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World Trade Center Massacre: Why did it happen and where was god?
October 11, 2001 9:25 AM   Subscribe

World Trade Center Massacre: Why did it happen and where was god?
posted by racer271 (159 comments total)

 
Free will is a bitch.

Where was God when the Polio vaccine was discovered?
posted by Dagobert at 9:43 AM on October 11, 2001


seems reasonable to me, if a bit presumptuous.
come on bunnyfire, where are you?
this could turn out to be a somewhat one-sided thread.
posted by asok at 9:45 AM on October 11, 2001


(sigh) Do I have to remind everyone again? Repeat after me: Atheists -- Defenders of Reality.
posted by davidmsc at 9:50 AM on October 11, 2001


Where was God when the Polio vaccine was discovered?

You're obviously in tight with him; tell him to get off his lazy ass and make us an AIDS vaccine already. Sheesh, an infinite number of universes, and we get the absentee landlord.
posted by boaz at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2001


It's an interesting article, but I think Flamm underestimates the religious points of view on the matter. He says "one might cogently argue that a merciful God would have valued the lives of 6,000 innocent people more than he valued the free will of a handful of terrorist fanatics", but free will isn't as simple as that. If it could be suspended whenever anything bad was in danger of happening, it would hardly count as freedom at all. Furthermore, I think most believers would say that God is quite capable of restoring the lives that were lost, when the time comes.

Finally, I think blaming religion for the sort of fanaticism that leads people to crash planes into buildings is a drastic oversimplification. Yes, these people were in some sense motivated by their religion, but it seems to me that when people have the kind of madness that leads them to atrocities like these, they will find an excuse, whether they believe in one god, or many, or none at all. If atheists have not slaughtered as many people as Moslems or Christians, it is only because they have rarely been gathered together in great enough numbers to attempt it.
posted by moss at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2001


Option five -- the most overlooked one in every hardcore atheist's "religious people are crazy" argument I've seen since 9/11 -- and the one that my religion subscribes to:

God is powerful, but not all-powerful.

Things like this don't happen because God is a nasty vengeful sadistic wanker (who would want to worship such a nasty farker anyway?).

Things like this don't happen because God ironically has to suppress Its own will to preserve the free will of mortals.

Things like this happen because God, contrary to pop theology, simply does not have absolute control over everything.


Where was God? Right there with the rest of us, watching CNN in horror, denial, fear, grief, anger and frustration.
posted by Foosnark at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2001


I was raised believing and praciticing one of the Big Three religions, but now consider myself to be "agnostic", which I've always believed to mean "not practicing". To some degree, I believe enough that there may be a God, and if there is, I don't want to piss this God off by not believing the possibility of his/her existence. Rather, I choose not to practice a major religion.

All that said, the fourth section of this piece confirms my agnostic/atheistic beliefs more strongly than anything else I've ever read.
posted by msacheson at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2001


Things like this happen because God, contrary to pop theology, simply does not have absolute control over everything.

Is there a theology on the planet that believes that? (i.e. "Church of God Occasionally Triumphant").

If atheists have not slaughtered as many people as Moslems or Christians, it is only because they have rarely been gathered together in great enough numbers to attempt it.

It only took 19 people to kill 5,600. Athiests aren't likely to be suicide bombers because when you only get one life, you're a lot less likely to blow it.
posted by rcade at 10:02 AM on October 11, 2001


Well, last week's Savage Love mentions a few atheist groups who have slaughtered a few million innocents.
posted by badstone at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2001


The most interesting part of the article is at the end, where the author ascribes the attacks as a reaction against Christian Fundamentalist 'crusade' to convert Muslims in every Islamic country, "Operation World"

I have never heard of this, has anyone else?
posted by cell divide at 10:06 AM on October 11, 2001


What rcade said.
Atheists never say "God made me do it". Bless them.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:07 AM on October 11, 2001


The only thing that really bugged me about the article is that to Christians, Jesus is not 'God'. God to Christians is essentially what he calls 'the Jewish Yahweh' (which in reality is that same as Allah). But I realize that isn't really central to the point and really just a pet peeve.

In terms of the point of the article, yes, I agree, its not really about God, but rather about humans acting on their own while thinking they're pleasing whatever name they want to give the almighty.

I just wish folks would get things straight before trying to illustrated another viewpoint. It shows a lack of respect for other's beliefs. Some people need to be able to "put their faith in God" for various reasons.
posted by srw12 at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2001


Maybe God is with the vice president. I've heard God likes Dick.
See, as an atheist, I can say stuff like that.
posted by Doug at 10:18 AM on October 11, 2001


God allows this to happen because he is demonstrating a point. He is making the point that mankind cannot be in charge, that all the world's governments, religions, businesses and organisations cannot effectively solve the world's problems.

Unfortunately it is a very painful point to be made.

Fair? Just? Many say no. However, a powerful God can right the wrongs made, maybe in a way that surpasses human judgement of fairness and justice.
posted by mutagen at 10:19 AM on October 11, 2001


This article attempts to sound reasonable and even-handed, ("decide for yourself which is more logical"), but then presents a view of the Christian religion that is so shallow and filled with half-truths and misinterpretations as to make the religion seem intellectually untenable. Of course anyone who reads this without any other context will conclude that atheism is the only reasonable choice.

This is propaganda discussed as reasonable discussion.

Qualifier: This tactic is commonly used by religion and atheism alike. I just don't want anybody to confuse this particular presentation of Christianity with true Christianity, especially fundamentalist Christianity.
posted by gd779 at 10:19 AM on October 11, 2001


make that disguised, not discussed. Sorry.
posted by gd779 at 10:20 AM on October 11, 2001


cell divide - it is the title of the book mentioned - which doesn't sound all bad, judging by some of the less scary reviews here.
it's the old judge them by their actions rather than motives thing, or something.
Selling a million of them in 8 years is pretty good going, but i'll bet it's not in the guinness book of records.
posted by asok at 10:21 AM on October 11, 2001


a view of the Christian religion that is so shallow and filled with half-truths and misinterpretations as to make the religion seem intellectually untenable

If there's a view of the Christian religion that is intellectually tenable, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by kindall at 10:23 AM on October 11, 2001


Kindall, try reading Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.
posted by gazingus at 10:28 AM on October 11, 2001


from the article:
However, most do believe that God is omniscient (knows everything) and omnipotent (controls everything)....

If you believe in God then you must believe that he gave you a brain and
that he gave you that brain for a reason.


yes, and today that reason is to point out an obvious flaw in this article. omnipotent means "all-powerful" not "all-controlling."

in other words, the entire argument is based on a complete misunderstanding of the term "omnipotent." when an argument is based on a faulty premise (as this one is) it is invalid.

(and rcade, any religion that includes the premise of free will automatically asserts that God doesn't control anything that any human being does.)

as an aside, though it's often used to mean "I can't decide" or "I waffle back and forth", agnostic actually means that one believes that no one can know whether or not God exists.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:28 AM on October 11, 2001


If there's a view of the Christian religion that is intellectually tenable, I'd love to hear about it.

Kindall: I've noticed you around for a while, and I like you. I like your posts. So this isn't personal.

But what did your comment add in the way of insight or discussion? If everybody makes comments like that, does this thread have the potential to be anything but a flamewar or a masturbatory spouting of unarticulated personal convictions? I have a higher opinion of MetaFilter than that.

And if that's all it turns out to be, I vote for a smoting.

On the other hand, if you have an informed opinion, I'd be happy to discuss the issue. Where do you want to start?
posted by gd779 at 10:29 AM on October 11, 2001


rcade: Is there a theology on the planet that believes that?

I've talked to Christians who believe that. And indeed, in some ways the Bible does seem to describe a God that, while extremely powerful, is not necessarily omnipotent in the most absolute sense. (Mind you, I don't think this reading of the Bible is required if a Christian is to make sense of what happened--it seems quite possible that an omnipotent God, capable of comprehending the whole of creation throughout all time, might well choose for something like this to happen at this time, with a full understanding of how it would fit into the rest of creation.)

rcade: It only took 19 people to kill 5,600. Athiests aren't likely to be suicide bombers because when you only get one life, you're a lot less likely to blow it.

I didn't want to have to bring up Stalin, but I think he does demonstrate fairly well that atheists are capable of being murderous ideological fanatics.

On a more positive note, I think atheists are just as willing as theists to give their lives for a cause they really believe in.

srw12: The only thing that really bugged me about the article is that to Christians, Jesus is not 'God'.

Surely that depends on what variety of Christianity one believes in. The phrase "We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father," from the Nicene Creed, seems to claim that Jesus is in some sense God.

(Just to be clear on where I'm coming from here, I am an atheist, and always have been, but I don't think arguments like the one in this article hold water. They oversimplify religious beliefs, and prevent people from being able to understand each other.)
posted by moss at 10:33 AM on October 11, 2001


before I get started-we know where Bert is-where is Ernie?......
now to the thread in question....I realize that in all the questioning we have been doing re God, His purposes, His existence, yada yada yada....I for one forgot what to me at least is a fairly major point....there is another player in this cosmic drama....he has many names....they usually translate out to mean "adversary".....yes, I mean satan.
Since this is metafilter and not bible seminary I am not going to reteach the classes I have had on doctrine and theology (formal and otherwise) but since the first man and woman walked the planet there has been one whose purpose has been to steal , kill and destroy......He cannot hurt God directly so he attacks us instead...
Now I think I will go find Ernie.....
posted by bunnyfire at 10:34 AM on October 11, 2001


with men the way they are, I doubt if satan does anything but sit around getting pedicures all day long....
posted by rebeccablood at 10:37 AM on October 11, 2001


believers have as always an answer that will never satisfy non-believers, who seem to welcome bad things in order to challenge believers.
posted by Postroad at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2001


Bleh, nothing is more annoying then reactionary atheists.
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on October 11, 2001


The article in question, though a little more detailed, is basically the same old schtick. And personally, I have little appreciation for the whole "Where was God when..." mantra.

When largely incomprehensible acts occur, we hear a mumble from under the rock: "Where was your god when this happened? You're a fool to believe in a higher power... if there was a higher power, this sort of thing wouldn't happen."

Hardly a bulletproof argument.

How can a person who espouses a disbelief in any higher power dictate what my god can/cannot/should/should not do? Most atheists I know maintain that religion is a self-continuing delusion. Well, if that's the case then most people active in their religion of choice will have an answer to where their god was on 9.11. And most answers, I would submit, will have a good deal of integrity -- consistent, in large measure, with that believer's world view.

So whether you believe in a single god, or many... a capricious god, or one of purpose... a loving god, or a vengeful one... one that's all-powerful, or given to various weaknesses... you'll have an answer for the question from under the rock.

That said, I have to wonder what purpose there is in even asking the question? A believer will have an answer, an agnostic will continue to wonder, but the atheist, though, will whoop in wonder at the silly believers (just check out this thread!).

Oh well.

I know where my god was... and if anyone wants to know, I'll be happy to sit down with them, and discuss (at length) the meaning of life, the mysteries of God, and our place in the Universe. It will take time... and a few leaps of faith. But that's okay... even science takes the occasional leap of faith.

If you want a shorter answer, well, a man I consider to be a prophet was speaking at a global conference when the US began its bombing in Afghanistan... and he had a few words to say on the whole matter.
posted by silusGROK at 10:41 AM on October 11, 2001


Of course, religion could be a red herring, obstructing our view of a much more serious underlying problem. If the "1% psychopath" figure is true for humanity at large, then it really doesn't matter what banner you use, there's a nice big population of folks out there that'll do anything without moral qualms. They'll be happy to chant your slogans, as long as you enable them to play their predator role.
posted by badstone at 10:42 AM on October 11, 2001


blaming 9.11 on christian missionaries, as the article seems to do, is every bit as hateful and irrelevant as falwell/robertson's remarks.

what i'm really curious about is the christian take on the tragedy in relation to armageddeon. i'm really surprised most of the links in the yahoo 'end times' category don't seem to have ben updated since 9.11. the "best" one seems to be beastwatch. am i just looking in the wrong place?
posted by danOstuporStar at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2001


i'm with camus on this one: i can, in no way, respect any individual or any higher power who murders an innocent seeking simply to be. i agree with foosnark; i think that if there is a god, he is as frustrated as you or i. i think so because i find it too awful, too horrible, and too disgusting to accept a higher power who would both create and destroy at will.

i have read some of the arguments that christian apologists have made regarding the interpretation of historical tragedies, and i have not been impressed. one such apology stated that since god's will is divine, it must follow that we -- because of our non-divinity -- cannot understand his rationale, and should therefore accept god's will with the assumption that god knows what he's doing. this apology, though written independently from camus' the plague, is a sentiment similarly expressed by the jesuit character in the book, father paneloux; one which i find indefensible at best.
posted by moz at 10:44 AM on October 11, 2001


"See, as an atheist, I can say stuff like that."

Um, Doug, "can" should never be confused with "ought".

What you said was really offensive.
posted by silusGROK at 10:46 AM on October 11, 2001


and rcade, any religion that includes the premise of free will automatically asserts that God doesn't control anything that any human being does

If a theology is built around an omnipotent God, doesn't it also follow that He could control everything, even if He chooses not to? I can't recall any teachings that claim things like Sept. 11 happen because God couldn't do anything to stop it. I might be more religious if there was a Church of God the Well-Intentioned Guy Who Sometimes Fucks Up.

(Grammar nit: I hate capitalizing personal pronouns like that.)
posted by rcade at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2001


The article is attempting to answer the old question of theodicy, the Question of Evil.

Seeing how the amount of writing that have been done (Summa Theologica by Aquinas is a good example), and still there is not a neat, tenable answer to Why Bad Things Happen To Good People (James Morrow recently tackled the issue in his normal delightful and astute manner) and to think that it could be summed up in one article is a bit silly, IMHO.

But then again, I'm a Christian and we do not appear to be known for our cognitive thoughts. Shame. I wish Pierre Teilhard deChardin had been told that his faith was not intellectually tenable.
posted by Dagobert at 10:54 AM on October 11, 2001


The concept of "satan" has always had a sort of Godwin's Law effect on me. As soon as someone proposes that there actually is some evil guy going around possessing people and making them do bad things, the argument is over. Just as I won't argue with my 8-year-old about who's tougher, Batman or Spiderman, I won't argue about the existence of the Bogeyman.

I can understand why someone might believe in a Creator. I think it's silly, but I can see why someone might believe in it. The concept of a personfied "Evil" is whole other concept. Believe it if you want, but don't expect me to take you seriously.
posted by jpoulos at 10:56 AM on October 11, 2001


I think you're totally overlooking the bigger issue here, religion is amazingly stupid. The best achievements in it's name could have been done without religion. Stuff like "he saved a baby in fire with the help of Jesus!". There really is no obvious reason as to why Jesus' name had to be used. Surely it was atheist science that made the fire-retardant suit, and the engine, in the truck that supplies water and the mask that protected him from the gas. Even if it was a miraculous surge of power, not unlike a bright light with Jesus' picture on it that made his body go that extra step, it was chemical, and he either made it up or was hallucinating. Aren't there tests being done for military use stim-packs?

Obviously if god is everything, where did he come from? Why is he here? Why does he want us not to sleep with another man's wife? Or have women wear stuff on their heads? It's STUPID!
posted by tiaka at 10:59 AM on October 11, 2001


i'm with delmoi on this one.
Please don't confuse atheists with vocal "anti-theists." They're just as silly as Satanists and their black masses. It's one thing to form and participate in your own religion, it's a whole higher level of foolishness altogether when your religion (and the way "anti-theists" make their desparate arguments and attacks, they sound pretty religious to me) is specifically a reaction to another religion.

Atheism is simply "apart from theism," not necessarily opposed to theism, and should hold the same non-judgemental values as most true religious practices espouse; it should not get mired in these pointless holy wars.

At any rate, i think the "where was your god" thing is mainly a reaction of antitheists to the theist practice of giving credit to god for everything good thing that happened, and rarely to the human beings who bring about good. (Unless they're related to god.) It's lack of respect for humanity that really makes it so much easier to slaughter them.
posted by badstone at 11:00 AM on October 11, 2001


"I've heard God likes Dick."

"See, as an atheist, I can say stuff like that."

Um, Doug, "can" should never be confused with "ought". What you said was really offensive.


Vis10n, can you break down for me exactly why that's offensive. I'm not saying it isn't, but I want to know if there's any actual basis for it being so. Is it the word "dick"? I honestly don't get it.
posted by jpoulos at 11:01 AM on October 11, 2001


OT: SRW 12... a little tangential, but I thought you'd be interested: there are plenty of Christian's who consider Christ and YHWH/LORD to be the same being, and that God the Father has fewer dealings with man than His Son (The Son being the Word of God, or otherwise stated, The Son being the Agent of Action for The Father).

Anyway, just thought you'd appreciate the distiction.
posted by silusGROK at 11:03 AM on October 11, 2001


"Where was God"
Rolling dice obviously. You guys should read more Pratchett.
posted by ginz at 11:03 AM on October 11, 2001


For a much better discussion of the Muslim point of view regarding America and the September 11th attacks (ie: one not written for 4th graders) check out this. WARNING: This is a NY Times link and you need a password and all that sort of garbage. Also, it's kind of long.
posted by bob bisquick at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2001


rcade: If a theology is built around an omnipotent God, doesn't it also follow that He could control everything, even if He chooses not to?

yes, but the idea of free will is that while God *can* control everything, for His own reasons he choose *not* to control what humans do.

take it or leave it, but I don't know of any mainstream religion that claims that God controls everything that happens on the planet.

(but non-believers of all stripes make this mistake very often; as an example, many people (often christians) argue against astrology on the premise that it's nonsensical that the stars can control what people on earth do. but, of course, astrologers only claim that the stars reflect current conditions thoughout the universe. it seems that when you want to disprove something, it's easier to deliberately misunderstand its premise than to argue on its own merits. or maybe if you already believe something to be true, it's easy to believe the worst, most nonsensical thing you can about the other side.)
posted by rebeccablood at 11:08 AM on October 11, 2001


It does fascinate me that it seems that very few have asked questions about the universe around them and even re-examined their faith. 9.11 has driven people deeper into their self absorbed views of the universe. God yes, God no, who cares? Unless people are really considering the issue rather than railing against the question from their own stodgy and entrenched viewpoints, it doesn't much matter.
posted by shagoth at 11:08 AM on October 11, 2001


the jesus film? what is the jesus film? i have been a methodist for over 29 years, so where's my jesus film? oh.... so that's the jesus film. i don't really think i want to see the jesus film. thanks.

(and if it is a real movie seen by more people than any other, why is it not listed here?)
posted by grabbingsand at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2001


I think the taliban is stupid but they exist....so much for that argument.

I would be more impressed with the power of reasoning if I hadn't dropped acid in the seventies and saw how unreliable our brains really are when it comes to perceiving reality.....

100 years from now we will all know anyway.
posted by bunnyfire at 11:09 AM on October 11, 2001


JPoulos... It's a matter of interpretation, for certain. But it would appear, to me at least, to be thinly veiled sexual inuendo. But I've been wrong before.

Of course, considering what I've been up to for the last week, perhaps I'm probably just being overly sensitive.
posted by silusGROK at 11:12 AM on October 11, 2001


That said, I have to wonder what purpose there is in even asking the question?

I agree "Where was God?" is a pretty stupid way to phrase the question; it's not like anyone's really wondering if he had accidentally locked himself in a bathroom in Schenectady during the WTC attack. More honest would be to say "A terrible thing happened; how does you reconcile that act with the Judeo-Christian belief in all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God?"

Seeing how the amount of writing that have been done (Summa Theologica by Aquinas is a good example), and still there is not a neat, tenable answer to Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

There is no neat tenable answer only if you axiomatically assume the existence of God (i.e. the Judeo-Christian God).
posted by boaz at 11:14 AM on October 11, 2001


There is no neat tenable answer only if you axiomatically assume the existence of God (i.e. the Judeo-Christian God).

but clearly it's been a struggle through the ages for those who do.

it strikes me that the whole new-age-y belief in a benevolent universe and creating your own reality and all of that kind of thing must be shaken, too. in fact, as I think of it, it seems to me that such a belief system could only have been widely accepted in a wealthy, conflict-free country like our own. if you lived in a famine or war-torn state, it would seem like utter nonsense. more importantly, it wouldn't be any help.
posted by rebeccablood at 11:21 AM on October 11, 2001


Either God influences the world or he doesn't. The way the world works seems to suggest the latter. Pray if you like, but don't expect God to help you fix your life or the world. People need to help themselves and each other.

It isn't important whether someone believes in God or not. I get concerned when people make decisions based on interpretations of old books. No one knows the mind of God. Anyone who tells you they do is mistaken and some of them are downright dangerous.
posted by quirked at 11:23 AM on October 11, 2001


Boaz... that's a fair re-wording.

The problem, of course, is that even with that re-wording, the author(s) of the article take it upon themselves to glibly define various beliefs and then demean those beliefs for their glibness. Sheesh. Talk about a self-continuing belief system!
posted by silusGROK at 11:28 AM on October 11, 2001


Actually, asking where God was is somewhat reasonable -- The local baptists have been asking me regularly if I've found Jesus, so I'm guessing he's lost. He has shown a habit of that ever since the incident at the Temple.

(even seminarians have a sense of humor)
posted by dwivian at 11:29 AM on October 11, 2001


Of course it seems inevetable that both Christians and Atheists would use the tragedy to score points, but is it really necessary or productive?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:37 AM on October 11, 2001


Where does everyone get the idea that God owes us a perfect world without pain and suffering? Christianity is about finding redemption and hope in a fallen and evil world. The WTC incident was a tragic event caused by evil people. If this was an ideal world, we probably wouldn't need God. But then we'd be in a world predicted by Huxley; one of mediocrity where we've eradicated suffering and sorrow, along with their counterparts elation and joy.
posted by johnjreeve at 11:41 AM on October 11, 2001


what about this:

God may exist, God may be all-powerful. But God in his existence and omnipotence, God may also be capable of error. Or, in many cases, Error. God may be incompetent, just as we are incompetent. Omnipotence by no means implies Omnicompetence. God may just be human, after all.

- a good Jew (just in case anyone is watching)
posted by luriete at 11:43 AM on October 11, 2001


what did your comment add in the way of insight or discussion?

Well, some people here seemed to think that talking about matters of faith in terms of "intellectual tenability" makes sense. It doesn't. If you could reason them out, they wouldn't be matters of faith, now would they? What God has allegedly told us is so self-contradictory and subject to interpretation, it is often said that "God moves in mysterious ways." Clearly the Christian God is beyond reason, and so either you have faith, or you don't. "Intellectual tenability" doesn't really enter into it. There is no point in reasoning about something that can't be nailed down (no offense, Jesus), and it's a waste of time to bother.

People here obviously love wasting time, though. ;)
posted by kindall at 11:47 AM on October 11, 2001


kirkjobsluder -
well, a little thinking is sometimes involved in trying to score points, so at least that's somewhat productive.
its obvious some serious discussion is necessary if most of the world honestly believes that the answer is as simple as "everybody's killing each other because of their religion, or lack thereof." religion's certainly a good vehicle for organizing mass violence, but we need to get at the true cultural and economic motivations if we really want to do anything pro-active. maybe enough futile point scoring attempts will show people what a dead end road that line of thinking really is, and the public forum can move on to seriously addressing the cultural imperialism that has so many muslims pissed off.
posted by badstone at 11:50 AM on October 11, 2001


God was very busy on that morning . . .

First, he had to prepare places in heaven for all of the devout christians who were about to die . . .

Then, he had to give St. Peter some assistants . . .

A quick conference with Satan, doing some number-crunching for projections of need and capacity . . .

Then he prepared a fax, to be sent after the fact, starting "Don't tell anybody this, but . . ." to Falwell and Robertson

Then there was the Dick thing . . .
posted by yesster at 11:52 AM on October 11, 2001


The problem with discussing the existence or properties of one or more gods is that they're not falsifiable.

Any assertion can be made in relation to them, they're all equally posible. And hence irrelevant.

If I say: "god is a blue mountain goat named Billy", this is just as consistent and logical as saying "In the begining god made the heavens and earth". That why sites like the Invisible Pink Unicorn sites are funny, because they're as logical as any "real" religous site.
posted by signal at 11:54 AM on October 11, 2001


Atheism: Western luxury item. Who needs to pray for rain when the supermarket is open 24 hours a day?
Yes, let's tell the people in Afghanistan their suffering has absolutely no meaning, other than what they can "create" for it. Just what their psyches need right now, I'm sure.
posted by quercus at 11:55 AM on October 11, 2001


quercus, why are you so convinced that people are so puny and mindless? creating meaning is among the most powerful and thoughtful gestures humanity is capable of. copping out and saying that meaning amounts to an all powerful santa claus, next to which humans are little motes of nothing, doesn't really leave much room for finding any value in human life.

that's the thing about religous folks that scares the crap about atheists, the frequent dissing of humanity's potential, as if that potential can never amount to anything.
posted by badstone at 12:05 PM on October 11, 2001


oops made a bad typo in the second paragraph:
that's the thing about religous folks that scares the crap out of atheists,
posted by badstone at 12:06 PM on October 11, 2001


sorry if this "lowers the level of conversation" but fuck god. Fuck the motherfucker. I'm really tired of it all. Enough already with all the motherfucking god bullshit. The whole thing has been a net loss. Let's move on.
posted by victors at 12:09 PM on October 11, 2001


badstone, why are you convinced that belief in God isn't a legitimate way to create meaning in the world?
posted by rebeccablood at 12:17 PM on October 11, 2001


God was where He always is, in my pants.
posted by aramaic at 12:18 PM on October 11, 2001


The problem, of course, is that even with that re-wording, the author(s) of the article take it upon themselves to glibly define various beliefs and then demean those beliefs for their glibness. Sheesh. Talk about a self-continuing belief system!

I can't be held responsible for the author's glibness; an example of my glibness can be found here.

And here is an example of what drives us to glib:
there is another player in this cosmic drama....he has many names....they usually translate out to mean "adversary".....yes, I mean satan.

This is a "Church Lady" skit played out in real life.
posted by boaz at 12:19 PM on October 11, 2001


Where does everyone get the idea that God owes us a perfect world without pain and suffering?

Well, at a few of those infamous CCD lessons (consider me a fallen Roman Catholic) many years ago we kiddies were taught "God is perfect." Uhhh, Houston we have a problem!
posted by PeteyStock at 12:20 PM on October 11, 2001


Yes, let's tell the people in Afghanistan their suffering has absolutely no meaning, other than what they can "create" for it. Just what their psyches need right now, I'm sure.

The universe doesn't care what anyone's psyche needs, as far as I can tell. It is not obliged to behave in a way that comforts us.
posted by kindall at 12:21 PM on October 11, 2001


Peace, Victor... go count to 10 somewhere...
posted by prototype_octavius at 12:23 PM on October 11, 2001


Being a Southern boy, and half-British to boot, I have the gift/curse of being brought up with Exceedingly Good Manners. (okay, stop snickering)

The whole religion/believing thing was expressed to me very succinctly (and Very Properly, I might also add) by my dear Grandmother Alexandra, and I quote (more or less):

"My dear child, religion is a wonderful thing. It sustains us, brings us joy, and helps in everyday life. But so do your genitals. Keep them both to yourself and don't flop them around in polite company. There is a time and place to let them both out freely."

A lot of the world's current problems could be resolved if everyone did that. A Very Wise Woman, she was, and I still try to live by her words.
posted by ebarker at 12:25 PM on October 11, 2001


but f*** god. F*** the motherf***er.
i for one sincerely hope, victor, that you have a sufficiently pliable orfice in which your demand can be accomodated, lest the consummation of said demand be as ugly as your post.
posted by quonsar at 12:28 PM on October 11, 2001


I myself wouldn't presume to know the mind of God/Allah/Yaweh.. The death of 6,000 is obviously not a nice thing to us, a tragedy, but what could be the upshot? One of the irritating things about being human is our inability to tell the future, but here's one idea: the WTC incident leads to future American foreign policy being less stupid, leading to the non-death of 6,001 people in the next 50 years - I dunno, Palestine or somewhere. So, those 6,000 die, those 6,001 live. I've always viewed life as a series of junctions, ie something happens or another thing (that make sense?) - and I've always found things have a habit of working out - question is, for what final end? Mind you, I've become an rampant optimist since learning more about Islam, but hey.. Now, I'm obviously not condoning the incident, but I think its stupid to use it as an argument to say God doesn't exist. Well, silly anyway..

As an aside, my belief in Islam mainly stems from not blind faith, but a more 'logical' approach - a couple of years back, I got a book called 'Science and Islam', in which it quoted Qu'ran passages, then pointed to events like the big-bang, then pointed out how they matched and asked the question how an illiterate like Mohammad (pbuh) with lack of science training came up with it. Its this type of incosistency with the idea of someone coming up with the Qu'ran 1400 years ago that makes me 'believe' - when I was young I just thought it all a bit silly for the same reasons as people above, just prayed cos I was taught to etc.. But now, I think there is a God truly - my A Level physics coursework was to take all of the bits that dealt with the day of Judgement in the Qu'ran and link it in with modern physics ideas such as General Relativity to show how the exact events could happen in a closed universe situation, with time reversal etc.. Mind you, I could just be convincing myself through fallacious arguments, but eh, what can a guy do...
posted by Mossy at 12:30 PM on October 11, 2001


sorry. no excuse.
posted by victors at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2001


I'm an agnostic because the word "god" has no meaning that I can understand, anymore than the word "glbe". It could only denote a concept that I could grasp, if I could understand an alternative non-existence. As "god" has been defined to me, that non-existence is impossible. I'm an agnostic, in a way, because I can't imagine the absence of god.
posted by liam at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2001


The notion that God somehow had to micromanage every person and every situation to the nth degree never sat well with me. I liken the "where was God when..." stuff to more mundane office blather about what grandiouse scheme the boss has for firing so-and-so when such-and-such happens (but you didn't here it from me). After many an earful of such trash I thought, "good theories, but I think you're giving the boss waaaaay too much credit."

Not that the Boss was bad, but honestly, consider everything on your own plate at any given time. In a company of 5000 would you really have time to plot the rise and fall of each individual employee/co-worker?

Rather than put the blame squarely on God's (real or imagined) shoulders (figuratively or literally), why not "drill down" and ask, where was George W Bush? Where was the Chief of Security for the WTC? Where were the Joint Chiefs of Staff?

If such illustrious company was powerless to stop the tragedies of the 11th, I wonder how "God" gets the de facto blame.

I suspect God is more passive than active, though the Old Testament makes me think otherwise. But then God apparently retires during the filming of the New Testament.

RE: Jesus as God, eh. He was Jesus THE Christ, kind of like President Clinton. There were Presidents before him, and there will be Presidents after him. "Christ" is a lofty title not to be conferred loosely, however to get hung up on Jesus the Man versus Christ the title historically has accomplished so much for the advancement of humankind.

rcade: If there WERE a "Church of God the Adequately Well-Prepared" or whatever, seems to me that would rate as a CSOD, no?
posted by ethmar at 12:34 PM on October 11, 2001


rebeccablood -
you're right, i pushed too hard in the opposite direction. what i meant to say to quercus is basically the converse of what you ask me:
"why are you convinced that belief in God is the only legitimate way to create meaning in the world?"

as for me, i personally don't derive much real meaning from mythology (good analogies, sure), but i know that others can, that they don't have the need to be grounded in objective reality. living a life of pure poetry and metaphor can be a beautiful thing, and i can't bear any ill against people who choose to do so.
for me, however, falsifiability is a major tenet of what amounts to my "faith," so saying that the rain is the piss of a cosmic goat, or that certain people need to die because their souls are the wrong color just doesn't really cut it for me. if it does for someone else, great. (i just really hope they don't need to kill my family over it, then i start to have problems...)
posted by badstone at 12:35 PM on October 11, 2001


Ok, let's take a count of all the goddites that have been converted to non-goddism, and the non-goddites that have been converted to goddism. Ready?

I thought so.

Isn't there a law against beating dead horses?
posted by groundhog at 12:36 PM on October 11, 2001


The problem with discussing the existence or properties of one or more gods is that they're not falsifiable.

Unfortunately, we constantly have to deal with experiences that we can't yet sufficiently account for with falsifiable scientific theories. Some things are harder to figure out rigorously than others. Meanwhile, some unrigorous, unfalsifiable, unscientific theories are better than others--unlike IPU, God has been believed in, argued for, and reasoned about, for millenia. Don't blame people for trying to make sense of things in the best way they know.
posted by moss at 12:40 PM on October 11, 2001


Well, some people here seemed to think that talking about matters of faith in terms of "intellectual tenability" makes sense. It doesn't. If you could reason them out, they wouldn't be matters of faith, now would they?

What's your definition of faith? God doesn't require that we stumble around in the dark without any rational way of finding him, like some cosmic game of Pick 3 with our souls in the balance. True, Christianity requires more than just intellectual assent, and many doctrines outlined in the Bible are neither empirically evident nor demonstratible (or falsifiable) with absolute certainty. That's what signal latches onto with his comment above. But that doesn't make them irrational, so long as the parts of Christianity which can be verified rationally justify a faith in Christianity as a whole.

Thomas Aquinas calls it the difference between truths of reason and truths of fact, but I prefer distinction drawn by Augustine: truths of seeing and truths of believing. I believe in the Trinity because I have "seen" (via evidence and reason) God.

Whether or not the existence of the Christian God is supported by evidence is a completely different topic, one which I'm happy to discuss via email if you like. But you can't just say "Christianity requires faith, therefore it's intellectually untenable." It's just not true.
posted by gd779 at 12:46 PM on October 11, 2001


moss: I never used the word scientific, nor made any claims as to the ultimate nature of relaity or (some) humans' need for comfort when faced with a scary world. My point was that discussion about the existence or nature of gods is ultimately pointless.

"God has been believed in, argued for, and reasoned about, for millenia. "

so that makes it true? I guess the sun spun around the earth until Copernicus came around, huh?

please.
posted by signal at 12:50 PM on October 11, 2001


Isn't there a law against beating dead horses?

The only way to be sure that you're right is to argue with the smartest people you can find who disagree with you. Through dialogue, you not only come to understand the other person's thinking better, but you get feedback and pushback on your own ideas. At least, that's the way that I've always learned best.
posted by gd779 at 12:52 PM on October 11, 2001


i for one sincerely hope, victor, that you have a sufficiently pliable orfice [sic] in which your demand can be accomodated [sic], lest the consummation of said demand be as ugly as your post.

I guess threats of violence would be the appropriate response (?) What happened to praying for my soul?

I apologized for the hostility, but not the sentiment. It had to be said.
posted by victors at 12:58 PM on October 11, 2001


You'd think if God where omnipotent and 'all powerful', he'd be able to have gotten rid of Satan by now.

But then, isn't Satan only a Christianity-created character? I didn't think the Jews or Muslims really had a 'satan' in their actually historical religious references. Cofrrect me if I'm wrong, please.

And of course, then you have the Buddhists.. and I actually am more enamoured with the concept of Karma as opposed to anything else like an actual personified higher power holding court with angels and all that stuff.

So if you go the karma route, then god was with us all. It was just that bad karma tipped the scales a bit heavily that day.
posted by rich at 1:02 PM on October 11, 2001


Please, for the love of god, no more god posts
posted by Outlawyr at 1:03 PM on October 11, 2001


Badstone, I never said God was the only way to bring meaning to life. I said atheism was a luxury item. Denying the possibility of deity brings certain philosophical existential challenges (at least to those who aren't glib about it) which people facing more physical existential challenges, e.g. starvation and avoiding death by bombing, perhaps would prefer to take up at a later time.
There's a reason religion evolved in the first place, you know.
Perhaps, religion and God will one day go the way of the appendix, an organ that once served an important function but is no longer needed, i just think that day,should it come, is not yet here for the majority of the world's population.
posted by quercus at 1:03 PM on October 11, 2001


I never used the word scientific

That's true, and I didn't mean to imply that you had. It seemed a natural connection to make because falsifiability is, on some very basic level, the thing that makes scientific consideration of something possible.

My point was that discussion about the existence or nature of gods is ultimately pointless.

Okay, when you put it that way, I can see where you're coming from, and it makes a lot of sense. I still think discussions about God can be useful, when they aren't simply arguments, in that they can help us understand where others are coming from in their beliefs. Also, it seems to me that there are perhaps degrees of unfalsifiability. IPU is entirely immune to reason, but there have been stories about God told that are claimed to be true (in some sense or another), and we can try to evaluate them and see if they really do make sense.

so that makes it true?

Of course not. Hell, I'm an atheist myself. But it means that people today may have more respectable reasons for believing in God than just an irrational need for comfort.

I guess my real problem with the falsifiability argument is when it's used to dismiss theism altogether, and it now seems clear that that's not what you were doing. Apologies for jumping on you.
posted by moss at 1:07 PM on October 11, 2001


God Schmod. "God" is a word made up to provide meaning to one's existence. I say, use it if you need it.
posted by Vek at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2001


rich: satan takes on a different character int he new testament than in the old; in the old, he seems to be subordinate to God (as in the book of Job.). in the new, he is directly opposed to the will of God.

Elaine Pagels wrote a book on the subject that I want to read someday: he origin of satan.
posted by rebeccablood at 1:12 PM on October 11, 2001


Since this is metafilter and not bible seminary I am not going to reteach the classes I have had on doctrine and theology (formal and otherwise) but since the first man and woman walked the planet there has been one whose purpose has been to steal , kill and destroy......He cannot hurt God directly so he attacks us instead...

But wait...So you're saying that the adversary is Allah? After all, he's the one that they crashed the planes for, right? But isn't Allah really God?!?!

I'm so confused.

Oh God.

Oh shit.
posted by dogmatic at 1:15 PM on October 11, 2001


But wait...So you're saying that the adversary is Allah? After all, he's the one that they crashed the planes for, right? But isn't Allah really God?!?!

Not Allah she's talking about. Warning: link to mildly amusing heresy.
posted by boaz at 1:22 PM on October 11, 2001


I regret to inform you all that god died. Specifically, in 1996. Discussion over.
posted by davidmsc at 1:32 PM on October 11, 2001


rebeccablood, I like your posts. Very thoughtful: "... it seems that when you want to disprove something, it's easier to deliberately misunderstand its premise than to argue on its own merits."

As I was reading the article, it occurred to me that, contrary to how the "moderate Christian Answer" is represented, if you take the first paragraph of the "Atheist and Agnostic Answer" and remove the first sentence, that's a better representation of what I am hearing at church and from my Christian friends.

This article is another example of rhetoric that is designed to be confrontational and polarizing. Rather than legitimately ask the question of how one reconciles an omnipotent God with tragic acts like this, the author takes the approach "aren't they stupid? They don't have an answer for this one." I have to ask myself what the goal of the author is. What's he trying to accomplish by writing this? Does it improve our understanding, help any people, solve any problems?

Properly observed, intelligently explored and examined, faith is a difficult discipline. That applies whether it is faith in God, or faith that there is no God, or faith that we cannot know. Anybody who ridicules another's beliefs is a small, small person indeed.

Oh, and I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but I've read the book, and in the end, God wins.
posted by JParker at 1:33 PM on October 11, 2001


There is a Satan/Shai'tan/Be'elzebub figure in Islam, he's the angel who refused to bow to A'dam when Allah told him to - he's peeved at humanity in Islam too.

As we're talking about Satan, my fave quote about him:

Verbal Kint: The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.

Classic..

and according to the FBI (from Guardian ystrday) only 5 of the hijackers knew they were gonna die (the pilots).. And if it were bin Laden's organisation, they crashed those planes not for Allah, but as a retaliation for the US having shoddy, stupid foreign policy. So there.

:)

btw Sinfest rocks.. How come he's been rejected 11 times already??
posted by Mossy at 1:37 PM on October 11, 2001


i think people should bust out the bible more often. though the new testament had a watered down god, he has been know to get all old testament on our asses.
posted by mich9139 at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2001


Oh, and I don't want to spoil it for anybody, but I've read the book, and in the end, God wins.

...by slaughtering everyone that disagrees. I love that part.
posted by badstone at 1:40 PM on October 11, 2001


Nietzshe was an atheist in the sense that he believed God had died, indeed been killed.His epigram:
"There are no moral phenomena; there are only moral interpretations of phenomena." is atheism in a nutshell. I submit the world is ready for the consequences of that idea.
The WTC bombing was in and of itself neither good nor evil. If you died in it, it was "evil"; but Osama's henchman called it "good" just yesterday. Is neither one really correct?
That the act was just a physical event, and its interpretation as good or evil depends strictly on you, and the rest of our weird tribe,- that's scary shit! You gotta be strong for that, amigo.
Atheism can too quickly deteriorate to nihilism. Looking at the world today, that's playing with fire. Look how the Taliban act-and they believe in God (not) for Christ's sake!
Let plays Jeopardy: the answer is: the first entity to ever offer an alternate interpretation of reality is. Bzzz.
Who is the serpent, Alex, who offers Eve another interpretation of why God has commanded them not to eat the fruit.
The Bible is hipper than it often gets credit for.
posted by quercus at 1:54 PM on October 11, 2001


For those who are wondering about "Operation World", here's the web site.
posted by beagle at 1:55 PM on October 11, 2001


As the great philosopher Homer Simpson once said, "there's no moral, it's just a bunch of stuff that happened." (plus or minus...been a while since I saw the ep)
posted by ethmar at 1:58 PM on October 11, 2001


btw Sinfest rocks.. How come he's been rejected 11 times already??

Who'd want to read him once they filtered out all the 'objectionable' parts? Newspaper comic strips are a ridiculously conservative forum; can you imagine him submitting a strip like this?
posted by boaz at 2:07 PM on October 11, 2001


To believe in God is to believe he is omniscient, all-powerful, just, and never makes errors.

He let this happen for a reason. In the bible it says that man can not hope to comprehend his reasoning or infinite knowledge. My point: even though I don't understand why he would let something like this happen, it happened for a reason, according to his will.
posted by catatonic at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2001


YES.
posted by po at 2:30 PM on October 11, 2001


ethmar:

Homer: Save a guy's life, and what do you get? Nothing! Worse than nothing!
Just a big scary rock.
Bart: Hey, man, don't bad-mouth the head.
Marge: Homer, it's the thought that counts. The moral of the story is a
good deed is its own reward.
Bart: Hey, we got a reward. The head is cool.
Marge: Then... I guess the moral is no good deed goes unrewarded.
Homer: Wait a minute. If I hadn't written that nasty letter, we wouldn't've
gotten anything.
Marge: Well... Then I guess the moral is the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
Homer: Exactly! Just a bunch of stuff that happened.
posted by signal at 2:32 PM on October 11, 2001


Thanks signal.
posted by ethmar at 2:34 PM on October 11, 2001


just helping out wherever I can :)

good quote, by the way
posted by signal at 2:37 PM on October 11, 2001


I'm actually not convinced that atheism is a particular perogative of the relatively wealthy. After all, the argument from evil can be just as easily invoked by a peasant as a landowner. The "Where was God on September 11" argument is a specific case of the general argument from evil which is why would god create a universe in which evil was possible, given his announced intention to get rid of it later. Both of these "where was god" essays demonstrate why the argument from evil is not very persuasive. If you are already predisposed towards believing in the existence of a God, you will probably interpret the argument from evil to support your beliefs.

Personally, I'm one of those rare atheists who feel that athiests, agnostics and skeptics spend too much time arguing about Christianity and not enough time arguing why being an atheist is a wonderful thing. But then again, a lot of arguing about why atheists are not Christians is rendered necessary by the fact that Christians are so bob-damned pushy about their beliefs. After getting scapegoated by Kathleen Parker and Jerry Falwell, and ignored by Bush it's rather difficult to not respond with a rhetorical tit for tat.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:57 PM on October 11, 2001


"I know 'tis a sin to eat thee, God. Mmmm, sacrilicious...."
posted by aramaic at 2:57 PM on October 11, 2001


Bart: Soul? Come on, Milhouse, there is no such thing as a soul.
It's just something they made up to scare kids, like the
bogeyman, or Michael Jackson.
Milhouse: But every religion says there's a soul, Bart. Why would they
lie? What would they have to gain?
[Lovejoy, in his office, works a change sorting machine]
Lovejoy: I don't hear scrubbing!
posted by signal at 3:16 PM on October 11, 2001


Who'd want to read him once they filtered out all the 'objectionable' parts? Newspaper comic strips are a ridiculously conservative forum; can you imagine him submitting a strip like this?

Heh, true.. I like his calligraphy ones - maybe if he just cut down on the booty in print and kept up with the booty on the net? :) Hey, he'd make the dough..

Y'know, whats always struck me is that atheism in itself requires a lot of belief and a lot of energy for most people - it really is a whole faith system in itself, isn't it? (due to the unprovable nature of a godlike being). It also strikes me that people take comfort in there beliefs, and often believe in them for a reason, so there no need to be so closeminded and regard all theists as 'silly' and divorced from reality, or atheists as being in denial or anything like that..
posted by Mossy at 4:14 PM on October 11, 2001


Y'know, whats always struck me is that atheism in itself requires a lot of belief and a lot of energy for most people - it really is a whole faith system in itself, isn't it?

I consider atheism to be equal to pure theism in terms of belief, a metaphysical checkbox.

It's once you start adding the books he 'wrote', the laws he enacted, the demands he makes, the rewards he gives, etc. to the equation that it requires lots of energy. It's all the niggling little details of living in accordance with a theist faith that require the energy (and give the comfort too, I suppose), not the fact of faith itself.
posted by boaz at 4:41 PM on October 11, 2001


Y'know, whats always struck me is that atheism in itself requires a lot of belief and a lot of energy for most people - it really is a whole faith system in itself, isn't it?

I don't know. It takes about as much belief and energy to not-believe there is a god behind this wonderful universe, as to not-believe that this wonderful universe is sitting on the back of an elephant standing on an infinte stack of turtles, or not-believe that Thor slaughters his goats every night only for them to jump out of the ashes of the hearth every morning.

Certainly it takes energy to avoid pushy Christians who insist something must be lacking in my life when I live in a wonderful ecstatic communion with the world as it is. But it requires no energy to not look for the ghost behind it all, the guiding hand, the invisible watchmaker. You simply accept it as it is, and as good and start from there.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:45 PM on October 11, 2001


I just had a thought while I was reading some of these posts. When the religious point of view is laid out, as in Flamm's article, it becomes difficult for it's advocates to defend. I notice one resident religious poster (bunnyfire) being reduced to flippant comments. But, as will any religious vs. atheist argument, 100 posts later we are going in circles.

Also, I would like to know what belief system Foosnark subscribes to. A polytheistic view of events like the WTC attack is always interesting.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 4:46 PM on October 11, 2001


so......where did the idea of God come from?
posted by bunnyfire at 4:48 PM on October 11, 2001


Mossy:

"Atheism in itself requires a lot of belief and a lot of energy for most people"

Actually, most atheists just go about quietly with their lives, without feeling the need to "convert" or "save" anybody. It's the noisier, more hysterical ones you hear about and from, hence your erroneous impression.

Most atheists I know got over the urge to argue with religous types before high-school.
posted by signal at 4:49 PM on October 11, 2001


bunnyfire: where did the idea of the Easter Bunny come from?
posted by signal at 5:05 PM on October 11, 2001


However, a powerful God can right the wrongs made

It is impossible to erase a wrong with a later right. The only way God could truly right the wrong would be to go back in time and adjust things so it had never happened...and then what's the point?
posted by rushmc at 5:24 PM on October 11, 2001


To bunnyfire: I would imagine that some leader way back when thought up organized religion as a means of controlling his followers. As we've seen, the idea that there is some meaning to your life (or your death) is a powerful motivator.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 5:24 PM on October 11, 2001


The only way to be sure that you're right is to argue with the smartest people you can find who disagree with you.

That is a rationalist's perspective that any good Christian would reject out of hand. If you have "belief" in God, then any argument presented to you disputing his existence is a Satanic perversion attempting to separate you from your state of grace and everlasting reward and must be resisted at all costs.

What God wants you to do (according to most variants of organized religion): Cover eyes. Cover ears. Make loud bleating sound. Always remember: your mind's made up--don't let them confuse you with the facts.

Kinda makes you wonder why he gave you a brain, eh? Oh, yes, I forgot. It's just another devilish test for you to struggle against to earn your reward.
posted by rushmc at 5:30 PM on October 11, 2001


Where God came from -- kinda depends on which God you're talking about. If you're talking about theology in general, that's easy -- animism. It's a shot hop from animism to full-blown religious belief systems.

...and as far as where animism came from, that's easy too: it appeared the first time Trog was crushed by a boulder, and Thag decided that maybe it was because the boulder was angry at Trog. Just like the time the cave bear ate Thak, because Thak threw a stick at it...
posted by aramaic at 5:44 PM on October 11, 2001


so......where did the idea of God come from?
it was a gift from allah. or was it beelzebub?
posted by quonsar at 5:45 PM on October 11, 2001


so......where did the idea of God come from?

Two plausible possibilities:

A) Nurture - memories of our perceptions of elders (esp. "Daddy") as omnipotent in relation to us as infants and young children, and the desire to return to a similar state of security and comfort and lack of personal responsibility.

B) Nature - there is much speculation recently about the existence of certain brain structures that predispose us to create and utilize myths and superstitions (see neurotheology and the "godspot" hypothesis). Certainly, it seem reasonable, knowing what we do of human nature, that when confronted with an unknown situation (i.e., the world around us), we would attempt to posit an explanation for it. Unsophisticated, primitive people would be expected to produce unsophisticated, primitive hypotheses.
posted by rushmc at 5:50 PM on October 11, 2001


so......where did the idea of God come from?

Actually, I think bunnyfire was trying to use Anselm'sargument for the existence of a perfect being ("god"), which is basically "How could we imagine a perfect being if there wasn't a perfect being? Humans, being imperfect, can't invent the concept of perfection".
posted by signal at 6:02 PM on October 11, 2001


I enjoy these threads as real life illustrations of the six blind men grasping the elephant. Everyone talk about God or Reality or the Universe as if these were well defined neutral terms.
I remember a passage by Joseph Conrad discussing the rescue of two forlorn sailors in the middle of the sea. As he looked at their frail figures being transferred into the rescue ship, he realized the total insignificance of this little drama amidst the vast and timeless sea. He realized how the sea was completely apathetic to the fates of those being pitched up and down on its surface. Life. Death. the Sea would go on forever no matter And it's complete blankness freaked him out.
When I say God-I don't know what the hell I'm talking about-just a sense of something larger,deeper, beyond this veil.
I hope suffering ultimately counts for something, because there certainly is plenty in the world.
posted by quercus at 6:42 PM on October 11, 2001


Humans, being imperfect, can't invent the concept of perfection

So, contrarily, not being entirely flawed, we can't invent the concept of utter crap?
posted by rushmc at 6:43 PM on October 11, 2001


I hope suffering ultimately counts for something

And that is where God is truly born...hope. And if one is content to thrive on hope, that's fine. But it's a large and mistaken step to move from "I hope there is a God, afterlife, soul, etc." to "There IS a God, afterlife, soul, etc., and let me tell you just what they are like...."

Hope coexists with doubt, and therefore reality, whereas belief denies both.
posted by rushmc at 6:47 PM on October 11, 2001


Human beings all have beliefs. It is unavoidable, inescapable, totally and completely impossible to say "I don't believe in anything." I have a friend who tries this on me regularly, primarily because she's had bad experiences with religion. You can't not believe. You can believe in nothing. That is still a belief. You can believe that Australia exists. (The argument here being that, despite pictures, accounts from people supposedly living there, maps, et cetera, it still could be a gigantic ruse . . . right? And I'm not singling out Australia for any ulterior motive here - it just happens to be someplace I've never personally been.) You can believe that there is no God, that there is a God and that He loves you, that there are many gods, some of which hate you, that God is a spirit, that God isn't called God . . . I don't care. You still believe.

That's all that really matters, isn't it?
posted by po at 6:55 PM on October 11, 2001


po: You can believe that there is no God, that there is a God and that He loves you, that there are many gods, some of which hate you, that God is a spirit, that God isn't called God .

or you can not give a fuck one way or the other
posted by signal at 8:01 PM on October 11, 2001


it's the fundies -- on both sides -- who bring me down.
posted by rebeccablood at 8:08 PM on October 11, 2001


it's the fundies -- on both sides -- who bring me down.

If by fundies, you mean people who loudly, irrationally, and disrespectfully scream their beliefs at everyone who passes by without ever stopping to listen or think for themselves, then I agree. But I don't like how fundamentalist has kinda become a pejorative term lately. After all, in my understanding a "fundamentalist" is just someone who strongly believes in the literal interpretation of their religion. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, is there?
posted by gd779 at 8:48 PM on October 11, 2001


So, contrarily, not being entirely flawed, we can't invent the concept of utter crap?

This has been up for two hours and still no Adam Sandler joke? I'm flabbergasted.
posted by brookedel at 9:07 PM on October 11, 2001


After all, in my understanding a "fundamentalist" is just someone who strongly believes in the literal interpretation of their religion. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, is there?

Some of us would say yes.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 PM on October 11, 2001


Some of us would say yes.

What could possibly be inherently wrong with a religious belief? Sure, once I start taking action and infringing on your rights in some way, then we'll talk. Is that happening now, in some way that I'm not aware of? If not, then there's really no other way to say it: go back and take a class on religious tolerance.
posted by gd779 at 9:22 PM on October 11, 2001


y'all DO know God exists whether or not you believe in him, right?

I think a lot of people choose not to believe in God because if they did acknowledge His existence, they would have to acknowledge that their lives were in rebellion to Him.
And one day-when you see him as he is-you won't need anyone else to tell you how foolish that was-you yourself will regret it forever-not because of hell but because you will have seen him without the religious baggage and the lies people have obscured him with here-you will see how great and how specific his love was for YOU as an individual and how you chose to grind that underfoot and walk away from it.
There is not a one of you that somewhere in the very center of your being deep down inside doesn't have an inner knowledge that there is truth to what i am telling you. I frankly do not care if you mock me, call me an idiot or worse.....I will simply tell you the truth.
It will be up to you what you do with it.
posted by bunnyfire at 9:43 PM on October 11, 2001


What could be inherently wrong with a religious belief, is the part of it that says, "It's ok to kill such and such people." Which, like it or not, has been a part of almost every single religion.

Christianity, Islam, both have deeply fundamental beliefs which are basically incredibly violent toward outsiders. While most people don't emphasize or follow the more violent parts of their religion, it's still their for yet another fundamentalist to take and manipulate.

And no, bunnyfire, I don't believe God exists. I wish he did. It's such a comfortable thing to believe in, a god who actually loves you, and doesn't want to hurt you. Unfortunately it doesn't make any rational sense. I hope you find comfort in your belief.
posted by stoneegg21 at 9:50 PM on October 11, 2001


There is not a one of you that somewhere in the very center of your being deep down inside doesn't have an inner knowledge that there is truth to what i am telling you.

...see, that, right there is what pisses me off about religious folk, no matter how nice they are -- the automatic assumption that I deep-down know they're right, and that I'm just deluding myself. I imagine they feel the same way about aggressive atheists that run around telling them how deluded they are.
posted by aramaic at 9:55 PM on October 11, 2001


bunnyfire:

y'all DO know the Easter Bunny exists whether or not you believe in him, right?
I think a lot of people choose not to believe in the Easter Bunny because if they did acknowledge His existence, they would have to acknowledge that their lives were in rebellion to the Easter Bunny.
Then when Easter comes around, you won't have any eggs or stuff and that would suck, y'know?
There is not a one of you that somewhere in the very center of your being deep down inside doesn't have an inner knowledge that there is truth to what i am telling you. I frankly do not care if you mock me, call me an idiot or worse.....I will simply tell you the truth.
It will be up to you what you do with it.
posted by signal at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2001


well, if the ears are chocolate......
posted by bunnyfire at 10:01 PM on October 11, 2001


bunnyfire:

do you understand spanish? i've got the only logical proof of god's existence, in spanish, and i don't feel like translating it.
posted by signal at 10:10 PM on October 11, 2001


rushmc: That is a rationalist's perspective that any good Christian would reject out of hand.

I call bullshit! Some of the clearest, most rational, thinkers in history have been Christians.

bunnyfire: There is not a one of you that somewhere in the very center of your being deep down inside doesn't have an inner knowledge that there is truth to what i am telling you.

This is a hell of a thing to have to respond to, because there's really no argument I can offer to prove what I believe in my innermost being. But as far as I can tell, looking inside myself (and this is something I've thought long and hard about), there honestly isn't that spark of belief--maybe because I was never really exposed to religion when I was growing up. I don't take this as a disproof of God; it's just the way I am. I'm sure that, if there really is a God, he will move me to believe in him when the time is right.

But that being the case, I think it does more harm that good to insist that atheists really do know God exists. Where, if I understand its purpose, it should make us look and see that we really do believe, it instead makes us see that we do not, and respond with anger against those who think we must. It alienates us when it is meant to do exactly the opposite.
posted by moss at 10:44 PM on October 11, 2001


Some of the clearest, most rational, thinkers in history have been Christians.

Newton, for example. Of course he was also an alchemist.
posted by signal at 11:45 PM on October 11, 2001


As my friend (a rabbi) related to me:

The story of where G-d was during the Holocaust.
(S)He was present every time one prisoner did a kind deed for another. Sharing food, helping someone get up after being beaten or hiding anothers' precious mementos...

These are all very convoluted and complex discussions, best to say that we each look where we can for comfort and understanding.
posted by a_green_man at 11:54 PM on October 11, 2001


There is not a one of you that somewhere in the very center of your being deep down inside doesn't have an inner knowledge that there is truth to what i am telling you.

In other words, I'm either a drooling moron or a bald-faced liar. Thanks a lot.
posted by kindall at 12:11 AM on October 12, 2001


Yo habla un poco; mon amigas hablo mucho.

donde va este "proof"?
posted by bunnyfire at 3:28 AM on October 12, 2001


What could possibly be inherently wrong with a religious belief?

It is inherently a perversion of what humans are, based upon the way our brains function (although it does exist as an expression of some brain function). It leads one away from the honest pursuit of truth and understanding, abdicating one's responsibility to seek same, and encourages in practice systems of repression and conformity. It is a crutch, an excuse to avoid reality rather than embrace and investigate it.

Of course, that characterization relies upon a number of suppositions, all of which I think are quite defensible, but it would not be reasonable to do so here.
posted by rushmc at 6:12 AM on October 12, 2001


y'all DO know God exists whether or not you believe in him, right?

Equally useless (though, in this case, true):

You DO know God doesn't exist, whether you delude yourself to the contrary or not, right?

I think a lot of people choose not to believe in God because if they did acknowledge His existence, they would have to acknowledge that their lives were in rebellion to Him.

Well, don't count ME among them. If it were somehow suddenly proven to me that the god you believe in DID exist, I would immediately declare myself in opposition to him, as I find his values excreble. And I don't mind saying so.
posted by rushmc at 6:15 AM on October 12, 2001


I call bullshit! Some of the clearest, most rational, thinkers in history have been Christians.

And yet, every one of them abandons reason at some point to make the leap to faith.
posted by rushmc at 6:16 AM on October 12, 2001


You have faith that there is no God....I have faith that there is.

Chacun a son gout.....
I say tomato, you say tomahto...
you say you guys, I say y'all......
You believe the dentist when he says "this won't hurt a bit"'....

well....even I believe that stretches it too far...:-)
posted by bunnyfire at 7:49 AM on October 12, 2001


If, in order to give man the illusion of free-will, god now refuses to intervene no matter how heinous an act is committed, does it really matter if it exists? This god the christians worship seems no better than an absentee father, not even sending the occasional plague of locusts to show he still cares.
posted by MarkC at 7:53 AM on October 12, 2001


I love how atheists seem to be inherently moral. If there is no God, what the f***, let's kill whoever we want, whoever is weaker. Let's get away with whatever we can. Let's allow nature to rule. I may not believe in God, but it doesn't make me any more humane. This notion that we must be atheists or agnostics to save civilization is about the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. I hardly have the faith for that kind of argument.
posted by jacknose at 8:41 AM on October 12, 2001


bunnyfire:

Argumentum Ornithologicum

Cierro los ojos y veo una bandada de pájaros. La visión dura un segundo o acaso menos: no sé cuántos pájaros vi ¿Era definido o indefinido su número? El problema involucra el de la existencia de Dios. Si Dios existe, el número es definido, porque Dios sabe cuántos pájaros vi. Si Dios no existe, el número es indefinido, porque nadie pudo llevar la cuenta. En tal caso, vi menos de diez pájaros (digamos) y más de uno, pero no vi nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, cuatro, tres o dos pájaros. Vi un número entre diez y uno, que no es nueve, ocho, siete, seis, cinco, etcétera. Ese número entero es inconcebible; ergo, Dios existe

J.L. Borges
posted by signal at 9:24 AM on October 12, 2001


rushmc, where do you get your information about what religious people believe? I've been a church-going person for 43 years, and a real believing Christian for about 15 years, and I have never heard or seen represented most of the things you say about Christians. I'm not doubting that you've encountered them - somewhere - but all religious people aren't the same, just as all atheists aren't the same.
posted by JParker at 5:53 PM on October 12, 2001


stereotypes.

If the guy lived in North Carolina I 'd treat him to a meal at Waffle House and a genuine conversation about things.....it is so easy for all of us to slap labels on people and assume we know what they are like....if you can get behind the mask you would be surprised at what you can find....
posted by bunnyfire at 8:43 PM on October 12, 2001


rushmc, where do you get your information about what religious people believe?

Pretty basic stuff, JParker...God, Jesus, Heaven, original sin, etc., etc. To which of these normative Christian beliefs do you object?
posted by rushmc at 11:05 PM on October 12, 2001


Original sin in particular is definitely not universal. I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian denomination which definitely did not subscribe to the concept.
posted by kindall at 11:20 PM on October 12, 2001


Thanks for the beautiful Borges quote, signal. I read it last night and am still thinking about it.
Thanks JParker for being such an open-minded and civilized debater.Being devout and not being presumptuous isn't easy.
Everyone else too. It's been a joy reading this read. I wish I had something to add. I wish it would never end, actually.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 12:26 AM on October 13, 2001


Argumentum Ornithologicum I close the eyes and I see a flock of birds. Perhaps the vision lasts a second or less: I do not know how many birds I saw defined or indefinite Era its number? The problem involves the one of the existence of God. If God exists, the number is defined, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody could take the account. In such case, I saw less than ten birds (we say) and more than one, but I did not saw nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three or two birds. I saw a number between ten and one, that is not nine, eight, seven, six, five, et cetera. That whole number is inconceivable; ergo, God exists
(courtesy of Babel Fish: my Spanish is not yet good enough to translate completely, my Hispanic office manager was too busy to be approached about it, and the realtor from Central America didn't happen to stop in....I thought the rest of you might like to have an idea....)
posted by bunnyfire at 4:42 AM on October 13, 2001


If God exists, the number is defined, because God knows how many birds I saw. If God does not exist, the number is indefinite, because nobody could take the account.

Bah. The camera over his shoulder knows exactly how many birds there were; just play back the film and count.
posted by rushmc at 7:39 AM on October 13, 2001


we are assuming you forgot to take the lens cap off.
posted by bunnyfire at 11:31 AM on October 13, 2001


Let's recap:

Problems with Christianity: Problems with Atheism: Sounds like a wash to me.
posted by boaz at 12:05 PM on October 13, 2001


rushmc,

I'll answer your question assuming that you really don't know much about religion, you don't understand how abrasive and confrontational your comments have been, and in hopes of awakening enough curiousity for you to go get some real answers instead of just spouting inflammatory rhentoric based on incorrect assumptions. I'm not sure I got them all, but here are a few of the incorrect statements you've made about religion:

1. The comment was made: "The only way to be sure that you're right is to argue with the smartest people you can find who disagree with you." You replied, "That is a rationalist's perspective that any good Christian would reject out of hand." (Already thoroughly debunked by moss above.)
2. In the same comment: "If you have "belief" in God, then any argument presented to you disputing his existence is a Satanic perversion..."
3. "What God wants you to do (according to most variants of organized religion): Cover eyes. Cover ears. Make loud bleating sound. Always remember: your mind's made up--don't let them confuse you with the facts. Kinda makes you wonder why he gave you a brain, eh? Oh, yes, I forgot. It's just another devilish test for you to struggle against to earn your reward."
4. "Hope coexists with doubt, and therefore reality, whereas belief denies both."
5. The question was asked (of you), "What could possibly be inherently wrong with a religious belief?" to which you replied, "It is inherently a perversion of what humans are, based upon the way our brains function (although it does exist as an expression of some brain function)."
6. To the same question you also replied, "It leads one away from the honest pursuit of truth and understanding, abdicating one's responsibility to seek same, and encourages in practice systems of repression and conformity."
7. And in the same comment, "It is a crutch, an excuse to avoid reality rather than embrace and investigate it."

You did caveat your responses to points 5-7 above with the statement that "that characterization relies upon a number of suppositions, all of which I think are quite defensible, but it would not be reasonable to do so here." That's sort of like -- in fact, exactly like -- the kind of presumptive knowledge and assumed superiority that you accuse religious people of adopting. Cheap shot, rushmc.

Those are just the statements that are outright wrong.

You've also made a number of comments that are questionable, and which I would argue:

1. "The only way God could truly right the wrong would be to go back in time and adjust things so it had never happened."
2. The question was posed, "so......where did the idea of God come from?" to which you replied, "Two plausible possibilities: A) Nurture... B) Nature..."
3. "And that is where God is truly born...hope."
4. The comment was made in rebuttal to one of your points, "Some of the clearest, most rational, thinkers in history have been Christians.", to which you replied, "And yet, every one of them abandons reason at some point to make the leap to faith."

Hope that helps!
posted by JParker at 12:56 PM on October 13, 2001


Thanks JParker for being such an open-minded and civilized debater. Being devout and not being presumptuous isn't easy.

Miguel, I rather think it's the norm. It just doesn't make for good sound bites on the 10 o'clock news, so people get the wrong impressions. Intolerance sucks no matter what flag it's waving.
posted by JParker at 9:50 PM on October 13, 2001


Miguel, glad you liked it. Borges is the man.

Bunnyfire, thanks for the translation.

another great quote, perhaps a bit more obscure:

PROMETHEUS

There are four legends concerning Prometheus:
According to the first, he was clamped to a rock in the Caucasus for
betraying the secrets of the gods to men, and the gods sent eagles to feed on his
liver, which was perpetually renewed.
According to the second, Prometheus, goaded by the pain of the tearing
beaks, pressed himself deeper and deeper into the rock until he became one with
it.
According to the third, his treachery was forgotten in the course of
thousands of years, the gods forgotten, the eagles, he himself forgotten.
According to the fourth, every one grew weary of the meaningless affair.
The gods grew weary, the eagles grew weary, the wound closed wearily.
There remained the inexplicable mass of rock.--The legend tried to
explain the inexplicable. As it came out of a substratum of truth it had in turn
to end in the inexplicable.

F. Kafka
posted by signal at 1:55 AM on October 14, 2001


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