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skeptic's annotated bible
January 10, 2003 8:09 PM   Subscribe

The Skeptic's Annotated Bible includes the entire text of the King James Version of the Bible, but without the pro-Bible propaganda. Instead, passages are highlighted that are an embarrassment to the Bible-believer, and the parts of the Bible that are never read in any Church, Bible study group, or Sunday School class are emphasized. For it is these passages that test the claims of the Bible-believer. The contradictions and false prophesies show that the Bible is not inerrant; the cruelties, injustices, and insults to women, that it is neither good nor just.
posted by oliver_crunk (94 comments total)

 
but without the pro-Bible propaganda

The Bible isn't selling used cars, or trying to convince you that North Korea is a "Democratic People's Republic", so... I can't say that I understand what "pro-Bible propaganda" means, exactly.

Anti-Bible propaganda is pretty easy to spot, however.
posted by hama7 at 8:29 PM on January 10, 2003


I'm pretty disinclined towards theism, but this is pretty baiting... stuff.

Fish in a barrel, and all. Not sure if this resource serves as anything but a wankfest for a group of people predisposed to disbelieve... which is fine in and of itself, but then why put these selectively misleading things in that are so... reaching? ie;

Mark 13:30 Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done.

[in this verse] Jesus falsely prophesies that the end of the world will come within his listeners' lifetimes

Uh... no he doesn't. With all of the floral and... circuitous prose in the Bible... how easy is it to come up with a million different interpretations of "a generation" ?

This is just one example of hundreds on the site... (interesting read, though... to be sure). I wish they'd have done it better, but I can't imagine undertaking something of this scope.
posted by cadastral at 8:32 PM on January 10, 2003


I think everyone has heard of this by now, but I had never actually read it before. Used to really get into this, trying to argue with Christians and whatnot. Reading this now reconfirms my belief that it's best to just ignore them. They can't be reasoned with. It's as futile as trying to argue with a tree that's blocking your path in the forest.

Read the "Science and History" section. It just read like a "debunking" of Romance of the Three Kingdoms or Journey to the West. *silly geek voice* "No way Zhang Wei could kill 30 men with one strike! That's physically impossible!" IMHO, Three Kingdoms is better because when you translate it literally, you get cool stuff like Zu Warriors, while anything based on the Bible is just boring.

It really saddens me that people get so worked up over an ancient fantasy novel. It's like seeing kids fight over toys...only one of them dies.

I will never understand it, that people can actually take the Bible literally. I do not think it has anything to do with a sober examination of the facts, though. There is something much more serious involved.
posted by son_of_minya at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2003


I'm pretty sure I read the paperback version of this in the bookstore awhile ago, and I had the same feeling I had back then: High School/ College freshman Philosophy major anti-christian rhetoric basically writes itself, and tends to make itself sound dumber and more juvenile than the most bigoted preacher sermon.

Of more interest was the link I found in the textads: SecularSingles.com. Oh baby, I gotta tap that agnostic booty.
posted by Stan Chin at 8:35 PM on January 10, 2003


Actually, I think this site is kind of amazing. It's a whole hell of a lot of text cross-referenced, footnoted, and also arranged by topic. I'm rather impressed. Sure it's got a "ha ha gotcha" tone. Whatever.

Although "pro-Bible propaganda" might be a bad phrase, I'm not sure how holding Christians up to supporting the things in their Bible is "anti-Bible propaganda." It's shooting fish in a barrel, particularly when we start getting into shunning pig skin and whatnot. But still! People get together and read from this book, believing it is the word of God, every week. I think we should take the menace of Christianity very seriously.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:46 PM on January 10, 2003


I think we should take the menace of Christianity very seriously

Hold my torch, while I round-up the other peasents and some pitchforks.
posted by Dark Messiah at 8:54 PM on January 10, 2003


I think we should take the menace of Christianity very seriously.

Huh? I think it just started.
posted by hama7 at 8:56 PM on January 10, 2003


(Disclaimer: I am a student at a Lutheran seminary.)

After looking through this, I found myself thinking that this guy must have just been doing this for the notoriety--academically, critically, and theologically, the comments are pretty bad and uninformed. Having said that though, I'm at a school for people studying to be pastors, and so I'm bound to be snooty. I suppose what really gets my goat is the general tone of "What sort of dork would believe this crap?" I would much rather the question be, "How would one go about reconciling all of this?" This is certainly a reasonable question to ask of Christianity, and the response shouldn't sound all high-and-mighty, either. I like intelligent religious discussion, and polemics like this just don't seem to add much.

Granted, both sides are guilty of willfully uninformed propaganda--I'm frequently stunned by the anti-science crap that gets tossed around among otherwise intelligent people in churches. But I'd rather that the polemics and baiting would stop on both sides--to often, religious discussions turn into "You're dumb!" "No, you are!" In short, let's all act like grown-ups, because punk-ass kids get eaten by bears! (2 Kings 2:23-24)

On preview, I apologize for being a menace.
posted by nicething at 9:07 PM on January 10, 2003


Fish in a barrel, and all.

You realize that this statement presupposes that the Bible is bunk? (i.e., if the Bible were not obvious nonsense, critiquing it in this manner would not be analagous to "shooting fish in a barrel.") It's not clear from the rest of your comment if this was your intent or not.

I would much rather the question be, "How would one go about reconciling all of this?"

I think one would first be obliged to answer the question, "Why would one be motivated to expend energy, effort and time to attempt to do so?"

Philemon 1:20 Yea, brother, let me have joy of thee in the Lord: refresh my bowels in the Lord.

!
posted by rushmc at 9:27 PM on January 10, 2003


What cadastral said. It's pretty pathetic, really - thousands of hours of work and the end result is a wankfest for those who share the website's presupposition.

Atheism will never be taken seriously in mainstream America until it grows up a little.
posted by PrinceValium at 9:51 PM on January 10, 2003


Sure atheism has it's share of sophomoric wankers arguing on its behalf, but so does Christianity. Lots of bullshit on all sides, talking about this book. Usually, the people with the most vehement opinions seem to understand the least.

Just 'cause the bible contains some offensively stupid stuff doesn't mean it doesn't also embody great wisdom. And vice versa.

Anyway, I'll stick with the somewhat more stylish writing of Nietzsche for my anti-Christian rhetoric of choice.
posted by sfenders at 10:12 PM on January 10, 2003


There was a time - when I was younger - when this sort of link would have been fuel to my atheistic fire.

I'm much more mellow now-a-days. I understand that religious folks are the way they are for various, and mostly childish reasons and I don't need other folks or website references to reinforce that understanding in me.

When I walk through downtown and people try to witness to me or give me religious tracts I simply stick my fingers in my ears in a direct and visual way so that they understand that I am unreachable by their efforts.

Currently my biggest complaint with local evangelicals is that they passed out around downtown all of these little candy cane bags on xmas day which "explained the true meaning of the candy cane" - which if anything illustrates evangelicals willingness to simply make up shit in the face of history when it comes to spreading their gospel.

And of course you can easily move beyond claming candy canes represent Jesus to crashing planes into buildings... that is ULTIMATELY the sad part about it. :(
posted by wfrgms at 10:51 PM on January 10, 2003


I snicker at foolish Christians whenever I get the chance, and love to mock their beliefs, especially to their face, while wiping my butt with the pages of the Bible.

I on the other hand, believe that we are currently in the 5th age of mankind. The prior 4 ages were imperfect, and duly and thusly ended.

In the first age, our world was inhabited by giants. These giants lived on a diet of berries. They were eaten by jaguars.

In the second age, people ate pine nuts, and their world was eventually destroyed by violent winds.

In the third age, people ate seeds and grasses from marshy areas. Fiery rain eventually fell upon them, and they were turned into turkeys.

In the fourth age, people ate wild seeds, and were flooded out of existance, and turned into fish.

In our current fifth age, we are now presided over by the Sun God. We have mastered agriculture. Our age will end in an earthquake, and demons will come down and devour everyone.

Thats how things really happened, and if you don't believe me, you're a fucking idiot.
posted by pemulis at 10:54 PM on January 10, 2003


Yes, there are just as many atheist fundamentalist fanatics as there are Christian ones.

In other news, grass continues to be green and the Pope continues to be Catholic.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 11:13 PM on January 10, 2003


pemulis: Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

rush: I'll bite. Your statement is exemplary of one thing I really hate about Christians (and absolutist religions in general). Spirituality should be an active pursuit; one borne of thought (and thinking!) and a desire to better yourself and those around you. If you just shut the door like ("Why bother? I KNOW I'm right."), your "faith" obviously is just a way to justify the things you think you know... It sounds a little new-age-bumper-stickery, but "FAITH:verb". Your statement underlies the exact reason why other posters in this thread feel that they can't even discuss ideas with Christians. I'll concur.
posted by maniactown at 11:14 PM on January 10, 2003


I don't know, the problem I have with the atheist movement is its insistence on remaining smug through the entire affair. I've followed it for a long time, at a distance, and there is a common thread running throughout whereby they believe they are fundamentally better than everyone else, as if nobody else's life could ever, in a sane universe, lead to faith. Perhaps it's a natural reaction to their feeling of "figuring it all out", but it hurts their cause. Nobody will be convinced through mockery. This link has an undercurrent of self-righteousness, one that is detected by anyone, faithful or not.

Also, what is an atheist "fundamentalist fanatic"? I would honestly like to know.
posted by Succa at 11:26 PM on January 10, 2003


Rushmc, it seems that people will expend quite a bit of energy and effort to say, roughly, "Neener neener," and that energy might be better spent in other pursuits. (Although, it's both easier and frequently more rewarding to poke fun at something rather than to study it, so maybe no blame should be placed.)

I understand that religious folks are the way they are for various, and mostly childish reasons. . .

There's the problem of things like this, too--should I be offended by this? I might be justified, but what wfrgms says might be right, too--to someone who doesn't believe what I do, a lot of what I say about it will sound silly. However, a problem among church-folk is a feeling of always being on the defensive, and this leads to responses which go too far in terms of vitriol and proselytism. This might also be a problem among non-church people responding to flagrant fouls of evangelism--it's easy to get all riled up when you've been personally attacked on the basis of your beliefs, and both sides do their fair share.
posted by nicething at 11:36 PM on January 10, 2003


the problem I have with the atheist movement is ... they believe they are fundamentally better than everyone else...

Unlike the faithful.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:42 PM on January 10, 2003


See, the way to be happy is to simply ignore Believers and Nonbelievers alike. No fuss, no muss!
posted by aramaic at 11:42 PM on January 10, 2003


This is too smarmy, but I would like to see a thoughtful critical analysis of the bible from someone who doesn't give it the benefit of the doubt for one reason or another. It's a great book, but it needs to be torn apart because bibolatry has caused and continues to cause a huge amount of needless suffering, and even in this age, when we know beyond any reasonable doubt that it's just a very nice metaphor for rebirth wrapped up in loads of tribal superstition, people still worship the text rather than the message.
posted by Hildago at 11:48 PM on January 10, 2003


Just follow the line taken in Dogma - its not the words that are important, its the message and you'll be fine. Metaphors are hard sometimes tho, this is true.

Plenty of critical analyses of the bible and indeed other holy books, can't remember which ones are good and which ones are bad.. Back to the theology I go..
posted by Mossy at 10:18 AM on January 11, 2003


Just 'cause the bible contains some offensively stupid stuff doesn't mean it doesn't also embody great wisdom. And vice versa.

But see, for the large numbers of people who choose to believe that it is the inerrant word of God, that's exactly what it DOES mean. They place themselves, a priori, in a position where they cannot question it, much less reject it--or any part of it.

rush: I'll bite. Your statement is exemplary of one thing I really hate about Christians (and absolutist religions in general).

Uh...maniactown...you've severely misread my comment. I suggest you look at it again. (Hint: I'm probably one of the better-known agnostic and anti-religion posters on the site.)

the problem I have with the atheist movement is its insistence on remaining smug through the entire affair. I've followed it for a long time, at a distance, and there is a common thread running throughout whereby they believe they are fundamentally better than everyone else, as if nobody else's life could ever, in a sane universe, lead to faith.

I see this attitude a lot, and it strikes me as particularly disingenuous. If you found yourself born into a world where most people inexplicably believed in invisible fairies, for which there was no supporting evidence whatsoever and many more obvious and reasonable explanations, it seems to me that you would eventually HAVE to feel "superior" in some way over those who chose to be blind to reality. If you had a friend who believed that his car was powered by a squirrel cage run by a squirrel named Nancy, no matter how many times you lifted the hood, showed him the engine, and explained the principles of internal combustion, I defy you not to think his reasoning skills and grasp on reality inferior. It would be relativist extremism madness not to.

Rushmc, it seems that people will expend quite a bit of energy and effort to say, roughly, "Neener neener," and that energy might be better spent in other pursuits.

Perhaps, but shaming someone out of an absurd and indefensible position can be a powerful technique (and has a long cultural tradition). And I have more respect for the side that limits itself to saying "Neener neener" rather than killing and torturing those who disagree with it.

its not the words that are important, its the message and you'll be fine.

But that is patently untrue, Mossy. The message may be important, but what is ultimately the most important is the attribution of the message to the divine.
posted by rushmc at 10:34 AM on January 11, 2003


If you found yourself born into a world where most people inexplicably believed in invisible fairies, for which there was no supporting evidence whatsoever and many more obvious and reasonable explanations, it seems to me that you would eventually HAVE to feel "superior" in some way over those who chose to be blind to reality

I think we read the same Atheism book.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2003


Families will be torn apart because of Jesus (this is one of the few "prophecies" in the Bible that has actually come true). "Brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. 10:21

Ugh. I keep trying to read this, because the time put into this is amazing, and quite interesting. But the opinion of the writer and the assumptions make it unbearable. This would really be a marvelous work, and something that I would love to own in paper-form were it more objective and not filled with such childish mudslinging.
posted by Espoo2 at 11:05 AM on January 11, 2003


I understand that religious folks are the way they are for various, and mostly childish reasons.

I am a religious person who is an intelligent, thoughtful, skeptical adult. My reasons for being the way I am are equally intelligent, thoughtful and skeptical, and mature. I don't have a beef with people believing or not believing whatever they wish, and I'd appreciate the same courtesy.

If you want to dismiss a belief system out of hand, that is your choice. But before you deride its adherents as childish fools, I would ask you to consider the following list of brilliant people who were/are also Christians: Descartes, Kant, Pascal, Michelangelo, Bach, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Faraday, Morse, Newton, Pasteur, Mr. T., Kirk Cameron . . . okay, we're more proud of some than others. Now, could all of these people (excluding Cameron) have been so brilliant in other areas and yet so blind, so stupid, as to profess faith in something so easily dismissed? The answer is that there is a depth and intelligence to the Christian faith that is glossed over and ignored today, by religious zealots and atheists alike. It's not as simple as either extreme would like to make it.

Is Pat Robertson a moron? Of course! Was the Apostle Paul a misogynist? Absolutely! These are indisputable facts we can all agree on. But faith resides in a place of mystery, and there's a whole lot of wiggle room for determining what is True and what it all means.

Lewis's Mere Christianity is as level-headed and mature a book as you're likely to read, and is a good introduction to the finer details of intelligent Christian belief. Jack Chick is not St. Augustine, and the 700 Club is not Christianity. Not only am *I* not a moron, but neither are the dozens and dozens of people that I go to church with every Sunday, all of whom are as normal and sane as you could reasonably expect people to be.

Sorry for the rambling post, but it's extremely frustrating to be continually regarded as a moron, and lumped in with complete idiots. Being a person of faith does not necessitate stupidity, unoriginality, or fanaticsim. It would be fun if it were that simple, but (unfortunately for the smug) such things never are.
posted by vraxoin at 11:21 AM on January 11, 2003


the problem I have with the atheist movement is its insistence on remaining smug through the entire affair

Just out of curiosity, what atheist movement? I don't believe there is a god. I'm aware that others out there also don't, but I know of no movement and I certainly don't participate in one. The topic doesn't even come up in conversation, but I am vaguely aware that some number of my friends and acquaintances don't believe in god either. I don't think they're in any movement either. We don't go around actively being atheists -- it's an absence of belief or religous activity. The thing that puzzles me about religious people is their unswerving certainly that somehow atheism is a religion. Which to me makes about as much sense as thinking that wet is dry and up is down.

In my entire life, I have personally met only one atheist proselyte. In contrast to the many, many hundreds of religious proselytes I've met. As far as I'm aware, the typical atheist not only doesn't believe, he'd rather stay as far away from religion as possible; and certainly has no interest in seeking out the religious and arguing with them. The exceptions are usually obsessive whack-jobs. (Which may explain why they make atheism look like a religion. To these nutballs, it is.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2003


vraxoin:

I would ask you to consider the following list of brilliant people who were/are also Christians: Descartes, Kant, Pascal, Michelangelo, Bach, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Faraday, Morse, Newton, Pasteur, Mr. T., Kirk Cameron . . .

I would ask you to consider the following list of brilliant people who were/are also seriously mentally ill: Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Abraham Lincoln, Leo Tolstoy, John Nash (Mathematician/Nobel Prize Winner), Vaclav Nijinsky, (Famous Russian Ballet Dancer mentioned in the movie Chaplin)...and how can I forget Anne Hesche or Margot Kidder (two GENIUS actresses who are IMHO right up there with Kirk Cameron and Mr. T).
posted by son_of_minya at 12:13 PM on January 11, 2003


Everybody has the right to believe or not to believe. I believe that is called free will (I'm not much on determinism.)

As to the invisible fairy argument-seems interesting just how many people DO believe in God.

In my view, a world devoid of the unseen is a poorer world. I don't understand how faith happens on an intellectual level. All I know is I have it.

BTW, I don't know if light is particles or waves either-but it doesn't keep me from enjoying the sunshine.
posted by konolia at 12:15 PM on January 11, 2003


I just can't see the joy or satisfaction that someone would get out of compiling a work like this. I think that other atheists would agree with me that being irreverent or superior about others' beliefs stops (mostly) being fun after high school.

People who want to govern my actions based on their religion are offensive, sure. Folks who want to convert me, ostensibly for my own good, are even more so (because it's really about validating themselves). However, someone who believes passionately in the Bible AND leaves the rest of us alone shouldn't be belittled. Any literate person can open the Bible to nearly any page and find contradictions or severely outdated ideas, so the annotations are only of value to the really lazy. The author of the annotations thinks he's smarter than most of the world, but s/he's really just another person masturbating in public.
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:19 PM on January 11, 2003


I don't have a beef with people believing or not believing whatever they wish, and I'd appreciate the same courtesy.

Okay, test of contention: think of something you think is the most preposterous and wrong thing that you can imagine (if the reality of fairies doesn't do it for you, try...oh, I don't know, a social system based upon systematic ritualized pedophilia and cannibalism). How do you really feel about people that believe in and push for such a system?
posted by rushmc at 12:30 PM on January 11, 2003


But before you deride its adherents as childish fools, I would ask you to consider the following list of brilliant people who were/are also Christians: Descartes, Kant, Pascal, Michelangelo, Bach, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Tolkien, Faraday, Morse, Newton, Pasteur, Mr. T., Kirk Cameron . . .

That's called an appeal to authority, and is essentially meaningless. Not only could lists of equally "brilliant" people be compiled of people of various other beliefs (your presumed ignorance of Hindu or Muslim historical figures doesn't negate them) or non-belief, but expertise or achievement in one area doesn't imply the same in another area. Not to mention the fact that every brilliant person who has ever lived has been profoundly wrong about many things.
posted by rushmc at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2003


seems interesting just how many people DO believe in God.

I agree completely, konolia. It is VERY interesting how many people believe in God. But that says nothing about the truth of the hypothesis. (And we are beginning to understand why the belief might be so widespread, and it has everything to do with us and nothing to do with anything external to us.)
posted by rushmc at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2003


I just can't see the joy or satisfaction that someone would get out of compiling a work like this.

As opposed to the joy or satisfaction that someone would get (the Catholic church, say) in compiling a number of available texts into the canonical Bible? This action, lacking as it may be, is a direct response to that, and it is always appropriate to examine, test and question claims that anyone chooses to put forth into the public domain. If I make an unusual claim (about anything) and want others to take it seriously--or accept it as fact--then it is ridiculous--and I would argue evil--to try to prevent open discussion and investigation of that claim.

In other words, the skeptics didn't start this.
posted by rushmc at 12:41 PM on January 11, 2003


Rushmc, I am curious as to why you are so antireligious (I know that term doesn't exactly describe what I mean, but perhaps closely enough.) I am not trying to be contentious at all-I really would like to know why you have this particular view, especially in contrast to some of the other nontheists here who seem to have a more live-and-let-live viewpoint.
posted by konolia at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2003


I see this attitude a lot, and it strikes me as particularly disingenuous. If you found yourself born into a world where most people inexplicably believed in invisible fairies, for which there was no supporting evidence whatsoever and many more obvious and reasonable explanations, it seems to me that you would eventually HAVE to feel "superior" in some way over those who chose to be blind to reality.

The big, big irony of this conversation, to me, is how rushmc fails to live up to his own line of reasoning. Rush defends smugness, but, in reality he has already failed the shoe-on-the-other-foot test.
Indeed, the biggest difference between the Theist and the Atheist is that one looks to what is intuitively real, and decides that it can't reasonably be dismissed, while the other is not satisfied without the naturalistic and concrete. Unfortunately, as much as rushmc would like to characterize the religious as slack-jawed suckers, he has already confronted someone even more smug and irreligious than himself, and when they started yammering about "hamster engines", and such, rush was less apt to think that that was a fair way of approaching the problem.

The argument was over free-will, the conversation here, the smug challenger, me. Of course, when I brought out the "you're being superstitious" rhetoric, rush wasn't as quick to think it was fair, as he is when he tells Christians they believe in "an invisible fairy". Seems pretty hypocritical to me.

What also amazes me is how he didn't realize how similar in nature his arguments were to the Theistic ones he so often belittles. While I dismissed the idea of free-will for essentially the same reasons I disbelieve in God- because I am a strict philosophical naturalist- rush argued that it existed for essentially, the same intuitive reasons that people use to defend God and afterlife:

"I guess one of the keys for me is that given the nature and limitations of the universe, you cannot ever account for all of the variables...not even close. THAT is reality--it's not a limitation of your ability to know, it's the hard-wired structure of things. Therefore, the experience of living in the universe does have wiggle room. . ."

Or as a Theist in this thread similarly phrased it:

"But faith resides in a place of mystery, and there's a whole lot of wiggle room for determining what is True and what it all means. "
posted by dgaicun at 1:26 PM on January 11, 2003


How do you really feel about people that believe in and push for such a system?

But I'm not pushing for any system--I just don't want to be labelled as an idiot because I believe something that others don't.

That's called an appeal to authority, and is essentially meaningless.

You seem to think, rushmc, that I'm using this list as a means to prove the existence of God or something. The point of the list was simply to demonstrate that very intelligent people can and do believe in God. In other words, you don't have to become some kind of mindless automaton in order to be a Christian. That people use it as an excuse for becoming mindless automata is their loss.

Taking potshots at a 2,000+ year old book is a shameless straw man hunt, regardless. It's just a book; it was written by people. The guy in whose honor the New Testament was written never wrote anything himself, never asked anyone to write anything, and certainly never offered any guarantees that what would get written about him would all be true or be complete. But to say that the message is false because the messengers are human is an invalid assumption. The literal truth of the Bible is a logical proposition that can be tested (and found wanting). The existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, etc.--these are metaphysical propositions that cannot, by their very nature, be tested. Which is why the "argument by design" always fails; if there were some tag hanging off the Universe reading "Made By God," I think someone would have spotted it by now. To me, Truth with a capital "T" is something profound, subjective and ultimately unproveable; I can't show that it exists, I can only point out examples of what people do under its influence,--which is anecdotal, unscientific, and good enough for me.
posted by vraxoin at 1:34 PM on January 11, 2003


That's called an appeal to authority, and is essentially meaningless.

if the question were, "is christianity true?" then this would be an appeal to authority. i believe, however, that the question was, rather, "is it possible for a thoughtful and intelligent human being to be a christian?" and as such a list of thoughtful, intelligent humans who are also christians is a valid argument.
posted by hob at 1:44 PM on January 11, 2003


It's just a book; it was written by people.

Aren't there some who would consider this a "potshot"?
posted by crasspastor at 1:44 PM on January 11, 2003


Rushmc, I am curious as to why you are so antireligious

Possibly because it offends me to see people abdicate their ongoing responsibility (duty, even) to seek the truth, embrace what is patently or demonstrably UNtrue (many things many religious people believe fall into this category), and to promote offensive and demeaning (humiliating, even) lies about the nature of my species in order to promote their short-sighted totalitarian agendas by capitalizing on people's innate or acquired weaknesses. While I acknowledge their right to make such choices, I maintain my right to call them on them and to address them for what they are, rather than feeling some obligation to "make them feel better" by treating all thought, all perspectives, all knowledge, all claims, hypotheses and doctrines as equally valid, supported, and respectable.
posted by rushmc at 1:45 PM on January 11, 2003


The argument was over free-will, the conversation here, the smug challenger, me.

Yes, dgaicun, and in that discussion I found your arguments interesting but ultimately neither complete nor compelling. I dispute your attempt to correlate (conflate, really) the two issues quite simply: not being able to account for every last variable does not imply an inability to account for any of them.
posted by rushmc at 1:48 PM on January 11, 2003


The point of the list was simply to demonstrate that very intelligent people can and do believe in God.

Okay, but very intelligent people have believed in every type of supernatural phenomenon invented over the ages. What does that demonstrate? People of high intellectual capacity do not always exercise it rigorously and uniformly in all aspects of their lives. That seems pretty self-evident to me, but if that's the claim you're trying to make, I'll be happy to agree with you on the record.
posted by rushmc at 1:52 PM on January 11, 2003


Well, Rush, what of the people who believe they have found the Truth when they embrace the major tenets of Christianity? I know this will sound harsh, and I really don't mean it that way, but how is that your business?

You certainly have the right to express your opinion, and to state why you find opposing viewpoints to be incorrect. But frankly you seem to wish to force your opinions on others almost to the point of burning the heretics (tongue partially in cheek of course.)
posted by konolia at 2:03 PM on January 11, 2003


People of high intellectual capacity do not always exercise it rigorously and uniformly in all aspects of their lives.

Including all the otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people who refuse to believe in a higher power despite his self-evident existence?
posted by hob at 2:04 PM on January 11, 2003


However, someone who believes passionately in the Bible AND leaves the rest of us alone shouldn't be belittled.

Almost. Someone who believes passionately in the Bible AND leaves the rest of us alone AND doesn't vote for politicians who behave like the Christian equivalent of Ayatollahs and try at every turn to legislate this country into a theocracy shouldn't be belittled.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:07 PM on January 11, 2003


I dispute your attempt to correlate (conflate, really) the two issues quite simply

The argument for free-will is no different than the argument for a soul. Their supporting arguments both rely on a scientifically inaccurate understanding of human consciousness (as unified, controlling, and dualistic- all conclusively disproven), and have no naturalistic mechanism to account for them (not even a coherent philosophical one!). Once again you are straw-manning Theists, who never said you couldn't account for any variables either. Your arguments are essentially no different than Theistic ones, and any Theist will easily recognize your basic hypocrisy. Which puts you in an awkward position when you parallel their thinking to that of someone who believes that engines are made out of hamsters.
posted by dgaicun at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2003


Doesn't anyone ever get bored of arguing about these things? It's pretty damn pointless, and really just serves to get a bunch of halfwits all hot & bothered about Ultimate vs. Proximate causes.
posted by aramaic at 2:28 PM on January 11, 2003


The main objection to the subject of the post would seem to be that it is not worthwhile, and even that it's morally suspect, to create a site that points out the intellectually and morally unacceptable passages in the bible.

I think that this position is insupportable. When a book is treated as the principal source of truth by a very large percentage of the world's population, and indeed is regarded by many as the infallible word of god, then to publish an index to its copious quantities of hogwash and sociopathic lunacy can scarcely be considered a waste of time.

In fact I think the desperation of this position is indicated by its ad hominem nature; finding it impossible to defend the passages highlighted, in the end most of those objecting are actually impugning the character of the sort of person who would publish it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 2:29 PM on January 11, 2003


dgaicun, re: that previous discussion, check out David Deutsch's "The Fabric of Reality" for a quantum/multiple universe explanation of free will - he claims empirical evidence; other scientists say it's a question of possibilities that are or aren't realized, but the discussion of "shadow particle" interference is fascinating.

on preview: you are absolutely wrong that there are no coherent systems that support free will. Most physicists don't believe in a mechanistic universe these days.

anyway, comparing a belief in free will to a belief in god isn't analogous. You may conclude that free will is an illusion, but at least there's an illusion to go by; it's something we all exercise every day. There is not even an illusion of god - all there is is belief, based on desire and comfort and hope but not on any actual phenomena.
posted by mdn at 2:30 PM on January 11, 2003


Including all the otherwise intelligent and thoughtful people who refuse to believe in a higher power despite his self-evident existence?

Oh please, not to get all cartesian or anything, but my existence is self-evident. All others are suspect.

Possibly because it offends me to see people abdicate their ongoing responsibility (duty, even) to seek the truth, embrace what is patently or demonstrably UNtrue

They haven't abdicated anything. They've found a system that works for them, and while I'll agree with you that it would be difficult and probably impossible for them to prove that they're right, it's equally impossible for you to prove that they aren't. So, leave the people to their beliefs. It provides comfort in a world that is all to often devoid of it. Who are you to take that away from somebody or to insist that they find comfort in the empiricism that gives you comfort?
posted by willnot at 3:10 PM on January 11, 2003


Well-stated, George. Reading this thread has been quite revealing: I'm surprised at the number of MeFi-ites who have resorted to character-bashing as a method of defending their faith.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:15 PM on January 11, 2003


Possibly because it offends me to see people abdicate their ongoing responsibility (duty, even) to seek the truth, embrace what is patently or demonstrably UNtrue

But people don't have any responsibility to seek truth, or Truth. Most people aim for happiness, and if that is found in something that cannot be empirically proven, so be it. There is all this talk about whether it is true or not, and the question that some would pose is does it matter? Some people might make better, happier theists than atheist; to show them 'the truth' does nothing for them. As long as people don't impinge on the freedom of others to practice their religion or irreligion freely in public, then why attempt to show them the error of their ways?

I might have my eyes closed to what is real, but I shall happily have them closed. Belief itself is something real and tactile, even if the object of belief is false.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 3:45 PM on January 11, 2003


you are absolutely wrong that there are no coherent systems that support free will. Most physicists don't believe in a mechanistic universe these days.

As I argued numerous times, it doesn't matter if the universe is fully mechanistic or not. The idea of free-will is incoherent, and science disproves most of the important particulars its based on anyway (such as the connection between conscious-self and decisions). I'm sorry the thread closed before we could finish our discussion, mdn, and I will gladly finish it through Email; my point was not to hijack the thread here, but to show that rushmc was being rather hypocritical in antagonizing Theists with the rhetoric of superstition, but got outright indignant when someone used the same rhetoric against him (as if it was inappropriate to use in discussion). The truth of Theism/Atheism, or Christianity, or free-will is besides the point I was trying to make. A better direction for the discussion on this thread to take (relating to the approach of the skeptics dictionary), might be how people should discuss and disagree with religion, and how they should not. I think an important part of this is the-shoe-on-the-other-foot approach, where it's necessary to ask, how do you prefer other people to disagree with you? I'm sure few would answer in the way that the Skeptics Dictionary does (i.e. resentfully).
posted by dgaicun at 4:19 PM on January 11, 2003


Just out of curiosity, what atheist movement?

Well, my calling it a "movement" was perhaps dodgy. But there are atheists who organize events, march on Capitol Hill, sell atheistic merchandise, publish magazines, lobby for church/state separation, challenge the Pledge of Allegiance, and so on. I suppose it's just people spreading their beliefs like any other societal group, but it does exist.
posted by Succa at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2003


But frankly you seem to wish to force your opinions on others almost to the point of burning the heretics

I'm afraid that's entirely in your own imagination. Everyone has the right to believe whatever they want. Everyone has the right to be wrong. And just as if I were unable to persuade someone that 2+2 did NOT equal 5, I would eventually give up and move on. What I would not do is to a) agree that they were right, b) concede that they might be just as right as I, because it is impossible to distinguish between truth and falsehood and therefore we might as well call everything truth, or c) pretend that they were not fools for embracing a falsehood.
posted by rushmc at 6:28 PM on January 11, 2003


The argument for free-will is no different than the argument for a soul. Their supporting arguments both rely on a scientifically inaccurate understanding of human consciousness (as unified, controlling, and dualistic- all conclusively disproven),

So you continue to contend, but I read the evidence very differently. In any case, that was that thread and this is this...let's not hijack any further.
posted by rushmc at 6:29 PM on January 11, 2003


Doesn't anyone ever get bored of arguing about these things?

I think the answer to your question is obvious from the very thread you ask it in: some of us do not. If you do, by all means, move along. No one wants to bore you.
posted by rushmc at 6:30 PM on January 11, 2003


The main objection to the subject of the post would seem to be that it is not worthwhile, and even that it's morally suspect, to create a site that points out the intellectually and morally unacceptable passages in the bible.

I think that this position is insupportable.


I couldn't agree more, and that was my response, too, to those who immediately set out to derail this thread. The reason why every thread even touching on religion devolves into a "God exists"/"No He doesn't" match is because too many "believers" feel the need to proselytize. If someone has such a strong, life-determining, logic-defying belief, why can't they subsist happily on it without feeling a compulsion to make others adopt it as well? If you know the "truth" and are going to "heaven," hallelujah! That should be enough for you. God shouldn't need a recruitment drive.

It provides comfort in a world that is all to often devoid of it.

Except that comfort is not the goal. I might derive great comfort from stealing all the possessions of my neighbors for my own use, but that doesn't mean it's a moral course to follow.
posted by rushmc at 6:35 PM on January 11, 2003


But people don't have any responsibility to seek truth, or Truth.

I couldn't disagree more. I think one has one choice: to embrace reality or to embrace madness. And to embrace reality is to seek truth--it's the same thing.
posted by rushmc at 6:37 PM on January 11, 2003


Well, feel free to call me a fool then :-)

On a probably more on-topic note-does anyone ever write skeptics' versions of the book of Mormon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, various Buddhist texts, or the writings of Lao-Tsu, for example? Just wondering.
posted by konolia at 6:58 PM on January 11, 2003


Comfort may not be your goal, but do you want to try to advance an argument for why somebody else couldn't rightly embrace that goal?

You seem be be inferring through your analogy that choosing to believe A instead of B with no real reason to believe one or the other is somehow equivalent to putting your own comfort ahead of another's by taking their property.

I'm not sure how you make that connection. If anything, I think you need to inverse it. By your own admission, you believe that the quest for truth is more important than the quest for comfort. So, if believing that 2 + 2 = 5 makes somebody comfortable, but you don't believe that they are correct in that belief, you are prepared to shame them into recognizing their faulty world view. At least you will attempt this until it becomes clear to you that no amount of persuasion will change their mind at which point you are prepared to move on.

You will, I gather, attempt to shatter their world view even if you know that they would be less happy (but also less mad) if they were to replace it with yours. In fact where 2+2 is at least objectively verifiable, God vs. No God is not verifiable given current knowledge. So, even when there is no reason to suspect that one world view is more right than the other, you still wish to impose your view believing as you do that you have discovered the one truth.

Isn't that roughly equivalent to taking the things that make them comfortable because possessing them would make you comfortable? Aren't you really the one acting as thief here?
posted by willnot at 7:17 PM on January 11, 2003


But people don't have any responsibility to seek truth, or Truth.

I couldn't disagree more. I think one has one choice: to embrace reality or to embrace madness.


What is wrong with embracing madness?
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:36 PM on January 11, 2003


On a probably more on-topic note-does anyone ever write skeptics' versions of the book of Mormon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, various Buddhist texts, or the writings of Lao-Tsu, for example?

A quick googling of "skeptic" and "Mormon" promptly turned up this (an annotated Book of Mormon), this, and this, among others. There's a Skeptic's Guide to the Koran; however, I can't say I'm having much luck with either Buddhism or the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

posted by thomas j wise at 8:35 PM on January 11, 2003


vraxoin
Taking potshots at a 2,000+ year old book is a shameless straw man hunt, regardless. It's just a book; it was written by people.

Well, one of the things that critics do is examine books. Why should the Chistian bible be held to a higher standard than Beowulf, Das Kapital or The Constitution of the United States?

The literal truth of the Bible is a logical proposition that can be tested (and found wanting). The existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, etc.--these are metaphysical propositions that cannot, by their very nature, be tested.

The entire case for Chistianity rests on the Bible as the revealed word of god describing a method for obtaining salvation. If the Bible is found wanting, then the assumed superiority of the bible as a guiding document for society over Das Kapital, The Koran or De Rerum Natura is unwarranted. The basic reason for critical and skeptical analysis of the bible is to challenge those who say the bible should rule us.

PrinceValium:
Atheism will never be taken seriously in mainstream America until it grows up a little.

Part of the problem is that athiests only get recognized as athiests when they dare to open their mouths about why they don't believe in Chistianity.

konolia:
One of the reason why there is so much focus on the Chistian cannon is that it is the one thrust into other people's faces at every opportunity in the United States.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2003


On a probably more on-topic note-does anyone ever write skeptics' versions of the book of Mormon, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, various Buddhist texts, or the writings of Lao-Tsu, for example? Just wondering.

If there are, I've never, ever seen one. Maybe it's because those religions aren't under attack.

But woe is he who should ever dare to write a skeptic's version of the "Religion of Peace".
posted by hama7 at 9:22 PM on January 11, 2003


Didn't see it, apologies: thomas j wise has made some interesting finds and this one was particularly surprising.
posted by hama7 at 9:33 PM on January 11, 2003


You will, I gather, attempt to shatter their world view even if you know that they would be less happy (but also less mad) if they were to replace it with yours.

I would, yes. But your error is in saying "with yours." A Christian worldview (whatever the variation) is a particular one. A commitment to discovering truth is not, and there could easily be millions of people similarly committed who do not at any given moment in time share "my worldview." Why? Because each of us might only be cognizant of different parts of the truths, each of us may focus on very different realms to study and learn about, and this differential knowledge will necessarily result in a different overall view. Our ability to know is finite, as individuals. But as a species? Less so.
posted by rushmc at 10:16 PM on January 11, 2003


Maybe it's because those religions aren't under attack.

Why perchance would a religion be "under attack"? Does this include the attacks by the religion in question's attacks upon other religions? Why is that "Defense of the Christian faith" warrants apologetical essay from its leaders while its very defense is that of attacking another faith?

It's all anaemic to me. Defend this and defend that, but when it matters it's liberals in any camp that eventually save the Earth. Always has been. Always will.

You rigid religio-conservatives may control the despotic future you've been hoodwinked into believing in, but the ability is there, you must all admit that a solution, which would unfortunately require your extraction from the system you've wedded yourself to, is fucking possible! Jesus thought the same before his message was hijacked by the perennial presence of rich tyrants that melded themselves through the Holy Roman Empire into today's American Jesus.
posted by crasspastor at 10:16 PM on January 11, 2003


What is wrong with embracing madness?

Perhaps nothing, although a strong utilitarian argument could easily be made against it. I do think, however, that if this is one's choice, it should be made and acknowledged openly. It's bad form to try to disguise it as its opposite.
posted by rushmc at 10:18 PM on January 11, 2003


Maybe it's because those religions aren't under attack.

What is that, a persecution complex? Perhaps I'm misunderstanding you.... In any case, we are ALL under attack--individuals, societies, cultures, and ideas--every moment of every day, by many disparate forces.

(Thanks for the links, thomas j wise.)
posted by rushmc at 10:22 PM on January 11, 2003


Atheism will never be taken seriously in mainstream America until it grows up a little.

This is pure invention and complete nonsense. Who is this "atheism" that you refer to, and who is this "mainstream America" that will never take "them" seriously? Huge numbers of mainstream Americans are atheists and they are taken as seriously as anyone else. They're people, ordinary people, who don't believe in a god, not a religious sect that's worried about being "taken seriously".

Taking potshots at a 2,000+ year old book is a shameless straw man hunt, regardless.

It was bound to happen. "straw man", having lately become popular on MeFi by those who understand what it means to describe the most common form of illogic seen here, is now being coopted by people who don't understand what it means. A "straw man" is a dummy target built to resemble a real one without actually being one. In debate it connotes inventing an argument which your opponent has not made, then knocking it down, then claiming or encouraging people to assume that you have knocked down his real argument. The site doesn't create any straw men: it uses the the actual text of the Bible, in context.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:38 PM on January 11, 2003


Atheism will never be taken seriously in mainstream America until it grows up a little.

This is pure invention and complete nonsense.



Pure invention?! Someone who says this has never seen an Atheist argue with a Christian. Listen, I've been on the street, and I see how it goes down. Atheists have a reputation for belligerence and Arrogance, b/c, let's face it, those who represent Atheism vocally, tend to present themselves as such. For every soft-spoken, philosophical, let-us-reason-together Atheist I've seen, there's ten others who are snooty and superior. A good example of this was the organized Atheist march on Washington, which deligitmized itself, in my mind, by including comedy sketches on the main stage that mocked evangelists as preposterous and hateful people. Even if that was the case with some Christians- so what? The fact of the matter is is that Atheists and Agnostics have a good case to present, and maybe if they would like others to start listening to them, they could present their case more judiciously, with less mean-spirited and derogatory references to "invisible fairies" and engines made of hamsters.
posted by dgaicun at 12:30 AM on January 12, 2003


Or is that "blaming the victim"? . . .It wouldn't be the first time I've been charged with that.
posted by dgaicun at 12:36 AM on January 12, 2003


I see little distinction between your painting atheists with the broad brush of "belligerence and arrogance" and atheists similarly representing a common trait amongst evangelists, dgaicun.
posted by rushmc at 12:44 AM on January 12, 2003


The point of the list was simply to demonstrate that very intelligent people can and do believe in God.

Or, alternatively, it could demonstrate that we should be a little more selective in who we consider "very intelligent."

Just sayin'.
posted by kindall at 12:47 AM on January 12, 2003


Does it matter particularly if atheists think Christians are idiots?
posted by konolia at 4:31 PM on January 12, 2003


Does it matter particularly if atheists think Christians are idiots?

Matter relative to what? Does my opinion of Christians have any bearing on whether the sun burns out tomorrow? Of course not. It does, however, have smaller ramifications that are mostly economic. Health services, for instance. My current GP was selected based on grapevine info that he's an atheist (and very reputable, of course). I know that I'm not the only non-believer who conducts himself this way.

I'm not reversing my "live-and-let-live" stance from above. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. I just like to know that the person monitoring my health isn't putting his faith anywhere above himself.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:52 PM on January 12, 2003


Well, actually what I meant was does it matter to a Christian?

In my case, not really.

Mayor, I have to admit your reply made me think of the old joke: What is the difference between God and a doctor?

God KNOWS He's not a doctor.
posted by konolia at 6:09 PM on January 12, 2003


I see little distinction between your painting atheists with the broad brush of "belligerence and arrogance" and atheists similarly representing a common trait amongst evangelists, dgaicun.

I'm not saying that stereotypes are meaningless; in fact I believe exactly the opposite. Maybe the Irish do drink a little heavier than your average Anglo, so should the Saxons make mean comments, and make fun of them in public for it? You missed the whole point.
posted by dgaicun at 6:22 PM on January 12, 2003


No, I think once again you're so busy congratulating yourself that everyone is missing your point that you miss theirs. No one is advocating being mean to others. But it would be foolish, knowing that there may be higher incidences of drinking in an Irish community not to consider adjusting any alcoholism programs there accordingly.
posted by rushmc at 7:18 PM on January 12, 2003


Pure invention?! Someone who says this has never seen an Atheist argue with a Christian. Listen, I've been on the street, and I see how it goes down. Atheists have a reputation for belligerence and Arrogance, b/c, let's face it, those who represent Atheism vocally, tend to present themselves as such.

That's funny, the only Chistians I see represent Chistianity vocally on the streets are the street corner evangilists with a nasty habit of harassing young women as "sluts" or "dykes." However, I don't conclude that because the practice of street ministry tends to attract the worst of Christianity that these poor souls represent mainstream Chistianity.

But it seems like your sampling bias reflects a prejudice more than reality. It reminds me of when I went to the 92 March on Washington for LGB rights. While there I saw hundreds of people in slacks and t-shirts for every drag queen and leather dyke. Who got the attention? The drag queens and leather dykes of course. Perhaps you should open your eyes a bit and get into reality. For example, the latest issue of The Humanist spent more collumn inches on a debate about prostitution than on Chistianity.

A good example of this was the organized Atheist march on Washington, which deligitmized itself, in my mind, by including comedy sketches on the main stage that mocked evangelists as preposterous and hateful people. Even if that was the case with some Christians- so what?

So what? We are talking about a handful of people who have blamed every major disaster over the last 2 decades on feminists, athiests and homosexuals. We are talking about a politically active interest group that seeks to change U.S. law to mandate their flavor of Chistianity. Why should Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell be any more immune to mockery than George Bush or Barbara Streisand?

The fact of the matter is is that Atheists and Agnostics have a good case to present, and maybe if they would like others to start listening to them, they could present their case more judiciously, with less mean-spirited and derogatory references to "invisible fairies" and engines made of hamsters.

Perhaps you can start by explaining just how faith in god is different from faith in "invisible fairies". The invisible fairies argument is a basic argument about the slippery slope of extending a warrant to believe in one thing on faith but not others. Why is it reasonable to believe in YHVH, and not Osiris, Thor or invisible faeries?

So if you ask me why I don't believe in YHVH, I will have to honestly tell you that the warrant to believe in YHVH is no stronger that the warrant to believe in invisible faeries. I don't find that to be any more mean-spirited than the perennial argument that belief in god is necessary for morality.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:21 PM on January 12, 2003


O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! (Rom. 11:33)

If you are a Christian, you believe in a supernatural God. If you insist on a supernatural God, then you can only understand Him through unedited, mystical, supernatural revelation. The traditional repository for all of this supernatural revelation is the Bible. You're stuck with it. You can't just naturalize Him every time you need to clarify some King James turbidity, and then switch Him back to 'super' mode after you've finished your revisions. Every time you presume to understand His intent, His sensibilities, or anything about Him, without supernatural evidence, you are (re)creating Him in your own image - denying His inscrutable supernaturalness, and conjuring your own little deity - which is, of course, what atheists have been arguing all along.

So if the Bible isn't as relevant or cogent as you'd like it to be, then it's probably time for an update - God has doubtless gotten a lot hipper over the millennia - ask Him for some modern prophets, and get cracking on a modernized Book.

What? They do? New doctrine? Well, is it supernaturally informed? They claim it is? Even from televangelists? And they believe it? Everyone's a mystic? May I see that? Wow. God sure thinks a lot like a rich, white, Western guy. Hmph. Guess it's not surprising. Well, carry on, then.
posted by Opus Dark at 8:09 PM on January 12, 2003


Rushmc: No, I think once again you're so busy congratulating yourself that everyone is missing your point that you miss theirs. No one is advocating being mean to others.

Hamster engines!?

Kirk:That's funny, the only Chistians I see represent Chistianity vocally on the streets are the street corner evangilists with a nasty habit of harassing young women as "sluts" or "dykes."

"Streets" was a metaphor, and how Christians represent themselves has nothing to do with any of this.

But it seems like your sampling bias reflects a prejudice more than reality.
&

Perhaps you should open your eyes a bit and get into reality.
&

Perhaps you can start by explaining just how faith in god is different from faith in "invisible fairies".

Perhaps you can tell me how it is you can simultaneously dismiss my general characterizations while acting them out so dutifully? Or are you just not a good example of this "overwhelming majority" (to use every apologists favorite dubious cliche) of respectfully spoken Atheism?

I will have to honestly tell you that the warrant to believe in YHVH is no stronger that the warrant to believe in invisible faeries. I don't find that to be any more mean-spirited than the perennial argument that belief in god is necessary for morality.

Well, I guess if you don't see how it's mean-spirited (or particularly unhelpful to your cause) to tell Christians that their valued personal faith is just like "believing in the tooth fairy", it's no wonder you are having trouble recognizing any larger problems.

I'm not seeing where your going with this, Kirk. I assume this is just reflexive defensiveness. I'm not trying to diss Atheists, just the opposite. I would like to see free-thinking spread. I haven't been the first to try to start a dialogue on the fact that maybe there is some negative trends in Atheism as it's practiced in America right now. I also don't want to be self-righteous about it- I'm guilty, but increasingly reflective. Perhaps you really can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.
posted by dgaicun at 8:46 PM on January 12, 2003


Perhaps someone could call that guy who made the skeptics annotated bible, and ask him to do what he did to the Bible with this very thread. Maybe he could highlight the parts that are actually meaningful and skip the parts where Aetheists took potshots at Christians and vice versa. It would make this thread a bit easier to read. However, considering this guy's interest in finding the parts of the Bible which cause arguments, he'd probably highlight all the wrong parts here in this thread, too.

In a point in mankind's history such as what we're experiencing now, where we have Christians and Jews and Muslims out there who do actually tolerate one another's views, coupled with a whole bunch of other Christians and Jews and Muslims out there who don't, I think it's very important to see someone look at the Bible in an objective manner and look at the contradictions. It's necessary to see why there are some people out there who honestly believe killing in the name of God is a good idea. They believe that cuz it's actually IN the Bible. A lot. God telling people to smite nonbelievers. It's also important to note all the contradictions between descriptions in the Bible of things that step into modern sciences. An objective, detailed breakdown of everything both right and wrong about belief systems which have existed for millenia and are still deeply ingrained in the societal psyche of humanity.

Unfortunately, after perusing this skeptic's annotated bible, I sadly have to admit it just hasn't quite happened yet.

As for aetheists not being taken seriously until they learn to "grow up," I take the general tone of most aetheists as if they're looking at the three most popular theological beliefs on the planet, and look at it with shock: they can't believe they're losing to these guys. So their seemingly childish attitude is actually just frustration, kinda like when Dukakis realized he was losing to Bush.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:10 PM on January 12, 2003


Hamster engines!?

You keep repeating this phrase. I have no idea what you are referencing. I did mention a squirrel once, but not in a "mean" context.

Well, I guess if you don't see how it's mean-spirited (or particularly unhelpful to your cause) to tell Christians that their valued personal faith is just like "believing in the tooth fairy", it's no wonder you are having trouble recognizing any larger problems.

That's not "mean-spirited," that's simple fact. Facts are neutral. If someone drank 20 beers a day, would you pretend with them that it posed no greater risk to their health than 2 beers a day, because it would somehow be "mean" to stick to the truth? How patronizing! You don't conform truth to delusion, you confront delusion with truth.
posted by rushmc at 11:24 PM on January 12, 2003


"Streets" was a metaphor, and how Christians represent themselves has nothing to do with any of this.

Of course it does. If you want to talk about how Athiests debate with Chistianity "on the streets" you are going to have do address the fact that Athiests frequently are responding to outspoken Chistians who make Matthew Hale look reasonable. I personally don't look for reasonable debate "in the streets." I look for it in the library.

Perhaps you can tell me how it is you can simultaneously dismiss my general characterizations while acting them out so dutifully? Or are you just not a good example of this "overwhelming majority" (to use every apologists favorite dubious cliche) of respectfully spoken Atheism?

Well, here you are not seeing my reaction to Chistianity in general. You are seeing a reponse to your particular bias which tends to get my hackles up. Most of the time in regards to Chistianity I bend over backwards to be respectful, I've even been known to accompany family and friends to church, stand silently when asked to stand and sit when asked to sit. I'm such an anti-Chistian that I groove on liturgical music by Arvo Paert.

Interesting enough, your tactic here is a favorite of Chistian apologists. When people engage with you in debate, you cry prejudice. When you paint athiests with a broad brush, it is a "valid characterization".

Well, I guess if you don't see how it's mean-spirited (or particularly unhelpful to your cause) to tell Christians that their valued personal faith is just like "believing in the tooth fairy", it's no wonder you are having trouble recognizing any larger problems.

Job of cutting down the quote to make your point. Lets remind you of what I said in context.

Perhaps you can start by explaining just how faith in god is different from faith in "invisible fairies". The invisible fairies argument is a basic argument about the slippery slope of extending a warrant to believe in one thing on faith but not others. Why is it reasonable to believe in YHVH, and not Osiris, Thor or invisible faeries?

So if you ask me why I don't believe in YHVH, I will have to honestly tell you that the warrant to believe in YHVH is no stronger that the warrant to believe in invisible faeries. I don't find that to be any more mean-spirited than the perennial argument that belief in god is necessary for morality.
(emphasis added).

So to start with, it is convenient that you chose to completely ignore the first paragraph which I wrote as exactly what you asked for, a judicious explanation of why the "invisible faeries" statement is relevant. As an athiest is is not the case that I single out Chistian diety for non-belief, I don't believe an entire class of supernatural entities including Thor, Osiris and Faerie. This is an important point that athiesm is not about Chistianity.

Secondly, I was very intentional when I put the phrase "If you asked me...I will have to honestly tell you..." at the top of the second paragraph. I don't go around yelling at Chistians that belief in YHVH is "just like" believing in Faerie. For one thing a belief in YHVH is more highly rewarded than belief in Faerie (which is not as farfetched as you might think. I am the only neo-pagan apostate I know of.) I don't make it a habit to preach about my non-belief. But if the topic legitimately comes up in debate, (as it did in this discussion) I will have to be honest and say that I don't believe in Chistianity for the same reasons that I don't believe in Judaism, Neo-Paganism, and Raelism.

So of course, Chistians are likely to call this "mean-spirited" or "arrogant" simply because I fail to hold Chistianity to a higher standard than other religions including Neo-Paganism and UFO cults. It seems that you are confusing disagreement and debate with denegration. At some point, dancing around the bush is unhelpful.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:31 AM on January 13, 2003


From the SAB FAQ:
Since you are a skeptic and don't believe in the bible, why have you spent so much time creating the SAB?
Because so many people believe it to be the Word of God -- most of whom have never read it and are not familiar with its contents. I'd like people to look carefully at the bible and decide if it is worthy of their belief. That's all. When, if ever, people stop believing in the bible, I'll take my site down.

Seems to me that for some, this argument is particularly mean-spirited on both/all sides. We're looking at diametrically opposed opinions, and I do have to admit the sceptics have facts on their side, while believers have God & faith on theirs. Personally I'm not much of a gambling man, and would not be interested in laying odds on who can win, predominantly because this argument has been going on for a very long time with no end in sight. This thread certainly won't resolve the issue.

I humbly recommend the extremists cease using this thread as a demilitarized zone, pick themselves up off the tarp, lick their wounds and walk away. I know none of ya will do that, but I humbly suggest it anyway.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:31 AM on January 13, 2003


Interesting how this thread really took off when vraxoin took offense to be cast as a moron. The quoted passage which set this off references childish reasons -- there is no suggestion of idiocy nor moronism® (except that maybe wfrgms would have been better served by suggesting child-like reasons).
posted by Dick Paris at 9:54 AM on January 13, 2003


But Zachs, the SAB is part of a long tradition of questioning how to interpret religious texts -- most importantly by members within each faith. If not for this constant debate over the centuries we'd all still be using maps of the Earth with Jesus' navel representing Jerusalem.
posted by Dick Paris at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2003


Dick if you're suggesting the witty repartee of the past 80 some odd messages is helping to bring humanity to a newer understanding of consciousness and light, I gotta televangelist friend with some holy annointed oil in easy to carry condiment packets for ya.
posted by ZachsMind at 11:33 AM on January 13, 2003


Actually, I had not considered adding this (or other MeFi threads) to that tradition (I was thinking more about a "very long time" with "no end in sight") but one should never underestimate the power of pancakes with, of course, packets of holy annointed oil syrup. :-)
posted by Dick Paris at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2003


Is it too late to get in on this one? Sheesh, all the good debates are on the weekend...

To echo rushmc's question, what makes Christianity a more valid religion than any other, or any less deserving of skeptical analysis? The link in question may not be of a high quality, admittedly, but it's at least a good start to the discussion.

(disclaimer: I'm atheist from birth; I've read the Old & New Testaments, some eastern stuff, a good chunk of the Koran, and I've got the book of Mormon around somewhere, unread. The god of the bible reads no differently to me than the gods of Egypt, Greece, and the Vikings, and I just don't understand the continued attraction to any but the feeble minded. That's not meant to sound harsh, although I'm quite aware it comes across as such. Agnosticism or vague Theism I can accept; anything specific is untenable.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2003


The skeptics bible has some good stuff in it, but even Jeffery Jay Lowder, Richard Carrier, etc (of the Secular Web) don't particularly recommend it (or at least they don't recommend it it very highly.) They say it goes for quantity over quality.
For those that seem unhappy with me here, I can say only this: Truth and reason deserve their say. But some approaches to transmitting those truths are more persuasive then others. If your not talking to persuade others, you are probably just venting steam, and that doesn't really benefit any party present. Generally showing a genuine respect for someone's intellect is going to open them up more to what you have to say then degrading it. That takes a compromise in that, although you disbelieve in their faith, and have no reason to consider it sacred, you need to start with the understanding that they do not see it that way. Telling someone that believing in God is just like "believing in Santa Claus", may make perfect sense to you, but they have none of your underlying perspective to understand how the two are particularly related. This involves a strategy known as "building a conceptual bridge". A "conceptual bridge" is a tool of communication whereby one person takes the things another person knows, and by way of comparison and analogy, help them to understand a new thing.* One might point out that santa claus and jesus is just such a strategy; but I would say that that is different, b/c the reasons people believe in Santa Claus (childhood lack of "free-will" in belief [basically the same reason a child can't be charged for murder]), is different from the reason adults believe in God. I would say a better "bridge", would be to start with asking why people don't believe in other similar religions (Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam), and working out from there (it helps if you know a lot about the two compared religions, so you can show how the standards for belief don't differ between them; making them see how much more arbitrary/culture-based their faith is than they had previously thought). They believe these religions are just as false as Santa Claus, but it is a less insulting comparison, b/c other intelligent, sane, sincere adults believe in those "false-hoods", in a similar deeply personal way.
In my anecdotal experience (and without broad statistical data), many Atheists don't know how to express their opinions in a respectful and non-derogatory manner, and thus hurt their chances of transmitting it to others. Religion must be responded to, but it is the manner in which it is responded to that I think deserves more consideration.


*An example would be how parents communicate the idea of death to young children by calling it "sleep".
posted by dgaicun at 3:12 PM on January 13, 2003


Generally showing a genuine respect for someone's intellect is going to open them up more to what you have to say then degrading it.

By the same token, presupposing a certain quality of intellect without evidence of same degrades and devalues the concept of intellect.

No one is advocating shouting "damn, you're dumb! I can't believe how vastly, mindbogglingly STUPID you are!!" in a believer's face--obviously that's neither very friendly nor very productive. My point is that it is equally wrong to instead say "gee, you're really quite smart...such a pity you haven't put together the whole picture yet--but not to worry, it's not really your fault, cuz you're SMART." Again, that approach is a) patronizing and b) destructive to the entire notion of intelligence, knowledge and understanding.
posted by rushmc at 3:36 PM on January 13, 2003


As Steven Dutch points out, these conversations are bound to go nowhere unless one knows the theological issues at stake intimately. Christians have been told that there are odd contradictions in the Bible for years, if not centuries, sometimes by other Christians (see, for example, Bishop Colenso). By this time, they've developed a cornucopia of interpretive methods to deal with factual or moral problems, some of which have been charted by Don McKim and Jack Rogers. It's not clear with whom many of the participants in this thread are arguing. Fundamentalists? Evangelicals? Unitarian Universalists? High Church Anglicans? Catholics? Southern Baptists? After all, Catholics don't agree with Protestants about how to interpret the Bible; for that matter, Protestant denominations don't agree with each other. Unless the Christian believes in full plenary inspiration, in which case there can be no error, factual and scientific inaccuracies may or may not be a problem. (See, for example, this Catholic page.)
posted by thomas j wise at 5:39 PM on January 13, 2003


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