Utah Parents Who Killed Selves, Children Feared Apocalypse

Jan 30, 2015

© Grant Hindsley/The Daily Herald/The Associated Press

By Lindsay Whitehurst

A Utah couple and their three children who were found dead in their home last fall overdosed on drugs after the parents told friends and family they were worried about the apocalypse, authorities said Tuesday.

Police also found old letters written by the mother to a Utah inmate serving time for killing family members in the name of God, slayings chronicled in the 2003 Jon Krakauer book “Under the Banner of Heaven.”

Benjamin and Kristi Strack and three of their four children — ages 11, 12 and 14 — were found dead in September in a locked bedroom of their Springville home. All five were tucked into covers in and around their parents’ bed.

At a news conference Tuesday, Springville Police Chief J. Scott Finlayson said investigators have concluded their probe and determined the family members died from drug toxicity from either methadone, heroin or a combination of drugs, including those found in cold medicine.

Authorities determined the parents committed suicide. The younger two children’s deaths were ruled homicides, although Finlayson said there were no signs of a struggle.


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73 comments on “Utah Parents Who Killed Selves, Children Feared Apocalypse

  • 4
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Yep, good Christian parents… BTW, they would never have considered abortion. No way!! Life is far too precious.

    So let’s see if I got this one right…. they murdered their own children to save them from dying in the Apocalypse, hmmmm… But won’t murdering their own children earn them eternal punishment in Hell?… Oh, that’s right. I forgot… God will forgive them of course because they have accepted Him as their Lord and Savior.

    It doesn’t get any more insane than this.



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  • So typical of this site. Ignore hundreds of millions of good parents who happen to have faith and focus on one nut job. I have an atheist friend who believes all minorities should be subject to sterilization to purify the gene pool. Why don’t we publish an article on him and then bash all non-believers?



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  • 7
    Blue Monster 65 says:

    Sounds like your “friend” is just as big a jerk as these parents were. I doubt his disbelief (or not) has much to do with him being an ass.



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  • I have an atheist friend who believes all minorities should be subject to sterilization

    Hi Nordic

    Your friend believes this because he is a racist, not because he’s an atheist. The children mentioned in the article died as a direct consequence of the religious beliefs of their parents. I think that’s the difference.

    By the way, have you considered finding better friends 🙂

    You are correct that millions of people of faith are also good parents. It doesn’t change the fact that in some cases, (many?), people do harmful things because they think their God demands it. They strap explosives to their chest and blow themselves, and others, to bits. They prevent the distribution of condoms that could save lives. And yes, they kill their kids. In fact I’m a little surprised we don’t see more of the latter. If you think about it, killing your children while they are toddlers guarantees them a place in heaven for all eternity, whereas allowing them to grow up to be possibly sinful adults means they might wind up in hell.



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  • Hey john,

    My friend has told me he believes this way because he is an atheist. He told me that if he were a Christian, he could not hold to such beliefs. But this is not my point. I have two other close friends who are a gay, atheist couple, and these men live beautiful lives and are far more caring than many Christians I know.

    Some people of faith do horrible things because of their faith just as some nonbelievers do horrible things because they do not believe in God. The vast majority of believer and nonbelievers alike are horrified by these actions.

    My point is that we get no where when sites devoted to reason post unreasonable stories. The Dawkins site is doing exactly what it accuses Christians of doing- fanning the flames of fanaticism.



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  • So, one or both parents were addicts? And the mother had been corresponding with a murderous fringe-Mormon ‘prophet.’ Why isn’t a news report willing to even MENTION whether the parents were, or were not, Mormons? And the lack of information regarding the surviving child…just trailed in towards the bottom of the article. This is not responsible journalism.



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  • Hi Nordic

    I think your friend is mistaken. Atheism doesn’t tell anyone what to believe – that’s kind of the point.

    To your wider criticism, that RDFSR focuses on the “few bad apples” while ignoring the majority of decent people of faith, I think you’ll find the stories here are pretty diverse. They cover everything from science to politics to technology to current affairs. Certainly there are articles of the “what crazy thing did the religious nuts do now” variety, but that’s simply because religious nuts sometimes do crazy things – no surprise there. Do you think these stories should not be covered? Just because they represent a small minority of adherants? I don’t think so – it’s news, and that’s what this page is about. “Christian Dad helps kids with homework” won’t garner a lot of readers, no matter what site it’s on. I’m not being flippant here. These stories are important because they show how religion can be used to make people do crazy things. The fact that the vast majority don’t doesn’t change this one bit.



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  • There are a lot of people around me (I live in the Midwestern United States) who have similar apocalyptic beliefs (immanent return of Christ, etc.). Unfortunately most don’t understand that the apocalyptic writings they quote can have many different interpretations. Also, it is possible that those people that killed their children could qualify for those that are told that “I never knew you” when they meet God.

    A little logic could have done them a lot of good. Regardless of if the world is going to end soon or the world just fall into tyranny for a couple thousand years and then end, the way to live would logically be the same in both situations according to the Bible (namely, don’t murder and just go though the problems without blood on your hands). Unfortunately, they tend to forget that part.



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  • That is that religion. Or better yet, that interpretation of their religion. Those people who do radical things like that typically don’t understand there is broad spectrum of interpretation within their religion and most would not advocate what they did. In fact, what they did goes against what their religion says to do anyway. It is probably more of a psychological problem than religion problem.

    To say that all religion/s are like that is the intellectually easy way out and illogical. For the most part politics and greed are why there is so much bloodshed. The religious leaders just happened to be the ones in power, but that is changing. I have no doubt that when atheism (or agnostic atheism) becomes the dominant position of the population, there will still be greedy murderous people and societies.



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  • john.wb is right about atheism not being problem (just as theism is not a problem if it is defined as simply believing some kind of god/s exist). Unfortunately, someone who is an atheist has to fill the gaps about what to do and believe is right since they don’t have a book to tell them how to live economically, socially, politically, and ethically speaking. When people say atheism is dangerous they really mean what people who are atheists tend to believe.

    So yes, the atheist friend is like this not because he is an atheist but probably because of radical social darwinism, acceptance of eugenics , and possibly a bit of communism/fascism. Just like how someone who believes god/s exists in some form doesn’t strap a bomb on immediately after coming to that philosophical conclusion.



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  • Hi John,

    People do crazy things all the time. The only ones mentioned on this site are those who are religious. The Columbine killers were atheists, but no one assumes their atheism drove them to kill fellow students. They most probably had mental disorders, which was the root cause of their violence. No one says that atheism caused their mental illness, but everyone here is convinced that this couple’s “insane” actions were caused by their faith. What came first, their religion or their insanity?



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  • but everyone here is convinced that this couple’s “insane” actions
    were caused by their faith. What came first, their religion or their
    insanity?

    To Nordic 11, this action was taken in belief of an impending apocalypse. An apocalypse is a religious concept.

    This why there appears to me, and to others here, that there is a connection between these difficult to comprehend actions, and the perpetrators religious convictions.

    There seems little reason, and I am certainly not so qualified, to assume insanity, and in the absence of insanity, the religious conviction certainly came first.



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  • Even if their religion came first, it doesn’t mean it caused them to do what they did. Also, it appears from the report that they had deeper problems than their religion anyway considering they killed themselves with drugs possibly including heroin. In my experience with knowing drug addicts (religious and non-religious) they tend to have emotional and sometimes psychological problems which is why they use. Why did these parents have heroin in the first place? The answer to that question is most likely why they would believe in the radical interpretation of the end times and disregard the whole not murdering people commandment.



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  • There seems little reason, and I am certainly not so qualified, to assume insanity, and in the absence of insanity, the religious conviction certainly came first.

    Yes, exactly.



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  • They most probably had mental disorders, which was the root cause of their violence.

    This is popular though bigoted nonsense Nordic.

    Attempting to scapegoat the mentally ill for the actions of religious people is a rather evil tactic I reckon. Christians all too frequently kill their own children, driven by hatred and revenge, and then seek to blame their behaviour on mental illness. Catholics such as Andrea Yates, who drowned her five kids, or the devout Catholic Arthur Freeman who threw his baby daughter Darcey off the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne.

    The Columbine killers were atheists…

    Eric Harris was a Catholic Xian too, while Kleibold was a devout Lutheran whose mother prayed furiously to her (bible)god to have her son Dylan take his own life because she believed it was preferable to being killed by the police.

    Your bigoted friend is just a devious Xian masquerading as an atheist you’ll find, if you bother to look.



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  • James, this is not an infrequent occurrence. Just last Xmas a devout Xian mother killed 8 children in Cairns. Xians also sought to blame drugs and mental illness but her home was so drug free that alcohol was also banned.

    Scapegoating the mentally ill is popular all right, and dead wrong too.



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  • I agree that many people abuse the mental illness card. It appears in this case however that there may be more to the story because the article states that the parents may have used heroin in combination with other substances to kill themselves (which seems odd to me that a religious family would have as potent a drug as heroin anyway since most are anti-drug it seems). Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what the investigation comes to.

    I do not agree however that it is a common problem among religious people (at least in western society). Out of the billions of supposedly religious people it would seem that an extremely small number go on to commit these types of crimes. It is probably more common than with the nonreligious, but I don’t have the numbers to show and it would be very helpful to me if you would provide your data. In regards to the data you did give, two cases in the past 2 months with billions of religious people on the planet is not enough to be a frequent occurrence.

    Although I don’t have the data, my hunch is that these occurrences would be mathematically insignificant in at least Europe and North America. It would however be great topic for an article on this website to compile any data that is available on the subject.



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  • Even if the columbine shooters were atheists and mentally sound it still wouldn’t be a blow to atheism. Likewise, it shouldn’t be a blow for Catholicism or Lutheranism because they didn’t seem to follow the rules of their supposed religions (and society’s for that matter).

    We seem to be edging awfully close to paranoia however when we begin to think atheists with unsavory stances are just Christians undercover to sabotage atheism. (Although he could not even be a real person and just a hypothetical atheist friend)
    Regardless, you can definitely have atheists who are bigots. It is not their atheism though, just their other philosophical stances.



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  • I forget the percentage, but a sizeable number of Americans believe the same nonsense that tricked these people into taking their lives. Suicide according to the cult belief is not appropriate. It is supposed to be a time of rejoicing when you are saved and others are tortured.



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  • Well, as expected, the Deists here have jumped right in with the old babble:

    1)It was mental illness/drugs and not religion. (I wonder, do Islamic beheadings come under this category as well?)

    2) Atheists do terrible things, too

    3)This is not REAL Christianity/MY Christianity (No true Scotsman).

    How very wearying it is to see this drivel every time believers do something outrageous in the name of their religious beliefs.
    Get over it, guys. The Apocalypse is straight out of your bible. People who believe outrageous stories are capable of outrageous acts.

    Ah, right, you’re ready to hit the keys with arguments 1) 2) and 3) again.



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  • Let’s say you genuinely believe in all this bible/apocalypse stuff. I’d say you were demonstrably incapable of logic thought. But even so, let’s suspend disbelief for a moment and let’s suppose you were otherwise capable of acting logically. The logical thing to do, as you say, is keep going, live a moral life etc. and hope for the best.

    But we can’t get past that they’re not thinking logically to believe the world is about to end (or enter the last 2000 years before the end, whatever). If they really believe that stuff, I think the natural reaction is extreme shock, terror etc. — exactly the circumstances where almost all people won’t act logically (even if they were logical when calm and not stressed). So reactions like this are entirely understandable, in context.

    Now, the question is who convinced them they were going to die soon, possibly horribly, … and are they legally liable, whether criminally or in a civil case?

    If a hypnotist convinces someone a building is on fire so they (not unreasonably) jump to their death out the window, they would certainly be liable.

    Some of these religious types (possibly not these, just speaking hypothetically now) get involved in trances, speaking in tongues and generally getting hysterical – which to a layman seems pretty close to hypnosis or auto-hypnosis or something similar. If in such a suggestible state you were given false information of a terrifying nature that ultimately caused you to take drastic, possibly fatal action … the organiser should be liable as hell.



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  • Nordic wrote: “So typical of this site. Ignore hundreds of millions of good parents who happen to have faith and focus on one nut job…”

    Very reminiscent of The Vatican apologists Nordic, complaining furiously that we ignore their charitable work and focus on the clerical child rape aspect.

    “Why don’t we publish an article on him and then bash all non-believers?”

    Sure thing Nordic but you have neglected to supply his name. What do you suggest we title this article? ‘Nordic’s imaginary friend hates everybody’ perhaps?

    You’ve furnished us with nothing to go on, save for a fantasy tale we can’t possibly verify.

    How is your off-topic anecdote informative to this discussion?



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  • I’m not sure why you seem to say the deists are the ones making the arguments and then say later on it is the Christians. They’re not even close, and deists don’t usually hold any religious beliefs on an apocalypse scenario. Most don’t believe in the Bible. Furthermore, deism is not a religion. Anyway, in response to your points…

    1) It is logically possible their actions were not solely (or even primarily) motivated by religion. It is also reasonable to assume that mental illness and/or drug use could have contributed at least partially to their actions.

    2) This is a true statement, although I argue they don’t do evil things because of their atheism but some philosophical stance they may hold and/or possible mental illness.

    3) I haven’t seen anyone claim on here it is their Christianity. Also, Flew’s No True Scotsman fallacy has been poorly used (and I would say overused) when it comes to non-religion vs religion. However, it is entirely possible these people were “true” believers and just didn’t follow their religion (although the article states it was an offshoot of Mormonism which is itself very strange). Still, we would need more information on their particular sect in order to determine if it is as dangerous as radical Islam.

    Also, the apocalypse of the Bible is so ambiguous in meaning that logically one shouldn’t be able to derive much certainty of what it means. That is why there is a wide spectrum of eschatological interpretations within Christianity on the subject and many I have researched are not outrageous at all (Such as preterism, historicism, and of course the allegorical position).

    By the way, there is debate (theological and academic) as to whether Mormonism even qualifies as Christianity at all. We can’t even tell from the article if their particular offshoot religion qualifies as Mormonism either.



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  • Even if it is an fantasy, it is logically possible for an atheist to hold such beliefs on humanity. However, he didn’t derive those beliefs from atheism.

    I suppose you could argue his atheism may leave him vulnerable to certain philosophies that some forms of theism would protect him from, but this still doesn’t hurt atheism because most atheists seem to latch on to more humane ideas and social theories than his.

    It would seem his point would be better put if described as follows: with millions of religious and non religious people, the vast majority of both camps are not a threat. I would agree to an extent with Nordic in that if mathematically it can indeed be shown the number of dangerous religious people is a considerably small fraction of all religious people then perhaps this website would be better off simply using logic and reason instead of saying the fanatics are an epidemic instead of a demographically unimpressive fringe.



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  • I didn’t see where it said they belonged to a murderous fringe in the article. All I could gather was it was an offshoot of Mormonism. However, if you have more information on their beliefs I would love to know. I can’t seem to find much information on my own and I need more facts in order to determine whether this sect of Mormonism is indeed dangerous.



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  • @ James: “you can definitely have atheists who are bigots”

    James, it is an ineffective defence of these evil Xian parents to simply invoke an imaginary atheist, allegedly a bigot, for no apparent reason. A particularly weak argument in my view. Now, if you were able to show that these Utah parents were atheists I’d be a little more impressed.

    seems odd to me that a religious family would have as potent a drug as heroin anyway since most are anti-drug it seems

    Your ill-founded hunches aren’t admissible without supporting evidence. Many Xian families are afflicted by drugs, most conspicuously by alcohol abuse, which is the most harmful drug in both the US and Australia.

    It would however be great topic for an article on this website to compile any data that is available on the subject.

    Yes it would be James, and I’ll participate if you ever bother to do so. Meanwhile we’ve got numerous other interesting topics including this one to consider first.



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  • Just for clarity, it wasn’t the parents making the argument of a hypothetical atheist bigot, but one of the readers in the comments. However I do agree it is intellectually dishonest. Still, hypothetically speaking, it is logically possible for a person who is an atheist to hold bigoted view. I argue above that it is not their atheism that causes them to do this.

    I have admitted that I don’t have enough data to support some of my statements. You are right about religious people who have drug addictions. If I may rephrase myself, it seems to be odd because the dominant conservative/Christian position is for the most part anti-drug even if its follows use (although it looks like these people were part of an offshoot of Mormonism which is in fact on offshoot from Protestant Christianity so there is no telling what they believed and how dangerous it was). My hunch is based on the observation that it does not appear that most of the religious population is killing their children (especially considering the pro-life movement is predominately conservative and religious). I’ll however admit I need more hard evidence.

    In addition, some of your statements are ill-founded as well. You provide very little evidence that this is a common occurrence among the religious (it would also be helpful if you defined the perimeters of what your definition of common is). I would be very interested to continue a conversation with you if any similar articles pop up as well. You seem like a reasonable person to discuss a topic such as this with.



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  • the vast majority of both camps are not a threat.

    The reason that the majority of religious people are no longer a threat is because burning people at the stake and stoning adulterers to death are no longer considered acceptable behaviour. The majority of religious people therefore take their holy books with a large pinch of salt – and very fortunate it is too for the rest of us.

    My concern is for the few, (some mentally ill perhaps but others simply more fanatical than the rest) who read these texts and interpret them literally. There really is a place called heaven and yes, if you kill you children they will go there.



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  • I have heard some relatively reasonable explanations as to why stoning was in the Old Testament (depending entirely on your definition of evil). I don’t think burning people at the stake for not conforming to Christianity was ever sanctioned though. For the most part, even if they still stoned people it would be their own not other non-Jews or non-Christians according to the holy books (much like the self destructive and murderous parents in the article). Also, it does not seem the Bible or Jesus gave any sort of authority for the Church to do those things anyway (which makes the Catholic Church of the Middle Ages twice as wrong).

    I would argue that it seems to be the separation of church and state is what stopped the bloodshed more than burning witches becoming socially unacceptable (considering the Church and the state were for the most part linked when the Pope and the Royalty weren’t fighting). Too much power in the hands of a few people (religious or not) usually means peaceful people will die. Religious Catholicism in the middle ages and Non-Religious Secular Communism in the cold war are two off the top of my head.



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  • When we speak of the children involved, how do we separate this from the ‘First Nations’ parents who took their children off chemo with a 75% prognosis of survival because the young girl saw a vision of Christ that said she was cured?

    Sure in this case they were given drugs so they died. What if the parents had denied them oxygen instead?

    What happens when they are denied life saving medicines or blood transfusions.

    Are they not the same?



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  • The whole 2000 years of suffering scenario was just a possible alternative I give (it can be any length of time really). My conversations with them usually are about me trying to show that even if all of the signs they say are happening, it still doesn’t mean the apocalypse is imminent. For example, the signs they speak of are world domination schemes, wars and rumors of wars, earthquakes and natural disasters, everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, etc. Unfortunately, these “signs” occur all throughout history so any period could be examined and shown that the world was in imminent danger (according to their logic). So I try to get them to admit it is logically possible that this is all just bad times but not the end times.

    When it comes to logic though, logical thinking doesn’t mean secular, or non-religious thinking. I have met many logical religious people. Logic only really tells us what is true, false, possibly true, and possibly false. So far it seems that one can come to the conclusion some kind of god/s exists because logically it is possible they exist. Of course, not all parts of an organized religion can be logical and I’d say the parents underlying belief was illogical even if their actions could have been considered logical based on their initial assumptions. I should also mention logic can be used in a non-religious way as well to justify doing evil things (evil according to us at least). For instance, the pro-life people believe Richard Dawkins advocated for something evil in aborting children with down syndrome. While I personally found it distastful it was however a logical way of thinking if indeed Richard’s underlying assumptions were true (namely the morally right thing to do would be to abort so they do not suffer through life). I don’t know how he got that assumption, but if for the sake of argument it is true his position entirely rational.

    I highly doubt they were even considering the “don’t murder” commandment. At least they could have looked at the totality of their book and seen where it should have advised against killing (though it isn’t clear what their holy books may be since they are apparently not even fully Mormons).



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  • James Jan 31, 2015 at 10:31 am

    My hunch is based on the observation that it does not appear that most of the religious population is killing their children (especially considering the pro-life movement is predominately conservative and religious). I’ll however admit I need more hard evidence.

    The so called “Pro-Life” movement, has nothing to do with a rational understanding of the value or quality of human life, and a great deal to do with “learning” biology from the scientifically illiterate, dogmatically superstitious, who do not know a single cell, or a bunch of cells, from a sentient human being.

    t does not appear that most of the religious population is killing their children

    You also seem to be using the term “religious population”, to refer specifically to certain Christian religious denominations, which in this case are quite specific cults.

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Rapture_Ready

    Historically there have been numerous religions which have made child sacrifices.



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  • James Jan 30, 2015 at 9:38 pm

    That is that religion. Or better yet, that interpretation of their religion.

    The problem with unevidenced “faith-thinking” is that it allows any interpretation or projection of a personal view into any text.

    Those people who do radical things like that typically don’t understand there is broad spectrum of interpretation within their religion and most would not advocate what they did. In fact, what they did goes against what their religion says to do anyway.

    It is inherent in quoting the Bible as a source of “morality” that all the misogeny and self contradictions are ignored or claimed to be “rhetorical” and subject to “interpretation”!

    It is probably more of a psychological problem than religion problem.

    The two are very much the same problem. The psychology of religious thinking based on “faith”, precludes evidence based reasoning.

    To say that all religion/s are like that is the intellectually easy way out and illogical.

    Not really! Any religion with behaviour derived from “faith” (that is belief without evidence or proof) has no basis on which to build logically.
    Even using logic, the best it is going to manage is a self-consistent castle in the air, with no connection to material reality.



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  • The problem with unevidenced “faith-thinking” is that it allows any interpretation or projection of a personal view into any text.

    For the most part I agree with that statement. Although, it can be demonstrated that empirical evidence can also be subject to a seemingly infinite amount of interpretation as a religious text. That’s one reason theoretical physics has many competing theories of “everything”. So, I don’t think the possibility of having many interpretations invalidates the thing being interpreted.

    It is inherent in quoting the Bible as a source of “morality” that all the misogeny and self contradictions are ignored or claimed to be “rhetorical” and subject to “interpretation”!

    It is possible that the passages are metaphorical which really shouldn’t be a problem for atheists. Even if the Bible is internally consistent it doesn’t make it true. There are some who do not think those passages are misogynistic or homophobic because their definitions may differ from those who are non religious and/or secularists. I haven’t gotten a good answer as to what are misogyny and homophobia except for it is just what the individual thinks it should be just like the definition of evil.

    The two are very much the same problem. The psychology of religious thinking based on “faith”, precludes evidence based reasoning.

    They do have evidence, but not empirical evidence (or perhaps very little to be significant is more accurate). It is mostly personal experiences. An honest Christian should admit however that their experiences could be at the very least coincidences. Also, your definition of faith is not the only one. I know from my studies it has a couple definitions, one being it is trust in an idea with some degree of evidence (not necessarily scientific). In that sense, it would seem every human being has a kind of faith (or assumption) in something that is not based on empirical evidence. Morality is a good example. Yet, the non-religious make claims about morality which are just as unfounded as the religious. Furthermore, it seems to me that those who claim empirical evidence is the best way (and some say only way) to gain knowledge are speaking not from evidence, but from opinion.

    Not really! Any religion with behaviour derived from “faith” (that is belief without evidence or proof) has no basis on which to build logically.

    I agree, but this would include any non-religious philosophies and ideas which contain some degree of uncertainty and/or faith including (but not limited to) logical positivism, rationalism, liberalism, conservatism, scientism, and even empiricism. Logic can be used once you assume something is true, but you’re right that it can only be internally consistent without having proven anything substantial about reality…

    …which is the root of my frustration with both the religious and those otherwise.



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  • The so called “Pro-Life” movement, has nothing to do with a rational understanding of the value or quality of human life

    Actually it has everything to do with this and is not simple matter of education. Their rationale for believing in the definitions of what a human being is and what their value is stems from their basic assumptions. Many are religious, however some are not. In fact the late great Christopher Hitchens was pro-life (though definitely not as radical as some). Pro-life and pro-choice are competing definitions of what a human being is and for the most part their definitions are based on personal opinions.

    You also seem to be using the term “religious population”, to refer specifically to certain Christian religious denominations

    I am not simply speaking of Christianity, but of all religious people. The argument is not just about Christianity but religion at large. At least I assumed as much considering that I have seen many atheists emphasize the evils of religion (including but not limited to Christianity). When lumped together, the number religious people of the world killing their children is probably not that common. If it were, there would be more bodies.

    For the most part, it seems people want to live in peace and comfort, regardless of what they believe.



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  • I’m not sure if you are referring to my statement because I did not do what Justinesaracen said the deists and believers would do. In fact I agreed with him on some points. My statements were as follows:

    1) I merely claimed it is logically possible mental illness and/or drug use could have at least contributed to what they did. In previous statements I had with you I even said we have to wait and see what the investigation comes to in regards to drugs and mental illness.

    2) It is true that atheists can do bad things but I specifically stated in my answer that it is not their atheism that causes them to do evil things but some other thing. I never made the argument “that atheists do bad things too” in order to justify the parents actions.

    3) I said that it is possible they could have been true believers and didn’t follow their religious teachings (whatever true believer means anyway) but I also stated that if more information about this “mystery sect” of Mormonism comes out, it may show to be dangerous and thus the followers may be told to do murderous things.

    All of my statements are reasonable and what I said is not even close to what Justinesaracen was referring to. Please, read the comments in their entirety.



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  • I’m not sure if you are referring to my statement

    Yes James, I was.

    That is that religion. Or better yet, that interpretation of their religion…

    refer justinesaracen Point 3

    It is probably more of a psychological problem than religion problem.

    You’re unqualified. See justinesaracen Point 1

    My hunch is based on the observation that it does not appear that most of the religious population is killing their children

    So you don’t think a problem exists unless millions of kids are being killed? In vivid contrast I think each child is precious and I attribute that sentiment to my superior godless morality. Atheists lack the homicidal urge so historically characteristic of Xians. I notice you haven’t been able to cite a single example of atheist parents killing their kids.

    the number religious people of the world killing their children is probably not that common

    I continue to notice you haven’t been able to cite a single example of atheist parents killing their kids.

    So far it seems that one can come to the conclusion some kind of god/s exists because logically it is possible they exist.

    No. That’s (off-topic) irrational nonsense.

    You seem like a reasonable person to discuss a topic such as this with.

    Thanks for noticing James. I only wish I could reciprocate the sentiment.

    If I may rephrase myself…

    Repetition doesn’t improve any of your unsupported hunches or such illogical leaps of faith.



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  • Thanks for the support Len, but be careful. You said “I notice you haven’t been able to cite a single example of atheist parents killing their kids.” Best to make clear that no atheist parents have killed their children out of some atheist doctrine. Presumably lots of non-Christian parents have committed infanticide, but they did not do so because they were: atheists/unicorn deniers/ scientists/ anti-war/ vegetarians.



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  • Weird. The exact same thing happened to the director of “Gray State” and his family. A supposed murder/suicide. A lot of these strange coincidences happening to “preppers”. I just find it strange that “preppers” who have spent all this time, money and energy into “preparing” for economic hard times, government unrest, end times, natural disasters, the grid going down etc, would suddenly decide to die. Preppers are fighters by nature. Seems awfully counter-intuitive to me to spend tons of resources preparing for disaster only to off yourself. I’m not a prepper but I can certainly understand why they see a need to “be ready.” It’s crazy times we live in. Might want to look a little deeper below the surface on this one.



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  • We don’t and neither does the law. Parents who refuse to get standard medical care for their children because of their religious beliefs are regularly charged with anything from child endangerment to second degree murder. Read the news more carefully. So, yes– both types of situations are death with or viewed the same way. The sad thing here is that there could be no intervention for the children’s sake. Very sad.



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  • James Jan 31, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    The so called “Pro-Life” movement, has nothing to do with a rational understanding of the value or quality of human life

    Actually it has everything to do with this and is not simple matter of education.

    Really?? They value human quality of life above dogma?? That is not what public statements and evidence show.

    Their rationale for believing in the definitions of what a human being is and what their value is stems from their basic assumptions.

    Which are as I said – assumptions and misconceptions, of dogmatic biological illiterates about what constitutes sentient life, who are seeking to interfere in the medical decisions of others.
    Pregnant women have been killed by the refusal and obstruction of abortions, by people who could not tell a bunch of defective cells from a sentient human being!

    You also seem to be using the term “religious population”, to refer specifically to certain Christian religious denominations

    I am not simply speaking of Christianity, but of all religious people. The argument is not just about Christianity but religion at large.

    The topic is about apocalypse, rapture and briefly about fake claims of being “pro-life”!
    This is specific to certain religions and not to many others.
    Why try to included other religious groups in generalities which do not apply to them?

    There is no “consensus of religious views”, among the differing religions, denominations, and sects of the world, so why confuse matters by trying to make generalities apply to all?



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  • James Jan 31, 2015 at 7:33 pm

    The problem with unevidenced “faith-thinking” is that it allows any interpretation or projection of a personal view into any text.

    For the most part I agree with that statement. Although, it can be demonstrated that empirical evidence can also be subject to a seemingly infinite amount of interpretation as a religious text.

    Hardly! Empirical evidence has to be consistent with objective observations, and science requires confirmation by repeat testing so numerous claims fail and are discarded. Some of it is still work in progress.

    That’s one reason theoretical physics has many competing theories of “everything”. So, I don’t think the possibility of having many interpretations invalidates the thing being interpreted.

    Science systematically discards refuted hypotheses and theories, as new data come in.
    Religions just branch into new sects, as groups of believers cling to irrational and unevidenced views.

    There is no equivalence.



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  • Perhaps I spoke too soon about your seemingly rational disposition.

    That is that religion. Or better yet, that interpretation of their religion…

    My statement above was in response to Centauri’s statement:

    That sucks. That’s religion.

    I was merely pointing out that not all religions (including but not limited to Christianity and whatever cult the parents believed in) will cause people to kill their children. Within my rebuttal to you, I even stated:

    if more information about this “mystery sect” of Mormonism comes out, it may show to be dangerous and thus the followers may be told to do murderous things.

    I am open to the possibility they misinterpreted their cult but I also realize it is possible their cult is deadly. Next, you made this statement in regards to my suspicion on the parents’ mental state:

    You’re unqualified

    Meaning unqualified to determine their mental state. I agree I am unqualified. Which is why I also said we should leave it in the hands of the professionals:

    we have to wait and see what the investigation comes to in regards to drugs and mental illness.

    The next statements are in reference to our earlier conversation.

    So you don’t think a problem exists unless millions of kids are being killed? In vivid contrast I think each child is precious and I attribute that sentiment to my superior godless morality.

    I never said each child wasn’t precious. I am saying that if you use the logic that “one bad apple spoils the bunch” we should be against many other things that are not related to religion at all (I do not believe its just one bad apple, but that it is a statistically small number). I also said in previous comments that we should investigate and get some hard numbers to see if it is really widespread as you claim it is (which seems to me like an unsupported leap of faith as well). You seem to be using an emotional argument instead of a logical one. Also, where do you find your morality? It certainly can’t be in your atheism (if in fact you are an atheist) because it is merely a disbelief in god/s. Although it appears you do believe it is your atheism as evidenced by this statement:

    Atheists lack the homicidal urge so historically characteristic of Xians.

    You have given no evidence that the above statement is true. Furthermore, if a characteristic of atheists is that they lack homicidal urges, then it would appear atheism is not merely a disbelief. This seems more like rhetoric just as illogical and faith driven as the religious and your statement may also show you don’t understand the definition of atheism.

    I notice you haven’t been able to cite a single example of atheist parents killing their kids.

    Nor will I ever because their atheism is beside the point. Their atheism should not cause them to kill their children since atheism does not make claims about what is right and wrong. Atheists can do terrible things, but not because atheism says so. I never once made the argument that atheism is just as dangerous as religion. By definition atheism can not be dangerous and by definition religion can possibly be dangerous.
    In response to my observation that it is logically possible god/s exist you said:

    No. That’s (off-topic) irrational nonsense

    I’ll give you it may be slightly off-topic, however if you can’t see that it is at least possible (however extremely unlikely it may be) some kind of god/s exist then I’m afraid you are just not thinking logically.



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  • In response to Alan4discussion’s comments above:

    Really?? They value human quality of life above dogma?? That is not what public statements and evidence show.

    I agree many support the concept of life from conception to birth and that any abortion is wrong, but not all who identify as pro-life are that radical or base their beliefs in religion. I assume that Hitchens didn’t base his views on religious presuppositions. My evidence shows that their are indeed non religious people who are pro-life even if they are a small number:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/03/11/yes-there-are-pro-life-atheists-out-there-heres-why-im-one-of-them/

    Pregnant women have been killed by the refusal and obstruction of abortions, by people who could not tell a bunch of defective cells from a sentient human being!

    It is unfortunate that their have been and will be deaths due to problematic pregnancies (and there are definitely cases in which abortion is necessary). However, biology alone can not tell us whether the collection of cells are a human being or not. The biological sciences merely tell us the cells are human cells (or are based on human DNA), will (unless damaged) grow into a future human citizen, and the collection of cells cannot think until the brain cells are numerous enough. Some believe the cells qualify as a human being because of how they have defined a human being, and others do not based on their own definition. And, as I am sure you know, even when the cells develop into the later stages of pregnancy some do not define the fetus as a human being until birth (all the way into the third trimester). At what moment is the potential human being a real human being? On another note, Dawkins said (with regards to the down syndrome tweet) its not a matter of if it is human but it’s “quality” of life. You seem to imply you hold a similar belief. If so, my question is: at what point is the quality of their life considered too terrible for them to live? Personally, (considering what happens throughout history when a society begins to decide who should live and die based on assumptions) I would rather err on the side of caution and only kill a potential human being in extreme circumstances (such as the mother’s imminent physical harm or death).

    There is no “consensus of religious views”, among the differing religions, denominations, and sects of the world, so why confuse matters by trying to make generalities apply to all?

    The reason being this statement by Centari:

    That sucks. That’s religion.

    I wasn’t the one who confused the issue by claiming all religion is like this specific cult. Furthermore, I recognize that while mental illness and drug use may be the reason (or a contributing reason) for their actions I have repeatedly said I would like more information on the specifics of their sect. Only then can we determine if their cult condones killing their children and spews radical views on the apocalypse. I am entirely open to the possibility and never said it was impossible (I merely think there is more to this situation at this point in time).

    In regards to our other conversation:

    Hardly! Empirical evidence has to be consistent with objective observations, and science requires confirmation by repeat testing so numerous claims fail and are discarded.

    Empirical evidence and objective observations are the same thing. Theories on the other hand are the subjective interpretations of the evidence which are tested and proven with a degree of certainty to either be more or less consistent with the objective observations. In other words, they are subjective interpretations of data and the best/most accurate are based heavily on objective data (though all still contain some degree of fallibility). This is what I mean about seemingly infinite interpretations of empirical evidence. My reasoning to choose theoretical physics as an example is because of the difficulty of proving any number of the theories of everything. When empirical evidence (while in existence) is limited, more theories and hypothesis can be postulated. This is where Occam’s razor and statistics are useful in determining which may be more likely true (and even the religious know that some interpretations of their text are more likely than others). The point is that even if a large number of interpretations can be gleaned from the subject being interpreted (observation and empirical evidence with science and scripture with the religious) it does not mean the thing being interpreted is invalid and should be discarded.

    Science systematically discards refuted hypotheses and theories, as new data come in.
    Religions just branch into new sects, as groups of believers cling to irrational and unevidenced views.

    This is a strength science, but that does not mean it doesn’t branch out. One can view the candidate theories of everything as branches stemming from what know to be most likely true. Much like evolution, they compete and (as you said) when more data is discovered some theories are shown to be inaccurate and die. With religions it is the same except it may be impossible to prove one is true over another (unless of course one of the gods actually does something and proves one). You could consider religion a work in progress like science except that it is progressing very slowly (and most likely is stalled). It is as if they are competing, but the evidence hasn’t (and may never) come in to prove one. Eventually this could occur within modern science (and may have already since string theory seems to be nearly impossible to prove with a degree of reasonable certainty at this point in time).

    I think this may be consistent with Hitchen’s view on religion being a precursor of science.



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  • I hadn’t heard the term “Prepper” before. Interesting.

    One thing I don’t understand. Many (most?) Preppers are also Christians (for some reason the two seem to go together) who believe that when they die they are going to a better world. That being the case, why would they go to such great lengths to prolong their time in this one?



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  • James Feb 1, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    In response to Alan4discussion’s comments above:

    Really?? They value human quality of life above dogma?? That is not what public statements and evidence show.

    I agree many support the concept of life from conception to birth and that any abortion is wrong, but not all who identify as pro-life are that radical or base their beliefs in religion.

    I am against late term abortions of healthy foetuses, and it would appear we agree on several points.

    However the core of protests come from organisations like the Roman Catholic Church, which make the biologically illiterate claim that due to the fiction of “ensoulment”, zygotes are human from conception.
    It is utterly ludicrous that single cells or zygotes which have not yet implanted, which have no nerve cells, and which may spontaneously abort without anyone noticing, “are human beings”.
    They have human DNA, but they are no more human beings, than the skin cells you or I brush out of our mouths when we clean our teeth!

    I assume that Hitchens didn’t base his views on religious presuppositions. My evidence shows that their are indeed non religious people who are pro-life even if they are a small number:

    There are well thought out medical codes of conduct about abortions (and euthanasia) in the more civilised countries, but the shouting ignoramuses keep featuring in politics, and in the media, and cause serious damage to other people in backward countries, where ignorant dogmas are allowed to dominate.
    There are indeed some non-religious people who may be irrational, ignorant, or bigoted, but many would have specific objections to particular circumstances, rather than unthinking views based on dogmas and ignorance.

    At what moment is the potential human being a real human being?

    I would say, when it has immediate potential for survival and has a working nervous system, although as with many features of continuous development both diagnosis and drawing specific lines, is difficult. There are nevertheless clear stages where zygotes, blastocysts, and foetuses, are NOT human beings.

    On another note, Dawkins said (with regards to the down syndrome tweet) its not a matter of if it is human but it’s “quality” of life. You seem to imply you hold a similar belief.

    Richard’s comments (and mine) on the actual discussion are here:-

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/08/abortion-down-syndrome-an-apology-for-letting-slip-the-dogs-of-twitterwar/

    I would take the view that where a foetus has severe disabilities, the best option is an abortion, followed by the prospective parents trying again for a healthy child. I would not knowingly inflict life-long disabilities on a child.
    The vast majority of eggs and sperm never get to form offspring anyway, and significant numbers of disabled foetuses spontaneously abort naturally.

    It is noteworthy, that the same (allegedly) “Pro-Life” organisations, oppose the “three-person-embryo” where mutated defective mitochondria, are replaced by mitochondrial donation from a healthy donor egg to avoid having a disabled child.

    They are simply dogma besotted, and have no concept of “quality of life”!



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  • I agree with a large portion of your response. The points of disagreement for me are with what makes a human being a human being and at what point the suffering (or potential suffering) of the fetus is great enough to require abortion.

    With regards to when a potential human should be considered a human being, I am still undecided. At this point in time, I suppose the safest moral position (for me at least) is that if a fetus is healthy and developing as expected (no defects or threat to mother’s life), it shouldn’t be aborted. I am not convinced that anything earlier than a fetus could be considered a human being, although I have to read more on the subject before I commit to one position or another.

    The more difficult question for me would be how much suffering or potential suffering is enough to justify aborting. There are some who would advocate aborting an unwanted fetus since their life may be more difficult than a human being born with parents who did want and planned for them. I think this position has great potential for abuse and should be avoided for the most part.

    Regarding only the health of the fetus, I suppose if it is so deformed it will most certainly die after birth, it may be alright to abort.

    The amount of uncertainty in answering these questions is troubling to me and in some ways I can understand the far-right position that the zygote should be considered a human being (although at this point I believe that is taking their position too far). I’m just trying to be as cautious as possible (without being unreasonable) when it comes to such a nuanced issue.



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  • James Jan 31, 2015 at 9:32 am

    I’m not sure why you seem to say the deists are the ones making the arguments and then say later on it is the Christians. They’re not even close, and deists don’t usually hold any religious beliefs on an apocalypse scenario.

    I think the source of this , is that quite often on this site, Xtians working on the negative proof fallacy, to support their argument, describe a deist god with vague, immaterial properties, and then jump to: “There! You can’t disprove that -Therefore Jesus exists!
    Another fallacy is the use of the all-embracing term, “religion”, to mean “Xtianity”, – and frequently, their personal perception of Xtianity – which bears no resemblance to the diversity of faith-beliefs of the world.



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  • There is another example of a delusionally religious cult killing.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-31087839

    Two members of a cult in China have been executed for murdering a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in Shandong, according to a local court.

    Zhang Lidong and his daughter Zhang Fan were members of the banned Church of the Almighty God cult.

    They were part of a group who attempted to recruit the 35-year-old victim, >Wu Shuoyan, in the restaurant in the town of Zhaoyuan in May 2014.

    When she refused to give her phone number, they beat her to death.

    The Shandong Yantai Intermediate People’s Court announced the Zhangs’ execution on its Weibo account (in Chinese) on Monday morning, noting that the father and daughter had “committed murder and used a cult to intentionally break the law”.

    The group was found guilty in October last year. Three others were give jail sentences ranging from seven years to life imprisonment.

    The court’s statement said that Zhang Fan had asked Ms Wu for her contact details twice. When the victim refused, the group believed that she was “possessed by an evil spirit”, and Zhang Fan threw a chair at her.

    The rest of the group joined in the attack and beat her with mops brought by Zhang Lidong, who also stamped on Ms Wu’s head and face. She died at the scene from her injuries.

    Zhang Lidong said in an interview later that he believed Ms Wu was a demon and that “we had to destroy her”.

    Since the killing, which sparked public outrage, the Chinese authorities have detained hundreds of members of the cult.

    The cult’s core belief is that God has returned to earth as a Chinese woman to wreak the apocalypse. The only person who claims direct contact with this god is a former physics teacher, Zhao Weishan, who founded the cult 25 years ago and has since fled to the United States.



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  • I hope you will pardon my intrusion in this “off-topic” discussion, Mr. 4discussion (and James), and be kind enough to point out to me where in the referenced article it states when a human being becomes a human being. I searched for the words “human” and “being” and was surprised to discover neither appear anywhere in the article. Oddly enough, the word “life” doesn’t even appear. Perhaps there’s a synonym used there that I’m not familiar with, or perhaps I need to click a specific link?
    As an alternative, perhaps you could help clear this up for me by explaining in your own words what a human egg fertilized by a human spermatozoon should be considered.
    Or maybe you mean something different when you say “human life”.



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  • Doug Feb 2, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    I searched for the words “human” and “being” and was surprised to discover neither appear anywhere in the article.

    That is because the term “human being” only becomes an accurate description after a baby is born.

    As an alternative, perhaps you could help clear this up for me by explaining in your own words what a human egg fertilized by a human spermatozoon should be considered.
    Or maybe you mean something different when you say “human life”.

    I don’t need any new words. The correct medical terminology on the link to the medical encyclopaedia is quite clear with both text and diagrams: –

    Egg, sperm, zygote, blastocyst, embryo, foetus, and on birth a baby human being.

    They are all human cells containing DNA, but without a functioning brain and until they develop the capacity for independent life, they are not “human beings”. They are human tissue – as I explained earlier – just like the human cells we brush out of our mouths when cleaning teeth.

    BTW: Medline is the world leading medical reference library database for doctors and medical staff, – with Medline+ being the simpler version for patients who wish to learn and understand the terminology and the procedures.



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  • …the term “human being” only becomes an accurate description after a baby is born.”

    Since this also wasn’t stated in the referenced article, I will assume that this is your opinion. So is it the “human” part or the “being” part that is inaccurate? If they are “human” (which you seem willing to admit), and they exist (be), and they are even alive(!), then what’s the issue? Are they (somehow) “non-human” beings? Do you have a different definition of human? Or is it that they are human “non-beings”? Do you have a different definition of “being”?

    “I don’t need any new words.”

    I had not asked for “new” words, just your words.

    …without a functioning brain and until they develop the capacity for independent life, they are not “human beings”.

    So, a fetus doesn’t have a functioning brain? That doesn’t jive with what I’ve read, but perhaps you mean “fully”, or “sufficiently” functioning. If so, sufficient for what? Surely a fetus brain functions sufficiently for a human fetus, no?
    In any case, can a “fully” functioning human brain (which perhaps occurs at birth) become a fully functioning human brain without first being a “less-than-fully” functioning human brain? Can a human infant be born (and have the capacity to become someone like you or me) without going through all the usual developmental stages, with all their “capacity” to become the next stages? Has anyone pinpointed the moment when capacity becomes actuality? And even if one could or has, on what basis could one justify destroying “capacity” but not “actuality” when the latter depends on the former? If you destroy the former, are you not also destroying the latter?

    “…they are not “human beings”. They are human tissue…”

    Well, I’m encouraged that you are willing to admit these tissues are “human”.

    “…just like the human cells we brush out of our mouths when cleaning teeth.”

    But that statement is rather discouraging. If you don’t see the difference, there is something seriously wrong with your view of human life. Once the egg and sperm unite to begin the process, we’re no longer dealing with the equivalent of epithelial cells, for if “the capacity for independent life” begins anywhere, this has to be the very (time and) place.



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  • To topic:

    There appears to be a recent epidemic of infanticide by Mormons from Utah.

    According to the NY Times the murderous Megan Huntsman was a Mormon who strangled six, possibly seven, of her baby children to death.

    The Methodist Susan Smith is another Xian mother who drowned her young kids. Before confessing to Sheriff Wells she asked him to pray with her.

    Religion can be fatally dangerous to innocent children, as anyone who has read the bible can attest.



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  • Doug Feb 2, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Since this also wasn’t stated in the referenced article, I will assume that this is your opinion. So is it the “human” part or the “being” part that is inaccurate?

    Perhaps you should state what alternative view you are proposing along with supporting evidence.

    Your questions seem to be expressions of incredulity about basic biology.

    I thought it was obvious from my previous posts that a human “BEING” is an independent living entity, with a (basically) functioning brain and a capacity for independent survival.

    So, a fetus doesn’t have a functioning brain? That doesn’t jive with what I’ve read, but perhaps you mean “fully”, or “sufficiently” functioning.

    Foetal development is a continuous process which varies from individual to individual, so it is not possible to draw exact lines without trying to “split hairs”. It is however quite clear from the Medline link that there are distinct stages in this development, and that the early stages bear no resemblance to the functioning or the structure of a human being.
    No competent person thinks a zygote or a blastocyst has a brain. The link explained the development of the nervous system.

    However most medical ethical (as distinct from theological) guidelines recognise the approaching birth and potential survival, so do not allow late stage abortions.

    Can a human infant be born (and have the capacity to become someone like you or me) without going through all the usual developmental stages, with all their “capacity” to become the next stages?

    No, – and neither can every sperm and egg, but that does not mean all of them do or have to.

    In fact most of them don’t, as is also the case of numerous zygotes, and embryos which spontaneously abort naturally – often without anyone noticing. Often deformed foetuses also abort naturally as a “miscarriage”.

    Has anyone pinpointed the moment when capacity becomes actuality?

    Yes! Survival at birth.

    It is utterly ludicrous that single cells or zygotes which have not yet implanted, which have no nerve cells, and which may spontaneously abort without anyone noticing, “are human beings”.
    They have human DNA, but they are no more human beings, than the skin cells you or I brush out of our mouths when we clean our teeth!”

    But that statement is rather discouraging.

    It should certainly discourage theological whimsical ignorance.

    If you don’t see the difference, there is something seriously wrong with your view of human life.

    Really! Such as it recognising the difference between cells and whole organisms! I think you have it backwards and need some basic education in biology.

    Once the egg and sperm unite to begin the process, we’re no longer dealing with the equivalent of epithelial cells, for if “the capacity for independent life” begins anywhere, this has to be the very (time and) place.

    Capacity is not actuality. As cloning and organ cultures have demonstrated, various cells can develop into new individuals, and numerous zygotes fail to develop.

    Anyone with a knowledge of the science of biology beyond dogmatic Bronze-age theological notions of humans, knows that new individuals can be formed from various cell types.

    I appreciate that science which debunks dogma, can trigger denial in those deeply indoctrinated.



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  • This seems more of an argument over what the definition of a human being is and whether or not the definition has sufficient evidence to be considered true. It also is a debate over whether the human being is the brain or not (which I suppose is naturalism vs super-naturalism). Pinpointing when a collection of cells becomes a human being is exclusively dependent on what the criteria for a human being is.

    I thought it was obvious from my previous posts that a human “BEING” is an independent living entity, with a (basically) functioning brain and a capacity for independent survival.

    I suppose the more interesting question is how does one arrive at this definition of human being. I have seen it argued that if independent survival is indeed part of the criteria for qualifying as a human being, then those who cannot sustain themselves can not be considered a human being either. By this definition, an eighty year old man dependent on life support may not be considered a human being.

    I don’t think this is what Alan meant, but it would be helpful to define to what capacity must a potential human be able to survive independently in order to be considered an actual human (and what is the justification to believe this definition).
    It would also be helpful in this discussion if we defined what is the capacity of a basically functioning brain as well.

    Perhaps you should state what alternative view you are proposing along with supporting evidence.

    Some of Doug’s questions are valid and the motives for asking them do not detract from the logic of some of his criticisms. However, I would like to know where he is getting his definitions as well since he hasn’t given much justification to believe them so far.



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  • Hello, again, Mr. 4discussion (and James).

    Perhaps you should state what alternative view you are proposing along with supporting evidence.

    Conception results in a new human being. Biology.

    Your questions seem to be expressions of incredulity about basic biology.

    No incredulity here. I accept the facts of biology.

    I thought it was obvious from my previous posts that a human “BEING” is an independent living entity, with a (basically) functioning brain and a capacity for independent survival.

    I see this as opinion, and I disagree with it. (And the article you referenced didn’t offer anything to change my mind.)

    Foetal development is a continuous process which varies from individual to individual, so it is not possible to draw exact lines without trying to “split hairs”. It is however quite clear from the Medline link that there are distinct stages in this development, and that the early stages bear no resemblance to the functioning or the structure of a human being.

    Continuous process – yes!

    Not possible to draw exact lines – yes! (Yet somehow you draw one very clear and distinct line.)

    And I would humbly suggest that the only way one can state that “the early stages bear no resemblance to the functioning or the structure of a human being” is if one ignores the fact that one cannot get to the stage that you call a human being without going through all of the stages that precede it. Trace human development backwards from birth to conception and every later stage “resembles”, with only slight differences, the one immediately before it (how could it not!). To see how amazingly the resemblance is retained from one stage to the next, now play the tape forward. Human being all the way through.

    No competent person thinks a zygote or a blastocyst has a brain.

    I guess that means you would consider me a “competent person” (phew), since I never stated (and wouldn’t state) that either of these stages in the development of a human being has “a brain” (setting aside for now the fact that we haven’t defined precisely what you mean by “a brain”). However, I would state (and have stated) that those stages have the building blocks (hopefully) for the brain that would normally be present in a human being just before as well as after birth.

    …most medical ethical (as distinct from theological) guidelines recognise the approaching birth and potential survival…

    And if they choose to ignore the “potential survival” that begins at the moment of conception, that is their prerogative, and they have their “reasons”, but I disagree with them as well. And this has nothing to do with any religious worldview.

    No, – and neither can every sperm and egg, but that does not mean all of them do or have to.

    In fact most of them don’t [survive], as is also the case of numerous zygotes, and embryos which spontaneously abort naturally – often without anyone noticing. Often deformed foetuses also abort naturally as a “miscarriage”.

    All irrelevant to my beliefs about what constitutes a “human being”. Sperms and eggs are clearly not human beings. The others are, because they result from conception (or its equivalent), and the fact that some of them do not survive due to factors that have little or nothing to do with the intentions of other human beings says absolutely nothing about their “human being-ness”. If we used that as an argument, then we could say infants are not human beings because some of them can be killed by hurricanes. Please don’t waste our time on that line of reasoning.

    …recognising the difference between cells and whole organisms!”

    …need some basic education in biology.

    I have a basic education in biology.

    I am even aware that there are “whole organisms” that consist of just one cell or a few cells. (Should we not consider them “[whatever species] beings”?)

    The issue here is not as simple as you try to make it out with this ridiculous accusation. Organisms are made up of cells. A human egg cell (not a human being), when fertilized by a human sperm cell (also not a human being) immediately divides into a multi-celled organism (voila! a new human being). If all goes well, an infant is eventually born and hopefully grows into an adult. (Oops, maybe I shouldn’t use those terms for the later stages in the life of a human being, as this can be confusing.)

    …various cells can develop into new individuals…

    Irrelevant. The “various cells” are not human beings. If something happens or is done to them to cause them to divide and differentiate in a way similar to a fertilized egg, then we are dealing with a human being (unless of course non-human material is introduced).

    And please stop suggesting that my views are based on religion or whatever other insulting phrase you choose to use to characterize beliefs that differ from yours. This is unnecessary and not helpful Nothing I have said here is based on a religious worldview.



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  • Doug Feb 3, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Perhaps you should state what alternative view you are proposing along with supporting evidence.

    Conception results in a new human being. Biology.

    Nope! It is standard RCC and C of E THEOLOGY – due to the need to slot in “soul” somewhere with slight superficial credibility.

    I have already explained that the genetic content is the consistent with other cells in the human gene-pool, and that there is no certainty of a fertilised egg progressing to a human being. Many or most of them do not, and some divide into twins.
    Are you seriously suggesting that the bins and tampons, are full of spontaneously aborted “human beings” rather than zygotes and early embryos?

    While you may arbitrarily choose to define a zygote as a human being, that has no bearing on the “Prolife” issues of contraception or abortion other than in the confused mind of the religiously indoctrinated.
    It is just semantic confusion, not science.

    And I would humbly suggest that the only way one can state that “the early stages bear no resemblance to the functioning or the structure of a human being” is if one ignores the fact that one cannot get to the stage that you call a human being without going through all of the stages that precede it.

    As I pointed out, this is just part of a continuous process which exists before and after birth and there is no biological reason why this particular mixing of genes should be considered as a final step in the start of a human individual.

    You don’t claim to have a working car when the boxes of components arrive at the factory, along with an assembly plan.

    Trace human development backwards from birth to conception and every later stage “resembles”, with only slight differences, the one immediately before it (how could it not!).

    This is just discontinuous thinking about a continuous process.
    Why stop there? We can trace human development all the way back to LUCA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Last_universal_ancestor

    To see how amazingly the resemblance is retained from one stage to the next, now play the tape forward.

    All the way through evolutionary history, with branching species moving from single cells to multicellular organisms and on to vertebrates gradually resembling each other less as mutant DNA is selected.

    Human being all the way through.

    No at all, although vertebrate embryos do closely resemble each other in the first stages.

    – and neither can every sperm and egg, but that does not mean all of them do or have to.

    In fact most of them don’t [survive], as is also the case of numerous zygotes, and embryos which spontaneously abort naturally – often without anyone noticing. Often deformed foetuses also abort naturally as a “miscarriage”.

    All irrelevant to my beliefs about what constitutes a “human being”.

    I know! We are debating how medical facts are irrelevant to your personal beliefs.

    Sperms and eggs are clearly not human beings. The others are, because they result from conception (or its equivalent), and the fact that some of them do not survive due to factors that have little or nothing to do with the intentions of other human beings says absolutely nothing about their “human being-ness”.

    “Intentions of other human beings”, have nothing to do with medical facts; – unless of course you are using wish-thinking and circular arguments.

    Please don’t waste our time on that line of reasoning.

    Irony???

    This “human beings from conception” notion is purely a personal definition and assertion, which has no bearing on the actual biology. It appears to be something you have uncritically accepted and copied as an assumption from theology.

    The issue here is not as simple as you try to make it out with this ridiculous accusation. Organisms are made up of cells. A human egg cell (not a human being), when fertilized by a human sperm cell (also not a human being) immediately divides into a multi-celled organism (voila! a new human being)

    Coral polyps also divide into separate individuals, but are not “new organisms” until they can function independently of the parent!

    An assembly map and a few parts, is an end product! –
    Don’t try to make a living in manufacturing!

    And please stop suggesting that my views are based on religion or whatever other insulting phrase you choose to use to characterize beliefs that differ from yours. This is unnecessary and not helpful

    Then perhaps you should think it through, and stop copying chunks of dogma, and then trying to make up rationalised arguments to justify them.
    The “offended-card” is the last resort of a failed, unevidenced, irrational, circular, argument.

    Nothing I have said here is based on a religious worldview.

    It just happens to be the standard RCC pseudo-science dogma which I pointed out in my first comment on this subject !! ??



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  • I think its clear what Doug’s stance on the subject is now, but I think my questions to Alan got lost above so I’ll re-post them. Both are based on his definition of a human being.

    … a human “BEING” is an independent living entity, with a (basically) functioning brain and a capacity for independent survival.

    My questions for Alan are:

    1) To what capacity must a potential human be able to survive independently in order to be considered an actual human (and what is the justification to believe this definition).

    2) To what capacity must a brain be able to function in order to be considered a basically functioning brain (and what is the justification for this position as well).



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  • James Feb 4, 2015 at 8:50 am

    … a human “BEING” is an independent living entity, with a (basically) functioning brain and a capacity for independent survival.

    My questions for Alan are:

    1) To what capacity must a potential human be able to survive independently in order to be considered an actual human (and what is the justification to believe this definition).

    These are questions which have been debated by scientific and legal specialists. The processes are unclear – especially with modern life support innovations. The exact points are difficult to define, but it is very clear that premature births during the early stages do not survive and as they progress an increasing percentage do survive, although often with disabilities.

    I do not have a dogmatic answer to an exact age, but am quite clear that cleaners do not remove tampons full of “human beings” from the bins in ladies toilets, regardless of if Doug wants to redefine zygotes, blastocysts and early embryos, for whatever semantic shuffles theologists like to generate.

    I consider the abortion arrangements in England to reasonable science based legislation, and that in Ireland to be destructively ridiculous.

    2) To what capacity must a brain be able to function in order to be considered a basically functioning brain (and what is the justification for this position as well).

    Again this is open to debate by medical experts, but it is very obvious that single cells without nerves to not have brains! Not even a single cell of a brain. Multi-celled zygotes are similar.
    Brains of course continue to develop post- birth on into teens and adulthood.

    Zygotes have a DNA programme to construct a body, and until that has progressed to the stage where the key parts function and can function independently, they are not separate organisms.

    I would take birth as the key transition from foetus to baby, with some weeks for margins of error to allow for survivable premature births.

    I would take the view that such matters should be decided on the basis of medical ethics and medical expertise – with no input from bronze-age dogmas and the dark-ages of medical ignorance.
    ( Anyone can offer a personal opinion – but that should not be confused with an expert opinion based on a deep understanding of the subject.)



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  • I agree with you on many points. I also have found there to be plenty of debate within the medical community as to when the lines should be drawn. This uncertainty is why I am cautious about the “being” state of a fetus (since it has some semblance of a brain and nervous system). While I’m undecided about pre-fetal development, at this point I’m not convinced that pre-fetal cells (even if it can be called life) can be considered human beings.

    One of the only things I disagree with you is the examples you give of natural abortion. I don’t think the fact that natural abortions occur effect the debate very much for either side. I guess it is not really a disagreement, just I don’t see the reason to make the statements. If the debate had anything to do with the evils of natural abortion, then I suppose one would have to picket god/s or nature. It is all about whether it is morally right or wrong for human beings to medically induce an abortion and if it is right, to what extent.

    I guess my main point is that as the potential human being develops, the closer in composition it becomes like an actual human beings. If we are not careful about how we define the fetus, with respect to being a human being, it is at least possible it could negatively effect already born human beings (like in the examples of my earlier post). I would just like to bring the probability of that happening as close to zero as reasonably possible.



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  • I appreciate your comments, James.

    Despite the apparent futility of the effort, I will offer this article to support my position:
    https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/wdhbb.html

    And because it has become quite burdensome to respond to all of Mr. 4discussion’s disagreements and misunderstandings of my statements, I will offer just these few final comments on this subject:

    It is standard RCC and C of E THEOLOGY – due to the need to slot in “soul” somewhere with slight superficial credibility.

    As I am unfamiliar with those organizations and I’ve already told you that my position on the question has nothing to do with religion (and as the word “souls” was never even thought about by me until you brought it up here), this is irrelevant and unhelpful to anyone reading this.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the bins and tampons, are full of
    spontaneously aborted “human beings” rather than zygotes and early
    embryos?

    Yes, I am.

    While you may arbitrarily choose to define a zygote as a human
    being…

    My choice is no more arbitrary than yours (and one could argue that it is much less so, as it points to a specific event).

    You don’t claim to have a working car when the boxes of components
    arrive at the factory, along with an assembly plan.

    That’s right, I don’t. I claim to have a human being when the LIVING components necessary to produce one are united and do what biology describes and many of us have observed. (Poor choice of analogy.)

    Why stop there?

    Because we’re discussing the life of a single human being, not the history of humanity.

    Coral polyps also divide into separate individuals, but are not “new organisms” until they can function independently of the parent!

    Regardless of the species, divided, separate individuals (your words) which have the potential to eventually become independent (regardless of the time-frame or reasons for dependence) are new organisms. Dependence is irrelevant. It is your arbitrary choice to deny them that distinction simply because they cannot “function independently” (whatever that means to you).

    So much more to say, but sadly no more time.



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  • Doug Feb 4, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    Despite the apparent futility of the effort, I will offer this article to support my position:
    https: //www.princeton.edu/~ prolife/articles/wdhbb.html

    International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 1999, – Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D. – (copyright February 1999)

    This is an article by an ignorant prolife theist apologist, with a Master of Arts degree, pontificating on MEDICAL SCIENCE in a Sociology Journal!

    Am I supposed to be be impressed???

    And because it has become quite burdensome to respond to all of Mr. 4discussion’s disagreements and misunderstandings of my statements, I will offer just these few final comments on this subject:

    Your problem is that I understand them only too well, and I recognise your theological sources of pseudo-science, even if you don’t!

    It is standard RCC and C of E THEOLOGY –
    due to the need to slot in “soul” somewhere
    with slight superficial credibility.

    As I am unfamiliar with those organizations and I’ve already told you that my position on the question has nothing to do with religion (and as the word “souls” was never even thought about by me until you brought it up here), this is irrelevant and unhelpful to anyone reading this.

    It is nevertheless your source data regardless of your denials.

    Are you seriously suggesting that the bins and tampons, are full of
    spontaneously aborted “human beings” rather
    than zygotes and early embryos?

    Yes, I am.

    With this level of ignorant denial of individual organisms, rational biological debate based on evidence is difficult.

    While you may arbitrarily choose to define
    a zygote as a human being…

    My choice is no more arbitrary than yours (and one could argue that it is much less so, as it points to a specific event).

    Wrong!! I use a standard biological definition.

    Why stop there?

    Because we’re discussing the life of a single human being, not the history of humanity.

    Any individual contains the genetic history of ancestral humanity, and no single life is isolated from the gene-pool or from life as a whole.

    Coral polyps also divide into separate
    individuals, but are not “new organisms”
    until they can function independently
    of the parent!

    Regardless of the species, divided, separate individuals (your words) which have the potential to eventually become independent (regardless of the time-frame or reasons for dependence) are new organisms.
    Dependence is irrelevant. It is your arbitrary choice to deny them that distinction simply because they cannot “function independently” (whatever that means to you).

    Wrong again! Independent organisms are independent individuals, only after they have become self sustaining as such.
    I know you are in denial of science, and regard scientific facts a irrelevant to your views.
    That is why your views are detached from reality, as you persistently try to re-define words to dodge standard meanings.
    You also persistently engage in psychological projection and learn nothing about biology.



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