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View Diary: Atheist Digest '10: Debunking Dogmas, Part I: Creationism (211 comments)

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  •  A comment on the poll (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SciMathGuy, Blue Republican, Joieau

    Some Christians, such as myself, find offensive the idea that God is "personal". That is a construct of certain fundamentalists and evangelicals (there is a difference, by the way). For those of us in the "small c catholic" traditions, God is NOT personal and Jesus certainly is not.

    Some of us more rational folk would prefer, to borrow a Masonic construct, "Grand Architect of the Universe" and then stand back and don't pretend to understand the mind of God. Nor, for that matter, pretend that we can speak to her personally.

    "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

    by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 09:44:46 AM PDT

    •  Ugh. (0+ / 0-)

      Some Christians, such as myself, find offensive the idea that God is "personal". That is a construct of certain fundamentalists and evangelicals....

      What self-indulgent nonsense.

      BILLIONS of people on this planet (including nearly SEVENTY PERCENT of Americans) believe in a personal God. Dismissing that overwhelming mass of humanity as "certain fundamentalists and evangelicals" is severely dishonest.

      We who do not believe in gods have to deal with a very large number of people who do believe in them—including a huge number who apparently hold religious beliefs that you consider to be gauchely beneath you. You clearly prefer to deal with this reality by turning up your superior nose and pretending it's not there, but we who are confronted with these enormously popular ideas all the time are in no position to behave likewise.

      Belief in a personal God is overwhelmingly widespread. The pretense that it's some kind of niche silliness is just absurd. No legitimate defense of religion can be so fundamentally dishonest about the phenomenon being defended.

      •  I think there is a semantic impass here. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wilderness voice, commonmass, Joieau

        From my personal definition of "personal God," and yours, you are absolutely correct.  I'm not sure that everyone agrees on that definition, however.  Just as I would hope a theist would defer to my definition of "Atheism," I will give the comment the benefit of the doubt that there is just a misunderstanding about how the term "personal God" is defined.  by looking at the way the poll title is phrased, it looks as though the word "personal" is used in the context of asking about the god you 'personally' identify with.  I'm not sure how that concept is being perceived, but it would appear to incite a different idea than my idea of a personal God as an entity that can or does intervene in our lives.  Perhaps we'll get a more clear picture of that in the diary.  If Commonmass doesn't believe in that kind of a "personal God" then it sounds like he/she is more of a deist than a Christian by today's standards.  Again, there's no accounting for semantic differences sometimes.  Some people think I'm "agnostic," others think I'm "anti-theist."  I prefer to explain what Atheism means to me, and others whom with I've spoken in depth on the subject.

        "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

        by XNeeOhCon on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 01:47:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RandomActsOfReason, XNeeOhCon

          I remain unconvinced. The assertion isn't just that personal God-ism is held by a small number of people; it's also that personal God-ism is "a construct of certain fundamentalists and evangelicals."

          Which fundamentalists and evangelicals, one wonders, believe in a conception of "personal God" that mainstream Protestants and Catholics don't?

          •  I'll give you that. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            commonmass

            When put in relief against that assertion it seems to leave less room for word play.  I just wonder if the term means to him/her "a God just for me" or a God you personally communicate with, or something along those lines.  If that is the case I could see it only applying to a small subset of fundy or evangelical theists.  It's hard to see how one gets that idea from the poll title though. hmmm.

            "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

            by XNeeOhCon on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:03:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Please allow me to clarify here: (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              XNeeOhCon, Joieau

              What I meant by "personal God" has more to do with the evangelical idea the, for instance, Jesus died for you, personally, and there is some distinct, personal relationship with him as well as with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

              Roman Catholic, Anglican and other mainstream Christian sects' dogma reject this notion out of hand, though some individuals in those churches do not. Which is perhaps why the "seventy percent" mentioned above.

              I was talking from a theological, not practical standpoint. Hope that clarifies a bit.

              "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

              by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:09:24 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Okay. That's kinda what I thought you were going (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                commonmass, Joieau

                with.  I'm pretty sure the diarist wasn't implying that type of "personal God" with the poll question though.  It is amazing how much misunderstanding can come from slightly different perceptions of what a word or phrase means.  We've had literally hundreds of comments in previous AD diaries just about the prefix 'a' and what it means to plop it onto the front of the word 'theist.'  Language is fun isn't it?  

                "Religion allows people by the millions to believe things, that only a crazy person could believe on their own." -Sam Harris

                by XNeeOhCon on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:17:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yes, it is (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  wilderness voice, Joieau

                  And hanging out in here is helping me form my diary.

                  As I suggested in a previous comment, I continue to be amazed at how angry people can get at the concept of a God they don't believe in.

                  I am also constantly amazed by the same anger and animosity that streams from some believers.

                  Language is very important, and easily misunderstood. One of my greatest criticisms about rank-and-file Christians of all denominations is how little they know about their own dogma. Essentially, ignorance of their own faith. As someone with some formal training in theology, this appalls me.

                  That being said, and as you know, I am always uncomfortable with people who are not willing to allow that people who do not believe in God have a right to do so.

                  I simply cannot, however, understand why there has to be animosity and anger. On both sides. I guess it's just not my style.

                  I'm really learning a lot.

                  "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

                  by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:25:17 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Guh. (0+ / 0-)

                    I continue to be amazed at how angry people can get at the concept of a God they don't believe in.

                    As I just wrote, that's a snide and disingenuous potshot. Please cut it out.


                    I simply cannot, however, understand why there has to be animosity and anger.

                    I have explained in some detail why you have earned the animosity you have received. The Claude Rains "shocked, shocked" routine is not becoming.

                    •  It was not meant as such, (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      wilderness voice

                      I can assure you. Really. It wasn't. Like I explained, I'm learning in here.

                      "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

                      by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 04:59:59 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                    •  huh? (2+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      commonmass, Joieau

                      I did not get that commonmass was aiming his comments at you at all.

                      •  Aiming? (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        RandomActsOfReason

                        In the context of this thread, I'm not clear whom else a line like "how angry people can get" could have been aimed at... but I also don't see where I accused commonmass of aiming at me. The "why are you so exercised about a god you don't even believe exists?" potshot is a common slur thrown out by all kinds of fans/defenders of religion, and directed at all kinds of nonbelievers. By no means am I the only one to have had it thrown at him.

                        I've never said that commonmass is being particularly unkind to me personally, because I recognize (s)he hasn't. However, particular portions of his/her comments have slighted atheists (and for that matter conservative religious believers) more generally, and that's what I've been pointing out and criticizing.

                        •  asdf (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Joieau

                          The "why are you so exercised about a god you don't even believe exists?" potshot is a common slur thrown out by all kinds of fans/defenders of religion, and directed at all kinds of nonbelievers.

                          I am certainly in a nonbeliever in what organized religion has to offer, and their Gods.  I do not take this as any kind of potshot or slur, nor do I feel slighted by anything commmonmass has written, although I may not agree.  If the characterization truly does not apply to you, why do you care?

                          •  Because, as Rieux noted, it is a common (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Rieux

                            slur against atheists, fulfilling a stereotype of the angry atheist "so exercised about god", whenever one even attempts to engage in a philosophical question about the existence of gods.

                            You might as well ask, "if the slur that Blacks eat watermelon doesn't apply to you, why do you care?"

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 01:22:33 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  What? (0+ / 0-)

                            I am certainly in a nonbeliever in what organized religion has to offer, and their Gods.  I do not take this as any kind of potshot or slur....

                            Uh... yeah. Neither do I. That just doesn't happen to be the content of commonmass's remarks that I objected to. I don't think you understand what I'm saying.


                            commonmass made two assertions (or, really, one assertion worded in two different ways) that I am objecting to here:

                            I continue to be amazed at how angry people can get at the concept of a God they don't believe in.

                            And:

                            It constantly amazes me that something which does not exist can push so many buttons.

                            As I think you might have noticed, those statements say much, much more than that any of us is merely "a nonbeliever in what organized religion has to offer, and their Gods." They express mock amazement at what we are supposedly "angry" at, and they're factually (indeed fatuously) wrong. That is a slur.


                            If the characterization truly does not apply to you, why do you care?

                            This question I really don't understand.

                            I care because I am a member of a despised minority, and because it lessens me when people make inaccurate and demeaning comments about that minority. I'm neither black nor (I think) shiftless and lazy, but I would "care," in a strongly negative sense, a great deal if I heard someone claim that blacks are shiftless and lazy. If I were black-and-not-shiftless-and-lazy ("if the characterization truly does not apply to you..."), I would probably care even more.

                    •  You may have never met (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      wilderness voice

                      a self-professed atheist who spends much of their life at war with God. I've met several, they always amaze me. The common thread in their hatred of deity seems to be some very bad experience in church, usually long ago. So the impression I get is that simple rejection of the concept isn't enough, and they just don't see how silly it is to be at war with a mythological creature they claim not to believe in.

                      That of course doesn't describe atheism or people who are atheists in general. Yet it is real in some people's psyches and it is fairly ridiculous. They might grow out of that phase at some point.

                      You come across as angry, and in some of your posts to me, needlessly antagonistic. For no reason I can fathom, so it strikes me a bit odd. What is it you expect your anger at people to accomplish, other than enabling you to express your anger?

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 09:31:30 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Ech. (0+ / 0-)

                        You may have never met a self-professed atheist who spends much of their life at war with God.

                        No, I haven't, and I've met several hundred atheists. I think you're mistaken. Religion as a human phenomenon and God as a (fictional) supernatural phenomenon are not the same thing; atheists, by definition, cannot be "at war" with the latter.


                        What is it you expect your anger at people to accomplish, other than enabling you to express your anger?

                        I get angry when atheists are pathologized, marginalized, and baited, and when religion is defended on grounds that are dishonest, disingenuous, and arrogant. My expectations are no different than those of anyone else who expresses anger; I am communicating disapproval of such behavior. There's nothing about it that is actually odd.

                        •  Yet I have met people (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          wilderness voice

                          who very much fit the description I gave. Surely you do not expect that your dismissal should override my experience. That would be silly as well as insulting.

                          I have not seen atheists pathologized, marginalized or baited in this discussion, and I've read all the comments. I have seen no defenses of religion using dishonest, disingenuous or arrogant grounds. It seems fairly pointless to angrily express your disapproval of behaviors not evident in this discussion. It also does seem a little odd.

                          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                          by Joieau on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 10:01:34 AM PDT

                          [ Parent ]

                          •  seconded (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            Joieau

                            I have met plenty of angry atheists, in person and on blog.

                          •  I've met plenty of bigoted blacks, too (0+ / 0-)

                            I don't extrapolate general causation from anecdotal correlation.

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 01:15:08 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You clearly haven't read your own comments. (0+ / 0-)

                            Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                            by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 01:14:10 PM PDT

                            [ Parent ]

                          •  You overrate your own perception. (0+ / 0-)

                            Yet I have met people who very much fit the description I gave.

                            Your "description" that they are "at war with God"? (And "spends much of their life" that way?) What in the world is that even supposed to mean?

                            All I see is you drawing severely negative conclusions about another person's internal experience, conclusions for which I can't imagine a legitimate foundation. I think you're mistaken because I don't see how you have any way to establish whether anyone you have ever met is in fact "at war with God."


                            Surely you do not expect that your dismissal should override my experience.

                            What in the world is "your experience" of some other person being "at war with God"? What does that even mean?


                            This very thread-let started because I objected to two disdainful remarks from commonmass:

                            I continue to be amazed at how angry people can get at the concept of a God they don't believe in.

                            And:

                            It constantly amazes me that something which does not exist can push so many buttons.

                            As I explained in both cases, commonmass simply and fundamentally misrepresented the target of the "anger" and "button-pushing": it was not "a God they don't believe in" or "something which [sic] does not exist," but rather a societal phenomenon that very much does exist.

                            I objected to the misinterpretation, but more fundamentally commonmass has clearly misunderstood what was going on with the "angry people" who were his/her targets. (S)he has misdiagnosed anger at religion and its consequences in the real world as anger "at the concept of a God they don't believe in."

                            Given the self-contradictory absurdity of an atheist being "at war with God," it seems extremely likely your comment (and indeed the "experience" that you claim deserves such enormous weight) is based on the same fundamental misunderstanding.

                            If I told you I had "experience" with square circles or married bachelors, I hope you would not take that "experience" seriously. For the same reason, I'm not terribly impressed by yours, in this context.


                            I have not seen atheists pathologized, marginalized or baited in this discussion....

                            Then I don't think you've been looking very hard. snackdoodle's oeuvre here, for example, has amounted to little more than pathologizing, baiting, and attempting to marginalize atheists. (And I initially responded to you with more hostility than I should have precisely because I mistook you for him/her.) It might even be accurate to say that I am "at (metaphorical) war with" the kind of privileged nonsense snackdoodle pushes, but that hardly makes me, or indeed any atheist, "at war with God." ...Though an incautious observer might mistakenly think we are, and then speak in overconfident terms about his/her "experience" of meeting us.


                            It seems fairly pointless to angrily express your disapproval of behaviors not evident in this discussion.

                            "Evident" is, clearly, in the eye of the beholder. One will not see who does not look.

                        •  the commenter clearly intended (1+ / 0-)
                          Recommended by:
                          Joieau

                          "at war with the idea of God" so you are jousting with a straw man/straw god here

                          •  Huh? (1+ / 0-)
                            Recommended by:
                            RandomActsOfReason

                            I don't understand how anyone can be "at war with" an idea, so I don't agree that that (logically questionable) intent was clear at all.

                            It's precisely that kind of slippery semantics that consistently handicap atheists in discussions like this one. "At war with God" means something very different than "at war with the idea of God," and in light of the fact that it involves a severely negative declaration about another person's internal experience, I'm not inclined to give the declarer a large benefit of the doubt.

                            Religious people routinely assert that atheists "hate God" or "just want to escape the God they know is there," so—though it is not clear that (s)he is such a person—I remain unconvinced that you're interpreting Joieau's comment accurately.

                •  yes (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  XNeeOhCon, Joieau

                  the word "personal" is used in the context of asking about the god you 'personally' identify with.

                  was my intention

              •  devolution (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Joieau

                Once upon a time there was Gnosis - direct experience, at one ment, with God.  This is reflected in the mantra that is recited daily in synagogue: "Hear, oh one who fought with God, the Lord our God, the Lord is ONE".  The idea being that there is not merely a singular god, but that we are a part of this God. Then smaller minds came along and devotions became supplication to an external God.  Then along came Jesus, and then, after him, the Gnostic followers, but they lost out, and one had to go through Jesus to get to this external God.  Then Constantine made Christianity the state religion. In his "universal church" one had to go through a priest to get to Jesus to get to the external God.

        •  The only relevant definition (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          toilpress

          from the standpoint of a discussion on a political site, is that of a supernatural force that actively intervenes in human affairs and impacts the course of natural events.

          A deist god or some vague hand-waving "spirit" that doesn't actually do anything or influence anything is, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from atheist or agnostic positions, in terms of the political impact of such belief.

          From a philosophical standpoint, of course, such a belief is no less irrational, unsubstantiated, and counterfactual than belief in a god as a physical being up in the sky with a big beard and a tiny prick whose inadequacy leads to jealous demands for personal worship and/or sacrifice.

          As such, it is a legitimate subject for intellectual challenge and debate.

          But, it is those who worship a god they say changes things in response to such worship - whether they call themselves "conservatives" or "liberals" - who are a danger to self-governance based on reason, policy based on empiricism, and progress based on logical conclusions regarding the fundamental equality of rights all humans share, independent of their beliefs.

          Splitting hairs with apologists who seek, on the one hand, to disassociate themselves from any relationship to or responsibility for religious extremism, while, simultaneously and on the other hand, protest against atheists challenges to god-belief as inherently unseemnly, is a waste of time, in my experience.

          One is either engaging in a political discussion about the consequences of belief in a supernatural force that changes things, or one is engaged in a philosophical discussion about the existence of any supernatural force, intercessory or not.

          The fact that religious apologists, and nonbelievers swept up in cultural taboos, fail to distinguish between the two, is no reason for us to get trapped by side-debates about the nature of a god-force whose very existence we question.

          It's just like the debate about whether Jesus was a "liberal" or a "conservative", and the debates here about what "real" Christians believe and what the "right" Christians do (which mirror, exactly, the debates among theists on the Right).

          It is utterly beside the point.

          Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

          by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 07:08:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  With all due respect, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Joieau

        I don't think that language like "self-indulgent" is constructive here.

        My point is that there is a theological divide between those who consider "God" personal and those who do not.

        It constantly amazes me that something which does not exist can push so many buttons.

        "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

        by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 02:04:25 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ugh again. (0+ / 0-)

          My point is that there is a theological divide between those who consider "God" personal and those who do not.

          And my point is that you consistently describe the religious world in ways that neatly aggrandize you and minimize, indeed erase, the beliefs of billions of people. It appears that you don't understand the extent to which your rhetoric about other people's beliefs consistently reads as patting yourself on the back.


          It constantly amazes me that something which does not exist can push so many buttons.

          See, that's a snide and dismissive shot at atheists for some kind of supposed disingenuousness.

          God's non-existence is as clear as the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. But one thing that does exist is religious belief. Not only does that exist, it has massive consequences in the world. Some of these consequences redound to the severe material detriment of nonbelievers, as well as other people we care about. That situation does, in fact, amount to something that one might expect would "push so many buttons."

          Whether gods exist or not, the damage religion causes very clearly exists. These are not the penny-ante discussions you seem to think they are.

          •  I certainly do not think that these (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            wilderness voice, Joieau

            are penny-ante discussions. Not at all. In fact, I think that in general, religion is a pretty dangerous thing.

            You are certainly right that religious beliefs exist. And they are here to stay. I am fairly confident that it is part of human nature. Let me clarify a bit: I'm convinced that it is human nature to want to find explanations for humankind's existence. For some, it manifests itself in religion. For others, it manifests itself in science, or the exploration of space. Frankly, I think that the urge to explain, to unravel mystery, to ask "why" no matter how it manifests itself comes from the same programming centre in the human brain. This is just my opinion here.

            Some religious people use the metaphysical aspect of religion for good. Many do not.

            I would posit, however, that if all religion could be wiped away from the face of the earth with one stroke, people would find--and quickly--something else to hate about one another.

            "That way lies disaster"--Baba Derenek

            by commonmass on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 05:07:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I'm afraid the evidence refutes your assertions (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Rieux, XNeeOhCon, toilpress

              And they are here to stay.

              A pure statement of contrafactual faith, refuted by consistent global trends away from religion in particular, and god-belief in general.

              I am fairly confident that it is part of human nature.

              Only a religionist claims to know "human nature" (evidence not required). Those who follow the scientific method are more modest and honest about such things. Whether "human nature" exists as a meaningful concept is open to question, let alone what it is. We do know that humans are a complex mix of evolutionary predispositions, environmental factors and individual choice (although that last bit is coming under scrutiny as well). No one who respects truth can claim with anything but utterly irrational faith to know "human nature".

              ("Fairly confident" by a pseudonymous person on the Internet does not constitute credible evidence.)

              I'm convinced that it is human nature to want to find explanations for humankind's existence. For some, it manifests itself in religion. For others, it manifests itself in science, or the exploration of space.

              Ah, clearly you are setting the ground for a nonoverlapping magisteria argument, or, worse, a false equivalency posing faith and evidence as equally valid explanations for things.

              In fact, the history of recent centuries, particularly the last two hundred years, are an unrelenting, entirely one-directional process of replacing supernatural, faith-based explanations for phenomena with natural, scientific ones.

              There are no counter-examples. Not one.

              Science does not "manifest". The scientific process is a fundamentally opposite approach to reality from a faith-based approach.

              Science follows evidence wherever it goes, and poses contingent theories based upon the evidence - contingent upon further evidence, and contingent upon logical consistency with the full body of previous scientific knowledge.

              Faith starts with an arbitrary conclusion, and then cherry-picks supporting evidence, ignores refuting evidence, and makes up evidence to fill in the rest. Contradictions and inconsistencies are par for the course.

              I would posit, however, that if all religion could be wiped away from the face of the earth with one stroke, people would find--and quickly--something else to hate about one another.

              Your hypothesis is contradicted by the evidence.

              The most peaceful nations on Earth are the least religious, the most violent societies the most religious, with few exceptions, as you can judge by reviewing the Global Peace Index, which is based on an array of qualitative and quantitative measures:
              http://www.visionofhumanity.org/...
              (scroll below the global map to the table ranking 149 nations)

              Furthermore, the most religious societies are the least healthy, also by a whole slew of quantitative and qualitative measures, and the least religious societies are the healthiest, as noted in many studies, results of which are aggregated in this 2005 report, published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Religion & Society, the findings of which have not been refuted as of this writing, five years later:

              Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies
              http://moses.creighton.edu/...

              So, in fact, the history of human civilization suggests that, the less religion in the world, the less hate, the less ignorance (which breeds fear which fuels hate), and the better off we all are.

              Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

              by RandomActsOfReason on Wed Aug 18, 2010 at 07:26:31 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Perhaps you are right (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                wilderness voice

                and there will be no religious beliefs in a hundred years and nobody will hate or kill anybody else ever again. But the last hundred years' worth of 'officially' atheist state-centered political experiments haven't exactly made the case. Maybe my great-grandchildren will get to live in such a Utopia.

                I would mention to both you and Rieux per this sub-thread that you're both ignoring a class of human experience that underpins spiritual ideas, and this experiential capacity is fairly universal even though the human-created sociopolitical institution of Religion is something else entirely.

                Getting rid of the sociopolitical institutions will not eliminate human experience. And so long as people have spiritual experiences, they will have ideas about them and what they mean. I suspect that future atheists will have to learn to live peacefully with that.

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 09:50:28 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Perhaps you will chose, at some point (0+ / 0-)

                  to respond to actual arguments, not to your mischaracterization of them or to straw men of your own invention. Perhaps you will also choose to respond without the kind of stereotyping, generalizations and personal insults that have increasingly characterized your responses here.

                  Perhaps you are right and there will be no religious beliefs in a hundred years and nobody will hate or kill anybody else ever again.

                  1. I pointed out factual trends, not an opinion, regarding the decline in organized religion and god-belief in the world.
                  1. I did not state that no religious beliefs would equate to no hate or killing. That is your invention.

                  But the last hundred years' worth of 'officially' atheist state-centered political experiments haven't exactly made the case.

                  Care to be specific?

                  Maybe my great-grandchildren will get to live in such a Utopia.

                  Maybe they will. What does that have to do with this conversation?

                  I would mention to both you and Rieux per this sub-thread that you're both ignoring a class of human experience that underpins spiritual ideas, and this experiential capacity is fairly universal even though the human-created sociopolitical institution of Religion is something else entirely.

                  What leads to believe that I am ignoring any particular human experience? Rather, science has taught us that human experience can be in error, and that we should not trust our individual perceptions exclusively, if we wish to avoid error. Can you be more specific as to the precise "class" of human experience to which you refer, and which you claim is "fairly universal" - and what are the exceptions that make it only "fairly" so?

                  Otherwise, you are speaking in vague generalities that sound pleasing but aren't really substantive.

                  As for Religion with a capital R, by which I assume you mean what I have called "organized religion", we have no disagreement that it is a different thing entirely from individual experiences, and, indeed, the focus of most of my discussions about the political implications of faith center on organized religion, not individual belief.

                  Getting rid of the sociopolitical institutions will not eliminate human experience.

                  One would neither expect, nor desire them to.

                  And so long as people have spiritual experiences, they will have ideas about them and what they mean.

                  And, like any other ideas, those ideas are and should be subject to debate and critique and contemplation. They may even, in many cases, be wrong.

                  That is why we discuss ideas here - political ideas, ideological ideas, all kinds of ideas. The only ideas that some people wish to shield from discussion are religious ideas. I repeatedly have asked what makes them any different. I have yet to receive a substantive response from anyone (hint: personal insults and strident, doubling-down on mere  assertions do not constitute substantive response).

                  I suspect that future atheists will have to learn to live peacefully with that.

                  Current atheists live perfectly peacefully, surrounded in the US by a great majority of theists. We don't have a problem with that. Apparently, you and many others do, for reasons you refuse to specify.

                  It is still not clear:

                  1. why you think religious beliefs should be treated intellectually any differently than any other beliefs;
                  1. why you feel it necessary to erect so many stereotypical straw men about atheists and what we do, what we feel and what we want, utterly ignoring the fact that we are right here and you could simply ask us, or pay attention to our repeated efforts to explain that to you;
                  1. what your actual issue is with atheists, atheism and the fact that we do not believe in supernatural phenomena.

                  If you could clarify the source of your unwarranted hostility, and your vigorous efforts to shut us up, we might actually make some progress toward mutual understanding.

                  Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                  by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 11:39:49 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Perhaps you will choose, at some point (0+ / 0-)

                    to dismount your tall horse and engage without the senseless belligerence. You never know.

                    You said:

                    1. I pointed out factual trends, not an opinion, regarding the decline in organized religion and god-belief in the world.

                    Indeed it is declining in much of the west. It is not declining in raw numbers, of which the non-western world holds several billion more members of the species than the west does. I will not live long enough to see the death of religion. I doubt you will either. But if it is slated to die, then it will die some time in the future we won't get to live. Maybe that would be a great thing. I don't know, nor do I care, because it doesn't affect me at all.

                    1. I did not state that no religious beliefs would equate to no hate or killing. That is your invention.

                    Gee. If you're going to blame religion for the hatred and killing in this world - and it's definitely responsible for a whole lot of it - then why not hope that the death of religions would usher in a golden age of peace and non-violence? I'd wish at least that much on my great-grandkids. Wouldn't you?

                    Care to be specific?

                    How about Stalin?

                    …science has taught us that human experience can be in error, and that we should not trust our individual perceptions exclusively, if we wish to avoid error. Can you be more specific as to the precise "class" of human experience to which you refer, and which you claim is "fairly universal" - and what are the exceptions that make it only "fairly" so?

                    I guess I'm talking about what Jung called "Mystic Vision," or Huxley's "Perennial Philosophy." People do have a capacity to intuit and/or directly perceive 'more' than just the waking world of our normal senses. It appears to be fairly universal to the species, as well as to some other hominid species we've discovered and researched. Like Neandertals.

                    The exceptions would probably be people who don't have the innate ability to perceive something 'more'. If it's genetically based - and it likely is, related to mutations and epigenetic expression suites that led us to our big brains - then those who don't have the ability may out-breed the old variety of humans and humanity will lose the capacity altogether via evolution. Whether such a development would be considered "good" or "bad" by the population of earth is not at all pertinent to discussion of the possibility. At least, not to anyone alive today.

                    The only ideas that some people wish to shield from discussion are religious ideas. I repeatedly have asked what makes them any different. I have yet to receive a substantive response from anyone

                    I have not expressed any desire to shield religious beliefs from challenge. I have expressed my considered opinion that religious beliefs - among all beliefs held by human beings - are the most resistant to being changed by a few facts of exegesis or general insults on a message board or blog.

                    Current atheists live perfectly peacefully, surrounded in the US by a great majority of theists. We don't have a problem with that. Apparently, you and many others do, for reasons you refuse to specify.

                    You are apparently wrong. I've got no problem with atheists. Some of my best friends are atheists. So are members of my family. Hell, for all you know from anything I've said in this discussion, I may be an atheist myself. You know what they say about assumptions…

                    You ask:

                    1. why you think religious beliefs should be treated intellectually any differently than any other beliefs;

                    I'm not sure they should be treated differently, but I do think they should be approached differently. Because people tend to internalize their religious beliefs so strongly with their self-identity. Much more so than beliefs about politics, for instance.

                    1. why you feel it necessary to erect so many stereotypical straw men about atheists and what we do, what we feel and what we want, utterly ignoring the fact that we are right here and you could simply ask us, or pay attention to our repeated efforts to explain that to you;

                    I haven't erected any straw men. I have offered my experience with the atheists I have known in my life. And my experience with the religious people I have known in my life. That's all I have to go on, you are not required to approve. I'm not curious or concerned about your beliefs, you can hold to any beliefs you like. I don't mind.

                    1. what your actual issue is with atheists, atheism and the fact that we do not believe in supernatural phenomena.

                    I don't have an issue with atheists or atheism. I don't care if you believe or disbelieve in supernatural phenomena. What in the world would convince you to think I care what you believe about such things? I've merely mentioned some things I've learned in life about other people, and expressed my opinion that changing anybody's religious beliefs in a forum like this is highly unlikely.

                    So. If you have a problem with that opinion, go for it. Tell me how easy it is to convert die-hard fundys and creationists just by insulting them. I'd really like to know.

                    Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                    by Joieau on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 03:59:37 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Point by point substantive response (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Rieux

                      Ignoring your gratuitous personal insult at the opening of your comment, I will focus on the substantive assertions you have made:

                      1. [religious belief and god-belief] is not declining in raw numbers, of which the non-western world holds several billion more members of the species than the west does.

                      First, to address a common Western stereotype revealed in your comment:

                      Among the top ten most atheistic/agnostic/non-god-believing nations in the world, three are Asian - Vietnam (81%), Japan (65%), and South Korea (30-52%).

                      There was also an assumption that the former Soviet republics, once freed from the tyranny of the atheistic USSR, would experience a religious revival. In fact, the opposite has proven true; there has been a decline in religiosity in nearly all of them - all of the democratic ones without exception. The Czech Republic and Estonia are also in the top ten least religious/theistic nations in the world. Russia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia are in the top twenty. All have experienced significant declines in both religiosity and theism in the past twenty years.

                      As for raw numbers, the largest numbers of atheists in the world live in non-Western nations:

                      China, Japan, Russia, and Vietnam are the top four in raw number of atheists. South Korea is in ninth place.

                      All together, these four nations alone account for about a quarter of a billion atheists.

                      And that is not even including North Korea, where accurate statistics are unavailable.

                      In all places where historical data is available, religiosity has decreased. For example, in the US those who answer "none" when asked of their religion has doubled in 20 years, while those stating they do not believe in a god has tripled during the same period.

                      In Australia, the number of atheists went from near zero 30 years ago to about 30% today.

                      Overall, in Europe today, only 52% believe in a god, down substantially in each nation, from the most to the least currently religious.

                      In fact, even religious authors writing articles alleging a religious revival worldwide, end up citing sources that contradict their own assertions.

                      For example, in 2006 an article by Samuel Shah and Monica Duffy Toft claimed that Christianity, Islam and Hinduism, were "on the march", amidst a supposed retreat of secularism. The primary source they cite is the World Christian Encyclopedia. Yet the opening paragraph of the very article they cite in the WCE states something very different, something they chose to leave out of their analysis:

                      The number of nonreligionists...  throughout the 20th century has skyrocketed from 3.2 million in 1900, to 697 million in 1970, and on to 918 million in AD 2000.... Equally startling has been the meteoritic growth of secularism.... Two immense quasi-religious systems have emerged at the expense of the world's religions: agnosticism.... and atheism.... From a miniscule presence in 1900, a mere 0.2% of the globe, these systems.... are today expanding at the extraordinary rate of 8.5 million new converts each year, and are likely to reach one billion adherents soon. A large percentage of their members are the children, grandchildren or the great-great-grandchildren of persons who in their lifetimes were practicing Christians"

                      (BTW, they undercount Chinese atheists by at least a factor of two. It is largely accepted that the number of atheists globally has already exceeded 1 billion, some say 1.2 billion).

                      In point of fact, religiosity does not correlate to geography. It correlates most closely with two things: societal health and per capita income, as noted in this 2005 report published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Religion & Society:
                      Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies
                      http://moses.creighton.edu/...

                      Gregory Paul, author of the 2005 report, has followed it up with a more extensive statistical study, using the 25-measure "Successful Socities Scale" - another measure of societal health and well-being - which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Psychology. Unfortunately, it is available only in PDF form, but you are welcome to download and review it here (note: it is a 44-page PDF) http://www.epjournal.net/...

                      Since the global trend is toward improved societal health and per capita income, as shown in the Gapminder animation of global trends over the past two hundred years:
                      www.bit.ly/cHpmSv
                      It is reasonable to project that religiosity and theism will continue to decrease worldwide.

                      In addition, in all nations, atheism and non-religion both strongly correlate with generation - each successive generation is less religion and less theistic than previous generations. This holds true throughout the world.

                      Again, the trend is clear.

                      1. Gee. If you're going to blame religion for the hatred and killing in this world - and it's definitely responsible for a whole lot of it - then why not hope that the death of religions would usher in a golden age of peace and non-violence? I'd wish at least that much on my great-grandkids. Wouldn't you?

                      The problem with your straw man is that, as I clearly stated in the comment you quoted, I never blamed religion for all the hatred and killing in this world. I asked you to document where I have made such a claim, you have not. Again, you reveal that you are addressing me as a stereotype of what you believe atheists argue, not as a human being who has actually made comments on the record here at Daily Kos.

                      1. How about Stalin?

                      Sigh. Please do a Dkos search on "Stalin and atheism" for a review of all the rebuttals to this tired nonsequitur. I won't even bring up the statistical fact that religiosity and theism have actually declined since the reign of Stalin. Nor will I counter with "how about the Inquisition" or "how about the Crusades" or any number of instances where people were explicitly killed and tortured for their religious beliefs, because it is a fallacious argument.

                      Rather, the facts show that the most secular, atheistic nations are the most peaceful and healthiest.

                      If the Paul studies don't convince you, you might want to review the Global Peace Index here:
                      http://www.visionofhumanity.org/...

                      (scroll below the global map for the straight table listings.

                      The top ranking nations on the whole array of qualitative and quantitative measures of peacefulness are the most secular and atheistic; the bottom ranking nations are the most religious and theistic.

                      4.

                      I guess I'm talking about what Jung called "Mystic Vision," or Huxley's "Perennial Philosophy." People do have a capacity to intuit and/or directly perceive 'more' than just the waking world of our normal senses. It appears to be fairly universal to the species, as well as to some other hominid species we've discovered and researched. Like Neandertals.

                      Oy. Conjecture, no matter how impressive the name-dropping, is not fact. There is no evidence to support your factual-sounding assertion that people "do have a capacity" to intuit or perceive anything beyond our normal senses. Nor is there any evidence of the existence of anything beyond the known realm of matter/energy (energy in the physical sense, not the mystical sense) to sense in the first place.

                      As for the absurd notion that we have evidence "discovered and researched" about what Neandertals could intuit or directly perceive outside the spectrum of physical reality, well, that's just so in the realm of science fiction and/or fantasy that a rational rebuttal would probably fall on deaf ears. I would dearly LOVE, however, to see you provide any evidence to support this "discovery" and "research".

                      I've provided numerous links to reputable sources. You provide none. Provide some, then we'll talk about what has been "discovered" and 'researched" about what Neanderthals "intuited" or "perceived" (or modern humans, for that matter).

                      If it's genetically based - and it likely is, related to mutations and epigenetic expression suites that led us to our big brains - then those who don't have the ability may out-breed the old variety of humans and humanity will lose the capacity altogether via evolution.

                      Despite the misapplication of random scientific terms in a scientifically-sounding mishmash of nonsense, there is no "it" to begin with. There is no evidence of any supernatural anything, nor any psychic ability to perceive the nonexistent supernatural anything. None. Provide evidence of your extraordinary assertions, not more pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo.

                      Finally,

                      Some of my best friends are atheists.

                      Wow. Just. Wow.

                      Always make new mistakes - Esther Dyson

                      by RandomActsOfReason on Thu Aug 19, 2010 at 05:56:25 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "Wow" to you. (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        RandomActsOfReason

                        And I thought my comments were long and densely packed.


                        Among the top ten most atheistic/agnostic/non-god-believing nations in the world....

                        Are those stats (national atheist percentages, 1-1.2 billion atheists on the globe, etc.) included in the documents you linked to? If not, are your other cites available online?

                        I'd like to add all of the above sources to my big ol' folder of "Atheist Cites" bookmarks. (A folder that, as you've noticed earlier on this thread, includes a link or two to comments by you.)


                        Here's a gratuitous random bookmark from that folder:

                        The larger problem with this week’s ON FAITH question ["Can faith effect (sic) health?"] is that it is being asked at all. This question should not be seen as a matter of personal conviction or opinion at all. People’s hunches, anecdotal recollections, or personal convictions are of no more weight here than they would be about the causes of global warming. You have asked an empirical question, and there are established methods for answering such questions. Encouraging any other approach is actually undermining proper respect for scientific methods and facts, right alongside the nefarious tactics of the tobacco companies, the global warming skeptics, and the “teach the controversy” Intelligent Design crowd who have so successful [sic] persuaded so many people to treat factual material as if it were mere opinion.

                        - Daniel Dennett, "You Want Facts or Feelings?"

                        Okay, that wasn't entirely random.

                •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

                  I would mention to both you and Rieux per this sub-thread that you're both ignoring a class of human experience that underpins spiritual ideas....

                  I think RandomActs is doing a swell job of rebutting this stuff head-on, but I have to profess that I simply have no idea what you're talking about. Precisely what "class of human experience" am I "ignoring"? I don't think I've even mentioned the "experiences" of religious believers (er, "spiritual people"?) on this thread, except to take issue with the ways in which a subset of them malign atheists. To the extent that a particular "spiritual"ist doesn't engage in the kinds of atheist-baiting I have protested here, I don't think I have said word one about his "class of human experience" in comments to this diary.

                  Which is to say that I have "ignored" that class of human experience here in precisely the same way as I have ignored salmonella, Rod Blagojevich, and Australian rugby. And it makes just about as much sense as a criticism.


                  [T]his experiential capacity is fairly universal even though the human-created sociopolitical institution of Religion is something else entirely.

                  Citation needed.

                  (There are longer ways of saying that, but as I mentioned, RandomActs is doing a fine job of providing them.)


                  Back when I was a believer, I used to have religious experiences. I would walk down the street, and suddenly feel the vivid presence of someone I loved who had died. I would read Tarot cards, and feel an almost physical spirit move through my mind as I spoke to people about their lives with uncanny perceptiveness. I would look at trees or clouds, and feel an overwhelming sense of connection with a living force that animated all existence.

                  I still have experiences like this. But I no longer interpret them as religious. I've looked at the evidence -- and I now understand that the supernatural is by far the least plausible explanation for them. I understand that feeling the presence of my dead loved ones is simply a form of memory. I understand that Tarot readings are simply cold readings, and that people can add up unconscious signals to read another person with what seems like telepathy. I understand that the feeling of transcendent connection with the universe is generated by my brain, and that while I still experience it vividly, it makes far more sense to interpret it as a physical connection rather than a supernatural one.

                  I understand all this... because I know my mind is not perfect. And I am not arrogant enough to think that, even with its imperfections, my mind and my perceptions are still the single most reliable source of information about the existence of the supernatural... even with the massive inconsistency in supernatural experiences, and the absence of any corroborating evidence for any supposedly supernatural event, and the consistent history of supernatural explanations never in all the world turning out to be right.

                  I understand that I am not a special snowflake. I understand that the feelings in my heart -- as important as they are to me personally, as useful as they are in framing my subjective experience, as helpful as they can be in making day- to- day decisions and suggesting possible avenues of inquiry -- do not, by themselves, constitute reliable evidence. I understand that my personal experience, as valuable as it is, is profoundly flawed, and needs to be corroborated before I make any definitive conclusions about the nature of the universe.

                  - Greta Christina, "Why 'I Feel It In My Heart' Is a Terrible Argument for God"

            •  What RandomActs said. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              XNeeOhCon

              You've lost the thread of what we are talking about here. What I was responding to was your line--which you have repeated in different permutations two or three times now--that you find it surprising "that something which does not exist can push so many buttons." This is a notably pushy shot at atheists; it diagnoses us with some kind of bizarre problem, in that we hear of this thing that we think is imaginary and yet become furious at it.

              In my response here, I pointed out that you are directly misrepresenting what it is that makes atheists (or at least the ones that we know) angry.  It is not, as you put it "something which does not exist"; it is a certain broad category of religious belief, which very much does exist. This amounts to a fundamental problem with your "something which does not exist can push so many buttons" shot.

              Confronted with this, you... change the subject. Come on, now. I have explained to you why the line you have run out, more than once, is mistaken at best and insulting at worst. "You are certainly right that religious beliefs exist" is not, in fact, a relevant response to that explanation.


              Let me clarify a bit: I'm convinced that it is human nature to want to find explanations for humankind's existence.

              I don't think that's terribly controversial. However, I note that some explanations for why the universe is the way it is are more dangerous than others. Science, unlike religion, will never order you to do anything. Gods do, and they nearly always have.


              Some religious people use the metaphysical aspect of religion for good. Many do not.

              It is not at all clear that "the metaphysical aspect of religion" is not itself responsible for many of the evils that have been perpetrated in religion's name. You cannot simply presuppose that the effects of religion are uniformly "people us[ing]" religion, with no blame accruing to the religious beliefs themselves. That premise is a "fact" not in evidence.


              I would posit, however, that if all religion could be wiped away from the face of the earth with one stroke, people would find--and quickly--something else to hate about one another.

              RandomActs has responded to that assertion extremely well, but I wanted to add that the question remains why you "would posit" that, particularly. There is considerable evidence that the secular parts of the world (nations, states) are considerably less "hate"ful, and indeed are in far better shape by nearly any objective measure of social health, than the religious parts of the world.

              I suggest you try to figure out what it is that leads you to posit that a secular world would be no better than our heavily religious one. In the absence of evidence, it's hard to avoid noticing that that conclusion fits very nicely with your own religious outlook. Sigmund Freud famously wrote that

              We shall tell ourselves that it would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent providence, and if there were a moral order to the universe and an afterlife; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it be.

              - Future of an Illusion (1927)

              It's hard not to wonder if what you're "posit"ing (and of course you are not alone in accepting that notion) is the same kind of wishful thinking.

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