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March 5, 2008 3:47 AM   Subscribe

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is a book released last month by Tim Keller. Its faired reasonably well (NYT, login req'd), which is interesting, considering the wide success of books preaching the opposite message, as of late (Dawkins, et. al.).

A little more from Newsweek. Coming soon to a uni near you.
posted by allkindsoftime (155 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
By way of full disclosure, this is partly an attempt to give credit where credit is due. This comment was largely influenced by what I have learned from Keller's teaching over the past half-decade or so. I thought many of you might enjoy the source material, as it were.
posted by allkindsoftime at 3:55 AM on March 5, 2008


Wait, wait, this isn't about a vindication of Thor? Oh well, fine, I can wait another millennium. (Excellent comment by the way, allkindsoftime.)
posted by orthogonality at 4:01 AM on March 5, 2008


"Its faired reasonably well (NYT, login req'd), which is interesting, considering the wide success of books preaching the opposite message"

I think you got that backwards. The surprising thing is the success of the books by Dawkins and the other atheists. Around 80% of the US population identifies as Christian, therefore the success of a book saying "hey, Christianity is better than all the other religions and it makes perfect sense" is all but guaranteed.
posted by sotonohito at 4:34 AM on March 5, 2008 [28 favorites]


Yeah, I was going to make the point sotonohito made-- it's fared reasonably well in no small part because of the success of the anti-deism books.

Thanks for this post. I'd never heard of Tim Keller, and your comment was pretty great.
posted by ibmcginty at 4:36 AM on March 5, 2008


There are millions of religious books that sell well, including one of the best selling books in history. There is, after all, a sucker born every minute.
posted by DU at 4:37 AM on March 5, 2008 [10 favorites]


If you want to know what the book actually says, the Reader Guide seems to give a good idea. To me, it's a commendably rational effort in a hopeless cause. No-one who isn't convinced, will be.
posted by Phanx at 4:52 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think you got that backwards. The surprising thing is the success of the books by Dawkins and the other atheists. Around 80% of the US population identifies as Christian, therefore the success of a book saying "hey, Christianity is better than all the other religions and it makes perfect sense" is all but guaranteed.

I think not. Take a look at the OP's question in my comment linked above.

HINT: he's in your 80%.
posted by allkindsoftime at 4:59 AM on March 5, 2008


I really like allkindsoftime comment on that thread, and I see the link with Keller's "emphasis on social justice and community service". I really like this attitude. But in both cases there is no need at all of gods of any kind to get involved.

I have spent the last 2 hours trying to find out more bout his ideas without actually giving him any of my money, and this seems a pretty good starting point, from a wordpress blog 1, 2, 3.

I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all, in the meantime, I can only wish he can convert as many Christians to his version as possible. He is a critical rationalist, no place for young earthers or IDers unless they propose some falsifiable hypotesis and peer reviewed studies. The best one is "Christianity is not basically a form of moral improvement".

On the other side, he is more concerned with "Christian moral and sexual ethics than Democrats have been". Ouch. He is also convinced
posted by Dr. Curare at 5:03 AM on March 5, 2008


I read an interesting book too the other day. Big whoop
posted by dydecker at 5:04 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Coming soon to a uni near you.

Keller seems to have gotten onto the Veritas circuit. Here at Cambridge the Veritas Forum series of lectures/discussions just concluded. It brought in a diverse and eminent group of public figures and scholars to discuss religious freedom, faith & pluralism, religious toleration, science in the public sphere, science and faith, and the public significance of the gospel. It is probably the most scholarly university lecture series on the Christian faith, pitched generally to graduate students, at least here in Cambridge.
posted by honest knave at 5:11 AM on March 5, 2008


Looking forward to reading the book, since Keller's arguments seem to appeal to logic. I tend to agree with your thinking in the link, except

Jesus got rid of himself for you, OP.

Go and do likewise.


My Xians beliefs do not seem to include the necessity of belief in blood sacrifice as atonement.

DU I started studying the B book seriously four years ago, mainly as a defense against the Dark (read Fundamentalists). I got tired of loosing verbal debates due to my ignorance and their use of out of contest quotes. This quest has introduced in my life the Jesus Seminar and Covenant Christianity where I'm free to follow the way without having to subscribe to beliefs I don't believe in.
posted by francesca too at 5:13 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's not religion that makes the world the kind of place that some people would rather it wasn't... it is irrationality. Taking away religion won't change that. Shaping religion into a tool that moderates the influences of irrationality rather than exacerbates them, this is a noble goal. The little I've read here suggests that this book is such an attempt.
posted by ewkpates at 5:15 AM on March 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


Christian apologetics is an ancient genre. I don't understand the person who sees a new cover with the same arguments inside it and feels the need to drop $20. It's not an intricate scholarly back-and-forth with the atheist authors, who themselves are extolling ideas mostly from the 19th century.

I guess it's a table-piece so that your also Christian friends can see that you're keeping up on the unchanging immovable rock.

It's unfair to say that nobody will change their minds after reading it. There are very uncritical unreflective people on all sides.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:17 AM on March 5, 2008


I read an interesting book too the other day. Big whoop
posted by dydecker at 8:04 AM


That's terrific dydecker! Why don't you find some background links, write a brief paragraph on why you found it interesting and why we might too and share it with us.
posted by shothotbot at 5:19 AM on March 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


Its faired reasonably well...

seems fare to me.
posted by quonsar at 5:25 AM on March 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


God can allow suffering because we can't possibly know every reason he might allow people to suffer is not an argument for belief. From what I gathered, Keller seems to be using the same approach that IDers do, using attacks on (straw man) atheism as proof of belief.
posted by uri at 5:27 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why don't you find some background links, write a brief paragraph on why you found it interesting and why we might too and share it with us.

Because I am not presumptive enough to assume that my taste in books is of interest to MeFi readers. And that's all we've got here. There is nothing to talk about, nothing to argue against, nothing at all except "check out this book". Well no, I won't be checking out the book, because it sounds like a superstitious load of nonsense. But I wouldn't know if there was any meat to it because I would have to buy it to find out, wouldn't I?

Delete this pepsi blue post.
posted by dydecker at 5:29 AM on March 5, 2008 [8 favorites]


the Jesus Seminar

see N. T. Wright's voluminous works (1, 2, 3) on Jesus for a devastatingly humorous dismantling of virtually everything produced by the Jesus Seminar. finding a more sincerely deluded bunch of pseudo-intellectual wankers would be exceedingly rare.
posted by quonsar at 5:37 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all...

That's your religion.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:37 AM on March 5, 2008


"God can allow suffering because we can't possibly know every reason he might allow people to suffer is not an argument for belief. "

Uri, where did you get this idea from? Does Keller say this (I haven't read the links). I've never heard of that particular theodicy as an argument for faith.
posted by oddman at 5:38 AM on March 5, 2008


seems fare to me.

Doh. Thanks quonsar.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:38 AM on March 5, 2008


I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all...

That's your religion.

True - and it would be great for that religion to disappear, making the world a better place indeed, because for that to happen, first all other religions need to go away...
posted by DreamerFi at 5:42 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all...

That's your religion.

Notice he said "convinced" not "believing without a shred of evidence, in fact, despite the evidence".
posted by DU at 5:53 AM on March 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


The linked Newsweek article about the book contains this apologetically flattening line:

"The book is demanding, but ultimately it disappoints because its pages lack the charisma and conviction so evident in the man."

So - all the more props to allkindsoftime for that wonderfully engaging comment from the Craigslist thread - which sparked this post.

And I remain convinced that one of the best ways way for atheists (like me) to get a glimpse of Christianity's genuinely counter culture message - without the strain of being lectured at in a disappointingly demanding fashion - is simply to watch the Paul Newman etc movie Cool Hand Luke.

It's one of the cleverest parable movies ever.(Yes - the car washing scene!)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:53 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


DU, despite what evidence?
posted by oddman at 5:54 AM on March 5, 2008


My point exactly. Religion isn't going anywhere, as much as some people might want it to.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:55 AM on March 5, 2008


As an atheist, I'm thinking that we should try to be cool to each other because this one life is all you get, after which we become dirt. There's an implicit assumption in most religions that death is not all that bad, because hey we get to go to heaven (or reincarnate or whatever) afterwards. (I actually heard this as an argument against universal health care from a family member just yesterday -- essentially, "...well, if I had no health insurance and got cancer, I'd die -- and that's not the worse thing that could happen...") The end result is that (finite) life is trivialized, to some extent, by comparison to the infinite afterlife.

Forget the Crusades, forget the Spanish Inquisition... religion causes a lot of pain and suffering right here and now.
posted by LordSludge at 6:00 AM on March 5, 2008 [10 favorites]


considering the wide success of books preaching the opposite message, as of late

I am really tired of this rhetorical attempt to backdoor faith into atheist claims.

Dawkins et al do not preach. I REPEAT: THEY DO NOT PREACH. They argue. With Evidence. Some well. Some poorly. However, to say they preach is to deliberately completely ignore the central premise of their books or articles. The only reason to say it is to offend.

Were you just parroting what you heard or were you deliberately trolling?
posted by srboisvert at 6:03 AM on March 5, 2008 [14 favorites]


MetaFilter: The only reason to say it is to offend.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:08 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


religion causes a lot of pain and suffering right here and now.

I think the thing that causes trouble here and now is mostly "Me and my mates want your stuff" - sometimes the "me and my mates" part is defined by religion, sometimes by political ideology, sometimes by class, ethnicity, nationalism, whatever. I think most of it's about 'us' and 'them', and religion's just a convenient coat for one bunch of venal arseholes to have a go. It's got nothing to do with the content of the religion or what Jesus, the Buddha, Mohammad or any of them had to say. At worst, it's the current head clerics and interpreters of the religion who are same as any other politically-motivated group.
posted by YouRebelScum at 6:14 AM on March 5, 2008


APOLOGIST CHRISTIAN IS SORRY!

And this is a sorry excuse for a post. Where's the beef? If that reader's guide is anything to go on, this has the intellectual heft of a sparrow fart. He begs the question of God's existence, confuses belief with supported positions and generally wimps around like C.S Lewis without the saving grace of some kick arse fairy tales. That may be unfair, because in all the links I get no real sense of what he's saying above the usual Courtier's Reply type of laughable apologetics...but still, that's kind of why it's a lame post. Please try harder AKoT.
posted by Sparx at 6:17 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


DU, despite what evidence?

Would 9/11 and all the other Islamic terrorism have happened if no one was religious? Obviously you can argue hypothetically that people would just find something else to fight over, just as Christians fought with each other in Europe, WWII was fought over secular social theories, etc. However, certainly you can point to the professed religious arguments of the partisans as some evidence that religion makes the world a worse place. (And thus evidence that religion does not make the world a better place).

Now, it may be that you haven't been following the thread and thought DU was talking about the evidence for or against god. But there's no evidence for that.
posted by delmoi at 6:23 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Not this shit again.
posted by Optamystic at 6:27 AM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


Dawkins et al do not preach. I REPEAT: THEY DO NOT PREACH.

Preach it, brother!

Anyway, I think this is an interesting subject, but I'm afraid the post really is kind of thin. Is none of the actual book online anywhere? If there's an excerpt, I'm not finding it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:27 AM on March 5, 2008


I REPEAT: THEY DO NOT PREACH.

Yeah. That didn't sound preachy, or anything.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:36 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


certainly you can point to the professed religious arguments of the partisans as some evidence that religion makes the world a worse place.

I guess that depends on your counterfactual. What arguments would they be making if Islam, or Christianity, or whatever wasn't there? Are the arguments tempered by Islam/Christianity or made worse? (Sorry if this a bit of a derail - interesting post).
posted by YouRebelScum at 6:38 AM on March 5, 2008


Would 9/11 REACHING CRITICAL FLAMEWARMASS

If that reader's guide is anything to go on...
I agree, but think that that's an unfair position to take on anything. Reading Guides job is to boil things down to the shortest possible version for people who can't read on their own.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:41 AM on March 5, 2008


Would 9/11 and all the other Islamic terrorism have happened if no one was religious?

Actually, I think it probably would have. We've been absolutely horrible worldwide, deliberately creating tyrannical regimes and enslaving local populations with debt for the last sixty years or so. We have regularly assassinated elected leaders, putting corrupt governments we happen to like in their place. Read Confessions of an Economic Hitman if you'd like some examples of what we've done and how.

I don't think religion has very much to do with it at all, to be honest.

Note that, even given our history there, the citizens of Iran were on the streets demonstrating in our favor on 9/11.
posted by Malor at 6:52 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is none of the actual book online anywhere? If there's an excerpt, I'm not finding it.

I couldn't find much beyond the excerpts that the actual booksellers have - here's the one from my original Amazon link.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:55 AM on March 5, 2008


I think the thing that causes trouble here and now is mostly "Me and my mates want your stuff" - sometimes the "me and my mates" part is defined by religion, sometimes by political ideology, sometimes by class, ethnicity, nationalism, whatever.

Agreed, but religion has the added bonus of: "If you die** or if your life is really crappy, it's not that big a deal, because if you're good you get to go to heaven. After all, life is fleeting; the afterlife is forever."

** translation: "If my mates and I kill you".
posted by LordSludge at 6:55 AM on March 5, 2008


I REPEAT: THEY DO NOT PREACH.

Yeah. That didn't sound preachy, or anything.


Really? You know preachers who repeat factual assertions?
posted by srboisvert at 6:57 AM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


In fairness, the "at least they're in heaven" is the same mechanism that helps people deal with the loss of a loved one, so it's not entirely negative, per se.
posted by LordSludge at 6:57 AM on March 5, 2008


Another good lie to tell sad people is "They never really existed in the first place, you have a faulty memory. Maybe it's a brain tumor."
posted by DU at 7:00 AM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


Malor No arguing that the US has been doing terrible things worldwide, but the interesting thing to note is that most of the terrorists come from places that actually aren't that badly off. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia, were middle class, and college educated, for example.

The people of Sierra Leone, or Ziare, etc aren't flying planes into US buildings. The people of Chile and Nicaragua have been shit on by the CIA to an amazing degree and they aren't strapping explosives to themselves.

Its the people who have been *least* harmed by US policy towards the third world who are the principle source of terrorist activity against the US. To me that implies a very strong corelation with religion, especially the more rabid sects of Islam.

I argue that's largely due to the juxtaposition of a religion which actively encourages martyrdom, and religion/society that practices extreme sexual repression coupled the promise of all the pussy you can handle if you do become a martyr. Note that religion is central to all of those factors.
posted by sotonohito at 7:03 AM on March 5, 2008


HURF DURF BODY OF CHRIST EATER etc.
posted by fleetmouse at 7:04 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yet another example of people who are opposed to Christianity (or religion in total) showing up in a thread to say their piece, and then say it again, and again, and again, until others get the point that discussing it intellectually is unwelcome at best, flat-out impossible at worst.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 7:09 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I REPEAT: THEY DO NOT PREACH.

>>Yeah. That didn't sound preachy, or anything.

>>>Really? You know preachers who repeat factual assertions?


As Merriam-Webster would have it:

1: to deliver a sermon

2: to urge acceptance or abandonment of an idea or course of action; specifically : to exhort in an officious or tiresome manner


I ASSURE you, then, that Dawkins, et al DO preach. Do they EVER. And I expect we'll see a lot more preaching before this thread ends or is closed.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:09 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm reading this book. I needed to find a middle ground. I wasn't raised in a religious household (I once asked my father why we didn't go to church like everyone else - he said "Because you're not old enough.") But I am respectful of other people's beliefs, and understand that religion is a) a meaningful and essential force in their lives. Unless they are hurting someone, it's not my place to tell them otherwise and b) does not make them good people or bad people, any more than my lack of religion makes me "amoral." I got pretty tired of everyone talking up "The God Delusion" in ways that were disrespectful of people who do hold various faiths, and wanted to find something a little more fair-minded, that explains why religion happens, why people believe.

It's OK. Kinda dry and a little sloppy.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:14 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


theists: nodding
atheists: shaking head
agnostics: shrugging

Add adjectives according to levels of zeal for each category.

I choose the last option with just a little hint of hope for something beyond death, but not to the exclusion of enjoying the present. I'll leave the arguing for the rest of you. Let me know when someone wins.

This comment created mostly for personal reference for all future zomg religions!1 conversations. And I still maintain the original comment by allkindsoftime is ace.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:20 AM on March 5, 2008


...people who are opposed to Christianity (or religion in total) showing up in a thread to say their piece, and then say it again, and again, and again, until others get the point that discussing it intellectually is unwelcome...

I AM DEAD. OF IRONY.
posted by DU at 7:22 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


If I'm not mistaken plenty of bombings have occurred without recourse to religious explanations. Thus, it is entirely possible that the attacks of 9/11 would have happened without the religious elements.

The truth is that it's likely impossible to say how much of a role religious belief really played in any conflict or action, just as it's impossible to single out a single causal factor in any complex activity. To pin religion as the origin for the bad things that have been done in its name is at best a sorry excuse for an inference from the best explanation. Furthermore, even if we were to accept that religious belief should bear the greater part of responsibility for bad actions done for religious reasons, it would not be the case that religion is obviously bad. For that conclusion we would also have to weigh the good things that religion is responsible for (e.g. great works of art, indefinitely many works of humanitarian kindness, preservation and promulgation of learning, etc.). It's entirely unlikely that we could ultimately decide whether religion is on-balance good or bad.

What we can see clearly is that reflexively accusing a group of people of adhering to a set of beliefs that stand against human progress is unlikely to actually further said progress. (This is, of course, a sin committed by both atheists and theists.) Knee jerk statements about the immoral nature of religion betray the supposed goal of establishing a good and just society.
posted by oddman at 7:54 AM on March 5, 2008


Would 9/11 and all the other Islamic terrorism have happened if no one was religious? Obviously you can argue hypothetically that people would just find something else to fight over, just as Christians fought with each other in Europe, WWII was fought over secular social theories, etc. However, certainly you can point to the professed religious arguments of the partisans as some evidence that religion makes the world a worse place. (And thus evidence that religion does not make the world a better place).

Well, one possibility is that a world without religion would have less death and suffering.

It's just as possible that a world without religion would have different death and suffering. Fewer suicide bombings, more good old-fashioned murder and arson. Fewer religious cults, more political ones. Fewer zealots, more nationalists.

It's true that certain kinds of psychopaths, fascists and moral cripples are drawn to religion. But they're drawn, too, to armies, to bureaucracies, to law enforcement and business. If there's one fewer place for them to settle, they'll just be thicker on the ground everywhere else. How is that a net gain?

Put it another way: after a secular murder-suicide — a school shooting, a disgruntled employee, a distraught-husband hostage clusterfuck — churches come out of the woodwork claiming that lack of religion is what made all the carnage possible. Why should I accept your argument but not accept theirs?
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:56 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


My point exactly. Religion isn't going anywhere, as much as some people might want it to.

I don't care if religion stays with humans for four hundred and twenty thousand trillion years but I would very much like to see monotheism go away as soon as possible, especially apocalyptic monotheism that can't help but try to continuously proselytize and encroach on public policy.
posted by effwerd at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2008


If anyone here has read both this book and any of John Shelby Spong's stuff (esp. Why Christianity Must Change or Die), I would love to see a compare-contrast.
posted by Shepherd at 8:02 AM on March 5, 2008


It's fun, watching the theists flail and scream in desperate rage.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


We're glad to be of service PG. We even dare to hope that you'll learn something along the way.
posted by oddman at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


It's equally fun, watching the atheists flail and scream in impotent outrage.
posted by slimepuppy at 8:13 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Knee jerk statements about the immoral nature of religion betray the supposed goal of establishing a good and just society.

The knees that jerk are not the ones you are accusing of jerking. Atheists are not the ones trying to bypass the frontal cortex.
posted by srboisvert at 8:16 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The knees that jerk are not the ones you are accusing of jerking. Atheists reasonable people on all sides are not the ones trying to bypass the frontal cortex."

Fixed that for you.
posted by oddman at 8:19 AM on March 5, 2008


Thanks for the link. It's always my hope that when books like this do well, they're not so much competing (for shelf space or for public support) with Dawkins et al. but that they are an antidote to those "religious" books that are based in fear and/or discourage thinking.

I can hope, anyway.
posted by pointystick at 8:25 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Atheism isn't just a gesture. It can be articulate. It isn't necessary negative, it is also a construction. Check Michel Onfray.
posted by nicolin at 8:29 AM on March 5, 2008


The people of Sierra Leone, or Ziare, etc aren't flying planes into US buildings. The people of Chile and Nicaragua have been shit on by the CIA to an amazing degree and they aren't strapping explosives to themselves.

Well, maybe they're so poor they can't anymore. Buying a plane ticket is unimaginable to someone making a dollar a day.

It can certainly be argued that only religion gives people enough of a killing drive to actually execute the bombings, but without the meddling we've been doing, I would think recruiting would be enormously more difficult.

The religious impulse has been at the core of a lot of positive developments too. It certainly seems that most of the people who become focus points for major improvements in the world are profoundly spiritual. I can't think of any examples, though, where they have been dogmatic and exclusionary.

I've come to the opinion, over my 40 years, that spirituality and religion are diametrically opposed. Spirituality is about questions, and religion is about answers. Religion causes unbelievable pain in the world, but spirituality is at the core of a great deal of the good.
posted by Malor at 8:30 AM on March 5, 2008


I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all

A world without religion is impossible. Broadly interpreted, UFOs, ghosts, psychic phenomena are all religions. The belief that there is more out there than there is here coupled with the notion that one has a personal experience with that other.

If there isn't a religion available, people will make one up. They have to do this even in the face of SCIENCE, because SCIENCE says absolutely nothing about hope in the face of despair, about love, about life and death. If one is faced with insurmountable problems, the human mind has to make an appeal to something somewhere, otherwise it turns to madness.

allkindsoftime's comment in the AskMe thread says it better than I could, but I just want to add one thing. If you discount all of the supernatural aspects of the New Testament, what you are left with is the story of a philosopher who told everyone to love one another, especially the people you instinctively don't want to love. You have a story of a guy who was killed for saying that, and willing went to his death because he loved is executioners.

Even if Jesus is just a guy, another Socrates whose teachings ran afoul of power, the story is still remarkable. It gives people hope that maybe there is somebody out there who loves them even when everything indicates that there isn't. When people pray, they are calling out to everyone else alive on earth for help, hoping that their fellow man will hear.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:42 AM on March 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


The people of Chile ... aren't strapping explosives to themselves.

Well, maybe they're so poor they can't anymore. Buying a plane ticket is unimaginable to someone making a dollar a day.

What an ignorant thing to say.
posted by signal at 8:43 AM on March 5, 2008


There's an extensive interview with Keller from First Things with much talk about the book and about other things.
posted by Jahaza at 8:47 AM on March 5, 2008


Err... Sorry about that... Forgot to close the link tag. If it doesn't work, try here.
posted by Jahaza at 8:49 AM on March 5, 2008


"The God Delusion" in ways that were disrespectful of people who do hold various faiths, and wanted to find something a little more fair-minded, that explains why religion happens, why people believe.
Because we do all the time. Do you believe you will awake tomorrow ? I am pretty certain you do. What would you prefer between thinking that you will die tomorrow or thinking you will be alive ? I prefer the former, some very depressed people the latter, don't want to wake up.

Similarly, have you ever felt the sensation of being alone , even if you are almost surrounded by people ? Would you like to feel you have always somebody willing to listen to you, to pay attention to you , even if in reality nobody is even watching you right now ? Most people like that, obviously with limits because not every interaction with other humans is pleasurable or not displeasing.

Additionally, would you like to have a set of rules (they are called morals, from the latin mores, which means the way of the ancestors, if my memory serves) that are going to do you good, if you actually follow them ? I doubt you would say no to that.

Now imagine that I told you that there is an omnipotent, benevolent being that is invisible, all knowing, loving and caring. That he is your real father (not the physical one, he's just walking DNA) and that he will punish you if you don't obey the good rules he gave you, given to you to do you good ! Imagine I tell you that you can always speak to him with prayers , when it's clear you are only talking to yourself. Similarly, if you do good he will give some treat, exactly like daddy does.Isn't that very good ? It's like becoming kids again, free of any responsability or tought :) ! Do as daddy says and it will be good, do bad and you'll be cast in hell !

All of this makes you feel guided, wanted, paid attention to...almost all you needs are met , except the physical ones...but if you subscribe to the Church of X the benevolent food will organize your life too.

That's fantastic, it's all organized, until of course trouble arise and if they do it's because you sinned, it's because you didn't follow the rules..and sometime that's true, but as you believe anything daddy says, if he said it's your fault, who is going to contradict that, you ? Not in a thousand years ! Let alone if daddy feeds you, you are afraid of not being fed anymore and don't even bother arguing. But all of this could be found in social system that are tyrannical and poorly organized, except one thing : the supernatural, also called metaphysical level.

But if you created for yourself an imaginary friend / daddy in the sky , you surely are going to refuse any attempt to let you see that, maybe, you were wrong...or that is not so evident that daddy in the sky actually exists. Expecially those who take advantage of the idea that they are the only one who knows exactly what daddy in the sky wants , which are the so called priests, will forever attack the ones who don't believe in imaginary friends ..not because they don't , but because they tell you about that.

They tell you that "the others" are amoral, they don't have morals, they are dangerous ! When they fail ,as any other human, the fact is attributed to their not being believers and not following a set of morals, the perfect set. You are not supposed to understand, study and adapt because you are provably stupid and susceptible to suggestion ; no wonder, we all naturally are ignorant and suggestible, but can be grown to be much less so

Except that, to keep your imaginary friend in the sky and his books , you need to deny constantly that he was wrong and that he left a book full of contradictions ; hence the need to blame some human for writing it wrong, the need to give interpretation , a whole lot of denial and rationalization and eventually a lot of violence to silence dissenting toughts , expecially when you are sent to war in the name of some God , you surely don't want dissenters to talk ! Similarly, some people were all traitors in some country if they spoke against the war, somewhere in the middle east.
posted by elpapacito at 8:57 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Its faired reasonably well (NYT, login req'd), which is interesting, considering the wide success of books preaching the opposite message

The opposite of a fact is a falsehood, but the opposite of a best-seller may be another best-seller.
posted by aws17576 at 8:59 AM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


This comment was largely influenced by what I have learned from Keller's teaching over the past half-decade or so.

That was indeed a very thoughtful comment, allkindsoftime, but it highlights what I've felt about most contemporary manifestations of the Christian faith for a while now: they are distracted by the supernatural stuff and miss the core message. As you argue in your AskMe comment, the real power of Jesus' message had to do with how he lived his life, and what example that provides. Nothing to do with actually being a supernatural being, nothing to do with your eternal fate resting upon the ideas in your head. His teachings were about actual actions, one's words and deeds, here in our everyday mundane lives.

It seems to me an argument against Christian belief as it exists today, where so much emphasis is placed upon the acceptance of supernatural events and ideas, and ultimately casts Jesus' teachings more like those of Buddha, a philosophy of living rather than a religion.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:02 AM on March 5, 2008


the definition of "preaching" seems to be somebody saying something you don't want to listen to :-)

in trying to look at the big picture, both in history and trying to guess where things are going, it's been seeming to me more and more that religion as a human phenomenon is changing at an accelerated pace similar to how technology, information and many areas of human thought are changing. The recent Pew study that showed that 44% of Americans have changed religions at least once gives one a feeling of a sort of melting pot of belief, a consolidation. Is the collective body of believers shrinking? It doesn't seem so in some parts of the world but globally where will we be in 100 years? Science and logic have taken away some of the areas that religion used to control, how far will that go? It appears that fight over our origins and relationship to other animals is almost over (big picture wise). What will religion be left with at the end?
posted by sineater at 9:07 AM on March 5, 2008


Atheists reasonable people

Relgionists by definition are not "reasonable" people. They elevate faith over reason.
posted by DU at 9:12 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I knew this pouch would come in handy! Do your thing, Master Chief.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 9:13 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Relgionists by definition are not "reasonable" people. They elevate faith over reason.

I have faith that my significant other will not have an affair. Does that make me unreasonable? Or is it possible that my faith is merely an extrapolation of reason (with a dollop of hope)?
posted by turaho at 9:24 AM on March 5, 2008


I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all

Go watch a soccer game between rival teams. Watch how the fans of the oppposing teams treat each other. Watch how the bystanders cheer for "their" guy when a scuffle braks out. All that hatred and violence without a shred of religious faith to blame it on.
A world without religion would be exactly as it is now. Some people are natural assholes, and others are natural followers. Take away religion and they don't change. They'll find something else to rally around and hate others for.
posted by rocket88 at 9:38 AM on March 5, 2008


From the First Things article:
[Keller was reading NT Wright about the church...]he was just taking a nice old-fashioned approach: There’s no historically viable alternative explanation for the birth of the Christian Church than the fact that the early Christians thought they saw Jesus Christ and touched him and that he was raised from the dead. As I was reading it, I realized I was coming to greater certainty, and that when I closed the book, I said, at a time when it was very important to me to feel this way, I said, “He really really really did rise from the dead.”
That's some first rate anlytical thinking there. I am literally in awe.
posted by Sparx at 9:47 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I have faith that my significant other will not have an affair. Does that make me unreasonable? Or is it possible that my faith is merely an extrapolation of reason (with a dollop of hope)?

You have faith that he or she won't have an affair due to the evidence that it's hasn't happened before. I however have faith that no virgin birth occured, since the evidence from the past few thousand years since the alleged event show that it's impossible.

Remember, you can either believe in abstinence as a form of birth control or the virgin birth of jesus, but not both.
posted by kiltedtaco at 9:56 AM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


“He really really really did rise from the dead.”

What?! Jesus didn't really die? But we're told that he died for our sins. He tricked us!

Damn you Yahweh!!!!!!
posted by disgruntled at 9:57 AM on March 5, 2008


"That's some first rate anlytical thinking there. I am literally in awe."

Sparx,

They all do that.

Francis Collins had his "waterfall" moment in his "rationalist" book The Language of God.

I read the Collins book - and - frankly - I refuse to read any more of this stuff. Because - inevitably - there's gonna be the bit when they say - effectively - just trust me here.

(Collins is, of course, a first rate scientist. If he can't avoid "explaining" how he stared at a waterfall and thought "yup, that's it right there..." no one can.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:00 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


You have faith that he or she won't have an affair due to the evidence that it's hasn't happened before.

Maybe, but that doesn't work in the boundary condition of newlyweds (although there's dating....). Perhaps a better reason believe your SO won't have an affair is to judge their personality. Messing around on the side doesn't fit in with how they act or talk. Of course, some people are good liars or conversely their SOs are bad judges of character.

But there's a more important point. When your SO *does* behave unfaithfully and you find out about it, do you continue to believe in their fidelity? *That's* the kind of faith I'm talking about that is antithetical to reason.
posted by DU at 10:04 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


This thread was worth it for directing me to allkindsoftime's comment, and Pastabagel's isn't too shabby, either. I don't believe in anything after death, but OTOH I can think of worse things than people making some effort to behave in a way that is genuinely Christ-like. And I would bet, because we are all have extra-MeFi lives, that most of us know believers who are not Christ-ish, and also athiests who do happen to live that way.

So: on with the poo-fling.
posted by everichon at 10:07 AM on March 5, 2008


*throws dessicated cat turd at sky*
posted by everichon at 10:09 AM on March 5, 2008


I have faith that my significant other will not have an affair. Does that make me unreasonable?

Uh no you don't. Evidence that your sig other is having an affair would puncture that faith like a balloon. That simply isn't what religious people mean when they say have faith. What you have is trust.
posted by srboisvert at 10:18 AM on March 5, 2008 [13 favorites]


Sparx, you're right that there's no analytical argument in the section you quoted. But I doubt that's the case with NT Wright himself. I haven't yet been able to lay my hands on the book referenced by Keller there yet, but it doesn't sound like it takes a simple "God convicted me of this testimony" approach.
posted by Jahaza at 10:20 AM on March 5, 2008


srboisvert said what I tried to say much more clearly and succinctly. FYI.
posted by DU at 10:23 AM on March 5, 2008


"Its the people who have been *least* harmed by US policy towards the third world who are the principle source of terrorist activity against the US. To me that implies a very strong corelation with religion, especially the more rabid sects of Islam."

And that, kids, is why correlation does not equal causation. Could it be a complex set of cultural, economic, geographical AND religious factors that contribute to terrorism against the US government AT THIS POINT IN HISTORY (check back on the Haymarket riots)? Nah, obviously a "strong" correlation with religion, from the gut feeling of a strident atheist (yeah, that's an ad hominem, but I don't take Falwell's assertions of correlation between hurricanes and abortions seriously either).

"Relgionists by definition are not "reasonable" people. They elevate faith over reason."

And you're not a reasonable person, as you elevate demagoguery over reason. I mean, seriously, that's so simplistic and frankly wrong, especially given the long history of attempts to reconcile or limn the boundaries between faith and reason. Attempting to make a broad argument about the reasonableness of people based on one aspect in which they favor faith means that to be "reasonable," you have to be a solipsist. For that argument, you deserve to have your face cockslapped until you come to your senses.
posted by klangklangston at 10:24 AM on March 5, 2008


"There's an implicit assumption in most religions that death is not all that bad, because hey we get to go to heaven (or reincarnate or whatever) afterwards. (I actually heard this as an argument against universal health care from a family member just yesterday -- essentially, "...well, if I had no health insurance and got cancer, I'd die -- and that's not the worse thing that could happen...") The end result is that (finite) life is trivialized, to some extent, by comparison to the infinite afterlife."

And this is part of why Nietzsche equated Christianity with nihilism. And one of the things that spurred existential writing after the Holocaust, and deep divisions within Jewish society regarding how to best reconcile the mass murder with God and personal responsibility.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


The people of Chile and Nicaragua have been shit on by the CIA to an amazing degree and they aren't strapping explosives to themselves

While radical islamic tenets of jihad, fatwa, and the paradise thing feed into the cycle of violence, the people of Chile and Nicaragua have nothing to gain by targetting the US (anymore).

The continued existence of Israel and the mighty big footprint the US has in the mideast presently are important drivers of today's terrorism.

In the 20th century we saw significant terrorism from the IRA, Red Brigades, Tamil separationists, the Basques, the Viet Cong, and others. Only the Red Brigades were international in scope perhaps, but all demonstrated the capacity for us homo sapiens to fight in our struggles most wickedly.
posted by panamax at 10:44 AM on March 5, 2008


Anybody see this piece in the NYT yesterday?
BAGHDAD — After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”

Atheer, a 19-year-old from a poor, heavily Shiite neighborhood in southern Baghdad, said: “The religion men are liars. Young people don’t believe them. Guys my age are not interested in religion anymore.”
posted by rtha at 10:48 AM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


SCIENCE says absolutely nothing about hope in the face of despair, about love, about life and death.

That is, you believe that science is silent about hope, despair, love, life, death. To me, science speaks loudly and clearly about these things. I'm not an atheist - I'm more of a polytheistic agnostic, I guess - but I don't need god(s) in order to be moved, inspired, touched, to be filled with awe.
posted by rtha at 10:52 AM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Evidence that your sig other is having an affair would puncture that faith like a balloon. That simply isn't what religious people mean when they say have faith. What you have is trust.

But isn't trust an outgrowth of faith? What evidence is there to a faithful Christian that God doesn't exist?

I think my original analogy has some flaws, so let me try this: I believe that my fiancee loves me. I have come to this conclusion based on her actions and what she says, but in the end I can't know for sure if she truly loves me. There are no tests I can perform to confirm her feelings. Hell, her definition of love might be different from mine. There's no falsability in this hypothesis.

Now, I can let the fact that I can never be 100% certain of her feelings color every interaction I have with her, or I can trust that she actually is in love with me. Have faith in her, if you will. Is this unreasonable?

I'm coming at this as a lapsed Catholic who has been looking forward to reading this book for awhile and as someone who believes that the best way to save the world from "Christians"-in-quotes is not through overthrowing Christianity but by reforming it. I appreciate the reasoned debate here, which I feel is probably very much in keeping with Keller's book.
posted by turaho at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2008


What evidence is there to a faithful Christian that God doesn't exist?

Faith is a filter of doubt and that is the core of the issue.

Scientologists, Mormons, JWs, Wiccans, that overwhelmingly demonstrate that people are willing to "put faith" in damn near anything religion-related and that it is this mental exercise of faith itself that is reality-denying.

It was my exposure to other devout people of alien faiths that blew away what little belief in the supernatural tenets of Christianity that I had in my teens and 20s.
posted by panamax at 11:07 AM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not arguing for the validity of the beliefs that people put their faith in, I'm just trying to decide if faith is the antithesis of reason.

I have the feeling that either there's a gray area between the two, or that they are opposites and many people who consider themselves reasonable people hold many unreasonable beliefs without acknowledging them.
posted by turaho at 11:13 AM on March 5, 2008


Which is to say that dismissing religious people because they have unreasonable beliefs is to point out the splinter in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in your own, if you will.
posted by turaho at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2008


"Relgionists by definition are not "reasonable" people. They elevate faith over reason."

Hmmm... Let's see:
Socrates
Aristotle
St. Augustine
William of Ockham
Thomas Aquinas
Rene Descartes
John Locke
Gottfried Leibniz
Immauel Kant
Michael Faraday
Gregor Mendel
Martin Luther King
Donald Knuth

Wow, you are totally right; every single one of them is, as you say, "not 'reasonable'."
posted by oddman at 11:53 AM on March 5, 2008


Am I unreasonable? I suppose everyone is. . . they have things in their life that oppose logical decisions (favoring something on a gut feeling or fondness or desire).

But I think my unreason is within check. It doesn't harm anyone. In fact, I might be of less harm to people than some reasonable people, so I suppose my unreason isn't that bad to have, if taken in moderation. Or even if in excess in the right places.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:57 AM on March 5, 2008


I agree its painting with too broad a brush to categorically "dismiss" the religious / people of faith as "unreasonable".

Certaintity is just a conscious mental state, and IMV the brain is rather not limited in its abilities to gin up any mental experience (cf. deja vous) regardless of the actualities.

Organized faiths, however, have institutionalized this manufacturing of arguably false certainty.

The Enlightenment and its development since has been a somewhat uneven, but overall successful, struggle against unsupportable dogmaticism.

many people who consider themselves reasonable people hold many unreasonable beliefs without acknowledging them.

IMO there's a difference between holding the occasional (and hopefully yet-to-be-examined) irrational beliefs and being completely steeped in them, usually from childhood.
posted by panamax at 11:58 AM on March 5, 2008


IMO there's a difference between holding the occasional (and hopefully yet-to-be-examined) irrational beliefs and being completely steeped in them, usually from childhood.

Is there a threshold for how many unreasonable beliefs a person can have?
posted by turaho at 12:11 PM on March 5, 2008


Unless we dramatically change the way our brains work; most people will continue to practice religion. Even when we eliminate "god" from the equation it just gets reinvented. SETI, Mars colonies, life extension, aren’t these just the result of our primitive brains filling in the gaps previously filled by the Bible? I believe our brains are wired in such a way that we occasionally have transcendent experiences. Who knows if this is actually a soul talking to us, or just some weird misfiring of neurons in response to stress or emotional events. As sophisticated pattern seeking computers, our brains are predisposed to take these transcendent experiences and develop a religion around them. In the end it does not matter that we are simply seeing a pattern in the noise; it has real power and consequence for our lives. Just as the belief that a piece of paper has real value because it says on the back "Legal Tender" has real power in the market. Believing that we have no choice but to accept a religion; I choose the religion of my family since it makes Christmas and Easter dinner much less awkward.
posted by humanfont at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2008


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.
posted by quonsar at 12:31 PM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


Pastabagel said:
If there isn't a religion available, people will make one up. They have to do this even in the face of SCIENCE, because SCIENCE says absolutely nothing about hope in the face of despair, about love, about life and death. If one is faced with insurmountable problems, the human mind has to make an appeal to something somewhere, otherwise it turns to madness.


here's my take (alot similar to some recent posts)

- a sane person needs to believe in things. I'm convinced of this, if only because we are not omnipotent and all-knowing; we can't hold everything in our heads. Because of this, I am convinced that humans are predisposed by evolution to believe, to find and hold a faith, because otherwise doubt and uncertainty would stop them in their tracks. This is essentially what Pastabagel has said.
- from the above, my position - that the existence of god(s) is unproven, therefore a belief in one is ultimately limiting - is of course also a belief (albeit one with the biggest body of facts to support it). As part of this belief, i choose to remain open to new facts and discussion, and to abide by any new conclusions that are provable.
- my belief is leavened by one irrational, unprovable position: Life is good, I have the right to be alive, I should probably help others (people, species) to enjoy the same right. So sue me.
- I believe that this position is superior to believing in something irrational, because this belief does not require me to deny or ignore the evidence of my own eyes and ears, or to arbitrarily deny things that have been reasonably proved.

So finally to this point: SCIENCE says absolutely nothing about hope in the face of despair, about love, about life and death.

Nor should it. The opposite of "religion" is not science. A well-adjusted atheist has presumably found something other than one of the prevailing fary-tales to believe in. They could even have faith in ... not needing an objectified faith, that it's enough just to be. (Cos it is)

At a funeral, if you're not religious, it doesn't mean you say "welp, he's fertilizer now" . You simply express joy at having known someone, sadness at their death, and sympathy and support for the ones who are grieving.

Science is a filter, a process, a test. Science is our best attempt to understand ourselves and our world, with a set of mostly agreed upon and demonstrably helpful rules. As our facility with science and our body of "scientific" knowledge grows, it inevitably challenges the narrow myth-based religions of our intellectual infancy.

While I accept that everyone needs (and is better for) holding some belief, I think it's an inevitable part of our intellectual growth that our beliefs must adapt and agree with our knowledge (as they already have, in most parts of the world. Sunday shopping, anyone?), until our belief is ultimately in accord with our knowledge.

So you can give up the fairy tales now, or later. IMHO, of course.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:41 PM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.

We've had well over a thousand years of being told that we were the worst form of evil and literally persecuted and tortured to death by theists who never once question their assumptions. Somehow this isn't arrogance but when we stand up for ourselves and say, "By your own words, your beliefs are not rational," we are suddenly "arrogant."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:29 PM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


"“I hate Islam and all the clerics because they limit our freedom every day and their instruction became heavy over us,” said Sara, a high school student in Basra. “Most of the girls in my high school hate that Islamic people control the authority because they don’t deserve to be rulers.”"

Uh, duh. I mean, you guys remember that Iraq was one of the most secular and progressive of Middle East nations, right? And it's always been a minority of the hyper-religious zealots who were behind the vast majority of the violence. If there's an argument against the religious to be found in Iraq, it's that religion was too often the sympathy that led to good people ignoring or tacitly facilitating violence, generally violence from those with very secular aims (Sadr's consolidation of power is less a heavenly goal than a practical one). But the same thing can be said of tribal loyalties (which also correlate somewhat with religion), which moved to fill the vacuum of power when the Americans failed to properly occupy Iraq.

But, like Afghanistan, the majority has always opposed the efforts of the fanatical—more so, arguably, than in '30s Germany.

And all of this gets swept aside when some idiot tromps in to make some sort of bold point about how terrible religion is.
posted by klangklangston at 1:32 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I find the love-love-love Jesus many are espousing in this thread to be more than a little picky-and-choosy. Yes, this is a guy who loved the world enough to die, etc etc, but it's also a guy who stated, repeatedly and unreservedly, that every human being that did not follow him would find sorrow and pain throughout eternity. It's also a guy who threw the money-changers violently out of the temple -- where's the real difference between that and what these craigslist-filtering Christians would like to do? If we're to follow Jesus' example, which example do you mean? The one that came as the lamb, or the one who came bearing a sword? IMHO, it's pretty clear that Jesus' central message is obedience to the Christian God, and love is merely a part of that.

At any rate, going "you're wrong, and you just don't get it!" to someone with a vision of either happy!Jesus or angry!Jesus makes very little sense to me -- the Bible and Christian history provide ample support for both interpretations. Jesus was a universally loving guy who also condemned most of the world's population to eternal suffering -- as a non-Christian who has read the Bible and studied history, I'd say that anyone who forgets either side of this equation is missing out on half of what Christianity is about.
posted by vorfeed at 1:38 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think my original analogy has some flaws, so let me try this: I believe that my fiancee loves me. I have come to this conclusion based on her actions and what she says, but in the end I can't know for sure if she truly loves me. There are no tests I can perform to confirm her feelings. Hell, her definition of love might be different from mine. There's no falsability in this hypothesis.

That still sounds more like inductive reasoning than faith. I have "faith" that the sun will still be in the sky tomorrow, but only because it's been there every other day and I have no evidence that says it won't be.
posted by ludwig_van at 1:59 PM on March 5, 2008


"IMHO, it's pretty clear that Jesus' central message is obedience to the Christian God, and love is merely a part of that. "

Er… um… Jesus wasn't a Christian. And while the all-love-all-the-time message is simplified, arguing that love wasn't the dominant message of Jesus's teachings is, well, something that you have to justify with a pretty heavy scriptural citation.

I guess that's something that bothers me about a lot of this atheists-discussing-what-the-Bible-means bullshit—I lived with a guy who's getting his doctorate in theology, specifically within an Episcopalian framework, and he's able to both acknowledge the difficulties inherent in interpreting the intent of Jesus and offer fairly substantial citations and backup for his viewpoints. I've tried to get him involved here a couple times, but he (rightly or wrongly) thinks that all the discourse here is characterized by the excluded middle, and that there's simply no reason for him to point out that third-hand critiques of the King James Bible are the equivalent of dismissing VORP and OBP+ when discussing baseball players. For all the claims of rationality and science that I see atheists hew to around here, very few of their arguments are based on more than emotion. Similarly, the rare Christian who is willing to bear the lash tends to be just as muddled and dogmatic (well, until she left recently). There's no attempt at any sort of reasonable dialog. I mean, Christ, Lupus upthread is trying to make current Christians responsible for thousands of years of oppressing the apostate. That's retarded and unworthy of serious response. Similarly, the dismissal of all religious people as unreasonable? That shit's hot when you're in high school and have just discovered Rand, but most intelligent folks get it drilled out of them in college.
posted by klangklangston at 2:04 PM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheismreligion. TFTEveryone.

No matter how much you may profess humility and subservience to your choice of deities, "I believe in The One True God" is one of the most arrogant, self-centered things a person can say. While so many keep saying that religion is based on a "basic human need", I have found that the only way I ever find peace with a crazy world is to accept the meaninglessness and randomness of it all. Regrettably, there will never be a way of expressing this in a way that could become a best-selling book. "Swimming upstream" may be good exercise, but it can only move you to where you used to be. Fortunately, it's also very entertaining to watch.
posted by wendell at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


"That still sounds more like inductive reasoning than faith. I have "faith" that the sun will still be in the sky tomorrow, but only because it's been there every other day and I have no evidence that says it won't be."

You also have faith that you're not a brain in a vat somewhere, despite that being more likely than you being a fully-formed human. Like I said, the only way to avoid faith is solipsism.
posted by klangklangston at 2:05 PM on March 5, 2008


Similarly, the dismissal of all religious people as unreasonable? That shit's hot when you're in high school and have just discovered Rand, but most intelligent folks get it drilled out of them in college.

Well, I went to college, but it was for engineering. Nuff said there.

I don't think I said that religious people were unreasonable, i was trying to suggest that supernaturally-based "religions" often contain unprovable things that run afoul of observable fact. I can't see how they are superior to faith that doesn't require one to suspend reason.

You also have faith that you're not a brain in a vat somewhere, despite that being more likely than you being a fully-formed human. Like I said, the only way to avoid faith is solipsism.

I tried (very lamely) to suggest that faith doesn't have to go against observable fact or have a cartoon backstory.

Please explain the 'vat' part (...zat you, Morpheus?), cos part of me wants to go out for Japanese tonight, but if I'm just a brain in a vat, I'll order in instead.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:24 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Artful Codger: Like I said, the only way to avoid faith is solipsism.

I can think of no one as narrow minded as those who not only reject the notion the they could be wrong, but even the idea that somebody, somewhere could honestly disagree with them. This goes for all the "atheism is a religion" types too, of course.

Some of us don't have faith. Accept it and move on. You will be a marginally saner person.
posted by signal at 2:30 PM on March 5, 2008


You also have faith that you're not a brain in a vat somewhere, despite that being more likely than you being a fully-formed human. Like I said, the only way to avoid faith is solipsism.

Well, do you think that faith in the sense of faith in miracles, God, the supernatural, and so on, is equivalent to faith in the sun existing tomorrow or that we aren't brains in vats?
posted by ludwig_van at 2:31 PM on March 5, 2008


Woops, that was aimed at klagklangston. There's a glitch in the Mefi Quote thingie.
posted by signal at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2008


I'm truly sorry that atheists have been reviled, burned, and cast out of society, but if that's your excuse why you are presently on the warpath against us (who if you haven't noticed, don't tend to be the most militant theists), I don't know what to say. I'm not saying that you need to believe anything. I have my thoughts.

The truth is, I don't think science or human experience will ever complete explain the nature of the world, and this isn't the fault of science. I believe that the universe has a spiritual component, an uncanny supernatural aspect that defies a direct rational explanation (though not rational approach). Things like intuition border on man's connection to this side of the World. Now, I'm not sure the nature of this aspect of the universe, but I'm sure not a materialist. Consciousness, in my humble opinion, exists, and isn't simply an aspect of chemical on chemical interactions. This isn't my hope, this is where a line of reasoning has led me.

There is a madness associated with the gods, yes. That's not the madness of perception of seeing things that aren't there, but the near impossibility of reconciling the unseen world with the seen one. For all my bluster, I am, at the heart, totally irrational.

The funny thing is people mock theists by talking about "Invisible Sky Fairy" or "Old Man with a Great Beard" or any other attempt trivialize numina, the divine, God. Even a specific god like Yahweh or Christ. But the more I think about it, the diminution of God is impossible; I think of the gods of the sky and think of El Shadai and His affiliation with thunder and lightning. I think of the Invisible world, which is no less real if less observed. I think of fairies and all the other things that invade our world's senses, whether angels or saints, hobgoblins, ghosts, hell even UFOs, there's something there, even if it isn't what anyone thinks it is. And Old Men with Great Beards, from the patriarchs of the Old Testament to Walt Whitman inspire obedience, wisdom, and personal glory. No wonder Michelangelo chose to portray the Father as an old man instead of a young one.

But I digress. I'm not here to convince you to drop your atheism. Maybe I'm just proposing a truce on Metafilter that if we cannot agree, we can at least respect each other's beliefs. If not, I suppose you'll continue to clash, you'll continue to take out the evil perpetrated by our more zealous cousins (that, yes, we must do what we can to squash too, as they are part of our flock) on us, many who have done great works in the world. I don't think any one is calling the atheists in here evil.

But as in all things, I could be wrong.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:32 PM on March 5, 2008


Im as atheist as they come.
Were it up to me alone, the proverbial "curtain" would be thrown back on the whole superstitious sham.

However...

Irrationality is a PEOPLE problem. Rid the world of all religion and the yokels that are doing stupid things in religions name today will just be doing stupid things in something else's name tomorrow.

Tribalism? Regionalism? Hair color? Whatever ya got, really.

In the suburb I grew up in, they ran out of room in the high school and started a second one. Now you had two high schools: east and west. Within months of this new "classification" appearing, you had after school fights breaking out between kids that were in the same classes just the previous semester and were probably classmates from kindergarten up thru then. All over a new imaginary line. It's all too cliche to talk about even.

I'd like to do away with unfounded superstitious nonsense as much as Dawkins or anyone, but you will never get rid of easily led morons that need at the very center of their beings something to define themselves against.

Sigh.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 2:33 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Like I said, the only way to avoid faith is solipsism.

I ain't need faith in my intuitions of the world. My brain automagically takes care of that shit.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:40 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I don't think I said that religious people were unreasonable, i was trying to suggest that supernaturally-based "religions" often contain unprovable things that run afoul of observable fact. I can't see how they are superior to faith that doesn't require one to suspend reason."

No, it was DU who said that. As far as speculating on the superiority of faiths that I don't hold, I'll leave that alone.

"Please explain the 'vat' part (...zat you, Morpheus?), cos part of me wants to go out for Japanese tonight, but if I'm just a brain in a vat, I'll order in instead."

Briefly, as there was a whole post on this a little while back, a disembodied consciousness is a simpler system than a world that can support fully-formed and independent consciousnesses. A simpler system is more probable. As there's no way to observe outside of ourselves, there's no way to verify that this isn't all solipsism.

Do I consider this sophistry? Yes. Can I prove it? No. If we stick to what we can absolutely prove with no assumptions, we get to "cogito," (and determinists would dispute that).

"Well, do you think that faith in the sense of faith in miracles, God, the supernatural, and so on, is equivalent to faith in the sun existing tomorrow or that we aren't brains in vats?"

I'd say that faith that the sun will still exist is different than the faith in God, which is more similar to the faith that we're not brains in vats or that love exists or that we have free will.

"I ain't need faith in my intuitions of the world. My brain automagically takes care of that shit."

Shadows on the walls of the cave.
posted by klangklangston at 2:56 PM on March 5, 2008


You also have faith that you're not a brain in a vat somewhere,

I don't, though I go for the "simulated" reality scenario more than the vat brain or solipsistic brain universe scenario.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:03 PM on March 5, 2008


A simpler system is more probable. As there's no way to observe outside of ourselves, there's no way to verify that this isn't all solipsism.

If there's nothing outside of the self then "a simpler system is more probable" has no more weight than "a complex system is more probable". It's all hallucination.

Shadows on the walls of the cave.

A fun question is: what are the preconditions that allow skepticism to exist?
posted by fleetmouse at 3:09 PM on March 5, 2008


Ah, maybe now we're getting into nondualist thought... where it gets interesting, no/yes?
posted by naju at 3:20 PM on March 5, 2008


When people pray, they are calling out to everyone else alive on earth for help, hoping that their fellow man will hear.

Wouldn't posting on craigslist be more effective, though?
posted by anazgnos at 3:26 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


Er… um… Jesus wasn't a Christian.

How about "the God described in the Bible", if that puts you in a less pedantic mood?

And while the all-love-all-the-time message is simplified, arguing that love wasn't the dominant message of Jesus's teachings is, well, something that you have to justify with a pretty heavy scriptural citation.

So, you can simply give your opinion, with absolutely nothing to back it up, but my opinion requires "heavy scriptural citation"? Come on. If you really want "reasonable dialog", start by extending others a modicum of respect. You've posted four times in this thread, and three of them are heavy on ad-hominem insults... why are you surprised when others aren't willing to treat you any better?

At any rate, here's a heavy scriptural citation for you:
Matthew 22:37: Jesus answered him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind'. This is the first and great commandment. And there is a second like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself'. The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments."

Here, the emphasis is on love for God first, love for man second. This theme is repeated throughout the Gospels -- man is called to serve and to love God, and for this reason to love and serve his fellow man. God comes first. If Jesus' message is chiefly about love rather than God, then why is it that love is repeatedly couched in terms of God? Why is it that knowing God is the requirement for entry to heaven, and not knowing love? "No one approaches the Father but through me". "It is not everyone who keeps saying to me 'Lord, Lord' who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the man who actually does my Heavenly Father's will". Why not "no one approaches love..." or "the man who actually loves"?

In short, if love is the point, why did Jesus speak about God in the first place? If Occam's Razor applies to the brain-in-a-vat idea, then it seems to me that it applies here... the whole heavenly father thing is an awfully confusing and complex addition to what could have been a rather simple "dominant message of love".

At any rate, I don't argue that love was among Jesus' dominant messages, but I think it's clear that his teachings suggest that God is the reason for love, rather than the other way around.
posted by vorfeed at 3:31 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.

Anyone who claims to know what created the universe and what happens to us after we die is the height of arrogance.

There is no such thing as atheism. There is no atheist doctrine. An atheist is simply someone who refuses to accept a claim that no one could possibly know—a skeptic.
posted by disgruntled at 3:50 PM on March 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


"So, you can simply give your opinion, with absolutely nothing to back it up, but my opinion requires "heavy scriptural citation"? Come on. If you really want "reasonable dialog", start by extending others a modicum of respect. You've posted four times in this thread, and three of them are heavy on ad-hominem insults... why are you surprised when others aren't willing to treat you any better?"

You posited that Jesus's message wasn't love, but obedience. My reply was that this was both overly-simplistic, and that relying upon the King James to back it up was ignorant. You then quote the King James Bible to show that Jesus said to love God first (which doesn't contradict my point about love).

I'm being intentionally measured in my response here, but there's reams of scholarship about just what "love" means within the Bible (breif example of parsing, though I don't have any considered opinions on his conclusions).

So, yes, your assertions require evidence. My assertion that you're being simplistic and ignorant of Biblical scholarship seems pretty fuckin' QED here, but I'm happy to point out loads of other books and journal articles and works of philosophy that try to grapple with the incredibly complex and ambiguous and contested issue of what Jesus meant.

But in the future, you can avoid being called ignorant and simplistic by avoiding saying things like "If Jesus' message is chiefly about love rather than God, then why is it that love is repeatedly couched in terms of God?" where you posit a false dichotomy instead of responding to what I wrote.
posted by klangklangston at 4:04 PM on March 5, 2008


I'd say that faith that the sun will still exist is different than the faith in God, which is more similar to the faith that we're not brains in vats or that love exists or that we have free will.

Well, perhaps this depends on your definition of God. I could agree that faith that we aren't brains in vats is similar to faith in something like a deist God, but I don't think it's comparable to faith in a personal God or the God of the bible.
posted by ludwig_van at 4:20 PM on March 5, 2008


"Well, perhaps this depends on your definition of God. I could agree that faith that we aren't brains in vats is similar to faith in something like a deist God, but I don't think it's comparable to faith in a personal God or the God of the bible."

Well, see, I'm someone who believes that faith is inherently and irreducibly subjective, and I don't believe in a personal God or the God of the Bible per se, so I can't really speak to what it's like to have that faith. What I will note though is that the faith of people who believe in the New Testament God can be pretty damn similar to the deist conception of God, or the Baha'i conception of God. I think, again, what people are arguing against here is an outlier, the fundamentalist literal God. I do think that on a certain level the God someone believes in has to make a "sense" to them, be it emotional or intellectual, and so I don't want to discount the possibility of someone being able to explain their fundamentalist, literalist conception to me in a way that makes me understand, but I doubt it'll ever really make sense to me. It's kinda like reading Kierkegaard or Hobbes, where their conceptions of theology are almost indescribably alien (though Hobbes largely sets that aside for the first half of Leviathan, where he simply says that while miracles happened in the past, we're now in an age where they don't, so we can't count on them).
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.

You think that there's an almighty who is personally interested in you and what you do, and would be so upset with you for rejecting him that he'd torture you forever, and I'm arrogant?

Christians!
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:45 PM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


what people are arguing against here is an outlier, the fundamentalist literal God.

Yes, very much so. There are non-fundie conceptions of God that are quite beautiful and, dare I say, spiritually enriching. How much of an outlier fundie God is depends on your location though, I think. Bumper sticker jebus scares the bejebus out of me.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:47 PM on March 5, 2008


But in the future, you can avoid being called ignorant and simplistic by avoiding saying things like "If Jesus' message is chiefly about love rather than God, then why is it that love is repeatedly couched in terms of God?" where you posit a false dichotomy instead of responding to what I wrote.

Fair enough.

In the future, you can avoid being called a lazy, appeal-to-authority debater by actually responding to the questions I put forth (of which your quote is only one), instead of simply asserting that I'm wrong. There's no false dichotomy here -- the thing you don't seem to get (and never seem to get, in my experience) is that I actually believe what I'm saying, I actually want to discuss this with you in a reasoned manner, and I actually want you to explain your position rather than simply yelling "you're this, you're that" at the top of your lungs. You're welcome to show me that I am wrong, but until then, "QED" and the like isn't going to convince me.

And neither is a link that, as an exploration of whether or not Biblical love was "agape" or "phileo" (and one that concludes that it probably doesn't matter, no less), has nothing to do with the issue at hand. The question is not what definition of "love" we're talking about, it's whether love or God can be said to be the primary message of Jesus' teachings. If this issue is so "incredibly complex and ambiguous and contested", why is it that you're so quick to yell "you're wrong and I'm right"? Ambiguity would seem to suggest that there's room for more than one interpretation.

At any rate, I don't know whether I'm right about this, and I'm more than willing to admit it... you'd think you could work with that, instead of shitting all over me.
posted by vorfeed at 4:53 PM on March 5, 2008


is an outlier, the fundamentalist literal God

the recent Pew survey showed that the largest bloc of believers in this country, at 26%, are the [largely] fundie evangelicals.

Fundies were the outliers in the US of the 1950s and 60s, perhaps, but no longer.
posted by panamax at 4:54 PM on March 5, 2008


Briefly, as there was a whole post on this a little while back, a disembodied consciousness is a simpler system than a world that can support fully-formed and independent consciousnesses. A simpler system is more probable. As there's no way to observe outside of ourselves, there's no way to verify that this isn't all solipsism.

Two things: such a statement is easy to say but not necessarily the case. A brain in a vat is easier to state in words than a universe, but at the same time, you still have to posit the brain, the vat, their origin, the origin of the false universe-resembling stimuli being fed to the brain and the context of the feeding - which is not necessarily simpler than a materialist things-as-they-are.

Second, solipsism in its most extreme form, is only simpler in a similar fashion, with the additional problem that it does no work, it's an all bets are off proposition. So is admitting to the miraculousness of Theism. I suspect that there is a qualitative difference between faith in the unprovable and faith that is supported by continuous, describable, replicable and shared experience, a difference that is undermined by insistence on terming them both as, and only as, faith.

But I doubt that's the case with NT Wright himself.

Jahaza: Check the link I provided to an analysis of the work in question by Mr Wright, and follow up with your own research. The man is barely a theologian, let alone a historian. Keller's acceptance and validation of Wright on the basis that it fed his predispositions shows his lack of both acumen and analysis.
posted by Sparx at 5:04 PM on March 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


what people are arguing against here is an outlier, the fundamentalist literal God.

It's a good place to start. Baby steps.

I know that this is about played out, and I do appreciate the many sincere opinions expressed.

Let me put this out there. On the CBC "National" (TV newscast), they did a short feature on progress of aid in the areas around the Indian Ocean. They had several examples of Christian missionaries providing aid. Some groups showed up did a bunch of work and left. Some built new villages, complete with a church and a school. There was one example of where a village would be promised aid, if everyone in the village converted from Buddhism. When they refused, the missionaries moved on.

I will never speak a critical or contrary word against ANY religion (or government) ever again if they could all find a way to worship (govern) and do their good works without forcing their delusions on anyone else.
posted by Artful Codger at 5:14 PM on March 5, 2008


There was one example of where a village would be promised aid, if everyone in the village converted from Buddhism. When they refused, the missionaries moved on.

Cute. Do you have any more information on that? Broadcast date, title of segment, anything?
posted by fleetmouse at 5:38 PM on March 5, 2008


"There's no false dichotomy here -- the thing you don't seem to get (and never seem to get, in my experience) is that I actually believe what I'm saying, I actually want to discuss this with you in a reasoned manner, and I actually want you to explain your position rather than simply yelling "you're this, you're that" at the top of your lungs. You're welcome to show me that I am wrong, but until then, "QED" and the like isn't going to convince me. "

What you said: "IMHO, it's pretty clear that Jesus' central message is obedience to the Christian God, and love is merely a part of that. "

What I said: "And while the all-love-all-the-time message is simplified, arguing that love wasn't the dominant message of Jesus's teachings is, well, something that you have to justify with a pretty heavy scriptural citation."

What you said: "Here, the emphasis is on love for God first, love for man second. This theme is repeated throughout the Gospels -- man is called to serve and to love God, and for this reason to love and serve his fellow man. God comes first. If Jesus' message is chiefly about love rather than God, then why is it that love is repeatedly couched in terms of God?"

Perhaps I'm not being clear: Love of God and Love of Man are both LOVE. They are not purely OBEDIENCE. If you wish to argue your opinion that the theme of the New Testament is obedience to God as opposed to love, you've got a pretty heavy load to move, including the fact that you're arguing from an redacted and edited and translated version. The example that I linked to was to show that not even Biblican scholars agree on the proper vocabulary, which has heavy implications. There are truckloads of books written purely about how to parse "spirit".

On the obedience issue, there are hundreds of essays and papers debating the role of Jesus in light of OT prophecy and commandments—Jesus says that he's there to fulfill the OT, and yet discards rules such as keeping kosher and circumcision. There are the cultural artifacts of exporting the faith to Gentiles, and a recurrent charge of gentile bias shaping the text (especially under Paul). So what does "obedience" even mean in this context? You can grouse about an appeal to authority all you want, but given that there are a lot of people who devote their lives to the study of questions like this, your back-of-the-napkin calculations aren't very convincing.

Further, you argued that it was some burden to have the onus upon you—well, congrats, atheist. The burden of proof is upon the theist if they want to prove their God, but if you want to prove your interpretation is valid, you're going to have to do a little more homework.

I'm sorry if you feel shit on here, but it's because you're not even making a consistent argument. And as the legions of creationists show us, that you really, really believe what you're saying doesn't matter so much as your ability to prove it. Sorry if I was brusque prior, but I thought you'd be able to grasp quickly why I was dismissing your position without giving it much consideration.
posted by klangklangston at 5:42 PM on March 5, 2008


"the recent Pew survey showed that the largest bloc of believers in this country, at 26%, are the [largely] fundie evangelicals."

I'd say two things to that—First, fundies and literalists and evangelicals aren't all the same thing. They overlap quite a bit, but they're different folks who have their own quirks. Not every fundamentalist believes in the absolute literal truth of the Bible, not every fundamentalist believes in the absolute literal truth of the King James Bible, not every literalist is a fundamentalist (as fundamentalism is a conservative movement that requires rejection of things like socialism, which some literalists still support), and certainly not every evangelical is both a fundamentalist and a literalist. Second, I tend to believe that people in the US overstate how religious they actually are. Possibly this is because of my own definitions of other people's faiths, but I tend to think that the vast majority of people who would claim to be evangelicals, or even fundamentalists, have fuzzy, ill-defined faiths that are mostly emotion and knee-jerk and given little actual thought outside of when they're directly confronted.

Further, given the immense body of Christian scholarship, literalist fundamentalists most certainly are the minority—they're fairly recent, really popping up only in the last 100 years, and haven't contributed very much of note to theological theory (the leaders in that are still the Catholics).
posted by klangklangston at 5:51 PM on March 5, 2008


> Cute. Do you have any more information on that? Broadcast date, title of segment, anything?

CBC National, broadcast date: Mar 4, 2008
I actually found a link to the video:
http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/internationalus/christianity_comes_to_thailand_1.html
posted by Artful Codger at 6:05 PM on March 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


klangklangston, my counter-opinion is that evangelicals, by their very aggressively "outreach" nature, have been growing by leaps & bounds since the Graham Ministries gave them critical mass durn the cultural counter-reaction to the "God Is Dead / More Popular than Jesus" 1960s.

IME the evangelical worldview is one if simplifed "repent or you're going to hell" and consists of decidedly non-liberal theology concerning church/state separation, teacher-led prayer in schools, protecting the unborn, the proper role of women in society, the existential threat that the homosexual agenda poses to modern America, the essentially Satanic nature of the Islamic hordes, etc. et fucking c.

This non-liberal theology has been a major faultline among the mainline churches over the past 30-odd years.

It's not a 1:1 match between evangelical and fundie, but I don't see how anyone could deny that the consideral overlap that does exist has a massive, massive footprint in American culture and politics. I grew up in a non-political, quite liberal evangelical Lutheran church in the 1970s, and what I see now in our nation -- the Pat Robertsons, Falwells (RIH), Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, Promise Keepers, Wall Builders, etc. tells me that the fundies are indeed the largest block in this country today and in no way are outliers.
posted by panamax at 6:31 PM on March 5, 2008


"IME the evangelical worldview is one if simplifed "repent or you're going to hell" and consists of decidedly non-liberal theology concerning church/state separation, teacher-led prayer in schools, protecting the unborn, the proper role of women in society, the existential threat that the homosexual agenda poses to modern America, the essentially Satanic nature of the Islamic hordes, etc. et fucking c."

Um… See, that's where you're confusing fundamentalist with evangelical. Evangelical means that they're spreading the "Good News" of the Gospel. This may help.
posted by klangklangston at 6:55 PM on March 5, 2008


kk, I know what it means -- the literal Greek roots and their history in this country -- but the evangelical megachurches I have been taken to have all been fundie. My point is that the modern evangelical movement has largely been outcompeted by the SBC and parts of it have shifted its polar moment to more closely match the ongoing success of the SBC.

There is indeed an Evangelical left; that is the church I grew up in. But I don't see much of it these days, and that is, again, my point. The evangelical right has a much more salable message to market, and they've been cleaning the mainline evangelical's clocks the past 20-odd years.
posted by panamax at 7:03 PM on March 5, 2008


IMHO, Tim Keller is one of the best preachers of the modern era. I had the opportunity to attend Redeemer PC when I was in New York, and I can tell you that he is awesome. It is sad that the post derailed into many other things.
posted by dov3 at 7:22 PM on March 5, 2008


So what does "obedience" even mean in this context? You can grouse about an appeal to authority all you want, but given that there are a lot of people who devote their lives to the study of questions like this, your back-of-the-napkin calculations aren't very convincing.

I would say that "doing [my] Heavenly Father's will" is a decent meaning of "obedience" in this context. Jesus makes it pretty clear that there are things people are to do and are not to do; love is among them. Why should we do or not do these things; why should we love; on whose authority? I would argue that the answer Jesus gives is "on God's authority". Again and again, he states that it's God who wants us to love, that he will judge those who fail to love, and that those who don't love will therefore be punished by Him. There's a cause-and-effect relationship, here, and love is not on the causative side.

And yes, Love of God and Love of Man are both Love, but I'd suggest that there's a powerful reason for placing one before the other, one that's at work in the other quotes I posted. I seriously doubt you can find a "non-redacted and non-edited and non-translated version" in which Jesus claims that he isn't the only way to his Father, and that man doesn't need to do the will of said Father to make the grade. I'm not cherry-picking, here -- these are two of the central claims of Christianity, and they both seem to suggest that this Father guy is really, really important, as in The Most High. Again, if love is the main theme, why the need for the repeated invocation of this God figure?

Further, you argued that it was some burden to have the onus upon you—well, congrats, atheist. The burden of proof is upon the theist if they want to prove their God, but if you want to prove your interpretation is valid, you're going to have to do a little more homework.

I actually put forth an argument, and I continue to do so, so I figure that any onus upon me has been fulfilled. My annoyance is with the fact that you haven't done so, up to and including in your most recent post. I put forth my ideas, you went "whatever, you're not even making your argument in Greek so you're wrong QED". How on Earth are we supposed to go on from here? As for doing "homework" to "prove my interpretation is valid", give me a break -- I've posted plenty of arguments above, they seem fine to me, and you refuse to tell me why they're invalid, just that they are. On top of that, I've said from the very beginning that it's just my opinion, based on reading the Bible, and that I think there's room for other interpretations. You're the one making the strong statements, here.

I'm sorry if you feel shit on here, but it's because you're not even making a consistent argument.

In what way is it inconsistent, precisely? You keep saying these things, but you've got absolutely nothing to back them up. Like the man said in English 101, show, don't tell.
posted by vorfeed at 7:34 PM on March 5, 2008


Nuts. Well, I tried.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:40 PM on March 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"The God Delusion" in ways that were disrespectful of people who do hold various faiths, and wanted to find something a little more fair-minded, that explains why religion happens, why people believe.

I recommended it in another thread somewhere, but what the heck.... Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" is quite an amazing book in that way.
posted by rokusan at 7:56 PM on March 5, 2008


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.

From the atheist's perspective: You believe in Santa Claus. You're a grown adult that believes in Santa Claus, because somebody told you it's true and because it makes you feel better about your life. We tell you and tell you that it's a lie, offer proof after proof, but you still insist that Santa Claus is real.

Seriously, what would YOUR attitude be towards adults that literally believe in a literal Santa Claus? Kinda... arrogant? **

I'm not saying this to be snarky or hateful or to cut you down in some way (and I'm genuinely sorry for any hurt feelings it causes); I'm saying this to answer your (implied) question and to demonstrate one aspect of how Christians and most religions appear to atheists.

** Not to mention the frustration at the silly, intrusive laws that are passed in the name of Santa Claus and anger at the injustice, pain, and death that is performed by Kris Kringel's blessing... There's also some compassion there, at least from me -- many religious adults (formerly including myself) were brainwashed almost from birth, with huge social hurdles to leaving the faith, so it's not like they had much choice in the matter. Along those lines, I've come to see religious folks as mentally ill -- mildly schizophrenic, specifically -- but functionally so.
posted by LordSludge at 8:37 PM on March 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


CBC National, broadcast date: Mar 4, 2008
I actually found a link to the video:
http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/internationalus/christianity_comes_to_thailand_1.html


Thanks, Art!
posted by fleetmouse at 8:41 PM on March 5, 2008


If God should exist to us by way of reason, then he isn't God. The grand idea behind God is to suspend the rational laws of nature at will. If we are drowning do we want a reasonable cosmic law-abiding God to save us? No, because we need a passionate God that loves us for our loyalty to suddenly suspend the laws of nature. Some might hope that this somehow solves the problem of evil, that suffering is therefore allowed by a God who sticks to his own laws of nature, therefore reasonable. However, such a conclusion allows reason to rule absolutely, and so we are even more free to dismiss God because he shouldn't care about us and we can't expect favors from him. And would he not only save the reasonable ones anyway? Doesn't sound like any historical God we know of. Add to this our disturbing human experience that the will of evil exists in the absence of reason, and any reasonable God that allows unreasonable people that use his credentials to cause suffering seems to be the worst case scenario. In the end, some of us do not believe in God simply because we cannot believe him to be strong by way of irrationality, nor weak by way of reason, nor responsible for all evil, human and otherwise.
posted by Brian B. at 8:45 PM on March 5, 2008


"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicureus

Cliche and tacky? Probably. But it still makes pretty watertight sense.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 8:49 PM on March 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


i'm waiting for science to explain the positive correlation between arrogance and atheism.

That right there is why you will always fail to understand atheists. They don't have to prove or explain things that don't exist.
posted by srboisvert at 5:13 AM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


So I guess no one will ever understand the other. *sighs*
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:57 AM on March 6, 2008


Not true. As a born-again atheist, I, for one, do understand religion -- at least of the American, protestant, fundamentalist variety. Been there, done that... then thought about it too much, decided it didn't make sense (no matter how much I wanted it to be true), and summarily discarded it, after a few guilty, fearful, sleepless nights.

And I'm thankful for the insight, even as I'm resentful of the indoctrination -- until I was "out", I couldn't recognize the constant, systemic indoctrination and pressure to believe. Reinforcement of religious belief was such an ingrained part of my life and peer/family experience, I couldn't see the forest for the trees. I understand that it was all done out of love, out of genuine concern for my "immortal soul", but I look back, now, and go... "Whoa, that was pretty messed up!"

FWIW, I do concede that somebody who has never been religious probably can't know -- or perhaps more accurately, "feel" -- what it's like to truly believe, with all the good and bad that it entails.
posted by LordSludge at 10:39 AM on March 6, 2008


Well, some atheists have become religious. I know I have had bouts of each. I suppose those who have spent time on the other side can be considered experience, but it seems many recoil from those that become religious from atheism.

I just worry about a certain strain of "We understand them perfectly, they will never understand us." That could get arrogant, though I don't think that that is in anyway the norm of most atheist (at least the ones that I've met).
posted by Lord Chancellor at 11:56 AM on March 6, 2008


>> I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all...

> That's your religion.

Why are religious people so desperate to call atheism a religion? It's not. In fact, it's the polar opposite of religion being based on evidence (or the lack thereof) and rationality. Religion is to atheism what astrology is to astronomy.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:39 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Religion is to atheism what astrology is to astronomy.

Ouch. Thanks, bud.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:28 PM on March 6, 2008


Why are religious people so desperate to call atheism a religion?

My theory is that religion fucks up your brain in such a way that you can't imagine being without it, and that religious people call atheism a religion because they're simply incapable of conceiving of existence without religion.

But that's not "nice", implying as it does that religion is something other than sunshine and kittens.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:56 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


>> I am convinced that a world without religion would be better for all...

> That's your religion.

Why are religious people so desperate to call atheism a religion? It's not. In fact, it's the polar opposite of religion being based on evidence (or the lack thereof) and rationality. Religion is to atheism what astrology is to astronomy.
posted by bobbyelliott at 1:39 PM on March 6

Why are religious people so desperate to call atheism a religion?

My theory is that religion fucks up your brain in such a way that you can't imagine being without it, and that religious people call atheism a religion because they're simply incapable of conceiving of existence without religion.

But that's not "nice", implying as it does that religion is something other than sunshine and kittens.


I dunno. Maybe you should read the bit you two are talking about and tell me what it has to do with atheism, and not just some given atheist's beliefs. Then maybe you'll understand, and not only be not insulting, but look like you can read, too.
posted by Snyder at 4:07 PM on March 6, 2008


That's a dumb argument. The belief that the world would be better without religion is obviously not a religion if the word religion is to have any meaning.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:46 PM on March 6, 2008


Not liking football is a football team.
posted by signal at 5:59 PM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


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