01-16-16 5:18  •  Micromanager God

Sarah: I knew God was real from my first pregnancy when I started spotting. I prayed to God to please protect my baby, keep him safe and healthy, please don't let me lose him, I would die for him, take my life instead. God heard my prayer and spared us both, bringing my son to life.

Gwen: So, why did "God" stop your bleeding and let you keep your baby, but "He" ignored my cries and pleas and took my first pregnancy away from me at ten weeks?

Sarah: I'm so sorry for your loss, Gwen. I cannot answer your question. But know this - there was a reason. And some day you will know what it is. I'm sorry, but that is the best answer.

I know you are trying to be kind, but I disagree that this is the best answer.

There is a perfectly reasonable answer and it does not involve the supernatural. The answer is that life is incredibly complex and getting it all to work properly is a precarious process and sometimes it doesn't work out.

That's all.

I would find no comfort at all in the thought that some machinator looked down from "above" and picked my pregnancy for termination. How could that possibly mean anything? Why would that be better?

There isn't any big "plan" where some asshole superbeing plays us for pawns in his ridiculous schemes. That would makes us no more than his pets, tortured into performing for his meaningless amusement, as if His little "plans" were somehow worth more than ours are.

I'd rather appreciate life itself for the amazing, improbable phenomenon it is, shaped by circumstance and strengthened by the struggle for survival. But that means accepting that it is often just a gamble, and that sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. A detailed examination of every aspect of life reveals that this is exactly what it appears to be, and outside the human imagination there is no reason to think it is anything else. Pretending otherwise is just fooling yourself.

Sarah: But there could be a reason! Say Jane loses her baby at ten weeks. She doesn't know it, but it made her pregnant co-worker Susie realize how precious her own pregnancy is in a way she never would have. Susie quits that job and becomes a pediatric nurse. Thousands of moms and babies benefit from Jane's loss.

I see people try this all the time but it's just some of the cheapest rationalization around. Jane's baby did not "deserve" life any less than even the hypothetical "thousands" who supposedly benefitted from Susie's new perspective. Trying to wring some "divine" meaning from a personal tragedy is an exercise in futility.

People can certainly find meaning and direction in the face of loss, but it is their own drive to create meaning that yields the fruit of their effort, not some silly "deity" playing one life off of another from above.

01-16-16 3:42  •  Financial Crash Explained

Inez: I heard people saying Obama was a good President because of how he handled the economic crisis of '08. But didn't he increase the national debt? What was all that about? I remember people talking about a "crash" but I don't even know what happened.

I followed the economic situation very closely and I read what a number of economists had to say about it then and since. From what I understand, back in October of 2008, Hank Paulson, the Secretary of the Treasury, approached then-Presient George W. Bush and the Congress, and basically confessed that most of the world's money was *gone.*

For the previous ten+ years, Wall Street wheeler-dealers had been trading money in all these bizarre banking schemes. The schemes were designed to make the numbers bigger every time they passed through. But, the "new" money created by these schemes wasn't coming from anywhere. It didn't really exist. So, it only worked until people started trying to find it.

When they started looking for the money, it wasn't there. It wasn't anywhere. It all existed as "owsies" from somebody else. But the somebody else didn't have it either. Nobody had it. It was gone.

This was an emergency, because when people start to realize that the money they thought they had isn't real, everyone rushes to try to turn their owsies into something more solid. You get a run on the banks.

The risk of a worldwide crisis at that point was very great. If a run on the banks is severe enough, it collapses the entire world economy. The ordinary systems which hum along every day, providing everything for the masses, grind to a terrible, screeching halt. Then, suddenly it gets very, very hard for people to get food. You can expect to see human suffering on a massive scale, unlike anything our generation has ever seen. A food crisis can destroy everything that works in your society.

And when the commerce machine stops, it is extremely difficult to get it started again. Human suffering continues and escalates as people flounder about to rebuild everything from the ground up.

In their greed, the rich guys had deregulated the banking. And then they started pumping up their own totals until they were just fucking ridiculous. They broke the money.

And people were starting to notice.

There was only one bright side to this disaster, and that was that the crisis existed, mainly, as a paper problem. The real value in society - ordinary people earning a living, doing their jobs - was largely intact. If they could prevent a run on the banks, it might just be possible to keep the system from collapsing while they figured out what to do. They had to make sure that it stayed a paper problem instead of turning into a real problem.

So, the government, as the last resource available, had to take up the paper.

By increasing the debt, Obama made the paper problem that used to be the rich guy's problem into everyone's problem. But it was still a paper problem. People lost jobs, the economy suffered, no doubt. But we avoided collapse.

The emergency could have turned into a total economic collapse a dozen times over. All it takes is a crisis of confidence and everybody starts to jump ship in a rush. But by taking responsibility, keeping a cool head, and acting quickly, Obama kept the paper crisis on paper. He made it seem like the owsies still meant something, so we didn't have to drop the ball and start over. He kept the economy going, still getting most of the food to most of the people. There is nothing that matters more than this.

And slowly, over the next several years, the economy began to recover some of the losses and more or less chug along again. People may never realize how close we got to destroying everything.

So, power to Obama. What he did worked.

01-15-16 3:42  •  Witch Wars

The earth says hello! -Neo

WiccanWoman: Spiritual energy can be used for light or dark. Witch wars are a prime example of using dark energy, because witches can attack other witches without their knowledge. Another would be voodoo dolls, they work and they don't ever tell the person when they are using one.

"Witch wars"?

Think what an awful world this would be if any of this really worked.

WiccanWoman: Oh, it works very well.

Clairity: If these things actually worked, why hasn't anyone claimed the $1,000,000 James Randi prize?

WiccanWoman: Why on earth would you bring up money in a discussion of spirituality?

Clairity: If you can really influence objective reality in a measurable fashion by non-naturalistic means (eg making spells or voodoo work), then you can qualify for the $1,000,000.

WiccanWoman: I could do it, but I wouldn't. The end doesn't justify the means, and winning money through the use of such energy manipulation is selfish.

The money is not the point and never was. The point is that there have been literally thousands of attempts over the last hundred years to provide some kind of support for supernatural claims and none of them have withstood the least amount of scrutiny. There is no evidence that it is anything other than superstition.

If we want to have systems that work because they are based on reality, we need a society which places value on understanding reality. As long as people don't care about the difference between truth and superstition, we will continue to waste massive amounts of our finite human resources maintaining and propogating systems that are not based on reality and don't really do anything.

SamWitch: I get that you don't believe...but to suggest that any belief in anything supernatural is harmful... I think that's really crossing a line.

The harm is that in order to maintain systems that propagate supernatural ideas, people are required to reject the efficacy of demonstrable truth.

SamWitch: The supernatural cannot be scientifically proven today, but is it so impossible to believe that someday it will be accepted scientific fact?

Why not wait until then to believe it? What point is there in believing it now?

SamWitch: Why does it have to be one or the other?

It is the difference between doing things that actually work and can be shown to, and wasting time and effort on systems that, for all anybody knows, could be total bunk.

SamWitch: Magic, and the supernatural overall, are merely scientific truths that have yet to be discovered.

Or not. They might just be wrong ideas. That's what they look like. How are we to distinguish wrong ideas from "scientific truths that have yet to be discovered"?

SamWitch: Why does it matter?

The truth matters.

SamWitch: But it brings me peace to believe it.

It brings you peace to believe that you can cast magic spells?

SamWitch: It brings me peace to believe that I have some sort of control over things that are otherwise out of my control, yes.

That is understandable. But, you obviously realize that 99% of everything is outside of our control. Most people are able to accept this to a large degree. What's a little more?

And, how much actual "control" is involved in a system with no demonstrable results? Surely if spellcasting (or prayer) was exerting any significant influence, people would be able to demonstrate that what they are doing has an effect. If the effect is so minute as to be undetectable, does it really amount to "control"? Is that slim to non-existent and unreliable advantage really worth maintaining an irrational belief?

The issue is not "spellcasting." It is irrationality and unsubstantiated claims, vs. the real stuff - the stuff that really works and can be shown to.

The dominant culture of our civilization is funnelling massive amounts of human energy into maintaining and propagating belief in a supernatural myth with no more veracity than the Norse sagas. It appears to be no different from any other myth, but in our society we are expected to treat this one as true. This contradiction is being maintained at the expense of a great many things, including systemic prejudice, injustice, ignorance, division, irrationality, and fear.

In order to create working systems, the old, mythological systems must be confronted, using the tools of reason. And, those tools must be evenly applied.

Sam, if you don't want to consider this, I won't bug you about it. I will always love you as a sister in debate! I will always respect your intelligent opinions on so many matters.

But I know you for an extremely smart and socially conscious lady, and I am seriously asking you think about this.

Would you be willing to consider finding peace in other ways - and there are many - for the sake of creating a more rational and healthy society, which values truth over superstition? Would you be willing to relinquish the need to see truth in the "control" you are perceiving, to be another voice for reason in a world that has far too few of them?

Just a thought! Love, RaverLady

01-13-16 6:01  •  Y Do U Care?

Phil: So, why do you even care? About what other people believe in terms of religion? If you don't think it's true, how do their beliefs affect you in ANY way?

1) The disconnect between what people think is true, and what is actually true, is causing great error.

2) The differences between the unsubstantiated claims of various groups is causing serious and forever unresolvable conflict.

3) Many religious tenets, like "original sin" and "hell," are extremely cruel.

4) The acceptance of ideology - valuing what we think inside our heads over the reality as determined by observation - is wasting huge amounts of public time and effort, seriously devaluing reason and the ability to make sound decisions, and shitting on the truth.

And that is before I even describe how it affected us personally, living in the Bible Belt, being subjected to continuous prejudice as the only non-Christian family in a 500 mile radius.

Religion has a great many beautiful strengths and truths to offer. But unsubstantiated claims are disastrous everywhere they are deployed - politics, business, social relationships, etc - and religion is currently the uncontested king of unsubstantiated claims.

I feel I have an obligation to address great error where I see it. I have a duty to the truth.

Phil: ??

For all of the problems I mentioned above, I don't think "religion" is even the most serious ideology affecting our planet at the moment.

If I had to pick the most egregious error, I would say it is being produced by a belief in the sanctity of profit - that is, the idea that people should be allowed to accumulate and hoard vast unspendable fortunes, and use them to wield unmandated power, at the expense of the rest of humanity and of our environmental stewardship.

So my question for the religious would be, now that you know how these beliefs are affecting people, what are you going to do about it?

01-13-16 7:15  •  Cheating

Renee: I saw a post which said, "You don't cheat on someone you love." But just because you love someone doesn't mean you stop being sexually attracted to others. Humans aren't naturally monogamous. Men especially are programmed to spread their seed.

I'm not saying it's right to cheat, but it doesn't mean you don't love your spouse.

Sable: That whole "we aren't meant to be monogamous" thing is just a fucking excuse.

It is readily observable. Monogamy in every single human society exists on a spectrum, from total monogamy to total philandery and everything in between. There is no human society, regardless of the level of taboo and social stigma imposed, that has ever produced complete monogamy for all members. It doesn't happen, ever.

Exclusive pair bonding for life does occur in some species, but not human. A few humans are totally monogamous, most are mostly monogamous, some are totally polyamorous. That's just how it is. The wide range, like the spectrum in almost all human behavior, appears to be a genetic strategy.

I know people don't like to admit that humans are animals with observable behavior patterns, but we are. Someone in your social group is going to be unfaithful because that is how humans in social groups are.

Sable: If that were really a reason, then why, if someone really wanted to be with multiple partners not just say it to the other person from the very beginning. "I don't plan on having just one partner" instead of sneaking around, lying, and decieving?

In sociology this is referred to as "ideal culture" vs. "real culture." Many societes do not admit that humans are not perfectly monogamous, and impose scarlet letters on everyone who fails to live up to the ideal. So, people plan for the ideal.

But, the reproductive strategy, like so many other human behaviors, requires some humans to act one way and other humans to act another. So, the ideal cannot be maintained by everyone who tries for it. Ideals never are.

Sable: "Spreading your seed" doesn't count as a reason when the girl your fucking is on BC and you're using a condom.

Your DNA has never heard of BC or condoms.

Sable: You don't inflict pain like that on someone that you claim to love.

Then why does it happen, in every culture, in every society, throughout all history?

If an animal behavior is ubiquitous, occuring in every group, it is usually because it is selected for. It is certainly easy to see how philandery results in more offspring for the people who do it. It is a behavior that is going to occur because it works as a genetic strategy.

That can suck for some of the people involved, especially in our culture, where we are told to expect the ideal. But there are other cultures where this reality is understood, and the stigma of this behavior is very much less.

There are plenty of strong, smart women in history who have understood this about the alpha males they were married to, and managed to maintain strong marriages, strong social positions, and live fairly happily, despite the peccadillos of their men. It is a well-known phenomenon.

I'm not saying you have to accept this in your man, but it is unrealistic to expect the ideal from all men, or all people. Philandery is a human behavior, and human behaviors occur.

01-12-16 11:37  •  Why People Reject God

Jolene: As a Christian, I understand that people reject God because He wants something from them. He wants them to keep themselves pure and holy, and they want to keep sleeping around. To me that is living a sad life.

I have never had the opportunity to either "accept" or "reject" God because I have never been presented with a God to accept or reject. I have heard Christian people talking about what they think God is and Hindu people talking about what they think Gods are, etc., but so far the only thing I have experienced is people talking.

Jolene: I believe people are born with the mindset to sin.

Talk about living a sad life.

Jolene: And rejecting God does have everything to do with the fear of answering to someone.

Grow up! Learn to determine right and wrong for yourself.

Jolene: Do you really believe this is it? Once you die you inherit 6 feet of dirt and it is over. How sad.

From what atheists tell me, it is not sad to accept reality and make something beautiful of your life while you have it. It is thrilling to know that you are not waiting. It is exalting to realize that the main point of everything is right in front of you, right now, for the immediately apprehending, instead of off somewhere "later."

In fact, Buddhism does not even posit an afterlife and Buddhist have been shown to be measurably happier than people in other faith categories.

Jolene: What is the harm in believing there is a greater power, someone to save us.

Christianity is dismal. If you are going to just believe in whatever you want, invent something better.

01-11-16 11:11  •  Waste of Time

PilatesMom: My faith is unshakable - it is just a waste of time for atheists to try to change my mind. Good luck with that! God is real. I don't have to explain it. I just KNOW He is. That is why I have such pity for the unbeliever.

Chillada: I admit it, I do pity non-believers to an extent. But it's only because I have experienced the awesomeness of God and the total peace it brings to my life and everything around me.

I disagree with this assessment. If I had to describe why, I would say that the "awesomeness of God" is like a rain that falls equally on the believers and non-believers alike. You don't have to call it "God" or believe anything about it to observe that this existence is awesome. The awesomeness is unmistakable.

Chillada: I would think myself arrogant if I could look into the eyes of my daughter and truly believe that I alone (with nothing more than some added sperm from my husband) was responsible for creating and giving life to such a beautiful, wonderful, perfect little person.

It wasn't you two alone. That doesn't mean it must have been done with magic by an invisible sentient entity.

Each living being was created by a billion-year-old process, a link in an unbroken chain of what has worked, stretching back through the depths of antiquity to the beginning of life.

Chillada: I think that atheists must somehow be content in their lives and beliefs that this is it, and it's just them and nothing else.

I don't know of anyone who claims that everything is known and there is nothing else. Nobody knows what "else" there might be. The difference is that some people honestly admit that humans do not know what else there is, whereas other people insert their local mythology into the void and then believe that is what else there is.

Chillada: But see the thing about your supposed "billion year process" is that it doesn't always work. Babies die, women give birth to stillborns everyday, they miscarry or can't conceive at all.

Yes, sometimes it doesn't work, and sometimes it does. Every thing that lives is part of the chain where it did.

Chillada: I have to believe that there is a reason that my daughter is here smiling at me every morning and Jane Doe's daughter is not.

Yours worked and hers didn't.

Chillada: I have to believe that there is something more to it other than shit happens and we're just meant to deal with it. Like I said, I could not live a happy life thinking that was truth.

That's fine. I don't think anyone has suggested that you need to live your life differently than how you are living it.

But, there are a lot of problems generally with faith beliefs. For one thing, they differ greatly from person to person and from sect to sect, and since it is all speculation, there is no way to show that any one belief is closer to the truth than any other. The result is unresolvable conflict.

For another, a lot of faith beliefs are in direct conflict with the observable facts. This creates serious conflicts in society about what to teach in school, what to expect from people's behavior, who to allow what rights, etc.

This is why I think it is important to keep the dialog going, and press the point that faith beliefs, however individually important and deeply held, are in fact just a bunch of stuff people say, and therefore are not a reasonable basis for determining what should be considered real or true for everyone.

I think the rules and knowledge that we declare to be true for all, by legislation, or by inclusion in the public curriculum, should be based on facts that can be demonstrated to be true.

Chillada: I choose to have faith, although i don' t KNOW this for fact...

That is much more intellectually honest than people who claim they do know.

Chillada: On the other side, some people believe that they KNOW there is NO God.

Not usually. Even Richard Dawkins, the world's most famous atheist, only ranks himself a six on a certainty scale of 1 - 7, with seven being absolutely sure there is no God.

Chillada: If I'm mistaken please correct me because I will admit to being slightly ignorant to the beliefs(or lack there of) of atheism.

From what I can tell, most atheists, non-thesists and agnostics are simply saying that there is no reason to agree that the theists beliefs are true. There is no way to check.

However I know very few who would not apply that to their own reasoning. The intellectually honest on either side of the debate will just admit that there is plenty that is simply unknown, and because of this, unconfirmable declarations are not warranted.

Chillada: It seems that the faithless are on some relentless trek to get the "faithful" to provide empirical evidence to prove that their god exists.

The "faithless" are not the ones who think there is actual empirical evidence that God exists. The only point in asking is illustrate the futility of this to the "faithful" who like to pretend that they "know" what no one actually knows.

Chillada: Why is it so important to make someone "prove" what they believe to be true?

It can't be proved, and everybody knows that. Except, some people are so hyped up on faith that they are making false claims - they are claiming to know for a fact something that cannot be known for a fact.

Chillada: If you don't believe it's true, then why does it matter to you?

Because truth matters.

Chillada: Why is faith a problem? To save time....I'm not talking about pushy, rude, or homicidal believers. I'm just talking about the fact that people believe in something that cannot be proven.

I think it is extremely rude and pushy to pretend to know that which cannot be known. Unless one is claiming to be infallible, or to possess some secret power of discernment that others lack, it is always possible that what one thinks one knows, with no evidence to support it, could be wrong.

Chillada: Why not have faith?

Because it is not necessary.

Chillada: Perhaps seeing someone they know have this blind faith, can help the faithless learn to have this faith in something in their life.

It is not important to learn to have blind faith. Your suggestion that the faithless are lacking in some important human skill which they should learn is unwarranted.

Chillada: Don't you think we'd learn more from one another and accomplish more in this world by accepting each other's differences?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. However:

First of all, it is the people who claim to KNOW, and state that nothing anyone says or anything that ever happens or any evidence that comes to light can ever change their mind, who are the ones who are refusing to learn.

Second of all, who is not accepting the difference? I'm not trying to have believers thrown off the planet. That doesn't mean I have to accept their claims. Are you really expecting me to just unquestioningly accept whatever crap people happen to make up?

Chillada: If PilatesMom "knows" this is true. Does that really affect your life?

Yes, very much so, in two respects.

One, because our society is highly conditioned to accept the some of the made up unprovable claims, like those of the Judeo-Christians, and reject other made up unprovable claims, like those of Muslims and Hindus. The predilection to accept that some beliefs can be KNOWN to be "truer" than others, when they are all just a bunch of stuff people say, creates a tremendous amount of unresolvable conflict. Furthermore, there are so many schisms just within our country, from "Catholics vs. Protestant" to "Are Mormons really Christian?" to "Are Scientologists crazy?" to "Should we let them teach evolution in school?" and the chaos and pain from these unending conflicts is all around me.

Two, because one of the most difficult things about maintaining a viable democracy is having a well-educated populace who are capable of critical thinking and won't just believe whatever crap they are told. Abandoning critical thinking, to embrace the unsubstantiated claims required by religion, seems to result in a general lack of critical thinking applied to other claims. If people are not rigorous in having good reasons for what they believe, they can be led to believe anything. Watching my country go down in the flames of ignorance affects me a great deal.

Chillada: To continually challenge those who "know" what they believe isn't going to get anyone anywhere.

I disagree, I feel it accomplishes three things.

1) I'm not expecting to change the minds of the people who "know." They freely admit that they will not consider alternatives and can never be budged no matter what. However, those are not the only people participating in this kind of discussion. There may be people reading this who aren't completely fixated on their present notions who could be open to considering a different view. It may be possible to make important points about critical thinking and objective reality that are not lost on everyone.

2) Making the case allows me to explore the strengths and weaknesses of my own position, see where the limitations are, and find ways to say things that seem to make a difference. I am very interested in discovering how to explain my viewpoint in a way that everyone can understand, and find points on which everyone can agree. This kind of discussion is where I can practice and learn and discover which approaches seem to work and which clearly don't.

3) If there is some viewpoint in this discussion that I have not considered, or some evidence to demonstrate the validity of something I had erroneously dismissed, you better believe I want to find out about it. I am not fixed in my views. I am open to discussing all claims to see what, if anything, they have to offer.

Chillada: To me, what's more important here is to find a place where these different beliefs can coexist.

That is not mutually exclusive with challenging unsupported claims. There are, in fact, many places in our society and in our lives where these different beliefs and understandings do coexist. However an online debate forum can hardly be expected to be one of them. :-)

There need to be places for differing views to clash to see which emerge as the better supported. This is one of them.

Chillada: Where we aren't wasting so much time trying to decide who is right and wrong. I suppose that to me, it is exactly that. A waste of time.

Trying to determine what is true and how it can be understood is never a waste of time. The truth matters.

Chillada: As someone who has engaged in this dialogue with you, it sometimes seems like you aren't looking for new information, but rather trying to disprove someone.

Not necessarily, though disproving is part of the debate process.

However I am happy to test this. Present some actual new information and then we'll see. :-)

Chillada: Of course the truth matters, but what are you to do when this particular truth isn't something you can prove?

You don't refer to it as "truth."

Chillada: I suppose I just don't view "truth" the same as you do.

That is the problem. There needs to be a word which we can use to talk about what is real and true for everyone.

When people think that just any old thing they happen to really like must be "true," it seriously dilutes the meaning of the word "truth." There are plenty of other words, like belief, opinion, speculation, assumption, guess, theory, view, etc. that would be much more accurate. And using those words would reserve the word "truth" for things that are actually true.

If you don't want to use "truth" to refer to what is actually, demonstrably true, then what word do you think we should use for that concept?

Chillada: I can't "prove" most of my emotions.

So? Your evaluations of your own emotions are yours to make, no one else's. They are your internal states, and they are between you and the people you share them with. Descriptions of your own personal feelings are not statements about things that, if true, would be true for everyone, like "God is real" or "God created the earth" or "God had a son named Jesus" or "People who don't believe in Jesus go to Hell."

Chillada: It's all about my perception of my feelings and emotions that are "true".

If you are contending that "God" is nothing more than a human emotion, then that is a completely different proposition. If you are claiming that "God" is just this feeling you get sometimes, then who's to argue?

However, in the standard usage, the faithful usually reserve the word "God" to refer to the One Supreme Being, the Creator and Ruler of the Universe.

If you want to claim that God, the Supreme Being, is real, and actually exists in the universe as something other than just a feeling in your head, then it's not all about your perception of your feelings and emotions. As far as I can tell, you are not the only person in the universe. Your feelings and emotions are not the sole arbiter of what is true.

Chillada: I suppose it's that more important goal for me that allows me to be more lenient with the word "truth" in cases like this.

It doesn't matter. By claiming that you have to be "lenient" with the definition of truth, you have already acknowledged that you have to stretch it in order to include things that are not technically true.

Chillada: Doesn't real truth depend on an individual's perception or religious paradigm? What is even meant by Truth? Is there Absolute, Universal Truth?

I am not concerned with philosophical unachievables like Absolute, Capital 'T' Truth. I'm talking about ordinary truth, conformity with fact or reality.

For example, if I want to make a true statement of fact, I can remark that in the earth's gravity well, objects which are dropped fall at 32.2'/sec˛ - drag. This is not subject to an individual's perception or religious paradigm. It is simply an accurate description of what occurs.

You don't have to take my word for it. You can verify this for yourself, by measuring it. Anyone who had the slightest doubt as to the truth of this statement can verify and confirm this for themselves. It is not a matter that can be disputed. It is what it is. That is what makes it true.

However, people want to claim that statements like "God is real" are true, just because they think so. That is a poor criteria for truth, and I don't feel that this is a correct usage of the concept when opinion, belief, theory, view, etc. would be far more precise.

As far as I am able to determine - and I have studied this extensively - not one person has ever been able to determine or demonstrate that any kind of God exists. No one has ever shown that it is possible to know for certain the fact of this matter. Therefore, the statement "God is real" is far more accurately described as "an opinion" or "a belief" than as "a truth."

Chillada: If no one knows what the truth really is....then I'm not going to spend time trying to persuade people away from their "truths".

Yet you have managed to find the time to try to argue against my position. I don't object, of course, but how is that a better use of time?

As for "their truths," a better application of the word "truth" would serve the exact purpose you claim to desire - human beings learning to live and work together rather than spending time trying to prove whose beliefs are right/wrong. If everyone would simply acknowledge that we don't know, the discussion would be effectively tabled until the information changes.

Chillada: I wasn't trying to argue against your position. I was trying to explain mine.

I could easily say the same for myself. My attempt to explain my position is no more of a waste of time than yours is.

Chillada: You are not going to convince people that their "truth" isn't real. It's not going to happen. Sorry.

If you remember what I stated previously, I said I know that there are people who are so fixated on their position that they have no ability to consider any other possible options. That's their cross to bear. However since convincing them is not my goal, that hardly matters.

I am participating in a exercise of explantion. Exercise is never a waste of time.

01-10-16 9:08  •  Can We Ignore Our Differences?

Arvada: I find religious debate so sad. Why are people so polarized over this? Both sides of the argument have missed the point. There is no respect for opposing thoughts.

Not every "thought" is worthy of respect. Ideas should be weighed on their merits and validity, not given blanket respect just because some people think them.

Arvada: And you don't have to respect the idea but the person behind the idea. That is entirely different.

Sure. But you said "opposing thoughts" and that is what I was responding to.

Arvada: You don't see those with different ideas as brothers and sisters?

I most certainly do. But that doesn't mean I have to validate their every thought.

Arvada: Is all theology harmful?

Some certainly is. In particular, teaching people to accept ideas that cannot be verified is injurous to their critical thinking ability.

Arvada: I wish we could focus on our common ground instead of the differences between us.

There are times to focus on common ground, and there are times to examine the differences, consider why they exist, and discover if there is any way they can be resolved.

Arvada: Finding common ground, isn't that what enlightenment is?

Enlightenment is, among other things, seeing clearly. Papering over differences to avoid conflict, while useful at times, does not result in clear vision for everyone.

Arvada: Some of what you are saying sounds very similar to what Christians are saying.

Specifically what?

Arvada: When you say that "accepting ideas that cannot be verified is injurious to critical thinking ability," that sounds vaguely similar to "Not accepting Christ can be injurious to your soul."

Vaguely similar does not mean equivalent.

There is no way to demonstrate that "not accepting Christ can be injurious to your soul" because there is no evidence of a "soul" or what effect "accepting Christ" has on it. All of this could be completely made up for all we know. There is no reason to think it is true.

However there is evidence to suggest that believing in a bunch of stuff that can't be verified is injurious to critical thinking abilities. It means that people are forming their views by virtue of authority instead of upon evidence. That is a serious lapse in critical thinking.

As just one example, the largest factions in support of the Iraq War were conservative Christians. They believed things like "Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction" and "Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9-11" because somebody said so, even when there was no evidence for this.

Conservative Christians Biggest Backers of Iraq War

Believing on authority instead of evidence also allows people to reject the overwhelming conclusion of science that evolution is an explanation which corresponds with what has been observed in reality. Etc.

Critical thinking is the ability of thinkers to take charge of their own thinking. Belief by authority is not compatible with good critical thinking skills.

Arvada: When you say "papering over differences does not result in clear vision for everyone," this reminds me of Christians saying there is no room for disagreement, there is just one truth, you accept it or be condemned.

Just because you are reminded of it doesn't mean that is actually similar to what I am saying.

First of all, there does appear to be one reality that we are all a part of. There do seem to be actual, verifiable facts.

For example, objects in earth's gravity well fall at 32'/sec˛-drag. People are free to reject this clear fact, but are we supposed to respect that mistake in the interest of "not focusing on our differences"? Are we supposed to agree that they just have a different "truth"?

Second of all, where did you get "accept it or be condemned"? Who is condemning? What form is this condemnation taking? Certainly not a threat of eternal torment in Hell.

Arvada: We must all have the same clear vision?

I think we have no real choice but to agree that objects in earth's gravity well fall at 32'/sec˛-drag. I would say anyone who cannot realize this qualifies as a person without clear vision.

Arvada: All your answers appear to have the same kind of rigid thinking as religious dogma.

Feel free to challenge anything I say with valid objections based on observable evidence, and I will certainly yield to the facts.

Arvada: You think we all must come to clarity in order to live in harmony.

Jeez, did I say anything about "living in harmony"? You are way overstating my position.

Arvada: How can you determine the validity of the conclusions of one's experience?

You check.

Arvada: How is asking to focus on common ground papering over the differences?

By pretending that the differences don't matter. When the question is "What is real?" working out the differences is not a trivial matter which can always be ignored. It's important for people to understand what is real to make good decisions.

Arvada: Are all Christians incapable of critical thinking?

I would say that believing in something with no evidence is a lapse in critical thinking. How severe that lapse is would depend, I suppose, on how far one's beliefs differed from the observable facts.

Arvada: What you quoted seems to be more correlation that many Christians are politically conservative and politically back the war.

Could be. However, I would say that believing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction in the absence of evidence is also a lapse in critical thinking.

Arvada: On top of it you are using several generalizations that are found in the most extreme of Christians.

Many Christains believe in things that cannot be verified but are not necessarily contrary to facts. Some Christians believe in things which appear to be in direct contradiction of the facts. So there is definitely a range there.

Arvada: You and I can witness the exact same event and record very different facts about this event, does that make either one of us less truthful?

What we recorded would not be facts, they would be observations. If our observations were different from each other, it could very well be that one of us was, not dishonest, but merely incorrect. If there was a camera there, our stories could be checked against what was filmed to see which version was closer to the verifiable record. The observations which were more closely correlated with the record would be considered more valid.

Arvada: Is there one sure path to self actualization?

I am not discussing self-actualization.

Arvada: You will never be able to convince me to ignore the overwhelming evidence I have witnessed to lead me to the conclusion there is a god and I will never be able to convince you to ignore your lack of evidence.

This is not the issue.

I am not attempting to convince you that there is no god. I have never stated that there is no god. I am not disputing, nor have I ever disputed, an idea like "there is a god." I am not an atheist.

However just because there could be "a god" - whatever that means - doesn't equal "Christianity is correct."

I have disputed ideas like "Jesus or burn" because they appear to be just some stuff people said, with nothing to back them up. Are you seriously saying that you have evidence that leads you to the conclusion that you must accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior or you will spend eternity in Hell? If so you have not presented it. I would certainly consider it if you did.

Arvada: Hey, I didn't say that if you don't accept Jesus you will go to Hell!

I did not attribute it to you.

However it is the central tenet of Christianity. I presented it as an example of the kind of ideas that I dispute in religious discussion.

I entered this discussion on your comment that "There is no respect for opposing thoughts." I said, some thoughts are not worthy of respect. As far as I can tell, the central tenet of Christianity seems to be one of these.

If you are suggesting that we just need to ignore our differences, and my disagreement is that some differences should not be ignored, this is an example of one of them.

01-09-16 12:21  •  Pledge of Allegiance

Leela: Did you know the ACLU is against the Pledge of Allegiance? It's because of the "under God" part. They said, "The government should not be asking impressionable schoolchildren to affirm their allegiance to God at the same time that they are affirming their allegiance to the country."

I'm sure there are people in this country who would not want kids taught to affirm allegiance to the Flying Spagetti Monster, but since it's "God" we just go along with it.

Jillsy: Oh just get over it! It's not a big deal, and if it were "spaghetti monster" instead of God, I would just tell my kids not to say it and that would be the end of it.

Seriously, you would have NO problem if your kid came home from school and recited the Pledge, referring to the United States as "One Nation Under the Flying Spagetti Monster"? That wouldn't warrant a call to the school?

Jillsy: It's not going to rock our faith any.

My concern is not for how it "rocks your faith." I am wondering if you think it is okay for the schools to teach children to recite a chant pledging alliance to an entity which invokes the Flying Spagetti Monster as its deity. Are you saying you would not have a single concern if this were being taught to all of the children in our country?

Jillsy: Well, for my own children, it wouldn't matter. We would still teach them what we believe in.

But what about the policy? Would you be okay with the policy of the nation's schools teaching all the children to recite a chant which invokes the FSM?

Jillsy: Like I said before, it doesn't matter.

I want to make sure I understand you. You seriously would have no problem at all with a national policy that teaches all of our children to invoke the Flying Spagetti Monster as a deity? No questions? No hesitation? No concern at all over what that is supposed to mean?

Would you feel the same if it was Satan?

Jillsy: In the grand scheme of things, this is very very small.

How do you figure something that all children in American schools are expected to learn early and recite every single school day for years "small"?

Jillsy: Okay, I'll rephrase that. To ME it doesn't matter. In MY grand scheme of things, it's very very small.

That's good to know, but what I am asking is for you to consider beyond just yourself personally.

Think of yourself for a moment as a citizen of a nation. What would you, as a citizen, think of a national policy requiring that the school children be led in daily recitations of a chant invoking the FSM as a deity? Do you think this would be a good policy for your nation?

Raven: Do you think the pledge has a hold on the kids or that much influence?

Some yes, some no. But, what does that matter? The importance of the policy is determined by how it is implemented. Obviously if we require our children to memorize this and expect them to recite it every day we are presenting it as if it is important.

Raven: If you feel that strongly about it, why not tell the school that you don't want your kid learning the pledge?

There is no point in trying to hide my children from bad social policy. There is a point to examining it, and challenging it.

Raven: Did you say it in school? And if so did you have a problem with it back then?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But what difference does that make? The policy can't be made by whether it bugs the kids or not. If it was, there would be no algebra.

Raven: Algebra helps you in your future. The pledge hasn't had an effect on my future.

All the more reason not to waste time doing things that have no effect.

Raven: Times have changed. At most schools the Pledge is optional now, so students aren't even required to say it.

Individuals may not be required to say it but most schools are required by state law to lead it.

Raven: It has no influence over the children at all.

All the more reason to consider ending it as a policy.

Raven: My kids have never minded. It seems like the adults are the ones making this an issue.

Adults are responsible for dictating school policy, and not based on what the kids mind or don't mind.

Raven: Why concern yourself? We have much bigger issues to worry about than what the pledge says.

I am concerned about everything the school instructs my children in. Everything. If kids are being required to do, or wait while everyone else does, some symbolic act, there should be people who can say why it is important that we do it. If it is completely unimportant, has no meaning and affects no one, we should not be wasting everyones' time every day.

We don't have to keep reciting crazy chants which were implemented by anti-communist hystericals during the McCarthy era, just because it doesn't seem important anymore. We should be able to abandon meaningless unimportant chants that affect no one.

SouthernMom: We as a nation are trying to teach our children respect for their country, I see nothing wrong with that.

I don't see anything in the pledge about respect. It is a promise of fealty.

SouthernMom: Every school I know leads it, but this does not mean our children have to say it.

Then they have to wait while everybody else says it. No child is exempted from experiencing the waste of time.

SouthernMom: I do not think they should end it at all, I think they need to teach why it is said.

Why is it?

SouthernMom: If it does not harm the child or bother them then we should focus on the material, schooling, teachers and the actual school itself.

I agree that we need to focus on the material, schooling, teachers and the actual school itself. However saying the Pledge is not focusing on material, schooling, teachers or the school. It is reciting a chant.

SouthernMom: It is a pledge to be true or loyal to our country, what is wrong with that?

What does "being true or loyal to our country" even mean? Liking our system? Paying taxes? Serving in war? Going along with whatever our government dictates? Silencing dissent?

What kind of betrayal is the loyalty pledge supposed to prevent?

SouthernMom: It lasts less then a minute and kids waste more time then that everyday in class.

All the more reason not to have a policy of wasting time.

SouthernMom: Because the reason it is there is good.

What is the reason it is there? What's good about it?

SouthernMom: Patriotism is a right and should be taught...

Leading a chant every day is not teaching anything about patriotism. I'm all for teaching kids to sing "Yankee Doodle" in music class, but I don't think they should have to sing it, or wait while everyone else sings it, at the start of music class every day. A few times through to get the gist is plenty.

Why should children be reciting this chant over and over again, every day, for years? What are they supposed to be learning from this?

SouthernMom: ...cause this country means a lot to most citizens.

An "allegiance chant" is no test of sentiment, and no measure of patriotism.

This country means just as much to people who object to the pledge.

Jillsy: How is saying the pledge invoking God, let alone a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

The current version of the Pledge invokes God by declaring that this is one nation under Him.

Would you be okay with a public policy of leading the children in a chant declaring that this is one nation under the Flying Spagetti Monster, every day, for years?

Jillsy: Yes, I said I'd be fine with it. Why is that so hard to believe?

Because it seems to not be true. It sounds like something a person might say if they didn't think it through - "Oh, I don't care that they mention God, they could mention the Flying Spagetti Monster for all I care!"

But when you actually imagine what it would mean, how it would affect your life and the nature of this entire country when you contemplate every school child actually chanting "...and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under the Flying Spagetti Monster..." how can you not care? It's our country. It's our children. It is what they are being taught to value as a deity.

The day the FSM version of the pledge was implemented, ninety-nine percent of the parents in this country would be on the phone to the school demanding to know what the hell they are thinking. You might sit at home and do nothing that day but I think you would be alone.

Jillsy: If it's changed to FSM, my kids can come home and learn more about God and Jesus.

This makes no sense. Why would you want your tax dollars going to this kind of instruction at school? Wouldn't you have questions about why they were doing it this way? Your claim of unconcern in this matter is ludicrous.

Jillsy: Why? Do I not care enough for your liking?

No, I just don't believe you. I think that if it actually happened, you would care. But if that's your story and you are sticking to it, then that's fine.

As it happens, I do care what my kids are taught at school. I am concerned that it be meaningful and accurate. I care about what they are taught to consider important. I care about what we value as a culture. I care about where my tax dollars go and work for change where I see a need. I'm always surprised to hear people say they don't care about these things.

Jillsy: I really don't get into the politics of things, honestly. If it's going to change, just change it, it really isn't a big deal to us.

Well, what I am suggesting is that things don't seem like a big deal right now, because they are going along fairly well with what you think is okay. The pledge is currently invoking your God.

If suddenly the country started doing things which were way out of sync with what you believe and value - like instituting a new ridiculous deity and teaching your children to chant about it every day - you might find that it was a bit more of a big deal.

Jillsy: If you don't like it how it is now, just do what I would do - tell your kids not to say it, and don't worry about it further.

I have been considering this matter. I am enjoying how Jillsy has to claim she just wouldn't care at all if the Pledge invoked a spaghetti monster, so she can advise us to keep invoking her god and not care either. Quite a piece of logic.

But, I am not buying this whole, "If you don't like it, just tell your kids not to say it," argument. I object to the pledge, but I have never told my kids not to say it. The problem is not them saying it.

The problem is the school leading them in it. The problem is my kids having to grow up in a jingoistic society which teaches children to chant daily jingoistic slogans.

Of course I could tell them not to say it. I could tell them not to listen to it. I could demand that they be excused when it is recited so that they would never, ever have to spend a second listening to it. But what good would that do? I can't have them excused from this country. They can't be excused from the fact that we are preaching jingoism - not to mention irrationality - as a matter of national policy.

I'm all for teaching the pledge and what it means, but they can do that in a few lessons. It is a historical footnote. The daily chant, on the other hand, is not teaching - it's preaching. If people want to teach their children to be jingoistic - or irrational - they can do it at home, privately. The kids don't need to be getting that at school.

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