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Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’

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Posted on Dec 4, 2009
bookcover

By Troy Jollimore

(Page 2)

But rather than characterizing such a position as a significant concession to the new atheists, Armstrong insists on continuing to regard them as her primary opponents. Moreover, she is unable to hold herself consistently to her own apophatic view. Indeed, passages like the following, in which she relates with apparent approval the reasoning of Athanasius, suggest that on her understanding the apophatic position, rather than discouraging metaphysical speculation, in fact licenses and encourages it:

It was only because we had no idea what God was that we could say that God had been in the man Jesus. It was also impossible to say that God’s substance was not in Christ, because we could not identify the ousia of God; it lay completely beyond our ken, so we did not know what we were denying.

In other words, it is precisely our lack of knowledge of God that enables us to say, well, pretty much whatever we want about God—except, of course, that God was not in Christ (but only an atheist or heathen would want to say that anyway). This is mysticism and metaphysical hand-waving raised to a truly objectionable level. If you do not know what you are denying then you also do not know what you are asserting; our inability to conceptualize cannot, on the one hand, prevent skeptics from denying Christ’s divinity while at the same time allowing the faithful to assert it.

 

book cover

 

The Case for God

 

By Karen Armstrong

 

Knopf, 432 pages

 

Buy the book

Armstrong’s apophaticist’s disavowal of God thus appears to be a conceptual Trojan horse—a sop to the skeptic whose real intent is to permit religious speculation to go on as before, unchecked by rational criticism and debate. The strategy reduces to saying “God isn’t this, God isn’t that” without ever giving a positive account of what God is, while still regarding oneself as justified in talking about and orienting one’s life around God. This is like the debater who responds to every objection by insisting “Well that’s not what I meant” without ever managing to say what he does mean.

Ultimately it is doubtful that apophaticism can be made to work. If the concept of “God” is genuinely empty, as it needs to be if evidence and rational criticism are to be considered irrelevant to God-talk, then in a quite literal sense people who talk about God cannot say and do not know what they are talking about. (If I walk around constantly referring to “bizzers,” and rebuff any request for clarification by saying “I will not place limits on bizzers by defining them, for bizzers transcend all human attempts to come to know them,” I am simply talking nonsense.) In her more radical mode, Armstrong wants to preserve religious talk from questions of truth—in our ordinary sense of “truth”—by draining them of content. But when we lose content we do not only lose truth, we lose meaning as well. The apophatic retort to the skeptic, then, seems to reduce to: “You don’t know what you’re talking about—indeed, I don’t even know what I’m talking about. So how dare you contradict me!”

Moreover, Armstrong’s attempts to find respectable examples of apophaticism sometimes cause her to resort to highly implausible interpretive strategies. Consider what she says about Socrates, for instance:

People did not go to Socrates to learn anything—he always insisted that he had nothing to teach them—but to have a change of mind. Participants in a Socratic dialogue discovered how little they knew, and that the meaning of even the simplest proposition eluded them.

It requires a profound lack of appreciation of Socratic irony to take Socrates’ insistence that he had nothing to teach at face value. Indeed, Armstrong’s account is not even internally consistent: By her own lights it is false that people learned nothing from Socrates, for what they learned was precisely “how little they knew.” The deep point is, once again, that both practice and transformation involve and require belief: One cannot possibly achieve “a change of mind” without changing one’s view of the world—that is, one’s beliefs. Once again we find Armstrong leaning heavily on a naive and unsustainable either-or dichotomy between belief, on the one hand, and practice on the other.

Then again, where would Armstrong be without her unsustainable dichotomies, her black-and-white either-ors? She steadfastly resists the “religion versus science” dichotomy, identifying it as a modernist artifact, but like many intellectual defenders of religion she adores the “religion or science” dichotomy, as formulated by Stephen Jay Gould:

The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory)? The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry. [Gould, “Rocks of Ages,” quoted by Armstrong]

As a secular ethicist, and poet, I cannot help but find this rather offensive: My intellectual career seems not to exist, according to Gould’s simplistic way of carving up conceptual space. (His view that the magisteria “do not overlap” also implies, very implausibly, that empirical matters can have no bearing at all on moral questions.) Armstrong, though, finds it deeply amenable: Of course morality and meaning must fall under religion’s purview! After all, she is almost unable to imagine a conception of meaningful human life that does not ultimately rest on God:

Nor, like Nietzsche, Sartre, or Camus, do [the new atheists] face up to the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the means of creating a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing work.


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By ardee, December 6, 2009 at 5:24 am Link to this comment

christian96, December 5 at 11:12 pm #

It isn’t a simple step to killing in the name of
Jesus.  He not only died for our sins but left us
strict rules to follow, one of which is “You shall
not kill.”

**************************

Dude, pick up a book. The ten commandments rather predated Jesus.

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Outraged's avatar

By Outraged, December 6, 2009 at 5:06 am Link to this comment

Re: Fiftygigs

Your comment: “There’s nothing in science that has anything to do with love.”

You are very wrong, there is a great deal of love in science.  How is it you came to your conclusion?  In other words, upon WHAT are you basing your assertion?  Is it plausible that you’ve based your assertion upon something you were taught and not something you know, without valid evidence…?

Re: christian96

Your comment: ” I know there have been plenty of people who justify killing in his name but don’t blame Jesus for what people do in his name.”

Who then should we blame?  RELIGION….?  That’s what I say, although since religion has always engaged political entities to carry out their “dirty work” the waters have definitely been “muddied”, still, the question remains…  Who then should we blame?  If christianity does not adhere to Jesus’ words (and NO CHRISTIAN RELIGION does), who then is at fault?  It appears to me that you are claiming that those who follow “Jesus” can’t be blamed for their actions.  By claiming, “don’t blame Jesus for what people do in his name.”

How can those who claim to be christian NOT be blamed for the actions they take WHEN they claim to be doing it “IN JESUS’ NAME?  ALL christian religions claim it, and ALL christian religions do not abide by Jesus’ tenets.  Why do you think that is…?

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By Tom Edgar, December 6, 2009 at 12:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dave ZX3

When will it sink into the fanatics thick skulls that atheism is not about Anti Christianity.

Only those with a fixation on the Christian religion as being the one and only Religion interpret atheism this way.

Atheists DO NOT. See my posting only three before yours.

Your pontifications in pompous religious arrogant terminology, are so typical of those who wish to disavow of themselves the abominable actions of those who, both in the past and present, commit unpardonable acts in the name of their particular faith or interpretation of that faith.

I question your independence when you use “Catholic”
phrases such as. “One True Church” and the obsessive one,of nearly all religions, of sexual behaviour.

Maybe it should be mandatory that contributors tell their true affiliation.  We true atheists have no compunction, but then we have nothing to hide.

I close with my usual. “Show me verifiable evidence of a God’s existence.”  I’m not interested in the
discombobulation between religions.

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By DaveZx3, December 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment

“In Uganda after destroying a successful fight against AIDS, the evangelical Dominionists are working to support a most pernicious law there against Gays (and any other deviants from their norms) to make a death penalty to engage in it anywhere in the world and prison time if you know someone who is and don’t report them. This applies to any Ugandan anywhere in the world. Even though this is Biblically based I hope the the likes of DaveZx3, Ozark Michael, TruthNotLies and Christian 96 among others will condemn such a thing. An abomination against personal liberty in this world. I know I do. Those who promote it there want to do it here but they cannot just yet but they may get their chance if we aren’t careful”

Interesting that people called evangelists (meaning messenger of LIFE, literally) would be engaged in the process of killing sinners. 

It is not the place of humans to judge and execute each other.  Judgement is reserved for God at the time and place of his choosing.  Since none are righteous, no not one, we all must practice the witholding of judgment of others, lest we be judged ourselves.

Though we are not to judge and punish others, we are just in calling attention to behavior which has been judged by God to be an abomination because it perverts a central doctrine of the role of marriage and sex in relation to Christ and the True Church.  Beyond that, there are no other obligations toward those who exhibit abominable behaviors except to pray for their forgiveness. 

Also, since this abominable behavior is not identified as unpardonable behavior, it does not preclude grace and salvation to those who sincerely ask for it. 

That is my reading of the teachings of Christ, to which all true followers of Christ are obligated to follow, or they could be in danger of losing grace and salvation themselves. 

The Ugandans in question are probably closer to exhibiting unpardonable behavior than those that they are persecuting. 

Others would probably disagree with me, as I do not subscribe to any specific religious doctrine or denominations other than the pure teachings of Jesus Christ.

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By Night-Gaunt, December 5, 2009 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment

Religion without belief; what a novel concept! Just a series of thoughts coordinated into a way of doing things? Reactions almost mechanical in their motions. Curious indeed. It seems a sophism to me but maybe it is just the subtly of it. [I haven’t read the book and may not be able to so I am relying solely on this review of it.]

It produces as much of a conundrum as those who use the Christian math to show that 3 = 1 without 3 being the subsets of the 1. The illogic of it is swept away by the supposed “inscrutability” of such an entity who can literally “do anything” even devise something it can lift/not lift (in two universes one could surmise along with Schroendeger‘s cat of the stone too heavy to lift and being able to lift any stone) or else it falls apart into whimsy, confusion and solipcism.

In Uganda after destroying a successful fight against AIDS, the evangelical Dominionists are working to support a most pernicious law there against Gays (and any other deviants from their norms) to make a death penalty to engage in it anywhere in the world and prison time if you know someone who is and don’t report them. This applies to any Ugandan anywhere in the world. Even though this is Biblically based I hope the the likes of DaveZx3, Ozark Michael, TruthNotLies and Christian 96 among others will condemn such a thing. An abomination against personal liberty in this world. I know I do. Those who promote it there want to do it here but they cannot just yet but they may get their chance if we aren’t careful.

I have no problem with the way people live their lives just as long as I don’t have to abide by their religious laws. Nihilism was something that Nietzsche wanted to stop but he was too positive in his idea that most of humanity would chuck religion in the face of Kant or any one else. It is biologically based and won’t go away unless it is to our survival to do so. Intelligence has less to do with it then how the brain becomes oriented to the way they see the world and process information. Evolution is a bitch that way.

As to morality, Dr. Gould was right for at least in the area he worked in morality had nothing to do with it. Though many activist Christians claim there is and manufacture “proof” that it does impinge on everything we do. When religion coupled with the few among us who want power by any means and those who go along to get along aid and abet to do just that. It is humanism that is important not the philosophy or theosophy involved.

During the Nazi period in Germany the majority of Christians not only went along but were ready to aid them in their quest for power and domination. For Stalin & Mao the state, with them at the head were to supplant religion. It didn’t work and Marx would have told them so if he had been alive. He never said to get rid of religion.

To sum it up believe or live as you want just don’t let any of us break another’s leg or steal each others money shall we? [With apologies to Thomas Jefferson.]

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By AnotherAtheist, December 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

@ John Ellis on Reasons for Life
You sound completely deluded.  There is no such thing as good and evil and all
that tosh. Society labels the deeds based on current social consensus—- once
upon a time killing, enslaving and raping people was all the rage.  But we tend to
frown on that now.  Check out your good book, your god is a major proponent of
this sort of thing.

But luckily, our social tolerance for certain behaviour has diminished over time. 
Just think, another few decades, and the religious mob will stop the ‘evil’ of
spreading aids (by virtue of spreading lies about condoms), of castigating
homosexuals (well pretty much anyone that has sex when you think about it), and
fuelling most wars and acts of terror.  If we’re really lucky, the zeitgeist may have
moved to a period where people keep their religion firmly locked away in private.

Great article by the way!

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By Tom Edgar, December 5, 2009 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Something peculiar on the way from the forum.  i received a message that there was an answer to my posting, only I cannot find my posting.

So here goes again, if I can recall correctly.

Karen Armstrong and the others make the same mistake, confusing atheism with anti Christianity.


A= no, not, none. Theism. It has little to do with being ANTI any specific faith. We ask one thing, and if answered atheism is dead in the water.

Produce, in the scientific manner, verifiable evidence of God’s existence.  Any of the GODS.
Karen admits, and from memory, every other apologist, God is unknowable, impossible to see, touch or feel, and can only be experienced.

If, because it is the major faith in the U S A, Christianity is discredited for its many abuses, failures, contradictions and inaccuracies it is only incidental we discredit the force majeure in that particular country to emphasise the lack of credibility for a belief in a “God”.

Atheists in India do the same with the multitude of Gods in that religion. In Muslim countries, another story. At your peril to even apostate.

So forget the side issues of sectarianism. Where, what, and who the hell IS God. If you can. Please explain without ridiculous reference to the books of fiction, fact and fables. e.g The Bible. Koran,Gita, and Torah.

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By christian96, December 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm Link to this comment

It isn’t a simple step to killing in the name of
Jesus.  He not only died for our sins but left us
strict rules to follow, one of which is “You shall
not kill.”  I know there have been plenty of people
who justify killing in his name but don’t blame
Jesus for what people do in his name.

Report this

By Judy Weismonger, December 5, 2009 at 6:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The problem with religion and the religious is that they vote, and when they vote, its based on myth and superstition, instead of reality and actual consideration of the consequences.

For example: Much of religion is either condemning and blackmailing people who don’t believe the same as the believer…or, it is about using guilt, and shame to motivate and control other people into certain political attitudes.

The result is…that in the name of “god” ...many bad decisions are made, such as increasing the number of poor and the level of poverty all over the world…by paying them welfare payments, and feeding them…without birth control or limits.

I do not want anyone who lives in a magical religious world of make believe…voting enmasse to determine how I live my life based on superstition and religion.

This is why there is so much talk about god and religion…because throughout history…religion works in tandem with dictatorships…to destroy and control human rights. The founders of the United States were functional Atheists…and wrote all religious commandments and mandates OUT of the US Constitution and the US Bill of Rights…for good reason. The founders knew the history of the “church” and religion.

It is a complete, and total myth, that one needs to be religious in order to be a “good person.” In fact, statistics show that Atheist countries have lower crime rates than countries who claim to be “religious.”

The sooner that religion is relegated to history…the sooner people will respect reality and work to enhance their lives based on facts and knowledge and not myth…or worse, behavior constructed as a condition of punishment by an imaginary god. The latter of which, does not seem to work anyway.

Judy Weismonger PhD

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By Tom Edgar, December 5, 2009 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Once again Armstrong and the other “Believers” on this site seem to think atheism equates with anti Christian Judeo Islamic beliefs.

A=without theism.  Simply non belief in Gods, any Gods.

To scientifically disprove the hypothesis for non belief there is only one way, produce the verifiable evidence for the existence of a God atheism would then be dead in the water.  Armstrong herself and all the others point to the impossibility of seeing or KNOWING God.
On this point I agree.  You can’t KNOW without evidence.

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By TheIronist, December 5, 2009 at 5:48 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m still amazed at all the ink that gets spilled over whether or not God exists, as the issue was decisively settled around 300 years ago with the Encyclopedists. We are at a point in our progress as a species where we should be encouraging individuals to get through life without recourse to imaginary friends—or should I say, Imaginary Omnipotent Sky God Buddies. We may indulge a child for a bit who has an imaginary friend. But what at first seems cute takes on the air of pathology if continued for too long.

Religion is many things—community, a set of beliefs, a frame within which to understand the world, even a kind of therapy. But mostly it’s a socially sanctioned way for grownups to have imaginary friends.

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By Smudge Martens, December 5, 2009 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

omygodnotagain:

“Humans cannot be the final word we are too small, too insignificant. That said what type of God would make something so magnificent for humans to enjoy. A God who cared enough that he would die for insignificant me. You see Faith can be reasonable…”

The arrogance of the believer thinking that God cares for me, Jesus died for me ... from there it’s a simple step to justifying killing in his name. Sad to say but the universe does not revolve around any individual’s pathetic existence.

Go to YouTube and view any of the variations of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot. Perhaps you can learn a bit about humility and spirituality from one of the world’s best known and most beloved atheists.

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By omygodnotagain, December 5, 2009 at 1:54 pm Link to this comment

Wish those who conflate religion with belief in God wouldn’t. Religions are communities of people who rough believe the same thing, share similar realities. I have made an intuitive choice, I believe there is a God. This choice was made in the face of my infinitessimalness in the face of a massive incomprehesible and magnificent universe. Humans cannot be the final word we are too small, too insignificant. That said what type of God would make something so magnificent for humans to enjoy. A God who cared enough that he would die for insignificant me. You see Faith can be reasonable…

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By kcdad, December 5, 2009 at 12:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I agree with Mavis Canterbury… if someone really truly believes and has Jesus in their heart.. spare us skeptics, and kill yourselves and go directly to Heaven.
I promise we will miss you for awhile.

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By garth, December 5, 2009 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

The best example of God’s love is the story of Billy Graham when he was poor and starting his ministry.
He needed a suit to appear suitable so he closed his eyes, grimaced his face and shouted, “Dear God, please give me a $ 3500 dollar Brioni suit.”  He opened his eyes and said, “And look!  It fitteth.

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By DaveZx3, December 5, 2009 at 10:44 am Link to this comment

FiftyGigs, December 5 at 1:21 pm #

“Love is all you need” 
“The “case for God” is the case for love”

When I read about that 2000 year old Palestinian in the books which were written about him, I find that he only talked about the need for love of fellow man, love your enemies, forgivness of all sin, unmerited grace, the end of selfishness & greed, the end of lying, the absolute elevation of truth and justice, and the ultimate salvation of man. 

No wonder he had to be eliminated. 

In the rush to rid the world of God, it would be slightly more comforting if the teachings in the books mentioned above were at least perpetuated and taught in classrooms as they were in the past.  Now that classroms are 100% humanistic, materialistic and scientific, LOVE, a purely spiritual commodity, has no place, and it would appear classrooms are not the better off for it. 

As FiftyGigs correctly again notes, “there’s nothing in science that has anything to do with love”. 

That is why science cannot solve any of the world’s real problems like hatred, war, murder, greed, selfishness, etc.

Science gives us better gadgets, God teaches us to Love.  You might say that you need both, but if I were given the choice, I would pick Love over science any day of the week.  And make no mistake about it, the further we get from God, the less love and tolerance we will find in society. 

Please note that I did not make any references to any religion of any sort in this post.

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By eoliphan, December 5, 2009 at 10:17 am Link to this comment

//Sorry, but my version of truth is completely different than your version of truth. //

This is the root of the problem.  We blithely toss this around even though it’s demonstrably problematic.  If in my version of the truth, your house belongs to be, how are we to resolve that.  Selectively applying to matters of faith the

//God is Love,//

If that’s the case, he doesn’t need my tithe money smile  Again, that sentiment is so vague it’s effectively meaningless (aside from also being a Use-Mention error smile) God is Love, now what?  I have love, experience love for other’s etc.  What practical use is there for piggybacking a God, for which there’s no evidentiary proof, on to the concept of love when it provides no value ?

//Love is all you need.//

Umm he actually said no such thing.  Nice sentiment but yet another problem with making the obviously man-made sacred.

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By christian96, December 5, 2009 at 9:54 am Link to this comment

Thong-girl——I agree with some of your comments.
It is time we stop lying to our children about
Santa Claus, Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer, etc.
As I drive around for the last few days I’ve been
listening to a station that plays nothing but
Christmas songs.  I am amazed at the vast number
of songs teaching lies to children.  If we want
children to trust us we need to stop lying to them.
I remember as a child my personal experiences with
Santa.  My friends tried to tell me there was no
Santa but my response was, “Yes, Santa does exist.
I saw him walk into my neighbors house.”
If you notice in songs the lies are associated with
a cheerful emotional melody.  Later, as adults, we
hear those cheerful emotional melodies and they
trigger experiences we associated with them.  That
basic process is what keeps us plowing through these lies, year after year.  To break the conditioning
process we need to raise a generation of children
who have not been lied to by adults and subjected
to the songs containing lies associated with cheerful emotional melodies.  For those of you not
familiar with the Bible, Lucifer is associated with
music.  Speaking of Lucifer as the anointed Cherub
Ezekiel 28:13 reads, “The workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day
that thou was crested.”  Other names for Lucifer
are Devil, Satan, Dragon, etc.  In John 8:44 Jesus
refers to Satan as the father of lies.  Lucifer,
the Devil or Satan is still associating lies with
music to deceive people, especially children.  We
need to work as much as possible to eliminate “lies” from the lives of chiildren.  We could set a good
example by eliminating lies from Washington.

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By Pilgrim, December 5, 2009 at 9:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

wow…lots of emotional response out there to the mention of God!

Doing things in the Name of God is a problem…using relgiion to hide behind instead of taking responsibility for one’s own feelings and actions.

But we sure do not have control of this universe by ourselves, folks.,..come on!  Religion is respect for the things about life we cannot understand or control…it’s been around as long as people in some form…don’t think it can get shouted down…

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By FiftyGigs, December 5, 2009 at 9:21 am Link to this comment

Love is all you need.

That was the radical statement of a man who lived 2,000 years ago—a Palestinian from the Middle East, if you can believe it—before Christianity was even a word. Today, the Tower Of Verbal Babel stands, a monument to how little we love. Hell, modernity is so decrepit, most people don’t even love the things they lust for.

Two thousand years. Our failure to advance—to love—isn’t because of religion. You sound like a Limbaugh Republican—religion doesn’t really want people to be good. Science? There’s nothing in science that has anything to do with love.

The “case for God” is the case for love. Party on! God’s losing! Look around you, and you can actually see where that’s going. Start at Palestine, maybe.

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By garth, December 5, 2009 at 9:07 am Link to this comment

ITW,

I offer my deep apology for the crazy things I said in a previous thread. I hope you can accept.

I appreciate your post here very much.  I might add what John said, that God is Love, and what some religions have recognized that God is a idea.

I was hoping that a Jew who is, as most are, well versed in the Talmud and the old testament would weigh in.  I was told by a Christian Scientist who was also well educated in the Bible that ancient Jews felt that God was an essential part of their lives.

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By Thong-girl, December 5, 2009 at 8:51 am Link to this comment

Folks who want to believe ought to be allowed to believe what they want.  However, all nonsense about gods or religions should be removed from the ears and minds of children, as if they were drugs.  Perhaps, if we can remove the nonsense from all children’s indoctrination, for even one generation, we can be rid of this nonsense once and for all.  Stop poisoning children with the rubbish of the failing addled brains of their parents and other adults.  Stop it and protect your kids from it. It’s 100% garbage.

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By dsmith, December 5, 2009 at 5:06 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is another theory on the table. That theory proclaims the creator was the first cell that divided itself. Of course you can’t worship a cell and you sure won’t get big donations or build cathedrals to a cell but that may well be the creator of life on earth. What’s worse, a cell can’t forgive you of your sins(as defined by your religious affiliation.)

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By Graham ASH-PORTER, December 5, 2009 at 4:44 am Link to this comment

Apophaticism - No human can understand about God. So all those Holey Books, being made up by man, are to be a form of control (especially of the poor, only giving hope for an after-life (another unprovable conjecture)) can say NOTHING of God. Hence ALL talk of God is just mumbo jumbo. If there is a God it will be discovered by and through science. What good are bronze age books? They are called Holy Books. What is holy about a jealous despot who orders all His enemies killed? Calling for a flood to kill everyone excpet the family of a drunkard? There was NO science, just superstition to explain bad weather and poor results in tribal battles. It’s not even a good guide for morals. When Christians talk of evil, they are mirroring their own JHV’s evil actions and commands. The sooner false religions die, and people are taught to be responsible for their own actions and NOT find fault with every other belief system (including sects within Christianity) we will then stop warring in the name of God!

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By GoyToy, December 5, 2009 at 3:20 am Link to this comment

Dear God, do we really need to be arguing about this?

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By DaveZx3, December 5, 2009 at 3:17 am Link to this comment

shemp333, December 5 at 6:23 am #

“I am sure no one really cares at all what you had for breakfast or understands how that relates to the topic at hand”.

I will try to explain it in fourth grade language.

YOU CANNOT DEFINE OR JUDGE MY EXPERIENCE.  What I had for breakfast or any other thing. 

You know nothing about my experience, nor do you know the experiences of literally millions of people who have come before.  You are without knowledge of these things, but must make judgements to reinforce your own version of reality and to mitigate your fear that there might be something that does not fit in to your version. 

You can rant and rave all you want, but it cannot have one tiny bit of impact on what I know to be true.  Sorry, but my version of truth is completely different than your version of truth.

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By shemp333, December 5, 2009 at 2:23 am Link to this comment

This concept of any holey book needs to die a quick death so that we may all live.  These are walls built up in the Dark Age and we all need to grow up now and save us…  from our superstitions.  So we can stop killing each other.  We can look at each other as men and women.  Not Jews, Christians,  Hindus,  Muslims, Mormons,  or any other bullshit fairy tale backdrop.  Time to wake up and lift each other up to the new enlightenment.  Science. That is the way forward,  with you or not,  that is the way we are going forward.

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By Inherit The Wind, December 5, 2009 at 2:12 am Link to this comment

This has absolutly nothing to do with whether or not a God actually exists. It has everything to do with social control on the individual in society. You control the rich largely with tax policies.  You control the middle class with fictions about how if they follow the rules they can become rich too.  You control the poor with God and religion.

Duh…I thought a few thousand years of doing this would clue us in.  I guess not, hence the need for this book.
*******************************************************

Duh indeed! The ancient primitives who had NO other explanation for the natural phenomena around them made assumptions of beings controlling them totally arbitrarily.  By the time Greek mythology is being recorded, gods would change the weather based on sacrifices made.  The story of Agamemnon is of him sacrificing his daughter, Iphigenia, to Artemis (if I remember) to achieve fair winds to take the Armada to Troy.  A goddess decides the fate of a city on whether a person is murdered for her.

This parallels Abraham’s attempt to murder his son Isaac, supposedly at God’s command, and then stopped by an angel…it is the same fundamental philosophy.  People today STILL think that if they pray they’ll persuade God to change his mind about the world we live in.  Or they pray to saints to intercede for them—-again with the Big Guy.

Yet all this is totally contradictory to the first teaching of what God is: Omniscient and Omnipotent.  That means He knows all and can do anything.  OK, that means he KNOWS what is going to happen and what must happen…as Tevye asks “Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan…If I were a wealthy man?”

In this funny song lyric is the heart of the absurdity of religion and prayer.

Now we go on to the next idea: that god is under attack.  Given that God is Omniscient and Omnipotent means the concept of Him needing our “help” is not just absurd, it’s inane.  Does a galaxy need to worry about a single electron?  If the vast universe (or, the new idea, Multiverse) is ALL His creation, than what are we in that but even less than that stray electron in that galaxy far, far away?

This brings me back to the kid asking the Sunday school teacher that classic smart-ass question:
“Father, if God is all-powerful can he make a rock SO big even he can’t lift it?”

In that child’s question is all the contradiction of religion, faith, prayer when confronting omniscience and omnipotence.

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By shemp333, December 5, 2009 at 2:08 am Link to this comment

Wow.  Christian96,  I thought you might show up here with this topic again.  Nice to see you again anyway.  I see you haven’t missed a beat of your drum.

DaveZx3,  An impressive display of nonesense.  Well done.  I am sure no one really cares at all what you had for breakfast or understands how that relates to the topic at hand.  Unless maybe an image of Jesus or Mother Teresa appeared in your toast.  And even then,  skeptical minds would not care.  I saw an image recently of Jesus in a dog’s ass…  That was cool I guess until he drug it across the carpet in the living room.
  First hand experience,  by you?  Arrogance?  Who is really being arrogant here?  So God whispers in your ear but no one elses’?  That is called delusion my man. I can’t imagine how he did you the favor and everyone else got a different message.  One would think it would all be convergent.  How humble are you who claim to say God speaks to you and unbelievers somehow just don’t “get it” and are arrogant?  An impressive display of insanity I must say!
  I will read to you now from Leviticus 1,  Chapter 4,  Jackson 5.  This is my body.  Take heed and eat.  How do you like it?

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By christian96, December 4, 2009 at 11:42 pm Link to this comment

I can’t speak for other religious beliefs because
I have not studied them in depth but I can speak
for Christianity.  The practice of what one believes is important.  In the 1st chapter of James, he
says, “Judge my faith by my WORKS!”  I know it is
fashionable among tv preachers to discount works
and put a lot of emphasis on “faith.”  Just keep
in mind that the tv prachers are trying to get your
bucks.  Therefore, they are not going to make their
listeners mad.  They might not get any bucks. 
Therefore, less emphasis on “works.”  Jesus told
us false teachers would come on the scene.  He
said the way to discriminate the true from the false
would be to watch WHAT THEY DO(WORKS).  As your
local politician comes to your community to pray at
your church or meeting please be careful to watch
WHAT THEY DO in Washington.  Are their actions
Christian or Antichristian?

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By Mavis Canterbury, December 4, 2009 at 9:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Believers! News Flash From God! Kill yourselves and join him in heaven.  “Leave the watery planet to those who can’t appreciate a reality without Me.”

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By DaveZx3, December 4, 2009 at 9:13 pm Link to this comment

There is nothing as pathetic as pseudo-intellectuals discussing God.  Certainly one element of arrogance is writing or opining on subjects one has no first hand knowledge of.  They listen to the opinions of other men, and then summarize what they have heard in a book, and this passes for knowledge. 

But going far beyond that is having the arrogance to state that just because one has not had first hand experience, none could have had first hand experience.  Like a man who grows up in a dark cave, fearing to go out into the light, yet denying the existence of the sun and denying the experience of those who have seen and felt the sun.

The sun may be very scary to someone who has never seen it, but that is his problem and others like him. Just as God may be very scary to someone who has not experienced God, but that is his problem and other like him. 

It has been said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”

True knowledge comes to a repentant, humble heart through meditation, fervent prayer and fasting. I know this to be true.  That is why I can say that God exists in exactly the way that He says He exists.

True knowledge does not have to be shared or written in a book to be true.  No one but me knows what I had for breakfast this morning.  I was there and no one else was.  There are many other experiences in my life which I have true knowledge of and no one else does.  It is totally within the scope of my experience, and is not something which another can debate or question. 

But I will reiterate, it has been said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”

Everyone has access to true knowledge.  It is just whether or not they take the time and effort to apply for it.  But to make judgements about the things you have not had first hand knowledge of is the height of folly.

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By shemp333, December 4, 2009 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

Religion is the stupidest concept ever dreamed up.  Take a hint from the natural world, every religious nutjob,  please.

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By Blackspeare, December 4, 2009 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

All joking aside one has to go back to the ancient mystics and carefully read and interpret their writings.  One such tome is the Zohar which is the basis for the Quballah and puts a slightly different slant on the opening in Genesis.  It says; “In the beginning God was created.”  And that about says it all!

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By berniem, December 4, 2009 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

Look. Matter is latent energy; energy cannot be created or destroyed. The universe is universal(that’s why its called THE UNIVERSE!). Everything has existed forever and will continue to do so. In the aeons of infinity past sentient life has arisen (and disappeared) in an infinite number of hospitable venues and will continue to do so infinitely into the future. Time is a constuct of our intellect and is non-existent in a non-measureable context. Light speed is a constant because at that velocity all matter reverts to energy and energy cannot be created or destroyed(much less modified). Also, the other end of the spectrum (absolute zero) cannot be achieved because at that point everything would stop which leads us back to the reality of energy and it’s characteristics. As former screw-up DOD Secretary Rummy said at one time we only know what we know and don’t know what we don’t know (until we find out!)and the longer we’re around, the more we find out and so on until we come to the end of OUR(not the universe’s) finite coil and thus the process begins anew( actually never stops because it never began in the first place and was in progress all the time and everywhere in the infinity of the universe).And, undoubtedly, an infinite number of primitive, sentient beings throughout the infinite universe at any and all given moments concocted a system of mystical and superstitious explanations to account for not knowing what they did and/or do not know until the wise guy(gal) figured out that this schtick could be used for societal control( not to mention fun & profit) and thus you have the fly in the ointment called religion and all of the nonsense and Catch-22isms inherent with it. We do what we do not because of some mythology but to acquire pleasure and avoid pain. Some of us, unfortunately, don’t play by the accepted rules, but this has nothing to do with any mysterious, supernatural instruments of good and evil. Personally, I’m tired of hearing about religion and all the crap associated with and about it. If believeing in it or believeing in not believeing in it gets your ya yas out so be it. But please keep it out of rational discussion of the daily necessities of life. Thank you very much and I hope (I) passed the audition.

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By randomstu, December 4, 2009 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

WriterOnTheStorm (12/4/09, 5:22p) wrote…
> One can argue that religion can only impart a
> false sense of purpose, and I would likely agree.
> But it is nonetheless, a sense of purpose, without
> which, many might slip into nihilism and despair.

We are born with pure faith and no doubt; we imitate and follow our parents etc without question, since we have no alternative. As time passes, we gain information and experience, giving us more doubt and less blind faith. Still, when faced with situations that totally befuddle us, we revert to blindly following peers and authorities; at such times, this may be our best strategy.

The correct role of a doubter is not to force anything on the True Believers. We’re rarely the best judge of how others ought to think or live.

Doubters and Believers each contribute something to our human ecosystem. Since we all start off as Believers, there are always people who are on the cusp of doubting (thinking for themselves, rather than believing/following others). The role of the doubter in such cases is to offer help and encouragement to others IF they’re ready to explore it.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

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By TAO Walker, December 4, 2009 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

So, is the basic dispute here that same tail-chasing argument over whether it will be more efficacious for domesticated “individuals” to “pray” or to “think” their way out of the mostly self-inflicted predicament they’re trapped in today?  From here in Indian Country both ‘propositions’ are plainly only two among many CONsequences of the varieties of make-believe rampant in their virtual world-o’-hurt.  Neither has any genuine foundations in what our ancestors knew as “the plain truth of Nature”....what this old Savage calls the Living Arrangement of our Mother Earth within the Song ‘n’ Dance of Life Herownself.

So much of the “practical” expression of both “religion” and “science” amounts essentially to CONtrived escapism, anyhow.  Adherents of the former generally expect deliverance from this “vale-of-tears” by the intervention of some at-least superhuman (if not outright “supernatural”) actor.  Disciples of the latter look for the discovery of some inexhaustible source of “energy” to provide them the “power” to solve all the problems and cure all “....the ills that flesh is heir-to,” so many of which their own smash-and-grab search itself has so-far introduced into their half-lives.  These are merely two sides of the same magical-thinking “coin” enjoying so much inflated currency these days, as The(“global”)Situation goes inexorably from bad to…...????

So what does that leave us, then, in the way of possibly viable alternatives?  We will (or will not) simply LIVE, together, through these difficult CONditions.  A corollary “fact-of-Life” is that the only actual Way out of any mess is to just clean it up (providing there’s sufficient common sense left in the sub-species homo domesticus to first quit adding so slap-happily everyday to its already monstrous dimensions).

Admittedly the above formulation has neither the gaudy glamour nor the dramatic potential inherent in all the ginned-up CONflict to which the captive imaginations of our tame Sisters and Brothers have become so fatally addicted.  Even so, getting together in genuine living Human communities to address the destructive effects of the “civilization” CONtraption, on each other and their immediate habitat, as “mundane” as it will be, is in-fact the only approach that offers them any chance at all of telling the Story of these Days to their GrandChildren.

Some of us surviving free wild Natives here on the Northern Plains of Turtle Island call that The Tiyoshpaye Way.  It is not only a Way out-of these currently devastating CONditions, either.  It is the Way available for Humankind into the next Circle in the Great Hoop of Life….where religiossified “belief” is superfluous, and stop-gap “rationality” is replaced by pure Sentience.

Time to grow-up, Kids.

HokaHey!

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By gerard, December 4, 2009 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

So many words!  Why?  Maybe so much is going into our heads through our eyes and ears these days that something has to come out of our mouths to prevent explosions.  Or implosions.  Maybe it is a way of proving “I am here!  Don’t forget me!  This is what I mean!.”  And “Who are you?”  “Explain yourself!”
“Hold my hand.” Maybe this whole string IS religion its very self, from beginning to end, with all of its inconsistencies, problems of logic and sense, belief and action, and—unfortunately too—war and peace.  “In the beginning was the Word ...”  We are trapped by it from the moment we are born.

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By omygodnotagain, December 4, 2009 at 2:31 pm Link to this comment

JKH
Your comment regarding my statement about belief based on rationalism empiricalism, slightly missed the point I was making.
I was asking the basic question how does one know anything. Somewhere a leap of faith has to be made to say for example I see things and they are really exist. It could be that the ‘real’ world of say atoms is very different, but our eyes are not designed to see this.
In fact the premise that atoms are made of 99.9% empty space yet my eyes see things as solid, really begs the question..btw how do I know you are a person and not a machine

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By JFoster2k, December 4, 2009 at 2:03 pm Link to this comment

“God” is that which we cannot explain.

Historically, humans have credited gods with moving the sun across the sky, causing the lightning, bringing floods and drought and all other manner of phenomenon for which we now have reasoned astronomical and atmospheric explanations… none of which require mysticism.

Humanity’s big question is not “is there a god?” or “which god is true?”, but rather will our species survive long enough to understand that we’ve been killing one another over myths?

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By DCambly, December 4, 2009 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment

The devil’s got me… send me your money and give me a pledge you will send it every month.

I will turn me head to the sky and thank god you are so full of faith.

Blessed be the lord.. now pass the bucket

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, December 4, 2009 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

Rhuen Phreed,

Careful, you’re sounding a little Po-Mo.

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By WriterOnTheStorm, December 4, 2009 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment

Jollimore’s able critique of Armstrong’s arguments is mostly convincing. It
seems that her attack on skepticism generously employs at least three
common logical fallacies: Loki’s Wager, No True Scotsman, and Moving
The Goalposts.

With such obvious faults, most skeptics wouldn’t even consider this work a
breakfast snack. However, when Armstrong brings up the notion of
meaning and sense of purpose, she is circling the true epicenter of the
debate, and the reason that it generates such passions from both sides:

<<Nor, like Nietzsche, Sartre, or Camus, do [the new atheists] face up to
the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the means of
creating a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of
such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing
work.>>

Here, I find Jollimore’s answer too dismissive. He writes “There is no
apparent reason to assume that skepticism must inevitably lead to
nihilism.” True, it may not inevitably lead to nihilism, but it certainly might
lead to it, and in great numbers of people who, without religion, would not
have a sense of higher purpose or meaning in their life.

One can argue that religion can only impart a false sense of purpose, and I
would likely agree. But it is nonetheless, a sense of purpose, without
which, many might slip into nihilism and despair.

I would emphasize that sense of purpose, wether valid or not, does not
constitute an argument for the existence of god, nor does it vindicate
religion in general. In point of fact all perceived human purpose and
meaning (including “privileged lives and absorbing work”) may ultimately
turn out to be empty constructs.  However, to debate religion seriously,
one must acknowledge the fact that most believers are deeply invested in
the purpose (however false) religion offers. This may be reason that so
many cling to god despite any logical or empirical evidence, but more
importantly suggests the larger obstacle in the possibility of widespread
adoption of atheism.

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By Matthew Grant, December 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Answer:  No.

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By phreedom, December 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

Part 1

Thank you Professor,

Prides & Processes are all that we truly have to work with. “Prides” if you will, representing all we agree comprise the subjective aspect of our nature as human beings,, and “processes”, if you will, representing all the things we agree are objective aspects of our nature as human beings. Problem is, agreement cannot make any human process we can conjure up, objective.  Agreement is the culprit here, in both instances, since it is through agreement that consequences, that are implemented to cause suffering, are justified. Argument is a smoke screen to this type of agreement, and further validates the suffering imposed. We tend as humans, to argue, to avoid extending compassion, and agree only to implement suffering.(no one ever gets left out of an argument, but someone always gets left out of an agreement, or suffer the consequences of an agreement)

Human beings inherently know suffering, and thus fundamentally seek the experience of compassion(reprieve/safety). Unfortunately, most do not know that human beings were, for the majority of their species’ presence in this world, well, were “easy-prey”. That on a genetic level, we profoundly know fear & insecurity, and have reactions to this innate knowledge that are habitually chronic. These underlying & ancient human weaknesses or vulnerabilities continue to trump any personal or group identity that has been taught, fostered or imposed to redefine it or mask it otherwise. Even modern nation states and modern sovereignty paradigms today succeed because they promise national(sufficiently mass) agreement and security. One might say that the modern nation state and modern sovereignty models are the embodiments of true religion.

(part 2 on the way)

Rhuen Phreed
11 Marlborough Street, #22
Boston, MA 02116

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By phreedom, December 4, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

Part 2(done)

Well, how has traditional religion fit into the above?, well, unfortunately, perfectly. This is why one needs to be cautious when engaging god-people arguments, which are born out of a kind of resonating and wholly seductive logic. Mostly it is not effectively persuasive, but rather is designed around a rationalizing that correctly mirrors the innate concerns & limitations of the human species. Evangelicalism, of any type, religious, economic, political, etc… would be on the side of the subjective “pride” category/side I mentioned above, though it is implemented as a “process”, because its’ users want to capitalize on the agreement tendency of processes, agreement that seems to make processes work. Evangelicals or god-notion-promoting-people do this so they can represent their attempts at converting others to their beliefs as an objective outcropping of human nature. 

Not to add insult to injury to the ego, but Belief and Will are religious constructs, if not completely spiritual concepts, and are derived strictly from the standpoint of how we, as human beings, naturally manifest what we call an “identity” or a(my) “self”.  Belief and Will are delusions, yet natural and useful mental mechanisms/expedients designed(available) to deal with the quite obvious, and completely subjective relationship, human beings have to reality.

You see professor, the “god people” know that the whole process of manifesting identity, and surviving to do so, is a religious process, a subjective process, and they have unlimited resources in this regard since their position or premise is fundamentally correct. The trick here may be, is not to engage them on their terms, which is the same as trying to prove them wrong,, no matter how sophisticated or popularly factual that engagement might be exercised, but rather, the trick is to admit in the most intelligent and comprehensive manner that both the god and non god people share the exact same premise. The goal then is to show with great, but smart humility, that one of the two efforts is a function of capitalizing and/or exploiting this common nature/ground and/or premise, and that the other tries its’ best not to. (with great emphasis on “tries”)

Rhuen Phreed
11 Marlborough Street, #22
Boston, MA 02116

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By Blackspeare, December 4, 2009 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

As that famous American philosopher, Larry Flynt, said, “Religion and God has caused more harm than good.”  And that about says it all!

And what could be more absurd than a God who would put someone through mental anguish to kill his son as a sacrifice and then say, “Oh forget it——just cut off the tip of his penis and we’ll call it even!”  I’ll tell you what could be more absurd——-they’re still doing it!!!

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By Orley Allen, December 4, 2009 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

God is the cornerstone rationale for slavery and murder. Throughout history and
all of time, folks have been cheerfully justifying murdering and enslaving people
who didn’t worship like themselves for the broadly popular reason that the people
to be slaughtered or enslaved didn’t worship God as they do. Anywhere in the
annals of humanity that you find God, slavery and war are sure to follow. Just ask
United States Air Force General Boykins. If you’re a third-world, non-Christian,
non-believer, General Boykins, or any of the legions of his ilk, can righteously
clarify this issue for you with your death or enslavement. So give thanks to
almighty God! We couldn’t possibly continue to rationalize murdering or enslaving
anyone without Him.

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By randomstu, December 4, 2009 at 11:26 am Link to this comment

from the article:
> Indeed all intentional voluntary action
> presupposes some set of beliefs.

It may be true that everyone at times acts on beliefs, but the key question is whether or not I maintain doubt about these beliefs.

A scientist may believe that a particular drug can cure the flu. He performs experiments motivated by that belief. The experiments are valid only if he starts from zero, putting aside his beliefs and expectations. *Doubt* makes experimentation and exploration possible.

Likewise in politics. Some believe that having the Democrats in power is good for the country (or vice versa). Such political belief is a “best guess” based on incomplete information. Any idea of what’s “good” for the country is dependent on an adopted value-system, not objective facts.

So we act on our beliefs while maintaining doubt; it’s the doubt that allows us to learn from experience, and revise our beliefs based on experience. If we don’t doubt, we don’t even pay attention to experience, since we think we’ve got nothing to learn, we already know the truth!

It’s doubt that makes the difference between someone engaged in the political process, learning and adapting over time… and a fanatic ready to use any means to insure that his Superior Beliefs triumph.

Just so with religion. We can practice religion (looking into the big questions of life) without clinging to any belief. If we do hold a belief, we either make sure to maintain our doubts and keep a mind open to change based on experience… or we fall into fanaticism.

Stuart
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

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By gma, December 4, 2009 at 11:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

There is no shred of verifiable and falsifiable evidence for gods, tooth fairies,
pink unicorns, that constellations of stars or planets (the mercury retrograde
hoax) affect us, ...

That means that any page written about god is not worth the paper it is written
on.

However, since most people are indoctrinated from when they are born into
believing any such nonsense, it is important that the silliness of the god
concept is clearly and crisply refuted.

Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Troy Jollimore (the
author of this article) are doing a great job and a great service to mankind in
making people think about the silliness of their beliefs in things not based on
evidence about which they therefore know absolutely nothing at all.

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By blazintommyd, December 4, 2009 at 11:03 am Link to this comment

This sort of thing perpetuates the stupidity, fear
and laziness of us slaves - I look at it like this -
presume the postulate that God exists. The question
is what sort of God punishes people for saying “shit”
or for having same sex while Hitler exterminated
Jews? Because these are the only instances where God
comes into the picture. Asking questions like this
produces one answer, God is indifferent to these
sorts of things, they are petite/petty to hir. So why
do these things under color of God persist? False
authority for people to punish other people and
perpetuate inequality. End of story.

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By David, December 4, 2009 at 9:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In the beginning Man created god in his image.

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By Betsy, December 4, 2009 at 9:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why ever should God be defined by religion anyway?
Religion is basically ritualized human aspiration.  We expect the churched to be everything their dogmas impose on them, when really they are simply aspiring to live up to those dogmas.  When eventually they give up the dogmas, they realize that spirituality or the expression of soul qualities is an everyday activity and process.

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By Anarcissie, December 4, 2009 at 8:59 am Link to this comment

FlamingLib, December 4 at 10:25 am:
‘This author cannot make a case for “God” because there isn’t any.  There is no way to “prove” the existence of “God.”  It is superstition.  It is irrational belief borne of fear, mainly fear of death.  “God” is a hoax.’

You can’t really say that because God is undefined.  Statements about an undefined entity are neither true nor false: they’re senseless.

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By hark, December 4, 2009 at 8:49 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We certainly do talk too much about God.  Much of it is defensive talk, an attempt to rationalize a belief in that which makes utterly no sense.  And off we go on some Alice-in-Wonderland, Through-the-Looking-Glass adventure of twisting language into exotic multi-dimensional pretzels in order to prove we’re not crazy for believing in what we do, and that it is the non believers who are crazy and unhappy and miserable without this God in their lives.

Look, most of us non believers are quite passive about our non beliefs, and don’t wish to engage in all these mental gymnastics.  We just don’t see any reason to believe in this biblical deity.  None.  We don’t want to fight about it, or defend ourselves.  We just want to mind our own business and go on with our lives.  If you need your God to feel good about life, then so be it.  But leave us alone, stop psychoanalyzing us, stop proselytizing to us, please.

I apologize for the impudent Dawkinses of the world.  I think they’ve just had their fill of God talk and had to speak out.

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By garth, December 4, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

From Hammond’s post,

“Joey the scientist has a theory that, say, Santa Claus exists… he tests it. If his test comes out positive, his theory is reinforced. He
tests it again. And again. Hundreds of times. Other scientists begin to test it. Over time, results are continually positive. Joey then decides
it is practical to trust the theory of Santa Claus. So much so that he may even use the word “believe” to describe his trust. But he doesn’t actually believe in Santa. Because if new convincing evidence emerges… and assuming yet again that he is a reasonable, respectable scientist, he will revise his theory.”

—————————————————————————
The last sentence, “Because if new convincing evidence emerges… and assuming yet again that he is a reasonable, respectable scientist, he will revise his theory.”  describes how I work out some of my jarring experiences from a belief in God.”
The practice of what I believe is the most difficult for me.  Joseph Campbell, speaking on Christianity, said that “turning one’s cheek” was probably the most difficult teaching to adhere to.

Thank you, Mr. Hammond.

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By garth, December 4, 2009 at 8:48 am Link to this comment

From Hammond’s post,

“Joey the scientist has a theory that, say, Santa Claus exists… he tests it. If his test comes out positive, his theory is reinforced. He
tests it again. And again. Hundreds of times. Other scientists begin to test it. Over time, results are continually positive. Joey then decides
it is practical to trust the theory of Santa Claus. So much so that he may even use the word “believe” to describe his trust. But he doesn’t actually believe in Santa. Because if new convincing evidence emerges… and assuming yet again that he is a reasonable, respectable scientist, he will revise his theory.”

—————————————————————————
The last sentence, “Because if new convincing evidence emerges… and assuming yet again that he is a reasonable, respectable scientist, he will revise his theory.”  describes how I work out some of my jarring experiences from a belief in God.”
The practice of what I believe is the most difficult for me.  Joseph Campbell, speaking on Christianity, said that “turning one’s cheek” was probably the most difficult teaching to adhere to.

Thank you, Mr. Hammond.

my sometimes

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By jill rowan, December 4, 2009 at 8:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the ads for Israel alongside this article (or any article for that matter,)are a tad ingongruent, please bin them.

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By elisalouisa, December 4, 2009 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

Dhamma3:My problem with god is that we are taught that god made us in his
image, and all the while we have only the equipment to make what ever
concept of god we have into one that only reflects our own image.  Let’s face it,
when it comes to belief, that image is fairly well tarnished when one looks
down the historical record
********************************
I am in agreement with most of what you write Dhamma3, especially your last
paragraph. I believe that we are made in God’s image, that we are part of God
and as we become more conscious, we help God become more conscious.
Deep within we know there is an energy we are part of. There are various
names for that energy; in our culture that energy goes by the name go God,
G-d. The fact that some have a need to continually state there is no God and
discuss this almost in a manner that if the subject is delved into enough the
missing link as to the mystery will be discovered tells us that energy exists. 
What we must face is that it is that our concept of that energy might be very
much off base.

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By G.Anderson, December 4, 2009 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

As John Lennon said, God is a concept by which we measure our pain.

Conceptualising God is usally the problem, too many words and to many intellecutalizations. Because it allows people to act contrary to their religious beliefs, and to rationalize their transgresssions.

Then of course, there are the arguments about whose relgion, is the true relgion of God, which vary due to the culture, language and geography.

Often the true believers are fanatics, whose belief systems and liturgy exist beyond reason and evidence.

In our culture we seem to believe God is a businessman, who we bribe with our good deads as a way of getting into heaven. It’s fitting for us.

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By Howard Mandel, December 4, 2009 at 7:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“In other words, it is precisely our lack of knowledge of God that enables us to say, well, pretty much whatever we want about God—except, of course, that God was not in Christ (but only an atheist or heathen would want to say that anyway)”

What utter nonsense. Taking on atheists always requires defenders of faith to project false notions about atheists. Why would any atheist want to say anything about God or Christ. I’m not convinced, and don’t care if Jesus even existed. If he did I certainly have no opinion about whether he was a supernatuaral being or not. Although, the absense of supernatural beings is apparent today (unless they don’t want to be discovered).

The new atheists are not so much anti-god as they are anti-religion and pro-science. They don’t claim that science can replace the rewards a life in service to faith can offer. They only ask that if we are to dedicate our lives to something, there are plenty of corporal endeavors and experiences that can lead to equal if not superior rewards, if we could just get past all the god nonsense. And, wouldn’t the sum total of that be better for civilization.

The author in the end claims that religion should be left alone to serve as some kind of “meaning of life” therapy for those without priviledge or rewarding work. Phew! The only problem with that is the magical thinking that it instills in the believer leaves them open to other magical thinking concepts that make them easy prey for those who would manipulate them for political power. Ask Sarah!

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By Benjamin Tasker, December 4, 2009 at 7:43 am Link to this comment

@ omygodnotagain, concerning your statement: “Non-believers have such a
fervent belief in rationalism and empiricalism that it is impossible
for them to see that they are practicing a belief too.”

I might be talking about different non-believers than you, but any
respectable and reasonable scientist - and one who pays close attention
to the words they are using - would easily tell you that they don’t
“believe” in empiricism or naturalism or their senses which are their
tools. After all those tools have proven themselves imperfect.

I’m always troubled by the religious person’s accusation that we
“believe” in “science” as if it is another deity to be revered. I don’t
“believe” in it. The practical scientist TRUSTS science and TRUSTS
his/her senses. There is a fundamental difference. True belief is
written in stone… unwavering. Trust can be broken.

Joey the scientist has a theory that, say, Santa Claus exists… he
tests it. If his test comes out positive, his theory is reinforced. He
tests it again. And again. Hundreds of times. Other scientists begin to
test it. Over time, results are continually positive. Joey then decides
it is practical to trust the theory of Santa Claus. So much so that he
may even use the word “believe” to describe his trust. But he doesn’t
actually believe in Santa. Because if new convincing evidence
emerges… and assuming yet again that he is a reasonable, respectable
scientist, he will revise his theory.

Trust can resemble belief. The line between them is very deep within
our cores. (In fact, many scientist, unfortunately cross that line.) One can trust something so much that they may base their every action
on that which they trust and it easily appears to be belief. But, again
for the reasonable scientist, it is not.

We cannot KNOW without uncertainty the nature of god. That is the
revelation. That is what Dhamma3 and acbar and reasonable scientists
have realized.

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By sawdusttx, December 4, 2009 at 7:31 am Link to this comment

“We are talking far too much about God these days,”

You could have stopped right there and saved all of the space.

If we do it too much, why are you still doing it? For all of its’ “deadness” and modern-day irrelevance, “God"is still remarkable in its ability to delude, distract and avoid personal responsibility.

Try reading pre-socratics instead.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, December 4, 2009 at 6:50 am Link to this comment

“...I do not for one second think we need the concept of God to make sense of the world, nor do we need it to live authentically, compassionately, or ethically.”—Dhamma3


Bingo!  Unfortunately, accepting that level of personal accountability is well beyond the average—fill in religious affiliation.

And all this claptrap about nonbelievers focusing on the fundis and ignoring the moderates is further evidence that so-called religious scholars don’t know anything about the people they defend or the people they criticize.  Religious moderates don’t follow the correct path of “practice” any more than the fundis do.  That’s because, on the whole, they’re not considered moderates because they espouse a reasoned approach religion, rather they’re moderates because they’re simply not very committed or engaged.  Religion, for them, is a way to be seen as part of community without actually having to do much of anything.  Those rare few who actually practice what they preach, as much as I hate to admit it, tend to come from the ranks of the fundamentalists.

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 6:43 am Link to this comment

And now the news headlines:

FlamingLib Attacks Dead Horse!

omygodnotagain Is So Mental!


I gotta crash folks - it’s 11PM here in Japan.


not The Moderator anymore

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By Bubba, December 4, 2009 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

Armstrong, brilliant as always.

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

This is an interesting series.  But I feel lonely here, as people seem to leave their comments and disappear. 

I’m the Lonely Moderator, folks.  Anyway…

Notice the clear division between contributors.  On one side, dismissive God-lovers or God haters.  On the other side, me and Dhamma3 (so far) who are way past the God/notGod dichotomy.  The first side is all irate, we are calm. 

That is so far out.

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By Sylvia Barksdale, December 4, 2009 at 6:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Goddammit!  How many times do I have to say that if man hadn’t created god, we’d know nothing about him?

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By omygodnotagain, December 4, 2009 at 6:26 am Link to this comment

“My intellectual career seems not to exist, according to Gould’s simplistic way of carving up conceptual space. (His view that the magisteria “do not overlap” also implies, very implausibly, that empirical matters can have no bearing at all on moral questions.”)

Actually I have a very hard time picturing how any moral questions could even begin without some act of belief or faith. Ultimately whether one is a believer or non-believer some act of faith about something has to be made. Even if it is to say all that my senses and intellect tell me is the only reality.  This is the basic conumdrum. Non-believers have such a fervent belief in rationalism and empiricalism that it is impossible for them to see that they are practicing a belief too.

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James M. Martin's avatar

By James M. Martin, December 4, 2009 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

This author cannot make a case for “God” because there isn’t any.  There is no way to “prove” the existence of “God.”  It is superstition.  It is irrational belief borne of fear, mainly fear of death.  “God” is a hoax.

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 6:11 am Link to this comment

Dhamma3 -

You nailed it, man.  Keep on truckin’

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 6:02 am Link to this comment

Dave Zx3 -

It also doesn’t take a smart person to repeat some endlessly repeated dogma he got from someone else.  Notice how you do not engage, only dismiss others.

You say, “if mans knowledge is all we have to rely on, it is no wonder we find ourselves in the situations we do.”

Can’t you see your own tone of despair?  Enlightened people are filled with compassion and hope.  I don’t get this from you.  I get condescension and hopelessness. 

Humans try to figure stuff out by talking to each other.  The problem is that God has “spoken” to four or five different human civilizations and they tend to war with each other over who has the Truth.  So you quote the Bible to us.  I agree that intellectualizing is futile (read my post).  But I wonder - where does your anger and impatience come from?  We’re just talking here.

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DaveT383's avatar

By DaveT383, December 4, 2009 at 5:59 am Link to this comment

supernatural beings simply do not exist. period. no gods, no tooth fairies, no angels, no heaven, no hell. religions are absurdities.

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By Dhamma3, December 4, 2009 at 5:51 am Link to this comment

I have to say I agree fully with the author.  As one who sees the buddha-dhamma as encompassing a worldview that pretty much looks at the situation we are in as human beings who are a part of the world of dependent origination, a worldview that prefers to set all the speculative aspects of Theism to the side as a waste of time, I do not for one second think we need the concept of God to make sense of the world, nor do we need it to live authentically, compassionately, or ethically.

Of course, I realize that within buddhism, cultural accretions and additions have muddied the waters of the fundamental teachings so that it too has some of the negative elements of theistic religions, though I might argue that historical/cultural developments in all “relgions’ (if in fact buddhism is a religion) always tend to negate the original intentions of the teachings and lead to calcified beliefs and a set of adherents who deem their way the right way, and all other as apostates and heretics.

Still, fundamentally, buddhism is not about belief—it is about discerning the way things really are made up in this world and seeing the futility of actions that are harmful.  No easy task for this novitiate, for sure.

From the standpoint of one who sits outside of the God/No God dichotomy, all I see is divisiveness and adherence to contradictory ideas that lead to further decisiveness.  From sectarian strife, to hate, to bombings and killing in the name of religious belief seem to be the hallmark of religiosity, and the good works of religion to be the sideshow.

My problem with god is that we are taught that god made us in his image, and all the while we have only the equipment to make what ever concept of god we have into one that only reflects our own image.  Let’s face it, when it comes to belief, that image is fairly well tarnished when one looks down the historical record.

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By DaveZx3, December 4, 2009 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

There is nothing as pathetic as listening to intellectuals discussing God.  There is no mystery to God.  He has told us everything we need to know, and then some.  There is nothing that can be added nor nothing that can be taken away.  It is all available, 100%. 

This is what is written, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to ALL generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him”

Most people don’t ever hear anything because they don’t shut their mouth long enough to listen. Not to mention the fact that they think they already have everything figured out, so why ask? 

True knowledge comes to a repentant, humble heart through meditation, fervent prayer and fasting. I know this to be true.  That is why I can say that God exists in exactly the way that He says He exists.

But people have not chosen true knowledge.  They have chosen to determine their own knowledge, their own truth.  So we have a world where everyone, including the so-called religious, (who God describes as the false church) wallow around in their own little “relative truths” and argue and war with each other forever and ever.

And the problem with man is just that.  He has eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and now he thinks he can be the judge of what is right and what is wrong.  But he does not understand that he remains trapped in his totally flawed character, with the most fatal flaws being that in his selfish behavior, he lies through his teeth and continously slaughters his own kind in every way imaginable.

It does not take a very smart person to see that man does not have a clue, not even one remote clue, and if mans knowledge is all we have to rely on, it is no wonder we find ourselves in the situations we do.

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 5:32 am Link to this comment

montanawildhack:

The mind not shutting it’s mouth includes
people beating dead horses.

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By montanawildhack, December 4, 2009 at 5:11 am Link to this comment

If there is a god and if he is the god of the old and new testament I would still tell him to “go piss up a rope.”  I simply don’t like the guy and would not have him as a friend…. And I sure as hell don’t want to spend eternity with him or his believers….  I’ll happily spend eternity with Kurt Vonnegut, Mark Twain, John Fonte, Sitting Bull and Bill Hicks thank you very much….

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By acbar, December 4, 2009 at 4:58 am Link to this comment

“Apophaticism, as she understands it, claims that God is ineffable and that talk about God literally has no content at all. Since God transcends all human attempts at understanding, humans cannot think or say anything meaningful about God:

“The idea of God is merely a symbol of indescribable transcendence and has been interpreted in many different ways over the centuries.”

I love the above conceptualization of God.  It seems a perfect description of a human faculty or “sense,” broadly described.  (Horrible-sounding term though!)  It’s very close to Wittgenstein’s admonishment not to speak of what we cannot speak of.  This experience ranges from the most still meditation to the wildest forms of physical exultation.  Empirically speaking - correct me if I’m wrong - this “transcendental” experience is universally non-violent.  If there are exceptions, let’s say they prove the rule.  On the other hand, when words come into play, people tend to get killed!  This experience further encompasses the sense of the mystical that Einstein spoke of, something engendered within him, collaterally, at unimaginably high levels of logical reasoning.  Dawkins’ discussion of this sort of reverence is the common ground and meeting place for an acceptance of the legitimacy of spirituality in human life.  It’s just that for the great preponderance of people in this age of the world, the mind won’t shut it’s mouth.

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By samosamo, December 4, 2009 at 4:31 am Link to this comment

This just such another waste of time because the number of times that
humans have gone for each other’s throats to claim one or the other has a
monopoly on ‘god’. 

Hell, if I were the ‘real’ god I would have been so pissed that I would have
brought the arc of whatever out and blasted every single bastard to hell and gone who was using my name to further their favorite agenda in MY name, thus god has no case and there is NO case for god; that gets nobody nowhere.

And as screwed up as the human species as acted, then that can only be proof
that the ‘religious’ factions do NOT have any monopoly on any such thing as a
‘GOD’!!!!!, so my god, what is everybody thinking and drinking?

It would be soooo much easier and better to just drop any of the ‘god’ or
religious pretenses so that real world fixes and actions can be done.

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By Louis Candell, December 4, 2009 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Jollimore shouldn’t be worried about the apparent contradiction between religious subjectivism and apophaticism. Any attributes a subjectivist may ascribe to a supreme entity are a matter of personal faith. It’s a good idea to keep the words of Thomas Jefferson and Woody Allen in mind when contemplating belief and/or faith in a supreme enrtity:

Jefferson stated that he didn’t care whether or not a man believed in one God,twenty gods or no gods because it neither picked his pocket nor broke his leg.  It was Allen, I believe, who said that no one can prove the non-existence of God; it must be accepted on faith.

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By ardee, December 4, 2009 at 3:39 am Link to this comment

It is not a believe in a god that is the problem. It is the next step that far too many take ; assuming that ones beliefs must motivate one to proselytize and enforce ones unique belief systems upon others.

When one studies the history of prominent religious leaders, if only here in America, one finds ample evidence that money and power, not belief in a god, rule their lives and actions.

A perfect example of such was noted on last evenings Rachel Maddow show for those who caught it. I would urge one to go to her website for a transcript of the actions and outcomes of America christian influences on the fight to end the AIDS epidemic in Uganda….not a pretty picture at all.

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By Dave24, December 4, 2009 at 3:07 am Link to this comment

Says it all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeSSwKffj9o

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By ChaoticGood, December 4, 2009 at 1:13 am Link to this comment

“Apparently it is to be privilege for some, religion for the rest, and nihilism for those unfortunates who have neither. Is there really no other alternative?”

So let me try to sort out this overly complex web.  It seems that if you have a good job, or believe in God, then you have “meaning” in your life, otherwise it is nihilism for you.

This is so wrong…

This has absolutly nothing to do with whether or not a God actually exists. It has everything to do with social control on the individual in society. You control the rich largely with tax policies.  You control the middle class with fictions about how if they follow the rules they can become rich too.  You control the poor with God and religion.

Duh…I thought a few thousand years of doing this would clue us in.  I guess not, hence the need for this book.

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