06-04-16 9:20Why Think It

Quilta: So, I want to ask, do you believe or not believe in God? If so, why? If not, why?

I have been living a charmed life. I survived a terrible house fire and a deadly illness as a child. I have been rescued or spared from near-certain death on more than one occasion. I struggled and overcame two serious addictions. I escaped my toxic first marriage, luckily without kids. Then I met the man of my dreams, and have since been blessed with three unbelievably good and entertaining children.

What is more, I have turned my face upwards and been overwhelmed and humbled by the beauty of the night sky. I gaze in marvel at the tiny dance of particles which become the flower, the ant, the infant. I have been touched deep inside by a feeling of encompassing grace and love. In my deepest moments of grief, I have felt a hand of comfort, and found the strength to go on.

Just being conscious every day seems like a miracle, and I walk around with my jaw hanging open in reverence of the beauty all around me, and at the human capacity for love, joy and fulfillment. It's all just so fucking cool.

That is why I am a non-believer.

05-29-16 11:55One True Religion

JerseyGal: Does anyone think their religion is the One True Religion?

Cassano: My religion, Islam, is the One True Religion, of course it is! I would not be a Muslim if it was not true.

What is wrong with everyone else?

Cassano: What do you mean?

Why are some people not Muslim, what is wrong with them?

Cassano: I'm not saying there is something wrong with other people. Everyone is capable of searching for the truth.

But apparently only some people are capable of *finding* it. Everyone else is too misled, evil, blind and stupid to find the truth like you did.

Cassano: I never said that! It's like this....

Thanks for providing a textbook example for each one.

Cassano: ...if the only evidence someone is presented with is Christianity, they can only make their decision based on that evidence.

They have been presented with the wrong information - they are misled.

Cassano: Some people do not want to see the truth. Sometimes the truth isn't what people want it to be, so they ignore it, deny it, speak against it.

They know what God wants, but refuse to comply. They are evil.

Cassano: I was ready to see it, ready to find it, ready to accept my relationship to my creator at the time. Not everyone can see that.

They can't see what you can see. They are blind.

Cassano: I don't view non-Muslims as being wrong, I view them as not yet having come to understand the beauty and truth of Islam.

They don't understand what is beautiful and true. They are stupid.


You see, only by denigrating others can you explain how you are able understand this and they aren't. It always comes back to "them" being misled, evil, blind and/or stupid.

Unless of course you are simply incorrect, and there is no way to determine that Islam is the One True Religion. Since there is zero evidence that Islam is correct about anything to do with gods, frankly that seems much more likely.

Cassano: I do not view or refer to anyone as being evil, blind, or stupid. Please do not put such hateful terms into my mouth or push them onto my beliefs.

It doesn't matter what you call the excuses you make up to explain why you get it and they don't. The point is, there is no reason to think that you do get it and they don't. There is no evidence, zero, none, that your ideas about God are more accurate than those of any other person.

Cassano: You are welcome to your opinion, but there is also zero evidence that Islam is incorrect about anything to do with God, so it is just as likely that it is true.

By your reasoning, there is zero evidence that Christianity is incorrect about anything to do with God, so it is just as likely that it is true. Everything is just as likely.

Cassano: I've already had the 10-page debate on whether God is or isn't real...

That has nothing to do with anything. Gods could be real as toast and you could still be completely wrong about which religions they want people to follow. For all you know She prefers to be worshipped as Mother Goddess. Many groups have thought so, and there is no evidence that their ideas are incorrect about anything to do with God, so it is just as likely that it is true.

05-29-16 11:55Treatment of Animals

TickleMe: What does your religion say about the treatment of animals?

I thought I would hold this up to Neoism and see what came out.

The formost principle of action in Neoism is to avoid causing harm. In the case of creatures with complex neural systems, harm can be evaluated in terms of the suffering that they are capable of experiencing.

So I would say that Neoism suggests that we should maintain healthy relationships with animals that minimize the suffering of all involved. I don't think this precludes our natural predation, or our symbiotic relationships with our domesticated prey, as long as everything is done that can be to prevent suffering.

05-28-16 6:54So Hopeless

TexasGal: I have to believe, because eternity is forever. At least there is hope to my beliefs.

Hope is the point. My point. Your beliefs are so hopeless.

I disagree with the idea that not having beliefs creates a "hopeless" or somehow negative feeling.

I can certainly see that all things are impermanent and I have no ideas at all about "eternity." But who needs them? Right here, now, I am gloriously alive, and probably will be for the forseeable future. I am comfortable and surrounded by brilliant beings. I live in a marvel-filled universe made of tiny packets of energy.

I can feel a cool breeze. Because of collective human brilliance, I have a breeze machine which runs at my command, and because of my own cognitive awareness, I can appreciate the wonder and beauty and significance of this miracle.

I am really just too busy being thrilled by awareness of life to worry about "eternity." It is not important.

TexasGal: I can't comprehend how any one would believe there is no God...

This is a common mistake. Most atheists and non-believers don't "believe there is no God." Even Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists of all time, was only a six out of seven on the certainty-of-no-god scale.

What most non-believers actually think is that there is no reason to posit gods, or that claims of gods are not supported. That is far from equivalent to *believing* there are no gods.

If you can't comprehend how someone could not have beliefs about gods, simply imagine an ordinary secular upbringing, where children are not informed that any particular set of supernatural beliefs is true. It's really not much different than the upbringing of any typical kid in a prosperous democracy, except they get to sleep in on Saturdays and Sundays.

TexasGal: We really don't have a choice in picking and choosing what we believe and what we don't.

Some people do.

TexasGal: Why is it important to me that you believe in God? I just believe it's better.

You don't have to believe things you can check. If you were to check you would find that it is not better.

TexasGal: Where is the magic, the wonder? Life is a lot more boring your way.

Presents from "Santa" may be more interesting than presents from boring ol' Mom and Dad. But eventually you explain the boring truth to the kids anyway. Because otherwise, they will be deluded and they will not understand how things actually work.

TexasGal: Where is your hope? Do you just hope for the best? Wouldn't it be nice place God in the mix?

It is not nice to place anything in the mix except what is already in it.

TexasGal: Think of the difference:

God, please watch over my family, and keep them safe through the day...

Compared to, I *hope* my family is going to be OK...

There is no difference at all between those two, and to me they both seem equally useless. I prefer a more pro-active approach. I work hard to give my family a very safe place to be and teach them to proceed carefully in what they do. Then, I see what happens. It usually works out just fine.

TexasGal: Or, God, according your Will please heal my neighbor, she has breast cancer. Please God send others in her life to help. Praying she will have peace that only comes from You...

Compared to - I hope she will get better.

Again, there is no real difference between those two.

Except, I can only imagine the agony of thinking that gods could be healing your cancer, but are choosing not to. People spend a lot of time agonizing over questions like, "Why is God letting this happen to me?" This causes terrible suffering.

TexasGal: God, help my relationship with my family. Please God show us the way to your peace.

Compared to - Oh well, families fight.

My family does not fight. And we didn't get that way by sitting around waiting for some supernatural being to somehow magically inject "peace" into our lives. We are doing it ourselves.

We have a "no yelling" policy which goes for parents as well as kids, and we all stick to it the best we can. We stop fights before they start by letting people have their say in turn. And we try to make every action as kind as it can possibly be.

My life is a festival of wonder, not least because I understand what is real and how things work. There is no way that delusion and hoping could be better than truth and doing what works.

05-27-16 5:55Run Their Lives

Houseplant: The Ancient Greeks had their story, but they could be wrong, right? As a Christian of course I think I know what happens. But maybe we are all wrong, about everything.

No. Being all wrong about everything doesn't work. You have to be right about some things in order to stay alive and make things work.

But I am supposing you mean "wrong about the afterlife." I would say if there is a chance the Greeks were wrong, it is at least as likely a chance that you are wrong, if not more so. The Greeks were a civilization. The people who made up your myth were primitive, barely literate tribal nomads. How could they know more than the Greeks about anything?

Houseplant: I believe the afterlife experiences I see on TV or read in books.

That is not afterlife experience. It is called "Near Death Experience," or NDE. So, there is no reason to think it is happening after death. And, the phenomenon has been thoroughly studied and all extraordinary claims, like attaining impossible knowledge during NDE, have been debunked.

Houseplant: Why should we follow Greek beliefs anyways?

There is absolutely no reason at all that you should follow it. Do you understand? Not one reason in the world.

That goes double for your myth.

Houseplant: Where are they getting their info? Christians have the bible. Where did the Greeks get info about their gods and goddess? From a man, I figure.

Correct. That is exactly where the tribal nomads got the stories they later wrote into "the bible."

Houseplant: Awe, I don't believe God is myth :-)

Your story is not different from their stories.

Houseplant: They were different, they had no teaching except their own teaching.

I disagree, everybody gets a lot of teaching from the same place - other people.

Houseplant: Some people here don't believe. I guess they just decided they don't need a force that can run their lives.

If you are saying people become atheists because they don't want to bow to authority, wrong. You could want with all your heart to have a force that can run your life but that doesn't make it actually happen. Sorry.

Houseplant: The ladies here run their own lives, totally.

So do you.

05-27-16 4:04Page Not Found

05-26-16 1:04Fair Inequality

Adellina: Does happiness correlate with wealth?

All I know is, I am the happiest girl in the world, mainly because I am so crazy in love with my husband. We have been everywhere financially, from up to down to up again, and no matter what I have always felt rich with his love.

Rails: There is nothing wrong with being rich! Some people are motivated by money. People are motivated by different things and what motivates one person may not for another.

That seems cool, but we don't do it like this. We have made pursuing accumulation the requisite personality trait for every citizen. Anyone who doesn't play the game and play it well is a bum.

I think we should regard accumulation the way they do in Star Trek. The Ferengi are the capitalists, and power to them. No one tries to stop them from loving the Rules of Acquisition. But the unquestionably more advanced species are not concerned with accumulation, and dedicate themselves to science, exploration and the arts.

I honestly think our culture could grow beyond accumulation with the half a chance that would be provided by post-scarcity. Then we can find out if we are Ferengi or if we are humans.

Rails: Ever hear of the Paradox of Thrift?

Of course. People try to be thrifty during economic downturns and it just makes things worse, because our spending is their income and their spending is our income. Economies depend on profligacy.

However it would suck to live in a world where everyone has to be terribly concerned with acquiring baubles, or else risk crashing the economy. If that is where we are, then we have to change it. Planet-to-bauble conversion is reaching several limits, not least of which is the soulessness of bauble concern. Eventually we will have to base our society on something else, hopefully something more edifying.

Rails: If the entire economy collapses and we have that apocalyptic event, we will find a new "bauble" to replace what we use today.

Only until we get tired of striving for what we can get instead of what we can be.

Rails: When you delve into the socialist nations some are always comparing us to and think we should emulate right this minute, they have capitalist backgrounds.

Of course, capitalism and socialism can ONLY work together.

Keanu: How long can we continue this kind of consumer excess?

Rails: What have you got against the rich, enjoying what they have earned, be it large houses or expensive clothes or big TVs or what have you? Excess is fine if you can afford it!!

Keanu: But is wealth really making people happy? How can our country function if that is our cultural value?

The problem is not necessarily with any particular individual well-off person, getting wealth and then enjoying it. The problems are with a system that does not have enough checks on exploitation, and structurally benefits most the ones who need the least help.

Keanu: Agreed but I will add that the exploitation and structure are put in place by those who profit the most from it.

Which I guess is stating the obvious.

True, but it's not a conspiracy. It's more like a confluence. Each individual rich guy who bought influence affected the law to favor his situation in some small way, and those changes stick with the system, until there are thousands of laws and loopholes on the books which favor people in those situations. The result is a very unlevel playing field.

There is nothing wrong with a certain amount of inequality. Rising in rank is a powerful motivator for the human psyche. And some inequality is perfectly fair. But, a lot of it just isn't.

So, we need to structure our inequality so that it is more fair.

Keanu: There are no realistic solutions to this (and obviously plenty don't think this is something that needs to be fixed) but I know we can't continue to consume at the rate we are..

It will get old. Post-scarcity will make accumulation seem stupid. Eventually the Ferengi will notice that the rest of the Federation is having more fun with personal growth and immersion in discovery.

Keanu: Our economy though, not sure how well it could handle the shift away from consumerism.

The economy is nothing more than what we make it. We don't have to make it this way. We don't have to do what "it" wants. We should structure it to benefit more people, not structure people to benefit the economy.

05-25-16 9:10Old vs New Atheism

Kellie: Have you heard of these so-called "New Atheists"? Some of their supporters were tabling at a university to celebrate something they were calling Blasphemy Day. They were playing Blasphemous Scrabble, and offering to "Un-baptize" people with a hair dryer!

Is it just me, or does the "new atheism" kinda resemble a religious extremism?

I would say it kinda resembles a backlash, which may be extreme but is far overdue nonetheless.

Kellie: Ahhh, so you have no problem with people going to extremes just as long as it meets your needs and what you feel is right?

What are you talking about? I'm not saying that the extremism is overdue. I am saying that New Atheism and the backlash against religion is overdue. Not all "new atheism" is extremism. Most of it is not. And it serves a very important purpose.

The religious conceit, that religion has answers to supernatural questions, is ridiculously overdue in being challenged. The truth is that the Christians and the AFs do not know one single thing more about God than anyone else and they are just liars or wrong when they claim otherwise.

"New Atheism" is a process of throwing off medieval superstition for something realer. Some backlash to centuries of deception and misunderstanding is to be expected if we want society to have a more realistic view of what can be known.

I am not an atheist, but I have no problem with atheists challenging religion. It doesn't matter if "God" is real or not. What matters is speaking the truth. If "I don't know" is the truth, then anything else is bullshit.

Kellie: What you are saying is like saying that because Blacks were treated like crap before they now are entitled to be jackasses to everyone else now.

No. But they are entitled to point out the discrepancies and prejudices that remain, in as loud a voice as it takes to be heard. This I would say is true of those questioning religion also.

Kellie: Wow, are you actually defending these wack-a-doodles or are you just looking to argue?

No. I am defending New Atheism and the backlash against religion. Were Tommie Smith and John Carlos "wack-a-doodles" when they raised the Black Power Salute at the 1968 Olympics? Or were they trying to call attention to systematic racism which was woefully unaddressed?

Getting public attention focused on the ills of religion is not wrong. That is the purpose of "New Atheism" and a few extremists don't redefine it.

Kellie: Giving the black power salute during the olympics at that time in history was a pretty clear message about a very real issue.

What exactly is "less real" about this issue?

Kellie: So what "ills of religion" are the new atheists trying to get the public focused on and how are they doing it?

They are pointing out the unreason of Christianity. They are doing it by writing books.

Kellie: This isn't just people voicing their opinion and standing up for themselves and being treated equal.

The New Atheists movement is about exactly this.

Throughout Christian history, heresy has been punishable by death.

Do you think that has not made non-theists into second-class citizens who must hide their views at all costs? The lingering hangover of this horrid conceit is that centuries after discovering science and reason and accurate ways of acquiring knowledge, we still have to pay lipservice to this one mythology.

It is also about equality of ideas. It is about subjecting religious claims to an equal level of scrutiny as that we subject all other claims of truth to, and dismissing them as unwarranted when that is what they are, just as we do for any other kind of claim.

Kellie: Why do they want to go around making people feel like shit?

What about this is making you feel like shit?

WestEndBoy: Athiests make a big deal how they are so much "better" than the "typical Christian" but yet here they are doing the EXACT thing they hate.

I disagree. I talk to a lot of atheists, and they don't complain at all about Christians doing negative atheist publicity. I have never heard one complain about atheism being questioned, or feeling personally insulted when Christians malign atheism. I don't think that is what they hate.

The kind of thing they say they hate about Christianity is the holy wars, the inquisitions, and the witch trials. Also, the utter disregard for reality.

Since the atheists are not conducting holy wars or disregarding reality I would say that they are not doing what they hate.

Kellie: They do this stuff in certain areas with the intent to offend and hurt...

I would say that, considering that the penalty for heresy was death until relatively recently, and social oppression against non-theists continues to this day, some atheists may feel that they are unfairly oppressed and the ONLY way to get the attackers to stop is to offend and hurt them, with ridicule. Thomas Jefferson called it "the only weapon against unintelligible proposals."

So, the question is, how much of this is genuine attempts to throw off millenia of horrid oppression, and how much is just gratuitious? Clearly, some of it is gratuitious. But some I think arises from a genuine need to be free to express scorn for what is scorn-worthy in religion.

Frankly, I think it would be far more effective and less offensive, if only it was funnier.

Kellie: You act like this is new, but human beings have always had reason and accurate ways of acquiring knowledge!

Actually, no. The formal systems of reason - science and logic - are very new inventions for humans.

Kellie: For tens of thousands of years people in general have been both scientific as well as spiritual in nature.

That is different from having the system formalized and widely, rigorously followed. You only have to see how quickly our knowledge and technology have changed since acquiring these tools to observe their superiority over previous means of acquiring knowledge.

Kellie: It just seems pure hubris to me that atheists can so quickly dismiss the spiritual and religious aspects of humanity that have accompanied us on our history of progress.

Well, I'm not an atheist, but I don't think it is about dismissing everything remotely spiritual. Just specific unverifiable claims of knowledge.

Kellie: Spirituality and science are ridiculous to compare to each other.

First of all, "God" and "Christianity" are not "spirituality." Second of all, where people make specific claims of fact about "God" and "Jesus," these ideas can be scrutized for accuracy like any other claims.

Kellie: One's set of rules cannot possibly be applied to the other.

If a person is making a claim, like, "People who don't believe in Jesus go to Hell when they die," it is possible and completely legitimate to examine this proposal and see if there is any reason to think it is true. If there isn't a reason to think it is true, then it can be thrown on the scrap heap along with the coins for the Ferryman as old superstition with no acertainable basis. It is certainly possible to see if specific claims of fact are warranted.

Kellie: Science and Spirituality do NOT have to butt heads. They can co-exist.

Sure they can. But "spirituality" is far from the same thing as "Christianity." Specific claims of fact, like "Christians know what God wants," are rendered unwarranted by reason.

Kellie: Athiests SHOULD have a right to question WHY people believe what they believe, and Christians SHOULD have a right to think they are wrong (lol) but the line sometimes gets crossed from disrespecting the BELIEF, and disrespecting the PERSON.

Of course this is true. But frankly, I think some Christians tend to hide behind this "fine line" to avoid the atheists questions. There is no need to consider what someone said if they were rude, right? Therefore, it was rude.

Kellie: Me personally, I can get hurt because I am human and too damn emotional.

I don't understand which of these jibes is hurting you.

Kellie: Would you feel it was okay if they would have gone up to a Christian who was doing NOTHING wrong to them ever and hurt him?

JUST cause they were a Christian?

Who is doing this?

WestEndBoy: Christians are not claiming to know what God wants! That's YOUR idea of Christianity, not mine.

Christians are specifically claiming that God told them what He wants in a book. Are you saying that does not constitute a claim of knowing what God wants?

Christains claim that they know how God feels about certain issues, how He wants humans to act, what day of the week He wants us to worship, and what He wants us to believe to get the good afterlife. Are you saying this does not constitute a claim of knowing what God wants?

Christians are certainly claiming to know more about God than, say, Hindus. Christians know that there is only one God, right? How is this not a claim of knowledge about God?

WestEndBoy: I have my beliefs. Kinda like innocent until proven guilty. I think I am right until proven wrong. Call me a fool for that, because most of the time I say I don't know, but some things I feel I do know until someone can prove me wrong.

Actually, this is the exact opposite of "innocent until proven guilty." The essence of justice, reason and science is habeas corpus - "show me the body." Evidence.

You can "think" you are right that your neighbor murdered someone. You may just have that feeling about him. There is certainly no possible way to prove you are wrong. But the justice system will not bring murder charges against your neighbor just on your say so. Not without a body, without evidence.

There is a reason why habeas corpus is the backbone of our legal system, and evidence is the backbone of science. It is because doing it the other way around is known to produce error.

WestEndBoy: Its funny how the basic idea in Christianity where you dont worry about every little thing, and try to be a better person, and help your fellow man, and dont have spite and anger, and those sort of things sound a lot like the typical things that Buddhists say.

Sure. Those aren't the types of claims in Christianity that I would describe as unwarranted.

WestEndBoy: I don't KNOW as in physical evidence, but I have my own evidence that convinces me that I know there is a God.

I'm not an atheist. I know people feel God, and I avoid arguing that point. However, that does not show truth of any particular claim, like "Hell exists" or "We know how to avoid it."

WestEndBoy: I think that He also has given us a field guide so to say, in the bible.

There is no reason to think it is a more accurate description of what God wants than the holy scriptures of other religions, or the stories of in Norse or Greek mythology, or something I just wrote this morning. Claims that the Bible is "special" are unwarranted.

WestEndBoy: Like I dont know how God feels about Homosexuality.

Nobody does. Claims of knowledge in this are unwarranted.

WestEndBoy: One part it says that He makes you who you are and you are perfectly made, but yet another place it says to not do that stuff. I tend to think that its misunderstandings because of context.

Or, it might be because it is just something some people wrote.

WestEndBoy: YOU and many others claim that hell is this horrible place...

No, I have never made claims of any specific knowledge of Hell. However there is no doubt that Hell is portrayed in Christianity as the WRONG one.

WestEndBoy: I think that is stupid, and there is no basis for that thought (as you would say).

The exact same thing applies to your description. There is no reason to think you understand it better than Dante did.

WestEndBoy: Do I KNOW what hell is? No, but....

So, you don't know. You and everybody else. You are in good company. And, it is true. Why not stop there? The problem with making up stories we like to fill in the gap is that your story will be in conflict with the stories of another. There is no way to determine which story has more merit. They are all just speculation. Unresolvable conflict is the inevitable result.

WestEndBoy: ...but there is evidence in MY life that shows that God is real, but some people dont believe it because its not verifiable as proof.

There is evidence for something of this kind in a lot of people's lives and I will assure you that I'm not an atheist and I do not consider "is God real"? to be the important question in this matter. Only specific claims of knowledge, such as, descriptions of the afterlife, etc., concern me, because it seems obvious that no human knows anything about it at all. It is a blank upon which various cultures have piled very different descriptions.

WestEndBoy: For ME it seems better to have an idea of the final destination and to try to prepare for it best possible way.

Perhaps that would be better, but if it isn't possible, it just isn't.

WestEndBoy: I like being prepared. Maybe I'm wrong and preparing for the wrong thing.

Considering the thousands of gods, afterlife stories and customs in this world, that is certainly a chance. But why worry? Whatever it is, it seems to be a natural process that appears to take care of itself.

WestEndBoy: Me and my darn novels. Sorry. I applaud you if you actually read through the whole thing.

Every word. I appreciate you speaking of this with me, very much.

Kellie: I guess it is taken personally, by me, when some one seems to be downright rude about it.

I'm not really sure what you are suggesting. Do you think they should have done their blasphemy more politely? Or do you think that the atheists should refrain from celebrating Blasphemy Day so that you will not be offended?

Kellie:I am not suggesting any thing. I stated how I feel.

Great! What I want to know is, what do you think would be a better way for atheists to handle it?

Kellie: I don't know, but don't just blame the religious. There is hate from all sides.

Kellie: What you fail to acknowledge, which actually surprises me considering your intelligence, is that not every one is going to believe the same.

Of course they aren't. But people should not be claiming their beliefs are true if the claim is unwarranted.

Kellie: You have no right to even think, for a moment, that any other human being should ever think the way you do when it comes to religion.

That doesn't mean I should refrain from exposing the moral paucity of unsubstantiated claims.

Kellie: You keep your hate in your own yard and all is well.

If I am doing "hate" you had better tell me what it consists of. What "hating" am I doing? Be specific.

Kellie: It was more of a general statement. Those who wish to do away with religion and go about it in such a hateful manner are no better than those whack Christians out there.

LindaMartez: You seem to think the world would be a better place without religion, but I think that is a pretty flimsy claim. Wars, conflicts, persecution is almost always the result of fear, access to resources, territory, and power.

Oh, undoubtedly. But religous claims are the only ones that are completely unresolvable, there being no possible way to determine which have merit and which do not. I did not say it would end all conflict, I am saying it would reduce unresolvable conflict.

The move towards secularism in government has already gone a long way towards this goal. We currently have far fewer holy wars and religious conflicts than theocracies.

LindaMartez: How does religion hold the responsibility for "the horror it has perpetrated"? Religion didn't do those horrors, people did.

People did them in the name of Christianity, based on the unsubstantiated claims of Christianity.

LindaMartez: Do you honestly believe that "unresolvable conflict would be put behind us"?

I didn't say all, I said a lot. Some of it would be. Some of it already has been.

LindaMartez: And what do you mean, the restructuring of society and the process of determining knowledge has already begun?

We abandoned rule by Christianity and determining knowledge without evidence in the Renaissance. Massive amounts of human progress have been the result.

LindaMartez: People have conflicts for all kinds of reasons, religion is just one of those reasons.

We could use one less.

WestEndBoy: I didn't make any unsubstantiated claims of fact.

Christianity is making unsubstantiated claims of fact, and plenty of them.

WestEndBoy: In response to your statement, there's also no excuse for not accepting another's view as their own, either.

You do not understand. I certainly accept a person's views as his own. Who said they weren't his own? What I do not accept is his claims that the views are true, if the truth of the statements cannot be verified.

WestEndBoy: We all know God can't be proven.

I think you must have missed the forty seven times I mentioned that I am not an atheist and I have never asked anyone to "prove" God. Such a discussion is entirely beside the point.

The point is that specific claims of fact, like, "You have to believe in Jesus or you will go to Hell," or, "God doesn't like homosexuality," are pure speculation, and there is no reason to think there is any truth to them.

WestEndBoy: Some of us don't need proof and don't care about your supposed facts.

Facts matter. Ignore them, and you have no means to distinguish knowledge from delusion.

Kellie: I am unclear as to why atheists feel the need to disrespect the beliefs of others?

I think they feel the need to show that some beliefs are not worthy of respect because they lack merit, no matter how deeply they are held.

Kellie: To me both are equally in their lack confidence in their beliefs, because if they were so certain they would find peace in that and not need to persuade others to follow them.

I can see some very valid reasons to question religious beliefs.

For example, we had a long struggle in this country against marraige laws that seriously discriminated against gay people. Marriage discrimination, and the whole "anti-gay" attitude in our society, was based - as far as I can tell - on the idea that God considers homosexuality to be abomination.

So, what are the facts? There is no pathology associated with homosexuality. It appears to be naturally occurring in many species, including our own. There is not any apparent reason to consider homosexuality abomination, outside of the unsubstantiated claims that Christians have some idea how God "feels" about homosexuality.

So. Do we just go along with the unsubstantiated claim, and seriously disenfranchise a large segment of our population, reducing them to second-class citizenship? Or, do we examine the claim? If we find it to be completely unsubstantiated, then what? Do it anyway?

Allowing unsubstantiated claims to be accepted as facts is hurting people.

As another example, there is an explanation available for how life on Earth has developed into so many complex forms. This explanation is supported by mountains of evidence which show a direct correlation between what occurrs and this description of it. This explanation is so well-supported and provides so much verifiable preditability that it is considered as close to fact as any other explanation in science.

And yet, people come to school board meetings blathering about "intelligent design," an idea derived - as far as I can tell- from religious notions of divine creation.

So, what are the facts? Upon examination, "Intelligent Design" is revealed to be a ridiculous idea with zero supporting evidence and no predictive ability. There is no apparent reason to consider it equally worthy of being discussed in science class.

What is the result? Various school boards are losing thousands of hours to wrangling over a non-issue, and a general impression that beliefs are just as valid as facts is foisted upon the entire population.

Which leads me to another major problem, which is a widespread lack of respect for what constitutes knowledge and facts. On the day we marched to war in Iraq, eighty percent of the U.S. population believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and/or that he was responsible for 9-11.

There was no evidence of this. In fact most people realize now that it was a bunch of bullshit.

There were people on the ground back then who knew the actual facts. Their information was available to anyone. If the people of this country had respected facts, they might have thought that marching to war on flimsy accusations with no evidence was maybe not a good idea.

Facts are the only way to separate knowledge from delusion. A society with more respect for the facts would be slightly less deluded. That would be good.

LindaMartez: Is it causing you undue angst watching people be "delusional?"

Delusional people aren't much fun to watch, it's true. And people who are delusional will make stupid mistakes, like reducing some of the population to second-class citizenship or marching to an unjust war.

LindaMartez: Why don't you accept it?

Why should I? There is no reason to.

Accepting claims without verifying them is a great way to get duped.

LindaMartez: Again, does this form of supposed "stupidity" affect you personally?

Every single day.

LindaMartez: If some people wish to believe in what you call "pure speculation as truth" it shouldn't cause any interference to you.

People are legislating their pure speculation. They are letting it interfere with clear judgement. It affects me every time my country veers in an irrational direction.

Kellie: And precisely who are they to tell a religious person their dogma is wrong or stupid?

They are people, free to form views and then say them.

As an example, one Christian dogma is that the first woman was made from a man's rib. There is exactly zero evidence that this happened or ever could happen. On the other hand, there are literally mountains of evidence demonstrating that women came about in a completely different fashion.

With this kind of evidence, I think a person would be justified in suggesting that the Eve-rib thing appears to be wrong.

As for stupid, that is more of a matter of judgement, but I can think of a few dogmas in any religion which seem, at least, silly. There are times to point that out. I would suppose "Blasphemy Day" would be one of those times.

Kellie: It is classic hypocrisy.

It would only be hypocrisy if the claims on both sides were unsubstantiated. However, a rejection-of-dogma claim, like "the first woman does not appear to have made from a man's rib" has a lot of substantiation. A claim like "that's sinful" really doesn't. That's one difference.

Kellie: But then that would mean that every person who believes in religion takes the Bible literally, which is not true.

Of course that's not true, but that's not what it means. There is no way describing that particular dogma as wrong equals=declaring everything and everyone associated with the religion to be utterly lame. It is just discussing that one unsubstantiated claim, which is perfectly legitimate.

Kellie: There are many that understand the metaphors and the greater ideas which they stand for.

Of course there are! This describes the majority of Chistians I have met.

But, I haven't heard any atheists calling out the metaphors or the great ideas. I don't know a single atheist who makes fun of "Do unto others" or "Consider the lilies." Those ideas are not unsubstantiated claims about the supernatural or the unknown. They are precious gems of human wisdom. There is nothing wrong or stupid about them and I don't know anyone who is calling those ideas into question.

People are examining specific dogmas, and questioning the unsubstantiated ones. That is eminently reasonable.

Kellie: So religion should be done away with because there are some that believe in taking the bible literally? That seems silly.

I agree. The people who are asking for religion to be "done away with" are asking too much and it would never happen anyway. It is a ridiculous notion that I would certainly never support. It isn't even necessary.

But I still support the examination of dogmas. Any religion could stand to lose a few obviously unsupported dogmas while keeping the wisdom alive at its heart.

Kellie: Even the concept of God is a metaphor for higher consciousness.

Well, I would not necessarily disagree with that. But, do you think that view is commonly held by Christains? I certainly know there are many Christians who think of God as an actual being, who observes activities on Earth and has agency to intervene in human affairs. I'm not sure most people see this as equivalent with a "metaphor for higher consciousness."

Kellie: How is higher consciousness wrong?

I don't know anyone who says it is. I personally am interested only in unsubstantiated claims, and "higher consciousness" is not a claim.

Bandicoot: People choose what they will believe, however outrageous it may seem to you.

Of course. That doesn't mean I shouldn't talk about it. There have been many people I have talked with who have thanked me for giving them a different perspective. I see no reason not to try for that outcome.

Bandicoot: I'm saying I don't have the knowledge, much less the right, to tell another what to believe.

I am not telling people what to believe. I am telling people what I think.

I do not intend to protect people from my message. I am being civil. I am being scrupulously honest. Any claims of fact I make are very well supported. I am not getting personal. Speaking such is not wrong.

Also, depending on the claim, I may actually have some knowledge about it. Considering that I majored in in Anthropology and have a detailed understanding of human origins, I feel reasonably informed to claim some knowledge in this area. Since I have studied world religions, tribal cultures, and creation mythology in particular, I feel reasonably informed to discuss those subjects, just as you do. I see no reason to act like that knowledge doesn't exist or has no bearing on a discussion of human origins.

I'm really tired of dancing around the main issue. The issue is that sometimes people believe things which are almost certainly wrong. Sure they have a right to think whatever they want. They do not have to listen to a word I say. But they do not have a right to go through this life and never hear anyone say it.

I am not going to act like accurate understanding doesn't matter. I have a duty to the truth.

05-24-16 9:10Message

RedTree: You say you have a duty to the truth, and to speak your "message". What exactly is your "message"?

My message is: Christianity is making a vast number of unsubstantiated claims about reality, the supernatural and the unknown. Some of them are extremely cruel and exclusionary. Others are factually innaccurate to the point of great error. Cruel, error-producing unsubstantiated claims are hurting people, devaluing reason and shitting on the truth. This is wrong.

RedTree: What is your "truth"?

I am not using the word truth like "opinion," where can be different for everybody. I am referring to truth as that which can be verified. I'm talking about what is the same for everybody, that would be the same even if there wasn't anybody there.

RedTree: Truth is subjective. Imagine two people, one of them blind....[ ]...that person with sight had a totally different perception.

There may be some minor differences in our perception of reality, but anybody who can catch an airplane has enough similarity in perception to others, in terms of space, time and matter, to come to an understanding on basic reality.

RedTree: When it comes to matters of personal choices and beliefs, "truth" can be dependent on the person perceiving it.

I am not talking about personal choices. I am talking about truth as correspondence to reality.

RedTree: Defining "truth" is like trying to define "mind", "love", or other philosophical concepts.

I'm not talking about philosophical Truth. I am talking about truth like when you swear in court that you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It may not be perfect, it may not include everything they need to know, but you are supposed to be presenting it honestly and to the best of your knowledge.

If you don't want me to use the word truth to talk about it, what word would you suggest?

RedTree: I agree, people go through life believing things that are not "true", or in the very least, unsubstantiated by evidence. I think each and every one of us do that, in one area or another.

That doesn't make it good. I am certainly trying not to, to the very best of my ability.

RedTree: There isn't some global Cliffnotes Answer Sheet to Life that we can double-check ourselves.

There is. There is reality. If we want to know what is true we can look at reality and find out. Not perfectly, not everything, but A LOT. You can double-check it yourself any time. Any claim I make I would be sure that you could double-check against the Cliffnotes of Reality yourself before I made it.

RedTree: But why would you think that you're the one to dispel all of their beliefs?

Ask Martin Luther. Or the Founding Fathers. I am a person who sees injustice and wants better.

RedTree: Why do you think you have the answers that the rest of us don't?

I checked.

I don't have all the answers. I am not the only person who has the answers I have. But when I say something is an answer I check to make sure it is true first. I don't just say it.

Claiming answers are true when you know they can't be verified, and could just as easily be completely incorrect, produces error and is morally wrong.

RedTree: Why doesn't everyone else have the right to go through life without hearing what you have to say?

Because I will not be silent.

People can put their hands over their ears and sing "La la la la la!" People can leave. People can act extremely offended and get very angry and attack me personally. But I will speak.

Take it or leave it. But do not attempt to silence me.

RedTree: That's the thing about "challenging" vs "discussion". "Challenging" is by definition confrontational and polarizing. It assumes a conflict and opposing sides.

So what? Must I be so polite to the finely-tuned sense of religious offense that I cannot raise a conflicting position in a debate forum?

RedTree:You can't assume that you are "right".

I don't assume I'm right. If I think I am "right" about something, it is because I looked into it very thoroughly and assessed that there is a discernible reality and honed my position to match it as precisely as possible.

RedTree: I have no evidence to support my position.

I have massive amounts of evidence to support any position I take. That is the point.

If I don't have the evidence, I don't take a position. I just don't know. As far as I can tell that is the only valid position, when it is true.

RedTree: Topics such as religion and personal spirituality are exactly that - personal.

Claims about what your favorite color is are personal. Claims about what happens to humans when they die are about everybody.

RedTree: It's not a matter of "right" or "wrong".

I disagree. The claim "red is prettier than blue" has no right or wrong. It is a statement of opinion.

The claim "You have to believe in Jesus to get the good afterlife" is not a matter of opinion - is it? Either that is a description of what really happens - every human really has to believe in Jesus to go to Heaven, and every person who doesn't believe it ends up in Hell...or, the claim is just a bunch of words people say which don't describe anything that really happens. If the former, the claim is right. If the latter, it is wrong.

So, it certainly seems like a matter of right or wrong. If true, the claim would seem to be a very important matter of right and wrong, with eternal implications. If false, the claim would seem to be a horrible cruel deception whose wielding has been a blight on humanity for millenia. Seems like it matters.

How could such an important claim be off the table for scrutiny and discussion?

RedTree: But debate - in the interest of proving one side right or another side wrong - that's not an approach I advocate.

Is that what you would have told Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo? Back then the position of the sun and the orbits of the planets were articles of faith. Should humans have refrained from examining the reality to see if it differed from the story? Should humans have refrained from discussing their findings to avoid offense?

RedTree: Neither *side* knows what happens after death.

Precisely. No person appears to know anything about it. But some are claiming they do know.

RedTree: Claims are exactly that - claims, not statement of fact.

Some people are claiming it is a fact.

RedTree: And until there is actual fact, there is no "right" or "wrong".

I disagree. There is an actual fact right now. The actual fact is that humans do not know what happens after death. Saying this is right. It is true. You are telling this truth, but there are people who are not. They are saying they do know. That is the lie. It is untrue. It is wrong.

RedTree: Therefore, one can scrutinize the claim all they want, but there will be no resolution until someone dies and comes back to tell us about it.

I don't see that happening, but who knows? Until then, we still have the fact: We do not know. We have the lie: We do know. I intend to dispute the lie when I hear it.

RedTree: And the determination of a "horrible cruel deception whose wielding has been a blight on humanity for millenia" is a personal opinion, not fact.

Well, I have opinions too.

If the Christian claim of Salvation through Christ is not true, then, in my opinion, the lie that has been perpetrated upon Christians will have been a terrible blight on humanity. Better?

RedTree: But the orbits were not articles of faith to Copernicus, Kepler, or Galileo.

Sure.** The position of the sun and orbits of the planets were articles of faith to the church, who resisted acknowledging heliocentrism. Those gentlemen were right to insist that it be discussed anyway. The fact that the orbits were articles of faith did not make them immune to challenge.

Unsubstantiated Christian claims are not articles of faith to me. Some are to some Christians who I discuss this with. I feel I am right in insisting that it be discussed anyway. The fact that they are articles of faith does not make them immune to challenge.

That is the purpose of the comparison.

** You could argue that they were articles of faith to Kepler, at least initially. He was devout. He himself was reluctant at first to embrace the laws of planetary motion. He had so wanted to prove the perfect circles of the heavens. It is to his great credit, and humanity's great debt, that he followed the data instead, which described ellipses.

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