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Where are the normal Christians

Let's Talk Religion

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1Arctic-Stranger
Mar 28, 2012, 8:06pm Top

http://www.salon.com/2012/03/28/where_are_the_normal_christians/

This seems to have been a popular subject in other forums. I was glad to see an article on it.

2AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 28, 2012, 8:11pm Top

Well, it seems that modernity has a corrosive effect on religious faith.

As people fall away from faith, the people who are left tend to be the hard-core.

3drbubbles
Mar 28, 2012, 8:18pm Top

I think the crux of the article is in the three words after the title: "On the news". News debate is not about nuance and subtlety. So the normals are excluded through selection bias.

4prosfilaes
Mar 28, 2012, 8:19pm Top

The Slactivist complains about this repeatedly, the way conservative Christians insist that their Christianity is the one and only Christianity, and so present themselves to the media.

5AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 28, 2012, 8:31pm Top

The "normal" Christians (pretty much by definition) don't force themselves upon the media OR their neighbors. So, yeah, selection bias.

6Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 3:39am Top

Haven't we been around this traffic circle before?

Look, Kids. Big Ben!

7johnthefireman
Mar 29, 2012, 3:48am Top

>2 AsYouKnow_Bob: hard-core

But what does "hard-core" mean? It it means fully committed to one's faith, then it can include all the open-minded Christians who are mentioned in the article. I might consider myself to be a "hard-core" Christian in that I am fully committed to a progressive, open and tolerant version of Christianity, but I would want to distance myself from a right-wing hate-filled exclusivist fundamentalist brand.

Reminds me of conversations I had with a leading Muslim in South Africa who we tried to label as a "moderate Muslim". He rejected the term "moderate", as a Muslim has to be fully committed to his faith. He preferred the label "progressive".

8ApeironPrime
Mar 29, 2012, 4:12am Top

"Normal" and "Christians".... Hmm sorry, don't see the connection....

On the up side, learned something new today: you can have religeous beliefs and be normal! Who would have thought?!

9Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 4:15am Top

Depends on what you mean by normal. I have some very normal religious friends, in most senses of the word.

10ApeironPrime
Mar 29, 2012, 4:19am Top

Religion is icky! Wouldn't touch the stuff to safe my life...

Also... this:

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him -- you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

"How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us -- for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto."

This thread just got relevant!!

11Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 4:24am Top

So it goes...

12Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 4:31am Top

You didn't happen to name yourself after a Transformer, did you?

13ApeironPrime
Mar 29, 2012, 4:36am Top

All this talk about God, I'd rather have animals as companions!
I will retreat now into deep thought and contemplation. Somewhere in a cave on a mountain...
Come get me if the circus is in town, or if you happen see the last man...
How do we survive freedom?

14richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 6:18am Top

>12 Jesse_wiedinmyer:
I like the link to the Transformers, but apeiron suggests Anaximander's cosmology, the unlimited. So maybe the essential unlimitedness, the primal unboundedness?

Its a cool name. I was never able to come up with a cool name for me - just plain richardbsmith.

15johnthefireman
Mar 29, 2012, 9:51am Top

Looks like Let's Talk Religion is fast following in the footsteps of Pro and Con (Religion)...

16LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 10:22am Top

John, haven't you learned by now--nobody respects the Spanish Inquisition?!

But I promise to smile all the time. :)

:)

:)

17Quixada
Mar 29, 2012, 10:30am Top

What did you expect? It is the same subjects and the same posters. Really the same group, except with a new name and new administrator.

But I will smile too! :) :) :)

18Quixada
Mar 29, 2012, 10:33am Top

BTW, I invited fuzzi to the group. I always thought she brought fresh perspectives.
:) :) :)

19johnthefireman
Mar 29, 2012, 10:56am Top

Well, believe it or not, I had thought that maybe people would have reflected on the history of Pro and Con (Religion) and some of the comments surrounding its demise, and realised that we could have meaningful conversations about religion without just poking fun and trying to be superior.

But then I was always an optimist...

20clamairy
Mar 29, 2012, 11:04am Top

#19 - Well, time to come up with some guidelines about civility then, and post them on the group page. I don't think you're overly-optimistic. I think it can be done, John. But the rules need to be set down early. We might need to stress that staying within the official LT TOS isn't going to be enough.

21Quixada
Mar 29, 2012, 11:30am Top

I, for one, enjoy the ruckus. I like a fiery debate. But I can understand how many would feel that it pulls the direction away from the main subject and doesn't add any real substance. However, from what I have seen, the threads normally, eventually, get back to the subject. I don't post often, but I really do enjoy the debates and sometimes learn something.

22rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 11:48am Top

The rules could be fairly simple. Stick to the LT TOS in both the letter and the spirit. Comment on the content and not on the intelligence or character of the author, contributor or the LT member either directly or indirectly.

Posts that indirectly but obviously comment on the intelligence or character of the author, contributor or the LT member while sticking to the letter of the TOS, should not be tolerated.

23clamairy
Mar 29, 2012, 12:09pm Top

Add to my list coming clean and being honest about your intentions. This devil's advocate BS seriously rubs me the wrong way.

24Arctic-Stranger
Mar 29, 2012, 12:15pm Top

I would add that while people should feel free to post their dissatisfaction with various religious and non-religious factions, Ad hominem attacks on groups will be treated as attacks on any one individual, since there are probably individuals who represent those groups.

Although there is no TOS that will stop the arrogant and ignorant from spouting biased nonsense.

25rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 12:57pm Top

#23

Being rubbed the wrong way seems to be an occupational hazard by participating. As to being clean and honest about intentions, we should assume that what people say is what they mean and not read into any post what is not written. Again, it comes down to comment on what is said, not on the person who said it.

26LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 12:59pm Top

#18

:) :) :)

#19

John, poking fun is a legitimate and fun activity enjoyed widely by responsible adults all over the world. I've no idea what comments you're referring to, and I don't care. If someone's behaviour offends you, there are tools in place to help you eliminate the disturbance. Making clucking noises probably won't satisfy you if you're really hoping to control what people say.

#24

You shouldn't get to make any rules about anything whatsoever. Your lack of taste in playing admin here appalls me.

27Morphidae
Mar 29, 2012, 1:18pm Top

I'm a pagan going to a very liberal church, i.e. "normal" Christians. I had hopes when I saw this group that there could be some nice discussion about religion and deity and spirituality and such. More fool I. It looks like it's going to be just another nasty piece of work like Religion (Pro and Con) - sad really.

Maybe what needs to be done is a private group created for invitation only of people who can be respectful even in their disagreement.

28LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 1:33pm Top

#27

That's a wonderful idea, and I hope everyone who agrees with Arctic's notions of "respectful" --including deleting years of posts by hundreds of people on a whim--well, agrees.

29rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 1:53pm Top

Lola, they are not deleted, just hidden. Here you can access a recent post of yours.

http://www.librarything.com/topic/134692#3307644

30Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 2:31pm Top

As to being clean and honest about intentions, we should assume that what people say is what they mean and not read into any post what is not written.

Fuck that. I'd do that when the poster is honest about their intentions in posting. Assuming that people mean what they say is an excellent way to be lied to. And it seems to cede the field to those who argue that evidence-based reasoning is overrated.

As for the rest of it, I'm fine with the LT TOS. Then again, not my group, though I did seem to have a role as admin thrust upon me.

31richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 3:18pm Top

For my perspective, I held out no hopes that the tone of some exchanges would be more civil. The name of this group though is not pro and con.

Those P&C topics have a welcome in this group. I will be a poor moderator/administrator in terms of policing civility. I will not worry at all about the tone of exchanges.

I personally would like to learn more about religion, religions, and agnostic understanding and perspectives. I personally would like to benefit from more reading the posts, perspectives, and comments made by all the smart people on LT.

32Morphidae
Mar 29, 2012, 3:23pm Top

>31 richardbsmith: Thanks for letting us know what to expect as to the administration of the tone of this group. I'll go ahead and put the group on ignore. Hopefully one day there will be a group for polite discussion. If I had any more experience in religious or spiritual topics or even just leading a group, I'd give it a try, but I don't. :(

33richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 3:26pm Top

You are welcome.

34rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 3:34pm Top

#30 Jesse

Here is a thought. Let's take this opportunity to wipe the slate clean of past baggage; it is all hidden (if not deleted). Let us all try to stick to the TOS in both letter and spirit and, until we have hard evidence otherwise, take everyone's words at face value. Try not to infer motive or character from what you think they mean; what you think they mean is not evidence. What they say is evidence. If we are unsure of meaning, we should ask for clarification, not assume.

35MyopicBookworm
Mar 29, 2012, 3:36pm Top

Nobody has been very insulting on this thread yet, as far as I can see. Flippant, annoying, trivial, maybe... but this is the Internet guys, not the Philosophy faculty.

I know lots of normal Christians, from a range of denominations. They are among those who, when fundamentalist Christians hold forth, are in the background trying to look small and thinking "oh f**k, not again!" They spend more time worrying about helping local teenagers stay out of crime or collecting food for the homeless than they do about whether their bishop is a lesbian or whether missing church on a Sunday entails total depravity or requires substitutionary atonement. Some of them, perhaps many, are closet agnostics, but they value the sacred space and the non-judgmental community.

36Jesse_wiedinmyer
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 3:45pm Top

#34

Here's a thought.

No.

Repeating your bullshit doesn't make it any less bullshit. Try being straightforward about your motivations for posting. If you dislike that, I'd suggest not lying about your motivations for posting in the future.

As Clammy has noted, your schtick is tiresome. And yes, what you say is evidence. You've repeatedly said that you don't advocate belief. And yet no argument put forth by you in these forums (what you say) has ever been anything but.

Repeating the same disingenuous line makes it no less believable.

37rrp
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 3:55pm Top

Oh, well it was just a thought and worth a try. I would also suggest, as a rule, that we try to ignore those who don't at least attempt to stick to the TOS in letter and spirit. I personally am never concerned or put off by rude behavior, but it is clear others are. Perhaps if we ignore the offenders, they will eventually give up. One can but hope.

38Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 3:53pm Top

Mayhap it's a thought you should have tried three years ago or so when you started posting.

39Arctic-Stranger
Mar 29, 2012, 3:57pm Top

This exchange is exactly why the last group was deleted.

The group should be renamed: Religion Talk, in the style of Fox News Commentary

40Jesse_wiedinmyer
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 4:00pm Top

The last group was deleted because you chose to delete it. And Arctic, if you've chosen to put me on ignore, as you so ceremoniously informed me, feel free to ignore my posts.

41Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 4:00pm Top

I suppose, if you wish to listen to rrp's apologetics you could just as easily join one of the two other groups he started to publish them.

42nathanielcampbell
Mar 29, 2012, 4:16pm Top

I had never become a member of the P&C (Religion) group; but after hearing about Arctic's move to bring it to an end and the establishment of this new group in the hopes of doing things better, I thought I'd join and see if I could learn/contribute. This thread has dashed those hopes. I'll be leaving shortly.

43Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 4:19pm Top

establishment of this new group in the hopes of doing things better

Did anyone say that this group was supposed to be an improvement on the old?

44LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 4:20pm Top

#31

I will not worry at all about the tone of exchanges.

I applaud you, Richard.

I don't even know where one would begin, policing "tone" on the Internet; it's tough enough (and for some of us tougher than for others) reading people well in real life, even people one knows fairly well. Besides, people's "tone" is often people's style and character. If someone's consistently bugs the hell out of you, that's unfortunate for communication, but there's a remedy for that, much easier than requesting they have a personality overhaul.

TOS keeps it infinitely simpler by referring to name-calling and we see how even that gets circumvented all the time.

That's all I have to say about that. All the religious people I know, of any religion, are "normal". I don't see how I could know them otherwise. But if any of them go bonkers in the future, I'll report.

45modalursine
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 4:22pm Top

Houston, we have a problem.

By the Great Law of Reciprocity , a corollary of the Golden Rule, I suppose, we who wish to be respected by others should take care to be respectful of others.

But what constitutes "respect" , or its opposite, when discussing religious topics, is a sliding standard and often totally capricious and devoid of "due process". A person is "offended" if he or see says he is, and so offense or the intimation of it, can be used as a rhetorical device to shut down lines of inquiry that are inimical to one's religious or philosophical commitments.

For example, honoring The Prophet (may peace be upon him) is an important point among most Moslems, and particularly so to the Salafists (if that's the appropriate term of art) among them. I say that not to bash Moslems or to imply that Islam is at hart all that much "worse" in that regard compared to its sister religions, but because that aspect of Islam has been in the news, and more than once, in that context, and because its easier
to see the quirks and implausibilities in the other fellow's religious tradition than in ones own, and at least in the US, Islam is quite a bit in the minority.

So, unless a committed Moslem is willing to put at least one item of faith on hold for a while, suspend the capacity for being insulted and refrains from walking off in a huff, it would be impossible to rationally discuss a work such as Cook and Crone's "Hagarism" which challenges the Muslim hagiographical narrative of the life of the Prophet and the early history of the faith.

So it would seem that in order to discuss religion fairly, one needs a spirit which somewhat contradicts the spirit in which religion "as she is spoke" exists in actual practice. Defenders of religion might object that religion "as she is spoke" is not the true way which consists of openess, rationality, doubt and willingness to question "Fun dine moil tzu gott's orem" (From you mouth to god's ear) and Inshallah (God willing) People of that persuation are not usually the ones we're having trouble with.

But if one thinks that questioning the truth or wisdom of one's religious assumptions is an intollerable insult, how is one to make any progress beyond standing on one's rock and shouting anathema at the unbelievers?

46richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 4:30pm Top

Mr Bear,

To your last, I don't know.

To your first, I agree.

My hope is that no one is killed should the topic of Muhammad ever arise.

My greater hope is that we can learn to behave like children rather than like adults.

47theoria
Mar 29, 2012, 4:52pm Top

39> This exchange is exactly why the last group was deleted.

Does this mean another group deletion is in the offing?

48LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 4:55pm Top

The dread question!

:)

:)

:)

49theoria
Mar 29, 2012, 5:01pm Top

A spectre is haunting LT groups!

:->

:)

(:

50richardbsmith
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 5:51pm Top

I will not delete any of the groups I started. Which I will list here shortly to encourage more members.

Lola, glad to see you are keeping smiling. :)

ETA
Groups started by me
http://www.librarything.com/groups/gospeltalk
http://www.librarything.com/groups/isaiah
http://www.librarything.com/groups/letstalkreligion
http://www.librarything.com/groups/roadtoreality
http://www.librarything.com/groups/skywatchers

Feel free to join up. Isaiah, RTR, and skywatchers are inactive, but I will if you will.

51LolaWalser
Mar 29, 2012, 5:05pm Top

Keep smilin'... keep smilin'... and whatever you do... DON'T BLINK!

(I am making pop-culture references. Pop-culture references are cool.)

(Does one hyphenate pop-culture? Never mind. Hyphens are cool.)

52Quixada
Mar 29, 2012, 5:32pm Top

33> I am starting to like/respect you more and more.

36> Ditto

51> Double ditto

:)
:)
:)

53rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 5:53pm Top

#45 modalursine you are wise. I agree that having one's deeply held convictions questioned can be painful. But surely this is not a one way street. Should we also be able to question the truth or wisdom of someone's non-religious assumptions here and not have it regarded an intolerable insult? Specifically, should we be able to question the assumptions of those who question religion (or advocate for atheism) as much as we question the assumptions of those who advocate religion? I am all in favor of openess, rationality, doubt and willingness to question so long as it is fairly applied. If one worldview is fair game for this approach, should not all worldviews be fair game?

54Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 6:02pm Top

Who knows, rrp? Mayhap if you spent more effort in the "openness" portion of that, specifically as regards motivation, you wouldn't have half the problems you do...

55Jesse_wiedinmyer
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 6:10pm Top

Specifically, should we be able to question the assumptions of those who question religion (or advocate for atheism) as much as we question the assumptions of those who advocate religion?

Not to mention, that in certain discussions, such as the "controversy" around Intelligent Design and Evolution, the "controversy" exists only insofar as it was promoted and promulgated specifically to discredit ideas (and have already been found in courts of law to be little more than subterfuge used to dodge responsibility for arguments (sound familiar?)) that have long been considered settled using arguments already refuted.

56Jesse_wiedinmyer
Mar 29, 2012, 6:11pm Top

There's nothing clever, honest, or intellectually stimulating about the line of thought.

57AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 29, 2012, 7:17pm Top

(#50: Not to derail, but I just learned of your "Skywatchers" group - I'm in.)

58richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 7:28pm Top

AYKB
I watch every night the skies are clear. I have a friend who just got a 16" Dobsonian.

59AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 29, 2012, 7:31pm Top

johnthefireman at #7: (re: "hard-core")

Point taken; a poor choice of words on my part.

60AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 29, 2012, 7:35pm Top

#58: my friends with serious telescopes seem to have moved away on me, but I keep a hand in.
(We should probably continue this side-conversation over in "Skywatchers".)

61modalursine
Mar 29, 2012, 7:38pm Top

Should we also be able to question the truth or wisdom of someone's non-religious assumptions here and not have it regarded an intolerable insult?

I don't see why not, except that its a hard sell to defend, lets say, "occasionalism" (just learned what that is. Maybe I'm overusing it)

62clamairy
Mar 29, 2012, 7:39pm Top

#57 - Oh! Oh! Oh! Me, too! I take a walk after dark just about every night. The planets have been spectacular this past Winter. :o)

63modalursine
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 8:17pm Top

We don't have stars at Troghaven. which is in "Fun City" where I spend winters, but in the summer we have stars like gangbusters at Waterfall Lane which is at 6500 ft usually totally clear with only minimal light pollution from town, about 5 miles to our South.

A cousin of mine showed me a killer app for an iPhone .... you point it at the sky and it tells you, shows you actually, a diagram of what stars, planets
and constellations are off in that direction. Maybe one day I'll get one of those. iPhone's I mean. I'm a late adapter. When the price of data service comes down to earth I'll sign right up.

64rrp
Mar 29, 2012, 8:35pm Top

Google sky map for android is also cool. The moon Venus and Jupiter recently, amazing.

65clamairy
Edited: Mar 29, 2012, 9:07pm Top

#63 - I have Google Sky Map on my Droid iii. Love it, mostly. (Occasionally it lags a bit.)

66richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 9:18pm Top

My brother in law told me he had all the stars on his Iphone app. I told him with an I phone who needs the sky.

67richardbsmith
Mar 29, 2012, 9:19pm Top

The Venus Jupiter and recently Moon show has been as awesome as anything I have seen. I am going out tonight. See you there.

68prosfilaes
Mar 30, 2012, 12:38am Top

#27: I don't see how that's possible. You can't have a discussion about the color of the fur of a unicorn (or platypus, if you prefer) if you invite people to the table who don't believe they exist. It's just not going to happen.

69johnthefireman
Mar 30, 2012, 12:58am Top

>26 LolaWalser: poking fun is a legitimate and fun activity

I'm not talking about poking fun, Lola, I'm talking about a basic attitude which shows ridicule and contempt for a position and for the people holding that position. And it doesn't "offend" me (I view it as your problem, not mine, if that is your attitude) but it has proved, at least in my view, not to be at all helpful in conversing about religious topics on Pro and Con (Religion). It may amuse the poster and those of a similar ilk, but it does not help communication and understanding.

>45 modalursine: modalursine, again I don't think it's about being offended, nor thinking that criticism of one's religion is intolerable. It's about having a civil and fruitful conversation in which we can learn about and understand each other's points of view without ridicule and contempt. Respect for the person, if not the view they hold.

And to the skygazers - come to Africa where the night skies are huge and clear!

70lawecon
Mar 30, 2012, 1:18am Top

~69

I think that part of the problem is, John, that the respect has to be to some extent reciprocal.When someone tells you that:

(a) you are going to burn in eternal Hell Fire for not believing exactly as they believe, that

(b) they and their group are the only ones with True Understanding, and you don't get what they're saying because you don't have the faith commitment that they do, that

(c) they can, indeed, read a text and Know everything about it because they have daily conversations with G-d, but you must thrash around and have, at best, a second best understanding of the same words on the same paper.

(d) That (c) has nothing to do with evidence or argument or learning or history or any other common grounds, but purely with their daily conversation with G-d.

Well, then, there is a basic lack of respect. There is no common ground on which to construct the respect. They have placed themselves beyond commonly recognized principles of morality, beyond reason, beyond evidence.

Such people, I'm afraid, don't deserve anything but contempt. They have, after all, earned it. That, or to be worshiped as divine themselves, and "Amen"ed at every turn, is apparently what they are seeking.

You and many others in these Groups, however, may have a faith commitment, but you don't use that faith commitment as a sword to cut off all common ground and common communication. You deserve respect. You have earned it.

71johnthefireman
Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 1:36am Top

>70 lawecon: I don't really disagree with you, lawecon (which in itself is fairly rare!), but as you say, not all religious posters take the attitude which you rightly criticise. It just gets very tedious for those of us who are trying to have an open-minded conversation with people of different faiths and none to have to wade through the hard-line responses from both sides of the fence. Criticism (and ridicule and contempt) for a certain manifestation of religion is often (usually?) presented as a criticism, ridicule and contempt for all religion.

And my own view (which is also reinforced by my religion) is that contempt is not a fitting response even to those who might "deserve" it.

72lawecon
Edited: Mar 30, 2012, 1:56am Top

~71

"And my own view (which is also reinforced by my religion) is that contempt is not a fitting response even to those who might "deserve" it."

I know. But that is because you believe in unconditioned love and turning the other cheek (as your life has apparently exemplified), while I believe in reciprocity and justice.

I rather think that makes you a better person, but it makes me a person better able to recognize and deal with our common enemy. http://www.shelfari.com/groups/29350/discussions/74005/Fundamentalism

73Quixada
Mar 30, 2012, 1:35pm Top

> 68
The platypus doesn't exist?

74Quixada
Mar 30, 2012, 1:42pm Top

>71 johnthefireman:

"And my own view (which is also reinforced by my religion) is that contempt is not a fitting response even to those who might "deserve" it."

"To a poet, silence is an acceptable response, even a flattering one." - Colette

75Arctic-Stranger
Mar 30, 2012, 2:28pm Top

If religion were like the fur of a unicorn, then yes, you would be right. But a) the number of people who believe in unicorns pales beside the number of people who believe in God, b) RELIGION exists, whether God does or not, (As Mark Twain said when asked if he believe in infant baptism, "Believe in it? Hell I have seen it!) c) the implications of religious belief are much more important that the implications of unicorn fur, unless it becomes a fashion statement, d) I know of NO ONE who was paid by anyone else to peddle unicorn fur. I know countless individuals, and I am one of them, who has been paid by people to talk about religion. I was paid, for a while, by a secular hospital, because they understand that spiritual care was important for their patients. I did not share an office with the unicorn guy. d) I know of no political body in the world that begins its sessions with a nod the Unicorn. However every session of the Alaska House and Senate and I believe the US House and Senate, and perhaps the houses and senates of most state legislatures, begin with a prayer.

That is one of the problems with the overall discussion. One side wants to minimize something that is a pretty big deal in human history and experience, or they want to assume that religion should be minimized and marginalized, and they don't understand why people get prickly when someone says their core life assumptions of no more importance than unicorn fur.

Assuming that is true (which I don't, but assuming it is) anyone whose strategy for argument is that stupid ("we start by demeaning you. Then we will insult you, until you embrace the wisdom and compassion of our assertions.") does not really deserve a very long hearing.

I work in the field of politics and I know that people who use that strategy around here are called "the Minority."

76modalursine
Mar 30, 2012, 3:19pm Top


OK, lets get down to brass tacks.

The Poet says:

"One thing is true and the rest is lies/
The rose that once has blown forever dies"

As it happens, I'm not a believer in life after death, but if someone believes that he is really an immortal "just passing through"
this life, then from my perspective I'm pretty sure he will never experience the disappointment of falsification.

Of course I think he is mistaken, but then again, we can never be 100% sure about such things, and in any case, not to be too crude about it,
"what skin is it off mine if he does believes it? ".

On the other hand (you knew there couldn't be just one hand, right?) if he goes about trying to "teach" other people
that they too are immortal, and worse yet, if he goes about proposing laws and policies that would be sensible if his doctrine of the afterlife were true, but not otherwise, wouldn't I want to challenge his premise?

Then too, just on the way off chance that he's discovered something important that I've missed, wouldn't I want him to explain simply and clearly, in words of one syllable or less (as the expression goes) just what warrant he has for his belief?

Technically, I suppose the poet called him a liar. Should he be insulted? I think he's fooling himself. Does that make me a pugnacious, aggressive, arrogant bastard who goes around calling other people "deluded" and trampling down things inviolet ?

So many questions.

77Arctic-Stranger
Mar 30, 2012, 3:51pm Top

I have to admit that I disagree with many of your posts, but some of them just make me go, "huh?"

This was a "huh?" moment. I think you are saying something worthwhile. I am just not sure what.

BTW, I usually enjoy disagreeing with you, because you do make me think. Which often leads to the "huh?" moments.

78modalursine
Mar 30, 2012, 4:46pm Top

ref 77
IF it helps, the post was instigated by something johnthefireman said in post 69 about not being offended by religious differences

I'm not sure how to help with the "huh?" moments. I've been a techy all my professional life, good enough at writing engineering reports and "simple expository prose" (...your franistram is totally fried, beyond repair, it'll cost megabucks for a new one, but we can maybe get you a refinished one that's seaworthy for somewhat less.... " )

I suppose part of what I'm trying to say is that its easy to be tolerant of a religous disagreement in the abstractm, but if someone chucks a bomb at a really important part of your world view, what then? "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is"

Or does that only make it worse?

79Arctic-Stranger
Mar 30, 2012, 4:52pm Top

Actually I enjoy the "huh?" moments. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. And they have more to do with my cognition than your writing.

"In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice, but in practice, there is"

Golden.

80MyopicBookworm
Mar 30, 2012, 5:04pm Top

To me, it sounds like ...

(a) it doesn't matter in the abstract if wacky fringe Christian groups believe that Jesus will soon come back to earth and the world will end; (b) because from a purely intellectual point of view I think they're lunatics, but I can tolerate it;
(c) but if they get into positions of authority in large influential countries and start acting on their belief by, say, cancelling all environmental conservation programs because Jesus is coming back soon so it doesn't matter if we trash the planet in the next couple of decades, then toleration is not enough; so we ask ourselves
(d) is there anything seriously supporting their belief, and if not
(e) admit that toleration has its limits, and go for them with every argument you can muster, up to and if necessary including "naked contempt".

I'm not sure what unpalatable practice might be justified by a belief in life after death, though one that comes to mind (because it really, really annoys me) is perhaps the JWs refusal of blood transfusion: if a mother is bleeding to death in childbirth, don't let her break the Noachic covenant by accepting blood, because she and her baby will meet in heaven anyway. Another is the old one about mass murder in religious wars (kill them all: God will know his own).

81Arctic-Stranger
Mar 30, 2012, 5:55pm Top

I pretty much agree with all that, but would add that if anyone wanted to limit the rights of religious people to practice, within reasonable limits (followers of Moloch need not apply) that is a call to action.

Essentially if we limit the rights of atheists or practitioners AS atheists are practitioners, both sides lose.

82prosfilaes
Mar 30, 2012, 6:33pm Top

#73: The platypus was at one time widely thought to be fictional.

#75: You're missing my point. The amount of belief is irrelevant to the issue. I could likewise have said that you don't invite disbelievers in infinity to discussion of large cardinals, or you don't invite moon-landing-denialists to the planning of the tirp on Mars, or global-warming-denalists to a discussion of how to solve global warming. You're not going to get fruitful discussion of the details of something if one side denies it exists.

That is one of the problems with the overall discussion. One side wants to minimize something that is a pretty big deal in human history and experience, or they want to assume that religion should be minimized and marginalized, and they don't understand why people get prickly when someone says their core life assumptions of no more importance than unicorn fur.

Arctic-Stranger, I wrote a simple statement about the dynamics of discussion, any discussion. I went out of my way to make it neutral, to offer religious people the choice of being the believers in the existence of the platypus. You went off and used as a reason to rant and attack people who disagree with you. I think post #75 is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

83Arctic-Stranger
Mar 30, 2012, 6:50pm Top

If you think that was just a simple statement on the dynamics of discussion I must have grossly misinterpreted your post. I took it to mean that YOU THOUGHT discussing religion was tantamount to discussing unicorn fur. Or that you thought that discussing religion was about as fruitful as discussing unicorn fur.

My Bad.

84AsYouKnow_Bob
Mar 30, 2012, 7:43pm Top

Arctic-Stranger at #79: " The mind that is not baffled is not employed. "

+1

85johnthefireman
Mar 31, 2012, 1:59am Top

>80 MyopicBookworm: The problem is that you have democracy. Each of these strange people that you describe is a citizen with equal voting rights. I certainly am not happy when the extremist Christians that you describe get a measure of political power, any more than I am happy when the Tories gain power in UK or right-wing capitalist free-market individualistic parties gain power anywhere in the world, but at that level it's not a problem of religion per se. George Galloway has just won a landslide victory in a UK bye-election. In some countries governments get elected on an ethnic basis. Democracy is by no means perfect - didn't Churchill say somewhere that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried? - but don't blame religion for democracy's faults. Any group can try to persuade enough people to vote for it and thus can gain power; more reasonable people can try to persuade voters to elect a more reasonable government. If we fail, well, that says something about the electorate, not about religion.

86lawecon
Mar 31, 2012, 9:48am Top

~80

"(a) it doesn't matter in the abstract if wacky fringe Christian groups believe that Jesus will soon come back to earth and the world will end"

I guess I'm not at all worried about such beliefs. If one believes such a thing and has otherwise positive inclinations, then one draws most of the conclusions that Jesus drew (Don't worry about jobs, housing, clothing, taxes or public issues, families, etc. The end is coming, just make sure that you're pure when it comes.) If, on the other hand, one is intrinsically antisocial, then one robs, rapes and steals, until caught, and such a one is then treated like any other sociopath.

What does worry me are those who believe that the end isn't coming and that G-d regularly speaks to them about how to build His utopia on earth. Those people are very dangerous, since they are totally beyond rationality or reprimand for their arrogance or immortality. (After all, they are simply carrying out G-d's instructions. They don't have to justify or be responsible for what G-d wants.)

87Citizenjoyce
Mar 31, 2012, 4:25pm Top

I very much liked the article and so wish there were more "normal" christians coming forward to tell people like Rick Santorum, the pope and Romney to get their religion out of politics. But then, I know some "normal" christians who work with unmarried pregnant teens and substance abusers, who take food to the ill who also worked against the ERA and support their church's stand against homosexuals. Maybe I wish christains could be less normal and resist the urge to force their beliefs on everyone once they get some power.

88nathanielcampbell
Apr 1, 2012, 6:24pm Top

>82 prosfilaes:: "You're not going to get fruitful discussion of the details of something if one side denies it exists."

Which is precisely the point. If you're going to have a discussion about religion, you're not going to get very far if the atheist interlocutors can offer only one point: "Religious people are idiots and contemptible." That is what many of the "normal" Christians from the OP in these fora find so frustrating. (And yes, the converse is true: I know that lawecon gets equally frustrated with the intractability of fundamentalists who aren't cognizant of the history of their faith / the reality of the world.)

P.S. Yes, against my post above, I decided to jump back in, mainly because the flippancy subsided and a reasonable discussion once again emerged in this thread. One can only hope it continues.

89prosfilaes
Apr 1, 2012, 7:11pm Top

#88: If you're going to have a discussion about religion, you're not going to get very far if the atheist interlocutors can offer only one point: "Religious people are idiots and contemptible."

Then stop making idiotic contemptible statements like that. It's great in politics when you're grandstanding to stereotype your opponents, but not very productive when you're actually trying to have discussion with them.

It's impossible to have a discussion on the properties of God if there's someone there who doesn't believe he exists. (And if you're interpreting "God doesn't exist" as "Religious people are idiots", I think the problem is yours.)

90MyopicBookworm
Apr 1, 2012, 7:28pm Top

And if you're interpreting "God doesn't exist" as "Religious people are idiots", I think the problem is yours.

But that does seem to be the assumption made (or the attitude displayed) by at least some of the contributors to these discussions.

91nathanielcampbell
Apr 1, 2012, 7:37pm Top

>89 prosfilaes: and 90: MB makes precisely the point I was trying to make. Not all atheists in these fora act the same; many of them are highly articulate, highly intelligent, and contribute greatly to our discussions.

Others, however (I think if JGL53, for example), seem only to troll around looking for opportunities to mock religious folk.

These are two different approaches. The first is constructive; the latter is not, and is what I was decrying in my post 88.

92modalursine
Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 8:05pm Top

People who post here defending religion tend (or so it seems to me) to defend it in terms of doing good works and or participating in "fellowship".

One also occasionally encounters the argument that religion encourages better behavior across the board.

But for me, and I can only suppose that for most other atheists as well, the real question is whether the claims of religion are true.

It appears to me, and again I can only imagine that the same applies to most other atheists, that if we start with a fairly amorphous deism ("The whole shebang was kick started by some sort of "power" whose name, rank serial number and complete powers are unknown , who is now and from some extremely short time after the git-go somehow, for reasons unknown, out of the picture as a practical participant" ) to a more and more concrete presentation of the actual doctrines of some extant influential religion, we get into increasingly implausible and "non apparent" claims, and as those claims become more specific and concrete, the less willing posters are to claim them or to want to defend them intellectually.

Now, I know I'm socially slow, but it that a convention that the group wishes to uphold, that
one makes a claim (eg: There is no god but god, and Mohammed is his prophet) and that the rest of us need to take that as one's interlocutors "given", that no questioning of why or how
he (or she) came to that position, or how that position seems to be contradictory to or incompatible with or implausible in the light of other things we might know or think we know?

Is THAT the game, but I've been missing an important rule, hence committing inadvertent fouls all over the field ?

93Arctic-Stranger
Apr 1, 2012, 9:50pm Top

People who post here defending religion tend (or so it seems to me) to defend it in terms of doing good works and or participating in "fellowship".

That is one of the issues. You assume it is people of faith are required to defend their presuppositions before they can get around to discussing things, and and so everything becomes a foundational argument, which will never be settled. MOST people of faith who post are not saying "you owe me an apologetic before you have the right to to say anything," yet that is required of them. (This is where the trolls jump in and say "if you believe stupid stuff you have to defend it!")

94johnthefireman
Apr 1, 2012, 11:17pm Top

I think there are two separate conversations that go on here. One is whether religion is based on true premises or not. The second is whether religion is a "good" or "bad" force in society. Since religion does actually exist in rather a big way whether its premises are true or not, one should be able to have the second conversation without always harping back to the first.

95lawecon
Apr 1, 2012, 11:27pm Top

~93

I guess I don't get your point.

There are some people who claim to be religious who do, in fact, believe "stupid stuff." There is, for instance, a whole psychological syndrome called Christian plain meaning fundamentalism, where "the believers" contend that they can just pick up a Bible, tune into the Holy Spirit, and know more about what a given verse in that Bible "really means" than all the anthropologists, archaeologists, textual critics, theologians, Church historians, etc. that have studied that verse for the past 1,900 years.

That is stupid stuff believed by people who are potentially very dangerous. It needs to be justified by more than a "I Believe !!" Either that, or "the Believer" should expect and should receive back a "That's nice" followed by a straightjacket.

The problem is not, however, that some religious people are nuts and some atheists are nuts, some are, and it is probably unwise to deny that fact. The problem is that most religious people and most atheists don't bother defining and otherwise thinking about what they claim to believe. If you can't coherently explain where you start out to yourself, you can't explain it to someone else (or correct him if he is working from false assumptions).

96lawecon
Apr 1, 2012, 11:31pm Top

~94

Would you like to be lumped into the same category (the "religious") as the dominate posters in the Read Your Bible Through In A Year thread when the decision is being made as to whether religion is a good force in society? I would hope not.

That seems to mean to me, however, that you are using the term "religion" in a far different sense than they are using that term.

97johnthefireman
Apr 1, 2012, 11:36pm Top

>96 lawecon: Thanks, lawecon. Yes, a further conversation is around the fact that religion is not monolithic, and there are many different manifestations thereof.

98rrp
Edited: Apr 1, 2012, 11:49pm Top

#94 But from the perspective of the atheist, the first has an enormous bearing on the second. The reason they are atheists is because they believe that reason is on their side. As modalursine put it, he believes that what you believe is "contradictory to or incompatible with or implausible in the light of other things we might know or think we know". (I am now going to use the word "he" to represent a prototypical atheist, I don't mean modalursine in particular, he is just a bear-like stand-in, so apologies in advance.) If you cannot justify to him the foundation of your position, he feels you cannot justify any of your positions (or at leasts the ones he disagrees with). So to him the foundation questions are the most important; they are why he is an atheist and not a theist.

Now many have long ago passed the foundational arguments by on their way to, for them, more interesting questions. They no longer have, or maybe never had an interesting in those foundations, because to them they are part of the background. Most of the time, I personally never take that much interest in whether I am breathing, I just do it. But I know asthmatics for whom it sometimes absorbs their whole being. I think for some religious people, most questions from atheists are a bit like someone asking me how and why I breathe.

However, there is a flip side to this. The foundational questions are hard to deal with, both conceptually and emotionally, particularly for atheists as for them they are the most important aspect of the question of God. Many of them have also absorbed their own foundational concepts into their background; they stand on their rock and look out, loudly exclaiming that the theists are standing on what look to them like quicksand. When asked are they sure they are standing on a rock, really, really sure they are standing on a rock, they are either uninterested (they know, they have faith they solved that one a while ago) or they feel uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable when asked to examine their own foundation because that is all they have; a foundation a theist might say is the imaginary rock they think they are standing on.

So most on both sides have no real interest in really getting to grips with the foundational issues.

99Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 2, 2012, 5:52am Top

rrp is my rock. I can always count on him to dissemble.

100Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 2, 2012, 5:53am Top

Oh, look. One more post arguing that it's all just faith.

101kassetra
Apr 2, 2012, 8:12am Top

For anyone still reading this far, I'd just like to say that the content in post 98 does not describe my thinking process, my decisions or even the thoughts I have in regard to people that belong to assorted faiths -- nor does it come close to describing any atheists I've ever known, across three continents.

I sincerely hope that content like post 98, in which an entire group of assorted people are blended into some wide swath of general untruth, finds its way out of this new group.

102lawecon
Apr 2, 2012, 8:27am Top

~99 and 100

Tell us, Jesse, how do your posts add to this conversation? But I guess for you its all about personality and putting down "the enemy," isn't it?

103lawecon
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 8:50am Top

~101

"For anyone still reading this far, I'd just like to say that the content in post 98 does not describe my thinking process, my decisions or even the thoughts I have in regard to people that belong to assorted faiths -- nor does it come close to describing any atheists I've ever known, across three continents."

That may well be true, but we will never know whether it is true or not unless you give us particulars. Or are we to take your conclusions "on faith"?

As I understand Post #98, all that is being said is that both the religious and nonreligious (atheists? or agnostics? or simply "nonbelievers"?) seldom examine foundational questions. In my observation that is accurate. Most atheists are atheists because there is some small set of premises that they think all religious people proceed from and that they reject. That belief (that all religion is based on the same premises) is empirically wrong. It is wrong whether or not you are "a believer."

For instance, I rejected the type of Christianity I had just been "confirmed" in around age 15. I rejected it because it was internally inconsistent, because it taught an impossible standard of morality and therefore ended up encouraging immorality, and because, frankly, I didn't care for the jump from vague "religious values" to specific ideological stances. For many decades thereafter I would have described myself as an atheist, an agnostic or a deist, depending upon the question being posed. I am still an atheist, an agnostic or a deist with respect to that variety of Christianity, but I now realize that there is also Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and a vast number of other sorts of Christianity that rest upon quite different premises.

I think that my experience is typical of atheists. There are former Catholic atheists, former plain meaning Protestant atheists, former Jewish atheists, former Buddhist atheists, etc., and they each are rejecting different things. Indeed, two former Jewish atheists may be rejecting entirely different things, depending upon their original understanding of Judaism. It is only because discussions like this one proceed at such an "abstract" level, frankly, such a vague and ambiguous level, that "the religious" think that they believe in the same thing and "the nonbelievers" think that they believe in the same thing. They don't. The differences between believers and believers and between nonbelievers and nonbelievers are often much greater than the difference between believers and nonbelievers.

I can argue that position in detail. Can you argue your position? If so, why not do so?

104Arctic-Stranger
Apr 2, 2012, 11:30am Top

#101

Now you know why the author had to write the article referred to in the OP.

105nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 11:52am Top

>103 lawecon:: I think what you are describing is the approach that often distinguishes an atheist like Christopher Hitchens (may he rest in peace?) from one like Friedrich Nietzsche. The former rejects many religious phenomena because of the disconnect between the goodness of the religious claim and the disingenuous immorality of the claimant. That latter, on the other hand, dug deeper into exploring the metaphysics of human power. As great a thinker (and writer!) as the Hitch was, he had a bad habit of confusing these two processes; of rejecting religion not on its own merits but because of the behavior of its adherents.

I would further argue that, within the camp of atheists--and I agree with you that we should always be careful not to paint with too broad a brush, recognizing and respecting always the vast varieties that occur in human thought--we can distinguish, broadly, two types. One can be represented by Nietzsche, as the camp that accepts metaphysical reality but rejects the necessity of God in that reality, i.e. that recognizes non-material aspects of the human condition but understands those aspects as entirely within human (or possibly cosmic) capabilities. Personally, I find this camp to be the best of interlocutors, as they can operate in the same conceptual arenas as deists/theists/spiritualists/whatever else you want to call the not-atheists.

The other is the strict materialist, who fundamentally rejects any non-physical, non-material reality. This type of atheist is the one with whom discussion frequently becomes impossible, because they automatically exclude the entire realm of the metaphysical and spiritual from discussion. In other words, if such atheists go around demanding that, before any further conversation take place, the non-atheists must somehow prove the validity of their worldviews, they admit, if not consciously, that no further step in the process of conversation can ever take place.

For quite apart from claims of supernatural revelation, any rational claims about metaphysical reality will still be dismissed as invalid because they are not materialist claims. Even the atheistic claims of Nietzsche on the possibilities of human power would be rejected as nonsensical. Such materialists win their arguments by defining the entire realm of argument made by non-atheists as inherently invalid. "I win because no matter what you say, it's bunk." As I've said before, it's certainly an effective strategy, but hardly a persuasive one.

106rrp
Apr 2, 2012, 12:05pm Top

Wouldn't you say that as it is hardly persuasive it also isn't an effective strategy?

107MyopicBookworm
Apr 2, 2012, 12:10pm Top

Well, it effectively silences non-atheists because they can say nothnig that can be accepted as a valid contribution to the discussion, and therefore effectively makes the materialist-atheist feel that they have somehow won the argument that hasn't happened.

108modalursine
Apr 2, 2012, 12:42pm Top

ref #93

...You assume it is people of faith are required to defend their presuppositions before they can get around to discussing things, ...

All discussions, expositions, narratives , proofs , demonstration or plausibility arguments ultimately rest on assumptions, values, preferences, moral or esthetic choices, postulates or axioms which are unprovable, hence accepted without proof or deemed "self evident".

That's not something I made up, its "the way things are". It doesn't bite only believers, it bites us all. Who ever we are and whatever position we're upholding, we can't escape that there are these underlying presumptions.

Sometimes the underlying assumptions are easily visible, but often they are a bit obscure and need to be teased out and may even surprise all parties.

One bit of clarification:
I don't think its fair or accurate to say (or to hold that we say) that people making an argument, whether for or against faith, need to "...defend their presupposition before they can get around to discussing things".

Defending the assumptions, or in some cases simply exposing what those assumptions really are, and highlighting their relative importance to the argument is a big part of discussing things.

I don't see how one could be said to be discussing anything at all, at least not very deeply, if the discovery of values and the justification of assumptions isn't a big part of the story.

One who says "I believe in the every living god who made the world according to his will in six days" no less than one who says "The whole of the universe consists of nothing other than atoms and void" needs to explain how they came to "know" what they are claiming, how consistent their claims are internally and how compatible their assumptions are with whatever else it is we think we know.

So, to some up so far:
1. Its not just "people of faith", everybody needs to justify their assumptions
2. Uncovering hidden assumptions and examining the "warrent" for all assumptions is a big part of the game
3. One doesn't have to justify one's axioms before one says anything, but surely how seriously we take the arguments is going to hinge a whole lot on how plausible ones assumptions turn out to be.

One further point if I may:

You say "...everything becomes a foundational issue which will never be settled".

I don't know quite what you want to mean by "settled".

I don't think its realistic to expect people to change their fundamental assumptions, but isn't a better appreciation of which assumptions divide our understanding worth having and a step in the right direction ?

109rrp
Apr 2, 2012, 12:42pm Top

And, of course, most (but not all) are completely closed to any discussion of the issue with a materialist or naturalist philosophy. They don't come here to discuss problems with their own worldview, thank you very much.

110rrp
Apr 2, 2012, 12:58pm Top

#108

Its not just "people of faith", everybody needs to justify their assumptions.

There is one big foundational assumption. Can you justify that one?

111modalursine
Apr 2, 2012, 1:07pm Top

ref 94

I think we can certainly agree that whether god does or does not act in history, religion sure does.

I think an accurate understanding of religion's role in human affairs, and where and when religion can be said to have played a distinctly positive or negative role, or even whether "positive" and "negative" has any real meaning when talking about the evolutions of human institutions is worth having.

I think its way too easy for we who are skeptical of religion to think "Its false and therefore all its consequences must be foul, whatever the situation or terrain" and way too easy for
religious "boosters" to see only transcendental good, or the promise of such, and never a dark underbelly.

Still, as interesting an invsetigation as that might be, the question "Is it true, or not?" is pretty much the main event. Actually, I find it impossible (maybe that's just a failure of imagination on my part) to imagine any significant portion of believers who would take the line, "Sure I know its a crock, but its beautiful and good, so I'll beleive it anyway"

Maybe I'm just hung up in a linguistic convention, but how could a person "believe" something without thinking that in some sense or other, its "true" ?

112Arctic-Stranger
Apr 2, 2012, 1:31pm Top

Still, as interesting an invsetigation as that might be, the question "Is it true, or not?" is pretty much the main event.

You mean, it is for YOU. But since a) that question will never be resolved (it has been a few thousand years, and no real substantive answers have arisen that could persuade both sides) b) it is essentially a waste of time, given a) then would not it be better to talk about things like the nature of faith, the way faith impacts culture, or the implications of faith, rather than whether the act of believing is sustainable? Especially since many believers are clearly sustained in some way by their faith.

But we have had this discussion before, and we cannot even settle on an answer to this. Odds of agreement on more substantial issues would be, I guess, around zero.

113Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 2, 2012, 2:00pm Top

Or, in other words, "It may be a crock, but that's not the point."

114StormRaven
Apr 2, 2012, 5:31pm Top

"But since a) that question will never be resolved (it has been a few thousand years, and no real substantive answers have arisen that could persuade both sides)"

No. The answer has been resolved. Thousands of years of effort, and the theists have provided nothing to support their claims.

Your side lost. Badly. You're just throwing a millennia long temper tantrum rather than admitting it.

115MyopicBookworm
Apr 2, 2012, 6:39pm Top

Exactly: prior commitment to materialism and insistence on evidence judged admissible by the rules of materialism trumps attempts at discussion. QED.

Do you have anything to say on the topic of religion other than to deny that it has any claim to validity?

The book I have been reading may be of interest to some. In After Christianity, Daphne Hampson argues that Christianity is both untrue and in some sense immoral; yet she is not an atheist. She does not believe in a supernatural creator, which in itself would put her beyond the pale of all but the most radical Christian theologies; but she finds the continual thread of religious experience sufficiently evidential to support, at the very least, a form of agnostic panentheism.

116BruceCoulson
Apr 2, 2012, 6:41pm Top

>114 StormRaven:

I think you mean, it's been solved according to non-theists.

Religion exists. Religious doctrine and teachings influence what people do. So, as long as there are enough believers who will simply not accept that they have lost to have influence on human affairs, then your victory may be personally satisfying, but ultimately fruitless.

This, I think, is the true disconnect. "We've proven that you're wrong, so now you have to abandon your unproven beliefs and accept our version of how the world works." The believers, for completely understandable reasons, don't accept this dismissal of what they feel is the Truth. So they either ignore the statement, or attack the speaker. Or both.

The interesting point is that although it's been amply demonstrated that this is what the majority of believers will do in the above situation, those that oppose religion continue to use the same approach...with the same results. Which include the persistance of belief and faith.

I should think that the 'thousands of years of effort' would demonstrate that despite the efforts of those who would reject faith, people will still believe.

But consider this. According to an atheist, all belief, all gods (and God) are acts of human creation; fantasies dreamed up for various reasons. If you eliminated all current faiths...wouldn't the human imagination simply create more gods? Unless, of course, you managed to stifle all creativity in the human mind.

117StormRaven
Apr 2, 2012, 7:55pm Top

"Religion exists. Religious doctrine and teachings influence what people do."

No one is saying religion doesn't exist. But the existence of religion serves only to underscore the point that the theistic side of the argument is hollow and empty. Despite having powerful organizations that have dedicated enormous volumes of resources to trying to demonstrate that their fundamental beliefs are rooted in reality, the best argument those religions ever put forward was to burn heretics. There is simply no substance to them other than that of political structures run by self-interested people making stuff up as they go along.

118prosfilaes
Apr 2, 2012, 8:13pm Top

#105: As great a thinker (and writer!) as the Hitch was, he had a bad habit of confusing these two processes; of rejecting religion not on its own merits but because of the behavior of its adherents.

What is the merits of a religion that produces evil people?

#107: Well, it effectively silences non-atheists because they can say nothnig that can be accepted as a valid contribution to the discussion,

What's your point? You want atheists to stop believing what they believe? Or do you just want them shut up?

If you have a forum moderated by materialists, then yes, when non-atheists want to talk about the supernatural it won't be accepted as a valid contribution. If you have an unmoderated forum, then you've got to tolerate the fact that some people simply aren't coming from your philosophical position.

#116: I should think that the 'thousands of years of effort' would demonstrate that despite the efforts of those who would reject faith, people will still believe.

And "thousands of years of effort" in stopping murder demonstrates that despite those efforts, people will still kill. Somethings you don't do because you expect a final total victory, but because they have to be done to maintain the status quo.

119LolaWalser
Apr 2, 2012, 8:25pm Top

#116

I should think that the 'thousands of years of effort' would demonstrate that despite the efforts of those who would reject faith, people will still believe.

But they don't believe in exactly the same ways as before. Barring catastrophic return to the bronze age, they likely never will again. Science displaced religion's claims in every field of knowledge with such success that we see them a) scrambling to accommodate scientific theories into their theologies b) aping scientific mannerisms in a bid for intellectual authority.

What remains (and might remain forever) is the question of origin of the universe. Very slim pickings for the theistically inclined.

120timspalding
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 8:48pm Top

I think this deserves some parsing. I think it shows a remarkable reductionism and anti-intellectualism.

No one is saying religion doesn't exist. But the existence of religion serves only to underscore the point that the theistic side of the argument is hollow and empty. Despite having powerful organizations that have dedicated enormous volumes of resources to trying to demonstrate that their fundamental beliefs are rooted in reality, the best argument those religions ever put forward was to burn heretics. There is simply no substance to them other than that of political structures run by self-interested people making stuff up as they go along.

I'm quite amazed at this. These statement seem to be claims about the real world--about human culture. But they don't seem to participate in the minimal demands for moderation and sophistication that ought to characterize such discussions.

That is, people who study human culture never say that some basic, nigh-universal, long-running human institution is for one thing and supported by one thing ("political institutions"). People who make non-silly claims about human culture recognize that it is a very complex thing. Religion serves many purposes—many at one time and many across cultures and times—which provide multiple supports. It has some polemical relation to visions of Medieval Europe, I suppose, but I can't imagine trying to apply this reductive analysis across human culture and time. Certainly repressive political structures are an important things to discuss here. But is it really true that religion offers no one consolation, offers no one any explanations, forwards no other goals, and in general has no other social function or role?

Frankly, I think this sort of attitude is grossly anti-intellectual. Religion may be stupid and evil in a thousand ways—count them up if you want! But opponents of religion don't advance the case of "reason" by denying the normal, day-to-day understandings of anthropology, sociology, psychology, and a half-dozen other disciplines.

121rrp
Apr 2, 2012, 9:17pm Top

#119

But they don't believe in exactly the same ways as before.

I wouldn't be so sure. There are some who study cognitive science who think that religious thinking is natural and scientific thinking is not. That the religious thought of most people comes naturally and that it is trained by more sophisticated thought into what we see today as organized religion. Robert N. McCauley's Why Religion is Natural and Science is Not. From the Amazon page
Religion makes intuitive sense to us, while science requires a lot of work. McCauley then draws out the larger implications of these findings. The naturalness of religion, he suggests, means that science poses no real threat to it, while the unnaturalness of science puts it in a surprisingly precarious position.

122StormRaven
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 9:50pm Top

120: Frankly, I'm quite amazed that you could write such an idiotic reply. It would have been one of the stupidest things I have seen a theist write in defense of religion today if I hadn't visited the Egnorance blog. You managed to miss the point of the post you were responding to while ignoring the parts that contradicted your diatribe and then accuse me of being "anti-intellectual" in the process. I'd suggest you should read more carefully before throwing that sort of thing around.

You might have noted that I said "There is simply no substance to them other than that of political structures run by self-interested people making stuff up as they go along." That includes consolation, explanations, goals, and social functions and roles. All of those things are included in political structures run by people making stuff up as they go along. What was being pointed out in the post is that there is no substance underlying religious claims that is rooted in reality. No one is disputing religions exist as human institutions. What is being denied is that they have anything to back up their claims to divine inspiration. And your clumsy bile-spitting didn't even touch on that.

Yes, religion offers comfort. Empty comfort lacking in foundation.

Yes, religion offers explanations. Explanations that are without supporting evidence or connection to reality.

Yes, religion has goals. Usually the goal of perpetuating itself. But not always. But the goals are always rooted in the personal desires of those who espouse the religion.

Yes, religion has social functions. So do Moose lodges. So what?

Religion is simply people acting in groups and making stuff up as they go along. People acting in groups is politics. Which is what I said.

123timspalding
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 10:12pm Top

All of those things are included in political structures run by people making stuff up as they go along.

Imagine, if you will, a nomadic band whose "political structure" extends little farther than an extended family. Mothers sing songs to their children about how a divine animal invented fire. In what way does your theory of the "political structures" behind religion actually connect to this?

What is being denied is that they have anything to back up their claims to divine inspiration. And your clumsy bile-spitting didn't even touch on that.

Of course. My point is not to argue that religion is true. My point is to argue that your anthropology of religion isn't. If I were to claim that science is nothing more than a system for getting geeks laid my claim would not only be false, it would be an idiotic simplification. Fortunately, I'd be joking. You aren't.

What is being denied is that they have anything to back up their claims to divine inspiration.

So, your argument is that religion is false. Great. That's a fine argument. But it's not argument about religion in human culture.

Yes, religion has social functions. So do Moose lodges. So what?

If your purpose is to explain religion, such things matter. If your purpose is merely to deny the existence of gods, stop making pseudo-anthropological arguments. They don't describe human culture, but merely the human ability to simplify what they hate.

124modalursine
Apr 2, 2012, 10:40pm Top

ref 112

I don't deny the interest or importance of the questions about the role of religion in history, and whether in fairness and candor one must judge it positive, negative, or something else.

Still, I find it hard to imagine that at least as far as the Abrahamics and/or "revealed" religions go, that the question of truth can be a matter of indifference to any significant portion of believers.

Sextus is fond of saying that for every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert, so maybe that's true for scriptural citations as well, but it does seem that Paul of Tarsus, for whatever bearing his opinion has in the matter, was convinced that if the Jesus stories were not substantially true, then his faith was "in vain".

There's a line of thought which goes back at least to Herodotus ("All men know equally little about the gods") which holds that the question (Is there a god, and if so what are his qualities and/or precepts?) is essentially unknowable or undecidable, but it seems a bit inconsistent to hold that position and also profess oneself a more or less "orthodox" believer (supporter? congregant?) of one of the revealed religions.

I take it that those who assent to the proposition that there is a god who intervenes in history , who believe in an afterlife and in various traditional christian teachings about the nature of the deity cannot at the same time be agnostics. Could that be a mistake?

To take another line from Sextus, I would say that the agnostic position, without supporting argument, is a bit of a dogmatic opinion. Like other non apparent things, it needs support.
How do we know that the question is as hopeless as all of that?

While it is true that there hadn't been a whole lot of progress for several thousands of years, it is also true that there has been quite a bit of progress in the last few hundred.

Atheists, to the great annoyance of the faithful, I'm sure, enter the room extremely skeptical not merely of the truth of religion, but of the intellectual respectability of the whole religious enterprise.

If the faithful run away from defending the intellectual bona fides of belief in the first place,
what are we atheists to think? Where is the evidence that they are at least as aware of and engaged with modernity as the atheists are?

125timspalding
Apr 2, 2012, 10:47pm Top

>112 Arctic-Stranger:, 124

I'm not convinced you guys are disagreeing. It seems to me that you can believe in God without believing that "Is there a God?" is an interesting question to talk about, or that it can be proven definitely.

126StormRaven
Apr 2, 2012, 10:47pm Top

"Mothers sing songs to their children about how a divine animal invented fire. In what way does your theory of the "political structures" behind religion actually connect to this?"

A family is a political structure. Do you want to deny this basic reality?

127timspalding
Edited: Apr 2, 2012, 11:02pm Top

>126 StormRaven:

It's definitional, not a mater of "reality." Some definitions lean your way; some don't. (Most don't, but numbers don't matter.) Personally, with an eye to using the term, I'd rather reserve "political" to situations that involve a good deal more structure. Etymology isn't definition, but "political" has the word "city" (polis) in it, and families aren't cities. Using political to mean "involves relations between human beings" or maybe "involves power relationships between human beings" seems to me to deprive it of usefulness as against other terms. That is, if everything is political, including situations that conventionally have been described as "pre-political," well, nothing is. But, again, there's no "reality" in the differing uses of a term. Terms aren't reality.

In any case, it's unclear to me how mythic aetiologies are necessarily really in the service of political structures. Any mythology course is going to present that as one possible explanation in the toolbox, but it's not the whole box any more than the notion that all mythology is the working-out of subconscious issues. Are you aiming for some sort of crude notion that everything is just a way to advance the power of the people in charge?

128lawecon
Apr 2, 2012, 11:29pm Top

~105

"The other is the strict materialist, who fundamentally rejects any non-physical, non-material reality. This type of atheist is the one with whom discussion frequently becomes impossible, because they automatically exclude the entire realm of the metaphysical and spiritual from discussion."

Well, insofar as I understand the terms materialist and nonmaterialist, I am a materialist theist. So, apparently, were the early Hebrews, the Mormons, etc. In fact, all earlier Western theists were materialists until certain sorts of religion became corrupted by Plato and Pythagoras.

129StormRaven
Apr 2, 2012, 11:46pm Top

"In any case, it's unclear to me how mythic aetiologies are necessarily really in the service of political structures."

Try taking your arguments out of the hypothetical aether and looking at some real ones then. For example: the Masai are a tribe in East Africa. Until forced to settle by the British controlled Kenyan and Tanzanian governments in the early twentieth century they were nomadic cattle herdsmen. A fundamental tenet of their traditional tribal faith is that at the beginning of time God gifted all the cattle in the world to the Masai, which meant they could take them from their neighbors at will - because they were just taking what was theirs by divine right.

Does this sound familiar? Maybe because this is the same sort of justification given in the Bible for the Israelites taking their land. This sort of mythology is so common as to be a cliché. And it doesn't have anything to do with preserving the power of those who are in charge, and it is a tenet held by a people who did not live in cities or large groups, but you cannot deny that it is political in nature.

130ApeironPrime
Apr 3, 2012, 4:29am Top

I will not go your way, suppliers of isms and ists! You are no bridges to the uebermensch!

131MyopicBookworm
Apr 3, 2012, 7:36am Top

A family is a political structure. Do you want to deny this basic reality?

I do. A family is essentially a primary social structure. As a rough connotational distinction, I would think of social structures as unconsciously developed from biological antecedents; political structures have an element of conscious development for the maintenance or distribution of power.

132timspalding
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:03am Top

but you cannot deny that it is political in nature

Again, definitional, and farther than I think useful. If I come to believe that God told that I own your lunchbox, I don't think "political" would be a useful term for what's going on. But, again, if you choose a very expansive definition of politics as involving everything related to "interests" between people, then perhaps so. Could your view be reduced to "religion is just economics"?

Try taking your arguments out of the hypothetical aether and looking at some real ones then

I have no doubt you can come up with examples that show religion and politics are often closely intertwined. But sweeping anthropological assertions, like the assertions in any science, don't get confirmed by choice anecdotes. Nor for that matter does a story of Masai beliefs about cattle explain Masai religion overall, both because religion is far larger than ones view of cows—even among the cow-obsessed Masai!—and because it implies a very crude understanding of the relationship between different elements of culture.

133MyopicBookworm
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 9:00am Top

124:

I take it that those who assent to the proposition that there is a god who intervenes in history, who believe in an afterlife and in various traditional christian teachings about the nature of the deity cannot at the same time be agnostics. Could that be a mistake?

If you take "agnostic" in the Huxleyan sense, considering that the existence of God is strictly unknowable, rather than the common use (that one can't be bothered to think about it but is not a committed atheist), then yes, I think it is possible to be both an agnostic and yet profess oneself a believer: precisely because faith is not knowledge, and in the absence of knowledge of God, one can intellectually give God the "benefit of the doubt" and, as it were, trust that he exists. The apophatic tradition in Christian theology would teach that no positive attributes can ultimately be asserted of God (the God that can be captured in human concepts is not the true God). I guess it would stop short of counting existence as one of those positive attributes; but it is arguable whether "existence" is an attribute of God. Some theologians in this line (?Tillich) tend to take a monistic view: the Universe is what is; there is an aspect of it which some call God. It is possible to construct a theology based on God as "ground of being" (now) rather than taking literally the doctrine of God as Creator (then), though this is probably incompatible with an orthodox Christian faith rooted in fidelity to Biblical and/or church tradition.

"God is only our name for it. And the closer we get to it, the more it ceases to be God." (John O'Donohue)

I speak from experience, having spent a long time as a Christian agnostic. But one problem raised by your query (and others) is the assumption that to be a non-atheist you have to believe in a particular kind of God: specifically in the supernaturally intervening God of traditional Christianity. Having come to the opinion that the bloke-in-the-sky, interventionist, consciously-designing Creator God does not exist, but is a human construct, one does not have to take the exit marked "Dawkins" and Go immediately to Atheism (do not collect £200). I don't think that the position I have now reached myself sits comfortably within Christianity, except perhaps among the most extreme liberals; but I think there can be arguable Christian agnostic positions.

the agnostic position, without supporting argument, is a bit of a dogmatic opinion

Is the supporting argument for agnosticism not simply the sum of the arguments for theism and atheism, plus an acknowledgement of the need to proceed even on the basis of insufficient data (a human capacity which I exploit every time I drive my car in the dark, or take a decision without consulting my wife)?

134lawecon
Apr 3, 2012, 9:06am Top

~130

How much do those black and silver uniforms run these days? I bet they are expensive.

135lawecon
Apr 3, 2012, 9:11am Top

~132
"Again, definitional, and farther than I think useful. If I come to believe that God told that I own your lunchbox, I don't think "political" would be a useful term for what's going on. But, again, if you choose a very expansive definition of politics as involving everything related to "interests" between people, then perhaps so. Could your view be reduced to "religion is just economics"?"

http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/E/bo11519376.html

http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Trust-Medieval-Economic-ebook/dp/B003UTU080

136nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 12:23pm Top

>127 timspalding:: "In any case, it's unclear to me how mythic aetiologies are necessarily really in the service of political structures. "

Here I have to disagree with you, Tim. It's pretty clear to me that many have argued for precisely that function of mythic aetiologies, e.g. the noble lie of Plato's Republic. On the other hand, not all mythic aetiologies must, necessarily, be considered noble lies. The idea of a creator God--whether specifically Judaeo-Christian or not--serves an aetiological purpose, so to speak (i.e. it offers a starting point for the question "Does this whole thing have any meaning?"), and most cultures that utilize such a concept would view not as a noble lie but as a noble truth. Of course, this whole argument about whether families constitute "political" structures is entirely semantic: it all depends on how expansive your definition of "political" is. If, as StormRaven seems to want to do, you make "political" a synonym for "social", then sure, the family is a political structure. But that doesn't really matter in terms of the argument; we've been derailed from arguing over the utility of fire-hydrants by arguing over whether the yellow paint on them should be sunshine or daffodil.

Likewise, StormRaven's insistence that there is no reality that is not physical would also have to be such an aetiological axiom. After all, that's the function of an axiom: it defines the arena within which all other epistemological statements can be made. StormRaven defines the arena of reality to exclude the non-physical, thereby making it impossible to prove or disprove his definition of reality (since the only proof he will accept is physical, thus making it a tautology). So it could equally be argued that StormRaven's axiom is a "mythic aetiology" designed to support a political structure that excludes religion/belief in the supernatural or metaphysical.

Which brings us to lawecon's point in 128: that pre-hellenized religions were "materialist". I think, however, that this is only true insofar as a we distinguish such "materialism" from modern "materialism"--after all, the "materialist" deities of ancient religion had powers that no modern materialist would admit as "natural".

137timspalding
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 12:59pm Top

Here I have to disagree with you, Tim. It's pretty clear to me that many have argued for precisely that function of mythic aetiologies

Of course, but always or necessarily? That's a big claim. The usual atheist layman's description of religion is as a way for pre-scientific people to explain things--rain is Zeus pissing through a sieve, etc. While often overused—religion is science for dumb people!—there's obviously an element of this in myths and religions. Meanwhile, some time ago it was fashionable to explain myth by ritual. And on and on. There's a big list of these explanations, but all of them are partial and non-exclusive.

That is, if you think you've found the one thing myth or religion are for, you're wrong. One might be carried into reductivism by an over-eagerness to create grand theories. But, in this case, where all the evidence points to ideology and animus, the best descriptor is "conspiracy theory."

designed to support a political structure that excludes religion/belief in the supernatural or metaphysical

Now you're misusing it. To my knowledge StormRaven doesn't run a polity, and the political structures he's actually in do nothing of the sort.

Which brings us to lawecon's point in 128: that pre-hellenized religions were "materialist". I think, however, that this is only true insofar as a we distinguish such "materialism" from modern "materialism"--after all, the "materialist" deities of ancient religion had powers that no modern materialist would admit as "natural".

Right. Ancient materialism wasn't "materialism" in the modern sense. It might better be understood as like "neutral monism." But, well, that term isn't much used outside of academic philosophy, so we can't expect those who disdain philosophy to use it.

138StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 1:09pm Top

"The usual atheist layman's description of religion is as a way for pre-scientific people to explain things--rain is Zeus pissing through a sieve, etc. While often overused—religion is science for dumb people!—there's obviously an element of this in myths and religions."

And that serves a political purpose. Or if you prefer the terminology, a social authority function. If those in power can use religion to explain the world, it reinforces their authority.

139timspalding
Apr 3, 2012, 1:14pm Top

Are you under the impression that the despots of Greece came up with Greek myths? Are you under the impression that, say, the story of how Delphi got its name, has anything to do with power structures?

140nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 1:15pm Top

>138 StormRaven:: Or, if you prefer: If those in power can use science to explain the world, it reinforces their authority.

You, of course, will reply that science is based in reality and religion is based in false myths. But then, that distinction only holds if we insist that only the physical world is "real". Sadly, you can't actually discuss the reality of the metaphysical because you're so blinded by your dogma that "only the physical is real".

141BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 1:31pm Top

It would probably be more accurate to say that those in authority use religion, science, and any other justification possible to maintain their continued rule.

Eastern cultures in ancient times used divine heritage ("His family is descended from a god; clearly they are meant to rule mere mortals.") Western cultures post-Christianity used terms such as 'God's Annointed" and 'divine right of kings' in order to claim support from supernatural authority for temporal authority on Earth.

Similar claims for respecting established authority have come from long-standing land ownership, superior education, racial superiority, etc.

Those in charge really don't care where support for their continued rule comes from, as long as that support is unlikely to challenge the status quo.

142clamairy
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 1:35pm Top

Does anyone else find the idea that StormRaven is "blinded by dogma" pants-wettingly funny?

143StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 5:20pm Top

139: Are you under the impression that those stories came from nowhere? Do you not see the political purpose in declaring a location in the middle of your civilization to be the center of the world? It marks the Greeks as "in" and others as "outsiders".

Delphi and the myths surrounding it are little more than justifications for ethnic chauvinism. Like many other myths of many other cultures.

The more you try to wriggle around this, the more ridiculous you look.

144StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 5:20pm Top

140: Sadly, you can't actually discuss the reality of the metaphysical because you're so blinded by your dogma that "only the physical is real".

No, we can't discuss the non-physical because there is no evidence that witchcraft works.

Unless you are willing to accept that sorcery is real and demonstrate that you believe in it by climbing a tall building, chanting an incantation, and then leaping off in an attempt to fly under your magic power, then you don't really have any room to criticize anyone for rejecting the "metaphysical". (Or more accurately, the supernatural).

145Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 5:20pm Top

It would probably be more accurate to say that those in authority use religion, science, and any other justification possible to maintain their continued rule.

As someone who works in politics, I can tell you that when it comes to propping up those in power, science is the way. In spite of the fact that we have a very religious governor, when he presents bill, he lines the hall with scientific experts, not priests or ministers. As a matter of fact, the fact that I used to be a minister worked against me in this place for awhile, and it is only in my third year that some of the legislators have come to trust that I am not trying interpose religion in things.

Alaska is a pretty conservative place, too. I am sure there are places in the south where religion has a greater influence, but if you want to look at the news priests, the ones who prop up the existing order, look at the guys with the advanced degrees.

146Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 5:21pm Top

Witchcraft. Yes, you are so astute. That is exactly what is being defended.

147StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 5:24pm Top

146: There isn't any substantive difference between witchcraft and the supernatural claims of religion. You reject witchraft, and in doing so, reveal that you are a hypocrite when you then mouth claims to belief in the supernatural.

148Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 5:25pm Top

Yes. Of course. No dogma here. Just a serious explication of physical facts.

149StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 5:27pm Top

148: Oh, so you believe in sorcery? If not, why not?

150Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 5:31pm Top

But of course. EVERYONE who thinks there is a supernatural is a believer in sorcery. No stereotypes or over-generalizations there.

151StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 5:45pm Top

150: You're missing the point. Why don't you believe in sorcery? On what basis do you deny that supernatural magical powers are real?

nathanielcampbell seems to think that the supernatural is real and people who reject it are "blinded by dogma". You apparently reject the supernatural claims of sorcery and witchcraft. Are you "blinded by dogma"?

Unless nathanielcampbell is willing to demonstrate his belief in the supernatural by attempting to jump off a thirty story building and fly under his own magical power, I'm inclined to consider his criticisms to be nothing more than the moronic idiocy they are. People like him who claim a belief in the supernatural always seem to stop short of actually demonstrating that they actually have the courage to put those convictions into practice if it might endanger them in some way. I wonder why that is?

152Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 5:54pm Top

Unless nathanielcampbell is willing to demonstrate his belief in the supernatural by attempting to jump off a thirty story building and fly under his own magical power, I'm inclined to consider his criticisms to be nothing more than the moronic idiocy they are.

I just wanted that to be repeated. If you cannot fly, super naturalism is moronic idiocy. That is an argument you can take to the bank.

153StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 6:12pm Top

152: No. Once again, you demonstrate that you are very good at missing the point. And also very good at not bothering to answer uncomfortable questions.

nathanielcampbell has stated that he considers people who don't believe in the supernatural to be "blinded by dogma". All I'm doing is asking him to demonstrate his belief in the supernatural by trying to use supernatural means to fly. If he isn't willing to live by his convictions, then I'm inclined to believe that he doesn't actually believe in the supernatural.

But you have not bothered to answer why you don't believe in sorcery. Because I think you realize that if you do so you'll end up discrediting the belief in supernaturalism in general because of the inherently groundless nature of claims about the supernatural.

But unless you actually answer this question, which I have asked you three times now, then I'm going to conclude that you aren't able to and I'm going to write off anything further you say as worthless drivel from the mouth of someone "blinded by dogma" (to quote nathanielcampbell).

154BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 6:20pm Top

>153 StormRaven:

I think you're missing the point here.

It doesn't matter if the supernatural exists or not; what matters is that a significant number of people do believe that it exists, and base at least a part of their lives on that belief.

And they continue to believe despite all efforts by atheists, skeptics, rationalists, et. al. to persuade them otherwise.

Therefore, any society has to take into account that these people exist.

Continually proving that the supernatural has no existence serves no purpose if the people you are lecturing aren't listening, and you can't punish them for not listening. (In fact, it may not matter if you could punish them; Christianity's roots are of an oppressed minority faith.)

Perhaps the thread would be better served by trying to define what a 'normal' Christian is, and what they should do. (And what they actually do, which may not be the same thing.) Is it someone who quietly tries to live according to the precepts of their faith, providing an example rather than telling others what is right? Is it someone who believes and goes to church, but doesn't worry about their beliefs (or living up to them) most of the time? Or some other type of person altogether?

If you're looking for missing normal Christians, I would think it would be helpful to know what you're looking for. It could prevent awkward errors. The Year of Living Biblically provides numerous examples of all sorts of Christians. Some of them I'd walk across the street to avoid; others might be fun to hang out with. But which ones are 'normal'?

155Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 6:30pm Top

Asking why I don't believe in sorcery is like asking a democrat why he is not a communist. There are a whole host of understandings concerning supernaturalism (not a word I like very much) that range from sorcery to a vague belief that part of one's psyche continues on in some form after one dies.

I am not a pure naturalist (materialist) because a) I just don't believe naturalism can give an adequate account of everything, b) there are times when I have felt and seen the effects of some kind of communal spirit, mostly at death beds, but not always, c) while materialists can all be good people, for the most part materialism does not require that, and in fact, being the one (smart) bad egg in a bunch gives one a serious advantage of the other hopeless saps who somehow think being good matters, d) it just feels pretty damn like an impoverished way to live. Now that last one is no rational reason, but the fact is, if there is nothing other than materialism, that is still what MY neurons form in my brain, so F-off if you don't like it, they are my f'ing neurons.

Sorcery is the art of manipulating supernatural powers for earthly gain of some kind, even if the gain is just the ability to fly. I don't buy into a supernaturalism where powers can be manipulated by that, so I don't buy into sorcery.

I think that cramming all supernaturalism into one category is like some right wing republicans who think all democrats are all alike in the same evil ways. Or like some Christian who knows that anything that is not of God is clearly of the devil; it is a limited, flat view of an huge part of the human enterprise, and indicative, not of knowledge, but of bias and ignorance.

156StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:32pm Top

"It doesn't matter if the supernatural exists or not; what matters is that a significant number of people do believe that it exists, and base at least a part of their lives on that belief."

Sure. On the other hand, nathanielcampbell has decided that those who don't accept the supernatural are "blinded by dogma". Yet very few people who espouse belief in the supernatural seem to be willing to put their money where their mouth is.

And when people do by (for example) relying on faith healers to cure their diabetes and other serious medical conditions and throwing away their medication, I'm sure that Arctic-Stranger and most others who ardently defend the "supernatural" will decry those who try to persuade people to do this. And this marks them as hypocrites.

"Therefore, any society has to take into account that these people exist."

The proper way to take these people into account is to mock and ridicule them for their stupid beliefs unless they are willing to actually put their money where their mouth is and use supernatural means to do things while eschewing material means of doing them. Like trying to fly.

157nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 6:36pm Top

>153 StormRaven:: The problem with your argument (that all supernatural beliefs are alike, whether it's God, the Holy Spirit, or incantations to allow oneself to fly off tall buildings) has a fatal flaw: you seem not to understand that, just as there are things which are possible and things which are impossible in the physical world, so there are things which are possible and things which are impossible in the supernatural world.

You would quite happily agree that the physical world operates according to laws: for example, the speed of light is an upper limit of velocity, or gravity (as a curvature of space-time) dictates that all objects on earth experience an acceleration towards its center of ca. 9.8m/s^2. Yet, your dogmatic blindness has left you incapable of perceiving that the supernatural world might also operate according to laws, such that God exists but I can't (nominally) utter an incantation such that I can violate those laws of physics we all accept.

God's existence is in harmony with the laws of the physical world; sorcerers flying off the tops of buildings are not in harmony with the laws of the physical world.

158timspalding
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 6:41pm Top

Delphi and the myths surrounding it are little more than justifications for ethnic chauvinism. Like many other myths of many other cultures.

The more you try to wriggle around this, the more ridiculous you look.

Honestly I suggest you read some books on Greek mythology, or any mythology whatsoever. Honestly, if one of my mythology students at Michigan had spouted this sort of reductive and easy tripe I'd put them down as really smart and clever, and really not doing the reading.

159nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 6:44pm Top

>156 StormRaven:: The existence of the supernatural/metaphysical does not imply the possibility of anything you can imagine. Your logic here is about as bad as can possibly be.

In terms of healing: I absolutely believe that God can heal people. He does this through the operations of the physical world, through the work of doctors and medicine. He can also do it "miraculously", though (as C. S. Lewis argued in Miracles), it may be best to understand miracles not as a deviation from the laws of the physical world but God using those laws in new ways. Thus, the physical processes by which human medicine can heal a disease may likely be the same processes God uses in a "miraculous" cure, just of his own agency rather than through the agency of a doctor or a medication.

160StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:44pm Top

"I am not a pure naturalist (materialist) because"

Oh let's look at these:

"a) I just don't believe naturalism can give an adequate account of everything,"

Supernaturalism doesn't give an account of anything, adequate or not.

"b) there are times when I have felt and seen the effects of some kind of communal spirit, mostly at death beds, but not always,"

So, you've seen a material manifestation and decided it was supernatural. That's an interesting argument. And a stupid one.

"c) while materialists can all be good people, for the most part materialism does not require that, and in fact, being the one (smart) bad egg in a bunch gives one a serious advantage of the other hopeless saps who somehow think being good matters,"

This isn't an argument for the supernatural. This is like saying "I don't like baseball because some people can hit better than others". Your liking it or not has no bearing on whether a baseball game is being played or not. Similarly, your liking or not liking the implications of materialism has no bearing on whether materialism is true or not.

"d) it just feels pretty damn like an impoverished way to live."

That's not a reason at all. Once again, the universe doesn't care what you like or not. It exists whether you like it or not. Not only that, it is pretty sad to see someone describe accepting reality as "impoverished". It makes your clinging to supernaturalism seem childish and small.

"Now that last one is no rational reason, but the fact is, if there is nothing other than materialism, that is still what MY neurons form in my brain, so F-off if you don't like it, they are my f'ing neurons."

Too bad your neurons led you to reject the reality around you in favor of a comfortable fantasy. All of the reasons you have given boil down to "reality is too hard, so I prefer fantasy". Your entire world-view is akin a small child clinging to a make-believe world because unicorns and fairies are more comforting than reality.

"Sorcery is the art of manipulating supernatural powers for earthly gain of some kind, even if the gain is just the ability to fly. I don't buy into a supernaturalism where powers can be manipulated by that, so I don't buy into sorcery."

So you just "don't buy it". That's your entire argument? But you do buy other forms of magical stuff. Because it makes you feel good in your tummy or something. Hypocrite.

161StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:47pm Top

"Honestly I suggest you read some books on Greek mythology, or any mythology whatsoever."

I have. The Delphi myths are almost all at their core a justification for the Greeks being special and others being lesser beings. That you don't see this just tells me that you have been steeped in the cultural chauvinism and can't recognize it.

"Honestly, if one of my mythology students at Michigan had spouted this sort of reductive and easy tripe I'd put them down as really smart and clever, and really not doing the reading."

Then you're a shitty teacher who is bound and determined to impress his own prejudices on his students.

162StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:49pm Top

Yet, your dogmatic blindness has left you incapable of perceiving that the supernatural world might also operate according to laws

Yet without any evidence, you have no way to determine what those laws might be. So instead, you adhere to the laws of material reality while spewing baseless bullshit speculation about the supernatural.

"God's existence is in harmony with the laws of the physical world"

No it isn't. God's existence is irrelevant to the laws of the physical world.

163Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 6:54pm Top

He is cute when he is angry and wrong.

164nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 6:54pm Top

>154 BruceCoulson:: To get back to the search for the "normal" Christian (whose worldview is sufficiently nuanced to perceive that there is, in fact, a distinction between God and the sorcerer trying to fly):

Ross Douthat had a delightfully perceptive column in the New York Times last week about Tim Tebow that I think illumines this issue:
Why is Tim Tebow such a fascinating and polarizing figure? Not just because he claims to be religious; that claim is commonplace among football stars and ordinary Americans alike. Rather, it’s because his conduct — kind, charitable, chaste, guileless — seems to actually vindicate his claim to be in possession of a life-altering truth.

Nothing discredits religion quite like the gap that often yawns between what believers profess and how they live. With Tebow, that gap seems so narrow as to be invisible. (“There’s not an ounce of artifice or phoniness or Hollywood in this kid Tebow,” ESPN’s Rick Reilly wrote last year of the quarterback’s charitable works, “and I’ve looked everywhere for it.”) He fascinates, in part, because he behaves — at least in public, and at least for now — the way one would expect more Christians to behave if their faith were really true.

165BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 6:55pm Top

>156 StormRaven:

"The proper way to take these people into account is to mock and ridicule them for their stupid beliefs..."

And as history shows, that doesn't seem to work. Would you call someone who continually uses the same strategy over and over again, despite continued failures for hundreds (at least) years persistent; or unwilling to learn? Or perhaps thinking that 'this time for sure'; a (if I dare say it) magical belief that a failed method of argument will suddenly succeed?

Unfortunately (or not) leaders of society rarely become so by openly reviling the beliefs of their citizens publically (whether some of them do so privately is another topic altogether). So, your strategy is unlikely to be adopted in any democratic society. (I might observe that the Soviet Union didn't have much success in eliminating religious feelings and beliefs, despite having far greater resources in repressing their citizens.)

Making fun of people you feel to be your intellectual inferiors may be rewarding in a personal sense; but it's highly unlikely to either convince such people to abandon their beliefs, or to persuade others that your cause is righteous. Or, in the long run, to make any change whatsoever in the larger society.

So, the question is; are you doing this (mocking and ridiculing others) for your own enjoyment, or because you genuinely feel that people of faith are mistaken and should give up their cherished beliefs? Because, if it's the latter, and you wish to influence others, I must inform you your chosen method is highly ineffective and very unlikely to make any change towards a society you may find more rational.

If you're doing this solely for your own amusement, then the question becomes: why? I can understand hectoring the door-to-door salespeople who take time out of your day to thrust their beliefs upon you unasked; but in this case, you are the one going out of your way to harangue others. It makes for a poor impression, to say the least, for your cause.

166StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:57pm Top

159: That's the biggest load of horseshit I've seen today. You're doing nothing but spewing idiocy now.

"In terms of healing: I absolutely believe that God can heal people. He does this through the operations of the physical world, through the work of doctors and medicine."

You have no basis for asserting that the material work of physicians is in any way affected by the supernatural. This is typical of the claims of the supernatural: people using material means accomplish something, and then the supernatural proponents jump in and try to claim that it was the result of some sort of mysterious process.

You diminish the actual work put in by actual people who have achieved actual accomplishments. You can very kindly take your claims that they needed magical aid to do so and stuff them up your backside until you have actual evidence that this is the case.

"He can also do it "miraculously", though (as C. S. Lewis argued in Miracles), it may be best to understand miracles not as a deviation from the laws of the physical world but God using those laws in new ways."

C.S. Lewis was full of shit. Very full of shit.

"Thus, the physical processes by which human medicine can heal a disease may likely be the same processes God uses in a "miraculous" cure, just of his own agency rather than through the agency of a doctor or a medication."

So, are you saying that spontaneous remission is God curing someone? How do you know it is a miracle and not a material phenomenon? Is it possible for someone to recover from a disease and have it not be supernatural? Exactly where is the supernatural influence to be found? Why does God hate amputees?

167StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 6:57pm Top

163: I see you are still wallowing in your hypocrisy.

168nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 7:00pm Top

165: "someone who continually uses the same strategy over and over again, despite continued failures for hundreds (at least) years"

I thought that was the definition of insanity.

169StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:02pm Top

165: "And as history shows, that doesn't seem to work."

Actually, it does. "Nonbelief" is the fastest growing designation in the U.S. Nonbelievers are a majority of young adults. If these trends continue religion will become a phenomenon of the elderly and the fringe. Numerous former believers have asserted that it was the ridicule that beliefs like Young Earth Creationism are subjected to sparked their questioning and then leaving their faith. The empirical evidence is that ridicule works quite well.

170StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:03pm Top

168: Yes. Thousands of years of trying to demonstrate the truth of the supernatural, and you're no closer now than the Babylonians were four thousand years ago.

Religion is insane.

171nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 7:05pm Top

166: I don't know why I bother continuing to try to offer up arguments here. Your every response is simply "what you say is bullshit". The only argument you can offer is "Since I don't believe there is any reality beyond the physical, anything you say about it is bullshit."

It's like a Birther saying, "Since I don't believe Barack Obama is an American citizen, anything he does as President is invalid, nonsensical bullshit."

172BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 7:09pm Top

> 169

And, of course, the United States is the sole nation upon the Earth, and therefore any changes here will automatically be reflected on other, lesser nations...

I think the trend among educated younger people is indifference and a rejection of organized religion; not necessarily non-belief. I tend to distrust all polls, since the vast majority of them are highly unscientific and prone to error (usually favoring the position of the poll writer, strangely enough).

But I live within a few miles of the World Harvest Church, and 2 hours from the Creationist Museum. I haven't noticed any significant reduction in the level of belief out here...

173nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 7:10pm Top

>169 StormRaven:: "Non-belief" and an absolute rejection of any non-material reality are two very different things. Those same studies that show "non-believers" to be the fastest growing demographic also show that, while those "non-believers" no longer believe in an established or organized religion, most very much do believe in some type of spirituality.

Of course, there's also the fact that at least half of U.S. scientists believe either in God or in a higher power (see this study from the Pew Research Center, and their write-up about it here). By StormRaven's definitions, this should be a national crisis, because half of U.S. scientists are irrational idiots!

174LolaWalser
Apr 3, 2012, 7:10pm Top

Actually, mocking and ridicule have been used to great and lasting effect against religion since--well, probably since people laughed.

Incidentally, there's a thread in Green Dragon about satire which talks about its history and uses (mainly political in that discussion, but it's easy to check in on anti-religious applications).

This is not to say that mocking and ridicule are the best way to deal with religious claims in private life, among individuals--probably not in most cases. But in (semi)-anonymous yet public discourse--and I'd say anyone who's engaged in a public forum like this is in effect "publishing" his views to the world at large--in that case it may work as any other publication diffused into the world in previous eras.

175Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 7:10pm Top

Well, he does back stuff up. With invective, but for him I guess that is an intellectual exercise.

176StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:11pm Top

171: Well you could try by offering up any evidence at all to back your assertion that there is any reality beyond the physical.

But you probably won't, because you're just pulling stuff out of your ass. Your assertion for the supernatural thus far has amounted to pointing to material phenomenon and claiming they were somehow supernatural. Your "supernaturalism" is decidedly material. You are too blinded by dogma to see that you have nothing but wishful thinking to support your fantasies.

Or you could try answering these questions that I previously posed:

Are you saying that spontaneous remission is God curing someone? How do you know it is a miracle and not a material phenomenon? Is it possible for someone to recover from a disease and have it not be supernatural? Exactly where is the supernatural influence to be found? Why does God hate amputees?

I doubt you will.

177Arctic-Stranger
Apr 3, 2012, 7:12pm Top

But you probably won't, because you're just pulling stuff out of your ass.

That is an assertion you just pulled out of your ass.

178StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:12pm Top

"And, of course, the United States is the sole nation upon the Earth, and therefore any changes here will automatically be reflected on other, lesser nations..."

I didn't say that. Many other countries are far ahead of the U.S. on that score. Go to Scandanavia. You'll find religion is pretty much dead.

179Arctic-Stranger
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:22pm Top

Go to Scandanavia. You'll find religion is pretty much dead.

I could not find Scandanvia on a map. I could check out Scandinavia. Where racism is alive and well.

http://cphvoice.ning.com/profiles/blogs/racism-and-discrimination

180StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:21pm Top

"Of course, there's also the fact that at least half of U.S. scientists believe either in God or in a higher power"

Read further. The bulk of scientists are essentially materialists. 87% reject any kind of supernatural influence on evolution. If they do think there is a God or higher power, they don't seem to think it does much of anything.

They also don't seem to agree with religious authorities on things like stem cell research: 93% support Federal funding for stem cell research.

It seems that to the extent that scientists have religion, it is a pretty flimsy belief.

181LolaWalser
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:21pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

182BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 7:22pm Top

And many others are still highly religious, or have populations that are believers. (To quibble, Scandinavia isn't a country.)

So, even if your hypothesis is correct for the United States, and even if organized religion is on the decline...that doesn't mean that religious belief is gone, or will vanish, anytime soon.

Which means it will still be a force to reckon with in politics for decades to come, even in the United States. God's Profits is a good look at how the religious are organizing quite effectively. If I had to bet on ridicule vs. organization and money, I know which way I'd go.

183StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:23pm Top

179: "I could not find Scandanvia on a map. I could check out Scandinavia. Where racism is alive and well"

This is just Arctic-Stranger's way of saying "i can't formulate any kind of actual argument, so I'll bring up a red herring to try to distract you."

Pretty typical of a theist to bring out worthless arguments.

184StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:32pm Top

And many others are still highly religious, or have populations that are believers.

But would you want to line up the U.S. with the highly religious countries, or the ones that have become decidedly less religious in the last several decades?

(To quibble, Scandinavia isn't a country.)

Yes. It is a region with several countries. Hence the reason I used the plural when I said "Many other countries are far ahead of the U.S. on that score."

Which means it will still be a force to reckon with in politics for decades to come, even in the United States. God's Profits is a good look at how the religious are organizing quite effectively.


Maybe. In the 1930s, Britain was religious enough that a King had to abdicate to marry a divorcee. By the 1960s, he was regarded as a dashing romantic figure. Now, a British politician who brings up his faith is seen as boorish.

The reason for rising nonbelief (and in many cases "spritualism" is only a waypoint on the path to atheism) seems to be the fact that the religious are organizing. Their political activities, and the agendas that are being exposed as a result: anti-contraception, "personhood" bills, forced ultrasounds, even anti-porn provisions, are what is driving people away from the fold.

185StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:27pm Top

177: "That is an assertion you just pulled out of your ass."

All claims about the supernatural are pulled out of one's ass.

186BruceCoulson
Apr 3, 2012, 7:29pm Top

That depends on what part of the U.S. you're looking at.

Like I mentioned, where I live is still highly religious, and with a heavy amount of organized religion.

187StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:34pm Top

185: I know. I live in Virginia, which has a decidedly split character. But the trends appear to be not in the favor of the religious, and there are few ways to take the wind out of the sails of pompous religious politicians than ridiculing them.

188nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 7:40pm Top

>176 StormRaven:: "Well you could try by offering up any evidence at all to back your assertion that there is any reality beyond the physical."

I could produce reams of evidence--but you would rule all of it inadmissible because it's not material evidence. It's not worth my time to give you evidence when we both already know ahead of time that you can't see any of it because of your dogmatic blindness.

Are you saying that spontaneous remission is God curing someone?
It's possible. Indeed, I think highly probable, especially in those cases where medical investigation has been exhaustive and inconclusive (e.g. those carried out by doctors independent of the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints).

How do you know it is a miracle and not a material phenomenon? Is it possible for someone to recover from a disease and have it not be supernatural?
Here again, I cannot provide you with any evidence that you would accept, as the evidence for miracles involves admitting that non-physical things exist--you do not yet appear ready to leave that cave. For people who believe in miraculous cures and in the healing power of God, there is a natural and harmonious cooperation between nature and God. God works through nature and through medicine to heal us. The extraordinary advances of modern medical knowledge and skill have come about because God has endowed humanity with the extraordinary capacities of rational thought and creative discovery that have led to those advances. When a "normal" Christian says they think God had a hand in curing their mother of breast cancer, what they likely mean is that God (1) has so shaped human nature to allow us to fight that cancer and (2) God helped the medicine, etc. to be effective precisely because all good things--indeed all existence--have their source in God. Hogwash, I know.

Why does God hate amputees?
Ah yes, theodicy (which a friend of mine demanded this morning on Facebook in response to UK's win last night). Why does "bad thing x" happen if God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, etc. etc. Theists have oft tried to elaborate complex theories of how and why and when God does or does not intervene in human affairs, all of which usually get us not much farther than when we started. Bad things happen and we don't understand why. I could talk about sin and free will and a whole host of other things, but again, it's not worth my time since you will simply declare every word "bullshit" since I'm talking about non-material things.

Ultimately, the only answer, troubling as it may be, is that the will and knowledge and existence of God so far transcends our own feeble perception and understanding that we can't know why God heals person X but leaves person Y an amputee. The injustice of the human world does not impute or imply injustice in the divine. Indeed, my favorite thoughts on this topic right now are in the writings of Julian of Norwich, in which her frustration with theodicy ("What is sinne?") is palpable. Ultimately, she comes to the realization--not by reason or intellect but by the reassurance of faith, a knowledge assured not by physical evidence but by the confidence of grace--that "love was {thy lordes} mening". The importance of this revelation cannot be overstated: Love is the key, the ultimate and fundamental aspect of God's being and our relationship to him: "Who shewed it the? Love. What shewid he the? Love. Wherefore shewed he it the? For love." (A Revelation of Love, c. 86)

(For a really good exploration of Julian's theology of sin and salvation, I would recommend Denys Turner's new book, Julian of Norwich, Theologian.)

189StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:41pm Top

"c) while materialists can all be good people, for the most part materialism does not require that, and in fact, being the one (smart) bad egg in a bunch gives one a serious advantage of the other hopeless saps who somehow think being good matters,"

To go back to this, the funny thing about this is that believing in supernaturalism doesn't seem to do much to dissuade this kind of behavior. In fact, it seems like a substantial chunk of the people who self-identify as religious and ardently believe in the supernatural act to exploit those around them in the most ruthless ways possible.

190nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:44pm Top

>180 StormRaven:: You should probably warn President Obama that the head of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the Human Genome Project, Francis S. Collins, believes not only in God but in theistic evolution.

Oh my God, one of the leading experts in genetics believes in God! Doom for progress, doom for rational thought!*

*I have a genuinely curious question, quite apart from our current debate, for StormRaven: what phrase do you use where others might use the interjection, "Oh my God"?

191nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:52pm Top

>180 StormRaven:/190: Snarkiness aside, I wonder if you are aware of the fact that it is precisely the type of scorn you heap on religion that makes things worse in terms of evolution vs. creation. Every time a scientist (like Richard Dawkins) comes out and ridicules people of faith, it only gives the idiots on the other side more ammunition for the creationism machine.

The problem is that it's the atheist biologists like Dawkins and the fundamentalists creationists who, representing the extremes, make the most noise and drive each other into further extremism. It's what I've called (in the context of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation) "ideological entrenchment". In responding to the errors of the one side, the other side overreacts and introduces errors of its own. This entrenchment of partisanship ends up just multiplying extremist errors on both sides, rather than correcting the original problem.

Trying to break through the yelling of both sides is the hardest part for honest folks--both theologians and scientists--trying to point out that there is no conflict between Christianity and evolution. (See this resource from the National Center for Science Education.)

And you, StormRaven, aren't helping. Every time you screed about religion, it makes it that much harder for us Christians to convince our mistaken brothers and sisters that evolution neither threatens nor conflicts with our faith.

192StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 7:56pm Top

"I could produce reams of evidence--but you would rule all of it inadmissible because it's not material evidence."

Doubtful. The more likely case is that you've got no evidence and you're just covering up by pretending you do.

"It's not worth my time to give you evidence when we both already know ahead of time that you can't see any of it because of your dogmatic blindness."

All of the evidence you've tried to proffer thus far has been attempting to pass off physical phenomena as supernatural. That's dogmatic blindness.

"It's possible."

On what basis besides wishful thinking do you come to the conclusion that a material phenomenon is supernatural?

"Indeed, I think highly probable,"

Based on what? How do you assess probabilities for the supernatural?

"Here again, I cannot provide you with any evidence that you would accept, as the evidence for miracles involves admitting that non-physical things exist--you do not yet appear ready to leave that cave. For people who believe in miraculous cures and in the healing power of God, there is a natural and harmonious cooperation between nature and God. God works through nature and through medicine to heal us."

In other words, all you have is "material phenomena take place, and I assert, based on nothing at all, that it is supernatural."

Do you see why someone would point out that you are just pulling stuff out of your ass?

"The extraordinary advances of modern medical knowledge and skill have come about because God has endowed humanity with the extraordinary capacities of rational thought and creative discovery that have led to those advances."

Once again, you are trying to claim a material phenomena as supernatural based upon nothing but your wishful thinking.

How many cancers that spontaneously go into remission are the result of merely natural causes and how many are supernatural? Describe how one would tell the difference.

And if you can't, the one who is being "blindly dogmatic" is you.

"Ultimately, the only answer, troubling as it may be, is that the will and knowledge and existence of God so far transcends our own feeble perception and understanding that we can't know why God heals person X but leaves person Y an amputee. "

You miss the point. The question "why does God hate amputees" is not aimed at theodicy. The question is this: why does God only heal people who have ailments that spontaneously cure themselves through natural causes on occasion, but never heals an amputee? Why do people never miraculously regrow limbs? Some animals do, and as a result, regrowing limbs would not be a violation of the physical laws of the universe.

The answer is pretty clear: because you're taking the material phenomena of spontaneous remission and similar cures and asserting they are supernatural based on nothing at all but cannot do so with amputees, because amputees don't spontaneously regrow limbs. The comparison reveals the hollow nature of your assertions about the supernatural. It is among the many reasons why your claims are called bullshit.

193StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:04pm Top

"what phrase do you use where others might use the interjection, "Oh my God"?"

Do I need to choose just one?

Oh Fuck!
Oh Shit!
Chocolate Covered Christ on a Cracker!
Chocolate Covered Lesbians!
Thor's Hammer!
Frack!
Frell!
Hera Help Us!
Shitballs!
Oh My Dawkins!
By the Flying Spaghetti Monster!
Invisible Pink Unicorns!
Thumbtacks and Thimbles!
Oh My Frog!
Pony Monkeymonsters!

This is a non-exhaustive list.

194StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:56pm Top

"Every time a scientist (like Richard Dawkins) comes out and ridicules people of faith, it only gives the idiots on the other side more ammunition for the creationism machine."

This is just bullshit. Many people have been convinced by people like Dawkins precisely because they ridicule faith. Tone-trolling, like you are doing right now, is just simpering pandering.

195StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 7:58pm Top

"You should probably warn President Obama that the head of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the Human Genome Project, Francis S. Collins, believes not only in God but in theistic evolution."

And yet, this never shows up in his work. I wonder why this is?

196nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 8:01pm Top

>194 StormRaven:: Have you ever been in a situation where you had to explain to Christians why their faith is not threatened by the realities of evolution? I have, many times; my wife (an evolutionary biologist) and I are active volunteers in programs designed precisely to fix this problem, not make it worse. I have personal experience--evidence!--that your attitudes make the problem worse, not better. Your attitudes harden people into ideologies. When many people are attacked as viciously as you attack Christians, their natural response is to close up, not continue to be open to learning new things.

197StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 8:05pm Top

"I have personal experience--evidence!--that your attitudes make the problem worse, not better."

Anecdotes are not evidence. I have plenty of my own contrary anecdotes.

198nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:14pm Top

>195 StormRaven:: "And yet, this never shows up in his work. I wonder why this is?"

I'd suggest you read his book: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.

Does Collins' belief in God mean that he denies evolution? No. Does it mean that, as a biologist, he ignores experimental data? No.

What it does mean is that he--and a lot of scientists and theologians--don't set up science and faith as contradictory. What it means is the Collins--like me, like my wife, like probably most of the other folks in this thread--don't believe, like you do, that the evidence of modern science forces us to reject faith in God. It's only your blindness to this synthesis that leaves you so incapable of seeing what's obvious to a lot of other people, including the director of the NIH.

But since my words are hardly sufficient to persuade you--delusional and idiotic as I am--I'll let Theodosius Dobzhansky, arguably the most important evolutionary biologist of the twentieth-century and author of the Great Synthesis that brought genetics and evolution together, make the case:
Does the evolutionary doctrine clash with religious faith? It does not. It is a blunder to mistake the Holy Scriptures for elementary textbooks of astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology. Only if symbols are construed to mean what they are not intended to mean can there arise imaginary, insoluble conflicts. As pointed out above, the blunder leads to blasphemy: the Creator is accused of systematic deceitfulness. (From Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution)

199modalursine
Apr 3, 2012, 8:10pm Top

When we try to measure purely physical phenomena, we recognize that the world, even a more or less "controlled" laboratory, can be pretty messy. So a number of techniques have been evolved to keep ourselves from the more obvious errors.

I don't see why its "dirty pool" for reports of supernatural or paranormal events to be held to the same standards that one uses for measuring the specific heat of cesium or the velocity of neutrinos.

i d

200nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:18pm Top

>197 StormRaven:: "Anecdotes are not evidence."

Oh I see. Everything that I have experienced in my life is not evidence, because if I report to you, it's an anecdote.

Let me ask you: do your children love you? If so, what evidence do you have for that?

201StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 8:19pm Top

"What it does mean is that he--and a lot of scientists and theologians--don't set up science and faith as contradictory. What it means is the Collins--like me, like my wife, like probably most of the other folks in this thread--don't believe, like you do, that the evidence of modern science forces us to reject faith in God."

The evidence of modern science didn't cause me to reject belief in God. The lack of evidence for God caused me to reject belief in God.

Material science doesn't need religion, or anything that religion offers. The material world works perfectly well without invoking any kind of supernatural element.

"It's only your blindness to this synthesis that leaves you so wounded and blind."

Gee, for someone so very concerned with tone, you sure are happy to insult people. I'm neither wounded nor blind. I just don't accept the bullshit you are handing out. And that galls you.

202StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:25pm Top

200: Anecdotes are not evidence in this case because they are just as easily contradicted by other anecdotes. I have seen ridicule work. Many times. Your contrary assertion that ridicule doesn't work based upon your anecdotes is negated by this.

"Let me ask you: do your children love you? If so, what evidence do you have for that?"

Their actions. I suppose they might not and could be faking all of the actions that one takes that are generally thought to demonstrate love, but if that were the case, what would the practical difference be?

203nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 8:24pm Top

Ah, so your children's actions are evidence; but the actions of people at church meetings where I've spoken, those aren't evidence, just anecdotes. Right.

204StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:30pm Top

202: They certainly aren't evidence that supports your contention. Because I have seen ridicule work, your claim that ridicule doesn't work is patently false. Hence, your anecdotes are worthless.

Here's why they are different: you asked for evidence concerning my children. Their specific actions are evidence concerning them.

On the other hand, you asserted that you have anecdotes of people who were not convinced by ridicule and as a result ridicule doesn't work. But that anecdote is not evidence that would support that claim. Your anecdote is evidence that it doesn't work on the specific people you talked to and nothing more. And as it is contradicted by my anecdotes, your claim fails miserably.

205prosfilaes
Apr 3, 2012, 8:28pm Top

#136: Which brings us to lawecon's point in 128: that pre-hellenized religions were "materialist". I think, however, that this is only true insofar as a we distinguish such "materialism" from modern "materialism"--after all, the "materialist" deities of ancient religion had powers that no modern materialist would admit as "natural".

If we're talking about "any non-physical, non-material reality", I think it comes down to what we mean by physical and material. Repeatable psychic or magical powers would be physical, material reality. The soul has been measured to weigh 21 grams; right or wrong, that's a statement about physical, material reality.

There's an important distinction here to me. My belief in a world that basically matches the one given in science textbooks--no psionics, no magic--is a practical one. It's an observational one combined with Occam's Razor. My belief that the world as it's meaningfully discussed and the observational world are coterminous is a philosophic one. In that direction, I have much more philosophic alignment with primitive worshippers and fundamentalist Christians then a lot of more mainstream Christians. You want to tell me you see evidence that lightening comes from the rage of the gods or that the world could not possibly be more than 10,000 years old; those are observational statements. You start rambling about how I shouldn't demand evidence for religion, that I should just take it on faith, then you're no longer speaking in a language that means anything to me.

206nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:41pm Top

But you're not going to convince most Christians that their faith is meaningless. What we can do is convince most Christians that evolution is not a threat to that faith and that it's okay to have schools teach it to their children.

If all you do is tell those Christians that they're stupid, they aren't likely to care much what you want taught in science classrooms. If you approach them with compassion and sympathy, and explain that evolution, rather than a threat to their faith, is in fact a confirmation of the wondrous complexity of God's creation, then you might just convince them not to complain when the science teacher explains modern biology.

My anecdotes and your anecdotes aside, we can turn to the evidence studied by sociologists and psychologists (which is, of course, just a large, aggregated collection of anecdotes), which indicates that compassion is much more effective strategy of persuasion than ridicule is.

But the real headscratcher here is that we should be on the same side here. You and I both agree that evolution is a real phenomenon and that nothing in modern biology makes sense without it. Yet, you seem to reject my attempts to spread that message and curtail antagonism toward science in Christian communities.

207StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 8:44pm Top

"If you approach them with compassion and sympathy, and explain that evolution, rather than a threat to their faith, is in fact a confirmation of the wondrous complexity of God's creation, then you might just convince them not to complain when the science teacher explains modern biology."

So if everyone just plays nice then the fundamentalists then they will change their minds? The evidence at hand is that is patently false. The people who go to the creation museum aren't going to be persuaded by nice polite arguments.

Centuries of accommodationism and nothing has changed. Oh, when atheists were deferential and respectful of religion like Bertrand Rusell they were patted on the head and told what good boys they were, but nothing much changed. Because they didn't actually challenge the ridiculous absurdity of religion and religious claims.

As atheists have grown more vocal and less deferential and less polite, their numbers have grown. Ridiculing religion has worked and the cries of religious organizations screaming about the impoliteness of atheists is evidence. If ridiculing the religious was not a strategy that was working, church leaders wouldn't care how impolite atheists are.

208StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:55pm Top

"But the real headscratcher here is that we should be on the same side here."

No, we're not.

You and I both agree that evolution is a real phenomenon and that nothing in modern biology makes sense without it."

Yet you think it only works because of supernatural chicanery.

"Yet, you seem to reject my attempts to spread that message and curtail antagonism toward science in Christian communities."

Because I think fundamentalist Christian communities should be shunned and ridiculed. Because I think your faith is based on a ridiculous lie, and don't mind saying it.

209nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 8:51pm Top

>208 StormRaven:: And you wonder why nobody likes you...

210StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 8:58pm Top

208: Plenty of people like me. They just don't believe in the ridiculous things you do.

Besides, why would I want to be liked by someone like you who is blinded by dogma and wounded by his adherence to nonsense?

211nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 9:03pm Top

>210 StormRaven:: It seems to me that, practically speaking, the important difference between you and most Christians is not in what you and they believe, but in how you and they treat other people. You use ridicule and contempt; they use charity and compassion.

Ultimately, that's why I will follow a Christian over you any day. Not because of the existence or non-existence of God, but because of a fundamental approach to life founded on love.

212lawecon
Apr 3, 2012, 9:04pm Top

Well, congratulations Artic. If you'd wanted evidence that deleting the Pro and Con (Religion) forum was a good idea, this thread supplies it in abundance.

However, if I were you I would also consider deleting Pro and Con - on the very same basis that people simply can't control themselves in discussing certain topics. (Of course, it may have something to do with the rules under which they're operating.)

213StormRaven
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 9:13pm Top

"You use ridicule and contempt; they use charity and compassion."

Tell that to Rick Santorum. And thousands of other Christians who routinely lie, discriminate, and spew hatred on a daily basis.

"Ultimately, that's why I will follow a Christian over you any day. Not because of the existence or non-existence of God, but because of a fundamental approach to life founded on love."

HAHAHAHAHAHA!

You are funny. While there are some Christians who are compassionate, it is often despite their faith, not because of it. Christians in groups are as much a seething font of hatred as anyone else. Just ask the women of Georgia. Was a Christian comparing them to farm animals "charity and compassion"? That's just one example: the drive to deny gays the right to marry, the drive to deny women the right to control their own bodies, the drive to write exemptions into anti-bullying legislation so Christians can beat up gay children, the desire to rewrite history, the desire to trample over minorities so their faith can dominate the government, these are all the products of your "loving" Christians.

I'll take atheists any day over Christians any day. Christians in the public sphere have a track record of making pond scum look good.

214nathanielcampbell
Apr 3, 2012, 9:19pm Top

It's at this point that I need to step back and realize that, in the heat of the arguments, I have said things that I ought not to have said. I have been uncharitable to StormRaven, and for that I apologize.

I know that I am not better than he is; I know that in many ways, I am probably far worse. I know that I am a sinner, and that there are some very terrible things I have done that I will have to answer for. But at least I can take hope that the Lord is merciful.

215prosfilaes
Apr 3, 2012, 9:20pm Top

#211: And you wonder why non-Christians get so tired of Christians sometimes? Pat Robertson is very much a Christian, unless you want to play the no true Christian card, and he called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez. As an American, most of the stuff my country has done has been spearheaded by Christians--including most the stuff I'm not proud of. I can trace a number of war crimes and genocides to Christian originators. There are a lot of people I'd follow before StormRaven, but there's a lot of Christians who are truly vile people, and following them over StormRaven puts partisanship way over love.

216modalursine
Apr 3, 2012, 9:21pm Top

ref 206
But you're not going to convince most Christians that their faith is meaningless.

I don't think that was ever the program, to convince Christians that their faith is "meaningless".

Au contraire, the atheists and freethinkers merely bear witness (nice Christian term, that.) to the notion that one needs nothing beyond the material world to understand our situation, to find our place within it, to find whatever joy we can, to construct meaning for ourselves and
to have a go at living "happily ever after". Well, happily ever after, "till then". (Ah what would we do without G&S? "Long life to you....till then!" )

Of course, when asked to explain ourselves, we can't help but point out the mistakes, muddles, inconsistencies, contradictions of fact, logic and common sense that revealed religion has gotten itself into.

As for whether evolution by modification and natural solution is or is not a threat to one's faith; one must suppose that depends a very great deal on the precise nature of that faith.

I can certainly imagine a number of religious positions, even "christian" religious positions,
which could accommodate Darwinian evolution with total equanimity; but I think that if there are any who oppose evolution on the grounds that it contradicts a literal reading of scripture about the origin of species, then we must admit that yes indeed, not only evolution, but geology, chemistry, and whole host of sciences make a naively literal reading of scripture intellectually untenable. If one will not allow at least some reading of scripture as non literal, one's only alternative is to embrace a "know nothing" attitude. In the end, that's probably not going to be sustainable beyond a small circle of devoted followers.

217StormRaven
Apr 3, 2012, 9:50pm Top

"And you wonder why non-Christians get so tired of Christians sometimes? Pat Robertson is very much a Christian, unless you want to play the no true Christian card, and he called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez."

Pat Robertson asserted that the recent earthquake in Haiti was divine retribution because the people of Haiti had made a deal with the devil 200 years earlier to free themselves from the French.

Christian love at work: when there is an earthquake, tell the victims that they deserved it because of an imaginary deal their ancestors allegedly made with an imaginary being.

218timspalding
Edited: Apr 3, 2012, 10:08pm Top

Then you're a shitty teacher who is bound and determined to impress his own prejudices on his students.

On the contrary, anyone who studies religion or myth seriously would regard any single, all-embracing and reductive theory silly. I have no problem whatsoever with saying that social and political factors are very tightly intertwined. That's obviously true. Similarly, I'd be happy to confess that sex and music are deeply intertwined, but I'd regard with pity and scorn someone who kept pounding his fists on the table and shouting "Music is only for fucking! Music is only for fucking!"

219rrp
Apr 3, 2012, 11:59pm Top

Way back at #140 nathanielcampbell in reply to #138 and everything between then and now.

Sadly, you can't actually discuss the reality of the metaphysical because you're so blinded by your dogma that "only the physical is real"

Sadly is the right word. Dogma is absolutely the right word. Philosophical materialism is a dogma, and there can never be a useful conversation between those atheists who are dogmatic about materialism and the rest of humanity until they too are willing to apply some of the skepticism they are so proud of to their own dogmatism.

modalursine can sometimes seem as though he is moving in the right direction, but he never seems to be completely on board with the program of the true skeptic. In #216, he says "the atheists and freethinkers merely bear witness (nice Christian term, that.) to the notion that one needs nothing beyond the material world to understand our situation, to find our place within it" which materialism clearly cannot deliver. When he says "one needs" one can only presume he means modalursine, because it certainly doesn't apply to most of humanity. "needs" is such a loaded word.

But, of course, he is right on one thing. Darwinian evolution does conflict with at least one religious position. That religious position is philosophical materialism.

Until these atheists are willing to shore up their own positions to the point they are defensible, they are just throwing rocks into the pond; their comments make a small splash and a few ripples and then sink without a trace. But as their walls are made of glass and as the old saying goes "people who live in glass houses should not throw stones."

One can almost guarantee that not one materialist will step up to defend the very real issues with their philosophy. Why put in an honest day's work when it's much easier, and so much more fun, to pour scorn on the neighbors.

220timspalding
Apr 4, 2012, 12:06am Top

>219 rrp:

I don't think it needs to be a dogma. Not at all. Honestly arrived and argued, it's a philosophical position—one of many honest, open-minded people can believe. I at least respect many people who espouse a materialist line. But like many other beliefs, some people are dogmatic about it. We see a lot of that here. Right or wrong, how you present your ideas matters.

221prosfilaes
Apr 4, 2012, 12:07am Top

#219: Funny enough, I can't find anything substantive to respond to that post. I actually feel a little guilty responding to it, because complaining about "not one materialist will step up to defend the very real issues with their philosophy" when you haven't raised one issue with their philosophy isn't deserving of a response.

222StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 12:17am Top

I should point out that as he has defined it, in functional terms, nathanielcampbell's view of the universe is identical to a materialist universe - because you can't identify any effect that the supernatural forces he asserts are out there have on the world that is distinguishable from a purely material phenomenon.

In short, nathanielcampbell's supernaturalism is a useless position indistinguishable from materialism.

223StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:21am Top

"Philosophical materialism is a dogma"

No, it is an entirely pragmatic position to hold. The onus is on those claiming there is more than the material to demonstrate that there is. Sadly, you haven't even come close.

"Darwinian evolution does conflict with at least one religious position. That religious position is philosophical materialism."

Are you going to pretend that Plantinga's made-up complete bullshit "probabilities" aren't completely worthless again? Because we've gone down this road before, and you got your head handed to you.

224prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:45am Top

#140: that distinction only holds if we insist that only the physical world is "real". Sadly, you can't actually discuss the reality of the metaphysical because you're so blinded by your dogma that "only the physical is real".

I assert that the Manual of the Planes is an accurate description of the universes outside ours, universes that we are sealed away from and that are completely inaccessible to us and we are completely inaccessible to. Disprove.

My belief that "only the physical" (in some sense) "is real" is not a dogma. It is a belief based off my experiences and the reported experiences of others. It is open to evidence; should the events in Left Behind occur, I will quickly be forced to the options of doubting my sense in toto or accepting that supernatural powers exist. I'm frequently confronted by contrary evidence; unlike Charles Fort I want it to make some sort of coherent sense, and be based off of more than random anecdote, before I take it seriously. (And frankly the fact that a lot of it is inconsistent with my Baptist upbringing, and the beliefs of a lot of people arguing for supernaturalism, helps. I was given an eyewitness report of Buddhist monks floating into the air during meditation many years ago; if I move it into the "probable" pile, it doesn't help the case for a Christian universe at all. Nor does the report that Jim Jones raised someone from the dead.)

What is a dogma, is that I want evidence, that I'm going to define my world by what my senses say and what others tell me their senses reported. You can criticize that, but I don't see any other reasonable way to evaluate the different claims given to me. I see no reason to have faith in your beliefs any more then the Jeff Grubbism I espoused in the first paragraph. I do try and take the evidence behind Christianity seriously, even if I end up evaluating the claim that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead as no more reliable then the claim that Jim Jones raised a man from the dead. (After all, the reports of the second were by eye witnesses who made the report in a prompt manner, not people recording what they were told, who knows how many repetitions later, many years after the events in question.)

225modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 9:25am Top

Once upon a time, not all that long ago, there seemed to be good reason to believe in the existence of the luminiferous ether. As we learned more about how things work, the necessary properties of the ether became less and less plausible.

In the end, we were able to dispense with it and no one misses it.

If holding to materialism is "a dogma" and only a dogma, i.e. if materialists are willfully blind to good evidence of the truth of "spirit stuff" ; then tell us please, slowly so we can understand, just what problems materialism can't solve that the theory of "spirit stuff" can; and how do we know that "spirit stuff" theory describes the world we live in?

I think Sextus had it right. The "dogmatic" ones are those who assent to things which are not apparent.

226nathanielcampbell
Apr 4, 2012, 10:13am Top

>222 StormRaven:: "nathanielcampbell's view of the universe is identical to a materialist universe - because you can't identify any effect that the supernatural forces he asserts are out there have on the world that is distinguishable from a purely material phenomenon."

and

>224 prosfilaes:: "I'm going to define my world by what my senses say and what others tell me their senses reported."

To StormRaven's contention: I could write whole treatises here on supernatural phenomena I believe in: the Real Presence of the person of Christ (of two natures, perfectly divine and perfectly human) in the Eucharist; the nature of God as the ground of all being, perfect "act" in which all other being, as a composite of potential and act, participates; and the nature of the Good as a metaphysical reality in which all other goods participate; etc. (as you can see, I espouse a Neo-platonic participatory metaphysics with some Aristotelian twists thrown in, a la W. Norris Clarke, but with a greater emphasis on the neoplatonism). Where StormRaven is getting caught is that I freely admit that there is an essential interaction between the metaphysical and the physical: after all, the very existence of the physical is predicated on the pure being of God. So yes, in one sense, I am identifying supernatural forces as they interact with the natural world around me. That's because, as a human, I am both a metaphysical and a physical creature; I have both a body and a soul. To ignore the bodily is as perilous to the human search for understanding humanity as it is to ignore the soul.

The reason StormRaven can't distinguish my position from pure materialism is that he doesn't recognize as real anything that's not material. So sure, from his perspective, my view of the universe is identical to a material universe, but only because he has no other conceptual framework in which to understand my view of the universe.

And this is where prosfilaes comments come in (note: I always find prosfilaes comments far more interesting and perceptive, because they actually engage the material under discussion rather than just dismissing all other viewpoints as BS). I (and many other Christians, Buddhists, and ancient Greek philosophers I know) recognize that there are also spiritual senses by which we can gain direct sensual experience of the spiritual. And even though StormRaven will dismiss all of this as anecdotes unworthy of the title evidence--after all, only human experience that confirm StormRaven's own point of view can be worthy of that title--I have experienced with senses different from the physical truths which are not physical but spiritual; or, more precisely, truths which participate in multiple levels of being at once. Traditional Christian theologians have termed these experiences "sacramental" (modern literary theorists prefer "symbolic", but it's the same functional attribute), in that they are signs perceivable by the physical senses which effect and participate in realities that are spiritual/gracious. I could fill this post with touchstones to authors and books that describe precisely these experiences, from traditions both western and eastern; but it wouldn't avail me anything in the current discussion, since StormRaven would dismiss it all as bunk.

Now, if others are more willing to engage in an actual exploration of this hugely important aspect of the human experience and condition, I would recommend (as a personal favorite/current research project) Julian of Norwich. I am much less versed in eastern thought, but I believe the Tao Te Ching offers a similar framework, even if its conceptual language is very different.

227LolaWalser
Apr 4, 2012, 10:18am Top

#226

Not a trick question: how do you know you have a soul?

228StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 10:42am Top

"The reason StormRaven can't distinguish my position from pure materialism is that he doesn't recognize as real anything that's not material."

No, the reason no one can distinguish between your position and pure materialism is that every example you give of the "supernatural" is merely taking a material phenomena and attributing an undetectable supernatural element to it.

"I have experienced with senses different from the physical truths which are not physical but spiritual; or, more precisely, truths which participate in multiple levels of being at once."

Describe the spiritual senses. I suspect they once you do, it will be apparent that they manifest in physical ways making them indistinguishable from material phenomena. Oh wait:

"Traditional Christian theologians have termed these experiences "sacramental" (modern literary theorists prefer "symbolic", but it's the same functional attribute), in that they are signs perceivable by the physical senses which effect and participate in realities that are spiritual/gracious."

As I suspected. You're taking material phenomena and saying they have supernatural origins. Based on nothing. Your "spiritual senses" are indistinguishable from physical senses. You get a funny feeling in your tummy and say that it is "spiritual" because it makes you feel good to pretend that there is something special about your funny tummy feelings.

Your "spiritual" world is indistinguishable from a purely materialist world because of what you have described, not because anyone is failing to "recognize as real anything that's not material". You haven't offered anything that isn't material.

229rrp
Apr 4, 2012, 11:23am Top

timspalding #220, prosfilaes #221 and #224 etc.

I agree that materialism is not necessarily a dogma. If you are a materialist but recognize that other philosophical choices have merit; that your choice is but one among many reasonable choices you could have made, you are not being dogmatic.

prosfilaes, I did offer one example of an issue with materialism; that it is incompatible with the scientific theory of Darwinian evolution. That argument can get a little gnarly, so some other simpler examples would be...

1. That I am certain that there is at least one conscious being in the Universe and that I have good evidence that there are many more conscious agents who exhibit intention, who do not fit within a purely materialistic philosophy.
2. It is one thing to say "all that exist is material" but that statement does not confer meaning unless we both understand what it means for some thing to "exist" and what is the set of things we should characterize as "material". To steal some words of modalursine "we can't help but point out the mistakes, muddles, inconsistencies, contradictions of fact, logic and common sense" that occur when a materialists tries to clarify those points.

230nathanielcampbell
Apr 4, 2012, 11:24am Top

>228 StormRaven:: Do you ever get the feeling we're on a merry-go-round? I spend time and effort coming up with different examples and different ways to explain my experiential data, and your only response is, "Since I don't perceive any substance in your thought, there must not be any." Up until the 20th century, nobody perceived the nature of quantum mechanics; does that mean quantum mechanics didn't exists until the 20th century?

Likewise, just because you can't perceive what I'm trying to say, does that automatically mean that what I'm trying to say is wrong? Has it ever occurred to you that, when billions of people perceive something that you don't, maybe you're the one that's missing something? Or are you really so arrogant as to believe that you're better than everybody else?

Have there been times in my life where I did, fleetingly, question the existence or at least benevolence of God? Sure; doubt is an essential part of faith (just as light means something more because there is darkness, so faith is more starkly understood when outlined by doubt). But far more, my experiences in life make sense in light of the existence and love of God. I have tested my belief in God as an interpretive framework for my life; and those tests show that it works, not that it is false. My relationship to my wife makes more sense, not less, in the light of what I have learned about the nature of divine love. I suppose it could all be chemical reactions and the firing of neurons; but frankly, my experience of love with my wife wouldn't make as much sense to me if it were only a physical process.

And this gets to Lola's serious question in post 227: "how do you know you have a soul?"

I know that I have a soul because I have experienced its connection, its relationship, its operation with other souls (like my wife's) and with God. StormRaven may just dismiss that as a funny feeling in my tummy; but the moment I saw my wife step through the doors of the church and start walking down the aisle toward me at our wedding, the overwhelming sense of relief, comfort, commitment, certainty, and loving connection was something far greater, far more powerful, than just "a funny feeling in my tummy." Indeed, it was a sensation so palpable that others perceived it; others saw the change that came over me the moment I saw her enter the church.

So I have the evidence of my own experience, confirmed by the observations of others. A spiritual explanation makes more sense to me--and has made more sense to billions of other people, too--than merely a material one. Can I produce material data about it? Depending on how one interprets experimental observations like those that have led to the conclusion that the soul weighs 21 grams (see prosfilaes in post 205), then perhaps. But all of StormRaven's demands for "evidence" won't be accepted, as the only evidence he accepts is material evidence; and if I try to offer material evidence, he says "your supernaturalism is just gussied-up materialism".

That makes his calls for my evidence disingenuous; he only accepts as valid evidence that supports his own conclusions rather than mine.

231timspalding
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 11:47am Top

>230 nathanielcampbell:

The problem is that one could easily compile a large list of similar stories and feelings supporting things that neither of us believe in—people who feel in their bones that they have no free will, but that God picked them out for salvation, people who feel in their bones that they have lived many lives, etc. Strongly felt "religious" feelings are a basic element of human life—we are built for them. (Note: I don't mean "built" as in "someone made us" necessarily, but simply that we're religious animals.) I suspect we agree that that impulse is not unconnected with the divine, but the results of that impulse go too many different ways to draw firm conclusions about meaning. You feel that you've tested your relationship with God against the world and it "works." I feel much the same way. But we both know we could find a Buddhist, and animist and an atheist with similarly strong feelings.

That's my pessimistic take. My optimistic take is like yours--virtually everyone has intuitive feelings of mind, choice and so forth which can't easily be squared with naturalism.

232nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 11:52am Top

>231 timspalding:: I could just as easily have offered up a lengthy list of theologians (mostly patristic and medieval, with a smattering of moderns and Anglican Divines who might as well have been, e.g. C. S. Lewis) who have strongly influenced the development of my own theological studies; or, indeed, the texts of Scripture, to which I continuously return for enlightenment; but those would have been even more lightly dismissed by StormRaven, whose response to such arguments is not to explain why the ideas are wrong but to dismiss them because of who wrote them down, e.g. in post 166: "C.S. Lewis was full of shit. Very full of shit."

Did SR actually engage at all with the ideas I mentioned, that miracles could be understood as working through natural processes but under the direct agency of God rather than through the agency of creatures? No, of course not; he simply dismissed the entire argument because I had mentioned someone who was "full of shit".

But are we really surprised that StormRaven dodges questions with ad hominem fallacies rather than reasoned and thoughtful argument?

233Quixada
Apr 4, 2012, 11:54am Top

>212 lawecon:

lawecon, I couldn't disagree with you more. Just because StormRaven is often rude, you would rather not get to experience the otherwise brilliant debate that this thread is? Seriously? We are all adults. There is good and bad in everything in life. He is rude. So what? Both sides have made some really great points.

234modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 11:55am Top

ref 230
...but frankly, my experience of love with my wife wouldn't make as much sense to me if it were only a physical process. ...

Why would experiences be less meaningful if it should turn out that they are completely grounded in the physical (i.e. the material) world ?

Why that formulation "only" physical or "merely" physical?

Now I suppose that there were Gnostics and/or Manicheans, who believed that matter is always evil, that we're all made out of demon poop, that nothing material can have any real value, and that light, by contrast, is non material and divine, so the idea has something of an identifiable provenance.

But why should anybody buy that today? After all, light too is material, isn't it? Matter and energy are mutually convertable. They are different aspects of "the same thing".

I suppose that Mani and his followers were lucky that they didn't survive long enough to need to contend with Einstein.

235nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:08pm Top

>234 modalursine:: I think the best answer I can give is to quote from my post 226 above: "That's because, as a human, I am both a metaphysical and a physical creature; I have both a body and a soul. To ignore the bodily is as perilous to the human search for understanding humanity as it is to ignore the soul."

In other words, I recognize that, as a human, I am both body and soul. Sure, the connection between me and my wife operates at a physical level; but it also operates at a spiritual level. You don't have to be a dualist to recognize that both aspects of human nature need to be explored/cultivated/exercised/understood. Heck, the ancient Greeks understood that: philosophy was good for the soul, but you also needed to get out into the exercise yard from time to time, for the needs of the body are as important as those of the soul. A well-kept body facilitated a well-kept mind.

Now, I do also happen to study medieval traditions in which corporal mortification were a significant part spiritual practice. But, as Caroline Walker Bynum so brilliantly documented in Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women, those sometimes grotesque practices have to be understood in the context of a spirituality that can identify the body of the Christian with the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Indeed, an almost extreme emphasis on the physicality of the Eucharist was part of the development of late medieval religious devotion and practice.

236StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 12:09pm Top

"I spend time and effort coming up with different examples and different ways to explain my experiential data"

And your experiential data is always material phenomena. Which you then try to dress up in supernatural clothing.

"Likewise, just because you can't perceive what I'm trying to say, does that automatically mean that what I'm trying to say is wrong?"

Thus far, all you've said, over and over again is "look at this material phenomena that I experienced."

"Has it ever occurred to you that, when billions of people perceive something that you don't, maybe you're the one that's missing something?"

By all accounts, they all perceive material phenomena. Just like you.

"I suppose it could all be chemical reactions and the firing of neurons; but frankly, my experience of love with my wife wouldn't make as much sense to me if it were only a physical process."

Describe the experience without reference to material phenomena. I doubt you can. Thus far, all you've done is point to material phenomena over and over again. Your arguments are hollow and empty. Let's see:

"The moment I saw my wife step through the doors of the church and start walking down the aisle toward me at our wedding, the overwhelming sense of relief, comfort, commitment, certainty, and loving connection was something far greater, far more powerful, than just "a funny feeling in my tummy.""

Yet again, you take a purely material phenomena - your feelings, and try to spin them into something supernatural. All of these things: feelings of comfort, relief, commitment, certainty, and loving connections, are material phenomena felt by you with your physical senses. But it makes you feel better to have your tummy feelings somehow elevated into something somehow more special than that.

"Depending on how one interprets experimental observations like those that have led to the conclusion that the soul weighs 21 grams (see prosfilaes in post 205), then perhaps."

That "experimental observation" was based on one study done in 1907 and never repeated, and which has been debunked. Citing it just shows how flimsy your case is.

"That makes his calls for my evidence disingenuous; he only accepts as valid evidence that supports his own conclusions rather than mine."

No, What it does is demonstrate that your claims for the supernatural have no evidentiary basis. Everything you have claimed as evidence has turned out to merely be material phenomena. Too bad you're stuck believing in delusions.

Why is it that knowledge about the material world tends to converge towards a single answer on a subject, and answers across multiple subjects tend to become mutually reinforcing, while "knowledge" about the supernatural world is continually fragmenting, splintering, and contradicting itself? Why are there 30,000+ sects of Christianity alone, all of which contradict one another on one point or another? If the supernatural were real, and those billions of people were all experiencing a common phenomenon, one would expect the answers they give to tend towards a common understanding. And yet they don't.

237StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:20pm Top

"Did SR actually engage at all with the ideas I mentioned, that miracles could be understood as working through natural processes but under the direct agency of God rather than through the agency of creatures?"

Given that it was yet another attempt by you to attempt to claim that a material phenomena was somehow supernatural based upon nothing at all, I would have thought that the response was obvious. I did engage with your "idea". I asked you questions about the issue. These questions:

"So, are you saying that spontaneous remission is God curing someone? How do you know it is a miracle and not a material phenomenon? Is it possible for someone to recover from a disease and have it not be supernatural? Exactly where is the supernatural influence to be found? Why does God hate amputees?"

And yet instead of noticing this you focus on the fact that I dismissed Lewis as being full of shit. Which he was, and a misogynistic source of shit at that. (I am currently rereading his Space Trilogy in response to a request that I do so, and the misogyny flows thick and fast).

I didn't dodge anything. Why do you feel the need to lie like that in your posts? Does lying for Jesus make you feel better?

238StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 12:18pm Top

I think the best answer I can give is to quote from my post 226 above: "That's because, as a human, I am both a metaphysical and a physical creature; I have both a body and a soul."

So all you have is argument by assertion. You know the soul is real because of your say-so.

I know you don't have a soul. I have my say-so to back me up. I guess you're out of luck now. You have no soul.

239BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 12:20pm Top

>236 StormRaven:

"If the supernatural were real, and those billions of people were all experiencing a common phenomenon, one would expect the answers they give to tend towards a common understanding. And yet they don't."

I suppose, by that logic, that everyone who reads a work of fiction, or looks at a work of art, must draw very similar (if not identical) conclusions, correct?

Otherwise, art (literary, pictorial, or any other form of art that exists) must not exist, since viewers would be drawing completely different conclusions from reading/viewing/etc the same art piece.

So, clearly (given the wide range of opinions on any particular book, painting, movie, etc.) either creative art does not exist, or has absolutely no influence/value.

240nathanielcampbell
Apr 4, 2012, 12:22pm Top

>236 StormRaven:: "That "experimental observation" was based on one study done in 1907 and never repeated, and which has been debunked. Citing it just shows how flimsy your case is."

I didn't cite it; prosfilaes did. If you want to take up its validity, talk to prosfilaes. My argument, as you should have been able to perceive, is that "material" evidence for non-material phenomena isn't going to get us anywhere, since you will simply reply that said material evidence is only evidence for material phenomena.

As you say, "What it does is demonstrate that your claims for the supernatural have no evidentiary basis." I challenge you to tell me what evidentiary basis I could offer that you would accept as valid.

You can't, because you have defined the arena of acceptable evidence to exclude evidence of the supernatural.

"knowledge" about the supernatural world is continually fragmenting, splintering, and contradicting itself"

Are you at all familiar with mystical traditions? If you were (and I recommend the work of Bernard McGinn for the western side and Huston Smith for the eastern side), you would be aware of the remarkable similarites across time, space, and culture in the realm of mystical experience. Pick up Gregory of Nyssa, Hadewijch, or Thomas Merton, and compare them to a whole host of, for example, Buddhist traditions, and you will find remarkable similarities in experience and even language and imagery.

241timspalding
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:28pm Top

>232 nathanielcampbell:

Believe me, I have no sympathy for his line of attack, either the part that makes an argument or the huge mess of silly and offensive junk encrusting the argument it. I do not join them in the slightest.

It's my conclusion that there's really no talking to such people—on either side, but, statistically, much more on one side here than the other. It's fun to, for example, tease StormRaven for sounding like a two-bit conspiracy theorist for his ignorant and reductive theory of all religion, but, well, at its best such arguments are never about THOSE people, but about whoever else might be weighing the argument.

I remain interested in the core questions here. As you know, I am a believer—indeed a believer in, basically, what you believe. But I remain cautious about my grounds for that belief. Maybe it's my non-religious upbringing, but stories about subjective religious feelings somehow don't cut it with me. I take them for what they can help me with, but I shut them out as answers to hard questions of philosophy.

242timspalding
Apr 4, 2012, 12:26pm Top

The soul has been measured to weigh 21 grams; right or wrong, that's a statement about physical, material reality.

I'm reminded of the first scene of that great movie Smoke, in which the writer character describes Sir Walter Raleigh's attempt to weigh smoke. Ah, on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs4InUkViYQ

243StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 12:31pm Top

"I suppose, by that logic, that everyone who reads a work of fiction, or looks at a work of art, must draw very similar (if not identical) conclusions, correct?"

First, off, people who look at fiction draw different conclusions about that fiction. And people who claim supernatural experiences draw different conclusions about the supernatural. I don't think it helps the claims of the supernaturalists to be comparing their claims to fiction.

Second, despite differing interpretations, everyone who looks at a piece of art or who reads a book will have certain common responses. Ask someone to list the characters in a book, and everyone will come up with a very similar list of answers. Ask someone to list the colors of a painting, and you'll get many similar lists. And so on. There are concrete things you can say about books, art, and other similar things. There will be differences to be sure, but the commonalities will tend to come out.

244nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:32pm Top

>237 StormRaven:: "I dismissed Lewis as being full of shit. Which he was, and a misogynistic source of shit at that."

You are aware that ad hominem is a well-defined and unacceptable logical fallacy, aren't you? I'd be happy to discuss the mechanics of miracles; oh wait, I did, in fact, address your questions, in post 188, despite your contention in post 176 that you doubted I would. My answers, of course, were never going to be meaningful, since philosophical ideas expressed by some of the greatest thinkers in the history of East or West are not meaningful to you; though, if you want to laugh at some more silly Christians, I suggest a good analysis this week of Myth, Magic, and Miracles by Fr. Dwight Longenecker; others on the thread might actually find it useful.

245StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:40pm Top

"I challenge you to tell me what evidentiary basis I could offer that you would accept as valid."

Something that could not be explained as a material phenomena. You haven't even come close. Everything you've brought up is firmly rooted in the material, and in many cases easily explainable by the material.

246StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 12:38pm Top

"I'd be happy to discuss the mechanics of miracles; oh wait, I did, in fact, address your questions, in post 188."

And I responded to your arguments and explained why I find them fallacious and unconvincing. So why did you lie in post 232? Does lying for Jesus give you a funny tummy feeling? Or do you think lying gets you supernatural brownie points?

247Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 12:43pm Top

Religion without some kind of subjectivity, and to put a finer point on it, personal subjectivity can be a pretty barren thing. However religions that is based totally on personal subjectivity is a very dangerous thing.

And I think we can see that in the structures that have evolved concerning religion. On the one hand there are religious "authorities" (Popes, councils, denominational processes, canon laws, etc.). I always appreciated the Presbyterian Book of Order because it provided a framework for the playing out of religious experiences. The same is true of the Quaker consensus method.

I used to spend a lot of time reading the medieval mystics. One thing I always found surprising was their insistence on remaining true to the various authorities of the Church. (With the exception of Margarery of Kemp.) The reason why, I believe, was they needed the stability to soar, a bit like a kite or a parachute. If a kite is not anchored to a firm point on the ground, it just blows away in the wind. Or if a parachute's lines do not all come down to a common point, it is just blown around, and is not functional.

On the other hand, if it does not sail on the wind, it is merely ornamental. At my best moments, I am cultivated the Inner Spark within, and at the same time, accountable to an outside authority.

There is an old story of a monk who could levitate. One day he was showing off, and his abbot told him to come down, and never do that again. Supposedly he was up for saint hood, not because he could levitate, but because he chose, in obedience, not to. (yes, I know this little story will probably cut the strings off SR's kite, and it is probably apocryphal, but I think the wise can see the point.)

248nathanielcampbell
Apr 4, 2012, 12:53pm Top

>245 StormRaven:: "Something that could not be explained as a material phenomena. "

You've already made it clear that such things don't exist; in the words of David Hume, "Miracles are impossible; therefore, miracles do not happen." (You gotta love tautologies.) No matter what example I give, you will simply claim it to be either (1) a material phenomenon or (2) nonsense.

Unfortunately, I've now wasted far too much time over the last day trying to argue to a brick wall, and I'm now terribly behind in preparing class materials for my students for next week. Since we both know that there's really no point in continuing this fruitless exercise--as it has yet, over the course of a hundred or more posts, to produce even a bud--I hope you'll excuse me as I sign off.

249BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 1:07pm Top

>243 StormRaven:

You were stating that knowledge of the material world led to a common set of answers; I provided a counter-example of material items that lead people to vastly different conclusions.

Would they? You might be surprised. I might suggest that although the characters might be the same, people might list them in quite different order, and include or leave out characters with no clear 'rational' reasons. Given that many faithful have that level of agreement in their answers, I'd say the commonalities are roughly equivalent here.

"Art is a lie which lets us see the truth." Picasso. Perhaps religion/belief falls under that umbrella as well?

Again, I'm a bit puzzled at your persistance in forcing the issue of non-belief on readers who do not agree with you. You seem to be looking for a fight, rather than responding to a provocation. Even if your conclusions are absolutely correct, absent anyway to force the acceptance of those answers upon your readers (which may not work anyway) it strikes me that continuing to willingly associate and then antagonize people that you do not and will never agree with suggests issues that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand.

250StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 1:37pm Top

You were stating that knowledge of the material world led to a common set of answers; I provided a counter-example of material items that lead people to vastly different conclusions.

I said we see a trend towards a common set of answers. And we do. And your counterexample really isn't.

"Would they? You might be surprised. I might suggest that although the characters might be the same, people might list them in quite different order, and include or leave out characters with no clear 'rational' reasons."

And if you took a hundred lists, you'd find lots of agreement. There might be outliers, but the answers will tend towards a common answer. (The same appears to be true of artistic criticism, yes, individual answers may vary, but if you take a hundred answers, they will tend towards definite commonalities.)

"Given that many faithful have that level of agreement in their answers, I'd say the commonalities are roughly equivalent here."

They really aren't. One of the reasons that dealing with the question of God's existence is difficult is that so many believers have radically different views of what God is to begin with. The first step in talking with a believer is usually asking "what is your definition of God"? And the answers vary wildly.

When you have a situation in which some people believe in akashic vibrations, and others in homeopathy, and others in magic transforming bread and wine, and others in mystic energy, and some say Jesus was divine, and others say he wasn't (and didn't die on the cross but was instead replaced by another man), or that magic underwear protects you, or thousands and thousands of other wildly varying beliefs, then there aren't really much in the way of commonalities one can point to other than "all lack any kind of evidentiary foundation".

251Arctic-Stranger
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 1:48pm Top

Actually, if you knew more about the subject, you would see that there are commonalities behind many of the different types of religious experiences. C.S. (Full O' Shit) Lewis pointed some out in The Abolition of Man. People who actually KNOW something about spirituality other than "It's all bullshit" can delineate different traditions, and show commonalities and groupings that are surprisingly similar. Ecstatic Pentecostal experiences have more in common with Haitian Vodou than with the Presbyterians on the next block.

252rrp
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 1:51pm Top

#248, #249

nathenielcampbell: Forgive me for making a suggestion. You are indeed trying to argue with a brick wall, but perhaps you a being a little too defensive. Some of the particular atheists here have never indicated that they have an interest in actually discussing the core issues. A better strategy perhaps might be to reply in kind. Their brick wall is actually made of glass. Materialism is a weak and fragile philosophy. There are many good authors, scientists, philosophers and theologians who can provide good material to take them on at their own game. As I predicted, none of them has stepped up to defend the faults in their own philosophy. Why? One has to assume, because that's not their purpose (although, strictly as materialists they believe that have no purpose). As BruceCoulson said, "continuing to willingly associate and then antagonize people that you do not and will never agree with suggests issues that have nothing to do with the discussion at hand".

The only problem is that, if you poke at them in the same way they poke at you, it just antagonizes them, and again nothing of import gets discussed. Plus ça change.

253modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 1:55pm Top

ref 235
...I have both a body and a soul. ...

Oh absolutely. Totally granted and agreed. One small quibble....I think CS Lewis would say
that you "are" a soul rather than that you "have" a soul, but that's neither here nor there.

I don't want to put words in your mouth or attribute to you ideas that you do not embrace,
but it does seem to me from what you've written that you reject the idea that the soul is or could be material.

So here's the problem: Why couldn't the soul be material ? What evidence is their that its not? If it turned out that the soul were indeed material, what bad things would follow?
What's so bad, wrong, undesirable, unacceptable about a material soul?

Wouldn't you be the same lovable fella you are today, and wouldn't your feelings and affections be the same as they are now if your soul were 100% built of leptons and baryons than if it were built of spirit stuff?

Now

254Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 2:04pm Top

C.S. Lewis said exactly that.

The problem I have with the line of reasoning is that "material" is a pretty limited concept.

255modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 2:07pm Top

... religions that is based totally on personal subjectivity is a very dangerous thing.

Not picking a fight here, just trying to understand what's being said:
Why would a religion based on "personal subjectivity" necessarily be worse than any other kind and in particular, why "dangerous" ? Dangerous to whom? In what way?

Are there other kinds?

Are you making a distinction between "subjectivity" on the one hand, and "personal subjectivity" on the other?

If so, you've lost me. Can you define them both, or compare and contrast?

What would it mean to say that something is impersonally subjective rather than personally subjective?

Or are these "terms of art" which mean something totally different than one might expect from just sticking the words together with ordinary usage in mind?

256Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 2:26pm Top

Maybe I got ahead of myself, but when I think subjective and subjectivity I think of Kierkegaard's Concluding Unscientific Postscript and Personal Knowledge by Polanyi, and that is not exactly what I am talking about. As I understand both Kierkegaard and Polanyi, subjectivity is the result of introspection, but that introspection is not necessarily experiential in nature. It is a combination of reflection and experience, and while it is unclear in Kierkegaard, I think Polanyi makes it clear that Personal knowledge is actually a community endeavor.

I guess you could reinterpret what I am saying to mean that religion should function the same way Polanyi saw science functioning. It is not truly objective, because we are all subjective, and influences by culture, etc, in ways we don't see.

A Purely Personal religion is where there is no sense of authority to guide practioners, and it is dangerous because most people do not understand how easy it is justify the ways of Man before God. So you get the "sleep with me, and you will find enlightenment" type of leaders.

In the Presbyterian Church they recognize that power corrupts and have designed a system that looks amazingly like the American political system. (Guess who stole from who on this one!) There is a place for personal revelations, but that is always tempered by the need for groups to affirm those experiences.

How does this work in practice?

A Presbyterian minister cannot be told what to preach by their congregation. The constitution gives them total freedom in the pulpit. However, if they go off the deep end, there is a way to bring them under the discipline of a the larger body. The congregation cannot just get together one Sunday and vote the bum out. But they can petition the larger body to launch an investigation, and if the larger body agrees, the bum can be fired.

257BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 2:40pm Top

If you took a hundred people, and found they all had the same impression of a book...I'd be astounded. A fact-based list might tend towards a common set of characters, but that 'tending to' is a large area. I'd suspect that the reasons cited for including even identical characters would tend to vary quite a bit.

I could begin to cite any number of several hundred art forms, some of which aren't even considered art by many people (rap and performance art comes immediately to mind). Your statement, if taken in the artistic community, would indicate that there is only one true art form; only one valid form of creative expression. And the number of variances clearly shows that art does not exist, and independent creation is a fantasy. Again, such a proclamation would border on absurdity; but you are insisting that the faithful hew to exactly that narrow line. I submit that such a demand is hardly reasonable, nor does failure to comply with it prove the entire field invalid. If people can disagree (sometimes virulently) on the 'meaning' of many artistic works, why is it so incomprehensible that there would be disputes over the nature of the Divine?

There is, indeed, no evidence (in a material sense) for the existence of God(s). If you meant to say that the existence of God can never be proven in a scientific sense, then you've taken a very aggressive and roundabout way of saying so. But by the same token, the existence of God(s) cannot be disproven either, other than in a 'no material evidence exists supporting such a claim' way. Which is sufficient enough for athiests, but not compelling for theists.

As a thought experiment (and freely cribbed): God created everything. In the last five minutes. With all supporting evidence, material, memories, etc. stating that the universe is 13 billion (approximately) years old. Prove that my theory is wrong.

258StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 2:57pm Top

"If you took a hundred people, and found they all had the same impression of a book...I'd be astounded."

You'll find outliers, but you'll find literally dozens of impressions that are effectively identical: http://www.librarything.com/work/5403381/reviews/36745512

"Your statement, if taken in the artistic community, would indicate that there is only one true art form; only one valid form of creative expression."

You're just talking nonsense now. My statement does nothing of the sort.

"God created everything. In the last five minutes. With all supporting evidence, material, memories, etc. stating that the universe is 13 billion (approximately) years old. Prove that my theory is wrong."

Yes, I've seen last Thursdayism as well. It is as useless as the brain in a vat hypothesis that I mentioned earlier. And as useless as nathanielcampbell's claims of a supernaturalism that operates identically to materialism.

To wit: If the universe operates exactly like a material universe, it doesn't matter if it was created last Thursday or five minutes ago, it is simply a material universe.

259Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 3:09pm Top

"Your statement, if taken in the artistic community, would indicate that there is only one true art form; only one valid form of creative expression."

You're just talking nonsense now. My statement does nothing of the sort.


That is bullshit. You are saying EXACTLY that.

260StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 3:41pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
"You are saying EXACTLY that."

No. I'm not. Stop trying to put words in my mouth. Go back and read what I actually wrote and you'll discover that you are completely wrong. Which is pretty typical for you. It seems to be your best skill.

261Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 3:45pm Top

Well, I do have some competition in that arena, and I bow to you as my superior in this matter.

262StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 3:56pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
261: You seem to be pretty good at lying too. Like you did in #259. But that's par for the course for theists. Lying seems to come as naturally to the faithful as breathing.

You see, what I said was:

"Why is it that knowledge about the material world tends to converge towards a single answer on a subject, and answers across multiple subjects tend to become mutually reinforcing, while "knowledge" about the supernatural world is continually fragmenting, splintering, and contradicting itself?"

Notice that this statement has absolutely nothing to say about "creative expression"? Making this:

"Your statement, if taken in the artistic community, would indicate that there is only one true art form; only one valid form of creative expression."

A completely nonsensical response. But in your rush to lie for Jesus, you didn't notice that.

263Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 3:58pm Top

Son, you know next to nothing about what I believe, but in your quest for idiocy, make up what you want about me.

264StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:07pm Top

263: I have your posts here to go on. That's your face here.

And note that I didn't say particularly much about your beliefs. I pointed out why your post #259 is entirely wrong. I should also point out that when you say:

"you know next to nothing about what I believe"

You only provide evidence for the incredible variety of contradictory supernatural beliefs. If there were strong commonalities among those who believe in the supernatural, this sort of statement would not be plausible.

If someone says "I believe that science works", you don't then have to ask if they believe in the laws of thermodynamics, or Kepler's laws of planetary motion, or what their position is on the accuracy of Newton's laws of optics or motion. If someone says 'I believe in God", you have to whittle down with dozens of questions to determine what they actually mean when they say that.

Which is my point.

265timspalding
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:08pm Top

But that's par for the course for theists. Lying seems to come as naturally to the faithful as breathing.

What a remarkably nasty, unjust and revealing thing to say.

266StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:18pm Top

"What a remarkably nasty, unjust and revealing thing to say."

It is entirely just. And the only thing revealing about it is the revelation that lying for religion is incredibly commonplace.

Perhaps if people like the Pope maybe wouldn't lie and say things like "condoms cause aids", then I wouldn't have to say it. Or if Pat Robertson wouldn't say that Haitians made a deal with the devil. I could list hundreds of examples of theists lying in service of their faith. Would you like me to?

267BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 4:17pm Top

You're contradicting yourself, SR.

If all gods, all beliefs, are the result of human creation, then they should behave exactly the same as any other artistic endeavour. You're claiming otherwise, without showing why this should be the case, or providing any evidence to support that difference.

So, your original statement most certainly does say something about creative expression; unless, of course, you're conceding that the gods that have been worshipped are real. Which I don't think you are. So, either you must admit that all gods, by your very statements, are expressions of human creative effort (and therefore comparing such creations with other creations is valid) or that the gods are real. So, your statements about how religion works most certainly is a comment on human creative expression.

You're also making assumptions without any evidence; presuming that I worship Jesus, God, or anyone at all. I would submit that leaping to such a conclusion without any evidence is exactly what you've been condemning in others.

I also note that you refused to take up the challenge of disproving my theory, which I will take as an unspoken acknowledgement that such theories cannot be disproven. And if the idea that there was a prime mover in the universe, even if we cannot prove such a being exists, does not matter to you, it most certainly does to believers. Which is sort of the point of belief.

I also must take note that you have refused to answer as to why you are engaging in highly confrontational disputes with believers. Exactly what distinguishes you from the street corner preacher who harangues all and sundry about God, and fervently insults and confronts anyone who even seems to dispute him? You have decided to provoke this confrontation, and have not provided any reasons as to why you insist on such hostile discourse with people you do not know, have not met, and have no influence on your daily life.

268timspalding
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:25pm Top

>266 StormRaven:

It is a very unjust and hateful thing to say. There are 6 billion of us, including some rather nice and honest people, here and elsewhere. I double-dare you to find theist members here attacking atheists generally with anything like the hatefulness and persistence with which you regularly attack theists.

269modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 4:24pm Top

Its a beautiful spring day out there today, so I'm feeling more than usually optimistic about cutting through the fog thrown up by calling each other rogues and fools.

A meme has been floated to the effect that materialism is a dogma, or is held dogmatically by
(at least some, who knows, maybe all) atheists, naturalists or materialists.

In effect, goes the claim, materialism is an unfalsifiable opinion.

Lets put a stake through the heart of that particular meme right here and now.

Here is how to falsify materialism; perhaps additional methods can be exposted as well:
1. Capture, interview, or otherwise demonstrate the existence of a genuine spirit being.
A full on god may be too powerful or wiley to get trapped that way, but any collection of lesser "bush" spirits and such would do.

2. Demonstrate a genuine dialogue with some certified long deceased people.

3. Find some genuine well documented, no non sense actual "Bridey Murphey" cases.

4. Demonstrate the existence of a "higher plane" (or simply a different) "plane of being"
which is capable of passing information to and from this plane.

Of course, one needs to have an honest presentation of the genuine article. An unscrupulous person in cahoots with a competent ventriloquist can conjure as many ersatz wood spirits as makes no never mind; so of course a bit of "trust but verify" is called for.

Reminds me of that Package service ad where the punch line about getting a verification signature upon delivery is "Its not that I'm not a trusting person... (signigifant pause) ..Yeah it is!"

So lets hear no more about how materialism is unfalsifiable, upon pain of deserving all the bad names we are too polite to pronounce.

270StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:32pm Top

"You're contradicting yourself, SR."

No, I'm not.

"If all gods, all beliefs, are the result of human creation, then they should behave exactly the same as any other artistic endeavour."

Exactly where did I claim that artistic endeavors converge towards a single point? I made a statement about knowledge, not about creation.

"You're also making assumptions without any evidence; presuming that I worship Jesus, God, or anyone at all. I would submit that leaping to such a conclusion without any evidence is exactly what you've been condemning in others."

I haven't made any assumptions about you. Point to where I have made any claims about what you believe.

"I also note that you refused to take up the challenge of disproving my theory, which I will take as an unspoken acknowledgement that such theories cannot be disproven."

The default state is not "this must be disproven". The default state is "you must advance proof of your assertion".

"And if the idea that there was a prime mover in the universe, even if we cannot prove such a being exists, does not matter to you, it most certainly does to believers. Which is sort of the point of belief."

Without evidence, their beliefs in a prime mover are silly. And if all they were doing was saying "I think there is a magical being out there who started it all", then they would be harmless, sort of like Jainists. But they aren't. They are attempting to treat women like farm animals, wedge their doctrines into schools, rewrite history, deny segments of society the right to marry, and dozens of other things that spring from their unfounded belief in a prime mover.

"I also must take note that you have refused to answer as to why you are engaging in highly confrontational disputes with believers."

Does every action need a purpose? Perhaps I simply enjoy typing. And theism infects all of our lives, and for the most part, not for the better.

271StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 4:29pm Top

268; The leader of your chosen faith routinely lies. It is not an unjust thing to say that lying is natural for theist. You might want to wonder why Catholic authorities seem to feel the need to lie to promote their dogma.

272modalursine
Apr 4, 2012, 4:31pm Top

But that's par for the course for theists. Lying seems to come as naturally to the faithful as breathing.

Is this what diplomats call "a full and frank exchange of views?"

Good thing nobody here has has nukes.

But its an interesting strategy, "Insult the opposition until they stop hating us".

Seems congruent with the "Beatings will continue until morale improves" school of management.

What's the success rate on that, eh?

273StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:41pm Top

"Is this what diplomats call "a full and frank exchange of views?""

Lying for Jesus is so common as to be expected. There's even an award for it.

274BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 4:48pm Top

> 270

""Would they? You might be surprised. I might suggest that although the characters might be the same, people might list them in quite different order, and include or leave out characters with no clear 'rational' reasons."

And if you took a hundred lists, you'd find lots of agreement. There might be outliers, but the answers will tend towards a common answer. (The same appears to be true of artistic criticism, yes, individual answers may vary, but if you take a hundred answers, they will tend towards definite commonalities.)"

Thus, artistic works tend towards common answers; yet religious works do not. Your words.

"Your statement, if taken in the artistic community, would indicate that there is only one true art form; only one valid form of creative expression."

A completely nonsensical response. But in your rush to lie for Jesus, you didn't notice that."

Thus, you accuse me of lying for Jesus.

"They are attempting to treat women like farm animals, wedge their doctrines into schools, rewrite history, deny segments of society the right to marry, and dozens of other things that spring from their unfounded belief in a prime mover."

All religious people do this? Hmm. Would you care to make such blanket statements about Blacks? Hispanics? Attorneys? And if not, why not?

And would it be unfair to decide that all atheists are the same in their attitudes towards others and disregard for common civility? And if not, why not?

275StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:55pm Top

"Thus, artistic works tend towards common answers; yet religious works do not. Your words."

No. Your misinterpretation. Responses to artistic works (which are material things) tend towards common answers. I said nothing about the creation of artistic works at all. You seem to want to conflate the process of responding to a work and the process of creating one, which is nonsense.

"Thus, you accuse me of lying for Jesus."

Fine. I'll amend it to simply "in your rush to lie" and leave it at that. Happy?

"All religious people do this?"

It doesn't matter if all do or not. What matters is that sufficient numbers do so out of their belief in a prime mover to make the belief dangerous to the rest of us.

276timspalding
Apr 4, 2012, 4:55pm Top

What a remarkable series of nasty effusions.

277StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 4:59pm Top

276: You're the man who voluntarily follows a faith that is headed by people who routinely lie. Lies that have almost certainly caused people to die as a result. I don't think you have any room to call anything nasty.

278BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 5:06pm Top

Even using your disambiguation, you're incorrect. Since the responses/reactions to creative works change over time, neither the creative process nor people's reaction/response to the product is a constant. So, there are no 'common answers' or responses to creative works. Think I'm wrong? Try suggesting that people should riot during a performance of Stravinsky's 'Rite of Spring'.

And since, by your definition, all god(s) are created by men, all gods are results of creative expression. So, far from being a condemnation of belief that there are multiple faiths, it's only natural that there are differing responses to the thought(s) of the Divine.

Actually, no.

So, by that logic, we should imprison all blacks in the United States. After all, they're only 13% of the overall population, and yet they comprise 40% of the prison population. So, blacks are dangerous to the rest of us in the United States and should be dealt with. Any other groups you think we should 'take care' of? (Oh, a lot of them are believers too, so that would make many of them doubly threatening.)

279jburlinson
Apr 4, 2012, 5:11pm Top

> 270. They are attempting to treat women like farm animals, wedge their doctrines into schools, rewrite history, deny segments of society the right to marry, and dozens of other things that spring from their unfounded belief in a prime mover.

These things do not "spring from" such a belief, founded or un-. Anyone who claims to love logic and evidence wouldn't say something like that.

280timspalding
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 5:12pm Top

>277 StormRaven:

Bigotry and depersonalization has many, many excuses.

281StormRaven
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 5:15pm Top

"Even using your disambiguation, you're incorrect. Since the responses/reactions to creative works change over time, neither the creative process nor people's reaction/response to the product is a constant."

Gee, that would be why they "tend" towards a common answer. Do you think that "tend towards a common answer" means "one answer, right off the bat, and unchanging"? You're operating in a world of misinterpretation and delusion at this point.

"And since, by your definition, all god(s) are created by men, all gods are results of creative expression. So, far from being a condemnation of belief that there are multiple faiths, it's only natural that there are differing responses to the thought(s) of the Divine."

Actually, it is a condemnation of the existence of the supernatural. If creative works vary, but knowledge about the material world tends towards a common consensus, then the myriad of religious beliefs tends to support the notion that the supernatural is merely fiction.

"Actually, no."

Too bad that getting caught rushing to lie discomfits you.

"So, by that logic, we should imprison all blacks in the United States."

You're attempted equivalency is inapt. But I'm not surprised. You like to conflate dissimilar things. Consider the Klu Klux Klan or the Christian Identity movement. Do you think we should accommodate their beliefs or condemn them? Does condemning them mean you think we should put all black people in jail to somehow be consistent?

282StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 5:16pm Top

"These things do not "spring from" such a belief, founded or un-."

Oh. So it isn't ardently religious groups supporting all those things? The anti-gay marriage lobby isn't made up almost exclusively of religious people?

283StormRaven
Apr 4, 2012, 5:18pm Top

280: "Bigotry and depersonalization has many, many excuses."

You voluntarily follow a faith that has taken official positions and supported those positions with lies that have almost certainly led to thousands of unnecessary deaths in Africa. And yet when this is pointed out, you cry "bigotry".

284jburlinson
Apr 4, 2012, 5:19pm Top

> 281. knowledge about the material world tends towards a common consensus

What about the uncertainty principle?

285jburlinson
Apr 4, 2012, 5:23pm Top

> 282. Oh. So it isn't ardently religious groups supporting all those things?

Purely adventitious. There are plenty of ardently religious groups who do not support those things. The fact that Clem Cadidllehopper supports those things probably has more to do with his IQ and his tolerance for hate that with his belief in a prime mover.

286BruceCoulson
Apr 4, 2012, 5:31pm Top

You're the one making blanket condemnations of people as dangerous; not I. You have stated that even if a majority of religious people do not espouse doctrines that you find offensive or dangerous, (and in fact many of them reject such doctrines) it doesn't matter. All religious people should be condemned and judged by the actions and beliefs you find not only wrong, but dangerous. And yet, when I point out that your statement would mean judging other groups solely on the beliefs and actions of a minority within that group...suddenly, that's incorrect. Which is it? Are you willing to tolerate religious people who do not espouse doctrines you find offensive, or is the mere fact they share a similar 'silly' belief condemn them? Yes or no?

What lie? First, you try to link me to Jesus (someone I haven't met and have only limited knowledge of) and then you think that an offensive apology is enough? No. You criticized my response, which is your right (although you later contradicted yourself), and then insist that I made a deliberate mistatement. Not good enough. I'm not 'discomfited'; I'm merely insulted.

Creative works, and responses to them, do not 'tend towards a common answer'; the very variance both at the time of presentation and throughout the years means such a concept is wrong. Not to mention that creators traditionally come up with widely varying creations stemming from a single incident; and the responses to those creations are similarly at odds.

287Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 5:39pm Top

Storm Crow has a very limited world view when it comes to people of faith. They are all liars.

288rrp
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 5:50pm Top

modalursine #269

In effect, goes the claim, materialism is an unfalsifiable opinion.

Just curious. Where in this thread was that claim made? I couldn't find it.

289darrow
Apr 4, 2012, 6:05pm Top

'Liar' is too strong and unequivocal. If we replace it with 'misguided and deluded' would that make everyone feel better?

290Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 6:10pm Top

Storm Crow said "liar." I assume he speaks for your side?

291Mr.Durick
Edited: Apr 4, 2012, 6:24pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

292lawecon
Apr 4, 2012, 7:11pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
~233

What made you think that I was speaking specifically of StormRaven? In fact, I was not. Yes, he is intentionally and unnecessarily rude. Not nearly so rude and crude and stupid as JGL, but he tries. But what concerns me much more about this thread is that people use terms like "God", "religion," "believe," "material" etc. - terms that are key to what they endorse or despise, without the slightest attempt to specify what they mean or clarify what the other guy means. It is a stupid children's game of "you'd be the bad guy."

293nathanielcampbell
Apr 4, 2012, 7:53pm Top

>283 StormRaven:: "You voluntarily follow a faith that has taken official positions and supported those positions with lies that have almost certainly led to thousands of unnecessary deaths in Africa."

Yet, you voluntarily follow a worldview (atheism) espoused by Stalin, who murdered millions of his own citizens, including people of faith because they were people of faith. Does that mean you are a horrible person because of the sins of Stalin? (Never mind the fact that Pope Benedict is not a genocidal maniac.)

Your logic seems to be that some people of faith do bad things, so therefore all people of faith are evil idiots whose views of the world should be ruthlessly exterminated. Let's reverse that, then: some atheists have done bad things. Doesn't that mean that you, as an atheist, must be an evil person?

In other words, the next time you try to blame me, Tim, Arctic, or any of the other people of faith in this thread for the evil ideas of Pat Robertson, I will simply respond by blaming you for the evils of Stalin.

294prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 3:52am Top

Let me note that any views of StormRaven's espoused in this thread are not mine unless espoused otherwise; I fully understand that people and religion are complex.

#293: Yet, you voluntarily follow a worldview (atheism) espoused by Stalin,

I don't think that's a fair comparison. Tim voluntarily associates himself with the Catholic Church; once you've voluntarily associated yourself with an organization, it's not unreasonable to ask you how you justify associating yourself with that organization given their current behavior.

295jburlinson
Apr 4, 2012, 9:16pm Top

> 266. I could list hundreds of examples of theists lying in service of their faith. Would you like me to?

With a little time and elbow grease, I could list hundreds of examples of atheists lying too. Also republicans, democrats, boy scouts, meter maids, five year olds, schoolteachers, postmen, football players, swineherds, molecular biologists, tailors, chefs, perfumiers, librarians, ...

296Arctic-Stranger
Apr 4, 2012, 9:18pm Top

Not to mention rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

297timspalding
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 2:53am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

298ApeironPrime
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 4:27am Top

#294 "Let me note that any views of StormRaven's espoused in this thread are not mine unless espoused otherwise; I fully understand that people and religion are complex."

Religion is wrong, not complex (unless you were talking about the relation between people and relation, in which case it still isn't complex, but perverse). It's been a crutch to humanity for thousands of years. But now, in light of a glorious future, who needs a crutch when you can walk, nay sprint!

299timspalding
Apr 5, 2012, 4:37am Top

Tra-la-la.

300ApeironPrime
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 8:02am Top

Oh yes, 300th baby! This thread just got more relevant!

I feel I should make a reference to a book I've read - this is a forum about books, right? But I can't seem to remember the title

301johnthefireman
Apr 5, 2012, 8:20am Top

>300 ApeironPrime: The bible, perhaps? Or a book on liberation theology? Or something which tells you what the Catholic Church is actually doing about HIV/AIDS on the African continent, as opposed to sound-bytes from the media and statements from the pope? Or books about some of the great religious figures who have been involved in peace, reconciliation, poverty reduction, liberation, caring for people, etc? Or perhaps an anti-religious comic book might be more appropriate?

302ApeironPrime
Apr 5, 2012, 9:10am Top

Ah yes, the Bible... It's actually a good read. I like the Old Testament better than the New, i must admit. I tell you, those were the days, of real faith! Know what I mean? Hmm, yes it makes me nostalgic... of times when your absolute transcendental being of which no -human- knowledge is possible but which does require radical worship and total subjugation, could go all old testament on the other guys and their false gods... Yeah a plague, oh or those whiping out whole tribes times... all that smiting, killing whithout question, plundering, taking....AAAAH yes those were the days my friend!!! I tell, today, you don't see that sort of righteousness anymore. With those heathens, atheists and the like... They have all forgotten!!

So thank you, dear johnthefireman, for reminding me that it is indeed the Bible that we must read. A truth we must never forget!

Oh and you are right about liberation theology. It has done much in thirld world countries

I am my own prophet!!

303timspalding
Apr 5, 2012, 9:12am Top

I propose we start a conversation with the firm commitment not to respond to haters.

304lawecon
Apr 5, 2012, 9:21am Top

It is your rules, Tim. You should gladly live with the consequences of them.

305Quixada
Apr 5, 2012, 9:37am Top

> 292

And yet you, lawecon, respond with your own flagged response calling someone stupid. Nice.

306modalursine
Apr 5, 2012, 10:34am Top

ref 124

Taking the "easier" question first:
There are, as you say, a number of different positions that might be legitimately boxed under "agnostic". I suppose each self styled agnostic is agnostic in his or her own way, so we'ld have to chat a bit more to see just what is meant in any given instance and to form some sort of opinion as to weather we think the position is well founded or not.

In popular parlance, "agnostic" sometimes means "I don't usually think about such things, so just go away!" and sometimes means "I don't feel any great attachment to the traditional beliefs of whatever faith community I was born into, and truth to tell, I don't think some of the more outlandish tales could possibly be so, but on the other hand I don't want to make waves so 'agnostic' sounds ever so much more humble and contrite than nasty old in yer face 'atheist' "

The sort of agnosticism that gets my combative juices flowing is the sort that says "Not only do we know nothing, we never CAN know anything". Those who hold that opinion may indeed turn out to be correct, in that there may indeed be things we don't know and never can know.
The problem though, is this: How do you know we can't know? Where's the proof or at least the plausibility argument?

Its easy enough to throw up one's hands in frustration at some really tough problem exclaiming "Ugh! I'll never get it!, its too tough!"

I have a similar kvetch with the creationist crowd who like to point to this or that biological system (eyes used to be a favorite, until the argument was demolished several times over) that the system is just too complex (irreducibly complex, they call it) ever to have evolved by natural selection. Its easy enough to claim that something like eyes or scilia or immune systems, or whatever the local favorite happens to be, is "too darned complex" to have evolved, but merely making the claim doesn't ring the gong. You have to show that "you can't get there from here", or your argument is pure conjecture.

So the bottom line here is just this:
Whoever wants to say that we can't know something , in my opinion, has a burden of demonstrating just why or how it is that that thing can't ever be known.

Now for the more interesting bits:
You say that having chucked the idea of an intelligent, conscious, intervening "bloke in the sky", you have more options than simply "Go to Dawkins, do not pass 'go' do not collect
200 dollars (or was it pounds) ? "

Well of course, on the one hand, there are probably as many conceptions of divinity as makes no never mind so I'm sure that you are correct at one level.

But just because there are so many ideas of religion and/or divinity out there, and because the very concept of "god" and/or religion is not always totally coherent (Just try to come up with a definition that satisfies everybody all the time. Ugh!) I usually focus on what I call
"Popular religion in the US", which in practice, tends to boil down to the faster growing low church protestant denominations featuring some degree of evangelical thought, biblical literalism, emphasis on the end of the world and on the fate of one's existence in the afterlife, and possibly also influenced by such ideas and/or movements as "Christian Identity" and "Dominionism".

As long as 80 or 90 percent or more of the population answers polls as they do professing belief in the creator god who answers prayers, acts in history and has a plan for every sparrow
and for all the human race, and as long as there are individuals and institutions collecting money and spreading the relevant teachings, then I'll take as a working definition of "God"
(the "god" of popular religion in the US, of course) as "a powerful, conscious, intelligent, spirit being who acts in history".

I don't see how a god who doesn't act in history or intervene in any way, differs from a god who doesn't exist at all or who (more politely?) exists only as a literary character, like Sherlock Holmes.

307johnthefireman
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 11:10am Top

>306 modalursine: I usually focus on what I call "Popular religion in the US"

Which is fine, and I certainly agree that it is important, not only for people in the USA but also, because the USA is a military and economic superpower, for the rest of us.

But as a non-US person I really have no great interest in popular religion in the US, and neither apparently do a lot of other religious people, even in the USA, who prefer to discuss a manifestation of religion which is closer to what they believe and which is perhaps more representative of religion broadly through the ages and throughout the world.

I think that's where we keep coming to an impasse. Some are focusing on what could arguably be called a "worst case" scenario (or, more charitably, a vocal and visible minority who, for some strange reason, do have influence in the USA). Others are focusing on what might be called a "best case" scenario, which is more widely representative.

308fuzzi
Apr 5, 2012, 11:42am Top

Okay, I've finally made it here (thank you to those who invited me). I've been incredibly busy and have been neglecting LibraryThing, sorry.

First, while I would like to respond to a number of posts, I think it would be best to be succinct. Here goes:

(51) MBworm: "(I don't understand why people who think something is bullshit keep coming back and rubbing their noses in it. Just leave it for the dungflies or stick it on your rose bushes and talk about something else.)"

Nice comment, thank you.

(141) "It would probably be more accurate to say that those in authority use religion, science, and any other justification possible to maintain their continued rule."

Spot on, well spoken, BruceCoulson.

(251) LOL! re: CS (F of S) Lewis. Love it.

(256) The independent Baptist churches I have attended are also set up in a similar manner: the people in the congregation interview and vote for who they want as a pastor. The pastor has power to preach as he sees fit, but the congregation has the option of "firing" him if necessary. All adult members of the church have a vote, men and women. :)

Now, I have questions to ask those who are interested in a civil discussion:

What is a normal Christian?

How do we define "normal"?

And, who gets to decide what is "normal"?


Inquiring minds want to know... ;)

309darrow
Apr 5, 2012, 12:21pm Top

>306 modalursine: How do you know we can't know? Where's the proof or at least the plausibility argument?

Godel's Incompleteness Theorem? It certainly applies to mathematical logic and some have conjectured that a similar theorem applies to what we can know about physical reality. They idea is that you can't explain all of a system if you are part of that system.

310Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 12:44pm Top

So, walking down the gangplank this morning to get to work, I hit some ice, and fell pretty hard. Good news, I did not lose my iPad or my glasses (which at first I thought fell in the water), but I hit the dock pretty hard.

Anyway, the gist of it is, the must have revived something in me, because I reread some of my past posts in this thread, and I realize how foolish they are. I ought to listen to that voice in my head more, the one that says, "do you really want to get entangled in THIS argument?"

So......

nevermind.

311fuzzi
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 1:03pm Top

Sorry you took a spill, ArcticStranger. I hope you didn't hurt yourself, really.

"nevermind."

LOLOL...

...sometimes I wonder that, myself.

312Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 1:04pm Top

I can't turn my head very well, but like I said, my glasses and iPad did not go in the water, and the Redhead was here to drive me to work.

Life is good.

313fuzzi
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 1:07pm Top

Aha! A sprain/strain! I know about those things...

Try gently stretching your neck and alternating heat and cold (no more than 20 minutes at a time) to the area. It should help relieve some of the stiffness/soreness. Just don't overdo.

Dr. fuzzi has spoken. ;)

314Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 5, 2012, 1:30pm Top

What is a normal Christian?

How do we define "normal"?

And, who gets to decide what is "normal"?


That's a pretty good set of questions.

They idea is that you can't explain all of a system if you are part of that system.

Not sure if that's a proper statement of Godel's theorem(s), but...

StormRaven, this might be a dumb question, but... Aside from Nathan's belief in a deity, where else do you figure that the two of you differ substantially?

315modalursine
Apr 5, 2012, 1:56pm Top

ref 309

Poor Godel. He discovered that in a sufficiently rich axiomatic system, there will either be inconsistencies or undecidable theorems (similar to the liar's paradox).

It doesn't follow from that, that there are things about the world we can never know.

Even within a given axiom system, if you should come across a theorem you can't prove and can't disprove, you can't just decide "this must be one of the undecidable ones". You've got to prove that the theorem is undecidable, usually by showing that you can recast it into something like the liar's paradox.

Even then, that of which the theorem sings might be knowable by using a different set of axioms or by some other means. The new set of axioms will have a (possibly new and different) set of undecidable theorems, of course.

Meanwhile, the world is not a set of axioms. We can find out some things by direct or indirect measurement, no logical deductions required.

None of this proves that we CAN know everything we set out to learn, but it doesn't provide any compelling or near compelling reason to think that the deck is stacked against us from the git-go.

316Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 2:09pm Top

1) What is a normal Christian?

Easy question, but the center of most internecine squabbles for centuries. As a matter of fact, I believe there is a thread on it. How one answers the questions says more about the person speaking than it does about the faith. But in short, here are some of the outlines to approach the questions.

a) by what they believe. This can be broken down into three categories.

i) Historical doctrine--Most orthodox Christians would assent to the Nicene or Apostle's Creed, ie. some kind of Trinitarian theology. or
ii) some much looser version; I believe in Jesus as Lord, I believe Jesus existed, I believe Jesus was a good man, and it is worth following his example.
iii) Some other core doctrine, like a belief in Gods' grace.

b) But, for some people, Christianity has be part of one's experience. This can be broken down by a couple of categories.

i) Acceptance of Jesus as Personal Lord and Savior (There are stricter and looser versions of this.)
ii) communing member of a church (Orthodox and Roman Catholic come to mind here.)
iii) Some of direct interaction with God (Wesley feeling strangely warm, some Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit)


Finally there are those who would pin to the living the Christian life, however that is defined.

There are clearly overlapping magisterium.

But in reality, it is probably easier to say what a normal American is than it is to define a normal Christian, and everyone is going to take it from their point of view. Opponents of the faith will pick out the lunatic element, and call that normal. The author of the article wants to highlight the mainline branch. If one is a Presbyterian, Presbyterians look pretty normal, and if one is a Pentecostal, Pentecostals look normal.

I blame it all on Luther.

As to Kurt Gödel, I guess you have to be careful when you apply mathematics to real life.

317modalursine
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 2:21pm Top

ref 307

There are any number of assumptions underpinning religious conceptions that I consider highly implausible, but clearly those making them don't see it that way.

I had thought that exposing those assumptions and our various rationals for thinking them plausible or implausible, we might come to a more nuanced appreciation of one another's positions.

It hasn't worked out that way, I'm NOT real sure why.

To be a bit more concrete:
Some people think that "Things don't just happen". i.e. they happen for a reason, such as divine will or the action of evil spirits, or the malevolent intent of witches, or something of that sort. Whatever happens, there's a larger meaning to it.

We've been around this merry go round before on different threads, but somewhere I read of an anthropologist working among some local people "somewhere in Africa" (pegs it right down) who thought that if your hut falls down, it must be witchcraft. As he and the locals went poking through the ruined hut, he noticed that the house supports were eaten through by termites. "Aha" he says to his hosts, "it was termites, no need to look for witches". The locals regarded him as somewhat dimwitted. "Of course it was termites, happens all the time, we didn't just fall of the turnip truck you know. But why did the termite damage collapse the house just then, and just when so and so who is usually off somewhere was, contrary to habit, sitting in his house in the middle of the day?" "Coincidence? Random action? "
"Hah!", say his hosts. "No such thing!. Witchcraft!"

So we're kind of stuck. I say there are coincidences or random actions that signify nothing in particular, and some say "No such thing".

I suppose we might break out of the circle of "Is too!" "Is not" "Is too" by asking for the mechanism. HOW is it determined what happens and what it all means? Then, perhaps we could prepare some sort of test to guage the adequacy of the proposed mechanism to explain the phenomonon.

But we never seem to get beyond the "IS too" "Is not" "You're a doody head" level of argument.

Huh! Maybe that's a demonstration of why we can't know stuff?

Edited to put that big fat "NOT" in there.

318nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 2:33pm Top

>316 Arctic-Stranger:: "I blame it all on Luther. "

You get credit for pith, but the entire point of the in-class essays my students wrote yesterday (and that I am attempting to grade today) was to perceive just how complex the Christian world was at the end of the Middle Ages, on the eve of the Reformation (i.e. before Luther).

They were given two texts to read: the central portion of Erasmus' Praise of Folly, where he excoriates corruption and hypocrisy, especially in the church hierarchy; and two lives from the Chronicle of the House of the Brothers of the Common Life in Emmerich (taken from Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings). The former, which is likely to more familiar to many here, is of course a classic description of the problems faced by the late medieval church; the latter represents the grass-roots attempts of 15th-century Christians to "imitate Christ" (to ape the title of the Devotio Moderna's greatest writing, The Imitation of Christ). They were then asked to synthesize (or attempt to synthesize) the evidence into a picture of Christian life on the eve of the Reformation.

In other words, the late medieval Church was as complex a body of Christianity as it ever was after the Reformation, replete with holiness and corruption.

But then, perhaps the best way to approach the history of Christianity is to perceive that the mystical body of Christ has always been a mixed company, from the very beginning. One need only read through the Acts of the Apostles or the letters of Paul to see that already in the decades after Christ, the Church was rent by division and the failures of sinful humans to live up to the ideals of the Gospel. As Otto of Freising put it:
{T}he history I have put together for the period extending from the time of Theodosius to our own day, is an account not of the Two Cities, but rather, I might almost say, of one--composite, to be sure--the Church. (...) For that, as matters now stand, the rest who profess the Christian faith must be numbered as members of the Church, even if they do not follow up their professions of faith, no once can doubt who know that the net of the Lord contains both bad and good. For the good and the bad cannot be separated at present, inasmuch as the Church judges only the things which are on the surface (cf. Deut. 29:29) and God alone, Who knows who are His, "whose fan is in his hand" (Luke 3:17), weighs the merits of individuals. We have then, designated as the Church certain ecclesiastical personages--namely, the bishops of Christ and their attendants--both in accordance with the common usage of speech and out of regard for the finer element, though we are not ignorant of the fact that these ecclesiastical personages also, if they have lived an evil life, will not belong to the City of God in eternity.
--The Two Cities: A Chronicle of Universal History to the Year 1146 A.D., Prologue, Book VII.

319Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 2:47pm Top

I agree that Catholicism was incredibly diverse back then, much more diverse than most people believe. HOWEVER, it was still all under one big tent. As one character says in the play Luther, "There was a time you spoke Latin, and I spoke Latin, and by that we both knew we shared the same faith."

When I studied in Europe I could visit any Catholic church in any country, and know what was going on in the mass. That was not true with Protestant churches. The history of schism after the reformation leads me to believe that it was a failure. I say that as a lapsed Protestant. It was not long after the reformation that blood was spilled (The peasant rebellion, and the various wars of religion that constituted the Thirty Years War, not to mention the persecution of the Anabaptists, and the English rebellions).

OK, so Protestants did contribute to democracy. I will give them their due on that.

320steve.clason
Apr 5, 2012, 2:53pm Top

317> "So we're kind of stuck. I say there are coincidences or random actions that signify nothing in particular, and some say "No such thing".

Hmmm. I'm not so sure that accepting the possibility of chance events disqualifies you as a theist. I seem to recall in The Weakness of God that Caputo reveled in coincidence, though it's been a while since I read it.

While looking for that title I noticed my description for Armstrong's The Case for God: "Less logos, more mythos. Don't talk so much." For what that's worth.

321Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 5, 2012, 2:54pm Top

I suppose that would depend on what your ideas of what the Reformation was supposed to accomplish were.

322Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 3:20pm Top

Well, originally the contribution was supposed to be a return to apostolic Christianity. (See Calvin's reply to Sadoleto.) But the notion of pure doctrine died quickly with the failure of all the colloquies that produced no agreements.

So now, the big defense is that the Protestant Phenomenon produced Western Culture As We Know It, ie democratic capitalism. Maybe.

My personal hope would have been for a saner version of Christianity. We sure did not get THAT!

323Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 5, 2012, 3:21pm Top

Or, everyone got their own saner version of Christianity. And a lot of other people got the in(saner) versions.

324nathanielcampbell
Apr 5, 2012, 3:25pm Top

>322 Arctic-Stranger:: "a return to apostolic Christianity"

The Protestant Reformation and every other reform/renewal/revitalization movement in the history of the Church: Boniface and the Carolingian Renaissance; the Reformation of the Twelfth Century; the Franciscans in the thirteenth century; the Devotio Moderna in the late 14th and 15th centuries. And those are just the ones off the top of my head that were on the syllabus of my freshmen humanities survey this semester...

325Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 5, 2012, 3:46pm Top

Mayhap it's less about a "return to" than a renaming of the apostles.

326Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 3:55pm Top

??????

327modalursine
Apr 5, 2012, 4:02pm Top

ref 320
I don't suppose its necessarily logically inconsistent for someone who believes in "providence" to also believe that "sometimes a cigar is just a cigar", i.e. some things "just happen" even though others are "all part of the plan".

I don't know that that makes any sense psychologically, since then one would always be in the position of wondering which is and which isn't divine providence, and which is just dumb luck, but as I say, I don't see anything logically wrong with that on its face.

328nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 4:16pm Top

>327 modalursine:: I think the problem may lie in how you are understanding "providence" (and if I'm way off base here, please let me know). The cognitive dissonance you mention would only hold if divine providence and "just dumb luck" are contradictory, in the sense of the principle of non-contradiction: i.e., something is either providential or random, but it cannot be both at the same time.

Now, this is not exactly a new problem; the solutions offered by Augustine and Boethius seemed, at least for a long time, as acceptable as could be. Of course, as I've been reminded numerous times in these fora (usually by StormRaven), those luminaries of late antiquity were obviously full of BS, so there's no point in even discussing them.

I think that, in this context, the apophatic route, which not only permits but actually requires the coincidence of opposites, might be the best. Divine providence and random chance only appear contradictory from our frail, limited human perspectives. From the perspective of the divine--in which such contradictory propositions are resolved--the happily coexist as the consequence of a creation in which the creating agent endowed the creatures with various agencies of their own.

329nathanielcampbell
Apr 5, 2012, 4:23pm Top

> 310 (Arctic): In the Devotio Moderna writings my students had to read for yesterday (mentioned in post 318), I found the following notice of one the more saintly brothers' approach to humility in quarreling:
He used to say, therefore, that it is good sometimes for a spiritual man to knock his head against the wall and to come back to his senses, thus gaining a better knowledge of himself and greater caution. But in all cases and adversities, he seemed to have a certain natural magnanimity so that just as quickly as by an infirmity he transgressed in some human passion and would strive, without perplexity or dejection, to reconcile himself through reason to God, his neighbor, and himself by repenting of his evil action and making a firm resolution to do better in the future.
(Devotio Moderna: Basic Writings, p. 141)

330modalursine
Apr 5, 2012, 4:30pm Top

In fairness and candor (rats!, do a have to? ) I suppose we have to admit that the protestant reformation encouraged literacy among the masses, and that's "a good thing" (tm)

As to getting back to the earlier purer version of the faith, isn't that almost always the claim for a religious reform? I'm not sure that the overt aim or desire to get back to a purer earlier version of the faith really tells us a whole lot that's specific to the PR.

Why that why then? A little over Fifty years since Guttenberg, not too long after the discovery of the new world. Coincidence? Happening at a time when the modern state is developing. Is there a connection? Curious too that one could "retrodict" which areas would go Protestant vs which would remain orthodox (more or less, I suppose its not perfect) based on the regions relationship to the old Roman Empire.

331Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 4:42pm Top

Actually studies show that the Reformation did not increase literacy, at least not directly. Someone (in the 80s, so I don't remember who did the study) did social research to find out if people in areas the reformation had happened were any more literate than people in areas where it had not happened. No correlation.

During the English Reformation, the big battle was over the prayer book. It would go from mostly Reformed, to mostly Catholic, and then back again, all without a any noticeable outcry from the people outside of London. Later research showed that most priests were illiterate, and it did not matter which prayer book they used.

332steve.clason
Apr 5, 2012, 5:16pm Top

328> "From the perspective of the divine--in which such contradictory propositions are resolved--the happily coexist as the consequence of a creation in which the creating agent endowed the creatures with various agencies of their own."

OK, so then from the finite human perspective are a universe (I'm intentionally using terms pretty loosly) ruled by providence and one ruled by blind chance indistinguishable except for the private experience of the inhabitants?

Modalursine touched on this in elliptically in 317 -- at least, I got the notion after reading it that "X happened because of Y" and "X happened because of God's will manifested as Y" are the same explanation (though with possibly different social or political ramifications). Which may not leave us much to talk about except our private experiences (and their social and political ramifications).

333MyopicBookworm
Apr 5, 2012, 7:13pm Top

are a universe ruled by providence and one ruled by blind chance indistinguishable except for the private experience of the inhabitants?

Quite possibly. If the universe we are in is ruled by blind chance, then we can only speculate wildly as to what one "ruled by providence" might be like. (A totalitarian theocracy?) If the universe we are in is ruled by providence, then we can only speculate wildly as to what one "ruled by blind chance" might be like. (Utter chaos?) There is only one universe, so if "divine" means anything, it must mean something about this universe, not about some other imaginary one.

334fuzzi
Apr 5, 2012, 7:33pm Top

(316) Thank you, Arctic-Stranger, for that reply.

I was wondering if some of us are considered "abnormal" and if so, why?

335MyopicBookworm
Apr 5, 2012, 7:44pm Top

Yes. Some Christians hold highly counter-cultural opinions (not just counter to secular society but counter to long-held Christian viewpoints) which they defend with extreme vehemence and in some cases attempt to impose upon society at large. Others hold opinions of such breathtaking conservatism that it is hard to square them with any plausible interpretation of the teachings of the Gospel. One aspect of this can be summed up by the quotation attributed to Dom Helder Camara: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a Communist." Such Christians, because they have extreme views which they shout loudly, often get time on the media which is denied to Christians who just get on quietly with trying to be prayerful and virtuous.

From the article in the OP:
"I feel like there has been a hijacking of Christianity by some very powerful Christians who preach greed and pride and are very comfortable condemning other people."

Do you think those guys who wave anti-gay placards at soldiers' funerals are "normal Christians"? Or do you have some way of denying that they are Christians at all?

336Arctic-Stranger
Apr 5, 2012, 7:49pm Top

One thing the history of Christianity teaches is that the winners get to define what is normal, and the losers are always abnormal.

"Abnormal," these days, can be defined in one of two ways. First, abnormal in terms of Generally Accepted Religions. UUs, Quakers, Mennonites, Mormans (to some extent) are outside the mainstream.

Second abnormal in terms of how those outside the faith believe that believers ought to behave, which is essentially that the prime doctrine in any religion is that the adherents should be nice.

337prosfilaes
Apr 5, 2012, 9:14pm Top

#319: "The" Protestant Reformation should probably be called "the First Protestant Reformation Where the Catholic Church Didn't Manage to Kill All the Protesters". Given that, I have a hard time being happy about the idea of a world where the Catholic Church won. They maintained their monopoly only on the blood of heretics. What does a British North America look like in this world? Certainly not the haven of proto-religious liberty it was. Nor the haven of proto-free speech, either; a Church that suppress dissent can't afford that. Imagine a boot on the face of humanity forever, indeed. (Of course, I never bought 1984; there is no Big Brother, tyrannies are held together by a coalition of those out for power for themselves, who usually choose not to be anonymous, and people who truly believe that what they're doing is justified for the cause, with a little cement of bureaucrats that want to keep their heads down and do their little jobs. And there have been times when that was a perfect description of the Catholic Church.)

338lawecon
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:31pm Top

~305

Yes, jodavid, some people are stupid. It is an objective fact. Half of the population has an I.Q. under 100!! Isn't that amazing?

As to the flags: You see, jodavid, I am not very impressed by TOS. It is not even a minimal standard for regulating a community. Many of the "regulars" in these forums make a game of skating as near to the edge of a strict interpretation of its rules as they can, while being as insulting as they can.

Flags, in case you're not familiar, are applied whenever anyone says anything, true or false, about another poster. You can say "all Arabs deserve immediate death," "the Prime Minister of Great Britain regularly buggers donkeys," "all nuns are perverts," etc. and there is no TOS violation. You can say "all former evangelical people from Mississippi who are militant atheists are dumb as shit" (even when there is only one such person posting to these forums) and there is no TOS violation.

But, as the flags on my last post illustrate, being clear about one's opinions formed on the basis of long experience, even when most observers would agree with those opinions, is a TOS violation. Interesting, isn't it?

339modalursine
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:46pm Top

331
What you're asking is whether the universe is "self working" (its the same question no matter if the "rules" are random or lawful or a bit of each) or whether it takes constant attention from from an outside agent as compatibilism claims.

A similar question can be asked about whether the universe is self sustaining, or whether it requires a "ground or all being" to keep it in existence.

It seems to me that belief in "providence", in compatibilism, or in the need for a "ground of all being" are all untestable hypotheses.

Unless the master of the universe peeks out from behind the curtain and fesses up "Yeah, that was really me doing that!" how could you really know for sure one way or the other?

Its like one of those "how do you know you're not dreaming right now?" gotchas. On the one hand, you can't really demonstrate that you're "real", but on the other hand, is there anyone who seriously doubts that we're awake?

Maybe the "laws" of physics are all a fake, a simulation by the deity who makes everything happen according to his will and who could decide, if that's his mysterious pleasure, that the next time you try tp put one foot in front of the other, you'll think you're on an acid trip.

You can't prove it isn't so, but does anyone sane (and not on mushrooms) really think that's the case?

341StormRaven
Apr 5, 2012, 11:08pm Top

"I propose we start a conversation with the firm commitment not to respond to haters."

So we should not respond to Catholics? The Catholic Church has taken a stance in attempting to deny gay equality that is essentially identical to the stance taken by the Klan with respect to black equality.

Now, you might say "but some Catholics don't agree with that stance!" Fine. I suppose some Klansmen didn't agree with the stance the Klan took. Yet by staying in the Klan they gave tacit approval of the public stance.

Or perhaps you'll say "they are trying to change the Church from within!" Imagine how credible you'd find the same words spoken by a Grand Dragon.

Or maybe "they have principled reasons for their stance!" I'm sure the devotees of the Klan would have said the exact same thing. Do you give them deference?

No. No matter how much you protest, by lining up for Mass, you are doing the equivalent of putting on the hood and showing up for a cross-burning rally. A Klansman doesn't get to complain that people hate him. Neither do Catholics.

342modalursine
Apr 5, 2012, 11:10pm Top

ref 340

Avril poisson!

343StormRaven
Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 11:14pm Top

"Aside from Nathan's belief in a deity, where else do you figure that the two of you differ substantially?"

I don't. The funny thing is that when you boil nathan's beliefs down, the universe he describes is identical to a materialist one. He just proclaims loudly that it can't be, and there has to be magic that is undetectable and indistinguishable from naturalistic processes.

Oh, and if you don't agree that this undetectable indistinguishable kind of magic is real, then you are "blinded by dogma".

344timspalding
Apr 5, 2012, 11:23pm Top

by lining up for Mass, you are doing the equivalent of putting on the hood and showing up for a cross-burning rally

There are a million excuses for hated. All of them are wrong, but most of them are less ridiculous.

345jburlinson
Apr 5, 2012, 11:44pm Top

> 341. A Klansman doesn't get to complain that people hate him. Neither do Catholics.

Are you totally hydrophobic, or is it just holy water that gets you going?

346johnthefireman
Apr 6, 2012, 1:20am Top

>343 StormRaven: the universe he describes is identical to a materialist one

Er, could that be because we live in the same universe?

347lawecon
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 3:29pm Top

~346

Could be. But we have a number of posts in this thread alone, let alone threads like "Reading Your Bible Through In One Year," that contain frequent claims that really insightful people live in tune with another universe. Apparently only gross and brutish people live a life restricted to the universe surrounding the rest of we (really gross and brutish) people.

It seems to me that this is a claim that is per se devicive. It is fine for one to find beauty in either a landscape or a child's face or a plant or a body of doctrine. However, when one starts impugning fellow human beings for not seeing the same beauty and starts making claims that the beauty you perceive is Really Real, where as the rest of reality is merely ephemeral, crude and brutish, then there is something wrong. Perhaps what is wrong is mixing certain strains in ancient Greek philosophy with religion and developing a sense that one is G-d or G-d's special gift to the rest of humanity intended to communicate "G-d's realm" to the rest of humanity?

348Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 6, 2012, 5:58am Top

One thing the history of Christianity teaches is that the winners get to define what is normal, and the losers are always abnormal.

If that's what your religion teaches you, I want no part of it.

349johnthefireman
Apr 6, 2012, 11:46am Top

>347 lawecon: I'm not denying that some Christians, and particularly some posting a lot on other threads, believe what you attribute to them. But most of the Christian posters on this thread, at least as far as I can see, are not of that ilk. So don't act so surprised when they turn out to be, er, just like any other human being.

>348 Jesse_wiedinmyer: If that's what your religion teaches you, I want no part of it.

No, that's not what religion teaches. The history of Christianity, just like the history of any institution, might teach us that there was good and bad in the institution and that winners tend to define what is normal. Tim or one of the other historians can enlighten us, but isn't it generally true of any human endeavour that the winners write the history?

350timspalding
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 12:30pm Top

One thing the history of Christianity teaches is that the winners get to define what is normal, and the losers are always abnormal.

Yeah, I'm doing to disagree with that. It's fashionable now to think of proto-orthodoxy as just another potential Christianity, along with, say, Marcionite and Gnostic Christianity, except that proto-Orthodox won. I think even a historian can make certain assessments of this kind--looking at the main stream, looking at where ideas come from and so forth. And if you do that some of the other early heresies don't look like equally valid and central Christianities, but offshoots. (Offshoots aren't bad--the historian must make no value judgements of this sort--but they are offshoots.) That said, I think some other splits and heresies aren't like that. I don't think, for example, that a historian--prescinding faith claims--could claim that mono/miaphysite Christianity can be set apart and blow "duo"-physite Christianity.

As for the "winners write the history," Christianity doesn't always have winners. Mostly it just splits and the split lasts and lasts. Sure, we don't have a perfect purchase on Marcionitism because almost everything that survives came from its enemies. But we have direct access to lots of early heresies that left documents before dying or still survive. As for later stuff, once you hit the Renaissance few voices are lost. It may be that a "Protestant" view of the Reformation is current in American high-schools—if they teach it at all—but that's not really the same as the winners writing the histories.

351Arctic-Stranger
Apr 6, 2012, 12:28pm Top

348: That is what HISTORY teaches us, not just religion, except that the terms normal and abnormal don't fit. You could say Freedom Fighter and terrorist, or Patriot and subversive, or just the good ole white hats and black hats.

That is a human trait.

352modalursine
Apr 6, 2012, 1:15pm Top

Could history have been substantially different than it is? Could the dominant religion in the west have been something other than christianity as we know it, or could christianity itself, while still being the dominant religion, have followed a substantially different path of development?

There seems to be a big chance component, at least in the small doings of what happens in history. Each new outcome is a new environment which changes the odds of the next thing happening and so on. Usually of course (by definition) the "most likely" thing to happen, does happen; but not always. Life , and history, is unpredictable.

But what about in the broad sweep of things? Do all the little odd bits of randomness conspire to bring about a larger pattern (See quinqunx) or "Bean Machine" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bean_machine

Ibn Kaldun thought that each mature civilization would yield an effete population doomed to fall to next set of well organized barbarians who in turn would adapt civilized ways and eventually succumb to a new set of barbarians, ad infinitum.

I gather that such grand theories are very much out of fashion these days and that the received wisdom is "contingency".

If that is so, why mightn't christianity have had a very different look and feel or why mightn't the religion have been that of Isis and Serapis, or maybe Mithraism ? Personally, I suspect Marcionism was a non starter for both internal logical and for political sociological reasons, but why not Arianism, or Valentinism or heaven-knows-what variations ?

Then again, why not Manicheism or some other flavor of neo Zoroastrianism?

They came pretty darned close, didn't they?

353jburlinson
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 1:35pm Top

> 352. Could history have been substantially different than it is? Could the dominant religion in the west have been something other than christianity as we know it, or could christianity itself, while still being the dominant religion, have followed a substantially different path of development?

I tend to think not. The amazing thing about Christianity is the radical dissonance between its core message/principles with its historical manifestations -- its almost Jekyll & Hyde, Janus-faced quality. The huge gulf between Christianity and Christendom.

All other things being equal, when a society's/nation's beliefs and practices are in good accord with each other, the defeat/decline of that society/nation would entail the defeat/decline of those beliefs. But with Christian societies/nations, it's different, because the practices of those societies/nations were never in true accord with their belief system in the first place.

354modalursine
Apr 6, 2012, 2:27pm Top

353
Ho ho! You'be bitten off quite a chunk there.

Now you've got to show two things:
1. That this really is (was) a radical dissonance between Christianity's "core message" (and what would that be?) with its manifestations (in all times and places? some? where? when? how?

and
2. That said dissonance is of greater magnitude than simmilar dissonance between "core message" and "practice" of other societies, contemporary with Christianity or not.

Whew!

355Quixada
Apr 6, 2012, 2:42pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
>338

You are funny. But you are also a hypocrite.

And if you don't like the TOS, then take that up with Tim. Don't whine about it to me.

356Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 6, 2012, 2:46pm Top

That's flaggable, too, Jo...

357jburlinson
Apr 6, 2012, 2:51pm Top

> 354. Core messages -- love god, love your neighbor, love your enemy, treat others as you would be treated, forgive, repent, embrace suffering, embrace poverty, think not of tomorrow, last shall be first.

Manifestations -- kill the infidel!, torture the sinner, amass wealth & power, oppress the masses, enslave others.

Just how dissonant do you want to get? What other religion with aspirations to historical potency is as schizophrenic as that?

358lawecon
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 3:37pm Top

~349

">347 lawecon: I'm not denying that some Christians, and particularly some posting a lot on other threads, believe what you attribute to them. But most of the Christian posters on this thread, at least as far as I can see, are not of that ilk. So don't act so surprised when they turn out to be, er, just like any other human being."

And yet, it would seem that some of the posters to this thread, even one very highly educated poster with whom I agree most of the time, believes that there is some sort of "spiritual world" only perceivable through a "spiritual sense" in which the deep and profound insights are ineffiable. So these people aren't, in fact "just like any other human being." They are special people with special insights that are above the rest of the hoi poli.

I'm sorry, but that seems to me just like a more refined version of the tripe that the posters to the Reading Your Bible Through In One Year are dishing out - it is yet another example of "Well, I can't really explain it in a common language, but it is deeply important and something you really should experience." It is? And how convenient that one has the chance to experience "it" by chanting the same beliefs/slogans as the speaker.

359lawecon
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 3:37pm Top

~355

I have taken it up with Tim repeatedly, and he has told me to like it or leave. Incidentally, what do you think of those pretty flags?

360Quixada
Apr 6, 2012, 3:36pm Top

They are cute.

361lawecon
Apr 6, 2012, 3:38pm Top

~359

Exactly my reaction. They are cute and mean zip, since they are wholly unrelated to civilized behavior.

362Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 6, 2012, 3:39pm Top

To the contrary, multiple posters have lost their posting privileges after garnering too many of them. Whilst you may not feel that this correlation indicates much, Tim might beg to differ.

363nathanielcampbell
Apr 6, 2012, 4:07pm Top

>358 lawecon:: While I frequently express theological concepts in the technical language of academic theology--after all, my area of expertise is medieval theology--I don't want you to get the impression that I think my theological training makes me better than hoi poloi. Indeed, the disconnect between the scholastic theologians of the late middle ages and the ideals of the Christian life, lived in and with Christ, was precisely one of the problems that led to, among other things, the Protestant Reformation.

It is especially appropriate that you should use the phrase "hoi poloi" today, as it was hoi poloi who cried out, "Crucify him!" It was hoi poloi he came to save, and hoi poloi who spit on him and mocked him in derision. And in a very real sense--even if it is a reality not measured by science--I am one of hoi poloi who called for him to die for blasphemy, for him to be delivered to shame and spitting. I, too, am a sinner, as are we all. I, too, have done terrible things; I have willingly participated in some of the ugly rhetoric that has filled this thread this week, to my own shame and detriment.

As lawecon can surely attest, the Jews understood themselves to be a "special people", chosen by the One True God to be his people and to dwell in his land--Jerusalem his bride, her daughters the benefits of his dowry. If I claim now to be of a "special people", it is only because the sacrifice we commemorate today was for all people, so that all of humanity is now a special people, chosen by the One True God to be his people forever.

The core message of today is, to draw on jburlinson's posts above, inclusive: Christ's suffering on the Cross has opened up salvation to all who suffer, to all who mourn, to all who are in pain because of the ravages of sin. Yet, as scarring as that sin is--its effects brought home today for Christians as we see Jesus flogged, crowned with thorns, marched to Calvary, and crucified--the deeper truth that we celebrate this weekend is the Love that has made not just salvation possible but which motivates the entirety of creation. I've quoted above Julian of Norwich, and I think I'd like to reiterate her words (I've modernized the spelling):
And from the time that it was showed, I desired oftentimes to wit (know) what was our lord's meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in ghostly (spiritual) understanding, saying thus: "What, wouldst thou wit thy lord's meaning in this thing? Wit it well, love was his meaning. Who showed it thee? Love. What showed he thee? Love. Wherefore showed he it thee? For love. Hold thee therein, thou shalt wit more in the same. But thou shalt never wit therein (any) other without end." Thus was I learned that love is our lord's meaning. And I saw full securely in this and in all, that before God made us he loved us, which love was never slaked, nor never shall (be). And in this love he hath done all his works, and in this love he hath made all things profitable to us. And in this love our life is everlasting. In our making we had beginning, but the love wherein he made us was in him from without beginning, in which love we have our beginning. And all this shall we see in God without end. Deo gracias.
--A Revelation of Love, ch. 86

364Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 6, 2012, 4:10pm Top

was hoi poloi

:)

365fuzzi
Apr 6, 2012, 4:14pm Top

(335) MBW (do you mind if I shorten your name?), I find it hard to believe that people who have felt the love of Christ would act in a hateful manner such as Phelp's crowd does.

Only God knows the state of their souls. If they are indeed 'saved', then they'll have a lot of 'splaining to do when they die. They, along with everyone else, has to face God at judgement time.

Then again, I find it hard to believe that a mother would kill her own child, or sell it, or abuse it. It goes contrary to what we think about motherhood. But, it happens. :(

366timspalding
Apr 6, 2012, 4:17pm Top

makes me better than hoi poloi

The fact that you know hoi is itself the definitive article makes you better. :)

367jburlinson
Apr 6, 2012, 4:21pm Top

hoi vey!

368timspalding
Apr 6, 2012, 4:59pm Top

>367 jburlinson:

Nice. Very nice.

369prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 6:38pm Top

#353: The amazing thing about Christianity is the radical dissonance between its core message/principles with its historical manifestations -- its almost Jekyll & Hyde, Janus-faced quality. The huge gulf between Christianity and Christendom.

I don't see that at all. It's actually an almost exact parallel to Buddhism and any number of small religions. Successful religions that preach things like peace, moderation, charity, etc., etc., if they get large enough, are going to get subverted by the rich and powerful. A friend of a friend mentions that she joined her co-religionists in standing at attention for the founder's white Lincoln, and that became what she later called her "White Lincoln moment", where she juxtaposed that with what the religion was teaching and wondered what the heck she was doing. I think the leaders of most any movement will start to drive "White Lincoln"s at some point; it's human nature.

370MyopicBookworm
Apr 6, 2012, 7:59pm Top

339: What you're asking is whether the universe is "self working" (its the same question no matter if the "rules" are random or lawful or a bit of each) or whether it takes constant attention from from an outside agent as compatibilism claims.

A similar question can be asked about whether the universe is self sustaining, or whether it requires a "ground or all being" to keep it in existence.


I'm not convinced that these options are mutually exclusive. Does light travel by itself, or does it require a spatiotemporal medium in which to move/vibrate? Is that a meaningful distinction?

346:

343 the universe he describes is identical to a materialist one

Er, could that be because we live in the same universe?


Exactly my point.

I have on occasion likened the universe to a glass of water. The materialist looks at it and says "it is half empty"; the non-materialist looks at it and says "it is half full". But it's the same glass of water.

371jburlinson
Apr 6, 2012, 8:04pm Top

> 370. I have on occasion likened the universe to a glass of water. The materialist looks at it and says "it is half empty"; the non-materialist looks at it and says "it is half full".

Another way to put it is that the materialist looks at it and says "nice glass", the non-materialist looks at it and says "nice water."

372Arctic-Stranger
Apr 6, 2012, 9:04pm Top

And the urologist looks at is and says, "yeah, I know where this is going!"

373timspalding
Apr 6, 2012, 9:16pm Top

I tend to think not. The amazing thing about Christianity is the radical dissonance between its core message/principles with its historical manifestations -- its almost Jekyll & Hyde, Janus-faced quality. The huge gulf between Christianity and Christendom.

I think it's worth distinguishing two ways this can be said, and I want to know which you mean. First is the notion that Christ said something very different than what Christians in fact believe. Second is the notion that Christ preached something different from what people practice. The latter is a different sort of thing. Christ did not preach unceasing love of others on the theory that people needed to be informed and then it would be a piece of cake to actually do.

374LolaWalser
Apr 6, 2012, 9:19pm Top

#370, 371

The analogy doesn't work at all. Both the glass and water are there, and both are material.

Now this:

Materialist: Huh, a glass of water.

Non-materialist: A glass of water... and a hot pink swizzlestick!

Materialist: What? What swizzlestick?

Non-materialist: Just believe.

...would be accurate.

375Arctic-Stranger
Apr 6, 2012, 9:22pm Top

Materialist: There is a glass of water.

Non Materialist: Well, then there must be a waiter.

376rrp
Apr 6, 2012, 9:49pm Top

#376

Pragmatist. That glass is bigger that it needs to be.

377johnthefireman
Apr 6, 2012, 9:51pm Top

>369 prosfilaes: standing at attention for the founder's white Lincoln

Reminds me of a Burns Night do I was attending at the British Embassy in Khartoum where I found myself next to someone from the US Embassy. As the haggis was carried in in procession with kilted piper and full ceremony he leaned over to me and whispered, "Jeez, I can't believe this. I'm standing to attention for a sheep's stomach!"

378timspalding
Apr 6, 2012, 10:03pm Top

Materialist: Look, a glass of water.

Non-materialist: Look, a glass of water.

A few materialists: Non-materlist pea-brains are giving water to the KKK!

379modalursine
Apr 6, 2012, 10:25pm Top

As a materialist, of course I think that "atoms and the void" are all you need to explain whatever can be explained at all, and that non-materialism adds unnecessary complications to the picture without really solving anything; so its basically a big mistake.

But I don't find non materialism disturbing or emotionally threatening. If sufficient evidence were to come in, showing that we really do need to consider non material "spirit stuff" to complete our description of the world, well, bring in the spirit stuff, what's the problem?

So I really can't put myself in the opposite state of mind and imagine why materialism has such a negative charge for at least some non materialists.

OK, you think we're missing something. Its just a question of physics, wouldn't the emotional energy be better spent divising a way to test the hypotheses or to demonstrate the need for "spirit stuff" ?

But clearly, there's more than meets the eye going on.

380timspalding
Edited: Apr 6, 2012, 10:43pm Top

>379 modalursine:

One answer to your problem is that non-materialists understand that materialism would rule out God. They like God, so they don't want him ruled out. Ditto an afterlife. More sophisticated ones would add that (they believe) it rules out moral feelings which aren't just opinions, free will, consciousness, transcendent meaning, etc. It's my opinion—disputed by others, to be sure—that materialism cannot adequately explain or discriminate justice and injustice, right and wrong, helping children and torturing them, and therefore undermines important things. That matters.

Its just a question of physics, wouldn't the emotional energy be better spent divising a way to test the hypotheses

I think part of the point here is that non-materialists do not—or at least do not all—believe that "spirit stuff" is necessary for physics. That is, there isn't a missing element. The clock works just fine, so the question is whether there are truths outside of the clock. Maybe those truths involve occasional changes to the clock, explain who made the clock or how it's running, but the clock-ish data is sufficient for mere clock-ish-ness.

381tomcatMurr
Apr 6, 2012, 11:18pm Top

>226 nathanielcampbell:
please say in what sutra it is mentioned that Buddha says there are spiritual senses.

382modalursine
Apr 6, 2012, 11:18pm Top

p 380

Wouldn't we think that those among the non materialist camp who are sufficiently sophisticated and self aware to recognize that they resist the thesis because they emotionally reject what they suspect are its logical consequences would also be sophisticated enough
to put their emotional reactions aside and just follow the evidence wherever it leads?

OK, its human nature to reject grounds for believing something we didn't want to believe in the first place.

But:
"Nature, Mr Allnut is what we were put in this world to rise above"

Does one really think or fear that if materialism were true that we would all be orders of magnitude nastier than we are now?

Or does one think or fear that if we all "Believed" materialism to be true, (whether it is or not) that we would all be nastier than we are now?

A question of "physics"
Perhaps I'm using the term eccentrically, but by physics, I mean the study of "all of whatever it is that there is"

If there are gods and/or "spirit stuff" active in our universe, we would be missing an important part of "everything there is" by leaving that out. Contrarywise, if we can leave out spirit stuff and not miss anything, then there wasn't anything to miss in the first place.

If there's a way to get out of "everything there is" into some new or different place
(and for things there to get at or influence things here), then why isn't that new and different place also part of "everything there is" ? It would seem that talking about places "outside of physics" is probably not a coherent concept. If this "other place" is totally unreachable in either direction, it might as well be fictional.

But if it is reachable, then its part of everything that is. I don't think we can have it both ways.

Either way, we either need spirit stuff for "physics" or we don't, and if we don't, well, we don't.

383tomcatMurr
Edited: Apr 7, 2012, 12:09pm Top

Buddhist: It's not a glass of water, it's an illusion created by your sense perception. Om.

Hindu: (2 million words of epic story telling, and the glass of water is drunk by the story teller)

Taoist: Whatever.

Muslim: You can have the glass of water (and 72 virgins) only if you carry out Jihad against all American Western Imperialist infidels.

Jewish: 2000 years I've been waiting already for this glass of water, and is it kosher? Oi Vey, my life!

Christian: You can have the glass of water only if you're good.

Catholic: You can have the glass of water only if you suck my dick, little boy.

Protestant: It's not a glass of water unless the Bible says it's a glass of water.

American TV Evangelist: Please send checks to: Jesus, P.O. Box 666 Illinois. All donations are tax deductable. What glass of water?

Anglican: Would you like a cucumber sandwich with your water?

Atheist: Oh heck not this shit again.

Agnostic: umm, er.. right, yes,... erm.

384Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 7, 2012, 6:13am Top

That's not quite the way I remember that particular t-shirt, but...

385LolaWalser
Apr 7, 2012, 10:12am Top

Where's my swizzlestick?

386timspalding
Edited: Apr 7, 2012, 2:38pm Top

Wouldn't we think that those among the non materialist camp who are sufficiently sophisticated and self aware to recognize that they resist the thesis because they emotionally reject what they suspect are its logical consequences would also be sophisticated enough to put their emotional reactions aside and just follow the evidence wherever it leads?

I wouldn't think that. Nor would I suspect the other side was any better. Most people don't switch their core opinions easily. I'm not even sure that's bad.

Perhaps I'm using the term eccentrically, but by physics, I mean the study of "all of whatever it is that there is"

Beg the question much? ;)

If there's a way to get out of "everything there is" into some new or different place
(and for things there to get at or influence things here), then why isn't that new and different place also part of "everything there is" ? It would seem that talking about places "outside of physics" is probably not a coherent concept. If this "other place" is totally unreachable in either direction, it might as well be fictional.


If you think about it, you'll realize that reachability in one direction—from material to spiritual—presents no problems. In the context of the philosophy of the mind, that's epiphenomenalism (see Stanford Encyclopedia). In this view, the true mind experiences but it does not affect material reality. We think therefore we are, but it doesn't make a bit of difference. However, your point is well taken. If dualists aren't to be ephiphenomenalists the two realms must affect each other. But how?

There's all sorts of arguments here, of course. However, by one view, minds are only things with a corresponding and interacting non-material existence. Thus, one could smash atoms together or mix chemicals in dishes until the cows come home and you'd never see the material and non-material interacting, let alone explain it. You'd need to involve a consciousness somehow. This is why non-materialists are so intrigued by the various observer effects in quantum mechanics.

387Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 7, 2012, 3:29pm Top

Perhaps I'm using the term eccentrically, but by physics, I mean the study of "all of whatever it is that there is"

Beg the question much? ;)


Well, one could argue that God, or ghosts, should they exist, are just as natural as Doritos, a tree, or polystyrene.

388timspalding
Apr 7, 2012, 5:52pm Top

>387 Jesse_wiedinmyer:

Maybe so, but if they were material in the sense that they are wholly subject either to unwavering causality or true randomness something would be missing.

In other words, one might make a cuckoo clock in which cute figures comes out every hour and hit each other on the head. One might make the figures cock their head to the side as if they were thinking about their action. And one might also have a large, bearded figure come out who shakes his finger at them. But they wouldn't be people, they wouldn't have a conscience, and he wouldn't be God.

389Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 7, 2012, 5:55pm Top

but if they were material in the sense that they are wholly subject either to unwavering causality or true randomness something would be missing.

Instead, they're missing in the sense that they're immaterial.

390Arctic-Stranger
Apr 7, 2012, 6:21pm Top

Immaterial as in immaterial witnesses, or just immaterial?

391EmScape
Apr 11, 2012, 4:07pm Top

"...materialism cannot adequately explain or discriminate justice and injustice, right and wrong, helping children and torturing them, and therefore undermines important things."

As a material human being, I am capable of contemplating performing an action, asking myself whether I would like for that action to be performed towards me, and then basing my decision about whether to perform that action on the applicable answers.
I don't know that there is a need for a further moral compass than that. If one needs religion to spell out all the do's and don'ts, what does that say about one's cognitive abilities?

392MyopicBookworm
Apr 11, 2012, 5:02pm Top

Hm. It's not a comprehensive method. I wouldn't like someone else to pick up my feet and wipe my behind, but I feel obliged to do it for my son. Some people (I am told) like being stripped naked and whipped, but I wouldn't like to be on the receiving end if they were using that as their moral guideline for social interaction.

393steve.clason
Apr 11, 2012, 5:11pm Top

391> "asking myself whether I would like for that action to be performed towards me"

That looks suspiciously like a non-material moral criterion. Maybe better for the sake of consistency if you ask yourself if performing the action leaves you materially better off. Personally, I don't care if you're consistent, but the quality seems to be important around here.

394nathanielcampbell
Apr 11, 2012, 5:47pm Top

>391 EmScape:: "I don't know that there is a need for a further moral compass than that. "

How well did that moral compass work for all the folks who ran the concentration camps?

395Arctic-Stranger
Apr 11, 2012, 5:58pm Top

> 391

I am actually pretty amenable to that position (Kant's categorical imperative), however that is a pretty thin standard. John Rawls plays it out in wonderful form in A Theory of Justice, and there are others who give Kant his due, but all recognize that is a STARTING POINT, not the end point.

For example, I would never want to listen to Barry Manilow--or Air Supply. Am I justified in protecting The Redhead from BM and AS by destroying her CDS? I would want mine destroyed, were I to own them, and Yes, they are HERS, not mine, and I don't find it cute at all when she plays them at 3:00 am with her friends in a drunken sing-a-long!

396prosfilaes
Apr 11, 2012, 8:31pm Top

#394: How well did that moral compass work for all the folks who ran the concentration camps?

We don't know; most of them were Christian. Now that you've successfully Godwin'ed the thread...

#395: I would want mine destroyed, were I to own them

No, you wouldn't. If you actually owned the CDs and didn't get rid of them and didn't express a desire to get rid of them, you wouldn't want them destroyed.

397Arctic-Stranger
Apr 11, 2012, 8:51pm Top

I have so many CDs, I am not sure what I own, to be perfectly honest. So I stand by my original statement, and further, I don't want to tell other people what they really want.

398fuzzi
Apr 12, 2012, 7:56am Top

(396) "#394: How well did that moral compass work for all the folks who ran the concentration camps?

We don't know; most of them were Christian. Now that you've successfully Godwin'ed the thread..."


And so we're back on the topic of "What is a Christian?"

I seriously doubt that people who committed atrocities of that nature could truly be Christian, in the sense of following the teachings of Jesus Christ.

Just because someone says they are "Christian" doesn't mean they are.

By their fruits, by what they do, we know them for what they are:

"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:20-23

399modalursine
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 9:00am Top

ref 398
I can certainly understand how it is that when people are motivated to do good or avoid evil by virtue of their commitment to a body of truths (or so they perceive themselves), that they find it hard to believe that others who profess that same commitment aren't similarly motivated, and similarly successful.

The world is sufficiently cruel, that on those occasions when we get to measure such things more or less objectively, it turns out that "it just ain't so". Those who assent to this or that doctrine or set of doctrines turn out to be statistically similar to those who do not in terms of
their behavior of doing good and avoiding evil, or vice versa.

That leads us to the next seemingly logical but false step. Its called the "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

No true Scotsman can dishonor the haggis. But MacGregor over there, he says that he'ld rather go the dentist than be served haggis. Well, then he's no true Scotsman, he.

The "No True Scotsman" argument is "easy to think", but its a rookie mistake.

400nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 10:13am Top

>394 nathanielcampbell: and 396: I apologize for offering a statement that was more rhetorical flourish than substantial argument.

I agree far more with Arctic's analysis in 395. I went through a phase in college (approximately the semester in which the humanities curriculum read Kant) when I was gung-ho for the Categorical Imperative. I even thought I'd found a way out of the lying-where-you-store-the-gun paradox (i.e. a man comes to you in a murderous rage demanding to know where your gun is so that he can kill his neighbor/wife/etc.; is it still immoral, under the Categorical Imperative, to lie?) -- namely, that you tell the truth and then do everything in your power to prevent the would-be murderer from actually getting to the gun.

But then I spent some time living in the real world and realized that Machiavelli was right, at least as an observer of the realities of human nature, rather than its higher-minded theories of itself. No matter what lip service we pay to respecting those who are virtuous and kind and honest, in the final resort, most humans will sooner betray the virtuous man for their own selfish ends than sacrifice their own happiness to preserve the honor of another.

"No greater love hath man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Oddly, most of us are far more virtuous and loving in the life-and-death situation where we are faced with choosing to die for another. The more quotidian scenario, where we are asked to sacrifice routine material comfort for the good of others (think paying higher taxes instead of cutting Head Start and Medicaid), we prove ourselves far more selfish. The better psychological conclusion is, perhaps, that we are far more willing to be virtuously sacrificial in moments that are intensely personal than when the sacrifice is spread out across society.

But I'm rambling from the subject. To come back to it:

I could easily agree that some form of the so-called "Golden Rule" makes an excellent start to a moral compass. The problem is that it is hardly a complete moral program and lacks a crucial feature: a motivator for those times when we simply don't want to live up to its standard.

401jburlinson
Apr 12, 2012, 1:37pm Top

> 398. Just because someone says they are "Christian" doesn't mean they are.

By their fruits, by what they do, we know them for what they are:

"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:20-23


Sounds to me like Jesus is demanding "good works". And yet, on the "reading the Bible in a year" thread, we've been bombarded with scripture and interpretation that says "good works" are irrelevant to salvation.

Contradiction or ambiguity? Or both?

402Jesse_wiedinmyer
Apr 12, 2012, 1:41pm Top

. Am I justified in protecting The Redhead from BM and AS by destroying her CDS? I would want mine destroyed, were I to own them, and Yes, they are HERS, not mine, and I don't find it cute at all when she plays them at 3:00 am with her friends in a drunken sing-a-long!

Oddly enough, I believe that C.S. Lewis uses just that argument to support intervention in Mere Christianity.

403Arctic-Stranger
Apr 12, 2012, 1:50pm Top

Well, if I did destroy those CDs, there would be hell to pay. She does not listen to them often, but when a certain friend comes over, and there is alcohol involved, I am better off finding another place to stay for the night.

I am planning an Air Supply Addiction intervention, but every time I try she starts singing the damn songs, and my co-conspirators join in with her.

On a more serious note, if it were cocaine, I would destroy it in a heartbeat.

But getting back to Kant. My favorite version comes from Rawls, who basically says;

What social station of life you were born in is a craps shoot. You could be born into intense poverty or luxurious wealth.

Given the categorical imperative, and given the randomness of life, we should to build a society such that we would not mind being born into the lowest station of that society.

404nathanielcampbell
Edited: Apr 12, 2012, 1:53pm Top

>401 jburlinson:: Why do you think Christians--from Augustine and Pelagius to Martin Luther and John Calvin and beyond--have spent so much time arguing the nuances of grace, free will, faith, and works?

(Not, of course, that any of the highly articulate arguments and answers proposed by such great thinkers would matter a whit to evangelical Christians today...)

405johnthefireman
Apr 12, 2012, 2:22pm Top

>404 nathanielcampbell: I'm afraid they are mere men. They might not even have been Christians, since they almost certainly weren't "born again" and "saved". And it's considered very unlikely that any of them were actually inspired by God in their understanding of the clarity of the bible. Why, many of them didn't even have the benefit of reading the KJV in English.

406nathanielcampbell
Apr 12, 2012, 2:56pm Top

>405 johnthefireman:: Actually, John, none of the theologians I mentioned had the benefit of the KJV, since they were all dead by 1611. It's really too bad that for the first 3/4 of the history of Christianity, nobody had a clue as to what God was saying, since the KJV hadn't been published yet.*

*Okay, so I'll be a little more gracious and point out that much of the KJV is based on William Tyndale's translation from the 1520's, so Luther and Calvin could theoretically have accessed it. Augustine, however, will have to remain amongst the damned (virtuous pagan, maybe? or at least?) Oh, but wait, Luther and Calvin didn't read English! Sorry guys! Reading the New Testament in the original Greek doesn't cut it around here.

407lawecon
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 12:24am Top

~396

"#394: How well did that moral compass work for all the folks who ran the concentration camps?

We don't know; most of them were Christian. Now that you've successfully Godwin'ed the thread..."

I am curious about how many people think that this is a good argument? Is it always wrongheaded, biasing, etc. to mention Nazis? Were there no Nazis? Did they not have views that were probably to some extent connected with what they did? Are all mentions of those views and such a connection a bad thing in a discussion?

Just wondering (since I get really tired of people who don't know the answers to most of those questions, and could care less that they don't know, perpetually bringing up "Godwin's Law.")

408johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 1:11am Top

>407 lawecon: For once I agree with lawecon. I may be wrong but my picture is that this comes from the earlier days of the internet when it was populated by a much smaller number of internet-savvy types who thought it was very clever of themselves to make up such laws and then laugh at any of the non-initiated who committed a social gaffe; a bit like the country bumpkin who used the wrong fork at a banquet. But Hitler and Nazism are a part of our recent history, are relevant to a lot of conversations, and provide a salutary example which is worth bringing up from time to time.

If someone says, "Your reference to Hitler in this post is irrelevant because...", just as they might say, "Your reference to Einstein/Obama/the flying soup dragon in this post is irrelevant because...", fine. If someone cackles with glee and shouts, "Godwin's Law!", I just roll my eyes and think, "Sad".

409prosfilaes
Apr 13, 2012, 5:38am Top

#408: There's a pattern; an argument, say about D&D 3 versus D&D 4 will start, and it will escalate, and sooner or later Nazis will come up; e.g. Hasbro is all a bunch of Nazis! This is a sign that the person who wrote that needs to put the keyboard down and step away from the computer, as it is clearly beyond any meaningful comparison.

You'll say that we could say "Your reference to Hitler in this post is irrelevant because"; I think in many cases, by the time it's escalated to that point, they're not up for rational discussion of "because", but they'll still respond to Godwin's law. Sometimes the threat of Godwin's law is enough to make a person stop and use a less hyperbolic comparion. There's not other comparison, at least in Anglo-American English discussion, that so frequently comes up, is so frequently pure hyperbole and so reliably generates more heat then light.

I like bright-line rules. I think a bright-line rule that the Nazis are out of line can help moderate a discussion; it's helped me pull back a couple times when I was starting to get too hyperbolic. And it help keep a conversation from getting completely out of control; instead of the other side heatedly responding to the accusation of Naziism being tossed at them, they recognize that the other person has stepped out of lines, and there's no need to continue the argument.

410johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 6:07am Top

>409 prosfilaes: I see your point, and clearly it is out of order when someone just refers to his opponents as Nazis. But I think the point is that Nazism is frequently a legitimate topic of conversation.

Sometimes the threat of Godwin's law is enough to make a person stop

I think you must be talking about a real clique here. The first few times I saw "Godwin's Law" I had no idea what it meant, until someone elaborated later. Certainly if I thought I had evoked Nazism as a legitimate part of a topic, an "in" slogan from someone who knows what D&D means is unlikely to make me stop.

411prosfilaes
Edited: Apr 13, 2012, 7:19am Top

#410: I think the point is that Nazism is frequently a legitimate topic of conversation.

Nine times out of ten it's not remotely a legitimate topic of conversation. Nine times out of ten for what's left, does the world really need another discussion of the Nazis and religion (or gun control, or vegetarianism) and if so, is the best way to have it is to drag it into another ongoing discussion in a black and white manner? (E.g. I don't know how to have a discussion about the Nazis and gun control without gun control advocates feeling like they're be called Nazis, but I'm pretty sure "you want to take our guns just like the Nazis did!" is not it. And once one side feels they've called Nazis, the odds of successful communication is pretty low.)

Godwin's law as originally formulated is simply the observation that "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Regardless of topics or scope. Few use it as a criticism of serious discussion of the Nazis, but when it does come up in a random thread, it's a good sign that things are getting overheated. If the spark catches flame, nothing more productive will come from the thread.

412johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 7:15am Top

>411 prosfilaes: Still looks like a pointless "in joke" to me. If a reference to Nazism is inappropriate, respond to it as such. If not, respond to it on topic.

413steve.clason
Apr 13, 2012, 9:42am Top

412> "Still looks like a pointless "in joke" to me."

Jokes aren't pointless, and I thought it was subtly done and funny. So, carry on.

414johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 9:45am Top

>413 steve.clason: Some jokes are pointless, some aren't. "In" jokes are meaningful to some, but pointless to those who are not "in".

415lawecon
Apr 13, 2012, 9:47am Top

Well, it is not much of an "in joke," but it is an effective barrier to learning anything about an important episode in modern history.

The excuse that "9 times out of 10" it is an inappropriate reference should simply motivate people to learn the difference between an appropriate and an inappropriate reference. But all it apparently does is motivates those who throw around "Godwin's Law" to be rabid in their ignorance concerning what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

Of course, if these discussions ran in terms of evidence and logical argument none of this would be a problem, but that is also, apparently, too much to expect.

416nathanielcampbell
Apr 13, 2012, 9:53am Top

1. I, too, had to look up "Godwin's Law" on Wiki to find out what it was. An in-joke indeed (Wikipedia states right from the start that it was a joke).

2. The reference to Nazi's (which was actually oblique; concentration camps have been a feature of quite a few totalitarian regimes of the past century, including for a time, Roosevelt's "internment" camps) was raised in the context of a discussion of the origins and applications of human moral standards, not a discussion of DVD region types.

If the complicity of the majority of a country's population in mass genocide isn't an appropriate issue in discussing the origins and applications of human moral standards, then what is? Or do the Nazi's get a pass from discussions of human morality and evil?

(I'll note, by the way, that the discussion of moral standards on this thread was running simultaneously and with some of the same actors as the "God is nebbish" thread, which was explicitly and from the start about the Holocaust. So at least nobody called Godwin's Law there.)

417johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 10:29am Top

>416 nathanielcampbell: concentration camps have been a feature of quite a few totalitarian regimes

It's often said that the modern concentration camp was invented by the British during the Anglo-Boer war in South Africa at the turn of the 20th century.

418MyopicBookworm
Apr 13, 2012, 11:38am Top

It's often said, but I don't think it's true. The Spanish had used them in Cuba slightly earlier. The Boer camps just prompted the use of the term in English.

419nathanielcampbell
Apr 13, 2012, 11:51am Top

So then, if I mention Spanish concentration camps in Cuba rather than the Nazi's, am I spared the violation of an Internet meme?

420johnthefireman
Apr 13, 2012, 12:02pm Top

>419 nathanielcampbell: Haven't you just violated Gonzalez's Law? If you had mentioned the South African ones it would probably have been Van Der Merwe's Law.

421Arctic-Stranger
Apr 13, 2012, 3:56pm Top

Just don't mention the WAR!

422lawecon
Apr 13, 2012, 4:19pm Top

This theme is totally off topic, so I will shut up on this theme after this post - but just one more point.

The Nazis are "relevant" some of the time not because of concentration camps or genocide - both of which many other people in other times did equally as well - but because they took over and completely remade an advanced modern European nation. Stalin didn't do that - Russia was always a feudalistic underdeveloped backwash and became more so under Lenin. Mussolini didn't do that - his "fascism" has some interesting institutional features, but he really didn't change Italian society all that much until the Nazis started to take over from him. Only Hitler and his Party were responsible for this "achievement".

One would think that this fact alone would make the Nazis of some interest to those whose countries are European or European-derived, but apparently not so for many librarything "regulars." It is amusing and ironic that the person who has spoken out most forcefully against Godwin's Law in this thread is African.

423prosfilaes
Apr 13, 2012, 5:18pm Top

#416: The reference to Nazi's (which was actually oblique; concentration camps have been a feature of quite a few totalitarian regimes of the past century, including for a time, Roosevelt's "internment" camps) was raised in the context of a discussion of the origins and applications of human moral standards, not a discussion of DVD region types.

"The concentration camps" is perfectly clear in English, and Roosevelt's camps don't help your argument one bit.

If the complicity of the majority of a country's population in mass genocide isn't an appropriate issue in discussing the origins and applications of human moral standards, then what is?

I classified this in #411 as part of the 90-99% cases. If you want to start a discussion on the impact of various religions and philosophies on the Nazis? Go ahead. You want to drop it in response to someone advocating the use of the pure Golden Rule as a moral guide to life? That's pure fucking bullshit. It's that type of worthless crap, the attaching of the Nazis to your opponent whether or not it has anything to with reality, that the modern use of Godwin's law is designed to stop. And it stops people from writing these angry, justifiably pissed off, responses to people who toss out Nazi at their enemies and then want to act like it was a serious argument.

(I'll note, by the way, that the discussion of moral standards on this thread was running simultaneously and with some of the same actors as the "God is nebbish" thread, which was explicitly and from the start about the Holocaust. So at least nobody called Godwin's Law there.)

Yeah, because that's a serious discussion.

424nathanielcampbell
Apr 13, 2012, 7:35pm Top

>423 prosfilaes:: "the modern use of Godwin's law is designed to stop

That's quite the ambitious claim for an Internet meme that started as a semi-joke and was unknown to most of the folks in this thread until all of us looked it up.

"it stops people from writing these angry, justifiably pissed off, responses to people who toss out Nazi at their enemies and then want to act like it was a serious argument."

Except that's not what I was doing. I wasn't pissed off or responding to an enemy; I was trying to explore the limits of EmScape's proposed standard of moral behavior.

But apparently (as lawecon notes 422), some internet meme none of us had heard of makes the use of extreme human behavior to sketch out the limits and problems with moral systems disallowed.

425timspalding
Apr 13, 2012, 8:46pm Top

The Nazis are "relevant" some of the time not because of concentration camps or genocide - both of which many other people in other times did equally as well - but because they took over and completely remade an advanced modern European nation. Stalin didn't do that - Russia was always a feudalistic underdeveloped backwash and became more so under Lenin. Mussolini didn't do that - his "fascism" has some interesting institutional features, but he really didn't change Italian society all that much until the Nazis started to take over from him. Only Hitler and his Party were responsible for this "achievement".

I think this is well put. I'd quibble a bit on Russia. Russia… well, Russia was on its way. The Communists liked to denigrate its progress in order to make their acheivement the more impressive, and this notion was picked up by the west who didn't know better. But, all-in-all this is well put.

426timspalding
Apr 13, 2012, 8:49pm Top

FWIW, Godwin's Rule isn't a new idea. Leo Strauss referred to the "reductio ad Hitlerum" long before the internet. It's not quite the same thing, but it's close enough in the underlying usage of Hitler as an easy ne plus ultra.

427prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 12:26am Top

#424: I was trying to explore the limits of EmScape's proposed standard of moral behavior.

Bull. You dropped the biggest rhetorical bomb out there on EmScape's standard, despite it having no relevance. They said "I am capable of contemplating performing an action, asking myself whether I would like for that action to be performed towards me, and then basing my decision about whether to perform that action on the applicable answers." What the hell does that have to do with the Nazis? In their wave of nationalistic, racist and Christian rhetoric, I don't think they ever said "we're doing this because this is what the Jews or the Poles or the French would like done to them"; in fact, that's is in some way the reverse of the nationalism the Nazis promoted.

If you're looking for this type of thing, you could look at the history of slavery and later racism in the United States; it took me about 30 seconds with Google Books to find justifications of slavery using the Golden Rule (the one that really surprised me was that this one was written in 2003.) I'm sure you could find similar rhetoric for colonialism. I'm sure with a little thought and a little digging, we could find the Golden Rule being used to justify any number of things. But instead of doing that, you lobbed the Nazis into the conversation.

#422: The Nazis are "relevant" some of the time not because of concentration camps or genocide ... but because they took over and completely remade an advanced modern European nation....

One would think that this fact alone would make the Nazis of some interest to those whose countries are European or European-derived


I find that line of reasoning to make the Nazis of less interest. It says that Germany was "remade" by the Nazis, that everything Nazi Germany did was purely the Nazi's fault, and that all we have to do to avoid that is make sure the Nazis don't take power. It seems like an attempt to dismiss the banality of evil thing; it says that WWII and the Holocaust happened because of Nazis, not because Germans tried to blame the loss in WWI on the Jews before the war was even over (Judenzählung) and not because Germany had had dreams of Empire since Bismarck, led on by the examples of the nations around them.

428lawecon
Apr 14, 2012, 1:03pm Top

~427

"I find that line of reasoning to make the Nazis of less interest. It says that Germany was "remade" by the Nazis, that everything Nazi Germany did was purely the Nazi's fault, and that all we have to do to avoid that is make sure the Nazis don't take power. It seems like an attempt to dismiss the banality of evil thing; it says that WWII and the Holocaust happened because of Nazis, not because Germans tried to blame the loss in WWI on the Jews before the war was even over (Judenzählung) and not because Germany had had dreams of Empire since Bismarck, led on by the examples of the nations around them."

I think you are engaged in excessive nationalistic "group think". "The Germans" didn't do anything, any more than "The Jews" do anything, because there are no such unitary entities with Group Minds. There were many such groups contending for power and cultural influence in post WWI pre-Nazi Germany. After several years of Nazi Germany there were no such contending groups. There was only the Will of the Party.

There are many studies of such matters, but for a start I would recommend Hitler's Pope which argues in part that Hitler would have never gained and then never consolidated power if a certain Church lawyer had not sold out German Catholicism and The Pity of It All which shows just how chaotic German politics was after WWI.

429prosfilaes
Apr 14, 2012, 5:57pm Top

#428: "The Germans" didn't do anything, any more than "The Jews" do anything, because there are no such unitary entities with Group Minds. There were many such groups contending for power and cultural influence in post WWI pre-Nazi Germany. After several years of Nazi Germany there were no such contending groups.

I agree with your first sentence; I agree with your second sentence; I don't have detailed knowledge of your third. Together I find them ludicrous. The Germans don't have a group mind, but neither does the Boy Scouts or Boy Scout Troop #119. If you're speaking about groups collectively, the Germans is a workable group as much as any other group. Individually, each person has a mind, and most of the people in the Nazi era were acting adults in the pre-Nazi era.

And again, "remade" ignores that the Germans were buying what Hitler was selling. When Hitler took power, the anti-democracy parties in Germany had a slight majority of the vote, split between the Nazis and the Communists. Hitler focused hatred on probably the one group that was big enough to blame for everything and that the Germans were willing to accept the blame being put upon.

"Remade" is certainly one part of the big picture. But I find it a dangerous one to put too much emphasis on, because it denies the agency of individual Germans and ignores how much Hitler worked with what he had.

430lawecon
Edited: Apr 14, 2012, 11:19pm Top

The Pity of It All, which I just recommended in support of my view, is a history of German antisemitism from Moses Mendelssohn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moses_Mendelssohn to the eve of the Third Reich. (Moses Mendelssohn is usually credited or blamed for the Jewish Enlightenment, that allowed Jews to integrate with German society.)

You wouldn't like this book, since it is written by a Zionist who holds "The Jews" at least partially responsible for what happened. After all, if "they" had not tried to integrate into German culture there never would have been a reaction against them.

Having taken that, in my opinion silly, position, the author still does not blame "The Germans" for Hitler. Hitler may have "worked with what he had," but what he had was a society that was in total economic, political and social collapse, a society that he did "rework." I would suggest that you read the quite detailed accounts of how he and his Party did that, it is quite fascinating.

Germany, of course, had a history, but its history had lead into the dead end of complete failure, after the near term glories of being the principal economic power in Europe, spawning most of the leading intellectuals in Europe for a hundred years, and having its people promised political dominance of Europe. As I said above, even that society had many opposing forces remaining in it after the collapse, as well as traditional hatreds, the problem was that the opposing forces all surrendered to Hitler and his Party early in the game. He didn't even have to crush the principal of these, they were "stabbed in the back" by their own leadership, which, sadly for the Nazi thesis, were not Jews.

But I am surprised, given your knowledge of "Black history," that you would take this position. Blacks in the Americas were always in a worse position than Jews ever were in Eastern and Central Europe. Blacks did not come voluntarily to the Americas, they "started out" as slaves, not just segregated outsiders, but SLAVES. They were hated and "kept down" in the United States, after they were nominally freed in the 19th Century. They could not assimilate (except in exceptional cases) despite biting comedy fantasies such as A Biography of an Ex-Colored Man. The United States even engaged in wars of imperialism - both internally and externally - to put nonWhite people "in their rightful place." But the larger US did not become totalitarian and the Blacks were not exterminated.

Why the difference? I can think of only one reason, if one gives up the racist notion of The Germans, whose culture was somehow intrinsically worse than all other peoples.

431prosfilaes
Apr 15, 2012, 7:30am Top

the larger US did not become totalitarian and the Blacks were not exterminated.

Why the difference? I can think of only one reason,


I don't even see the questions as related. To some extent, the fact that the US didn't become totalitarian in the 30s is an accident of history; it could have been Huey P. Long up there instead of FDR. But again, in Germany, the voters were voting for anti-democratic parties; in last two free elections before the Nazis took over, the Nazis and the Communists combined took 55% of the vote in July 1932 and 51% in November 1932. In the US, at no point has any major party in the US been openly anti-democratic; in 1932 the percent of votes that went to Communists in the US presidential election was 1/100th that of Germany. I haven't searched exhaustively, but that was the high point of the Communist Party USA. Maybe totalitarians could have taken over, but subtly and preserving the trappings of American democracy, not quickly and overtly like the Nazis did.

And why on Earth would black people be exterminated? Racists labeled them as naturally servitor race, and even if we had had lost WWI, blaming it on them would have just ascribed them power. Many Americans believed in segregation, and believed that the blacks would be a servitor race forever; you don't kill your sharecroppers!

In any case, the Native American was virtually exterminated; they were done to 250,000 in 1920. The fact that their destruction was over a longer period of time and can not be blamed on any one man or party is a great comfort to them, I'm sure.

one gives up the racist notion of The Germans, whose culture was somehow intrinsically worse than all other peoples.

Err, weren't we just talking about how the Nazis "took over and completely remade an advanced modern European nation"? You can't have it both ways; if considering their culture as intrinsically better then less advanced non-European nations is not racist, then neither is considering their culture intrinsically worse. In any case, I never claimed their culture was intrinsically worse then all other peoples; I said that when the Nazis took over, the majority of German voters voted for anti-democratic groups, and that Germany had a history of anti-Semitic activity, and both those facts enabled the Nazis to do what they did.

432lawecon
Apr 15, 2012, 10:35am Top

"You can't have it both ways; if considering their culture as intrinsically better then less advanced non-European nations is not racist, then neither is considering their culture intrinsically worse."

Apparently we are having trouble communicating. What I said was that they were the leading economic power in Europe from about the mid 19th Century through the first WWI and they intellectually dominated Europe. That is not saying a thing about a culture being "better" it is citing well established facts. Look them up if you don't believe me.

Usually I end the discussion when we get to the part of the game where the other guy starts misrepresenting what I've said and himself says "I never said," but in this case, compare and contrast:

"In any case, I never claimed their culture was intrinsically worse then all other peoples"

"It says that Germany was "remade" by the Nazis, that everything Nazi Germany did was purely the Nazi's fault, and that all we have to do to avoid that is make sure the Nazis don't take power. It seems like an attempt to dismiss the banality of evil thing; it says that WWII and the Holocaust happened because of Nazis, not because Germans tried to blame the loss in WWI on the Jews before the war was even over (Judenzählung) and not because Germany had had dreams of Empire since Bismarck, led on by the examples of the nations around them."

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