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Trading Holy Scripture for Horny Strippers.
December 6, 2005 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Have you got a copy of the bible you no longer want or need? Do you want some porn? Well, if you live in San Antonio, you're in luck, because a group of atheists at UTSA are trading bibles for porn.
posted by Effigy2000 (84 comments total)

 
Does this include those childrens bibles with the cartoon Jesus?
posted by ackeber at 3:40 PM on December 6, 2005


I once had a roommate who had 10 or 12 bibles, which was odd because he wasn't a believer. I could have scored some serious smut for that!

Also...Tucker Carlson is a dick. I know because Jon Stewart said so.
posted by mcstayinskool at 3:45 PM on December 6, 2005


The best part was reading Carlson get p0wned by a college student.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 3:46 PM on December 6, 2005


CARLSON: Have you picked up any girls doing this, honestly?

Tucker Carlson, ladies and gents, boldly going where other "journalists" snicker to tread. Also the little snippet of ethical discourse is intriguing:

JACKSON: Morality is actually based off of empathy, and failing empathy, it's based off of fear of reprisal from the law. That is where morality comes from.

CARLSON: Yes. But the law, it's a circular argument. You need to think through it a little bit more, Thomas, because the law itself is based on at least a notion of abstract right and wrong, and that is not rooted in empathy or any emotion, but ... you know, an abstract belief that this is right and this is wrong because someone larger, in control, says so.


Man, Carlson is dumber than I thought. Or at least more disingenuous than I believed possible. Kid puts up a decent thesis and Tucker can't even parse it, apparently.

Also: [insert obligatory Song of Songs reference here]
posted by joe lisboa at 3:47 PM on December 6, 2005


This is sort of funny, but also, I think, pretty misguided. Getting the other side riled up never really helps. Even if they claim it's promoting discussion on campus, it's mostly going to serve as fodder for O'Reilly et all, and I can't see it winning any new converts to atheism. Trading scripture for Grimm's fairy tales would have been at least marginally better.
posted by uosuaq at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2005


it'd be cooler if the kid could articulate why they're handing out smut exchange for holy texts. Yes, yes, they see holy texts as smut, bully for them. But why, other than for publicity, does it help to trade, as he says "moderately harmful" smut for the "very harmful" texts? Why not, say, hand out copies of Free Inquiry magazine?

Because that wouldn't get as much attention. Getting attention is fine and good if you do something useful with it, but these folks just seem to want attention for attention's sake. Carlson's a dick, but his point about girls is probably pretty close to the mark.
posted by gurple at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2005


Who has some good porn links?
posted by The Jesse Helms at 3:51 PM on December 6, 2005


on review, what uosuaq said
posted by gurple at 3:52 PM on December 6, 2005


I, for one, welcome our naked overlords.
posted by IronLizard at 3:57 PM on December 6, 2005


Does this include those childrens bibles with the cartoon Jesus?

Yeah, but you trade those for pornography with [DELETED].
posted by marxchivist at 3:57 PM on December 6, 2005


Trading scripture for Grimm's fairy tales would have been at least marginally better.

I agree, but such a trade probably wouldn't be FPP material now, would it? Their point is to get press coverage, and it looks like that part is working for them.
posted by darkness at 3:58 PM on December 6, 2005


No, they're not trading bibles for porn, they're trading porn for bibles. The atheists are taking the bibles and giving out the porn, not v-v.
posted by jam_pony at 3:59 PM on December 6, 2005


Yeah, it's clear Carlson didn't know what to make of the kid's arguments... But I have to give him props for being civil. He's a hardcore Catholic, I think, yet he didn't turn the interview into a shouting match like a lot of people would have. As far as conservative pundit dickweeds are concerned, Carlson doesn't even rate. I disagree with him on just about everything, but he appears honest and he's not prone to shouting and turning off people's mics.

Plus his tie rocks. I don't care what anybody says.
posted by brundlefly at 4:03 PM on December 6, 2005


What they should do is distribute literature from the Children of God/The Family. That way they could kill two birds with a single stone.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:04 PM on December 6, 2005


I really apprecaite the clarity with which the student spoke -- his points were well thought out and justified. It would have been great if he used "ethics" instead of "morality" -- Let people trying to interpret the bible have their morality, and those concerned with basic right and wrong can concern themselves with ethical conduct. When you say morality specifically in the context of eschewing biblical guidance, people tend to imagine some evil satanism rather than the pragmatic, responsible ethics that such speakers have in mind.
posted by VulcanMike at 4:08 PM on December 6, 2005


joe lisboa: "Man, Carlson is dumber than I thought. Or at least more disingenuous than I believed possible. Kid puts up a decent thesis and Tucker can't even parse it, apparently."

Precisely accurate. The moment his response included "yeah, but..." he already stopped trying to dispute the argument and instead tried his own circular reasoning to attack the views of the combatant.

If he had thought, he probably would have said something about fear of legal reprisal not being morality at all because you stop asking "right and wrong" but instead ask "legal or not." Maybe he could have furthered with where one might develop a sense of empathy, and that a creator could be responsible.

If he had thought...but apologetics doesn't allow drafting a response as would a lawyer draft a brief. They need to be able to quickly defend any aspect of the religion with evidence instead of circular reasoning. This is why I openly claim to have never met a real apologist; they may have the skills but they still lack the evidence.
posted by mystyk at 4:11 PM on December 6, 2005


I give Carlson a bit of credit for not jumping all over this and losing his shit. I think he has toned down his rhetoric a lot since getting the boot at CNN and doing a stint on PBS.
posted by cusack at 4:16 PM on December 6, 2005


Kid puts up a decent thesis

I didn't think the thesis was all that decent. Empathy might be a source of morality, sure, but fear of reprisal from law is where obedience comes from, not morality. Morality (in the sense of virtuous, kindly living) is a much deeper thing, and fear has never had the power to inspire truly virtuous living.

"Well, we have Bronze Aged tribal nonsense, these things written by people in tents ages ago"

It's old, so it must be dumb! Yay! Good argument!

"And we've read it. Atheists actually tend to be rather knowledgeable about scripture"

The atheists I know--with a few notable exceptions--have no interest in reading religious texts, seeing as how they, y'know, don't believe it. If he has read the stuff, I can respect him for at least making an educated decision (which, unfortunately, can't be said for MOST people on both sides of the belief coin).

"and we are using this as a medium to get people to know what's actually within the religious text that they hold so dear"

We're doing this for YOU, people! It's a kindly and benevolent, truly a moral and virtuous action we're taking here. It's not just to get attention. Oh no, not at all.

(Also, I don't remember any naked folks performing sexual acts in my Bible. Well, except for the Song of Solomon, but that's kinda questionable scripture anyhow. And those bits early on that talk about spilling your seed upon the woman's belly instead of upon the ground. But that's just smart birth control combined with hygiene, not sexiness.)

"At the very least, what we're doing is trading something that's very, very bad for something that's only moderately bad."

Forget all the bits about love your neighbor and do unto others, we just want to point out the "bad" stuff. I'm curious where in the porn the good morals are to be found... I mean, sure, you can learn to screw your neighbor's brains out (badly, uncomfortably, and unrealistically), but not to LOVE your neighbor.

"Well, morality is not derived from religious texts."

Umm. I thought he had read the books. Maybe he didn't understand any of it? I tell you, the level of education in this country...

"Religious texts actually contradict each other. If you read the Bible, it contradicts itself on nearly every page."

Not if you actually, y'know, read it and understand it. People interpret passages differently, but the book is FAIRLY self-consistent (as much as translation, retranslation, mistranslation, misinterpretation, reinterpretation, and retransmisinterpretlantation allow).

(Y'know, I could--as a religious person--almost agree with something similar to this: exchanging the Bible for babelizer translated texts. That would send an accurate message, i.e., the importance of understanding the many changes that have been made to the various books of the Bible from the beginning, frequently by people with religious or political agendas to push.)

"Several religions have stumbled upon this, but it's not the religious text that's bringing this to people. They are finding this on their own, and societies that don't find this don't survive."

I don't think there exists a society of any substantial history with a code of law based purely on secular principles, instead of revealed doctrine or other religious documents. If anyone knows of any I'd honestly be curious to know, so I could learn more about 'em.

All that said: this was a pretty crappy interview. Tucker Carlson didn't really hit any good points, didn't argue any of the legitimate arguments to Jackson's statements, didn't really do much at all. This is why I don't get my politics from TV.
posted by Fontbone at 4:20 PM on December 6, 2005


I disagree with uosuaq: atheists are too quiet. Its just too easy too keep your mouth shut when faced with mild abuse, as people usually don't know your an atheist anyway. These kids may make it easier for others to talk by inviting a little trouble for themselves, as those others have more of an example. It may not be an optimal example, but its not silence either.

Anyway, atheists don't have much in common really, execpt for knowing they can never be ellected to political office, but a minority likes making fun of religious silliness, and that help give a sence of community.. and its completely harmless.

P.S. For all those requesting a porn link. (not sure its a porn site, but it tries, and thats just funny, still NSFW) [via Meta-Wiki].
posted by jeffburdges at 4:22 PM on December 6, 2005


Y'know what, I just realized I misread part of Jackson's statements. Ignore my bit about the naked folks in the Bible... on my first skim through the article it looked like Jackson said that the porn was just like the stuff in the Bible. That's silly, and my response to the misread remark was silly.

(I stand by the idea that they're just doing it for the attention, though.)
posted by Fontbone at 4:26 PM on December 6, 2005


OMG, ANOTHER ATHEIST-BASHING THREAD, FLAG FOR DELETION!!!!!
posted by iamck at 4:28 PM on December 6, 2005


Repeat

(kidding)
posted by holloway at 4:28 PM on December 6, 2005


There used to be an organization at the University of Texas (Austin, not San Antonio) called the Knights of Buh (which is the sound you make when you're punched in the stomach). They did this same porn for bibles bit 4 or 5 years ago. Except they knew it was funny, and didn't try to defend it with kind of shoddy arguments about morality.

And it was really funny.
posted by macmac at 4:29 PM on December 6, 2005


One minute too late my friend.
posted by holloway at 4:31 PM on December 6, 2005


Wow, that's offensive (though apparently not so much here). The kid has a sound thesis? Rubbish! The overwhelming majority of Christians and Jews who regard the Bible as a sacred text appropriately understand that the original texts were first delivered to ancient faith communities and as such these texts contain some material that was relevant to those cultures but which does not proscribe behavior for modern faith communities. Any clever (or reasonably well-educated, but don't get me started) undergrad should understand as much.
posted by offmylawn at 4:34 PM on December 6, 2005


Damn, and I had just burned my last Bible last night to keep warm.
posted by fenriq at 4:40 PM on December 6, 2005


Fontbone said: If he has read the stuff, I can respect him for at least making an educated decision (which, unfortunately, can't be said for MOST people on both sides of the belief coin).

Since when do people have to do research not to have faith in something?
posted by VulcanMike at 4:44 PM on December 6, 2005


Offmylawn:


Stuff in the [insert religious text] that we agree with because it is relevant to our culture = stuff in religious text that is meant to be applicable

stuff in the [insert religious text] that we no longer agree with because it is irrelevant or illegal (see slavery of women, eating of pork) = stuff that was culture specific and not meant to practice modern day

I actually find it funny that most practitioners never realize this. And yes, I am both clever and reasonably well-educated.
posted by gagglezoomer at 4:46 PM on December 6, 2005


VulcanMike: Since when do people have to do research not to have faith in something?

They don't. But if you're going to argue against something--as these people are--it's generally better to know what you're talking about.

And, to be honest, even if they're not going to argue against religion I think it's better to know about things than to not know about things, as a general rule. Knowledge is half the battle, as I learned from G.I. Joe. That's why I've done my best to educate myself on various religions beyond my own, as well as various ideas of non-religious ethics. I may not believe my atheist friends are correct, but I know a few reasons why they think what they think. Understanding is better.
posted by Fontbone at 4:50 PM on December 6, 2005


Agreed. I'm an atheist and I've read the bible, and have a copy sitting on my bookshelf which I reguarly refer to. I do so to understand where my Christian friends are coming from, and so that I can hold my own in our reguarl theological debates.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:56 PM on December 6, 2005


*ahem* Regular.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:57 PM on December 6, 2005


So...what's a "5"?
posted by Smedleyman at 5:00 PM on December 6, 2005


Ok, gagglezoomer. I of course agree with you that there are 2 kinds of stuff, never really had a problem with "realization" of this BTW. And some people would go so far as to say: stuff in [insert religious text] that seems universally applicable to the human condition at all times and all places, but that is beside the point. What our Texas friend is doing is: stuff in [insert religious text] that is mostly of the culturally normative to the time of writing variety but which is so offensive to a modern, secular audience that I can equate it to porn as a publicity stunt. Stupid sophistry of the dumbass variety.
posted by offmylawn at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2005


In related news, the Gideons in Texas are operating in crisis mode this evening.
posted by rolypolyman at 5:04 PM on December 6, 2005


That's definitely fair, Fontbone. I suppose I was just trying to highlight that for a lot of athiests, learning about religion is an academic, intellectual pursuit, whereas learning about religion for the religious has much wider purpose. We shouldn't make the mistake of viewing athiesm simply as another religious affiliation.
posted by VulcanMike at 5:05 PM on December 6, 2005


Imbedding two strawmen within a false dichotomy really isn't too clever g-zoomer.
posted by klarck at 5:06 PM on December 6, 2005


The kid has a sound thesis? Rubbish!

Try reading my post more closely, offmylawn. I never claimed the "Bible = porn" thesis was sound. Rather, I found his claim that empathy is the source of morality "decent" (i.e., defensible) to roughly the same degree that I found Carlson's inability (feigned or real) to respond coherently to the kid's claim both amusing and frustrating.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:11 PM on December 6, 2005


klark: I am not trying to say that there is not deep, theological meaning that can be culled from the intracacies of religious text, or try to make a logically watertight universal statement about all practitioners of religion. I guess I was just trying to draw attention to the state of religion as I see it, that is, how it is practiced by the the masses if you will. However, I do feel as if the undercurrent of thought for both sides of the debate here (in this forum) are really on the same side.
posted by gagglezoomer at 5:13 PM on December 6, 2005


Lucky they're not trading the Koran... that sort of thing causes worldwide riots and gets people killed.
posted by Krrrlson at 5:23 PM on December 6, 2005


They did this same porn for bibles bit 4 or 5 years ago. Except they knew it was funny

I'm guessing they put a lot more emphasis on arguing for porn, and less on talking trash about the bible. That's the only way it would work, really. And if I were going to trade such a hefty book in for porn, it would have to be some pretty awesome pornography. Something biblical in scope, worthy of some religious devotion. Playboy just wouldn't cut it, sorry. If anyone can think of something that would, I've got a copy of the King James version I might consider trading. If it's really good, I'll throw in a copy of the Enuma elish. You know, that's the one where Marduk splits Tiamat right in half, and creates heaven and earth. Good stuff.
posted by sfenders at 5:26 PM on December 6, 2005


Empathy might be a source of morality, sure, but fear of reprisal from law is where obedience comes from, not morality.

I agree.

Morality (in the sense of virtuous, kindly living) is a much deeper thing, and fear has never had the power to inspire truly virtuous living.

Again, I agree. But Carlson seems unable to connect the same dots, Fontbone. Take a closer look at his response to the kid's initial claim about morality and you'll see (as mystyk notes above) that Carlson's "Yeah, but..." expresses essentially two points: (1) Empathy can't be the foundation/source of morality because moral discourse requires an appeal to abstract concepts, and (2) These abstract concepts get their ultimate moral force from their enforcement by someone/something "larger, more in control" than us, to use his words.

(2) is a nice, albeit unwitting, illustration of the kid's point that, absent empathy, people will only do what's right when motivated by fear. Moreover, it implies that morality, is at bottom, about power - presumably not the position Carlson intended to stake out.

(1) assumes somewhat bizarrely that our emotions (e.g., empathy) are totally insulated or divorced from our ability to manipulate and understand abstract concepts (e.g., justice) and vice versa. E.g., Discourse about human physiology involves an appeal to abstract concepts ("digestion") but it's not the abstract concept that turns my dinner into the energy to make this post.
posted by joe lisboa at 5:26 PM on December 6, 2005


This is somewhat funny. I can't watch the damn video (not downloading IE6 just for that any time soon) but, from the brief transcript, it sounds like these guys have a sense of humor about it, too. Choice quote:

JACKSON: "We have freedoms people can't even imagine."
posted by koeselitz at 5:34 PM on December 6, 2005


joe lisboa: But Carlson seems unable to connect the same dots, Fontbone. Take a closer look at his response...

Right! I agree with everything you (and mystyk, earlier) said as far as the logical and philosophical ramifications of his response. I should clarify, in case it wasn't clear from the last part of my first post: I thought Carlson dropped the ball bigtime. While I disagree with most of what Jackson said, he generally made a better argument than Carlson.
posted by Fontbone at 5:35 PM on December 6, 2005


to words 'Tucker Carlson' . . . moving on.
posted by nola at 5:42 PM on December 6, 2005


two*
posted by nola at 5:42 PM on December 6, 2005


I love this! I want to adopt these kids. And this is happening exactly where it should be happening-- at the University, a time and a place when young adults should be questioning authority and the status quo.


I disagree with uosuaq: atheists are too quiet.

Atheists are still reviled in this country. I suspect that many atheists here in the Bible Belt are afraid to come out of the closet; the Raleigh paper lists the church affliations of the local candidates and the absense of a church affiliation is suspect. I certainly keep my mouth shut regarding my views on job interviews or upon meeting people for the first time.

But it is time for more publicity. The American Family Association and Falwell and Dobson et al are hijaking our country and attempting to return it to the "values" of 1950.

"Well, we have Bronze Aged tribal nonsense, these things written by people in tents ages ago"

It's old, so it must be dumb! Yay! Good argument!

posted by Fontbone at 7:20 PM EST on December 6

As a handbook for daily living it leaves a lot to be desired. The myths are somewhat charming, yes, but the attitudes towards other races, women, and children are...well... Bronze-Aged. As for the rules about clothing, food, marriage, they are unnecessary.

Religious texts actually contradict each other. If you read the Bible, it contradicts itself on nearly every page."

Not if you actually, y'know, read it and understand it.


And each one of the hundreds of protestant sects in this country think they understand it, but their understanding is just a little bit different from every other sect.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:54 PM on December 6, 2005


To be clear, I wasn't criticizing these guys for not being quiet. I was criticizing them for a stunt that probably does their cause more harm than good.
posted by uosuaq at 6:03 PM on December 6, 2005


He tried to score a point about bible vs. evolution that seems pretty appropriate for a college campus. The concept that the bible tells you as much about reality as porn is also appropriate. Too bad he went off base too quickly (in part because Tucker felt the need to quiz him on how to get some trim on campus).
posted by drmarcj at 6:10 PM on December 6, 2005


What, is Carson Tucker cruising college campuses, now?

Hmm...I wonder if the bow tie thingy helps...
posted by darkstar at 6:16 PM on December 6, 2005


*Carlson
posted by darkstar at 6:17 PM on December 6, 2005


Er...and feel free to re-order those names, to suit.
posted by darkstar at 6:17 PM on December 6, 2005


Choice quote:

JACKSON: "We have freedoms people can't even imagine."


Yeah, that made me chuckle...

It is funny, more so because of the context. And they're students having some fun, not purporting to write a treatise on religion and atheistic philosophy.

But they can't beat this Carlson dude for funny: the law itself is based on at least a notion of abstract right and wrong, and that is not rooted in empathy or any emotion, but ... you know, an abstract belief that this is right and this is wrong because someone larger, in control, says so.

He thinks empathy is an emotion, and he's arguing for either theocratic or fascistic foundation of laws. And he probably doesn't even realise it.
posted by funambulist at 6:37 PM on December 6, 2005


Hmm...porn or bible...bible or porn. If you can't make up your mind, you can now combine the two with this calender. (NSFW. German. There was a site set up for orders, but it's currently down.)
posted by hydrophonic at 6:37 PM on December 6, 2005


and he's arguing for either theocratic or fascistic foundation of laws. And he probably doesn't even realise it.

My point exactly. Though I, too, conflated "empathy" and "emotions" in my haste. Nude Testament, anyone?
posted by joe lisboa at 6:55 PM on December 6, 2005


I'm an atheist and I wouldn't trade my precious KJV for any amount of sleazy pictures.

Unless they involved PJ Harvey, a whip, a black leather corset and a stuffed coypu, of course.
posted by Decani at 6:58 PM on December 6, 2005


By the way, if anybody has anything like that I'll throw in my Koran, too.
posted by Decani at 6:59 PM on December 6, 2005


uosuaq, Atheists are so quiet that just knowing they exist is good in many places, so having a high publicity action by people with an articulate representative is great.

Atheists and gays are oppressed by the simple fact that christians view atheism and homosexuality as inherently immoral. Gay rights didn't succeed by not offending Christianity's perverted morality. It succeeded by being as visible as possible, and getting people out of the closet, thus exposing Christian morality for a sham. Atheism must do the same.

You can come out of the closet as an atheist any place in the U.S., modulo wanting a political career. All the obstacles are in your head. An out of touch grandparent getting offended by such a stunt doesn't mean squat, but seeing other people wth guts making you laugh does.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:05 PM on December 6, 2005


joe lisboa, fair enough I read your post again. Having intially read all the posts, I confused general enthusiam for the stunt with your post regarding his specific response to the interviewer. My apologies. Bible for porn stunt, still stupid, still offensive.
posted by offmylawn at 7:07 PM on December 6, 2005


Hot diggity damn. And we thought the apocalypse was gonna suck!
posted by zekinskia at 7:08 PM on December 6, 2005


wasn't this on fark and plastic and screenhead and everyotherfuckingwebsite.com last week?
posted by jmgorman at 7:08 PM on December 6, 2005


I don't even remotely get this discussion. People trading one type of printed material for another: I'm fucking riveted. As stunts go, apparently it is effective in fomenting publicity which is about all a stunt is good for. I'd think the atheists representative here would want better representation of their viewpoints once the spotlight has been secured, however.
posted by nanojath at 7:41 PM on December 6, 2005


I'm just wondering what they're doing with the bibles they get. My guess is, give them to the Gideons.

I think we gots ourselves a kinda perpetual motion machine here! Powered by porn and the word of God!!
posted by bigbigdog at 7:49 PM on December 6, 2005


I don't even remotely get this discussion.

Well, it involves porn so there's 80% of the enthusiasm right there.

You could say they were trading anything for porn and get 80%, the brilliant juxtaposition with religion gets you the last 20%.

Seriously though, if you're an atheist you're probably about as happy with this as a Catholic with another dinosaurs-coexisted-with-mankind website?
posted by scheptech at 8:13 PM on December 6, 2005



posted by scarabic at 8:13 PM on December 6, 2005


I'm surprised that nobody has yet mentioned the Euthurphro dilemma. It is at the very heart of this discussion, or at least the important and relevant part of this discussion. Namely that morality does not come from scripture or tablets. The original formulation by Socrates was as such: From whence does goodness come? The Gods, for the God's choice is always the good. Then do the Gods just use their own wisdom to always chose the good? Or does the good simply mean whatever the Gods have chosen?
I prefer to phrase it this way when approaching people with it. Suppose God came down from heaven and appeared directly before you and presented you with a man in shackles and told you to torture him, or kill him, or rape his daughter or whatever. It does not matter what you think you would do, what does matter is how you think you would feel about it. I propose that you'd have to be pretty fucked up to not be dismayed by the grisley task laid before you. So after some thought you can see that there are really only three ways to answer this dilemma. 1. "I'd do what God says because it is moral to obey God and I would feel great about it, as having done a more normative moral act." I respond that answer 1. is fucked up, I think we can all agree. Answer 2. "I would not feel comfortable with God's request. It wouldn't feel right to me" and answer 3. "God would never ask a person to do that!" Dispite the seeming differences in answers 2 and 3, some thought will show you that they really lead to the same end logic. That God is not and cannot be the source of morality.
We normal humans don't like this dilemma because it makes us uncomfortable. That's precisely the point. If God was the source of morality than how could you possibly question the morality of his request? And if you can claim that God would not make such a request, then you are similarly displaying a sense of morality independent of what God says. You are in fact projecting your own moral sense onto God as people have done for all of religious history. One could claim that we gain our morality from our feeling and empathy because God put them there when he created us or guided our evolution or whatever. First this is the same old rationalization method that all religions feed on. It is neither provable, disprovable, and thus completely beyond the scope of science and philosophy. Second, if this was true, why do so many religious people have it so wrong thinking that God gave us morality on a tablet instead of hardwired into our emotional fabric? That feeling you get when you think about torturing someone else, THAT'S where morality comes from. There's no way you got that aweful feeling from a tablet, just no way.
The sad part is that this logic has been around since Socrates. And yet the old canard about God being the only source of morality is still trotted out by the vast majority of people. To say that atheists aren't well read on these matters when the average religious person isn't up to date with Socrates, 2000 years before Christ was it? Give me a break! It's real easy to consider yourself informed when you simply decided that one book, or one catagory of books has all the answers or even that it is more important than the others. There is a rich history of philosophy that religious leaders don't like their sheep to read, perhaps they should if they enjoy heavy reading with rationality and logic along for the ride. Something you won't find in ANY scripture.

Sorry for the rant. Well maybe not actually. We atheists need to be more vocal right? Oh and Tucker Carlson is a total douche. That's all.
posted by Farengast at 8:50 PM on December 6, 2005


P.S. make that 470 years before Christ. not 2000.
posted by Farengast at 9:03 PM on December 6, 2005


Yeah! What Farengast said.
posted by VulcanMike at 9:03 PM on December 6, 2005


christians view atheism and homosexuality as inherently immoral. Gay rights didn't succeed by not offending Christianity's perverted morality.

This is an excellent point to remember when god-believers claim that non-believers are intolerant for criticizing religious belief. Like gay rights activists, non-believers are fighting against a discriminatory belief system that is based on myths.

The comparison isn't totally complete since not all christians see homosexuality as immoral. However, I can't imagine how atheism could be considered moral within the confines of christian theology, even by the more liberal of believers.
posted by jsonic at 9:37 PM on December 6, 2005


good post farengast. Now try that on a fundie, but use the example of god asking them to look at another member of the same sex's ass in a lewd and lascivious fashion. Then run.
posted by gagglezoomer at 10:00 PM on December 6, 2005


Heh. Nice one gagglezoomer. That sort of reminds me of a Bill Hicks quote.

"... after the show these three rednecks came up to me. "Hey buddy, we're christians and we didn't like what you said". I said "Then forgive me". Later on, when I was hanging from the tree..."
posted by Effigy2000 at 11:24 PM on December 6, 2005


The comparison isn't totally complete since not all christians see homosexuality as immoral. However, I can't imagine how atheism could be considered moral within the confines of christian theology, even by the more liberal of believers.

Well, I'm a Christian and I do not consider atheists to be intrinsically immoral (well, I do subscribe in some senses to the model of humanity being fallen from grace and so agree that all human beings "fall short of the glory of God." But I do not consider atheists to have somehow fallen particularly short or anything like that).

Even a Christian who is rather orthodox on the topic of the reliability and accuracy of their own beliefs (I've never seen the sense in believing that the contents of my mind accurately or completely reflect absolute reality, if such a thing exists, but I'm clearly in a minority as regards that assertion, regardless of belief systems) could simply believe that an atheist is honestly mistaken. Of course it is the kind of thing that is impossible to prove, but my own experience would lead me to believe that a minority of Christian individuals would claim that only believers are capable of morality.
posted by nanojath at 12:02 AM on December 7, 2005


Well, I'm a Christian and I do not consider atheists to be intrinsically immoral ... my own experience would lead me to believe that a minority of Christian individuals would claim that only believers are capable of morality.

I was referring to the idea that atheism itself is considered immoral by christianity. I think you would have to abandon the core concepts of christianity in order to claim that christianity considers atheism to be anything but intrinsically immoral.
posted by jsonic at 12:12 AM on December 7, 2005


I think you would have to abandon the core concepts of christianity in order to claim that christianity considers atheism to be anything but intrinsically immoral.

"christianity" does not consider atheism to be moral or immoral or anything because "christianity" is not an entity capable of consideration, it is a categorical description of dubious significance. And I think the range of outlooks comprised by that subset of the population who self-identify as Christians is significantly broader than you believe. You and I, for example, obviously disagree significantly on what the "core concepts of christianity" are (to wit, I don't believe that phrase has any practical meaning, while you apparently do), and I'm the one who's actually a Christian, so go figure.
posted by nanojath at 12:22 AM on December 7, 2005


You and I, for example, obviously disagree significantly on what the "core concepts of christianity" are

I can't believe you're actually arguing that christianity (even in its most vague form) is ambivalent on the issue of believing in god or not.
posted by jsonic at 12:49 AM on December 7, 2005


I'm not trying to be merely contrarian or a dick, incidentally. Whenever I see this kind of discussion I always feel that the fact that "Christianity" covers a very broad and heterogenous collection of individual beliefs should be illustrated. Of course, whenever I actually stumble into one of these dialogs I recall that I'm actually probably wrong about that.

Unquestionably, orthodoxy in the form of established practice and recorded theology exists in the social entities of Christian churches, sects, denominations, synods, etc. On the other hand, belief in practice is a much different thing than these social organizations and metaphysical constructs and to my mind, at least, a more significant one.

Case in point: despite the unorthodox (and probably heretical, form some perspectives) character of my beliefs, I am a member (an active one) of an entirely mainstream USA church of one of the major denominations. Be this as it may, I am absolutely certain that if I asked the minister of this congregation if she believed that atheists are intrinsically immoral, her answer would be "no." I am equally certain that my father, a retired minister of a more conservative division of the same general denomination, would give the same answer. As would the other minister who has been most influential in my development of my beliefs as they currently stand.

Even in the perspective of extremely orthodox beliefs in time periods and social contexts where there was hardly any open dispute with the official Christian doctrine of an entirely dominating central, political church, you can see at least shades of distinction on the subject of morality. I'm thinking of Dante's Inferno, where Dante visits the noble pagans in what could be called the nicest section of Hell. Even writing from the perspective of lifelong immersion in a monolithic worldview, Dante is unwilling to portray his fictional ancients as occupying the same fate as the actively immoral (though I won't deny the significance of the the fact that he is nevertheless compelled by orthodoxy to place them in hell, nonetheless).

I guess I will call it relevant simply because my primary (really my only) objection to this kind of thing is that I don't think there's any benefit to anyone in the sort simplistic, monochrome follow-up the perpetrators of this stunt provide in the transcript of the interview. I dislike this kind of single-idea dogmatism in religion, I dislike it everywhere.

But again, I make the mistake of thinking my own ideology is particularly relevant to anyone so, uh... carry on.
posted by nanojath at 1:05 AM on December 7, 2005


Failing preview... I gotta bail out of this discussion, jsonic, I'm incurably, criminally wordy. Verbose, you know. Its impolite, not to mention embarassing.

In the unlikely event that you actually give a shit what I think and aren't merely seeking to win an argument (in which, by all means, you have won, your argument is flawless in logical purity while mine is based on the utterly subjective fuzz of personal experience) by all means shoot me an email and I'll be happy to discuss my beliefs at uncomfortable length.
posted by nanojath at 1:11 AM on December 7, 2005


I am absolutely certain that if I asked the minister of this congregation if she believed that atheists are intrinsically immoral, her answer would be "no."

A more relevant question, and what I've been talking about, is to ask her if she believes that atheism is immoral (ie. something that should be avoided ).

I'm not arguing about if christians think that atheists are capable of being moral or not.

(on preview: it's just a discussion dude)
posted by jsonic at 1:25 AM on December 7, 2005


so, do you think Christianity is immoral?
posted by nanojath at 1:38 AM on December 7, 2005


I don't really have a concept of universal or objective morality. For instance, I wouldn't tell someone to avoid Christianity because it is inherently 'bad', in a moral sense.

I would preface such a recommendation in this fashion: If you're interested in being considered rational, then I would suggest that you avoid having an absolute belief in a being who is completely unsupported in reality.

For other topics, like murder, I recognize that my aversion to it is subjective. I also recognize that my desire to force others to abide by my subjective aversion to murder (in a societal sense), is itself subjective, and a product of the culture in which I was raised.
posted by jsonic at 2:12 AM on December 7, 2005


In essence, I do not have a belief in the classical sense of universal right/wrong. No do I see any evidence that such a thing exists.

In this world, all that I see are subjective opinions and the physical force that people/governments have to make others abide by those opinions.
posted by jsonic at 2:30 AM on December 7, 2005


Though I, too, conflated "empathy" and "emotions" in my haste

joe lisboa - it's an easy conflation to do, after all empathy gives rise to emotional reactions too, but when someone is saying empathy is a basis for morality they're obviously talking of a basic cognitive ability to recognise other humans as beings capable of thoughts, choices, feelings, pain, etc. That's what Carlson didn't even parse, yeah. It can't be "empathy may be a source of morality", it is.

He was probably reading it as something like compassion or goodwill, or something he considers soppy and not tough enough for a hardcore moralist, or too relative, ie. empathy as a sheer matter of like/dislike. But I don't have to like someone or feel compassionate towards them to know if I hit them on the head with a baseball bat I'll cause them pain. And when, even as I rationally know that, I don't feel enough emotional sympathy for that person for any reason, because they may have angered me or whatever, then yeah, fear of consequences does set in (legal consequences, and then consequences such as regret, guilt, etc.). You don't need no higher power telling you what's wrong or right. Even if you are religious, in the end you have to process every situation on your own, as a rational being capable of empathy and emotions and choices. Only fanatics and cultists act exclusively on the basis of "because my religion says this is right/wrong". And even then, they're only finding an excuse to avoid dealing with moral issues on their own. That's a recipe for authoritarianism, not morality.

The thesis was simplistically put, obviously, being only a brief reply in a semi-serious interview, but it is indeed a decent one.
posted by funambulist at 4:40 AM on December 7, 2005


Farengast: The sad part is that this logic has been around since Socrates. And yet the old canard about God being the only source of morality is still trotted out by the vast majority of people.

Exactly what I was thinking too, it always amazes me when the "is there morality outside religion and where and how" question comes up. Hello, history of philosophy...

And even looking only at the history of religion, from within a religious perspective, religious texts considered sacred like the Bible or Koran don't really deal with ethics other than by prescribing moral codes, based on the society of the time of writing, and ascribed to some divine revelation (in which one can believe or not). They don't really do ethical debate, analysis, argument, counter argument, questioning on those religious norms. Or when they do come close to that it's only in the form of metaphors or stories or parables, but it always ends up being about divine revelation, necessarily. The religious ethical debate comes later with religious thinkers and philosophers and theologians who commented those texts. (And also non-religious philosophers who argued with religion and theologians responding and so on).

But ethical analysis didn't start with either religious texts or tehology. Especially in the Western tradition as is usually implied with that "is there a morality outside religion" question.
posted by funambulist at 4:42 AM on December 7, 2005


jsonic: I was referring to the idea that atheism itself is considered immoral by christianity. I think you would have to abandon the core concepts of christianity in order to claim that christianity considers atheism to be anything but intrinsically immoral.

You are right, that is self-evident. However, speaking of the different subsets of Christianity, Catholicism (oh I know, they're not really Christians...) deals with that question rather slickly - it admits there is morality even without religion and a belief in God, but it judges it incomplete; it engages with different non-religious sets of moral views in a critical or condemning or appreciative manner, depending on how they can relate with its own moral approach; it gives room to both rational personal moral choices and "God says so" (faith and reason); for the purpose of spiritual salvation, rather than just moral behaviour in life (and no they're not the same thing for Catholicism), it obviously grants atheism zero points, as there is no salvation outside the Apostolic blah blah Church, however, there's that "the mercy of God is infinite and paths leading to that unknowable so you never know" which is a slick way of dealing with other religions too. That's what you get when you have centuries of theology behind you. The skills of dodging the traps of literal fundamentalism while maintaining strict orthodoxy get refined.

(disclaimer: shabbily generalising from official pronouncements and such)
posted by funambulist at 5:02 AM on December 7, 2005


Of course it is the kind of thing that is impossible to prove, but my own experience would lead me to believe that a minority of Christian individuals would claim that only believers are capable of morality.
posted by nanojath at 3:02 AM EST on December 7

When I read this I immediately thought of the adjective "godless" which has a very pejorative meaning.

Let's face it, as an atheist I am deliberately breaking 4 of the ten commandments. You can be a homosexual and keep all 10.

Side rant: I've never understood why God, an omnipotent and benevolent being has to enforce love and adulation of himself. The only way it makes sense is if you view religion-- in this case Judaism-- as made up by shamans in order to empower themselves. It makes a great deal of sense that you would want to force people to revere your new religion by writing laws that make them do so. It also helps to make your God an awesome one so that people remain practitioners out of fear. The God of the Old Testament is nothing if not Awesome. He turns people into pillars of salt! He destroys whole cities! He forces Moses to wander around in the desert for 40 years and then die before reaching the Promised Land because Moses didn't carry out his exact instructions.

Fear him! Love him! Do exactly what he says!
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:45 AM on December 7, 2005


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