8-17-13 12:44Belkin the Elf vs. God

Mazzy: The atheist who wrote that article is just plain wrong.

Just because he cannot feel or see or touch or hear it, does not make it so for every one.

Are you saying he cannot feel or see or touch or hear something that others can?

Mazzy: Yes, I am saying that he cannot see, feel, touch or hear things that others can. I can see God's love, I can feel it, I can touch it and I hear it.

If you are saying that you have some perceptive power that is not present in others you need to back it up. Otherwise it is just you saying that you have this. There is no reason to think you really do have this special power of perception and others don't.

Or conversely, that you have "normal perception" and others are "handicapped."

Mazzy: I do not have special powers. I have the Grace of God.

You say you have it. People can say anything. For all I know, you could be lying. For all you know, you could be wrong. Unless you can show how having the Grace of God is different from not having it, there is no reason to think you have it and someone else doesn't.

I knew a lady growing up who said she had an elf on her shoulder. She called it Belkin. She seemed perfectly normal in every way, but sometimes she would talk about this elf she claimed was always with her. She said it was invisible to others, but it spoke in her ear to keep her on the straight and narrow. However, others looked at her shoulder and did not detect any sign of an elf there.

Do you think it is possible that this lady really had an invisible elf on her shoulder than only she could see? Do you think it granted her and no one else the Grace of Elf and allowed her to perceive what others were blind to? Is that at all likely? Do you think her perception of Belkin the Elf was just "different" from everyone else, but equally valid? Or do you think it is at least possible that she might have been wrong about the elf? How much do you credit her elf story?

Marilyn: As long as our beliefs make us better people, does it really matter how we get there or what we believe comes after?

I think so. People are claiming that they know what comes after. The claims are completely unfounded but they are using these claims to manipulate others. I don't think that's right.

Marilyn: You have a point there. Religion when used to manipulate is wrong.

I am glad you agree.

However this is the main feature of Christianity. The main, central, foundational tenet of the religion, is that if you do not accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior you will go to Hell instead of Heaven when you die.

People are claiming to know that Heaven and Hell are the two choices, and using the threat of hell to manipulate people into accepting Jesus and professing Christianity.

This is wrong.

Marilyn: But, to me, it's not the belief that's the enemy.

If it's not belief that is causing this travesty, then what is?

Marilyn: Beliefs are harmless! So, maybe the lady with the elf was wrong. But as long as Belkin wasn't harming anyone or causing her to harm anyone, then I personally don't care.

I certainly never tried to talk her out of it. At that level, I do not care either.

However if she was saying that she knew I was going to hell because I did not believe in Belkin I would certainly have something to say about that.

If she said that Belkin was definitely real, and the problem was that my heart was just closed to Belkin, then that is different. If she says that it's just me, I just don't have the Grace of Belkin, and that I wasn't trying hard enough to accept Belkin, or that I was trying too hard to accept Belkin, or I wasn't humble enough, or sincere enough, or I had too much doubt to perceive or understand Belkin, then I would definitely have a problem with that.

If she was saying it was obvious that Belkin had created the universe and knitted the first human from an old sock, I might just shake my head and go on. However if she was insisting that Belkin Sock Design be taught alongside evolution in science class, we would have a serious conflict.

If she claimed that it should be illegal for gays to marry in this country because Belkin said so, I would have to stand up and say "Unless you can find some way to demonstrate to the contrary, Belkin is bullshit. We do not have to credit what you claim Belkin says."

Marilyn: I don't feel like people need to be correct for me to respect their right to believe as they choose.

Sure they have the "right." I'm not talking about forced conversion here.

But doesn't anybody care about not having it wrong?

Mazzy: You mock what you do not understand. The Grace of God is not equalivent to an elf.

Sure it is. Unless you are able to demonstrate what it is, your claim that it is not like an elf is as empty as your claim that you have it and others don't.

Unless you can offer up anything more than she did, your claim that you have "grace" is worth exactly as much as her claim that she had an elf.

Mazzy: If you knew me, personally, knew my family, you would see how the Grace of God is indeed a part of who I am and a part of my life.

Do you think I have never met a Christian family before? Are you saying your family has more obvious grace than any other Christian family?

Mazzy: For someone to state the do not believe in God, to state what the author of the article has, it is quite clear he does not have the Grace of God.

How do you know? You don't know what it is or who has it or who doesn't. You claim you do but there is nothing you can do to back it up.

Maybe he has it and you are the one who doesn't. You don't know.

Mazzy: God does not exist - in your opinion. In mine, an elf called Belkin does not exist, that I know of, yet the Grace of God is with me every day, whether or not others believe it or not.

Since is is just an opinion, your opinion that her elf does not exist is no more worthy than your opinion that the Grace of God does exist. She has as much evidence for her claim as you do for yours.

Mazzy: I cannot, nor would I, compare my life to other Christian families.

You specifically stated that if I could observe you and your family I would see that the Grace of God is real. However I have observed many Christian families and they have not proved that the Grace of God is real. Unless you are saying that your family is better proof of grace than other Christian families, your contention that your family constitutes proof of the Grace of God is as empty as your other claims.

That's not to say people can't have grace. I know people who do, Christians, Buddhists, whatever. However there is no reason to think that Presence of Grace = God is real. Grace is something you do.

Mazzy: You are going on your experiences, as you should. Just as I am.

That is very different. I am not drawing magical conclusions from my experience. I am not making extraordinary claims about the existence and intervention of a supernatural being based on my experience. I am not making claims that cannot be verified. However you are.

Mazzy: His written words back it up for me.

Those are the written words of a person who knows no more about it than you or I do. People can write anything.

Mazzy: You cannot say whether my family does, or does not, show the Grace of God because you do not know my family on a personal level.

I know lots of Christian families on a personal level. Are you different from them?

Mazzy: However, and I should have stated this before, that Grace will only be acknowledged as such by those who believe in the true Grace of God.

Well, that is really convenient for you.

Mazzy: If that is how you view what I do, so be it.

Feel free to demonstrate otherwise.

Mazzy: I cannot make you change your opinion, your perception, your thoughts.

If you had evidence you could. I have many times changed my opinion, my perception and my thoughts in response to proof.

Mazzy: You are insinuating that any conclusions I have drawn from experiences are indeed make believe. That is simply not the case.

So you say. You can do nothing to back this up. It may as well be make believe. It has no more substance than a make believe claim.

Mazzy: Every thing boils down to one's opinion.

This is where you are completely wrong. Everything doesn't boil down to one's opinion.

When you drop shit on this planet, it falls at 32'/sec^ - minus drag. Your opinion makes no difference at all to this simple, fundamental property of reality. It does not "boil down to one's opinion." It just is.

Things which are actually real do not boil down to one's opinion. That's how you can tell the difference.

Mazzy: Nothing that I believe is make believe nor is it magically made up. It is as real as I am. As real as you are.

That is what you keep saying. However there is no reason to think that God is as real as you and I are. It could be make believe for all you know.

And even if there is some kind of God, that is no reason to think that Adam and Eve were real, or that humans are born sinners, or that a guy was born of a virgin, or that beleiving all this is the only ticket to the good afterlife. Even if God is real the rest could all be make believe for all you know.

Mazzy: Open your heart to God. Then, perhaps, what you witness around you, what others have to say, may make more sense to you.

What I witness around me makes plenty of sense. What I am able to observe of reality aligns well with my understanding of reality.

It is only non-sensical, unsubstantiated claims which make no sense. But since that is just people talking, nothing more, it doesn't mean anything. People can say whatever they like. It doesn't cause any misalignment betweeen my assessment of reality and what appears to be the case about it.

Mazzy: I have learned that the most important aspect of my faith is the fact that it cannot waiver, no matter how much others may not believe me to be true, no matter how I am asked to prove myself.

That seems really sad. It seems that you should be allowed to question.

Mazzy: I enjoy hearing what you have to say, always. Honestly, we do end up at the same place every time, no matter how long of a conversation we have.

Well, no matter where I take my evening walk, I always end up at home. Yet the walk itself can be as different as the days and seasons. It's fun no matter where it leads.

And, who knows, maybe someday the conversation will turn out different. :-)

Mazzy: I do hope that you know I have always, and do, respect you and I hope that none of my words lead you think otherwise. ;)

I have never thought otherwise. I appreciate your respect and I feel honored that you are willing to discuss this with me.

Mazzy: You say, there is no reason to believe. There is no reason for you.

The fundamental fabric of reality is not different for you than it is for me. What is real is real for everyone. That is part of what makes it real. You don't get to pick it "for you." It is what it is.

Mazzy: How do you know that God does not exist?

I don't know this. I did not say "God does not exist." I would not make an unsubstantiated, unsubstantiatable claim of any kind. I do not claim to be aware of all that is possible to exist.

I said there is no reason to think that God does exist. He is not evident. All that exists that can be verified is people saying that He is real. People can be wrong. I don't know that they are. I am saying they could be, for all we know. People who say this have nothing to back up the claim.

Mazzy: That Adam & Eve were not real?

That one is easier. For one thing, It is obvious from examining fossil remains that there literally were no "first humans." Humans appear to be a current holding pattern in an unbroken chain of life going back billions of years. The early humans were not just two people who popped into existence. They were groups of people who appear to have come to this morphology through evolution by natural selection.

Secondly, it is easy to see from examining origin myths from many cultures that there is nothing about the Adam and Eve story to make it seem any realer than, say, the Greek stories about the overthrow of the Titans, or the Australian Bushman story about the Giant Woman who dropped all the people out of her womb as she strolled across the continent.

Third of all, I didn't say they were not real. Again, I said there was no reason to think that they are real. There is no evidence. It flies in the face of everything that is known about anthropology, biology and physics. There is just people saying it is real, and they are no different or any more credible than the Bushman.

If you don't think his story about the Giant Woman is real, you will see why there is no reason to think Adam and Eve were real and She wasn't.

Mazzy: You said that your observations of reality align with your understanding of reality. I agree with you! I am the same way.

Except what have you observed? You claim that you have this feeling. I believe you that you have observed a feeling. You think this feeling is the Grace of God. It might not be. No one knows what it is.

Is there more? If there is seriously something you have observed which constitutes substantiation that God exists, maybe you had better tell me what it is.

Mazzy: To you such claims are unsubstantiated.

Sorry, no. Substantiation could not be ascribed to anything that applied only to you and not to me. Substantiated means substantiated to everybody. You don't get to re-define 'substantiate' so that it applies singularly.

Mazzy: I think that even if Jesus did come back and walk right up to you...you would not believe Him to be who He claimed.

Excuse me?

If you are suggesting that I would reject it out of sheer bloody closed-mindedness, or a determination to stick to what I already think no matter what, then you have seriously misread my character and my positions.

I would not be capable of such intellectual dishonesty.

If that happened substantiation would be a simple matter. If you think I would reject substantiation, based on what it was substantiation of, you are completely wrong.

I will go where reality takes me. If that happened it would be reality. I would not turn my back on what is manifest. You are wrong to suggest otherwise.

But we can settle this. Call me when He gets here and then we'll find out.

Mazzy: Who said that I am not allowed to question?

I thought you did. You said that most important aspect of your faith is the fact that it cannot waiver. Perhaps I should not have introduced a different term.

I should have said, That seems really sad. It seems that you should be allowed to let your faith waiver.

Mazzy: What do you mean, "only one reality?" My 'reality' is going to differ from someone else's, even slightly. Our perception of reality is going to differ.

This is a good point. The reality they are drawn from is not different, but I would agree our perceptions differ slightly. But not much. We couldn't run an international airport if our perceptions of reality differed significantly. It takes too much common understanding.

However, I don't think that the existence of an all-powerful super being, who created everything, and can control everything, and has a son, and the son died on the cross for your sins to save you from hell, and really needs your belief in Him...or not....can count as "slightly." Could everything there is about God fit into the tiny slice of "slightly" different perception of reality?

Mazzy: Now that depends on the individual.

It sounds to me like you are saying that some people are slightly psychic, and they can sense God in the very slight differences in perception from people who can't see God. Is that it?

Mazzy: No. One does not have to be 'physic' to sense God's presence.

Then why do you think you sense it and others do not?

8-18-13 1:23Jesus or Burn

Marilyn, thanks again for sharing this discussion with me. I don't believe you would wish for me to refrain from stating my views, so I am proceeding, but please do not feel this is directed at you personally.

Marilyn: You are correct that the main piece of Christianity is accepting Jesus.

The main piece of Christianity is accepting Jesus....or else. This is wrong.

Marilyn: However, I don't believe that all people are trying to manipulate others into anything.

True, a lot of people are better than this. I have found that most folks are pretty good, decent people, despite whatever lame crap their religion is offering up. Most Christian people are good in spite of the fact that the main tenet of their religion is a manipulative threat.

However, many people are using this threat to manipulate others, which is not surprising since that is what it was designed for.

Even if no Christian ever tried to use this threat - and we both know they do - the fact that the threat exists is really, really lame. As the central tenet, it casts doubt on every aspect of Christianity which follows from this pathetic, manipulative beginning.

Marilyn: Accepting Jesus isn't just about the afterlife. The point is to experience the peace and love of God now.

This is slightly different but it is just as lame. God is not required for peace and love. Jesus is not required for peace and love. The premise of Christianity, that humans are born defective ("sinners") and cannot have a good life or a good death without divine intervention, is a coersive load with nothing to back it up.

Particularly horrific is the ongoing scam about "original sin." Even though we now know that there is no way that Adam and Eve were the first people, and that they probably never existed outside of myth, we are still somehow required to accept the premise that Eve picked the wrong fruit and brought dissolution, shame, evil, and the necessity of "saving" on every human being.

This is manipulative crap, and the whole "sin" thing looks like an another attempt to threaten, coerce, and play people for fools.

Marilyn: I personally don't think God wants people to be "scared" into loving him.

Who cares what God wants? God isn't the one calling the shots. People are the ones doing the preaching, the missioning, the converting. People are the ones doing Christianity. God could have the best of intentions, but since He is not the one doing the doing, His intentions have no meaning.

Marilyn:I think this is clear with the example Jesus gave as to how to treat others.

I have seen this stated similarly before. Jesus was a great man! Therefore, Christianity is great. However it doesn't follow.

Jesus, as portrayed, was a great guy. However it is possible to utilize the wisdom of his words and his example without buying into the "Jesus or burn" thing. It is not necessary to have faith that Jesus is deific in order to do unto others.

And Jesus' enlightenment does not do anything to redeem the crap stuff in the faith. It exists in spite of His brilliant example.

Marilyn: I absolutely agree with you that there are a lot of Christians who will use the threat and that when they do, it's absolutely wrong.

It's unavoidable. How do Christians avoid using threats when the central tenet is a threat? How can they possibly avoid being manipulative when the whole fabric of the religion is based on coersion?

Love your neighbor...or else God won't like it. And trust me, you don't want that!

Marilyn: Obviously it has to start with a belief.

Yes. A really lame, shitty belief.

Marilyn: But, because there are so many loving, humble Christians then it can't be the belief alone.

Beliefs don't exist "alone." They exist inside people's heads. Beliefs consist entirely of what people think about them and what people do about them.

But as I said, people are pretty good. Good people can be loving and humble in spite of Christianity. However Christians do not own the franchise on loving and humble.

There is no reason to think that there is something special and good about Christianity that is magically making people loving and humble. Loving and humble people exist in every faith and without faith. Christianity doesn't get the credit. People are loving and humble in spite of it, not because of it.

Marilyn: So, it was Muslims who flew the planes into the towers. Does this mean that the Muslim faith as a whole is to blame? Or is it the people who are chosing to manipulate the faith for their own purpose?

Ah yes, our old friends the terrorist jihadis.

The parts of the Muslim faith which instruct believers to kill infidels is to blame. People would not be choosing to use it to manipulate the faith in that manner if that did not exist. People are also to blame, but that doesn't let the faith off the hook.

Marilyn: You have to believe in the unseen, the unproved! When I met my husband everyone told me he was bad for me. But I had faith in our love that defied all logic.

Sorry, this is nothing like the same thing. For one, many women have had this exact same faith and it didn't work for them, they got nothing but pain and heartache. This is no lesson that faith pays off.

For another, faith that you will "get your man" is earthly faith, not religious faith. It is faith in something that can actually happen within the bounds of the laws of physics. Faith in a bunch of stuff that is magical, and that remains, and always will, mere speculation, is a completely different order of wishful thinking.

Marilyn: I am not trying to say that people who do not know God have no peace.

You seemed to be saying that God is a source of peace. However there is no reason to think this is true. Theists do not have more peace or better peace than non-theists. Since people have peace without God, there is no evidence that Christian peace comes from God or is different from non-Christian peace.

It is not necessary to buy peace with faith. Peace does not make faith a good idea.

Marilyn: I believe that there is a wish from God that we will all experience his perfect and unconditional love.

Like most of your beliefs, since this is completely unsubstantiated, it doesn't mean anything. Your belief could be wrong.

Marilyn: Do I believe we are doomed if we don't have it? No.

It's too bad you aren't the one responsible for the central tenet of Christianity. But just because you don't personally believe it doesn't mean that isn't what the religion specifically states.

Marilyn: But that doesn't = God doesn't exist either.

Who are you talking to? I never said God doesn't exist. I have never used Christianity = lame to try to prove that God doesn't exist. They are not related.

However, Not no-God doesn't = Christianity is good.

Marilyn: I don't see it as a "do or die" situation.

That's great for you. You are free to abandon the parts of Christianity that you don't like. However that doesn't make it not part of Christianity.

Marilyn: Why believe beforehand? Because I just do. My belief isn't a conscious choice.

Perhaps you should take a more proactive approach in the formation of your beliefs.

Marilyn: This is how I believe God views sin. As with many other things, I think the people screwed that one up.

It doesn't matter what you think about what God thinks. Neither you or God are administrating Christianity.

Marilyn: You asked, "Who cares what God wants?" Well, I care what God wants.

Sorry, that was poorly phrased. I should have said, "It doesn't matter what God wants." God is not calling the shots. Christianity is not made up of God. Christianity is made up of people, and what people want and what people do are what make Christianity what it is. God has nothing to do with it.

Marilyn: Again....people fucking it up.

Maybe people need to abandon Christianity and start over with a better belief system that is not manipulative, threatening, and so very easy to fuck up.

Marilyn: I'm not threatening people with hell. I just know how great their lives will be if they give each other the love and care that I know they are capable of and I want that for them.

That is great that this is what you want for them. However if you tell them that if they don't do it, the Boogeyman will get them, that takes your good intentions and aspirations and throws them in the crapper. It's a threat and a lie and all the good intentions in the world don't make it right. The ends don't justify the means.

Marilyn: What I believe is that the main teaching of Christianity is that in order for us to fully experience this thing called life, we need to exhibit love and humbleness.

I'm glad you believe that. However, as far as I am able to tell, that is not the main teaching of Christianity. As far as I am able to discern, the main teaching of Christianity is that humans are born irredeemable sinners who must have salvation from Jesus or else.

The fact that your beliefs differ doesn't redeem Christianity.

Marilyn: I brought up my husband because I'm simply saying that one can have a belief that defies logic.

I don't think I ever tried to maintain that people cannot have illogical beliefs. I think it is patently obvious that people can have beliefs that defy logic and I would certainly not try to insist otherwise.

The question is, is it a good idea to have beliefs that defy logic? You were lucky at love and I'm very glad things worked out for you, but having beliefs that defy logic in romance can just as easily lead to a broken heart.

Having beliefs that defy logic, generally speaking, is not useful. It does not lead to places that make sense. That one piece of good fortune in your romance doesn't change it. Just because people sometimes hit the jackpot on the slots, that doesn't make gambling a good idea.

Marilyn: This is what God's love does for me. It strengthens me, it inspires me.

That's great, but it doesn't make Christianity a good idea.

Marilyn: Many Christians believe that the main focus of God's will is to show his unconditional love for us; that this should be the MAIN witness. This really isn't just me.

I think it's great that you and your congregation would rather talk about the love than the threat. That doesn't make the threat go away. It is implicit. It is at the heart of the Christian belief.

Marilyn: All I know is that MY Christian belief isn't lame. That this is the case for many Christians.

When a faction of Christians stands up and says, look, the whole Hell thing was a big mistake, then I will accept that they are not lame. As long as Christians are making the unsubstantiated claim of a binary afterlife, and claiming that the "good" get one afterlife and the "bad" (evil, heretic, unbelievers, chose wrong, whatever) get the "other" afterlife, then that lame part of your faith is dragging you down.

Marilyn: I do fight people who I believe take the main message of the Lord (being love) and abandon it to spread the message of fear.

The message of fear is inescapable as long as it remains the core tenet of the faith.

Marilyn, you seem like a very nice, compassionate and loving person. You also seem very intelligent and discriminating. You are a great credit to the Christian faith. I completely believe you when you say that the message of love is the heart of your Christianity. I know many Christians who would agree with you.

My assessment of the problems with the belief structure are in no way intended to malign you personally, or people who happen to be Christian.

Joleen: Raver, I'm very surprised to hear you insist that there is only one truth.

I would say there is only one reality and we are all born in to the same one.

Joleen:Ultimately the only belief safe to shun is Atheism. If Atheism is correct then nothing bad will happen to you after death for disbelieving it since there is nothing after death.


Choosing what you proclaim as truth by which makes you "safer"?

Joleen: Actually, the Christian belief as I understand it is specifically that if you don't believe in God and Jesus Christ you won't get into Heaven.

Jesus or burn.

Joleen: So how is this, a free-will choice, a "threat?"

Every threat is a free-will choice. Every single one. That doesn't make it not a threat.

Joleen: Hmm...does this really sound threatening to you? Is this truly manipulative?

Hmm...Jesus or burn. Threat? Manipulative? Yes and yes.

Joleen: If so, to what purpose does this doctrine try to manipulate people?

To control their behavior.

Joleen: I deny that the central tenant of Christianity is a threat or a manipulative attempt.

Yet, you yourself said that you choose it because it is safer. It seems that you have responded to the threat.

Joleen: Where is there any harm in this doctrine?

The harm is using a threat, which for all we know could be completely made up, to control people.

Joleen: How is the message that God will always love you "shitty?"

You, previously: "Actually, the Christian belief as I understand it is specifically that if you don't believe in God and Jesus Christ you won't get into Heaven."

This is the belief as you described it. It does not contain the message "God will always love you." It doesn't say anything about God's love. It doesn't even mention love.

What it does say is, Jesus or burn. Shitty.

Marilyn: You don't understand His offer. God wants you to accept him and his love. His love is his kingdom.

That's what you say. I don't see Him offering me anything. I see you telling me that He is offering me something. If He is offering it to me how come the only thing I can hear is you?

Marilyn: You said you would not turn away your children. If my kids came to my door and I reminded them of my love and only asked that they accept my invitation into my home, and then they refused, then I wouldn't force them to enter.

When God does this I will decide then. So far God has not said anything to me about being invited to his kingdom. Some people have told me this, but they have nothing to back it up. Other people say something really different is going on, but they have nothing to back it up either. It is not readily apparent.

Marilyn: I believe that God's presence and love is constantly there for ALL people, regardless of your beliefs.

Possibly. But ALL people sure don't get the same message. There are millions of people in India right now who also feel Divine Grace, and observe the blessings of fate being turned in their direction from Above. But when they look into this, they don't see an invitation to Heaven and Hell, or a bloody dead guy hanging from a cross, or a serpent offering a lady the wrong fruit.

They see a number of Gods, and one of them has the head of an elephant, and they see the afterlife as a great wheel, where your service and resignation to your social status are the only keys to coming back to earth in the next life in a higher station.

This really has practically nothing to do with your version. So, I have you telling me that the choice is to accept God's invitation by having faith in Jesus, and them telling me that the key is to accept my social status.

Perhaps I could do both, and cover all the bases. But then, the Dabo people in Central America say that you have to skin a maned wolf by hand before you reach the age of fifteen to be ensured a place in the afterlife. What if they are the ones who have it right? Shit, it's already too late for me!

Since no one has any proof that their story has the key to the afterlife, how am I supposed to know which one to follow to get the good one?

Marilyn: Some people's hearts are open to receiving that love and others are not.

Ah, the "you've got a defective heart" excuse. Seriously, are you suggesting that my heart is not open to receiving this love?

Joleen: Think of it this way: God is throwing a really wonderful party. You are invited. Christians want to make sure you know that.

How would they know?

The day I see an invitation from God I will consider it. So far all I see is Christians telling me this invitation exists. Other people are telling me something completely different. Why should I believe just the Christians?

Marilyn:I think that some people are comfortable and open to receiving this love and others are not.

So, non-Christians are all uncomfortable and closed? Does this include Hindus?

Joleen: Who is right? How can any of us know?


Joleen: It's not necessarily "Jesus or Burn." Not according to Jesus.

Jesus urges us to accept the place in Heaven that God wishes to give us. If we choose to reject that we are merely excluded from Heaven - by our own choice. By rejecting God we choose to dwell in a place without God which is, as far as those who love God understand, a very sad place called Hell.

Whatever. "Burn" may refer to eternal heartburn for all we know. Hell simply refers to "We don't know what it is, but trust me, you won't like it."

Joleen: Do you believe then that every free-will choice is a threat?

Of course not. Only the ones that say "Do this or else it will be very bad for you."

Joleen: If I issue you an invitation to a party at my house am I threatening you somehow by giving you the chance to either accept or decline the invitation?

If you issue an invitation which says, come to the party at my house or I will banish you forever to the most unpleasant corner of the universe, yes, that is a threat.

Joleen: So, again, how is the invitation to Heaven which clearly does NOT depend on perfect behavior a way of manipulating behavior?

God is not the one doing the manipulating.

Joleen: Then I hope I have now satisfied you that there is no harm in Christianity since I have corrected your mistaken notion that the doctrine is based on a threat and is intended to control people.

Sorry, no. You can't take "Jesus or else" and declare it not a threat. And if you think that people do not use religion to control people you are not looking.

Joleen: You just don't understand the message. So allow me to clarify. God loves you.

Sorry, "Jesus or else" does not clarify into God loves you. You added that. And you do not know any more about it than I do, you are simply guessing.

I have no reason to think that you know more about how God feels than I do.

Marilyn: I'm not saying your heart is defective. But God's invitation requires you to suspend what is logical and what is substantiated because He's not here in the flesh reaching out to us with love and hugs.

Do you think I have never done this? Do you seriously think that it never in my life occurred to me to try this? Well, that's not the case. I have done this, many times. However, that did not make anything happen which can confirm your assertions about "God."

Marilyn: That's because you just won't lend your heart to something that is not logical.

Sorry, wrong. First of all, I never even use the world "logical." Why are you assigning me the role of some kind of Vulcan? I don't run every proposal through Aristotlean syllogism analysis.

Second of all, you have no clue what I will lend my heart to, or have ever lent it to in the course of my years. I have participated in many different kinds of rituals, ceremonies, prayers, mediations, fasts, chants and rites for many faiths. I didn't participate in these activities reluctantly, secretly keeping my heart closed to what occurred in them. I participated in them openheartedly, fully, with every effort to participate as sincerely and in as much humility and reverence as humanly possible, with honest effort to discover whatever truth might lie within them. I have not refused my heart. I have offered it freely, over and over. I still do, constantly.

Third of all, I have had many strange, mysterious and wonderful experiences which defy logic, substantiation, and all tangible measure. I have had unbelievably narrow escapes from death. I have had unbelievably synchronistic happenings, saving me from dire fates, that seemed way too lucky to be chance. I have had feelings of comfort occur in times of sadness. I have witnessed amazing cures for seemingly hopeless conditions. I have also had out-of-body experiences, beautific visions, moments of bliss, and fullblown theophany.

If you think the reason I don't believe in Jesus is because I have walked blindly through this life like some kind of robot, never experiencing anything other than logic, you are wrong.

I have experienced some of the deepest expressions that life has to offer. It has been an honor and a blessing of enrichment on my existence.

However, these experiences do NOTHING to confirm your claims about Christianity. The most meaningful and magical experiences of my life look nothing like Christianity. No similarity at all.

Marilyn: Your need for logic makes it very difficult for the heart to be open to something that is as abstract as God's love.

I am a professional artist. I make my living from the abstract. I am also poet, musician, writer. Lover. Mother. Philospher. Genius. I think you seriously underestimate my ability to comprehend the abstract. I experience plenty of it.

The big difference is, I am not making any claims about what I experience. I don't claim it is God. I don't claim it is anything. I don't know what it is. It doesn't seem important to know exactly what it is.

It looks nothing like "Christianity."

And it sure as hell doesn't look like a guy born of a virgin, or dying on a cross, original sin, or a binary afterlife, or any of those other strange, unconfirmable assertions. In all the weird and unexplainable and abstract that I have experienced, none of it was that.

In fact, what I have experienced makes the whole "Jesus or else" thing look pretty scrawny in comparison.

Marilyn:It seems I've offended you and if that's the case, I'm truly sorry.

Not at all. I am not offended. I am explaining.

Marilyn:To be honest, I'm guessing on these things because I've never not believed so it's just as difficult for me to guess why you don't feel it as it probably is for you to understand why I do feel it.

We are both human beings. Our feelings are not that dissimilar. We feel what everybody feels.

I just don't claim that those feelings are God, or Jesus. They don't come with those words attached to them. I don't think those feelings spell out what is going to happen in the afterlife. Most of them just don't seem to be that specific.

Marilyn: Like you said, you feel these wonderful and mysterious things in life and it doesn't equate God to you. I don't think there's anything wrong with that and I apologize if my words lead to that conclusion.

I know YOU don't think there is anything wrong with it. My gripe is not with you personally. Please don't feel that it is.

Your faith, which you profess to be a member of, Christianity, does think that there is something wrong with it. It does. It specifically states that my particular perception of what everybody feels, is so wrong, so inferior, so evil, so downright rude to His Generous Wonderfulness, that I am therefore deserving of an afterlife of torment.

I know you say YOU don't think that. Christianity DOES. It states that specifically.

Marilyn: I don't know why some people think they feel God's love and some don't.

Maybe that is not what is happening.

Marilyn: Again, I feel like I've hurt you in some way and I'm really sorry.

Please, don't feel that way, you are not doing anything wrong and I am not hurt.

I am trying to figure out why this happens when people of faith and people of anything else have discussions. I am trying to develop some language that would work for both sides to bring common understanding.

It's very meaningful to me that you are willing to discuss it. Please don't worry about offending me.

It seems that people's actual experiences are not that different from each other's. What mainly differs is what they call it. If we can work out something that everybody can call it, we will have achieved some real understanding. :-)

Marilyn: I think it's okay that we see things differently.

Yeah, me too.

But Christianity doesn't. Christianity insists that me seeing it differently means that I am hellbound.

Unless you agree, maybe you should take a look at what Christianity is asking of you.

Marilyn: Other than the more "out there" Christians, I've never even been to a church where the preacher taught that a person who doesn't believe in God deserves a life of torment.

Are you seriously suggesting that the majority of Christians do not believe that it's accept Jesus or go to Hell? If that's true then why haven't they changed the official doctrine?

The official doctrine states that it's Jesus or burn. Just because your happy church doesn't talk about it, doesn't make it go away.

Marilyn: Further, as I explained on here and have others...."hell" as I understand it is simply a place where God does not go. No punishment, no fire, no brimstone. It is a place where God is not.

How sweet. Hell isn't that bad! Do you think that makes it okay?

Marilyn: Hell is a place that people have to choose to go. You are not "damned" to hell, you choose hell.

Well, let's take a look at my choice.

Are you seriously saying, that after all this conversation with me, you are thinking, hmm, she just doesn't like the idea of God. She really just doesn't want to experience Him or be where He is. Obviously, RaverLady would much rather be in the place God isn't, the "other place," the not-good one.

Is that how it seems?

I do not accept anything about the redemption of sin through Jesus. I reject it entirely on its own lack of merit. It makes no sense, and there is no evidence at all to support the claim that it is true. Do you seriously think I am doing this just because I choose to go to hell?

I don't care if your church teaches that Hell is a patch of daisies. The official policy of the church is that Hell is the WRONG choice. It's the bad one. Only the WRONG ones go there.

According to Christianity, I am so WRONG that I will get hell.

You keep claiming that you aren't that way, your church isn't that way, no church you have ever been to in your life is that way!

But just because you don't hear them talking about it doesn't make it go away. As Joleen states, it is the main, central, foundational belief of the faith. And if people aren't talking about it, it sounds like Christianity has a pretty big elephant in their room and maybe they need to start talking about it.

Marilyn: Humans will never agree on one singular belief system, but again....I don't see that as a problem. And again, a lot of Christians feel the same way.

A lot of Christians are really good people, like you. You should change your religion to reflect what you believe. As long as the official doctrine of Christianity states something that you don't agree with you are stuck with it anyway.

Joleen: I believe that the Bible is a true expression of God's will.

It's great that you believe that. There is no reason to think that your belief is correct.

Joleen: My concept of Hell is that...

You have an extremely elaborate and carefully constructed concept of Hell. I like the way you thought all this up. Way to go.

Joleen: The Christian belief - based on the Bible - is that God loves you unconditionally and eternally.

It's wonderful that Christians believe this. However, until something actually happens, there is no actual offer being made that can be detected. There is just Christians saying that there is an offer.

Marilyn: I really fail to understand why it's such a huge request for God to ask that you accept him and his love in order to enter his kingdom.

I do not know that He is asking me this. I have not heard anybody asking me this. I have heard people telling me that He is asking me this. However they have no way to back up their claims that He is asking me this.

Seriously. Did God ask you, specifically, this? Or did someone just tell you that this is what God was asking?

If God wants me to accept this He can ask me Himself. When I have reason to think that this request is actually being asked of me, by God, I will certainly consider it.

Marilyn: To repeat, I really don't understand why it's such a difficult option.

Because there is no evidence that this choice even exists. There is no reason to think it does. This choice cannot be detected. It exists only as exhortations from Christians that the choice exists, and it's easy.

I have no way to verify that this is actually the right choice. Why should I pick it? I have no reason to think the question even exists. Why should I attempt to answer it?

8-16-13 7:11Baptizing the Dead

ChaosKid:Okay I was watching this documentary on PBS about the Mormon church and was blown away to see that the Mormons have compiled a list of 2 billion names of the world's dead and are proceeding to baptize them into the Mormon faith.... where the hell do these nut jobs get off?

What do you think of baptizing the dead?

I heard that you can get to Heaven if you are baptized after death, but you end up owing and usually get hit with a lot of late fees.

Tea Earl Grey: This has got to be a joke. lol

I heard it straight from a guy who says he heard it straight from God.

Tea Earl Grey: LMAO

8-14-13 12:11Fuck Money

Weird blast from the past. This conversation took place in 2008 right after the financial crash, right before the election.

I can't believe how much people let money control their lives. "With a Democrat as president I'll have less money! Those lazy scumbag poor people want all my money! Good social services would mean less money for me!"

Because it's all about the money. Not less money...more money! Money, money, money!

Does anyone care about anything besides money?

Sunday:Well, if I ended up with less money, then yes, I would be pissed. I don't worry about having more because we have plenty, but less is not good.

I'm sorry to hear that.

Sunday: Just because I have plenty of money doesn't mean I like the idea of someone taking it from me.

So, money it is, then.

Sunday: What do you expect? Nowadays the people who have worked their rear off and have a comfortable life are expected to hand their money over to be distributed to lazy slobs by the government.

Nobody seems to have a problem with working their rear off so that 50% of their hard earned tax money can be used to blow up Iraqis or fund useless missle-defence boondoggles. Everyone is obsessed with that tiny one percent that is being "distributed" as food stamps and welfare.

Sunday: Why is it so hard for you to realize that I don't like someone just taking my money?

Do you think that you should not pay any taxes?

Sunday: Why should I let anyone take my money?

Taxes are not someone "taking" your money. They are you paying in exchange for having a country, just like the money you pay in exchange for everything else that you have. And you get what you pay for.

Sunday: Maybe I like the idea of giving my children better than what I had or not having to worry about paying for them to play sports or being able to take them to fun places. I like nice things!!! Sue me!!!

My children have plenty of everything. They have millions of toys, they play sports, we take them to fun places. Our house has nice things.

However, we do this with very modest means. We buy almost everything used for pennies on the dollar. We do our sports through the Y. We go to fun places that are free.

I hope that someday you have all the money you ever wanted. But even if you had very much less money than you currently have, it would not mean your kids couldn't have a good life. A good life can be made from things other than money. That is my whole point.

Sunday: You want to pay for so-called "social services" by raising my taxes. But I already give a lot to charity!

It would break my heart to pieces if I could not donate to my charities since they are for helping improve shelters for our homeless, and our children.

In this specific case I think it would even out. Suppose your taxes got a little higher and our citizens were provided minimal quarters with it. Then we wouldn't even need the charity homeless shelters any more.

But truthfully, they could scrape a trillion or so off the military budget, and they could feed, clothe, house and educate every underpriveliged person in this country. My first pick would be a re-allocation of our current taxes before I would ever see them increased on the middle class.

Jedi Princess: What I want to know is why you care so much how people spend money or why people care about money?

it's interesting. In a capitalist society, Money is the Other God. I'm interested in why some people worship it.

Jedi Princess:Is it really any of your business?

Sure, if people want to discuss it. The conversation is entirely optional.

Jedi Princess:I honestly feel this is something you shouldn't have even posted in the first place.

I honestly feel that money is sucking the life out of humanity and many people would be better off if they were not so attached to it. They would certainly be a lot less easy to manipulate.

My attitude is, "Fuck money." It's a trap.

Sunday: In a society that has equalized everyone's outcome - regardless of what each person contributed, how hard they worked, what sacrifices they made, etc. - then there is no reason or way for one person to reach out to another.

No society has equalized everyone's outcome. No society is trying to do that, least of all our society. You can worry yourself sick about this imaginary situation, and you can write several more paragraphs about how ruinous that would be, but since no one has proposed this it's kind of a waste of good angst.

And if you think there is any force that stops people from reaching out to each other, you are just plain wrong.

Sunday: Where we put our effort and attention, there goes our hearts.

Effort and attention does not equal money.

BJQ: My husband and I like money. We like not having to stick to a strict budget or stress over bills.

You said your husband paces the floor at three a.m. trying to figure out what to do, and that you argue over what cd to put the money in because if you choose wrong it might ruin you. That sure doesn't sound like your extra money has bought you any less stress to me.

BJQ: That was recently, when our business was on the verge of ruin and when our stocks were going crazy. We're doing well again now. And it rocks.

Until the next bump in the road.

BJQ: Well then we'll deal with it, like we always do.

If you mean by stressing, pacing and fighting, then that seems fine if that's how you guys like to run it.

BJQ: That was an extreme case, and is highly unlikely to ever happen again.

I hope you are right. However economists and other people analyzing our country's financial dynamics are saying that the roller-coaster ride has just begun.

And, as you point out, if you are the stressing-pacing-fighting kind, it can kick up around anything.

We made a conscious decision long ago not to stress, pace or fight about anything, least of all money. It has served us very well over the years. Particularly lately. When the news about the financial crisis hit, we were literally the only two people we knew who did not fly into a panic.

LL: Why do you so hate anyone with money?

You have misunderstood. I hate no one. I've never said a mean word to anyone. Saying "Fuck money" is not the same as saying "Fuck those people." Money is just a thing, it will not be offended.

However I am somewhat bothered by people who say "Fuck those people" because those people don't have money. It's a shame. They are our brothers and sisters as much as anyone, and we do ourselves a disservice by dismissing them.

LL: But it comes across that you lump everyone with money into a greedy, materialistic stereotype.

Huge amounts of wealth are not usually accumulated unintentionally. It takes an effort of will. I would say a certain amount of greedy materialism would be almost a given in anyone who focuses their effort on amassing vast wealth. If they weren't at least somewhat greedy and materialstic, why would they even bother?

And, as you can see, many people do not shy away from describing themselves as materialistic. In fact they seem pretty happy about it. If that's their choice of where to expend their energy and derive their enjoyment in life, then power to them.

But that would not work for me.

LL: You seem to lump all wealthy people in one greedy group.

Well, allow me to clarify. For the purpose of this conversation, my references to greedy people refer to any greedy people, wherever they land on the wealth scale. Some very poor people are greedy too and I certainly wouldn't want to imply otherwise.

But the original purpose of the conversation is to discuss money, and how it comes to be a dominating force in most people's lives, whether they want it to or not. Because our system is all about the money, and our culture is all about the money, and our politics are all about the money. There are very few people who are willing or able to look beyond the confines of the money discussion to notice that there are actually other issues at play.

Particularly for people who are voting in this election on money issues. If someone says "I'm for Politician X because it means more money for me!" then I have to wonder if that hasn't become an overriding motivation to exclusion of all else.

Money isn't everything. However you couldn't tell that from listening to your average American.

Sunday: But wanting money isn't greed, it's just self-preservation.

Fair enough. But I would like to point out that most Americans survived the Great Depression with practically NO money. They grew gardens, they did odd jobs, they bartered. They tightened their belts and learned to make do with a lot less. They got by. And they still laughed.

If this is what our country is facing, it will cause a lot less heartache if people know that lean times are not necessarily sad times. If we care for one another, work together, and don't lose our sense of humor, we can get through it, even without much money. Our grandparents did it and so could we.

Lastly, I would point out that politically, the economic crisis has totally eclipsed two gigantic elephants in the room - one, that American foreign militarism has been a total failure, and two, that global warming is increasing at an alarming pace.

If we let our concern for money override our other concerns, particularly for the latter, we may find that all the money in the world would not be enough to save us.

Sunday: I only want plenty of money so I can feed my kids. You're mistaking natural human concerns with greed.

You are overstating my position. I have never said anything to the effect that wanting to put food on the table or provide the basics equals greed.

To the contrary, I have emphasized that our children lack for absolutely nothing, even though we don't have much money. We don't have anything fancy but we're perfectly happy with that. We don't feel like we're missing out on the "finer things" because we know that is completely unnecessary and not what it takes to build a happy life.

We could double our family income tomorrow if I resumed my career, but we decided having this time at home with the kids was more important than having more money for more things. Because money isn't everything.

And, believe it or not, we could certainly tighten our belts even more if the tax bill came a little higher, especially if we knew that money was helping to provide basics for people who don't even have that much. (Though, I'm not one of these people that thinks Obama is secretly out to raise our taxes.)

The upshot is, we are not basing our plan for life on how to get ever-increasingly larger amounts of money. Other than as a tool to get by, money is not important. And if the economy collapses and there is no money, we'll find a way to get by then too.

The point is not to fear. I can say "fuck money" because I trust myself and my husband and I know we could find a way to get by even if there was no money. We are not losing sleep over it. And we're definitely not voting on the promises of who will be better for our personal bank account. Our other concerns are just as, if not far more, important.

LL:If you look closely, it is small business and individuals who are working to become millionaires who will be oppressed and pushed back down.

Sorry, I can't really bring myself to feel a ton of sympathy for all those poor saps who are struggling to become millionaires. Just missing millionaire isn't exactly tragic. In fact, some people might actually consider just missing millionaire to be a success story, if they weren't obsessed with having more, more, more.

You can only be "oppressed and pushed back down" by money if you care about it. If you can show a little detachment, the oppressors chains are ripped away.

Just for fun, here are some of this morning's headlines:

Paulson vows action on crisis as earnings stagger

World leaders to meet on economy in Washington

Oil falls below US$69 on US recession fears

Northern Trust swings to 3Q loss

Merck 3Q net drops 28 percent; to cut 7,200 jobs

Weak earnings rouse worries about global recession

British prime minister: recession likely in UK

European markets extend losses

Boeing's 3Q profit dives 38 percent

Wachovia reports $23.9B loss for 3Q

European markets follow Asia down

Fun, huh? And this is just today.

The point is this. If you insist on tying your personal happiness to money, it doesn't matter who gets elected, the coming years are going to bring you a lot of grief. Everyone in America is going to be losing money by the boatloads because the economy is tanking. If you love money, prepare to get your heart broken. If you love more money, prepare to be disappointed.

I would suggest making the focus of your happiness something other than money. In this kind of market, it would definitely be a better investment.

LL: If you want to suggest that there are better things to focus on than making and growing money - GREAT! Many would agree with you.

Not many have here. Most of the responses in this discussion have been talking up how great and important and worthy money is. Mmm, yummy money!

The question was, does anyone care about anything besides money, and for the most part the answer was a resounding "Nope! Money rules!"

So, here's a centerfold for everyone to drool over:

Isn't that exciting.

LL: Where we disagree is whether or not government should be granted the power to FORCE you...

Slightly higher tax is no more force than any other taxes. And if you are hoping to abolish all taxes, you are going to be seriously disappointed, because collecting taxes is how the government works and I don't see that changing.

But here's a cheerful thought for you. All you need to do is work harder, pick up a few extra shifts or something, and make better decisions about how to invest your money. Then you can become one of the Super-Wealthy Elite and you won't have anything to worry about.

LL: Even if we privately agree that a different focus might make a person happier...

I'm always glad to offer useful suggestions for happiness. It certainly works for me and my family. It's the kind of investment that can never fail.

Sunday:I cannot see you being so carefree about it, if you were homeless with three children or could not afford to feed those children.

That is exactly how we were when we had no jobs, no income and a bankruptcy. We kept calm and worked various angles until we eventually muddled through.

What we didn't do was cry, get depressed, pace the floors, complain, stress, or argue. We played with the children and kept them happy. We found new ways to play with old toys.

Sunday: I do wonder, why is it such a horrible idea to you that some of us like nice things?

I like nice things too. My nice things didn't cost much money but that doesn't mean they aren't nice or that I don't like them. However, even the nicest thing is just a thing.

Sunday:So, what I want to know is, what do you think people like me, who work for a living, make good money, should do with MY money?

You can do whatever you want with it while you have it. I have no suggestions for how you should use your money. I'm not an expert at using money, and I never claimed to be.

However I could give you plenty of advice on how to be happy with very little money.

What I am describing is a very useful attitude to have towards money, and that is, fuck it. It's not that big a deal.

If money becomes very important to you, things get very unhappy very fast when the money flow is interrupted. Like it or not, all that you have worked and saved your whole life for can be gone in an instant. Unless you want to go completely insane when that happens, a little detachment is a good idea.

8-13-13 8:13Smoking the Quran

Remember back in 2010 when an Australian lawyer named Alex Stewart smoked a page out of the Quran and posted in on YouTube? It was reported that he was to be fired from his job. Here's a conversation I had about it at the time.

Xeena: Stewart's video, in which he describes the Bible and quran as "just books", is deeply hurtful to Muslims, said Sheik Muhammad Wahid, president of the Islamic Association of Australia.

Does everybody in the world have to pretend these are more than "just books"?

Xeena: He said: "There is no need for this kind of thing, just to create disunity and disharmony among people living in Australia."

There is a need for it. It is activism.

Xeena: Activism for what?

For reason. It is activism for the position that these are just books.

Xeena:Ehhh . . . if it was activism for free speech, I would get that, but reason? That's just pushing . . .

I disagree. Unless there is some evidence to the contrary, the position of reason is that these are just books. And yet, the entire world is required to pretend that they are magical or risk "deeply offending."

The position that the bible and the quran are just books is perfectly legitimate. The idea that it should never be publicly suggested otherwise is outrageous. Activism is needed to confront this idea.

If this stunt calls some attention to the low value that is placed on reason in our society, it's doing its job.

Xeena: I'm all about employer's rights...they have the right to fire, so sucks to be him.

Not if he values reason and activism over a job. Besides, maybe he can get a book deal.

Apples: He didn't have to burn it. People have no problem with simple disagreements being vocalized.

So, he can talk about the bible and the quran being just books, as long as he doesn't act like they are just books. In his actions, he must still treat the books as if they are magic.

It's called "activism" because it involves taking action. Action is the next step when words are not enough.

Apples: It's when you smoke their holy book like a doobie or drive a nail through a consecrated host that causes simple disagreements to become personal attacks on what others hold sacred.

People can hold anything "sacred." Millions of Hindus hold cows as sacred. Does that mean no human should ever eat Szechaun Beef? I know people who think watermelon are sacred. Does that mean Gallagher should have refrained from his entire career?

No person should be held hostage to what some other people "hold sacred."

This lawyer from Australia should not be expected to act as if those items are sacred when he does not think they are. Why should he?

Apples: Anyone who truly values reason would understand that disrespecting someone doesn't accomplish anything in the way of reasoning with them to see your position.

First of all, that action harmed no one. The idea that some people are choosing to feel personally harmed by "disrespect" from this one guy on the other side of the world is exactly the problem. People should be able to tell when they are not being harmed. And yet, apparently, they can't.

Second of all, I doubt this specific action was intended for the purpose of "reasoning with" believers to get them to see the logic of the non-belief position.

Apples: It closes them down to anything you have to say.

If someone feels that this action is actually harming them, they were probably not open to anything he had to say before he started. In any case, I doubt they are his target audience.

Apples: I never said anything about acting like those books are magic.

I disagree that talking about how they are just books is okay, but acting like they are just books is crossing the line. He is as justified in acting as if they are not sacred as he is in saying that they are not sacred. In fact that is the point.

The actions certainly seem more effective than words. In all likelihood, he has been saying that they were "just books" for years but no one ever even noticed before.

Apples: I said, people have a problem with having what is sacred (sacred doesn't mean magic) to them disrespected.

Well maybe "people" should grow up and stop letting others pick their problems.

Apples: But if his goal is to reach people in a productive way and promote reason, this isn't it.

I disagree. There were a ton of people who commented on his YouTube video with support and thanks. A lot of atheists, agnostics and other people who agree that these are just books got a shot in the arm, and probably a laugh. People who are on the fence, or wondering, had a chance to consider what the bible and the quran being "just books" really means.

And everyone in society got to see what it looks like when an insecure baby throws a big tantrum because someone pinched his teddy bear.

Promoting the view that the bible and the quran are just books is promoting the view supported by reason. It is an important point. Even if he is only preaching to the choir, there is nothing wrong with that. Better still if a couple of people take a moment to consider what the idea "just books" means...from his actions, as well as the reaction.

Apples: "When words are not enough..." For what?

Not enough to effect a loud and clear message of reason: "These are just books." This view is not well-represented in the public sphere. It should be. Hence, the need for activism to raise awareness.

Apples: You claim no one was harmed, but you are talking about physical harm only. I believe that emotional harm exists.

Healthy people are not emotionally harmed by YouTube.

Apples: And I can attest to the fact that disrespect can cause it.

Only if you have no choice but to endure it.

The YouTube video was entirely optional. No person had to watch it. Should this guy really have refrained from making this video so that no person would ever even have to hear about rolling a joint out of scripture? Is he really responsible for people who would be emotionally harmed by the mere idea that this could have occurred?

Apples: Emotional harm may not be as visible to the outsider, but it is very real to the person experiencing it.

Every person in the universe should not be held hostage to what you would find emotionally disturbing. Important messages do not have to be whispered so that you won't have to hear them.

Apples: What do you believe the purpose was?

To raise awareness of an extremely legitimate and important view - that the bible and quran are just books.

Apples: If he had rolled up a page of the Quran in private and smoked it, no big deal (just like if the people want to privately pray for Hitchens, no big deal), but making it public, to the largest audience you can get....

The audience of people who would have been offended by this should have been zero. If the offended watched it anyway, that's their problem. The point is, the Australian lawyer guy should not have refrained from making the video just to spare the easily offended from ever having to hear about something like this happening.

Apples:...is only done for the purpose of "proving" your side right and upsetting the opposition.

That is a perfectly legitimate use of activism. In fact it's the point.

Apples: Sure, he made people laugh. People nudge each other and laugh when someone tells a racial joke too.

Racism is an invalid, cruel and oppressive point of view. "The bible and quran are just books" is not invalid or cruel. It oppresses no one. It is a legitimate and important message. The two are not equivalent.

Apples: Those touchy minorities should just grow up, right?

Well, in that case, it would be the circumstance of an oppressive majority making derisive untrue characterizations at the expense of an oppressed minority which they themselves are oppressing, thus furthering the oppression.

In this case, it is actually a legimate viewpoint being advanced by a very small minority which has been obsessively repressed for two thousand years. It is being used to negate and expose oppression by the majority. Again, not equivalent.

Apples: It's just a point of view.

It is an important point of view which is absolutely legitimate and seriously under-represented in public discourse. It should be shouted in as many creative and non-violent ways as it takes to be heard over thousands of years of monolithic oppressive views.

Apples: You said, "That is a perfectly legitimate use of activism." Well, that is what I object to.

People usually object to activism, but ultimately it is how major social change is accomplished.

Somebody has to sit at the lunch counter. Somebody has to sit at the front of the bus. Somebody has to say, these are just books. They are not magically right. There is nothing special about them. Burning this page is not sacrilige. It is not hurting you.

Somebody has to say, doing this is not wrong, just because you say it is, and demonstrate it.

Alex Stewart is being the change he wants to see in the world. Good for him!

Apples: When something is merely a point of view, all points of view are valid.

This is exactly why we need activism for the cause of reason.

The problem is the idea that every position is "merely" a point of view, valid just because it exists. In actuality, some positions correlate directly with observable reality, and some don't. The correlation with reality determines the validity.

The position, "These are just books. They are not magically right. There is nothing special about them," is a position supported by reason, and by direct observation of reality, which anyone can personally verify. Indeed, any person can examine bibles and qurans and see for themselves that they look, feel and behave exactly as if they are just books. This conclusion is not a stretch. It's not a mere "opinion." It is a verifiably accurate description of the reality.

On the other hand, the position,"These are more than just books" is a matter of pure conjecture. It is unsupported by any facts or observations, unverifiable by any kind of examination and indistinguishable from an imaginary assertion. It appears, to reason, to be unfounded.

And yet, the accurate description supported by facts and reason which anyone can verify is a barely acknowleged micro-minority position, which may only be whispered respectfully and never acted upon, while the position supported only by conjecture MUST be respected just as if it was true, and all people must pretend it is true - or at least they had better act like it is in public.

So how is that fair, or working, or in any way acceptable? Why are all people required to act like the conjecture is more important than the facts?

Perhaps if the adherents of the the bible and quran had not spent the last two thousand years suppressing reason and every other conflicting view with death and torture, the cause of reason would not now require shocking publicity stunts to try to get a little equal time. However, as things are, it's long overdue and absolutely necessary.

Apples: You said some points of view are invalid.

I said, racism is invalid. The point of view that whites are racially superior to blacks is unfounded in observable reality. Anyone can examine people from different races and see that we are all just people.

In addition, racism is cruel, oppressive and unjust. To a majority of people in this country, that was sufficient grounds in 1964 to officially recognize that racism is an invalid point of view. It was deemed so invalid, in fact, that it is actually illegal to exercise this viewpoint to discriminate by race in hiring and housing practices.

Apples: I said, all points of view are valid. I don't understand what that has to do with a need for activism. Could you explain what you're talking about?

Activism to promote reason is needed so that more people will use reason to evaluate the validity of viewpoints and reject those which are invalid.

Apples: A correlation with reality determines facts, not validity of viewpoints.

If the viewpoints are attempting to describe facts these are not separate.

For example, the viewpoint, "Whites are superior to blacks" is attempting to describe a factual relationship between humans of different races. However, this viewpoint has a complete lack of correlation with reality. It appears to be wrong. Whites are not superior to blacks. This makes the viewpoint invalid.

Apples: Why do you keep bringing magic into this?

It is a central tenet in both religions that Scripture is not just sacred because we love it so much, or because it is part of our heritage, or because people live by it. It is sacred because it is *different* from all other books. Scriptures are "more than just books" in this exact way - these books were dictated by God and other books weren't.

That is supposed to be the most important thing about them. However it is a supernatural claim.

Also, from wiki: "Respect for the written text of the Qur'an is an important element of religious faith in Islam. Intentionally insulting the Qur'an is regarded as a form of blasphemy."

Muslims are not just "deeply offended" about burning the quran because it is loved and treasured. They object because desecrating the quran is blasphemy, an act against God.

Apples: There is a difference in viewing something as sacred, special, treasured....and viewing something as magic.

It is a central tenet of both faiths that the scriptures are magic, or at least, supernaturally derived. That is the basis for claiming that the tenets of the faith are true.

Apples: You seem to be treating emotions as if they don't exist in reality.

Wrong. I am saying that some people's feelings being hurt from hearing that a lawyer burned a page from their magic book is not a reason that the lawyer should not have done it. Activism always causes outrage but it is part of social growth.

Apples:Saying something is or is not special is completely subjective.

By "special" I meant containing supernatural properties that make burning this book a desecration whereas burning Gone with the Wind is not a desecration. The kind of "special" you are refering to is subjective. Whether an object is imbued with supernatural properties is not.

Apples: They are not just books to some. They are just books to others. Both statements are a reality.

If by "not just books" you mean "dictated by God," then no, both statements are not reality. One of them certainly doesn't seem to be.

Outrage occurred because Alex Stewart did not treat those books as if they were dictated by God.

However, no one in society should be required to treat those books as if they were dictated by God. People are not harmed by another person not treating those books as if they were dictated by God.

Apples: You asked, "Why are all people required to act like the conjecture is more important than the facts?" Well, they aren't.

Yes we are. Ask a gay couple. Ask a biology teacher.

Apples:I think that's just a convenient excuse that people use to justify bad behavior to themselves.

Burning a page from a book to make a point that it is just a book is not bad behavior. It is not harming people.

Having holy wars, inquisitions, crusades and 2000 years of supressing conflicting views is. They are not equivalent.

Apples: Whether it's sacred to a Christian, a Muslim, a Pagan, an Atheist...whoever, doesn't matter. The fact that someone elses core value is being purposefully targeted is what I object to. It's not illegal, nor do I think someone should be fired for it, but I do believe it's wrong.

Well, look at it this way. There is a member on a discussion I moderate who claims to be a Satanist. According to him, the bible and the quran are both apostasy to his beliefs, and he is deeply offended every time someone doesn't burn them.

He doesn't have to see you not burning them. He is deeply offended just hearing that you have a quran or bible you are not burning.

Is it wrong of you to hurt him like this? Or are his feelings not your responsibility?

Apples:But to go out of my way to expose you to something I know you find offensive, is nothing but cruel.

Putting something on YouTube is not exposing a single person to it who does not want to see it.

Apples:We can pretty it up and call it activism all we want, but it's nothing more than people going out of their way to hurt other people "for a greater purpose". It's wrong.

People get pretty excited about flag burning too. Was it wrong for Iraqis protesting the American occupation of their country in 2003 to burn American flags? They went out of their way to hurt us like this. Should they have refrained to protect our feelings?

Apples: You claim that racism is invalid. If that was true, we wouldn't have these very large, well known institutions that promote the idea that one race is superior to another.

Racial equality is the conclusion supported by reason. Of course not everybody gets it. Not everyone is using reason. Large racist organizations are not arriving at their ideas by reason.

Apples: Their claim that whites are superior to blacks is just as founded as someone else's claim that blacks are superior to whites...as well as, the claim that people are just people.

A few statistical blips, like black males hear slightly better than white males, etc, hardly compares to the mountains of evidence of shared experience and similar physiology to show that people are far more alike than different in any meaningful way. Certainly there is no evidence in the world to support the idea that any race rates second-class citizenship. That is why it is illegal.

Acting like racial equality is just a point of view, with no more demonstratable merit than racial inequality, is a ridiculous length to go to just so you can claim that every point of view is equally valid.

It's not all just how you look at it. Some things work. Some don't. Racial inequality doesn't work - for either race. That makes it invalid.

Apples: If his point of view is valid, why was he suspended by his employer?

Actually, he's back on the job.

Apples: So, since you don't feel any harm, it's not a reality? Are those people all lying? Are they not interpreting their emotions correctly?

There is an easy way to settle this. Anyone who feels that they were actually harmed by hearing about this video should sue the man. They can demonstrate their harm to the court. Emotional distress can be successfully litigated if it is well-established and significant.

If the court recognizes that they have been harmed by hearing about this, the court will award them compensation and the lawyer will have to pay them punitive damages.

If the harm is not significant enough to warrant a day in court, then it probably comes under the classification of the kind of harm that everybody gets when they hear about something they don't like. Along the lines of, you'll be okay in a few minutes.

Apples: If I were to make a public video of me waving a Bible around and singing "ha ha ha, I have a Bible even though I know it bothers you" then your Satanist friend's harm would be my responsibility.

I know a lot of vegans who are seriously offended by McDonald's commercials. I mean, they gag whenever they come on. Seeing people cram huge slabs of meat into their mouths offends them spiritually, morally and physically.

This isn't YouTube, either. This is on every channel. They can't avoid it unless they eliminate broadcast television from their lives entirely. McDs is really rubbing it in their faces.

Is their offense and disgust McDonald's responsibility? Should McDs not show these commercials anywhere so that no vegan will ever have to hear of people eating meat?

Apples: People stumble upon Youtube videos all the time. And you can't un-see something.

I can't believe you are arguing this. By this criteria, YouTube should not even exist.

Apples: You asked, "Was it wrong for Iraqis protesting the American occupation of their country in 2003 to burn American flags?" I say, yes it was. You asked if they should have refrained to protect our feelings. Of course they should not have burned our flags! Not so much to protect our feelings - although there's something to be said for that - but more so to protect their own morality.

Our feelings? Their morality!?

We just destroyed their country! They were standing amid the rubble of their cities and the dead bodies of their families.

If burning American flags let those people feel like human beings with an ounce of dignity and self-determination, power to them! Burning those flags was an act of moral bravery which was one hundred percent justified. They should burn as many flags as it takes to get the message out - this was wrong.

The stunt by the lawyer was to step up to the other end of the lunch counter and say, this is just a book. It is not different from other books just because you say it was dictated by God. No one has to act like any of these claims are true just to avoid offending you.

The cause of reason is drowning in ideology and superstitious claptrap from every quarter - religion, politics, economics. "These are just books" is an extremely valid, important and very under-represented idea. Having to pull a stunt like this just so people can hear someone say, "these are just books" once in awhile is a symptom of how terribly under-valued reason is in our society.

Accidental YouTube stumblings aside, anyone who saw this video was certainly asking for what they got. Anyone who was harmed by just hearing about it can certainly seek restitution. I imagine most healthy people will probably feel better in a few minutes.

Sometimes you have to burn a flag. Yes, it does have an affect on the people who's flag it is. But no one has ever been significantly harmed by a flag burning. That is not a reason not to burn it.

Apples: It figures your remedy would be litigation. Although I'm sure that spending lots of time, energy and money on suing other people is one answer...I'm not sure it's the one we, as a society, should be striving for.

That's why I recommended the fast, easy, cheap and obvious solution of just getting over it. It's not a problem.

Apples: Whatever it is, it's not an example of "reason" at work.

Sure it is. His plan worked great.

Alex got a whole lot of people talking about a perfectly valid and shamefully under-acknowledged viewpoint. Everyone seems to have survived. He didn't lose his job. It made for a very revealing discussion. A happy ending all around!

Read more in the Archives.