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Who needs reason & evidence when you’ve got hurt feelings?

Francis Spufford has written a book called Unapologetic: Why, Despite Everything, Christianity Still Makes Surprising Emotional Sense. I don’t think I’ll be reading it, if this excerpt is at all representative, because what it represents is all that I despise about Christianity and Christians. Number one: their persecution complex. That aura of sanctity they all get by piously reciting all the horrible things done to them because of their deep, profound, all-important faith. So Spufford babbles, at excruciating length, about all the misconceptions atheists have about Christians.

It means that we’re dogmatic. That we’re self-righteous. That we fetishize pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they die. That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market. That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures, full of meaningless distinctions, on the marshmallow foundations of a fantasy. That we uphold the nuclear family, with all its micro-tyrannies and imprisoning stereotypes. That we’re the hairshirted enemies of the ordinary family pleasures of parenthood, shopping, sex and car ownership. That we’re savagely judgmental. That we’d free murderers to kill again. That we think everyone who disagrees with us is going to roast for all eternity. That we’re as bad as Muslims. That we’re worse than Muslims, because Muslims are primitives who can’t be expected to know any better. That we’re better than Muslims, but only because we’ve lost the courage of our convictions. That we’re infantile and can’t do without an illusory daddy in the sky. That we destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick mythology in your minds. That we oppose freedom, human rights, gay rights, individual moral autonomy, a woman’s right to choose, stem cell research, the use of condoms in fighting AIDS, the teaching of evolutionary biology. Modernity. Progress. That we think everyone should be cowering before authority. That we sanctify the idea of hierarchy. That we get all snooty and yuck-no-thanks about transsexuals, but think it’s perfectly normal for middle-aged men to wear purple dresses. That we cover up child abuse, because we care more about power than justice. That we’re the villains in history, on the wrong side of every struggle for human liberty. That if we sometimes seem to have been on the right side of one of said struggles, we weren’t really; or the struggle wasn’t about what it appeared to be about; or we didn’t really do the right thing for the reasons we said we did. That we’ve provided pious cover stories for racism, imperialism, wars of conquest, slavery, exploitation. That we’ve manufactured imaginary causes for real people to kill each other. That we’re stuck in the past. That we destroy tribal cultures. That we think the world’s going to end. That we want to help the world to end. That we teach people to hate their own natural selves. That we want people to be afraid. That we want people to be ashamed. That we have an imaginary friend; that we believe in a sky pixie; that we prostrate ourselves before a god who has the reality status of Santa Claus. That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, law to mercy, primary colors to shades, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life.

Jesus fucking Christ, man, get down off that giant cross you’ve erected! You’re going to hurt yourself!

And that’s only a small piece of the long tirade. He has more than a few misconceptions about atheists, himself. He goes off about how Christians are supposed to be embarrassed because they’re not Harry Potter or Star Wars, how atheism is all about hedonism rather than the richly human complexity of Deep Theology, and how he’s so bitter about suggestions that we enjoy our lives, and “Imagine”, and pop culture, and how much he thinks Mozart is wonderful, and there’s not one word that explains why religion adds anything to our lives.

Fuck it, never mind, Spufford, go ahead and climb back up on that rickety cross with your mouthful of nails — it’ll shut you up and keep you happy for a while.

Especially when this is the one strong assertion you make in the midst of all your whiny caterwauling about how awfully terrible it is that some of us look at your tearful tantrum with contempt.

I think that the reason reality is that way, is in some ultimate sense merciful as well as being a set of physical processes all running along on their own without hope of appeal, all the way up from quantum mechanics to the relative velocity of galaxies by way of “blundering, low and horridly cruel” biology (Darwin), is that the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love. I think that love keeps it in being. I think that Dante’s cosmology was crap, but that he was right to say that it’s “love that moves the sun and all the other stars.”

And you’re unapologetic about dishing up that load of bullshit? Shameless, more like.

In case you were wondering, gravity and momentum keep the stars and planets moving, and not one bit of love or absence thereof will nudge stone or plasma a nanometer.

Comments

  1. Matt G says

    I could only get through the first few sentences, so I applaud your iron stomach. Fortunately most of the commenters hand him his ass.

  2. A. Noyd says

    Wait, how are those misconceptions? Of course, all Christians don’t do or embody all the things on that list, but good luck finding even a single Christian who doesn’t live up to at least a few of them.

  3. says

    is that the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love. I think that love keeps it in being.

    So…your god loveloveloves the universe and just hates us, is that it? Or do you think praying to the universe of love will help things out? I have news for you, dude. Whispering sweet nothings to the universe doesn’t work either.

  4. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    So they don’t think everybody else is going to burn in Hell? They aren’t really the most sadistically twisted religion that can be imagined? What exactly can they show is gonna happen istead, and how do they explain all the folks who believe in Hell without evidene or rquirement or whatever this guy thinks is not happening?

    To be clear—if Hell isn’t something that folks are required to believe in as part of Christianity, the folks who believe in it just for funsies are even more twisted.

  5. opposablethumbs says

    No true Scotsman, then, with a generous side-dish of I’m-so-clever-and-yet-somehow-humble-with-it.

    A. Noyd has it. There are indeed some lovely, compassionate christians who don’t personally hate gay people or women at all … but how does that excuse or redeem the appalling record of the christian churches? And how does that make a mythological supernatural being real? No amount of kind-hearted and ethically minded individuals can make christianity itself any more factually true than it is – i.e. not at all.

    And the vast majority do live up to far too many of the items on that list.

  6. ck says

    That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market.

    Wait… What country is this guy from that he hears people actually say that?

  7. raven says

    So Spufford babbles, at excruciating length, about all the misconceptions atheists have about Christians.

    Already, right there, you know he is a babbling idiot.

    Most atheists are ex-xians!!! We know.

    Where does he think atheists come from? Found under cabbage leaves, brought by the stork?

    The fundies created the New Atheists. And keep creating atheists every day just by being their ugly, lying, incoherent selves. Including Spufford who is clearly just making stuff up and mostly just repeating stuff someone else made up.

  8. raven says

    I do have to give Spufford some credit. This is comedy gold. He should be on SNL.

    It means that we’re dogmatic. True.

    That we’re self-righteous. True.

    That we fetishize pain and suffering. True.

    That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. False. The fundies are vicious haters.

    That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they die. True. Unless they go to hell and are tortured forever for belonging to the wrong cult.

    That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market. False. The fundies are vicious.

    That we’re too stupid to understand the irrationality of our creeds. True

    That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures, False. Xianity is simple minded and incoherent.

  9. raven says

    That we prefer scripture to novels, preaching to storytelling, certainty to doubt, faith to reason, law to mercy, primary colors to shades, censorship to debate, silence to eloquence, death to life.

    And like dogs and hate cats and cephalopods. Or the other way around.

  10. says

    “I don’t think I’ll be reading it, if this excerpt is at all representative, because what it represents is all that I despise about Christianity and Christians.” PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

  11. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    FH@10

    I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    And this attitude of yours applies here how? I don’t get it, as there is no bonfire going.

  12. raven says

    PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    Poor Fiona!!!

    She isn’t very good at struggling and needs some help? It’s all very xian.

    How about the reality and science denying and hating fundie death cult xians?

    They hate science in general but especially astronomy because of the Big Bang and Heliocentrism. And of course, biology because of Darwin and evolution. And climatology becuase of global warming.

    They know nothing of any of it and refuse to learn. They keep trying to prevent science from being taught in public schools and don’t teach it in their own schools. They occasionally send us death threats.

    PS Plus Harry Potter. Who was it who was burning Harry Potter books with the belief that they described real people doing real magic? Tarot cards, Yoga, Dungeons and Dragons, college degrees, you name it, the fundies hate it.

  13. mond says

    I just love the “Despite Everything” part of the title of the book.
    It just tells you everything you need to know.
    I believe it because I believe it because I believe it.

  14. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    So he’s upset at the suggestions that Christians are any of better than, worse than, or as bad as Muslims? Does he consider the existence of Muslims to be a fantasy, such that he can’t be compared to them because they don’t exist?

    That only makes sense in Deacon Duncan’s terms that there is no such thing as Christianity, because no two Christians mean the same thing by it. And that’s not going to fit with a book whose subtitle refers to “Christianity” as a thing.

  15. joeschoeler says

    Fiona Hanley, @10 wrote:

    PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    Why should anyone spend the time or money on this when it’s been shown to be worthless?

  16. says

    Fiona Hanley @ 10, please quote people properly. Use <blockquote>Place Text Here</blockquote> Thank you.

    PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    If you can’t think of examples of people being more narrow-minded than being critical of a book they probably won’t read, you certainly don’t get out much. You don’t even seem to get around on the ‘net much, in this case. I easily had more than 10 examples spring to mind.

    As you wish to criticize PZ, you might try and come up with something a wee bit more substantial.

  17. xESOTERlC . says

    Can’t help but notice a bit of hypocrisy and the similarities to feminism.
    As for the book, I’m surprised at what makes it to publication. Of course, regardless of quality of content, all things christian will find funding among the delusional and indoctrinated.

  18. kosk11348 says

    “I think that love keeps it [reality] in being.”

    No, he feels it. Thinking doesn’t come into it. Didn’t he read his own article?

  19. Nick Gotts says

    Can’t help but notice a bit of hypocrisy and the similarities to feminism. – xESOTERIC@19

    Can’t help noticing the lack of evidence for the claim made, or the obvious evidence for a misogynistic obsession.

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Caine@18,

    “Book-burning” has very definite connotations of censorship, totalitarianism, etc., which I am sure Fiona Hanley is well aware of – so when she talks about PZ burning the book she implies intolerance and hate on his part. It’s dishonest.

  21. says

    Nick @ 23:

    “Book-burning” has very definite connotations of censorship, totalitarianism, etc., which I am sure Fiona Hanley is well aware of – so when she talks about PZ burning the book she implies intolerance and hate on his part. It’s dishonest.

    Perhaps. Hard to say without clarification. In this case, I’ll give a newb the benefit of the doubt.

  22. says

    Nick Gotts @ 23

    You’re right Nick, I’m aware of the connotations and it was a deliberate use of words. Book-burning was always a metaphorical act whether in the medieval town square (it predates totalitarianism) or the internet and I do think it’s a despicable thing for anyone to do to a book they haven’t read. PZ has already said in the second sentence of this post, that one I quoted, that he despises Christians. So I’m not implying intolerance and hatred on his part, I’m pointing it out explicitly. Unless he wants to clarify. You may feel that PZ is correct to despise and be intolerant of Christians for all sorts of reasons, but that’s another argument.

  23. Cuttlefish says

    How much should one read before throwing the book aside?

    He claimed it was a goblet of the sweetest, purest wine
    But the first sip tastes like vinegar to me.
    He said, “but near the bottom there’s a sip that’s just divine—
    You may have to drink a lot of it to see.”
    He calls me narrow-minded cos I haven’t tried the rest
    Says my condemnation takes a lot of gall
    And he’s sure that there’s a sip in there that truly is the best
    Which I can’t deny until I’ve tried it all.
    It’s true, I haven’t tried it all, but gladly I’ll forego,
    Since the first sip only made me want to spit
    It might not all be vinegar—I guess I’ll never know—
    But the man himself is surely full of shit.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2012/01/27/on-adequate-sampling/

  24. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I take the “book burning” reference to mean Freeze Peach applies, meaning what OP criticized should not be criticized. Whereas I believe in Free Speech. Anybody can and will criticize your ideas, ideology, or religious writings.

  25. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You may feel that PZ is correct to despise and be intolerant of Christians for all sorts of reasons, but that’s another argument.

    Try reading PZ’s The Happy Atheist. Or shut the fuck up as a hypocrite.

  26. says

    Book-burning was always a metaphorical act

    You fail. Have a nice day.

    PZ has already said in the second sentence of this post, that one I quoted, that he despises Christians.

    Not really. He’s been pretty neutral on wishy-washy christians in general. If you can’t tell the difference between “I despise X” and “I despise Y properties in X”, the fault is yours.

    So I’m not implying intolerance and hatred on his part, I’m pointing it out explicitly

    Poorly, also.

  27. brianpansky says

    That we have an imaginary friend… that we prostrate ourselves before a god who has the reality status of Santa Claus.

    well, ya, we’re atheists. what did you expect us to think? how are we supposed to think this is a misconception on our part?

  28. says

    @ Rutee

    Well maybe I’m wrong about the despises Christians bit but that’s how it read to me. As for the book review I do think it’s pretty basic standard of critical thinking to read something before attacking it.

    @ Nerd

    STFU ???? Ok, sure.

  29. Ogvorbis: Apologies Available for All! says

    Hmm. Maybe he should retitle the book. Y’know, be more honest? How about Unapologetic: Why, Despite Reality, Christianity is Still A Way to Make Yourself Feel Superior and Tell Others What to Do?

  30. says

    Well maybe I’m wrong about the despises Christians bit but that’s how it read to me.

    And then you wonder how you get a reputation for having a persecution complex. Youkhrist, lend me your patience.

    As for the book review I do think it’s pretty basic standard of critical thinking to read something before attacking it.

    He did. What you’re objecting to is that he didn’t throw himself at the whole thing. He even specified that if that bit is at all representative, it’s awful. FFS, it’s not like he’s selling it as a book review. You did that, because it would lend your puling some small level of legitimacy.

  31. raven says

    Fiona making stuff up:

    PZ has already said in the second sentence of this post, that one I quoted, that he despises Christians.

    PZ didn’t say that. You are lying.

    PZ Myers from above:

    I don’t think I’ll be reading it, if this excerpt is at all representative, because what it represents is all that I despise about Christianity and Christians. Number one: their persecution complex.

    What PZ Myers said was that Spufford lists “all that I despise about Christianity and Christians.

    He doesn’t hate xians per se. He hates some of, or most of their characteristics. It’s not his fault xians are hate filled, reality denying idiots.

  32. raven says

    Fiona making stuff up:

    PZ has already said in the second sentence of this post, that one I quoted, that he despises Christians.

    Fiona shows well what people including myself hate about xianity.

    She isn’t really capable of thinking but is capable of lying.

    The well known haters of our society are well known. The xians, mostly the fundie death cult variety. Their list of hates is ever growing; nonwhites, nonxians, atheists, scientists, women, college students, Democrats, each other, themselves.

    I know what the fundies think about me and people like me. They want to kill us. They says so often. I can’t count the number of death threats I’ve gotten from xians. Whatever the number, PZ has gotten orders of magnitude more.

  33. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    STFU ???? Ok, sure.

    Yep, if you believe only in Freeze Peach, where your religion shouldn’t be criticized. You want to criticize PZ using your free speech, so can we criticize Xians as Freeze Peach doesn’t exist. What is that called? Oh yes, Christ’s Golden Rule. Funny how it is ignored by Xians.

  34. says

    Fiona:

    I do think it’s a despicable thing for anyone to do to a book they haven’t read.

    PZ criticized the parts of the book he did read. See all that quoted stuff in the OP? Yeah, from the book. So…what are you complaining about, exactly? It certainly is not necessary to read every word of a book to know it’s a bad piece of work, nor is it necessary to subject yourself to needless suffering in continuing to read a bad piece of work.

  35. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Fiona, PZ doesn’t REFUSE to read the book, he simply chooses not to, after voluntarily reading an excerpt, which is part of the book. If you gave him good cause, he’d read the whole thing, and cheerfully rip it to shreds, metaphorically.

    Refusing to read, and setting fire to, is a very religious trait. You’ve read poorly, dreadfully misunderstood, projected, popped in to correct and insult, and now are feeling persecuted and are tone-trolling; all of which are very religious traits.

    You seem to be a believer in the power of words. It’s too damn bad that they overpower your brain.

  36. Nick Gotts says

    I’m aware of the connotations and it was a deliberate use of words. Book-burning was always a metaphorical act whether in the medieval town square (it predates totalitarianism) or the internet and I do think it’s a despicable thing for anyone to do to a book they haven’t read. – Fiona Hanley@28

    No, it has frequently been done literally. But more important than that, the implication of book-burning, literal or metaphorical, is that no-one should read and often that no-one should be be allowed to read the book. You know this, as you’ve made clear, and in doing so, you’ve also made your dishonesty clear, since there is nothing whatever in the OP that implies that.

  37. Rey Fox says

    My thought process (approximately) while reading the big quoted paragraph:

    “Yup. Yup. Yup. Not really, I wish you actually were. Yup. Yup. Yup. Kinda. Yup. …Wait, he just keeps going on like this?”

    Really, when there are that many “misconceptions” out there, you might want to consider why that may be.

  38. says


    Fiona Hanley

    Book-burning was always a metaphorical act whether in the medieval town square

    That word metaphorical, I don’t think it literally means what you think it means.
    Please, come back when your sentences don’t make me drop tea from my nose because I’m laughing.

  39. Sastra says

    Ok, I read the Slate article. And it’s an o-so-cleverly-done mess of ideas, riddled with admissions and omissions and accusations and the regular lament that the atheists will o-so-blindly miss the point and think he’s defending the truth of religion when he is in fact defending the truth IN religion.

    Or something like that.

    As accusations, they may be a hodge-podge, a mish-mash of truths and half-truths and untruths plucked from radically different parts of Christian history and the Christian world, with the part continually taken for the whole (if the part is damaging) or the whole for the part (if it’s flattering)—but at least they assume there’s a thing called religion there which looms with enough definition and significance to be detested.

    Thus his analysis of the laundry list of “misconceptions” about Christians. Apparently some of them ARE true, some of them were true, some of them are true for some religions, some of them are false — but there is no need to separate this mess out. Suffice to say that atheists are bent on condemning religion as a whole and thus imply that they’re too biased to think they need to separate the mess out. They detest only to detest.

    But he’s missing the main point made by Dawkins, Hitchens, and the other New Atheists: given the inherently subjective methods of religion, there is no WAY to separate the mess out. The problem is not extremism per se. Nor is it that religion is detestable as a whole, in every aspect. It’s that the parts of religion which make it religion and not humanism are false and dangerous. Faith is a vice. And if nothing else the believers need to be cautious.

    He whines at length over how atheism is making people embarrassed to be religious. First, I wonder what universe he lives in (must be a nice, modern, secular part of it) and second I think “good.” For God’s sake — meaning that literally as reference to a reliance on God — you damn well NEED some brakes. If feeling sheepish and silly and a bit uncomfortable is what’s needed to act as a check against all the sections of the laundry list of accusations which are true, or partly true, or used to be true, then so be it. May we atheists persecute you people of faith with our smothered and not-so-smothered amusement and thereby help keep the lot of you honest.

    In my experience, it’s belief that involves the most uncompromising attention to the nature of things of which you are capable. It’s belief which demands that you dispense with illusion after illusion, while contemporary common sense requires continual, fluffy pretending. Pretending that might as well be systematic, it’s so thoroughly incentivized by our culture.

    Now he starts up with his major criticism of atheism. Brace yourself: atheism entails that you invent a false, happy gloss over things. Yes. Isn’t it funny how the atheists are projecting what they do on the believers, when it is really the other way around!

    How does he manage to support this? Ironically, it’s by doing the same sort of thing he whinges on about atheists doing to religion in the first part: he takes simple phrases out of context and then invents an elaborate story about what it is the atheists mean.

    The first one involves the atheist bus slogan:“There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

    Now, the average atheist would agree that yes, religion can inhibit an enjoyment of life. But the average atheist — including the New Atheists — would also say that a fair reading of this slogan would be “stop worrying about other worlds and engage yourself in this one.” Connect with this life. Seek to live it, improve it, work for it, care for it, and consider that your life is connected to the lives of others. In other words, love it.Seek human flourishing.

    Need I tell anyone that Spufford instead interprets this tiny little phrase in as bad a way as he can? No, you’ve guessed it.

    But enjoyment is one emotion…. The rest of the time, you’ll be busy feeling hope, boredom, curiosity, anxiety, irritation, fear, joy, bewilderment, hate, tenderness, despair, relief, exhaustion and the rest. It makes no more sense to say that you should feel the single emotion of enjoyment about your life than to say that you should spend it entirely in a state of fear, or of hopping-from-foot-to-foot anticipation. Life just isn’t unanimous like that.

    Atheists are shallow. That’s what the slogan shows. Life is a party and we have to ignore those who suffer and consider only ourselves. We’re just chasing after hollow forms of entertainment, buy, buy, buy, because materialism means you’re materialistic.
    But it gets worse:

    The implication of the bus slogan is that enjoyment would be your natural state if you weren’t being “worried” by us believers and our hellfire preaching. Take away the malignant threat of God-talk, and you would revert to continuous pleasure, under cloudless skies.

    Utopia! Atheists are unrealistic believers in Utopia and think religion is always and everywhere the only problem! Get rid of religion and poverty, disease, war, strife and everything else will just roll away and leave a perfect world! And religious believers can discern this from a bus slogan, despite the fact that even the Big Bad New Atheists say again and again and again that this is not what they mean or think or believe or advocate or endorse.

    Apparently we’re too busy building straw-men out of religion to speak clearly.

    Spufford of course goes on to play a similar game with Lennon’s song “Imagine.” It’s the usual complaint which virtually every critic of the gnus drags out as if it they discovered it. We’re one-solution robots. We’re fluffy and unrealistic and so focused on religion we don’t look at anything else and therefore atheists fail to engage with the real world and face up to reality which is what they say about us isn’t it ironic blah blah blah. You know the drill.

    I did find something interesting about this article though. It’s the long, elaborate dance Spufford engages in around the concept of whether or not religious beliefs are true, leaping back and forth and admitting and then taking it back and then twisting one way and then another. It’s fascinating, in a macabre sort of way. Consider:

    The point is that from outside, belief looks like a series of ideas about the nature of the universe for which a truth-claim is being made, a set of propositions that you sign up to; and when actual believers don’t talk about their belief in this way, it looks like slipperiness, like a maddening evasion of the issue. If I say that, from inside, it makes much more sense to talk about belief as a characteristic set of feelings, or even as a habit, you will conclude that I am trying to wriggle out, or just possibly that I am not even interested in whether the crap I talk is true. I do, as a matter of fact, think that it is. .. No dancing about; no moving target, I promise. But it is still a mistake to suppose that it is assent to the propositions that makes you a believer. It is the feelings that are primary. I assent to the ideas because I have the feelings; I don’t have the feelings because I’ve assented to the ideas….Emotions can certainly be misleading: they can fool you into believing stuff that is definitely, demonstrably untrue. But emotions are also our indispensable tool for navigating, for feeling our way through, the much larger domain of stuff that isn’t susceptible to proof or disproof, that isn’t checkable against the physical universe.

    If you boil it down, it’s the same old bait ‘n switcheroo on faith. We believe a lot of things we can’t prove, we need to care, to feel things deeply– RELIGIOUS FAITH! Spufford is another underpants gnome of religion.

    He then brings forth an idea which he apparently thinks will stymie and frustrate the New Atheist, an idea which I suspect he finds very, very reassuring to faith:

    The emotions that sustain religious belief are all, in fact, deeply ordinary and deeply recognizable to anybody who has ever made their way across the common ground of human experience as an adult.

    God damn it, Spufford. WTF?

    This is what the secular humanists have been claiming all along! YOU are the ones who have been trying to puff up your ‘encounters with God’ and your deeply-meaningful spiritual feelings into something MYSTERIOUS and OTHER and inexplicable in human terms, pointing clearly to a transcendence.WE are the ones anchoring religious emotions into the natural world, explaining them as aspects of the human brain in a normal environment which are then misapplied into an invented misunderstanding of reality.
    Sheesh.

    Before your very eyes, I shall build up from first principles the simple and unsurprising structure of faith… You can read any number of defenses of Christian ideas. This, however, is a defense of Christian emotions—of their intelligibility, of their grown-up dignity. The book is called Unapologetic because it isn’t giving an “apologia,” the technical term for a defense of the ideas.
    And also because I’m not sorry.

    You should be sorry. And embarrassed.

    If your beliefs are not true, what would change your mind?
    Answer: I care very much whether my beliefs are true or not, so this is why I concentrate on defending my FEELINGS.

    Remember this rule when debating a theist: be the first one to bring out the word “love.” It deflates them.

  40. Sastra says

    Fiona Hanley #10 wrote:

    “I don’t think I’ll be reading it, if this excerpt is at all representative, because what it represents is all that I despise about Christianity and Christians.” PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    The excerpt from the book is not a small passage on a single topic removed from the overall context: it’s a summary of why the book was written and what it is about. It was obviously selected to give potential readers a very good idea of the central thesis and approach. My guess is that it’s from the introduction — and was intended to be used as (and now is) a stand-alone article.

    It’s enough to see some of the major problems, certainly.

  41. mnb0 says

    If you have read all that dreck, PZM, you’re a better person than I am. Because of Mozart I scanned the rest and found this:

    “But by now I would imagine that some of you reading this are feeling some indignation building up”
    Indeed, but for another reason than Spufford brings up. First of all I think Lennon’s Imagine a bore. At the other hand Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is such a masterpiece that it’s the musical version of blasphemy to listen to it via a lousy cassette in a bar. It deserves some good technology. In the second place this piece of music has stirred up similar emotions with me as Spufford described. I take it as an insult that he implies that such emotions are religious. That is a way too shallow description.

  42. Goodbye Enemy Janine says

    The ultimate reward of being a christian, ending up in heaven and forever reflecting the glory that is your creator; never made any emotional sense to me. It sounds like the ultimate form of boredom.

  43. says

    One reason you might want to write something written by a guy like Spufford is that he is the author of Red Plenty, an extraordinarily well written and well received novel of ideas about the Soviet Union and the attempts of well-meaning people to make an economy work without relying on markets. Seriously, it’s a great book. You folks mostly seem to assume in advance that Spufford must be a terrible writer with nothing to say. In fact, he’s a hell of a writer, which, of course, doesn’t mean he’s right.

    Obviously you aren’t going to agree with him about Christianity—I don’t either—but he’s exactly the kind of person you should engage with if you’re serious about developing your own ideas instead of engaging in another bout of group hate. Shooting down nut cases is hardly enlightening. One could almost imagine you’re afraid to engage with a serious intellectual opponent…

  44. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You folks mostly seem to assume in advance that Spufford must be a terrible writer with nothing to say. In fact, he’s a hell of a writer, which, of course, doesn’t mean he’s right.

    And the evidence to support your OPINION is where?

    but he’s exactly the kind of person you should engage with if you’re serious about developing your own ideas instead of engaging in another bout of group hate. Shooting down nut cases is hardly enlightening. One could almost imagine you’re afraid to engage with a serious intellectual opponent…

    And this serious intellectual opponent is found WHERE? Not from the cited passages, full of bullshit apologetics.

  45. says

    Spufford’s written an entire fucking book of this wheedling, petulant nonsense? If that’s so (and if this screed is in the least bit representative), his editors, proofreaders, mum, dog & anyone else who saw this thing before publication ought to be ashamed of themselves for not looking him in the eye, raising an eyebrow and saying “Fuck, dude … really?”

  46. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Actually, all Xians and their thinking suffer from the dual presuppositional fallacies of their imaginary deity and mythical/fictional holy book.

    Until they provide conclusive physical evidence that both presuppositions are true with conclusive physical evidence, evidence that will pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers as being of divine, and not natural (scientifically explained), origin, their talks about Xianity can and will be dismissed as just so much mental masturbation.

  47. says

    #52, jimharrison:

    Obviously you aren’t going to agree with him about Christianity—I don’t either—but he’s exactly the kind of person you should engage with if you’re serious about developing your own ideas instead of engaging in another bout of group hate. Shooting down nut cases is hardly enlightening. One could almost imagine you’re afraid to engage with a serious intellectual opponent…

    But engaging with Spufford, judging from the example of his writing so far, would be shooting down a nut case. And there’s nothing in that article that demonstrates the slightest willingness to engage with us.

    Besides, “the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love”? Raving inanity, trite and stupid. I see nothing in that long excerpt to indicate he’s a “hell of a writer,” quite otherwise, and at the very least, he’s an extraordinarily poor thinker.

  48. Sastra says

    jimharrison #52 wrote:

    You folks mostly seem to assume in advance that Spufford must be a terrible writer with nothing to say. In fact, he’s a hell of a writer, which, of course, doesn’t mean he’s right.

    Oh, I thought it was very well written, with an interesting style and o-so- clever. He might be an excellent historian, or poet, or novelist, or science fiction writer. Why do you think that we’re “assuming in advance” that he’s a bad writer just because we’re criticizing what he has written on its content, as opposed to its style?

    Obviously you aren’t going to agree with him about Christianity—I don’t either—but he’s exactly the kind of person you should engage with if you’re serious about developing your own ideas instead of engaging in another bout of group hate.

    But PZ did engage with him by addressing his arguments — or complaining about his lack of them. I probably wrote more than I should have and plenty of others pointed to specific flaws. True, this is only an excerpt from the book but it’s basically a summary. It works as an essay.

    So what section of the article do you think merits a more serious look?

  49. Nick Gotts says

    I see nothing in that long excerpt to indicate he’s a “hell of a writer,” – PZ@57

    Nonsense – it’s pretty obvious it would be hell to read his book!

  50. says

    Sigh. Fiona:

    PZ, I’m struggling to think of anyone more narrow-minded than a person who publicly burns a book he refuses to read.

    Just in case you’ve missed the others who’ve said so:

    PZ explicitly states above that this post is a reaction to an excerpt of a book and if this excerpt is at all representative of the end product, it’s not worth reading. If you were to read a 2,000 word excerpt of a book, found it to be complete garbage and said “That’s complete garbage; I’m not going to read the rest,” that would be completely justified and I doubt anyone would blame you.

    Might I say, this selective reading of yours (not to mention castigating the writer for an imaginary crime) is, well, very Christian. I hope you don’t make a habit of it, lest you interpret road signs to mean what you want them to mean and end up under a bus.

  51. consciousness razor says

    If I say that, from inside, it makes much more sense to talk about belief as a characteristic set of feelings, or even as a habit, you will conclude that I am trying to wriggle out, or just possibly that I am not even interested in whether the crap I talk is true. I do, as a matter of fact, think that it is. .. No dancing about; no moving target, I promise.

    Uhh…. What if we don’t conclude that? I conclude that this is part of your description of what believing is like. However that might work psychologically or socially (that is, whatever “believe” means), the issue is not whether you do in fact believe this or that thing. Nobody cares, and no one needs to be skeptical about that. How can you or anyone else know it’s true? Whether or not you’re trying to wriggle out of it, this is a further question which is not answered by believing it’s true or feeling it’s true or whatever.

  52. Nick Gotts says

    the author of Red Plenty, an extraordinarily well written and well received novel of ideas about the Soviet Union and the attempts of well-meaning people to make an economy work without relying on markets. – jimharrison

    The only time the Soviet Union came anywhere near attempting to do this (and strictly, this was before it called itself that) was in the period of “War Communism”, 1918-21.

  53. says

    One could almost imagine you’re afraid to engage with a serious intellectual opponent…

    think that the reason reality is that way, is in some ultimate sense merciful as well as being a set of physical processes all running along on their own without hope of appeal, all the way up from quantum mechanics to the relative velocity of galaxies by way of “blundering, low and horridly cruel” biology (Darwin), is that the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love. I think that love keeps it in being. I think that Dante’s cosmology was crap, but that he was right to say that it’s “love that moves the sun and all the other stars.”

    Points for the cleverness of your insult. Well played.

    [quote]hat we’ve provided pious cover stories for racism, imperialism, wars of conquest, slavery, exploitation. That we’ve manufactured imaginary causes for real people to kill each other. That we’re stuck in the past. That we destroy tribal cultures. That we think the world’s going to end. That we want to help the world to end. [/quote]
    Well, that’s true but not really unique to religion. it actually does piss me off when atheists pretend religion is anything but a symptom of oppression.

    That we want to help the world to end.

    Uh, that’s not a misconception. That is a thing that evangelicals actually, factually try to do. This isn’t perception, it’s reality. They seriously are helping Israel to start the Tribulation. Like, most of this list is meh and some of it I actually find irritating as an atheist who actively dislikes religion, but this one is a thing that the religious need to actually cop to as stemming from religion and actively being spread by religion. Evangelical anti-semitism isn’t really religious in origin, but actively trying to foster the world’s end is.

  54. says

    the author of Red Plenty, an extraordinarily well written and well received novel of ideas about the Soviet Union and the attempts of well-meaning people to make an economy work without relying on markets

    I missed that. That’s… total fiction. Seriously, capitalists, get this through your skulls: “Communism means no markets” is not true. Read a fucking history book, seriously.

  55. raven says

    Jim Harrison the serial killer:

    You folks mostly seem to assume in advance that Spufford must be a terrible writer with nothing to say.

    Making more stuff up.

    We don’t assume any such thing. I doubt if most of us have ever heard of Spufford. All we’ve seen is the pile of gibberish PZ posted above. Jim Harrison is clearly a serial murderer of Strawpeople.

    but he’s exactly the kind of person you should engage with if you’re serious about developing your own ideas.

    From what we’ve seen of Spufford, he is a drooling idiot. That summary PZ posted could have been written by a computer program or a first grader.

    Shooting down nut cases is hardly enlightening.

    Well no. It can be mildly amusing. But mostly it is a necessary chore, like mopping the floor. Those nut cases can be extremely dangerous. One just shot up the LA airport yesterday for…freedom.

    One could almost imagine you’re afraid to engage with a serious intellectual opponent…

    Another strawperson killed. Spufford isn’t a serious intellectual opponent. Jim Harrison isn’t either. Let us know when you find a seriouss xian intellectual opponent. The best the xians managed to produce lately are CS Lewis and Plantiga. And both are idiots.

  56. Sastra says

    You know, by the time someone is down to talking about a controversial belief making “emotional sense” they’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel in a last ditch effort to find some sort of sustenance. I’m reminded of Julia Sweeney being temporarily comforted by her priest reassuring her that Catholicism was “psychologically true.” Then she realized that The Little Engine That Could was also “psychologically true.”

    Personally, I also think The Little Engine That Could makes surprising emotional sense.

    Used to be that apologetics would involve good reasons to believe, an attempt to make a rational case to persuade skeptics. Now we’ve got UNapologetics, nonrational cases about why a particular person does believe and whiny little snipes at skeptics to leave them alone they can’t understand matters of the heart.

  57. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There’s nothing wrong with being a Xian. As long as you keep it in the house and church, and nowhere else, and wash your hands after your pray….

  58. David Wilford says

    There’s nothing in the passage quoted in this post that hasn’t early and often been said by PZ and others here, much of it absolutely true and Spufford freely grasps that nettle as far as I can tell. Spufford is nobody’s fool however and is in fact someone atheists should be happy to debate, rather than sneeringly dismiss. Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him and given the fact that millions of his fellow believers share that satisfaction it’s worth taking him seriously.

  59. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him and given the fact that millions of his fellow believers share that satisfaction it’s worth taking him seriously.

    Unless he can show conclusive physical evidence for his imaginary deity, there is nothing intelligent about anything he has to say. Pure fantasy….

  60. Al Dente says

    Jim Harrison @52

    I read the Salon article. If that’s evidence that Spufford is a good writer then I shudder to think what you think is bad writing.

    The article is prolix. There’s a paragraph that’s almost a thousand words long that’s essentially a continuous whine. Spufford isn’t arguing with what atheists, even gnu atheists, say, but rather he’s arguing with the straw atheist who lives between his ears.

    Spufford would have his readers believe that atheists are complaining about a tiny group of Christian extremists. However many of the complaints are about mainstream Christianity. The Catholics, the largest Christian church, have an official policy against using condoms to protect against AIDS. Archbishop Eliud Wabukala, the head of the Kenyan Anglican Church, is threatening schism against the Church of England because the Archbishop of Canterbury isn’t homophobic enough to suit Wabukala. The Southern Baptist, Mormon and Catholic churches are strongly anti-abortion, as are many evangelicals and fundamentalist Christians.

    I was not impressed by Spufford’s thinking or his writing. Judging from his Salon article, I won’t be reading any books by him.

  61. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford, I understand the stuff about religion being all about emotions. I don’t need to wade through a bookful of baggage to get that.

    See, many or most of the atheists in America grew up Christian. We know the people, the feelings, the game and the dance. We aren’t ivory-tower atheists from outer space, we are Americans who live and work with Christians.

    My small-town newspaper used to feature editorials that were very religious and conservative, which spent a lot of ink in slagging intellectuals. I got to wondering what the opposite of “intellectual” would be, and concluded it was “emotional”.

    There is a little more to it, of course, but the short version is that we don’t need you to pop in here and educate us. We are the smart ones, the thinkers, and we get rather emotional when we get treated like idiots by idiots.

  62. raven says

    Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him…

    Irrelevant.

    1. Whether something is emotionally satisfying says nothing whatsoever about the validity of its truth claims. And xianity does claim to be true. In times past, they would cheefully kill people who said it wasn’t by the millions.

    2. There are lots of things that people find emotionally satisfying. Not all of them are regarded as good though. Heroin. Cocaine. Alcohol. Right Wing extremist politics. The Tea Party. Hate, the basis of fundie xianity. Lies, the main sacrament of fundie xianity. Vandalism. The End Times Doomsdayers, hoping the xian Sky Monster shows up 2,000 years late and kills 7 billion people.

    I suppose the LA airport shooter, Ciancia, found shooting TSA agents “emotionally satisfying”.

    3. Some other things that are considered emotionally satisfying. Knitting. Cats. Running. Gardening. Understanding reality i.e. science. Social Justice. The truth.

    Not all of those are going to be an interesting book for many or most people though. A huge number people in our society would consider science to be scary and evil, a group we call…the fundie xians.

  63. consciousness razor says

    Sastra:

    You know, by the time someone is down to talking about a controversial belief making “emotional sense” they’re pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel in a last ditch effort to find some sort of sustenance.

    Indeed. A “serious intellectual opponent,” my ass. Here he is scraping that barrel:

    So to me, what I felt listening to Mozart in 1997 is not some wishy-washy metaphor for an idea I believe in, and it’s not a front behind which the real business of belief is going on: it’s the thing itself. My belief is made of, built up from, sustained by, emotions like that. That’s what makes it real.

    No one has ever contested that it is not a “real” emotion that he has. He actually, indubitably, really-for-real, has it! Big fucking deal. Being “real” in this sense doesn’t amount to a justification that the claim is true. That would be equivalent to an appeal to faith: if you have it, that’s all there is to say. Any belief about the nature of the world (e.g., it’s driven by love*) is “real” in the sense that it is something you do in fact believe. If we count this kind of experience (the feeling of confidence in a belief) as evidence of anything, what can anyone reasonably expect that to be? Not that the proposition is true, because it is not apparently a proposition about your own mental state. So maybe the question is this: if you’re going to use this “evidence” of your believing to make some kind of inference, what exactly do you think this belief is about?

    *Or by a particular conception of the Christian god, who is supposedly responsible for “love.” The fact that this leap is made without a second thought doesn’t bode well for his laundry list of errors that Christians** supposedly don’t make.
    **Or maybe it was supporting theism generally. I don’t know. Maybe the book delves into why his flavor of Christianity doesn’t have these problems, while other religions do, but that’s doubtful when the excerpt itself is such an oblivious demonstration of them.

  64. Sastra says

    DavidWilford #69 wrote:

    Spufford is nobody’s fool however and is in fact someone atheists should be happy to debate, rather than sneeringly dismiss. Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him and given the fact that millions of his fellow believers share that satisfaction it’s worth taking him seriously.

    Debate?

    How the heck are we supposed to debate “Christianity is emotionally satisfying for Francis Spufford and many others?” That’s not an argument for Christianity being true, or being necessary for a good society, or being the foundation of morality, or even being a benign or good influence in the world. It’s just a personal statement with which we don’t disagree because we can’t.

    “A lot of people get great satisfaction out of asserting that 9/11 was a planned demolition masterminded by the US. government and the Freemasons. It fills needs for them. It makes emotional sense. And yes, it’s also true …. but I want to focus on this other part.”

    Ah, he predicts that we’ll think he’s ducking the argument. Wise man, that Spufford. Must mean that he isn’t ducking the argument, since he said he saw it coming. We’d be happy to debate him. Tell us the topic.

  65. consciousness razor says

    We’d be happy to debate him. Tell us the topic.

    The proposition is that Francis Spufford finds his beliefs about Christianity (and probably many other things) emotionally satisfying. Francis Spufford will argue in the affirmative, presumably by making an airtight case that it is emotionally satisfying to him to believe that his beliefs are emotionally satisfying. Atheists will have to argue against it, apparently, because we’re such negative fumbling idiots.

    Should be an interesting debate.

  66. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The proposition is that Francis Spufford finds his beliefs about Christianity (and probably many other things) emotionally satisfying.

    I’m sure a die-hard bigot finds his unsupportable bigotry to be emotionally satisfying. Which is why emotion has nothing to do with argument of being a true belief. It is all about the evidence. Which favors neither the Xian believer or the racist bigot…..

  67. MJP says

    Man, it would sure be emotionally satisfying if I had superpowers. Therefore, I do.

    What do you mean, truth doesn’t work like that? Don’t make me go all laser-eyes on yo ass.

  68. says

    Spufford is nobody’s fool

    Statement assumes facts not in evidence.

    and is in fact someone atheists should be happy to debate,

    Why?

    Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him and given the fact that millions of his fellow believers share that satisfaction it’s worth taking him seriously.

    Why do you think I even care?

  69. says

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision. Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe. The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct reminds me of the famous story about Omar the Conqueror who was supposed to have justified his destruction of the Library of Alexandria by arguing that anything in it that conflicted with the Koran was impious and anything that agreed with the Koran was superfluous.

    Simplicity has a tremendous appeal to the poorly educated. The appeal of New Atheism is rather like the appeal of Wahhabism. From the point of view of you zealots, the benefits of dispensing with the need for thinking another thought is obviously well worth the any possible cost in lost possibilities. Anyhow, you have inherited so little from the heritage of civilization, you won’t miss what you never knew about in the first place.

  70. A. Noyd says

    @jimharrison
    I’m not really sure you understand what “engaging” even is, since you’ve just now managed to avoid doing it with any of the replies made to you.

  71. MJP says

    @jimharrison:

    Analogies are no substitute for an actual argument. Especially… analogies so far removed from reality as yours.

  72. says

    jimharrison:

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision. Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe.

    That’s fucking rich, coming from an advocate of the most pernicious “intellectual ghetto” ever devised by humankind.

    The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct reminds me of the famous story about Omar the Conqueror who was supposed to have justified his destruction of the Library of Alexandria by arguing that anything in it that conflicted with the Koran was impious and anything that agreed with the Koran was superfluous.

    Your admission that religious fundamentalism is the worst enemy of knowledge is noted; your accusation of “automatic rejection” of anyone who disagrees is noted for the bollocks that it is. Spufford’s fluff was rejected after it was read and deemed to be (again) bollocks; your bafflingly hateful screeds are being similarly critiqued: on their (lack of) merit.

    Simplicity has a tremendous appeal to the poorly educated.

    Certainly explains the strong correlation between high religiosity/fundamentalism among the impoverished/those from a culture which simply does not value education beyond a very basic level. Latin America/US Bible Belt/Phillippines/Pakistan/etc., anyone?

    /grabs popcorn, waits for the Hordeling air-strike…

  73. brianpansky says

    @80
    jimharrison

    The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct

    what automatic rejection? you didn’t read the reasons people gave for disagreeing?

    maybe you just need to ask why a specific part is disagreed with, since no one went through it line by line yet.

    i’d be happy to give you a demonstration of non-automatic rejection, if you’d like : D

  74. says

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision. Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe.

    What do I have to learn from this guy? He’s only demonstrated shallow thoughts and poor history. FFS, you quoted him talking about dem marketless soviets as if that was a good thing, and an example of his best.

    The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct

    Are you literate? The problem isn’t that he has a new idea. Quite the opposite, actually – these are old, shopworn things. Do you have something novel you’d like to quote from his book?

    Simplicity has a tremendous appeal to the poorly educated

    Atheism is the single best educated religious demographic in the world. Are you seriously trying to contend that we’re poorly educated as a group? I can think of a lot of poor traits of the atheist community as a whole, but a lack of formal education is not one of them.

    From the point of view of you zealots, the benefits of dispensing with the need for thinking another thought is obviously well worth the any possible cost in lost possibilities.

    Ah yes. That’s entirely what we’re doing by dismissing his anecdata as pointless, isn’t it?

    Anyhow, you have inherited so little from the heritage of civilization, you won’t miss what you never knew about in the first place.

    Oh my jesus stop trying to dress yourself up as a writer. You are awful at it.

    “You, who have swaddled yourself in the trappings of civilization, have learned nothing from it. This is casting pearls before swine”.

  75. brianpansky says

    eh, i probably shouldn’t have accepted that burden of proof. it really was not mine. at all.

  76. Ogvorbis: Apologies Available for All! says

    Jimharrison @80:

    The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct

    Except that I, and others here, do change our world view based on new evidence. When I was a kid, the idea feathers on Maniraptoran Theropods would have been laughable. Now it is the new synthesis. It happens all the time. The difference is, thought, there is actually evidence to support the ideas. Whereas religion arrives at the conclusion and then seeks only that which will support the orthodoxy.

    Your projection abilities are impressive.

  77. consciousness razor says

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision. Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe.

    Yes, our mental universes do not constitute the universe itself. Thus, believing in belief a la the pompous fucker quoted in the OP, is not useful. In any case, I rather enjoyed listening to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto again to get into his head space, being the fucking ghetto inhabitant that I am (that no doubt being my own fault, like all poverty-stricken people in ghettos).

  78. darkwater says

    Spufford’s Red Plenty is a tremendous read; I’ve recommended it to a number of people and gotten largely positive feedback from them, regardless of their political ideology. As someone with little formal education on life in the Soviet Union, I found it incredibly evocative for each of the time periods he writes about. If you’re at all interested I the history of optimization theory or cybernetics (the Soviet definition, not the Western one) I highly recommend it. Crooked Timber had one of its book events including Spufford’s responses when it was first published; even if you don’t want to spend the $10 on the ebook, it’s worth perusing the CT threads.

    Jimharrison overstates the central plot of the book; it’s quite clear based both on Spufford’s fictionalized account and the available historical record that the mathematicians and computer scientists who advocated for centralized economic planning via computers in the 50′s & 60′s knew that they were advancing a market solution. If you don’t know how the whole USSR thing worked out in the end, Spufford drops a heavy clue when one of the principal characters realizes that calling “prices” “shadow prices” ain’t exactly gonna pull the wool over the Party leaders’ eyes.

    That said, I’d no further trust Spufford’s thoughts on Christianity than I would Richard Nixon’s on a used car. (Or jimharrison’s, for that matter.) Just because he’s written well on one topic doesn’t mean he’s advanced serious arguments on another. (Honestly, am I obligated to give even the time of day to Anne Rice w/r/t spirituality just because I liked her Vampire books as a teenager?)

  79. raven says

    Jim Harrison babbling like a loon (or xian)

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision.

    Hitchens Rule. A claim made without proof or data may be dismissed without proof or data.

    You are wrong.

    Speaking of intellectual ghettos, the fundies spend most of their time making one for themselves. They hate science, public education, and colleges and universities among their other hates. To them, ignorance is a virtue, right up there with hate and lies.

    Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe.

    Hitchens Rule again.

    BTW, Jim Harrison, learn to read. As has been pointed out several times in this thread, most of us are…ex-xians!!! We know.

    The rest is just bog routine fundie death cult xian ranting and raving. We’ve heard it a zillion times. It’s too boring to bother with. Much like Spufford’s drivel.

  80. Al Dente says

    jimharrison @80

    In my post @71 I explained why I was unimpressed by Spufford. My objections were not because Spufford was coming up with new criticisms of gnu atheism. Quite the contrary, I’ve read the same dreary gripes and grumbles about us for years, usually from better writers. Do you honestly think Spufford is the first Christian to say that atheists don’t understand how emotionally appealing Christianity is? I assure you he’s not even in the first thousand, probably not even in the first ten thousand. But Christianity’s emotional appeal has nothing to do with the question of the truth of Christianity. Having a million dollars in my bank account would be very emotionally appealing to me but somehow my bank balance falls short of what’s appealing.

    I don’t care how appealing Spufford finds Christianity. Until he can present factual evidence that Jesus is a god, I’m continuing to reject Christianity as a hypothesis on how the world works. This is a simple concept. However it’s what mathematicians call elegant, in part because it’s simple to explain.

  81. says

    I’d agree with about 90% of things he claims atheists think about Christians…but I’d call them “conceptions” rather than “misconceptions”.

  82. says

    I’ll go against the flow here and disagree with this:

    Spufford’s intent is to describe how Christianity is emotionally satisfying for him…

    Irrelevant.

    You can’t argue truth value with religious believers, their evidence is not scientific, their way of knowing is not by fact, but by emotion and faith, these are entirely different epistemiological concepts. So yes, I think it is relevant to realise this, notwithstanding how big of a gas-filled hollow viscus this Spufford guy obviously is.

    I think much of the problem in our debates with religionists is often precisely this, we are talking about entirely different concepts of knowing truth, and it doesn’t hurt us to be occasionally reminded of this. It’s also important to be aware of religion’s emotional appeal when we talk about strategies of curing people from religious affliction.

    No point debating this guy obviously. But I took this excerpt as a useful reminder.

  83. MJP says

    Religion is epistemologically different from skepticism, rationalism, etc. However, religion is an epistemological flat-earth theory. When you examine the epistemology behind religion (i.e. faith) it’s laughably wrong, and it’s plain that they don’t use this epistemology for anything other than religious claims.

  84. vaiyt says

    @jimharrison
    Holy projection, Batman! Are you sure you’re talking about us?

    You guys want to live in an intellectual ghetto, well, that’s your decision. Still, there is a world outside of your poverty-stricken mental universe.

    I’m sure reading more repetitive apologetics will enrichen our mental horizons. Or maybe you’re just making yet another variation on the Courtier’s Reply, which we can dismiss because we have already covered this ground before.

    The automatic rejection of anybody who suggests that your point of view isn’t obviously correct

    Hello, there’s a big quote in the OP that we’re engaging with. PZ stated that, IF the quote is representative of the book, THEN it’s not worth reading BECAUSE the quoted part is a vacuous screed with no redeeming intellectual value. You could have shown us that the book is indeed better than what we see in the OP, but instead you decided to dismiss our rejection as “automatic”, ironically engaging in the very behavior you accuse us of.
    I know reading comprehension is not the forte of fanbois and knee-jerk apologists, so please tell me if I’ve explained slowly enough.

    reminds me of the famous story about Omar the Conqueror who was supposed to have justified his destruction of the Library of Alexandria by arguing that anything in it that conflicted with the Koran was impious and anything that agreed with the Koran was superfluous.

    That the best analogy you can find for your strawman is a RELIGIOUS fanatic is very telling.

    Simplicity has a tremendous appeal to the poorly educated.

    As evidenced by your poor grasp of semantics and insistence of shoving our point of view to fit inside your simplistic strawman.

    The appeal of New Atheism is rather like the appeal of Wahhabism. From the point of view of you zealots, the benefits of dispensing with the need for thinking another thought is obviously well worth the any possible cost in lost possibilities.

    You still haven’t shown that Spufford’s book contains any actual thoughts to engage with.

    Anyhow, you have inherited so little from the heritage of civilization, you won’t miss what you never knew about in the first place.

    Most people here are former Christians. I am a former Catholic. I know what I’m “missing”. By the way, religion doesn’t have a monopoly on civilization, fuck you very much.

  85. mary2 says

    JimHarrison @ 80, I dont think this counts as an automatic rejection of an opinion that differs from mine but calling people “poorly educated” as a group would probably hold more weight if, next time, you bothered to ‘google’ whether your statements are true or even likely. A five minute web search tells me that (although the quote about the Qu’ran is pithy) it is extremely unlikely that Omar destroyed the Library of Alexandria or that the library even existed by 600CE. The most likely culprit (if there even was a single culprit) was Julius Caesar who set the Egyption Navy on fire while in Alexandria. The next two possibilities are a Roman emperor called Aureliun or a Christian Bishop in the 300CEs. Both more likely than Omar.

    As to the irony of likening rational and sceptical thinking (hopefully found in many atheists) to fundamentalist, authoritarian religious practise . . .

  86. nich says

    …and not one bit of love or absence thereof will nudge stone or plasma a nanometer.

    Well, for the sake of argument if I was standing naked at the edge of a table at a height roughly level with my groin, and the wife were to enter the room, disrobe, and begin whispering naughty things in my ear, and a stone was lying on the table directly in front of me, I suppose love could make it move 9 inches* or so…

    HEY OH!

    *23 centimeters for those from countries with intelligent systems of measurement.

  87. David Wilford says

    Sastra @67:

    “Personally, I also think The Little Engine That Could makes surprising emotional sense.”

    As does the Velveteen Rabbit and other stories, including Biblical ones. I think there’s a biological basis for morality, but how it’s expressed via shared stories is something worth taking seriously, as I believe Spufford does given his profession is writing fiction.

  88. David Wilford says

    This ending paragraph from the author’s preface to the U.S. edition of Unapologetic is certainly self-deprecating:

    “What else? Oh yes: the swearing. Why do I swear so much in what you are about to read? To make a tonal point: to suggest that religious sensibilities are not made of glass, do not need to hide themselves nervously from whole dimensions of human experience. To express a serious and appropriate judgment on human destructiveness, in the natural language of that destructiveness. But most of all, in order to help me nerve myself up for the foolishness, in my own setting, of what I am doing. To relieve my feelings as I inflict on myself an undignified self-ejection from the protections of irony. I am an Englishman writing about religion. Naturally I’m fucking embarrassed.”

  89. David Wilford says

    Spufford talks about his book in a bit done when it came out in England a year ago:

  90. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford,

    What a pompous numpty. Does he really think most atheists have lived in isolation from religious believers?

  91. consciousness razor says

    David Wilford, #98:

    As does the Velveteen Rabbit and other stories, including Biblical ones. I think there’s a biological basis for morality, but how it’s expressed via shared stories is something worth taking seriously, as I believe Spufford does given his profession is writing fiction.

    Stories can relate ethical scenarios and concepts.* Do you think that means authors or poets ought to be called “ethicists”? Do you not see anything problematic about that? Is it in the nature of writing that they’re doing some sort of rigorous or even valid reasoning about moral issues (or scenarios as hypotheticals, assuming they’re realistic), or are they more concerned with telling interesting stories?

    *It would seem any artform can do things like that. So you may as well answer the same questions about musicians and architects and and photographers and basket-weavers and so forth, if they’re using their work similarly as a way to engage with moral issues. But I think all people engage with moral issues, in various ways, and that it would be meaningless to tout that as if it were some kind of expertise (or as indicative that it’s “worth taking seriously” whatever that might mean). This is all obviously more than you’ve said explicitly, but it’s hard to get a grasp on what exactly you mean to be saying.

    Aside from treating religious texts as simply literature, not divinely-influenced as the religious take them to be, do you think there’s anything problematic about more generally connecting religion and ethics? That is to say, a religion isn’t found in its texts: there are whole systems of beliefs and practices (and theological frameworks, political connections, etc.) besides what some moldy old book says. But why should the supernatural be treated “seriously,” as if it had any special relationship to what’s good? How could this argument even seem to get off the ground, if it weren’t for the confusions of religious believers who are making such claims about it?

  92. David Wilford says

    A teacher who poses a story problem in arithmetic is still teaching mathematics, and a story can be used by someone who teaches ethics as well. As for authors being ethicists, well, some are. Try reading Doestoevsky’s Crime and Punishment and not come away with an ethical message.

  93. opposablethumbs says

    Yes, of course …. and? What does that have to do with claiming that religion has any contribution to make to ethics such that it absolutely must be taken seriously?

    Religions merely assimilate the moral concerns and axioms that arise out of being an intelligent social species, and then they pretend that instead of being parasitical upon morality they actually have an irreplaceable contribution to make to it.

    No religion invented the golden rule, but a lot of them would like to take credit for it. They can’t all be right about that, any more than they can all (or indeed any of them can) be right about the multiple gods they invent.

  94. Sastra says

    rorschach #93 wrote:

    You can’t argue truth value with religious believers, their evidence is not scientific, their way of knowing is not by fact, but by emotion and faith, these are entirely different epistemiological concepts… I think much of the problem in our debates with religionists is often precisely this, we are talking about entirely different concepts of knowing truth, and it doesn’t hurt us to be occasionally reminded of this.

    I agree that it’s useful to be reminded of this distinction in epistemology, but I disagree that THIS is what divides the believers from the nonbelievers and keeps us talking past each other. That’s because I don’t believe that the believers consistently use it — and thus they don’t really mean it.

    Modern religious believers are for the most part products of an enlightenment culture same as we are, with one foot in the know-by-reason camp and one foot in the know-by-faith camp. They thus possess a background which places them in a position where they not only see the discrepancy — but they want to reconcile it with reality. They want a reasonable faith. They want believing in God or Spirit or Christianity or what-have-you to be placed on a level far more sound and sensible than believing in fairies (unless, of course, they actually do believe in fairies.)

    Even Spufford’s so called “non-apologetic” is an apologetic. “Yeah, yeah, I know: thinking you can know things through emotion and faith is usually wrong … but not in THESE circumstances.” But now we’ve got something to look at through reason and evidence: does this defense make sense? Or is it another way to shift the focus from defending the belief to defending the believer (a tactic which will naturally entail an attack on the nonbeliever)?

    Despite all the loud proclamations and firm assurances, I still doubt that “faith” really does lie at the core of their beliefs — even if it is in fact how they got there, by giving too much power to the emotional component and surrendering to our tendencies towards egocentrism. It’s not core because it can’t be what holds them. They live among too many alternative viewpoints today to be incapable of considering other possibilities as live options. Back and forth then they go. And ‘faith’ has now become an immunizing strategy, a way to protect their views from criticism and analysis when they hop a little too close to being reasonable and think or say something which draws on objective reality.

    If they could support their views with science, they would. And they know this. Believing in God is not really like believing in love; it’s like believing in Cupid.

    Spufford is just another apologist trying to confuse that.

  95. Sastra says

    DavidWilford #98 wrote:

    “Personally, I also think The Little Engine That Could makes surprising emotional sense.”

    As does the Velveteen Rabbit and other stories, including Biblical ones.

    Francis Spufford’s problem however is that the Biblical stories can’t — for him — make “emotional sense” in the same way as other stories do because he is trying to use the “emotional sense” of the Bible stories to defend the “intelligibility and grown-up dignity” of believing that these stories are therefore true.

    He has explicitly rejected the option of the wishy-washy humanist retreat to religion-as- metaphor.

  96. brianpansky says

    the wishy-washy humanist retreat to religion-as- metaphor.

    personally i’d like to see that get traction as a hard position, not a wishy washy one.

    i’d like to see the people who hold it as a metaphor to tell the believers, not the non-believers, that they are wrong about religion. that it isn’t true, so people in the past were wrong, and it’s only use to us is as stories now, just like all other stories. that imaginary friends are ok, but not if you mistake them for non-imaginary.

    something like that. hopefully you get what i mean.

  97. Sastra says

    @brianpansky

    Yes, I get it — and agree. The surprising thing to me is that Spufford apparently recognizes that a believer who argues for religion-as-metaphor is wishy-washy. Ok. But then he goes wishy-washy.

  98. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Velveteen Rabbit = Trans* liberatory propaganda.

    Best book for a trans* kid **evah**.

  99. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @david wilford:

    I did try to read it. I came away ethically commanded not to read Doestoyevsky when depressed. I think the utilitarian frame more than justifies this, but hell, I’d be happy with that command as deontological.

  100. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    it’s worth perusing the CT threads

    Obligatory link:

    In Soviet Union, Optimization Problem Solves You

    More generally:

    http://crookedtimber.org/category/red-plenty-seminar/

    If it’s any help, Spufford is English, and he’s writing in a style (absurdist, but with serious undertones) that’s easy to misunderstand if you’re not familiar with it.

    My daughter has just turned six. Some time over the next year or so, she will discover that her parents are weird. We’re weird because we go to church.

    This means—well, as she gets older there’ll be voices telling her what it means, getting louder and louder until by the time she’s a teenager they’ll be shouting right in her ear. It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. It means that we don’t believe in dinosaurs.

    It means that we’re dogmatic. That we’re self-righteous. That we fetishize pain and suffering. That we advocate wishy-washy niceness. That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they die. That we’re bleeding hearts who don’t understand the wealth-creating powers of the market.

    … and since neither he nor his wife (the ‘we’ of the quotation–not Christians or Catholics generally) hold such beliefs, then the new atheists have suffered an epistomological failure which negates their (our) further claims about whether ‘feeling’ is enough to justify belief. That is, we’re wrong because we make judgements of wrongness more generally than can apply to these two specific people.

    At least, that’s how I read it. :-/

    And for what it’s worth, I know for sure that I don’t make these claims about religious people generally, because I hate hate hate generalised claims about generalised people.

    But this is Pharyngula, and there’s always a certain amount of they …:

    That aura of sanctity they all get

    They hate science in general but especially astronomy

    They seriously are helping Israel to start the Tribulation.

    (Trying, trying, maybe! But there won’t be a Tribulation!)

    I dunno. I guess I just hate the word “they”. Too finger-pointy …

    But anyway … Mozart? Oh! I’m off to listen to Mozart. I do love Mozart. :-)

  101. raven says

    CM the troll misquoting raven:

    But this is Pharyngula, and there’s always a certain amount of they …:

    (raven) They hate science in general but especially astronomy

    This is Pharyngual and there’s always a troll or two hanging around.

    Thanks for misquoting me by omission and removing the context. Does your wacko xian death cult teach that or did you copy it from another troll? Technically this might not be lying but it is very dishonest.

    raven from #13:

    How about the reality and science denying and hating fundie death cult xians?

    They hate science in general but especially astronomy because of the Big Bang and Heliocentrism. And of course, biology because of Darwin and evolution. And climatology becuase of global warming.

    They know nothing of any of it and refuse to learn. They keep trying to prevent science from being taught in public schools and don’t teach it in their own schools. They occasionally send us death threats.

    1. I was referring to specifically fundie death cult xians. There are many other kinds as we all know.

    2. That they hate science in general is well known. Especially astronomy and biology because they contradict two pages of their bronze age mythology. You might have heard of creationists. You might even be one.

    3. They occasionally send us death threats. A lot of scientists get them, including myself. PZ has gotten up to 100 a day. The xian terrorists occasionally murder people, mostly MD’s.

    There is nothing benign or funny about the type of xians we have to deal with. They can be extremely dangerous killers. A week ago their political arm the Tea Party, tried to destroy the USA by forcing a default on $11 Trillion in US Treasury Bonds.

    It turns out US Treasury bonds underly most of the global banking system. This would have caused a worldwide recession at the least. Thanks fundie xians.

  102. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    *sigh*

    CM the troll misquoting raven:

    But this is Pharyngula, and there’s always a certain amount of they …:

    (raven) They hate science in general but especially astronomy

    This is Pharyngual and there’s always a troll or two hanging around.

    I am sorry that you have received death threats.

    However, I am not a troll. This is me. Here, there, elsewhere. (That was my first comment on Sb; now lost.)

    (There were two other ‘they’s, though. Both still stand?)

    A week ago their political arm the Tea Party, tried to destroy the USA by forcing a default on $11 Trillion in US Treasury Bonds.

    Meh. The nice thing about US Treasuries is that since their default has for ever been unthinkable, that no-one has ever written it into law that a defaulted Treasury is unacceptable as collateral (cf. defaulted corporate bonds; see also US sovereign CDS contracts–little-traded, for very good reasons). So the collective wisdom in the markets as of 3 or 4 weeks ago (I work in finance; this is my world) was that even were the TP caucus to force a default, that most UST-related activities (repo, etc.) would carry on regardless, albeit needing a clear statement from Treasury about what deferred interest would be paid on ‘defaulted’ securities once a resolution was reached.

    It turns out US Treasury bonds underly most of the global banking system. This would have caused a worldwide recession at the least.

    Nope. See above.

    Thanks fundie xians.

    Nope, neither. To the extent that this idea has stuck in the right-wing consciousness, it’s more thanks to the we’re-turning-into-Greece lobby. Who are also wrong.

    Does your wacko xian death cult teach that or did you copy it from another troll?

    *sigh*

    Being reality-based, I lack a ‘wacko xian death cult’ and have no trolls I’d like to copy from.

    Try again?

  103. consciousness razor says

    raven:

    This is Pharyngual and there’s always a troll or two hanging around.

    Thanks for misquoting me by omission and removing the context. Does your wacko xian death cult teach that or did you copy it from another troll? Technically this might not be lying but it is very dishonest.

    Taking a comment out context, if that is what happened, is not trolling.

    Also, unless you have an especially dishonest way of defining the problem away, it doesn’t seem to be the case that all “fundie death cult xians” hate science and so on. Being about a group, this is obviously a generalization of the group. And the particular generalizations you made are not strictly true. It is not simply that there are a few insignificant counterexamples: the claims taken together are not even true of a majority of what I think you mean by “fundie death cult xians.” Let’s examine some of them:

    They hate science in general but especially astronomy because of the Big Bang and Heliocentrism. And of course, biology because of Darwin and evolution. And climatology becuase of global warming.

    Many of them do not. Many are not in fact geocentrists.* And some in fact use the Big Bang and other astronomical theories and evidence to argue for a god. And many are not global warming denialists. So your claims are all false, if taken to mean “they” (i.e. fundie death cultists) refers to that group.

    And again, pointing this out requires no dishonesty or trolling or anything of the sort.

    *Where have you been the last 500 years? The vast majority of people don’t think that anymore, at least once they’ve reached that point in elementary school to have learned otherwise. Besides that, heliocentrism itself is not even remotely modern science, so I would certainly hope they have a problem with it (that is, if you weren’t just putting it in their mouths).

  104. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Listening to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and thinking about that “love keeps reality in being” shite. That’s almost identical to a Creationist crock about the Laws of Motion.

    See, what are now the laws of physics and motion used to be explained by the actions of angels and demons and God’s will, depending on who you asked and when. It was God somehow making the world the way it was, even if he’d just created things with a nature that sought to rise or fall or rest or whatever. It was God.

    Well, when Newton brought Science along, and said that the laws of motion were simply things kept moving until stopped, or stopped until made to move, he was shooting the angels and demons clear out of the picture. The Creationists simply retrenched and said that it was still God’s will, and wasn’t he fucking amazing (God, they meant, not Newton), and later Creationists claimed that the presence of laws required a law-maker. It was God.

    But if you look at the first law, about an object that either is at rest or moves at a constant velocity, until acted upon, the “at rest” aspect is easier to see as requiring no action by anything at all. The Creationists are claiming that a rock that is just sitting there requires either the active attention of an omni-aware god, or the clever design of an infinitely-intelligent creator. A rock, with nothing happening to it, didn’t move. It was God.

    Similarly, for Spufford, reality kept existing, with some bits banging about in blind motion. It was God.

    Specifically, it was God’s love. How does that work? What are the Laws of Love? Do they require a love-maker?

  105. says

    Raven:

    This is Pharyngual and there’s always a troll or two hanging around.

    You really need to dump that awful, incorrect, thoughtless screed of yours. You’ve been one note for years now. Also, cm is a long term regular here, not a troll. In the last thread you were active in, you resorted to calling every single person who disagreed with you a troll. You are not the one genuine regular of Pharyngula, Raven, and calling people trolls as a means of dismissal says a great deal about you, none of it good.

  106. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    *waves*

    I just want to see “Pharyngual” quoted over and over again. :-)

    (I shouldn’t really. Lord knows, I’ve been unitelligible often enough.)

  107. chigau (違う) says

    cm
    I kinda like “unitelligible”.
    I’m having trouble with the meaning…
    …eligible to be a unit?
    … not itelligib?

  108. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Uni-telligible.

    Something that could only be read one way. Opposite of double-entendre.

    ====
    Of course, I have been heard to say, “AC/DC were masters of the single-entendre,” before. So I’m not sure that I like uni-telligible more than single entendre, but that is one of the beauties of english: we have so mahy terms that mean almost the same thing, yet have different connotations. By association with double-entendre, one might reasonably guess that “single entendre” is a uni-telligible phrase or sentence of a sexual nature. So I guess single entendre is the subset/special case of the general uni-telligible set.

  109. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    Reading that excerpt, he seems to have made three key erroneous assumptions.

    1- He has assumed that all Christians are monolith.
    2- He has assumed all Atheists are monolith.
    3- He has assumed the Atheist monolith sees the Christian monolith in the way that he has laid out.

    All Christians are not monolith. Sure, at some point in time Christian people have been guilty of every single thing on that list; but that doesn’t mean that every Christian ever is guilty of every single one. Indeed, some of the things on the list are mutually exclusive, so every single Christian can’t possibly be guilty of every single one.

    All Atheists are not monolith. Sure, some Atheists are idiots who genuinely do believe that all Christians are monolith, or at least treat them as if they are, but the majority of us recognise it is more complex than that and reserve our hate for the more hateful individuals amongst Christians and the poisonous institutions, rules and traditions which create them. A lot of us even have the wit to realise that saying Christians are “better” or “worse” than Muslims is a stupid and overly generalised thing to say without specifying the metric by which you are measuring that.

    By dint of the fact Atheists are not monolith, we hold a vastly differing number of opinions on Christians and Christianity, and indeed religion and the religious in general, which do not necessarily tie in with Spufford’s assumptions.

  110. David Wilford says

    From what I’ve gathered about the book (I haven’t read it yet, other than the preface and what PZ has quoted) it’s a response to New Atheists in general, and perhaps Richard Dawkins in particular.

  111. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford, what exactly are the New Atheists? Who is in, what did they sign up for?

    Spufford is addressing some imaginary enemies on behalf of his imaginary friend. He is a person of imaginative writing, as well.

    There is a new trend among some of the people who can be called atheists of speaking up a bit more. There is also a new increase of atheists who seem to be trendy, unthinking and mob mentality sorts, who fit some stereotypes. All of which indicates a lack of a monolithic bloc of atheism. Who New?

  112. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @David Wilford

    I think Menyambal’s point is that “New Atheists” is an arbitrary and poorly defined group. For example your link says :

    “The New Atheism is a movement which, based on centuries of individual indignation to religion and especially theocracy has gained fervor becoming a social and increasingly political movement.”

    Which is hardly a definition at all. How would you, in your own words, define “New Atheism”? How is it different from old Atheism? When, and why, did the two diverge? If you consider these questions, I think you’ll see what Menyambal is driving at.

  113. says

    I dunno. I guess I just hate the word “they”. Too finger-pointy …

    That’s kinda your problem, when people make a factually accurate statement and attribute it to the correct subgroup. Seriously, the problem is not the use of the word ‘they’. ‘They’ is a third person plural. You’re not going to get very far in discussing groups without it. The problem is outright Othering.

    Although, if ‘finger-pointy’ is your problem… am I to take blame for, to continue the example, the continued attempts to end the world via helping Israel? There’s a lot of room for ownership of problems, such as racism or sexism (and it pisses me off when atheists like Raven try to pretend that’s entirely on the religious) but there really are things that you’re not actually contributing to.

  114. says

    Entirely, or even mostly. It’s not like that shit isn’t maintained by atheists. Based on the evidence, the only reason atheists uphold less systemic discrimination is that here are fewer of them.

  115. David Wilford says

    Thumper @ 127:

    I think New Atheism is mainly distinguished by the more confrontational stance taken against religion by notable atheists such as Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and bloggers like PZ Myers. It’s not simply an advocacy of free thought ala Ingersoll but a call to do away with faith. Spufford’s book is a pointed response to this more pugnacious group.

  116. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @David Wilford

    OK, so like most people you take “New Atheists” to be Atheists who are willing to actually point out religions flaws. Cool. But where’s the line? How “pugnacious” do you have to be in order to be a “New Atheist”? Surely that’s a rather subjective criteria?And when did it become distinct from just plain old Atheism? You say that a more pugnacious stance is what differentiates it from, presumably, “traditional” Atheism; but did traditional Atheism never criticise religion?

    That’s what I’m getting at. It’s incredibly poorly defined, and people’s definition varies and the criteria which they use to define who is and who isn’t a member varies.

  117. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    I don’t know if the fallacy is ever used this way, but the “No True Scotsman” traditionally used here as a defense is, I think, in play in theists’ writings about New Atheists.

    Theist: “New atheists are belligerent, hateful, monolingual, academic women with purple skin.”
    Atheist: “That’s a ridiculous claim, I’m a New Atheist X and I’m not a woman.”
    Theist: “Then obviously you’re not in the group being criticized, why are you so defensive?”

    The “not in the group being criticized, don’t be defensive” response makes sense when the initial assertion is, “I’m tired of these evangelicals that won’t simply let me eat lunch in the breakroom in peace without haranguing me about jesus.” You don’t work with the speaker? You’re not being criticized. But it’s different when you say, “I’m tired of evangelicals. They are the kind of people that won’t let you eat lunch in the breakroom in peace without haranguing you about jesus.”

    I’m tired of the elaborate, over-the-top claims about all the awful qualities of new atheists that are defended by simply saying that new atheists are those atheists with those qualities.

    Talk about well-poisoning.

  118. David Wilford says

    @Thumper,

    I’m not positing a card-carrying New Atheism and Spufford isn’t either. It’s a label of convenience for rhetorical purposes and it’s pretty clear what the target of Spufford’s book is, namely the likes of Dawkinw, Hitchens, Harris, Myers, etc.

  119. brianpansky says

    i was going to be upset at david wilford for not reading the wiki article…

    but the article may have been changed. i thought it previously had a very good large section about why the term is meaningless.

    it still has a small bit:

    In a 2010 column entitled Why I Don’t Believe in the New Atheism, Tom Flynn contends that what has been called “New Atheism” is neither a movement nor new, and that what was new was the publication of atheist material by big-name publishers, read by millions, and appearing on best-seller lists.[39]

    there’s also another wiki:

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/New_atheism#The_definitions

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/New_atheism#Not_New_Atheists

    also, i agree with Crip Dyke @132 i think, but it’s so difficult to tell how people aer using that term that i’m not sure. i’ve had people tell me about their experience with “new atheists”…but then i forgot to ask them if these atheists called themselves new atheists, or if the label was thrown on simply because they weren’t nice.

  120. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @David Wilford

    Yes, it’s a label of convenience useed to denote Atheists who won’t sit down and shut up. But it doesn’t actually mean anything; New Atheists are not a defined group. It’s an arbitrary label used to subtly inform a certain Atheist that they are being too “strident” for people’s liking. This weird idea that the “New Atheists” are an actual, tangible, defined group of people with an agenda is nonsense. That is, I think, what Menyambal was driving at; and it’s certainly what I was driving at.

  121. David Wilford says

    Here’s an interview of Spufford in the New York Times:

    http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/24/despite-everything-francis-spufford-talks-about-unapologetic/

    Q. Did the biggest inspiration to write this book come from the outspoken atheism of writers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens?

    A. Not in the sense that I thought they made a case that deserved arguing with directly. “The God Delusion,” “God Is Not Great,” etc., are (as they say) not even wrong. They treat Christianity either as a bunch of mock-scientific propositions about the universe which you can disprove, or as a social phenomenon which you can treat as entirely malign if you squint at it and wave your arms a lot. In both cases they operate a million naïve miles away from the actual experience of belief.

    However they did also piss me off (as we like to say in the Church of England). I certainly wanted to write something back that had equal polemical snap, crackle and pop, just in case anyone felt like buying the lazy assumption that the atheist side of the quarrel was the clever one.

  122. zenlike says

    They treat Christianity either as a bunch of mock-scientific propositions about the universe which you can disprove, or as a social phenomenon which you can treat as entirely malign if you squint at it and wave your arms a lot.

    So he didn’t actually read or understand any of those books. Great. Tell me again why this person needs to be taken seriously at all?

  123. says

    They treat Christianity either as a bunch of mock-scientific propositions about the universe which you can disprove…

    There is a god is a truth-claim, as are the claims that this god wants us to act in certain ways, that there is an afterlife, etc etc.

    How the hell is examining truth-claims “mock-science”?

  124. anteprepro says

    They treat Christianity either as a bunch of mock-scientific propositions about the universe which you can disprove, or as a social phenomenon which you can treat as entirely malign if you squint at it and wave your arms a lot. In both cases they operate a million naïve miles away from the actual experience of belief.

    *spits out coffee*

    Oh God, I miss laughing at Christians and their smug, ridiculous apologetics. Feeling nostalgic.

  125. Rey Fox says

    I think that the reason reality is that way, is in some ultimate sense merciful as well as being a set of physical processes all running along on their own without hope of appeal, all the way up from quantum mechanics to the relative velocity of galaxies by way of “blundering, low and horridly cruel” biology (Darwin), is that the universe is sustained by a continual and infinitely patient act of love.

    Not at all mock-scientific.

    They want the respectability of science without the part where people tell them that they’re wrong.

  126. David Wilford says

    After Spufford’s book came out last year in the U.K., there was this mention of it on the blog Crooked Timber:

    http://crookedtimber.org/2012/10/07/francis-spufford-and-the-inner-life-of-belief/

    Spufford isn’t trying to establish theological foundations, and he is briskly dismissive of the usual theodicies, or attempts to justify the ways of God to human beings. Rather, he describes what religious belief is like by developing two broad themes. The first is experiential: he evokes what it feels like to have glimpses of the ‘all-at-once perspective of the God of everything’ behind ordinary life, the brightness that sustains everything, a presence in silence. The second is the importance of narrative and imagery in expressing these intimations and what they mean. And because Spufford’s exploration is located within the Christian tradition, he says that ‘when I pray, I don’t look up but across, at a man in a crowd…’, that is, at Jesus, made newly unfamiliar here as Yeshua, whose life unfolds in an everyday provincial corner of a great empire. The narrative here gives rein to a talent for story-telling that is also vividly seen in Red Plenty. Spufford goes on to provide a lively and often quite funny account of what it’s like to live out the implications of his religious commitments as a member of the Anglican church.

  127. opposablethumbs says

    The storyteller’s tale that there is an entity called a god, and that there was once a bloke named Jesus or Yeshua who was simultaneously a bloke and at one and the same time the very specialest, bestest, most goddy of all these “gods” can be lyrical, moving (well, to some, maybe. There’s no accounting for tastes), evocative, allegorical, metaphorical and as numinous as all get out – but it ain’t factually correct, otherwise known as “true”.

    There’s nothing wrong with people enjoying or finding meaning, inspiration or guidance in stories – but there’s a hell of a lot wrong with people claiming that their favourite stories are factually correct and that they justify all sorts of strictures (sex, health, clothes, food, moral obligations, fucking tax exemptions) that can be legally forced upon all, including those who don’t share a belief in the story’s factual correctness.

    Spufford can be, I dare say, entertaining, funny, thought-provoking (well, to some, maybe. I did say there’s no accounting for tastes), wry, humorous and as self-depreciating and/or as pompous and self-satisfied as all get out – but he doesn’t get to pretend his story is anything but a story, and he most certainly doesn’t get to complain when others call his truth-claims into question.

    If christianity rests on the claim that there a particular “god” exists (however ill-defined) and that there was a bloke who was this “god”, then that is most certainly a factual claim and you can’t get away with squealing “no fair” when people question its veracity.

  128. freemage says

    I’ve actually made it through multiple chapters of this book. It’s a giant, steaming heap of “Not All Christians Are Like That,” “I’m not listening to you!” and tone-policing.

  129. brianpansky says

    @137-140

    agreed.

    this discussion is also reminding me of this book, which i just bought:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_the_Age_of_Science%3F

    notice how it doesn’t treat believers as a monolith. and, yes, it covers “the experiential”.

    The second is the importance of narrative and imagery in expressing these intimations and what they mean. And because Spufford’s exploration is located within the Christian tradition

    yes, located withing christian tradition. you can come up with all kinds of narratives, many fiction. this blurb also makes it sound like the run of the mill self-help books, which talk about the thinking etc of ordinary life. this one looks like a case of grabbing some part of being human (in this case, the narrative mode of our thinking, and narrative bias), ripping it out, and calling it ‘god’ (or basically calling it god’s radio into you).

  130. David Wilford says

    zenlike @ 143:

    I certainly don’t have anything myself to offer, but what I’m interested in personally is how religion comes into play in resolving commitment problems. (See Robert H. Frank’s Passions Within Reason for more on that matter.) Religion undeniably is a practice that serves to bind larger human communities together, as history amply demonstrates. I’m more inclined to take religion as seriously as Dan Dennett does, and Spufford’s offering seems to be worth taking seriously enough to read and reflect on.

  131. raven says

    Religion undeniably is a practice that serves to bind larger human communities together, as history amply demonstrates.

    Oh really???

    I suppose in your world with the green sky and binary star system.

    1. History is full of religious wars. The crusades, the Reformation wars which flickered on and off for 450 years and ended a whole 13 years ago in Northern Ireland. The partition of India and Pakistan. The OT bible itself, is mostly a history of wars, genocides and atrocities between the Jews and the neighboring tribes who had different gods. The Pagans and new world aboriginal peoples were almost completely slaughtered.

    If you add all the dead up, its in the tens or hundreds of million.

    2. It’s the same today. Sunnis and Shiites are fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan this very moment. Moslem terrorists occasionall attack xian nations. There used to be two skyscrapers in NYC called the World Trade Center. In the name of bringing us together, they seemed to have been hit by two jets.

    The Hindus and Moslems mix it up in India. The Buddhists and Moslems mix it up Burma and Thailand.

    In the USA, we all know the rules. The Protestants hate the Catholics and vice versa. The fundies hate everyone and everyone hates them back. The Mormons and JW’s occasionally lob a few grenades. And they all hate the atheists.

    3. If religion ever served a positive role, it might have been in small tribes as a tribal marker. These days it is mostly a way to divide people. And it is artificial. As Dawkins has pointed out, there are no Moslem or xian children. They are just children born into and brainwashed into one of countless religions, none of them any truer than the others, which is zero anyway.

  132. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Thumper, thank you.

    David Wilford, no, thanks.

    Raven, one of the best ways to bind a group together is to arrange a common enemy. Othering some people makes an us-and-them, and gives us a cause. Religion and conservativism are both good at that, religious conservatives are damned good at that. So, yeah, religion can be divisive and grouping at the same time, making groups by making divisions between them. I do agree that it is more divisive than binding, in that the divisions kill people.

  133. raven says

    No doubt religion can be a tribal marker. We see that every day and frequently on Pharyngula. The xianist tribe has already shown up on this thread and made their mostly incoherent arguments, reducing down to “we hate atheists”.

    These days tribal cohesion based on hate and marked by religion is proving to be less than useful and usually destructive. How many more wars, civil wars, and terrorist attacks do we need?

    wikipedia:

    His book Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence (2005) used scarce resource theory to explain the role of religion in violence. Avalos argues that all conflict is usually the result of some resource that is either scarce or perceived to be scarce. This could range from love in a family to energy on a global scale. When religion causes violence, it does so because it has created a new scarce resource somewhere. Such scarce resources could include sacred space (“The Holy Land”), group privileging, and eternal life.

    1. We also read about religious based violence on a daily basis. It’s a rare day when we don’t read about it. The longest running current one is Israel. The Jews were persecuted for 2,000 years by the xianist tribes and now they are locked in a bitter struggle with the Moslems in the middle east.

    Books have been written on religous violence. Hector Avalos, a superb scholar has one. This issue is a bit of a taboo because…religions assert privilege, they have power, and…they can and will get violent if they can get away with it.

    2. It’s been my own experience as well. I’ve long ago lost track of how many death threats I’ve gotten. Which is no big deal compared to two of my friends. Both ended up dead in Iraq.

  134. Anri says

    David Wilford @ 136:

    They treat Christianity either as a bunch of mock-scientific propositions about the universe which you can disprove, or as a social phenomenon which you can treat as entirely malign if you squint at it and wave your arms a lot. In both cases they operate a million naïve miles away from the actual experience of belief.

    Right.
    Because religious people never treat religion as if it were a set of claims about how the universe came to be, or operates, or anything at all or even a little tiny bit like that. All religious people, I feel certain we can agree, accept, avow and publicly declare that religion is just about how they feel inside and has nothing to do with the actual, physical world around them.
    (Note: the above passage may contain sarcasm. Handle at your own risk.)

    Also, I haven’t ever actually read any New Atheist writer who has failed to say that religion , rather than being something “…which you can treat as entirely malign…” has done some good. Their points are:
    1) the price of religious good is too high,
    2) doing good doesn’t excuse you from being dead flat wrong, and
    3) doing good does not require religion.

    So, given that I’m far from a super-genius, and I managed to figure that out about New Atheist writing, do you think that Spufford just missed all of that? That would paint him as pretty dim.
    Or do you think he did get that and just ignored it as it didn’t fit his narrative? That would paint him as pretty dishonest.

    What’s your opinion?

  135. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    and Spufford’s offering seems to be worth taking seriously enough to read and reflect on.

    Self-serving emotional bullshit should be placed in the trash. There is nothing intellectual there.

  136. David Wilford says

    Anri @ 151:

    My opinion, having not read the book yet, is that Spufford isn’t hand-waving away the many criticisms made of religion, but is wanting to explain why his own belief in Christianity is emotionally satisfying to him and by extension for millions of other Christians as well. This would seem to me to be of interest to anyone wanting to better understand religious belief, including myself.

    FYI, I earlier mentioned Robert H. Frank’s book Passions Within Reason, which deals with how our emotions serve to bind us to commitments that require trust. Here’s a link to a paper that also deals with the subject:

    http://www.robert-h-frank.com/PDFs/MoralSentiments.pdf

    I think religion makes use of our emotional capacity to make a promise that binds and helps cement relationships in a wider community, through professing belief in things unseen. Given the uncertainty of life it’s not hard to understand how having faith in a higher power could not only be an opiate to ease one’s personal emotional pains, but also make it easier to share that with others who too share your faith. Spufford says that Christianity does take suffering seriously and that is why it can make emotional sense to believe in the suffering of Christ and ease one’s own suffering in times of grief and loss.

  137. shadow says

    To re-enact the tragedies of the Sixteenth Century, they lack only the power.

    Ingersoll, Robert Green, 1833-1899 (2006-03-17). The Ghosts And Other Lectures (p. 5). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

  138. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford:

    My opinion, having not read the book yet, is that Spufford isn’t hand-waving away the many criticisms made of religion, but is wanting to explain why his own belief in Christianity is emotionally satisfying to him and by extension for millions of other Christians as well. This would seem to me to be of interest to anyone wanting to better understand religious belief, including myself.

    That may be true, and might even be needed over in an intellectual and atheistic part of Europe, but here in the Missouri Ozarks, it’s like another pickup truck with a Jesus bumper sticker..As I said earlier, we know all about the emotional aspect because we’ve lived it.

    And if you think that reading Spufford is going to get you an understanding of religion, when he’s busy saying that he’s NOT most flavors of religion, you are not reading Spufford for comprehension.

    FYI, I earlier mentioned Robert H. Frank’s book Passions Within Reason, which deals with how our emotions serve to bind us to commitments that require trust.

    Are you aware that there’s another thread about engagement rings, and how most folks here think we don’t need a ring to emotionally bind us to a commitment that requires trust? Again, we live this already.

    I think religion makes use of our emotional capacity to …… binds and helps cement relationships in a wider community …

    So does scaring the shit out of people, involving them in a crime, and putting them through boot camp.

    Given the uncertainty of life it’s not hard to understand how having faith in a higher power could not only be an opiate to ease one’s personal emotional pains, but also make it easier to share that with others who too share your faith.

    If it’s not hard to understand, why do we need Spufford? Again, this isn’t news.

    Spufford says that Christianity does take suffering seriously and that is why it can make emotional sense to believe in the suffering of Christ and ease one’s own suffering in times of grief and loss.

    Christianity doesn’t take seriously the suffering of people in Hell. Most Christians have a much more violent idea of Hell than is supported by scripture, and they don’t think about that, much, except to keep themselves out. The fact that their religion condemns billions matters not a whit.

    As for what Spufford says, well, I’m going to crib from further up, and say, “If it agrees with me, I don’t need to read it. If it disagrees with me, I don’t need to read it.” Seriously, I’m far enough along that I don’t need to read Spufford for his insights, and I that I don’t need to read much of Spufford to recognize him as a very bad writer.

    If you want, go ahead and read him. But if you can’t read any better than you’ve been doing here, you are going to keep on being confused.

  139. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Probably worth a listen, if only for the erudition.

    Which means zero factual evidence to show his deity isn’t imaginary, and his holy book isn’t mythology/fiction. Nothing cogent or intelligent can be said based on those twin lies. Why don’t apologists like Wilford see that?

  140. raven says

    I think religion makes use of our emotional capacity to …….binds and helps cement relationships in a wider community

    Well, shoot, the internet ate my comment.

    This Wilford is delusional and/or posting gibberish.

    This isn’t true at all. Religion has been causing tribal warfare for several millennia. It’s a main theme of the bible.

    From my post 147 once again so David Wilford can once again ignore it.
    1. History is full of religious wars. The crusades, the Reformation wars which flickered on and off for 450 years and ended a whole 13 years ago in Northern Ireland. The partition of India and Pakistan. The OT bible itself, is mostly a history of wars, genocides and atrocities between the Jews and the neighboring tribes who had different gods. The Pagans and new world aboriginal peoples were almost completely slaughtered.

    If you add all the dead up, its in the tens or hundreds of million.

    2. It’s the same today. Sunnis and Shiites are fighting in Iraq, Syria, and Pakistan this very moment. Moslem terrorists occasionall attack xian nations. There used to be two skyscrapers in NYC called the World Trade Center. In the name of bringing us together, they seemed to have been hit by two jets.

    The Hindus and Moslems mix it up in India. The Buddhists and Moslems mix it up Burma and Thailand.

  141. raven says

    I think religion makes use of our emotional capacity to …….binds and helps cement relationships in a wider community

    We used to have two skyscrapers, The World Trade Center in NYC. I’d be more impressed with that statement if some Moslems hadn’t decided to “cement relationships in a wider community” by flying jets into them, killing 3,000 random people. Events like that happen somewhere in the world almost every day, motivated by religion.

    All you need to know about religion:

    1. As Zuckerman has shown, low religion countries are more successful and healthier. Western Europe, Japan, Oceania.

    2. High religion countries tend to be full of internal warfare, low in economic development, and many are basket cases going nowhere. Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and in the first world, the USA.

    This David Wilford doesn’t seem to be able to ground his wishful thinking in reality. It’s a religious thing to value fantasy over the real world.

  142. David Wilford says

    Silly me, I thought mentioning a talk between two professional writers, one a prominent atheist the other a theist who isn’t a boring theologian, would be something that folks here might find interesting. FWIW, I’m not an apologist for faith but it’s interesting to see how anything that isn’t an outright slam of religion is assumed to amount to an apology. Feel free to carry on with the finger-pointing and jeering, if that’s what you find best in life.

  143. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    WIW, I’m not an apologist for faith but it’s interesting to see how anything that isn’t an outright slam of religion is assumed to amount to an apology.

    You didn’t just point things out. You tried to require us to read unintelligent fiction and listen to folks lie and bullshit about their imaginary deity and mythical/fictional holy book. Only apologists do that. There is no reason for anybody to even bother. We’ve heard it all before…

  144. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford,

    The trouble is, we can all see the sort of garbage Spufford is capable of producing in the OP – I take it you wouldn’t try to defned that whining rant (or ranting whine if you prefer). It may be as you say, that he’s worth reading or listening to; but time is limited. I can’t forsee any of his works reaching the top of my priority list any time in my remaining years.

  145. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @raven

    High religion countries tend to be full of internal warfare, low in economic development, and many are basket cases going nowhere.

    The correlation certainly exists, but I suspect you may have causality backwards, or at least wrongly weighted. I don’t think religion causes those situations, or at least not on it’s own, and I know those situations don’t cause religion,; but I think they feed off and propagate each other, exacerbate each other.

  146. Thumper; Immorally Inferior Sergeant Major in the Grand Gynarchy Mangina Corps (GGMC) says

    @David Wilford #136

    …just in case anyone felt like buying the lazy assumption that the atheist side of the quarrel was the clever one.

    The “Atheist side of the quarrel” is the correct one, does that not by extension make it the clever one?

    @menyambal #149

    Not a problem :)

  147. raven says

    David Wilford:

    WIW, I’m not an apologist for faith

    You were doing exactly that. It wasn’t the least bit coherent or factual either.

    But don’t worry. I have no intention of trying to figure out what in the hell you are trying to say any more. Feel free to keep on trying to say whatever you are trying to say.

    I’m sure someone will find it entertaining even if the Decoder ring has gone missing.

  148. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts:

    As if one couldn’t pull some of the more lame things P.Z. has said and use that as justification for ignoring him henceforth. It’s also clear that Spufford’s rant is intended as an over-the-top venting and isn’t all there is for us to consider. Now whether or not you are actually interested in what Spufford has to say about the emotional appeal of Christianity is your call, but you might want to be sure you’re making that decision for good, rather than bad reasons.

  149. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Now whether or not you are actually interested in what Spufford has to say about the emotional appeal of Christianity is your call, but you might want to be sure you’re making that decision for good, rather than bad reasons.

    There is no good reason to read tripe about why someone is delusional fool thinking their imaginary deity exists, and their holy book isn’t mythology/fiction. The two fallacious presuppositions give absolutely zero intellectual content to their theology, etc. Like reading newage fuckwittery. Nothing intellectual or cogent possible. That is what you refuse to get.

  150. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, you obviously have an agenda. Why don’t you just come out and tell us what it is? Being coy just makes you look like somebody to be ignored due to non-sequiturs.

  151. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@167,

    It’s also clear that Spufford’s rant is intended as an over-the-top venting

    No, it’s not; and I’m looking at the simpering drivel in the last paragraph PZ quotes as well as the ranting whine.

    Now whether or not you are actually interested in what Spufford has to say about the emotional appeal of Christianity is your call, but you might want to be sure you’re making that decision for good, rather than bad reasons.

    From where I sit I can see enough books I’m much more interested in reading to keep me busy for the next couple of years at least, if I did little else. You might want to make sure you’re not being more of a pompous ass than you can help.

  152. Nick Gotts says

    Nerd of Redhead@169,

    I think it’s fairly clear: David Wilford “believes in belief”. When Wilford reads the whining, posturing, self-important drivel Spufford comes out with in the article PZ links to, even though Wilford’s not (if I get him right) a religious believer himself, he thinks it’s worthy of respectful attention.

  153. David Wilford says

    Um, no, I don’t “believe in belief” as much as note the existence of believers and listen to their reasons for holding them. I’m not a religious believer myself. I did pick up a copy of Spufford’s book today after perusing it myself and it’s not filled with whining posturing, self-important drivel, which isn’t surprising given the contents of the video I posted a link to earlier or the link to a conversation between Spufford and noted author and atheist Philip Pullman. I did balance myself karma-wise by also buying a copy of Dan Dennett’s latest book, which I’m also looking forward to reading.

  154. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Um, no, I don’t “believe in belief” as much as note the existence of believers and listen to their reasons for holding them.

    Fine, you can partake of the exercise in futility, but NOBODY else has to do what you do, was most of us consider it a waste of time. So, stop trying to get us to join your delusions. The delusion being that anything meaningful can be said with fallacious presuppositions…..

  155. David Wilford says

    I had no idea I could compel anyone to read something they didn’t want to read. Who knew?

  156. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@172,

    Well, we disagree on the video, where I thought he came across as a “pompous numpty” to quote myself@101. But then, so do you, so it’s not surprising you liked it.

  157. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I had no idea I could compel anyone to read something they didn’t want to read. Who knew?

    Until you shut up about it, you ARE trying to compel people to read. DUH. No wonder you can’t understand facts. You are tied up with fantasy.

  158. says

    I find it amusing when people take complete and utter bullshit seriously, even when they don’t believe the complete and utter bullshit themselves. I’ve seen the same sort of attitude with homeopathy, anti-vaxers, UFOs, 9/11 truthers, and any number of patently ridiculous beliefs.

    Of course, I read all I can about bigfoot. Not because I take it (or the believers) seriously, but because it’s interesting how people believe in bullshit.

  159. David Wilford says

    Avo, I mentioned earlier here that I found Spufford’s premise interesting because of how our emotions help us to resolve commitment problems. See Robert H. Frank’s Passion Within Reason for more on that – FYI it’s partly social science, partly an economics text, definitely not a religious tract.

  160. David Wilford says

    Not quite off-topic, here’s an essay by Spufford on Iain M. Banks and his work that I pulled the following from:

    Now, as this dandy cannibal satire on the Last Supper suggests – blasphemy of a grade you just don’t see much, nowadays – Banks also engaged, with the creation of the Culture, in a piece of sly, prolonged and magnificent anti-theism. I don’t so much mean because, here and there, he used his wide screen for explicit attack on elements of religion, as in Surface Detail’s Hieronymus Bosch-worthy demonstration of the repulsiveness of the idea of hell. I mean that the Culture itself represents an elegant absorption of, and therefore displacement of, one whole department of religious yearning. It offers, in effect, a completely secular version of heaven. With its sentient ships as omniscient as any pantheon of gods, and a lot more obliging and benign, and its vision of human nature uncramped from disease and hunger and oppression, and its rationalised equivalent to transcendence, it gives its inhabitants (and you as you read the books) all the pie in the sky they could possibly want; but transformed by being made wholly material, by being brought within the reach of human aspiration. Where religion, on the Marxist reading of it, is a kind of comprehensible counsel of despair, the heart of the heartless world, Banks supplies a counsel of optimism. The handwaving physics and the cheerful vagueness of the economics don’t matter. The Culture is a declaration of imagination’s power. It wants to demonstrate that a materialist imagination can reach just as far as a religious one; further, even, since it can encompass within the order of nature everything that religion must reach outside nature to dream up. Give us enough real sky, says the Culture, and the pie will follow. Plus rayguns!

    More here:

    http://rationalist.org.uk/articles/4182/

  161. says

    DW:

    I absolutely get that. Like I said, I love reading up on bigfoot researchers. I find the psychology of belief in bigfoot quite interesting. (And UFOs, for the same reason.)

    That certainly doesn’t stop my deep amusement at that belief.

    Same with Christianity. I’m pretty sure I understand the fundamentals that go into the psychology of belief. There certainly is emotional satisfaction of having an in-group. (That’s partly why I hang out here — this is my in-crowd.) This is beyond the other emotionally-satisfying bits that come with Christianity — the easy revenge fantasies (“God is going to get you,” or “You will burn in hell if you don’t repent,” and so on), the certainty of personal salvation (even if you don’t really know what that means), and the ability to assert that some subjective and entirely human experience like love can bind the whole universe, turning what is otherwise a cold and inhospitable and viciously lovely place into something accepting of you, knowledgeable of you.

    Christianity is the easy choice, though. It’s the dominant social and theological framework in America. People assume you are Christian, especially if you are nice. Its ubiquity ensures there is no real commitment, no real emotional risk (unlike belief in bigfoot, or that UFOs are extraterrestrial or trans-dimensional or just Not From Around Here). I hold belief in Christianity in a bit more contempt than I do those who believe in bigfoot or UFOs for that reason, and a few more, like: there’s far more evidence for bigfoot than there is for a god, and a helluva lot more than there is for the Jesus of the Bible.

    Anyway. I reckon that’s just me ranting. I do get wanting to understand other people. I just can’t get worked up about someone writing about the psychology of belief who seems to blur the lines between the act of belief, and the belief itself. (Which is definitely what’s happening in the essay linked in the OP.)

  162. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford, you are getting us to repeat ourselves, and you need to either start listening or stop commenting.

    I do not need to read books on the nature of belief—I have lived with belief. I grew up in the Bible Belt. I was just now trying to think of a family-friendly response to the evolution-is-just-a-theory bit. I am going to the wedding of a seminary student. I have attended many flavors of church, and been employed by religious organizations. I have shared housing with religionists of several sorts. I went to college partly because of theological curiousity. I know belief. So do most folks here.

    Spufford is trying to explain belief to some disinterested Europeans from atheistic nations. I don’t need him. I know belief.

    Spufford is blattering on about how different he is from all the religious cliches. Well, the cliches are cliches because most people do them, as I well know. I won’t gather much insight into mainstream belief by reading rants from some fringe-fruit freakazoid from Fromage.

    If I was really trying to fill in the details on my thesis about the nature of belief, I might read him. And from what I have read, I could use him as an example of the delusional thinking and egotism that often accompany religion, and that are showing in your writing here, David Wilford. My thesis would be a study on which comes first, and how they intertwine and inforce.
    And there would be a little bit on how peple who follow a book are often poor readers.

  163. David Wilford says

    Here’s a challenge to atheists from Spufford:

    http://rationalist.org.uk/2858/dear-atheists

    and a response from Jerry Coyne:

    http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/a-letter-to-atheists-from-a-believer/

    IMO, I agree with Coyne on this:

    But it behooves us to listen to the criticisms of our opponents, if for no other reason than to sharpen our arguments. I’m not going to change my mind about the absence of God, but I want to understand the faith of someone as smart as Spufford. Maybe people like him do have some valid points to make about our behavior.

  164. Nick Gotts says

    I’ve now listened to the Spufford/Pullman conversation – I think no better of Spufford, who had nothing to say I haven’t heard a dozen times before, and who was certainly trying to have his cake and eat it (to paraphrase: “I’m not an apologist but here’s why Jesus must have been God and the Church must have God in it”) but rather less of Pullman, who contributed nothing other than agreeing with almost everything Spufford said, so the point of including him escapes me. I hadn’t realised he’s a “panpsychist” (an irritating variant of woo we’ve had some experience of here), although that is consonant with the magic “dust” making people conscious 33,000 years ago in His Dark Materials. I didn’t notice the “erudition” David Wilford promised.

  165. Nick Gotts says

    …And I’ve now read Spufford’s “challenge to non-believers”. Stone me, what a load of hackneyed dribble.

    Allow me to annoy you with the prospect of mutual respect between believers and atheists. The basis for it would be simple: that on both sides, we hold to positions for which by definition there cannot be any evidence. We believe there is a God. You believe there isn’t one.

    This man is supposed to be smart? It’s just the same-old-same-old nonsense about atheism being a religion. Yawn. Of course there can’t be evidence that there isn’t a god or gods of some kind: gods are by definition superhumanly powerful, and if they existed and wanted to hide that fact, they could. In that regard, I’m an atheist in exactly the same sense as I’m an aleprechaunist: I don’t believe in entities for which there is no evidence. But there can be and is abundant evidence against the existence of specific gods, such as the supposedly omnipotent and omnibenevolent god of the Abrahamic religions. And as far as Christianity is concerned, the doctrinally orthodox versions are logically incoherent.

  166. Nick Gotts says

    BTW, I wonder if it has occurred to Spufford that sneering condescension is at least as bad as straightforward verbal aggression.

  167. says

    @ Nick Gotts #186

    Yawn indeed. With such people it is tempting to split the difference (this is after all suggested by their argument), leaving us with the concept of a “half-god”. I don’t mean demi-god, but rather a god that is split in half. (We do get to keep our half-cake and eat our half-cake after all.)

    How does one say “YHWHtje” in English? When we refer to half-Jesus, do we use the diminutive “Jesussy”? What do half-gods do? Are they semi-omniscient? Do they take time off on weekends and Wednesday afternoons?

    The logical inferences of their little game could lead to hours of fun.

  168. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s just the same-old-same-old nonsense about atheism being a religion. Yawn.

    Which is why there was no need to read or listen to the drivel. How it is said is irrelevant to the vacuous content presented. I prefer my fantasy properly labeled as fiction, not pretending to be religious “TRUTH” using the same old well refuted lies.

  169. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts:

    I didn’t notice the “erudition” David Wilford promised.”

    Given how you’re so busy shooting down the usual bog-standard atheist targets, it’s little wonder you didn’t. I’m more interested in understanding than in winning the argument myself, but then, I’m a married man so that’s my default position these days.

  170. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m more interested in understanding

    It is very simple. Self-delusion. They delude themselves into believing their deity isn’t imaginary. End of story. Nothing more to understand.

  171. says

    How to understand religion:

    Observe the top floor; see how pretty the curtains are, how elaborate the carvings on the gable-ends. That’s a lovely chimney-pot! The pattern on the roof, picked out in different-coloured tiles is exquisite, is it not?

    Now observe the ground-floor. Oh, it appears to be missing…

    Crash!

  172. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@190

    Given how you’re so busy shooting down the usual bog-standard atheist targets, it’s little wonder you didn’t.

    Since Spufford is so assiduous in providing such targets, and very little else, there’s not much else to be done in critiquing his effusions. But perhaps you could provide some examples of the “erudition” you heard, so we can all appreciate them.

    I’m more interested in understanding than in winning the argument myself

    *chuckle*

  173. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Spufford:

    We believe there is a God. You believe there isn’t one.

    No, no, no, no. He may believe that, but it happens to not be the case. It is all about a lack of belief. Let me rephrase it …

    “Christians believe there is a God. Atheist do not believe there is a god.”

    See there? Christians do something that atheists don’t do. It isn’t that atheists do it differently, it’s that they don’t do it at all.

    It isn’t like playing football by Australian rules or American rules, it’s like sleeping instead. Or, as I usually say it, Christians go to church, atheists don’t. We don’t do anything special instead, we just don’t roll up in the Sunday AM.

    If you think that atheists simply believe different things, you are saying that everything is a matter of faith, and there is no reality anywhere. Now, if you have defined God as a matter of faith, such that there can be no truth about him, you’ve done a strange thing, and denied the majority of religions.

    Yeah, there are a few “atheists” out there who do believe that there is no god, because it’s trendy or something, but mostly it is a matter of failing to take an action, not performing the act of believing. Which is why I use the word “believer” as opposed to the skeptic and the scientist, who do not believe.

    In short, if Spufford can say that, I’m not taking him any more seriously than the whackadoodle that runs the Creation Museum of the Ozarks. Scholar, my aching ass.

    David Wilford:

    I agree with Coyne on this:

    But it behooves us to listen to the criticisms of our opponents, if for no other reason than to sharpen our arguments. I’m not going to change my mind about the absence of God, but I want to understand the faith of someone as smart as Spufford. Maybe people like him do have some valid points to make about our behavior.

    Yay, you have another authority to give us. If you thaink that helps, you are getting wronger.

    It would behoove you to listen to the criticisms of your opponents, here, David. Give it up.

    I don’t “want to understand the faith of someone as smart as Spufford”. I don’t think he’s all that smart, and I’d rather understand the faith of the dumb people, the majority of believers. Honestly, there’s about ten percent of smart people that believe crazy things—why worm my way into Spufford and get his particular brand of ick all over?

    Maybe people like him do have some valid points to make about our behavior, but I’ve got two jobs to do, and no money to spend on him. And, as I said, he claims to be this wild maverick of a different kettle of religious fish, and I don’t think he’s gonna help me grok my Aunt Martha and her damned televangelists.

  174. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 193:

    Opening Spufford’s book to a pseudo-random page, I’ll quote this aside from page 29 after he’s introduced the HPtFtU (human potential to fuck things up):

    (Which is the reason, by the way, that I’ve started the tour of religion’s recognizable emotions here, with the undeniably gloomy shit. I could, after all, have put us on the traditional night-time hilltop, and had us gaze out at stars more numerous than the sand grains on a beach, and the red-shifted exhaust of galxies revving away from us. I could have put our hearts in our mouths and filled us with awe at the bigness of it all; with the luminous, numinous Carl-Sagan-osity of things, which even Richard Dawkins agress ought to stir us to our depths, though what it should stir us to *do*, of course, is to seek out a career in the empirical sciences. I will give awe its due later, I promise, but the trouble with it as a starting-point is that it is, by its nature, a rather isolated emotion, marked out by its sudden self-forgetting focus on an object external to us, and by its disconnection from every day trundling along. If awe is powerful, it tends to be a state we fall out of knackered, after a while, unable to keep up the intensity. If it’s more modest, it tends of its nature to fade away anyway, to peter out on the hilltop where it began. And in neither case is it obvious how awe is supposed to relate to the rest of experience. I think of awe as a kind of National Trust property among feelings: somewhere to visit from time to time, but not a place you can live.)

    This comes across as a spot-on and erudite (if somewhat pithy) take about the emotion of awe and it’s effervescence in our lives, despite its appeal.

  175. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    This comes across as a spot-on and erudite (if somewhat pithy) take about the emotion of awe and it’s effervescence in our lives, despite its appeal.

    Whereas I see nothing but newage (rhymes with sewage) psychobabble, meaningless drivel.

  176. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 196:

    Well then, how is it to have The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony going on forever in your head? It must be nice.

  177. David Wilford says

    Menyambal @ 194:

    Pardon me, but for someone who has two jobs and is concerned more with understanding your Aunt Martha than Francis Spufford, you seem to have a case of xkcd.com/386/ here.

  178. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Well then, how is it to have The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony going on forever in your head? It must be nice.

    Nope, the Scientific Rational Skeptical Show-Me-The-Evidence Concerto. If all you can do is to try to make funny, you have nothing, and you know that. Time for you to fade into the bandwidth…

  179. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Yes, yes, I do. I’m also interested in understanding you, David Wilford, and I see you as fitting neatly into a pattern we often see here. I wasn’t sure about you at first, but now the bits are clicking. You seem to be one of those folks who believe there is no god, and still act like most of the Christians we get here.

    Part of my house-person job involves petting a cat while she sleeps on my chest, so I’ve rigged a laptop so I can read and sometimes write. It’s a rough job, innit?

  180. Al Dente says

    I’ve just read Spufford’s “Dear Atheists” post. Like Nick Gotts I saw a common or garden, Mk I Mod 0 accusation that atheism is just another religion. Spufford says:

    …the idea of atheism as an extravagant faith-driven deviation from the null case goes against one of the most cherished elements in the self-image of polemical unbelief: that atheism is somehow scientific, that it is to be adopted as the counterpart in the realm of meaning to the caution and rigour of the scientific method.

    Atheism uses the scientific method to look at the question do gods exist and, based on available evidence (or lack thereof), determines that gods probably do not exist. Moreover, evidence does not show any necessity for gods or other supernatural beings. So if the evidence does not show the existence or the necessity for gods, then the parsimonious answer to do gods exists is no. However most atheists will admit the possibility that, however improbable, gods might exist. Spufford and most of his fellow theists insist, despite any evidence or logical arguments to the contrary, that gods do exist. So theism rejects the scientific method. I cannot be impressed by Spufford sneering at atheism for its claims to being scientific when his particular belief is anti-scientific.

  181. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 199:

    Nope, the Scientific Rational Skeptical Show-Me-The-Evidence Concerto.

    Could you hum a few bars? Anyway, I think it’s quite clear what Spufford is describing when it comes to feelings of awe.

  182. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Anyway, I think it’s quite clear what Spufford is describing when it comes to feelings of awe.

    Which has nothing whatsoever to do with reality. This is what Spufford, and anybody who claims atheism is a religion, and not a coinclusion, needs to show:

    They need to provide conclusive physical evidence for their imaginary deity. Evidence that will pass muster with scientists, magicians, and professional debunkers, as being of divine, and not natural (scientifically explained), origin.

    Without that evidence, all they have is unevidenced OPINION. OPINION which can and is dismissed as fuckwittery, no matter how “erudite” they make their claims.

    Why don’t you hum of few bars of the “I have nothing either” Cantata.

  183. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 203:

    Dude, long ago I came to the conclusion that I could not disprove the existence of a supernatural entity as boundless as all the known universe that was also deeply interested in my sex life. You can’t either, since it calls for physical evidence and by definition physical evidence is not proof one way or the other about the supernatural. What we can do is understand how the natural world works and what physical processes account for the phenomenon we observe.

  184. says

    David Wilford #204

    As for acting like a Christian, I suspect that’s merely because I’m not as dismissive as most here are of religion.

    Bearing in mind that the whole house of cards is built on, and depends on, the idea that at least one supernatural being exists, which bits don’t you dismiss?

  185. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@195
    1) Your claim for “erudition” was with regard to the Spufford/Pullman conversation, not Spufford’s book.
    2) There is nothing erudite about the extract you quote: erudition in a text or conversation requires that it demonstrate evidence of considerable scholarly learning. Spufford may well be erudite, but neither that extract nor the conversation demonstrated it. I conclude that you don’t know what “erudite” means.

    @205

    long ago I came to the conclusion that I could not disprove the existence of a supernatural entity as boundless as all the known universe that was also deeply interested in my sex life.

    Of course not. Nor of leprechauns or werewolves.

    by definition physical evidence is not proof one way or the other about the supernatural

    Wrong: we might find physical evidence of the existence of the supernatural (of minds or intentions independent of the physical world) strong enough to deserve the word “proof”, in the same sense that we have evidence that proves kangaroos exist. A good deal of research along these lines has actually been carried out (into alleged messages from the dead, psychic or “parapsychological” abilities, the power of prayer), and no such evidence has emerged. Philosophical naturalism is a high-level hypothesis about the world that cannot be proved (because it asserts a universal generalization), but could be disproved.

  186. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    You can’t either, since it calls for physical evidence and by definition physical evidence is not proof one way or the other about the supernatural.

    Sorry, the null hypothesis is non-existence in such situations. As you say, imaginary deities can’t be disproved. But we have reached the point where absence of evidence (for a thousand years or so) is almost conclusive evidence of absence, hence the null hypothesis of non-existence. Which forces those making the claim for a deity to provide the needed physical evidence–or shut the fuck up about it if they have intellectual honesty and integrity. Which Spufford sorely lacks, and I suspect you do too, if you even consider the stupornatural.

  187. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 206:

    To again cut to the chase, I don’t dismiss the parts that prompt religious believers to act as if there was a Being that guided them. That’s why Spufford’s book interests me, because it deals with the emotional rationale for such a being and how and why that might work for him at least. Dan Dennett also has stated a desire to study religion to better understand how it works and in a way I see the two ultimately dovetailing together in their respective efforts to explain the phenomena of religious belief.

  188. says

    David Wilford
    202

    Anyway, I think it’s quite clear what Spufford is describing when it comes to feelings of awe.

    It is. He’s saying that most people feel awe at some point, but that it’s a transient emotion. This is trivially true, and in no way constitutes evidence in favor of the existence of supernatural beings.
    204

    You can’t either, since it calls for physical evidence and by definition physical evidence is not proof one way or the other about the supernatural.

    Bullshit. Things which have effects on reality leave evidence thereof, which can be measured. Things which leave no evidence are not acting on reality, are therefore indistinguishable from things that do not exist, and can be treated for all purposes as equivalent to nonexistent things. There is exactly as much evidence for an all powerful being that cares about our sex life as there is for the existence of Zeus, Thor, Shiva, and Amaterasu: none whatsoever. There is no reason to treat things for which there is no evidence as real at all, let alone as the null hypothesis. Also, the word ‘supernatural’ is perfectly meaningless, as it definitionally excludes all things that are real.

  189. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That’s why Spufford’s book interests me,

    If it interests you why can’t you just read it and leave the rest of us, who are totally uninterested in such drivel, alone? Why must you try to force a discussion with your continuing obnoxious presence?

  190. says

    David Wilford #209

    To again cut to the chase, I don’t dismiss the parts that prompt religious believers to act as if there was a Being that guided them.

    Umm. You don’t dismiss those parts of religion, or you’re interested in them?

    If you don’t dismiss them, how do you square this with the fact that you dismiss their basis in supernaturalism?

  191. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 207:

    If you have to resort to basing your judgment about Spufford on one single bit of evidence, well, that’s your call, but it doesn’t seem very scientific.

    As for evidence of the supernatural being physical in nature, then it’s no longer supernatural. What’s happened over the past few thousand years is that we have established natural explanations for things that previously didn’t but were explained by supernatural claims, such as the natural explanation of evolution to account for the diversity of life on Earth, versus the claim that Goddidit. We can never disprove the power of prayer, we can only establish that it is not proven. If it did, it’s quite likely that there would be a natural explanation for it, like midichlorians, or maybe kangaroos.

  192. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 212:

    I don’t believe in the explanations religious believers give for holding their beliefs, but I do acknowledge that their belief matters to them and is important in their lives.

  193. Nick Gotts says

    If you have to resort to basing your judgment about Spufford on one single bit of evidence, well, that’s your call, but it doesn’t seem very scientific. – David Wilford@213

    I’ve read the extract from the book PZ linked to. I’ve watched the video and listened to the podcast you linked to, and read the extract from the book you provided. In none of these four pieces of evidence, three of them provided by you, does Spufford say anything of the slightest originality, erudition or (as far as I’m concerned) interest. If you can’t tell the difference between 1 and 4, I think your qualifications to judge what is or is not scientific (not that deciding whether to read a book is a scientific decision) are rather limited.

  194. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 215:

    I don’t like it and I work to change said laws. I’m quite happy to see several states this year make same-sex civil marriage legal. Here in Minnesota in the Twin Cities area it was quite common to see yard signs saying “Another Catholic Voting No”, which was a vote against the 2012 constitutional amendment (passed by the then Republican-controlled state legislature) banning same-sex marriage. The amendment failed and with Democratic-controlled legislature that was also voted in and a Democratic governor, Minnesota this year made love the law. So even the believers aren’t as monolithic as you might think.

  195. says

    David Wilford 213

    As for evidence of the supernatural being physical in nature, then it’s no longer supernatural. What’s happened over the past few thousand years is that we have established natural explanations for things that previously didn’t but were explained by supernatural claims, such as the natural explanation of evolution to account for the diversity of life on Earth, versus the claim that Goddidit.

    That’s rather my point, yes. ‘Supernatural’ means either ‘something that affected the world the mechanism of which the speaker does not understand’ or else ‘something that did not affect the world and is therefore indistinguishable from something that happened entirely inside the speaker’s head’. In both cases, the use of the word conveys information only about the speaker, not about reality external to the speaker.

    We can never disprove the power of prayer

    Guess again, sport. Double-blind studies work perfectly well for that purpose.

  196. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 216:

    Well, YMMV and all that, but I’d get my odometer checked out if I were you. When someone like Neil Fucking Gaiman likes Spufford’s work, it’s the sort of testimonial that carries weight, given the source, because Neil doesn’t bullshit.

  197. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    When someone like Neil Fucking Gaiman likes Spufford’s work, it’s the sort of testimonial that carries weight, given the source, because Neil doesn’t bullshit.

    Argument from “authority”, nothing but more bullshit. Who the fuck cares who finds what you find interesting, interesting?

    Argue facts, not other peoples opinions, or your wishes.

  198. says

    David Wilford #217

    So even the believers aren’t as monolithic as you might think.

    Given that I’ve never seen believers as monolithic, I doubt that. Moving on…

    Just suppose you happen to notice, one day, that an awful lot of religiously-based laws and proposed laws really do happen to be built on watertight logic, provided one accepts that the holy text in question is factual—that there is a god and that this god does want those commands followed.

    Given you’ve noted this, would you not find yourself in the position of having to criticise the religion itself—of having to argue that, no, the text is not a reliable guide to the nature of the universe?

  199. Nick Gotts says

    I do acknowledge that their belief matters to them and is important in their lives.- David Wilford@214

    Well gosh, and here’s all of us thinking that their beliefs don’t matter to them and aren’t important in their lives. Look, David, Spufford’s book interests you; fine, I hope you enjoy it; but you clearly feel that it should interest us, enough for us to give it high enough priority to read it (at least, if you don’t, it’s quite unclear why you’re arguing about it). In my case, in PZ’s, and I think in most of the rest of us arguing with you, based on what we have read and heard, we don’t think he has anything fresh or insightful to say, or would throw significant light on religion as a social or psychological phenomenon.

    Incidentally, I missed one of the pieces of evidence I’m basing my decision not to read the book on: the “challenge to believers” you linked to @184. so that’s five pieces of evidence, four of them provided by you.

  200. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 220:

    It’s a fact that Neil Fucking Gaiman is an author of quite erudite works. I therefore take it as a given that Neil Fucking Gaiman Knows It When He Sees It, and that if he thinks Spufford is a good writer then it’s a pretty darn good data point demonstrating that such is the case.

  201. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    [Oh, look, the thread moved while I wrote this. Posting anyway!]

    That pitfall trap’s gonna need more leaves on it, Daz, if you’re gonna make it work. :-)

    David Wilford, I’d advise you to quit while you’re (IMO) only somewhat behind. Your xkcd point was well-judged. These are people who will not relinquish the last word on the topic.

    Personally, I think Spufford can’t be all bad (see, for example, Red Plenty; that got a lot of praise and attention from people I think are smart and well-motivated) but I think he’s picked the wrong book to write.

    Contra assertions above (*waves hands upthread*) I, personally, think there are interesting things to be learned from what people feel and believe, and how they act as a result (and further, how those actions feed back into their feelings and beliefs). And we have an actual, proper, scientific discipline which studies this, no less! But Spufford can’t do [mysteryology; can you guess?!], at least not from the perspective he’s writing from–from the inside, so to speak–so in the end, the endeavour is kind of doomed.

    And he’s especially doomed on Pharyngula. ;-)

  202. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s a fact that Neil Fucking Gaiman is an author of quite erudite works.

    Never heard of him, and don’t give a shit about his opinion. It is irrelevant to your argument. What should we be taking into account that we already haven’t heard a hundred times before? You have shown NOTHING.

  203. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford, I am gonna try again:

    I have no reason to read Spufford.

    I have no reason to think that God exists.

    I have no reason to think that anything is supernatural.

    I have no reason to think that God, as described and as commonly believed, is unknowably supernatural.

    I have no reason to think that all believers are neatly categorized into one monobloc.

    Which, given your arguments, means, again, I have no reason to read Spufford.

    I will say again that many believers exhibit a certain set of behaviors, and you, David Wilford, are doing them. You keep stating your position, you keep trying to convince us, you keep failing to understand what you read, you respect authorities of a certain glibness, and you seem to think we need your wisdom. You’ve even done the arch snark and the lofty tone-trolling, and the assuming that we are always scientific.

    You are a believer, David Wilford. You need to get off your hobby horse and stop trying to learn wisdom from people like Spufford. Back off, lurk, and learn from the people here.

    (Just because: God walked in the garden in the cool of the evening, and showed his ass to Moses, and made bets with Satan about Job. How is that supernatural?)

  204. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 221:

    There are still so-called religious laws on the books, like the one in Minnesota that requires car dealerships to be closed on Sundays. Originally, those laws were based on observing the Sabbath, but these days it’s the car dealers who want the law to remain in force as it saves them money not having to be open on Sundays. Praise the Lord and pass the remote control, the game’s just started!

    However, you’re going to be hard pressed to find other such laws in the U.S., given the principle of church-state separation that has wide support, even among the faithful. Yes, there are periodic campaigns to put prayer back in school (hey, that’s what pop quizzes are for) and creationists who still are at it, although the decision in Kitzmiller v. Dover has permanently closed the door on any hopes to sneak creationism past the schoolhouse door under the guise of so-called intelligent design.

  205. Nick Gotts says

    I’d get my odometer checked out if I were you. When someone like Neil Fucking Gaiman likes Spufford’s work, it’s the sort of testimonial that carries weight. – David Wilford@219

    Odometer? Another word you apparently don’t know the meaning of. As it happens, Gaiman’s recommendation means nothing to me, as I’ve not read anything by him, but I’m not denying Spufford may be a good writer – although I note that good writers are often capable of writing tedious drivel when they mount a particular hobby-horse. I’m saying I’m not interested in reading this particular book, because it appears not to have anything novel or insightful to say – and that’s based on five pieces of evidence.

  206. David Wilford says

    cm @ 225:

    Well, my wife always gets the last word in too, so it’s not as if I’m not used to it. I’m just here for the dialectic, while it lasts.

  207. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I always find the concept of how atheism is religion funny. Whoever says so, needs to fill in the following.

    Describe the deity and the stupornatural powers it has.

    Describe the holy book, and show it is inerrant.

    Describe the temples built to atheism.

    Describe the professional priests of atheism.

    Show the entity to which we must pay tithes.

    etc.

    Think about that.

  208. says

    However, you’re going to be hard pressed to find other such laws in the U.S.

    A: I’m not in the US.
    B: How many abortion clinics are there now, in the US?
    C: How would you feel about this if you were, for instance, a homosexual Ugandan?

    Since many laws and policies are based on “well-founded” interpretations of holy texts, why do you think capital-A Atheists are being dismissive when we’d rather spend our efforts pointing out that the basis for those laws, “god,” cannot even be shown to exist, than reading the words of apologists who just want to make nice, and pretend that religion isn’t really harmful?

  209. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 229:

    Oh, I’m not saying that anyone, Spufford, Gaiman, Myers, etc. isn’t capable of writing drivel. Just that they’re more erudite than the likes of Mr. “My Brain Hurts” Gumby. So far in my reading of Spufford’s book I’m happy to say that it’s vastly more intelligent than drivel like The Purpose Driven Life. Admittedly, that’s a low bar. Still, I’m thankful.

  210. says

    Daz:

    B: How many abortion clinics are there now, in the US?

    I can tell you how many there are in ND – one. And it is in constant danger of being closed. There’s also only one in all of SD.

  211. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m just here for the dialectic, while it lasts.

    In other words, you are a trolling liar and bullshitter without an intelligent argument, or evidence to back it up.

    This isn’t a philosophical site. This is a science site. We respect evidence, not sophistry.

  212. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 233:

    Prejudice against the Other is something that’s not exclusive to religion. In fact, you can look at Russia these days as an example of a non-religious society that’s legally persecuting homosexuals. So if you’re going to take our your Atheist Hammer and start pounding on religion for being the root of all evil, feel free but such is not the case.

    FWIW, abortion is not so much a religious matter as it is a patriarchial one that wants to control women. Yes, patriarchial religions do have proscriptions against abortion but it’s pretty clear which came first.

  213. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    FWIW, abortion is not so much a religious matter as it is a patriarchial one that wants to control women.

    Citation needed. Welcome to science.

  214. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 237:

    The “dialectic” here meaning fruitful discussion, not Marxist (or Hegelian) philosophy.

  215. says

    David Wilford #238

    Prejudice against the Other is something that’s not exclusive to religion. In fact, you can look at Russia these days as an example of a non-religious society that’s legally persecuting homosexuals.

    The church in Russia would seem to be playing a rather large part in this non-religious persecution.

    FWIW, abortion is not so much a religious matter as it is a patriarchial one that wants to control women. Yes, patriarchial religions do have proscriptions against abortion but it’s pretty clear which came first.

    I do not give a rat’s fart which came first. I do care that virtually all anti-abortion work is done by religious people and organisations, with religious motivation.

    Why are you dodging this? Given that such laws and policies are based on religion, why is it dismissive to want to address the underlying precept that “god wants it that way,” by pointing out that god can’t even be shown to exist, let alone have wishes?

  216. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Russia a non-religioous society??!? Add Russia to the subjects you apparently know little about.

    Which is why DW should link every assertion to evidence to back up xis claims….

  217. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 242:

    If it wasn’t for the fact that there are religions like Unitarian-Universalism and Reform Judaism that are pro-choice, it would be more damming of religion in general. But there are other cultural forces at work and the patriarchal hierarchy of the Roman Catholic church is definitely a factor in the opposition to abortion.

    I don’t for a moment believe that God speaks to the Pope or those who harass women who enter Planned Parenthood clinics. Obviously, religious dogma is effective in motivating such people, but abortion was banned in officially Communist Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu also, with horrific consequences in terms of abandoned children.

  218. David Wilford says

    Also, I’m sure Putin is a God-fearing man who is only interested in gaining power to better serve the Lord. Ahem.

  219. says

    David Wilford #242

    If it wasn’t for the fact that there are religions like Unitarian-Universalism and Reform Judaism that are pro-choice, it would be more damming of religion in general.

    Yeah, okay. What I’m getting at though, is that folks like you and Spufford seem to have this idea that vocal atheists are just getting all steamed up over a trivial question of belief in a god, as if such belief doesn’t have consequences.

    Let me take this a stage further. Religion teaches that their central tenet, the existence of a god, should be taken on faith. In order to aid this process, faith, in the sense of belief without evidence, is almost universally promoted as the greatest of virtues. Even those nice, gentle, liberal religions do this.

    So, yeah, those “mild” religionists may have come to conclusions I prefer, but they still promote a dangerous idea.

    Again: it’s not the “god” bit per se that I object to. It’s the consequences: in this case the disarming of reason, in order to wave away the importance of evidence-based reasoning.

  220. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    Kinda disappointed myself that Neil Gaiman isn’t better known around here. Reading his “American Gods” was one of the more pivotal points in my deconversion from xtianity.

    However, all I can find about him and Spufford is that he once said a single vaguely nice sentence about one of Spu’s books, that wasn’t this one. Everything I’ve read from him strongly suggests that he wouldn’t be anymore interested in Spu’s drivel than Nerd is. So unless you actually have something from Gaiman supporting this crap, stop trying to drag him into your corner.

  221. vaiyt says

    Which is the reason, by the way, that I’ve started the tour of religion’s recognizable emotions here, with the undeniably gloomy shit. I could, after all, have put us on the traditional night-time hilltop, and had us gaze out at stars more numerous than the sand grains on a beach, and the red-shifted exhaust of galxies revving away from us. I could have put our hearts in our mouths and filled us with awe at the bigness of it all; with the luminous, numinous Carl-Sagan-osity of things, which even Richard Dawkins agress ought to stir us to our depths, though what it should stir us to *do*, of course, is to seek out a career in the empirical sciences. I will give awe its due later, I promise, but the trouble with it as a starting-point is that it is, by its nature, a rather isolated emotion, marked out by its sudden self-forgetting focus on an object external to us, and by its disconnection from every day trundling along. If awe is powerful, it tends to be a state we fall out of knackered, after a while, unable to keep up the intensity. If it’s more modest, it tends of its nature to fade away anyway, to peter out on the hilltop where it began. And in neither case is it obvious how awe is supposed to relate to the rest of experience. I think of awe as a kind of National Trust property among feelings: somewhere to visit from time to time, but not a place you can live.

    I have a single phrase to offer as a refutation of this “wisdom”.
    -
    Religion does not have a monopoly on awe.
    -
    For Jubileus’ sake, he cites fucking Carl Sagan right in the paragraph, and can’t grasp the contradiction.

  222. Nick Gotts says

    David wilford@246,

    Come off it: calling Russia a “non-religious society” is just ridiculous, and the Russian Orthodox Church is plainly in the forefront of persecuting LGBT people.

  223. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@247,

    And why would Putin be sucking up to the Russian Orthodox Church if Russia were a non-religious society? It’s become quite obvious that you are keen to exonerate religion even where it is obviously whipping up intolerance and hatred. Why?

  224. Al Dente says

    I’ve heard of Neil Gaiman, I’ve read and enjoyed some of his books, and I agree that Gaiman can be erudite. So what? I’ve read Spufford and was quite unimpressed by him. I think I’m a better judge of what impresses me than either Gaiman or you.

  225. consciousness razor says

    David Wilford, #213:

    As for evidence of the supernatural being physical in nature, then it’s no longer supernatural.

    Nope, that doesn’t follow. Don’t confuse evidence for something (or our knowledge of it) with the thing itself.

    If something supernatural exists and cannot be supported by physical evidence, then it doesn’t have an effect on any physical system. It either interacts with the universe or it doesn’t. It may be supernatural, meaning a “mental” or “spiritual” object or process which isn’t reducible to a non-mental object or process, and not interact. That is the only way it could exist as supernatural and fail to have any possibility of physical evidence in its support. This is not a physical limitation on a supernatural entity, but on any physical entity it’s supposed to interact with. This is a logical possibility, which we can see because we’re not confusing two separate claims: that it exists and that (by virtue of having evidence) it has some effect on some physical object. Entirely irrelevant to this, which usually adds to the confusion, is the issue of whether we personally know what that evidence is or isn’t. An epistemological condition like that has no bearing whatsoever on the ontological claims themselves.

    If it doesn’t interact with us, there’s not much else to say about it. It isn’t an agent like a god. It isn’t an immaterial substance like a soul. It isn’t love or hate or faith or anything else about reality that anyone could have some reason to talk about. It’s an inert concept, which may not even be coherent, but in any case, it cannot do anything with or about the physical world. And that is not what religious believers believe in, no matter how “liberal” they are. So like everyone else, they cannot dance around this very simple concept: they are either presenting evidence for its existence or they are failing to justify their beliefs in it. If they want special treatment, give me some reason why they should get it, which hasn’t already been fully discredited.

  226. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    David Wilford, this business with Neil Gaiman is another example of why I think you are a believer-type. You worship Gaiman, you trust him, you think you know what he thinks, and cetera. You consider yourself scientific, so you think all us scientific folks should like him, too. All sorts of assumptions there, that you are making, then you give us shit for not living up to your expectations.

    Well, I read _Good_Omens_, as a Pratchett fan, and liked it. I tried some other Gaiman work, and didn’t care so much. And, since there is plenty more out there in the world to read, I didn’t have to, no more than I have to read Spufford. But I am more likely to read Gaiman, I can tell you.

    I ran across one mention of Gaiman in the soft news one day, something about his wife wanting musicians to play for free at her house party. That didn’t change my opinion of his work any, because I don’t think like that, and because I didn’t assume the story was factual. Now, are you going to fire up and refute that story to defend your hero, or are you going to shrug it off?

    You said something about me and ‘something wrong on the internet’. You can be wrong all over the rest of the internet, if you like, but when you are in one of my favorite spots, being rude and noisy, I try to get you to move on.

  227. says

    Daz @ 239:

    But that sorry state of affairs has nothing whatsoever to do with religion!

    Why no, of course not! (Geez, a self-induced near fatal eyeroll). Without exception, the constant push to remove autonomy from women rests firmly on the bedrock of religion. SD provides an excellent case book on that, which I’ve written about extensively here before. By using religious exemption*, they’ve made the situation for women in SD intolerable.
     
    *Allowing the ‘religious conscience’ laws, not just in the medical fields, also applying them to pharmacists and drugstore owners. This gives them the right to deny contraceptives to women.

  228. says

    Dave:

    Kinda disappointed myself that Neil Gaiman isn’t better known around here.

    Gaiman is very well known here. Don’t make the mistake of going by Wilford on anything. When book discussions come up, Gaiman is reliably mentioned.

    /derail

  229. says

    I know Neil Gaiman’s work well. I’m a huge fan of Sandman and American Gods.

    Despite respecting his talent, I do not consider him an infallible oracle.

    What I’ve read of Spufford, on the other hand, limited as it is, is nothing but execrable, predictable pablum of the sort I’ve seen from a hundred religious apologists. You haven’t given me a single reason to want to read anything more by him, nor has he. If you cited some specific accolade from Gaiman for Spufford, I’d look at it, look at the article Spufford wrote above, and find the primary evidence more persuasive than a secondary recommendation, and it would simply diminish my regard for Gaiman’s taste.

  230. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Every American anti-abortionist I have ever heard of has been motivated by their Christian religion. They have a misunderstanding of their own religion in both its attitude toward abortion and its rules about staying out of government, and a misunderstanding of the constitution they worship and its rules about keeping out of religion.

    Most of the laws against things are motivated by religion. Prohibition was drummed up by Christians, bigamy is forbidden as ungodly, so is homosexuality, and drug use, and on and on. Religious zealots who don’t even follow their own scriptures are a strong force in America. We had a civil war in which both sides were convinced God was on their side.

    If you think there is no religion in American law and politics, you are wrong.

  231. David Wilford says

    vaiyt @ 250:

    IMO, Spufford is being snarky with regard to the Saganesque sensawonda. The stars up in the sky may sparkle like diamonds in the deep dark, but they are so very far away in a vast, cold, and empty space. Yes, there is a sense of awe but as Spufford says, you can’t live there.

  232. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I was actually going by Nerd and Nick Gotts specifically saying they hadn’t read any of his work. My problem was more that Wilford was trying to appeal to an authority that hadn’t actually said anything to support his position, and isn’t really an authority either.

  233. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    IMO, Spufford is being snarky with regard to the Saganesque sensawonda.

    Why should we take your word for anything? That has been your problem all along, You pretend to be an expert, but we don’t accept self-appointed experts here. Either evidence your expertise, or stop pretending you have any. From what you have posted, you have none, and will need to present third party evidence to back up your claims. Which you are also bad about providing.

    If you want a philosophical discussion, try “Wankers R Us”.

  234. David Wilford says

    consciousness razor @ 254:

    About evidence of the supernatural, I think we can agree that the fact that the universe exists isn’t sufficient to prove there’s a supernatural cause for its existence. The argument about the “unmoved mover” rests on an infinite regress of causes that can’t be resolved, therefore God, QED. I think it demonstrates that you can’t logically have a supernatural cause for anything. What supernatural claims boil down to in the end is: I can’t explain it but I can make something up.

  235. David Wilford says

    PZ @ 258:

    Despite respecting his talent, I do not consider him an infallible oracle.

    Who is saying Neil Fucking Gaiman is an oracle? I’m just sayin’ that Neil Fucking Gaiman is a pretty erudite guy and wouldn’t bullshit anyone about the quality of someone else’s writing. Not that Spufford can’t be wrong ultimately about matters of faith, but he’s definitely not a crappy writer. You’re actually fortunate to have him engage with atheism rather than the likes of Rick Warren because Spufford brings the sort of Hitchenesque zing to the discussion that makes things interesting, rather than Gumbyesque.

  236. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    pufford brings the sort of Hitchenesque zing to the discussion that makes things interesting, rather than Gumbyesque.

    Again showing us why your OPINION can and is dismissed. How nonsense is said is irrelevant, compared to the fact that it is nonsense. And you defend nonsense. Making what you say nonsense.

    Get over your opinion of yourself.

  237. Al Dente says

    I’m just sayin’ that Neil Fucking Gaiman is a pretty erudite guy and wouldn’t bullshit anyone about the quality of someone else’s writing.

    Gaiman may think Spufford is the greatest essayist since Montaigne. That doesn’t change MY opinion that Spufford is a mediocre writer with nothing new or interesting to say.

  238. consciousness razor says

    David Wilford, #263:

    About evidence of the supernatural, I think we can agree that the fact that the universe exists isn’t sufficient to prove there’s a supernatural cause for its existence.

    I agree that’s insufficient.

    The argument about the “unmoved mover” rests on an infinite regress of causes that can’t be resolved, therefore God, QED. I think it demonstrates that you can’t logically have a supernatural cause for anything.

    No, the failure of such an argument demonstrates no such thing. There’s no reason to believe an infinite series of causes can’t exist, either naturally or supernaturally. Whatever cosmology may turn out to show about what is actually the case with regard to inflationary theories*, it isn’t impossible for the universe to have existed forever. Likewise, it isn’t impossible for there to be an infinite number of gods, each creating another and having been created by another. The claim to the contrary is just yet another presupposition that believers cannot support. They simply don’t believe in a never-ending series of gods, which is not a demonstration of anything, except maybe a failure of their imaginations. Anyway, there’s nothing in it which entails a contradiction, which is precisely the claim that it isn’t impossible.

    If the supernatural can’t interact with the natural, it is the interaction argument itself which demonstrates this, regardless of what else might be claimed about some particular class of supernatural entities. They aren’t all prime movers, obviously. Ghosts and witches are supernatural entities which are not prime movers, and there are likewise none of them. Why do we know this? Because there is no evidence that they interact with any natural object. If they don’t interact yet they do exist, they do not do any of things ghosts and witches are claimed to have done. So you might claim there could be some special set of supernatural entities which don’t do anything. But why the fuck would anyone care? How would that relate in any way to any religious tradition in history or any of the inane drivel from apologists like Spufford?

    *Or any other scientific cosmological theories, but I leave them aside because they’re less likely to be good candidates.

    What supernatural claims boil down to in the end is: I can’t explain it but I can make something up.

    That is how religionists confuse themselves over the issue. That is not what the supernatural is, if it exists. You can’t have it both ways.

  239. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Here’s a quite decent review of Spufford’s book that may be of interest to some here:

    Why do you think Spuffords book is anything other than Xian drivel? Present your argument with evidence. We don’t give a shit about your unsupported OPINION.

  240. says

    David Wilford #269

    Yeah I’d already read Recovering Agnostic’s piece on the book. And here’s the relevant (to this discussion) part:

    But my main conclusion at the end of it was that while I may find Spufford a frustrating apologist, I love his writing and I’d find him a very stimulating sparring partner and conversationalist.

    In other words: well-written, but still nothing but apologetics.

    If apologetics is your thing, go ahead, but quit railing at us just because we’re not interested in discussion of the cut of the Emperor’s jacket, no matter how well written.

  241. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 271:

    I’m not reading the book for the apologetics, but for how Spufford’s belief directs his life, as if there was a God. Consider it a Dennett reading of the book.

  242. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    but for how Spufford’s belief directs his life, as if there was a God.

    Why should his delusional thinking mean anything to us? You are interested. If you look around, it appears nobody is really sharing your interest. So, why don’t you keep it to yourself?

  243. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 273:

    My interest akin to Dennett’s, is delving into the psychology of belief to better understand how religion meets basic human needs regarding meaning and existential pain. I don’t see this as being similar to tastes in fashion, metaphorically speaking.

  244. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    My interest akin to Dennett’s, is delving into the psychology of belief to better understand how religion meets basic human needs regarding meaning and existential pain.

    Why don’t you show if anybody other than you is interested in discussing that topic. If not, why do you keep mentioning it?

  245. says

    David Wilford #275

    Either you are interested in “how Spufford’s belief directs his life” or you are not. Either way, that’s not the same question as “how does religion meet Spufford’s needs?” You’re contradicting yourself.

    And again, no one else here seems particularly interested in whatever it is you’re interested in, and, contra your insistence otherwise, there is no requirement for them to be.

    I’ll also note that I re-read the excerpt from his book, as linked in the OP, and, frankly, it stinks. His prose is terrible and his points are confused. Not to mention that his analysis of vocal atheism misses the point entirely; just like nearly every apologist you’ll ever read. His obsessive deconstruction of the London bus advertising-slogan is hilariously over-detailed, for such a medium.

    WTF Neil Gaiman sees in his writing I do not know; but then, I’ve not yet read a Gaiman novel I liked, either. (Barring Good Omens, which reads like Pratchett for the most part, anyway.)

  246. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 277:

    His obsessive deconstruction of the London bus advertising-slogan is hilariously over-detailed, for such a medium.

    It’s more like bitingly spot on. I’ve seen plenty of Christian blurbs on billboards promising eternal life in exchange for believing in Jeeeesus, and I find them equally vapid in terms of ignoring actual pain and suffering, not to mention doubt. I do enjoy enjoying life myself, but obviously it’s not all happy sparkly purple unicorns.

  247. says

    David Wilford #278

    If an advertising slogan contained all the caveats and fine-point discussion that an essay or a book contained, it would no longer be a slogan. It would be an essay or a book.

    Examining a slogan as if it were an essay or a book, and criticising it for not containing those things is, well… silly. Sure, we can look to see if the gross message is false/true bad/good, whatever. But that’s it. Such slogans have no fine detail. They’re low-resolution.

  248. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 279:

    Spufford’s discussion of the atheist bus slogan may be longer than a slogan, but he’s not confused about the fact that it *is* a slogan, not a book. Spufford’s target is the blitheness of the underlying assumptions that said slogan is fronting for.

  249. says

    David Wilford #280

    Good grief.

    I shall paraphrase the slogan for you:

    “There probably isn’t a god; and that probable lack of a god isn’t a big deal unless you turn it into one.”

    That is all the message is meant to imply.

    But you know what—many/most religious people who go through a crisis of faith—who go through a period of doubt concerning their god’s existence—do worry. That’s why they term it a crisis. Their lives do become much less enjoyable because they’re worrying about their sudden lack of faith. So even his over-fine examination of the slogan is factually fucking wrong.

  250. David Wilford says

    Daz @ 281:

    It isn’t the crisis of doubting one’s faith that Spufford is talking about. It’s the actual existence of human suffering that Spufford is saying that the “enjoy life” line is blithely ignoring.

    Anyway, I did read the book and found it interesting for how Spufford’s take on Christianity is really essentialist – namely, he’s very focused on the meaning of the story of Yeshua (aka Christ) and less on the other folderol of Christianity that he sees as the result of the tendency of humans to fuck things up. It’s still a powerful story, whether or not you can prove it’s true, and I have my issues with how Christians (including Spufford) dance around the matter of factual truth. But, obviously, the story matters and the reasons why it does are, I submit, worth taking seriously. I’ve always considered Christianity the religion of losers, as in not wanting to justify life’s winners and losers according to some moral balance sheet. There’s something to that, whether atheists wish to admit it or not.

  251. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But, obviously, the story matters and the reasons why it does are, I submit, worth taking seriously.

    Not if the story is fiction. Which is the problem of the godbots. They must prove that the story is not fiction….

  252. David Wilford says

    Proof when it comes to events occurring thousands of years ago is not going to be definitive, but while it can’t be proved there was an actual Yeshua (aka Jesus), the story as related does have verisimilitude, aka it sounds like it could have happened. Combine that with the purported teachings of Jesus and you have yourself a religion, albeit one that’s set not in a mythical past but as an historical event. For some, that’s good enough, for others it isn’t. I think that was an historical Jesus as there is an historical Mohammed, but the story of the Resurrection is something that is not verifiable.

  253. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    it sounds like it could have happened.

    Possibility is meaningless. It is all the godbots have, and anybody who doesn’t deny then the possible, compared to the plausible, is not doing their jobs as skeptics. Until they can provide the evidence that the resurrection actually occurred, the null hypothesis is it didn’t. The tale is fiction. That is the problem you are having. You don’t understand how to use the null hypothesis and parsimony to force the godbots to show they are right.

  254. David Wilford says

    Proving a negative here isn’t really the point, and Spufford says as much in his book. His purpose is to explain what makes Christian belief emotionally satisfying while doing his due diligence to buttress what supports that belief. But Spufford doesn’t claim to have proved that Jesus Christ existed or that the Resurrection happened. He does at least do a fair job of describing his own reasons for being a Christian in a modern setting, and does decry the stupid beliefs that some Christians have, such as a belief in Creationism, etc.

  255. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But Spufford doesn’t claim to have proved that Jesus Christ existed or that the Resurrection happened

    Actually he does, or he tacitly acknowledges he is a delusional fool believing in known fiction. So what if he throws in a couple of criticisms. His whole tale is based upon a lie….

  256. David Wilford says

    It’s not so much a lie as a willful suspension of disbelief that’s passed along as the Good News to others. Yeah, some Christians definitely are scam artists, but then so are some Scientologists, who of course do come by it honestly in homage to their founder.

  257. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s not so much a lie as a willful suspension of disbelief

    It’s a mother fucking lie. If you have any point that leads to a real and factual argument, why don’t you present it? If all you can do is complain that we dismiss that which should be factually dismissed as bullshit, you have nothing but bullshit yourself.

    You must have something you wish to present to the atheistic community other than literary criticism. Why don’t you just say “this is what I believe, and this (link) is the evidence to back it up”.

    You are boring, and can’t seem to develop any cogent argument why lies should not be dismissed.

  258. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    David W.: “His purpose is to explain what makes Christian belief emotionally satisfying…”

    Pounding one’s pudendum can also be emotionally satisfying. It is not, however, generally considered a great way to live one’s life.

  259. David Wilford says

    Sorry for the frustration, as it must seem as if I’m not getting to the point about whether or not the claims that Christianity makes are really, honestly true or not. I agree, they’re not proven and any claim otherwise is unsupported. I’m strictly interested in Spufford’s discussion about the emotional aspects of his Christian belief, and how Christianity addresses some of Spufford’s existential questions to his satisfaction. We all have such questions, about origins, life, death, pain, justice, etc. and there are some ways that Christianity deals with them that have value, just as other religions do. Religion long ago ceased to be a way to explain the natural world, thanks to Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, etc. But religion does have something of value left to consider when it comes to dealing with life’s outrageous slings and arrows. So does Shakespeare, or Beethoven for that matter. That’s what caught my interest about Spufford’s book, even though I wasn’t, and still am not, a believer myself.

  260. David Wilford says

    @ 291:

    And here I thought that ad on the Atheist Bus was telling us to “enjoy life”. I shall find my hair shirt and do otherwise.

  261. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m strictly interested in Spufford’s discussion about the emotional aspects of his Christian belief,

    You have repeated this time and time again. Nobody else is interested his bullshit, or discussing his bullshit with you. Why do you keep posting?

    We all have such questions, about origins, life, death, pain, justice, etc. and there are some ways that Christianity deals with them that have value, just as other religions do.

    Finally, the fallacious presupposition that atheism is nothing other than a religion Bwahahahahahh….

    But religion does have something of value left

    It, being bullshit, has nothing to consider. Why do you think otherwise?

    There must be a further reason you are unable or unwilling to articulate. That is the problem is folks like you. You see something there where there is nothing but smoke, mirrors, and acknowledged lies.

  262. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 294:

    Atheism isn’t a religion, yet PZ and others here have expressed an interest in how religious groups have been able to foster community, which means that there is something of value that religious groups are doing that atheists might learn from.

  263. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    yet PZ and others here have expressed an interest in how religious groups have been able to foster community, which means that there is something of value that religious groups are doing that atheists might learn from.

    Gee, have you noticed that PZ and the horde do not agree with at position, based on past threads, where the fuckwit trying to establish an “atheiest” church in England is roundly trashed as an idjit?

    Why did it take you weeks to finally say what you meant initially? That doesn’t show honesty and integrity on your part. We don’t have problems with people actually speaking their minds. We do have trouble with dishonest fuckwits who hide behind “polite”, and expect us to bring up what they consider important. You aren’t to be trusted.

  264. David Wilford says

    I was thinking more along the lines of the charitable raising of money after natural disasters strike, or giving comfort in times of sorrow, than of establishing a religion myself, and so was PZ. Community isn’t something exclusive to religion, but they do have a track record for helping others in need that’s commendable, even if I don’t share their religious belief.

  265. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I was thinking more along the lines of the charitable raising of money after natural disasters strike, or giving comfort in times of sorrow, than of establishing a religion myself, and so was PZ.

    Actually, citation needed. Atheist do give to disaster relief. Unfortunately, our number require us to join with bigger, often religious groups, to be effective. But Doctors Without Borders

    They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions. – See more at: http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/aboutus/?ref=main-menu-about#sthash.QqvETMVY.dpuf

    appears to be non-sectarian and a good charity to provide funds for. We don’t really need a fund with “atheist” on the title, to avoid backlash in poverty stricken areas where religious belief is rife….

  266. David Wilford says

    I’ve been a contributor to Doctors Without Borders and greatly admire their courage and convictions. But I do think PZ was contemplating a fund with “atheist” somewhere in the title, or at least a loosely organized fund. But then, maybe all that needs to be is a shout out on a blog.

  267. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But I do think PZ was contemplating a fund with “atheist” somewhere in the title, or at least a loosely organized fund.

    Why don’t you supply a citation to this bit of information. There is nothing in the OP that comes close to describing this, nor did I see charities even mentioned.

    There has been many discussions on various threads where secular charities have been brought up and identified, making a separate one with atheist in the name redundant. Keep in mind, atheists rate very low in respect in the US and elsewhere, and aid from atheists probably would be rejected.

    Here’s what you need to do. If you think atheists need a charity fund, start one up. Don’t expect others to do the work for you.

  268. David Wilford says

    Personally, I don’t care whether there’s an branded Atheist charity out there to contribute to or not. But some have wanted to raise the visibility of atheists as part of a broader political movement by having such a charity and there’s nothing wrong with that. Watching the NFL yesterday after dinner I caught a half-time show that prominently featured the Salvation Army, and it’s bell-ringing campaign, and that’s certainly part of their overall religious mission.

  269. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Watching the NFL yesterday after dinner I caught a half-time show that prominently featured the Salvation Army, and it’s bell-ringing campaign, and that’s certainly part of their overall religious mission.

    False equivalency. Atheism has no religious mission. We don’t proselytize. People come to us after they lose their delusions.

  270. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Mr. Wilford, you seem very interested in having atheism behave like a religion. There are a few nitwits floating around who believe the same thing. Do some work, find where they hang out, and join them.

    You have no argument that the horde hasn’t already discussed. Short version: No Sale.

  271. David Wilford says

    All I can say is that you’re tone deaf when it comes to sales pitches. Anyway, remember the “Bright” moment when Dan Dennett and other prominent atheists tried to coin a word similar to “Gay” as way for atheists to increase the profile and stature? It didn’t work out so well, but the concept is valid enough, and it’s certainly not something exclusive to religion.

  272. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    All I can say is that you’re tone deaf when it comes to sales pitches.

    What are you selling? You are a bad saleman, who doesn’t have a point, other than you are dissatisfied. Who cares about that?

  273. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Mr. Wilford, I think we should take this to the Thunderdome, as it appears to be going nowhere. But in any case, you need to fully articulate what you want, rather than hiding behind cryptic and half expressed and thought out ideas.

  274. David Wilford says

    Oh, I’ve been clear enough on the subject of this post already. If an off-topic comment about Brights isn’t your cup of tea I don’t expect anyone to drink it. I’m not interested in atheism becoming a religion, but am fine with non-profits like the Freedom From Religion Foundation in Madison, WI doing important work to keep church-state separation intact. Of course that’s just my opinion and not a sales pitch, because I’m not worried about selling anyone anything. That’s what those annoying ads that pop up here are for… ;^)

  275. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh, I’ve been clear enough on the subject of this post already.

    No you haven’t. You have been terse and cryptic.

    Of course that’s just my opinion and not a sales pitch, because I’m not worried about selling anyone anything.

    If you aren’t selling anything, why can’t you shut the fuck up on this thread, to be concise and to the point. You continue to post irrelevantly on this thread, which should have died a natural death a couple of weeks ago. I suggested taking it to the Thunderdome, an open thread, so you can speak your mind at length, both in posts and in time, and with precision which is so sorely lacking on this thread.

  276. David Wilford says

    Sorry, but in contrast to those who just beat their Thor’s, er, Atheist’s Hammer on the usual nail of THEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGOD, ad nauseum, at least I’ve dealt with the actual theme of Spufford’s book, which is what this post was ostensibly going out about in the first place. Let’s go back to Dan Dennett’s concept of memes. If there’s one outstanding point in Spufford’s book, it’s how the story of Yeshua (aka Jesus) absolutely resonates with him, even to the point of where Spufford visualizes Yeshua when he prays as a human face in the crowd, like many others. It’s not at all a stretch to consider the story of Yeshua as a meme that has has some considerable staying power, to say the least. Spufford’s exposition of Yeshua’s story, which *is* the canonical story of Christianity, gives the reader a pretty good idea of how that resonates with Spufford. Yes, there are other stories of gods, yes, there are other stories of creation myths, yes, there are other stories about panspermia for that matter. I’m interested in what such stories do to us, honestly, because like Dennett I think we need to better understand what their appeal is and the needs we have that they satisfy. We’re not just a bunch of Vulcans, after all.

  277. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If there’s one outstanding point in Spufford’s book,

    There is no point to Spuffords book. That is what you won’t understand. No factual points, no point to the book. Take it to Thunderdome if you feel otherwise about the direction atheism should be taking.

  278. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Forget it, Nerd.
    There is nothing here.

    I agree, except DW must understand the difference between fact and fiction. And the babble is fiction, which has absolutely no relevance to anything atheism does….

  279. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    r. I’m interested in what such stories do to us, honestly, because like Dennett I think we need to better understand what their appeal is and the needs we have that they satisfy.

    This is your problem. YOU ARE INTERESTED. Nobody else here is sufficiently to have a a discussion with you. Why won’t you let the thread die a natural death¿

  280. cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming) says

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_Popular_Delusions_and_the_Madness_of_Crowds

    There are 18th-century books about what’s interesting about what Spufford’s proposing.

    If it’s been interesting for three hundred years (see, also, Demmett) it might be interesting today.

    Or perhaps, maybe not.

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s a legitimate social discourse. Maybe it’s just *contender ready* *gladiators ready*

  281. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If DW, you wish to discuss the lying memes, take it to the Thunderdome.

  282. throwaway, never proofreads, every post a gamble says

    It’s not at all a stretch to consider the story of Yeshua as a meme that has has some considerable staying power, to say the least

    That’s not even saying much at all really. Especially since the “staying power” didn’t persist by the revelatory nature of the meme, but through enforcing the propagation and sustaining supremacy through violence, torture, and war. Sure it was just a meme. But it’s ludicrous to think that its replication was benefited by nothing other than some kind of resonating power of the story and the imagined person.

  283. vaiyt says

    Watching the NFL yesterday after dinner I caught a half-time show that prominently featured the Salvation Army, and it’s bell-ringing campaign, and that’s certainly part of their overall religious mission.

    Ah, the Salvation Army. Truly an example that atheists should aspire to, what with the homophobia and the lobbying and the proselytism.

  284. David Wilford says

    cm @ 316:

    Here’s a bit of that 18th century wisdom then:

    “Whether God exists or does not exist, He has come to rank among the most sublime and useless truths.” ― Denis Diderot

    Diderot is still interesting, of course. Much of what Diderot hoped for has come to pass in much of the world, and that fact is reflected in Spufford’s book too.

  285. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Diderot is still interesting, of course.

    Only to you. Take it to the Thunderdome. You have nothing cogent to say on this thread unless it is factual, not just OPINION….

  286. vaiyt says

    Especially since the “staying power” didn’t persist by the revelatory nature of the meme, but through enforcing the propagation and sustaining supremacy through violence, torture, and war.

    Don’t forget the incorporation of other myths into the meme in order to seduce people who wouldn’t otherwise care about it.

  287. David Wilford says

    throwaway @ 318:

    It’s story all the way down as far as I’m concerned, and words do indeed do things to us. The story of Yeshua has been the lasting thing in Christianity, more than all the other terrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ.

  288. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The story of Yeshua has been the lasting thing in Christianity, more than all the other terrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ.

    A false story meaning nothing except in your mind. Take your discussion to the open thread of the Thunderdome, where others may or may not agree with you….

  289. David Wilford says

    Well, it’s not “except in my mind” alone, which is rather the point. That’s how a meme works, whether it’s false or not. If you want to actually understand religion rather than point fingers and sneer at it, it’s best to look at it as a serious phenomenon and not a passing fad.

  290. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Well, it’s not “except in my mind” alone, which is rather the point. That’s how a meme works, whether it’s false or not. If you want to actually understand religion rather than point fingers and sneer at it, it’s best to look at it as a serious phenomenon and not a passing fad.

    As one who grew up in a religious household, I don’t need a mental masturbation understanding of religion and fuckwittery behind it. You’ve had a while to post on the Piety Masked thread, but return here instead to spread nothing, rather than posting in a new thread totally on topic. WHY?

  291. vaiyt says

    The story of Yeshua has been the lasting thing in Christianity, more than all the other terrible things done in the name of Jesus Christ.

    Yeah, fuck all those people who died and die in the name of Jesus Motherfuckin’ Christ. They’re not important. The neglected children, the oppressed poor, the broken women, the murdered heathens, the violence propped up by belief that repeats itself day after day after fucking day – just don’t matter enough to be part of the lasting legacy of Christianity.

    It’s the story that’s the real legacy. The beautiful, bloody, immoral, incoherent, ignorant story, which everyone should read with respectful awe because reasons. Pay no attention to the zombie hordes who believe every bit of it is real, and want to make your life hell for thinking otherwise.

  292. David Wilford says

    Sometimes the story still matters to people who have been terribly wronged though. I went with my mother to see Philomena this past weekend and one of the things the film did very well was to beautifully depict Philomena Lee’s forgiveness of those who had wronged her because of her deeply held Christian faith. So there is still something to that story about Yeshua that does resonate with people, despite their being betrayed by other Christians. Spufford’s book does get to what that might be, despite the human potential to fuck things up, which does include Christians along with everyone else.

  293. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Spufford’s book does get to what that might be,

    In your OPINION, which is that Xians have something cogent to say. Since is all based on the twin lies of their imaginary deity and book of mythology/fiction, there is nothing cogent whatsoever present. And people can and will deliberately delude themselves into believing all sorts of illogical things. You have expressed your point. NO SALE.

  294. David Wilford says

    Whether the story is fiction or not doesn’t really matter. It’s all about the story itself. I think some Christian stories do have something of value to say, despite being unproven and indeed unprovable. If the story resonates with you, it’s done *something* at least. If it turns out to be a deliberate and lame falsification, which is certainly true about our latter-day creationist tales from blowhards like Ken Ham, it no longer resonates and it’s discarded. Spufford is as dismissive towards the likes to Ham as PZ is, and frankly admits he can’t prove a damn thing about Jesus. But the story of Yeshua, that’s something else worth considering because it’s the story, not the actual events, that matter.

  295. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Whether the story is fiction or not doesn’t really matter.

    It doesn’t matter to YOU. It does matter to me that it is fiction. “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.” (Benjamin Franklin, et al). Why they believe in delusional thing isn’t as important as they fact that they do believe.

  296. David Wilford says

    I guess that’s where we have a difference then. It’s like how a magician pulls off a trick. You’re focused on the fact that it’s a trick and I’m focused on what it is about people that causes them to believe the illusion. I agree, it’s a trick. I’m interested in what makes that trick tick.

  297. omnicrom says

    I guess that’s where we have a difference then. It’s like how a magician pulls off a trick. You’re focused on the fact that it’s a trick and I’m focused on what it is about people that causes them to believe the illusion. I agree, it’s a trick. I’m interested in what makes that trick tick.

    We know. You said this about a hundred times by now. We get it, you’re interested in religion as a cultural and emotional force that drives people. Meanwhile we’re interested in religion as a cultural and emotional force that is untrue and harmful. We get it. You can stop trying to make us “Get” your position because we do David. We really really REALLY do David. You’ve done a bang-up job trying to get across your views. Yes, the people who have responded to you time and time again strongly disagree with your views on Spufford, probably think that what your focus on religion is tedious and overly deferential, are definitely unlikely to shift views and start basking in the same wonderment at the phenomena of religion, but we get it. NO SERIOUSLY, WE GET IT. YOU CAN STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.

  298. David Wilford says

    I’m happy that y’all do get it, although the all caps do have me worrying about the blood pressure of some. Anyway, religion as practiced is cultural phenomenon that’s both helpful and harmful, but honestly I think we’d ultimately be better off without it. But understanding what emotional needs religion meets is necessary if we’re ever going to get beyond it, unless we become emotional-less Vulcans.

  299. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But understanding what emotional needs religion meets is necessary if we’re ever going to get beyond it, unless we become emotional-less Vulcans.

    Fine, YOU worry about that. The rest of us who have been part of that bullshit will go on with our lives, and they will be much, much easier with reading the post hoc rationalization bullshit sophistry of delusional fools.

  300. Lofty says

    David Wilford

    unless we become emotional-less Vulcans.

    My emotional needs have been successfully met without the slightest interference from religion for over half a century now and will probably manage for another quarter century at least.
    Signed, an emotionally intact human.

  301. David Wilford says

    Lofty @ 338:

    I’m not worried about you and me as much as I’m thinking of a few billion other religiously-inclined people.

  302. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m not worried about you and me as much as I’m thinking of a few billion other religiously-inclined people.

    Unless you have a fool-proof (and fools are so ingeneous) method to deprogram the people and their societies, don’t worry about it. It can happen, but it come slowly with better education, and social programs from the state, not the religion.

  303. brianpansky says

    336
    David Wilford

    But understanding what emotional needs religion meets is necessary if we’re ever going to get beyond it, unless we become emotional-less Vulcans.

    i object in several ways:

    -that has not been shown to be “necessary”, plenty of us became atheists without that. Personally I didn’t really have any influence from any effort of other people, no-one’s understanding was relevant.
    -why do we need to understand what needs *religions* meet? why not just understand what needs humans have?
    -not sure where the vulcan thing comes from at the end. looks like false dichotomy that is additionally non-sequitur.

    i actually don’t care to continue this conversation further. you are a mess. i can agree to some of what you say (others here have as well), but i’d just be spending so much time picking through your mess. such a conversation with you in particular is not worth it to me, and i suspect others here share my sentiment.

    before you go trying to learn about emotional needs and religion, please learn how to clearly stick to a point and do basic communicate well. or something. otherwise i don’t think you’ll do much good.

  304. David Wilford says

    Human emotional needs came before religion, and religion is basically a set of memes (stories, rituals, etc.) that act upon them. To better understand how religion works, you have to look at that interaction and not just emotions alone.

  305. omnicrom says

    I’m happy that y’all do get it, although the all caps do have me worrying about the blood pressure of some.

    Your sanctimony is noted. In fact your sanctimony I feel is half the reason you get such an exasperated reaction. You say very very obvious things David Wilford, things that are incredibly self-evident, things we all know. Yet you say them over and over again as though you’re bringing truly revelatory information and ideas to us. You are not, you are bringing Coal to Newcastle. Take your latest post for instance:

    Human emotional needs came before religion, and religion is basically a set of memes (stories, rituals, etc.) that act upon them. To better understand how religion works, you have to look at that interaction and not just emotions alone.

    We know this. To understand religion as a psychological phenomenon you need to look at human emotional needs and how people use religion to fulfill them. Duh.

    Now the million dollar question: What’s your point David Wilford? It has been an entire month now and that little thing still eludes me. I get what you find interesting about religion. I get you have mastered the basics of religion as a psychological influence and seem to act as though we haven’t. I get the strong impression you think we’re missing something, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what.

    What do you think aren’t we grocking David Wilford? Come right out and say it. What should we do? What great thing are we missing? You come back again and again, why don’t you just say your final summation and move to Thunderdome or somewhere with more activity?

  306. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    What do you think aren’t we grocking David Wilford? Come right out and say it. What should we do? What great thing are we missing? You come back again and again, why don’t you just say your final summation and move to Thunderdome or somewhere with more activity?

    Amen to that.

    The failure of DW to actually do that is why I keep suspecting xe is a Xian apologist. That is the problem when dealing with the skeptical community. We have seen such behavior before, including the seeming to agree with us, while pushing like hell books like Spufford’s spewings of tripe when the skeptics show a lack of interest.

  307. alwayscurious says

    Religion is the fast-food of emotional fulfillment–it’s readily available and requires little thought to acquire & digest. It also leaves one undernourished & unhealthy in a way that is not readily recognizable. They both can be replaced by any number of better substitutes. Such substitutes will be adopted based on such factors as the relative commitment of the individual, the frequency & importance of the old habits, and the perceived ease & effectiveness of the new habits.

  308. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 344:

    The only point I have is one of inquiry, in this case into Spufford’s exposition of his emotional relationship to Christianity. I know, I know, I could pound that old Atheist Hammer like John Henry on Spufford’s noggin because THEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGOD, but I’m not interested in doing that. I’d just like to know why Spufford thinks the way he does because for some strange reason the fact that billions of people have religious beliefs kind of, sort, of, maybe, matters and I’ve always been partial to peace, love, and understanding. I’m funny that way.

    P.S. – if you can’t tell the difference between sanctimony and snark, I can’t help you. Get thee to a dictionary.

  309. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The only point I have is one of inquiry,

    In other words, your own personal interest which you keep propounding on while sounding fully like a Xian apologist trying to get us to read tripe. Your personal interest should have died days ago. What is your REAL reason for not being able to shut the fuck up?

  310. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, what part of Spufford’s spewings should make us treat Xians any differently than present? That is what your point should have been days ago. That appears to be MIA.

  311. David Wilford says

    Robert T. Carroll’s latest Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter has this interesting take on atheist churches:

    British comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans founded an ‘atheist church’ known as the Sunday Assembly. Their organization is currently on a tour across the United States and Australia trying to crowdfund $800,000 to expand its operations. They’re calling the tour “40 Dates, 40 Nights.” Jones said: “If you think about church, there’s very little that’s bad. It’s singing awesome songs, hearing interesting talks, thinking about improving yourself and helping other people — and doing that in a community with wonderful relationships. What part of that is not to like?” So, the Sunday Assembly brings together non-believers for a night of inspiring song and talk. It also makes Atheists visible and provides them with a sense of community. But the idea sticks in the craw of Michael Luciano at PolicyMic. He calls the Sunday Assembly a foolish idea.

    On the other hand, there are many religious people who share the same concerns that many Atheists have about the environment, the welfare of the species, the continued progress in science and medicine, and the like. What’s so foolish about like-minded people joining together for the betterment of our world and ourselves, as Michael Dowd recommends?

    As Luciano correctly notes: Atheism is not a belief system.We don’t worship reason or science. We are not in the business of perpetuating superstitions. We don’t have rituals or imagery to assist in the transmission of superstitions and falsehoods. “Creating a church-like atheist institution,” says Luciano, “plays directly into the hands of those who fundamentally misunderstand the philosophical underpinnings of the theism-atheism debate….If atheism is to be organized at all, it should be for the purpose of repelling religious infringements on secular society and little if anything else.”

    Anyway, you won’t find me at one of these Sunday Assemblies and I won’t be making any contributions to the cause. On the other hand, if organizing and meeting up is your thing, go for it. I think there’s plenty of room in the Atheist tent for those who get together to praise reason, sing a few songs, and plan to make the world a better place. There’s also plenty of room for Atheists who are actively working to keep religion separate from state activities and who seek to protect the civil rights of Atheists. There’s also room for anti-theists in this tent. There is no contradiction between seeing religion and faith as detrimental to morality and human progress, seeing religion as infringing on the civil rights of non-religious people, and seeing religious meet-ups as having some qualities worth imitating.

    Similarly, I thought Spufford’s book on how Christianity met some of his emotional needs was worth reviewing to see what might be taken from it and applied in other non-theistic contexts.

    FYI, here’s the URL to the newsletter:

    http://www.skepdic.com/news/newsletter1212.html

  312. omnicrom says

    Cool. You’re interested in religion as a social construct, why people draw social sustenance from it despite the painful paucity of human kindness or humanity that is in the ancient creaking nasty institution. Why are you here?

    No seriously, for what purpose are you arguing in this thread? I thank you for summing up so succinctly why you’re so hell-bent on Stufford, but why do we need to hear this? Early in the thread there was a strong sense that you were trying to help us “Get” something, but as it turns out you’ve just spend dozens (if not over a hundred) posts talking about a thing that interests you. Why exactly do you need to come back here again and again? What discussion are you getting out of it?

    I ask that last question because if that is your honest to goodness interest, merely wanting to know about the social construct of religion, then you strike me as acting in very bad faith. If you really truly are just interested in learning about religion then why have you spent post after post after post defending Spufford as someone we should respect and listen to? In your most recent post you suggest that Spufford could be interesting as a view into social psychology but, THAT HAS NEVER BEEN WHAT OUR FOCUS HAS EVER BEEN ON! Spufford wrote a book of apologetics, in his book he provided absolutely nothing to countermand the idea that religion is harmful, dehumanizing, and untrue. That is what everyone here has said over and over again. You are barking up the wrong tree if you come to a thread focused on Spufford’s counterfactual apologetics to argue he should be used a Sociological case study. Can you perhaps see the pushback here? You’ve argued up and down in favor of a topic that no one is actually debating.

    Also I know the difference between Sanctimony and Snark, David Wilford. But what you’ve dished out is at best lot of Sanctimonious Snark. The rest of the time it really is a load of mocking, unpleasant “humor”. And I think I’m done being nice because I’m starting to agree with Nerd. After what has to be over a hundred posts the overriding impression I get from you is a disingenuous religious apologist. You’ve certainly said several times you are an atheist and support an end to religion, but frankly after tone trolling over and over I start to feel you may not really endorse that. Your post at 347 really seems to hit that point home.

    I know, I know, I could pound that old Atheist Hammer like John Henry on Spufford’s noggin because THEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGODTHEREISNOGOD, but I’m not interested in doing that. I’d just like to know why Spufford thinks the way he does because for some strange reason the fact that billions of people have religious beliefs kind of, sort, of, maybe, matters and I’ve always been partial to peace, love, and understanding. I’m funny that way.

    This is classic nasty tone-trolling, trashing people with a smile on your face. In this one paragraph you compare vocal atheists to stupid, brutish, warmongers. You conflate being non-confrontational to “Peace, love, and understanding”. You smarm about how “funny” it is you’re not one of those nasty strident atheists whose disagreement is like a violent assault. You seem genuinely enraptured in how wonderful religion is that these billions believe it.

    You continue with your mocking scorn with your most recent post, where you Comic Sans a swathe of Carroll’s newsletter. There is plenty of discussion to be had (and that is had) about “Atheist Churches” but you didn’t bring the link for discussion but for cudgeling. Comic Sans is used for derision around here, and applying it to the whole thing is very clearly an attack, and NOT snark. The meaning is absolutely clear, by putting Comic Sans you are saying that the pharyngulites are nasty and stupid people who mock and deride sensible debate and discussion. Carroll says valid even-handed things, but we Pharyngulites are nasty and foolish people so you’re having a game at our expense by Comic Sansing other things you think are reasonable but we stupid monkeys tear up. Like Spufford.

    After a couple of rounds with you David Wilford you’re really starting to fail the smell test. I thought maybe you were honestly confused, but after a round of cheery mockery I’m finished with the benefit of the doubt.

    If you really really REALLY want to know about the Psychology of Religion and religious experiences then I point you out into the wilds of the internets. This is not a new question, there’s plenty of people who can tell you about social bonds, human thought processes, and/or why people believe weird things. If you really want to have a debate on this subject, and I mean actual reasoned discussion and not confusion that’s identical to tone-trolling, I direct you to Thunderdome where there will be plenty more people who can discuss why they think Religion is endemic to society.

  313. David Wilford says

    I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that the use of comic sans font was because I still am clueless about blockquoting, but I honestly do respect Robert T. Carroll very much and have read his Skepdic site for many years. The passage I quoted I thought did touch on some of the reasons I found Spufford’s book to be interesting, and I found Carroll’s thoughts about the Big Tent of Atheism to be refreshingly decent. I don’t have a problem with people wielding the Atheist Hammer to simply pound religion mercilessly, but I do reserve the right to point it out when it happens, and it has happened to Spufford here to be sure.

    As for the psychology of religion, I’ve read James and others on that score. So has Spufford, but I wasn’t reading his book to learn more on that subject. I wanted to get Spufford’s take on the emotional satisfaction that Christianity specifically gives him, given he’s a religious person in a fairly non-religious country these days. I wasn’t too surprised to learn that for Spufford Christianity helps him better cope with emotional turmoil. I was pleased to learn that Spufford rejects awful claptrap like creationism and doesn’t view the concept of sin as a way to scold people about their sexuality.

    FWIW, if no one wants to discuss anything with me related to Spufford’s book, I’m certainly not forcing anyone to. I am a bit amused though by the strident insistence that I shouldn’t. There’s a big internet out there and if I’m not interesting there are plenty of other places to go.

  314. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    FYI, here’s the URL to the newsletter:

    We’ve had the discussion of atheist churches and most of us reject the concept as being an anathema to what atheism is. Mimicking a church just allows the delusional believers to say atheism is just another religion. Beside, there is the UU church, which can readily substitute in the social mingling/rituals for those atheists who feel the need for such foolery.

    Nobody will discuss idiocy with you. Which appears to be what you want to talk about. Join the UU if you feel the need for such delusions in your life. Leave us alone.

  315. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There’s a big internet out there and if I’m not interesting there are plenty of other places to go.

    Sorry fuckwit, YOU came here to preach. YOU are the one who should leave. Show us honesty and integrity. So far, nothing but lies and bullshit.

    By the way, why didn’t you bring up atheist churches when I first asked you what you wanted to talk about? Takes you weeks to finally get to the point, you are such a bad communicator.

  316. vaiyt says

    I’d just like to know why Spufford thinks the way he does because for some strange reason the fact that billions of people have religious beliefs kind of, sort, of, maybe, matters and I’ve always been partial to peace, love, and understanding. I’m funny that way.

    Oh, you want peace, love and understanding? Go fucking preach it in Uganda, Darfur, Israel, Utah, Rome. See how far it gets you with the full of wonder, beautiful, blah blah blah religious people you so admire. What a pretentious blowhard you are.

  317. David Wilford says

    Dude, I’m partial to peace, love, and understanding whatever the source. Go paint with your broadbrush in Russia and China while you’re at it and lecture them about the virtues of atheism, I’m sure they’d be pleased to know that their human rights standards are just fine by you because they’re not faith-based.

  318. omnicrom says

    Dude, I’m partial to peace, love, and understanding whatever the source. Go paint with your broadbrush in Russia and China while you’re at it and lecture them about the virtues of atheism, I’m sure they’d be pleased to know that their human rights standards are just fine by you because they’re not faith-based.

    I don’t even know where to start with this obvious, blatant, and stupid strawman. At least with this David Wilford has finally given up the benefit of the doubt. I have no reason believe xe is anything but a disingenuous apologist like Spufford acting in bad faith.

  319. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Dude, I’m partial to peace, love, and understanding whatever the source.

    Since when has anybody said your OPINION means anything to us. Unsubstantiated OPINION, which you serve up, is dismissed, like presented, without evidence. Nobody has to take your OPINIONS seriously. I don’t.

  320. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 357:

    Strawman, not. If you want to broadly condemn religion by pointing out instances of bigotry and hatred, be prepared to have the same done to atheism. No faith or lack of same has a moral lock on anything.

  321. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Strawman, not.

    Not a strawman. Read the babble. Then get back to us about genocide, bigotry hatred of neighbors, and misogyny. Put up or shut the fuck up.

  322. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, you forget some of us have read the babble cover to cover. We know what is in it, and we know when believers are following it. The imaginary deity of love isn’t there, for your edification.

  323. omnicrom says

    Strawman, not. If you want to broadly condemn religion by pointing out instances of bigotry and hatred, be prepared to have the same done to atheism. No faith or lack of same has a moral lock on anything.

    David Spufford, remind me, you did say you are in favor of an end to religion because it’s harmful right? Would you care to comment on how your current pro-religious “Give belief a chance because it’s equivalently evil to non-belief” squares with what you yourself said? Or do you want to just come out and admit you’re a lying, disingenuous apologist?

  324. Nick Gotts says

    Go paint with your broadbrush in Russia and China while you’re at it and lecture them about the virtues of atheism – David Wilford

    Repeating the bizarre claim that Russia is atheist, when there is abundant evidence (already linked to@243) that the Russian Orthodox Church is central to the crimes against human rights there, makes it clear that you are not prepared to argue honestly.

  325. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 362:

    What I’m in favor of with respect to religion is for the discarding of foolish tenents, such as the ones listed here:

    http://www.alternet.org/belief/10-things-traditional-christians-got-terribly-wrong

    With respect to the above article, claiming that religion is all bad kind of misses the point about _conservatism_, which isn’t really a matter of faith but more of a mindset. There are atheist bigots out there too who don’t have religious justifications for it.

  326. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 363:

    Let me know when they’ve made Putin the Pope then. Scapegoating gays in Russia isn’t just a religious pastime, it’s a way to victimize them to bolster one’s power with masses of people who see homosexuals as the Other. Putin’s just updating the fine old Russian tradition of the pogrom, and gays are as good as Jews as targets.

  327. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    There are atheist bigots out there too who don’t have religious justifications for it.

    Irrelevant drivel.

    claiming that religion is all bad kind of misses the point about _conservatism_, which isn’t really a matter of faith but more of a mindset.

    You miss our point. Religion is at best, an unnecessary waste of time and money. At worst, it is a refuge for bigotry and misogyny. And you defend that.
    Sorry, your opinion is dismissed as self-serving drivel.

  328. vaiyt says

    Go paint with your broadbrush in Russia and China while you’re at it and lecture them about the virtues of atheism, I’m sure they’d be pleased to know that their human rights standards are just fine by you because they’re not faith-based.

    Unlike you, I’m not extolling the virtues of atheism qua atheism, just pointing out to you that, well, if there’s people who need to learn about peace, love and understanding, it’s the religious. Which is meant to imply, stop trying to berate us for not regarding religion with what you deem the appropriate amount of reverence.

  329. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    David
    Wilford,
    The problem is that religious sanctioned bigotry and prejudice carry the weight of ultimate authority in the eyes of believers, and they are incredibly difficult to overturn. There are STILL racists who invoke the Bible as justification for their hatred 150 years after the US civil war. Religion is invoked as authority for preventing the abortion of even a zygote!

    This is not a problem that can be remedied by a better holy book or better interpretation. It is a problem of human nature–if you posit an ultimate authority, especially one that cannot be observed and interrogated, humans will simply assume that it shares their prejudices, thereby giving ultimate sanction to their bigotry and intolerance. Religion is a cosmic divide-by-zero error: you can use it to get whatever answer you want.

  330. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 366:

    If your goal is to end bigotry, it’ll take more than doing away with religion. As I’ve said, I’m quite happy to do away with religious justifications for bigotry. If religion is only a waste of time and money, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of other things to waste time and money on, and as Thomas Jefferson said about religion: ‘It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.’

  331. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If your goal is to end bigotry, it’ll take more than doing away with religion.

    Still no evidence that RELIGION is at the forefront of removing bigotry, since in the INERRANT BABBLE, bigotry is there in black and white.

    I work for a company that uses quality concepts, including continuous improvement. Every two years, all SOPs must be reviewed, and updated if needed. And some analytical methods must be investigated periodically for replacement as technology improves the separations.

    Show me, from legitimate sources outside of yourself, that the fundamentalist and Catholic churches are showing continuous improvement. Time to put up third party evidence, or shut the fuck up if you have honesty and integrity. We both, and the horde, know you have no honesty and integrity.

    Likewise, any church/religion not practicing continuous improvement is simply maintaining the status quo, saying “we have always done it that way”. Which is why it needs to be contemptuously questioned and ridiculed.

  332. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 370:

    As if the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t as the forefront of bigotry removal. Feel free to go pound on him with your Atheist Hammer if you like. The civil rights movement was very much driven by religious convictions, in this case very obviously good ones. I’m also pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis and his unwillingness to judge atheists and homosexuals as being undeserving of God’s mercy. I’m happy to get a bit of progress whenever I can.

  333. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    David Wilford,
    For every Martin Luther King, how many Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwell’s are there?

  334. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Feel free to go pound on him with your Atheist Hammer if you like.

    OK, show me the babble quotes they were using to justify not obeying the babble…..

  335. David Wilford says

    a_ray @ 372:

    I think it’s safe to say that one MLK matters more than any number of Robertsons, Fallwells, etc. My general point is that religion can support progressive as well as reactionary causes.

  336. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think it’s safe to say that one MLK matters more than any number of Robertsons, Fallwells, etc.

    Actually no, until you provide the third party evidence from the babble that :Robertsons, Fallwells, etc; are absolutely wrong. Boy, are you a lightweight fuckwitted apologist….

  337. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    David Wilford: “I think it’s safe to say that one MLK matters more than any number of Robertsons, Fallwells, etc.”

    I’m sure that comes as a tremendous comfort to the next of kin of gynecologists slain by anti-abortion religious nuts or the widow of Alan Berg (killed by Xtian white supremacists) and on and on.

    David: “My general point is that religion can support progressive as well as reactionary causes.”

    Your general point is missing the point. Progressive causes do not require religious motivation. Their motivation is the progress they bring. Regressive and generally nutjob causes derive the majority of their motivation from religious beliefs of their nutjob believers using divine sanction to justify their absurd beliefs.

  338. omnicrom says

    My general point is that religion can support progressive as well as reactionary causes.

    Yes David Wilford. We know David Wilford. Martin Luther King did many good things guided by his religion. Many people do. However people also do absolutely horrible things guided by their religion. Many people do.

    David Wilford you say that getting rid of religion will not remove bigotry and hatred and racism. We know David Wilford. However weaning people of religion would be an utterly sublime starting point. Religiously motivated bigotry and hatred is bulletproof to any criticism for a true believer. Greta Christina calls it “The Armor of God”, if you hold your actions and morals accountable to god what force in the world than what can sway you? A believer can justify absolutely wretched things as moral by invoking their god. An atheist cannot justify doing horrible things by invoking a divinity, they have to stand in the phenomenal world and face criticism and morality based on real things that exist on Earth. The moment you believe that your actions are justified and you will be rewarded in after your death you’re done with any possible debate on whether those actions actually are justified. The Armor of God prevents any sort of brake on your behavior. Racists, sexists, homophobes, and other bigots love to wear the armor of god, if they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, or bigoted it’s because their god told them to be racist, sexist, homophobic, or bigoted. There’s nothing you can say to that.

    So no David Wilford, ending religion will not end bigotry and hatred overnight. However it will, at long last, shatter the Armor of God that people hide behind. If religion suddenly stopped holding sway the homophobes could not longer say that god hates the gays. If religion suddenly stopped holding sway the sexists could no longer say that a woman’s divinely appointed task is to be inferior and submissive. If religion suddenly stopped holding sway the racists can longer hold onto cherished myths about the divinely mandated inferiority of a race.

    You have done a tremendously lousy job of defending religion David Wilford. You have lied, argued in bad faith, been evasive, and repeatedly obfuscated what you really believed. At the end of the day all you have is a couple of strawmen, a false equivalency, and some nasty sanctimony. Obnoxiously it’s only now after a month that you’ve finally been shucked of your mask. I think that quite enough false witness has been borne by you over these many days. Either put up some evidence in favor of the continuation of religion or quit while you’re behind.

  339. Menyambal --- inesteemable says

    Communist China may seem irreligious, but Communism IS the religion there. It is the official faith, with scriptures and prophets and all.

  340. David Wilford says

    Menyambal @ 378:

    With respect to communism being akin to religion, you can also add things like nationalism, race, language, football rivalries, etc. Anything that can serve to identify a group is something that can be used to ostracize and harm the Other. I think it’s an error to believe that religion is unique in being abused in such a way. Let’s face it, as a species we form in-groups and out-groups at the drop of a hat. Politicians like Putin and Mao are/were smart and venal enough to use that for their own ends, and if the means fuck Others up, too bad for them.

    FWIW, I am amused to be called a defender of religion, when I don’t have one myself. Some people are just itchin’ to pound dat ol’ Atheist Hammer I guess… ;^)

  341. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I am amused to be called a defender of religion, when I don’t have one myself.

    Funny, you do a great job of apologizing for that which should be condemned. Such a good job in fact, I don’t believe a word you say without links to back up your assertions, making your claim dismissed without evidence. Welcome to real scepticism. You lose.

  342. David Wilford says

    Nerd @ 380:

    Thanks for perfectly illustrating, albeit unwittingly, what I’m talking about with regard to the desire of people to have in and out groups. I don’t consider myself a “winner” or a “loser” at all here, merely someone with an interest in the subject of religion and Spufford’s account of how Christianity was emotionally satisfying for him. So fine, you’re the winner. Here’s something about that for you:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyTcYacSo7g

    Figuratively speaking, of course… ;^)

  343. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    merely someone with an interest in the subject of religion and Spufford’s account of how Christianity was emotionally satisfying for him.

    kWhich you have said ad nauseum. Now, when will you shut the fuck up about Spuffords spewings? Skeptical people want a concrete answer backed by evidence, not just OPINION, about that topic.

  344. omnicrom says

    FWIW, I am amused to be called a defender of religion, when I don’t have one myself. Some people are just itchin’ to pound dat ol’ Atheist Hammer I guess… ;^)

    Wow yeah, we atheists are so trigger happy you know? We’re so nasty that we brutally assault people with our atheism! I mean who could confuse you for a religious apologist David Wilford, I mean all you do is insufferably mock atheists and atheism, defend religious apologists and apology like Spufford’s work, and bask in the warm glow of how wonderfully fulfilling religion is. If you are an atheist you’re “The Good Atheist” that religious apologists dream of. You’re the person who doesn’t have faith but doggone it you’re trying because religion is such a wonderful fulfilling thing to have and you wish you could be as happy as all those happy Christians who are so much more moral and fulfilled than Atheists are. Or at least that’s the persona you’ve gotten across to me in the MONTH you have been posting here David Wilford. I admit I could be wrong, you could just be lying and are religious, but that’s not the point. If you walk like a Religious apologist, talk like a religious apologist, and act like a religious apologist then I’m going to say you’re probably a religious apologist. You may profess to be non-religious, but considering how disingenuous you’ve been all throughout this conversation I’m going to talk that detail with a pinch of salt considering the mountain of contradictory evidence.

    I don’t consider myself a “winner” or a “loser” at all here, merely someone with an interest in the subject of religion and Spufford’s account of how Christianity was emotionally satisfying for him.

    And yet you’re still here. Why? If you like Spufford’s book and are interested in his account then go out and buy it. They do have bookstores out where you live right? If not you have the internet connection, it’s on Amazon I presume and they deliver. Do you want a discussion here on the appeal of religion? Well we’ve had one already here and it’s more or less over since this post is over a month old now. Perhaps you can move to Thunderdome or the Lounge? There’s more traffic there you know, and there’s links on the sidebar, right above PZed’s picture. Or you could find another blog or forum dedicated to psychology, sociology, or a more positive view of religion? You’re gonna find a lot of atheists here who are flatly NOT interested in Spufford’s satisfaction with religion so that might be best, and there’s quite a big internet out there with quite a lot of pro-religious sites. You’re online, and you have google or other search engines, so it’s easy enough to find them. They aren’t hidden. You aren’t interested in winning or losing right? So it should be no problem moving no to a more active location.

  345. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 383:

    I’m not a religious apologist, or even an unapologist. I do think that religion is a phenomena that can and does provide comfort and meaning to actual lives though, including Spufford’s. I did pick up Spufford’s book in Eau Claire, Wisconsin a fortnight ago and have read it and while it didn’t make me a believer it did tell me what Spufford found comforting about his faith, and I learned something from that. If some here were less reactive to anything religious they might learn something from it too, or not. I certainly don’t think PZ’s caricature of Spufford is fair, and neither is the sneering dismissiveness that many here have about a book they not only haven’t read but pointedly won’t read. I would like to think that merely being an atheist doesn’t make one close-minded, but perhaps the temptation to pound a hammer is just too much to resist.

    As for traffic, well, this thread is doing pretty well, so why mix it up with any other general discussion? Spufford is a decent writer and definitely not your run of the mill fundie. I’d love to see Spufford mix it up with the likes of Dawkins, and hope he gets the chance. I doubt either will change the other’s mind, but it might provide more light than heat in the process.

  346. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I certainly don’t think PZ’s caricature of Spufford is fair, and neither is the sneering dismissiveness that many here have about a book they not only haven’t read but pointedly won’t read. I would like to think that merely being an atheist doesn’t make one close-minded, but perhaps the temptation to pound a hammer is just too much to resist.

    Your unevidenced OPINION is dismissed without evidence per Christopher Hitchens (first quote even) (That is called EVIDENCE, third party links to backup an argument). You haven’t produced any meaningful message from that piece of drivel we haven’t already heard multiple times before. Why you think it is meaningful is your problem to explain, not ours to accept. Until you provide solid and conclusive evidence Spufford’s spewings aren’t drivel, all you have is YOUR OPINION. That isn’t enough. You need more to convince anybody here. Where are you getting material to back up your assertions, like anybody with intelligence and cogency trying to make a point (see my link above)? Your aren’t. We must accept your evidenceless OPINION. Not happening. No sale.

  347. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    And DW, you are losing the battle for the lurkers due to your repetition of your point made a month ago. You haven’t and can’t advance your argument as long as it is simply your OPINION. You need more. But you can’t/won’t provide more. Which tells everybody your lack of factual argumentation. All you have is your OPINION. Countered by my OPINION. As I said, you need to advance your argument. Find some third party evidence. Try here. If you won’t, there is no need to continue. You have nothing.

  348. omnicrom says

    I’m not a religious apologist, or even an unapologist.

    Maybe you should consider what about your behavior leaves me totally unconvinced of this. Maybe you honestly are mistaken, and aren’t trying to be a religious apologist, but you are. Intent is not magic, and over and over again you are wowwed and awed by religion, and seem to think we should be as well.

    If some here were less reactive to anything religious they might learn something from it too, or not.

    Here we are again, the million dollar question that you have as of yet been unable to answer: What can we learn from it? That religion provides junk food quality emotional satisfaction to people? Yeah we know. That was the point of my very first post to you @335, we know that religion satisfies people. Is there something more we’re missing? I’ve asked you that @344 and 351. I guess third time’s the charm huh? What do you think we aren’t getting from this discussion? And please remember that just because we’re hostile to something doesn’t mean we don’t understand it, it’s possible to be hostile to something because we DO understand it. Most people here are ex-religious, we know very well how satisfying religion can be, and that’s part of the reason so many people here are so unapologetically against religion, because it’s satisfying in the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons.

    I certainly don’t think PZ’s caricature of Spufford is fair, and neither is the sneering dismissiveness that many here have about a book they not only haven’t read but pointedly won’t read.

    Most people here have made a hypothetical statement If/Then statement, “If the excerpt of Spufford is representative of his work as a whole, Then I have no reason to read it”. You’ve read Spufford’s work, in what ways is PZ being unfair to him? Is the excerpt unrepresentative? Spufford came across as whiny, obnoxiously self-flagellating, entitled, and more than a little self-absorbed. Is Spufford basically the exact opposite of how he acts in his book? Also is his book something other than religious apology? Because I’ve enough of that and I’m frankly sick of it, and I’m sure not a few people here are as well.

    Basically why should we have this deference for him? What set you off on this monthlong crusade of yours? How is Spufford getting a raw detail to say that the impression given of the excerpt is that the book is obnoxious? What about him or the book requires us to pay respect to him saying stupid things?

    I would like to think that merely being an atheist doesn’t make one close-minded, but perhaps the temptation to pound a hammer is just too much to resist.

    Okay I was trying to get through my response to you and make it as polite as possible as is my usual method, but upon reaching this line I gave up because I’m tired of being insulted by you? So you know what? Fuck you. Fuck you very fucking much for this asinine and stupid bullshit. Fuck you for falling back on the usual bullshit “Oh you don’t agree so you’re closed minded” malarky. That shit is old, and obnoxious and the fastest surest sign that the fucker on the other end of the screen is being either disingenuous. You don’t care about “Winning”? Fuck that noise, there’s no other reason to fall back on a cheap, disingenuous, and stupid fucking gotcha like “you’re so closeminded that’s why you don’t acknowledge my truths”.

    Also fuck you very much for “hammering” that stupid fucking shit with the “Atheist Hammer” or whatever. No, we are not beating you with a hammer. Disagreement is NOT the Fucking same as assault with a deadly weapon. No, you are not being maliced by those mean and nasty atheists, you have been a simpering, pious, obnoxious fucker since minute one, and I hope you’re proud of yourself but usually I don’t explode at people unless they’re defending absolutely heinous actions. You’ve gotten me really fucking pissed off at you by repeatedly and consistently insulting me over and over again, so I hope you’re happy with yourself.

    As for traffic, well, this thread is doing pretty well, so why mix it up with any other general discussion?

    Because there is little traffic. The only people stubborn enough to be consistently here are me and Nerd. Everyone else probably pops in whenever they see a recent comment, probably saying “Wow is that David Wilford guy still being a pest?” Well xe is folks. As I said again if you really honestly wanted a debate on faith and religion you’d take it to Thunderdome. But you actually do seem to win unlike what you said @381 (Your words and actions don’t meet up? Nowai!) which seems to be why you’re here. If you honestly wanted to honestly discuss these things I would honestly recommend you go somewhere else.

    Spufford is a decent writer and definitely not your run of the mill fundie. I’d love to see Spufford mix it up with the likes of Dawkins, and hope he gets the chance. I doubt either will change the other’s mind, but it might provide more light than heat in the process.

    Yet more apology for Spufford. No, he and Dawkins probably wouldn’t change each other’s minds mostly because Spufford has nothing. Religion gives him warm fuzzies. That’s the extent to why he keeps at it. Spufford may be a decent writer when he isn’t defending religion, and he may not be a run of the mill fundie, but if that excerpt is accurate all he has is elocution. In terms of being able to defend religion Spufford is definitely your run of the mill fundie.

  349. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 387:

    Intent is not magic, and over and over again you are wowwed and awed by religion, and seem to think we should be as well.

    Nothing I have written here shows me being “wowwed and awed” by religion, and I’ve repeatedly said I don’t expect others to agree with my take on Spufford’s book. However, I think they’re wrong to dismiss it for what I consider to be bogus reasons, such as the misreading PZ gave. I usually don’t care for what I call “exaggeration for effect”, but that’s what Spufford’s excerpt was an example of, and it isn’t as if PZ and others here don’t do that sort of thing themselves.

    Also fuck you very much for “hammering” that stupid fucking shit with the “Atheist Hammer” or whatever.

    Dude, it’s a metaphor. A lot of atheists see religion as something akin to a nail that must be pounded with the rhetorical equivalent of a hammer, every single time. Not everything related to religion is actually a nail though and there are better tools in the box for dealing with them than a hammer. Feel free to pound on the dumb things that fundamentalists say about creationism, but Spufford’s really not that dumb.

  350. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Nothing I have written here shows me being “wowwed and awed” by religion, and I’ve repeatedly said I don’t expect others to agree with my take on Spufford’s book.

    Bullshit., You are wowwed by religion. It reeks through your posts,

    However, I think they’re wrong to dismiss it for what I consider to be bogus reasons, such as the misreading PZ gave.

    PZ’s reasons haven’t been refuted by YOU, as YOUR OPINION isn’t and never will be evidence. All you have done is present an unevidenced opinion, which is dismissed because it has no evidence to back it up.

    I usually don’t care for what I call “exaggeration for effect”, but that’s what Spufford’s excerpt was an example of, and it isn’t as if PZ and others here don’t do that sort of thing themselves.

    Really, who gives a shit what you care about? And thinking your continued presence is anything other than aggressiveness on your part is bullshit. You can’t stand having your OPINION ignored.d That is supreme ego.

    . Feel free to pound on the dumb things that fundamentalists say about creationism, but Spufford’s really not that dumb.

    Yet the EVIDENCE you have presented for that to date, including factual evidence in his paper, is ZERO. All you have is your egotistical OPINION.

  351. omnicrom says

    However, I think they’re wrong to dismiss it for what I consider to be bogus reasons, such as the misreading PZ gave. I usually don’t care for what I call “exaggeration for effect”, but that’s what Spufford’s excerpt was an example of, and it isn’t as if PZ and others here don’t do that sort of thing themselves.

    What are those bogus reasons? Be exact, specific, and clear because nothing is getting through in your posts.

    Dude, it’s a metaphor. A lot of atheists see religion as something akin to a nail that must be pounded with the rhetorical equivalent of a hammer, every single time. Not everything related to religion is actually a nail though and there are better tools in the box for dealing with them than a hammer. Feel free to pound on the dumb things that fundamentalists say about creationism, but Spufford’s really not that dumb.

    I know it’s a metaphor. It’s a bad, insulting, obnoxious metaphor and you do yourself no favors to continue to abuse it. And it’s a bad, insulting, and obnoxious metaphor because when you use it you ARE comparing us nasty strident atheist types to murderers. I don’t particularly enjoy being tarred as someone who physically assaults people. It’s repulsively hypocritical the way you get snippy about people saying mean thing to you, but then repeatedly say mean things back to us.

    Also I’m so very glad you’ve unilaterally decided how other atheists should or shouldn’t respond to religion. It’s good we have you here David Wilford to tell us that sometimes when a stupid thing is dressed up in nice language we shouldn’t treat it like it’s stupid. Because Spufford’s excerpt is stupid. You may think he’s a very smart person, and indeed he may be, but his religious views in their substance stand not a lick above things like creationism that you’ve deigned to give us permission to visit bodily harm upon.

    And now I will ask for the fourth time David Wilford, why are you here? What are you trying to convince us of? What is your central thesis? What point are you arguing? Why do you remain here day after day, a month past the writing of this post? We’ve argued back and forth for 50 odd posts now and I’m still no closer to an answer. You obviously have something to say, but in all the time you’ve been here it’s very odd you’ve been yet unable to truly outline what that thing actually is. Over and over again I get the strong impression you think we’re wrong about something. What? More importantly Why?

  352. David Wilford says

    omnicrom @ 390:

    The biggest bogus reason that’s been given about Spufford’s book is that it’s only about his hurt feelings, which isn’t true. Spufford’s emphasis, as advertised in his book’s title, is about what emotional needs that he has which Christianity meets, and he does go into details about how Christian concepts such as grace have helped him cope with emotional tempests in his life, all of which are ones pretty much every other human being shares. For Spufford, the basic Christian memes do help him, even though he’s embarrassed by some of the stupid things many other Christians believe in, like Creation. But he does think there more to his faith than such nonsense.

    To me, Spufford’s willingness to have faith in the story of Yeshua’s is a sincere effort to live “as if” there was a God. For a comparison, consider the stance of Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia back in 1977 after the former Soviet Union signed the Helsinki Treaty and pledged to uphold human rights. Now after the U.S.S.R. brutally suppressed the “Prague Spring” of 1968, there was a crackdown on all dissidents that continued throughout the 1970s. But Havel, even knowing that the freedoms the Soviets cynically signed off on weren’t going to be honored, declared along with others that they would live “as if” they were free. That didn’t make it come true, and Havel was punished, but it laid down a moral marker that served to undermine Soviet rule and eventually led to its demise. Now I sincerely don’t think we’ll see God come around anytime soon to rule, but the point is to not wait for it but to live it out anyway, which is what Spufford is doing. I can respect that, even though I don’t share Spufford’s faith in God or find religion necessary.

    As for the hammer metaphor, it goes like this: “To someone with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” It’s not a violent metaphor, it’s one that illustrates how an obsession with using only one tool makes everything else, screws, bolts, nuts, rivets, etc. into nails, even though a hammer doesn’t work on them. Yes, I get how supernatural religions claims are incapable of being supported by evidence and reason. But I also get how stories work on us to tremendous effect, and look at religious beliefs as stories as well, and am taking a sonic screwdriver to them rather than a hammer in seeing how they work on us.

  353. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But he does think there more to his faith than such nonsense

    There is nothing to faith since it is based on the twin fallacies of an imaginary deity and mythical/fictional holy book. That is why there is nothing to Spufford’s spewings, which you, if you were an atheist, would acknowledge, and then ignore and not bother bringing it to the attention of others. A tell you are an Xian apologist….
    Get the picture? There is nothing there…. Nothing you say will make the spewings anything of interest to almost any atheist…
    Why can’t you acknowledge the truth?

  354. David Wilford says

    Dude, try the sonic screwdriver instead of the hammer. I know there’s nothing there. That’s not what interests me, as I’ve previously said.

  355. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That’s not what interests me, as I’ve previously said.

    Fukckwit, here’s the problem: WHAT INTERESTS YOU INTERESTS NOBODY ELSE. Ego fuckwit. Lose your ego. You have nothing cogent to say, and haven’t for days.

    This is well past the stage where I ask trolls like you a series of questions. You don’t need to answer, just act on them:
    Why did you post in the first place?
    How are you succeeding at that goal?
    If you aren’t getting anywhere, why are you still here?

    Simplicity, you should be asking yourself ever post, and every day.

  356. vaiyt says

    Spufford’s emphasis, as advertised in his book’s title, is about what emotional needs that he has which Christianity meets, and he does go into details about how Christian concepts such as grace have helped him cope with emotional tempests in his life, all of which are ones pretty much every other human being shares.

    So, he’s trying to argue for the necessity of beautiful lies? Been there, done that, yawn.

    For Spufford, the basic Christian memes do help him, even though he’s embarrassed by some of the stupid things many other Christians believe in, like Creation.

    Credo quia absurdum. Again, nothing new. Double yawn.

    But he does think there more to his faith than such nonsense.

    Or rather, he desperately wants to believe that there’s more.

    To me, Spufford’s willingness to have faith in the story of Yeshua’s is a sincere effort to live “as if” there was a God.

    And we’re supposed to find that admirable because?

    Now I sincerely don’t think we’ll see God come around anytime soon to rule, but the point is to not wait for it but to live it out anyway, which is what Spufford is doing. I can respect that, even though I don’t share Spufford’s faith in God or find religion necessary.

    Well, don’t expect anyone to agree that deliberately acting like you believe in bullshit makes you anything besides a total rube and an idiot. I think you’re worse, though, for admiring sincerity qua sincerity without taking into account WHAT is sincerely being believed.

    Yes, I get how supernatural religions claims are incapable of being supported by evidence and reason. But I also get how stories work on us to tremendous effect, and look at religious beliefs as stories as well, and am taking a sonic screwdriver to them rather than a hammer in seeing how they work on us.

    WE FUCKING GET IT. Many people here are former believers. We KNOW the power religious stories have on people. – and, this is what you refuse to grasp, that’s EXACTLY THE PROBLEM. Since religion is based on bullshit and immune to reason, whether they will inspire people to good or bad things is a complete crapshoot, and there’s no way to convince them otherwise with reason. No amount of apologia for Spufford’s reflections on the cut of the Emperor’s clothes is going to change the fundamental fact that they don’t exist and he’s only reflecting on his own fucking navel!

  357. says

    @ David Wilford

    Would Spufford not be happier as a Pagan? The Gods are humanity writ large, and spectacularly. At least the Pagans accepted they were just stories – and yet still inspirational, aspirational, and so forth.

    Much like dramas on the television, we see ourselves in these supremely wealthy and powerful characters. (eg:”The Good Wife” (Julianna Margulies) is a modern day Hera, her husband (played by Chris Noth) is Zeus.)

    We do not need to believe, to live their lives vicariously. It is OK to be honest, and simply state that you realise these are beautiful, even beneficial, flights of the imagination. The claim to truth (Truth!) is what turns fairytales toxic.

  358. says

    Vaiyt:

    Since religion is based on bullshit and immune to reason, whether they will inspire people to good or bad things is a complete crapshoot, and there’s no way to convince them otherwise with reason.

    The problem with Gods, or at least with the current xian flavour God, is that whatever a believer thinks and feels, well, by golly, that’s just how God thinks and feels too! It just amazing, how much each believer’s feelings align perfectly with their God’s take on whatever.

    At least with many of the old school gods, they came complete with distinct personalities, quirks, this, that and the other, so it was more a matter of following a god you felt most in line with, or just doing basic cover your ass.

  359. says

    @ Caine

    At least with many of the old school gods, they came complete with distinct personalities, quirks, this, that and the other, so it was more a matter of following a god you felt most in line with, or just doing basic cover your ass.

    There is indeed a world of difference between a sociable community of Gods and a single megalomaniac über-god.

  360. Nick Gotts says

    Let me know when they’ve made Putin the Pope then. Scapegoating gays in Russia isn’t just a religious pastime – David Wilford@365

    More dishonesty from you: I never said or implied that it was. I was merely pointing out your repetition of the lie that Russia is atheist.

    Everyone else probably pops in whenever they see a recent comment, probably saying “Wow is that David Wilford guy still being a pest?” – omnicrom@387

    Well, “dishonest numpty” rather than “pest”, but otherwise, yup.

  361. Thumper: Token Breeder says

    @ omnicrom, #387

    Everyone else probably pops in whenever they see a recent comment, probably saying “Wow is that David Wilford guy still being a pest?”

    That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m amazed he’s still going. It’s been a month and ten days, for fuck sake!

  362. says

    Yep, me too. I keep seeing new posts, I keep clicking, I keep seeing that the thread is just Wilford doggedly continuing to have nothing to say.

    Had no idea it was over a month though!

  363. David Wilford says

    theophontes @ 396:

    Would Spufford not be happier as a Pagan? The Gods are humanity writ large, and spectacularly. At least the Pagans accepted they were just stories – and yet still inspirational, aspirational, and so forth.

    I don’t think pagans see their beliefs as being “just stories” either. Pagans also worship and have a faith in things unseen as well. For Spufford, it’s Christianity that resonates with him, for pagans it’s something else. In both cases, there’s an underlying meaning to things that their mythos supports for them.

  364. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    In both cases, there’s an underlying meaning to things that their mythos supports for them.

    In both cases self-delusion about untruth. Which is why we don’t give a shit about what you find interesting. Why can’t you shut the fuck up about it? Nobody is going to read drivel just because YOU find it interesting.

  365. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 399:

    Given that a majority of Russians are atheists, the persecution of homosexuals in Russia isn’t strictly a religious thing. Atheists are just as capable of being bigots as anyone else, and Putin is promoting fears of gays as a vicious means to undermine opposition to his rule.

  366. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Given that a majority of Russians are atheists,

    Citation needed. In fact, citation needed for every claim you make.

  367. David Wilford says

    theophontes:

    We do not need to believe, to live their lives vicariously. It is OK to be honest, and simply state that you realise these are beautiful, even beneficial, flights of the imagination. The claim to truth (Truth!) is what turns fairytales toxic.

    That’s not quite what living “as if” something is true is about though. Going back to the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, a toy who wanted to be real so it would be loved, there’s a reason why that story works and it’s not because the Rabbit _thinks_ it’s just a flight of the imagination and that really, it isn’t real but isn’t it pretty to think otherwise. There’s a leap of faith involved that *makes* it real, at least in the story.

  368. omnicrom says

    I’m touched and heartened everyone came to post here. And not the least surprised David Wilford did not respond to any of them.

    Hey boys and girls, guess what time it is! That’s right! The million dollar question! For the fifth time David Wilford: WHY ARE YOU HERE? The recent influx of people makes your utter silence on this question more and more noticeable. Nerd @394 and Vaiyt @395 both disassembled how wowwed you are at the amazing way religion makes people believe. Caine @397 brought up a very clear and nasty way that “Living as though you believe” isn’t nearly as much an amazing and wonderful thing as you keep implying it it. The only person you responded to was Theophontes, and you basically dismissed their post out of hand as not being interesting enough to you. Presumably what Theophontes suggested wasn’t relevant to your argument, whatever that is. So here we are again, what don’t we get David Wilford? You wax poetic over and over about religion and faith, but seem to think we aren’t getting something. What?

  369. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Nerd, I already did, back at @246.

    You need it for EVERY assertion your make. Which is why you are taken for religious apologists. They are heavy on opinion and bullshit, but short on facts and citations to back up their inane opinions.

  370. Nick Gotts says

    Given that a majority of Russians are atheists, the persecution of homosexuals in Russia isn’t strictly a religious thing. – David Wilford@404

    I didn’t say it was. Why do you have to keep misrepresenting what I say? I was, to repeat, simply noting your repetition of the lie that “Russia is atheist”. In fact, your claim that the majority of Russians are atheist is simply false according to the sources I can find, but even if it were true, this would not mean that “Russia is atheist” is true. If that means anything, it means an official state commitment to atheism or an atheist ideology, such as existed unider the Soviet Union and does exist now in China.

    There’s a leap of faith involved that *makes* it real, at least in the story. – David Wilford@406

    Can you really be as stupid as this makes you appear? It’s a story. You know, fiction. Made-up. Not really true. Spufford’s “leap of faith” doesn’t make God any more real than that velveteen rabbit.

  371. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts, I guess that Russia is no more atheist than it is Orthodox then, and maybe we can agree that the primary motivation for the persecution of homosexuals isn’t religious, but simply the Othering of gays for venal political reasons.

  372. David Wilford says

    It’s a story. You know, fiction. Made-up. Not really true. Spufford’s “leap of faith” doesn’t make God any more real than that velveteen rabbit.

    The point is whether one chooses to live as if something is real, as I pointed out with the example of Vaclav Havel that I gave earlier. It’s the choice that matters, not whether it’s true or not.

  373. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    and maybe we can agree that the primary motivation for the persecution of homosexuals isn’t religious, but simply the Othering of gays for venal political reasons.

    Maybe you could link to a citation to back this inane claim. Your attempts to ignore religious people persecuting gays is another prima facie evidence that you are a religious apologist. You are your own worst enemy that way.

  374. consciousness razor says

    David Wilford, just stopping by to ask a few more questions, since it’s been a month so I suspect you don’t plan on responding to my previous comments regarding your apologetics. Do you see all of the wreckage you’ve left in this thread? Do you think there’s a chance of salvaging something useful? If so, what do you think that is, and what do you think it’s useful for?

  375. David Wilford says

    Nerd, here’s a fairly good summation of the matter that’s worth reading:

    http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/orthodox-church-s-role-russia-s-anti-gay-laws

    Here’s the nut graf:

    Though Russia decriminalized homosexuality just after the fall of communism in 1993, anti-gay sentiments have been on the rise in the country in the past few years. Putin blames gays and lesbians for the steady population decline since 1991. But activists also believe that Putin is using the crackdown to appeal to conservative voters.

    Yup.

  376. Nick Gotts says

    Nick Gotts, I guess that Russia is no more atheist than it is Orthodox then, and maybe we can agree that the primary motivation for the persecution of homosexuals isn’t religious – David Wilford@411

    No, we can’t agree that at all, since the Russian Orthodox Church has, as Nerd’s link@415 shows, been extremely prominent in promoting such persecution. Why do you feel the need to pretend that religion is innocent in this matter?

    The point is whether one chooses to live as if something is real, as I pointed out with the example of Vaclav Havel that I gave earlier. It’s the choice that matters, not whether it’s true or not. – David Wilford@412

    The example of Havel was completely different from making a “leap of faith”. His point was that the constitution guaranteed the rights he intended to exercise, and his actions therefore exposed state hypocrisy. I invite you – or Spufford – to “choose to live” as if you could defy the force of gravity by willpower, by stepping out of a tenth-storey window. That’ll demonstrate whether “It’s the choice that matters, not whether it’s true or not”.

  377. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@416,
    Apparently, you were unable to read the whole of the article you linked to. I quote:

    Tragically, the injustice and violence faced by members of the LGBT community also have a direct link to the Russian Orthodox Church.

    In June, just before the vote on the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” bill, gay rights activists attempted to hold a “kissing rally” outside the Duma, the Russia legislative building, which is located across the street from Red Square in central Moscow.

    CBS News reported that the activists “were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups. The mostly burly young men with closely cropped hair pelted them with eggs while shouting obscenities and homophobic slurs.”

    Though riot police moved in, only the gay rights activists were detained. Protesters who were not detained were later beaten by masked men on a central street about a mile away. The police, it seems, turned a blind eye.

    CBS also reported that, earlier in the day, dozens of anti-gay activists picketed the Duma. “One of them held a poster that read: ‘Lawmakers, protect the people from perverts!’ while others held Orthodox icons and chanted prayers,” the report said.

    These Russian Orthodox Christians are likely taking their cue from their leader, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill.

    The patriarch believes that the recognition of same-sex unions by Western countries is a harbinger of impending of doom. In July, Russia Today reported that after a liturgy in Red Square’s Kazan Cathedral, Kirill said, “This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction.”

    Kirill called on Russians to “fight for freedom from sins,” saying, “Where sin is elected through freedom, there comes death, terror and dictatorship.”

    Putin reportedly has been strengthening his alliances with the Russian Orthodox Church in the past few years.

    In a September 2012 piece entitled “Putin’s God Squad,” Newsweek’s Peter Pomerantsev observed, “After near extermination under Communist rule, the church and religion are back at the heart of [Russia’s] politics … Since Putin’s reelection, a parade of priests have been loudly denouncing forces aligned against the president.”

    Pomerantsev reported on the rise of a group of Russian Orthodox vigilantes who have taken to patrolling the streets of Moscow at night, dressed in all-black clothing emblazoned with skulls and crosses. “The enemies of Holy Russia are everywhere,” Ivan Ostrakovsky, the leader of a group, told Pomerantsev. “We must protect holy places from liberals and their satanic ideology.”

    It’s very likely that these vigilantes are from the same group that has been attacking gay and lesbian activists.

    Now will you be honest enough stop pretending that religion is not central to the persecution of LGBT people in Russia? I think I already know the answer, but go on, surprise us.

  378. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts, it’s Putin that’s central to the process of persecuting gays. Putin is getting help from other authortarian/conservative types, including the Orthodox Church. But make no mistake, it wouldn’t be happening if Putin didn’t approve.

  379. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    , it’s Putin that’s central to the process of persecuting gays.

    Assertion without an evidential link. Your OPINION is dismissed as fuckwittery. Typical of religious apologists having fact-free arguments.

  380. Al Dente says

    From what I can tell, David Wilford is absolutely amazed how intelligent and eloquent Spufford is when declaiming religious apologetics. We’re all big poopyheads for not recognizing how intelligent and eloquent Spufford is. The point that Spufford is pushing beliefs based on mythology and wishful thinking is so minor it can be ignored. Besides, hasn’t anyone besides David Wilford noticed how intelligent and eloquent Spufford is?

  381. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Wilford, I read your last link, and have to repeat that you are in every way a religious person. You may not worship a supernatural being, but dang if you aren’t acting just like every religious apologist who rambles through.

    See, your link didn’t say what you asserted it did. It was an opinion piece. It was based in large part upon translations of another language, and attempts to interpret another culture. But you pop it out as proof for us little people. Us people who read it differently.

    Up there a few, you said that Putin was prosecuting gays as a means of sucking up to conservative voters, not for truly religious reasons. Well, conservatives ARE religious. If you want to impress conservatives, you talk about God. So Putin’s prosecution of gays, if done only to get conservative votes, is best done through religion, and most easily done by getting religious people to do the dirty/leg work.

    Those of us in the Bible Belt of the USA know all this already, as we’ve lived through it, and we damned sure know more about it than you seem to. And, as we’ve said before, we don’t need Spufford’s help in understanding religious folk. Especially not if he is disassociating his particular and peculiar flavor of religion from that of the mainstream.

    It is the mainstream conservative religious voters that concern me, and I know too goddamn much about them, thanks. Spufford, that egotistical outlier, interests me not at all. You are doing the egotistical outlier bit here, and are just as boring as Spufford.

  382. David Wilford says

    We’re all big poopyheads for not recognizing how intelligent and eloquent Spufford is.

    Poopyheads, no. Obsessed with pounding ye olde atheist hammers, yes. I have previously mentioned Spufford’s embarrassment about the stupid things many Christians believe (creationism, homosexuality being a sin, etc.), and that he doesn’t find his own satisfaction with Christianity there. Spufford does believe in Christ and the Resurrection, but is candid about not being able to prove it, even as he says that neither can Richard Dawkins prove that he didn’t. So there’s that bit of wishful thinking by Spufford to be sure. What I think is good about it all is how at least one Christian is coming to terms with modernity while remaining a Christian, and a liberal one at that. I think it’s not a bad thing if religion comes around to being less concerned with looking for proofs of God (as in the argument from design, the cosmological argument, etc.) and willing to settle for simply having faith in Jesus. I can get along as a non-believer with those folks more than I can with fundamentalists.

  383. David Wilford says

    It is the mainstream conservative religious voters that concern me, and I know too goddamn much about them, thanks. Spufford, that egotistical outlier, interests me not at all. You are doing the egotistical outlier bit here, and are just as boring as Spufford.

    If you want to limit the damage mainstream conservative religious voters do, you sure could use a few allies, especially since there aren’t that many atheists voters in comparison. I could go around to my neighbor who is a Lutheran minister and tell her she’s deluding people, but frankly she’s also pretty good on a lot of social issues I care about and neither of us like WI Gov. Scott Walker, who she sees as being sanctimonious, to which I in my thoughts add the suffix “prick”. But I don’t say it because really, there’s no need to.

    If you’re happier pounding atheist hammers on anything that even remotely looks like a nail though, that’s your call. Just watch your own thumbnail though.

  384. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    If you want to limit the damage mainstream conservative religious voters do, you sure could use a few allies,

    Sorry delusional fool. They liberal religious voter is no ally. They don’t criticize and get in the face of the fundies. They are the ones that Dr. MLKing railed about in his letter from a Birmingham jail. Those who are afraid to rock the boat.
    You would know that if you got your head out of either the religious clouds, or your ass.

  385. David Wilford says

    Nerd, tell that to all the Catholics Voting No in 2012 on the Minnesota Constitutional Amendment that would have banned gay marriage. Better yet, tell that to the gay couples who have married since the Democrats, many of them Christians, passed the law that “moderate” Governor Dayton signed into law that let them enjoy the equal right to marry under law that they worked hard for. I think you’d find them thankful that a majority of voters in Minnesota did not favor discrimination against a minority.

  386. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think you’d find them thankful that a majority of voters in Minnesota did not favor discrimination against a minority.

    Nice non-sequitur. It has nothing to do with atheists trying to accommodate the religious for any reason whatsoever. And the Catholic church is dead set against gay marriage. Why you mentioned them shows your head is up your accommodationist ass.

  387. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Wilford, would you kindly take your atheist hammer and shove it sideways up your orifice of last choice. I’d loan you my atheist hammer, but I don’t have one, and I don’t personally know anyone who does have an atheist hammer.

    I am not looking for allies from the likes of Spufford, or from you. Nor do I need to learn what non-extreme religious people do and think. I know the people at http://giftofmobility.org/ and I’d like to see you pick up any kind of tool and give them some help.

  388. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Actually DW, the Minnesota gay marriage has more to do with knowing cousin/uncle/aunt/bother/sister etc., who is LGBT, and is in a committed relationship, and wanting the same status for them as anyone else. Fairness does not need a bible. In fact, it needs to ignore the bible on certain topics like treatment of LGBT, where the bible is explicitly against it.
    Nobody has explained to me how the Redhead’s cousin marrying his long time partner hurts our marriage. The non-sequiturs from the alarmists are even worse than yours.

  389. David Wilford says

    Nerd, when you claimed:

    They liberal religious voter is no ally.

    And I pointed out how liberal religious voters (including liberal Catholics, Lutherans, etc.) did vote in support of gay marriage in Minnesota, which is now legal, it’s not a non-sequitur. It’s a direct factual refutation of your assertion. And if you don’t think liberal Catholics don’t get in the face of the fundies, well, you haven’t ever watched The Cobert Report. (Cobert is a Catholic and teaches Sunday school.) I have no idea where you get the “atheists trying to accommodate the religious for any reason” line, other than you’re deeply confused about how that hammer your pounding isn’t even close to hitting a nail.

  390. David Wilford says

    In fact, it needs to ignore the bible on certain topics like treatment of LGBT, where the bible is explicitly against it.

    Just like we ignore the bible on eating shellfish, as I recall. So what? Those “Another Catholic Voting No” signs signified that the voter was a Catholic who wasn’t going to go along with discrimination, despite the official stance of the Roman Catholic Church. And it’s no coincidence that Pope Francis has been non-judgmental about homosexuals and atheists.

  391. David Wilford says

    Menyambal @ 431:

    Thanks for the offer of the hammer, but I already have one I use when it’s called for and I know how to use it. But you should care about political allies and their cultivation, because in a democracy numbers matter when it comes to voting, and making a common cause matters if you’re going to accomplish anything in politics.

  392. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    But you should care about political allies and their cultivation, because in a democracy numbers matter when it comes to voting, and making a common cause matters if you’re going to accomplish anything in politics.

    Gee, more non-sequiturs. The atheist movement is not a political movement, although some in are politically active. If you can’t tell the truth and keep misrepresenting the facts, no one here is going to believe your delusional accommodationist thinking.

  393. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I have no idea where you get the “atheists trying to accommodate the religious for any reason” line, other than you’re deeply confused about how that hammer your pounding isn’t even close to hitting a nail.

    Gee, your accommodationist hammer is missing all the relevant points. Like there is NO ATHEIST HAMMER. It only exists in your delusional mind.

  394. David Wilford says

    The atheist movement is not a political movement

    Oh bullshit, yes it is too a political movement and political subjects come up here all the time and it’s not a game of beanbag, it’s about social justice issues and respect for atheism in the broader society. It’s about proving de Tocqueville’s claim about atheism leading to tyranny wrong because atheists would not have the moral compass Christians have. If it isn’t, then what’s the point?

  395. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Wilford, I don’t need to “cultivate” allies, because I am already acquainted with, related to, work with and friends with all kinds of people across the spectrum of both religion and politics. Only a close-minded hermit would think and be otherwise.

    As for the politics of atheism, and the larger involvement, this is PZ’s blog and he speaks out for such very strongly. But it isn’t wrong to say that atheism is, at root, not a political issue—it is a non-religious issue, if anything.

    As for proving de Tocqueville’s claim, well, that’s you getting all meta, again. I’ve heard of him, yes, but never his claim, and I’d not define my activism about my atheism as anything like that. But you, you know all about what it’s all about, and you know about my motivations and my hammer and who I should read.

    Have you heard of Dunning and Kruger, maybe?

    Have you heard of the hokey pokey? That’s what it’s all about.

  396. David Wilford says

    But it isn’t wrong to say that atheism is, at root, not a political issue—it is a non-religious issue, if anything.

    As if the War on Christmas isn’t a political issue. Or like saying that gay rights isn’t a political issue but is rather a non-reproductive sex matter. Whenever you’re dealing with challenging people’s hearts and minds on an issue, it’s political.

    About de Tocqueville, he’s one of the most perceptive writers about American democracy there’s been, and his historical observations about early political life in the United States are a treasure of information. His thought about religion being a necessary part of government is something that’s obviously related to the French Revolution and the turmoil of 1790s France and Napoleon’s subsequent rule, but it’s a theme that runs thorough the political thought of the Enlightenment. But no one’s born knowing this stuff, I know. But de Tocqueville wasn’t stupid or bigoted, and had his reasons for his claim, and personally I’d like to prove them wrong, being a non-believer myself.

  397. Nick Gotts says

    Nick Gotts, it’s Putin that’s central to the process of persecuting gays. Putin is getting help from other authortarian/conservative types, including the Orthodox Church. But make no mistake, it wouldn’t be happening if Putin didn’t approve. – David Wilford@419

    Neither of us knows how far Putin is himself a homophobic bigot, or what his own religious beliefs are, but your own link made clear how central the Church is to the persecution – from the Patriarch down to the street thugs, they are essential to it. Why can’t you have the honesty to admit that? Actually, I know why: because your case for the beneficence of religion is badly damaged if you do.

    As for political allies, I’m quite willing to work with religious believers for common political goals, and I do. That doesn’t mean I have to respect, or pretend to respect, religious hogwash.

  398. Al Dente says

    David Wilford @426

    Poopyheads, no. Obsessed with pounding ye olde atheist hammers, yes.

    You are the only one who’s obsessed with “atheist hammers” considering you’re the only one who keeps mentioning them (except for the few people like me who comment on your obsession).

    I have previously mentioned Spufford’s embarrassment about the stupid things many Christians believe (creationism, homosexuality being a sin, etc.), and that he doesn’t find his own satisfaction with Christianity there.

    Great big fucking deal. He’s a delusionist who believes in a delusion and you think this is a good thing. If Spufford wrote a book about his belief in any other unevidenced delusion besides a religious one, he would be urged to seek psychiatric help. But since his delusion is goddist, you think it’s really great that Spufford suffers from delusions.

    Spufford does believe in Christ and the Resurrection, but is candid about not being able to prove it, even as he says that neither can Richard Dawkins prove that he didn’t.

    Does the expression null hypothesis mean anything to you? If there’s no evidence something exists then the most probable explanation is that it doesn’t exist. Will every proton in the universe decay in the next ten minutes? There’s a finite possibility this could happen but since there’s no evidence it will happen then we are justified in presuming it will not happen. If there’s no evidence that gods, that’s any gods not just Spufford’s favorite deities, exist, then the rational assumption is they don’t exist.

    What I think is good about it all is how at least one Christian is coming to terms with modernity while remaining a Christian, and a liberal one at that.

    Please excuse me for thinking that a polished turd remains a turd. So Spufford isn’t a hell-and-brimstone evangelical fundamentalist. He’s still worshiping a figment of the imagination.

    I think it’s not a bad thing if religion comes around to being less concerned with looking for proofs of God (as in the argument from design, the cosmological argument, etc.) and willing to settle for simply having faith in Jesus.

    Look how shiny this turd is. How it sparkles and glistens. If you taste it, it still tastes like shit. Lustrous, gleaming shit.

    I can get along as a non-believer with those folks more than I can with fundamentalists.

    PMYMHMMFSWGAD

  399. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Gay rights is a political issue, because it is about the civil rights of people. Rights.

    The sexual orientation and preferences of people, their gayness, is not political, and should most emphatically not be taken into account in any political forum, except to redress wrongs done them by the denial of their civil rights.

    Sexual orientation is not political. Equal rights is.

    Atheism is not a political issue. Equal rights for atheists, including the election of atheists, is political. And becomes an issue for atheists, as PZ has said many times.

    Atheist rights and gay rights are political, because atheism and sexual orientation should not be political.

    Jeeze, Wilford, you define religion and politics in whatever way you want at the moment.

    Thanks for the blurb on de Toqueville. It’s nice that you have some book that seems very important to you, some authority that you can worship.

  400. says

    David Wilford:

    I think it’s not a bad thing if religion comes around to being less concerned with looking for proofs of God (as in the argument from design, the cosmological argument, etc.) and willing to settle for simply having faith in Jesus

    Faith-belief in things for which there is insufficient evidence-is nonsense. Why is ‘having faith in Jesus’ some sort of good thing? Perhaps you meant “…and willing to settle for simply following a handful of cherry picked teachings of Jesus.”?

    Why are you so accommodating to the antiquated religious beliefs of one particular religion?
    I mean, since this thread is now all about David Wilford, here’s your chance to discuss your favorite topic.

  401. omnicrom says

    I’m so glad you’re so very concerned for the Atheist movement David Wilford. So very concerned indeed. You’re very concerned about how atheists may be scaring away mealy mouth liberal religious people. If only we Atheists stopped asking for evidence and logic, were more wowwed of faith like you, didn’t beat our nasty evil atheist hammers, ignored the vast and clear opposition between major organized religions and civil rights, and were ready and willing to excuse stupidity at every turn. You are very concerned indeed it seems.

    But seriously, David Wilford, your concern troll bullshit isn’t worth a damn thing. Exactly which allies would we attract if only we were more sycophantic to religion? Because I have a nasty feeling I don’t want them. You’re telling me that there’s plenty of people out there ready to join the side of civil rights, equality, and secular humanism if only we were a little nicer? I’m not sure I want to align myself with those people whose attachment to morality is so tenuous and fragile it exists only so long as we don’t say nasty words. In fact I think those people may well be antithetical to atheism. The atheists around here have an attitude of put up or shut up attitude, and if Tone is more important than substance I don’t think we want them.

    So no David Wilford, I don’t think it’s a good idea to completely give up on being reality focused for a tiny handful of fair weather friends. If you want to go out and recruit those tone conscious Christians then that’s your perogative, but don’t speak as though your way is the only way and don’t go around tut-tutting people for not acting exactly as you surmise atheists should.

  402. says

    David Wilford #440

    As if the War on Christmas isn’t a political issue.

    It is a political issue, but it doesn’t exist except in the minds of the wingnuts. Nobody is at war against Christmas.
     

    Or like saying that gay rights isn’t a political issue but is rather a non-reproductive sex matter. Whenever you’re dealing with challenging people’s hearts and minds on an issue, it’s political.

    Atheists are all over the place on those issues. You seem deeply confused.

  403. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Just like we ignore the bible on eating shellfish, as I recall.

    Gee, do you have nothing but non-sequiturs. As an atheist, the babble is nothing but mythology/fiction. Now, where do you get we when talking about orthodox Jews for example? You are nothing but stupid and irrelevant. You haven’t presented one cogent and consistent idea, as you don’t have any. A jumble of slogans, like the liberturds.

  404. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Obsessed with pounding ye olde atheist hammers, yes. I have previously mentioned Spufford’s embarrassment about the stupid things many Christians believe (creationism, homosexuality being a sin, etc.), and that he doesn’t find his own satisfaction with Christianity there.

    Ah, atheist hammers that don’t exist, and non-sequiturs that we should be interested in a self-confessed delusional fool writing about his delusional state, if it contains a thing or two that politically might interest us. What a fuckwit you are, if you think there is a point there. Once Spufford goes off the deep-end with his delusional thinking, nothing whatsoever will save our interest in his spewings of inanity. That has been what folks have been telling you for a month. There is nothing of interest in any Xian apologetics, as it is all based on delusion.

  405. alwayscurious says

    So how is Tocqueville’s purported claim of immorality through atheism creating a dictatorship a novel thought? (When considered against the historical observation that religious authoritarian rule has been the norm in countless times & places–accompanied by any number of “moral” AND “immoral” acts)

    You’ve regressed to name dropping because you’re losing the argument about liberal Christians & atheists and wish to change the subject. Simply because liberal Christians and atheists happen to agree on an issue long enough to vote the same, does not make them “allies” on the subject or any other subject. Just as a woman walking into an elevator going up 5 floors does not instantly become the “friend” of every man already in there doing the same.

  406. says

    @ David Wilford #402

    I don’t think pagans see their beliefs as being “just stories” either.

    Homer took the pre-existing Pagan fairytales and developed them into written works that could inspire. They weren’t “revealed” by a god. His (her, their?) decisions were made rather soberly in compiling the texts.

    Justinian was quite clear in highlighting that it was not an issue of Truth ™ (quite at odds with what any xtian would say!), but one of aspiration. Their goals were very much humanistic, and achievable – witness their successes in the whole Hellenistic enterprise. YHWH is the anti-humanist. I do not see how you can compare the two at all.

    # 406

    There’s a leap of faith involved that *makes* it real, at least in the story.

    Perhaps you should rather be reading William James with regard to the notion of “leap of faith”, he goes into this notion in detail.

    We have a collection of works (many available for free) on our Pharyngulawiki pages. You might want to take a look at “History and Development of Religions”, which has many links. I would suggest William James for apologetics (13,14,15) and Gilbert Murray for a discussion of Paganism (2, 5). To really get to grips with the psychological motivations of religiosity, you would do well to read Pascal Boyer(7).

    The link is here.

  407. says

    And:

    Velveteen Rabbit

    I am not familiar with this. It sounds like the Western equivalent of Lady White Snake, who was transformed, through love, to human form – over the course of a thousand years. (There are several renditions, one can also be transformed by following the Tao, for example.)

  408. David Wilford says

    Nick Gotts @ 441:

    I agree the Russian Orthodox Church is contributing to the persecution of gays. I don’t think it’s central to it though as much as it’s being used as a tool of repression by Putin. There is some resistance to Putin’s growing authoritarian rule, which is why he’s pushed for this repression. Bigotry against gays is pervasive in Russian society and Putin’s taking advantage of that to cow the liberal opposition.

    As for political allies, I’m quite willing to work with religious believers for common political goals, and I do. That doesn’t mean I have to respect, or pretend to respect, religious hogwash.

    Agreed, but for the sake of comity I do respect those who are my allies even if I don’t share their religious beliefs.

  409. omnicrom says

    I don’t think it’s central to it though as much as it’s being used as a tool of repression by Putin.

    So your argument is that the authoritarian agenda of a church is secondary to the furthering enforcement of the authoritarian agenda they endorse. It may be true that Putin is a major factor in the current anti-gay stuff going down in Russia, but the reason you’re getting pushback David Wilford is that you’re straining and bending and twisting and reaching to let the church off the hook. If you are correct, and Putin is cynically using religion to consolidate his power by lashing out at the gays then the fault still remains on the Church. If the Church had no sway then Putin could not have aligned himself with the power of the church to further the anti-gay agenda they endorse. If the church was not homophobic then it would not align itself with homophobes to lend them credibility. Put simply for Putin to wear the garb of an anti-gay church proponent then the church would have to have already been anti-gay. It’s dishonest to acquit the church for someone doing things they want to have done.

    Agreed, but for the sake of comity I do respect those who are my allies even if I don’t share their religious beliefs.

    And we don’t you think? Oh right, we’re nasty atheists so we have to keep hitting them with our atheist hammers because we’re closeminded and vile.

  410. David Wilford says

    omnicrom, if Putin didn’t want it to happen, it wouldn’t be happening. That it’s being helped by the Russian Orthodox Church isn’t letting them off the hook for their part, it’s just being clear about who is ultimately responsible.

    And we don’t you think? Oh right, we’re nasty atheists so we have to keep hitting them with our atheist hammers because we’re closeminded and vile.

    I point you to the example of how Fiona Hanley was treated in the comments here earlier and you can draw your own conclusions.

  411. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That it’s being helped by the Russian Orthodox Church isn’t letting them off the hook for their part, it’s just being clear about who is ultimately responsible.

    Sorry fuckwit. It only shows your hypocrisy in that you won’t allow religion and the religious to be criticized. And why nobody here believes anything you say. Nothing but rose colored blinders to real facts.

    I point you to the example of how Fiona Hanley was treated in the comments here earlier and you can draw your own conclusions.

    Who the fuck cares about what you think is evidence, when it invariably isn’t? Why are you still here? Your continued concern trolling will not change one mind, as you have no factual basis to show the religious will change for the better.

  412. says

    David Wilford:
    Fiona Hanley wasn’t treated with the hammer. She was criticized for saying stupid things. Just like you are.
    Your obsession with “the hammer” is tiresome. What you seem to want is all atheists to play nice and not speak too loudly when they criticize religion, if at all. You want atheists to focus on their tone.
    Fuck that noise.
    Religions have helped oppress people for far too long and silenced those that would speak out against them. Now we have the opportunity to stand up and shout–yes, SHOUT–that we aren’t going to take this shit any longer. We have the chance to speak out vociferously about the wrongs perpetrated in the name of religion. The chance to make our voices heard across the world.
    You’d have us return to a time when religion and religious beliefs were granted undeserved respect.
    Fuck your stupid opinion.

  413. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, you say Fiona, who accused PZ of book burning, simply because he judged on a representative sample from the book to say “I’ll pass on this nonsense”, deserves anything other than ridicule for such gross hyperbole? Fiona had a chance to back off the claims, but instead dug the hole even deeper. One doesn’t have to read all apologetics to know they are all bullshit, since they are based on bullshit.
    If that is the atheist hammer, it was appropriately applied to someone expecting special consideration for their religion. No religion deserves any special consideration from any person not of that religion.

  414. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Well Nerd, these days I’m not expecting the Spanish Inquisition…

    You haven’t been paying attention to Faux News and Bill Riley, Bill Donohue, and other loudmouths who must demand that religion be given special considerations.

  415. David Wilford says

    Nerd, I’ll gladly put up with loudmouths I can change the channel from in place of the actual Spanish Inquisition.

  416. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Nerd, I’ll gladly put up with loudmouths I can change the channel from in place of the actual Spanish Inquisition.

    Still with inane and irrelevant non-sequiturs. Why don’t you address the problems people have pointed out to you? Instead of dwelling on your own idiocy.

  417. omnicrom says

    omnicrom, if Putin didn’t want it to happen, it wouldn’t be happening. That it’s being helped by the Russian Orthodox Church isn’t letting them off the hook for their part, it’s just being clear about who is ultimately responsible.

    Oh please. David Wilford you brought up Russia to attempt a false equivolency smear “Oh the atheists are just as nasty as the religious people so stop criticizing”. You have been “Hammering” (see what I did there?) that it was Putin who is ultimately responsible for enacting the agenda CREATED AND ENDORSED BY THE RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH. You have indeed been letting the church off the hook over and over and over again. You have had to be dragged to the point of this post where you even acknowledge the church has any influence because your starting point was completely letting the church off the hook.

  418. David Wilford says

    Religions have helped oppress people for far too long and silenced those that would speak out against them. Now we have the opportunity to stand up and shout–yes, SHOUT–that we aren’t going to take this shit any longer. We have the chance to speak out vociferously about the wrongs perpetrated in the name of religion. The chance to make our voices heard across the world.

    That’s nice Tony, but who do you think is really still listening at the end of the day? Too often all I’m seeing is atheists huffing their own righteous rhetorical farts while patting themselves on the ass about how right they are and how everyone else is wrong. It’s like you’re reading from a playbook titled How to Fail in Politics While Being Really Trying. It’s possible to be right while at the same time not putting others down, and sorry, but tone does matter in that regard sometimes, especially in public. Which this internet thingy is in, ya know.

  419. omnicrom says

    Oh hey while I’m reminded I think it’s time to ask for the sixth time what you’re trying to do in this topic David Wilford. So let’s ask, what do you hope to accomplish? What are you trying to convince us of? What do we have wrong? What do you think is important enough to be here 40 days after this blog post was first published?

    You have posted 17 times since I lasted asked this question, and none of them answered my question. In the several times you’ve quote me David Wilford not once have you quoted my question, or even acknowledged its existence. I think it’s very telling that you’ve yet to outline in straight terms what you want us to think, do, or believe. I can only assume that you hide your goal because you realize that putting it out in the open would get it strongly criticized and substantively disagreed with. My theory is you want us to become milqutoast accommodationists, the kind of Atheist who doesn’t swing their nasty atheist hammers for fear of offending religious sensibilities who believe in the golly gosh gee-wiz wonder of faith and religious fulfillment. Is this correct?

  420. omnicrom says

    That’s nice Tony, but who do you think is really still listening at the end of the day? Too often all I’m seeing is atheists huffing their own righteous rhetorical farts while patting themselves on the ass about how right they are and how everyone else is wrong. It’s like you’re reading from a playbook titled How to Fail in Politics While Being Really Trying. It’s possible to be right while at the same time not putting others down, and sorry, but tone does matter in that regard sometimes, especially in public. Which this internet thingy is in, ya know.

    David Wilford are you seriously arguing that not a lot of people are listening to hardcore conservative regressive religion? That not a lot of people are strongly informed to become regressive anti-women, anti-gay, anti-minority, anti-poor, anti-other by their religion? Are you seriously saying that the socially regressive side of religion is no longer an important and powerful force in politics and culture? That atheists are getting worked up over nothing? That we’re too busy being righteously indignant to realize that religion is no longer a problem?

    Because if you are seriously arguing that we’re done. To say that means you clearly exist on another planet from us. If you are really dismissing the social harm of religion as a thing of the past then you’re tremendously blinkered.

  421. David Wilford says

    omnicrom, during the Vietnam War there was this well-known saying: “Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”. Not so much as it turned out. The same thing applies to rhetoric that tries to hammer away at people, thinking that if they just pound away at something hard enough, long enough, with extra-strident tone thrown in for kicks, that minds will change. Not so much. There is a lot of conservative regressive religious rhetoric out there that people do listen to, but if you want people to listen to your side of the issues you aren’t helping yourself by not treating them with respect, at least initially.

  422. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    That’s nice Tony, but who do you think is really still listening at the end of the day? Too often all I’m seeing is atheists huffing their own righteous rhetorical farts while patting themselves on the ass about how right they are and how everyone else is wrong.

    And I see you patting yourself on the back and saying how factually right you are, when you haven’t presented any facts that show you are right. Just your OPINION, which is dismissed without evidence…..
    Look in the mirror. Then notice atheists use facts….

  423. David Wilford says

    Oh, all of what I’m saying about politics is just my opinion, Nerd. There’s a time and place for letting it all hang out too, including on the internet. There are certainly worse places to rant.

  424. David Wilford says

    Oh, and about the question of Why Am I Here? For the discussion. I don’t have a big answer explaining Why. It’s the journey, not the destination that matters to me, at least at the moment.

  425. omnicrom says

    omnicrom, during the Vietnam War there was this well-known saying: “Once you have them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow”. Not so much as it turned out. The same thing applies to rhetoric that tries to hammer away at people, thinking that if they just pound away at something hard enough, long enough, with extra-strident tone thrown in for kicks, that minds will change. Not so much. There is a lot of conservative regressive religious rhetoric out there that people do listen to, but if you want people to listen to your side of the issues you aren’t helping yourself by not treating them with respect, at least initially.

    You think the atheist movement would be better served by being less strident and shrill and angry? Okay then. Prove it. Show us a social movement in human history that has gotten society to acquiesce to its demands by being accommodating, unfailingly polite, and not at all angry and strident and discomforting to the majority. Show me a movement without passionate people that succeeded. My mother has a shirt that says “Well behaved women rarely make history”, and the same is true of social groups and movements.

    If you want to get out there and start a kinder gentler atheist movement then feel free. In fact I encourage it, we’ll be over here pushing the overton window, and you can be the fallback for people who have no problem with secularism as long as you aren’t one of those nasty atheists who hits you with hammers. But don’t tell us what to do. You can go out there and lobby people for non-belief in a pleasing and wholesome way. But don’t tell us we can’t shout and be angry and swear and mock. You can be out there catching those fair weather friends with your honey, But don’t tell us we can’t call bullshit bullshit.

    As I said once before all those people out there who could be swayed to the atheist side if only it was nicer and kinder and gentler? We don’t want them. If you’re interested in tone over content then by all means don’t be one of the strident atheists. There are plenty of more accommodating places and groups on the web, but don’t presume to write off all the blunt, unapologetic atheists. Because religion is bullshit, religion causes societal harm to real people, religion is a regressive force, and religion isn’t above mockery, examination, and debunking. David Wilford, do not act as though you can lay down precepts upon which the whole of atheism should think or act. That’s called Dogma, and we don’t approve.

    PS: Please stop trying to use real world analogies. You suck at them.

  426. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh, all of what I’m saying about politics is just my opinion, Nerd.

    Actually yes. You suck at evidence. Like Omnicrom said:

    Show us a social movement in human history that has gotten society to acquiesce to its demands by being accommodating, unfailingly polite, and not at all angry and strident and discomforting to the majority. Show me a movement without passionate people that succeeded. My mother has a shirt that says “Well behaved women rarely make history”, and the same is true of social groups and movements.

    You haven’t shown any evidence of that ilk. Which is why what you say is just YOUR OPINION, and since it is evidenceless, it can be and is ignored.

  427. David Wilford says

    As I said once before all those people out there who could be swayed to the atheist side if only it was nicer and kinder and gentler? We don’t want them.

    Well, you won’t get them then, that’s for sure. I think that’s not the best of outcomes, myself.

  428. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Well, you won’t get them then, that’s for sure. I think that’s not the best of outcomes, myself.

    Another unevidenced assertion, dismissed as idiocy.

  429. David Wilford says

    Hey, you might get one. Maybe two even. Whether they stick around or not is another matter.

  430. says

    David Wilford:
    Do you have any substantive response to omnicrom’s excellent point about social movements @471?
    Your point seems to be that we should be more respectful towards religion…bc.
    We should be nicer to believers…bc.
    You aren’t supporting your arguments with logic or reason.
    You have opinions, but they’re based on…what exactly?
    *WHY* do you think watering down our tone will allow us to acquire allies? Why do you think that is important? Why do you think the rest of us should care? Why do you feel this is the way to achieve social justice? Do you have any proof that this unsubstantiated opinion of yours is effective at making strides in social justice?

    Actually engage the substance of what people are saying and quit yer fucking whining about *how* people are saying it.

  431. Nick Gotts says

    David Wilford@452,

    I agree the Russian Orthodox Church is contributing to the persecution of gays. I don’t think it’s central to it

    But your own link showed quite clearly that it is central. As others have noted, Putin could not use the Church as a tool of repression against LGBT people if it either had little influence, or was not grossly homophobic. Still, I suppose it’s remarkable progress that we’ve managed to drag the admission out of you (who started by claiming that Russia is atheist) that the Orthodox Church has anything to do with the persecution at all!

    Agreed, but for the sake of comity I do respect those who are my allies even if I don’t share their religious beliefs.

    Are you confused about the difference between respecting people, and respecting their beliefs?

  432. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Hey, you might get one. Maybe two even. Whether they stick around or not is another matter.

    Might is bullshit. SHOW evidence it WILL happen. That is why you and your concern is shat upon. There is no factual basis for what you say. Nothing but personal drivel.

  433. vaiyt says

    Well, you won’t get them then, that’s for sure. I think that’s not the best of outcomes, myself.

    If they’re anything like you, good fucking riddance.

  434. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Wilford, I have twice been employed by religious organizations that I did not agree with on religious grounds, but whose good works I supported and whose people I respected and worked and lived with. (My moniker is a reminder of a Muslim’s efforts to teach me Indonesian.)

    Hell, my family just helped my brother get married in a fairly conservative church, and we did set up and clean up, and had a good time. We were all polite and friendly, and hit nobody with hammers. Our differences were not important, and nobody burst into flame.

    I don’t know how you live, but I don’t need any help from you. Nor do I need to read Spufford. You are both mistaken about a great many things, and are a waste of time.

  435. David Wilford says

    Tony @ 476:

    *WHY* do you think watering down our tone will allow us to acquire allies? Why do you think that is important? Why do you think the rest of us should care? Why do you feel this is the way to achieve social justice? Do you have any proof that this unsubstantiated opinion of yours is effective at making strides in social justice?

    It’s not proof, but this is pretty spirited, maybe even enough for you:

    Being a gay man, a rather small minority group which it has only very recently become unfashionable to target for hate speech, in a limited number of places, one of the stupider things I ever heard from other gay folk is that we could, somehow, obtain our civil rights without the support of the majority, straight, population. It was a stupid idea that was especially prevalent in the late 1970s when it became fashionable among some dolts to, as one guy I knew put it, just sit there and hate straight people.” Within a few years that stupid pose would be abandoned in the circles during the AIDS crisis. It became obvious that everything about our civil rights depended on the support of allies who were not gay. No minority group anywhere, at any time has not needed allies in the majority population. Numbers matter in a democracy.

    Atheists have had a fuller range of civil rights protections far longer than GLBT folks have today. I’m unaware of any time when atheists were, for example, denied the right to marry. White, straight, atheist men like Myers have had rights under the constitution from the beginning that women, African-Americans, and a host of others have not had during the longest part of the life of our country and today they have the full range of rights protected by law. Their atheism was no impediment to their practice of those rights.

    Let me clue you in on something, atheists, GLBT folks, any minority group, can exercise their rights only with the support of the majority. Even women, a truly, suppressed and oppressed majority of the population, needed the support of men in order to exercise their rights. It was only when the minority of white men in the Congress and state legislatures were convinced to amend the Constitution that women could exercise the more basic political rights of full citizens. You don’t change the constitution or make law to extend the protection of the exercise of rights unless you convince the majority of those with power to change them.

    Atheists were included in those classes protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an act passed and signed into law by people who were, overwhelmingly, Christians. That act conferred the full range of protection to those classes covered in it and those of us not covered do not yet have protection of those rights for ourselves. That protection for the covered groups is sustained in a country in which the overwhelming majority of voters are Christians. The separation of church and state and the disestablishment clauses of the Constitution have stood on the basis of the non-opposition of the majority of Christians.

    If Christians wanted to, I expect they could amend the constitution to remove those protections of equality and freedom of thought. It certainly could have been done in an earlier period when the separation of church and state didn’t enjoy the iconic status that it has had in the post-WWII period. That hasn’t been done in the more than two centuries that the Constitution has been in place and it was, obviously, not the tiny faction of atheists that sustained them all these years. Most often, when atheists complain of their “rights” being violated, it isn’t more than a matter of anger that the majority of people are free to express their religion in ways that atheists want to complain about. The ridiculous assertion that people have an obligation to vote for an atheist if they would rather not, the annoyance that religious people talk about their religion in pubic and express their political choices in terms of religious morality, atheists don’t have a right to the majority of people suppressing their thoughts in those areas anymore than gay men have to straight men expressing their gender preference. It would be an extremely stupid gay man who insisted that he did have that right. There would be nothing to gain from it anymore than calling straight folks “breeders” brought.

    More here:

    http://zthoughtcriminal.blogspot.com/2013/11/ha-pz-myers-hates-it-when-christians.html

  436. Menyambal --- Wallace's Bullpup says

    Again, Wilford, you quote an authority that doesn’t apply to my life. You’ve imagined a straw atheist, largely by projecting from religious people, and you are preaching your brand of pseudo-wisdom to entirely the wrong people, and you are getting pissed at us for not goggling in awe.

    You are using PZ’s blog and bandwidth to insult him, and you keep hammering away at some nail that doesn’t exist.

    Go hang out with Spufford, maybe.

  437. says

    David:
    You still have not convinced me that being nice to the people that treat us shitty…or using polite words…or being civil over ferocious is more effective at achieving equality.
    Also, no one is saying that we don’t want allies.

    We just don’t want ones like YOU who are trying to dictate the course of social justice many of us have taken.

    Again, if you don’t like it, which clearly you don’t, go away.
    You’re not persuading anyone here.

  438. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, still not one iota of third party evidence to back your fallacious assertions. Give it up. Shut the fuck up. Go away.

  439. FossilFishy(Anti-Vulcanist) says

    When asked for proof* DW responds with, and I quote (#481), “….not proof…”. Out loud laughter was my response. You’re a joke DW.

    *Proof is a lousy term for this sort of thing. What I look for in these claims is credible evidence on which to base an tentative, conditional, informed conclusion. Mind you, DW hasn’t provided any of that either.

  440. omnicrom says

    You’re in good company Tony, David Wilford skated around answering mine over and over again.

  441. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    David Wilford is one of those fuckwits who would have told the blacks back during the big civil rights movements of the sixties to shut the fuck up and stop making him feel uncomfortable. Later, he would tell the gays working for their civil rights to stop making waves, shut the fuck up, and go back into the closet, as they make him uncomfortable. Same for women, and now atheists. Shut the fuck up, as your talk that my imaginary deity doesn’t exist makes me uncomfortable, as I am no longer a special person. You are being meanies and using a hammer if you make me feel uncomfortable. Essentially DW is someone unable/unwilling to examine their biases, bigotry, and cultural upbringing to see if there might be something in error.

  442. Bicarbonate says

    David Wilford,

    I think you are wrong in trying to get people to tone down. On any issue, there are all kinds of speakers and all kinds of listeners (and not listeners). We need all of the different kinds of speakers and I think we need most of all the confrontational, outrageous, virulent, flaming, snarky radicals. Why? Because they make people speaking calmly seem reasonable. They make it possible to hear people speaking calmly. They enable the whole dialogue in the first place and they are why you are here. And why I am here. And why I’m writing this.

  443. David Wilford says

    Bicarbonate,

    As the ultimate goal here for most here is getting rid of religion, they clearly don’t want religious allies. That’s understandable enough. In the meantime, in the pursuit of other social justice goals it doesn’t hurt to have allies who are religious. I’m guessing most here can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that they can also be critical of religion while at the same time accepting the help of believers who agree with them about issues like raising the U.S. minimum wage. For instance, Hobby Lobby pays its full time employees a minimum wage of $14/hour. I don’t support Hobby Lobby’s efforts to prevent its employees from getting contraceptive coverage through the Affordable Care Act, but if they would support raising the federal minimum wage from its current $7.25/hour, I’d accept their help in achieving that shared goal. Politics works like that. If you’d prefer to keep the pursuit of your social justice causes free of the taint of faith, fine, you can. But that can make it harder to accomplish them. Martin Luther King was critical of some liberals for not wanting to rock the boat, but he also was happy to accept their help when it was offered towards the goal of achieving civil rights for all, including atheists, which MLK wasn’t himself. Gays who mocked “breeders” back in the 1970s later weren’t so arch after AIDS struck in the 1980s when there was a terrible stigma attached to being gay, and there were those like former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, who while disapproving of homosexuality himself forthrightly stated that AIDS was not a “gay disease”, and he was effective in countering the bigotry of many Republicans who wanted to engage in gay-bashing for the usual venal political reasons.

    Since there are issues like school prayer that fundamentalists are in favor of and atheists are against, accepting the help of the more liberal religious groups seems to me to be a no-brainer to keep that from happening. There are plenty of other progressive causes that atheists and liberal Christians both support, and as long as the liberal Christians are respectful of atheists, I see no reason not to be respectful of them in return. Doing things like childishly mocking the choice of Pope Francis as Time’s Person of the Year given the kinder public stance Francis has taken towards homosexuals and atheists is just counterproductive and silly, even given the end goal of getting rid of religion. Railing away at the likes of Bill O’Reilly is fine given how inflammatory he can be. Railing away against a Pope who is actually serious about the excesses of capitalism, is just stupid.

  444. Bicarbonate says

    DW @491

    I don’t agree at all and explained why. What are you trying to accomplish? Answer Tony’s question. You don’t agree with me and other people here. So what?

  445. David Wilford says

    Bicarbonate,

    I’m interested less in promoting atheism as I am in protecting secularism, given the current political climate. I’m also wanting to promote other issues like raising the minimum wage. I think working with allies who may be religious is necessary. Feel free to disagree, of course.

  446. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think working with allies who may be religious is necessary.

    Fuckwitted idjjit, show evidence that atheists don’t work with political allies for common goals. The only thing we don’t do is give their religion and them special treatment.
    You are one big illiterate idjit.

  447. Bicarbonate says

    DW@494

    Well let atheists who want to work with religious people work with them. And those who do not, not. What’s the big deal? It takes all kinds.

    And it takes the radicals to move the Overton window. From wiki:

    he Overton window is a political theory that describes as a narrow “window” the range of ideas the public will accept. On this theory, an idea’s political viability depends mainly on whether it falls within that window rather than on politicians’ individual preferences.[1] It is named for its originator, Joseph P. Overton (1960-2003),[2] a former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.[3] At any given moment, the “window” includes a range of policies considered politically acceptable in the current climate of public opinion, which a politician can recommend without being considered too extreme to gain or keep public office.

  448. David Wilford says

    Bicarbonate @ 496:

    Meh, the concept of the Overton Window is vastly overrated. It’s Green Lanternism to believe that a few radicals can shift the opinions of the masses merely by being waay out there on one end of the political spectrum.

  449. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    It’s Green Lanternism to believe that a few radicals can shift the opinions of the masses merely by being waay out there on one end of the political spectrum.

    CITATION NEEDED EVIDENCELESS OPINION DISMISSED.

  450. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    DW, you haven’t shown ANY success social change that succeeded because of being “nice”. Until you provide said evidence, everything you say on the topic of being nice and politics can and will dismissed.

  451. Amphiox says

    It’s Green Lanternism to believe that a few radicals can shift the opinions of the masses merely by being waay out there on one end of the political spectrum.

    This is also not an accurate description of how the Overton Window actually works.