The God Delusion The God Delusion discussion

Who has money on Pascal's Wager?

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message 1: by Heather (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Heather How cool! Does that mean that we all have to agree or have some democratic process in order to build our bookshelf?? This could be fun!

message 2: by Héctor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new)

Héctor The best fiction books are: the Bible and the Corán...

message 3: by Marina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marina Keenan Without judgements, I'd like to discuss the following Bertrand Russell quote, featured in The God Delusion:

"Many orthodox people speak as though it were the business of sceptics to disprove received dogmas rather than of dogmatists to prove them. This is, of course, a mistake. If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Could this be said of any revealed religion practiced today? Why is any story from the New or Old Testament more credible than stories from the Iliad or Odyssey?

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

Because people still look to the Jewish Bible and the New Testament as important documents having to do with current life and morality, ethics, and living--how to conduct one's life. There are atheists who argue that they find lots of moral relevance to these texts. Also, branches of believers and ethnic groups still identify with the stories of these people. The Trojans are gone, and so are the ancient Greeks. But the Jews and the Christians? Still around.

message 5: by Marina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:21AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marina Keenan Brendan, you simply make the point that one knows the package from the mailman's walk, which is also Russell's point. Of course Christians and Jews rely on their own texts for morality, ethics, and rules-for-living, but why should I...and why should they either? That's what Russell's quote really means. I can invent stories that take place in the present day that are more relevant than the one in which God asks Abraham to kill his own son then says he is just kidding, thousands of years ago. But many dots have to be connected in order for this story to be anything but a bad horror film in the present day, i.e. these stories only have meaning today because someone kept them meaningful via religious tradition. The messages of these stories are really independent of their narrative vehicles...and when "God" isn't a story's source, its message can be judged on merit rather than on its Seal of Approval. Sure, there are stories in the Bible that have worthy morals, but so do many many other stories. So why buy the Bible, whose authority is the teapot no one can disprove? Unless you are inclined to think it is God's source of truth, the Bible is a poor choice for moral guidance, or even good storytelling. The question is why are the stories are more credible than the Iliad or Odyssesy, not why are they more popular. Do you see the difference? The world ain't flat, and never was, regardlesss who believed it, and when.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Brendan, you simply make the point that one knows the package from the mailman's walk, which is also Russell's point.

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Dennis Prager likes to say that one should judge a religion by the actions of its followers. Same thing?

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Of course Christians and Jews rely on their own texts for morality, ethics, and rules-for-living, but why should I...and why should they either?

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Who asked you to? I didn't.

Why should they? Because they want to and find value in that study and ritual.

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That's what Russell's quote really means. I can invent stories that take place in the present day that are more relevant than the one in which God asks Abraham to kill his own son then says he is just kidding, thousands of years ago.

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You can invent stories more relevant than that one? Fantastic! Can you post them here?

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But many dots have to be connected in order for this story to be anything but a bad horror film in the present day, i.e. these stories only have meaning today because someone kept them meaningful via religious tradition.

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What's wrong with the effort of wrestling with ancient texts and finding contemporary and personal meaning in them?

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The messages of these stories are really independent of their narrative vehicles...and when "God" isn't a story's source, its message can be judged on merit rather than on its Seal of Approval. Sure, there are stories in the Bible that have worthy morals, but so do many many other stories. So why buy the Bible, whose authority is the teapot no one can disprove?

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Well, some good reasons for "buying" the Bible as a useful text for thinking about life include the centuries rich with intelligent people wrestling with the text. Or the rituals built around it that answer people's personal needs in an uncertain, difficult universe. Or the community that believers often build for themselves. Or the personal interest in engaging in dialogue with those intelligent people who wrestled with and continued to wrestle with the text. Which, incidentally, would certainly include YOU and Richard Dawkins!

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Unless you are inclined to think it is God's source of truth, the Bible is a poor choice for moral guidance, or even good storytelling.

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So, what text, way of life, belief systems, and rituals are you putting forth as substitutes? Perhaps we'll all agree they're better!

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The question is why are the stories are more credible than the Iliad or Odyssesy, not why are they more popular.

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Why do people read Shakespeare when there are plenty of perfectly good plays written today? Why do people read Shakespeare and not the ancient Marlowe? Why do people draw lessons of life and knowledge from Shakespeare when some of his plot devices and characters are simply despicable?

There's something to be said for longevity. Not that longevity and centuries of respect for certain texts give them ABSOLUTE value, but they give them some value. If millions found meaning in the message, there must be something to it! Especially moral, ethical people, like many religionists I've met.

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Do you see the difference? The world ain't flat, and never was, regardlesss who believed it, and when.

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I get that you're arguing that you don't believe in supernatural forces and that there are good reasons to not believe. I'm not arguing that I need to prove to you there's a God or what any god or gods might be, or any such thing. I'm just throwing out some arguments about why the Bible might be more meaningful to people than The Iliad and The Odyssey.

message 7: by Marina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:22AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marina Keenan Brendan, the arguments are poor, and show that you are missing the point of Russell's quote entirely. To begin with, the Iliad and the Odyssey are more relevant than the bible, and are less ambiguious, e.g. there aren't hundreds of conflicting interpretations of these texts, all called "truth" by followers of different churches, some of whom fight each other over minutiae. The shame of it all is not that people are "wrestling" with ancient texts, but that the bible has become dogma, and it is the hang-ups and expectiations of those who pass them on, rather than any value, that keep these stories from being forgotten. Do you understand what Russell is saying? He says that all of the factors you mention - the years of study and the establishment of seminaries and theology, the organization and funding of churches, the time spent worshipping by millions - do not give the stories value, but make them dogmatic and actually less accessible to anyone outside of religious establishments; the position you take, that even though the basis of the text is questionable, it is silly for me to say that believers' efforts through two millenia was made in vain, shows me that you are incapable of even considering the question. Write back when you have had time to think this over, I didn't start this discussion to engage in circular arguments with people who think the bible is swell because it happens to be entrenched in the folkways.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

OK. I hope you find what you're looking for.

message 9: by Rachel (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:26AM) (new)

Rachel Chadwick OH PLEASE, that couldn't be! There are many historical facts in the Bible that no one disputes not even atheists or hardcore evolutionists!Get your facts straight Hector.

message 10: by Héctor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:26AM) (new)

Héctor Sure Rachel. Even, it´s necessary much imagination to write "The Genesis"...

message 11: by [deleted user] (last edited Feb 25, 2009 03:34AM) (new)

Not to step on your feelings Rachel, but there's also many historical facts in Eugenides' Middlesex, Roth's Plot Against America, and Alan Moore's Watchmen. Guess what they have in common?

message 12: by Héctor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:44AM) (new)

Héctor GENIE (for Rachel)

Il est l'affection et le présent, puisqu'il a fait la maison ouverte à l'hiver écumeux et à la rumeur de l'été, lui qui a purifié les boissons et les aliments, lui qui est le charme des lieux fuyants et le délice surhumain des stations. Il est l'affection et l'avenir, la force et l'amour que nous, debout dans les rages et les ennuis, nous voyons passer dans le ciel de tempête et les drapeaux d'extase.
Il est l'amour, mesure parfaite et réinventée, raison merveilleuse et imprévue, et l'éternité : machine aimée des qualités fatales. Nous avons tous eu l'épouvante de sa concession et de la nôtre : ô jouissance de notre santé, élan de nos facultés, affection égoïste et passion pour lui, lui qui nous aime pour sa vie infinie...
Et nous nous le rappelons, et il voyage... Et si l'Adoration s'en va, sonne, sa promesse sonne : "Arrière ces superstitions, ces anciens corps, ces ménages et ces âges. C'est cette époque-ci qui a sombré !"
Il ne s'en ira pas, il ne redescendra pas d'un ciel, il n'accomplira pas la rédemption des colères de femmes et des gaîtés des hommes et de tout ce péché : car c'est fait, lui étant, et étant aimé.
O ses souffles, ses têtes, ses courses ; la terrible célérité de la perfection des formes et de l'action.
O fécondité de l'esprit et immensité de l'univers.
Son corps ! Le dégagement rêvé, le brisement de la grâce croisée de violence nouvelle !
Sa vue, sa vue ! tous les agenouillages anciens et les peines relevés à sa suite.
Son jour ! l'abolition de toutes souffrances sonores et mouvantes dans la musique plus intense.
Son pas ! les migrations plus énormes que les anciennes invasions.
O lui et nous ! l'orgueil plus bienveillant que les charités perdues.
O monde ! et le chant clair des malheurs nouveaux!
Il nous a connus tous et nous a tous aimés. Sachons, cette nuit d'hiver, de cap en cap, du pôle tumultueux au château, de la foule à la plage, de regards en regards, forces et sentiments las, le héler et le voir, et le renvoyer, et sous les marées et au haut des déserts de neige, suivre ses vues, ses souffles, son corps, son jour.

Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations.

message 13: by Trevor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor I felt sorry for you after reading your interaction with Brendan following your attempt here to start a rational discussion on what makes the Bible more worthy than other ancient myths.

I would hate to think that all people of faith are completely lacking in reason - but all too frequently it seems that their response to questions posed that threaten their beliefs is to declare "I believe". In Brendon's case I have to assume he is intentionally missing the point, as no one could so consistently miss the point without some level of intentionality - and I fear that says a very sad thing about dogmatically held beliefs.

I think the point of Russell's question is that there is no answer to it for a person of faith, except a reassertion of their faith. In much the same way that Pascal's wager only makes sense if you already believe. Pascal seems unable to see that perhaps non-belief could be a conviction held just as strongly as belief.

I've read over your critique of Dawkins and it probably is a sad reflection that the polemic form does encourage writers to attack the fanatical rather than engage the moderates. I'm not sure there is a solution to this, though.

I wonder what a book that didn't lose the audience of those 'who struggle with the dogma imposed on them during their formative years' would look like? Wouldn't it also need to point out that many of the stories in the Bible have limited worth as morality tales(if not being positively immoral)? Wouldn't it also need to show how dangerous dogmatic faith is in our modern world?

Perhaps the problem is with how uncompromising Dawkins is - but I do believe that sometimes a spirited response to irrationalism is called for. In a world becoming less and less secular and increasingly intolerant, a spirited rebuttal of religion seems called for.

As someone who has always looked in on the world of the religious from the outside (and with a sense of bewilderment) I can think of nothing to say to a moderate religious person. Not because I think such a person is not worth speaking to, but it seems to me almost impossible to know what such a person actually believes. I suspect that there is no such thing as an average religious person with anything like a set of normal religious convictions that one could rationally analyse, consider or criticise. This is part of the reason why books like the God Delusion or Letter to a Christian Nation tend to attack the extremists. The moderates aren't one thing, but everything and therefore nothing.

I hope you enjoy Words and Rules, it is a truly fascinating book.

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes, you are RIGHT. All those who regard themselves as moderate and liberal as well as religious are straw men, imaginary fairies who stalk the edges of informed argument but never seem to expend enough pixie dust to burst into existence.

Oh crap, I'm starting to disappear. HELP!

message 15: by Trevor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor Like I said, I've always viewed the religious with a sense of bewilderment. Sometimes even with a sense that the religious are being disingenuous. May you both have much happiness as fairies.

message 16: by Bryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:13PM) (new)

Bryan It's pretty arrogant and condescending to think that someone who has different beliefs than you is being disingenuous. It makes real dialogue impossible when you ascribe such motives to the other side.

I'm reminded of certain people one usually encounters in college. You tell them you admire such-and-such novel or album and they look down their glasses at you and say, with complete sincerity, "Oh, you don't really like that. No one could possibly like that."

The only response is to run away as quickly as possible.

message 17: by Marina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marina Keenan Maybe you should try to imagine it.

I have faith that human beings are not stuck with handed-down thoughts and because-Dad-said-so logic, and can exercise free will and resourcefulness in times of crisis. You can think anything you like, and feel about your thoughts as you like, and though people have told you God may judge you for doing so, you shouldn't fear him, or even a smug college music critic. Only when you can imagine a faithless experience can you say that you have made a choice between faith and non-belief, and only then will you be able to live honestly and allow others the freedom to do the same. When you have finally confronted God squarely and without fear, which isn't easy, your thoughts will be very worth sharing and considering, and I bet you won't be inclined to use the words "two cents" when referring to them.

message 18: by Bryan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new)

Bryan >>Maybe you should try to imagine it...I have faith that human beings are not stuck with handed-down thoughts and because-Dad-said-so logic, and can exercise free will and resourcefulness in times of crisis.

I agree. Just as believers have the onus of considering there is no God, perhaps the non-believers have the responsibility of considering there is more to religious people than being brain-dead robots who follow whatever book was handed to them as kids.

>>you shouldn't fear him, or even a smug college music critic.

One does run away because one fears such a person. One runs away because there is nothing to say.

A person who asks you a question, and automatically assumes that whatever comes out of your mouth is going to be a lie, is not a person interested in true dialogue. They are only interested in having their prejudices confirmed.

message 19: by Trevor (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor I apologise unreservedly for assuming that people saying they are imaginary fairies are being anything other then completely sincere.

I just could not work out how to continue such a 'dialogue' - or why one would bother.

I have nothing to offer King - my life does not feel bleak. Darwin, I believe, advised people who could believe to go on believing. He too felt that non-belief was a barron and dreadful landscape. I've never felt this - but I can't even begin to understand what the religious experience must be like.

I have read the Bible, it is a very frightening book and not one I would ever dream of using as the basis of a moral theory. The parable of the fig tree just about sums up my problem with it. God creates us to have certain undeniable needs and then punishes us for eternity for not being able to overcome those needs. None of it makes sense to me on any level.

But if you receive comfort from your faith - who am I to take that from you?

message 20: by Anna (last edited Aug 25, 2016 02:15PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Anna I have to say neither side of this discussion attracts me.

Whenever I hear or read a discussion like this, I want to ask where the humbleness in this world has gone? Why is it that we laugh at 18th century people who claimed to possess all knowledge (cf The Encyclopedia) but then we do just the same?

If atheism is wisdom, and religion love - why is it that all such discussions are so lacking in both?

My two cents, as they say.

message 21: by Richard (last edited Dec 15, 2007 04:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Richard Russell's quote has nothing to do with the value of religion (nor for that matter with Pascal's Wager.) Russell was talking about one thing and one thing only: the burden of proof.

When someone makes an affirmative claim, the burden of proof lies with the claimant. Attempting to shift the burden to one who questions the truth of the claim is a logical fallacy, yet all too often we hear theists making the irrational statement, "I can't prove that God exists but you can't prove that he doesn't, therefore [insert false conclusion here]."

Russell's teapot, Sagan's dragon and the Flying Spaghetti Monster are all intended to illustrate the point that we can invent any number of things for which there is neither evidence of existence nor evidence of nonexistence. The impossibility of disproving the existence of these inventions does not lead us to conclude that they exist. The biblical God is simply another one of those inventions.

This applies to every god, regardless of how strongly anyone may feel about any particular god. There's no more evidence for the existence of the God of the Bible than there is for the existence of the gods of the ancient Greeks.

Trevor I believe there is no answer to the teapot problem for the religious - well, no rational answer. However, it does seem that religion does have an out here and it is to say that faith is not rational, but has other grounds of 'truth'. That the certainty that the teapot exists is based on revelation.

I'll be accused of making straw men again, but I really can't see any other argument the religious can make in this case - other than to say 'I believe'. The arguments made above about it being believed by many people or over a long period of time miss the point at hand.

I feel we should all be afraid when the criterion of truth proposed is that which is revealed to the faithful and to them alone. That truth is that which cannot even be understood by those without faith.

message 23: by Marina (last edited Dec 17, 2007 04:10PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marina Keenan Shucks, I am not the thought police. But would one of the faithful please tell me if they think they would have come to believe in God in the same way without religious instruction? Would you have gotten out of bed one day thinking, "It all makes sense now...a Supreme Being must have sent a son to be sacrificed, I'd better say a few Our Fathers for having impure thoughts about the neighbor?" Would a study of the world around you have led you to those beliefs? Would regular social interaction have led you there? I think the answer is no, and it is because religion is a social and political phenomenon, and not a philosophical or intellectual pursuit. The reason there are so many kinds of Christianity, for example, is that Christians couldn't all pray in one church and still be distinct in other ways, so they adapted their religion to suit them. How many of us saw pictures of a caucasian-looking Jesus as a kid? How many of our parents did? How much more difficult would it have been for you to believe in a Jesus pictured with darker skin? (Be honest) I suspect a white Jesus was created to make the teapot more credible to a European population, not because Jesus really looked like Ted Nugent. Again, I am not saying the faithful have made poor decisions, what I want to hear about is the process by which those decisions were made.

message 24: by Xysea (last edited Dec 26, 2007 05:45AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Xysea "I would hate to think that all people of faith are completely lacking in reason - but all too frequently it seems that their response to questions posed that threaten their beliefs is to declare "I believe"

Well, Trevor, that is the crux of Christianity, isn't it? Those who believe. Indeed, faith is largely a matter of believing. One might say that one has faith in the existence of quarks, for example, though we've never actually seen a quark. Yet they are believed to exist, based on some information we have so far. And further still, it seems that there are acceptable beliefs - for example, scientific yet unproven ones - that are okay, while others (because they are old or who knows?) are considered archaic and ridiculous.

Some of the information that Christian believers have so far lead them to belief, to place faith in their religion. You may not like their evidence; Heck, you might not even call it evidence, but that is where the paths diverge - is it not? To them, it is all they need. To you, it is not nearly enough.

But some may have other reasons for having faith...Here's an interesting article:

It may benefit some people to have a belief system, and in fact some say it may be no different than homo- vs. hetero-sexuality. I'm born this way, you are born that way and diversity is a wonderful thing that we should all embrace as much as possible.

When it comes right down to it, though, it may just be not the faith vs reason argument but the resentment those who are non-believers have towards the fact that believers have run so much of the worlds' affairs for so long - sometimes engaging in activities that are murderous, cruel, dogmatic, full of zealotry and hatred. No one has forgotten the horrible things done in the name of God, especially the burning of heretics and the suppression of knowledge to keep power.

So, I understand the huge problem most people have with organized religion. I also understand the disgust with hypocrisy, because I feel it for myself. And too often people pick and choose what they want to believe to support a position they have no other evidence for - homophobia, bigotry, sexism, etc.

We know what the problems with religion are - don't we? However, I don't think the solution to these issues, however repugnant they are, is the eradication of religion. Somehow, that seems counter-productive.

I find it interesting that the general argument seems to be (ipso facto) that if a person believes in God and religion, then they must be irrational and incapable of logical thought progressions and must - as you seem to imply - hide inside their faith.

But you seem to miss the idea that for believers, that is what they have - their faith. They do not possess proof, because proof would negate the concept - the very idea - of faith. If the existence of God could be proven, then what need there be of faith? What you seem to be requesting is something that invalidate religion as a concept anyway, so I'm not sure there's a possibility of a believer 'winning' the debate or argument.

I am a moderate in all things; religion, politics, life. I have done extremes in my past, in all of the above. I am not an evangelical, a biblical literalist or even a church-goer.

The only reason I entered the fray is the passage I quoted from you up at the top. I felt I had to respond to that - despite the fact that I am no special 'defender of the faith.'

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

PS I've always wondered why more intellectuals haven't embraced Jungian ideas re: religion. He seems to be able to accept the benefits of religion, while acknowledging its flaws...

message 25: by Trevor (last edited Dec 27, 2007 05:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor You see, one really can’t compare a belief in quarks with a belief in God. I know it seems tempting, but it is to miss the point of the whole enterprise. The Standard Model of the atom may be completely wrong (although it would seem to be fairly unlikely that it could be completely wrong given our remarkable success in being able to make predictions based on it) but it is stretching the point to say that the existence of quarks is based on faith. There are remarkably good reasons to accept the Standard Model. Quarks exist and have been shown to exist experimentally.

You’d have been better to say that String Theory is based on faith. At the moment that is probably true. As far as I can see String Theory does not seem to be capable of making testable predictions – a very bad sign for anything that calls itself a science.

And if we are talking faith and science then dark energy and dark matter are a bit more of a worry than quarks. I become very concerned when scientists have to make up 90% of the universe as something that cannot be detected just to hold the whole thing together. But we are at the end of a very long scientific dark age – or perhaps about to enter a very long scientific dark age, depending on how you look at it and who wins in this war against reason.

I think you are right, all religion in the end is based on faith and in the end must fall back on ‘I believe’ rather than posit reasons, and beyond that point no further discussion is possible. Well, no further rational discussion anyway. The point of this discussion on this page is to ask why a belief in God is different from a belief in an invisible teapot floating between Earth and Mars. Clearly, the answer is that there is no difference, they are both based on delusions. The only difference between them is that one set of delusions is held by a very large number of people – and some people here think that the fact of mass delusion alone ought to be enough to give pride of place to Christianity. The point, it seems to me, is that faith cannot answer the problem of the teapot – one I would have thought it would have a keen interest in answering as it does seem a bit like a knife in the heart of any hope of a rational basis for belief.

But people of faith will abandon reason as quick as lightning as long as they can cling tight to their faith.

I’ve read the article you pointed to – I don’t believe religion is a genetic deformity that will be cured by gene therapy. Religion, like homosexuality, is a very complex set of social and cultural phenomena, to imagine that it can be explained away as a version of the VMAT2 gene is, well, optimistic at best.

I don’t pretend to follow the rest of your argument. My understanding is that faith is what the believers turn to when they have no further reasons – so it is, by definition, irrational and non-logical. Yes, ipso facto, if we must speak Latin. Dawkins’s main concern is that we live in a world where it would be nice for people to have to state their reasons for their beliefs – particularly when those beliefs are likely to impact quite badly on so many other people. Faith provides a convenient out, a convenient way of not having to think. And that is a bit of a worry in a world on the brink of environmental collapse and awash with nuclear weapons. The idea that there is someone in the White House who believes, apparently, in the Rapture and also has a finger on the button that could bring about Armageddon might, fairly reasonably, be considered by some people without faith as cause for concern. I am one of that distinct minority of concerned individuals.

As to eradicating religion – if only my dreams were so large. No, even in Australia where 20% of people say they have no religion I do not hold out hope for the eradication of religion. Clearly people get something out of it, although my only experience of religion has been being bored out of my mind listening to Ministers and Priests talk rubbish – if that is the religious experience it is hard to see the attraction. Perhaps the best we can hope for is the containment of irrationality, but even that seems too much to ask sometimes.

Xysea Trevor,

I do think there is some willful ignorance on your part. You clearly get nothing from religion, can't imagine what it is that people do and have pre-supposed them all to be anti-intellectual - or at the very least, intellectually challenged. So, the idea that someone else might educate you to something you missed or might not understand clearly is implausible for you. Right there, we've reached an impenetrable impasse, haven't we?

I'm sorry, but I cannot agree that a person of faith is inherently irrational. That's as condescending as a believer saying you are going to Hell for not believing; and I guess that is what surprises me most about atheists, being an agnostic myself. They are often the photographic negative or the religious believer, employing the very same tactics and rationales as those people they are decrying. I happen to think we'd all make more progress if we all could be slightly more understanding and conciliatory.

Thank you for pointing out what you perceive to be a stronger example of scientific unproven belief - The String Theory is a good enough substitute.

"Who Needs Reality?

What about the issue of whether or not these models are real? Are electrons real? Are atoms even real? Fortunately for us, it doesn’t matter whether or not these things are real. If you ask this question of a room full of scientists, you will find some who say these models are so well supported by evidence that they are, in fact, real. You will also find some who will say that these models are just constructs that have been invented by people."

Anyhow, the only advantage I can see to science is that the people who engage in scientific exploration tend to allow their theories and hypotheses to be amended, discarded or updated as new information comes to light. Religion, to its detriment, tends to stay fixed and non-adapting.

Your understanding of faith, as a concept, is probably not as scant as you are letting on. You have faith that the sun rises every day, and that your lungs will fill with oxygen each time you inhale. These things have been proven to you over and over in your daily life. To the believer, it is the same. Again, to you this seems silly; miracles, burning bushes, Messiah, etc. To them, it is something they just 'know'.
Like you 'just know' science is going to answer every question you've ever had.

(My primary concerns when it comes to science and technology are application and ethics - the very same concerns I have with religion! lol)

Anyway, you seem to have a bit more rancor for Evangelicals. Yes, the Biblical literalists are hard to take; they have built themselves a box to live in and feel like they are constantly in need of defending the walls they've created for themselves. I've never understood the viewpoint that keeps the Bible from being a living document; in order to survive, it must evolve with humans, not constrict them. But a lot of that is fear-based stuff I have little time for.

Yes, GWB is scary. Thank goodness I didn't vote for him; he's not even all that Christian. He used the Evangelical vote to seize power, despite a different mandate from the people (popular vote). It was a different type of coup, bloodless; but, a coup nonetheless.

The good news is the Evangelicals are embracing environmental concerns. It seems they have found, in their Bible, a passage that indicates humans should be good stewards of the Earth, its animals and resources. So, they're on board with the whole global-warming, greening of the Earth, thing. It's nice to see they can, and sometimes do, evolve. Maybe not at a pace we want, but what ever does? lol Religious Darwinism! Now there's a concept!


Trevor I’m sorry you feel I’m being wilfully ignorant about faith. My understanding of your concern is that you think I’m being ‘a little nasty’ to people of faith because I am saying that in the end they are irrational. Perhaps you would be more comfortable if I said non-rational?

Merriam-Webster defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The Concise Oxford as a strong belief in religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. You might notice a bit of a pattern here. Faith is based on belief rather than evidence or proof. Religion is irrational or non-rational because at some point it says ‘enough of proof, God is’. I’m not saying that to be nasty, that is just the way it is.

I’m not being condescending to people of faith by saying they have faith and do not require proof – they say this of themselves. It is amusing that you think I’m insulting them for saying what they, in the end, say of themselves. I have more respect for people of faith than you are showing them – I take them seriously when they say they prefer their faith to reason. When they quote the Bible ‘the Jews want miracles and the Greeks want wisdom’ – their point is that there is no proof, only faith.

Reason requires proof – when one says ‘I have faith – there is not need of proof’ one leaves reason behind, one chooses to be irrational. This is merely the definition of the words – it is amusing this has caused so much controversy. The point of this discussion is to question whether faith in God is the same as faith in an invisible teapot – in as far as both types of faith do not require proof, they are the same.

You see, science is not a matter of faith, it does not require one to stop requiring proof. It is not, as you suggest, that scientific concepts are a matter of choice as to whether one accepts them or not, science is rational to its core. Science says that the world is fundamentally rational and able to be understood on the basis of an application of our reason. Faith says the world is fundamentally non-rational and can only be fully understood by a ‘leap of faith’. People of faith feel that the irrationality of their faith is what gives them access to higher truth – all of the superior claims to truth come from religion's rejection of reason. Revelation, not reason.

Science is not complete – not just in the trivial sense say that Quantum Physics and Relativistic Physics are fundamentally incompatible and therefore both must be ‘wrong’ as there must be a deeper truth – but that they are always open to being proven wrong. Proof is the core concept here. Not faith. Reason, not hope. I’m not being nasty, I’m just saying what is the case.

This is the reason String Theory finds itself in so much controversy, it is a speculation beyond the realms of proof, it is outside the bounds of science because its claims are untestable.

It is very important you understand my point – it is not that people of faith are intellectually challenged – but they are irrational. They do not need proof, they have ‘the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’. And as that passage goes on to say, ‘it was true then, it is true today’. What you appear to dislike about faith is pretty much what the faithful like most about it – that it is unchanging and always true. This is the other time you show disrespect to the beliefs of the believers – their revelation of truth is not ‘living’ in your sense, but a much deeper truth.

As a point of fact, the sun does not raise everyday because I have faith, it raises because of the rotation of the earth – such an idea does not require faith, just reason and proof. There was a time when a religion required children to be sacrificed because they believed the Sun god needed blood to be bothered coming up in the morning.

I do not know if Science will answer every question – to be honest, I find it remarkable that we have been able to find so many answers – that we know anything of the structure of atoms (to take your example) is gob-smacking and reason enough for awe.

The universe does not have to comply with my vision (as it does for those of faith) – I would much rather my imperfect vision became ever so slightly closer to the reality of the universe than for it to be constrained in the wilful blindness that is faith.

Xysea Frankly, Trevor, we aren't going to get anywhere in this discussion.

I have always examined both sides of the coin; what if there IS a God, vs. What if there ISN'T a God. It's a question most people wrestle with their entire lives. And I think the struggle is a worthwhile experience, an exercise for the human mind and spirit.

In the words of Douglas Adams in The Hitchhikers Guide To the Galaxy:

"'I refuse to prove that I exist,' says God, 'for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.'"

It's simple enough. If there is proof of God's existence, then the experience of faith itself is unnecessary, isn't it?

People of faith are always asked to prove God's existence, but I have yet to see an atheist prove that God does not exist. If we are talking reason, logic, etc, please feel free to use all that apply to prove God does not exist and we'll call it a day.

:) Cheers,

Trevor I do understand that the quote that started this discussion must seem a very long way away now, and to have almost receded into the dim mists, but the whole point of that quote is to say that it is beholden on the faithful to prove that which they have faith in – to show not just faith’s efficacy, but also its veracity. It is not up to those without faith to do the impossible – prove the non-existence of something that does not exist. Super-ordinary claims require super-ordinary explanations by those who hold them.

I’m delighted that you find enjoyment in the struggle between your own belief and non-belief, and good on you, whatever gets you through a dull afternoon. Far be it from me to take away anyone’s enjoyment. There are perhaps a billion people on our planet who believe it is efficacious to begin the day by drinking their own urine. As long as it hurts no one else, what have I to complain about? I have never drunk my own urine – I have never been convinced by the arguments for such behaviour. But as they say, whatever floats your boat.

The idea of an omnipotent God creating the universe just so he can play hide-and-seek with his own creation seems surreal to me.

All the best.

Xysea Oddly enough, I think history is against you. For all time we've recorded so far, Man has believed in God. So, it isn't a super-ordinary claim. ;) The person of faith doesn't have to prove anything - to you, or to anyone else, to make what they believe valid.

I realize the quote at the beginning of this whole discussion and what it was about. But that is the tactic atheists have been using for a long while, and they know it's completely impossible for the faithful to 'prove' God's existence. If they did, they would destroy 'faith' as an experience altogether. This is quite plain, and so the atheists 'win' no matter how it comes out, don't they? It's a rigged question.

You still haven't answered *my* question: If God can be proven to exist, and short of him showing himself I'm unsure as to what kind of proof you require, then what is the point of 'faith'?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that God comes down from "heaven" or wherever else God may (or may not lol) reside; you will have your proof that God exists when he reveals himself to you, but you will still never have the experience of faith, will you?

It's a question most atheists cannot, and do not, answer. Because to them, the faith experience isn't necessary - and because they generally see things in terms of themselves only, they cannot see how that experience might be valuable to others.

The world can be a frightening place, with many unknowns. Some people want concrete proof that there are answers to those unknowns. Some people believe that proof will come later, or may not require it to feel safe..

I'm not inclined to judge either group, as I am caught right in the middle.

But, thank you for the discussion. It's been enlightening - thought we're agreeing to disagree in the end.


message 31: by Xio (new)

Xio Trevor wrote (or copied):

Merriam-Webster defines faith as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. The Concise Oxford as a strong belief in religion based on spiritual conviction rather than proof. You might notice a bit of a pattern here. Faith is based on belief rather than evidence or proof.

He and others have used this as an example of irrationality vis a vis religious faith. However, I'd like to jump in with both a response to that and to Xysea who offers that if we could 'prove' God exists then the evidence would eliminate the possibility of the experience of 'faith'.

I offer that the experience of faith is something every one of us lives with (and endures).

Every one of takes the leap when we choose to believe in any other person. Every single relationship we enter is built on faith. Our economic system is built on faith. Ideologies rely on faith, religious, nationalistic or otherwise.

If a 'God' came to us (I'm thinking about Clarke's 'Childhood's End' oddly) we would still rely on this credible leap in order to believe in a supernatural being. No matter if it-god magically turns loaves into fishes.

I personally do not 'believe' in the possibility of 'proof' unless its the arbitrary term used in mathematics. Everything happens in relation to an other, whether or not we choose to keep that clear in our minds. Everything we believe we know is a matter of invention.

Just a thought.

message 32: by Xysea (last edited Dec 28, 2007 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Xysea And it's an excellent one, xio. I appreciate you adding your point of view.

I came back to amend my statement after finishing another project I was working on.

But, to use Trevor's own logic, those aren't faith experiences. They are time-tested ones. The economy has been proven to operate in a certain way, time and again.

Fear of entering a relationship is not the same as having faith. To me, that feels more like 'hope'. Faith is something that can never be proven. We can prove love over time, and through actions and experience.

It would be interesting to find that God manifests because people wish him to be. People imagined all kinds of things they made happen in the end; the airplane, nuclear fusion, etc. Why not God? lol

Pages 705-706 are interesting; this book deals with Jung and Religious Belief. I think it makes for fascinating reading.

I do agree with you, regarding the interconnectedness of all things, though. Whether in nature, or by faith, the complexity of human relations (amongst themselves, to the world, to the universe) has demonstrated more than ever before that nothing is as simple as it seems.


message 33: by Xio (new)

Xio "But, to use Trevor's own logic, those aren't faith experiences. They are time-tested ones. The economy has been proven to operate in a certain way, time and again."

But then you can say that religion/God has also been tested by time to operate the same way again and again. The economy collapses when people lose faith and run the banks, for example, regardless of its generic consistencies in 'behavior'.To test something ('in time' or otherwise) one first creates an arbitrary set of criteria for evaluation. This then requires faith in the utility not to mention the meaning of these criteria. I just mean to back it all up a step or two.

We cannot prove love over time. We can demonstrate habit and tendency. That is all.

I argue that for the ideals of any system to exist (and we as humans seem to require the ideal in order to proceed in any direction)there must be faith. Faith that we can 'know' anything.

Xysea I can agree with most, if not all, you said.

So, the problem is each person has an arbitrary set of criteria as to what constitutes 'faith' and 'proof', and therefore may never come to agreement as to what constitutes either?


message 35: by Xio (new)

Xio That is the situation, not the problem.

The problem is a matter of action-solution in the living part of existence.

Awareness of the differences is after the fact when you see that the origins (the basis of knowledge)of belief are so often unconsciously absorbed.

Agreement when considered contractually---in the sense that we clarify our meanings, terms, expectations--is entirely possible.

Any time one (or a group of) person(s) chooses to act on the behalf of others, that person is choosing to step away from what-is into what should-be or into belief. That step is called faith.

message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't understand what you wrote here, Xio.

message 37: by Xio (new)

Xio Er, should I try and guess what it is you don't understand? ;)

Could you tell me more? Or ask me something?

message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Xio wrote:

Agreement when considered contractually---in the sense that we clarify our meanings, terms, expectations--is entirely possible.

- - - - - -

Agreement twixt what and what?

- - - - - -

Any time one (or a group of) person(s) chooses to act on the behalf of others, that person is choosing to step away from what-is into what should-be or into belief. That step is called faith.

- - - - - -

What does this have to do with faith? Animals do this all the time. Are you starting to make the word faith mean something it doesn't?

message 39: by Xio (new)

Xio Brendan, Are you joking? I mean with the animals comment?

Action taken based on what you believe to be the truth is an act of faith that first, you can know a truth, and second that you are thus priveleged to make that choice for others.

Faith is not possible in animals because they do not respond to abstract ideals, but to immediate perceptions/instincts.

The agreement I'm referring to is in response to Xysea's question which I chose to ignore as a sarcasm:

"So, the problem is each person has an arbitrary set of criteria as to what constitutes 'faith' and 'proof', and therefore may never come to agreement as to what constitutes either?"

and deal with instead. So my answer 'twixt what and what' is: Twixt people.

message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

What I'm saying is it's not "faith" that always motivates people to do something for someone else. Animals do things for other animals all the time. It has nothing to do with faith and everything to do with biologically useful behavior in groups.

Xysea Xio:

Did you take my question:

"So, the problem is each person has an arbitrary set of criteria as to what constitutes 'faith' and 'proof', and therefore may never come to agreement as to what constitutes either?"

As being sarcastic, in nature? Because, I can assure you it is not intended to be that way.

It makes me wonder now if I understood your meaning at all, because it seems now you think I'm being mean, or stupid, and I'm being neither.


message 42: by Xio (new)

Xio I disagree within the confines of this discussion. Yes, there are sexual, grooming, eating behaviors and many of these behaviors are between and among others both in the human and the non-human arenas. This is not what we are discussing. And you yourself coyly added 'always' in the first sentence.

I'm saying that faith is a conscious activity humans engage in when they interact in life. It's an orientation principle. The religious understand this implicitly. So do politically-religious people or anyone who decides their beliefs are based in a truth about what is happening/what is behind, motivating it and where it ought to or irrevocably be heading.

message 43: by [deleted user] (new)

See, NOW I get where you're coming from, Xio. Thanks for the clarification. People don't realize we have "faith" things will happen because we feel conscious. Therefore, animals don't have to think about whether the sun will come up, but we think therefore we panic--or don't. We have faith because we think. We have to!

Now what this has to do with having faith that there are supernatural beings governing our actions or creating the universe, that's another story. The word "faithful" is a good one...and doesn't have to mean religious.

message 44: by Xio (new)

Xio Xy,

It's funny as at first I did not take it to be mean sarcastic or otherwise than serious.Only after I started thinking about Bredan's comment did I double check and sense a twinge of sarcasm in what you'd written (and emoticon'd).

I don't mean *you*; I refer to what was written.

I'm sure you are very nice and not given to mean or sarcastic remarks in otherwise serious conversations.

message 45: by Xysea (last edited Dec 28, 2007 12:13PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Xysea I can assure you, my question was simply to clarify what you meant, and not as a lark, or sarcasm, or anything else. I wasn't having you on, or anything.

I was genuinely interested in your point of view, and I still am.


message 46: by Xio (new)

Xio There you go, that is what I mean.

Broaden it out a little to recall the idea of a proof of God destroying faith and you'll maybe get why I brought it up at all.

Faithful is a lovely word I agree, but in the end it amounts to behavioral adherence to an idea.

As for supernatural beings, to me its all the same: Memes. Call it Democracy, Catholicism, Vegetarianism, same all around.

message 47: by Trevor (last edited Dec 28, 2007 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor Xysea wrote: “You still haven't answered *my* question: If God can be proven to exist, and short of him showing himself I'm unsure as to what kind of proof you require, then what is the point of 'faith'?”

Sorry, I had just assumed my answer to this would be obvious. This discussion has taken a rather unexpected turn, but to answer your question, I think the point of faith is to allow one group of people to do things that are incredibly nasty to another group of people and feel good about it. At least, that does seem to have been the history of faith as far as I can tell.

Gods tend to be remarkably similar to the people who believe in them, one would almost think the Gods had been created in the image of those who believe.

Xysea, you take for granted that faith is good on the basis that it relieves the horrors of this world – despite the all too obvious horrors that it helps to create. Not just the Catholic Church’s and the current faith based US Government’s moral responsibility for the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa because of an aversion to funding any program that supports condom use, but time and again faith is used as a reason for repeated acts of inhumanity. Look at Pakistan today, or Afghanistan, or just about anywhere where there is madness in the world and you are virtually assured to find faith if not the cause, then surely chief among the cheer-squad.

As someone born in Belfast I do require quite some proof that faith is a good thing.

But all these examples are big – what about the small? You seem to feel that a personal faith that helps one get through the long dark teatime of the soul can’t be a bad thing. I’m not so sure.

Years ago I saw a poster of a man smiling in some sort of ecstatic, mystical joy and under this were the words ‘Happiness’ and Transcendental Meditation. The difference between that form of happiness and, say, a lobotomy seemed difficult for me to judge.

But then, perhaps faith is a drug like heroin, and I’m judging it on the basis of the addicts I see smacked out on the street rather than the majority of users who don’t become overly addicted and just have a good time. At the times when I have gone through difficulties it never occurred to me to turn to a non-existent being for succour. Like all placebos, the ability to believe must come first and I lack that ability. I would be interested to know if you would ever suggest to a friend who was going through difficulties to become a member of a faith based group? And if not, why not? I never would, not just because I don’t believe, but generally people get over their troubles – they rarely get to come back once the faithful have gotten their hands on them. And that doesn’t seem like a good way to remove one’s troubles.

Why do you think the question that started this discussion is rigged? To me that is the most interesting thing you have said. How would one unrig it? If I had faith I think I would be very keen to have an answer to the question that started this topic off – I’m not sure saying I felt it was a rigged question would be enough to allow me to ignore either the question or the consequences of the question.

History is definitely against me, when times get bad people turn to faith and punish those who are different from them, thus is the lesson of history – I’m comfortable with being on the other side to history.

So, in the end as in the beginning, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I do not seek converts – just a bit of a chat about things I take far too seriously.

Now, Xio, we will need to have a new word for religious faith – your use of faith includes everything from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night. If all is faith then the argument really is over and there is nothing more to say.

I’m afraid to ask what “The problem is a matter of action-solution in the living part of existence.” could possibly mean – you see, already I’m hoping it means nothing. When people start using language in this way, not seeking to be clear, but seeking to devise their own system of meaning only accessible to the initiated, I get very concerned and feel that if I had any sense at all I would run for the nearest exit.

The main weakness of English – as with everything in life – is also its greatest strength and that is its abundance of synonyms. I don’t know that faith really is the same as trust and hope and risk – as you seem to be making it. In that case wouldn’t casinos be the new temples? Aren’t they where one can take the most risk and therefore display the most faith? And yours is an odd description of economics – particularly given the current problems with the sub-prime mortgage crisis – to say that it is one of faith. Surely the problem with Ninja Loans (No Income, No Job, No Assets – the sort of loans that brought about this crisis in the first place) was that the banks had too much faith. You see, faith used in this all-too-vague way ends up meaning nothing. But once one starts using faith in this sense then someone will suggest that the way out of the current economic crisis will be prayer. Sooner or later the vagueness you have here introduced to the term will suddenly get lost again and faith will go back to meaning belief without reason.

message 48: by Xysea (last edited Dec 31, 2007 07:18AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Xysea Trevor,

Obviously, I get something out of my spiritual beliefs (as tenuous as they are). You do not get anything out of having them, so ergo no one else should? Or is your argument no one else should because of the evils that religion has wrought? Or that people should think like you because you've come to believe some miraculous possibility that they haven't? That's wildly condescending, and that position will likely hurt any chance you have of making 'converts' to atheism.

In the end, though, persuasion isn't your argument, is it? It's to browbeat and show what you believe to be the superiority of your intellectual position.

In the end, it's a personal decision. I believe in something beyond this life due to personal experience and because I have had primarily positive experiences in that arena. From your inability to come up with good things that relgion has done, it is quite clear that your experiences have been negative and so your argument is tainted and not unbiased. Despite schools, hospitals and social service programs, religion is 'all bad' in your book.

If we look at Pascal's Wager, again, you'll see I lose nothing by believing - I only gain. Your argument is that I gain a legacy of hatred, suppression and murder. That may be true, but regardless of religion, that is the inheritance of us all. We still have not, atheist or theist alike, resolved issues of murder in the name of ideology, fascism, slavery, starvation or poverty.

Please feel free to point me in the direction of any atheistic efforts to address these issues on a massive scale; I'd be interested in seeing their progress.

The thing is, nothing in this world is all bad or all good. Few things are that pure. So, I have trouble understanding how you can discount the good that people who engage in religion have done in the world. It's like saying the German people can't possibly be good because their parents or grandparents were engaged in fascism in the 30s and 40s.

Blaming a whole system for the actions of a few is a bit extreme, no? I mean, I can freely blame atheism and Communism for the actions of Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and Mao Tse-Tung, but is that honest or fair? These individuals perverted ideologies for their own ends - same as anyone else. Religion was not required, nor would it have made any difference, I wager. Why can't the same be said for people who were religiously motivated? There are truly bad people in the world who will use any excuse to achieve their own ends; I would argue they are not representative of religion as a whole.

There are many ills on this planet that have nothing to do with religion; the problem of AIDS in Africa, from the books and articles I've read on the subject, is not just one of Western religion denying the availability of condoms to the continent. There is a whole misogynistic sub culture there that will have to be addressed, even if religion reverses its position and hands condoms out wholesale. To hang it all on religion, again, doesn't seem quite honest to me.

message 49: by Trevor (last edited Dec 31, 2007 04:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Trevor Xysea,

Happy New Year.

You’re trying to make me things I am not and I find that totally fascinating.

Firstly, I’m not trying to convert anybody. The one thing I know, beyond anything else, is that there is nothing I can say or do that will change anyone’s beliefs. The only one able to do that is the holder of the belief. I know that faith is beyond reason, is non-rational, is irrational. I believe that even if I had the perfect argument to prove the non-existence of God (which I definitely do not) it would not change a single person’s faith. Because faith is beyond rational argument.

You seem to have come to this discussion with a set of preconceived ideas about what an atheist must believe and I seem to be having to wear all of those tattered rags you wish to dress me in. For example, you believe that all atheists must be evangelical in some way, must want to convert those of faith. But I am an atheist and I couldn’t care less what you believe.

You seem to think that I hold that nothing good comes from people of faith – but I’ve never said anything of the sort and definitely do not believe it. There are many good works that are done in the name of faith in God, Bach alone repays many of the horrors of faith. However, not all good that is done in the world is done in the name of a God – and believing in God is not necessary to do good works.

Here in Australia our previous government closed down the government employment agency and instead funded non-government organisations, many of them faith based, to provide those services. One of these organisations, The Salvation Army, began by refusing to offer any employment services to people who did not believe in Christianity. Around 20% of Australians do not have a religion – many others are Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish and so on. Yet their taxes are going to pay for what ought to be a universal service that is being limited by the faith of those who are paid to provide that service. I have a problem with that.

I believe that separating faith from doing good (government provided schools, hospitals and social services rather than faith based schools, etc) is in all of our interests.

I don’t expect people to think like me. But I do expect them to allow me to think like me. You do not seem to be able to accept that people might hold views other than your particular brand of agnostic spiritualism. I don’t believe in a guiding spirit for good in the universe – the entire idea seems ludicrous to me. But it seems am I not allowed to say that without being accused of being condescending. Imagine for a moment what it would be like to hear people talk about their belief in the literal existence of, say, Santa Claus. Now, I’m not proposing to outlaw such a belief, but it is beyond my abilities to think such a view is worthwhile. I can tell there are people who do hold these sorts of views, sometimes incredibly strongly, but I have no idea why they hold these views. Your saying that it is a personal choice doesn’t really answer the question. Just as saying ‘they must get something out of it’ doesn’t answer the question either. Clearly they get something out of it, but what? And is it worth the cost of reason? Which I fear is often the cost of such faith.

Which is were we started this debate – with a quote from someone who could not believe asking why people who do believe have their faith. The response I’ve gotten for asking the same question so far has been anger at the very suggestion that such a question can be asked and a remarkable series of insults stating that I am nasty, condescending, arrogant, dishonest, biased and seeking to enforce my views on everyone else. I have not sought to reply in kind with similar insults, but it has made no difference, I am still accused of being a bad person nonetheless. This is something that I have found utterly remarkable and something I cannot help feel says a lot about faith.

Pascal’s wager is an absurdity. Could one really believe in a God who would be fooled by such deceit? This is just another example of your inability to believe that I can hold to my non-belief as firmly as you hold to your belief. Imagine me being told, when I finally get to St Peter, “Ah yes, McCandless, initial T, come on in, you have spent your life pretending to believe and so here is your gift of eternal life.” The wager only makes sense if one believes non-belief is impossible. I need to assure you that my non-belief is as essential to my view of myself as anyone’s belief is to them. But I excuse you for this further insult.

I did not say that HIV/AIDS was caused by religious belief. But I do think this is a very important moral point. We are responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions. This is morality 101. It is clearly the case that condom use is a major weapon in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. Bodies that refuse to fund organisations that distribute condoms in areas that have high infection rates, bodies that actively tell those at risk of infection not to use condoms, must take some responsibility for the consequences (clear and unambiguous, predictable and certain) that will flow from their actions based on their faith. If one is a Catholic then one must take some responsibility for the actions of one’s church. No one forces them to belong to that church. If one is a US citizen then one must take some responsibility for the actions of one’s government – whether they voted for that government or not. Your government is acting in your name and, believe it or not, you can, could and should choose to act to change your government’s policy on this matter. If you do not act then you must bear some moral responsibility for these actions taken in your name.

I really don’t feel I have been brow beating anyone. I do believe my position is intellectually superior to a position of faith, I believe that with all my being, and I’ve tried to argue why I believe that to the best of my limited ability. What would you have had me do? Or do you believe only those with some form of faith have a right to convictions?

Atheism isn’t a single thing – so there are no ‘atheistic efforts’ in the sense you suggest against the list of things you make, poverty, etc. However, there are secular efforts – efforts not based on faith. The victory of the secular over the religious is one of the reasons, for example, you have not been burnt at the stake for your somewhat heretical views on religion and faith. Many atheists were burnt, as were many people of alternative faiths to the most popular of the day and these people did much to bring about our current secular society. The heritage of dissent against the received dogmas of society generally is one I’m very proud of. It is something I fear we may be giving away far too cheaply.

With Voltaire I am proud to say that I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it. Defending your right to believe in world spirits, or whatever it is that you believe in, (no matter how silly such a belief seems to me) is the only hope I have to continue to believe in reason. As I’ve repeatedly said, around 80% of people in Australia believe in sky gods – my only hope to be allowed to continue to hold my minority rational position is if other minorities are allowed the right to hold to their convictions. Far from trying to threaten you for your beliefs I will do anything in my power to allow you to continue to hold them – it is my only protection.

I’m sorry I’m not conforming to your preconceptions – I do understand it must be very frustrating – but I really don’t like any of the little boxes you are trying to force me into.

message 50: by Xysea (last edited Jan 01, 2008 07:54AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Xysea Trevor,

Where have I ever said you were not entitled to your beliefs? I've scrutinized my posts to you, and damned if I can find one instance of my alleged attempts to suppress your belief system! In fact, the opposite is what I find - repeated attempts to invalidate mine! Please feel free to illustrate to me where I have done so, and I will heartily apologize.

Or perhaps you perceive my defense of my belief system as an attack on your own? I find that completely interesting. It seems the tables have turned somewhat: The whole point of this thread, initially, was to address the believers, was it not? And here now we have you pleading persecution because you were addressed by a believer!

You have confirmed my supposition that a large part of your experiences with faith and organized religion have been negative, and so I stand by my assertion that you do not come into the argument unbiased - but with a particular need to attack the beliefs of those who believe differently, particularly from a position of superiority.

I bear you no ill will; indeed, I have no intent, nor desire, to make you a believer - any more than you have at making me a non-believer. I love my partner - and he is an atheist. But he permits me the respect of my beliefs, even if he doesn't understand them. Same with my brother, who is also an atheist. And I accord them the respect of their beliefs and I do not try to make them see that 'my way is the right way.'

The sole reason that I jumped into this thread was because that 'my way is the right way' argument was being used here - and the condescension was fairly dripping off the posts for the most part. I find that highly distasteful.

I do not try to convert the Jew, the Muslim, the Buddhist or the Hindu - I do not believe I have the answers, any more than anyone else. And I wager that is the primary difference between you and me. You believe you know for certain what no one for certain can know.

I don't have preconceptions of you, Trevor. Everything I've picked up about you, from your personality to your religious experiences, has been through your own words and how you've expressed yourself here. I don't want you to be anything you are not; indeed, just like the rest of humanity, you are free to be who you are. Whether that encompasses religious belief or not is strictly up to you - I just wish you'd extend me that self-same courtesy.

And since you've told me that you will 'do anything in (your) power to allow (me) to continue to hold them' then what, indeed, is this thread about?

A Happy New Year, to you, too, Trevor. I truly wish you all the best.


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