihilates free will as well) is hard to support from a materialist conception of the world, and as any definition of God has to be arational and inherently outside of questions of proof (many of the theists get that wildly wrong, especially the laugher about the Bible accurately representing creation).
posted by klangklangston at 10:31 AM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm troubled by the use of the passive voice in that sentence. Can be observed by whom, when, and how?

Sorry, that phrasing was a little confusing. I meant belief in something that cannot be observed. So as a theist, I believe that there is something in the universe that cannot be objectively observed. It can be observed as part of my subjective experience, but it doesn't "exist" in the sense that it can be measured or observed objectively.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2011


That's an interesting definition, Bulgaroktonos. I'm not sure it's inclusive enough a starting point, though, considering the number of religions that purport to be based on the individual experiences and observations of the various founders and members of those religions, including the transcription of purported scripture, divine visitations, and that sort of thing. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, for example, each purport in one way or another that their respective deities have, at one point or another, been observed and have communicated directly with mortals. It's a moving and elusive target for scientific inquiry, of course, since the premise seems to be that those specific gods are observable, but only if they want to be observed or only if the observer has faith, circumstances are just right, or things like that. I suppose that, for the purposes of scientific inquiry, those conditions are functionally the same as those gods being unobservable or unmeasurable (I think "unmeasurable" is probably a better descriptor).
posted by The World Famous at 10:38 AM on August 1, 2011


What happens if the idea of "God" disappears from human consciousness? Don't we, in some way, just replace it with some version of ourselves?

No.

A lot of the aspects of the idea of "God" just turn out to be unnecessary. Some of the others can be fulfilled by 'Nature'. And yes, some of them are replaced by human relations and institutions. [Results may vary depending on your idea of "God".]
posted by benito.strauss at 10:49 AM on August 1, 2011


On the one hand, it seems reasonable to complain about whatever breaches of social etiquette and decorum may be committed by people over-sharing their religious convictions - particularly when those people's efforts include starting wars and committing atrocities. On the other hand, it does not seem reasonable to, on the one hand, complain that there is no evidence of god's existence and, on the other hand, complain that people should not share what they think constitutes such evidence.

I have a very clear image, and you have two other hands growing out of you left hand. It's consistent, if a little weird.

My complaint about aggressive sharing didn't really pertain to these articles. It's just hard for some of us to listen to arguments for God (and these are mostly about christianity) without thinking of the bad things that have been linked to them in the past. I'll let each of you Godwin this for yourselves.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:57 AM on August 1, 2011


I have a very clear image, and you have two other hands growing out of you left hand. It's consistent, if a little weird.

It's a miracle!
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on August 1, 2011


I wonder, does your wondering (which does not appear to rise to the level of a hypothesis) have any basis in specific experiences or anecdotes (or data)? Or are you just wondering based on speculation without factual support?

I think this backhanded criticism of me wondering about something that could be upsetting to some says more of the similarity between atheist and theist actions than anything I could say in response.

Mind blindness, for those having trouble following along, is a common description of an autistic spectrum trait. So in fact, it should not be upsetting, since people with it are fine folks, and often overreprsented in scientific and technical fields. It is a wild shot in the dark to excuse something that would otherwise fit an unkind judgment about what's going on in this thread.
Incidentally, I think I can be proud that this shot in the dark has exactly as much data to back it as a lot of what Dawkins says about religion functioning as a fitness reducing meme. Or you can be ashamed if you bought those comments of his. You choose!

In any event, it is quite remarkable that so many people see being just as virtuous or vile as religious people to be an insulting notion.
posted by mobunited at 11:07 AM on August 1, 2011


Ah. I thought you were genuinely wondering that. My mistake.
posted by The World Famous at 11:32 AM on August 1, 2011


I think this backhanded criticism of me wondering about something that could be upsetting to some says more of the similarity between atheist and theist actions than anything I could say in response.

I think when you're reduced in an argument to writing things that are this recursive and obtuse you're in terrible danger of being sucked into your own asshole and lost forever.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:37 AM on August 1, 2011


Bulgaroktonos: The existence of a monotheistic deity is a big deal in Europe, North and South America, large swaths of Africa, the Middle East, and a big part of Asia.

My admittedly quick count counted only one former Muslim in the lot. But certainly eruocentric is likely the wrong word.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:39 AM on August 1, 2011


Again, I find it really interesting that you are so wounded by the idea that you are not better or worse than people who believe in God.
posted by mobunited at 11:41 AM on August 1, 2011


And I find it really interesting how many telepaths and remote diagnosticians one finds in these threads.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


mobunited, I'm not sure "wounded" is the word for someone who seems annoyed that you said you wonder if Richard Dawkins is autistic.
posted by The World Famous at 11:43 AM on August 1, 2011


Ah. I thought you were genuinely wondering that. My mistake.

Either you take ol' Ricky D and me at our words that we're both openminded, or you damn us both. That is the rational course of action. It's not especially my problem to solve.
posted by mobunited at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2011


mobunited, I'm not sure "wounded" is the word for someone who seems annoyed that you said you wonder if Richard Dawkins is autistic.

Of course I said no such thing (and I didn't remotely diagnose anyone). Just a shot in the dark about a general thing I've been noticing.

I will assume you just made a mistake and didn't deliberately misrepresent what I said, and wait for some alternative response or none.
posted by mobunited at 11:53 AM on August 1, 2011


Come to think of it, I may be making a mistake myself, so if anybody I might have repesented as implying that atheism is a more moral choice than religious belief wants to come out and say that neither choice is morally superior to the other I'll certainly take them at their word -- no telepathy required.
posted by mobunited at 11:58 AM on August 1, 2011


mobunited, you seem to be under the impression that I'm debating some point with you about the relative morality of atheism and theism. I don't think I'm taking any position on that issue. Just out of curiosity, what side of that issue did you think I was on? Do you imagine that I'm on the side of the atheists or the theists here?
posted by The World Famous at 12:00 PM on August 1, 2011


"The conversation excludes the perspective of some eastern religion (I'd say Buddhism, but not Hinduism, but we could argue about that), but that hardly makes it "Eurocentric."
&
"The significant element in the problem of God might just be a product of culture clash"

You never hear the answer to the question: "Why don't you believe in God?"
"Because I am a Buddhist."

It's always couched in these Christian and Western/European philosophically derived and socially expressed terms most particularly in these kinds of debates.

And most typically everyone within that sphere are severely limited in their apprehension of thinking at all in those terms. Often by the limitation of thinking within the Judeo-Christian body itself.

The question is really one of religious/irreligiousity couched in these very limited "belief" terms.
"Why or why don't you engage in this social behavior and urge others to do so?" at least would address the very real social pressures being exerted.

The "there's no evidence" for God is either facile (because it's predicated on a very narrow concept which is pretty much the bearded man in the clouds no matter how sophisticated the variations within that realm) or worthless because it doesn't address the social behavior many, many, many other people engage in that is not predicated on a theistic God concept.

Why don't you meditate? (Buddhism)
Why don't you do yoga? (Hinduism - there are over 900 million. "Aww, that's super.")
Why don't you practice self-deprivation? (Jainism)
Why don't you ritually visit shrines? (Shintoism)
Why don't you treat animals with the same respect you treat humans? (Animism)

Can we say "because there's no evidence"? No, because it's addressing a behavior that results from a belief or construct rather than the construct itself.
And you can at least get a productive response.
"I feel better when I meditate. I feel healthier when I do yoga. I feel my connection with the community when I visit shrines with people." etc. Or, "I don't. So I do something else."

Discussing "God" in this way is not an ecumenical discussion at all. Not even within the whole of Christianity where you had Hegel (et.al) and Christian Atheists who retain only the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. Indeed even in Judaism you have Spinoza.

Even a very western-centric question like: "why do you or don't you practice the moral teachings of Jesus Christ?" wouldn't be as (socially and conceptually) front-loaded a question as "Why do you or don't you believe in God?"

Of what possible value is that question in the first place? Indeed, why not equate it to a belief in Santa Claus? The result is just as over simplified and stupid.
I believe in Santa Claus because he's a useful personification of giving, charity and generosity that we should all engage in throughout the year. I don't believe in Santa Claus because he's not real and the whole thing is a commercial gimmick to make people buy things.
Pfft.
GIGO.
Not going to learn anything useful.

Now, ask James Jones what wisdom Jesus had and what it convinces him of in terms of how to better love, or ask Maryam Namazie how confront injustice and seek a moral path, that's a worthwhile conversation, which, I strongly suspect, won't have the competitive opposition wrangling terms over symbols has.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:08 PM on August 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Smedleyman, I suspect that "Belief in God" functions as a sibolet for many people, especially those who are keen on viewing the world as in-group vs. out-group.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:25 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Smedleyman, I suspect that "Belief in God" functions as a sibolet for many people, especially those who are keen on viewing the world as in-group vs. out-group.

And from there, it's a proxy for getting into debates about assumed values.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:54 PM on August 1, 2011


Next week, we ask a number of public figures why their hobby is 'not collecting stamps'.

I was gonna say "I don't collect stamps for the same reason that I don't collect teaspoons, seashells or Kombat Katz, and the reasons should be obvious to anybody over the age of ten," and then I realised there is as yet no such thing as "Kombat Katz" and I began to think...well, what if there was?
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:44 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't believe in God because there have been too many Gods.

Two-thousand years and not a single new god! (with apologies to Nietzsche)

Also: Spinoza covered this already. God or Nature. Everything hinges on the dismissive but still awesome (in the original etymological sense of the term) or.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:24 PM on August 1, 2011


Two-thousand years and not a single new god! (with apologies to Nietzsche)

Xenu?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:51 PM on August 1, 2011


I was taught from the cradle that gods are something humans invented to fool ourselves or others into feeling sure about a variety of unsure things. I was also taught that people who do believe in gods are fools. It was also pointed out to me that people become fools for all sorts of other reasons; the religious have no monopoly on foolishness.

Somehow the things my mother taught me aren't safe from shitheads with power.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:09 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Isn't it funny how people tend to believe the things they are taught from the cradle, including uncharitable things about others?
posted by The World Famous at 12:22 AM on August 2, 2011


I don't consider it uncharitable. Fools are in good company.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:15 AM on August 2, 2011


Protip: Most people tend to take offense if you call them "foolish". Explaining to them that they are "in good company" being thus doesn't really help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on August 2, 2011


Most people find sentences starting with "Protip:" to be condescending, and give them the short shrift they deserve. But you know that already.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:44 AM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Fools are in good company.

What does that even mean? I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you mean something that you really think makes it not uncharitable to judge millions of people you have never met as fools based on a complex personal belief that you cannot possibly understand and that varies widely between individuals. But I really can't figure out what you mean.
posted by The World Famous at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2011


And recently, a few more people who believe in God have demonstrated what that means to them.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2011


But I really can't figure out what you mean.

It's in the first comment (well, the first one that wasn't deleted) I made -- I think religious thought has been invented by people in order to trick, or fool, themselves or others into not worrying about a whole variety of questions they might have. I also think there is a great deal of non-religious thought that serves this same purpose.

Gandhi said people tend to follow the religions of our mothers. He said their lessons are all more or less the same. I think this is true. My mother taught me to mistrust received wisdom, to disbelieve answers from "gods." She had no religion, and in fact had a much more strident and negative view of religious people than I do. I still fool myself to ease my mind about a lot of big questions, though with a little more reflection I often recognize the questions as unanswerable and useless to me in my life.

I live in a society where being religious is the norm, and I've been called a fool all my life by religious folk. I listened to them, and while I think their reasons for saying so are all wrong, I think in essence, they're correct. Like most people, I consume certain falsehoods to make myself more comfortable. That's foolish.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:38 AM on August 2, 2011


The World Famous: I'm struggling to salvage scraps of charity given current events that are revealing the ugliness of religious prejudice ranging from the snide and condescending, ("a complex personal belief that you cannot possibly understand" is a great example), to double-standards, to outright bigotry.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2011


Most people find sentences starting with "Protip:" to be condescending, and give them the short shrift they deserve. But you know that already.

Well, I'm in good company, then.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:35 AM on August 2, 2011


But I'll play nice, now.

I realize that you don't consider being accused of being "foolish" to be an insult. However, you are the exception in this regard, and I invite you to bear that in mind in future. It may ease conversational flow for you somewhat, I wager.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:36 AM on August 2, 2011


You're gonna need a bigger last word.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:37 AM on August 2, 2011


I'm struggling to salvage scraps of charity given current events that are revealing the ugliness of religious prejudice ranging from the snide and condescending, ("a complex personal belief that you cannot possibly understand" is a great example), to double-standards, to outright bigotry.

First, my reference to "a complex personal belief that you cannot possibly understand" was in the context of Ice Cream Socialist's dismissal as "foolish" of all religious belief of ever stripe everywhere in the world held by anyone for any reason. That is unbelievably complex and nobody - not Ice Cream Socialist, you, me, or anyone else - can possibly understand the complex individual beliefs of every single person in the world who fits any reasonable definition of "religious" sufficiently to dismiss every single one of those beliefs as foolish. That's what I was driving at, and I apologize if I did not make that clear.

Second, to paint with such a broad brush based on particular events revealing the ugliness of religious prejudice, double standards, bigotry, etc. is irrational and unsupported. It's like saying anyone who likes soccer is a fool because people often do terrible things at soccer games or in the name of their favorite soccer team. It is entirely rational to apply a given judgment to a known or understandable subset of belief or a well-defined category into which some people may or may not fall. But "religious thought," as Ice Cream Socialist calls it, is such a broad category as to be practically undefinable and, therefore, beyond analysis and certainly beyond uncharitable judgment as to the entire category.

So, is my statement that it is impossible for anyone to understand the complex individual beliefs of every religious person in the world sufficiently to dismiss all of them as fools really snide and condescending? I didn't mean it to be, so I apologize if you think it is. It was meant as an empirical observation about the non-knowability of the premise stated by Ice Cream Socialist.
posted by The World Famous at 9:38 AM on August 2, 2011


You're gonna need a bigger last word.

Not trying to get the last word. Just trying to make a suggestion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2011


That's what I was driving at, and I apologize if I did not make that clear.

No, you didn't make it clear. But thank you.

Second, to paint with such a broad brush based on particular events revealing the ugliness of religious prejudice, double standards, bigotry, etc. is irrational and unsupported. It's like saying anyone who likes soccer is a fool because people often do terrible things at soccer games or in the name of their favorite soccer team.

Well no. Current events just make this more acute. The reality is that prejudice ranging from ignorant cluelessness to mean-spirited bigotry is both endemic and pervasive. Most of the time, I do try to be loving and charitable in the face of claims about me that I find to be deeply offensive, but I'm not willing to shoulder the burden of always being in a nice and happy mood about it.

So, is my statement that it is impossible for anyone to understand the complex individual beliefs of every religious person in the world sufficiently to dismiss all of them as fools really snide and condescending? I didn't mean it to be, so I apologize if you think it is. It was meant as an empirical observation about the non-knowability of the premise stated by Ice Cream Socialist.

Well, that's not the statement you made. The statement you did make is indistinguishable from the common stereotype that atheists just can't understand religious belief or faith at all. We are, "as deaf to faith as others are to music, or as blind to the blessings of religion as still others are blind to color." I'll be charitable to the fact that you have apologized and didn't intend the meaning that's as common as dirt.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2011


The statement you did make is indistinguishable from the common stereotype that atheists just can't understand religious belief or faith at all.

I distinguished it above. It is, therefore, distinguishable. I specifically referred, in that same sentence, to "millions of people you have never met," and I think that at least hints at what I was saying. Had I said "that you, as an atheist, cannot possibly understand" or something to that effect, I could see some similarity with what you are referencing. But my comment was referencing Ice Cream Socialist's blanket dismissal of every single religious person in the world - regardless of what their unknown beliefs are - as a fool because of those unknown beliefs.

That Ice Cream Socialist then responded by explaining that his judgment of all those people is based on his or her own unsupported speculative belief about history and his or her belief in a teaching of a specific, prominent religious figure sort of takes the whole thing in another direction, to which I elected not to respond.
posted by The World Famous at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2011


The World Famous: Reading it and re-reading it, your original phrase is still offensively ambiguous. But I'll take you at your word and apology that you intended something different.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:16 AM on August 2, 2011


The World Famous, the way you fling the words "belief," "judgment," "dismissal," and "unsupported" around is a bit bewildering, as is your assertion that your final paragraph isn't a response to the explanation you requested.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:22 AM on August 2, 2011


I didn't fling them around. I threw them at you.
posted by The World Famous at 11:27 AM on August 2, 2011


Sorry, that was a little rude. I did not fling them around. I carefully and accurately selected them to describe what you wrote.
posted by The World Famous at 11:32 AM on August 2, 2011


I guess we don't really see eye-to-eye. Good luck.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 11:34 AM on August 2, 2011


Thanks.
posted by The World Famous at 11:37 AM on August 2, 2011


MetaFilter: GIGO
posted by jeffburdges at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2011


My roommate refers to himself as "apatheistic".

Pfft. Anyone can just say that. Is he ordained? Does he have a degree?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:54 AM on August 2, 2011


Obligatory Thor
posted by jeffburdges at 10:19 PM on August 2, 2011


That is unbelievably complex and nobody - not Ice Cream Socialist, you, me, or anyone else - can possibly understand the complex individual beliefs of every single person in the world who fits any reasonable definition of "religious" sufficiently to dismiss every single one of those beliefs as foolish.

This argument always strikes me as being almost entirely content-free.

By this standard there is very little one can say about any given belief, so it's no surprise that we don't hold non-religious beliefs to this standard. Nor do we truly hold religious beliefs to it, either; the religious label each other's beliefs foolish all the time, and there are plenty of religions which are dismissed as foolish by nearly everyone, too. And of course, religion in the aggregate is quite commonly declared to be wise, important, positive, etc. It's only when religion itself is claimed to be negative that it suddenly becomes way too complicated to make generalizations about, maaaaan.

I mean, nobody -- not Ice Cream Socialist, you, me, or anyone else - can possibly understand the complex individual beliefs of every single person in the world who fits any reasonable definition of "Nationalist" sufficiently to dismiss every single one of those beliefs as foolish, but it's funny how nobody ever brings that up...
posted by vorfeed at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This argument always strikes me as being almost entirely content-free.

The content is this: It is illogical, unreasonable, and uncharitable to dismiss as "fools" millions of people based solely on the fact that an extraordinarily broad and, to some extent, ill-defined label can be applied to them.

The issue is that the qualifier that such "fools" are "in good company" does not soften or mitigate the fact that calling people fools by painting them with such a broad brush is, ultimately, an insult. It boils down to basically "Everyone is a fool for various reasons. For example, you are a fool for this particular reason that happens not to apply to me."
posted by The World Famous at 3:26 PM on August 3, 2011


The content is this: It is illogical, unreasonable, and uncharitable to dismiss as "fools" millions of people based solely on the fact that an extraordinarily broad and, to some extent, ill-defined label can be applied to them.

You mean an extraordinarily broad and, to some extent, ill-defined label like "Nationalist"? If that's not good enough, how about "touch healer"? "Libertarian"? "Sinner"? (Or, for that matter, "Satanist")?

I'm sorry, but we do this all the time. It's actually one of the primary ways human beings place value judgments on ideas and beliefs, however complex, and the idea that it is "illogical, unreasonable, and uncharitable" when it comes to religion is no more than a facile double standard. You don't have to agree that religion is foolish, but the idea that it can't possibly be considered foolish is laughable.
posted by vorfeed at 3:54 PM on August 3, 2011


You mean an extraordinarily broad and, to some extent, ill-defined label like "Nationalist"? If that's not good enough, how about "touch healer"? "Libertarian"? "Sinner"? (Or, for that matter, "Satanist")?

Sure. Why not. "Believes in gods" is a lot broader than any of those. But sure. If we have a thread where someone says that all of those people are fools, we can have this discussion there, too.

I'm sorry, but we do this all the time. It's actually one of the primary ways human beings place value judgments on ideas and beliefs, however complex, and the idea that it is "illogical, unreasonable, and uncharitable" when it comes to religion is no more than a facile double standard.

Yes, people are illogical, unreasonable, and uncharitable all the time. You're right. I'm afraid I'm not seeing how it's a double standard to point that out here. What am I not applying the standard to that you think I should be?

You don't have to agree that religion is foolish, but the idea that it can't possibly be considered foolish is laughable.

I agree. Did someone say that it can't possibly be considered foolish?
posted by The World Famous at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2011


Sure. Why not. "Believes in gods" is a lot broader than any of those. But sure. If we have a thread where someone says that all of those people are fools, we can have this discussion there, too.

Except we don't. It comes up nearly every time we have this discussion, but when we have other discussions (like, say, about how foolish it is to be racist or to disbelieve in climate change), the sheer complexity of the range of racist and/or anti-climate beliefs is rarely mentioned, if ever.

What am I not applying the standard to that you think I should be?

My point was that I don't believe you're applying this standard as a matter of course, except with regards to religion. Of course, it's hard to check to see whether someone doesn't do something, so if I'm wrong about that, I apologize. On the other hand, if I am wrong, then it should be trivially easy for you to provide several counter-examples...

I agree. Did someone say that it can't possibly be considered foolish?

"'religious thought,' as Ice Cream Socialist calls it, is such a broad category as to be practically undefinable and, therefore, beyond analysis" [...] "it is impossible for anyone to understand the complex individual beliefs of every religious person in the world sufficiently to dismiss all of them as fools" [...] "the non-knowability of the premise stated by Ice Cream Socialist" [emphasis mine]
posted by vorfeed at 4:41 PM on August 3, 2011


Except we don't. It comes up nearly every time we have this discussion, but when we have other discussions (like, say, about how foolish it is to be racist or to disbelieve in climate change), the sheer complexity of the range of racist and/or anti-climate beliefs is rarely mentioned, if ever.

First, I'm not sure I buy your premise. Can you show me somewhere else where someone has said that everyone who believes in a god is a fool but that they are in good company and where someone then responded that the commenter was painting with too broad a brush and making an uncharitable statement about millions of people based on assumed motivations that could not be known?

Second, are you calling me out for not making that comment in every other thread about everything else where a broad, ill-defined category of people is referred to as "fools" by someone who was taught that by their mother? I'm not sure what you want me to do.

My point was that I don't believe you're applying this standard as a matter of course, except with regards to religion.

Ah. You believe wrong. I apply it as a matter of course.

"'religious thought,' as Ice Cream Socialist calls it, is such a broad category as to be practically undefinable and, therefore, beyond analysis" [...] "it is impossible for anyone to understand the complex individual beliefs of every religious person in the world sufficiently to dismiss all of them as fools" [...] "the non-knowability of the premise stated by Ice Cream Socialist" [emphasis mine]

Ah. So, did you not mean what you wrote above when you said "You don't have to agree that religion is foolish, but the idea that it can't possibly be considered foolish is laughable"?

It is certainly possible to consider religion foolish. And I stand by my prior comment, as well. If you can't see the difference between those statements, I'm not sure I can help you.
posted by The World Famous at 4:49 PM on August 3, 2011


First, I'm not sure I buy your premise. Can you show me somewhere else where someone has said that everyone who believes in a god is a fool but that they are in good company and where someone then responded that the commenter was painting with too broad a brush and making an uncharitable statement about millions of people based on assumed motivations that could not be known?

Yes, of course I can. I've encountered the religion-is-too-complex-to-be-bad argument more than once.

It is certainly possible to consider religion foolish. And I stand by my prior comment, as well. If you can't see the difference between those statements, I'm not sure I can help you.

When I said "you don't have to agree that religion is foolish, but the idea that it can't possibly be considered foolish is laughable", I was not talking about the mere ability to hold the belief that religion is foolish. It is trivially obvious that "it is possible to consider religion foolish". However, you seem to be suggesting that this belief cannot possibly be valid, in and of itself -- in short, that religion is something to which "foolish" cannot apply, by definition -- and that's a different matter.

And yeah, you probably can't help me reconcile the idea that "religious thought" is "undefinable", "non-knowable", and "beyond analysis and certainly beyond uncharitable judgment as to the entire category" with the idea that religious thought can be considered foolish. I'd love to know how one goes from "an empirical observation about the non-knowability of the premise" to "it is certainly possible", too. But, of course, you can't help me...
posted by vorfeed at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2011


I've encountered the religion-is-too-complex-to-be-bad argument more than once.

That's not what I said. It's not an argument I'm making. I have reiterated, explained, and re-explained myself in this thread already.

You have, indeed, enountered that argument more than once. But you have not encountered it here.

However, you seem to be suggesting that this belief cannot possibly be valid, in and of itself -- in short, that religion is something to which "foolish" cannot apply, by definition -- and that's a different matter.

That's not what I'm suggesting. I agree that the belief that religion is foolish can be valid. Religion is certainly something to which "foolish" can apply.

And yeah, you probably can't help me reconcile the idea that "religious thought" is "undefinable", "non-knowable", and "beyond analysis and certainly beyond uncharitable judgment as to the entire category" with the idea that religious thought can be considered foolish.

Ok. Just for the sake of my own understanding, what do you think the definition of the category called "religious thought" is as applied in the assertion that we're discussing in this thread? What categories of thought, throughout the course of human history, fit within that rubric?

You keep shifting between the assertion - which I agree with - that "religion" can be considered foolish and the assertion - which I do not agree with for the reasons previously stated - that "religious thought" is a definable category of human endeavor that can be rationally analyzed as a whole and then summarily dismissed as "foolish."

I think maybe I'm viewing the category "religious thought" as a much, much, much broader field of thought, inquiry, and philosophy historically than you are. Could that be the problem?
posted by The World Famous at 6:19 PM on August 3, 2011


Yes, of course I can. I've encountered the religion-is-too-complex-to-be-bad argument more than once.

First, let me say that some of those are great comments. Second, let me point out that none of them, as far as I can tell, are saying that religion is too complex to be bad, but that it is such a broad category that it cannot so easily be dismissed categorically.

But nobody here except you is talking about religion being "good" or "bad." I said nothing about that and, though I do agree with some of the comments you linked, that is not the topic being discussed in this particular thread.

And again, I think there's a massive - massive - difference in terms of both meaning and breadth between "religion" and "religious thought." And I think that distinction, which you do not appear to be making, may be part of the reason you're so adamant in your disagreement with me.
posted by The World Famous at 6:26 PM on August 3, 2011


Not a lot of those people actually had very convincing reasons. A number of them were "people use religion to push others around, so I don't believe in god."

But then again, the idea that the reason why someone doesn't believe in something is noteworthy seems to beg the question. Or something like that. Especially when I read the answers. Many of them almost seem to say "god is mean, so I don't believe in him."
posted by gjc at 7:48 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ok. Just for the sake of my own understanding, what do you think the definition of the category called "religious thought" is as applied in the assertion that we're discussing in this thread? What categories of thought, throughout the course of human history, fit within that rubric?

The ones commonly associated with religion. I mean, we can quibble forever about the exact members of the set, just as we can argue over exactly which human institutions are and are not religions, but I think that's a fair starting definition. One of the most frustrating things about these arguments is how words like "religious" and "secular" suddenly become impossible! to! define!, even though they are quite frequently used and understood. Most would agree that going to a shrine is religious, but eating an orange is non-religious, and then leaving an orange as an offering in the shrine is religious again; it may be weird but we do it all the same. Now, any two people might disagree ("Shinto is not a religion, it's a ritual folkway!") but doing so still assumes that "religion" can be discussed as a category.

For what it's worth, I don't see a massive difference between "religious thought" and "religion". "Religious" is an adjective which modifies "thought", and more-or-less means "of, pertaining to, or concerned with religion".

I think maybe I'm viewing the category "religious thought" as a much, much, much broader field of thought, inquiry, and philosophy historically than you are. Could that be the problem?

Yes, probably so. But again, my entire argument is that the breadth of a category is not enough to make value judgments about that category impossible. Humanity is about the broadest category possible, yet we make judgments about its nature all the time. There was a broad field of thought, inquiry, and philosophy historically regarding honor, slavery, war, leadership, government, and the like -- and these things were all vastly different in different places and times, making them each a tremendously broad category -- but we still make categorical judgments about them.

Like I said before, you are free to choose not to dismiss religion categorically, but I'm not going to buy the idea that it cannot be done. It just doesn't stand up to comparison with similar human institutions.
posted by vorfeed at 7:54 PM on August 3, 2011


"god is mean, so I don't believe in him."

Since God disappears when we stop believing in him/her/it/them, I find that argument very convincing.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:59 PM on August 3, 2011


But then again, the idea that the reason why someone doesn't believe in something is noteworthy seems to beg the question. Or something like that. Especially when I read the answers. Many of them almost seem to say "god is mean, so I don't believe in him."

"God is mean [so I don't believe in him]" is not exactly a new concept, nor necessarily a simplistic one. It has been a part of more than a few important religious movements in the past, particularly Marcionism, and is deeply associated with problem of evil. Thomas Paine put it pretty bluntly, also...
posted by vorfeed at 8:09 PM on August 3, 2011


"Like I said before, you are free to choose not to dismiss religion categorically, but I'm not going to buy the idea that it cannot be done. It just doesn't stand up to comparison with similar human institutions."

The comparisons you've offered — racism and anti-climate change — aren't institutions. Neither is religion per se, but that doesn't make those analogies better, it makes them worse.

Dismissing religion categorically is more comparable to dismissing politics or art or sports categorically. Religion is (despite your protestations) a broad term that is largely defined contextually in common parlance, which is why it's important to have a solid definition for argument (which is why any coherent argument based on religion or art or politics broadly does take pains to define those terms within the scope of that argument). With those terms as analogies, it's trivial to see the difference in saying that art or politics or sports can be foolish, but that art or political or sport thought isn't necessarily, and by arguing that it is, you're making your case in an over-broad manner.

Which is frankly a pretty frequent occurrence when you start writing about religion, and one that tends to make your specific criticisms less sympathetic because it comes from a fairly obvious vantage of anti-religious bias (hence thinking racism is a good analogy).
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The ones commonly associated with religion.

Ok. Then the definition is too broad for any reasonable, rational, logical, or, indeed, charitable judgement that they are all "foolish." You are certainly free to call all "religious thought" that fits that definition "foolish" if you want to. But you're calling "foolish" some of the most important and profound thinking of human history if you do, and that, in my opinion, makes no sense.

One of the most frustrating things about these arguments is how words like "religious" and "secular" suddenly become impossible! to! define!, even though they are quite frequently used and understood.

"Religious" and "secular" are not impossible to define. "Religious thought" is impossible to define in a way that both a) has some relationship to the term itself; and b) allows for a rational blanket dismissal as "foolish." That has more to do with the course of human history and thought than any problems figuring out what the word "religious" means.

But again, my entire argument is that the breadth of a category is not enough to make value judgments about that category impossible.

I don't disagree with you. I never said that value judgments about the entire category of "religious thought" are impossible. Judging all thought throughout human history that is, per your definition, "commonly associated with religion" as "foolish" is an unreasonable, illogical judgment. It is not impossible. Just unreasonable and illogical.

There was a broad field of thought, inquiry, and philosophy historically regarding honor, slavery, war, leadership, government, and the like -- and these things were all vastly different in different places and times, making them each a tremendously broad category -- but we still make categorical judgments about them.

I'm sure that there is, somewhere, someone who is dumb enough to make a blanket judgment that all thought associated in any way at any time in human history with government, leadership, war, slavery, honor, etc. is bad, no matter what position that thought takes and no matter what that thought is. But that person is illogical and unreasonable. And I agree with you that it is not impossible to be illogical and unreasonable.

Like I said before, you are free to choose not to dismiss religion categorically, but I'm not going to buy the idea that it cannot be done.

I agree. I have never disagreed with that point. Depending on what "dismiss" constitutes in any particular instance, such dismissal may, obviously, be both possible and illogical or unreasonable. I'm sure we agree on that point, as well.

It just doesn't stand up to comparison with similar human institutions.

Now I'm curious what you mean by that. What "human institutions" do you think are similar to religion (and why?), and what, specifically, do you mean by "stand up to comparison" with them?

"God is mean [so I don't believe in him]" is not exactly a new concept, nor necessarily a simplistic one. It has been a part of more than a few important religious movements in the past, particularly Marcionism, and is deeply associated with problem of evil. Thomas Paine put it pretty bluntly, also...

Under your own proposed definition of "religious thought," all of those examples fall within that category. Why are you citing them if you dismiss them categorically?
posted by The World Famous at 10:35 AM on August 4, 2011


With those terms as analogies, it's trivial to see the difference in saying that art or politics or sports can be foolish, but that art or political or sport thought isn't necessarily, and by arguing that it is, you're making your case in an over-broad manner.

As you well know, I don't believe that religion is necessarily harmful. I believe that it is generally harmful. Sports and art are often said to be extremely positive, among the highest of human endeavors, and yet we all know there are terrible exceptions; that doesn't mean we can't ever say sports and art are positive. It simply means that we need to acknowledge that the map is not the territory, and the rule not free of exceptions. Despite my "obvious vantage of anti-religious bias" (hey, a compliment -- thanks!), I don't have much trouble keeping that in mind.

Reality is always much bigger and weirder and riddled with seeming contradictions than we think, and it ultimately confounds all of our categories... but, again, this is not a serious ("it's non-knowable! Undefinable! Beyond analysis!") dealbreaker in general argument, and I get tired of seeing it trotted out as if it were.
posted by vorfeed at 10:48 AM on August 4, 2011


but, again, this is not a serious ("it's non-knowable! Undefinable! Beyond analysis!") dealbreaker in general argument, and I get tired of seeing it trotted out as if it were.

Just to reiterate, I agree with you, but that's not what I've been saying in this thread.
posted by The World Famous at 11:04 AM on August 4, 2011


Hopefully that takes care of your comment, too, The World Famous. We apparently have a very different view of what categories are, and what "dismissing" one means (not to mention what "impossible" and "valid" mean), and I'm not interested in going in circles with you about it. Suffice to say that the absolutist, absurdist standard you believe other people must necessarily be deploying when they "dismiss" religion may, in fact, be an illogical and unreasonable judgment.
posted by vorfeed at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2011


Suffice to say that the absolutist, absurdist standard you believe other people must necessarily be deploying when they "dismiss" religion may, in fact, be an illogical and unreasonable judgment.

Oh for crying out loud. "Dismissing" something typically comes with a qualifier of "as ____." If you "dismiss" all "religious thought" throughout all of human history "as foolish," then I think that's an illogical and unreasonable dismissal. If you "dismiss" religion "as" "generally harmful," as you have above, then that's a reasonable dismissal that I fully and completely agree with. It's impossible (yes, impossible) to know what you mean when you say you "dismiss" something like religion unless you include that "as" qualifier to explain what you mean when you say you "dismiss" it.

I, a religious person, dismiss religion as generally harmful. But I concede that that dismissal, which both you and I make, is fairly ill-defined and that it necessarily carries unstated implications about what we mean by "generally harmful."
posted by The World Famous at 11:20 AM on August 4, 2011


If you "dismiss" all "religious thought" throughout all of human history "as foolish," then I think that's an illogical and unreasonable dismissal.

Again, though, I don't think that's necessarily what Ice Cream Socialist meant. He (or she) didn't just say that all religious thought is foolish, full stop: when you asked him to, he qualified his statements with reasons ("gods are something humans invented to fool ourselves or others into feeling sure about a variety of unsure things", "I think religious thought has been invented by people in order to trick, or fool, themselves or others into not worrying about a whole variety of questions they might have"), with parallels ("I also think there is a great deal of non-religious thought that serves this same purpose", "like most people, I consume certain falsehoods to make myself more comfortable. That's foolish"), and even with an admission that "their lessons [his mother's and religious mothers'] are all more or less the same."

The idea that he or she must necessarily entirely reject every scrap of all thought associated with religion in any way at any time in human history!!! in order to make statements like these is... well, an unreasonable and uncharitable reading of his comment. Which is probably what he meant by this.

You did the same thing to me above with the Marcionism/Thomas Paine comment. Why? You seem to be assuming that those who reject religion "as foolish", "as harmful", "as too sexy for its shirt", "as whatever" must necessarily be doing so entirely and unilaterally all the way down to the atomic level, unless otherwise stated. I don't think that's a reasonable assumption.
posted by vorfeed at 12:06 PM on August 4, 2011


You did the same thing to me above with the Marcionism/Thomas Paine comment.

Actually, what I did there was an illustration of how over-broad your definition of "religious thought" was if, and only if, that definition is to be used dismissively.

Why? You seem to be assuming that those who reject religion "as foolish", "as harmful", "as too sexy for its shirt", "as whatever" must necessarily be doing so entirely and unilaterally all the way down to the atomic level, unless otherwise stated.

I'm not assuming that. I'm assuming that, when someone states a position, they mean what they say and say what they mean. If they say "I think religious thought has been invented by people in order to trick, or fool, themselves or others into not worrying about a whole variety of questions they might have," I take that statement at face value and I point out that the term "religious thought" is far too broad to make that sort of statement reasonably or logically (let alone historically).

I'm assuming that the statement "people who do believe in gods are fools" is unreasonable and illogical due, in large part, to the breadth of the statement itself. The person who made the statement might not actually mean the full implication of the statement. If that's the case, I still take issue with the statement. But I do allow for the possibility that the writer (or speaker) does not actually mean what they said.

The idea that he or she must necessarily entirely reject every scrap of all thought associated with religion in any way at any time in human history!!! in order to make statements like these is... well, an unreasonable and uncharitable reading of his comment.

Really? The comment was that "I think religious thought has been invented by people in order to trick, or fool, themselves or others into not worrying about a whole variety of questions they might have." That pretty much goes back to the beginning of human history, I'm afraid. And, as far as "every scrap of all thought associated with religion in any way at any time in human history," that's the definition that you, vorfeed, proposed in response to my saying that I thought the term could not be defined in a way that would not be overly broad for the purposes of a blanket dismissal. I'm perfectly fine with some other definition that might not be so overly broad. But, as you and I have now both pointed out and agreed, the plain meaning of "religious thought" as applied is overly broad and leads to unreasonable conclusions where dismissing it all as foolish is concerned.

If Ice Cream Socialist does not think that everyone who believes in any god is a fool in doing so, regardless of that person's motivations or actual beliefs, I think that's fantastic, because I don't believe that, either.
posted by The World Famous at 1:49 PM on August 4, 2011


I'm not assuming that. I'm assuming that, when someone states a position, they mean what they say and say what they mean.

Yes, that was my point. In doing so, you are denying the all-too-likely possibility that this was not a literal statement about the literal, sole motivation behind the literal "invention" of religion in every single case around the world throughout history, but a general statement of a personal value judgment with respect to religion and its subjective meaning and purpose.

Much like calling religion "generally harmful" is. Wouldn't it annoy you if someone came in and claimed that this was necessarily an "unreasonable and illogical" statement, since the breadth of the category means it's "non-knowable" whether or not at least 51% of religious thought throughout history has been harmful? One can go down this rabbit-hole all day, with nearly any statement, and it seems to me that doing so isn't all that convincing or useful.
posted by vorfeed at 3:13 PM on August 4, 2011


Wouldn't it annoy you if someone came in and claimed that this was necessarily an "unreasonable and illogical" statement, since the breadth of the category means it's "non-knowable" whether or not at least 51% of religious thought throughout history has been harmful?

No. It wouldn't bother me. I think they'd have a pretty good point. But at least I didn't call someone I don't know a fool based on something I don't understand about them.

In doing so, you are denying the all-too-likely possibility that this was not a literal statement about the literal, sole motivation behind the literal "invention" of religion in every single case around the world throughout history, but a general statement of a personal value judgment with respect to religion and its subjective meaning and purpose.

I'm not denying the possibility that people do not mean what they say.
posted by The World Famous at 3:21 PM on August 4, 2011


I still don't think we see eye to eye, but to clarify a little, I was in fact describing my own beliefs, and I started out a bit tersely because I was feeling sullen after having my first such comment deleted, probably because it was too early in the thread and a mod wanted to steer the conversation elsewhere.

I don't believe in gods or divinities or higher powers or spirits or souls. I believe they are thoughts invented and controlled throughout history (and pre-) by humans. I have a suspicion, not borne out by sources but by what I've been able to figure out after searching and study, that the first religious feelings were based on the actual physical feeling of transport one gets when they are part of a group of people who are singing or chanting in unison. The resonating body of the chest becomes a shared resonating body of a congregation, and there is always a feeling of uplift and weightlessness. I've felt it before, in churches and synagogues and at the ballpark, too. I think it's physics, like a resonating violin or guitar.

I think people, especially early people, at a loss for how to understand this congregational feeling of uplift, ascribed it to the divine, and gradually worked out thousands of other ways to attain similar feelings. Fasting, drugs, meditation, gongs, the list goes on. Once this power of divinity took root in humanity, those who were best at it became instructors, or priests (the chronology may be wrong, the wise people may have existed previously and assumed this mantle); these authorities became the ones to go to with unanswerable questions. Why did lightning destroy my house, where is my dead father, where does life come from. That list also goes on.

I used an imprecise and insulting shorthand that made sense to me, and may make sense to a few others, but is not in any way universally acceptable. I likely used it because it was the language of my deleted comment, and I was irked at the deletion.

I think you've satisfied yourself that you're correct and your judgment of me is unassailable, and that's fine with me. I'm not trying to argue anyone out of their beliefs. Holding me at my glibbest to an impossible standard of loquacity and disclaimer is en face uncharitable, but in light of my choice of expression, understandable. Nobody likes their beliefs insulted, and I'm sorry for insulting your beliefs.

Why did I feel compelled to share mine, even after being clearly discouraged from doing so by a mod? I know a lot of people, and have read of many more, who spend lives straying from the family religion, seeking new things, believing in this and that, trying different things, or no things at all, seeking purpose, or rejecting it. Then a parent or other close relative or friend dies, and for any number of reasons they return to the fold. I sought truth in a list of religions until my mother died, and then in her sudden absence I found myself satisfied with her lack of religion. Hers was more militant than mine; she, like many atheists brought up in religious households, really despised religion and the harm it does. She's the one who taught me religious people were fools.

My father doesn't really care about religion; if there is a belief that motivates him, it's that humans have throughout history made all human things, including religion. He sees the value in amongst the pain, he sees the temple through the wreckage, and he honors the humans who created it without falling for their beliefs. I'd like to calm myself to the point where I feel like him, but it's not always easy, especially in a society where people feel free to expound on their beliefs while telling me mine aren't valid (where people feel free to tell me whatever they like about my dead mother, and take offense when I tell them she would have disagreed, or that for her sake I hope they are wrong).

In short, The World Famous, you are correct that it's infinitely complicated, and you are also correct that I was too glib in calling people fools. I think I can make generalizations about religious thought, because I think I know where it all comes from, but in a sense that's my belief, which like yours or anybody else's, isn't up for debate. Any one of us may be wrong, any one of us may be a fool; we might all deceive ourselves or others, and we might all be misreading the signs. I'm comfortable with that.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:15 AM on August 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ice Cream Socialist, thank you for taking the time to write that very well-thought-out and very reasonable and personal comment. I think I agree with you about much of it, and I do respect your position on the issue. Again, I really do appreciate your writing that comment. Thanks.
posted by The World Famous at 8:46 AM on August 5, 2011


Ice Cream Socialist, I'm glad I kept this in my "Recent Activity" queue, so I got to read your last post.

There should be some sort of organization for people who have been honestly hurt by religion (or had those they care for be hurt by religion). We would find ways to continue to oppose the damage we know religions can do, but be able to listen to people for whom religion plays a positive role, and learn how to not always act from the hurt.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:05 AM on August 5, 2011


LaVeyan Satanism serves that purpose for some ex-Christian, benito.strauss.
posted by jeffburdges at 12:40 PM on August 6, 2011


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