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Without Certainty and Without Pain
January 22, 2011 3:49 PM   Subscribe

Lack of Belief in gods by Qualiasoup. SLYT; 10.00; "Explaining the concept, refuting common objections and giving a number of reasons that atheists are sometimes 'fervent'."
posted by bwg (106 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
QualiaSoup, and his mate TheraminTrees, are two of the best YouTube atheists. I recommend checking out his other vids too.

There's another guy called TheoreticalBullshit who also rocks.
posted by Decani at 3:59 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh. He now seems to be called A5Hellcat. Oh well. Anyway, his videos are better than his handles. :-)
posted by Decani at 4:02 PM on January 22, 2011


As a person who formerly cared about these kind of debates, to the point of being the Atheist Amateur Philosopher on-call for a midwestern univeristy's Christian groups - man am I ever tired of this.

The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates? Belief in the value of talking things over, in rationalism, has gotten way out of hand in this country.

At some point you need to retreat to a narrower community which shares some of your suppositions and have conversations that stand a chance of actually going somewhere. It's hard to see these worldview demarcating youtube manifestos (or their cousins - the reddit/4chan/whatever copypasta) as anything but the outgrowth of an extreme narcissism.
posted by phrontist at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2011 [28 favorites]


The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them.
posted by phrontist at 12:10 AM on January 23

Yes, they are. And so are the people who stone adulterers, who circumcise children in the name of their god, who try to reject evolution, who try to prevent the use of condoms in AIDS-ridden countries, who try to damn people as immoral for their disbelief in gods.... need I go on?

Be very, very sure that we will no t be silent until those others are silent. Those days are over.
posted by Decani at 4:21 PM on January 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


need I go on?

no
posted by nathancaswell at 4:24 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do so many religious people act as if they are owed an explanation from non- believers?
posted by Scoo at 4:36 PM on January 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:50 PM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's early morning on the sabbath and the mohel is straightening himself out in the mirror before the congregation arrives. Mental checklist time - traditional instruments are all prepared, he's mentally run through child's family members' names several times, even got some life affirming Torah verse in mind. Everything's set, might as well kill some time on youtube...

First day of classes at Liberty University. Eben Carrurthers, a newly minted biology PhD. and M.Div., is palpably excited to see the new biology textbooks arrayed on the formica before him. He allows himself a quiet chuckle, noting that even in this prayerful environment you can't get undergraduates to arrive on time. Maybe browse around a bit while the last of them trickle in...

A member of the Iranian revolutionary guard whips out his blackberry to see whether this woman, tried for zina-e-mohsen, will receive her due. Insha'Allah, it will be politically tenable despite outside pressure. He wonders whether youtube is halal...
posted by phrontist at 4:52 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:50 AM on January 23


Because we fucking well are. Go on. Explain yourselves. Justify what you have wrought throughout human history. Go on. We insist.
posted by Decani at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?
Well, because they attempt to force their beliefs on others, morally and legally, and some of us don't really think that myths based on skyman and his superfriends are a rational justification for living our lives.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


Or what Decani said.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 5:01 PM on January 22, 2011


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?

If I claimed that dragons, unicorns, and Santa Claus existed in real life, don't you think I'd owe you an explanation or proof of their existence? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
posted by dibblda at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?

Mostly because they keep making laws which they want to apply to us based on their belief in hallucinating authors.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


man am I ever tired of this.

Then take a nap. The only narcissism here is to believe that your boredom of a subject matters to anyone but yourself.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2011 [34 favorites]


Mostly because they keep making laws which they want to apply to us based on their belief in hallucinating authors.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 5:06 PM on January 22 [+] [!]


THAT!
posted by Sweetmag at 5:25 PM on January 22, 2011


The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates? Belief in the value of talking things over, in rationalism, has gotten way out of hand in this country.

Oh, I do agree, I do. If there's one thing that's gotten way out of hand in this country, it's talking things over. In youtube videos, no less! Young punks out in the streets, hitting children in the face with youtubes and spraying innocent people's houses with neon youtube -- just awful, simply awful! I tell you, it makes you long for the past, that's what it does. That Bertrand boy up the street, now he was terrible, but he never youtubed. Not once. Oh, no, not him, not in those days. Those were better days, you see. Better days. None of these extreme narcissist gangs running the streets, none of those worldview demarcating boys standing on corners muttering "youtube, youtube" at the passersby. Why, in those days it was enough to retreat to a narrower community which shares some of your suppositions! In those days we'd go to the library together and stare through the glass at all the hundreds of linear feet of arguments, but does anyone bother today? Do they?

No! Youtube!
posted by vorfeed at 5:49 PM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


My favorite part of the video was that he never felt the need to either passive-aggressively nor directly insult people who believe in gods in order to explain why he himself does not.

I found that really refreshing.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:52 PM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


If the asshole believers became non-believers, I think they would still be assholes. As long as they remain believers, I can use that as an arbitrary reason for their assholishness, and pretend I'm better than they are.

Let them stay believers.
posted by fnerg at 5:53 PM on January 22, 2011


Okay, fuck it. The thinness of the pro-atheist argument thus far offered in this thread has just driven me from decades of mostly comfortable agnosticism to BELIEF ... in something-or-other (some grand and perhaps beautiful design -- sure, why not?)

So yes, I believe, I believe, I BELIEVE ... in wise a loving God who does NOT command me to stone adulterers, does not want me to circumcise children in HER name, does not want me to reject evolution (indeed, evolution is one of her favorite tools for getting shit done); a God who inspired mankind to invent the condom and ummm, has no interesting in encouraging the damnation of folks for their disbelief in Her, because She's a cool God; she understands these things; in Her way, she encourages them because she likes us to THINK. She did after all create the human brain.
posted by philip-random at 5:58 PM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates? Belief in the value of talking things over, in rationalism, has gotten way out of hand in this country.

Paraphrase: We should stop discussing our ideas because there are books about our ideas in libraries, and because you personally are tired of talking about the ideas, and because you don't like talking about ideas in general.

At some point you need to retreat to a narrower community which shares some of your suppositions and have conversations that stand a chance of actually going somewhere.

Paraphrase: I don't mind these people discussing their ideas, but I wish they would stick to their own kind. It's upsetting.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 6:00 PM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


Even when there are books available on a subject I'm interested in, I still often watch expository videos like these. They make good primers, and the visuals make some points easier to remember.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:03 PM on January 22, 2011


philip-random: "The thinness of the pro-atheist argument thus far offered in this thread"

There are no pro-atheist arguments in this thread, only anti-religious and anti-atheist ones as far as I have seen.
posted by idiopath at 6:14 PM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


the thinness of the anti-religious logic then. Same difference
posted by philip-random at 6:17 PM on January 22, 2011


the thinness of the anti-religious logic then. Same difference

As opposed to the air-tight logic which leads one to shout one's BELIEF in "something-or-other" just because others are against religion, I suppose...?
posted by vorfeed at 6:24 PM on January 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94: I'm talking about a very specific case here - arguments over religion online. I really do enjoy talking about ideas, it's this particular form of ostensible Weighty Question consideration that seems futile and insincere to me.
posted by phrontist at 6:25 PM on January 22, 2011


the frustration is that all religion is found guilty of the transgressions of some religion. it's akin to saying all atheists are guilty of the transgressions of Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc.

Like I said, thin logic.
posted by philip-random at 6:26 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


And, to be clear, I'm going off about my frustration in seeing this kind of thing over and over on forums. I'm not making fun of or otherwise trying to demean people who are genuinely interested in this stuff, to whom this is genuinely new. I just think there are far better ways of handling it than this.
posted by phrontist at 6:32 PM on January 22, 2011


all religion is found guilty of the transgressions of some religion

All religion is found guilty of making war on reason, of making shit up and expecting it to be treated as respectable and well-founded.

The very instant you make shit up and expect to have it taken seriously, or to be treated as a perfectly reasonable person for believing in made-up shit, you have wronged those around you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?

shit like this
posted by birdherder at 6:39 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


the frustration is that all religion is found guilty of the transgressions of some religion. it's akin to saying all atheists are guilty of the transgressions of Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc. Like I said, thin logic.

Likewise, the frustration is that some religion shatters lives, including the exact same religions it's A-OK to admit to in mixed company, yet criticism of religion is waved away because "all religion isn't like that". It's akin to saying no one but Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc. is guilty of the transgressions of Mao, Hitler, Stalin etc. -- a nice idea in theory, but utterly worthless in practice, especially when applied to anything that has an ism after the name.

When we're talking about serious, modern-day ills perpetrated by the very same modern-day religions the vast majority of modern-day people support, "well they're not all like that are they, so there!" starts to sound like pretty damned thin logic.
posted by vorfeed at 6:40 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do so many religious people act as if they are owed an explanation from non- believers?

Yes, they are. And so are the people who stone adulterers, who circumcise children in the name of their god, who try to reject evolution, who try to prevent the use of condoms in AIDS-ridden countries, who try to damn people as immoral for their disbelief in gods.... need I go on?

Because we fucking well are. Go on. Explain yourselves. Justify what you have wrought throughout human history. Go on. We insist.

Well, because they attempt to force their beliefs on others, morally and legally, and some of us don't really think that myths based on skyman and his superfriends are a rational justification for living our lives.

If I claimed that dragons, unicorns, and Santa Claus existed in real life, don't you think I'd owe you an explanation or proof of their existence? Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.


Speaking as someone who identifies as an atheist (but is rather smitten with mysticism and sort of likes world religion overall): Please, come off it. This sort of hyperaggressive, willfully ignorant, hang wringing, shouty and accusatory tone does nothing except poison the possibility of conversation. I really can't know exactly where everyone is coming from all the time, but when I see these sorts of anti-religious rants, I immediately assume that the individual making them knows very little about religious history, thought and practice, and is arguing purely from a faith based position--an irrational, unshakable faith in the negation of the Divine (which is usually only approached in a literal, kindergarten mentality fashion once this tone has been set), and that's just silliness. There are far more respectful, rational approaches to criticizing religion, religious thought, religious practice and religious institutions--distinguishing between them as categories would be a start.

We can do better.
posted by byanyothername at 6:41 PM on January 22, 2011 [15 favorites]


I may be an atheist, but at least I'm not one of those atheists! Love me, religious people! Pretend you respect my beliefs!
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2011 [14 favorites]


"I believe in whatever I just made up because I think people aren't being properly sensitive" is even thinner.

And the reality is, the vast majority of people subscribe to the Bible or the Quran, both of which are full of laws and teachings thousands of years less advanced than our own that are barbaric by today's standards.

Here's the most basic logic behind atheism, and I really don't think any more is necessary:
No one has ever seen any sign that deities exist and recorded it in a verifiable way in all of human history despite HUGE motivation to do so.

And I've seen the "It isn't going to be effective and it isn't that big a deal" argument against being vocally pro-atheist, but people like Sarah Palin are getting legitimate support, most of the US is creationist, people are flying planes into towers...

Faith has serious power as a motivator of the unreasonable and that carries with it serious consequences.
posted by EtzHadaat at 6:46 PM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Yeah. Okay. Respond to an earnest plea to be nice and civil with personal insults. I'll just see myself out, then; this isn't a thread about atheism. It's just back slapping for the True Unbelievers.
posted by byanyothername at 6:49 PM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


I really can't know exactly where everyone is coming from all the time, but when I see these sorts of anti-religious rants, I immediately assume that the individual making them knows very little about religious history, thought and practice, and is arguing purely from a faith based position--an irrational, unshakable faith in the negation of the Divine (which is usually only approached in a literal, kindergarten mentality fashion once this tone has been set), and that's just silliness. . . .

We can do better.


Yes, we can do better. For example, if you know you really can't know where everyone is coming from, you shouldn't assume they are ignorant dogmatists with silly beliefs.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:52 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Respond to an earnest plea to be nice and civil with personal insults.
No, that's not the problem. Your earnest plea was very insulting.
posted by Marty Marx at 6:53 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Justify what you have wrought throughout human history.

hey, the only thing i ever did was vote for ralph nader 3 times
posted by pyramid termite at 6:55 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's another guy called TheoreticalBullshit who also rocks.

Nice! He does a good job of explaining something I found difficult to fathom back when I was an evangelical, without insulting anyone.

I don't think the linked video is pro-atheist. It is just explanatory of what counts and doesn't count as atheist, and how that gets misunderstood so often. It didn't have the Dawkins Smugness™.

love, yet another atheist who is very sick of the Smugness
posted by heatherann at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


We can do better.

I'm sorry but someone claiming that unicorns exist and that you have to have faith in their existence is exactly equivalent to a belief in life after death as far as I can tell. Both have equal amounts of evidence backing them up.

If that's offensive then sorry, I don't give one idea more credence over another because more people believe it to be true.
posted by dibblda at 7:22 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


"All religion is found guilty of making war on reason, of making shit up and expecting it to be treated as respectable and well-founded.

The very instant you make shit up and expect to have it taken seriously, or to be treated as a perfectly reasonable person for believing in made-up shit, you have wronged those around you.
"

Oh, man, were everyone's dicks so thick with skin that we need to have another atheist circle jerk here?

I mean, fuck it, since all religion isn't guilty of making war on reason (since there's a pretty well-developed line of Christian theology that exalts reason, to point out one counter-example that everyone here should already fucking know), then you, Pope Guilty, have wronged everyone around you by just making up shit.

Unless you weren't expecting to be taken seriously, of course.

This is all sub-Convert_Me horseshit yet again (the religious owe anyone anything by virtue of being religious? Fuck the fuck off. Atheists don't owe anyone anything either, you poor traumatized demagogues. Would you like to show us where on the doll religion touched you?).

The point phrontist was making was that everyone on MetaFilter has been through this shit an exponential number of times, and it's always the same fucking bullshit (do we need a bingo card that includes broad generalizations, Santa Claus and Mao and Stalin? Because if the same stupid shit's going to get trotted out each time, I'd sure like to get rewarded for it somehow).

Seriously, it's like listening to fucking hardcore fans complain about pop or fucking straight-edge band banter where they all talk about how important it is to not do drugs all the fucking time. It's boring to anyone who hasn't done this before, and everyone should have done this at least 30 times before college. Anyone who hasn't, I'm happy to give you remedial notes.
posted by klangklangston at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2011 [21 favorites]


" For example, if you know you really can't know where everyone is coming from, you shouldn't assume they are ignorant dogmatists with silly beliefs."

Luckily, if you wait three comments, that assumption is generally validated.
posted by klangklangston at 7:39 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Justify what you have wrought throughout human history. Go on. We insist.

i committed the crusades bc it was super fun at the time
posted by Greg Nog at 7:57 PM on January 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Now I remember why I never comment in these kinds of threads.
Thanks for the post bwg, I thought the animation, argument and the accent in that video was quite nice.
posted by dabitch at 7:58 PM on January 22, 2011


There are any number of "circle jerks" "everyone on MetaFilter has been through an exponential number of times". Funny how it's just this one (and just one side of this one) which brings out the "arrrrrrrgh you expressed your silly, ignorant opinion again?!?! You are ruining everything! We cannot possibly discuss (your side of) this issue even one more time!" brigade.

The only thing more boring than listening to hardcore fans complain about pop or fucking straight-edge band banter where they all talk about how important it is to not do drugs all the fucking time is listening to people who show up at hardcore or straight-edge shows solely in order to bitch about how boring it is to listen to people talk about pop or drugs.

That's you, by the way. There are other threads about other things; if you can't stand the fact that this one is not also about other things, maybe you should be in one of those.
posted by vorfeed at 7:58 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sigh. All right. Let's give this one more try before I decide this is hopeless.

Yes, we can do better. For example, if you know you really can't know where everyone is coming from, you shouldn't assume they are ignorant dogmatists with silly beliefs.

I'm going to assume in good faith that you simply misunderstood me. Maybe I could have worded things better (I'm a little displeased with my opening, for instance, but I was going for a tone of exasperation rather than grar, so I apologize for any offense taken). So, to clarify, I was describing what it looks like to me when someone makes a contentless anti-whatever argument. It makes them look ignorant. Period. It's a way of avoiding engaging in a real and rational criticism, instead opting to any number of logical fallacies. I'm going to pick on dibblda (sorry, dibblda) to illustrate what I mean. This:

I'm sorry but someone claiming that unicorns exist and that you have to have faith in their existence is exactly equivalent to a belief in life after death as far as I can tell. Both have equal amounts of evidence backing them up.

...is an empty strawman argument, and a false equivalency. What is being criticized here? The argument boils down to, "1. Belief in unicorns is absurd, lacking evidence
2. Belief in an afterlife, also lacking evidence, is also absurd
3. All religions emphasize a belief in an afterlife, therefore all religion is absurd."

Except, that's wrong. It doesn't take into account any number of religions that do not include an afterlife at all and dismisses any nonliteral interpretations of religious thought as wholly nonexistent. What we are left with being criticized is no longer religion at all, but a literalist strawman!

This thread is full of...well, poor logic, to be charitable. If you want to criticize any religions, religious thought or practices, religious institutions or whatever, please do! I'm interested in that conversation. But please, be specific. Structure your arguments reasonably and respectfully. Do not presume that world religion is nonsense without offering an argument for why, and do not be surprised when no one finds your point of view convincing without any substance. Do not presume to speak for anyone else, theist or not. Try and think clearly about what you want to say, and how best to say it before you post. If the topic is one you find contentious and emotionally heated, this stuff is especially important. Otherwise, we get an echo chamber of hate and insults. That conversation is not interesting to me.

On a totally unrelated note, I find it fascinating that I revert to Queen's English when I try to calmly and politely critisize others, and must end up correcting myself where I catch it.
posted by byanyothername at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Would you like to show us where on the doll religion touched you?

Sadly, I don't think you really want to know how many people can answer this question.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:05 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Funny how it's just this one (and just one side of this one) which brings out the "arrrrrrrgh you expressed your silly, ignorant opinion again?!?! You are ruining everything! We cannot possibly discuss (your side of) this issue even one more time!" brigade."

Dude, you do not read the same MetaFilter I do if you think that this is the only topic that gets vocal eye-rolls. Everything from Wikileaks to indie rock to Apple brings it out, and you only notice here because it's your ox getting gored.

And you seriously want to defend bullshit comments like Pope Guilty and Decani's?

This shit's been going on the entire fucking time I've been here (I remember Amberglow bitching and moaning that public schools teach the Bible as literature, and that was years ago). It's got to have been going on the whole time you've been here too. The only difference is that you seem to like it.
posted by klangklangston at 8:10 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Atheism is almost always the least interesting trait of any atheist, because not believing in God seems to free up a lot of time to build hobbies and engage with the world.

It's like being stuck around people who want to talk about not owning a TV. Yeah, that's great, I'm sure you've got good reasons, but talking about the things that you do do is a lot more fun than talking about all the TV you're not watching.
posted by klangklangston at 8:15 PM on January 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


Seriously, it's like listening to fucking hardcore fans complain about pop or fucking straight-edge band banter where they all talk about how important it is to not do drugs all the fucking time.

Or it's like listening to slightly older world-weary scenesters complaining about how everyone else has adolescent views about what is worth arguing about are, as if their own opinions were unimpeachable.

I'm glad there's a lot of pro-atheist stuff out on the Internet, especially among young people, even if I find it intolerably boring and repetitive. Heck, I wish I only found it boring and repetitive. Much of it is also poorly argued. I hope they make use of the oceans of resources available and develop a better understanding of where the real difficulties are and how they might be addressed, but until then, I'm just glad they're interested. If that means seeing yet another youtube video where some 15-year-old argues that the impossibility of the literal truth of the Bible disproves the existence of God, well, it's not like everybody took 101 courses the same time I did. That doesn't mean bad arguments get a pass, but they do deserve some understanding.

phrontist is partially right, I think. The arguments in the youtube videos are old ones and have been better made many times over by countless authors. Many of those arguments are decisive, and they are available to anyone who is interested. And a lot of people, it turns out, aren't interested. So at some point, you do have to find a community that doesn't need to be convinced that belief in biblical literalism or (more broadly) a causally efficacious supernatural realm is untenable if you want to escape the endless refutation of bad introductory arguments. But starting from youtube isn't narcissism; it's just one way to start being interested.
posted by Marty Marx at 8:24 PM on January 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


Dude, you do not read the same MetaFilter I do if you think that this is the only topic that gets vocal eye-rolls. Everything from Wikileaks to indie rock to Apple brings it out, and you only notice here because it's your ox getting gored.

This thread did not make it two comments before someone showed up with "oh noes oh noes not again" -- that's not how Mefi works even for tired old subjects like Apple (for instance, the screwdriver thread went way better than this). We didn't just have a 300+ comment callout about Wikileaks, Apple or indie rock, either.

This shit's been going on the entire fucking time I've been here (I remember Amberglow bitching and moaning that public schools teach the Bible as literature, and that was years ago). It's got to have been going on the whole time you've been here too. The only difference is that you seem to like it.

Yes, that is indeed the difference: people who like to talk about things like to talk about them, preferably without an endless meta-conversation about how talking about them is boring and stupid.

Yeah, that's great, I'm sure you've got good reasons, but talking about the things that you do do is a lot more fun than talking about all the TV you're not watching.

But talking about people talking about all the TV they're not watching is awesome and very important, amirite?
posted by vorfeed at 8:31 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


It's like being stuck around people who want to talk about not owning a TV. Yeah, that's great, I'm sure you've got good reasons, but talking about the things that you do do is a lot more fun than talking about all the TV you're not watching.

Yeah, except for the fact that people watching tv aren't trying to change the lives of those who don't. In all seriousness, while atheists are strongly represented here, we are a rather small minority. Religion has no place in civil society. Believe what you want, but when you try to affect my life with your superstitions, you better believe I am going to push back.

This debate may be old, played out, and boring, but it is pretty damn important in the long run.
I don't really think it should be trivialized be comparing vocal atheists to tv deniers.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 8:41 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


...I'm just glad they're interested. If that means seeing yet another youtube video where some 15-year-old argues that the impossibility of the literal truth of the Bible disproves the existence of God, well, it's not like everybody took 101 courses the same time I did. That doesn't mean bad arguments get a pass, but they do deserve some understanding.

No, I feel this way, too. I've been that fifteen year old. I've made scads of bad arguments. I still do. People correct me, and I learn from them. That's perfectly fine. What prompted me to stick my nose into this thread was the tone that had developed in which the majority of comments were insulting, ignorant and self righteous. I find piling on to attack some cartoon version of religion very distasteful, and the overall tone of this thread is incredibly nasty. It's mostly the nastiness I dislike, but if your position is presented as one based on reasonable consideration, you should be prepared for others to point out the holes in your argument, and not throw a fit when you realize your position is untenable.
posted by byanyothername at 8:51 PM on January 22, 2011


I have a question, and it is a genuine inquiry. How much does religious doctrine actually influence the law? The only things I know about are bans on gay marriage (ridiculous) and a few years back when that group wanted warning labels about evolution put on biology textbooks (more ridiculous.) Are there more ways religion is oppressing us that I'm not aware of? (And I'm speaking from a US perspective because I am a US-ian and therefore UScentric in my worldview.)

(I guess there are Sunday liquor laws, but those vary by state? I used to be against those on principle because What, that's dumb, etc, but then I read some op-ed piece when the law was being repealed here that talked about how having a mandatory day off helps small liquor stores compete and man maybe there are justifications for stupid things sometimes even if they're based on a religious precedent)
posted by girih knot at 8:55 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


philip-random: "So yes, I believe, I believe, I BELIEVE ... in wise a loving God who does NOT command me to stone adulterers, does not want me to circumcise children in HER name, does not want me to reject evolution (indeed, evolution is one of her favorite tools for getting shit done); a God who inspired mankind to invent the condom and ummm, has no interesting in encouraging the damnation of folks for their disbelief in Her, because She's a cool God; she understands these things; in Her way, she encourages them because she likes us to THINK. She did after all create the human brain."

Ok, so far this seems to be the best (only?), coherent, pro-religious position expressed thus far in a thread that is theoretically about religion. Seeing as it has yet to be properly addressed, how about we quit arguing over how this thread is veering off-course and respond?

I'll start:

This God of yours sounds the sort that a eminently reasonable person could believe in! In fact, if there is a God(s) this is exactly the sort I would prefer. Is there any particular reason that you believe in her? A personal epiphany, or something else?

Beyond that, might I ask the question as to why, if this God is so loving and caring, does she not intervene to stop all of the troubles and problems in the world? In particular, why did she not (over the course of history) inspire humanity with all of the inventions and innovations that lead to the betterment of the human condition? Surely, it would have been possible for historical development to have progressed orders of magnitude than it has done so. (This is assuming, for the moment, that modern = better, and if that bothers you, then the question is why hasn't God made modern = better?)
posted by Arandia at 9:03 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this, bwg. Sorry it turned into the usual shitfest. But maybe it's salvageable.

The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates?

How many people these days have access to a good library that isn't being pressured to ditch this stuff in favour of more Stephen King and Harry Potter? How many have the time to read hundreds of linear feet of books, in-between working full time and caring for their kids or elderly parents? If someone can start off with a quick YouTube video, then move on to more sophisticated things, I think that's a good thing.

Not everyone has had this argument before. There are new people getting on the internet all the time. Many of them have not had 30 undergraduate arguments about this, because they've never had the money or opportunity to even *be* an undergraduate.

The great thing about the internet is that it allows people who would normally be deprived of any extra learning, due to class issues or lack of time or whatever, a chance to find their own way to new ideas.
posted by harriet vane at 9:03 PM on January 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


err... orders of magnitude faster than it has done so.
posted by Arandia at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2011


girih knot: "I have a question, and it is a genuine inquiry. How much does religious doctrine actually influence the law? The only things I know about are bans on gay marriage (ridiculous) and a few years back when that group wanted warning labels about evolution put on biology textbooks (more ridiculous.) Are there more ways religion is oppressing us that I'm not aware of? (And I'm speaking from a US perspective because I am a US-ian and therefore UScentric in my worldview.)"

Umm, I'll admit that these are round-about cases, but how about the social stereotype that presumes that athiest=bad? Such a thing could influence jury outcomes, etc.

Oh, and what about the huge body of arguments against, e.g., Roe-vs-Wade? I've not done the research myself, but I'd assume that at least some of the arguments against abortion are faith-based. Admittedly, abortion got legalized regardless, but merely that there had to be the defense against religious arguments means that they're influencing them.
posted by Arandia at 9:13 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


But please, be specific. Structure your arguments reasonably and respectfully. Do not presume that world religion is nonsense without offering an argument for why, and do not be surprised when no one finds your point of view convincing without any substance.

Why is the burden of proof shifted to disbelief? Is there an obligation to believe every positive claim until one has an argument against it? If so, you've missed the import of the unicorn argument. It seems like there's no more reason to believe in life after death than there is to believe in unicorns, so our belief in life after death should match our belief in unicorns. As you say, lots of religions don't include a belief in life after death, but the argument will still bite if it endorses any claim that we have no more reason to believe than we have to believe in unicorns. Unless you're prepared to say we ought to believe in unicorns until we have a reason not to believe, or that there are no religious beliefs relevantly similar to beliefs in unicorns, this burden shifting runs aground.

Sensitivity to the diversity of religion is all well and good (and sadly lacking in the folks fixated on biblical literalism), but the specifics of various belief systems aren't relevant to arguments at all levels of generality. Here, there's a problem with having a reliable basis for belief. That's not specific to any religion, but it would apply to all of them (and to any other basis for belief). The names of the holy days and sacred objects are irrelevant to the argument. What would be relevant is if some religion had a reliable basis for believing its uniquely religious claims were true.

What might be better (and what you might really be getting at) is bearing in mind is that the diversity of religious belief means that arguments for one doctrine being false are not necessarily arguments against all other doctrines being false. That doesn't mean that there are no general arguments, but just that every argument isn't a general one.

What, that's dumb, etc, but then I read some op-ed piece when the law was being repealed here that talked about how having a mandatory day off helps small liquor stores compete and man maybe there are justifications for stupid things sometimes even if they're based on a religious precedent.

I have heard this, but I don't believe it. (1) Why do we use the mandatory one day off to help out small liquor sellers but not, say, small flower shops (2) why help them out at all (3) why not allow each store to designate its own day off instead of mandating Sunday?

posted by Marty Marx at 9:17 PM on January 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


As seems to be the case for some other commenters on this post, the thing that bugs me about any of this stuff is that the audience just seems to be people who are already convinced. I mean, maybe there are some fence-sitters out there who are getting convinced by this kind of stuff—and if so, great, I'm a nonbeliever too and I wish everyone was—but I doubt that that is happening with any significant kind of frequency. phrontist's original point, I felt, (at some point you need to retreat to a narrower community which shares some of your suppositions and have conversations that stand a chance of actually going somewhere) was one that, for me, is about practical reality—what will actually end up happening regardless of how hard we rage on here. phrontist I think was not arguing for burying one's head in the sand, but the opposite.

The problem is that fundamentally we are not dealing with something rational here when we are talking about religious mentality, certainly not the religious mentality that is especially troublesome (folks like philip-random are really not the problem, you know?). The whole idea of throwing logical argument after logical argument and thereby convincing someone that "aha, I was wrong all along!" just does not stand up to the force of community and mass psychology, which is what we are really dealing with here when we are talking about stuff like EtzHadaat brought up with "...people like Sarah Palin are getting legitimate support, most of the US is creationist, people are flying planes into towers..." These kinds of things are big problems, I agree. But logical arguments will not resolve these issues, certainly not these logical arguments at this level of discourse. All those people you need to convince? They're hanging out over on Freerepublic.com—go over there and try this and see what happens.

So there is something missing in this fight that the "hundreds of linear feet" of atheist propaganda will not accomplish—it hasn't yet and won't. The current hyper-religious conditions of some parts of the world are borne not of people failing to have access to the proper logical argument against their faulty religious beliefs but the economic and political forces at work in the world today. Religion is a tool, not a cause, and if you want to take away the tool you have to replace it with something else that fits, and that something else is not atheism or any kind of non-belief. It doesn't provide the things that religion provide, like stable community, infrastructure, ritual, a (in many cases) deep connection to their cultural roots, etc. etc. And regardless, starting by stridently telling people that they are wrong is the worst possible way to change their mind: go read Dale Carnegie, he knows something you don't.

This thread did not make it two comments before someone showed up with "oh noes oh noes not again" -- that's not how Mefi works even for tired old subjects like Apple (for instance, the screwdriver thread went way better than this). We didn't just have a 300+ comment callout about Wikileaks, Apple or indie rock, either.

That's because those topics, at their core, do not have the implicit assumption that the world is divided into two groups: the people who are right and the people who are wrong, and moreover, here look at/listen to/watch something that shows why this group is wrong and the other is right...and with all the attendant problems I listed above.

Again: I am a nonbeliever. I grew up in rural Virginia with a Baptist preacher neighbor who scared the shit out of 12-year-old me with those awful Chick pamphlets. I have a special place of disgust reserved deep in my psyche for religious fundamentalism, for that and a plethora of much more awful reasons, as probably most people on this site do. But I'm saying that that is beside the point: this video is fine and all, but let's just acknowledge that it is, in fact, "...just back slapping for the True Unbelievers," as byanyothername so aptly put it.

So the question becomes: do you really want to change things, or do you want to keep back-slapping? If you want to change things, what is the way to change things?

That is all.
posted by dubitable at 9:19 PM on January 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm sorry but someone claiming that unicorns exist and that you have to have faith in their existence is exactly equivalent to a belief in life after death as far as I can tell. Both have equal amounts of evidence backing them up.

...is an empty strawman argument, and a false equivalency. What is being criticized here? The argument boils down to, "1. Belief in unicorns is absurd, lacking evidence
2. Belief in an afterlife, also lacking evidence, is also absurd
3. All religions emphasize a belief in an afterlife, therefore all religion is absurd."

Except, that's wrong. It doesn't take into account any number of religions that do not include an afterlife at all and dismisses any nonliteral interpretations of religious thought as wholly nonexistent.


Agreed. It's a straw man argument, therefore an unconvincing one. Who really believes in unicorns? Is there an actual unicorn-worshiping cult? If no one believes in a concept, can you really compare it with a concept people believe in and expect the argument to hold water with the people you are trying to convince?

And as far as religion being the root cause of terrorism, sexism, homophobia, and many others on the long list of humanity's crimes against itself, it's not. It's often used as a tool of and justification for oppression, but if religion didn't exist, some other belief system would be used in the quest for dominance. As someone mentioned upthread, for Mao, et. al., that belief system was atheism.
posted by xenophile at 10:03 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm pressing on
posted by philip-random at 10:22 PM on January 22, 2011


Part of this is not about converting each other. Some of it is about showing younger non-believers that they don't have to pretend. That non-belief is a viable choice, and that even if you're coming of age in Dismal Seepage, Arkansas, you're not alone. There are millions of us now.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 10:44 PM on January 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


If no one believes in a concept, can you really compare it with a concept people believe in and expect the argument to hold water with the people you are trying to convince?

Yes. You can do it like this: "We don't believe in unicorns even though we can offer a variety of reasons to believe in them--reported sightings, oral history, pleasure from belief, etc. We can invoke the same kinds of reasons to in x. We should have the same belief in unicorns as x insofar as our belief is guided by the reasons we can invoke in favor of both."

Maybe it's unconvincing because you think that we have different kinds of reasons for believing in x as in unicorns, but it's not unconvincing because no one really believes in unicorns. That's a feature, not a bug.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:50 PM on January 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


*to believe in x.
posted by Marty Marx at 10:51 PM on January 22, 2011


Right, it points out the fact that people demand different standards of proof for things they want to believe and things they don't.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:01 PM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Atheism is a belief system? I must have missed something, or the word "belief" needs to be replaced for it to make sense.
posted by maxwelton at 11:09 PM on January 22, 2011


dubitable: " So the question becomes: do you really want to change things, or do you want to keep back-slapping? If you want to change things, what is the way to change things?"

A few ideas:

We need to prevent religious fundamentalists from injecting their religious beliefs into our laws through lobbying efforts and preaching from tax-exempt pulpits.

If a church engages in partisan political activity they should lose their tax-exempt status. If a pastor, rabbi or priest tells their congregants how to vote and whom to vote for during Sunday services, the IRS should step in and say, "You're no longer a protected entity." Period. No exceptions, loopholes or turning a blind eye. The best deterrent is to hit them in their wallets. Also, invoke absolute transparency in such matters. It would answer such questions as "is the Catholic Church funding the pro-life movement, and how?"

A series of progressive and expensive fines should be established, so that if a lawmaker attempts to give a protected status to one religion or religious group over another (or a group which does not have a religious faith, such as atheists or agnostics,) they will be deterred from doing so again.

Religious organizations should not be exempt from secular law. If a priest is accused of molestation, for example, they should not be allowed to be protected by their Church. They should be turned immediately over to authorities for questioning, or arrest. The Church cannot be trusted to protect their congregants from predators, rather than the other way around.

Tolerance, education, tolerance, education, tolerance, education. The ridiculous perpetuation of hatreds and othering of those who do not believe similarly to one's own religious (and non-religious) group needs to be stopped.

Stand up and fight against those who would force their religious beliefs down others' throats, in classrooms. Call creationism and "intelligent" design for what it is: religious instruction. It is not science. It's not even pseudoscience. And it has no place in a secular classroom.
posted by zarq at 11:27 PM on January 22, 2011 [16 favorites]


If a church engages in partisan political activity they should lose their tax-exempt status. If a pastor, rabbi or priest tells their congregants how to vote and whom to vote for during Sunday services, the IRS should step in and say, "You're no longer a protected entity." Period. No exceptions, loopholes or turning a blind eye.

I'd vote for that. I'm Canadian unfortunately, but I'd still vote for it.
posted by philip-random at 11:38 PM on January 22, 2011


Poor ol' klang, there's his privelege being challenged again, and here he is, predictable as always, making Rush Limbaugh-on-feminism look well-balanced.

And a kiddy-fiddling reference, too. Classy.

How much does religious doctrine actually influence the law? The only things I know about are bans on gay marriage (ridiculous) and a few years back when that group wanted warning labels about evolution put on biology textbooks (more ridiculous.)

Abortion, contraceptives, divorce, and trading days are just a start in most countries. Oh, yeah, and that whole scam where massively wealthy corporate entities stick "religion" as a label on their affairs and skip out on their taxes.

The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates?

What does anyone get out of restating any debate? 90% of what's important for feminisim was sketched out in the 19th century, yet here we are in the 21st, still talking about it. People discover anew. People still need convincing. Or people just enjoy it.

And as far as religion being the root cause of terrorism, sexism, homophobia, and many others on the long list of humanity's crimes against itself, it's not. It's often used as a tool of and justification for oppression, but if religion didn't exist, some other belief system would be used in the quest for dominance.

I'll treat that argument is credible when the people making it also argue that the Sistine Chapel, Mother Theresa, or whatever their favourite works of devotion just happen and "religion is a tool of and justification for them", not inspired by them.

It's a straw man argument, therefore an unconvincing one. Who really believes in unicorns? Is there an actual unicorn-worshiping cult? If no one believes in a concept, can you really compare it with a concept people believe in and expect the argument to hold water with the people you are trying to convince?

Lots of people believe in Santa. Substitute Santa and see how you go.
posted by rodgerd at 12:25 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


If liquor laws are a social good, Wednesday ought to work as well as Sunday. Go ahead and try moving it, though. Suddenly, all kinds of justifications will arise as to why Sunday must be the day.
posted by adipocere at 12:47 AM on January 23, 2011 [7 favorites]


Lots of people believe in Santa. Substitute Santa and see how you go.

What? This is now a situation limited to those nine and under. When I was nine, I believed Adam West was about as cool as a man could get.
posted by philip-random at 2:46 AM on January 23, 2011


How much does religious doctrine actually influence the law?

According to the (former, thank God*) Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Alabama, religious doctrine should be the law.

(*sorry, couldn't help myself)
posted by TwoToneRow at 4:26 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


The arguments are all out there, taking up hundreds of linear feet in libraries if you care to look for them. What is anyone getting out of these debates? Belief in the value of talking things over, in rationalism, has gotten way out of hand in this country.

Reading an argument is not the same thing as participating in an argument. It's the difference between reading how to make a souffle and actually making one.

How much does religious doctrine actually influence the law?

An enormous amount. It's not just the laws that are obviously religious, but the fact that politicians and even entire political parties owe huge amounts of their success to their representing or pretending to represent religious people and religious values.
posted by callmejay at 5:57 AM on January 23, 2011


"I like your Christ atheism video by Qualiasoup, I do not like your Christians atheists who comment in the thread that's supposed to be about the atheism video by Qualiasoup. Your Christians atheists who comment in the thread that's supposed to be about the atheism video by Qualiasoup are so unlike your Christ athiesm video by Qualiasoup".

---Gandhi not Gandhi
posted by 23skidoo at 6:29 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Religious people love to pretend that they'd be fine with atheists if atheists were just the right kind of atheists, which invariably turns out to mean either "not really an atheist" or "very quiet about it". Yet they don't complain about church bells...
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:53 AM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Consider:

God is dead.

Literally. He (yes, he was male) once lived, but is now dead.

The devil reigns. Do you see it? It's not hard to see...

It's a great tale.

A tale.
posted by jet_manifesto at 7:09 AM on January 23, 2011


I'm usually one of the people in these threads going "Oh, come on! The religious aren't all bad!" But just a couple of weeks ago I got involved in a protracted argument (on Facebook, yeegh) with a bunch of people who were genuinely and sternly proclaiming that if you weren't the exact same kind of Christian that they were, then you were an enemy of humanity and God and righteousness and existed in moral chaos and were probably a child molester or a murderer, and I was reminded that I live in a liberal-ass city and virtually all the religious people I know, I know through my (extremely liberal and progressive) church.

so you know what? Fuck those guys. Atheists, you keep speaking up and being the voice against religious oppression, which does really still exist and which is a big deal. Yes it would be good if you could remember that not all the religious are actively oppressing, and also that not all theists are fundamentalist Christians, but certainly there's no reason to bow and scrape at the beginning of every denunciation.

I gotta go to church now.
posted by KathrynT at 8:54 AM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry this thread is going so poorly. I still click on any atheist link because I'm so damned thrilled to see the concept getting time and attention. When Obama's inaugural speech mentioned believers and *nonbelievers*, I squeeeed. Yes I really did, out loud. I keep up with Pharyngula. However.... I like Pharyngula when P.Z. talks about evolution, and explains in detail why (for example) we have an appendix, how it used to have a function but doesn't so much any more and why Intelligent Design theorists has a problem with appendices. I like it less when the blog breaks down into mere mockery of religion. Some things, like the Creationist museum, are mock-able, but the best way to fight that kind of ignorance is to show how cool and *true* real science is, and also reassure people that religious belief is not absolutely incompatible with scientific endeavor. I'd slightly revise what Klangklangston said; the time freed up by being an atheist can be used to explore paths discouraged by religion.
posted by acrasis at 9:10 AM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Poor ol' klang, there's his privelege being challenged again, and here he is, predictable as always, making Rush Limbaugh-on-feminism look well-balanced."

Yeah, my privilege. What privilege is that, exactly? I mean, I'm white, straight and of (lower) middle class background. I went to college. I'm male.

In fact, those privileges I share with pretty much every fucking atheist in this thread. Atheists are, in general, a pretty privileged bunch, which makes the bitching that you do every time, rogerd, pretty hilarious, like you just want to have some way in which you're oppressed so that you don't have to feel so guilty all the time about all the privilege you enjoy and the way you're pretty much always a dick in your interactions.

But really, since I've put my religious views out on MeFi before, you think that my beliefs qualify me for privilege in my culture? Would you like to enumerate those privileges? Specifically my privileges, no more of this hand-waiving generalization about "religionists" or any of that shit, since you and the rest of the ATHEISM RULZ CREW seem to have a hard time not lumping every belief group that isn't HARDCORE ATHEIST 4 LIFE together.

C'mon, you presumptive, belligerent crybaby. Have at it.
posted by klangklangston at 9:31 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


"So the question becomes: do you really want to change things, or do you want to keep back-slapping? If you want to change things, what is the way to change things?"

I think this is a vital question and can serve as a better idea generator to separate the wheat from an awful lot of the dick-wagging chaff that's going on in this thread.

My suggestion, from a theist point of view, is combat fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of change, fear of dispossession.

It's tricky, though, to change these things. Again, "working from the inside" I see a lot of theistic motivation inherently entangled in fear. People believe what they believe because it's what they've always believed and to even think of believing something else throws off so many fundamental assumptions about their core identity that they don't know how to cope.

I think that's why another argument being made in favor of these type of videos, that they're a sort of rationalist "It Gets Better" campaign, is vital. Young adults need to not be afraid of exploring the possibility of non-belief or at least rejection of theism because they possibly don't have as much of that same core fear of losing self. Videos like this say it's okay to think that. It's okay to question and come to a conclusion that will frighten many theists because it represents a change in not only world view but who they fundamentally are (or more specifically, what they've become) that you might as well be speaking a different language (which, to my way of thinking, is really the problem: religion is a language).

People who are afraid are loud. They shout, they scream, they holler, they try and get help. That's what fear does. Rarely do they get rational. So the first step would seem to be overcoming that fear. These videos, even if they are of old, retreaded arguments, do this on a certain level. But it's not enough and here dubitable's question becomes vitally important for the atheist/anti-theist/non-theist because shouting just as loudly and, in some cases, just as viciously as a frightened theist/believer accomplishes nothing but upping the noise level and making any real progress impossible.

I come to my theism from a long spiritual path that is by no means over. I started off fundamentalist (at one point praying for my own mother's soul because she listened to Jesus Christ Superstar...God I was insufferable), became a fiery atheist hellbent on using rationality and science as an intellectual bludgeon, simmered down to just a regular non-theist, drifted into agnosticism and am currently back at theism, but on my own terms with the understanding that my belief is mine and its validity is predicated on no one else's acceptance, tolerance of permission and also cannot be used as "how-to" guide to tell other's how they must live their lives. So, yes, this is all anecdotal in a way, as my much better, deeper, more honest relationship with my concept of Judeo-Christian belief and Quakerism was only possible through a casting off of fear. Fear of change, fear of being wrong, fear of what happens next. However, I feel that I've seen enough in my journey to say that a reoccurring theme in belief is fear and that fear (perhaps even on both sides of this argument as when I was atheist I was not without fear) is what prevents change and unification of purpose in diversity of experience.

So, if you want to make change, find out what people are afraid of and help them work through it. Not by yelling at them or making them feel stupid for their fear or their comfort, but seeing that it's okay to question, to wander, that there's value there and that, so long as the journey is honest then their right to take it and their place in it will be respected, regardless of the destination. Help them under stand the truth of Matthew 6:33-34 and that will spark real change.
posted by quakerjono at 10:35 AM on January 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


Belief in unicorns was a mainstream idea for ages and their nonexistence only became commonly accepted in the last couple hundred years.
Yeah, my privilege. What privilege is that, exactly? I mean, I'm white, straight and of (lower) middle class background. I went to college. I'm male.

In fact, those privileges I share with pretty much every fucking atheist in this thread. Atheists are, in general, a pretty privileged bunch
What, have you haxxored our webcams? Do you keep a dossier?
posted by jtron at 10:57 AM on January 23, 2011


C'mon, you presumptive, belligerent crybaby. Have at it.

Cut it out, klang.
posted by cortex at 11:02 AM on January 23, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's like being stuck around people who want to talk about not owning a TV.

I don't have a TV, mostly because I'm too lazy to get a new one. I don't talk about it unless someone asks me. But then again I'm not surrounded by people who demand that I should have a TV and that we should all live according to the tenets of Three And A Half Men.

If there's ever a huge outcry to legislate a Snooki chapter into all biology textbooks, if people start showing up at funerals with Spongebob Hates Fags signs, I'll get loud about TV. I honestly will.
posted by fleetmouse at 11:58 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


To clarify:

Matthew 6:33-34 (New International Version, ©2010)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


And yes, as a matter of fact, Jesus spoke American vernacular English. He also had blond hair and blue eyes and invented surfing (confused at the time with walking on water).

Oh, and by the way, I seem to have lost my faith again overnight. Or more to the point, if red wine is Jesus' own blood, explain please my current hangover. So I'm back to good ole agnosticism now that the atheist wolves are safely back the other side of the Lord's fence.

Love is all you need.
posted by philip-random at 12:07 PM on January 23, 2011


But then again I'm not surrounded by people who demand that I should have a TV and that we should all live according to the tenets of Three And A Half Men.

But to carry that analogy through, there's more on TV than Three And A Half Men. There's Mad Men, Bugs Bunny re-runs, Formula 1 (now in HD). Some tenets are palatable than others, and to argue otherwise is, as I've suggested elsewhere, a little on the thin side.
posted by philip-random at 12:30 PM on January 23, 2011


Yeah, but for the analogy to stand, the vast majority of TV watchers would have to believe Mad Men and Bugs Bunny are documentaries. (Okay, maybe Elmer Fudd is allegorical, but the cross-dressing rabbit is the Truth!)
posted by callmejay at 1:26 PM on January 23, 2011


The vast majority of people subscribe to the Bible or the Quran, both of which are full of laws and teachings thousands of years less advanced than our own that are barbaric by today's standards.

Where do you think you are? The laws and teachings we experience and hand down, say in North America and Western Europe, are a product of, and deeply embedded in Judeo-Christian tradition, from Martin Luther down to Martin Luther King Junior, as well being a product of reaction to that tradition. I have no idea what you mean by "our own", and find it an especially confusing notion, as you seem to be including me in it.

Aside from that, "vast majority" is simply wrong. A small majority of the world population self identify with one of the Abramic religions. Many of those who identify as Moslem or Christian have little idea of the contents of either the Bible or the Quran. Many of them cannot read, for one thing. To suggest that Rastafarians and Jehova's Witnesses subscribe to the same beliefs is to over simplify in just the way that is being objected to by several earlier posters in this thread.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 1:59 PM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Apologies to our Antipodean friends, who should be included in the phrase beginning "say..."
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 2:28 PM on January 23, 2011


The laws and teachings we experience and hand down, say in North America and Western Europe, are a product of, and deeply embedded in Judeo-Christian tradition, from Martin Luther down to Martin Luther King Junior, as well being a product of reaction to that tradition.

Interesting place to start, that... and one which makes me suspect that your view of "the laws and teachings we experience and hand down" bears no more resemblance to history than the one you're critiquing.

As I've said before, the idea that our culture Comes From Christianity is a created narrative. The Judeo-Christian tradition is also a product of, and deeply embedded in, traditions which came before it, as well being a product of reactions to those traditions; in addition, much of what we consider to be "Judeo-Christian" law doesn't come from where we think it does. Our heavy emphasis on Greek->Roman->Christian history leaves out a great deal of the story, and gives the actual complexity of our heritage little justice.
posted by vorfeed at 3:10 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


Vorfeed, I have no argument with your response, except to say that I was trying to put some, or perhaps a particular, perspective, out of many possibilities, on other comments in this thread.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:47 PM on January 23, 2011


I was trying to put some, or perhaps a particular, perspective, out of many possibilities, on other comments in this thread.

Yes, I understand that. The problem is that the people behind those comments could just as easily counter with their perspective: "nuh uh, the laws and teachings we experience and hand down, say in North America and Western Europe, are a product of, and deeply embedded in Enlightenment tradition, or scientific tradition, or French Revolutionary tradition blah blah etc". And then what?

Viewing the Bible as barbaric and backward is just as Western (and even Christian, e.g. the Marcionists and today's Red Letter Christians) as viewing it as an integral part of our traditions is. Hell, it can even be both.
posted by vorfeed at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2011


Having read the links, I will add that I wasn't thinking of law at all, though I learned a couple of things from those articles, so thanks for them. I was thinking more generally of metaphors and narratives we find in our popular culture. These are, of course, intertwined with earlier Pagan religous ideas.

I am familiar with Zoroastrianism, but the Wikipedia link did not do much to explicate a link from Zoroastrianism to either Judaism or Christianity; it mentions the persecution of Christians starting in 228 C.E. (to get all scholarly like), and a 20th C. effort to combine the two. My reading suggests to me more influence from Buddhism than from Zoroastrianism on Christianity though I'm sure this is unorthodox thinking. There is a link between Zoroastrian thinking and Tibetan Buddhism, to keep things interesting.

Enough of a derail, fun though it was. Perhaps this sidetrack confirms the idea that religion is a complex subject, not effectively dealt with by either / or thinking.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:18 PM on January 23, 2011


And yeah, law was specified in the original comment. My mistake.
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 4:20 PM on January 23, 2011


There's a better explanation of the relationship between Judeo-Christian thought and Zoroastrianism at Jewishencyclopedia.com:

Most scholars, Jewish as well as non-Jewish, are of the opinion that Judaism was strongly influenced by Zoroastrianism in views relating to angelology and demonology, and probably also in the doctrine of the resurrection, as well as in eschatological ideas in general, and also that the monotheistic conception of Yhwh may have been quickened and strengthened by being opposed to the dualism or quasi-monotheism of the Persians.

It goes on to mention that a few scholars believe the relationship went in the other direction. My point, though, was simply that the "the Judeo-Christian tradition" did not arise in a vacuum: it influenced and was influenced by other traditions, just as post-modern thought both influences it and is influenced by it.
posted by vorfeed at 4:32 PM on January 23, 2011


Except, that's wrong. It doesn't take into account any number of religions that do not include an afterlife at all and dismisses any nonliteral interpretations of religious thought as wholly nonexistent. What we are left with being criticized is no longer religion at all, but a literalist strawman!

A) If we include Christianity, Islam, Hinduism as religions that include an afterlife or reincarnation of some sort (Buddhism) and allow that each has some sort of a creation story (minus Buddhism), then presumably we've covered the vast majority of the planet.

B) A religion without at least an afterlife, soul, reincarnation, creator, associated spirits or minor deities of some sort is not something most would recognize as a religion. More like a philosophy or creed.

C) Unicorns weren't the point. The point is that proof for the existence of either is identical. It would certainly require faith to believe in any non-existent entity when no proof is available. Almost everyone recognizes that belief in unicorns is absurd. To an atheist, a belief in God/Gods/Souls/Spirits/Reincarnation/Afterlife is equally absurd. Presumably you refer to Greek Mythology as Mythology right? A lot of people took it pretty seriously as a religion for a very long time. Would it be a straw man to replace the unicorn example with the Greek pantheon?

D) Frankly I don't think you can convince the truly religious that their position may be mistaken. I'm more worried about them keeping others from coming to their own conclusions based on the evidence.

Over and out.
posted by dibblda at 4:42 PM on January 23, 2011


Why do so many non-believers act as if they are owed an explanation from religious people?
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:50 AM on January 23

Because we fucking well are. Go on. Explain yourselves. Justify what you have wrought throughout human history. Go on. We insist.
posted by Decani at 6:58 PM on January 22 [+] [!]


Are you going to justify what the British have done throughout human history? Because you guys have been some fuckers. Maybe you consider yourself only genetically, not culturally British.

I personally have not wrought all that much throughout human history, having occupied so little about it. I can tell you, just sort of by way of example about what the food shelf run by my church wrought last year, as it's annual report time and I have the figures right at hand: we served about 4,000 individuals, operating in a single neighborhood of a small city. About half of those we served were children. We distributed about 3,400 pounds of food a month. All the wroughting I get up to up in history's grill by participating in religion, the single most horrible thing that is the font of all society's ills and never ever does anything remotely worthwhile, honestly gets sort of tiring some times.
posted by nanojath at 8:00 PM on January 23, 2011 [4 favorites]


I thought the end was a great, concise way of putting in words the "why atheism?" question... because we now have the ability to make the planet uninhabitable, so realizing that there is no savior may well mean our survival.
posted by odinsdream at 6:22 AM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


A while back, someone asked about actual laws (or, I assume, proposed laws that are taken reasonably seriously) that have mostly religious reasoning behind them. Here are a few I can think of:

1) Laws against homosexuality, ranging from bans on gay marriage to capital punishment, depending upon religion and area
2) The vast majority of, if not all, laws banning abortion
3) Laws prohibiting the purchase of liquor on a Sunday (and similar laws)
4) Most laws mandating how people should dress (e.g. burquas in some areas, or illegal public toplessness for women in others)
5) Laws mandating the teaching of religious material in schools
6) Laws banning the teaching of sex education, or certain kinds of sex education, in schools
7) All blasphemy laws
8) All "state" religions legally endorsed by a governing body
9) Laws prohibiting or restricting divorce
10) Many forms of censorship laws
11) Some laws restricting or banning certain businesses (such as strip clubs)
12) Most laws banning prostitution
13) Most laws prohibiting "victimless" sex acts

That's off the top of my head. There are more.
posted by kyrademon at 7:48 AM on January 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


kyrademon: "A while back, someone asked about actual laws (or, I assume, proposed laws that are taken reasonably seriously) that have mostly religious reasoning behind them. Here are a few I can think of:"

Well put. That's a great list.

Worth noting that even the ones that might not necessarily have mostly religious reasoning behind them, like some laws banning prostitution, have often been championed and lobbied into legislation by religious groups. We can all make completely scientific, secularly humanistic and/or emotional arguments for and against say, abortion, that have no religious basis. But that issue has (and others have) become an international religious crusade for the Catholic Church, who apparently have appointed themselves moral arbiters for humanity.
posted by zarq at 8:40 AM on January 24, 2011


That's off the top of my head. There are more.

Stem cell laws come to mind -- a fine example of how the conservative-Christian lobby is literally holding us back.
posted by vorfeed at 10:32 AM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


vorfeed: " Stem cell laws come to mind -- a fine example of how the conservative-Christian lobby is literally holding us back."

Coincidentally, I was just reading this article: "A federal appeals court upholds the dismissal of a lawsuit seeking to stop federal funding of research involving stem cells derived from embryos." This is the "Mary Scott Doe" / NAAPC case.
posted by zarq at 10:44 AM on January 24, 2011


Kyrademon, that's a good list, but it's missing any mention of laws relating to credit and lending. Why was 7 years from the date of first delinquency chosen as the limit for derogatory tradelines on a credit report? Also, usury laws, remember those? Not that many contemporary Christians still worry about Mammon or other silly superstitions like that, after all, Jesus never took issue with usurers, because he was all about stoning the sexual deviants.
posted by [citation needed] at 11:52 AM on January 24, 2011


[citation needed]: " Why was 7 years from the date of first delinquency chosen as the limit for derogatory tradelines on a credit report?"

I had no idea that had a basis in Christian superstition! What is the significance of seven years?
posted by zarq at 12:25 PM on January 24, 2011


Deuteronomy 15:1 -- "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts."

There are religious origins behind a number of modern laws relating to credit and debt, as [citation needed] says. However, I left them off because (1) I'm not all that knowledgeable on the subject, and (2) in many cases, the original scripture-based reasons have effectively been replaced by modern legal theory. Seven may be an arbitrary number based on Deuteronomy, but the fact that the limit exists at all is now usually argued for other reasons. (Similarly, I didn't include "laws against murder", even though it's in all the versions of the 10 Commandments, because murder laws efectively have a different legal basis now.)

However, no argument that the seven year thing, and undoubtedly many other laws I am not aware of, have a religious origin.

Also agree that the stem cell issue is another good example.
posted by kyrademon at 1:02 PM on January 24, 2011


kyrademon: "Deuteronomy 15:1 -- "At the end of every seven years you shall grant a remission of debts.""

Holy cow. I had no idea. (Was also unaware of that passage.) Thanks for the explanation.
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on January 24, 2011


I had no idea about the Deuteronomy thing either.

This is one thing that deeply frustrates me about Christian legal activism; unlike homosexuality or abortion or being able to buy whisky on Sundays, usury is something that actually does affect the "American family" in grindingly horrible ways. Charging 23.99% interest in perpetuity is about the most un-Christian thing I can possibly imagine; it takes people in a bad moment and just really fucks them hard, sometimes for life, for no purpose except to enrich people who are already rich.

I wish the same forces that brought so much power, money, and organization to bear for Prop 8 would turn their sights on corrupt corporate interests instead. Because honestly, if they're all about the children, what's worse for kids? Two dudes getting married in Iowa, or Mom and Dad having to work two jobs each to keep the lights on so they're never home and the kids raise themselves?
posted by KathrynT at 1:41 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


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