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reasons to be angry
October 30, 2007 8:27 AM   Subscribe

A list of reasons why an atheist blogger is angry.
posted by nickyskye (682 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
Man. She sure is angry.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:32 AM on October 30, 2007


Great stuff. Thanks.
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:33 AM on October 30, 2007


Angry. And right.
posted by grubi at 8:36 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


A bit overstated here and there (Still angry about Galileo?), but nice to see it all written out.
posted by OmieWise at 8:41 AM on October 30, 2007


Angry. With strawmen.
posted by klarck at 8:41 AM on October 30, 2007 [9 favorites]


I'm angry that Mother Teresa took her personal suffering and despair at her lost faith in God, and turned it into an obsession that led her to treat suffering as a beautiful gift from Christ to humanity, a beautiful offering from humanity to God, and a necessary part of spiritual salvation. And I'm angry that this obsession apparently led her to offer grotesquely inadequate medical care and pain relief at her hospitals and hospices, in essence taking her personal crisis of faith out on millions of desperately poor and helpless people.

Wait, what?
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:43 AM on October 30, 2007


"List of Things I Have Successfully Masturbated To."

Maybe I'm just dead inside, but I disagree with the author's assertion that anger is "... one of the single most powerful tools we have at our disposal." A motivation, a catalyst, sure, but y'know, everyone's angry about something. You can go ahead and work up a big head of steam over this or that, that's a perfectly natural human reaction, but at the end of the day education, dignity, and money trumps getting het up every time.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:43 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


I get angry when believers trumpet every good thing that's ever been done in the name of religion as a reason why religion is a force for good... and then, when confronted with the horrible evils done in religion's name, say that those evils weren't done because of religion, were done because of politics of greed or fear or whatever, would have been done anyway even without religion, and shouldn't be counted as religion's fault.

BING BING BING--WE HAVE A BOOKMARKED POST TO PULL OUT LATER
posted by DU at 8:44 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


Creationism. A strawman.
posted by DU at 8:45 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm an atheist, but who gives a fuck? She's just annoying.
posted by doctor_negative at 8:46 AM on October 30, 2007 [15 favorites]


The Gallup Poll thing has me confused.
"Would you vote for an atheist for president?"
"45 Atheists No"
"55 Atheist Yes"

Doesn't that mean 55% said yes, not 45%?
Or is that only 55% of atheists would vote for an atheist?
posted by JeremiahBritt at 8:46 AM on October 30, 2007


You know when she is really going to be angry? When God sends her to hell to burn for all eternity for her blasphemies. She is going to be pretty angry then.
posted by ND¢ at 8:47 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


Yup. Strawmen.

It's extremely important and good that atheists are making the initial consciousness raising mumblings that presage the formation of a useful campaign. Not quite there yet, though.

The discussion of the ways atheists are discriminated against are useful - the strawmen and the championing of the Christopher Hitchens sort of atrocity-oglers are less so.
posted by By The Grace of God at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2007


I've had the argument with my father about being too angry. He said it was fruitless to be so pissed off at the way the world works and to just relax and take what they give you.

I called bullshit on that and told him if all the angry people from his generation would have STAYED angry, we might have made some progress on race relations/poverty/personal freedoms by now.

As it is, their anger gave way to comfort.
posted by Hugh2d2 at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.
posted by rocket88 at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm an atheist, but who gives a fuck? She's just annoying.

So where did you get the name doctor_negative?
posted by Mr_Zero at 8:48 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


When God sends her to hell to burn for all eternity for her blasphemies. She is going to be pretty angry then.

That's hot!
posted by Sparx at 8:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


This blogger is angry about things that people do that affect her, which is reasonable. She's also angry about things that people think, which is sort of laughably hypocritical.

Let's see if I can take the hypocrisy one step further. You know what makes me angry? People like this blogger who get angry about things that other people feel and think. Man, that really busts my chops.
posted by gurple at 8:52 AM on October 30, 2007


If 45% would vote for an atheist, I would think that's a giant leap forward even from 20 years ago. Seems a strange thing to get worked up over, at any rate.

Most of these aren't things that atheists have any corner in being annoyed about anyway - catholic priest scandal? Pretty sure religious people were angry about that as well.
posted by frobozz at 8:53 AM on October 30, 2007


Wow, someone managed to sum up exactly how I felt about this:

Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.

Except I would have said "stupid" instead of "silly".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


Sounds like somebody needs to fill a Jesus-shaped hole in her heart.
posted by bondcliff at 8:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [13 favorites]


Surely if she would just calm down and explain these things in a polite manner, all those people who believe a bearded old man in the sky created the universe in six days will submit to reason.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:55 AM on October 30, 2007 [17 favorites]



Except I would have said "stupid" instead of "silly".


My vote is "immature."
posted by pokermonk at 8:56 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


A list of reasons why an atheist blogger is angry moderator is going to delete your post.
posted by prostyle at 8:57 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


...45% would vote for an atheist...[is] a strange thing to get worked up over...

How about you put it this way: A majority of Americans will only vote for a candidate that (profess to) believe in the supernatural.

Given current events involving ignoring and/or manufacturing evidence, one would think this would be not all that strange a thing to worked up over.
posted by DU at 8:57 AM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


I'm angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it's the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

Atheist husbands beat their wives as well.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


She's also angry about things that people think, which is sort of laughably hypocritical.

Wait... we can't get angry at what other people think? Why not? These are her opinions. Yeah, she's pretty high and mighty about them, but she's pissed. Only discussing what people do and not what they think, now that would be ridiculous.
posted by ORthey at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2007


Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.

No, much of what she's angry about is that the rest of "humanity and society" tells her she's worthless and belittles her.
This is not about different beliefs, this is about being told that you're not a moral person by a group of people who molest children and lie about it, start wars in the name of their "benevolent" god, and write-off the death of innocents as "God's will."
posted by klocwerk at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2007 [16 favorites]


ANGRY BLOGGER! ANGRY BLOGGER!
posted by koeselitz at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2007


rocket88 & TPS- exactly. You don't have to be atheist to be angry about most of these things.

And I don't like proselytizing no matter who's doing or why.
posted by small_ruminant at 8:59 AM on October 30, 2007


(The over/under on this thread is 192.)
posted by pokermonk at 8:59 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


It doesn't really appear to me that she's claiming that all atheists are always good people, Ironmouth.
posted by ORthey at 8:59 AM on October 30, 2007


Anger is natural. Great.

Taking a shit is natural too, but I try not to do it in public.
posted by tkolar at 9:00 AM on October 30, 2007 [9 favorites]


I'm angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it's the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

Atheist husbands beat their wives as well.


And do their wives stay because of the will of God? That's kind of the crux of the point.
posted by DU at 9:01 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm angry at atheists who don't realize that a belief in the non-existence of a God who is by definition unknowable is just as much a matter of faith as someone who believes in that God's existence. I'm angry at atheists who don't understand that promoting atheism is proselytizing.

I'm angry at people who dress up in Yankee Doodle outfits in an attempt to lend themselves credibility in matters of politics, but then proceed to attack religion, which is neither political, not atheistic.

I'm angry at atheists whose atheism is in fact thinly veiled anti-Catholicism. Guess what, Galileo believed in God, and he was the one being persecuted.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:02 AM on October 30, 2007 [16 favorites]


I'm angry that atheist conventions have to have extra security, including hand-held metal detectors and bag searches, because of fatwas and death threats.

Ever been to a temple on the High Holy Days?

I'm angry that almost half of Americans believe in creationism. And not a broad, "God had a hand in evolution" creationism, but a strict, young-earth, "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time within the last 10,000 years" creationism.

Yeah, that sucks but you know what, welcome to America.

I'm angry at preachers who tell women in their flock to submit to their husbands because it's the will of God, even when their husbands are beating them within an inch of their lives.

So there are some sexist fucking religious people. Fuck em. I don't go to temple with them. My head rabbi is a woman and I consider myself a feminist agnostic Jew, with much of my outlook coming from Reform Judaism.

My point is that religion isn't homogenus. Trying to paint all religions and religious experiences with the broad strokes of fundamentalism is like calling all atheists Commies. Hell, under the USSR you could find all that same kind of bullshit (no questioning of doctrine, the institutionalization of hate-mongering , intolerance of homosexuality) but I don't think it had anything to do with it being an atheist country.

Yeah, it totally sucks that the most fucked up religious people are right now the ones with the most power. But even the evangelical movement is starting to crack, and split into a movement that hopefully focus less on personal morality and more on issues of poverty and the environment.
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 9:03 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


Surely if she would just calm down and explain these things in a polite manner, all those people who believe a bearded old man in the sky created the universe in six days will submit to reason.

Surely if she would just blog about how damn angry she is, all those people who believe a bearded old man in the sky created the universe in six days will be convinced.

Assuming this is one of those atheist blogs that has a vast readership of religious fundamentalists who are very, very, very easily swayed.

Coals to Newcastle/choirpreach/linkbait.

Anger goes best with BlogAds.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know who else was angry?
posted by seanyboy at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.

Right. Because though beliefs have consequences, all outcomes are equally desirable.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


Well, I pretty much agree with her.
posted by brundlefly at 9:04 AM on October 30, 2007


Wait... we can't get angry at what other people think? Why not? These are her opinions.

She can get angry about whatever she wants to. But she does a lot of accusing believers of being intolerant of her beliefs. Getting angry about their beliefs (as opposed to their actions) may be emotionally true, but it is laughably hypocritical.

It's also not particularly useful, in my opinion, except presumably as catharsis for her and her readers. Catharsis has its place, I guess.
posted by gurple at 9:05 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm angry at atheists who don't realize that a belief in the non-existence of a God who is by definition unknowable is just as much a matter of faith as someone who believes in that God's existence.

I'm angry at anyone who doesn't realize that declining to believe in an unproved proposition is the same as belief.

If you offer me some land for sale in Florida and I ask for a picture, does that mean I have a religious belief in the non-existence of the land? That I will continue to hold in the face of evidence?
posted by DU at 9:05 AM on October 30, 2007 [27 favorites]


I'm angry at atheists who don't realize that a belief in the non-existence of a God who is by definition unknowable is just as much a matter of faith as someone who believes in that God's existence.

I'm mildly annoyed at having to explain the difference between weak and strong atheism and usually also burden of proof and the argument from ignorance over and over again.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:06 AM on October 30, 2007 [24 favorites]


I'm angry that she doesn't know how to use the word fundamentalist. One who believes in the fundamentals. This is easiest to demonstrate with religion, (wrong and an incorrect interpretation of scripture I'd argue, but that's beside the point) but not solely related to it.
posted by khaibit at 9:07 AM on October 30, 2007


Pretty sure religious people were angry about that as well.

Really? I thought most of them attributed it to the, God works in mysterious ways catchall reason. They sit around wondering how the God is going come up with enough money to pay those huge fines, while their bank accounts are having automatic deductions to the church taken out every week.

Except for the few that could cash in on it.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:08 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm angry that the atheists I know get really smug about pagans.
posted by Marquise at 9:08 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]



Given current events involving ignoring and/or manufacturing evidence, one would think this would be not all that strange a thing to worked up over.


I don't see the point of wasting good anger on something that it won't help. The best way to convince your average citizen that it wouldn't be unthinkable to vote for an atheist is to be their normal atheist neighbor, or daughter, or whatever. This particular issue isn't something that angry protests are going to fix; and, as I mentioned, the numbers seem to me to be more a cause for optimism than anything else.
posted by frobozz at 9:11 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm getting so tired of this nu-athiesm. It's a fucking religion I tell ya.

I'm firmly in the "couldn't give a shit about any"theist
posted by twistedonion at 9:11 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm angry that according to a recent Gallup poll, only 45 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for President.

If that's in any way accurate, it seems like good news to me. I'd have taken the under on 25%.
posted by mullacc at 9:11 AM on October 30, 2007


CitrusFreak12, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice By Christopher Hitchens, also an online Google book.
posted by nickyskye at 9:13 AM on October 30, 2007


I don't see the point of wasting good anger on something that it won't help. The best way to convince your average citizen that it wouldn't be unthinkable to vote for a woman/minority is to be their normal woman/minority neighbor, or daughter, or whatever. This particular issue isn't something that angry protests are going to fix; and, as I mentioned, the numbers seem to me to be more a cause for optimism than anything else.

- circa 1954
posted by DU at 9:14 AM on October 30, 2007


- circa 1954

Fifty whole years, oh my god! Give it three hundred more and I might begin to wonder a little.
posted by frobozz at 9:18 AM on October 30, 2007


I thought most of them attributed it to the, God works in mysterious ways catchall reason. They sit around wondering how the God is going come up with enough money to pay those huge fines, while their bank accounts are having automatic deductions to the church taken out every week.

It's my understanding that in North America most of that formally institutionalized tithing is practiced by Mormons, hardcore Protestant groups, and Jewish congregations.

That is to say, not so much the Catholics.

But it's always refreshing to see someone ostensibly on "my side" break up the fundies/literalists' monopoly on gross generalizations, mindless contempt and cheerful ignorace.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:19 AM on October 30, 2007


I am angry at every true believer, choking the roads with their dogma-mobiles, and right at noon on Sunday, just when the grocery stores can begin selling beer, and I sit, ailing silently with a consuming desire for hair of the dog, while this parade of devotion prevents me from getting the very succor I so crave...
posted by neat-o at 9:21 AM on October 30, 2007


That is to say, not so much the Catholics.

*cough*
posted by gurple at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2007


oh shit lookit this dude being angry on the internet
posted by schroedinger at 9:22 AM on October 30, 2007 [7 favorites]


Atheist husbands beat their wives as well.

No we don't. We dismember their bodies, seal them in an oil drum filled with lye and toss them in the river. You know; because it was gods will.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 9:23 AM on October 30, 2007


Anger is natural. Great.

Taking a shit is natural too, but I try not to do it in public.


I'm sure someone who doesn't know what "strawman" actually means will accuse me of creating one, but without a great deal of righteous anger being aired out in public, women would still not be able to vote, black people would still have separate bathrooms and get lynched on occasion, and gay people would still be sent to institutions instead of living happy, functional lives. Of course, some gay people still are sent to institutions, which is probably one of the things she's angry about.

Yeah, it totally sucks that the most fucked up religious people are right now the ones with the most power. But even the evangelical movement is starting to crack, and split into a movement that hopefully focus less on personal morality and more on issues of poverty and the environment.

I wouldn't hold your breath.

I'm angry that she doesn't know how to use the word fundamentalist. One who believes in the fundamentals. This is easiest to demonstrate with religion, (wrong and an incorrect interpretation of scripture I'd argue, but that's beside the point) but not solely related to it.

Ahem. From the American Heritage Dictionary.

fun·da·men·tal·ism n. 1. a. Often Fundamentalism An organized, militant Evangelical movement originating in the United States in 1920 in opposition to Liberalism and secularism. b. Adherence to the theology of this movement. 2. A movement or point of view characterized by rigid adherence to fundamental or basic principles. (Emphasis mine.)
posted by Caduceus at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm angry that fleetmouse used the "I'm mildly annoyed" formulation before I got a chance to. I was gonna make a funny. But I'm in no mood for that now.
posted by GalaxieFiveHundred at 9:25 AM on October 30, 2007


That is to say, not so much the Catholics.

Aren't they the wealthiest church holding somewhere in the range of $1,000,000,000,000 in assets?

But I see your point. I just get so angry.
posted by Mr_Zero at 9:27 AM on October 30, 2007


Yeah, it is okay to angry with someone's ideas, when they push those ideas down your throat and make you live by their rules. The majority of the people in this country believe that there is some giant Santa Claus in the sky that approves or disapproves of every little thing that they do. And, unfortunately, they use that as a justification to make other people live by their completely arbitrary and unjustifiable rules. And that matters. It changes the quality of life for all of us. If most of the Christians in this country were like the Menonites, secluding themselves to living life the way they think is right, there wouldn't be a problem. But when instead of limiting their own actions and options they decide that NO ONE should have those choices -- well, that's fucking insane, isn't it? Just because you think that Santa Claus loves the little stem cells doesn't mean that my family members should be sentenced to live with Parkinson's, does it?

And yeah, not all believers are like that. But as long as there have been religions, there have been people that have been people that have used them as a way to power and a vehicle to make other people live by their rules. For every group of Menonites there's also a group of far-right Christian fundamentalists. For every Zen monk, there's an Islamic mullah who says that women who don't cover their hair renounce their right to live.

So yeah, that makes some of us pretty fucking angry. Is that so strange? And if it feels like all this person is doing is attacking straw men, that may be because there are so many of them put out there as earnest defenses by people who don't seem to know any better.
posted by macmac at 9:28 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


*cough*

I read that too, it's the third google result for Catholic+Tithing. It's an interesting piece, even if it doesn't mention whether or not the Catholics in the story were tithing in the manner Mr_Zero described.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:30 AM on October 30, 2007


Yup, atheists not rigidly adhering to anything. Nothing at all.
posted by khaibit at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2007


But as long as there have been religions, there have been people that have been people that have used them as a way to power and a vehicle to make other people live by their rules.

I agree with you on that point 100%. You know what I do about it? I fight it, as an activist with Americans United for Separation of Church and State. I give money to them and to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. I watch the media in my area for instances of religious abuse of power in my area and I respond.

This woman's got a big old blog with a lot of entries about how awful religion is, and in none of her blog entries do I see her trying to do anything about it.
posted by gurple at 9:32 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


But I see your point. I just get so angry.

Dude, you should totally blog about it!

Kidding aside, if the opinions of most of the Catholic folks I know (And my own, back when I was practicing) is indicative of the mainstream NorAm Papist take on the subject, most Catholics are disgusted with pedophile priests and the Vaticans' sheltering of them in the same way many Americans are disgusted with the Administration. They are not going to toss their rosaries into the river or burn their citizenship documents just because the people running the show are horribly flawed beings.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:38 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm tired of atheist = obnoxious blowhard on the internet. Can we have some peppy, perky atheists? Ones who are all kinda like, "It's groovy, man...you can have your invisible sky guy, and I'll have my...um...nothing, I guess, and together in mutual contentment we will now proceed to chill? And can you pass the Cheetos?" But no. Instead we get these fire and brimstone types who, as a rule, effortlessly suck all the joy out of any room they enter. It's a drag. They're a drag. Shut up, militant atheists.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:39 AM on October 30, 2007 [14 favorites]


Wait--so you mean that if I click on the link in the OP, I'm actually not going to get rickrolled?
posted by Prospero at 9:39 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm tired of atheist = obnoxious blowhard on the internet. Can we have some peppy, perky atheists?

Seconded.
posted by Artw at 9:47 AM on October 30, 2007


I love selfish people that think the personal freedoms in this country only apply to them. I'm angry because no one agrees with me! BOO HOO Bitch. You choose to be angry because you don't believe in God. It's true that anyone can choose not to believe in anything in this country but don't expect everyone to bend over backwards just forone person's goofy views! I tolerant them because it means that they have to tolerant me in return. Tolerant does not mean accept. I don't accept their views and I don't expect them to accept mine. However, I really don't want to hear the whole, "I'm angry because no one thinks I'm right!" I got a solution to the girl who wrote this blogs problem with her anger.... OPEN UP YOUR HEART TO OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST AND LET HIM FILL IT WITH PEACE AND LOVE!

Agree or disagree with me... I don't really give a damn

Mastercheddaar
posted by Mastercheddaar at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2007


I'd like to thank the posters in this thread for reminding me how many religious people are so completely wrapped up in a religious mindset that atheism looks like a religion to them. I don't know how to reason with such people. It's not that atheists (well, most of us) actively believe there's no God, though such a formulation is sometimes rhetorically useful or fun. ("Smile! There's no Hell!" is a favorite of mine.) The truth is that most of us don't believe in God. There's a difference between not believing in God and believing that there's no God.

Now, I understand why you keep bleating about how atheism is a religion, too- the idea that there are ways of knowing about reality which not only aren't based in faith but actively deny that faith is a source of knowledge at all is rather anathematic to a faith-based conception of reality. If you can insist that atheism is a faith, you can avoid confronting the central claim of atheism- that knowledge and faith need not be related.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:48 AM on October 30, 2007 [16 favorites]


Obnoxious. As long as bloggers like this lady are using the word 'atheist' to describe themselves, I think I had better come up with a different way of describing my views. Any ideas?
posted by dead_ at 9:51 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's the most intelligent response I can muster:

Every public teaching that is based in opinion, educated or not, is a religious teaching. The second an atheists demands assent without knowledge, that atheist is a religious person. The real opposite of believe isn't disbelief; it's indifference. This person is certainly not indifferent.

In other news, this reminds me of the bumper sticker I'm hoping to have printed up:

IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE ONE OF THE HAPPY FEW
posted by koeselitz at 9:51 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm tired of atheist = obnoxious blowhard on the internet. Can we have some peppy, perky atheists? Ones who are all kinda like, "It's groovy, man...you can have your invisible sky guy, and I'll have my...um...nothing, I guess, and together in mutual contentment we will now proceed to chill?

I'm tired of black person = obnoxious civil rights activist. Can we have some nice, friendly negroes? Ones who are all kinda like "It's okay, man, you have your drinking fountains and I'll have mine and we can chill?"

ALTERNATE RESPONSE:
Yes, because when you're hitting someone in the face repeatedly, it's so obnoxious when they ask you to stop.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [12 favorites]


ANGER IS AN ENERGY!
ANGER IS AN ENERGY!
posted by kimota at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm too laid back to get really angry at anything short of personal injury, but I would agree that a lot of the things on the list are pretty annoying. I do think it's weird that she doesn't like it that some people have opinions about the heart of the Christian faith.

I get angry when religious believers insist that their interpretation of their religion and religious text is the right one, and that fellow believers with an opposite interpretation clearly have it wrong. I get angry when believers insist that the parts about Jesus's prompt return and all prayers being answered are obviously not meant literally... but the parts about hell and damnation and gay sex being an abomination, that's real. And I get angry when believers insist that the parts about hell and damnation and gay sex being an abomination aren't meant literally, but the parts about caring for the poor are really what God meant. How the hell do they know which parts of the Bible/ Torah/ Koran/ Bhagavad-Gita/ whatever God really meant, and which parts he didn't?

This isn't that hard. The Bible itself gives some pretty clear signals about that the most important stuff is.

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God."
--Micah 6:8

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
--Matthew 22:36-40

Yes, there is a lot of stuff in the Bible and some of it is unpleasant. But bad ideas get dropped or marginalized in the text, and better ones are re-affirmed and exalted. There is no text that says "When you sum everything up, what God really wants is for you to hate and oppress people." But there are hundreds of texts that say something like "It all boils down to loving others and taking care of people in need." Anyone who thinks that that isn't the heart of the Christian faith isn't reading the Bible very well, and I don't might saying that, even if it makes a certain atheist blogger very angry.

[Of course, I've read other atheist bloggers who get mad if Christians like me aren't vocal enough about reclaiming the faith from spiteful fundies. So it's damned if you do; damned if you don't. If atheists believed in damnation, which they don't.

Suddenly, I'm trying to remember why I care what she thinks, anyway.]
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


:) i'm a perky atheist, kittens. I used to be an angry neo-pagan but then I grew up.
I am pretty much the happiest person I know, actually.
posted by d13t_p3ps1 at 9:53 AM on October 30, 2007


Proselytyzing about atheism is only slightly less annoying than proselytyzing about Christianity. You don't believe in God? Great. Now shut the fuck up. Most of us don't care.
posted by dhammond at 9:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


The real opposite of believe isn't disbelief; it's indifference. This person is certainly not indifferent.

As long as believers keep voting to outlaw gay marriage and abortion and such in the pursuit of their beliefs, the idea that we should be indifferent is a sick joke and an abomination. Religion kills. Religion hurts people, and it drives people to hurt others. That pointing this out causes one to be pointed at as unreasonable and "obnoxious" is fucking infuriating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [26 favorites]


I don't mind the anger, but she gets to a point where she's trying to explain a huge wad of different things and she's 8,000 words in and that anger just fizzles.

I wish she'd either gone for a less argued piece (as the best angry rants usually throw logic out of the window) or curbed the anger and split her issues out over a number of articles.

As it is, she starts to wander around by the end of the article, hiccuping with a quiet and undecodable confusion.
posted by seanyboy at 9:56 AM on October 30, 2007


I do like perky atheist, I guess.

But now I'm thinking, how can I shorten this down: "I-just-don't-care-about-your-views,-yes-that-goes-for-you-too-ist"?? If this can be truncated to one word, I think we might be on to something.
posted by dead_ at 9:57 AM on October 30, 2007


Pope Guilty: "There's a difference between not believing in God and believing that there's no God."

The difference isn't really between those who believe and those who don't. It's between those who express hesitation between two difficult-to-know propositions and those who are confident, bold, and forceful in their haphazardly-chosen convictions.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


'Yup, atheists not rigidly adhering to anything. Nothing at all.'
Clearly no strawmen here either.
posted by edd at 9:58 AM on October 30, 2007


The difference isn't really between those who believe and those who don't. It's between those who express hesitation between two difficult-to-know propositions and those who are confident, bold, and forceful in their haphazardly-chosen convictions.

And that doesn't even for a second interfere with the fact that "atheism is a religion, too" is a strawman.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:00 AM on October 30, 2007


I'd like to thank the posters in this thread for reminding me how many religious people are so completely wrapped up in a religious mindset that atheism looks like a religion to them.

No, that's not why atheism "looks like a religion," nor is that phrasing entirely accurate. Rather, atheism is starting to adopt many of the negative traits of religion -- militancy, stubbornness, groupthink, and viewing their ideological opponents as subhuman -- under the guise of the "fight fire with fire" philosophy championed by the diatribe linked in the FPP.

When one considers the fact that the vast majority of the "angry atheists" are overfed, spoiled brats surrounded by first-world freedoms and luxuries, having never experienced any significant degree of religious oppression but with an enormous, masochistic persecution complex, their words become laughable. How does it feel when a cartoon featuring a talking turd has a more mature and rational position on religion and atheism than you? These people are only useful as a boogeyman for the Bible-thumpers: "Look! The militant atheists want to rape Jesus!"
posted by Krrrlson at 10:04 AM on October 30, 2007 [10 favorites]


It's between those who express hesitation between two difficult-to-know propositions and those who are confident, bold, and forceful in their haphazardly-chosen convictions.

There are not two propositions. There is only one: "God exists". I do not believe this proposition has sufficient evidence to warrant belief. I confidently and boldly retain this skepticism. I forcefully expound on it when pressed.
posted by DU at 10:06 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


You don't believe in God? Great. Now shut the fuck up. Most of us don't care.

You know the problem though? As I stated earlier I hate using the athiest tag myself. Here's an example of why we have to discuss a nonbelief however ridiculous that is (and it is preposterous!)...

I'm getting married next May. We are both non-religious. We can't marry on a Sunday (we could if we were religious - any religion, not just Christian.). We can't have music that mentions God, angels, alludes to being religious or has a gospel choir etc.

So, most of you may not care but non-believers are treated different throughout the world simply for not believing. What is crazy is that I would be respected as long as i believed in something.

This not believing shit must be powerful stuff considering the lengths authority goes to in order to make it awkward for me not to trust reason.
posted by twistedonion at 10:07 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Apropos of not very much, great Christian fundamentalist cranks I have admired #1: Major-general Thomas Harrison, the regicide.
I have served a good Lord and Creator; he hath covered my head many times in the day of battle. By God I have leapt over a wall, by God I have run through a troop, and by my God I will go through this death and He will make it easy for me.
Pepys watched Harrison's grisly execution, where he made that speech:
I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major- general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition.
posted by Abiezer at 10:08 AM on October 30, 2007


"I'm angry that so many believers treat prayer as a sort of cosmic shopping list for God."

Why does this upset her exactly? This kind of thinking has no measurable impact on her life, at all. I'm religious, and this kind of praying upsets me because I feel that it cheapens and misconstrues our relationship with God. I just don't see why this would upset her.

It's like getting mad at people who don't accept that Dumbledore is gay.
posted by oddman at 10:09 AM on October 30, 2007


How does it feel when a cartoon featuring a talking turd has a more mature and rational position on religion and atheism than you?

I think the instant that you cite South Park as having a mature and rational view on anything, you kind of lose all credibility.

Anyway, I love this:

the vast majority of the "angry atheists" are overfed, spoiled brats surrounded by first-world freedoms and luxuries, having never experienced any significant degree of religious oppression but with an enormous, masochistic persecution complex, their words become laughable.

Do you think that's an argument? Seriously? And if so, what is wrong with you that makes you think that way?
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:10 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Angry people are often boring as hell.
posted by LarryC at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, because when you're hitting someone in the face repeatedly, it's so obnoxious when they ask you to stop.

Who in the world is hitting you in the face, though? Atheists may be a minority, but a persecuted one? Really? I'm sorry, but I don't see it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2007


It's stunning to me how many extremely angry atheists don't realize that they sound exactly like extremely angry evangelical Christians, only they've swapped "There is no God, and you are a FOOL for thinking otherwise!" for "Jesus saves, and you're going to hell for thinking otherwise!" and "I want to have atheist meetings and you can't stop me!" for "School prayer, rah rah rah!"

Fundies of every single stripe have more in common with each other than with the less-angry, more-sensible folks they allegedly share their belief structures with.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:11 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I get angry about pathetic arguments on the Internets that go nowhere, change no one's mind, and are just an excuse for all involved to feel better about themselves, as if they actually accomplished something rather than shouting with their fingertips into an electronic void.

Wait; wait! It just changed to apathy. Ahhhh. So much better.
posted by solistrato at 10:12 AM on October 30, 2007


Goddamn. This post pisses me off. Just kidding.

This atheist/religionist dichotomy, as we keep illustrating here, is not really about religion; it's about power.

Sensible people believe that arguments that lead to the placement of controls on individual liberties should have some logical and humane underpinnings. The fact that "God said it" is not sufficient evidence on which to base public policy. First, it's highly debatable what, if anything, God said or didn't say. Second, just because God said it doesn't make it a good way to run a society (especially a secular society). And yet we see more and more politically powerful religionists willing to jam what we absolutely, fundamentally disagree with down our throats by force.

The fact that some people have religion is absolutely not the problem. The fact that they want to run everyone else's lives is. As with so much else these days, being nice and civil only seems to lead to more of the same. I think anger is a pretty legitimate response.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:12 AM on October 30, 2007 [9 favorites]


It's like getting mad at people who don't accept that Dumbledore is gay.

I don't care how many people get mad at me!!! Dumbledore is not gay!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:13 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


'the fact that the vast majority of the "angry atheists" are overfed, spoiled brats surrounded by first-world freedoms and luxuries, having never experienced any significant degree of religious oppression but with an enormous, masochistic persecution complex'

The term 'overfed, spoiled brats' applies just as well to the kinds of figures these people are generally criticising. That they are surrounded by first-world freedoms is entirely why they get aggravated when others in that same society try to infringe on the freedoms their society is supposed to be built upon. Are they supposed to just give up and not fight because they'd be worse off in Saudi Arabia or something?
posted by edd at 10:15 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm not an atheist, but there are some things on her list I can certainly understand. You really don't have to be an atheist to be pissed off about them. The teacher who told the comic artist he couldn't draw in heaven, for example. That's just effed up, right there.

It's when she says things like, "And I get angry when believers act as if these offenses aren't important, because 'Not all believers act like that. I don't act like that.' As if that fucking matters," that I want to roll my eyes.

Okay, sure, those offenses are important, but you can't judge an entire group by those offenses. Why doesn't it matter if someone isn't "like that"? Why is it insulting for a Christian to believe that God doesn't support hatred and religious violence and judging? How DARE a Christian not subscribe to the "God hates fags!" view! I mean, where do they get off?

She started out with intelligent criticism which turned into aimless angst. Yeah, okay. Fine. You're angry. But have a point.
posted by katillathehun at 10:17 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE ONE OF THE HAPPY FEW

Or better known as "ignorance is bliss"
posted by jeblis at 10:17 AM on October 30, 2007


Hehe, poop.


NO TIME TO LAUGH ABOUT IT NOW.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:18 AM on October 30, 2007


Because the other thing I'm angry about is the fact that, in this piece, I've touched on -- maybe -- a hundredth of everything that angers me about religion. This piece barely scratches the surface. I know, almost without a doubt, that within five minutes of hitting "Post" and putting this piece on my blog, I'll think of six different things that I'd wished I'd put in. I could write an entire book about everything that angers me about religion -- other people certainly have -- and still not be finished.

Whinging, that. grrrrrI'm so angry I can't even tell you how angry and this is only one hundredth of my stinky anger, it's so easy to think of things that PISS ME OFF so lookout!! grar grar

Put me in the perky pile. Secular Humanist is an okay term for me. I'm not pleased with religiosity in the governance of our nation, claim no fealty to any other, take solace in believing I see the world as it is, and speak sweetly of the awe of cold realism.

also, Metafilter: Tolerant does not mean accept.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay, sure, those offenses are important, but you can't judge an entire group by those offenses.

When the group in question subscribes to a dogmatic doctrine with a scriptural call for offenses of this nature, we most certainly can.

I get so tired of the "I'm not that kind of Christian argument". Who decides who is more Christian between two parties who self identify as Christian?
posted by lazaruslong at 10:20 AM on October 30, 2007


This is precisely what she was talking about. A lot of bored, sarcastic adults who respond to a heartfelt expression of opinion by shouting, "Sit down, and shut up! You're just making it worse for the rest of us! You don't have a right to be angry!" Everyone has a right to be angry. Everyone. And I'm angry at all of you.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 10:22 AM on October 30, 2007 [8 favorites]


Fuck. Reading through this thread I've encountered every tired anti-atheist argument that I just don't have the energy to debate anymore. Atheists are just as fundamental as Christians, et al ad nauseam.

How many times do we have to explain burden of proof? How many times do we have to point out that when there is insufficient evidence for a hypothesis, those of rational minds naturally reject it? For fuck's sake, this is why we never get anywhere. There's no institutional memory for these debates, it's the same old talking points over and over, that when met with rational criticism and response, simply crop up again and again like so many weeds.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:23 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


I'm tired of atheist = obnoxious blowhard on the internet. ...

I'm tired of black person = obnoxious civil rights activist. Can we have some nice, friendly negroes? Ones who are all kinda like "It's okay, man, you have your drinking fountains and I'll have mine and we can chill?"


Pope Guilty, as one atheist to another -- that is a horrible comparison. I've been an atheist my entire life, including growing up in the Assemblies of God headquarters of Springfield, MO. One year, I was the only child in class not invited to another student's birthday party because I told the class I didn't believe in god (or maybe I was just a huge loser, but I'm pretty sure it was the god stuff). Being an atheist in this country is mildly annoying, period. No lynchings. No firehoses. No bodys burned and buried in the swamps.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2007


DU: "There are not two propositions. There is only one: "God exists". I do not believe this proposition has sufficient evidence to warrant belief. I confidently and boldly retain this skepticism. I forcefully expound on it when pressed."

How is "God does not exist" not a proposition? What is your position on this proposition? Do you ask that others accept this proposition without knowledge? I don't think you do, but friend, you're not really a typical atheist.

Atheists are just human beings. We need to recognize that the vastest majority of human beings accepts silly propositions on faith every single day, from the notion that atoms are little balls of foam stuck together to the notion that God is a happy man with a flowing beard who wants to give us candy in heaven to the notion that Muslims are silly fools and everyone from another country is a crazy sod. People are so stupid as to routinely base public policy on these stupid beliefs.That doesn't exclude atheists, unfortunately. Most atheists are atheists for the wrong reasons.

That's not in any way an argument against not believing in god. It's just an argument against being a card-carrying member of a support group.
posted by koeselitz at 10:26 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


“I'm angry that atheist soldiers who are complaining about this are being harassed and are even getting death threats from Christian soldiers and superior officers -- yet again, in the U.S. armed forces.”

uh, yeah: “Military officials in Iraq are investigating allegations that an Army specialist is being harassed for being an atheist but said Saturday that they cannot find an officer the soldier has named in a federal lawsuit.”

Sounds like there are some fanatic dolts giving the guy a hard time which the military is investigating (although they strangely can’t find any records of one of the people the guy named).
Helps to have your facts straight instead of being, y’know, angry. But incoherently rage in one hand, do rational activism in the other (ala’ gurple) see which actually gets you anywhere.

Y’know, I think it’s the vacillation that’s most vexing. There’s this tortuous labyrinthine logic at work in most religions (mostly instead of saying “I don’t know”) that you really wouldn’t expect from atheists or atheism.
Yet it’s there more often then not.
Mostly because folks can’t seem to stand on just “God exists” or “God doesn’t exist” and have to go into all the why’s and wherefores like they’ve got life and the whole universe figured out (stick with me folks, I’ll lay it all down for ya).

So: God does/doesn’t exist
(Some 1/2wit) Yeah, ok. But what does that mean?
You: I don’t know.

How easy is that?

I’m not talking about defending against encroachment. Hell, no one wants someone else’s schtick shoved down their throats, but like abortion - there are non-religious reasons to oppose it. And there are no atheists who are homophobes?
So much of what “atheists” talk about is not the absence of God.
(Much as what “Christians” talk about have little to do with Christ)
There’s a guy out here pressing a lawsuit against the state’s moment of silence law saying it’s unconstitutional and infringes on his rights since it’s sort of a back door to prayer. That’s great. That’d be pretty much what I expect from an atheist who feels strongly about his atheism. (And I have to say I welcome the sharper and more broadly defined line between church and state)
But there are myriad political and philosophical positions based on opposing what religious folks support merely because religion is bad or some such.
Kinda sounds off the track of the “no God” thing.
At least as off track as “God” is in other areas as well.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:28 AM on October 30, 2007


Religion kills. Religion hurts people, and it drives people to hurt others.

There are evil people in this world...that's a given. Most of those evil people are religious (only because most people in general are religious). You see that fact and blame the religion as the cause of their evil. But what about the evil atheists? What causes their evil? What about the non-evil believers? How do you account for them?
posted by rocket88 at 10:29 AM on October 30, 2007


If you offer me some land for sale in Florida and I ask for a picture, does that mean I have a religious belief in the non-existence of the land? That I will continue to hold in the face of evidence?
posted by DU at 12:05 PM on October 30


No, it means nothing because the analogy is silly. Like I wrote, God is by definition unknowable. Your request for evidence of something unknowable is silly. If god could be known by way of evidence, then he wouldn't be unknowable, and that would not meet the definition of God.So of course no one can offer any proof.

In other words, to ask for proof of God is to completely misunderstand what people who believe in God think God is. In other words, to ask for proof means you don't understand belief.

Furthermore, the burden of proof in this context is on the atheist, not the believer. This is not someone saying "I do not believe in God". That would be a statement about their belief system (which by the way is also totally unprovable and unknowable to anyone other than the person making the statement.)

This is someone saying "There is no God". That is an objective statement about the nonexistence of God.

The believer believes in a God that by definition cannot be proven under the rules of logic or science. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Thus, God is defined in such a way that he violates all of the fundamental laws of physics. That's the definition. That doesn't mean he can't exist, it means that physics can't define him, or be used to demonstrate his existence. That this is the case reflects a deficiency in physics, not God, according to the believer.

If the atheist believes there is no God, then the atheist is in fact stating that nothing can exist that is outside the laws of physics. What is the proof of this assertion? More significantly, what are the implications of this when the person making the statement is not a physicist and probably does not have a complete understanding of all of physics?
posted by Pastabagel at 10:30 AM on October 30, 2007 [7 favorites]


Bookhouse Being an atheist in this country is mildly annoying, period. No lynchings. No firehoses. No bodys burned and buried in the swamps.

No it's not that bad now, for either group, but in the history of the world it has been just as bad. I'd say it's a pretty fair comparison. The only real exception is that it's easier for an atheist to hide.
posted by jeblis at 10:31 AM on October 30, 2007


Wow, turns out that was one of her less irritating blog entries.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


How can you tell Atheism isn't a religion?

When an Atheist rapes a child, they go to prison.
posted by Mr_Zero at 10:33 AM on October 30, 2007 [18 favorites]


IF YOU'RE OUTRAGED, YOU SHOULD HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN CHOOSING WHICH BUMPER STICKER BEST REPRESENTS YOU AS A PERSON.

AND TRY PUBLIC TRANSIT, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS ASSHOLE.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:33 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


In other words, to ask for proof means you don't understand belief FAITH.

I mean, come now.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:33 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


koeselitz: "IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, YOU'RE ONE OF THE HAPPY FEW"

jeblis: "Or better known as 'ignorance is bliss'"

No, friend. The point is that "intelligence" and "outrage" don't fucking go together. It might well be that the enlightened are actually very happy, rather than seething with wrath.
posted by koeselitz at 10:35 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


In other words, to ask for proof means you don't understand belief.

Pastabagel, as opposed to some others in this thread, at least understands this crucial difference between religion and atheism. Atheists don't understand (or, at least, practice) "belief", as Pastabagel is defining belief.
posted by gurple at 10:36 AM on October 30, 2007


The more and more truly obnoxious fundamentalist atheists that turn in the wake of the fairly obnoxious Dawkins and Hitchens has started to make me think that it could all be a huge cosmic joke on god's part to recruit more to his side.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:37 AM on October 30, 2007


but in the history of the world it has been just as bad. I'd say it's a pretty fair comparison. The only real exception is that it's easier for an atheist to hide.

If we're pulling out the entire history of the world, it's been just as bad for just about everyone. There are still survivors of those bloody civil rights years. They probably wouldn't agree with you.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:37 AM on October 30, 2007


blah blah. woof woof. yadda3.
and the beat goes on...
posted by quonsar at 10:38 AM on October 30, 2007


I agree with much of her rant, but this:

I'm angry at the believers who put decals on their cars with a Faith fish eating a Darwin fish... and who think that's clever, who think that religious faith really should triumph over science and evidence.

Um, wasn't the Darwin fish a "clever" response to the Jesus fish? So the Jesus fish people have no right to respond in kind?

And yeah, bumper stickers are dumb.
posted by amro at 10:39 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm getting married next May. We are both non-religious. We can't marry on a Sunday (we could if we were religious - any religion, not just Christian.). We can't have music that mentions God, angels, alludes to being religious or has a gospel choir etc.

Why not? What's stopping you? If you want it, go nuts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:39 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


And do their wives stay because of the will of God? That's kind of the crux of the point.

Hey, DU, the wives gave atheism a fair shot and got beaten for it, so maybe now its God's turn at bat.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I swore I wouldn't get involved in the LOLXTIANS/LOLATHEISTS discussions, but hey I break promises all the time.

You know what really gets her angry? The fact that she can't reconcile her atheism with the fact that an established religious organization is not a religion. It infuriates her that the practices of a church bear no relevance to the existence or lack thereof of any sort of higher power or spiritual existence beyond the material world. In fact, what's eating at her at the back of her (completely understandable and wholly sympathizable) mind is the nagging suspicion that her choice of belief system is motivated almost wholly by (entirely justifiable) political and social conviction rather than sincere belief or lack thereof. For instance, I feel confident that somewhere in her mind there is a voice telling her that condemning the hypocrisy of religious folk who trumpet the good deeds of religion, all the while insisting on a myopic view of its evils is in itself the very same hypocrisy. Anyone can bust out the old canard about religion being an influence for harm in a society, but it takes rather more honesty with one's self to recognize that Buddhism is hardly a force for evil in the world and Jainists are perhaps the only people in the world who can honestly say that they literally wouldn't hurt a fly. Anger of this variety, although I could obviously be mistaken in this instance, is often the result of a need to reinforce to oneself one's own belief system. "But of course Atheism is the way to go! Look at the Spanish Inquisition! Fuck Christianity!" But Atheism doesn't need to be reinforced, and religion doesn't have to be the enemy. One is perfectly capable of disbelieving in spirituality and divine presences without condemning that belief. And one is also perfectly capable of condemning the corruption and petty tyrannies of certain organized religious institutions without believing that those institutions reflect on the legitimacy or existence of the divinity they allegedly believe in. The idea that Atheism is the cause which best scrutinizes the faults in a given religious organization is arguable at best. Just ask Martin Luther.

I'm an Agnostic (tm), and I endorse this comment.
posted by shmegegge at 10:41 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm angry about what happened to Galileo. still.

II may be wrong but isn't Galileo still in orbit?
posted by Xurando at 10:41 AM on October 30, 2007


Pastabagel, I would be very interested to hear your argument in more detail as to how exactly the burden of proof is on atheists with regard to the God hypothesis. I respect your contributions here a whole lot, but this smacks of some ol' bullshit.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:41 AM on October 30, 2007


re: belief

I think I, as an atheist, practice belief. Philosophy, to me, has dictated that conscious observation that creates my subjective reality is incomplete, yet I believe that what I witness and understand it truer than any embodiment of God heretofore set forth. I go for the unknowable, unprovable God without protest, but that makes all pronouncements about him/her/it meaningless and all traditions, rites or rules inherently arbitrary. I would convert to Judaism if I felt like doing a bunch of work for no reason.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:43 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Religion kills. Religion hurts people, and it drives people to hurt others. That pointing this out causes one to be pointed at as unreasonable and "obnoxious" is fucking infuriating.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:54 PM on October 30


Sex kills, sex hurts people and it certainly drives people to hurt others. So does money. In fact, other than revenge, the most common motives for murder are sex and money.

Religion may have a checkered history, but that means its history is both black and white. Churches have run homeless shelters, soup kitchens, orphanages. They provide community support in times of crisis.

Most of the religion that kills is religion that is subverted for political ends. Not the other way around. Politics is not subverted for religion. Religion is not about a power dynamic between people here on earth. Politics is. Religion often makes a great cover story for some kind of political decision, but in the end the decision is always about consolidating power in the already powerful.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:43 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Religion is not about a power dynamic between people here on earth.

You have got to be kidding.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:45 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


BIBLE FIGHT!
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:47 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Being an atheist in this country is mildly annoying, period. No lynchings. No firehoses. No bodys burned and buried in the swamps.

Okay, so no firehoses or lynchings.

But students and instructors at, say, the Air Force Academy having their careers affected because they refuse to pray is more than "mildly annoying."

Having HIV/AIDS education and policy be poisoned by self-proclaimed Christians who lie about condom failure rates, and who insist on abstinence-only "education" because they believe this is what the Bible teaches is more than mildly annoying - it kills people.

IF YOU'RE OUTRAGED, YOU SHOULD HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO THAN CHOOSING WHICH BUMPER STICKER BEST REPRESENTS YOU AS A PERSON.

AND TRY PUBLIC TRANSIT, YOU SANCTIMONIOUS ASSHOLE.


HEY ALVY! Did you read the whole post? You know, the other ~4600 words around that one bit about the bumpersticker?

And where did you read that Greta has a car? Where did you read that she doesn't take public transport? Maybe like a lot of us, she is surrounded by cars even if she doesn't have one!
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I've said it before and I'll say it again : You are all retarded.
posted by Stynxno at 10:49 AM on October 30, 2007 [8 favorites]


Point taken, Ambrosia Voyeur. It's as pointless to make sweeping generalities about atheists as it is about anyone else.

It would be perhaps closer to true to say that most atheists don't revere this kind of belief.
posted by gurple at 10:51 AM on October 30, 2007


It's stunning to me how many extremely angry atheists don't realize that they sound exactly like extremely angry evangelical Christians...

Oh no, the dreaded Sounds Like argument! It utterly renders all content null and void, categorizing disputes by who sounds like what!

For more information, see the Has A Similar Cover To book judging method.
posted by DU at 10:51 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


dhammond: Proselytyzing about atheism is only slightly less annoying than proselytyzing about Christianity. You don't believe in God? Great. Now shut the fuck up. Most of us don't care.

kittens for breakfast: I'm tired of atheist = obnoxious blowhard on the internet. Can we have some peppy, perky atheists? Ones who are all kinda like, "It's groovy, man...you can have your invisible sky guy, and I'll have my...um...nothing, I guess, and together in mutual contentment we will now proceed to chill? And can you pass the Cheetos?" But no. Instead we get these fire and brimstone types who, as a rule, effortlessly suck all the joy out of any room they enter. It's a drag. They're a drag. Shut up, militant atheists.

Yeah, that bitch is totally foaming at the mouth. You better take a good distance or you'll get some of that spit on your hipster detachment cred.

dead_: I do like perky atheist, I guess.

But now I'm thinking, how can I shorten this down: "I-just-don't-care-about-your-views,-yes-that-goes-for-you-too-ist"?? If this can be truncated to one word, I think we might be on to something.


How about nihilist? Just keep your scissors off my Johnson and your ferrets out of my bathtub.
posted by Anything at 10:52 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty, as one atheist to another -- that is a horrible comparison. I've been an atheist my entire life, including growing up in the Assemblies of God headquarters of Springfield, MO. One year, I was the only child in class not invited to another student's birthday party because I told the class I didn't believe in god (or maybe I was just a huge loser, but I'm pretty sure it was the god stuff). Being an atheist in this country is mildly annoying, period. No lynchings. No firehoses. No bodys burned and buried in the swamps.

That the severity is not the same does not change the fact that the logic is identical.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:52 AM on October 30, 2007


rtha: did you read the thread? Alvy Ampersand was responding to me, I do believe. I was pointing out upthread how much I hate those "if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention" bumper stickers. Nothing to do with the ANGRY BLOGGER.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on October 30, 2007


lazaruslong how exactly the burden of proof is on atheists

I think it's pretty clear that Thor should be default until you prove otherwise.
posted by jeblis at 10:54 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Religion often makes a great cover story for some kind of political decision, but in the end the decision is always about consolidating power in the already powerful.

I'm with you as far as you go, there, Pastabagel. But I would say further that when politics and religion mix -- and they do mix, often -- it gets very difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. It becomes just a matter of definition, really.
posted by gurple at 10:55 AM on October 30, 2007


I'm angry that even after 135 comments, the MetaFilter community has not resolved the dispute over whether God exists. I expect that the matter will be settled within the next 135 comments.
posted by pardonyou? at 10:55 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel: God is by definition unknowable.

I believe there is a country of rainbow unicorns on the dark side of the moon. I also define this country and the unicorns therein to be unknowable by mortal humans.

Now that I've created this mythos you have only two options, according to your argument. You can either subscribe to the Religion of the Rainbow Unicorns or you can subscribe to the Relgion of the Anti-Unicornists.

Which is it?
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


When the group in question subscribes to a dogmatic doctrine with a scriptural call for offenses of this nature, we most certainly can.

And how do you know the entire group subscribes to that doctrine? How do you know the entire group interprets that doctrine the same way?
posted by katillathehun at 10:56 AM on October 30, 2007


Who in the world is hitting you in the face, though? Atheists may be a minority, but a persecuted one? Really? I'm sorry, but I don't see it. posted by kittens for breakfast

I do think atheists are persecuted in a lot of situations in this country, (especially in the military). So is anyone not of the mainstream, white, Protestant persuasion.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stynxo: "I've said it before and I'll say it again : You are all retarded."

Very true. We really are. And it bears repeating.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to call my health insurance provider and attempt to sort out everything that went wrong with my enrollment last week. It's all about priorities, you see. My hedonism requires that I follow whatever gives me the most pleasure, and right now, "talking to computerized health insurance telephone gizmo" trumps "atheism thread on mefi."
posted by koeselitz at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2007


That the severity is not the same does not change the fact that the logic is identical.

Regardless of whether that statement has any validity, I don't think it was the logic button you were attempting to press by likening atheists (and the potential harm in being one) to civil rights marchers in the '60s.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:59 AM on October 30, 2007


Y'all please keep commenting so I can post the good ones here: Fundies Say the Darndest Things!
posted by jeblis at 10:59 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Did you read the whole post? You know, the other ~4600 words around that one bit about the bumpersticker? And where did you read that Greta has a car?

HONK IF YOU'RE OUTRAGED BECAUSE YOU COMPLETELY MISREAD MY MOCKERY OF IMAGINARY BUMPER STICKERS AS BEING AN ATTACK ON SOME ATHEIST BLOGGER. AND START PAYING ATTENTION TO THE ROAD.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:01 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


DU: Obviously I don't agree with your binary. Do you think reality is proveable? It's not.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:03 AM on October 30, 2007


Pastabagel, I would be very interested to hear your argument in more detail as to how exactly the burden of proof is on atheists with regard to the God hypothesis.
posted by lazaruslong at 1:41 PM on October 30


There isn't a burden of proof on the believer, because the believer does not believe that God can be proven. The believer has chosen to define him in a way that is literally impossible to prove. It's a matter of faith not a mathematical proof.

But the atheist does not believe this. Specifically, the atheist must believe that God can not exist, not merely that he does not. The impossibility of God's existence has to be based on something, it must be impossible under some theory or set of rules. The laws of mathematics? Physics? Logic? In what context is God impossible? How is the atheist defining God so as to refute him?

In other words, the atheist is bound by the laws of the universe as humans have imperfectly defined them up to this point in history in a way that the faithful are not.

Furthermore, in the case of atheism as manifested in this blog post, it is more than a mere statement of disbelief. It is a statement of certainty that there is no God. How can she be so certain? What has convinced her of this? From reading her posts, she is convinced of the non-existence of God based on the actions of people who had all manner of political, financial, and psychological reasons for acting as they did in the specific cases she cites. But it is illogical to conclude that because people behave poorly God cannot exist.


But what this blog post represents is the atheist who wants to argue that God does not exist, i.e. to persuade others of the nonexistence. That statement requires proof as well.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:03 AM on October 30, 2007


Can we have some peppy, perky atheists?

With nice tits? Because say what you like about this one, she's got that whole hurf durf thing going on. That's probably why she's as angry as she is.

In fact, I'm pretty sure that if we started selling some of those charity calendars, you know the type -- '12 Naked Infidels: There's no God dictating their love lives' -- we'd start seeing a dramatic increase in those who lack faith.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:05 AM on October 30, 2007


It doesn't matter with what pretty words you defend "faith". Those of us who have been on the receiving end of saharasian religionism know full well what what you're trying to cover up.
posted by telstar at 11:06 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Specifically, the atheist must believe that God can not exist, not merely that he does not.

Nope. Unless by "the atheist" you're referring to some specific atheist you know makes this claim.
posted by gurple at 11:06 AM on October 30, 2007



I'm with you as far as you go, there, Pastabagel. But I would say further that when politics and religion mix -- and they do mix, often -- it gets very difficult to determine where one ends and the other begins. It becomes just a matter of definition, really.
posted by gurple at 1:55 PM on October 30


I understand what you're saying, and the sentiment, but remember that the politics of it is often not public, it is what is happening behind closed doors when decisions are being made. What we are seeing that mixes the two is the spin and the PR.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:07 AM on October 30, 2007


What's funny is that atheism is really growing in popularity in the first world, and it's religious belief that's rare, especially among young people. Very few modern citizens even really understand the original questions that religion was trying to address, and are looking through a scientific lens, so have a bizarre distorted understanding of what "god" is meant to be. As I said here, the actual philosophical background for these questions is deeper than it's often made out to be by simplistic accounts, made by both atheists and believers in the modern age (as Hegel suggested, many religious people responded to the enlightenment claims that their myths made no scientific sense by trying to defend them but on scientific terms, and so essentially shot themselves in the foot by shifting their own ground, as they should have stuck by them as sources of meaning not fact).

ANyway. It seems to me that it's far more embarrassing for a college kid to try to claim to be religious these days than to claim atheism. I teach at a catholic college, but even the kids who go to church talk about sex and drugs and drinking. I get the impression that most people who claim to be religious are older & have families, and want to bring the kids up with some kind of structure. The essential belief is not that strong. Even mother theresa wasn't sure.

And plenty of people who claim atheism are NOT rational, so to imagine that stopping someone's adherence to one belief is going to suddenly make them purely consistent and careful thinkers is ridiculous. You think sports fans will stop imagining their lucky hat has an affect on how the team does? You think patriots will stop believing how you treat the flag matters to the health of the country? You think individuals will notice when they love their kid even if he fucks up and gets a DUI, even while condemning the random person who rams their car when drunk, or whatever, just because you got them to give up church? Promoting rationality is a far more complicated process than convincing people there's no afterlife.
posted by mdn at 11:07 AM on October 30, 2007


*waves a hankerchief soaked in blood of infidels at Peter McDermott*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:08 AM on October 30, 2007


Regardless of whether that statement has any validity, I don't think it was the logic button you were attempting to press by likening atheists (and the potential harm in being one) to civil rights marchers in the '60s.

It was, but that's a nice attempt to pretend that the logic of domination should only be noticed in cases where you're happy with the domination.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:11 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter Bingo!

===================================================
| | | | | |
|Fatty |Strawman | Bush | Hurf | Windoze |
| | | | Durf | |
===================================================
|Begging | | | | |
| The | Hitler | Atheist | SUV | iPod |
|Question | | | | |
===================================================
|invisible|So this..| Free | Name | |
| Sky |...it | Square! | My | USian |
| Man |vibrates?| | Kitty | |
===================================================
| | | | | |
|Pancakes | Smokers |Radiohead| Sucks | Woz |
| | | | | |
===================================================
| Hive | Ann | | | |
| Mind | Coulter | Pony | OSX | Liberal |
| | | | | |
===================================================

posted by bondcliff at 11:12 AM on October 30, 2007 [77 favorites]


It seems to me that it's far more embarrassing for a college kid to try to claim to be religious these days than to claim atheism.

I would love to go to whatever college you're fantasising about here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:13 AM on October 30, 2007


I for one would like to commend bondcliff on his concatenation of "Radiohead" and "Sucks".
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:14 AM on October 30, 2007


There is no text that says "When you sum everything up, what God really wants is for you to hate and oppress people."

Bull pucky.
posted by telstar at 11:14 AM on October 30, 2007


After reading through most of this thread, all I can say is I will pray for all of you, and especially Pope Guilty.

You're welcome.
posted by genefinder at 11:15 AM on October 30, 2007


Pope Guilty: I would love for you to get the hell out of Indiana, too.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:15 AM on October 30, 2007


I teach at a catholic college, but even the kids who go to church talk about sex and drugs and drinking...The essential belief is not that strong. Even mother theresa wasn't sure.

Assuming we're working with a Christian definition of "belief", neither example provided (behavior outside one's value frame or doubts about one's beliefs) proves that the believer is outside the frame of faith.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:17 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Can someone explain to me why "Faith" is any different from willful ignorance? And more importantly: why it is a good thing to believe in something for which there is no evidence?
posted by jeblis at 11:19 AM on October 30, 2007


I would love to go to whatever college you're fantasising about here.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:13 AM on October 30


Are you serious? Obviously, I can't account for all or even most colleges, but for the ones I've been at (transferred twice) the statement you're responding to rings true (maybe borderline for one of them). To have it implied that I would be merely "fantasizing" about a college or colleges that I have direct experience with concerning public religious views seems really arrogant.
posted by the other side at 11:21 AM on October 30, 2007


ANGRY ATHIEST CAT IS AGNRY!!!!
posted by fuq at 11:22 AM on October 30, 2007


And more importantly: why it is a good thing to believe in something for which there is no evidence?

See: why do people think different things than I do?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:23 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


It was, but that's a nice attempt to pretend that the logic of domination should only be noticed in cases where you're happy with the domination.

I'm mostly unhappy with the catastrophizing and the sensationalizing and other -ing things that happen here when a self-aggrandizing comparison between oneself and a group of people who actually, measurably, physically suffered for years -- within living memory, no less -- is made. It's kinda like a Godwin, almost, but more self-serving: instead of "you know who else...?" it's more along the lines of "you know who else...had it as bad as me?" And I'm sorry, but that's some bullshit. Perspective must get gotten here.

Also, I'm not sure what you're reading my religious persuasion as, but I have a feeling you're a little offbase.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:24 AM on October 30, 2007


Do you think reality is proveable? It's not.

Prove it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:34 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter Bingo!

Where's "circumcision"? Must have been cut off the board from the start.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:35 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain to me why "Faith" is any different from willful ignorance? And more importantly: why it is a good thing to believe in something for which there is no evidence?
posted by jeblis at 2:19 PM on October 30


Assuming you aren't an engineer or physicist, do you own a cell phone? When you dial someone's number, you believe it's going to connect to their phone and ring and let you talk to them, right? Do you know how it works? All of it? The coding schemes, the electronics, the radios, the switching systems etc.? If I gave you a stack of manuals that described every piece of equipment and precisely how they worked, would you be able to understand it?

If you aren't receptive to the evidence, the evidence is jibberish. You (we, collectively) believe things work because they have worked in the past, and because people who claim to understand these things tell us that they will work, and we trust them. We will let a brain surgeon cut open our heads not because we have evidence for brain medicine, such evidence exists, but most of us do not have it, nor would we understand it if we did. We go through with it because we believe that someone else has the evidence and understands it. Isn't that a form of faith?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:36 AM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Atheism is not, to me, the idea that God cannot exist.

Atheism, to me, is merely the rejection of the God hypothesis based on a lack of sufficient evidence.

Those who suggest a hypothesis are the ones required to put forth evidence to support it. Lacking such evidence, a scientific mind rejects the hypothesis and looks for an alternative explanation.

Darwinism and natural selection provide mountains of empirically verifiable evidence. This is a hypothesis I am more comfortable with accepting, because it can be experimentally verified.
posted by lazaruslong at 11:36 AM on October 30, 2007


HEY ALVY! Sorry 'bout that. *goes off to recalibrate snarkmeter*

posted by rtha at 11:37 AM on October 30, 2007


ThePinkSuperhero See: why do people think different things than I do?

I do value other opinions, beliefs, viewpoints, etc. But only when they are reasonable, thought through, backed up and supported. "I want" or "I wish" is not a valid argument and really should not be the basis of anyone's view of life. (And yes you're free to believe whatever you want, just don't expect me to have any respect for you. Oh and I'll probably mock you for being silly or dumb.)
posted by jeblis at 11:38 AM on October 30, 2007


NO PROBLEM, RTH- wow, that is as much fun as quonsar makes it look. Anyhoo, no problem, rtha!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:40 AM on October 30, 2007


BP: Your challenge to me is proof enough, right? Evidence of subjectivity, the chink in assessing realism.

And more importantly: why it is a good thing to believe in something for which there is no evidence?


It's not a good thing, it's the only thing. There's no meta-evidence of existence. Existence ~= God. (I prefer the former terminology.)
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:43 AM on October 30, 2007


Her list seems kind of, I don't know, too focused for my tastes. I mean, I get that she's angry about religion, but there are lots of other reasons for an atheist blogger to be angry that she never really seems to address. Here, let me try my hand at this...

List of Reasons Why an Atheist Blogger Is Angry:

- Parking tickets.
- People who repurpose hip hop songs for their answering machine messages.
- Someone stole my sandwich from the office fridge.
- They raised the price of a postage stamp again.
Arrested Development was cancelled, but Family Guy is still on the air.
- Why don't the cute boys like me?
- My roommate keeps finishing the ice cream, and then putting the empty container back in the freezer! WTF!?!?!
- I don't care what his Craigslist ad claims, that was not nine-and-a-half inches.

See, that wasn't so hard. There are a lot of things about which to be angry. I understand that atheists, by definition, have less capacity for imagination than people who believe in an invisible sky man, but she's not even trying to look outside of her narrow focus. Come on, angry atheist blogger, you can do it! I believe in you!
posted by Parasite Unseen at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


Isn't that a form of faith?

What you describe is an experiential, natural faith, as opposed to ad-hoc, supernatural faith: We have "faith" in brain surgeons to do their job, because we have collected experiences with modern medicine that allow us to make that rational calculation.

Presumably the results of that rational calculation are based upon a bedrock of sound, empirical premises. You calculate the risk of the surgeon opening up your skull against the rewards you have accrued from previous experiences with medical care.

In contrast, most popular supernatural religions ("theisms") rely on the experiences of others, taken purely upon faith. You believe this or that edict, because a book written by someone else thousands of years ago says so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Darwinism and natural selection provide mountains of empirically verifiable evidence. This is a hypothesis I am more comfortable with accepting, because it can be experimentally verified.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:36 PM on October 30


This is wonderful, but has nothing to do with the existence or nonexistence of God. I suppose it has to do with taking the Bible literally, which no one in the thread has argued.

Atheism, to me, is merely the rejection of the God hypothesis based on a lack of sufficient evidence.

I don't know that anyone has presented a God hypothesis. Asking if God exists is like asking if love exists. Or hope. What's the evidence that confirms the existence of hope?
posted by Pastabagel at 11:44 AM on October 30, 2007


Can someone explain to me why "Faith" is any different from willful ignorance?

No, but I can explain exactly why it's like willful ignorance.

No Christian can explain why a divine being created a world where 10-25 percent of all pregnancies result in a spontaneous abortion or miscarriage.

No Christian can explain why a divine being created a world where millions of people every year are killed by natural disasters and infectious disease.

No Christian can explain why a divine being created a world where there are so many other religions that worship other deities.

So they just don't think about. That's willful ignorance. They just huddle themselves in churches and read the gospel and become insular thinking people like any other cult.
posted by disgruntled at 11:46 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow. I'm slightly surprised at the vitriol against this woman. She stated her points clearly, concisely, and with a great dosing of reason. It's a well-defended blog post. Yet, I guess the concensus is she's an obnoxious blow-hard? I'd have a much better time respecting that opinion if it was, you know, reasoned and supported. Many of the comments here come off as far too cool for school for me to pay them much mind.
posted by agregoli at 11:46 AM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm kind of amazed at how angry some people are getting about her anger. Seriously? Sure, I can see how her angry blog is annoying. But I don't think that invalidates everything she says. She's not angry at the fake bearded dude in the sky; she's angry at people (mis)using religion to repress and harm other people. I'm pretty damn sick of people misusing religion too. Just as much as I'm sick of all sorts of injustices, whether or not they're based in anyone's religion.

On preview - ditto, agregoli.
posted by bassjump at 11:48 AM on October 30, 2007


In contrast, most popular supernatural religions ("theisms") rely on the experiences of others, taken purely upon faith. You believe this or that edict, because a book written by someone else thousands of years ago says so.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:44 PM on October 30


I suppose some people believe this. But many people who believe in God would attest to some kind of moving spiritual experience (e.g. "touched by God"). Thus, they would have the kind of personal, first-hand experience you were talking about.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:50 AM on October 30, 2007



Can someone explain to me why "Faith" is any different from willful ignorance?


I think, and mind you I'm an atheist with a lazily Christian upbringing, that Faith can be defined as the property of believing in the existence of the unfathomable and accepting your inferiority to its benevolent (with regard to you) grace. Whether it's by putting on the bearded guy to look out for you in the valley of the shadow of death, or in less allegorical terms, just thinking that we can't get why we're here and we're gonna be okay anyway.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:51 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Assuming you aren't an engineer or physicist, do you own a cell phone? When you dial someone's number, you believe it's going to connect to their phone and ring and let you talk to them, right? Do you know how it works? All of it? The coding schemes, the electronics, the radios, the switching systems etc.? If I gave you a stack of manuals that described every piece of equipment and precisely how they worked, would you be able to understand it?

Pastabagel, after previewing a couple of times, I think I get where you're going and I don't necessarily disagree, but this is a bad argument.
posted by damnthesehumanhands at 11:52 AM on October 30, 2007


Pastabagel

When I say "faith" I mean specifically belief w/o evidence in a god. Faith in a person or device is more an issue of trust or a calculated risk that things will work out correctly. Even with a person or device I have varying levels of trust. (Do they look shady, trustworthy, is the device made bya company who has made good products before, etc) When it comes to a belief in a god there is no direct evidence only an old book, an emotion, or the word of someone else. Not a lot worthy of trust there.
posted by jeblis at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2007


I don't know that anyone has presented a God hypothesis. Asking if God exists is like asking if love exists. Or hope. What's the evidence that confirms the existence of hope?

The existence of God is a hypothesis. The idea that there is a deity is a hypothesis.

I'm not asking if God exists. I'm assessing the hypothesis that there is a God based on the evidence. Lacking sufficient evidence, I reject the hypothesis.

As to the analogy to love and hope, those are emotional states of being. There is biological evidence for the existence of love in the heightened presence of certain neurotransmitters. There is an evolutionary advantage to love as well, as parents that feel love and affection for their offspring are more likely to provide the means to survive for them.

There's an excellent book on the subject of a neural substrate for things like emotions called Decartes' Error by Antonio R. Damasio. He presents compelling evidence for the verifiable existence of things like love and hope.

To date, I have not seen a coherent argument offering evidence that would validate the God hypothesis. Hence, I reject it.

Are we misunderstanding each other?
posted by lazaruslong at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel: What's the evidence that confirms the existence of hope?
Gambling.

And I think that Greta Christina's rant is cool.
posted by bru at 11:56 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


1) Internal Personal Experience is not evidence.
"A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything."
Friedrich Nietzsche

2) Not being an expert in cell phone tech does not make your belief in their efficacy "Faith". It comes from EXTERNAL and SHARED experience. It is a reliable and verifiable phenomenon, regardless of your level of understanding, like gravity.
posted by bornjewish at 11:57 AM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


They just huddle themselves in churches and read the gospel and become insular thinking people like any other cult.
posted by disgruntled at 2:46 PM on October 30


Well, most of "them" don't think that God created the world, they think it formed from debris surrounding the sun that over billions of years accreted into a planet that after a few billion years developed life which only in the last 100,000 years evolved into humans as they exist today, and which creatures are still evolving, and are thus prone to the occasional design malfunction.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:57 AM on October 30, 2007


There should really be a lot less arrogance and a lot more awe in these discussions. At the heart, aren't we discussing the reason we have reason? Isn't the question "Why did consciousness come about?" Does it really matter then if we simply name a maker or not?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:59 AM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


Well, most of "them" don't think that God created the world, they think it formed from debris surrounding the sun that over billions of years accreted into a planet that after a few billion years developed life which only in the last 100,000 years evolved into humans as they exist today, and which creatures are still evolving, and are thus prone to the occasional design malfunction.

Are you really presuming to speak for all Christians on the issue of Creation vs Evolution? My experience certainly differs from yours with regards to what most of "them" think, but at least I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data..
posted by lazaruslong at 12:00 PM on October 30, 2007


Like Lazarus said:

1) God IS a hypothesis. It is claimed to independently exist, outside our heads.

2) Love and hope are emotions, it is granted that they have no existence outside our heads. They are "Mental States" which are measurable.

If you wish to claim that "God is a mental state", well then, I AGREE.
posted by bornjewish at 12:01 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I like you, Ambrosia Voyeur.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:02 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


In fact, I'm pretty sure that if we started selling some of those charity calendars, you know the type -- '12 Naked Infidels: There's no God dictating their love lives' -- we'd start seeing a dramatic increase in those who lack faith.

I'd buy a Hot Godless Hunk of the Month calendar! Where can I find one?

I perused some of this woman's other blog entries, and wow. Who urinates in her cornflakes every morning?
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:03 PM on October 30, 2007


But many people who believe in God would attest to some kind of moving spiritual experience (e.g. "touched by God"). Thus, they would have the kind of personal, first-hand experience you were talking about.

But these experiences are not repeatable. There is an empirical, natural element that lacks in a theist's "body of experience", that separates "faith" in brain surgeons from "Faith" in God.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:04 PM on October 30, 2007


Lazarus Long, those are neat results but are you seriously suggesting they substantially increase the likelihood that "love exists"? It was never in doubt. This is reductionism, to take something that has been a non-scientific human concept for thousands of years & pretend like recent biological evidence validates it. It was not in need of validation.

Despite Dennett & other's attempts there is no strong science of subjectivity. It's an extremely interesting subject but no one is putting their own inner life on hold until science weighs in on the subject.
posted by Wood at 12:04 PM on October 30, 2007


Let sum it up before it turns into LOLbIpolAr..or maybe it is too late ?

She's mad at:

1. force of some laws
(read: abortion laws, "clean language" laws, "sexual behavior" laws, restriction of access to some drugs, their questionable consequences )

2. consquence of blind-faith protection behaviors
(read: prejudice and harrasment of atheists, repression of different or opposite toughts, protection of abusers because of their religious affiliations)

3. consequence of imposition of blind faith on innocents
(read: prejudice on condoms and its deadly effect, bible as word of god, scaring people into submission to abuse, shifting blame on the victim, scaring childrens into faith, perpetuation of ignorance as an instrument to maintain faith, getting people used to denial of personal responsability, abusing people into giving them fault for everything that happens to them )


That's little about god or atheism, a lot about the negative effects of blind faith.
posted by elpapacito at 12:04 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is consciousness?
It is an emergent quality of higher organization.

No matter how much you dissect a car, you will never find "Motion." It is an emergent quality of the organization present in the car.

Next we will be asked about this very "Organization."
But the question about consciousness has been answered.
Without awe. (which I do have for "The Universe" at large)
posted by bornjewish at 12:05 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Assuming you aren't an engineer or physicist, do you own a cell phone? When you dial someone's number, you believe it's going to connect to their phone and ring and let you talk to them, right? Do you know how it works? All of it? The coding schemes, the electronics, the radios, the switching systems etc.? If I gave you a stack of manuals that described every piece of equipment and precisely how they worked, would you be able to understand it?

But electricity wasn't invented by people who were looking for answers to questions like why bad things happen to good people. If I stick a fork into a live outlet, I'll sure as shit have evidence that electricity exists - I don't need an advanced degree in e.e. to believe it.

On preview, what bornjewish said.

I'm not an atheist. I'm one of those wishy-washy agnostic types, and on some days I believe in a Something, but it isn't a Something that adheres to anything resembling Christian or Muslim or Jewish or [fill in blank] beliefs.
posted by rtha at 12:05 PM on October 30, 2007


bornjewish If you wish to claim that "God is a mental state", well then, I AGREE.

Well put.
posted by jeblis at 12:06 PM on October 30, 2007


Papa,

What faith is not blind?
If it has evidence to support it, we don't call it faith.
posted by bornjewish at 12:06 PM on October 30, 2007


The biggest irony in Angry Atheist's blog rant is that all of the death, war, intolerance and suffering she's railing against isn't the direct result of religion...it's the direct result of anger.
posted by rocket88 at 12:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


No Christian can explain why...

Lemme guess -- you're not a theologian, are you?
posted by pardonyou? at 12:08 PM on October 30, 2007


I'm not asking if God exists. I'm assessing the hypothesis that there is a God based on the evidence. Lacking sufficient evidence, I reject the hypothesis.

Okay, fine. How are you defining God? What kinds of evidence would verify his existence?

My point with the cell phone argument was simply that for each of us individually, we did not arrive at everything we think we know based on evidence that we personally have. We can at most verify that the world works as expected, but we don not verify for ourselves that it is working in the expected way because for the reasons expressed in science and physics.

So it is not unreasonable that people surrounded by believers in God would conclude that because everyone they know believes in God, there probably is a God, especially when they are told that God brings them joy, love etc, and they actually experience joy and love.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:10 PM on October 30, 2007


Lazarus Long, those are neat results but are you seriously suggesting they substantially increase the likelihood that "love exists"? It was never in doubt. This is reductionism, to take something that has been a non-scientific human concept for thousands of years & pretend like recent biological evidence validates it. It was not in need of validation.

Um, what?

I think you are confusing validation with understanding. The Earth has always revolved around the Sun. This does not need validation. But it is nice to understand it with science.

The reductionist argument is a bit stale as well. Just because we can understand something we did not previously understand does not diminish it in any way. If anything, it makes the subject more interesting.

Additionally, what exactly is a "non-scientific" concept? Do you have a different definition of science than I do? As far as I'm aware, the only non-scientific topic in this thread is the God hypothesis. It isn't scientific because we cannot bring the tools of the scientific method to bear in order to test the hypothesis. On the contrary, we can certainly being the tools of science to bear on the issue of Love.

Let me again suggest Descartes' Error as a wonderful book that tackles the issue of emotion and it's neural substrates with much more detail than I am capable of summarizing.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:12 PM on October 30, 2007


Assuming we're working with a Christian definition of "belief", neither example provided (behavior outside one's value frame or doubts about one's beliefs) proves that the believer is outside the frame of faith.

sure, but I guess the point was that the popular culture is a much stronger component of a person's environment than their religious upbringing, and that even people who have religious beliefs do not have them in a way which will actually impede their fitting into the broader culture. Basically, I don't think it's religion that is the cause of irrationality and mistaken thinking and so forth. I think religion is just another tradition that some folks don't question particularly, the same way they don't question their love for the Rangers if they're brought up as Rangers fans, or whatever. It's not really an analyzed, philosophical point of view, in a lot of cases, and consistency isn't really a concern.

Doubts, of course, are another level of thinking, and are probably usually a sign of a deeper faith than those who just sign on. Doubts are more likely to be indicative of people who actually think about it, and choose to have faith despite running into unanswerable philosophical problems, rather than people who are just "Rangers fans" type christians.

I would love to go to whatever college you're fantasising about here.

I'm teaching two sections of Ethics at a catholic college and so far no one in class has admitted to believing in god, while various people have admitted to either not believing or to being agnostic; several people have noted being "brought up" catholic, but no one has claimed to be catholic now and some have talked about rejecting their catholicism because of the church's stance on gay marriage or abortion. In my experience, most friends in high school and college were their most virulently anti-religious at that stage, and people who softened up about it did so when they had kids or gave it more thought as they got older (and of course some people don't soften up about it)

Maybe it's because I'm from NY, but I'm surprised to hear that openly religous college students who would be shocked to hear their peers were atheist or would look down on them for it are the majority elsewhere. I certainly get the feeling that openly devout students would be the outsiders in most schools on the east coast. Atheism is normal in pop culture, normal on the internet, normal in the scientific world, normal in the academic world, and in general, most places that young people hang out. It's "old fogies" that go to church (the same way college students tend to be more liberal than conservative)

Again, I think this is blaming all of humanity's failings on a strawman. Irrational behavior and belief spreads far beyond religion, and religion understood in certain ways can be perfectly congruent with rational thought.
posted by mdn at 12:13 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Okay, can this be our monthly lolathiestlolxtian post and we don't have to do this shit for awhile?
posted by dismas at 12:13 PM on October 30, 2007


Pastabagel: Assuming you aren't an engineer or physicist, do you own a cell phone? When you dial someone's number, you believe it's going to connect to their phone and ring and let you talk to them, right? Do you know how it works? All of it? The coding schemes, the electronics, the radios, the switching systems etc.? If I gave you a stack of manuals that described every piece of equipment and precisely how they worked, would you be able to understand it?

If you aren't receptive to the evidence, the evidence is jibberish. You (we, collectively) believe things work because they have worked in the past, and because people who claim to understand these things tell us that they will work, and we trust them. We will let a brain surgeon cut open our heads not because we have evidence for brain medicine, such evidence exists, but most of us do not have it, nor would we understand it if we did. We go through with it because we believe that someone else has the evidence and understands it. Isn't that a form of faith?


It's not faith in any sense that's comparable to religious faith, if that's what you mean. I have pretty good evidence for believing that certain people who claim to truly know how cell phones work are actually speaking the truth, because I've taken random samples from the scientific community that strongly suggest that yes, they really are quite intolerant of nonsense. What's best, every Tom, Dick and Harry can do that too. Grab some books from a library, study them, enroll in a university, and see for yourself.
posted by Anything at 12:13 PM on October 30, 2007


"Rex unto my Cleeb, and thou shalt have Blort Everlasting." - quonsar 3:16
posted by quonsar at 12:14 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


We can at most verify that the world works as expected, but we don not verify for ourselves that it is working in the expected way because for the reasons expressed in science and physics.

But we could, if we wanted: the mathematical frameworks used for physics are testable. Theism is not testable. You are rhetorically misapplying the word "faith".
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2007


YES SIR I FEEL THE RAPTURE A COMING

Todd Lokken
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2007


Pasta,

YOU define god, then ask me again to set up the experiment.

But even then, most definitions are what science calls "Undisprovable hypotheses."

The Ancient Chinese said this well: What does it matter if there is a god? Will it change how you live your life?

It has no bearing.

Like the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. OK, maybe it does exist, I can't disprove it.
But neither can anyone disprove leprechauns, unicorns, etc.
posted by bornjewish at 12:16 PM on October 30, 2007


bornjewish: " 'A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.' -Friedrich Nietzsche"

Fucking hell, you girl's blouse. Did you get that out of your book of quotations? I hate it when people rip Nietzsche out of context. Have you ever actually read Nietszche? You know what you've done, right? You've given me a good reason to quote him at length at you. You utter fool.

This is, unfortunately, the translation of that haughty blunderer Walter Kaufmann. It isn't too bad, I guess. It's section 125 of Nietzsche's The Gay Science. It constitutes the first explication Nietzsche made of the whole "God is Dead" thing, and I think it's relatively applicable here.
The madman.— Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!"— As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?— Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried. "I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I! All of us are his murderers! But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? And backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition?—Gods, too, decompose! God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives,—who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed,—and whoever is born after us, for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto!"— Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners: they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering—it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves!"— It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?" —
Plenty of people don't believe in god. But it certainly isn't a time of great enlightenment that we live in.
posted by koeselitz at 12:17 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Okay, fine. How are you defining God? What kinds of evidence would verify his existence?

Seeing as how I am not the one offering the hypothesis, the task of defining God is not up to me, but to those offering. I suppose one instance of this would be Christianity. Let's assume for the sake of argument that we have all read the Bible and we understand what God is defined as in accordance with the Christian faith, which is just one example.

The evidence that would verify God's existence is all around you, albeit false. Miraculous cures from the hands of holy men, crying statues of the Virgin Mother, the healing powers of Lourdes, et cetera et cetera. Fossil records supporting the 10,000 year old theory of the earth would certainly help.

I feel like you already know this stuff, so I'm not entirely sure why I have to lay out the position of theists for them. However, these are just a few of a great many ways in which a God could provide evidence of his existence. As of yet, this has not happened, and in fact there is a large amount of evidence to the contrary.

Thus, the hypothesis is rejected until such time (however unlikely I may personally feel that is) as new and compelling evidence presents itself.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:18 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I used to post very similar sorts of things, and my LJ profile is still a long list of famous quotes on this subject. I don't get angry so much these days because I'm no longer a minority, and I rarely feel oppressed. The majority of people I meet are openly atheist or agnostic (or apatheist).

I know a few British Christians, but they keep it very much to themselves, and it doesn't usually colour my interactions in any way.

The subject of religion almost never comes up.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:18 PM on October 30, 2007


not going to ... burn their citizenship documents just because the people running the show are horribly flawed beings

Speak for yourself.
posted by chuckdarwin at 12:21 PM on October 30, 2007


So it is not unreasonable that people surrounded by believers in God would conclude that because everyone they know believes in God, there probably is a God, especially when they are told that God brings them joy, love etc, and they actually experience joy and love.

Unexpected, no. Unreasonable, yes. A whole hell of a lot of people used to believe the world was flat. Wishful thinking doesn't make something true (or reasonable)
posted by jeblis at 12:21 PM on October 30, 2007


Mr K,

I read "Thus Spake" and some introductory texts that has snippets of other stuff.

But WTF does that have to do with the simple point I was making? WTF does your longer quote have to do with that point?

I was most definitely NOT suggesting "the whole N thing about god being dead."

I was speaking about the evidenciary nature of "Faith."

I suggest that N's quote about the asylum is quite a decent summary of why "Internal experience" is NOT EVIDENCE.

That is all.
posted by bornjewish at 12:22 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that it's far more embarrassing for a college kid to try to claim to be religious these days than to claim atheism.

I would love to go to whatever college you're fantasising about here.


As someone who went to a 30,000+ large state school, this is absolutely the case. I spent the first two years of college as part of a well-known university religious community, while trying to come to terms with my burgeoning unbelief. There ain't nothing more embarrassing in the general university population than being that kid that loves Jesus.
posted by god hates math at 12:25 PM on October 30, 2007


Let the poor woman rant. I like the fact that at least she understood exactly who Jesus said He was...the fact that she rejected Him is her privilege.

I personally believe that each person is born knowing there is a God. Along the way there are those that decide to reject Him, only believing what they can touch and see.


Too bad they don't realise that reality is not limited to our puny five senses.
posted by konolia at 12:27 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


konolia, I encourage you to look over this thread and comments like my own before you troll.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:30 PM on October 30, 2007


I personally believe that each person is born knowing there is a God. Along the way there are those that decide to reject Him, only believing what they can touch and see.


Too bad they don't realise that reality is not limited to our puny five senses.


What a terrible mischaracterization of the rational mind. Just because reject the God hypothesis does not mean we only "believe in what we can touch and see". I can't see the Higgs boson or quarks or distant pulsars or the rings of saturn, but we can design experiments that suggest they exist. This is a rational mind.

Also, you know we have more than 5 senses, right?
posted by lazaruslong at 12:31 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


bornjewish: "I suggest that N's quote about the asylum is quite a decent summary of why "Internal experience" is NOT EVIDENCE. That is all."

Your reading of Nietzsche is quaint, trite, and utterly false. That was my point, I guess. On several levels: first, lunatics aren't necessarily wrong. Second, proving anything isn't necessarily good. Third, I don't think Nietzsche ever actually said that, as I can't find a single legitimate attribution of it to him, and it's on you to show me that I'm wrong.
posted by koeselitz at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2007


Poor Konolia, let him rant.

I like the fact that he knows that his beliefs have no evidence, yet he clings to them anyway.

I personally believe that god is a learned perversion.
Certainly I have no memory of belief, and I was born into a modestly believing household.

(Why are his words "Not mean" and mine are "Mean"? Because society accepts that we must not offend the faithful, no other reason.)
posted by bornjewish at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


On second thought, that's a nice little troll. Read the thread first and perhaps buy a finer brush to paint with.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:32 PM on October 30, 2007


“You know who else was angry?”
Marvin the Martian? He was very angry.

“settled the dispute over whether God exists”

‘Cos it’s not the dispute. For 99.9% of people, the question of whether God exists or not is not about whether God exists or not.
The way I define God, God exists (omnipresence I’d regard as total unity with everything, so God = everything) without inference into meaning or intent or anything else. Everything could exist just as easily without God (given God as some sort of addendum or rider on all reality as some folks insist on doing), but as unity with reality, no, everything is there, ergo God is there. But just as well might not be in terms of scale (space, everything, all taken as a totality from the big bang to the endless end, is big)
The question then becomes, properly scaled, not ‘does everything exist’ but why does it all exist or what does everything mean?
It’s so much easier then to say “I don’t know” to that.
Does the totality of all reality want you to exclude gays? Does everything in the universe demand you not eat meat on Friday? Does the entire universe ‘want’ at all (in sum totality, I mean, obviously bits of it want things like cheeseburgers)?
And what’s the result of those decisions in terms of observable repeatable experiances on the entire universe?
Or is it just some folks claiming to be the spokesmen for everything that exists and has existed and will ever exist for infinity?
Set in those terms, bit beyond anyone’s scope whether they’re wearing a really big hat or not.
Even (some) atheists set ‘God’ on the human scale (although that may be because it’s thrust upon them).
On the human scale though, there are quite answerable problems with empirical solutions to which ‘God’ as well as ‘the totality of all reality’ has no bearing. It’s just orbital mechanics or internal combustion or evolutionary biology - encroachment of the question of “God” into which she’s rightfully angry about.
If my mechanic is telling me it’s God’s will that my car doesn’t run, I’m going to be a bit out of sorts.
But it’s important to deal with that on those human scale terms, doesn’t matter if God exists or not. Old samurai maxim - treat large scale matters as though they were of little importance, treat details as if they were supremely important.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:33 PM on October 30, 2007


Metafilter: Your reading of Nietzsche is quaint, trite, and utterly false.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


bornjewish, calling well known religious mefites out is one thing, not bothering to even look at their profiles before doing so is another.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2007


What faith is not blind?
Sengcan's Faith in Mind is a beautiful text that I would argue grew out of a tradition that harnessed the power of faith whilst explicitly eschewing blind acceptance. But of course the whole philosophical framework is different.
posted by Abiezer at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Are you really presuming to speak for all Christians on the issue of Creation vs Evolution? My experience certainly differs from yours with regards to what most of "them" think, but at least I realize that the plural of anecdote is not data..
posted by lazaruslong at 3:00 PM on October 30


I'm not claiming to speak for anyone. I'm not even representing my own beliefs or opinion here. But many here are focusing on easy targets, and concluding from that their shortcomings that God doesn't exist, when in fact the question is considerably thornier.

The evidence that would verify God's existence is all around you, albeit false. Miraculous cures from the hands of holy men, crying statues of the Virgin Mother, the healing powers of Lourdes, et cetera et cetera. Fossil records supporting the 10,000 year old theory of the earth would certainly help.

These are the easy targets, I was talking about. These pieces of evidence would not help, because most Christians in the world do not think that God created the world 10,000 years ago.


Pasta,

YOU define god, then ask me again to set up the experiment.


I defined it already. What you want is a definition that conforms a priori to the laws of physics, when the definition quite explicitly rejects that, unless God is defined as the universe itself. In other words, whatever you are calling God and testing is by definition not God, and you are testing for something that no one is interested in.

If someone, like the author of this blog post, is certain of the non-existence of God and will then promote this viewpoint, then they are taking a more affirmative position than merely waiting for evidence to verify a hypothesis.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:35 PM on October 30, 2007


I personally believe that each person is born knowing there isn't a God. Along the way there are those that decide to believe in Him, accepting that He is something they cannot touch or see.

Too bad they don't realize that just because you want something to be true doesn't necessarily make it so.
posted by turaho at 12:36 PM on October 30, 2007


I was raised in an atheist family, and I have to say I'm angry that even though, at least based on what I've seen on line, atheists get to have meetings and parties and conventions and everything, no one EVER invited me.

wtf
posted by nax at 12:37 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


"I contend that we are both athiests, I simply believe in one fewer Gods than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible Gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
- Stephen Roberts
posted by thanotopsis at 12:39 PM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Angry. With strawmen.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:42 PM on October 30, 2007


Atheism, to me, is merely the rejection of the God hypothesis based on a lack of sufficient evidence.

Those who suggest a hypothesis are the ones required to put forth evidence to support it. Lacking such evidence, a scientific mind rejects the hypothesis and looks for an alternative explanation.


Atheism, to me (as a self-described atheist), is merely saying "who gives a shit?"

Pastabagel, to me it seems that you're painting yourself into a corner you might not want to be in, describing god(s) as "unknowable", which I think DU was hinting at with the rainbow unicorn analogy. If god is unknowable, what difference does it make if I believe in it or not? If I did believe in god, any benefit from that would be unattributable to god, because there's no way to know if the benefit came from god or elsewhere. Enough preaching the doctrine of "unknowability" just renders god a meaningless concept. As someone else hinted, it seems like you're heading towards limiting god to just another emotion or mental state.

Assuming you worship god, which god? Is there just one or many? Is it corporeal? Why worship your god and not another since you have no way of knowing whether believing in your god is correct? What if believing in your god is exactly what god doesn't want you to do? How can you answer any of these questions if god is unknowable? And at that point, why should I care?

The real question to address in threads like this isn't "does god exist?", it's "what does it matter if god exists?" I can't see that it does, so I'm an atheist. Personally, I don't think there is any kind of divine being, but that's really beside the point, and not relevant to why I describe myself as atheist.
posted by LionIndex at 12:42 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Pasta,

long thread, I missed your definition.
But please dont tell me "What I am really asking for."

I am NOT calling anything god.
I only spoke of "Most definitions".

Please repeat your definition.

And also, please stop assuming atheists assert NONexistence of god. My experience is that we reserve judgement, just like you do with Unicorns and Leprechauns.
I certainly do

If presented with evidence, I would believe.
Absent that, I do not.
Don't call that an "Affirmative position."
And show me where the blogger says otherwise.
posted by bornjewish at 12:43 PM on October 30, 2007


Poor Konolia, let him rant.

Him's a her, dude.
posted by pardonyou? at 12:48 PM on October 30, 2007


Abie,

I believe in the power of the mind.
The placebo effect is a proven phenomenon.

Yogis with practice can do incredible things INSIDE THEIR BODIES.

There is not one smidgen of evidence of mental power having an effect outside of a body.

You have not really answered my question ("What faith is not blind?") you have merely confused the definitions a bit.
posted by bornjewish at 12:49 PM on October 30, 2007


Minor point of order: I'm female.
posted by konolia at 12:50 PM on October 30, 2007


Just wanted to say that I appreciate your comments here Pastabagel, as always, and thank everyone involved for not letting the thread devolve completely into ad-hominem and whatnot.
posted by lazaruslong at 12:50 PM on October 30, 2007


PastaBagel, I'm afraid that paragraph full of questions appears rather accusatory, and I don't mean them that way at all--they're just there for rhetorical purposes.
posted by LionIndex at 12:51 PM on October 30, 2007


Choosing any dog in this fight just yanks you out of the neutral, flexible, receptive mindset that the best minds aspire to, and forces you into a position with a very limited range to explore.

It's like being inside the Gravitron. Everyone pinned to one wall or the other by the centrifugal force, but if you could stand in the very center and just hop up and down, you can observe the whole thing spinning around you. Taking even one step out of the center will invariably result in you being hurled to the wall where you'll just struggle weakly like everyone else.

And, like in the Gravitron, the feelings of weakness, struggling, and disorientation on feels at the outer edge of a belief seem to be the whole allure of the entire experience in a nutshell.
posted by hermitosis at 12:52 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yogis with practice can do incredible things INSIDE THEIR BODIES.


Digest the content of pic-a-nic baskets?
posted by Brockles at 12:53 PM on October 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


By the way, the theological definition of God includes the fact He exists separately from His creation. He's "wholly other." So by that definition, even logically, one can't really conclude He doesn't exist just because one hasn't directly encountered Him.
posted by konolia at 12:53 PM on October 30, 2007


Mr K,

Lunatics believe CONTRADICTORY things.
They can't ALL be Napoleon.
Some of them ARE wrong.
Despite their internal experience.
Thus their faith in their delusions is not evidence.
Which was my ONLY point when quoting.

My reading of THE QUOTE I QUOTED was quite on target.

And I didn't quote N as an "Authority" so I don't care if he said it or not. It stands as good logic.
posted by bornjewish at 12:54 PM on October 30, 2007


bornjewish, your bad post formatting is making baby cthulu cry.
posted by Stynxno at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ambrosia,

Having read Konolia's profile, I don't see what it has to do with the price of tea in China. (My mom died when I was 12, it was very formative for me. Is that relevant here? I don't think so.)

I do not respond to PERSONS, I respond to THE IDEAS THEY PRESENT. Is that wrong of me?
posted by bornjewish at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2007


Having read Konolia's profile, I don't see what it has to do with the price of tea in China.

AmbrosiaVoyeur was referring to the fact that you referred to konolia as a "him", when konolia is in fact a "her".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:58 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


konolia I think both sides have conceded that you can't disprove the existence of something. You can however put a probability on the existence of something given the available evidence...and in the case of a god you're hovering right around the zero mark, since there is no evidence of one.

Believing in a hypothesis with a very low probability of being true is an inherently unreasonable position.
posted by jeblis at 12:58 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Styxno,

Excuse my formatting. Please. And teach me.

Looking back, I find my formatting easy on my eyes.
But I am willing to follow tradition, if taught.
posted by bornjewish at 12:59 PM on October 30, 2007


If someone, like the author of this blog post, is certain of the non-existence of God and will then promote this viewpoint,

Where did she say she's certain of god's non-existence?
posted by rtha at 12:59 PM on October 30, 2007


I was raised in an atheist family, and I have to say I'm angry that even though, at least based on what I've seen on line, atheists get to have meetings and parties and conventions and everything, no one EVER invited me.

That's one fun thing about being Christian. After all the irrational theology and yelling at the ceiling, there are sometimes donuts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:00 PM on October 30, 2007 [5 favorites]


SOMEBODY'S overthinking a plate of beans here.
posted by konolia at 1:00 PM on October 30, 2007


I beg Konolia's forgiveness on not considering gender at all. (Do we really wish to consider gender here?)
posted by bornjewish at 1:02 PM on October 30, 2007


SOMEBODY'S overthinking a plate of beans here.

Please try and derail the discussion further.
posted by jeblis at 1:03 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm still angry about Gallileo. I think one thing that would help spread atheism more than almost anything else would be to teach more astronomy. Your average person really doesn't understand the most basic principles of celestial mechanics, which gives the sky a mystery that supports all kinds of nonsensical thinking.
posted by autodidact at 1:03 PM on October 30, 2007


no evidence of one.

There is in MY life, my friend.

Threads like this remind me that Jesus was fond of saying things like "If any man has ears let him hear." Worth pondering.
posted by konolia at 1:03 PM on October 30, 2007


Styxno

It's Stynxno.

You tend to write your points on 1 line at a time rather than as part of a paragraph. It's kinda like standing on a corner yelling BROWNIES ARE BROWN and then following that up with a I LIKE BROWNIES. You easily could have expressed the same sentinment on one line and it makes for easier reading imho.

Now, if you excuse me, baby cthulhu demands brownies.
posted by Stynxno at 1:04 PM on October 30, 2007


Konolia,

The atheist conclusion is NOT "It doesn't exist".

For the definition you gave it is "That is a very nice claim, with no bearing on the world we live in and not a speck of supporting evidence, so I don't believe it."

Is the difference between "I don't believe in X" and "X does not exist" clear to you? (Honest question, I recognize it might sound snarky, but what can I do?)
posted by bornjewish at 1:06 PM on October 30, 2007


There is in MY life, my friend. Oh, Oh! Please share! Where is this evidence you speak of? Don't keep it to yourself!
posted by jeblis at 1:06 PM on October 30, 2007


The reductionist argument is a bit stale as well. Just because we can understand something we did not previously understand does not diminish it in any way. If anything, it makes the subject more interesting.

Agreed my point about reductionism is not that the understanding necessarily diminishes the thing, my point is that the understanding doesn't define the thing. If we say OK, we've learned the following scientific facts about "love" that's great. If we say these new facts are the most important ideas because they are scientific & previous ideas that were expressed through philosophy & literature & religion are less important then we will diminish the subject. These non-scientific ideas are how people have navigated life for thousands of years. What neuroscience says about "love" is clearly far from the most important words on the subject.

Additionally, what exactly is a "non-scientific" concept? Do you have a different definition of science than I do? As far as I'm aware, the only non-scientific topic in this thread is the God hypothesis. It isn't scientific because we cannot bring the tools of the scientific method to bear in order to test the hypothesis. On the contrary, we can certainly being the tools of science to bear on the issue of Love.

The point is that the reductionist considers the scientific analysis of love to be incredibly important even though it is only a small portion of human thought about the subject. It diminishes an idea that was a going concern hundreds of years ago when the idea of bringing "the tools of science to bear on the issue of Love" was either speculation or utterly nascent.
posted by Wood at 1:07 PM on October 30, 2007


"I contend that we are both atheists, I simply believe in one fewer Gods than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all other possible Gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
- Stephen Roberts



/applauds

God=Flying Spaghetti Monster=Thor=Odin=Fire/Water/Ice=God Of the Forest= any other divine being. It is, to me as a logical minded individual, ludicrous to believe in one without believing in all, as they all have exactly the same supporting evidence.

They are equal. They are all fabrications of faith as entities/forces/tangible beings. The problem isn't the faith itself as such, really; if people need to believe in something imaginary to allow them to get by and be good people then that's their problem. If they need to follow someone else's code of ethics in a dusty old book to be able to have confidence in what is right and what is morally reprehensible, then it's a shame, but all sorts for all folks and that. I don't see why they can't be decent people and be nice to each other without needing an excuse - that God/Jesus told them to. Why can't you be nice because it makes people happier?

The problem with religion (and I could hate it for this reason alone) is when people use that same dusty old book of totally unknown provenance to justify manipulating, hurting, killing or controlling (explicitly or by peer pressure) others. And taking all their money - like every single church does. Especially when this controlling is done to children so young that they don't get the chance to form their own opinion - by teaching them an extremely narrow and very personally biased view of the world. They are stunting their children's mental growth by not allowing them to choose for themselves; reducing their natural desire to question.

Trying to convert someone to your faith is, in my moral code of respect for others, utterly and completely wrong. Especially when it involves doing it with someone that has no defence - ie kids. If you banned parents from forcing religion on their kids (which is precisely what these people are doing - even with the best of intentions - they are steering the development of a mind), and removed religion-based education systems, I think you'd see church attendance and deeply religious numbers generally be decimated within two generations. And it possibly disappear from the majority mindset in three or four.
posted by Brockles at 1:09 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


This thread is torture.
posted by valentinepig at 1:12 PM on October 30, 2007


Konolia, You say you have evidence in your life. But that is INTERNAL SUBJECTIVE EVIDENCE. If another person says "I have personal internal experiential evidence that there is no god" and yet another says "I have personal experience that reincarnation is the way of the universe and there is no god and no heaven" How are we to pick and choose among these claims? They all have the same value, none.

There is only one truth, and it doesn't care what we think. I feel that in my bones. But I don't pretend that constitutes evidence.
posted by bornjewish at 1:12 PM on October 30, 2007


What Brockles said about kids. Amen. Can you imagine using the phrase "Communist child" or "Libertarian child" or "Free Silver Child" the way people use "Jewish child" "Muslim child" etc? (Yes, R Dawkins put me onto that craziness.)
posted by bornjewish at 1:17 PM on October 30, 2007


Wow, so for what it's worth I'm an athiest. Have been since I was a bright little kid & told my mother so. Religious types who believe in creationism annoy me. But so do atheist libertarians who think they've managed to prove that the only justice is the one that made their difficult journey from the upper middle class to the lower upper class possible (with the help of computers.)

Also scary, Brockles, are atheists who think that they have figured out a new moral system that involves the (presumably authoritarian) state raising people's children in a more "rational" fashion.
posted by Wood at 1:18 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's one fun thing about being Christian. After all the irrational theology and yelling at the ceiling, there are sometimes donuts.

You can get almost all the perks these days without the religion. Christmas has basically been secularized anyway. It's one of the only positive aspects of our rampant consumerist culture. (And it's incidentally why I'm always happy to see christmas trees in public places -- far from being a public display of religion, it's the final ascendence of the secular holiday over the religious one.)

I've always thought religion is a bit daft, but I understand people's need for ritual and symbolism, and enjoy them personally. You can have your cake and eat it, too: being an athiest doesn't preclude enjoying ritual for its own sake.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:20 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


“God=Flying Spaghetti Monster=Thor=Odin=Fire/Water/Ice=God Of the Forest= any other divine being.”

There’s only ONE god, he is the SUN god - Ra! Ra! Ra!
posted by Smedleyman at 1:20 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


What neuroscience says about "love" is clearly far from the most important words on the subject.
True. But all we want is that "Love" be recognized as existing by science, and it is, and god (as a free standing entity outside of minds) is not.

the reductionist considers the scientific analysis of love to be incredibly important
No. I am a reductionist and I don't. I only note that love is a state of mind, and admit that god might be one as well.
posted by bornjewish at 1:21 PM on October 30, 2007


Ra Ra Ra.
The Living Myth.
I miss him very much.
posted by bornjewish at 1:23 PM on October 30, 2007


Have we define our alpha here? 0.05? What about the Beta? I need to know what the chances of Type I & II errors are going to be if we're going to prove or disprove this hypothesis.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:25 PM on October 30, 2007


Bornjewish, you have no idea what kind of evidence I am talking about.

If Jesus Himself refused to do a miracle in front of the Pharisees to prove a point to them, I might as well follow His example.

I'm not being snarky. God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever. However He likes to reveal Himself to people who are looking for Him. And sometimes He reveals Himself to people who aren't looking, when He feels like it.

My point is that His existence is something I am SURE of now, not just believing because I read all the Sunday School stories. But it is not in my power to prove Him to someone else. If someone seeks, they will find. If someone uses the scientific method, they'll come up with bupkis. Because that is the way God wants it. He's God, and He does things His way.

Now if someone is an honest inquirer, I could spend hours telling what God has done for me. But the truth is that Jesus Himself raised three different people from the dead while He walked the earth and the Pharisees still did not believe He was the Son of God. So it's not like anything I could say would make any difference.
posted by konolia at 1:27 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ok, so let me get this straight:

1) Theists. Believe in something that is unkowable, therefore couldn't possibly prove it's existence.

2) Athiests. Don't believe in something until it becomes knowable.

Is it just me or is this whole argument vaccuous for both sides?
posted by butterstick at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2007


Having read Konolia's profile, I don't see what it has to do with the price of tea in China.

Well, aside from the female thing, it wouldn't take mush perusal to determine that she historically has proven very committed to her point of view on this topic, and chimes in this very way in many threads, attracting a lot of heat. Why she does that, I do not know. It seems to me the behavior of someone tentatively looking for new ideas without having to dismiss their old ones outright. Just a little late-thread psychology for ya.

Also, formatting tip: lose the CAPS.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2007


Fuck it, I'm popping some popcorn.
posted by nanojath at 1:31 PM on October 30, 2007


There’s only ONE god, he is the SUN god - Ra! Ra! Ra!

Heretic! There's only ONE goddess, and she is the SUN goddess -- Cis Boom Ba!
posted by lord_wolf at 1:33 PM on October 30, 2007


konolia I have evidence there is no god. I'm just not gonna show it to you. neener neener.....I'm calling bullshit on your whole statement. The only reason people refuse to show evidence is that they know it's on shaky ground. If God won't lower himself to show me evidence, can you lower yourself and show me yours?
posted by jeblis at 1:34 PM on October 30, 2007


Ra Ra Ra.
The Living Myth.
I miss him very much.

Claiming that he was of the "Angel Race" and not from Earth, but rather from Saturn; borrowing from african and afro-american theatre, theosophy and masonic afro-futurism, Ra developed a complicated but disturbingly consistent library of "cosmic" philosophies and lyrical poetry that preached "awareness" and peace above all. Some regarded him as a kook in this regard, but most recognized his immense musical talents. Ra was fond of showing his doubters his US Passport, which clearly gave the "Place of Birth" as "Saturn". For many, the ability to legally obtain such a document was more than enough of a sign.

Divinely speaking, that's some decent evidence right there.
posted by SBMike at 1:35 PM on October 30, 2007


"Some people call me Mr. Ra. Other people call me Mr. Ree. You can call me MR. Mr. Ree."

-Sun Ra
posted by koeselitz at 1:36 PM on October 30, 2007


Okay guys, but what would maximize my reproductive success? Actively angry atheist or willfully ignorant theist?
posted by Mister Cheese at 1:37 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Threads like this, and the glut of atheism-themed books on the market, are doing something important for me, I think: they're finally making me start to get bored with focusing on atheism. Once you read the same arguments back and forth several dozen times, it starts to seem like a good idea to spend energy somewhere else.

Perhaps I'll go back to being one of those peppy, perky atheists that are so in demand lately.
posted by gurple at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2007


Konolia, I do have an idea of the evidence you are talking about. It is INTERNAL to you, unlike being hit in the head with a brick. It is your internal experience, which is no better evidence of the real state of objective reality than my internal experience that "The truth doesn't care what we think."

I respect your non-snark. I also intend no snark.

I recogize that you are sure. Just as I recognize that Hitler was sure that Jews were evil and that my Uncle Morty was sure he could fly. I just don't credit your surety as evidence for anyone else but you. Just as I don't credit my feeling of surety as evidence, even for me. Because I am an honest inquirer who does not accept my feelings as evidence.

Are you denying that I am an honest inquirer?
posted by bornjewish at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]



2) Athiests. Don't believe in something until it becomes knowable.


I'm going with "Don't believe in 'God,' per se" as my definition. I've read every major religious text, in a discussion oriented setting, and they seem more similar than different and similarly incomplete in their address of the big question. So I can put my sense of wonder and awe at our complex and impossible existence to my parents in a way they find sympathetic, but so far no depiction of "God," especially when embellished by such trappings as heaven, prophecy, scripture or fate, is as metaphysical as my window on the issue would require.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:38 PM on October 30, 2007


Cheese, how about "Happy atheist"? Is that not a choice. Do you deny my existence? Even the blogger said "I am not normally angry, this is just a post where I focus on my anger" Or something to that effect.
posted by bornjewish at 1:40 PM on October 30, 2007


I believe there's a flying turtle behind me that turns invisible when I turn around.

You could see him if you truly believed you could see him, so understand that not seeing him is a failing in you and not in my outrageous claim.
posted by turaho at 1:40 PM on October 30, 2007


Why does it matter?
posted by C17H19NO3 at 1:41 PM on October 30, 2007


Okay guys, but what would maximize my reproductive success? Actively angry atheist or willfully ignorant theist?

I'm gonna go with artificial insemination, coupled with fertility drugs, also multiple young females with a family history of fertility, boxer shorts, ice packs....oh and don't forget to pray to a fertility god.
posted by jeblis at 1:42 PM on October 30, 2007


Mr. K, That's MrRe. Or Mystery. Or Mr. Mystery.
And lord almighty & holy shit how I miss him.
posted by bornjewish at 1:42 PM on October 30, 2007


I came for the lulz, and I have not been disappointed.
posted by jquinby at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2007


turaho, look out! There's a flying turtle behind you!
posted by gurple at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2007


If God won't lower himself to show me evidence, can you lower yourself and show me yours?

How could anyone resist THAT invitation?
posted by hermitosis at 1:43 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


And also, please stop assuming atheists assert NONexistence of god. My experience is that we reserve judgement, just like you do with Unicorns and Leprechauns.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Atheist: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:44 PM on October 30, 2007


it starts to seem like a good idea to spend energy somewhere else.

Personally I'm getting sick of the (and this is not limited to religion threads) attempts to derail a thread by saying that Ohh this is boring, been discussed before, what's the point?, soccer is boring, you're never going to change someone's mind, etc. If you don't want to read or participate...
posted by jeblis at 1:45 PM on October 30, 2007


More Sun, less Son, please.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:45 PM on October 30, 2007


If Jesus Himself refused to do a miracle in front of the Pharisees to prove a point to them,

Really? Prove it. Prove he was there. Prove he existed as the son of God.

God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

Really? Prove it. How do you know?

However He likes to reveal Himself to people who are looking for Him. And sometimes He reveals Himself to people who aren't looking, when He feels like it.

How do you know this? Where is the evidence to suggest that, even if an omnipotent over-being existed, you have the faintest idea what he does and does not want to do?

My point is that His existence is something I am SURE of now,

'Sure'? No proof then? Just conviction? That'd be belief then. Just strong. So nothing you have said has actually added any weight to the argument, has it? You've just told us you really believe.

If someone seeks, they will find. Shocker. If someone is open and receptive to an idea, and decides they want to believe it, they will believe they have found that which they seek. Well there's a shock. Hardly a revelation, is it?

If someone uses the scientific method, they'll come up with bupkis. Because that is the way God wants it. He's God, and He does things His way.

That's just awesome. It's all his idea to be totally unprovable and have zero evidence for his existence. Uhu.

But the truth is that Jesus Himself raised three different people from the dead while He walked the earth

I strongly object to the use of the word truth. This is not truth, this is opinion. There is no proof to validate this 'truth'. The fact that he existed, that he was there, or that he did these things.
posted by Brockles at 1:47 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


“Is it just me or is this whole argument vaccuous for both sides?”

Nope. S’what I said. And why I’m a philosophical taoist. I don’t know what the hell is going on - and neither do you. And! it doesn’t really matter that we don’t. So just relax with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:48 PM on October 30, 2007


If you don't want to read or participate...

Point taken, jeblis. I generally hate that kind of comment, too.

I think, though you may disagree, that what I was saying was subtly different. I'm not being sarcastic -- I really actually think I've learned something right here in this thread. Or at least changed a bit. I was just remarking on that, which may be a more appropriate comment for inside my own head.
posted by gurple at 1:49 PM on October 30, 2007


Ambrosia, thanks. But I just enjoy this.
Hermitosis, "Not I said the horny goat!"
posted by bornjewish at 1:49 PM on October 30, 2007


I believe there's a flying turtle behind me that turns invisible when I turn around.

You could see him if you truly believed you could see him, so understand that not seeing him is a failing in you and not in my outrageous claim.


I believe. I BELIEVE. Holy shit, do I believe!
posted by John of Michigan at 1:51 PM on October 30, 2007


Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but dinner does not cook itself. Bottom line is that in 100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic. So no point arguing.
posted by konolia at 1:51 PM on October 30, 2007


in 100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic.

What?
posted by gurple at 1:52 PM on October 30, 2007


Smed, I don't know either. But unsupported hypotheses are not to be assigned a 50/50 probability just because lots of people believe it or it has a long pedigree in history. I assign a vanishingly small probability to god, just like unicorns, but I don't rule it out, cuz that would be an affirmative position and, as you say, we don't know that much.
posted by bornjewish at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2007


Why does it matter?

Why? Because self-deluded theist lunkheads, who not only lack critical evaluation skills but mistrust those who do, vote. They control our daily lives.

Yeah, that's right. People who base their lives on a deep-space invisible superhero and the collected ramblings of a patriarchal nomadic tribe from five millenia ago are telling us what to do.
posted by John of Michigan at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


“Is it just me or is this whole argument vaccuous for both sides?”

Nope. S’what I said. And why I’m a philosophical taoist. I don’t know what the hell is going on - and neither do you. And! it doesn’t really matter that we don’t. So just relax with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present.



Smedleyman, that sounds like an agreement to me.
posted by butterstick at 1:54 PM on October 30, 2007


And the whistle blows and YABBA DABBA DOO I'm out.
posted by bornjewish at 1:55 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


So help me, I swore I'd never get dragged into another of these, but here we go.

If Jesus Himself refused to do a miracle in front of the Pharisees to prove a point to them, I might as well follow His example.

I'm not being snarky. God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever. However He likes to reveal Himself to people who are looking for Him. And sometimes He reveals Himself to people who aren't looking, when He feels like it.


If you will explain to me how this is structurally different from my unwillingness to prove to you (or the New York Times, or James Randi, etc. etc.) my miraculous powers of faith healing, I would be quite grateful. For you see, I possess myriad supernatural powers, which I do not deign to impress you mortal types with. I showed my friend Bob once, though, and he'll totally back me up. Since we've just established that the burden of proof is on you legions of heretics to prove that I can't levitate 18-wheelers with the power of thought, I cannot help but feel that I am due my share of the blind, enduring faith in this thread.

</specious reasoning>
posted by Mayor West at 1:55 PM on October 30, 2007


Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but dinner does not cook itself. Bottom line is that in 100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic. So no point arguing.

See? Jebus will be along within the next hundred years, so there's no real point in working for social justice, trying to clean up the environment, or making anything better. All the good little boys and girls will go with him to Heaven. All the bad little boys and girls, well, we know where they go, right?

Lunkheads.
posted by John of Michigan at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2007


gurple Sorry was getting a little testy while waiting for the evidence that was so tantalizingly dangled in front of me and then ripped away at the last second.

Damn you dinner!
posted by jeblis at 1:56 PM on October 30, 2007


100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic.

What what? I want an answer, and whatever's for dinner.


Atheist: One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

Somebody better tell Greta that she's violating the dictionary definition. Because she doesn't say anywhere in that post that God does not exist. As far as I know, she doesn't say that anywhere in any of her posts on atheism.
posted by rtha at 1:58 PM on October 30, 2007


Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but dinner does not cook itself.

Actually, it does, but it will not do so just to prove a point.
posted by turaho at 1:58 PM on October 30, 2007 [7 favorites]


in 100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic.

Well that's either a reference to the "rapture" or she's assuming we won't make it another 100 years. In any case she's not entirely correct since if it's truly lights out, you never really find out.
posted by jeblis at 1:59 PM on October 30, 2007


I'am like, so angry right now. Like oh . . . my god!
posted by nola at 2:02 PM on October 30, 2007


Godwin
posted by contraption at 2:04 PM on October 30, 2007


I'am like, so angry right now. Like oh . . . my god!

Heh heh.

Oh, you were serious. Do you have anything--pro or contra--to add?
posted by John of Michigan at 2:05 PM on October 30, 2007


a slightly schizophrenic comment, please bear with me:

------------------------

Pastabagel: Do stop asserting that all atheists believe in the non-existence of God. It's false. Some do, some don't. Many have clearly articulated reasons for believing in the non-existence of God rather than disbelief in the existence of God which have nothing to do with proving God's non-existence. For example: one of the best spoken atheists I know online comes at it with the a priori commitment from general philosophy that where the real world and practical applications of two beliefs are the same, there is no meaningful distinction that can be drawn between these two. This is not a wholly unreasonable position. Thus, he believes there is no God because he disbelieves that there is a God, and her believes that there's no meaningful distinction to be drawn between these positions, that it's pure semantics at this point.

Reasonable, debatable, and entirely irrelevant to the demand that strong atheists prove the non-existence of god empirically. If you're going to charge strong atheism like so, please do it on the terms which it actually makes assertions, rather then on the terms which you think it makes assertions. Point of difficulty: nowhere near all strong atheists are such for the same reasons.

Blatant disregard of weak atheism is another matter altogether. Weak atheists are, in my experience, the majority of people who identify as atheist, and if we're going by pure definition and not identification, then the majority of atheists by far, and the majority of all people engaged in any form of nontheism. Weak atheists profess only disbelief in the existence of God. Your demand that atheists provide proof of no-god has no bearing at all here. If you read the followup to the linked post, the OMG ANGRY ATHEIST explicitly states that she is a weak atheist (not in this terminology, because it's not the best known terminology out there, but it's what she says).

Her followup is here, for those of you who missed it. I recommend reading it.

------------------------

On anger, and the aptness of various analogies: I am not an angry person. I almost never get angry. But one thing in this thread made me angry: the reactionary and dismissive way in which people downplay oppression as experienced by other people, even if you share the group of interest with said oppressed person. It's the exact same tone adopted wherever a minority group pushes against what they experience as mainstream, institutionalized oppression. It's the way that the goals of feminism are downplayed as useful in the past, but now women have it so good, they should stop being so uppity, amirite? It's the same way that transgender people are told by even the bulk of the gay rights movement that their oppression isn't as important, that their time hasn't come yet, that bathroom rights is a foolish and minor point. It is reactionary, it is apologetic for the status quo, it is bullshit.

"Your oppression is imagined" is a statement that can be made productively in the right situations. It has to be made carefully, with solid analysis of the situation, but it can be made confidentially, as in the case of the claim that christians are being oppressed by secularization of society, or that men are being oppressed by feminism. There are two giant fucking red flags here that suggest the systematic oppression experienced by atheists of this type is not one of these cases:

1) Atheists are a minority group
2) Pushing against this oppression is changing the status quo. In the cases above, pushing against their 'oppression' would restore the status quo.

It's really only lately that I've come into solid awareness of this sort of stuff, and I'm increasingly finding the same reactionary language being turned back against any given minority, status quo disrupting group. Like the well known bumpersticker says, now that I'm paying attention, I've gotten a bit outraged over it.

------------------------

As for myself, so you know where I'm coming from, I am neither atheist nor theist and I am both atheist and theist. I am atheist because I do not believe in God or the supernatural, and I am theist because I find value in and work within religious expression and theology as a personal exercise in culture and aesthetic pleasure. This puts me in the awkward position of sympathizing rather strongly with certain parts of both sides of this argument.

I am faithful without belief, and people who follow the fundamentalist line of faith being unreasoned belief suck. I'm hardly the only person to advocate this sort of delineation, but people of my type of religiosity tend to be theology/religion nerds primarily informed by the modern liberal tradition within christianity, and healthy amount of secular philosophy. Most people, for better or worse, aren't interested in as academic a reading of religion as we're fond of.

For the sake of concise identification, I'm fond of religious humanism or religious naturalism.
posted by Arturus at 2:07 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


in 100 years or less we will all know the truth

Were that it were so...funny thing about these prophesies, folks. They're generally wrong. Except the one about Nikes and the spaceship- for all we know they're all living in another galaxy in complete ecstacy - Rancho Bernardo ain't exactly heaven these days.

I remember something about something in the gospels...Jesus said he'd be back before anyone listening to him was dead. Seems that 100 generation later, it'd sink in...no, wait, it'll happen *this* time.

Oops, waterboard for me. Forgive me, Ganesha.
posted by valentinepig at 2:07 PM on October 30, 2007


in 100 years or less we will all know the truth on the topic.

I think she was simply suggesting that everyone participating in this thread will be dead by then and will experience firsthand the factual content of the afterlife. Of course if there isn't any afterlife nobody will know anything after they are dead...
posted by nanojath at 2:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


What kind of God does not create dinners that cook themselves? A lazy god I say.

There's a comment buried somewhere up thread about trusting people vs. recognizing sketchy people. I've been pondering the how of how we recognize a huckster or a charlatan. Clearly some people have an easy time seeing through bullshit yet others seem to get duped by anyone offering a sweet deal and to the best of my knowledge there is no strong correlation to intelligence involved. There's some seemingly obvious cases such as the promise of very one-sided benefit favoring oneself). Yet even then one would be forced to defend the hypothesis that it is a one-sided benefit, and then defend that this is truly less likely to be true, which I wager that using the rhetorical style of those attacking the blog's author I believe I could shoot down any attempt to do so. Yet in the end none of us are likely to send our bank account numbers to Nigeria.

And that's about how I feel about the religious apologists. Not so much that their arguments are always weak as some are quite well stated. But more that they are defending a position they don't in fact believe in. More specifically that they are liars.

There was a great study I wish I could dig up that I read about where a sociologist in I believe the 60s went to a small rabidly religious town in downstate NY. She attempted to isolate each person in the town and talk to them behind closed doors. By the end over 50% did not believe in their faith and thought they were the only one, yet each publicly defended it vociferously.
posted by kigpig at 2:11 PM on October 30, 2007


Hmmmm, I'm not sure if she's read the Bhagavad-Gita. . .
I don't think the statement holds for it.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:13 PM on October 30, 2007


Free Square

I get angry when Believers assume there is such a thing as a "free square."
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:26 PM on October 30, 2007


kigpig Hmmm maybe not so much liars, but maybe we detect the cognitive dissonance they experience. For me it's really more that I don't believe what they say. I've never seen an argument that holds up. Any argument I've seen boils down to an emotional response, an old book, someone else told them, or wishful thinking. If it wasn't for dinner, I'd have had my evidence.

Guess I'm stuck here waiting for dinner to end.
posted by jeblis at 2:28 PM on October 30, 2007


Does konolia get more smug and more dishonest as time goes on, or is the infrequency of her posting causing me to think better of her, thereby making each new post come as a fresh shock?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:35 PM on October 30, 2007


Hehehe, bornjewish, I don't think happy atheist is not an option. Nor do I think "enlightened theist" is out of the question. For reproductive success, that is.

But I'll fess up. I'm a Christian. And we, in general, suck because lots of us are killing people and oppressing others just like Ms. Christina is angry about. But arguing about the existence of God is not going to get atheists and Christianity far in terms of practically addressing Ms. Christina's anger. I think it would be more productive to castigate Christianity for not following Jeus' message of love and the request to, "do unto others as you would want done unto you." And even if you think the Bible is contradictory in terms of killing, it is certainly within Christianity's ability to deemphasize one part of the Bible for others.

So I'll start taking responsibility for the bad things we as a collective do. The more I read Metafilter, the more I understand that the wrongs done in the name of God are indefensible. So I won't. I will, however, try to do something about it. I thank Metafilter for giving this Christian a new outlook on life and his fellow Christians and sects. I cannot promise wholesale reform, but I can promise the efforts of an individual to stand up to the harmful aspects of the Church, regardless of denomination.
posted by Mister Cheese at 2:40 PM on October 30, 2007 [15 favorites]


Mister Cheese, I wish I could favorite your comment about 500 times.

Thank you.
posted by lord_wolf at 2:45 PM on October 30, 2007


Pope Guilty: You may find this enlightening.
posted by contraption at 2:46 PM on October 30, 2007


To clarify, my weak attempt at a joke in the first line of my previous post was unrelated to the argument below it, and not in fact one of the posters I had in mind when I wrote the liars comment. Cognitive dissonance and emotionalism seem to be valid explanations for her behavior.
posted by kigpig at 2:51 PM on October 30, 2007


“I assign a vanishingly small probability to god, just like unicorns,”

Well again - ‘god’ by most terms here is bound to meaning or some extra-causal deal. I say God is one with causality and that problem vanishes.
It’s the same from both angles. The theist and atheist arguments depend on that ambiguity of definition. Well - ok, God is everywhere, knows everything, can do everything, only equivalency for that is everything. Which I can both conceptualize and actually see and empirically verify is there (and so can you).
So unicorns - whether they exist or not - would have a very specific sort of meaning. They would affect the ecology, eat grass (or whatever), lay around on virgins, people would see feces and tracks, there’d be bones, etc. If they don’t, there wouldn’t be any of that. There isn’t, ergo we can conclude unicorns don’t exist until we see specific evidence.
“God” on the human scale or any deities defined as less than totality would similarly have that kind of specific meaning - Zeus, f’rinstance - hurls lightning around. Well, we know how lightning is formed so no need for Zeus (and so on).

My argument isn’t necessarially over whether God exists or not, just that the argument over whether God exists is over meaning and settling the question that God exists or doesn’t has no real bearing on that argument - essentially because it’s driven by folks who find it necessary to advocate on behalf of the meaning of the universe.
So, defining God as one with the universe (causality, all physical operations, etc. - that’s at one with - not responsible for driving) moots that question (rendering God either meaningless in terms of experiential knowlege or so uniquely and supremely personal in terms of a priori knowlege that it’s inexplicable to anyone else - so meaningless on the other side).
And yet, as I’ve pointed out, folks will continue to argue.
Because they need the ambiguity to assert their perspective on meaning (for good or ill, or just for fun even).
Which again, I doubt can express or comprehend infinity and, most typically, has nothing to do with it at all, but rather far more human scale things which don’t require infinite knowlege of the cosmic sum total of the universe, but merely, say, how to figure 15 percent of a check.

Folks pushing an unsupported hypothesis are just looking for rubes. But we bombard ourselves with that all day every day in advertising. Same thing, except the product is everything (or God if you will.)
Honestly - everything wants you to send a check for $25 to some fund? Why does everything need money? Doesn’t everything already have - by definition - my money?
Eliminate the ambiguity and the slight of rhetoric becomes clear.

The atheist schtick is a little more advanced, but similar game. I mean, they’re selling books too, right?
I of course exclude all those folks in earnest. But they’re mostly out there doing stuff defining everything rather than assigning meaning. Galileo is a fine example. There are moons around Jupiter. What does that mean?
Doesn’t mean anything, just means Jupiter has moons.
Of course, the church jumped all over him for that, and that is a problem. But is that a problem of the existance or non-existance of God?
Or one of a set of powerful humans’ interpretation of meaning conflicting with some other less powerful human’s objective observation?

“Smedleyman, that sounds like an agreement to me.”

Yep, it is. Nontheism - god? no god? the question itself is meaningless (for the reasons I outline above).
posted by Smedleyman at 2:54 PM on October 30, 2007


obligatory MTTS comic

Mister Cheese, a friend of mine recently started a youth and alternative oriented church service, and called up Planned Parenthood to offer to take people out to lunch as reparations. Grassroots Christian Stainless Cojones.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 2:57 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel's absent indefinable just means he's arguing the atheist point. According to his non-definition: God is the null set.

Konolia's last little drop before flying away appears to be a threadjack attempt to get us all on about eschatology, and though I really didn't want to bite, even when I was a Christian, I knew the Eschaton (whichever form one chooses to believe in) was bunk.

That God chooses not to prove Himself to any but those who really want to see Him is a nice happy bundle of circular logic. How is that any different than a parallel assertion: there is a supernatural frog behind you watching you right now, When you turn to look, he's gone behind you. But trust me, if you really wanted to see him, you would. And don't forget that Supernatural Froggy loves you.

God is, supposedly, a perfect being, who by Christian definition has no flaws, therefore must follow the rules -- God cannot deny Himself. That leaves precious little room for personality on one side and no room whatsoever for self-contradiction on the other. Reflexive propositions and axiomatic assertions don't convince me.

I do not call myself atheist simply because of the baggage that word has. I make no affirmative statement on the existence or non-existence of God(s). I simply do not find that I have any reason to believe any such affirmative statement made on the part of others. Therefore, if I must, I state that I am not theist any more.
posted by chimaera at 3:05 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Where is this evidence you speak of? Don't keep it to yourself!

why don't you design an experiment that suggests it exists?
posted by quonsar at 3:07 PM on October 30, 2007


An utter failure of insight into human nature and the human condition seem to be valid explanations for the many callow dismissals of the whole majesty of faith in the lived experience of generations.
All the worse when motivated not by any considered philosophical inquiry, but as commentary on a passing political question in the country where you currently live which would be best addressed politically not by amateur theology hour.
posted by Abiezer at 3:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: You can either subscribe to the Religion of the Rainbow Unicorns or you can subscribe to the Rel[i]gion of the Anti-Unicornists.
posted by jennaratrix at 3:08 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I kinda wish fleetmouse had explained weak and strong atheism again, even if it's mildly annoying to him to do so. It might have saved MeFi 10,000 odd words. Might've spared a few innocent strawmen too. But probably not.
posted by Weebot at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2007


I certainly share much of her anger, and for all the same reasons. Of all my various socially marginalized beliefs and affiliations, atheism has resulted in the largest social backlash. However, I shouldn't overstate it—I don't face daily persecution for my atheism, and no American atheist faces daily persecution for their non-belief, the way that minority believers and non-believers alike fake persecution, including death, in many other places around the globe. And I deplore any tendencies of atheists to turn our anger at being badly treated into a similar mistreatment and bigotry by us against theists.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


there is a supernatural frog behind you watching you right now, When you turn to look, he's gone behind you. But trust me, if you really wanted to see him, you would. And don't forget that Supernatural Froggy loves you.

Heretic!
posted by turaho at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2007


It's a froggy. And he's cute. It's not my fault that you thought he was a turtle. Must've been dark.
posted by chimaera at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2007


I'm not being snarky. God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

Any god who acts like this is an ass, and likely to send you to hell just because he thinks your left eye is slightly higher than your right, or because you wore brown on a Thursday or something equally inane.
posted by Justinian at 3:30 PM on October 30, 2007


For clarification, and for anyone who read the thread from the beginning (and I don't blame you if you didn't). I was addressing atheists like the author of the post, not atheists in general.

LionIndex, I think the question of whether God's existence matters or not is a personal one and not one that has an objective answer.

Personally, I'm not at all convinced that God exists, but I am comfortable saying "I'm not sure" or "I don't know."

My trouble with this whole thread is that it's a microcosm of the larger debate - people everyone else to have the argument they want to have, and avoid the very difficult argument.

I disagree with LionIndex fundamentally that the unknowability of God renders it a meaningless concept. Quite the opposite, it goes to the heart of the matter and the trouble with "proofs" of his existence.

Unknowability simply means that the human mind cannot comprehend it in its entirety. Everywhere God is described in the Bible, he/it is defined in impossible or contradictory terms. "The beginning and the end," "life and death," "omniscient", etc. How can something be both the beginning and the end, and everywhere else at once? How can God be both life and death? How can something be its own antithesis?

A lot of people are hung up on the presence of the word "God" and reading into it all its attending religious and historical baggage, none of which bears of the question of existence.

At the heart of the matter is our mind's ability, or inability, to engage the infinite or the impossible. Can you imagine a thing that is also not itself? Is it a limitation of our minds that renders that phrase nonsensical or impossible to comprehend?

What is death? We will all experience it, but what will it be? We all understand that the physical body will die and the brain will not function. What does it mean for life that there will be death? If God is life and death, isn't that precisely the thing that we are not?

Ultimately, doesn't grappling with this issue illuminate what we know about what we can know? Everything cannot be limited to what is demonstrable according to the scientific method, because that excludes things that our mind can express. Why are our minds capable of defining and then inquiring after things that cannot exist?

If, as someone wrote upthread, consciousness emerges from higher organization, then the question can be asked, is the process iterative? Can we push ourselves to a higher consciousness by creating things in our mind that the rules of the universe do not permit and then dwelling on these things?

We know that love exists in people's minds, but that is not any less of an existence than that of a rock or the sun. If everyone died, so love would cease to be. Ultimately, everything in the universe will cease to be as well, right?

So when the universe ends and everything that exists now no longer exists, when it is no longer possible to know whether any of it ever existed, what will exist?

When the universe ends all that will exist is everything that isn't the universe or constrained by it. At present, God is the only concept humans have created that would, in theory survive beyond the death of the universe that science has confirmed is inevitable in one form or another. Isn't it fascinating then, that the idea of God (some god, any god) has been with humans since we emerged on the earth?
posted by Pastabagel at 3:31 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Konolia's last little drop before flying away appears to be a threadjack attempt to get us all on about eschatology,

No, it was pointing out that in a hundred years we'll all have shuffled off this mortal coil and will have direct evidence regarding God.

That's really all I have to say. Carry on.
posted by konolia at 3:33 PM on October 30, 2007


No, it was pointing out that in a hundred years we'll all have shuffled off this mortal coil and will have direct evidence regarding God.

No, we won't. We won't exist. You can't have evidence of something if you don't exist.
posted by Justinian at 3:47 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Having read the thread in it’s entirety (yeah, I’m a loser, so?)
All this reminds me of a joke.

This dad comes home from school and asks his kid how he did in school today.
“I got expelled,” the kids says.
“What? Expelled? Why?” the father asks.
“Well, the teacher called on me and said ‘What’s 4 times 5’” says the kid.
“And what did you say?”

“I said ‘Easy. 20’” says the kid.
“Ok. What was the problem?” says dad.

“Well the problem was that the teacher asked me ‘If you’re so smart, then what’s 5 times four?’” says the kid.

“What the fuck’s the difference?”

“That’s what *I* said!”
posted by Smedleyman at 3:48 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


I kind of enjoy bornjewish's earlier comment style.
It almost reads like a poorly formatted haiku.
Calming, and such.
posted by CKmtl at 3:53 PM on October 30, 2007


For clarification, and for anyone who read the thread from the beginning (and I don't blame you if you didn't). I was addressing atheists like the author of the post, not atheists in general.

Still confused, though, since you say declare upthread: "I'm angry at atheists who don't realize that a belief in the non-existence of a God who is by definition unknowable is just as much a matter of faith as someone who believes in that God's existence."

Greta does not say that god does not exist. She doesn't say that she believes in the non-existence of god. As far as I know, she doesn't say that anywhere on her site. She has said that she does not believe in god.

That may seem like hairsplitting to you; it's certainly not to some atheists.

So, which atheists were you addressing again?
posted by rtha at 4:02 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Can you guys keep it down? I'm trying to get me some everlasting Blort over here.
posted by ninthart at 4:05 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Pastabagel's absent indefinable just means he's arguing the atheist point. According to his non-definition: God is the null set.

Really, the null set? God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. I.e. he is everywhere at once, is all powerful, and has complete information about the universe at every instant in time. Therefore God is at least the universe, and it is possible that the universe may be an aspect of God. Just for the sake of argument, that is.

It is fascinating and frustrating that the anthropomorphizing of God in this thread is being done by people who don't think he exists. Whatever God is, or isn't, he is not some guy who behaves remarkably like a human. If you want to argue that this kind of God, the bearded man in the sky, doesn't exist, knock yourself out. It isn't the argument the rest of us are having.
posted by Pastabagel at 4:10 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


So, which atheists were you addressing again?
posted by rtha at 7:02 PM on October 30


This one:

I don't think the existence of God is impossible, but I think it's very, very improbable -- improbable enough for me to rule it out as a hypothesis.

She says the existence of God is "very, very improbable".

And now that you've made me read her site in greater depth, allow me to offer that this blogger has embarked on a ridiculously superficial examination of religion, bouncing from one belief system to another as it suited her. Witchcraft, tarot, crystals, reincarnation, etc. One wonders if her current atheism is simply the latest manifestation of religious experimentation that will culminate years from now in an eloquently written post about how she "reluctantly let God into her life". But I digress.
posted by Pastabagel at 4:25 PM on October 30, 2007


Really, the null set? God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. I.e. he is everywhere at once, is all powerful, and has complete information about the universe at every instant in time. Therefore God is at least the universe, and it is possible that the universe may be an aspect of God. Just for the sake of argument, that is.

What the heck is the practical difference between this and no god at all? Might as well say "God is Love".
posted by Justinian at 4:25 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Very, very improbable" is not the same as "does not exist." The difference seems crystal clear to me.

One wonders if her current atheism is simply the latest manifestation of religious experimentation that will culminate years from now in an eloquently written post about how she "reluctantly let God into her life".

I dunno. I remember reading that post, and to me it seemed like she was pretty clear about explaining how and why she got to atheism from tarot cards. She's trying to be intellectually honest about how she lives and what she believes, and for her, that seems to include not believing in things that aren't testable - like the existence of an invisible being who can change our lives at a whim. Seems sensible to me.
posted by rtha at 4:37 PM on October 30, 2007


Really, the null set? God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. I.e. he is everywhere at once, is all powerful, and has complete information about the universe at every instant in time. Therefore God is at least the universe, and it is possible that the universe may be an aspect of God ...

I don't see how that follows at all. We could be living in a simulation, with complete data available to the observer. That would make him for all practical human purposes God, but still a physical being.

What difference would that make to your philosophy? Is that not allowed in your world view? If not, why not? It doesn't lay this out in the Bible does it?
posted by snoktruix at 4:46 PM on October 30, 2007


TPS: That's one fun thing about being Christian. After all the irrational theology and yelling at the ceiling, there are sometimes donuts.

I used to pretend to my Xtian friends in middle school that I was just about to accept Jesus just so I could get some. Then one of them took me to church camp and I learned just what all those nice Xtian kids were doing under the noses (etc.) of the ministers.
posted by nax at 4:53 PM on October 30, 2007


Hai guys what's happening in here- oh...


Why did this one go so long? Usually they fizzle out around 120 comments or so.

I would like to make a casual observation. When I first began posting on Metafilter, if anyone - and I mean anyone challenged someone for being an atheist, it was immediate and utter space-laser devastation - their fields were salted and their names stricken.

Now, something is afoot! I expected a resounding cacophony of huzzahs when I opened this thread, but I was utterly surprised. People seriously came running in to defend the believers! I must say that this is an alarming change, and I demand some sort of explanation.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 4:55 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


Baby_Balrog: 42
posted by nax at 5:04 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Witchcraft, tarot, crystals, reincarnation, etc.

Interesting that she seems to fulminate as much against alternative medicine and New Age type beliefs in other posts on her blog, as well as screaming at SFGate columnist Mark Morford (who shares some of her former beliefs). She is a born-again atheist skeptic and is Repenting Of Her Sins. Not really that far removed from born-again Christians who feel they have to "repent" of their former sinful lives by shouting the loudest about how pure and clean and washed in the blood of Jesus they are.

Enantiodromia is fun to watch!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:09 PM on October 30, 2007


We could be living in a simulation, with complete data available to the observer.

you could be the dream of a porpoise. the entire galaxy could be, like, the tip of a hair on the fifth limb of an immense daddy long legs living under a cedar shake on the side of a carriage house in the 9th dimension. banjos could be barges on rivers of caramel.
posted by quonsar at 5:11 PM on October 30, 2007 [8 favorites]


quonsar, you're aggravating the other library patrons.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 5:12 PM on October 30, 2007


Really, the null set? God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. I.e. he is everywhere at once, is all powerful, and has complete information about the universe at every instant in time. Therefore God is at least the universe, and it is possible that the universe may be an aspect of God. Just for the sake of argument, that is.

Okay then, for the sake of argument, this god exists. Now what? Does believing in it now benefit my existence in some way? If not, what do I gain by believing and why should I bother with it? How does the existence of this god change how I live my life? Does this god care how I live and whether I worship it? How would I know if it did?

I think at this point, the differences largely boil down to aesthetics. I don't have a problem with having unexplained, irrational, unknowable things in the universe. In fact, that's one of my problems with the whole god question, in that positing the existence of a god is basically offering an explanation for things that are currently unexplainable, and actually *decreases* the feeling of awe I get when attempting to even think about the vastness of the universe, existence, life, or even the boundaries of the human mind. It's an explanation that, defined as above, doesn't make much sense to me, and still seems beside the point. I already see the universe as potentially unknowable to a large extent (just due to redshifting and the Hubble limit, not to mention particle theory and string theory), and really, is anything outside of my day-to-day existence worth worrying about all that much? Enough that I need to go to church, stone non-believers, or avoid shellfish? I don't think so. Even if science does eventually discover every elemental particle and solve how the universe was formed, it won't really make that big of a difference in how I live my life, just like it seems to be with the existence of god.

So many people are referring to god in anthropomorphic terms in this thread because that's how god has been portrayed, especially by dominant religions. It's not something atheists are pulling out of the air, but it may be correct to say that some people's major beefs are with religion and what it engenders, not with god.
posted by LionIndex at 5:32 PM on October 30, 2007


actually *decreases* the feeling of awe I get when attempting to even think about the vastness of the universe, existence, life, or even the boundaries of the human mind.

God ain't about *your* feeling of awe.
posted by quonsar at 5:40 PM on October 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


you could be the dream of a porpoise. the entire galaxy could be, like, the tip of a hair on the fifth limb of an immense daddy long legs living under a cedar shake on the side of a carriage house in the 9th dimension. banjos could be barges on rivers of caramel.

None of those even make sense. The universe being part of a simulation is at least a possibility, based on our own experience setting up simulations, and some evidence for 'fine tuning' needed to make life possible. I realize you're just being facetious though. Well done.
posted by snoktruix at 5:42 PM on October 30, 2007


I have found this thread hilarious, since much of what I've written online has been about the relationship between humans and various godlike beings.

I'd like to make two observations. The first is that no believer in anything is as fervent as a convert; people who were guided gently into their beliefs by their parents and who have never questioned their beliefs, tend not to take them quite so seriously.

Second, a dichotomy: The vast majority of theists are not converts, but the vast majority of atheists are. (Including me; I was raised SBC, but obviously the god I believed in until my teens would fry me in boiling oil for writing MOPI and I'm not worried).

While there is a vocal minority of exceptions, most theists haven't thought all that hard about their beliefs. They believe what their parents told them, and it has never occurred to them to think that if they had been born in India they would be just as fervent and loyal Hindus as they are Christians in this society. This is also true of a lot of the converts; they're more obsessed but they haven't really thought about their beliefs so much as they have had an epiphany which makes them feel as if they have all the answers.

By contrast, almost everyone who embraces atheism does so after rejecting a religion that they were indoctrinated into. They have done this without the emotional pull of fervent sermons and revivals and against the pull of massive stigma and propaganda. They've thought about what they believe, and have often gone through a period of being torn between what they would like to believe and belong to and what their senses insist is real.

This is why atheists so often seem much more knowledgable, and even obsessed with, religions they don't believe in than the believers themselves. But it's also why believers are so maddeningly dense about the limits of their own knowledge; they believe precisely because they do not explore things that disturb them.

It's also why atheists can seem so angry. Because it really is maddening to be surrounded by willfully stupid people no matter what the reason is for their willful stupidity.

I am not personally one of those people Robert Anton Wilson would have called a "fundamentalist materialist;" to me the idea that the Universe is a computer simulation is not ridiculous at all and actually explains some experiential phenomena better than naive materialism. But the key commanality between me and the linked blogger is that both of us have thought about our beliefs, and staked out our positions after careful consideration.

Most theists are simply parroting what their parents taught them, and are so blind to their own experience that they don't even realize what they are doing.
posted by localroger at 5:43 PM on October 30, 2007


writing MOPI

MOPI?
posted by rtha at 6:15 PM on October 30, 2007


“God” on the human scale or any deities defined as less than totality would similarly have that kind of specific meaning - Zeus, f’rinstance - hurls lightning around. Well, we know how lightning is formed so no need for Zeus (and so on).

Just to be complicated, "Zeus" was no more a human-scale god to the greeks than Yahweh-Jesus is to Christians, which is to say, to the philosophers, Zeus was the unity of being (Heraclitus wrote about the One, that both does and does not want to be called Zeus - reminiscent of the opening of the Tao, about the naming of the source), whereas he's represented in more popular mythology as a guy with thunderbolts. But if a culture in 2000 years found our leftovers, they'd think we imagine God to be George Burns or Morgan Freeman or Marianne Faithful, or whatever, generically just some guy with a beard sitting on a cloud, since that's how he's represented in shorthand in comics and movies and tv shows.

Our philosophers and theologians, insofar as we still really have any that address "god" seriously, understand the deeper deistic concept of the source or unity of being, and undoubtedly there are pastors and churchgoers who think about these aspects, but a quick survey of "what god is" results in just that kind of anthropomorphized idea we imagine other cultures have. But I think in the end that is just the shorthand reference of the culture - beyond the veil, they are all trying to talk about the same metaphysical notion (the same way hinduism openly said all its gods were ultimately One).

ANyway, modern atheists who get angry about this stuff are almost certainly addressing the shorthand god, and probably a lot of believers, especially the non-reflective believers, have an anthropomorphized notion of god themselves. That's why the argument gets so silly. The most basic concepts of the argument aren't even well-articulated (and it's very hard to articulate what "god" is supposed to be, but it's also very difficult to explain how something comes from nothing etc, so it's not as if it's meaningless to talk about at all, though my tendency is more in the existentialist vein in general, to assume atheism and absurdity over wholeness and teleology. BUT I don't take this lightly and often try to understand what the other option would mean)
posted by mdn at 6:31 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


> I expected a resounding cacophony of huzzahs when I opened this thread, but I was utterly surprised. People
> seriously came running in to defend the believers! I must say that this is an alarming change, and I demand some sort of
> explanation.

It became a fad, people like Christopher Hitchens climbed on hoping for best-sellers, and the early adopters are going ew and moving on. Anybody still down with atheism this time next year will have to share it with Hillary Duff.
posted by jfuller at 6:32 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


“MOPI?”

It’s the religious and service arm of Chrysler. The blessed lady of acceleration grants us power from the 440 cubic inch fully blown six pack and the fruit of her womb the mighty savior Hemi - who was balanced and blue printed, suffered, threw a rod and was buried by a foreign sports car, but rose again in with a large roots type positive displacement supercharger and high powered nitromethane fuel!
Church services are on Sunday! Sunday! Sunday! You’ll get a full pew - BUT YOU’LL ONLY NEED THE EDGE!!
posted by Smedleyman at 6:34 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


“whereas he's represented in more popular mythology as a guy with thunderbolts”

Given the context - s’probably the guy I meant. Innit?
And the rest is basically what I said.
posted by Smedleyman at 6:37 PM on October 30, 2007


To paraphrase Dawkins, we are all atheists about Thor, Zeus, The Great JuJu up the Mountain, Shiva, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Some of us just go one god further.
posted by lazaruslong at 6:42 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Hey, The Great Juju is right here in Metafilter!
posted by nickyskye at 6:48 PM on October 30, 2007


I'm all for the angry atheist. I'm not sure we wouldn't be living in a fucking theocracy without them. The dominance of Christian theology in the world is a fucking disaster and a sickening, nauseating, awful thing to be staring at day in and day out. The day our presidential candidates started pandering to these cunts was the day anger got right up there as a reasonable response.
posted by docpops at 7:27 PM on October 30, 2007


So many people are referring to god in anthropomorphic terms in this thread because that's how god has been portrayed, especially by dominant religions.

I found this odd as I thought most monotheistic religions tend away from anthropomorphic presence. I know in Islam its considered heresy to talk about a human-like god, I thought in most Christian denominations the "He" of God was traditional and a part of grammar as opposed to his nature (Christ gets a pass, but as he's just an aspect of the Trinity, God can't be totally human-shaped.), and I have no idea about Judiasm. Mormonism does believe in an anthropomorphic God though, so that's valid. But I thought Michaelagelo painted God as that old man with a beard because how else are you going to represent him? I cosmic wheel I suppose.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:30 PM on October 30, 2007


and bleeve me, the babe can smite.
posted by quonsar at 7:31 PM on October 30, 2007


that would make you smitten :)
posted by nickyskye at 7:36 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay then, for the sake of argument, this god exists. Now what? Does believing in it now benefit my existence in some way? If not, what do I gain by believing and why should I bother with it? How does the existence of this god change how I live my life? Does this god care how I live and whether I worship it? How would I know if it did?


LionIndex, that's really a personal question of how you handle belief. Does God change your life? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it makes no difference, but to some people it makes a huge difference. Depends on you life.

The problem I have with the zeal of the newly converted atheists is that, as with any convert, the zeal is often tempered over time. But we aren't really exposed to that, because its more personal and people tend not to be vocal about it. So all the public is left with is the zealous.
posted by Pastabagel at 7:37 PM on October 30, 2007


I found this odd as I thought most monotheistic religions tend away from anthropomorphic presence.

I'm no theologist, but the whole thing about humans being "created in his image" seems to imply anthropomorphism to me.
posted by CKmtl at 7:39 PM on October 30, 2007


Smedleyman, that's hilarious. But SRSLY.

I forget this isnt' kuro5hin, where everybody like knows.
posted by localroger at 7:52 PM on October 30, 2007


I suspect that the Ninety-five Theses became rather tiresome after Thesis 20 or so. Granted, they are more structured as an argument. Martin Luther was a rather tiresome person; many reformers are. But most people today respect Protestantism more than atheism.

If the blogger had not repeated "I'm angry" so often, instead presenting a straightforward condemnation of religion, and if she had avoided the author-photo ("Never Put Your Photo On Your Blog"), and if the production values were a little higher, would mefites be according her more respect?
posted by bad grammar at 7:57 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


To paraphrase Dawkins, we are all atheists about Thor

I believe in Thor.

How can someone tell me it's a reasonable stance to believe in a god, and in the next breath tell me I can't use reason (science, observation, logic) to explain/explore that belief. The very definition of an an unreasonable belief is a belief that was reached without using reason.
posted by jeblis at 7:58 PM on October 30, 2007


About a month ago I had to stop being friends with the owner of this taco place I frequent. He spent one entire visit regaling me with his experience being "saved" by the bible. More power to you, ya crazy shitwit, now have a nice life!
posted by autodidact at 7:59 PM on October 30, 2007


So all the public is left with is the zealous. Over 20 years strong and still a zealot here...

It's only gonna get worse for those holding on to ideas that don't stand up to reason, logic, science. Now that we have an anonymous forum (the internet) we can discuss/explore these topics w/o fear of oppression. We can "call you out"

/still waiting for dinner to end
posted by jeblis at 8:04 PM on October 30, 2007


I'm no theologist, but the whole thing about humans being "created in his image" seems to imply anthropomorphism to me.

I thought that was in our moral and spiritual dimensions, but then again, I'm not a theologian either. In fact, I'm not really religiously affiliated; I'm trying to see which team wins before I join.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:08 PM on October 30, 2007


Hey, The Great Juju is right here in Metafilter!

I believe!
posted by homunculus at 8:41 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


says hermitosis - 'It's like being inside the Gravitron. Everyone pinned to one wall or the other by the centrifugal force, but if you could stand in the very center and just hop up and down, you can observe the whole thing spinning around you. Taking even one step out of the center will invariably result in you being hurled to the wall where you'll just struggle weakly like everyone else.'

But there's no such thing as centrifugal force.

Hmm, maybe this is a better analogy than I first gave it credit for.
posted by edd at 8:46 PM on October 30, 2007


"The atheists that show up in religion threads so have an agenda." :spit take:

Touched a nerve there I think.

My wife will be deleted, and their content, if the server runs out of dead languages and living ones. I was nodding in agreement before he even proceeded with the same vein, but without the handmade feel - something akin to this image - In The Hills, The Cities. I won't buy a healthy baby, even with a guy.

A cool and similar thing is how I've spelled "cat" ever since seeing it in The New Inquisition: Pablo Picasso was once present at a museum in Arequipa and what would it take to change them? I think part of the joke, hence the 'ho ho!' - Daniels 'stooping to the expensive movie memorabilia figurines that socially retarded males buy at comic book and card shops'. I'm sure there's money in it today. A poisonous spirit was annihilated and that bit of leeway - so moved by George Bush's promise to rebuild Trent Lott's house that he thinks vegetables cause acne.

Guess it was in his easy chair, about to relax and enjoy a nice day licking wintry lamp-posts, sticking your finger in electrical sockets and stepping out of print weirdness. So Sony can go ahead and flush your brain damaged society into the idea, to turn them into mass graves, you big silly.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:03 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Oh, for the love of...

BY THE POWER OF THE FATHER, THE SON, AND THE HOLY GHOST, I SUMMON... BEVETS!!!
posted by Krrrlson at 9:18 PM on October 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


Happy Holidays everyone! I can't wait to get my Holiday Tree and buy stuff.

/I know, I know, I shouldn't start the war on Christmas until after thanksgiving. I just get so excited.
posted by jeblis at 9:29 PM on October 30, 2007


Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.

I don't give a fuck if you worship Super Mario Brothers, but the second you use your religion to discriminate against others, there's a hell of a good reason to be angry.

I gave up on this fight, and now just quietly agree with Gandhi. I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 9:38 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


“Much of what she's angry about seems to be the non-homogeneousness of humanity and society - the fact that different people have different beliefs and that most of them aren't the same as hers. This seems to be a silly thing to be angry about.”

I'd just like to reiterate my position on this. You know that my history here on MeFi has been to defend Christians from the Christian-bashers and to express my extreme displeasure with many outspoken and angry atheists, here and elsewhere. So you know I'm not one of them.

But, as I said, I have a number of fairly radical beliefs and I've always marched to the tune of my own drummer. You know that from how I'm outspoken here on MeFi and will reveal things about myself that people attack and whatnot. But of all the things I've believed in or have been affiliated with, my atheism has resulted in the largest amount, and most generalized, social intolerance. That's really the way it is in the US—it's not that way in most of Europe, for example. But here in the US, except in a few urban areas, it's just not considered acceptable to be an atheist.

One of the statistics she quotes really hits the point home with me: the percentage of Americans who would be willing to vote for an atheist for president. She just gives a raw percentage, but when you compare it to other affiliations, it looks much worse. I can't remember what some of the other categories are, but there are like three or four really shocking things that people trust more than they trust atheists. It's an exaggeration to say that Americans will vote for a pedophile before they'll vote for an atheist for president, but not much of one. As a matter of fact, I think, but am not sure, that one of the things that the survey said they'd consider before an atheist for president was a homosexual. Not that I'm equating the two, but we all know how homophobic the American public still is. It's sobering to consider that they may even dislike atheists more.

I don't know whether that's the case, but I do know they don't like or trust atheists. This feels very oppressive to an atheist.

And that's not even mentioning what it's like to be so marginalized a minority in other respects. Not only do we not share the experience of Christmas with the rest of the entire friggin' USA, it seems, there's not even the minimal amount of PCism for atheists as there is for other kinds of believers. As I get older, Christmas is getting more and more tiresome and oppressive to me. I find myself every year with family wanting to say, again and again, "um, you know, this isn't my God's birthday we're celebrating. This isn't my holiday, it's yours.“ This is in response to how much of a big friggin deal Christmas is.

There's God stuff everywhere you go. It's in our public symbols, our rituals, even in our language. I haven't testified in court, but I predict I will be both amused and annoyed when I'm asked to take an oath on a Bible. And, you know, they offer alternatives for Jews or Muslims or whomever. But not to atheists. And, if the jury found out I was an atheist, they'd likely decide I wasn't trustworthy, anyway.

So all that stuff is pretty maddening.

However, like I already said, people in other places around the world are being killed for believing in the wrong god, or for not believing in god at all. In that context, I don't feel so put upon in the US. For me, it's like a constant low-level annoyance and in that it's not unique. Sexism is another constant, low-level annoyance. There are others. I just deal with it and don't let it build up into something toxic. The world isn't going to be the way I want it to be, it's just that simple. I have to live in the world as it is, change what I can, and make the best of it.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:56 PM on October 30, 2007 [4 favorites]


If someone seeks, they will find.

Never say this to anyone. Especially never say it to children. If you ever say it to children or young adults who are struggling with their faith, you are a terrible person. Because you are setting up a terrible source of doubt in their very souls- that because the Bible does not speak to them, it is because they haven't tried hard enough, or they're not good enough yet. Some of these children and young adults may decide to pretend to have some sort of religious experience so that the adults that have indoctrinated them will think them to be "good kids".
The fact that this goes on, without comment, all of the damn time is the reason I'm most angry. If you can look at a twelve year old and tell them that, well, God decided not to reveal himself to you or explain any of his logical fallacies because you're just not trying hard enough, you should probably try to limit your contact with other humans, because you have twisted yourself into something awful.
posted by 235w103 at 9:57 PM on October 30, 2007 [14 favorites]


I'm not being snarky. God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

Yeah, but he's happy to "prove" "Himself" to a buddy.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:31 PM on October 30, 2007


Good new article by Dalrymple in the City Journal, sort of a review of the latest atheist books:

To regret religion is to regret Western civilization

posted by BinGregory at 11:44 PM on October 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm not being snarky. God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

The narcissism & theistic anthropomorphism in this comment is really a beauty to behold. Religious folk would be a lot more tolerable if they were a lot less narcissistic. It's really incredibly rude.
posted by filchyboy at 12:13 AM on October 31, 2007


> To regret religion is to regret Western civilization

Well, but exactly. No problem with that for many, who go (paraphrasing Churchill) "Don't talk to me about Western civilization. It's all religion, conquest, and the lash."
posted by jfuller at 3:51 AM on October 31, 2007


God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

I like the narcissist point. Because God thinks us aetheists are such piles of shit that we're not worthy to be considered.

Loves us all equally, does he? My arse. There's no hint, proof or even suggestion of a trend in that in the human race, is there? Look around you. Look at the world. Do you see any inequality? Really? You do? Fucking LOADS of it?

Well. There's a thing. Maybe they're just bad people. Or killed kittens or something.

If one of the aetheists is struggling with faith ideas, or a big crowd of them, and only needs God to appear to 'show' them he is the light (or whatever brand of bollocks it is being presented as at present) he just won't lower lower himself and leave the poor aetheist still bewildered and lost.

Nice. Aren't we all supposed to be sheep or something? Don't we, apparently, need something to follow?

Well. Sheep are stupid. They DO need something to follow. Which is mainly the source of my utter bewilderment that, as the human race become progressively and considerably more intelligent, we still follow primitive concepts like brainless, unquestioning, sheep.
posted by Brockles at 5:25 AM on October 31, 2007


God, being God, will not lower Himself to "prove" Himself to an unbeliever.

100% true.

this great imaginary pie in the sky will only prove himself to deluded lunatics or liars.

it's the liars I worry about most. They have motives.

If you think otherwise then please provide the evidence (at least within this century, preferably in our life times.)
posted by twistedonion at 6:04 AM on October 31, 2007


This is in response to how much of a big friggin deal Christmas is.

Christmas? Is that the Christian holiday that's the same day as Atheist Kids Get Presents Day? You know, two days after Festivus.
posted by mullacc at 6:45 AM on October 31, 2007


Some of this was really hard work; much I agree with (on both sides) and much is, IMO, sheer arrogance (also on both sides). Where some people seem to be going wrong is in conflating belief in god with belief in some specified interpretation of god, usually the generic Christian version. Divorcing oneself from the actions of some specific Christian sect at some point in history does not make one less of a committed Christian now, even if one follows that same sect. Further, professing belief in god does not associate one with the actions of any other believer. Likewise for disbelief.

PastaBagel, in particular, has made what I see as several valid points, but seems to have missed a pretty fundamental one in the distinction between atheism and theism. I say that there is no god, and I regard that as equivalent to saying that I do not believe in a god. In the same way, I say that there is no cow that gives blue milk; I do not believe that there is such a thing. However, should I be presented with evidence that such a cow does exist, my belief will obviously change and I will say that there is such a cow, not "I believe that there is such a cow"; we don't choose our beliefs, and people (usually, but not always, born-again Christians) who say that they chose to belief in god are wide of the mark. We believe what seems reasonable to us, on the balance of probabilities, fortified or otherwise by evidence. PastaBagel's characterisation of a god which is unknowable and whose existence can thus not be challenged seems to be evading the issue. I'm not saying he's wrong, but I am saying that he's irrational.

As to the blog post, yeah, she's certainly angry, often with good reason. It's unfortunate that many commenters have conflated her (justifiable) anger at the actions of some members of an oppressive Christian majority with anger at all individual believers.
posted by No Mutant Enemy at 7:31 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Loves us all equally, does he? My arse. There's no hint, proof or even suggestion of a trend in that in the human race, is there? Look around you. Look at the world. Do you see any inequality? Really? You do? Fucking LOADS of it?

And sinful humans are responsible for it.
posted by konolia at 7:44 AM on October 31, 2007


And Tsunamis that kill a hundred thousand?
And earthquakes?
And Tornadoes?
And parasitic intestinal worms?
And cancer?
These things are "Part of Reality".
If it was "Designed by god" then s/he put them there.
posted by bornjewish at 8:31 AM on October 31, 2007



And sinful humans are responsible for it.


So no kids are suffering from inequality, then? Or are they being judged pre-emptively because god knows that they will 'sin'?

Is that fair? Maybe their situation, and awareness of their inequality, will cause the 'sinning'?

Kids are, almost by definition, innocent. Certainly when they are born. So no kids are born into a disadvantaged or unequal situation then?

Or are they being judged by their parents 'sins'? Is that fair? Is it the child's fault its parents are 'sinful'*?



*By 'sins* I obviously mean a departure from an arbitrary set of rules from a dusty old book of fiction from quite some time ago.
posted by Brockles at 8:34 AM on October 31, 2007


Brockles, How many kids died in that Tsunami? And the parents were overwhelmingly believers too. But Pol Pot died in his sleep as an old man. Don't let her confuse the issue with "Human Inequality," there is plenty of simple geophysical & climate inequality to make our point with to go 'round.

And her evidence for god still resides inside her own head, not in our shared reality.
posted by bornjewish at 8:44 AM on October 31, 2007


No one ever killed another person in the name of atheism. Atheists have committed murder, but so have milk drinkers and floral arrangers. But "Jesus" is in the top 5 of "Banners under whose name people have been exterminated." Communism is atheist in nature, but the killings they did were in the name of Communism, not atheism. And though Hitler said he was a committed Christian, his millions are not on Christianity's ledger as they did not die in the name of Jesus.

But the victims of:
The Crusades
The Inquisition
The 30 Years War
The Wars of Religion in France
The Pogroms of Russia
The Albigensian Crusade
etc.
They all died in the name of Jesus.
posted by bornjewish at 8:52 AM on October 31, 2007


Our sin doesn't just affect us or other people. It affects creation. This world did not have earthquakes or tsunamis or hurricanes or tornadoes, etc before the Fall.

We live in a sinful world, and the Bible itself states that "it rains on the just and the unjust."

(And Pol Pot dying in his sleep doesn't bother me. He is now experiencing the eternal wrath of the Almighty God. )
posted by konolia at 8:55 AM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, I have been inside the Appalachian Mountains. I have seen the ancient thick deposits of sea shells sitting vertically inside the mountains. Either they got there the obvious way, via processes that take millions of years, OR your god put them there. Why would a just god place "Evidence that there were Earthquakes and Tsunamis millions of years before there were people" inside mountains?

Is your god a trickster who enjoys planting falsified evidence? Or is it the simple fact that Earthquakes precede the paltry thousands of years that man has been on the planet. Both the evidence and the Bible agree, man is less than 100,000 years on this planet. But the evidence of Earthquakes is older by far.
posted by bornjewish at 9:06 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Konolia, Children drowning in their believing mothers arms as they both scream prayers to a god who does not answer. Does that bother you?
posted by bornjewish at 9:08 AM on October 31, 2007


konolia, do mean sinful humans are directly responsible for the suffering of the helpless, like Pol Pot, or indirectly, like me for having sex outside of wedlock?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:11 AM on October 31, 2007


No one ever killed another person in the name of atheism.

Making absolute claims is rarely correct. It's perfectly possible that someone out there felt that given their far more intellectually consistent position over religiites they were at liberty to eliminate their intellectual inferiors as sub human.

And a famous example: Jeffery Dalmer justified his killing in that since he was an atheist there was no reason why he shouldn't kill whomever he felt like. As bizarre logic as that may seem.
posted by kigpig at 9:17 AM on October 31, 2007


People who use the overwhelming presence of human suffering as a lever in their argument against the existence of God really blow my mind. Whatever logic someone whips out in such an argument is always secondary to the amazing amount of psychological transparency they are usually displaying.

There is so much resentment and fear radiating off of that argument, leaving nowhere to direct one's blame but some caricature of a God, and with no way to punish him but to petulantly deny him the belief that one assumes he soaks up like a vampire. I can't imagine what it is like to go throught life feeling that ones choices in reconciling suffering are that it is either completely meaningless, or that it is the product of some cruel or negligent godform.

Seriously. Go eat a cookie, read some CS Lewis (and I'm not talking Narnia) and after the knot in your panties has loosened, wrap yourself in the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying for some relaxing reading on suffering. Masturbate, fall asleep, and when you wake up, see how long you can go without getting mad at anyone, for any reason. Do this as many days in a row as necessary until you feel like you can bend bars with your heart.
posted by hermitosis at 9:25 AM on October 31, 2007 [6 favorites]


Jeffery Dalmer Dahmer was the son of a born again fundamentalist and likely "Anger at his homosexuality led Dahmer to kill, psychiatrist says" Now I wonder where that anger came from?
posted by jeblis at 9:27 AM on October 31, 2007


Kpig, Dahmer did not kill in the name atheism, he killed because "He saw no reason why he should not" and he felt like doing so. Crusaders, they killed IN THE NAME OF JESUS. The difference is real and salient.
posted by bornjewish at 9:30 AM on October 31, 2007


kigpig Oh and even though Dahmer is a bad example. You're right, there may very well have been an atheist killing in the name of atheism, but you'll have to admit it's extremely rare.
posted by jeblis at 9:30 AM on October 31, 2007


Hermit, I stepped into an existing argument. On the topic "The Problem of Evil." It is a very old and very effective argument against an all powerful, all knowing and all good god. Was Epicurus the Epicurean full of fear and resentment when he presented "The Riddle of Epicurus"?

I think not.
posted by bornjewish at 9:34 AM on October 31, 2007


the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

*Sogyal Rinpoche, author of the 1992 blockbuster The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, and a de facto Tibetan Buddhist "master," is promoted by his handlers as none other than "the incarnation of Lerab Lingpa Terton Sogyal, a teacher to the thirteenth Dalai Lama." Despite his impeccable spiritual credentials, Rinpoche has been discredited as a spiritual authority, owing to credible and disturbing allegations involving sexual abuse of followers. His is only one example of a Buddhist "master," with sterling traditional credentials, engaging in deeply destructive mischief.

Damn good reason to be angry.
posted by nickyskye at 9:36 AM on October 31, 2007


Jeblis's admission is true. As is his caveat. But I would add that "The Nonexistence of X" would be an extremely odd reason to kill for. To kill in the name of existential absence? I would be unsuprised to learn that it simply has never happened. I would be more surprised if someone could present an example where it did.
posted by bornjewish at 9:38 AM on October 31, 2007


Hermit said: I can't imagine what it is like to go throught life feeling that ones choices in reconciling suffering are that it is either completely meaningless, or that it is the product of some cruel or negligent godform.

Neither can I. So I create my own meaning for life (Love, Friends, etc.) and simply accept suffering as the state of nature. Lions do it to Zebra, but I am still a happy person who has no need to "Reconcile" suffering to anything.
posted by bornjewish at 9:42 AM on October 31, 2007


Bad people write good books all the time.

Also, I try to conduct myself as if there are no bad people.
posted by hermitosis at 9:46 AM on October 31, 2007


People who use the overwhelming presence of human suffering as a lever in their argument against the existence of God really blow my mind.

Nobody did. I was using it against the teachings. It directly contravenes that which is claimed of god. A massive amount of the claims made in the bible about god and his character are made false with readily available evidence.

The trite response of 'there are bad things because some people were bad' doesn't wash as reason for discarding such guff as 'god loves every man equally' and other such gems. Especially when those being 'punished' are not the ones that did the 'crime'. If the reasons that religious types give for god being so great are so simply demonstrated to be utterly contradicted by facts as we see it every day (never mind all the historical inaccuracy) then it casts doubt on everything they claim god to be - irrespective of his existence.

If they have actually no idea what he does or why (as is clear from the contradiction), then by extrapolation how do they use this same evidence to suggest his existence?

Brockles, How many kids died in that Tsunami? And the parents were overwhelmingly believers too. But Pol Pot died in his sleep as an old man. Don't let her confuse the issue with "Human Inequality," there is plenty of simple geophysical & climate inequality to make our point with to go 'round.

I'm confused. Were you saying that weakened my argument? As to me it massively strengthens it that no one force using reason created or caused these issues. Existence of god and/or belief appears to have no affect whatsoever on natural disasters or people involvement therein. Almost as if nobody is in charge.

Imagine that.
posted by Brockles at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2007


You're right, there may very well have been an atheist killing in the name of atheism, but you'll have to admit it's extremely rare.

Hence the remark about 'making absolute claims'. Saying no one killed in the name of atheism is a good way to give theists the material to construct a strawman. Stating that it's rare is exactly what I was hoping to encourage.

Though I don't agree that the Dahmer example is that far off as in 'most' of the examples of religious atrocities it is precisely because of the dehumanizing of those not belonging to their sect that they are capable of brutality as far as I can tell. It's not that they're morally sound people who find it necessary to kill against their better judgement because Jesus told them to (though of course the lovely story of Abraham and his child is a glaring exception written into Christian theology even if he didn't follow through on the killing). It seems as if it's generally people who wanted to or felt it necessary to kill anyway find religion as a tool to morally justify it, which is a direct parallel to what Dahmer did.
posted by kigpig at 9:51 AM on October 31, 2007


And sinful humans are responsible for it.

Sinful humans created by an all-powerful, all-knowing God. Either your God is a monster or you don't really believe that he's all-powerful and all-knowing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:54 AM on October 31, 2007


Kpig, The Crusaders killed in the direct name of Jesus in order to go to heaven. As did the 9/11 boys in the name of Allah. I can't even imagine someone killing in the name of the philosophical absence of a hypothetical being. There is just no motive there. Do I admit it is possible? Yes. And so are Unicorns and Leprechauns. But the burden of proof for their existence in on the part of the claimnants, not me.
posted by bornjewish at 10:08 AM on October 31, 2007


Brock, I was saying that speaking of HUMAN evil (The holocaust) rather than IMPERSONAL evil (Tsunamis) gives Theists an opening that is better left ungiven.
posted by bornjewish at 10:09 AM on October 31, 2007


kigpig Yeah there are a lot of different aspects to religion/atheism discussion. Bad/good things happening is not an argument against/for there being a god (only what type he may be).

The only thing that matters is whether there is evidence for a god. If there is evidence then you can make the reasonable assumption that there is a god, if there isn't any and you believe there is a god; then you are making an unreasonable assumption (assuming something without any evidence). Faith = accepting something without evidence. Personally I can't see how accepting something blindly is in any way a positive thing. (Gullible, non-thinking, dumb are the words that come to mind)
posted by jeblis at 10:20 AM on October 31, 2007


Jeblis, Not that I disagree entirely, but what about logically examining various claimed attributes of god (ALL: Good, Knowing & Powerful) and showing how evidence and logic either shows how some two are mutually incompatible (All Knowing and All Powerful, I see a contradiction there) or how the combination is impossible to uphold in the light of some physical evidence (Like Tsunamis and vertical walls of ancient sea shells inside of mountains)?
posted by bornjewish at 10:26 AM on October 31, 2007


The Crusaders killed in the direct name of Jesus in order to go to heaven. As did the 9/11 boys in the name of Allah.

As far as I've learned, the crusaders killed in the name of imperialistic desires of king and country. Jesus and the lack of that specific family-hating communistic closet-homosexual schizophrenic in the hearts of the heathens was a tool used to morally justify the killing. Similarly, the hijackers killed as a social struggle against western imperialism, which those in power utilized religion to justify and goad them into a state where they were willing to die in the process. Neither of these cases was 'god wants me to kill these people' but more 'it is okay with god and morally sound to kill these people'.

Atheism cannot or at least has not effectively done this because even if a person believes there's no consequence for their actions with no god, and has it in them to take the lives of others, there's no ideology there to keep the minions in line for slaughter (hence needing a tool such as communism to get the heads a rollin')

There are however, the less common cases of say, a mother who drowns their children directly because of a god telling them to do so. Atheism can act the same here since, although it is true that there's no killing "in the name of a philosophical absence of a hypothetical being" a person can kill without regard to consequence as a direct result of not fearing the hypothetical beings wrath. They're not perfect parallels only because, well atheism does not contain the same properties as theism.

Can the 5-7 of us remaining, get this thread up to 500 comments?
posted by kigpig at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2007


bornjewish, this game does exactly that. I think it was posted to the blue a while ago.
posted by SBMike at 10:32 AM on October 31, 2007


Bad people write good books all the time.

Yeah, but a) he didn't write the book, Andrew Harvey a former disciple basically did and b) when those "bad people" put themselves on a pedestal as spiritual guide, "master" , priest, guru etc using that to lure in the sexual assault victims it's worse than bad. It's criminal.

Also, I try to conduct myself as if there are no bad people.

Conducting oneself like that with "bad people" can be a swift way to be savaged by them. And the Dalai Lama was on the CIA payroll for over a decade, creating with them a guerrilla army to kill Chinese soldiers. So it's not like he walked it like he talked it with equanimity.
posted by nickyskye at 10:33 AM on October 31, 2007


bornjewish Yes those are all interesting discussions, but they really address what type of god there can or can't be. See Omnipotence paradox. The question of whether a god exists or not should always boil down to evidence or lack of evidence.

/is dinner over yet?
posted by jeblis at 10:35 AM on October 31, 2007


One could, I suppose, make the argument that relatively few people have killed because of religious beliefs. They may use it as an excuse/justification, but fundamentally there probably killing for more primitive reasons (greed, power, social belonging, jealousy, sex drive, etc.) Religion may however push them over the edge if they interpret as agreeing with their desires. It could also stop them.
posted by jeblis at 10:44 AM on October 31, 2007


/I know, I know, I shouldn't start the war on Christmas until after thanksgiving. I just get so excited.

They've already got the Christmas aisle up in my local CVS and Halloween is just tonight!
posted by ericb at 10:55 AM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, I have been inside the Appalachian Mountains. I have seen the ancient thick deposits of sea shells sitting vertically inside the mountains. Either they got there the obvious way, via processes that take millions of years, OR your god put them there. Why would a just god place "Evidence that there were Earthquakes and Tsunamis millions of years before there were people" inside mountains

Ever heard of the Great Flood?
posted by konolia at 11:00 AM on October 31, 2007


Kpig, It appears you learned wrong about the Crusades. No European nation ever claimed or held land in the levant. Therefore there is no evidence of Imperialism perse. And while it is surely true that not all Crusaders were religious, it is also true that some were. The Pope made it blatantly clear that those who killed infidels for Jesus got to go to heaven. That was the motivator for thousands of people. This is a matter of historical record. So too did the implementors of the Inquisition torture and kill in the very name of Jesus.

And, as you say atheism does not contain the same properties as theism. That is exactly why I can put a bounty of $1,000.00 for a documented instance of someone killing for the sake of the philosophical nonexistence of a hypothetical entity and not have to pay up even though I can certainly document cases of individuals killing in the name of Jesus, god, Allah, etc.

500!!!! 500!!!! 500!!!
posted by bornjewish at 11:05 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


As far as I've learned, the crusaders killed in the name of imperialistic desires of king and country.
The Crusades were expeditions undertaken, in fulfilment of a solemn vow, to deliver the Holy Places from Mohammedan tyranny.

The origin of the word may be traced to the cross made of cloth and worn as a badge on the outer garment of those who took part in these enterprises.
[…]

The idea of the crusade corresponds to a political conception which was realized in Christendom only from the eleventh to the fifteenth century; this supposes a union of all peoples and sovereigns under the direction of the popes. All crusades were announced by preaching.
From the Catholic Encyclopedia.
posted by rtha at 11:06 AM on October 31, 2007


Ever heard of the Great Flood?

Oh no you d'int!

(what was for dinner? are there any leftovers?)
posted by rtha at 11:09 AM on October 31, 2007


konolia, do mean sinful humans are directly responsible for the suffering of the helpless, like Pol Pot, or indirectly, like me for having sex outside of wedlock?

I mean that sin entered the world because of humans, and that our collective sin still affects it in ways most of us cannot imagine.




Konolia, Children drowning in their believing mothers arms as they both scream prayers to a god who does not answer. Does that bother you?


I have no guarantee that I myself won't die that way. Or something worse. But because of the fact that a totally sinless Jesus died voluntarily in a way that was even more horrible than that in order to rescue sinful humans like myself from the eternal wrath of a holy and just God tells me all I really need to know.

I have had my share of life's pain. I don't believe that Christianity promises any of us utopia here on earth. As to the problem of evil, in the last few chapters of Job we are told, in a rather poetic yet firm way, that there are things that we humans do not understand, that God's purposes are not necessarily our business, and that the fact we think we know anything is pretty much bald hubris.

I freely admit that I don't have answers to many of the questions posted here. But I have known God for a very very long time, His interactions in my life have been frequent and varied, and I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW He is real, and that He is good.

But that is knowlege that each of us has to obtain for ourselves. There is no Christian version of a Vulcan mind meld that can transfer that knowledge of the Eternal from person to person. In fact the Bible teaches that we have to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit to comprehend it at all. So pardon me if I don't hang around here and argue. All I have to share is my experience.

Which no one can ever take away from me.
posted by konolia at 11:12 AM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ever heard of the Great Flood?

Deluge (mythology) -- "The story of a Great Flood sent by a deity or deities to destroy civilization as an act of divine retribution is a widespread theme among many cultural myths."

Ah -- the notion of an ark in Rabbinic, Christian, Islamic and other traditions.
posted by ericb at 11:13 AM on October 31, 2007


(My dinner hadn't thawed. So Sonic catered. But I did get some housework done. ) (Oh, and by the way, don't bother getting cheese tots. It's just a slice of processed American laid on top of the regular tots-not even really melted.)
posted by konolia at 11:16 AM on October 31, 2007


sin entered the world because of humans, and that our collective sin still affects it in ways most of us cannot imagine.

This brings to mind another question: What's the difference between humans who have no knowledge of Christianity committing acts the bible regards as sin and animals doing the same? Stress-based infanticide, for example. How can acts which, as I see them, connect us to our animal brethren and reveal our animal nature, be regarded as the entry point of evil into the world?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2007


I KNOW that I KNOW that I KNOW He is real, and that He is good.

Well I'm convinced. Hey if your threshold is that low, wanna buy a bridge?
posted by jeblis at 11:23 AM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, I have heard quite a bit about the legend of "The Great Flood." But according to the Bible (As we investigate the ages of the individuals involved) this flood was less than ten thousand years ago. It would take longer than that for the layer of shells I saw to accumulate. Also, floods don't turn the insides of mountains 90degrees.

Every recorded flood has left a mess on the ocean floor where the river involved lets into the sea. But there is no record of a worldwide flood in the time of man. Has your god tampered with the evidence?

A worldwide flood would lift the icecaps from their moorings, cuz ice floats, but the icecaps are tens of thousands of years old by the tale of their layers. Has your god tampered with the evidence?

Tree Ring data (Dendrochronology) goes back about ten thousand years. No world wide flood there either. So much available evidence tht falsifies the flood theory. Your god is quite the trickster!

The records of ancient Egypt are older than the Biblically determined date of the flood! This was noticed by historians by the late 1800's. Again, why would a just god leave so much contrary evidence lying about?
posted by bornjewish at 11:32 AM on October 31, 2007


Kids are, almost by definition, innocent.

kids are, as a matter of fact, wicked, selfish, scheming, lawless, little brutes, lacking any moral compunction whatsoever. only a severely deluded non-parent could wallow in such an ignorant assertion as yours above.
posted by quonsar at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


bornjewish, don't even try. It ain't worth it, and konolia has heard it all before, a lot. You'll just make your forehead all bloody.
posted by rtha at 11:42 AM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, Children drowning in their believing mothers arms as they both scream prayers to a god who does not answer. Does that bother you?

I repeat my question because although you responded at length, you did not answer my simple yes or no question at all. Does it bother you? It bothers me. It also bothers me that in the Old Testament, which you seem to take as "Gospel" it says that if someone urges people to worship a different god, they should be stoned to death. And in the New Testament it tells us that women should be seen but not heard. You seem to be sinning, inside your own value system.

I imagine that you will now tell me that you "Pick and Choose" which Bible verses to believe and follow. So do I. I choose to believe those verses for which there is evidence in the outside world. Like "Babylon conquered Judah". We have records of that, so I believe that.
posted by bornjewish at 11:48 AM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, Children drowning in their believing mothers arms as they both scream prayers to a God who does not answer.

life's a bitch. then you die. who has the arrogance to say she and her baby deserve to live? life in this creation is fucked up. it was fucked up by men, and now creation is, justly and deservedly, a nasty place. so go piss and moan. go be outraged. or go and take advantage of the out He gave us. entirely up to you.
posted by quonsar at 11:49 AM on October 31, 2007


only a severely deluded non-parent could wallow in such an ignorant assertion as yours above.

What a sweeping, baseless, attack. So you think you have to beat the bad things out of a child, do you? And that a child only ever turns out good because you (as a parent) made it good?

Did you 'save' it? Did you, did you? From E.V.I.L, with your good parenting?


But because of the fact that a totally sinless Jesus died voluntarily in a way that was even more horrible than...."

Again I take issue with your use of the word 'fact'. This is NOT fact. The existence of the person or the acts you describe (or the reasons behind them) have no proof. So it is NOT fact. Not even a little bit.

in the last few chapters of Job we are told, in a rather poetic yet firm way, that there are things that we humans do not understand, that God's purposes are not necessarily our business

What an incredibly convenient catch-all disclaimer.
posted by Brockles at 11:59 AM on October 31, 2007


bornjewish If you're looking for a reasoned argument from konolia as to why she believes, you'll be waiting for a while. Reason, science, logic, evidence won't support her views. The best answer is that she really wants to believe, so she does.
posted by jeblis at 12:02 PM on October 31, 2007


Ever heard of the Great Flood?

Ever heard of science and comparative religion? Oh, of course not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:03 PM on October 31, 2007


Q, I didn't say they had a right to live. I said that the situation bothers me. I claim ONLY that this disproves the assertion of an all-good and all-powerful god. Not that they "Deserve" to live. I don't even know what that means. I can only say that they didn't deserve to be killed by an intelligent and benevolent agent who claims it loves us.
posted by bornjewish at 12:06 PM on October 31, 2007


Jeblis, All that I care about in this context is that she be faced with the fact that her answers are not logical or convincing. That her answers are easily seen as silly by people who are intelligent and care deeply about the truth.

More than that I can not do. "There are none so blind as those who will not see."
posted by bornjewish at 12:13 PM on October 31, 2007


bornjewish her answers are easily seen as silly by people who are intelligent

Yeah I agree, but I wish I could get her to admit it... or a least admit that it's based on emotion.
posted by jeblis at 12:19 PM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, Children drowning in their believing mothers arms as they both scream prayers to a god who does not answer. Does that bother you?

Why should my opinions matter one whit to an omnipotent God?
posted by konolia at 12:22 PM on October 31, 2007


And for that matter, why do you assume ANYONE has the right to live? There are NO sinless humans save One.

I don't have the "right" to draw my next breath. That breath is granted to me as a gift.
posted by konolia at 12:24 PM on October 31, 2007


Oh Brockles!
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2007


Why should my opinions actions matter one whit to an omnipotent God?
posted by jeblis at 12:25 PM on October 31, 2007


or beliefs
posted by jeblis at 12:26 PM on October 31, 2007


Because He is holy and we are not and He hates sin. Hates.
posted by konolia at 12:29 PM on October 31, 2007


What does Holy mean? How do you know he hates sin? What is a sin?
posted by jeblis at 12:31 PM on October 31, 2007


What a sweeping, baseless, attack. So you think you have to beat the bad things out of a child, do you? And that a child only ever turns out good because you (as a parent) made it good?

don't put words in my mouth. i merely have observed, as anyone can, that straight out of the womb a child is oriented toward a total disregard for anything but its own needs, and that as the child grows it comes quite naturally by generally undesirable traits such as guile, deception, thievery, envy and the whole gamut. beating does no good, and nobody ever turns out "good". but Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice for our lack of good.
posted by quonsar at 12:40 PM on October 31, 2007


What does Holy mean?

how can you engage in this discussion when you lack even this most basic understanding of it?
posted by quonsar at 12:43 PM on October 31, 2007


I've not read a single clever-dick question from the atheists here that hasn't been answered - sometimes decades back - by some famous Christian apologist or other. You've descended into pointless casuistry.
posted by Abiezer at 12:53 PM on October 31, 2007


Not that that was far to go here.
posted by Abiezer at 12:54 PM on October 31, 2007


I have not read a single Christian Apologist answer to these basic questions that passes the most basic logical tests.
posted by bornjewish at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2007


But because of the fact that a totally sinless Jesus died voluntarily in a way that was even more horrible than that in order to rescue sinful humans like myself from the eternal wrath of a holy and just God tells me all I really need to know.

I contest the idea that Jesus was sinless:

belief that you're the messiah sent down to save man from sin is 'pride' in its ugliest form.

Additionally, if the story of the money changers temple is true...certainly the jewish priests were not about to let a bunch of the rabble rousers in the temple voluntarily. Either Jesus led an army in there using force or the threat of force, or used deception in order to make it by the guards.

Then there's lust where he fulfills his foot-fetish fantasy on Mary Magdelene.

He doesn't seem to hold the 4th commandment in much regard when he ditches his parents at the market.
posted by kigpig at 1:01 PM on October 31, 2007


I've not read a single clever-dick question from the atheists here that hasn't been answered

There is a huge difference between 'responded to' and 'answered'. There have been no answers here to any of the fundamentak questions, save "I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW" or "I Believe".

These are not acceptable as proof to any sane, intelligent mind.

as the child grows it comes quite naturally by generally undesirable traits such as guile, deception, thievery, envy and the whole gamut.

As the child grows. So it is not born with those, it gains them from interaction. Even you are stating that these are not naturally inherent traits.

nobody ever turns out "good"

So this omnipotent being just judges you against an impossible, unattainable, standard for a laugh, does he? Or are you suggesting that, in the last 2 thousand years, it's just that nobody has tried hard enough?
posted by Brockles at 1:02 PM on October 31, 2007


But gentlemen (I presume), those answers may not pass muster for you, or logic, or whatever - they don't for me either, I'm not a Christian - but they appear to serve those who do believe perfectly adequately. So where will we get here?
posted by Abiezer at 1:06 PM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, Why should our opinions matter one whit to an omnipotent god? Good question!!! And why should he care if we believe in him or not? Is he insecure? And if our opinions don't matter, why does our sin matter so much that he hates it? Am I superior to god because I have so much less hate in my heart? It is the INTERNAL inconsistency of your positions that I find so fascinating. How do you manage to hold so many contradictory positions at once?

But I asked you a question about YOU, about what bothers YOU that you have not answered. I think my question bothers you. I think you don't want to think about it. I think you are avoiding it.

Screaming babies and their mothers, drowning, in agony, praying to a god who doesn't care one whit about our wishes or desires, dying by the hundreds, in an "Act of God." Does it bother you? Or are you callous to the suffering involved? Which is it? A simple answer would be nice.
posted by bornjewish at 1:08 PM on October 31, 2007


I suggest we all just read Philip K. Dick novels and paint each other's toenails.
posted by hermitosis at 1:09 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


...and watch 'Dancing with the Stars.'
posted by ericb at 1:13 PM on October 31, 2007


Abe, If you believe the situation here is fruitless, Leave. No one is keeping you here. Let those who get something from it get their jollies. Your telling us to stop is no less fruitless than our conversation in the first place.
posted by bornjewish at 1:17 PM on October 31, 2007


We got quonsar, we got konolia... where's SCDB?
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:18 PM on October 31, 2007


how can you engage in this discussion when you lack even this most basic understanding of it?

I don't need to know what it means, the word holds no weight in an argument untile we agree on it's definition. I want to know what you (or konolia) think it means. What does it mean? What is the definition of sin? Of what god hates? Or should we just skip to the inevitable answer that the definitions come from the bible, koran, etc.? If so, by what line of reasoning do you come to the conclusion that these books are anything more than fables? Your mother told you so, a priest, the majority believes it, it just "feels" right to you, It says so itself? None of these are valid reasons for believing the book is true.
posted by jeblis at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2007


I have to say that Konolia and quonsar are making God out to be a total asshole. What kind of disfigured soul must one have to contrive such a being and deem it worthy of worship? In any case, this Lovecraftian... thing... you're discussing bears little resemblance to the Jesus I'm familiar with from the Bible, so I won't hold it against Christianity in general.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:19 PM on October 31, 2007


No one is keeping you here.

Maybe he's sick of seeing this circle jerk pop up in his Recent Activity page, too.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 1:20 PM on October 31, 2007


Konolia, I agree your answer is meaningless to god (As it is meaningless to the tooth fairy, Thor, Santa Claus and Unicorns) but it is meaningful to me. Are you disturbed by horrible "Acts of God" or do they "Not bother you"?

Or are you simply not able to answer the question?
posted by bornjewish at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2007


Brockles is teh funny.
posted by quonsar at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2007


Bornjewish, why does it matter? The only thing that should matter to you is what you will say to this God you don't believe in when you do meet Him. Everything else is just clutter.

Besides, a God I could explain (altho I challenge your statement that He would be uncaring) would be no god at all.

I could just as well ask why my minister friend died of lung cancer in his early forties-when he didn't even smoke. His widow-my friend-serves God in full time ministry to this day. She doesn't have all the answers either but she knows her-and his-God, and is not having an existential crisis nor is she shaking her fist at Him. We all know we will see my friend-and her husband-again.
posted by konolia at 1:26 PM on October 31, 2007


The Crusaders killed for the same reason that every army kills - resources. Land, water, oil - all the same.

Also, Chairman Mao was an atheist and killed lots of people for believing in God.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 1:27 PM on October 31, 2007


bornjewish - I watched it passing by, much as Alvy said, and it came across as an unseemly ganging-up on konolia to no end. hence my tuppence.
Baby_Balrog - here's a fun article for you on the messianic aspects of Maoism
posted by Abiezer at 1:31 PM on October 31, 2007


Jesus in the answer!
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on October 31, 2007


What was the question?
posted by ericb at 1:37 PM on October 31, 2007


Jesus in the answer!

Riddle in a box?
posted by kigpig at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2007


Brockles is teh funny.

Blimey. Well that told ME for blowing holes in your own statements.
posted by Brockles at 1:38 PM on October 31, 2007


Baby Balrog, Try reading some history. Not every army has the same motivation. See the Assassins for example.

And people being killed for a belief, like Romans, Christians and Maoists did, is not the same as "Killing in the name of Atheism." Communists killed in the name of Communism, they killed people who wore glasses, but they did not kill in the name of "Not wearing glasses."
posted by bornjewish at 1:48 PM on October 31, 2007


Oh, Christ, please make it stop. If you grant wishes, that is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:50 PM on October 31, 2007


I have to say that Konolia and quonsar are making God out to be a total asshole. What kind of disfigured soul must one have to contrive such a being and deem it worthy of worship? In any case, this Lovecraftian... thing... you're discussing bears little resemblance to the Jesus I'm familiar with from the Bible, so I won't hold it against Christianity in general.

Jesus wasn't that much nicer than God. A good Christian is the perfect slave.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 PM on October 31, 2007


The only thing that should matter to you is what you will say to this God you don't believe in when you do meet Him.
Jesus decided to visit his old buddy St. Peter. He strolled out to the Pearly Gates and noticed a long line of people waiting to get in. St. Peter was ecstatic to see him. "Oh, thank God -- err, I mean 'thank YOU' -- someone showed up!"

"Listen, Jesus, there's a huge line of people out here. I'm beat. Could you take over for a few minutes so I can take a break? I'd be ever so grateful!"

St. Peter went off for a smoke-and-poke.

Jesus handled the line of people, yakking it up, as he processed those able to clear the entry requirements.

Eventually the line dwindled to one old, tired man.

Jesus: "So, what did you do for a living when you were alive?"

"I was a carpenter," the old man replied.

Jesus's ears pricked up. "Ah," he said. "Did you have a wife or any children?"

"I had one son, but I lost him."

Jesus continued: "Ah, a terrible loss. Tell me, what did he look like?"

"Well," said the old man, "he looked just like any other boy, I guess, except he had metal nails and holes in his hands and his feet."

Jesus flung his arms in the air. "DAD?"

"PINOCCHIO?"
posted by ericb at 1:56 PM on October 31, 2007 [4 favorites]


Oh, Christ, please make it stop. If you grant wishes, that is.

I think you want the Tooth Fairy for the "granting wishes" part!
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on October 31, 2007


But, in a pinch? I think Jesus, the Easter Bunny, Santa Clause or Casper The Friendly Ghost might oblige and take Her place!
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on October 31, 2007


I think you want the Tooth Fairy for the "granting wishes" part!

The Tooth Fairy's just in the used dentition business. Wish-granting is for monkey paws, genies, magic fish and fairy godmothers.
posted by CKmtl at 2:10 PM on October 31, 2007


Konolia said: Why should my opinions matter one whit to an omnipotent God?

You, like many fundamentalists, seem to focus on the whole "omnipotent" thing while leaving off the "omnibenevolent" thing. Your opinions may well not matter to an omnipotent god but they sure as shit would matter to an omnibenevolent one!

Or do you not believe God to be omnibenevolent? If you don't, what's to stop him from torturing you for all eternity just for kicks?
posted by Justinian at 2:13 PM on October 31, 2007


Jesus wasn't that much nicer than God. A good Christian is the perfect slave.

I don't know about that. Dude had some radical and admirable ideas about personal accountability and society, to put it flippantly. That the new testament has been used in "do as I say, not as I do" ways by power hungry people doesn't change that Jesus was oodles nicer than the Yahweh of the OT.

Put it another way - when I compare what Jesus is reputed to have said and done versus what Yahweh is reputed to have said and done - let's just say I know the difference between being touched and being revolted.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:29 PM on October 31, 2007


Seriously, is this discussion of the pros and cons and rationality of konoila's faith covering any ground that most of us haven't covered, over and over, in similar discussions long ago?

I went through a period, from my mid-teens to mid-twenties, where I felt it was my responsibility as a thinking person to take very seriously arguments about religious belief and to actively investigate them and the engage everyone who wanted to talk about them. I spent a lot of time talking with the people who came to my door, to friends, family, etc. And there came a time when I stopped hearing anything at all that I hadn't already heard.

Also, in college at St. John's, almost the whole friggin' sophomore year is Judeo-Christianity, with reading much of both the Old and New Testaments in Seminar, translating some portions of the NT in Language, and reading a whole bunch of the theologians, obviously including Anselm, Augustine, Aquinas, and others. And it doesn't end there, either, obviously, as a lot of the philosophy and literature which follows chronologically and in the Program deals with this topic or is deeply immersed in it.

Not to mention my independent study of Eastern religions and philosphies.

Basically, as an atheist, I feel like I know, far, far more about this topic than I really need to. I'm glad I do, but I'm tired of it.

Because, you know, it really isn't resolvable, assuming it's a problem, via reason and discourse (sorry Plato and Aquinas, I respectfully disagree). In my opinion, it really just ends up being what some might say is a private matter of the heart. People believe what they believe for both social and personal reasons, and those reasons end up being very personal and often idiosyncratic. And all the supposed rational arguments about the matter are so old and, honestly, cliched. That doesn't make them wrong. It just makes them so familiar that, to me, anyway, they've worn out their welcome.

It's arrogant of me to assume that everyone else here feels the same, or should feel the same. And, really, I don't feel that. But I do believe that it's probably true for a good portion of the people discussing this. For a large portion, it's just going over far-too-familiar ground. There's a few who probably sincerely believe that they're going to learn something new by participating in this discussion. But, really, is that the case for the majority of the people in this thread?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:48 PM on October 31, 2007


So this omnipotent being just judges you against an impossible, unattainable, standard for a laugh, does he? Or are you suggesting that, in the last 2 thousand years, it's just that nobody has tried hard enough?

Brockles is teh funny.

Blimey. Well that told ME for blowing holes in your own statements.


funny because you lack the foundations of the issue. He doesn't "just judge you against an impossible, unattainable, standard for a laugh" and i'm not suggesting that in the last 2 thousand years nobody has tried hard enough. you are suggesting that. i'm saying you don't know what the fuck you are talking about. and your ridiculous attempts to "blow holes" reveals the depth of your ignorance of the subject at hand. that's why i find you funny. you're like a guy with no legs, hooting and gibbering your disdain at short people. you couldn't even begin to suggest that God judges us "against an impossible, unattainable, standard for a laugh" if you had even the most elementary knowledge of the bible. you could at least read Genesis to see what it is we are discussing here. to begin to grasp the basis for my statements, you would have to do that. you can't possibly blow holes in something if you are unarmed, deaf, dumb, blind and legless. you are teh funny!
posted by quonsar at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2007


And there came a time when I stopped hearing anything at all that I hadn't already heard.

That's great, EB. You may take a piece of sheet cake and a beverage and return to your cubicle.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:34 PM on October 31, 2007


EB, first of all, I'm really developing an admiration for you, even though I sometimes don't agree with your approaches or conclusions. You're consistently thoughtful, and if you go back to your cube to eat cake, I'll come with and eat the frosting for ya. I think you're right about this conversation being a tired one to most of us, but I really wonder why it's so impossible in these discussions to get more than a binary dynamic going. Are we incapable of that complexity in remote discourse? What do you think, (or any other people still reading here) from all the threads and your progressively more enlightened life experience: do people simply not hear ideas more progressive, complex, or "meta" than the ones on their agenda? Or is that somehow myopic of me?

Feel free to ignore and instead derail toward a discussion of the koran vs. the kabbalah or something equally divisive and ill-understood, you pedants.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:51 PM on October 31, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ethereal Bligh: "Because, you know, it really isn't resolvable, assuming it's a problem, via reason and discourse (sorry Plato and Aquinas, I respectfully disagree)."

I don't know how much Plato and Aristotle would disagree with you. They both tried very hard, because a lot was on the line, but I don't know where they ended up.

Incidentally, Leo Strauss, who I think is probably the intellectual grandfather behind St. John's, or at least its intellectual uncle, said that the question of reason vs. faith is a moral issue, as opposed to a rational one. This seems to have been the core of his teaching, and is repeated at several points: one can either be a philosophical person open to religion, or a religous person open to philosophy.

I'm still trying to decide if I agree. That explanation seems suspiciously rationalistic to me. Maybe the Jews, et al, are right; maybe life doesn't really make perfect sense. If so, knowing might be possible.
posted by koeselitz at 4:38 PM on October 31, 2007


By "moral issue," he meant, of course, that there was no grounds for saying that one choice was correct and one was false; they lay in the general outlook and nature of the chooser.
posted by koeselitz at 4:40 PM on October 31, 2007


“Incidentally, Leo Strauss, who I think is probably the intellectual grandfather behind St. John's, or at least its intellectual uncle...”

There are connections, yes, but I think Straussianism is almost directly opposed to the ethos of SJC's program. Jacob Klein, a respected tutor at St. John's, and Leo Strauss were lifelong and very close friends, but Klein was never a Straussian. A contemporary of Klein's at SJC was asked about his thoughts on Strauss and Klein and he responded that Stauss cultivated acolytes, Klein eschewed them. The Program at SJC, with its pedagogical emphasis on the students being primarily responsible for their own education, and particularly with its very strong ethic of disallowing the tutors to tell the students how to interpret the texts, is very anti-Straussian. I don't think it's an accident that Strauss never actually taught at St. John's and that most of the Straussians gravitated to Chicago. Nor do I think it's an accident that Johnnies are typically liberal or progressive. I despise the neocons and dislike Strauss. Sorry for the digression, but this is an irritation of mine.

“Are we incapable of that complexity in remote discourse? What do you think, (or any other people still reading here) from all the threads and your progressively more enlightened life experience: do people simply not hear ideas more progressive, complex, or ‘meta’ than the ones on their agenda? Or is that somehow myopic of me?”

Well, since we're talking about St. John's, I think an anecdote from my experience there may partly answer your question. (By the way, I'm blushing at your kind words. Thanks.)

I actually quite enjoyed reading the Bible and reading some of the theologians (not Aquinas, though). But shortly into the first semester of sophomore year, when we were in the middle of reading books from the Bible in Seminar, I got very, very frustrated and angry.

The problem was that all of the habits of thought and discourse which we freshman had painstakingly learned were all breaking down in our seminars on the Bible. Students learn at SJC to leave their baggage at the door of the classroom. They learn to be rational, stick closely to the text, to be respectful to each other, to consider other people's ideas carefully—all things that are fundamental for making a seminar-oriented education work and which are essential habits and skills for a successful SJC education and experience. And the students do learn to do these things, and almost without exception (most who don't either leave or are forced to leave).

But, like I said, all these things were breaking down in the Bible seminars. I approached these books the same way I had approached all the other books we had read. I was interested in these books on their own terms and was determined to talk about them on their own terms. But a large portion of the other students suddenly reverted to pre-SJC argument and discussion style. They were bringing in huge baggage, they were not being respectful to each other. One student said to me one night, across the seminar table, ”I feel sorry for you that you are an atheist”.

During this time, I was very frustrated and unhappy. There was so much interesting stuff in these books—I would happily have spent a month just on Job, for example. But the seminars were unusually unproductive, we'd get stuck on arguing about things only marginally related to the text.

Finally, one Friday evening I got involved in a conversation about this with one of my two seminar tutors (there are two tutors leading a seminar; and, by the way, if you haven't figured it out yet, tutors are what profs are called at SJC)—one of the more beloved and long-time tutors, actually. He sympathized with my frustration but was, in turn, a bit frustrated with me for it. What did I expect from people, he asked me? He said, look, we live in a Judaeo-Christian culture, we're seeped in all this stuff, it's peoples' faiths, they are passionate about it. He told me, with a smile, if students came into these Seminars without baggage, he'd be worried.

Frankly, my fellow students at SJC are the most thoughtful, rigorous, well-meaning, and discursively productive people I've ever known in my life. It was a utopia for me. But even we had trouble discussing religion.

What can I say about why it's so hard to do so? Like the topic itself, it's all been said before. Probably the bottom line is that two extremely highly-charged things are involved in the discussion or religion: personal identity and one's insecurities about life. When people challenge other people's beliefs—and just asking them talk about them rationally is often such a challenge—they are also in some sense challenging that person's identity. And they are also challenging that person's security about where they stand in the universe, about what their life means, about what happiness is. How can that not produce emotionally charged and difficult conversations?

I wish this wasn't the case, but it just is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:11 PM on October 31, 2007 [2 favorites]


Probably the bottom line is that two extremely highly-charged things are involved in the discussion or religion: personal identity and one's insecurities about life. When people challenge other people's beliefs—and just asking them talk about them rationally is often such a challenge—they are also in some sense challenging that person's identity. And they are also challenging that person's security about where they stand in the universe, about what their life means, about what happiness is. How can that not produce emotionally charged and difficult conversations?

Well said, and absolutely true; thus the maxim to never discuss "religion and politics".

I think that subtlety and nuance is difficult in religious and political discussions because most people have already had a very long internal conversation to reach their present views. Many small life experiences have gone into forming an identity and, though the small thoughts and experiences have faded, the conclusion remains. The resulting opinions are so "self-obvious" that nuance becomes so much distraction to many people.

It's even more difficult in remote discourse, because no one can afford to type out a book to discuss every little point. A lot of distillation takes place; that doesn't mean that there isn't often very lucid thought behind seemingly tossed-off remarks.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:21 PM on October 31, 2007


Quonsar: If you can get off your personal attacks for a second. You know, just try it. Throwing your self against someone with such aggressive personal slights (of which you have no knowledge of their factual accuracy - you have no idea who I am) and insulting someone for questioning your religion shows, to me, a blind hatred and fear of anyone that doubts or questions you. I am questioning the logic of the statements made (by you and others). This does not require in-depth knowledge of religion, and there has been nothing to allow you to judge the depth of my religious knowledge - you have no awareness of my background or upbringing.

Allow me to recap:

'Christ died for our (human's) sins.' or "Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice for our lack of good"

Apparently, we have done something wrong. Pre-emptively, to make up for our wrongs, some bearded fella died. But that means our sins are made up for, so we don't have to worry, surely? Eye for an eye - he has already made up for our 'lack of good'. The slate is surely clean, by that rational, is it not? Although how much 'lack of good' was he making up for? The stuff we'd done? Or the stuff we will do? How did he know it would be enough if his death didn't have the effect he hoped for - to make us good, devout sheep.

Or, we should still be making amends, and trying NOT to sin. But, you said 'no-one grows up good'. So no-one is able to attain this level of not sinning that the guy supposedly died because we couldn't attain. Konolia: There are NO sinless humans save One.

So either all our sins are already taken care off with his blood, and so the concept of sin is abstract - its affect has already been rectified - or the requirement to NOT sin is so high that humans can't attain it.

Which is it? Are we supposed to strive not to sin? Even though no-one has managed it? What's the point when someone already died for all our sins anyway? We've already paid our dues through proxy. What's the point if we can't actually achieve a sinless level? We're going to get punished with Tsunamis and earthquakes anyway, so why not sin and have some fun? And if we can't be without sin, why was the bar deliberately set so high? And if it was deliberately set too high for us, why did 'jesus die' if we could never have attained it anyway?

There are flaws and inconsistencies in every single aspect of religion and this argument. I am stunned that you are unable to see these inconsistencies, but instead decide to revert to personal attack rather than question that which you consider so important to you when it may well be warranted.
posted by Brockles at 6:25 PM on October 31, 2007


The discussion may be emotionally charged, and I agree lots of small internal battles have led a person to their current state of belief. But it's not as though everyone here has come to their final conclusions on the subject. To say that the discussion is pointless or has no merit is to say that every discussion on it up to this point has been useless.
posted by jeblis at 6:47 PM on October 31, 2007


When people challenge other people's beliefs—and just asking them talk about them rationally is often such a challenge—they are also in some sense challenging that person's identity. And they are also challenging that person's security about where they stand in the universe, about what their life means, about what happiness is. How can that not produce emotionally charged and difficult conversations?

i think what's most interesting about much of this discussion is that those who don't believe in anything are reacting in as just an emotionally laden matter as those who do

and the major drawback to anger has nothing to do with what it accomplishes or how it can affect others - it's how it can affect the angry person his or herself - it can actually harden your arteries, from what i've been hearing

as for me - time's short these days, and i can't be bothered arguing with angry people online
posted by pyramid termite at 6:48 PM on October 31, 2007


Then again, as an atheist, I believe ultimately every conversation ever will ultimately be pointless. So I'm talking relative short term meaning to individuals.
posted by jeblis at 6:50 PM on October 31, 2007


My god, will someone please hurry up and post 499? Oh, fuck it, I'll do it.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2007


500 GET
posted by fleetmouse at 9:24 PM on October 31, 2007


While we're telling theology jokes:

And Jesus said unto them, "And whom do you say that I am?"

They replied,

"You are the totaliter aliter, the vestigious trinitatum who speaks to us in the modality of Christo-monism.”

"You are he who heals our ambiguities and overcomes the split of angst and existential estrangement; you are he who speaks of the theonomous viewpoint of the analogia entis, the analogy of our being and the ground of all possibilities.”

"You are the impossible possibility who brings to us, your children of light and children of darkness, the overwhelming roughness’ in the midst of our fraught condition of estrangement and brokenness in the contiguity and existential anxieties of our ontological relationships.”

“You are my Oppressed One, my soul's shalom, the One who was, who is, and who shall be, who has never left us alone in the struggle, the event of liberation in the lives of the oppressed struggling for freedom, and whose blackness is both literal and symbolic.”

And Jesus replied, "Huh?"


on preview: damn you fleetmouse!
posted by Arturus at 10:12 PM on October 31, 2007


502 GODOT LINE 1
posted by jeblis at 1:19 AM on November 1, 2007


If you can get off your personal attacks for a second. You know, just try it. Throwing your self against someone with such aggressive personal slights (of which you have no knowledge of their factual accuracy - you have no idea who I am) and insulting someone for questioning your religion shows, to me, a blind hatred and fear of anyone that doubts or questions you.

you ARE teh funny! i quote: "So you think you have to beat the bad things out of a child, do you? And that a child only ever turns out good because you (as a parent) made it good?

Did you 'save' it? Did you, did you? From E.V.I.L, with your good parenting?"

*cough* but i've used your tactic thousands of times, you know, a sudden shift to the high-toned, implied morally superior position in an attempt to distract from my crumbling argument. now, as to your latest mouth-foam:

There are flaws and inconsistencies in every single aspect of religion and this argument. I am stunned that you are unable to see these inconsistencies, but instead decide to revert to personal attack rather than question that which you consider so important to you when it may well be warranted.

There are flaws and inconsistencies in every single aspect of the universe. flaws and inconsistencies define the nature of the universe. paradox is truth. you don't know who you are talking to! i too clutched the same gods of empiricism as you, as vigorously as anyone. you are teh funny, man!
posted by quonsar at 4:11 AM on November 1, 2007


Quonsar, if you can't tell the difference between a question and my apparent 'ignorant assertions'. All you do, when presented with questions or demonstrations of logic is get more uptight and self-righteous, using it as a smokescreen to suggest that you have responded, when in actually fact you address nothing other than to merely imply ignorance.

I haven't even started on my knowledge of the bible, yet. I haven't needed to, as several people in this thread have posted enough here alone to take apart with logic and counter argument. None of which you have addressed - particularly from me, but none of the other posts either. You just erupt with indignation and respond with nothing by way of support of your claims.

"So you think you have to beat the bad things out of a child, do you? And that a child only ever turns out good because you (as a parent) made it good?

Did you 'save' it? Did you, did you? From E.V.I.L, with your good parenting?"


This is a question. Can you understand that? DID you save the child (your earlier rant strongly implies that you are a parent)? Being as it is born (as you state) with purely evil tendencies, unless your child has grown up as an utter slap in the face to your religion, these evil tendencies must have been eradicated. Through, presumably, teaching and upbringing. Presumably also, by it's parents and some awareness of teaching of what is NOT evil.

So. Is your child evil? Or did you save it? IF you didn't, who did and how?


There are flaws and inconsistencies in every single aspect of the universe.


Yes. But there are not direct contradictions. The bible is full of them.

It's the first, and amazingly successful 419 scam - promise great things (419 = money vs bible = eternal bliss) yet make people jump through hoops to get to it, but making them feel good about themselves while they do it (419 = saving an oppressed person vs bible = being a 'better person' and more eligible for 'heaven').

419'ers do it for cash. The bible was written to control and oppress people. The various churches in the world are incredibly wealthy as a result - more than government assets, in a lot of cases, and the fear of god certainly cured many uprisings in primitive times when the king/whomever was perceived to have a direct line to El Beardy. It just, in order to remain effective, wasn't written very well. Too long ago for modern education and science not to be able to blow holes in it. It's a scam, and people are still falling for it.
posted by Brockles at 5:18 AM on November 1, 2007


these evil tendencies must have been eradicated.

see, statements like that are what i'm talking about. you have no knowledge of the bible. if you did, you couldn't proceed from such erroneous assumptions. not only is evil not eradicated, it is impossible for man to eradicate. not by teaching. not by upbringing. not by parents. not by awareness. man cannot save himself. my children and grandchildren and myself are as corrupt as we were at birth. this shit is fundamental to the discussion. you lack the fundamentals of the subject. you claim knowledge you do not possess. it may interest you to know that another one of your assumptions is faulty as well - that i was raised in these beleifs. i have only recently settled into them, after questioning everything i had ever held to be so. it might profit you, Brockles, to begin to question your own certainty. perhaps nothing is as you have always thought it to be.
posted by quonsar at 7:23 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ethereal Bligh: "There are connections, yes, but I think Straussianism is almost directly opposed to the ethos of SJC's program. Jacob Klein, a respected tutor at St. John's, and Leo Strauss were lifelong and very close friends, but Klein was never a Straussian. A contemporary of Klein's at SJC was asked about his thoughts on Strauss and Klein and he responded that Stauss cultivated acolytes, Klein eschewed them. The Program at SJC, with its pedagogical emphasis on the students being primarily responsible for their own education, and particularly with its very strong ethic of disallowing the tutors to tell the students how to interpret the texts, is very anti-Straussian. I don't think it's an accident that Strauss never actually taught at St. John's and that most of the Straussians gravitated to Chicago. Nor do I think it's an accident that Johnnies are typically liberal or progressive. I despise the neocons and dislike Strauss. Sorry for the digression, but this is an irritation of mine."

What on God's great earth makes you say that? What writings of Strauss' make you say this? Really, I want to know. It's very difficult for me to see how the Commentary on Plato's Meno and Greek Mathematical Thought and the Origin of Algebra are any less pedagogical than Spinoza's Critique of Religion and Xenophon's Socratic Discourse. If anything, Jacob Klein subjected himself to the painful weight of adulation and adoration much more than Strauss. He was hardly just "a respected tutor at St. John's." He was the program; he made it was it is today, and built it into something sustainable. If you've ever spoken to the "Annapolis old guard" of St. John's, then you know the sheer and blind dotage they heap on the man. Methinks that they understand him about as well as people in general understand Strauss. Being misunderstood is not a fault.

But maybe you're saying that books about books are a bad thing, and we should only be allowed to read the original books themselves. I don't know. I can tell you this: I was lucky enough to study for a small amount of time with a person who spent all of his formative years close to Strauss when he was in college. That person is an apolitical man who was very happy to send his children to St. John's College because he viewed it as the finest education available, and who spends his time now, edging toward retirement, buried in Aristotle and Xenophon. I don't think Strauss was really the man you think he was, nor the teacher you impute him to be.

Sorry, but this is an irritation of mine, too.

Now, back to the discussion at hand.
posted by koeselitz at 8:04 AM on November 1, 2007


this shit is fundamental to the discussion. you lack the fundamentals of the subject.

Remove your blinkers. I understand these fundamental aspects entirely. It is that very aspect that I am questioning. Do not assume that because I question you that the only possible position I can do that from is ignorance. That is the height of arrogance itself.

it is impossible for man to eradicate.

man cannot save himself.

So this all powerful being clearly isn't all that hot, is he? He can't even make a self-sufficient and complete being. So he made us imperfect. For what purpose? Just so we would be dependent on him? Just to plump his ego? It can't be to make us grow, because, as you state, we can't do it on our own. We'll always be imperfect in his eyes.

You think, if he was so powerful, that he could have made people properly in the first place, rather than leaving us with an eternal, pointless (and ultimately futile) struggle to attempt to make ourselves better.

If we can't help ourselves, what's the point in trying? He'll just fill in the gaps anyway.

It's this lack of flow of logic to the whole religious thing that makes me so baffled that people don't question it. This god of yours deliberately, because he is so powerful, created you to have an eternal struggle to try and make yourself better. And you WORSHIP him for that? Not get a bit pissed off that he could n't have given you something better to be grateful for?
posted by Brockles at 8:10 AM on November 1, 2007


again, you cannot engage in this topic without understanding the basics.

He can't even make a self-sufficient and complete being.

the perfect being he made was given free will and chose disobedience. again, a fundamental concept you reveal you lack understanding of.

So this all powerful being clearly isn't all that hot, is he?

all-powerful is not the only aspect of God to focus upon, He is also all-holy (perfect) and all-merciful (loving) and all-just (fair). as all-just, He cannot abide or excuse evil. therefore there MUST be consequences to it. as all-merciful, there MUST be salvation. again, fundamental concepts you reveal you lack understanding of.

You think, if he was so powerful, that he could have made people properly in the first place,

no, i think if you knew one whit of genesis, you'd realize how stupid you look, making statements like that. it's right there, for crying out loud! He did make us and all of creation perfect, and man fucked it up. again, fundamental concepts you reveal you lack understanding of.

rather than leaving us with an eternal, pointless (and ultimately futile) struggle to attempt to make ourselves better.

but you see, that's the whole point of Christianity - rather than leaving us with an eternal, pointless (and ultimately futile) struggle to attempt to make ourselves better, he provided a plan of salvation. out of his benevolent and all-merciful nature. again, fundamental concepts you reveal you lack understanding of.

It's this lack of flow of logic to the whole religious thing that makes me so baffled that people don't question it.

and it will never make any logical sense as long as you continue ignore the fundamental concepts you reveal you lack understanding of. the same as you will never understand calculus if you lack the basic concepts of arithmetic. see?

This god of yours deliberately, because he is so powerful, created you to have an eternal struggle to try and make yourself better.

why, that's not what He did at all! again, fundamental concepts you reveal you lack understanding of.

are you beginning to see that i think you lack an understanding of the fundamental concepts of the topic yet?
posted by quonsar at 8:35 AM on November 1, 2007


“I don't think Strauss was really the man you think he was, nor the teacher you impute him to be.”

Yes, well, there are straussians but there aren't any kleinians, now are there? Strauss taught an interpretation of these books, Klein did not.

Students are quite explicitly not taught what to think of these books we read at SJC. Strauss had very strong ideas about them. So did Klein, so do many other tutors at St. John's. Fortunately, we do not read the tutor's works at St. John's, nor do they ever lecture to us (excepting the informal Friday night lectures, of course). On the other hand, Strauss formed around him a coterie of students, and then later second-hand students, who were taught his view of these books, particularly his own idiosyncratic views of political philosophy.

If you don't understand that the great respect that Klein is held in at St. John's College is for the man he was, for the gifted midwiving tutor, and not specifically as an intellectual promulgating a political philosophy (as Strauss is admired), then you know nothing about the culture of SJC, even though you seem to know some facts about its existence. Most students leave the College without ever knowing much at all about the tutors views' on even the books they ‘taught’.

So, no, I don't think you can compare Strauss and Klein in the way you are comparing them; and, yes, I think there's a world of difference between how the two men approached the teaching of these books, even if they agreed on them. The neocons are Strauss's direct intellectual heirs, and they are noxious. Strauss's was a political philosophy, it's why his heirs are involved in government. And by their fruits we know him all too well.

And while there have been and are some of Strauss's acolytes teaching at SJC, none of them, to my knowledge, have been politically active the way that the Chicago folks have. St. John's is notoriously apolitical. Allen Bloom, one of Strauss's students and greatest admirers and champions, derided SJC in its naive approach to the Great Books. Bloom, like Strauss and many others—but not, apparently, Klein—believed that these books were too important to allow mere college students to read them without heavy guidance.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:47 AM on November 1, 2007


Brockles: "Remove your blinkers. I understand these fundamental aspects entirely. It is that very aspect that I am questioning. Do not assume that because I question you that the only possible position I can do that from is ignorance. That is the height of arrogance itself."

I'm sorry, Brockles, but quonsar is absolutely right; you clearly haven't tried to understand xianity, no matter how much you think you might have. For example:

Brockles: "We're going to get punished with Tsunamis and earthquakes anyway, so why not sin and have some fun?"

Because sin isn't fun; it's horribly painful by its very nature. There's absolutely nothing enjoyable about it. That's why it's called 'sin.'

Brockles: "So this all powerful being clearly isn't all that hot, is he? He can't even make a self-sufficient and complete being. So he made us imperfect. For what purpose? Just so we would be dependent on him? Just to plump his ego? It can't be to make us grow, because, as you state, we can't do it on our own. We'll always be imperfect in his eyes."

It's interesting that you bring this up, because I was just reading St. Diadochos of Photiki this morning, and he says something that expresses this pretty well:

Evil does not exist by nature, nor is any man naturally evil, for God made nothing that was not good. When in the desire of his heart someone conceives and gives form to what in reality has no existence, then what he desires begins to exist. We should therefore turn our attention away from the inclination to evil and concentrate it on the remembrance of God; for good, which exists by nature, is more powerful than our inclination to evil. The one has existence while the other has not, except when we give it existence through our actions.

Human beings were created with an ability to create through their own actions. This ability to create was developed further into a capacity to sin. This capacity to sin is sometimes called inaccurately our "sinful nature."

Brockles: "This god of yours deliberately, because he is so powerful, created you to have an eternal struggle to try and make yourself better. And you WORSHIP him for that? Not get a bit pissed off that he could n't [sic] have given you something better to be grateful for?"

First, please note that whether or not it's good doesn't enter into whether or not it's true. Second, recognize that, if God is the source of all things, including that from which good emanates, then it's a little silly to say that he's "evil." Third, maybe I'm an oddball here, but "an eternal struggle to try and make yourself better" doesn't sound that hideous to me, really.

"It's this lack of flow of logic to the whole religious thing that makes me so baffled that people don't question it."

Religion is quite rational; it merely accepts that there are some things that are beyond us, and encourages us to open up to those things and attain their level. If you like, I can continue explaining how.

You accuse religious people of being irrational. There's a verse in the Bible, Matthew 7:3, that gives some advice which I think you might find particularly useful.
posted by koeselitz at 8:52 AM on November 1, 2007


'Religion is quite rational; it merely accepts that there are some things that are beyond us, and encourages us to open up to those things and attain their level.'

No, it postulates that there are things beyond us and that there is a way we can open up to them and attain their level. There's no rational reason to think that. Or if I'm wrong on that front then do go ahead and explain how, as you're starting to sound like you're saying the sort of things 235w103 was saying you shouldn't.
posted by edd at 9:01 AM on November 1, 2007


Ah, I see it. You seem to think Strauss was anything like Allan Bloom. That's a fairly large mistake; they are absolutely nothing like each other. Sincerely, Ethereal, read a book or two of Strauss' before jumping to this conclusion. Or perhaps you can name more of the "Chicago" people that were so "political." I've met most of Strauss' closest students that are still alive, and not even the most haughty is even remotely political. None of them besides Bloom ever was.

"If you don't understand that the great respect that Klein is held in at St. John's College is for the man he was, for the gifted midwiving tutor, and not specifically as an intellectual promulgating a political philosophy (as Strauss is admired), then you know nothing about the culture of SJC, even though you seem to know some facts about its existence."

Spoken like a true Santa Fe graduate. I don't know if you've met or talked to Annapolis tutors, but, though he doesn't come up all that often, Klein is always spoken of in tones so glowing as to be worshipful. You're lucky that, like me, you spent your four years out west. It's not like that in Maryland, where the cult still exists, and has a detrimental effect on the classroom discourse, which sounds from all reports like it already leaves a lot to be desired.

"The neocons are Strauss's direct intellectual heirs..."

See, here's the part where you can't help but admit that you've never read a word of Strauss in your life.
posted by koeselitz at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2007


Oh for fucks sake. Asking questions of you doesn't imply I don't know the answers, otherwise a school system that sets exams wouldn't work, would it (to pick one obvious example)? Do you understand debate? Are you not aware what a 'question mark' is? I'm not stating a position, I am presenting logic that implies or suggests an alternative to that which you claim is fact. The answers are providing insight, not necessarily new information to me. I am asking questions because I want YOUR (as a representative of the blind faith crowd) take on it.

You see, I WAS brought up with this kind of teaching. I just rejected it very early on, much to the disappointment of my mother. So I am not exactly lacking in knowledge. But I don't need to list all I know to ask you a question, surely?

the perfect being he made was given free will and chose disobedience.

I can't get my head around why a perfect being choosing to take a different path than that intended either makes that path right (if he's perfect, after all, that isn't a massive leap - thereby making god's perception of what a human being should be out of whack) or it makes this perfect being to have done an imperfect thing.

Say god creates 'a' as a perfect (perfect - as in no flaws) example of 'a'. But 'a' decides that he is actually 'a+'. This either shifts the datum for what god considers to be 'a' to 'a+' (making god wrong in his initial assessment - hence not all knowing), or it means that Jesus himself did something wrong. Hence he isn't perfect. Because he moved away from the perfect entity he was created as.

The statement doesn't scan without one or other of those being a sensible progression.

If Jesus was perfect, then god was wrong as to what a perfect being is if it didn't agree with him after he created it.

Or, Jesus did something different from what god wanted - is moved away from perfect and became imperfect.

Clearly god's and jesus's perception of perfect are different, unless the 'level' of perfectness changed.


Every aspect of the god story has these little twists that just don't work if you strip it down to basics. Basic contradiction is evident in great quantity throughout the bible. And it's right in front of you...
posted by Brockles at 9:04 AM on November 1, 2007


“It's not like that in Maryland, where the cult still exists, and has a detrimental effect on the classroom discourse, which sounds from all reports like it already leaves a lot to be desired.”

Well, that may be true. I didn't spend any time in Annapolis, so I don't know. My feelings about it are mixed, as I've heard different things from different people. My best friend spent only a semester there and begged to come back because he felt that the true spirit of the SJC education had gotten lost in its trappings at Annapolis. I've heard that elsewhere, but then I've also heard people who attended both campuses saying they experienced nothing of the kind. So, I don't know. I remain agnostic on it. I certainly haven't noticed much difference in johnnies I've known.

Of course, there's the obvious difference between the two campuses with the existence of the Eastern Program at Santa Fe, and the fact that its birth was tumultuous and rumored to have nearly caused a schism.

And, yes, as a johnnie I should be ashamed to not have actually read Strauss and only have been relying on what I've read about Strauss. Touche on forcing me to admit this. I can't say I'm in a hurry to correct it, though.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:13 AM on November 1, 2007


Every aspect of the god story has these little twists that just don't work if you strip it down to basics. Basic contradiction is evident in great quantity throughout the bible. And it's right in front of you...

yes, but that doesn't bother me. life itself is full of contradiction. it's not important for me to figure everything out and not important to me that nothing contain contradiction. ferreting out contradiction, knowing how everything works, it seems to be a futile, rewardless pursuit. life is a contradiction - birth is the leading cause of death. will you never rest until you somehow make it not so? what is the benefit in that?
posted by quonsar at 9:24 AM on November 1, 2007


Atheism can act the same here since, although it is true that there's no killing "in the name of a philosophical absence of a hypothetical being" a person can kill without regard to consequence as a direct result of not fearing the hypothetical beings wrath.

This is the most disgusting canard promulgated by the "religious" to discredit atheism: that atheists have no reason to act morally. Although I know the commenter is not of this ilk, it is nonetheless a frequently used lever for those who want to criticize and marginalize atheists. It frightens me that some religious people believe that without a god, they have no reason to be kind and moral. It puts them at a very low stage of moral development and may explain why it is possible to get believers to commit such heinous acts in the name of that god. If your reason to follow rules that approximate a moral life at that you're afraid of a big bad ghost in the sky, then if you can be convinced that that big bad ghost wants you to, I don't know, crash planes into towers or join the Lord's Resistance Army and shoot and rape, by god, you'll do it.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:33 AM on November 1, 2007


#&%(*&&(*

"approximate a moral life at is that"
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:36 AM on November 1, 2007


Brockles: "Oh for fucks sake. Asking questions of you doesn't imply I don't know the answers, otherwise a school system that sets exams wouldn't work, would it (to pick one obvious example)? Do you understand debate? Are you not aware what a 'question mark' is?"

The way a question is phrased can indicate ignorance on the part of the questioner. The fact that you asked "why not sin and have some fun?" indicates that either (a) you really don't know the nature of sin, or (b) you disagree and are asking rhetorically. Either way, it's fair to point this out when you make sweeping dismissals of whole systems of thought.

"You see, I WAS brought up with this kind of teaching. I just rejected it very early on, much to the disappointment of my mother. So I am not exactly lacking in knowledge. But I don't need to list all I know to ask you a question, surely?"

Same here. I know your pain. The hatred I bear toward evangelical Christianity has a luminosity and incensive power which is difficult for me to describe. That doesn't fool me into thinking that the silly sots who waved flannel cutouts of shepherds in my face compassed the entirety of xianity.

"Clearly god's and jesus's perception of perfect are different, unless the 'level' of perfectness changed.

I can tell you, for what it's worth, that Jesus' perception is probably very different from God's. In fact, it's difficult to talk about God having a perception. In any case, it's their being that's the same, not their perception.

Every aspect of the god story has these little twists that just don't work if you strip it down to basics.

I guess we're just arguing that you haven't really stripped it down to basics yet.
posted by koeselitz at 9:36 AM on November 1, 2007


Brockles, you'll probably learn more from the Wikipedia article on theodicy than from quonsar's attempts to throw his walker at you.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:37 AM on November 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


fleetmouse, that assumes Brockles is here to learn something. this i doubt.
posted by quonsar at 9:41 AM on November 1, 2007


It seems that no matter how many inconsistent and contradictory concepts are needed by folks to defend their faith, it never occurs to them that the problem is with their beliefs. It is always with the pesky non-believers asking such "naive" questions. "If they only understood as deeply as I do..." Honestly, I understand the deep psychological need for some people to have these irrational beliefs, but for pity's sake, don't get into logical arguments about the existence of supernatural beings. The belief itself defies logic, just on the face of it, so how can logic ever defend or convince? It's all emotional, all the way down.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2007


Mental Wimp: "This is the most disgusting canard promulgated by the "religious" to discredit atheism: that atheists have no reason to act morally."

It has some measure of truth to it. Atheists really have no reason to act morally. They have, however, reason to act rationally, which very often amounts to the same thing in practice, even if it comes from different motivations.
posted by koeselitz at 9:42 AM on November 1, 2007


fleetmouse, that assumes Brockles is here to learn something. this i doubt.

Well of course not! You're here to try to teach us something, and we're here to try to teach you something.

I'd hope none of us are so deluded as to think the opposite side is actually teachable.
posted by edd at 9:49 AM on November 1, 2007


Mental Wimp: "It seems that no matter how many inconsistent and contradictory concepts are needed by folks to defend their faith, it never occurs to them that the problem is with their beliefs. It is always with the pesky non-believers asking such 'naive' questions. 'If they only understood as deeply as I do...' Honestly, I understand the deep psychological need for some people to have these irrational beliefs, but for pity's sake, don't get into logical arguments about the existence of supernatural beings. The belief itself defies logic, just on the face of it, so how can logic ever defend or convince? It's all emotional, all the way down."

What is self-contradictory about religion? Maybe you can tell me. I haven't seen anything yet, and I'm still waiting.

Maybe you could look around and notice that no one that's defending religion in this thread is a card-carrying, church-going religous person.
posted by koeselitz at 9:50 AM on November 1, 2007


Well of course not! You're here to try to teach us something, and we're here to try to teach you something.

I'd hope none of us are so deluded as to think the opposite side is actually teachable.


I don't mean to sound arrogant but I have learned from discussing religion with people I disagree with. Online, even. So I don't think it's a lot of useless huffing and puffing, though it does appear futile and stylized when you watch people working their way through things you already have. Anyhow as William Blake said, if the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise. It's funny because it's true.
posted by fleetmouse at 10:01 AM on November 1, 2007


fleetmouse: I would agree but never admit to it
posted by edd at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2007


koeselitz, I presume you have read the comments so far, so if you still don't see any self-contradiction in believing in supernatural beings, then I can't help you there. Thanks for confirming my comment.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:07 AM on November 1, 2007


not only is evil not eradicated, it is impossible for man to eradicate.

False. Through complete eradication of all life man would eliminate evil by any religion's definition I know of.

Because sin isn't fun; it's horribly painful by its very nature. There's absolutely nothing enjoyable about it. That's why it's called 'sin.'

A joke, right? Firstly sin that isn't fun doesn't even make sense to do. When someone steals it's because having that product is better than not having that product. When people lust it's to fulfill hormonal urges. Each and every sin listed in the bible has a self-serving purpose that is claimed wrong sometimes rightly because it causes undue harm to others and sometimes wrongly. But sin, by definition of what it is, is almost always fun.

There are flaws and inconsistencies in every single aspect of the universe.

specious if not false. First, this is certainly unknowable. Just by the nature of saying 'every single aspect' it would require knowledge of every single aspect to verify (though it would not be completely unreasonable if this were true for all known aspects to extrapolate out that it would hold true for others). However, it presumes a definition of 'flaws and inconsistencies' that I don't think is widely held. A flaw in a system requires known bounds or expectations of the system. Since the universe is not bound by anything and is the container of all things (baring the possibility of multiverses), then there can be know flaws. When an aspect of it seems to have a 'flaw', it merely means that our understanding of that aspect was incorrect and should be promptly readjusted to compensate.
posted by kigpig at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2007


then there can be know flaws.

hilarious!
posted by quonsar at 10:22 AM on November 1, 2007


It was supposed to read "no known flaws". I've made this mistake a number of times when typing fast.
posted by kigpig at 10:28 AM on November 1, 2007


Because sin isn't fun; it's horribly painful by its very nature. There's absolutely nothing enjoyable about it.

What?

If it's so horribly painful, why do people sin?

The consequences might be painful - if you believe in the concept of sin and the consequences that follow - but sinning itself? Painful? Not fun? Just the opposite, I'd think, which is why a burning lake of hellfire and eternal separation from god are required to be deterrents to and/or punishments for sinning.
posted by rtha at 10:41 AM on November 1, 2007


I don't know why people are arguing about good/evil/sin. They are just concepts made up by man and have a different definition to each person. There is no magical evil or good force. They are just internal metal interpretations of actions or events.
posted by jeblis at 10:52 AM on November 1, 2007


They are just internal metal interpretations of actions or events.

internal metal. it's the new death metal.

*hops a passing banjo on a river of caramel*
posted by quonsar at 11:17 AM on November 1, 2007


kigpig: "A joke, right? Firstly sin that isn't fun doesn't even make sense to do. When someone steals it's because having that product is better than not having that product. When people lust it's to fulfill hormonal urges. Each and every sin listed in the bible has a self-serving purpose that is claimed wrong sometimes rightly because it causes undue harm to others and sometimes wrongly. But sin, by definition of what it is, is almost always fun."

People only sin through ignorance. In the example you give, having the product and the pain it brings, not only through the lessened justice within the surrounding society but also the very real no matter how dull inborne sensation we all have that stealing from other people is wrong, is not better than not having the product, unfortunately. But people aren't usually wise, and we don't always understand the unity of the act and its consequences. Lust is another perfectly good example; I've known plenty of people who caused themselves a certain amount of pain by not rationally preparing themselves for the act before doing it. It's ignorance that makes people do that.

rtha: "If it's so horribly painful, why do people sin? The consequences might be painful - if you believe in the concept of sin and the consequences that follow - but sinning itself? Painful? Not fun? Just the opposite, I'd think, which is why a burning lake of hellfire and eternal separation from god are required to be deterrents to and/or punishments for sinning."

Sin is the consequences. The dull notion of our own perfection and the perfection of those around us which we all have is betrayed, and we know it, whenever we sin. We can convince ourselves otherwise, but that doesn't make it so. Hell isn't a consequence of sin; hell is sin. This is church doctrine.
posted by koeselitz at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2007


Metafilter: I've made this mistake a number of times when typing fast.
posted by Grangousier at 11:28 AM on November 1, 2007


Mental Wimp, I don't quite know what your rock-solid proof that supernatural beings don't exist is. I only know that I haven't been able (and not through lack of trying) to discover yet a proof that nature exists; I continue to believe that it does, but it's irrational of me to do so. Even if it does exist, it's impossible to define its limits. Which means that supernatural beings - things like truth, justice, nature itself, mathematics, and so on - may very well exist, too.
posted by koeselitz at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2007


If it's so horribly painful, why do people sin?

Generally speaking, people love their suffering and negative emotions and defend them jealously. For example, I would contend that the blogger at the beginning of this thread isangry for a hobby, and the specific set of beliefs she associates with are a convenient set of pretexts for anger. I've known people shift from one cause to an apparantly contradictory one, but with the common thread of anger and access to lots of lovely, fiery emotions between them.

If sin is painful, people would keep returning to it, the same way they can't help poking a tooth abcess with their tongue.

People enjoy feeling pain, and fear and anger. How else would you explain Fox News and the Daily Mail?
posted by Grangousier at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2007


koeselitz:

I think I get your original remark in the context of the definition you gave now, but I find a few oddities with it.

For one, "People only sin through ignorance" but I thought the ignorant could not sin (in regards to what they are ignorant about) for if you know not that it's sin you have not freely chosen to act wrongly. It's one of the common theological remarks of how we differ from the animals.

Secondly, the idea that sin is the consequences as church doctrine, I must ask what church this is? I've certainly not spent my days studying up on religion, I was raised Catholic and exposed to a number of religious doctrines, and EVERYONE I've known has said sin is an action not a consequence. Though I think Final Fantasy X was offering the same thesis (and thus I wonder if this is part of eastern philosophy?).
posted by kigpig at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2007


life is a contradiction - birth is the leading cause of death.

Er, no. That's not a contradiction at all, that's cause and effect. I shall refrain from the obvious pass at 'you don't understand the fundamental points of contradiction' .

Or maybe I won't. :)

The fact that you die does not make it impossible that you were born. Or even unlikely. Or less likely.

life itself is full of contradiction. it's not important for me to figure everything out and not important to me that nothing contain contradiction.

You don't feel you need to 'figure everything out'? So you don't need to understand that which you clearly very strongly believe? Nor is it important to establish if any of it is actually real or valid?

Blind faith in every possible way there, people. "I don't really care if it makes sense, I'm going to believe it as indisputable fact anyway".

Wow. THAT is part of the aspect of religion that I find the most frustrating and at the same time intriguing. None of the 'evidence' (and it's just a book, when it all comes down to it, just as much as Harry Potter is) is particularly conclusive and is full of holes and contradictions. To believe it, there has to be a point when people say 'I don't worry about that bit, as the rest is too important'. There are aspects of the bible (and frequent and fundamental aspects) that need to be glossed over for any of it to be considered fact.

And people do it. That utterly amazes me. I genuinely see little or no difference between the people that believe the bible (because they want to be guided? Because they don't understand how there could be any other way for the universe to exist?) and people that get suckered in by a conman - because they want what the guy is saying (that they will get money from Nigeria) to be true too much.
posted by Brockles at 11:37 AM on November 1, 2007


Which means that supernatural beings - things like truth, justice, nature itself, mathematics, and so on - may very well exist, too.

Well, yes, you can change the definitions of words and rehabilitate a word by associating it with usable concepts, but that hardly addresses the conundrum of supernatural beings. Otherwise, your response is tantamount to saying that all of your experience could just be an illusion, so you none of us know anything. Which is great for a philosophy 101 course, or a good BS session around the bong-pipe, but hardly has any intrinsic value to explain behavior or guide choices.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:50 AM on November 1, 2007


%^%((%^&%*(

"...so you none of us..."
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:52 AM on November 1, 2007


They were bringing in huge baggage, they were not being respectful to each other. One student said to me one night, across the seminar table, ”I feel sorry for you that you are an atheist”.

I'm really surprised by that - even in my high school class I didn't have this experience. I was brought up by atheist NYers but sent to a boarding school in Mass. that required a "bible" class, which at first I was really pissed about, but once I accepted that it was going to be taught academically, I found it a really enjoyable class, just as a chance to read the text (which I'd never really done before). But I don't remember it ever being complicated by personal crap from students, though there must have been religious students in the class. Maybe I just wasn't sophisticated enough at that point in my reading to get into stuff that would have started problems...

Firstly sin that isn't fun doesn't even make sense to do. When someone steals it's because having that product is better than not having that product.

This can be argued in simple morality without even bringing in the religious side, but the whole point is that you think it's fun, but that's because you don't really understand what it does to you. Like getting hooked on smack or something. You think you're enjoying yourself, but really you're rotting on the inside, killing yourself slowly, just getting fucked up.

The notion of god can be compared to the notion of understanding in Plato, where you are good for its own sake once you get out of the cave and see the light, once you grasp true reality - then fighting over the shadows on the wall is not "fun" anymore.
posted by mdn at 11:57 AM on November 1, 2007


Hmm. This whole "sin" thing, it's not just a metaphor for closeted homosexuality is it?
posted by Artw at 12:10 PM on November 1, 2007


No.
posted by Grangousier at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2007


And people do it. That utterly amazes me. I genuinely see little or no difference between the people that believe the bible (because they want to be guided? Because they don't understand how there could be any other way for the universe to exist?) and people that get suckered in by a conman - because they want what the guy is saying (that they will get money from Nigeria) to be true too much.

i get it, Brockles, really i do. you are smarter and better than me. you are smarter and better than most. you are smarter and better than billions of human beings with a spiritual bent, that's for sure. you are one of a small minority of smarter, better folks who see the truth behind the con where most don't. i get it.

*pats Brockles on the head*
posted by quonsar at 12:24 PM on November 1, 2007


Sheesh. It's not about being smarter (although you clearly have superiority issues), it's trying to understand WHY people want to believe in something more than they want to understand that belief in enough depth to spot the glaring errors.

The contradiction and logical failures of the bible (and all the other religions) are there. They just are. I can't understand what is so appealing about this faith deal to make people to want it enough to ignore the fact that the basis of that belief is on shaky logical grounds, and non-existent provable, scientific, tangible grounds.
posted by Brockles at 12:40 PM on November 1, 2007


This can be argued in simple morality without even bringing in the religious side, but the whole point is that you think it's fun, but that's because you don't really understand what it does to you. Like getting hooked on smack or something. You think you're enjoying yourself, but really you're rotting on the inside, killing yourself slowly, just getting fucked up.

If you think it's fun and fun is a subjective perception then isn't it by definition fun? While I don't agree that it necessarily 'rots us on the inside', even if I take that proposition, rotting on the inside is a delayed effect. Fun is a temporary emotion associated with or during an event. So it seems it could still be fun to do.
posted by kigpig at 12:42 PM on November 1, 2007


Mental Wimp: "Well, yes, you can change the definitions of words and rehabilitate a word by associating it with usable concepts, but that hardly addresses the conundrum of supernatural beings. Otherwise, your response is tantamount to saying that all of your experience could just be an illusion, so you none of us know anything. Which is great for a philosophy 101 course, or a good BS session around the bong-pipe, but hardly has any intrinsic value to explain behavior or guide choices."

What the hell do you mean by the word "supernatural?" Do you just mean "something that doesn't make sense to me?" Obviously not, because that would include everything of which you yourself don't have knowledge at any given time, and I have a feeling you acknowledge the existence of realms of knowledge beyond yourself that are supernatural.

I have a feeling you mean "admitting of rational explanation." But things that aren't made of material admit of rational explanation. In fact, material itself has generally been found to be a handy myth.

The word "supernatural" generally means "something that is outside the bounds of the laws of nature," "nature" being a knowable system of laws by which the universe functions. But by that very definition, those laws are supernatural, as no law can be governed by itself; it would be silly to say that the law of gravity falls when you drop it, for example, even though it clearly exists.

It's not far from there to saying that there's some source for those laws. Such a source clearly has to be beyond them, no matter what it is.

Either way, I think this comes down to how you're choosing to define "supernatural," and suspect that you're changing your definition conveniently when it suits you.
posted by koeselitz at 1:30 PM on November 1, 2007


Brockles: I can't understand what is so appealing about this faith deal to make people to want it enough to ignore the fact that the basis of that belief is on shaky logical grounds, and non-existent provable, scientific, tangible grounds.

1. People don't like to admit they're wrong. This is generally true for people of faith or people without it. Argument usually revolves around people doing whatever they can to prove their side and disregarding anything contradictory.

2. Fear as always is a factor. To accept a logical position is to abandon their emotional opiates. To keep those opiates, they must convince themselves of the beliefs and as such must alter or reject what logical thinking actually means.

3. Some are definitely willfully lying for myriad purposes.

4. A fairly large percentage of the population seem for all intent and purposes, completely incapable of critical thought about anything. Though a few have learned a style that can even come across as erudition, there's no outward sign of a conscious level of processing stimuli when the unexpected is presented. They could be just masking their true selves but they give the perception of extreme inability to think.
posted by kigpig at 2:08 PM on November 1, 2007


“I believe in Thor.”

Me too. I was so thor I could barely pith.
*rimshot*

Gotta call bullshit on the omnipotence paradox - you can’t frame a ‘can’t’ as a logical componant of ‘can’ so “can he not can’t?” that’s just stupid. Additionally - logic is an a priori form of knowlege - not experiential. If we’re examining empirical values we can’t shift back and forth between the conceptual and experiential forms of knowlege - that is - there is no such rock and indeed - how does one define “lift” relative to such a rock? Obviously a vastly large rock would be planet sized and indeed those are “lifted” in that they are in motion. A truly large rock would collapse under the weight of gravity - therefore there are natural upper limits to size and so forth.
All this to illustrate the shifting back and forth from the realm of conceptual to empirical - within the conceptual sphere - obviously God - or any being defined as omnipotent - can do anything, even logic defying things, simply because that is the nature of a priori knowlege.
Whether such a conceptualization is useful under such conditions is debatable. I could conceptualize a left handed Rammerframmer or a snipe - but if I send you hunting for one the task is pointless. By the same token logic - itself a conceptual construct - has many real world uses.

The question therefore must be grounded in one or the other area - in terms of empirical knowlege - can God defy physical laws? becomes moot if one defines God as at one with such laws.
One can argue God “could” but decides not to, that is, is omnipotent in potential, but in observable effect wills not to.
Or indeed, that God has - given that every possible universe exists (and in some universe there’s unicorns and leprochauns and such).
But those again attempt to co-opt conceptual knowlege to override empirical knowlege - which we can’t allow.
If logic states such and such state of affairs cannot exist, but we observe them - then we judge that logic fails (as it does).
So empirical knowlege must ultimately trump any a priori knowlege.
Thus - God may be capable, conceptually, of any number of things - but there is no state in which God has been observed to do anything. Ergo God is either non-existant from an emperical point of view and is wholely a conceptual construct or God is perfectly equal to all physical laws and our conceptualization of such a state, being otherwise, is flawed.

Therefore (again, as with my assertion above) meaning of our conceptualization is called into question.
In terms of a priori knowlege - what is the usefulness of an omnipotent God? is debatable and clearly calls into question what the most useful conceptualizations of such a state of being might be.
Again, debatable point, I’d assert infinity as an concept alloyed to “God” and argue that “God” or any such divine ground or infinite state of being as a notational (albeit ‘spiritual’) place holder much as infinity or other unreal numbers are plugged into mathematical formulae to aid in bringing a concept to fruition.

That point is also debatable, but clearly one of the least useful is this anthorpomophization of God as a bearded old man logically bound into this lifting a rock puzzle. It’s just silly.
It points to the goofiness of some folks’ conceptualization of God not to the actual possibilities (conceptual or experiential) of infinite being.
That there is no evidence for a given - and importantly - useful concept - does not mean it’s pointless to consider such a thing.
The concept of a relationship between mass and energy goes back a long way, it wasn’t until Einstein that we could put it into a sharp conceptual definition and then make use of it empirically.

So too - the question of an infinite state of being poses many questions about the nature of the universe and our relation to it.
That some folks harp on one guy 2,000 odd years ago (or 4,000, or 1,300, or 200, etc) and what he had to say about it notwithstanding.
Point being (again) it’s an argument over forms and meaning.

konolia, IMHO, is not a bad person, but she’s using archaic symbols to explain some now very sophisticated concepts.
I refuse to engage her arguments because it’s akin to arguing with a 4th grader about advanced physics.
That’s not meant as a slight - I suspect that metaphor would be a reality with a theoretical physicist trying to explain something to me with my 4th grade level math.
Not everyone is using the same toolbox. And, as with math, some answers are just plain wrong (or not even useful enough to be wrong).
Where it goes awry is in implication - the existance or non-existance of God doesn’t imply anything. If only because of the magnitude of scale we’re talking about. Deriving a sum total from all existance is certainly the equivalent as a task in deriving a sum total from omnipotence.
So speaking of empirical knowlege of anything there is ridiculous, whether it exists or not.
And then there’s the problem of deriving meaning from that, casting consequences and then asserting that the people who don’t buy into your perspective’s set of assertions are stupid or going to hell.
Which is (again) easily avoided from first principles - I don’t know, I don’t need to know.
Then the details are obvious - someone says you’re going to hell - so what? Someone starts torturing you so your soul doesn’t go to hell (because you don’t buy into their perspective on the meaning of the universe) - that’s a whole other thing, and should be opposed. Empirical evidence always trumps a priori knowlege even where the a priori knowlege is critical. Even granting a soul, and hell, and the logic that pain now will save them eternal pain later, it is wrong to torture someone to reform them. And that of course applies to lesser encroachments on someone’s will.
What is, is. What might be - ain’t, no matter how wonderful or bad. Even things that are, but only in potential - same deal. You’re brother might be bigger than me, and he could probably kick my ass , but that’s not going to stop me from kicking your ass now ‘cos he ain’t here.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:17 PM on November 1, 2007


I can't understand what is so appealing about this faith deal

This is the one thing I *can* understand about the religious. The idea of faith without evidence is enormously appealing. To have a belief that not only *is* not questioned but *cannot* be questioned. I have probed at this, like pushing on a bruise to see if it still hurts-- can I believe in god? The answer is no, I can't. This is not something I ever learned to do, I think because I was brought up from birth in a family of non-believers.

So the unquestioning belief of the religious seems magical to me, and incomprehensible. I wonder how many "born agains" come from truly non-believing families. Just as someone pointed out that your religion depends on whether you were born in Agra, or Haifa or Rome, I think the capacity for religious faith is something you have to learn from infancy. What happens with me is, what I think of as my common sense gets in the way.

I am not a particularly angry atheist. I have no beef with the religious, except when they use religion to justify unjustifiable actions. In fact this whole "organized" atheism thing leaves me flat. I don't go to church/temple/whatever not only because I don't hold any religious belief, but also because I don't like the idea of an organized "faith" community, which seems to be what these strident atheist organizers are pushing. I do not belong to "atheism." I'm just someone who doesn't believe in god.
posted by nax at 2:43 PM on November 1, 2007


nax, it might be that faith is actually a kind of knowledge. Most religious people don't believe that they're simply having blind faith -- that's really a Kantian innovation -- but rather that they know something through other means.

I keep mentioning St. Diadochos, but he's really a propos here. He defines "faith" as: "dispassionate understanding of God."

What you have a problem with, then, is unfamiliar forms of understanding. Since I don't have any familiarity with any forms of understanding, I can't help you there.
posted by koeselitz at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2007


nax, it might be that faith is actually a kind of knowledge. Most religious people don't believe that they're simply having blind faith -- that's really a Kantian innovation -- but rather that they know something through other means.

I keep mentioning St. Diadochos, but he's really a propos here. He defines "faith" as: "dispassionate understanding of God."

What you have a problem with, then, is unfamiliar forms of understanding. Since I don't have any familiarity with any forms of understanding, I can't help you there.


Yes, I think you have it, there.

We all start out with dead spirits. Somehow, in the salvation process, our spirits are made alive again. It is the spirit that connects with God.

(In this usage of the word "spirit" I am differentiating between it and the "soul." The soul is made up of one's will, emotions and intellect. The spirit is....different.)

I can tell you that the Bible was a totally different book after I was saved than it was literally the day before. Freaky, but true.
posted by konolia at 3:59 PM on November 1, 2007


nax, it might be that faith is actually a kind of knowledge. Most religious people don't believe that they're simply having blind faith -- that's really a Kantian innovation -- but rather that they know something through other means.

Let's ignore the dictionary definition of "faith" and "knowledge", and treat them as the same in the following scenario then.

Suppose you have a huge interfaith gathering, comprised of fervent - and exclusionary (i.e., each one "knows" that their "faith" is the only correct one) - believers from each and every religion, and each and every denomination thereof.

Assuming you could assemble them without them trying to kill each other, and that they didn't argue amongst each other to the point of distraction, you place an orange on the podium. Chances are you could get them all to agree that they know there's an orange in front of them.*

But if you were to have them talk about their respective "knowledge" of god, you'd be hard pressed to get 100% agreement on anything, perhaps with the exception of very very vague and meta- concepts. How is it that this extra-sensory "knowledge" can result in such contradictions amongst a group of individuals who are each certain of their "knowledge"? If it's so influenced by culture and/or geography, I don't see how it can be called "knowledge" by an external objective (i.e., not one of the believers in question) observer.

*I'm purposefully ignoring the brain-in-a-bottle "But is there really an orange there?" aspect. If we're going to work under that framework, we might as well give up, since this website doesn't exist. Either I'm imagining all this, or we're all aspects of /user/1's weird-ass daydream.
posted by CKmtl at 4:55 PM on November 1, 2007


“I'm really surprised by that - even in my high school class I didn't have this experience.”

Well, my frustration was also a product of my expectations. I suspect that to an observer, those seminars would have seemed pretty respectful and productive. That one comment I mentioned, “I'm sorry you're an atheist”, was really one of the most antagonist and shocking things anyone ever said.

But, for example, while we were reading the Old Testament, some Christians kept discussing the readings in Christian terms, clearly from their bible school education or whatever. At St. John's, we're supposed to read these books completely on their own terms, or within the context of the books which have influenced them. We don't do any critical theory analysis, for example. That's a no-no. No historical analysis, no analysis of the books with obvious contemporary critical viewpoints and tools (not that it's really possible to avoid this; we just try to avoid doing it explicitly and on purpose). So, when reading the Old Testament, the NT doesn't really exist, so to speak. And some people kept bringing up Christ. This really got on my nerves and I started getting sarcastic1 and interrupting them and asking, “I might have missed part of the reading—I don't recall this ‘Christ’ person mentioned anywhere in what we've read. What page was he mentioned?” I was annoyed because they weren't reading the book they way they were supposed to, they were bringing in their particular religion's dogma, and they were being insensitive to the numerous Jewish people that were in the class. It really pissed me off. That's an example.

To me, these books really weren't that much different from Homer. I mean, sure, in a variety of respects they are very different. But both are the blueprint for a people's worldview. I could talk about the Greek gods as if they existed when we discussed Homer, and I could talk about the Hebrew God as if He existed when we discussed Job. That's accepting the book on its own terms. But while we had some religious people bringing in all this outside stuff to the Bible seminars from their religious belief, there was also the contingent of atheists (even though I was an atheist, I wasn't in this group) that were hostile to the religious belief in the Bible who hadn't been hostile to the religious belief in Homer. They annoyed me just as much as the religious folk did.

And, anyway, the standard against which I was measuring this behavior was the typical St. John's College seminar and tutorial which is really a wonder to behold. I'm sure people think I'm just hyping it, but people who have visited the College and observed classes are also quite often very impressed. SJC is special because it's a set curriculum, which makes it extraordinary, covering a subject matter that only a certain kind of person would want to spend four years on, and which uses a pedagogy which is also very unusual. This means that johnnies are extremely self-selecting. They are unusually committed to an intense, difficult, rational education. The culture uses a variety of symbolic things which nurture and enforce a certain code of behavior intellectually—my admission to koeselitz that I've not read Strauss was almost painful for me because I'm acutely ashamed to be so opinionated on the subject without actually having read him, for example. So because of the extraordinary circumstances of the College, the classroom discussion—which is 90% of what we do at SJC—is of the very highest quality found anywhere. And, amazingly, the quality reaches a high level from early in freshman year with people that are often excruciatingly young. I went as an older student and I often found the transition from in-class to outside-of-class interactions with my fellow students to be shocking. In the classroom, most of these 18 year olds could be mistaken, intellectually, for serious grad students. Outside, they're still quite immature.

And what I saw was a lot of that extraordinary stuff fall away in those Bible seminars. A large portion of the students began behaving just as you'd expect of a bunch of college sophomores discussing the Bible. To me, it was a shocking difference and bitterly disappointing.

To be honest, I retreated into a non-participating funk for a good portion of Sophomore year in Seminar, until the middle of the second semester when we left the theologians behind and started on Shakespeare. Part of the problem was a particular person—the person who said the comment I've quoted, as a matter of fact. She began to dominate the discussions completely, and often antagonistically, and she poisoned many of the seminars. She switched to a different one second semester, which sometimes is done in these situations, and our seminar was much better without her and, interestingly, the seminar she switched to had no problems with her.

Anyway, this is all too much detail, but the point is that this experience really showed me how much baggage people have in talking about religion. I understand where koeselitz is coming from in this discussion, but I have no interest in taking part. I felt that a lot of the philosophical issues involved in religious belief, and, hell, a lot of these issues which are involved in epistemology, are things that people continually bang their heads against the wall about and never make any progress. I'm just not interested in that. I don't enjoy argument or intellectual discourse only for itself, I enjoy it when it is actually productive. I'm deeply intellectual, but it's important to me to actually accomplish something. I can't see anything being accomplished in this thread, so I have no interest, really, in participating. I've contributed only things that I believe offer people some perspectives on ancillary issues, such as why it's so hard for us to talk about these things.

But the rationality of faith? C'mon.

If the people here who are interested in talking about how to intellectually and practically learn to have respect and treat people with respect who have different religious beliefs than oneself, I'd be happy to talk about that. Assuming those who do so are truly motivated to learn to do this, not just argue about it. But reconciling the vastly different worldviews that people have on this topics? Does anyone think that is going to happen? Does anyone think that the main players in this argument in this thread at this point are going to walk away from it having really learned anything new or changed their opinions on anything? I don't. I wish I did, but I don't.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:25 PM on November 1, 2007


Shrug. But why does it matter to you? I mean, if anyone is bored, they can leave the thread. People who aren't bored can continue to discuss. I, personally, am enjoying reading the discussion even though I've heard many of the arguments before.
posted by agregoli at 6:50 AM on November 2, 2007


once enough people gather around i'm going to explode this bomb i have strapped to my chest. then we'll all see God. or not.
posted by quonsar at 8:58 AM on November 2, 2007


*goes to find air freshener and some matches*
posted by konolia at 9:16 AM on November 2, 2007


“Shrug. But why does it matter to you? I mean, if anyone is bored, they can leave the thread. People who aren't bored can continue to discuss. I, personally, am enjoying reading the discussion even though I've heard many of the arguments before.”

I'm not saying it's wrong that people are arguing in this thread or that they shouldn't be. I just don't really understand it if they (you) have heard all the arguments before, aren't learning much of anything from it, and nothing productive is coming from it. I don't get that. But people argue the same things over and over in the politics thread, I have all the same problems with it there, and I stay away from them and don't understand the appeal. But, again, I'm not saying people shouldn't be doing that or enjoying it. I apologize if I gave that impression.

However, these types of discussions do tend to bring out bad behavior in people and I think I'm on safe ground when I say that this isn't a good thing. Really, what seem to me to be pointless discussions don't bother me at all in themselves (even if I think they are “pointless”, which is mildly derogatory, but only mildly), but it's the acrimony and such that bother me. You can try to sugarcoat it by saying it's a “frank exchange of views”, but people here are saying (and obviously thinking) pretty negative things about each other. I don't enjoy that. And while I realize that some people do enjoy that, I am willing to say that getting enjoyment out of people attacking each other is perverse and wrong.

I think there's a difference between proselytizing and materially affecting other people's lives through, say, legislation or enforced comformity. Many, many people really dislike Christian's (and other's) proselytizing, but I think that there's nothing wrong with it. And that includes when an atheist proselytizes atheism because he or she believes that theists are hurting themselves by believing in a god or gods. Sure, a lot of people proselytize their beliefs not because they sincerely have other people's best interest in mind, but rather because they are intolerant of diversity and dislike people who aren't like them and don't believe what they believe. I think that's wrong and I don't like it, but until I know that's why someone is proselytizing, I can't argue against it on that basis. As I mentioned in another thread, I really dislike assuming motivations for people's actions and arguing against them from that assumption. Even if you're 80% likely to be correct about their motivations, you're going to do 20% of people a real injustice. A whole lot of argument and hostility is based upon assumptions about people's motivations and if we learned to do less of this, the world would be a better place.

Then there's the matter of actually materially affecting other people's lives. For me that's a bit problematic because here I think it really comes down to people's motivations. I don't think I have any place to call someone a bad person because they are trying to pass laws that they think will make the world a better place because I try to help pass laws that I think will make the world a better place. On the other hand, similar to the proselytizing case, people can do the same things for different reasons, and sometimes those reasons are, well, morally wrong. If you want to pass a law that will hurt people because you specifically want to hurt those people, then that's wrong. (I think that's wrong even in the case of punishment—I'm definitely not in the punishment for its own sake camp.)

So someone might want to pass a law that prevents homosexuals from being teachers because they believe that homosexuality is a serious mental/emotional disorder, or it's a serious moral lapse, and they want to prevent such people from having an influence on children. I think they are very wrong in their belief about homosexuality, but I think it's a valid, rational (in isolation, not necessarily rational in the context of all the scientific and moral evidence to the contrary), belief and that their legislative activism is well-intentioned. I don't hate those people, I don't think they're bad people, and I'm not really angry with them except in terms of frustration at their inability to join the rest of us here in the 21st century. In contrast, there's a lot of people who who want to pass such laws because they don't like or they hate homosexuals and any rational arguments on the basis of the things I mentioned above are all just facades and justifications hiding that dislike, bigotry, or hatred. Those people I think are bad people. I hate those people, and they make me angry.

In making this distinction, it seems to me I really differ from most people. Most people believe, or seem to believe, that being seriously wrong about something of moral consequence is, by itself, morally (or ethically, if you prefer) wrong and worthy of hate and anger. I'm a little puzzled by this when it's leftists who feel/believe this way because they are usually cultural relativists and otherwise believe that people can have radically different beliefs without either side being “bad” people because of it.

I think, perhaps, that there's an unconscious assumption that while theoretically someone could be contingently wrong about something of importance (that is, it's not in any way their fault that they're wrong), they believe that, in practice, it almost always is a person's fault when they are wrong. In the context of this thread, they think that only someone could be a theist if they are willfully deluding themselves. Or, on the other side, a person can only be an atheist if they are willfully denying the obvious truth of the existence of a god or gods.

I almost never think this way about things because I feel like I'm lucky to ever be right about anything. I'm pretty sure I work harder at getting to the truth of these kinds of things much more than the average person, and yet I still feel like chance plays a large role. What things I've happened to have read, what things in my environment have helped me to see beyond my unknown biases...whatever. There's a billion things working against getting to the truth of any matter of complexity. I figure I'm wrong about many things completely and at least a little bit wrong about pretty much everything. This may come as a shock and some people may be chortling in disbelief, but it's because I believe that it's very difficult to be right that I figure that I have no choice but to always contingently believe that I'm right. I have some internal threshold that, when reached, I decide that I know enough to make a decision. Then I hold that belief firmly, yet willing to relinquish it if I later discover I was wrong about something. It may seem oxymoronic, but you really can be uncertainly certain. Most of us don't have absolute proof we weren't adopted. But most of us are certain that our parents are our birth parents. And that our fathers are really our fathers. We know that there's a chance that this isn't true. But we're certain nevertheless. And when the day comes that we're proven wrong, or even just when evidence mounts to indicate we're wrong, then we're no longer certain. That's the only way you can live your life. You shouldn't be certain about things you have very little knowledge of, obviously. But I think that most people who either believe or disbelieve in God have enough evidence one way or the other to be certain in the way in which normal people are “certain” about most of their beliefs.

I'm not sure why I wrote all this. I guess it's because I think a lot of the anger and maltreatment that one finds in these sorts of threads and discussions comes as a result of people assuming that people hold to these beliefs from bad motivations, and/or that merely having belief X means that a person is a Bad Person and it's okay to hate them and abuse them for it.

But I think konolia is wrong about a bunch of things and I don't think she's a bad person and I certainly don't hate her or abuse her. I know her well enough after a number of years here that I think her motivations are good and I certainly don't think that her beliefs deserve hatred merely because they are wrong. There's a lot of people in this thread I don't know, and so it would be unfair of me to assume that they are believing the things they believe because they have malevolent motivations. maybe a few people here and there in this thread may have bad motivations. But, mostly, I think the people in this thread, with all the different beliefs represented here, believe these things honestly and with good intentions. There just isn't any good excuse for the anger and abuse. In my opinion.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 9:17 AM on November 2, 2007


Supernatural beings, koeselitz. You gotta read all the words.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:20 AM on November 2, 2007


In making this distinction, it seems to me I really differ from most people. Most people believe, or seem to believe, that being seriously wrong about something of moral consequence is, by itself, morally (or ethically, if you prefer) wrong and worthy of hate and anger.

Being wrong about something of moral consequence is not wrong, but taking immoral actions based on that mistaken belief is. I think that's where your "intolerant" leftists are at.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:25 AM on November 2, 2007


We all start out with dead spirits. Somehow, in the salvation process, our spirits are made alive again. It is the spirit that connects with God.

Ya, see, now, ya just said everyone who didn't believe as you do is "spiritually dead". While I'm very glad that your belief in a supernatural being has made you feel spiritually alive, your implication that the rest of us do not is arrogant in the extreme and assumes a knowledge of us you don't have. Do you see that, or is that part of the "blind" in "blind faith"?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:29 AM on November 2, 2007


“Being wrong about something of moral consequence is not wrong, but taking immoral actions based on that mistaken belief is. I think that's where your "intolerant" leftists are at.”

Well, that's tricky, isn't it? Being wrong about something of moral consequence is wrong in itself if a person really could have been right. We are responsible for our beliefs.

The conundrum arises in the difference between how we treat ourselves and how we treat other people. At the age of eighteen, I was still a Republican. Now I think I was wrong. If I'm willing to say that eighteen year old Republicans today are wrong and that they should know they are wrong, then I should hold myself to that same standard. I should be angry at myself for being wrong at eighteen.

It seems to me that people change their minds about things. Which is good. But they see their own evolution of thought on things as a honest search, or progression, where being wrong in the past may be regrettable, but not really condemnable because we don't start off knowing everything and being right, do we?

But we tend to not give other people that same consideration. Everyone who disagrees with me on issue X is expected to have arrived at my conclusion and their failure to do so is somehow more their fault than my own wrong belief 25 years ago. We allow ourselves to be fallible in good-faith, but we hold other people to a much more unforgiving standard.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:09 AM on November 2, 2007


Ya, see, now, ya just said everyone who didn't believe as you do is "spiritually dead". While I'm very glad that your belief in a supernatural being has made you feel spiritually alive, your implication that the rest of us do not is arrogant in the extreme and assumes a knowledge of us you don't have. Do you see that, or is that part of the "blind" in "blind faith"?

so, you feel spiritually alive? to what do you attribute such a supernatural feeling?

and if you don't beleive you have a spirit, living or dead, how could it possibly matter to you what her implication is? if i claim to have a big purple throbbing third ear, and i make statements implying that you don't, how is that arrogant?
posted by quonsar at 10:39 AM on November 2, 2007


We all start out with dead spirits. Somehow, in the salvation process, our spirits are made alive again. It is the spirit that connects with God.

(In this usage of the word "spirit" I am differentiating between it and the "soul." The soul is made up of one's will, emotions and intellect. The spirit is....different.)


Okay, you've got my attention with this. Total abuse of the word "spirit," imo. Co-opting it to convey "belief-in-God-ability" is a confinement of its natural meaning, which by the dictionary, is "the vital principle or animating force within living beings." What you've said seems to be essentially the same as "there's no true spirituality but Christianity." Faugh.

We do not start with dead spirits. We may pay more of less attention to them, and express this attention in ways that do or do not meet criteria set by religions, but they're always there.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:48 AM on November 2, 2007


Ambrosia, I am using the term "spirit" the way the Bible does and the way it was taught to me in my college theology classes.

Have you never taken a philosophy course? There are words in common usage that have various meanings but when you are studying things such as philosophy or theology certain words take on specific, precise, and technical meanings.
posted by konolia at 11:10 AM on November 2, 2007


Yeah, but in conversations with laypersons, you have a responsibility to be clear when you are using the technical version of a word that is also is in common usage.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:23 AM on November 2, 2007


“There just isn't any good excuse for the anger and abuse.”

Solid, EB.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:32 AM on November 2, 2007


and if you don't beleive you have a spirit, living or dead, how could it possibly matter to you what her implication is? if i claim to have a big purple throbbing third ear, and i make statements implying that you don't, how is that arrogant?

Well, regardless of the existence of spirits/souls, throbbing third ears or pants-fish, we're still living in a social world and interacting in a social medium.

If a person claims to have a living spirit, throbbing third ear or fantastic pants-fish - and makes a strong implication that not having one is a lesser state of being - I can easily see how the "dead spirit" / "two-eared" / "empty-pants" party could be miffed about it. It comes off like the believer views the non-believer as a second-class or incomplete person.

I could still feel that you're looking down on me, even if I don't buy into the particular theory that's causing you to look down on me.
posted by CKmtl at 11:37 AM on November 2, 2007


sarx, psyche, pneuma
body, soul, spirit.
His presence would live through ya,
but you don't wanna hear it!
posted by quonsar at 11:55 AM on November 2, 2007


It comes off like the believer views the non-believer as a second-class or incomplete person.


"comes off" meaning "appears to" you or you "perceive as", correct?

I could still feel that you're looking down on me,

and who is responsible for how you feel? you are. where does "how you feel" occur? in you or in me? it occurs in you. so you are actually not angry about spirit/God at all - you are angry about your own emotion. that you are having.

even if I don't buy into the particular theory that's causing you to look down on me.

nothing is causing me to look down on you. i am, in fact, NOT looking down on you, i (or in the case at hand, konolia) am only stating a belief i have about a state of spiritual death. EVERYTHING else that is occurring, is occurring within yourself (or in this case, Mental Wimp). take responsibility.

also consider, there are many ACTUAL slights one might DELIBERATELY make toward you which would hardly elicit the level of rage and hatred shown when one "comes off" as slighting another's spiritual condition (even when the other doesn't buy the concept of spiritual condition!). that is readily demonstrated right here in this thread. why do you suppose that is?
posted by quonsar at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2007


i might imply that by driving a Ford, you are a second class citizen compared to my Chysler. you'd most likely laugh at such a thing, especially if you beleived that all cars were pretty much equally desirable/reliable/utilitarian. would you experience red-faced, table-pounding rage? would you argue that i'm a deluded idiot for owning mopar until you were blue in the face and insist i was mentally deficient?
posted by quonsar at 12:17 PM on November 2, 2007


I just want to say "made it!" (pant pant).

This entire thread. Read. Those of you still up days later as the cleaning crew eye you warily, tossing empties and sweeping up all the dead strawmen, well done for continuing to write page upon page of argument.

I'm not being snarky, I honestly learned a number of things in this thread. Not so much opinion-changing things, but tropes popular (and unpopular) on the various sides.

Now I have an urge to put together some kind of hypermedia formatted treatise where every equivocation, mote of willful ignorance or subtle intellectual dishonesty to which each side sometimes stoops can be balanced and redressed individually. Something in two columns so that one's internal memetic defenses can be mollified after each foreign or unpalatable idea takes hold...

Then I realized some Greeks already stole this whole "dialogue" idea. Nonetheless, I feel like there's something there - that this argument is, as rightly noted, so steeped in the notion of identity that identity itself must be suspended just to undertake it honestly.
posted by abulafa at 12:17 PM on November 2, 2007


Things I have failed to masturbate to. Again.
posted by asok at 12:27 PM on November 2, 2007


Well, see, this is like me telling you there's coffee in my cup and your cup is empty. The coffee pot is right there and you are free to pour yourself a cup. In fact, you are invited to do just that.

Yet you would rather be upset that I claim to have coffee in the first place.
posted by konolia at 12:40 PM on November 2, 2007


I KEN HAZ TOO CREEMS?
posted by quonsar at 12:45 PM on November 2, 2007


Ambrosia, I am using the term "spirit" the way the Bible does and the way it was taught to me in my college theology classes.

Have you never taken a philosophy course? There are words in common usage that have various meanings but when you are studying things such as philosophy or theology certain words take on specific, precise, and technical meanings.


Yes, I've read the KJ bible through twice, along with, as I mentioned above, other major religious texts starting with Gilgamesh, and taken two dedicated philosophy courses: metaphysics and modernism and its discontents. Didn't learn whatever you're implying I ought. Perhaps you'll deign to elaborate for my benefit, now that you can tailor your language to my ability to comprehend it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:46 PM on November 2, 2007


nothing is causing me to look down on you. i am, in fact, NOT looking down on you, i (or in the case at hand, konolia) am only stating a belief i have about a state of spiritual death. EVERYTHING else that is occurring, is occurring within yourself (or in this case, Mental Wimp). take responsibility.

Yes, I admit that it's a subjective experience / appraisal of the situation, and that the believer may not be intentionally pulling a holier-than-thou move. That's why I said "comes off as", etc.

However, if the believer is genuinely not looking down on the non-believer or genuinely not playing the holier-than-thou card, I still think they have some responsibility to tread carefully so as to not come off as if they're doing exactly the opposite. Especially when they're engaged in a religious discussion with non-believers, because of the social aspects I mentioned above.

i might imply that by driving a Ford, you are a second class citizen compared to my Chysler. you'd most likely laugh at such a thing ... would you argue that i'm a deluded idiot for owning mopar until you were blue in the face and insist i was mentally deficient?

I wasn't actually addressing any of the name-calling, past, present, or future. I was only addressing: "if you don't beleive you have a spirit, living or dead, how could it possibly matter to you what her implication is?". I might not call you names for it, and I probably would laugh at it, but I'd still think you were acting like a dick if you implied some kind of meaningful superiority based on car choice.

And damnit quonsar, obey capitalization conventions! Who are you, the Williamsburg Avenger?
posted by CKmtl at 1:16 PM on November 2, 2007


He's quonsar. He's always done it that way.

konolia - I'm genuinely curious as to what the doctrinal roots of what you said about the spirit and the soul are - is it in the Bible? The differentiation you mention isn't uncommon, I think, though not with that terminology. The notion of developing the spirit makes me think of Gurdjieff's teachings, which I imagine aren't de rigeur in you neighbourhood, though I might be wrong.

(The most succinct explanation I've come across of his teaching on the development of the soul was in Monty Python's Meaning of Life - in the boardroom just before it's invaded by pirate accountants. Not the bit about people not wearing enough hats, the other bit. Although Gurdjeff did possess a very fine fez.)
posted by Grangousier at 1:28 PM on November 2, 2007


Mental Wimp: a being is something that exists. If you define it otherwise, it doesn't really change the argument, however.
posted by koeselitz at 1:40 PM on November 2, 2007


Well, see, this is like me telling you there's coffee in my cup and your cup is empty. The coffee pot is right there and you are free to pour yourself a cup. In fact, you are invited to do just that.

Yet you would rather be upset that I claim to have coffee in the first place.


This analogy seems workable. I don't think the upsetting ( or in Mental Wimp's phrasing, arrogant) part is you claiming to have coffee in your cup.

It's presuming that I want or need coffee in my cup. Or presuming that it's empty just because there isn't coffee in it; it could be full of tea, juice, water, Kahlua or Southern Comfort. And the implication that, in the event that I showed you the non-coffee liquid in my cup, you'd suggest that I empty it post-haste and refill it with coffee, because coffee's the only liquid that can properly fill my cup.
posted by CKmtl at 1:52 PM on November 2, 2007


And that coffee is far superior to any other liquid in the world.
posted by ericb at 2:11 PM on November 2, 2007


Mental Wimp: a being is something that exists. If you define it otherwise, it doesn't really change the argument, however.

One might suspect that statement of disingenuity, as it ignores the agency associated with the word when used in that context. Or do you mean to equate god with an abstract concept rather than an agent who can fill someone with spirituality?
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2007


First, it's not disingenuity, it's the fact that I'm into Aristotle. And the precise definition of "being" is "something that exists." That's a simple fact. It has the implication you're talking about precisely because Aristotle and others ascribed a higher degree of existence to things that have the agency you mention.

Second, I do mean to say that God has something more than either an abstract concept or an agent. God is not an "abstract concept" because abstract concepts don't have any kind of influence on the world, nor any power; but it would be odd to call God and "agent" because God's will and reality are the same thing. Aquinas went over this all pretty well; I can find the reference if you like.

My point was this: you eschew "supernatural beings," and act as though it's academic that such things can't possibly exist. However, the fact is that, rationally, the notion that there is nothing but matter ultimately means that things like science and rationality are meaningless and utterly illegitimate. That's why I suspect that you actually do believe that certain supernatural things do exist. Take the idea that there is such a thing as nature, for example; nature is a hell of a lot more than just an "abstract concept," it's an ever-acting system that must remain in force for reason to be valid.

And the tough part is, it's impossible to prove that it does.
posted by koeselitz at 3:27 PM on November 2, 2007


Oh, so god is nature.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:37 PM on November 2, 2007


“However, the fact is that, rationally, the notion that there is nothing but matter ultimately means that things like science and rationality are meaningless and utterly illegitimate.”

I disagree with this. It's a pretty strong statement and it ought to have some qualifications.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:40 PM on November 2, 2007


Not that I really want to argue this with you. But the error in that argument is that it is improperly and naively reductive. It's asserting that if you can't reason, meaning, consciousness, and similar in inherent in the interaction of physical particles, then those things can't exist at the level at which we believe they exist, therefore all those things don't exist, or this is a reductio proving that materialism is necessarily wrong.

But claiming that rationality, science, consciousness and such isn't found in the raw material of the universe is just like saying that the properties of water aren't found in the atoms of H2O. Water, which is the sum of its properties qua water, is an emergent phenomena of a complex system of interacting H2O atoms. Consciousness, which allows for the other things you mention, is the emergent property of the complex system of another group of elementary particles.

The real difficulty here isn't that all these things could exist in an exclusively material universe. It's that these things, existing in a material universe, could be logically certain that such a material universe exists and they are within it.

But you know this.

At any rate, grand statements denying materialism are beneath your level of erudition.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:53 PM on November 2, 2007


Well, see, this is like me telling you there's coffee in my cup and your cup is empty. The coffee pot is right there and you are free to pour yourself a cup. In fact, you are invited to do just that.

Yet you would rather be upset that I claim to have coffee in the first place.


And my metaphor would have us both standing in front of the coffee machine while you poured yourself a cup of "Miracle Joe" from an empty caraffe, as I tap my feet impatiently for you to step away so I can measure out some grounds into the filter and get brewing.
posted by maryh at 7:25 PM on November 2, 2007


God is not an "abstract concept" because abstract concepts don't have any kind of influence on the world, nor any power; but it would be odd to call God and "agent" because God's will and reality are the same thing.

Hmmm. The problem again arises from people having two entirely different datums.

God has no influence on the world (from my perspective) as there is no solid evidence for it. None. There is no evidence for the existence of something that could affect the world.

And god and reality are NOT the same thing at all, from that exact same perspective.

So if one approaches the explanation from your perspective, you argument makes sense. But from MY perspective (and that of an aetheist) none of your arguments make sense because your explanations are utterly nonsensical - what with god being imaginary.

So how, given these fundamental differences, can we hope to discuss the minutae when there will always be massive holes (from each side) because the other is missing a totally obvious 'fact'.

So again, we are back to square one. The only way your explanations will hold any weight once you get into any depth (despite your education and ability to express them) in a purely logical, factual world (that we live in, incidentally) will be if you can prove the validity of your re-writing definitions in accordance to your baseless beliefs. Otherwise this impasse will occur repeatedly at frequent intervals.

We simply aren't talking about the same universe or reality. And, frankly, the onus still falls on the religious to prove a good enough reason to move away from the 100% provable fact one that I live in. The more detail we get into, the further apart the definitions get, and the less sense they make to either side, do they not?
posted by Brockles at 7:46 PM on November 2, 2007


Hebrews 4:12:" For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

1 Thessalonians 5:23: " Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."
posted by konolia at 8:08 PM on November 2, 2007


Since you're gonna quote scripture, I need to ask, why do you believe the bible is true?
posted by jeblis at 1:15 AM on November 3, 2007


becuase the kittens said so?
posted by ellipse at 2:58 AM on November 3, 2007


Because I have experienced it for myself, now.

But at first it was simply by faith. Which was and is a gift from God.
posted by konolia at 6:01 AM on November 3, 2007


An absolutely fascinating discussion on so many levels. I find the attempts of everyone to justify their beliefs, explain others mistakes, prove their viewpoint correct, etc. to be a microcosm of the entire problem with conflicting philosophical stances. Namely, it doesn't matter what each individual believes. If I choose to withhold judgment in the matter of a supreme being/creator, while you find this belief and the tenets of a specific religion to be an important factor in your life, these two life systems in no way create conflict. Your personal belief really should have no impact on my life at all, inasmuch as its just that-- a personal belief that guides your own actions.

The conflict comes only when you feel that my beliefs threaten the life you have chosen to lead, or when you try to use your beliefs to guide my actions. It doesn't matter if we both want to "live and let live." If my uncovered hair forces you to look upon something that your god says you may not look upon, then there is a conflict. I'm not going to cover my hair because you think it's a sin.

So what is the solution here-- is there one, or is humanity doomed by conflicting world/god views into unending strife.
posted by nax at 8:11 AM on November 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


nax: published today on CommentIsFree, and not entirely irrelevant to your comment.
posted by edd at 8:42 AM on November 3, 2007


Because I have experienced it for myself, now.

What on earth can anyone experience, exactly, that makes thousands of pages of two books ALL true.

Finding personal resonance with a small aspect (or even several) of two massive tomes does NOT make the whole thing true, and it pains me to think that people are so easily swayed.
posted by Brockles at 7:07 PM on November 3, 2007


why does it pain you?
posted by quonsar at 7:14 PM on November 3, 2007


You don't think it is a shame if people are easily swayed?

Especially being as that is precisely the basis for people to be conned and taken advantage of?
posted by Brockles at 7:41 PM on November 3, 2007


Brockles The telling part is But at first it was simply by faith. which basically means that she first accepted it because someone told her it was true (parents, friend, priest, etc.) "Faith" in this case is not belief in some supernatural being but rather blind acceptance of what others told her. After that it's all a matter of matching what she sees to the preconceived beliefs.
posted by jeblis at 2:10 AM on November 4, 2007


"Faith" in this case is not belief in some supernatural being but rather blind acceptance of what others told her.

Sure, but is it not possible that Konolia's had doubts that drove her to study on her own and see if what she'd been taught seemed right to her? I'm not Konolia, so I don't know what she's been through in her religious experiences, but it seems unfair to assume her - or mine or anyone's - acceptance is blind.
posted by katillathehun at 10:00 AM on November 4, 2007


so, you feel spiritually alive? to what do you attribute such a supernatural feeling?

and if you don't beleive you have a spirit, living or dead, how could it possibly matter to you what her implication is?


If one Googles the term "spiritual atheist", there are many results, which discuss having "spiritual" feelings without believing in a supernatural spirit.

Wikipedia on the etymology of the word "spirit":

The English word "spirit" comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning "breath" (compare spiritus asper), but also "soul, courage, vigor", ultimately from a PIE root *(s)peis- ("to blow"). In the Vulgate, the Latin word translates Greek (πνευμα), pneuma (Hebrew (רוח) ruah), as opposed to anima, translating psykhē. The word was loaned into Middle English via Old French espirit in the 13th century. In India Prana means breath.

The distinction between soul and spirit became current in Judeo-Christian terminology (e.g. Greek. psykhe vs. pneuma, Latin anima vs. spiritus, Hebrew ruach vs. neshama or nephesh; in Hebrew neshama from the root NSHM or breath.)

Wikipedia on "spirituality":

Spirituality, in a narrow sense, concerns itself with matters of the spirit. The spiritual, involving (as it may) perceived non-physical eternal verities (or even abilities) involving humankind's ultimate nature, often contrasts with the earthly, with the material, or with the worldly. A perceived sense of connection forms a central defining characteristic of spirituality — connection to a metaphysical reality greater than oneself, which may include an emotional experience of religious awe and reverence, or such states as satori or Nirvana. Equally importantly, spirituality relates to matters of sanity and of psychological health. Like some forms of religion, spirituality often focuses on personal experience (see mysticism) and prayer.

Spirituality may involve perceiving or wishing to perceive life as more important ("higher"), more complex or more integrated with one's world view; as contrasted with the merely sensual.

Many spiritual traditions, accordingly, share a common spiritual theme: the "path", "work", practice, or tradition of perceiving and internalizing one's "true" nature and relationship to the rest of existence (God, creation (the universe), or life), and of becoming free of the lesser egoic self (or ego) in favor of being more fully one's "true" "Self".


posted by nickyskye at 10:33 AM on November 4, 2007


This struggle over the definition of "spirit" reminds me of an argument I got into with my stepdad, who was raised Southen Baptist, but is not quite as fundamental as that any more. Close, though.

Anyway, Basketball is on. He remarks, with flat affect, that it looks like ol' Shaquille is a satanist. WTF? I ask. Well, he's got that symbol of the devil on his arm. An Ankh. That's an Egyptian symbol for life, is my reply. No, it's the work of the devil, is his response. But the ancient Egyptians used that symbol waaaay way back in time, before the writing of the Old Testament, before Exodus, if not Genesis, at least, could have happened, I protest. The devil was around before any of that! He rejoinders. Doh.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:58 AM on November 4, 2007


Fun anecdote AV. :)
posted by nickyskye at 1:30 PM on November 4, 2007


The environment in which I grew up—the small Bible-belt farming town half, not the small college town half—was pretty much just like AV's stepfather. Growing up, charges that this or that aspect of pop-culture were Satanist were pretty common. I never believed it myself and it always exasperated me, but the belief was so common as to be unremarkable.

I'm so happy to have not spent my adult life around those people. Even though my sister is a conservative Evangelical, and doesn't, for example, celebrate Halloween and doesn't like Harry Potter (at both of which I mentally roll my eyes), she nevertheless doesn't believe the sorts of things like direct Satanic influence on things in pop culture or people or that active, true Satan worshipers are common. In other words, despite the fact that her belief is hard-core, I don't hear these types of things from her. Thank goodness, or I'd go batshit insane.

While she and her husband are ostentatious in their faith (not that they see it that way, and, to be fair, they are both full-time in the ministry and it is their lives), they aren't ostentatious in their criticism of our culture and the like. They're very much not into negativity and hate, for which, again, I'm quite thankful because otherwise I'd not have a relationship with them.

But the paranoid, I-see-Satan-everywhere worldview is one that is sadly familiar to me from my childhood. The first ever rock concert I attended was a Kiss concert in Lubbock, Texas, in 1979 and I well remember how much controversy there was in the region about it. There were a hundred or so people picketing the concert. To be fair, Kiss cultivated that image (but not overtly, like others in later eras).

I remember one girl in my high school physics class who, I now realize, must have had a crush on me. She would earnestly discuss with me every day how rock music was the work of Satan and that I should stop listening to it. I would discuss it with her good-naturedly, as I tended to do, but also especially in her case because she was cute. I never considered asking her out, though. That didn't stop me in the case of the devout Mormon girl I semi-dated for a short while, but that's because she made it clear that she liked me and, of course, she was Miss Teen New Mexico runner-up that year and was gorgeous. And a super nice girl, too. I had no chance of having sex with her, but a kiss from her was as good.

On the other hand, a college friend of mine was the son of a tent revival preacher in the South. And he said that he regularly got laid at the tent revivals he attended. I've heard similar things from other people. In fact, I had a similar experience with the supposedly chaste young “Rainbow Girls”, an auxiliary of the Masonic Lodge, when they had a statewide convention in my town. My friends and I hung around such gatherings (which often were held at the university) and in this case, a group of girls snuck us into the dorm in which they were staying later one night—I had sex with the girl I was with. She was eager. I've mentioned this story before, though, in a different context because I've always felt guilt because we didn't use contraception, she was probably 14 (I was 16), and I only knew her first name. I always wonder if I've got a 27 year old kid out there somewhere.

Anyway, this was a digression. Although it makes me figure that I made a mistake in not asking that girl in my physics class out. But she did believe that there were truly Satanist subliminal messages in all rock music.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


EB, you might have been wrong about that Mormon girl. My husband has told me nurmerous stories about the ones that blatantly threw themselves at him...He was a Mormon himself at the time and turned them down. It truly is a real miracle that he was still a virgin by the time I got around to marrying him.

Your point re the type of people who believe everything is Satanist is pretty much correct though. There's a subset of people primed and ready to believe stupid stuff such as Proctor and Gamble supposedly being satanist, and other crap like that.

The stuff these types worry about is usually untrue. I do however know that there is the real thing out there. I have met no fewer than three people who were victims of ritual abuse. I am good friends with one of these people now, and the stories she can tell about what was done to her would make a statue weep.
posted by konolia at 6:56 PM on November 4, 2007


I do however know that there is the real thing out there. I have met no fewer than three people who were victims of ritual abuse.

Hmm. I mean this as nicely and respectfully as possible, and not out of any argh-konolia's-full-of-it sentiment, but "... who claim to be...".

As a teenager when I was involved in a few gay youth social / support IRC channels, I can recall... four, maybe five regulars who claimed to have been abused in satanic rituals. In the course of time, it turned out that each and every one of them were BS. They were all older guys who were trying to liven up their fake persona and garner emotional attachment or something like that. It really sucked, because in the long run people - myself included - got very cynical, even to relatively mild "out-of-the-norm" scenarios. Is this newbie really a fifteen-year-old with a crappy home life, or is it another creep with a made-up sob story? Some of the people who got a cold shoulder at first, because of what seemed like possibly-questionable stories, turned out being real.

While claims of satanic ritual abuse, in person, might not serve to bolster a faked-age persona, it still sounds to me like a ruse for sympathy. Some people have been abused sexually, emotionally and physically, I know that; but the satanic ritual abuse tales are like a critical mass of "feel sorry for me!".

Like I said, I'm cynical about that entire scene.
posted by CKmtl at 8:05 PM on November 4, 2007


I knew two out of the three people well enough to know it wasn't bull.

First one was a supercompetent mom of two boys who was finishing up her Masters in psychology when all of a sudden the memories started hitting. And she started falling apart. She was one of my best friends before, and during. (I wound up moving out of state but last time I talked to her she was recovering with the aid of God and good therapy.)


My current friend is the antithesis of whiny. I have known her for several years. Only this year has she shared a few details. She is also in heavy counseling and works harder than anyone else I have ever seen work to get recovered. The oddest everyday things are triggers for her which makes life hard.

The other gal I knew had problems out the wazoo and wore out anyone who knew her. Occasionally I'd get a glimpse of the "real her" but it was rare. So I'm not totally sure about the SRA angle with her.


Two out of three of the people I knew also had diagnosed DID....a result of the sustained abuse.
posted by konolia at 8:30 PM on November 4, 2007


There is more than you ever wanted to read about a definition of 'soul' here. Posting just to increase the data at hand along with the wikipedia articles above on spirit, which is occasionally used interchangeably with soul.

NB: Link goes to the Catholic Encyclopedia.
posted by jquinby at 7:08 AM on November 5, 2007


I have met no fewer than three people who were victims of ritual abuse.

ritual abuse == Satanic abuse (???)

Also, you've also established that you accept things without objective evidence, so could it be true that you are unskeptical of your three acquaintances stories regarding their abuse?
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:03 AM on November 5, 2007


Mental Wimp: "Also, you've also established that you accept things without objective evidence"

I don't remember when that happened. Maybe you can read back over the thread and tell me when she did that.

Or perhaps you're just leaping to conclusions.
posted by koeselitz at 11:21 AM on November 5, 2007


I don't remember when that happened. Maybe you can read back over the thread and tell me when she did that.

Er. The point at which she said she believed in god and the bible to be truth and fact.

There is no objective evidence at all for that viewpoint. None. Whatsoever.

I think that is what Mental Wimp is referring to, and it is a correct observation.
posted by Brockles at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2007


it would be awesome if this thread goes to 666 comments.
posted by rtha at 12:08 PM on November 5, 2007


It's a big old world full of very strange people so I have no preset bias against believing in satanic ritual abuse... however, the cases I've read about seem to disintegrate, upon closer examination, into fragments of hysteria and axe-grinding.

Why is it that SRA, if real, has been so hard to substantiate? Sexual abuse by Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses and Catholics has a much harder time flying under the radar.

From the 1992 FBI report on SRA:
Conclusion

There are many possible alternative answers to the question of why victims are alleging things that don't seem to be true. The first step in finding those answers is to admit the possibility that some of what the victims describe may not have happened. Some experts seem unwilling to even consider this. Most of these victims are also probably not lying and have come to believe that which they are alleging actually happened. There are alternative explanations for why people who never met each other can tell the same story.

I believe that there is a middle ground - a continuum of possible activity. Some of what the victims allege may be true and accurate, some may be misperceived or distorted, some may be screened or symbolic, and some may be "contaminated" or false. The problem and challenge, especially for law enforcement, is to determine which is which. This can only be done through active investigation. I believe that the majority of victims alleging "ritual" abuse are in fact victims of some form of abuse or trauma. That abuse or trauma may or may not be criminal in nature. After a lengthy discussion about various alternative explanations and the continuum of possible activity, one mother told me that for the first time since the victimization of her young son she felt a little better. She had thought her only choices were that either her son was a pathological liar or, on the other hand, she lived in a community controlled by satanists.

Law enforcement has the obvious problem of attempting to determine what actually happened for criminal justice purposes. Therapists, however, might also be interested in what really happened in order to properly evaluate and treat their patients. How and when to confront patients with skepticism is a difficult and sensitive problem for therapists.

Any professional evaluating victims' allegations of "ritual" abuse cannot ignore or routinely dismiss the lack of physical evidence (no bodies or physical evidence left by violent murders); the difficulty in successfully committing a large-scale conspiracy crime (the more people involved in any crime conspiracy, the harder it is to get away with it); and human nature (intragroup conflicts resulting in individual self-serving disclosures are likely to occur in any group involved in organized kidnapping, baby breeding, and human sacrifice.) If and when members of a destructive cult commit murders, they are bound to make mistakes, leave evidence, and eventually make admissions in order to brag about their crimes or to reduce their legal liability. The discovery of the murders in Matamoros, Mexico in 1989 and the results of the subsequent investigation are good examples of these dynamics.

Overzealous intervenors must accept the fact that some of their well-intentioned activity is contaminating and damaging the prosecutive potential of the cases where criminal acts did occur. We must all (i.e., the media, churches, therapists, victim advocates, law enforcement, and the general public) ask ourselves if we have created an environment where victims are rewarded, listened to, comforted, and forgiven in direct proportion to the severity of their abuse. Are we encouraging needy or traumatized individuals to tell more and more outrageous tales of their victimization? Are we making up for centuries of denial by now blindly accepting any allegation of child abuse no matter how absurd or unlikely?

Are we increasing the likelihood that rebellious, antisocial, or attention-seeking individuals will gravitate toward "satanism" by publicizing it and overreacting to it? The overreaction to the problem can be worse than the problem.

The amount of "ritual" child abuse going on in this country depends on how you define the term. One documented example of what I might call "ritual" child abuse was the horror chronicled in the book A Death in White Bear Lake (Siegal, 1990.) The abuse in this case, however, had little to do with anyone's spiritual belief system. There are many children in the United States who, starting early in their lives, are severely psychologically, physically, and sexually traumatized by angry, sadistic parents or other adults. Such abuse, however, is not perpetrated only or primarily by satanists. The statistical odds are that such abusers are members of mainstream religions. If 99.9% of satanists and 0.1% of Christians abuse children as part of their spiritual belief system, that still means that the vast majority of children so abused were abused by Christians.

Until hard evidence is obtained and corroborated, the public should not be frightened into believing that babies are being bred and eaten, that 50,000 missing children are being murdered in human sacrifices, or that satanists are taking over America's day care centers or institutions. No one can prove with absolute certainty that such activity has not occurred. The burden of proof, however, as it would be in a criminal prosecution, is on those who claim that it has occurred.

The explanation that the satanists are too organized and law enforcement is too incompetent only goes so far in explaining the lack of evidence. For at least eight years American law enforcement has been aggressively investigating the allegations of victims of ritual abuse. There is little or no evidence for the portion of their allegations that deals with large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies. Now it is up to mental health professionals, not law enforcement, to explain why victims are alleging things that don't seem to have happened. Professionals in this field must accept the fact that there is still much we do not know about the sexual victimization of children, and that this area desperately needs study and research by rational, objective social scientists.

If the guilty are to be successfully prosecuted, if the innocent are to be exonerated, and if the victims are to be protected and treated, better methods to evaluate and explain allegations of "ritual" child abuse must be developed or identified. Until this is done, the controversy will continue to cast a shadow over and fuel the backlash against the validity and reality of child sexual abuse.
(emphasis mine)
posted by fleetmouse at 12:36 PM on November 5, 2007


Two out of three of the people I knew also had diagnosed DID....a result of the sustained abuse.

Yeah, three of the ones I mentioned also claimed to have DID/MPD, and claimed to have triggers that included mundane words or topics of conversation that would pop up every now and then on IRC. The 'alternate' personalities were pretty internally coherent, too.

Granted, it's probably a helluva lot easier to fake personality switches in text form, but I don't underestimate people's ability and/or drive to 'fake' it in person as well. Especially when there's the potential pay-off of attention and seeming like a real trooper in the face of adversity. Kind of like a social (in that it's not just specifically medical) version of a factitious disorder.

As you can probably guess by now, I'm pretty skeptical about DID too.
posted by CKmtl at 12:42 PM on November 5, 2007


“There is no objective evidence at all for that viewpoint. None. Whatsoever.”

That's an overstatement. There's no objective evidence as far as you know, and your awareness of everything to know on this topic might be quite limited.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:14 PM on November 5, 2007


Seconding what Ethereal said. Don't know about SRA but I do know a reputable lawyer who has written extensively on ritual sexual abuse, Helen L. McGonigle. After a quick google of

"ritual abuse" Helen L. McGonigle

There is this on one of her pages:


An informant provided evidence that Dutroux offered him 3,500 pounds for each girl and his bank statements contained regular payments of 20,000 pounds at a time. Dutroux claims he was merely the front man for an international pedophile ring that compromised some of the most powerful political and business figures of Europe. In his colleague Bernard Weinstein's house, police found and undated letter that they believed was a request from a satanic cult for young women to serve as human sacrifice. Dutroux admits to having killed Weinstein after a lengthy torture session that involved pulling a metal chain around his genitals ever tighter, drugging him and burying Weinstein alive.

(Sources: Four Girls Abducted, Raped, Murdered, NY Times Magazine2/23/1997; Despite everything he made me suffer, I did not go insane, The Observer, 3/7/04; Belgian Serial Killer Dutroux goes on trial http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?; The Devils Work http://telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2004/02/22/wbelf22.xml&sSheet=/news/2004/02/22/ixworld.html; http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=228192004).


and

QUEBEC, CANADA: QUEBEC BOY TARGET OF CULTISTS - A three month old boy was stabbed to death using a wooden stake driven through its heart in a Quebec village in the rituals of a cult linked to the Order of the Solar Temple mass murder suicide of 53 people in Switzerland and Quebec. The Order of the Solar Temple used symbols from Roman Catholicism, astrology, Gnosticism and the medieval Christian fraternities of the Knights Templar and Rosicrucians to attract believers in Europe and Canada. Quebec Boy Target of Cultists, New York Times 11/20/1994. This incident was followed by the methodical shooting of 16 additional cult members, including children ages 2,4 and 6 in the French Alps bringing the Solar Temple toll to 69. Sect members had taken sleeping pills and their bodies were found in a star formation facing a fire.
posted by nickyskye at 2:28 PM on November 5, 2007


I am also relying on the massive quantity of religious people that, if they ever did find any tangible evidence to support their blind faith, would doubtless have made every possible effort to massively promote and publicise this evidence, thus shutting up people like me that demand it to take their beliefs seriously.

The chance that the millions of religious faithful haven't looked for evidence in the 2000 years or so since they made this up and, if they found any, kept it to themselves is somewhere less likely than that of the earth being flat. Would you not agree? If there WAS any proof for god, do you not think we would have heard about it by now (repeatedly and ad nauseum)?

I hardly need to have discovered the lack of proof by personal experience when so many people have an interest, vested or otherwise, in it and constantly investigate the issue. I don't doubt that these people have looked, as have people like myself that have searched for proof to discredit their wild theories of divine beings. Consequently, I think that the approximating to 'There is no evidence' is more valid than 'We just haven't found any yet'. I would, on that basis, put the probability of my statement being 99% accurate, so I'm not sure that calling it an 'overstatement' is quite just.

If you need to add the proviso 'There is no evidence within the current understanding of Man' then fine.

Interestingly (or, of course, not) that is how I think religion started (disregarding the desire to control that came later). I think that someone came up with the concept of a divine being to explain the unexplainable - why, what and where from are we. As the story progressed, the powerful logic of "Well, YOU tell me how all this is possible without god having made it" would have quelled enough dissent to allow a following. The more that follow, the more weight the argument has, and the more will follow. It was a foil for ignorance - for lack of knowledge and education. The ultimate Chinese whisper. People, naturally, fear the unknown and so having a (to most people at the time) believable reason for everything that they didn't understand must have been quite comforting.

This is one of the sources of my irritation with it. We know better about so much, now, with the advance of our exploration and science. Yet we still cling on to the catch-all and convenient explanation that we created for ourselves over 2000 years ago when we used to live in mud huts.
posted by Brockles at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2007


Er. That was to address EB's post above the last one.

To be, er, clear. :)
posted by Brockles at 2:41 PM on November 5, 2007


Ah, yes, the Solar Temple people. I don't recall any mention of sexual abuse in the newscasts about that, but that was 13 years ago. From what I remember, it was more of a mass murder-suicide à la Jonestown and Heaven's Gate. The baby was killed because he was supposedly the anti-christ or somesuch.

More recently, there was a guy in a nearby city who was supposedly trying to teach tantric sex to kids. While that may be "ritualistic", it feels more like just a pervert with a creative angle.

While both of those are, well, bad... they don't come close to the level of badness I remember hearing in the satanic ritual abuse BS tales. Those were like the Saw movies of child abuse.
posted by CKmtl at 3:01 PM on November 5, 2007


Oh god, make it stop.
posted by Artw at 4:07 PM on November 5, 2007


I'm holding out for backwoods covens of witches breeding generations of babies for torture and sacrifice to Baphomet (or whatever the kids are calling him these days). Must include:

- actual Satanism
- sexual abuse
- child sacrifice
- De Sade levels of torment
- multigenerational and conspiratorial aspects, possibly involving police and political officials

All of this should be routine within the milieu in which it occurs.

This is what has been sold as SRA. Don't try to pull a bait and switch with pedophile rings or kooky pseudo-Christian sects.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:44 PM on November 5, 2007


it would be awesome if this thread goes to 666 comments.

With the turn in the discussion -- I think we just might make it.
posted by ericb at 5:55 PM on November 5, 2007


It's just a hop, skip and a jump from "controverts the bible" to "Satanist," unfortunately, and it's more than Harry Potter and Pokemon (data points from personal experience) that get redacted. A lot of culture "controverts" one book of it. So sad.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:18 PM on November 5, 2007


It's just a hop, skip and a jump from "controverts the bible" to "Satanist,"

Not even. Charges of Satanism are never more shrill than when applied to other dialects of Christianity: a vote for Romney is a vote for Satan
posted by fleetmouse at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2007


Number of the Beast
posted by Artw at 11:03 AM on November 6, 2007


Liberals call people Satan too. I'd provide links, but I just don't feel like going to the Larouche website today.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:05 PM on November 6, 2007


Possibly that's more of a metaphorical type thing.
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on November 6, 2007


LaRouche is a totalitarian, not a liberal, and will gladly call you a devil worshiping nazi sodomite banker if you so much a question his opinion on proper concert pitch.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:51 PM on November 6, 2007


I left a snarky comment about six hundred comments ago then went on my merry way. The two-page long comments have been taking up my "Recent Activity" list ever since. Maybe this speaks of a need to be able to remove threads from "Recent Activity," or maybe this is just a lesson about leaving snarky comments, but whatever it is I'm sorry, God I am sorry.
posted by schroedinger at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2007 [1 favorite]


I just want this to end.
posted by schroedinger at 2:02 PM on November 6, 2007


35 posts to go...
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on November 6, 2007


Maybe this speaks of a need to be able to remove threads from "Recent Activity," or maybe this is just a lesson about leaving snarky comments, but whatever it is I'm sorry, God I am sorry.

This speaks of a need for Plutor's scripting magic! Imagine just for a second that the cumulative investment of energy expended in pursuit of these worthless discussions was funneled into Plutor like some quantum timeshifting hopper, he could make a script for the server whereby it would become sentient and nuke these threads automatically! Fuck God, give me Skynet and glass the habitable surface area of the Earth, thanks.
posted by prostyle at 2:19 PM on November 6, 2007


I like the comments on that.
posted by Artw at 2:23 PM on November 6, 2007


Oops. Wrong long-running and partially incomprehensible thread.
posted by Artw at 2:25 PM on November 6, 2007


Agreed x1000000000000.

I thought for sure they'd wear themselves out. 700 comments later, my surety is wearing off. If I could just travel back in time and not comment, I would. Someone get on that.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 2:26 PM on November 6, 2007


35 posts to go...

Damien, Linda Blair and Mike Oldfield are all vying to make the 666th. comment in this thread.
posted by ericb at 2:27 PM on November 6, 2007


If we overshoot we either have to get enough posts deleted totake it back down to 666 or shoot for 6666 (mega-satan).
posted by Artw at 2:30 PM on November 6, 2007


Is there any reason why you can't check "My comments" instead of Recent Activity when there's a thread that won't die? I realize I am now contributing to your problem, but this is what works for me.
posted by agregoli at 3:22 PM on November 6, 2007


Erm isn't 777 the number of god? (Half-remembered from that well-known theological text The Devil Rides Out.)

You know, if you want to go that far...

Atheism's number is, of course, 0 so you've screwed that up.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:45 PM on November 6, 2007


Erm isn't 777 the number of god?

I sort-of-kind-of knew that because some South African far right nutcases a while back adopted three sevens in a very swastika like circular formation on a white circle against a red background as their logo, and it was on the news. Every so often it pops up again - It's Nicholas Angels service number number in Hot Fuzz for instance - but I;ve no idea where it orginally comes from.
posted by Artw at 5:11 PM on November 6, 2007


We're so close to 666, don't give up now
posted by Arturus at 12:36 AM on November 9, 2007


No -- we can't give up now.

Nor, shall we!

Oh, Lucifer ... oh Κέρβερος .. oh, St. Peter ... fail us not now!
posted by ericb at 12:52 AM on November 9, 2007


I'm more scared of these people than angry at this point.

Seriously, being angry at people who believe in something that makes no sense is more than a full time job.

I'm just trying to stay "Outside of the Asylum" until critical thinking skills are a mandatory part of our education curriculum. Yeah, I'm a dreamer.
posted by -t at 1:18 AM on November 9, 2007


POST IF YOU LOVE JESUS!
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:30 AM on November 9, 2007


Oh sure, like that's a good incentive around here.

POST IF YOU LOVE SNARK!

There, now we'll see them come flooding in.
posted by Arturus at 3:48 AM on November 9, 2007


Bump!
posted by Artw at 6:53 AM on November 9, 2007


So, 19 more posts?

Anyone got anything to actually say at this point?

Or do we just murmur amongst ourselves for a bit?
posted by Arturus at 7:23 AM on November 11, 2007


murmur.
posted by Arturus at 7:24 AM on November 11, 2007


Luciferianism sounds wicked awesome. Hey, you know Ray Kurtzweil and all those weirdo transhumanist types? All Luciferians!
posted by Artw at 8:29 AM on November 11, 2007


I'm sorry, but I can no longer take part.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:08 PM on November 11, 2007


If only we believe, we can make it!!!
posted by ericb at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2007


If only we believe, we can make it!!!

You're in trouble then, aintcha?
posted by konolia at 5:44 PM on November 11, 2007


mumble
posted by fleetmouse at 6:18 PM on November 11, 2007


I'm not sure if this thread is going to have the appropriate gravitas if it goes out on a "mumble". Can we start quoting random death metal lyrics or something?
posted by Artw at 6:39 PM on November 11, 2007


Slip Inside This House

Bedoin tribes ascending
From the egg into the flower,
Alpha information
sending
State within the heaven shower
From disciples the
unending
Subtleties of river power
They slip inside this house as they
pass by

If your limbs begin dissolving
In the water that you
tread
All surroundings are evolving
In the stream that clears your
head
Find yourself a caravan
Like Noah must have led
And slip inside
this house as you pass by.
Slip inside this house as you pass
by.

True conception, knowing why
Brings even more than meets the
eye
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

In this dark we call
creation
We can be and feel and know
From an effort, comfort
station
That's surviving on the go
There's infinite survival in
The
high baptismal glow.
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

There is
no season when you are grown
You are always risen from the seeds you've
sown
There is no reason to rise alone
Other stories given have sages of
their own.

Live where your heart can be given
And your life starts to
unfold
In the forms you envision
In this dream that's ages old
On the
river layer is the only sayer
You receive all you can hold
Like you've
been told.

Every day's another dawning
Give the morning winds a
chance
Always catch your thunder yawning
Lift your mind into the
dance
Sweep the shadows from your awning
Shrink the fourfold
circumstance
That lies outside this house don't pass it by.

Higher
worlds that you uncover
Light the path you want to roam
You compare there
and discover
You won't need a shell of foam
Twice born gypsies care and
keep
The nowhere of their former home
They slip inside this house as they
pass by.
Slip inside this house as you pass by.

You think you can't,
you wish you could
I know you can, I wish you would
Slip inside this
house as you pass by.

Four and twenty birds of Maya
Baked into an
atom you
Polarized into existence
Magnet heart from red to blue
To
such extent the realm of dark
Within the picture it seems true
But slip
inside this house and then decide.

All your lightning waits inside
you
Travel it along your spine
Seven stars receive your visit
Seven
seals remain divine
Seven churches filled with spirit,
Treasure from the
angels' mine
Slip inside this house as you pass by.
Slip inside this
house as you pass by.

The space you make has your own laws
No longer
human gods are cause
The center of this house will never die.

There
is no season when you are grown
You are always risen from the seeds you've
sown
There is no reason to rise alone
Other stories given have sages of
their own.

Draw from the well of unchanging
Its union nourishes
on
In the right re-arranging
Till the last confusion is
gone
Water-brothers trust in the ultimust
Of the always singing song they
pass along.

One-eyed men aren't really reigning
They just march in
place until
Two-eyed men with mystery training
Finally feel the power
fill
Three-eyed men are not complaining.
They can yo-yo where they
will
They slip inside this house as they pass by.
Don't pass it by.
posted by pyramid termite at 7:01 PM on November 11, 2007


You're in trouble then, aintcha?

How so?
posted by ericb at 8:42 PM on November 11, 2007


The Omen trailer - 1976.
posted by ericb at 8:43 PM on November 11, 2007


The Omen 666 trailer - 2006.
posted by ericb at 8:45 PM on November 11, 2007


The Exorcist trailer -- 1973.
posted by ericb at 8:47 PM on November 11, 2007


Exorcist II: The Heretic trailer -- 1977.
posted by ericb at 8:49 PM on November 11, 2007


The Exorcist III: Legion trailer -- 1990.
posted by ericb at 8:51 PM on November 11, 2007


Exorcist: The Beginning trailer -- 2004.
posted by ericb at 8:53 PM on November 11, 2007


Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist trailer -- 2005.
posted by ericb at 8:54 PM on November 11, 2007


Jesus Christ Superstar -- 1973.
posted by ericb at 8:56 PM on November 11, 2007


Godspell -- 1973.
posted by ericb at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2007


and
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


666!
posted by ericb at 8:58 PM on November 11, 2007


Goddamn you, Ambrosia Voyeur, you got the 666th. comment. I bow to you!
posted by ericb at 8:59 PM on November 11, 2007


sniped.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2007


Oh, shit. Did I just curse with "Goddman you?" Fuck, sorry.
posted by ericb at 9:00 PM on November 11, 2007


Goddamn | Goddman -- who's keeping count?
posted by ericb at 9:01 PM on November 11, 2007


Never deal with the devil, boy. You'll reap the whirlwind.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:02 PM on November 11, 2007


Holy shit -- my house just caught fire! Nice knowing ya'll!
posted by ericb at 9:07 PM on November 11, 2007


Ambrosia Voyeur has the power of Satan.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on November 11, 2007


As religious memes go, luciferianism is pretty cool.

Just keep your power of satan away from me. Unless, you know, it'll get me in with the cool kids.
posted by Arturus at 9:34 AM on November 13, 2007


Fuck it, I'm going for 777. Who's with me?
posted by Artw at 9:45 AM on November 13, 2007


No, let's go for 6666!
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2007


When I die, I promise to post from wherever I end up so we can resolve all this.

If it happens soon, this thread will still be open, which would be awfully convenient!
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on November 13, 2007


Wow. Still going.

Must be the work of Satan, fer sure.
posted by rtha at 12:23 PM on November 13, 2007


'Well, isn't that special'
posted by ericb at 12:44 PM on November 13, 2007


oooh, devil with a blue dress on
posted by pyramid termite at 3:45 PM on November 13, 2007


Hey, just got here, what'd I miss?
Oh.
posted by not_on_display at 9:25 PM on November 29, 2007


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