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On Atheists and Easter

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Posted on Apr 6, 2007

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

WASHINGTON—This weekend, many of the world’s estimated 2 billion Christians will remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    While some Christians harbor doubts about Christ’s actual physical resurrection, hundreds of millions believe devoutly that Jesus died and rose, thereby redeeming a fallen world from sin.

    Are these people a threat to reason and even freedom?

    It’s a question that arises from a new vogue for what you might call neo-atheism. The new atheists—the best known are writers Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins—insist, as Harris puts it, that “certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one.” That’s why they think a belief in salvation through faith in God, no matter the religious tradition, is dangerous to an open society.

    The neo-atheists, like their predecessors from a century ago, are given to a sometimes charming ferociousness in their polemics against those they see as too weak-minded to give up faith in God.

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    What makes them new is the moment in history in which they are rejoining the old arguments: an era of religiously motivated Islamic suicide bombers. They also protest against the apparent power of traditionalist and fundamentalist versions of Christianity.

    As a general proposition, I welcome the challenge of the neo-atheists. The most serious believers, understanding that they need to ask themselves searching questions, have always engaged in dialogue with atheists. The Catholic writer Michael Novak’s book “Belief and Unbelief” is a classic in self-interrogation. “How does one know that one’s belief is truly in God,” he asks at one point, “not merely in some habitual emotion or pattern of response?”

    The problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn. They are especially frustrated with religious “moderates” who don’t fit their stereotypes.

    In his bracing polemic “The End of Faith,” Harris is candid in asserting that “religious moderates are themselves the bearers of a terrible dogma: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each one of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others.”

    Harris goes on: “I hope to show that the very ideal of religious tolerance—born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God—is one of the principal forces driving us toward the abyss. We have been slow to recognize the degree to which religious faith perpetuates man’s inhumanity to man.”

    Argument about faith should not hang on whether religion is socially “useful” or instead promotes “inhumanity.” But since the idea that religion is primarily destructive lies at the heart of the neo-atheist argument, its critics have rightly insisted on detailing the sublime acts of humanity and generosity that religion has promoted through the centuries.

    It’s true that religious Christians were among those who persecuted Jews. It is also true that religious Christians were among those who rescued Jews from these most un-Christian acts. And it is a sad fact that secular forms of dogmatism have been at least as murderous as the religious kind.

    But what’s really bothersome is the suggestion that believers rarely question themselves while atheists ask all the hard questions. As Novak argued in one of the best critiques of neo-atheism, in the March 19 issue of National Review, “Questions have been the heart and soul of Judaism and Christianity for millennia.” (These questions get a fair reading in another powerful commentary on neo-atheism, by James Wood, himself an atheist, in the Dec. 18 issue of The New Republic.)

    “Christianity is not about moral arrogance,” Novak insists. “It is about moral realism, and moral humility.” Of course Christians in practice often fail to live up to this elevated definition of their creed. But atheists are capable of their own forms of arrogance. Indeed, if arrogance were the only criterion, the contest could well come out a tie.

    As for me, Christianity is more a call to rebellion than an insistence on narrow conformity, more a challenge than a set of certainties.

    In “The Last Week,” their book about Christ’s final days on Earth, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, the distinguished liberal scriptural scholars, write: “He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the Kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’ passion got him killed.”

    That’s why I celebrate Easter and why, despite many questions of my own, I can’t join the neo-atheists.

    E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is postchat(at symbol)aol.com.

    © 2007, Washington Post Writers Group


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By Jim H., May 3, 2007 at 11:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

David;
Your assertione are eggregiously fallacous!
When you want to prove someone is wrong for opposing something, you MUST start at the ‘beginning’!  Now! just what is ‘it’ you are trying prove someone is “wrong” for “philosophically” opposing?  Surely, even ‘you’ do not believe someone needs “infinite knowledge’ to reject, or be “philosophically” in denial about the truth of lies or misconceptions? Nor, I think would you suggest that “infinite knowledge” or a “philosophical” stance need to come into play in determining the factual existance of “Humpty Dumpty” “the Tooth Fairy” or Santa Claus? And of course, MOST intelligent people are very successful at determining fact from fiction through the use of their own real world rational reason without resorting to such extraordinary devices you suggest are necessary.

You go on to talk about a made-up make-believe fairytale ‘figure’ and the fictional ‘story book’ of fairytales that tells that story,. Then you have the unmittergated gall to say that someone would have to be that fairytale ‘figure’ in order to know whether that very make-believe, fairytale ‘figure’ was real? I know from your earlier posts that you repeatedly avoid offering or presenting any positive discourse regarding your position about the subject of this ‘Report’, but this outburst is convincing proof that all your efforts are meant to hide the fact that you have come to realize that there is no way you can justify believing in “Godism”!

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By Trish, May 3, 2007 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment

Yes, the Bible may say that ,“The fool says in his heart,’There is no God.’”
But atheists can play that game, too.

The main difference I seen in the behavior of those who identify as believing in God & those who don’t, is that the ones who do identify as believers seem to have a strong compulsion to announce that belief, and to try to either recruit others - or to try to convince others that they really, really don’t mean that they don’t believe in God.  Meanwhile, atheists tend to have a life.

So, now, we’ve finally come full circle to the question, are atheists being too pushy about their nonbelief?  Do we print more copies of a book trying to scare others into our position than any other book in the world, year after year after year?  Do we make part of our daily routine the recruiting of others minding their own business?  Do we claim that the churched are responsible for violence, crime, drugs, teen sex & bad Hollywood movies [as opposed to the responsibility of actual perpetrators of the above]? 

Or are atheists working jobs, teaching classes, running labs, writing books, making movies, loving their families and contributing to their communities?

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By David from Florida, May 3, 2007 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is philosophically impossible to be an atheist, since to be an atheist you must have infinite knowledge in order to know absolutely that there is no God. But to have infinite knowledge,you would have to be God yourself. It’s hard to be God yourself and an atheist at the same time! The Bible says in Psalm 14:1,“The fool says in his heart,‘There is no God.’”

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By straight_talk_11, April 19, 2007 at 11:45 pm Link to this comment

What happens after death?
I don’t have any personal experience of that, so it would fall in the category of dogma if I were to speculate or try to promote any firm beliefs. I do believe awareness persists after death, but can’t prove that any more than we can prove our awareness to each other while alive. I just know that anyone who has experienced the timeless silence of pure, super-alertawareness as blissfully independent of space and time, knows it as more fundamental than space-time. Those of us who practice effective meditation are familiar with this as the ultimate empirical experience, since all experience is ultimately subjective. We call observations empirical only when they constitute collectively validated perceptions.

“Are the abrahamic religious texts divine in origin?“
I believe they were inspired, for the most part, by the timeless, silent, purity of super-alertand blissful awareness that I believe anyone can experience given the desire and appropriate guidance. Anyone who has had such experience easily recognizes others who have had it even if the experience is too abstract for ill-adapted human language to communicate it without recourse to parables, allegories, and metaphor.

Do I think God guided every jot and tittle of the pen…that he was wiggling the end of it? Of course not! The oldest known copies of Christian scriptures have certain parts missing that were apparently added later, not to mention that the four Gospels have clear discrepancies in surface detail, but the underlying theology is remarkably consistent. This is not even to mention the intense political infighting that characterized the bishops at the Nicene Council concerning which books would be considered canonical scripture. I find some parts of the translations of the Nag Hammadi discoveries generally deeper than canonical scripture, although parts contain their share of superficial oddities.

Of course, fundamentalists think this is utter blasphemy, but then they’re fundamentalists, just like some of the atheistic ranters here do the same thing on the flip side of that coin. These latter are just fundamentalist atheistic evangelists and I see them as belonging to the same basic category of ignorance.

“Does god speak to us through prophets?”
I believe the last answer addresses this as well as I can. By the way, the Abrahamic scriptures, at least in Judaism and Christianity, do not promote or justify a belief in an anthropomorphic God (human-like in form) as you imply. I have already more than once made a series of statements that are scientifically equivalent to the idea that we are made in the image of God. I see this as implicit in the holographic theories that currently represent the most viable approach to the idea of quantum gravity long sought after in theoretical physics.

In holographs, every point reflects the nature of the whole. This is the pre-physical precursor of the same principle manifest in biological genetics where every cell contains the “blueprint” for the whole organism and thus enables cloning. To take the idea that we’re made in the image of God to mean He is a physical being that looks pretty much like a human in the mirror is just another example of absurd fundamentalist interpretation.

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By straight_talk_11, April 19, 2007 at 10:56 pm Link to this comment

Hi, Archeon,

I will indulge you with answers again, and the details are lengthy, not because I’m full of wind as some ranters here have accused me of being even while they they continue to do nothing but spew vitriolic rhetoric. You’d think they’d be embarrassed to demonstrate such incapacity to reason while they accuse others of exactly that. I think that’s called classical projection.

“Do you believe there is a god?”
Yes.

“Do you have a soul? what is it?”
It is my awareness, which you can’t locate physically. Different kinds of mental function can be crudely associated with certain areas of the brain using the current state of the art, but I know personally that awareness exists independently of thought. We all take awareness for granted in others only because we each experience it ourselves, but we can’t define it, touch it, see it, smell it, or perceive it in any other sensory way. We just take others’ word for it that they also experience it, but none of us can prove that.

I only used awareness to show that there are aspects of reality underlying superficial matter and energy that cannot be proven and that you and I both directly, empirically experience. I even reminded everyone that the premises underlying all the branches of mathematics are assumed and cannot in principle be proven. Reason itself cannot be explained in terms of reason. It must be explained in terms of something more fundamental or it becomes circular and therefore logically flawed.

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By archeon of thrace, April 19, 2007 at 3:18 pm Link to this comment

I am happy that you straight-talk have calmed down.  But you failed to answer my questions to you.  I asked them so that you could have an oportunity to explain/illustrate your beliefs.

Do you believe there is a god? gods?
Do you have a soul? what is it?
What happens after death?
Are the abrahamic religious texts divine in origin?
Does god speak to us through prophets?

I have simplyfied the questions, please answer them.

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By Jim Hanley, April 19, 2007 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stray-talk:
the pretentious vitriolic of imberciles like you is important confirmation that you have received the message and it has infected you!!!  And I must thank you for the un-paid-for critical feedback! I say ‘it has infected you, but in fact ‘it’ may prove to be an ‘antidote’! to that horrendous plague-like discease that you show you are dying from?: “Godism”!  Indeed, as you have acknowledged “all persons who believe in “Jesus Christ” belong in a single catagory”!: INSANE! which is a ‘most’ “appropriate catagory” for imberciles who, despite the brain-washing, and forced-fed mesmerizing branding indoctrination they have sufffered from since early childhood when their duped, naive parents, or other criminals turned them into robotic slaves in the service of those racketeering Ponzi-scheme-operating-criminal-charlatans who rape little children, and rob them of pennies to build mansions and support a foreign entity The Vatican; ‘they’ have rejected every suggestion and opportuniity to avail themselves of the facts surrounding such fantasiesas “Santa Clause” the “Easter Bunny”, “Jesus Christ”, and “God”!  And you are idocy ‘incarnate’! for having the utter ‘gall’ to question the assertions of someone ((me) so mentally superior to one (you) stuped in the soggy cesspool mire of abhorrent “Religion”, and beheld in “Gods” filthy wrenching claws! Your only hope is a “cold turkey” ‘leap’ out of that whirlpool of slime, lest you remain a willing tool and abetting cohort of the aforementioned criminals, and continue to share their criminal guilt!

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By archeon of thrace, April 19, 2007 at 6:15 am Link to this comment

But straight-talk, the abrahamic faiths do claim GOD is a being or “thing”.

That god and self awareness are linked, is an assumption on your part.  This is obviously not the case for me, so this is not true.  Have no concept of god, and I certainly don’t “feel” there is one.  Yet I am aware of my being.  Now you will say that is spritual and I will say it is not.

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By john m sandoval, April 18, 2007 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Easter Sunday

Happy Easter we say, and we are so jovial about it !
What do Easter and it’s symbols have to do with Christianity ?

I read in the “Bible” that “Nimrod” son of Kush (an Atheist) married his mother “Semiramis” in order to rule the kingdom. Nimrod was assassinated by his uncle a believer of the Jewish God Jehovah, for claiming to be a “Sun God”.
Nimrod was historically placed among the stars as “Orion” (in the constellation of Orion the great hunter) as the “Sun God BaaL.”
Nimrod’s wife & mother Semiramis, assumed the throne (in old Iraq) claiming to have been dropped from heaven into the “Euphrates” river in the form of an egg.
Semiramis was worshiped as a Goddess and became known as “The Queen of Heaven.” At the Spring Festival in April they celebrated “Spring Fertility” worshiping “Semiramis” as “The Queen of Heaven” with prayers, offerings & sacrifices. (as per the Bible) That is the origin of the Easter bunny and the Easter eggs. Supposedly Semiramis ascended to heaven and became “the Moon” and the populace worshiped the Moon. The Torah’s “chag he aviv” is the “Spring Festival”.  Observe; the Jewish Festival of the June Moon.
That is why millions of Atheists as well as millions of Christians celebrate “Easter Sunday.” (eggs & bunnies – have nothing whatever to do with the Crucifixion)

Strange and bizarre that “Christianity” is based on two of the greatest fables ever devised by mankind – Christmas and Easter. .
By John M Sandoval

Rev. chap. 1 verse 20 says; The seven stars of “Orion” (in the constellation of “Orion”) are the angels of the seven churches.
Ref. Jeremiah chap. 44 verses 15, 19, and 25

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By straight_talk_11, April 18, 2007 at 11:44 am Link to this comment

Trish, I said smarty, not smarty pants. You people put down others for believing in God, implying and often outright calling them stupid and misguided. So people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Your other comments are just more of the same, so my answer to you is simply: “Yeah, OK, never mind.”

Archeon, thank you for admitting that I’ve said some things that are not utter trash. That’s something new for you, but the other atheists are not there yet. You should know by now that I’m not interested in trying to prove anything about anybody’s particular religious beliefs. All your other questions have already been addressed in previous comments. You say you’ve read them, so if you still think I need to answer these other questions (not about Abraham, etc.), go back and read them again.

And about proving there’s a table, you can show me a table, and that’s absolutely empirical evidence that it indeed exists. You can’t show me your consciousness, and I can’t show you mine. Our responses to each other are not proof. We could both be biological automatons that only simulate awareness. That’s because consciousness is not ascertainable as a physical phenomenon and no one claims it is. We can surmise it’s dependence on physical states, we can lose consciousness and regain it, we think, but we can’t locate it anywhere or manifest it in any concrete way.

If you know anything about any religion, you know that consciousness and God are intimately related concepts. So we can’t prove more about God’s existence than we can about consciousness, but we can infer and even experience it individually. You say I can’t, and that it’s hogwash to say I can. However, we can both say the same thing about each other’s ability to be aware of our thoughts and actions with equal validity. We both infer that others are aware as we each experience ourselves to be in much the same way we all could with equal validity infer the same thing about the existence of God from the intelligent behaviors we find everywhere in nature and its amazing structure, if some of us weren’t so adamantly opposed to doing so.

All I’m saying is that none of us have any good reason to say anyone else is stupid and misguided for doing so, and everyone should have that right without it upsetting anyone.

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By Hemi, April 18, 2007 at 6:55 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Everything of value that people get from religion can be had more honestly, without presuming anything on insufficient evidence.” - Sam Harris

The problem with Harris is he gets to the point and most understand his point.

“As for me, Christianity is more a call to rebellion than an insistence on narrow conformity, more a challenge than a set of certainties.

In “The Last Week,” their book about Christ’s final days on Earth, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan, the distinguished liberal scriptural scholars, write: “He attracted a following and took his movement to Jerusalem at the season of Passover. There he challenged the authorities with public acts and public debates. All this was his passion, what he was passionate about: God and the Kingdom of God, God and God’s passion for justice. Jesus’ passion got him killed.”

That’s why I celebrate Easter and why, despite many questions of my own, I can’t join the neo-atheists.” - E.J. Dionne

From that it would seem that Mr. Dionne is stating that his belief is in rebelling against authority rather than strict adherence to authority. This does not seem to be an endorsement for fundamentalism or “God”. He seems smitten by the Jesus story, a story that was told many times in Jewish history alone before Jesus of Nazareth was introduced as a character. Jesus was not the first Jewish Messianic contender if we are to believe the biblical historians. That the Messiah did not take up arms against his oppressors is simply a nuance in this version. None of these contenders have proven to be champs thus far.

The Messianic era will witness ultimate physical and spiritual bliss. All will be healed. The blind, the deaf and the dumb, the lame, whosoever has any blemish or disability, shall be healed from all their disabilities: “The eyes of the blind shall be clearsighted, and the ears of the deaf shall be opened.. the lame shall leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb shall sing..” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

Nice story, a peacefull kingdom, we’re still waiting. The Wizard of Oz, The Cat In the Hat, Cinderella, Santa Claus, all nice stories. You can pull a little wisdom from all of these stories but why don’t we reshape the world to meet these visions? Flying monkey fudamentalists?

“Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” - the Wizard

Dorothy found that there was no “Wizard” just man manipulating others.

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By archeon of thrace, April 18, 2007 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

Straight_talk is correct of course about what he says about theories of physics and mathematics.  He is also correct that I can’t prove he exists, nor can I prove a table exists.  I can’t know if I have consiousness, that anything exists beyond nothing.

Religion and in particular those based on a single god who is the all powerfull creator, all knowing, all seeing do claim to know the how, why, and reason we and everything exists.  The three world religions that I am referencing are judaism, islam, and christianity.  Furthermore these three have texts which the faithfull claim are the repositories of the “truth” revealed to a chosen few by this divinity.  They claim these texts are perfect because they are gods word.  I know that you know this Straight-talk, but I think some straight talk might clear up what I think has become more of a missunderstanding than a disagreement.

So my easily irritated friend:
Does GOD exist?
Is this god the god of abraham?
Did this god reveal the bible, torah, and koran?
Did he reveal it to a chosen few prophets?
Are the texts literal or allegorical or metaphorical?
How should I worship this god?
Did this god you claim exists create everything?
How would you describe YOUR god? What is he? Where is he? How did he come into being? (i use HE but sustitute she/it/them as you wish)
Is a belief in a god necessary to be a moral ethical human?
Should we have prayer in our schools?
Government?
Should we display the ten commandments in our courts and government buildings?
Where does the authority of government come from?

I do think that constantly asking us nonbelievers to prove that which we don’t believe in does not exist is deflecting the question.  We always seem to end up at: God exists because Israel exists.

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By Trish, April 18, 2007 at 12:08 am Link to this comment

Scientific discourse [as opposed to emotional ranting] usually does not entail employing terms like “smartypants.”

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By Trish, April 18, 2007 at 12:05 am Link to this comment

Legitimate scientific discourse usually does not entail use of terms like “smartypants.”

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By straight_talk_11, April 17, 2007 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment

You miss that I am saying YOU CAN’T EVEN PROVE YOU’RE CONSCIOUS! I CAN’T PROVE TO YOU I’M CONSCIOUS. DOES THAT MEAN WE’RE BOTH IDIOTS for thinking we ARE? That’s in essence what you are saying.

All any of you have done is say my arguments are flawed. You haven’t shown anything about where the flaws are. Simply disagreeing with an idea or proposition doesn’t count. You always come back with broad, blanket statements about what I’ve said without aiming at any specific steps of reasoning.

Modern physics doesn’t even say that there is nothing beyond matter and energy. It clearly indicates precisely the opposite, but you’re apparently stuck in a classical 19th-century physical paradigm. I went through that, but none of you seem capable of following arguments that any clear-headed, knowledgeable person who understands modern science at all could easily follow, regardless of his/her position on the existence of God.

Any intelligent person who looks at these public postings can easily see that I have presented cogent arguments. At the very least, neo-atheism should get off its agenda of stamping out belief in God as some kind of evil that must go. That’s really all I came in here to state.

That same intelligent, well-reasoning person (not by my definition, but by any acceptable standard even in the debating world) could see easily who is actually saying something coherent and meaningful whether they agree with me or not. Very early in this discussion I complained about how nothing was going on here but sticking your metaphorical tongues out at us believers.

I challenge you or anyone else here to prove that you’re conscious…that you’re not simply a biological machine, never mind about androids, with no awareness whatsoever of what you’re doing, but behaving in a normally human way. I wouldn’t be communicating with any of you if I really thought that were true, of course, but I challenge you to tell me how I can be sure of that.

(Wow, you sure missed the obvious on that one, huh? Turned it all around and got off on some silly tangent that androids are science fiction. Sure glad you told me. PULLEAZE, look at the point UNDERNEATH the analogy! Another literal-minded fundamentalist…no wonder!)

But proving that is the same as what you’re asking me to do on the subject of God, by definition non-physical. I have already pointed out that the premises underlying any branch of mathematics are taken as givens, assumed “a priori” is the term used, which translates literally to being take on faith or insightful intuition. Yet mathematics works.

Riemann and Lobachevsky decided in the 18th and 19th centuries to play a game and see what kind of mathematics would result if they assumed underlying postulates for geometry that were opposite of “common sense” ones upon which traditional Euclidean geometry is based. They came up mathematics that turned out to be more correct in large-scale physics! It’s an integral part of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. Yet Euclidean geometry still falls out of their more general ideas as a special case for space-time domains that are smaller than those used in astronomy.

If you are not able to follow what I just said, you are scientifically abysmally ignorant. This stuff has been common knowledge among undergraduate physics students and some more advanced high school students for many decades. So get off it! I am being high-handed because you asked for it. Before you say somebody else’s line of reasoning is full of it, look in the mirror. Then learn how to think and reason instead of just buying into what some social club of atheistic dogma mongers wants to believe for whatever motives. But I really wonder whether learning how to reason coherently even interests most of those here. I sure don’t see any evidence that it does.

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By Trish, April 17, 2007 at 6:59 pm Link to this comment

Well, straight_talk, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it is impossible to even comprehend your position, other than this most simple storyline: You think you have something better than those mortals who do not choose to believe without evidence that there is some uber-being who has the ability to create, interfere with, and ignore the universe and everything in it.  You find comfort attending social events that are staged and populated by others who agree with you that there is more to existence than what we see, can detect with scientific instruments or ever will be able to detect with scientific instruments.  And even though people have tried over the millenia to prove said being’s existence via rhetoric or experiments that use bits of scientific equipment [without adhering to scientific method] *you* can detect this being, and demand that we all take your word for it.  When people don’t, and – worse - post interesting and coherent remarks, you get all frustrated.

Everything you’ve posted, other than the above bits I’ve managed to extract from your voluminous writings, is either increasingly frustrated restatements, or incoherent.

I fail to see how this belief that you have - that this uberbeing exists and accepting this without evidence [and just saying you believe over and over doesn’t qualify as evidence] has made you happy, productive or ethical in your interactions with the people on this message board.

And now, you make the claim that we’re all androids [which only exist in fiction], which would remove the obligation to not name-call or rage at us.

So, God is real and I am not? Ha.

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By Leona S, April 17, 2007 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We can see you there straight_talk_11.
You’re still following the chain.
Don’t go away yet, I’ve invited friends to see the miracle of the Virgin of Verbose Verbiage. We all feel some how…...blessed.

“Take this to the limit of abstraction in our universe and you have what is happening with religious scriptures. Those who wrote them saw deeply, way beyond the surface of life. We call this spiritual insight. They had little choice in expressing their insights, but have been forced by the generally concrete, specific orientation of human vocabulary to use allegorical, poetic means of expression.” - straight_talk_11

“Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.” Leviticus 25:44-46

Now I understand, this was just expressing insights. Allegory, poetic expression. I could not see “way beyond the surface of life”, I thought they actually owned slaves, silly me.

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By straight_talk_11, April 17, 2007 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment

Again, all ANY of you atheists have done so far is restate your own dogma, and project that on all believers. (Some believers really are just gullible dogma swallowers as you declare, but not all. However, you’ve shown no evidence that you’re any better on that score than the worst of them). You call ALL believers idiots duped by the absurd fantasies of their own or that of others, and SAY you have read and understood my comments.

Well, PROVE it by actually addressing specific elements within my arguments and tearing them apart if you can. I haven’t seen anything here that remotely resembles an intelligent debate.

You can’t show me anybody’s awareness because it’s not physical, so I’m going to state my dogmatic disbelief that you’re even conscious. I think you’re an android intelligently programmed to fake awareness to humans who ARE aware. You’re just a darn machine and have no idea what you’re talking about or even notice that you ARE saying anything because it’s all just a mechanical reaction.

If you know I’m here, PROVE it, smarty! Prove to me you’re not just some dingbat machine that’s just reacting mechanically to everything I say. You certainly are not good at faking a really sharp human awareness because you keep repeating mechanically that you’ve read everything I’ve said. Without even any reference to your beliefs, yours and the words of others show that you don’t understand much of anything about the PHYSICAL universe around you except the predigested pablum you keep spitting out. I haven’t even seen any evidence that you’re an android that is programmed to think very well, much less that you’re aware.

So I’m signing off. Ciao bambini!

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By archeon of thrace, April 16, 2007 at 9:39 pm Link to this comment

Sorry Straight-talk, I just read your posts in the thread once more.  I still find your assumptions to be just that, assumptions.  ALL of your arguments are anti-rational, illogical, and needlessly complex.  You continually say NOTHING with many many words.

You claim that god exists, that there is a spiritual realm, that there is more than this merely material existance.  Yet you offer no proof. You provide no evidence.  We mere mortals failing to comprehend your needlessly complex and convoluted assumptions should just accept you as another self proclaimed prophet of truth.  Off into the abyss with you, join Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Jesus, and Mohamed.

BTW I too have some very effective “internal noise” reduction techniques.  They involve getting out into the real world and killing my dinner,  harvesting my vegies, and seeing the seasonal transitions.  Rather than spend years studying the obscure and esoteric, I have been with feet firmly planted on the ground hands in the mud studying the “real” world.  This in my mind is far far better than spending (wasting) time studying the pointless mental diahrea of other self described visionaries (oh yes they did see visions) and self annointed prophets.

Like I said before, pleas try some “straight talk”.

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By archeon of thrace, April 16, 2007 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

So what happens Straight-talk when people don’t obey god’s will?

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By archeon of thrace, April 16, 2007 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment

Straight talk, I have spoken but you have not ears with which to listen.  I have writen but you have not eyes with which to read.  You remain blind and deaf.

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By Trish, April 16, 2007 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment

Archeon points out that straight_talk “You acknowledge the excesses of religion, yet avoid any explanation beyond the “humans are flawed” argument.”

So, religion puts us into contact with something far greater, smarter and more moral than any human, but when religion gets it wrong, it’s the fault of the frail little humans who are just trying to be good little followers?  That’s like blaming the 7-year-old Brownies when the scoutmaster runs off with tens of thousands of dollars of cookiesales proceeds.

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By Broiler, April 16, 2007 at 8:06 pm Link to this comment
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Oh, and by the way, “Be still, and know that I am God:…” (Psalms of David 46:10) I told that to David. In one of my many former incarnations of course. David took the bait and there you have it. He thought I was God, what a dumbass. Everybody knows Clapton is God! Don’t you love hippie references? Makes me all like “oh, wow man the colors”. Can you see the colors Maharishi straight_talk_11?

No thanks needed, it’s just what I do to help you have a nice day. Oh, and by the way, “Have a nice day!” Well that is one of mine too. I’ve got a million of ‘em.

Peace out!

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By Jim Hanley, April 16, 2007 at 6:37 pm Link to this comment
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What intelligent person would give an iota of time to the “belief” or study of idiotic ‘God freaks’ and their “Religious Fanaticism”?  It is wiser to construct a ‘moat’, or take other precautions to prevent those nuts, along with the other vermin, plague ridden filth, and wild beasts from getting too close!  Be guarded and fearful of charlatans and maniacs claiming “rational superiority”, who insist you must accept their unfounded conjectured fairytales as the cause of life, and basis for living!  Or, that you ought to take their suggestions to learn more about their preposterous, egregious lying assertions of “how the world began”. Sensible people know lies and fairytales are not to be believed. And, don’t be swayed away from reality by those ‘pedantic’ fools who pretend to know more, then, in place of intelligent argumentation to counter opposition, go for the ‘jugular’ by aiming insults at the bearer of facts.  Realists, secularists, and others by whatever name, who renounce the idea of so called “religion or spiritual matters”, and “God” or a “Creator”, have no more need to learn about, or, disprove these “irrational” fallacies, than is required, or necessary to disprove the truthful existence of any other fairytales character, such as “Porky Pig” “Mickey Mouse”,“Little Red Riding Hood” “Little Orphan   Annie”, “Jiminy Cricket”, Buck Rogers” “The Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe” or “Jack And The Beanstalk”! And for those “Christians” and others who do not know any better, (They may be “lump-ed (with) all (the) believers in God into one little pigeonhole”!)these latter named ‘characters’  have every bit as much relation to ‘reality’ as “God”, “Creator” or “Jesus”!

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By Trish, April 16, 2007 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Experience with religion?

2 Catholic Sunday school teachers for parents
4 years catechism classes [while in public school]
6 years all girls’ Catholic school
1 year Catholic college [3 theology courses, attempting to figure out what they were trying to do to me]

married to the son of a protestant minister

p.s., my husband, who majored in math, didn’t see any mathematical principles in straight_talk’s postings.

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By Trish, April 16, 2007 at 5:55 pm Link to this comment

Archeon, et. al.

I think the problem we are having communicating with straight_talk is his rather unorthodox set of rhetorical techniques.  #1. Volume [in this case, amount of verbiage, not level of sound] proves the strength of one’s ideas. #2. The assumption that his awareness & approval of unproven and irrational viewpoints means that he has something extra, compared to humans who try to run their intellectual lives by rational processes.  #3.  Assumes that because he experiences something he identifies as God, or spiritual/nonmaterial experience means that it’s there.  To refute this, people experience hallucinations dues to disease, toxins & drugs, in addition to the unreality that most of us experience all the time - dreams.  #4.  Assumes his message is so important that he doesn’t have to acknowledge little details like whether his testable statements are actually true [e.g., including me among people he accused of calling him names, when anyone with a computer can read my posts and see that I did not].  #4. He is so prepared to face insults - as opposed to reasonable debate - that he assumes he’s being accused of ignorance when he is not, e.g. his claim that I’m assuming he is unaware of the violent history of the church.  I was trying to make the point that his eccumenical practices would be just as frowned upon by the Church that politically controlled Europe during the Dark Ages, Middle Ages & Renaissance as atheism & witchcraft were. [As an aside, I am concerned that he is so willing to dismiss the violent history of the church as beside the point.  Should we dismiss the violent actions & plans of the Manson family just because only about 1/3 of them actually participated in the Tate LaBianca murders?]  5.  He assumes, without justification, that the only problems that religion can cause can be traced to fundamentalism, which he does not define, then accuses science of having a parralel fundamentalist strain.  How can we refute the argument that we contain an undefined element?  6.  He creates enough straw men to populate a Straw Nation.

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By Leona S, April 16, 2007 at 4:06 pm Link to this comment
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“If you regard believers as adversaries, as many of you apparently do, you would do well to know your adversaries. Instead, you demonstrate abysmal ignorance packaged as simplistic, monolithic conceptions of them.

While it is not surprising that atheists would generally know practically nothing about religion or spiritual matters of any kind, if you wish to debate with them or show them what you assume to be a better alternative, you need to get a better feel for the terrain as any good strategist knows.” - straight_talk_11


I was baptized, confirmed and married in the Roman Catholic Church. My children baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church. I served as Eucharistic minister, liturgical minister and catechism instructor in a Roman Catholic parish. I was not a Christmas/Easter Catholic but a practicing Catholic. I aspired early in life (NOT!) to be Pope but there’s this glass ceiling thing going on since men wrote “the book”. Apparently the Biblical God rarely inspired women. Perhaps HE didn’t trust us delivering HIS rules and regulations. Could you blame HIM after that “apple in the garden” debacle? “Damn that woman disseminating knowledge! Next thing you know, it’ll be equal rights.”

I have a very good “feel for the terrain”. I found that the RCC is more “Roman” than anything else. No, I don’t regard my family, friends and neighbors of various faiths as adversaries. Please consider that some atheists started as believers and have made daring and difficult life changes based on self-examination and research.
 
“We have met the enemy and he is us”. - Walt Kelly

I highly recommend “The Mythmaker” by Hyam Maccoby (Talmudic scholar) if you dare to challenge your Judeo-Christian beliefs. Not the type of writing that got excerpted in Reader’s Digest or made the New York Times Best Seller List. You see there was no big money to be made from the premise of the book.

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By Jim Hanley, April 16, 2007 at 11:50 am Link to this comment
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To ALL You “Religion” SCREWBALLS, AND CHARLATANS:
“GOD”? IS THE PUTRID EXCRETION OF CRIMINAL MINDS!
THERE NEVER!, NEVER!, WAS A JESUS! YOU ARE PROMOTING CRIME!  Wake up!  Stop promoting that Ponzi-like racketeering scheme that coerces children and fools into performing atrocious acts!    THE MAKE-BELIEVE JESUS!
After the recent discovery of Essene documents at Kimberth Qumran (Palestine) it has been proven that Jesus was the result of an artificial construction operated by falsifiers in the second century. And: Former Priest, Luigi Cascioli says “Jesus never existed” in his book, ‘The Fable of Christ’ He has a lawsuit pending against Catholic Hierarchy to show their proof! Signor Cascioli?s contention is that there was no reliable evidence that Jesus lived and died in 1st-century Palestine and, therefore, “there is no basis for Christianity”! In september 2002 Cascioli sued don Enrico Righi, parrish priest of Bagnoregio (Viterbo), for abusing popular credulity and change of identity!  “Law is based upon respect for National and International Legislation” Di Stefano comments.
AND THE WORLD IS NOT FLAT!
RELIGION = ABSOLUTE BIGOTRY! A CONTAGEOUS DISEASE!  “GOD”? IS THE PUTRID EXCRETION OF CRIMINAL MINDS! There is no excuse for intelligent people to be so ignorant of facts about the charlatan fantasies and make-believe pretenses of religion, that works to undermine the true Democratic principles and unifying influences of our Democratic Society! To promote, propagate, profligate or publish the same pretentious and pompous falsehoods that are the evil tools used by Fallwell, Baker, Haggard, the Pope, and their ilk to brainwash, indoctrinate, brand, and subjugate innocent children and fools for the purpose of using them to gain ever more money, power, and divisive influence, is tantamount to supporting pimping, and prostitution. And because those charlatans use their evil schemes and lies to control, and enslave those misled ‘bovine-like’ advocates by rendering them ‘virtual’ robots that do their bidding; they are criminals, and those supporting them, are criminal cohorts, equally guilty of the crimes they commit against humanity, those fools, and children. The vast majority of “religious” people were: forced into their ‘belief’! They had no say in the matter, they were imposed upon, brainwashed, and indoctrinated when innocent and defenseless! They were not old enough, wise enough, or informed enough to make a decision, or to determine the value of the information passed to them by elders who, they were taught to obey and were not able to question or contradict! And, generation, upon generation the same methods have been perpetually used and promoted by a big gang of thieves as their victimizing schemes to rob people of their pristine mental facilities and their ability to determine fact from fiction!  Most religious indoctrinated “children” never reach an “age and ability” to recover from the ‘desease’! ‘Religious’ “parents” already mezmerized and ‘indoctrinated’; are the absolute worst ‘indoctrinators’! because, they have first access to the innocents at the earliest age!
Religious parents mind’s are warped by the charlatan’s lies and fairytales, and by passing it on, they are naive, unwitting cohorts of the ‘criminal’ charlatans’; and are abetting the spread of the infectious plague-like desease called “Religion”!  These “parents” are criminals! They are guilty of ‘branding’ and ‘warping’ the ‘pristine’ minds of the innocent defenseless children and robbing them of the mental acuity they were born with. control over our entire way of life.
JH 2/7/2007

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By straight_talk_11, April 16, 2007 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

There are those here who assume that belief in God is motivated exclusively by fear. Where do you get that? Jews, for one, don’t believe in hell. Neither do many Christians. Neither do I, for that matter. This is just one manifestation of tacit assumptions found frequently implicit here that lump all believers in God into one little pigeonhole. If you regard believers as adversaries, as many of you apparently do, you would do well to know your adversaries. Instead, you demonstrate abysmal ignorance packaged as simplistic, monolithic conceptions of them.

While it is not surprising that atheists would generally know practically nothing about religion or spiritual matters of any kind, if you wish to debate with them or show them what you assume to be a better alternative, you need to get a better feel for the terrain as any good strategist knows. On the contrary, most of you just rant about irrational beliefs while demonstrating a sad lack of ability to intelligently process any information at all, no matter what the subject, and modes of thought and interaction with it that bely any claim to rational superiority. Some of you don’t even know how to write.

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By Jim Hanley, April 16, 2007 at 8:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

A true God would expect credence for reason; not an idiot’s fear!
JH 4/1/07

THE ORIGIN OF NATURE
  Beginning is never found but keep an ear to the ground
  Accept the word of a friend there’s no beginning or end
Nature origin for instance is ceaselessness Existence
JH 8/29/06
  The worst form of child abuse is warping of the mind!
Nikola Tesla, Twentieth Century ‘Prometheus’
gave ELECTRIC Power! and Light! to the World!

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By straight_talk_11, April 16, 2007 at 8:08 am Link to this comment

Archeon, I gave a clear example, human awareness, of something we can’t prove exists, and yet we all experience it. I have applied for 37 years a profoundly effective meditative technique that amounts to systematic mental noise reduction. You have not addressed anything specific within my arguments except to erroneously call much of it assumption.

A major portion of what I’ve said draws on widely accepted scientific and mathematical principles. Yet you fail to respond, perhaps because your mind, allegedly too rational to accept the possibility that spiritual experience is not mere fantasy and assumption, is nevertheless inadequately equipped to grasp basic scientific and mathematical concepts.

My experience of a higher cosmic intelligence is no more an assumption than the experience of self-awareness we humans experience but cannot prove to each other. I used mathematics as an example of a discipline that works in the practical world, but is unavoidably based on fundamental premises that cannot be proved. I referred to Goedel’s Proof that the logic used in mathematical proofs involves unavoidable and severe tradeoffs between scope and reliability. Ultimately, it all boils down to empirical experience, which at the individual level is also inevitably intimately personal.

The irony is that every human being has the potential to empirically experience spiritual reality given the will to do so. You demonstrate no such will, so you can rant and rave all you wish, but if you refuse to look for yourself, it all signifies exactly nothing. I can’t prove to you that I have arms and legs unless you look for yourself to see whether I have them.

If you’re reading what I’ve said, you have not demonstrated one iota of comprehension of my position. Before you can intelligently refute my position, you have to demonstrate that at least you have comprehended what I’ve said. To pretend it is incomprehensible because it is shear folly, as you so clearly state, is a cop-out. I can say that about anything I want to and it amounts to saying NOTHING!

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By Skruff, April 16, 2007 at 6:59 am Link to this comment
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I have a (somewhat off the point) question:

does anyone else here read these long long diatribes?

MAybe it’s my ADHD, but I can’t get through this stuff anymore than I could sit in church for an hour!

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By archeon of thrace, April 15, 2007 at 10:16 pm Link to this comment

Straight-talk I have read all the posts in this thread.  I suggest you try some straight talk.  You make the assumption that god exists.  You claim god exists.  Yet you offer no proof.  It is as if you are merely speaking to yourself, and failing to practice the so called noise reduction methodes you seem to claim to know.  I would venture to point out that both China and India, inspite of the Western fetish with their supposed spiritual superiority, have failed completely to avoid the excesses of goverment and religion.

I believe I have addressed your comments and claims, you are simply to busy listening to your own grand speach to hear.  I suggest you apply some of the techniques you claim to know.  You acknowledge the excesses of religion, yet avoid any explanation beyond the “humans are flawed” argument.  Religion is specifically structured to engender an acceptance of authority without questioning the basis of the authority, and without questioning the veracity of the so called sources of “truth”.

I can’t prove god does not exist, but neither can I prove the flying spagetti monster doesn’t exist.  It is of course always impossible to prove that which does not exist does not exist.

BTW “Be still, and know that I am God:…” (Psalms of David 46:10) is a perfect example of mindless drivel masquerading as “high intelectualism”.  It presuposses the existance of god.  God exists, is the truth only if god exists.

You have offered no proof of god.

But we digress from the content of the article this tread is about.  To equate the suposed arrogance of a few atheists with the dogmatic and doctrinaire moral superiority of the faithheads and their coresponding religiou-fascist institutions is both silly and stupid.  To conflate secularism and atheism is also silly.
What is forgotten is that “freedom of religion” is also the “freedom from religion”.

Straight-talk I suggest you read the posts and respond or not, but don’t dismiss others comments as irrelevant.  You seem to have assumed the role of the provider of truth to the ignorants like myself.  I can do without another selfappointed prophet of truth thankyou very much.

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By straight_talk_11, April 15, 2007 at 9:35 pm Link to this comment

“I resent being accused of name-calling.  I did no such thing.”

No, you did not. That term was a general characterization of many responses encountered here and was not aimed at you. And by the way, do you really think I’m unaware of the atrocities that have been committed in the name of God and religion? I’ve already stated that literal-minded fundamentalism is the real evil, including many scientists who are, in effect, fundamentalists in their atheistic beliefs that evolution is a substitute for God. That this is fundamentally a fundamentalist idea is why the other, religious side of fundamentalism buys it and stupidly tries to fight evolutionary theory and buy equal time for their absurd creationism.

Fundamentalists are superficial. Hence their thinking is easily manipulated. History is full of politicians who exploit this, including of course the current king of the United States. It is deplorable, but has nothing to do with disproving the existence of a Supreme Intelligence.

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By straight_talk_11, April 15, 2007 at 9:18 pm Link to this comment

An example of eastern-like experience in the roots of western religion is available in the Torah, which is part, of course, of the Old Testament in Christian bibles: “Be still, and know that I am God:…” (Psalms of David 46:10)

I don’t know specifically what mental noise reduction technique David was referring to when he wrote this, but it speaks volumes to anyone who has practiced an effective meditative technique. I have already stated this earlier, but I will violate a bit my intention stated earlier not to repeat myself here:

“I can’t prove to myself that you’re conscious. I assume you are because it’s my experience that I am and you act in a general, fundamental sense like me and every other human we know. I therefore infer that you’re conscious.. So do you say it’s irrational for me to believe that you’re conscious because I can’t prove that you’re not an android with no awareness…just programming? Should you outlaw my belief that you’re conscious because I can’t prove it? ...Neither can I prove to you that I’m conscious, but I know that I am.”

So define consciousness for me. Tell me exactly of what it consists and how it arises without circular definitions. You can’t. That’s because, like time and space, it’s fundamental and you have to use circular definitions if you attempt to intellectualize it, but we all experience concretely what time and space are, feel no obligation to define them precisely because they are so self-evident and obvious to us experientially, and we just accept that we know what they are. They are fundamental aspects of our empirical experience

Our awareness, even self-awareness, although typically full of background noise, is also empirically evident as a concrete personal experience, but we cannot either adequately define or prove its existence in ourselves or others. If this is true of the awareness we associate with human bodies that are such relatively microscopic subsystems of the universe, what about the ultimate, holistic body we call the cosmos?

Is it more reasonable to assume it is dumb and insensible and that our awareness arose magically from NOTHING, or that we are local, humble, low-resoution holographic refections made in its image? Modern theoretical physics has moved strongly toward holographic models of the universe because so far they represent the most viable road to quantum gravity.

And by the way, atheism was not behind the separation of church and state, but freedom of religion and NOT freedom FROM religion. Repeating myself from earlier comments again, I don’t buy creationism or any of the stupid legislation the so-called religious right wants to impose. I vigorously oppose them and follow advances in evolutionary theory with great enthusiasm and interest.

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By Trish, April 15, 2007 at 9:02 pm Link to this comment

I resent being accused of name-calling.  I did no such thing.

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By straight_talk_11, April 15, 2007 at 8:50 pm Link to this comment

Rae, Archeon, and Trish

The rebuttals to your various remarks are already contained in some of the comments I have made earlier below. If you don’t wish to bother yourselves with reading them, then your lack of interest certainly doesn’t justify my bothering to repeat them. I will simply address your comments with new content that, if you are like all the rest until now, you will not answer with legitimate, well-reasoned rebuttals that attempt to show specifically the flaws in my reasoning, but will simply stick to the silly name-calling and answering my arguments with restatements of your own opposite opinions, which approach, as I’ve pointed out earlier, is a cop-out from real debate and fosters zero significant communication.

I have repeatedly challenged everyone here who wishes to read my comments and challenge either my premises, my reasoning, or both. None so far, including you, have responded to that challenge with anything other than more of the same kind of mindless restatements of opposite opinions and nay-saying of mine without attacking anything specific about either my premises or reasoning.

The scientific method is simply a social approach intended to foster reliable communications between human consciousness and natural law. It is, in essence a noise reduction system that filters the information available in the natural world around us with the constraints of experimental design as defined by scientific method and the redundancy that the scientific requirement of experimental replicability provides.

Such a social noise reduction tool is mandated by the notoriously unreliable, very noisy perceptual and information processing typical of humans, and much of which is easily observable here in this “debate”. Information theory has likewise allowed the engineering of successful noise reduction systems for very noisy or “static”-filled channels with these same two approaches: filtering and redundant coding of the transmitted information.

The traditional Asian approaches, especially those of India and China, have been to directly reduce the noise in the individual psychophysiology to allow the direct personal experience of the high signal-to-noise ratio necessary to clear, direct, personal appreciation of the natural reality of which we are a part. This is not foreign to the roots of western religion either, although it has been watered down in practice to essentially nil in current organized western religious practice.

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By Trish, April 15, 2007 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

straight_talk

Hate to burst your little ecumenical bubble, but your freedom to treat the various religious traditions of the world as your personal spiritual smorgasbord are the fruit of the First Amendment of the most secular Constitution of the U.S.

When religious “principles” [i.e. rules] inform the laws enforced by government, belief is dictated from above.  Europeans were forced to recite and act in accordance with the Creed that you now choose to voice.  Any behavioral sign that one wasn’t wholehearted in one’s agreement with the creed was punishable by torture and execution by burning.  In addition, one could be found to be a heretic because of bad weather, poor health of neighbors and/or livestock or physical appearance [for example: old, female and ugly]

A resident of Europe at the time it was governed by the Roman Catholic church who tried mixing in Vedic meditation would be at as much risk of execution as one who proclaimed lack of belief in God, or one who didn’t believe the Church-favored position that the sun revolves around the earth, like Catholic priest Giordano Bruno who was burned at the stake in 1600.

If anything, one who incorporates beliefs that are influenced by numerous religious traditions all over the world should be thanking his or her secular brothers & sisters for have created a free society in which the freedom to believe resides in the individual, not in the dictates of the hierarchy that runs the state.

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By archeon of thrace, April 15, 2007 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment

No Straight-talk I am attacking religion, faith, and church/mosque/temple.  I don’t select fundamentalism for an particular mocking or ridicule.  I don’t much care if the interpretation of the texts is literal or metaphorical.  Both are rooted in falsehood, lies, deceptions, and most importantly a fetish of authoritarianism.  The texts justify slavery, murder, theft, incest, genocide, and war. You can read them literal or alegorical but either way they justify evil.

I would counter that it is you who has a naive and childish world view.  Tobad that you spent all those years studying, when simply “living” in the real world would have shown you the “facts” about faith and religio-fascism.

Religion wether literal or alegorical has always been a tool of oppression for the continued subjugation of the under classes by a power elite.

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By RAE, April 15, 2007 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Pardon me, straight_talk_11, if I’ve missed some of your sermons which might provide an explanation for the following from your #64166:

“That you are unexposed, unable, or both to appreciate what lies underneath the surface of our profoundly limited physical perception is your problem, but it becomes mine when you want to remove my freedom to believe and practice what I find to be an essential and more powerful aspect of reality than your surface world.”

While I tend to agree that our “physical perception” apparatus is somewhat limited, since we have some instruments that can detect, for example, light waves outside what our eyes can detect, but I find it highly questionable that your ASSUMPTIONS about what lies outside your “reality” have any more validity than anyone else’s. You are guessing. These are your OPINIONS. You’re so full of superstition you are quite entertaining!

You use the phrase “...I find to be an essential and more powerful aspect of reality than your surface world” and you put it out there as TRUTH and imply that anyone who doesn’t choose to join you below the “surface world” is somehow intellectually or emotionally lacking (compared to your enhanced, advanced, enlightened insights).

I certainly don’t want “to remove (your) freedom to believe and practice…” but I would like to remove your ability to publish your views as TRUTH. Your glib opinions and untested assumptions may be a valid reality for YOU, but that’s as far as your claim can legitimately go.

Your position is every bit as arrogant and invalid as those who pimp organized religious clap-trap that is entirely imaginary and concocted.

When you start providing legitimate EVIDENCE to support your claims, I will start taking you seriously. Till then, you’re just another nut case with an overactive imagination fomented by a profound terror of what’s to come.

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By straight_talk_11, April 15, 2007 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

Well, Archeon, you don’t seem to have bothered to read much of what has preceded your comments. Your words are basically attacking fundamentalism. I have rebutted at length the very naive atheist stance that you have to be a literalist and swallow all the culturally provincial and superficial details of religious metaphor. Those who do are missing the original intent of the scriptures they use to justify their folly and I believe the authors of those scriptures would look askance at that kind of silliness as much as you and I do.

It is essential to discriminate between fundamentalism and a more expansive view with real depth. If we are also literal-minded fundamentalists on our own sides of ledger, we are doomed to both disagree and fail to grasp any kind of viable reality. If we can’t see beneath the surface, the surface becomes the only reality for us.

I am the son of a deceased protestant minister, am now Catholic and I direct the choir at a Conservative Synagogue. I have been practicing a profoundly powerful Vedic technique of meditation for 37 years which I began after several years of fairly intense preoccupation with Zen Buddist literature and Taoism. I have a significant academic and practical background in physics, electronics, and science in general. I have also had significant exposure to Sufi mystical poetry and allegories in the form of Sufi stories.

The practical power of meditation in my life has allowed me to appreciate deeply the common thread underlying all of these culturally different perspectives on the same basic spiritual reality. This reality is remarkably consistent across time and cultures. That you are unexposed, unable, or both to appreciate what lies underneath the surface of our profoundly limited physical perception is your problem, but it becomes mine when you want to remove my freedom to believe and practice what I find to be an essential and more powerful aspect of reality than your surface world.

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By straight_talk_11, April 15, 2007 at 10:50 am Link to this comment

Leona S, you seem to want to dictate to us all that our commentaries are about what you want them to be. The legislation to which you refer is certainly not on my agenda or on that of many others of us who believe in God. The article specifically talks of “neo-atheists”, who along with other commenters here are in favor of eliminating belief in God because it allegedly is the root of much evil in the world. THAT premise is what those of us who believe in God are rebutting and NOT all this right-wing fundamentalist legislation you keep bringing up.

You seem to have put all who believe in God into a single pigeon hole you have defined for us all. Please! The real world is not like that, and what you are doing is a lot less rational and a lot more fantasy than any belief in God.

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By archeon of thrace, April 15, 2007 at 6:17 am Link to this comment

Yes I agree mathematics and god are both weightless, formless, matterless constructs.  They are both constructs of the human mind, one explains the real and one the fantastical.

I can see the very basics of mathematics at work in the real world.  Let’s say I have one fish, and then I catch another “one fish” and then I say “I have two fish”.  I have just done 1+1=2(fish).  Mathematics is an abstraction, but one that has a basis in the observable world.

Religion on the other hand, takes the unexplanable and gives them inexplicable meanings.  We see no evidence that a supreme, all powerful being, created this world - yet because we “create” we assume the world must have an author, and thus we created GOD.

The reason theists must prove god, is that I and most atheists don’t claim to “know” wether or not a god exists.  We mostly take issue with the God of abraham, jacob, and moses.  I don’t buy that the bible, torah, or koran is the “word of god”.  Mostly the issue is quite simple, we atheists, other nonbelievers, and other nonfaith holders don’t want our state to be run on religious principles.  We don’t want tax money supporting churches and other places of religious worship (this includes state subsidies by giving them charitable status).  I for one don’t want my state sponsour any faith based events, or organizations.  All references to god should be removed from our money, legislation, and political practice.  Not because I don’t agree he exists, but because even you faithies can’t agree which god exists.

Every little church has a different view on god.  The jews think one thing, the mulims another, the sihks and hindus something else.  So I will rephrase the question from: “prove god exists” to “prove you god exists”.  You want to me believe, I don’t need or want you to not believe.  Teach what ever you want at home, at your places of whoreship, but leave religion out of public schools and the state apparatus.  And require ALL students from grade 1 to 12 to attend a “public school” ie a school without religious instruction.  This does not mean schools without moral or ethical guidance regarding: murder, rape, theft, and lying.

The bible justifies: murder, theft, rape, incest, infanticide, genocide, slavery, a class or cast social structure, etc.  And it has been used to justify perpetuating these up until today.

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By Leona S, April 13, 2007 at 7:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“The bottom line issue here is whether God exists and not whether Moses or Christ or Buddha or Krishna were or are what the corresponding religions represent them to be or whether they even existed.” - straight_talk_11

No, the bottom line issue is whether the laws of Moses and Christ will be the platform for our society and a large body of people say no to that. The model of acceptable human behavior is “The Golden Rule” and that was available before Christ, Moses and the Bible from a number of inspired sources.

The argument for including myriad other historical teachings and laws in current legislation is the premise that Christ and Moses lived exactly as the backs of their baseball cards describe and that the Bible is the ispired word of a God. And a large body of people say no to that. Some also say no to Thor, Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Buddha, Santa Claus and various aspects of other historical people and myths. I don’t expect you to prove there is a “God”, I have low expectations for that and don’t wish to spend my time searching for what I believe does not exist. You have proof, great. Even if I were to accept the proof of a “God” you describe, I would continue to not accept Judeo-Christian dogma.

I don’t accept their God and I don’t accept yours.
That is a bother to you.

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By straight_talk_11, April 13, 2007 at 3:28 pm Link to this comment

Well, Rae, first, since you feel we cannot prove God exists and you cannot prove that He doesn’t, why the asymmetry? Why are we obligated to prove that He does while you are not obligated to prove He doesn’t. According the article and some of those who have commented here, neo-atheists don’t want freedom of religion but freedom FROM religion. They regard it as an evil to be stamped out. They want to remove our right to believe. I, for one, do not want to remove your right to disbelieve. Belief cannot be legislated, but must be the result of sincere personal conviction.

I can’t prove to myself that you’re conscious. I assume you are because it’s my experience that I am and you act in a general, fundamental sense like me and every other human we know. I therefore infer that you’re conscious.. So do you say it’s irrational for me to believe that you’re conscious because I can’t prove that you’re not an android with no awareness…just programming? Should you outlaw my belief that you’re conscious because I can’t prove it? I can’t even prove that blue doesn’t look to you like my red. Neither can I prove to you that I’m conscious, but I know that I am.

I once talked with a PhD in cognitive psychology who told me about a study made with a statistically highly significant sample. It showed that over 70% of PhD’s in the U.S. had not arrived at Piaget’s top level of abstract reasoning ability. They couldn’t solve amazingly simple problems that were physically evident to anyone who has abstract reasoning capability and involved zero mathematics.

I have already stated that simple mathematical theorems that elegantly explain relationships among an infinite set of possible data elements cannot be deduced or inferred from any one, and often not from even two or more local data elements. Looking for God wandering around in your or anyone else’s neighborhood amounts to trying to do that. It amounts to an impossible attempt to “prove” His existence by sifting through some local, visible evidence.

Mathematical theorems are not visible either, are they? They’re abstract and not locally manifest anywhere. Mathematics is, in fact, a weightless, non-physical, yes, metaphysical discipline of ideas that happens to be extremely valuable when applied to solving engineering problems because they relate things that are obvious by means that are NOT! Take this to the limit case of the entire cosmos and you have something that you cannot physically prove. As I’ve stated here earlier, most of modern theoretical physics is so abstract and weird that it defies “common sense” or even what some would call rational thought, yet it works to produce useful, practical theoretical models of physical events and the relationships among them.

Further, if you think you can prove mathematical theorems in any ultimate sense, you’re wrong. The famous Goedel’s Proof showed in the early 20th century that we can’t even establish with certainty the internal logical consistency of our number system, never mind complex higher mathematics. Goedel showed that for completely reliable mathematical proofs, you either need to reduce the principles of logical deduction to a point at which their power is not comprehensive enough to show internal consistency of any but the most elementary and severely limited mathematical worlds, or you have to use logical principles that are themselves in question.

So it all boils down to how and whether things work for you on a practical level in terms of your personal experience, just like consciousness. In spiritual matters, there are those of us who concretely experience and enjoy a spiritual life. Forget the superficial, provincial baggage you refer to. That is not the issue. The bottom line issue here is whether God exists and not whether Moses or Christ or Buddha or Krishna were or are what the corresponding religions represent them to be or whether they even existed.

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By RAE, April 12, 2007 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment

Straight_talk_11 in #63690 asked:

“Those of you who say there is no evidence of God…what are you looking for?”

There must be something fundamentally wrong with the English language when we constantly have this problem of definitions. No dictionary I’ve ever consulted even HINTS that legitimate “evidence” can be based in, or MANUFACTURED BY, hearsay, opinion, assumption, fantasy, guesswork, repetition, or, or… actually ANYTHING other than PROOF.

Now if you have trouble with the word “proof” - look it up. It’s ANYTHING THAT ESTABLISHES THE VALIDITY OF THE CLAIM BEING MADE.

What’s written IN the Bible cannot provide PROOF that what’s written is true. Clearly a good deal of it cannot possibly be true - even if you could understand it!

It is clear that neither those who claim there IS a God nor those who claim there is NOT a God can provide LEGITIMATE evidence to back their claim.

One thing further… all we non-believers ask of believers is to be provided with the evidence - the proof - that their God exists. It’s not up to us - the non-believers - to DISprove the believer’s claim. He who makes the claim is responsible for providing the evidence.

We’re still waiting.

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By straight_talk_11, April 12, 2007 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

Hmmm…Leona S. Everyone but the author of the first comment is late to class? Did I imply that you were late? You just made assumptions that didn’t follow from anything I said that you did read, and what you didn’t read would have contradicted them to boot.

I’m tired of atheistic name-callers who say people who believe in God are irrational while they demonstrate exactly that themselves…irrationality, not to mention assuming unreasonably that certain religious organizations or people represent all who believe in God. No atheist here has offered a cogent, well-reasoned rebuttal of anything I’ve said or even attempted to in any way that qualifies well enough to be recognizable as such.

We don’t have to be irrational anymore to believe in a Supreme Intelligence that governs its on-going creation. If we’re conscious and intelligent, microscopic subsystems that we are, why should we imagine that we’re smart and the cosmic nest that has fostered our evolution up to this point is dumb and insensible? THAT IS ARROGANT INDEED!!! And arrogance is always a manifestation of disconnection with anyone or anything other than the local, isolated, petty, self-centered manifestations most of us are deceived by our short-circuited perception into believing we are.

We don’t have to believe the universe was created in six days about seven thousand years ago to believe in God. So why should we throw the baby away with the bathwater? Those of you who say there is no evidence of God…what are you looking for? Some white-bearded old man sitting on a golden throne high up on some fluffy cumulus cloud? Do you look for him when you fly United? You are that very evidence stuck in a blind stupor in the dark basement of the cosmos within which He evolved you. Wake up, go outside, and connect in the broad daylight of your own awareness with the unity that you are! Then you will fly united.

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By Jim Hanley, April 12, 2007 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

God believers have bought a “PIG IN A POKE” whereas people who have more sense and refuse to accept makebelieve fairytales as fact are criticized for having the intelligence to think and act intellligently when confronted with rediculous lying assertions by a bunch of racketeering ‘Ponzi-like’ swindlers and child debauchers who molest innocent children in exchange for granting grace and atonement for conjured up “original sins”.
When will the world wake up and round up all those dirty rats, close all their ‘Temples’ and lock up all those rotten thieving criminal debauchers and child molesters?

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By john m sandoval, April 12, 2007 at 10:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

To E.J.Dionne
It is safe - self preservation to be neutral.
It is also sheepish and indecisive.
Many will think you are condescending to the religious pack of consecutive RELIGIOUS lies !
When it comes to religious faith and total disbelief in such - where do you stand ? ?

I read your passive discourses but wonder if you would move to assist (save me) when one of theses idiotic religious fanatics is trying to kill Me. For not believing in a make believe Jehovah or an oportunist/sexist Mohamad.
Seventy virgins (do tell) where would a man find the time ?
I think you should make up your mind (admit it) stand on your convictions - you don’t have to join anybody !  I don’t.
Farewell
Jonathan

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By Leona S, April 12, 2007 at 7:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You have the podium. Sorry I was late for class. It wont happen again.

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By straight_talk_11, April 12, 2007 at 12:17 am Link to this comment

Oh, and by the way, Leona S, if you’ve read my comments with any understanding at all, you know that I have no problem with teaching evolution at all. Neither do I think we should legislate the teaching of the bogus “science” they call creationism.

I know you came in late to this discussion, but before you respond, you need to either search for my comments and read them or refrain from jumping to conclusions or assuming that everyone who believes in God thinks we should teach creationism to “balance” evolutionary theory in the classroom. I eagerly follow developments in evolutionary theory. It fascinates me and does not challenge my belief in God at all. In fact I attempt to show that it leads us logically to Him if we don’t short-circuit our thinking. A thorough reading of my previous comments should make that crystal clear. I should qualify that by saying it’s true if and only if you read with understanding. But you have to have a very scientific and rational mind to do that, something atheists generally seem to think they have over believers in God.

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By straight_talk_11, April 11, 2007 at 11:59 pm Link to this comment

“If you want to dis fundamentalists who insist that the universe was created about seven thousand years ago in six days despite the light from the other side of our own galaxy having started out toward us some 50,000 years ago, I’m right with you on that.” - straight_talk_11

“The argument against that would be that just because the light was there 50,000 years ago doesn’t mean the planet was there. They just cherry pick. This is literal that is allegorical, whatever we need to make our point.” - Leona S

Huh!? Where is this planet substituting for the universe thing coming from? To a Judaeo-Christian fundamentalist, God created the entire universe about 7,000 years ago in six days. That’s impossible if stars that existed 50,000 years ago are just now being seen from here on earth because it takes light that long to travel from the other side of our own galaxy, which is about 60,000 light years in diameter and we’re about two thirds of the way out on the opposite side.

That’s without taking into account that the closest neighboring galaxy (Andromeda) is some 2.2 million light years away, which means it could have disappeared two million years ago and we wouldn’t know it for another two hundred thousand years. This is just what we can see with the naked eye. There are billions of galaxies, each with hundreds of billions of stars. Forget about metagalaxies, which are galaxies of galaxies, and even meta-metagalaxies.

So what was your point again, Leona S? I’m just saying literal-minded interpretation of spiritual literature, which is intrinsically allegorical, doesn’t work…completely misses the point. To attack that kind of interpretation is legitimate. To attribute that kind of interpretation to all who believe in God is not at all legitimate.

There is not any issue of literal versus allegorical here except in the minds of fundamentalists, who actually do not focus on fundamentals at all, but take their literal-minded, face-value interpretations of physical things and events and attempt to wrongly elevate them to the status of fundamentals. Physical things and events are by definition physical, not spiritual, and consequently have no bearing on spiritual truths other than in their allegorical significance.

In ways paralleling the abstractions of allegory, those mathematicians who can generate valuable theorems, original mathematics, are rare. They do this via an awareness that “connects the dots” between the elements of data sets to generalize a solution that captures the relationships among these specific elements. This allows accurate future calculations using their newfound mathematical discovery because it covers all the specific, concrete possibilities with a generalized, abstract principle that is locally unmanifest in any specific data element.

Take this to the limit of abstraction in our universe and you have what is happening with religious scriptures. Those who wrote them saw deeply, way beyond the surface of life. We call this spiritual insight. They had little choice in expressing their insights, but have been forced by the generally concrete, specific orientation of human vocabulary to use allegorical, poetic means of expression. Those of us with lesser insight, but insight that nevertheless remains intact, are able to appreciate the deeper significance of these scriptural allegories. Those who take their superficial, literal meanings as fundamental are way off track and have no understanding of their true significance.

Such superficiality is absurd. But to blame it on the scriptures or those who wrote them is just another brand of fundamentalism. What is irrational is the interpretive mode employed and not the scriptures. To discredit religion because of the all-too-common human tendency to understand pretty much everything very superficially is another way to buy the fundamentalist view hook, line, and sinker as the end of the story.

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By Jim Hanley, April 11, 2007 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

RELIGION = ABSOLUTE BIGOTRY!  A CONTAGEOUS DISEASE!
  It is the putrid vomit of criminal minds!
There is no excuse for intelligent people to be so ignorant of facts about the charlatan fantasies and make-believe pretenses of religion, that works to undermine the true Democratic principles and unifying influences of our Democratic Society! To promote, propagate, profligate or publish the same pretentious and pompous falsehoods that are the evil tools used by Fallwell, Baker, Haggard, the Pope, and their ilk to brainwash, indoctrinate, brand, and subjugate innocent children and fools for the purpose of using them to gain ever more money, power, and divisive influence, is tantamount to supporting pimping, and prostitution. And because those charlatans use their evil schemes and lies to control, and enslave those misled ‘bovine-like’ advocates by rendering them ‘virtual’ robots that do their bidding; they are criminals, and those supporting them, are criminal cohorts, equally guilty of the crimes they commit against humanity, those fools, and the children. The vast majority of “religious” people were: forced into their ‘belief’! They had no say in the matter, they were imposed upon, brainwashed, and indoctrinated when innocent and defenseless! They were not old enough, wise enough, or informed enough to make a decision, or to determine the value of the information passed to them by elders who, they were taught to obey and were not able to question or contradict! And, generation, upon generation the same methods have been perpetually used and promoted by a big gang of thieves as their victimizing schemes to rob people of their pristine mental facilities and their ability to determine fact from fiction!  Most religious indoctrinated “children” never reach an “age and ability” to recover from the ‘desease’! ‘Religious’ “parents” already mezmerized and ‘indoctrinated’; are the absolute worst ‘indoctrinators’! because, they have first access to the innocents at the earliest age!
Religious parents mind’s are warped by the charlatan’s lies and fairytales, and by passing it on, they are naive, unwitting cohorts of the ‘criminal’ charlatans’; and are abetting the spread of the infectious plague-like desease called “Religion”!  These “parents” are criminals! They are guilty of ‘branding’ and ‘warping’ the ‘pristine’ minds of the innocent defenseless children and robbing them of the mental acuity they were born with. Religion’s evil bigotry has relegated all non-religious people and realists, to a lower class ‘infidel’ status. And, the time has arrived for all ‘Secular’ Organizations, and realists to seriously consider aligning under one ‘banner’ to fight the fight of our lives; to overcome the deadly influences of those religious fanatics who intend to overthrow our once Democratic Government and accede to domination of our society by brainwashing innocent children and fools, infecting them with the plague-like desease called “Religion” and thus branding and converting them into mezmerized, robot-like monsters, and cohorts, suborned to ever ceaseless efforts aimed at gaining total, and complete control over our entire way of life.  JH 2/7/2007

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By Trish, April 11, 2007 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

I find it interesting that people are claiming that the unreligious are being too dogmatic in recent publications & remarks that point out social problems that religion causes and religion’s disconnect with reality.  We unbelievers are exhorted to be more openminded, less dogmatic and more relaxed about the whole thing. The churched are asking the unchurched to be more accommodating.

Huh?

Since the fall of Rome, and especially in recent decades in the secular nation of America, atheists are blamed - with no evidence - for crime, violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, adultery, cussing, bad TV and anything else that gets under the skin of the churched.  We’ve been most tolerant when such accusations fly in the public discourse.  The churched claim - loud & often - that unbelievers *by definition* cannot make ethical decisions, that only by believing stories that violate the laws of physics can one be kind to neighbors, law abiding and monogamous.  The unchurched let the churched have their say.

All the atheists have done recently is to point out the unlikelihoods, contradictions and ensuing upheaval when believers in competing imaginary friends clash.  And *we’re* the intolerant ones?

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By archeon of thrace, April 11, 2007 at 12:40 pm Link to this comment

This article is pure unadulterated BS.
It is very funny how insistence on proof and evidence is characterized as arogant and dogmatic.  By definition religions are dogmatic, and faith requires acceptance of the dogmas of the faith.

Religios moderates are guilty of trying to have their cake and eat it too.  They constantly try to distance themselves theologically from the truly barbaric histories of the religions.

The debate is indeed never about “god” but about the god of abraham.  The foundation of Christianity, and Islam is Judaism.  The god of the Israelites was and is a murderous, genocidal, petulant child.  It is this foundation of the two main world religion that throws their value as social guides into question.  The foundation of the abrahamic faiths is to do “good” here for a better “life” in the hereafter.  It is never simply about doing good here so that life here will be inherently better.

What is Neo-atheism?
It is simply atheism.  Don’t make it more complicated than it is.  The basics of atheism have never changed - “not having a belief regarding god”.  It is not “believing god does not exist”. There is a vast difference between the two ideas.  I suggest the author of the article is unaware of this difference.

Yes the religio-facists are upset that we atheists will no longer just quietly go about our live.  We have had enough of the the neo-facist agenda of the believers.

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By Leona S, April 11, 2007 at 10:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“If you want to dis fundamentalists who insist that the universe was created about seven thousand years ago in six days despite the light from the other side of our own galaxy having started out toward us some 50,000 years ago, I’m right with you on that.” - straight_talk_11

The argument against that would be that just because the light was there 50,000 years ago doesn’t mean the planet was there. They just cherry pick. This is literal that is allegorical, whatever we need to make our point.

“But if you’re going to be the same kind of literalist and insist God doesn’t exist because you’ve never caught Him hiding behind a tree, then I put you on the opposite side of the same silly coin.” - straight_talk_11

That’s not the point being made at all.

Cut legislation to the bare bones. If you can’t prove it, don’t impose it. If you have to amend the teaching of evolution to say, “This is our best guess from the available evidence”, not so bad. Everyone can see a fossil. I’ve never heard anyone accused of producing mass quantities of fossil material to fill museums around the world and confound religious beliefs. The stuff is just there. Science, though historically hesitant, has a history of self-correction. New evidence is either supportive of or corrective to old evidence and thought on that evidence. It’s what in industry is referred to as “continual improvement”. Religious documents (in general, I know, broad statement) are etched in stone and simply interpreted differently as time and regimes pass. The sacred book is never revised, the controversy will always be there.

“And after these things I saw four angels standing on FOUR CORNERS OF THE EARTH, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree.” Revelation 7:1 (KJV)

Live to your code, let others do the same.

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By Magnifico Giganticus, April 11, 2007 at 4:03 am Link to this comment

Thank you, Jason. (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/on_atheists_and_easter/#62564)
This is exactly what is wrong with this article.

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By straight_talk_11, April 10, 2007 at 11:00 pm Link to this comment

Brief addendum to my last comment:

The real evil is fundamentalism: narrow, pin-headed literalism full of short-circuited thinking. It doesn’t matter whether it is religious or secular fundamentalism. It is the blinders of fundamentalism that are the problem. The religious and secular fundamentalists who are pushing this war in Iraq that has killed some 650,000 Iraqi civilians are just as blind in their own ways as the Muslim fundamentalists who blow themselves up to make their points.

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By straight_talk_11, April 10, 2007 at 10:53 pm Link to this comment

With regard to the idea often repeated here that there is no evidence for the existence of God, all truly fundamental aspects of reality are difficult to define intellectually. Let’s take time and space, for example. We reach a point at which we know experientially what they are, but our definitions become circular and we just have to accept such things as a priori givens in terms of which less fundamental values find their definitions. Their own definitions nonetheless remain elusive.

Can you tell me what time and space are without circular definitions? To say they are separate dimensions within a more comprehensive four-dimensional space-time continuum still doesn’t give me any real sense of what they are, does it? Can you tell me what awareness is? Yet if you’re conscious, not in a coma, you know what it is because you experience it. Just try to define it though, without going in circles.

That’s because your awareness is fundamental and not some superficial epiphenomenon generated magically at a certain level of organic complexity. Just because human intelligence was not yet manifest locally way back when on a planet doesn’t mean intelligence wasn’t manifest globally. To believe so is just a local, very narrow perspective and defies all the basic principles of communications and information theory.

All structural modification of any kind is mediated by energy. Locally, this energy can be random/destructive or orderly/constructive. Globally we see it evolves mega-structures like galaxies, stars, planetary systems, biochemical ecologies, etc. Any kind of orderly work results from natural law communicating modification to physical structure via energy modulated by the ordering principles embedded in the natural laws that govern all physical process. This process is recursive. The whole thing continuously folds back on itself to evolve all the various strata of cosmic structure.

Is it therefore not much more elegant and theoretically economical to approach the problem of why we are aware this way? -

The global intelligence implicit in the set of all natural laws, whatever they may be, is so structured that it modulates the flow of energy within its cosmic domain to evolve everywhere locally structures that increasingly reflect the nature of the whole until organisms arise with physical analogs of the complete set of natural laws embedded within their organic structure. These organisms are therefore capable of reflecting on those laws via the recursive, self-referential connection with their source that we call awareness, as well as stating them explicitly and using them to design useful technologies. These organisms are also ultimately capable of recognizing their own intelligence and awareness as reflecting that of their cosmic origin.

Is this not the scientific equivalent of the scripture that states we are made in the image of God? We shouldn’t fault the great seers of the past for their inability to transcend the limitations of their overly literal, localized, object-oriented vocabulary and provincial cultures. I think they have done a great job, all things considered. If we don’t get it, we’re the dull ones, not they.  They have devised many clever, metaphorical means using limited human vocabulary to describe a holographic universe where every point reflects and potentially manifests the nature of the whole. Dry intellects with no poetic comprehension, whether atheists or religious fundamentalists, cannot yet appreciate what they have done.

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By straight_talk_11, April 10, 2007 at 10:41 pm Link to this comment

Leona S, that is an argument that either assumes legitimate things cannot be used to justify immoral or otherwise stupid and wrong acts or becomes circular by assuming a priori that religion is indeed a root cause of foolish and/or atrocious acts. You have ignored the arguments I used in an attempt to show that religion is NOT a root cause of foolish or evil acts. If your argument assumes out of hand that it is, then of course it is simply asserting that opinion again and nothing more.

If you want to make a legitimate point, why don’t you show specifically where my argument goes awry in your opinion. You need to challenge my reasoning instead of simply restating your own beliefs. I’ve already written commentaries pointing out that this is what most of the comments here are doing: just restating beliefs without any real dialog. This is a perfect definition of irrational dogma.

Both sides should be challenging the other’s reasoning by showing where we think the flaws are. Otherwise, we’re all just venting our spleens to no avail whatsoever. Showing where the flaws are is NOT, I repeat, NOT just disagreeing and stating an opposite opinion. There’s no communication going on with that approach at all. An argument can be shown to be false only two ways:

1) We can show that the assumptions underlying the reasoning, that is to say the basic premises on which the logic is based, are false or at the very least questionable.

2) We can show the logic used to draw implications from the underlying assumptions is not valid.

I just used the second approach in commenting on another article. Someone said that because a politician representing a certain point of view was hypocritical in his position, his view was therefore false. This assumes it is NOT possible for a hypocritical politician to hold a legitimate viewpoint concerning any issue relating to his hypocrisy. How logically sound do you think that is? Can’t you be perfectly right on a point and still be a lousy example of it? Can a drug addict say it’s bad to do drugs without being wrong?

What gets me is that there are so many devout atheists here who dis those with religious orientations by basically implying or saying directly that they are irrational, unthinking fools. If you’re not, then lets get out of this stupid name-calling, “I said, you said” mode and use some of that allegedly glorious rationality of which you all seem so proud.

If you want to dis fundamentalists who insist that the universe was created about seven thousand years ago in six days despite the light from the other side of our own galaxy having started out toward us some 50,000 years ago, I’m right with you on that. But if you’re going to be the same kind of literalist and insist God doesn’t exist because you’ve never caught Him hiding behind a tree, then I put you on the opposite side of the same silly coin.

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By Leona S, April 10, 2007 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Religion is just an excuse for whatever politicians and others who commit atrocious acts and war in the name of God and country want to do. If they didn’t have religion, they’d find some other justification. So how is religion a root cause?” - straight_talk_11

What would you say to removing just one justification for atrocious acts? The corrupt can then scramble to find another. When they do, we can work on eliminating that. Let’s peal away the layers of the onion.

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By straight_talk_11, April 9, 2007 at 7:29 pm Link to this comment

Donovan, why do you call religion a root cause? Religion, no matter whether it works or not as a tool for human betterment, cannot be a root cause. It is at best a symptom of some root cause, even if we accept that it causes problems. In reality, people like Bush do not represent anything religious. They just say they do. He’s a total fake and his fundamentalist lovers are gullible dupes.

Religion is just an excuse for whatever politicians and others who commit atrocious acts and war in the name of God and country want to do. If they didn’t have religion, they’d find some other justification. So how is religion a root cause?

If people’s beliefs, secular or religious, are stupid, distorted versions of reality, then we have to understand what motivates them to distort and subvert that reality, whether with religious beliefs or otherwise, instead of pretending that religion is the root cause. Humankind has a long history of cruel, stupid acts committed without any need to invoke religion as a motive.

Humankind also has a long history of benevolent acts that may or may not include religious motivations, but does that prove that religion is irrelevant or a net negative social influence? Socio-metrics certainly don’t support that!

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By straight_talk_11, April 9, 2007 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment

Whether or not there is a Supreme Intelligence doesn’t depend on whether science can explain life or even whether it can duplicate the process. I suspect eventually science may well do that. Does that mean there is no ultimate Intelligence that governs cosmic evolution? I don’t think so.

Physical theory sees nature as fundamentally unified. As I have already commented, all theoretical physics and the research that it uses to advance evolving theory are based on this assumption. So far this works just fine on a practical engineering level. Even cookbook engineers can use the theoretical structures this area of science has evolved to engineer practical, useful devices that work. Most of this theory, especially quantum field theory and the various unified field theories are very abstract and superficially counterintuitive (defying “common sense” and what some would even call reason), yet their applications turn out to be very practical (e.g., the laser technology ubiquitous in CD players, etc.).

The experience of human awareness is a simple phenomenon when we leave it on the level of subjective experience (not “mystical” awareness, as one commentary surmised for whatever mystical “reason”). There is no theoretical economy in trying to explain it as springing up magically because we biological robots have enough little physical tricks inside us cooperating to somehow generate it from nothing. This is worse than trying to violate the law of conservation of energy and matter. It is inelegant and uneconomical in the extreme.

Explanatory power, as I’ve previous commented, flows from the global, abstract, and general to the local, concrete, and specific. Science uses this to create its theoretical models. This works because nature is actually structured this way. Mathematics uses it to generalize its elegant structures. The alert, intelligent awareness in the mathematical mind finds ways to unify local, concrete, and specific data points with theorems that are more global, abstract, and general. They can do this only because their minds are capable of “connecting the dots”, which means their awareness is comprehensive enough to recognize the global unity underlying local diversity.

It is no coincidence that the word “comprehensive” has connotations of both broad, global inclusiveness and the ability to comprehend, that is understand, sometimes expressed colloquially (and actually wisely so) as “wrapping your mind around it”. All this implies that the degrees of awareness reflected in humankind reflect something in nature, not only because we are a phenomenon located within it, but mostly because we are also born of it.

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By paul bloom, April 9, 2007 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment
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Life is a miracle. A sense of wonder doesn’t require any gods. Religion is a private matter. Atheism goes without saying. Organized religion is a violation of spirituality; in Christian terms it represents succombing to the 3rd temptation of Christ (worldly power).  Neo-labelism is really annoying.

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By Polly Ester, April 9, 2007 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment
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“This conversation is pointless.  One side has sound arguments, and the other doesn’t care.”

Donovan,
You’re absolutely correct—-Atheists and Agnostics don’t care—-religious zealots aggressively defend their theological beliefs.  It is a pointless argument; it’s like convincing someone without a microscope that bacteria exists.

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By RAE, April 9, 2007 at 1:39 pm Link to this comment

re Max in #63856 -

You write: “Science cannot explain life - what it is that makes life life - living from not living. It can reduce it to the study of function and molecules but it cannot explain the wonder that is LIVING. To BE, is something that cannot be scientifically reduced.”

I fully agree! And neither can any other qualitative or quantitative methodology, including, perhaps especially, RELIGIONS, which, as far as I can tell, just MAKE IT UP, then taking a page from the Madison Avenue handbook of brainwashing, PACKAGE IT, SET IT TO MUSIC, and REPEAT it until it becomes a “TRUTH” for consumption by the susceptible masses.

Religions are SHOW BIZ. (Even Hollywood couldn’t come up with better/sillier costuming than the Vatican, for example.)

They concoct a mythology based in fact, half-truth and outright fabrications which pretends to explain the unexplainable (the more fantastic, absurd and unproveable the better), provide mostly arbitrary rules for the game of life (ensuring many are simply not attainable thus perpetuating a substantial guilt complex which requires regular injections of Sunday antidotes to prevent complete mental breakdown), fine tune the presentation for maximum emotional and visual impact, and PRESTO! if you “bite” they’ve got the ring in your nose (and hand in your pocket) for life.

Anyway, that’s the view through my lens. I don’t expect or care if anyone else agrees with my view because, frankly, what others “see” through their lenses are, at best, only a curiosity/fiction to me.

From time to time I get amusement from discussing the various views. I’m arrogant, I’m sure, but not so close-minded as to believe I have the ONLY answers. So I listen. However, after nearly 60 years of such “lurking” I have yet to encounter any other explanation that makes more sense to me than my own.

Do I have 100% confidence that I’m “right?” No way. Perhaps 75%. That’s not a great enough degree of confidence to cause me to “jump ship” and join the group-think that is organized religion no matter how warm and fuzzy the “feelings” they offer. I simply don’t need the glib opinions and untested assumptions of others, who haven’t shown they know any more about it than I do, dictating to me how I should think or live my life.

And as long as they don’t TRY there’ll be no trouble from me. Ah… but there’s the rub!

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By straight_talk_11, April 9, 2007 at 1:29 pm Link to this comment

Concerning lack of responses, my language was intended to challenge anyone willing to respond to actually address the SUBSTANCE of what I said rather than merely respond emotionally in ways that have nothing to do with the alleged rationality that some here seem to claim as their atheistic trump card. I’m just pointing out the high density of “Nya-nya, nya-nya, nyaaah—-nyaaah—-” that’s going around here. It’s just so much useless banter apparently designed to emotionally bolster one’s sense of being right.

I’d like to see someone at least attempt to respond in a way that demonstrates some slight understanding of the substance of my comments even if they don’t agree with them. Then I would like to see that response show precisely WHERE the disagreement is and WHY it’s there. I can respond intelligently to that. Anything else I find quite uninteresting and that’s why I find it to be “useless gibberish”. It’s just more of the same old “I said, you said…” That’s pretty much 95% of what I see here and I’m getting very tired of it.

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By straight_talk_11, April 9, 2007 at 1:00 pm Link to this comment

Sorry, Marmoset. It was Hemi who called me that.

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By The Barefoot Bum, April 9, 2007 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

straight_talk_11: Them’s fightin’ words. Come to my blog and say it, if you dare: http://barefootbum.blogspot.com

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By Hemi, April 9, 2007 at 10:03 am Link to this comment
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“Had I but known that a belief in jesus was all that it would take to be a winner in pro golf!!!” - Kol Klink

Sorry KK, he carries my bag! He’s good that way and talk about sand saves. My bunker play is near miraculous!

Did I ever tell you the one about the priest the rabbi and the atheist are playing a round of golf…

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By dick, April 9, 2007 at 9:53 am Link to this comment
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“mythology is other peoples’ religion.” If so, all folks are atheists with repect to those other religions.  Futhermore,some say,  “Organized religion is misrepresentation of myth” .

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By DS Ellis, April 9, 2007 at 9:32 am Link to this comment
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I grew up in the ‘Bible Belt’. As an atheist, I feel that anyone who devotes their life to worshiping a supernatural being is doing themselves a disservice.  Is it arrogance on my part?  Maybe, but is it any more arrogant than the people who do believe in a supernatural being feeling they automatically know what’s good for me and how I should be living my life?  I don’t think so.

Some people need a place to belong, something to believe in other than themselves, someone to give them guidance.  Some of us don’t.  We are able to make decisions about our behavior and conduct without consulting a large group of like-minded people.  We don’t need to worship something or someone to know that killing our fellow humans is wrong.  We don’t need an organization of worship to tell us we should be nice to others.  We just don’t need it.

Is it arrogance that allows me to think for myself and make decisions based on evidence, circumstances and common sense instead of 2000 year old dogma?  If so, then I’m arrogant and I’m proud.

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By john m sandoval, April 9, 2007 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
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This is why E. J. Dionne and millions of Atheists and millions of Christians celebrate Easter. Observe . . .

            Easter Sunday

Happy Easter we say, and we are so jovial about it !
What do Easter and it’s symbols have to do with Christianity ?
I read in the “Bible” that “Nimrod” son of Kush (an Atheist) married his mother “Semiramis” in order to rule the kingdom. Nimrod was assassinated by his uncle a believer of the Jewish God Jehovah, for claiming to be a God. Nimrod was historically placed among the stars as “Orion” (the constellation of Orion the great hunter) as the “Sun God BaaL.”
Nimrod’s mother Semiramis, assumed the throne (in Iraq) claiming to have been dropped from heaven into the “Euphrates” river in the form of an egg.
Nimrod founded the city of “Nineveh” for Nimrod and also built the Tower of Babel, a place later named Babylonia.
Semiramis was worshiped as a Goddess and became known as “The Queen of Heaven.” At the Spring Festival in April they celebrated in the name of spring fertility, worshiping “Semiramis” as the moon “The Queen of Heaven” with prayers, offerings & sacrifices. (as per the Bible) .
That is why millions of Atheists as well as millions of Christians celebrate Easter with Easter symbols (eggs & bunnies) though they have nothing whatever to do with the Crucifixion – they are only symbols of spring fertility.
Strange and bizarre that “Christianity” is based on two of the greatest fables ever devised by mankind – Christmas and Easter.
By Jonathan

Ref. Rev. chap. 1 verse 20 says; The seven stars of “Orion” (in the constellation of “Orion”) are the angels of the seven churches.
Ref. Jeremiah chap. 44 verse 15, 19, and 25

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By BoDo, April 9, 2007 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
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Typical.  Blast the atheists for finally opening their mouths when the Christians have been shouting us down for millenia.  I’m in favor of the new radical atheism (and gay rights movement) because I’m tired of the big-mouths who own the world shutting us up (often in prison or with fists).  It’s good to see them finally getting nervous at have somebody actually talk back. 

When Christianity and all the other religions quit murdering people for their gods, I’ll be happy to let you go along with your belief system.  But until you clean up your act, I’ll be shouting as long and as loud as I can.

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By M Henri Day, April 9, 2007 at 3:24 am Link to this comment

Amusing to note certain correspondents who, while regretting others’ lack of response to their postings, e g, «I notice those whose replies to my original comment I have addressed have not bothered to respond…», immediately proceed to dismiss the qualifications of these others to participate in any dialogue at all : «[t]he trouble I see with everything I’m reading here is that just about everyone is a literal-minded fundamentalist». Perhaps their alleged desire for dialogue is more feigned than real ?...

Henri

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By M Henri Day, April 9, 2007 at 2:39 am Link to this comment

Amusing to note certain correspondents who, while regretting others’ lack of response to their postings, e g, «I notice those whose replies to my original comment I have addressed have not bothered to respond…», immediately proceed to dismiss the qualifications of these others to participate in any dialogue at all : «[t]he trouble I see with everything I’m reading here is that just about everyone is a literal-minded fundamentalist». Perhaps their desire for dialogue is more feigned than real ?...

Henri

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By Marmoset, April 9, 2007 at 12:18 am Link to this comment
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Hey Straight Talk,

Sorry If my comment was unclear.

I agree with everything you said in the comment I responded to.  The only part of my comment that applied to you was “Props to Straight Talk”, which means “accolades to Straight Talk.”

Don’t know how you came up with the line about me saying I thought you were delusional.

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By Leona_S, April 8, 2007 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment
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Personal scripture for straight_talk_11

My son, you have fulfilled your destiny as the anointed one that understands “The deeper spiritual truths to which scriptural metaphors of any of the great world religions point”. So leave the apple tree alone, go forth and multiply, fill the ark, free my people, die for their sins, descend and on the third day ascend and on your way up…BRING ME A JUICE BOX!

Truthdiggers, is that too much to ask of a son?
He’s rude, he never calls and not as much as a card on Mother’s Day.

“From Those To Whom Much Is Given, Much Shall Be Required” - I wrote that. Yeah me, the LORD. WTF? They said I was a man? Well they got that part wrong. What else did they say about me?

Those bastards!!!

I’ll have to send my ungrateful anointed (you say annoying, I say anointed) son straight_talk_11 back after he brings me my juice box. Then they’ll be sorry. He’ll bore the crap out of atheists and religious fanatics alike with his blah, blah, blah fence sitting, “superficial gibberish”. Now that’s a hell to fear!

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By Herk, April 8, 2007 at 9:32 pm Link to this comment
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I see that many of the points that came to me have already been addressed. However, I’d like to reiterate that neo atheism or “modern atheism” is not new. The idea that since folks like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are outspoken so this must be something new ignores such obvious people as Samuel Clemens. True, the idea that atheists should actually speak out without fear of their lives, reputations, jobs or property damage is revolutionary in what many call a “Christian country.”

Ironic, isn’t it, that this article speaks out against those who would consider Jesus as obsolete as the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter during their own holiday which celebrates the goddess Oestra. Or what else did you think Jesus had to do with the fertility of bunnies and chickens?

It’s tough to be a candle in the darkness when so many fear the light.

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By straight_talk_11, April 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm Link to this comment

I notice those whose replies to my original comment I have addressed have not bothered to respond, but just keep jockeying around other comments with the same superficial gibberish. The trouble I see with everything I’m reading here is that just about everyone is a literal-minded fundamentalist.

Scriptural metaphors just whiz right by such folks because they (both sides of the issue) think religion is just about little physically objective factoids and whether God was wiggling the end of the pen when whoever’s scriptures were written. One person implies that because serious bible research shows a lot of stuff got jacked around and there are irresolvable inconsistencies, etc. that this is a cause for becoming an atheist.

Holy cow! How literal-minded can you get? If that’s how you look at religious scripture, you’re completely clueless! Believe it or not, the deepest conception of truth is not on the level of whether Jane Doe went to the grocery store yesterday or which day of the week, if any, is really the Sabbath, or who was really a prophet, avatar, or saint.

The deeper spiritual truths to which scriptural metaphors of any of the great world religions point are the same. There is amazing consistency across time and radically different cultures. Those without the ability to go beyond the surface because their awareness is opaque to anything but superficial appearances (always deceptive) are perpetually doomed to miss the point entirely. Few here, if anyone at all, are avoiding doing exactly that.

On the point about feelings and emotions not affecting what we think, the intellect is the slave of feelings and emotions whether you want to believe that or not. Every one of you who think that your feelings and emotions have nothing to do with rational thought are way off the mark. You’re proving that with every comment you make. The intellect will always rationalize whatever it is we really want to believe. It gets twisted this way and that to satisfy emotional needs and deep, hidden feelings. 

That is why the scriptures of many religions talk so much about purity of heart. The only way the intellect can have real clarity is when the heart is pure, meaning deep psychological motives are not subverting the simple, clear appreciation of the nature of life and existence as it actually is.

How to get there is what’s missing in most scriptures. The worst part of typical organized religions is that they promote very high standards without providing any effective means of achieving them. What you end up getting is a lot of lip service and the rank hypocrisy that inevitably goes with that, which of course actually fuels the phenomenon of atheism. But the atheists are no freer than the religious fanatics. They’re all doing the same, dinky-headed, literal-minded thing.

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By CSE, April 8, 2007 at 8:23 pm Link to this comment
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The author writes, “That’s why they think a belief in salvation through faith in God, no matter the religious tradition, is dangerous to an open society.”

The key phrase here is “religious tradition”.  The traditions, doctrine and dogma of such religious traditions are indeed interpreted continuously, yet the traditions, doctrine and dogma remain relatively unchanged.  Add to this that the changes more times than not add further schism to the supposed original tradition.  Note that the original tradition was not uniform in the least and the Council of Nicea in 365AD was held under Constantine to unify doctrine and dogma and codify it into Canon.  The Canon was decided by voting.

Without doing a source check, I recall reading a summary of an ecumenical conference held in the early 20th century.  The most outstanding recollections are:

(1)It is the personal relationship with God that gives religion it’s meaning; and

(2)“All or nothing” is a cry of despair.

While many atheists can learn from #2 above as well as people of Faith.  The error, I believe, in the former statement is in using the word “religion”.  If “Faith” were inserted in it’s place, then Faith would be personal, would not require clergy or preachers and would not be imposed upon others en masse under the threat of excommunication or being summarily banished to the nether regions.

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By Robert Bennett, April 8, 2007 at 6:32 pm Link to this comment
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My Take on Christianity:

The Four C’s

The Happy Tassel was rockin, and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were rockin right along with it.  They’d dug up that ‘special stash’ of wine they’d so carefully buried all those years before and, as you might expect, they were drinking it down like water.

It isn’t everyday you graduate from Leo’s School of Greek Writing,  The celebration was all the more raucous, due to Luke’s squeaker of a finish in his race for a C average.  Things got a little out of control, and The Four C’s crooned through a bittersweet, and tear jerking version of Feelings.

All through the night, the wine poured down, and the songs sang out.  But, as it always does, morning came and it was time to get to work on The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Bleary eyed, but none the worse for wear and tear, they headed home towards the rising sun.  As they walked, the light came stronger and, ahead of them, in the middle of the road, a figure was revealed.  They drew nearer and met a small, pot bellied man, sitting cross-legged with a beautiful smile on his face……

…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Peace,
Bob Bennett
Lick Skillet, AL

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By Kol Klink, April 8, 2007 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment
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Just caught the end of the Masters in Augusta on tv. The winner, (sorry, forgot his name already), when questioned about how he controled his nerves during play of the final few holes said that ‘jesus was with me and my faith is very strong.’
Had I but known that a belief in jesus was all that it would take to be a winner in pro golf!!!
I coulda been a contenda, Joey! If ya just hadn’ made me take dose dives for da short money! I coulda been a contenda!

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By Max, April 8, 2007 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
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#62805 by RAE, thanks for your response, but it is clear that I have not mis-understood you. You are slamming a cleaver between the material world and the spiritual world - a kind of Cartesian argument which has been widely disputed on a number of fronts.

But my point is not that those who have disregard for religion are forsaking emotion. But that the reductionism that is “preached” by radical rationalists like Harris is devoid of everything but the material. Science cannot explain life - what it is that makes life life - living from not living. It can reduce it to the study of function and molecules but it cannot explain the wonder that is LIVING. To BE, is something that cannot be scientifically reduced.

Let me be clear, undoubtedly science has its value and place. But Harris and Dawkins (and others) have radicalized it - fundamentalized it.

When you attempt through logic and reason (or empericism) to comprehend the “living” (as Harris has attempted through a scientism of eastern spirituality) it loses its grasp. Living is. It cannot be “studied” or “discovered”. Science is supreme with the material world - it is completely incompetent with the spiritual.

Harris’s attempt to include a “spirituality” in his radical rationalism has been spurned by the “neo-atheists” who also hold claim on radical rationalism and have found faith in science - scientism.

Taking fundamentalism (which has many sources - not only in formal religions but with the radical rationalists like Harris and Dawkins) as the basis of understanding faith is merely creating a straw-man. Fundamentalism can be found in our American imperialism, or fundamental free-marketers - and yes, Science (scientism).

The real peeve is not with religion or faith, but with the corruption by fundamentalism or the radicalization of faith whether it be in a God or Science.

And that, I think, is E. J.‘s main point.

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By Hemi, April 8, 2007 at 4:47 pm Link to this comment
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My bad. My last comment #62811 was in response and quoting at times comment #62751 by William Lewis on 4/07 at 7:23 pm.

My apology for not adequately giving you your due Mr. Lewis.

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By Mark Colby, April 8, 2007 at 3:32 pm Link to this comment

E.J. Dionne claims that his faith allows questioning.  This claim is highly deceptive. The fundamental problem with it is that his faith rquires predetermined, inviolate limits to any permissible questioning.  Where the questions seem to show the implausibility, illogical leaps, absurdity, lack of evidence, inadequate evidence, and other defects in his faith, these limits mean that the questioning is allowed to go just so far and no further—far enough to give the illusion of a disinterested search for the truth, but not far enough to amount to a genuine rational challenge to the faith to vindicate itself.  If the faith is ultimately immune to such challenge, it does not really allow questions, just the illusion of questions.

Michael Novak claims that his faith requires moral humility.  His claim is just as fundamentally confused.  Novak’s claim to humility is bogus because he is not humble enough to concede that his faith may be based on nothing but intellectual error.  Genuine humility requires that one admit to the possibility of being completely wrong on an issue.  In this case it would require that he abandon his faith if an opponent were able to show that his faith were rationally unwarranted.  I doubt whether he would ever admit this requirement in principle, let alone in his own intellectual practice.

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By Skruff, April 8, 2007 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment
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#62751 by William Lewis on 4/07 at 7:23 pm says

“I really have no problem with people who choose atheism. How they think doesn’t concern me, until they start proselytizing.”

I feel exactly the same way…..about xtians.  Keep your religion in your church off my money, court house doors, and politics, and I have “no problem” either.

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By Beau H. McLendon, April 8, 2007 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment

In E.J. Dionne Jr.‘s obvious defense of faith he fails to make an argument, thus he embarks on a diatribe and not even an impressive one. Dionne Jr. attempts to make comparisons with the arguments formed by what he calls the “neo-atheist” movement, but it quickly becomes reminiscent of childish mimicry: There is a sound argument against religious doctrine and especially the indoctrination of children and Dionne Jr., not surprisingly, retorts that Atheists suffer from a dogmatism of their own. Of course just what dogma Atheists adhere to is never stated and why not, because Christians don’t want to admit, after the fact, that they are referring to reason, altruism, and intellectual honesty as dogma.

Dionne Jr. is right about the frustration toward religious moderates, but sneakily reforms that consternation for religious moderates into the claim that Atheists find religious moderates frustrating because they don’t fall into a stereotype. The frustration obviously lies in the leeway that moderates attempt to give religious belief, because it’s belief, without actual regard for the consequences of detrimental doctrine. It is difficult for Dionne Jr. and others to concede simple points like these, because they are points embodied with sound reasoning and honesty.

It’s clearly time for the people that have truly nothing to say, such as those like Dionne Jr., to simply stop talking and listen…just listen and think about the issues without the weight of guilt baring down upon them. The deep seeded fear that people have when honestly questioning the validity or even the actual need of their beliefs is an elucidation of the malignant hold religion has.

As far as a connection to Easter Sunday goes, it is just another day. The sad thing is that the majority of people need days such as today, holidays, to grant some great significance to their lives. It is very difficult to find value in every single day, thus an importance within ourselves, but so long as we are aware of the fact that we imbue our lives with value it’s a step forward. Take time on Easter Sunday to acknowledge the lives of others and the resplendence of existence instead of completely shifting focus from this beauty in order to celebrate a belief in an event that lacks value, sense, and validity.

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By Nick, April 8, 2007 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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Wow, I can’t believe what a sloppy reading Dionne did of Harris’ work.  I’m just curious if Dionne intentionally misrepresented Harris’ arguments to set up a strawman, or if this is just terrible interpretation on the part of the author.  Since it appears others have debunked some of the most glaring problems with this article, I think this particular line warrants clarification:

“it is a sad fact that secular forms of dogmatism have been at least as murderous as the religious kind.”

Sam harris has answered this charge many times, and the author could have easily found Harris’ response by spending a half hour on youtube.  Sam Harris’ main problem is with dogma that discourages people to think rationally.  He attacks religion because he sees it as the most pervasive disseminator of dogma in the world.  He never says it is the ONLY disseminator of dogma, which can also be found under totalitarian regimes.  Now, murderous “secular” governments like Stalin’s USSR or Pol Pot’s Cambodia did not kill because they were overly rational.  Quite the opposite.  They killed because they followed their own form of dogma, which Harris also attacks.  Harris argues for a secular society that thinks rationally, rather than simply replacing religious dogma with secular dogma.  If this sounds utopian, I encourage the author to take a trip through the (predominantly) secular Scandinavian countries.

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By john c, April 8, 2007 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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When a good deed is done you feel good, and when an opposite deed occurs bad feelings linger on for awhile.  quote(al)

I error on side of atheist, with respect to pagans whether jew, christian, or all others.  I fear nothing, risk it all when necessary.  Meaning living life with ten commandments or better yet convincing an entire congregation to leave US for a better life; the late jim jones, is a perfect example of following blindly.  And you thought only Germans/r-winger neo’s were capable of following blindly.

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By Hemi, April 8, 2007 at 9:38 am Link to this comment
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Have you ever read of the Buddhist mobs in Sri Lanka hacking, bludgeoning and torching to death members of the Tamil minority? Of course not, don’t bother you with messy facts, your on a roll. The Tamils are no choir boys but don’t f*** with the Buddhists either.

How about those “Ten Commandments”? How does the “Lord thy God” view Buddha when it comes to the “You shall have no other gods before me” clause?

And just for kicks, how do you interpret the one that goes: “Observe the Sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you. For six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you. Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.” I always liked that one myself. But I don’t have any slaves to let rest on Saturdays. What are you doing on Saturdays?

This is a great one though. The one that goes: “Neither shall you covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” I’ve never been much of a slave coveter, is that the correct term? But I must confess to saying to my wife: “If that house down the block with the nice yard goes up for sale we should check it out honey!” I guess I’m more of a house coveter. My neighbors don’t have oxen and donkeys, does a cock-a-poo count? I don’t covet the dog, but I’m just curious how you and the “Big Guy” deal with the minutia. Is a shovel useful?

You’re just a cherry picker. Others swallow the whole tree!

You do go on: “So in my thinking, you really can’t loose when you have faith in the existence of God. You tend to look up into the sunshine, try to see the good that also exists here on this world. Denial of the existence of God may pacify your negative ideology for a time. However, I believe by its very nature, this negativity will eventually give way to despair.”

That’s what this is all about, setting facts aside. You can continue with the fantasy world. As for me, I don’t find despair in truth. I find it puts me on a level playing field with the bastards that run most of the world. Most of the pricks in charge know there is no god and they operate accordingly, manipulating the brainwashed to make the world in their image. Acquiescing to their whims allows lives for oil in the middle-east while proclaiming the act as righteous before God. My country would react in a very different way if the truth was accepted. Lives for oil, no god involved, we’re just beating the Russians and Chinese to the goodies. Why aren’t the Russians and Chinese on board to boycott Iran? They know the truth, those godless heathens. They will eventually trade lives for oil without the pretense. Don’t you feel in the least bit duped?

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By RAE, April 8, 2007 at 8:50 am Link to this comment

Whoa Max (#62731).... whoaaaa!

You offered: “...Consider: hardheaded logic and reason replacing feeling and emotion (as #62709 RAE does)would eradicate the unexplainable wonder of poetic verse and a musical piece by Motzart. Rejecting the spiritual world is just as dogmaticly driven as rejection of the material.”

I did NOT suggest REPLACING one with the other… I did, however, state I THINK with one and not the other.

Of course feelings and emotions have a wonderful role to play in the human experience. I can sit on the couch with tears streaming down my face while watching a drama on TV, raise goosebumps listening to SOME music/poetry and thrill beyond words at walking through nature’s wonders.

But I don’t THINK with the emotions that arise within me. I don’t consider abandoning what REASON and LOGIC bring to the table when it comes to adopting a philosophy of life around which I tailor my existence.

Those who don’t want to, or can’t, deal with the REAL world as it is, warts and all, are free to hide in their religious fantasylands. Just don’t expect the company and support of those of us who understand that building castles in the air in which to live is a profoundly shaky engineering practise!

That said, I do NOT have “the answers.” I have NO IDEA where I came from, why I’m here, or where I’m going. And neither does anyone else who uses their intellect in an honest and reasoned fashion, no matter how fancy their titles or robes of office.

Not “knowing” is OK with me. After a lifetime of careful consideration I conclude that if I was supposed to “know,” the “God” of it all would tell me in a straightforward, honest fashion that could not possibly be misinterpreted or misunderstood.

Since that clearly has not happened yet, I conclude that either “God” hasn’t gotten around to it, “God” likes to play games and/or is in desperate need of a good editor, or “God” is a figment of our collective, overactive, needy, fear-filled, superstitious, immature imaginations.

There’s no use wasting any more time on this, folks. Use your BRAINS. If what you “believe” makes sense to you, then that’s fine with me… and HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Just make sure it stays that way. When we meet, figuratively or literally, you keep your “beliefs” to yourself, and I’ll agree to do the same.

Just quit ringing your damn church bells on Sunday morning! Easter or not, some of us would like to sleep in. Disturbing the peace ain’t going to get you many votes. If you all can’t get to church on time without some Pavlovian cue, you’re even more cranially consfused than I realized!

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By Donovan, April 8, 2007 at 8:26 am Link to this comment
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#62751 by William Lewis:
“Instead of focusing in on the bad points—and admittedly there are many—of the religions of the world, pull your selves back and look at their general goal.”

Whatever you want to claim as religion’s “general goal,” it can unequivocally be accomplished without mentioning Jesus, god, Allah, or anything having to do with religion.

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By Mad As Hell, April 8, 2007 at 7:47 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Lewis, I thank you for your compassion for my poor lost soul:

“So in my thinking, you really can’t loose when you have faith in the existence of God. You tend to look up into the sunshine, try to see the good that also exists here on this world. Denial of the existence of God may pacify your negative ideology for a time. However, I believe by its very nature, this negativity will eventually give way to despair.
And the inevitable path, which will only lead farther and farther down into the abyss. “

However, it is the height of arrogance to presume that YOU have the path to “light”.

You CAN lose by having faith.  Faith is the contradiction of observation and reason—it is their opposite.  If you have faith and embrace it, you MUST cheapen your powers of observation and reason.  And THAT is the slippery slope that leads to torture chambers, hanging witches, burning heretics, suicide bombing, and chopping out peoples hearts on the tops of pyramids.

You embrace what is known as Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and logician answered an Atheist’s criticism with your answer: If I have faith and pray, when I die, if there is no God, I lose nothing. But if I don’t have faith and don’t pray, and when I die I find there is a God, then I lose everything.

This sounds eminently sensible and good insurance but it has a HUGE hole when faced with close reasoning: Which religion is the ONE that we need to take insurance out on? What if Brahma, Siva and Vishnu are real (or, instead, Isis) and after death are ENRAGED at you for worshipping that false Abrahamic god?  You’ve STILL lost everything.  Are you going to worship EVERY god that can be imagined, even when they are explicitly contradictory?

Clear thinking, close reasoning and rejoicing in observation and logic, and the true sense of WONDER at discovery of another aspect of the REAL universe is not negativity at all, just because it denies the comforting fantasies we learned as children.

The religious have one valid point, but while they are in the right church, they are definitely in the wrong pew:  Truth revealed IS enlightening and uplifting of the mind and spirit.

Mr. Lewis, you do not understand that MY way is not negativity—MY way does NOT lead to dispair. Just the opposite.  And it is MORE comforting because I don’t rely on faith, denying my fundamentally HUMAN ability to reason.  I don’t know because I “know”. I know because I observe and reason.

You like analogies (religious people always do because they don’t have facts). Here’s one: If I’m fixing my car, I will find it FAR more satisfying to actually successfully identify the problem, resolve it, and have my car run properly. I will be FAR less satisfied if I do something, but I don’t know what, that causes the problem to disappear.  Now, what happens if the problem re-occurs? It means I never identified the source of the problem, and have NO idea which action resolved it.  We’ve all had to deal with both kinds of mechanics.  Which do YOU prefer?  Me, I want the successful logician, not the guesser.

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By Leona _S, April 8, 2007 at 7:44 am Link to this comment
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“We are free to believe what we want; I really have no problem with people who choose atheism. How they think doesn’t concern me, until they start proselytizing.” - William Lewis

Proselytizing my ass. Simply put, to most humans the sky is blue the grass is green. They’re just not comfortable saying so if the “book” that runs the world says differently. It can cost you your family, home, occupation and life. That’s not an exaggeration and that is why the tide has turned Mr. Lewis. We are not content living in your flat, four cornered, fantasy world. It’s time for an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment for the world. The problem with the missing clothes is we don’t see god laid bare. What we see Mr. Lewis is your balls! God is still living happily in your firmament Mr. Lewis. Please take a ladder and join him.

Happy Pagan Spring festival to you sir!

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By KFD, April 8, 2007 at 1:10 am Link to this comment
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“But what’s really bothersome is the suggestion that believers rarely question themselves while atheists ask all the hard questions. [...]“Questions have been the heart and soul of Judaism and Christianity for millennia.””

I think what a lot of people never realize is that Atheism is the result of earlier religious questioning. Atheists are not a different species. Our thoughts are a product of what started as religious research. Biblical criticism, for instance, was meant to give people real knowledge about the bible and biblical times, but ended up indirectly supporting a very different view by questioning the sources.

Ockham (he with the razor) was a monk, and if Atheists should have a patron saint, it should be William of Ockham.

In contrast to today’s Christians, these people wanted to follow the truth wherever it took them. And that’s what Atheists continue to do.

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By Eso, April 7, 2007 at 11:45 pm Link to this comment
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I remember seeing a photo in which a Japanese fishingboat fired its harpoon at a Greenpeace rubber boat that circled it in protest of the Japanese crew killing whales. The harpoon missed. I had two kinds of feelings about the result. One, I wished that the harpoon had struck and a human being had sacrificed his life for a whale (or for that matter a butterfly). Two, I was happy enough that the protester did not get hit and lives probably to this day. I do not really care whether people are theists or atheists as long as they return to self-sacrifice of life and body if necessary for the sake of building for humankind a liveable society. My own orientation is that we are not made in the image of God, but that we make the image of God. The image we make is evolutionary, by trial and error. Yes, the image is a mirror image of a changing human being. In our day, the populist image of God is of a kindly but impotent old man on a cloud (re Michaelangelo)pointing a limp finger at a handsome but characterless youth. In my mind, this image projects at least 4.3 billion people on Earth too many, the melting Himalayas, the pathological nature of our diets (not only that of the Japanese whale meat and shark fin soup), but sick men like Bush, Chaney, Eric Prince, et al who have condemned self-sacrifice to suicide in order to give violence a free hand. There is a whole army of scientists supporting this violence with books filled with their ‘ethical concerns’ over cloning, which would give a soldier—sacrificed by those with desk jobs—another chance at living his-her Self and freeing him-herself a little from the extreme value of “I” which this very moment brings death to millions today and more death to millions tomorrow. So, let us see if the coming times will give us back our say over our life and death. Jesus, incidentally, did not commit suicide.

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By Dave Thuleen, April 7, 2007 at 10:15 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Dionne claims that “the problem with the neo-atheists is that they seem as dogmatic as the dogmatists they condemn.”

Mr. Dionne, it is not dogmatism to point out that someone has no basis for his or her belief.  If I claim that a McDonald’s restaurant is doing terrific business on the surface of Pluto, serving burgers to aliens who are visiting our solar system, and I point out that you can’t prove absolutely that I am wrong, you will be quite justified in insisting that the burden is on ME to justify my assertion, that in fact I there is no actual evidence that I am right, and that the intensity and sincerity of my belief and the possible comfort I derive from it do not make the assertion any more likely.  Further, you will be wise to act as if I am wrong, and to dismiss my claims until actual evidence of their truth is provided.

When you react with disbelief to my assertion about Pluto, no one will accuse you of dogmatism, arrogance, or anger.  But when atheists do the equivalent with regard to religious claims, many people do make such accusations.  There is a double standard at work here, and a disheartening willingness to accord respect to mere assertions.

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By straight_talk_11, April 7, 2007 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment
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Mad as Hell, read what the quote you extracted from my comment actually says and react to that instead of your strange ideas of what it implies about me and my thinking. Rationality does not jump so quickly to unwarranted conclusions. “He that accuseth…”

Modern science has evolved and remained as successful as it has in its practical application on the basis of an at least implicit and sometimes explicitly stated philosophy. This philosophy has historically assumed an essential unity underlying natural phenomena to evolve sets of laws in the various scientific fields that attempt to theoretically unify objectively verifiable data sets so that we can reliably predict results and engineer useful technologies.

In modern physics, the most successful theoretical constructs are evolving toward the famous “theory of everything”. Several theoretical attempts, including Grand Unified Theory and now string theory, have had varying degrees of success in conceptually unifying the four previously theoretically unrelated physical fields: electromagnetic, gravitational, and the other two fields associated with the strong and weak nuclear forces. Whatever future, more successful theories may evolve from these and ultimately replace them will, if history is any indicator at all, converge in the limit as we approach an infinity of time from now toward an ultimate Unified Field Theory.

Now, let us make a fairly safe assumption, one upon which all modern physical research is based and his been from the beginning. Let us assume that this ultimate Unified Field toward which we are converging contains implicit within its own nature all fundamental physical phenomena. Then I ask you, are you intelligent? If you say “yes”, then I ask if you think you or anything physical exists outside of this Unified Field. If you say “no”, that is a good answer. But then you have just made a logically airtight case that the Unified Field is intelligent. Now go back and read my original comment again and maybe, just maybe, you will begin to grock it, even if barely.

You see, explanatory power always flows from global, abstract, and general to local, concrete, and specific and never the reverse. Our theories are based on this simple property of the way reality, physical or otherwise, is structured. If this were not so, then none of our theoretical constructs would be the slightest bit useful. It reflects the way the universe itself works, and that’s why models based on this flow are practical at all.

So you don’t get the global, abstract, general phenomenon we call consciousness or just awareness springing up from nothing because we or nature put the right stuff together in the right way. It’s the other way around. If you want to call that intelligent design, fine, but leave the capital letters out, because it has nothing to do with anything the “creationists” have come up with.

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By straight_talk_11, April 7, 2007 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
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Well, it seems Marmoset, Kellina, Hemi, and perhaps others now or later are adding a lot of extra baggage to my original comment. Why don’t you react to what I actually said instead of to some pigeonhole you decided to put me in? I am absolutely NOT a “creationist”, nor do I belong to the “Intelligent Design” school of thought as defined by the “creationists”.

I do believe nature manifests intelligence, since we are part of nature and maybe some of us are even intelligent. In that sense, I don’t think evolution is a dumb process, but a natural product of the global intelligence implicit in the laws that govern nature’s functioning.

I made specific statements about evolution myself, and how local subsystems of the universe evolve from the holistic interaction of natural law on the cosmic level. So I don’t understand your need, Kellina, to explain evolutionary process to me. What I proposed includes the evolution of stars, galaxies, the main sequence, the appearance of second-generation stars with heavy matter formed from supernova explosions, and the accretion of planets, the appearance and evolution of life forms, etc.

I deny nothing of what science uncovers. Nor do I deny the basic tenets of biological evolution, and definitely do NOT count myself among the silly “creationsists” who wish to pick at the inevitable weaknesses intrinsic to the development of any theory in order to discredit the validity of the evolutionary processes for which it attempts to provide conceptual unity. I follow advances in understanding the evolution of planets and life, the early chemistry of the earth that may have initiated biological evolution, etc. with great enthusiasm.

The statements I made are not “delusional”, Marmoset, unless you attribute beliefs to me that I don’t have. Why don’t you take what I actually said and deal with that with whatever reasoning ability you might have instead of jumping to irrational and unjustifiable conclusions about what I believe because your much-touted rationality was apparently unable to follow much of what I said, if anything at all.

I seems to me that some of the “rational” mindset we’re assuming here has a very limited exposure to genuine scientific thought processes and is consequently woefully superficial and short-circuited both scientifically and philosophically.

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