In which the obnoxious atheist addresses his critics, and makes a polite suggestion to his fellow bloggers


This week, I tossed off a casual, flippant comment that launched a thousand ineffectual bastinados. I described a map that purported to show the frequency of religious adherents in the US this way:

It shows the concentration of ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims of obsolete mythologies in the United States, with the lighter colors being the most enlightened and the dark reds being the most repressed and misinformed

Fury, outrage, and massive snits ensued. Blogs were riven to their very foundations by anger — “How dare Myers insult me…I am offended!” — and the sun was darkened in the sky, while badgers gave birth to raccoons and other abominations occurred with alarmingly elevated frequency. Mostly, though, people wrote more blog posts pro and con, commenters were roused to furious typing, fora were inundated with tirades, and my in-box was overflowing.

I was much amused — man, wait until I really cut loose — but basically thought the to-do was far too much noise about nothing. Please try to get used to it, O Pious Ones: atheists think your beliefs are wacky. Just as wacky as you find idols to monkey gods or cargo cults or Mormonism or Seventh Day Adventists or Bratz dolls. But now that the bonfire is cooling to a few scattered glowing embers, I thought I’d offer a few general responses to the most common complaints.

So here they are, the three most common protestations, distilled down and paraphrased.


Why do you say that? Don’t you know that will alienate our allies/I will hate science with a passion because of you?

There was an immense amount of speculation about my motives. People were arguing about whether this helps the cause of atheism, whether it hurts the cause of science education, whether it’s all part of my plan to rally the godless to my uncompromising, invigorating banner, yadda yadda yadda. I hate to tell you all this, but in all the guesswork, no one, not even those sympathetic to me, got the right answer, except for Revere. The explanation is very, very simple, and you’re going to kick yourself when I say it.

I said it because it was true.

There is no god, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for a god. In particular, there is no sensible support for the multitude of peculiar doctrinal, dogmatic, and delusional weirdnesses documented in this (much better) map. You’ve got crazy-ass megalomaniacal evangelical kooks telling people to hate their gay/muslim/hindu/godless/female/evolutionist neighbors, you’ve got mobs believing them, you’ve got people electing presidents on the basis of how fanatically they will wage a crusade, and you’ve got even more swooning with the vapors at anyone who criticizes religious belief. Religion makes you nuts. It makes ordinary people identify with invisible spirits, it turns them into caterwauling flibbertigibbet idiots at any slight to a magic man who has never done a thing for them, and it makes them center their lives around head-dunkings and cracker-eating and gibbering chants to an unheeding phantasm.

I’m not saying you’re a bad person or even stupid if you’re a believer. I’m saying that you are possibly wicked if you’re promoting it, probably ignorant if you accept its contradictions with reality, almost certainly foolish if you think rituals will get you into heaven, definitely deluded by centuries’ worth of lies, and most definitely oppressed by your deference to baseless superstition.

As for my cause, ultimately it’s not anti-religion or pro-science education, although those are subsidiary goals. My cause is simply the truth — the truth stated plainly and openly.

So all those people squawking that they were offended were wasting their efforts. I don’t care if you were offended. There is no god (or no evidence of one), and you aren’t rebutting my claims by telling me how deeply your feelings are hurt. If you walked into a doctor’s office and were told that, to improve your health, you need to lose weight and stop smoking and exercise more, would you start shouting that you were insulted? (Yeah, I know, some of you would.) Do you think the depth of your indignation would change the diagnosis?

You’ve been given your prescription, people of faith: you believe in a lot of goofy, stupid, ridiculous ideas. You can resign yourself to them if you aren’t strong enough to part from them — I’m not going to follow you to church and drag you out with a choke-chain — or you can wake up. It’s all up to you. One thing you don’t get to do is silence the people who point and laugh.

As for those other causes, truth is always going to be anti-religion, and science is a process that aspires to uncover the truth, so I’m entirely self-consistent. It’s those who think they can reconcile a mythology of lies with honest attempts to learn the nature of reality who have muddled objectives.


Here’s the second most common complaint I got.

You’re an asshole. All you do is insult people.

Meh. Everyone is free to think that. It was bizarre, though, that the single most common epithet people were flinging around was “asshole”. Even people who were defending me would often say things like, “You’re an asshole, but…”. The weird internal contradiction in my example above was fairly common, too — I saw so many arguments that I’d never be able to persuade people to my side with insults that culminated in furious descriptions of the deep inner assholishness of my character, and oh, I’m ugly, too, that the only reasonable conclusion I can come to is that logic and self-awareness are dead. Or that a lot of assholes were writing to me.

Anyway, there’s not much to say about that one.


This last one may be true for individuals, but it’s missing the point.

You’re boring. I never read your garbage about religion, and it’s gotten so boring that I never read Pharyngula anymore.

I think these are patent attempts to make my brain meltdown and explode, ala the super-intelligent computers in Star Trek that could be destroyed by telling them a paradox. How is it that my science posts get only a small (but usually appreciative and intelligent) response, while my incendiary godless atheism posts drag all these strangers out of the woodwork to complain, if they are so boring? Is inciting a riot boring? Maybe you aren’t interested (even if the fact that it’s driven you to write to me or about me contradicts that claim), but so what? I am not writing for you. I am writing for me, and I find it interesting.

Allow me to make a constructive suggestion. I seem to be a fairly successful blogger, at least in terms of traffic and linkage and all those other artificial metrics. Now there are good reasons to ignore those metrics — there are excellent blogs with low traffic, obviously, and I do not pick my readings by how many other bloggers read them — but if you’re complaining that I’m boring or that your avoidance of my blog is some kind of chastisement, you’re clearly thinking that entertaining a readership is something of value. Now think about how a blog could attract a large following.

One strategy is to pick a topic with a wide base, and pursue it well and deeply. Politics comes to mind; it’s a subject of broad interest, with lots of built-in contentiousness. Some of the biggest and most popular blogs around are built on that foundation. But you should also look at sports blogs: they’re completely alien to me and of absolutely no interest (“boring”), but they’ve got huge readerships. There are blogs dedicated to particular makes of car that are thriving!

Science, alas, does not have quite so much general support. There’s solid interest among a small and healthy percentage of the population, but if you’re a pure science blogger you’re drawing on a small slice of the pie. Maybe it’s the most marvelously tasty slice and your presentation is superb, and it’s an entirely respectable and worthy focus, but if you want the big traffic numbers, face it, science won’t do it. Maybe after Seed and scienceblogs grow the audience, though…

Anyway, by chance (no, by the contingent details of my personal interests) and definitely not by design, this particular blog has multiple foci that work together to draw in an audience.

  • Science, of course. It’s why I started the thing, and why I invest much more effort in the individual science posts than anything else here.

  • Godlessness. This is the most contentious subject and also the one with the broadest appeal — like politics, it draws in the arguments.

  • Anti-creationism. Another good source of battles that draws in a crowd.

  • Liberal politics. A subject of varying interest here, and I think better handled by the numerous specialist blogs, but I care about it.

  • Cephalopods. This one attracts the weirdos. You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place.

There are people who read Pharyngula just for one of those topics, and I get email all the time telling me that one or the other of those is “boring” (except the cephalopods, everyone loves those). I’m not surprised that many people are utterly uninterested in some part of what I write — probably the only person on the planet with exactly my constellation of interests is me, and that’s who I write for. So telling me that some aspect of this blog is “boring” will never have any impact at all, especially not when it is apparently exciting enough to stimulate you to write.

And if you’re a blogger and want a hint on how to increase traffic, there it is: tap into multiple audiences. If you’re a scienceblogger, go ahead and pick some other subject that excites you and invest some effort into expressing your enthusiasm for it. Why not make a third of your posts about your favorite sport, for instance? You’ll enjoy it, if that’s your thing, and you’ll build a following among football fans, and occasionally enlighten them with an article about chemistry. I’ll find the football intensely boring and will skip those posts, but I promise I won’t ever complain to you about how tedious they are — somebody else will find them fascinating. Open up and write about anything you love, and trust me, readers will love you back (some will hate you, too, but that’s all good for traffic.)

This is obvious advice, that the key to successful blogging is to follow your passions and follow them well, but from all the people who complain that my passions aren’t the same as theirs, I clearly need to explain the obvious.

Comments

  1. says

    Is inciting a riot boring?

    Ask Rob Knop. He found that inciting even a polite discussion was terribly, terribly exciting. So much so that he had to hide posts and close comments, to cut down on all that excitement.

    He hasn’t even apologized for his behavior – the most he’s done is apologize “for the upset he’s caused”. Nothing he said or did.

  2. Caledonian says

    Incidentally, this:

    You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place.

    is why no matter how ridiculous his positions are or become, PZ will always be a bigger man than quite a few of his detractors – he appreciates a good livening up.

  3. says

    Ok, I have to admit I don’t read your cephalopod pieces, but in general i find the damn things delicious.

    As a fellow godless scientist, I applaud your asshole-ishness. Thanks for taking one for the team.

  4. llewelly says

    Cephalopods. This one attracts the weirdos. You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place.
    … I get email all the time telling me that one or the other of those is “boring” (except the cephalopods, everyone loves those)

    You admit all Pharyngula fans are ‘weirdos’ and ‘freaks’ ?

  5. Luna_the_cat says

    Ah yes, god forbid (irony intended) that you should actually let the flamewar die.

    PZ, I usually read you for ideas and amusement, but why did you feel the need to pour on more gasoline? You couldn’t let the hurt feelings of your fellow f**king scientists die down, at least for a few days? You don’t care that they have hurt feelings, yeah, got that, you’re perfectly justified, of course, and have right on your side, but you need to stoke the flames? This is crap. You’re a great guy and all, but this kind of behavior is crap.

    Out of here for a while, I guess. I need to let my own temper cool, and this isn’t helping.

  6. michael says

    PZ, you rule! Your blog is a constant source of joy, laughter and cephalopods.

    Go, PZ!

  7. says

    Um, so everyone else can tie me to the stake, pile the faggots high, and light the fire…but if for my own amusement I choose to mock the flames, I’m the bad guy?

  8. says

    bwahahahaha
    I’m stunned that people would get their knickers bunched this far up their cake exits over someone calling religion stupid and wacky. as PZ mentioned, IT IS STUPID AND WACKY! And calling something non-stupid and non-wacky because it makes others feel less stupid and wacky is what you do for your grandmother, not in public. Otherwise you’re enabling the stupidity and wackiness.
    to me it’s the same as not warning someone they’re going to get hit by a bus. it’s just irresponsible.
    this kind of behavior is crap? Come on. that’s snit-behavior, and i say that is crap. exact same situation: my feelings are hurt, therefor you MUST BE WRONG! sadly, no.

  9. says

    I really think that one reason so many of the faithful are offended by your posts is because deep down, they know that their beliefs and practices are baseless. You touch their weakest points, that little kernel of doubt that they carry around but try very hard to ignore. On some level they know it is all bunk, and you remind them of that every time you write this kind of thing.

    I say more of it!

  10. MAJeff says

    Cephalopods. This one attracts the weirdos. You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place.

    Quoth Michael Franti: “All the freaky people make the beauty of the world.”

  11. Liane says

    Ah, truth, that eternal bugbear of the religiosi. I’ve always thought it curious that asking them to explain contradictions always leads to them howling about their poor widdle feelings (or that other favourite: “you just don’t understand (because, ya know, you’re not sufficiently spiritually endowed, not that I’m gonna say that out loud because I’m ever so ‘umble *cough* passive-aggressive)”). And I’m not even talking about pointing out the gormlessness of their rationalisations; just posing a question is bad enough to warrant accusations of prejudice and meanness.

    Way back in the days when I was still a believer (albeit more out of fear than anything else) I used to struggle with a whole bunch of contradictions. Couldn’t help but note that when I asked people wtf was up with some issue or other that they would either 1. get angry 2. tell me to hush up or face divine wrath 3. (in the more moderate cases) make up some out-of-ass rationalization, get called on the fact that it doesn’t make sense, admit sheepishly to pulling it out of ass, then claim that we humans can’t know the truth (though they’d just claimed to be propounding it 3 minutes ago). Ooh, I don’t miss those days, not one bit.

    So, as far as I’m concerned: hurrah for PZ and truth!

  12. says

    There’s an important general point here that is worth emphasizing: There is no reason why we should always try to frame our remarks with the aim of charming or persuading others. The fact that being critical of religious belief alienates and upsets some people, and may even lead a few among them to reject evolution because someone they’re offended by believes in it, is not a conclusive reason for adopting a policy of polite silence–unless you take the goal of not offending to be more important that whatever other goals you may be pursuing. This can certainly be the case when you’re dealing with politics or relationships that are personally important to you (think of Darwin and Emma). But trying to say clearly what you take to be true is a perfectly honourable goal, even when dealing with sensitive topics–better yet, it’s one that doesn’t leave you open to complaints of duplicity or disingenuousness (which seem, in effect, to be the tactics urged by those who defend evolution but complain about PZ’s style of advocacy).

    Of course, we should always be prepared to entertain replies and criticisms, but when we’re arguing about what’s true or false, ‘I’ve been offended’ is not a relevant reply. A relevant reply would be along the lines, ‘You’re wrong because…’

  13. says

    Badgers birthing raccoons is no abomination: it’s evolution. Don’t you people remember your Chambers?

    [I]t is no great boldness to surmise that a super-adequacy in the measure of this under-adequacy (and the one thing seems as natural an occurrence as the other) would suffice in a goose to give its progeny the body of a rat, and produce the ornithorynchus [duck-billed platypus], or might give the progeny of an ornithorynchus the mouth and feet of a true rodent, and thus complete at two stages the passages from the aves [birds] to mammalia.

  14. says

    How are these things even an issue in the internet age? Are people tied to chairs, eyes pried open, and forced to read every post sequentially?

    Personally, I open your page and see a series of links and headers – quick and easy directions to whatever discrete portions of your site I want to read. I’m not often interested by your cephalopod posts; so I don’t click on them.

    All of those “it’s boring” whines, or exclamations about this being a science blog are just empty attempts at politely saying “I disagree with you: please stop thinking things I dislike.” If it was merely a matter of boredom, they could just. not. read it.

  15. Luna_the_cat says

    PZ, I’m afraid I haven’t seen that much of you being tied to a stake and burned. Sorry if I missed it.

    Yes, I am still here. I will take one last swipe at making myself clear.

    I am agnostic, and mostly identify myself as an agnostic Secular Humanist.
    I think that much about religion *is* ridiculous.
    I think that religion can cause a lot of damage, but the possibility exists that it is merely an excuse rather than the actual cause, and that if it didn’t exist, people would find another way of being damaging and stupid to each other. They would probably invent something like it just for that purpose, in fact.
    I have reasons for being agnostic rather than atheist, which I note that no-one has actually asked about; the assumption is merely that I am delusional. There is no acknowledgement that there might be any rational reason for anything but atheism, as far as I can see. Ok, whatever. Your opinion.
    But it is not out of jealousy, insecurity, or personal insult that I protest any of this. My personal happiness, wellbeing and security do not depend on anyone here’s approval or your attitude or my freedom from being insulted by you on the basis of religion. I don’t even know you personally. Your opinion makes no particular difference to my life. My beliefs are not under threat, nor do my beliefs even rely on religion.

    My “snit”, as it is termed, is on the basis of the fact that there are good, decent, intelligent, educated people out there — including amongst those on Seed ScienceBlogs, including people who I *do* like and who I respect — who got sick of getting tarred with the same brush as the loonies and snapped back, and you couldn’t let the flames die because, what the heck, it’s not about reasoned discussion, is it.

    That disgusts me.

    It’s a blog vent, and it’s your blog. I get that. I get that you have justified opinions. I get that you are a good and decent person in person, too. But there is nothing at all to be proud of in fanning the flames of a flamewar.

  16. Arnosium Upinarum says

    PZ, you don’t sound like an asshole to me at all. (And you aren’t that ugly either).

    I think its telling that so many use the term to express their outrage at having to encounter an “ugly truth”. People don’t like the suggestion that they have wasted their lives on superstitious nonsense. The notion that they are incapable of refraining from deluding themselves, or that they cannot recognize the distinction between facts and lies (meaning that their powers of rational thinking are severely underexercised) is naturally something they take personally. Its a culture of stupidity, and they are emotionally very strongly invested in it.

    So anyone pointing it out is an “asshole”. But its far better to be an asshole than a gullible fool.

  17. Caledonian says

    PZ, I usually read you for ideas and amusement, but why did you feel the need to pour on more gasoline?

    Hon, other people gathered together piles of wood, put stakes in the midst of them, dowsed it all in gasoline, tied themselves to the stakes, and threw down the match.

    All PZ did was point and laugh. And you’d blame PZ?

  18. says

    Cephalopod lovers are weird are we, well ie Cuthulu!

    The religious are terrible sensitive to any questioning of the validity of their god and go totally ballistic when someone calls them on the consequences of their superstition. Luckily we have stalwarts like PZ to keep the heat on, maybe they will eventually get so worked up that they will all have aneurisms and give the rest of us some relief.

  19. Russell says

    Anyone got a match? Oh, right, none of us smoke.

    Damn. All of that gasoline gone to waste.

  20. says

    Just for the sake of clarity, Luna (and because if you didn’t want it addressed you wouldn’t have emphasized it in your post) the reason no one asks your reasons for being agnostic is because no one here cares – it’s extremely improbable you have a strikingly unique and compelling reason for agnosticism/faith.

    I’m sure your feelings are valid for you: they’re your feelings, after all. But since we don’t share your feelings, we only care for your rationale, which is unlikely to be unique in this instance. And beating apart poor rationalizations that have been beaten apart a thousand times before just isn’t any sort of fun. Thus the whole “not caring” bit.

  21. Luna_the_cat says

    Caledonian, sweetie, given that you have been one of the people in there calling individuals names and kicking fuel onto the flamewar actively, including going onto Rob Knop’s blog and calling him an irrational, credulous coward, I can see why you think that PZ is blameless. But it was dying down, we were moving onto other topics, then this. Yeah, dragging it all back into activity instead of letting it all die and tempers cool a bit is PZ’s doing.

  22. Alexandra says

    PZ, If anything you’re still being too polite. The intellectually vacuous pleading for the value of “knowledge” obtained through irrational processes as offered by even some of your fellow Scibloggers clearly demonstrates that more scorn is justified, even required. When someone cannot distinguish between feeling, wishing and knowing, when that someone is a university science professor, what other response is possible? You can either laugh at them or weep, but standing politely and silently by when you have a soapbox available is what would make you a real asshole.

  23. inkadi says

    I don’t understand why “cancelling your subscription” to a blog is any kind of of threat. Who cares?

    PZ – Just so you know, I thik I find you via Daily Kos and Panda’s Thumb, when liberal politics was more my passion. I’ve been an atheist for several years, and the combination of atheism and pro-evolution advocacy is delicious and satisfying. In fact, after reading the devastating take-downs of Creationists by Miller, at the Panda’s Thumb and here, I’ve decided to pursue a degree in biology. And the fact that there is an out, loud and proud atheist in biology (at least one!) helped me make my decision.

    The search for small-t truth is what yokes atheism and science together; any atheist who isn’t scientific, and any scientist who isn’t an atheist, is only living half a life (or, you know, maybe two half-lives.)

  24. says

    including going onto Rob Knop’s blog and calling him an irrational, credulous coward

    But, Luna dahling, he IS an irrational, credulous coward. And everyone* on the side of reason and science knows that. (Even some of the people who aren’t know that.)

    *If you don’t know it yet, just click on the url-name-link for this comment post to see the evidence.

  25. says

    At some point in their life people who adhere to organized religion (be that Christianity, Mormonism, or Scientology) start thinking that religious teachings (such as the existance of “hell”) are no longer subject to choice, but has to accepted as facts whether they like them, or not. They being to equate religious edicts with physical laws.

    What I’d like to know is when this actually happens? When does their personal need for superstitious sky-daddy also require the belief that a particular religious edict must be infallible?

  26. nancy says

    I just want to say I’ve been a lurker hre for over a year now, and this is one of my favourite blogs. I came for the science, stayed for the pretty pictures of cephalopods and the amazing godlessness. I wish real life included more of those 3.

  27. says

    And if you’re a blogger and want a hint on how to increase traffic, there it is: tap into multiple audiences.

    The example you propose has an interesting secondary effect: the hard sports fan will read, from time to time, a good chemistry article.

    That would be a good strategy to “enlighten” people: write about something a lot of people likes, and then, without previous warning, drop an article about evolution, or atheism, or cosmology; and perhaps some people will reconsider their views.

    But, of course, perhaps they won’t.

  28. GDwarf says

    Well, I may as well weigh-in.

    PZ, I do have to question why you feel that antagonizing people is the best way to get your views across. I like your blog, I’m going to keep reading it, but when you go out-of-your-way to start flame wars, I, at least, always get really annoyed.

    At least, I assume you made the original post about the map to start a flame war, since I can’t think of any other reason to make it.

    If you wanted to get more followers then insulting what they currently believe isn’t the way to do that.

    If you weren’t trying to get more people to become atheists, then maybe you were simply trying to give atheists a better name? Or defend the ideology from an attack? Hmmm, nope. That’s obviously not the case.

    The only other option I end up seeing is that you wanted to provoke a fight (In which case it’s distressingly similar to that movie you posted a while back with the “God hates the world video”. Which (the video, that is) was almost certainly made to get people mad at the creators.)

    As I said earlier, I’ll still read your blog, and I agree with you on quite a few things, but this apparent need to insult everyone with a different religious belief system is something I can’t understand. Heck, you go and rant about how horrible people are for doing the that, then turn around and do it yourself.

  29. Luna_the_cat says

    James Stein: yeah, I get that too. The frustration mostly stems from the other assumptions that I have had made about me over the last few days — namely, that because I have defended Rob Knop, that I must myself be an irrational, deluded Christian. I don’t post on SB all that often, but I’m not entirely silent, either, and it really is an idiotic assumption for anyone who has ever encountered what I’ve posted before to have made. No-one ever bloody thought to check on their assumptions, though, did they.

    But hey, I posted in defense of a Christian who got pissed off at how he was characterised — and yes, there is justification for being ticked when someone says “anyone who believes what you believe is wicked, deluded, or an oppressed victim”. People have their own, many and various, and sometimes widely complex, reasons for believing things, and blowing them all off with your own unflattering categories is bound to piss people off. He got pissed off. I thought that the dogpile on him afterwards went far past the bounds of reason into sheer mean-spiritedness. So, obviously I have irrational beliefs as well, and no good reason for holding them. *shrug* Get why I lost my temper?

  30. says

    The frustration mostly stems from the other assumptions that I have had made about me over the last few days — namely, that because I have defended Rob Knop, that I must myself be an irrational, deluded Christian.

    No – we didn’t conclude that you’re Christian.

  31. Luna_the_cat says

    It’s ok, Caledonian, I don’t think anyone has concluded that you have constructive contributions to make, either.

  32. Justin H. says

    I read this infamous map post just a few minutes after it went up and thought it was a fine example of what Pharyngula is (in part) about. But now I’m just SHOCKED! How could you insensitive rapscallions be so upset over a scientist lambasting beliefs that are inherently anti-scientific? We should expect and cheer on those responses–science should have teeth and we should be able to rely on the scientific community to call things what they are, even/especially if what they are is ridiculous and stupid. Science isn’t supposed to be sensitive to your pre-existing beliefs that have been handed down for thousands of years.

    And if you have to go after a scientist for being anti-religion, you could at least find someone more likely to care than PZ. If you’ve read this blog at all then you probably know how he feels about “appeasement.”

  33. inkadu says

    “At least, I assume you made the original post about the map to start a flame war, since I can’t think of any other reason to make it.”

    I assume he, like many atheists, feels a little penned in by the crazies (aka religious) and was sharing some of that frustration with his fellow travellers.

    What’s so difficult to comprehend about that?

  34. MAJeff says

    inkadu,

    but religious belief is special! It needs to be exempt from mocking and/or criticism.

    I’m sure someone will be here soon offering to pray for us, so I’ll just toss out a pre-emptive, “please don’t bother.” We’re not interested in your silliness and it’s really annoying of y’all to keep saying it.

  35. says

    Actually, I had drawn no conclusions regarding your religious beliefs up until the moment you made that aside regarding no one requesting the reasons behind your agnosticism. That, I admit, led me to believe you’re a Christian. I do happen to agree with PZ’s reasoning on the matter, so naturally I do append “irrational, deluded” to the “Christian” in that sentence. While I grant that there is an assumption involved in presuming you’re a Christian, your agnosticism could have referenced any faith (and must have referenced *some* faith); and PZ’s rationale (and mine) characterizes *all* faiths as irrational and deluded. You don’t strike me as the Christianity-is-true-and-all-other-belief-systems-are-myths sort, which inclines me to think that the assumptions you refer to are in regards to categorizing you as “irrational, deluded” rather than any assumptions about your specific choice of faith, however. And in that regard, there are no assumptions to check (or at least, so we feel); to have faith in regards to something for which no evidence exists is essentially the definition of irrational. It could be rational – and our assumptions incorrect – only if you do indeed have some sort of evidence upon which to base your faith. I admit, the lack of such evidence is an assumption required for my opinions to be valid and true, but I make that assumption with a great deal of confidence.

    There is no doubting that the ultimate rationalizations for faith do get quite complicated, and even the most overwhelmingly brilliant people may hew to them – to do so is not a sign of lack of intellect or complexity of thought. However until evidence is found these faiths must ultimately depend on nothing more than feelings – even if they are complex and deeply dwelt-upon feelings – and so, irrational and deluded.

    As for Rob Knop: he could have handled it better. I do not mean in the kindergarten sense of “better,” in which one attempts to quell the debate. I mean “better” in the sense that if he had a well-reasoned argument for his faith – whatever that faith is – that contradicted the description of “irrational, deluded” he ought to have presented that. He did not. In fact, he out-and-out stated one of the age-old cliches (to paraphrase) “the point of faith is believing in spite of lack of evidence.” That’s in the same post that he’s indignant at being characterized as “irrational, deluded.” I harbor no affection nor warmth of feeling for a man that feels insulted because someone described him as he is. It would be foolish for me to be indignant if someone called me “stubborn” and I shouted back “no, I just persevere in my goals and opinions!” They may be using a pejorative connotation, but there are few attributes that do not cut two ways.

    For a man to say that he believes in spite of evidence and to claim it is inappropriate to paint him as irrational. . .

  36. inkadu says

    MAJeff, you’ve been reading your dawkins I see…

    Here’s how to write a really interesting blog post:

    “Hi, Guys. I found this map of religious adherents in the US. I just bring it up so you can see, you know, where the religious adherents are. Are there religious adherents near you? Are there more somewhere else? I find it interesting when I drive down South for instance to note, ‘My, but there do seem to be a larger concentration of religious adherents out here than in some other parts the US I’ve driven through.'”

    Clearly the real reason PZ is interested in the map is because it also shows where PZ is mostly likely to get strung up by his thumbs for ruining the morals of childen with his atheistic evolution claptrap. (and, unfortunately, the map isn’t that useful due to its methodology, but the point stands…)

  37. says

    Religion makes you nuts. It makes ordinary people identify with invisible spirits, it turns them into caterwauling flibbertigibbet idiots at any slight to a magic man who has never done a thing for them, and it makes them center their lives around head-dunkings and cracker-eating and gibbering chants to an unheeding phantasm.

    I think it’s a shame that PZ has let his critics intimidate him with their strawman arguments and unflagging hypocrisy, and as a result has immediately started softening his characterizaions of religion, as in the above. I believed him to be principled and he turns out to be just one more rhetorical relativist. Next thing you know, he’ll be posting in tongues and asking people to sacrifice fatted atheists to Qetzalcoatl, and the terrorists will have won.

  38. inkadu says

    Luna_cat,

    I don’t know you, and I haven’t read your posts; but, since you seem curious, I don’t generally question the rationality of agnostics — only their courage.

    Cheers.

  39. jeff says

    PZ, while I may not totally agree with your politics, your posts on godlessness, anti-creationism, and all things atheist are right-on. And anyone who has an opposing view is, well, a smeghead.

  40. Richard Harris, FCD says

    PZ, you’re doing a valuable job with the anti-religious diatribes.

    The only good thing about religion that I can think of is that it gives comfort to weak-minded people. Otherwise, it’s all bad. I mean, if you set someone a problem to solve, then feed them incorrect data, they’re likely to fail. Life is the ‘problem’, religion is the ‘incorrect data’. Wars, terrorism, misogyny, anti-science attitudes, etc, are the failures.

    If enough of us keep chipping away at the idiotic nonsense, we’ll reduce its influence.

  41. Epiphenomenal Gremlin says

    Like many of those here, I don’t suffer fools gladly, and thus to some extent admire the prodigious vitriol PZ heaps upon theists, creationists, and the rest. That being said, let he who is without sin cast the first stone–there is on this site nearly as much of wishful thinking and unwarranted, unconditional belief in absurdities as there is in any creationist cesspool, and twice as much hubris. So often it is proclaimed by fiat that this or that is just evil or good, that someone (Hovind, for example) deserves his punishment because he freely choose his actions, that we know for certain that so and so is a fact, true beyond all doubt or challenge. I have yet to see the famous hard-nosed skepticism that is supposedly beloved of atheists and scientists applied to these problems. Until PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and other “crazy-ass megalomaniacal evangelical kooks,” not to mention the “mobs believing them,” turn their microscopes to these other “goofy, stupid, ridiculous ideas” which they cling to so fervently, they will continue to epitomize the very sloppy thinking they so courageously vilify.

  42. says

    I said this in the brilliant argument on the other guy’s blog, but it seems to have gone. The reason why the word ‘delusional’ is important is that the central religious claim is from personal experience. This means that when we say they are mistaken we aren’t just saying they’ve argued incorrectly, we’re attacking them in a very personal way, by saying that the inner spiritual experience they claim is just something they’re imagaining. There is no nice way to say this, but it still needs to be said.

    The word ‘delusional’ carries this meaning quite nicely, and I’m not aware of another word which does, which hasn’t also been co-opted by psychology (one of the objections to ‘delusional’ was that psychologists to mean something more precise than its everyday meaning). ‘Mistaken’, which was offered in the debate, is completely inadequate.

  43. says

    Oh dear! I didn’t realize that this was a flame war! Oh god! They’re burning people alive, dragging them kicking-and-screaming from their computers! How could PZ be so inhumane as to continue with this very real bloodshed?

    I’m leaving the internet. It’s way to dangerous!

  44. fred says

    Why do I like Pharyngula?

    Science: interesting.
    I have no scientific training, aside from Computer “Science”. Nevertheless, nothing about the philosophy of science seems alien or absurd, and scientific methods (or The Scientific Method?) seem only a restatement of what it means to be rational.

    Anti-creationism: interesting.
    Creationist arguments seem simply silly to me, hardly worthy of response. Evolution Denial seems on a par with Holocaust Denial, except more specifically characteristic of stupid or innumerate people.

    Liberal politics: interesting.
    As a Canadian, I find almost all American Liberal commentary a little too right-wing for my taste. I think it’s a shame that you have only two viable political parties, but few people anywhere agree with my political ideas anyway.

    Cephalopods…
    … well, what sort of a world would it be without such organisms? Drearier, I’m sure.

    Godlessness: !!
    This is where Pharyngula is most brilliant and this is where I, like everyone else in the world, am expert. I might claim an edge in discussions of religion because I’ve clicked through to online ordination with at least two organizations, but every deist or fundamentalist or atheist or -ist of other coloration builds an underlying unifying personal philosophy through a lifetime of social negotiations: very often this personal philosophy is identified with a religion. Importantly, it needn’t be so. I like the way PZ deals with those who insist on respect for their imaginary friend(s), who try to promote subscription to their own beliefs. Best identification ever: “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed victims of obsolete mythologies”.

  45. Christian Burnham says

    Epiphenomenal Gremlin:

    Even though I think you’re talking rubbish, I think you could have made your post more pithy. How about “Skeptic, doubt thyself’?

  46. says

    I guess I’m missing something. Calling religious belief “silly” shouldn’t really be insulting to anyone. If you believe, have faith, etc, you obviously don’t care very much what other people think, otherwise you’re mind would be torn to bits trying to decide which god to worship. CHILL! Religion is inherently irrational…that doesn’t mean it can’t bring comfort, joy, etc, just that it can’t bring understanding of the natural world. Rant away!

  47. Mooser says

    The Cephalopod pictures are wonderful, and I look forward to every one. Please don’t stop.
    Cephalopods are the Devine made flesh. But not bones, just flesh and cartilage. It’s a Miracle!

  48. says

    Cephalopods. This one attracts the weirdos. You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place.

    So now we’re weirdos and freaks – you just couldn’t help yourself could you PZ? Fan those flames. I’m offended.

  49. H. Humbert says

    One can be intelligent, compassionate, logical, rational, reasonable, properly skeptical and open-minded as well as religious. However, just never at the same time.

    Anyone who thinks they can be is deluded. They’ve fallen for some rationale that makes superficial sense but would ultimately crumble under proper scrutiny. They also hate being told this. Oh, well. Reality sucks.

    Note to theists: so long as you fail to provide valid justification for your religious faith, it will continue to be proper to remind you that your faith is unjustified. Deal with it. Whining about your feelings doesn’t validate a damn thing.

  50. GDwarf says

    “I assume he, like many atheists, feels a little penned in by the crazies (aka religious) and was sharing some of that frustration with his fellow travellers.

    What’s so difficult to comprehend about that?”

    Understandable, actually, I feel like that myself sometimes.

    However, if that was his reason, it hardly makes sense to bring to our attention the fact that people with other beliefs are also frustrated by his claims, as this post does.

    …And the above is about as clear as mud. Let me try again.

    If it was just frustration, why make another post which, in essence, makes fun of other people for also being frustrated?

  51. Rieux says

    I guess I’ll have to join John Morrison (upthread) as one of the few Pharyngulite dissenters on the real issue of the day: I love this blog for its science, outspoken godlessness, anti-creationism and liberal politics–but every time I see another damned post about cephalopods, I think, “man, that PZ is a total asshole.”

    I’m this far from canceling my subscription in protest. You’ve been warned.

  52. Triumphal_Thusnelda says

    Wow, PeeZed. I’ve been too busy for a day or two to read the blog in depth and look what I missed.

    I saw the map post, had a bit of a giggle at what you pointed out (it ~was~ hideously red) and Moved. On.

    Flame war? Why?

    Isn’t a man’s blog his castle? Yer don’t like what’s written therein, yer scuttle back to your own blog and put your counter-argument, right? Surely.

    Sorry, but I just don’t see what all the strong feelings are about. And now that I’ve read the post, read the comments, read the follow-up post and read *those* comments, I’m off to catch up on last Friday’s cephalopod!

  53. Luna_the_cat says

    James Stein: Could I just point out that there is a profound difference between believing something in spite of evidence against it, and believing something in spite of a lack of evidence for it? Rob Knop has been writing about belief for a long time, and I regarded him as being both rational and as making himself quite clear.

    Yes, he lost the plot with his rant, and with calling PZ names, directly. Yes, he could have handled it better. I have personally gotten mad at people in the past and said stupid things, rather than defended myself with reason; I recognise it when I see it in others, and I tend to regard it as being human and not, say, a saint. Like I said, my objection was in the sheer unreasoned nastiness which got dogpiled on him for it. For the love of little green apples, the man is facing stresses enough at work; a little bit of compassion for someone who actively works for science education would go a long way. Especially when hatred is being heaped on him by people who have not demonstrated that they do anything at all to help the world (no, I’m not talking about PZ, there.)

    As for my own agnosticism, it is based on events for which I do not have an explanation. They did not take place in my head, but were external to me, and had other witnesses. They are not data; they are nothing more than unsubstantiated anecdote, and as such, not only are they likely to be unconvincing to anyone else, they damned well shouldn’t be. Other people should shrug them off as irrelevant until such events are replicable and adequately documented. The fact remains that for me, as a witness, I had enough corroborating evidence that something happened, that it was real; as a rational being, my considered reaction is that it is far more rational to regard said events as something which result in the questions “what really did happen there? How did it happen? What did it mean? How could it be tested?” rather than insisting, since I cannot repeat the events or explain them within the conventional framework of understanding, that it couldn’t possibly have happened.

    Two hundred years ago, someone insisting to other people that there was invisible radiation which, if you could capture it on a plate, would illuminate the interior or a human body, would rightly have been regarded as something of a lunatic. However, this does not mean that x-rays didn’t exist; just that there was not, at the time, adequate justification to insist to anyone else that something like them did.

    I think it is an equal mistake to say that modern science is so complete in its understanding that we will not discover something which seems to be completely irrational today. It would be irrational to say that there are things out there until there is evidence to back it up. But when and if something inexplicable comes along, it makes more sense to me to investigate it rather than dismiss it as impossible because it doesn’t fall within the remit of what is already known.

    Please note: I am not claiming that we should discard what we do know, and I think that anything which appears to contradict what we do know with reasonable certainty, had better come with a bloody good explanation attached — one which stands up to sharp and determined scrutiny. I think that believing in something which there is good evidence against is idiotic and deluded. However, the fact is that the universe is vast, and humans are finite, and I’m reasonably certain that there are things out there which we encounter infrequently and have a tendency to assign a “supernatural” explanation to for lack of any better understanding. I would like to get answers. I don’t claim to have them already. Does this clear up my position a little better? Have I explained it adequately?

    Anyway, that really is irrelevant to the rant-fest to hand, so feel free to ignore.

  54. says

    It is an interesting question: if religious beliefs are delusional and destructive, then is there a need to make an effort to remove them from society? I suppose there is, but it’s not a fight I would savor for myself. For starters, it might destroy any relationship I have with my parents, and I don’t think it’s worth that cost.

    In the larger picture, though, it is curious to see the “gosh that’s impolitic so Don’t Say That!” kind of response. You know, I think people prefer sincere people over people they think are telling them what they want to hear.

    How did H.I. McDunnough said in his conversation with the parole review board:

    Parole Board member: You’re not just telling us what we want to hear?
    H.I.: No, sir, no way.
    Parole Board member: ‘Cause we just want to hear the truth.
    H.I.: Well, then I guess I am telling you what you want to hear.
    Parole Board chairman: Boy, didn’t we just tell you not to do that?
    H.I.: Yes, sir.
    Parole Board chairman: Okay, then.

    OK, that was a bit of a tangent.

    Gremlin: um, not all ideas are equal. The fact that one set of ideas is not constantly under a barrage of attacks while another is does not, by itself, constitute intellectual inconsistency. The fact that you think evolution needs to be viewed skeptically is, um, a curious point of departure but for people who work in the field, engaging a constant state of doubt to matters that have already been resolved by the greater community would be, um, a phenomenal waste of time. Unlike the Memento guy, we don’t have to rebuild the world every day.

    Indulging the false equivalence between one set of people’s arguments and another set of people’s arguments is cheap posturing. In lots of situations, one set of people is correct, while another set of people is wrong. If you have quibbles with individual points brought up from time to time, then by all means address those points as they arise. If you fail to do so, claiming at a later date that

    there is on this site nearly as much of wishful thinking and unwarranted, unconditional belief in absurdities as there is in any creationist cesspool, and twice as much hubris

    seems like just a content-free ad hominem attack. I’ve been reading this site for quite some time and I cannot recall any “unconditional belief in absurdities”.

    So I’m calling bullshit. Perhaps the neophyte things it is politically astute to say that believers in evolution are just as balmy as creationists. But I think it’s a crock.

    Hmm…this comment went off in three different directions. Oh, well! First draft of history, yada yada yada.

  55. Russell says

    Christian Burnham:

    I smoke.

    Well, good. That means a) you have a match, and b) we can sprinkle a little gasoline on the movement to corral smokers to the most blighted corners of the urban environment.

    Flamewars are worth spreading, dammit.

    ;-)

  56. H. Humbert says

    I also love the appeal to secret knowledge every time I hear it. No theologian, no philosopher, no great thinker in the history of the world has ever offered a compelling reason to accept god’s existence as even merely probable. Yet we’re often told to feel chastised because we supposedly didn’t consider the possibility that theists really do have rational, compelling reasons to believe in god. This is never actually followed up with such arguments, mind you. Our “arrogance” at presuming to know there are no such arguments is sufficient to dismiss us as close-minded…and therefore wrong. Or something.

  57. says

    I find it quite hilarious that so many people got their virtual panties in a bunch over this. It’s very simple. If you disagree with PZ’s interpretation of the map defend your reasons for believing in your particular brand of religion. But please be advised that explanations like “I believe in God despite the fact there is no evidence for it” just go to proving that PZ’s assessment, while some consider it abrasive is correct. Instead of running to the teacher to complain that Paul said your mom was fat, defend her with a reasoned argument not tattle tales. But just remember, we’ve all seen her waddling to the all you can eat bar at the cafeteria.

    Like he said, saying your feelings are hurt doesn’t change the facts or move your side of the argument closer to the goal line. “Scoring points” in the argument involves knocking down his statement. All this crying over flamewars is a distraction. The sure way to end the flame war is to win the argument.

  58. Maronan says

    Hey, the godlessness is interesting!

    It’s nice to have someone stating the obvious in a country where most people ignore it.

  59. LCR says

    I have to chime in.

    Godlessness is something that has come to me gradually over the years. If you have grown up believing that everyone believes in God and that you MUST believe in God, it takes some time to break from that mindset… at least it took me some time.

    I started reading PZ’s blog a couple of years ago, at which time I considered myself an agnostic. Since them, from reading his fiery posts and linking with other related sites, both scientific and/or Godless, I recognized that I was actually an atheist (about level 6 on Dawkin’s scale) and learned to become more open and vocal about my opinions on religion.

    So, I think that many critics of PZ are correct that he is not encouraging theists to recognize that their beliefs are unjustified, unsupported and hypocritical… but he is benefiting the rest of us godless heathens in another, perhaps more important, way. From him, I have learned that it is good to speak up. That I am justified in my frustration at the contradictions I see in the religions that surround me and that it is not “rude” to challenge their beliefs. And I have come to recognize that there are quite a lot of us out there. If more of us learn to become more vocal and unapologetic as atheists BECAUSE of our exposure to attitudes we encounter on this blog, if more of us become visible and therefore more common (more “normal”) to the average religious American, I think that will significantly and positively impact the attitude towards atheism in our culture. If atheism becomes more accepted, then just perhaps the questioning of religion will become more acceptable as well.

  60. Luna_the_cat says

    inkadu — as someone who stands up and says, “I don’t think the Christian god exists, but I think that something usually regarded as ‘supernatural’ might, and it should be subject to tests if we can figure out a way (which would obviously bring it into the camp of ‘natural’)” — I get much grief heaped on me by religious people who think I’m an idiot and lacking in faith, and much grief heaped on me by strong atheists who think I’m an idiot and not skeptical enough. It’s a piss-poor position for a coward to take. If I were a coward I should have chosen to stick with one of the larger groups.

  61. says

    your site is the only one I visit on a daily basis! and i love all your topics. even the cephalopods, which I know nothing about other than they are quite cute and tasty.

  62. says

    Luna:

    I take note of your distinction. For the purposes of religion, however, we must re-inject a great deal of blurriness into the nicety of the distinction. You’d be correct to say that one can’t conclusively say God doesn’t exist because we simply lack evidence of God’s existence. Once we apply ourselves to actual faiths however – jumping that line from discussion to real world belief – we start getting into things like “blood into wine,” “resurrection,” and so on for which there exists no evidence for and a great deal of science weighing in against.

    I can not say anything further about Rob Knop; aside from the one post (and its flaws) that I discussed previous, I do not read his blog. Not because of his faith – I can ignore those parts if I so choose – but because I find astronomy to be tiresome.

    My criticism, however, lay not with his lashing out and saying something stupid: my preferred recipe for debate usually needs a pinch of bitterness for it to come out just right. It lay entirely with the substance of what he said: not that PZ’s an asshole (which I don’t think he is, but who cares either way?) but that it was wrong to label him as “irrational and deluded” for… well, now I’m repeating myself. Regardless, you get my point: I don’t much care about what tone he uses or what insults he uses to spice up his rhetoric. It was the substance I found lacking, not the style.

    Let’s not talk about the personal events that formed the basis of your agnosticism. You correctly stated that I would ignore anecdotal evidence presented to me. I can and will answer only that in my experiences – and working in hospitals and healthcare settings for almost a decade now, the people around me are often quite desperate for spiritual intervention – people far often prefer to presume that the universe momentarily contorted than to pursue explanations that they feel personally demeaning (most of my hospital work has been in immunology and neurology, so ‘experiences’ of some sort or another are fairly common).

    The difference in the X-Ray analogy, as I’m sure you perceive, is that the X-Ray technology had a potential mechanism that did not require breaking the laws of physics. There is not a single extant religion that can say the same. It would be irrational to say that science is complete and we’ll learn no more and do no more; likewise, however, I find it unlikely that we’ll be rewriting our body of knowledge so much as refining it. Evolution, I feel confident to say, will never be disproven: it will inevitably change and grow and become more fully understood with time, but we’ll never reach a stage where we can explain a real Garden of Eden.

    I do feel you’ve expressed yourself clearly, thank you.

  63. inkadu says

    Gdwarf: “If it was just frustration, why make another post which, in essence, makes fun of other people for also being frustrated?”

    To get his point across? I don’t know. He is also responding to the hullabaloo … and as part of that, yeah, I guess he has another opportunity to mock the imminently mockable. I think this post is justified in at least three different ways, but why explain it? You obviously are a deeply polite person and wouldn’t understand why someone would casually deride others… that’s fine.

    Luna_cat: You seem itching to get into your agnosticism. Unlike Caledonian, I haven’t tired of pounding my head against the wall of agnosticism. Two things: 1) Your experience. I’m curious as to what your experience is, and if there is a rational explanation for it. By not sharing your experience with others, you are only making it less likely you will find the reason for what happened. 2) Your rationalization of the limits of finite human knowledge in an infinite universe is totally lame. There are no true globally agnostic people, people who withhold judgement on the infinite amount of phenomenon that can be invented by the human mind. If they do exist, they exist in sanitariums. The reality of agnosticism is that it is a philosophical attitude created for only one subject: God. The only discussion relevant to agnosticism is what makes the case for God different from the case for the orbiting teapot, unicorns, psychic powers, conspiracy theories (9/11, Illuminati, Eders of Zion) etc. I don’t think there is a good reason to treat the God hypothesis any differently than any other hypothesis.

  64. Fernando Magyar says

    “Cephalopods. This one attracts the weirdos. You gotta have a few freaks to liven up the place. … I get email all the time telling me that one or the other of those is “boring” (except the cephalopods, everyone loves those)”

    Just last week I was breathing compressed air on my local reef and was given the opportunity to spend an hour with three reef squid hovering around me. Yo, you callin me a weirdo?!! Anyone who hasn’t spent time with live cephalopods is the one who is weird. Oh and not one one of the squid was praying. Sheesh, callin people who have squid friends weird and most of you have imaginary friends, and that’s not weird,eh?

  65. inkadu says

    LunaCat- Sorry. Cheap shot. I let go of my agnosticism slowly, due partly to a lingering fear of offending God and seemingly the entire history of humanity.

    FernandoMagyar – How do you know that the squid weren’t praying? They don’t have hands to put together, so how would you know? Just more irrational nonsense from your cephalovers.

  66. Stephen says

    PZ’s list of adjectives – ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed – does seem to leave out an important one: “insecure”. Surely very many religious believers are mainly in search of a security blanket. Yes, some of those would fall under “oppressed”, but by no means all. And while I suppose you could argue that the rest fall under “deluded”, it doesn’t seem helpful to categorise them as such. And to be fair, I wouldn’t dream of pointing anyone in the ‘insecure’ category in the direction of Pharyngula; they would do better with a blog like Friendly Atheist. But for the complacent, supercilious and arrogant subsets of ‘deluded’: nothing better than a large helping of Pharyngula with Mark Twain garnish.

  67. Betsy says

    Thinking about it—Cargo Cults make more sense than most–at least there was some obvious physical start to the superstition…and what was wanted (cargo) was particularly sensible……

    Oh, and you are the greatest—everything you write interests me!

  68. Luna_the_cat says

    James Stein:

    There is not a single extant religion that can say the same. It would be irrational to say that science is complete and we’ll learn no more and do no more; likewise, however, I find it unlikely that we’ll be rewriting our body of knowledge so much as refining it. Evolution, I feel confident to say, will never be disproven: it will inevitably change and grow and become more fully understood with time, but we’ll never reach a stage where we can explain a real Garden of Eden.

    Totally agreed. Incidentally, I wonder why you bring up evolution; I study bioinformatics, and thus must struggle with homologies on a daily basis. I regard evolution as being roughly as well supported as the existance of gravity, or, say, the principle of oceans being wet.

    I was suggesting only that there are probably phenomena out there which don’t fit with current understanding, which we might someday pin down and have evidence for being real. I’m glad you understand what I’m getting at.

    inkadu:
    One incident, since you actually seem to want to know. When I was nine, I was woken up at around 4am one night by my father roaring, “Oh, no, Ma, no! Don’t go!” When I came tumbling out of my bedroom, he was standing in the doorway of his bedroom, being held by my mother and sobbing. The story, on questioning, was that he had been woken up by my grandmother coming to stand at the bed and say goodbye.

    My mother argued that my grandmother was in a care facility, and monitored, and that if anything happened they would call. After some few minutes of arguing about it, my mother called them, and asked them to check on my grandmother. They called back saying that yes, something had happened. Not long past, perhaps ten minutes or so given her body temperature, but they didn’t think that resuscitation was a good idea at this point, and that she was dead.

    I am perfectly comfortable with the view that the personality — the “me” of a person, the personhood — is a physiological result of processes in the brain. I join in the widespread mockery of everyone’s favourite neurosurgeon Egnor for claiming that the brain is just a sort of radio reception for attributes projected from a supernatural elsewhere, becuase there is so much good evidence even now for how neural interactions give rise to consciousness, memory, perception, personality etc. And I am also comfortable with the view that, as a result of multiple, interacting processes, “life” is not a thing with an independent existence any more than sound exists apart from vibration. But that leaves the question — what the heck happened there? How did Dad know? What exactly did he perceive?

    Like I said, unsubstantiated anecdote to everyone else in the world. But I wonder about it. This kind of phenomena has been reported elsewhere, but where it might be legitimate, it is still rare. I think the scale of monitoring needed to catch even one or two incidents of this type might be rather unfeasibly large and expensive, and we can’t just round up a sample population and kill off their loved ones while we monitor them — that one would never get past the ethics committees. So there are certain challenges to finding out anything about how that might work. I’m just not comfortable saying that it didn’t really happen. Make sense?

  69. iGollum says

    Heheh, this is nuts. People are nuts. Funny little humans, spending all this energy for .. what exactly? I love this planet. Sometimes I feel like frying it all from sheer exasperation, but it’s too entertaining to go, in the end.

    Great blog, monsieur PZ. Love the science, the godlessness and the cephalopods. And the upfront honest approach. No compromises. An example to follow, surely. Magnifique :-)

  70. Tom Adam says

    I’ve only been reading Pharyngula for a little over a week, mostly at work, and I wish I had found it sooner. I’m about caught up with February ’06.

    I have to agree with the majority on this issue. PZ was absolutely correct to call religious people on the carpet for being delusional. It’s one of my favorite things about this blog. The cephalapods are cute, but not that interesting to me. The science (my bio education stopped in high school) ends up a little over my head most of the time, but I try to stumble through. But I will keep reading and learning crazy, squiddy stuff here.

    I will object to someone’s implied labeling of Agnostics as lacking in courage. I certainly have no idea what Luna is talking about, and IMO if she believes she had a spiritual experience, she cannot be agnostic. She’s claiming knowledge (of a sort) which by definition is contrary to the agnostic position. I am an agnostic because I believe there is no evidence of any supernatural (meaningless term) existence. I believe no gods exists. However, the two stances of pantheism and strict deism are still vaguely possible in the realm of intellectual curiosities.

    I will also note, as a self-identifying and militant agnostic, I get more “Agnostic? What is that?” questions than when I identified as an atheist, which gives me more opportunities to present rationalism as better than superstition. It’s more disarming, they don’t know how to fight against it. :)

    I do love this blog, and most of those I’ve come across on ScienceBlogs.

  71. Caledonian says

    but I think that something usually regarded as ‘supernatural’ might, and it should be subject to tests if we can figure out a way (which would obviously bring it into the camp of ‘natural’

    Even this, she gets wrong.

    It doesn’t get brought into the camp of ‘natural’ once we learn about the mechanism. It’s part of the natural world right now, and it always has been. When we learn about the mechanism, it becomes understood.

    Nothing supernatural exists. It never has. It never will.

  72. Kagehi says

    Luna_the_cat, some of the people have a point here when it comes to who is lighting the fires and keeping them going. Not to say that mistakes can’t be made and that the people incorrectly targeted can’t accidentally, and entirely without intent, dug the hole deeper. However, the majority of people that pop over to some blog to protest how PZ or others like him are painting everyone the same do so with complete disregard for any number of times he and nearly everyone else here has said otherwise, and even given examples of who it isn’t true for, while instead grabbing the brush from PZ’s hand to paint themselves, and bringing their own feathers, just in case PZ or the rest of use ran out. I have no sympathy at all for some fool that thinks that attacking the extreme delusions of one fool means you are attacking the person of someone entirely different and that they must show up to protest, already tarred and feathered by their own hand. All it does is make them look like even bigger idiots, and beg the question of why they are so insecure in their own “faith”, that they must assume that any attack on religious nonsense, even if its something they **agree** is insane, is automatically one against them too.

    And, just to be clear, this is precisely what the lunatics want. For people that are offended by their irrationality, their lies, their anti-science and their delusional thinking, to shut up, so they can convince more gullible people to join the fundie movements, instead of the allies you want us to treat fairly. But, we do treat them fairly. We say, quite clearly, that their decision to go to church on Sunday has no more bearing on reality, nor should it on government, or anything else, than if someone goes to every Star Trek convention over hosted. What they do in their free time is their business, even if we think its completely nuts. But you and they get offended because a) we say its nuts and b) we complain about all the idiots that don’t **get it** and think calling themselves a Xtian instead of a Trekky means they should get to railroad the rest of the country into their personal fantasy world. If they want that, then do what Star Trek fans have done and build fracking theme parks. Just don’t whine and complain because more people want the Star Trek mission experience than the, “A day shoveling animal poop off Noah’s Ark” experience. In other words, stop demanding that their fantasies **must** be given special treatment on the level that, in some cases, you can actually get a church built to host one of their conventions faster than a fracking hospital, and **on** government land, while everyone else is denied it. Stop letting, “I believe in this ancient book”, mean, “Let me do any damn thing I like, then punish the people that protest instead, when what I choose to do is trample over other people’s rights!” Stop letting any belief in such things be a prerequisite for a secular office or an automatic get out of jail free card, like the recent case where some judge asked some Bible questions of a suspect to determine if he should be let go on his own recognizance, and the @#$@$@#$ supreme court opted to side with the judge on it:

    http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2007/07/complaint-dismissed-against-judge-who.html

    I mean, WTF? This isn’t just absurd special treatment, its complete idiocy. And by **both** the original judge and the higher court. So he can quote the Bible. So what? What the hell does that have to do with if he is a liar, guilty, likely to flee prosecution, or anything else pertinent to the case, especially given the number of people that are liars, are guilty, and would flee, and probably can quote the damn thing better than the judge could? Nothing. Yet, this is precisely the kind of BS that we have a problem with, and which, when brought up, inevitably draws some kook in from the sidelines that insists that calling the judge, the supreme court and the suspect all guilty of abuse of religious priviledge an “attack” on religion in general. Don’t tell me you haven’t seen people that would make that argument, because if you haven’t, then you are far more clueless than you already seem.

    Look, lets put it as simply as possible. All **religions** are wrong. There isn’t one of them that can’t be traced to earlier works of provably pure mythology, including the Bible. That leaves all of them as invalid with respect to deserving any special treatment for being an accurate account of the views of **any** gods. The issue of God(s) themselves, isn’t testable, provable, etc. There isn’t any evidence for them that isn’t purely about personal *experience*, which is hardly reliable and which can be induced artificially, with just as much “realness” as anything else. The only thing certain is that, even of you allow for the possibility, while for some reason rejecting all the other possibilities that have, or have had, just as much belief behind them, and from the same personal experience as evidence standpoint, any such being cannot by definition be described by any of the nonsense people are defending. And that is the key point. They are not defending “God”, they are defending the church, the Bible, the Quran, the book of Scientology, the “insert dogma or religious text here”. If they want to defend god, fine, you can’t attack something that you can’t see, touch, taste, or what ever, other than to say, “I don’t see anything there, what the hell are you talking about?” But its the dogma, the contradictory rules, the insistence of infallibility of all or parts of the religious teaching, the demand that **everyone** must follow them, that we have a problem with.

    If people want to claim to be attacked on that basis, then I presume that its because they a) think there is nothing wrong with making such demands or b) that they think their views **deserve** more respect than everyone else’s. In which case, they have already lost, since we don’t think “any” view that cannot be backed by verifiable evidence *deserve* more respect than all the other *mere* personal opinions.

  73. Luna_the_cat says

    Tom Adams: I label myself “agnostic” on the basis that I simply don’t know what really happened, and whether it was “spiritual” or not, and I don’t know of any other word which encompasses “I don’t know” in quite the same way.

  74. Luna_the_cat says

    Kagehi, just out of curiosity, did you actually read what I said I was ticked about and just missed the point, or did you decide to ignore what I said because you think I meant something else?

    I’m impressed by the depth of your vitriol about the strawman, but it ain’t what I said.

  75. Caledonian says

    I don’t know of any other word which encompasses “I don’t know” in quite the same way.

    Skeptical.

  76. Jody says

    PZ,

    Paradox? I have a paradox for you. Millions of people believe in an invisible being for which there is no evidence save the writings of primitive tribes, and when you point this out to them, you are insulting them and an asshole. Oh, and the invisible being is going to punish you forever and ever. How’s THAT for a paradox?

    I say paradox away. Maybe you’ll make their brains melt, and the rest of us can get on with our happily godless lives.

  77. Kagehi says

    Tell you what Luna, next time I will wait 2-3 days, so I don’t end up posting something I am typing 8-9 posts “after” everyone else has replied and you have replied to those replies, with statements that clear up most of this stuff. Or in other words, sure, you posted later things that my post ignores, while I was only addressing some of you first posts, but its damn hard to keep up.

    That said, I still think you missed the point initially, and that most of the people making claims of prosecution against *them* are not really being accused or attacked, but have chosen to assume that its an attack on them in general, and thus opted to, as I said, come show up already tarred and feathered, to promote the idea that its PZ or one of us that did it, and not them to themselves.

  78. Anna Z says

    One interesting feature of the list “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed” is that they are all curable, if subjective, conditions. In that sense I still consider PZ Myers a civilized critic of positions he disagrees with, no matter how vehement he gets. When people lash back with phrases like jerk or asshole, they aren’t talking actual conditions, even subjective ones, only epithets.

  79. Luna_the_cat says

    Kagehi, I don’t know what posts of mine you read or hadn’t read, but I believed that I had made it clear from the outset that my objections were not to PZ’s attacks on beliefs, but to (a) other posters attacks on individuals, in the first instance, which went way beyond reason, and to (b) PZ’s posting again on the topic in a way to fan the flames, as soon as the vitriol began to die down a bit.

    It is not special pleading on behalf of religion to say that, yes, people who consider themselves to be Christian will get angry after sufficient repetitions of the statement that all Christians are wicked, idiotic, deluded or oppressed, because people do not like to be called names — that’s just reality, call people names and they will eventually get pissed off;
    and simply calling names does not amount to reason;
    and that angry people say stupid things;
    and that undeserving people have been made targets of hatred by posters here;
    and that it would be a rather more decent thing to do to let the hatred die down a bit.

  80. Luna_the_cat says

    Sorry, Tom Adam. Anyway, I don’t think that “confused” is right. I’m not confused, I simply don’t have the answers.

    It had always been my belief that simply stating “I don’t know” when you don’t know, does not mean confusion, and is well within the remit of reason.

  81. says

    So when exactly would I be allowed to post on this subject again? Is this how it works, that critics are allowed to stir the pot as much as they want, and then I am obligated to say nothing at all until some specified amount of time has passed?

    You should note that I have not reciprocated. I have not replied by calling others blowhard, jerks, or assholes, but have addressed a set of complaints with which I have been dunned for this last week.

  82. says

    Luna_the_cat wrote

    inkadu — as someone who stands up and says, “I don’t think the Christian god exists, but I think that something usually regarded as ‘supernatural’ might, and it should be subject to tests if we can figure out a way (which would obviously bring it into the camp of ‘natural’)” — I get much grief heaped on me by religious people who think I’m an idiot and lacking in faith, and much grief heaped on me by strong atheists who think I’m an idiot and not skeptical enough.

    That seems to define what’s referred to as “supernatural” as consisting of two sets: (1) empty, and (2) natural stuff we don’t know about yet. Since the first set is empty, your position reduces to “There’s natural stuff we don’t about yet.” And that’s equivalent to saying you’re a non-supernaturalist, an atheist. Welcome to the club! :)

  83. Kagehi says

    If all he did was call people names, then fine. But last I checked he makes clear arguments for why each case presented *is* a problem and only paints with a wide brush when that lunacy is “common” to the sub-group that the person being described belongs to. If its not true, and their faith was so solid, they wouldn’t have better rebuttals for any false claims, of which all you see is special pleading, or they would **know** it wasn’t directed at them specifically. You might as well shout at the people that made the Moral Oral cartoon for attacking Christians, instead of doing what it does, and attacking the inconsistency, stupid ideas and wacky thinking some engage in.

  84. poke says

    I always found Rob Knop incredibly obnoxious when he used to comment here and I see he hasn’t changed. The way he (and his cohort Ed Brayton in times past) can go from finding your characterization of religion insulting to making personal insults against you and your entire readership without a hint of irony or self-awareness amazes me.

  85. Luna_the_cat says

    PZ, it is obviously not up to me to “allow” you to post on anything, or to set timescales for you. I don’t believe I even implied it was. But you couldn’t even have left it for a day or two until your more rabid followers had let the threads die? You are hardly Caledonian’s keeper, but seriously, a day to let the people on SB’s tempers cool is not outwith the remit of your judgement, surely. Rob flew off the handle more than you did, but why stir it up at the very moment it started to die down?

  86. The Physicist says

    You were quite astute not to debate me PZ. You have horse blinders on, but so do most people. But I still like you.

  87. says

    Listen guys, I come from Belfast in Northern Ireland, and we won the World Cup (1969 – 1999) for arguing about religion. So that makes me an expert alright? (I’m a catholic atheist by the way – much better than those proddy atheists)

    I’ve done extensive research into this God fella. If it was a police matter and God was the suspect, they’d have to close the case for lack of evidence.

  88. Luna_the_cat says

    Er, what would be a better term for Caledonian, then? Rabid fan?

    Sorry, I should drop the attacks on people thing, myself. No more names.

  89. poke says

    Caledonian’s no rabid follower or fan. He criticizes PZ about as much as he criticizes anyone, which is a lot. Caledonian’s a Caledonian follower (and probably fan).

  90. says

    Everyone who posts here is not in agreement with me, or vice versa. You’d be hard-pressed to find a regular commenter here who was farther out of tune with me than Caledonian.

  91. Jake says

    We also need more loudmouths telling people that they aren’t free. You don’t happen to sustain any delusions about your freedom do you PZ? Let’s see some good absence of free will posts. Atheists exist as a named group at least. if still a minority, but denying free will pits you against basically everyone outside a small circle of academics.

  92. Luna_the_cat says

    Ok; obviously I have drawn from too small a sample of Caledonian posts.

    PZ, I don’t believe I ever called all the people who agree with you “sycophants”, nor have I ever said or meant to imply that everyone who posts here agrees with you. I know better. However, there are people who do the fandom thing here, with some overlap with the people who defended you on Rob Knop’s blog by going way, waaay too far into the whole direct personal insult thing. Those are the people who I would have classed as your “rabid followers”. Probably not the best term that I could have chosen, but just about everything else I can think of is unwieldy.

    Not trying to tar the entire population with a characterisation of a subset, you know.
    Merely pointing out that the subset exists, and you must surely have been aware of what was going on.

  93. says

    I think Rob brought that on himself. He has repeatedly referred to people who read and comment here as “sycophants,” and I don’t blame them for being pissed off at him. Note that he didn’t just criticize me, but made a blanket attack on the commenters here…why, it was just the kind of thing he was protesting!

  94. Luna_the_cat says

    PZ, I can’t say that I have seen him do that; certainly it wasn’t in any of the posts that I’ve read in the last few months, so it did not form any part of my own response. I saw him lose it with you on the by-now-infamous recent thread, but by the time I had seen that there was already a dogpile and it had already gotten quite nasty.

    He was wrong to respond with a set of direct personal insults against you. I think he’s got that. Enough, already. Shame on anyone who keeps this mess going, me included.

  95. dc says

    Actually I come here for the pirates, and I must say that topic has been sorely lacking lately. I loved to read your old blog in pirate mode.

  96. Gilmore says

    It is interesting to me that nobody has responded to Luna’s experience re: her grandmother’s death. I am myself a longtime atheist, but I have friends who have related similar experiences to me, some even more uncanny than that, and I have no reason to think these people are lying or hallucinating. What is the place for such experiences in our atheist worldview?

    Does it violate our Atheist Commandments to consider the existence of forces or phenomena science has not yet been able to measure? Is it unbecoming a self-described atheist to be curious about investigating such occurences? Are we to be tossed in the disposal with Deepak Chopra and Jimmy Swaggart?

    P.S.: Kudos to PZ for not accusing his opponents in this flamewar of the crime of masturbating. It’s good to see how willing you are to improve yourself!

  97. Gil says

    Miss Manners says: be kind to your oppressors and they’ll kindly oppress you back.

  98. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    I said it because it was true.

    No, I think that was clear. It is btw consistent with your tolerance shtick – one gets tolerance, but earns respect.

    If anything, the earlier casual remark left an distinction between the group and the individual, so they didn’t have to feel personally offended. The precise formulation here doesn’t; let’s see if that will evoke a further reaction.

    Now, if some of teh miffed can show that religion doesn’t work to earn its followers the epithet “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed”, more power to them.

  99. Torbjörn Larsson, OM says

    I said it because it was true.

    No, I think that was clear. It is btw consistent with your tolerance shtick – one gets tolerance, but earns respect.

    If anything, the earlier casual remark left an distinction between the group and the individual, so they didn’t have to feel personally offended. The precise formulation here doesn’t; let’s see if that will evoke a further reaction.

    Now, if some of teh miffed can show that religion doesn’t work to earn its followers the epithet “ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or oppressed”, more power to them.

  100. Interrobang, PZed's Canadian Dittohead says

    Am I the only person in the world who read that original post as being similar in tone to Monty Python’s “Yorkshiremen” sketch, or one of those old tropes where someone’s cantankerous father lectures his kids about how he had to walk to school seven miles each way uphill, barefoot, in snow up to his eyebrows, thirteen months a year, then come home and do ten hours of chores, get up before he went to bed, and so on…?!

    To me it definitely had that flavour of, “You guys over there in the pale parts don’t know how good you have it,” in that hyperbolic seven-miles-each-way-uphill sense…

    At most that’s about worth a “There you go again.”

  101. poke says

    Gilmore: I don’t think it violates atheism to consider “forces science hasn’t measured yet.” I do think it violates science. Physics has a lot to say about what forces and interactions we should expect at different energy levels and AFAIK it just flat rules out any new mystery force in our local environment. (Sean Carroll has a great post about this over at Cosmic Variance but I can’t find it right now.) The notion that a statistical analysis of people guessing cards or whatever is going to overturn particle physics is, IMO, just unscientific. There’s a hierarchy of evidence is science and psi/supernatural aficionados have it backwards: to them anecdote trumps statistical anomaly trumps 300 years of physics experiments.

  102. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Luna_the_cat says: “I label myself “agnostic” on the basis that I simply don’t know what really happened, and whether it was “spiritual” or not, and I don’t know of any other word which encompasses “I don’t know” in quite the same way.”

    You may consider yourself an “agnostic”, but just take a good hard look at the basis of it. The SOURCE of your “agnosticism” comes from two things:

    1. The very presence of world views/belief systems that you suspect/surmise as potentially factual.

    2. An abiding desire to find a “truth” somewhere wholly within the territory of human tradition.

    There they are. They must be accomodated somehow because they are there (for some “reason”, which makes them all putatively legitimate), not to mention the fact that a disquieting proportion of the population has adopted one or another under the conveniently ambiguous “spirituality” umbrella (for some “reason”, which many believe sanctions their weight by popularity).

    So you consider yourself an “agnostic”. Okay. That does SOUND very “reasonable”, doesn’t it? Until you consider what stance you might have adopted under any other arbitrary circumstances in which, for example, the present mosaic (pun not intended) of religions had evolved into something completely different or even unrecognizable by current ‘wisdom’, or had not evolved with any recognizable religion(s) at all. (That is certainly a possibility, unless you cannot agree with the basic premise of evolution, wherein the emergence of human beings or any OTHER organism is definitely NOT a prefigured or foregone inevitability).

    My question is, why bother trying to restrict your criteria to what people believe, trying to squeeeze truth out of the stale dried raisin of human tradition, when there is so much fresh juiciness in the original information available from sources completely independent of human tradition? Traditions that have now chalked up millennia. That’s not an indication of worth. Its just an indication of dry-as-dust staleness.

    Whatever else you may think as you weigh the nonsense, you might agree that the folks you are giving the benefit of the doubt to have absolutely no reciprocal intentions. Their world is (they fervently believe) stably inert and utterly static by the strictures of their scrptures. They are forbidden to consider change a legitimate dynamic either within their doctrines or as modification of their doctrines. Indeed they demonize change (consider the peculiar resonance they exhibit between the denial of evolution and the rejection of any improvements that new information might bring to their doctrines).

    This isn’t just a disagreement between people who believe in superstitious nonsense and those who don’t. Its a growing war between those who accept the reality of change and those who don’t. Your agnosticism, viewed in that larger and more general context, is not only a misapprehension of what you hope, its just a simple mistake in your thinking.

  103. foldedpath says

    Gilmore (#107): It is interesting to me that nobody has responded to Luna’s experience re: her grandmother’s death. I am myself a longtime atheist, but I have friends who have related similar experiences to me, some even more uncanny than that, and I have no reason to think these people are lying or hallucinating. What is the place for such experiences in our atheist worldview?

    Speaking as a skeptic and athiest, I think Occam’s Razor gives us an appropriate response for spooky-seeming events like that — “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Don’t go out of your way to assume complex or mysterious explanations when a simpler one will do.

    And the simple explanation is pure coincidence, filtered by the natural human tendency to remember the times when a coincidence seems to “fit” a potentially supernatural event, and forget all the times when there were no coincidental fits like that.

    P.S. I miss the pirate content too, yarr.

  104. Fernando Magyar says

    107,

    It is called coincidence. I don’t know the details of this particular case but it is not uncommon for someone who’s loved one is at death’s door to be thinking of them or even dream of their imminent passing. I’d be more interested to know the statistics of the flip side of this coin, i.e. how many people pass away without their loved ones being aware of it until after the fact. I’d be willing to bet it’s the majority.

    72, Their cromatophores weren’t flashing in synch, duh.
    BTW are you saying that if you lose your hands you can’t pray anymore? ;-)

  105. Gil says

    Arnosium Upinarum said:

    “This isn’t just a disagreement between people who believe in superstitious nonsense and those who don’t. Its a growing war between those who accept the reality of change and those who don’t. Your agnosticism, viewed in that larger and more general context, is not only a misapprehension of what you hope, its just a simple mistake in your thinking”.

    The less polite term is cowardice.

  106. H. Humbert says

    foldedpath said:

    Speaking as a skeptic and athiest, I think Occam’s Razor gives us an appropriate response for spooky-seeming events like that — “entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity.” Don’t go out of your way to assume complex or mysterious explanations when a simpler one will do.

    And the simple explanation is pure coincidence, filtered by the natural human tendency to remember the times when a coincidence seems to “fit” a potentially supernatural event, and forget all the times when there were no coincidental fits like that.

    Exactly. I was going to suggest something along those lines, but then realized that Luna had already made up her mind concerning her experience and skipped ahead to asking such misleading questions as “How did Dad know? What exactly did he perceive?,” falsely assuming that her father did “know” and “perceive” something.

  107. says

    PZ, I can’t say that I have seen him do that; certainly it wasn’t in any of the posts that I’ve read in the last few months, so it did not form any part of my own response.

    I pointed out that Knop had tried to troll up a flamewar, and you denied it. Then I pointed out the section of text (the very first line) where he’d said it – and you claimed he was merely anticipating a flamefest, not calling for one.

    You’re not a reliable judge of what has and hasn’t been said; that’s been demonstrated.

  108. Spooky says

    All the pointless arguing about impoliteness aside, the bottom line here is (to paraphrase Eddie Murphy) …

    It’s PZ’s blog, and if you don’t like it, get the f*ck out!

  109. Azkyroth says

    Luna:

    The audacity of those who conjure a personal stake in a general debate, enter it with a volley of sputtering indignation, and then blame it on the objects of attack when they stand up for themselves astounds me. Defending yourself in a fight you didn’t start (I assume I won’t have to explain the difference between an uncompromising general criticism of the adherence to certain doctrines by a segment of the population and a personal attack like what PZ is apparently facing…), whether it “perpetuates” a “flame war” or not, is nothing to be ashamed of; compromising one’s principles merely to avoid conflict very much is. Those who feel otherwise can have my spine when they pry it from my cold dead torso.

  110. Bob says

    I found this blog through firedoglake. I come for the science (not too deep, I’m only an engineer), the godlessness (with attitude please), and PZ is right – everyone loves cephalopods!

    Beyond that, science is showing more and more that so-called mystical or spiritual feelings arise within that gooey bioelectrochemical marvel, the brain. Targeted stimulations have caused feelings of some other presence, even though isolated, and out-of-body experiences have also been initiated through stimulation*. I’m sure if properly structured investigations into some recreational drugs were conducted, we’d learn about other, within brain, means of creating feelings of spirituality, without benefit of divine intervention.

    *google it yourself

  111. Luna_the_cat says

    For what it’s worth, my sample size for people I know, over the course of my lifetime, who leapt out of bed convinced that a loved one had just died consists of…well, one, really. And it had happened. Yes, my grandmother had been in poor health for some time, but we had no reason to believe that her death was imminent (she had been in poor health for the previous four years!), and the coincidence was remarkably specific, for all of that.

    I’m quite positive that more people die and their family don’t sense it. I think I even pointed out that catching incidents of this type would be rather a challenge. However, I find myself unable to handwave this particular incident away as a coincidence even though I know there are some real doozies of coincidences out there; my father’s actions in this instance were way too far away from the norm of his usual actions, for a start, and for all that they are genuinely poorly documented, anecdotes of this type are far from unique. It could have been a coincidence, but that is still, to my mind, a question rather than a settled answer. Sorry to disappoint you, Humbert & Gil. Well, no. Not really sorry. I don’t really give a rat’s. I still don’t quite see how my not knowing an answer for this equates to cowardice, though.

  112. Luna_the_cat says

    Azkyroth, I’ve read and appreciated a number of your comments in the past. Please, please, please don’t start with the strawmen now.

    Saying “for pete’s sake, why don’t you give people’s tempers a chance to cool” is hardly the same thing as saying “shut up and don’t talk about this subject any more, ever”, now is it?

  113. Luna_the_cat says

    Bob — with general and unfocused apologies for a partial repost from Island of Doubt —

    I’ve been intrigued by one particular question for a long time. I believe that it is well accepted, now, that stimulation of certain areas of the brain (especially electrical storm type stimulation, such as in seizures) results in a feeling of the “divine”, in a feeling of religious imminence, or something described similarly (my mother experienced several such seizures in 1994 and described it as “it felt like God put His fingers in my skull”). Ok, physiological stimulus results in this particular sensation. But why — why this perception of the stimulus? Why does a perception, or a description of a perception, exist as “religious” or “divine” at all? What prompts us to label this perception as “deity” or “imminence”? What is the real reason for the existance of both the physiological perception and our labelling that perception as we do?

    Now, though, the cat is hopefully going to go sleep. It’s 2 in the bloody am here, and I have work tomorrow.

  114. says

    “You’d be hard-pressed to find a regular commenter here who was farther out of tune with me than Caledonian.”

    Yep, and this is glaringly obvious to anyone with even a passing interest in this blog.

  115. says

    PZ writes:
    >I’m not saying you’re a bad person or even stupid
    >if you’re a believer.

    Nonsense. Of course you are.

    That was a great post, PZ, because – as you say – it’s true. But if you’re dealing in truths, go all the way. Are you really trying to tell me that you DON’T think the faithful are stupid (Or, at least, below average?) I sure as hell do. How can you possibly respect the intellect of someone who’s so brain-addled that they’ll swallow all that nonsense and come back for more? COME ON!

  116. says

    However, I find myself unable to handwave this particular incident away as a coincidence even though I know there are some real doozies of coincidences out there; my father’s actions in this instance were way too far away from the norm of his usual actions, for a start, and for all that they are genuinely poorly documented, anecdotes of this type are far from unique.

    So, in other words: “Nothing you say will dissuade me from thinking my Dad magically sensed my grandmother’s passing.”

  117. foldedpath says

    Luna_the_cat (#121) For what it’s worth, my sample size for people I know, over the course of my lifetime, who leapt out of bed convinced that a loved one had just died consists of…well, one, really. And it had happened.

    Our brains are wired to notice coincidences because we’re pattern-seekers. Science (and healthy skepticism) gives us a way to avoid deluding ourselves that ALL the patterns we think we see, are actually significant.

    I think it’s also important to beware of the “wouldn’t it be nice” syndrome… as in, wouldn’t it be nice if loved ones could somehow communicate like that at the moment of dying. I dial up my bullshit detector to full strength for any silly proposition that would be warm and comforting, if it were only true. I prefer finding my warmth and comfort in the real world, knowing I have exactly one shot at this.

  118. says

    Ok, physiological stimulus results in this [divine] sensation. But why — why this perception of the stimulus? Why does a perception, or a description of a perception, exist as “religious” or “divine” at all? What prompts us to label this perception as “deity” or “imminence”? What is the real reason for the existance of both the physiological perception and our labelling that perception as we do?

    First off, there’s no set definition of what feels “divine”. I’m sure most people call the feeling a religious feeling because they are religious to begin with.

    Second, you’re missing the point here. They’ve shown that these feelings are completely naturalistic, and easily reproduced. That means there is nothing, absolutely nothing supernatural about it.

  119. CH says

    12 year old son was home on a sickie from school , on the lounge watching the news , CNN and The Gaza Strip and the removal of people from their homes live coverage , found him sobbing trying to comfort child {unsure if he was sick or the great act } he looks at me and says ‘Why ‘? why what I reply ….. why are they doing this … its all for a myth … why mum why ? will that happen to us ? its all for a myth , just a myth mum …how can they do that ? … mum’s answer …
    Blind faith in the name of religion son , they believe what they are doing is their rite as they have done all through history ….. we can only stand by and watch and help those left with the sad consequences they have caused .. How many children today are suffering from those myths ????? right now while you sip on coffee at your PC …..hmmmm argue all you want facts are facts . Myths until they become facts are myths and children are suffering because the grown ups in the world allow it in the name of religion hiding behind politics … Our children’s future is at risk on global scale , myths holding up progress to fix most problems in all areas ….please help them .. from a humble mum . Thanks .

  120. Gil says

    Someone pushed the post button–on a SCIENCE blog–offering up a ghost story for ‘serious’ debate.

    Uhmm….

  121. says

    Having read through all of this, I have to join the dogpile on luna_the_cat, with regard to your “concern.” I think that this is exactly the right time for PZed to bring out the three points noted in the post, while it is still fresh. Suppose he waited two or three weeks, for things to “cool down a bit.” People would accuse him of bringing up old stuff.

    If Rob Knop uses this as an excuse to revive the flamewar, that is his problem. But I don’t see the big problem with a flamewar, anyway, as it boosts traffic and the SciBlings are making money for the Seed Overlords.

    And Gilmore: Masturbation isn’t a crime. Remember it’s God who does the kitten killing. That’s the real crime.

  122. Caledonian says

    If Rob Knop uses this as an excuse to revive the flamewar, that is his problem.

    I don’t think that’s likely. Considering how badly he came out of the last one, it’s no surprise that he’s been trying to erase all reference to the entire event.

    I don’t think he’ll be permitting any uncomfortable criticism of his positions in the foreseeable future.

  123. Kim says

    Hey PZ. I for one don’t think you’re an arsehole. A lot of people just can’t tell the difference between that and having a sense of humour. Hence why so many of those humourless people really are arseholes.

    And doesn’t it occur to these people that your purpose in life isn’t to entertain them? The whole point of a blog, I thought, was to see what was going on in the head of the author because the particular person, like yourself, had an amusing and informative head. Just because you’re posting it somewhere they can find it doesn’t mean it’s not all about you.

  124. TheBlackCat says

    For what it’s worth, my sample size for people I know, over the course of my lifetime, who leapt out of bed convinced that a loved one had just died consists of…well, one, really.

    Or at least the sample size of those who have remembered it and admitted to it.

  125. sea Creature says

    I just think this whole blog is fun. As for those who are insulted by those who say it is delusional to believe in deities, hey, grow a thicker skin. As a lesbian and an atheist, I have to deal with all kinds of really insulting crap – being equated with child molesters, for example, so I don’t have a lot patience for those who can’t handle an atheist who thinks religion is delusional and says so.

  126. says

    Let’s face it…religious people are the MAJORITY in this country. They are hardly at risk of being run off and trapped in the Rocky Mtn equivalent of Tora Bora, so they should probably just relax and enjoy the ride.

  127. Abbie says

    And the simple explanation is pure coincidence, filtered by the natural human tendency to remember the times when a coincidence seems to “fit” a potentially supernatural event, and forget all the times when there were no coincidental fits like that.

    Exactly. It’s basic statistics.

    If you think about whats going on in the world… how many people are dying in hospitals… how many people have nightmares… how many people have nightmares about relatives dying… it’s absolutely going to happen once in a while.

    So, there are two options: Either it was a coincidence, or it wasn’t. And if it wasn’t, there are infinite possible explanations, all far less likely than it being a simple, coincidence.

    Dawkin’s Unweaving the Rainbow has good stuff on this topic. I think “rare but predictable coincidence” explains a good deal of supernatural claims.

  128. JimV says

    On the “ghosts” subject, I think it is in James Gleick’s “Genius” that Richard Feynman is quoted as saying he once woke up suddenly, convinced that his mother had just died, called her on the phone … and found that she was okay. Feynman went on to speculate how many times such premonitions happen to coincide with reality. “Coincidence” was his explanation for such events. James Randi has cited similar stories.

  129. David Harmon says

    I get email all the time telling me that one or the other of those is “boring” (except the cephalopods, everyone loves those).

    So give the cephalopods some drill bits already… ;-)

    I find myself agreeing and disagreeing a little with everyone on this business. Yeah, PZ can be pretty irritating when he gets on his high horse, but Rob knew that when he came to SB. He definitely needs to come up with better comebacks than (my words) “he called me deluded! That’s mean!”. In this crowd, a flippant disdain for your righteousness would have gone over much better.

    On the other hand, public criticism is, in and of itself, a social sanction — an attempt to influence (and usually to subordinate) someone else through interpersonal pressure. Criticizing someone’s behavior addresses acts that have consequences in the real world. Criticizing someone’s beliefs is a little trickier…. Thomas Jefferson summed up the issue: “But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” If someone’s done you no injury, is it right to denounce them as similarly “deluded” to those whose ignorance and indoctrination do harm you and yours?

    Luna, Gilmore, etc: If you’re interested in investigating “uncanny” experiences, the practice of shamanism provides a fairly reliable source of same. The link points to the group founded by anthropologist Michael Harner, who boiled down the methods of several indigenous tribes to provide a simple (and drug-free) technique for self-inducing the relevant trance states. Religion is irrelevant to the method, and belief is nearly so.

    Anyone interested can start with just three items: (1) Harner’s book The Way Of The Shaman ($16 from the group or B&N, currently less from Amazon). The book explains the usage of the other two items. (2) a drumming CD/tape ($16 for the “No. 1” journey tape from shamanism.org), in lieu of a partner with a drum, and (3) a pair of rattles (music store, toy store, or improvised). (The “journey tape” could even be replaced with MIDI or a drum machine, using information from the book.)

  130. says

    I’m amazed at the number of Loki Points PZ gets for posts like this. You’d think people would catch on. :)

    Does God exist? You’ll find out sometime later this century. Is He the Christian God? Not hardly. Or the Bhuddist God or the Jewish God or the Wiccan Goddess and so on and so forth.

    We’re finite in capability and constrained in what we can perceive and conceive. But evolution continues, and as future life builds on what’s been established in the past our descendents or replacements may well possess abilities we whit not whot of.

    To paraphrase the old saying; not only is the universe weirder than we imagine, it is weirder than we are yet capable of imagining.

    And who knows? Maybe God isn’t really God at all, but an 8th grade science teacher in an alternate universe, and we are but a science project.

  131. Chris says

    But why — why this perception of the stimulus? Why does a perception, or a description of a perception, exist as “religious” or “divine” at all? What prompts us to label this perception as “deity” or “imminence”? What is the real reason for the existance of both the physiological perception and our labelling that perception as we do?

    Those are interesting questions. But to me, at least, it seems likely that the answers will lie inside, rather than outside, the brains which are having those experiences.

    In any case, until and unless there is some real proof that those types of events are anything more than remembering the one dream that came true and forgetting the hundreds that didn’t, the only reasonable thing to do is live our lives with what we know is real. That, generally applied, is realism as I know and practice it. Gods, aliens and any other form of garage dragons don’t make the cut.

  132. TheBlackCat says

    If someone’s done you no injury, is it right to denounce them as similarly “deluded” to those whose ignorance and indoctrination do harm you and yours?

    Yes it is, for two reasons.

    One, the beliefs are the same even if the harm is different. If one is deluded the other must be as well. The harm a belief does has no bearing on whether it is delusional (unless the belief somehow involves causing or avoiding harm, but most religions involve both so that is not a valid argument).

    Second, the two are not as independent as people sometimes like to portray them as being. Otherwise nice people will ignore absolutely terrible beliefs in others if those beliefs are said to be based off religion, particularly the person’s own religion. The basic nature of religion creates an environment where harmful beliefs and practices are not only tolerated, not only accepted, but are often encouraged and promoted to those who would not ordinarily accept them. It has inherently exclusionary, “us and them” mentality that makes questioning religious leaders or the beliefs and practices of fellow believers taboo.

    The issue is not trying to condemn those who use religion to do harm to us and others, it is to eliminate the conditions that allow those sorts of people to thrive, prevents others questioning or confronting them, and helps them convince otherwise good people to help them in doing harm.

  133. hephaistos says

    Hoo Yah!! pi zeta, for an outstanding site and for your clear, courageous stand in this matter.

    Your readers may be interested in an article concerning Salman Rushdie which appears on page 27 of the 15 July NY Times Book Review section. Rachel Donadio reviews comments made at the time (1989) of the anti-Rushdie fatwah by Jimmy Carter, John le Carre, and others. Although all of those commentators supported Rushdie’s right to free speech, many of those commentators also felt that Rushdie was wrong to do something which he knew would incense people of a particular faith. Deja vu all over again, eh? I am no friend of royalty but I say God (hmm…) Bless the Queen and I hope she creates Sir Salman a Duke next time around.

  134. JohnnieCanuck, FCD says

    And who knows? Maybe God isn’t really God at all, but an 8th grade science teacher in an alternate universe, and we are but a science project.

    Then Armageddon will be what happens when the bleach hits the Petrie dish. I don’t care how hard the moulds pray, teachers already know what happens if you give in to little beggers, even once.

  135. says

    You’ve got crazy-ass megalomaniacal evangelical kooks telling people to hate their gay/muslim/hindu/godless/female/evolutionist neighbors…Religion makes you nuts. It makes ordinary people identify with invisible spirits, it turns them into caterwauling flibbertigibbet idiots at any slight to a magic man who has never done a thing for them, and it makes them center their lives around head-dunkings and cracker-eating and gibbering chants to an unheeding phantasm.

    I love Jesus. I don’t hate gays, muslims, women, or any other group. I certainly don’t hate evolutionists. I may disagree with the conclusions of their scientific research, but I don’t hate them.

    You’re wrong about God being unheeding. He’s done incredble, amazing, and miraculous things in my life for many years, and I’m only 24. I have good friends who have seen God do wonderful things in their life as well. No, life isn’t a bowl of cherries, but my faith in Jesus, who is real and alive, has led me through difficult times as well as glorious times. In all things, I have peace, because I know God loves me, and I know He has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for my life.

    Jesus once asked What is Truth? You seem like you really want to know it. Perhaps there’s more to reality than meets the eye or the lab equipment.

    Blessings to you in Jesus’ name,
    Jared

  136. Tulse says

    In all things, I have peace, because I know God loves me, and I know He has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for my life.

    Slaveowners had a plan, purpose, and destiny for their “property”, and cattlemen have a plan, purpose, and destiny for their livestock. Somehow in neither case are the objects of this attention comforted by this. Explain to me again why one should follow the alleged plan of an alleged creator? And do you always do exactly what your mother tells you to do?

  137. autumn says

    Mr. White, I can say the same things about booze, but I’ve never spent a Sunday morning singing songs about it (okay, I do every third Sunday).

    Back to the “why incite the flamewars” whine, get real. The internet is at its most useful as a tool for shit-flinging and beating-off (not necessarily at the same time). Why incite the flamewars? It’s fun. It’s damn fun. There is no chance of my actually getting hit in the face. Other people freak the hell out, and I get to see it. I certainly am not attributing my particular attitude to PZ, but I absoloutly love the fact that I can, when an argument is getting heated, reach into a little place in my darkness and pull out a few words that will cause my interlocuter to go insane. As I have gotten too old for the actual hitting, I see the internet as a place where one can still draw out the blithering madness of an opponent with a few well-chosen comments. I always saw it as a victory if I could get someone punching-angry with a little verbal poke in the hoo-hah.

    Yes, it’s immature and foolish, but in some little way (and I am not the type who is physically intimidating) I felt good about my ability to cause the other to lose their rationality and start swinging first.

  138. H. Humbert says

    No, life isn’t a bowl of cherries, but my faith in Jesus, who is real and alive, has led me through difficult times as well as glorious times. In all things, I have peace, because I know God loves me, and I know He has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for my life.

    Jared, people have difficult and glorious times without without Jesus as well, we just do it without the “knowledge” (i.e. irrational conviction) that magical spirits rule our lives.

  139. says

    Paul, I doubt that you will personally see this comment, but in case you do, there is one thing I disagree with here:

    You’ve got crazy-ass megalomaniacal evangelical kooks telling people to hate their gay/muslim/hindu/godless/female/evolutionist neighbors, you’ve got mobs believing them, you’ve got people electing presidents on the basis of how fanatically they will wage a crusade, and you’ve got even more swooning with the vapors at anyone who criticizes religious belief. Religion makes you nuts.

    Sorry, no. Religion does not make people nuts. People are nuts. (You know the famous Einstein quote.)

    Religion is effect much more so than cause. For evidence, consider whether the Sovjet Union fared any better than theist governments in terms of humaneness. An atheist society would be no more considered, fair and, well, rational than the theist ones we have now. The only difference would be that religion would not be used as an excuse, although the same underlying appeal-to-authority thinking would almost certainly persist in some other form. (The communists would often hide behind Marxist ideology instead of religion; looks suspiciously like the same thing to me.)

    People quite simply have an immense capacity for irrationality, pettiness and cruelty. This is a given. Religion, much like “free will”, is just something that gets dragged out to rationalise (if you can admit the use of that word in this context) impulses and emotions that are long set in stone by the time the higher brain functions get around to processing them.

    Doubtless, of course, if you are already nuts, you might be more likely to accept religion.

    But religion doesn’t make you nuts.

  140. DuWayne says

    autumn –

    Yes, it’s immature and foolish, but in some little way (and I am not the type who is physically intimidating) I felt good about my ability to cause the other to lose their rationality and start swinging first.

    I really can appreciate the honesty in your sentiments. I occasionally go trolling ultra-con sites for exactly that reason. Though I am actually rather physically intimidating. My problem is that I am literally incapable of striking out (physically) in anger. At least excepting the one time that a close friend was actually in danger of getting his tush kicked. Just can’t do it, not sure I could if someone actually punched me first. But going into tangles with nut-jobs of the right wing persuasion, now that’s a reasonable way to get some frustration out, one polite, reasoned comment at a time.

  141. RealPhysics says

    PZ:
    You rock. I’ve been following your blog for many months now, and I love it. You always bring out the best humor, rampant godlessness (and godbotherers) and cephalopods. I’d like more cephalopods, though!

    I’m a physicist in training (Jr. Standing), and an atheist for 2 years (parents are devout Catholics. Love the show, PZ. Let’s have some more lighter fluid.

  142. autumn says

    DuWayne, I never, even once, mentioned “polite, reasoned comment”. I am referring only to the intentional use of rationality in causing the irrationality of others. Again, I love the internet because no one can hit me through it.
    To conclude, in the words of a tee-shirt, Mary was only a virgin if you don’t count anal.

  143. Pygmy Loris says

    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! I don’t check this place out for a few days and I miss all the fun!

    I agree with PZ and this Rob guy seems to be somewhat disagreeable as a person. After reading his comments to posters over on his blog, I’m left with the idea that he doesn’t think people should be able to voice opinions that disagree with him.

    @ Luna_the_Cat It’s really inappropriate for you to attempt to persuade PZ to modify his posts because of someone’s hurt feelings. Quite frankly it shows that you, like Rob, think that preserving someone’s feelings by not chipping away at their false ideology is somehow admirable or desirable. This will not help us (Americans subject to the dictates of a conservative Christian president and vocal populace) live our lives the way we see fit without fear of retaliation from those clinging to antiquated Bronze Age myths of a small group of desert nomads!

    From your comments I surmize that you live in the UK? though maybe I’m wrong. The threat to atheists in the USA is very real and is not limited to simple verbal assault, but rather systemic discrimination and the threat of actual, physical violence. To have outspoken, public atheists willing to call religion what it is helps me live my life day to day with the hope that one day things might change.

    As for your reasons for being agnostic rather than atheist, I agree with other who state that it is simple coincidence. I once had a a very real dream that my mother died, and came to say good bye. It was so real that I called my mother to see how she was and make sure she was still alive. Everything was fine. My dream was just that, a dream. However, had something actually happened to her, you would take that as evidence for your beliefs. I’m not denying the reality of what you and your family experienced, but rather the conclusion you have come to as to the nature of that experience.

    Finally, why do some people describe a particular physiological experience as “divine” or “religious?” I suggest that you start investigating the extensive body of work relating to enculturation, language and perception of the world. Start with the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis and work your way through.

    Pygmy Loris

  144. Pygmy Loris says

    Sorry for the long post, but here’s one more thing:

    Cephalopods are cool, and I’ve learned a great deal about them since I started reading Pharyngula. But…..anyone who thinks that cephalopods are better than lorises is crazy! ;)

  145. says

    I was really surprised at the violent reaction to that entry. I mean, it’s not as if that was the first time that PZ said something vitriolic about religion.

    Many people seem to feel that free speech doesn’t extend into the field of religion, that such claims and beliefs aren’t open to debate. Some probably believe that criticizing a religious belief system is a kind of hate speech that should be restricted.

    I certainly don’t think so. There is only one kind of truth, the empirically testable one. If someone makes vacuous truth claims such as those in religion, then they shouldn’t be surprised when they get criticism.

  146. SMSouthern says

    Back when I was much younger (I’m 58) we thought for sure the world would be at least be a little better by now. It certainly wouldn’t get worse. But lately it’s been getting pretty depressing, even (or especially) right here in the USA.
    So it is a great relief to be able to come to places like this.
    Thanks. Even for the cephalopods.

  147. Oliver says

    “There is no god, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for a god.”

    PZ, your epistemology is lacking. There’s a profound difference between “there is no…” and “there is no evidence for…” Unfortunately, in making such comments, you’re practicing the same irrationality that you accuse others of.

    Religion isn’t science -per definitionem. But if you insist in applying the standards of science -which is like using a sharp screwdriver to get out the tubing of your bike, i.e. using the wrong tool and more likely to do more harm than good- at least use them correctly. In any case, until the day you can actually FALSIFY the existence of god, “There is no evidence” means little more than just that. While we can happily apply Occam’s razor, it is a)no real evidence, just a guide on assumptions, and b)very limited in scope when looking at the more fundamental hows and whys of the universe. The problem is, of course, that falsification isn’t possible in entirety, because unlike science, religion can go back BEYOND the origin of the universe. So you can happily falsify individual aspects, such as the age of the world, the origin of species etc., in the end, the true believer can go one step back and say “Yes, but it’s all like that because it was planned to be this way in the blueprints the creator drew.”

    You can argue all you want that we don’t NEED religion. You can claim we don’t need it socially, though that would be hard to prove, and you can demonstrate we don’t need it to explain the workings of the universe around us. But the battle you’re trying to fight is one the tools of science were never meant to be used for and if you insist on using them this way, you’re trapped in a war you can’t win.

    @Pygmy Loris:

    What’s inappropriate is your insistance that Luna_the_Cat should apply the same standards in social discourse that you do. What you are doing is precisely the same thing that you accuse Luna of doing. You are suggesting someone else should suppress their priorities for the sake of your personal comfort. There is a difference between “calling religion what it is” and giving derogatory labels to its adherants. If you don’t want to be called something like “godless scum”, it would be proper to lead by example. If you want to demonstrate that your values are better, you have a weak case if you behave in precisely the same fashion because then, evidently, the different values don’t lead to different behaviour.

    @MartinR
    “Many people seem to feel that free speech doesn’t extend into the field of religion, that such claims and beliefs aren’t open to debate”

    Debate looks kinda different that some of the posts here. Which is the point. Free speech very much extends into the field of religion. It doesn’t extend to calling other people names, though. Not in the field of religion nor in any other field. And in fact, the constitution of some countries (Germany, for example) specifically cite human dignity as the value which has primacy over all others. As for stating “there is only one kind of truth: the empirically testable one”, a brush-up on epistemology should infuse some humility into such radical claims. Yes, there is (likely) only one kind of truth, but we shouldn’t be so foolish as to claim to possess it. By empirically testing it, you already lose it and gain, at best, an approximate. If we DID have the truth, we wouldn’t be having this debate. We would be dictating laws on some stone tables and sending fire to Sodom and Gomorrah. You should be careful not to make yourself bent on replacing religion with a religious belief with merely a different label.

  148. Bob says

    “we thought for sure the world would be at least be a little better by now”

    Indeed. Where’s my durn flying car?

  149. Richard Harris, FCD says

    Luna, one of my daughters is convinced that she was aware (this was years ago when she was a little girl) of her grandad’s death before we got the ‘phone call. He wasn’t, so far as we knew at the time, at death’s door.

    But I don’t recall hearing about this prescience until just recently – the last year or two. Incidentally, this daughter thinks religion is nuts, & I guess she’s an atheist, but she thinks there may be ‘spirits’.

    So what’s going on here? Either my memory is faulty, or her’s is. Well, my wife, who’s a spiritualist (duh!) doesn’t come out with the sort of enthusiastic support that I’d expect from her if it had really happened. So I have to conclude that my daughter has a false memory of this.

  150. says

    Oliver quoth:

    The problem is, of course, that falsification isn’t possible in entirety, because unlike science, religion can go back BEYOND the origin of the universe.

    Yes, unlike verifiable fact, fiction can go wherever you want it to. This isn’t necessarily a useful attribute.

  151. Frost says

    #123 Luna_the_cat said:
    “But why — why this perception of the stimulus? Why does a perception, or a description of a perception, exist as “religious” or “divine” at all? What prompts us to label this perception as “deity” or “imminence”? What is the real reason for the existance of both the physiological perception and our labelling that perception as we do?”

    The reason we call those experiences “divine” is simply because religion is the dominant paradigm of our society that is used to explain feelings of unity/oneness/etc commonly labelled as mystical.

    It is a matter of language and culture how you describe (and some have speculated that language also effects the way you experience and understand*) the world.

    It’s just that in our culture telling that you are feeling “god” is more conductive of being undertood than, say describing those experiences as being brought to you by space aliens or aligning your chakras or resting in the shade of the great Wahoo tree.

    Why do we have those experiences in the first place, then? I’m no MD, but I would suspect that they are merely instances of the brain misfiring. We are talking about abnormal states here, after all: epilepsy, seizures and external stimulation. You can get also other kind of effects through stimulating or injuring the brain, effects that certainly cannot be described as divine.

    I could, of course, write an essay about this but I’m trying to be brief so pardon me for cutting some corners. And yeah, sorry ’bout using ‘paradigm’.. I blame the university..
    *Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, interesting and controversial, Wikipedia will tell you more

    #155
    PygmyLoris: Damn you, you beat me to it. ;) Gonna post this anyway. SWH certainly deserves consideration.

    #159
    Oliver. What can I say. *bangs head repeatedly to the keyboard* Ahem. I presume you take this stand regarding every other piece of drivel dreamed by someone somewhere at sometime in the history of mankind, starting from Wotan and Apollo and ending with Flying Spaghetti Monster and the space aliens behind Hale-Bopp. It is _perfectly_ reasonable to assume that none of the above exist because the burden of proof rests quite comfortably in the hands of the one making the claim.

    It is true that there can never be 100% proof that there is no god. Indeed, there can never be 100% proof that there is no Invisible Pink Unicorn. However, there are infinite degrees of likelyhood from quite certain to extremely improbable. The “god hypothesis” and the “no god hypothesis” are nowhere near the same footing on that scale.

    So okay: its really, really, really, really… really(n>10^9) unlikely that there is a god. It is so unlikely that for all purposes we can approximate the likelyhood of there being a god as zero without any of the calculations suffering from that.

    And to paraphrase Prof. Dawkins, when religion starts making claims about the essence of reality it _is_ purporting to act as science and as such is subject to the same standards and methods.

    Quoting another one from professor D: It takes religion to get good people to do evil things.

    Sorry ’bout the lengthy rant, wrote the first part in notepad, refreshed the screen before submitting and read what had come after. And felt the urge to comment..

  152. Oliver says

    #163

    “Yes, unlike verifiable fact, fiction can go wherever you want it to. This isn’t necessarily a useful attribute.”

    And here I thought modern epistemology had firmly buried objectivism. Apparently, the cult is still alive. In any case, the issue of whether something is useful is an entirely different ballpark and not at issue here.

    #164
    “Oliver. What can I say. *bangs head repeatedly to the keyboard* Ahem. I presume you take this stand regarding every other piece of drivel dreamed by someone somewhere at sometime in the history of mankind, starting from Wotan and Apollo and ending with Flying Spaghetti Monster and the space aliens behind Hale-Bopp. It is _perfectly_ reasonable to assume that none of the above exist because the burden of proof rests quite comfortably in the hands of the one making the claim.”

    I presume you presume too much. And that’s the problem. You declare your own ideas valid without ever testing them at the same time you try to shame others because they act in precisely the same fashion.

    “The “god hypothesis” and the “no god hypothesis” are nowhere near the same footing on that scale.”

    Except, of course, that there is no “god hypothesis”. There is a set of beliefs, which is something fundamentally different. And as long as you refuse to understand that, you’re really arguing on the same level as those you’re trying to attack.

    “Quoting another one from professor D: It takes religion to get good people to do evil things.”

    You can quote as much as you want, but all you demonstrate is that you don’t hold yourself to the standards you expect of others. As you said, “the burden of proof rests quite comfortably in the hands of the one making the claim.”

    You teach a doctrine of “demonization of unbelievers” without ever bothering to test it, or even putting it into a form where it is testable. You fail to graps that your line of argumentation is in no way different from that you criticise. A little bit more self-skepticism -the hallmark of good scientific argumentation- would become you. Lambasting others for propagating that they have irrefutable truth on their side while arguing in just the same fashion has little credibility.

  153. Luna_the_cat says

    Wow, a few people here are having such fun attributing things to me which I did. not. say.

    First, and least important overall: I was asked why I was agnostic. I offered the anecdote about my father as nothing more than an attempt to explain myself. Please refer to the other things which I have said about it, including:

    [The events] did not take place in my head, but were external to me, and had other witnesses. [However] They are not data; they are nothing more than unsubstantiated anecdote, and as such, not only are they likely to be unconvincing to anyone else, they damned well shouldn’t be. Other people should shrug them off as irrelevant until such events are replicable and adequately documented.

    Let me reiterate: my story is nothing but a story to anyone but me, it is not data even for me, I am not wedded to magical thinking, I am very aware of the dangers of self-deception and wishful thinking, my inablility to dismiss this as simple coincidence should affect no-one but myself, I am not attempting to convince anyone of anything nor to insult anyone who doesn’t accept it as a real and given true event, and my real wish is that I could apply some sort of experiment to what happened to give me more of an answer than assumption. Ok? Got all that? Do I need to use shorter words?

    Second: Look, I said to PZ that I was disgusted that he didn’t let tempers cool on SB a bit. I’ve had my say on that, he responded in such fashion that I didn’t simply feel he was blowing me off, and I’m more than willing to let it go. The number of “more gasoline! More lighter fluid!” posts outvote me anyway, much as I think that hardly helps anything or improves ScienceBlogs. But then again, I obviously lack a sense of humor.

    And finally, the basic issue which prompted the original complaint against PZ, which I’m afraid I don’t think he really addressed above and which has gotten lost under all the name-calling from various quarters (and I do not exempt myself from this, again) is actually an important one and yes, I’m going to risk more flames here by bringing it back up.

    I don’t think that anyone here, me included, Rob Knop included, PZ included, is happy about the state of science education and understanding in the population of the US (and increasingly in the UK, yes) at large. Is that something we can all agree on? That there needs to be more education?

    Second thing which ought to be relatively easy for people to understand — if you call people names, they get pissed off and will not listen to anything else you have to say. “Aw, don’t care if your poor widdle feelings were hurt, I’m right and you should listen and start thinking for once, even though you’re obviously not used to it” tends to, overall, have a poor track record for getting people to consider your ideas. In this sense, and in this sense only, is my argument about “hurt feelings”.

    Rob Knop had been trying to introduce concepts of rational thought and science to the church and Christian populations he was in contact with. I’ve personally done the same, with some success. Yes, we all know that there are devoutly religious people out there with a deep emotional investment in their worldview, a hostility to science, and no interest whatsoever in learning anything different. There is no point to pandering to these people, or even addressing them. However, there is a much larger population out there which simply has no clue how science operates and why scientists say the things they do, and who adhere to religion because that is what they are exposed to, it is the environment which welcomes them, and it is espoused by the people they trust. These people, this very large population, is a target audience.

    Now, it would be wonderful to use Seed and ScienceBlogs as a tool for the education of this large, religious-by-default-but-composed-of-ordinary-people population. A lot of fascinating topics are touched on here, and there are bloggers who are capable of explaining them in clear and wonderful ways. But neither Rob nor I, for that matter, feel that we can point people from that background here now, because for good or ill, Pharyngula has become the first ScienceBlog people are likely to encounter if they go exploring around, and they are also likely to encounter the anti-religion rants early — at which point they switch off, get defensive, and that’s that; you have fulfilled the stereotype that that the fundamentalists teach them. Skatje herself said it — why would people listen to you after you’ve slapped them in the face?

    Please note: I understand that this is PZ’s space, that these people are not PZ’s target audience, and that PZ very obviously functions as a welcome reinforcement and validation for atheists. But the blog has gone from this:
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/06/what_should_a_scientist_think.php
    –which makes the all the points necessary and expresses PZ’s views clearly and logically, without the fire-breathing, inflammatory rhetoric of calling people who adhere to religion deluded idiots in so many words, to:

    Religion makes you nuts. It makes ordinary people identify with invisible spirits, it turns them into caterwauling flibbertigibbet idiots at any slight to a magic man who has never done a thing for them, and it makes them center their lives around head-dunkings and cracker-eating and gibbering chants to an unheeding phantasm.

    …which is, in real life, a characterisation using deliberately scornful and inflammatory words, which will make those “ordinary people” go “ok, f*** you” and wander off.

    Because of this, it isn’t possible to use the site as outreach to that large population I just mentioned. The irony is that Pharyngula has become such a prominent part of ScienceBlogs because of PZ’s popularity and large audience, and that irony is not lost on me. But I do regret the loss of this resource from my possible arsenal.

    I hope this makes sense to at least a few people.

  154. bernarda says

    The following is not intended to offend believers of any stripe.

    “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.”

    Friedrich Nietzsche

  155. says

    You know something PZ? I’d rather you dropped the atheist tag. I’m beginning to appreciate why Sam Harris has a certain take on this word.

    “There is no word for a person who is not a plumber… You do not get up in the morning wondering about what you are not.”

    Just a suggestion. It helps me bring two worlds together. The world that Matt Stone puts forward in South Park, where future generations get rid of all their “-isms”. (disclaimer:you might already be doing this in your page, but this is the first time i’ve visited here.)

  156. Raging Braytard says

    Yeah! PZ should drop the atheist tag to please alamandrax! Then he can be just like Ed “I can haz scienzeblog” Brayton.

  157. Frost says

    Oliver:
    Don’t presume what you presume. I’m merely making the point here that not all information has the same probability of being true, and as such the same value. There are things that are likely to be true, like gravity and the speed of light in a vacuum. Then there are things that are quite unlikely to be true, like Harry Potter or a god. The presupposition that there are no absolute truths, or at least if there are, they are in essence unknowable does not make all propositions about the truth equiprobable as valid approximations. All truth may well be subjective, but some theories of the world are repeatable by others and have more data supporting them than others and are as such more valid as approximations that come closer to the absolute, inherently unknowable truth.

    When one says: “There is no god,” one means “based on meticulous weighing in of the evidence, observations and careful contemplation I have come to the conclusion that the likelyhood of there being a god is infinitesimally small and as such dismissable,” but one does not like to speak legalese all the time.

    My reason for saying: I presume you take this stand regarding […], was more of a nature of a wish that you apply your stance consistently throughout the spectrum of differing ideologies and beliefs. Are you implying by your answer that you _only_ afford certain religious doctrines the benefit of being thus set apart? Or that you are engaging in this discussion as an intellectual excercise on epistemology? One could take the epistemological position that I detect in your writing to its logical conclusion of solipsism, but that would be rather fruitless don’t you think? Of course I may have misunderstood you completely. Why not give us an example of an argument on this issue that you would find acceptable?

    Except, of course, that there is no “god hypothesis”. There is a set of beliefs, which is something fundamentally different.

    Isn’t there? How is a set of beliefs something “fundamentally different”?

    The definition of hypothesis is: guess, conjecture, supposition, surmise, surmisal, speculation; a tentative theory about the natural world; a concept that is not yet verified but that if true would explain certain facts or phenomena; a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence; a proposal intended to explain certain facts or observations.

    Is it not a working hypothesis of the believers that there is a god, who functions in the world a certain way etc.. These belief systems also claim that the god they presume affects the physical world at least to some degree. These effects of a divine being are thus something that happens in the real world and as such are observable, or the divine operator is offered as an explanation of certain existing and observed phenomena. It is, as such, a hypothesis. (I am not discussing eg. deists, here.) Or are we just bandying words here? Please elaborate on that?

    You can quote as much as you want, but all you demonstrate is that you don’t hold yourself to the standards you expect of others. As you said, “the burden of proof rests quite comfortably in the hands of the one making the claim.”

    Due to the restrictions of this medium I cannot give this question the attention it deserves. Thus I am left with quoting mere anecdotes, but one feels certain that a little time with google will provide quite a lot more. How about the Middle East? 9/11? India&Pakistan? Northern Ireland? Former Yugoslavia? US with fundamentalists killing abortion doctors etc? People denying eg. medical aid from their children on basis of faith alone?

    It would be simplistic to claim that religion is the only factor in all the crises and ills of the world, but it is a major contributing factor in many of them and the only one that trivialises and even glorifies death, and denies provably working alternatives if coming from the wrong place.

    So far I haven’t seen one shred of acceptable evidence on behalf of aforementioned deities. As I said in my previous post, as long as religion claims to offer an explanation of reality it is subject to the same standards and methods as science. I’m still waiting.

    You teach a doctrine of “demonization of unbelievers” without ever bothering to test it, or even putting it into a form where it is testable. You fail to graps that your line of argumentation is in no way different from that you criticise. A little bit more self-skepticism -the hallmark of good scientific argumentation- would become you. Lambasting others for propagating that they have irrefutable truth on their side while arguing in just the same fashion has little credibility.

    “Demonization of believes”, surely? Or do I misunderstand you? I have great faith in humanity as a species, and I think it takes quite a lot to pervert the inherent altruism of a social animal. It seems to me that religions, or rather dogmatic beliefs of which religions form the major portion, have such a mechanism. I am saying that misquided people, in the firm belief that they are doing good things, are led to do things that are harmful to both themselves and other people. I feel great sympathy and sorrow eg. for the young people who blow themselves up in the firm belief of heavenly glory for advancing the holy war. They aren’t evil, just decieved.

    Wherein I come to the point of just where have I been “lambasting others for propagating that they have irrefutable truth on their side while arguing in just the same fashion”? As far as I know I have never argued that I have irrefutable truth on my side. Quite the contrary, I have merely noted that there is a complete lack of evidence _for_ a god, the overwhelming amount of evidence that there isn’t one, and pointed out that the burden of proof is not on the one denying such proposition.

    I would also like ask you to get off your high horse and be a bit less condecending, but that would be making assuptions about your attitude based on a few lines written on a discussion board, and hardly representative of your personality as it in reality is. So lets us presume the best intentions of eachother?

    Well, the length of this is really getting out of hand so I’ll quit now. I haven’t even begun adressing all your points, but this shall have to do. I apologise for any lack of proper references, citations and bibliography, rest assured that if this were an academic paper and not an entry on a DB, I would give them.

    Godless scum, over and out. ;)

  158. says

    Even people who were defending me would often say things like, “You’re an asshole, but…”.

    One of the greatest successes of the religious in our culture has been the propagation of the meme that to be a proud, outspoken nonbeliever is an act of impropriety and aggression.  Many atheists I know not only won’t admit that they are atheists, they get decidedly uncomfortable when I openly identify myself as such.

  159. Graculus says

    have addressed a set of complaints with which I have been dunned for this last week.

    I wonder how many of those complainers are legit?

    It is pretty much the complaint that liberals/secularists/etc are “uncivil” when they don’t allow themselves to be used as doormats; that Michael Moore is the left’s Ann Coulter, that Dawkins is shrill, etc, etc.

    It is, of course, a steaming pile of bullshit.

  160. Peter Ashby says

    I came here specifically BECAUSE of the Cephalopods* and yes, I am a wierdo and proud of it! I was utterly unsurpised to find that in addition to Friday cephalopod I got posts on creationism and atheism, we biologists are a godless lot. I know few religious dev bio people and absolutely no religious evo-devo people. Now maybe over the pond there in Bushland some people find these conjunctions of things remarkable, I suggest to them they should get out more into the big wide world.

    *My login picture on the computer is a still of the Dumbo Squid from the BBC’s Blue Planet series (The Deep episode) that I stole from the DVD and cropped. I’m thinking of making it my gravatar…

  161. Kerlyssa says

    <3 cephalopods.

    @162: I knew when the phone rang that my grandpa had died. Same way I ‘know’ when someone is late they are dead in a ditch, or if they oversleep they’ve had a stroke and are laying paralyzed in bed. Just the way my worrying mind works.

    Now I don’t recall most of the minor thoughts from that year of childhood, but my grandpa’s death sticks out, so in my memory it looks like an oracular event. And once you get that train of thought in your head, it’s easy to find confirmations that in actuality are due to reading body language or just plain coincidence.

    Many of the people I know who have beliefs in the supernatural build off of one long past experience that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. The UFO that I clearly recall as a sparking transformer, the fairy toadstool circle that didn’t show up on camera(when in fact no picture was every taken).

  162. says

    Kerlyssa (#175):

    Now I don’t recall most of the minor thoughts from that year of childhood, but my grandpa’s death sticks out, so in my memory it looks like an oracular event. And once you get that train of thought in your head, it’s easy to find confirmations that in actuality are due to reading body language or just plain coincidence.

    Oddly enough, one of the most prominent “common themes” among the tragic or merely depressing episodes in my life — forgive me if I don’t care to go into details — was how I never saw them coming. I’ve had deaths in my family and amongst my circle of friends, some of them expected (cancer, say) and others quite the opposite, but I’ve never had an oracular warning, not even a presentiment or a bird of unusual plumage which I could later dismiss as coincidence. Even in those cases where everyone knew a person’s end was near — when a relative had cancer of the pancreas and old age of the everything — the spirits never deigned to give me cold shivers or bad TV reception the moment of their departure.

  163. paleotn says

    Oliver wrote….”The problem is, of course, that falsification isn’t possible in entirety, because unlike science, religion can go back BEYOND the origin of the universe. So you can happily falsify individual aspects, such as the age of the world, the origin of species etc., in the end, the true believer can go one step back and say “Yes, but it’s all like that because it was planned to be this way in the blueprints the creator drew.””

    This sounds like a variation of the “God of the gaps” argument. No matter how far science pushes the envelope of understanding, the superstitious will continue to make up shite to explain that ever shrinking portion of existence science has YET to enlighten. This game can and probably will go on as long as we exist as a species, and accomplish precisely nothing useful. It amounts to useless mental masturbation (also the definition of epistemology?) that over time makes one’s particular phantasm all the more distant and irrelevant. Before one’s personal god becomes so tiny and insignificant he vanishes completely from sight, why not just let it go and accept the fact that the evidence against the existence of some sort of creator being is gargantuan and continues to mount, while the evidence in favor of such a being is the same as it was 100,000 years ago…zero.

    It’s kind of ironic that the Hebrew / Christian old testament is filled with stories of guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah who apparently had no qualms with verbally whacking people over the head from time to time. With regard to the sharpness of their rhetoric, these guys make PZ look rather tame. Talk about “name calling”, read some of Isaiah’s rants! Christians, particularly evangelicals and fundamentalists, admire these characters for their bravery in speaking the supposed “truth”, simply because it was the “truth”. They apparently didn’t care that their words might make some feel bad, or cause intense anger or close the minds of their intended targets.

    Now, since the shoe is on the other foot so to speak, like the kings and priesthood of ancient Israel and Judah, the religious and otherwise secular religious apologists among us can’t seem to handle the truth. Oh no, speaking the truth as science explains it is being mean and closing minds yadda, yadda, yadda. I dare say that if PZ and others simply whispered the same ideas, the sensitive among us would STILL get all bent out of shape. It seems the mere existence of non-theists just flusters them to no end. So why not shout it from a science blog? In the end, the reaction will be the same.

    Yes, PZ, like Harris and Dawkins, you’re the “Isaiah” of atheism and agnosticism. So keep on keeping on.

  164. says

    Luna, just one last comment in answer:

    I think one of the fundamental problems here is that some people view SciBlogs as a place for people to come and find blogs from scientists. Others view it as a place where there are science blogs.

    The former means that there’s a collection of blogs that are made by, and are interesting to, people with an interest in science. These will include science as a subset, but their primary purpose is to entertain that particular collection of people.

    The latter means that there’s a collection of blogs with the foremost purpose of presenting scientific information to the public. Under this view, people like PZ are a problem: they drive away much of the essentially scientifically ignorant public.

    SciBlogs doesn’t explicitly take either position, which creates this sort of internal strife – because of the various authors’ joint ownership (non-literal meaning) of SciBlogs, those that take the first view are naturally coming into conflict with those of the second, because of their impact upon one another’s readership.

    I am of the first view, so naturally I don’t give a good damn about whether readership is being repulsed. You clearly are of the second category, so you are concerned when some authors drive away readership from others. I don’t believe this is something that will be resolved in discussion.

  165. tony says

    Re: Luna & her dad’s oracular vision…

    This may be a little prosaic, but my wife frequently comments to me — maybe once a month — on how she was ‘just thinking about her mum’ when…dring dring… her mum calls her on the phone! Whoa! And her mum is in Spain! Way across the Atlantic! How wierd is that!

    Rational analysis would ask the following:

    1. How often do you (wife) normally think of your mum… (Answer: maybe once an hour – especially since our two year old talks incessantly about ‘gramma’ – so definitely once an hour during the day when Lucie’s active – 8am to 7pm)

    2. How often does your mum call you? (answer – at least once a week – in a window from 8am to 4pm eastern)

    3. What is the probablility of these two events being co-incident.

    I’m not doing the math – but it is virtually guaranteed that event 2 will happen within 1 hour of event 1 happening (that’s our baseline premise, after all) since event 2 timeline is a subset of event 1 timeline.

    So, if we consider ‘co-incident’ to be within 5 minutes… then I have a 1 in 20 probability of having a ‘co-incident’ event – [drum roll please] – that’s about what my wife experiences!

    Case proven — at least for this.

    I would think that the majority (if not all – but I don’t have evidence) can be similarly rationalized!

  166. Pygmy Loris says

    @Frost :) sorry I beat you to it, but when Luna_the_Cat asked that I was like Sapir-Whorf!

    Here’s the thing I don’t understand about this whole flame war thing: who forces anyone to read Pharyngula? This Rob Knop fellow didn’t have to read Pharyngula and then get all huffy about a perceived insult, but he did. Rather than respond to PZ’s criticism of belief with reasoned argument, he responded by calling PZ names. That’s juvenile. It means that I will never read his blog. He’s driving the athiest, scientist demographic away from Scienceblogs :)

    Luna_the_Cat: You’ve been quite calm on this thread and I appreciate that.

  167. tony says

    Frost: @171.

    Totally.wonderful.post! Great! Fabulous. Awesome!

    paleotn: @177

    superstitious will continue to make up shite

    Laughed out (very) loudly… I’ll need to close my office door in future!

  168. Oliver says

    @Frost #171
    All truth may well be subjective, but some theories of the world are repeatable by others and have more data supporting them than others and are as such more valid as approximations that come closer to the absolute, inherently unknowable truth.

    So was the theory of prions as causative agents of BSE any less true when there only were first hints for it and not the preponderance of evidence we have today? But this is really a strawman, since indeed you take religion again as a scientific concept to be addressed with scientific standards, when in fact, the basic point about religion was explaining things for which there was no other explanation at a given time. In this context, it is all good and fine to point out how many things we CAN explain today. This doesn’t detract from the fact, however, that there still are plenty of questions science can’t answer, and especially so in areas which science was never meant to provide answers in.

    When one says: “There is no god,” one means “based on meticulous weighing in of the evidence, observations and careful contemplation I have come to the conclusion that the likelyhood of there being a god is infinitesimally small and as such dismissable,” but one does not like to speak legalese all the time.

    But then one could be challenged to produce one’s reasoning. And given that the reasoning is likely to look something like “I can explain all the interesting points without necessity of a God” or something to that end, the conclusion would be rightly called invalid, because one cannot be concluded from the other.

    Is it not a working hypothesis of the believers that there is a god, who functions in the world a certain way etc.. These belief systems also claim that the god they presume affects the physical world at least to some degree. These effects of a divine being are thus something that happens in the real world and as such are observable, or the divine operator is offered as an explanation of certain existing and observed phenomena. It is, as such, a hypothesis. (I am not discussing eg. deists, here.) Or are we just bandying words here? Please elaborate on that?

    Ah, but you already qualify your position. You don’t want to talk about Deists. But Deists DO believe in God. They just don’t believe in current active interference. In fact, one might readily be able to see Intelligent Design as something that would go along well with Deism, with god providing the blueprints, building his big machine, the universe, and then sitting back to enjoy the show.

    But let me answer your question first: Is it not a working hypothesis? No, it is not. A working hypothesis I am very much ready to challenge or toss -at least as a reponsible scientist. In fact, I am supposed to challenge it. A working hypothesis, quite the contrary to your words, does not have to be a set of beliefs. If I have three options how XYZ could work, I can just say “Ok, let’s roll a die and based on the roll, adopt that option as a working hypothesis and see if it sinks or floats”. No belief involved here at all. More, with a scientific hypothesis, in (correctly) formulating the hypothesis, I am also formulating the means by which I can test it and reject it.

    Now these means are precisely the problem when it comes to religion and even the point of physical interference: We lack the means to truly test them. We can say “Ok, we have a perfectly fine explanation within the framework of the laws of nature”, but the point about religion is that it goes BEYOND that framework. And while we’re sitting here, looking from the inside out, we have no way of stating, say, that lightning struck at a position solely because of a random gathering of electrical charges and NOT because, say, the universe was designed in such a fashion that a chaotic interplay of interactions would lead to precisely that assembly. Manifestations of outside forces would likely be observable only in paramters intrinsic to the system science evaluates. That doesn’t mean, however, that there are other paramters they are connected to, which simply are not within the frame of reference, much like a pencil, thrust through a sheet of paper, has a manifestation in the plane of the sheet of paper, by which it could be described by two-dimensional paper-sheet dwellers, but their frame of reference doesn’t allow them to assess the concept of a “pencil”. If we’re talking about a pencil with a hexagonal section, he’d swear that the obstacle in his way has the form of a hexagon and that to claim anything else was unscientific. Would that change anything about the fact that you thrust a pencil through a sheet of paper? Now, please don’t take this as suggestions about multiverse concepts etc. The key point here is the issue of frames of reference.

    The point with “disproving god” is precisely that it is just as impossible as proving it since it depends on specific assumptions.

    Due to the restrictions of this medium I cannot give this question the attention it deserves. Thus I am left with quoting mere anecdotes, but one feels certain that a little time with google will provide quite a lot more. How about the Middle East? 9/11? India&Pakistan? Northern Ireland? Former Yugoslavia? US with fundamentalists killing abortion doctors etc? People denying eg. medical aid from their children on basis of faith alone?

    Anecdotes are anecdotes, and you can’t even show that religion is indeed the decisive factor. Is northern ireland about religion? Or is the Catholic vs. Anglican aspect there not rather a side effect of the Irish vs. English issue? Former Yugoslavia? Again you suggest that religion was a cause here and not secular nationalism and powermongering. Etc. etc. ad nauseam. Even 9/11 goes far beyond religious issues.


    It would be simplistic to claim that religion is the only factor in all the crises and ills of the world, but it is a major contributing factor in many of them and the only one that trivialises and even glorifies death, and denies provably working alternatives if coming from the wrong place.

    Sorry, but there are plenty of other “major contributing factors” such as resources, ridiculous concepts of nationality, race etc. People have plenty of means to destroy their credibility other than having the “wrong” religion. In my town here, the city manager for cultural and education affairs was just voted out of office despite being respected above and beyond any party borders for his competence, precisely because he had the “wrong” party membership. Religion is merely one way to factionalize humankind among an endless supply of such. In the case of Northern Ireland, I frankly doubt that religion is indeed a factor, rather than a side effect in it. This is like saying that France (a largely catholic country) and Germany (a country with a significant portion of protestant inhabitants) were at each other’s throat for centuries because of religion and not because they were neighbors fighting for hegemony and territorial expansion at the expense of the other.

    So far I haven’t seen one shred of acceptable evidence on behalf of aforementioned deities. As I said in my previous post, as long as religion claims to offer an explanation of reality it is subject to the same standards and methods as science. I’m still waiting.

    As I said, you’re using the wrong tool. Religion does NOT make the same claim as science on explaining reality. Science explains a self-contained system, religion does not. Science cannot ever assess anything outside that self-contained system, because it could only judge manifestations WITHIN that system, but not whether something from WITHOUT causes them.

    “Demonization of believes”, surely?

    Depends on the vantage point. From yours, they obviously don’t believe the right things.

    I have great faith in humanity as a species, and I think it takes quite a lot to pervert the inherent altruism of a social animal.

    Last I checked, that “inherent altruism” was highly debated in scientific literature and quite the contrary of being seen as inherent to a social animal was seen as hallmark of advanced cognitive abilities and unlikely to be found in just any animal.

    I am saying that misquided people, in the firm belief that they are doing good things, are led to do things that are harmful to both themselves and other people.

    And that is dependent on religion just how? What you miss in your equation is that religion in many cases also calls for acts which actually are beneficial to other people.

    I feel great sympathy and sorrow eg. for the young people who blow themselves up in the firm belief of heavenly glory for advancing the holy war. They aren’t evil, just decieved.

    So you think that e.g. the Japanese Kamikaze pilots were motivated by religious issues and not nationalistic issues?

    Quite the contrary, I have merely noted that there is a complete lack of evidence _for_ a god, the overwhelming amount of evidence that there isn’t one, and pointed out that the burden of proof is not on the one denying such proposition.

    And what does your evidence that there isn’t one look like? Given that you already had to qualify your line of argumentation in not including deism, it seems as I assumed above that your “evidence against” is “I can explain everything perfectly well without one”. This, however, is not only short-sighted (it might be that one day, our means of measuring are fine enough to detect something we can’t see now), it’s stopping asking questions just in time so that your line of arguments doesn’t collapse. Someone above claimed biology to be the battleground, but I merely see it as one theatre where there might be vociferous fighting going on, much like Verdun was a heated battle in WWI, but the importance of the battlefield largely imaginary. Religion goes far beyond biology, after all, and much more fundamental questions are being asked in basic cosmology. And here, we’re quite a bit away from being able to answer not just the “Hows” but also the “Whys”.

  169. Sean Peters says

    There is no god, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for a god.

    Of course, those two statements are not at all the same thing…. what do you think about “There is no life on Europa, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for life on Europa”.

    Yay, Luna. I’m not particularly religious, nor did I take any offense by the original post (primarily because I really just don’t give a damn what PZ thinks about my not very well formed religious beliefs), but I do find attempts to cure me of my spiritual insanity (or wickedness, oppression, ignorance, whatever) to be every bit as annoying as the Jesus people trying to save me.

    I’m not trying to tell you what to post – it’s your blog, post what you want. I’m thick skinned, so I’ll read it even if I find it annoying, and mostly I won’t bitch about it. But if you are going to call people ignorant, deluded, oppressed, etc; it is hardly worthy of comment that they’re going to find it offensive. So why bother? The only answer I can come up with is that stirring the pot drives page views.

    Sean

  170. Oliver says

    @paleotn #177

    This sounds like a variation of the “God of the gaps” argument. No matter how far science pushes the envelope of understanding, the superstitious will continue to make up shite to explain that ever shrinking portion of existence science has YET to enlighten. This game can and probably will go on as long as we exist as a species, and accomplish precisely nothing useful.

    If you already state “This game can and probably will go on as long as we exist as a species, and accomplish precisely nothing useful” then the same holds true, per definitionem, for trying to end it.

    Before one’s personal god becomes so tiny and insignificant he vanishes completely from sight, why not just let it go and accept the fact that the evidence against the existence of some sort of creator being is gargantuan and continues to mount, while the evidence in favor of such a being is the same as it was 100,000 years ago…zero.

    I suggest you publish that “gargantuan” evidence against the existence of some sort of creator, because philosophy has been trying for a while now to formulate evidence for OR against which would not be dependent on a multitude of assumptions being true for quite a while now.

    Christians, particularly evangelicals and fundamentalists, admire these characters for their bravery in speaking the supposed “truth”, simply because it was the “truth”. They apparently didn’t care that their words might make some feel bad, or cause intense anger or close the minds of their intended targets.

    Last I checked, Christians defined themselves through chiefly the new, not the old testament. While what you say is true for some of the subgroups you cite, I suggest when we’re talking evidence here, you double-check the statistical significance of these people vis-a-vis the entirety of the christian population of the planet.

    Oh no, speaking the truth as science explains it is being mean and closing minds yadda, yadda, yadda.

    See above regarding modern scientific theory. This argument doesn’t get any better by endless regurgiation. It merely undermines the scientific credibility of those abusing it.

    Sorry to say, but you give pretty much the same picture as those you lambast -not a hint of difference except that you refuse to have your religion called “religion”.

  171. Mike says

    Jesus Christ, what a load of comments! Look, I can straighten this all out. It’s a simple misunderstanding along with some punctuation and spelling errors.

    “. . . you are asshole. As my preacher says, . . .”

    was probably supposed to be

    “. . . you are as holy as my preacher, says . . .”

    Of course, the odds of several hundred people making the same mistake are probably pretty small, but what are the odds of me winning the lottery? I’m still pretty sure I’m going to win.

  172. Tulse says

    what do you think about “There is no life on Europa, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for life on Europa”.

    There is evidence for the conditions of life on Europa (liquid water), and it certainly makes sense based on that to say that the probability of life on Europa is higher than, say, life on the Sun. By contrast, based on the lack of evidence, we can say that the probability of a supernatural creator is close to zero, and as improbable as other entities we routinely say “don’t exist”, such as fairies and unicorns and rational Republicans.

  173. Fishbone McGonigle says

    The world that Matt Stone puts forward in South Park, where future generations get rid of all their “-isms”.

    You mean the same world with talking otters and a telephone that lets you prank-call the past?

    A real deep thinker, that Stone.

  174. H. Humbert says

    And what does your evidence that there isn’t one look like? Given that you already had to qualify your line of argumentation in not including deism, it seems as I assumed above that your “evidence against” is “I can explain everything perfectly well without one”. This, however, is not only short-sighted (it might be that one day, our means of measuring are fine enough to detect something we can’t see now), it’s stopping asking questions just in time so that your line of arguments doesn’t collapse.

    Oliver, atheism is a tentative conclusion based on current evidence. There is absolutely no need to wait until “further evidence” comes in. Might there be a day where our means of measuring uncovers something we can’t detect now? Yes, it might. Then again, it might not. So all the “mights” and “maybes” you can dream up aren’t worth a damn. When you get some positive evidence in your favor, then the atheists of the world should reconsider. Until then, the position that no gods exist is the most sound since it is based on what we know now, and not some promised future that we have no current reason for suspecting will ever arrive.

  175. Sean Peters says

    #165:

    It is _perfectly_ reasonable to assume that none of the above exist because the burden of proof rests quite comfortably in the hands of the one making the claim.

    I’m not making the claim. I don’t care whether you believe this stuff or not. I just find it annoying when I continually get “but you can’t prove any of that” in my face. It’s just as annoying as “you need to accept Jesus to avoid hellfire”.

    I’m not trying to tell anyone to stop talking – what I’m saying is, don’t be surprised if people get irritated by it.

    Sean

  176. David Harmon says

    tony: Also, family and friends do tend to pick up on each other’s daily rhythms….

  177. Luna_the_cat says

    James Stein: I find it regrettable that an intelligent and interesting blog seems to be going down the path of more and more flamboyant shouting. It’s also part of the face of the entire site, to the point that I can’t point people I would really like to learn more about science towards Seed and ScienceBlogs without risking turning them off entirely. Yes, not your concern. Not PZ’s, either, obviously. But yikes, I wish I could use the place as a teaching resource for a very specific set of people I know, and it won’t work, and I don’t know if I can adequately communicate the depth of my regret and how much of a loss I think this is.

    I did not personally take any offense at PZ’s post, and I thought that Rob Knop really shouldn’t have started with the direct personal insults himself. If nothing else, his doing so meant that no-one read any further or looked at the meat of the complaint. All the attention was taken up by the words “blowhard”, “jerk”, etc. Which is, if you think about it, closely related to the point I’ve been trying to make about communication.

    To the various people who’ve commented on the anecdote I so unwisely put in the blogosphere:
    If I may say rather plaintively, do I really give the impression that I am stupid? Or unwilling or unable to think logically? (I wouldn’t ask if I weren’t willing to hear the answers, although in the case of Caledonian I’m pretty sure I can already guess.)

    If it were an obvious candidate for coincidence, I wouldn’t be bothered about it. I’m aware, too, that coincidence can be remarkable; the most odds-are-against-this-ever-happening coincidence I know of is a real jaw-dropper, but the idea that it has anything to do with the “supernatural” is patently absurd. Thing is, I’ve thought of all of the things brought up above, and due to the nature of this particular experience and the physical circumstance surrounding it*, I honestly can’t find “coincidence” a complete enough answer. That’s all, really.

    The vast majority of “psychic impressions” are beyond doubt cold reading, wishful thinking and/or coincidence, and this is actually fairly obvious to anyone with critical thinking skills and observational powers. And my general classifications for psychics, through experience, are “con artist” or “sincere but deluded” — I can’t say that I have ever encountered, in person or in the media, any “psychic” who could provide evidence that they did not fit into one of those two categories. So what I’m trying to say is that I am hardly wedded to some supernaturalist worldview. I don’t find it useful, if nothing else, and above all I am a pragmatist — I have the heart of an engineer. (In a jar, on my bookshelf.)

    I said before, I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of anything with the anecdote. This is still true, even now. I’m not trying to convince people here that this here is a genuine mystery which can only be explained by the supernatural — not least because I find the “only explained by the supernatural” bit to be unsatisfactory and unacceptable as well. And I find myself not particularly caring whether anyone else thinks it’s a mystery; having my own curiosity to deal with is quite enough, thanks.

    I’m just trying to justify the fact that I haven’t settled on coincidence as being a complete and satisfactory answer for myself, I guess, and yeah, I’ve found myself getting a bit huffy about the implication that I couldn’t have considered it thoroughly. Gads, its not quite on the same level as seeing swamp gas and calling it a UFO, I think.

    Anyway, I think this is about it for me. If anyone can offer insight or information on this kind of thing which I haven’t run into before, that would be quite cool.

    —————————

    *Witnesses — no gap of memory in which we did not refer to it having happened, and multiple family members who remember the incident and refer to it independently, and who are willing to argue about it. I’m not an only child, I only wish I were sometimes.
    Not part of an established pattern of behavior, like a phone call every week or every month or worrying if someone is out late.
    Extremely atypical behavior on the part of my father, something I wouldn’t expect anyone outside the family to know or take seriously, but significant in my own assessment.
    Not part of an “expected” set of phenomena. No-one in my family expects to mystically know when something bad has happened, with the current exception of my mother, who has been brain-damaged by seizures and may well be going senile. The rest of us acknowledge that we are consistent with pretty much everyone else on the planet, more in the habit of being completely blindsided by tragedy.
    Things like that.

  178. Obdulantist says

    Nearly 200 comments, and all that can be said is:

    Here we go ’round the mulberry bush…

    AGAIN.

    Signed,

    Another godless heathen unbelieving atheist swine.

  179. Sebastian says

    Jake #102: Let’s see some good absence of free will posts. Atheists exist as a named group at least. if still a minority, but denying free will pits you against basically everyone outside a small circle of academics.

    Materialism has indeed fallen on hard times:

    “No matter that the physical world provides no room for freedom of will: that concept is essential to our models of the mental realm. Too much of our psychology is based on it for us to ever give it up. We’re virtually forced to maintain that belief, even though we know its false…” Marvin Minsky – Society of Mind

    Never mind that the “psychology” doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, and hasn’t produced a useful result in 2500 years. Cling to it, even if it means you must embrace admitted falsehoods. Don’t even consider that modeling the so-called “mental realm” might be where you’ve gone astray. Then we’ll all be moral and happy.

  180. DieFundie says

    $ØA%COMMENT_TERMINATION_NOTICE

    Error 0201: Comment Section nearing black hole critical density. Aborting.

  181. paleotn says

    #184 Oliver wrote…..”If you already state “This game can and probably will go on as long as we exist as a species, and accomplish precisely nothing useful” then the same holds true, per definitionem, for trying to end it.”

    Maybe a good reason to end it is that the energy expended in such useless endeavors could be better spent elsewhere. I tend to think so. Will it ever end in the foreseeable future? No, and mores the pity.

    #184 “I suggest you publish that “gargantuan” evidence against the existence of some sort of creator, because philosophy has been trying for a while now to formulate evidence for OR against which would not be dependent on a multitude of assumptions being true for quite a while now.”

    Since the time our species consisted of a few groups of hunter /gatherers, spiritual being(s) were evoked as necessary for the everyday function of our existence, but with every new discovery of how things really work, said being(s) become less and less necessary. You won’t find god(s) hiding behind the rising and setting of the sun, the change of seasons, the origin of human disease, the workings of the observable universe…on and on we go. Notice the trend?

    No assumptions, Oliver, just observable data, not one bit of which points towards the need for or existence of a supernatural creator. That is unless god is running away from us faster than we can discover physical evidence of him. Now why would he do that?

    As was stated above in the thread, it is YOU who needs to show some observable evidence that would lead one to believe that a supernatural creator-god exists. Do that and I assure you I will believe. Unless you can give us at least one shred of credible, verifiable, physical evidence, religion remains what it’s been heretofore, an exercise in mental masturbation.

    #184 “Last I checked, Christians defined themselves through chiefly the new, not the old testament. While what you say is true for some of the subgroups you cite, I suggest when we’re talking evidence here, you double-check the statistical significance of these people vis-a-vis the entirety of the christian population of the planet.”

    So what do the other subgroups do with the Old Testament, ignore it, hoping it will go away? A fundamentalist would probably state that those other subgroups aren’t being true to the nature of Christianity and I’d tend to agree. Picking and choosing what one wants to believe based on its palatability is kind of dishonest.

    Are you alluding to the idea that the Old Testament is simply a mish-mashed collection of Bronze Age folk tales? I would agree with that, but then I could also say the New Testament amounts to nothing but the writings of one of hundreds of Roman era mystery cults and that this one (Christianity) just happened to catch on.

    #184 “Sorry to say, but you give pretty much the same picture as those you lambast -not a hint of difference except that you refuse to have your religion called “religion”.”

    Now that’s and old, well worn canard. No, Oliver, it’s not a “religion” any more than observing the balance in my checking account or how much I owe on my car loan is bowing before the god of BankofAmerica and his father, the US banking system. It’s observable, measurable, tangible fact. Scientific theory is merely an explanation of said facts, BankofAmerica has some of my money, but I owe them more than they owe me.

    To state scientific theory as we understand it now and that it shows no evidence for god doesn’t undermine scientific credibility whatsoever. Religion is undermined each time religionists have to reinvent their god in order to keep him relevant in the face of scientific advancement. Did the scientific community doggedly hang on to the steady state theory of cosmology or the idea of a celestial ether for years and years after observable data showed those theories to be wrong? No, both theories were junked eventually. Science evolves, sometimes radically, driven by new discoveries. In science, no theory is safe from the effects of future discoveries. Religion on the other hand……

    As the gaps in which god exists become smaller and smaller, the less relevant god becomes. Inversely, the sillier religionists become.

  182. Brian says

    To steal from Monte Python…

    “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!!”

    PZ, thanks for saying the things I have been thinking my whole life, but until recently have kept quiet about. I’ll stop telling you about my weird beliefs if you stop telling me about yours… God is dead!!!

  183. J-Dog says

    As Sister Mary Imaculata said, just before she ran off with Father Bill “F*&K ’em if they can’t take a joke”.

  184. says

    PZ, keep doing what you’re doing, and I’ll keep reading. Sad that the truth hurts these Christians so much, but they’ll get over it.

  185. says

    H. Humbert: Jared, people have difficult and glorious times without without Jesus as well, we just do it without the “knowledge” (i.e. irrational conviction) that magical spirits rule our lives.

    Well, I don’t have enough pride nor appreciation of human nature to have either difficult or glorious times without Jesus. I want a personal being of high standing far above my realm of existence to rule my life with love and grace, and that conviction is neither irrational nor illusionary. True faith in God produces results…I’ve seen them, just as I’ve seen a blue sky or a funny-looking cat. I don’t need to understand every mathematical and theoretical permutation of photons and heat energy to know that if I stand out in the sun, I get warm (and burned!).

    My question is: if a personal supernatural being did exist who loved you, would you be interested?

  186. H. Humbert says

    Jared said:

    I want a personal being of high standing far above my realm of existence to rule my life with love and grace, and that conviction is neither irrational nor illusionary. True faith in God produces results…I’ve seen them, just as I’ve seen a blue sky or a funny-looking cat. I don’t need to understand every mathematical and theoretical permutation of photons and heat energy to know that if I stand out in the sun, I get warm (and burned!).

    In short, you know god is real because you can feel his affects, right? Sorry, but there are better explanations for your feelings.

    My question is: if a personal supernatural being did exist who loved you, would you be interested?

    I would only be interested in a direct face-to-face meeting. Count me out if I need to go through a liaison or measure my success in contacting this god through subjective (and thus error-prone) evaluations.

    And Jared, if there wasn’t a personal supernatural being who did exist and who loved you, and plausible alternative explanations could be offered for your experiences, would you be interested?

  187. Jen Phillips says

    @Jared #199:
    ‘interested’ in what? Are you writing his (I beg your pardon, ‘His’) personal ad?

    IF (and oh, how the very building shakes with the enormity of that ‘if’) a ‘supernatural being’ was scientifically proven to a) exist and b) ‘love me’, or generally have knowledge of/interest in my existence, I think I would be severely creeped out, at least initially. Futher speculation as to my ‘interest’ in such a relationship would depend entirely on the nature of said being. If He/She bore any resemblance to any of the Abrahamic Gods I’d run fast in the other direction.

  188. Rey Fox says

    Except you couldn’t run in the other direction, because God is everywhere! *SCREAM*

  189. Tulse says

    if a personal supernatural being did exist who loved you, would you be interested?

    Can it get me chicks? Or at least a Porsche?

    (As I have declared on many an occasion, I would take as proof of God’s existence if Natalie Portman would have sex with me. Hear that, God?)

  190. Steve_C says

    Let me do a shorter Jared.

    “I love my god! He rules. You’re dumb if you don’t need or want a god too!”

    “Science isn’t important.”

  191. says

    My question is: if a personal supernatural being did exist who loved you, would you be interested?

    I have a better question Jared: if a personal supernatural being existed who behaved towards me the way the god of the bible apparently behaves towards his creations, why would I call it love?

  192. Bloix says

    “Religion makes you nuts.”

    The problem with this is that it’s clearly false. It’s on a par with “marijuana makes you an addict” or “masturbating makes you blind.” We are surrounded by plenty of successful, productive, well-adjusted people raising happy families who are religious believers.

    Any scientific-minded person would have to agree that there is no necessary correlation between a belief that is useful and a belief that is true. I am an atheist, and I believe that there is no valid basis for religious belief, but I have no evidence for the proposition that my beliefs make me more sane, rational, happy, or productive than those who hold false beliefs.

  193. says

    “Religion makes you nuts.”
    The problem with this is that it’s clearly false.

    Not to those of us who can still see, masturbator.

    Just kidding. Religion doesn’t make you nuts; testosterone makes you nuts, and estrogen makes you ovaries.

  194. says

    Religion doesn’t make you nuts; testosterone makes you nuts, and estrogen makes you ovaries.

    I just got back from a visit to the zoo in Chicago, where I took photos of the sun bears there, Fong (male) and Bandau (female).

    Mr. Raven, a psychology major as an undergrad, must have some special talent of insight into ursine mental health–he took one look at the photos, and said he could clearly see Fong’s nuts.

  195. Caledonian says

    The problem with this is that it’s clearly false. It’s on a par with “marijuana makes you an addict” or “masturbating makes you blind.” We are surrounded by plenty of successful, productive, well-adjusted people raising happy families who are religious believers.

    Yes, but they’re successful, productive, well-adjusted people raising happy families who are insane.

    Being well-adjusted to an insane society requires being insane.

  196. Bob says

    Jared
    “Well, I don’t have enough pride nor appreciation of human nature to have either difficult or glorious times without Jesus. I want a personal being of high standing far above my realm of existence to rule my life with love and grace, and that conviction is neither irrational nor illusionary.”

    Sorry about your perceived deficiencies, but you HAVE gone through those times with no gods or cheeses. You don’t believe it, but you did.

    Also, what really struck me was the second sentence. You “want”. Well, we all want something, and you got your’s through imaginary wish fulfillment. The concept of an all-loving and caring god is quaint, preposterous, and not in evidence, even if you include the babble.

    You are an authoritarian. You WANT someone to order your life FOR you, tell you what to do, how to behave, yadda yadda yadda. Please stop voting. Too many of us cannot live with the results.

    I long for that future day when mankind grows up and gets rid of these (recently) composited gods.

  197. Spooky says

    Luna said:

    But yikes, I wish I could use the place as a teaching resource for a very specific set of people I know, and it won’t work, and I don’t know if I can adequately communicate the depth of my regret and how much of a loss I think this is.

    So, because PZ is so rude and nasty, you can’t use any of the blogs at scienceblogs as a teaching tool?

    PUH-lease!

    Send the folks you want edumacated a link to the blog or even the blog entry that will do the job.

    You really think that folks are going to read everything on scienceblogs?

  198. says

    PZ, I agree with the overwhelming bulk of what you have to say here and in the more incendiary post in question, but, come on now, did you really have to use adjectives?

  199. Experimental Biradical says

    Luna,

    I think you are very brave. I am getting really tired of the meme that agnostics are just cowardly atheists. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to both the religious and the atheist sides and say “personally, I just don’t know right now.” Based on comments I’ve seen here, some atheists seem to be ashamed of their past religious and agnostic “phases” and lash out at what they have rejected. I think that this is really a pity. Many opportunities to truly help others are lost this way.

    I personally prefer to identify as agnostic rather than atheist not because I secretly hope there is a “magic man” or because I am too cowardly to “come out” as atheist (been there, done that, was laughed at twice over when I changed my mind) but because a)there are things we really don’t know, and more importantly b)because I was tired of associating myself with an “ism” that as a group has so little compassion. Additionally, atheism is increasingly associated with being militantly *against* the idea of deity, and agnostic is currently the closest term for “no really, I just want to stay out of it entirely, please”

    Besides, some of the Pagan and Unitarian groups throw fabulous parties, and agnostics get invited sometimes. =-P

  200. Caledonian says

    I am getting really tired of the meme that agnostics are just cowardly atheists.

    They’re not necessarily cowardly. They could simply be stupid.

  201. ThomasMcCay says

    I love this blog and the variety of interests displayed here. I’ve learned a lot of good and useful things from PZs’ writing.

    Regarding motivation: ‘Because it is true’, in my less than humble opinion, is THE best reason to say anything.

    Religion is not sacred, it just wants to be.
    t

  202. Brian says

    You’re no asshole. If these people want to see asshole, they should give me a blog.

  203. j_rock says

    PZ,

    You see, I’m in that little red area cradling the very tip of south Louisiana. Trust me buddy, I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL!!! That’s why I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically when I first saw the map, and why I can’t stop laughing now at all the “darklanders'” reactions. PRICELESS!

  204. Ian H Spedding FCD says

    Luna-the-cat, don’t allow yourself to be put off by what may be, for you, rhetorical excesses here. This blog is a fine resource and you would be the poorer for discarding it simply because some people here express themselves in a more forthright way than some of your friends or acquaintances might like.

    I call myself agnostic, too, because I believe it to be the most rational philosophical position but for all practical purposes, I am atheist too because, when push comes to shove, I assume that there is no God. That doesn’t prevent some occasional sparring with atheists because it can be good, knockabout fun, same with the abortion debate.

    And you must be prepared to be misunderstood or misrepresented because that is the nature of this sort of discussion. Don’t expect to change anyone’s mind because chances are you won’t. This is an atheist as well as a science blog so, if you stay, get used to being in a tiny minority and having to cope with the pack mentality amongst the majority. All you can do, if you will excuse me mixing metaphors, is to fight your corner and let the chips fall where they may – which is pretty much what you have been doing as far as I can see.

  205. bernarda says

    There is I think much misunderstanding about suicide bombers. Most of the time critics seem to think they are all the same and have the same motivations.

    Well it appears to be true that the Saudis who make up half of the suicide bombers in Iraq(recent report)and who carried out 9/11 did so for pie-in-the-sky reasons, others have other reasons.

    Suicide bombing apparently started in Sri Lanka. Did the Tamils do it for their religion/god(s)/afterlife, or is it more purely political?

    Nowadays islam is often invoked in the cases of Palestinian suicide bombers, but that didn’t seem to be the original reason. We have all heard the stories of U.S. soldiers who sacrificed themselves by for example throwing themselves on a grenade to save their buddies, or even squads going on supposed suicide missions. No one says they did it because they were looking forward to heaven.

    Some say you can’t compare because these self-sacrifices are to protect people close to them. However, Palestinian self-sacrificers do it for the same reason. They and their families and friends are living in almost intolerable conditions struggling against an overwhelming force. Being powerless, they see this as the only way of action to try to protect those families and friends. So the situation is similar. It is too simplistic to blame all suicide bombings on religious fanaticism.

  206. Bertok says

    OMG. I can’t believe I read this whole comment thread. I should get an f-ing medal for that (or at least for reading Olivers tired cannards, every one of which has been trotted out and slapped down about a hundred times during these go-arounds). And no, Oliver, I’m not responding to you or your posts because it’s a complete waste of everyones time. What part of burden of proof did Bertrand Russel outline that you can’t understand? Sheesh.

  207. Lurker Mike says

    “One thing you don’t get to do is silence the people who point and laugh.”

    Thank you. I found this neat blog not too long ago and enjoy the number of topics discussed here, but I particularly enjoy the religiously-tinged posts. Part of that is because it’s nice to hear from an unapologetic atheist. As a part of that godless minority it always bugs me to hear people suggest that one should tone down the non believing voice or silence it altogether. Everyone is free to believe what they want to believe, no matter how popular and/or strange, but one thing they don’t get to do is silence those people who point and laugh. God-belief is not an automatic GET-AWAY-FROM-CRITICISM-FREE! card. Thank you for being honest and straightforward.

  208. Luna_the_cat says

    Experimental Biradical: :-D Yeah.

    As for using Seed and SB, and whether the religious-by-default “ordinary people” link-click around and read more — given the general level of contempt which seems to be here for people who believe in religion, you might be surprised. You might be surprised at how many people are out there who are genuinely intelligent and curious, and yet still haven’t had much exposure to science, AND get tetchy and offended if, when they start to read science, they get called “delusional idiots” and “caterwauling flibbertigibbets” in so many words.

    However, you are probably right — I can use bits of Seed and SB, there are still some very good resources here. Gee, I just have to hope people are curious enough to read what I point them towards, aren’t curious enough to link-click and read around the front-page “most emailed” stuff, or human enough to get pissed off and defensive when they encounter the worst stereotypes of hostile and arrogant scientists who call them “caterwauling flibbertigibbets”. Well, that should work well.

    Yes, that is a bit sarcastic and something of an exaggeration — just not that much of one. Seriously, reasoned, intelligent discussion of why strongly held positions ARE strongly held are rare and valuable. Namecalling shouty blogs, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen, and although they rarely lack an audience — monkeys love spectacle and passion, after all — generally all they function to do is solidify positions on BOTH sides of any given issue. Given that solidifying the anti-science/anti-scientist position is not useful, I hate having to tiptoe around it.

  209. Luna_the_cat says

    Sorry to have to add this on as an addendum, but it seems that one thing hasn’t been made clear in all that I’ve said.

    I have never said or suggested that religion is a “get out of criticism free” card, or that it should be. Of course it shouldn’t be. There should be no special status for these beliefs merely because the beliefs are old, passionately held, and somehow “special” because it relates to deity. There needs to be more discussion and criticism, not less.

    Nor should atheists EVER be silenced. That is flat out wrong.

    However, everything that needs to be said, CAN be said without using the Coulter-type tactic of calling everyone else names and characterising them as evil or stupid.

  210. tony says

    Luna, et al:

    A *lot* of water under the bridge, so far… but what it seems to boil down to is this:

    You don’t like when we call people (in general) ‘stupid’ even when they hold demonstrably ‘stupid’ opinions.

    Example: If I were to say, consistently and vehemently, that the sky was actually a big shiny glass window… you’d likely say (correctly) that I was delusional, idiotic, and stupid – for not accepting unambiguous and incontrovertible evidence to the contrary. So why is it wrong for us to say that belief in a sky fairy is delusional, stupid, idiotic, misguided, and – yes – if you attempt to force that misguided view upon others – evil.

    hmmm?

  211. David says

    –There is no god, or to say it in the most optimistic and sensitive way possible for a rational person, there is absolutely no evidence for a god.–

    These are not the same statement. Yet you seem to think that they are. This, to me shows a rather dismal understanding of the basic ideas of reason.

    –I’m not saying you’re a bad person or even stupid if you’re a believer.–

    Well, lets see what you ARE saying, shall we?

    –Religion makes you nuts.–

    So you aren’t stupid, or a bad person, but you are nuts. So you can be an intelligent, good, crazy person. But wait, there’s more!

    –I’m saying that you are possibly wicked if you’re promoting it,–

    You aren’t a bad person as a believer, unless you happen to believe that you are right, and tell others so. Then you are “possibly wicked”. So as long as believers shut up and don’t bother the high and might atheists they aren’t “possible wicked”.

    –probably ignorant if you accept its contradictions with reality, —

    Now, believers aren’t stupid but if they actually believe what they believe, then they are actually ignorant. Got it. There are some things that are actual contradictions. With THOSE I would agree that one should not accept those beliefs. Unfortunately you equate all religious beliefs with such “contradictions with reality”.

    –almost certainly foolish if you think rituals will get you into heaven–

    Again, you aren’t stupid if you’re a Christian… unles you think that you are going to heaven. Then you aren’t stupid… no… you are just foolish.

    –You can resign yourself to them if you aren’t strong enough to part from them — I’m not going to follow you to church and drag you out with a choke-chain — or you can wake up. It’s all up to you.–

    So believers aren’t stupid, or bad people. They are just weak.

    So what do we have. Believer’s aren’t stupid or bad people (according to PZ), however they are weak, foolish, ignorant, possibly wicked and nuts. But they aren’t stupid or bad. And they believe in stupid ideas, but they aren’t stupid.

    –My cause is simply the truth — the truth stated plainly and openly.–

    It is a shame then that you have to take these little sidetracks where you turn into nothing but a good shock-jock.

    The thing I find the most amusing about atheists like you PZ, is how much they often resemble fundamentalist Christians. When you are talking about something that’s specifically evolution related then its plain to see that you are an intelligent person. Its a shame then that you don’t take that intelligence and apply it to something other than evolutionary biology. Its understandable, but it is a shame. And funny, in a black-humour sort of way.

    When blogs here are talking about creationism or ID then they actually say stuff that’s… well… intelligent.

  212. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Hey, Jared (#146): You ARE “only 24”.

    Jesus can’t love anybody. Dead people can’t love or do anything else. The MEMORY or TRADITION is what stays alive in LIVING people. That’s NOT the actual person. Its mental representations. Your mysticism means nothing to anybody but you. Jesus has been dead for 2 thousand years now, okay? He’s silent. What you think you are “hearing” is a bunch of internal fantasies fired up by other people’s fantasies.

    You say: “You’re wrong about God being unheeding. He’s done incredble, amazing, and miraculous things in my life for many years. I have good friends who have seen God do wonderful things in their life as well. No, life isn’t a bowl of cherries, but my faith in Jesus, who is real and alive, has led me through difficult times as well as glorious times. In all things, I have peace, because I know God loves me, and I know He has a plan, a purpose, and a destiny for my life.”

    First of all, you are only 24 years old. That’s not “many years”. Its a blink. You have hardly seen anything that can lead you to your preposterous conclusion saturated with such self-absorbed certitude. Secondly, how come God is your human father-figure? A “He”? Why is that? Just so you can better relate or something?

    Finally, listening to your “good friends” is NOT a reliable source of information important to constructing your personal world view. There is no preordained plan or arrangement designed for your personal benefit or anyone else’s. This is obvious considering the many folks who come to a great variety of troubles and mortal griefs out of the random blue, a condition which you must perforce explain via the obnoxious and conceited caveat that YOU must be somehow special and exceptional in the eyes of your fantasy Protector.

    The universe does not revolve around you. You are a child.

    Grow up. Start absorbing some real information along the way. You’ll be fascinated by the beauties of natural actuality, I promise.

    The view is a bit vertiginous, but that’s only because we humans really ARE that small and inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. All of humanity is bound up on the skin of a little sphere that occupies a volume of only one part in about 2.25×10^34 of the observable universe; our individual lifespans (if one is fortunate enough to live to the age of 75, over 3 times your current decidedly immature age) occupies only about one part in 180 million of the age of the universe.

    Yes, creation really is that stupendously vast. We astronomers see it all the time.

    Don’t bother telling us what you believe or what your good friends like to think. You and your friends are living in a narcissistic universe that spans about the diameter of your own brains. You can’t take any new information to upgrade your beliefs because it would C-H-A-N-G-E them. The Horror!!! But the reality of nature marches exquisitely and indifferently on despite what you or anyone else thinks. Some of us choose to pay attention. Trouble is, you’re not looking at ANY of it.

    Try it. Take a good long hard look at it. If you have the guts for it. The view is fantastically deep, but don’t worry. You won’t fall off the edges of anything. You’ll still be you. And still nobody will care who you are supposed to hate or not. But once you appreciate the truth you might start sounding a little smarter too, instead of a 24-year-old brat-child who thinks he has all the answers simply because he listens to the delusions of the folks he hangs around with.

    That would be a Good Thing.

    Take care in your journey. Its not for the fool of heart. It takes REAL fortitude, not the fake kind you have so easily adopted in your immaturity.

    Sorry for the late post. But this one really steamed me.

  213. Bob says

    The thing I find the most amusing about atheists like you PZ, is how much they often resemble fundamentalist Christians.

    Posted by: David

    Runner up, for violating Blake’s law. David, your head is in your fundament.

  214. Oliver says

    #221

    If you think that with such froth-at-the-mouth rabid rantings, you underscore your capabilities for reasoned thought, you demonstrate quite well who is morbidly delusional here. What you also demonstrate is that the last 50 years of scientific theory passed you without a trace.

    But hey, to each his own delusion… You’d be left alone with yours much more often if you didn’t spit and kick at anyone who dares not sharing them.

  215. Caledonian says

    However, everything that needs to be said, CAN be said without using the Coulter-type tactic of calling everyone else names and characterising them as evil or stupid.

    Unless what needs to be said is that the people are evil or stupid, you sanctimonious twit.

  216. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Oliver (#159) said: “PZ, your epistemology is lacking. There’s a profound difference between “there is no…” and “there is no evidence for…” Unfortunately, in making such comments, you’re practicing the same irrationality that you accuse others of.”

    Relax man. Can’t you accept the day-to-day vernacular? CAN’T anyone casually conclude that there is no God (or ANYTHING in particular) BECAUSE there is no evidence for it? How many religious people do you know who understand “empiricism” or “epistomology”?

    They don’t need it, its never been brought to their attention by their various middlemen holyguys (no doubt for fear of stimulating questions that could challenge their authority), and in any case they would not want it, likely rejecting those concepts as contrary to their fixed-worldview, courtesy of their fantasy of a personal Handler Who Makes All Things That Happen In The Universe Happen SPECIFICALLY FOR The Believer. The conceit involved explains nearly EVERYTHING behind religion. They just operate like any dedicated humans will in such culturally-weighted circumstances, with a full dedication to the group which ostensibly confers an individual benefit.

    The monumentally ironic aspect of religion is rarely addressed: the pious aren’t worshiping “God” because “God” wants or likes it that way. The religiously pious worship THEMSELVES, first and foremost. Its all about THEM. They practice nothing but an ancient tradition of narcissism. Its fundamentally a culture of ME-worshipers. Always has been. The “ME” GENERATION” is nothing new. Religion has been cultivating it for thousands of years.

    What the hell do you want? Why should it be okay for those without a shred of evidence to declare something so without any qualification whatsoever, while those of us who have routinely re-examined the evidence are saddled with the extra baggage of justifying our conclusions explicitly every time we open our mouths?

    Look. “There is no God” suits the evidence (or the overwhelming lack thereof). Otherwise we would all have to run around like idiots attaching the compulsory addendum of evidence or its lack thereof in every mention and sentence. We’d be talking about the justifications for petting your dog or cat, for crying out loud. “There is no God” is as easily declared as “There is no Flat Earth”. OKAY? Or do you demand a tiresome rehashing of the LACK of evidence for a flat earth?

    This is a dispute over what one can presume is true. (The religious generally being utterly indifferent to the question other than as an expression of loyalty, which makes all of their conceptions pseudo-truths based on the popular fashion that reigns within their peculiar cultures). The fact of the matter is, any proposition put forth by anyone, anywhere at anytime, that has been exclusively cobbled together by the human imagination (whether by tradition or personal addendum) is an ENTIRELY ARBITRARY HYPOTHESIS which isn’t worth the SPIT those ideas have generated in their extensive and flowery verbifications. MARK THIS: there is absolutely no reason for supporting any idea that is based on a hypothetical premise that has ZERO evidentiary justification to support it from the natural world outside of our heads. It is therefore emminently okay to say, “There is no God”. If you want to argue the BASIS OF SAYING SO, go to a place where they argue out the details of epistomology. Most reasonable-minded people already accept that the spectacular LACK of evidence already justifies the statement.

    There really IS such a thing as a lunacy. Religion IS superstition. The idea that there is a supernatural entity that presides over our personal affairs IS preposterous. Such preposterousness is not merely possible. Its demonstrably commonplace. We humans carry these damned things around in our heads as if they were yummy cookies that we desperately need to share with others. Too bad they’re spiked with the poison that shuts down rational thinking.

    But if anyone keeps harping on the existence of something based purely on what a static tradition says or on whatever makes them feel good, why can’t people who have paid attention to the question from an evidentiary standpoint make straightforward statements in everyday language consistent with the non-existence of the subjects in question?

    Empiricism is quite another subject entirely. You make a big deal over the importance of properly phrasing statements that signifies the evidence behind them. Well and good. There’s certainly a place for that. But WE don’t need to be recharged over the merits of citing evidence, since we damned well already KNOW that our notions are suitably justified by evidence from OUTSIDE of our heads, while THEY couldn’t give a shit as long as they think they have the power to persuade people entirely on the basis of their charismatic talents.

    You need to better understand how the religious culture usurps the language and idioms to its benefit. They KNOW how to speak to their people in casual terms, and they gobble it right up. That’s all they need to accomplish their basic goal: to control as many minds within the populace as they possibly can. THEY think their shtick can be expanded into the what THEY PERCEIVE and DEFINE as the “godless” arena (they are, after all, accomplished “evangelists”) and that’s exactly what they’ve been aiming to do with all of the creationist anti-Darwin activity. They feel THREATENED by ANY external information, never mind characterizing it as “truth”. That’s all there is to it.

    You have to appreciate how fundamentalist/conservatives are so much more adept at “labelling” people who they perceive as contrary to their way of thinking (“lefty”, “liberal”, “atheist”, “secular”,”humanist”, “environmentalist”, “homosexual”…”communist”, etc., ad nauseam). Its an economical way of getting one’s way, to be able to automaticalkly demonize perceived opposing forces that might ask questions which represent a potential source of instability. (Remember how easily the very same mindset utilized such equally effective ‘keywords’as “nigger”, “spic”, “kike”, and countless other charming examples to swiftly characterize the opposition with as little fuss…all justified on nothing more than the powerful culturally-amplified human capacity for hatred, Absolutely none of that curiously persistant crap is based on any evidence outside of the culturally-conditioned mind).

    These bastards have an easy ride built right into the language of their culture. All they have to do is push the relevant word-button and a flood of negativity worth a thousand extra words comes pouring out in like-minded listeners and readers – their “flock”. Their “herd”.

    Its set up that way. Culturally. They’ve got a nice monopoly on it. And its part of the landscape in the overall controversy. But we DON’T have to be so imbecilically naive as to fall for it. Its NOT just their playing field. We have one too, and it acts to neutralize the religious acid. We should not hobble ourselves by avoiding simple and straightforwardly-blunt talk simply because it might not be prefaced every time with a reference to the evidence that backs up every statement. A thing that is said MAY be true EVEN THOUGH its not backed up by any corroborative evidence in the statement.

    If its okay with you and people like you (or even if its not) PZ and others can say whatever the hell they think is correct, without having to reiterate the reasoning behind their statements. Anybody who isn’t a complete idiot who has been reading this site for at least a week should know that there is a solid foundation of scientific evidence underlying the surface discussion.

    Again, so sorry for the late posts, and the length…this one bugged the shit out of me too.

  217. tony says

    Arnosium Upinarum:

    Late comments – but welcome — if a little long ;-)

    Agree wholeheartedly with both your recent posts. I’d add one thing, which I’m certain you intended, re jared (age 24).

    Being young is not *wrong*, it simply means you have had less opportunity for personal experience. It does not mean that is necessarily the case: my son is 11, and has personal experience of living in five different countries, speaking three different languages (four if you count UK & US english as different!) — that is more experience that the average for an 11 year old, and marks him out sometimes as a ‘big mouth’ simply because he does has that experience which is not generally present in his peers.

    What I’m saying is that youth does not *automatically* indicate a lack of experience…. but it does indicate with a farily high probablility that the experience will be ‘less’ than of someone older! So it is a reasonable assumption to make.

    If that’s an assumption that someone (Jared?) wants to disabuse, it’s easy – simply demonstrate your experience/ expertise/ knowledge/ evidence — we like and trust those things.

    However – anecdote and personal revelation do not constitute experience or evidence or expertise or knowledge. So please keep those to yourself.

    thanks & have a *nice* life.

    Remember – no-one is watching over you (except for the guy in the satellite monitoring station in Virginia — he’s watching)

  218. Oliver says

    re #232
    Relax man. Can’t you accept the day-to-day vernacular? CAN’T anyone casually conclude that there is no God (or ANYTHING in particular) BECAUSE there is no evidence for it? How many religious people do you know who understand “empiricism” or “epistomology”?

    Plenty, because actually, the expression “epistemology” originates in theology and refers to the interpretation of scripture. In any case, it is quite daring to suggest that anyone understanding empiricism and epistemology is a-religious.

    They don’t need it, its never been brought to their attention by their various middlemen holyguys (no doubt for fear of stimulating questions that could challenge their authority), and in any case they would not want it, likely rejecting those concepts as contrary to their fixed-worldview, courtesy of their fantasy of a personal Handler Who Makes All Things That Happen In The Universe Happen SPECIFICALLY FOR The Believer.

    Sorry, but you seem to confuse plenty of things here, and you seem quite confused about the characteristics of your average religious person. Maybe you live in an extremist-dominated area? In any case, bad sampling doesn’t lead to sound conclusions.

    The monumentally ironic aspect of religion is rarely addressed: the pious aren’t worshiping “God” because “God” wants or likes it that way. The religiously pious worship THEMSELVES, first and foremost. Its all about THEM. They practice nothing but an ancient tradition of narcissism. Its fundamentally a culture of ME-worshipers. Always has been. The “ME” GENERATION” is nothing new. Religion has been cultivating it for thousands of years.

    Interesting suggesting, but alas again lacking in evidence.


    What the hell do you want? Why should it be okay for those without a shred of evidence to declare something so without any qualification whatsoever, while those of us who have routinely re-examined the evidence are saddled with the extra baggage of justifying our conclusions explicitly every time we open our mouths?

    If you want to claim the high ground, you should act that way. But frankly, a lot of your claims in this post seem to me as easily falsifiable.

    Look. “There is no God” suits the evidence (or the overwhelming lack thereof). Otherwise we would all have to run around like idiots attaching the compulsory addendum of evidence or its lack thereof in every mention and sentence. We’d be talking about the justifications for petting your dog or cat, for crying out loud. “There is no God” is as easily declared as “There is no Flat Earth”. OKAY? Or do you demand a tiresome rehashing of the LACK of evidence for a flat earth?

    We’re not talking about LACK OF EVIDENCE for a flat earth, but about the notion of a flat earth having been FALSIFIED. It has been demonstrated not just not to be provable, but to be demonstrably wrong.

    So I guess we would have to count you among those who don’t understand empiricism and epistemology?

    MARK THIS: there is absolutely no reason for supporting any idea that is based on a hypothetical premise that has ZERO evidentiary justification to support it from the natural world outside of our heads.

    FALSE. This is ONLY valid if qualified by “if said premise is based on the natural world outside of our heads”. If not, there is no reason to expect that we would find evidence there. It’s like searching on Venus for evidence for life on Mars. This is precisely the problem with the entire line of argumentation here presented ad nauseam.

    The idea that there is a supernatural entity that presides over our personal affairs IS preposterous.

    Ah, now you talk about SUPERnatural entities, but just above, you want to find evidence in the NATURAL world. And you don’t think THAT is preposterous?

    But WE don’t need to be recharged over the merits of citing evidence, since we damned well already KNOW that our notions are suitably justified by evidence from OUTSIDE of our heads, while THEY couldn’t give a shit as long as they think they have the power to persuade people entirely on the basis of their charismatic talents.

    WE vs. THEY. You are quite right, this is lunacy. You’re using the precise language of the kitchen variety fanatic and don’t even realize it.

    That’s all they need to accomplish their basic goal: to control as many minds within the populace as they possibly can. THEY think their shtick can be expanded into the what THEY PERCEIVE and DEFINE as the “godless” arena (they are, after all, accomplished “evangelists”) and that’s exactly what they’ve been aiming to do with all of the creationist anti-Darwin activity.

    Funny. Have noted next to no “creationist anti-Darwin activity” in the entire nation I live in. And that despite the fact that the head of government has a big C for Christian on her party membership card.

    You have to appreciate how fundamentalist/conservatives are so much more adept at “labelling” people who they perceive as contrary to their way of thinking

    Hello? Your entire post was nothing BUT labelling.

    Anybody who isn’t a complete idiot who has been reading this site for at least a week should know that there is a solid foundation of scientific evidence underlying the surface discussion.

    Anyone who has the slightest hint what scientific evidence looks like knows there hasn’t been any. If there had, instead of spewing short or long posts of nothing but rabid venom, you’d be whipping out citations.

  219. tony says

    Oliver: You’re yanking the chain asking for citations….

    Why don’t YOU provide some (and not from a book written by humans from things in their heads)…. I’d as readily accept evidence from Harry Potter — it’s read by many people, and it’s a direct revalation from JK Rowling of the REAL WORLD — prove it ain’t so!

    If you want to get all snippy – then let’s break down your posts… you argue from erudition (The epistemology of “there is no -v- there is no evidence for”) — despite the position of PZ & others on this blog being entirely clear though many evidentiary chains — as AU said – conflating “there is no god” with “there is no evidence for god” is simply shorthand — we understand the unwritten ‘backstory’. You don’t want to recognize that the backstory (evidence) is there. Do we need (as AU asked rhetorically) to provide the causal evidence for EVERY statement EVERY time? there is not enough time for that.

    Also: You take umbrage at Au’s ‘labelling’ of US/THEM. Again – you may argue like a cretin, but the previous evidence is clear, the backstory has been written many times, there are TWO CAMPS: US = evidentiary; THEM = revelationary. Which part of that was unclear, and which part was ‘arbitrary label’?

    Funny. Have noted next to no “creationist anti-Darwin activity” in the entire nation I live in

    Which nation would that be? Because the wingnuts are active most everywhere (lots of reports – just google)! Just because it doesn’t show on your personal radar does not mean it is not there (remember evidence). Personal (lack of) knowledge does not (lack of) evidence make!

    Do you have anything to say that is not simply sophomore philosophy?

    No?

    Didn’t think so.

  220. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Hi tony (#233),

    Indeed being young is not “wrong”, as you put it. However, I do wonder how you got the impression that I was somehow against youth from what I wrote. Very strange…

    Perhaps it was because I was exercising a little sarcasm in repeatedly reminding Jared that he’s ONLY 24 years old. That approach CAN have a desirable ‘slap-in-the-face-WAKE-UP” effect…

    Now, to be sure, most bright people I know have matured sufficiently by that age, enough to have developed a mind of their own. But anybody who maintains the kind of infantile religiosity that Jared exhibited in that lovely post of his can be considered to have an equivalent intellectual age of between 6 and 12. That guy is a CHILD, and it should be pointed out to him by friends like me, who don’t like seeing their friends making incredibly foolish statements. Anybody who spouts garbage like that – if they are of any age – is a CHILD. Children often believe and do what they are told. I was just telling this particular child to wait a little while longer before he spouted off on stuff with such amazing certitude, conclusions which he could not possibly have arrived at without being coached by what he described as his “good friends”. Jared displays absolutely no hint of doubt. No skepticism except that emplaced by the Doctrine implanted in his mind. That’s a child thinking. Hadn’t you noticed?

    As for your peculiar charge that I have supplied any “anecdotes or personal revelations” in what I wrote (which I should “keep to myself”), I am at a total loss.

    But if you refer to my figures for the relative volumes and lifespans between the observable universe and the human-covered lozenge called “earth”, those are accurate. They are not anecdotal nor personal revelation. I calculated those figures from the factual evidence available to everyone. Check the figures for yourself.

    Yours truly, Arnosium

  221. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Oliver ‘O Oliver (that’s a clown that folks in Chicago will remember, #234) says: “If you want to claim the high ground, you should act that way. But frankly, a lot of your claims in this post seem to me as easily falsifiable.”

    What fucking “high ground”? What the hell are you looking at?

    Okay, bub, why don’t you just SHOW me and everybody else? Let’s see what you’ve got that you claim I haven’t.

    I’m with tony here.

  222. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Oliver. When I said, “there is absolutely no reason for supporting any idea that is based on a hypothetical premise that has ZERO evidentiary justification to support it from the natural world outside of our heads.”

    you replied,

    “FALSE. This is ONLY valid if qualified by “if said premise is based on the natural world outside of our heads”. If not, there is no reason to expect that we would find evidence there. It’s like searching on Venus for evidence for life on Mars.”

    IF??? What the heck are you talking about? Can’t you comprehend what you READ? SHOW ME YOUR “qualification” for anything outside of the natural world. Where the hell is it? Lets have a look-see, hmmm? I’m all eyes and ears. I’m sure everyone else is too. It would be a stupendous revelation, in every true sense of the word. Let’s have it.

    Incidently, searching on Venus for evidence of life on Mars (or vice versa) is not entirely as impossible as you so naively think. Impact debris from one planet CAN sprinkle upon other worlds with little trouble. On our planet (so far) we have identified meteorites that originated from our own moon, Mars and a number of identifiable asteroids. It is within the realm of realistic possibility (however remote) that such debris could have transported fossil evidence from Mars to Venus. (Of course, attempting to search the hell-hole surface of Venus for such evidence of past life on Mars would be ludicrous, although maybe not for you. Much “easier” simply to go to Mars to look for it directly).

    But never mind those – imagine what a potential treasure-trove of ANCIENT EARTH LIFE fossils our nearby moon may hold! Can’t begin to find any of that on our own planet owing to our world’s dynamic geology/hydrosphere/atmosphere over the last 4 billion years plus, which is a rather poor environment for preservation.

  223. Arnosium Upinarum says

    Oliver: “it is quite daring to suggest that anyone understanding empiricism and epistemology is a-religious.”

    Why are you interpreting what I said that way? How diabolically selective of you. I know lots of people who understand empiricism and epistomology that are both “a-religious” and religious. (Although I observe the latter to be a significantly smaller proprtion of the group).

    A more accurate interpretation of what I said (though not completely so) would be that I suggested that religious people don’t understand empiricism and epistemology. Generally speaking. Why? Because they don’t NEED to understand any fanciness like that. They are perfectly comfortable with what their chosen authority tells them to believe.

    But I have to wonder if that second alternative interpretation ever popped into your head, and IF it did whether you seriously entertained it or just rejected it because it didn’t resonate with your plan to show how wrong I am…if so, how “DARING” of you attempt pull that kind of fast one thinking nobody would notice. Nasty. Tell me: do you really imagine everyone is as stupid as you are? Or are simply unimaginative?

  224. says

    I didn’t realize that PZ Myers was an Atheist. Thanks for the heads-up! Now we know Everything he says is a LIE!

  225. Bill Westfield says

    OK, so I admit that I didn’t read this word for word, mostly because in what I did read I saw nothing that would indicate that you have seperated (or would have known how to seperate) faith from religion. Using the two interchangably has been the fastest way to dupe the masses ever conceived, and not knowing the difference would indicate that you’ve been duped.

    Also, if there is no God, as you seem to believe, then prove it.

    :)

  226. Tom A says

    To begin with, I must admit that I do not follow your blog, nor have I read the entirety of the post that I am responding to. That being said I have read enough to get the point, and I have a few comments that I would like to make.

    1. You seem to equate being “religious” (whatever THAT exactly means…I’ll assume that it means attending a worship house for God) with being an ignorant dumb fuck. That’s your prerogative. I would like to know if you are friends with anybody who attends a church, or if you would ever be WILLING to be friends with such a person?

    2. What definition are you using for God? The term God has been used throughout history to apply to a number of different concepts. ie the God of Spinoza is NOT the God of Leibniz.

    3. How exactly has science proved that there is not a God, or some form of ultimate intelligence? Could there be a willing, intelligent being that is more advanced than human beings? If so, then why could there not be an ultimate intelligence?

    4. Has science explained how something can come from nothing? I’m not an expert in the least, but I do stay abreast of important scientific findings and problems. To my knowledge there is currently not an accurate account of how physical matter can materialize from nothingness, but then again I would question whether there can even ever be “nothingness” in the first place. And if there cannot then this lends itself to there being a self-existent being. If the universe could be self-existent, doesn’t this lead logic to take you to the point of considering that the self-existent being exists OUTSIDE of the physical universe?

    Good Day

  227. Faith says

    Hi friend.

    Where is the proof that there is no God ?

    True Christians believe that human beings have their origin in the mind of an infinitely intelligent and benevolent Creator.

    Evolutionists insist that we are descendants of monkeys and a result of mindless accidents.

    While Christians worship a God of love, evolutionists worship the gods of Time and Chance.

    Consider this…

    Samuel F.B. Morse = inventor of the morse code

    Explosion of nothing caused by nothing = DNA code

    Supremely intelligent mind created complex life

    or

    Time and Chance created complex life.

    Christians believe in a more rational alternative.

    Mindless matter and processes cannot produce order and complexity of function.

    Why keep changing scientific laws to fit the latest theories ?

    Evidence is abundant that macroevolution is not taking place. On the contrary, just the opposite. Everything tends toward disorder and decay.

    Because many have been disappointed or hurt by false religion or some misrepresentation of God in the lives of hypocrites, they wrongly seek to do away with God altogether.

    Show N Tell

  228. Steve_C says

    Either the two goofballs above came from the same site to here…
    or they are the same person. Both of them are vapid.

  229. tony says

    Tom A: Lurker extraordinaire. Let me take a stab at responding to your little jabs

    1. “Religious” is following a “religion”

    1 a : the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion&rt; b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance
    2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices
    (c) Merriam Webster

    2. We use *your* definition for God — that which you worship. (In your case it appears to be a small dick)

    3. not.even.wrong. Science is not in the business of *proving* the absence of *supernatural entities*. If you want science to *consider* god, provide evidence. We’ll let you know.

    4. Quantum foam. (google it if you’d like more detail – there’s lots!)

    Apparently your knowledge is lacking in many areas.

    Next!

  230. sophia says

    I sent you an email. I hope you got it. I’m interested in what you think of it.

  231. tony says

    Bill Westfield @ 242

    1.. Religion (see above)
    2.. Faith: belief without evidence.

    Proof of God? We’re not making the extraordinary claim! It’s up to the god-believers to provide ‘proof of god’.

    Next?

  232. sophia says

    Why do so many people on this blog have issues with God and people who have chosen to love and obey him? There is no christian extremism problem in this country. Just because you cant see something doesnt mean it isnt there. Often times people only get to see God through his works. Science is of man and faith comes from God. Obviously i dont deny scientific facts but “facts” is the operative word here. Its not peoples job to try to prove there is a God; we arent meant to do that and cant anyway.People recognize truth through personal experience in relation to the big picture. Christians arent trying to impose on others but i see many atheists trying to impose their beliefs on christians. Not very liberal.

  233. kmarissa says

    Re #251.

    Now why was I just waiting for something like this ever since post #247? Oh yeah. I just remembered.

    There is no christian extremism problem in this country.

    Nothing to see here folks; move along, move along.

  234. tony says

    AU @ 236

    Sorry – just noticed
    As for your peculiar charge that I have supplied any “anecdotes or personal revelations” in what I wrote (which I should “keep to myself”), I am at a total loss.

    That’s my bad…. those comments were directed at Jared…. but I mistakenly left out the tag!

    Sophia@251

    Christians arent trying to impose on others

    WTF???? What planet do you live on???

    You want us to pray to your god, you want us to accept your words in our laws, on our currency, and in every facet of our lives…….

    how is this not *impose*?

  235. Anton Mates says

    There is no christian extremism problem in this country. Just because you cant see something doesnt mean it isnt there.

    Best instance of unintentional irony ever.

  236. sophia says

    Furthermore, Ive noticed many of the proud atheists throwing words around like “slaves” and “herd mentality” saying that people of faith are brainwashed but its the opposite.True christians will always be persecuted for their beliefs because it isnt like anything else. Its not being part of a herd; its standing out. Its not servitude; its freedom from the world. A lot of people on this blog seem like they are atheists because they are the ones who dont like the truth because it means that they might have to change the way they live. And no one’s gonna tell you how to live right? Especially not God, in fact lets just say there is no God so we dont have to live by rules based on love, selflessness, and grace. That way you only have to live for yourself and if theres no God then we’re the gods right? If we’re the gods then we dont have to answer to anyone about the way we live our lives (feeling no guilt) and we can say, through our own infallability, what is right and wrong. And then anyone who disagrees is just being weak; anyone who believes in others before self is an idiot, a sucker to be taken advantage of right? This is the real difference between the faith of God and the science of man: the goal of faith is to save people from themselves through humility; the goal of science is to save people through their own pride. I’m not saying science is bad. A lot of good comes from it and i am happy there are people involved in trying to make the world an easier place to live in and giving knowledge about our environment. However it is sad that our technology has surpassed our humanity for one another.

  237. kmarissa says

    Sophia, aren’t you risking a lawsuit for not placing (TM) after “True christians”?

  238. Bob says

    There is no christian extremism problem in this country.

    Please, give sophia a break. Maybe “this country” is Indonesia.

  239. tony says

    Sophia@255

    I’ll assume your intentions are honest and your statements are, from your perspective, true.

    Can you please help us understand how True christians will always be persecuted for their beliefs because it isnt like anything else an, while you’re at it – please provide some evidence for such a claim.

    We can point to many incidents where non-theists have been ‘persecuted’ for their lack of belief. Christians – not so much. Appreciate the help.

    You say that we’re athiests so we can say, through our own infallability, what is right and wrong. Just where did you come up with this pearl of wisdom? I’ve never seen *any* evidence to support such a claim. Everyone I’ve seen posting here regarding morals have demonstrated (as expected in any population) a wide variation in ‘moral stance’. I certainly have never seen any claims of infallibility. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence…. and there’s been none of that as far as I can see – can you provide links, citations, examples?

    And then anyone who disagrees is just being weak; anyone who believes in others before self is an idiot, a sucker to be taken advantage of right? Unfortunately this is *so* misguided I don’t even know wher to start. How about looking around at your own evangelical brethren before you sling epithets like these…. pot.kettle.black.

    the goal of science is to save people through their own pride. NOT! The goal of science… is science. That’s it. It is self serving. Luckily, there are a *lot* of beneficial side effects. There are some less-beneficial side effects too, but those mostly are due to our own immaturity, not the fault of science.

    I’d suggest that you read some more, and try to understand the posts here and in other threads, before making another post. Perhaps that way you’ll be in a position to actually contribute to the dialog constructively.

    Thanks :)

  240. Bob says

    Sophia @ 255

    Does this form of rambling non-sequitor work on you? Really, not much there beyond the echoes of talking points.

    Sorry if I’m persecuting you, nothing personal, I’m an evil atheist and can’t help it. [eyeroll]

  241. cyan says

    Sophia, you stated:
    “the goal of science is to save people through their own pride”

    Where in the world did you get that false idea?

  242. sophia says

    I dont want you to accept my beliefs i want you to respect them, tony. I respect your beliefs because thats how i would like to be treated. And it is not imposing to have IN GOD WE TRUST on our coins. Please explain to me why that offends you. If you are an atheist shouldnt this just make you laugh? Its not hurting you and last time i checked its not immoral to believe in God. It does hurt other people when they are told they cant talk about their own faith but atheists are allowed to say there is no God. This is hypocrisy dont you see? Oh and to the 2 people who commented on my christian extremism comment, I do see the irony and as a christian i can still laugh at it, Mates.Also extremism isnt saying i dont think gay marriage should be legal. Extremism is being charged with a hate crime for saying that. Thank the ACLU for that kind of bs. An example of christian extremism is executing people who arent like you i. e. the Inquisition but thats not waht is going on in this country. The people who do things like that are not true christians. Unfortunately they give us all a bad name

  243. abeja says

    Also extremism isnt saying i dont think gay marriage should be legal.

    Yes it is you dumbfuck. Supporting laws that discriminate against people for their sexual orientation is absurdly extreme, considering that the justification for such support comes from a fictional book about a fictional sky fairy.

  244. tony says

    Sophia

    If you’ve read ANY of my other posts, here or elsewhere, you’ll realize that I comment with respect – where earned. respect is not a right — you need to earn it. I will grant you provisional respect if you are yourself respectful… but not otherwise.

    Re imposition and IN GOD WE TRUST.

    Let me ask you a question in return. If we decided to eliminate the whole god schtick and instead chose the FSM & his purply noodly appendages as appropriately silly to represent us (since all seriously sane people are also seriously silly… silly is a serious business). Would you object to the *imposition* of IN FSM WE TRUST on our currency?

    Why should *your* beliefs be considered so important that they get a place of honor on *our* currency?

    It’s not that I *can’t* ignore it. It’s that I should not *need* to ignore it.

    regarding ‘extremism’: perhaps you need a dictionary – because extreme is not synonymous with killer. extreme is not a disagreement that doesn’t fit *your* world view.

    Lookit – a hate crime is any crime that attempts to foment disenfranchisement of any citizen(s) from exercise of their rights by reference to a ‘difference’ that is founded upon denigration of the individual, their person, their peers, their race, their creed, of their origin.

    Now — I (as an athiest) could be charged with a hate crime if I attempt to stop you exercising your rights (such as free assembly) by (perhaps) organizing rallies and parades and protests against your assembly as being a ‘hotbed of fundamentalists’ and ‘immoral and unamerican’… or even just ‘they’re trying to mindwipe our kids’

    The difference is — I wouldn’t. Nor would most atghiests. Not worth the bother. Go ahead. Knock yourself out. But if you DID try to brainwipe kids, we’d be on you in a moment.

    Extreme is anything ‘not normal or commonplace’. From that perspective — you seem to be quite the ‘extreme christian’ with your viewpoint and all. But – that wasn’t what you intended, was it?

    The mainstrean christian is like most other religious practitioners…. following the motions, enjoying the ‘comfort’ of belief.. perhaps even enjoying the social cameraderie.

    The extremists are those who believe in innerrancy, who believe that their sect is the ‘one true faith’, and that all others are heretic.

    that covers quite a lot of the religious right.

    ps. It would help us if you could get some name-badges. We find it hard to know which ‘brand’ of true christians’ we’re talking to…

  245. sophia says

    I dont think youre evil, bob. I just think the underlying concept of what you believe is evil because of what it suggests. I named a few earlier. I am also aware this is not Indonesia but thanks for reminding me. Cyan, i didnt mean all science, just certain branches of it that try to place people in a god-like authority. I was mostly referring to times when scientists cross moral boundaries for the sake of progress. Yes i realize these instances are rare so lets just drop that.Tony, im not going to respond about your second alleged point because its too ridiculous.As for christians being persecuted, that is a historical fact so wheres your beef? I will explain why christianity is different than any other but in the next post. Btw if you have a world full of people who dont believe in anything but themselves than there is going to be a “wide variation in moral stance.”

  246. Kseniya says

    [E]xtremism isnt saying i dont think gay marriage should be legal. Extremism is being charged with a hate crime for saying that. Thank the ACLU for that kind of bs.

    No. I call Strawman. There’s BS here, yes, but it’s your statement.

    Show me one case – ONE – where a person was charge with a hate crime for stating the opinion that gay marriage should not be legal.

    Did everyone who voted at the polls in the many states that had marriage amendment questions on their ballots over the past couple of years get charged with a hate crime? I don’t think so. Your example of secular extremism doesn’t even exist. Don’t expect to sway anyone to your point of view by employing pure fiction. It won’t work here.

    The ACLU is far from perfect, but it’ll be the last bastion of extra-governmental protection for our civil liberties if it ever comes down to it. Don’t forget that.

    “In God We Trust” should not be on the currency. “One nation under God” should not be in the Pledge. You should be able to argue this point of view before you’re qualified to argue your own.

  247. Bob says

    In god We Trust is on our money because it was made our national motto in the 1950s. Whose god would that be? WTF was wrong with “e pluribus unum”. Likewise “under god” in the pledge of allegiance – added in the 1950s, to an oath created by a…SOCIALIST!

    And as mentioned somewhere recently (upthread?) we don’t respect your beliefs, but we generally tolerate them. You personally can earn someone’s respect, but your beliefs can only be tolerated.

    You have so much more to thank the ACLU for than you could ever realize.

  248. tony says

    Tom A:

    re (2) Yes rude (intentionally so). Uncalled for by you, perhaps, but it’s a road we’ve all been down before…many, many, many times. If I offended you personally – sorry, but…

    What is *rude* is posting such a statement on a blog that already had your answer multiple times. RTFC then comment!

    Re (3). No fair — you can’t change the question mid stream. I’ll accept another question, however. Answer – scientists are not *hostile* to god… are you *hostile* to the easter bunny, or to santa, or to tom thumb, or to alice in wonderland? We can’t be *hotile* to something in which we don’t believe. We *can* be irritatedly indifferent!

    (4) not.even.wrong. you asked for theories that supported ‘something from nothing’. that’s what you got. You did not ask how that would support evidence for god. (see answer to (3) which you apparently are OK with)

  249. Rey Fox says

    “Btw if you have a world full of people who dont believe in anything but themselves than there is going to be a “wide variation in moral stance.” ”

    As opposed to this world, where we all think the same. *facepalm*

    I have to wonder where you got this idea that to not believe in some authoritarian god means to believe in nothing but “yourself”. I believe in humanity. I believe that with six billion people on this world with no other world on which to live better think about how to get along with each other and in some way provide for the welfare of the greater body of humanity. You whine about being persecuted, but you seem to have no problem insulting atheists and impugning their moral system (or perceived lack thereof). We’re not going to scream that we’re offended over it, but it’s still telling. It’s like you just can’t imagine being in anyone else’s place. Your reaction to Tony’s thought experiment regarding currency (I assume that’s what you were referring to as being “too ridiculous”), but all he’s asking you is how you’d feel if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak. It’s telling that you can’t even entertain that notion in your head.

  250. Kseniya says

    Tony, I am hostile to the Easter Bunny, who didn’t leave me a coconut egg when I was eight. Damn him! Damn him to Hell!

  251. tony says

    Kseniya: I am personally hostile to the easter bunny, ever since I had to be photographer at a neighborhood easter party. You’d think that the big bun would have made it easy to get beautifully photogenic images of happy smiling children…. NOT. Trees & bushes in the way. fist fights. outright theft. crying. general mayhem.

    (and that was just the parents!)

    Never again. Struck off my list, forever!

  252. sophia says

    Number one, abeja, i am not a dumbfuck. You are however a clearly angry and bitter person. I didnt say it was wrong; God did. I personally dont see anything truly immoral about it but God didnt intend for it. Im sorry if that hurts you but calling me a dumbfuck isnt going to make wrong become right. Tony everyone deserves respect to a certain degree. C’mon dont be so heartless people. Our coins say what they say because of our founding fathers and its in respect and pride that we keep these traditions to remember how we got here and why got this land in the first place. Are you telling me that it actually does offend you? And how can you say that believing one way is the only right way is extreme? When it comes to both science and God,there is only one right answer. You believe your atheism is the truth; I believe my way is the truth. If most christians see it as “following motions and enjoying social cameraderie” then they arent really christians. Thats not what this is about.

  253. Kseniya says

    Rey, well put.

    Sophia. Perhaps you’ve heard of Thomas Jefferson. He wrote these words in a letter to Thomas Law, dated June 13, 1814. Read this passage, and then please tell me what you think about it. Thanks.

    “If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such thing exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit: their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, D’Alembert, D’Holbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than love of God.”

  254. tony says

    Sophia: As I mentioned before – you get respect if you deserve it. We respect people who READ before posting…

    It’s not heartless to withhold respect until earned, nor to demand that respect be earned.

    The motto on our currency has nothing to do with our founding fathers (see Bob’s comment at 236)

    Re: god & gay marriage: it’s amazing how Xians seem to cherry pick… Check your clothes. Are you wearing mixed fibers? Why is one a ‘sacred instruction’ & not the other?

    Re god & truth: I don’t believe ‘atheism’ is the ‘truth’ – whatever that is… I do think that belief in god is…ignorant, deluded, wicked, foolish, or evidence you are an oppressed victim of obsolete mythologies … in common with many other athiests (our good host, included)

    Once again: and this is your THIRD turn at bat.

    READ.THE.POSTS. THINK about them. FORMULATE a comment, if you wish. but don;t be surpirsed if we get very very antsy, very very quickly. We’ve been there before (as you’ll see if you READ.THE.POSTS!)

  255. Kseniya says

    Our coins say what they say because of our founding fathers and …

    Ack! NO THEY DO NOT! Sophia… You’re in over your head. I don’t know how else to put it.

    Being short on information does not make one stupid. However, being short on information and refusing to take steps to change that situation is, arguably, stupid. Willful ignorance is the root of all evil. Errr… ok, maybe not the root of all evil, but it does no good to anybody.

    Really. Trust me. I’m not your enemy. You can’t argue these points if you have most of the relevant facts wrong.

    I recommend that you:

    1. Learn where Jefferson, Adams, Monroe, and Washington stood on Christianity, freedom of religion, and the notion of a secular government and society.

    2. Learn when “In God We Trust” was added to our currency – and why.

    3. Learn when “one nation, under God” was added to the Pledge – and why.

    4. Take a break, have dinner, relax. :-)

  256. tony says

    sorry. typo fairies got me…..

    RE ‘currency & quotes’ thats Bob @ 268

    surpised == surprised

    :)

  257. tony says

    Kseniya

    I’ll take your advice. And give Sophia some time to digest our indigestible atheistic ramblings. Maybe when I come back she’ll have undergone ‘morhic reconfiguration’ and be full of sweetness and light, and also reasoned, informed argument… (and maybe not – but at least I’ll have had some dinner!)

  258. Kseniya says

    Oh. Please add Ben Franklin to item 1. He’s the most fun of the bunch anyways. ;-)

    Tony, LOL @ your easter photog story. :-D

  259. sophia says

    Why can my beliefs not be respected bob? Because they arent yours or because theres nothing to “prove it?” Rey Fox, I’m not trying to offend any of you. All of you are being extremely rude and hostile to me. You dont see me throwing caustic litte comments your way. Profanity is the attempt of weak mind to express strength. That quote isnt word for word but you get it. I am not whining about being persecuted either. Also you were wrong about what i called ridiculous but it doesnt matter what i was referring to you would beat me down anyway. You talk about being openminded but you all had labeled down pat the second i said i believe differently. You claim to believe in humanity. “I believe that with six billion people on this world with no other world on which to live better think about how to get along with each other and in some way provide for the welfare of the greater body of humanity.” Well how do you expect to do that when you cant even talk to me without being vicious? Btw if everyone just practiced the basic christian principle of the golden rule what you were talking about would be a reality.

  260. Bob says

    Sophia, the golden rule is not uniquely christian (and not so often practiced by “christians”).

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethic_of_reciprocity

    This is how I am using ‘respect’:
    Respect
    Function: transitive verb
    1 a : to consider worthy of high regard : ESTEEM

    So I cannot “respect” a belief I have no regard for.

    And this is how I am using ‘tolerate’:

    tol·er·ate
    Function: transitive verb
    2 a : to allow to be or to be done without prohibition, hindrance, or contradiction b : to put up with

    Nothing personal, just a usage issue.

  261. Sophia says

    Ok, you all are right that i dont know as much as you about the very influential people you named. I said not as much, not nothing so dont get too pleased. I am probably a lot younger than all of you so i havent had as much time to learn. I appreciate you trying to help with that but the cruelty is not necessary. But i just dont understand why you all are so vehemently against God who is love. How does that have no affect on your souls whatsoever? Do you understand what it really is? Im sorry their hypocrites and hatemongers masquerading as christians who are upsetting you but thats why the bible says we will be known by our love. Its not about restricting other people. There certain things that are just wrong and everybody knows it in their hearts. We believe in free choice but we cant help but want to help others thats all. But not by force obviously.

  262. Bob says

    sophia, we start from “God? What is this god? Show me sumpn real.”

    So show us some god evidence. If you cannot feel love before first believing in a god, I for one feel sorry for you. There is.no.compelling.reason *for* a god.

  263. sophia says

    Bob you may shocked but i actually did know that the golden rule exists in other faiths. I was just trying to point out one of the many principles of christianity that if followed by all people would result in the most hate-free, addiction-free, crime-free society possible.See the whole thing is about mind over matter. All the problems in the world arise from one thing: people. But what about people exactly is the question to which my faith has a simple answer and a hard solution. to accept. Thats why the path is less traveled.

  264. Bob says

    “But i just dont understand why you all are so vehemently against God who is love.”

    Sophia, I am not against god. Just like I am not against Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty or Cthulu.

  265. Bob says

    PS Sophia, I would not consider the golden rule a bedrock of christian direction. OT is full of the most gruesome, but justified, ill treatment you could wish for. Unless that part isn’t for True Christians.

  266. tony says

    Sophia

    You admit you are young. Then all we can ask is that you take the gifts that you believe god gave to you – your abilities to read, to think, and to reason, and simply *use* them.

    Nothing more.

    We all got here by different paths, but they all had one thing in common – reason.

    I’m sorry you feel that we are attacking you, or that we are being vicious – spend some time here reading and you’ll see why we are not so tolerant of wilful ignorance.

    We are *very* tolerant of inquiring ignorance.

    We are intolerant of xians falling back on ‘the book’ as a ‘gotcha’ answer to every argument.

    Evidence – causal and verifiable evidence _ is extremely import to us, as it should be to you … You depend on verifiable evidence every day… (You trust the sun to rise… Why? Why is it so regular? Will it change?)

    Please do us the courtesy of following our hosts “house rules”.

    That means – evidence and honesty. It does not mean false modesty. It does not mean personal attacks. Attacking ideas is perfectly fine. Pointing out that someone may be deluded, etc., for holding demonstrably misguided ideas is also acceptable. Doing so while ‘educating’ is high karma..

  267. sophia says

    Dont put words in my mouth, bob. I said God is love not you cant experience it until you believe in God. There are many forms of love but God personifies pure love. I already told you that i cant go out and measure God and prove he exists. It is by faith and faith alone. There are things you can see in personal and public life that i would call reinforcements of that faith but the proof you want cannot be shown to you by anyone except God himself and i think even then you would still not belive.I hope you will see before its too late or then i will be the one feeling very sorry for you.

  268. kmarissa says

    Sophia, others have already said this, but people around here would really be a LOT less profane if you actually read all the comments before posting something yourself, and stopped to think about them, and then replied, in full, to others’ questions. I mean, the currency thing was a prime example. You were already told you were wrong, but went ahead and repeated your misinformation anyway. Whether this is because you didn’t read the post explaining your error, or simply ignored it, is something that only you know. But if you’re that bothered by profanity, you can start by not doing something so thoughtless. Furthermore, you have yet to answer the FSM question.

    Second, I know you don’t believe this, but I promise promise PROMISE you that we’ve all heard this before. Literally. Every single thing that you’ve said, we’ve heard before, we’ve thought about, and we’ve often WRITTEN about. Forgive me for saying so, but you obviously don’t know anything about atheism. There’s nothing wrong with not knowing about or understanding atheism; ignorance is normal where you haven’t been exposed to something before. But for the love of god (or whatever), do at least a LITTLE reading on the subject. If you really want to convince someone, you have to understand their point of view, right? It does you no favors that in virtually every post you completely mangle the atheist point of view. How do you expect to convince us that we’re wrong, if you don’t even know what we think we’re right about?

    I’m sure many people here could point you to links that explain any aspect of atheism that you want to understand. But really, we can’t make you learn. Only you can do that.

  269. tony says

    Sophia:
    you admit you can’t *prove* god

    we are not interested in ‘revelation’ only ‘evidence’.

    if you want to proselytize, there are many more fruitful fields to sow that Phanyngula (or do you get more kudos for godless liberals?)

    Anyhoo… as I said earlier – all contributions to ‘dialog’ are welcome. proselytizing we’ll simply make fun of.

    let me repeat your last post in the way we ‘parse’ it…

    I said [boojum] is love not you cant experience it until you believe in [boojum]. There are many forms of love but [boojum] personifies pure love. I already told you that i cant go out and measure [boojum] and prove he exists. It is by [non evidentiary personal revelation] and [non evidentiary personal revelation] alone. There are things you can see in personal and public life that i would call reinforcements of that [non evidentiary personal revelation] but the proof you want cannot be shown to you by anyone except [boojum] himself and i think even then you would still not belive.I hope you will see before its too late or then i will be the one feeling very sorry for you.

  270. kmarissa says

    Okay Sophia. God is love. But see, to us atheists, we read the Bible and look at all the horrible things that God has done to his own people, and it’s impossible for us to believe that “God is love”. If a PERSON had done even a fraction of the things that God has done, we would call him a sociopathic killer, not “love.” I mean, what about poor Job, just to start? How can we respect a God that acts so pitiless, vindictive, and sadistic to the people he supposedly loves?

    See, as I said, if you don’t understand the atheist perspective, you can say “God is love” til you’re blue in the face, but we’re just not going to believe you because we’ve already heard that, thought about it, and realized that we didn’t believe it.

  271. Bob says

    Sophia, thanks, my bad, I didn’t mean to put words in your mouth.

    BTW, how much longer do I have before it’s too late? ;)

  272. sophia says

    I understand your points tony. Thank you for being civil to me. I didnt realize I was being modest but if it was it wasnt false. I truly mean to be sincere not sarcastic or mean. I guess this place is meant for people to discuss facts and the nonexistence of possibilities. I personally think the two working together is a better way but then again i always loved the humanities better than the sciences. I just saw this blog and thought it would be interesting to share information and opinions. Though most people who gave information were nasty about it, that doesnt mean the info has to got to waste.Btw does being an atheist mean you dont believe souls and the conscience? That was a serious question.

  273. tony says

    Sophia

    You show glimmerings of hope….

    being athiest is not about ‘belief’ it is about ‘evidence’

    Therefore: We accept ‘theories of consciousness’ that include meta-functional behaviors that are often called by the term ‘conscience’. this isn’t the best blog to discuss that, as such, although (as godless liberals with a large dose of chutzpah) we’ll all likely give it a go!

    Re: souls: see my points above regarding evidence -v- revelation.

    you ‘believe’ in souls. We’ve never seen – nor been offered – evidence for souls that survived scrutiny or review. therefore (again) this is not the ideal place to ‘discuss’ souls as a belief…however we’d be very interested in understanding why *you* believe in a soul… and perhaps helping you self-identify sources for further reading that might just give you pause.

    regarding ‘info’: Please see my, and Kseniya’s, earlier posts regarding reading the previous posts.

    Information that is *new* and *unusual* is intriguing – even if we don’t agree with the premise…
    Information that is barely re-heated, 4-day-old hash…. not so!

    so – the value of ‘info’ is definitely relative (although please don’t suggest to anyone that I might be a relativist!)

    Have a happy life.

    We’d like to see you back – in a real spirit of inquiry and learning. If you decide you’d rather proselytize … then my earlier warning stands – expect to be funned!

  274. cyan says

    Sophia,
    I do not believe in “souls”.

    From Wikipedia: “Conscience is an ability or faculty or sense that leads to feelings of remorse when we do things that go against our moral values, or which informs our moral judgment before performing such an action.”

    So I certainly have a conscience. Before you ask: my morals are based on deciding right from wrong due to the ability we all(or almost all)have to empathize with others.

  275. sophia says

    Thanks for the constructive citicism,kmarissa. Im not a fast typer. I didnt think me not responding to the money thing mattered, but about your question, Tony,why should my belief take priority over yours? Honestly I dont think theres any reason it should; it just so happens it does. I really think there are things like that because here the majority rules. Its obey the majority protect the minority. I guess subjectively I think its right but objectively I cant say its right on principle. But before i asked does it really offend you? If not why cant you let it go? Do you really think its that big of an injustice or is it on principle. I am sorry i pissed all of you off though. I thought i could help or something. Kmarissa, i really think your wrong about Job. Read the story again with an open mind but more importantly an open heart. Bob only God knows when its too late but i say this with nothing but christian concern and love: It aint nothing to smile about buddy

  276. bPer says

    sophia asked:

    Btw does being an atheist mean you dont believe souls and the conscience? That was a serious question.

    Now that’s being respectful and polite, and if you keep it up, we’ll respond in kind. Start proselytizing again and you’ll get more of what you’ve already received.

    To answer your questions, atheists see no evidence for the existence of a soul, so we regard the soul as just part of the mythology of your religion. Provide us with proof of its existence and we’ll start believing in it. As for conscience, as you asking if we have a personal morality? If so, yes, atheists have morals. In fact, we may be more moral than your average Christian, because we have to live with our moral transgressions for the rest of our lives, where Christians have that convenient “get out of jail free card”, absolution.

    I’d like to echo what kmarissa said, and suggest, if you are sincere in your desire to have a dialog with us, step back and do some research about atheism and then come back. And I’m not talking about the lies your church tells about atheism. Check out the atheists websites (e.g. Ebon Musings), and maybe even some books on it written by atheists (e.g. Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion). If you still want to engage us, come back and join in. If you have sincere questions (like above but not so basic), I’m sure we can help.

  277. tony says

    Sophia:

    Let’s not go through this again.

    I.do.not.have.a.belief… you do! I demand evidence – you accept ‘faith’.

    why should my belief take priority over yours? … it just so happens it does.

    There is the crux of the matter. Xians have a hegemony therefore see no reason to adjust mindset or accept that other mindsets might be reasonable or admissable.

    obey the majority protect the minority

    politically, I *might* be persuaded to agree…. from a ‘religious’ perspective – not so much otherwise, one day, we’ll all be rubbing blue mud in our bellies and chanting to JahJAh!

    why cant you let it go

    why can’t Xians stop pushing for homogeneity (apparently the only homo allowed, eh?)

    i really think your wrong about Job. Read the story again with an open mind but more importantly an open heart.

    backatcha… try reading the story without your new-age god filter in place (try it with a more ‘biblical’ mind-set, if you will). Not pretty – and BTW almost *every* commentator Xian or not agrees with kmarissa on the ‘bloodthirsty’ nature of Job — Xian’s mostly subscribe to apologetics or allegory to explain the story… non Xians just see a bloodthirsty, cruel, pitiless, vindictive, and sadistic god taking it out on one of his playthings — about par for the course for bronze-age gods.

    We’re being very patient with you, here. Either start trying, or we’ll start in on the funnin’ in earnest.

    Last warning girl!

  278. kmarissa says

    Sophia, if you think I’m wrong about Job, please explain to me why I’m wrong. Believe me, reading it again won’t make me change my mind; the words are going to be the same the second time as the first. But that was just one example. Even you have to admit that there is a lot of bloodshed in the Bible, and that much of it is ordered by God.

    As to why we’re upset about currency, the government has no business putting religious content on coins. The wall between government and religion is a method OF protecting the minority. The government prevents religious coercion by staying out of religion all together. At least it’s supposed to. Perhaps you would be indifferent if we changed the coins to read, “In Zeus we Trust,” but I can tell you that a LOT of other Christians would be very upset. And they’d be right to; the government shouldn’t be picking a God (any God) and printing it on all our money. Our government is supposed to be secular.

    Also, just a hint. Since we’re atheists, we don’t believe in hell. So anything you say about it being “too late,” well, we’re not going to give it a second thought unless you have some evidence that hell actually exists. Frankly, considering the vast number of gods and goddesses that have come and gone over the years, chances are pretty big that you’re worshiping the wrong one. In which case, you better realize that before it’s too late.

  279. sophia says

    I think the reason I believe in souls isnt going to mean much to you but i just feel it as a truth. Yes i realize you all think thats ridiculous but gut instincts save lives people. Maybe depending on the progress of technology it could actually be proved if your soul is your essence or energy. Energy can be measured right. It doesnt matter though if it cant be proved to me. If someone can actually disprove it then it would be different. Tony, you believe in karma?

  280. tony says

    Sophia

    Giving it another name doesn’t change the game…

    You can be hindu and talk about bardos, or Xian and talk about heaven and hell. You can be new-age and talk about ‘fluxes’ or ‘morphic fields’ or ‘chrystal energies’… We.don’t.care. what you call it. Provide evidence – we’ll assess the evidence — and we’ll be *very* eager to have some, believe me!

    But to answer your question, simply: no.

    to rephrase your penultimate comment: if anyone could actually *prove* it, then it would be different!

    you see we have a saying here (and in science in general)

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence!

    (note — that is not “extraordinary rebuttal of claims requires evidence”)

    enjoy. And I can only entreat you to go read. read about atheism. Read about other religions. read about your *own* religion… just read more than one book!

    then come back and chat.

  281. sophia says

    bPer, my question about if atheists believe in souls and the conscience wasnt me trying to be mean it really was serious. Also christianity does not have a get out of jail free card why are so nasty and quick to judge? Do you really know that much about christianity? God gives grace to everybody; we dont have to live with our transgressions because Jesus took them for us. Tony if you read the posts you asked me in the currency question why does your belief take priority over mine? You said it not me. If you read the other post I actually agreed with you about it not being fair really. The majority/minority thing was a saying I heard. It was supposed to be satire. I wasnt denying that Job was gory; I just think you might have missed the point of it. One thing i would like to point out,kmarissa, is that if there is no god then there is no too late for me it doesnt matter if i believe my dog is a god ok? This is it though both bPer and Tony stop with these childish threats please. I’m young but even I know that positive reinforcement works better than negative. How can you say dont get personal Tony when you get personal with me and then blast me when i was agreeing with you on a point. What bothers me most is that i cant even ask a sincere question or agree with one of you without still getting slammed. So what does that imply. THINK HARD.

  282. sophia says

    Kmarissa, i would like to understand what exactly youre trying to say about job. Are you saying if God is love than why did he allow job to suffer? Maybe on a different blog would be better cuz it seems that other than to you my questions and agreements come off as sarcastic. I would like to learn more about what you believe but certain people are really turning me off to it by their actions; probably how most christians make them feel ironically enough. No wonder we all cant agree.

  283. kmarissa says

    Sophia, it DOES make it too late for you if you picked the wrong god to worship, doesn’t it? In fact, no matter what kind of Christian you are, there are a bunch of OTHER Christians that think you’re going to hell for not believing their particular version. This was all in order to illustrate to you why it’s pointless to us to tell us that we should change our mind before it’s too late. Even if we did change our minds, how would we know which god or gods to believe in?

    And honestly, I think you’re being a bit too touchy to post here. Yes, people have been harsh to you earlier in this thread. Personally, I think it was justified, but it obviously bothers you. But why (seriously), when PBer and Tony did nothing but actually answer your questions in an honest and sincere way, even though they are BASIC questions for which you would know the answer if you even read a few basic overviews of atheism, are you saying people are slamming you? You asked a question, and multiple people answered you. Not only answered you, but explained that this was the RIGHT way to go about posting here, rather than the rants you started off with. I’ve read all the posts, and I really don’t have any idea what you’re referring to when you complain about “childish threats” and “get[ting] personal.” Tony and PBer have been nothing but polite for at least the past few posts.

    Oh, and by the way, “we dont have to live with our transgressions because Jesus took them for us” is exactly what was meant by a “get out of jail free” card. It means, Christians never ever have to take the blame for anything bad that they do. Atheists know that acting unethically is something we’ll have to deal with for potentially the rest of our lives; it doesn’t just disappear because we want it to.

  284. bPer says

    Sophia said @ #303:

    Maybe depending on the progress of technology it could actually be proved if your soul is your essence or energy. Energy can be measured right. It doesnt matter though if it cant be proved to me. If someone can actually disprove it then it would be different.

    Be careful talking about “energy”. That is a scientific term, but it is also misused – deliberately – by pseudoscientific charlatans and New Age mystics. Whenever you hear someone taking about energy outside the context of physics, be very skeptical.

    Also, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim (here that the soul or lifeforce or whatever exists), not the skeptic.

    Finally, I got a chuckle out of the first sentence of the quote. Google “god of the gaps” and perhaps you’ll understand why – you’re wishing that your god gets a bit smaller.

  285. tony says

    Sophia

    Its late and this is on my blackberry – so ecuse any brevity…

    However
    1. I engaged in no personal attackes – I referenced your comments and responded in a very reasonable way… We’ve been more than patient here.

    2. If you want to engage in satire at least give a hint (a smily would do). Satire in the midst of undifferentiated text does not parse easily. Esp when you had previously shown no satirical bent.

    3. Please refrain from idiotic strawmen – if you want to understand atheism go read about it as kmarissa suggested – don’t engage in puerile commentary (dog is god, indeed)

    4. Please follow our previous, and your own final advice – and think hard, we”ve already done that. Many years. Many tribulations. (None job like, thankfully, at least for me – but some others had a much harder time)

    I hope you will finally stop with the ‘auto comment’ and start in on some rationality.

    Thanks

    Appreciate you taking the time to read and understand. Sleep on it. For a while!

    2.

  286. Rey Fox says

    I didn’t mean to come off as vicious. But like others have said, we’ve heard these things before. You most certainly were talking about Christians being persecuted, and this is something that automatically gets my goat. In other times, and in the present in other countries, Christians are persecuted, but in today’s America? They have a president who panders to them, numerous talking heads on the radio and TV that thump (at least nominally) Christian values, and they have a virtual stranglehold on our views of morality. I would go so far as to say that a good solid majority of people in this country think that those who worship no gods cannot be moral, and quite a few who think that those who don’t worship the correct god cannot be moral, and this is something that bothers me.

    I won’t say it “offends” me, because I don’t think that way, but it’s something that could be a stumbling block in my relationships with other people; not getting a fair shake because they think I’m some sort of hedonist. I’ll believe you when you say you weren’t intending to offend anyone (and like I said, I doubt anyone is legitimately offended), but this is a common thought problem among Christians who come to this board: they whine about how mean we are, and then leave parting shots like “those who believe in nothing will believe in anything”. It just strikes me as disingenuous, and the feeling that they’re trying to “convert” us is always there.

  287. kmarissa says

    Sophia, I realize that you posted #306 before you were able to see my #307. But let me say again that I really don’t think anyone is being sarcastic with you at this point, just explaining as clearly as we are able to.

    Letting Job (or anyone) suffer is something I find very detrimental to the concept of a “loving God,” yes. But the worse point in Job is that God wasn’t just letting Job suffer, he was MAKING Job suffer. I am glad that you want to discuss these things. Please don’t be offended by this, but most people that we have come in and post something like the very first long post that you made here, simply make a few “drive-by” posts like that above and then disappear for a few months before coming back. They obviously have no intention of any kind of dialogue. But I really do think that before having a conversation of this nature, even on another blog, it would be a good idea for you to do just a bit of reading about what atheism means. I’m not even going to suggest a book, although that’s a wonderful place to start. Just a few online articles wouldn’t take much time and would probably help you understand a lot of the basics that you appear to be wondering about.

  288. Bob says

    doesnt matter if i believe my dog is a god ok

    true enough, it is your right to believe whatever you want. The problem becomes when folks with those beliefs insist everyone follow them. Consider it freedom from religion.

    Back in the day, when the Roman empire was a big deal, they had freedom of religion. Everyone pretty much got to worship whatever gods they had. Unfortunately, in order to push emperor worship, emperors were occasionally declared gods. And everyone had to worship them, as well as their own gods. This didn’t sit too well among the jews and christians. Freedom OF religion, without freedom FROM religion.

  289. bPer says

    Sophia said @ #305:

    bPer, my question about if atheists believe in souls and the conscience wasnt me trying to be mean it really was serious. Also christianity does not have a get out of jail free card why are so nasty and quick to judge? Do you really know that much about christianity?

    You have seriously mis-interpreted what I said. I was not being nasty or judgmental. I applaud your effort to engage us civilly, and am responding in kind.

    First, I come from a Christian family, and in fact, my father was a minister in the United Church of Canada. I was taught that if I repent my sins, they will be forgiven. Weren’t you taught the same thing? Atheists don’t get that luxury; we have to live with our bad behaviour as best we can. It is a powerful incentive to live a moral life.

    bPer and Tony stop with these childish threats please.

    I was not threatening you. As I said, I am happy that your tone has changed, and we are now having a fruitful discussion, IMO. We’ve all seen theists start a civil conversation as a pretext to get in some preaching (think JWs). I was warning you not to try that. Respect will be reciprocated, as will disrespect.

  290. tony says

    Rey: thanks for the post – you said it much more clearly that I could.

    Kmarissa: you are demonstrating a very compassionate attitude – I just hope it is reciprocated

    Bob: Thanks for the background — and for making a much better commentary on ‘Dog as God’ that I could or would.

    Anyway — I had tt respond. Equally, I need to go to sleep — I have a 4am start tomorrow to make my flight!

  291. kmarissa says

    Good luck making the flight Tony. Shouldn’t you already be in bed?

    I try to hit the sack around 9 a.m. the previous day for a bright and early 4 a.m. start. But then I’m not a morning person.

  292. Tara says

    Although I do not agree with your beliefs (or lack thereof), I am not going to sit here and call you names or yell and scream about what you believe or don’t believe. Obviously, we are all entitled to our own opinions. But just because someone thinks something is weird or whacky doesn’t mean that it is. One person’s opinion is not the end all, be all of anything. I love science……I always have. The area I’ve ALWAYS loved is Astronomy. But, ironically enough, I am a Christian. I don’t know how to explain it other than that to the very core of my being, I feel that there is a God. And just as you think that’s weird or makes me a crazy person, my opinion is that NOT believing is weird…..which I am also entitled to believe. As far as proving that God exists, there is no proof either way. Christians don’t need proof. We have faith. I, personally, believe that there will NEVER be hard, scientific proof of God’s existence because He gave us free will to decide for ourselves what to believe….and we must have faith that what we believe it true. And, to that end, I don’t believe he will allow his existence to be proven. So, for you to say “I said it because it’s true” is going a bit far. Better would have been “I said it because I think it’s true and it’s what I believe”. I know that I will never be able to change your mind or the mind of any other atheist about what they believe just as they will never be able to change my mind about what I believe. But I do support and respect your right to believe whatever you want and speak about whatever you believe, but honestly I think that name calling is a bit childish just as throwing a tantrum about what someone else says is a bit childish. I am not crazy because I believe in God. And I don’t think you’re crazy because you don’t. This is an arguement that will continue until the end of time no matter how much the two sides debate each other. Can’t we just agree to disagree?

  293. says

    PZ, so long as the Stonecutters run things, you know you have way more power if you are the Atheist behind the scenes. But can you please do something about Steve Gutenberg? He hasn’t had a hit in yonks.

  294. Thomas Barlow says

    Is science about precision and about getting down to the why something is? Carbon 14 dating is by far the most precise way to determine the age of anything. However, Carbon 14 dating does not go back past the number of years the Jewish calendar says the earth is. So, we use the same method that we use to determine distance, spectral analysis, to determine age? Do I look at my watch to measure my home? Or, do I look at my odometer to tell when it’s lunch time? Hmm…
    Also, with us being able to map the entire earth and land probes on comets, we can’t find the “missing link” between humans and apes? However, I do have this uncle that kind of resembles an ape (intellectually as well as physically). So, I can see how one might assume that we evolved from apes. I’m asking because I just need some questions answered before I change my mind.
    Finally, why is it that every time I pray to God the Father through Jesus the Son for my children to be cured of their sicknesses, they are healed in less than 24 hours without the administration of medication? Mind over matter? Do I psych out my 8 month old into believing she’s well? Well, you’re probably going to just pass over this e-mail because of my difficult questions. But, I wish you luck on your personal crusade. Peace out.

  295. says

    Why have atheists started promoting hatred and scorn for me and my family? Has fundamentalist rhetoric so curdled everyone’s brains that even the atheists have become infected?

    I’m deeply religious, and I’m a scientist, and I find nothing in my religion conflicts with any observable data. But of course, no matter how many times I say that, self-proclaimed “atheist scientists” (who typically haven’t even tried to understand Spinoza and never even heard of Kneeland) tell me that I’m a poor deluded fool, and that I’m stupid, and that – because my religion doesn’t conform to their complete misunderstanding of what religion actually is – I’m actually not religious at all, or accuse me of supporting all sorts of judeo-christian nonsense that I don’t.

    My church teaches evolution in Sunday school (as do many others) and has never ever harmed anyone. We’ve been performing marriages for gay couples for decades (openly, even when it was illegal). The man who most eloquently expressed my faith in terminology accessible to non-scientists was the last man imprisoned for blasphemy in the United States. My co-religionists quite literally fought for the rights of atheists, and we continue to do so, yet we are increasingly scorned by those who are too theologically ignorant to discriminate between any two religions, and thus paint their allies with the same brush as genital mutilators and armagedonist maniacs.

    This “new atheism” thing reminds me of Al Franken’s anti-Limbaugh radio show – it has all the bad features of what it decries. Why accuse me, and my many co-religionists, of sins that we have never committed, and heresies that we never have professed? Why do you ignore the non-religous entities that have committed the crimes you so loudly decry as the primary features of religion? Doesn’t that sort of flagrantly illogical pseudo-reasoning remind anyone of a medieval witch trial?

    It’s bad science to ignore the data that don’t fit your preconceptions.

  296. Baratos says

    Also, with us being able to map the entire earth and land probes on comets, we can’t find the “missing link” between humans and apes? However, I do have this uncle that kind of resembles an ape (intellectually as well as physically). So, I can see how one might assume that we evolved from apes. I’m asking because I just need some questions answered before I change my mind.

    Australopithecus, Homo Erectus, etc.

    Finally, why is it that every time I pray to God the Father through Jesus the Son for my children to be cured of their sicknesses, they are healed in less than 24 hours without the administration of medication?

    I will bet a large amount of money that they have never gotten an illnes that cannot go away on its own. By which I mean they have never lost a limb or contracted HIV.

  297. Kseniya says

    Thomas Barlow:

    Oooh. Wow. Very difficult questions. I’m so afraid to address them!

    Say… Have you ever considered that many childhood illnesses come and go in a day or two? That’s what immune systems are for.

    But, you know, maybe you’re on to something. I pray that the sun will come up once a day – and wow! It does! Prayer works!

    Anyway. Your ignorance is showing. If you think your lame arguments haven’t been throw up here in the past by other masters of logic such as yourself, promoted as profound insights and “proof” of… well, something… you’re sadly mistaken.

  298. Kseniya says

    Mr. Barlow:

    P.S. If a train leaves Omaha at 7:00 a.m. and travels at a constant velocity of 80 mph due east, and a stagecoach leaves Richmond at 8:00 a.m. and travels at a constant velocity of 20 mph due west, and you leave Wichita at 9:00 a.m. in your car (the one with the odometer reading 40,000 miles) and travel due north at a constant speed of 50 mph, what will your odometer read when it’s time for lunch? No fair looking in the back of the book. Yes, you can use a calculator.

  299. Kseniya says

    Charlie, Mr. Barlow will undoubtedly be disappointed, but your post is far more difficult to address. You raise many good points. The UU’s don’t deserve to be lumped in with the Fundies.

  300. Oliver says

    #239 Arnosium Upinarum
    Why are you interpreting what I said that way? How diabolically selective of you.

    Not at all selective, just stringent. But it is evident you would try to weasel out.

    A more accurate interpretation of what I said (though not completely so) would be that I suggested that religious people don’t understand empiricism and epistemology. Generally speaking. Why? Because they don’t NEED to understand any fanciness like that. They are perfectly comfortable with what their chosen authority tells them to believe.

    You obviously don’t realise that what I said follows directly from this: When you say that religious people don’t understand, you are stating that being religious and understanding is mutually exclusive. Which means that anyone who does understand cannot possibly be religious.

    More than that, your claim is plain and simply patently false:
    You assume a)that a chosen authority exists. Yet there are plenty of religions in which each and every adherant is relatively free to interpret the religion on his own. The only “authority” as such is then spiritual and, if you want to reduce it to an atheist level, would be part of the subconscious of the adherant himself. So he has no authority other than himself telling him what to believe, on the subconscious level.
    You assume b)that an attitude of deference to authority is universal in regards to all questions and not just to the big philosophical questions.
    You assume c)that simply because someone DOESN’T NEED to understand, he actually DOESN’T understand.

    if so, how “DARING” of you attempt pull that kind of fast one thinking nobody would notice.

    That you don’t like to notice your “alternative” really is precisely what I said is certainly understandable. It doesn’t change anything about the fact, though, that you’re weaseling out.

    Tell me: do you really imagine everyone is as stupid as you are? Or are simply unimaginative?

    Tell me: Do you really imagine everyone has as little grasp of epistemology and basic logic as you have?

  301. Mark UK says

    Yeah, the “my religion is different and you haven’t read this philosopher’s views so what do you know” approach.

    Sure. Many intelligent people have said many things on the subject. If somebody could just post the evidence for a god then that would be swell. Until then I’m afraid there is no god. Courtiers reply.

  302. says

    to say theres no proof of god is silly because if there was no proof of god i wouldnt be reading that you typed theres no proof of god. Do you understand or are you so hung up on religon that your blinded to the big picture.

  303. says

    one more thing, you act like god can only be proven if something happens that cant be proven by science, but in all reality if a rock started floating up in to the air, you wouldnt say that cant be proven scientifically so god exists, youd just look for a scientific explanation and continue to denie god. Do you understand? your grasping on to theres no god because of science is far more unintelligent ,then faith simply knowing its true in your heart. Have you ever considered that no flaws in science is more of a proof that theres a god than flaws in science would be. Wake up and ask god for forgiveness that your pride and fear got in the way of you admitting the creator is real.

  304. Bob says

    Preachers are here. Joy.

    Doug, can you not concieve that today’s conveniences are yesterday’s miracles?

  305. says

    im confused are you with me or against me, your question doesnt point that out. But yes yesterdays miracles of the mind provide for the evolution of todays miracles, but that isnt exactly on topic with what i was saying.

  306. says

    bob i read one of your prior posts, i dont want you on my side if you are on my side. you are a babbling idiot and that doesnt fit into what im trying to accomplish here.

  307. Bob says

    doug, I am here to help you. Escape the shackles of your mind.

    What are trying to accomplish? Annoy the atheists? Score points with your skypappy? Save all our “souls”?

    As for babbling idiot – pot.kettle.black.

  308. says

    ok bob i read most of your posts, and im thinking your a 300 pound loser who got picked on in school who pretends to be intillectual but is truly a f’in retard who hates his life and in return tries to disprove god. thanks for responding to my post, but in all honesty my post was way to intelectual and informitive to be responded to by your chunky arse.

  309. Bob says

    im => I’m
    intillectual => intellectual
    to intelectual => too intellectual
    informitive => informative

    I can see my chunky arse cannot respond to your vastly superior intellect and these devastating arguments. So sorry to take up your valuable time; I will now change my ways and go worship a god. Any suggestions, oh wise master?

  310. says

    first suggestion, grammar doesnt prove or disprove god, 2nd suggestion a god is jesus christ, 3rd suggestion read the urantia book it will fit in with your views of the world and show you god at the same time, 4th suggestion dont ever assume a christian is jesus christ, we only can try to live by his words but since hes god and were in the first stages of existence, dont expect me or even the pope for that matter, to not use insults when angry at someone who has the nerve to look around and decide this is all a fluke. but anyway god bless, no hard feelings brother.

  311. tony says

    Good morning all — indeed we appear to have a little infestation this morning… (and yeahh for flight delays)

    OK —

    Tara: Why is your post almost a carbon copy of an earlier post from Sophia? — and why don’t you *read* and try to comprehend our reasoned commentary responding to her before flaming us for narrowminded prejudice?

    Thiomas Barlow: Kseniya said everything that needed to be said (and I notice you’ve not returned)

    Charlie: ‘Atheists’ don’t promote hatred any more than ‘all Xians are fundies’. Please don’t do the general/specifc thing – we expect that from a fundy – not from someone who actually want’s to have a dialog. You made some fine points (a ‘personal’ god -v- a big sky daddy) but, honestly, nothing in your post indicates any new evidence for a recant of earlier posts: Extraordinary claim::Extraordinary evidence.

    Oliver: You are like the guy in the forest who is surrounded by magnificent trees on every side – and focuses his attention on the scraggly little sapling at his feet. You appear to be capable of reasoned debate, and of logical thought. Why not use that skill for some real debate instead of your semantic word games…

    Doug: you are such an ass and so mistaken I actually feel the need to take a little time here to explain clearly the error of your statements…

    Correct. That’s what science actually means. There is no ‘deny god’ in science. God is not, and never was, and never will be part of the picture. God (by your definition) is super-, or supra-natural. Science does not concern itself with non-natural. It does not accept OR deny. It ignores. What definition of science don’t you understand.

    per your strawman: If a rock started falling up there would be a number of things that scientists would do… but they would all start with ‘investigate’ and none would start from the premise “ommigawd – a rock fell up — i don’t know why – so godditit”

    Since a ‘rock falling up’ is extremely improbable I won’t even waste time on any ‘hypotheses’ (thats the other thing a scientist would do) especially since there is no evidence of such (and that’s what we demand for any claim)

    So — as with all the other godbots out there. try reading first. it helps. it truly does… but like everything else, you need to read more than the primer, and you need to think about what you read.

  312. tony says

    Doug:

    dont expect me … to not use insults when angry at someone who has the nerve to look around and decide this is all a fluke

    I see — so instead of attempting to sway by argument, or simply through the “love of Jesus” you decide instead that anger and insult is the appropriate, indeed the only, approach open to you when you see disagreement?

    you must be a very.angry.person.

    Perhaps you should go find a professional to help you deal with your anger management issues. You’ll find one in the yellow pages ™. There are better ways to deal with disagreement.

  313. says

    do you realize how many things are wrong with science. Personal experience is discounted by science. Basically anything which “science” deems out of bounds is thrown away. In a world like ours, in a universe like ours, who are you to put up boundaries called science. I’ll tell you who you are, your a person who desperatly needs to fit everything into a box that you can hold on to and carry around with you and show it off to other people. You discount psychics and mediums because they dont fit in your box, you discount miracles that happen in hospitals where people who should of died, lived. Anything you dont experience to the fullest 100 percent you have no problem discounting as false. My question is what do you gain from this stand point.

  314. says

    tony thanks for giving me advice on anger issues ill be sure to pass on your advice to people with furry ball sacs, next question please.

  315. Bob says

    doug, one last thing. If I understand our almost common language, it’s this – sod off. I have no problem engaging in constructive dialog, but you are merely a troll. Last communication.

  316. says

    heres the thing, i can astral project and i was miraculously cured of fibromyalgia after suffering with it for 7 years.when astraly projecting i have spoken with phantasms. Now obviously you now have free reign on discounting me, but that doesnt mean what im saying is false. my beliefs in god didnt come easy. I questioned the bible up and down. But the night my muscle condition went into remmision i saw jesus christ on my tv screen. I was trying to fall asleep and i left the tv on which i never do. at around 2 in the morning i felt my fibromyalgia going away. I looked at the tv and there was a still picture of jesus christ. Naturally i cant emphasize the importance/amazingness of this by typing. But like i said i began astrally projecting about 1 year before my remission occured, its way to much to get into here, but i was told about the akashic records while projecting which led me to the urantia book. After reading the urantia book for about 25 chapters I became very close with christ and received alot of info about this life and the afterlife. Way to much to get into, but when i talk about atheism being wrong, its not for my own pleasure, its because i care about each and every one of you and i want you to know the happiness that accompanies a relationship with christ. Youll understand me alot more if you read the urntia book.

  317. says

    unfortunately i just attempted to talk about a whole books worth of info about me in 500 words. I have no problem understanding that wont influence anyone, except to insult my life and the trial and tribulations i went through to know christ is real and my father. So im gonna go back down the scientific route to make my case. Will you admit that if all your beliefs of scientific happenings and equations are true that god can still exist. Is there anyway to prove god doesnt exist. You realize that in the situation were in that god being real or not real is a 50/50 bet no matter how you put it. And the only reason to bet on him not being real is because you believe religon causes people to kill in his name. But if people were purely peaceful in gods name would you still put your money on no god, and if so why?

  318. says

    im amazed at my ability to make people run from debate with me, in fact i believe i disgust people with my point of views which are so strong that people have no choice but to give the silent treatment. honestly ive never seen a person have the effect i have on a debate. Sometimes my need for friends makes me feel sad when this happens but other times my need to be responded to, and im not makes me feel sad. ok i wanna have a honest fair debate with anyone who thinks they can prove no god while i prove there is a god, ask me any question you want and ill give you a answer.

  319. An o' Neamus says

    All objective truth is self-evident. As the existence or non-existence of a god, goddess or gods is far from being self-evident, neither is objectively true.

    “Subjective truth” is by nature (and definition) non-objective, and hence not necessarily true (or for that matter untrue). So “subjective truth” (aka. belief or faith) has no meaning outside of the “subject”, and hence trying to convince others of it is pointless.

    Why is it found to be necessary by some to convince others of their “subjective truth”? Egotism? Doubt? This writer does not know, but is of the opinion that this is not “A Good Thing”…

    Is there even such a thing as objective truth? Can an answer to that question even be expressed objectively? Looks like we’ll have plenty to talk about while we wait to find out what happens when we die… :)

  320. MartinM says

    do you realize how many things are wrong with science. Personal experience is discounted by science.

    That’s just not true. How do you think science handles things like depression, or hallucination, or synesthesia if it discounts personal experience? These are all things that are, by definition, fundamentally based in personal experience, and they’ve all been studied by science.

    If someone claims to have seen Bigfoot, we don’t discount it because it’s a personal experience. We discount it because given a) what we know through science about Bigfoot, and b) what we know through science about personal experience itself, there are far better explanations than ‘Bigfoot exists.’

    Basically anything which “science” deems out of bounds is thrown away. In a world like ours, in a universe like ours, who are you to put up boundaries called science.

    Science doesn’t put up boundaries. Reality puts up boundaries. Science merely finds them.

    I’ll tell you who you are, your a person who desperatly needs to fit everything into a box that you can hold on to and carry around with you and show it off to other people.

    On the contrary, if anyone truly wants to find something outside the box, different to the norm, it’s scientists. That’s our job. It’s our calling. It’s who we are.

    You discount psychics and mediums because they dont fit in your box, you discount miracles that happen in hospitals where people who should of died, lived. Anything you dont experience to the fullest 100 percent you have no problem discounting as false.

    No. We discount psychics and mediums because when we test them, we find they can’t do what they claim to be able to do. We discount miracles in hospitals because when we perform tests in hospitals, the miracles are strangely absent. It’s not about experience. It’s about the conditions under which that experience manifests itself.

    My question is what do you gain from this stand point.

    Truth. Science is a form of systematic honesty. It’s about making sure that what we think we know is actually correct. It’s about challenging everything, no matter how fundamental, and seeing what stands up.

    To (mis)quote Bronkowski, it’s about asking impertinent questions to get the pertinent answers.

  321. says

    it seems to me believing in god in the mind of and atheist is similar to making a educated bet on which horse will win the race. You study and figure out which horse has the best chance of winning and you have strong oppinions on why your horse will win and why its not possible the other horses could possibly win. But i as a christian know why that horse can come in last place. All it takes is a little beatle flying in the eye of your horse to throw it off and make it lose. Thats what you atheists dont account for, the normal parts of life that let you know you can never be certain, you can never contain the organized chaos known only to the creator. Bad example but im a little drunk.

  322. says

    Doug:

    The Urantia Book makes several claims of fact that are contradicted by modern science. Thus its dependability on all other matters is called into question. Why, then, would any of us find any value in reading it?

    And in your case, I would demand to see a physician’s record of the existence, progression, and remission of your illness before I took your own personal anecdote as factual.

    Too many holes, not enough time or patience…

  323. An o' Neamus says

    All objective truth is self-evident.

    That’s not self-evident.

    Neither is it objective. :)

  324. Caledonian says

    No, objective truth is self-evident. The problem is that there are limitations on how much we can perceive.

    If you establish axioms, the things that follow from the axioms do not need to be demonstrated to follow from them. But our limited ability to understand that they follow requires us to derive them before we can acknowledge that property.

  325. An o' Neamus says

    Is there really any objective truth? Can anything actually be said to be “true”? Is “truth” just a subjective approximation which can be said to be the successive removal of contradiction?

  326. says

    bobber, to many holes?, I thought i made it clear that i poorly summed up a books worth of my life in 500 words. And sorry Although I have records of doctors visits since age 19, im 24 now, and my condition started at 17 and a half, I would only make an effort to show you my struggle if you yourself were struggling with fibromyalgia otherwise sorry youll just have to take my word. And like a true republican you have no problem bullshitting and saying the urantia book isnt true. Sorry bub but christ is being revealed through the urantia book and only the wise are seeing it.

  327. An o' Neamus says

    “The wise” know that the only thing that they can know is that they can *know* nothing… :)

  328. says

    ok here it is, god is proven because theres no way a rock, or a element turned into a human, better yet a rock or a element didnt turn into a alien which visit our planet or live to far away. Read the urantia book its the truth.

  329. Steve_C says

    Wow. The kooks crawled out of the woodwork last night.

    Urantia is a crock of shit. Oooops. Did I offend?

  330. says

    no steve you didnt offend in fact you kind of turned me on, forget the wood work how bout you work my wood and i touch in urpantias. then th crock of shit can turn into me putting my cock into your shit. wink wink. bye bye stevie

  331. Reignkings says

    This is an example of why tenured Professors need to have term limits. That’s the great thing about blogs you can throw up all your hatred and non-tolerance on anyone. Funny thing is, even if this whole Jesus thing is fake, not real, not provable by science, whatever, it still is a better way to live than bloging my anger, just because I can. I appreciate your insight because it has help me solidify the fact that I desire to live more like Jesus and less like you. Thank you for that, I believe its a great way to live. So, Here’s the other cheek. Love ya

  332. kmarissa says

    Sophia, in case you ever come back to this thread, I hope that the above postings by Doug and the rest (including the one where Doug starts talking about his cock) can show you a little bit why we were a bit hostile to you when you showed up. It’s because we get people in here all the time that have no desire to communicate and may even be relatively incapable of it. Apparently they just like seeing their name on a popular blog.

  333. Rey Fox says

    You know, the real way to turn the other cheek would be to not say anything. You’re just grandstanding.

  334. Steve_C says

    Doug, were you a jock in your former life? You sound just like one. They were never funny either.

    Reign, professors should have term limits because they have opinions outside of the school? Because they believe in evidence and truth? Don’t want anyone messing with your fairy tale. Too bad.

  335. Kseniya says

    Doug, you might have more credibility if you were more forthcoming with the arguments you intend to offer (i.e. your interesting personal experiences and selected readings) instead of quickly resorting to these brilliant turns of phrase at the first (ok, second) sign of disagreement:

    “I’m thinking your a 300 pound loser who got picked on in school who pretends to be intillectual but is truly a f’in retard who hates his life”

    “ill be sure to pass on your advice to people with furry ball sacs”

    “me putting my cock into your shit”

    “And like a true republican you have no problem bullshitting”

    Ok actually you get a few points for that last one. ;-)

    You know, if I stand on my head and drop a rock, it falls “up”. If I’m in an elevator one million miles above the earth that is accelerating towards the earth at 1.2g, and I drop a rock, it falls up. What am I to conclude? God? Or no God?

    BTW I’m glad for you that your disease went into remission, but sorry, remission+vision=remission, not miracle.

  336. says

    Skipping to some recent comments:

    Funny thing is, even if this whole Jesus thing is fake, not real, not provable by science, whatever, it still is a better way to live than bloging my anger, just because I can.

    Because we all know, staying quiet when injustice, ignorance, and lies are about is our moral duty.

    I’ll take anger over apathy and sloth any day.

  337. says

    Why do so many Christians think that our lord, Jesus Christ died on the Cross so that they can act and behave like disgusting little sons of bardiches?

  338. Bob says

    It seems to me that god death would only be required for an enormous amount of sinnin’. Just saying. ;)

  339. BizKwik says

    Obviously, all science is just wrong! Anyone who thinks that coming up with a theory and then trying to prove it using some sort of method is a moronic idiot! Everyone knows that the world was created by seven giant lizards that live inside seven volcanoes on the seven corners of the earth in seven days! Can’t you people see that?! There is no God or Jesus, silly Christians (what, you thought you were the only religion around? Or maybe just the right one?)! No, there is Chrthagnragnerok the Creator, Tlacknitohk the Redeemer, Anthlontic the Destroyer, Prynothic the Philanderer, Qwegnogic the Questionable, Rentrogniroth the Brave, and Lobnobligog the Pantyloon… d’uh! I know this because I used to have visual and auditory hallucinations brought on by the use of large amounts of psilocybin and lysergic acid diethylamide and Chrthagnragnerok, Tlacknitohk, Anthlontic et al. came to me in one of my visions and cured my extraordinary halitosis. Also, I can asstrally project. Meaning my ass goes on amazing voyages without me while I am sitting here at work reading a bunch of scientific mumbo juhambo. Oh yeah, and all of you Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Shintoists, Confucionists, Sikhs, Toaists, and Druids out there… thanks for not getting involved in this discussion. You are obviously not as worried about your faith as those silly Christians. Good for you!

  340. Kseniya says

    But i as a christian know why that horse can come in last place. All it takes is a little beatle flying in the eye of your horse to throw it off and make it lose. Thats what you atheists dont account for, the normal parts of life that let you know you can never be certain, you can never contain the organized chaos known only to the creator.

    Whoa!

    Bad example but im a little drunk.

    I admire your honesty.

  341. Rey Fox says

    “a little beatle flying in the eye of your horse”

    Woah wait a minute here…Ringo is flying around on horse tracks? I might actually have to go to a race this year.

  342. joe moulder says

    You say “there is no evidence of a god” however, there also is no evidence God doen not exist! God can neither be proven nor disproven, that is why religion is referred to as “FAITH”. o call us what you will – it does not offend me and in the end we will all know who was right.

  343. Steve_C says

    There’s no evidence for your favorite myth. We find it very silly.

    Beyond the end we don’t know anything. We’re dead.

    Carry on.

  344. Bob says

    joe, if you know so much about this unknowable thing, it should be a small matter for you to provide evidence. Or how about this – prove that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is more powerful than the Invisible Pink Unicorn. Really.

  345. MartinM says

    God can neither be proven nor disproven

    You seem to be under the impression that this is a strength of your position. On the contrary, this is precisely why thinking people reject it.

  346. tony says

    Hi there – my flight got down, safe & sound – if a little late….

    Anyway – we do have a lot of anger issues this morning, don’t we…

    doug — I would have said you’ve degenerated into a mindless ranting imbicile, bet evidence indicates that this was your state all along…

    reignkings: Not sure what you were trying to say here about tenure… but you said… I desire to live more like Jesus and less like you. If you’ll note from the commentary here it’s the godless atheists who are calm and orderly — the godbots are slinging epithets. (see above) Ohhh… I get it — you want to be Jesus in the Temple chastizing the moneylenders and all!!! You’re right! not like us at all!

    Joe Moulder: Can you at least *try* to read before you write? We’re all done discussing *faith* and *proof* and all… Just on this thread it went on and on until my poor little fingers couldn’t type no more…. so, unless you have something constructive to contribute, please shut.the.fuck.up.

    feel all better now. think I’ll go have some lunch. I quite fance some crispy twice-fried christian baby today…. mmmmmmm ;)

  347. Bob says

    Here’s a question for you babble bashers

    In the NT, there are two different lineages of cheeses. Why do they go through Joseph? Joseph was not genetically related to cheeses, so although they disagree, *neither* can be correct.

  348. Bob says

    tony, airline travel is pretty durned safe. Safer than driving. The problem is that when there is an accident, the effects are awesome and horrific.

  349. says

    Joe, replace the word ‘God’ with ‘Allah’ in your post and then explain to me why you don’t pray facing Mecca.

  350. Rey Fox says

    Now that we seem to have picked the low-hanging fruit…

    Reignkings: this is exactly why we have the tenure system. So that a professor who contributes years of productive work and study to a university can’t be forced out because of politics or because he says something that rubs some administrator or donors the wrong way.

    And just to belabor the point: professors shouldn’t have term limits because they don’t have TERMS. They weren’t voted on. They were hired to do a job. You make it sound like professors have some sort of power or something. *snicker*

  351. Tara says

    “Tara: Why is your post almost a carbon copy of an earlier post from Sophia? — and why don’t you *read* and try to comprehend our reasoned commentary responding to her before flaming us for narrowminded prejudice?

    Thiomas Barlow: Kseniya said everything that needed to be said (and I notice you’ve not returned)”

    Well Doug, to answer your questions about a previous post…….Oh, I don’t know…..perhaps because I was commenting on the actual article written and not on all the bickering and hadn’t even read all 5 billion comments that were left afterwards. And why don’t YOU go back and *read* again what I said because I was not “flaming” anyone! All I’m simply saying is that there is no proof either way and one person’s belief does not make something a fact! I support everyone’s right to their owen beliefs and I expect people to respect my rights as well. I don’t think athiests are crazy and I don’t expect them to believe I am either. You just seem so determined to start a tussle with someone that you’re not understanding what I’m saying! I’m defending your right to your beliefs while defending mine as well. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to start throwing a tantrum because of an article someone writes. I’m not bashing anyone here! I’m not trying to convince you to switch to my beliefs. You just seem to want to start a fight.

  352. MartinM says

    Tara, you have a right to your beliefs. You don’t have a right not to have those beliefs criticized, ridiculed or insulted.

  353. tony says

    Bob: I *know* that airline travel is safe – I do around 100K a year

    Tara: Maybe reading enough to respond to the poster (me) would be a start. I did not *flame* you, I merely pointed out that common etiquette in blogs demands that you read what has previously been written so as not to waste time with an identical comment. Which, BTW, your’s was – almost to the word (and certainly as a gestalt). I was not *angry* merely *testy* that we need to do this again.and.again.and.again.and.again.and….

    I think you & doug would make a wonderful couple, BTW. Hope you’re happy together.

  354. Bob says

    hey tony, that’s a boatload of miles. I’m probably a little sensitive to it because I work at FAA HQ (ssshhhhhh).

  355. tony_the_anti-christ says

    Actually: the correct term is where_the_*fuck*_am_I_today… but that’s just me!

    ;)

  356. Pat says

    This is a great country where you can state what ever you want. Be it true or not. And logically speaking there is no way you can prove the existance of a spiritual being….however many people gain great strenght from that belief. Many people abuse that belief by destroy others or taking religion as the rigth to destroy others. Is it right…morale values aside….no. Your statement is you what believe…if your an athieist that is a religion….if your believe that life is over after here…then hey eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. Is your post for me. No. I believe in something far greater than myself. Am I going to call you names or even say Gods going to get you…no….My beliefs are for me. Your post will not change my mind nor will my post change your mind. So why post it. Because I wanted to I have my rights too. You had your say now I have mine….Get on with life and keep posting what ever you like as long as its not hurting anyone. But is….only you know that answer. Since there is no God…you don’t have to worry do you. *grins*. Well according to you there is no God prove me wrong. By telling me who is in charge. I want believe it either so why try.

  357. tony_the_anti-christ says

    Actually: I’ve decided that *I’m* in charge. You can send 10% of your paycheck (pre tax – it’s a ‘charitable’ deduction) payable to “The Antichrist, Inc”, deposit at any bank of america (not an affiliate).

    If we’re going to get delusional fools here – I might as well make a buck or two… ;)

  358. Bob says

    Pat,

    I for one appreciate that you will openly state the damages caused by religion. I hope you also fight against those who would so abuse your belief system.

    Also, please disabuse yourself of the notion that atheism is a religion. As you would’ve seen, if you’d read, atheism is a religion like ‘off’ is a tv channel, or atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

    And I don’t think the “no aftrelife” deal makes atheist any greater debauchers than the public at large. What it does mean is we have to consider the immediate effects of our actions, instead of begging skypappy’s forgiveness. Do you look at this farked up planet and really believe someone is in charge? Because if they are, I could give them a piece of my mind about the crappy job they’re doing.

  359. Rey Fox says

    Okay, seriously, what is it with God-botherers and those extended ellipses? Almost as bad as that Spaghetti Monster/Pacifier guy we had in here a while back, putting up to eight periods in a row after every single thought fragment.

    People: the full stop (single period) is your friend. The comma is also your friend. The paragraph break is your BFF.

  360. Tara says

    My apologies, Tony, for posting the incorrect name. There’s a whole lot going on here. I’m pretty sure the start of a blog is to comment on the article at hand. I’m not going to read through over 300 posts in order to make a comment to the author of the article. Not gonna do it. Don’t care what you say “Common Blogger Etiquette” is. My computer, therefore I’ll do it however I like. I had something to say to PZ Myers….I didn’t want to be dragged into all the bashing, name calling, whiny, disrespectful crap that is apparently going on in this thread. And I didn’t say you *flamed* me. It was in fact, you said that I *flamed* atheists with my comment….which couldn’t be further from the truth. And the thought “Narrow-minded prejudice” never even entered my mind. Those words came out of your mouth (Or keyboard..as it were). Personally, I don’t care whether your angry, testy, happy, sad or any other emotion that may be derived from my post. It wasn’t directed at you anyway! And can you please think of something a little less childish than “I think you & doug would make a wonderful couple, BTW. Hope you’re happy together.” I mean really…..how old are we here? Is that supposed to upset me? This coming from someone who gets “testy” when someone actually tries to defend the rights of atheists? Or maybe it was just because it was a CHRISTIAN who was doing the defending. Does that offend you????? And as far through this “over and over and over again”, you need to get used to it buddy! Like I said in my original post…..this arguement will continue until the end! That was why I said “Can’t we just agree to disagree?”

  361. says

    I’ve seen God talking like a lolcat at my old blog partner’s new place, and those pointless woo ellipses all over. It also seems that none of them can spell “lose”, “loser”, or “losing”.

    Between all the laughable logical fallacies of the grammatically correct woos and the bad grammar of the inevitable trolls, it’s really hard to take any of them seriously.

  362. Kseniya says

    Rey, those ellipses are the home of the God of the Gaps. Don’t denigrate them. That would be un-American… or something.

  363. tony says

    Tara: You are correct that the purpose of a blog is to state opinion and elicit comment. But that’s your first and only statement of fact…

    Your response *was* a flame!
    You called me out for suggesting that you read the damn commentary.
    You called me out for alluding to the fact that we are not interested in belief – neither yours nor others.

    Flaming = Making inflamatory remarks for effect.

    With regards to belief.

    won’t you understand? I don’t care! We don’t care! I’m ‘testy’ because we keep having to *repeat* the same damn thing!

    As Kseniya says above – atheism is *not* a religion. Belief is not something we care about. ever!

    AS far as defending the *rights of athiests*… gee, thanks. Don’t see that in your post, but if that was your intent, then thanks!

    However — etiquette is important. If I came into your church and sat my grimy ass down on the pulpit stair, or somesuch, you would be extremely displeased – and would rightly consider me to be extremely rude and ill-mannered at the very least.

    Your behavior here is the blog equivalent.

    We don’t have body language to help us intuit your intent. You need to be as clear as you can be *in your writing*. Your writing – tone and content – is essentially the same as we have addressed many many times before. I even pointed you to a very recent sub-thread that was almost a carbon copy! The least you could do would be to read the damn posts.

    But no. YOU are too important!. Too self-centered! My computer, therefore I’ll do it however I like.

    Why don’t you go find another blog to pollute – you sure as hell are not adding anything pleasant or even intriguing to the atmosphere here.

  364. Kseniya says

    Speaking of flames, I’m reminded of…

    Wayne.

    Wayne is a guy I went to school with. Wayne is a scientist. Wayne develops his own, very special, theories. Wayne’s First Law of Thermodynamics states:

    “All chicks named Tara are hot!”

    Uh… Sorry!     :-)

  365. tony says

    Kseniya: when we know the *truth* is that all chicks named Kseniya/Xenia are hot!

  366. says

    Don’t care what you say “Common Blogger Etiquette” is. My computer, therefore I’ll do it however I like.

    I can see that any discourse on the value of the social contract, or, doing as you’d be done by, would be a waste of time here. Tara is not addressing people, but the little arrangements of text on a computer’s monitor, while demanding respect.

    Tara is at least a different Turing bot than Sophia. His or her text arrangement is slightly more sophisticated. Unlike Sophia, who wants us to respect her beliefs, Tara writes:

    I support everyone’s right to their owen beliefs and I expect people to respect my rights as well. I don’t think athiests are crazy and I don’t expect them to believe I am either.

    Assuming for a moment that a real person named Tara may read this, I’ll address Tara personally:

    Tara, I respect your right to believe any damned fool thing you like, including your right to believe that you are not crazy. In turn, I expect you to respect my right to point at you and laugh, and mock you mercilessly for spouting ignorant tripe ineptly. Nobody is entitled to respect for the beliefs themselves. Behaving like a sociopath to advance an argument is not what I would call sane. Attempting to reduce the differences between science and religion to a matter of opinion is somewhere on the spectrum that includes ignorance, stupidity, duplicity, and being bughouse nuts. I am not saying Tara, that you are one of those things exclusively, as what I’ve read from you so far would incline me to vote crazy/stupid/clueless. Do I offend? Good.

    BTW Tony, I think you did Sophia a great disservice in accusing her of posting as “Tara.”

  367. Tara says

    Well, that’s your opinion. I know what I meant whether you do or not! I was not the one who said “Atheism is a religion”. And you come talk to me about “Etiquette” when you get some yourself. And I won’t even go into the “Tone” of the athiests on this thread! Do you REALLY think that you are a pleasant poster???? You are VERY FAR from intriguing yourself. It’s ok for you guys to be mean and nasty to people but when they defend themselves, you call it inflammatory. You just want to be a big bully.I never said you weren’t interested in my beliefs….I said you don’t AGREE with my beliefs and there is BIG difference. And you’re damn right I’ll do it how I want. You sure as hell are! You wanna talk about self-centered! Turn that finger around and point at yourself. Just because I don’t want to read all of the inflammatory remarks that people such as yourself are making does NOT make me self-centered! You can keep saying what you will. I DONT CARE WHAT YOU THINK! And you don’t have enough power to upset me with your insignificant rambling! BLAH BLAH BLAH! Come on…get mad……get REALLY mad. LAY IT ON ME! Give me a good laugh! Because at the end of the day, the fact remains that we are entitled to our opinions and beliefs.

  368. Tara says

    BTW- What exactly was it from my original post that was so inflammatory that it’s caused such a raucous here? Can anyone tell me? I just went back and read it again and I still see nothing inflammatory or disrespectful about it! Seriously….I thought it was respectful enough to post without offending anyone. Can just one person go back and read it and tell me honestly what is so bad about it.

  369. kmarissa says

    Tara, you refuse to read the comments of the very comment thread you’re posting in, even after people have told you that we’ve gone through everything you’ve said again and again already. This makes you look foolish. You say, “My computer, therefore I’ll do it however I like,” like a spoiled five year old, and then you complain about our tone?

    You seem incapable of the maturity required to post on Pharyngula. And really, it’s not that much. If you just want attention, I suggest you find a forum where people actually are interested.

  370. sophia says

    Wait you guys all thought i was tara? WTF. If kmarissa is on i have some thoughts for you. I did some research on what the majority on this blog believes by the way. I still dont get whats wrong with respecting eachothers opinions though.

  371. says

    Sophia, how much do you know about Islam?

    Do you regularly read the Q’uran? If a group of individuals tried to make it part of US high school curriculum, what would you think?

  372. Kseniya says

    Tony:

    when we know the *truth* is …

    Oh, my! Flattery will get you… Somewhere. Such as, oh, I dunno, like maybe back on a plane to Scotland or wherever the hell you came from?

            =D

  373. sophia says

    ok well i guess i will talk to you all later then since no one appears to be on now (that is if im welcome on the blog).

  374. sophia says

    Again, Tony, you thought i was tara?? R u serious?? Ok now i gotta go but i will be back soon. Brownian, i do know about Islam. The curriculum question i will answer when i get back. Try not to be so hostile guys please.Its really not productive.

  375. Kseniya says

    Sophia,

    Welcome back. I hope you are refreshed. :-)

    FWIW – It never crossed my mind that you were Tara. *shrug* I doubt I’m alone in that. Actually, I think it was a simple case of one or two people noticing that Tara posted something eerily similar to one of your earlier posts. Anyway. No big deal either way, I say.

    Another thing. I’m sure you’re right that you are younger than many of the commenters here. So am I. I was born in 1984. You? Not that it matters, and please feel free to decline to answer, but I’m curious. Age isn’t terribly important, but sometimes it offers some clues as to where a person is coming from.

  376. Rey Fox says

    Oh, we’re here, we might just be taking a breather. I was about to go to lunch, but I’ll fire a little something off. I believe what we think is that people deserve to be respected (usually). Ideas must earn respect. Generally, it is ideas that are criticized here. We criticize Christianity for a great many reasons ranging from its tenets to the lack of evidence for the existence of its God or messiah, and we do it because we feel that these things cause real problems in the world.

    And you are welcome here. Contrary to the accusations of some of this blog being an echo chamber, people with dissenting opinions are rarely banned or have their posts deleted or altered. Only if they make it a point to be annoying and/or abusive.

  377. Rey Fox says

    Make that “contrary to the accusations FROM some of this blog being an echo chamber”. As in, some people call this blog an echo chamber. If their definition of an “echo chamber” is a place where people who hold similar interests/opinions gather, then I guess it is, but where isn’t? Okay, I’m hungry now.

    PS: I don’t have time to look, but I think tony might have been joking when he said he thought you were Tara. We do get sock puppets every now and then. (sock puppet: a false handle created by someone else which he uses to say the same things as he to make it appear that there’s more people on his side than there really are)

  378. says

    You seem incapable of the maturity required to post on Pharyngula. And really, it’s not that much.

    Hey, kmarissa, I resemble that remark! :)

    “If you can’t be a role model, there’s always ‘object lesson’.”

  379. tony says

    Sophia: I never said you were Tara,r vice versa…. I did say that Tara’s first post was very similar (in content/intent) to your first post, so I directed her to*read* that sub-thread.

    You have shown yourself to be interested in a dialog. you are *very* welcome –especially if you make us *think* about the positions that we hold

    Tara seems only to want a narcissistic relationship wit her keyboard.

  380. says

    Honestly I am a believer, a Christian, and your (PZ’s) blog was the first one I saw on Scienceblogs. I’ll admit your manner does piss me of a little. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t. I’m also not going to pretend that I don’t think you like pissing people off at all.

    I’m not one of those European types, but I’m also very much not a fundamentalist…by evangelical standards, I’m pretty much a moderate, I’d say.

    Obviously I don’t agree with everything you’ve got to say about religion. But it wouldn’t be Christian of me just to get angry and shout (James 1:19-20). OH SNAP. I referenced Scripture.

    By the way, the first post of yours I ever saw was about how a Creation science fair had its science all off. It was good stuff. I’m not sure if you’ve mentioned another one yet.

    But anyway, my basic two cents is this: You have a good point in that as much as people might not like your yelling, yelling back…does nothing whatsoever.

  381. kmarissa says

    Sophia, please don’t take this post the wrong way; I’m not criticizing you. I think that you are probably reading a lot of posts much more negatively than they are meant to be. For instance, I really think Tony was just joking, since what Tara posted at first was such an echo of what you posted at first as well. I think you have taken a lot of the posts, like the responses to your question regarding souls and a conscience, as being negative toward you, when I’m pretty certain they weren’t meant to be. It’s understandable that you might read posts as criticising you after everything that was said when you first started posting, and I do understand how it feels to be young, writing posts for a whole forum of adults who don’t agree.

    But really, I don’t think anyone is trying to be mean to you. Contrary to popular opinion, some of us have even been described as “nice” once in a blue moon! :) Online, you can’t tell the tone of someone’s voice or their body language, and sometimes this makes communication difficult. For example, if someone writes a single sentence reply, it might sound curt, but they’re probably just trying to save everyone’s time (something I need to work on, as you can see). If you’d like to keep posting here with the sort of discussion level that we’ve had lately (that is, asking questions where you actually want to know the answer, and reading and thinking about the replies that you get), you will always be welcome, even if people don’t agree with you.

    So, if you ask a question and someone writes a reply, remember, they’re probably NOT intending to be mean. Try reading the reply again and see if it sounds different. If you still think someone is being childish or personally attacking, when you reply, try to quote what they said that bothered you, so that they have a chance to explain; chances are it was simple miscommunication. Lastly, if you still really feel uncomfortable on this forum, you can email me at kmsmyth at gmail.com. However, I think that asking questions in a board or forum like this is better than emailing just one person. The people who post here routinely make me really THINK, and I bet they have a lot of thought-provoking comments to your questions that I’ve never even considered before.

  382. Anton Mates says

    Why have atheists started promoting hatred and scorn for me and my family?

    Who’s done that? At most, atheists are promoting scorn for certain of your beliefs, which is very different. But, looking at the historical figures you invoke as representative of your beliefs, I don’t think most atheists have any problem with them at all.

    I’m deeply religious, and I’m a scientist, and I find nothing in my religion conflicts with any observable data. But of course, no matter how many times I say that, self-proclaimed “atheist scientists” (who typically haven’t even tried to understand Spinoza and never even heard of Kneeland) tell me that I’m a poor deluded fool, and that I’m stupid, and that – because my religion doesn’t conform to their complete misunderstanding of what religion actually is – I’m actually not religious at all, or accuse me of supporting all sorts of judeo-christian nonsense that I don’t.

    Spinoza was a natural pantheist, and I concur with Dawkins that natural pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Kneeland was a weak atheist, at least in his later life. The only reason he didn’t call himself one was that he thought atheism involved active denial of God:

    “I understand an Atheist to be one who denies the existence of god; and a theist, or deist, one who affirms, or at least believes in the existence of god. I am neither one nor the other; but acknowledge my total ignorance in relation to the subject….I can assure you, notwithstanding the term god is found occasionally in my hymns; I could very well dispense with the term; for truly, I can attach no other idea to it than that of a creation of the imagination — a sort of poetic license, as Jewish god, Christian god, Pagan god, Calvinistic [?] god, Arminian god, etc. etc. ”

    So no, I don’t think you are religious. You simply enjoy some of the ceremonial and emotional trappings of religion. You’re free to call yourself religious, of course, just as I’m free to reject your adoption of that label. But your version of religion is evidently far closer to atheism than to the religions followed by the vast majority of Americans. I think it’s justifiable to make generalizations about “religion” without explicitly exempting the pantheists, just like I’d be comfortable saying “I reject the Evangelical emphasis on Biblical inerrancy,” without exempting Fred over at Slacktivist. Every group has its outliers.

    My co-religionists quite literally fought for the rights of atheists, and we continue to do so, yet we are increasingly scorned by those who are too theologically ignorant to discriminate between any two religions, and thus paint their allies with the same brush as genital mutilators and armagedonist maniacs.

    And atheists have fought for the rights of believers, including fundamentalists who would never return the favor. They didn’t need to show us affection to merit support.

    But who has called you a genital mutilator or an armageddonist maniac? The strongest public statement to that effect I can think of is Sam Harris’ claiming that moderate believers endorse the same principle which can lead to religious extremism. Which I don’t particularly agree with, but is very different from saying moderate believers are just like extremists.

    Why do you ignore the non-religous entities that have committed the crimes you so loudly decry as the primary features of religion?

    We don’t. Commenters on this blog regularly criticize Stalinism, for instance.

  383. says

    I think there’s only one part of your post that’s a bit of a stretch, and that’s where you say “truth is always going to be anti-religion.”

    This depends on an Empiricist definition of “truth,” doesn’t it? I wasn’t a Philosophy major or anything, but this comment suggests a sort of one-dimensional epistemology that, coupled with the strident tone of the post, offends my ear (nearly) as much as any BS I’ve ever heard from a pulpit.

    As it happens, I agree with you–religion is wacky, and has a net negative effect. I just think your post fails my test of “right speech”: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it necessary? 3) Is it kind?

    I mean, I can’t blame you for responding to the religious vitriolic claptrap in kind, but does it really elevate anyone’s understanding?

  384. Kseniya says

    Speaking as an American of Ukrainian descent, whose grandparents lived through the Holomodor, I’d be more than happy to criticise Stalinism. (I’d also be happy to criticise that Ukrainian fellah Lysenko, and his own very special Ism.)

  385. John Davis says

    Actually, true religion is based on truth, and science is consistent with it (to the extent that science has uncovered the truth). Science lags behind religion in uncovering / discovering the truth. But ultimately, the two are one in the same.

  386. Pookie says

    Nothing gets people arguing like religion, politics is close 2nd, but religion…WOW gets the fires going. Organized religion tells people they are to witness and beat athiests over the head, in order to get them closer to God. I have inlaws that have said it’s going to be lonely in heaven without myself or my family (i.e. we ain’t good enough to get in..LOL) HMM thought judging was left to God himself. All religions turn the Bible’s words to ‘prove their beliefs’, or to show why they do certain things. But from denomination to denomination, beliefs vary greatly, all based on the same book.

    Christians get upset upon challenging their beliefs. I respect their beliefs, even though I don’t believe the same. As long as you don’t try to shove religion down my throat, then you can believe what you want. But just state that you don’t believe in God, and the fight is on. Christians get rude and downright hateful at times, but won’t respect your choice. If you are an athiest, christians can’t respect or accept that information.

    I guess I don’t get the double standard, christians want to be heard and respected. But they often refuse to listen or respect non believers. Just because you respect an opinion, doesn’t mean you have to believe it or agree with it. Personally I love to read and discuss religious debates. I have noticed over the years that athiests seem to be more respectful than christians. I am guessing most of the people calling you an asshole, were among the Godly group, now there is a real laugh in itself.

  387. says

    We don’t. Commenters on this blog regularly criticize Stalinism, for instance.

    Although normally a quite peaceful person, after what I saw working in the Refugee Clinic, I’ll just say this: if I’d ever had the opportunity, I would have–without a qualm–happily fried up some Pol Pot-stickers and fed them to the hungry stray dogs.

    Does that count as criticism of non-religious atrocities (if we stipulate that the Khmer Rouge take on Maoism isn’t a religion, which is a debate in itself, of course)?

  388. BizKwik says

    I think it is interesting that the only people on this blog comment thread that are defending religion are Christians. Where are the other religious believers? Where are the Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Sikhs, etc. with strong religious beliefs who want to defend their religion against the onslaught of science? Is there something about the specific nature of Christianity that lends itself to constant defense against criticism? Is it the prosthelytizing nature of Christianity that causes such defensiveness (if you are trying to convert everyone to your religion, I guess it helps to believe in it unquestioningly)? I am Jewish and know from personal experience that one of the tenets of Judaism is to question your own beliefs with the ultimate intent of making them stronger. I guess it is not the same with Christianity. Can anyone give me another religions viewpoint on questioning beliefs? Is it as shunned in other religions as it seems to be by Christianity (especially in this blog comment thread)?

  389. Lanz Franco says

    Having just skimmed some 400 responses to this question from seemingly every angle imaginable I have come to one startling conclusion – nobody’s opinion has been changed one bit. I sometimes wonder about the reason we all argue since the resulting outcome is always that we find ourselves more entrenched in the position we had prior to the argument. For religious people it makes sense that they wouldn’t be moved by arguments for or against their view – since they rely on faith to motivate their thinking. But for scientists, we are supposed to keep an open mind, to challenge any argument with verifiable facts, but to keep an open mind about the conclusions. Scientists are becoming lazy these days. Instead of wondering why so many people still believe in religion despite the lack of evidence for their beliefs, it is far easier to just write these people off as kooks. That’s not good science, its just narrow minded bigotry – the exact same thing we are accusing religious people of. I think we all ought to take a step back and think about what exactly we are arguing and see if there is some common ground where we might both be challenged to find new things. In that way, we all might grow into more productive human beings.

  390. kmarissa says

    Lanz, you appear not to realize that “why so many people still believe in religion despite the lack of evidence for their beliefs” has been discussed at length on this blog and elsewhere.

  391. Kseniya, OM, Minion says

    RavenT, I think the problem (if it is a problem) stems from the fact that theists, in their not-unreasonable request for what we might think of as “equal time”, want some acknowledgement that Atheism – as a doctrine – is to blame for certain atrocities, just as certain religious doctrines can be held directly responsible for atrocities committed in the name of those religions. That is a difficult request to satisfy.

  392. Rey Fox says

    “Science lags behind religion in uncovering / discovering the truth. ”

    *spews Coke all over the monitor*

    Sheesh, where do I even begin? What “truth” has religion uncovered/discovered that science hasn’t? More importantly, HOW? And which religion? And even more importantly, how do you know it’s the capital-T Truth?

    Oy. Who is linking to this post?

  393. Pookie says

    Biz, I have several Jewish friends, and we have discussed beliefs a lot. Always in a civilized manner, we have good debate but never argue or get mean. We agree to disagree, and have learned and listened to some interesting ideas.

    Christianity does seem to be the ‘superiour’ acting religion, or from my experience, and evidentally from lots of others. My christian friends always want to quote a scripture, and if I question or analyze it literally they get mad. Usually they wind up acting like a child and saying ‘it’s just that way because it is’. Like that answers everything. God said so, that’s why is the most overused comment I can think of for christians.

    I would enjoy hearing other religious viewpoints as well, I don’t think it was intended to leave other religions out, and I hope to read more posts from all beliefs. You may not change people’s minds or viewpoints, but debate and discussion keeps the mind sharp. :-)

  394. says

    I see your point, Kseniya, although it does get back to your earlier quote about “off” not being a channel–I’m having trouble thinking of the atheist analogue of “Kill them all and let God sort them out”; all the atheists I’ve ever known or heard of believe in social justice in this world, precisely *because* there is no afterlife to defer reward to.

    Given the role of “Angkaa” [The Organization] and Pol Pot [Brother # 1] as authority figures in KR ideology, I think it is not unreasonable to characterize the blind obedience to orders that went against the evidence [like ignoring all engineering principles in trying to reconstruct the glorious Angkorian irrigation system] as having at least some characteristics in common with unswayable religious faith. I really don’t think that, given the role of Buddhism and Hinduism in centuries of Khmer history, as well as the role of superstition (UFOs during the fall of Phnom Penh, eating your enemy’s liver, tattoos and amulets) that religion went away for the KR-ists. It was just replaced by KR ideology, and channeled into an extremely bloody power struggle.

    [Ultimately, it’s irrelevant to my argument against them, though–even if the KR *were* an example of an atheist revolution, defending a movement whose tenets involved offing all the nearsighted, overeducated, literate, non-callused-hands crowd would be a terrible strategy on *my* part :). ]

  395. Kseniya, OM says

    RavenT, very interesting comment about the KR. Clearly we agree on the point that I (badly, vaguely) tried to make: that atrocities committed by ostensibly atheistic regimes are traceable not to atheism itself, but to another, perhaps tangentially related, ideology that serves as a driving force or defining characteristic of that regime.

    I hope that’s clear, cuz I gotta go join the Order of the Phoenix. Have fun, yeh Muggles!

  396. David Harmon says

    Kseniya: “The UU’s don’t deserve to be lumped in with the Fundies.”

    Thank you, I think you’ve wrapped up my biggest issue with PZ’s attitude.

  397. tony says

    Catching up here….

    KKairos: Interesting phrasing Obviously I don’t agree with everything you’ve got to say about religion. Since you label yourself a moderate evangelical Christian, it would be *very* surprising if you did! However,I appreciate your openness to discussion and your wish to conduct yourself and your dialog with us in a civil manner. Appreciated, truly.

    Sophia: I’d like to re-iterate kmarissa’s statements. My apologies if we seemed a little ‘over the top’ in our response, but as we’ve said before – we’re all somewhat ‘pavlovianly conditioned’ to bark at fundies – and that seemed to be what your initial posting required. I hope we’re past that, now. We are truly interested in dialog. If you can help us be ‘less dogmatic’ in our approach, I for one would be very grateful.

    Charlie: I’d respond, but Anton Mates has done so already – I’ll simply say ‘ditto’

    BizKwik: I’m perplexed too. Only Xians seem to be so annoyed that some people are not simply ‘non christian’ but actually non-theist. It brings out the proselytizer in all of them (usually with a lot of ‘love’ invoked’). I’ve had many interesting religious discussions with Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs,and Jews. Not so many with Christians (even when I was younger and Catholic). I’d re-iterate Pookie’s wish for a much broader debate than simply Xian/atheist…. it gets *dull*

    Lanz: You’re saying (in a slightly more erudite way) what we challenged sophia, tara, and others for…. your post has been answered many times already. Perhaps you should read more thoroughly rather than skim.

    John Davis: worthy only of WTF? See Ray Fox’s post for specifics.

    RavenT, Kseniya: I’d like to amplify some of the comments you both made regarding the difference between ‘ideology’ and ‘atheism’… I think it also highlight why some Xian sects seem particularly rabid -v- others… their source is identical, and the base tenets of their ‘faith’ and ‘religion’ are fundamentally the same – the key difference is in their ideology — how they interpret their beliefs.

  398. Terry Grinnalds says

    I have a question about religion I never hear debated: Even if a superior being created our world (I agree that it did not happen, but posing it for argument), SO WHAT?

    Why would that mean we should worship him/it? We humans may, within a hundred years, be able to create a living, thinking orgaism – a bilogical robot, so to speak. That seems to be the way computers and biophysics are heading. If we succeed in doing so, does that mean it should worship us? What does it say that it seems shameful even to contemplate such a thing, but millions feel it right to beg and kotow to an entity whose sole right to it is based upon “His” setting up the universe and creating us? Why would “God” not properly be ashamed to have us begging and pleading to him?

    And why should we do it just because he’s grander, unknowable, all-powerful, all the things that are claimed for him? Is it because he can admit us to heaven or send us to hell? Well, let’s see. I think a small scale equivalent would be my parents and me. They created me – I would not be here without them? Does that mean I should consider it my sole purpose in life to praise them for it, or is a simple appreciation more appropriate? I suppose they could have killed me as an infant, or perhaps even now. Does that mean I need to spend my life pleading to them not to do so? Wouldn’t they properly be ashamed if I felt it necessary to act that way? Who, in his right mind, would think it proper for his creations (for whom HE should feel responsibility) to be totally consumed with fear or love of him as opposed to granting him a reasonable respect for his gift and going on their ways to make best use of it?

    So why do millions of Christians dedicate their whole lives to praising and begging a being who, as they conceive him, is the epitome of cruelty and selfishness, who as a human being they would despise or lock away?

    Even if he existed as they believe?

  399. Caledonian says

    Kseniya: “The UU’s don’t deserve to be lumped in with the Fundies.”

    I certainly wouldn’t put them in the same class, but in a few important ways, they are certainly comparable. Both actively encourage the spread of irrationality.

  400. octopod says

    I have only one thing to offer here, and it’s anecdotal. For the benefit ofthose who were following Luna_the_cat’s story upthread and debating the reportedly high incidence of people dreaming that loved ones had died when they really did die, that story is as follows: one night my boyfriend woke up in a fright, jumped upright, shouted “No! Oh no!” and began crying. It transpired that he had just had a dream in which I had died.
    I hadn’t.
    Just for the record, here. Some of us are paying attention to the non-confirming incidents.

  401. sophia says

    Hey everybody. I thought i would be back sooner but moving is a lot of work. Im glad im welcome here. Im not going to try to preach to anyone but i think it was kmarissa who made the statement that youve heard it all before. I know youve all heard a lot but i really believe there is alot more to it than you know. However since ive been asked not to talk about it i won’t out of respect for the majority. To kseniya, you asked me my age and to be honest im kind of afraid to say for fear of being judged but i’ll take the leap:17. I think brownian asked me what i would think about islam being part of a school curriculum. Im so glad you asked:). I want to say first i believe faith or anything else not based on mass amounts of measurable evidence should be in a science classroom. I do think Islam and everyother religion, faith, and philosophy should be taught in school curriculum as part of a cultural studies course. It would be very interesting. I for one love learning about all different types of beliefs, how theyve evolved, and the affects they have. I do not think the school should teach anyone particular belief as truth so it will be fair. It would be a totally informational experience. Of course it may lead people to choose to believe a certain way but that would be entirely up to the student.

  402. sophia says

    Man as soon as i get into the blog nobody is there. This is SO discrimination…jk! It really is all about timing. Thanks kmarissa and tony for being more i dont know… nice. I just read that doug guy’s comments and have just one thing to say: hes not showing christians in the right light. OK two things to say “furry ball sac.” Thats priceless. I wonder how that line would work on people face to face.

  403. sophia says

    So nothing i love more than talking to myself on a blog. I see your point, Terry. Unfortunately you misunderstand. That is ok though cuz even though im past what your talking about(and i said the same things you said once) there are still many things i dont get. But it doesnt matter you see because things i do get outweigh the things i dont. That might have been confusing but its the simplest way to say it. Since no one’s on this blog right now im gonna take advantage of it to tie up some loose ends. About the dog comment i made to kmarissa, i meant that if there is no God, like you believe, then me believing in the christian god doesnt hurt and neither would me believing my dog was a god. It doesnt hurt to believe and be wrong but not believing and being wrong…well i dont even wanna think about it. Also christians do not have a get out of jail free card. In fact we have judgement threefold. In addition to the bearing that bad deeds have on the *christian* and *atheist* conscience alike(someone said before atheists have to live with their transgressions their whole life but christians just get it taken away), there is judgement by God after death for everything we do(good and bad)as well as the “you reap what you sow” bit. Just because we get a new start doesnt mean we forget the evil we’ve done. Christians are plagued with that plight of guilt for one’s actions just like atheists are. It’s almost worse because even after becoming a christian you still cant always do right and sometimes that failure and weakness makes me feel even worse than the wrong i committed.

  404. sophia says

    I wonder what the record is for the most consecutive posts by the same person. Im not going to try to break it cuz this is boring and people are waiting. Thank God its summer (pun intended) and there is no curfew!!! I dont believe in a curfew anyway (wheres the proof cuz time is an illusion) and fortunately neither do parents during summer. Its a beautiful thing.

  405. cyan says

    Sophia,

    I agree with you that comparative religions should be a mandatory class or classes in high school.

    However, the same parents who howl about ALL the science of scientists being taught in the science classroom, instead of JUST the science compatible with their preacher’s interpretation of the bible, would probably kick up a fuss about this, also, in fear that presenting views alternative to their dogma will cause their children to think with this new information & thus perhaps come to different conclusions than the parents & their chosen preacher have.

  406. bPer says

    Sophia @#435:

    Welcome back! I’m glad you’re still with us.

    I must say that your post reveals a whole different side of you than your first posts. There is much that you said that most people here would agree with. Certainly everything you said about school is bang on in my books.

    Your age is only an issue in that you will be conversing here with some people who have much more experience than you (I’ve been at this since before kseniya was born!). I recommend that, after you’re done with this thread, you lurk here to observe what common theist arguments come up and how we address them. Speak up when you feel you have something to contribute, and once you’ve got a grip on the basics of what it is to be an atheist.

    BTW, did you know that Prof. Myers’ daughter has a website of her own, she’s about your age, and she’s an atheist? She is a great writer and has interesting things to say. It would be another perspective on the atheist experience.

    One final thing for now – my motivation. In case you’re wondering, I don’t think anyone here is trying to ‘convert’ you to atheism. My motivation for trying to engage you is to try to open your eyes to what atheism really is. There are a lot of theists who demonize us, spreading deliberate misinformation in an effort to make us pariahs in our own communities. If you come away from here understanding who we are, what we think, and how we think, you will be inoculated against those lies, and will see the liars/fearmongers for who they are. That will make you a more knowledgeable person and hopefully someone who considers an atheist to be just another member of society. If enough theists come around to that way of thinking, maybe someday it won’t be an issue in the USA if some political candidate happens to be an atheist.

    Good luck with your research!

  407. Kseniya says

    Hi Sophia. You won’t be judged for being 17 – heck, PZ’s daughter is younger than you and she’s very well regarded around here. I suspected you might be around that age, and thought it would be beneficial to the discussion if you were willing to disclose that.

    See, being 17 and having limited knowledge of some of the issues that come up here is one thing. Being 25 or 35 or 45 and strutting in here to express high-school level knowledge as if it were the final word on everything – while declining ever to admit ignorance or to accept information from those with conflicting viewpoints – is quite another. (Yes – they get tiresome. Hence the lack of patience you may occassionally witness ’round here – LOL.)

    So, though you may be labeled “young” and treated accordingly, that’s ok for two reasons: First, it’s true. Second, people will cut you more slack as long as you engage them fairly and in good faith. That’s all.

    (Some conflicts are inevitable, but hey. Roll on, sistah. The Golden Rule may actually be contagious. I’m not sure…)

    I’m on the young side here, too, but I’ve still got six years on you. A lot can happen in six years. You will grow emotionally and intellectually, and you will learn. Believe me, I might not even have had the courage to post here six years ago. A lot of what I know about the subjects I touched on yesterday I learned only in the past three years. You are well poised to surpass me before you are twenty.

  408. says

    Tony, sorry I misread your intent and accused you of accusing Tara of being Sophia’s sock-puppet. At least, it brought Sophia out of hiding. As a friend is wont to say, “Cautionary tales never end with and it was so cool!

    Sophia, this is a comment thread on a blog nested three pages deep, four times the length of the average Pharyngula comments thread, which is, oh, twenty times the average length of the average blog’s comment thread. This is not Internet Relay Chat or instant messaging. Seek instant gratification elesewhere. That is the beauty of the blog. People will put their babies to bed and wash the dishes and scan the news feeds for the latest atrocities first, and then look to see if there is anything worth responding to in the various peanut galleries. I would not feel so all alone.

    Before I respond to some of your writing, I have to calm down from a recent close encounter with a Christian who is certain I could never have been a Christian, ever, if I am no longer a Christian now, and I have to wash the stupid off of me with a wire brush before I can feign the slightest degree of civility around such topics. It may or may not surprise you that many, if not most, of the people that check these threads, were raised as Christians, or embraced it with as much sincerity as we were capable of mustering, before we came to abandon it. We chose to do so because we want to know what is true and real, and we wanted to learn how not to be fooled. At least, that was what I wanted, and am still working on.

  409. Anton Mates says

    About the dog comment i made to kmarissa, i meant that if there is no God, like you believe, then me believing in the christian god doesnt hurt and neither would me believing my dog was a god.

    It hurts us if your belief makes you do bad things. Is your dog a very good guide to right and wrong? Would you feel obligated to attack anyone your dog growled at?

    It doesnt hurt to believe and be wrong but not believing and being wrong…well i dont even wanna think about it.

    You’re essentially making Pascal’s Wager here. You may want to look at some common refutations of the wager to see why we don’t consider it to have very much force.

    Just because we get a new start doesnt mean we forget the evil we’ve done. Christians are plagued with that plight of guilt for one’s actions just like atheists are.

    Depends which Christians. If you’ve ever read a Jack T. Chick tract, you know that some Christians think being saved washes away not only your moral responsibility for past sins, but also your guilt for the same.

  410. Kseniya says

    bPer, nice post, I see we overlapped a bit, and not just temporally. :-)

    I just got back from Harry Potter, and I’m over-stimulated and reeling… Bellatrix… aaarrrggghhh…. omg she is great… LOL… but here goes:

    Sophia, with regard to the comments I addressed to you earlier, I want to clarify where it is I’m coming from.

    I believe it’s important for any American to understand what it means to have a secular goverment and society with guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom from religion. It’s important to understand why separation of church and state is important even when it comes to the majority religion. Especially when it comes to the majority religion.

    It’s important to understand that secularism isn’t the enemy of faith or organized religion – quite the opposite. Secularism in government is designed explicitly to keep religion out of politics, and vice-versa, for the protection of both. People who claim otherwise are either misinformed, or lying – which, to me, is a sign that they don’t believe in the principles upon which this nation was founded and are, in essence, radicals who wish to overthrow the Constitution as we know it.

    That may sound alarmist and extreme to you, but it’s not. I’m neither an alarmist, nor an extremist. It’s a simple truth that reveals itself once you understand what it is the Founding Fathers were trying to accomplish. Acts like legislating “God” into the Pledge in the 1950’s, when the country had been doing fine without it for 180 years, may seem trivial, but nonetheless go against the founding principles. These principles become more and more important as America becomes increasingly diverse and pluralistic, a trend which is both undeniable and inexorable.

  411. Kseniya says

    I have to wash the stupid off of me with a wire brush

    Ken – Ouch. I feel your pain, but LOL at the turn of phrase. :-) You raise a good point, though, which many theists fail to recognize: Very few atheists are raised as atheists. That’s relevant to any debate like this.

    Addendum to my last post, for reference:

    Here is a pretty nice collection of quotations that support the notion of separation of church and state. It’s not comprehensive scholarship, but it’s a start, and serves as a survey of what many great American political minds have to say on the subject. I suggest paying particular attention to the words and works of Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Adams, Paine, and Washington, and of Justice Hugo Black. (Hugo rocks! I mean it!)

    Here’s a piece by Brooke Allen called Our Godless Constitution. Ms. Allen is rather brilliant (in my humble opinion) but I do take some issue with her characterization of exactly what kind of Christian Thomas Jefferson was. That’s a minor quibble, though – the piece is pretty much dead-on otherwise. You can read it in 5-10 minutes and I guarantee it will give you something to think about.

    Be aware that none of this material I offer is a call to atheism, nor is it intended to affect, in any way, how you think about your faith or your religion. It’s all about the relationship between faith and government in the United States. I hope you find it interesting and useful. Peace. ~ Kseniya

  412. sophia says

    Now that im all wired from being out raising mayhem i thought i would drop in a few comments before retiring for the evening. I didnt know Myers had a daughter. How much younger is she than me? Hey Cyan, i think youre stereotyping religious parents. I know mine would like to see those kind of courses in school. They are passionate professors and diehard academia to the end. To Ken Cope: Aw shucks did people actually want me to come out of hiding? Wonders never cease…:0 I assume the questions about the dog fom Anton Mates werent serious so anyway i read the thing about Pascal’s Wager. Tis interesting but i find there to be certain contradictions in the opposing arguments. What you said about shirking moral responsibility however i must correct. As a true christian one does not try to get out of taking personal reasponsibility for their actions(at least i dont); It is ungodly to do so. Furthermore you must understand that yes God can take away your guilt because he is omnipotent but only if you are willing to give it up. It sounds easy but its not. Most people after becoming christians and being reborn still have problems with not letting go of their old life and self. It is a constant struggle which is why we mess up a lot and also why no matter how we are supposed to let go of the bad, to give it to God, some still feel that guilt. And its because we are just people and God may see us as white as snow but i know we dont see ourselves that way. I cant speak for all christians but i am referring to myself and the large community ive known all my young life. Thanks Kseniya for the info but i dont know about me surpassing you before im 20. I have a long way to go. Tony said i should at least read more than one book about atheism. Im willing to look at a few of the things you all shared with me(and let you know what ive learned if anyone’s interested) but I already have quite a heavy AP load along with my very active social life, not to be ignored. Plus its freakin summer!!! So im going to look at some the info/links you all gave me in addition to this website i found called infidels.org. I think it has pretty good introductory stuff. Ending comment: Ken Cope thanks for reminding me.instant gratification= call boyfriend but dont blog.Im writing that one down:)

  413. Kseniya says

    Yeah, it’s summer! Or, as they say in Revere Beach, Freakin Summah! That’s one reason I went to the movies on a Thursday night. I’ll be spending time at the lake over the weekend (unless it rains) and catching a few rays, hanging with friends, and maybe going out dancing. Hey, I like Thomas Jefferson, but he’s… you know… like, dead?

    XD

    (Oh – Skatje Myers is 16, maybe 17 now. Pretty much your age. Visit her blog if you want to know more.)

  414. Kseniya says

    BTW infidels.org is the site that offers that “pretty good collection of quotations” that I linked to in #446.

  415. tony says

    Hi all:

    Ken Cope: No hay problemo, buddy:) If this were a formal debating house I’d maybe be miffed – but it’s a blog – so no bad! re close encounter with a Christian … was that of the third kind? ;)

    Sophia: Glad you found the time to join us again, and extremely happy tou have an inquiring mind… As we’ve all said before – we really *don’t* care what you personally believe – so long as you’re not trying to enforce that belief on anyone else.

    To re-iterate Kseniya’s suggestion: PZ’s daughter Skatje is a little young for me [ahem] so much of what she blogs about I need to get translated by my son… but from what I’ve read – she is extremely bright, opinionated, and eager to widen her circle of friends… You sound like you have a very similar background (being an academic’s child) so you already seem to have three things in common (age, inquiry, parent’s career).

    Glad you came back. Hope you’ll continue to come back, and delight us with your new found knowledge — or challenge us with your insights (such as you mention above re: pascal’s wager). We may have heard it before – if so, we’ll say so. If not – then we’ll need to *think* – and that’s always “A good thing”(tm *)

    Anyway — I won’t be checking in again for a while — off on vacation with EXTREMELY LIMITED access to anything electronic….. YEAAAYYYY!

    *(tm Martha Stewart Enterprises)

  416. Anton Mates says

    I assume the questions about the dog fom Anton Mates werent serious

    There was a serious point behind them. You said it does no harm to worship a god who doesn’t exist or isn’t actually divine; I disagree. People have done horrible things to please a nonexistent god. Bringing fictitious entities into one’s moral calculus moves the focus away from the needs of real people.

    so anyway i read the thing about Pascal’s Wager. Tis interesting but i find there to be certain contradictions in the opposing arguments.

    If you have time, feel free to describe them.

    What you said about shirking moral responsibility however i must correct. As a true christian one does not try to get out of taking personal reasponsibility for their actions(at least i dont); It is ungodly to do so.

    Jack Chick apparently feels differently, and he thinks he’s a true Christian. How do you decide who’s right?

  417. sophia says

    Anton Mates: I get the analogy with the dog. I also get where youre coming from but all i know is because of the foundations of what it means to be a christian contradict hurting other people, not according to historical events but in the Bible,then a real chistian would not do that and if so is mislead. They way you tell who is a real christian is by Christ’s example. Of course only God knows the heart so sometimes people are deceived. Also people who are true christians only believe what the Bible says and use that along with direct communication with God to guide their lives. Biz, i dont think christians are less willing to question just nore faithful because it is the true faith. That might piss people off but its what i think as a christian. What i always wondered was how the Jews called Jesus a heretic when his coming had been prophesied and he performed miracles before them.”They will have ears but they will not hear and eyes but they will not see.”

  418. bPer says

    Hi Sophia. Responding to your comments @#453,

    I’m getting the impression that you haven’t really learned much about other religions yet, or if so, it has been very carefully presented in a way that makes them all look flawed or inferior. Not to worry; you have a lifetime ahead of you to expand your understanding and knowledge, and maybe we can help you start that process. Here’s some food for thought:

    i dont think christians are less willing to question just nore faithful because it is the true faith

    If you step back from your religion for a moment, I’m sure you can imagine as I do that any devout follower of any religion would just as confidently claim that his/hers is “the true faith”. The problem is, who’s right? It does no good quoting from your sacred text, because they won’t accept the authority of the text, and vice versa. How do you know you and your family haven’t made a horrible mistake? “I know in my heart” doesn’t cut it, as how do you know you haven’t been fooled by the Devil or whatever embodiment of evil exists in other religions? It comes down to a simple fact – you believe what your parents believe. Just like the Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and everybody else.

    What i always wondered was how the Jews called Jesus a heretic when his coming had been prophesied and he performed miracles before them.

    Why not ask a Jew? I don’t know if this website represents accepted Jewish teachings on the issue, but it is a start. Any Jews around here who could lend a hand?

    people who are true christians only believe what the Bible says and use that along with direct communication with God to guide their lives

    Problem is, the Bible is full of contradictions and mixed messages. I get the impression that the Sermon on the Mount is an important part of your faith. Peace and love and all that. But Jesus was also quoted saying that he brought the sword and strife. Apologists for your church may have clever arguments to reconcile these conflicting messages, but some other equally-devout Christian may conclude that Jesus advocates killing non-believers. And I haven’t even mentioned anything about the conflicting messages of the OT.

    You take the Bible as authority. A lot of scholarship has gone into the origins of the Bible. Check this out as something to think about.

    Getting back to the last quote, I presume by “direct communication” you meant prayer. How can you be certain that you’re not just having a conversation with yourself? Think of all the times you’ve managed to convince yourself of something that turned out to be wrong. Why is this any different?

    I’ve talked a lot about your faith, and not a lot about atheism. Maybe next time, eh?

    And finally, yes, get out and enjoy the summer! Savour this time of your life – the freedom, the newness, the broad horizons. There are rewards that come with maturity, but nothing matches youth.

  419. sophia says

    Ive read about other religions it just seems that Christianity is unlike any other in a way that makes sense. Ive heard what people call contradictions in the Bible and it all depends on your understanding and interpretation of it. It doesnt matter anyway cuz i know we’ll never agree but i had a question if anybody could help me out? Do most atheists believe that humans are inherently bad or inclined to do bad things?

  420. says

    Do most atheists believe that humans are inherently bad or inclined to do bad things?

    Can’t speak for most atheists, but just for myself, if most humans were bad, we couldn’t function as a society. Most people act in a good way for the most part–most lost children who go to a strange adult for help are NOT kidnapped and raped, just for one example. Of course, everyone falls short of their own expectations of themselves, and feels bad about it, sometimes, but that’s part of life. Much like airplane crashes, though, the truly bad, worthy-of-calling-evil counterexamples are vivid and memorable, but not the majority of cases.

    Personally, I think most people act as they are taught to act, combined with a certain amount of inherent temperament or resilience. Babies aren’t tabulae rasae (blank slates) as once was thought, but have some inherent degree of potentials and personality that we don’t yet know how to describe very fully. They’re born into an environment that provides either good or bad experiences through interaction, and the accumulation of those experiences teaches the child lessons about how the world “is”. The child then uses those lessons as a basis on how to go through life.

    So I think it’s really important to provide a lot of nurturing early on, tailored to the child’s temperament, to get the best chance of having someone who grows up to be a good person. But even that doesn’t work in every case, and there are other cases of good people who have come out of horrible environments, so we certainly are a long way from understanding all the possible complications.

  421. Steve_C says

    I don’t. I think most people tend toward altruism. But we’re also terribly tribal.

  422. Anton Mates says

    I also get where youre coming from but all i know is because of the foundations of what it means to be a christian contradict hurting other people, not according to historical events but in the Bible,then a real chistian would not do that and if so is mislead. They way you tell who is a real christian is by Christ’s example.

    But Christ hurt other people. He whipped the merchants in the temple, he drove a herd of swine to their deaths, he withered a fig tree for being in the wrong season, and if Revelation is even metaphorically correct, he’s going to kill billions of people when he returns.

    Biz, i dont think christians are less willing to question just nore faithful because it is the true faith.

    Doesn’t that mean they’re less willing to question? How can you be exceptionally faithful, and convinced that your faith is true, and willing to question all at the same time?

    What i always wondered was how the Jews called Jesus a heretic when his coming had been prophesied and he performed miracles before them.

    That’s a good question. Also why the Greeks and Romans don’t seem to have noticed him at all, even though they were very interested in more famous miracle-workers like Apollonius of Tyana and Alexander of Abonoteichus.

    The simplest explanation is that he didn’t perform any miracles or fulfill any prophecies; later writers simply claimed he did. Since the existing gospels are all from fifty or more years after the usual date given for his death, they could write just about anything about him and few people would know the difference!

  423. Anton Mates says

    Ive heard what people call contradictions in the Bible and it all depends on your understanding and interpretation of it.

    But if the Bible is that open to understanding and interpretation, what does it mean that “people who are true christians only believe what the Bible says?” Pretty much everyone who calls hirself a Christian–Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses included–believes what the Bible says, according to their interpretation.

    Do most atheists believe that humans are inherently bad or inclined to do bad things?

    Not particularly. In general, I’ve found most atheists to be more optimistic than believers about human moral potential. Humans will sometimes do bad things, of course, just as they will do good things; aggression and deception and honesty and altruism are each useful in a certain set of situations, so evolution’s endowed us with the capacity for all of them. But given the right upbringing and social incentives, humans can be very good indeed.

  424. Kseniya says

    Sophia, I heartily agree with RavenT’s and Steve_C’s comments. Some people are inclined to do bad things, yes, but most aren’t. The “inherently bad” thing seems to come primarily from Christianity, unfortunately. No baby is “born into sin.” That’s repellent concept. Whoever dreamed that one up deserves a spanking. (Was it St. Augustine?)

    Generally speaking, most people treat most other people as they’d like to be treated themselves. For every newsworthy act of horror or greed, there are a hundred million tiny acts of goodness committed every day by regular people from every imaginable walk of life, the religious and the irreligious alike. This is human behavior. It has nothing to do with belief or unbelief in god(s).

    But damn, yeah, Steve is right. Tribal, tribal, tribal! bPer’s comments about “the true faith” are spot-on. Ones faith is largely an accident of birth. If you’d been born in Tibet, Japan or Iran, the things you’d “know” to be “true” would be radically different from what they are today. Are you aware that there are millions of people around the world who worship the God of the Old Testament, who believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus, but who consider him a prophet and not the divine son of God? That they (perhaps rightly) reject the doctrine of The Trinity as polytheistic? Some of the more radical members have developed a nasty habit of blowing themselves up for what they believe in. Does their devotion and sacrifice not prove that theirs is the one true faith?

  425. Kseniya says

    Tribal, tribal, tribal.

    Our tribal memberships are also accidents of birth. I’m Ukrainian by heritage, American by birth. I’m a Red Sox fan because I grew up in Massachusetts, not because they are The One True Team. (Well, they are, but that’s another topic.) I’m a Christain (nominally) because my ancestors were born into Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Incidentally, Eastern Orthodoxy is the One True Faith. It is the unbroken continuation of the original Christian community established by Jesus and the Apostles, and it adheres to the original core beliefs of that community. The rest of you, well, all ya’ll are a buncha heretics. You’ll probably burn. Yup, even a good pseudo-Christian girl like Sophia. Sigh. I will pray for her. (Forgive her, Father, for she knows not that she is a heritic. She was born into it.)

    So. Anyway. Those are my tribes. I’m likely to believe, irrationally, that my tribes are good and right and better in some vague way, because I was raised in them and it’s natural for me to feel that way – but that doesn’t mean they’re intrinsically superior to any other tribes. After all, HOW WOULD I KNOW? How would I know unless I went and lived with, or otherwise comprehensively studied, those other tribes?

    This tribe of Pharyngulites hasn’t cooked and eaten me yet, so I’m starting to feel safe here. Heh. You?

  426. Anton Mates says

    The “inherently bad” thing seems to come primarily from Christianity, unfortunately. No baby is “born into sin.” That’s repellent concept. Whoever dreamed that one up deserves a spanking. (Was it St. Augustine?)

    Yup. That was actually considered a heresy by most Christians when he suggested it, and it was only embraced well after his death. To judge by many of Jesus’ comments, the early Christians thought you were born innocent. I would imagine that the Gnostic half of Christianity also embraced that idea, since they tended to view the material world as dragging you down from the moment you appeared in it.

  427. sophia says

    Well i understand the nature versus nuture concept but i think there is a reason people are born where theyre born and things arent just accidental. I also think i now understand where the root of our disagreement comes from. I hate ending sentences with prepositions but whatever. Basically i believe what i believe because ive found its truth to be shown. I think many other faiths show aspects of its truth as well but are perversions of the original belief. You see a lot of similar concepts in a lot of different faiths and that is no coincidence. Basically you all say you dont believe in God because theres no real evidence but dont you think its a little strange that all throughout history people from all different cultures who had no contact with eachother have had similar ideas(or just the idea of God)? Doesnt that mean anything? Im sorry but fig trees and pigs(which by the way killed themselves) arent people and you didnt remember to say there was a point to what Christ did. He didnt beat the merchants in the temple he overturned their tables and made them leave because they had turned a temple, a holy place, into a market. Everyone here demands evidence. Someone before posted that to have faith without logic is child-like. That is very interesting because Jesus said, “Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child shall no wise enter therein.” Just making an observation no trying to convert:)The “if you start proselytizing again..” speech made by everyone really put me in my place. But anyway i dont think people are inherently good or inclined to it(in fact quite the opposite) and that is where the root of the disagreement is. All of you answered my question very predictably and I am now convinced it is not so much faith you all have an issue with but that you honestly think there is a lack of need for it. I am amused at the naivety you have all seemed to preserve about the good in people. If you really think people tend towards altruism you have been SERIOUSLY mislead. People are selfish ; its part of that whole self conservation, preservation thing. Most people are not good Samaritans who would do the right thing. Most people do the right thing for themselves. This seems to be something i understand at 17 already. All of you being much older, i would have thought that reality would have gotten through by now. For realists im surprised but still amused. Maybe youve just gotten luckier eh? You all base everything on logic and reasoning; well it is logical to act in one’s own self interest. To do otherwise would have to be brought on something not so logical like i dont know love, faith, selflessness. Reason doesnt factor into it. Thats not all there is to life.Think about this: how do you know someone really loves you? You say they show by their actions, they tell me etc… But is that evidence? Is that measurable? Is that really testable since you cant know for sure what is in that persons head? That might seem like a ridiculous example but the point is that at certain points your evidence can only go so far; that at some point we have to make assumptions based on what we do know and see as well as what we dont, even in science. If you really have an open mind then why say there is no possibility? You cant know for sure there is not.The site someone gave me about Pascal’s wager seemed to have a few things that didnt make sense. For instance, in the rebuttal of his wager, it said there were 4 alternatives not the original 2 that Pascal thought. It named the christian God and an afterlife , some other god and an afterlife, atheism with an afterlife, and atheism without an afterlife. Assuming unlike faiths, there is no penalty for not being an atheist then the other two options dont really mean a whole hell of a lot so there really are only 2 ways that if either one were true and you didnt believe it would matter. Therefore there are only 2 “gambles” with this wager. Another “rebuttal” had to do with infinity and which is the greater gain. Frankly, thats all fine but its just stupid to try to mathematically work out which would be the greater gain.. reincarnation or heaven? Honestly God can work beyond our little peebrain calculations. No one can know exactly what heaven is like but its called heaven so it would logically speaking be better than anything on earth. The rebuttal went on to say that since infinity times any positive number is still infinity that thiests would only have a better gain if the gain from life on earth was zero or negative. From this brilliant analysis they came to the conclusion that: “Therefore you have to detest life and the world for the argument to be valid.” Which is ridiculous because i dont detest life any neither do other christians. We know the afterlife will be better because it wont have evil in it so yeah that makes it better even with that math crap. We are, however, supposed to be in the world not of it. Its the evil of the world we detest as any other decent person does.

  428. Sophia says

    Btw jehovahs wintnesses and mormons have added onto God’s word which is heresy. Any faith that says only a certain amount of people can go to heaven(God gave an open invitation) or that satan and Jesus Christ, Son of God, were brothers is not filed under christianity. Try weird, blasphemous cult.

  429. cyan says

    Sophia,

    I hope that you will have a long life which brings you satisfaction and that also is more beneficial to many others than if you had never lived.

    And I hope that you will practice & become good at thinking, yourself, based on how the real world works (in terms of all things: humans, other organisms, & nonlife),

    instead of accepting that the thinking of others who have lived thousands of years ago to now is somehow better than your own.

  430. sophia says

    Why thank you, cyan. I hope the same for you. I do however think for myself but that doesnt mean i cant agree with other people no matter how long ago they died. I happen to agree with many people who have died such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony. Why do you have a problem that i agree with Jesus Christ? Why is that you didnt respond to anything i was saying but instead made personal comments?

  431. Steve_C says

    Sophia may be inherently evil.

    Anyone this long winded and pointless must be sent by satan to torture the godless.

  432. Sophia says

    I’m not long winded or pointless. I admit i ramble sometimes but hey its a blog and people said they wanted to hear what i had to say. Clearly you are the one with no point if your not discussing something relevant to the topic which personal attacks are not. Im not trying to torture anyone. I thought this was a place to dicuss aspects of atheism as well as theism. Would you prefer i conform to what you want? Ok i take back everything i said. What was i thinking? Maybe i was thinking that i was allowed to think. Some people on this blog gave me the impression thats ok to do. I must have lost it. Its crazy to respond to posts directed to you. Btw there is no satan if there is no God. Dont be moronic.

  433. Steve_C says

    I do have a point.

    Your posts are boring. You go on and on about what a true christian believes and what god is and it is all complete nonsense. Jesus Christ as in the son of god… nonsense. Jesus the jewish philosopher/rebel rabbi? He maybe existed. Alot of christians say the same stuff… they just seem to do it with less hot air.

    But still, I’ve heard it all before.

  434. Kseniya says

    Sophia. I don’t think you’re quite right about the reincarnation argument, no matter how cavalierly you choose to dismiss it. It’s simple. If you think life is worth living, then you are better off in a system that allows you to live more than one lifetime, because you get to spend eternity in heaven anyway. The no-reincarnation system is superior only if you consider life not worth re-living. That’s what the argument implies. It is not incorrect. (Neither is the math supporting it, but we don’t have to focus on that.)

    We are all, of course, free to say, “No, thanks, one lifetime followed by an eternity in heaven is enough for me,” which is what you have done.

    You rebut two rebuttals to Pascal – what about the other eight or ten?

  435. Anton Mates says

    Btw jehovahs wintnesses and mormons have added onto God’s word which is heresy.

    The Jews, of course, say exactly the same thing about Christians–they’ve added all that heretical Jesus-is-divine stuff to the holy Tanakh.

    Any faith that says only a certain amount of people can go to heaven(God gave an open invitation) or that satan and Jesus Christ, Son of God, were brothers is not filed under christianity. Try weird, blasphemous cult.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses think that only the 144,000 from Revelation will go to heaven, but that anyone else who gives themselves to Christ can receive everlasting life, just as Jesus said. It’s merely eternal life in an earthly paradise rather than a heavenly one. Offhand I can’t think of anything in the Bible which refutes it; it’s just another interpretation.

    And no, the Mormons don’t think that Satan and Jesus were literal brothers…or close friends, or coworkers, or particularly similar in any way. That’s a common anti-Mormon smear by other churches. Mormons simply consider Jesus the spiritual elder brother to every created being, Satan included, since Jesus is God’s only begotten son and all of us are God’s children.

  436. bPer says

    Sophia said @468, responding to Steve_C:

    Btw there is no satan if there is no God. Dont be moronic.

    :-)

    Way to go, Sophia! Steve_C was trying to get your goat and slip something by you that he obviously doesn’t believe. You saw through him, and I see that we don’t have to explain that atheists aren’t satan worshippers. You’d be amazed how many Christians make that absurd claim – even preachers (who should know better).

    But I think Steve_C made (perhaps inadvertently) a good point, in that #463 is a tough slog to read. Paragraph breaks are your friend. One thought to a paragraph.

    As for cyan’s post #465, I took it to mean that (s)he was leaving the discussion. Frankly, I was considering the same thing after reading #463. It was not so much what you said as much as your attitude that put me off. I have to think some more about how I want to respond to that.

  437. Steve_C says

    A brief history of disbelief is on PBS ch.13 in NYC at the moment.

    Covering Hobbes at the moment.

  438. Kseniya says

    Sophia: Oops, I got pulled away, and didn’t finish my thought. The point is not that you should abandon God because Pascal’s Wager is flawed (and it is). The point is that Pascal’s Wager only works as a rationale if you already believe in the assumptions it makes: that there is only one possible God; that He rewards Faith and punishes Disbelief; that choosing to believe on the basis of some rationale is, in the eyes of God, equivalent to Faith.

    Presenting this:

    “It makes sense to believe, because if you don’t – yikers!”

    as a rational argument for faith says only this:

    “You bet your ass I believe, and those who don’t are in deep shit!”

    :-)

  439. sophia says

    Sorry about not having paragraph breaks. I will work on it:) Notice, everyone, how talking constructively to eachother works so much better.Im sorry if it seems i have an attitude. I will try to work on that as well.

    Ksyenia, interesting thoughts. No one can know for sure what heaven is really like but the very idea of it means its better than life here on earth. If thats true then reincarnation could be the worst gain because it takes the longest to get to heaven depending on your karmic lot. Does that make sense? Frankly im confused at this point myself.

    There are other rebuttals of Pascal’s wager that i dont think are valid rebuttals. On the otherhand, some of them are. Still that doesnt matter. If there is no God or afterlife of any sort it doesnt hurt to think there is but if there is than being an atheist means you have zero chances.

    But i dont need probabilities to motivate me. People arent supposed to believe because they dont want to got to hell. God sees the heart; thats how he judges. He knows whos real and whos an imposter. You cant scare or reason people into believing. Lol no wonder. You have to show by example. So i definitely wouldnt use Pascal’s wager to try to convince someone. It wouldnt work and it wouldnt be right anyway.

  440. Kseniya says

    Btw jehovahs wintnesses and mormons have added onto God’s word which is heresy.

    Indeed they have – as have the Roman Catholics and virtually every Protestant demonination you could name!

    Understand that I wasn’t completely joking about the Eastern Orthodoxy being the one true [Christian] faith, which makes you and just about everyone you know, by your own definition of heresy, heretics.

    Everyone ‘cept, me, of course. Хвалите Бога! :-)

    Didn’t you catch that comment about Original Sin? C’mon now, you’re intelligent – read between the lines and put two and two together. The concept of Original Sin was not part of the original Christian doctrine. Nor is it part of Jewish theology. It was proposed by Augustine some four hundred years after the death of Jesus, and subsequently added by his successors.

    Four. Hundred. Years.

    Yet you unquestioningly accept this concept – one that promoted not only the despairingly negative belief that people are inherently selfish and evil, but also the unspeakably cruel conclusion that unbaptized infants go to Hell – as if came directly from the mouth of God Himself!

    Yet we know that it did not. It’s doctrine by way of “I’m gonna make up whatever crazy-ass shit I wanna, cuz, like, hey – I can!” Have you ever thought to question that process and all that it implies about the theological legitimacy of “the one true faith” (i.e. modern Christianity)?

    Again, this has little to do with belief or unbelief in God. It’s about getting a handle on what it is, exactly, you profess to believe in, where those beliefs originate, and what they espouse. You think you know – but do you? Really?

  441. Uber says

    Btw there is no satan if there is no God

    Perhaps in Christian theology but not other religions. According to any number of people God can exist quite well minus any ‘satan’.

  442. Kseniya says

    People arent supposed to believe because they dont want to got to hell.

    Right! I agree! But they do – and isn’t it the threat of Hell, even more than the promise of Heaven, that ups the ante in Pascal’s Wager? That very threat has been used to leverage human fealty and behavior at every level, from most exalted cleric to the meanest nursemaid, since the very first gods awoke from their Chaotic slumbers.

  443. Kseniya says

    That is true, Uber, but Sophia was asserting the opposite: that Satan would not exist if there was no God.

  444. Anton Mates says

    On Pascal’s Wager:

    The site someone gave me about Pascal’s wager seemed to have a few things that didnt make sense. For instance, in the rebuttal of his wager, it said there were 4 alternatives not the original 2 that Pascal thought. It named the christian God and an afterlife , some other god and an afterlife, atheism with an afterlife, and atheism without an afterlife. Assuming unlike faiths, there is no penalty for not being an atheist then the other two options dont really mean a whole hell of a lot so there really are only 2 ways that if either one were true and you didnt believe it would matter.

    No offense, but I think you misunderstand the relevance of each alternative. Pascal’s original alternatives were “Christian God and an afterlife” and “atheism without an afterlife.” The author of this article is suggesting the other two. “Atheism with an afterlife” is significant because there could be a penalty for not being an atheist; in fact, this is the case in many schools of Buddhism. The gods are illusory, and excessive devotion to them will obstruct your path to Nirvana.

    “Some other god and an afterlife” is significant because the true god might be particularly hostile to Christianity, and more tolerant of atheists. For instance, maybe Ba’al is in charge of the universe, and he really doesn’t like the way Jews and Christians have slandered him. Or maybe God likes to see his creations exercise their powers of reason, and he prefers us to doubt his existence, rather than believe in him without good cause.

    Another “rebuttal” had to do with infinity and which is the greater gain. Frankly, thats all fine but its just stupid to try to mathematically work out which would be the greater gain.. reincarnation or heaven? Honestly God can work beyond our little peebrain calculations.

    Quite true, but remember that it’s Pascal who brought in the infinity thing in the first place, and for a very good reason; without it his wager (and yours) doesn’t make sense.

    Suppose I tell you that if you stick a fork in your eye to honor Odin, he’ll repay you by healing your eye, giving you ten billion dollars in gold and granting you immortality and heat vision. Great deal, right? So why don’t you do it? Because I’m almost certainly wrong or lying. Even though the payoff to that wager is really huge, the chance of winning is really really small.

    In order to claim, as you have, that the possibility of heaven makes it worth practicing Christianity, you have to figure out how probable it is that Christianity’s true. A really great heaven still doesn’t make it worthwhile if it almost certainly doesn’t exist. Pascal tried to get around that by saying that heaven’s infinitely awesome, so no matter how improbable it is, you should still bet on it. But as you say, that doesn’t make much sense mathematically.

    No one can know exactly what heaven is like but its called heaven so it would logically speaking be better than anything on earth.

    I’m not sure how that’s logical. I could call my house “Supreme Paradise,” but that doesn’t make it the best place in the universe.

    The rebuttal went on to say that since infinity times any positive number is still infinity that thiests would only have a better gain if the gain from life on earth was zero or negative. From this brilliant analysis they came to the conclusion that: “Therefore you have to detest life and the world for the argument to be valid.” Which is ridiculous because i dont detest life any neither do other christians.

    But the author didn’t say you did. They said that if you don’t, that argument isn’t valid.

  445. Anton Mates says

    On altruism:

    But anyway i dont think people are inherently good or inclined to it(in fact quite the opposite) and that is where the root of the disagreement is. All of you answered my question very predictably and I am now convinced it is not so much faith you all have an issue with but that you honestly think there is a lack of need for it. I am amused at the naivety you have all seemed to preserve about the good in people. If you really think people tend towards altruism you have been SERIOUSLY mislead.

    Oh, on the contrary–the more you learn about anthropology and sociology, the more you’ll realize how universal the altruistic impulse is. In every society–atheist, pantheist, animist, monotheist, whatever–humans do good things. Children do good things. Even animals do good; dogs help other dogs, monkeys help other monkeys, ants help other ants. If you have time, take a look at Chapter 4 of Darwin’s Descent of Man; 150 years ago, he was one of the first people to realize just how selfless the average social animal is.

    My wife and I study crows, and we see them helping one another all the time. Feeding each other, preening each other, protecting each other from predators. A young one died in the night, probably of West Nile, and his sister spent hours circling the body, calling and flattening herself submissively, as they do to invite play and preening sessions. Are they driven to do good things by Crow Jesus? Probably not. It’s simply the natural thing to do.

    People are selfish ; its part of that whole self conservation, preservation thing. Most people are not good Samaritans who would do the right thing. Most people do the right thing for themselves. This seems to be something i understand at 17 already. All of you being much older, i would have thought that reality would have gotten through by now. For realists im surprised but still amused. Maybe youve just gotten luckier eh?

    Perhaps, at 17, you haven’t yet met the right people. :-)

    Really, once you’re old enough to travel on your own, find an atheist or two! Find a Buddhist, and a New Ager, and a deist, and a Lutheran. You’ll be amazed by how they don’t punch you in the face and steal your cash. They act just like normal, nice people, even though they don’t have your supernatural beliefs in particular to sustain them. (Unless you’re a Lutheran. Then find a Baptist.)

    You all base everything on logic and reasoning; well it is logical to act in one’s own self interest. To do otherwise would have to be brought on something not so logical like i dont know love, faith, selflessness.

    Now, I don’t blame you for saying that, because it’s a very common theme in religion, particularly Christianity. That’s one of the biggest reasons why atheists dislike religion–it teaches us that it’s natural, sensible, logical to be a jerk. But it isn’t.

    In the first place, it’s not “logical” to do anything in particular. Logic and reason can’t tell you what to do. All it can tell you is, if you have certain desires, what you can do to satisfy them. Acting in your own self-interest isn’t logical at all unless you have self-interest in the first place. Which of course you do. But you also have impulses toward love, faith, and selflessness, and it’s just as logical to try to satisfy those as well. When someone drops their wallet, it pleases me to give it back to them and see them be happy; therefore I do that. Logic!

    Now, behind the misconception above is, I think, a more basic one–that creatures should be expected to look out for their own needs above all else. Thanks to evolutionary theory, though, we know this simply isn’t true. Evolution has shaped us not to preserve ourselves, but to preserve our genes–and if self-sacrifice helps us do that, self-sacrifice will flourish. When a mother nobly lays down her life for her kids, they pass on those same genes for maternal care to their kids. It’s a wonderful biological truth: love is natural.

    There are some well-known examples of evolutionary mechanisms producing altruism. Look up kin selection and reciprocal altruism, for instance; I can give you references if you’d like.

    Reason doesnt factor into it. Thats not all there is to life.Think about this: how do you know someone really loves you? You say they show by their actions, they tell me etc… But is that evidence? Is that measurable? Is that really testable since you cant know for sure what is in that persons head?

    Yep, yep, and yep. If they consistently behave in a way that indicates they love me–they say so, they do nice things, etc..–then I have my evidence. Sure, there might be secret hatred boiling inside which they don’t display in any way whatsoever, but I can’t distinguish that from love, so why worry?

    Incidentally, some materialists would argue that you can know for sure what is in that person’s head–just look at their brain processes. That may not be completely practical for us mortals, but even at present we can see some neurological cues that go with affection or aversion. If someone’s brain looks like they’re feeling love, and they say so, and they act like it, the idea that they could really be feeling hate pretty much loses its meaning.

    That might seem like a ridiculous example but the point is that at certain points your evidence can only go so far; that at some point we have to make assumptions based on what we do know and see as well as what we dont, even in science. If you really have an open mind then why say there is no possibility? You cant know for sure there is not.

    And we don’t claim there is not. Few if any atheists would say, for instance, that there definitely is no God. Just as you probably wouldn’t say that there definitely is no invisible dragon in your basement. But if there is a dragon, he’s not doing much to make his presence known, so you might as well not worry about it!

  446. Anton Mates says

    I hate ending sentences with prepositions but whatever.

    Ah, you’ll go far on the SATs.

    Basically i believe what i believe because ive found its truth to be shown. I think many other faiths show aspects of its truth as well but are perversions of the original belief. You see a lot of similar concepts in a lot of different faiths and that is no coincidence. Basically you all say you dont believe in God because theres no real evidence but dont you think its a little strange that all throughout history people from all different cultures who had no contact with eachother have had similar ideas(or just the idea of God)? Doesnt that mean anything?

    Three key points here:

    Everybody has had contact with everybody else. We’re all the same species, and we all came from the same region. Most anthropologists think that language was acquired once, and then brought along by every human population which left Africa. That could certainly be the case for some religious ideas. Plus, neighboring societies have always interacted, trading genes and culture. Across the entirety of Europe and all the way east to India, they worshipped a sky-god, usually the father of the other gods, called Zeus/Dyaus Pita/Jupiter. Does that mean he’s the real god? Well, you don’t worship Zeus, so I doubt you think so. :-) That was just a particular religious idea which spread along with the Indo-European language group.

    Moreover, even without contact with other cultures, we broadly tend toward the same ideas. Humans are very prone to assigning consciousness and agency to, well, pretty much everything. As kids, we give names and personalities to our toys and our blankets. As adults we curse out our cars when we break down and beg the clock to go faster when we’re sitting in a boring meeting. Imagining that there’s a guy who controls the weather, or earthquakes, or the entire world, is an easy jump for any of us.

    Finally, all people don’t have similar ideas about God, unless you dilute the concept down to “a person with strange powers.” A lot of Buddhists and Confucianists don’t have a god at all. A lot of polytheists, such as the Norse and the Greeks, didn’t think a god was responsible for creating the universe; their gods were beings that were naturally brought into existence, like humans, but were older and more powerful. A lot of hunter-gatherer cultures practice some form of animism, investing animals and plants and natural landmarks with spirits, but don’t have a divine ruler of the world. The Judeo-Christian monotheistic God was a very rare concept until Christianity and Islam conquered half the world. If you want to talk about “perversions of the original belief,” we should probably all be animists.

    Im sorry but fig trees and pigs(which by the way killed themselves) arent people and you didnt remember to say there was a point to what Christ did. He didnt beat the merchants in the temple he overturned their tables and made them leave because they had turned a temple, a holy place, into a market.

    The pigs didn’t kill themselves; the demons made them do it. The demons which Jesus put there. And no, fig trees and pigs aren’t people, but I doubt the owners of the swine were very happy about them being massacred like that, and needlessly killing even a fig tree isn’t all that nice.

    As for the merchants, Christ went up in there with a whip! Depending on your version of the Bible, he may have used it only on the animals, but overturning and spilling everyone else’s stuff is generally considered harm. Never mind when when he comes back in Revelation to commit genocide….

    Now certainly, he did it for a point. But you said it’s not Christ-like to hurt people, period. Hurting people for a point…well, everybody thinks they have a point when they hurt people. Torquemada certainly did.

  447. Anton Mates says

    My goodness. I’m pretty sure I didn’t mean to write eight pages. Oh well, if you’re disinclined to read it all, I absolve thee. :)

  448. Kseniya says

    Great reply on the altruism topic, Anton. I kept my mouth shut because I knew someone (someone whose name does not begin with two consonants) could address it far better than I could.

    BTW Sophia, your humble reply to bPer’s civil reply to your alleged “bad attitude” post was really good. I wondered if it was all gonna blow up there, but it didn’t… Nice job.

    Odins’s fork-in-the-eye offer was good, too. (I winced. I grinned.)

    What makes me sad is that a religion promotes, as doctrine, the falsehood that every person is, by nature, bad to the bone. How terribly sad that we believe it of ourselves and of others, and sadder still if some continue to believe it because the people closest to them prove it to be correct, day in, day out, year after selfish year.

    The people around me (some atheists, some not) have shown it not to be true, year after year.

    Self-loathing, no matter how subtle, is not a necessary ingredient for a healthy sense of humility. So what good is an artificial doctrine like Original Sin, which serves no other purpose than to make us believe that we need Christianity administered to us by the high priests of spirital health as the only possible treatment for the imagined congenital defect of being incurably flawed?

  449. Kseniya, OM says

    (someone whose name does not begin with two consonants)

    Oops! I take that back. Kristine (for one) certainly could have.

    I meant “someone who isn’t me,” and hope that was obvious.   =)

  450. JimV says

    Anton Mates: was it eight pages? If so, it just flew by. You and Kseniya are doing an excellent job. (I felt like replying to some of Sophia’s comments myself, but am glad I waited to read the rest of the comments first.)

  451. sophia says

    I’m glad you guys thought at least a few of my comments worthy of a response. I will think about your comments and then write a post. Moving does take up a lot of time though. I wanted to let everyone know, since ksenyia brought up denominations, i am nondenominational. One thing i dont understand is what you said about original sin. It is in the Bible that because of Adam and Eve the rest of the human race would suffer from sin. Are you saying that was not in the original text Moses wrote and that it was added later by a certain Roman(i think) emperor at a council?

  452. Steve_C says

    The concept is absurd. The story of Adam and Eve is absurd. “Free Will” as a gift from god is absurd. Who cares who made it up?

  453. Anton Mates says

    One thing i dont understand is what you said about original sin. It is in the Bible that because of Adam and Eve the rest of the human race would suffer from sin.

    In Genesis, Adam and Eve’s descendants are going to suffer, yes. (Although the only punishment God explicitly extends to their offspring is conflict with the serpents.) But it doesn’t say anything about them now being born into a sinful state, let alone a state so depraved they deserve Hell. That’s why the other religions which venerate the Torah–both Judaism and Islam–don’t accept the doctrine of original sin. (Although apparently some Essene Jews thought that humanity became depraved later, when they interbred with fallen angels.)

    You have to get all the way to Paul before there’s even the suggestion that A&E’s sin made us all sinners–and until after Augustine, most Christians didn’t interpret him that way. The Jesus of the synoptic gospels certainly doesn’t seem to agree; as you’ve said, he says several times that little children have a right to the kingdom of god and that adults must become like them to be saved.

    Are you saying that was not in the original text Moses wrote and that it was added later by a certain Roman(i think) emperor at a council?

    AFAIK there’s little reason to suppose Moses wrote anything, or existed at all; he’s most likely a personified sun god. (Moses/Moshe came down the mountain with God’s laws, face shining like the sun; the sun god Shamash handed down his laws to Hammurabi. In Greek religion, the sun god Apollo was a lawgiver as well.) He certainly didn’t write the entire Torah, what with it chronicling his own death and all. :)

    Most Biblical scholars now think that the Torah was assembled over a long period of time from multiple sources; Wikipedia has a nice article on the “documentary hypothesis” and criticism of the same.

  454. Anton Mates says

    The concept is absurd. The story of Adam and Eve is absurd. “Free Will” as a gift from god is absurd. Who cares who made it up?

    I think it’s an interesting question. The concept’s absurd, but it’s been pretty influential in human history. It’d be nice to know exactly where it came from.

  455. Kseniya says

    Adding to what Anton wrote: Original Sin should not be confused with The First Sin (aka The Fall) or Ancestral Sin. Each is a discrete concept.

    The reason I focus on Original Sin is because it exemplifies one of the problems with Christianity as presented, not by Jesus, but by those who claim to follow and to speak for him. That many churches have a significantly different take on it speaks volumes. As the centuries rolled by in a world without mass communication, scripture and doctrine were inevitably distorted to some degree, in any number of ways: through misunderstanding and imperfect translation, through willful editing and augmentation, and through inadvertent deletion and modification.

    All but the most intransigent biblical literalists agree that what is written in (and out) of the Bible is open to interpretation, so over the course of two millenia, what do we wind up with?

    This: Nine major branches of Christianity, of which Protestantism – ALL of Protestantism – is only one branch. Within that branch, there are more than a dozen denominational families, and within each family, any number of smaller denominations and variations thereof. In short, dozens upon dozens of denominations within just one of the nine major b