Harlan Ellison on God

From the documentary Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth.

[via the always-awesome Cynical-C Blog]

71 thoughts on “Harlan Ellison on God”

  1. This is pretty hilarious.  I find it fascinating to listen to a world-famous foul-mouthed angry crank denouncing mean-spiritedness and coarseness and singing the praises of the intellect as he mean-spiritedly swears his way through an anecdote about football that somehow ends the oldest debate in human history.  I also would like to work the phrase “Pot-licking little stump ministers” into my daily vocabulary.  That’s solid.

    What’s really great, though, is how he contradicts every point he makes in the entire video verbally, not just through his own actions and implications.

    Take this direct quote:  “There is no ryhme, there is no reason.  There are laws, rules, astrophysics, Darwinism… It’s all part of the way the machinery runs.”  That does not make coherent sense.  He is directly contradicting himself in the space of a breath. “There is no ryhme, there is no reason.  There are laws, rules..”  It’s silly.

    The oddest thing, though, is that I, a practicing Roman Catholic, agree with everything he’s saying about how to live, in the end. Even he points out that what he’s saying is a very Judeo-Christian way of looking at things.  Dumping responsibility for your actions onto God *is* foolish (though I don’t know that I’d go so far as to say that thanking God for something good in your life implies the equal and opposite reaction of cursing the heavens for all that’s wrong with someone else’s).  Pot-licking little stump ministers using religion to fund a televangelism empire and get a buck out of earnest people *are* dispicable.  Using honest people’s faith to pad your bank account is the one thing that we know for certain actually made Jesus scream and start throwing things.  But he can’t explain why these things upset him, or how he blames God for them.

    His “toolbox” of tools to build our world with is filled with wonders that my church calls “Virtues” and “Charisms.”  Ellison says “we know people by their acts, we know people by their deeds.”  I’ve heard someone else say “they will know we are Christians by our love.”  Ellison has “very little patience for people who do bad things.”  This is called a sense of Justice, and it is one of the aforementioned virtues.  His list of slings and arrows are temptations and sins.  He’s practically paraphrasing the Bible in more than one place. In short, he arrives at the same noble conclusions the Catholic Church did millenia ago, but without showing any work.

    Ellison says “We were given, in our toolbox, tools to build;  Ethics, Courage, Kindness, Friendship, the ability to think and work problems out logically, dreams, imagination, things that make us want to go to the stars, things that make us want to make ourselves better.”

    Well, Mr. Ellison, think through this problem logically:  Who was it that gave us this toolbox?  Why do Ethics matter if there is no rhyme or reason?  And if dreams and imagination and the desire to go to the stars are so important, why don’t you “give a fuck who created the machine”?  We are talking about, in the words of Douglas Adams, the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.  If nothing else, aren’t you curious?  If our quest for the stars is innate to our better natures, how can we look up at those Suns and not wonder about their Fathers?  I have read your works, and they contain staggering and startling imagination.  I know better than to accept that you simply don’t care.  You have an ear for truth, though your presentation of it is often off-putting and coarse.  Listen to your own words here and mull them over well with that ability to think you adore so much.  You may find that the nonexistent God you’re so furious about agrees with your tastes more than you suspected.

     

    P. S.  Thomas Aquinas *did* figure it out, or at least had it figured out.

  2. Well said, Luke Shea. I am a Christian ( but not a Catholic) and I agree with what you’ve written. I used to be an atheist, and I found that my real problem with God was a control issue. I didn’t want to give it up, due to my fear. After I did, however, I found much more peace.  

  3. They never give you the full Twain quote, so here it is:

    “If one truly believes there is an all-powerful Deity, and one looks around at the condition of the universe, one is led inescapably to the conclusion that God is a malign thug.”

  4. Good post Luke. 

    We all struggle with faith. Any thinking person does. But believing in God or thinking that He has a hand in our life is not the anti-intellectual, simplistic belief that too many “intellectuals” think it is. I’ve always thought it took incredible hubris to write off God. No we don’t <i>know</i> anything and we won’t until we die. But the older I get the more I realize that what we think we <i>know</i> is nothing more than our version of faith. Evolution is still  being debated as new scientific discoveries are being made. And, frankly, science is continuing to prove that it’s not as reliable as we’d like to think it is since it’s not that honest much of the time. But I digress. 

    My point is that belief in science, just as belief in God, is changeable as we grow and learn. I have no problem giving God credit for my accomplishments. It’s not that I have some self-centered idea that He’s taking a direct hand in my life. But perhaps he gave me the ability to reason and make moral decisions. Yes, I’m responsible if I don’t use those gifts as they were intended, but do I deserve credit because I was given the abilities in the first place? My cognitive abilities are not something I earned, they were a gift. 

  5. Poor guy is a confident know-it-all who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  He’s making alot of assumptions based on his own judgement and ideas, and is convinced he’s right without bothering to stop and consider the fact that he ISN’T.

    How does HE know “the universe DOESN’T know we’re here”?   Has he traveled the universe? Has he been anywhere other than earth?

    And when a football player kneels in the endzone to thank God, he’s doing it as a personal communication to God, thankful for his athletic ability. And YES, it IS possible that God just might favor one team over another.

    He’s GOD. He’s ALLOWED to! The only think God CAN’T do is SIN.

    So, Mr. Ellison’s personal conclusions are based on his own annoyed, cynical, obtuse opinions, fueled by ARROGANCE.

  6. Take this direct quote:  “There is no ryhme, there is no reason.  There are laws, rules, astrophysics, Darwinism… It’s all part of the way the machinery runs.”  That does not make coherent sense.  He is directly contradicting himself in the space of a breath. “There is no ryhme, there is no reason.  There are laws, rules..”  It’s silly.

    Not really – you’re looking at the quote through your own bias. Ellison is admitting that there are laws of physics and the “machine” works in a certain way. What he’s saying is that although the machine runs a certain way, it has nothing to do with us. It doesn’t care about us. It just runs the way it runs and our presence is irrelevant.

    Using honest people’s faith to pad your bank account is the one thing that we know for certain actually made Jesus scream and start throwing things.

    The Catholic Church is the richest institution on the planet. You should double check your standards.

    He’s practically paraphrasing the Bible in more than one place. In short, he arrives at the same noble conclusions the Catholic Church did millenia ago, but without showing any work.

    He’s also paraphrasing Judaism, Hinduism, Buddism, Taoism and just about every other religion. Regardless of the details, all religions fundamentally try to tell people to be nice to each other and not steal, murder, etc. It’s not exclusive to Christianity. In fact, you’ll find most atheists espouse exactly the same virtues without the need for all the religious trappings.

    Who was it that gave us this toolbox?

    The evolution of society gave us this toolbox. It’s been proven that altruism is good for the species. We’ve developed an ability to think and care and want to do the right thing by each other. Every race, in one way or another, with or without the influence of Christianity, has developed pretty much the same things over time.

    I used to be an atheist, and I found that my real problem with God was a control issue. I didn’t want to give it up, due to my fear. After I did, however, I found much more peace.

    You found a way to remove responsibility for your failures and answers to questions that were bugging you, that’s all. Just because you can ask the questions doesn’t mean there have to be answers.

    I’ve always thought it took incredible hubris to write off God. No we don’t <i>know</i> anything and we won’t until we die. But the older I get the more I realize that what we think we <i>know</i> is nothing more than our version of faith.

    I think it takes a lot more hubris to believe in something against all the available evidence.

    Evolution is still  being debated as new scientific discoveries are being made. And, frankly, science is continuing to prove that it’s not as reliable as we’d like to think it is since it’s not that honest much of the time.

    Evolution is only being “debated” by Creationists and those with a vested interest in denying evolution. It’s a scientific theory that is constantly being revised and developed, but the base principles remain unchanged. Where is science not being honest?

    My point is that belief in science, just as belief in God, is changeable as we grow and learn.

    No, science isn’t a question of belief. It’s a demonstrated truth through empirical, repeatable evidence, constantly subjected to ongoing scrutiny. The opposite of belief in god.

    My cognitive abilities are not something I earned, they were a gift. “

    No, they were something that evolved. :)

    Poor guy is a confident know-it-all who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.  He’s making alot of assumptions based on his own judgement and ideas, and is convinced he’s right without bothering to stop and consider the fact that he ISN’T.

    You suggesting that he isn’t right as a “fact” makes you just like him.

    So, Mr. Ellison’s personal conclusions are based on his own annoyed, cynical, obtuse opinions, fueled by ARROGANCE.

    Exactly the same as your own beliefs. The only thing Ellison has in his favour is ongoing documented evidence. You think you have ALL the answers, with no evidence whatsoever, and you call him arrogant?

     

  7. I find these comments quite amusing. My favorite part is how we’ve assumed that God has all these human personality traits. (God might favorite one team over another? Are you serious? He doesn’t have better things to do, like look after the children dying in Darfur?) I’ve always thought that it takes an incredible amount of hubris for humans to assume that God acts like a human…like being wrathful and jealous, hating this person or that person, loving people, but hating sin, making bets with the “Devil” and getting pissed off and destroying his creation with water or fire…etc. It seems to me that an omnipotent, omniscient being would be ABOVE all that, pun intended. If God really does see all and know all before it happens, and He is the ultimate power in the universe, why did He create humans who are capable of disobeying Him and being cast into eternal torment? Why did He create an angel who is capable of becoming his sworn enemy? It seems to me that a compassionate loving Creator would never have created some people solely to be the “bad guys”. Cain and Judas were screwed from the very beginning. It was their PURPOSE to be the bad guys and be cast into Hell. Salvation couldn’t have occurred if Judas hadn’t betrayed Jesus. But that Salvation didn’t extend to him. Even though his actions made it possible for everyone else to be saved. We can’t keep having everything both ways. Either God is all loving or He isn’t. Either He is all powerful or He isn’t. Or maybe we made all this crap up. 

    Of course God exists. The only question is are you going to trust what your heart tells you about Him or are you going to trust what other people tell you about Him? People wrote the books. People are fallible. Your heart is where God lives. That is where you should seek Him. 

  8. He’s practically paraphrasing the Bible in more than one place. In short, he arrives at the same noble conclusions the Catholic Church did millenia ago, but without showing any work.

     

    This statement seems to back Ellison’s overall theme. These virtues weren’t given by a divine being, they were reasoned out by the church as a way to make society safer and by association, those within the church.

  9. I think it takes a lot more hubris to believe in something against all the available evidence.

    Ah, but not believing is the same thing. Faith in science is very similar to faith in religion. When I talk about science not being particularly honest I’m thinking of the climate change controversy. They were caught red-handed mucking up the “proof.” 

    I’m not anti-science by any means. I’m all for honest scientific inquiry. I’m no spring chicken and I’ve had my fair share of conversations with friends who work in the field of science. The way most science is funded is with an end-product in mind. Science is not as un-biased as people believe, which is why scientific “fact” often changes over time. I believe in evolution, but given the recent discovery of Ardi, which shows that humans are not directly descended from apes, we need to keep an open mind about what is fact and what is theory. Scientific fraud is nothing new. The Piltdown man being one of the more famous examples. 

    I haven’t sorted out what I believe when it comes to God precisely. I used to consider myself a non-believer, but as I get older things aren’t so clear cut to me. There’s an arrogance to thinking you know there isn’t a God. But hey, if you’ve got all the answers, more power to you.  I understand why people don’t believe in creationism. It takes some mental gymnastics to make that theory work. But that doesn’t mean the hand of God doesn’t exist at all. 

  10. Faith in science is very similar to faith in religion.

    No, it’s very different. Faith in religion is believing what a bunch of agenda driven people tell you without any form of evidence whatsoever. Faith in science is not faith at all, as the science is there for all to see, there is evidence for you to review and it is constantly being tested and retested. Certainly, blindly believing every scientific study you hear about is akin to blind faith in anything, but science is demonstrable, god is not.

    I understand why people don’t believe in creationism. It takes some mental gymnastics to make that theory work. But that doesn’t mean the hand of God doesn’t exist at all.

    Agreed. The only really intellectually defensible position is agnosticism – we simply don’t know for certain. But given the balance of evidence, the smart money should really be with the “No god” camp. But I’m open to all kinds of possibilities, because I don’t know for certain.

  11. Alan~ I clicked on your link to your blog. You’ve obviously spent some time working over religious themes for your books. I love authors that weave religion into a paranormal story and yours do look good. I’m impressed. 

  12. @Alan:

    Not really – you’re looking at the quote through your own bias. Ellison is admitting that there are laws of physics and the “machine” works in a certain way. What he’s saying is that although the machine runs a certain way, it has nothing to do with us. It doesn’t care about us. It just runs the way it runs and our presence is irrelevant.

    Fair enough.  His phrasing was unclear and I misread it.  This is not contradictory to his earlier argument.

    The Catholic Church is the richest institution on the planet. You should double check your standards.

    The Catholic Church, world-wide, has a smaller annual operating budget than that of Harvard University.  And they fund more charitable foundations and hospitals than any other institution, or nation, on the planet.  You should double-check your sources.  (Also, a huge quantity of what wealth the Church does have consists of a millenia-old artistic tradition and thousands upon thousands of publicly displayed works of art all over the globe.  They’re valuable because they are part of history, because they are beautiful, because they are irreplacable relics from some of western civilizations greatest artists and artisans, but they don’t bring in any money, and, often times, cost money in preservation, repair, and general upkeep.)

    He’s also paraphrasing Judaism, Hinduism, Buddism, Taoism and just about every other religion. Regardless of the details, all religions fundamentally try to tell people to be nice to each other and not steal, murder, etc. It’s not exclusive to Christianity. In fact, you’ll find most atheists espouse exactly the same virtues without the need for all the religious trappings.

    This sounds nice, and we’re so used to hearing it in our sugar-coated Politically Correct culture that it’s easy to wave off and accept, but, frankly, it isn’t true.  All religions are not created equal.  The ones you listed above are all concerned with vastly different things and go about them in vastly different ways.  Anyone who says that Judaism and Taoism are essentially the same has never met a serious Jew or Taoist, or at least never took one seriously.  Not to mention the zillions of minor religions you’ve never heard of, or the ancient ones that no one believes anymore.  Take the Aztecs, for example.  Not so much about being nice to eachother.  Or the ancient Norse or Egyptians.  They were much more concerned with dying well (and, in Egypt’s case, being dead well) than they were with living well.  I’m sure bits of truth can be found anywhere you look, but don’t give me the line about all religions being fundamentally the same.  If they were all the same, there wouldn’t be so many of them, and people wouldn’t fight wars over them.

    The fact is, our Western values may not be exclusive to Christianity, but they stem from a Christian culture.  Even athiests espousing the same virtues as Christians do so because they are Christian athiests.  They are Not-Christians.  They disagree with the Christian Mythos but see the sense in the world that mythos inspired.  A Not-Muslim Athiest might have a very different set of values to uphold, if he could survive publicly leaving the Muslim faith.  A Not-Norseman, in turn, might still hang on to the cultural implications of his religion, while leaving Odin and Loki out.

    The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.  And, without that ideal, the rights stemming from it are ungrounded.

    The evolution of society gave us this toolbox. It’s been proven that altruism is good for the species. We’ve developed an ability to think and care and want to do the right thing by each other. Every race, in one way or another, with or without the influence of Christianity, has developed pretty much the same things over time.

    This argument makes sense in so far as it explains the natural existence of a subjective moral code among human societies.  What it does not do is give us ethics.  It is, to paraphrase a line my Dad uses, an attempt to wring an “Ought” from an ‘Is.”  This argument says “This is how things are” reasonably well, but can’t support any “Thus, this is how things should be.”

    It makes perfect sense that co-operation for the sake of survival is a useful Darwinian trait.  But, at this point in history, Humanity as a species isn’t to worried about it’s continued survival.  We won.  We’re here ’til the end.  We don’t need those survival traits anymore.  Morality worked well enough for us in the beginning, but it was never anything more than a book of handy survival tips.  From a natural morality perspective, getting along with your fellow man isn’t objectively any better than not doing so.  It just makes you more likely to make it through the winter.  If you can make it through the winter while being an inssufferable ass, or a murderer, or a thief, there’s no reason not to.  Ethics falls apart at the seams.

    Ethics and morality need to make the non-scientific blanket statement that every individual life is a valuable and sacred thing.  The reason we treat eachother with respect cannot be out of leftover evolutionary fear of conflict.  The reason we treat eachother with respect must be because each person we meet is inherently deserving of our respect as a love-child and brain-child of the architect of the universe.  The concept of human rights stems from the concept of the sacred nature of human life.  No God, no morals, no ethics.  You don’t get the rules without the ruler.  A true atheism, a literal Not-Religion, is inherently a-moral and anarchistic.  This, I suppose, is an argumentatively valid perspective.  It is self-consistent.  In practice, I prefer Ellison’s approach, because he does still see the necessity of morals and ethics, but it is a less logically sound stance.  Our recent brand of Dawkins/Hitchens Not-Christianity is fairly half-assed, as athiesm goes.  They just don’t do the homework.

     

    No, science isn’t a question of belief. It’s a demonstrated truth through empirical, repeatable evidence, constantly subjected to ongoing scrutiny. The opposite of belief in god.

    There are a few common errors in your thinking here.  While what scientists in labs do may be empirical and objective, most of us are not scientists in labs, and most of us read about what scientists do in labs via reporters with private agendas working for papers with agendas of thier own.  For example, I have frequently described myself as a Man Made Climate Change Agnostic, because I just don’t know who to listen to.  I don’t have enough facts to do the math, and both ends of the spectrum are so tied up in politics I just assume a lot of what I read on either side is dishonest.  I really am not informed enough to know what I think about the situation, and I don’t know or trust any source enough to go with what they say.  It is, in a lot of ways, an issue of belief.

    Conversely, the Church has always taught that we can deduce the existence of God from nature. It doesn’t take an expert, and it doesn’t take faith.  It’s more philosophy than science, but it is logic, nonetheless.  Most times the Bible mentions “belief,” it is discussing a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, not whether God exists at all.  God is an assumed logical quantity.  Nowhere does Christianity ask you to take the existence of God on faith.  That’s what I love about being Catholic.  We are all about logic and philosophy.  We like our world to make sense.  Leaps of faith are all well and good in our actions, but have no place at all in our intellectual processes.  God gave us our intellects so we can use them.


     

     

  13. Also, a huge quantity of what wealth the Church does have consists of a millenia-old artistic tradition and thousands upon thousands of publicly displayed works of art all over the globe, etc.

    Not to mention the real estate. A truly altruistic institution would sell up and do something about poverty and suffering instead of sitting in bejewelled palaces preaching about it.

    but don’t give me the line about all religions being fundamentally the same.  If they were all the same, there wouldn’t be so many of them, and people wouldn’t fight wars over them.

    I didn’t list extinct religions for a reasons. Those that remain all pretty much boil down to a framework for a code of ethics.

    The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.

    Wow. It’s really not. Not even close.

    If you can make it through the winter while being an inssufferable ass, or a murderer, or a thief, there’s no reason not to.  Ethics falls apart at the seams.

    This is an argument trotted out by the religious all the time and it’s as insulting as it is incorrect. If it were true, why aren’t all athiests theiving, murderous scumbags?

    The reason we treat eachother with respect must be because each person we meet is inherently deserving of our respect as a love-child and brain-child of the architect of the universe.  The concept of human rights stems from the concept of the sacred nature of human life.  No God, no morals, no ethics.  You don’t get the rules without the ruler. 

    Not true. The non-religious are perfectly capable of maintaining a “do unto others” philosophy without the religious nonsense. Atheists will respect human rights because they’re human, not because of some god concept.

    While what scientists in labs do may be empirical and objective, most of us are not scientists in labs, and most of us read about what scientists do in labs via reporters with private agendas working for papers with agendas of thier own.  For example, I have frequently described myself as a Man Made Climate Change Agnostic, because I just don’t know who to listen to. 

    Your ignorance is not the same as there being no science. The peer reviewed papers are there, with evidence to back them up, for you to read and make a decision. You choose not to.

     

  14. God does exist – but our attempts to re-make god in our image with all our prejudices will tell you far more about humanity than they ever do about god – from white-beared tablet-bearing old geezers one step removed from Santy Claus, to twenty-armed dancing sword waving goddesses.

    (S)he is largely unknowable.

    Anyone wearing a skinned wolf on their head and claiming to have a more direct relationship with the creator will normally be trying to stake a claim to 10% of your crops in return for allowing you to get a word in through the pointy hat-wearing one’s good graces.

    Failure to comply can invove gang members with stones, racks and burning piles of wood taking a rather dim view of you opting out.

    I do love god.

    It’s so often the members of humanity I have a problem with.

     

     

  15. So, if god exists, who is going to heaven?  Luke Shea is right, most religions have major differences, so only one of them can get you to heaven (if you actually believe these old novels).  Is it the most populous religion?  Is it the richest religion?  Is it the oldest religion?  Is Jesus a more important prophet than Mohammad?  Or, is it Buddha, who has absolutely no connection to Judaism/Christian/Islam.  Or, are both Jesus and Mohammad false?  Maybe the real profit was Jim Jones.  What about Odin?  Ra? Or anyone of the thousands upon thousands of other religions which are supposedly wrong?

    Or are all the new religions wrong and the old religions right?  Are the gods of Mesopotamia the real ones?  Many of the stories of the Old Testament are borrowed from the polytheist religion of Mesopotamia.  Noah’s Ark being a prime example.

    Do people believe in a specific religion because it calls to them and they know it is right?  Or, do they believe in a religion just because they happen to be born in a country or community that believes in that religion?  The large clusters of believers suggest it is just because you are born in a certain place.

    Are goat herders in Afghanistan more knowledgeable than people like Stephen Hawking?  You have to believe this to think goat herders thousands of years ago are good guides for today.

    The idea that Christianity or any religion created/invented good morals is ludicrous.  There are millions upon millions of horrific acts before Christianity and after Christianity.  If Christianity “enlightened” us then the Romans would have been the nicest empire to ever exist after they made it their official religion.  However, they continued to kill, rape, and pillage after they became Christian.  1500 years later we still had thousands if not millions of slaves, so I don’t see how Christianity, or any religion for that matter, was the beginning of good morals.

    It should also be noted there is absolutely no evidence Romans fed Christians to the lions for being Christians.

    “Conversely, the Church has always taught that we can deduce the existence of God from nature. It doesn’t take an expert, and it doesn’t take faith.  It’s more philosophy than science, but it is logic, nonetheless.  Most times the Bible mentions “belief,” it is discussing a belief in Jesus as the Son of God, not whether God exists at all.  God is an assumed logical quantity.  Nowhere does Christianity ask you to take the existence of God on faith.  That’s what I love about being Catholic.  We are all about logic and philosophy.  We like our world to make sense.  Leaps of faith are all well and good in our actions, but have no place at all in our intellectual processes.  God gave us our intellects so we can use them.” – Luke Shea

    You mention logic, but never use it to prove god exists.  Just because nature exists does not prove god exists, as any number of theories can account for nature.

    Also, the bible either mentions the need for belief in god or it doesn’t.  Saying that most times belief is just mentioned with Jesus only means there are times belief is used with god.  It doesn’t matter that it only happens a few times.  What matters is that it happened.

    Finally, does anyone else note that Catholicism is a polytheist religion?  The Romans just took Jupiter and made him god, and then used saints in place of the lesser gods like Neptune, Pluto, etc.  Just like they replaced all the pagan holidays with Christian ones.  Thus, the bunny at Easter.  The Romans didn’t care which religion was correct they just wanted it as another form of control, which was why they rarely banned a conquered territory’s religion.  All the territory had to do was acknowledge the Roman religion, not banish their own.

    The only reason Europe and the US are Christian is because the Roman Empire was.  It has nothing to do with it being the “correct” religion.  If the Roman Empire had become Scientologists we would be Scientologists now.  “Belief” is a matter of where and when you were born, not on what is “right” or “correct.”

  16. Chad, I sometimes wonder whether trying to prove or argue that we are fools dies a sad death due to lack of enthusiasm from us.

  17. Or from sad self recognition.

    Or from denial.

    Or from deluded dreams of happiness.

    Or from….   well, I guess you get my drift, sir.

    I live, I love, am loved…I am so goddamned lucky. So goddamned lucky. And I know it.

  18. <i>The fact is, our Western values may not be exclusive to Christianity, but they stem from a Christian culture.  Even athiests espousing the same virtues as Christians do so because they are Christian athiests.  They are Not-Christians. </i>

     

    NONSENSE; HUBRIS

     

    Don’t be so full of yourself.

     

    Certain traits are universal–i.e., not exclusive to any one culture, such as taboos against stealing, killing, lying, etc. Christianity/the West doesn’t have a stranglehold on morality.

     

    And I am an atheist of ALL religions, not just the Hebrew derived ones. I feel the same way about Christianity that I do about Zoroastrianism, Wicca, Shintoism, Zeus, Thor, Astarte, ad infinitum. That’s what disingenuous fools like you just don’t get.

     

    <i>The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.  And, without that ideal, the rights stemming from it are ungrounded.</i>

     

    LIE; More HUBRIS

    The very first tenet of Buddhism has always stated that Life is Suffering, and that, once one understands this concept, then one understands that all people are suffering and deserve compassion and dignity. Sort of important for establishing human rights, don’t you think?

     

    And you don’t even get to say it started with Xianity. Buddhism is at least 500 years older than Xtianity and had existed in the Middle East and Europe for at least 200 years before the supposed Christ person was born.

     

    Again, don’t be so full of yourself.

  19. @Luke Shea:  The Catholic Church, world-wide, has a smaller annual operating budget than that of Harvard University.

    Annual operating budget of Harvard University: $3.5 billion (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/06/17/harvard_classrooms_labs_feel_pinch_of_budget_cuts/)

    Annual operating budget of the Catholic Church in the U.S.: nearly $100 billion (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/06/17/harvard_classrooms_labs_feel_pinch_of_budget_cuts/)

     

  20. The very first tenet of Buddhism has always stated that Life is Suffering, and that, once one understands this concept, then one understands that all people are suffering and deserve compassion and dignity. Sort of important for establishing human rights, don’t you think?

    Auqauria

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    Auqauria

    GODDAMNITTHEREISNO ‘EXPLANATION’ OR ‘UNDERSTANDING’ OR ‘MEANING’

    Do you understand?

    Do you……really?

    can you accept the premise that there is nothing on this earth that has any real ‘meaning’?

    no, y’all won’t

  21. When disaster strikes or bullets fly, some people die, some don’t.

    WHAT? Give [alleged] God all of the credit but none of the blame???

    Not me, no Sir — I won’t!

     

    ——————————————————-

        I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos.  A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate.  The priest said, “Imitate our Fatherin Heaven, learn to be like him.”

        The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations.

        He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him.

        Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven! The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of  weather he was having, up his way.

    ———— Mark Twain, “Letters from the Earth”  —-

  22. I recall watching Harlan Ellison inside a plexiglass enclosure at a Sci Fi convention in Phoenix AZ about 35 years ago, writing short stories on a While-U-Wait basis.  Interesting guy.  Wish I could say the same about this supposed super-human entity you’re all talking about.  From what I have heard, it seems that if he really existed (& if all the stories are true), it would be necessary to kill him.

  23. Kurt Vonnegut

    Kurt Vonnegut‘s novel Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) was based on his own experiences as a prisoner of war at Dresden during the bombing. Vonnegut recalled “utter destruction” and “carnage unfathomable.” The Germans put him and other POWs to work gathering bodies for mass burial. “But there were too many corpses to bury. So instead the Nazis sent in troops with flamethrowers. All these civilians’ remains were burned to ashes.”[148]

    In the special introduction to the 1976 Franklin Library edition of the novel, he wrote:

    “The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.”[149]

    This experience was also used in several of his other books and is included in his posthumously published stories: Armageddon in Retrospect.[148]

  24. One thing religious folk argue with atheists about are morals and whether or not they are god given.  They quote verse from their particluar version of their religous book.  You have hundreds to choose from. Doesn’t that make you a bit suspicious?   While there is plenty to question about the morals of the older text (incest, rape, murder, genocide … ) you have to remember that they were written by people, men mostly, actually obviously.   So as we understand it we have our own morals that we have tried to ingrain into society but a diety is getting the credit.  Thanking god for x or threatening people with y is a useless gesture.   The world and every act and event in it is seemingly random.  No pattern is seen or known.  Ah but you can’t know the will of god.  If there is no pattern we can see then there is no benefit  in thinking or believing that there is one.  

     

    You’ve been snowed, flim flammed from an early age and refuse to acknowledge it.  Help the human race get out of the dark ages, ask some questions, read outside your current field of knowledge do not be led or subjective to a sheep herders view of the world 1700 years ago.

  25. Thanks to Alan for your efforts here.

    I’d just like to observe that if you take the religious proscriptions out of the Ten Commandments you have the basic ethics of human groups from bike gangs to the United Nations. 

  26. Funny to find so many religious types on a SF site. Maybe it’s an USAmerican thing.

     

    For those that are forcefully asserting that morality is based on religion, more precisely their religion, Christianity in this case, why is it that the more atheistic society are *not*a chaotic mayhem of murder, rape and crime? Quite the contrary in fact, they are the most socially advanced countries with the highest indexes of well-being and happiness. On the contrary religious societies are the more backward and under-developed ones. Not to speak of the Dark Ages when religion was hegemonic. Do all the religion lovers really want to go back in time and live during religious Golden Ages like Antiquity or the Middle Ages?

     

    Reality is a bitch, isn’t it? And with a liberal bias moreover ;-)

  27. “God does exist”

     

    Prove it.  If you can’t, then stop talking about it.  if you can, stop dancing around with nonsense, appeals to magic and fairytales and make with the evidence.

     

    hint: evidence does not include any of the following: your opinion, your desires, or holy books.

     

    Still waiting.

  28. Christianity is the source for ethics? I think not. Considering the simple and quite verifiable fact that the Christian bible recognizes the ‘Old Testament’ as being divinely inspired (indeed, many Christians believe the bible to be the inerrant word of god), we may pose the simple question to Christians (and Jews, as it turns out) as to whether infanticide is ethically or morally acceptable.

    Is it?

    …or, if you prefer, we may ask whether chattel slavery is ethically or morally acceptable.

    …or, again, whether marrying one’s victim is an appropriate punishment for the crime of rape.

    …or, if these aren’t enough, whether genocide, followed by forced captivity and implicit rape/concubinage of captive virgin females, is morally or ethically acceptable.

     

    If the Christian (or Jew, or possibly even the Muslim) recognizes that these things are all unethical and immoral, then he likewise denies that his god is holy — each of these things was directly commanded, decreed, regulated or endorsed by god in the ‘Old Testament.’ The apologist must therefore somehow seek to explain these without sacrificing god’s perfectly good nature, else admit that no, the god described in that ancient narrative is not a moral being, which either reduces Christianity to some sort of mystic universalist religion or defeats it entirely.

    Worse still, these examples allegedly stemmed from a period in Israel’s history during which god directly controlled the population and its laws via a theocracy. If, for instance, we accept that chattel slavery is immoral and unethical, we must convict god of failing to denounce it despite an undeniable means and opportunity. If this god actually existed and had the attributes typically used to describe him, he could have, and should have, stipulated that ‘chattel slavery is wrong.’

    In the same vein, some apologists seek to justify the inherent misogyny in the ‘Old Testament’ by noting, for example, that a rape victim would be shunned, and considered an unviable candidate for marriage. They suggest that forcing such a woman to marry her aggressor (in the case of a Hebrew male raping an unbetrothed Hebrew female) is somehow merciful, since the woman would otherwise never manage to marry. How anyone can view this as anything other than unconscionable malice is beyond me, but regardless of my opinion on the matter, god could just as easily have decreed that women are intellectual equals to men, and that they should be afforded the same rights as men in Israelite society. He could further have stipulated that non-virgin women were not necessarily unfit to be wives, and he could have required lifelong care and compassion be offered to any unfortunate victim of rape.

    …but he didn’t.

     

    As to whether or not there is a god, that question is likely unanswerable — at the very least, not in the span of the only known life a human can expect to experience. There may well be a god of sorts, but if this is a being deserving of that title, there is no viable explanation for the [needless] suffering and angst experienced by the vast majority of this planet’s sentient inhabitants. As an earlier commenter noted, a truly benevolent god would have refused to create — especially, I should add, a truly benevolent god with the attribute of omniscience — specifically to avoid any such suffering. The draconian notion of a hell of eternal suffering, then, is indirect-but-extremely-powerful evidence against the Judeo-Christian god. Regarding means and opportunity — and, according to Christian theology, motive — such a god could just as easily have made the first-born human being his ‘savior,’ or, far better, simply forgiven everyone immediately and without the superfluous need to request salvation — especially, as ridiculous as it is that I am obligated to point out, when there exists absolutely no real evidence whatsoever that there is any truth to the theology in question.

     

    Thank you, dear Christian, but no. I’ll not ‘worship’ the being you describe, nor any other. If there is indeed any sort of god, I’ll welcome a lengthy and thoroughly enlightening conversation on this or any other day, but I’ll do so from a seated or standing position (proverbially, as may be the case), rather than from a kneeling or prostrate position. I may be a godless [weak] atheist, but I have principles.

     

    Eternal torment and torture are wrong.

    Infanticide, genocide, and any other -side are wrong.

    The ‘ownership’ of a fellow human being is wrong.

     

    Stan

  29. Anyone who believes the hocus pocus stories in the Bible need to explain why those ancient anonymous claims are credible while the similar claims made by the followers of Sathya Sai Baba are not.  Sathya Sai Baba is still alive, by the way, and his followers claim that he can read minds, predict the future, materialze objects from thin air, heal the ill, and raise the dead, and you can speak to these witnesses directly instead of having to read ancient texts translated from dead languages.

    So, Christians, why is one set of claims acceptable and the other not even a blip on your radar?

  30. I won’t bother to respond to most of Luke Shea’s empty assertions, as Alan seems to be doing a marvelous job of shooting down every illogical skeet that Shea has launched, thus far.  Most of them are nothing more than tired, meretritious assertions that have been thoroughly debunked over and over again by the “reason-based community” (G. Bush’s term for the community that he assiduously avoids associating himself with).

    I do want to take exception to the following equally vacuous assertion by SQT, though.

    The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.

    I’m not even sure where to start with this one, since there is so much pre-Christian prose expousing these very same ideals (Cyrus the Great, Hammurabi, Confusious, Socrates and Plato), but the REAL heavy lifting (the hard thinking – the kind of thinking the Bible discourages) regarding human rights took place during the period of the Enlightenment and was dominated the works of atheist and agnostics (John Locke, David Hume, Denis Diderot).

    “Human dignity” is an ambiguous term that has no conventional definition.  I suspect was thrown into the mix by SQT, along with the “every living person” assertion to gild an otherwise vacuous argument.

    So, not even close, SQT. But if you wish to actually educate yourself on the subject, here are some credible resources:

    http://www.humanrights.is/the-human-rights-project/humanrightscasesandmaterials/humanrightsconceptsideasandfora/theconceptsofhumanrightsanintroduction/definitionsandclassifications/

    http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/peace/peaceedu/binder2.html

    http://muse.jhu.edu/

     

     

     

     

  31. It never ceases to amuse me whenever I see some religious apologist make the old “science is unreliable because what it says now is different from what it said X years ago” argument. No, twit. That’s exactly what proves it’s working! By what process did we get from there to here?

    Yes, in science we change our conclusions when new information becomes available. This phenomenon is known as “learning”; not all of us consider it a bad thing to do.

    It’s especially funny when the above argument is coupled with (and it nearly always is) the implication that this, therefore, makes some ancient, rigid, unchanging religious doctrine somehow more likely to be correct. The logic here escapes me.

  32. I think it takes a lot more hubris to believe in something against all the available evidence.

    Ah, but not believing is the same thing. Faith in science is very similar to faith in religion. When I talk about science not being particularly honest I’m thinking of the climate change controversy. They were caught red-handed mucking up the “proof.” 

     

    Only if you think, and are not embarrassed to state it that believing and not believing are the same thing.

    Believing in something without any evidence is faith. 

     

    And when you think about the “climate change controversy”, please be specific.  Was it the hacked emails that show nothing of what you claim?

     

    If so, then you have an example of believing in something without evidence.  Then again, this is not a surprise.  You are after all, a theist.  Claiming things to exist without providing a shred of evidence (forget proof) is a theist’s modus operandi.

    Space left below for fallacious argumentation (use “argument from incredulity”, “argumentum ad populum”, “argument from design” and debunked arguments as appropriate)

     

    [

    ]

  33. Remember the lame “a being than which nothing greater can be thought.” argument.

    Well, Yahweh fails this right away since a god who created the world in 3 days can be thought of.  Theists, be honest, you just did.

     

    So either disavow that “proof” or accept that Yahweh is not the supreme being.

  34. Sigh. Creepy, cruddy  Christians/Catholics. Yuck. Ignorant, full of it, cowardly, plain stupid, unethical, and dangerous.  Not to mention being guru followers and love junkies. 

    Alan, you are too nice, but then again, for some reason you find the mundane, hackneyed, boring, insipid, ordinary fantasies of religion to be fascinating, so there comes your patience I suppose.

    Most atheists are agnostics, you religious dumbbells. No god belief because there is no evidence and since a negative can’t be proven, no god bothering is necessary.

     

    I just adored A Boy and His Dog.  Did not know that Ellison wrotw it.

  35. Thank you, Alan.

    A boat of reason in a sea of stupidity. You are amazingly accepting of ignorance. I lack your patience and refrain from posting because I become vile and disrespectful – no one deserves that type of abusive vitriol. Thank you for your calm and clarity.

     

  36. posted by SQT:

    I believe in evolution, but given the recent discovery of Ardi, which shows that humans are not directly descended from apes, we need to keep an open mind about what is fact and what is theory. Scientific fraud is nothing new. The Piltdown man being one of the more famous examples.

     

    [Formatting removed — Editor]

    A large part of me is screaming at me to remain the lurker here but I’m afraid I just couldn’t let the above comment go by without being answered, as the subject of evolution is such a major pet peeve of mine.  The rest of the comments seem to have been already dealt with well enough by other posters much more eloquently and succinctly than I could ever hope to achieve.

    First of all, I shudder every time the phrase “I believe in evolution” is uttered as if one’s belief in it is somehow necessary to grant it truth.  Evolution, even in our admittedly incomplete understanding of it, is not something that requires belief.  Change the phrase for a moment if it helps to appreciate the depth of ignorance this statement routinely professes. 

    • “I believe in gravity.”
    • “I believe in helio-centrism.”
    • “I believe in bacteria/micro-organisms.”
    • “I believe in atoms.”

     

    But I must not get too side-tracked from the real reason I was moved to post a response; the issue of the recently over-publicized “Ardi” and its implications for human evolution.

    SQT, I’m afraid I have to unequivocally disagree with your assertion.  The evidence to support our relationship to the great apes was only *increased* by the discovery and extensive study of “Ardi”.  Over one million years older than “Lucy” this new specimen had even more “ape-like” characteristics than our closer ancestor did – given that “Lucy” already closely resembled more modern hominid body plan (skeletal structure and gait).  One of the most striking differences between “Ardi” and other known hominid ancestors was the fact that she still had an “opposable toe” – in other words her feet could still grasp things in a similar fashion to today’s chimps.  This puts her closer to our common ancestor with the aforementioned group than any other previous discovery. 

    In the interest of fair play, perhaps I should grant/mention that Ardi *did* in fact throw a few notions of our history into question.  For instance, the flora/fuana at the time seems to indicate that she lived in a wooded environment, not a grassland, as has been popularly believed. Second to that is the lack of skeletal evidence for “Ardi” to have ever knuckle waked (using the front knuckles for support), implying that the behavior so common among extant great apes must have evolved after the split, or that our ancestors very quickly lost it.

    Other’s have noted these differences and taken them out of context, one going so far as to publish a news article in Al-Jazeerah titled something along of the lines of “Ardi proves Darwin wrong” (google it) –  as if the idea that we got one hypothetical detail in a potential mechanism for the evolution of bipedalism wrong somehow refutes the entire Theory of Evolution.

    The discovery of “Ardi” does have huge implications for hominid evolution but it by no means shakes up the entire story indicating that we somehow simply poofed into existence some 4 plus million years ago – or, alternatively, evolved from snakes instead.  All it did was change the background narrative by implying that we did not evolve bipedalism as a mechanism of looking up over the tall grasses.  If so, then why did it occur?.  The scientists working on the project hypothesized as to why: bipedalism would have freed the upper limbs for other functions, potentially as a means of gathering more food for a central family unit.

    Of course that hypothesis, while interesting in its implications, may be unnecessary.  “Ardi” was already, even at 4+ million years ago, a fully upright walker.  Before we can truly say we have a strong case for the *actual* cause of the evolution of bipedalism (the primary trait separating us from our closest cousins) we need to find an even older specimen that has not yet fully made that transition – and then ask the question: “What environment does this creature live in?” By hypothesizing about why this trait evolved before we have strong evidence for the environment in which it occurred we are just asking for trouble when and if we actually unearth evidence that might refute our new conjectures with more complete information.   

    Once again, “Ardi” fully supports Evolution by showing us yet another example of a transitional organism well on its way to becoming us but still retaining many of the ancestral traits that we have since lost.

    Please SQT, as someone who professes to believe [shudder] in Evolution, do not give fuel and ammunition to the creationists who would love to take absolutely anything out of context in order to justify completely ignoring yet more evidence against their “young earth” mythos.

      //Returns to Lurker status

  37.  Sigh.  I apologize for the HUGE section of formating code in my post above.  Pasting from a word processor evidently comes with certain disadvantages.

  38. The morality issue can be settled by q quick look at the work of any reputable ethologist. All social mammals show morality. This is not hard to understand—social animals would have needed to evolve strategies for cooperation and social co-existence. In other primates, for example, we see very human-like examples of morality. Chimpanzees and bonobos show notions of justice, they share, they mourn their dead, they have been seen to help the weak and old to get food, they play, they cooperate, they have social hierarchies, etc. Bononos will even ostracize another member for in-group murder. You can go across the board and find many more examples. so it appears that we have evolved our morality just as all other social animals have. Of course, we have more highly developed societes, which creates unique challenges, and requires unique solutions, but we differ from other animals only in degree, not in kind.

    Also, it should be mentioned that the most atheistic societies, like Sweden and Denmark, are also the most peaceful and generous societies. They are highly advanced states whose populations seem to appeal to reason and not faith to decide issues.

  39. I would expect to find a lot of Xtians here on an SF website.  After all, and may Spider forgive me, wasn’t the bible one of the first in the genre being about Zion’s Friction?

  40. Cheryl,

    no offsense but you never were an atheist.  atheists aren’t people who are shaking their fists at god in defiance.  that just makes you an angry believer.  you weren’t an atheist because you never figured out how to live a good and moral life without an overlord.  Don’t insult atheists by saying you once were an atheist.  you never were. you have no clue what it means to be one.  you might as well be saying I used to be free and then i found slavery so now i’m happy.

  41. Life is full of complexity, uncertainty, and moral ambiguity, and people deal with it different ways.  Atheists take science and a rational, empirical process to understand the physical world; work out their own morality; and learn to live with the parts they can’t figure out.  The religious have the freedom of trying the logical route, and if they can’t figure it out, they have the fail-safe fallback — ‘God is the answer’.   I applaud the ease and convenience of that answer; too bad I lack the power of self-deception necessary to believe it.  Oh well, what can I say, I outgrew fairy tales when I was about 6. 

  42. I do want to take exception to the following equally vacuous assertion by SQT, though.

    The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.

    Since I didn’t actually make the “vacuous assertion” I think I can call the commentator equally vacuous for quoting the wrong person. Just sayin’, it’s kind of lazy to fling insults at the wrong person. 

    FB

    Fair enough. I won’t use the word “belief” when referring to evolution any more. I certainly don’t believe in the “young earth” myth. Though, to be fair, most people of faith I know don’t either. They subscribe to the “intelligent design” idea. I try to keep an open mind, but people who fully support the idea of the earth being– what 6,000 years old?– are nuts. 

     

  43. The interesting thing about this thread to me are all the generalizations being thrown about. It’s as if believers want to characterize non-believers as complete sociopaths and the non-believers want to characterize the believers as wild-eyed uneducated proselytizers. 

    I think a non-believers are generally just as moral as anyone else.  I don’t think more or less of anyone based on a belief in God. I’m not particularly invested in convincing anyone to share my beliefs. I’m just trying to have a conversation about a topic that interests me. 

  44. Jeez. I wish I could edit my posts. Non-believers are just as moral as anyone else. Not generally so. I don’t believe that a belief in God is a litmus test for anyone’s morality. 

  45. When he says there’s no rhyme or reason and then goes off listing laws, darwinism… He’s explaining we as HUMAN BEINGS create laws and science disciplines not God(s). When he speaks of the universe not caring, it doesn’t, you care and others around you care but that doesn’t mean the universe cares. He’s trying to explain we are all bias enough to believe something that is billions of years old that hosts stars and planets and galaxies would “care” about us humans beings is laughable. The “Universe” is as inanimate as the bed you sleep on. Do you think your bed cares which side you sleep on?

    Moreover, he’s illustrating on how we humans anthropomorphize the universe to suit our needs and to convince us that their is order in its chaos. If you study any scientific discipline long enough you’ll come to a point of finding out that it’s all chaotic and that we make it ordely for us to understand its chaos and apply for our needs. If you’re a religious person you,ll invoke god on ordering the chaos (god of the gaps, anyone). Like Isaac Newton did when he couldn’t explain how the heavens stayed together without ripping each other apart.

    And no, Thomas Aquinas didn’t figure it out or I and everyone else on the planet would be Catholic. The fact that there are more muslims then catholics should convince you Tom didn’t figure it out.

  46. I am an atheist and have been for years.  I think there is a tendency for people to be believers in one kind of god or another.  It is the way most of us are wired, maybe for evolutionary reasons.  We are pattern spotters.  We mix up correlation with cause and effect.  We have mental experiences that are not easily explaned.  We can enrapture ourselves. And we don’t want to die. 

     

     

     

  47. FB, there’s nothing wrong with saying you believe in evolution. I believe that 2+2=4, I believe that Paris is the capital of France, I believe that my car is red, I believe in the kinetic theory of gases, etc. I accept all these things as true, which means I believe them.

    I mean, I’m guessing your beef with ‘believe’ is that you think beliefs come from the heart, not from the head (or something like that). But that’s not fair at all. That’s doing a disservice to a perfectly legitimate English word, the best single word we have for when you think something is true.

  48. SQT,

    It might surprise you to know just how common young-earth creationism is in the US.

    About 45% of Americans think that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so”. And of course, the percentage of YECers would presumably rise a good deal if the poll were restricted to the 76% of Americans who subscribe to Christianity.

    Gallup has asked this question for some 26 years: the results are 44%, 43%, 46%, 45%, 45%, 47%, 44%, 47%, 44%. Newsweek delivers 48% in 2007, CBS gets 48% in 2005 and 44% in 2006.

    You can see these polls here.

  49. Where was God when a little girl and her sister were repeatedly raped day after day for ten years by thier father who also allowed other “God Loving Christian men” to do the same to his little girls?   Over a decade this happened EVERY DAY.  What was the lesson God was teaching these little girls?  Thier father was a devout christian/baptist who took his family to church every sunday and prayed with the family every day, yet told these little girls that they were dirty and that what was happening was thier fault… they needed to pray for forgiveness.  Where was Jesus?  Where was god?  Where were the christian relatives and friends and pastors who suspected somthing was wrong but did nothing because this man was ” a good christian”?   Bullshit to anyone to thinks they can be “born again”.  Bullshit to anyone who thinks God is alive and active in thier lives.  Faith can be a wonderful thing,  believing in yourself and believeing that anything is possible is an awesome power.  Believing there is some mystical god, jesus, ghost who is overseeing your life, granting your wishes, wanting you to achieve your full potential is just ridiculous.  Believe in yourself and the potential for good in every human.

  50. I want to thank god and All the christians for the murders, rapes, and genocide,and biological warfare practiced on all indigeonus people. Keep your god and your christian ways leave us alone.

  51. Did someone actually write that the Catholic Church is a NOBLE institution?  Srsly?!  What’re your thoughts on child rape and accessory to child rape?  Is that a NOBLE thing, too?

  52. Hm, I was just thinking… I’m sure this thought has been discussed by theologians and philosophers alike… but it occured to me for the first time when I read the comments here… I’d be interested in your opinions:

    Barry said on December 10th: “And when a football player kneels in the endzone to thank God, he’s doing it as a personal communication to God, thankful for his athletic ability. And YES, it IS possible that God just might favor one team over another.”

    A footballer thanks god for his athletic ability… he is on top of the spectrum of this specific ability, at the other end are people who can not take part in sports at all… if this footballer believes god has created the circumstances for him to develop this ability, or given that ability directly to him, what does he believe about the less fortunate people at the other end of the spectrum?

    It seems to me that he has only two choices there… either god has made the decision to give these people poor athletic abilities, or god has simply not cared about these people, he let their abilities develop naturally or at random. In either case, the footballer believes he is chosen by god, whereas other people are not.

    It would be the same if people thank god for a lucky event in their lives. If they truly believe in god’s involvement with that event, what do they think about a tragic event, such as when a child looses a limb in an accident? It seems to me that they must think god has decided for this accident to happen or at least not cared about it, whereas god has chosen and selected them specifically for their lucky event. That would be incredibly arrogant and cruel, in my eyes.

    It would even seem that people of such mindset can not logically believe in the germ theory of disease, they must believe illnesses are wished by god upon the sufferers. Why help sufferers then? Why did Jesus heal sick people? It seems god wanted them to suffer.

    Am I making a logical error here? Or are these people really that cruel and arrogant? Or do not they see the flaw in their reasoning?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  53. I just noticed SQT said pretty much the same as Barry…

    SQT said on December 10th: “I have no problem giving God credit for my accomplishments. It’s not that I have some self-centered idea that He’s taking a direct hand in my life. But perhaps he gave me the ability to reason and make moral decisions. Yes, I’m responsible if I don’t use those gifts as they were intended, but do I deserve credit because I was given the abilities in the first place? My cognitive abilities are not something I earned, they were a gift.”

    SQT, I would love to know what you think about people who are less fortunate than you are. Does god also get credit for their misfortunes and disabilities?

    I don’t mean this to be mean or arrogant, I’m just curious. Seriously.

  54. Cake, I don’t think you’re trying to be arrogant or mean. You’re just asking a question. The truth is, I don’t know. I was simply trying to say that traits that are unique to people, the ability to reason being at the top of the list, are not learned but something we’re born with. Whether that’s evolution or God’s gift seems to be up to interpretation. I know people who think everything is part of a bigger plan. Call it God, call it fate. Others think it’s totally random. 

    I know that belief in God could very well be based in biology. It could be the “God gene” doing the talking. All I know is that I don’t know anything for certain. I do think that as time goes on, science is going to open doors to new dimensions and really turn what we think we know on its ear. I think that what we know now is a tiny fraction of what there is to know. I’m not trying to be wishy-washy, I’m just pretty sure that what I don’t know far, far outweighs what I do know.

    And Dave2, those statistics are mind boggling. 

  55. <i>The idea of human rights, of innate human dignity, the supposition that every living person is inherently as valuable as the next, is a distinctly Christian ideal.  And, without that ideal, the rights stemming from it are ungrounded.</i>

     

    This if my favorite quote of all–a microcosm of the hypocrisy and lack of understanding with which believers practice their faith.  Have you read the bible?  The idea that the bible supports the inherent value of human rights and dignity would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that it’s christian supporters actually believe does.  Its absurd and gulling.  The bible is disturbing and vicious.  Of course, modern day christians excuse the misogyny, bigotry and hate by renaming its lessons as “parables”.  But any person who can read the bible then profess that they are a follower of it’s religion–the mental gymnastics are as impressive as they are disturbing.  

  56. H.E. is just saying if a volcano erupts and wipes out a city full of people, if four hurricanes rip through Florida in one season, if boats bring rats bringing fleas to a continent that results in wiping our a third of the human population…  

    The simplest explanation is that the Earth/ Universe is vast and individual humans are small and we just happen to get in the way of the indifferent forces of nature.  Volcanos, hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, asteroids… these are all just going about their own way oblivious to any of the destruction that they cause or lives that they ruin.  Plague, disease, inherited afflictions, these are just other organisms trying to feed their little tiny families or unlucky mistakes in genetic shuffling in our daddy’s testicles.  (A good reason for wearing boxers!)

    Some people choose to ascribe many or all of these things to supernatural powers, mainly because of the oral and written traditions passed onto them by their ancestors.  Because they have no tangible evidence, they claim that there is value in faith, believing in things which one cannot possibly prove.  Unfortunately, faith can be used to justify virtually anything – any imaginable permutation of Christianity, every religion that has ever existed, from Wicca to Roman pantheism to Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judiasm,  to Flying Sphaghetti monsters… to David Koresh and dreams of aliens hiding behind comets waiting to beam us up if we’re wearing the right sneakers.  It can be used to justify astrology, homeopathy, Conservatism, Liberalism, Communism, Nazism, UFOlogy, conspiracy theories, and any kind of philosophical persuasion imaginable.

    I require tangible evidence.  Science requires tangible evidence.  Ellison requires tangible evidence.  And what do you have to offer me?  Tangible evidence?  Without tangible evidence, how am I to decide which of the 1,545,932,431 versions of faith I should follow? 

  57. God is just a word to describe the Source of all Things.  Point is we don’t know what that is.  Everyone has all kinds of guesses but no one knows.  Many claim to have knowledge, but that knowledge is not verifble.

    What is verifible is that there is a way in which we can live that leads to our happiness, joy, and peace as well as the happiness, joy, and peace of others.  That way is the way of love.  Why do we sit around and argue over what to call the Ultimate?  All sides say the same thing:

    “I am right!!!  You are wrong!”

    The message from many religions and philosophies is essentially the same:

    Seek the Truth with all of your heart, that is love wisdom–philosophy.

    Love one another.

    Secular Humanists believe this.  So do Muslims.  So do Buddhists.  So do Christians.

    Those who believe in God: remember any image or idea you have of God is not God.  God must transcend that.  “He who seeks God under settled form lays hold of the form, while missing the God concealed in it.”–Meister Eckhart, a 13 century german mystic theologian.

    Those who don’t believe in God: He who seeks Truth under settled form lays hold of the form (theory), while missing the Reality concealed in it.

    It is good to have discussions of what is true, but I think being able to respect each other’s views and listen to them and love the people we are talking to is more important then that.

    Let us not sacrifice our love for our brothers and sisters in all of humanity on the alter of “Being Right”.

     

     

  58. Mikha’ek, I think you’re confusing your personal Shangri-La vision of religion with religion as it actually exists in the real world.

    The sort of universalist assimilation you’re floating is flatly incompatible with most religions, especially exclusivist monotheisms like Christianity and Islam. Don’t let uplift get in the way of reality.

  59. Mikha’el: God is just a word to describe the Source of all Things.  Point is we don’t know what that is.

    No, that’s not correct at all.  God is a specific term used by most deists to refer to their specific omnipotent deity deserving of worship.  Christians believe that word specifically refers to Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who was born 2000 years ago and died around 1975 years ago.

    It’s really easy to try to divest all of the inherent meaning of a word and shift the goal posts to argue a broader point.  I mean, if God is the begining and source of all things, then can an atheist really deny his reality?  Is God the Big Bang?

    No Christian really actually thinks of God as a single event that happened billions of years ago, but rather as a conscious, aware, and powerful invisible and supernatural being.

     

    Words matter, and the definitions of words matter.  “God” is not and has never been reasonably defined in the way that you suggest, and it cheapens and devalues the debate to suggest so because it confuses the matter at hand.  It obfuscates what people actually believe and what they say about it.

    What is at stake is a specific, defined being, not some vague “we don’t know what that is” philosophical concept.

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