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Atheists: The Last Minority

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The New York Times recently ran a story about new London bus ads. That should be a pretty boring story, and it was in the UK, but it was definitely worth reporting for the US. The bus ads read, exactly, "THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The ads were originally conceived as a response to Christian ads before it that tended to inform passersby that they were going to burn forever if they didn't believe. It was supposed to be a one time ad, but big-hitters like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) signed on to raise plenty of money for these ads to be seen all over London.

In the United States, this would probably involve a bit of violence, at least where I live in South Carolina. Using the "Could I be president one day?" test, we find that every religion is mostly acceptable on the public stage in America. Mitt Romney was a serious Republican contender and might have improved their chances of victory, and he was a Mormon. There was a bit of an issue with people slandering Obama's name by saying he was Muslim (and so what if he was?) but there have at least been one or two Muslim congressmen. Pete Stark of California waited to admit that he was an atheist until the very end of his political career, so he wasn't exactly sworn in on… whatever an atheist would be sworn in on.

We've now managed to finally elect a mostly black man, and that's a great step. Race-wise, we should hopefully never have a problem again. Gay people definitely have to fight to be elected, but that hasn't stopped about ten Republicans (Larry Craig, etc., truthfully much more desperate and abnormal than someone who is openly homosexual). Mitt Romney also represented the fair chances of America electing a robot for the first time. There just aren't any taboos left that have completely excluded someone from office in America except for atheism and agnosticism.

For a quick guide, let's distinguish between atheists and agnostics. If you are more likely to believe in bigfoot than a god, call yourself an atheist (hey, at least we have photos!). If you would believe in a god before bigfoot, you should be classified as an agnostic (hopeless romantics…). I'm glad we've finally cleared that up.

Why are Americans still so intolerant of atheism? For one thing, atheists tend to be more well off on average than other minorities. As Bill Maher acknowledged in his film Religulous, your life has to be pretty convenient for you to be able not to believe in gods after being raised that way. Also, in my experience, openly atheist people tend to be (if not scientists) comedians, for some reason, from Bill Maher to W.C. Fields to Douglas Adams. Comedians aren't exactly sheepish, and they're in fact very likely to be in-your-face about everything, which might be why they're openly atheist in the first place.

For Americans to accept atheism, they need to be persuaded that it is exactly what atheists wouldn't want it to be: a religion. If you're totally fine with any Hindus, Muslims, or Jews, even though they automatically say that every other religion is wrong, then why be so offended by people who believe that every religion is wrong? It's just another belief, even if it's anti-spiritual. 

Believing in anything shouldn't be the important thing. If I created a religion to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, (I'm too late, I'm afraid) that clearly isn't more worthy of respect than someone who says they don't follow any religion. In fact, it's less worthy of respect. So don't be afraid to call Scientologists on just how completely stupid their religion is, (even if it is secretly a business venture).

The United Kingdom, as mentioned in the New York Times article, is the opposite of America on religion in politics. Former Prime Minister Blair's office once commented that they "don't do God." Politicians in the U.S. automatically claim that they are very devout people, which I think is often done just to get elected. I hope dearly that we can get an openly atheist politician elected in the United States, or at least learn not to make religion or the laugh of it such an issue in our secular government.

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About Nathaniel Edwards

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Nathaniel –

    I agree with everything in your article except for your atheism itself, for I am a strong Christian. Other than our respective differences of beliefs, your post was absolutely true. I’ve said many times here and elsewhere how mainstream ‘Christianity’ (as opposed to what I believe to be real Christianity) has, over the totality of its history, murdered more innocent people in the Name of God than any other religion – and I have yet to see anyone challenge that assertion other than those who tried to claim that state-sponsored atheism killed more i.e. the Soviet Union and China – but what they were referring to wasn’t a religious/nonreligious belief system, but a political dogma.

    But please accept my kudos on your article. Oh, by the way – did you know the meaning of your first name is “A gift from God”? At least that’s what the baby-name book said back when we were choosing our son’s middle name. I do so love life’s little ironies….

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul

    Thank you for your unabashed support of atheist equality! My only concern was your description of your typical atheist, which I discuss on my blog. I am happy to see you have such an open mind, and I only hope you get to meet some more nonbelievers!

  • http://blocraison.blogspot.com Paul

    Oh, and your bit about Romney the robot? Brilliance.

  • freethought

    I feel that as atehism grows so does the hatred by the evangelicals. I am an “outed” atheist only to my closest friends and family. You see, I have sensed the hatred toward my ilk and do not want to suffer from my beliefs. Yes I am being somewhat hypocritical, but better that, than burned at the stake or lynched.

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Not sure about in the USA overall, but I have serious doubts that Atheism (a term I dislike in the first place on the same not unreasonable grounds as to why we don’t need a word for people who don’t believe in Astrology), is actually a minority belief.

    Surely the events of the last 8 years, whether it is the actions of Islamic extremists, Christian politicians like George “God told me to go to war” Bush or the recent actions of the Israelis have made religion an increasingly ugly proposition? I certainly hope so, for the world’s sake!

  • zingzing

    alright, i can see your point here, but to truly be a minority, all the religious people would have to like each other or at least gang up together against the common enemy. and i don’t really see that. atheism is just another type of belief in stuck to the pimple that is religion. they didn’t ask to be taken along, but they’re there anyway.

    athiests and agnostics, if lumped together, would form one of the larger belief systems in america today. maybe not as big as the christians, but certainly very comparable.

    so maybe that title is a bit tongue in cheek. i dunno. but i’ve never run into any problems because i don’t believe in someone’s god. i think it’s more that when you believe in someone else’s god, someone with another god gets all perturbed. if you don’t simply don’t believe, they just pat you on the head with a little “ahh, then you’re just going to hell…”

  • Cindy D

    Nathaniel,

    If you’re totally fine with any Hindus, Muslims, or Jews, even though they automatically say that every other religion is wrong, then why be so offended by people who believe that every religion is wrong?

    I will probably never again try to tell my mother I don’t believe in god. Even though she’s not religious, she believes in a “higher power”.

    I don’t really understand why she got so upset. But it was palpable. I felt almost criminal. I’m sure if I said I decided to be a prostitute she would have had an easier time.

    I don’t know why it is that believers seem to be more okay with most other believers than someone who doesn’t believe. I wish one of them would tell me.

    Christopher Rose,

    I’ve never liked the label either. In fact, I never used it ’til recently and I hate it. I like your point in #5.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    I agree with the underlying claim that Agnostics and Atheists would have a hard time getting elected to major office in the U.S. However, as an Agnostic/Atheist, that doesn’t bother me much. This is not a question of who is and who is not “entitled” to run for public office. Methodists, Atheists and sun worshipers are equally entitled to do so. However, the voters are entitled to vote for or against someone due to his skin color, his hair color, his sex, his religion, or whatever. We might well wish they wouldn’t, but that is their right.

    The definitions of Atheists and Agnostics provided in the article, while humorous, strike me as otherwise not very useful. I view Atheists and Christians as having very similar certainties as to the non-existence and existence, respectively, of a god; both are quite certain in their beliefs. Agnostics, in contrast, just don’t know despite their efforts to find out. I characterize myself as an Agnostic Atheist because, although I don’t know, I lean (rather heavily) toward the view that there is no god. Beyond that, I can’t quantify it; the bigfoot metaphor does not help.

    According to the author, Atheism should be considered a religion. I agree and so consider it, because I am unaware of any greater proof of the non-existence of a god than of the existence of God. The non-existence of a god is a matter of belief and, as far as I am concerned, that makes Atheism a religion. It seems unlikely, however, that convincing believers that Atheism is a religion would have the effect desired by the author. And, since Agnosticism is a matter of non-belief rather than of belief, it wouldn’t do Agnostics much good either.

    Meanwhile, some Atheists seem to be intent upon matters worse for themselves as well as for the rest of us non-believers. Suit has been filed demanding that the oath of office to be taken by President Elect Obama omit the words, “So help me God.” He wants those words, the challengers do not want them, and the Constitution does not require them although they are traditionally included. If the President Elect wants to use those words, that’s his prerogative and not my problem. Similar steps have been attempted to remove “In God we Trust” from U.S. money, and to eliminate prayers in the Congress. Pushing for these things strikes me as counterproductive, unless the idea is to strip all vestiges of theism from U.S. society — a form of proselytizing through force of law which makes us seem obnoxious and is in any event unlikely to work. This may suggest an explanation for the problem raised by freethought in Comment #4.

    The Unitarians probably have it right: believe or not as you wish, but don’t try to impose your beliefs/non-beliefs on others.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Midgets have it rough, too.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Matthew,

    Your lack of political correctness is astonishing. Please, Sir, they are height-challenged-Americans and therefore victims; anyone taller than 5′ 6″ is a heightist, and should be ashamed of him(her)self.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Baronius

    Dan, is that why you don’t believe in a higher power? The height?

  • http://www.justtalkaboutit.com Zaki

    Theist: One who believes in god
    Atheist: One who does not believe in god
    Gnostic: One who claims to possess knowledge
    Agnostic: One who does not claim to posses knowledge

    If a person that claims to be agnostic doesn’t believe in god, then they’re an atheist. Period. Whether they’re agnostic or gnostic about their atheism is another matter. There are some atheists that claim to know god doesn’t exist and others who, like myself, realize that that’s something we cannot know at this time.

    I talked about this confusion in a post of mine a while back: Atheism ain’t a four letter word

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Great Zeus, Baronius! You figured it out.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://www.EurocriticsMagazine.com Christopher Rose

    Cindy, those three religions all worship the same god, they just argue about the details, like some ugly family feud that has got way out of hand back in the Wild West. You know how bitter family feuds can get, right?

    I can’t get behind the idea that Atheism is any kind of religion at all, in fact I find the notion perverse. It does show why we don’t need the word though, it just allows faithists to include and define the rest of us in their singular world view.

    Nor does it seem necessary to disprove the existence of any gods. If that were the case, I would need to prove the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy.

    The burden of proof rests solely on the shoulders of those making this fantastical deistic claim. If not, I assert that I am actually the creator of this world and demand that you all worship me and give me loads of either money if you’re male or sex if you’re female.

    More seriously, the killer point for me is that after 6,000 years of trying, the combined Judeo-Christian-Moslem monotheistic cult has come up with exactly zero proof – or even evidence – for the mere existence of god, let alone anything else.

    That global tax exemption for the cult is a real solid achievement though.

  • Baronius

    Dan, it’s medium-sized Zeus. (You keep setting me up for these!)

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    “If it turns out that there is a God, I don’t think that he’s evil. But the worst that you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever.”

    Woody Allen

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baronius,

    Thank you for sharing that. It is comforting to know that my life has some purpose.

    Bless you.

    (Bishop)Dan

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Contrary to the author’s assertion, there has been some fuss in Britain over the ad. It’s newsworthy enough that all the major newspapers picked up the story.

    Nevertheless, there’s been no storming of the Bastille, as might happen if such ads appeared on buses in Washington DC…

    …Or so I thought until I found this. Apparently the American Humanist Association has had similar ads on buses in DC since November, triggering predictable outbursts of whining from the usual suspects but no riots. Chris might just be onto something in his comment #5.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Dr D,

    there’s been no storming of the Bastille. Now you are getting me hopelessly confused. Isn’t the Bastille somewhere in Chile, next to the Maginot line?

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    No, Dan(M), it’s in London, adjacent to Waterloo.

    Let’s keep the French military metaphors coming, though!

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    This article totally falls apart at the end. It calls for an acceptance of atheism, but then cancels out his position and shows what a phony he is by belittling other belief systems.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Dan, Suss wasn’t being politically incorrect. He was speaking from experience, so that’s allowed.

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    Hindus, Muslims, and Jews do NOT worship the same god. The Jews and Muslims DO worship the same God – it’s the writings of those that He sent that are the religious difference between the two.

    Furthermore, the Jews and Muslims do NOT worship the same god as do the trinitarians, whose belief in a triune nature more closely mirrors that of the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva – who are believed to be the three manifestations of their supreme Iswara.

    In fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia (in the entry ‘Babylonia’) notes that Baal was part of a Trinity (with a capital ‘T’), and Herodotus notes that chaste women were kept at Baal’s temples for his ‘pleasure’ if he decided to drop by – in other words, they were his wives. In modern times there is a major religion where chaste women are married to one of the manifestations of a trinity. It is ironic indeed how much modern mainstream ‘Christianity’ seems to have borrowed from Babylonian theology and the hated Baal of Hebraic times.

    As far as I’ve been able to find, in Biblical times every nation or people from the Indus to the Mediterranean worshiped a trinity in one form or another EXCEPT for the Hebrews/Jews and of course several hundred years later the Muslims espoused the same strict nontrinitarian monotheism.

    As always, facts should determine belief, rather than allowing one’s beliefs to determine the facts.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    El Bicho, very well. Nevertheless, God may forgive him but We never shall.

    Doc, Thanks for the geography lesson. I hadn’t known that loos of that sort were already available in London.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Baronius

    Zaki’s definitions are basically correct, philosophically and theologically. As a practical matter, most people in America see a continuum of belief as follows:

    Atheist…Agnostic…Spiritual…Christian…Evangelical

    Voters aren’t crazy about in-your-face atheists or evangelicals. Let’s face it; Carter, Reagan, and Bush Jr. were not aggressively religious by American standards. And there was very little indication that either of the 2008 presidential candidates were motivated by religion. Our national comfort zone is a kind of don’t-ask-don’t-tell cultural mainline Protestantism.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    I view Atheists and Christians as having very similar certainties as to the non-existence and existence, respectively, of a god; both are quite certain in their beliefs.

    Possibly, Dan, but believing in a God does have a proactive element. Would you characterize yourself, for example, as believing that there is no god or just not believing that there is one?

    This is more probably true of second-generation atheists like my two nephews, for whom the possible presence of a deity has played no part whatsoever in their upbringing. I don’t think either of them has ever even set foot inside a church.

    They don’t believe in a god in the same way as you or I don’t believe that there’s a 5,000-mile-long Ford Focus orbiting between Mars and Jupiter*. It’s nothing to do with faith one way or the other; it just isn’t a factor.

    * Although I have heard tell of some strange cults down there in Panama, so I suppose I can’t be sure about you…!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Doc, just not believing that there is one is my position. Douglas Adams (I think), possibly while meditating in the waterloo, suggested that there may be a highly intelligent, possibly omnipotent, shade of purple somewhere in or outside the known universe, whom some might consider a God. Personally, back when sailing, I offered a toast to Neptune every morning at sunrise; that, or something else, may have kept us alive. I am not aware of any substantial evidence to the contrary.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Cindy D

    I have to go with Christopher in #14. Also Dr.D at #26.

    I can’t claim to be sure or have proof of the lack of a god.

    Oh wait! (looks around at how people choose to act) Maybe I was hasty. Looks like there is no evidence at all.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Dan,

    Douglas Adams’ hooloovoo was in fact a superintelligent shade of the colour blue. Adams doesn’t mention its purple cousin, but it was probably a dunce by comparison.

    The hooloovoo never claimed to be a god, but did engineer some damn fast (albeit alarmingly unpredictable) starships.

  • Cindy D

    Has anyone listened to Quandary Phase? I just finished that. I have to give it 5 (of 5) stars. Mostly because it’s one of the few things left of HHG.

    Not as great as the original. But it’ll do.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Doc,

    Oh, all right. Have it your way. I confess. You are right and I am left wrong.

    Dan(Miller)

    Sniff sob Damn. BUT — Purple was S(he)H(e)It’s semi-cousin, upon whom (which) the argument from unintelligent design is based.

  • Brunelleschi

    Nathaniel;

    Good job, very true!

    America wasn’t the first place to dump on atheists. They have been scaring the church since there was a church. The church has burned books and people, and murdered people for a long time -over atheism.

    Europe’s societies are a lot older and have seen religions come and go. Christians have held a majority here since the beginning and still do. They are just out of control! You can hardly bring atheism up without getting abuse from someone.

    Atheists in government and science have had to keep a low profile since there was government and science due to religious intolerance and aggression. That’s just sad.

    It’s past time for atheists to stand up and say “We exist, deal with it!”

    A good book on this is Dawkins “The God Delusion.” It’s a great manual for clear thinkers who are sick of being treated like there is something wrong with them for having a brain.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Nat/Brunelleschi,

    Speaking of Dawkins, a great author. Haven’t read that one, but his first two were great. A lucid writer and a provocative thinker. You might want to try the philosopher, Daniel Dennett(symphatitic to Dawkins’ thinking), “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea” and his other works in the philosophy of mind.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Honestly, this issue is as old as the hills and is never going away. Modern thinkers like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens aren’t presenting any ideas that weren’t already in place with the likes of Sigmund Freud or Ludwig Feuerbach. And Freud and Feuerbach were simply borrowing from others. And so on.

    Same goes for religious thought, as each tradition heavily borrows from and leans on pieces of the one before it.

    This so-called conflict will always exist, people will always struggle with the question of their existence, and they will always struggle with the question of religion. Religion isn’t going anywhere, but the manifestations of it might change in regards to politics. There will be different demons, whether atheists or Muslims, and we’ll continue to fight the same fights forever on the topic until we’re all liquidated.

    Both groups, the atheists and the religious, claim that they are marginalized or discriminated against in some fashion. That won’t change either.

    The behaviour of human beings ought not to make someone an atheist, it ought to make someone hate humanity. In all honesty, the idea of whether there’s a Greater Power or not has pretty much become irrelevant in my life. There is no conceivable way to know for sure, one way or the other, whether there’s a Being that exists in such a fashion.

    At best I can say that I don’t believe in the idea of an external God, a heaven, a hell, Jesus Christ as the Son of God, or other variations on the same theme. If there were to be any tradition I would still adhere to, it would be panentheism, which suggests that the concept of God (or gods or whatever) is essentially an extensive force behind nature…perhaps an affect and effect of the universe, if you will. I don’t believe that there is a particular “Will of God” or that we human beings can speak for whatever God is.

    I don’t believe there is any “true religion” or that religion is anything beyond humanity’s attempt to understand where it came from. There is no particular wisdom to be found exclusively in religion, but there is no particular folly in the attempt either.

    So, then, as religion naturally relates to politics, it becomes absolutely irrelevant to me. Atheism is another religious understanding (I am not saying it IS a religion, mind you) of where we came from. It is, like all other belief structures, a decision to be made about our origins, our purposes, our beings, our morals, our ethics, our struggles, our all. Atheism is a beautiful thing, as is Hinduism, as is Islam. They are all attempts at grasping our world in terms that appeal to us in some natural sense. Atheism works for people because it makes sense atheists, while Christianity works for others because it makes sense to Christians. Were I to be born into a Muslim tradition, I’d be a Muslim. And so on.

    Forgive my rambling, but I guess it’s my way of saying that I really don’t get the “big deal” over religion. It’s a weak, feeble attempt at getting at the “why” of it all. Some reject the question altogether, others reject some answers, others accept some answers. That ought to have no bearing, whatsoever, on the political arena.

    That said, I think many Americans would sooner vote in a child killer with a meth habit than an atheist or a Muslim at this point.

    Sad.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Great Article & Thanks for the Support:) GO LONDON!!!

    your life has to be pretty convenient for you to be able not to believe in gods after being raised that way.

    No. Actually, when I stopped praying to nothing for things to go my way(having a crisis when they didn’t) and just focused on successful/factual solutions to get “it” done then my life got better by my own hand. There was nothing convenient about it(it was damn hard) & I am rather pissed that I wasted as many years as I did looking for answers from a f*cking fairytale.

    AND, no, I hate the word “Atheist” but at least it is a short way of saying,”Spare me the Bullshit!!”

  • Jordan Richardson

    Just to pick up on what Brian just said:

    Prayer is an interesting thing. So many people use it for so many different purposes, from praying for a new car to praying for things to go their way to praying for their sports team to win to praying for a cure for cancer, that it loses all meaning in just about every religious tradition on earth. It’s become a way for people to get what they want out of a deity, or so they’re told by money-grubbing jackasses, and when they don’t get what they want from shouting to the heavens, they stop believing in God.

    I’m all for not believing in God due to a lack of sensible evidence or a lack of a desire to do so. But what I really don’t get is why people base their lack of belief in God on the tenets of ridiculous religions. Why would you not believe in God because She didn’t answer your prayers? Or why would you not believe in God because people do bad things? Or because there are pedophiles? Or because your mom died of cancer?

    While I realize those questions and concerns really press at the meaning and desire of having a “place” in the universe, I don’t get why human behaviour or idiocy predicates a lack of divine entity in any form.

    Rule it out because of a lack of evidence if you must, but to not believe in God because you were cut off in traffic just speaks to human selfishness, at least in my view.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    AND, no, I hate the word “Atheist” but at least it is a short way of saying,”Spare me the Bullshit!!”

    Or is it “And,YES,I hate the word “Atheist”…”

    Anyways, it is a great way to end a conversation real fast!

  • Brunelleschi

    Jordan-

    Why do you care so much if people lose their faith that way? Forget about it. It was their delusion to count on something that isn’t there, and it’s their natural reaction to it not responding.

    People wake up in different ways. Relax.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, it wasn’t quite that way,but, I didn’t want to get into my life story and I see your POV as I don’t believe that it was necessarily pointed at me.

  • Cindy D

    There is no particular wisdom to be found exclusively in religion, but there is no particular folly in the attempt either.

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if religion was merely an attempt to understand origin. But religion is much more than an attempt to understand anything.

    And what it is responsible for is certainly no folly, just absolute, breathtaking and inhuman brutality. But I wouldn’t call that folly.

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    In addition to the religious diatribe I posted above, here’s something that will probably tick off more than a few people.

    Over the years, I’ve known many, many couples, including some where one or both of the spouses were atheist. In that time, I saw no – repeat, no – lasting marriages in which one or both of the spouses was an atheist.

    PLEASE UNDERSTAND that I’m not saying that to insult anyone – that was ONLY my own observation…and the vast majority of oh-so-pious religions have nothing to brag about.

  • Cindy D

    Why do you think they lasted Glenn?

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    re: #41 – obviously anecdotal evidence, but me and TheWife™ will soon celebrate out 10th anniversary. her being the christian who has worked for several christian and evangelical organizations while i am an atheist.

  • Cindy D

    That something “lasts”, what does that say? It doesn’t say much to me.

  • http://www.marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    “lasts”….truly, that depends. i mean, i was married before for quite a long time, but the marriage itself was dead long before its legal end.

  • Cindy D

    Maybe they just endured.

    I think several non-believers will disagree with you Glenn. Me for # two.

  • Brunelleschi

    Glenn

    #41-

    Nonsense. My ex and I are both atheists!

    :)

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    To those who took offense at what I posted, look again at my last paragraph:

    “PLEASE UNDERSTAND that I’m not saying that to insult anyone – that was ONLY my own observation…and the vast majority of oh-so-pious religions have nothing to brag about.”

  • Cindy D

    Glenn,

    No offense. But you didn’t answer my questions. I’ll just presume then they were inured to the bondage of matrimony.

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    You asked – and please remember that I own my statements and mean no insults or hurt to anyone.

    Personally, I think that marriages where both belong to a religion are more successful for the same reason that (again, in my own unscientific opinion) those who are religious usually are less likely to commit felonies – the reason being that someone who believes that Someone is looking over his should is less likely to do something that Someone would not want him to do.

    You’ll probably disagree strongly with that – but that’s only my opinion.

    And perhaps I should mention that marriages within the Church of which I’m a member have (in my own observation) an 80-85% success rate. Of course, one reason is that we don’t believe in divorce (or ‘annullment’ (unless the marriage was illegal to begin with)). This helps, because most couples tend to find that when things get really contentious, they’d better find a way to kiss and make up because they’re stuck with each other for life. Pretty tough – but it works.

  • Cindy D

    Glenn,

    So basically what you’re saying is that you don’t have adequate internal ethics and you need some invisible person to threaten to punish or disapprove of you in order to do what’s right by your partner.

    It seems you both may as well have committed whatever “felonies” you mean as the whole thing sounds more like a prison than a partnership to me.

  • Cindy D

    I don’t need a god to tell me to be loving or faithful or to work through difficulty. Nor do I think suffering is noble.

  • Clavos

    I’m a second generation nonbeliever. I’ve been living with the same woman since 1967, and joined legally to her in a civil union not sanctioned by any church, but recognized by the state (officiated by a Notary Public, legal in Florida), since 1971, and looking forward with much pleasure and anticipation to many more.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Clavos, for that you have my respect. On a different tangent, I found it interesting that God was praised for saving all those lives in the Hudson River, but wasn’t mentioned as the cause, or even bothering to prevent it in the first place.

    Does it take “an act of God” to divert a few ducks and geese?

  • Clavos

    Does it take “an act of God” to divert a few ducks and geese?

    Funny you should mention that.

    I heard a discussion of the accident this evening in regard to the possibility of lawsuits being filed against USAir. One of the participants (an attorney) opined that they would probably not prevail, because the accident’s cause, if it turns out that the NTSB verifies that it really was bird ingestion in one or both engines, will legally be considered an act of god, whereas many (if not most) aviation accidents are determined to be pilot error.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    I started college wanting to be an NTSB investigator, but ran out of money though I still have a lot of the (dated) textbooks.

    Bird ingestion is not all that unusual, but the odds of both engines being taken out is astronomical.

    the pilot and crew deserve the highest praise possible and then some. I rank him right up there with the CD 10 pilot that saved most of his passengers in Sioux City in the crash that cartwheeled down the runway.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Though the passengers deserve something for the ordeal, they don’t deserve millions a piece. The one’s that start lawsuits deserve nothing for their greed.

    …but that’s only my opinion

  • Jordan Richardson

    Why do you care so much if people lose their faith that way? Forget about it. It was their delusion to count on something that isn’t there, and it’s their natural reaction to it not responding.

    People wake up in different ways. Relax.

    This puzzles me. Why do you assume I “care so much?” Did you read my #34 at all? All I was saying in the comment you’re referencing is that I’d rather the rejection of religious concepts be logical not reactionary. It makes a stronger case. It’s like not wanting to have a child because you heard one screaming and throwing a tantrum in a grocery store. It’s probably better to not want to have a child for “better reasons,” I would imagine, and the case would be stronger with a better set of criteria.

    There are PLENTY of great reasons for not subscribing to a religious view of the world. Tonnes of them. Not receiving an “answer to prayer” isn’t one of them, in my opinion.

    Cindy,

    I wouldn’t have a problem with it if religion was merely an attempt to understand origin. But religion is much more than an attempt to understand anything.

    That’s really a broad statement. It all depends on who you’re referring to and who you talk to. There are countless ways for people to live out their religions and countless reasons that people turn to and turn away from religion. Most religions BEGAN as attempts to understand origin. And most evolved into mechanisms of varying degrees of control or corruption. Such is the nature of HUMANITY, not the mechanism. Were religion not used as an excuse to commit brutal acts, we, brilliant and egotistical species we are, would have devised another lie to do the very same.

    I guess I don’t share the commonly held notion that the world would suddenly zap into being a better place were we to eradicate religion. Being an eternal pessimist when it comes to humanity, I always imagine a few years down the road as we war between vegans and carnivores, perhaps, or those who like the colour blue versus those who prefer red. Conflict, often brutal conflict, is in our nature.

    And what it is responsible for is certainly no folly, just absolute, breathtaking and inhuman brutality. But I wouldn’t call that folly.

    Actually, what I said wasn’t referring to what religion is “responsible for.” While I still contend that human beings are responsible and not the empty artificiality of “religion,” I was referring to the fact that there is no inherent folly in seeking some form of truth in religion.

    My grandmother went to her grave a believing Christian, dreaming of heaven and a life serving her Lord. She gathered peace, all throughout her dying days, and gathered comfort from what she believed in her entire life. She dedicated her life wholly to the service of others, helping homeless people and others in need. My grandmother believed that by serving “the least of these,” she was serving God. It didn’t matter who “the least of these” were in her eyes – whether they believed in God or not was irrelevant, as was what their political affiliations were, how they dressed, how they talked, where they were from, and so on. All that mattered was that she was helping those in need of it. No hour was too late, no day was too long.

    For my grandmother and the other religious individuals like her, there is NO folly in the lives they have chosen. There is NO folly in choosing to serve their God in such a fashion, NO folly in choosing a life of service. Even if we choose to refer to my grandmother’s life as being lived in the shadow of a Grand Delusion, her life was all the richer for it. And as she passed away, she smiled because she knew what she had in store. There is no folly in that, either, and none among us would be so callous as to call her a fool for living as she wished to live.

    Now I have to wonder: were my grandmother’s religious beliefs responsible for her kindness or was she a kind woman with or without her Christianity? Conversely, is religion responsible for violence and brutality or does that exist with or without religion?

    Flawed as the constructs of religion are – and well flawed they should be, as we invented them in our hours of greed and need – it is humanity that bears responsibility. There is no magic button to push, no cure, no “one thing” we can get rid of that will end this condition. It is in us. And it will always be in us.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that you or anyone else are of the mindset that removing religion would be a cure-all, although there are some groups and some prominent atheists that seem to believe this is the case. I am, instead, suggesting a broader understanding of religion and a broader acceptance of it. Why do people turn to religion? What can we learn from them? What can they learn from us? How can we work with our common humanity? And so on.

    I’m sick of dividing over the pieces of life that make us individuals. I’m so tired of hearing about how one group is inherently dangerous, about how all Muslims hate women and want to bomb us, about how all Christians want to take away gay rights and force us to pray in schools, about how all atheists want us to ban Christmas and all religious expression. We, as humans, need to learn to work together with our delusions, flaws, faults, struggles, wills, ideas, and so on. We need to forgive each other, develop patience, understanding, and compassion regardless of what we believe.

    Everyone is responsible for brutality, religious or not. We all have blood on our hands. It’s time to wash it off, but I fear our divisions will have us returning to crimson again and again and our children’s children won’t know the better world we keep talking about.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I found it interesting that God was praised for saving all those lives in the Hudson River, but wasn’t mentioned as the cause, or even bothering to prevent it in the first place.

    Yeah, that type of thing always interests me too. Some people believe that one God only does the good stuff, while his Brother is in charge of the geese into planes and the tsunamis.

    Weird.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Jordan,

    Though my “Awakening” may sound very reactionary, it was,eventually, logic that made me change my mind. If you think that you can make such a huge change in your life without any kind of reaction first then I think you are full of it. I was raised in this fairytale by people that I love. It can become full of emotion when you have to take a different path & basically go against what your family believes. It was insulting to them & painful for me to be true to myself! Prayer is a huge part of the Catholic faith and maybe I’m not intelligent enough, but, I wasn’t getting any communication. When things are not working out for you, then, God’s “plan” becomes “mysterious”. Priests & fellow followers give you the same BS that we are not smart enough to understand his/her plan…*AHHhh* It’s all a load of BS and I don’t wanna get into it. Ultimately, No one has any f*cking answers & everyone translates that f*cking book differently. I finally had enough and decided to live my life the way I wanted and not in service to any f*cking invisible He-She.

  • Jordan Richardson

    B,

    My comments were intended to be very general and in no way, shape, or form directed towards you or your personal experience. I am not saying that such a change isn’t brought about by a reaction, as my change was of course brought about by a reaction and, indeed, by a series of reactions supported by years of study and theological instruction.

    There is, of course, a moment in time in which something ceases to make sense or something ceases to be “just so.” That wasn’t what I was trying to say at all. Instead, I attempted (poorly, as usual) to express the mere notion that I hope people that reject or accept religious beliefs do so based on logic, merit, and so forth instead of reacting to the dissolution of a myth. There is more to “God,” so to speak, than a Christian mythology or a Native American understanding or what have you.

    As my post intended to express (again, very poorly), there is a great deal of confusion about prayer and what it does. Is it really communicating with God? No, I don’t think so. I have never actually believed that, regardless of what my theological instructors thought and regardless of what my pastors thought. I learned different prayer traditions from different religions, including those that believe you pray for the good of yourself and those who believe you pray as a sort of centering activity to help unify your “spirit” with the universe. I decided that prayer was what the individual made of it, not what a doctrine of the church made of it, and that prayer was and is different for every single spiritual being that decides to take part in it. When people pray for “answers,” I think they lose the thread of what it can do.

    Even when I was calling myself a Christian, I never prayed for answers or for things to be done or for a feeling. In fact, I rarely prayed. When I did, it was to feel like I was a part of something greater and, in those moments, it often did the trick. But as I grew older and learned more about other prayer traditions, I learned that prayer can be whatever I needed it to be in the moment. My wife and I still pray every single night before bed, not because we believe in a “f*cking invisible He-She” like the stuff of lore, but rather that we believe it helps center our marriage on something external.

    In terms of understanding “God’s plan,” I don’t believe any of us can speak for God if God exists and I don’t believe any of us have the ability to do so either. It’s insulting when people claim to know God’s “will” or when they know what God’s “like” or what God “does.” I don’t know what God is, what God wants, if God’s actually there somewhere, or if God’s the “ground of all being.” I don’t believe I can know. On the other hand, I’m fascinated by religions and by the possibility of God and of spirits. I believe in spiritual energy of some sort, although I don’t know what it is. I believe religion can be a helpful tool, although it has been created by humans and has no bearing on anything Divine. The scriptures, all holy books, and all other works all have the same merits in that they were also written by humans and created by humans. The Bible, the Koran, and everything else were all penned by men (some women in some traditions) trying to understand a larger purpose of things. That’s all they are to me, nothing more and nothing less. They are important, they are not ridiculous anymore than my thoughts or your thoughts on the matter are ridiculous. They are just that: thoughts.

    I guess what I’m struggling to say is that I don’t constantly think about the possibility of God because I want the answer. I think about the possibility of God because I find that the journey enriches my life, centers me, and provides something of interest. Religion is an interesting topic, as it is very insightful as to how we as humans think and believe. Some rightly reject, while others rightly embrace it. It is what it is.

  • Brian aka Guppusmaximus

    Well, at first, that is what I thought but then I got no reply from you about #39, so, I started thinking (Oh Shit, that’s not a good thing*Smirk*).

    As for the “Personal” GOD/Spirit/Earth Mother…It doesn’t really interest me anymore as I find that,now, I wish I had spent those years reading “factual” thoughts from people of science,math & technology instead of the “spritual” musings of some dude on peyote or whatever the drugs they had to be on to talk about turning water into wine or some prophet walking on water.To me, their intent was to foster fear & intimidation if you don’t live up to those f*cked up standards. The Bible,Koran, etc.. seem way more than just some thoughts.

    BUT, that’s your choice and I’m not damning it. Whatever gets you through those hard times and makes you happy.

  • Baronius

    All of these comments about prayer, and most every description involved getting something: a favor from God, or a feeling about God. Christian prayer is supposed to be what St. Teresa of Avila called “a close meeting between friends”. Just my two cents; I know that this is your conversation, not mine.

  • Cindy D

    I don’t know where to put this. It’s for Dan(Miller).

    Five Somali pirates drown as they squabble over their $3million ransom

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Thanks, Cindy D.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Cindy D

    RE #58

    Jordan,

    That’s really a broad statement.

    Yes, it was. I was just thinking about something I read about Jews and Arabs coexisting peacefully in the area for a long time before Israel came into being.

    I just wonder if they’d have so much to fight about if they didn’t have religion.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Here is an article about Jews and Arabs in Panamá City. Although relations have historically been quite peaceful, there was a street demonstration today. Someone on the scene reported,

    Saying India has joined them in “the struggle” and they will “blow themselves up” if it’s necessary. I learned the Israeli Ambassador lives in the Banco General tower. It’s a peaceful crowd – just noisy Oops – looks like they are burning an Israeli flag – I can see the smoke but nothing else. They have a banner with “Judios Asesinos” and nazi symbols.

    It probably won’t amount to much more than that, at least I hope it won’t.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Brunelleschi

    Cindy D-

    In Israel/Palestine, religion IS politics. Three monotheistic faiths came from a single spot as a product of all the fighting, and it’s spread world wide. What a mess!

    The fighting is as built in as faith is. Just read one of Ruvy’s rants and multiply it by the population there.

  • Cindy D

    I hope not too.

  • Cindy D

    Brunelleschi,

    I just read what I wrote. That they coexisted peacefully before the state. Maybe I was looking at it the wrong way. So, they lived together despite their differences before the state appeared.

  • Brunelleschi

    Cindy-

    I was thinking further back in time, like how each of the three faiths are really just political rivals from the beginning.

    Christianity started there when a jewish dissident said the occupying powers would be overthrown by a higher power, if you follow me…..

    That’s just how things were back then, and they still are.

    There are plenty of times in history when faiths put up with each other in Jerusalem, but they flare up again and again. I agree the current crisis is because of the creation of Israel, that’s for sure.

  • Cindy D

    Religions and states two good ways to control people. Look how well they complement each other when combined into one.

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Cindy –

    Yes, it was. I was just thinking about something I read about Jews and Arabs coexisting peacefully in the area for a long time before Israel came into being.
    I just wonder if they’d have so much to fight about if they didn’t have religion.

    FAR more Jews have died at the hands of ‘Christians’ than at the hands of Muslims. Jews can and do live peacefully in Muslim countries – they are normally something akin to a ‘second-class citizen’ and have to endure varying amounts of prejudice and religious persecution…but still they live in relative peace, at least in most Sunni countries. They’re facing more prosecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution, though.

    The reason the Muslims hate Israel – but not the Jews – is because of what they see as “radical Zionism”.

  • Zedd

    I’m sure that we’ve had several Presidents who are atheists. Perhaps even this one is an atheist. they wouldn’t dare admit it.

    If one is an atheist, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that you are a believer because you don’t believe in sin or consequences for wrong doings. I’m sure we’ve had lots of Presidents who are atheists.

    Just a thought.

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    People who don’t believe there is a supreme being don’t believe in consequences? And don’t believe in wrongdoings?

    So, you are saying that without a god to enforce standards, people are unethical.

  • Brunelleschi

    Ethics existed before religions did. Religions are just trying to take credit for ethics and “own” it.

    No thanks!

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Nathaniel – Thanks for the article. There have been very few recent posts from the atheist viewpoint.

    First, I’ll admit that I haven’t read all the comments above. I haven’t been here for a few days and I’m just trying to catch up. It’s good to see that the article has spawned so much discussion.

    I don’t have a problem with the word “atheist.” I’ve not heard a better one. One word separates us non-believers from ALL believers. It works for me. Secular humanist just seems awkwardly self-conscious and unnecessarily euphemistic. I am a member of the “Brights,” but I consider that a lame and at least nominally condescending appellation.

    I know of no openly atheist politicians. I doubt that any roam the halls of Congress or inhabit any state houses, perhaps not even any state legislatures. There may be a few closet atheists or agnostics in public office, but few have or will step out while they continue to have political aspirations. Of course, we DO know of a small number of openly gay office holders.

    As I see it the fear and loathing believers have of atheists and gays among others is that they fear their respective god (or gods) will cancel their tickets on the Paradise Express if they are perceived as being in any way tolerant of them in their midst. (What a lousy sentence. I hope you, dear reader, can follow which “their, they, and them” refers to whom, er, uh, what. What?)

    Nevertheless, the hatred that believers – mainly christians in much of the west – harbour against gays and atheists is self serving at best.

    Baritone

  • http://ex-conservative.blogspot.com Glenn Contrarian

    Baritone –

    “Nevertheless, the hatred that believers – mainly christians in much of the west – harbour against gays and atheists is self serving at best.”

    I agree wholeheartedly – well said.

  • Clavos

    How profound, Bar.

    ALL hatred is self-serving…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Baritone,

    Here is an unfortunately short list of Agnostics in politics and law, including presidents of Chile (2) and Austria and prime ministers of New Zealand, Australia (2) and Spain. There is a longer, and somewhat repetitive, list of Atheists, though I suspect there may be some confusion over the meanings of Atheist and Agnostic. My preferred definition is in Comment #8

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Ticket to Heaven
    Dire Straits (probably one of the most beautiful and moving songs they’ve ever written.)

    I can see what you’re looking to find,
    in the smile on my face,
    in my peace of mind, in my state of grace

    I send what I can to the man from the ministry
    Hes a part of heaven’s plan, and he talks to me

    Now I send what I can to the man
    with the diamond ring
    He’s a part of heaven’s plan
    And he sure can sing

    Now its all I can afford
    but the lord has sent me eternity
    It’s to save the little children
    in a poor country

    I got my ticket to heaven
    and everlasting life
    I got a ride all the way to paradise
    I got my ticket to heaven
    And everlasting life
    All the way to paradise

    Now theres nothing left for luxuries
    Nothing left to pay my heating bill

    But the good lord will provide
    I know he will

    So send what you can
    to the man with the diamond ring
    they’re tuning in across the land
    to hear him sing

    I got my ticket to heaven
    and everlasting life
    I got a ride all the way to paradise

    I got my ticket to heaven
    and everlasting life
    all the way to paradise

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    You can listen to “ticket to heaven” about a man whose been conned into giving all his money to the church by clicking here

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Interesting lists, Dan. I see what you mean about the repetition – Michelle Bachelet, for example, apparently accomplishes the rarely-attempted intellectual gymnastic feat of being an atheist and an agnostic at the same time.

    Of the British politicians in the list, I frankly had no idea that any of them were nonbelievers. Name any British politician other than Tony Blair and I wouldn’t be able to tell you what their outlook on faith was. It just isn’t something that’s discussed much in public life: although Blair’s devout faith is well-known, he rarely invoked it in his capacity of Prime Minister.

    I’m not surprised that there are no Conservative politicians on the list (unless I missed one). God (preferably although not necessarily the Christian version) does seem to be a bigger deal for those on the Right in Britain. Possibly it has something to do with loyalty to the monarch – one of whose titles is, after all, Defender of the Faith – which is one of the pillars of Conservative ideology.

  • Clavos

    RE #80:

    On the list of atheists:

    Barack Obama, Sr.

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Considering that Obama’s father had next to nothing to do with his upbringing, or his current beliefs, why the hell does it matter?

    Are you trying to visit the sins of the father upon the son Clavos?

  • Clavos

    Are you trying to put words in my mouth, Jet?

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Of the top of my head I can think of a few alternatives. turnabout is fair play?

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    Why then did you list/suggest Obama Sr. as an athiest?

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/dan_miller Dan(Miller)

    Doc,

    There is a clever discussion in Yes Prime Minister of the place of religion in British politics, in the chapter “The Bishop’s Gambit.” PM Hacker had to select a candidate to present to the Queen for Bishop of Bury St. Edmunds. One was an Atheist.

    Oh, no, Prime Minister, he [Humphrey] replied wickedly. An atheist clergyman couldn’t continue to draw his stipend. So when they stop believing in God they call themselves modernists.

    The other favored disestablishing the Church of England. Hacker was perplexed.

    one candidate wants to get God out of the Church of England and the other wants to get the Queen out of it,

    seemingly inconsistent with her position as Defender of the Faith.

    Finally, it all seems to have worked out more or less satisfactorily.

    Dan(Miller)

  • Clavos

    Why then did you list/suggest Obama Sr. as an athiest?

    I didn’t. I merely pointed out that he appears on a list posted by Dan(Miller), which I thought interesting (that he appears on the list, not that Dan(Miller) posted it).

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Clav,

    I made the point regarding christian hatred of gays and atheists being self-serving as they purport that it is otherwise. But, if you want to take the next step, pretty much all feelings toward others are self-serving including love. The most supposedly altruistic act has its self-serving aspects, wouldn’t you say? I think we’ve had this discussion before.

    Dan (Miller),

    I suppose I should have revealed my American chauvinism by stipulating that I was refering only to American politicians. Given the far less intensive religious involvement in much of Europe, it would not be difficult to find non-believers in all levels of government there.

    B

  • Clavos

    Point well taken, B-tone. You’re dead on.

  • Jack D

    75 — January 16, 2009 @ 23:01PM — Cindy D

    “So, you are saying that without a god to enforce standards, people are unethical”

    Cindy, what standards do you have that are not based on New Testament teachings?

  • Cindy D

    Jack,

    Probably all of them.

    Meaning any standards I have are not based on New Testament teachings.

  • http://www.legalarcade.com Nathaniel

    Thank you everyone, for your comments. I’ve stayed out of the discussion, but I’ve been watching and this is all very good discussion.

    I just had to step in to say to Jack, ethics are older than the New Testament, obviously. For one, the Old Testament, so I’m a bit confused as to what your point is. Humanity naturally knows to treat one another mostly as they would like to be treated. Every religion (and non-spiritual philosophy akin to Confucianism) has mostly the same set of standards, besides odd things like not getting near pigs, so I think that that humans all know generally how to be ethical, without a god to threaten them.

  • Jordan Richardson

    The Bible,Koran, etc.. seem way more than just some thoughts.

    To some people they are, B. But not to me.

    I often wonder if the original authors of these religious texts could have anticipated how people would take their writings years later, how people would misinterpret certain pieces, frame things in incorrect contexts, and so forth. While Christianity is the religion of Paul, not Christ, I wonder if even the Apostle would recognize his religion.

  • http://www.legalarcade.com Nathaniel

    Fareed Zakaria did say something about the Koran possibly meaning 72 raisins rather than 72 virgins when he was on the Daily Show. The translations of every old religious text aren’t exactly spot on anymore.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Oh Christ, the houri is basically the Islamic equivalent of believing you get wings and a harp when you get up to your celestial cloud. The whole 72 virgins thing is based on one of countless interpretations, with the white raisins Zakaria spoke of coming out of the belief that Islamic “heaven” is sort of a garden with all sorts of delicious rare fruit (white raisins being one such rare fruit during the time of Qur’anic authorship).

    Some other scholars believe that it simply means that you’ll have nice eyes when you reach paradise. Or that it refers to women who don’t pee (as in the Sunan al-Tirmidhi hadith collection). Or full-breasted maidens.

    Perhaps the bigger point here is that there’s nothing in the Qur’an that states that there are 72 of anything. So that exact number came after any originating mention of the concept at all and was mentioned in the hadith, too, which are supposedly attributed to Muhammad although nobody’s all that sure.

    Translating old texts take years and years, yet many people (like the Rational Response Squad’s Rook Hawkins) claim to be able to interpret these things in very little time and with very little effort. It just isn’t possible. In many ways, scriptural texts such as the Qur’an, the Bible, the Upanishads, the Talmud, and anything else are just flat-out irrelevant for any practical application.

    You’re better off looking to Oprah or perhaps The Secret for guidance in a modern context. :P

  • Jack D

    95 — January 17, 2009 @ 22:26PM — Nathaniel [URL]

    “I think that that humans all know generally how to be ethical…”

    You must be kidding.

  • Jack D

    #96 — January 17, 2009 @ 22:42PM — Jordan Richardson

    “While Christianity is the religion of Paul, not Christ, I wonder if even the Apostle would recognize his religion.”

    And I wonder if you have read the Four Gospels and compared them with the Letters of Paul.

  • Jack D

    #94 — January 17, 2009 @ 22:21PM — Cindy D
    Jack,

    “Probably all of them. Meaning any standards I have are not based on New Testament teachings.”

    Then you are saying that your conscience has been formed outside of Christian teaching?

    What teaching formed it?

  • Cindy D

    Jack,

    Well, I suppose it started with my own personal experiences as a child.

    Other than that, my first main influence would be an extensive record collection left to me by my youngest aunt. So, I have to credit Donovan, Melanie, Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, and the like with my initial training in ethics.

    Later, of course, there were the usual spectrum of reading materials.

  • Clavos

    @#99:

    To say that all humans know how to be ethical is not to say that they are.

  • Jack D

    No kidding.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And I wonder if you have read the Four Gospels and compared them with the Letters of Paul.

    First, there are more than Four Gospels. But yeah, studied the synoptics and John’s account for years. Same with Paul’s letters.

    Establishing the dates becomes important, as Paul’s greatest theological work and greatest influence on what is known as Christianity came in the book of Romans. Romans was written, it is widely believed, in the mid to late 50s. Now the first gospel to be written was Mark, which has its authorship (most sensibly, anyways) in the late 70s. Paul’s theology was laid out before the gospels were.

    Of course, dating any books such as these is a tricky proposition but there are a number of clues that we won’t get into here. The basic point is that Paul’s theology was laid out prior to the writing of any of the Four Gospels you mention.

    Now we can get into a host of issues here involving interpretation and exegesis, etc., but I’d rather not if I can avoid. The basic point is that many of the core elements of Christianity came from Pauline tradition. The ideas of atonement, redemption, grace through faith, and so forth were put forth by Paul in Romans before the concepts made Gospel appearances.

    Paul was also awfully conflicted, often shuffling back and forth between Jewish Law and what he believed to be Christ’s teachings on Jewish Law with often confusing results. He fumbles on circumcision more than a few times, agrees to perform purification, and even circumcises Timothy. Paul also argues in favour of a few interesting concepts, such as resurrection of the dead and the Second Coming. This, as well as other concepts we now come to understand as being Christian, come from Pauline contexts and Paul’s own understanding of Christ’s words in the context of his time, his Jewish tradition, and so forth.

    That doesn’t even get into whether or not we trust that the Pauline Letters actually were written by Paul or if we float the Elaine Pagels theory of pseudo-Pauline works, etc. Or how Platonic Paul’s thoughts really were.

    In general, I’m sort of a supporter of what Thomas Jefferson had to say about Paul: that he was “the first corrupter of the doctrines of Jesus.”

  • Jack D

    Hitler and Stalin knew how to be ethical?

  • Clavos

    Hitler and Stalin knew how to be ethical?

    Of course they did.

  • Jack D

    #105 — January 17, 2009 @ 23:55PM — Jordan Richardson

    “Establishing the dates becomes important… Of course, dating any books such as these is a tricky proposition…”

    Then what you are saying is important is based on a tricky proposition.

    Your problem is you are hung up on your own tricky proposition and other trivia.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Then what you are saying is important is based on a tricky proposition.

    Hence, religion.

    Your problem is you are hung up on your own tricky proposition and other trivia.

    Not really much of a problem for me, so I’m not quite sure what your angle is…

  • Jack D

    #107 — January 18, 2009 @ 00:05AM — Clavos
    Hitler and Stalin knew how to be ethical?

    “Of course they did.”

    Yes, in their own deranged minds. But that didn’t make their deranged ‘ethics’ ethical.

  • Jordan Richardson

    By the way, Jack, do you know of any scholar that would not suggest that knowing the dates of “holy” texts is important AND incredibly difficult to hammer down?

  • Brunelleschi

    Jack,

    Aristotle, about 350 BC.

    Aristotle is where western concepts of ethics come from, and he is not a religious figure. Organizers of faiths back then were only picking up on questions of morality and ethics that already existed. Today faiths act like they invented ethics, but that is false.

    The religions that did the best job of gathering support by answering ethical and moral questions (that already existed) survived and lasted-just like natural selection works in nature.

    How do ya like that? The religions that hate evolution owe their existence to natural selection. :)

  • Clavos

    Yes, in their own deranged minds.

    Deranged, yes. But not ignorant of ethics; simply disregarding them, a not uncommon human attitude, practiced even by men (and women) of the cloth from time to time.

    What in Hitler’s and Stalin’s life histories makes you think they didn’t know “how to be ethical?”

  • Jack D

    #112 — January 18, 2009 @ 00:14AM — Brunelleschi
    Jack,

    “Aristotle, about 350 BC. .. Aristotle is where western concepts of ethics come from, and he is not a religious figure.”

    The fact remains that most people in the Western world got their ethics based on Christian teaching.

  • Jordan Richardson

    And Christian teaching got its ethics from…?

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    “The fact remains that most people in the Western world got their ethics based on Christian teaching.”

    So? That doesn’t mean christians own them. I got mine from “Leave it to Beaver,” “Father Knows Best,” “Captain Midnight,” and “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” At that time in my life I knew little of christianity or religion. My parents were not church goers.

    Morality and ethics were not handed down to man from some god. They came into man’s consciousness along with his movement toward civilization. Setting up some standards of morality and ethics is what made civilization – people living and working together in concert to provide a longer, safer and generally better quality of life – possible. They served man’s ability to survive.

    All of the so called holy texts written throughout the ages include most if not all of the basic tenets of morality and ethics. Christians don’t have a corner on that market, although many believe they do.

    Clavos is likely correct as regards Hitler and Stalin. These were intelligent men. They most certainly understood the concepts of morality and ethics. But it is also likely that they were both terribly deranged sociopaths who twisted such concepts to their own purpose. For them, the end justified the means. While Stalin was most certainly an atheist, Hitler, while loathing the church, was in fact a christian – or at least he thought so and said so.

    It has been my experience that atheists as a group are no less moral nor no less ethical than any group of believers. As atheists have no god to please, there is about them generally a much calmer, well considered and thoughtful demeaner. They (dare I say, we?) aren’t trying to get god’s attention. On the whole atheists may well be far more moral and ethical than many believers. We have nothing to prove, no heavenly train to catch, no hellish pit to avoid.

    B

  • Brunelleschi

    Christians taking credit for ethics/morality would be like the guy that invented cars taking credit for inventing “speed.”

  • Jack D

    Let’s see what the record shows. The Roman Empire which controlled the Western world for 500 years was converted to Christianity. The Huns, Visigoths, Lombards, and other barbarians were converted to Christianity. Previously, the predominant ‘ethics’ was survival of the fittest. If Christianity had not predominated, it is likely barbarianism would have prevailed. Our ethics would still be based on survival of the fittest.

    That’s what the record shows.

  • Cindy D

    Our ethics would still be based on survival of the fittest.

    You mean, they’re not?

  • Jack D

    ‘Survival of the fittest’ simply means ‘survival of those who are physically best equipped for surviving.’ If I can bash your brain in and kill you I am the one who should survive.

  • Cindy D

    Survival of the fittest is built in to the system via it’s ideas about markets and economy.

    Those who succeed (or are lucky enough to inherit) are the fittest. The rest are variously lazy, stupid, inept or simply don’t have what it takes and are therefore the “unfittest”.

  • Jack D

    #121 — January 18, 2009 @ 12:40PM — Cindy D

    “Survival of the fittest is built in to the system via it’s ideas about markets and economy.”

    Tell that to those who were raped, pillaged, and killed by the Vikings before the Scandinavians were converted to Christianity.

  • Arch Conservative

    “Oh, and your bit about Romney the robot? Brilliance.”

    Yeah it’s just too bad for this nation which is in a major economic downturn, that Romney the robot, who has forgotten more about economics and business than Obama will ever know, was passed on due to religious bigotry from within his own party.

    So instead of electing a guy that actually understands economics and how businesses can create jobs we got a guy who was a novelty because of the color of his skin and who happened to be in the right place at the right time as an extremely unpopular president from the opposing party was on his way out.

    It shouldn’t be long now before the morons on the left begin labelling all criticism of Obama’s performance as racism. The next few year’s are going to be interesting to say the least.

  • Cindy D

    Jack,

    One precludes the other?

  • http://www.indyboomer46.blogspot.com Baritone

    Of course, there has been no raping and pillaging under the name of christianity has there? So all the crap that happened, during the ‘great’ crusades was sweetness and light, huh? Or maybe in your mind it doesn’t count as raping and pillaging since those raped and pillaged were not christians?

    Give me a break! What a load.

    Literally millions of people have been slaughtered in the name of christianity.

    And as Cindy D notes, “survival of the fittest” does NOT only refer to physical prowess. Capitalism is wholly based on it.

    People who believe that christians are now and have always been goody two shoes have simply been deluded by their bible waving preachers who spew christian propaganda.

    B

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Yes, Baritone,

    We haven’t managed to get away from Spencer, however hard some apologists may have tried.
    I’ll take exception, though, to your saying that people still believe that Christians have always been goody two shoes. Who are those people?
    You can’t mean our Christian right or anybody on this website. It just cannot be.

  • Jack D

    #125 — January 18, 2009 @ 15:09PM — Baritone

    “Of course, there has been no raping and pillaging under the name of christianity has there?”

    That’s like questioning whether there has been murder, raping, torturing or other crimes in the name of the United States Constitution. We do not throw out or denigrate the principles because of what a few do. Those who deviate from the principles soon die. The principles live on for future generations to follow.

    “And as Cindy D notes, “survival of the fittest” does NOT only refer to physical prowess. Capitalism is wholly based on it.”

    We have a living example of our ‘capitalism’ in Bernie Madoff. He would still be surviving if the economy didn’t happen to tank in 2008. Examples of those surviving include Henry Paulson who has managed to survive with a cool $500 million. If Wall Street thieves are the ‘fittest’ — the country is in extremely deep trouble.

    I am not against capitalism, having been in business for many years, But I have seen first hand how crooked some venture capitalists are. I also have seen how other ‘honorable people’ steal and lie when money or power is involved and then hire lawyers to perpetuate their lies to cover up their misdeeds.

    I succeeded in business and I would not give up the benefits of capitalism just because some abuse it, just as I would not give up on Christianity and its principles just because some have abused it.

  • Cindy D

    Jack,

    So, is it relative then? Is it a beneficial system because it is one in which you personally succeed? Capitalism, I mean.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Jack, please demonstrate how the ethics of the Huns, Visigoths, Lombards, Vikings and others were based on ‘survival of the fittest’ rather than another standard.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    I should clarify. Off course people who don’t believe in God know there are consequences, in a temporal sense. However, they don’t believe in sin and eternal damnation. So they wouldn’t be damned if they claimed to believe in God when they believe there is none.

    Without a transcendent, spiritual element to humans what is the purpose of a conscience? If we are just animals or simply matter better yet, what’s a conscience for? Yes it deters us from being destructive but that does not require a conscience. That is simply a serve preservation device. Why a conscience?

  • Zedd

    Bar,

    “Nevertheless, the hatred that believers – mainly christians in much of the west – harbour against gays and atheists is self serving at best.”

    With the exception of a few people who probably hate everyone, I’m more than sure that you’ve got it all wrong about the HATRED thing. It’s like Ruvy thinking that anyone who doesn’t agree with Israel’s policies is anti-Semitic. Major over kill Bar. You seem to have come to a place where you demonizing Christians in a “Ruvyesque mad man out of control” sorta way. It’s personal isn’t it.

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    Thanks that makes more sense to me.

    Why a conscience?

    It’s in the interest of survival. Without any conscience we couldn’t have gotten here from there.

    So far (and this might change), I see conscience as a function of social relationship. I think this helps explain why people don’t necessarily empathize with those they aren’t perceiving they are in relationship with. (whatever that relationship might be–family, citizen of a country).

    That is, it’s easy to care more about whomever one perceives as being part of one’s own group. I think we don’t care about “them” and much as we care about “us”. If this is correct, dividing people is a good way to control them.

    This is one problem I have with religion.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Why a conscience?

    Zedd, that is an extremely interesting question. The answer depends a lot on exactly what you think a conscience is.

    To start us off, here’s one theory.

  • Zedd

    Doc,

    In a nutshell, “The human conscience is a biologically based intrinsic valuing system which is developed as a protection for the integrated personality of the human organism. The human organism depends on the conscience for survival of the individual organism and survival of the species.”

    I sorta agree. However, animals survive without a conscience. When they act outside of what is expected of them and they get killed. The conscience is not what keeps them alive, it is the deterrent (a nip from mom, etc.)

    Nice conjecture though Doc.

    People with attachment issues survive. Jeffery Dahmer survived. I’m sure there are many such people who are roaming the Earth void of a conscience. They survive.

    Also, who is to say that that “gift” of being able to gain a conscience was not imparted by a supreme being. Who’s to say that a supreme being did not set forth the serias of events that would create humanity with a conscience, so that we could percieve Him in us? In other words, the evolutionary process does not discount the existance of God.

  • Cindy D

    That’s interesting Dr.D,

    Maslow worked with one of the main people who inform my ideas about social relationship–Harry Harlow. He did the rhesus monkey experiments, which demonstrated that the baby monkeys required a nurturing parent (as well as a social relationship with peers). There were a whole variety of conditions he studied. For example, baby monkeys had access to either a real mother, a cloth mother, a wire mother. In some experiments they were deprived of all contact. His experiments were about what he called “love”. Not, a very scientific term (made me like him even more than the researchers who discovered and named “blob cells”). To the degree the monkeys were deprived of the natural relationship they became deviant.

    Anyway, those experiments along with another thing makes me keen on the idea of relationship as it concerns conscience. There was an psychopathology associated with the Romanian orphans who were warehoused and deprived of affection, attention, bonding–really love.

    Irreversible psychopathology. Inability to empathize. One child, when the parents had to give him up because he kept trying to kill their natural child, walked off with his new parents without a tear, a care, or a glance back at his former parents.

    One psychopathic child, I read about, pushed another into a pool to see what it was like when someone drowned. Cooley asks, what’s the white stuff that comes out of someone’s nose when the drown.

  • Zedd

    Cindy D,

    Sorry i didn’t see your response.

    Let me roll it over and I’ll get back….

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    Does the survival of one individual speak to the survival of a species? Imagine for example if everyone was Jeffrey Dahmer how long we’d have lasted.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Zed,

    Just an insert. There are examples from sociobiology which argue for altruistic behavior in animals – E.O. Wilson, Richard Dawkins, etc. – and it’s being explained, quite convincingly in some cases, as function of sociability or some such thing (which again, they connect it with the survival instinct). Which isn’t to say I necessarily disagree with your account. Just wanted to mention it.

    Roger

  • Zedd

    Cindy D,

    However, let me just say that religion is a bit different than spirituality.

    I am not well versed in other “religions” but I know that Christianity isn’t really designed to be a religion. It just ends up being one because we are social animals.

    Religion is just another way for us to party. It’s a social experience. Something to come together over. Church is a get together/support group/fraternity/club. It’s not the faith. The faith is a personal experience which requires some personal psychoanalysis; digging deep and telling the truth to yourself, enjoying the moment, being patient and none judgemental. It’s a personal journey.

    I’ll get back to the conscience when I get in the mode to really think.

    Thanks for the indulgence.

  • Jack D

    #129 — January 18, 2009 @ 17:11PM — Dr Dreadful

    “Jack, please demonstrate how the ethics of the Huns, Visigoths, Lombards, Vikings and others were based on ‘survival of the fittest’ rather than another standard.”

    The ethics of the barbarians was based on the belief that if someone had what they wanted, they could kill to get it. They were more fit than those they pillaged. They survived until their ethics changed and became Christians, accepting beliefs such as Matthew 5:3-12.

  • Zedd

    Roger N,

    Are you then equating a conscience with compassion?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Tough question. But I was referring mainly to some references earlier on this thread to “altruistic behavior.” As to your question, I’m not quite ready to make this identification.

    There is, however, an excellent philosophical argument to distinguish the quality of what we call “conscience” from what may appear as similar behavior in animals. I don’t know whether I have the book on me – some are still being shipped – but when I find it I’ll post it. I think its by Daniel Dennett, philosophy of mind.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Zedd,

    To answer the question somewhat: conscience is more comprehensive in that in addition to including altruistic behavior (I hate that term) and concern for others, it also includes concern with one’s own moral standing; I’d say, in fact, that the latter is the primary element. In fact, I’m leaning towards Socratic understanding of it – as a kind of voice which tells you what NOT to do – rather than what to do, which is a common misconception, and leads therefore to license.

    Roger

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Jack, you’re simply expressing the anthropocentric Roman perception of the ‘barbarians’, which the Christians inherited. The Romans themselves, the ancient Israelites, the early Muslims and the medieval Christians (and practically every other people that ever existed), also killed to get what they wanted.

    You argued earlier that the fact that Christians have also raped, murdered, pillaged and been generally not very nice people on occasion had nothing to do with the Christian ethic. Yet – without any evidence whatsoever – you’re not prepared to give the ‘barbarians’ that same free pass. You’re falling into the same assumption as the Romans: that they were little better than instinct-driven savages.

    I suggest you review your ancient history a little. Start with Tacitus.

  • Zedd

    This may or may not make a difference and off course I am too lazy to look at the scholarly work that has been done on the subject right now. It’s Sunday, I’m full and in duh mode…

    But I would suggest that an active conscience is “ignited” before the act but compassion or empathy occurs as a reaction to something that has occurs. I’m sure I’m missing something but I’m a little lazy to think right now. Like Cindy, I reserve the right to change my mind even within the hour.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Juvenal is just as good.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    You may have something there about it being a response in common folk. But of course for those for whom it is “a vision” – like in the saints, Mother Theresa, St. Francis of Assisi, etc – it’s like a state of being, I daresay. But I’ll take your lead and call it a day. Next time.

    Roger

  • Zedd

    Roger,

    Ah looks like we’ve got lots to talk about. My fingers are tingling. However, I am in lazy mode. Give me sec and I’ll get back.

    I am grateful for the dialogue and the succinct responses! Care to share what your background or interests are just to shed a light on your interest in this subject. Mine is simply, persistantly curious.

  • Cindy D

    Roger,

    Do you know what Dennett might say regarding the relationship between the socialization process, similar in humans and animals, and the development of the conscience that would differ between the two?

    I’m not sure if that sentence is understandable.

  • Cindy D

    Hrmmm,

    Okay,

    If humans do not experience the bonding that they are hard-wired to expect, they become psychopaths (defined as lacking a conscience).

    If animals don’t experience similar…they too become deviants and sometimes hostile and aggressive, uncaring, ignoring their young etc.

  • Cindy D

    I’d like to find out if these ideas are addressed in the philosophical arguments.

  • Jack D

    #144 — January 18, 2009 @ 19:13PM — Dr Dreadful

    “I suggest you review your ancient history a little. Start with Tacitus.”

    And I suggest you get back to what I was referring to and review the New Testament.

    The subject I addressed is Christianity, not what some Christians have done outside of Christian teaching.

    Do you also judge the U.S. Constitution based on what GWB has been doing in violation of it?

  • Jack D

    #144 — January 18, 2009 @ 19:13PM — Dr Dreadful

    “you’re not prepared to give the ‘barbarians’ that same free pass”

    What the barbarians did was based on their credo.

    It’s conforming to their credo that made them barbarians. They weren’t deviating.

  • http://www.legalarcade.com Nathaniel

    The fact that we’re all even using the term “barbarians” shows that our knowledge of them (a very diverse group) is severely discolored by Roman historians.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    And I suggest you get back to what I was referring to

    Which is your strange notion that the world was a mercenary free-for-all until Christianity came along, at which point that somehow stopped being the case.

    The subject I addressed is Christianity, not what some Christians have done outside of Christian teaching.

    And it has been pointed out to you that Christianity does not have a monopoly on altruism.

    Do you also judge the U.S. Constitution based on what GWB has been doing in violation of it?

    No, but you seem to be judging the ‘barbarians’ (who, I’d remind you, were not a homogenous mass) solely in terms of their military actions against the Roman Empire.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    @137

    Dahmer (his behavior) would not have existed were we all like him.

    In other words, if we lacked a conscience, we would be animals. We would still stop one another from behaving viciously like Dahmer because we would all still want to survive. The thing that would prevent our bad behavior wouldn’t be a desire to please but a need to survive.

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    Do you think we could survive though if none of us cooperated with each other? Or do you think a bunch of Dahmers would be capable of adequate cooperation to survive as a species and develop as we did?

  • Zedd

    Jack

    Is it in the New Testament where it says “Judge not lest you be judged”? Rhetorical.

    I am not a big fan of apologetics being “used” when dialoguing with people who don’t profess your faith unless they have expressed an interest. You cant argue people into salvation.

    I understand clarifying misconception however. Perhaps that is what you are doing. But it seems a little judgmental and contrary to the message that you are attempting to defend.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    We probably started out as a bunch of Dahmers. Dunno.

    I guess this has all been worked out in the various fields of study but its fun to discuss it.

  • Zedd

    I often watch with astonishment how these badly managed countries operate. It seems really incomprehensible how they allow themselves to live in such chaos.

    However, after the GWB administration, it became easy to see how people can be lulled into a complicity of their own demise. We were unravelling quickly. We knew it but just couldn’t make ourselves get up and do anything relevant. The public’s response was lack luster. We de-evolved. Our status as a civilized people was shakier than we would admit.

    So what does this have to do with our topic? I had a link but it’s gone. Sigh. It’s all that pot roast. I think it was brilliant too. Sigh. Well back for seconds.

  • Jack D

    #158 — January 18, 2009 @ 20:36PM — Zedd

    “I understand clarifying misconception however. Perhaps that is what you are doing. But it seems a little judgmental and contrary to the message that you are attempting to defend. ”

    Clarifying misconceptions is not being judgmental.

    Perhaps you are being judgmental in your assessment.

  • Zedd

    Huggggg Jack.

    Are you a Christian?

    If so, how has Christ transformed your life?

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    Here’s how I see Dahmer. To me he is a person who lacks conscience–a psychopath. He’s not an example of normal development.

    But, if I look at animals, they don’t seem to all be like Dahmer (in their animal ways). Normal (non-deviant) social animals seem to exhibit behaviors that are, well–social. Like caring for their young, grooming each other, group hunting and eating, etc. whatever the animal’s nature.

    Abused animals and deprived ones (like in the study above) might be like Dahmer–attacking each other, abandoning or neglecting their young, displaying various anti-social behavior.

    So, even if we would be like animals. Could even animals get very far if they were all deviants (Dahmers), do you think?

  • Jack D

    155 — January 18, 2009 @ 20:06PM — Dr Dreadful

    “You seem to be judging the ‘barbarians’ (who, I’d remind you, were not a homogenous mass) solely in terms of their military actions against the Roman Empire.

    Not just the Roman Empire. The barbarians attacked each other before they turned on Rome. They were equal opportunity barbarians.

    BTW, are you a fan of Attila?

  • Cindy D

    Hrrmmm,

    Hugging people in a chat room (people of the opposite sex, no less)…wonder if this is motel 8?

    (just ignore me, I had to :-)

  • http://jetssciencepage.blogspot.com/ Jet

    I’m reeeeeeeeally glad I’ve stayed out of this…

  • Cindy D

    Zedd,

    I’m thinking if animals, or people were all psychopaths or deviants…how would they be able to develop the relationships necessary to mate, have and raise children, protect each other, accomplish tasks that require cooperative efforts?

    They might just eat their children one day. Kill their partner another.

  • Cindy D

    So probably by now you can see where I’m thinking conscience is necessary for survival.

    I think a bunch of Dahmers would die off eventually.

    But, I’m open to suggestions.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    The barbarians attacked each other before they turned on Rome.

    So did the Romans, both before and after they engaged the ‘barbarians’. So have Christians, with monotonous regularity.

    BTW, are you a fan of Attila?

    He was an extremely capable ruler and general. Do you actually know anything about him beyond the modern popular culture caricature?

  • Jack D

    #169 — January 18, 2009 @ 22:06PM — Dr Dreadful

    “[Attila] was an extremely capable ruler and general”

    So was Hitler.

  • Zedd

    Cindy,

    Re: Motel 8, touche’.

    Dahmer is characterized as a sociopath. A lot of people like him have serious attachment issues. He didn’t learn how to be human.

    Is that how cavemen were like?

    Would Dahmer have killed or eaten his child or would he have reared it while still continuing his sociopathic behavior in other areas? I just wonder.

    Super silly side note: With animals, do we know if we are observing a retarded animal?

    Anyway, I think its time for me to walk away. I’m getting really silly and way off topic. I will however ponder on your original proposition.

  • Zedd

    Jack

    “So have Christians, with monotonous regularity.”

    Yeah, you just attacked me.

  • Jack D

    Was it with a spear or an arrow?

  • Mark Eden

    Conscience is necessary to cooperation which might well be explainable as a product of natural selection (pdf).

    Mark

  • Cindy D

    For purposes of diagnosis, etc., sociopath became the preferred term over psychopath at some point, they’re also used interchangeably. I prefer psychopath because I recognize distinctions made by the research side of psychology that aren’t necessarily made elsewhere.

  • Clavos

    Me too. As a sociopath myself, I really can’t relate to all this talk of conscience, caring, etc., raping and pillaging are a lot more fun and far less tedious.

    Attila rulz!

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Jack,

    Perhaps you’d care to dig up some material on the genocide committed by Attila and then get back to me.

  • Cindy D

    That’s very interesting so far Mark. Is there anything your read that doesn’t have complicated formulas involved? :-)

  • Cindy D

    lol Clav

  • Jack D

    174 — January 18, 2009 @ 22:39PM — Mark Eden

    “Conscience is necessary to cooperation…”

    A basic tenet of conscience is simply discerning right from wrong, and that depends on what is learned from those who are respected as leaders.

    A cannibal was not expected to get cooperation from the recipient of his largesse.

    The innate conscience of humans explains why the basic tenets of Christianity have survived and expanded for 2,000 years.

  • Jack D

    #179 — January 19, 2009 @ 00:06AM — Cindy D

    “lol Clav”

    Cindy, don’t suck up to Clav. It really wasn’t funny.

  • Cindy D

    Mark,

    Brilliant. Thanks for that. That guy is like an Einstein.

    In 2002 he worked out equations that can predict the way cancer evolves and spreads…

    (snip)

    …in the early 1990s his model of disease progression demonstrated that HIV develops into AIDS only when the virus replicates fast enough so that the diversity of strains reaches a critical level, one that overwhelms the immune system. Immunologists later found out he had the mechanism right… (quotes from link below)

    Did you see what he is involved in now?

    Using Math to Explain How Life on Earth Began

    Now Nowak is out to do it again, this time by modeling the origin of life. Specifically, he is trying to capture “the transition from no life to life,” he says.

    (snip)

    Nowak explains. “Math helps us to see what the most crucial and interesting experiment is. It describes a chemical system that can be built, and once it’s built, you can watch the origin of evolution.”

    Unbelievable. He’s working on creating life from chemicals using mathematics. Actually doing it, not just in theory.

  • Cindy D

    Jack,

    You though he was joking, I bet. That was a nervous laugh. :-)

  • Cindy D

    RE #171

    Oh and Zedd,

    Regarding Dahmer and “attachment”. That is the appropriate scientific term. Harlow, the researcher I mentioned above, with the monkeys, refused to use it, although that would be what a normal researcher would use. He preferred to use the word “love”. He liked to do that. He called a lot of things by names he preferred. I like rebels.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Zedd/Cindy,

    Zed (#148) I thought I said I was checking out. Was working on a long piece for a week, finally done. Shoot, guy.

    Cindy (#149), I’ll have to check.

    Roger

  • Cindy D

    Zedd is a woman.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ Roger Nowosielski

    Zedd,

    Sorry. I didn’t know, as Cindy just corrected me. I ought to have known, however: you guys are always clearer thinkers, fewer obstacles. Don’t carry all that macho baggage around, like having to be right all the time. More power to you!

    Roger

  • Cindy D

    All the smoke in this thread is making it hard to read.

    Try criticizing. It’s honest and works better.

    (probably gonna suffer for saying that :-)

  • Clavos

    Cindy, don’t suck up to Clav. It really wasn’t funny.

    You’re so pompous and self-righteous, Jack.

    You should emulate Cindy; she’s not only interesting, but entertaining too. And she’s obviously way more self-confident than you.

    Smarter, too.