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A So-Called Atheist Manifesto.
December 11, 2005 6:35 PM   Subscribe

A So-Called Atheist Manifesto. In this article the writer seems to forget that there's more to atheism than anti-Christianity, but fans of such rants might enjoy it. Those with more classical tastes might prefer Voltaire, who wanted to wipe out Religion altogether. Those who enjoy heat as much as light might like this rather polemic site, while those who prefer dispassionate intellectuality and/or agnosticism might go for Bertrand Russell.
posted by davy (354 comments total)

 
[Uh, BERTRAND Russell. You try typing that five times fast.]
posted by davy at 6:37 PM on December 11, 2005


oops
posted by mcsweetie at 6:39 PM on December 11, 2005


I think that is the point, Mcsweetie.
posted by LarryC at 6:40 PM on December 11, 2005


If that so-called atheist manifesto had a better layout, was double spaced, and had some nice pictures, I might try to read it.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:42 PM on December 11, 2005


McSweetie needs a trip to the grey.
posted by spicynuts at 6:43 PM on December 11, 2005


This post sucks.
posted by hincandenza at 6:45 PM on December 11, 2005


As Dawkins once said, "I think it's important to realize that when two opposite points of view are expressed with equal intensity, the truth does not necessarily lie exactly halfway between them. It is possible for one side to be simply wrong."

The old thread on this article suggested secular humanism as an alternative for those who don't think God has anything to do with our world, but still believe in the value of human life (I'm fumbling here, since its new to me too). I'm not sure I've wrapped my mind around how humans can really, actually have value without God, but that might be an alternative for those who find the linked author to be too dogmatic himself.
posted by gsteff at 6:48 PM on December 11, 2005


Frankly by definition atheism can't have a manifesto beyond "there is no God."

Anything else and it ceases to be atheism. Kinda like someone trying to put together an "anarchist organization". Sorry Bubba, it ain't gonna work.
posted by clevershark at 6:51 PM on December 11, 2005


why do i not see a problem?
posted by j-urb at 6:53 PM on December 11, 2005


This is like that one time a kid took over his high school principal's office and demanded they play XTC's "Dear God" over the PA.
posted by eatitlive at 6:55 PM on December 11, 2005


seems like i have read the work of Sam Harris before.
posted by j-urb at 6:56 PM on December 11, 2005


If someone took the time to put together a non-violent, secular manifesto, which contained a lot of humanistic statements, I might be interested in that. But this is just crap.
posted by Citizen Premier at 6:56 PM on December 11, 2005


Had this been posted instead of the last one I don't think I would have complained. It lacks the crappy setup and single-link structure. That said, is there more to say?
posted by maledictory at 6:57 PM on December 11, 2005


May we say "atheism is just another religion" now?
posted by brain_drain at 6:59 PM on December 11, 2005



posted by Eideteker at 7:00 PM on December 11, 2005


i love jesus.
i'm listening to white zombie.
i perceive no disconnect therein.
posted by quonsar at 7:02 PM on December 11, 2005


DEVIL MAN RUNNIN' IN MY HEAD
THE MOTHERFUCKER OF INVENTION
posted by quonsar at 7:03 PM on December 11, 2005


Oh boy.... here we go again....
posted by Farengast at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2005


If someone took the time to put together a non-violent, secular manifesto, which contained a lot of humanistic statements, I might be interested in that.

Would this do?
posted by wilful at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2005


Deja vu.
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:05 PM on December 11, 2005


Too bad this isn't FARK, or I'd photoshop that picture to be a crucifix being ground away... With a very distressed Jesus...

But it's not, and I don't have photoshop, so..

It's hard for me to get rallied up at an athiest rant.
It's like somebody writing on how they're pretty positive there isn't a tooth fairy.
posted by Balisong at 7:08 PM on December 11, 2005


Eideteker FTW.
posted by shmegegge at 7:12 PM on December 11, 2005


[fixed beRtrand russell's name in the fpp]
posted by jessamyn at 7:14 PM on December 11, 2005


Athiesm is for pansies. I believe there is no god.
posted by zerolives at 7:15 PM on December 11, 2005


WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PAGE TITLE?
posted by quonsar at 7:16 PM on December 11, 2005


IT IS A SIGN
posted by TwelveTwo at 7:23 PM on December 11, 2005


IS IT NATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY AGAIN ALREADY????!!1
posted by keswick at 7:24 PM on December 11, 2005


[fixed beRtrand russell's name in the fpp]

Thanks Jessamyn! I was tempted to ask that my typo be fixed but didn't.

And quonsar, the page title? Oh I see. Does it need a title? I just recycled that because I couldn't think of one; I also have trouble coming up with Subject lines for Usenet posts.
posted by davy at 7:27 PM on December 11, 2005


WHY IS EVERYBODY YELLING?
posted by konolia at 7:27 PM on December 11, 2005


What? What's the big deal? Why is this even controversial? Christians are batshitinsane. Don't miss the end times chat.

There is this tendency among secular liberals to think that it's uncouth to point out that religion is regressive idiocy. Let's not fall into that trap.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:28 PM on December 11, 2005


Does it need a title?

no. but it was there a minute ago.
posted by quonsar at 7:31 PM on December 11, 2005


This atheism, it vibrates?
posted by solid-one-love at 7:33 PM on December 11, 2005


Oh that was helpful.
posted by maledictory at 7:39 PM on December 11, 2005


'Twas a valiant attempt, davy.
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:40 PM on December 11, 2005


I'm confused. Was the last post deleted because people were offended? Don't tell me Metafilter has gone there...
posted by Pacheco at 7:43 PM on December 11, 2005


Pacheco: There's the parallel MeTa thread.
posted by maledictory at 7:45 PM on December 11, 2005


I've been reading Bertrand Russell's the problems of philosophy recently, it's a great read.

I'm always up for an interesting discussion of religion, and the existence of god, however it really does piss me off that someone might choose to speak for all Atheists, like this douchebag.

"Atheist" mean a person who is not religious, beyond that they have all different kinds beliefs and ideas. While I would rather live in a world without religion, this is not a pressing concern for me. There are lots of good people who are Christians, and just like Atheists, the most vocal Christians are also the most crazy.

Unlike Christians, there is simply no 'religious' reason to try to convert people from Christianity. You're not saving anyone's soul, so what's the point? As long as people are happy then good for them. From a 'scientific' perspective, 'the truth' is what's practical to consider as true. But what do the views of a housewife on metaphysics really matter?

I think that a lot of these vocal Atheists are people who are not only non-religious themselves, but also hate religion for whatever reason. You know there are these atheists who base their atheism entirely on the Christian bible. That's just idiotic, really. If you spend all your time thinking about Jesus and Allah, then you're not really free of religion at all, in fact you're still a slave to it.

So I think these vocal, proselytizing, preachy atheists (in addition to being annoying) really do hate religion, and want to rid the world of it.

I personally think we should more time worrying about doing good in the world, and less time worrying about how why people do it.
posted by delmoi at 7:46 PM on December 11, 2005


fleetmouse, there's no such thing as "religion" (proper noun). You and the author of the manifesto are confused and/or lazy thinkers. No matter how much you may want it to, religion does not and will not conform to the structure of political ideology. Any attempt to engage in ideological warfare with "religion" will fail. Religion, particularly today, is a cultural attractor and Politics != Culture. Any criticism of "religion" will only succeed if it's able to, like the original Enlightenment criticism, demonstrate that religion is regressive from a cultural perspective.
posted by nixerman at 7:48 PM on December 11, 2005


Pacheco: The last thread was poorly worded and pissed people off. Mindless christian bashing gets old fast and is even more irritating to thinking Athiests.
posted by delmoi at 7:49 PM on December 11, 2005


WHY IS EVERYBODY YELLING?

BECAUSE SOMEONE MENTIONED RELIGION!

Incidentally, I found willnot's link very interesting. But yeah, MeFi doesn't do religion well.
posted by gsteff at 7:50 PM on December 11, 2005


clevershark: Kinda like someone trying to put together an "anarchist organization". Sorry Bubba, it ain't gonna work.

Ya see? Cause anarchism = chaos! (/teehee)

Anarchists are opposed to imposed authority, not organization. But please continue trotting out that non-argument. It makes you look very smart.

(Also, I love this new tactic of shitting all over posts that deal with atheism. A rational discussion might lead to impure thoughts...)
posted by jsonic at 7:51 PM on December 11, 2005


Willful, willnot, potato, potata.
posted by gsteff at 7:51 PM on December 11, 2005


There is this tendency among secular liberals to think that it's uncouth to point out that religion is regressive idiocy. Let's not fall into that trap.

Some religions are regressive and some are progressive, even those with the same 'brand' (look at Quakers vs. southern Baptists like GW). It was religious arguments that fueled the abolitionist movement in the 17 and 1800s.

And by the way, I'd be willing to bet that most of the religious atrocities were committed not because of true religious differences but simply power or ethnic issues and religion was more of an excuse.

I'd love to live in a world without religion, but not if it’s a world full of these irritating anti-religious wankers.
posted by delmoi at 7:55 PM on December 11, 2005


Rational beliefs should not be based on a desire to show that religion "doesn't work" in a social or ethical sense. It should be based on a desire for the truth, based on as much evidence as possible, regardless of whether that truth fits with the increasingly recognised tendency of the human mind to be religious.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 7:58 PM on December 11, 2005


The old thread on this article suggested secular humanism as an alternative for those who don't think God has anything to do with our world, but still believe in the value of human life

That doesn't have to be an "alternative". The judgement of the value of human life is not necessarily tied to the existence of God.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:01 PM on December 11, 2005


But what do the views of a housewife on metaphysics really matter?

Oh delmoi, you're so meta.

And thanks for voicing that tired stereotype that atheists oppose religion, sometimes vocally, because deep down inside, they're really just angry.
posted by jsonic at 8:03 PM on December 11, 2005


no anger here. nope.
posted by quonsar at 8:06 PM on December 11, 2005


Most atheists are, in fact, angry at how religions are used, because they judge it to be a lie. However, that should not be the basis for atheism.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:08 PM on December 11, 2005


Protocols of the Elders of Awesome: The judgement of the value of human life is not necessarily tied to the existence of God.

I totally agree. My valuation of human life comes from something I call the empathy principle: I find value in my life, other people are obviously the same sort of thing I am, therefore their lives have value. Simple enough.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:12 PM on December 11, 2005


And thanks for voicing that tired stereotype that atheists oppose religion, sometimes vocally, because deep down inside, they're really just angry.

Well, why else would they do it? I mean, I can understand getting into an intellectual discussion about religion with a friend, but what's the point in pointing out how horrible religion is if you don't actually think it's horrible ? And if it is horrible, a cancer on society, bringer of great pain to so many how could you not be angry about it?

I think Racism and Fascism bring great suffering to the world, and those things make me angry. How could someone believe that religion is as bad as those things and not be angry, unless they simply don't care about other people (in which case, why would they bother trying to get people to stop being religious)
posted by delmoi at 8:16 PM on December 11, 2005


I was writing a post in the other thread, but it was mostly about kicking the poster of that version in the wheelhouse. I like davy more, he doesn't tell me what not to say.

I did have some points about the article itself . . . which in a roundabout way said: why is irrationality presented as the result of religion? And how does the author know he is rational, because he can point at other people and call them irrational? Aren't we born alone and rather insane as a result of that? People need their meaning, some find it in religion, some in money, some in art, some in sports, some (like Sam Harris) in self-righteous assumptions of rationality.

Now I am all for calling bullshit on religion and its continuing encroachment into the political and social life of this country, but I am not about to do so under a new banner of rationality. You know, Yeats's "The best lack all convictions, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity" can apply to people whose convictions aren't powered by jesusdiesel. Yeah, Harris claims atheists "[expose] the problem of dogma itself" . . . but dogma is simple, it saves energy, so it is not only a problem, it's also a solution to the difficulty of being human and overwhelmed by a bunch of information that in the end doesn't really give us meaning. Dogma does. It binds you to other people, to things larger than yourself, and saves you a lot of work. In a sense, accepting dogma is a rational decision -- it may lead to horrible results, but it does make the follower's life easier.

But, too bad for the religious ones, according to Harris's book title, we are at the end of faith. Who knew it was so easy to finish off?
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 8:19 PM on December 11, 2005


We know that the Bible is not wholly true, because it is internally contradictory. We also know that all the evidence (strong or weak) that indicates that the metaphysical or supernatural parts of the Bible are true, is balanced by very similar evidence that other, contradictory holy books are true. This is sufficient to make the judgement that we cannot be confident that the metaphysical or supernatural parts of the Bible are true.

This should not stop us from choosing parts of the Bible to give us ethical guidance if we wish; but since the Bible is ethically contradictory as well, and we must make our own choices between the contradictory sections, this ethical guidance really stems from ourselves, our own choices, and not just from the book. The reason the world's contradictory religions still have such power, is because they tap into parts of the human condition that are pre-existing, and package them up for us in the form of ethical codes. However, none of this is evidence for the Bible's factual nature.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:24 PM on December 11, 2005


Well, why else would they do it? I mean, I can understand getting into an intellectual discussion about religion with a friend, but what's the point in pointing out how horrible religion is if you don't actually think it's horrible ? And if it is horrible, a cancer on society, bringer of great pain to so many how could you not be angry about it?

I refer you to my previous comment: atheism will often result in anger, but anger should not be the basis for atheism.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:25 PM on December 11, 2005


Voltaire was seriously cool. France had a quite healthy/progressive relationship with religion.

I've been hearing the word "post-theist" quite frequently; meaning simply "one for whom superstition is a non-issue". The Official God FAQ is an example. Why waist your time with unusable, unfalsifiable, etc. ideas? Life is too short.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:26 PM on December 11, 2005


meaning simply "one for whom superstition is a non-issue"

That is the case for most atheists, except to the degree that other people's belief in superstition causes it to be an issue. This just sounds like a rebranding.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:33 PM on December 11, 2005


Well, why else would they do it?

In my experience, the opposition to religious belief and its influence on society is based on logic and the use of reason.

Here is the situation:

1. Many religious people have an absolute belief in a being that has absolutely no support in reality.

2. On top of this, they also claim to know what this being likes/dislikes, yet cannot demonstrate how they could communicate with a being that they cannot show even exists.

I think the common reaction to this situation is exasperation at the absurdity of it. And a desire to reveal this delusion for what it is.
posted by jsonic at 8:36 PM on December 11, 2005


In a sense, accepting dogma is a rational decision -- it may lead to horrible results, but it does make the follower's life easier.

You seem to be confusing "rationality" with "pragmatism". Allowing the religious debate to become a discussion of what gives us a better or easier life, rather than what is true or not, is a trap.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:37 PM on December 11, 2005


We know that the Bible is not wholly true, because it is internally contradictory

All that statement tells me is that you don't have a complete understanding of the Bible-because it isn't internally contradictory. There is a reason that Bible colleges and seminaries teach courses in heurmaneutics.

I have been a Christian since 1980 and I have never found a seeming contradiction that didn't clear up once I had a proper understanding.
posted by konolia at 8:38 PM on December 11, 2005


OTOH, Christians actively "discriminate" against non-theists. So it's best if atheists "come out of the closet."
posted by jeffburdges at 8:38 PM on December 11, 2005


konolia, that is a very interesting claim, and I will follow you up on it after I've had some sleep.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:40 PM on December 11, 2005


Yeah, post-theism does sound a lot like atheism, but I do think as a 'brand' it's nicer on the ears. A hell of a lot better then "bright". Anyone who thinks that could work hasn't got half a head for politics.

jsonic: but there's a difference between wanting to enlighten people, which is understandable, and going on and on about how evil religion is, which is what some people do.

You seem to be confusing "rationality" with "pragmatism". Allowing the religious debate to become a discussion of what gives us a better or easier life, rather than what is true or not, is a trap.

Well, before we can talk about what's true and what isn't, we first need to define truth. Good luck with that.
posted by delmoi at 8:46 PM on December 11, 2005


Truth is.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:49 PM on December 11, 2005


Truth is that monster in the closet that, when your parents turn on the light and open the door to reassure you, eats them.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:52 PM on December 11, 2005 [5 favorites]


Konolia, yes, it is internally contradictory. There is no intellectually honest way to explain away the whole of those contradictions. None. Absolutely none. It is absolutely certain that the works of every Christian theologian throughout history, working to reconcile these contradictions and errors, have been in vain. They are wrong, and completely.

Thus, the Bible is not wholly true. Thus, it must be interpreted and cannot wholly be taken literally. Since it is subject to interpretation, it is not infallible; the various editions of the Bible are merely different edits.

Mr. Protocols is exactly correct: because it is not infallible, you are choosing an interpretation. It's not the book's morality; it is yours.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:59 PM on December 11, 2005


Gah. internally contradictory was supposed to be the link above.
posted by solid-one-love at 8:59 PM on December 11, 2005


but there's a difference between wanting to enlighten people, which is understandable, and going on and on about how evil religion is, which is what some people do.

And there's a difference between criticising angry blow-hards, which is understandable, and going on and on about how those who criticise religion are really just angry and intolerant, which is what you keep doing.
posted by jsonic at 9:03 PM on December 11, 2005


Don't forget about the gospels too, Solid-one-love. Here.
posted by Farengast at 9:04 PM on December 11, 2005


I'm not sure if konolia is a biblical literalist or not, but remember that it is possible to be a Christian and only believe some parts of the bible are true.

Just because I'm a liberal doesn’t mean I believe everything Michael Moor says, for comparison.
posted by delmoi at 9:04 PM on December 11, 2005


delmoi, why would you believe only some of it? How would you know which parts to believe? Seems like if you only believe some of it, you are really just adhering to the parts that you agree with already, for other reasons. You can be a liberal and not agree with everything Michael Moore says because he is just a man, you examine his evidence and agree when he makes a good case. The bible presents no evidence. So you have no reason to believe that parts that you pick out, and no reason to forgo the parts that you ignore. You don't believe everything that Moore says, but if he presented no evidence for anything he says and just stated it as fact with nothing to back it up, would you believe ANY of what he says?
posted by Farengast at 9:08 PM on December 11, 2005


I have been a Christian since 1980 and I have never found a seeming contradiction that didn't clear up once I had a proper understanding.

By 'proper understanding' you mean 'non-contradictory exegesis', right? Because you're not saying that you're privy to the One True Interpretation of the Bible, right? Because you know different groups have chosen to interpret it in different ways, right?
I think I have 'proper understanding' of the seeming contradictions, see. My understanding is they are, in fact, contradictions. Hence seeming that way.
I'm not bashing religion here. I'm a Buddhist. I just wonder if acknowledging the truths in the Bible (it's good to be nice to others, to be selfless, to not lie or kill people) precludes ignoring some of the other content that ranges from unpleasant to batshitinsane.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:08 PM on December 11, 2005


Solid,
I can't speak for Konolia, however I think the contradictions all depend on how you read the Bible. If you're using it as a historical document, then yes, the Bible is highly contradictory. We can't use it to figure out what happened thousands of years ago.

However, if one reads the Bible the way one would read a good book, written by an author with great insight into the nature of the human condition, the contradictions can tell us a lot about what that author is thinking.

I have learned a lot about myself and what it means to be a good person by studying the Bible, and I think the hullabaloo over the contradictions is a side effect of people (mistakenly) reading the Bible as an infallible, historical document.

On preview: sorta what delmoi and RokkitNite said.
posted by anomie at 9:09 PM on December 11, 2005


I've seen those lists before, people-and I have had these discussions on other sites, and been able to explain.

Here's an example. Perhaps some of you do not know that in the ancient writings regarding generations, it is normal that there would be gaps-in other words, so-and-so is a descendent of such-and-such, not necessarily a son-father. We make a mistake when we apply our cultural standards and literary conventions to the ancients.

And now I really must go study before my A in theology goes bye-bye. (exam tomorrow, remember?)
posted by konolia at 9:09 PM on December 11, 2005


I agree, delmoi. But this speaks to the root of Christian imposition into our secular lives. Abortion is wrong because God says so? Evolution is wrong because all creatures were created at once 6000 years ago? Homosexuality is an abomination? Since the Bible cannot be infallible, its adherents must be picking and choosing among the lessons taught and histories told. So it is therefore not their Bible admonishing us -- it is merely its readers, and not all of them.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:10 PM on December 11, 2005


Protocol, I do not see how this is a trap, but more a description of what it is. I am stunned at the hubris of that article, and moreso when I think of the title of Harris's book _The End of Faith_. For all his so-called rationality, he fails to see that people will seek what makes them happier and what makes their life easier, especially in these existential realms.

So my argument isn't that one should get all jesused up because it is easier, but that people will. And the more you displace them, confuse them, overwhelm them, the more they will seek a myth, and it may be Jesus, and it may be invisible hand of the market, and it may be even "rationality".

I don't think the glut of information and the growth of fundamentalism are unconnected, and I don't think pointing out that there is no evidence of God is going to do anything to change the fundy trend.
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 9:11 PM on December 11, 2005


and been able to explain.

Much respect and all, but you absolutely have not been able to, ever, and neither has anyone else, ever, in the history of the world.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:12 PM on December 11, 2005


Personally, I feel sorry for God. Humor is of no use to Him, because He already knows all the punchlines. His body is obviously perfect, so He can't get drunk. Yet He hasn't gotten laid in over two-thousand years. No wonder He's batshitinsane!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:15 PM on December 11, 2005


I think the contradictions all depend on how you read the Bible.

Like the obvious differences - names of participants, etc. - between tellings of the same stories in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Does that depend on how you read the Bible, too?

Yeesh. If it works for you, great, but don't try to tell non-believers there's no logical inconsistency anywhere in the Bible. Good lord, that's dumb.
posted by mediareport at 9:16 PM on December 11, 2005


Konolia, this is but a minor detail, I don't really care how many generations were what. I'm talking about the fact that Pilate's men captured Jesus by night so as to sneak him away without his followers seeing and causing a riot, and then the very next morning, mere hours later, these same followers Pilate feared would riot are actually there to condem Jesus to death? Does this make sense to anyone? The gospels are filled with this. Not just simple numerical contradictions amongst the different authors, but plot that makes no sense at all, even within the writing of a single author. The fact that the works become more disdainful of jews as you follow them through the chronology of their authorship is but extra evidence that they weren't written for spiritual reasons. For example, first just groups of people came to condem jesus. Then crowds of people in the second gospel, then crowds of jews in the third, then in the fourth, it's all the jews. ALL the jews came to condemn jesus. These also, were the same jews who paraded him into the city not long before and whose rioting support for the man caused him to be taken by dark. Anyone have an explanation?
posted by Farengast at 9:19 PM on December 11, 2005


delmoi, why would you believe only some of it? How would you know which parts to believe? ... You can be a liberal and not agree with everything Michael Moore says because he is just a man

I don't know, why not? I don't think that there is any contradiction in being a Christian and believing that the bible is just a book about Christianity.
posted by delmoi at 9:21 PM on December 11, 2005


I don't know, why not? I don't think that there is any contradiction in being a Christian and believing that the bible is just a book about Christianity.

Oh well if that's your bag, than carry on, man. Good for you.
posted by Farengast at 9:25 PM on December 11, 2005


For all his so-called rationality, he fails to see that people will seek what makes them happier and what makes their life easier, especially in these existential realms.

It's precisely because of his 'so-called rationality' that he focuses on the intellectual argument without acknowledging the psycho-social allure. People rarely choose their religion after lengthy discursive analysis and critical comparison - they go by 'feel'. They go with what 'makes sense'. It's hardly surprising that in a world where so many people struggle just to make it through the day, institutions offering a reassuring, palliative assumption/expectation set will attract a lot of business.
I think the militant atheist camp might make a lot more progress if instead of yelling, 'C'MON YOU DIPSHITS, CAN'T YOU SEE HOW DUMB YOU ARE?' it maybe reflected that people put their faith in patently false religious bromides because they're desperate for reassurance, and that the need for reassurance is not something to be despised.
posted by RokkitNite at 9:26 PM on December 11, 2005


I've seen those lists before, people-and I have had these discussions on other sites, and been able to explain.

No you haven't. Just because people give up on discussing these things with you does not constitute an acknowledgement that you've explained things to anyone's satisfaction.
posted by clevershark at 9:28 PM on December 11, 2005


clevershark, it was explained to the satisfaction of those I had the discussion with.
posted by konolia at 9:30 PM on December 11, 2005


Look, I am going to bed-but first let me point out that obviously all of you have made up your minds before I even bring you any information that obviously I must be wrong.

The truth is you WANT there to be contradictions, because if I am right and these things are explainable, then horrors, the Bible might actually have something to say to you.

I really don't have time for people who aren't serious about wanting to know. In a week or so school will be done as will my finals and papers-serious inquirers can find me by email then.
posted by konolia at 9:33 PM on December 11, 2005


1. Many religious people have an absolute belief in a being that has absolutely no support in reality.

If by "reality" you mean what we can perceive with our five senses, then, I agree. If instead you mean "that which is real," then, I don't. In my experience, there's a chism between the two.

2. On top of this, they also claim to know what this being likes/dislikes, yet cannot demonstrate how they could communicate with a being that they cannot show even exists.

It's important to remember that just because someone claims to know what God wants, doesn't necessarily mean they're right. For example, Peter Attwood does an excellent job of refuting Bush. Unfortunately, religion is often used as a cover for, oh, I dunno, war maybe?

I think the common reaction to this situation is exasperation at the absurdity of it.


It is absolutely absurd. Insane, irrational and totally illogical. And all of those things are exactly what Jesus' opponents said about him and his claims to be the Son of God. I'm honored to be painted with the same brush. *bows*

For the record, there's a lot of "batshitinsane Christians" out there (current US administration comes to mind) who are doing an awful job of representing the rest of us. We're smart, sassy, liberal as hell (no pun intended), and laugh at radio/T.V. "preachers" and right wing rhetoric. We're not all bad. Promise.
posted by hercatalyst at 9:37 PM on December 11, 2005


Farengast - Not that delmoi needs defending, but your question - "why would you believe only some of it? How would you know which parts to believe?" - made me think of this point: my high school science text is full of information now known to be incorrect. Yet, I do not feel compelled to throw out the discipline of science, or to automatically assume that those entries not yet disproved will of necessity turn out to be fallacious.

In fact, your question applies to much of the news and information we are exposed to in life. Some of it will be true, some of it will be bullshit. But ultimately, we all have to choose our own expert witnesses and parse accordingly. Hence, shitstorms like the one that blew this ill wind into town.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:37 PM on December 11, 2005


Farengast, your comments seem genuine, and without sufficient time to go into detail I will just have to leave you with the thought that their national politics (and the fear the common people had of the Pharisees who had power to kick them out of synagogue) had somewhat to do with it.

Please also remember each Gospel writer wrote from his own perspective (though inspired still) and they didn't exchange notes with each other at the time. You could get similar differences with four different reporters covering a news event-again, assuming they didn't confer over coffee right away afterwards.
posted by konolia at 9:38 PM on December 11, 2005


RokkitNite, you've got the right idea, to be sure. I am definitely an atheist, but I'm not bothered by people who are religious. As long as they know that it is irrational. And don't get me wrong, I'm not using the word "irrational" as an intellectual substitute for "stupid". "It's ok to be religious as long as you know that it's stupid", no, that's not what I mean. I don't mean any negative implications with the word irrational, I mean the strict definitition of it. Not grounded in rational and reasonable thinking. I personally think that irrationality is a bad thing, that's just the way my brain works. But I understand that it is just my opinion. But religion is irrational, be that a good thing or a bad doesn't matter and I don't care either way. I know plenty of people who believe in god even though they have no reason to, just because they have a feeling about it. I think that's kind of silly, but as I said, that is just my opinion and I don't hold other people to that just as with any opinion. But to tell me that beliefe in god is rational? That the evidence is there, it's all around you. How can you not believe in god when it's so obvious? I HATE that crap. It's stupid stuff like that that makes us atheists angry in the first place. The smug self-rigteousness that only a religious person can muster (and only some, mind you, definitely not all or even most) to assert that god is obvious and people like me are idiots, or immoral, or just don't get it, or don't put the pieces together, or are only atheists because we don't like rules or want to do bad things without accountability or some stupid crap like that. Logic is what makes my gears turn and it always has, and if that's a sin punishable by damnation than I'll take it. My brain doesn't work any other way.
posted by Farengast at 9:39 PM on December 11, 2005


The truth is you WANT there to be contradictions, because if I am right and these things are explainable, then horrors, the Bible might actually have something to say to you.

The truth is that you're full of grade-A shit. Don't dare to tell us what we actually believe.

I have decided that there is no way to explain the contradictions because I have explored it in detail, and in much more depth than some ridiculous Theology 101 course could cover.

Some of those contradictions can be explained. They all cannot without handwaving on a massive scale. You cannot bring anything new to the party on the subject.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:43 PM on December 11, 2005


You could get similar differences with four different reporters covering a news event

Uh, yeah, but none of them would claim their work was the Word of God. Small diff.
posted by mediareport at 9:44 PM on December 11, 2005


Look, I am going to bed-but first let me point out that obviously all of you have made up your minds before I even bring you any information that obviously I must be wrong.

Konolia, this is every single one of your posts about this subject...
posted by hototogisu at 9:47 PM on December 11, 2005


made me think of this point: my high school science text is full of information now known to be incorrect. Yet, I do not feel compelled to throw out the discipline of science

Those facts were later proven false. Do you have any such example in the bible? The bible does not prove anything, or expound upon evidence of any sort. It is not testable and not able to be proved wrong, excepting in it's historical accuracy, in which it has been proven quite wrong already, as noted above. But to compare biblical cherry picking to scientific progress is a horrifying assault on reason. And it makes no sense. Science is built on evidence. Often we don't understand what all the evidence is telling us and we get somethings wrong, or not wrong but just not as right as they ought to be, i.e. Newton was not wrong, Einstein did not disprove Newton. Einstein discovered new science that included and expanded on Newton's Principia. The bible cannot be tested and expanded in this way, all you have is the word of the people who wrote it. Either you ahve reason to believe what they say, or you don't. And if you are ignoring stuff, that means that you don't have good reason to believe what they say, and you are only taking the stuff that you agree with already, for whatever reason. The whole reason why science is such a good description of nature is exactly because it CAN be proven wrong. It CAN be refined and grow to encompass new data that was unobtainable before.
posted by Farengast at 9:49 PM on December 11, 2005


Any criticism of "religion" will only succeed if it's able to, like the original Enlightenment criticism, demonstrate that religion is regressive from a cultural perspective.


posted by fleetmouse at 9:50 PM on December 11, 2005


I'll tell you who I don't get - the devil. What's in it for him? So originally, he's God's favorite - which would make him one bad-ass angel indeed, I'm guessing. But he gets ambitious, tries a hostile takeover, and gets tossed right out of the boardroom. He's thrown to the gutter. Will never work in this town again. So what does he do? Threatens everybody who might be sympathetic to his plight with eternal torture. Tries to frighten prospective allies into joining up with his old Boss. And really lets his place go all to hell. And this was the bad-ass angel who got kicked out of Heaven for his pride?! Come on, man! Take a lesson from Katzenberg. Oh, right. Wrong religion.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:00 PM on December 11, 2005


I leave you kids alone for five minutes... and look what happens!!

THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS!
posted by Mr T at 10:06 PM on December 11, 2005


Actually, Raining Florence... the point of that is that lucifer really hates his job. He tried to be too much like god so god punished him by forcing him to be the opposite. To take on the grotesque task of perpetrating evil upon the world. Incidentally, this raises some interesting religious issues. Like that most satanists, I means actual satanists not fantasy, comic book, sacrificing people/animals kind of satanists, are actually quite reasonable. They believe that they should worship Lucifer because he is more human, because he knows what it is to suffer, to aspire to something greater and be struck down for just that aspiration. They wonder how it is possible that god loves his creations, when he created them to be imperfect, and then instructed them to try as hard as they can to be just that.... but don't actually succeed or you'll get punished like Lucifer. So modern day satanists don't actually kill anything or drink blood or even do evil things... they just think that given biblical mythology, Lucifer sounds like a more reasonable character to worship than god. Were I religious and believed these stories in the bible, I might be inclined to agree.
posted by Farengast at 10:09 PM on December 11, 2005


Jesus is magic.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2005


It's disturbing how militant these religious discussions get. There are some angry, angry atheists here.
posted by nightchrome at 10:17 PM on December 11, 2005


How can you not believe in god when it's so obvious? I HATE that crap. It's stupid stuff like that that makes us atheists angry in the first place. The smug self-rigteousness that only a religious person can muster (and only some, mind you, definitely not all or even most) to assert that god is obvious and people like me are idiots, or immoral, or just don't get it, or don't put the pieces together, or are only atheists because we don't like rules or want to do bad things without accountability or some stupid crap like that.

Wow, you don't have much of a capacity for self-reflection, do you? There are a ton of smug, self-satisfied atheists out there. I'm not saying religion isn't silly, it is, but atheists can be just as irritating, especially when they try to speak for all Atheists.

Don't have much of a sense of paragraph construction either.

Einstein did not disprove Newton. Einstein discovered new science that included and expanded on Newton's Principia

Uh, no Einstein did disprove Newton, logic-boy.
/tired
//cranky
posted by delmoi at 10:20 PM on December 11, 2005


Yeah, it's a good thing this one's just religious. If it was religious AND political.... damn.
posted by Farengast at 10:20 PM on December 11, 2005


It is absolutely absurd. Insane, irrational and totally illogical. And all of those things are exactly what Jesus' opponents said about him and his claims to be the Son of God. I'm honored to be painted with the same brush. *bows*

Sometimes the parody writes itself.
posted by jsonic at 10:22 PM on December 11, 2005


The biggest difference I can see between the two camps I perceive in these discussions always seems to be not between atheists and theists, but rather, between fanatics and reasonable people. The fanatics on both sides really need to chill out.
posted by nightchrome at 10:25 PM on December 11, 2005


Wait a minute, so some people don't believe in God? Will a day ever go by that I don't learn something amazing on Metafilter?
posted by nanojath at 10:25 PM on December 11, 2005


Delmoi, you must not be much of a scientist. Einstein definitely did not disprove Newton. Newton still works and always has, within the boundary conditions he worked in. Newton never said anything about masses moving anywhere near the speed of light, or about the speed of light itself. Newton still works, people still use it everyday. Basically applying Einstein to an everyday mechanics problem would give you a deviation from Newton much smaller than the accuracy of what you are measuring. MUCH smaller. Therefore, to all practical measurements and experiments, Newton is valid. Ask a physicist. I know a few of them seeing as how I am one.

As for the self-rigteousness that only a religious person can muster, you find me a quote from any atheist on this or any thread about how religious people are going to hell, or will be punished supernaturally. Atheists will claim as loudly as the next that someone is wrong, but only a religous person does and CAN claim that someone is wrong and that their wrongness will destroy them and see them punished for eternity. THAT is the kind of self-rigteousness that an atheist just can't compete with. And as well I never speak for all atheists, same way I never speak for all scientists or all people with brown hair, because it's stupid. So go find another whipping boy for your abuse.
posted by Farengast at 10:28 PM on December 11, 2005


I'd love to live in a world without religion, but not if it’s a world full of these irritating anti-religious wankers.

GYOBWWR
posted by fleetmouse at 10:32 PM on December 11, 2005


Harris should lead a delegation of atheists in a march on GitMo.
posted by homunculus at 10:39 PM on December 11, 2005


...between fanatics and reasonable people. The fanatics on both sides really need to chill out.

False equivalency.
posted by jsonic at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2005


Farengast: "The bible cannot be tested and expanded in this way, all you have is the word of the people who wrote it. Either you ahve reason to believe what they say, or you don't. And if you are ignoring stuff, that means that you don't have good reason to believe what they say, and you are only taking the stuff that you agree with already, for whatever reason."

Full disclosure (or as full as you're ever going to get from the sockpuppet of a mostly anonymous internet blog account): I am an atheist. A technology professional with a solid background in science and engineering. So believe me when I tell you (or don't, it really makes no difference to me, I'm mostly just a gadfly) that you're preaching to the choir with the scientific method lecture.

On the other hand, my devil's advocate nature (see above, for some true devil's advocacy) compels me to point out that your assertion that the Bible "cannot be tested and expanded in this way" using the same methods as the scientific principle (is it principle or principal in this case - damn it, it's late - I'm not looking it up again!) is only true for those claiming absolutes. That it is absolutely true, or absolutely false are equally absurd notions, from a truly scientific perspective; because though its veracity suffers from the confused perspectives of those who wrote, compiled, and (heavily) edited it, the book also contains much of historical and sociological value (even up to and including the study of those confused perspectives and their biological origins), and as such, is hardly above being either tested or expanded. To suggest otherwise is to deliberately ignore the vast amount of archiological and other scientific work being done in this field. Neither your statement that the Bible's "historical accuracy... has been proven quite wrong already," nor the meager "cherry pickings" in your links is sufficient to dismiss its value in this regard.

Again, this is not meant as a defense of literal Biblical interpretation. Simply to state my disagreement that it is a "horrifying assault on reason" to suggest that it is possible to approach spirituality with the same open minded questioning that informs the scientific method.

To the majority of those who look at it (yes, including atheist historians) the document is neither 100% true, nor 100% false. The truth, therefore, lies somewhere in between. As a rationalist, myself, I don't find evidence for any mystical interpretaions within those pages. I do not, however, kid myself that that isn't simply my own "cherry picking," and don't therefore begrudge cherry toppings to others who at least profess to understanding that they're just trying find where the artificial flavoring ends and the fruity treat begins.

On preview: AHA, Farengast - so your hair is brown! I've tripped you up!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:41 PM on December 11, 2005


Farengast, the word you were looking for, instead of trying to redefine irrational, was nonrational.

I am like you, I am a happy rational atheist who doesn't mind religous sorts, as long as they keep their dogma out of society's business.
posted by wilful at 10:44 PM on December 11, 2005


jsonic, it doesn't look very false from where I'm standing. There's a lot of rudeness, stubbornness, and ignorance being tossed around in this thread, and it certainly isn't coming from only one side.
posted by nightchrome at 10:44 PM on December 11, 2005


nightchrome, I think jsonic means that atheist "fanatics" don't tend to shoot doctors, fly planes into skyscrapers, ring your doorbell on Saturday morning and otherwise make pests of themselves.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:54 PM on December 11, 2005


Raining, let me clairfy. I did not assert that the bible has no value, it has obvious value even if it's totally false as a historical document. Lot's of important historical documents are important BECAUSE they are wrong and not inspite of after all.... I did state that the bible cannot function as a spiritual foci if some of it is false and some of it isn't. There is no way to know which. What if the only true part was that god hates it when people wear clothing made from different cloths? People have stated that they enjoy it as a story book, or as a book about christianity, but not a work of god. And that's cool with me. I think the bible's got some scary shit in it, but if people find something there they like, that doesn't bother me. But it doesn't change the fact that without divine authorship, or even inspiration, the bible's lessons are just a reflection of what the reader already knew. This has been pointed out many times in this thread.

As for the scientific testability... you just agreed with me, except in the degree to which it is or is not historically accurate. I did not mean to assert that it was totally inaccurate as a history, but simply that it's inherent unreliability as a history makes it largely useless as a history book. We know which parts are or are not accurate because of other historical accounts, thus we have no need of the bible as a history. Agreed that I should have just said that instead of thinking it... And as for the spiritual matters covered? Yes, it is not possible to prove them wrong. You can't prove that Jesus didn't rise from the dead. It is a matter of the supernatural, and no amount of eye witness accounts or found remains can actually prove that Jesus did not rise from the dead. So your devils advocacy turns out not to be so devilish. But cheers anyway.
posted by Farengast at 10:55 PM on December 11, 2005


There's a lot of rudeness, stubbornness, and ignorance being tossed around in this thread, and it certainly isn't coming from only one side.

I'm sorry that you consider criticism of religious belief to be rude. You've lost me, however, when you claim that criticising religion is somehow stubborn and ignorant.

Also, it seems the only comment that would rate the label of 'fanatic' in this thread is the one that claimed the bible had no internal inconsistencies.
posted by jsonic at 10:56 PM on December 11, 2005


fleetmouse, yeah but I'm just talking about this thread here. On metafilter. On teh intarweb. Unless you guys are off flying planes into buildings between posts...
posted by nightchrome at 10:57 PM on December 11, 2005


jsonic, I'm less concerned with the topic you are discussing and more concerned with the way you talk to each other.
posted by nightchrome at 10:59 PM on December 11, 2005


Why do I always get to these threads when they're 115 comments in? I always miss the beginning - if I'd been around before it degenerated I would have taken issue with the statement that Voltaire wanted to wipe out religion - revealed religion, perhaps, specifically the various types of 18th century Christianity, but no more than that. I think he would have been perfectly happy with deism or natural religion.

Also, nanojath wins the thread...
posted by greycap at 11:06 PM on December 11, 2005


Greycap, 115 comments? Did you miss the FIRIST thread? Man, you are even more behind than you thought.
posted by Farengast at 11:16 PM on December 11, 2005


First, that is....
posted by Farengast at 11:16 PM on December 11, 2005


Farengast: "I did state that the bible cannot function as a spiritual foci if some of it is false and some of it isn't. There is no way to know which."

But now we're back to the devilish part. As I initially commented, here is where I cannot agree. I used a science textbook as my analogy, which the rationalist in you rebelled at, so we zigged over to history, instead; but let's go back to my original point:

If we can agree that scientific truth is the realm of the textbook in question, and spiritual truth the realm of the Book in question; and we further state that the science textbook at any given time contains both elements that are true and elements that at some future point will prove not to be true; and that the spiritual seeker is willing to grant that the literal truth of their Book is also at least partly in question, then I cannot logically determine how one foci is legitimate (for its own intended purpose) while the other is somehow to be dismissed.

The fact that we cannot infallibly determine for ourselves which elements are absolutely true and which are not does not mean that there are not elements of truth and of fiction, or that there is no value in the study and seeking of said truth and fiction. And I further posit that this statement holds true for both books.

Of course I personally don't expect such study to turn up anything supernatural, but that's not what I'm talking about at the moment. I just don't have a problem with spiritual seekers who think the Bible is a reasonable jumping off point for discovery. Especially if they're willing to take a realistic view of what they discover.

Now - off to bed, and cheers back attcha!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:26 PM on December 11, 2005


And nightcrome, you are epitomizing what I ranted about regarding the last thread, earlier today: the hipster fence-straddlers, who think by not taking sides or having a real, needs-passionate-defending, opinion is somehow nobler or cleverer than the "fools wrestling it out in the mud". Have some sincere, vulnerable beliefs about something for a change- the terrified-of-being crowd that is scared to hold any opinions, or to be passionate about anything, are really pissing me off.


All it takes is for good people to do nothing. By standing idly by, pretending that splitting the difference between two warring camps endows you with some Solomon-like wisdom, you only ensure that some fanatics win. And as jsonic noted, it's a false equivalency to suggest that rabid religious people, with intractable beliefs and dogmatic, often personally destructive or violent morals ("teh gays! teh western infidels!") are no worse than dogmatic rationalists, who are tired of fantasy-land infecting politics to the detriment of people's lives. One side is accepting of change by definition (I'd be a believer tomorrow if a 1000 mile high face appeared in teh sky over Puget Sound and said "Let me clear up some confusion..."), and is just tired of being told we can't criticize what are more and more apparently "crazy" people, in a technological age of mankind where "crazy" can be... disastrous. In particular, these mythical "good" Christians in America sure seem awful quiet... and invisible in the voting rolls!

What I'm really saying is, the world does hang in the balance, we are a monkey offshoot with the ability to kill every human on this planet in a day, and the same ancient patterns of myth and fantasy ruling our interactions.... so pick a fucking side, you pansy.
posted by hincandenza at 11:28 PM on December 11, 2005


metafilter: pick a fucking side, you pansy.
posted by jsonic at 11:32 PM on December 11, 2005


hincandenza, it's a lot easier to throw around trash terms like "hipster" than to deal with people civilly, isn't it? I haven't said anything at all about my beliefs, yet you feel you have them all pegged simply because I called out both sides in this discussion for acting like jerks? You know that part where I mentioned stubborn, ignorant, rude fanatics? You couldn't fit the bill better if I'd made a puppet account and written you out myself.
posted by nightchrome at 11:56 PM on December 11, 2005


Raining, I see your point now, but I think it is overly diluted and simplified to the point of saying nothing at all. To say that both a bible and a science book have information that is true and information that is false, therefore we should.... accept that both have some true and some false and go from there. Your argument makes sense, only because it doesn't actually argue anything. As for why one is legitimate and one is not. You mentioned that your science book had some things that were wrong....

First step, they were discovered to be wrong either through experiment (i.e. the science was bad but experiment illuminates the real deal) or through correction of typos based on the correctness of previous experiments. As I said, this first step can only be applied to the historical context of the bible. You can't "correct" the supernatural parts because there is no way to deem them "wrong".

Second step, your book was probably corrected in a later edition. Errors were acknowledged and corrected. On a larger time scale, some scientific truths changed entirely. NEW science was adopted. We both know that this does not happen with the bible. For all it's inaccuracies, can you imagine what kind of venom would be spit at someone who tried to correct it? You mention it as a good jump off point, and that's precisely the problem. You HAVE to look elsewhere to investigate the truths of the bible because nobody ever changes it to reflect new information. (people of course have changed it for many other reasons, mostly political. but that's a totally DIFFERENT discussion)

However an up to date science book is not just a good jump off point, it is definitive insight into the best science has to offer at the time. Errors corrected.

Another point which bears mentioning again. When dealing with good science and good scientific method, nothing is ever proven to be wrong. What I mean is, if you've done and experiment properly, and you got a result. That is concrete. You can't prove those results wrong. Those results reflect nature and ALL of nature's workings going on during it. Sometimes science doesn't see ALL of the nature at work, and sometimes the experiment is not done properly and is not actually testing what they think it is. But I've already made this example. Newton did not get proved wrong. He performed all of his experiments as well as he ought to have. Newton is right. Einstein is also right, just over a much larger set of boundary conditions. So no science was overturned, just expanded in a totally unexpected way.

What I'm getting at here is that you don't need to worry about something in your science book turning out to be totally wrong. If it's based in experiment, it must be right. It might not be the whole story, but like Newton, it is still right. Of course theories are proved wrong all the time. Michelson and Morley set out to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether and their experimental results left them with naught but to admit that they were wrong about it. But that's the crux of it. The ether wasn't science until it was tested. The experimental results are a definite reflection of nature, as long as you have a handle on what nature is doing during your experiment, you can understand the results, and thus declare that the luminiferous ether is false.

So science only changes over time through differing interpretation of irrefutable data. The bible's got that differing interpretations down, but nothing in it is concrete. There is no foundation of irrefutability to work from like there is in science. Once again, this is in reference to spiritual and supernatural concepts in the bible. This science all applies very nicely to historical questions. Once you throw out consistancy (the very definition of supernatural) you lose any hope of the kind of firm working foundation one needs to test for truth and understanding. All you are left with is faith, and some people find value in that and they are welcome to as long as they don't try to make it "work in the real world". Or poison my country with politics based on it. So there you have it, the scientists rant. You asked for it, Raining.... Off to bed now. If you are still up to read this go to SLEEP.
posted by Farengast at 11:58 PM on December 11, 2005


I pick the Dark Side. Try spouting your rationalist dogma when you're on the wrong side of a Force Choke muthafucka! w007!!11
posted by RokkitNite at 11:59 PM on December 11, 2005


There is a reason that Bible colleges and seminaries teach courses in heurmaneutics.

it's good that you mention hermeneutics (you might want to run a spell check before you turn that essay in), konolia -- textual criticism and history do lead us on a very interesting path. see, it's about applying scientific tools of research to the Bible the way you would apply them to any other text.

but if you stick to the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, for example, you won't find many scholars ready to follow you there. not to mention, you don't really have one inerrant text to begin with, because you don't have a reliable text: see, for two examples among hundreds, Haines-Eitzen (Guardians of Letters) or the new Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus). I don't know which "Bible colleges" (Sunday schools?) are you referring to, but Cornell's department of Near Eastern Studies (Haines-Eitzen) and UNC-Chapel Hill (Ehrman) are serious academic institutions. Oxford University Press is a prestigious publisher, too.

your comment re: the Gospel writers as reporters is indeed telling of the somewhat anti-academic slant of most fundamentalist teaching. I'd be curious to know what they're teaching you re: the synoptic problem. a problem that, just read Kloppenborg on the stratification of Q.. if you read up a bit on textual criticism, konolia, you can find many answer to otherwise impossible-to-solve problems. if you shield yourself from it, you're basically shielding yourself from serious scholarship, sticking to what you know won't put your ideas into question.

which can be comforting, but it's not scholarship, and doesn't bring you nearer to the truth of what really happened
posted by matteo at 3:46 AM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


The truth is that you're full of grade-A shit.

it is possible to be filled with grade-A shit and still emit an aroma sweeter than honey. what was that popping noise? could it have been your head coming out of your ass? nope, unlikely. in a universe filled (defined, even) by paradox those who revere thier self-defined reason are the most superstitious twits extant.
posted by quonsar at 4:11 AM on December 12, 2005


those who revere thier self-defined reason are the most superstitious twits extant

On one side we have those believe in, and claim to communicate with, an invisible being. Yet not a shred of support can be produced to validate their detailed claims.

On the other we have those who point out the absurdity of such unsupported claims.

And, according to you, the latter are the superstitious ones? Hmmm.....
posted by jsonic at 4:40 AM on December 12, 2005


Metafilte: Surely some revelation is at hand


Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


(Was just going to quote that "best lack all convictions" line . . . )
posted by kingfisher, his musclebound cat at 4:51 AM on December 12, 2005


Thank God I'm not religious!
posted by acrobat at 5:31 AM on December 12, 2005


in a universe filled (defined, even) by paradox

Quonsar gets it.

If you disagree, then perhaps you would be so kind as to settle for me whether light is made up of waves or particles.
posted by konolia at 6:33 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia: "perhaps you would be so kind as to settle for me whether light is made up of waves or particles."

Yes, it is. Next question?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:52 AM on December 12, 2005


Oh god, another manifesto. I think I'll stick to reading the comments and save my time for manifestos of more political import, like GOP state grass party planks.
posted by troutfishing at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2005


grassroots, that is.
posted by troutfishing at 6:58 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia: If you disagree, then perhaps you would be so kind as to settle for me whether light is made up of waves or particles.

Is this really a paradox?

I'll just observe that a critical difference in many of these discussions is that atheists when confronted with these unanswered existential questions are more comfortable with, "I don't know, but would sure be interested in finding out." While theists seem to jump to, "I don't know, so god must be involved."

For me, the big killer is anthropocentrism. I'm willing to grant that the deist god, the Einstein-Spinoza god-as-universe, or the Pythagorean divine order in numbers, might exist. But I don't think it's wise to call those things "god." The God as creator of heaven and Earth. God as lawgiver and judge. God as the guy who mooned Moses. That inspires a profound lack of faith.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:03 AM on December 12, 2005


Konolia, two things. First, abruptly changing the subject is usually indicative of the fact that you don't know what you are talking about. But I'll leave that one be with just that.

second, there is NO paradox in wave particle duality. I'll admit that it's weird physics (much less weird if you understand the math), but it is not paradoxical. I could explain it to you definitively, but as I said, there is lots of math involved and it would bore people without illuminating anything. For your information there are no "paradoxes" in physics. There's plenty of theoretical cocepts CALLED paradoxes, but since paradoxes can not exist (the very definition of paradox) physicists find that all seeming paradoxes are either impossible to acheive (i.e. the grandfather paradox isn't actually a paradox because you can't travel to the past.) or further investigation shows the paradox to evaporate entirely, as in the twin paradox.

You've already told us all that you study at seminary, trying now to pretend to be a physicist is just silly. We all know you don't have any background to understand wave-particle duality. Not a crime in and of itself, but trying to prove a point with something you don't even understand is foolhardy.
posted by Farengast at 7:13 AM on December 12, 2005


I didn't bother reading the comments, was it just a battle of who's more smug and ruining government followed by a dogpile on konolia as usual?
posted by mikeh at 7:21 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia: If you disagree, then perhaps you would be so kind as to settle for me whether light is made up of waves or particles.

It's a linguistic fiction not a scientific fiction. Two ways of describing the same phenomenon.

The whole "the universe is so strange so it's fine to believe in God" argument is stupid. It'd be acceptable coming from a little kid but not from a grown adult.

This criticism of "religion" is also stupid. I'm not sure why so many people seem intent on confusing religion with a political ideology. Perhaps because nobody knows how to argue about anything but political ideology these days. Either way, the argument is a non-starter. Simple words like "power", "value" and "truth" mean totally different things to religious people.

If you really want to make negative arguments against religion in itself you'll have to "sink to their level" and accept the Torah/Bible/Koran as an authority. Also note that such arguments tend to make problems worse.

There has never been (and likely never will be) an "atheist revolution." Past criticisms against religion always taken the form of (1) criticism of an earthly religious authority (e.g. the Pope) (2) arguments for science and modernity (3) arguments for the (culturally significant) State.

The only valid criticism of religion, indeed the only one that really worked, is (3)--the positive Enlightenment/French criticism that's derived from a culturally powerful State. Religion, as it manifests in the political sphere, is a nothing more than the "politics of difference." It has no place in the government of a real democracy.

(3) is a very powerful argument precisely because it's the aggressive argument. It's based on a desire to unite, respect and include--not exclude and condemn. The Founding Fathers realized this and were successfully able to "tame" religion in the political sphere for hundreds of years. It's only very recently--since the political and cultural spheres have merged and indeed you get stupidity like the "culture wars"--that the Church and State have again sunk into large-scale conflict. Still, it's possible to make a strong pro-Democracy, pro-Rights, Enlightenment criticism of the current persons who use religion for personal power.
posted by nixerman at 7:30 AM on December 12, 2005


Point of order-just a bible college student , not a seminarian.

Actually, the light thing doesn't have to be a "true paradox" to make my point. The point being that just because you don't understand something doesn't make it incorrect. Human logic has limits.
posted by konolia at 7:31 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia, how do you read the Bible? Is it an innerant historical document written by God? Or do you read it through the lens of the culture it emerged from as a commentary on humanity? If the former is true, then you are flat out wrong. If the latter is true I can understand your POV with respect to biblical inconsistencies.
posted by anomie at 7:45 AM on December 12, 2005


nixerman, actually, the first two are also valid and did work, since the Pope is no longer in the business of running an actual empire with legal decisions over its citizens, and scientists are no longer put to death for saying the earth is not flat, or prevented from pursuing their work.

Speaking of paradoxes, when people identify all religion with fanatics and fundamentalists, they end up giving credit to arguments in favour of literalism ('why do you believe an interpretation? why do you accept this but not that?'), which is rather masochist too.
posted by funambulist at 7:53 AM on December 12, 2005


I believe in the Bible as inspired* by God.

*Definition of "inspiration"-" God breathed through the human authors so that by using their own individual personalities they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs."

Further, let me define it as what my notes call "organic inspiration."

The Holy Spirit used the authors just as they were, with their character and temperament, their gifts and talents, their education and culture, their vocabulary, diction and style; illumined their minds, prompted them to write, and repressed the influence of sin in their thoughts.
posted by konolia at 8:09 AM on December 12, 2005


nixerman, you're living in the past, and inaccurately at that. Enlightenment and post-enlightenment atheists had to call themselves deists and pay lip service to God in order to avoid beatdowns and torchings.

The culture wars, even though they're being exaggerated and exploited for ratings by leeches like O'Reilly, have been developing for a long time. Secularity and religiosity make strange bedfellows indeed and it was only a matter of time before they started fighting over the covers.

In the past few decades it has become almost acceptable, within certain islands of rationality on certain campuses or in large cities, to be openly atheistic and say that fairy tales are fairy tales. Read the Secular Lifestyle support forum to see how atheists fare outside of those islands, in what I've come to call the secular diaspora.

Prominent atheists like Sam Harris are politically, culturally and morally obliged to use that window of opportunity to speak out - it's not so much about changing people's minds and turning them into atheists as it is about bringing the debate to the surface and making it acceptable to hold opposing views. That, by definition, would create a tolerant and diverse political and cultural climate I'd be comfortable in.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:23 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia What do you mean by "without error" as it concerns the OT? Are you a literalist or do you believe that certain sections of the Bible may not have actually happened?
posted by anomie at 8:26 AM on December 12, 2005


Also, sorry if it looks like I'm baiting you... just trying to get a sense of what constitues a Biblical "contradiction" as you see it.
posted by anomie at 8:27 AM on December 12, 2005


Enlightenment and post-enlightenment atheists had to call themselves deists and pay lip service to God in order to avoid beatdowns and torchings.

This is not true. During the Enlightenment many intellectuals openly doubted the existence of God. Not only that but Hume's founding philosophical move--that we couldn't know whether God exists--was made at this time and is the cornerstone of modern atheist thought. So, no.

Secularity and religiosity make strange bedfellows indeed and it was only a matter of time before they started fighting over the covers.

This just demonstrates that you really fail to understand and appreciate what the Church:State duality was really about.

And, just to note, this word you use--"secularity"--it doesn't quite mean what you think it means. 'Secular', as it was originally conceived, was a negative concept defined by the absence of a formal religious system. (Indeed, the original meaning of the term applied to "lay" priests IIRC). It wasn't some poorly thought out alternative to religion.

In the past few decades it has become almost acceptable, within certain islands of rationality on certain campuses or in large cities, to be openly atheistic and say that fairy tales are fairy tales.

See, this is where your argument falls apart. There is this misguided belief among atheists that it's perfectly valid for them to regulate religious beliefs to the level of Santa Claus and the Easter Rabbit. The problem with this argument is that it's not an argument. It's just an assertion. Worse, it's just not a very sensible debate. History proves that it just don't work. Religious people call other faiths fairy tales all the time--it's been going on since the dawn of time--with little effect.

This "debate" you speak about is nothing more than (2) that I referenced earlier. Now, you can make an argument for "modernity" but you will soon find yourself running into a brick wall. Religious people will rightly point out that your argument is indistinguishable from political ideology and, as such, is analagous to a kind of thought opression. Now whether this is really true is debatable... Foucault's insistence that religion offers some sort of escape from the hegemon of the State is pretty damn counter-intuitive though it's no surprise that all the religious wing-nuts these days are against the concept of a Nation State, as an independent ideal... but the problem remains. If you are going to argue for some notion of human freedom and then declare religion a "badness" you are going to look foolish. Again, think long and hard about what the phrase "freedom of conscience" really means.

I think the existence of a "Secular Lifestyle support forum" is hilarious though. Really, nothing could be more misguided. Ah, the internets.
posted by nixerman at 8:58 AM on December 12, 2005


Silly me for always falling into the trap of assuming that when people here say "religion" or "atheism" they mean something larger than the political context of a country.
posted by funambulist at 9:00 AM on December 12, 2005


Hey, Farengast - I think you're only seeing half of my point, and I can only assume that I'm doing a poor job of communicating, because you're obviously trying to get what I'm saying. I'll try once more, just for the sake of clarity, and because I've thought of a better way to say what's at the heart of my discomfort here:

Your position actually supports konolia's. In continuing to assert that The Bible must be an all-or-nothing proposition, you imply that fundamentalism is the only intellectually honest way to find spiritual value there. You argue the factual merits of The Bible, then take delmoi to task for granting that argument, but continuing to find spiritual value within. Your (valid) defense of the scientific method is that scientific theory is informed by new discovery, yet you would deny the same courtesy to spiritual seekers who are willing to look honestly at their source material, and adjust their views accordingly.

And I think I see why we see this differently: In reading back over your earlier responses, I noticed that you tend to slip back into rationalist mode too quickly when writing about the spiritual. This statement, for example, is illustrative of the disconnect:

“And as for the spiritual matters covered? Yes, it is not possible to prove them wrong. You can't prove that Jesus didn't rise from the dead.”

But whether Jesus did or did not rise from the dead is not really a spiritual matter. It is highly symbolic, and yes, clearly a critical element of the text, however you are still arguing facts here, not spirituality. Spirituality is the meaning of the text, not the details. Now, before someone gets all literary criticism all up in my face, I’m way at the front of the line for pointing out that the “message” of The Bible is also morally ambiguous (at best). Nonetheless, the point is that you begin your argument from a rationalist perspective – stating that The Bible isn’t factually true – and then seem to take on the spiritual implications of that, but without ever really moving into the new rule set of that part of the argument. Once you state that “it is not possible to prove them wrong,” you don’t get to dismiss philosophic, moral, or spiritual elements simply by continuing to try to prove them wrong as factual elements. Now, you must argue them on their own merits, with philosophic logical constructs, and with the clear understanding that there is no final understanding in such matters.

You state that my argument is really no argument and my position really no position, but I actually feel the same about your own, in a totally non-hostile/snarky, not-at-all I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I sort of way. To wit: Your view of The Bible is understandably Atheist-centric. Your underlying assumption is that there is no God, and the supernatural elements are untrue. Therefore, once you’ve disproved its absolute veracity on the facts, you simply dismiss any possible spiritual value because the source is untrustworthy. There is no God, therefore there is no God.

An open-minded Christian scholar, on the other hand, should be expected – and quite reasonably so – to see it in a different light. Granting that Biblical accounts of God are questionable does not mean there is no God. Just because the ancients viewed the world differently than we and the text suffers from all of the various vagaries of time, language, and questionable motivation, does not mean that their writings have nothing to teach us. And once you grant that spiritual, moral, and philosophic questions can never be empirically solved to an extent that would satisfy a hard-core rationalist, then you pretty much have to also grant that cherry-picking is part-and-parcel with spiritual discourse in any context, pretty much by definition, whether we’re invoking The Bible or not. Your argument then pretty much leads to: Because you do not agree with the underlying assumptions of spirituality, you do not see how pursuing questions of spirituality can have real value if those questions can never be proven to your satisfaction. The specific source material for that pursuit (The Bible, in this particular case) seems actually irrelevant to your argument.

For my part, while I seem to have reached the same basic conclusions as you, I find myself more aligned with the seekers and the cherry pickers than the fundamentalists. And it is precisely because of my respect for the scientific method that this is the case. Because the seekers are looking for truth, testing the logic of their arguments, and updating their world views accordingly. Many of the Atheists I know personally actually reached their positions from precisely this path of discovery (I know, I know – unsupported anecdotal evidence… but this is philosophy, and that’s all you get – pthththttt!).

And I don’t even like cherries.

Anyway – thanks for the polite conversation. Time to get back to what I do best: blithely poisoning the MetaFilter gene pool.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:11 AM on December 12, 2005


I think the existence of a "Secular Lifestyle support forum" is hilarious though. Really, nothing could be more misguided.

How so?
posted by fleetmouse at 9:23 AM on December 12, 2005


Point of order: "The Bible" is a highly problematic concept in itself. Preferred terminology today is Hebrew and Christian Testaments, and Apochrypha.

And for the most part, it wasn't written, at least not originally. There are Paul's letters, but the synoptic gosepls were told many times before being written down by people as third- and/or fourth-hand accounts of the life of Jesus.

Which is just to say, if there is a Christian God, he/she/it sure didn't put much value on clarity of message.

(Can you tell I used to work in a library?)
posted by bardic at 9:28 AM on December 12, 2005


"The Bible" is a highly problematic concept in itself. Preferred terminology today is Hebrew and Christian Testaments, and Apochrypha.

Just rolls off the tongue.
posted by boaz at 9:41 AM on December 12, 2005


fleetmouse, it's just my opinion, but the phrase "Secular Lifestyle" suffers from all kinds of internal contradictions. I don't know anything about the given "Secular Lifestyle," but on the surface it seems to confuse and mix up all of the major intellectual currents--from modernity to relativism to Marxism--of the last 300 years. Considering the definition of 'secular', the phrase is literally nonsense, but, after all, since you're only talking about a "lifestyle"--i.e. a collection of rationally forgiven social preferences--it's "ok." But then you throw in the "support forum" part and it just begins to sound absurd.
posted by nixerman at 9:46 AM on December 12, 2005


Sure, it loses a little something, but to refer to the Bible is pretty lazy intellectually. And some find it offensive, e.g., Jews certainly don't feel that there's anything "old" about their sacred texts, and "new" has a perjorative connotation as well. If by "Bible" one means, at all times, those texts approved and edited by the Catholic Church to quell interesting and important debates over the canon, then OK.
posted by bardic at 9:52 AM on December 12, 2005


I don't know, nixerman... I'm starting to think you're just a pedantic asshole.

The forum, whatever name they've chosen, is for atheists living in bible belt type areas - people who earn genuinely nasty comments and exclusionary behaviour for not participating in workplace group prayers. Some of the shit I read on there makes my blood run cold, especially stories about atheist children coming out to Christian families.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:53 AM on December 12, 2005


I'm starting to think you're just a pedantic asshole.

Icame to that conclusion when he implied that considering the Easter Bunny any different from a religious belief was an unsupported assertion. The only difference is the average age and number of believers; the evidence supporting the respective beliefs are equal. he claims that the argument "doesn't work"; I maintain that it works, and works well because it is so very compelling and accurate.

He's handwaving.

His derision of a forum to support the godless in Holyrollerville merely provides further evidence of trolldom.
posted by solid-one-love at 10:15 AM on December 12, 2005


The "passionate" athiests in this thread should go read (or re-read) William Golding's essay, Thinking as a Hobby. Seriously.
posted by solipse at 10:17 AM on December 12, 2005


The "passionate" Christians in this thread should go read the Christian Testament. Seriously.
posted by bardic at 10:24 AM on December 12, 2005


The "passionate" in this thread should go read "The Story of 'O." Seriously.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:30 AM on December 12, 2005


nixerman: There is this misguided belief among atheists that it's perfectly valid for them to regulate religious beliefs to the level of Santa Claus and the Easter Rabbit.

Bwah? I've rarely heard of atheists wanting to regulate belief. Some atheists want to engage in persuading the religious to adopt more sensible belief systems.

I suspect that a major reason behind Church:State separation, at least in the early U.S. had to do with trying to avoid the kinds of interdenominational violence and civil unrest that had been at the core of European history since the reformation. The idea of a "Chistian nation" was an anachronism in a world where Wesleyan preachers were beaten on the streets in England, dozens of Christian groups were building their own insular utopias in North America, and Puritans banned Christmas in Boston.

Although it may have been grounded in high ideals, I think that separation of Church and State was accepted on some well-justified paranoia. Even today, some of the strongest arguments for separation come from Christians.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:32 AM on December 12, 2005


Jews certainly don't feel that there's anything "old" about their sacred texts, and "new" has a perjorative connotation as well

The "old" and "new" refer to covenants. The Old Testament could be better stated the "Old Covenant" while the new testament reveals the "new covenant."

Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled the Old Covenant in its entirety enabling the rest of us to benefit from the New covenant (He fulfilled the "covenant of works" that we were unable fo fulfill, then enabled us to take advantage of the covenant of grace-He lived a sinless life, taking care of the first condition of works-righteousness, then died for our sins, taking care of the penalty we owed for failure to lead sinless lives ourselves. Since Adam as the federal head of the human race screwed things up for us, Jesus became the second Adam, and made it possible for us to be made right with God.
posted by konolia at 10:49 AM on December 12, 2005


Raining, First of all, I never did nor would assert that inaccuracies in the bible mean that there is no god. That's a stupid thing to assert and it does not follow from logic. Inaccuracies in the bible are fodder for asserting that Christianity is wrong, but one needs not be christian to believe in god. I disbelieve in god for entirely different reasons, namely that I have never been given good reason to believe. Obvously the bible doesn't convince me one bit, nor any other scripture. But more importantly, nothing I observe in reality leads me to believe that there is a god or that there must be a god. And rather than fall into the silly agnositc trap whereby I suspend my beliefe or not in the absence of evidence, which I note agnostics do for nothing else in their lives than for god (you never really know that your tea isn't poisoned... but agnostics drink it anyway, because they have no reason to believe that it is. Why should god get special treatment?) I proclaim that I believe that there is no god. For the same reason that I believe that there is not a purple hippo living on the far side of the moon. This is an important point that most people, even most atheists don't get... If someone claims there is a giant purple hippo on the far side of the moon, and we've never studied the far side of the moon and thus can't prove that the hippo isn't there, I am still within the bounds of logic to tell this person that they made it up. They may turn out to be right, but since they had no reason to believe it in the first place, it is still just their fantasy. You simply don't have to be wrong in order to be making stuff up. You just have to not know that you are right. I simply chose not to make god an exception to this logic which everybody seems to understand perfectly well when applied to anything but. And in fact, people live by this logic everyday, but for some reason god gets a free pass and the purple hippo doesn't.

Now to your specific argument. Please take note what I ACTUALLY said to Delmoi, I took him to task for asserting that the bible was god's work but that it was ok to pick and chose. Turns out he didn't think that, but was just being vague and I assumed that's what he meant. He said after that he enjoyed the bible as a simple book about christianity and I told him that was cool and that he should carry on.

As for the spirituality of the book. Once again, it all boils down to reason to believe. Proof is not the crux of this debate, it never was or should be. The crux is reason to believe. I've already discussed my reaons to believe there is no god. But the same things need be true of the bible. To assert that there is spiritual value to the book even when all the content of it's spiritual events is inaccurate is pretty much in agreement with what I have been saying. That considering the dubious nature of fact in the bible, it's spiritual content isn't actually content at all, but rather the reader's projected spirituality on to the book. Like a spiritual Wrorshak (no clue on this spelling... the ink blot test). So I agree that the book might be of spiritual value despite it's factual failings, but I still maintain that it has taught the reader little that they didn't know or believe already.

This is what the foundation of faith is. You can't prove the scripture's accounts of physical manifestations of spirituality. So you have no reason to believe in the spirituality at all, except for faith. Is it important for beliefe in god that Jesus rose from the dead? No, not at all. Is it even important for any kind of cloudy and/or godless spirituality? Still no. But it IS important to have some faith that spirituality effects the real world or else it's not worth believing or weaving into your life. Chrisitans manifest this with Christ's miracles. If you removed all the factual content from the bible concerning miracles and whatnot, and left it to be simply a book about christ where nothing supernatural happens at all, you'd have a good book with a nice message and nice lessons, but it wouldn't be a spirituality (and speaking of the bible as a work in progress... this is exactly what Thomas Jefferson did. Cut out all the miracles, leaving about a 10th of the original text with christ as a wandering sage and nothing more.) People live their lives on the FACT that there is a heaven and hell. You can't say that removing the fact leaves behind some spirituality, it would be an empty spirituality. "We should prey to god even though he NEVER effects the real world at all... because ummm... we just should."

So my point is that spirituality doesn't need the factual events of biblical miracle to be true, but it does need miracle to be considered a fact somewhere, otherwise it is hollow, a tradition with no meaning and no promise to actually change anything in your life. So basically, it is agreed that something can have "spiritual value" even without this promise of effecting reality. But this brings back to the fact that you aren't arguing anything. Because spirituality without the promise real effect (not necessarily real effect in this world, but afterlife, karma, reincarnation whatever.) Is like monopoly money. It looks valuable but what is it actually good for if not for real world effect. And consider that I am very open minded about what constitutes real world effect. If praying makes someone feel better, that's a real world effect, even if it doesn't actually do anything. And that is it. If a spritual type thing, I'll just use prayer as an example for now, makes a difference for you without doing anything supernatural than is it really valid to call it spiritualy valuable? It is certainly valuable, and it is certainly a spiritual beliefe, but the value is manifest in decidedly non-spiritual ways, i.e. psychology. And if the prayer DOES manifest some difference in the world, then it is clearly a matter of the factual nature of the spiritual event. So I concede that we are in agreement, and have been all along. I just prefer to call a spade a spade. Religion can be valuable when nothing miraculous happens at all, but then I feel it is not religious or spiritual except in how the person believes. Thus it is faith.
posted by Farengast at 10:58 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia, you're going to need to address the comments about the (apparent) contradictions if you're going to have any credibility here, or at least point out some resources where these contradictions (all of them, not just the easy ones) are disproven.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:00 AM on December 12, 2005


I really hate to get into this with you again, Farengast, but the hippo that isn't on the other side of the moon is green.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:05 AM on December 12, 2005


Wow. I just read some of that Secular Lifestyle forum. Anyone who would deride the necessity of such a forum really needs to be shot with balls of their own shit. There's a kid being forced by his parents to be confirmed. There's a kid literally being abused by his mother and stepfather after having come out as nonreligious. And that's just in the top half of the first page of discussion.

When I was a preteen, twenty-five years ago, I was only ostracized by my peer group for being non-religious, so I covered it up. But it's hard to hide the fact that you don't believe in the divinity (or existence) of Jesus. I was invited not to join Scouts because of my atheism, having barely concealed my lack of belief throughout Cubs.

But I was raised in a godless household. My dad was and is an atheist; my mom was an agnostic apatheist; she just didn't care one way or the other. I didn't have to take any guff from my family (although my aunts and uncles in Ontario did belittle me a couple of times with the old "oh, so you think you know everything" canard).

I had forgotten how ubiquitous such belief can be in some subcultures in North America -- and how malevolent and pernicious it can be. This is what needs to be fought against. This provokes me to side with Voltaire.
posted by solid-one-love at 11:06 AM on December 12, 2005


konolia, you're going to need to address the comments about the (apparent) contradictions if you're going to have any credibility here

She doesn't have to do that in order to have credibility with me; she has to accept without reservation that there are irreconcilable contradictions and that her beliefs are therefore interpretive and not prescriptive. In essence, that any claim of "This is what God says" should always be read as "This is what I interpret as being what God says."
posted by solid-one-love at 11:09 AM on December 12, 2005


Well, OK, I'd accept that, too.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:18 AM on December 12, 2005


The paradox is you can have formal separation, but a high level of confluence of politics and religion.

So, secularism isn't just the dry fact of not having a Church of America. It also means avoiding that sort of mingling in the public sphere.

Secularism doesn't even require atheism. It's not essentially a philosophical position, but a cultural and political one. And that sphere, rather than discussion on the notion itself of religious, is where you can get results.

After you've (impersonal you, including myself) said over and over that any religious belief is irrational, you still have the issue of dealing with its effects on a cultural and political level, and at that point, you just have to discriminate between the neutral or benign and poisonous effects, between the fundies and the non-fundy cherry pickers, not out of courtesy, or because religious people of all kinds of different persuasions will get offended by being all considered irrational and associated with nutters - religion as any cultural construct and tradition and system of beliefs is up for debate, which means it's up for offense - but because failing to make that distinction is counterproductive and an abdication of influence, it's a retreat into impossibility.

Once you set up the very notion of religion as being the major source (or outlet) of irrationality, violence, discrimination, antiscientific bigotry, etc., nevermind if that's true or not, the point is: what are you left with, if not the obvious desire to have a world without religion? that's not a battle. It's a lost cause, just wishful thinking. Regardless of what you think about religion. You can't wish it away as a whole. You have to pick your targets in a specific way because that is the only way you can have any influence in fighting fanatism.

A secular outlook has to accept coexistence with religious beliefs, what it cannot accept is the fundamentalist theocratic impulse of expanding religion into areas that have nothing to do with religious belief - law, science, etc. Just banging on about how it's all fairy tales will achieve nothing there. It doesn't really matter if people believe in some god or other or not, it's how, and how they use that belief.

Sometimes talk of religion seems to treat it as some sort of platonic idea that exists somewhere above humans, like a monolith that needs to be crushed to bits to make life more liveable on earth. It's a human construct and you deal with a human construct through its many different manifestations in actual people, currents of thoughts, parties, organisations, etc. Taking it on as a whole is like fighting windmills.

Take the last bit in this "Atheist Manifesto" that says "while most Americans believe that getting rid of religion is an impossible goal, much of the developed world has already accomplished it", that's not true, religion hasn't been gotten rid of at all there, what's been gotten rid of or has been far more limited is the kind of thing that happens in Kansas or Iran (with all due enormous differences between the two). It's not atheism that did that. It's different histories of clashes with religious authorities and tyranny and different cultural influences and so on.

And those things like level of health "and life expectancy, adult literacy, per capita income, educational attainment, gender equality, homicide rate and infant mortality" - that's got to do a lot less with religion than with different political systems and traditions again arising from different histories. Someone mentioned the dogmatic belief in the invisible hand of the market above. That's one kind of idea system that has nothing to do with religion but has a massive influence on the organisation of a society.

Religion has a massive influence but attributing to it all kinds of social and political effects is just not true to reality. It's more like the other way round - there are different approaches to religion(s) in different societies because of different social and political contexts. That's where the culture wars really are.
posted by funambulist at 11:26 AM on December 12, 2005


(comment was intended to follow after KirkJobSluder's on the church/state separation thing)
posted by funambulist at 11:27 AM on December 12, 2005


Here ya go.
posted by konolia at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2005


Thanks, konolia.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:36 AM on December 12, 2005


Oh ho ho, a link to Carm, and now the fun really begins.

I like how the author excuses the slaughter of the Midianites:

Some may object that the Israelites then married the virgins, the daughters of those whom they had killed and that this would be a horrible thing for the virgins. Perhaps it was a horrible thing for them. But, their lives were spared. Also, in that culture at that time, warfare and plunder was a necessary evil. The reality of taking women as wives was unfortunate but true.

This apologetic was brought to you by Christianity, the religion with Moral Objectivity™
posted by fleetmouse at 11:39 AM on December 12, 2005


But I was raised in a godless household. My dad was and is an atheist; my mom was an agnostic apatheist; she just didn't care one way or the other. I didn't have to take any guff from my family (although my aunts and uncles in Ontario did belittle me a couple of times with the old "oh, so you think you know everything" canard).

I had forgotten how ubiquitous such belief can be in some subcultures in North America -- and how malevolent and pernicious it can be. This is what needs to be fought against. This provokes me to side with Voltaire.


Exactly - I was a lot like some of the posters who decry loudmouthed atheism until I realized how bad it was for my infidel brethren and sistren in other parts of the world. Just because you live in a place where you can afford to stop fighting doesn't mean you should forget about the people in the trenches. It's rough out there in the secular diaspora.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:44 AM on December 12, 2005


Raining, I'm disappointed in you... everybody knows that the hippo that isn't on the other side of the moon is purple. It's George Bush's third nipple which isn't there that is GREEN.... sheesh.
posted by Farengast at 11:48 AM on December 12, 2005


In the fallen world that mankind had created, slavery was a reality. God permitted its existence and worked within its system. Slaves were more domestic servants than oppressed field workers.

Oh Dear.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2005


I'm reading through those, konolia, thanks. Some are pretty good, really, and some are kinda weak, but, OK, I guess they make sense. But these are mostly trivial. What about the larger issues, like the ones pointed out in Farengast's post above? I mean, OK, I can buy that Mark and John were using different time measuring conventions, but what about the larger plot elements?
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:53 AM on December 12, 2005


"This apologetic was brought to you by Christianity"

Ahem...

CARM's position is simple. If a Roman Catholic believes in the official Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, then he is not a Christian since the official RCC position is contrary to scripture. Therefore, as a whole, Roman Catholics need to be evangelized. They need to hear the true Gospel.
posted by funambulist at 11:57 AM on December 12, 2005


"nightchrome, I think jsonic means that atheist "fanatics" don't tend to shoot doctors, fly planes into skyscrapers, ring your doorbell on Saturday morning and otherwise make pests of themselves."

Right. But they did kill millions of people in China and Russia. And in China, still do kill people for religous beliefs.

"Exactly - I was a lot like some of the posters who decry loudmouthed atheism until I realized how bad it was for my infidel brethren and sistren in other parts of the world. Just because you live in a place where you can afford to stop fighting doesn't mean you should forget about the people in the trenches. It's rough out there in the secular diaspora."

Awwwwwww. Hey, y'know, some people are still killed for their religious beliefs in all sorts of different places. When your concern isn't so self-serving, I'll consider it more.

God, why can't people look back to y2karl's last post on religion? Aside from a few of the usual gang of idiots, that discussion was great, and the source material was great to discuss. Instead we get more agenda filter from the "Help, help, I'm being oppressed" asswipes.
posted by klangklangston at 12:01 PM on December 12, 2005


"Raining, I'm disappointed in you... "

Mom?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:03 PM on December 12, 2005


konolia, you must be a blast around Yom Kippur. I'm sure you're happy to tell your Jewish friends that their silly belief system is not just wrong, but at best a lil' appetizer of belief that is superseded by the "new" teachings.

Honestly, if you can't see the inanity of your "defense" of the usage of perjorative terms like Old and New, I doubt any amount of theology school is going to help you. Believe what you want to, but don't spread your foolish pseudo-knowledge around like it doesn't stink, and that you aren't constantly demeaning another religious tradition with both your ignorance and your hubris.
posted by bardic at 12:06 PM on December 12, 2005


Right. But they did kill millions of people in China and Russia. And in China, still do kill people for religous beliefs.

Right. Because those were primarily atheist movements, not communist. It's not like they were and are more concerned with rubbing out competing power structures than critiquing irrationality.

Awwwwwww. Hey, y'know, some people are still killed for their religious beliefs in all sorts of different places. When your concern isn't so self-serving, I'll consider it more.

Self serving? klang, you need to look up the definition of infidel.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:09 PM on December 12, 2005


"Right. Because those were primarily atheist movements, not communist. It's not like they were and are more concerned with rubbing out competing power structures than critiquing irrationality."

Right. Because religious fundamentalism is primarily a theistic movement, not a political one. It's not like they were and are more concerned with rubbing out competing power structures than truly communing with God.

Oh, but you've cleverly rebutted me with your link to a definition of "infidel"! Maybe you should look up ideologue.
posted by klangklangston at 12:17 PM on December 12, 2005


p.s. klanklangston: this is really about Cocorosie, isn't it?
posted by fleetmouse at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2005


in·fi·del (ĭn'fĭ-dəl, -dĕl')
n.
See Castro's descending colon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:18 PM on December 12, 2005


The difference Klang, is that politically motivated "religious wars" gain blind acceptance and lack accountability amongst the general public, who isn't in the know about the politics and the economics. Atheist killers gain no such accomodations. They are monstrous, but accountably so. The religous killer is not accountable. He lives outside rationality so he doesn't need a reason to kill (even a stupid one like Mao or Stalin had). A simple, "I didn't want to, but god told me it was best" and it's almost like he has credibility. Whereas Stalin killed a bunch of people, but everybody knows damn sure it was because STALIN thought it was best.
posted by Farengast at 12:24 PM on December 12, 2005


Huh? where was Stalin accountable in a way a crazy religious dictator isn't?

Where is the bloody difference in a genocide out of fanatical hatred and religion or one out of fanatical hatred alone?

I'm losing track...
posted by funambulist at 12:34 PM on December 12, 2005


I'm talking about accountability to his followers, not to outside observers like us. Stalin needed to make a case to his soldiers to do what they did, even if it was do this or you will be killed. Religious killers need only say that it is god's will and followers do not need any more than that.
posted by Farengast at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2005


Farengast: You may know a lot about physics, but you know dick about totalitarianism.
(Secular and religious totalizing structurs function equivalently, though you can argue that secular ones are more effective, especially given the context of the 20th century. Stalin wasn't killing people because Stalin wanted to, but because communism was beset on all sides by capitalist enemies, and the constant mobilization required ideological purity. Same as why you have to purge the Jewish Devil out of Spain.)
posted by klangklangston at 12:36 PM on December 12, 2005


And what you say is great for Stalin and the Pope, but do you actually think that the average Spanish inquisitor cared for crap about the sociopolitical environment and about the Pope's desires to maintain absolute political control?
posted by Farengast at 12:45 PM on December 12, 2005


Farengast, but Stalin didn't need to "make a case" at all, just needed propaganda and repression, like any other dictatorship ever existed, religious or not, communist or nazi, whatever the ideology. It really makes no difference when you have equally repressive regimes.

It's very easy, given the "right" (wrong) means and context, to build propaganda on racist hateful anti-everyone imperialist agendas. You don't need religion for that.
posted by funambulist at 12:45 PM on December 12, 2005


That's exactly my point funambulist. Which is why saying that Stalin killed people because he was atheist is stupid. And that's what Klang stated implicitly. Of course it's about propaganda and repression. Religious propaganda just gives people a better excuse is all. Sure the crusades were about money and power, but the average foot soldier didn't know that.
posted by Farengast at 12:53 PM on December 12, 2005


"Which is why saying that Stalin killed people because he was atheist is stupid. And that's what Klang stated implicitly."

So... It would have been OK if I had said that the average firing squad shot Jews who refused to renounce their religion because they were atheists who believed in Communism?
I was refuting the idea that somehow religion is worse than atheism because some religious people do bad things. If you couldn't understand that, maybe it's you that's stupid.
posted by klangklangston at 12:58 PM on December 12, 2005


So... It would have been OK if I had said that the average firing squad shot Jews who refused to renounce their religion because they were atheists who believed in Communism?

You are out to sea on this one, Klang. I never stated anything even close to that. The point is that when one of Stalin's goons comes to your door asking you to defend Communism, you have to think whether you even want to defend communism. Do you even like it? Is it worth killing people over? Are these people attacking communism really attacking?

But if you are a religious Christian and your priest comes to the door saying that god wants all able bodied men to join up to save the holy land, what is there to think about? If you are religious, you can't argue with god. Both killings are despicable, but the religious killing think he has an excuse that is beyond argument. WHile the atheist killer think he has an excuse which is still grounded in the rational, something disprovable.

Suicide bombers don't kill themselves to alter the sociopolitical climate, what would be the point of doing that if you are dead? They do it out of religion, even if their leaders and preists have sociopolitical aims.
posted by Farengast at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2005


Which is why saying that Stalin killed people because he was atheist is stupid

Of course it is, we agree on that, Farengast.

I thought you were saying it was somehow more dangerous and harmful if a tyrannical regime used religious propaganda - I don't think it is, well it can be, but not necessarily. If the result is the same, ie. genocidal tyranny, it doesn't make any difference what the excuse is. The nature of propaganda is the same.

All sorts of ideologies have served the purpose of providing excuses for mass murder. Religious extremism is one of them.
posted by funambulist at 1:07 PM on December 12, 2005



konolia, you must be a blast around Yom Kippur. I'm sure you're happy to tell your Jewish friends that their silly belief system is not just wrong, but at best a lil' appetizer of belief that is superseded by the "new" teachings.

When I first became a Christian, my best friend at the time (who was Jewish) used to come to church with me all the time.

In fact it was because of another Jewish girl that I "got saved" to begin with. She selfidentified as a Messianic or "completed" Jew which meant she accepted Jesus as the promised Jewish messiah.
posted by konolia at 1:08 PM on December 12, 2005


Right. But they did kill millions of people in China and Russia. And in China, still do kill people for religous beliefs.

But not, now or then, in the name of atheism. Their philosophy seeks to repress any philosophy that might undermine their autocracy -- this would include any religion. They are not promoting atheism or repressing religion; they are promoting their total power and repressing everything that might threaten it.
posted by solid-one-love at 1:11 PM on December 12, 2005


In fact it was because of another Jewish girl that I "got saved" to begin with. She selfidentified as a Messianic or "completed" Jew which meant she accepted Jesus as the promised Jewish messiah.

I'm not clear on how this is religiously different from being a christian.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:15 PM on December 12, 2005


In fact it was because of another Jewish girl that I "got saved" to begin with. She selfidentified as a Messianic or "completed" Jew which meant she accepted Jesus as the promised Jewish messiah.

Oh man, those people used to hand out pamphlets on the corner near my school. Then they left, and the joke-paper did a bit on how they were replaced by the "Atheists for God." I had a little chuckle.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:16 PM on December 12, 2005


I'm not clear on how this is religiously different from being a christian.

Shh!
posted by ludwig_van at 1:19 PM on December 12, 2005


what I want to know is: how do you know for certain that one religion is totally true and another is totally false? if I knew that, I might decide on one to spend my whole short life on.

but as it stands I will continue believing my own brand of christianity, which dictates that everyone goes to heaven no matter when they die (unless they die on halloween).
posted by mcsweetie at 1:20 PM on December 12, 2005


Funambulist, I'm not saying that the religious killing is worse, both killings are equally bad. I'm just saying that fanatical religion creates a palatable environment for propaganda based genocide because it is inherently irrational. It does not obey logic, thus you can't disprove it, you can't argue against it. You can't tell a religious fanatic that he's wrong. Of course propaganda is not a religious invention, and genocide of course happens outside of religious intentions. But devout religious masses are the best fodder for these kinds of mass killings because their ideas are not beholden to reason. You need not pervert their logic as Stalin or Mao had to, you only need to recognize that it is missing from religion and prey upon that directly. I don't understand why it is difficult to grasp the idea that a killer who doesn't have any good reason for killing is somehow scarier than one who does, if not worse in deeds.
posted by Farengast at 1:22 PM on December 12, 2005


"The point is that when one of Stalin's goons comes to your door asking you to defend Communism, you have to think whether you even want to defend communism. Do you even like it? Is it worth killing people over? Are these people attacking communism really attacking?"

Unless you believe in Communism. Then you don't have to think. Or Fascism. Or patriotism. Your attempt to draw a distinction between religious fundamentalism and secular totalitarianism is based on the principle that a) Communism or Fascism (or any other totalitarian structure) is rational, and b) that faith in leaders differs functionally between the religious and the secular.
Further, you (again) show that you're ignorant of one of the central doctrines of Leninism: that of "democratic centralism." Paths of action were to be decided by the high levels of the party, nominally through discussion, then universally adopted without dissent or discussion.

"But if you are a religious Christian and your priest comes to the door saying that god wants all able bodied men to join up to save the holy land, what is there to think about? If you are religious, you can't argue with god. Both killings are despicable, but the religious killing think he has an excuse that is beyond argument. WHile the atheist killer think he has an excuse which is still grounded in the rational, something disprovable."

Wrong. You're again assuming your conclusion: that the religious lack critical faculties. The religious equivalent of your earlier questions would be: Does God really want me to do this? How does this reflect the sacred texts that I believe in? How does this comply with the virtues that I feel are at the heart of my religion?
I know that it's tempting to believe as an atheist that since you have the answers, everyone else is an idiot child incapable of independent thought, but aside from being what makes atheists so endearing, that's entirely without merit.
To put it another way, if religion functioned the way you assume it does, everyone who publicly avows their faith in Islam would be a terrorist if entreated by their religious authority.
So maybe you should go back to the drawing board with your conception of faith and action.
posted by klangklangston at 1:22 PM on December 12, 2005


I think religion is a lot like alchohol. For some it is a benign. It cheers and relaxes them and contribute to comraderie. For others it leads to death and destruction.

When I look at peoples beliefs I ask only one question...How do their beliefs affect their behavior. If believing in God makes them kind and considerate of others then I'm all in favor of it.

If believing you're a member of the Federation (Star Trek) makes you a more responsible human being then I'm all in favor of that.

I'm currently reading an interesting book called "Lost Christianities" which looks at Christian people and there beliefs and Gospels before the "New Testament" was finalized.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

If you want people to treat you like crap, please stay away from me.

jeff bellamy
posted by jeffbellamy at 1:34 PM on December 12, 2005


I have to just pop in to say that this is a fascinating conversation that is really making my working evening 100% more interesting. Thanks all.

jeff bellamy
posted by longbaugh at 1:36 PM on December 12, 2005


I was getting my hair cut and the young girl cutting my hair asked me if I was very religious.

When I told her I was and Atheist she asked....

"Is that like a Cult?"

I'm working on a novel where the hero is a mugger.

He walks up to people and asks "Do you think everything happens for a reason" if they say yes he robs them.
posted by jeffbellamy at 1:39 PM on December 12, 2005


Klang, you are making a false comparison. Camparing fascist fanatics with religious moderates. Of course not all religious people eat the dogma and ask for more, in fact very few of them do, they are called moderates i.e. sane people who see that just because the book says it doesn't mean it must be so. But that doesn't change the fact that if you believed in the inerrancy of your scripture, fundamentalism, obeying the preist is part of the bag. You are making stupid generalizations and straw men. Not all muslims suicide bomb because most muslims are not fundamentalist. I never asserted anything to the contrary. And you also confuse the issue further. I'm talking about the idea of the religion, the core of it and you are talking about psychology. Both are good arguments, but they aren't compatible because they are different things.

To say that religious people don't follow like sheep is valid and a wonderful reality in this world. But that doesn't change the fact that the scripture tells them they should. Did Abraham question God when he was told to murder his son? No, but most christians would question under those circumstances and that's a good thing. But I'm talking about christianity, not christian people.

Obviously most people are smart enough to see through religious propaganda same as with fascist. But since the fascist does not call upon anything supernatural, the idea is behold to reason, it must be. Just because the fascist prays upon people's psychological capability to be totally irrational, even without the supernatural doesn't mean that the idea itself is not still beholden to reason. Communism CAN be disproved. Christianity or Islam can NOT be disproved, even if fanatics of either flavor both think that it cannot. The simple fact that fascist propaganda can be disproved and that religious propaganda cannot remains. If you want to talk psychology, that's a whole different subject.
posted by Farengast at 1:40 PM on December 12, 2005


which dictates that everyone goes to heaven no matter when they die

That violates the doctrine of God's immanence.
posted by konolia at 1:43 PM on December 12, 2005


Farengast: what I don't get is how racism or imperialism or colonialism or nationalism or mass hysteria could be construted as a logical "good" reason for killing anybody.
And, tyranny doesn't quite work in the "ask to defend my ideology" either, it imposes it through coercion, repression and brainwashing.

You can't tell any fanatic that he's wrong. That's the point.

Religion doesn't have an exclusive on fanaticism and brainwashing. And viceversa.

It doesn't matter what people are fanatic about. God, country, family, blood and soil, patriotism, race, greed, military expansionism, supremacism, all are things you can get fanatic and tyrannical about. The degree of fanaticism is not predicated on the kind of belief.
Just look at the whole of history.
posted by funambulist at 1:49 PM on December 12, 2005


konolia, that's like saying some of your best Jews are friends. Touching that. And mighty white of you.
posted by bardic at 1:51 PM on December 12, 2005


Funambulist, that is true, but as I stated above, it's a phenomenon of human psychology and nothing to do with the ideas themselves. You can brainwash someone to believe something MUST be true, it's human nature. But religion is built upon that idea. It demands this kind of brainwashing. We are going in circles now. The end result is the same, the fanaticism is the same. But the ideas are not. One is disprovable, the other is not. The fact that people can be made to confuse the two says nothing about the differences between the two. Judeo-Christian religions demand this kind of brainwashing and most people are right thinking enough not to submit to it. Whereas government does not demand brainwashing at all, and only stoops to it in its most perverted forms. Comparing a system where most people remain good by ignoring some rules to a system where the rules are good and the exceptions are bad and unilaterally equating them is, to me, pretty silly.
posted by Farengast at 1:58 PM on December 12, 2005


"Not all muslims suicide bomb because most muslims are not fundamentalist."

Not all fundamentalists are suicide bombers. Please stop making me point out the holes in your poorly constructed argument. Not all suicide bombers are fundamentalists. See, it's just so hard to take you seriously when you're spouting off without a whit of support. Especially when the discussion is about rational supports.

"But that doesn't change the fact that if you believed in the inerrancy of your scripture, fundamentalism, obeying the preist is part of the bag."

Bzzzt. That's the wrong buzzer. It goes off every time you're wrong. How about this: there are "fundamentalists" who believe that knowing the Bible comes from personal reflection, and therefore eschew religious heirarchies while still believing the Bible inerrant.

"But that doesn't change the fact that the scripture tells them they should."

Bzzzt. What chapter and verse says that people must follow their priest like sheep? Note: Priest, not Jesus. Here's another crimp— you can make a serious argument that Jesus's opposition to entrenched Jewish heirarchies can be seen, even through a fundamentalist view, to reject the argument of religious dogma.

"Did Abraham question God when he was told to murder his son? No, but most christians would question under those circumstances and that's a good thing. But I'm talking about christianity, not christian people."

Do you even know The Bible? You're talking about Abraham, who's in the Old Testament. Like, Judeasm. Further, read Fear and Trembling by Keirkegaard for a disection of the "teleological suspension of the ethical."


"Obviously most people are smart enough to see through religious propaganda same as with fascist. But since the fascist does not call upon anything supernatural, the idea is behold to reason, it must be. Just because the fascist prays upon people's psychological capability to be totally irrational, even without the supernatural doesn't mean that the idea itself is not still beholden to reason. Communism CAN be disproved. Christianity or Islam can NOT be disproved, even if fanatics of either flavor both think that it cannot. The simple fact that fascist propaganda can be disproved and that religious propaganda cannot remains. If you want to talk psychology, that's a whole different subject."

Now you're just incoherently asserting things. Admit that here you're a diner, and you just got served.
Communism, based on Marx, cannot be disproven as such (especially not with the ideological requirement of "class consciousness"). Know why? Because it's based on predictions that are tautological. According to Marx, global communist revolution will occur after capitalism has failed. If they have not yet occured, capitalism has not yet failed. See?
Further, ideologies cannot be "disproven." It's time for you to stop simply declaring that anything you disagree with is a "stupid generalization or straw man" and just admit that you have no fucking clue with regard to political science or religion. It's OK. It'll save me from having to be condescending further, and that'll ake us both happy.
posted by klangklangston at 2:02 PM on December 12, 2005


What chapter and verse says that people must follow their priest like sheep?

A lot of Paul's letters, although using different terms.
posted by bardic at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2005


And mighty white of you.

Funny how you assume I am white.

(Well, I am-but you cannot tell by my writing.)

Just so you know all the original Christians were Jewish. You knew that, right?

Anyway, why not let each individual Jew decide how she or he feels about what I write... they are perfectly able to have their own opinion about it without outside help. Let's not assume anything about anyone.
posted by konolia at 2:12 PM on December 12, 2005


We are going in circles now. The end result is the same, the fanaticism is the same. But the ideas are not.

Farengast, claiming the Jews were about to take over German economy with their evil communist masonic conspiracy was ALSO disprovable and utterly irrational, an appeal to paranoia and racism, not to LOGIC. But it had nothing to do with religion.

And the end result is what matters really when talking of violence, oppression, etc. because when someone tortures you it doesn't really matter why they do it, does it?

Judeo-Christian religions demand this kind of brainwashing and most people are right thinking enough not to submit to it.

Wait a sec here. Judeo-Christian religions in which sense? All of Judaism plus all of Christianity, ie. all Christian denominations and groups worldwide including those not fanatical at all? And what about the other religions?

Whereas government does not demand brainwashing at all

Erm, that's very optimistic of you.

I don't understand the last part of your comment...
posted by funambulist at 2:15 PM on December 12, 2005


Farengast, you're making a lot of big, baseless assertions and not offering any sort of basis for these assertions. Saying suicide bombers kill people "because of religion" and then responding "of course not all Muslims are sucide bombers" --this is irrational. Your desire to explain away all sorts of bad behaviors "because of religion" is simplistic. And from a logical perspective any such algebraic argument isn't going to get you very far---unless you've got some inside information and can now conclusively demonstrate that the followers of a certain creed have in fact done more "bad" in th world, than good.

Some of the shit I read on there makes my blood run cold, especially stories about atheist children coming out to Christian families.

This is what I mean when I say that such "Secular Lifestyle" crap is stupid. Let's see: (1) Being Atheist in highly religious area -> (2) Leads to being persecuted for one's beliefs -> (3) Leads to the belief that "Religion" is wrong. Huh? Where is the sense in this chain of thought? The logical conclusion to (1,2) would be to say that '(3) intolerance is bad' and leave it at that. Why the focus on Christianity/Religion? And do you even realize how perilous the claim that Christianity and Islam are two components of the same global ideology, Religion, really is? Are you trying to say Religion, in itself, is fundamentally intolerant? Good luck trying to prove that. History is already against such a position and provides a lot of counter-examples. This attempt to pass judgement on Religion With a Capital R and promote a "Secular Lifestyle" is just poor intellectual posturing.

There is all types of nonsense going on at that board. Reading that board I just see a lot of sloppy, young(?) thinkers who wish to transform their lack of faith into some sort of positive socio-cultural value. Maybe they all just want to belong to a community so they establish a myth where it's them, the few, brave non-believers, against "the believers" (99% of the world!) etc. Worse, very few of them seem to even to be willing to directly contemplate the total absurdity of their claim--"Atheists are morally superior"--without falling back to vague catchphrases.

There's just not a lot of critical thinking going on over there. In fact, judging by this article, there's very little critical thinking going on anywhere in the Secular Land.

Icame to that conclusion when he implied that considering the Easter Bunny any different from a religious belief was an unsupported assertion.

Who is this argument compelling to? Not religious people because, as I noted earlier, religious people have been defending themselves against this argument for thousands of years. Usually, though, it wasn't made by atheists it was made by other religious people. The reason I said the argument doesn't work is because it possesses no persuasive power. If you tell a devoutly religious person to stop believing in fairy tales they will just get pissed off and ignore you. End of story.

But there is, in fact, a much deeper problem with this line of argument. This argument--that to believe in fairy tales is somehow a "moral failing"--is nothing but the old modernistic argument that (scentific) truth is a Always a Good Thing (tm). This, in itself, is a fairy tale. This is why the (2) argument falls apart. Modernity itself--with its uncritical esteem of the Truth and Science--does not live up to its own standards. And when it comes to cultural values you cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. The question of whether God actually exists is actually completely irrelevant to the ethical question of whether one should believe in God.

The "But God isn't real!" line of attack against religions is actually a total waste of time. Have no doubt that even if you magically could convince them that God wasn't real they'd quickly find something else to worship. Again, it's nothing but your own prejudice that makes you think the problem here is Religion with a Capital R.
posted by nixerman at 2:16 PM on December 12, 2005


klang - you are being needlessly personal when refuting farengast. I also believe you are not reading close enough what s/he is saying. It makes perfect sense to me, perhaps I am not viewing it through the lens of what seems to have become a personal argument.
posted by longbaugh at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2005


First of all, the Christian bible includes the old testament along with the new. Do you even know The Bible? And I've read Keirkegaard's work on the subject. I understand that Abraham is not absolved of ethical responcibility just by listening to god. But is Keirkegaard in the Christian canon? Do priests tell follows with questions to go read Keirkegaard? No, of course not. The Christian interpretation of the story of Abraham is that god tested his faith and obediance. I know, better of course (I've read Keirkegaard like some other snooty poster...) but the Christian interpretation is what's germain to this discussion. And as such I suggested (rightfully so) that the bible says that adherents must follow the word of god like sheep. If you understood otherwise I was probably not being clear. So is it any better to you that people would unquestioningly follow a voice in their head instead of a preist? That thought doesn't comfort me much.

As for communism being unprovable... You don't have to. If it's based on tautological assertions than it disproves itself. It seems to not be disprovable because in actuality it is not self-consistant. Thus is the way of tautology.

Further, ideologies cannot be "disproven." Like how about an example? Like one that actually works? The ideology that the US was founded on christian ideals... easily disproven. The ideology that gay marriage is bad for society? Easily disproven. The ideology that gay marriage is an abomination before the lord? Can't disprove it. And why?..... because it's religion.
posted by Farengast at 2:25 PM on December 12, 2005


This individual Jew/atheist finds the entire program of Evangelical Christianity "completing" Jewish people (as if one is not whole until you've been handed the New Testament, told to only follow the stuff that makes you ostracize and demonize those that don't think like you do, and forget about all that stuff about wealth and slavery, oh yeah and make sure you remember that the separation of church and state was just a G*dless plot by the ACLU, Communists and homosexuals) as offensive as fundamentalists of ANY stripe who attempt to control other people through hatred, fear and "magic."

But that's just me.
posted by ltracey at 2:26 PM on December 12, 2005


Funambulist. I was talking about the Judeo-christian scriptures. ie. new/old testament and the Koran. Those religions as practiced may not demand brainwashing, the scripture does. In fact the word Islam comes from the word meaning "to submit" as in to submit yourself to the will of god. Thankfully most churches don't practice this and ask people to kill their children to make sure they are "one of the crowd" but I'm talking about the rule book. Religious leaders may not always follow the rule book, and I'm glad they don't. As for governments not demanding brainwashing... they demand agreement, activley or implicityly through apathy. I find that a far cry from brainwashing. 1984 was about brainwashing, it wasn't enough to kill the dissenters, they had to be forced to believe. And even corrupt and despicable governments rarely stoop to that level. They just disregard the dissent and force obedience despite dissent.
posted by Farengast at 2:30 PM on December 12, 2005


This is what I mean when I say that such "Secular Lifestyle" crap is stupid. Let's see: (1) Being Atheist in highly religious area -> (2) Leads to being persecuted for one's beliefs -> (3) Leads to the belief that "Religion" is wrong. Huh? Where is the sense in this chain of thought?

It may be a senseless chain of thought but it must be yours because it didn't come from any of the posts on there that I've read.

Religion is wrong, of course, (because it is primitive myth taken literally by goofballs) but the fact that non-believers in the bible belt feel abused and ostracized is a completely separate issue. They're not atheists because christians are assholes to them - christians are assholes to them ecause they're atheists. Capisce?

The rest of this I'll just deal with as a back and forth about atheism vs religion, rather than having anything to do with the IIDB forums.

The logical conclusion to (1,2) would be to say that '(3) intolerance is bad' and leave it at that. Why the focus on Christianity/Religion? And do you even realize how perilous the claim that Christianity and Islam are two components of the same global ideology, Religion, really is? Are you trying to say Religion, in itself, is fundamentally intolerant? Good luck trying to prove that. History is already against such a position and provides a lot of counter-examples.

I don't know how we'd even begin to quantify the historical balance sheet of religion leading to good or evil, so I'll just point out that judeo-christian religuions are manifestly, demonstrably incorrect, irrational and reprehensible out of the box simply based on the content of their foundational texts.

This attempt to pass judgement on Religion With a Capital R and promote a "Secular Lifestyle" is just poor intellectual posturing.

Well, no. It's a long overdue attempt by some people to openly call bullshit on bullshit.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:41 PM on December 12, 2005


Who is this argument compelling to?

People with brains in their fucking heads, troll.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:44 PM on December 12, 2005


Longbaugh: He started off by calling my statements "stupid." I've got no problem pointing out that he's out of his depth.

"Further, ideologies cannot be "disproven." Like how about an example? Like one that actually works? The ideology that the US was founded on christian ideals... easily disproven. The ideology that gay marriage is bad for society? Easily disproven. The ideology that gay marriage is an abomination before the lord? Can't disprove it. And why?..... because it's religion."

Wrong. Ideology is not the same as idea. The dictionary? It might be your friend.

"The Christian interpretation of the story of Abraham is that god tested his faith and obediance. I know, better of course (I've read Keirkegaard like some other snooty poster...) but the Christian interpretation is what's germain to this discussion."

Keirkegaard was a Christian.

"As for communism being unprovable... You don't have to. If it's based on tautological assertions than it disproves itself. It seems to not be disprovable because in actuality it is not self-consistant. Thus is the way of tautology."

'Not self-consistent'? Do you know what a tautology is? Communism is built on faith, just as much as religion is.

"As for governments not demanding brainwashing... they demand agreement, activley or implicityly through apathy. I find that a far cry from brainwashing."

Because you're brainwashed.

God, why do you sound more and more like you're 15 the further this thread goes?
posted by klangklangston at 2:49 PM on December 12, 2005


"I don't know how we'd even begin to quantify the historical balance sheet of religion leading to good or evil, so I'll just point out that judeo-christian religuions are manifestly, demonstrably incorrect, irrational and reprehensible out of the box simply based on the content of their foundational texts."

AS asserted by you. Zealot, your fortress isn't as strong as you believe.
posted by klangklangston at 2:51 PM on December 12, 2005


fleetmouse, you're just revealing your prejudice more and more as the thread goes on. Do you realize how silly it is to call an interpretation of a text--particularly texts expressly designed to be interpreted like the Bible--irrational?

Being an atheist doesn't give you permission to make such sloppy arguments. If you're going to really argue against Religion--heck, if you're even going to assert that it's possible to argue against such an abstract entity--you need to take the time and do it right. Otherwise you're no better than they are. Really.

As I've said before, there is a truly compelling argument against the abuse of religious power and it's based soley on the notion of "freedom of conscience." You and all your "atheist brethren" would do well to pursue that line of thinking rather than persist with this 'Religion is a fairy tale!' (well, duh) nonsense.

As for the 'Secular Lifestyle'--it's crap. I won't even discuss it anymore because it's not even interesting crap. I'll look for you guys on late night cable tv.
posted by nixerman at 2:59 PM on December 12, 2005


God, why do you sound more and more like you're 15 the further this thread goes?

Beats you by about twelve years, though.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:15 PM on December 12, 2005


Those religions as practiced may not demand brainwashing, the scripture does.

But "the scripture" is nothing but texts written by other humans before the ones that are practicing and preaching that religion today. It's not something separate on another level of existence. It is all practice, it is all interpretation, and it changes in different periods of time. You're kind of validating a literalist position if you say "the scripture brainwashes" anyone. It's just a book. It's precisely how people read it that matters.

Sorry to insist, Farengast, but I just don't see the point of making huge generalisations about all religion or arguing with the existence of religion itself (other than at a philosophical level, that's another matter) because wether you like it or not, neither organised religions nor the human yearning for something trascendent are going away any time soon.

But they can change their manifestations.

Lots of beliefs that were justified centuries ago went away already. It's been done before. All the time. This is not the dawning of the age of religious reformations and secular rebellions against theocracy.

If you want to remove all religion rather than the harmful manifestations of it, you're just taking a totally defeatist, useless stance. It's not even political, because it cannot translate into political discourse or action.

Which do you think you can live with better - people who believe in a divinity and have religious traditions but do not consider those a basis for laws and social organisation - ie. religious people who happily coexist with non-religious poeple in a secular society (yes! it's possible!) -, or people who want creationism in school and religious laws and religious wars and the like?

When in France they had the debate over the laws banning headscarves and religious symbols (and separatism) in schools, did they bother with arguments on the existence of God, or did they get to the actual specific matter?

In Spain, did the Zapatero government decree all religion is a bunch of crap, or did they set out to pass laws that, though displeasing the Church and their more conservative followers, did get significant consent?

That's what I meant by picking your targets.

And even corrupt and despicable governments rarely stoop to that level.

Err, sorry, that's just not true. There's all kinds of governments and propaganda and brainwashing can be used even in democracies, nevermind in totally corrupt and despicable regimes.
posted by funambulist at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2005


fleetmouse, you're just revealing your prejudice more and more as the thread goes on. Do you realize how silly it is to call an interpretation of a text--particularly texts expressly designed to be interpreted like the Bible--irrational?

Being an atheist doesn't give you permission to make such sloppy arguments. If you're going to really argue against Religion--heck, if you're even going to assert that it's possible to argue against such an abstract entity--you need to take the time and do it right. Otherwise you're no better than they are. Really.

As I've said before, there is a truly compelling argument against the abuse of religious power and it's based soley on the notion of "freedom of conscience." You and all your "atheist brethren" would do well to pursue that line of thinking rather than persist with this 'Religion is a fairy tale!' (well, duh) nonsense.

As for the 'Secular Lifestyle'--it's crap. I won't even discuss it anymore because it's not even interesting crap. I'll look for you guys on late night cable tv.


OK, so far you've called me prejudiced, silly, sloppy, no better than they are, prone to nonsense and called a support forum crap. Do you expect me to try to rebut any of that? How? By mooning you?

The only point you make that's worth taking up, and it's a good one, is freedom of conscience. But if my conscience tells me that two consenting adults men should be free to play with each other's neenurs, and your conscience tells you that they should be stoned to death, what do we do?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:17 PM on December 12, 2005


AS asserted by you. Zealot, your fortress isn't as strong as you believe.

Thanks to the reformation you're as free to read a bible and see for yourself as I am.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:20 PM on December 12, 2005


We stone you for calling them "neeners."
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:20 PM on December 12, 2005


Oh, wait - you said "neenurs." Carry on.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:21 PM on December 12, 2005


Did I say neenurs? I meant filth-sticks.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:23 PM on December 12, 2005


Also I think religion is icky because it puts humans in a dominance-submission relationship with their own works of fiction kthxbye
posted by fleetmouse at 3:31 PM on December 12, 2005


Wrong. Ideology is not the same as idea. The dictionary? It might be your friend.

Here's the definition. And it IS my friend, because it's totally consistant with what I have said.

1. The body of ideas reflecting the social needs and aspirations of an individual, group, class, or culture.
2. A set of doctrines or beliefs that form the basis of a political, economic, or other system.

Well the first one isn't because the first one is about people's wants. Obviously you can't disprove that someone likes ice cream or hates black people. Though you can easily disprove anyones given reason for hating black people, unless it happens to be that they just hate them for no reason, a faith position. And if you are aruging that people mass murder just because they want to, then I don't even know what we are talking about anymore. The second definition is excatly as I would expect and easily leads to disprovability. So while it is true you can't disprove that someone thinks a certain way, you CAN disprove their reasons for thinking it, unless it's a faith position, like religion or hating black people "just because".

Keirkegaard was a Christian.

So he is automatically inducted into the christian canon of biblical truth? That's not making any sense.

'Not self-consistent'? Do you know what a tautology is? Communism is built on faith, just as much as religion is.
here's another definition for you. "Tautology- An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false." This definition has nothing to do with faith. I don't know much about the specifics are marxism so I trusted you that it was based on tautology, and my conclusion stands based on that. But now you say that communism is a faith position, like a religion? That has nothing to do with tautology, and everything to do with the fact that you've been making my argument for me and I just didn't know enough details of communism to know it. You spent this whole time telling me that communism was fundamentally the same as a religion even though it wasn't religion. I said that it behaved like religions but that the fundamental idea was disprovable so it had to be different. But if you now claim that communism is a faith position, then your whole argument up to here falls apart. How is communism indicative of secular fanatacism being identical in every way to religious fanatcism when you just told me that it is religious in nature? So communism is a religion and you now have no examples of secular regimes built on non-disproveable ideas. Funambulist made a better attempt when asking about the disproveability of the idea that Jews were going to take over the german economy. But that is totally disprovable too. You can't disprove that Jews are capable of this, but you can easily show that there is no evidence that it is hapening or likely to happen. It's POSSIBLE that Iraq could get WMD's, that's not disprovable. But it IS disproveable that they are likely to get them soon, that they are trying to get them.

Because you're brainwashed.

Now you're just incoherently asserting things. enough said about that.

Longbaugh: He started off by calling my statements "stupid." I've got no problem pointing out that he's out of his depth.


I said nothing about your statements being stupid before you said this. "Farengast: You may know a lot about physics, but you know dick about totalitarianism. " You may have noticed that It's Raining Florence Henderson and I had a perfectly amicable discussion, much like this one where we agreed for the most part and differed in the details. I think it's because he didn't open the dialog with asinine and hostile attacks. You lamented the immature nature of this thread... You CREATED the immature nature of this recent thread. Try elevating the level of discussion for once. I'm sick of trying to do it all myself and that's the only reason why this paragraph is here.
posted by Farengast at 3:31 PM on December 12, 2005


funambulist, I agree with you pretty much totally. I was trying to hold a nice abstract discussion about the details of this facet of religion. I've posted plenty already and it should be obivous that I don't hate religious people and am not calling for a new atheist order. I agree that bickering over the details of scripture when real religion is so much more is pretty silly, but we all agreed about the other stuff, you have to keep digging until you find something to argue about after all, otherwise what is Metafilter good for? :)

I understand that it makes no difference what the bible says, only what those who cherish it do. And there is still plenty to complain about in that regard, Pat Robertson would be Baker Acted if people took him seriously... but if we all just said, "Yup, some people are crazy, it sucks." then there'd be no discussion. I happen to enjoy these abstract, totally irrelevant discussions, and as noted, I had a perfectly lovely one with It's Raining...

And I appreciate your mature tone in making good points. I can't think of another here with a less mature tone but I think we ALL get the idea.
posted by Farengast at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2005


Oops. That's CAN think of another... sorry.
posted by Farengast at 3:41 PM on December 12, 2005


you have to keep digging until you find something to argue about after all, otherwise what is Metafilter good for? :)

Ah! Farengast, you tricked me! tsk tsk...

Ok then let's find something else to argue about now...
posted by funambulist at 3:53 PM on December 12, 2005


Ok then let's find something else to argue about now...

Agreed. This discussion zipped past stupid about 30 miles ago.
posted by Farengast at 3:57 PM on December 12, 2005


I like Farengast. At least he isn't a dick while trying to discuss a point of view. Thanks, Farengast. I really enjoyed your comments.
posted by terrapin at 4:11 PM on December 12, 2005


Thanks terrapin, I do try to be civil. Sometimes i get caught up, but mostly I try to speak to the argument and avoid personal attacks. But if the argument is poor than I will say so, though never about the person, just the argument.
posted by Farengast at 4:30 PM on December 12, 2005


As for the self-rigteousness that only a religious person can muster, you find me a quote from any atheist on this or any thread about how religious people are going to hell, or will be punished supernaturally.

If you don't think it's arrogant (and self-righteous) to pronounce that everyone who disagrees with you about a particular topic is an idiot, then you're an idiot too. And, by the way, I never claimed that I wasn't arrogant.

As far as "ask a physicist" all you'd need to do is ask a highschool physics student. Newton is a valid aproximation, it still 'works' but it's not true and if it's not true it's false, and if it's false it's disproven.
posted by delmoi at 4:47 PM on December 12, 2005


And as jsonic noted, it's a false equivalency to suggest that rabid religious people, with intractable beliefs and dogmatic, often personally destructive or violent morals ("teh gays! teh western infidels!") are no worse than dogmatic rationalists, who are tired of fantasy-land infecting politics to the detriment of people's lives.

Yes, but the answer is diffrent if the question isn't "whos doing more harm to the world" but "Who'd more irritating on metafilter."

Anyway, I would hate to live in a world run by Ayn Rand worshiping objectivists *shudder*. They claim to be Athiests, even though I think they're not really.
posted by delmoi at 4:59 PM on December 12, 2005


If you don't think it's arrogant (and self-righteous) to pronounce that everyone who disagrees with you about a particular topic is an idiot, then you're an idiot too. And, by the way, I never claimed that I wasn't arrogant.

Parse my sytax, man. I never said that atheists weren't self-rigteous, or even that religous people are MORE self-rigteous. I simply asserted that a religious person is capable of a degree of self-rigteousness that an atheist is by definition incapable of.

Newton is a valid aproximation, it still 'works' but it's not true and if it's not true it's false, and if it's false it's disproven.

You forget that nothing in science is ever "true". We work in shades of approximation, always. Science is never more true or more accurate than the measurements and observations on which it is based. Newton is as "true" as science can be in the bounds which he worked, Einstein dug deeper and found that Newton is built on something unexpected. Something that works differently at the edges which Newton couldn't see. Newton's work is built on reletivity without knowing it. Thus it is true within the boundaries of Newton's work. It is true for science. So you found an ocean at the edge of your continent? Does that mean that the dessert you passed at the middle isn't there anymore?

There is a reason why I told you to ask a physicist... because highschoolers misunderstand this frequently as do people like you. You need a greater insigt into science and what makes it tick to know what I mean. But if asking highschoolers is a strategy that works for you... be my guest. I'm just glad that highschoolers never taught any of my physics classes, or history of science classes for that matter.
posted by Farengast at 5:03 PM on December 12, 2005


delmoi--That's way off re: Newtonian physics. Newton was never proved wrong as much as the quantum model was found to have better predictive power at the atomic scale. From a pragmatic standpoint, Newton is actually "better" than the latter model in terms of application to "real world" situations.

Although he has critics, I think many scientists would agree with Kuhn that scientific paradigms are rarely refuted as much as they fall out of fashion. Newton's theory will continue to decline in theoretical circles, but it's "true enough" for 90% of humanity's needs.

And then there's the fact that much of quantum mechanics is based on uncertainty. It's "correct" in a sense, but I'd hesitate to say it's "true" at the expense of classical physics, at least until new explanatory paradigms emerge.
posted by bardic at 5:05 PM on December 12, 2005


Thanks, Farengast. I really enjoyed your comments.

Ditto.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:27 PM on December 12, 2005


The majority of this thread completely reaffirms my inherent belief that people suck and should be avoided at all costs.
posted by nightchrome at 5:30 PM on December 12, 2005


Exactly - I was a lot like some of the posters who decry loudmouthed atheism until I realized how bad it was for my infidel brethren and sistren in other parts of the world.

Being an obnoxious jerk isn't going to help those people.

Right. But they did kill millions of people in China and Russia. And in China, still do kill people for religious beliefs.

Millions of people starved during the Great Leap Forward, but that was because of incompetence, not malice.

Also, Farengast is a moron seriously unable to comprehend even the simplest arguments.
posted by delmoi at 5:31 PM on December 12, 2005


Whoah. I just got the bottom. That was one hell of a thread. Klangklangston - overreaction for the loss! Not to worry, in my head, you're still my little honeychops. Pretty much everyone else - good going. There was some great food for thought from Florence H, pushing Farengast, who shares my default position, to refine and explicate his. I considered some new perspectives here which is all you can really hope for in such a thread.

Plus, it beats the hell out of actual work.
posted by Sparx at 5:38 PM on December 12, 2005


Also, Farengast is a moron seriously unable to comprehend even the simplest arguments.

Gee, that was totally unnecessary. And I have to disagree.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2005


Thanks, Ludwig_Van, I do what I can.

Delmoi, you aren't making any friends, man. If you comprehend things so well why don't you go get yourself a degree in physics and then we can talk Newton and Einstein on proper terms. If all you've got is Discover magazine, then what you've got is an illusion. Magzines like Discover constantly trump up the "revolution" factor in new science because it makes it seem more important and sell better on the cover. However, Bardic's reference to Khun is totally appropriate, it is very rare that existing science is actually overturned. This only happens when science is done poorly, like much of what could be called science before Galileo, or when people are too hasty in declaring theory fact. If string theory was disproven, it wouldn't overturn any science. No one has proven string theory through experiment. It would simply overturn some people's ideas of what nature is like. Science is based in experiment, Newton practiced good science. His experiments were and are still valid. Einstein discovered something more fundamental, Newton's work doesn't all of a sudden become invalid because he is off by .000000000000000000000001 in his measurements. Because he was already off by way more than that to start with! It's the nature of experiment!

It's called science and until you practice it yourself, I'm sick of listening to you bleat on about it. Have you noticed that you are one of the only people in this thread who is consistantly an obnoxious jerk like the ones you've been bitching about this whole time? Guess what, delmoi. They all left and you are still here. Guess who's the only jackass still on this thread. You are talking nonsense and it's only making you look like as ass. Why don't you try READING the Principia..... damnit.
posted by Farengast at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2005


Sparx: "It beats the hell out of actual work."

Amen to that, brother. Amen to that!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:44 PM on December 12, 2005


Farengast: You forget that nothing in science is ever "true". We work in shades of approximation, always. Science is never more true or more accurate than the measurements and observations on which it is based.

Delmoi: Also, Farengast is a moron seriously unable to comprehend even the simplest arguments


Delmoi: Well, he totally aced you there. Or pwnd3d or whatever those damn kinds burnt onto my lawn.
posted by Sparx at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2005


Being an obnoxious jerk isn't going to help those people.

I can't think of a religion aside from Taoism and Buddhism (which are eastern flavors of naturalistic pantheism and atheism, respectively) that isn't as baroquely absurd and risible as Scientology, once you start picking it apart. If pointing that out makes me an obnoxious jerk in your eyes then there's something wrong with you, not me.
posted by fleetmouse at 5:58 PM on December 12, 2005


pwnded. HA HA HA. That reminds me of when we pwn3d that commet!
posted by Farengast at 6:02 PM on December 12, 2005


Is this the part of the thread where we insert pictures of mushrooms?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:12 PM on December 12, 2005


Go ahead, it's the right environment.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:14 PM on December 12, 2005


Do you have any pictures of mushrooms? I ran out yesterday.
posted by Farengast at 6:14 PM on December 12, 2005


Only try to remember: there is no mushroom.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:17 PM on December 12, 2005


Is that assertion provable? What if the purple hippo eats it? Then does it disappear or simply become "not there"?
posted by Farengast at 6:23 PM on December 12, 2005


I am reminded of that line from Naked Lunch:

Mmmmmm, that's my rich substance


posted by fleetmouse at 6:30 PM on December 12, 2005


Somebody posted a pic of mushrooms... this thread is over. Goodnight!
posted by Farengast at 6:32 PM on December 12, 2005


I'm working on a novel where the hero is a mugger. He walks up to people and asks "Do you think everything happens for a reason" if they say yes he robs them.

keep that day job.
posted by quonsar at 6:34 PM on December 12, 2005


Actually quonsar that sounds like the kind of thing Robert Sheckley would write. Admittedly it'd probably be a short story and not a novel though... but it might be a good idea for a story.

Anyhow.

:wanders off into night whistling the original Kolchak theme:
posted by fleetmouse at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2005


G'night mushroom.
G'night moon.
G'night purple (or green) hippo on the other side
see you soon!
posted by terrapin at 6:40 PM on December 12, 2005


I asked a serious question!
posted by mcsweetie at 7:43 PM on December 12, 2005


And therein lay your first mistake...
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:18 PM on December 12, 2005


This is a strange place, and extraordinary place, and interesting. There is nothing resembling it at home. The people are all insane, the other animals are all insane, the earth is insane, Nature itself is insane. Man is a marvelous curiosity. When he is at his very very best he is a sort of low grade nickel-plated angel; at is worst he is unspeakable, unimaginable; and first and last and all the time he is a sarcasm. Yet he blandly and in all sincerity calls himself the "noblest work of God." This is the truth I am telling you. And this is not a new idea with him, he has talked it through all the ages, and believed it. Believed it, and found nobody among all his race to laugh at it.

Moreover -- if I may put another strain upon you -- he thinks he is the Creator's pet. He believes the Creator is proud of him; he even believes the Creator loves him; has a passion for him; sits up nights to admire him; yes, and watch over him and keep him out of trouble. He prays to Him, and thinks He listens. Isn't it a quaint idea? Fills his prayers with crude and bald and florid flatteries of Him, and thinks He sits and purrs over these extravagancies and enjoys them. He prays for help, and favor, and protection, every day; and does it with hopefulness and confidence, too, although no prayer of his has ever been answered. The daily affront, the daily defeat, do not discourage him, he goes on praying just the same. There is something almost fine about this perseverance. I must put one more strain upon you: he thinks he is going to heaven!

He has salaried teachers who tell him that. They also tell him there is a hell, of everlasting fire, and that he will go to it if he doesn't keep the Commandments. What are Commandments? They are a curiosity. I will tell you about them by and by.
posted by nola at 9:08 PM on December 12, 2005 [1 favorite]


nice
posted by scarabic at 9:58 PM on December 12, 2005


wow - now I'm actually glad I clicked this thread.

double-nice, treble if you consider the odds against...
posted by scarabic at 9:58 PM on December 12, 2005


"Well the first one isn't because the first one is about people's wants. Obviously you can't disprove that someone likes ice cream or hates black people."

Sorry. You still don't get it. An ideology is a structure in which people concieve, a framework through which they view things. You've misconstrued the first definition, as well as the second: you cannot disprove beliefs. Just like you can't disprove opinions.

"So he is automatically inducted into the christian canon of biblical truth? That's not making any sense."

When you say that "The Christian interpretation of Abraham was..." and then don't recognize that CHRISTIANS DIFFER ON THE INTERPRETATION while discussing a Christian who differed, I can't be held accountable for your lack of comprehension.

"here's another definition for you. "Tautology- An empty or vacuous statement composed of simpler statements in a fashion that makes it logically true whether the simpler statements are factually true or false." This definition has nothing to do with faith. I don't know much about the specifics are marxism so I trusted you that it was based on tautology, and my conclusion stands based on that. But now you say that communism is a faith position, like a religion? That has nothing to do with tautology, and everything to do with the fact that you've been making my argument for me and I just didn't know enough details of communism to know it. You spent this whole time telling me that communism was fundamentally the same as a religion even though it wasn't religion. I said that it behaved like religions but that the fundamental idea was disprovable so it had to be different. But if you now claim that communism is a faith position, then your whole argument up to here falls apart. How is communism indicative of secular fanatacism being identical in every way to religious fanatcism when you just told me that it is religious in nature? So communism is a religion and you now have no examples of secular regimes built on non-disproveable ideas."

It's not my fault you're ignorant of one of the central political theories of the last 200 years. And, while I explained it above, maybe you were too busy masturbating your atheist claims of rationality to get it:

One of Communism's (and Fascism's) central ideas was that it is a theory of scientific economics. With regard to past analysis, Marxism (and by extention Communism, though they're not the same thing) works great. It explains a lot of conflicts and actions that otherwise seem random. But as far as future predictions, Marxism comes to a point where it says that there will be a world Communist revolution when the conditions are right, and goes on to specify those conditions (to some extent). Those conditions have yet to be met, and it's arguable that they might never be met, but they'e sufficiently vague that there is always the possibility of them being true in the future. At any point where Communism is attemted and failed, this does not disprove the theory of Communism, but rather simply proves that the conditions were not yet right for its success. This is the central tautology: Communism will succeed when the conditions for its success are met; Communism will fail until the conditions for its success are met. This can neither be proven nor disproven. It is logically true, but vacuous.

You have conflated this with a statement on faith, which is that "Communism is built on faith as much as religion is." The faith in Communism is that the revolution will come when the conditions are right, and that the end point of Communism is what Marx et al. have predicted: a classless society and the end of history. It is a secular movement, avowedly so, but you insist on confusing faith with religion. Mostly out of laziness, I suspect, but possibly out of an inability to comprehend the difference. Which, I believe, shows that you haven't read your Hume, or at least have not even a cursory experience with epistomology. The faith that my fingers striking keys will convey a message is a secular faith, a faith without religion. My faith in cause and effect is a secular faith, a faith without religion. The faith of the Communists in leaders and interpreters of Marxist science is a secular faith.

The argument that secular faith and religious faith are somehow different, or that I have to present evidence of a movement that causes harm based on something that can be disproved stems from your bugaboos and mistaken beliefs, not my argument. My argument is that belief in God, positive or negative, is no predictor for moral behavior, nor great acts of cruelty, injustice or mass murder. Atheists are no better, despite your (and your supporters here) desperate attempts to claim so. And the converse of that is self-evident: Religious people, people of supernatural faith, are no worse. No matter what your third-rate Russell rehash says.

I know that Atheists are usually in the position of demanding proof from the faithful, and therefore you may simply be used ot asserting your views without any need for corroboration in fact or logic, but here the onus is on you: Show me that your Scotsman is the true one. Because wherever you assert that religion has caused harm, I'll simply say that was the folly of man, acting outside of the love of God. I realize that the converse, as Solid-one-love tried to prove, is that my examples of secular atrocity were not commited strictly for Atheism on its face (though certainly, at least in China, religion was explicitly banned and its practice was given to the masses as a reason for executions). But again, the Scotsman. If you concede that the propganda of the secular mislead and should not reflect on Atheism, you have to concede that the propoganda of the religous is similarly flawed.

Oh, and to end this: Again, you may be a physist, but you do know dick about totalitarianism. Feel free to admit it. Unless you want me to prove that the three predictors of Arendt aply equally to theocracies (which again removes your argument that they are somehow qualitatively different).
Or would you prefer that I keep the argument classical and refute your naive ideas on brainwashing with the doctrine of the Noble Lie?
Again, I may not know much about physics, but I've got a decent liberal arts education that I'm not afraid to bring to bear if you persist in making unsupported, ignorant claims. I'd expect the same from you should I confuse K with Avagadro's number.
posted by klangklangston at 10:03 PM on December 12, 2005



posted by fleetmouse at 10:24 PM on December 12, 2005


I've got a decent liberal arts education that I'm not afraid to bring to bear

Matt Damon could take you anyday. How you like 'dem apples!?
posted by jsonic at 11:16 PM on December 12, 2005


Not as much as he apparently likes sour grapes I'd say.
posted by longbaugh at 1:15 AM on December 13, 2005


No, klang, sorry but "the faith that my fingers striking keys will convey a message" is most definitely not "a secular faith", it is a physical act, cause and effect there is not a metaphysical proposition, it can be demonstrated, seen, touched. You click a button, you see a result. You have to admit, even more so if you're religious, that religious faith is not quite the same thing is it?

Where's the God button on my computer?

Fanaticism doesn't need religion, a point Farengast already acknowledged. Yes, you're right that "belief in God, positive or negative, is no predictor for moral behavior, nor great acts of cruelty, injustice or mass murder" , you can be fanatical about anything, and the harmful effects can be the same - we all seem to agree on that. But, though irrelevant to those effects, the nature of ideas does remain different. The fact you can get fanatical or tyrannical about anything doesn't mean everything is the same at the source, at philosophical level. In the end Farengast and I were just pointing out different sides of the same coin.

Besides, also reading his other comments from the start here, he didn't actually say being an atheist makes you a better person with higher morals. But standing by your ideas and views and considering them better as ideas is a prerequisite of any intellectual and/or political stance, and religion certainly is no exception... And at least he did manage to be passionate and lively about conveying his thoughts while remaining civil.
posted by funambulist at 2:36 AM on December 13, 2005


"No, klang, sorry but "the faith that my fingers striking keys will convey a message" is most definitely not "a secular faith", it is a physical act, cause and effect there is not a metaphysical proposition, it can be demonstrated, seen, touched. You click a button, you see a result. You have to admit, even more so if you're religious, that religious faith is not quite the same thing is it? "

Hi, I'm David Hume. Have we met? Cause and effect, at their most basic level, cannot be proven. Solipsism? Maybe, but I have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow, based on a high level of confidence in past results. I feel that there is a high probability. But is it absolutely provable? No.
posted by klangklangston at 5:55 AM on December 13, 2005


Oh, ok, so we need to consult Hume now to know if typing on a keyboard will produce a result on screen. Wow, I don't know how people who never studied philosophy manage to use computers at all. Then what, should we ask Kierkegaard if turning a key in a lock will open a door?

Look, klang, you chose a crappy example and are splitting hairs about the difference between provable or unprovable.

You don't "have faith" the sun will rise at the horizon tomorrow morning, you know that, because that is a natural observable phenomenon determined by the movement of planets. Hello, I'm Copernicus, have we met?

If the sun doesn't rise tomorrow, it's a fair bet to assume something is very wrong, like oh I dunno, the earth exploded and you wouldn't even be there to not-see the sun not-rising. But if God doesn't speak to you tomorrow, it's because you can never prove he spoke to you yesterday.

This is really silly.

I can't believe you can seriously compare religious faith with knowledge about natural events - without even realising that completely contradicts the claims of religion itself, ironically.
posted by funambulist at 6:39 AM on December 13, 2005


Um, funambulist, you cannot prove that the sun will rise tommorow. Nor can you prove that cause-and-effect is a property of the observable world. And, get this--you cannot even prove that it's you, in the sense of a unified self, hitting the keys on the keyboard. It's unfortunate that you aren't familiar with these basic philosophical concepts but it's understandable. What's really sad is that you don't seem to understand how science works. Go and read the Scientific Method very carefully. (Don't read the wikipedia article on it which is a total mess and very misleading.) As its properly formulated, you should come to see that nowhere in the scientific method is knowledge about the natural world created or discovered. Think carefully about this: science does not and cannot provide knowledge about natural events. At it's very best, science provides a description of a set of experiments/experiences--nothing more.

But standing by your ideas and views and considering them better as ideas is a prerequisite of any intellectual and/or political stance, and religion certainly is no exception...

Unfortunately, arguments cannot be based on convictions. If you go down this road, the "Religionists" will win every time. Farengast's basic claim--that there exists some sort of global ideology, Religion, that subsumes the Judeo-Christian world religions (and not any other religions!) and that this ideology is "responsible" for atrocities and is dangerous and should be eliminated--is silly. It's silly in precisely the same way McCarthism "Red Scare" is silly. And, like McCarthy, he makes a lot of grandoise claims and provides absolutely zero basis for these claims. His bit about why suicide bombers blow themselves up is almost tragic in its simplicity. Anybody who can look at a situation as complex as the Middle East and conclude that "Religion" is the problem is either a liar or looking at the world through some very warped glasses. What's unfortunate is that for a group of people so intent on "calling bullshit on fairy tales" you end spinning some pretty stupid fairy tales of your own.
posted by nixerman at 7:04 AM on December 13, 2005


Um, funambulist, you cannot prove that the sun will rise tommorow.

Hi, I'm induction. Have we met?
posted by fleetmouse at 7:32 AM on December 13, 2005


Um, funambulist, you cannot prove that the sun will rise tommorow. Nor can you prove that cause-and-effect is a property of the observable world. And, get this--you cannot even prove that it's you, in the sense of a unified self, hitting the keys on the keyboard.

Oh I see, now suddenly, after talking of religion and secular ideology and the harmful effects of fanaticism on society, then religion and typing on keyboards, we're in the rarefied air of the highest philosophical debates on what the meaning of "is" really "is". What a nice sleight of hand! a really great argument to use to try and "prove" (...) some equivalence between religious faith and knowledge of observable events such as the sun rising.

Oh, no, science doesn't provide knowledge, I forgot. Ordinary non-scientific observation doesn't, either. So, let me declare that I don't believe the sun actually rose this morning, or that my pulse is beating. I believe we're all dead, and this is hell, where tiresome sophistries are used to make spurious arguments to deny the obvious.


It's unfortunate that you aren't familiar with these basic philosophical concepts but it's understandable.

Eh, I know, I'm only a poor monkey typing away on the keyboard, or maybe I don't exist. You can't prove I am a unified self writing these words, therefore religion is exactly like any other idea, event, theory, etc. God is like the sun rising every morning. I'm sold.

Unfortunately, arguments cannot be based on convictions... McCarthy

Oh please. That's not what I said or implied at all, I was commenting on Farengast's style of discussing and civility, which includes never once using straw men, or condescension, or pedantic disingenous hair-splitting.
posted by funambulist at 7:34 AM on December 13, 2005


Oh yeah, and what I meant by "standing by your ideas and views and considering them better as ideas is a prerequisite of any intellectual and/or political stance" came after "Besides, also reading his other comments from the start here, he didn't actually say being an atheist makes you a better person with higher morals". Translated to English: unlike what had been implied, he didn't make that claim, but was obviously defending his position, as all do... Try non-selective reading, perhaps.
posted by funambulist at 7:43 AM on December 13, 2005


The kind of bullshit relativism nixerman is practicing here - leveling the truth-value of all claims - is a typical apologetic tactic. Of course a theist would follow it up with the claim that therefore you might as well believe in the tenets of his own preferred religion absolutely, peppering it with a little Pascal's wager.

New agers do it too. it's not a mistake that Ramtha's movie was called What The *bleep* Do We Know.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:52 AM on December 13, 2005


Not a mistake? I meant, not an accident.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:54 AM on December 13, 2005


I suppose this only graphically proves my point concerning the total lack of critical (nuanced) thinking going on in SecularLand. On review: that somebody could claim to be an atheist and not have read Hume, whose work provides the logical foundation for all atheist thought, is just pathetic. At this point it's safe to conclude that klang was right: you guys are zealots and suffer from the same problems of the 'Religionists' you rail against. Have fun with your fairy tales.
posted by nixerman at 8:08 AM on December 13, 2005


Here's a novel concept - I can claim to be an atheist and not have read Hume. My reasoning behind that is that I do not care if there is a god. Me reading a specific textbook that involves someone elses' reasoning is a waste of time. If I'd have realised that there was a reading list before I'd have chosen to be an atheist maybe I'd have thought twice.

Seriously - do you actually expect someone to have read every applicable philosophy book before coming to a personal decision on the matter? Am I allowed to think this way or do you have an objection to this until I have spent several hours locked away in a library reading a dead Scotsman go through his paces?
posted by longbaugh at 8:33 AM on December 13, 2005


At a certain point you have to just accept that "induction works" is axiomatic or else turn into a solipsist who can't even reliably know that David Hume actually existed and critiqued induction. Philosophical doubt that gravity might fail from one moment to the next has never stopped philosophers from pouring a cup of tea.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:34 AM on December 13, 2005


what longbaugh said. Some of us are capable of thinking for ourselves, thank you very much.
posted by terrapin at 8:38 AM on December 13, 2005


Am I just teachin' French to a pig here?

"nightchrome, I think jsonic means that atheist "fanatics" don't tend to shoot doctors, fly planes into skyscrapers, ring your doorbell on Saturday morning and otherwise make pests of themselves."
""Besides, also reading his other comments from the start here, he didn't actually say being an atheist makes you a better person with higher morals"."

No, he said that the behavior of religous people is worse than that of Atheists. To which I replied that there is no basis for this statement; the secular and religous both commit gross and petty atrocities.

"The kind of bullshit relativism nixerman is practicing here - leveling the truth-value of all claims - is a typical apologetic tactic. Of course a theist would follow it up with the claim that therefore you might as well believe in the tenets of his own preferred religion absolutely, peppering it with a little Pascal's wager."

Right. So, anyone who doesn't fete your convoluted logic and lazy rhetoric is a tool of the religious, bent on oppressing you? You delicate desert rose, faced on all sides by these nasty "theists" who demand rationality from the defenders of rationality! (And you'll note that I haven't even bothered with theories of irreducible plurality or the Iron Cage structuralist arguments which take to task the idea of shared rationality— I've stuck admirably to Enlightenment thinkers, with a small deviation to Denmark.)

"Hi, I'm induction. Have we met?"

Yeah, Aristotle introduced us aroudn the time that he was saying that because dolphins had fins, and everything else that has a fin is a fish, dolphins are fish. Or perhaps you prefer Socrates the Cat?

"Oh, ok, so we need to consult Hume now to know if typing on a keyboard will produce a result on screen. Wow, I don't know how people who never studied philosophy manage to use computers at all. Then what, should we ask Kierkegaard if turning a key in a lock will open a door?"

You're arguing about what is PROVABLE. It's not my fault that you don't have any grounding in the philosophy of what is PROVABLE. Perhaps you should stick to making arguments based on weak assertions on a website. You seem to have quite a published body of work on that.

"Oh I see, now suddenly, after talking of religion and secular ideology and the harmful effects of fanaticism on society, then religion and typing on keyboards, we're in the rarefied air of the highest philosophical debates on what the meaning of "is" really "is". What a nice sleight of hand! a really great argument to use to try and "prove" (...) some equivalence between religious faith and knowledge of observable events such as the sun rising."

No, the discussion of what "is" is, is existentialism ("is" being a conjugation of "to be," which brings into relief the different ways the word is used, donoting presence and consciousness). Epistemology is the study of "justified true belief," or what we can prove. Here's where you should start. It's pretty brief even. You could even start looking into Hume (and the debate over his Atheism) and (gasp) learn something, at least aabout consistent skepticism.

"That's not what I said or implied at all, I was commenting on Farengast's style of discussing and civility, which includes never once using straw men, or condescension, or pedantic disingenous hair-splitting."

You mean that you prefered it for ad hominem reasons? Because I've neither presented straw men nor engaged in pedantic hair-splitting. Perhaps it's that you have a bias toward his arguments?

(You don't teach French to a pig because it wastes your time and annoys the pig.)
posted by klangklangston at 9:03 AM on December 13, 2005


" what longbaugh said. Some of us are capable of thinking for ourselves, thank you very much."

HA!

" Here's a novel concept - I can claim to be an atheist and not have read Hume. My reasoning behind that is that I do not care if there is a god. Me reading a specific textbook that involves someone elses' reasoning is a waste of time. If I'd have realised that there was a reading list before I'd have chosen to be an atheist maybe I'd have thought twice.

Seriously - do you actually expect someone to have read every applicable philosophy book before coming to a personal decision on the matter? Am I allowed to think this way or do you have an objection to this until I have spent several hours locked away in a library reading a dead Scotsman go through his paces?"

So... You admit that a) your lack of concern about God can't be taken as a positive statement, but rather one of ungrounded fancy? And b) that you have no interest in grounding your argument?

Hey, if you want some real ammunition, try here.
posted by klangklangston at 9:09 AM on December 13, 2005


Yeah, Aristotle introduced us aroudn the time that he was saying that because dolphins had fins, and everything else that has a fin is a fish, dolphins are fish. Or perhaps you prefer Socrates the Cat?

Ah, induction must be valueless then.

Have a nice day licking wintry lamp-posts, sticking your finger in electrical sockets and stepping out of 20th floor windows.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:14 AM on December 13, 2005


"Ah, induction must be valueless then.

Have a nice day licking wintry lamp-posts, sticking your finger in electrical sockets and stepping out of 20th floor windows."

Right. That's what I said: useless! Once again, your clear thinking has cut to the quick!
(What's the difference between provable and probable?)
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on December 13, 2005


I mean what I said - I don't need to back up my argument because I'm not making one. I don't care if god does or does not exist - it doesn't matter to me in the slightest. I am an atheist because I have made the (personal) decision that god is utterly irrelevant to me and my daily existence. I don't need a grounding in the philosophy concerned. I don't care. Do you follow that?
posted by longbaugh at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2005


(What's the difference between provable and probable?)

Show me an axiom that was not arrived at by induction - that is, distilled from fallible, probabilistic human experience - and we'll discuss provability.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:30 AM on December 13, 2005


Yeah, so you base your lack of belief in God on faith. Gotcha.
posted by klangklangston at 9:30 AM on December 13, 2005


Fleetmouse: The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to 180°.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on December 13, 2005


You guys are some bitter, bitter fucks.
posted by quantumetric at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2005


Fleetmouse: The sum of the angles of a triangle is equal to 180°.

And this axiom was initially arrived at without examining specific instances of triangles?
posted by fleetmouse at 9:46 AM on December 13, 2005


I was going to say "Hi, I'm Riemann, have we met?" but figured that meme is getting tired...
posted by fleetmouse at 9:51 AM on December 13, 2005


Oh, I see we've moved on to existentialism now. Thanks, klang, I appreciate your lovely efforts to educate me on things I'd never heard of before and without which I'm incapable of arguing about anything.

Why not show off a bit more and bring more modern philosopher stars into it to say that no meaning is fixed "therefore"... (sleight of hand)... we cannot even discuss the nature of religious faith, like everything else, it's all relative, it's all unknowable. That would be even more sophisticated.

You know what's funniest, I never even made the claim of being an atheist, and I've been arguing all along for making distinctions rather than generalisations on religion and believers. But nevermind that.

And eh no I didn't claim anything about Hume (no, I didn't study philosophy other than cursory classes in school so it might as well be the same as not, shoot me) other than "Hume" was just namedropped to supposedly prop up a laughable retort consisting entirely of a sophistry.

Can anyone prove through observation that God/Allah exists and created the universe and spoke to the prophets, in the same way you can prove through observation the earth is round? You want to answer that by quibbling about the meaning of observation and proving, while the difference between claims about God and claims about natural observable phenomena never strikes you as relevant to both religious belief and atheism - how's that a defense of anything, rather than an abdication?

If you're religious, you shouldn't even care about "proving" that on any logical basis, not just because you can't but because that belief system explicitely sets itself as a matter of faith, of spirituality, in a trascendental realm. Twisting non-religious philosophy to argue with the definition of "provable" in order to deny anything can be proved at all means not only you're eluding the question, it means you don't even grant religious claims their own essential foundation as separate from the realm of natural phenomena. It's self-defeating even more so from a religious perspective and you don't even realise it.
posted by funambulist at 9:54 AM on December 13, 2005


Philosophical doubt that gravity might fail from one moment to the next has never stopped philosophers from pouring a cup of tea.

fleetmouse, but you're not being clever enough there, the clever thing to say is: how can you prove the cup of tea is there? how can you prove you are there to pour tea?

Will the earth spin regularly tomorrow or will it fly out of the solar system in a rush to get as far away as possible from silly arguments about religion and atheism? Who can tell. And that is the reason why religious faith is the same thing as the belief the earth is round. It's so, so obvious...
posted by funambulist at 9:59 AM on December 13, 2005


klangklangston: In all seriousness, what's your point? Aside from trying to score easy points using carefully selected arguments made by other people to attack random comments made by other other people, do you actually have a point of your own to make here? Cause I'll be damned if I can find one underneath the avalanche of name-dropping and chest thumping, unless perhaps the point is simply to try to discredit your opponents through sheer erosion by personality.

Me? I don't give a moldy crap what some dead philosopher had to say about the subject. You appear to be under the delusion that atheism is, in itself, an organized school of thought, requiring a secret handshake and a sense of history. Nope. That's like claiming that all liberals are alike (the Democratic Party is so poorly organized precisely because we don't agree on anything). All theist propaganda to the contrary, atheism is neither a religion nor even a true school of thought, anymore (if it ever really was). Not in modern usage. Atheism is nothing more or less than not believing in Gods. But studying philosophy is no more a prerequisite to atheism than studying physics is required to learn not to piss in the wind. (Studying religion was actually the eye-opener for me.)

So instead of your constant opposition, why not step out from behind all those dead great thinkers for a bit and take a position. I promise not to throw Dawkins at you.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:07 AM on December 13, 2005


fleetmouse, but you're not being clever enough there, the clever thing to say is: how can you prove the cup of tea is there? how can you prove you are there to pour tea?

I'm sure klangy has a way to use his decent liberal arts education to prove that tea exists but atheists can't have any.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:09 AM on December 13, 2005


"And this axiom was initially arrived at without examining specific instances of triangles?"

Yeah, it's one of those things that's a definitional truth. A tautology, if you will. Mathematics, that lovely abstraction, can all be shown a priori true.

"Why not show off a bit more and bring more modern philosopher stars into it to say that no meaning is fixed "therefore"... (sleight of hand)... we cannot even discuss the nature of religious faith, like everything else, it's all relative, it's all unknowable. That would be even more sophisticated."

Umm. Already did, dude. You missed the asides on structuralism and irreducable plurality, I see. And relative doesn't mean unknowable, it means that it's ambiguous and contested (because I can whup that radical post-structuralism out of you, if you want me to).
But really, what's happening isn't that I'm tossing out authorities to prop up sophistries (and I think you wanted to say solipsisms), but rather that I'm pointing out that there are thousands of years of work on these issues and reading your comments is a bit like seeing someone who would like to argue about the cause of falling but hasn't ever heard of gravity. And then when I say, hey, there's this guy Newton, I'm accused of "propping up" an argument with hand waving?
All of these arguments are philosophical old hat, and you've entered a discussion where you're trying to argue things that philosophers have wrestled with for millenia without any clue. Another analogy: It's like listening to someone cover the Guns and Roses interpretation of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" without any knowledge of Bob Dylan.

To REASSERT the argument, since you seemed to have lost track of it:
First, it was put forward that religious people were worse than secular people because they commit atrocities in the name of religion. I point out that it did not follow, because secular people also commit atrocities in the service of secular causes.
Then it was put forth that religious and secular atrocities are different because secular ideologies are based on something that can be proved.
I replied that not only are secular ideologies not based on provable hypotheses, and that arguing they were is pretty ignorant of secular ideologies, but that there is a fundamental problem with arguing that anything can be proven in the first place. Which brought us to Hume, since that was his argument that I was appropriating.
Which brought us to the point where since none of you know who Hume is, not have bothered to read the VERY SHORT essay in which he delineates his logic (which I posted above), you're trotting out vague attacks on the "sophistries" of my argument, then complaining bitterly when a) I treat you like you are ignorant (since you are) and b) you argue against things that I have not stated, yet don't get the answer you seem to desire.
posted by klangklangston at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2005


Unless you are using a fairly non-standard variation of the word "faith" I'm not entirely sure what you are trying to say. I don't have faith in the lack of god. I don't care. Sorry it's tough for you to parse this statement, it's probably that liberal arts education making you think too much about such a basic statement. Feel free to condescend as much as you like in rebuttal, I don't care about what you think either.
posted by longbaugh at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2005


(Studying religion was actually the eye-opener for me.)

Yep, same here. I can no more prove that some vague undefined god doesn't exist than a theist can prove leprechauns don't exist, but after reading the juicy sections of the old testament and associated apologetics I think it's a pretty safe bet that Abrahamic religions are a load of codswallop.

Now I've had some subtle christians approach me with subtle arguments about god as the ground of being and so forth but the god they're trying to prove has, it seems to me, more in common with Spinoza's pantheistic naturalism than the bible god.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:18 AM on December 13, 2005


Oh, on preview klang - apparently you are a daft cunt. My apologies.
posted by longbaugh at 10:18 AM on December 13, 2005


Florence: I am not attacking Atheism. I am attacking the sloppy and reductive logic of the commenters here.
posted by klangklangston at 10:19 AM on December 13, 2005


Yeah, it's one of those things that's a definitional truth. A tautology, if you will. Mathematics, that lovely abstraction, can all be shown a priori true.

Demonstrate that geometry and mathematics were originally defined without ever examining specific instances of shapes or counting specific groups of objects.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:21 AM on December 13, 2005


"Demonstrate that geometry and mathematics were originally defined without ever examining specific instances of shapes or counting specific groups of objects."

And this is why I condescend. Demonstrate that you understand the logical properties of negative statements.

Second off, demonstrate that a ball has to fall when dropped (a positive claim). (HERE IS WHERE IT WILL HELP TO READ THE HUME ESSAY THAT WAS LINKED ABOVE. I AM WRITING IN CAPS BECAUSE I FEAR YOU MAY BE STUPID.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:27 AM on December 13, 2005


"It was put forward that religious people were worse than secular people because they commit atrocities in the name of religion. I point out that it did not follow, because secular people also commit atrocities in the service of secular causes."

I agree with your assertion except that it was never put forth that religious people were worse than secular people. The argument was based on relative danger.

"Then it was put forth that religious and secular atrocities are different because secular ideologies are based on something that can be proved."

I also agree with your argument here, if not the way you've presented it.

Okay - got to go to a boring-ass meeting. Back with more shrooms in a bit.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:29 AM on December 13, 2005


I could see an argument based on relative danger (though I think that because Fleetmouse included the danger of them knocking on your door, his intent was facetious mocking of the religious). I might disagree, arguing that a doctrinaire interpretation of capitalism has lead to a form of totalitarianism that I think does more actual harm now than religion does, but I can also agree that a strong Nietzsche/Russell argument can be made on the idea of false hope/impotence/nihilism causing further harm through religion.
posted by klangklangston at 10:34 AM on December 13, 2005


You appear to be under the delusion that atheism is, in itself, an organized school of thought...

Um, did you read the article that brought this thread into existence?

My reasoning behind that is that I do not care if there is a god.

And this is why so many comments in this thread, from the claims of religious moral inferiority to the "rational/provable" defense of atheism, border on nonsense. There's a total lack of understanding of some very basic concepts going on here. FYI: not 'caring' whether there is a God is not the atheist position. The atheist position is a positive argument that says God does not exist.

...requiring a secret handshake and a sense of history.

The real problem is that you guys make real atheists--the kind that know the secret handshake and who have arrived at their position after careful thought, opening a book, tough personal decisions, and full consideration of the consequences--look bad.

Please, if you're going to make arguments against "Religion" or if you're going to adopt the "Secular Lifestyle," at least take a moment to make sure you're not committing the same errors that you accuse your enemies of committing.

Again, I must highlight Farengast's comment:

Suicide bombers don't kill themselves to alter the sociopolitical climate, what would be the point of doing that if you are dead? They do it out of religion, even if their leaders and preists have sociopolitical aims.

This is precisely the kind of stupid fairy tale logic that happens when people are more interested in scoring points than being intellectually rigirous and actually trying to arrive at some worthwhile insights.
posted by nixerman at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2005


If you want to you can refer to me as an apatheist or an apathetic agnostic since the "Articles of Faith" to which they subscribe seem to reflect reasonably well my opinion.

nixerman - could you provide for me a brief summary as to why that is stupid fairy tale logic? I'm not being cheeky - I'd just like you to explain to me why that isn't true according to your point of view.
posted by longbaugh at 10:51 AM on December 13, 2005


klang, you can pour tons more of your bullish condescension, it doesn't matter, you're just so full of it you don't even want to understand that I'm not trying to cover Bob Dylan or to write a treatise on atheism or present the best possible philosophical argument in favour of atheism, because a) I never claimed I was an atheist and b) regardless of that, I am speaking for myself. Like everyone else is doing, agreeing or disagreeing with others on general or specific points as might be the case, how amazing.

Can you grasp that simple concept, that people speak for themselves? Or do you want to do some more pretentious pseudo-intellectual muscle-flexing?

And I was, again, arguing against generalisations about religion, that fanaticism is dangerous in all its form regardless of the ideological source, and religion doesn't have an exclusive on fanaticism nor can it be reduced to it. And agreement on that basic stuff had been reached with the people I was arguing with, and which I'd also misread initially, ie. Farengast. We all agreed on that. So let's not pretend to start from scratch here.

Where it got silly is when you insisted on denying that a secular ideology (and then, even claims on natural events) is different in nature from a religious faith, no matter what outcomes its application in reality (ie. fanaticism can come from all kinds of ideas, because fanatics latch on to anything, doesn't mean all ideas/beliefs/systems of thought are the same at intellectual level). To the point you have to deny the difference between spiritual beliefs and any other claims not about spirituality, which is not really a striking 'defense' of religion, as it denies its premises... *wooosh*

And the speaking for oneself applies to you too, you are not Hume or Kierkegaard, you answer on your own words and views as put forth by you. So quit with that "read Hume or else you're not worth my time" crap. If no one here is worth your precious time, you can always not give it to them/us ignorant plebs. If you do, how about engaging their actual comments, your majesty, if you please. Otherwise, what longbaugh said.
posted by funambulist at 11:15 AM on December 13, 2005


Klang: You may fear some of us are stupid, but we know your being and asshole. If you could present yourself half as decently (and clearly) as Farengast, funambulist, fleetmouse, and It's Raining Florence Henderson--and stop calling people names--people might actually read and give you a fair shake. And it would certainly have made for an interesting disscussion. But you don't. Your just being a self-righteous, condescending, asshole.

The people I mentioned above have made some interesting points and I have enjoyed what they have lent to the discussion, but at this point having to wade through the crap isn't worth the effort. Congratulations on killing the discussion. Happy holidays.
posted by terrapin at 11:20 AM on December 13, 2005


konolia: dunno if you're still reading this thread, but here's my question to you. "What are the qualifications of those who are teaching you, and how do they compare to the qualifications of those who are considered true experts and leading researchers in the field?"

Because honestly, if it turns out that your teachers are the academic equivalent of Mr. Birtwistle of the College of New Caledonia, a first-year physics teacher at a local community college, then what they have to say on the matter is of nearly no consequence.

In other words, great first-year information with all the half-truths and early theories that are required to start getting students' heads around Big Issues in Physics... but not a reliable resource for learning about the intricacies of quantum mechanics. Birtwistle is no Feynmann.

(if you happen to google yourself here, Mr. B., hi! from a former student!)
posted by five fresh fish at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2005


Another analogy: It's like listening to someone cover the Guns and Roses interpretation of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" without any knowledge of Bob Dylan.

I'd just like to point out that this is a stupid analogy.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2005


"Where it got silly is when you insisted on denying that a secular ideology (and then, even claims on natural events) is different in nature from a religious faith, no matter what outcomes its application in reality (ie. fanaticism can come from all kinds of ideas, because fanatics latch on to anything, doesn't mean all ideas/beliefs/systems of thought are the same at intellectual level). To the point you have to deny the difference between spiritual beliefs and any other claims not about spirituality, which is not really a striking 'defense' of religion, as it denies its premises... *wooosh*"

IF IT IS DIFFERENT, THEN PROVE IT.

Farengast said it was different because secular ideologies rely on falsifiable claims, but did not provide any proof of that, and did not bother to back it with any historical examples.

And the reason why I keep citing Hume is because I'm going to make the same arguments that he does because I believe they are the strongest arguments in this situation. By citing him, I avoid having to either present a lengthy treatise or cut and paste his arguments, which I think are fundamentally sound. Which is why I linked to his essay, and why I am continually frustrated by people attempting to argue without bothering to read it.

SO AGAIN: IF IT IS DIFFERENT, THEN PROVE IT.
posted by klangklangston at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2005


klang, the problem of induction is not really all that profound a thing to dwell on, unless you're a first year philosophy student. Furthermore, it's not all that difficult to summarize, so stop pretending that the obnoxious stance you're taking is the only course of action available to you.
posted by ludwig_van at 11:42 AM on December 13, 2005


Farengast said it was different because secular ideologies rely on falsifiable claims, but did not provide any proof of that, and did not bother to back it with any historical examples.

Oh for fuck's sake. Is that what this is all about? Naturalistic claims are falsifiable because it only takes an observed contradictory instance to falsify them. Supernatural claims are unfalsifiable because you can always postulate more invisible unicorns and dragons. Do you get that now or do you have shit for brains?

Also, use of the blink tag = death by eating.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:44 AM on December 13, 2005


ludwig_van: "Another analogy: It's like listening to someone cover the Guns and Roses interpretation of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" without any knowledge of Bob Dylan.

I'd just like to point out that this is a stupid analogy."

Especially since the Guns and Roses version rocks, and Dylan is one of the most overrated old...

/obvious troll
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:46 AM on December 13, 2005


Sorry, my mistake. There's only one bitter, bitter fuck here.
posted by quantumetric at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2005


konolia: It also occurs to me that your glib statement regarding the duality of wave/particle physics may have been based on an example provided by one of your teachers.

If so, you should understand that they have done a great disservice to you. It is nearly impossible for them to have a complete understanding of quantum physics: it takes many, many years of intense coursework to claim any sort of substantial knowledge on the subject.

This means that their comparison or example is based on an incomplete layman's understanding of the topic, likely informed via misinformed articles within their own religious journals, conferences, or education.

In short, just because your teachers said it does not make it true. In fact, it is very likely to be more false than anything Mr. Birtwistle could tell you about the subject; he, at least, is a fully-qualified physics professor, even if he isn't working on the cutting edge of quantum mechanics.

I really wish you would develop a healthy sense of skepticism. The world is cluttered with people who believe without truly thinking. I firmly believe that at your core you are a caring and kind individual. You could do so much more with that, if only you'd open the blinders just a little bit.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:56 AM on December 13, 2005


nixerman: "You appear to be under the delusion that atheism is, in itself, an organized school of thought...

Um, did you read the article that brought this thread into existence?"

Yep. Do you let every random [insert favorite but overly generalized umbrella school of thought here] with a manifesto speak for you?

klangklangston: "SO AGAIN: IF IT IS DIFFERENT, THEN PROVE IT."

But if we try, won't you just claim that nothing can be proved?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:03 PM on December 13, 2005


nixerman: "...requiring a secret handshake and a sense of history.

The real problem is that you guys make real atheists--the kind that know the secret handshake and who have arrived at their position after careful thought, opening a book, tough personal decisions, and full consideration of the consequences--look bad."

Please don't mistake the fact that my arguments don't rely on appeals to authority with my being ignorant. Also, please refrain from presuming to know the extent of "careful thought, opening a book, tough personal decisions, and full consideration of the consequences" that inform my opinions. That’s neither relevant, nor any of your business. Truth has no pedigree. When the logic of my arguments doesn’t hold, state your case. Let me worry about bringing down the sacred institutions of the Divine Order of Atheist Dogma on my own time.

Incidentally, is anyone else having trouble proving that MetaFilter exists right now?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:28 PM on December 13, 2005


OH GOD I'M SO APATHETIC I JUST DON'T CARE.
THE ONLY THING THAT I PRAY FOR IS THAT JRUN DOESNT EAT THIS COMMENT.
posted by longbaugh at 12:38 PM on December 13, 2005


IF JRUN EATS THIS COMMENT, AND NO ONE IS THERE TO READ IT, CAN IT BE FLAGGED AS NOISE?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:54 PM on December 13, 2005


"Oh for fuck's sake. Is that what this is all about? Naturalistic claims are falsifiable because it only takes an observed contradictory instance to falsify them. Supernatural claims are unfalsifiable because you can always postulate more invisible unicorns and dragons. Do you get that now or do you have shit for brains?"

And see, again, this is why I condescend. First off, the argument is between physical and metaphysical, not natural and supernatural.
But every actionable philosophy, which includes every political philosophy, is based on a central unprovable contention. For Plato's Republic, it's that finding a philosopher king will allow the dictation of perfect laws. For Rousseau, it's that the General Will can never conflict with the good. For Communism, it's the idea that through a material conception of history, a prediction can be made regarding the future of society. At the core of each of these physical philosophies, there's a tautology, and a central dilemma that it provides: For Plato, how are people to know a Philosopher King? For Rousseau, how are people to know what the General Will dictates? For Communism, how are people to know when the conditions are right for Communism? You can only prove these things in retrospect. These are all secular ideologies at their core, yet have an element of irreducable faith.
Even things that our own ideologies are based upon, here in the West, require a fundamental assumption of an unprovable, empirically unsupportable statement. All men are created equal? Clearly wrong based on the evidence. That capitalism leads to prosperity? Even mathematics relies on invented abstractions that do not exist. A straight line only shows the inability to accurately measure a curve.
These are all ideological structures, and any appeal to some fundamental difference is the make-believe of weak minds. Especially galling is when those weak minds present their disdain for one ideology over another as somehow more superior or more rational. No ideological structure is wholly rational, and dismissals of religion as somehow invalid because it isn't "falsifiable," but your underlying assumptions are is laughable.

But there I am, shit for brains. Keep that up and don't even bother asserting any argument.
posted by klangklangston at 12:54 PM on December 13, 2005


I flagged it for you florence. Mine too. Loudmouth wankers that we are.
posted by longbaugh at 12:56 PM on December 13, 2005


"But if we try, won't you just claim that nothing can be proved?"

You should be able to make an a priori case for the difference if it does exist.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on December 13, 2005


If a post is flagged for "noise" and no-one hears it because of JRUN, is it really making a sound?
posted by longbaugh at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2005


No ideological structure is wholly rational

Therefore all are equally irrational. Is that your argument?
posted by ludwig_van at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2005


longbaugh: "I flagged it for you florence. Mine too. Loudmouth wankers that we are."

Heh. I knew someone would.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2005


How can you really truly prove that someone has Florence?
posted by longbaugh at 1:00 PM on December 13, 2005


"Therefore all are equally irrational. Is that your argument?"

Not at all. Just that the argument that secular and religious ideologies are different because one can be disproven is false.
posted by klangklangston at 1:10 PM on December 13, 2005


HA HA HA HA. This has become even more sad that it was before (and that's saying something). And I'm not lamenting that Klang is an ass, I'm lamenting that he's made some excellent points and that there is a lot I (probably others too) could have learned from him if he wasn't so concerned with calling people idiots. Clearly I am a student of the sciences, Klang is a student of the humanities. I am not unreasonable, and I actually enjoy learning from my peers... but it is goddamned difficult to learn anything from Klang because his attacks are so off putting and even if they weren't, it's hard to tell the point he's trying to make because every argument is wrapped in a package meant to make someone else (usually me) feel like an idiot rather than to illuminate his point. I almost get the feeling like he's being unclear on purpose because he doesn't want others to understand because he prefers to insult them.

I HAVE read Hume for that matter and enjoyed it very much. I was under the impression that we were talking in real terms. The philosophical idea of proof leads you down that rickety road where nothing makes sense in a practical way anymore, it's all well and good to discuss... but nobody lives by that, not even Hume. Descartes said himself that at the end of the day, you close the philosophy notebook and you jump out of the way when a bus (I think he said carriage) is coming even though you can't PROVE that it's there.

A lot of this discussion is over definitions of things, Klang is partly to blame for morphing the discussion very slowly into a philosophical one from a political one. (politicians don't care whether the tea is provable), but perhaps it was tending towards that way anyway.

But back to my original point, I consider myself fairly well read on the humanities though Klang was actually right "I don't know dick about totalitarianism" but I'm fucking willing to be taught when someone's not acting like an asshole. I mean goddamn... I've known some pretentious philosophers (why are they always philosophers?) but Klang is king of that hill. I even knew a guy who argued down his own girlfriend in the same hostile manner that Klang employs because, like many of the philosophers that I have known, he thought that the books he read gave him a right to call other people idiots. I've studied a decent bit of philosophy (though I admit it's been a long time and I don't remember the clever names for the good arguments like Klang does) but I gave it up because every time I tried to discuss with a "philosopher" I got Klang's brand of "smarter than thou" hostile bullshit.

I can tell you are a smart guy Klang and you make good points, if you spent more time instructing and less time insulting I think we could have had an excellent thread.
posted by Farengast at 1:17 PM on December 13, 2005


klangklangston: "Just that the argument that secular and religious ideologies are different because one can be disproven is false."

At the risk of getting caught in the crossfire, I’d like to
say that I think you actually made that case quite well here. Still disavowing all the hostility, though. All around.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:17 PM on December 13, 2005


Farengast: "I can tell you are a smart guy Klang and you make good points, if you spent more time instructing and less time insulting I think we could have had an excellent thread."

Is it wrong that I want to call you a name right now? Thought so.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:21 PM on December 13, 2005


The atheist position is a positive argument that says God does not exist.

Strictly speaking that's strong atheism. Other forms of atheism say that as there's no evidence it's a craptacular thing to believe in, on par with hippos on pluto or whatever, but the minute some evidence comes along, positions must be reassessed. Still other forms of atheism say Klangklangston is a pottymouth - it's a small movement but growing daily.

As for myself, I'm a strong atheist...but I work out. Yesterday I kicked Hume's arse in a bar fight, but then lost my wallet. Damned reprobate philosophers.

No, I really do have nothing to add to this conversation at this point. I'm just surprised it's still going even after the mushroom pictures. Clearly they must have been a weak batch.
posted by Sparx at 1:24 PM on December 13, 2005


Well, nola quoted Twain, and it all kind of mushroomed from there.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:26 PM on December 13, 2005


Pathetic weak atheist mushrooms! Bow before the might of BOWSER.
posted by longbaugh at 1:31 PM on December 13, 2005


Even things that our own ideologies are based upon, here in the West, require a fundamental assumption of an unprovable, empirically unsupportable statement. All men are created equal? Clearly wrong based on the evidence. That capitalism leads to prosperity? Even mathematics relies on invented abstractions that do not exist. A straight line only shows the inability to accurately measure a curve.

Good lord. Can you not tell the difference between an idealized goal or statement of purpose expressed figuratively, and an assertion of fact?

If I make the claim that the results of divine revelation are more trustworthy than mere reason and observation, that claim is falsifiable - design an experiment and off you go. The results of the experiment may give you some clue as to how to approach the underlying assumptions of the claim.

OF COURSE every school of thought or perspective makes assumptions and takes things for granted - including theories of knowledge that make assertions about transcendental signifiers, I might add. Why are we even debating that?

It doesn't change the fact that some things are known to be true to a very high degree of certainty - so high in fact that no one from any perspective or school of thought would deny them - and other things... not so much. Which end of that gradient do you think makes a better common ground for decision making?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2005


If I make the claim that the results of divine revelation are more trustworthy than mere reason and observation, that claim is falsifiable - design an experiment and off you go. The results of the experiment may give you some clue as to how to approach the underlying assumptions of the claim.

To clarify, it is not the underlying assumptions - e.g., God exists and communicates to me - that are falsifiable; the person claiming divine revelation can always cobble up some heavenly excuse as to why God isn't talking to him just then.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:23 PM on December 13, 2005


JRUN
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:26 PM on December 13, 2005


"Good lord. Can you not tell the difference between an idealized goal or statement of purpose expressed figuratively, and an assertion of fact?"

Once again, this is why I condescend. The idea of equality is central to the actions of our political process. The premise of equality amung men is treated as a fact, an axiom. This is a secular ideology, and one based on an unprovable assumption. There is no basis other than convenience for this assumption; it is political and not moral or rational.

"It doesn't change the fact that some things are known to be true to a very high degree of certainty - so high in fact that no one from any perspective or school of thought would deny them - and other things... not so much. Which end of that gradient do you think makes a better common ground for decision making?"

Again, this is a political decision. Once you argue that one is a "better common ground for decision making" you concede the fact that your concern is practical and not based on logic or reasoning.
Farengast began this by saying that religious ideologies differ from secular ones because secular ideologies can be disproven and religious ideologies are not beholden to reason. If you argue that your perspective is better because it suits your political goal, you've again missed the point of my dissent, because you haven't backed your argument with internal reasoning, but rather called upon its sublimation to your particular project. But perhaps that's because you have shit for brains.
posted by klangklangston at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2005


And after all of that, klang's argument boils down to this: value judgements are subjective.

No shit, sherlock.
posted by jsonic at 6:25 PM on December 13, 2005


The premise of equality amung men is treated as a fact, an axiom.

It is not treated as a fact. It is treated as a moral imperative and ethical guideline. It's like saying "it's nice to share". No one who believes "all men are equal" actually believes that they ARE equal. Well, maybe some do, I can't speak for everyone.

Again, this is a political decision. Once you argue that one is a "better common ground for decision making" you concede the fact that your concern is practical and not based on logic or reasoning.

The real world is messy and weird and doesn't come apart evenly in your hands into two pieces marked practical and theoretical. And even if it did, practicality is not synonymous with politics.

Honestly, what is wrong with examining the actual practical facts in the matter of naturalism versus supernaturalism as explanatory and predictive methods? Why are you so driven to seek a priori justifications?

In any case if you really think about it, things which we call axiomatic or a priori are really the result of a long process of fumbling trial and error - biological, cultural and social evolution. The axioms of the individual are the inductive conclusions of the species. There is really no human position that can claim to be justified purely by logic. Logic is a human interpretation of the regularities in the fabric of spacetime, not a first cause.
posted by fleetmouse at 6:39 PM on December 13, 2005


"It is not treated as a fact. It is treated as a moral imperative and ethical guideline. It's like saying "it's nice to share". No one who believes "all men are equal" actually believes that they ARE equal. Well, maybe some do, I can't speak for everyone."

Really? Why can blacks and whites eat at the same lunch counters? The principle of equality is treated as a fact, a "self-evident truth" by the constitution and legal system of this country.

"The real world is messy and weird and doesn't come apart evenly in your hands into two pieces marked practical and theoretical. And even if it did, practicality is not synonymous with politics."

Do you have a point here? No? Ok. Practicality is a political judgement when adjucating conflict between mutually exclusive worldviews.

"In any case if you really think about it, things which we call axiomatic or a priori are really the result of a long process of fumbling trial and error - biological, cultural and social evolution. The axioms of the individual are the inductive conclusions of the species. There is really no human position that can claim to be justified purely by logic. Logic is a human interpretation of the regularities in the fabric of spacetime, not a first cause."

You're back to blather, like a dorm room philosopher. "The axioms of the individual are the inductive conclusions of the species"? I know that you want to pin your case on the triumph of induction, but you're simply not making any argument here, but rather trying to assert some adle-pated cosmic mumblings as profundity. Logic is not a cause, first because you can't logically establish a cause and effect (we did this already), second because there is no such thing as a first cause, at least that humans have any hope of grasping, because that would require extra-existential awareness.
posted by klangklangston at 7:44 PM on December 13, 2005


You're back to blather, like a dorm room philosopher. "The axioms of the individual are the inductive conclusions of the species"? I know that you want to pin your case on the triumph of induction, but you're simply not making any argument here, but rather trying to assert some adle-pated cosmic mumblings as profundity. Logic is not a cause, first because you can't logically establish a cause and effect (we did this already), second because there is no such thing as a first cause, at least that humans have any hope of grasping, because that would require extra-existential awareness.

However addle-pated I may be, you're not even attempting to refute my thesis that axioms are arrived at inductively.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:02 PM on December 13, 2005


Maybe that's because you still haven't provided anything to refute aside from a vague assertion of fact. Prove that they were the result of trial and error: where is the four-sided, 350° triangle that represented man's first fumblings with geometry?
I can't be bothered to contradict every stupid thing you say.

Go back and read Nixerman's comments again. I'm done trying to teach French to a pig for now.
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 PM on December 13, 2005


where is the four-sided, 350° triangle that represented man's first fumblings with geometry?

Scratched on a cave wall somewhere, I'd expect - wobbly sides, uncertain angles and all. And it was only scratched there in imitation of forms that were already observed in nature.

Klangston, though you may have a rudimentary grasp of mock-witty language and a facility for literal minded parroting, I'm completely unimpressed by your inability to think for yourself or synthesize any actual understanding out of your odds 'n ends shoe box of Great Names in Philosophy.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:21 PM on December 13, 2005


fleetmouse, I don't blame you for being skeptical about Klang's knowledge of mathematics, but he's right on this one. Though I agree with you that his witty language is anything but.

Mathematics as a discipline does not depend on any kind of induction except within singular mathematical proofs. It's all provable a priori and all entirely reducible to the same set of questions of whether or not your system says that 1 = 0 anywhere in the foundations of its logic. Any alien race that could ever come to visit us must necessarily have the same mathematics, because there is no such thing as any other mathematics. It is the search for the only self consistent set of rules in the universe. Which is why nature (physics) always obeys mathematics, because nature is also self consistent. If the mathematics says it is there but we don't see it, it means we haven't looked hard enough, as happend with the vector potential of magnetic fields. So mathematicians have never inductively improved upon ideas trying to make them more consistent, because consistency is a boolean notion. Your rules are self consistent or they aren't. Rather mathematicians apply logic to basic rules to build them into more complex rules without breaking any of the basic rules. There is only one way to do this and mathematics as a discipline is the search for this way. Accomplished through mathematical proofs, of which the proof by induction happens to be a common one.

What you have been saying is a common misconception though. But I think if you find a fundamentals of mathematics text book and read through some of the elementary proofs, you will be amazed at the sheer beauty of it all.
posted by Farengast at 10:25 PM on December 13, 2005


Farengast, thank you for setting me straight in a manner that actually explains something and isn't throbbing with hate and self-importance. Do you have a textbook in mind?

But though self consistency and not contradiction are crucial truth-checks, aren't many new fields of mathematics developed to explain natural observations rather than simply bred from earlier axioms and postulates? Wasn't Newton's development of calculus, for example, developed to explain astronomical observations?
posted by fleetmouse at 10:54 PM on December 13, 2005


where is the four-sided, 350° triangle that represented man's first fumblings with geometry?

Jeez klangy, you really like to act like an idiot to prove a point. Surely you are aware that Euclid's geometry was a fumbling early attempt that contained literally hundreds of errors; that's why modern geometry is based on Hilbert's work. And now, a bit of history:
According to most accounts, geometry was first discovered among the Egyptians, taking its origin from the measurement of areas. For they found it necessary by reason of the flooding of the Nile, which wiped out everybody's proper boundaries. Nor is there anything surprising in that the discovery both of this and of the other sciences should have had its origin in a practical need. -- Al-Biruni
Any alien race that could ever come to visit us must necessarily have the same mathematics

No, no, a million times no. Even here on earth, there's far more than one sort of mathematics, and I invite those tempted to argue to, say, peruse a Math department course listing some day.
posted by boaz at 10:57 PM on December 13, 2005


:confused and worried again:

Hold on - though there are different branches of mathematics, wouldn't all sufficiently advanced intelligent species have such commonalities as the concept of zero, and the same ideas about multiplication by negatives and division by zero? Wouldn't they all have a similar way of working out, for example, quadratic equations - I mean, once the symbolism is translated?

Maybe aquatic species would develop the geometry of curved surfaces before the geometry of planes... but would it be incomprehensible to us? this shit is doing my head in...
posted by fleetmouse at 8:29 AM on December 14, 2005


Yes, there are many branches of mathematics, but they are all self consistant with themselves and each other. In fact some of them, like differential equations and linear algebra are almost exactly the same mathematical methods underneath, just with different symbology. All our branches of mathematics are based hierarchically on others. They have different names because they are used for different things. But so long as you can trace the path of proofs all the way back down to 1 does not equal zero, and you can with ALL mathematics then you are talking the same self consistent rule set. Even if it has different names, is used in different ways, and works on verying levels of complexity or specificity or generality. But they are all the same rule set, they are all different combinations of the same simple rules, but none of them break the simple rules. They are all reducible to the exact same logic. So an alien could show up with a few branches missing or a few that we don't have, but it would all work in fundamentally the same way. Aliens can't show up claiming that -1 times -1 isn't 1.

Fleetmouse, your concern about building mathematics to explain nature is not really so tricky as it seems. I mentioned before that there is only one self consistent rule set in the universe (mathematics), which is why nature always obeys mathematics. So when mathematics says there is something in nature that we don't see, it's still waiting to be found and the inverse is true as well. When something in nature needs explaining, there must be mathematics to explain it. Why? Because 1 does not equal 0. I know this sounds hand wavey right now, but that really is the way it works. Things are more complicated because of error in observing nature. We have great mathematics to explain things, which means theoretical physics ought to have it all figured out by now. But you can't apply mathematics accurately to something that has not been measured accurately. And when dealing with many quantities all measured inaccurately, the error compounds and your final result in a calculation could wind up with so much error as to be meaningless, this limits how much we can say about the universe with just mathematics.

For example... When scientists wanted to prove relativity by comparing the relativistic calculation and the classical calculation to an actual measurement. In this case the deflection of light around a gravitational source (the sun), the actual measurement wound up being almost exactly in between the classical and reletivistic predictions. Nature and mathematics always follow the same self consistent rule set, so the result would have to be one or the other, not in between. But that's why science is tricky. Inaccuracy in measurement of the deflection, and of the mass of the sun and other factors fed into the calculation for the predictions, or could there be other physics at work that we haven't conceived yet? And with a result like that, which prediction was correct? Classical or reletivistic?

As for a nice text.... I would personally recommend Michael Spivak's Calculus. It does start with elementary proofs, and winds up proving all of calculus with them. As well as some other common mathematics along the way like the properties and purpose of e. But there are MANY texts which cover this material with varying degrees of technical rigour, so I suggest you find a book store which has text books and look through some to see what looks least intimidating, you can usually find some good books just in the "science" section of a Barnes and Noble or something, though books like that tend to lack the detailed proofs that are so rewarding to think your way through. Good luck!
posted by Farengast at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2005


small note: klangston, i've only been skimming the crap that passes for discussion in this thread. nonetheless, i get the distinct impression that you are being spanked ruthlessly. one develops the impression that you're not nearly as well-informed as you'd like to think you are. this feedback may not be of any value to you; s'alright with me. just figured you should at least hear input from someone you aren't fighting with.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:36 AM on December 14, 2005


klang may be the most insufferable person I have ever "witnessed" on mefi, and that includes PP, dios, and even fucking Miguel.

That's saying a lot.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:40 AM on December 22, 2005


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