Religious Extemism – Did Jesus Murder Dr. Tiller?

This is a long thread from last night over at Cesca’s blog on whether or not it’s appropriate to lay the blame for the murder of Dr. George Tiller at the door of Jesus Christ or religion in general. I’ve cut a few comments here and there for flow. My comments are in bold.

….In Church
by Lee Stranahan

One thing that should be made clear about the Tiller assassination : don’t blame Jesus. This was a case of Christian on Christian violence, carried out when the victim was at church. Christians shouldn’t be painted with broad brush any more than Muslims should.

The problem is extremism. Part of extremism is reducing one’s enemies to something less than real. Religions have been responsible for a lot of needless death but so have atheist regimes in the USSR and China. The trendline of right wing terror isn’t something that can be ignored but the solution seems to me to be to help create a less hyped up political environment.

Posted By Lee Stranahan | June 1, 2009 12:18 PM
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Comments

Christians as a whole, at this moment in history, may be much less violent than Muslims- though that hasn’t always been the case..

One thing that has remained the same is that their teachings, as nearly all other religions, open the door to extremism- this is the problem with holding unquestioned faith as a virtue.

Also, whenever such ‘atheist regimes’ have become oppressive and violent, it’s because of a dogmatic set of beliefs- and certainly not because of atheism.

Posted by: Dan in Deutschland at June 1, 2009 12:58 PM
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I know I’m echoing Dawkins’ book, but how many people have died in the name of Atheism? China and the USSR don’t/didn’t kill to promote Atheism, they killed to control and oppress the will of the people. The fact that those regimes were atheist is incidental and not causal to the death and misery they inflicted.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 12:59 PM
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Bullshit false equivalency!

The regimes of Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao were certainly guilty of vicious crimes against humanity, but none of those crimes could properly or fairly be described as committed in the furtherance of atheism or secularism.
All of those despots sought to consolidate power and destroy their enemies. While they may have been nominally godless, it is not at all accurate to say that the states were secular.
In Russia, the tsar was the living god, and Stalin expertly exploited the theistic inclinations of the people.
I live in Taiwan, and I can tell you with absolute certainty that anyone who tries to turn the Chinese into non-believers has a truly impossible task. There are far too many of them to kill (gods, not Chinese).
Cambodia is populated by animists. It has always been so and will ever be so.
It is important to distinguish between states that are secular (there hasn’t been one yet, altho some Scandinavian countries approach), and those states that claim to be atheistic without actually taking any steps to promote that end.
When you find a state that bases its political philosophy in the works of Einstein and Spinoza and still engages in tyrannical murder and mayhem, let me know.

Name one morally correct action done in the name of god that cannot be done by a secular person simply because it is good.

Name one morally repugnant action that is done in the name of god that would never even be considered by a secular person.

I defy you to provide a response to the first challenge.
The second only requires the time it takes to read it before being able to make a list:
Female genital mutilation
Destruction of temples and religious iconography
Suicide bombings…

Atheism DOES NOT promote division, violence and hatred.
Religion does.
The suggestion that Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin committed their crimes in the name of atheism is not merely wrong, it is disingenuous, muddle-headed and indicates a profound need to do some research rather than gobble the trite bullshit yammered by those who want to bring you the comfort of Holy Jesus, meek and mild…because Jesus loves you and will put into the LAKE OF FIRE FOR ETERNITY IF YOU DON’T GET ONSIDE.

Goddamn right, Stranahan…the Christians…the FAITHFUL…are at the root of the problem. And there ought be no excuses for them – especially of the sort that says, “Well…atheists do bad things, too.”
Yes. They do. But NOT in the name of atheism…and not at all in the way that evil is done in the name of god.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 1:00 PM
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Bad post, Bob. It’s not all a wash. Mao, Pol Pot and Stalin didn’t kill anyone to further their beliefs in a god-free world, they did it for power and party purity. Their dogmatic adherence to a set of beliefs (communism) has much more in common with (insert religion) than anything to do with atheism, which is merely a rejection of supernatural claims based on sound evidence and the lack thereof.

Posted by: iLLogicaL at June 1, 2009 1:32 PM
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Atheism is often a dogmatic belief and it certainly was for Communist regimes. Obviously, there was nothing in atheism that kept those mass atrocities from happening, either.

If you’re saying that something more than just atheism was at play….of course, you’re right. And it’s equally true that there’s more than just ‘theism’ to blame for other atrocities. That’s my point.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 1, 2009 1:35 PM
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Atheism is often a dogmatic belief and it certainly was for Communist regimes. Obviously, there was nothing in atheism that kept those mass atrocities from happening, either.

Lee, you can just hack out that second sentence from your post because it’s irrelevant. How could not believing in a god keep you from doing anything? It’s like saying “I believe the sky is blue, but there’s nothing in that belief that keeps me from hacking up my neighbor.”

And why does there have to be anything more than a ‘theism’ at work for these wingnuts. They blindly believe the word of the bible and will find passages to support their actions. What’s more is that the person who pulled the trigger might be ‘extremist’, but there will a lot of people out there who will say he did the right thing and if he’s executed for his crime, he’ll die a martyr.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 1:52 PM
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Great jumped up Jesus on skis.
I am so sick of trying to explain to people that Atheism is not a belief. As the saying goes, “Atheism is not a belief in the way that bald is not a hair color.”

Accepting that there is a magical sky wizard who instructs you to live a certain way, in the absolute absence of evidence for the truth of the claim, is the very definition of dogma. Further, it is ONLY this sort of conviction that allows people to beat their mothers, sisters and daughters to death for the crime of speaking to an unrelated male. NO atheist would ever consider such a thing absent severe mental illness. The religious call such things their duty.

There is nothing dogmatic about atheism. How could there be? It is a LACK of belief – a refusal to adopt certainty in the absence of evidence.
Apparently, Lee, you labour under the misapprehension that atheism is the positive assertion that there is no god. Not true.

I do not believe that unicorns exist. There is no evidence for them.
Neither do I say that unicorns DO NOT exist.
I only ask that those who assert unicorns are real provide some evidence. Until they do, I don’t believe in unicorns.
This is perfectly analogous to my position on god(s).

I do not seek to inflict my aunicornism on anyone.
I do not demand it be taught in school that unicorns created the universe.
I do not demand that women only be permitted to have the medical procedures allowed by the whinny of the unicorn.
I DO demand that unicornists stay the fuck out of the science classroom until they have some evidence beyond, “I felt the horn of the unicorn!” or “Wouldn’t it be better if there were unicorns?” or “Accept the unicorn or be cast into the lake of fire for eternity!”

To call atheism the same sort of motive to evil acts as religion is simply ridiculous – some sort of misguided desire to defend the benign tradition of moderate faith.
Absent faith, there is no seed from which to grow fundamental extremism.
Atheism never sprouted so much as a single weed in the absence of other factors which would have sufficed on their own.
One is causative. The other is mere correlation.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 2:11 PM
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Atheism isn’t rejection of unquestioned belief. That’s not the definition of atheism at all.

A-theism is the absence of a belief in deities. The reason a person doesn’t have that belief isn’t specified.

Plenty of theists question their beliefs. Struggle with them, even. And then based on their own experiences and knowledge, they continue to belief in a god or gods.

And plenty of atheists shut their minds to spirituality for all sorts of reasons. Often those reasons are personal; their upbringing or a reaction to their upbringing.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 1, 2009 2:11 PM
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Blather, Stranahan. Weak, milk toast, balls.
Looking at the individual motives for either seeking a spiritual path or rejecting it – this one was abused by a priest, this one truly seeks gentle Jesus, meek and mild – does nothing to elucidate the question of whether religious belief, as a social or human construct, causes harm.

The evidence is overwhelming.

There is no good act done by the faithful that cannot equally well be performed by the atheist.
There is a laundry list of horrible, evil, repulsive actions that can ONLY be undertaken by those acting in the name of their imaginary friend.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 2:19 PM
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Atheism is often a dogmatic belief and it certainly was for Communist regimes.

Communism replaces the glorification of the deity with the glorification (and thus, practical deification) of the leader. As a logical person (and thus, an atheist), I’m opposed to following anything blindly, so I would prefer not to be lumped in with dictatorial Communist regimes, k? thx.

There is a big difference between arrogantly asserting that Santa Claus does exist and arrogantly asserting that he does not. Stating the unprovable with authority is what the religious do. Calling atheism “dogmatic” is to pull the old, “atheism-is-a-religion-too” argument, to which I offer the “yeah-in-the-same-way-bald-is-a-hairstyle” retort.

Sure, I will agree there have been atheists who have done terrible things. But there is no evidence that the terrible things were done in the name of atheism, or because the perpetrator was an atheist.

Out of curiosity, how many anti-abortion bombers/snipers have not been fundamentalist Christians?

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 2:21 PM
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atheism is absolutely a belief. a belief that there is no god. agnostic is the term for those with no beliefs either way.

Posted by: gypsy at June 1, 2009 2:24 PM
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gypsy,

sorry, but you’re dead wrong. Atheism is nothing more than the rejection of god/gods- which is the surely the opposite of belief, you should do a little more critical thinking about it, or some more research.

Agnosticism is like strategically positioning yourself on the fence, so that you dont have to practice religion, but you can hold out, and jump to whichever side is right in the end.

Posted by: Dan in Deutschland at June 1, 2009 2:31 PM
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gyps, we could really get into semantics by noting that everything you accept to be true is, in essence, a “belief.”

Your eyes only offer you a representation of the world around you, and you “believe” this representation to be accurate. Because there is little evidence to convince you otherwise, it does not require much “faith” to accept the validity of the information being relayed to your brain. If there were overwhelming evidence to the contrary, this “belief” would be a faith-based one. And when the term “belief” is used to describe atheism, it is almost always meant to imply “faith” rather than the actual definition of “something accepted as true.”

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 2:32 PM
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“Further, it is ONLY this sort of conviction that allows people to beat their mothers, sisters and daughters to death for the crime of speaking to an unrelated male. NO atheist would ever consider such a thing absent severe mental illness. The religious call such things their duty.”

You don’t think someone religious thinking that beating women is their duty is a mental illness? I don’t know whether this is the point Lee is trying to make, but as far as I’m concerned, people will come up with all sorts of reasons to justify their assholish, evil behavior. Some choose religion. Doesn’t change the fact that the people are the problem. Plenty of women have been beaten, shipped off, or killed, not because they defiled a male’s god, but because they were no longer of value to said male. The justifications don’t matter.

Posted by: J at June 1, 2009 2:33 PM
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Gypsy,

Agnostics sit on the fence and say “maybe there is a god, maybe there isn’t. She me proof and I’ll believe.”

Atheism is the knowledge that there is no god because there is no evidence to suggest that one exists.

Faith isn’t a virtue. It’s a logic deficiency.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 2:40 PM
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@ J

The fact that there have been heinous crimes committed against women that WEREN’T justified by gods commandments IN NO WAY detracts from the fact that there have been, and continue to be, hideous crimes committed IN THE NAME OF god.
The motives absolutely DO matter – see Hate Crime legislation and the disparity in sentences meted out for 1st and 2nd degree murder and manslaughter.
It is perfectly relevant and reasonable to ask, “What motivated this killing?”
All too often…all too shamefully common…the answer is something like, “It is right in the eyes of god.”

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 2:42 PM
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Sorry, gypsy. You’re wrong. Atheism is not a belief. It is the absence of a belief.
It has been held to be equivalent to religion for the narrow purpose of protecting the 1st Amendment rights of those who profess no faith, but beyond that narrow analogy, it is simply error to view atheism as a belief.

As I said before, I do not believe that unicorns exist.
That is not the same thing as ASSERTING AS FACT that there are no unicorns.
Until the unicornists present some evidence, I do not accept that they are real. I need not assert there is no such thing (thus expressing a belief)…I merely do not accept the claims of those who say they do,

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 2:46 PM
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@ Sierradrinker

Atheism is the knowledge that there is no god because there is no evidence to suggest that one exists.

I hope that was a typo.
Atheism is not “the knowledge that there is no god” for any reason.
You have no way of “knowing” any such thing. There is no more evidence for the proposition that there is NO GOD than there is FOR GOD.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It might make a very strong circumstantial case, but that does not entitle you to conclude that god(s) does not exist.
It does entitle you to say, “I do not believe / In the absence of evidence I reject your specific claims”, but both logic and fairness require that you stop there.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 2:50 PM
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I am a religious person. I have been all my life. And I want to honor Dr. Tiller, who was an usher at his church. While everyone here is eager cast aspersion on every kind of faith and on the mental health of those of us who ascribe to a religion, I’d like to honor the life of Dr. Tiller – all of it. His courage in practicing medicine honorably, and the faith that undoubtedly sustained him.

Godspeed your journey, Dr. Tiller.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 2:56 PM
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@ QT

While everyone here is eager cast aspersion on every kind of faith and on the mental health of those of us who ascribe to a religion

Not at all. I have no desire to cast aspersions on MLK, or Ghandi, or anyone else who takes strength from their faith and keeps it in their home and church – does not seek to inflict the dictates of their imaginary friend on the rest of us, or infect the science classroom with their ridiculous literal interpretations of scripture.
The fact remains, however, that religious faith has and does provoke people to repulsive acts that no atheist would ever consider.
It is true that all sorts of people – theist and atheists alike – commit bad acts. But no atheist ever thought about slicing off their daughters clitoris, or destroying an ancient stone Buddha, or strapping on some TNT and walking into a mosque.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 3:06 PM
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Avi, as Obama said about Sotomayor, it may have been a poor choice of words.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 3:09 PM
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Atheism is a belief like bald is a hair color. I didn’t coin that phrase but it sums up the argument quite well. We don’t actively believe in anything because of atheism, we only lack ‘theism’, or theology, or a concept of ‘God’.

And technically, agnostics believe that questions of god and creation and afterlife are permanently UNKNOWABLE, which is definitely a BELIEF, and one that I don’t share.

And Wolfe Towne, I apologize for thinking you were a Christian. I don’t see why, if are aren’t, that you feel compelled to decide who isn’t Christian. If someone says they are Christian, I tend to believe them. I don’t hold them up to some checklist of spiritual or moral values, because I don’t know of any actual requirements to be a Christian. Outside of sectarian hoohah, they simply don’t exist. So your air quotes seem like you have a set of Christian guidelines that you are holding others to, even if you don’t think they’re worth following yourself. I think that’s rich, especially when you get all indignant about the confusion you create.

And while I try to be open-minded and understanding, I have no problem judging other people as needed. As an atheist, that’s allowed.

Posted by: iLLogicaL at June 1, 2009 3:09 PM
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This shall be my last for awhile – am already guilty of severe over-posting…
But, to bring this back to Stranahan:

…don’t blame Jesus. This was a case of Christian on Christian violence, carried out when the victim was at church.

Are you asserting that the fact the victim was also a Christian in any way mitigates the religious basis of the motive for this killing?
Are you suggesting that it would be fair to blame the “Jesus directed me” rationale if the victim were gay? Muslim? Jewish?
But since the shooter murdered another Christian in a church we may not then say, “This evil fucker was provoked by the dictates of a fairy tale; an arrogant certainty he and his ilk seek to inflict on everyone else.”

Theist, please.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but What The Fuck?

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 3:18 PM
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Avi, you are correct in saying that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. However, the same unprovable qualities (of “God”) ring true for unicorns, fairies, gnomes, flying spaghetti monsters, and Bertrand Russell’s floating dinnerware. My inability to prove (something only mathematicians can do) that there are no supernatural beings does not increase the likelihood of god’s existence. I feel comfortable saying that I know unicorns do not exist, and am just as comfortable making the same claim about any given god, provided that I have a comparable lack of physical evidence.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 3:21 PM
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It is true that all sorts of people – theist and atheists alike – commit bad acts. But no atheist ever thought about slicing off their daughters clitoris, or destroying an ancient stone Buddha, or strapping on some TNT and walking into a mosque.

…or, if an atheist were contemplating committing one of these acts, it would not be inspired by his/her atheism.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 3:23 PM
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I think atheism can be very dogmatic in the right circumstances. I’ve known some atheists who go to the extreme of declaring that all religions need to be destroyed. If that is not dogmatic then I don’t know what you would call it.

I agree that the problem is not religion but extremism. Most christians don’t go running around killing non-believers and sinners. The past being what it is, things have changed.

Atheism is not a religion, but it is a belief system and like any system it can be abused and taken to an extreme. Atheism is not a unified system though. You have multiple views under that umbrella which are used to describe various forms of atheistic systems and ideologies. This includes, imho, rationalism and humanism.

Posted by: lomifeh at June 1, 2009 3:32 PM
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@ goddamnkyle (turns out I can’t resist)

Fair enough. You can say whatever you like. Nevertheless, while saying it you must also admit that you have no evidence for the truth of the proposition.
This places you four-square on the same step as the theists – an assertion of fact for which you have no proof.

Why not stop at, “You have no evidence for god. I reject your specific claims”?
What do you gain with this unprovable claim?

It certainly does not alter your perceived state of reality to leave them with, “No matter how unlikely…no matter that there is no evidence whatsoever to support the existence of your imaginary sky wizard, I grant that it might exist. I don’t believe it…and if there were something like a supreme being I doubt you would have any better idea about it than anyone else…but I cannot prove a negative, so fill your boots with faith.”

As I said, I do not assert that there are no unicorns, spaghetti monsters, fairies, leprechauns, or orbiting porcelain.
I just do not BELIEVE that there are.

/not QT
//avi. cousinavi. don’t make me stab you.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 3:41 PM
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Lomifeh,

Religion is not the problem, but it is the root of the problem. You can’t be a religious extremist if there is no religion.

Atheism is not dogmatic in the least. You have friends who are atheists AND believe that all religions should be destroyed. Those are two separate statements. I tend to disagree with your friend, but would agree the world would be a better place without religion.

In any circumstance, how could atheism be a unified system? Should we all have meetings and set up a doctrine whereby we all don’t worship god and espouse a lack of belief in any god?

Atheism is very, very simple: I don’t believe in any god or higher power. That’s it, end of story. There’s no doctrine or corollaries that go along with that view.

I may believe that all religions are evil, or I may believe that some people need religion and are better off because they have it depending on their individual circumstances. Regardless, these beliefs are independent of my lack of belief in any god.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 3:55 PM
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In exactly the way fashion, believing in a god or higher power also has no doctrine or corollaries. Theism is also very simple in that sense.

You can be an extremist without religion.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 1, 2009 3:58 PM
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I’ve known some atheists who go to the extreme of declaring that all religions need to be destroyed.

Atheists do no such thing. Those would be antitheists. Please don’t confuse the two since it is blatantly unfair to atheists.

Posted by: ∇•B=0 Goddamn Silly Ratfaced Git ∇•D=ρ at June 1, 2009 4:01 PM
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Stranahan:

making an argument that people who don’t agree with you on a subject are showing “a symptom of a lack of critical thinking and intellectual honesty” is dogmatic and extremist.

It might be fairly called an ad hominem attack, but Dan is not saying that about “anyone” who disagrees with him.
He is saying that people who assert that there is an interventionist god, about whom they have some inside information, display a rather disappointing (if not shocking) lack of critical thinking and intellectual honesty.
I fail to see how that claim is open to any critique.
These are people who ASSERT AS FACT that which they not only cannot prove, but which they wish to inflict on others through threat (hell) and all too often violence.
While I would have constructed his point rather with a little more elegance, it is not unfair to say that those who make specific claims about the nature of god, in the total absence of evidence, are gnawing on a rather rugged bit of hide.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 4:07 PM

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Lee,
Dont confuse my bluntness and honesty with a personal attack (which is what I think you’re doing). I dont take it personally when Christians tell me I’m going to hell. And the difference is clear- didn’t you read the rest of my argument? the part addressed to gypsy? My contention that there is no god, is something that I’m concluding based on logic. Conversely, a dogma is a dogma because it asserts- this is the way it is because I say so, just have faith.

Posted by: Dan in Deutschland at June 1, 2009 4:12 PM
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Stranahan: You can be an extremist without religion.

True enough, as far as it goes.

Imagine a Venn diagram of extremism.
What percentage…what slice of the pie would you expect non-religious extremists to occupy? What part would represent the religious extremists?

Can you provide any evidence of extremism NOT motivated by religion? (And PLEASE refrain from dragging up the Stalin, Mao bullshit again…it’s been tried and failed).

The cold fact of the matter is inescapable. The most extreme – the worst of the worst – the single most consistent facet of extremism is religious faith.

I’m beginning to wonder what underlies your seeming desire to defend it. Why do you want to insist that religious faith, for all its demonstrable, hateful, repugnant evil, is something that ought not be held up to analysis and critique? Why should those who invoke god get some odd, “OK…you mean well” Mother Teresa pass?

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 4:17 PM
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Avi- your whole argument is straw men, basically.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 1, 2009 4:20 PM
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avi,

As long as you think god exists in the same unprovable manner of unicorns and gnomes, then we’re essentially on the same page. My argument was one based on the semantics of what “knowledge” and “belief” actually are.

Lee said (much to my surprise),

Dan – making an argument that people who don’t agree with you on a subject are showing “a symptom of a lack of critical thinking and intellectual honesty” is dogmatic and extremist.

If the subject at hand were the unicorns and gnomes, rather than Sky Daddy, you wouldn’t call Dan’s diagnosis “dogmatic and extremist.” You would call it “spot-on.”

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 4:29 PM
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Straw men?
I have a rather fine understanding of the requirements of fair argument. I reject your characterization, and ask that you give a better explanation of just how I am setting up false fronts in order to knock them down.
Lee, YOU started this now lengthy thread with a bit of ginned up bullshit alleging that because it was Christian on Christian violence (committed in a church), no one ought to blame Jesus.
If THAT ain’t a fucking straw man, what is?
No atheist ever murdered a doctor or bombed a clinic to stop abortion. It is ONLY the faithful who do such things.
And you have yet to respond to the question: Would it be different if this particular theist had bombed a shul or a mosque? Would it be different if he had shot a gay man in a bathhouse?
Why should anyone NOT say this is religious extremism simply because the victim was also a Christian?

Straw man, indeed. If that’s what you offer instead of a contrite, “Yeah, I had my head up my ass when I made this post,” (with much love and admiration) go fuck yourself.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 4:31 PM
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Okay, Lee, if avi’s argument is of the straw man variety, will you please answer the question I asked of your earlier:

How many abortion doctors have been killed by people who were not fundamentalist Christians?

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 4:31 PM
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I was going to read this whole thing and post a thought but Counsinavi has done all of the talkin already. I could never argue it better than that.

Goodday

Posted by: J M Goddamn Ashby at June 1, 2009 4:31 PM
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The statement wasn’t about a specific subject, like ‘gnomes’ – it was about ALL religious beliefs. Huge difference.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 1, 2009 4:33 PM
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@ goddamnkyle

EXACTLY in the same fashion as unicorns and gnomes.
Fairies, leprechauns, Santa Claus, and the Three Billy Goats Gruff.

Knowledge is fact.
Belief is faith.
The theists confuse the two. I do not.

/trip trop trip trop trip trop

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 4:35 PM
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avi…

yes,the vast majority of extremists are religious.
but the vast majority of religious people are not extremists.

those who have become the face of christianity/islam in america,are in nearly all cases,insufferable douchebags and spooky terrorist types respectively.i get it.but the fact is,i know lots of christians and a few muslims,and these people bear virtually no resemblance to these images.

Posted by: 24hourjack at June 1, 2009 4:42 PM
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I don’t see why belief in unicorns or any other mythical creature should be treated as any different from belief in God. Indeed, I’d assert that people DO believe in unicorns and the like. The fact is that faith-based thinking is not at all like rational thinking – it’s another kind of thinking that needs rationality to stay grounded, but which needs to be able to expand beyond the “rational” to be operative.

And for the record – I generally feel somewhat sorry for people who haven’t found in themselves the capacity for faith-based thinking, because it is a useful human capacity. I actively engage rationalist thinkers at least partially because I’m looking forward to a world where human beings are comfortable with faith base thinking, rational thinking, and their respective limits and benefits – a world where scientific knowledge flourishes unfettered, and where faith-based understanding underpins all our rational decisions (and vice-versa). In short, I’m looking forward to a world where this divide is finally denounced as unnecessary. That doesn’t mean everyone will believe as I do – but it does mean that rational people will be able to see the rationale for belief in unicorns, whatever their personal beliefs.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 4:45 PM
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The statement wasn’t about a specific subject, like ‘gnomes’ – it was about ALL religious beliefs. Huge difference.

So, your defense of religious beliefs includes the belief in gnomes. Correct?

I’m just pleased any time an apologist will admit the two ideas (god and gnomes) have an equal amount of physical evidence in favor of their existence.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 4:47 PM
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magic and skittles aside, if the argument is all about evolution=fact god=fiction why couldn’t unicorns have existed? (i’m kinda joking kinda not) all the characteristics of the unicorn exist today so why is that such a crazy thing?

Posted by: gypsy at June 1, 2009 4:48 PM
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@ 24hourjack

Fair enough. But the point stands: Absent religious faith, there would be one shitpile fewer suicide bombings, female genital mutilations, honor killings, clinic bombings, forced marriages of prepubescent children, stonings, decapitations…
How many evil acts must be committed in the name of god before people recognize that this notion, inflicted on children by dogma gobbling parents, is not helping?

I’ve no doubt there are fine, decent, upstanding people of faith. Those people would, absent the social and familial environment in which they were raised, be fine, decent, upstanding atheists.
When we come, however, to the extreme, criminal, evil, harmful bastards, what do we find? A repeated and overwhelming assertion that they act in the name of god. Directed by Holy Scripture. Following the true and enlightened path to murder in the desire to achieve heaven on earth.

This thread has returned time and again to evidence and the lack thereof for the proposition of god.
What might it take for those who defend faith to admit that the vast majority of repugnant acts committed on this tiny rock are done in His name?

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 4:53 PM
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I don’t see why belief in unicorns or any other mythical creature should be treated as any different from belief in God.

Agreed 100%, except that I would add that both are equally fucking ridiculous.

I generally feel somewhat sorry for people who haven’t found in themselves the capacity for faith-based thinking, because it is a useful human capacity.

And I generally feel extremely sorry for people who neglect to use the wonderful instrument inside of their head known as the brain, causing the use of nonsensical phrases like “rationale for belief in unicorns.”

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 4:58 PM
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The reason “religious people” are so effectively manipulated, Dan? Really? I think the reason anybody is easily manipulated is lack of factual information. Religion is just one way people have of blocking out information they don’t want. THere’s plenty of evidence that politics and patriotism are others. Some very intelligent, rational people are also religious – and their religion doesn’t lead them down manipulative blind alleys. Why? Because they are in the habit of wrestling with their faith and with the facts of the modern world. Make that the norm instead of the sanctioned ignorance that is perpetuated frequently in the name of religion, and you get better religion, and wiser people.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 5:02 PM
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@ goddamnkyle

Easy big fella.

It’s Stranahan that needs whipping. QT has come out and identified as a theist. Her unicorn analogy was just that – analogy.
I call shenanigans on you for inflicting literalism.
If she wants to believe….if it suits her to pray, it is your obligation to grant her that.
Now you take that back, apologize to Queen, and play fair.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:04 PM
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I make no apologies for expressing my opinion.

I’ll leave it up to QT to expand on the analogy, if that’s what it was, but it sounded to me like she meant the bit about the unicorn quite literally.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 5:10 PM
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kyle has to apologize to NO ONE! wtf?! why do a lot of people on here feel it neccessary to coddle and coo and treat with kid gloves religious people?! i know i don’t get the kid gloves so why does someone with faith based beliefs get more respect than someone like myself?

Posted by: gypsy at June 1, 2009 5:12 PM
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@ gypsy

You aren’t…you can’t be accusing ME of treating people with religious faith with kid gloves.
There are some few faithful – those who do not seek to impose their faith on others, who keep it in their home and church – that I let pass without evisceration. QT is one of those, and I merely object to her analogy being taken literally.
I’d explain why you got rather less rope but I don’t want to review your posts to point out where you jumped the tracks.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:18 PM
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cousinavi said,

There are some few faithful – those who do not seek to impose their faith on others, who keep it in their home and church – that I let pass without evisceration. QT is one of those

QueenTiye said,

I’m looking forward to a world where human beings are comfortable with faith base thinking, rational thinking, and their respective limits and benefits – a world where scientific knowledge flourishes unfettered, and where faith-based understanding underpins all our rational decisions (and vice-versa).

Unless further clarification is provided, being desirous of a world where “faith based” thinking underpins all of our rational decisions sounds a lot like wanting your faith (or someone else’s faith–the point being, that you want faith) all up in my business. Maybe I’m misinterpreting.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 5:23 PM
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@ gypsy – case in point:

why couldn’t unicorns have existed? (i’m kinda joking kinda not) all the characteristics of the unicorn exist today so why is that such a crazy thing?

Wings exist. Elephants exist. Gills exist.

Hmmm…why couldn’t there be a winged elephant who lives underwater?

A poker-playing sasquatch with a fondness for high-end Rolex wristwatches?

/thread is dead

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:27 PM

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@ goddamnkyle

Come on, man. You can’t force that interpretation on her words.

“I’m looking forward to a world where people are comfortable with faith….”

Is not at all the same as “Accept my faith-based worldview or fucking die!”

I’m looking forward to a world in which there is never a reference to god in any policy consideration. That is not to say I am prepared to inflict atheism on others; to deny them their faith.

You’re going to have to play fair, mon ami.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:31 PM
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avi,

I didn’t force any words. Those are her words, in full context. Let her clear them up, along with whether the unicorn statement was an analogy or was meant literally.

I’m looking forward to a world in which there is never a reference to god in any policy consideration. That is not to say I am prepared to inflict atheism on others; to deny them their faith.

You can’t make that analogy by substituting your atheism for her theism. They aren’t varieties of belief systems; one is the absence of the other.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 5:46 PM
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Adding:
I don’t think anyone believes QT was saying she personally believes in unicorns. But I do believe she was saying that I should give equal credence to someone who did that make claim, provided that’s what they truly believe.

Only QT can answer that, though, so I’ll wait until we hear back from her before I comment further.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 5:49 PM
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@ Kyle

Distinguishing my lack of faith from her faith is beside the point.
What is germane is the framework in which policy decisions are made.
She looks forward to a time where people are comfortable with faith-based reasoning…at least, they do not deride such thinking as foolish (as I do).
I look forward to a time where people are comfortable with pure reason, no faith.
In terms of hoping for one perspective or another to hold sway in policy considerations, the terms of perspective are irrelevant and my point stands.

I say again, I expect rather more consideration and fair play in argument than I find in your recent posts. I think we are not far apart philosophically…but tactically, you reveal some issues.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:53 PM
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avi,

I think you are hinging your analysis of my recent posts on the idea that I misconstrued the unicorn “analogy” as a literal statement. QT has yet to clear this up, and I maintain that my approach has been tactful, as I see fit, though I do appreciate your critique.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 5:55 PM
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@ goddamnkyle

oh…fuck you for being polite and reasonable.

I shall never forgive you.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 5:58 PM
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Mama always told me, “you’ll get more with sugar than you will with shit.” Mama was a rhetorician.

Adding: I will admit that my tone probably did get a little harsh, due to the whole “I pity those without faith” bit. I grew up in a Christian household as a believer and, having had the experience of possessing “faith,” I do not find my prior condition as a theist to be an enviable one.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 6:01 PM
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Cousinavi, you aren’t describing atheism, you’re describing your atheism. Atheism no more implies a perfectly ethical person than religion implies a perfectly moral one.
Religion calls people to be good to each other, and yet as we both know, that’s not the case. And of course, neither implies a perfectly rational person because no such being exists. We may have the capacity for reason, but we don’t use it all the time (- I think anyone who’s been through a bad break up can vouch for that- ha). To say that atheism can’t cause bad things to happen, and that an atheist would never even think to do them? How you can claim that atheists would never consider committing atrocities? I assume you have some sort of mind reading machine/sorting hat device you can use to scan fellow atheists for purity of thought?

Pol Pot murdered people for having watches and eye glasses because of his communist, atheist philosophy. Now, you can claim that the people following him ‘deified’ him or his philosophy and therefore they were acting out of a sentiment you define and label as ‘religious’. You’re defining religious feelings and acts as necessarily irrational, and atheism as necessarily rational. They’re not. They’re simply assumptions from which thoughts and acts proceed. The assumption that there is no God or gods doesn’t necessarily lead to good and humane acts any more than religious belief necessarily leads to bad ones. (On a side note, how do you account for all the charity and Good Works™ performed by religious people? In spite of, rather than because of their beliefs, I’m guessing?)

Back to Pol Pot. He was the man at the top. You can certainly claim that he himself was acting to increase his own power, but can you claim he wasn’t an atheist? Can you say whether HE himself was acting out of an irrational ‘religious’ place or a calculated one? You spoke to the importance of motives, but if you’re saying that people like Pol Pot and Stalin weren’t proper atheists because they performed atrocities, how is that different from Christians claiming other Christians performing violent acts aren’t really Christian? A common way to defend a belief is to say that people claiming to share your beliefs but acting in a way you find repulsive is to define them as outside of that community. Unless your idea is that Pol Pot, Stalin et al, all must secretly believed in a Sky Daddy themselves? Because surely no atheist would ever, ever think of doing bad things to people. Again, you speak to the importance of motives, but seem to be assigning them as you see fit to support your point.

If you’re defining atheism as simply a lack of belief in god that does not imply respect for human rights. Marx himself was a materialist philosopher with a complete disdain for religion, and yet his philosophy showed little concern for individual rights. What we’re talking about here is a fundamental flaw in human nature. When we’re in groups, we just start acting like morons. Anyway, I’m getting tired of writing this thing, so I’ll just leave it at that for now.

Posted by: ElGoddamnMystico at June 1, 2009 6:08 PM
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Mine was an almost perfectly secular Jewish home – we ate bacon and lobster (it was Nova Scotia, after all…what’s a Jew to do?) but lit the menorah every Hannukah (I still know the prayers by heart, which is pretty much the full extent of my abilities in Hebrew).
Only ever entered a shul for weddings and funerals…much later for the occasional pick-up game of Jew-ball in the gym (I still have a fucking wicked cross-over move! Going to the hole, boychik! You can’t guard ME!).
In any event, despite the cultural burden (we were the only Hebes in town and I took a few swarmings for the trouble), I insist that I was a prepubescent atheist – mostly as the result of my preternatural juvenile intellect.
Again, we’re on the same page. My feeling for those who have faith amounts to pity at the start and bald condescension at the end. So it goes. But I still make an effort to be civil, as I hope they would as well.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 6:13 PM

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@El Mystico,

Please find an example of mass murder committed to further atheism. I’ll let Avi speak for himself, but my interpretation and previous arguments are that religous fundamentalists kill in the name of teh god and teh jesus. Yes, atheists do bad things just as theists, christians and muslims do bad things. But, atheists do not bad things to further atheism. Pol Pot, Stalin, and Mao have been atheists, but that is incidental to their actions.

Atheism is a lack of a belief in god. You may or may not be a douche bag. You may or may not be a mass murderer. Or you may or may not be a overall good person trying to make the world a better place and still be an atheist.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 1, 2009 6:18 PM
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Kyle: You’ve quoted quite selectively. But anyway, let’s put some ground rules to the discussion shall we? My desire for a thing is not the same thing as my imposition on you, is it? I certainly hope not! (Or, what cousinavi said!)

As to the unicorn… the literal interpretation of unicorns is the least interesting one. Two days ago, in another life, I took a quiz about animal spirits. It was a poorly written quiz, and I assumed therefore that it would come up with a poor result. I happen to already know who my animal spirit guide is – I know my animal spirit guide is the dolphin. I have real world experience to back that up. Turns out that despite the paucity of data, the test correctly identified “dolphin” as my animal spirit guide.

OK – pause.

For a literal and rational minded person, I’m reasonably certain that most of what I said is utter nonsense. And yet, NONE of what I said is nonsense – most of it can’t be taken literally, nor is meant literally. ALL of it is meant sincerely, and the entire account is true.

When I say I can see people believing in unicorns – I mean it in that same non-literal, faith-based way. I don’t personally believe in unicorns, but that’s largely because I don’t have any personal experience with unicorn stories upon which to hinge a faith-based analysis.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 6:20 PM
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I don’t think anyone is making the argument that religion will directly make you do bad things. It simply isn’t true.

What is true, and demonstrable, is that religion can give one the propensity to do terrible things, not in spite of faith, but because of it.

I’ll quote Dawkins,

…what is really pernicious is the practice of teaching children that faith itself is a virtue. Faith is an evil precisely because it requires no justification and brooks no argument. Teaching children that unquestioned faith is a virtue primes them — given certain other ingredients that are not hard to come by — to grow up into potentially lethal weapons for future jihads or crusades. Immunized against fear by the promise of a martyr’s paradise, the authentic faith-head deserves a high place in the history of armaments, alongside the longbow, the warhorse, the tank and the cluster bomb.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 6:26 PM
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Dawkins conflates two things “unquestioned faith” and “faith” in one paragraph, and treats them as identical. I would argue that “unquestioned faith” isn’t even faith.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 6:28 PM
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@ ElGoddamnMystico

You’re defining religious feelings and acts as necessarily irrational, and atheism as necessarily rational. They’re not. They’re simply assumptions from which thoughts and acts proceed. The assumption that there is no God or gods doesn’t necessarily lead to good and humane acts any more than religious belief necessarily leads to bad ones. (On a side note, how do you account for all the charity and Good Works™ performed by religious people? In spite of, rather than because of their beliefs, I’m guessing?)

I never said that atheism led to moral acts, or that faith leads to immoral acts.
Further, I never defined religious feelings or actions as “necessarily irrational” – don’t put words in my mouth…even one’s with which I might agree.
Given that any act based on religious conviction stems from belief in a state of affairs for which there is NO proof, it is perfectly well seen as “irrational”. How could it be otherwise? Still…while I might agree, I never said it.
It may well be the case that faith promotes good actions in some people. ALL of those same acts are done every day by people without faith. Charity, good will, kindness, helping, altruism…none of those things are the exclusive province of the god-fearing.
However, there are certain repugnant acts that are only committed by those with faith. No secular person would ever slice off the clitoris of their daughter. No secular person would destroy an ancient stone Buddha as an offense (against what?). No atheist would ever murder their sister or daughter for speaking to an unrelated male. These are things the REQUIRE some overwhelming order from the Sky Wizard to make possible.

As regards Pol Pot, you are simply wrong. Nothing he did…and nothing Stalin, Mao or Hitler did (although all nominally atheists) was rooted in the aim of promoting a secular society. All of the heinous acts committed by those tyrants had, at its core, the destruction of those opposed to their unmitigated power and the consolidation of authority through terror.
To say that their actions were based upon their atheism (which is itself a spurious claim – their atheism – esp. as regards Pol Pot) reveals either historical / cultural ignorance, or a rather shocking level of obtuseness.

If you are suggesting that I have EVER said that religious folk are incapable, by virtue of their faith, of good acts…well, I can only reply this way: Go fuck yourself. I never said anything of the sort, and if those are the sort of tactics you employ in crafting argument, I will not bother with you much further. You must either realize how disingenuous your position is, or you’re not quite bright enough to play.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 6:30 PM
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QT, I was writing another reply, but its lengthy so I put it in Notepad for later. Keep an eye out!

I find the term “unquestionable faith” to be redundant. Faith is, by its definition, when you believe in something despite a lack of logical or physical evidence to support the belief.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 6:32 PM
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KYLE!!!

If you even reply to the animal spirit guide thing, I swear to Piltdown Man…I will slap the ever loving crap out of when the day comes we meet.
Then I will buy you a beer.

/RESTRAINT

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 6:32 PM
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HEY! I absolutely want a reply to the animal spirit thing! :) No slapping allowed! And no piltdown men either!

BUT – if anyone replies with some sort of literal interpretation, I’m going to rest my case on the inability of people to access another way of thinking. I DELIBERATELY wrote that the way I did to stimulate non-literal thought…

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 6:37 PM
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Dan – there’s no real way for me to explain why unquestioned faith ISN’T faith, unless one can get comfortable with non-literal thought. Without that capacity, the rest is just as you say.

But the heart of the matter is here: we posit “God.” There’s no “evidence” for “God” – we just posit Him, and ascribe qualities to Him. As a child, we take in stories about God, and you call this indoctrination. I will concede the point. My own faith specifies that failure to teach children about God is failure to be a parent, and that it may irreparably disable the child. So – while we have different opinions on the matter, we seem to agree on this point at least somewhat.

The thing is, though, “God” and the various stories about God are simply building blocks – you build from there and what you build comes from the inside out – it’s a creative process emanating from a single point – which is God. Taking the stories at face value is inherently NOT building with what you have – it’s the opposite of faith – it’s the functional equivalent of learning the alphabet and nothing else. I learned the greek alphabet in college as part of a pledge process. I’d never claim to speak greek though…

So, unquestioned faith is not Faith – it’s an alphabet.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 6:47 PM
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ElMystico,

Communist atrocities have been committed due to collectivization, the idea of a classless society, a concomitant distrust of the bourgeoisie (i.e. the capitalists and the middle class – enemies of the classless society) and an intolerant view of dissent. If you can tie any of these to atheism, then I’ll concede the point to you.

In the instance of the Crusades, for example, the motive is clearly tied to religion. Same goes for 9/11. I can name more, if you like.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 7:31 PM
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And for the record – I generally feel somewhat sorry for people who haven’t found in themselves the capacity for faith-based thinking, because it is a useful human capacity

wow. that was about as patronizing as it gets. Humility is also a useful human capacity.

Posted by: Christine at June 1, 2009 7:48 PM
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Irrational beliefs or intolerance? Which poses the greater threat?

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 7:58 PM
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Irrational beliefs or intolerance? Which poses the greater threat?

They aren’t mutually exclusive…

Posted by: ceu at June 1, 2009 8:01 PM
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@ Kyle

I wonder of rational and irrational are proper terms for moral behaviour.

In an overpopulated world, how rational is it to seek to ensure that all people have a decent diet…sufficient to live and reproduce at will (as is their unmitigated right)?

Rational choices have just as much propensity for immoral outcomes (whatever your ethos) as “religious” based choices.

/just sayin’ – the presumption that devotion to “reason” does not necessarily accord with “right”…unless, of course, you define it that way

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 8:04 PM
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QT, both present threats and, when combined (as in many fundamentalist forms of various religions) they pose an especially potent threat.

It is true that I’m, at times, rather intolerant of religious belief–but only in the same sense that I’m intolerant of any country music recorded after 1990. You choose to be religious, just like you might choose to listen to that new Rascal Flatts CD. I tolerate religious people, but I reserve the right to, at the appropriate time, explain why I disagree with them. I live in a small town in the Deep South™, so you have no idea how much religion I truly have to tolerate. And many could not begin to imagine how intolerant people are of my atheism, when it shows.

avi:

I applied the term irrational to beliefs, which should definitely not be confused with morals. Also, at least I cited GeoCities and not Wikipedia, right?

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 8:24 PM
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@cousinavi: I neglected to respond to this, but allow me now. I was born to Christian parents, raised in the United Methodist Church. In my young adulthood I converted to Islam, and later still I converted to the Baha’i faith. I have often said that I never met a faith I didn’t believe in (that’s not true, but you get the idea).

If I were at a computer I would provide a quote from the Baha’i Writings that make exactly your point – people adhere to the “faith of their fathers.” But it needn’t be so, and a grounding in faith and knowledge unhinges one from dogmatism that blinds.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 9:15 PM
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@ QT

Not sure what makes you so certain I have neither a grounding in nor capacity for faith. The former you may take my word. The later is certainly debatable, but I would insist on principle that the only capacities you have that I lack are gestation and lactation.
Hopefully its not merely the fact that I reject such fantastic myths as unsupported by any evidence other than anecdote and wish thinking.
That you could possibly consider anything I’ve expressed here, ever, to be the result of dogma only leads me to question whether you’ve been paying attention or just fencing…or if you have a sufficiently accurate definition of the term to know when it isn’t appropriate.
If I’m blind, you’re needy.
I would much prefer to grant you your faith without having to suffer your arrogant condescension for my rejection of same.
I would, however, paraphrase Dawkins to point out the many gods you reject – Thor, Zeus, Baal, Ra, Krishna, Allah…I merely go one god further.
A grounding in reason unhinges one from the dogmatism of slavish theism that blinds.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 1, 2009 10:02 PM
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One last point: The dichotomy that cousinavi strives for fails. Yes: an atheist who is being a tyrant is being a tyrant in absence of a deity s/he can claim instructs them to be, and a theist who is being a tyrant can claim that “God said.” In the end though, people are still dead, and largely because of dogmatically held beliefs, and a belief in one’s right or obligation to impose those beliefs or philosophy. Genocide in Africa is rarely the work of religion – it is typically the work of tribal politics. And the KKK terrorism in this country had little whatsoever to do with religion and everything to do with racism.

We’ve said several times across two threads that extremism is political, but for some reason we want to divorce religious extremism from the rest of the examples and treat it as smething different. If the results were different, this might be justifiable, but the results are not different. By all means, let’s divorce religion from politics, and let’s insist upon a solid education for all without regard for religion. But I reserve the right to ask upon what grounds are religious extremists to be examined under a different microscope from extremism of other types?

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 10:20 PM
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But I reserve the right to ask upon what grounds are religious extremists to be examined under a different microscope from extremism of other types?

I’m not the one saying they should be examined under a different microscope (Lee’s original post seems to be trying to preclude religion from the discussion of these religious extremists). Extremism is extremism and killing people is killing people. But if religion is the cause, as I (and many others) believe it to be in many cases, why should I be careful not to point it out?

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 10:25 PM
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AHA! Sorry – I didn’t read your whole last post, but your opening statement shows why people are taking me to task for my statement. So I’ll clarify and then come back around to reading.

In our earlier discussion, in discussions I’ve had with Kyle, and in comments from a new (to me) face, I’ve observed a determined, willful reduction of Christian theology to the narrowest interpretation. In at least one case, sufficiently narrow as to be fundamentally wrong. In all cases, there seemed to be an unwillingness to recognize that the black and whitw absolutes aren’t real (the same limitation fundamentalists display). That disinclination is what I meant, and I don’t believe that ANYONE is incapable of the necessary nuance, but it seems that both fundamentalists and atheists have conspired together to avoid that. I’m always sorry to see that.

One last point, because I just caught this (and then I’ll read your post properly): I don’t reject any “gods” – and for the love of knowledge! Allah IS God! They aren’t two separate Beings.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 10:35 PM
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Kyle: “religion” is too broad a term. We need specifics. After all, our 43rd president claims to have had a mission of being democracy and freedom to Iraq, and in support of that cause, tortured people. I would not like “democracy” and “freedom” disdained because they apparently come with torture in some instances.

More importantly, religious extremism, it has been repeatedly saif by people who aren’t me, increases with change in political fortunes. Which suggests isolating religion as a cause to be misguided. At least, it has to be fit into a matrix, so that those religious expressions outside that matrix are clearly not swept up in the mix.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 1, 2009 10:44 PM
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Sorry, QT, but you’re just as guilty of broadening religion to its most open-minded, liberal form as any of us may be of narrowing it to its most fundamental, dogmatic form. For every Baha’i follower, there are 183 Catholics and a similar number of Sunni Muslims, two groups not known for their broad acceptance of differing religious ideals within the group (or outside of it, for that matter).

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 10:46 PM
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You sneaked another post in while I wasn’t looking!

“Religion” is definitely too broad of a term. I don’t believe that religion itself is the problem, as the dogmatic tenants of any particular faith. When the dogma is toned down, or absent, the danger factor is greatly diminished.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 10:53 PM
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Adding! (and I’m done, I swear!)

The numbers thing isn’t mean to diminish the Baha’i faith versus Catholicism or Islam, as numbers are irrelevant where validity is concerned.

That said, I’m also a proponent of an international auxiliary language. Just to show some solidarity somewhere in this thread.

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 1, 2009 11:04 PM
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The problem here is fairly simple. All these debates about Stalin vs. Torquemada miss the point that there’s a very easy recipe for turning people into fanatics.

Step 1: Here’s the magic book (the Bible/the Communist Manifesto) that explains EVERYTHING.

Step 2: Since the magic book explains everything, anyone who disagrees with it is an idiot and an arsegike.

Step 3: Since the magic book explains everything, clearly creationism/lysenkoism is the answer to all our questions about biology.

Step 4: Creationism/lysenkoism isn’t working. In fact, it’s actively creating problems for us. The only possible explanation is that we haven’t achieved total ideological purity yet. 99% Bible is a disaster, but if we ever got to 100% Bible, we’d create a utopia.

Step 5: Kill the arsegikes who disagree with the magic book. they’re holding us back from total ideological purity.

I go into this in much more detail on my blog:

http://archie-archie.blogspot.com/2007/01/ideology-in-nutshell.html

Once you know what to look for, you start seeing that kind of logic everywhere. (Fortunately, it only rarely progresses all the way to Step 5.) I use a science fiction novel called _The Truth Machine_ as an example.

Libertarians are particularly bad about claiming that any problems caused by libertarianism will go away once we have total ideological purity. (“Sure, removing worker protections caused horrific abuses- but once we remove *all* regulation of the free market, workers will be free to get new jobs with non-abusive employers!”)

Cory Doctorow is also a big example of exactly what I’m talking about, if you’ve ever followed boingboing. He has a one-size-fits-all answer to everything, and is very vocal about stating that anyone who disagrees with him is a bad person. As a result, when he stole a story from Ursula K. LeGuin without paying her royalties, his fans threatened to burn her books because she dared to complain about it.

Posted by: Metafalcon at June 1, 2009 11:14 PM
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I never said the religious extremism is any different from other forms of dogmatic belief that result in bad actions.

I merely said that religion IS a dogmatic belief that CAUSES extremism. I don’t think I need go any further than that to conclude religion is a load of harmful hornswoggle.

Any “dichotomy” you think I was aiming for, QT, exists only in your need to defend religious faith. People do bad things. Religion is a root cause of more than a sufficient slice of those bad things for me to say it has no place in the political process, and IMO we’d all be better off without it.
I think we’d also be better off without the ALF bombing science labs; without drug cartels bombing police stations…without violence due to folks seeking to inflict their will on others in all forms.
My point remains: there are plenty of bad acts that CAN ONLY be done in the name of god. Belief in imaginary sky wizards lead inescapably to division, hatred and violence. Holy Jesus, meek and mild, is just as bad as Allah. Religious faith is social poison, like any dogmatic set of beliefs that people seek to inflict on others. It need not be distinguished – it merely needs to be identified for the harm it obviously does.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 2, 2009 7:23 AM
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People also do good things, like feed the poor and comfort the ill. Religion is responsible for a lot of that, too. It doesn’t make the news, like a bombing, though.

And your obvious loathing of religion makes you blind to this.

And when you say “religion IS a dogmatic belie”, you’re wrong. It can be, like anything. That doesn’t mean it is.

Posted by: Lee Stranahan at June 2, 2009 10:08 AM
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Lee, did you really just sit through all of that debate (I know you read it) and then try to stick in a morning-after sucker punch? I really hope you read this, and I really hope you will offer a reply.

First point is that altruism done in the name of religion is not necessarily done because of religion. There are many secular groups out there fulfilling the same needs as religious groups. Are there certain altruistic impulses to be found only in the religious? Certainly not. Any group of people could do good things for another group of people, and it would not increase the validity of any of their claims, nor would it give the group a “free pass” (of the style you’re trying to give religion in this post) for any bad things done in their name.

Second point, Lee, is that most of the world’s population belong to dogmatic religions. You are UU and are, thus, an exception to the norm when it comes to religious outlook. Catholics have a clear set of dogmatic beliefs, for instance. If you don’t believe certain things, you burn in Hell. You’re a Kevin Smith fan, so I’m sure I don’t need to explain that any further. Don’t assume that your faith is so similar to that of the rest of this country’s, or even the world’s. Your particular non-dogmatic religion makes up only 0.3% of this country’s population, where atheists makeup almost 15%.

Anything can be dogmatic, yes. But when’s the last time someone killed an abortion doctor because they held dogmatic beliefs about something other than religion? (Yes, I will keep asking)

Posted by: goddamnkyle at June 2, 2009 10:43 AM
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cousinavi – maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

What bad things can only be done in the name of religion? I don’t know of any, but your answer will at least help me calibrate to your way of thinking.

QT

Posted by: QueenTiye at June 2, 2009 11:13 AM
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Lee,

All People do good things, religious types, atheist types, zen buddhist types. I have infinitely more respect for those who do good in order to help humankind than to appease the desires of a skywizard. Those do not have to be mutually exclusive. I know there are very good religious people as I’ve known many of them in my lifetime.

El GD Mystico,

Mabye you’re right. Maybe Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao murdered millions because they were trying to force a secular non-theistic belief on everyone and those people simply held onto their religion too strongly. I’ve never read any account or heard an historic opinion argue that point, but hey, anything is possible.

However, go to Wikipedia and you’ll find 9 Crusades all done in the name of god. 9/11, every suicide bombing of a mosque or marketplace in Iraq is done in the name of god (Allah). The spanish and italian inquisitions done in the name of god. God Hates Fags, Operation Rescue, the killing of Dr. Tiller all done in the name of god.

But enough on this. Not all regious people are good, not all atheists are bad and vise versa. Maybe someday people will stop doing very bad things in the name of religion and maybe someday the skywizard will come down from his golden throne and smite all the non-believers. I just don’t see either one of those happening.

Posted by: Sierradrinker at June 2, 2009 11:25 AM
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@ goddamnkyle

I returned after a day’s sleep myself for another kick at the cat.
I think Lee was wrong with this post from the outset, and it’s clear that nothing said in this thread is likely to change his mind.
Some people still want to say that religion doesn’t poison everything; that because it does some good, that it isn’t ALL nutbar extremists, religion ought not be held accountable for the things the nutbars do.
And, of course, there are plenty of nutbars, lots of whom have other core motives that are not related to their imaginary friends.
I like to employ the “but for” test.
Take ALL the nuts, ALL the acts of terror and sort them according to the factor BUT FOR WHICH they would not have been moved to violence.
Sure, there are some who believe that animals should not be in labs…there are others who killed because they had a bad reaction to a Hostess Twinkie…there are those who say that god willed and directed them to do it.
How many lives would be saved if we eliminate scientific research on animals (how many would be lost)?
How many lives would be saved if we eliminated Twinkies?
How many lives would be saved if we eliminate religion?

As an underlying cause, but for which the “extremism” would never find form or expression, religion must easily lead the list. And yet, there are still those who say, “Don’t blame Jesus! Jesus said to love your neighbour! Religious people do good things, too!”

You can still love your neighbour. You can still do good things. No one needs Jesus for that…or ought not to. I would hate to think that Christians would immediately start murdering and raping without their holy book. Is that what they think of themselves?
But there are bad acts – far too many of them – that can ONLY be done by those who are following the word of god. We would be far better off on this planet if we could get rid of such arrogant certainty.

Posted by: cousinavi at June 2, 2009 11:29 AM
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Hi QT & welcome back…

Bad things that can only be done in the name of religion:

1. Female genital mutilation is absolutely and strictly a religious practice.

2. Destruction of religious temples and iconography – see ancient stone Buddhas dynamited.

3. Murder of female relatives for speaking to an unrelated male.

4. Honour killings

5. Murder of abortion doctors – bombing of abortion clinics

6. Internecine civil war – Sunni v. Shia Muslims

…is six enough, or shall I continue?

Posted by: cousinavi at June 2, 2009 11:33 AM
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…the thread continues at Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog.

3 Responses

  1. I tried to keep up with this thread yesterday over at Cesca’s, but I can’t help but notice the irony that Jesus was killed by religious extremists who couldn’t stand the thought of any challenge to their power base by a wandering preacher, and how many Christians over the millenia laid a blood guilt upon the Jews for that rap. They are so willing to kill that they are blinded to their own sins, and I’m not referring to the historical sins, but their contemporary ones.

  2. It’s clear that even a lot of intelligent, non-religious people have been duped by religious propaganda that Atheism ‘can be just as dogmatic’ and, is just another belief one can hold. That seems to me to be the critical argument over there, though it keeps getting sidetracked..

    The best arguments that we’ve made over there seem just to be ignored. It’s just that this idea that atheism itself can be just as bad is so central to their worldview that they cant be convinced otherwise. Yes, Christian indoctrination is far reaching. Perhaps we need a gentler more diplomatic approach that allows people stay open minded in the face of argumentation favoring atheism… one that wouldn’t incite them to call us extremists. And by the way- how absurd is that??

    But we certainly tried… and hey, at least we got out of there before Stranahan started adding people to his shitlist!
    /snark

    Dan

    PS- thanks for getting my back!

  3. SHIT that was painful to wade through!

    It was like watching snakes mate; one big mass of tangled clusterfucking. Even though there were many good points made, I stopped reading before the halfway mark. I’d much rather have read some original writing from Cousinavi on the topic than this.

    I stopped watching “news” channel stuff and avoid most on-line comment posting sites because I can’t stand the endless arguing. At best, it’s like watching dogs bark at each other. More often, it’s like a visit to Michael Vick’s house.

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