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College makes you an atheist!
September 24, 2009 4:05 PM   Subscribe

Former child actor Kirk Cameron and his friend Ray (The Banana Guy) Comfort [previously] seek to distribute the "correct" (aka altered) version of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species to 50,000 students at the nation's top 50 universities as the book is soon to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Their version includes a 50-page introduction which "...gives the history of evolution, a timeline of Darwin's life, Adolph Hitler's undeniable connection with the theory, Darwin's racism, his disdain for women, and Darwin's thoughts on the existence of God..." Cameron's promotional video for the project: 'Origin Into Schools.' A video response: "Origin of Stupidity."
"Atheism has been on the rise for years now, and the Bible of the atheists is 'The Origin of Species,' Cameron tells PEOPLE. 'We have a situation in our country where young people are entering college with a belief in God and exiting with that faith being stripped and shredded. What we want to do is have student make an informed, educated decision before they chuck their faith.'" *
Kirk Cameron Monkeys with Darwin.
posted by ericb (281 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Origin of Speciousness
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2009 [31 favorites]


Speaking as an atheist, I can definitively state that The Origin of the Species is not my bible. I hope college students laugh in their faces.
posted by cerebus19 at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


I say we play along. Book burning, anyone?
posted by klanawa at 4:08 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who pays this guy?
posted by odinsdream at 4:11 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


This is a great gift to college students everywhere. It's not just a free copy of Origin (always useful), it's als 50 bonus pages worth of lab-rat cage liner.

(One can never have enough.)
posted by rokusan at 4:12 PM on September 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


Kirk is the best spokesperson these folks can come up with? In the 80's he would have been a score, but I can imagine college kids saying 'who'?
posted by el io at 4:13 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


...before they chuck their faith...

Honey, I know you didn't have the opportunity to attend college, but there's a lot more that college students up-chuck!
posted by ericb at 4:15 PM on September 24, 2009


"Atheism has been on the rise for years now"

The most comforting thing Kirk Cameron has ever said.
posted by xmutex at 4:16 PM on September 24, 2009 [13 favorites]


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:17 PM on September 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


I love how creationists like Kirk Cameron insist that there's a link between those who support the theory/fact of evolution and atheism. As if understanding science and believing in a deity are mutually exclusive.
posted by contessa at 4:17 PM on September 24, 2009 [37 favorites]


Proud to be British, we have Darwin on our money.
posted by Damienmce at 4:17 PM on September 24, 2009 [15 favorites]


So, who wants to start the "Passing around copies of the Skeptic's Annotated Bible" program?
posted by blenderfish at 4:18 PM on September 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


Darwin's racism, his disdain for women,...

Where would we be without good fundamentalist Christians fighting for these noble causes?
posted by rocket88 at 4:18 PM on September 24, 2009 [13 favorites]


Former child actor Kirk Cameron and his friend Ray (The Banana Guy) Comfort

Is Ray Comfort the guy who played Boner?
posted by Sys Rq at 4:19 PM on September 24, 2009 [11 favorites]


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

Which makes one wonder why they felt the need to alter the book. Doesn't their faith hold up against the words of a long dead sexist and racist?
posted by pompomtom at 4:23 PM on September 24, 2009 [8 favorites]


(by which I mean Darwin, not Jehovah)
posted by pompomtom at 4:23 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The intro to the MSNBC article is confusing:
He’s used to getting love letters and high-fives as a former teen heartthrob, but onetime “Growing Pains” actor Kirk Cameron isn’t letting the mockery and criticism dissuade him from promoting his controversial project to dispute evolutionary theory.
Have high-fives and love letters now ironic and forms of mockery? Has snark become so ever-present that people can now retcon their old fanmail to born-again Christians into some form of ridicule? "Yeah, I wrote to that Cameron guy when I was a kid. But I totally said 'NOT!' at the end! I burned him!"
posted by filthy light thief at 4:24 PM on September 24, 2009


Man, I can't wait until Kirk Cameron's kids go to college.
posted by kookaburra at 4:26 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


It was difficult to watch that video without squirming. I wonder whether Kirk realizes he is mischaracterizing Darwin's legacy or whether he's deluding himself. Probably a bit of both.

If you'd like to cleanse, here's Charlie Rose interviewing James Watson and E.O. Wilson about Charles Darwin (Video).
posted by anonymuk at 4:27 PM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Have high-fives and love letters now ironic and forms of mockery?

They have, and that's why God intended them to do.
posted by Dumsnill at 4:28 PM on September 24, 2009


It's important to remember that this project has nothing to do with convincing atheists to convert, convincing non-Christians that Jesus loves them, or 'evangelizing' in any way.

This project and others like it exist for one purpose and one purpose only: to convince under-educated youth group kids that the unsettling things they hear filtering in from the news, and science class, and at the museum are lies, and those who believe them are atheists and dupes who must be rescued.

Whether those atheists and evolutionists and dupes are convinced is irrelevant: the important part is to inoculate a generation of Christian kids, and cheering for Kirk as he Speaks Truth To Power is just the ticket.
posted by verb at 4:29 PM on September 24, 2009 [25 favorites]


That young woman's response, Origin of Stupidity, was quite entertaining. I like her plan of take as many copies as you can and then removing the offending 50-page introduction.
posted by dubitable at 4:30 PM on September 24, 2009


As an Athiest I can assure my bible is nothing.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 4:36 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Is Ray Comfort the guy who played Boner?

Nah, he's a preacher whose anti-evolution argument for years was that a banana fits your hand too well to have evolved. At some point he stopped that argument when presumably someone pointed out he was making a dick of himself. Here's hoping the teabaggers never make a similiar connection!
posted by Silentgoldfish at 4:37 PM on September 24, 2009


Sitting on his chair all backwards and shit makes him totally relatable.
posted by mrnutty at 4:38 PM on September 24, 2009 [15 favorites]


"Atheism has been on the rise for years now"

I'm not sure that this is true. Or, rather, there may be a definition problem going on here.

I was raised an Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian and I can tell you that their definition of who is an "atheist" is quite ridiculously broad. In fact, I distinctly remember "atheist" being a catch-all term for anyone that we found particularly repugnant (liberals, homosexuals, feminists, etc.). I think atheist became a blanket term in Evangelical circles because they find it very difficult to believe that a homosexual, for example, can also believe in God.

It seems logical to them that a belief in God would automatically preclude someone from being gay or having an abortion -- and this is why it's not unheard of for them to (again, for example) lament atheism as one of the "causes" of homosexuality. If only these leather daddies really believed in God, the thought goes, they would be convicted of the wrongness of their chosen lifestyle.

If anything is "on the rise" in America (besides the howling fascism of the Right), it's people becoming less traditionally religious and more inwardly spiritual. Almost all the gay folks I know, for example, either go to church occasionally or still identify as Christians. (My ex, for example, goes to church every Sunday and hardly ever catches on fire when he crosses the threshold). Many still pray -- and pray often. The ones that don't often identify with a higher power of some sort, or believe that "something bigger than my puny existence is out there".

Yet in Evango-world, the folks I mention above are atheists. Not because they don't believe, but because they don't believe the "right way". Believing in non-Evangelical Christianity may be on the rise in the US, but the Evangelical community should look a little closer to home if they want to find someone to blame for that.
posted by Avenger at 4:39 PM on September 24, 2009 [28 favorites]


I can't wait to see Alf's stark refutation of germ theory.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:41 PM on September 24, 2009 [60 favorites]


I have a movie idea and I think it may be a winner.

1)No script
2)One camera
3)One room
4)Two actors: Kirk Cameron aaannnd...Tom Cruise
5)????*
6)PROFIT!

*This is the part where I get Prince to do the soundtrack. He may also have a speaking part too, but only if he pronounces that symbol he took on as his name.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:42 PM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sitting on his chair all backwards and shit makes him totally relatable.
Come to think of it, I can't even remember the last time I sat on a chair backwards, or why I would even want to. Does this make me old?
posted by deanc at 4:43 PM on September 24, 2009


So, how exactly does one go about getting one -- or a thousand or two -- free copies of Origin? Are they going to be distributed at Godless U. campuses or do I have to find a Christian college?
posted by phliar at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2009


> 'We have a situation in our country where young people are entering college with a belief in God and exiting with that faith being stripped and shredded.'

Yo, back off, dude. Aside from many fond (albeit beer-soaked) memories, that's the only thing I got out of my $40,000 investment in higher education.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2009



Is Ray Comfort the guy who played Boner?


Absolutely not, Andrew Koenig (son of Walter Koenig, Checkov on Star Trek) played Boner, and he is, by all accounts, a cool dude and not a mouth breathing creationist waterhead.

And now, having defended the man who played Boner Stabone, in a thread at least tangentially about Charles Darwin, my work here is done and I can return to my home planet.
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:46 PM on September 24, 2009 [61 favorites]


If only these leather daddies really believed

Oh, but they do! I've heard them chant regularly, "Oh god, oh oh god, oh god yes!"
posted by hippybear at 4:49 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

Look, I'm a Christian, too, but this just isn't true. I know plenty of people who were sincere believers at one point and are atheist/agnostic now. For a while, I was one of them. The idea that real believers can't lose their faith is something that certain kinds of Christians say so that they can dismiss the experiences of former Christians without really weighing their testimony. It's not just wrong, it's insulting, because it presumes that all ex-believers are lying about their experience. Let's not be like that. Not taking other people's testimonies seriously is a good reason they they don't take ours seriously, either.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:55 PM on September 24, 2009 [72 favorites]


Huh. I entered college as an agnostic and left as a practicing Catholic. I must have done it wrong.
posted by Biblio at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Nah, he's a preacher whose anti-evolution argument for years was that a banana fits your hand too well to have evolved. At some point he stopped that argument when presumably someone pointed out he was making a dick of himself.

That and the fact that the indicators of intelligent design he singled out were in fact "designed", by humans, through selective cultivation.
posted by anazgnos at 4:57 PM on September 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh man I just found out that there's a link between Hitler and art. So long, long-lost Picasso that I was keeping in the attic! I'll burn you just like Hitler burned-...oh shit, I can't do that either! Perhaps I'll just drive it to the dump. What's that, Hitler sometimes travelled in cars? I guess it will just have to stay in the attic. Oh wait, Anne Frank!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:58 PM on September 24, 2009 [34 favorites]


Religious dunderheads are so tiresome and tired. Let's bring back the interesting crazy people. More conspiracists and paranoiacs and time-cubers, and way fewer religionuts.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:01 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sitting on his chair all backwards and shit makes him totally relatable.

Guaranteed that brilliant idea came straight from Mikey himself. For some reason, 80s sitcom directors really thought that all tousle-headed youths barreled into the kitchen after school every day, throwing their almost-empty canvas backpack onto the ground and drinking some milk straight from the carton. Then, whisk - the chair is out from the kitchen table and turned around backward. That cute rascal flops down on it and torments their kid sister, who has just had her first crush/B/period/fight with the parents.

Show me that smile again.
posted by nosila at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2009 [16 favorites]


You know who else attempted to systematically exterminate vast populations?
posted by Sys Rq at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


How on earth did Growing Pains get away with a character named Boner?
posted by Falconetti at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


He thinks he has Copernicus on his side? Goddamn, the only funding out there at that time was from the church and he STILL stuck his arse out there far enough to claim that the sun was the centre of the universe - that's like top 3 on the all time total badass anti-religion moves ever. Buddy risked death for that theory. A THEORY THAT WAS CORRECT, by the way.

THAT'S ALL YOU GOT CAMERON?
posted by jimmythefish at 5:03 PM on September 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


I hear that Hitler used electricity too.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2009


As if understanding science and believing in a deity are mutually exclusive

Sure, if your deity has no measurable or observable influence in the universe.
posted by device55 at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


Thanks Divine_Wino. I'm a big fan of Andrew Koenig, so I'm glad to see him defended. (In fact, he openly mocked Cameron's banana-fits-the-hand video on Never Not Funny.)
posted by The Deej at 5:05 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I agree, Pater Aletheias. When I was a Christian, my faith was sincere and profound. Just as is now my naturalism/agnosticism.

Determining what that actually says about the evanescence of faith - despite the assurances of ironclad "once-saved-always-saved, faith is a gift from God" Christians - is left as an exercise for the individual apostate, of course.
posted by darkstar at 5:06 PM on September 24, 2009


That's how I know him, never not funny, good stuff.

How on earth did Growing Pains get away with a character named Boner?

His first name was Richard on the show.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:08 PM on September 24, 2009


His first name was Richard on the show.

I seem to recall a flashback in which Mike decides to call him Boner because something something Bonaparte.
posted by Sys Rq at 5:11 PM on September 24, 2009


The girl who made that great rebuttal video has a whole youtube channel. I've just watched a couple more of her videos (one on gay rights and another on atheism) and they're just as good. Well-reasoned, clear and witty, albeit with a couple of generalisations that veer a bit close to strawmanning (is that a verb?). On balance, I think her (intimidatingly extensive) archive will be well worth a look.
posted by metaBugs at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


(or, hey, "Stabone")
posted by Sys Rq at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2009


The best part about the whole banana thing is that the "tab" that Ray Comfort cites as so wonderfully designed is actually opening the banana the hard way. Instead, pinch the other end of the banana, and the segments of the peel will separate effortlessly.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:13 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


How on earth did Growing Pains get away with a character named Boner?

> His first name was Richard on the show.


OK, so his name was Richard "Dick" "Boner" Stabone?
posted by contessa at 5:15 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


The bestest part of the whole banana thing is that bananas are human cultivated agricultural products and don't exist in nature the way we find them in the store. Hence a perfect example of 'design' but not the way Ray Comfort wants it to be.

(natural bananas are all seeds and really tough to eat and are less yummy)
posted by device55 at 5:16 PM on September 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


Richard "Stabone" was the full name of the character, if I remember correctly.

God, I wish I hadn't remembered that instantly.
posted by verb at 5:17 PM on September 24, 2009


Is he "disputing" the theory of Evolution by connecting Darwin with Hitler and calling him a misogynist?

Supposing for a minute that these things are true, what do they have to do with the theory itself?

Eugenics was an offshoot of the theories of both Darwin and Lamarck, and idiots with an agenda have been subverting science since sophistic rhetoric was "invented".

If what high-profile Christians have done privately or through the power of their office in any way "disputed" Christianity, the entire religion would be a footnote in a footnote in a footnote in a satirical piece on hypocrisy by now.

The cognitive dissonance is all too much.
posted by flippant at 5:25 PM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


This is completely fair. The correct response is to distribute copies of a 'corrected' Bible in equal numbers.
posted by mullingitover at 5:33 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Richard "Stabone" was the full name of the character, if I remember correctly.

Wrong. I wont tell you the character's real first name, but I will tell you that the scene where it was revealed ended with the line 'Who knew?"

also: I will always have a soft spot for Growing Pains because whoever named the families on the show was obviously a Mets fan. and even thoug he's FUCKING NUTS, I find Kirk cameron vageuly intriguing in that he definitely dosent follow the usual pattern of 'I've painted myself into a corner due to my alcohol/cocaine/airplane glue/reality TV addiction, Help me Jesus.' Instead he walked out on every young mans dream of money/fame/girls etc, which makes me find him oddly intriguing despite finding most of his opinions ridiculous.
posted by jonmc at 5:36 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


...and the work of correcting the Bible has already been done.
posted by mullingitover at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


The cognitive dissonance is all too much.

Think how far one could take this line of reasoning, though -- E = MC2 is a lie because we used it to drop atomic bombs on Japan in WW2! Gravity itself is completely suspicious because radical fundamentalist terrorists counted upon it to topple the World Trade Center!

Physics = ATHEISM!!
posted by contessa at 5:37 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


And his father was Sylvester Stabone (not kidding).
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 5:38 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I hear that Hitler used electricity too.

Creationist stupidity aside, a strong (and direct) correlation has been made between certain aspects of the theory of Evolution and seminal Nazi ideology. The simplistic way to put it is, the notion of Survival of the Fittest justifies annihilation of those seen to be less fit.

But don't take my word for it. Spend some time with The Occult History of the Third Reich. Yup, history's always weirder than you thought it was.
posted by philip-random at 5:40 PM on September 24, 2009


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

Look, I'm a Christian, too, but this just isn't true. I know plenty of people who were sincere believers at one point and are atheist/agnostic now.


Yep, total bullshit. I know it's a comforting belief, but I was among the sincere faithful, and now I am not.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:49 PM on September 24, 2009


Hot Gary Gygax won me over years ago.
posted by josher71 at 5:51 PM on September 24, 2009


only if he pronounces that symbol he took on as his name.

If he does that, the universe will re-arrange itself into something even less probable.
posted by Grangousier at 5:58 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I feel sorry for the dead trees.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:03 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Preface in the interest of full disclosure: I've taught university-level philosophy (including, e.g., the history of western thought, ethics, philosophy of religion, logic, critical thinking, medical ethics, philosophy of the self, philosophy of law, and social/political philosophy, etc.) at several universities and colleges in the midwest for nearly seven years, with a brief hiatus for further graduate study and/or rock'n'roll touring. In the process, I've encountered dozens and dozens of students who feel perfectly comfortable citing someone like a Kirk Cameron as a credible theological and philosophical source. So, with that out of the way:

I'd laugh, but I made the mistake of asking the 40-odd students in the university-level "Introduction to Philosophy" course I'm teaching this term to comment on the one element of the U.S. educational process/system they'd change if they could. A handful opined that "political correctness" (all used this phrase, independently of one another) had prevented them from being exposed to "both sides of the debate" in their high school biology classes. When pressed, each had eerily similar objections to the "mandated" teaching of "evolutionism" in high school science classes, and each cited (without footnotes or sources) "serious objections" involving the putative inaccuracy of radiocarbon dating as evidence of the the "political correctness" that was keeping them and their peers from being exposed to, again, "both sides of an ongoing debate." I was incredulous but, after commenting that the vast majority of competent, mainstream scientists (theistic and otherwise) accept that the earth is at minimum much, much older than Biblical literalists would like it to be, left it at: "You're in luck, unlike science class -- wherein instructors are duty-bound to teach the mainstream (i.e., duly tested and overwhelmingly accepted) scientific paradigms and theories, and for good reason -- you'll have ample opportunity to discuss, e.g., the argument from design, in our class insofar as it is a history of philosophy class and not a science class. The fact that David Hume (among many others) has already spoken to and largely refuted your arguments is largely beside the point as this now-resolved debate is crucial to understanding the evolution (ha) of ideas, so I'd encourage you to play 'angel's advocate' when we get to the relevant material." They seemed placated but not entirely convinced that I wasn't part of the humanistic menace they'd (apparently) been amply warned to expect in higher education. One even left an (again) un-sourced, un-footnoted, unattributed handout on said "inaccuracies" in carbon-dating methods on my desk the following day.

If I were a fresh-eyed novice out of graduate school, I'd be thrilled to have an opportunity to show these kids what they've been sheltered from, but these days it just ends up grinding me down and bumming me out. I can't compete with an entire sub-culture dedicated to fostering selective ignorance (e.g., modern biology and most history are somehow fundamentally flawed, yet thermodynamics is totally down with Jesus, yo, and the sparsest of evidence suffices to support one's pet views, while the slightest acknowledgement of any errors whatsoever on "the other side" is sufficient to disregard the entire process and/or conclusions as diabolical) and selective "critical" thinking.

These are the selfsame students who, in my experience, freely and vocally question the very existence of Socrates of Athens ("after all, he didn't write a single word of philosophy and only his friends bothered to write anything about him, and they likely made him sound nobler than he was" -- all said without a trace of self-awareness or irony) yet adamantly refuse to accept that the Gospels, say, were written in Greek and, at least in the case of "John's" Gospel, borrowed images and language and concepts from the very philosophical strands of thought that Saul (don't call him Paul) of Tarsus warned them (as they've told me!) to be on guard against. I've had students in past semesters recuse themselves entirely from the chapters on Epicureanism and Stoicism specifically on the grounds that the New Testament (presumably "Paul" and not, say, Yeshua Ben Yosef) urged them to be wary of "the philosophers" who would try to "confuse them with arguments" and "encourage skepticism." You know, God forbid.

Anyways, sorry for the venting. It's been a long day. Thanks for the link, I guess. I expect I'll see a Kirk Cameron e-mail forward from at least one of my students sooner or later so at least I'll be prepared for it. If you have a curious, skeptical, precocious, inquisitive child in your house tonight, don't forget to give them a big hug and remind them to never stop asking questions because that's what part of being human is all about.

You know, if you're doing it right.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:05 PM on September 24, 2009 [169 favorites]


GYOFB, JL!!!!111!!!
posted by joe lisboa at 6:06 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


only if he pronounces that symbol he took on as his name.

I suspect it's pronounced "prince."
posted by maxwelton at 6:11 PM on September 24, 2009


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

Look, I'm a Christian, too, but this just isn't true. I know plenty of people who were sincere believers at one point and are atheist/agnostic now.

Yep, total bullshit. I know it's a comforting belief, but I was among the sincere faithful, and now I am n


I'm talking heart knowledge, not head knowledge. There's a difference. (One I experienced myself, so there's that.)

I think a lot of these kids have head knowledge-and they think they believe just because they've been surrounded by it all their lives. They get to college and they have to find out what they believe for themselves. That's not a bad thing. God has no grandchildren; you have to wrestle it out for yourself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2009


OK, so his name was Richard "Dick" "Boner" Stabone?

I believe, when the show was in development, the working title was 'Growing Penis'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:15 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've had students in past semesters recuse themselves entirely from the chapters on Epicureanism and Stoicism specifically on the grounds that the New Testament...

This makes me sad. I hope the Papists made a good showing.
posted by jquinby at 6:16 PM on September 24, 2009


Daaamn, that's way longer than I expected it to be (with the obligatory "that's what s/he said!" intentionally omitted). Sorry for the e-deluge. That said, I refute evolutionism thus: "BANANA." Also.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:17 PM on September 24, 2009


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

Look, I'm a Christian, too, but this just isn't true


Fundies rely heavily on Revelation 3 here - lukewarm faith means you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. Questioning is for the ignorant and the damned - there is no middle ground, no picking and choosing; you either believe or you suffer.

Yeah, please keep distributing these books!
posted by goo at 6:20 PM on September 24, 2009


I think a lot of these kids have head knowledge

Stopping short of full carnal knowledge, because of their virginity pledges, they limit themselves to head knowledge for as long as they possibly can.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 6:22 PM on September 24, 2009 [9 favorites]


I have lost all the respect I ever had for Kirk Cameron. Every bit of it. And it was considerable. Oh yes.
posted by DU at 6:22 PM on September 24, 2009


I think a lot of these kids have head knowledge-and they think they believe just because they've been surrounded by it all their lives. They get to college and they have to find out what they believe for themselves.

Perhaps for some. But that's kind of a variation of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy, though, isn't it? I mean, I suspect that it's the case for many young folks. But many others are sincere in their faith, and not just because they are cultural Christians, yet later renounce their earlier beliefs when they gain a broader perspective/understanding/worldview.

I make a note of this because I've actually had Christians argue the whole head knowledge vs heart knowledge angle to me, saying that I must not have been a "real" believer, or maybe I just hadn't really considered what I believed to an acceptable degree, and so I can't really claim that I ever truly had faith. That essentially, I was no true Christian, since true Christians don't lose their faith.

To which argument, one can scarcely respond since it's based on a logical fallacy and the interlocutor often isn't really inclined to understand why it doesn't work as a legitimate argument.
posted by darkstar at 6:24 PM on September 24, 2009 [15 favorites]


I'm talking heart knowledge, not head knowledge. There's a difference. (One I experienced myself, so there's that.)

Right. You have true faith, heart knowledge, while those that have lost their faith never had true faith to begin with, they had false faith - namely head knowledge. Right.
posted by Bort at 6:26 PM on September 24, 2009


Anybody who favorites this comment and then later takes it away never really favorited me in the first place.

SLEEP NOW IN YOUR TORMENT
posted by Avenger at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Absolutely not, Andrew Koenig (son of Walter Koenig, Checkov on Star Trek) played Boner, and he is, by all accounts, a cool dude and not a mouth breathing creationist waterhead.

Actually, it's Joshua Andrew Koenig and this is interesting: . In the introduction to the story "Jeffty is Five" Ellison mentions that Josh is part of the inspiration for the character of Jeffty.

Oh wait, I was thinking Jeffty is Five was one of those child genius stories. It isn't and in any case he didn't really "inspire the character" so much as "exist as a misheard name".
posted by DU at 6:28 PM on September 24, 2009


Well, darkstar, a lot depends on one's definition of "faith."

In my case, it had to do with having what I believed, for lack of a better term, turn into reality. It had to do with developing a relationship with God in which the reality of His presence in my life couldn't be denied. For me at my point in life, it would take a deliberate walking away from what I already know and have experienced for me to lose my faith.

Having said that, as a child, I definitely did have moments of crisis of faith. But since my born again experience, those are all in the rear view mirror.

As to my definition of real belief-well, you can't really call it real belief UNTIL it has been tested, now can you? At least, I wouldn't. And even Jesus Himself underwent that, in his wilderness experience.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:31 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm talking heart knowledge, not head knowledge. There's a difference
I don't think that's really the case, St. Alia. The only thing that kept me clinging -- clinging desperately -- to Jesus for so many years was the profound, heartfelt understanding that I had to ignore my own lyin' eyes. I propped that desperation up with healthy dollops of head knowledge, eating my way through the whole buffet of apologetics and theology (words that neither Josh McDowell or Kirk Cameron should even be allowed to use, lest actual apologeticists and theologians be sullied).

And at the end of the day, like someone accepting the death of a loved one, I accepted that what I'd been told was 'heart knowledge' was just another word for 'subjective experience.' You know. The stuff that leads people astray because they don't stick with the truth.

I don't mean to derail here -- honestly -- but the "If you stop believing, you never REALLY believed, and you aren't really a Scotsman either" thread runs so deeply in the circles I was once a part of. At its heart, it's just another way of ostracizing those who don't keep the faith, and reassuring each other that it could never happen to us! after all, we're really believers.
posted by verb at 6:33 PM on September 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


St. Alia: I just received two messages from you re: your son's interest in philosophy doctoral programs, but I can't reply since you've blocked me on MeMail. I'd be happy to reply in good faith (ha!) if you elect to unblock me and/or send me an e-mail address. I didn't want you to think I was just ignoring you. I know we've expressed our theological and political differences in the Blue, but encouraging students to study philosophy is near and dear to me so I'd be happy to offer my two cents, such as they are. Peace.
posted by joe lisboa at 6:34 PM on September 24, 2009


This is completely fair. The correct response is to distribute copies of a 'corrected' Bible in equal numbers.

Did you watch the rebuttal video? She lays this idea out in a very entertaining fashion.
posted by dubitable at 6:36 PM on September 24, 2009


St. Alia, the inescapable implication of your explanation is that

1) People who have lost their faith probably have a different definition of the term than you, and

2) That people who have lost their faith never had a strong sense of God's presence in their lives, and

3) That people who have lost their faith never survived having had it truly tested.


All three of these assumptions/implications are tailor made to make it easier for you to dismiss apostates as never having had "real" faith in God. But that's the very nature of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy. The term is defined in such a way that the observed evidence is self-confirming of the assumptions implicit in the definition.

But in my case, none of these assumptions are accurate, nor are they accurate for other ex-Christians I know who had a deep sense of a very vibrant walks with God but have since renounced their faith.
posted by darkstar at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Where's the Mickey Mouse Protection Act when you need it?
posted by Joe Beese at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2009


As to my definition of real belief-well, you can't really call it real belief UNTIL it has been tested, now can you?
To clarify, I was born again. I spoke in tongues. I prayed. I experienced the presence of almighty God. I preached. I shared the gospel. I wrote. I wept for the lost. I wept for friends who died as believers, and those who died renouncing God. I comforted those who experienced the same.

If you want to say that I was a liar, Alia, that's fine. If you want to say that I deceived myself, fine. I understand that you need to believe that, to know that you are safe from becoming me.

I write this response to let those who experience that ostracism -- the bite of being told, 'You are no longer a believer -- so you were never one of us at all' -- if any of you happen to be reading, please know that you are not crazy and alone. Others have experienced those same things and, yet, left their faith behind. It's okay.

I believe you.
posted by verb at 6:38 PM on September 24, 2009 [56 favorites]


I think a lot of these kids have head knowledge-and they think they believe just because they've been surrounded by it all their lives. They get to college and they have to find out what they believe for themselves.

I'm genuinely stumped by what you mean when you use the following terms:

knowledge
faith
belief
thinking
truth

Because you seem to not be using them in a way that makes sense.
posted by empath at 6:39 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


she might have been his cousin but he totally loved his wife and his daughter.
posted by djduckie at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2009


Anyone remember the episode where Boner had to put his name in his underwear because he was going to camp? Heh.

I didn't lose my faith when I went to college -- it took me longer than that. But then again, I remember being about seven and praying the rapture wouldn't come because I didn't want to leave earth just yet, so maybe my faith was shakier than most.
posted by sugarfish at 6:41 PM on September 24, 2009


(as soon as I can figure out how to unblock ya I will...don't even remember doing it in the first place!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:42 PM on September 24, 2009


St. Alia of the Bunnies: Having said that, as a child, I definitely did have moments of crisis of faith. But since my born again experience, those are all in the rear view mirror.

I believe both Kierkegaard and C.S. Lewis experienced crises of faith well into the later years of their spiritual lives. And I personally don't think so much of myself as to suggest that they weren't true Christians because of it.

Also, I've said it here before, but I'll say it again, the opposite of faith is not doubt, but certainty.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:42 PM on September 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


But more to the point, I find it a bit laughable that Cameron, et al., are going back to do battle with a 150 year old text, when the past 150 years has advanced the understanding of Darwin's hypotheses far, far beyond where he was able to take them.

That, in essence, they're having to dig up a corpse to fight, since they can't stand up against the living, vibrant and growing body evidence of the past 150 years of scientific inquiry.
posted by darkstar at 6:43 PM on September 24, 2009 [31 favorites]


Well, the whole point of me even responding in this thread is that I think it's silly to fear reading a book such as Origin of Species lest one's faith land in the crapper.

I mean, either God is real or He isn't, and if you want to find him Darwin can't stand in your way. I don't think telling people not to think is the way to go. I personally am not a believer in classical evolution, but I don't necessarily swallow the explanations that most creationists give either. My God is bigger than all that, and I'm not afraid of science-but then I might not necessarily draw the same conclusions from it as some folks. :-)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2009


I write this response to let those who experience that ostracism -- the bite of being told, 'You are no longer a believer -- so you were never one of us at all' -- if any of you happen to be reading, please know that you are not crazy and alone. Others have experienced those same things and, yet, left their faith behind. It's okay.

Amen.
posted by darkstar at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Simple English Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Kirk Cameron

How appropriate.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:45 PM on September 24, 2009


As to the were-you-or weren't you in regards to faith, better minds than mine have argued those points ad nauseum....I suspect none of us will truly know the answer to that one here in this life. I just happen to be a little more to the Calvinist side of the line-and I also see salvation as a supernatural act, not simply a choice. But again, reams of books have been written pro and con on this so there's nothing I can add to that particular conversation.

I just think that I have a bit of a disagreement with Mr. Cameron on strategy and tactics.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:51 PM on September 24, 2009


I don't at all agree with Kirk Cameron, and I'm astounded that some of my sons' friends actually think the earth is only a few thousand years old, and it's really frustrating...but I don't, *given what he believes* disrespect what Cameron is doing, since at least he is being consistent and putting his own money where his mouth is.

I can only hope that those who feel just as strongly that our youth need to be taught actual facts and science and the rest step up and make a similar commitment.

joe lisboa, I hope my children continue to learn from teachers like you.
posted by misha at 6:54 PM on September 24, 2009


I just happen to be a little more to the Calvinist side of the line-and I also see salvation as a supernatural act, not simply a choice.
Indeed. Just remember -- I knew, as surely as you do, that I was one of the elect. Not because I thought I was good, but because I had experienced His saving grace, and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

I don't want it to be a pile-on, though. Your original point, as you clarified it, is a good one. If reading a copy of The Origin of the Species is enough to destroy someone's faith, it was a pretty useless faith to begin with.
posted by verb at 6:55 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I can only hope that those who feel just as strongly that our youth need to be taught actual facts and science and the rest step up and make a similar commitment.

Indeed. This is exactly why I left the missions field to become a science teacher.
posted by darkstar at 6:56 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If I was to have an atheist bible, it would not be Darwin's. It would be Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". After reading this book, I was convinced that God didn't exist - or rather that, it was not necessary to believe in God in order to understand how life developed from simple organisms to us.
posted by robotot at 7:24 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I personally love that fact that xtianity is now a religion most vocally defended by undereducated trash with no understanding of, well, anything. This is the downward spiral and it makes smile. I love that its practically a cult that speaks in codewords and brainwashes children. I love that these people openly use terms like "heart knowledge" and believe in miracles, man and dinosaur living togther, educational conspiracies, and a young earth! Cant you hear my laughter? The whole shebang is collapsing faster than I imagined. So long, enjoy the massive marginalization you deserve.


*munches popcorn and enjoys the show*
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:25 PM on September 24, 2009 [16 favorites]


*munches popcorn and enjoys the show* -- posted by damn dirty ape

Eponyevolutionistic!
posted by ericb at 7:26 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


damn dirty ape: I love that these people openly use terms like "heart knowledge" and believe in miracles, man and dinosaur living togther, educational conspiracies, and a young earth! Cant you hear my laughter?

Posted in a thread shared by Pater Aletheias.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


damn dirty ape: What will he find out there, Doctor?
posted by ericb at 7:30 PM on September 24, 2009


damn dirty ape, even the Bible teaches that the foolish are there to shame the strong.

There's a lot more to reality than what our five senses can communicate to us. If you don't believe me, ask a theoretical physicist.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:37 PM on September 24, 2009


...and the work of correcting the Bible has already been done.

Not to mention
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 7:40 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


As to the were-you-or weren't you in regards to faith, better minds than mine have argued those points ad nauseum....I suspect none of us will truly know the answer to that one here in this life.

How ironic that you reject what better minds than yours tell you about science.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:44 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Creationist stupidity aside, a strong (and direct) correlation has been made between certain aspects of the theory of Evolution and seminal Nazi ideology. The simplistic way to put it is, the notion of Survival of the Fittest justifies annihilation of those seen to be less fit.

And this is the problem. That particular notion of the Survival of the Fittest really has nothing to do with evolution. It's a soundbite description of a complex theory that isn't even from Darwin's own pen, and the literal rather than metaphorical, environmentally derived interpretation of 'fitness' renders it inconsistent with the actual theory as expressed.

The simplistic way to put this is, a strong (and direct) correlation has been made between misunderstandings of the theory of Evolution and eugenics.
posted by Sparx at 7:47 PM on September 24, 2009 [6 favorites]


dga: Ray Comfort is not Boner.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 PM on September 24, 2009


(also, Kirk Cameron would like you to know that he is no longer best friends with Boner)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:49 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


darkstar: But that's kind of a variation of the "No True Scotsman" fallacy

verb: ...but the "If you stop believing, you never REALLY believed, and you aren't really a Scotsman either" thread runs so deeply in the circles I was once a part of.

'No True Scotsman' Logical Fallacy
posted by ericb at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2009


I'm talking heart knowledge, not head knowledge. There's a difference. (One I experienced myself, so there's that.)

This is what you take when you want to lie to yourself.
posted by xmutex at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can we at least agree he is a Boner? A big purpley, veiny, leaky one.
posted by dgaicun at 7:51 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shit, now everyone's gonna think my overlong screed is just part of dgaicun's flameout / performance art. Guess I'll have half of whatever he's having, provided someone's safely escorted me from the keyboard first.
posted by joe lisboa at 7:56 PM on September 24, 2009


Huh, watching Cameron's ridiculous video... I'm actually kind of relieved.

To explain, Intelligent Design has a fighting chance because it clouds its creationistidiotic views in lying doublespeak. At least this guy is clearly totally insane and batshitrightwing, so people can identify him, and disregard him as such.
posted by tmcw at 8:10 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


U.S. deal evolves for Darwin biopic "Creation"
posted by homunculus at 8:18 PM on September 24, 2009


[Gigantic fucking copy/paste removed. If you want to stick it on a wiki somewhere or something and link to that, fine, but you're just making a mess of the thread by posting it straight in.]
posted by cortex at 8:19 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shit, now everyone's gonna think my overlong screed is just part of dgaicun's flameout / performance art.

Thank you to the moderators for cleaning up dgaicun's whacking-cracking posts!
posted by ericb at 8:20 PM on September 24, 2009


Let us appreciate cortex's moderating efforts especially as he traverses this 'Great Nation of Ours!'
posted by ericb at 8:22 PM on September 24, 2009


Well, I gamely tried to read dgaicun's post, at least up until it started talking about the analogy of the likelihood of "this book having accidentally assembled itself, with ink falling from the sky, etc."

That's a variation on Paley's Watchmaker Analogy, an argument that's already been debunked so many times and so ably - David Hume destroyed the argument nearly two generations before Paley made it - that to see it pop up again, zombie-like, is an indication that Cameron and his ilk are not even interested in arguing in good faith. Instead, they're engaged in some kind of kabuki for the benefit of their subculture.
posted by darkstar at 8:22 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


And yes, David Hume was a true Scotsman!
posted by darkstar at 8:24 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


Instead, they're engaged in some kind of kabuki for the benefit of their subculture.
This, again. It's exactly what I've tried to explain to friends who are baffled by this sort of thing. It's a weird parody of evangelism intended not to convince those being preached to, but to reassure those doing the preaching.
posted by verb at 8:25 PM on September 24, 2009 [4 favorites]


Dude, way to burn out my scroll wheel.
posted by elizardbits at 8:28 PM on September 24, 2009


From the WP article:
In situations where the subject's status is previously determined by specific behaviors, the fallacy does not apply. For example, it is perfectly justified to say, "No true vegetarian eats meat," because not eating meat is the single thing that precisely defines a person as a vegetarian.
If part of your definition of "Christian" is someone whose faith is strong enough it cannot waver, is it still a fallacy? Obviously you can't logically hold this view and still worry about Origin of the Species, but Alia claims to not be threatened by the material. I think the distinction is flawed, I'm just not sure it's a fallacy as such, owing to the wildly differing opinions of what a Christian is that exist before you even get into this argument. I imagine a lot of self-identified Christians believe their faith is unassailable.
posted by cj_ at 8:33 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, what's the character limit on a single comment?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:34 PM on September 24, 2009


I mean, either God is real or He isn't, and if you want to find him Darwin can't stand in your way.

Carl Sagan (the focus of a current FPP):
"The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard, who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by 'God' one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying ... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity." *

"Some people think God is an outsized, light-skinned male with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere up there in the sky, busily tallying the fall of every sparrow. Others—for example Baruch Spinoza and Albert Einstein—considered God to be essentially the sum total of the physical laws which describe the universe. I do not know of any compelling evidence for anthropomorphic patriarchs controlling human destiny from some hidden celestial vantage point, but it would be madness to deny the existence of physical laws." *

posted by ericb at 8:35 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


This thread just devolved. It's a miracle!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:38 PM on September 24, 2009


I quite like the idea of tested faith.

For example, if I walk outside, and view a few early fall leaves fall from the trees, it reinforces my belief in gravity. Not really faith though, is it? I mean, this is just evidence-based observation-grounded belief.

But when I know -- with my heart -- that I can make people's heads explode just by looking at them really hard... well, it hasn't worked so far, but I mean it would be faith if there was any evidence for it whatsoever.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:41 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


wouldn't, rather. drat.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 8:42 PM on September 24, 2009


It's a good point, cj_. The problem lies in the doctrine that you can be "assured of your salvation". That is, if you have confessed with your mouth and believe in your heart, you can be sure that you're a real Christian and that you're saved.

The rub comes when someone who sincerely believes they are thus "saved" - a true Christian - later renounces the faith. It points out the fact that you can't really be assured of anything. Because even if you profoundly believe, profoundly have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, profoundly and sincerely walk with God and sense his presence, you may still become an apostate in the future.

It means that there's really no such thing as being "assured" of anything because it's only at the end of your life, in retrospect, that you can tell whether you met the definition of "true Christian" by not having renounced your faith at some time previously.

As someone pointed out above, it's a pretty shoddy faith if you can believe in God strongly and sincerely for years - and have validations from fellow believers of your spirit-filled walk with the Lord - yet it is only after the fact that you can know if you're actually a "real Christian". Hence, the definition is one that is an ad hoc description that fallaciously reinforces certain tautological assumptions, just as the No True Scotsman fallacy does.
posted by darkstar at 8:46 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


OK, let's try it like this. The 50 page introduction which is the subject of this post was originally online in PDF format. This version has since been redacted and deleted from the Internet because its positions on Darwin's racism, sexism and responsibility for Nazism were apparently too stupid even for Ray Comfort to feel comfortable promulgating. This is not the version that will be published in November (which will allegedly attenuate these claims, and be put up online shortly), and it is currently reproduced nowhere else on the Internet. The only place it currently exists is in this Google cache which will eventually disappear.

I tried to put the text in this thread and it got deleted, so if no one else reproduces it anywhere before the cache expires, The Stupid might go down the memory hole forever... which, I guess, might alternately be judged a good or bad thing, depending on the way you look at it.
posted by dgaicun at 8:51 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


If part of your definition of "Christian" is someone whose faith is strong enough it cannot waver, is it still a fallacy? Obviously you can't logically hold this view and still worry about Origin of the Species, but Alia claims to not be threatened by the material.
Ultimately, these are two separate questions. "My faith is not threatened by X," "Peoples' faith should not be threatened by X," and "People who lose faith never had faith at all" are three completely separate propositions. The first is a straightforward subjective statement. The second is ultimately about the intersection of theology and science, and the third is very specifically about certain church doctrines about apostasy.
I think the distinction is flawed, I'm just not sure it's a fallacy as such, owing to the wildly differing opinions of what a Christian is that exist before you even get into this argument. I imagine a lot of self-identified Christians believe their faith is unassailable.
A fair point. Alia herself has said she tends towards a more Calvinist reading of 'What is a Christian' -- the strict reformed/calvinist definition of the term is essentially a tautology. The double-edged sword, of course, is that no Christians know they are saved until they die. Under this framework, Alia has no idea whether she is a Christian or not -- she may have a subjective belief that she is, but so did I. The tautological tar-baby is sticky indeed.
posted by verb at 8:54 PM on September 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


I used to have faith in those... whatchamacalits... stick insects? But then I saw one and I'm like no, those are real.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:06 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


The closest I ever came to becoming a believer was in college, fuck you very much Mr. Cameron.

Thing is, I grew up with no religion. So while my college was about as liberal as they come, something as basic as an introduction to Christianity course was (ahem) a revelation to me.
posted by bardic at 9:10 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Comfort's page, which no longer contains the PDF introduction, notes that "An updated Introduction will be available soon," with a little PDF graphic, indicating the original link will soon be replaced.

Comfort further notes the kinds of changes to be expected in the "updated" version:
*Thanks to good advice from Atheists on my blog (and from others), the 50-page Introduction will address Darwin's "racism"--and reveal how he was truly a gentle-man who was adamantly against slavery.

*It will also qualify his apparent degeneration of women, and the fact that his moral character is irrelevant to the Theory of Evolution, just as the Theory of Relativity should stand on its own merits, and not on the morality of Albert Einstein.

*I will also make it clear that Hitler's attraction to the theory is also irrelevant to whether or not it's true. I want this Introduction to be fair-minded, free from prejudice against Darwin, with no straw men or quote-mining.
posted by dgaicun at 9:12 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I added a quick and dirty copypaste of the google cache of the pdf to the wiki if people want to refer to it. It could use some cleaning up.
posted by jessamyn at 9:27 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dgaicun, have you never heard of webhosting? That's the way that content generally gets put on the web.

Feel free to upload the file to your own website.
posted by empath at 9:31 PM on September 24, 2009


> At its heart, it's just another way of ostracizing those who don't keep the faith, and reassuring each other that it could never happen to us! after all, we're really believers.

So it's kind of like that scene in Bambi where all the boy animals keep getting lured away by girls and the ones left behind* get more and more vocal about their determination to not stray?

* see what I did there?
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:39 PM on September 24, 2009


Bookplate
posted by pompomtom at 9:42 PM on September 24, 2009


> "I love how creationists like Kirk Cameron insist that there's a link between those who support the theory/fact of evolution and atheism. As if understanding science and believing in a deity are mutually exclusive."

If a Venn diagram existed of these two groups, the supporters of the theory of evolution and atheists, I'd bet that the overlap would leave only slivers at each end. Anyone who "understands" science and worships a deity is terribly conflicted and understands a great deal about neither. Faith or reason, pick one.

Last semester a bright outspoken kid in my molecular biology lab was talking about his youth pastor and how the pastor was really energetic and made worship more fun than one might expect. I asked him simply "How do you reconcile your course of study with your beliefs?" He couldn't do it. Like the carbon dating pamphlet Joe Lisboa wrote about, he went off the wall with uncited claims ... "amino-acids weren't synthesized in early earth conditions, and the Miller-Urey experiment had been disproved" ... "mutations don't cause speciation" ... "chromosome 2 in humans wasn't fused from 2p and 2q in apes." Obviously in a molecular biology lab, he got grilled, and never managed to reconcile a single point. Had he taken a step back and said something along the lines of "While I may be a molecular biology major, I use the bible for moral guidance" everything would have been moot, but he tried to undermine not only our education, but his, with every word that came out of his mouth. It left me wondering if he had ever given the relationship between biology and christianity any thought at all. I don't think he had, and I don't think anyone who claims to have an understanding of both does either.
posted by clearly at 9:43 PM on September 24, 2009 [7 favorites]


Anyone who "understands" science and worships a deity is terribly conflicted and understands a great deal about neither. Faith or reason, pick one.

I am not a believer any longer, haven't been for a long time, but I think this is an unfair statement. There are plenty of scientists who find church involvement personally beneficial. Drawing a strict dividing line may help in your mind, but it is pretty pretentious to assume that you understand how everyone's psyche functions.
posted by hippybear at 9:51 PM on September 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


Anyone who "understands" science and worships a deity is terribly conflicted and understands a great deal about neither. Faith or reason, pick one.

A great many good scientists have also been religious. It is a mistake to conflate unerring belief in some narrow construct like literal creationism with the much broader and more nuanced question of faith in general, and friends of science do the cause of reason no service by pushing that conflation thoughtlessly into this sort of argument.

The conflict between faith and reason is not a simple one and certainly it exists and has made the professional and spiritual lives of any number of scientists more complicated over the years, but the two can and have coexisted.
posted by cortex at 9:54 PM on September 24, 2009 [21 favorites]


I am not a believer any longer, haven't been for a long time, but I think this is an unfair statement. There are plenty of scientists who find church involvement personally beneficial.
Agreed. Certainly, there are strains of biblical literalism that are incompatible with a reasonable understanding of science. And those strains of biblical literalism are certainly some of the highly vocal, highly visible ones in our nation's public discourse.
posted by verb at 9:59 PM on September 24, 2009


BTW, Salman Khan has begun doing a Youtube playlist on biology which include a discussion on evolution (which I haven,t heard yet).
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 10:14 PM on September 24, 2009


A scientist can believe the most pseudoscientific things imaginable and still practice good science. Isaac Newton and Alfred Russell Wallace -- both grossly superstitious thinkers as well as top scientific innovators -- are good examples.

Belief in religion requires pseudoscientific beliefs. No amount of populist obfuscating changes that. If a scientist is religious, then he supports a pseudoscience. He can be the best scientist in the world at whatever his specialty is, and that doesn't change the fact that he is likewise supporting a superstition that contradicts scientific fact.

I don't care if this position somehow undermines anti-creationist efforts and coalitional strength, it is a fact. It is a fact that religion is pseudoscience.

Theisitic evolution is still just the weakest form of Creationist pseudoscience. It's less pseudoscienfic than Intelligent Design, but so what? ID is less pseudoscientific than Young Earth Creationism -- it's still all pseudoscience.
posted by dgaicun at 10:37 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The conflict between faith and reason is not a simple one and certainly it exists and has made the professional and spiritual lives of any number of scientists philosophers more complicated possible over the years, but the two can and have coexisted.

FTFM.

(Fixed That For Me.)
posted by joe lisboa at 11:26 PM on September 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


Belief in religion requires pseudoscientific beliefs.

dgaicun, you are casting a pretty wide net by saying that and you seem to be imposing a type of realism or objectivism. Would you apply what you said to Buddhism?
posted by P.o.B. at 11:30 PM on September 24, 2009


dgaicun: "Belief in religion requires pseudoscientific beliefs."

I agree. But you know what else is a pseudoscientific belief? That science can explain everything about nature. Notably, that it can explain the existence of the universe and the nature of human consciousness.

I cannot conceive of a scientific way to address the former; any force determined to have created the universe simply shifts the burden to explaining the existence of that force.

As for the latter, I think we simply lack the vocabulary to define the term "consciousness" in a scientific context. Human behavior may well be measurable as a (crushingly complex) application of low-level biology, chemistry, and physics. However, our "self" -- or "soul" if you like -- is something that we all presumably believe in but which we have not been able to quantify within any existing scientific discipline.

These seem, to me at least, to be fundamental breaks with science as we currently define the term. Maybe someday we'll figure them out, but to assume we will is just as pseudoscientific as the theory of an ethereal plane with a omnipotent entity that created the universe and attaches our souls to our physical forms.

I'd venture to say that there's a healthy population of scientists who believe religious explanations for these two questions, and are willing to accept religious explanations for phenomena not currently explained by science, but tend to accept the scientific explanations where available. Yes, this means that they have "pseudoscientific beliefs", but it's not a failing on their part.

The only alternative available to them is to be passively agnostic... to simply say "I don't know" to all these questions (note that to be capital-"A" Agnostic and assert that they are also unknowable is back to making unfounded assumptions).

Personally, I would be more surprised by a scientist who says "I don't know" to such a fundamental question and leaves the discussion at that than one who subscribes to a pseudoscientific (but not contrascientific) belief based on faith.
posted by Riki tiki at 11:33 PM on September 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


the problem with all the incontrovertible proof out there that God is not real is that it's not beyond reason that an all-powerful god could have created that proof, precisely to create the illusion that He/She/It/Them does not exist.

I learned this from a short story I read when I was a kid. I think. Or maybe it's something someone said on an acid trip.
posted by philip-random at 11:35 PM on September 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I prefer to think of religion as an evolutionary requirement for the promulgation of the human species.

Allow me to indulge:
The human brain is quite limited in it's capacity to understand certain concepts and realities. If you were really to fully understand the universe in it's entirety, you're brain would melt. It's not strong enough. It's made of meat and the cooling mechanisms are just too slow to handle the data load. So the brain has this thing in it, where it can fabricate a "shield" for itself, to prevent an overload. There's also this part of the brain that allows it to take non-physical concepts and store them as information. Things like emotions, and being able to visualize something before it happens (eg; I'm going to throw this rock at that bird and hit it but it's going to move, so I'm going to anticipate it moving and throw the rock where it will be. That's a bone-headed simple one. It can get as complicated as music or astrophysics if you want). This, combined with several other parts of the brains functions, leads to a very messy and complicated thing that people like to call the psyche. Every psyche is similar, but every psyche is different, since, well, we're all different people. But they are all similar enough to allow the passing of information from generation to generation. Over time, this developed into things we take for granted, like an alphabet, and writing, and mathematics. Sadly, it got twisted around and some peoples fabrications were used to control other people, and overload them, since, well, not everyone's brain works the same way exactly (I mean, it is just a pile of fat and mush for the most part) and thus, you have some fiction getting mixed in with the facts that get passed on down the lineage. So, we go from a system to allow humans to communicate "bang rocks together to make spark" to "Jesus/Alla/Yaweh loves you if you believe enough". Sort of. I think.

At least that's my take on it.
posted by daq at 11:46 PM on September 24, 2009


Sorry, I tried to compress it. Otherwise it would have been a whole lot longer. I hate my brain sometimes. My compression algorithm is turned up way too high these days.
posted by daq at 11:49 PM on September 24, 2009


How on earth did Growing Pains get away with a character named Boner?

I always thought that Growing Pains was, at least from time to time, a rather subversive show. The Cosby Show was corny and, uh...whitebread...in comparison.
posted by zardoz at 12:29 AM on September 25, 2009


I can only hope that those who feel just as strongly that our youth need to be taught actual facts and science and the rest step up and make a similar commitment.

Given Sir Richard Attenborough routinely receives death threats, or the general abuse heaped upon MeFi's favourite atheist hate-figure, it doesn't appear there's a lot of encouragement to do so. At best you'll be abused by the whackos, and at worst by self-styled liberals as well.
posted by rodgerd at 12:30 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you can't hang on to your faith you never really had it to begin with.

You're not much of a Christian if you bear false witness, whether you are bearing false witness about Darwin or even about your own fellow Christians.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:36 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sir Richard Attenborough routinely receives death threats

That's taking film criticism a bit too far. I quite enjoyed his film about Charlie Chaplin.

Or do you mean his brother David?
posted by Grangousier at 2:02 AM on September 25, 2009


If I was to have an atheist bible, it would not be Darwin's. It would be Daniel Dennett's "Darwin's Dangerous Idea". After reading this book, I was convinced that God didn't exist - or rather that, it was not necessary to believe in God in order to understand how life developed from simple organisms to us.

The one that did it for me was, predictably, 'The Selfish Gene'. I didn't believe in a Christian God, but I did have vague feeling there was something magical, mysterious and purposeful about the universe. This idea was not so much disproved by 'The Selfish Gene' as torched into oblivion. I'm very grateful for the freedom that has given me.

However, 'The Selfish Gene' is still not my bible, 'Wuthering Heights' is.
posted by Summer at 2:07 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you don't believe me, ask a theoretical physicist.

Yeah, so I asked one? And she said "don't be so fucking stupid - that that sky fairy shit and fuck off already". So there you go.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:13 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


It is a mistake to conflate unerring belief in some narrow construct like literal creationism with the much broader and more nuanced question of faith in general, and friends of science do the cause of reason no service by pushing that conflation thoughtlessly into this sort of argument.

But this is the thread where Kirk Cameron has taken a narrow construct like Origin of Species, the literal evolution of life and conflated it with the righteousness of Christianity.

I do not mean to attack the spiritual lives of those people who's faith cannot be so easily defined as by a literal interpretation of the Bible, but in this case I feel completely justified in saying that trying to reconcile the Theory of Evolution with Genesis as far as Christianity is concerned leaves me with no other choice but atheism.

Surely there is room alongside scientific pursuit for a rich spiritual life. I do not dispute this.
posted by clearly at 4:34 AM on September 25, 2009


This is almost as bad as that time Mike Seaver took two girls to the same prom!
posted by orme at 5:37 AM on September 25, 2009


'We have a situation in our country where young people are entering college with a belief in God and exiting with that faith being stripped and shredded.

Mission Accomplished!
posted by R. Mutt at 5:50 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I'm perfectly happy with the 1st edition facsimile I have had on my shelf since my undergrad days. I don't need a new copy.

Well, perhaps an anniversary edition would be nice, as my copy is a paperback... but I'll pay for a real copy before I'll accept a free adulterated one. Then I can give the paperback to my 4-month old and begin his "atheist indoctrination" early.

Personally I like my wife's defense of evolution better than anything I've ever heard. She had such a struggle with college intro biology that she gave up on it - the class totally put her off any idea of pursuing science and she ended up an art major instead. Yet she still maintains that if someone like her (who barely managed to pass the class) can understand the evidence for evolution, what the hell can possibly be wrong with it?
posted by caution live frogs at 6:09 AM on September 25, 2009


However, 'The Selfish Gene' is still not my bible, 'Wuthering Heights' is.

Uh-oh. Then you might want to stay away from this unless you're ready for a crusade.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:32 AM on September 25, 2009


These seem, to me at least, to be fundamental breaks with science as we currently define the term. Maybe someday we'll figure them out, but to assume we will is just as pseudoscientific as the theory of an ethereal plane with a omnipotent entity that created the universe and attaches our souls to our physical forms.

Because science, which so far has proven the most reliable method of acquiring verifiable knowledge about the world, has not yet answered certain questions, it's "pseudoscientific" to believe they're more likely to than believing in magic?

Why is the response to skepticism so often false equivalency?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 6:50 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


P.o.B.
*This is the part where I get Prince to do the soundtrack. He may also have a speaking part too, but only if he pronounces that symbol he took on as his name.

I always pronounce that symbol "dingbat".
posted by mike3k at 6:58 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


But this is the thread where Kirk Cameron has taken a narrow construct like Origin of Species, the literal evolution of life and conflated it with the righteousness of Christianity.

And? If what you're actually saying is that

"Kirk Cameron, who "understands" science and worships a deity, is terribly conflicted and understands a great deal about neither,"

then we are in glorious high-fiving agreement. But that's not what you said: you implied that faith and reason were fundamentally and unreconcilably in conflict, and that no true scientist could be a person of faith and vice versa. That has nothing to do with Kirk and his banana-fondling friend and everything to do with a general and, as a lot of folks in here are saying, flawed representation about the interaction between spiritual and scientific beliefs.

If your comment was just badly written and conveyed something other than what you meant, cool, clarify away and you have my apologies for coming on too strong in reply to what seemed like the argument of a flawed assertion. But you did not seem in that comment to be carefully addressing only some specific foolish outlier individuals so much as using Kirk and your "bright outspoken kid" as anecdotal proof that things neatly collapsed to your stark binary: "Faith or reason, pick one."
posted by cortex at 7:07 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


There's an archive of the html of Comfort & Cameron's thing here

"Comfort & Cameron" sounds like a pro wrestling tag team, possibly with a male-stripper gimmick

posted by jtron at 7:12 AM on September 25, 2009


"Comfort & Cameron" sounds like a pro wrestling tag team, possibly with a male-stripper gimmick

I was under the impression that all pro wrestling tag teams have a male-stripper gimmick.
posted by grubi at 7:25 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


jtron: "Comfort & Cameron" sounds like a pro wrestling tag team, possibly with a male-stripper gimmick

Sure but now I'm trying to figure out what my new 'Comfort & Cameron' cocktail should have in it.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:33 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Honestly, theist arguments seem to gradually become more sophisticated (Kirk Cameron excepted), or at least more detailed, and then suddenly we're back at this God of the Gaps crap. You've successfully argued for the Asking of Questions, not for *any* particular answer.

Personally, I would be more surprised by a scientist who says "I don't know" to such a fundamental question and leaves the discussion at that than one who subscribes to a pseudoscientific (but not contrascientific) belief based on faith.

Any scientist who isn't able to utter the words "I don't know" and resist filling in the gap with attractive fiction isn't particularly dedicated to his or her methods.

Here's the answer to your question about the nature of consciousness and the universe: jelly beans. That's right: jelly beans. Your beliefs on the subject have as much evidence as mine, so by your logic those answers are pretty much equal. You should incorporate the possibility of jelly beans into your world/religious view, or at least be tolerant of their place in the classroom. (make sure you bring enough for everyone)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:34 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


shakespeherian, it's a modified Manhattan with a broiled shrimp impaled on a tiny paper umbrella.
posted by Rat Spatula at 7:39 AM on September 25, 2009


1)No script
2)One camera
3)One room
4)Two actors: Kirk Cameron aaannnd...Tom Cruise
5)????*
6)PROFIT!


And a mattress.
posted by blucevalo at 7:53 AM on September 25, 2009


But that's not what you said: you implied that faith and reason were fundamentally and unreconcilably in conflict, and that no true scientist could be a person of faith and vice versa.

But clearly said this: "Surely there is room alongside scientific pursuit for a rich spiritual life. I do not dispute this."

I don't understand how that is saying that faith and reason are fundamentally and unreconcilably in conflict.
posted by blucevalo at 8:08 AM on September 25, 2009


Had his first comment said that instead of something very different from that, I wouldn't have been arguing with the first comment, though. Turtles all the way down. I'm cool with clarifying and elaborating, and can dig if it was poorly communicated the first time out, but the first time out is what I was responding to.
posted by cortex at 8:13 AM on September 25, 2009


Sure but now I'm trying to figure out what my new 'Comfort & Cameron' cocktail should have in it.

Southern Comfort, obviously; Banana Daiquiri, of course. The Cameron's a toughie, though. Maybe garnish with a chunk of Velveeta?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:19 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I believe in The God Of Skeptics, but he doesn't believe in himself.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Christ, now all I can think of is Kirk Cameron in a jester's outfit parading around a ren fair handing out foolscap treatises on the folly of Copernicus.
posted by shmegegge at 8:34 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I work in higher education. We had a student refuse to take our (very basic) biology class on the grounds that it conflicted with his faith. The class has nothing to do with evolution; it's about basic animal and plant structures and functions. These kids are being poisoned against all science.
posted by desjardins at 8:56 AM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I feel completely justified in saying that trying to reconcile the Theory of Evolution with Genesis as far as Christianity is concerned leaves me with no other choice but atheism.

I've related this anecdote before. When I was about 13, I suddenly "got" the theory of evolution and wasted no time in bringing it up with my Uncle Jimmy who was some kind of Jesuit educated Roman Catholic man of the cloth (a teacher). He listened for a while and then cut me short, saying, "If you can't see that the first verses of the Book of Genesis are more or less completely in agreement with the theory of evolution, then I sincerely fear for your lack of imagination."

About a year later, he was out for a walk on cold evening, stepped on some ice while crossing the street, slipped and smacked his head on the pavement. A few minutes later, an ambulance arrived, skidded on the same ice and ran over his head. I don't know what exactly this incident says about God + Evolution but it's always spoken volumes to me.

Sure but now I'm trying to figure out what my new 'Comfort & Cameron' cocktail should have in it.

Some variation on Southern Comfort + Cameron Brig scotch, no doubt. I'm sure it would be about as effective as that banana video at bringing mirth to my world.
posted by philip-random at 9:04 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm cool with clarifying and elaborating, and can dig if it was poorly communicated the first time out, but the first time out is what I was responding to.

Sorry, I was unaware that there had been a first comment that you were reacting to. My error.
posted by blucevalo at 9:13 AM on September 25, 2009


However, 'The Selfish Gene' is still not my bible, 'Wuthering Heights' is.

Uh-oh. Then you might want to stay away from this unless you're ready for a crusade.


Well, considering I wrote this (shameless self link), that crusade will definitely happen.
posted by Summer at 9:13 AM on September 25, 2009


Some variation on Southern Comfort + Cameron Brig scotch

A shot of each mixed into a big glass of banana liqueur, with three doses worth of ground-up ex-lax mixed in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:17 AM on September 25, 2009


GYOFB, JL!!!!111!!!

Please do.
posted by HumanComplex at 9:56 AM on September 25, 2009


What kind of hedonistic horrors went on at that Growings Pains set that turned this guy into a total thumper? Alan Thicke must have known how to party.
posted by stormpooper at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think it's fitting that someone involved in "debunking" evolution was involved with a show called Growing Pains. But it's OK, little '80s guy, not everyone evolves at the same rate. You'll get there eventually.
posted by staggering termagant at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2009


So long as he's not running for political office, I'm okay with him doing whatever he wants to do with his free time. He's not a real influencer.

I've seen reruns of Growing Pains. That was a nice show.
posted by anniecat at 10:34 AM on September 25, 2009


Michael: I know there's something out there, but I don't know if I wanna call it "God."
Michael: Okay, 'cause like, I believe in God...
Michael: Right.
Michael: ...but I don't know that I think God is some guy on a throne with a long white beard.
Michael: Right. Like to me, God is, like, it could be anything. It could be like...
Michael: Literally, it could be this table.
Michael: It could be — totally be this table. It is the table.
Michael: It's like I'm spiritual, but I'm not religious. Do you understand?
Michael: I totally...
Michael: It's like I can get off spiritually with the sunlight through trees.
Michael: Oh, my God...
posted by mubba at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist: Here's the answer to your question about the nature of consciousness and the universe: jelly beans. That's right: jelly beans. Your beliefs on the subject have as much evidence as mine, so by your logic those answers are pretty much equal. You should incorporate the possibility of jelly beans into your world/religious view, or at least be tolerant of their place in the classroom. (make sure you bring enough for everyone)

I'm not sure how much of this was intended as snark and how much you're presenting it as a counterpoint to my comment, so forgive me if I'm being oversensitive.

That's not even remotely fair. If you legitimately believe that jelly beans are the answer to life, the universe, and everything and it doesn't contradict more rational scientific explanations then fine. But nowhere in my comment did I say anything implying that people should be compelled to believe one or another pseudoscientific or unscientific explanation, and I definitely didn't imply that they deserve any place in a classroom except to the extent that they have provable influence on the subject at hand (such as history).

Any scientist who isn't able to utter the words "I don't know" and resist filling in the gap with attractive fiction isn't particularly dedicated to his or her methods.

Think about why that would be a bad idea in normal scientific practice. It's because following through on unfounded assumptions might lead you to erroneous results.

But the examples I gave above are not assumptions you "follow through on" in any meaningful sense. How the universe was originally created does not affect any scientific practice. Even the discipline it comes closest to, cosmology, can keep chasing the timeline backwards on the most rigorous of scientific merits while simultaneously asserting that the original origin was thanks to some bearded guy on a cloud eating jelly beans. Similarly, we can pursue the biological and psychological explanations for human behavior without ever brushing against the idea of a conscious self that perceives the world through our senses.

"Attractive fictions" are only a danger when they're relevant to the work you're doing. These particular fictions are never relevant. Thus, I don't think it's a failure as a scientist to accept them rather than face a fundamental unanswered question every day and not attempt to answer it.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2009


"Attractive fictions" are only a danger when they're relevant to the work you're doing.

Well I don't disagree with the counterpoints above, that one can make meaningful progress in science and believe in fairy tales, so long as they don't impinge on the work. My comment on dedication to methods was, I thought obviously, intending to apply the clear benefits of the scientific method to areas not necessarily impacting on the work being done. It's strange to me that someone can think "we need replicable results" to substantiate a theory, then put on a different hat and think "I wonder if God is going to make it rain today?" Do I think that makes him or her a bad scientist? It depends what you mean by the word. I think he or she can still produce good work.

I don't know how far we can go down this road, though, how many threads of this kind we can have, before people start taking seriously the notion that acceptance of attractive fictions are not corrosive to intellectual integrity generally. And of course part of the problem from a practical point of view is that (many) religious people seem unsatisfied with making claims about intrinsically unverifiable things. Two ways to deal with new evidence contrary to a belief is to pull back the borders of your theological explanations (perhaps through reinterpretation -- it was all a "metaphor"), or to steadfastly deny the superiority of the evidence (it's knowledge from your head, not your "heart"). I suppose a third way would be to start questioning premises which lead to eventually discredited claims, but that apperas to be expecting entirely too much.

"should be compelled to believe one or another" is a strawman.
You haven't answered the question why any particular fiction would be superior to any other. I don't agree with you that this is unimportant, or that it doesn't follow from what you are saying. You refuse to accept that, in the absence of evidence that favours one fiction over another, preferring any is an inferior position. It is.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:20 AM on September 25, 2009


But the examples I gave above are not assumptions you "follow through on" in any meaningful sense. How the universe was originally created does not affect any scientific practice. Even the discipline it comes closest to, cosmology, can keep chasing the timeline backwards on the most rigorous of scientific merits while simultaneously asserting that the original origin was thanks to some bearded guy on a cloud eating jelly beans. Similarly, we can pursue the biological and psychological explanations for human behavior without ever brushing against the idea of a conscious self that perceives the world through our senses.

As a slightly relevent point, I know a muslim astrophycisist. Her interpretation is that God created the universe in a "stand the rocket upright then light the blue touch-paper and stand well back" sort of way. God created the initial starting conditions, but everything since then (give or take the odd bit of divine inspiration in prophets) has been pure physics.

I don't understand how she reconciles the philosophies of faith ("believe this!") and science ("question everything!"), but on a practical level her religious beliefs don't come into any conflict with her work. I can't speak for her spiritual life, but she's a damn fine scientist.
posted by metaBugs at 11:32 AM on September 25, 2009


and believe in fairy tales

Look, regardless of what you believe, would it be possible to knock off the "fairy tales" and "invisible old guy in the sky" snark? It's condescending and rather insulting to those for whom faith is a part of their lives, even if you are absolutely convinced that anyone who believes in (a) god(s) is utterly off their rocker.

No one here in this thread is asking you to believe anything that they believe, and no one on the faith side of the argument (again, so far as this thread goes) is mocking those who don't believe, so it would be really, really great -- and very helpful to maintain a civil dialogue -- if you could check that shit at the door.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:47 AM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'm talking heart knowledge, not head knowledge. There's a difference.

Head knowldge: "Cogito, ergo sum."

Heart knowledge: PUMP THAT BLOOD DOGG YOU GOTTA ALWAYS P.T.B. PUMP THAT BLOOD OR THE HOST DIES PUMP IT OKAY NOW PUMP IT AGAIN PTB PTB PTB OH SHIT YOU FUCKER DON'T EAT CORN DOGS
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:48 AM on September 25, 2009 [36 favorites]


Anyone who "understands" science and worships a deity is terribly conflicted and understands a great deal about neither. Faith or reason, pick one.

Sorry but I think this is a false dichotomy. It assumes that any person with spiritual faith is adhering to a mindset such as one that requires belief in the literal truth of a scripture and is a mere dabbler with respect to science, rejecting evidence that conflicts with their beliefs. OR it assumes that any person who has gained more than armchair knowledge of scientific evidence for evolution (let's say), is fooling themself by insisting upon holding belief in a mythical sky-daddy (or sky-daddies, or turtles, or whatever).

Basically, if you're buying into the idea that science and faith are opposing sides of a coin and you have to pick one or the other, then your argument is no different than creationists who say exactly the same thing. And I don't consider creationists to be very reliable sources on, well, pretty much anything actually. The science things go in the science column (big bang, evolution, the entire physical world both visible and invisible) and the god things go in the god column (what happens after we die? etc.)

I don't look to god to explain science, and I don't look to science to explain god.
posted by contessa at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Durn Bronzefist: "You refuse to accept that, in the absence of evidence that favours one fiction over another, preferring any is an inferior position. It is."

How? I mean that literally: explain to me what difference it makes. If the question is presently unanswerable, and neither the question nor the answer has any relevance to our scientific pursuits, then what exactly is inferior about filling in the gap with a faith-based assumption other than that it's not to your personal taste?

I hear what you're saying about the other part, that most mainstream religions preach one or another thing that's not only unscientific but contrascientific. However, we're talking about scientists in particular and I'd venture to say, given a mutually exclusive choice between a religious explanation and a robust scientific explanation for the same phenomenon, that most religious scientists would choose the scientific explanation.
posted by Riki tiki at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2009


The funny thing is, college freshmen now won't even know who he is. Growing Pains went off the air when the current crop if incoming freshmen were two. (and I don't think it was ever heavily syndicated). The only acting he's done that is recent enough for people that young to remember would be, what, those Left Behind movies? (and odds are, if they saw them, they're already in agreement with him)

As it is, I'm 30 and barely remember the show. When I hear his name my first association is always "oh, that religious nut who was on that tv show whatsitcalled."

I don't really think he's still within the statute of limitations for banking on his former celebrity.
posted by Kellydamnit at 3:14 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


How? I mean that literally: explain to me what difference it makes. If the question is presently unanswerable, and neither the question nor the answer has any relevance to our scientific pursuits, then what exactly is inferior about filling in the gap with a faith-based assumption other than that it's not to your personal taste?

Well, those are two different questions. What difference does it make? To me, perhaps none. It doesn't keep me up at night. Though an influential population that has trouble critically evaluating (and understanding the importance of) evidence -- on global warming, terrorist attacks, sane public policy, etc., is a concern, and I'm not convinced that the War on Facts is entirely disconnected from the embrace of "heart" knowledge and all that goes with it. It's at the very least a cynical manipulation of an audience already accustomed to accepting matters on faith. I don't think that is an unfair characterization.

The second question, what is "inferior" about the position, is connected with the call for respect a little ways above. There's a reason for the Santa Claus comparisons (apart from a desire of some to piss people off) -- there is no non-arbitrary way of drawing a distinction between theology, folklore, and superstition. I've mentioned elsewhere the very real attempt to do so (in national taxation policies -- an attempt to come to grips with religious belief in a way that can be defined apart from: a) philosophical/moral beliefs, b) psychosis, and c) fraudulent manipulation of tax laws). It can't be done. We're not talking about extrapolation of existing theory -- this is not particle physics. We're not talking about firsthand evidence -- I haven't been to Brazil but I believe it's there. I treat these beliefs like I do any imagined person or event -- because they are absolutely on a par with them. Why is refraining from having "faith" that any one of an infinite number of imagined things exists superior to choosing one of them? I would think the answer is obvious, though it's handily obscured when we circle off an area of belief, call it "religious" and insist that it be shown respect (regardless of content otherwise), instead of putting it where it belongs, with all other possible but wholly imagined possibilities, including the seemingly absurd ones.

Apologies for the length. It's been a long week so I'm rambly.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2009 [5 favorites]


I scanned most of this thread and I didn't see Boner's full name: Richard Milhouse Stabone. Really. Or at least that's how I remember it.
posted by cropshy at 4:28 PM on September 25, 2009


If I understand you correctly, Durn, you are defending the passive agnostic position with an appeal to objectivity; "we don't know" is the only position supported by evidence and all others are unscientific assumptions.

But you're simultaneously making a reductio ad absurdum argument against mainstream religions. You're saying that by entertaining popular unscientific beliefs such as "God", we must similarly entertain "seemingly absurd" beliefs such as jelly beans (or the more common example, the Flying Spaghetti Monster).

That's where I feel your argument short-circuits though. By calling for us to compare the popular beliefs with the absurd ones, you are yourself relying on a subjective distinction (our sense of absurdity) to make your point.

I asked you "what difference does it make" for precisely this reason. I can agree with the call to objectivity... the problem for you is that unless the unscientific beliefs of scientists affect their practice of science, there is no objective difference between the two. Neither passive agnosticism nor unscientific belief (no matter how seemingly absurd) is superior or inferior to the other.
posted by Riki tiki at 4:39 PM on September 25, 2009


There's a reason for the Santa Claus comparisons -- there is no non-arbitrary way of drawing a distinction between theology, folklore, and superstition.

This is important. There's less global agreement about religion than about climate change. It is time for all religious people to finally clue in that 75% of the world population thinks you are wrong. Most of the world is not of your faith. While most of the world is aware of Christianity, most of the world is not Christian. And is not Muslim. And is not Hindu. And is not Buddhist.

In the minds of most of the world, you believe in Santa Claus.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2009 [7 favorites]


Don't talk shit about Santa Claus. He can read, you know!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:08 PM on September 25, 2009


While most of the world is aware of Christianity, most of the world is not Christian. And is not Muslim. And is not Hindu. And is not Buddhist.

fff, with due respect: what makes you think that people who say they believe there is a god are not also aware of this?

There's a bit too much of the knee-jerk "if you say there is a god you must be a typical American christian fundy who believes Genesis literally and thinks the only god in town is Jesus!" going on here.
posted by contessa at 5:29 PM on September 25, 2009


There's a bit too much of the knee-jerk "if you say there is a god you must be a typical American christian fundy who believes Genesis literally and thinks the only god in town is Jesus!" going on here

You just described me.

And I'm okay with that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:57 PM on September 25, 2009


Look, regardless of what you believe, would it be possible to knock off the "fairy tales" and "invisible old guy in the sky" snark? It's condescending and rather insulting to those for whom faith is a part of their lives

That's certainly part of the point. False beliefs should be treated as shameful and immoral. That's partly how social changes occur.

People should be free to practice and believe their religions, but that doesn't mean they should be exempt from judgment and criticism. (a comparison could be made to racist opinions, which are allowed but derogated.)

And if atheists are socially marginal, then their condescension shouldn't matter that much anyways. It's like a homeless guy shaming a rich man for "greed," or a fat girl shaming a skinny girl for "vanity". Boo hoo, I'm sure it really hurts.
posted by dgaicun at 6:26 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Screw that, dgaicun. I'm strictly talking about within the context of this thread on Metafilter. First of all, if you somehow feel you've proven to every person of faith who is participating in this discussion beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are practicing "false beliefs," well, um. No. You haven't. Not even close.

Secondly, no one has socially marginalized atheists in this discussion. No one. Not atheists, not agnostics, no. one.

People have, for the most part, been pretty freaking respectful, which, you know, is one of the things that makes Metafilter worth visiting. All I'm asking for here is a very basic return of that respect. I don't give a rat's ass what you believe; even if I think you're completely blinkered, I respect you enough as a contributing member of this site not to slag your beliefs, whatever they are with the jokey and facile shit we saw earlier re: fairy tales, Santa Claus, and jelly beans. Why it is so unthinkable for you -- and anyone else -- to extend this same very basic courtesy to people on this forum who -- non-existant God forbid! -- do not share your beliefs (or lack of), is incomprehensible.
posted by shiu mai baby at 6:45 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


if atheists are socially marginal

They're not on MeFi. Shaming and insulting people for their faith choices here actually has a totally different flavor than in the world at large. I'm fine, personally, with spirited debate but the "woo woo invisible sky monster" talk is pretty much not a great way to have a conversation here.
posted by jessamyn at 6:45 PM on September 25, 2009 [3 favorites]


They're not on MeFi. Shaming and insulting people for their faith choices here actually has a totally different flavor than in the world at large. I'm fine, personally, with spirited debate but the "woo woo invisible sky monster" talk is pretty much not a great way to have a conversation here.
This, again.
posted by verb at 7:12 PM on September 25, 2009


It doesn't happen only with religion. And that's largely because this is the internets, not face to face.

You might note that face to face, it's the religionists who are killing doctors and otherwise terrorizing the world. What goes on in MeFi and other progressive venues is harmless by comparison.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2009


You might note that face to face, it's the religionists who are killing doctors and otherwise terrorizing the world. What goes on in MeFi and other progressive venues is harmless by comparison.
That doesn't make straw-man mockery of them here any more conducive to interesting and engaging discussion, though. If what we're looking for is quality conversation and interesting content, it is harmful.
posted by verb at 7:51 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


You might note that face to face, it's the religionists who are killing doctors and otherwise terrorizing the world.

Right, because atheists never murder people.
posted by empath at 7:56 PM on September 25, 2009


Shaming and insulting people for their faith choices here actually has a totally different flavor than in the world at large.

At the same time a lot of Christians live in a bubble where they don't ever hear contrarian views.
posted by empath at 7:58 PM on September 25, 2009


At the same time a lot of Christians live in a bubble where they don't ever hear contrarian views.

And at the same time, a lot of people make faith choices that have nothing whatsoever to do with any variety of Christianity. Do they live in a bubble too?
posted by contessa at 8:17 PM on September 25, 2009


At the same time a lot of Christians live in a bubble where they don't ever hear contrarian views

Not the ones here.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


I hate "Back off, man. I'm a scientist" threads.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:53 PM on September 25, 2009


If I understand you correctly, Durn, you are defending the passive agnostic position with an appeal to objectivity; "we don't know" is the only position supported by evidence and all others are unscientific assumptions.

Yes.

By calling for us to compare the popular beliefs with the absurd ones, you are yourself relying on a subjective distinction (our sense of absurdity) to make your point.

No. The reductio argument is tempting, I admit. Some MeFite awhile ago made a statement that stuck with me. He or she said something along the lines of "I refuse to remain agnostic about the existence of flying pigs." Now you can shrug that off, but it has truth to it in the way we live our daily lives. We most definitely do not remain open to every possibility no matter how seemingly absurd until we see evidence proving it (possible) or disproving it (usually not possible -- the world is not math). That's just not the way humans operate, and anyone who claims otherwise is being disingenuous (or not thinking through the absurd consequences). That's the reductio, and as I say, it is tempting.

No, I'm saying there's no merit in walling away a certain kind of unprovable assertion as deserving of respect and others not. They are all equal. If they are not, do tell, why not?

I respect you enough as a contributing member of this site not to slag your beliefs, whatever they are with the jokey and facile shit we saw earlier re: fairy tales, Santa Claus, and jelly beans.

See here's the point a few of you seem to be missing. I did not put Santa, God, and the Sidhe in a category. They are in a category -- of imagined (though not necessarily false) ideas, without evidence. The fact that some of you take this equivalency as insulting says something about how you see other unproven beliefs as ridiculous, but not yours, with no difference in substance. fff applied that to other religions, but many (most?) people are self-aware enough not to cast aspersions on similar beliefs even if they think they are wrongheaded.

Now I agree with you in saying that shouting "spaghetti monster!" does not encourage reflection. I do think that many people reach the same conclusion through the same argument that fff pointed out -- they grow up and out of their childhood indoctrination, find other beliefs buttressed by other traditions, treatises, and codes, and think "There's no way to tell if we're right or they are." That seems to be the most common experience. None of that, however, changes the nature of the belief, which is of the same nature as that which many of you are apparently ready to scorn if compared -- folklore, "absurd" ideas, children's tales. Well, sorry. Get angry all you want. It's the same stuff. You can't change that fact through anger; you can't force others to drop that part of the conversation or restrict the debate to the point where we all must acknowledge that there are "serious" unknowable things and "silly" ones when there are no rules but the ones we imagine.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:25 PM on September 25, 2009 [9 favorites]


I'm not sure why it took me this long to come up with it, but I finally have decent answer to the "what's your most embarrassing/shameful memory" question

Thinking Kirk Cameron was cool when I was in elementary school.
posted by hambone at 9:52 PM on September 25, 2009


Sorry, going to drop off to sleep finally and just wanted to be clear because I'm still rambly and not sure I was.

I'm not calling anything I've mentioned any more absurd than anything else in the list. For you to say that Thor, or the Tooth Fairy, or Gaia are insulting in their silliness and unworthy of comparison is your deal, not mine. You tell me what laws of god creation they violate. Oh right. There are no laws. You left the world of evidence and reason behind. We're thinking with our hearts now. You created eternal damnation, and jihad, and samsara. I can create whatever I can imagine. You forfeited the right to call any of it absurd.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:01 PM on September 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Bah, not the "right", obviously. You can call anything anything you want. But the ability, at least without serious risk to your irony gland.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:04 PM on September 25, 2009


That doesn't make straw-man mockery of them here any more conducive to interesting and engaging discussion, though. If what we're looking for is quality conversation and interesting content, it is harmful.

Fair enough.

At the same time, surely you must admit that to some 75% of the world, your personal religious beliefs are not recognized as particularly valid? For some 75% of the 6.787 billion people on this earth, your personal faith is no more meaningful than a child's faith in Santa Claus.

I don't care how religious you are, so long as you understand that (a) in order to support a peaceful society, civil law must not be influenced by religious law; and (b) in order to support a peaceful society, civil law must not infrine upon that which causes no harm to others or others' property.

It's the only way we're going to survive on a civilized global scale. All else is fail.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 PM on September 25, 2009


If I understand you correctly, Durn, you are defending the passive agnostic position with an appeal to objectivity; "we don't know" is the only position supported by evidence and all others are unscientific assumptions.
Yes.


Good gods, yes!

There is reality, and there is not-reality. Reality can be measured: it is factual. Not-reality requires faith in the absence of fact. There are multiple “interpretations” of this faith, this spiritual explanation for that which we can not measure. We have no means of determining which interpretation is actual fact. That's why it's called faith, d-oh.

What really counts in the end, though, IMO YMMV WTF, is how you behave toward the people on this planet — those close to you and those who are distant. We are all, IMO, probably uncomfortably well-off in comparison to what we'd have in a world where 6 billion-plus people were treated as equals. I'm a little uncomfortable with it, at any rate.

If we're headed for a time of equalization, it wouldn't surprise me. I am a little pissed it'll probably cost me, a middle-classer, way more than it will the fat cat bastard greedheads from Wall Street. But that's an entirely different rant…
posted by five fresh fish at 10:54 PM on September 25, 2009


Durn, you're really not understanding me. I acknowledge that no religious belief is objectively more plausible than the Flying Spaghetti Monster (and it's not the first time). I'm really not claiming that the comparison is insulting and I'm not sure why you think I am.

My point, once again: so? If these assumptions have no relevance to our definition of science (as I argued above) then how are they, in any measurable way, scientifically inferior? If you're instead saying that they're scientifically inferior in a conceptual, unmeasurable way then I think you should maybe not be criticizing other people for subjectivity.
posted by Riki tiki at 10:57 PM on September 25, 2009


"woo woo invisible sky monster" is a gross misrepresentation of Durn's comments, jessamyn.

There is a difference between trolling for an emotional outburst and expressing opinions likely to offend.

It's like this: No one here is mocking the absurdity of creationism or Kirk Cameron to get under the skin of MeFi's creationists and Growing Pains fans. We mock and sputter without regard for them, because this is our territory. Their marginality and lack of special protections here is take for granted. They're like weeds. No one cares when they are trampled, even when they scream out, which weeds sometimes do. This usually just results in trampling with increased mirth.

But religious MeFites are akin to panda bears, with all sorts of endangered species laws protecting their fragile emotional habitat from the harsh and inevitable encroaching urban development of ultra-secularism.

Vocal atheists on MeFi are marginal like urban developers are marginal in Panda Country. Sure it beats being the vulnerable doomed pandas, but it still sucks dick. Our bull dozers are rusting, and those PETA protesters and fuckers from the EPA are always watching like hawks -- flagging, disrupting, white knighting, and laying the moderator smack-downs and MeTa two minute hates whenever we try and lay down some goddamned concrete.

In ten or twenty years more and more pandas will die as restrictions on development gradually crumble under larger economic and demographic forces. And their increased panda marginality will be manifested in the way that we increasingly mock them, just as freely as we mock creationists right now. MetaFilter will increasingly be our territory. Verily, brothers, in time pandas will be trampled with mirth and merriment just like the common weed.

In short, some of us here on MeFi see panda bears just like most MeFites see weeds, and of course our comments reflect that equivalency. To the extent that these comments are offensive and deemed problematic, it's because religious MeFites are not as marginal as Creationist MeFites. But they increasingly will be as the intellectual climate in developed nations continues its secular evolution. I encourage MeFites, especially its large contingent of non-vocal atheists, to A) recognize that secular shift as a good thing, and B) participate more in bringing it about.

So please, pour some concrete, and kill a panda. With a rusty knife. For America.



I might have mixed some metaphors here... I apologize.
posted by dgaicun at 12:24 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


I disagree.
posted by philip-random at 12:40 AM on September 26, 2009


philip-random: I disagree.

So you've said.
posted by anazgnos at 2:34 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


dgaicun: There's, like, 3 vocal Christians on Metafilter -- I can name them. Show a little respect? This isn't a zero-sum game where you're marginalized elsewhere and have to make up for it here to set the record straight.
posted by cj_ at 3:46 AM on September 26, 2009


The fact that some of you take this equivalency as insulting says something about how you see other unproven beliefs as ridiculous, but not yours, with no difference in substance.

For the record: you don't know what my beliefs are. Hell, half the time I don't, but hey, thanks for being all omniscient and stuff.

Other people have argued this in far more eloquent terms than I ever could, so I'm really kind of done here. I think it's perfectly acceptable to hope that people on Metafilter are not dismissive and insulting to the beliefs of other people on Metafilter, whatever those beliefs are, because I believe that basic level of respect (regardless of how stupid you think that belief is) is essential to an interesting, productive discourse. You and several others disagree and think that people of faith on Metafilter are delicate flowers or endangered pandas or hopelessly deluded bubble dwellers or whatever the fuck, but ultimately not worth your time or even a sliver of your respect as thinking, rational adults who have come to their beliefs through a thousand different paths and life experiences, about which you know nothing, but will dismiss out of hand in a second because you don't agree with them. Awesome. Thanks for that. Good job.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:54 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm not a panda bear.

I might have started my faith journey on what you might call "blind faith" but it didn't stay there. More and more thru more life experiences than I have time or space to relate here, it became blazingly obvious that the God I worship not only is very, very real, but actively relates with His creation, to include me in my life. Mock all you want to, but the God I worship is anything BUT imaginary.

I think the point Jessamyn is trying to make is that common decency in a discussion between members of a particular website is what she would like to see. All I know is you can drag out Darwin or mock or shake chicken feathers at me, and I will still remain a believer in Jesus. Because by now I KNOW what I KNOW, I don't just surmise it.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:30 AM on September 26, 2009


... drag out Darwin or mock or shake chicken feathers at me, and I will still remain a believer in Jesus. Because by now I KNOW what I KNOW, I don't just surmise it.
I think one of the difficulties in discussions of faith is that Christians in particular tend to use the word "know" when they mean "really, really believe." you "know" that in the same sense that a football player "knows" he will win a game. In casual conversation this sort of fuzziness rarely causes problems - in discussions of religion and philosophy, it becomes a retreat to Relativism at best, solipsism at worst.

Admittedly, seeing those approaches combined with an appeal to biblical literalism makes me smile. Most modern evangelism is an exercise in postmodern "keep your eye on the Meaning of the words" shell game.
posted by verb at 7:27 AM on September 26, 2009 [4 favorites]


We have quite a few of these threads where someone links to some boneheaded and all my favorite MeFi atheists (and I do love y'all) get to have fun talking about how stupid and backward it is and laugh about invisible skymen and fairy tales. They are predictible trainwrecks and I tend to stay out of them, but let me just pipe in to say:

1) When you guys start in with the skyman crap, I roll my eyes pretty much exactly as much as I do when Kirk Cameron tells me that a banana disproves evolution. There is almost no one--including the most fundamentalist believers--who conceives of God like that. Upthread, darkstar wrote:

I find it a bit laughable that Cameron, et al., are going back to do battle with a 150 year old text, when the past 150 years has advanced the understanding of Darwin's hypotheses far, far beyond where he was able to take them.

That, in essence, they're having to dig up a corpse to fight, since they can't stand up against the living, vibrant and growing body evidence of the past 150 years of scientific inquiry.


True enough. But atheist who fight against an anthropomorphic desert warrior God are doing precisely the same thing in reverse. There was a time, 3000 years ago, when some people thought of God that way and some of those concepts are found in the Bible. But that's not where Christianity is these days.

And the Bible is, at least, a pretty fascinating collection of documents struggling to make sense of the world and find a moral compass in some very difficult circumstances. It's also remarkably diverse, from the black and white "be good and you'll have a good life" worldview of Proverbs to the angst and despair of Job. If you snort and mutter "fairy tales!" you are missing out on some of the richest literature the ancient world produced. I think it's even more than that, but that's the minimum of what the Bible is.

You atheists are doing plenty of your own close-minded self reinforcement: letting fundamentalism stand in for all of Christianity, railing against an archaic view of God that no one holds, and treating the most primitive parts of the Bible (marginalized in the developed Christian tradition) as representative of the whole collection.

Maybe as rhetorical strategy, that's working pretty well for you all, but it makes you lose credibility with anyone who knows that Christian faith, true or not, cannot be reduced to skymen and fairy tales, or who know that the resurrected Jesus was not a zombie.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:13 AM on September 26, 2009 [5 favorites]


"woo woo invisible sky monster" is a gross misrepresentation of Durn's comments, jessamyn.

I wasn't talking about him, actually. I'm just saying that those sort of comments basically lower the level of discourse here because they take a conversation about topics and ideas and turn it into a scornful insult-fest. It's boring and predictable and doesn't bring anything new to the table.
posted by jessamyn at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


But religious MeFites are akin to panda bears, with all sorts of endangered species laws protecting their fragile emotional habitat from the harsh and inevitable encroaching urban development of ultra-secularism.

Seriously? You think of Metafilter as an environment that is intentionally protective of faith? We've been reading different threads.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:20 AM on September 26, 2009


Apparently I had no point #2 after all.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:22 AM on September 26, 2009


I think one of the difficulties in discussions of faith is that Christians in particular tend to use the word "know" when they mean "really, really believe." you "know" that in the same sense that a football player "knows" he will win a game. In casual conversation this sort of fuzziness rarely causes problems - in discussions of religion and philosophy, it becomes a retreat to Relativism at best, solipsism at worst.

That's not how I use the word. I use it to mean how over and over again I have gotten specific answers to specific prayers, to include a few miraculous things. I use it to mean when I obey Him, I see the results of that. I also mean it to describe the changes in my life and my character that have come to pass because of Him, directly.

Not to mention a couple of years ago when a nonplussed secular psychiatrist released me from his care since I no longer showed any symptoms of the bipolar disorder I'd struggled with for years. He'd monitored me after I no longer needed my meds till it reached a point even he saw I was...different. I now hold a job I would NOT have been able to have with the limitations I had when ill, and my employers love me and think I am doing a great job. I no longer have the memory lapses, or the freakouts, or the brain freezes I had. It's been over 2 1/2 years now.

HE healed me, in his time.

So, sorry, you can make your jokes about invisible sky fairies all you want. The living God I serve has done more than enough to reassure me my faith in Him has not been in vain.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:01 AM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the Bible is, at least, a pretty fascinating collection of documents struggling to make sense of the world and find a moral compass in some very difficult circumstances. It's also remarkably diverse, from the black and white "be good and you'll have a good life" worldview of Proverbs to the angst and despair of Job. If you snort and mutter "fairy tales!" you are missing out on some of the richest literature the ancient world produced. I think it's even more than that, but that's the minimum of what the Bible is.

Thank you for saying that, Pater Aletheias. Though I react to Cameron's video and all of the creationist clap-trap as the nonsense it is, I too am always surprised at the lack of basic interpersonal respect that pops up around these topics.

I agree with the logic of Durn Bronzefist's comment, for instance, but don't take that perspective as license to be disrespectful to other commenters in the conversation. I may not share St. Alia of the Bunnies's beliefs--I may not even respect them--but I respect her and extend to her the basic respect and politeness I hope to extend to anyone. The point that some of the more aggressively anti-religion commenters seem to be missing is that the issue is not respect for the beliefs, but rather for the person speaking them.

On topic, whoever commented upthread that this feels much more like Cameron is trying to reassure those already sold rather than convert new believers hit the nail right on the head, I think. If his ridiculous "reasoning" holds water for any student on a college campus, our educational system is failing young people far worse than we've imagined.*

(*-which it will, and it has. I'm a teacher, I know this.)
posted by LooseFilter at 9:19 AM on September 26, 2009


THERE IS NO GOD.
I had a deep and fracturing acid trip some 28 years ago that absolutely proved it beyond any conceivable doubt. If I had some kind of "brain recorder" that could somehow play it all back for you all, you would agree with me. There could be no further discussion on the topic.

THERE IS A GOD.
I had a high and unifying acid trip some 22 years ago that absolutely proved it beyond any conceivable doubt ...

And so on. Reality is nothing if not paradoxical. If you have no doubt, ever, you're delusional.

I think.
posted by philip-random at 9:22 AM on September 26, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whatever keeps you strong, kiddo.

But the problem is that you want to inflict pain and suffering on others, by passing religious laws that harm their lives and life choices, instead of keeping your religious laws to yourself.

That makes you one of the problematic religionists.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:25 AM on September 26, 2009


There was a time, 3000 years ago, when some people thought of God that way and some of those concepts are found in the Bible. But that's not where Christianity is these days. …[you are] railing against an archaic view of God that no one holds, and treating the most primitive parts of the Bible… as representative of the whole collection.

No one holds an archaic view? What an absurd thing to say. Many Christian religionists have an archaic, stupid set of beliefs about what the bible is and what it should mean to us.

I'm really surprised you'd make such a claim.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2009


That's not how I use the word. I use it to mean how over and over again I have gotten specific answers to specific prayers, to include a few miraculous things. I use it to mean when I obey Him, I see the results of that. I also mean it to describe the changes in my life and my character that have come to pass because of Him, directly.

St. Alia, it's clear that your beliefs are a powerful reality for you, and have led to positive changes for you. But the distinction that you seem to be missing, and that is key to the larger point being made by several in the thread, is that all of your experiences of God have been entirely subjective--as you say: ...I have gotten specific answers...I see the results....changes in my life...." etc.

Objective knowledge is demonstrable to everyone, i.e., it is provable in a factual sense. You are conflating the worlds of the subjective and the objective, and that's where I see a conceptual error: that your faith has been true for you does not make it universally true. To someone like me, all of the good things that have happened to you have other (much more likely) root causes, you've just chosen a highly specific, spiritual metaphor to explain it all. That's fine, but it shouldn't be mistaken for objective reality that should be shared by everyone.

The living God I serve has done more than enough to reassure me my faith in Him has not been in vain.

That's terrific for you--my problem comes when people who share your faith, like Kirk Cameron, try to poison the public sphere by asserting that all of us should think and believe like you do; or when a church sends out missionaries; etc. Or, more palpably in my own life, when I am assumed to be an immoral, evil, sub-standard human being just because I don't share a highly specific, rather fantastical set of beliefs. YOU personally, St. Alia, have not said that (at least, not in this thread), but many with whom you claim solidarity in belief do say that, every day, and when you're on the receiving end of such bigotry it sure feels like protected hate speech sometimes.
posted by LooseFilter at 9:34 AM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


No one holds an archaic view? What an absurd thing to say. Many Christian religionists have an archaic, stupid set of beliefs about what the bible is and what it should mean to us.

I agree. In fact, I just got schooled by Karen Armstrong as to how many "ancient" religious beliefs were actually far more sophisticated than we think, care of this link from this recent MeFi post.

For the record, she basically posits that arch-Fundamentalism as we currently know it is actually a direct offshoot of "modern" scientific thinking. But don't take my word for it. Read.
posted by philip-random at 9:38 AM on September 26, 2009


I just got schooled by Karen Armstrong as to how many "ancient" religious beliefs were actually far more sophisticated than we think

But that's actually a fair bit of conjecture on her part, this point came up early in that thread. Certainly Elaine Pagels has painted a different picture of early Christian beliefs.

But don't take my word for it. Read.

You know there's a condescending tone to a lot of your posts, right?

posted by LooseFilter at 9:54 AM on September 26, 2009


I'm just saying that those sort of comments basically lower the level of discourse here because they take a conversation about topics and ideas and turn it into a scornful insult-fest. It's boring and predictable and doesn't bring anything new to the table.

In my experience, all religious debates are boring and predictable. I can't remember the last time anyone brought anything new to the table either; short of some deity splitting the clouds and trumpeting his/her/its existence, I can't imagine what the new thing on the table would even be.
posted by belvidere at 11:29 AM on September 26, 2009


I can't imagine what the new thing on the table would even be.

You and I agree. This is why I think they tend to make fairly crappy posts for MetaFilter. Though when this sort of stuff starts affecting legislation or education it's a little different.
posted by jessamyn at 11:36 AM on September 26, 2009


There was a time, 3000 years ago, when some people thought of God that way and some of those concepts are found in the Bible. But that's not where Christianity is these days. …[you are] railing against an archaic view of God that no one holds, and treating the most primitive parts of the Bible… as representative of the whole collection.

Of course, I respect your erudition on the subject at hand, Pater Aletheias, but this statement is simply not credible. Just so we're clear, I'm not an atheist, I'm agnostic/naturalist. That said, I have to take exception to this framing.

Christianity these days is devolving into two more disparate camps: the more liberal, New Testament revelation spirituality and the more evangelical, fundamentalist, conservative Christianity that retains a very significant Old Testament emphasis. Evangelical Christianity is, in fact, the sect that is most increasing, while generally self-identification as Christian is decreasing overall (at least in the US).

"Christianity these days" has a very significant strain of the very archaic and primitive view of God that you mention - at least it's one that is not ignorable, particularly in its asymmetrically large influence on our political system or in its influence in the global missions movement.

But regardless, your framing of the atheist complaint as simply arguing against the Old Testament warrior God is not really accurate. Atheists find much in the New Testament to be problematic, as well. The doctrine of Hell, in fact, doesn't really appear as such in the OT at all, but is introduced in the NT. That doctrine of eternal torment is often a significant sticking point in atheists' arguments. As is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, which many atheists find to be a kind of magical thinking. Moreover, many of the objections in the OT are reaffirmed in the NT: slavery, subjugation of women, etc. So it's not really fair to suggest that atheists are attacking only the OT revelation and ignoring the new revelation.

But even more broadly, the Bible integrally contains both the Old and New Testament. I'm sure it would make many liberal Christian folks much more comfortable if they could kind of sweep major parts of the OT under a rug when defending or championing their faith, But Jesus came to fulfill the law, not change it, and God is ostensibly unchangeable. So it is kind of a neoMarcionite heresy for a Christian these days to imply that the NT "God is Love" is really what God is all about, and he's not really all that blood and death desert warrior deity of the OT. God, as he is revealed in the Bible, is eternally both. Indeed, it is this perceived dichotomy that serves as yet another sticking point for atheists.

Meanwhile, scientists will be the first to tell you that the science has changed, grown and developed in the past 150 years. Darwin is not held up by scientists to be the best or latest revelation about evolutionary theory. So it's really not possible to draw a sound equivalence between Cameron, et al. trying to refute the 150-year-old science of Darwin and atheists trying to refute the religious belief promulgated throughout the Bible, significantly reaffirmed and developed in the New Testament, and well represented in a large swathe of modern Christian observance.
posted by darkstar at 1:40 PM on September 26, 2009 [8 favorites]


Just to clarify, my seminary training, missiological training and subsequent work in global missions has been in a conservative evangelical organization. I recognize that this is not representative of all Christian organizations or spirituality, but it is nevertheless a very significant and influential bloc of modern Christianity.
posted by darkstar at 1:55 PM on September 26, 2009


In my experience, all religious debates are boring and predictable. I can't remember the last time anyone brought anything new to the table either;
One wonders how and why you bothered to slog through all of these comments, then.

I think the same could be said for very many subjects. But I think there can be value in the process of debate. There is value in learning how to gather and articulate your reasons for a given belief or opinion. That process can help you strengthen your argument - or reveal the flaws in it. Engaging in a debate can introduce you, or your audience, to new and different perspectives on that subject. And maybe even new-found understanding and respect for the other side. In fact, is it even possible to grow and learn without being introduced to new ideas, perspectives, and information?

But I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you didn't already. However, not all of us here are so jaded and bored with the subject or process. And for me, anyway, even when I think I know a subject from A-Z, I nevertheless find that I will still manage to pick up something new from time to time even when going over the 'same old, same old'.

One example comes to mind. Richard Dawkins was on the Colbert Report and Steven Colbert was doing his usually exemplary job of poking fun at his guest and his comments. Dawkins asked Steven Colbert whether he believed in Zeus. No. Allah. No. Thor. No. Was it fair to say you are an atheist with regard to all of those thousands of other gods that came before yours? Yes. Dawkins asserted they were in complete agreement, then; it's just that he went one god further. Steven Colbert seemed a little startled and had no reply.

That argument may not change (m)any minds by itself, but I do think it is an effective and concise way of flipping dismissive ridicule of "other" faiths right back on people of faith who condescend on other religions, or atheists.

It's a shame, too, that Dawkins today seems to be better known for his atheism than his background in biology. The story of the origins and evolution of life on this planet is so much more amazing and profound, and should contribute to a much better appreciation and respect for the planet and the life on it, than the bible. The Bible has a staggeringly narrow focus in terms of people, time, and geography for a god that is allegedly responsible for the creation of the entire universe. Or for that matter the rest of the planet, people, and animals on it. You'd almost think it was written by a bunch of fanatical Middle Easterners during the dark ages and repeatedly edited by a bunch of Roman bureaucrats and clergymen.
posted by Davenhill at 2:00 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


What kind of hedonistic horrors went on at that Growings Pains set that turned this guy into a total thumper? Alan Thicke must have known how to party.

If you take into account the fact that his sister starred in Full House with Bob (have you seen his stand-up?) Saget and Dave "You Oughta Know" Coulier, it kinda starts to make a little more sense.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:03 PM on September 26, 2009


And because I don't have the forethought to compose all of these thoughts into one comment, I'll just make this observation: the God of the NT isn't really all smiles and sunshine in comparison to the OT deity.

The God of the New Testament is, in at least one major way, far FAR more punitive than the God of the Old Testament. The OT God might kill you or curse your family for some number of generations, but nowhere is there an implication that a sinner would, for the rest of eternity, be consigned to agonizing torture and torment in the afterlife. Yet this is exactly the punitive approach that the God of the NT introduces in the doctrine of Hell.

So the suggestion that it was the OT God that was vengeful and wrathful - and atheists are responding only to this revelation - while the NT God is more interested in redemption and love is false. The introduction of the doctrine of Hell in the NT introduces an incredible - some say grossly evil - kind of spiritual coercion that is, to many atheists' minds, far more ugly than anything God did in the OT, slaughtering of children notwithstanding.
posted by darkstar at 2:08 PM on September 26, 2009 [3 favorites]


One wonders how and why you bothered to slog through all of these comments, then.

You are correct; I should know better. I will begin the ritualistic self-flagellation as a penance--just as soon as the Cubs game is over.
posted by belvidere at 2:20 PM on September 26, 2009


...Atheists who fight against an anthropomorphic desert warrior God are doing precisely the same thing in reverse. There was a time, 3000 years ago, when some people thought of God that way and some of those concepts are found in the Bible. But that's not where Christianity is these days.

You atheists are doing plenty of your own close-minded self reinforcement: letting fundamentalism stand in for all of Christianity, railing against an archaic view of God that no one holds, and treating the most primitive parts of the Bible (marginalized in the developed Christian tradition) as representative of the whole collection.
Pater Aletheias, before responding I want to say that I really respect your contributions to these discussions and appreciate your presence on MeFi. It's quite possible that if I'd been hanging out with you ten years ago, I'd be a Christian today. I mean that as a compliment.

But isn't this response just the mirror image of the "True Christians read the Scofield Bible" approach? I can say, absolutely, without hesitation, that "Real True Christianity" as slacktivist calls it is not a tiny marginalized sliver. They are the people with the megaphones and the radio shows and the cable networks and the megachurches. They are the people who patiently explain to the rest of us that you, Pater Aletheias, are not a true follower of Christ but a wolf in sheep's clothing because you've sold your Gospel birthright for the porridge of 'acceptance' by the 'intellectual theological elites' in liberal seminaries.

I'll be the first to say that they are not representative of the whole of the Christian faith -- for that, I'm thankful. But there is a war inside of Christianity itself for legitimacy and like it or not, in many parts of the world, the people who believe you are an apostate are the ones who control the conversation. And in addition to controlling the conversation, they want to control the direction of our nation and our culture, even for those who are not part of the church.

I agree that the needless cheap-shots and ignorant dismissal of actual Christian beliefs is frustrating and counter-productive. But one can hardly blame those who are not part of the Church for assuming that the people who publicly speak for Christianity are the authorities on Christianity.
posted by verb at 2:43 PM on September 26, 2009 [6 favorites]


Davenhill: I think there can be value in the process of debate.

This is certainly true. Many people in this thread aren't reacting negatively to the process of debate, however; they're reacting negatively to the purposefully disrespectful reductio snarking that's brought into the debate that removes any possibility of conversation.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:51 PM on September 26, 2009


But one can hardly blame those who are not part of the Church for assuming that the people who publicly speak for Christianity are the authorities on Christianity.

But you can if, upon endeavoring to correct them on this point, they continue to press it regardless.

In my experience, all religious debates are boring and predictable. I can't remember the last time anyone brought anything new to the table either;

Actually, I picked up a lot from this particular discussion from a couple months back. I've linked to the point where it sort steers away from it's initial concern (the "widely popular and controversial" Alpha Course) and takes off on a series of rather well ARGUED tangents (atheistic, pantheistic, agnostic, theistic, you name it).

But, of course, I would enjoy this sort of thing. I grew up in a family that pretty much always ARGUED religion at the dinner table. And it was fun.
posted by philip-random at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2009


But one can hardly blame those who are not part of the Church for assuming that the people who publicly speak for Christianity are the authorities on Christianity.

But you can if, upon endeavoring to correct them on this point, they continue to press it regardless.
True, but that's the difficulty. Who to believe? The guy you think sounds sane, and who says, "Hey, I'm a Christian, and I don't believe that stuff?" Or the ones on television, radio, in the megachurch pulpits, in the magazines, and having prayer breakfasts on Capitol Hill who say, "No, no, that dude isn't a real Christian at all."

On the one hand, you've got those people saying that the sane sounding guy you'd like to believe is a wolf in sheeps' clothing trying to lead the true believers astray. On the other hand, you've got someone like Spong, who speaks "as a Christian" but denies essentially every tenet of the historic Christian faith. Catholics, at least, have a Pope. In the protestant-heavy regions of the world, there is no authority save book sales and church attendance figures.
posted by verb at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Many people in this thread aren't reacting negatively to the process of debate, however; they're reacting negatively to the purposefully disrespectful reductio snarking that's brought into the debate that removes any possibility of conversation.

Well, it is Metafilter. :)

Though some of the snarks are very enjoyable. And they can provide a nice counter-balance to those who take themselves too seriously, are incoherent, dismissive, petty, insulting, or just plain wrong.

Conversely, one might benefit from a little experience with hecklers. If congressmen spent more time on Metafilter, they probably would have been more prepared for the recent town hall disruptions. (Maybe Barney Frank is a MeFite?)

You are correct; I should know better. I will begin the ritualistic self-flagellation as a penance--just as soon as the Cubs game is over.

Isn't being a Cubs fan penance enough? :) I just wish Jesus weren't so fickle when it comes to supporting and opposing the sports teams I like.
posted by Davenhill at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2009


Riki tiki: Looking back at my last two comments, they do sound like they were directly responding to you only; that's an error on my part. To you I was responding to the idea that I was running a reductio argument -- again, I'm not. Believers might find this surprising, but once an agnostic has done the heavy lifting of remaining open to some of the things in mainstream religion, it really isn't that difficult to maintain a similar level of skepticism toward things those people would find absurd. It's all the same to me. My comments about taking offence were directed at others in the thread who were balking at the comparisons, not you.

Your point, though:

If these assumptions have no relevance to our definition of science (as I argued above) then how are they, in any measurable way, scientifically inferior? If you're instead saying that they're scientifically inferior in a conceptual, unmeasurable way then I think you should maybe not be criticizing other people for subjectivity.

I thought it was possible you were going for this but was frankly trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. The most defensible position I can imagine from that perspective would be, say, a scientist who is open to new information (the conclusions of his or her research and empirical observations) but has, in the meantime, reached a conclusion about what he or she expects to see. The thing is, this is far from the kind of faith we're talking about. If you are really asking me what is inferior about the position of taking a faith-based opinion on a factual (if unprovable) matter rather than being open to possibilities equally, I'm not quite sure what to tell you. Especially given that you've phrased the issue in terms of scientific inferiority, yes, I think it is obvious that refraining from picking any one unproven assertion is inferior to picking none at all; after that, they're all equal (so long as they are equally likely or unlikely). That is far from subjective; that is the height of objectivity, so either I'm still not understanding your point or I firmly disagree.

that your faith has been true for you does not make it universally true. To someone like me, all of the good things that have happened to you have other (much more likely) root causes, you've just chosen a highly specific, spiritual metaphor to explain it all.

This is a really important point and something that many people (including me) tend to take for granted. It's what makes me wish every high school taught courses in psychology, critical thinking, and statistics, because so many "miraculous" occurrences are explained quite simply by one or more of them. It's rather humbling to realize how limited and easily manipulated our senses and emotions are, and humans just aren't naturally good with probability, filtering out the mundane in favour of the surprising all the time.

Richard Dawkins was on the Colbert Report and Steven Colbert was doing his usually exemplary job of poking fun at his guest and his comments. Dawkins asked Steven Colbert whether he believed in Zeus. No. Allah. No. Thor. No. Was it fair to say you are an atheist with regard to all of those thousands of other gods that came before yours? Yes. Dawkins asserted they were in complete agreement, then; it's just that he went one god further. Steven Colbert seemed a little startled and had no reply.

Again, that seems like such old hat now that it's hard to imagine someone in the public sphere having no reply to this (though not necessarily an adequate one). The answer that seems to suffice for people is "I believe in this because it makes sense/works for me". That's fine, so long as you realize that reality is not designed for comfort.

And wow, longest post yet. Sorry peeps.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2009


I remember when I drove an MG-B sports car and was "into" sports cars how much I noticed other sports cars on the road in my travels. Quite often we would wave to each other, one sports car enthusiast to another. Now without a sports car, I don't notice other ones as much as I used to.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 8:58 PM on September 26, 2009


You might note that face to face, it's the religionists who are killing doctors and otherwise terrorizing the world.

Right, because atheists never murder people.
posted by empath at 7:56 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by its members' atheist views, or STFU with that bullshit equivalence.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:55 PM on September 26, 2009


Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by its members' atheist views

The problem here is you're putting the emphasis on what a bunch of angry, dysfunctional, disaffected people "believe" ... rather than on the real inspiration for their actions, which is their anger, their dysfunction, their disaffection. The "belief" is just a flag, something to rally around.
posted by philip-random at 11:14 PM on September 26, 2009 [1 favorite]


Just something to rally around, eh? Then why is it seldom to never that they're rallying around something else? Why isn't there a group that rallies around the idea of good dental hygiene, that strings up census takers? Why is it always that if there's going to be a core motivator, nine times out of ten its some whackadoodle who thinks God wants people to die.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:42 PM on September 26, 2009


My sloppy flag analogy aside, do you think it's belief in God (gods?) that drives people crazy, or do crazy people look to God (gods) for a justification for their evil actions?

Seriously. This question definitely perplexes me.
posted by philip-random at 11:53 PM on September 26, 2009


Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by its members' atheist views, or STFU with that bullshit equivalence.

Off the top of my head, Shining Path?

How about Lee Harvey Oswald?

Atheism doesn't lead people to murder other people by itself, but atheism has been a aspect of murderous ideologies, particularly communism.

Terrorism has absolutely nothing to do with ideology in any case. It's a tactic.
posted by empath at 12:12 AM on September 27, 2009


Off the top of my head, Shining Path?

Nope.

How about Lee Harvey Oswald?

He's a terrorist group? Are you seriously arguing he shot Kennedy in the name of atheism?

Are you for real?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:51 PM on September 27, 2009


Shining Path aren't atheist or they aren't violent terrorists?
posted by empath at 12:58 PM on September 27, 2009


Are you seriously arguing he shot Kennedy in the name of atheism?

Atheism isn't the opposite of Christianity. It's the opposite of Theism. Do people kill because they believe in God? No, of course not. They kill people because of the specific ideology that INCLUDES a belief in God.

It's the same with atheism. People don't kill because they don't believe in God, but they do kill because of an ideology that includes atheism.

What I'm saying is that a belief or disbelief in God is more or less irrelevant.

If I believe in a God who says that I should give hugs and teddy bears to everybody and that disbelievers are just peachy, then I'm not going to kill anybody.

If I believe in a God who says that unbelievers are vermin and need to be exterminated, then hey, I might well kill someone.

Note that the belief in God has no bearing on the matter.
posted by empath at 1:06 PM on September 27, 2009


Shining Path aren't atheist or they aren't violent terrorists?

You're not answering the direct and clear question:

Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by its members' atheist views.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2009


Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by a belief in god.
posted by empath at 1:25 PM on September 27, 2009


Name one terrorist group motivated entirely by a belief in god.
posted by empath at 1:25 PM on September 27


Army of God
Al-Qaeda
Aum Shinriko

Do you want me to keep going?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:36 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, I want you to think further about it.

Is the belief in God by itself the cause of their violence?

That's what Blazecock is asking about atheist.

Shining Path is a Maoist terrorist group, which is atheist. Their atheism isn't the sole cause of the violence, but it is part of a violent ideology.
posted by empath at 1:51 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are plenty of examples from the French Revolution of atheists that massacred people. And that's not even getting into the millions of people slaughtered by Stalin in service of an atheist agenda.

Again, i'm not saying that atheism caused the violence. I'm just saying that a blanket condemnation of belief or disbelief isn't warranted based on the violent action of a particular subset of ideologies which include that belief.
posted by empath at 1:57 PM on September 27, 2009


Big-ass NSFW on the "Army of God" link, by the way... not sure why you chose to link directly to their site when you deemed Wikipedia sufficient for the other two groups.

But you're obviously using a different version of the word "entirely" than empath is, OC. All three of those groups have motivations and backgrounds beyond just "God is great death to the infidel" (regardless of their public platforms). I'm not totally agreed with empath that religious motivation has "no bearing" on violent action but I don't think you get to isolate religious motivations from all the other factors for religious terrorism and not do the same for atheist-aligned violence.
posted by Riki tiki at 2:00 PM on September 27, 2009


Their atheism isn't the sole cause of the violence

In other words, your equivalence was complete and total bullshit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:34 PM on September 27, 2009


No, you just can't see past your own bigotry.
posted by empath at 4:44 PM on September 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


That you can't be bothered to answer a question directly, doesn't give you license to accuse others of bigotry.

Take your falsehoods somewhere else, like FOX News.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:45 PM on September 27, 2009


Wow, Fox News insults AND unexpected pictures of decapitated babies in the same thread! You guys are so lovely.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:47 PM on September 27, 2009


Let me go back to your original comment, which establishes equivalence between terrorists who commit acts of violence in the name of their Gods:

You might note that face to face, it's the religionists who are killing doctors and otherwise terrorizing the world.

Right, because atheists never murder people.
posted by empath at 7:56 PM on September 25 [+] [!]


Now, there may be atheists who murder people. In fact, simple probability suggests it will happen.

But there's a logically clear distinction to be made between the individuals who, for example, murder George Tiller and are motivated to that act of violence entirely because of their faith in their idea of God, and people who murder, who happen to be atheists, when the issue of atheism is entirely orthogonal to what motivates the act of murder.

You were asked to provide conclusive examples of people who murdered in the name of atheism, and you brought up a Maoist terrorist group and a presidential assassin.

These examples may or may not establish that atheists kill. Nonetheless, these examples do not establish that atheists kill in the name of atheism.

When pointed out that your equivalence is bullshit, you accuse others of bigotry.

Shame on you, sir. Peddle your lies elsewhere.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:57 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Blazecock, you're being an absolute fuckwit.

First, I'm a liberal, democratic atheist.

Secondly, I asked _you_ a simple question.

Since you don't seem to accept Communism as an atheist ideology since it's not ENTIRELY motivated by a disbelief in god, then name one terrorist organization which is entirely motivated by a BELIEF in God -- that is, a belief in God completely separate from any of their other beliefs?

Is that an absurd, unfair question? Than so was yours. No one kills anyone because of a belief or disbelief in God. They kill because of other beliefs they hold beside that. It's the ideology IN TOTAL which is violent, not any particular piece of it -- atheist or not.

Lumping in my Catholic Grandmother with bin Ladin simply because they both happen to believe in god is fucking absurd and hateful. The belief systems are not equivalent, and simply saying so doesn't make it so.
posted by empath at 4:58 PM on September 27, 2009


Guys, please consider dropping it or taking it to email.
posted by cortex at 5:00 PM on September 27, 2009


George Tiller's murderer had a belief system that went well beyond a simple belief in God, and well beyond any sort of mainstream Christian belief, and in fact, I think his primary motivation had very little to do with God at all.

He believed that an abortion is the murder of an innocent baby.

If you sincerely believe that, then killing an abortion doctor becomes something which is arguably a moral act, and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with religion.
posted by empath at 5:02 PM on September 27, 2009


name one terrorist organization which is entirely motivated by a BELIEF in God

You were given at least three. Here's another. Yet another.

Name one terrorist who has killed in the name of atheism or peddle your lies somewhere else.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:06 PM on September 27, 2009


It's not that they're motivated entirely by a belief in God. It's that their ideology, in its entirety, is derived from their belief in God, their interpretations of the wishes of their God, and their opinions of the value judgments made by their God.

Atheism simply does not extrapolate into a complete, violent ideology the way theism tends to.
posted by kafziel at 5:15 PM on September 27, 2009


Name one terrorist who has killed in the name of atheism

Would you count the Red Terror, during the Spanish Civil War?
[The violence] [i]ncluded the sacking and burning of monasteries and churches and killing 283 nuns and more than 6,000 priests, including 13 bishops, 4184 diocesan priests, 2365 members of male religious orders. Among these were 259 Claretians, 226 Franciscans, 204 Piarists, 176 Brothers of Mary, 165 Christian Brothers, 155 Augustinians, 132 Dominicans, and 114 Jesuits. There are accounts of the Catholic faithful being forced to swallow rosary beads, thrown down mine shafts, and priests being forced to dig their own graves before being buried alive. (from this page)
posted by Grangousier at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2009


If you sincerely believe that, then killing an abortion doctor becomes something which is arguably a moral act, and that has absolutely NOTHING to do with religion.

Also, morality as a judgment of objective right and wrong is inherently and inextricably religious. Belief in the ultimate rightness or wrongness of an action is kind of the whole source of religious authority.
posted by kafziel at 5:24 PM on September 27, 2009


Would you count the Red Terror, during the Spanish Civil War?

As horrifying as their deaths were, those acts were not committed in the name of atheism, as near as I can tell.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2009


Umm, it's no question that a lot of "extemists" justify their violent acts by leaning on some religious interpretation or other.

What is very questionable is the conclusion that their "faith" is the sole motivator of their violence. I'd say (as I hinted earlier) it's a hell of a lot more likely that a dysfunctional upbringing, some kind of mental illness etc is the real driver, and that the religious faith, loaded as it is with all manner of potentially inflammatory scripture and stricture, is just a convenient justification, or perhaps oil on already burning fire.

Is religion extremely dangerous in the wrong hands (and minds)? Absolutely. But so is politics. Indeed, a quick review of the 20th century suggests that three decidedly non-religious men (Stalin, Hitler, Mao) died with the most blood on their hands. Was atheism their key driver? No. I'd submit it's the same dysfunctional upbringing and mental illness that drives the bloodthirsty faithful.

The real danger to my mind is any kind of fundamentalist ideology, be it faith-based, political, even economic (there's a hell of a lot free market true-believers out there and time will only tell how much havoc they will wreak before the proverbial dust settles).
posted by philip-random at 6:08 PM on September 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


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