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The Vatican Jumps the Shark
July 31, 2004 4:09 PM   Subscribe

The Pope to Women: "get back in your place" - The Vatican, fearing it may still share some semblance of the same reality as the rest of us seeks to rectify this problem by telling women that they should stop hoping for the same things as men have.

"The obscuring of the difference or duality of the sexes has enormous consequences on a variety of levels," the document said, asserting it has inspired ideologies that "call into question the family, in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father."

It also warned of challenges to fundamentals of church teaching, saying the blurring of differences "would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form."

posted by Space Coyote (128 comments total)

 
The Washington Times puts an interesting spin on the story with their headline, Pope affirms both genders' moral equality.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:16 PM on July 31, 2004


Has the pope fulfilled his Godly duty of procreating?

Gee, for a minute there I thought the world was overpopulated. Thanks for straightening me out pope. You heard him women of the world, get in line, get pregnant and get keep your booties at home where you belong, in the kitchen and bedroom!

“would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.”

Guess it doesn't matter where that little male child came from, eh?
posted by nofundy at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2004


Are there any devout Catholics left on this site?
posted by BlueTrain at 4:17 PM on July 31, 2004


The Pope to Women: “get back in your place”

And get him a beer while yer at it!
posted by jonmc at 4:21 PM on July 31, 2004


Guess it doesn't matter where that little male child came from, eh?

Oh, I think the Catholics worship Mary plenty as it is.
posted by kjh at 4:30 PM on July 31, 2004


the pope is a tool
posted by delmoi at 4:30 PM on July 31, 2004


It also warned of challenges to fundamentals of church teaching, saying the blurring of differences “would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form.”

Yeah, because goodness knows, had the Christ been born a woman, she would have been stoned at 14 instead of crucified at 33.
posted by psmealey at 4:40 PM on July 31, 2004


I think the Catholics worship Mary plenty as it is.

Christian theology flamewar! It is funny, though, just how different the various sects of Christianity are. And yet somehow they all claim to be the one true way... work that one out!

Expand this to all religions, and you have one of the strongest arguments against religion in general: if one religion believes something different to another (that you can't eat a certain kind of meat, for example), then it is impossible to choose between them. Because both claim to be the absolute truth, we can see that, in reality, one of them has got to be false -- and how are we to know which?

Better to just ignore religion and think for yourself.
posted by reklaw at 4:44 PM on July 31, 2004


Kinda seems like a fifty-fifty shot. Gotta pick one or the other. Does Jesus' presumed right-handedness mean left-handed folk must stay out of the priesthood?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:57 PM on July 31, 2004


Not necessarily false, reklaw, just a poorer description of the truth. And you judge which is the right one based on your personal knowledge of the God they're attempting in their imperfect human way to describe to you.

If the God you know has created a world where there's a place for veneration of the earthly mother of his child, you venerate her and choose religions that do likewise. If not, you don't.

Why is choosing a religion contrary to thinking for oneself?
posted by bonaldi at 4:58 PM on July 31, 2004


Better to just ignore religion and think for yourself.

It'll be a lot easier to ignore religion, and the bigotry that often goes with it, when it starts ignoring the rest of us.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:59 PM on July 31, 2004


Expand this to all religions, and you have one of the strongest arguments against religion in general: if one religion believes something different to another (that you can't eat a certain kind of meat, for example), then it is impossible to choose between them. Because both claim to be the absolute truth, we can see that, in reality, one of them has got to be false -- and how are we to know which?

There's more than one religion, therefore all religions are wrong. Yawn. If this tepid non-conclusion is where thinking for myself will get me, I'll stick with the evil religious mind control, thanks.
posted by kjh at 5:03 PM on July 31, 2004


Are there any devout Catholics left on this site?

I can think of one who should be commenting here.

The Pope to Women: “get back in your place”

Ridiculous attempt to create a political disagreement where there is none at all. Is this another burn-the-pope-in-effigy thread? Or is it just another snide jibe at Christianity? Very thoughtful.

Better to just ignore religion and think for yourself.

Better to just ignore the thoughts of countless men and women who have devoted their entire lives to the study of theology? Better to ignore the moral and rational precepts that religion has developed across the ages? Better to ignore the geniuses who have gone before us?
posted by hama7 at 5:05 PM on July 31, 2004


well i say good riddance
posted by bob sarabia at 5:08 PM on July 31, 2004


Why is choosing a religion contrary to thinking for oneself?

Because religion isn't just about describing the truth, discovering the creator, etc. etc. It's about rules. It's about thou shalt not this, thou shalt not that -- this is what us religious leaders say, this is what our holy book says, so this is what you should do. Do you see?

The only way to escape from the following-others-rules aspect of religion is to resort to your tactic of basically making it up as you go along ("the God you know"...). The God I know says I'm right about everything all the time, so there.

There's more than one religion, therefore all religions are wrong.

No: more like "religions disagree, and only one can be right". I'm perfectly willing to accept that one could be fully correct, but what if you chose the one that disagrees with it? Then you'll be in the proverbial, won't you.

Better to ignore the moral and rational precepts that religion has developed across the ages?

Ooh yes, let's have the religion = morality debate... meh.
posted by reklaw at 5:10 PM on July 31, 2004


What, exactly, was the pope saying other than that (1) women have a place and (2) they're straying from it and (3) this is a bad thing? Hand-waving dismissals are worth little more than the hot air expelled to utter them.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:10 PM on July 31, 2004


Why is choosing a religion contrary to thinking for oneself?

because religion is dependent in the acceptance of a) eternal truths b) revelations thereof c) acceptance of others' ideas on these topics?

Just a stab in the dark, here.
posted by mwhybark at 5:11 PM on July 31, 2004


my roommates, several friends, and i ran out into the street and mooned the pope during one of his visits to toronto - his motorcade conveniently drove right past my apt at bloor and parliament. so every time he or the vatican makes a public statement/demand i can't help but smile and be uplifted by the memory. thanks cute old polish dude, see you in hell !
posted by t r a c y at 5:18 PM on July 31, 2004


Because religion isn't just about describing the truth, discovering the creator, etc. etc. It's about rules. It's about thou shalt not this, thou shalt not that -- this is what us religious leaders say, this is what our holy book says, so this is what you should do. Do you see?

See what? A probable misinterpretation? Certainly I do. Just noodling the obvious here, but couldn't religion be about choices and consequences rather than "rules"?

(This post in no way supports any religion, doctrine or religion in general. It does however raise the question that some framings of the debate are purely ass.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:32 PM on July 31, 2004


No: more like "religions disagree, and only one can be right". I'm perfectly willing to accept that one could be fully correct, but what if you chose the one that disagrees with it? Then you'll be in the proverbial, won't you.

That seems just as perfectly empty, just as paralyzed by logical false dilemmas. For instance--assuming one religion is right--then by choosing no religion at all, you similarly end up in the proverbial.

I'm not sure what you're arguing for, exactly. Is it a good thing for everyone, including religious adherents, to be skeptical and think for his or herself? Absolutely; to be skeptical is not a contrary state of being to having religion. Church leaders, after all, are merely men or women--corruptable men or women--and the words they say must always be examined in the context of the morals they claim to teach.

Similarly, I think the differences amongst the Christian sects can be a cause of optimism rather than dismay; once, such disagreements erupted into open bloodshed. Today, they are confined to seminaries and Internet message boards, and though they may get forceful, they are rarely violent. This progress provides hope that similar common ground can be found even in, say, the Middle East.
posted by kjh at 5:33 PM on July 31, 2004


Knock me over with a feather. Although I would have said it a little differently, I agree with Hama7 on his point.

* braces for armageddon *
posted by psmealey at 5:38 PM on July 31, 2004


reklaw: The God I know says I'm always right
Does he? Does he really? Then you'd best be founding the cult of reklaw.

The problem with viewpoints like these is that people attacking religion per se generally disavow "god" from the mix. So they sit back with their arms crossed and expect a religion to convince them that a) God exists and b) they have the correct path to him.

But if, for a thinking exercise, you take a God as a given, then you can instantly see that there will be some religions that are closer to him than others, and that he will have an effect in your life that will enable you to make decisions based on your understanding of him.

mwhybark: ... and you're not allowed to think critically for yourself about whether the ideas of the others are bunk or not? I'm not arguing for religion per se, but I know plenty of intelligent religious types, and I reject the idea that choosing a religion is somehow a less intelligent thing to do.
posted by bonaldi at 5:40 PM on July 31, 2004


If there is a 'correct' religion I hope it frigging well isn't one that pisses on 51% of humanity.

(my real view is that religions are only as good as their adherents' works)
posted by Space Coyote at 5:43 PM on July 31, 2004


I'm not Catholic in the least. Jewish, in fact. But I still don't just toss aside 2000 +/- years of wisdom that billions have lived happily by because of political correctness and intellectual superiority. The pope is just as human as the rest of us, sure, and I don't necessarily agree or disagree with what he is saying here. But, I won't toss it out with the pissbucket just because of a headline. Maybe -- just maybe -- he has a point that should be at least considered.
posted by mychai at 5:45 PM on July 31, 2004


Gentle MeFi Reader:

Hi. I am making a new religion. Rest assured, this religion will be closer to your beliefs than any other religion you've ever encountered. I can assure you that this is, indeed, the One True Path. No longer should you worry about which religion is "right". This one is.

All you have to do is believe.

Would you care to make a donation?

Bless you brother.
posted by Ynoxas at 5:56 PM on July 31, 2004


Better to just ignore the thoughts of countless men and women who have devoted their entire lives to the study of theology?

I think the complaint here is that countless women have been ignored for their entire lives, hama. And their study has been absorbed and taken credit for by men.

BACK TO THE KITCHEN LADIES!
posted by Peter H at 6:03 PM on July 31, 2004


For instance--assuming one religion is right--then by choosing no religion at all, you similarly end up in the proverbial.

Pascal's Wager? My goodness. The thing about Pascal is that he says, basically, that the Christian God is the correct God or there is no God. What I'm saying is that there are thousands of different versions of God held to be the true God by different religions.

I could pick one, but on what evidence? Should I just get a big list of religions and stick a pin in it? Hope I picked the right one-in-thousands that means I'm not damned to Hell (or equivalent bad thing, obviously)? Perhaps there are a few religions that are reasonably consistent with each other, but most of them are completely contradictory. Had I better just pray that the version of God I piss right off isn't the one that actually exists?

Then you'd best be founding the cult of reklaw.

What was it L. Ron Hubbard said? "If I wanted to get rich..."

But if, for a thinking exercise, you take a God as a given, then you can instantly see that there will be some religions that are closer to him than others, and that he will have an effect in your life that will enable you to make decisions based on your understanding of him.

Wha? If I take the idea of a creator variously defined by different religions as a given, then one religion might be closer to... what? Whatever the hell I make up in my head? If you think your God is closer to Christianity, I guess it's just because your understanding of God was based on Christianity (cultural context, and all that). You can't be arguing that whichever God is closest to your cultural biases is best, surely?
posted by reklaw at 6:03 PM on July 31, 2004


billions have lived happily by

Perhaps, but certainly not in relation to. perhaps you have forgotten that historically Jews have not had the best relationship with the papal seat (not to mention the experience of Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, and a variety of non-conformists)

It seems to me, mychai, that you are letting your colors show without having to go through the trouble of actually taking a stand concerning the pope's comments. Especially when you suggest that "he has a point that should at least be considered" without indentifying what you think that point is.
posted by amauck at 6:05 PM on July 31, 2004


Person A: "2 is a prime number!"

Person B: "3 is a prime number!"

Person C: "5 is a prime number!"

reklaw: "Hmm, they don't seem to be able to agree. This whole concept of 'prime numbers' seems rather suspect."
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:11 PM on July 31, 2004


Every religon is the right one! See, everything works out if you a lot of "faith" don't no common sense.
posted by bob sarabia at 6:18 PM on July 31, 2004


Uh... more like:

Person A: "I know the truth about God, but C certainly doesn't!"

Person B: "I know the truth about God, but don't listen to person A, she's a witch!"

Person C: "I know the truth about God, but anyone who believes anything A or B says will roast in the firey pits of damnation!"

Now what am I to do, exactly? I can't believe them all... wouldn't the logical conclusion, at least until one of them comes up with some proof, be that they're all idiots blowing hot air?
posted by reklaw at 6:20 PM on July 31, 2004


natural two-parent structure of mother and father.

There is nothing natural about the nuclear family. It's an anomaly compared to the social/tribal kinship structure that human beings have lived in for thousands of years.

Meh. I can't even attempt to join in an argument about this. Just fucking die, already, Mr. Pope.
posted by jokeefe at 6:24 PM on July 31, 2004


Oh, and apologies to konolia for the above comment, should she venture into the wilderness of this thread.
posted by jokeefe at 6:25 PM on July 31, 2004


Peter H - You're twisting what hama7 said. He wasn't referencing this pronouncement of the pope, he was speaking of religious thought in general.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:27 PM on July 31, 2004


reklaw - You're asking those questions of the wrong people, that's what you should be asking yourself. If you read the Old Testament, it very carefully doesn't deny the existance of other gods. It just says to worship Yaweh, the god of the chosen people of Israel.

You can't be arguing that whichever God is closest to your cultural biases is best, surely?

In a sense, yes. God is the god of my people. Allah is the God of the Muslim people. Many are the gods of the Hindu people...

And yes, you can certainly assume that they are "idiots blowing hot air" because of their lack of proof, but that would mean you don't really understand the concept of faith. You obnoxiously show many preconceived stereotypes but little thought and understanding of the matter.
posted by TungstenChef at 6:32 PM on July 31, 2004


Uh... more like:

Person A: "I know the truth about God, but C certainly doesn't!"

Person B: "I know the truth about God, but don't listen to person A, she's a witch!"

Person C: "I know the truth about God, but anyone who believes anything A or B says will roast in the firey pits of damnation!"


Are you actually familiar with the religions you are talking about? Sure there are jackass intolerant bigots in all of them but I was under the impression that each successive prophet/doctrine basically accepted the truths of the previous religions and built on them...Christianity absorbed judaic theology and added to it and Islam absorbed christian and judaic theology and added to it...

Not that I have given this a lot of thought...I might be completely wrong since I am really an unconcerned atheist raised by voluntarily excommunicated roman catholics. The only things I have faith in are science and reason.
posted by srboisvert at 6:38 PM on July 31, 2004


srboisvert: By 'voluntarily excommunicated' do you mean they just left the church or did they actually do something worthy of the attention required to excommunicate them? :)
posted by Space Coyote at 6:41 PM on July 31, 2004


If you read the Old Testament, it very carefully doesn't deny the existance of other gods... God is the god of my people. Allah is the God of the Muslim people. Many are the gods of the Hindu people...

But "there is no God but Allah...". Since that's a central tenet of Islam, how can you say that it can happily co-exist with other religions? Your argument might work if all religions said that there were lots of different gods for different people, but, as you well know, they do not.

And yes, you can certainly assume that they are "idiots blowing hot air" because of their lack of proof, but that would mean you don't really understand the concept of faith.

I understand the concept of faith all too well.

Let me illustrate this. Let's say that there are ten people, and they're having a debate. All of them have different positions. Some of them can be correct without others being wrong -- but for some, it is a central part of their argument that all the others must be wrong. Additionally, not one of them has any proof for their argument. I am called in to pick one or more "winners" in this debate. They all turn to me and say "have faith in me, for I am correct". What do I do?

Christianity absorbed judaic theology and added to it and Islam absorbed christian and judaic theology and added to it...

There are more religions than just the Judeo-Christian-Islamic axis.
posted by reklaw at 6:43 PM on July 31, 2004


Oh, and apologies to konolia for the above comment, should she venture into the wilderness of this thread.

I doubt konolia will be upset by that comment. I am pretty sure she expects the pope to end up in the firey lake.
posted by mdn at 6:53 PM on July 31, 2004


They all turn to me and say "have faith in me, for I am correct". What do I do?

You're definitely in a pickle, there. Because from a philosophical standpoint, we'll need to engage in a debate of the nature and meaning of "proof" (e.g.; I didn't know Socrates, ergo, how can it be proven that he existed?), before we take the dialogue any further. For starters, though, you can engage each person in a logical, semantic or theological debate, but, in fairness, the last thing you do is dismiss them all, because you think that because there are so many differing opinions that it must be nonsense. Logically speaking, that's the silliest conclusion you can draw.
posted by psmealey at 6:56 PM on July 31, 2004


btw... a serious question like that deserves a serious and sober response. Alas, I am not sober (at the moment), so that was the best I could muster.
posted by psmealey at 6:58 PM on July 31, 2004


I could pick one, but on what evidence?

I don't know. Ask the Pope. I bet he's got some intersting thoughts about it. Otherwise I'm not sure why you chose this thread to have an epistemology debate.
posted by kjh at 7:00 PM on July 31, 2004


For starters, though, you can engage each person in a logical, semantic or theological debate, but, in fairness, the last thing you do is dismiss them all, because you think that because there are so many differing opinions that it must be nonsense. Logically speaking, that's the silliest conclusion you can draw.

Not really... it's roughly equivalent, in the situation I described, to saying "when one (or more) of you shows me some proof, I'll pick a winner. Until then, I don't see why I should believe any of you" ("because if you don't believe me, and only me, there'll be terrible consequences!", some of them respond... sigh). I see no other position that I could take.
posted by reklaw at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2004


Yeah, let's separate the discussion of the nature of faith (something that can indeed be positive for some people) and bashing an entrenched political entity.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2004


I don't know. Ask the Pope. I bet he's got some intersting thoughts about it. Otherwise I'm not sure why you chose this thread to have an epistemology debate.

My line of thinking is basically "why should anyone do what the Pope says"... so it's an attempt to have a discussion about why anyone should believe anything any religion says, in general, without resorting to just mocking the Pope.
posted by reklaw at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2004


Well the Pope knows that muslims have found a way to outbreed christians, so he is fighting back the best way he knows.
posted by Trik at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2004


I'm an atheist. But I feel sorry for religious people after reading this thread. Of the people posting negative things about religion here, how many of you have actually studied the subject? I just don't mean, "have you read the bible?" I mean, have you studied religious peoples and their psychology and history?

I totally disagree with the notion that religion leads to sloppy thinking. Let's ignore the fact that Christian (Jewish, Hindu, etc.) doctrine has been studied for centuries by brilliant scholars (who have moved WAY beyond sophomoric "paradoxes" like "can God make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?"). Let's assume that Christian doctrine is riddled with illogic and contradictions: so what?

Why do people make the lame (and false) assumption that people are consistant. So what if people believe something illogical. That doesn't mean that they are illogical in general. The human brain is not like one of those computers on Star Trek that can be destroyed if Captain Kirk points out an error in their programming. The human mind compartmentalizes.

Here are some people who managed to be original and brilliant despide the fact that their minds were "crippled" by religion: J.R.R. Tolkein, C.S. Lewis, Martin Luthor King, Abraham Lincoln, Johannes Kepler, Issac Newton, Fred Rogers, Louis Pasteu, the Wright Brothers...

And this whole "how can one CHOOSE a religion when..." blah blah blah argument doesn't make sense either. Most people don't CHOOSE a religion. Sure, in liberal/artsy/academic circles it's popular to go on "spiritual quests," but that's not how the majority of the human race works or has worked for thousands of years.

People need religion because they are scared of dying, because they need to feel loved, because they need to feel linked with something larger than themselves, and for many other reasons. All of the major religions meet these needs. So most people are satisfied with the one they are born into. This allows them to combine their spiritual needs with their needs to take part in family and community events.

So they are Catholic or Jewish or whatever because that's what their friends and family are ... and it makes them feel good, so why not? And they grow up and go on to be musicians and scientists and writers and teachers ... and some of them are stupid.

But this idea that all religious people are idiots is a nice bedtime story we atheists tell ourselves to make ourselves feel special.
posted by grumblebee at 7:06 PM on July 31, 2004


"religions disagree, and only one can be right"

All religions but a few agree: the best way is to love the people around you. Love everyone, even if it's difficult.

Person A: "2 the only prime number!"

Person B: "3 the only is a prime number!"

Person C: "5 the only is a prime number!"

reklaw: "Hmm, they don't seem to be able to agree. This whole concept of 'prime numbers' seems rather suspect."


The truth: the whole concept of "prime numbers" is correct, and they are all prime numbers!

The other truth: the whole concept of "do good" is correct, and all ways of doing good are godly!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 PM on July 31, 2004


(Which is to say that the best mechanism is, in fact, to opt out of the sects that claim one or another number is the only prime, and operate on the much more truthful recognition that there are many divisible-only-by-self numbers.

And the best mechanism for being moral is to opt out of the sects that claim they've got the only correct moral commandments, and operate on the much more powerful level of doing that which is good.)
posted by five fresh fish at 7:14 PM on July 31, 2004


People need religion because they are scared of dying, because they need to feel loved, because they need to feel linked with something larger than themselves, and for many other reasons. All of the major religions meet these needs.

I don't need religion. Lots of people don't. I find the "if it makes them happy..." argument annoying, just because of the condescending way it assumes that people should just go on believing things that are untrue, because it'd upset them to find out any different. It's "what you don't know can't hurt you" writ large.

So they are Catholic or Jewish or whatever because that's what their friends and family are ... and it makes them feel good, so why not?

Why don't you ask that gay person over there who can't get married? It'd be fine if they kept their damned religions to themselves, but they keep trying to force them on me, my friends, my family and my country. If I believe that it's a sin to wear red, who cares? If half the country believes that it's a sin to wear red and makes laws forbidding it, then the other half cares.

Religious people are not idiots. They are, however, deluded, and dangerous to my personal freedom.
posted by reklaw at 7:20 PM on July 31, 2004


So they are Catholic or Jewish or whatever because that's what their friends and family are ... and it makes them feel good, so why not? And they grow up and go on to be musicians and scientists and writers and teachers ... and some of them are stupid.

Why not? Have you read the papers lately? The Middle East, big chunks of Africa, even parts of Europe are death zones due to people 'feeling good' over religion. Just because some people manage to contribute positively to society despite their beliefs doesn't come close to making up for all the pain, misery and death that's been inflicted over the millenia because of them.
posted by billsaysthis at 7:21 PM on July 31, 2004


All religions but a few agree: the best way is to love the people around you. Love everyone, even if it's difficult.

And from that vantage point, it is but a small step further to realize that one can live a life of love and kindess and have no need to believe in the unevidenced superstitions that these many religions claim as true. Religion is superfluous at best; at worst, well, just look at current world events.
posted by jsonic at 7:43 PM on July 31, 2004


motherfucker's got a cool hat.
posted by quonsar at 7:51 PM on July 31, 2004


My line of thinking is basically "why should anyone do what the Pope says"... so it's an attempt to have a discussion about why anyone should believe anything any religion says, in general, without resorting to just mocking the Pope.

Okay. I guess it spares you the bother of having to actually read what the Pope says and talk about that specifically.
posted by kjh at 7:53 PM on July 31, 2004


doesn't come close to making up for all the pain, misery and death that's been inflicted over the millenia because of them.

Because of what? People acting in the name of "God", or people being influenced to act by those in power? In the grand sweep of history, it hasn't taken all that much to inspire or manipulate people to violence. If the root cause for mass murder is not fear, hatred or anger based on nationalism, chauvinism, religion (god forbid), territorialism or tribalism, it's always going to be something, isn't it?

I grant you that it's appropriate to blame the murders of hundreds of thousands during the crusades on Pope Gregory (as well as those that didn't use their own judgment to determine that what they were doing was immoral) but simply blaming it on religion, is a cop out.

That's the whole point, we choose to do it right or not. Seeking the highest good through virtue, whether you are Aristotelian or Calvinist, it doesn't matter. The last thing I'd ever try to do is proselytise, especially here, but to blame such suffering and violence ("just look at current world event") on religion is to misidentify the culprit.
posted by psmealey at 7:57 PM on July 31, 2004


so, can god make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?
posted by mr.marx at 8:03 PM on July 31, 2004


Religious people are not idiots. They are, however, deluded, and dangerous to my personal freedom.

I have nothing to add. I just wanted everyone to read those two sentences again. This is our problem.
posted by majcher at 8:05 PM on July 31, 2004


so, can god make a rock so heavy that he can't lift it?

No, because even if he could, he could make a lever big enough to lift it anyway.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:09 PM on July 31, 2004


The church is trying to control me ! help ! help ! somebody get me my mastercard !
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:09 PM on July 31, 2004


All of the foregoing is why Buddhism is the only religion that makes any sense at all.
posted by aramaic at 8:10 PM on July 31, 2004


An anonymous commenter on my blog linked the full English text of it at http://www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=57636

If anyone cares.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:15 PM on July 31, 2004


just because of the condescending way it assumes that people should just go on believing things that are untrue, because it'd upset them to find out any different.

So I see that you appearently have a lock on the truth about the unknowable which has eluded wise men for millenia. Go forth and proclaim it loudly, just don't be surprised when people tune you out due to your obnoxiously smug manner. Maybe you can join Dawkins (whom I usually admire) and call yourself a "bright" to keep those fires of superiority burning how.

Religious people are not idiots. They are, however, deluded, and dangerous to my personal freedom.

Frankly, I find your stereotyping disgusting. There are millions of religious people in this country who DON'T want their religion mixed with the government, it's just a very vocal minority that do. The diversity of religious beliefs is so great (as you have pointed out yourself already), you do yourself and your argument a grave disservice by lumping them all together.
posted by TungstenChef at 8:35 PM on July 31, 2004


Just a note: there's plenty of feminists who think that "blurring the distinction between the sexes" is a bad thing. That proposition is, alone, reasonably neutral.

I'm an atheist, and a feminist, and not a "difference feminist" at that, so I'm pretty hostile to his popeness's whole idea. That said, however, it seems to me that his view isn't preposterous. Firstly, if you accept that men and women are fundamentally different—and, frankly, pretty much everyone does, even if I don't—and then, secondly, start from the assumption of a God-the-Creator who made things the way they are For A Reason then...well, it's a pretty reasonable conclusion to draw that men and women have Different Roles to Play and not conforming to this is a Bad Thing.

Mind you, I disagree. But my point is that I don't doubt that the majority of you hold to at least one of those two above assumptions (the difference between men and women and the idea of a God-the-Creator that made things the way they are for a purpose) and so, it seems to me, that you don't really have much room to mock the Pope's view as absurd. I'd guess that fully 90% of the entire human race shares that view—and we're not just talking Catholics, or even Christians, but every major religion sees men and women as fundamentally distinct and, arguably, is oppressive to women.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:03 PM on July 31, 2004


Er, that's burning hot.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:07 PM on July 31, 2004


we're not just talking Catholics, or even Christians, but every major religion sees men and women as fundamentally distinct

We're not just talking about religions either, but most scientists ascribe to the same view. It's been proven several times recently that the brains of men and women are physically different, not to mention the obviously huge hormonal differences.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:10 PM on July 31, 2004


but to blame such suffering and violence ("just look at current world event") on religion is to misidentify the culprit.

Asserting that religion plays no role in the violence done in its name is quite daft. The responsibility and blame for violent actions falls on the person who comitted them. However, a system of thought that encourages superstition and a belief in the will of invisible super-beings certainly doesn't help its followers to act rationally.
posted by jsonic at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2004


Just because some people manage to contribute positively to society despite their beliefs doesn't come close to making up for all the pain, misery and death that's been inflicted over the millenia because of them.

You say that as if no one has ever been prompted by their beliefs to do anything positive. Do you believe that?
posted by Stauf at 9:21 PM on July 31, 2004


"We're not just talking about religions either, but most scientists ascribe to the same view. It's been proven several times recently that the brains of men and women are physically different, not to mention the obviously huge hormonal differences."

Yes, most science has come around to this point of view after a period in which it held to the opposite. I've reluctantly had to accept that male and female brains differ much more than I once believed. But maybe it's because of my unreformed feminist roots, but I remain deeply suspicious of any biologically determinist arguments that validate the social status quo. In fact, I walk that razor's edge on many topics—I favor evolutionary psychology but am naturally very, very suspicious especially when it's used to validate pre-existing bias. Which, historically, has been very often. This has been very much true with sex differences. Even if we were willing to put aside the tricky moral ramifications of deciding people's proper place in our society on the basis of sex differences without regard to pesky things like civil liberties, we still understood far too little of what those differences are in any way in which social architecture would be meanginful. That's why such arguments don't carry much weight for me. And also simply that in the past, such arguments have carried far too much weight and I'd prefer to err in the other direction for awhile longer thank you very much.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:23 PM on July 31, 2004


"You say that as if no one has ever been prompted by their beliefs to do anything positive. Do you believe that?"

Funny that this should come up since I mentioned this in a conversation with a friend just a few hours ago. I had mentioned in a different conterxt the way that the Mormons treated the Native Americans (relative to how everyone else treated them, which was much worse). Another example are the Quakers and their abolitionist stance against slavery all the way back to the 1600s. (I think. The 1700s at least.)

I won't go out on a limb and say there's a one-to-one correspondance. But I will say that while there are countless examples of horrors being committed on the basis of religious belief, there's also countless beauties commited on the basis of religious belief. Religious belief has been historically, a gateway into hatred, violence, and oppression...but also a gateway to love, healing, and compassion. It's deeply dishonest to focus on the former and ignore the latter.

Am I—a deeply rational atheist—inclined to think that religious belief tilts more to the negative than the positive? Yes, I am so inclined. But I'm well aware of the many, many vital, powerful, wonderful and beautiful things in the history of human race that are the product of religious belief.

And I'm also, as I get older, less and less convinced that humans are inherently rational enough to have managed these necessary wonders without the irrationality of religious belief. I suspect that throwing out religious faith in the history of humanity would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater, at least.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:31 PM on July 31, 2004


...you appearently have a lock on the truth about the unknowable which has eluded wise men for millenia. Go forth and proclaim it loudly...

I do, too. And here it is. Ready?

The unknowable is ... unknowable! Ergo, you don't know. So stop telling me you know, stop telling me to have faith, and just accept there are some things you will not know in your lifetime.

Faith in God has about the same relevance to daily life as faith in extra-terrestrials. Should I avoid eating pork, so as not to offend God, or should I work on that computer virus to disable the aliens mothership when they arrive on their invasion mision?

You want to have a religion, fine - just keep it away from my body, my property and my government. (Some deity-free, non-proselytizing religions exempted.)
posted by bashos_frog at 9:40 PM on July 31, 2004


The unknowable is ... unknowable! Ergo, you don't know.

This has come up before but...that's your assumption—that the truth of this matter is "unknowable". Lots of people don't share that assumption. Most religious folks, in fact, don't share that assumption.

Furthermore, your assumption—that this particular truth about the universe is unknowable—is a rationally very shaky and deeply improbable assumption. In my opinion, this assumption is more self-serving and therefore suspiciously irrational than the theist assumption. Isn't that wonderfully ironic? I think it is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:49 PM on July 31, 2004


It's certainly possible to be beautifully spiritual and brilliant as a member of an organized religion. Belief in God has inspired some spectacular things. But if you believe in God, and I don't, I just disagree with you. I might even think your ideas in that respect are stupid. If I disagree with you a lot, I might think you are stupid. I could be wrong. But I don't claim to have any extra special ability to judge. My calling you stupid is equal to you calling me stupid. Now, if I don't believe in God, people in several religions claim that I'm a less worthy human being, and that I will be punished in this life or after. Furthermore, they claim that their belief that I'm stupid is somehow worth more than any opinion I hold. That's the scary part.
posted by synapse at 10:05 PM on July 31, 2004


Why do people make the lame (and false) assumption that people are consistant.

Nobody makes that assumption. Everyone knows that people aren't consistent or logical. That's the problem!
posted by kindall at 10:27 PM on July 31, 2004


Now, if I don't believe in God, people in several religions claim that I'm a less worthy human being, and that I will be punished in this life or after. Furthermore, they claim that their belief that I'm stupid is somehow worth more than any opinion I hold. That's the scary part.

Why should that scare you? Seriously, I'm asking. Now if you claim that people who have been given power believe this, I understand your fear, but I've come to believe that bullet for bullet, sword for sword, crusades always fail. Including the crusade to get rid of religion because it might be scary. Fear of religion is useless, and counter-productive. The consequence of disbelief is unknowable, but the consequences of disbelief in belief are readily evidenced (The twin towers going boom, settling the Blackfeet indians as farmers when they believe that digging in the soil is hurtful to their nurturing mother, invading "their" countries, killing "their" leaders and converting "them" all to christianity, holding that religion is the opiate of the masses and must be irradicated for progress ...)

It could be said that I believe in history. And one constant in that is that people who do not understand and accept that others believe differently (people who are afraid) tend to foster more strife and violence than those who believe that others have a belief and that must be accepted, even if not agreed with.

(In case any have forgotten this, the Pope wasn't writing to the Mormons or Jews or Muslims or homolefty Mefite Liberal athiests ... he was writing to Catholics. and in case you haven't noticed before, I reject the characterization of Mefi as HLMLA.)
posted by Wulfgar! at 10:33 PM on July 31, 2004


Wow, where does the time go!

bonaldi: my response was more flip than the topic deserves, apologies.

However, If I were to expand and unpack my point I think it's still valid. The premise you set up - "Why is choosing a religion contrary to thinking for oneself?" - while asked in the spirit of criticism of anti-religionists, is something of a straw man, which I then promptly helped to build. So let me see if I can haul out some tuba-fours. Deep breath, and apologies for run-ons and the overall longwindedness of this little number.

In your reply, you also impute my dismissal to mean choosing a religion is "a less intelligent thing to do." I didn't say that, and I won't here. It's not what I'm likely to do, but that doesn't mean it's less intelligent.

First, I'll accept that religious belief and poor intellectual skills are by no means congruent. In every long-lasting, literate religion, there are subtle arguers who bring much to us today in many disciplines.

But, then what is "thinking for oneself?" In my understanding of it, it must be to an extent a choice between trusting one's own judgement over others, or trusting others' judgement over one's own.

Proof of God is irrelevant to this line of thought, I think, as is the factual existence of God, as is the reality or unreality of supernatural phenomenon in general. Choosing a religion is accepting a set of social mores designed to, variously, increase social coherence, personal life quality, save souls, enhance spiritual experience, whatever.

I tend to view religious structures as mechanisms for social control, and their spiritual content as essentially the marketing used to make them attractive. In no way does this derogate the spiritual experiences afforded by the religions, in my opinion. But it does mean I don't accept the premise of universality that underlies Western thought on religion.

In faith, one must accept that premise of universality, precisely because it can't be proved. When the interpretation of the universal is passed along to a religious structure, the community's practices are presented as outgrowths - emanations, for any Plotinians out there - of the universal premise. The individual in the community accepts the mores of the community as religious practice, in order to demonstrate and nurture faith; the believer accepts guidance in faith. This is an aspect of religious humility, a key value in many religions.

This description, please note, applies to non-deist religions as well as deist ones.

It describes only my perceptions of these structures, of course, and should not be taken as universalist. But my perception is indeed that in order to choose a religion, to some extent, you gotta stop thinking for yourself. It's not humble, really.

Is that always a bad thing? Probably not. Do I always think for myself, under this framework? Probably not. Did I take the time to do so before firing off a wisecrack in response to your question? Probably not.

and if anyone's still reading after all that blather, I'm an agnostic. This reflects my awareness that I don't know a damn thing.
posted by mwhybark at 10:46 PM on July 31, 2004


yep, a really cool hat.
posted by quonsar at 10:48 PM on July 31, 2004


Wulfgar - hmmm, when I said "scares me ", perhaps "causes me to distrust and avoid people who strictly follow this line of thinking" was more accurate? I would never write off people just because they were religious (that would in fact be hypocritical). But I don't like that part of the foundations of several belief systems which says that the lives of people who don't agree are worth less. And the fact that this explicit judgement appears in so many religions invites abuse, even if the rest of the religion doesn't seem to support it.

Perhaps you weren't addressing this part of your comment to me, but I'm not on a crusade. I'm not interested in stamping out other people's beliefs. I'm interested in protecting the equality of those who disagree.
posted by synapse at 11:26 PM on July 31, 2004


on the other hand, at least the old man he's an extremely vocal anti-death penalty pacifist. he's not all bad, you know?
posted by matteo at 12:02 AM on August 1, 2004


and, you've got to admit, it's a pretty cool hat.
posted by quonsar at 12:16 AM on August 1, 2004


Asserting that religion plays no role in the violence done in its name is quite daft.

I made no such assertion. My thought was that a similar number of atrocities has been promulgated over the years in the name of racism, tribalism or just plain old politics.

I don't deny that the powers that be (church and state hierarchies) in whatever era you care to name frequently used religion to mislead and manipulate the masses to do their bidding, but in so doing, they were acting in direct contradiction to the central tenets of that religion. Practically any system of beliefs, whether you deem it rational or not, can be manipulated to entice people to act irrationally and even barbarically.
posted by psmealey at 2:04 AM on August 1, 2004


Yes, q, the hat doth rock.
posted by jokeefe at 2:27 AM on August 1, 2004


Reading some of this stuff, you'd think that if only we got rid of organised religion, the world would be a happy place, free from conflict.

It's not like nationalism or any other organisation or grouping of human beings has ever caused conflict and disharmony.

Shitting on religion, as a whole, is as misguided as any other form of 'discrimination': it's all gross generalisations, and polarisations of perception and thought.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:53 AM on August 1, 2004


By 'voluntarily excommunicated' do you mean they just left the church or did they actually do something worthy of the attention required to excommunicate them? :)

They reduced the amount they were willing to tithe to church after their third child, my younger brother, was born. This resulted in a major conflagration after which both parties decided it was best not to have anything to do with each other. There was no formal excommunication.
posted by srboisvert at 4:10 AM on August 1, 2004


does the pope shit in the woods?
posted by mr.marx at 4:22 AM on August 1, 2004


"It's about rules. It's about thou shalt not this, thou shalt not that -- this is what us religious leaders say, this is what our holy book says, so this is what you should do."

Sounds like any number of belief systems - hell, I know radical feminists who similarly subsume most personal thought to the prominent "thinkers" of their movement. Hell, they even think that if they disagree with the tenets of their philosoplhy it is just a sign of how they have internalized their opression.

A lot of people who are really, really proud of being non-religeous are simply off the wall faith hounds about other stuff.
posted by soulhuntre at 5:17 AM on August 1, 2004


A friend of mine is a gay trainee Catholic priest. On our way to the Edinburgh festival, we saw a copy of the Guardian proclaiming that the Pope had attacked gay marriage as unnatural. My friend looked extremely annoyed.
I said, "What's the problem? I thought the Pope was infallable on these matters?".
He said, "Yes, I know, that's why I wish he'd bloody shut up about it."
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:18 AM on August 1, 2004


Religious people are not idiots. They are, however, deluded, and dangerous to my personal freedom.
I have nothing to add. I just wanted everyone to read those two sentences again. This is our problem.
AMEN! :p~

posted by Trik at 6:42 AM on August 1, 2004


It's tricky discussing religion, if you really want to discuss it honestly. The term is not specific to one clear notion. So when two people argue about whether it is good or bad, they may not be talking about the same thing.

Religion is an umbrella term that covers a set of stories, a way of relating to a deity, a set of social rules, an explanation of creation, a set of magical beliefs, a hierarchy of leadership, a collection of art, music and literature, much scholarship, a philosophy of life, a view of the afterlife, a set of moral codes, a social community, etc. Any specific religion may contain some of these things and not others (or might include some things I've left out).

This list is too complicated to be labeled good or bad. To do so would be like saying "speech is bad" or "food is good" or "sex is bad." Human sexuality is a good analogy, because it also covers a lot of ground. It covers reproduction and love, but it also covers child molestation and rape. If it wasn't for sex, we wouldn't have Einstein. If it wasn't for sex, we wouldn't have Hitler.

When people get really mad about religion -- or when then wax poetic -- they're generally focusing on one aspect of it. If you can find out what aspect their going on about, you'll learn much more about the person talking than you will about religion.

In my experience, most people who are anti-religion are really angry at the way their parents treated them when they were little. Their parents forced them to go to church. That church might have been full of nasty people. So they've made a connection between churches, religion and nasty people. A little bit of thought should be enough for them to realize that they haven't shown a real cause and effect relationship. Did the church cause the nasty people? Would they be just as nasty (or more nasty) without the church? Is the church the same thing as the religion?

But anger keeps one from making clear connections. And no one wants to admit (to themselves or others) that their thinking is clouded by anger, so they cook up all sorts of pseudo-arguments. They make a list of bad-things caused by religion: crusades, etc. Never mind that (again) religion is such a complicated factor in human history that if it has caused anything, it has caused lots of things (good and bad). Never mind that religion is so interwoven with other historical factors that it's impossible to tease out whether the bloodshed was caused by religion, politics, bad rulers, etc.

In my exchanges with such people, the discussion usually starts with this grand historical sweep. "Religion is bad because of the crusades and the witch trials, etc.," but if I keep bringing up examples of positive events that have stemmed from religious thought, the person I'm talking to gets angrier and angrier until they explode and say, "well, it REALLY hurt me when the people at my church said I was a sinner!"

Similarly, when I've discussed religion with a believer, and I point out some of the problems with religion, the conversation starts in this grand way and usually ends up with, "well, all I can say is that God has help me a lot in my life."

Religion is complex and we have strong feelings about it. And if we're honest, we'll admit that our feelings drive us more than our logic (this is an especially bitter pill for us atheists to swallow, because we pride ourselves in being smarter than all those stupid religious people).
posted by grumblebee at 7:30 AM on August 1, 2004


>>"It's about rules. It's about thou shalt not this, thou shalt not that -- this is what us religious leaders say, this is what our holy book says, so this is what you should do."

>Sounds like any number of belief systems ...

Sounds like fscking MetaTalk.
posted by Blue Stone at 7:42 AM on August 1, 2004


blue stone: Reading some of this stuff, you'd think that if only we got rid of organised religion, the world would be a happy place, free from conflict.

Strawman.

blue stone: It's not like nationalism or any other organisation or grouping of human beings has ever caused conflict and disharmony.

Other thought control systems cause bad things to happen, therefore religion should get a free pass from criticism?

grumblebee: In my experience, most people who are anti-religion are really angry at the way their parents treated them when they were little

Come on. People who lack a belief in invisible super-beings are really just angry and were abused as children? Is it not possible that their lack of belief stems from the realization that there is a complete lack of evidence to support the fantastical claims of religious superstition?
posted by jsonic at 8:39 AM on August 1, 2004


Read what I wrote more carefully, jsonic. I was talking about people who are "anti-religion," which isn't the same as people who are atheists. I'm a complete atheist. I'm not spiritual at all. I have no belief at all in God, spirits, magic, etc. But I'm not anti-religion. I'm not against religion or angry at it. I think it doesn a lot of good in the world...

...and a lot of bad.

Kind of like people.
posted by grumblebee at 8:46 AM on August 1, 2004


The point is the same, but I'll rephrase:

grumblebee: In my experience, most people who are anti-religion are really angry at the way their parents treated them when they were little

People who think that a belief in invisible super-beings is bad are really just angry and were abused as children? Is it not possible that their bad opinion of it stems from the realization that there is a complete lack of evidence to support such a belief in the fantastical claims of religious superstition?

I realize that you use the qualifiers "in my experience", and "most people", but it seems that you are attempting to paint those who are not ambivalent towards religion as simply angry and abused.
posted by jsonic at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2004


Stauf, psmealey: I'm explicitly saying the bad done in the name of religion outweighs the good, not that there has never been any good.

blue stone: Reading some of this stuff, you'd think that if only we got rid of organised religion, the world would be a happy place, free from conflict.

jsonic: Strawman.


Exactly. But if we did get rid of all these groupings, the world would probably be a better place. Though since all people are inconsistent, not always rational beings who often look for personal advantage rather than the greater good, I wonder if it really would or if we'd just find some other fields of conflict.
posted by billsaysthis at 10:19 AM on August 1, 2004


jsonic, I'd agree that it's possible to be anti-something without anger, but I think it's rare. Mostly when we are against something, we're angry. At least that's been my experience. And if you look back at the anti-religion posters in this thread, you'll see that many of them use angry language. If you disagree with me about the anger, then we don't have anything to discuss. We fundamentally disagree.

If you agree, then the discussion becomes more interesting: why are they angry?

I don't think it's sufficient to say, "they're angry because people believe in illogical things." Because that just begs the question, "why should belief in illogical things make one angry?"

We tend to get angry for simple reasons: someone pushes us, someone steals something from us, someone withholds love, someone chastises us, someone makes us feel inferior, etc.

Many people had terrible experiences when they were young, and many of these experiences involved religion. For instance, my wife's parents forbid her to hang out with her best friend because his family didn't share her family's faith. Many kids have been told that they will go to hell if the do (or think) this, that and the other. Naturally, such events lead to anger -- often lifelong anger.

Of course, one can bring up generalized problems involving religion (i.e. 9/11), but I think most people with deep anger get their anger from personal trauma -- especially if that anger is long-lasting.

I don't think this anger negates intellectual argument. I don't believe in God due to lack of evidence, Occam's Razor, etc. Probably most atheists also have strong reason on their side.

If you are invested in reason, than purely by looking at the historical evidence, you will discover that religion is a mixed bag. It is connected to both good and bad events. And it's not clear (in the case of either) whether or not religion was a primary cause of these events.

So pure reason SHOULD lead one to ambivalence. If one isn't ambivalent, that's most likely due to anger.

You say, "Is it not possible that their bad opinion of it stems from the realization that there is a complete lack of evidence to support such a belief in the fantastical claims of religious superstition?"

I still think it's possible that our difference in opinion is based on a misunderstanding. I do have a "bad opinion" of religion and it's not based on anger. I'm assuming that by "bad opinion" you mean I don't think it's logical. I don't. I was talking about anger, not bad opinion.
posted by grumblebee at 10:44 AM on August 1, 2004


I think a lot of you are making a fundamental error in your considerations of religion: You assume it's got something necessarily to do with belief in a deity.

It doesn't. At least, not what you think it does.

Religions are complexes of sacred cultural practice. Like many cultural complexes, they're often "private" (in the sense that Wittgenstein said was impossible for language), inasmuch as when you you codify the "religion" that people follow, it's not consistent with the one they claim to follow.

Which is to say, that while religions are fundamentally cultural, they're also fundamentally psychological.

So it's a tangled mess, and God (which, as an atheist, I treat as a respected concept more than a real being) has the great misfortune of being tangled up in it. (If It were a real being, one suspects that it would have been torn apart long ago.)

As for male:female differences: God, it sure took the thread a long time to get around to that...
posted by lodurr at 10:54 AM on August 1, 2004


religions disagree, and only one can be right
Unless, even as a still devout Catholic, I hold a theory that are so many facets to God that no "one path" can lead to Heaven. I tend to believe most religions are just a different interpretion of the some God, and Alpha and the Omega (if you believe in God at all, which I know most of you don't).

doesn't come close to making up for all the pain, misery and death that's been inflicted over the millenia because of them.
First off, yes, no doubt religion has caused insane amounts of pain and suffering. I find the biggest assholes in arguments are atheists- while I'm sure atheists find theists the biggest assholes (and not because the opposing party disagree- I love to argue with theists and atheists alike, but because they can be over-aggresive and just try to shove facts/faith down your throat). While I am in no ways attempting to exonerate religion of their faults, I will say this:
People will find a reason to be angry and pissed at the world. I tend to think if not for religion reasons, people would still find another half-ass, retarded reason for war-mongering to fight and kill people and inflict other suffering on the world.

Why don't you ask that gay person over there who can't get married? It'd be fine if they kept their damned religions to themselves, but they keep trying to force them on me, my friends, my family and my country.
Wow, way stereotype all Catholics!!! Congrats! Believe it or most likely not, there are a fair number of us that in matter such as gay marriage seperate Church and State.
That said, if someone is deeply devout, how can they NOT vote in what they believe in? What they believe is in a way no different than anyone else (don't get pissed yet, keep on reading first!). Theists are rediculed because our belief system is has holes and is not philosophically sound.
So what? I have yet to find a secular system that is completey sound. No matter how sound you think what you believe is, somebody out there can find a hole in contradiction in your thought process, just as most people can to what I believe. (It's because secular reasoning is flawed that I also relatively find it in the same boat at theistic reasoning.)
posted by jmd82 at 11:12 AM on August 1, 2004


I still think it's possible that our difference in opinion is based on a misunderstanding. I do have a "bad opinion" of religion and it's not based on anger. I'm assuming that by "bad opinion" you mean I don't think it's logical. I don't. I was talking about anger, not bad opinion.

I suppose the misunderstanding rests in how 'anti-religion' is defined. I would assume that having a bad opinion of religion, or thinking that it is illogical, would be considered 'anti-religion'. You seem to include anger as a requirement for being labeled anti-religion.

If so, don't you think that it's kind of a truism for you to say that most 'anti-religion' people are angry?
posted by jsonic at 11:33 AM on August 1, 2004


Yes, it is. I was interested in WHY they were angry -- why there were so many angry people in this thread and most discussions about religion. And also why this anger is so often covered up with a sea of "logic." I put logic in quotes because there's the world would be a better place without religion.

Also, I've had this experience literally hundreds of times in my life: in a debate about the social value of religion, the anti-religion person keeps spouting pseudo-arguments (usually arguments that cite certain historical events while ignoring others). When pressed, the person will ultimately say something like, "well, when I was a kid..." Which is fine, but why not LEAD with that rather than cover it up with bunk history?

I'm STILL not sure what you mean by "bad opinion." Do you have a bad opinion of all illogical things? Is there a difference between bad opinion and illogic?
posted by grumblebee at 11:44 AM on August 1, 2004


I was interested in WHY they were angry -- why there were so many angry people in this thread and most discussions about religion. And also why this anger is so often covered up with a sea of "logic."

I think the core problem is irrational thinking, religion being one instance of it, ill-thought-out rants against religion being another. When not using ration as a guide in discussion, feeling and emotion are used, sometimes leading to anger. Just a guess though.

I'm STILL not sure what you mean by "bad opinion." Do you have a bad opinion of all illogical things? Is there a difference between bad opinion and illogic?

When I say bad opinion, I'm not saying that the opinion itself is flawed. I'm saying that the value of the opinion is that the subject is bad. Is that what you were asking?
posted by jsonic at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2004


God, I'm so confused. I don't know if it's you or me, but I'm pretty sure no one else here gives a shit. But I STILL don't get it. I don't know what you mean by "the value of the opinion." Do you mean "what the opinion is about." I think my main problem is with the world "bad." I don't know what you mean by it, other than a vague negative. I think you're saying that the "subject" (religion?) is bad. But what does that mean? Does that mean it's illogical? We've already agreed about that. But illogic isn't necessarily bad. "The Cat in the Hat" is illogical, which is part of the reason it's fun. Does it mean "has a negative effect on the world"? If so, can you prove it? Does "bad" simply mean you don't like it?

Sorry, I'm clueless.

Please feel free to continue to discuss here or email me if you think that would be more appropriate. Or drop it if you want.
posted by grumblebee at 12:25 PM on August 1, 2004


I agree a bit with grumblebee (but not with his armchair psychoanalysis.) I'd be happy not to debate religion at all. However, because recognition that I'm a moral person in most societies is tied to my answer to the question, "do you belive in god?" I'm forced at times to defend non-belief as justified.

Still, the people who go out of their way to pick fights with religion bother me.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:39 PM on August 1, 2004


Maybe I should be using unfavorable instead of bad.

I also realize that any value judgment (x is good/bad) is subjective. Stating that I have an unfavorable opinion of religion because it is irrational is founded on the subjective judgement that being rational is something to be pursued.

In a similar fashion, the idea that murder is 'bad' is based on the subjective value judgement that the preservation of human life is good.

There is nothing inherently good about being rational or preserving human life, they are simply values I choose to live by. By the same token, there is nothing inherently wrong with religion. It simply goes against the values I have choosen to live by, thus my unfavorable opinion of it.

This realization that my values are subjective is exactly why I'm not interested in forcing others to follow them. It would be really nice if the religions that proclaim objective value systems would make the same realization. Of course, the idea that forcing others to follow your values is 'bad' is itself subjective, and around we go.

"The Cat in the Hat" is illogical, which is part of the reason it's fun.

TCITH is fiction. If someone believed that its tale was true without having any evidence to support it, then I would say they were being irrational.

I'm on irc in #mefi if you'd rather discuss this there.
posted by jsonic at 1:04 PM on August 1, 2004


I don't think we have much more to discuss, jsonic, because I agree with everything in your last post.

I would just add that one's subjective values must come from SOMEWHERE. If you're someone who thinks of any irrationality as bad, it might be worthwhile to ask yourself why.

I actually share your drive towards rationalism. When I was in my 20s and early 30s it seemed like it had no downside. Now, it's causing me all sorts of problems. I really do anything about these problems, because rejecting illogic seems to be part of my makeup. And it sometimes helps me. But I've definitely come to see it as a double-edged sword.
posted by grumblebee at 1:11 PM on August 1, 2004


As a practicing Catholic (and the product of 12 years of Catholic Schools) what I find that a lot of people outside the faith don't understand is that there are two different levels at which the church exists and that these are often very much at conflict. There's the Vatican, which preaches hard-line absolutist, conservative dogma and then there are the rank-and-file Catholic priest and laypeople who care less about church doctrine and more about social justice issues,

Liberation Theology was a response to social injustice in South and Central America. The Vatican's response was to crush it.

The Vatican pushes the hard line that birth control and Abortion are mortal sins and must be stopped. Much of the rank-and-file feel that pushing a "respect life" agenda without trying to address the societal forces that put women in the position where they feel that the have no better option than to have an abortion is hypocritical, and that outlawing abortion will make a bad situation much, much worse. They believe that the way to end abortion is to allow women the freedom of consicence to choose to use contraceptives and that it is all of our responsibility to create a culture that truly cares about women in a crisis pregnancy, providing her with options that allow her to have her child and raise it in a safe, nurturing environment.

I sometimes wonder why the hell I stay in a church that tells me that I am not a real Catholic and that I should adhere to the party line or get the hell out. Then I remember I remember all of the priests, nuns and laypeople who put their lives on the line to try to do something about the injustices of this world. José Maria Arizmendiarrieta. Fr. Damien. Sr. Helen Prejean. Archbishop Romero. Dorothy Day. The four Maryknoll nuns who were raped and murdered in El Salvador. Closer to home for me is Sr. Roberta, a nun who taught at my high school who used to march in the Gay Pride Parade and taught us about the struggle of lesbian and gay people for equal rights; and a parishoner at my church who is currently in prison for chaining himself to the gates of the School of the Americas.. These are the true leaders of the Catholic church, not a bunch of dried-up bitter old men in Rome, or the twisted fucks who used their position and power to rape little kids. The latter represent us as much as the American governments represents the will of all American citizens. When you start bashing Catholics, please try to remember that.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:01 PM on August 1, 2004


and then there are the rank-and-file Catholic priest and laypeople who care less about church doctrine and more about social justice issues

Which would rather tend to make you, say, Anglican or Presbysterian, or United, or somesuch, neh? I don't how you can be a Roman Catholic without the infallibility & absolute power of the Pope.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:47 PM on August 1, 2004


If you read the Old Testament, it very carefully doesn't deny the existance of other gods.

Deuteronomy 32:39
1 Chronicles 17:20

Here are some people who managed to be original and brilliant despide the fact that their minds were "crippled" by religion

And then there's the cosmological constant. Einstien forced the god kludge factor into his equations because he couldn't believe that the universe wasn't static. Once he was proven wrong he declared it his biggest blunder. It's hard to argue that thinking illogically doesn't lead to illogical thinking.
posted by betaray at 6:34 PM on August 1, 2004


"would consider as lacking in importance and relevance the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature in its male form."

I think it's worth reposting that bit.

What a loverly religion Catholicism is.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:08 PM on August 1, 2004


If you read the Old Testament, it very carefully doesn't deny the existance of other gods.

Deuteronomy 32:39
1 Chronicles 17:20



Genesis 35:2
Exodus 12:12
Exodus 15:11
Exodus 18:11
Exodus 20:3
Exodus 23:24
Exodus 23:32
Numbers 33:4
Deuteronomy 6:14

And of course the all important Deuteronomy 5:6-7:
6"I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
7"You shall have no other gods before Me.
8"You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 9you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

Sorry about the lack of links, here's the Bible Gateway search that I got these from (and that's just the first page). At the time of the writing of the Pentateuch, the Israelites were but a small tribe, surrounded by others who worshipped other gods. These books spend a lot of time trying to convince the Israelites that Yahweh was the most powerful, but not the only god. I think there's something funny with that Chronicles translation, I'm going to check my trusty Oxford Bible when I get home. As to your Deuteronomy quote, if you look at the context of 36-38 you see that this is more of the same convincing of the people of the power of their god.
posted by TungstenChef at 8:11 PM on August 1, 2004


f3: Which would rather tend to make you, say, Anglican or Presbysterian, or United, or somesuch, neh? I don't how you can be a Roman Catholic without the infallibility & absolute power of the Pope.

Well, I remember a particular religion class in high school where we were discussing the tensions in the church regarding women priests, birth control, and homosexuality. The teacher predicted that we may well be another schism in the church in our lifetime. I think she's right.

However, that doesn't mean that I consider myself to be anything but Catholic. I refuse to hand in my membership card because I think that the Pope is a political, rather than divine, choice for leadership, especially when many of the priest that I know believe the same thing. My ancestors died for this religion and I'll be damned if I hand it over to a bunch of bitter old men and pursed-lipped "church lady" types who dare to decry the declining attendence at mass and then damn "cafeteria Catholics" for refusing to tow the party line all in the same sentence.

I remember meeting a ex-priest who was stripped of his title and duties because he questioned the church's stance on celibacy. He told me "Don't let them drive you out. It's your church as much as it is their's. If you leave, then they have won and they will destroy the church."

Just remember, when you're bashing the church, you're bashing people like me. It may not be personal on your part, but it's very personal to me, considering the shit my parents, grandparents, great-grandparents went through because of their religion. Being who I am, I get it from both sides, the Catholic bashers and the Vatican zealots. They may claim to be the church, but they don't own it. In fact, they're driving it into the ground. As an outsider, you need to understand that there is a war within the church and the people that you're pissed off at are only one part of the church. Did you even check out any of the links I posted?

BTW, Anglicans/Episcopalians ARE Catholics. They are considered to be dissenting Catholics by both themselves and the Roman Church.
posted by echolalia67 at 8:28 PM on August 1, 2004


...infallibility of the Pope...

Has anyone mentioned that papal infallibiltiy only applies to when the Pope speaks ex cathedra? Which is very, very rare? (I think only twice by some accounts; but please correct me if I'm wrong.) Many protestants who throw around the papal infallibility thing as an example of what's wrong or stupid about the Catholic Church don't understand that it doesn't mean everything he says, ever. Which, you know, is an important distinction.

Lots of people think there's a coming schism between the American and Roman Catholic Churches. I don't really know very much about internal church politics—I mean, heck, I was a protestant before I was an atheist, so what do I know?—but it's my understanding that the likliehood of an American becoming Pope is zero. Conversely, there's good reason to believe the next Pope will be a conservative third-world Hispanic. The American Catholic church will be going its own way for a while yet, I think.

Tungsten Chef: there's bound to be a bazillion people who have the scholarly huevos to answer that question adequately. Personally, I'd dismiss all Christian sources entirely and go to some good Rabbinical sources. My intuition as a non-believer would be that it's not likely to be one way or the other, as the original context was polytheistic but changed to monotheism with some retroactive revisioning. So perfect clarity in the texts would be unlikely, no?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:47 PM on August 1, 2004


he declared it his biggest blunder.

Not everyone thinks so.
posted by TungstenChef at 8:52 PM on August 1, 2004


EB: You are correct that the Pope's infallibility has only been used twice, and it has only been used in relation to Mary (she Ascended into Heaven and something else which I forget). While I agree with the CC's stance on Mary, in the end, one'e belief in Mary is pretty much independent of one's actions, which is what matter in the end I think.

I also agree with the schism theory. American Bishops are fairly liberal on the whole and I see them breaking away, not because of gay rights, but because of the celibacy issue, followed closely by woman Priests, with more global acceptance of gays down the road.
posted by jmd82 at 9:00 PM on August 1, 2004


I think that the Pope is a political, rather than divine, choice for leadership

But that's always been the way, except for Jesus himself!

If there's one true Catholic faith, it would have to be a religion that focuses exclusively on what Christ is said to have said and done, and wholly ignores the subsequent letters, prophecies, and various political structures into which the faith evolved.

All other catholic faiths are based on a man-created religio-political structure. Those are, I think probably by definition as spake by Christ, not the right faith.

Hmm. Might have to go do some more reading now. I'll bet Christ says specifically to be very wary of religious organizations...
posted by five fresh fish at 9:16 PM on August 1, 2004


EB - I'm actually getting originally that from a class I took taught by a wonderful old Jewish scholar who can read Torah like nobody's business. I wish I had my Oxford Bible here, as that translation is by far the best in preserving the original meanings of the text.
posted by TungstenChef at 9:35 PM on August 1, 2004


EB> Most likely, the next pope will be an Italian or Nigerian. Most popes since the Avignon scandal have been Italian, but the candidate I hear people floating around every time I check up is Cardinal Francis Arinze, who's Nigerian.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 12:12 AM on August 2, 2004



If you read the Old Testament, it very carefully doesn't deny the existence of other gods.

Deuteronomy 32:39
1 Chronicles 17:20


Genesis 35:2
Exodus 12:12, etc., etc.


I'm not a biblical scholar, but I've read scholarship that claims these passages don't deny the existence of other gods -- in fact they imply that other gods exist. These passages claim God's supremacy over all the other gods and also make it clear that people mustn't worship the other gods.
posted by grumblebee at 5:20 AM on August 2, 2004


it doesn't say anything in here about burning women. A glaring omission, IMHO - you'd think there'd be some useful tips.
Plus they could plug for the fact that they were 400+ years ahead of Burning Man.
posted by petebest at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2004


These passages claim God's supremacy over all the other gods and also make it clear that people mustn't worship the other gods.

Why would an omnipotent God make other gods?
posted by Summer at 9:26 AM on August 2, 2004


Same reason he made dinosaur bones, silly!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:45 AM on August 2, 2004


Religious people are not idiots. They are, however, deluded, and dangerous to my personal freedom.

Because people like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did so much to erode freedom in this country.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2004


p.s. my last post is sarcastic.
posted by dagnyscott at 10:25 AM on August 2, 2004


majcher, dagnyscott: presumably by this country you both meant the US, however reklaw is in the UK and his comments were general in that they mentioned no country but specific in that they related to the impact on his freedom in particular. In the UK it perhaps should be noted that there is no separation of church and state, that the head of state is also head of the state religion, that representatives of this religion have a right to political representation and that religious groups are regarded as being legitimate contributors to moral and ethical debates. So he may well have point. And the UK isn't the only place where restrictions on freedom stem from locally dominant religious groups.
posted by biffa at 10:46 AM on August 2, 2004


Furthermore, your assumption—that this particular truth about the universe is unknowable—is a rationally very shaky and deeply improbable assumption. In my opinion, this assumption is more self-serving and therefore suspiciously irrational than the theist assumption.

I don't think it's as shaky as you make out. David Hume makes a very good case for the unknowability of metaphysical claims, and argues that they are therefore beyond the boundaries of what philosophy is suited for, if I remember correctly. I haven't seen anyone here claim that these truths are knowable, either - and religion is based on faith, not reason or a priori knowledge. That doesn't invalidate religion, but I think it removes it from the list of things that can be explored by the application of rational thought.
posted by me & my monkey at 11:05 AM on August 2, 2004


Why would an omnipotent God make other gods?

The OT god isn't explicitly or even implicitly omnisicent or omnipotent. Adam & Eve hide from him; Abraham argues & barters with him; Jacob wrestles with him - and wins - that whole monotheism, omnipotent stuff happened later. The OT god is a perfectly ordinary tribal warrior god, very much like many of the gods of northern africa. What made judaism different was that they wrote down their mythology, instead of it being an oral tradition. This meant there was a greater focus on analysis, and that there was a greater focus on law as opposed to individual judgment (by a chief, or something).

As for the multiple gods thing, there are arguments that the four or so different words used to denote god in the hebrew OT are actually meant to refer to four different gods. Might be a bit of a fringe theory, but if the fringe goes that far, the mainstream can easily accept that those who wrote the OT might have allowed for the possibility of other gods. As above, it says "thou shalt have no other gods before me", not "don't make up gods that don't exist" or something that makes it more clear that there's only really one god. The eden story is also easy to read as the beginning of the hebrew tribe, not of mankind as a whole, especially with being thrown out to wander the desert (and the fact that cain and abel find girls to marry)
posted by mdn at 1:05 PM on August 2, 2004


(Full disclosure: I was raised in an intensely Catholic household-- I mean looney-tunes end times stuff. So when I speak of or condemn religion I generally mean the magical beliefs and the out-of-date rules.) I wrote about this thing from the pope a little bit when I saw it last night. Here's what I think, first about the article and second about religion in general:

One, what they mean by "blur[ring] differences" is that women and men are not willing to simply accept the traditional roles set for them-- people are realizing there are other ways to live life and they shouldn't have to conform to the mold and they can be themselves. There are differences between men and women-- biological and scientific, for sure-- but there are differences between individuals, too. Some women like "manly" things, some men like "girly" things. So what? Should we be ourselves or conform to the standards of (to rip off David Rees' get your war on) "invisible superheroes who live in outer space" and the old men who claim to speak for them? It's not that men and women aren't different, it's that they don't have to fit into the prescribed gender roles.

Two, the Church is nervous because people are realizing, for numerous reasons, that the traditional family may not be the best way to go-- specifically, the two-parent, patriarchal, father-knows-best model of absolute authority of the alpha male. And why wouldn't they be nervous? They're the purveyors of one of the biggest old-male-as-final-authority scams on earth-- if people start questioning the validity of that construct, eventually they'll question the validity of the Catholic Church.

In other words I agree with a pretty early comment from jokeefe that didn't get much response:
There is nothing natural about the nuclear family. It's an anomaly compared to the social/tribal kinship structure that human beings have lived in for thousands of years.

Part of me thinks that the emphasis on "family" is really an emphasis on "male-controlled power structure"-- i.e. if we preserve "families" that means every man gets a place where he is totally in charge, in their view.

Essentially that's my problem with the Church-- I feel it takes people's natural spiritual yearnings and corrupts them in the name of its own power structure. It's funny, somewhere I was reading a couple weeks ago pointed out that (vis-a-vis the gay marriage issue, at present, though they've done it on other things) some really religious people claim that part of "the homosexual agenda" is to get to children, to teach them before they develop critical thinking skills and thus indoctrinate them. But that's what most religion does.

And that's what bothers me, that the idea of the religion is so ingrained in people at a young age, that it causes conflict with who they are, and many people spend the rest of their lives fighting and getting over that. I feel like I had to, and did, but I know people who still struggle-- who at an early age had the sense of guilt imparted on them for having desires or for wanting to question their faith. And if they do have a religious experience it often leads them back to their old religion even though the experience may be completely unrelated.

I mean, I've had experiences I consider spiritual. But they in no way validated Catholicism or anything like that-- just because I had a religious experience doesn't mean it was the religion I was brought up in, and I think lots of people don't get that.

The biggest reason I'm an atheist is because nobody of any religion in any way has been able to convince me of the existence of their God. Even if some events are remarkable concidences are seemingly unexplainable without divine intervention, how does that validate the Bible or the Pope or what have you? For all I know there is a God and he's pissed that people are making up stories about him and claiming to know what he thinks and what his rules are. And he's trying to help but every time he does something for a person it drives them back into a false religion.

I really find echolalia's comments fascinating-- it reads to me like part of the reason she's holding onto her belief in the Catholic church is almost sentimental. I disagree with the lady who told her "It's your church as much as it is theirs"-- I really think that, despite the people of faith who have done good things (which appear in all faiths and in all walks of life, by the way), that at the top the Catholic church is primarily concerned with its own power and condemns anything that threatens it. It's their church-- they only need you for the money and the power over somebody's behavior that religious authority offers.
posted by nath at 2:07 PM on August 2, 2004


psmealey: Yeah, because goodness knows, had the Christ been born a woman, she would have been stoned at 14 instead of crucified at 33. -

You know...I was stoned at 14...and I never did get my allotment of disciples.

grumblebee: In my experience, most people who are anti-religion are really angry at the way their parents treated them when they were little

Whaaaa? That's got to be the most absurd, unsupported, illogical, possibly insane, thing I've read on this thread...and that's saying something. (Quonsar's fashion commentary aside, mind you.)

me & my monkey: David Hume makes a very good case for the unknowability of metaphysical claims, and argues that they are therefore beyond the boundaries of what philosophy is suited for, if I remember correctly.

Correct, up to a point. Hume didn't consider religion to be beyond the boundaries of philosophical thought, however. One of his most important works is Four Dissertations, the first and longest essay of which was "The Natural History of Religion." It it, he attempts to explain the causes of religious belief in terms of psychological and sociological factors...and at the same time, issues a challenge to other philosophers, thereby increasing the philosophical discussions of theology.
posted by dejah420 at 10:51 PM on August 2, 2004


Way off topic, I love but where these threads go. I am also not a bible scholar, and I have to admit I just got those links from bible gateway searching for "no god". Just to see if there was anything like the proclamations made in Islam. Looking at that list again there seems to be more examples, but I'm willing to concede your point. However, it still seems silly to me to say that claiming your god is the most powerful is that much different than claiming the others don't exist in the context of this discussion. I'm sure the Egyptians probably thought their (favorite) gods were the most powerful as well, that still puts them at odds with the teachings of the Old Testament. The point being when different religions contradict each other only one of them can only be right, and we've got no way of knowing which one it is.

As far a Einstein goes, the constant being proposed today is definitely not the same one he proposed. In lieu of new information, his equations don't accurately describe our current understanding of the expansion of the universe. It's not so much the constant itself but why he thought it was necessary. He just refused to accept a non-static universe at the time. That's the folly right there. The universe isn't static. His interpretation of his religion didn't allow that so he threw in the fudge factor, even though the proof the universe is expanding was right in front of him.
posted by betaray at 2:23 AM on August 3, 2004


In my experience, most people who are anti-religion are really angry at the way their parents treated them when they were little. Their parents forced them to go to church. That church might have been full of nasty people. So they've made a connection between churches, religion and nasty people.

your experience is narrow. i was brought up in a christian household, and went to sunday school and sung in the church choir 'til i was 14 years old. i enjoyed every minute of it, and have fond memories of the teachers, choir mistresses, and ministers. my family never forced me and when i was 15 i decided it was no longer for me - i don't believe in god, and i think that 99% of the time religion is a very dangerous thing, and should always remain deeply personal and completely removed from public life and gov't. hey, even jesus suggested being organized was the wrong way to go.
posted by t r a c y at 2:51 AM on August 3, 2004


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