Good Without God in 2016

Jan 5, 2016

By Robyn Blumner

Now that news editors have assembled and disseminated their end-of-year lists – Top 10 of This, Worst 5 of That – I’d like to mention one of the Most Missed Stories of 2015: how religious privilege plays out in American politics. You can’t escape it, and yet it is almost always escaped.

What I mean by religious privilege is the presumption that being a member of a Judeo-Christian faith is better than having no religion or being a nonbeliever. This is something the news media routinely and uncritically accept.

The results are predictable: Nonbelievers can’t run for office as openly secular, which skews public policy on issues such as women’s reproductive freedom and whether evolution is taught in school, and politicians compete with each other to broadcast their sanctimony.

Here is a partial list of ways GOP presidential candidates have made explicit or implicit claims that their Christian faith makes them better people and more qualified to be president.

Carly Fiorina told an audience in Iowa: ” I think people of genuine faith, whatever their faith is – I’m a Christian – but people of genuine faith, I believe, make better leaders.”
Ted Cruz: “Any president who doesn’t begin every day on his knees isn’t fit to be commander-in-chief.”
A variation on that theme came from The Donald himself, who showed up at this year’s annual Values Voter Summit waving a Bible (his favorite book, by the way).
Mike Huckabee told the same gathering a year prior that nonbelievers should be rooted out of government saying, those who “refuse to hear God’s heart” should be fired and replaced by those who hear it.
Marco Rubio says when the Bible and civil law come into conflict “God’s rules always win.”
And Seventh Day Adventist and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson subscribes to a literal six-day creation of Earth and suggests Darwin’s theory of evolution was inspired by Satan “to make people believe there was no God.” He talks about his religious beliefs regularly on the campaign trail.
In a poll by the Des Moines Register in October, 89 percent of likely Iowa caucus goes said Carson was an attractive candidate because he vowed his actions would be guided by his faith in God. (Because it worked out so well after God allegedly told George W. Bush to launch the Iraq War.)

There are plenty of religious Americans who don’t like all this God talk and are more comfortable with religion being a private matter.

Then there are people like me, atheists, and others who either don’t believe in the supernatural or who simply don’t subscribe to any religious dogma. For us, the presumption that being religious translates into good, moral character or makes one a better leader or more presidential has an insidious subtext: We are less American.

This is borne out in opinion polls. Forty percent of Americans would not vote for an otherwise qualified candidate for president if he or she is an atheist. Only socialists poll worse. (And I suspect the two are unfairly conflated as a holdover from the “godless, Communist” days of the former Soviet Union.)

Think about what this means. People who say the Earth is 6,000 years old can get elected president while those who say they reject the supernatural and subscribe to an evidence-based view of the natural world cannot.

Openly secular people are precluded from the public policy table for no valid reason and to the detriment of rational debate on issues such as sex education, access to birth control, abortion, gay rights, faith-based initiatives, private school vouchers, whether creationism should be taught in science classrooms, climate change and appropriate science funding.

Not a single member of Congress will call himself or herself an atheist. Not one. Here again is religious privilege at play – when politicians shorthand their way to being perceived as good, trustworthy and moral by wrapping themselves in religion. If the media simply pushed back, just a little, this undeserved privilege could be dispelled.

Fiorina has repeatedly claimed that people of faith make better leaders, explaining that faith gives people humility, empathy and optimism. As a nonbeliever I’d want to know if she thinks atheists don’t have those qualities or as much of them? In fact, humility, empathy and even optimism are humanist values, in evidence among all peoples of the world regardless of their beliefs.

Moreover there are countless examples of deeply religious people doing horrendous things in the name of their faith. Their religion didn’t give them humility or empathy – maybe just the opposite.

The nonreligious is the fastest growing cohort in America. We represent 22 percent of American adults and fully a third of millennials. A significant subset of that group will tell pollsters they are either atheist or agnostic. And yet politicians – particularly Republicans – have no problem relegating us to “the other” status.

When piety is praised not to applaud the keeping of the Sabbath or other religious obligations but as an encompassing term to suggest positive humanist values and characteristics, it’s a false equivalency and a damaging one for the millions and millions of Americans who are good without God.

110 comments on “Good Without God in 2016

  • Robyn,
    It’s a very nice piece. Short and to the point. Excellent exposure for the good without God idea. We hear the statements you presented above by politicians so often that it’s become background noise. This works against us. I wish the media would confront these politicians about leaving major decisions up to their invisible friend in the sky. These decisions can harm or kill huge numbers of innocent people. Why is this seen as good and comforting?

    I hope I live long enough to watch an atheist candidate for president chew out and shame a theist candidate for asking their invisible friend for advice on whether or not he/she should send the American military into another country for the purpose of pulverizing it and killing all of the innocent people there.

    If American atheists, humanists and even agnostics continue to grow in numbers and find their voices in the media and public arena in general, maybe I’ll get to see a candidate who isn’t afraid to loudly proclaim that their framework on political issues is based on solid ethics and to what Phil Rimmer calls “betterment” of society.

    This is why articles like yours and other forms of public statements are so valuable. There are good people out there who are being intimidated by their own indoctrinated family members and by bullies with large public access – you named some of them above.

    When we have the courage to speak out and promote ethical leadership then we have the effect of letting others know that they can do the same thing and that the world won’t end if they do so.

    Is there a tipping point in sight for us?



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  • How do we reach the other side, though? I know some activists. They all write their articles and their articles are read by their friends and by those who agree with them.

    How does one engage the other side?

    Nothing new here, frankly. It’s all been said before, by Dawkins and others. Nice reiteration.

    Sorry to sound a bit harsh but I really think that we have hit a wall on this site. We are repeating ourselves. We need to challenge ourselves to come up with some new ideas, and be more imaginative, creative – and we need to think up ways of influencing those who disagree with us. That is far more difficult than stating the obvious.

    I will say this: it is comforting to be allied with like-minded people. But is that the goal? our comfort?

    It does not appear that the Dawkins website itself will sweep religion away from the world or change much of anything. (I hope that the funds raised by the site will help bring about change.)

    Just because within the confines of one’s own argument one is undoubtedly right, does not mean that there is social force behind what one is saying. Being right about one thing within a limited ambit of engagements is the easiest thing to do, Robyn. A friend of mine has his own hobbyhorse: he can’t understand why others are not so anti-Islam as he is, given the horrors that extremists have perpetrated. Believe me when I say he has facts and figures and within his own ambit he is entirely correct. Believe me also when I say that this is an idée fixe with him and that it’s made him more and more extreme so he cannot dialogue with other people about it or anything touching it. He’s already had all the arguments with himself and like-minded people, and is just so outraged!

    Let us not become like him.



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  • I really think that we have hit a wall on this site.

    I don’t agree. The wearing away of religion is a very slow process, which is closely linked to the rise of scientific knowledge, an understanding of human psychology and the general loosening of political and social shackles. In rasher moments I would also suggest that it might be linked to the evolution of a more rational and liberated sexual morality; at least that is the traditional base of religious power and the ground on which they choose to make most or all of their moral stands. Like the Party George Orwell’s 1984, they understand the political power of sexual repression.

    Religion is losing ground very fast, and even today’s faithful often know very little about their faith or alleged beliefs. It is a sign of desperation when the most fervent have the least knowledge, and however powerful religion’s control of sections of the media and education, rationalism has far more control and power.

    I would never in my wildest dreams have believed that we would get as far as we are today, and what we are seeing now is the dying bite of the tiger. It isn’t going to die overnight, but it’s well on the way.

    I like this website, I enjoy the science and the banter, and what’s so wrong with a bit of communication and comfort in an alienated and cruel world?



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  • @OP- Carly Fiorina told an audience in Iowa: ” I think people of genuine faith, whatever their faith is – I’m a Christian – but people of genuine faith, I believe, make better leaders.”

    Ah! “Genuine faith” – of the TRRRrrroooo Scotsman variety!

    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/No_True_Scotsman
    a term is preemptively given a biased definition designed to exclude elements vulnerable to criticism, yet making sure to still include all things praiseworthy.



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  • eejit
    Jan 5, 2016 at 11:46 am

    I like this website, I enjoy the science and the banter, and what’s so wrong with a bit of communication and comfort in an alienated and cruel world?

    I think if we compare comments on the same topics here, and twitter etc, it is clear, that many lurkers who read posts here, take away real knowledge and useful links, which would be swamped in trolling asserted ignorance elsewhere.



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  • You might recall me telling of my last flight to Cyprus Alan. The wife of the presbyterian pastor didn’t mind talking to me even as a possible muslim but abruptly stopped when I told her I was an atheist. Having the same delusion of a different denomination is fine but reality stinks.



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  • Dan

    How does one engage the other side?

    I won’t say it’s a New Year’s resolution but engaging the other side assertively is what I’ve been trying to do for a few years now. I have no need to make any effort to find “the other side” because as I’ve said before, my whole extended family is the other side.

    The best strategy I can recommend is to stop the bigots, sexists, racists and religionists in their tracks with statements of disagreement in a direct way. It helps greatly to know one’s holy books and to have at one’s command a list of those ethical obligations that I keep harping on about here. The objection should be delivered with an expression of appropriate horror.

    Example that really happened over the holiday:

    Niece: But Islam is all about peace.

    Me: You DO know that your husband has the right to beat you! – so says the Koran, right? – I flip straight to the pertinent passage and put it in front of her nose. How peaceful is that??!!

    This throws them into a confusion as they realize that they’re carrying two very different stories in that one head of theirs. (I always point that out too).

    To the Christians who rail against gays I point out that based on my reading of the Bible, I’m pretty sure that Jesus probably was gay himself! “You better watch out about slandering gays my friend. You might get to the pearly gates some day and find Jesus hanging out with his dude-bro buddies and realize that you got yourself uninvited to that rainbow party in the sky! It’s down to the everlasting furnace for you now! Satan is straight as an arrow though. Totally digs chicks so you can relax about that. Whew. That’s a relief”. 🙂

    I know this banter is silly and ridiculous. The thing is that while I’m disagreeing with the theists, sometimes they even laugh. They start out glaring at me but they end up rolling their eyes and they laugh!

    I learned something from a friend of mine who is more than 15 years sober and has sponsored many others in AA. She told me that she has to be tough with those people she sponsors. Very tough indeed. But she told me that after the tough love, always leave the “door” open so that no matter how psychologically beat up they are (for their own good) they can always walk right back into the relationship. In the same way, I don’t want a toxic blowup with the theists in my life. What good is it to attack them with a verbal flame thrower? I prefer a passive aggressive approach. I may have some superior skills in that direction. 🙁 Dan, your mom will have a field day with that one! 😀 But I’ve always been interested to drop a toxic double entendre and sit back and watch the effect.



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  • I like this website for the very same reasons you do. I was just expressing some confusion about what one can actually do to try to influence those believers or fence-sitters. I feel like I spend a lot of my time belly-aching and am at a loss as to what if anything we as individuals can do to push the wearing-away process you referred to. Take a back seat and watch? That wearing-away process.—Not quite as hopeful as you are.—A trick, perhaps, to understanding religion is thinking how these things can be “true”, not false: they are obviously false to us. They do not have to be pointed out as false by a scientist (since Galileo).



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  • Laurie,

    Although I remain somewhat doubtful I feel less doubtful now. I appreciate what you wrote very much. I think you just gave me the answer – or an answer: we can all, as individuals, try to have an impact of some kind on other individuals (religious people). Over time, we will affect change.
    That’s one very vital part of the process. Btw, one of my great heroes Mailer (who was a hard-headed realist, had no illusions or simple answers) said exactly the same thing when asked on a talk show how we can make a difference, and get a better (more liberal and tolerant) society. (I can’t remember exactly what it was the questioner was referring to.) The answer is that it has to be a grass roots effort. It has to be individuals engaging other individuals. This might not seem like much but it grows and has a collective element that will bear fruit over time. Over time.
    I read your comments to that abortion lady. Good for you! You are formidable.
    My mother would love you, I’m sure.

    Best,
    DR



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  • P.S. Sorry, Robyn (if you’re reading this); you went to all that trouble to put that piece together and Dan the meanie put it down. I think the articles here and the threads keep us all focused. That’s a good thing. Easy to get complacent – or worse, forget that there’s even a problem.



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  • Anyone who claims god’s laws trump secular ones can’t swear to uphold the constitution. They could be excluded from office.

    When god’s law is mentioned, they refer to only a tiny slice of the bible, the part that urges you to harass and kill homosexuals. The rest of the bible is ludicrous. Nobody pays any attention to it, not even fundamentalist Christian politicians.

    The most repeated commandment is to help the poor. That is antithetical to republicans. They want to kill them off by neglect.



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  • Dan,
    Good morning from bean town.

    ~Raises coffee mug as a form of greeting~

    I see that you’re frustrated. It comes through even on this mode of communication that is devoid of human contact and emotion. ha.

    I guess Mailer is right about the grass roots origin of change. I think that is what’s going on for the most part and that’s where I can have some influence. My sphere is small compared to others here. I can set the tone for the young people in my family and clear the way for them to choose ethics as a framework and not religion. On the outside, in social gatherings, I want to always speak up as diplomatically as possible to point out ideas that are harmful and unethical.

    But not everyone has a small sphere of influence. There are some who have the opportunity to reach many more people in a public way. That’s what this article is meant to do and this website in general. Books and debates, lectures, billboards and t-shirts all have their particular audiences. It’s a multivalent approach.

    Now then Dan, I must say right upfront that I am not a shrink!. But I can’t help but wonder if a shrink (Not the Freudians though!) wouldn’t say to you right now…”If you’re so frustrated about this, Do something about it!!!” You and I don’t have the resources of the foundation that produces this website (at least I don’t, not sure about you actually), or the public name recognition of Mailer or the TV show of Bill Maher, but let’s think about what we do have. If everyone throws their weight around in their own families, in their own communities and in their own town then that’s really a significant contribution. I mean, fuck it, what have we got to lose?

    For those of us who have a few extra bucks in their pockets then donate to organizations that have sprung up in the past few years and we can hope for some national and international progress.

    And for those of us who have good writing skills, Dan, et-hem, I am staring at that avatar of you and your cute doggie, O_O maybe, just maybe, you would consider using those talents and skills to reach a wider audience. -especially powerful if we target our own bunch that we come from and that we know the best. Just personally, the Methodists are always my favorite target. I know the subtleties of their mindset inside and out. They forced me to hear it for sixteen years. Now they will hear mine right back at them. Payback’s a bitch 😀



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  • I learned quite early as a child that when someone shuts you out, if you ignore them then they come to you. Later on in life, I was amazed that the same thing worked again. People, as in friends of friends, that looked at me with racist eyes, or just took an instant dislike to me, were ignored as I carried on having fun with the people I could have fun with. It always amazed me how after a while they would come to me and try to start a friendly conversation, albeit tentatively. Depending on how horrible they had been or how much I trusted them, I would either talk back or listen for a while before ending the situation as best I could without making a scene. This is a tactic I have seen the ‘Dog Whisperer” use lately. I showed my over protective daughter how her little girl would stop running if she stopped chasing her al over the place. I chose a safe park with no traffic and told my daughter, who was out of breath by now, to wait and watch. About 20m I told her and my grand daughter would look like she had hit a brick wall and stop. I crossed my fingers (!) and hoped it worked and it did. Not that it has changed my daughter. She still chases her all over the place. Some people refuse the natural ways.

    We are having fun here Dan and those that want to join in will. My only concern is, speaking from personal experience, that the language and exclusive style here, some of the time beyond me, is keeping people from joining in. When I first came here, I asked if only intelligent people can be atheists but that question was/cannot be answered. I don’t know the answer either because dumbing right down is not the answer but the general level here is beyond most people I know at least. I don’t know if it my contribution that has spoiled things but, a few past posters have come back just to complain about the level dropping on this site even now. They then disappear before anything further can be found out. I don’t know what the site was in its previous format, I have only heard about it but, I am guessing that the developers have changed things around because ‘the club’ was too exclusive and closed to the likes of me. I am a hardened internet forum room veteran so a few bumps and bruises have no effect but I can see how many who would like to make a contribution will not because they are out of their depth but often visit to read the posts.

    I don’t think too much philosophy is helping either. Make of this what you will but don’t take it to heart.

    Olgun



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  • I did not read confusion in your post. If you are confused then I suggest the cure in this instance is to educate yourself about the ways the religious right is being engaged e.g. through the courts (don’t let me find out though that you also “belly ache” in those threads… 😉 ) student organizations, popularizing through media etc.



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  • For me, arguing anyone out of their beliefs is a waste of time. The fact that I have no beef with UK Quakers any more than I have a beef with the Welsh or accountants, means that fighting religion per se is of no interest either. The immorality that it licenses is what exercises me. The causes of ongoing religion licensed immorality is my hang up.

    Fixing education and opening kids up to critical thinking comes top of my list of cures. Most particularly getting full access to education for females. (Malala my favourite charity. This site links to excellent stuff on getting good biology education into American schools. P4C philosophy for children as in sapere.org.uk . US versions exist. A whole host of education initiatives funded by the Gates Foundation and others….Big History. Fight political meddling in school books and teaching policy.)

    Fixing poverty and inequality (often the same thing). I promote the Equality Trust.Free Book and vote for enhanced welfare.

    Target the smiling evil of the RCC and its war on latex….in the face of (now nearly) 4.5billion Africans where currently 1.1billion really struggle by 2100. This is madness on stilts.

    Challenge the religious on why they have chosen such a crap, immoral religion when better is available. Notice the huge difference between brands.

    Fight for the right of everyone to be heard, especially your enemies and accept what they want as a label for themselves. Treat them earnestly. Encourage the idea that schism is everyone’s right.

    Betterism. Not Idealism.



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  • The sad fact is, that the USA government is made up by those least fit to govern, (With the exception of Obama, who, I think, is an atheist) and those best fit to govern are in business.
    It might be helpful to list all the religion based disastrous decisions on a more public platform (NY Times, USA today), so that people will become aware of their leaders craftmanship, if any 🙂
    This site is great for those who are already atheist or agnostic, but exposure needs to be larger.
    Bill Maher is already doing a good job of ridiculing the political leaders (Especially republicans), but it has to be more mainstream in all media that are not controlled by religious organisations, which, I’m afraid, is not going to be easy.
    But, it’s only been roughly 150 years since Darwin, and about 60 years since the discovery of the DNA structure. We are now in a truly scientific age, and that will sweep religion aside eventually. As Robyn points out, atheists in the USA are on the rise, and here in Holland that’s already over 50%. Very promising!



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  • LaurieB Jan 6, 2016 at 8:51 am

    Laurie, that was quite a comment. A lot in there. I will reply later. Exhausted now. Up all night working on my play. I usually write best in the wee hours of the morning. (When I win the Pulitzer I will be in a better position to spread the word.)
    Just one quick question. This is trivial but perplexing. My avatar. The photo of me with the pomeranian isn’t up there anymore. It’s me playing the guitar now. So how could you be looking at me with the “cute doggie”? Please get back to me on that ASAP.
    Is your screen different than mine? I changed my (all-important) avatar aeons ago.
    Hey! All of you! What am I holding in the avatar, a doggie or a guitar?



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  • I don’t know if this is relevant, nothing new if it isn’t, but no-one has chucked me off yet, either for lame humour or for intellectual shortcomings, so cheer up Olgun, there’s at least one dumber than you!

    We had the opening of the Christmas tree outside the village pub a few weeks ago. There was a blessing by the priest (from the next town, as we don’t have one of our own any more, due to the decline in vocations). We had carols then adjourned to the pub for mulled wine, mince tarts, sausages and a few pints.

    The priest who is famous for liking a pint was offered one by the publican for his troubles, but he settled for a cup of tea, saying that the Gardai were out in force and it was too dangerous. I said to him that he should be celebrating, because I am the village atheist and had joined in all the carols and stood through the brief service. He enjoyed the joke and said that he’d wondered why the mock cottage/nesting box on the wall above the Christmas tree, had no lights on. He sat with us for a very pleasant evening of conversation and craic. He eventually had one pint, for the evening that was in it.

    Now, I don’t expect an elderly priest to give up religion on the strength of a nice evening spent with the village atheist. I liked him, and he seemed to like me and the company, and we both enjoyed the slightly spicy situation generated by our differing beliefs or lack thereof.

    Maybe I’m just too passive, but what would have been the point of challenging his beliefs in that situation? It would have been rude and created a dreadful atmosphere, with no gain for secularism. Although I can see that sometimes in the family circle, or in a social situation it might be useful and appropriate, it seems to me that the real battle is to be fought in the arenas of education, politics and the media. The best that we as individuals can do, is to try to live like good neighbours and friends, and keep conflict out of our personal relationships.



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  • Good reading today people!
    I think it is I who qualifies as the dumbest person who follows this site!
    However that leads me to conclude that all the people posting on this site educate and inform the minnows amongst us.
    Time and good old common sense will prevail!



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  • Look at this quote I just found. This guy was infallible? What a crock of shit. Jesus! (Part of the language.) I hate bullshit! To hell with the Pope. Such a wide-ranging sphere of influence and such power! Abolish the papacy. This is 2016, for crying out loud. Even Dostoyevsky (who was a religious man) referred to the papacy as an abomination. (Forgot the name of the book. Sorry.)

    A little belly-aching has its place.

    John Paul II: “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”



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  • Religion in many forms has flourished for far too long, to the impoverishment, torture and death of millions of humans.
    It’s well past time when Science and reason led the way forward for the good of humanity and every other form of life on this planet. Amen.



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  • exfireman95

    I think it is I who qualifies as the dumbest person who follows this site!

    Nonsense. Nothing dumb whatsoever about that comment above. Well, actually, that Amen thing has gotta go, just sayin. 😉



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  • Dan
    Jan 6, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    John Paul II: “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”

    Of course, as his “infallible” predecessors claimed with standard RCC semantics, this is only “TRRrrrroooo science” using “TRRRRrrrooo reason” – “corrected ” by “faith”! – Non of that empirical or logical stuff!

    “9. Hence all faithful Christians are forbidden to defend as the legitimate conclusions of science those opinions which are known to be contrary to the doctrine of faith, particularly if they have been condemned by the Church; and furthermore they are absolutely bound to hold them to be errors which wear the deceptive appearance of truth.” (Vatican Council I)

    “10. Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things; on the other hand, faith delivers reason from errors and protects it and furnishes it with knowledge of many kinds.” (Vatican Council I) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_evolution#Pope_Pius_IX



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  • As an evangelical Christian, I believe that you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation. I also believe that you have to pay the consequences for not going along with the law. If a pharmacist believes that he/she cannot provide birth control pills to customers because it conflicts with their religious belief, then that person should discuss the situation with their employer. If no accommodation is possible, then that pharmacist should find another job and possibly a different occupation. Neither can I invent a “conflict” where none exists. For example, I may believe that Christians cannot engage in sex with anyone but their spouse of the opposite sex to whom they are married. That does not mean that gays should not be able to get married.



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  • Does that also mean that you are happy with other religions doing the same in the country you live in david? Are you okay with sharia law?



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  • Since I don’t believe that one should confuse God and country, I am opposed to theocracy. Consequently, I would be no happier with Sharia than I would be with the “No King but Jesus” movement.



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  • As an evangelical Christian, I believe that you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation.

    This makes you dangerous. This is the very same logic used by ISIS. You both will disobey rational secular law, with your justification being that your particular personal god, one of thousands of gods, with zero supporting evidence, tells you to do something. And you will do it. This is as dangerously irrational as it gets. I know you post occasionally, but I would like you to compare how you arrive at your conclusions, and how ISIS arrive at theirs. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a start.

    You both are extremist believers in god. You can listen to no alternative god. You both believe that you, and only you worship the one true god. You both believe that god is on your side. You both believe that your actions have gods approval. You both believe that only your fellow believers will go to heaven. You both believe that god only listens to your prayers, no one elses. You both believe that given the right circumstances violence is justified. You both believe in Martyrdom. You both believe this on the basis of books authored by men, not god. You both believe in a god, without a shred of evidence to support your belief.

    I know you probably don’t kill people…. now, but if America underwent a secular revolution, would you grab the assault rifle if your personal god told you to.

    This is why religion can no longer be used as a decision making method, for anything. I will march arm and arm with you to support your right to pursue your particular choice of personal god, but the moment you try to tell another person that they must do something because your god told you to do it, (The Chemist) then you’ve joined ISIS. You’ve crossed the line. And I will oppose you in full measure.

    This is the future. Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private and no longer has any place in the town square. It has zero supporting evidence.



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  • This:-

    Since I don’t believe that one should confuse God and country, I am opposed to theocracy.

    Contradicts this:-

    As an evangelical Christian, I believe that you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation.



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  • Sorry if I got you wrong david but there does seem to be a conflict here and great confusion. Laws are not put into place so you can absolve yourself simply by paying a fine or absorbing some of the consequences. They are there to protect people and you seem to be saying that you do not respect that protection it offers. You can do life for murder but when you come out you are still a murderer and someone is dead. There should be no conflict in country in that law is law and is one law for all denominations that live in that country.



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  • Considering that my beliefs include the idea that people have to make up their own mind about faith or non-belief without being under any form of compulsion, I think I’m a fairly harmless person. You believe more than a few things about me that I actually don’t believe. For example, I will not use violence against those who do not believe the same things I do when it comes to religion. I do make an exception for religions that have practiced literal human sacrifices but I think you would too.



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  • Not at all. Theocracy refers to a religion imposing its laws upon everyone including those who do not share its beliefs. If there is a law that directly contradicts my religious beliefs and there is no way for me to avoid a confrontation, then I have to oppose that law in a non-violent way and must be willing to accept the punishment dictated by the law for breaking it. I don’t insist that others be punished as in a theocracy for disagreeing with me regarding religion. And now, I must bid adieu so I can spend some time with my family.



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  • You don’t know what you would do if you in future circumstances. There are fellow christian fundamentalists in America who regularly use violence because their god instructed them to. How do you know that when the One World Communist Government takes over the US, you won’t be shouting God is Great as you select your assault rifle from the rack of millions of similar guns in America. You don’t know what the Lord of the Flies will justify.

    How is your thinking different from ISIS. You only answered the violence sentence and ignored all of the rest of similarities. What about the rest of the parallels. Why should your evangelical view of the world be preferred over ISIS’ evangelical view of the world.

    You hold your belief in god based on faith, which is a belief held in the absence of evidence, or worse, contrary to available evidence. How can you possibly use such a belief system to justify decisions. You have no evidence…. except you have decided to believe something….. without evidence… and on to infinity.



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  • However, I do think the story does take on the GOP candidates a bit much. And totally ignores the liberal sided political pandering…which much of these statements are.
    Today, everybody has to do some pandering to get to the main event, and the democratic side has done this equally untruthfully. Be it an attempt to get the majority to envy the minority or some other baiting…let us admit some of this is simply vote getting and getting bases to the booth.



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  • The harm comes when you make it okay for anyone who has a god belief to disobey the law of the land david.g. You may say you do not do any harm but can you guarantee the red lines? Do you draw them or someone else? This is not for individuals to decide. The law of the land has superseded your 2000 year old law and the only way you can protest is in principle and maybe try to get it changed. You cannot simply ignore it and offer to pay the consequences. That would be contempt and, quite rightly, you should stay locked up until you obey it.



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  • If the tiger’s bite is dying, it is due to human beings biting the tiger, not the other way around. I think atheists and/or agnostics must lead by example in order to show that a moral life does not have to be religious. This will take time. There are studies or polls showing that some religious people’s attitudes regarding , for example, hell for non-believers are changing, including whether or not they think apostates would possibly be “saved.” Sorry, no, I can’t quote these, but I have read about them.



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  • Civil disobedience has a long and thoughtful history in our nation. I think that we all should object to laws that we consider to be unjust. The difference is that I think that you have to accept the punishment for violating the law and that you must fight it in non-violent ways much as the civil rights movement used sit-ins against laws enforcing segregation. I also think that the unjust law must be consequential enough so that you have no choice but to object to it. In a society based upon law, even non-violent resistance to the law should be an absolute last resort. In terms of my two thousand year old law, I think that it’s summed up in loving God and loving your neighbor. I don’t think that our secular government should be used to force people to be religious or to follow the tenets of particular groups be they secular or religious. I do not want to live in an America where “true believers” rule the roost.



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  • I think that we should be a society in which people are free to believe or not to believe. It’s hard to confuse that approach with that exemplified by ISIS. But, if it makes you feel better to think that I’m a jihadi under the skin, then do so.



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  • Two problems with your thinking David that need immediate remedy.

    I think that we all should object to laws that we consider to be unjust.

    If your reasoning that a law is Unjust is based on a belief in god without evidence that there are in fact things called gods, then you have no argument. You can’t argue, “Well folks, I personally have faith there is a god, and my faith lets me read the mind of god, so a chemist should not be forced to sell contraceptives and I will force you all to obey my god, that I believe exists, solely on faith.” That Sir, is your argument.

    If a democracy passed a law, and there is no mass protest across a broad section of the constituency, then your judgement of a law as unjust is groundless. Obey your god without evidence. Is this irrational? Obey the secular law. Commonsense.

    I don’t think that our secular government should be used to force people to be religious or to follow the tenets of particular groups be they secular or religious.

    Two things. You don’t understand that secular governments, by definition, don’t force people to think or follow anything. The nature of a rational evidence based government as distinct from a religious government, is that they know, from evidence, that you can’t force people to think in a particular direction. Always fails. Secondly, the nature of secular governments as opposed to theocracies, is that they are tolerant of all religions. They just don’t think that a religious view without any supporting evidence is a rational way to make decisions.

    If you want to argue “Morality” I invite you to do so. Religion has no monopoly on morality.



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  • But, if it makes you feel better to think that I’m a jihadi under the skin, then do so.

    Not what I said. My comparison is with the parallel way religious people think. All fundamentalists of any brand of religion, use my dot points in reasoning their decision making. So you think in the same manner that ISIS does. You don’t think about the same things, but your follow the same “Logic” in coming to your position, as ISIS does in coming to theirs. And that is why you should reserve your religion for private contemplation, and adopt rational evidence based thinking for day to day decisions.



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  • I can only add a little to what David R has said david.

    Although your example of a chemist sounds reasonable and fair at first, it is not.

    The comparison with ISIS that David has given can be that if you are acting on advise given by your particular church then that church/cleric can be said to be radicalising its congregation. If you are saying that is not the case then you are acting as a lone wolf. It is not enough for you to say that it is peaceful because it will not stay that way if you find your family are being threatened by the situation in which you will claim you acted to save them or, another less peaceful person other than yourself decides to go one step further. There is nothing sensible or logical in your blatant disrespect of the law. A law in which it says you cannot discriminate because of religious beliefs. You, and/or your church/religion, has every right to protest by lobbying or any other legal method but can only find itself irresponsible if it/you acts in any other way and can be deemed a terrorist whether peaceful or not. I lobby my government at the moment and do not believe for one moment that I have the right to do anything illegal that might instigate others to do violence.

    You cannot even come close to claiming the Civil Rights Movement status for your religious movement. No one is causing you physical harm or forcing you into third class status. They are simply asking you to show sensible tolerance towards people and not see yourself as judge and jury over other peoples beliefs. The compromise is state law and a sensible one at that (in most cases). Otherwise, your policy is that anyone who doesn’t believe in paying tax should not or it is okay to kill as long as you hand yourself over to the law and serve your sentence/consequence. You ear the judge at the pearly gates but not the judge in the here and now and that makes no sense what so ever. But then, that is the way of the wrong thinking religious person in that, everyone is wrong and I am right. It contradicts logic and religion because if it is not coming from the very top of your particular sect then you are acting alone (lone wolf) and misrepresenting your church. If it does come from the very top (I don’t think it is) then you belong to a terrorist organisation who are not secular and are breaking, with religious intent, secular state laws.

    There is no logical reason for you to break the law in a secular society because you made the wrong choice by becoming a chemist knowing what the job entails. Your only choice is to sign into a monastery and isolate yourself from normal society and its laws.



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  • Eejit, that sounds like a perfect good mannered compromise, well done. The Village Atheist on drinking terms with the Priest. Just how it should be. Polite, live and let live, all decent folks together. Maybe you can join forces with him to spread this kind of tolerance a bit further afield? Or not, you’re already thinking globally by reporting here, and acting locally in fine form.
    Congratulations, and keep up the good work.



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  • Then there is no hope, Stafford. I know you’re being tongue-in-cheek– but we have to engage the other side or we will all be engulfed.
    They will declare war on us. Too fanciful? Perhaps. But haven’t they already – in a sense?
    I really think this is about survival, ultimately. Fascism if it ever does appear (in the U.S. and elsewhere) will come from the religious right.
    Look at Robyn’s article. I dismissed it originally, but it’s damned frightening.



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  • I agree phil.

    As Olgun says, if one group of people see another lot having fun, the chances are the former will be motivated to join the latter; setting an example could do the trick.

    In my experience attempts at persuasion are perceived by the faithfull as badgering and bullying.

    A very dear friend of mine who was unfortunate enough to have been brought up in a strict Catholic family, and who became an Atheist in her teens but has now reverted, gets extremely upset if I try to engage with her about her beliefs, and on one occasion asked me if I was a sadist or a bully; which in turn upset me.

    What can you do?

    I think the principal thing is to protect children, but how?

    I have to agree however, that we do tend to chase our tails somewhat on this site now.

    I think perhaps it’s best to just make fun of religion; trouble is, the sheeple don’t always see the funny side of life.



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  • …attempts at persuasion…

    It seems to me that the critical thing here is the difference between those who have an “innate” tendency to perceive and react emotionally versus those who do so intellectually/cerebrally. It’s important to determine as early as possible in an interchange which type we’re dealing with, because that determines which approach will have the best chance for success.



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  • …if it makes you feel better to think that I’m a jihadi under the skin, then do so.

    Actually, I think you’re a humanist “under the skin”. You just need a little help seeing the errors in your beliefs/faith.



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  • Paul

    Pandering, boasting and stretching and spinning the truth are to be expected from polititians I suppose. But who’s to say that they don’t believe every nasty word they say? Think Santorum does’t live his horrible views in real life? Is Trump a completely different person when living his private life?

    What has really shocked those of us (American) centrists and liberals is the welling up of the ignorant selfish tax evaders, macho blustering gun brandishing idiots, and a shockingly high number of racist fascists who choke on the fact that there is a n***** running the greatest country on earth!!

    Those Republican candidates have chosen carefully those toxic words that they say. Don’t make excuses for these thugs. They are causing harm by encouraging the worst elements in this society to come out of the woodwork and spew their poisonous viewpoints.



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  • 60
    bonnie says:

    @ phil Jan 6

    UK Quakers

    D’oh, had always presumed it was in reference to U. S. Quakers, and I don’t mean oats ; )

    The movie ‘Friendly Persuasion‘, if you have ever watched, is it a fair portrayal (albeit dated)? If so, I’ll view it next time it’s presented on cable tv.

    Amish and Mennonite traverse (sometimes by horse) to town where I shop. My personal experience – the young men (replete with straw hat) are the most outgoing.



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  • As an evangelical Christian, I believe that you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation.

    My only problem with such statements is that they are predicated on the existance God, the burden of proof of which rests entirely with those who claim to know of such a thing.

    Those of us who do not believe in such an entity are at a disadvantage because it is impossible to prove a negative.

    On the other hand, our request is very simple; it is, in a word, evidence.

    But then, you do have a problem with that don’t you, since, as those of your persuasion are so fond of pointing out, God works in mysterious ways; et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.



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  • The only evidence for gods that is immune from direct inspection and dismissal is “personal experience”, personal feelings. The deeply religious have to accept that, to those of us who share a common and testable reality, their right to behave as bigots by supernatural license is indistinguishable from “the right” any other bigot acting upon personal feelings. The only difference is that, the supernaturally licensed in their predictably uniform bad behaviour, have traded in (at the key moment!) their character-forming free will.



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  • UK Quakers are often super progressive morally, more so than their American counterparts. Their 1963 paper on sexuality was ahead of the curve and played a significant part in the debate, leading to the decriminalisation of homosexual acts in 1967. Quite a number of UK Quakers are agnostic.

    In the US it gets turned up several notches in icky piety and as for the Amish much as they appear charmingly bucolic, their treatment of their children (by failing to fully educate them so that they fail catastrophically out in the real world when briefly freed to choose a path for themselves) is more than a little hideous in the self destruction it can cause. Having developed technology (!) for the Amish I know a little bit from experience.

    Truly, it is the quality of moral decisions made that counts.



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  • .david.graf.589 Jan 6, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation…
    Civil disobedience has a long and thoughtful history in our nation. I think that we all should object to laws that we consider to be unjust.

    It’s not so different from what most of us believe, except that we don’t underpin our moral code with God. David seems very determined that religious belief should not enter the civic realm, except in so far as it relates to public morality. There’s room for arguments there, but even atheists have moral disagreements, which affect public moral policy and law!



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  • Filippo!

    I went to a school that was founded by Quakers in 1786. (Third through seventh grade.) Friends Seminary, in Stuyvesant Town (Manhattan). We had something every Wednesday called Meeting for Worship. What’s that about?

    I am going to read up about the Quakers. I forgot about Quakers. Behind some boarded up wall were tunnels (which were used for slaves to escape). I don’t know why they were boarded up. I wish I could have seen those tunnels. I didn’t have the presence of mind back then to ask if I could have a look.

    I visited an Amish town a while back. I passed by a handsome, matronly Amish woman. She said “How are you?” I honestly thought she had said “I’ll blow you in the silo.”



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  • I think it’s a bit more complicated for believers than you may think when it comes to morality. If we’re called to love God and our neighbor, then you’ve got to use your mind to figure out just how that applies in daily life and to other issues. That’s why I rarely invoke God when it comes to public policy. After all, I don’t see God saying a lot anywhere about capital gain taxes and such. If there’s no direct “Thus saith the Lord” and usually there isn’t, then you’ve got to come to your own conclusions. The problem comes when people lose the ability to distinguish between their own convictions and their religion. It’s very easy to cloak one’s one prejudices in the cloak of religion because of course God agrees with me. 🙂



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  • I don’t think that either believers or skeptics have a “killer” argument. Otherwise, we would have stopped debating over the existence of God a long, long time ago. Let everyone come to their own decision and respect what others decide in this matter.



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  • But for you, you cannot set the entirety of the bible to one side or your church’s prefered view, surely? You are not that thing the UK Quaker, designed by God (I would say evolved) to be the evidence-taking, reason-using, intuititive moral author.

    And if you are, why are there so few like you? Why is there moral dogma, rather than the daily due diligence of testing and retesting the ground to discern the path of lesser evil? Some harm accrues from any path we take.



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  • Of course, my views regarding what the Bible may say on a topic informs my positions. However, I recognize that it’s my interpretation of the Bible and that others may come to entirely different positions. Again, that’s why I try to avoid invoking God when it comes to many issues because I could be wrong. How dare I put words in God’s mouth.



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  • 70
    Pinball1970 says:

    Let everyone come to their own decision and respect what others decide in this matter.
    That seems to be a thoughtful and philosophical angle but it does not work like that in reality.
    Lets take something that is clear cut in the bible.
    It is not possible to be “good” AND be a practicing homosexual and this translates to real actions by Christians (and other religions)
    For example, it could be turning away a gay couple from a hotel, or executing them based on direction from scripture, this has happened and is happening in certain countries.
    “That is what scripture says How dare I put words in God’s mouth.”
    Based on what the bible states is correct behaviour, people take action, make laws, state a biblical morality, teach it to kids and enforce it in communities.
    It affects people, it kills them sometimes. Respect does not come into it.



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  • 71
    Pinball1970 says:

    Sorry – just the first line from David graf 589 in quote

    “Let everyone come to their own decision and respect what others decide in this matter.”



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  • Indeed, Pin, respect is not got that easily. In the treatment of your own children, I cannot accept that they are simply parental property. They are certainly a parental responsibility, but if the sovereign individual even as an infant is not seen and respected by the parent then no respect will be got from me and even action may be be forthcoming, e.g. in matters of healthcare and education.



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  • 73
    Pinball1970 says:

    Phil R action may be forthcoming, e.g. in matters of healthcare and education

    Good I hope so Phil, children as always is their target whether its circumcision without permission to enroll them in the club or keeping them in the dark about evolution in case the penny drops about the myths they have been brainwashed with. This “lets respect each other’s views” from Christians is just another way of saying stop going on about it the kids might be listening.

    Heavens forbid they work it all out.



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  • How dare I put words in God’s mouth.

    But have you not just implicitly done so with:

    Of course, my views regarding what the Bible may say on a topic informs my positions.

    Are you not claiming to be able to interpret the word of God from this ancient book? Those who wrote the book were explicitly putting words in God’s mouth.

    Or do you believe the authors were themselves interpreting the word of God? If so, what was their source?



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  • 75
    bonnie says:

    turning away a gay couple

    Devil’s Advocate: Forced “payments” from lawsuits could backfire, hello resentment. A pulled mule won’t budge.



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  • I don’t believe education or debates will change their minds. They have spent decades walling themselves up in their own reality.
    I believe if we make ourselves vocal and noticed, the young will replace the older christians.
    Attrition is the only cure here in my opinion.



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  • David Graf seems to be endorsing chaos. He stated he would interpret the laws as they apply to his religion.
    There is NO court and prison system run by religion.



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  • You can try to level the playing field but in the end, the religious pandering does come from the Republican party. Some does come from the Democrats but that is a minority.



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  • alf1200
    Jan 8, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    David Graf seems to be endorsing chaos. He stated he would interpret the laws as they apply to his religion.
    There is NO court and prison system run by religion.

    That kind of depends on where in the world you are!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_system_of_Saudi_Arabia
    The legal system of Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia, Islamic law derived from the Qu’ran and the Sunnah (the traditions) of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. The sources of Sharia also include Islamic scholarly consensus developed after Muhammad’s death. Its interpretation by judges in Saudi Arabia is influenced by the medieval texts of the literalist Hanbali school of Islamic jurisprudence. Uniquely in the Muslim world, Sharia has been adopted by Saudi Arabia in an uncodified form.

    Of course some of its proponents are trying to install it elsewhere!



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  • alf1200

    Spoken with FSM? I’ve got something much better than that. I was TOUCHED by his noodly appendage alf! It happened at that rally in D.C. when Stewart and Colbert were there. What was the name of that rally…something about sanity, but anyways, I was walking through the crowd and there he was – FSM! There was a big crowd around him and I swear it – I touched his noodly appendage.

    You may now express your envy and admiration. 😀



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  • David Graf;
    “As an evangelical Christian, I believe that you have to obey God when there is a conflict between your religious beliefs and the laws of the nation”

    And where do you get these “laws of god”?



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  • I’m sorry but I don’t see any connection between what I said and whatever kind of point you were trying to make. Are you saying that citizens in this country don’t have the right to object to laws that they consider to be unjust? I’ve repeatedly said that you have to respect the law and accept any punishment if you transgress it. I’ve repeatedly said that you cannot use violence to get your way and should not use God to justify public policy. What more do you want? 🙂



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  • David, I don’t think you’re getting a fair hearing here. You’ve simply declared that you agree with standing up – nonviolently – against unjust laws, and taking the penalty that the unjust state unjustly metes out, should you get caught.

    Raised in the catholic church, the example we were given was of the priest who refused – even under torture – to divulge information that the state’s spooks thought he’d acquired in the confessional. Priest’s have a confidentiality clause with the vatican that doesn’t let them off the hook, even in such dire situations. Martyrdom being the likely outcome, or maybe just a while in prison for the crime of failing to co-operate sufficiently.

    So it is morally right to resist the immoral law, though none of that justified our teenage fantasies of some kind of Zorro Priest taking on the evil-doers with more than just a bottle of holy water.

    Lumping you in with daesh fanatics jihadis and the like, seems deliberately provocative and unfair. But I suppose it’s meant to get you to examine how exactly you DO differ from them, who disregard all laws but their own. I can see how you differ, quite clearly. You’d not murder concert-goers, or people in or near an abortion clinic, or someone whose drawings offend you, or an off-duty military drummer, or anyone else, I trust.

    I think the argument against your admission that you vet the local laws against a higher imperative – moral, or whatever – is that “so do they”, and you’ve set yourself on a slippery slope to the same evil pit as them. On the other hand, we easily understand the example of, for instance, Oscar Schindler, working cleverly around and against the evil laws of the 3rd reich to preserve the lives of “his” workers. Obedience to the law of the land is obviously not always the good moral choice, even if (in Schindler’s case) it would have been a lot safer for him personally.

    Where we might not agree is on the source of this Morality. You can be Good without God, as oft stated here. For the record, Oscar Schindler did not appear to have any particularly strong religious affiliation motivating his extremely risky and sustained actions.

    At bottom, obeying the Rule of Law is still conditional on accepting that the Laws are not unacceptably immoral.

    The worry is when a person hands over their moral judgement to an external authority, a religion or cult or patriarch or political party or employer, and then treats their orders as the absolute morality. Religion loves to claim that it is the source of morality, when it plainly isn’t, it just tries to take credit for a pre-existing human virtue, and then steer it to serve its own agenda.

    Another hypothetical case, to set beside the martyr priest who refuses to be an informer, is the possibility of priests becoming aware, via confession, of the abuse of children by some of their colleagues. Where does their moral imperative direct them? Stay silent, as the vatican confidentiality clause demands, and by inaction condone the abuse, allow it to continue, or do something else, even if that brings Trouble.

    I think I’m agreeing that Moral Judgement must trump authority and the laws of the land, when times are bad enough. But that usually, it’s alright to go along with the local laws, render unto Caesar etc.

    That, of course, leaves the field wide open for the moral-manipulators to misdirect the masses into serving their own agenda. In the end, all that’s left is “Think for yourself. Question authority”.



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  • What is fascinating to me (as a spy here in this group – I’m a Christian Priest – although I’m a pro-science, evolution-believing, pro-choice pro-equal-marriage liberal priest) is that although there is clearly no reason to suspect that atheists are less “good” or “ethical” or “kind” than believers it is clear that religion can be a force for good.
    My church (a small one of around 100 on the books and 50 turning up on a Sunday) run a food bank, deliver free ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) classes for refugees, hold a music therapy group for people recovering from mental illness, organise two youth groups (one Godly one entirely secular) and raise over £6,000 every year for charities in the majority world.
    We joined the community organising group “London Citizens” that tries to bring community groups together to help their neighbourhoods. The groups that form London Citizens include schools, residents associations and trade unions, but the majority of the members groups are churches, mosques, temples, synagogues…
    Religion is responsible for many, many evils (it saddens me, but I can’t deny it.) Religion is also a force for good.
    If you want to engage with a wider audience, I suggest spending more energy trying to make your local communities better and raising money for those in need. It’s not as fun as attacking fundamentalist Christians, but they don’t represent all religious people.
    I’m a Christian, and I spend 0.01% of my time challenging atheism (this is the only post I’ve ever made here and it only occasionally comes up in sermons – I challenge Christian fundamentalism more often than atheism). I spend a lot of my energy trying to improve the lives of people living in the local estates (I work in Lewisham, recently described as the “murder capital” of the U.K.). I suggest a similar tactic will actually strengthen your cause…
    Just a thought



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  • Take away all the religious stuff from what you wrote Trevor and we are left with you as the force for good, religion surplus to needs.

    The charity thing was a cheap shot though. You never know….that £6000 might have a few of our pounds in it?

    I’m a Christian, and I spend 0.01% of my time challenging atheism

    That tells a story doesn’t it! I feel I have to spend a lot more time challenging all the wrongs in religion and not worry too much ( just as you don’t) about the 0.01% wrongs in atheism.

    I challenge Christian fundamentalism more often than atheism

    There you go!!!

    You seem to be a good man Trevor (apart from sneaking around the forum) but your sales pitch for religion itself has failed abysmally. The “I do more than you people do”, without knowing any of us is a little self-righteous in spite of the work you do. I am sure you would have done the same sort of work even if you were an atheist.



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  • Oh I’m sorry if that came across as a “sales pitch” – that was not my intention all!
    And I’m sorry you thought our fundraising was a “cheap shot” – it was not intended as any sort of shot, just pointing out some of the good stuff we do and not criticising atheist fundraising (which I’m certain happens too!)
    I was just trying to demonstrate that religion can be a force of good as well as a force for evil…
    I must disagree that I would do the same sort of work if I was an atheist. For some people atheism may lead to a more moral outlook (perhaps the idea that we only have one life and we must value it) but for me it was the religious idea that God is in all people and we should treat everyone (regardless of religion or education or gender or race or sexuality) as family was my inspiration.
    My religion made me a better person.
    I don’t say that to try and tell you what you should do with your life, it’s just my story.



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  • Hi Trevor
    The feeling here would likely be that, just as one can be Good Without God, one can also be Good Despite God, or rather Good Despite Religion, or Good Independently of Religion (which isn’t as catchy).

    In as far as your religion doesn’t detract from your excellent work, it’s harmless, but that’s hardly a “force for good”.

    Perhaps to some extent a religious framework can give some people an opportunity to organise for some good purpose, but I contend that the purpose does not spring from the religion, but from the good person herself.

    There are some lovely old buildings that could do with being put to better use, that’s for sure.



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  • Sorry Trevor, our comments crossed each other.

    My religion made me a better person.

    Well, if that’s how you see it. I suspect you’re being modest, and not giving due credit to your innate decency and altruistic impulses. Maybe the religion gave you the opportunity to take action, it might have been harder without it. Not knowing, of course, but imagining. How else can it be that religion is also far too often used as an excuse for evil? I still think that, at its very very best, religion does little or no harm.



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  • Trevor
    Jan 8, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    We joined the community organising group “London Citizens” that tries to bring community groups together to help their neighbourhoods. The groups that form London Citizens include schools, residents associations and trade unions, but the majority of the members groups are churches, mosques, temples, synagogues…
    Religion is responsible for many, many evils (it saddens me, but I can’t deny it.)

    The problem is, that religion is based on the view that dogmatic preconceptions and ancient texts, trump modern rational evidence-based thinking. Without these dogmatic ideological differences, there would be no need to resolve the conflicts between religions and the in-group and out-groups they create.

    Religion is also a force for good.

    It can be, but the good it does usually comes as part of a sweetener package which is primarily about promoting that religion.

    If you want to engage with a wider audience, I suggest spending more energy trying to make your local communities better and raising money for those in need.

    What makes you think we don’t, just because we do so discreetly as individuals, independently of promoting or advertising a religion?

    It’s not as fun as attacking fundamentalist Christians, but they don’t represent all religious people.

    Fundamentalists do however represent the more ignorant, assertive, and destructive forms of religions, from which societies need to be protected.

    I’m a Christian Priest – although I’m a pro-science, evolution-believing, pro-choice pro-equal-marriage liberal priest)

    That is to your credit, which atheist scientists would see as a move towards the rationality of materialist scientific methodology, and away from the unevidenced dogmas, cherry-picked reading of scriptures, presuppositions, and circular thinking of “faith”.

    The sceptic in me has to as the religious who “believe in evolution”, if they accept and understand the scientific theories of evolutionary genetics, or if they are using the word in the semantic, obscuring, fudged meaning, of “theistic evolution”, which is not science at all, but is “god-did-it-to-create-worshippers”, pretending to be science while denying the conflicts which a detailed understanding of the science highlights.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theistic_evolution
    Theistic evolution is not a scientific theory, but a range of views about how the science of general evolution relates to religious beliefs in contrast to special creation views.

    There is certainly a much more cultural Christian understanding of a rational and liberal approach in the ordinary membership of some Christian churches, (eg. RCC and CofE) than in their leadership, but this is in sharp contrast to the asserted dogmas of church hierarchies and fundamentalists, which care about gods and evangelising, but care little for the effects they have on real people.



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  • I must disagree that I would do the same sort of work if I was an atheist. …for me it was the religious idea that God is in all people and we should treat everyone (regardless of religion or education or gender or race or sexuality) as family was my inspiration.

    So if you were convinced tomorrow that we humans exist due to the circumstances of our environment (including the form and location of our planet in the solar system) and billions of years of evolution, with no supernatural input, would your empathy for those outside your immediate family disappear?

    What exactly do you mean when you say God is in all people? What characteristics of humans (atheist or not) do you attribute to their God content?



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  • I profoundly and completely disagree with the idea that “religion is based on the view that dogmatic preconceptions and ancient texts, trump modern rational evidence-based thinking.” Maybe in some fundamentalist churches that is the case, but neither I nor any members of my congregation would recognise that.
    We do believe that ancient texts still have value and insights that can be life-giving and inspiring. (They also have crazy stuff about talking donkeys and snakes.) These ancient texts are not “science textbooks” or even “rules for living” – they are the scrapbook that tells the story of humanity’s love affair with God.
    Sometimes humanity got it horrifically wrong, but there is still much that moves and inspires people today.

    Theology is an art, not a science. Religious ideas are judged by how much better they make us as people. The scientific method is a wonderful boon to humanity and our progress, but it does not fit easily into theological discourse. The people who put together the Bible knew that the Creation story of Genesis wasn’t science or history – that’s why they wrote two different versions of the same tale. I think if we reflect on these stories they tell us that “human beings are basically good, but we do have a tendency to mess things up”
    Maybe we could delete the first few chapters of Genesis and just write “human beings are basically good, but we do have a tendency to mess things up” but what a dull and artless way to exist… By the same token we could replace Hamlet with “indecision can lead to horrific disaster” or Doctor Who with “intelligence and courage can win over aggression and might.”

    I guess, to take a step back, the question is “can ideas (of science or art) change us for the better?” I believe they can. The ideas of scientific materialism can, and so can the ideas of theology. I’m happy to see light in the works of Dawkins (although I don’t agree with everything – I can’t fault his science but his view of theology is childish) I just want to stand up for the fact that there is also light in religion (even if you don’t agree with lots of it).



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  • 103
    bonnie says:

    we do so discreetly as individuals

    Remember this pleasant fuss? – CNN anchor at Oklahoma tornado clean-up, interviewed a woman helper who quietly but firmly stated that she’s an atheist. That was good press.

    The irony is, of course, she was found by accident, as we don’t wear tee-shirts à la church groups.



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  • Trevor
    Jan 9, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I profoundly and completely disagree with the idea that “religion is based on the view that dogmatic preconceptions and ancient texts, trump modern rational evidence-based thinking.”

    The extent to which that is so depends very much on the individual and the individual cult or denomination. There are many theists who come to this site and express precisely that view.

    Maybe in some fundamentalist churches that is the case, but neither I nor any members of my congregation would recognise that.

    I would hope not, but again many who do so go through quite amazing mental and verbal contortions to deny it.

    We do believe that ancient texts still have value and insights that can be life-giving and inspiring. (They also have crazy stuff about talking donkeys and snakes.)

    That is so – as do the Greek Myths or Aesop’s fables, but essentially people use their own basic human moral judgements to pick the sections they consider can be life-giving and inspiring, and which parts are the crazy stuff.

    These ancient texts are not “science textbooks” or even “rules for living”

    Unfortunately many of their followers do not recognise this, with many ignorant of, or actively disputing, actual researched history or science, which has been recorded independently of Biblical myths.

    – they are the scrapbook that tells the story of humanity’s love affair with God.

    Or actually a collection of mythology scrapbooks from assorted sources, with assorted perceptions of gods, going all the way back to the Canaanite polytheistic precursor gods of the Old testament, with the later addition of the 4 gospels selected from many conflicting NT versions, by Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria in the 4th century.

    Sometimes humanity got it horrifically wrong, but there is still much that moves and inspires people today.

    The problem with “faith” as an alternative to science based historical research, is that people just cherry-pick whatever suits them at the time.

    Theology is an art, not a science. Religious ideas are judged by how much better they make us as people.

    The problem with that is circularity! “Better is judged in terms of the dogmas and doctrine of that particular religion, so in that context, it just means “compliant with those preconceptions”! (Hence it is “better” for ISIS to behead apostates, in accordance with Sharia Law!)

    The scientific method is a wonderful boon to humanity and our progress, but it does not fit easily into theological discourse.

    That is the problem with theology. Science provides the accurate information on which reliable judgements can be made. Without it judgements are simply incompetent.
    That does not mean that science has all the answers, or gives us our personal aims and objectives for meeting our own interests and aspirations, but dogmas (such as those of fundamentalists), which make “faith” decisions independent of science, or fly in the face of the scientific evidence, are simply destructively incompetent or irrelevant!

    The people who put together the Bible knew that the Creation story of Genesis wasn’t science or history – that’s why they wrote two different versions of the same tale.

    I would suspect the sections were simply written by different storytellers.

    I think if we reflect on these stories they tell us that “human beings are basically good, but we do have a tendency to mess things up”

    I think people cherry-pick whatever they like from biblical myths and regard it literally or as rhetoric according to how it fits their personal views.

    I guess, to take a step back, the question is “can ideas (of science or art) change us for the better?” I believe they can. The ideas of scientific materialism can, and so can the ideas of theology.

    Scientific materials is precise, clearly defined, and subject to up-dates and revision in the light of new tested evidence.

    Theology comes in thousands of forms of mixed virtue or value. One of its worst features is where it closes minds to real answers to human problems with “god-did-it” gap-fillers giving confidence in personal views based on dogmatic ignorance (as in evolution denial, racism, and numerous forms of bigotry.)

    I’m happy to see light in the works of Dawkins (although I don’t agree with everything – I can’t fault his science but his view of theology is childish)

    The present research in neuroscience looks as if many of his suggestions about theology and god-delusions, will soon be confirmed.

    I just want to stand up for the fact that there is also light in religion (even if you don’t agree with lots of it).

    You would have to specify which religion, and give details to support that claim.

    (even if you don’t agree with lots of it).

    There are, and have been thousands of religions, and even within Christianity, there are thousands of different churches, denominations and cults.

    I have yet to meet any religious person or agnostic who does not reject and dismiss many or most of them (with all the conflicting and contradictory claims)!

    It is an old saying among atheists, that atheists only reject and dismiss one more god than most believers!



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  • 105
    Olgun says:

    Theology is an art, not a science.

    Without trying to be overly rude but accept that it is inevitable…….Your whole post is set around this claim and in the same vein as “art experts”, circular and full of gap filler presumptions. We too discuss the relationship people have with their various gods but from a practical point rather than going off into godlike behaviour of art. I too make presumptions on this site (not being as educated as people are here, with the full knowledge that I will be kicked around the thread or pointed in the right direction. Yes there is light in religion but that light comes from people like you. Give yourself some credit, claim it for human beings in that you can be good without god(s).



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  • Trevor
    Jan 9, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Maybe we could delete the first few chapters of Genesis and just write “human beings are basically good, but we do have a tendency to mess things up”

    Many of the stories were embroidered or rewritten in ancient times – with three Abrahamic religions each having their own versions.

    If you did not see this topic earlier, you may find it interesting.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2015/12/the-quran-experiment/#comment-192481



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  • 108
    Pinball1970 says:

    I’ve repeatedly said that you cannot use violence to get your way and should not use God to justify public policy. What more do you want?

    You said we should respect each other’s views, I dont have to do that, the best I can do is tolerate them.

    If someone insists that bread can turn into a person’s dead flesh or that a person can be born of a virgin, they will not and should not demand earn my respect.

    See also flying to heaven on a winged horse, man coming from a clot or talking burning bushes.

    I think I am allowed to say I think you must be a gullible idiot for believing that.

    Obeying the law and not causing violence and chaos is the very least the religious should do (they dont)

    At least we agree a society built on scriptural morality does not work.



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  • Trevor
    Jan 8, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    I must disagree that I would do the same sort of work if I was an atheist.

    You would not be working as a priest, but you could work as a secular coucillor, social worker, or charity aid-worker if you wished.

    For some people atheism may lead to a more moral outlook (perhaps the idea that we only have one life and we must value it)

    That view does prioritise cosideration of people over dogmas which down-grade human interests in favour of gods. (thousands of gods).

    but for me it was the religious idea that God is in all people

    God-delusions are potentially in all people, but religious indoctrination develops them into dominating features, while those whose mature (formal operational) thinking, casts them off as childhood fantasies, look at issues on the basis of evidence and resolving the conflicting the interests of people.

    and we should treat everyone (regardless of religion or education or gender or race or sexuality) as family was my inspiration.

    This is NOT a view ACTUALLY promoted by most religions (although they pay lip service to it). Religions are about the faithful “in-groups” of historical tribalism, and the “infidel” or “heathen”, “out-groups” who are often vilified in preachings.
    Long-term sectarian conflicts and religious wars have been spawned by religious divisions throughout history, as those in persuit of their dogmas have tried to impose them on other people.



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  • 110
    Pinball1970 says:

    Maybe we could delete the first few chapters of Genesis and just write “human beings are basically good, but we do have a tendency to mess things up”

    I think there is rational non theist in there Trevor, that is college speak for atheist.

    You agree the bible is made up (the miracle supernatural stuff) and we can pick and choose nice messages.

    Yes I agree there are few things in there you can take but what I wanted to ask you is why you think the key parts are true?

    Jesus rising from the dead and an ultimate creator?

    What sort of universe and earth do you think we would have if everything had arrived via a big bang and rest just of followed on? Without god being part of the picture

    Lots of chaos and random chance plus a lot of chemistry that lead to replicators cells and then us?

    Do you think it would look a lot like the sort of cosmos we have now?

    Do you think ancient man would still have made up a lots of gods? Like Thor Pan and Amun Ra?



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