John Cook at Gawker has an informative and appropriately vitriolic piece on “Reverend” Pat Robertson’s appeal to the Bourbons’ time-honored “sound scholarly historic research”, aka penny-ante blood libel:
Galactically vile Christian cleric Pat Robertson told his CBN viewers today that Haitians are “cursed” because their ancestors “swore a pact with the devil” to liberate themselves from the French in 1804. “True story.”
What else would he say? Robertson can’t let human suffering pass without finding a way to insinuate that God did it deliberately because he hates gay people, black people, Catholics, or whatever other poor dying sap he can find to cruelly mock and use to his own political and fundraising advantage…
Pat Robertson is as hateful and seized by superstition as any Taliban mullah with a knot in his forehead from obsessively banging it into a prayer mat. The motivation for this latest proclamation is no doubt the fact that about half the people in Haiti practice voodoo, an amalgam of Catholicism and African animism that dates to the importation of West African slaves there in the 16th century, and that was common to the slaves whose uprising against their French owners eventually became the Haitian Revolution…
So because the people of Haiti practice a different religion from Robertson—about which everything he knows he learned from watching The Serpent and the Rainbow—it follows that their historic liberation in a bloody war must have been the result of a negotiation with a malevolent supernatural being who intervenes in worldly affairs. And every tragedy that has befallen their ancestors since has been deliberately directed at them by an all-powerful and loving god who wants to kill them, repeatedly, because they gained freedom by striking a deal with his enemy.
Who’s the fucking witch doctor?
Actually, I think Cook gives Robertson more credit than the old thug deserves. Forget the religious disagreement — the “Curse of the Revolution” fantasy has been passed down from bigot to bigot for two hundred years and counting because it’s simply impossible for them to believe that a bunch of African savages and half-breeds could win an actual war against the majesty, however tattered, of the extremely white French nobility. The people who came up with this bullshit were direct spiritual ancestors of the Birfers and Teabaggers who can’t believe that a Black president could be legitimately elected and seated in “their” White House.
“Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
Jeez, speaking of pacts with the devil. Some of these guys (Pat Robertson, Richard Cheney, and Kissinger immediately come to mind) just seem to go on and on; their longevility is impressive.
Bill E Pilgrim
If Satan were offering deals to help deal with the French, believe me I would have taken the offer long ago. Don’t believe a word of it.
On a more serious note: Could anything be more depressing than this despicable, superstition-spewing gnomish throwback to the darkest days of human history?
People think we’re such a modern country in the US, but really we’re not very. Huge parts aren’t.
J. Michael Neal
I don’t disagree with that assessment, but Cook’s is valid, too. Western Christianity painted itself into a corner in the 13th century when it rejected dualism and ascribed all creative power and all guidance of the world to God. God is responsible for everything (except human nature, which the theologians try to exempt him from through some unconvincing contortions).
Having arrived at this verdict, God must be responsible for the earthquake in Haiti. That’s a given. There is no alternative but to accept that, and then try to explain *why* God caused an earthquake in Haiti. I’ve only seen two basic arguments on that, and both are problematic, given that another axiom is that God is not only All Powerful, but also All Just and All Benevolent. The explanation has to be shoehorned into those assumptions. (Yes, I’m going to call them assumptions, even though Christian theologians argue that they are somehow proven.)
The first is unconvincing because it’s really just a dodge. We not only don’t know why God did it, but we can’t know why He did it. He’s ineffable. We’re just going to trust on spec that he decided to kill a hundred thousand Haitians and bring misery to hundreds of thousands more for reasons that lead to higher good than doing anything else possible, including just not having an earthquake. That’s fine and dandy if you already start from the presumption that God is All Good, All the Time, but even a lot of Christians have trouble getting their heads around the practical applications of this argument.
The other choice is to argue that the Haitians deserved this punishment, and that justice is being served. Of course, it’s pretty damned difficult to articulate any conceivable reason why this could be so, let alone actually is so. So, you have to go pretty far out there to find one. Robertson is really only going to the rather obvious conclusion of Christian theology here. I hesitate to say that his argument, racist as it is, is even a particularly noxious one, because I can’t come up with any argument for why it would be just to inflict this earthquake on the Haitians that isn’t this noxious.
It’s one of the places where I really part ways with Christian theology. I give Pat Robertson this: at least he tries to answer this question, though he runs into the wall that there aren’t any good explanations that don’t involve a belief in collective punishment for things that individuals didn’t do, most of which are going to hinge on a demonization of the Other. Most Christians really try to ignore this problem, or, at least, the ones I’ve tried to talk to about it do.
Bill E Pilgrim
@J. Michael Neal:
This part of Cook’s piece:
is a good place to start dismantling any argument even if one wanted to use “theology”. As if whatever version of Christianity Robertson adheres to, or anyone else for that matter, isn’t an amalgam of various streams and influences, Roman, Pagan, on and on.
It all reminds me of that joke Bill Moyers tells, let me see if I can find it. Ah yes here:
I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. I immediately ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”
“Well … are you religious or atheist?”
“Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?”
“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”
To which I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.
I didn’t know about the debt burden that the French imposed on Haiti as a quid pro quo of withdrawal.
Apparently the debt to France was ended in 1947.
There’s your pact with the devil.
J. Michael Neal
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Well, yeah. In a paragraph I erased because the bulk of it was irrelevant, I made sure to emphasize that I was talking about *orthodox* Christian theology. I really ought to have moved that sentence to somewhere else, but forgot. I posted thinking that distinction was still in there. Orthodox Christian theology is an amalgam of all sorts of stuff that came before it, but it can also be pretty well defined on its own terms. Catholicism and most forms of Protestantism agree on the vast body of their theology (for all the people that died over it, I think the controversy of transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation is actually pretty minor intellectually), and certainly what I wrote above.
Note that, when I say “orthodox” here, I don’t mean anything to do with the various forms of Eatern Orthodoxy, about which I know very little. I mean the broadly accepted theology of the Nicean Creed and the developments therefrom. Of course, I also belong to one of the sects of Protestantism, Universalism, that doesn’t accept large chunks of that theology, so I’m talking as something of an outsider.
That said, the voudoun pretty clearly brought dualism back into its theology with its adoption of parts of African animism, and so really shouldn’t have been confused with what I wrote.
And people wonder why I disdain religion. Anything that creates the kind of ignorant, hateful, disgusting statements like this is a net negative in the world, whether in the name of God, Yahweh, or Allah. I hope this prick suffers horribly before he dies a slow death.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Funny, I first heard that joke from Emo Phillips back in the ’80s.
In other news, Sarah Palin’s favorite founding father is “all of them.”
Her and Glenn Blecchh then go on to say that Washington is their real favorite, even though he had little to do with drafting the constitution and nothing to do with drafting the declaration of independence.
@J. Michael Neal:
You might be confusing actual Christianity with the false prophets and hypocrites that compose the Religious Right. They are not the same. Christ even speaks on this point several times, ie “Their lips are close to me, but their hearts are far away, teaching for commandments the doctrine of men.”
Deists would have no problem with the disaster from a theological point of view, considering that the Creator is not actually involved with human affairs on a day to day basis.
Christian Science would hold that God in all and in all, and that we are spiritual beings who cannot comprehend every facet of existence using our material faculties.
I believe most religious impulses actually based on the Gospels would be in line with thinking it is not our job as human beings to judge or question based on our human ego and senses, and that what we do with our conditions is what matters and brings growth and salvation.
Many accept the view that establishment power-mongers actually portray Christianity, when in fact they are its antithesis.
When I posted the video of Pat Robertson yesterday, I titled it “Fuck Pat Robertson in his stupid face,” which I think qualifies as vitriolic. But I didn’t get into why. Pat Robertson shouldn’t piss me off like he does–he’s exactly what I expect him to be. I think it’s the fact that he has any power at all that gets me so angry, given how ridiculous his stories are even by religious standards.
J. Michael Neal
@geg6: I hope you are equally contemptuous of atheism, as it has led to statements and beliefs that are every bit as ignorant, hateful, disgusting, and negative. I point to the Soviet Union, as an example. Some people are going to use any belief structure you present them to do hateful things.
@J. Michael Neal:
God couldn’t have been involved in the Haiti earthquake. He’s too busy working on this weekend’s NFL playoff games. Sillies.
Bill E Pilgrim
@J. Michael Neal: No worries. To give you an idea, I liked Richard Dawkins reply to the charge that he wasn’t an expert in theology, to which he said that well, since “theology” means “the study of God” you have to understand that to those of us who don’t believe in God that’s like saying that you have to be an expert in “Fairy-ology” to be able to claim that Fairies are just a myth.
Yes I realize that to many theology now really sort of means the study of religions, as sociology and history. However in that case you could just call it sociology and history, or anthropology, and so on. And it really does mean the study of God, by definition, both originally and even now.
I wouldn’t go quite so far. Religious impulses seem to be innate in human nature for some reason, and have led to much good in the world. And much of what has been bad. Like everything we humans seem to do. It seems that the role of power in religion seems to lead to the worst abuses, just as it does in politics, business, whatever.
J. Michael Neal
Yes, but he doesn’t provide a very convincing answer once you have accepted the precepts of Orthodox Christianity.
True, but they aren’t orthodox Christians. In specific, the reject the point of orthodox theology that I very specifically built my post around.
This isn’t a counterexample to anything I said. It’s a very definite use of the first solution to the problem. It remains, as I said, not so much an answer as a way to avoid the question. It depends upon the idea that, somehow, this earthquake was the best way to bring good into the universe. That’s just not an easy idea to hold consistently, which is probably one of the reasons why the Church of Christ Scientist is, relatively, pretty small.
I’m not sure what you mean by this. Orthodox theology has pretty clearly driven itself into this corner. That’s not just the portrayal of establishment power-mongers; it’s the pretty obvious result of the elimination of dualism. You have, apparently, chosen the first approach to resolving the problem that I outlined. Fine. I just think that it’s a pretty unconvincing line of thought, but I feel that way about any attempt to explain what appear to be vast inconsistencies (the idea that God is All Benevolent with the idea that God caused the Haitian earthquake certainly appear to me to be, on their face, pretty contradictory) by an appeal to faith in something that we aren’t capable of understanding. Sure, it might be true, but without some pretty hefty assumptions going in, it seems pretty unlikely.
Bill E Pilgrim
@arguingwithsignposts: My favorite part was how she and Beck professed admiration for George Washington because “he didn’t seek a limelight”.
Because God knows neither of them have ever done so.
If those two are hiding their lights under a bushel basket, we must all be in there with them.
I can haz out, now?
J. Michael Neal
@Bill E Pilgrim:
I am using it, mostly at least, in the sense of a study of God. It’s a close cousin to philosophy, and often overlaps, though it has some rather different views about how one bases their arguments.
Bill E Pilgrim
@J. Michael Neal: Agreed.
That you are, I mean, and also with your definition.
@J. Michael Neal:
At first I was going to say show me more recent examples than Stalin, but then I figured you’d say LMGTFY, so I did, and boy is Larry Darby a doozy. 43% of the vote in 2006 Alabama Attorney-General Democratic Primary. Insane.
From the former, to point out that he actually did use atheism as a cause:
J. Michael Neal
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Deity save me from people who want to canonize the Founding Fathers. Washington was a very good general, albeit one whose best skill was managing to extricate his army from a losing battle without it being completely destroyed. (An underrated skill, really.) He was a great president. Pretending that he didn’t like the limelight, though, is pretty silly. He was very canny about knowing when it would be counter-productive to actively seek it out, and best to just let it come to him. He also had the stage performer’s ability to always leave them wanting more.
J. Michael Neal
Can I nominate Peter Singer as someone who articulates some particularly noxious ideas? Not all of them, mind you, but certainly some of them.
Bill E Pilgrim
@J. Michael Neal: That’s certainly the way I heard the history, that he was told it would be unseemly to campaign or hang around at all, and went back to wait with the clear expectation that they would call on him themselves.
Then gave a speech humbly accepting something he hadn’t sought and blah blah blah.
I would never, however, ascribe to him the hypocrisy of Sarah Palin, who so blatantly and obviously seeks the limelight, in fact she’s the exact opposite of him in some ways, quitting her elected position to be able to solely focus on becoming more famous.
Yahweh Needs A Better Class of Mouthpiece
The mouth is not the orifice that Pat Robertson most resembles.
What I love is that if this crap were true, it doesn’t say very good things about their deity if people had to make deals with the other guy in order to liberate themselves from oppression.
@J. Michael Neal:
Neal, I was responding to your sentiment: “It’s one of the places where I really part ways with Christian theology.”
I was just saying that the kind of “theology” represented by Robertson and others of the Right is not actually what Christ taught. As in, Christ never spoke against gays, but he did speak against judging others; Christ never mentioned abortion, but he did speak against hypocrites.
If you mean to say Orthodox (ie, establishment) Christianity is something you part ways with, I completely agree. That’s a really important distinction that was left out, and it was what I was addressing.
I’m not sure I agree with that, if it were so then all populations should have at least a roughly equal percentage of theists and non-theists, this is demonstrably not the case.
IMO, religious belief is primarily cultural, if you are raised in a largely non-theistic culture such as Denmark then you are very likely to be an atheist or non-theist. If on the other hand you are raised in an overwhelmingly theist culture, Saudi Arabia say, then your orientation is remarkably likely to be theistic, and not just any old theistic, but the same particular brand of theism which you happened to be raised in..
Until we have a population raised without any taint of theism at all then we really won’t know whether the religious impulse is innate or cultural. Since that is exceedingly unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future then we are not going to have an answer to the question of whether theism is innate in human nature or not.
Oh, and FWIW, Pat Robertson would have to evolve for several hundred million years in order to reach the ethical and moral level of Ebola virus, that he speaks for a certain popular brand of “Christianity” in America says much about those “Christians”, none of it good.
Many years ago I was taking a religious history class. The professor was a Dominican priest. The question of deals with the Devil came up. He laughed and said that for what it was worth, his opinion was that people who continually worry about the Devil were people who were the most tempted. Then he said something that has stayed with me all these years:why would the Devil make deals for people’s souls when so many give them away for free?
Robertson has given his away for free.
Bill E Pilgrim
@Darkrose: That’s really in keeping with the traditional religion-abetted power structure that people like Robertson want to reinstate. Your lot in life as peasants is to know your lot in life, which is that you are a peasant.
Upsetting the power structure must mean that you dealt with Satan, because truly and verily by the very way it is ordained, you have none.
Here is the long form, as only MT can do so well:
Remember, kind and loving Jesus invented Hell. To which every single person who doesn’t worship him goes.
@J. Michael Neal:
Atheism is an organized philosophy of life in the same manner and to the same extent that not collecting stamps is a hobby.
kommrade reproductive vigor
Because a wide-scale disaster struck somewhere in the world, it follows that Pat the Attention Whore will rear up on its hind legs and blame the victims.
If every kid at a Bible Camp died of food poisoning, Pat would inform us they must have been budding f^gs.
I’d jus be happy if somehow, a rock and molotov cocktail throwing demonstration could start outside about 2 dozen large radio stations that broadcast Limbaugh. I’d happily participate in that.
I’d also be pleased to offer up a free criminal defense to every person who, upon seeing that lard-assed bigot in public, would walk up and pound a fist into his mouth about 10 times.
@kommrade reproductive vigor:
Yep. Pat Robertson’s hell: a place where nobody cares what he has to say, ever.
@Bill E Pilgrim: It turns out that when you actually look closely at those peasants in those 3rd world societies with the googly eyes etc., yeah, there might be those weird religious stuff, but there’s often a lot more going on than outsiders usually think. It’s usually the same types who dismiss the peasantry as ‘a sack of potatoes’ (i.e., Marx) who turn out to be surprised when the peasants finally revolt.
This. Also, Stalin was a bad atheist to the same extent that Attila the Hun was a bad non-Democrat. When is Mitch McConnell going to apologize for raping and pillaging eastern Europe?
Brick Oven Bill
In actuality, after the French troops were recalled to Europe, the mulatto middle class used the black laborers against the white farmers, whose women were then raped and killed after being overwhelmed.
Then, after the raping and killing was done, the mulatto middle class again enslaved the black laborers, but could not seem to run things as efficiently as the French farmers. This is kind of like Zimbabwe. But in Zimbabwe it was English farmers.
Toussaint L’ouvertour was Haiti’s George Washington and, after the revolution, he did not get to gracefully step down from power a la Cincinnatus, as the liberated Haitians killed him and mutilated his body.
Haiti then adopted their modern building codes.
Hugo Chavez paid Danny Glover to make a documentary on this, but someone within the Progressive movement squashed it, most likely Rham.
If you’re a good criminal defense attorney licensed to practice in Indiana, I just might take you up on that offer if that SOB has the nerve to show up here outside of a venue where punching him in the nose would get me shot by a bodyguard.
Though if I live after being shot, the resulting lawsuit would set me up for life. :)
@Brick Oven Bill: Good job in using Wikipedia with all those half-century old benzo-diazepans circulating through your groggy vision.
Bill E Pilgrim
@El Cid: Marx was surprised that peasants would revolt? Didn’t he actually, you know, sort of suggest it?
My opinion FWIW, is that religion is just one tool in a whole bag of tricks, which is pretty much what Taibbi was saying also;. Not sure if that’s what you’re saying but if so I agree.
Brick Oven Bill
They have recently changed the Wikipedia article El Cid. That is kind of strange. But there is a reason Danny Glover’s film-project got squashed.
It is worthy to note that the Haitian revolution, which yielded the bounty that we get to see on TV today, was the direct result of the French Revolution of 1789, in which in a stupid burst of idealism, everybody was allowed to vote. Women too.
This was before the era of fossil fuels, so the surpluses of society were not such that they could make up for the nurturing for any length of time, and Napoleon assumed the dictatorship from the French people in the near-term aftermath.
He then marched them into Russia, which was stupid. But the French can still make wine and nuclear power plants.
Haiti was not as gifted, and this French idealism turned the richest colony in the New World (sugar cane) into the armpit of the Western Hemisphere.
This is why I am proud to be a Citizen of a country in which Human Bio-Diversity was written into the Founding Documents. And we should all be grateful for the bounty that it has provided us. Behold James Madison in Federalist 10:
“The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. From the protection of different and unequal faculties of acquiring property, the possession of different degrees and kinds of property immediately results; and from the influence of these on the sentiments and views of the respective proprietors, ensues a division of the society into different interests and parties.”
BOB is a spoof.
Some say he’s really DougJ, others say he’s Tim or John himself.
I have no proof but I do believe that no one could know, or be willing to learn, such obscure (to an American) historical facts and yet mouth the totally wrong conclusions BOB draws.
I’m in partial agreement with you. There is a large cultural component (although I would not use “theist” as an equivalent term to “religious.” There are many “religious” people who are not “theists” as we think of the term.) Perhaps the term I’m looking for is spiritual.
There seems to me to be something inherent in humans that requires something more than biology. Even the existence of the “soul” or “mind” is more than mere juice and electrical currents for the vast majority of human beings.
Most people don’t realize that the United States didn’t recognize Haiti as an independent nation until 1862, nearly 60 years after the revolution and nearly 30 years after being recognized by the French (who demanded an indemnity for all the plantations that were destroyed, which wasn’t fully paid back for over a century).
The reason for this is because asshole bigots like Robertson could not allow a free and independent black republic (the first of its kind in the world) to serve as an exemplar to abolitionists. One of the fundamental arguments put forth to maintain slavery were that blacks were utterly incapable of self-government, so the United States was prevented from recognizing the country until those responsible for stonewalling recognition had seceded from the fucking Union.
Bill E Pilgrim
@Glocksman: My theory is that this entire blog, and in fact the entire Internet, is a spoof that someone started playing on me back in around 1999, by rigging my computer to act like it “responds” to things I write and current events and so on.
And I really wouldn’t know better, because I live in France and don’t have a TV.
IRL I’m convinced that we actually elected Gore, had a relatively peaceful decade after Al Queda shriveled to almost nothing after losing any support because of the horror of 9/11, and that by now we’re well on our way to cleaning up the environment and basking in the love and admiration of much of the world which rallied to our side, meanwhile enjoying a modestly growing but healthy economy because of the financial regulations reestablished after the dot com bubble burst.
Man I really shouldn’t even write things like that.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
It’s all too believable an explanation, isn’t it?
That said, BOB has shown too many flashes of insight for me to take him seriously.
Though I have erred in the past.
Namely by buying into the Republican bullshit from 1979-2003 or so.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Sadly, someone beat you to it a while back.
gratuitous self-referential post
(an old take on a previous speech by pat)
Bill E Pilgrim
@Sly: Someone wrote “We’re sorry, but the clip you selected isn’t available from your location”?
That’s one of the very few tiny drawbacks of the France thing. As long as I can get Jon Stewart clips I’m happy though.
I’m inclined to believe that it because humans understand that they will die. If we ever establish communication with dolphins questions regarding mortality would be at the top of my list to ask.
FWIW, I maintain that “Christians” who think they’re doing right by living the word of the Bible, rather than thinkong for themselves, are idolaters. In theory, God gave us our brains with cognative reasoning; the Bible was written, edited, and rewritten by men over the course of millenia.
Strict Biblical interpretation, from passages edited by guys who read what someone wrote who had translated a passage from a different language which had been approved by a council after being translated from another language which was written by a guy who talked to a guy who talked to a guy who claimed to have hung out with Christ, could potentially allow for the conclusion that God is punishing the Haitians for something. My brain says that’s bullshit. So that’s what I’m going with.
Bill E Pilgrim
@Glocksman: It’s okay, I… I.. I’m trying to think of something equivalent. I used to like the Doors when I was about 15? I had a big crush on Claudine Longet? Hmm, no wait…
Bill E Pilgrim
The answer was “42”.
So long and thanks for all the fish.
Of course, other species have more trivial concerns.
That’s a ‘spirit of the law versus the text’ comment.
FWIW, I agree in the sense that I think that God wants willing converts who genuinely believe in Him and not coerced ‘converts’.
Of course I’m not very religious and ol’Pat would consider me to be a blasphemer.
IMHO, Pat can go take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.
Which is what makes being a thoughtful atheist in an overwhelmingly religious culture somewhat offputting and uncomfortable.
There are two ways the atheist can look at things, either he is lacking some sense that others surrounding him have or he is surrounded by delusional people.
I don’t find either explanation particularly comforting. Looking at the way American society has developed in the last fifty years or so though I tend toward the latter theory, our behavior as a society is so diametrically opposed to our professed values that it’s hard for me to believe otherwise.
How did Christianity become so remarkably intertwined with laissez faire capitalism in the USA?
Republicans have hit upon the math which will win them back a House majority: the ’80-20 strategy’:
I think they’re going to have a really, really hard time filling up that other 20% about ‘their own ideas’, because, well, how many times in a row can you say ‘tax cuts’, ‘enemy combatant’, and ‘war on terror’? I guess a lot, but it’ll be interesting to see.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
I plead immaturity despite the fact I’m admitting that I didn’t reach emotional and intellectual maturity until age 37. :)
Kitteh sez “I can haz birdies nao”?
A lot of it has to do with the puritanism of a lot of the religious folk who came over here in the first place, Calvinism, etc., filtered through 19th century evangelism. “Free market” capitalism is custom-tailored to fit with the You-get-what-you-deserve brand of Christian theology.
I think there is a third way: the atheist looks at the same world and comes to a different conclusion.
Jeffreyw made a point that is – IMHO – crucial. It is difficult for humans to believe that this is all there is. Religion/spirituality is, as much as anything else, a coping mechanism, a way to believe that our lives will live on somehow.
disclaimer: I’m an agnostic, by way of evangelical fundamentalism. Some would probably consider me an atheist, but I don’t actually want to devote the energy to developing an atheistic philosophy. I’ll just leave it there.
That God, he’s such a scamp!
Bill E Pilgrim
@El Cid: I think they’re exactly right, with the continuing strategy of purging moderates and moving ever farther to an already extreme right, I predict that the GOP will regain power in 8020.
You know, give or take.
@Bill E Pilgrim: Ha!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t they recently isolated the part of the brain that lights up when meditation or religious experience occurs? That would argue some sort of biological wiring to believe in some sort of higher power, if not God.
Makes me wonder how these Danish non-theists would substitute in that portion of their brains. I’ve never met someone who didn’t have some kind of “magic thinking,” whether it was buying lotto tickets or scanning horoscopes or just generally intuiting in the absence of empirical verification.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
My recollection is that Marx wanted the proletariat to revolt, not the peasants. The proletariat were the folks who worked in the factories, the organizing laborers in the industrial Hellholes of the 19th century. He hoped for Marxism in a mostly-industrial nation, like Germany or Britain or France. That never happened. The peasants who have, in fact, revolted and created Marxist countries have been the people he was scoffing at- the mostly pre-industrial, agrarian farm-dwellers and serfs.
Someone correct me if I’m wrong about that, though. It’s been a decade or so since I bothered reading the guy.
Bill E Pilgrim
You’d be fascinated to see how it feels in Europe, or you may know already. Religion is for weddings and funerals, the saying goes. Surrounded by tradition, religion, and churches, yet if anyone got up and started campaigning by claiming that he talked to God who wanted him to win, they’d have to invent entirely new elections to accommodate the crowds waiting in line to vote against him.
They’re even amazed that we swear people into public office on a Bible. “See we have this thing called “separation of church and state” they explain.
Uh, yes we do too, I answer. It’s just that, uh, in that case we, er.. hey look, Jerry Lewis!
Beliefs are private, is the point. Including atheism.
That is above my pay grade, but that would make sense. BTW, I’m not saying that the actual reason for “magical/religious/spiritual thinking isn’t biological, but looking at it from the perspective of the person perceiving the world around them.
I don’t find the second option distasteful or morally inferior — assuming the word “delusional” is used in fairly limited fashion.
Yeah, if a bunch of people are going through life thinking that old myths handed down by one particular group of Mediterranean nomads were really communications from an invisible superbeing, yeah, that’s fairly delusional, and it doesn’t in the least make me feel bad to conclude that.
Now, this doesn’t mean that there’s not some sane way in which someone can wonder about the prospects of some form of universal intelligence or being about which science couldn’t yet and maybe not ever tell us, or choose to go with the feeling and very human intuition that there must be something like that out there.
It also doesn’t mean that suffering one delusion — I suffer many, just not that one — mean one is an awful person or not a great person or useless, etc. I’m very glad that I made it past that particular set of delusions while remaining aware that there are many more I’ll never touch upon. However, at least I’ll never attempt to justify public policies based upon specific silly myths propagated by oral superstitions of various Euro-Asian tribes some thousands of years ago.
There have been lots of silly things which were excitedly believed in over the years and which were not the result of the best available argument.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
In fairness, a lot of theistic people in America approach religion the same way- church is for weddings and funerals and maybe super-important religious festivals, there’s a God but there’s no time to deal with the God stuff, etc.
Of course, the rabid Bible-thumpers get all the press. It’s always that way, in any field. The people who do things in moderation will always attract less attention than the people who go off their rockers about it.
Off-topic. Maura Liasson on NPR just now: “President Obama is meeting with House Republicans today, rare attempt at bipartisanship after a year that’s seen very little of it.”
How about instead, “another of many Democratic attempts to reach out, like those repeatedly rebuffed over the past year by Republicans.”
right on the Marx front. To have the communist revolution you had to have industrialization, this is why Marx saw England as his model. Lenin and coterie later tinkered with Marxism to make it fit their revolution and give the peasants a leading role. But if was post facto and to legitimize what had happened in Russia.
Indeed, I suffer from several delusions, like the U.S. will have universal health care, we’ll get out of Afghanistan and Iraq soon, Republicans will eventually come to their senses, and Natalie Merchant will some day find me and whisk me away from all this nonsense.
Magical thinking, indeed.
@Hiram Taine: I tend to think atheists believe in things, too. The Golden Rule, perhaps. Hell, in politics. The people who comment here at BJ believe things, because they’re involved in politics; they believe the world should be made better.
Belief is, I think, the common human trait. Belief that there are purposes and goals to be achieved beyond your own concerns. I don’t think there’s any rule that says it doesn’t count if that belief is nontheistic.
Personally, I go to church because I think Jesus was an interesting philosopher whose ideas are worth studying in depth; in addition, I find a very primal part of me is satisfied with the community and ritual that organized religion can provide. As far as God goes, that’s something seperate. My beliefs there wind up being patched together from Buddhism, Sim City 2000, and Good Omens by Pratchett and Gaiman.
If true, that doesn’t necessarily mean the part is wired to believe in a God, – just a brain part wired to do something that often gets INTERPRETED as being linked to god. Atheists can probably meditate and light up the same neural structure. I’ve had some quite profoundly moving moments in my life when it seemed I could actually feel the geometry of the earth spinning and the sun’s relationship to the plant. Another where I could somehow sense the genetic relationship of myself to trees (Catalpas, for some reason). Actually, now that I think of it, I much prefer the Catalpas to Pat Robertson and minions.
because according to Mara and the rest of the Village it is always the democrats fault that the Republicans are assholes.
Brick Oven Bill
In many ways, it can be argued that the French HBD-Denialism of 1789 is responsible for America’s greatness. HBD-Denialism removed representative government from the people of France, and seated Napoleon as dictator. Napoleon married in 1796, and after two days of fun with his bride, went to war against Italy. This required troops. Some of which came from the French colony of Haiti.
The subsequent result was that Napoleon decided that he had better things to do than mess around with sugar cane, and entered into the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 with Thomas Jefferson. The moderately idealistic HBD Acceptance policies of The Founding, with their celebration of the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences, then spread across North America, and we now have space-ships, and conservative building codes.
Thus, if not for the French idealism of 1789, we might be speaking French today.
Bill E Pilgrim
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I agree. But Hiram’s post was about how he feels, and that’s something particularly, if not solely, about the US and religion. Having it in the public sphere like that I mean.
In other places you’re made to feel that way more if you’re an immigrant, for example, which we in the US have less of (believe it or not) being woven right into the fabric.
Though I was amused at the description I read somewhere this morning about Glenn Beck using the Statue of Liberty as a backdrop for his interview with Palin, him saying that “what it symbolized” was the message he wanted. Which of course is “massive immigration”.
edit: Koppleman at Salon is who wrote that, to give attr:
@Bill E Pilgrim: From the 18th Brumaire:
Marx wasn’t just hand-waving, he had thought a good bit about this topic, and of course had to fit it in to his belief (though never clearly defined) suggestion of “modes of production” (something Marxist historians and economists have often tried heroically to define & use and eventually tend to give up), but it wasn’t the result of very careful field observation and cross-cultural comparison.
It was Mao who most clearly saw the potential payoff of organizing the peasantry, and thus handily updated the Marxist-Leninist paradigm as needed, which is what everyone did the moment they found something they needed to justify.
He would know all about striking a bargain.
Just once I’d like to see them offer aid or charity without demeaning and defaming the object of the aid.
This approach they insist on always strikes me as transactional.
Here’s the deal: they’ll give you “charity” but only after they establish they’re better than you, and you humbly acknowledge that.
I don’t think it’s a fair bargain, personally. The price of the aid is too high, and it’s always levied by humiliating the people who are in need, and it always serves to elevate and glorify the people offering the “aid”.
I don’t know what kind of deals these earthquake victims have struck in the past, I’m not a crack-pot religious-history buff, but I’d steer clear of any transaction brokered by Pat Robertson.
Yeah. And by extension, just because there’s a part of the brain that lights up when people think about God doesn’t mean that there’s not a God. It just means we’re hard-wired to believe in a God, or in something similar. Anyone can make of that what they will, I guess. It would be interesting to see if a non-theist’s brain and a theist’s brain matched up in this area in any way, and what sort of stimulus it would take to get the non-theist’s brain to light up.
But I’m not a neurologist, and I have no idea how brains work. From what little I do know, it seems to me that at this stage of the science, it seems like our knowledge of the brain is comparable to that of a bunch of toddlers looking at a jet engine for the first time.
That’s why I said “some sort of higher power, if not God.” The Earth is certainly a higher power than any one human.
OT but when did NPR begin publishing National Review?
Interesting stuff. After the horrific 1745 earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Catholic priests roamed the ruins with gangs of thugs, picking out survivors at random (or near-random) whom they accused of offending God with their heresies and iniquities. The thugs then strung those people up.
OTOH, the Portuguese leadership was remarkably practical, and enacted building codes in the wake of the tragedy. And the overall hierarchy of the Catholic Church took a surprisingly enlightened reaction, too, in that it authorized the Jesuits to start studying seismology. The Jesuits became the world’s pre-eminent seismologists for the next 200 years- at the time of the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, for example, the majority of the world’s monitoring stations were still located in Jesuit missions and run by Jesuits. Supposedly, they still have a surprising amount of input into seismology, considering they’re a religious order and that geology has come light-years forward in the last century.
These kinds of tragedies bring out the best and the worst. Pat Robertson is definitely the worst.
Grumpy Code Monkey
What infuriates me about Robertson (and Falwell before he shuffled off this mortal coil) was how giddy he seems every time there’s massive death and destruction: “oh, goody, a new whip I can use to flog the faithful”. It’s like he lives for this crap. He was saying the same shit after 9/11 and Katrina, and it was the first (and only) goddamned thing out of his mouth IIRC.
The perfect justice for Robertson is that when he finally dies, he’s aware enough to realize that there is no afterlife, and that he’s simply going to cease to be. Forever. One and done.
Bill E Pilgrim
@El Cid: Well yes, but, to quote @valdivia:’s response to you:
In other words to turn the passage you posted into the idea that Marx thought that having peasants is the way things should remain, would be quite a leap. His disdain for peasants wasn’t a disdain for people, one could argue, but for the system that leaves them without the means to organize or help themselves.
That may or may not be what you were claiming, I think I’ve lost track how this started.
In any case what Taibbi’s piece, and in fact just a small part of the piece, was describing was one, just one, of many methods by which peasants were kept in their place, and not all peasants stay there, and some revolt, yes. But you have to agree that the methods worked, a lot of the time.
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
How would he be aware of that, if there’s no afterlife?
Grumpy Code Monkey
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I’m talking about his final seconds, when he’s waiting for the light to come, and it never does.
As if anyone wanted to hear from other loathsome rightwingers, Rush says “We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax,” and that Obama will take advantage of the disaster to “boost his credibility with the black community.”
Stay classy, guys, stay classy.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: ah, missed that interpretation. Let’s hear it for the kami while we’re at it.
I’m now off wondering about ascribed intentions and how the mind learns to classify statistical events. Meaning. Isn’t there a stage where babies learn to ascribe intentionality to actors? e.g. “There’s a person in there (huh, kinda like me? and he meant to do what he just did? And then there are all those other class of things that just happen: “Hee Hee Hee, that fork dropped again from the high chair.” Lot of brain cycles spent working it out, which is which. Millions of forks dropped. Gravity bill still paid up. Those things with noses still confusing, but they seem to be me-like. So there are all those causes and effects are not quite dull dull repetitive gravity and not quite like the erratic nosy one, so where to I put them? Weather. Earthquakes. mmm. More brain cycles. Dump them into the nosy class, only a big invisible nosy class because as much as I jump up and down I haven’t managed to shake down buildings. OK, kinda obvious line of thought, but there we are: I’ve gotta work with the wet-ware I’ve got.
This isn’t my field but I don’t think we should use the word “belief” as in the phrase “believe in things” to mean “practice” or “affirm the utility of certain actions.” To say that “atheists believe in things…” like morality is really to try to say “some atheists practice sets of moral rules, or affirm the utility of following certain moral codes, or cultural rules…” This very distinction came up the other day over at pandagon where amanda went on the attack against the common phrasing of religious bigots that they “don’t believe in homosexuality.” Of course they do believe in it, as a practice–it exists, they protest against it. But they don’t allow it to rise to the level of a religiously sanctioned action, and they “believe” that their g-d doesn’t like it.
When we substitute the word belief, with all its connotations of faith in things unseen and unproveable, for a more accurate phrase like “prefer” or “intend” or “practice” we are really confusing things more than we are illuminating them.
And I’d like to radically affirm Hiram Tait’s point about how “not collecting stamps” is not, in fact, a hobby. And in contrast to J. MIchael Neal’s argument except in very special cases–and I think we can pretty much count them on the finger of one hand, although some atheists have committed horrific crimes very few of them were committed in pursuit of atheist principles (whatever those are) or because belief in atheism impelled them. While the crimes of the religious are almost always (although not always) done specifically in the name of g-d, to further his supposed will. Atheists, not believing in or following such a higher or lower power, can’t slough their actions off on another. I can’t say whether this makes Pol Pot more or less culpable than Catherine de Medicis or the Crusading Popes.
Leelee for Obama
@inkadu: Mara Liasson is full of shit. Again. In other news, Pat Robertson is a total asshole. Possible film at noon. or not. Oh, and Rush Limbaugh is a tool. There are places we abhor like black sites and Gitmo, that could possibly be acceptable if people like these were sent there.
Real news: we now have some search and rescue teams on the ground in Haiti, and they will probably be able to save some people. There are 139 UN workers still missing. Considering we started out with 9000, that’s good news. The Military set up an air traffic control capability at Port-au-Prince airport last night, so we shouldn’t have close calls there like Anderson Cooper and others have described. More than 3 million dollars has been collected through texting “Haiti” to 90999. All levels of our government are on the job, having cancelled trips that were scheduled, for their JOBS, not for their pleasure!
Eyes on the ball, my fellow BJers. What’s important is what is being done to help. Fuck the politically motivated assholes-they’ll be around forever. There is no way to get rid of them-like cockroaches.
John 14:6 sounds pretty unambiguous to me.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
I think the original point was that Marx disdained the peasants as being too stupid and superstitious to ever start a revolution. In actuality, the peasants have been the only ones EVER to successfully complete a Marxist (or quasi-Marxist, really) revolution, while the proles that Marx pinned all his hopes on were easily fobbed off with the capitalists’ sops of improved working conditions and enhanced political power.
From a Marxist perspective, then, Marx was kind of a condescending, mistaken asshole. Or at least that’s how it looks to me, but I’m a non-Marxist looking in. (I also view Taibbi as a condescending asshole, but that’s another story).
Davis X. Machina
Supposedly, they still have a surprising amount of input into seismology, considering they’re a religious order and that geology has come light-years forward in the last century.
Not supposedly. (BC is a Jesuit institution).
@Davis X. Machina:
Thanks for the corroboration.
@J. Michael Neal:
I subscribe to no belief system. I call myself nothing. If forced to describe my beliefs, I’d have to call myself a deist. But I am loathe to get specific. I think it’s all bullshit.
Doesn’t even mean that.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that “lights up” when one engages in intense prayer or meditation. It’s the same part of the brain that shows increased activity when a person narrows their mental focus. Meanwhile, the amygdala, or the part of the brain that is responsible for processing emotional responses and memory, goes “darker” than normal. This is generally considered normal, as these two parts of the brain have functions that run counter to the other. The parietal lobe (spatial sense) also sees reduced activity.
Basically, all the areas of the brain that should light up when someone narrowly focuses their attention do light up, and those that interfere with that focus go a bit dark. If you want to get a non-theist to have the same experience, merely in terms of brain activity, just ask them to concentrate hard enough.
what took god 206 years?
Robertson’s god obviously believes revenge is a dish best served cold.
Brick Oven Bill
Napoleon would have had no way of knowing it, or even appreciating it if he knew, as he lived before the Era of Fossil Fuels. But included in the Louisiana Purchase was the Green River oil shale deposits. This is quite likely the greatest deposit of stored solar energy on the earth, enough to Enlighten our Country for four centuries.
The Louisiana Purchase, as we have just determined, was a direct consequence of the French HBD Denialism of 1789.
HBD Denialism > Loss of Representative Government > Napoleon > War with Italy > Removed Security forces from Haiti to Fight in Italy > Rape, Death, and Contemporary Haitian Building Codes > Napoleon Sells North America > American Oil Shale
It is quite possible that this is evidence of a higher power telling us to openly embrace the Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences.
I don’t mean to get all orthodox Marxist here but the whole point Marx made (as it was so well put by Bill E Pilgrim) was that the *systemic contradictions* of an industrialized society would lead to a very *specific* type of revolution. And again, not to be too exacting on Marxist theory but a Marxist revolution is not just *any type* of revolution, for some reason over the years people just simply equate revolutions with Marxism and part of this is because the work of Lenin and in part because of Mao. But this is NOT what Marx had in mind. Marx was very much a Hegelian who would not have taken kindly to a contradiction from a previous era (feudalism), inserting themselves in the contradiction of the new era (industrialization). You can say Marx was wrong, and that is a different kettle, but to say it was the peasants that lead Marxists revolutions is not correct, peasants have lead many revolutions but these are not Marxist by definition because his revolution could only happen in industrialized society.
For an excellent example of a non Marxist peasant-elite coalition anti clerical revolution see mexico 1910-1917.
yeah, it’s obviously their fault for living on a tropical island in a hurricane infested zone, nigh on top of the subuction zone where the north american plate rides over the carribean plate. obviously the devil. nature is never involved in natural disasters.
What does this mean? I’m honestly curious.
I’m guessing it means, “I’m really an atheist, but don’t want to argue about it, so I say I’m an agnostic.”
Since agnostics seem entirely composed of lazy atheists, I make it a point to ask, “Why are you agnostic? I mean, how can you ever be SURE that you don’t know?”
The reason I hold such contempt for religion (and not quite as much for politics and business) is that religions make claims to morality and higher purpose. You don’t need religion for either of those things and, based on everything I’ve ever seen of religions, none of them live up to their propaganda and, in fact, directly contradict whatever supposed morality they try to impose on the rest of us. I can find nothing more contemptuous. YMMV.
I think we have a winner!
We all know that football coaches come before all others when god is parcelling out his attention.
Mark McGwire is at the head of the line when god is passing out gifts.
Bill E Pilgrim
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: Ah I should remember to not bring Taibbi up here, being on the other “side” of the progressive thing now etc etc snore….
Yes, I realize this is your own opinion you were expressing and welcome to it, good, fine.
I’m just depressed how predictable these places are becoming with this current schizm.
Have fun all, gotta go.
@geg6: I think it’s all bullshit.
Yours is a fervently held belief, geg. Only Iron Chef escapes the vortex of indifference.
The Moar You Know
@Prospero: Please tattoo this on the forehead of every “devout” Christian. Thank you.
Then why’d they make a big deal out of that? That’s nothing. That’s like saying “peoples’ brains are working when they’re thinking about God. Or ice cream. Or politics. Or anything else.” I thought the research showed something more interesting. Forgive me. As I said, I’m not a neurologist.
I don’t buy it. I require nothing more than biology. Does that make me not human?
God had a better mouthpiece. David Koresh. And you saw what happened to him. We killed him. Robertson better watch his six.
What I find weird about fundamentalism is that it almost seems to go with amorality. No, I’m not talking about slimeball TV preachers secretly skimming donations and sleeping with prostitutes. I’m talking about how often a fundamentalist will say something in an argument with an atheist like “what stops you from murdering and pillaging if you’re not afraid of eternal damnation?”. As if they don’t operate from any sense of conscience or, I dunno, the good of society. Or even the Golden Rule, that I don’t want to live in a society where people run around doing that stuff.
Yet it seems to be almost a norm among such people that only this fear keeps their inner Hun from running amok.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
It’s aesthetics. I just don’t like the guy. I don’t want to start a fight about it, so I won’t go into specifics.
@The Moar You Know:
First part of this statement is actually from Mark Twain to be honest.
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
Heh. I like to imagine that it’ll be like Ghost. Better if he sees the bright light and the beautiful music, but then it stops, volume goes down on the music, and all the whispering shadows show up.
(In Ghost you only get one or the other, but I’d rather he see what he’s missing)
To which you should reply: “What stops you from murdering and pillaging if you already believe you are saved anyway?”
Thanks. I didn’t know any of that.
It’s almost a gut reaction with me. Robertson is defending his statement by repeating it, and then pointing to the charitable work he does, or plans to do, or something.
It bothers me, because it always seems like denouncing the recipient of charity is the predicate condition to offering aid.
I don’t understand why they have to take something (whatever pride these people have in their history) before they ostensibly give something. That’s not “charity” to me. It’s a transaction. That he’s bitching about deals with the Devil while offering his own hard bargain is amusing.
The Republic of Stupidity
For my 2 cents…
When discussing Roberston, it’d make more sense to reference another part of God’s anatomy than the mouth…
LOL! Yes! I am an Iron Chefist!
I think the idea is that without God, without an afterlife, everything’d be meaningless. Atheists could substitute a surrogate meaning in their lives- conscience, altruistic instincts, whaever- but it’d still just be a surrogate delusion of purpose in lieu of the God-delusion of purpose. Since ultimately, our existence would be a pointless fart in a random and pointless Universe, whether you spent your life helping widows and orphans or spend it robbing banks and selling crack cocaine to 9-year-olds would be, in the final analysis, irrelevant and pointless. Some pointless delusions would be more socially useful than others, but since life itself was meaningless, in the long run it would make no difference how our species twinkled out its worthless, irrelevant sojourn between brackets of eternal oblivion.
Not saying that’s the only way of looking at it, I’m just saying that’s the way they’d look at it.
I think the Golden Rule provides an exceptionally ethical and helpful behavorial model with universal application. The rest of the religious program is speculative man-made crap intended to exert control over people afraid of their own mortality, IMHO.
@Randy P: yeah, the “we’re the moral ones because we get green stamps redeemable in heaven while you’re the immoral gits that can do no right because you ain’t been bribed” argument. Never quite understood that one. Let alone the you can do nothing good even if you actions exactly match our stated goals because you don’t collect the same green stamps we do version.
@Leelee for Obama: Is Mara a repeat offender? I usually get enraged by little snippet summaries on NPR. A five-second sentence leaves no room for obfuscation, so they by necessity have to distort. But the “lack of bipartisanship” is something only the Village mourns; I don’t know why they can’t get over it. I guess if the parties can’t agree on anything, then the media doesn’t know what its allowed to say.
Yes, but. There are many ways to interpret that passage. Perhaps Jesus is the welcoming being who guides people through the tunnel to the light, as described in many near death experiences. Perhaps when a person finally “gets” God, Jesus is the spirit within that helps them find the way. The narrow interpretation of modern American right wing protestantism is not the sum total of Christianity.
“Hell” has also been interpreted many ways. The modern Catholic approach is that hell is the absence of God, or the state of being turned away from God.
On the news this morning, the anchor-chick began this story with-“Pat Robertson made a statement about the Haiti earthquake that offended some people.”
CBN, will you do the planet a favor and take this demented gargoyle off the air for good?
Agreed, but wouldn’t confine that to fundamentalists. I’ve been asked the same question by Catholics, Lutherans, and pretty much any religionist or believer. As if religion was the only source for morality. And the brain scans that show parts of the brain lighting up when thinking about religion show similar activity in non-believers when they concentrate on something. It’s not some sort of genetic imperative to believe in fairy tales. But I see this matter has already been covered by people who know more about neurology than I do.
@Bill E Pilgrim: Marx thought the proletariat would revolt, not the agrarian peasantry because of the level of political consciousness and their relationship to capitalism. Peasants existed before capitalism. Marx would have been puzzled, possibly dismayed, by both the Russian and Chinese revolutions, as both societies were still essentially agrarian and had a very small proletariat. A democratic revolution overthrowing the oligarchy would not have been surprising, but a s o c i a l ist revolution was supposed to happen first in advanced capitalist countries (Germany, Great Britain, possibly the United States).
Leelee for Obama
@inkadu: Mara Liasson appears on both NPR and Fox News. It was a source of some(not much) discomfort to NPR and they asked her if it was a conflict of interest. After considering, she said no, it wasn’t. Repeat offender of the first magnitude.
The Republic of Stupidity
@Bill E Pilgrim:
That surely explains how he ended up on the dollar bill, had an enormous phallic symbol ‘erected’ in his honor, got up on Mt Rushmore, and loaned his name to the nation’s capital.
I know… all of these things were done after he died… but in some way, they do reflect a certain desire and need for attention on George’s part. He would never have ended up so famous if he hadn’t wanted to.
He’s an asshole anyway. The real charity work is being done by the US military, Doctors without Borders, and other groups that have no affiliation with him whatsoever.
If I donate $20 to the relief efforts, and then I say that this happened to Haiti because Haiti’s evil, my donation doesn’t make me any less of an asshole. (Substitute whatever amount of money Robertson claims to be sending to relief efforts, and the formula still applies.)
Sounds like people just invent this stuff to hide the rot at the foundation. Looking at modern religious people and known figures from history of christianity I see no reason to believe that founders of this religion were exceptionally nice and well-meaning people. They probably meant exactly what they wrote.
My argument for this is simple: There’s only one person left who would know whether Haiti had made a deal with the devil, and that’s the devil.
So, the only question I would have of Pat Robertson is whether or not we can trust him to tell the truth when discussing the deals he’s made with people.
Also, has anyone ever asked Robertson whether he did, indeed, go down to Georgia lookin’ for a soul to steal? Inquiring minds want to know.
One person’s pointless fart is another person’s inspiring spark.
It’s a glass half full sort of thing. Personally, I find the idea of life springing from chemical accidents much more satisfying than the idea of life springing from some sociopathic gawd figure’s imagination.
And if I am wrong, then lightning should strike me. Seriously, I
( signal lost )
You say “as if religion was the only source for morality”. But these kinds of statement strike me as the opposite of morality. That’s what bugs me about it. It says “I have no moral sense, no innate desire to do good, no idea of what is right or wrong. I only do things that look right to you because I’m afraid of being caught.”
That’s why I said “amorality” above.
A disclaimer and why I don’t paint all Christians with the same brush: I call myself a Christian and go to church most Sundays. But for me that means “I think the teachings in the Gospels are a good ideal for us to strive for in human society. I choose to follow what we are told are the teachings of Christ. But I don’t actually care if Jesus was divine or even really existed as a single historical figure. And I can live without that Paul guy, who was the beginning of a long line of so-called Christians bending the message to their own prejudices.”
I wonder if he’s aware that of the fact that the archbishop of Port-Au-Prince is suspected to have died in the quake. I dare say that throws a wrench in his logic (for modern day Robertson that is; works just fine for vintage anti-Catholic Robertson).
Isn’t one of the defining traits of being agnostic that you’re not claiming to be SURE about anything? Isn’t that kind of the point?
The Devil is in those little details.
Leelee for Obama
@DonBelacquaDelPurgatorio:You made me laugh! Thanks.
@inkadu: I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic (coffee hasn’t kicked in yet) but if not… come on. Agnosticism isn’t lazy atheism. I, in fact, find agnostics to be generally less…
Okay, here’s the part where I’m going to piss people off.
What is atheism if not *belief* that there is no higher power? Atheists don’t have any additional knowledge than the rest of us. Arguing against religious doctrine is one thing; but to categorically state that there is NO higher power, that we can be certain there’s no giant game of solitaire going on, is to me the height of human arrogance. We can’t even figure out how our own bodies work half the time. Hardcore “There’s no God, you morons” atheists are, to me, no less annoying than “We KNOW there’s a God, the rest of you are going to hell” types. And it satisfies the same thing: the desperate need to be sure you know what’s going on… even though we can’t. We’re tiny and utterly incapable of seeing things on that scale.
We can’t know, and there’s no point in fretting over it. I’ve truly never understood people who claimed they were sure. Maybe I missed the memo somewhere.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: Of course, everything is meaningless, even if there is a God; it just takes longer to realize.
Meaning is something to look forward to, and an anticipated result of present actions. Once you get to Heaven, what do you have to look forward to? And what makes being there more meaningful than anything else?
(Not arguing with you, but it’s something I’m trying to piece together myself).
I am tired of these hate filled old media whores.
I am sick that they continue to be treated by the media as though they are anything but the vile, hate-spewing sociopaths they are.
Fuck Limbaugh and Robertson.
Well, yeah. And I’m a scientist for the same reason. I’m comfortable with not knowing.
I described my peculiar brand of Christianity once on another forum, and the response was “that’s some damn fine agnosticism there.” On a whole host of what some people consider important questions my view is “Don’t know. No way to find out. Answer doesn’t matter. No point in worrying about it.” Such as afterlife, heaven, hell, existence of Jesus, etc.
Yes, but the argument would be that your satisfaction or dissatisfaction is ultimately meaningless, too.
1000 years from now, no one living will care how people alive now felt about life. If they even remember those dead people, it’ll be as a name in a history book or on a marble slab, or as a quaint archaeological excursion of some sort. And at some point in the indefinite future, there probably wouldn’t be any humans left, and the cold, empty, dying Universe would have no concerns about that one way or the other.
It’s a rather depressing way of looking at life, which is why the idea of an afterlife is generally viewed with greater appeal. It makes life seem, in the long run, not-pointless. It also makes earthly slights seem a bit more tolerable, if there’s some post-life judgment system where all wrongs are righted. Hence, the social utility of it.
@geg6: Pet peeve, re: “source of morality.” Morality is what our monkey brains developed over years of evolution in competitive/cooperative society; it is shaped by the culture we are in and, for the more intellectual and emotionally detached, guided by a system of ethics. The “source of morality” is not ever going to be found in a book or social system. But you knew that.
I don’t know about that. Penn Gillette describes himself as one of those, a view he feels should somehow have a stronger word than atheism. And his essay on the subject comes across (to me anyway) as heartfelt and sincere, and from a genuinely nice guy (although to be honest, sometimes I do get a little of an asshole vibe from Penn. That doesn’t stop me from basically liking and admiring him and this essay)
I think the idea is that when we get to Heaven, we get to know everything, and we live outside of space-time. So we’re in some eternally-existing moment of joyous reunification with the purpose of all existence, something we can never get bored with any more than we could get “bored” with spending forever in the single happiest moment of our lives- times a zillion.
Or so the argument goes. I’m not saying it’s true, but I am saying that it sounds a lot nicer than oblivion.
@Randy P: @Prospero:
I’ve often been struck by that too, Randy. It must be all that immersion in the hatefest that is the Old Testament.
And Prospero, I’ve noticed that a lot of “born-again” fundies use the “Saved” card as a get out of jail free pass.
Because the philosophy of being born again is divorced from atonement for bad actions it seems.
@Robin G.: Well, that’s just an argument about in your face dogmatic fundamentalist atheists v. the other kind. I can even imagine that rarest of breed, a dogmatic loud rabid agnostic (reminds me of the Unitarians burning question marks on your lawn image, honestly). Be sure all you want, just don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses? My personal line is believe all you want and be as sure as you want, just don’t bloody insist that everyone around you live 100% according to your personal take on things.
Fuck it, no one knows anyway. Just live your life as best you see fit, and hope for the best.
That’s pretty much what I got out of reading every religious and philosophical work I’ve ever read, although a lot of them were willing to make substantially more assertive claims about what’s coming up.
Considering intuiting in the absence of empirical verification is essential for existence, it’s not surprising. Very little in the world happens exactly twice the same way; any animal must develop an ability to guess at the correct response in a new situtation to be able to exist more than one day.
Heck, scientists intuit in the absence of empirical verficiation; you have to design the experiment before you can get the data. There’s a gap there – between existing knowledge and new theory – that has to be filled by intuition. And if scientists doing science need to intuit things, anyone doing anything else is going to be doing it too.
It seems like some people think that as soon as someone decides god doesn’t exist, their brain re-wires and the way they process any other belief changes. That’s a pretty unscientific point of view. If anyone’s found anything in the cog. sci. or neuroscience literature to support it, I’d like to see it.
If this has been mentioned before, I apologize but Karen Tumulty of Swampland labeled Robertson a Radical Cleric. When criticized by Newsbusters she put the definitions on her post.
Sounds about right.
As for he does good things, let us not forget his connection with the diamond trade.
I dunno. They are going to have to come up with a better afterlife model to sell me. The idea of floating around on clouds, wearing nothing but white clothes, and putting up with the subzero temperatures up there …..
The muslims apparently get sex, unless the whole virgin thing is just a cruel joke. But even then, nothing but virgins to have sex with? I prefer a more experienced partner, myself.
I picture myself up there for a millennia or two and then going, Fuck this, I’d rather be dead.
@Robin G.: Most atheists are not 100.00% positive there is no God; they just aren’t intimidated by the scope of the question.
Question: Is it raining?
Agnostic: Is it raining? I’m not sure. I look out the window and it doesn’t look like it’s raining. I see a cloud over there, so rain could conceivably be coming out of it onto the ground; and it’s probably raining somewhere in the world, I just can’t be sure. Can you be more specific? What is rain anyway? I mean, there’s water vapor in the air right now, where do you want to draw the line?
Atheist: No, it is not raining.
Atheism is SATSQ.
Right. But the flip side of that bargain is Robertson’s listeners get to tell themselves that they aren’t stuck under a crumbled building because they’re better than the people in Haiti.
Followers: “why did this happen?” Robertson: “because they’re evil”. Implicit in that is “and you’re not”. Or you’d be struggling for breath under a crumpled building, just like the evil people.
I don’t think that’s a fair deal for the recipients of the aid. He can just keep the twenty, the needy can look elsewhere for help, to people or entities who don’t insist on driving such a hard bargain, and we’ll call it even.
Leelee for Obama
I think you can. Why else would love fade, marriages end, good relationships fall apart, parents and children grow distant. I don’t think you can continuously be ecstatically happy forever anymore than you can be horribly depressed forever ( unless it’s a chemical thing). Even with the intervention of a powerful “something”, the maintaining of any mental state is exhausting. I think heaven might just be a level of knowing you don’t know, and that’s OK. Like Randy P said.
The problem stems from our human frailty, not knowing is too frightening-knowing provides a kind of power over that fear. If you can make others believe, or marginalize those who don’t believe, you’re a Preacher.
The virgins’ hymens supposedly re-seal after sex, so you get the best of both worlds- experienced virgins.
If it sounds creepy, that’s because it is.
@DonBelacquaDelPurgatorio: yup, definite cruiseship vibes coming off the whole thing. And even the mythical 72 virgins could get dull after a good long while, and that’s assuming that the invisible one doesn’t pull a fast one and insist that they maintain their virginity so you’re faced with an eternity of ha! ha! you can’t touch this. Naps after a hard day? Those at least I’ve some reason to believe in.
Yeah, but by that analogy, the theists would be saying “Yes, it IS raining.” Only thing is, we’re all in a soundproof basement and we have no way of knowing.
If it were all as simple as empirical verification or looking out the window, I don’t think there’d be quite so many arguments about it.
LOL. But my view of “not sure” is not an endless series of speculations and discussion, it’s more like “therefore my interest in the discussion is over.”
So I’d say “Is it raining? I don’t know. I’ll find out when I go outside and respond accordingly. Now I have work to do.”
Which, in fact, is pretty much my actual relation to rain. I mostly find out about weather predictions when other people mention them to me.
Well, I still call them assholes. But I suppose if there’s no God/afterlife/absolute justice/point to anything, what I think of them is pretty irrelevant. In a couple decades, we’re all dead anyway.
@inkadu: That assumes there’s a clear window of knowledge and insight and certain facts. It’s much more like being inside a concrete bunker.
Question: Is it raining?
Atheist: I don’t know that it *is*, therefore it is not.
Theist: I don’t know that it’s *not*, therefore it is.
Agnostic: You guys know there’s no window, right?
@Robin G.: Addendum: Another way to consider it is that there a near infinite number of suppositions very similar to the Higher Power / God one in terms of their grand sweep and significance… but we routinely dismiss th em.
For instance: What if we are all really simulations on a computer? What if we’re all dreaming? What if we are elements on a computer program? What if we are genetically engineered by aliens? What if our planet is wrapped in an artificial shell meant to hide us from the reality of our universe?
Atheists see the God hypothesis at the same level of these questions, and so don’t see the problem with saying, “no.” I get the feeling for agnostics the God question has an aura of importance.
At difficult times like these, even skeptics can turn to prayer.
Fortunately, the Christian Broadcasting Network has Prayer Operators standing by!
Why don’t you give them a call and ask them to join you in a prayer for Pat Robertson?
@Leelee for Obama:
Those things happen in time. The idea of the afterlife is that it exists outside of time.
I’m not saying this is how it is. I’m just saying this is the argument presented, taken on its own terms. Those terms include the idea that we’d be in absolute bliss, for all eternity, and that it would never go away because time doesn’t happen to us anymore.
I think it sounds nice, anyway. And if it’s bullshit, I’ll be too dead to know the difference.
There’s a window, I can about 100% guarantee there’s a window, well, a door, or maybe just a hole in the wall marked “EXIT”, and we’ll all get there. With or without umbrellas (and rubbers for some).
OT Long time blog readers will recognize the name Scott Ritter and how he was railroaded out of his job as a weapons inspector because he knew to much was arrested.
Kudos to TPM for linking to the story.
I don’t think this says anything particularly laudatory about me, but I was slow on the uptake in donating yesterday (i.e. I didn’t), but Pat Robertson really pushed me to do it today. Went with Partners in Health, being a Paul Farmer fangirl. Let’s just hope some other lazies are prompted to do the same, so that a little bit of good can crawl out of the sleaze in Robertson’s wake.
@DonBelacquaDelPurgatorio: Would a beer volcano sweeten your afterlife?
It’s not as commonly known but the Devil also went down to Jamaica
@Svensker: Lucifer is a Latin word, literally meaning “light-bearer”.
Straight from wikipedia yo. Just sayin.
An atheist answers “no” to What Ifs?
Besides that nitpick, a “good” agnostic would answer “I don’t know” to all those questions. And saying I don’t know isn’t saying you put a lot of weight in a yes being a viable answer. There is an infinitesimally small chance the answer to any of those is yes, but the reality is there’s little evidence either way and pursuing an answer to those questions is pretty much futile. You can say “I don’t know” and follow it up with “and quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
You’re point is well taken that agnostics put the god question on a higher plateau, and I’d guess it’s peer pressure.
BTW the 5 minute counter thing is awesome. It makes editing my posts really challenging.
Stating that the vast majority of human beings throughout history seem to have this innate “spiritual” grasping doesn’t negate your humanity, any more than saying that someone who has 12 fingers is not human simply because the vast majority of humans have 10 fingers.
As I mentioned above, even if you reduce things to biology, most people would say that there is a “person” inside the human body, an intellect, a mind, that exists “apart” from synapses and sinews. That is an appeal that moves beyond biology, because science cannot explain how that “intellect” or whatever you want to call it, exists. They keep getting closer to the core of “I think, therefore I am,” but their not there yet.
So even at the basic level, there is a philosophical belief in something beyond mere biology for human beings.
Yes, I don’t like stooping to Robertson’s level, but if Haiti is “cursed” for making a pact with the devil, is the reason the South has such high levels of poverty, crime, and social dysfunction relative to the rest of the country because of their pact with, um, Jesus?
If Katrina and 9/11 were the fault of New Orleans, New York, and Washington’s sinfulness, then was the OKC bombing and the Galveston Hurricane because of God’s anger with Texas and Oklahoma? Does Oklahoma get all those tornadoes because God is unhappy with how conservative the state is (it’s the only state in the union that didn’t have a single county go for Obama in ’08)?
These are the kinds of questions I’d like someone to ask the senile fraud.
@Hiram Taine: Ha! I did not know that. So much to learn from the internet.
Q: Is it raining donuts?
Theist: Yes, of course it is raining donuts.
Agnostic: There are no windows so I have no way of knowing whether it is raining donuts or not.
Atheist: The probability that it’s raining donuts is exceedingly low, I personally do not think it is raining donuts.
Homer: Ooo.. Donuts..
Looks like old Pat doesn’t have long to go. I hope when he does kick off we won’t have to listen to everybody stepping up and saying nice things about him.
@Randy P: I’m the same way about the weather, and I don’t understand obsessively watching the forecasts. My window is never wrong.
I’m guessing your an apatheist — an apathetic atheist — someone for whom the question of God is unanswerable but also supremely uninteresting. I think it’s a luxury that people raised as religious don’t have; I spent a lot of my childhood wrestling with my lack of belief and the doom it was condemning me to. I know it seems paradoxical — I didn’t believe enough in God, but was sure I was going to hell for it. It wasn’t a matter of idle curiosity.
Speaking as a self-described agnostic, I think there is an “importance” to the “spiritual” question (not necessarily the God question). But I am disinclined to follow it at this point because most of the arguments advanced tend to be circular.
I have done a fair bit of research into religious communications, and find it fascinating to study how people use their own “spiritual” language to communicate with others of the same tribe, and how that language is used to shut out those who aren’t in the tribe.
But the God question? I’ve moved on to “meh.” I no more care to read or listen to Richard Dawkins tear down religion than I care to read or listen to C.S. Lewis build it up.
@arguingwithsignposts: Wow, if George Washington was alive today, Palin, I am sure, would find him insufficiently Christian.
We know very, very little about Washington’s religious beliefs or even if he had any. He didn’t go to church, never took communion, as far as we know never invoked Jesus Christ and so on.
In fact most of our “founding fathers” would not recognize Palin’s Christianity.
God damn it, Scott Ritter.
I was such a huge supporter of him and his quixotic quest to stop the Iraq War before it started. Damn it; creepy and sad story.
kommrade reproductive vigor
It will be a rehash of what happened when Jerry Falwell croaked. The cable news networks will spend 72 hours in solemn piety, broken only for the opportunity to invite Christopher Hitchens on to call them out for their groveling stupidity and for Hitch to coin some more classic terms to go along with “chaucerian fraud” and “Reverend Jim-Bob Vermin”.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: When it comes to God, we are emphatically not in a soundproof basement. We are in a universe supposedly created by God, in which God is only of interest to 99% of the population because he is able to interact with the Universe. And if we really are in a sound-proof basement, God is an even more vacuous concept.
@Ty Lookwell: You’d think someone who stared down Saddam Hussein’s regime would be able to suss out the difference between a New York State Trooper and a 15-year-old girl.
Pat Robertson would know something “pacts with the Devil” as he belongs to a First Family of Virginia (his Dad and several other ancestors held high political office in the Old Dominion since colonial times. And one of the reasons Haiti is and has been a hell hole is that it was the deliberate policiy of the United States for a very long time to make it one as evidence of the evil consequences of emancipation, apparently a concern that many Movement Conservatives still share (any day I expect Palin and Beck to start campaigning for the repeal of the 13th amendment.)
“… and Jeffersonian policies. Policy differences, he persuasively argues, derived from sectional origins. Southerners George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison devised a foreign policy that protected slavery whereas northerner John Adams overlooked race and set out a policy of cooperation with the former slaves. Washington ordered that the treasury direct payments of the American debt to France toward the planters fighting the insurrection. Adams, on the other hand, appointed senior representative Edward Stevens the American liaison with Toussaint L’Ouverture and had the American navy gloriously fight side by side with former slaves. The Revolution of 1800 terminated Haitian-American cooperation. Jefferson replaced Stevens with a minor commercial agent and refused to have anything to do with the de facto governors of the island. Jefferson promised to give material support to Charles Leclerc’s expedition that set out to re-conquer the island and restore slavery and, after that mission failed, embargoed American trade with Haiti.
“Stating that the vast majority of human beings throughout history seem to have this innate “spiritual” grasping ”
Ah no that is brought upon them by being brought up in a society that has religion. Wheter you are a hindu, believer in the greek pantheon depends upon where you were born and when you were born not that you were born with a spiritual grasping.
If I thought they understood irony, I would totally be on board with this idea.
the good thing about being a practicing agnostic is that it takes no pracitce.
Oh, and I love it when you see that “devout athiest” line.
@Todd: It’s more about the approach to the questions and its answers. Sometimes “probably not” is close enough to “no.” Nobody cares about the questions I posed, so you can get away with saying, “no, probably not,” without being accused of being arrogantly certain.
Hey, I’m just running with your analogy. There’s no window we can look out of to see if God exists or not. If there is one, besides death, I’d like to know what it is.
But where does the culture get its religious ideas? Ex nihilo? No. Somewhere along the way, people within that culture wondered where things came from, how they came to be. The very fact that there are so many different forms and practices suggests that it is more than just “being trained by the culture.” I am willing to accept that once it starts, it gets handed down, and there is a major cultural component, but to dismiss it as “just training” is naive and counterfactual.
Is there any society that *doesn’t* have religion of some form or other? Someone mentioned the dutch earlier, but even there, atheism was not the norm for much of its history.
ETA: Where you were born certainly has something to do with it, but not everything, else you wouldn’t have all the non-believers on this site who left the religion of their childhood and went in a different direction – some to other faiths or spiritual paths, and others to agnosticism or atheism. In short, nature and nurture is the answer, imho.
I don’t know. Leaving aside all cultural vestiges or arguments about religious dogma, the philosophical idea of a Prime Mover makes more sense to me than the idea that something came from nothing.
That doesn’t mean that Prime Mover is “God,” per se, or that that Prime Mover did anything other than start the Universe and then walk away from it. What it means to me is that the idea of some eternal, causeless causer makes more sense than “Look! Quantum magic! Something from nothing!” YMMV.
I’m not quite sure what you’re saying here. Are you saying that I somehow stated that religionists don’t have morality without their religion? Or are you saying that I have no morality?
All I’m saying is that religionists make claims all the time that people like me, who have no religion or superstitious beliefs, are not moral. And I’m telling you that you don’t need religion to be moral. And that often, the moral thing is to do the exact opposite of what so many religionists try to force down my throat.
Mike in NC
President-in-Waiting Palin dreams of the day — in her own lifetime, of course — when her picture adorns the dollar bill, monuments are built in her honor, and mountains and cities are named after her. After million-dollar book deals and a TV show, it’s the only thing left.
I can’t believe I’m watching an argument about who’s more skeptical– atheists or agnostics. Now I need no further reminder that I exist almost entirely within a liberal bubble.
I think those windows are considered controlled substances in the U.S. :)
@Hiram Taine: That was sacrilicious.
@arguingwithsignposts: What is “the spiritual question”? I know the answers are different for everybody, but what is the question, really?
You are also quite wrong about science’s progress and the mind. We have some very rough ideas how it might work, have some really great examples of phenomenon related to parts of the brain, etc… but all the evidence points to the brain as the substrate for whatever it is. There is no evidence for a soul.
Of course the idea of disembodied mind and soul will be with us long after science has thoroughly disproved them both… they are natural, intuitive explanations for something that is quite amazing.
Indeed. We have too many counterexamples to prove that R =/= M.
This is so false that it’s laughable. Atheists, for the most part, don’t think about a “higher power” at all. It is not a belief system and to try to shoehorn it into terms only used in religious context is to completely misunderstand atheists. All the atheists I know consider “belief,” in this context, as completely irrelevant. They don’t “believe” or “not believe.” They simply don’t care.
You know what’s sad (or awesome, depending on your point of view)? As of my post, this comment thread has more serious thought about religion than Pat Robertson’s own thought output throughout the entirety of his lifetime.
So really, I find it difficult to really be offended by Robertson here. He’s just a total fucking moron.
Nowadays most mainline churches read John 14:6 as saying that Jesus is the gatekeeper, but they don’t speculate on who comes through the gate. It isn’t just liberal revisionism. A version of universalism ran through Christian thought from the beginning. Origen in the 2nd Century believed that all of creation would eventually be reconciled with God through its own free will at the end of time (called the “apocatastasis” in Greek).
The Eastern Orthodox believe that both those who love God and those who reject God will be in God’s presence for eternity together. How they experience God will make that existence heaven or hell for them. Heaven would be the embrace of a long lost friend; hell that uncomfortable hug you’d get from someone you’d rather not see.
Problem is, in that case, the question of why there is (or appears to be) something instead of nothing applies to the prime mover as well.
I believe if you’d read what I said closer, you’d find that I said basically what you just said I didn’t say. We have rough outlines, and I never said the brain wasn’t the *actual* mover, but the final connections haven’t been made yet. I believe they eventually will, and we’ll all be screwed, because someone will take that awesome knowledge and decide to f**k with our personalities to keep us all docile.
But whether people understand that – at its core – the intellect or the mind (I never said “soul”) is “just biology,” it’s biology of an extremely high order, and people will continue to believe that it points to something more than “just biology.” Perhaps the biology itself creates that desire to explain things as more than biology.
But, as to your “what is the question?” question? Start with “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?”
People have been asking this for ages. If you look at ANY religion/spiritual path, those are core questions.
I don’t know what the right answer is, or if there really is one, but I would call those people agnostics and not atheists. I have heard so many different definitions/distinctions between atheism and agnosticism that it makes discussion almost impossible (as this thread indicates) since nobody is using the terms in the same way.
All I know is that if there is a god, there better by sky cake when I get to heaven.
Most people would only say that because they are too afraid to acknowledge that there is no such thing. Too many humans want think our species is exceptional. But it’s not. And that’s why I don’t think my sense of self is anything other than some chemicals and electrical impulses, no different than the sense of self of a supposedly “dumber” animal such as a dog’s.
@Hiram Taine: Exactly so!
Well, I don’t know how many atheists I know since they don’t wear shoulder patches or other identifying characteristics. But I think the perception mentioned above has to do with what might be called “public atheism,” of folks like Dawkins and Maher, for instance, who really *do* care, and devote quite a bit of energy to arguing against theism.
Just so you know, this was my exact experience. And though I’m not sure I’m an atheist (because I really find such categorization supremely uninteresting), most of the professed atheists I know define atheism exactly as you define “apatheist.”
Nah. I wasn’t saying anything about you at all. Now I have to scroll back and see what the statement was that prompted my response.
Oh yeah. I’m saying that religionists of all stripes ask this question and imply that it means religion is the only source of morality. And I say that asking the question shows (to me anyway) a complete absence of what I would call a moral sense.
Bullshit. Get back to me when whales create a way to destroy the planet, send one of their kind into space, or crack their genetic code.
I’m not saying we’re always “exceptional” in a good way, but I’ll be damned if I’ll accept the argument that the human species is not “exceptional” among the denizens of this planet.
Sorry, you’ll have to unpackage this one for me a little bit. It’s still a bit of a stretch, but I find the idea of an external, causeless causer less implausible than the idea that magic happens on its own within the Universe. That leaves us with trying to explain why random miracles don’t happen more often in violation of the laws of physics, which is a bitch and is also the very sort of thing that a purely empirical approach to the Universe is supposed to save us from having to explain away.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: Depends. If you think God just made the universe and left it at that, you don’t know. In fact, even after death you might not know. Maybe God didn’t design us with an afterlife.
The popular idea of God, a higher power that is all-good, all-powerful, that created the Universe and has a lot of time to listen to prayers, is open to all kinds of confirmation and disconfirmation… miracles, the nature of the universe, childhood cancers, etc.
But what if you died and went to heaven, and it wasn’t the REAL heaven, but a fake heaven for people who didn’t believe in the real God whose name is Platyponimous? Another opportunities for atheists to be arrogant.
At this point, it might be good to stipulate that the term “god” is not synonymous with “God” of the monotheistic religions. Other religions that have “gods” don’t shoehorn those “gods” into the omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient box the monotheistic religions do.
When we talk “theism,” we tend to think monotheism, but the terms are not synonymous. Gaia worship could be considered a form of theism.
@slag: It’s like Leninsist and Stalinists, or Greeks and Italians, or Catholics and Protestants. The best rows are between people with almost the exact same beliefs.
@arguingwithsignposts: In fact Christianity with the belief that you can be forgiven for ANY action due to Jesus’ supposedly dying for us, actually causes immoral actions in many warped people. This is in addition to all of the Inqusitors and other sickos who feel that murdering and torturing people is the proper thing to do!
Or lack thereof?
Ah. Well, in that case, I agree wholeheartedly.
I think we’d all be too busy wallowing in torment for anyone to gloat. Regardless, nothing can be fully eliminated as a possibility. My Dad used to paint boxes that dealt with this subject. On one, he painted 4 different versions of God- God as an old man, God as a woman, God as a cow (burger-eaters would be in trouble, then), and God as a man-eating frog (in which case, this planet would just be a food-farm). You can’t eliminate any of those possibilities, really, although you certainly can’t live your life in a funk doing nothing but imagining possible afterlifes (or the lack thereof).
As I said before, since no one knows the answer, it’s all based on what helps one get through life. If I tried to be an atheist, I’d be a miserable, nihilistic motherfucker who would probably kill himself at the first opportunity. If an atheist had to go sit in church every week, that atheist would probably be pretty unhappy, too (as I imagine all the atheists who had to do that back in the old days were). In a free society, we can all believe what we want, and the sensible among us, of all views, can agree that Pat Robertson is a fucking asshole.
@arguingwithsignposts: I don’t see “Why am I here?” as a spiritual question. I’m here because my parents had sex and the sperm that led to me got lucky. I’m here because I walked here. I’m here because vaccinations saved my life when I was young. I’m here because I like to argue shit on the internets. But, meh, your mileage obviously varies.
@Brick Oven Bill:
You are a liar and a fool. You apparently cannot even crib from Wikipedia correctly.
Worse, almost 200 notes and few posters seem to know crap about Haitian history either. What’s the point of knocking Pat Robertson if you are as uninformed as he is?
Give money to Haitian relief and STFU.
I’m still wondering what morality means, in the absence of any external absolute standard thereof. Are we talking about pure social utilitarianism? Instinctive drives that tell us that altruism is beneficial? Or some sort of cultural imprint that is, itself, even in the most non-theistic persons of a western cultural background, strongly impacted by vestigial cultural notions of Christianity? (Cue Nietzsche to tell us we can transcend all that bullshit if we’re strong enough, I guess.)
We weren’t even really talking about Haitian history. We’re talking about God and god and atheism vs. agnosticism and whatnot. The threads about Haitian history were mostly played out yesterday.
My point is that it is no easier to explain the existence of a prime mover powerful enough to create/instigate the universe than to explain the existence of the universe.
If we insist that the universe had a cause, it seems difficult to imagine a causeless prime mover.
Sorry – not a philospher – and that’s the best I can do.
But to me, the question of why there is something instead of nothing is a very great mystery, to which I have zero explanation.
There are different logical ways to negate the statement “I believe in God”, depending on where the negation goes.
1) “(not I) believe in God” – people other than me believe in God.
2) “I believe in (not God)” – I have an active belief that there is no God.
3) “I (not believe) in God” – I do not have a belief that there is a God.
I am an atheist who ascribes to the third interpretation. I hope you can see how it is different from interpretation #2.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: Your father sounds awesome. Is he still around, or did he go to the big human/mosquito farm in the sky?
I do care about what people think, because what people think effects how they behave, and how they behave effects the society in which we live, and the society in which we live effects me. People start to believe in Jesus because it makes them feel better, then they start contributing to the 700 Club. Next thing I know, George fucking Bush is president for eight years and I’ve done nothing with my life but blog my outrage. I can’t control what people believe, but I reserve the right to mock them for believing nonsense.
I’m also philosophically disposed to believe that acknowledging reality directly is the best way to respond to it; and I was exposed to Carl Sagan early on, so even though the fact that the Universe is a vast empty void doesn’t make me suicidal. I just put on a turtle neck and whistle the theme to Cosmos.
The idea, as put forth by Aristotle, is that every effect is caused by something. So if you carry it back far enough, you’ll get at something that caused the Universe. Obviously, you can carry this analysis back indefinitely, like tracing a line of fallen dominoes; but ultimately, those dominoes have to end, and the initial domino’s fall had to be caused by something. That something wasn’t caused itself; it’s the causeless causer, at least as far as our line of inquiry is capable of taking us. (If this causeless causer were caused by something else, it would be something that was traced along a different line of cause and effect than one we had access to; for our purposes, then, it would be causeless.) Most people call that causeless causer or “Prime Mover” God. Could be called something else, though. Aristotle called it God, though.
In any event, it makes more sense than the alternative I’ve heard, which is that there was nothing whatsoever for an indefinite period until something magically appeared, through no cause whatsoever.
@arguingwithsignposts: Just to actually agree with you on one point: I don’t think nurture is the only reason people are religious. People tend to magically intuitive thinking, and religion is one very developed, very contagious form of that thinking. Even the Dutch, atheists as they are, will re-route a road if its planned to go through a gnome village.
Dad’s still around. He’s slowed down a lot since the stroke, but he’s still all there mentally. Depending on what day of the week you talk to him, his views run a gamut loosely approximating to atheism/agnosticism/Deism/Catholicism/some grab-bag he made up.
People still get to think as they see fit. If I choose to spend my days thumping my Bible and sending every last penny of disposable income I have to Pat Robertson, how you feel about my idiocy is of supreme irrelevance in a society in which I’m free to be an idiot, and you’re free to openly fume at my idiocy. So it goes.
I can only speak for myself. I don’t preach or proselytize to anyone, and don’t like to talk about my religious views more than to say that I absolutely believe in some form of creator or God, and I prefer to believe in some form of afterlife. And if I were forced to concede that there was no God (afterlife or no afterlife), and that none of this had any point whatsoever, I’d become one miserable son of a bitch for however long I hung out here before I managed to destroy myself. I prefer not to be miserable, and don’t see why anyone else would care to make me miserable. This is why I, personally, find the proselytizing militant atheists I know even more galling than I find those obnoxious wide-eyed door-to-door Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness types.
BOB posted about history and got it wrong.
The Pat Robertson line which inspired the thread also got it wrong. Wouldn’t it be more accurate for Robertson to have said that the United States made a pact with the Devil to become prosperous via the support of slavery and that the bill has not yet come due?
The general talk about god, atheism and agnosticism – not really my cup of tea, to be polite. The question of a deity is largely irrelevant to anything that happens in this world.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: The origins of the cosmos are supremely weird. Time and space ITSELF were created at the beginning. Aristotle’s model kind of falls apart there, since it assumes that one thing happens before another, but what can create time itself? And space itself? Once things gets so bizzare as that, Aristotle’s logic gets thoroughly left behind.
But that’s a modern answer to Aristotles question, provided in the last hundred years by all kinds of physics I can’t hope to understand.
The other replies I would put forward are:
1) Why call it God? Doesn’t that confuse things?
2) Why separate the beginning of the Universe from the Universe itself? Instead of just saying, “The Universe has always been here,” we now say, “Something that has always been there created the Univerese.” It’s an unnecessary step.
3) (and this is a niggle) Since we know so little about what it takes to create a universe, why assume it’s a work of great power? For all we know, it’s quite a trivial thing to create a universe — it could be the transdiminesional equivalent of two motes of dust rubbing up against each other.
Now there is a shocker. Maybe I would have noticed if I actually bothered to read his posts.
I would put it much more simply: people need for things to make sense, and it tends to make people feel better when they belong to something bigger and more important than themselves. When things don’t make sense, people make up explanations for them that are consistent with their own understanding of the world, and when they lack purpose or structure, they seek it out.
We take for granted how much the daily workings of the world–gravity, weather, illness–make sense to us, because we live in an age where science has removed the mystery and superstition from many of these complex systems. Thousands, even hundreds of years ago, this was not so. Most disease and death happened without explanation or understanding. The motion of the sun and the cycles of moon and seasons were as magical and ineffable to the people of Christ’s time as quantum mechanics and nanotechnology are to most laymen now.
Spirituality evolved as a way of coping with ignorance and uncertainty, and religion came to be as a way of giving structure to spirituality–further codifying the (now largely falsified) “answers” in a way that granted certainty and a sense of belonging in a hostile, mystifying world. Is it any surprise that such a powerful tool would be used by authoritarians to control their flock? It’s a lot easier to get people to do things by saying “God says so” than it is by forming and supporting a reasoned argument.
There is more to religion than this, but the need to explain the world around us is where it begins.
Creepy, yet intriguing ……..
Speaking purely for myself, yes. I live on earth. I want people to have behavior that makes earth a nice place to live. I set my own behavior based on that, and on making it a nice place for other people to live.
Having had children, I now have the (probably biologically-generated) concern for the world they will live in, and so also worry about how human behavior will affect a society which I am no longer part of. In fact with age, my children’s future welfare becomes more and more of a driving issue than my own.
When I take the “what philosophy are you” quiz (I’m pretty sure it was this one), I score very high on utilitarianism.
Do you believe the 10 Commandments came from something other than utilitarianism?
Sorry, maybe that is too direct a question about faith. How about this: Don’t you think pure utilitarianism could have given rise to the 10 Commandments? Including, arguably, the one about the Sabbath?
@Catsy: Well that, and also the fact that people tend to have difficulty with the idea that at some point they (personally/individually) will no longer exist – and then solving the problem by imagining rebirth or resurrection or eternal life or some such.
Though I guess that is also related to the drive to create meaning…
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I’ve turned into one of those Dawkins-thumping fundamentalist atheists, haven’t I? But, honestly, I don’t see much difference between arguing about religion and arguing about politics, between arguing the existence of an afterlife and arguing the perfect functioning of the free markets. The only real difference is that it’s not cool to argue about religion; you’re supposed to let people believe what they want when it comes to religion, and it’s rude to tell them otherwise. Unless they’re Pat Robertson’s religious beliefs, of course; those are fair game.
It’s sort of confusing.
Glad your dad is still around, albeit sporadically. From your little snippet, he sounds like an interesting guy. Not everybody’s life gets made into a biopic starring Jeff Bridges, so I’ll just have to imagine the rest for myself.
Brick Oven Bill
Brachinator is correct in his criticism that Toussaint was deported, and not killed and mutilated, as I had stated. This is what I get for going off memory.
It was Dessalines who was killed and mutilated. Dessalines took over for Toussaint when he was captured and treated humanely by the French. Dessalines then declared Haiti an ‘all black’ nation (racist). He then declared himself the Emperor.
Dessalines was assassinated north of the capital city, Port-au-Prince, at Pont Larnage, (now known as Pont-Rouge) on 17 October 1806 on his way to fight the rebels. [Ed: the re-enslaved black laborers] Some historians claim that he was actually killed at Pétion’s house at Rue l’Enterrement after a meeting to negotiate the power and the future of the young nation. A monument at the northern entrance of the Haitian capital marks the place where the Emperor was killed. Défilée, a black woman from humble background, took the mutilated body of the Emperor to bury him.
Here is a good overview of the Haitian revolution from Bob Corbette..
Wow, I took Randy P’s online test and scored 100 percent Hedonist and Existentialist. What a great combination.
That’s kind of my take on it. I was a militant atheist for many years, then an agnostic. In my old age I feel “something of God” around me, but if it’s not true, who cares? It makes me happy now. Because I was raised in the Christian tradition (by atheist parents but we went to church because what would the neighbors think?) I’ve adopted Christianity and enjoy the richness of the tradition. I also think that Jesus was a pretty cool guy, so that helps. But if others choose other avenues, so long as they don’t bother people about it too much and they don’t hurt anyone, that’s fine with me.
In fairness, though, BOB gets everything wrong.
How does that pie filter work, again? I should really use it on him.
I give Pat Robertson this: at least he tries to answer this question, though he runs into the wall that there aren’t any good explanations that don’t involve a belief in collective punishment for things that individuals didn’t do, …
And the ironic thing is that the Christian revolution was in part a reaction against the Old Testament idea of collective punishment of an entire people (the Jews) for the sins of a few. Essentially, as I understand it, Jews tried not to sin because their entire nation was, in essence, held hostage to their individual behavior. There was also an idea current in Judaism at the time of Christ, that if just one Jew was ever able to live a perfect, sinless life for one day (?), the Messiah would come. So the Old Testament God not only punished collectively for individual sin, he would give also give collective rewards for individual virtue.
Jesus introduced (or popularized, it’s unclear) the notion that salvation* was an individual responsibility, not a collective one. You essentially earned your own personal reward or punishments. (Actually, most of what he said boils down to something along the lines of, “If you order your thoughts according to my example, you will be relieved of that burden of free floating guilt and anxiety exploited by the Old Testament’s notions of collective responsibility.”)
*For “salvation” one might read “mental health.”
@J. Michael Neal:
I (belatedly) object. Atheism was an aspect of Communism (the only political ideology I know of which both has blood on its hands and which officially embraces atheism); Communism was not articulated by Marx upon a foundation of atheism or in order to advance atheism.
Stalin didn’t kill in the name of atheism; he killed in the name of Communism.
In fact, the worst thing I can think of that any atheist has said (again, in the name of atheism) is the bile which Madelyn Murray O’Hare (a clearly disturbed woman) spewed out.
I disagree with the vehemence of prominent atheists like Dawkins and Bill Maher; but really, I have a difficult time thinking of any atheists who have said or done in the name of atheism, any of the horrible things which have been said about and done unto others in the name of Christianity. Atheism isn’t really at all akin to religious belief; it’s the absence of metaphysical belief. It’s difficult to say someone is motivated by atheism when there’s not much at all there for the person to hang their motivations upon.
I know: who goes to the Poconos? Totally creepy.
Yeah. Am I missing something? (I hab a code, so if I’m incredibly dense, scuse me in advance.)
Fair enough. But the “something that’s always been there” would be God. At least to someone who chose to label it such. Whether God was an old guy with a beard, or a man-eating frog, or a force of nonsentient karma, or whatever, is not something we will probably ever be equipped to know. Postmortem, one hopes we might get to find something out, but that’s obviously speculative.
I honestly don’t know how to answer a question about the 10 Commandments. If I look at the question as a non-believer, then of course I’d have to say that the 10 Commandments were socially useful and probably created to keep the nomadic Apiru bandit-tribes in line while they roamed the desert, raiding isolated Egyptian outposts and looking to carve out a homeland of their own. If I look at it from a believer’s perspective, the only thing that would change would be that God created the 10 Commandments because they having people who believed in them was as useful to God as it was to man. Social utilitarianism and some sort of external, absolute morality meshing very well, in that respect.
To each his or her own, I guess. Although I suppose it’s arguable that proselytizing religious views are less useful in a modern society than they were in an ancient one.
RE: BOB posted about history and got it wrong.
Hah! I agree.
But BOB’s stoopidity may be similar to the errors that early humans made when they created deities and religion. They tried to explain the world and got it wrong, and we’ve been paying for it ever since.
The reason I see arguing about politics as being different from arguing about religion is that with politics, we can all observe the outcome. We may not agree on what that outcome means, but we can all observe it. If we had to wait until we died until we got to find out if Reaganomics worked or not, there might be stronger incentive to fall for it. But I can see for myself that it’s a failure, so I’ve never been tempted by it.
Questions about God, afterlife, etc. are still open-ended because no one’s come back from the dead to tell us about how wonderful Heaven is/how awful Hell is and that the Muslims are right/ how there’s nothing after death and they feel like they’ve only been gone an instant even though they’ve been dead 250 years. If someone came back and told us that, it’d probably settle the question. In reasonable peoples’ minds, at any rate. (Unreasonable people would still dispute it, but unreasonable people still believe in Reaganomics, so there you go.)
@J. Michael Neal:
How’s that again? He blamed the Haitians for daring to defy their white masters? To hell with that, and to hell with Pat Robertson.
I wonder into which circle of hell Dante would have tossed Robertson’s pathetic behind?
There are two ways a member of one religion can look at members of another religion: Either he is lacking some sense that others surrounding him have or he is surrounded by delusional people.
Yes, this sums it up exactly. Whatever floats your boat and helps you make it through.
By contrast, whatever rocks my boat and makes me question whether life is worth living is not something I’d care to accept into my worldview. Even if it makes people think I’m dumb for not accepting it. In the long run, we’re all dead. We’ll know for sure who’s right in less than a century. If the atheists are right, they won’t get to gloat over it, anyway. I’ll be too dead to care.
@Randy P: I’m a noncommital utilitarian nihilist existentialist according to that poll. That sure helps me find my path in life
@r€nato: Atheism, like Christianity, can actual mean many things, even if there is a core idea in there that’s identical. Christians believe Jesus Christ is the messiah. But some Christians believe in helping others, and others believe in letting other people die. Likewise, atheist don’t believe in God. Some atheists take this and think life is so precious it must be protected and celebrated, others take it and think nothing matters. The Big Questions don’t have that much impact on how people behave. It’s all the little answers to the Big Questions that cause the problems.
That said, the little answers that have accumulated around modern atheism are innocuous — as innocuous as the answers surrounding Unitarian Universalism, but not, say, fundamentalist Catholicism.
atheists don’t just not believe in God; they don’t believe in ANY god.
So that leaves atheists as philosophical freelancers, it seems to me.
(I consider myself either an agnostic or apatheist, a wonderful term I learned here today for the first time. I believe it is intellectually arrogant to assert there is no existence whatsoever of some sort of metaphysical plane; I’m just too lazy and uninterested to delve much further into it than that.)
Bear in mind, too, that modern atheism is still evolving. 1st century Christianity was different from, say, 4th century Christianity or medieval western Christianity or modern forms of Christianity.
Who knows where atheism will be 500 years from now?
Phenomenon like Blasphemy Day are an interesting development in atheist circles. Not content to quietly scoff at theists, some are now taking to the streets to openly mock them. At that point, I’d have to say that militant atheism takes on some of the aspects of religion. A particularly obnoxious, loud religion.
Wow, two really excellent threads in two days. The other one I’m thinking of was the one yesterday that started as something else I can’t remember but a comment on “ad hominem” attack mutated it into a discussion of “hominem” grits and then breakfast in general.
I still want to have an all-breakfast thread after that one.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: Well, for an atheist, Conservatism and religion are very similar. The both come from a simple belief. They both provide comfort and meaning, purpose and hope. They both have social support. They both blame their victims. They both are failed hypotheses. They both survive by avoiding definition. They both are creative when coming up with reasons why they haven’t worked.
But I totally get why atheism is a downer. Like I said, Carl Sagan was a big help, and if you have twelve hours, I recommend sitting down with Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.” If you don’t have twelve hours, you can watch the Cosmic Calendar. You can feel inconsequential to be such a small part of something so vast, or you can feel lucky to be a self-aware collection of molecules in a mostly dumb universe, even if you’re only living a few picosecond on the cosmic calendar.
When it comes to getting my spiritual rocks off, a dreary eternal after life with Buddy Jesus pales in comparison to what we actually are in the material universe.
You lost me at them both being “failed hypotheses.” The reason we can conclude that conservatism is a failed hypothesis is that we can observe the results empirically. You can’t do that with any claims about what happens when you die. Just can’t be done, or we’d all be atheists by now. Religious claims are not subject to empirical falsification. If they were, there’d be no religion. (And that’s part of the reason why religions that ARE subject to empirical falsification are religions no longer- Sun-god worship, etc. The early Christians made great use of empirical arguments to denigrate paganism.)
I’ve heard about how I should be grateful to be self-aware enough to be aware of my own miserable insignificance, flickering transience, and ultimate irrelevance. As I said, I have a lot of militant atheist friends who preach this to me all the time. I’m not seeing it, not for me. It works for them, so good for them. It makes me miserable and suicidal, and mostly thinking like that just makes me want to drink myself into a stupor, sober up, and repeat until I die. That could have adverse consequences for others, and would certainly have adverse consequences for me.
Materialistic atheism is not for me, and would bring me nothing but pain. It’d be like forcing regular Sunday church attendance on Christopher Hitchens. I hurt no one with my beliefs, and they make me happy, so why should anyone want to take them away from me and make me miserable and self-destructive? How does that figure in to any kind of morality, be it social utilitarianism or otherwise?
@r€nato: “Atheists” and “theists” are both philosophical free lancers. Even believers of the same Abrahamic God have wildly different philosophical view. Whether someone is an atheist or a theist doesn’t, in theory, tell me anything. In my cultural milleau, I can assume many things from the distinction, but they are not a natural outgrowth from the statement, “I believe / I don’t believe.”
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I agree with you; I think Dawkins is a bit disingenuous to say that “atheism” doesn’t mean anything other than a lack of belief in God. Strictly speaking it does mean exactly that. But culturally, it probably means the person is educated, probably slightly combative, more likely to be scientifically minded, etc. But, since new atheists don’t have a God to hang their placard on, we have to deal with the imprecision of language on-the-fly.
If atheism becomes as wide-spread as I’d like it to be, we’ll probably come up with different names for different kinds of related beliefs…
The obnoxiousness of atheism has to be seen in context, too. People are over-sensitive to atheists because religion is supposed to given unquestioned primacy. Just saying, “I don’t believe in God,” is considered obnoxious, and that’s when people don’t question your morality for saying so. Atheist will be perceived to be less obnoxious (and likely will become less objectively obnoxious) when society accepts them as equal members.
I’ll also point out that the more obnoxious atheists in Britain, for example, are really fighting hard against the social and legal protections given to imported orthodox Islam. You want obnoxious? Try, “We’ll burn your theater down if you continue this stage play about the life of Mohammed,” which only becomes MORE obnoxious when the theater decides to shut down for fear of violence, and nobody seems to think anything is wrong with that. Blasphemy day is about protecting the right to free speech in an environment where it is becoming actually illegal to make statements offensive to religion.
Bruce (formerly Steve S.)
Pat Robertson is a perfectly appropriate mouthpiece for the ancient tribal deity known as Yahweh.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I see Sagan’s Witnesses have already been to your door.
Generally, I make exceptions for this sort of thing. If someone is grieving over their lost child and they say, “I guess God just decided it was his time,” I don’t go into a diatribe on atheism; just like Al Franken didn’t go to Iraq on his USO tour and start his comedy routine for the troops by saying, “You’re dying for nothing!” If someone is going through the twelve steps and struggling with addiction, its not the time to discuss Deism vs Theism.
Otherwise, yeah, we want to talk about it because we like to talk about it, and we think other people are wrong, and we a natural human tendency to be smug.
As to you right now, I’m caught between two ideas:
1) You’re unhappy with your life and/or depressed and are hanging on by the thread of a happy afterlife.
2) You’re happy and fine with life but worrying about actually being dead dead dead is enough to harsh your buzz with being alive.
If 1, then no, there are more important things going on than religious belief. If 2, then there is a non-combative philosophical discussion to be had. If you know you’ll be dead and won’t be worried about the afterlife, why are you worried about being dead? I mean, when you’re dead, you won’t be thinking, “Jeez. This sucks. I’m dead.” You’ll just be dead, so there’s no real reason to have projective anxiety about it. You said as much: If there’s an afterlife, you’ll find out; If you’re dead, you’ll be dead. If that’s your attitude, it already looks like the outcome doesn’t affect your life now.
Fair enough. But at a certain point, if “Blasphemy Day” catches on and becomes an annual day for widespread atheistic theist-baiting, it’s going to take on the air of a religious occasion. It’ll also dumb atheism down quite a bit, if it starts getting seen as a juvenile anti-theistic prank.
Time will tell. But it definitely undercuts a lot of the tolerance aspect of non-theistic beliefs, if people are running around nailing up consecrated Hosts and listening to Christopher Hitchens giving speeches praising Lenin for shooting priests.
Frankly, I’m more in the #1 camp. But I have seasonal affective disorder, and I live in Vermont, so I’m hoping it’ll pass. Ordinarily, I’m in the #2 camp.
Thanks for asking, though. I appreciate it. Just not in the mood to get preached at by atheists, and it happens all the time. Invariably, by this point in the discussion someone’s called me a bigot or a moron, and it’s devolved considerably. This is one of the most respectful conversations about the topic I’ve had in years, including with people I’m friends with. Thank you.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I would pledge my soul to Jesus if it would make “Atheist Blasphemy Day” the most worrisome aspect of religion.
And atheism is going to get dumbed down, I have no doubt; it can’t be the domain of over-educated western intellectuals forever. Hopefully the Jesuits will still be around to convert to.
We’ll see. I keep thinking that if America really DOES become analogous to a modern-day Roman Empire, it’ll eventually become a bloated, dying atheistic nation with a ruling monarchy of some kind. Then, when it falls apart and gets divvied up by Canadian tribes, they’ll all have some kind of feudal atheist structure.
I know this would sound totally insane, if it weren’t for the fact that there’s a significant possibility that Objectivism could become the mainstream atheism of the future. If that happens, I pity the human race.
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: I’m usually in the #1 camp myself. Atheism doesn’t really effect it, though. When I was religious, I’d be depressed and think, “Well, I’m pretty sure God doesn’t love me, and I’m going to hell anyway.” Now I think, “Why don’t I feel more lucky to be alive? Billions of years! Cosmic calendar! Star stuff! Nothing’s working!” Fuck Boethius. There’s no consolation in philosophy.
Good luck getting through the winter. I’m in Connecticut and, thanks to some chemical help, this is the first year I didn’t spend Christmas in bed. If I could get my life together, I’d seriously consider a move south.
I’m a little concerned you didn’t feel sufficiently preached at by me. I must just be losing my lack of faith. (You’re welcome.)
@Scruffy McSnufflepuss: America is very much more religious than Europe, and of a significantly dumber variety. We’re up there with Turkey in terms of denial of evolution.
No way do I see the Rise and Fall of the American Empire including atheism. The final trend in Rome was to make Emperor’s gods. In the United States, it has gone from being totally uncool to discuss religion in presidential matters, to needing to make a positive and convincing statement of Christian faith. By the time the Latin American corporations finally divvy up what’s left of the Christian Nation, congress will be legislating in tongues.
And I do love me some post-apocalypse. And there’s three movies coming out just this month (Legion, Book of Eli, and The Road).
Yeah, I hate winter. I have no idea why I moved up here. I want to move somewhere tropical. For now, I’m just trying to ride out the snowstorms and the utter lack of sunlight.
Getting preached at is fine. Getting told I’m an idiot for not agreeing with the preaching is something else. That’s one area where proselytizing atheists could learn from your example. You’ve been much more polite and friendly than most of them. I can’t help but think that if the 12 apostles had run around telling people that if they didn’t believe in Jesus it was because they were stupid fucking moron assholes, none of us would’ve ever heard of Christianity. The soft sell works better, and it’s more fun to deal with.
Probably true. Funny idea, though, America going Galt from sanity. And if there is an afterlife, and we get to look at life from it and watch Objectivism take over the American empire, we’re all going to be laughing our dead metaphysical asses off.
I do like your Objectivist Amerika idea; I think, though, that the potent political combo is the moral/economic belief of Ayn Rand combined with racist Christian theocracy. That’s certainly been the case so far for the conservative movement. And the practical application of Objectivism don’t take us into a post-apocolyptic future, it takes us back to robber barons and the slave labor of the 19th century. It would be an awesome opportunity for a good steam-punk rebellion flick (and much more fun than Atwood’s gloomy look at the downside of patriarchal theocracy, “Handmaid’s Tale.”)
I’m surprised that the atheists are so fierce up there. But, you know, when I cross the border into Vermont, suddenly I’m a Republican… maybe your issue is with the oppressive orthodoxy of the liberal communitarian atheist organic farmer police state. The soft sell is only for nascent movements. Now that the atheist network of intellectuals has taken over Vermont, they can go the more satisfying conversion route: feeding non-believers to the bobcats (and composting their remains).
Grumpy Code Monkey
By being an atheist (a little-a, “I don’t believe in God because I am not convinced God is real” atheist), I am constitutionally barred from running for state office in Texas.
Atheists are no less obnoxious than theists.
I weep for the future every time I meet anyone over age 16 who loves Ayn Rand…
Vermont is the most non-religious state. I believe 46% of the population are non-religious (not sure they’re all non-theistic, quite a few may be Unitarians or something; not sure how they all group themselves). The redneck farmers represent a surprisingly conservative bloc, though, some of them. Sometimes, when I talk to them, I feel like I’m in Dixieland with snow and moose.
@Grumpy Code Monkey:
Ah, Texas. The land where oral sex has been legal for less than a decade. Why does the news that their laws violate the First Amendment Establishment Clause and the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause not surprise me?
Well, it’s that and a knee-jerk conviction that any western third-world country must be poor because its people gave into the worldly temptations of athiestic communism. What really gets them is that Haiti is the sort of place Milton Friedman would have rather not had you bring up, because it’s yet another one of those free-market paradises that don’t seem to turn out the way Milt’s computer models say they should. So a western third world hole that’s been run for half a century by whomever the US Marine Corps backs and which has a market so free they engage in human organ traficking – when an earthquake hit, what does Pat Robertson have left to blame but some 200 year old pact with the devil?
That’s the dumb thing about this whole argument, to me.
We have atheists who are dogmatic murdering assholes (see Mao, Stalin). We have theists who are dogmatic murdering assholes (see Richileu, Richard the Lionheart). We have people who are kinda sorta religious but not particularly ferverently so who are dogmatic murdering assholes (see Nazism). We have people who have no particular belief set, who didn’t openly advocate the murders of millions, who are also dogmatic murdering assholes (see Kitchener, Haig).
Wouldn’t the simplest explanation that fits the data (and therefore the best, according to Occam’s Razor) be that being a dogmatic asshole has nothing whatsoever to do with whether you believe in god or not? That it actually has to do with any set of beliefs that argue that certain people don’t deserve basic human rights, because they are evil or irrational or the enemy?
If you define the argument as intolerance of other belief systems vs. tolerance of other belief systems, you can condemn Objectivists, fundamentalist christians and Maoists all at the same time. Pat Robertson is an asshole because he doesn’t treat the Haitians as human beings. He tries to make out that it’s because of his Christianity, but he’s an asshole – why believe him? Turning the argument into Atheism vs. Theism means your choosing the framing of the argument most favourable to Pat Robertson.
Because we know so little about the brain that any discovery made about its function during a particular mental activity is noteworthy, even if those discoveries “make sense” after the fact. fMRIs have only been the norm for brain study for about 15 years, and the findings on the brain’s activity levels during prayer/meditation started to come out (I think) around 5 years ago.
@ #46 Bill E Pilgrim said:
What makes you so sure you did?
Pat Robertson should tell us more about that pact he made with Haiti 200 years ago.
That’s sad. It confirms what I said earlier, that our knowledge of how the brain works is like a bunch of toddlers looking at a jet engine for the first time.
Sounds good to me.
The truth is that they did make a pact with the devil.
Now the significance you put on that pact I guess has to do with whether you believe the devil is real or not.
But it is one of Haiti’s founding myths.
According to Haitian national history, the revolutionary war was launched on the eve of a religious ceremony at a place in the north called Bwa Kayiman (Bois Caiman, in French). At that ceremony on August 14, 1791, an African slave named Boukman sacrificed a pig, and both Kongo and Creole spirits descended to possess the bodies of the participants, encouraging them and fortifying them for the upcoming revolutionary war. Despite deep ambivalence on the part of intellectuals, Catholics, and the moneyed classes, Vodou has always been linked with militarism and the war of independence and, through it, the pride of national sovereignty.
So, yeah if there is a devil, Haiti made a pact with it. Might explain why even though Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, the Dominican Republic has been far more successful.