The Thinking Atheist
July 21, 2010 11:52 AM   Subscribe

The Thinking Atheist Another atheism site on the internet, featuring a handy list of bible contradictions, a forum, etc. Most notably, they feature a series of slickly produced videos on various religious topics.

A few gems:
Welcome To This World
The Story Of Creation
The Ten Commandments
It's A Miracle!
posted by Uther Bentrazor (215 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
It is kinda ironic that every link I clicked on has "Not Found" at the top of the page. I believe it is some sort of browser/formatting issue. Is anyone else seeing this? Is it subliminal? Is it trying to tell me something? Is it really there? Ok, I will shut up and actually read the links. Looks interesting. Thanks for posting.
posted by futz at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not a religious person at all, but this isn't really what I consider "thinking atheist" material. Honestly, I think a "thinking atheist" doesn't spend his or her time worrying about refuting the Bible. Real "thinking atheists" are probably scientists. Or anyone who uses the real, observable nature of the world to make their best decisions about things, not those who just try to one-up Christianity.
posted by chasing at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2010 [35 favorites]


If it's a site for atheists, why mention religion at all?

Ohhhh, I see... It's a site for antitheists.
posted by Eideteker at 12:01 PM on July 21, 2010 [33 favorites]


Again, atheists who give a shit about religion. Refuting the bible doesn't make society more willing to acknowledge multiple views, it just makes you a jerk. The best way to stop self-proclaimed Christians from injecting their views into society and education are to argue for science, not against religion. If you want to refute Christianity, where are the refutations of every other world religion? Westernism, blah.
posted by mikeh at 12:02 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


In other words, this isn't a pro-atheist site, this is a "Christianity is dumb and harmful" site. Lots of groups could run that, not just atheists (for certain values of "Christianity").
posted by mikeh at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sola fide, baby, sola fide.
posted by MarshallPoe at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2010


Why must these sites strike the tone of a defiant 13-year-old who has just realized the existence of hypocrisy?
posted by leotrotsky at 12:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Nice job with the t-shirts, though, guys. I would sell you one of my apatheist shirts, but I did not care enough to have them designed or printed.
posted by mikeh at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


The bible contradictions page doesn't get into the sources for those contradictions, many of which are just unbelievable numbers. Why not try to piece together why there are these contradictions?

Ever wonder if The Ten Commandments were truly the divinely-inspired, foundational rules for our lives...or incomplete, semi-irrelevant rip-offs from the holy books of other cultures?

And those other cultures were the first to think "let's make killing each-other a bad thing"? Or claim that their own god was the Only God? Why not pick apart the fallacies and shortcomings in other religions, too? In short, what leotrotsky said.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Awful.
posted by Babblesort at 12:06 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait—so then not everything in the bible is demonstrably literally true? FUCK! HOW IS BIBLE FORMED?!?!?!
posted by Mister_A at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


What atheists don't realise is that science is not the opposite of religion. Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.
We have religious shaped holes in our heads. One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.
posted by Monkeymoo at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


The light we see from the Andromeda Galaxy takes 2.2 million years to reach earth... which also debunks the argument that...

So, this is about religion? Sorry, you're doing it wrong.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

Speak for yourself.
posted by gurple at 12:09 PM on July 21, 2010 [35 favorites]


"SLYT" stands for "Single Link YouTube". Thought I'd mention.

I guess I don't really understand why anyone would be in to this kind of site. I'm an atheist and marginally hostile to religion (an old fencing coach always used to say "the worst things to happen to this race were religion and patriarchy"), but... why would I want to talk about that in forums? Or watch youtube videos about contradictions in the bible or whatever?

I know this is kind of thread-crapping, but I'm also sincere: what's the appeal, here? I mean I guess I get that it's enjoyable to feel superior and/or righteously indignant, and I would assume that's what's going on. But if that's what you want, Penn & Teller's show is infinitely better, and you can get 90% of that from hulu or youtube if you don't want to rent the DVDs.
posted by kavasa at 12:09 PM on July 21, 2010


I'm a Christian, but I got a giggle out of this:
Atheists Use Blow-Dryers to De-Baptize
posted by selfmedicating at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


One of the pages is entitled "You are not alone". I assume that has more to do with the motivation for the existence of this site than anything else.
posted by charred husk at 12:12 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Monkeymoo - I can assure you that nothing you said about the internal mental/emotional states of your fellow humans is universally true. And your last statement is just semantically empty. If atheism is a "religious belief," then you have voided the word "religion" of all meaning, just the same as if you'd decided that the words "circle" and "square" are interchangeable.
posted by kavasa at 12:13 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


What atheists don't realise is that science is not the opposite of religion. Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

Anything can offer meaning or purpose to your life, really. If life is a backyard bbq, then meaning and purpose are the "bring your own beer" of that party. Religion can provide the perspective to make life enjoyable, while other people depend on the challenges and rewards of their career or artistic endeavors. Yet others enjoy discovering the world through science.

We have religious shaped holes in our heads. One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.

Speak for yourself. I may have had a hole in my head from time to time, but religion is the square peg for that rather irregularly-shaped hole. Rabid atheism doesn't fit in there, either.
posted by mikeh at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Hello all, OP here

I admit that the site is more antitheist than strict atheism, and the arguments presented aren't strikingly new, I was mostly impressed by the production of the videos themselves.

I put SLYT as a tag, as I initially was only going to link to the "Welcome To This World" video, but felt it was a weak post. Maybe it still is.

If this is bad and I should feel bad, flag and tear to pieces.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2010


Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

What? Dude, I feel truly truly sorry for you.
posted by sourwookie at 12:14 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


And (sorry for 3 posts in as many seconds), if you really think that "Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives." then you must read The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan.
posted by kavasa at 12:15 PM on July 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


You shouldn't feel bad, it's an interesting post in its own way...
posted by Mister_A at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2010


Seconding kavasa's recommendation. I'm sure there are other excellent books as well, but I read Sagan's book over a decade ago and it made an impression.
posted by mikeh at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2010


MetaFilter people love to shout at the screen, myself included.
posted by Mister_A at 12:17 PM on July 21, 2010


Uther Bentrazor: "If this is bad and I should feel bad, flag and tear to pieces."

The post itself isn't bad, it is just that the subject matter brings out the GRAR-monster, so comments are about those things instead of the quality videos you were interested in.
posted by charred husk at 12:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

So make your own meaning. If you need invisible sky wizards to make your life worth something, the fault lies with you, not science.
posted by grubi at 12:21 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


A large font is the secret key to getting through to Biblical literalists, and, hot damn, here is it!
posted by adipocere at 12:22 PM on July 21, 2010


More specifically
Awful site. Good post.
posted by Babblesort at 12:23 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't stop seeing it as The Thin King Atheist, which I imagine would be some kind of Friday Atkins Bacon Diet.
posted by JeremiahBritt at 12:28 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


What atheists don't realise is that science is not the opposite of religion.

It's not the opposite, but it must be said that there is a point of direct confrontation between them. Since science has come on the scene, it has conflicted with religion in many areas. Most of the time, religion's* response has been to deny and discredit however it can, sometimes with swords.

* I say "religion" here, but of course there are many religions, and my presenting them as an organized front which has discussed matters with each other in order to give a common answer doesn't strictly make sense. I'm presenting what has generally been the Judeo-Christian case. There are religions that have a more accepting attitude towards science. There are also religions that claim final truth in all matters regardless of outside evidence.

One might argue that science and religion should work together to determine where the truth lies, which implies it's somewhere between them. But sometimes science uncovers a fact that lies within religion's claimed ground. In these cases, it seems obvious to me that (to continue the metaphor) religion should pull back and concede the ground. Often this happens only after strife, and some people never concede the point at all, which gives us people like the Flat Earthers.

Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

Meaning and purpose are loaded words. Meaning requires someone to give meaning, purpose requires a purposer. It's like all those bad fantasy movies and games where the hero and his friends are the "chosen ones"-- who chose them?

But science very well can give us meaning and purpose, if we accept that we give the meaning and purpose to ourselves using what science helps us understand about the world.

We have religious shaped holes in our heads.

Actually, I don't think that we necessarily do. We're just brought up that way. It is the easiest answer to the "why are we here" question, so a lot of people gravitate to it.

One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.

Oh man false. You might be forgiven for thinking this after viewing the videos though. (And since when has "slickly produced" meant "filled with obnoxious overplayed music and editing?" I don't need words flinging around the screen to understand what a guy is saying, just like I don't need clipart of a cow when the condescending-voiced narrator says "B.S.")
posted by JHarris at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


[atheism] ... which is just another religious belief anyway.

Uh, no. Thank you for your ignorance; try again next time.
posted by grubi at 12:31 PM on July 21, 2010


Can't stop seeing it as The Thin King Atheist

Now that is a web site I want to see. I imagine him paired with the Thin White Duke out for androgynous rock and roll adventures.
posted by Babblesort at 12:32 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


What atheists don't realise is that science is not the opposite of religion.

It seems to me at least that for the most part the only people who think science is the opposite of religion are religious fundamentalists. Science can be used to figure things out about the world, and some of the things that people find out can contradict religious texts and/or beliefs about the world. But each individual can benefit from, trust, or use science and still believe whatever they want about any given religion or god. There are plenty of people who don't believe in any religion for a variety of reasons, and in many of those reasons have nothing to do with science.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:33 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


the only people who think science is the opposite of religion are religious fundamentalists.

If you believe in something in your religion that is contradicted by facts and evidence, basically provable science, then yes, indeed, science is the opposite of religion.
posted by grubi at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2010


We have religious shaped holes in our heads. One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.

HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAoh you were serious? Crikey, I feel bad for you.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2010


The problem isn't with religion v. science. You never see atheists spending time trying to debunk the Hindu religion or find contradictions in the ancient Greek myths. The problem lies specifically with the claims in the Bible that it contains the full truth about everything, and was regarded as Ultimate Knowledge for centuries in western thought. As science began to learn more about the world and how it functions, it came into direct conflict with the claims made by the folk stories in the Old Testament, which set up an opposition between learned facts through observation and religious claims of infallibility.

I think a lot of other cultures have a better handle on what is mythos and based on belief, and what is testable and don't clash between those two nearly as much as western thought.
posted by hippybear at 12:37 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think it would clear things up if everyone stopped comparing "science" and "religion". They're apples and oranges. Instead, people should be comparing "religion" and "the truth", or "religion" vs. "reality".

Science is a process, and a professional discipline. Science doesn't have an opinion about anything, and science cannot disagree with anything, because "science" has no position about the orientation of truth. If experiment demonstrates it thus, then it is thus. If not, then it is otherwise.

Reality is the foil of religion.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:41 PM on July 21, 2010 [8 favorites]


Analogy fail - religion vs. scienceligion is like oranges vs apples oranges vs an orange juicer.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2010


DAMMIT scienceligion science
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:43 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You never see atheists spending time trying to debunk the Hindu religion or find contradictions in the ancient Greek myths.

Because most of those atheists are in the Western world, and what's the predominant religion?

Besides, atheists don't need to debunk Greek myths... we already refer to them as myths, for crying out loud. You want atheists to debunk Santa or Chewbacca?
posted by grubi at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reality is the foil of religion.

And what process do we use to best determine reality?
posted by grubi at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2010


These days, my inbox gets clogged with this goofiness more than I ever got of the religious stuff. It's a shorthand for seeming to be knowing and scientific without having to be knowing and scientific. This reminds me of what Fox News does with liberals -- they find the worst of the worst, with the implication anyone who has a spiritual side is a kook. It's an interesting piece of propaganda that amuses me no end, but I'm not buying it. So religion has contradictions. Just like atheism. People are, in essence, big dorks, and I am in a good place with that regardless of what ridiculous stuff they believe with conviction...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


narrow minded theism: We've already explained. Now shut up and do what the guy in the weird head gear tells you.

narrow minded scientism: Someday we will explain everything. Now shut up and do what the expert in the white labcat tells you.

Open minded atheism + theism: There's a lot to be learned from comparing notes and arguing thoughtfully, charitably with the other side.
posted by philip-random at 12:50 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


You want atheists to debunk Santa or Chewbacca?

I dare atheists to debunk Chewbacca.
posted by hippybear at 12:51 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


"So religion has contradictions. Just like atheism."

What are the contradictions of atheism?
posted by Eideteker at 12:56 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dare atheists to debunk Chewbacca.

Good God, people, mock Jesus all you want but don't fuck with Life Day.
posted by fleetmouse at 12:56 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


"So religion has contradictions. Just like atheism."

What are the contradictions of atheism?


This should be good.
posted by grubi at 12:58 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


the expert in the white labcat

WHAT KIND OF MONSTER WEARS A CAT?

That's it; I'm a theist now.
posted by grubi at 12:58 PM on July 21, 2010 [9 favorites]


If you believe in something in your religion that is contradicted by facts and evidence, basically provable science, then yes, indeed, science is the opposite of religion.

My point is that science is just a tool for figuring out things, so it's not the opposite of an organized system of religious beliefs even if it can be used to prove that certain religious beliefs are untrue. If the Bible had a math problem in it and the math was wrong, and you could use math to figure out the correct answer, that doesn't mean that math is the opposite of Christianity. Religion can play a lot of roles in a culture, and making statements about how the world works is only one part. Science does not play all of those roles (such as defining cultural ethics), but it's not supposed to, because its goals are for the most part completely orthogonal to those of a religion.
posted by burnmp3s at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


You never see atheists spending time trying to debunk the Hindu religion

Actually, India has a skeptical current, and they spend lots of time going after Hinduism and Islam. But they don't really talk about Christianity much. Do you suppose that there are people like you saying to them "You never see atheists spending time trying to debunk the Christian religion"?

Western atheists attack Christianity because Christianity is the dominant religious/spiritual force in Western society. Many Western atheists also attack Islam, neo-paganism, and the New Age movement, because these are also significant movements for irrationality in the Western world, though none of their influences are as strong as Christianity's. Efforts are directed where they're needed. Hinduism has vanishingly little influence in the West (and particularly in the US), so we don't really talk about it that much because there's far bigger fish to fry. Tearing down Christianity- getting people to recognize the problems with it- is, in the West, a big step in the direction of discouraging irrationality and faith.

or find contradictions in the ancient Greek myths.

Because nobody fucking believes in them anymore outside of a handful of neopagans, who we'll generally mock gleefully. You'll notice that not a lot of atheists address the Sumerian myths either. Why? Because they're fucking irrelevant to our society because nobody fucking believes in them.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [15 favorites]


Slickly produces videos? The hell they are. There's nothing quite so pathetic as someone speaking derisively of something they know nothing about, and the mocking tone with which the voice-over deliberately misconstrues aspects of Christianity makes the videos unwatchable.
posted by resiny at 1:03 PM on July 21, 2010


We have religious shaped holes in our heads.

No, we don't.

We may have a need to understand the world around us, but religions are only a subset of the ways people try to make sense of (some portion of) the world -- and not everyone finds religions' ways of understanding the world useful, just as others don't find science's, or classical music's, or post-modern novels' ways of trying to understand the world useful either.
posted by aught at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


I tried to debunk Chewbacca.

I'm typing this with my nose.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 1:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


There's a reason that James Randi never played holographic monster chess with dowsers, Doublewhiskeycokenoice.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:07 PM on July 21, 2010


Please welcome our newest member, squeeker92

He sure thought hard about his username. Geez. I expected to see more "PlatoXXXI" or something.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 1:08 PM on July 21, 2010


It seems to me at least that for the most part the only people who think science is the opposite of religion are religious fundamentalists. Science can be used to figure things out about the world, and some of the things that people find out can contradict religious texts and/or beliefs about the world. But each individual can benefit from, trust, or use science and still believe whatever they want about any given religion or god. There are plenty of people who don't believe in any religion for a variety of reasons, and in many of those reasons have nothing to do with science.
Here's someone who knows where I'm coming from :-)
Gosh I've even got people feeling sorry for me lol. I love science, don't get me wrong. It fascinates me, and I use it every day, and it has got absolutely tons of brilliant things going for it, but it will never offer an answer to the most basic of human questions 'why are we here'. You can talk about the big bang and human reproduction and evolution all you want, but this is not an answer to this question.
This is what I'm getting at when I say it can offer no meaning or pupose - it might explain how stuff works but not why.
posted by Monkeymoo at 1:16 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


We have religious shaped holes in our heads.

No, we don't.

We may have a need to understand the world around us, but religions are only a subset of the ways people try to make sense of (some portion of) the world -- and not everyone finds religions' ways of understanding the world useful, just as others don't find science's, or classical music's, or post-modern novels' ways of trying to understand the world useful either.


I really like this point of aught's, although I tend to think of it slightly differently -- I think we do have religion-shaped holes, but I also think that religion doesn't have to be, well, religious. I haven't read Durkheim for a long time and I can't find my copy of Elementary Forms of Religious Life, but if I remember correctly Durkheim believes that in order for something to be a religion, it must have rituals, collective effervescence and some other stuff which I forget. Anyway, I think that in this sense we do have a religion-shaped hole in our heads because I think it's natural to desire rituals and collective effervescence of some sort. This can take on many forms -- family game nights, raves, political meetings, book discussion groups, whatever (I wrote a paper about showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show as a religion) -- but I do think that humans do have a need to believe in something although it could just as well be classical music or post-modern novels as God.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


If there is no God then there is no "why" in a teleological sense - there can be no "because as supreme being I felt like designing things that way" answer.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:21 PM on July 21, 2010


I don't think we have religion-shaped holes in our heads anymore than we have ice-cream-shaped holes or rock-and-roll-shaped holes. It's literally a matter of preference. You believe because you choose to.
posted by grubi at 1:21 PM on July 21, 2010


We have religious shaped holes in our heads.

I need religion like I need one of those.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:23 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


If there is no God then there is no "why" in a teleological sense - there can be no "because as supreme being I felt like designing things that way" answer.

There certainly could be a teleological why without a god, just like there could be an objective morality without a god. It could be coded into the universe.

Sure, there's no proof of it, and no way to tell that it's there, and no good reason to believe in it, but teleology is not the only thing that those characteristics apply to.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't think we have religion-shaped holes in our heads anymore than we have ice-cream-shaped holes or rock-and-roll-shaped holes. It's literally a matter of preference. You believe because you choose to.

Yeah, that's fair enough, I'm just defining religion super-broadly; I guess my point is more that I think we have "meaningfulness" holes, if that makes sense (it might not), and that for some people that's filled with what is generally defined as religion whereas for other people it's filled with other stuff.

Also, while I do choose to believe in God and recognize this as a choice, I do NOT have any choice about my feelings towards ice cream, especially peanut butter ice cream; my love for that shit is out of control.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:26 PM on July 21, 2010


That whole "induce a religious experience with magnets" bit continues to be fascinating to me. I think that humans probably do have religious-shaped holes in their heads, or, rather, pockets that our minds fall into like a particle dropping into a potential well. That means little. Humans probably have murder-shaped holes in their heads, too, and holes which predispose them to any number of cognitive biases.

Just because something is "natural" does not mean that it is automatically correct or the right thing in which to indulge.
posted by adipocere at 1:27 PM on July 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I dare atheists to debunk Chewbacca.

This is because atheists don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they're debunked. Wookiees are known to do that.
posted by cottoncandybeard at 1:27 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


I do NOT have any choice about my feelings towards ice cream, especially peanut butter ice cream; my love for that shit is out of control.

I'm filing paperwork for the intervention as we speak. YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.
posted by grubi at 1:28 PM on July 21, 2010


Humans probably have murder-shaped holes in their heads, too

Are you saying I have the capacity for murder? How DARE you?! Where do you get off?! I'll KILL YOU for saying that!
posted by grubi at 1:29 PM on July 21, 2010


I do NOT have any choice about my feelings towards ice cream, especially peanut butter ice cream; my love for that shit is out of control.

I'm filing paperwork for the intervention as we speak. YOU HAVE A PROBLEM.


You -- you're not my husband's sockpuppet, are you?

Damn it, not another ice cream intervention.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:30 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not so much that we have religious-shaped holes in our heads as it is that there are parts of the brain which, when stimulated, create a sensation which we refer to as "religious experience". Some people get TLE and get these experiences with greater frequency than normal, some people learn to stimulate those bits at will, and some people never have any sort of religious experience.

The thing is, these are all entirely valid. These experiences are a consequence of our chemistry and of how we are constructed. The problem comes when we experience a particular sensation, decide that that sensation has a particular meaning, and get upset when that meaning is questioned or refuted.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:32 PM on July 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


It is possible to think and still be stupid.
posted by kuatto at 1:34 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Why are we here?" is such a useless and misleading question. There is no possible answer that doesn't come pre-loaded with an agenda or loops back around into tautology.

Here are better questions:

"Why is there hunger?"
"How do we best work toward justice?"
"What is our responsibility toward others?"
"Who let the dogs out?"

All of these questions can be addressed without retreating into a religious framework, except possibly the last one, which requires praying in the direction of the Baha Men.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:35 PM on July 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


You never see atheists spending time trying to debunk the Hindu religion or find contradictions in the ancient Greek myths.

Others have already addressed the Hindu thing, and there were Greeks who didn't believe in their gods, or didn't believe in worshipping them, etc.

From Wikipedia:

Western atheism has its roots in pre-Socratic Greek philosophy, but did not emerge as a distinct world-view until the late Enlightenment. The 5th-century BCE Greek philosopher Diagoras is known as the "first atheist",and is cited as such by Cicero in his De Natura Deorum. Critias viewed religion as a human invention used to frighten people into following moral order. Atomists such as Democritus attempted to explain the world in a purely materialistic way, without reference to the spiritual or mystical. Other pre-Socratic philosophers who probably had atheistic views included Prodicus and Protagoras. In the 3rd-century BCE the Greek philosophers Theodorus Cirenaicus and Strato of Lampsacus also did not believe gods exist.

Socrates (c. 471–399 BCE), was accused of impiety (see Euthyphro dilemma) on the basis that he inspired questioning of the state gods. Although he disputed the accusation that he was a "complete atheist", saying that he could not be an atheist as he believed in spirits,[82] he was ultimately sentenced to death. Socrates also prays to various gods in Plato's dialogue Phaedrus and says "By Zeus" in the dialogue The Republic.

Euhemerus (c. 330–260 BCE) published his view that the gods were only the deified rulers, conquerors and founders of the past, and that their cults and religions were in essence the continuation of vanished kingdoms and earlier political structures. Although not strictly an atheist, Euhemerus was later criticized for having "spread atheism over the whole inhabited earth by obliterating the gods".

Atomic materialist Epicurus (c. 341–270 BCE) disputed many religious doctrines, including the existence of an afterlife or a personal deity; he considered the soul purely material and mortal. While Epicureanism did not rule out the existence of gods, he believed that if they did exist, they were unconcerned with humanity.

The Roman poet Lucretius (c. 99–55 BCE) agreed that, if there were gods, they were unconcerned with humanity and unable to affect the natural world. For this reason, he believed humanity should have no fear of the supernatural. He expounds his Epicurean views of the cosmos, atoms, the soul, mortality, and religion in De rerum natura ("On the nature of things"),[88] which popularized Epicurus' philosophy in Rome.

The meaning of "atheist" changed over the course of classical antiquity. The early Christians were labeled atheists by non-Christians because of their disbelief in pagan gods. During the Roman Empire, Christians were executed for their rejection of the Roman gods in general and Emperor-worship in particular. When Christianity became the state religion of Rome under Theodosius I in 381, heresy became a punishable offense.

posted by nooneyouknow at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


You -- you're not my husband's sockpuppet, are you?

I... uh... er..

What's that over there?!

/me trods off quickly
posted by grubi at 1:38 PM on July 21, 2010


Sometimes atheism means believing that the "why do we exist?" question has a personal answer, not a universal one. Every person needs some sort of meaning or purpose to life, but as a whole, the universe doesn't.

You know the entire conversation with a kid where he or she keeps asking "why?" As in:

"Why is the sun up during the day?"
"Because the earth both revolves and rotates, around its own axis and around the sun."
"Why?"
"Because gravity holds us in a relatively stable orbit."
"Why?"

You can play this game all day, but eventually you get to say "I don't know," or "Because it does." Why is there existence? Because there is. You don't have to throw a god in there anywhere.
posted by mikeh at 1:42 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.

You're kidding right?
posted by WerewolvesRancheros at 1:44 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sometimes atheism means believing that the "why do we exist?" question has a personal answer, not a universal one.

Yeah, that's how I feel it is. "What is the meaning of life?" is best answered "There is no inherent meaning of life. You have to make your own." Which is nice, because you're not here because of someone's ridiculous whims (well, kinda), but you're here to do what you choose to. True free will, with no guilt from an all-powerful Magical Ghosty Man.
posted by grubi at 1:45 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Why is the sun up during the day?"
"Because the earth both revolves and rotates, around its own axis and around the sun."
"Why?"
"Because gravity holds us in a relatively stable orbit."
"Why?"

You can play this game all day, but eventually you get to say "I don't know," or "Because it does." Why is there existence? Because there is. You don't have to throw a god in there anywhere.


Um, I think you just effectively argued that atheism is a frustrated conclusion inspired by EVERYTHING being way too complicated to explain. Enter the happy agnostic who is delighted that everything is way too complicated to explain.
posted by philip-random at 1:59 PM on July 21, 2010


atheism is a frustrated conclusion inspired by EVERYTHING being way too complicated to explain.

No, not really. Atheism is a conclusion based on the idea that "God" is not an explanation for anything in the universe, complex or otherwise.
posted by grubi at 2:03 PM on July 21, 2010


Not in that example it isn't.
posted by philip-random at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2010


"Why are we here?" is such a useless and misleading question. There is no possible answer that doesn't come pre-loaded with an agenda or loops back around into tautology.


I don't know. I find it very interesting. I mean, doesn't it strike you as just a little strange that anything is here, let alone the kind of thing that can think "Why am I here?" Also, it's not true that there is "no possible answer (etc.)." If we observed, say, a something-I-know-not-what (often called "god" but could really be anything) and that something-I-know-not-what convinced us that it created the universe and everything in it because X, Y, Z, then we would have a good (scientific) answer to the question "Why are we here?"
posted by MarshallPoe at 2:10 PM on July 21, 2010


What is the meaning of life?

If you believe in the Great High Fiber Diet God the answer is "flatulence." Don't ask me how I know (or come into my office, for that matter).

Sometimes atheism means believing that the "why do we exist?" question has a personal answer, not a universal one.

Yes, this is a good approach. Unfortunately, many people feel that unless their own personal answer is everyone's answer, theirs is invalid, and spend their lives trying to impose their own answer on everyone else.
posted by maxwelton at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


We have religious shaped holes in our heads.

There are so many dirty jokes I want to make here.
posted by quin at 2:17 PM on July 21, 2010


Any statement beginning, "What [plural noun describing large number of people] don't realize...", really isn't worth taking seriously, is it?
posted by normy at 2:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"Real "thinking atheists" are probably scientists."

Wrong. According to a survey of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41% say they do not.

There are many other sources I could cite. Anybody can be an atheist. I never believed in god/santa/tooth fairy as a child. I just never did. And as I got older I read everything I could get my hands on, including the bible. I am a firm believer in science but it is not a religion to me, nor is atheism.
posted by futz at 2:30 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


What atheists don't realise is that science is not the opposite of religion. Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives.
We have religious shaped holes in our heads. One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.


Yes, and we stick our pinkies out while we sip our tea, and plot paving the Moon with Barnes and Noble bookstores. Bwahahahahaha!
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:41 PM on July 21, 2010


futz: That link is debunked in every single one of these threads. Every single one. Can we stop linking to it please?
posted by Justinian at 2:42 PM on July 21, 2010


(Sorry, I mean the survey by Pew, not your link to the LA Times)
posted by Justinian at 2:43 PM on July 21, 2010


futz: That link is debunked in every single one of these threads. Every single one. Can we stop linking to it please?
posted by Justinian

Sorry. I didn't know that. Can you supply a link that validates the debunking? I would greatly appreciate it. I always thought it was an "odd" statistic. But then again I have many sciency friends who are also religious so I thought it explained something that I had always puzzled over. Pew pew pew...(intergalactic weapon noises).
posted by futz at 2:54 PM on July 21, 2010


::enters thread::

::looks around::

Uh oh.

::runs away::
posted by Splunge at 2:55 PM on July 21, 2010


I don't understand atheists who want to waste one minute of their lives trying to reason with people for whom faith is paramount.

I mean, they just don't have the same criteria for belief that you do, which neatly explains why they aren't already atheists, right?

I find sites like this disrespectful, because they assume that anyone who chooses to believe "obviously must not have all the Facts." This is not true.
posted by edguardo at 2:56 PM on July 21, 2010


they assume that anyone who chooses to believe "obviously must not have all the Facts." This is not true.

Actually, a lot of believers haven't even considered the facts.
posted by grubi at 3:02 PM on July 21, 2010


One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.

No it's not. Why does everything have to be a thing? I don't believe in ghosts. It's not a position - I'm not antiphantasmic.
posted by doublehappy at 3:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can I say meh? Good. I'll say meh. Actually talking about the site rather than the boring, stupid, and banal, "atheism is a religion" dead horse.

Really bad design: Come on here, what appears to be static images of power point slides on top of some of the blandest, and badly masked clip art cobbled together. Is that Times New Roman?

What we believe: I know this is a common mistake, but here is some advice. Define what you believe by what you actually believe, rather than in opposition to some other ideal. For example, I define my atheism by the beliefs that:

* materialism provides the most likely explanation of the universe
* ethics and morality can be investigated through philosophical inquiry grounded in axiomatic principles
* I have a beautiful and ecstatic relationship with the universe I live in
* death is part of a natural physical process in which the experiences of human suffering come to an end
* in the absence of evidence, doubt is a reasonable and glorious position.

It's not that hard, they should try it sometime.

What I'm not seeing on that site are the things that I really think about as an atheist: morality, beauty, the role of ritual in my life, etc., etc.. New and novel ways to poke at theists are not even on my radar right now.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:05 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


edquardo, trying to reason with people who show up on my doorstep on Saturday mornings is at least a tad more polite than whipping out the air horn on them. It isn't as if atheists have to go around looking for theists, or in this case, Christians. If you are an American in the United States, you're soaked in theism. Please to pull out your wallet and examine your cash. It doesn't say "In Reason We Trust" on it. Mostly, this kind of information is handy when you're dealing with your Biblical literalist relations who simply will not stop hassling you. It's techniques for defense.

Recently, I was talking with someone about our weekends. I had escorted a friend of mine to a Pagan Picnic, as my friend didn't feel comfortable with that section of town. I received a strange reaction about associating with "witches" who apparently "curse" people. That's what witches do, I'm told. Christians, she insisted, do not curse people. So I said to her, "Go on up, you baldhead!" She didn't get it. So, as to not having all the facts, probably the hardest part of discussing Christianity is teaching Christians about their own religion.
posted by adipocere at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've not seen so much conjecture in one thread for awhile.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2010


Actually, a lot of believers haven't even considered the facts.

I've met plenty of very educated people who've maintained their belief in Christianity, which evidence leads me to believe that their beliefs are not based on evidence.

They've got the facts, but they drew different conclusions.

Admittedly, some Christians are operating under a false understanding of say, biology or physics. But not all.

I think it's a feel-good strategy by atheists to believe that a proper understanding of science (and therefore reality) culminates inevitably in atheism or agnosticism, because I don't think that's how it plays out.

Belief is ultimately a matter of faith, and no amount of, say, developmental biology is going to change some peoples' minds about the necessity of a personal God.
posted by edguardo at 3:11 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


futz: it doesn't even need a link. Wondering what P(scientist|thinking atheist) is isn't answered by giving P(atheist|scientist), or even P(thinking atheist|scientist).

Although I hope most scientists think.
posted by edd at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2010


I'm thinking these atheists should be made aware that there's more to religion than The Bible.
posted by Dark Messiah at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2010


Reality is the foil of religion.

Oh yes, good old rock-steady, rational, objective REALITY. Good thing we have lots of that to go around. Take that... everything else!
posted by hermitosis at 3:16 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reality is the foil of religion.

That's why I use cellophane like any atheist supporter of baby-killing feminism would.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:19 PM on July 21, 2010


I can't comment on the religosity of American scientists, but I will say that something like 5% of the scientists I know are religious. Some of them are very good scientists too, in terms of rigour and career progression. So while I don't understand how they reconcile those two approaches to the world, it's certainly true that not all scientists are atheist.

As a side note, since I've started getting a little bit involved in my local sceptic community I've become convinced that at least a subset of self-described atheists/sceptics have arrived there through what I think of as quasi-religious (or perhaps "ritualistic"?) reasoning. By which I mean that I encounter or read posts by people who can recite (and believe) all the rationalist talking points, scoff at the superstitous, etc... but without any clear understanding of what they're saying. Or, at least, without applying the same scepticism and rigour to their own thoughts and actions, or those of their friends/community leaders. I grew up in a religious community, and some of the sceptics I meet are eerily similar to the religious folks I got sick of; they're just reciting different catechisms. So I'd argue that, in addition to not all scientists being atheists, not all atheists (or sceptics) are remotely scientific.

RE The "No-one spends time discounting Hinduism" thing... Yes, people do. There's a growing sceptic movement in India who dedicate their time to calling out various self-proclaimed religious figures. However, I don't because I don't live in a society where Hinduism affects me. I am specifically interested in learning about and refuting Christianity's claims to be the truth: not because I hate Christians (heck, I used to be one), but because I disagree with the special prominence, deference and political influence that the Church is afforded in my society. I also happen to dislike a lot of the core message from the Abrahimic religions and a lot of religious thinking generally; while I could (and do) criticise all of them, Christianity is by far the religion that I encounter and end up discussing the most.
posted by metaBugs at 3:24 PM on July 21, 2010


Honestly, I think a "thinking atheist" doesn't spend his or her time worrying about refuting the Bible. Real "thinking atheists" are probably scientists. Or anyone who uses the real, observable nature of the world to make their best decisions about things, not those who just try to one-up Christianity.

I'd add that trying to use logic or reason to demonstrate that the Bible has contradictions or recounts physically impossible things misses the point of the Bible to believers. "Contradictions" are "mysteries", the "this defies the laws of physics" are "miracles", ignoring evidence is "faith". Scripture wars are not how you fight fundamentalism; education is.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:24 PM on July 21, 2010


futz: it doesn't even need a link. Wondering what P(scientist|thinking atheist) is isn't answered by giving P(atheist|scientist), or even P(thinking atheist|scientist).

I do need links. That is how I learn things. If the Pew survey had been debunked, I want to educate myself. I am expected to blindly believe you just because you say I should. Hmmm, sounds familiar.
posted by futz at 3:28 PM on July 21, 2010


*has been debunked*
posted by futz at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2010


it will never offer an answer to the most basic of human questions 'why are we here'.

On the plus side, it won't make one up just for the sake of having one, either.

I dare atheists to debunk Chewbacca.

I tried, but he really wanted to stay in it. I think he got the wrong idea from my efforts, though. I will say no more, except that he is a gentle and giving Wookie.
posted by Sparx at 3:32 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


* materialism provides the most likely explanation of the universe
* ethics and morality can be investigated through philosophical inquiry grounded in axiomatic principles
* I have a beautiful and ecstatic relationship with the universe I live in
* death is part of a natural physical process in which the experiences of human suffering come to an end
* in the absence of evidence, doubt is a reasonable and glorious position.


I really like this -- I do happen to believe in God, but I think this is very elegant and well stated.

Belief is ultimately a matter of faith, and no amount of, say, developmental biology is going to change some peoples' minds about the necessity of a personal God.

I think that this is true as well, and I think it's okay. If someone wants to believe in God, I don't see the problem with that (obviously I feel that way, but still). I DO see a problem with treating people badly, but I think that's the case no matter what your reasoning is. I also don't see any problem with holding rational scientific views and still having faith in something else; science is about knowledge, not faith, and that is really important and valuable and has a profound and positive effect, whereas religion is about faith and can't be proved, nor is it supposed to be, and I don't really know why those two should be incompatible.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:34 PM on July 21, 2010


I dare atheists to debunk Chewbacca.

Oh, that's easy. Throw a couple of bantha steaks on the grill and he'll be out of his bunk before you can say, "rare."
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:37 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


The site isn't good, but I understand the reason they made it. It may be hard for non-Americans, or even non-Southerners to understand how deeply the assumptions of Christianity affect our lives. There's some good people doing good things because they think God has a plan for them. And then, there are some evil fucks who are committing terrible crimes because they think they are doing God's work. Sometimes you can't buy beer on Sundays. Sometimes the homeless are fed by a church. And sometimes kids are raped by old men who claim to be holy.

The important thing, rather than mocking Christians, is to help them understand that religions (more broadly, belief systems) are dangerous, and have a long and sordid history of starting and sustaining violence. It's not that religions are inherently violent per se, but that humans are irrational when under stress, and will accept answers that are totally wrong if only to be able to consider a problem "solved." Throw in some manipulative leaders who understand the power of myth, ancestor worship, the fear of death, our own desire to be good, and our shocking capacity for evil, and you've got the recipe for a big cruelty casserole.

Nazism, Stalinism, Fundamentalist Islamism, and Fundamentalist Christianity have a single common property: they leave no room for skepticism or dissent. The intellectual battle shouldn't be against any particular ism. That's a losing game. You have to battle self-righteousness instead, which is still a losing game, but the right one to fight.
posted by atypicalguy at 3:40 PM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


In my rambling above about quasi-religious sceptics... I think "cargo cult scepticism" nicely encapsulates what I was trying to say.

I don't understand atheists who want to waste one minute of their lives trying to reason with people for whom faith is paramount.
Well, I started off religious and lost/abandoned/gave up/etc. my faith largely as a result of my emerging scientific mind. Simplistically, my view was (and is) that religion says "Believe that..." where science asks "where's the evidence?". The two views are, to me, irreconcilable. Some people manage it, obviously.

While not universal, many religious-turned-atheist (or agnostic) people I've spoken to tell broadly the same story. So some of us think that religious people can be reasoned out of it because that's what happened to us.

Of course, it might just be for the fun of a rousing debate :). If people turn up at my door to convert me and I have some free time, I'll generally invite them in. They're trying to convert me, I'm trying to understand them and explain myself to them. As long as no-one takes it personally, I love locking horns with people like this.

KirkJobSluder - very nicely put, especially about the importance of doubt. I strongly believe that people need to get better at welcoming doubt into their lives. I've spoken to several people about this, and completely failed to communicate effectively that, sometimes, "I don't know" is the most truthful, respectable and exciting answer. Much better than reaching for a satisfying half-truth.
posted by metaBugs at 3:42 PM on July 21, 2010


futz: My point is not that the survey is wrong. It's that it doesn't tell you how many atheists are scientists. That's why it doesn't need a link to debunk - because there's not enough relevant to the question to debunk.
posted by edd at 3:51 PM on July 21, 2010


Monkeymoo: "Science can never offer any meaning or purpose to our lives"

Because there isn't any. Suck up and face the entropy. If you wish to make meaning or purpose, make it for yourself... but otherwise there's nothing.

I guess I've become a nihilist.
posted by MrLint at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2010


futz: The poll claims to represent the views of American scientists... by polling the AAAS. But AAAS isn't exactly a clearinghouse for the nation's top scientists; it's an advocacy group to promote things like diversity in science and such. Note that there isn't anything remotely wrong with that! But it's not where you go to find out what "scientists" think about issues. For example: Membership in AAAS is open to anybody who wishes to join. Yes, this poll claims to represent the beliefs of scientists and does so by polling a group which contains non-scientists, social scientists, dentists, school teachers, etc. There's nothing wrong with any of those things! But you don't poll them to find out what "scientists" think!

A more accurate representation of what hard scientists think about god is likely this 1998 survey published in Nature. If you know anything about science, you know that being published in Nature is not peanuts.The upshot? 7% of scientists in the National Academy of Sciences believe in a personal god.

Oddly, I think the poll you linked to might actually be a different poll than the one which has been debunked before... but the problem of polling the wrong people to find out what scientists believe is exactly the same issue. Strange. Basically any time someone shows you data which claims to show scientists believing in God, look at who they polled. Odds are they will have polled a group that sounds sciencey but contains large numbers of non or soft scientists. Again, there's nothing wrong with not being a scientist or a soft scientist (my degree is in biology after all), but that's not the implication they are trying to put forward when they release the results.

Physicists, Chemists, Mathematcians, etc do not generally believe in God. Even biologists are non-believers by a large margin, but not nearly as large as the others.

Personally I'd love to see a poll of electrical engineers. Those dudes are out there.
posted by Justinian at 3:52 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Simplistically, my view was (and is) that religion says "Believe that..." where science asks "where's the evidence?". The two views are, to me, irreconcilable. Some people manage it, obviously.

To be honest, you know why I think I'm able to do this? When I was a kid, I wondered whether Hobbes was a real tiger or a stuffed tiger, and ultimately I realized that I believe he is both; there's no question in my mind that he is an actual tiger (albeit anthropomorphic) and that he and Calvin play and have adventures. Simultaneously, there are some people who see him as a stuffed tiger and they're not wrong, he's really a stuffed tiger as well. Calvin and Hobbes introduced me to the idea of having two beliefs at once, and a combination of knowledge and belief that might be contradictory. I think being religious and scientific can be something that works well and makes you think about things in a different way (which apparently is something I don't need to worry about anyway -- I've been told that I have an overactive imagination but by then I'd already married him and it was too late), but I don't think it's impossible, I think it's just a matter of a certain flexibility of mind. This may not be a good thing, but I do think this is a way that the combination can work. I have no doubt that other people have reconciled this differently, but Calvin and Hobbes is what did it for me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


futz: I see on preview that you would like links about debunking. Is the poll I provided about the NAS sufficient when combined with the fact (which you can google in just a few seconds) that AAAS is open to anyone who wants to join? I think it probably should be but if not I can always google some more.
posted by Justinian at 3:54 PM on July 21, 2010


I guess I've become a nihilist.

Looks exhausting.
posted by edguardo at 3:55 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was just in my basement, and I totally debunked myself in a big way.
posted by nola at 3:56 PM on July 21, 2010


Simultaneously, there are some people who see him as a stuffed tiger and they're not wrong, he's really a stuffed tiger as well. Calvin and Hobbes introduced me to the idea of having two beliefs at once, and a combination of knowledge and belief that might be contradictory.

DOES NOT COMPUTE --> (TIGER v ~TIGER)
posted by edguardo at 3:58 PM on July 21, 2010


>> Reality is the foil of religion.

> And what process do we use to best determine reality?

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
    - - Philip K. Dick
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:59 PM on July 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


To rephrase why the survey isn't relevant here, suppose we were wondering what proportion of fruit eaten in the USA are apples. Having someone quote a survey that reports that 100% of apples in the USA are fruit doesn't help.
posted by edd at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2010


"Who let the dogs out?"

Who? Who? Who? Who? WHO??
posted by waraw at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2010


Justinian, thank you for your thoughtful response. I tried to google it after your first post to me but had no luck. I now appreciate the fact that the poll was skewed by the very fact that the participants were not a random group. I am always skeptical of polls but somehow this one sucked me in. Of course I would love more links. More information=More understanding but I don't expect you to single-handedly educate moi.
posted by futz at 4:09 PM on July 21, 2010


WHAT KIND OF MONSTER WEARS A CAT?

I wear my cats all the time. Over the shoulders, kinda like a scarf. Sure, they complain a bit but they've never seemed to mind all that much. Am I a bad person?
posted by contraption at 4:09 PM on July 21, 2010


And, yes, I totally respect Nature in more ways than one...
posted by futz at 4:13 PM on July 21, 2010


Damn there's a lot of hate-on here.

Yes, there are a lot of asshole atheists. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of asshole Christians too (sub "Christian" for any other religious affiliation too). This is not to say that all Christians are assholes, and in the same way not all atheists are.

In the so-called Western world, society has been under the thumb of religious assholes for hundreds of years. There's been inquisitions, witch-burnings, lynchings and all sorts of other intolerance under the guise and guidance of Christianity. So, as the pendulum swings away from that sort of idiocy, you will still not be able to change the basic human tendency towards being jerks about whatever form of belief they have.

Does that excuse being a jerk? No. But it's hypocritical to say "Man these atheists are assholes and need to stop being assholes" without saying the same thing about religious assholes being assholes about their religion.

I'm now done saying the word "asshole". Thanks for listening.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 4:18 PM on July 21, 2010


We have religious shaped holes in our heads. One way of filling the hole is to become a rabid atheist, which is just another religious belief anyway.

People have spiritual needs which may be fulfilled in ways other than religion.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:22 PM on July 21, 2010


I enjoyed reading the list of Atrocities, and remembering back to long boring sundays where my preacher insisted on preaching through every single verse in Joshua.

"why did it never occur to me then what an awful thing to do it is, to destroy entire communities and tribes?"

but it made me sad, to think that people might use the existence of such atrocities as excuse for their own hateful behavior.

the list of free-thinkers made me happy. I remember when I first learned what free-thinking meant, and suddenly I was very wary of Twain and Jefferson et al.
posted by rubah at 5:37 PM on July 21, 2010


there are parts of the brain which, when stimulated, create a sensation which we refer to as "religious experience". Some people get TLE and get these experiences with greater frequency than normal, some people learn to stimulate those bits at will, and some people never have any sort of religious experience. The thing is, these are all entirely valid.

I've also heard it called 'the numinous' and supposedly the effect is pretty well replicated by LSD and mushrooms and certain other halucinogenic drugs (which can be fun as hell, btw, but I wouldn't do them every Sunday), but when I do them it doesn't seem to be given the same 'validity' as going to church for whatever reason.
posted by Kirk Grim at 5:50 PM on July 21, 2010


I now appreciate the fact that the poll was skewed by the very fact that the participants were not a random group

I think it's probably worse than that, though, because I can't come up with a reasonable explanation for polling AAAS as a random sample of scientists if you're doing a poll which purports to be interested in the religious beliefs of "American scientists". The only two explanations that work are abject incompetence or deliberate obfuscation in order to skew the results in a particular direction. That Pew Research is completely incompetent doesn't seem the more likely of the two scenarios.
posted by Justinian at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2010


Eideteker wrote: What are the contradictions of atheism?

I don't know if I'd call this a contradiction in atheism per se, but a lot of people want to know how they can be good (or moral, or virtuous, if you prefer). One answer is "follow this religion," but even theists have problems with that answer. One a-theist answer is consequentialism, the idea that you act morally if the consequences of your acts are good. This is a tremendously simple and seductive idea, and it's favored by many modern philosophers (e.g., Peter Singer), but it leads to all sorts of unpleasant and contradictory conclusions.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:08 PM on July 21, 2010


I don't care if the site is promoting being 'immature atheists'. I refuse to defend Christianity from any criticism.

A healthy dose of criticism is good for everyone and everything.
posted by Malice at 7:16 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Personally I'd love to see a poll of electrical engineers. Those dudes are out there.

A LOT of the "scientists" involved in the intelligent design movement are engineers. I leave you to speculate as to why that would be.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:17 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Those videos have professional voice-overs.
posted by kuatto at 7:32 PM on July 21, 2010


A LOT of the "scientists" involved in the intelligent design movement are engineers. I leave you to speculate as to why that would be.
posted by Pope Guilty


Once again, I would love links that prove your point. Links with an "s". Evidence. I am not disputing you..I just want confirmation...or not.
posted by futz at 8:15 PM on July 21, 2010


Arguing religion on the internet seems pointless, but re the scientist vs. religion thing. I've always wondered, how do atheists square the observable fact that many of the greatest scientists of all time have been christian? And not just christian in name only, but rather devoted believers. I mean, if some of the greatest minds of science have been Christian, then what is the harm? I mean the Big Bang (cosmic egg) was first theorized by a catholic priest (and funnily, the atheists of the day argued vehemently against it, saying that it implied that the universe had been created.)
posted by puny human at 9:55 PM on July 21, 2010


I've always wondered, how do atheists square the observable fact that many of the greatest scientists of all time have been christian?

Science isn't a cult of personality. Newton's theories remain a useful way of predicting what happens in the world, despite having been refined since, so we continue to use them. The fact that he said that his greatest accomplishment was dying a virgin, and that he spent a huge amount of time trying to turn various metals into gold, doesn't make what he accomplished worthless.

Really, I don't think most scientists care what other people believe. Personally, as long as I'm not confronted with someone else's religion, via, say, someone shouting at me on campus, I don't give it the slightest thought. People believe strange things.
posted by IjonTichy at 10:14 PM on July 21, 2010


No single scientist can do much for science beyond coming up with an idea and producing some evidence to back it up. We remember people like Newton, Darwin and Curies because they propounded ideas that, it turns out, accurately describe the way the world works. But if literally thousands of other scientists hadn't constantly examined, tested, and modified their theories we wouldn't know those names today. It doesn't matter if you're a Christian or not. It matters if you can show someone evidence that demonstrates that you're right and if that evidence can be verified by people who are not you.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 10:42 PM on July 21, 2010


Well it is not just Newton Ijon. There is Max Planck, Lord Kelvin, Gregor Mendel, just to name a few off the top of my head. Can you demonstrate that atheist scientists have better track records than xian scientists? Russia and China are officially atheist, so you should be able to give me a graph or something showing a correlation between atheism and achievment in science, right?
posted by puny human at 10:49 PM on July 21, 2010


I mean a mind as great as Newton's or Planck's can believe in god, but Pope Guilty says "no way" and I am supposed to believe him? What exactly did Pope Guilty or Uther Bentrazor achieve in science? Why should I believe them?
posted by puny human at 11:00 PM on July 21, 2010


I'm not sure why it's me you're yelling at. There's a lot of smart people who believe in God. Who cares?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:03 PM on July 21, 2010


Weak sauce PG. And how am I yelling at you? I'm just asking questions.
posted by puny human at 11:12 PM on July 21, 2010


And not just smart people, but some of the smartest people who ever lived. I once heard Newton described as a 1000 year genius (in that a mind like that only comes around once every thousand years) And Planck was the father of quantum theory for goodness sake.
posted by puny human at 11:15 PM on July 21, 2010


And not just smart people, but some of the smartest people who ever lived. I once heard Newton described as a 1000 year genius

Waaaait a second. Newton was surpassingly brilliant but he lived mostly in the 17th century. Additionally, he was obsessed with wacky stuff like alchemy and devoted big chunks of his life to them.

But in any case I'm not exactly sure what your argument is. Have there been brilliant religious scientists? Inarguably. But it is equally clear that there is a strong correlation between education, focus on the sciences, and lack of belief in a god.

So I don't really know what you're getting at. It's possible to be a scientist and also religious, but it tends not to be the case and as time has passed it becomes increasingly unlikely. There is no particular reason to believe this trend will not continue.
posted by Justinian at 12:16 AM on July 22, 2010


You're calling me out specifically, and I'd like to know why.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 AM on July 22, 2010


Maybe we have religious-shaped donuts in our heads.

Which is really confusing when you think about it.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:10 AM on July 22, 2010


I think it's a feel-good strategy by atheists to believe that a proper understanding of science (and therefore reality) culminates inevitably in atheism or agnosticism, because I don't think that's how it plays out.

Well it worked for me. Atheists pointing out scientific facts that contradicted parts of the Bible led me to question other parts of the Bible and my church's theological basis as well. I was never a literalist, but there's only so many things you can excuse with "it's an allegory", "it's an error in transcription", "they didn't understand science back then so God had to put in terms they'd get", etc before you realise that the structure has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. And once you question the Bible, then you question the tradition, and the heirarchy, and eventually you're left with nothing more than "But the people at my church are very nice people. Well, most of them..."

I don't think I'm the only atheist who lost their belief this way, which is why it's a popular method of defending against pushy religious people.

On topic: I agree with KirkJobSluder that the site doesn't represent my current experience of atheism at all. But when I was struggling to reconcile my loss of belief with what I'd been told all my life by people I loved and trusted, it did help to see sites similar to this and know that a) I wasn't the first person to go through this and b) sort out some of my thinking. I wouldn't direct any new atheists to it (another vote for Sagan's Demon-Haunted World here), but if they're finding it helps them detach from a fundamentalist community then I hope it helps.
posted by harriet vane at 3:56 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some people get TLE and get these experiences with greater frequency than normal, some people learn to stimulate those bits at will, and some people never have any sort of religious experience.

[pedantry] Not everyone with TLE (temporal lobe epilepsy) experiences heightened religious "awareness." It is a common "side effect" of the disease, but is not by any means a symptom of it. Anyone claiming that someone (i.e. Joan of Arc) had TLE because they experienced religious visions is grasping at straws. I have TLE and have never had anything remotely close to a "vision." Nor has anyone else I know with TLE. Just because it happens doesn't mean that you can correlate TLE with "religious visions."

People with epilepsy also drop dead more often than people who don't have it, but that doesn't mean that having epilepsy means you're going to drop dead. [/pedantry]
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:18 AM on July 22, 2010


puny human: Arguing religion on the internet seems pointless, but re the scientist vs. religion thing. I've always wondered, how do atheists square the observable fact that many of the greatest scientists of all time have been christian?

I don't see the relevance, or the reasoning behind this question. Atheists do not claim a monopoly on science.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:19 AM on July 22, 2010


how do atheists square the observable fact that many of the greatest scientists of all time have been christian?

I don't accept your premise. If I did, I'd respond with a facepalm and probably suggest that the scientists you speak of were raised by Christian parents. I mentioned earlier that I don't believe in ghosts. That doesn't mean they don't scare the shit out of me.
posted by doublehappy at 6:24 AM on July 22, 2010


grapefruitmoon wrote: People with epilepsy also drop dead more often than people who don't have it ... [/pedantry]

Really? How many times do they do it? There's a trick that would convince many atheists into religion! [/pedantrysquared]
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered, how do atheists square the observable fact that many of the greatest scientists of all time have been christian?

- What's to square? For the past several hundred years, those with education, money and power have been overwhelmingly western, and the western world has been overwhelmingly Christian. When you're drawing from a pool like that, of course many scientists are Christian. Most of your famous members of *any* profession will be Christian. Add to this the fact that heresy was a crime punishable by death (or at least shunning) for much of the last few hundred years, and even if people were atheists, they had no reason to speak up about it.

- It's clear that you don't understand science very well. We have very little patience for the cult of personality. People like Newton and Einstein were very smart people, but also happened to be in the right place at the right time, working on the right problem. There is no doubt that we would have characterized gravity and general relativity without those two. Maybe it would have taken an extra few years, but it was bound to happen. They built their work upon the backs of others, and others are now standing on their shoulders.

Becoming a famous scientist does take a lot of hard work, but it also usually means that a) you got lucky, and b) you're good at self-promotion. There are countless others who are just as smart, and who's work is just as important toiling away with very little press.

So no, it doesn't really mean anything at all when you say that a few famous scientists were Christian.
posted by chrisamiller at 6:59 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's nothing in the following statement that isn't also true of artists, writers, etc ...

Becoming a famous scientist does take a lot of hard work, but it also usually means that a) you got lucky, and b) you're good at self-promotion. There are countless others who are just as smart, and who's work is just as important toiling away with very little press.

Does this also mean that many of the greatest artists of all time have been Christian? Does this also hold true for school teachers, auto mechanics, acrobats, circus clowns, door-to-door salesmen (and women)?
posted by philip-random at 8:32 AM on July 22, 2010


Does this also mean that many of the greatest artists of all time have been Christian? Does this also hold true for school teachers, auto mechanics, acrobats, circus clowns, door-to-door salesmen (and women)?

Probably, does it matter?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2010


"I don't accept your premise. If I did, I'd respond with a facepalm and probably suggest that the scientists you speak of were raised by Christian parents. I mentioned earlier that I don't believe in ghosts. That doesn't mean they don't scare the shit out of me."

Could someone explain this response to me?

"So no, it doesn't really mean anything at all when you say that a few famous scientists were Christian."

I think it means something chrisamiller, if only that the scientific mind and the religious mind can coexist in people of great genius.

I'm not calling you out Pope Guilty, I'm just playing devil's advocate. Let's put it this way - if, in a thought experiment, we could have dinner with any 5 people, living or dead, Newton and Planck would be way higher on my guest list than you, or Christopher Hitchens (isn't he the one who wants to bomb all the dark skinned people on the other side of the globe?), or whomever is behind the ridiculously bad website linked in the fpp.
posted by puny human at 8:50 AM on July 22, 2010


puny human: I think it means something chrisamiller, if only that the scientific mind and the religious mind can coexist in people of great genius.

Yeah, so?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2010


"I remember when I first learned what free-thinking meant, and suddenly I was very wary of Twain and Jefferson et al."

I don't understand this either. Little help?
posted by puny human at 9:00 AM on July 22, 2010


suddenly I was very wary of Twain and Jefferson et al."

I don't understand this either. Little help?


Ghosts.
posted by grubi at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think it means something chrisamiller, if only that the scientific mind and the religious mind can coexist in people of great genius.

Yes, some scientists are willing to undergo the mental gymnastics necessary to reconcile the two. Most others aren't. Here's an archived copy of that Nature poll, which finds that only 7% of scientists believe in god, with another 20% agnostic, and the rest atheist. To point to two or three scientists and ignore the other 93% is just disingenuous.

There is a strong correlation between level of education, intelligence, and lack of belief in a god. This is really not a disputable fact. What implications you draw from this are up to you.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2010


Not everyone with TLE (temporal lobe epilepsy) experiences heightened religious "awareness."

I'm perfectly aware. Please note that I said "some".


Could someone explain this response to me?

The fact that some people are both Christian and effective scientists does not in and of itself mean that Christianity is a valid or viable belief system. It simply means that people are capable of holding multiple beliefs or belief structures which are not necessarily compatible, a thing which I do not believe is a controversial statement. (See, for example, the number of people who call themselves "pro-life" while rabidly supporting the death penalty and whatever war is being promoted by the government at the time.)

if, in a thought experiment, we could have dinner with any 5 people, living or dead, Newton and Planck would be way higher on my guest list than you, or Christopher Hitchens (isn't he the one who wants to bomb all the dark skinned people on the other side of the globe?), or whomever is behind the ridiculously bad website linked in the fpp.

Who cares, and why are you specifically mentioning me? I don't know you and I don't think I've said anything particularly controversial in this thread. I don't think believing in God makes you stupid. I do believe that it means you've decided, consciously or unconsciously, to suspend your reasoning in a given area, which is a very, very bad thing for you and for the people around you, since unreason is a very bad habit.

I would also note that for the majority of the history of the West, it was basically illegal not to be a Christian, and specifically to be the local variety of Christian. Of course most of the great minds from that era were Christian- the alternative was torture and death.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:30 PM on July 22, 2010


Not everyone with TLE (temporal lobe epilepsy) experiences heightened religious "awareness."

I'm perfectly aware. Please note that I said "some".


Right, I just find it a little bit of a straw man when someone brings a neurological disorder into play when talking about atheism v. religion.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2010


If I believe in God, am I being willfully ignorant? Are all arguments for the existence of a Prime Mover inherently irrational?
posted by aurelius at 12:57 PM on July 22, 2010


It's not so much that they're inherently irrational as it is that none of them stand up to even a little critical examination.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:11 PM on July 22, 2010


Are all arguments for the existence of a Prime Mover inherently irrational?

Certainly seems that way.

I'm not being smug; I'm simply saying that's what I'm seeing. There appears to be no more argument for God beyond "I want there to be one" (for whatever reason: wishful thinking, satisfactory explanations, don't want to face stark indifference of the universe) when you break it all down. And that's merely a matter of preference, which rarely is based on anything rational.
posted by grubi at 1:13 PM on July 22, 2010


"Yes, some scientists are willing to undergo the mental gymnastics necessary to reconcile the two."

But we are not talking just "some scientists" here, we are talking about the most brilliant mathematicians/physicists who ever lived. And what about this recent poll that reports that 76% of doctors believe in god. Do doctors not qualify as scientists?

"There is a strong correlation between level of education, intelligence, and lack of belief in a god."

Except in the medical profession apparently.


"See, for example, the number of people who call themselves "pro-life" while rabidly supporting the death penalty"

iirc, the catholic church is both pro-life and anti-death penalty.

"...and whatever war is being promoted by the government at the time."

Like Christopher Hitchens?
posted by puny human at 1:21 PM on July 22, 2010


If I believe in God, am I being willfully ignorant?

Most atheists would probably phrase it more as that you have a belief that isn't supported by any substantive evidence. I tend to lump the belief in God with in astrology, conspiracy theories, or any other thing that people believe in that I personally think is made-up as far as beliefs go. Everyone is free to believe whatever they want, although I do think that sometimes people make what I would consider to be bad decisions based on what are in my opinion mistaken beliefs (and on the other hand sometimes people make good decisions based on those same beliefs).
posted by burnmp3s at 1:32 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And what about this recent poll that reports that 76% of doctors believe in god.

Why are doctors substantially less religious than the rest of the population?

Except in the medical profession apparently.

Including the medical profession according to the article you cite.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:34 PM on July 22, 2010


Like Christopher Hitchens?

Has anyone claimed that atheists are immune from having contradictory beliefs?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:42 PM on July 22, 2010


Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are quite a few arguments for the existence of God. Humankind has spent a great deal of time and effort formulating and debunking existence of God arguments. A subset of these arguments are quite complex (see your nearest Google terminal). Is all of that collective mental effort wasted? I find it difficult to dismiss thousands of years of philosophy and religious argument. I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people. Is there no objective value in a personal belief in God? How does such a belief do more harm than good? If I were to strictly follow the Christian ethic, would my behavior be harmful to those around me and society in general? Just as an aside, I would argue that the Christian ethic is predicated on a belief in God.
posted by aurelius at 1:49 PM on July 22, 2010


Is all of that collective mental effort wasted?

Sure. Why not? You think because millions have contemplated something that it *must* be worth something?

I find it difficult to dismiss thousands of years of philosophy and religious argument. I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people.

I know you find it difficult. That doesn't make it an invalid position to take.

Is there no objective value in a personal belief in God?

Personal satisfaction.

How does such a belief do more harm than good?

When you use it as a motivation to hurt others, or justification for imposing your beliefs on others.

If I were to strictly follow the Christian ethic, would my behavior be harmful to those around me and society in general?

Oh, yes, definitely. The Christian ethic requires proselytizing.
posted by grubi at 2:21 PM on July 22, 2010


"Has anyone claimed that atheists are immune from having contradictory beliefs?'

Um, what is contradictory about being an atheist and a fan/proselytizer for unjust wars?


"Why are doctors substantially less religious than the rest of the population?"

The article I linked had the general population at 83% believe in god and doctors at 76%. How is that difference substantial? C'mon atheists, help KirkJob with his math.
posted by puny human at 3:10 PM on July 22, 2010


Correct me if I'm wrong, but there are quite a few arguments for the utility of television sitcoms. Humankind has spent a great deal of time and effort formulating and filming television sitcoms. A subset of these sitcoms are really quite entertaining (see your nearest television). Is all of that collective effort wasted? I find it difficult to over fifty years of theatrical effort. I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a form of entertainment enjoyed by millions of people. Is there no objective value in watching sitcoms? How does watching television do more harm than good? If I were to follow the television-watching public, would my behavior be harmful to those around me and society in general? Just as an aside, I would argue that American humor is now based on an understanding of the situation comedy.

Whoa there, buddy. Is this something I'd have to own a television to understand?
posted by mikeh at 3:17 PM on July 22, 2010


But we are not talking just "some scientists" here, we are talking about the most brilliant mathematicians/physicists who ever lived. And what about this recent poll that reports that 76% of doctors believe in god. Do doctors not qualify as scientists?

Not really, unless they are research doctors.

And - as has already been pointed out, most of those brilliant people you are thinking about "who have ever lived" were products of their times and places - when and where there was much greater social pressure to be seen as religious than there is today. Not every scientist was going against church teachings like Galilieo was - it was most likely easier to go with the social flow if you wanted to get work done.

Your insistence on dragging scientists from different periods and places with different mores is disingenuous in the extreme.

Except in the medical profession apparently.

Again, as has already been pointed out, that survey of *US* doctors is less religious than the *US* population at large (as their level of education would indicate they would be). Ignoring this fact is, again, disingenuous in the extreme. It also ties in to the earlier point of cultural expectations being a factor (not the only one, but certainly one of them). In countries where it's relatively acceptable to be an athiest, you're likely to see more people admit to being one. The US isn't one of those countries, so they have a greater percentage of doctors claiming to be religious (I predict it's much greater again in Saudi Arabia). But the correlation between education etc and atheism is still noticeably there, even in the US.
posted by Sparx at 3:20 PM on July 22, 2010


Whoa there, buddy. Is this something I'd have to own a television to understand?

Forgive me, I am bit slow witted. Was there something in your comment that is humorous or germane to the current debate? The questions I posed were sincere.

Don't atheists proselytize?
posted by aurelius at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find it difficult to dismiss thousands of years of philosophy and religious argument. I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people.

I'm guessing that no matter what religion you happen to believe in, there are literally billions of people alive today who have completely different set of religious beliefs that you are dismissing in much the same way that I dismiss all religions. I certainly know more about Christianity, which most of the theists I come into contact with believe in, than those Christians know about, say, Taoism.

Is there no objective value in a personal belief in God? How does such a belief do more harm than good?

Well as I've said upthread, religions are a lot more than a set of beliefs. If you just take the idea of God vs. No God and nothing else, it shouldn't really have any particular effect on someone's life. It's once you start adding other things like "God wants me to do this" or "The things that are happening to me are happening because God wants them to happen" or "God is going to reward me after I die based on these specific things", which don't necessarily follow from the mere existence of any random deity, where it starts to actually have a real impact.

If I were to strictly follow the Christian ethic, would my behavior be harmful to those around me and society in general? Just as an aside, I would argue that the Christian ethic is predicated on a belief in God.

Christian ethic or not, personal ethics come down to personal choices, and religion is just one of the factors. You can take "Thou shalt not kill" literally and refuse to ever kill someone (even if you are drafted into the military) or you could be a pacifist for non-religious reasons, or you could be a Christian and decide that sometimes killing is necessary and not a sin, or you could be a Christian and kill someone and know that God forgives you for your sin because His forgiveness is infinite. Same with keeping the Sabbath day holy or any other religious ethical teaching. The real question is, are the particular set of ethical views that you say are predicated on a belief in God better than any set of secular ethical beliefs?
posted by burnmp3s at 3:30 PM on July 22, 2010


Are all arguments for the existence of a Prime Mover inherently irrational?

Yes, I think they are, in that they depend on assumptions that can't be justified by knowledge. Ultimately, they rely on things that are not rational. I don't think that's necessarily a criticism of religion, though - but it's enough for me to reject religion myself.

I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people.

If you are a Christian, you do this by the very nature of your faith! There are millions of people with different faiths that conflict with yours. Your faith requires you to believe that these people are wrong, and that they will suffer as a result.

If I were to strictly follow the Christian ethic, would my behavior be harmful to those around me and society in general?

No, I don't think so. But that doesn't really validate the ethic itself. Being a Christian is not necessary to avoid harm to others, and not sufficient to guarantee the avoidance of harm to others.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2010


I know you find it difficult. That doesn't make it an invalid position to take.

It's certainly a valid position. However, it is a somewhat glib position to take. Perhaps, there is some truth and wisedom hidden in the thousands of years of human discourse on this topic.
posted by aurelius at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2010


wisedom = wisdom
posted by aurelius at 3:44 PM on July 22, 2010


Was there something in your comment that is humorous or germane to the current debate?

I won't argue about his humor, but his comment was certainly germane - people have believed all kinds of stupid things throughout history, and you could replace "God" and "Christian" in your original comment with all sorts of wacky things that you'd reject out of hand - and the comment would be no less true.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:44 PM on July 22, 2010


Perhaps, there is some truth and wisdom hidden in the thousands of years of human discourse on this topic.

And perhaps not. Or, perhaps there's wisdom but no truth - after all, "truth" requires falsification - you have to be able to demonstrate untruth if it exists.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:52 PM on July 22, 2010


I really have to stop taking theists seriously in arguments like this, because it's the same bullshit over and over, and at some point I have to stop thinking that people are being honest.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2010


The real question is, are the particular set of ethical views that you say are predicated on a belief in God better than any set of secular ethical beliefs?

I hope I did not imply that the Christian ethic is better than any set of secular ethical beliefs. I was merely taking it as an example, since it is so pervasive in the Western world. I was hoping to imply that a belief in God can be a foundation for an ethical system that is beneficial for both the individual and society. However, as you are no doubt pointing out, so can any other arbitrary secular code of conduct.

No, I don't think so. But that doesn't really validate the ethic itself. Being a Christian is not necessary to avoid harm to others, and not sufficient to guarantee the avoidance of harm to others.

That is certainly a true statement. Is there any set of ethics that is sufficient to guarantee the avoidance of harm to others?

Thank you for your comments everyone. I do enjoy the debate.
posted by aurelius at 4:04 PM on July 22, 2010


"Again, as has already been pointed out, that survey of *US* doctors is less religious than the *US* population at large (as their level of education would indicate they would be). Ignoring this fact is, again, disingenuous in the extreme."

You seem pretty eager to use the phrase "disingenuous in the extreme" in reference to my posts. I do not think that phrase means what you think it means. One more time - 76 out of 100 doctors profess a belief in god. 83 out of 100 people in the general population profess a belief in god. Yes 76% is less than 83%, but it is also nowhere near the 7% of scientists quoted above. How is this "substantially less religious" as Kirk JobSluder claimed? Can you please explain how I am being so disingenuous. It seems to me that your not classifying doctors in a list of scientists (oh, except research doctors) is being disingenuous.


"Your insistence on dragging scientists from different periods and places with different mores is disingenuous in the extreme."

Except no, it's not. My particular two examples were Newton and Planck. Newton basically invented physics and calculusand is frequently referred too as the greatest scientific mind that ever existed, and Max Planck is the father of Quantum Theory. The part you may have missed is where I said that they weren't just nominal believers but rather comitted and active, and deeply faithful christians.

"were products of their times and places - when and where there was much greater social pressure to be seen as religious than there is today."

Bullshit. It was just as easy then as it is now to be a christian in name only. You and PG's claims that these people were religious because if they weren't they would be tortured or killed is just ludicrous. They weren't catholic and the Inquisitions had been over for hundreds of years.
posted by puny human at 4:10 PM on July 22, 2010


I really have to stop taking theists seriously in arguments like this, because it's the same bullshit over and over, and at some point I have to stop thinking that people are being honest.

It would probably better for everyone if you simply dismissed the arguments of theists. They certainly have nothing to contribute to any exchange of ideas.
posted by aurelius at 4:13 PM on July 22, 2010


Oh, yes, definitely. The Christian ethic requires proselytizing.

Does it? I know any number of self-described Christians who do not proselytize; certainly not in an even remotely overt manner. I think they're kind of like Pope Guilty in this thread. In the end, it's just not worth the trouble. Or as I've heard it said, "If you keep getting the wrong number, get off the phone."

So all you can do is live you life and hope, if you're doing it right, something rubs off in a positive way.
posted by philip-random at 4:14 PM on July 22, 2010


It would probably better for everyone if you simply dismissed the arguments of theists. They certainly have nothing to contribute to any exchange of ideas.

It's the same goddamn long-refuted arguments over and over. You have contributed nothing to this discussion but canards and logical fallacies that were old when you were born, and it's an insult to sling around such nonsense and demand that you be taken seriously.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:24 PM on July 22, 2010


I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people.

I tried to think this way once. But it's just walking into a trap. That is, rephrase the statement to "I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of idiots ..." and it rings quite absurd. Which isn't to say belief in God is idiotic, just to suggest that it might be, and there's inherent proof that it isn't.

Is there no objective value in a personal belief in God?

Given what I just said, the weird thing is I happen to believe that there is objective value in a personal belief in God. I'm not claiming to have one myself, just observing that I've seen it really work for some people. That is, in having a faith and living by it, they're darned good neighbors, co-workers, team members, family members, FRIENDS. The proof is in the pudding, as it were. I realize that this sort of circular logic frustrates the hell out of those more committed to a pragmatic "scientific" mindset, but who knows? Maybe God works in circles, or as a acid-head friend once put it back in the day.

"God works in convolutions. Evolution crossed with confusion."
posted by philip-random at 4:25 PM on July 22, 2010


It's the same goddamn long-refuted arguments over and over. You have contributed nothing to this discussion but canards and logical fallacies that were old when you were born, and it's an insult to sling around such nonsense and demand that you be taken seriously.

I did not demand to be taken seriously. I am no scholar, so, if I have rehashed old arguments that are clearly absurd, then I do apologize. Perhaps I mistook the tone of this thread. These are questions I tend to think about in my spare time. Clearly, my questions bring nothing of value to this thread; thus, I retract my queries. Thank you for clarifying your hostility towards my comments.

But it's just walking into a trap. That is, rephrase the statement to "I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of idiots ..." and it rings quite absurd.

I do not take the beliefs of millions of people as proof of God's existence. I do find it all too easy to fall into the trap of generalizing about a group of people based on their beliefs.
posted by aurelius at 5:07 PM on July 22, 2010


But it's just walking into a trap. That is, rephrase the statement to "I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of idiots ..." and it rings quite absurd.

And I realize you were not saying all theists are idiots.
posted by aurelius at 5:16 PM on July 22, 2010


I find it equally difficult to offhandedly dismiss a belief held by millions of people.

Hah! If you are an adherent of almost any religion you already do. Do you believe in Zeus? How about Baal? Mithras? Ganesh? The angel Moroni? Coyote? Do you believe in Kami? Reincarnation? Quetzalcoatl? Do you believe in Thetans? Loki? Cerne? Dionysus? Are you an Albigensian? (Or a Cathar, if you prefer). Do you believe in Monophysiticism? Pre-destination? Are you a salvation through works or a salvation through faith alone type? Do I need to continue or do you see the point here?

Quote all the theologians you wish, the statement which sums up my thoughts on the matter came from (of all places) Usenet circa 1995:
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
I really, really miss the Usenet of yore. In any case, do you have a rebuttal to that quote? I've never yet encountered anyone who has.
posted by Justinian at 5:41 PM on July 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


OK - if you insist that you're not being disingenuous, I will have to go with assuming you're a little bit hard of thinking.

It seems to me that your not classifying doctors in a list of scientists (oh, except research doctors) is being disingenuous.

Medicine is science based. So are computers. Just because I use, or work with, either does not mean I am a scientist. Doctors don't tend to develop the medicines or machines they use, and are rarely involved in establishing clinical trials. Sure some do, but they are a minority. Doctors are no more scientists, per se, than nurses, orderlies or pharmacists. Here's a free clue: Engineers aren't physicists either.

Newton basically invented physics and calculus


No he didn't. Calculus has been around since circa 2000bc in Egypt and Aristotle himself was writing about Physics in phusikes akroaseos.

Sure, Newton did some very important, groundbreaking work in the fields, but he also believed in Alchemy, Bible Codes and occult geometry so it's not like he was entirely perfect or entirely correct. It was also him who originally said "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" - he, at least, recognised those who had preceeded him, even if you are woefully ignorant of their existence.

Einstein, who took Newton's mechanics much further, was an atheist/agnostic. So what? The success of science they did was dependent upon its own qualities, not those of the people who first noted it.

Planck is the father of Quantum Theory...they weren't just nominal believers but rather comitted and active, and deeply faithful christians.


His religion had nothing to do with his science. If you can't see the logical error in saying
"X is a great scientist.
X believed Y.
Therefore Y."
then you're really not worth arguing with. That type of fallacy is so depressingly common it even has its own name, and it's really a bit sad that that's the best you can come up with, even considering the fact that the last of your examples, Planck, was born 150 years ago, a different time and place, and wasn't in possession of facts we have today, nor was he under the same social influences. 20 years after Plank was born, a man served time in prison for trying to take his seat in the UK parliament without swearing on the bible, for example.

Yes 76% is less than 83%, but it is also nowhere near the 7% of scientists quoted above.

True, because doctors aren't scientists. See above. Whether or not you consider the 7% difference 'substantial' or merely a statistically significant indicator of further education leading to areligiousity is a matter of perspective.

There's one other factor to consider here. Doctors tend to be patient focussed, having to deal with members of their community on a fairly intimate level. If a doctor sets himself outside that community in some way, eg atheism, s/he might find his practice a little slow moving.

You and PG's claims that these people were religious because if they weren't they would be tortured or killed is just ludicrous


I never made that particular claim, and PG was clearly talking about great swathes of history, so I'd be grateful if you could refrain from putting words in our mouths. It's weak. I just said that the social landscapes can reinforce theism, which is a pretty hard claim to deny, even, or perhaps especially, in the contemporary US.
posted by Sparx at 6:04 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


we are talking about the most brilliant mathematicians/physicists who ever lived.

This is part of what I was trying to get through to you above. "Famous scientist" != "most brilliant scientist".

And what about this recent poll that reports that 76% of doctors believe in god. Do doctors not qualify as scientists?

Emphatically no. There are some physician-scientists, but the vast majority of doctors are not scientists. You can think of it this way: Biomedical scientists are the people who make discoveries and reverse-engineer the body's systems. Doctors are the mechanics. I'm not trying to disparage the medical profession, as it's an admirable one. It's just that getting a PhD requires a much different set of skills than getting an MD. There's much more thinking and much less memorization - much less "why does this work" and more "how can I fix this using what we already know".

Except in the medical profession apparently.

For one, there is KirkJobSluder's poit above, that with a 70-something percent belief rate, doctors are significantly less religious than the population as a whole. I also think that doctors tend to be a bit different from your average graduate degree holders. They often are inspired by the better sides of religion that deal with humanitarianism and helping your fellow man. (as opposed to say, lawyers or sociologists). They also tend to have higher rates of belief in creationism and the like than scientists, because they can tune out evolution lectures and focus on more applied parts of the curriculum.
posted by chrisamiller at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2010


Um, what is contradictory about being an atheist and a fan/proselytizer for unjust wars?

I don't know. It's your argument. You explain it.

The article I linked had the general population at 83% believe in god and doctors at 76%. How is that difference substantial? C'mon atheists, help KirkJob with his math.

With a sample size of over 1,000, I'm pretty darn certain that difference is both statistically significant and a fairly high effect size. So why are doctors less religious than non-doctors?

Except no, it's not. My particular two examples were Newton and Planck. Newton basically invented physics and calculusand is frequently referred too as the greatest scientific mind that ever existed, and Max Planck is the father of Quantum Theory. The part you may have missed is where I said that they weren't just nominal believers but rather comitted and active, and deeply faithful christians.

And again, the question is "so what?" Am I supposed to be threatened by Newton, Planck, Mendel, and Lemaitre? Am I supposed to be so awestruck by their cult of personality that I'm to be persuaded into baptism?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:26 PM on July 22, 2010


Don't atheists proselytize?

Some do, many don't.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:29 PM on July 22, 2010


" if you insist that you're not being disingenuous" you like that word don't you? Five syllables! I'm impressed!

"I will have to go with assuming you're a little bit hard of thinking." Oh thanks for that, way to elevate the debate. Did I get personal with you?


"No he didn't. Calculus has been around since circa 2000bc in Egypt" ooh someone googled a wiki link. But that is pure pedantry isn't it? It is commonly accepted that calculus took its fullest form under Leibniz and Newton. I suppose we could append the word modern to it to clear up what I meant.


"Doctors are no more scientists, per se, than nurses, orderlies or pharmacists."

Ha ha, says you. And your qualifications for making this judgement is what exactly? Please share with us who fits on your approved list of scientists.


"If you can't see the logical error in saying
"X is a great scientist.
X believed Y.
Therefore Y."
then you're really not worth arguing with."

Please point to the comment in this thread where I made this argument.

"20 years after Plank was born, a man served time in prison for trying to take his seat in the UK parliament without swearing on the bible, for example."

Oh christ, if you want to start comparing injustices and atrocities perpetrated by both believers and atheists we will be here all night.



"Whether or not you consider the 7% difference 'substantial' " No I don't consider 7% substantial at all, nor would any reasonable individual. It is almost within the bounds of statistical error.

"There's one other factor to consider here. Doctors tend to be patient focussed, having to deal with members of their community on a fairly intimate level. If a doctor sets himself outside that community in some way, eg atheism, s/he might find his practice a little slow moving."

What a lovely theory, but again, worthless. You once again pull out the "religious because of societal pressure" argument. But where, may I ask, is the proof?


"I never made that particular claim" this is true, my bad. That particular canard was entirely put forth by pope guilty.
posted by puny human at 7:44 PM on July 22, 2010


No I don't consider 7% substantial at all, nor would any reasonable individual. It is almost within the bounds of statistical error.

Don't throw around terms in this conversation you don't understand. It doesn't help your argument at all.

How does the finding that doctors are less religious and less likely to believe in an afterlife support your argument? And what the heck is your argument anyway?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:51 PM on July 22, 2010


"X is a great scientist.
X believed Y.
Therefore Y."


Please point to the comment in this thread where I made this argument.

I mean a mind as great as Newton's or Planck's can believe in god, but Pope Guilty says "no way" and I am supposed to believe him?


^
|
point

You're not really here for the hunting, are you?
posted by Sparx at 8:18 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't understand why the religious beliefs of a scientist have any bearing. What does a scientist being Christian prove, exactly? Why is it important? Does it change our understanding of Christianity in some way? How about of science? No? Then why should we care, apart from in a historical "that's interesting to know about Scientist X" way?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:19 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


And Pope Guilty's "no way" had nothing to do with Christians as scientists, or Christian Scientists for that matter.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:24 PM on July 22, 2010


"You're not really here for the hunting, are you?"

But you are wrong again. Here let me show you.

you said:

X is a great scientist.
X believed Y.
Therefore Y



My argument is better described as:

X is a genius
Y is a genius

Both X and Y were not strict materialists and believed in a god.

Pope Guilty (or Uther or Kirk, etc...) is not a genius (as far as I can tell from their posting history), has no special qualifications, and has contributed nothing to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

So why should I value the arguments of PG, or UB, etc... over X and Y?

So again, please point to where I made the "therefore Y" conclusion.

And I am waiting for a list of approved scientists.
posted by puny human at 8:51 PM on July 22, 2010


It's still the argument from authority, whatever implications you are drawing from it.

X was a genius
X believed in Y (lets say X is Newton and Y is Alchemy - a true statement)
Why should I value the arguments of Z (who is not demonstrably a genius) over X on the subject of whether Y works?
Implicit in this is the higher valuation of X's opinion of Y, despite the fact that X is quite wrong. This is a straightforward example of why the argument from authority is a fallacious argument.

If you can't see why there are perfectly good reasons to value the arguments of Z then, again, there's no point arguing with you. Clearly, genius is no protection against occasional wooly thinking. Were either of them Theological Geniuses (or Alchemical Geniuses)? Did either of them come up with proofs on the subject? What was their research? Who verified it? How much evidence has accrued on the subject since their time? What other reasons could there be for them thinking along those lines, in the absence of actual proof? Logic should be a scalpel, but if you wield it like a blunt stick, you end up hitting category errors like "Physics Geniuses are more likely to be right about theological matters" Should I subscribe to Prince's thoughts on religion because he's a musical genius (he's Jehova's Witness)? Hawking's because he's a theoretical physics genius (he's atheist)? Nope. I shouldn't. The argument you are making is flat out wrong.

And I defer to chrisamiller's comment on why doctors are not scientists, per se. Rather than be drawn into a morass of lists and counter examples, perhaps you'd be better served by stating why you think they should be designated scientists, or why our reasons for not doing so are wrong. At least that way we'd have a chance of understanding whatever other argument you think you're making.
posted by Sparx at 9:43 PM on July 22, 2010


puny human: Pope Guilty (or Uther or Kirk, etc...) is not a genius (as far as I can tell from their posting history), has no special qualifications, and has contributed nothing to the advancement of scientific knowledge.

Well, actually I have published peer-reviewed work, which isn't very much but it is something.

It doesn't require either genius nor special qualifications to note that your posts are incoherent, use evidence badly, and are loaded with both fallacies and insult. These are things taught in high school after all, and a person of average skill, intellect, and morality can recognize them.

So why should I value the arguments of PG, or UB, etc... over X and Y?

This is a textbook argument from authority. And there are a few problems here:

1) You can't conclude that because a person was right about X that they are right about Y. Newton got light wrong for example.

2) Neither Newton or Planck are authorities in either of the philosophical disciplines most relevant to questions of religion. We also don't consider them important art critics.

3) It's trivial to come up with a list of great men in science who were not Christian: Averroes, Ramanujan, Hardy, Darwin, Einstein, and Feynman.

So again, so what if Newton or Planck (and Mendel and Lemaitre) were Christian?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:46 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not an atheist because ___ is an atheist and I'd probably have doubts even if I didn't know any other atheists.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:05 PM on July 22, 2010


I would also like to add James Clark Maxwell to the list of influential physicists who were religious and Christian.

I would then like to point out that not a single person critical to the development of the scientific method was Christian: Thales, Aristotle, Alhazen, Galileo, and Bacon (as well as a few other people I could throw in there) were all rather agnostic. These would be the people who were thinking as much about the fundamental questions and basis for scientific inquiry and not just the specifics. So if we're arguing from authority, we may as well argue from the more relevant authorities.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:22 PM on July 22, 2010


Ha ha, says you. And your qualifications for making this judgement is what exactly?

Look, if you're going to argue with this much bad faith why should anyone engage with you? No-one needs any sort of qualification to know what a basic English word means. And most doctors simply do not fit the definition of "scientist". If you want to keep tilting at that windmill, be my guest, but it makes you look foolish.

Most doctors are diagnosticians. They are not seeking new knowledge, they are trying to diagnose and treat illnesses in their patients. An M.D. who works in a lab to advance everyone's knowledge of disease is a scientist but that is a small minority of medical doctors.

Really, you have to let this one go.
posted by Justinian at 11:49 PM on July 22, 2010


I know any number of self-described Christians who do not proselytize

Ah, but the original statement I was rebutting was "If I were to strictly follow the Christian ethic..." And, YES, if one were to strictly follow the Christian ethic, they would be proselytizing, as it is required by strict Christian ethics. It is a requirement of the Christian ethic to convert others, or you're failing as a Christian. Millions of Christians do no such thing, but that's because they are not strictly following that ethic.
posted by grubi at 6:28 AM on July 23, 2010


Nevermind all these trivial questions of why and who; the single most important question we should devote our energy to is HOW, by which I mean, how are we ever going to get these dogs back in?
posted by hypersloth at 12:58 PM on July 23, 2010


It is a requirement of the Christian ethic to convert others, or you're failing as a Christian. Millions of Christians do no such thing, but that's because they are not strictly following that ethic.

Uh... There are a zillion different Christian denominations. A great many of them do not actively seek converts.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:20 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"It's still the argument from authority, whatever implications you are drawing from it."

But what you are missing when you say that, is that so is the 7% figure quoted above. So is having a Christopher Hitchens quote splashed across your front page. So is attending a Dawkins lecture.
It is part of being human, how our minds work, both religious and atheist. Look, if person X tells me that there is no god, and he is sitting in his mom's basement playing world of warcraft with Boba Fett action figures on his wall and a shelf full of science fiction, and person Y says that yes there is a God, and I find out that he is a one in a million genius and, according to his wiki -- "Newton remains uniquely influential to scientists, as demonstrated by a 2005 survey of members of Britain's Royal Society asking who had the greater effect on the history of science and had the greater contribution to humankind, Newton or Albert Einstein. Royal Society scientists deemed Newton to have made the greater overall contribution on both." -- I am probably going to give more credence to to person Y. (see also C. P. Snow's the Two Cultures. It is pretty easy to guess which camp I belong in)

And also,just because you can classify an argument doesn't mean you have defeated it.


"I would then like to point out that not a single person critical to the development of the scientific method was Christian"

You might want to leave Bacon off of your list.


"Look, if you're going to argue with this much bad faith why should anyone engage with you? No-one needs any sort of qualification to know what a basic English word means. And most doctors simply do not fit the definition of "scientist". "

I'm not arguing in bad faith at all. I am arguing, so sorry if that offends you, but we will just have to disagree as to whether a doctor is a scientist or not. Basically all you are doing is redefining the terms of the argument, which is what always happens in all these types of debates, and that is why I started off by saying arguing religion on the internet is pointless. It always boils down to semantics. You are confronted with a poll that doesn't jibe with your worldview, so you quickly change the terms of the argument. I think an argument could easily be made that doctors, more than many other professions, use the scientific method daily. A patient confronts them with a problem, the doctor forms a working hypothesis about the cause of the problem, then outlines a treatment plan (experiment) to see if he can change said problem. He keeps meticulous records and compares outcomes. So I think you are the one who looks foolish when you say doctors aren't scientists. But once again we end up splitting hairs and playing semantics.



"Really, you have to let this one go."

Sage advice. I'm tired of typing.
posted by puny human at 4:35 PM on July 23, 2010


I am arguing, so sorry if that offends you, but we will just have to disagree as to whether a doctor is a scientist or not.

You can agree to disagree all you like, that a doctor uses a form of the scientific method doesn't make him a scientist any more than I am a scientist if I use the scientific method to figure out what is making the beeping sound coming from the other room.

A scientist uses the scientific method to acquire original knowledge. A medical doctor is, as I said, usually a diagnostician. You keep eliding that "original" part.
posted by Justinian at 4:48 PM on July 23, 2010


puny human: Look, if person X tells me that there is no god, and he is sitting in his mom's basement playing world of warcraft with Boba Fett action figures on his wall and a shelf full of science fiction,

Yes, and we steal candy from babies as well.

And also,just because you can classify an argument doesn't mean you have defeated it.

Actually, that is pretty much how it works. Once your argument has been identified as a fallacy, you've lost.

Two simple questions:

Why do you consider Newton a better authority on this than Epicurus, Huxley, or Popper who actually wrote on these questions in depth?

Do you also advocate other ideas championed by Newton including alchemy and a naive particle theory of light?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:10 PM on July 23, 2010


And also,just because you can classify an argument doesn't mean you have defeated it.

A fallacy is an invalid argument. If you can identify that the logic of an argument is invalid, you have, in fact, "defeated" it.

Look, if person X tells me that there is no god... I am probably going to give more credence to to person Y.

Think for yourself, schmuck.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:17 PM on July 23, 2010


Why are Hitch's political beliefs relevant to your argument. You introduced him.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:42 PM on July 23, 2010


[A couple comments removed. Getting sort of weirdly combative here, please ease off.]
posted by cortex at 9:29 PM on July 23, 2010


Uh... There are a zillion different Christian denominations. A great many of them do not actively seek converts.

Read what I said: "that's because they are not strictly following that ethic." The Christian law of converting others comes from Paul, the founder of the religion. If you strictly adhere to those laws, you would actively convert. If you are not actively converting, then you are not strictly adhering to that rule/law/ethic.
posted by grubi at 9:49 AM on July 26, 2010


grubi's right. I was going to negatively respond to his comment but did a quick bit of wiki-research and it's right there, allegedly said by Jesus before Paul came along and put into LAW.

Many Christians consider it their obligation to follow what is often termed the Great Commission of Jesus, recorded in the final verses of the Gospel of Matthew: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen."

Of course, nowhere in here does Christ command us to be morons in his name.
posted by philip-random at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2010


If you strictly adhere to those laws, you would actively convert. If you are not actively converting, then you are not strictly adhering to that rule/law/ethic.

Well, in real life there's not really a universal Christian ethic, because a any given follower's concept of Christianity is more than what's written in the Bible. Modern Catholics have different views and practices than modern Pentecostal snake handling churches, which are both completely different than the forms of Christianity that existed hundreds or thousands of years before, so just pulling Bible quotes out is not going to tell you a lot about how any given Christian is affected by their beliefs in their day-to-day lives. I think the heart of aurelius' original comment was the question of whether theism would overall have a positive or negative impact on an individual's life and society in general, which is a valid (but probably unanswerable) question.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2010


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