Open thread on AETV #861


Oh hi, Matt and Martin did a show on Sunday. Discuss!

(Also, don’t miss The Non-Prophets tomorrow when Jeff and I review “Noah”!)

Comments

  1. Monocle Smile says

    I’m sure this has already been tracked down, but maybe for the other blog readers:

    Todd was a troll. When he called in before, he babbled for almost ten minutes, then brought up the banana argument. I don’t know why he felt the need to call in and troll again, but maybe I’m trying too hard to apply legitimate lines of thinking to nonsense.

  2. Narf says

    Ooh, you did? What was it, one of those Christian radio shows that Matt has been calling into lately? Did they want a 2-on-2 debate or something?

  3. Markus F says

     
    Hello “Atheist Experience”,
     
    I am a fan of the show and have watched a few years worth of archived episodes. It has helped me immensely at a crucial time to redefine my religious stance for the benefit of AA and more specifically while working the third step which talks about “God as one understands It”.
     
    The question of AA has come up in the show a couple of times recently, and I wanted to add my two cents to the debate. I believe that atheism in AA is a fascinating topic and well worth investigating in more detail in your show; I will get back to that. When I was done writing this comment, it was clearly too long, so I cut it in smaller pieces, making it easier to respond, should that be the case…
     
    A bit of background first. I live in Geneva, Switzerland, which is today a beautifully secular and multicultural city (despite being historically the fief of Calvin’s theocracy). The local AA groups reflect that and many of the horror stories one reads about ultra-religious groups in the Northern American continent would not be plausible here. In particular, the Lord’s prayer is totally absent, along with the word “Lord” come to think of it. Only the word “God” is used, and even that only when reading the twelve steps or as preamble to the Serenity prayer. In sharing and discussions, one hears only about “my higher power”, or just “PS”, the French acronym for it.
     
    Before joining AA, I would, if asked, have identified as agnostic. My father was an atheist and my mother a tepid Lutheran, so it was my task to choose my stance. I have invested quite some time in the question, speaking to my pastor and hanging with evangelical youth groups, but failed to acquire this “Faith”, something I found desirable at the time. I abandoned this quest but “left the door open for God”, as my pastor put it. The question of one’s religious affiliation never comes up in everyday life in Geneva, so I basically stopped thinking about it. My answer to the question “does God exist” thus went from “I hope so” to “I don’t know” and then to “I don’t care”, if that makes any sense.
     
    The agnostic stance doesn’t work well in AA. How can I turn over my will and my life to the holly question mark in the heavens? As one of your viewers put it, am I expected to solve the millennial question of the existence of God before I can hope to become sober? To make the problem worse, the AA literature suggests the following for the agnostics: just use the group as your higher power for the time being. The true purpose is explained in the book “Twelve and Twelve”, page 109 about the twelfth step: “we could predict that the doubter who still claimed that he hadn’t got the “spiritual angle,” and who still considered his well-loved A.A. group the higher power, would presently love God and call Him by name.” Granted, the “Twelve and Twelve”, published in 1952, is probably the worst of AA’s books in terms of explicit Christian proselytism, and amply justifies the U.S. court’s rulings that AA is indeed a religious cult. European groups are not as bad, but the idea to “fake it until you make it” is is still somehow present as an advice to newcomers.
     
    One of the most potent tools of recovery is to become honest, with oneself and with another human being. Faking belief in a higher power isn’t honest by any account, so this induced a crisis which incidentally made me discover your show and ultimately made me harden my position. In the context of AA, I now present myself as atheist: there is no god or any other supernatural entity (a higher power) that can help me remain sober, but there is help available outside (powers greater than myself). Ironically, one of the newcomers I sponsor has discovered a strong dormant God conscience, and the most honest thing for him to do is to revive that and use it in prayer and meditation, to help him achieve sobriety…
     
    As announced above, there should be three more comments below. Thanks again for the show!

  4. Markus F says

    Atheism in AA could be an interesting topic for your show. For one thing, there are many atheists and agnostics in the fraternity, who fake belief and who fear to come out because thy feel they need the support of the groups to remain sober. It’s a real-life version of Pascal’s wager: if I stop faking, I might get rejected, relapse, and return to hell… The fear is real. I actually chose another group besides my home group to come out as an atheist, as a trial run so to speak. In the end, it was a very positive experience. Not only did the few truly religious members welcome my honesty and were eager to discuss my concerns openly, to my surprise the majority of the members didn’t even identify as Christian. I think their stance is called “spiritual but not religious”. Arguably, they do follow some AA precepts, so one could say that they are followers of “twelve-stepism”, and I’m ready to believe that this is pertinent for some ultra-religious groups. In the groups I know, this does not apply.
     
    The advice you give in your show to new atheists hesitating to come out to their families and friends applies also to atheists hesitating to come out to their 12-step support group. The risk is similar: will the vital support be withdrawn? In any case, the next time this question arises, you might redirect the caller to the site AA Agnostica [aaagnostica.org] which has helped me a lot also. After over two years of weekly posts, the site has accumulated real content and is definitely worth a look, for any AA member and any atheist, not only for atheists in AA… In a way, the struggle of atheists in a fraternity that tends to be taken over by religious zealots is a reflection of what occurs in a greater scale in the U.S. and Canada as a whole.
     
    You sometimes advise people to create freethinkers groups in their cities. Likewise, you could advise atheist AA members calling your show to create their own freethinkers AA groups, instead of only suggesting to join other secular fraternities.

  5. Markus F says

    About powerlessness
     
    The first step is obvious if not easy for the alcoholic, but quite difficult to understand for the outsider. When I say that I’m powerless over alcohol, it simply means that I cannot both drink and make plans for tomorrow. I cannot control what happens when I start drinking, and in particular I can’t decide in advance at what point I’m going to stop. I can however refuse the first drink, and I can live a happy and fulfilling life without alcohol. I know that a few alcoholics can start drinking “socially” again, and I even believe that I could learn to do that as well, but I feel that it would take an insane amount of energy and willpower. At the moment, regaining control over alcohol, assuming that it’s possible for me, is of no interest and I’d rather spend my energy elsewhere. Therefore, I am and remain powerless over alcohol.
     
    The relation between an alcoholic and alcohol is a metaphor for the relation between a worshipper and his deity — or is it the other way around? In my mind, many of the myths and stories about humans tricked by supernatural entities seem to be inspired by alcoholism and perhaps other addictions. There is a phase in the evolution of alcoholism when the harm starts to outweighs the benefits and when the alcoholic starts to bargain with his addiction. This bargaining is very often in the form of magical thinking and sacrificial behaviour. I won’t list examples here, but the hope to discover some special recipe, some manner of drinking, some prayer or sacrifice, anything to be able to drink again without the negative consequences has been expressed by many alcoholics I heard and often survives months or years into sobriety. Renouncing that hope is tough and is the essence of the first step.
     
    This is similar to the reaction of outsiders to the introduction “my name is X, and I’m an alcoholic”, even after years of abstinence. It can seem degrading, like a ritual of self humiliation to be accepted as member of the group, but I never perceived it that way. Some of my friends do, so they throw in the word “recovering” or “abstinent”, or even leave it out completely. I don’t think it should be said if it is the least bit humiliating to do so.

  6. Markus F says

    An operational definition of “spiritual”
     
    When a caller uses the word, you often ask what he or she means before continuing. It is true that the word is ill defined. What’s more, in French its first meaning is “witty” or “spirited” and doesn’t immediately refer to the religious or supernatural, except in expressions like “spiritual experience” or “spiritual guide”. But again, in the context of AA, I hear the word way too often and needed some practical definition. The central idea instilled in AA by Carl Gustav Jung is that a profound spiritual experience is the only remedy against the spirituous addiction (see “Spiritus contra Spiritum”), so the matter seems of some importance. Luckily there is another word based on the same root: inspiration.
     
    When anyone uses the word “spiritual”, for example in a life story or when sharing in a group, I hear “something inspiring”. This works for both religious and non-religious people. Listening to or performing music, praying, solving a tricky mathematical problem, helping a stranger, going on a silent retreat, reconnecting with a long-lost friend, writing a diary, noticing an unlikely coincidence, cooking a meal, all these can be a source of inspiration and thus become a spiritual experience. Religious people have often agreed to call “anything inspiring” “spiritual”, at least while speaking with an atheist… This actually helps communication, in my experience.

  7. TxSkeptic says

    Hi. My name is “Todd”. I called in on episode x as “Todd”. I’ll let you guess what other episodes I called in on, and what names I used when.

  8. gshelley says

    It seemed to me that the caller was picking and choosing what part of the 12 steps he would follow, redefining the bits he didn’t like to make it suitable for him
    There certainly seem to be some steps that are incompatible with no belief in hte higher power, and for which the claim that the higher power “could be anything, such as the group itself, or a table” don’t work. I’d have been interested to see how the caller could fit those in with an atheistic view

    2) Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
    3) Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
    5) Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
    6) Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
    7) Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out

    Only seem to work with some sort of sentient higher power, that actually is a “higher power”

  9. kestra says

    I hate.hate.hate the word “spiritual” because any conversation about it usually devolves into complete miscommunication because everyone involved does not adequately define terms. I find the existence of souls, and the possibility of souls engaging in some kind of extra-sensory perception of the world or communication with each other is implicit in the worldview of people who describe “spiritual” experiences earnestly.

    That just doesn’t work for me, because I reject the entire concept of a soul or any other form of mind/brain dualism. The brain does the mind. The mind IS the self. No brain means no self, thus abrogating the possibility of the “soul” as a actual manifestation of human conscious absent a live, functioning brain.

    And trying to have a meaningful conversation with anyone who talks about “spirituality” from that viewpoint is just engaging in so much word-salad.

    Also, Jung? Still? Really? I mean, really?

  10. Russell Glasser says

    Oh I get you. Sorry.

    My impression was that “Todd” was coming on the blog to brag about his work and get yet more attention, and I thought the best thing to do was prevent him from getting it. On a second reading, I caught the sarcasm. Unbanned, but please realize that distinguishing sarcasm from the real thing is a hundred times more difficult coming from a stranger in text only format.

  11. Monocle Smile says

    I’m with you on this. “Spiritual” is used to refer to immaterial agency of some sort (whatever the shit that is), but in a sly, rather disingenuous way. It’s a weasel word and little more.

  12. adamah says

    FWIW, here’s a fun fact on Noah that’s often overlooked by believers that might be fun to mention when discussing the ‘Noah’ movie:

    Reread the account of Noah in Genesis, and you’ll see that no words are recorded as having been said by Noah until AFTER the Flood (God does all the talking before, entering a covenant with Noah to build the ark, and blessing humanity afterwards, etc). Noah remains mute during the entire Flood and even afterwards.

    In fact, the ONLY words actually uttered by Noah are found in Genesis 9:20 (long after the Flood is over), when Noah delivers the so-called ‘curse of Ham’ in the epilogue, thus instituting the practice of slavery.

    This is the FIRST TIME in the Bible where slavery is mentioned, and it’s established by God’s righteous hand-selected servant, Noah. Of course, God tacitly approves, since the author(s) of the account combined multiple themes in the story.

    So why was Noah selected by God, in the first place? Despite what believers like Ken Ham say, Noah wasn’t selected for his ark-building or animal-keeping skills, but the account gives a crucial hint when it says that Noah was ‘righteous amongst his generation’.

    In short, Noah was selected to enforce God’s “no bloodshed” prohibition, given in Genesis 9:5-6.

    Just as Adam was told to place animals under his subjection, Noah was now given Divine Authority to establish the first criminal justice system in the Bible to rule over his fellow humans (mimicking the ‘delegation of authority from the Gods’ meme found in much-older Akkadian writings. i.e. Atrahasis). For the first time in the Bible, man was allowed to carry out capital punishment for murder.

    The implications are shocking, since the antediluvian World existed in a “Mad Max” state of anarchy: God apparently “forgot” to outlaw bloodshed BEFORE the Flood. Whoopsie….

    I’ve written an article on the REAL REASON God carried out the Flood, on my blog:

    http://awgue.weebly.com/does-jehovahs-witnesses-blood-policy-reflect-they-understand-noahs-flood.html

    (NOTE: the article is targeted to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who scripture-twist Genesis 9:5-6 to come up with their odd “no blood transfusion” policy.)

    Regardless, Genesis 9 is the FIRST ‘power grab’ passage found in the Bible (although it’s highly-masked via various translations).

    Adam

  13. Narf says

    Heh heh heh heh heh. Yeah, give us a closing [/sarcasm] or something. If it isn’t something blatantly obvious, use smilies or something, or … something.

  14. Markus F says

    I’m not a fan of the word either, but, as I said, I do hear it often. At first, when someone started a story with “I had a spiritual experience in my car while driving here”, I would stop right there and have difficulties listening to the actual story. Now I just translate to “something inspiring occurred” and, more often than not, this is exactly what the speaker meant. Luckily, I don’t interact with people who would speak about the “spirit world”, wandering souls, ghosts, or other poltergeists in earnest. Speaking of which, I similarly translate “this is good for my soul” to “good for my mental health”, and I don’t feel this is does the speaker’s meaning injustice.

    I’m not sure what you were trying to say about Jung, please understand that English isn’t my first language. I believe that he was one of the first to study mysticism, alchemy, shamanism, divination, and other magical practices from a scientific point of view, and for example diagnosed schizophrenia and hallucinatory psychotic episodes in the lives of saints. When he used the expression “spiritual experience”, he didn’t mean any form of divine intervention or supernatural phenomenon, but really just a profound reorganisation of one’s psyche. In modern terms, although there are many tools to help an addict detox and get clean, the only advice for long-term abstinence is still to live a fulfilling life with as many sources of inspiration as possible. But perhaps I’m being disingenuous here, since Bill Wilson used this quote from Jung to support his central belief that only divine intervention (a “spiritual experience” or in his case “white light revelation”) could cure him. If I gave the impression to support that idea, I apologize.

  15. Narf says

    Well, I guess that’s some sort of attention, if that had really been Todd. A moderator hammer to the face isn’t usually the sort of attention I seek, myself, though. :D

  16. Monocle Smile says

    Oh, you probably do interact with people who talk about the supernatural in earnest. You just don’t know it.

    A caller from a few weeks ago, Drew, started posting in a recent blog thread. He seemed like a typical moderate American Christian trying desperately to avoid the unsavory bits of his theology, but then he started in with witches and how they control demons, and that it was perfectly rational for witches to be killed because they’re clear threats to local populations.

    People like Drew expose one of the dangers of religion…otherwise normal people can be convinced of batshit crazy nonsense. The line gets crossed and they don’t even notice.

  17. Markus F says

    I agree, there is no sane way for an atheist to “work the steps” as written. Then again, an atheist is less likely to treat any book like a bible and should thus feel rather free to adjust, adapt, skip, rewrite, and divert parts or even the entire recipe. I feel that there are six or seven really therapeutic steps but those you mention [steps 2, 3, 6, 7, and 11] were added by Bill Wilson to aid his proselytising. Some atheists try to rewrite them, others just skip them.

    I actually like the original six steps used by the early members before it was called AA, which you can read here:
    http://aaagnostica.org/2012/09/16/the-origins-of-the-12-steps/

  18. says

    I’d have to re-listen, but it sounded like the caller stated that the steps empower you… and when asked what step 1 was, recited the bit about “admitting that you are powerless”.

    At that point, it became abundantly clear to me that he had simply dumped the 12-steps, and then built his own version in his mind, which was more rational… and then simply attributed the success to the original 12-steps.

    It’s like every Christian’s take on the Bible, and how they’ve re-imagined God to be what they wanted it to be.

  19. Markus F says

    “You just don’t know it.”

    I suppose that’s possible, especially on forums and other international media. After all, I still want to believe that biblical literalism or young earth creationism are only elaborate youtube hoaxes. *grin*

  20. Markus F says

    I see what you mean, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It’s healthy and natural to invent one’s own path to recovery, including one’s own version of the steps. The problem would be, to build on your analogy with personal takes on the Bible, to say that this path is the only true path and the only correct interpretation of the canonical texts, and them try to force that onto others.

    I feel that Matt tricked the caller, Geoff, who was really only trying to defend his notion that attending N.A. is a viable option for atheists. Matt paraphrased the first step as “I’m powerless to do anything about it”, which is inaccurate and in fact made me write comment #5 above. When Geoff tried to explain how he felt empowered by the entire program, Matt had him recite the first step, just to have the word “powerless” repeated, as if that proved the point. Geoff also tried the diabetics analogy: as an individual one is powerless over the disease, but one can seek help and learn to live a fulfilling life despite it, thus regaining power over one’s fate. I don’t think Matt got the analogy, at least he didn’t respond to it.

    I understand that AA and other twelve-step programs, and more to the point today’s American AA, which suffers from the same fundamentalist Christian revival as the rest of the country, is fair game for a militant atheist like Matt. However, there are also atheist and agnostic movements within AA and NA. Perhaps Geoff and I are simply trying to give a voice to that particular sub-sub-culture on this show and its blog…

  21. gshelley says

    I think what he said was something along the lines of “I was powerless before NA as I didn’t have the tools to deal with my addiction”
    Which is not what the step actually says. So it is likely that NA has helped him as it gives him the structure and support, and possibly some of the steps has been useful, but he hasn’t really been following the program

  22. jdoran says

    I generally don’t find arguing about the minutiae of the bible to be a worthwhile exercise. If someone believes professional wresting is real, you’re not going to shake that belief by coming up with your own interpretation of why So-And-So hit That One Dude with a folding chair during WrestleFest XI.

  23. adamah says

    Well, it’s not MY own interpretation: I rely on the writings and research of secular Bible scholars. Unfortunately, most Bible scholarship has been conducted in the name of furtherance of religion, only, since there are few non-believers looking at the Bible with a literary-critical almost scientific approach, which forces one to accept elements of the story to see if they remain internally-consistent.

    And I obviously wouldn’t agree that it’s ‘minuitae': the implication of Genesis 9:5-6 is that God seemingly “forgot” to tell mankind not to kill each other before the Flood, and only prohibited bloodshed AFTER the Flood (God was apparently preoccupied with protecting his ‘wisdom fruit’). That action clearly is NOT omniscient (as is showing regret, both for making mankind AND for wiping them out with a Flood).

    You’d THINK these kind of continuity errors would be a BIG HINT, pointing towards the Tanakh being a Jewish adaptation and collection of much older myths, reflecting the influence of many pre-existing myths?

    The problem is Bible literalists who actually believe the Tanakh is recorded history, i.e. events that really happened. Almost worse is those modern Xians who excuse such glaring continuity errors with a glib, “the Bible is metaphorical”, and then proceed to vacillate between literal to metaphorical at their whim, just as long as they can keep their ‘God concept’ intact (and never-mind that you ask what the metaphorical interpretation is, only to be met with a dumbfounded look since they don’t know).

    The sad truth is one almost has to put a lifetime of study into ancient literature in order to see the Bible in the context of what it is: a fascinating reflection of an ancient people in turbulent times, containing their codification of laws.

    But as they say, the Devil is in the details.

  24. Monocle Smile says

    Actually, just read the Cliff Notes version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. If that doesn’t show someone that the Pentateuch is just a re-hashing of older myths and thus the entire foundation of the theology is hackneyed crap, then there’s no much more you can do.

    You’ve demonstrated why debunking is helpful, but usually more effort than it’s worth and unnecessary if not for gullibility.

  25. adamah says

    Well, a common theme in discussing people’s beliefs is that most people are driven by what we WANT to be true, and not what actually IS true (i.e. let the evidence be damned). It takes an extraordinary change in circumstances for most people to “have their eyes opened” (reference to Eve’s eating the fruit).

    It’s not just theists: having practiced in a scientific field, I occasionally see evidence of it in colleagues who, e.g. despite understanding the rules of the scientific method, manage somehow to fall in love with their own accepted beliefs (even unconsciously), since to change requires effort. Obviously, its not as commonly observed as seeing the phenomenon in believers, but it nevertheless exists in so-called rationalists.

    It’s also why AA devotees think the 12-step program is hallowed, and don’t tell them any differently!

    It’s also why there actually ARE some uneducated atheists who don’t want to do the research required to learn the facts, and simply don’t want God to exist. I’m as critical of uneducated and lazy atheists as I am of theists: same flavor of the same, which goes back to not caring WHAT people believe, but if they can explain WHY they believe what they do. Can they explain it, so as to help others?

    I obviously don’t agree that it’s a waste of time, since that would require believing that people cannot change; people like Matt Dilahunty (ex-preacher) and Tracie Harris (ex-Xian) are obviously disproof of that!

  26. Monocle Smile says

    I’m not saying debunking is a waste of time as a blanket statement.

    I’m saying it’s typically more trouble than it’s worth, especially at the level you describe. And Matt and Tracie are examples of people making earnest efforts THEMSELVES.

    I don’t need to study ancient literature for my entire life to understand that the Bible is mostly mythology and there’s no good reason to believe most of it reflects reality. You’re almost consenting to the Courtier’s Reply.

  27. adamah says

    Well, in order to have credibility with certain theists, atheists SHOULD have a passing familiarity with the basic principles of religion, since a certain way to discredit yourself is to show ignorance of basics of theology, i.e. it becomes an open invitation for them to educate (AKA preach to you) when they detect some weakness in your understanding.

    As a biology major in my undergrad, I’m fully comfortable talking to them about evolution, but that’s usually pointless, as that’s not THEIR turf (and makes them a fish out of water, which places them on the defensive, and less likely to engage).

    Granted, someone like Matt (ex-minister) is in a better position than an atheist who was never exposed to such concepts, but IMO it’s important to take the argument back to what they think of as ‘their’ home turf and tear their Bible to sheds before their eyes, using simple logic and asking questions that no believer would dare to ask another believer, since it’s not “uplifting to the faith”.

    But as the old saying goes, for some people there is no amount of evidence or reason sufficient to convince someone of what they don’t WANT to believe, i.e. they lack sufficient motivation to “see the light”….

    That goes back to the power of delusion, and theists don’t have any monopoly on self-delusion.

  28. houndentenor says

    I hate it too because it doesn’t mean anything. Ask someone who says it what they mean and they are at a loss. I can guess at what they mean but what is the point of using a word that leaves the listener confused by what you may have meant? That defeats the entire purpose of words. If you mean that you were in awe of what you have seen or were deeply inspired by the music you just heard, then just say that. I know what those things mean. I think it would be rare for someone not to know what you mean by that.

  29. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    I get a headache just trying to cover easier-to-understand/larger-issues:

    Me: So, let me get this straight: you have tattoos, you love nomming on pig products, you think homosexuality is wrong and you want to put up copies of the ten commandments in every school.

    Them: Yes, exactly!

    Me: But the bible says you shouldn’t have tattoos or eat pork

    Them: That’s in the old testament!

    Me: So we’re just wiping out the entirety of the O.T. based on Paul’s hallucinations?

    Them: Visions! Paul had visions and the O.T. is a done deal.

    Me: But the ten commandments are in the O.T. And the only stuff in the bible on homosexuality is also in the O.T. Wouldn’t you erase all that as well?

    Them: No! That’s the word of god! You can’t ignore the word of god!

    Me: But you just did in the name of chicharones and bacon and skin art!

    Them: That’s different!

    Me: *wanders off to buy another huge bottle of aspirin*

    That would be why I don’t argue minutiae with believers. I’d need some sort of prescription pain killer.

  30. steele says

    Adam,

    And I obviously wouldn’t agree that it’s ‘minuitae’: the implication of Genesis 9:5-6 is that God seemingly “forgot” to tell mankind not to kill each other before the Flood, and only prohibited bloodshed AFTER the Flood (God was apparently preoccupied with protecting his ‘wisdom fruit’). That action clearly is NOT omniscient (as is showing regret, both for making mankind AND for wiping them out with a Flood).

    Two things

    1) This was not the first time God commanded man not to kill each other

    Genesis 4:6-7

    6 The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

    God knew what was going to happen and warned Cain but Cain didn’t listen obviously.

    2) I am not very familiar with Jehovah Witnesses theology, I am guessing you grew up in it or you have some particular interest in it. It would explain why you have some messed up misconceptions of the Bible.

    Don’t bother linking me to your page about Cain I have already read it and I will just say it is quite good and thought provoking. I need to reread it again to refresh myself but I just remember it was something with your interpretation or Romans that I didn’t agree with.

  31. TxSkeptic says

    Sorry for the confusion Russell, and y’all. I usually do sarcasm in person and forget to hint at it online. Thanks Rodney for catching it, wouldn’t want to be banned here,

  32. Monocle Smile says

    1) Let’s talk about the story on its moral merits, mostly because it never happened.

    In the story, god is a dick. He’s taunting his creation. God gave that lecture knowing it wouldn’t work. Sorry, free will is entirely incompatible with an omniscient, omnipotent creator.

    2) Oh, the irony of Christians bashing other Christian sects. None of you know shit, so none of you have room to talk.

  33. adamah says

    Hi Steele,

    1) As discussed in my Cain article, the translation of the Hebrew word used in Genesis 4:7 into ‘sin’ is highly-questionable, and is likely an anachronistic choice, in essence modernizing the account in order to harmonize with modern theology (and 99.999% of modern readers are completely and blissfully unaware of the problems of translation of ancient documents, which offers much opportunity for such insertions). The ‘sin crouching at your door’ translation is poetic, but highly questionable, and likely inaccurate.

    In order to stand a chance of understanding original intent of the author (the Yahwist), the modern Xian needs to learn something about how ancient Jews looked at transgression, and specifically how the concept of ‘yetzer hara’ (inclination for evil) has evolved over 3,000 yrs, esp with conceptual syncretism occurring, thus modifying many concepts. In a nutshell, the view was/is that one’s evil inclination leads to actions, but one doesn’t necessarily follow: it’s up to the individual to master the tendency.

    BTW, God’s being omnipotent and omniscient (prescient) is a development in God’s traits that arose much later in Judaic thought: hence why God isn’t omniscient. The same goes for the concept of “free will”: it’s a later concept which emerged post-Xianity (the term wasn’t coined until a millennia AFTER the Yahwist wrote Genesis).

    Of course, the modern theological view is that in order for a sin to be committed, God needs to explicitly prohibit an action by expressing His Divine Will BEFORE the act is committed. Last I checked, Genesis 9 occurs AFTER Genesis 4, and God didn’t explicitly say not to commit bloodshed until Genesis 9. Look it up in your favorite Bible commentary: it’s generally agreed upon by theologians, but not trumpeted since it raises disturbing questions.

    2) AS far as my being raised as a JW, maybe you forget I’m an atheist since age 12? My family are still JWs, and hence why I make the focus on JWs.

    As I see it, there is no significant difference between ANY religions that believe in God(s): they all take the Bible as the inspired word of God(s), and are all making much more out of ancient writings that are interesting to the student of history and mythologist, but are not to be taken as “God-given truths” but only a reflection of the societal norms of ancient societies.

    Freud spoke of “the narcissism of small differences” and I suspect it’s the relevant dynamic when a believer criticizes another faith.

  34. Usernames are smart says

    Atheism in AA could be an interesting topic for your show.
    — Markus F (#4)

    Ugh, no it wouldn’t. Well, until Matt gets past his own blind spot, which doesn’t look like it’ll happen any time soon. One of his favorite “gotchas” is that AA (or any 12 step group) doesn’t publish its success rate, or if they do, it is abysmally low. Checkmate!

    And there’s the Loaded Question Fallacy.

    What’s the blind spot? Matt thinks the number of members can be quantified (it can’t) and believes his definition of success is correct (it isn’t).

    Bottom line: anyone who says they can determine the success rate of any 12-step program is lying, lacks basic logic skills, or doesn’t understand how fractions work.

  35. Usernames are smart says

    but quite difficult to understand for the outsider.

    It is just as likely for a non-addict to understand what addiction is like as it is for a man to know what it is like to have sex as a woman or vice versa.

  36. gshelley says

    So you disagree with his reasoning, but agree with his conclusion that we have no idea if the 12 step program actually works?

  37. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Do you have any clue how medical science actually works? “Can’t quantify membership” my ass.

    Are you aware AA has internal member surveys which they do not release?

  38. Narf says

    And any time that someone has internal surveys about things which should support their position, and they aren’t trumpeting them all over the place … odds are, the results aren’t good for them and don’t support the line that their propaganda arm is pushing.

  39. Markus F says

    The success rate has nothing to do with my suggestion. I have no data about the success rates of various recovery programs, nor, as you point out, do I have a scientific definition of “success” in this context. So let’s suppose that AA isn’t any better than other available programs (SOS, Smart, LifeRing, etc.) or even than not following any structured program at all. This show is dedicated to atheism and the separation of church and state. It makes thus perfect sense to point out that AA is way too religious to have any connection with the judicial system. In particular, mandatory AA attendance is a horrible practice (for several reasons). However, it doesn’t make sense to debate success rates or the psychological meaning of the first step for that matter.

    The fact is that there are atheists who attend AA voluntarily because they find much of what they need there, who want to continue, and who are only bothered by the “god stuff”, to a varying degree. The Traditions of AA (the equivalent of its statute) are essentially secular and explicitly fence against discrimination; atheists within the fellowship are currently struggling against Christian revivalists who use AA for proselytism and discriminate against atheists and atheist groups. As a European, I am not directly concerned by this, but I do find the whole thing quite fascinating.

    To just answer “don’t go to AA” is much like answering “don’t get married” to an atheist who likes the ideas of marriage, but not as a sacrament or religious ceremony, and to add “the success rate of marriage is not that good anyway”. OK, it’s a stretch, but you get the idea.

  40. xscd says

    If atheists are so smart, why are they too stupid to realize that Jesus is the only way to get to HEAVEN?!
    (note to Russell: I’m just joking; please don’t ban me)

    Questions for Christians–
    * Is there free will in Heaven?
    * What if we get angry in Heaven and feel like slapping one of our fellow angels? Can we do that? (If not, why not?)
    * Can we sin in Heaven? Are there any consequences for sinning in Heaven?
    * Eternity is a long time. We might get bored or frustrated. Some of us might feel like doing some evil just to mix it up a bit and inject some life into a lifeless joy-fest. Is it OK to be evil in Heaven, after we make it through the gate?

  41. jdoran says

    Atheist here, but there’s a standard answer to these:

    You have free will in heaven, but freed of your sinful earthly bonds and united with god, you just won’t want to sin anymore.

    To paraphrase Matt’s rebuttal: Even if this stuff was real, whatever you became in the afterlife would be sufficiently transformative from what you are now that anything that could be considered “you” could no longer be said to exist in any meaningful fashion.

    It’d be a bit like saying a tree continued to exist after it was felled and turned into a dinette set.

  42. AhmNee says

    It’s not just theists: having practiced in a scientific field, I occasionally see evidence of it in colleagues who, e.g. despite understanding the rules of the scientific method, manage somehow to fall in love with their own accepted beliefs (even unconsciously), since to change requires effort.

     
    You could have saved yourself some time and said “confirmation bias. EOT.”

    :D

  43. rocketdave says

    I finally got around to listening to the debate Matt mentioned between himself and Eric. By the end, I was almost tempted to feel a little sorry for Eric, but after he called in to the show bragging about how he could trounce Matt in a debate, I must confess that it’s mostly just satisfying to hear him fare so poorly.

  44. Monocle Smile says

    My feelings towards apologists are never anything more endearing than “disdain,” but Eric Lounsbery is one of the very few from whom I would derive great pleasure upon delivering a knuckle sandwich. The guy has a head the size of Nebraska, argues like the cheap knockoff version of William Lane Craig, and never wants to shut the hell up.

    I’m glad Matt threw him on the ground. It was much needed.

  45. Pj says

    There are plenty of Jungians left out there. I left a comment at a liberal site that printed some Jungian analysis during the Bush years (forgot the exact topic) saying, “Jung is discredited crap,” and received holy hell from many people.
    I had unintentionally trolled them to their very world-soul.

  46. steele says

    Monocle,

    Sorry, free will is entirely incompatible with an omniscient, omnipotent creator.

    I disagree entirely I mean for example I know you are going to give freely some idiotic response to almost anything posted but knowing that doesn’t make you any less free, lol.

    On a more serious note with God nothing is impossible and given that He has all knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, He could easily design a universe keeping your libertarian free will intact while He remains Sovereign over His creation.

    Anyway Happy Easter!!!

    Romans 4:24-25

    24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

  47. Narf says

    Steel, this sort of thing is one of the more blindingly obvious incoherencies within the Christian worldview. Christians love to throw around free will as some sort of catch-all excuse for any of the numerous other things that are hideously wrong with their worldview.

    For any definition of free will that is useful, free will contradicts prophesy, all by itself. It is also incompatible with the omniscient/omnipotent god-concept, as would be obvious if you had had logic 101.

  48. adamah says

    Yeah, the whole ‘God has free will’ meme raises the idiot flag for anyone who repeats it, since it’s almost like they haven’t given even a moment’s thought to consider the ramifications of the COVENANT concept: both parties agree to limit their free will in a reciprocal manner (that’s what contracts are all about).

    Some Xian apologetists further limit God’s free will by saying God cannot act against His nature (a limit), and the Bible says God cannot lie: another limit of His free will.

    It’s almost like the people who say it really don’t understand the concept of free will…

    Adam

  49. Narf says

    It’s almost like the people who say it really don’t understand the concept of free will…

    Strike the almost, and I’m with you on that point.

  50. adamah says

    Narf said:

    Strike the almost, and I’m with you on that point.

    Well, I was leaving room for other explanations, other than flat-out ignorance, ie willful hypocrisy, intentional obsfucation, intellectual dishonesty, etc. :)

    I mean, the entire basis of the Mosaic covenant arrangement is that the people of the Nation of Israel agree to have no other God and to serve only YHWH, and God in turn promises to bless them as His chosen people. Both parties are limiting their actions, thus voluntarily limiting their free will (thus their ability to perform certain actions, or else violate the covenant).

    That’s the entire basis of ‘God on trial’, the BBC movie someone recently posted a link to in another thread, where the Jews in a Nazi concentration camp put God on trail for breech of contract before they were executed!

    Adam

  51. Monocle Smile says

    Wow, steele. I mean, usually your posts are largely inane, but this one is particularly head-desk worthy.

    I know you are going to give freely some idiotic response to almost anything posted but knowing that doesn’t make you any less free, lol.

    I’m still partly convinced you’re a teenager because of shit like this. Probably below driving age.

    given that He has all knowledge of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, He could easily design a universe keeping your libertarian free will intact while He remains Sovereign over His creation.

    You just laid out mutually exclusive propositions and claimed both are simultaneously possible. This would only make sense if I were to jump off a speeding motorcycle and drive headfirst through a titanium bulkhead. I mean, if you’re just going to toss out the fundamentals of logic, you can’t object to Last Thursdayism. So go ahead…what’s to say god didn’t create everything as we know it last Thursday, memories and all?

    P.S. blasting bible quotes everywhere isn’t cute. It makes you even more obnoxious.

  52. Monocle Smile says

    Read steele’s latest comment above.

    That’s about how well these fools understand free will…though most are sharp enough to be ashamed of this and try to weasel away instead of come out and prove their idiocy.

  53. Narf says

    I mean, the entire basis of the Mosaic covenant arrangement is that the people of the Nation of Israel agree to have no other God and to serve only YHWH, and God in turn promises to bless them as His chosen people. Both parties are limiting their actions …

    I don’t even mean within the legalistic context. With gods wandering around, hardening Pharaoh’s hearts and such, the concept of free will is meaningless enough already. At least the god of the Pentateuch wasn’t omniscient and omnipotent, along with most other versions, in the stories of the Old Testament.

    I meant once we get over to the newer conceptualizations of Yahweh/Jehovah, in the New Testament. Once that deity becomes omniscient and omnipotent, having created the entire universe, the concept of libertarian free-will is just idiotic.

  54. adamah says

    Monocle, I’m reminded of when children argue about what superhero action figures they’d want to be, and one kid says he’d grab the other with his figure’s vice-like death grip, so the other kid says he’d use his rubber arms to escape, etc. it doesn’t matter that such a modification of traits is entirely inconsistent with a prior claim (say, strong arms): they simply modify the character’s traits to cover for their fantabulous ‘on the fly’ modifications.

    It’s truly a childish way to approach life, but some adults never outgrew that phase: they still do it with God’s traits and then excuse their conjectures with “God’s ways are beyond us” so much simultaneous cake-eating and cake-wanting going on.

    Nard, actually the ‘bigger, better, stronger’ modification of YHWH’s traits didn’t begin in the New Testament, but much earlier, as found in the later writings of the Tanakh (esp the writings of the prophets, eg Isaiah), so during the Exilic period (circa 6th century BCE and later).

    The CL aims for YHWH’s traits became more bad-ass as historical events and evidence pointed towards YHWH’s nonexistence in order to come up with numerous excuses for why God had foresaken his ‘Chosen People’. There’s evidence of syncretism, too, with YHWH’s traits blending with those of Ahuru Mazda (the deity of Zoroaster, the religion of the Persian Empire).

    Then as today, religious beliefs don’t exist in separate compartments, unable to influence each other; many Xians agree with the concept of karma (which isn’t expressly stated in the Bible) but they harmonize it into their beliefs without any problem. Art historian and scholar Thomas Mceviley wrote much on the influence of the Far East (specifically India) on religions of the Ancient Near East (Judaism, which led to infusion to form Xianity) occurring in the late 1st millenium, BCE. When it’s pointed out, it becomes obvious….

    Adam

  55. corwyn says

    To be fair, I don’t think anyone understands ‘free will’. Can you think of an experiment which would provide evidence for or against the hypothesis that we have free will?

  56. C.B. Evans says

    I see many thoughtful responses on the topic of 12 steps from people who are probably a lot smarter than I am. However, I will submit the following long remarks in part because I don’t hear very often how 12-step participation led people to atheism.

    I’ve been listening to the podcasts for a couple of years now, and I deeply appreciate

    the work you are doing. I was raised Catholic, though not vigorously so—church and

    catechism, but no nuns rapping my knuckles or anything like that—but left that behind

    some years ago. Over the last decade or so I’ve gradually come to acknowledge my own,

    essential agnostic atheism and, in part through listening to the show, have grown more

    and more firm in those beliefs, confident enough to begin speaking out here and there.

    I’ve been pleased to hear the topic of 12-step recovery come up in recent weeks on The

    Atheist Experience. I rarely have the opportunity to call during a broadcast, but I wanted

    to offer these (long) thoughts on that discussion—and I’m sure you are thrilled, just

    thrilled, but if you have a chance to read, I’d be obliged.

    First, I want to credit Narcotics Anonymous (and right away I am violating my own

    anonymity, which, as I discuss a bit below, is a fundamental and I think important part of

    the program) with actually helping me in my transition from fearful ex-Catholic would-
    be unbeliever to more confident agnostic atheist.

    That’s backwards from what one often hears about 12-step programs, as Matt and Martin

    touched upon on April 13.

    First, let me say I’m from Boulder, Colo., the second-least religious community in the

    United States (http://www.gallup.com/poll/161543/provo-orem-utah-religious-metro-
    area.aspx). That obviously makes it a little bit easier to “come out” and more likely that

    its 12-step groups will be open to agnostics and atheists.

    Narcotics Anonymous was created in 1953, the first of the other “Anonymous” groups

    to be modeled on Bill Wilson’s and Dr. Bob Smith’s AA. It uses the same 12 steps and

    12 traditions, substituting “addict” for “alcoholic,” “addiction” for “alcohol,” and so

    on. I have my very strong critiques of NA (see below), but have generally been able

    to overlook most of these and use the program effectively in a way that is (usually)

    comfortable to me.

    The NA literature is different from the “Big Book” of AA, and for me, the differences are

    utterly crucial.

    I went to an outpatient rehab program that required attendance at three 12-step meetings

    per week. We were told that AA and NA were the same thing. I did not and do not view

    that I have a problem with alcohol, though that’s how my “using” started as a kid many

    years ago. But at the beginning I accepted this, along with the NA assertion that since

    alcohol is a drug, one must abstain completely from it as well as other drugs in “order to

    recover.”

    But in AA meetings I was instantly turned off by subtle (or not so) proselytizing that, as

    I told friends at the time, seemed to push the idea that if done right, the program will get

    you into a church eventually, despite hand-waving to the contrary. Ironically, this comes

    in a chapter of the Big Book called “To the Agnostic.” “Dr. Bob,” in particular, is quoted

    saying rather derisive things about agnostics and atheists.

    Meanwhile, in NA. the literature adamantly asserts the right of every addict to have a

    “higher power” of one’s own understanding, and there are stories in the basic text written

    by atheists who have been successful in staying clean in the program. The higher power

    can be a supernatural entity, the power of the group to keep one accountable, the power

    of meditation and mindfulness to keep yourself aware, or whatever—the conscience of

    the individual dictates.

    That said, I have always objected slightly to the three “required” characteristics of a

    higher power in NA: it must be “loving, caring and greater than ourselves.” I don’t mind

    the last bit, but the first two are a little problematic and seemingly more theistic.

    In my case, I came into the program pretty skeptical and frankly pissed off at the remnant

    Catholicism that left me still fearful that I might be wrong and therefore be torched for

    eternity for failing to believe (incredibly, such doubts still tickle the back of my mind

    sometimes, despite all I know). In fact, though I didn’t really believe in the sort of Bible

    god I grew up with, I simultaneously “hated” it and raged against it.

    In NA, I had an atheist sponsor who nursed me along, helping me with step work (which

    is formulated on some pretty old traditions, including the power of “confession,” if you

    will, forgiveness of self and others, and awareness of one’s tendencies, which leads

    to a greater ability to release destructive habits and patterns). My first “higher power”

    was simply the fact that when I went running in the mountains, I sometimes felt a

    transcendent euphoria (also known, I think, as endorphins). But it allowed me to feel that

    maybe life wasn’t crap after all, and maybe there was good completely independent of

    external circumstances, and that I had the power to change. (Yes, I have issues with the

    whole “powerlessness” thing, too, but there is a more subtle way to read this: “powerless”

    to fully recover entirely on our own. Almost nobody goes into a cave and kicks….)

    Eventually, that morphed into what I called my “literary” conception of a higher power.

    You can read a book strictly for the plot, or, in the study of literature, you can read for

    signs, symbols, parallels, metaphors and so on, which can enrich the experience in some

    cases. Likewise, you can walk through the “plot” of your life, simply experiencing what

    happens, and that’s great. But you can also pay attention and look for those “signs” or

    “metaphors”—not magical things; just aspects from which you can learn—to behave

    differently, less destructively, causing yourself and others less pain. Nothing supernatural

    at all.

    I still like that last notion, which is somewhat inflected with Eastern thinking, particularly

    Buddhist (non-theist/supernatural Buddhism, that is).

    As for all the god-talk and god mention in the steps and literature, I just learned to read

    my own understanding in when those things are mentioned and let the opinions of others

    slide (one AA saying I like is, “Take what works and leave the rest.”)

    You note that meetings are different in different places, and that’s true. But there is not

    as wide a variety as you seemed to imply. I’ve been to meetings from Hawaii to Utah

    to South Carolina, and generally speaking, despite small variations in format or local

    traditions, they are mostly the same everywhere. That’s the intention of the 12 steps and

    traditions.

    That said, one is likely to experience more- and less-theistically focused individuals—

    not groups, in my experience—depending on location, local beliefs, etc. Still, even in

    Utah and South Carolina, I have never encountered a whole lot of, say, overt Jesus talk—

    which is perfectly acceptable, so long as no one is trying to cram their beliefs down

    anyone else’s throat. Maybe it’s no surprise that groups aren’t very overtly religious in

    the Bible Belt or Mormon Country: very religious people tend to view 12-step askance,

    and mostly stay away.

    Then again, even in my less-religious area, there is a lot of magical thinking and

    supernatural faith expressed. For example, there seems to be a widely held belief in

    causation between “using”—even if, literally, you were to have a sip of your wife’s wine

    and stop at that—and some sort of “karmic” reaction that will, for a certainty, begin to

    unravel your life. The only prescription, such believers claim, is to return to the fold

    immediately and redouble one’s efforts. In that way, some members of the group seem

    to have rather cultish fears (more below—aren’t you excited?) It’s not unusual to hear

    things like, “I know if I were to have a beer tomorrow, by next week I’d be dead.”

    Also, there is plenty of talk about how god has done this or that, and seeming belief in

    direct response to prayer and so forth.

    But it’s possible to ignore that, and many people I know who are atheists or something

    very close still manage to hang around and get some benefit from the program.

    You raised the interesting question of efficacy. As you note, there are no real statistics

    available through AA/NA themselves. But that is strictly by design, and in fact I’m not

    sure what you are referring to when you suggest that “they” put out misleading statistics.

    Neither AA nor NA (and presumably other A’s) conduct any studies, keep any statistics

    or would be in a position to do so. They literally can’t, according to the deeply held

    tradition of anonymity.

    So I’m guessing “they” refers to rehabs or other facilities that use a 12-step model. I

    don’t know where the stat comes from, but I’ve read in many places that 15% is about the

    success level for most rehabs, and perhaps that has been extended to 12-step approaches.

    Also, I’ve heard many therapists say that while 12-step has a terrible success rate (15% or

    lower, let’s say), it still seems to be better than other approaches. No idea if that is true or

    where it comes from, particularly in light of the paragraph above: AA and NA do not, and

    cannot, publish any statistics about their “success” rate.

    And, no doubt, the rehabs have a “no true Scotsman” problem: if people leave, or go out,

    or relapse, then they “didn’t do the program right.” Sort of like the Christians who insist

    that deconverters weren’t “true” Christians in the first place. But in the groups I attend,

    there seems a more nuanced position, a recognition that one can “work a good program”

    and also “go out” or relapse.

    As for the idea that civil authorities force convicted defendants to attend AA/NA

    meetings—which I believe have been deemed religious by some rulings—many people in

    the groups themselves despise this practice, for a number of reasons.

    First, this is a chintzy, cheap dodge by the justice system, trying to get “rehab” worked

    into sentencing without spending any resources. It is, some believe, a symptom of a

    ludicrous drug war and underfunded treatment system that makes addicts criminals.

    I suppose the effort is well-intended, but it seems to me they are just trying to get

    something for free.

    Second, the people who get sent “on paper” to forcibly attend meetings usually don’t

    care to be there, which tends to make them less likely to either stick around or succeed.

    If there were statistics, having these “forced” members would probably make them look

    worse than for more committed people.

    And yes, I think it’s unconstitutional to require defendants to attend meetings at which

    religious ideas are expressed.

    Again, I don’t intend to mount a full-throated defense of 12-step. I have many concerns

    about it, including:

    The oft-expressed magical thinking, as described above.

    Dangerous “advice” from members regarding medical decisions (i.e. taking psychiatric

    medicine) that are none of their business. The literature specifically says that such topics

    are “outside issues” between a patient and doctor, but I’ve seen many an NA member—

    often fresh and flush in his/her new sobriety/recover—spew advice to “quit” drugs for

    ADHD, depression, even schizophrenia. In one case I know of, this literally resulted in

    the death of a schizophrenic addict who took such spurious advice.

    There also tends to be a “we are super special and we know the secret” attitude among

    many members. In fact, members form a tiny percentage of addicts, recovering addicts

    and obviously, of the population as a whole. In this way, it can feel often insular—some

    say cultish—when members chortle about how ignorant outsiders are to think they can

    overcome addiction through other means.

    Similarly, the group can be a little cultish when it essentially shuns members who leave.

    Leaving is wholly voluntary; unlike, say, Scientology, I don’t see much pressure to keep

    people around. Rather, if you leave—i.e. decide to start having a beer now and then, or

    just stop attending meetings even if you aren’t using—you can be pretty sure that your

    former friends in the group will fall away. There may well be whispers in your absence

    about how poorly you are doing, regardless of the truth. (I do understand why NA must

    draw a hard line on alcohol, since so many addicts have a problem with that drug, too.

    But interestingly, despite frequent claims in the literature that NA makes no distinction

    among drugs, the only drug mentioned at every, single meeting is alcohol, in the basic

    readings. One senses they protest too much.)

    But there are no charismatic leaders or leaders at all, really. Members come and go—

    the vast majority do not stay, in fact. There is no dunning for money, though a basket is

    passed around for a buck or two, completely voluntary (and I’d say only about half of

    people actually donate).

    But all that said, I think 12-step is widely misunderstood and widely misportrayed in

    the media (it’s fair to assume that any portrayal of meetings or sponsors on TV has been

    hopped up by some producer who understands that, in and of it self, 12 steps is not very

    interesting). I personally would never go back to AA, because of what I perceive as a

    more religious bent.

    And I understand people who feel NA isn’t their cup of tea. I have remained, from the

    start, adamantly opposed to “NA fundamentalism,” and have always been clear that it is

    far, far from the only way to recover from addiction.

    Still, I do actually credit NA with helping me move toward greater comfort with my

    atheism, which isn’t something you hear very often.

    If anyone reads this, thank you. At least I didn’t hog up a bunch of airtime, right?

  57. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile

    Sorry, free will is entirely incompatible with an omniscient, omnipotent creator.

    @Narf

    For any definition of free will that is useful, free will contradicts prophesy, all by itself. It is also incompatible with the omniscient/omnipotent god-concept, as would be obvious if you had had logic 101.

    No and no. Libertarian free will does not exist. I am a compatibilist. This is a useful definition of free will.

    The existence of this kind of free will is entirely compatible with an omniscient, omnipotent creator. In other words, (compatibilist) free will is compatible with a LaPlacian demon.

    The existence of (compatibilist) free will is entirely consistent with prophesy. What? Do you think weather predictions negate your free will? Or is it a violation of your free will that I can predict that you will die if you jump off a 10 story building without special preparation? Is it a violation of your free will that I can predict that you will willingly ingest food tomorrow? Give me a break.

    If you want to engage in a wordgame where you say the only acceptable definition of “free will” is libertarian, then do that. Don’t pretend this is mere “logic 101″ when you know there is a big controversy over the proper definitions and usages in this area. Furthermore, if we want to engage in that argument, I will argue that a compatibilist approach is workable, fits with most people’s intuitions, fits with most common usage, and all other approaches are incoherent when looked at in detail.

  58. Narf says

    No and no. Libertarian free will does not exist. I am a compatibilist. This is a useful definition of free will.

    I don’t consider it to be, because the theists who are always arguing for free will mean libertarian free will. They’ve already set the terms of the debate, so if you start arguing back with another version of free will, you’ll just talk past each other all discussion.

  59. Monocle Smile says

    @EL

    I’ve never argued for libertarian free will. I know full well it doesn’t exist.

    But compatibilist free will is only possible if there’s no omniscient, omnipotent creator of everything. Weather predictions don’t interfere with free will, but that’s only because the weather didn’t create us knowing in advance to an absolute degree what would happen.

    An omniscient, omnipotent CREATOR like the deity described by the Abrahamic traditions is not a Laplacian demon. It’s much more. Knowledge alone in the sense of said demon is of course insufficient to remove free will, because the demon can’t ACTUALLY predict the future states of all particles. It’s just not possible.

    However, we’re talking about the concept of a being that not only created all atoms, etc. in the universe, but has MORE KNOWLEDGE than the demon because it’s aware of all quantum states at every time quantum. This is of course impossible, but we’re not talking about a logically plausible concept. We’re talking about shit made up and ad hoc nonsense. And no amount of free will is compatible with said nonsense.

    Of course, most Christians don’t dive into this. They merely claim their god knows what we’re all going to do in the future to an absolute degree…which necessarily falls under the description above, not Laplace’s demon. There are multiple sects, like Calvinism, that even advocate determinism…which is a necessarily conclusion from the above description. And that’s why it’s not really necessary to dig into the hot topic of free will when dealing with theists. Of course, then you get the flavor of theist that argues that even knowing their god exists through a demonstration violates free will, which is nonsense in the other direction.

    Also, please don’t act like “prophecy” is even remotely related to things like weather predictions or your other examples that involve derived conclusions from actual knowledge. When Narf uses the term prophecy, he’s talking about something entirely different.

  60. Narf says

    … I will argue that a compatibilist approach is workable, fits with most people’s intuitions, fits with most common usage, and all other approaches are incoherent when looked at in detail.

    And I completely disagree with your second and third points.

    Most people who I’ve talked to don’t intuit compatiblist free will. I think you’re tainting your sample size by only discussing it with people who really sit down and think about stuff. Amongst us, sure, you’re going to have a majority who grasp the compatiblist view more intuitively. We’re not at all representative of the population at large.

    Similar to your second point, I don’t find the compatiblist view to fit common usage at all. When the man/woman on the street uses the term, they mean the libertarian version.

    And obviously, libertarian free will falls apart when you examine it closely. Do you really think that non-geeks examine it all that closely?

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile

    An omniscient, omnipotent CREATOR like the deity described by the Abrahamic traditions is not a Laplacian demon. It’s much more. Knowledge alone in the sense of said demon is of course insufficient to remove free will, because the demon can’t ACTUALLY predict the future states of all particles. It’s just not possible.

    The hell are you talking about? Why are you using the term “Laplace Demon” contrary to normal usage? A Laplace Demon is a creature who could predict without error the future state of all particles of the universe (or whatever correct terminology for physics, i.e. quantum field theory) through application of the rules of physics. Knowing all future states is the defining characteristic of the Laplace Demon.

    But compatibilist free will is only possible if there’s no omniscient, omnipotent creator of everything.

    Then you completely misunderstand compatibilist free will. The mere existence of a Laplace Demon – or an all-knowing Christian god (same thing) – is not incompatible with my compatibilist free will.

    PS:

    Also, please don’t act like “prophecy” is even remotely related to things like weather predictions or your other examples that involve derived conclusions from actual knowledge. When Narf uses the term prophecy, he’s talking about something entirely different.

    Talking about something different? Like what? What’s the difference? All I see are predictions of the future. I fail to see any difference relevant to our discussion of (compatibilist) free will. Doesn’t matter if it is a mundane prediction like I will predict that you will voluntarily consume food tomorrow, or the advanced technological predictions of weather prediction, or the “sufficiently advanced technology” predictions of some hitherto unknown but correct religious prophesy.

    I refuse to admit the usefulness of “supernatural” vs “natural”, as admitting that is falling prey to accepting the Christian’s conclusions via begging the question.

  62. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Narf
    Obviously for many people it’s basically given that free will is incompatible with determinism. However, I say this is just a cognitive dissonance. They hold to that particular position quite strongly, but in most other uses of “free will” and especially moral responsibility, they use a compatibilist approach to free will – even if they don’t realize it. Yes – they hold to contradictory opinions. However, in the part that matters, which is most everyday practical applications of “free will”, they use a framework which is compatibilist. IMHO.

    There’s this great piece by Richard Carrier where he goes into how current law dealing with legal responsibility and “free will” is compatibilist.

  63. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ack – sorry for the multiple postings. One more though.

    By definition, compatibilist free will is the free will which is compatible with determinism. That is, I can have free will even if all of my future choices are determined. Perhaps my actions tomorrow are determined. In that case, I cannot change the future. I am still making free choices, and I still have free will. The choices may be deterministic, but they’re still free.

    I’ll break it down even more: The universe might be deterministic, and there might be a machine which can model my brain in sufficient detail that it can predict to full accuracy what actions I will take. Not the whole universe, but good enough for sticking me in a room without outside stimulus. This is borderline plausible that we could construct such a machine. Even if we had the machine constructed, and even when someone was reading out 100% accurate predictions of my behavior, I would still have (compatibilist) free will.

  64. Monocle Smile says

    A Laplace Demon is a creature who could predict without error the future state of all particles of the universe (or whatever correct terminology for physics, i.e. quantum field theory) through application of the rules of physics. Knowing all future states is the defining characteristic of the Laplace Demon.

    According to Wiki, the Laplace demon is an argument for determinism based on classical mechanics. It doesn’t take quantum physics into account at all, unless it’s been modified. That’s the typical usage, as far as I’m aware. Maybe it’s been changed recently. One of the hallmarks of quantum physics is the idea that the universe is likely not deterministic in nature at the fundamental level…just at macro scales.

    The mere existence of a Laplace Demon – or an all-knowing Christian god (same thing) – is not incompatible with my compatibilist free will.

    Unless said entity CREATED the particles and the states such that they would experience the predicted future states and couldn’t be any other way (not a defining characteristic of a Laplace demon), in which case there’s no measure of free will…just the illusion. If that’s what you call compatibilist free will, then fine, but that’s not what I’m talking about. So we’re talking about two different things. I don’t see compatibilist free will as possibly being just the illusion, and maybe there’s another term for this.

    All I see are predictions of the future.

    When it comes to prophecy, the religious implication is that we are powerless to influence said prophecy. Again, it’s largely nonsense, but this nonsense conflicts with earlier nonsense I described.

  65. Monocle Smile says

    @EL

    Furthermore, the point we’re getting at is that arguments like steele’s don’t fundamentally understand the nature of free will philosophy. The actions of said deity couldn’t ever influence what you define as compatibilist free will in either direction.

  66. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile
    The Laplace Demon is the working definition of determinism, and the universe may not be deterministic. Agreed.

    If there was a creator who “CREATED the particles and the states such that they would experience the predicted future states and couldn’t be any other way”, a compatibilist would still say that we have free will. This is a non-complaint for the same reason that determinism is a non-complaint. Determinism seems to be a stronger condition as you understand the terms. So, when you know that I think I can have free will in a deterministic world, why do you think that this kind of creator poses any problems to my understanding of free will?

    Again, I can exercise free will by making free choices when my choices are determined – possibly by a creator god – and I cannot “change” the future. The future is going to be what happens. If it’s determined, or if a creature knows what it will be without error, I can still make free choices, and I still have free will. You’re simply making the fundamental error of libertarian free will proponents.

    When it comes to prophecy, the religious implication is that we are powerless to influence said prophecy. Again, it’s largely nonsense, but this nonsense conflicts with earlier nonsense I described.

    Just repeating myself, but: I might not be able to avoid eating food next week. It may be helpless to try and avoid that fate. My actions and my environment may be sufficiently determined that no other outcome is “possible”.

    I fail to see a meaningful difference relevant, between 1- some “religious prophesy” and 2- my prophesy that I will eat food next week.

  67. Narf says

    Let me go one step further. I don’t find compatiblist free will to be useful. To me, it smacks of the sort of thing that you get in the teleological argument, when they jump seamlessly from seems-to-be-designed to is-designed. It isn’t the same, but it feels like the sort of definition shopping that you get in creationist arguments.

    Compatiblist free will isn’t dishonest, like the teleological stuff is, since no one is saying that it’s anything but deterministic. Still, it seems like we’re gaining nothing and just adding confusion. Where’s the free in deterministic free will?

    Sorry man, but this is excluded from my statement about “any useful definition.”

  68. adamah says

    Holy Hades, peepol: you’ve just created a textbook example of anachronistic thinking, engaging in philosophical discussions from the past 200 years and overlaying it onto the ancient God concept, when the author of Genesis or Mark would have NO idea what you’re talking about!

    From a theological perspective it is irrelevant; there is simply God’s expressed Divine Will (where breaking God’s rules is the very definition of sinning) and there is mankind’s ‘free will’ (to be used in those situations where God didn’t issue a “Thou Shalt” or “Thou Shalt Not”, ie conscience matters, where a Xian uses their Bible-trained conscience in order to choose the right action).

    So to counter someone’s prior objection about the legalistic viewpoint: sorry, but that’s all there is in the Bible, OT and NT! It’s why Xians speak of their New Covenant (a crock, if there ever was one!), and it’s no accident that the people who wrote of multiple covenants also excel in contract law (ie the Jewish lawyer stereotype is not without a grain of truth). Old Testament scholar John Van Seters even wrote a work where the title described the Torah as serving as a book of laws to keep Hebrew culture alive during the Diaspora, a period when migration and syncretism with neighboring cultural practices seriously threatened Jewish cultural practices and “purity” (the myth of “pure worship”, as if such a thing ever existed).

    PS modern predictions are based on PROBABILITY, not CERTAINTY (as claimed for prophecies); that’s a point which apparently is lost on some….

    Adam

  69. Narf says

    Holy Hades, peepol: you’ve just created a textbook example of anachronistic thinking, engaging in philosophical discussions from the past 200 years and overlaying it onto the ancient God concept, when the author of Genesis or Mark would have NO idea what you’re talking about!

    Well, yeah. That’s all that religious apologetics is … post hoc justification of a position arrived at through irrational indoctrination.

    It’s still fun to bicker about, though. :D

  70. says

    So then it’s not free will that causes all of our problems? This response contradicts the original free will response to the PoE.

    There’s no avoiding it… “Free will” is, supposedly, what causes all the problems, yet it’s important to us and part of our very nature. But since everything is great in heaven, either “free will” is removed in heaven, or doesn’t necessarily cause bad things to happen. The common answer people give (I agree. I’ve heard it, also) is just going against the second part. According to this answer, It was not free will that caused all the problems. Because there is a way to have “free will” and not have all the bad stuff… So why was that not god’s plan #1? Why did he give us the kind of free will where we actually choose to do bad sometimes? He must have known he could have us with free will and also with everything being perfect. So why all the drama?

    Personally, I don’t see how that is free will, in any sense of the word, but whatever.

  71. adamah says

    Rrpostal, theologically-speaking there is no question that God’s will ALWAYS TRUMPS mankind’s exercise of free will.

    (Just yesterday, Joel (the caller from Iowa) repeated the thoughtless mantra: “God wants us to have free will”… Uh, nope, that’s just a silly thing to say, as it reveals the person has no idea of their own theological schtick.)

    Free will is NOT an issue of having the capacity to act in a certain manner (as if God created mankind with neurons to decide to act (as a ‘gift of free will’), but simply having the AUTHORITY delegated by God to do something; the way God gives mankind the gift of free will is by remaining mute, and not issuing a bunch of “Thou Shalt” and “Thou Shalt Not” commandments!

    The irony of the Garden of Eden account is that it’s not even a free will situation, due to God’s prior expressed prohibition against eating the forbidden fruit; hence Adam and Eve couldn’t claim it as an exercise of their free will, since it was the ONLY Divine law recorded to that point in the Genesis account.

    This explains why Genesis 9 broadly prohibits bloodshed, but Exodus is filled with examples of genocide committed against the people the Israelites supposedly were ordered by God to wipe out; they’d claim such genocidal campaigns were carried out in the name of God (who ordered it), and the bloodshed spilled on the field of conquest incurred absolutely no blood guilt (unlike when murdering a fellow Jew). It’s not a contradiction per se, but a modification (amplification?) of a prior prohibition, excused in the name of God.

    I’ve written extensively on the topic of free will, the paradox of Adam and Eve, blood guilt, etc, on my blog:

    http://www.awgueweebly.com

    Adam

  72. Narf says

    Rrpostal, theologically-speaking there is no question that God’s will ALWAYS TRUMPS mankind’s exercise of free will.

    Hell, just ask Pharaoh.

  73. says

    I think the discussions usually break down at the definition. The only version of “free will” that even seems relevant to me, is one where the decisions are 100% spontaneous and arbitrary.

    Because as soon as a “because” or “due to” comes into the equation, it becomes deterministic. Deciding to save a drowning child is determined by our empathy and compassion. “I decided to go against my better judgement and watch the child drown, because I decided to exercise my free will.“, is determined by your belief that you have free will, and you’ll do whatever it takes to demonstrate it.

    Whatever decision you make, it’s ultimately determined and influenced by other factors, your mindset, your mood, your desires (which are also determined), etc.

    I don’t know how anyone would demonstrate an uncaused spontaneous decision that wasn’t actually influenced/determined by something else.

  74. adamah says

    Yeah, Narf, “hardened his heart” is a ancient Hebrew euphemism perhaps equivalent to saying someone has rocks in their heads! Ancient men believed the center of cognition and thought was the human heart, and NOT the brain (as any modern kindergartner knows), and it wasn’t until a millennia later that the true anatomical role of the heart and brain became common knowledge amongst the uneducated class. Jesus perpetuated the anatomical ignorance, but modern Xian apologetists excuse it as a figure of speech, when it NOW is known to be wrong, and hence the back-peddling excusiology is done to avoid the obvious truth: Jesus was ignorant of human anatomy (not exactly evidence of being the “Intelligent Designer” of human DNA; he also was ignorant of the role of microorganisms in causing disease, pooh-poohing hand- and dish-washing).

    So when YHWH hardened Pharaoh’s heart (as an excuse to put on a series of displays of His miracles), that control and manipulation raises issues of what would later be described as interfering with Pharoah’s free choice, since the unnamed ruler was considered the personification of a deity in Egyptian beliefs, and why should he obey the order (“let my people go!”) of this unknown newfangled God of the Jews. Again, YHWH’s will TRUMPS the will of all others, and the Pharaoh is shown to be a lesser deity (just as Ba’al was later shown to be a less-powerful deity compared to YHWH; interesting that Hebraic beliefs weren’t truly monotheistic, but polytheistic: they believed in other Gods, but YHWH is two deity with the mostest).

    Obviously it’s classic mythology filled with braggadocio and making fun of the religious beliefs of the Egyptians (a point often forgotten is the element of the Jews carrying off the riches of their prior owners, as if there’s any practical value in carrying gold in the desert for 40 years, with nothing to spend it on….).

    Heck, maybe Jews have more common sense than to take it literally, but a recent Pew Center poll found that most Jews see it as an ancient story, only, and NOT as a historical event. In fact, a much higher %age of Xians believed it to be literal history.

    even most Even but some people

  75. corwyn says

    I agree (for the most part), and why would you want to make an uncaused spontaneous decision? Easy enough to run your life based on random events if that is what you want, just buy lots of dice.

  76. adamah says

    There are many definitions of free will to be found, but when discussing the topic in relation to religion (non-philosophical) its assumed that the force in question is God, where humans are seeking His approval, EVEN IF God didn’t give explicit guidance (eg Thou Shalt Not Steal).

    The ‘free’ part of the ‘free will’ phrase implies the decision is made free of coercion from external sources (ie God), whether to avoid the threat of punishment or gain the possibility of reward. In that light, most believers have NO free will, since even if they’re weighing an action for which the Bible gives no clear direction (eg should a Xian couple use in-vitro fertilization to conceive?), if they’re deciding a course of action based on picking the one that they think should make God most happy, they actually aren’t using free will: they’re seeking the approval of the deity, who still is biasing their decision (even in a ‘conscience’ matter).

    Hence many believers limit their free will, all in the name of believing in an imaginary deity…

  77. corwyn says

    but when discussing the topic in relation to religion (non-philosophical) its assumed that the force in question is God,

    Assumed by whom? Not me, or anyone I have ever had the discussion with.

    Hence many believers limit their free will,…

    For example, I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about limiting your own free will.

  78. adamah says

    Corwyn asked:

    Assumed by whom? Not me, or anyone I have ever had the discussion with.

    This board is called “the Atheist Experience” and the context is nonbelief while being immersed within a Judeo-Xian culture who believes in Bible God. Take it down a pseudo-philosophical rathole and needlessly complicate matters, but realize it IS throwing out flak, and ironically is a favorite defense strategy of Xians, who suddenly spout concepts of modern physics (wormholes, quantum mechanics, relativity, etc) and act as if these modern concepts have something to do with their moldy Bible God, as if trying to update their deity to maintain a sense of relevancy.

    We see believers shamelessly doing it, eg trying to claim the Bible writers didn’t conceive of a flat, round Earth (vs the oblate spheroid shape which better approximates the Earth).

    Corwyn said:

    For example, I don’t think it makes any sense to talk about limiting your own free will.

    You DO understand I’m writing from the perspective of an atheist?

    If I truly believe I can communicate with Peter Pan, and truly believe he has some influence over my decisions (you do NOT want to end up on Mr Pan’s shite list!), it doesn’t make him any less imaginary, right?

    Anyone who acts out of fear of punishment (Hell) or desire for eternal rewards is voluntarily limiting their own free will…

  79. Narf says

    I, likewise, only ever really have the issue come up in religious discussions with believers.

  80. corwyn says

    This is one of the reasons that discussing free will is so hard, even the definition is too varied. I am using the definition I got in my college philosophy course on free will, which 1) is independent of whether the discussion concerns a deity or not, 2) Is not concerned with external rewards or punishments.

    I can have free will and still be subject to rewards and punishments, whether divine or secular. In fact, given that we have always had secular rewards and punishments, the question of free will (as seemingly defined by you) should never even come up. It is clear we don’t have it. By my definitions, absence of punishments is ‘freeDOM’ not ‘free will’.

    The major discussion I have with religious people on free will, concerns whether a creator deity had both perfect fore-knowledge and unlimited choice when the universe was created. Those conditions violate (our) free will, not some exhortation not to sin. If the latter violated free will, no one *could* sin. You may observe that this same argument can be made in the pre-quantum mechanics perfectly determinable model of physics.

    ***

    I also disagree with the folks on the non-prophets recent podcast. The reason I care about free will is not to feel justified in punishing people for doing wrong. That works even in a deterministic world (either from a deterrence, or a conditioning perspective). By the way, note the inherent contradiction in that: One feels badly about being deterministically forced to punish someone who was deterministically forced to do something that one was deterministically forced to think is bad. [as far as I can tell, no one is able to talk as if they were actually living in a deterministic world]

    No, the reason I want free will is to have personal choices; to be able to decide for myself whether I have free will or not. To be able to create something new, an invention or artwork, and to be proud of that accomplishment.

  81. adamah says

    New comment on The Atheist

    corwyn said:

    This is one of the reasons that discussing free will is so hard, even the definition is too varied. I am using the definition I got in my college philosophy course on free will….

    Well, that’s the problem: many college philosophy courses don’t feel compelled to consider the theological usage, instead looking at concepts that emerged from the Age of Enlightenment. Worse, many aren’t aware of what they don’t know; end result is they end up anachronistically overlaying modern concepts into a theological discussion of a Hebrew deity of the Ancient Near East from 2,500 years before the Age of Enlightenment.

    Believers also engage in the same kind of anachronistic nonsense all the time (eg Newton couldn’t avoid conceiving of a perfectly-deterministic Universe, set in motion by a deterministic God, centuries before Heisenberg showed the fundamental role which uncertainty plays in nature; Newton wanted to apply his current findings to God in order to harmonize with his latest scientific findings).

    Point is, free will discussions quickly devolve into a mish-mash of talking past each other: the philosophical and theological use of the term ‘free will’ differs, and few are aware of the difference. But when in Rome….

    Fact is, the theological concept of free will is rather simple (although Xian apologetists (like WLC) try to muddy the waters by dragging anachronistic philosophical concepts into such discussions in an attempt to similarly update God).

    In the theological realm, ‘free will’ is about AUTHORITY, not possessing the capability to act (which is the topic of determinism), i.e. does God allow it?

    Corwyn said:

    I can have free will and still be subject to rewards and punishments, whether divine or secular. In fact, given that we have always had secular rewards and punishments, the question of free will (as seemingly defined by you) should never even come up. It is clear we don’t have it.

    For one, it’s not “my definition”, but the proper and accepted usage. I’m only trying to explain it to you, since you’re seemingly unaware of the different usage of terms in philosophical vs theological discussions (and are thus incorrect in what follows):

    By my definitions, absence of punishments is ‘freeDOM’ not ‘free will’.

    You have it turned around….

    An important distinction is made in theological discussions between the phrases, ‘free will’ and ‘freedom of choice’, such that theologians will say God doesn’t give His permission to humans to violate His Divine Will (ie God doesn’t give humans permission to sin). Rather, God allows humans to have the ‘freedom of choice’ to engage in sin.

    Note the difference: ‘freedom of choice’ does NOT imply freedom from facing consequences for one’s decisions (eg the threat of eternal punishment in Hell remains on the table if one chooses to sin), whereas ‘free will’ by definition conveys no such attempts were made by God to bias the decision either way.

    In the theological realm, the decision to eat chocolate vs vanilla ice cream is an example of a ‘free will’ decision (since the Bible offers no guidance either way), whereas the decision to commit adultery is NOT one that can be made using ‘free will’, since adultery is a sin per the Bible and is prohibited and punished by death in the OT.

    So a theologian would say God gives humans the ‘freedom of choice’ to commit adultery, but God reserves His Divine right to punish humans for their sins.

    Corwyn said:

    The major discussion I have with religious people on free will, concerns whether a creator deity had both perfect fore-knowledge and unlimited choice when the universe was created. Those conditions violate (our) free will, not some exhortation not to sin. If the latter violated free will, no one *could* sin.

    That’s the related discussion of determinism, based on God’s claimed trait of prescience (knowing the future, a requisite skill needed to prophecy future events and to give humans ‘insider’ information).

    You can’t make it past the first 10 chapters of Genesis before God repeatedly blows His trait of possessing Divine prescience, best example being how God regretted making mankind (AND the animals AND the plants: all creations He declared as “very good” only a few chapters earlier). Filled with regret (an emotion which doesn’t apply to prescients), God decides to wipe out all creation in a Flood.

    Then, God regretted carrying out the Flood, too (!), so supposedly made a rainbow as His promise never to wipe out all life again. Double flip-flop, and a ‘tell’ about the origins of the account.

    God, lack Divine prescient much? Didn’t see it coming?

    Worse, God apparently not only lacked Divine prescience and didn’t foresee men killing other men (i.e. the need for any preemptive prohibitions against bloodshed, and Cain’s killing of Abel didn’t jog God’s memory, as if there was SOMETHING God had forgotten to tell humans about murder!

    (As discussed in my article on the Flood of Noah, God solved the problem of ‘the evil inclination in the hearts of men’ AFTER the Flood, handing down a law which prohibited bloodshed and delegated Divine authority to Noah to enforce the new command which is given in Genesis 9))

    So much for Divine foresight (and even Divine hindsight seems to be sorely lacking in the Flood account).

    Of course, such continuity errors are easily explained by knowing that it’s a Hebraic adaptation of the much-older account of Atrahasis (ripped off from the Babylonians): the Gods in the older account lacked prescience. and thus were depicted as experiencing what modern psychologists call “surprise emotions” (based on individuals not knowing what will happen in the future). The Gods in the Atrahasis account weren’t prescient, and it spilled over into the Yahwist’s story of Noah in Genesis when God shows regret, or lacks foresight…. The Yahwist didn’t conceive of YHWH as prescient, since the concept emerged at a much later time, appearing in later Hebrew writings (Isaiah, etc).

    Xian apologetists typically say that God is merely acting dumb in Genesis, as if patronizing humans by acting surprised…. (Yeah, right…)

    On the determinism issue, I suppose it’s possible that free will is only an illusion, but all if it’s illusory, it’s a pretty convincing simulation: free will feels very real to me (and that’s all that matters).

  82. corwyn says

    Well since you have the DEFINITIVE definition, I will let you go off and play with it yourself…

  83. steele says

    Adam,

    This is directed to you primarily but to some of the others as well. Despite Monocle thinking I barely have my drivers license, believing the braggadocio of the Bible that would make a child blush, and having the intellectual acumen of mentally challenged 4th grader…lol blah, blah, blah. I appreciate that my comment did spur a discussion on free will that was somewhat interesting

    As I have said before Adam I appreciate you “TRY” to understand the Bible and where a believer is coming from but most of what you list is a rehash of what 19th century liberal theologians and scholars have said, plus throw in a bit of Bart Ehrman to discredit the New Testament and there you go.

    You state here

    Nard, actually the ‘bigger, better, stronger’ modification of YHWH’s traits didn’t begin in the New Testament, but much earlier, as found in the later writings of the Tanakh (esp the writings of the prophets, eg Isaiah), so during the Exilic period (circa 6th century BCE and later).

    The CL aims for YHWH’s traits became more bad-ass as historical events and evidence pointed towards YHWH’s nonexistence in order to come up with numerous excuses for why God had foresaken his ‘Chosen People’. There’s evidence of syncretism, too, with YHWH’s traits blending with those of Ahuru Mazda (the deity of Zoroaster, the religion of the Persian Empire).”

    Have you ever heard of progressive revelation, I mean I’m sure you have but you just ignore it.

    http://www.eldrbarry.net/clas/gb/b12progres.pdf

    You seem like the Israelites Paul describes here

    2nd Corinthians 3:12-18

    12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one[c] turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

    Adam open your eyes, heart, and mind to the Truth of the Gospel; turn to the Lord and remove the veil.

    On the free will debate you and I actually agree with you where you say, this may be a first and only Adam so we should seal it with a hug……no? Ok, lol.

    On the determinism issue, I suppose it’s possible that free will is only an illusion, but all if it’s illusory, it’s a pretty convincing simulation: free will feels very real to me (and that’s all that matters).

    I agree completely, I don’t understand how free will gets resolved in the mind of God but I know it does…is that an oxymoron?

    If you don’t believe in free will why not embrace Nietzsche, nihilism, and despair if all we are doing is deterministically obeying the laws of physics; life is an illusion at best or an absurd joke as we are not free moral agents and just robots. Nothing we do then has any significance without free will and this is a debate even an atheist has to agree means something unless of course you don’t have free will to believe even that.

    Here are a couple quotes from Alexis de Tocqueville on free will that I like

    “Thus historians who live in democratic time do not only refuse to admit that some citizens may influence the destiny of a people, but also take away from the peoples themselves the faculty of modifying their own lot and make them depend either on an inflexible providence or on a kind of blind fatality.”

    “These are false and cowardly doctrines which can only produce feeble men and pusillanimous nations. Providence did not make mankind entirely free or completely enslaved. Providence has, in truth drawn a predestined circle around each man beyond which he cannot pass; but within those limits man is strong and free and so are peoples.”

    More of you liberal socialist atheists should read Tocqueville instead of wanting to give all your freedoms to some beneficent, glorious autocratic state. Hell listen to one of your own:

    http://www.youtube.com/user/stefbot

    I don’t agree with his views on religion, no surprise, but he does get it right on government some of the time….you have to be an ultra conservative like me to get it right all of the time, lol JK.

    Lastly Adam you speak of syncretism with regards to God, well I guess you would know as you take from Christian morality what you want and discard what you don’t like because as an atheist you have no objective reason to be moral so you need to take your moral framework from somewhere.

    Take Care

  84. Monocle Smile says

    Steele, this just gets increasingly shameful.

    Have you ever heard of progressive revelation, I mean I’m sure you have but you just ignore it.

    Oh, you mean ad hoc nonsense used to resolve glaring holes in “revealed truth?” Of course I’ve heard about it. Compiling a database of all the shit the church has had to fabricate out of whole cloth to patch up their mythology as the centuries ticked by would be a monumental project.

    I don’t understand how free will gets resolved in the mind of God but I know it does…is that an oxymoron?

    Not so much an oxymoron as balderdash, and you can’t honestly say you “know” this because KNOW implies DEMONSTRATION.

    If you don’t believe in free will why not embrace Nietzsche, nihilism, and despair if all we are doing is deterministically obeying the laws of physics;

    As expected, you ignored and/or didn’t understand the discussion of Laplace’s demon and came to a woefully misguided conclusion.

    More of you liberal socialist atheists should read Tocqueville instead of wanting to give all your freedoms to some beneficent, glorious autocratic state.

    Did knocking down that hilarious straw man make you feel like a big boy?

    I don’t agree with his views on religion, no surprise, but he does get it right on government some of the time….you have to be an ultra conservative like me to get it right all of the time, lol JK.

    So people are right when they agree with the borderline conspiracy nonsense you unsurprisingly buy into, and they’re wrong when they disagree with you. What a shock.

    Also, just because someone’s an atheist doesn’t mean they’re “one of our own.” That’s silly. Atheism is a single position on a single issue. It’s not a culture or religion or way of life. You of course are fully aware of this and are merely attempting to rustle our jimmies because you’re an attention whore.

    you take from Christian morality what you want and discard what you don’t like because as an atheist you have no objective reason to be moral so you need to take your moral framework from somewhere.

    I would address this, but at this point it’s just straight-up trolling. This discussion has been had on this forum ad nauseum and YOU HAVE BEEN A PARTICIPANT, so if the message hasn’t gotten through your thick skull by now, it never will.

  85. adamah says

    Steele said-

    As I have said before Adam I appreciate you “TRY” to understand the Bible and where a believer is coming from but most of what you list is a rehash of what 19th century liberal theologians and scholars have said, plus throw in a bit of Bart Ehrman to discredit the New Testament and there you go.

    And why would that matter, since the ONLY thing that should matter is whether an idea is more-likely to be true, i.e. you’re not trying to play the ‘genetic fallacy’ card, are you?

    Steele said-

    Have you ever heard of progressive revelation, I mean I’m sure you have but you just ignore it.

    So how does a mortal differentiate between ‘progressive revelation’ and the more-human trait of simply ‘moving the goalposts’, i.e. accepting a point as truth well past the point when continued denial of it is impossible without looking like a fool?

    In fact, ironically you provided PERFECT example of such ‘updating’ occurring via “lying scribes”, when you quoted 2nd Cor. Note how the passage includes the phrase, ‘hardened minds’, correcting the old anatomically-incorrect Hebrew phrase of ‘hardened hearts’ (many Greeks knew the basics of human anatomy, at least, they were better-educated than the mostly-uneducated Jews in Palestine).

    The same process of updating the translation to make the Bible read as a modern document (ie giving it a facelift) continues to this day, thus harmonizing it with modern scientific facts.

    Steele said-

    On the free will debate you and I actually agree with you where you say, this may be a first and only Adam so we should seal it with a hug……no? Ok, lol.

    There are denominational differences in free will, but yeah, I’m speaking pretty broadly, and thanks for confirming it.

    Steele said-

    If you don’t believe in free will why not embrace Nietzsche, nihilism, and despair if all we are doing is deterministically obeying the laws of physics; life is an illusion at best or an absurd joke as we are not free moral agents and just robots. Nothing we do then has any significance without free will and this is a debate even an atheist has to agree means something unless of course you don’t have free will to believe even that.

    AND:

    Lastly Adam you speak of syncretism with regards to God, well I guess you would know as you take from Christian morality what you want and discard what you don’t like because as an atheist you have no objective reason to be moral so you need to take your moral framework from somewhere.

    I approach ALL philosophies with the same skeptical viewpoint: I don’t care WHERE ideas come from, but rather examine all for supportive evidence that may indicate a greater likelihood of being true. I don’t commit the genetic fallacy, and could care less where an idea comes from, only if it’s likely to be true.

    If there were evidence to support belief in Gods, I’d be a theist, and would be spreading the word of God. There isn’t, so I don’t.

    Adam

  86. Narf says

    Oh I also agree with Narf, it is fun to bicker ;)

    Yeah, but it’s only fun to bicker with someone who can construct a coherent argument and doesn’t continue throwing Bible verses at us long after we explain that it just makes him look like an asshole … as you’re still doing, I see, judging from the other comment you added.

  87. Narf says

    Adam open your eyes, heart, and mind to the Truth of the Gospel; turn to the Lord and remove the veil.

    I’ve read all four Gospels, several times, both in series and in tandem. There’s no truth there … or at least what truth might be there is incidental, and at this point it’s impossible to pry the whole mess apart and figure out which bits might be at least some vague representation of history.

    They aren’t even internally consistent, either in detail or message, and they contradict Acts and Paul’s letters even worse. When are you going to open your eyes to that fact? We’ve been there and have broken free. You’re still a sheep.

  88. steele says

    Adam,

    I have to admit you seem to make alot of sense which is scary.

    you say:

    I approach ALL philosophies with the same skeptical viewpoint: I don’t care WHERE ideas come from, but rather examine all for supportive evidence that may indicate a greater likelihood of being true. I don’t commit the genetic fallacy, and could care less where an idea comes from, only if it’s likely to be true.

    If there were evidence to support belief in Gods, I’d be a theist, and would be spreading the word of God. There isn’t, so I don’t.

    Actually this is probably the most honest answer I have heard and actually what I subscribe to. If I found theism to be false I would drop it and move along, so far that hasn’t happened but who knows. I realize you and I have different criteria for judging the truthfulness of claims, obviously or we both would agree with each other.

    Well no bible verses as I go Adam but I hope that in your studies something will convince you to change your mind but if not I understand and I wish you the best anyways.

    Goodbye

  89. Monocle Smile says

    Actually this is probably the most honest answer I have heard and actually what I subscribe to.

    Oh, fuck you, steele. Everyone who’s replied to you in the past several months has been trying to tell you exactly what Adam laid out there. You really don’t read our posts, do you?

    If I found theism to be false I would drop it and move along, so far that hasn’t happened but who knows.

    We already all knew that you hold to the ass-backwards version of skepticism, so no shocker there. You assume theism to be backed by reality and believe until it’s proven false. That’s stupid and careless.

  90. says

    Did god know he would later on end up murdering others himself, or do you have another answer in your book of excuses? I would have thought by now Steele you could come up with at least one good reason why I should believe in your god and yet all you can do is demonstrate what a hypocrite your god really is again. So if you what to trust a megalomaniac who is more concern about others fearing him as opposed to admiring him then go ahead and trust this god, because I wouldn’t trust your god even IF he did exist.

    And what about your bible assuming our guilt including yours. Go ahead and show me were it actually proves everyone’s guilt instead of just assuming it. Because on this planet and in this country a person is innocent until proven guilty. We’re not innocent until assumed guilty are we.

  91. says

    Coercion is nearly always considered an infringement on free will/free choice/free action. I don’t think there can be free will where someone has a gun to their head–or threats of hell. If a person believes those threats, then their subsequent actions as a result would almost certainly be considered “coerced” or “forced.”

  92. corwyn says

    Sure, if you amalgamate those three things (free will, free choice, and free action) into a single thing. I think the distinctions are interesting though.

  93. says

    You’re just willfully ignorant Steele if you think that your god gives anyone free will. It’s not our fault if your god can intimidate you to the point that your too afraid to question some book about your god and his authority. If you would actually read the bible in an objective manner as opposed to just having someone translating to you, you just might understand why there are atheists and why we don’t believe in superstition. But then again if you don’t consider yourself to be a SLAVE then why is there someone in your life who you call LORD and MASTER?

  94. Matthias says

    Just a small thing, but in Europe are almost no state religions except England, Denmark, Norway and Greece.

  95. Elisabeth says

    Depends entirely on how you define state religion. I’d say since, for example, the French and also the German government collects taxes for the bigger (i.e. roman-catholic + lutheran protestant) christian churches, and also supports these organizations financially (through tax money they collected for other “reasons”), exempts them explicictly from abiding by cartain laws (like the law against religious discrimination, which plays into how church-run organizations may refuse to employ people based on their religion, which would be illegal for any other employer) and so on would certainly point towards these states having a state religion, even if they don’t call it that. we even have mandatory religion education (mainly in christian teachings) starting in primary schools in some european states, but not always feasible alternatives for atheists (like “ethics” instead of “religion”), too. So, even though “we” europeans may benefit from our generally more sceptic backgrounds/environments, we still suffer from state-church relations that de facto support certain churches and/or religious beliefs. It is easy to “come out” as an atheist where I live, since most people identify at least as “i don’t care” if not even as astheist – it is not so easy to withhold any form of support for religious groups, though, since you kind of have to just by paying regular taxes. this is frustrating to me, but i do realize it is a first world problem compared to the point where other atheists have to start from (O.O)

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