Life Driven Purpose, pg 118

“I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron. Morality is morality, and qualifying it with the word “religious” does no strengthen it. It weakens it. (The same is true with the phrase “alternative medicine.” Medicine is medicine. Sometimes “alternative medicine” actually works, and when it does we call it “medicine.”) As I mentioned in the previous chapter, “religious morality” reduces human behavior to a monochromatic one-size-fits-all orthodoxy that is actually more dangerous than the broader humanistic principle of reducing harm. I think religion actually compromises moral judgment.”

–Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 118


Discuss!

47 COMMENTS

  1. @OP – “I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron. Morality is morality, and qualifying it with the word “religious” does no strengthen it. It weakens it.

    If a religious badge of authority is needed in place of some explained ethical outcome based on altruism, then the “morality” is probably dogma and doctrine dressed up as “morality”.

    We can certainly observe the effects of religiously motivated actions which their proponents CLAIM to be exercises in troooo morality!

    Other religions or splinter sects often cannot be tolerated by sects or cults – as their “faith-thinking” generates murderous disputes or hostile attacks on the civil rights of others, as they try to enforce their doctrinaire “trroooo morality” on everyone!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-42275875

    An attack believed to have been sparked by a succession feud has left three people dead at a well-known Shinto shrine in Tokyo.

    The chief priestess was stabbed to death, reportedly by her brother. A bloodied Samurai sword was found at the scene, along with other knives.

    The attacker’s wife also took part in the ambush on Thursday evening, police say, injuring the priestess’s driver.

    The male attacker then stabbed his wife to death before killing himself.

    A longstanding feud

    The attack began when the 58-year-old priestess, Nagako Tomioka, got out of her car at the shrine and was confronted by her brother, Shigenaga Tomioka, 56, and his wife, said to be in her 30s.

    The wife reportedly attacked the priestess’s driver, stabbing him with a sword. The driver fled the scene, pursued by the woman. Police said there was a trail of blood down the road but the driver’s wounds were not life-threatening.

    The priestess suffered a deep stab wound to her chest, along with a laceration on the back of her neck, and was later pronounced dead.

    The suspects then moved to another part of the shrine’s grounds.

    “We believe the male suspect stabbed the woman before stabbing himself,” a police spokesman said.

    Shintoism is Japan’s indigenous religion.

    The essence of Shinto is its spirits, or kami,
    to which its followers are devoted.
    The kami are said to intervene in human lives
    if treated well by followers.

    The shrine is an essential part of Shinto.
    Along with rituals, the shrines are used
    to communicate with the kami.
    Devotees have a close relationship with their local shrine
    and often have a small shrine-altar at home.

    Shinto has no god, no founder and no scripts.
    It is regarded as less of a religion, more as a way of life.

    The name Shinto comes from Chinese characters
    for Shen (divine being), and Tao (way) and means
    Way of the Spirits.

    There are some 80,000 shrines, and about as many Shinto priests,
    in Japan but female priests make up only
    a tiny fraction of the number.

    About 80% of Japan's population practise some form of Shinto.

    According to local media, the murders were sparked by a longstanding succession feud between the priestess and her brother.

    Mr Tomioka had himself been chief priest of the shrine, having taken over from his father in the 1990s, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

    However, he was sacked in 2001 and their father returned to the position as main priest, installing his daughter Nagako Tomioka as the second-ranked in the shrine. It was not clear why he was removed.

    During those years, the suspect is said to have sent threatening letters to his sister and was arrested in 2006 after sending her a note saying he would “send her to hell”.

    After their father retired in 2010, Ms Tomioka became the chief priestess, breaking with a Shinto shrine umbrella organisation after it failed to rubberstamp the succession, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

  2. This is called “Richard’s paragraph of the week” but I can’t believe that Richard Dawkins actually chooses these paragraphs. They are often banal and are always drawn from a very limited number of publications. Dan Barker should be retired from comment – there’s a limit to the amount of preaching from an ex-Christian preacher that I should be subjected to. Surely the intellectual quality of our community deserves better – perhaps paragraphs from books by Sam Harris, Dan Dennett, Christopher Hitchens or Richard himself?

  3. Morality is morality… Yes.

    Here’s another paragraph, Macropus. Nietzsche is discussing conventional morality:

    Morality makes stupid.– Custom represents the experiences of men of earlier times as to what they supposed useful and harmful – but the sense for custom (morality) applies, not to these experiences as such, but to the age, the sanctity, the indiscussability of the custom. And so this feeling is a hindrance to the acquisition of new experiences and the correction of customs: that is to say, morality is a hindrance to the development of new and better customs: it makes stupid.

  4. Dan,

    Good stuff.

    My term is “moral dogma” and for me is the very toxin in religion itself. It incapacitates through atrophy the ability to see new suffering.

  5. Morality is morality… Yes.

    Sarcasm. Tautological.

    Yes, that’s right, Phil. How about: “to see suffering in a new way”? Or is that superfluous?

  6. Phil, others

    I had a dream the night before last. This is true. And I think it was prompted by listening to all of these Right wing politicians and pundits. I have been watching a lot of TV, watching the horror of Trump and his reactionary agenda being defended by con men and degenerates. Anyway, In the dream I was sitting with some people I have known throughout the years. They are all friends yet all religious in their own way; they all believe in “God”. I was filled with rage and a desire to get through to them once and for all. “What is God, to you?” I shouted? “Is God comprised of matter? No? Does God occupy space? No? It’s immaterial? And yet it has knowledge and power? Don’t you see how absurd that is? There is no evidence to support such a claim! It’s madness!” On and on I went. My friends just smiled, as if they knew something that I didn’t, and I started to feel a sense of futility; nothing I could say would have any effect. I then woke up.

  7. @OP – “I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron.
    Morality is morality,
    and qualifying it with the word “religious” does not strengthen it.
    It weakens it.

    It does not only weakens it. In many instances, it totally undermines it!

    As Phil points out @#4, it replaces altruistic ethics with mindless bigoted applications of mythology derived dogma!

    Consequently we get people afflicted with social and life-threatening medical problems by the ignorant dogmatists who claim to be “pro-respect for life” or mutilations in the name of “sexual morality” – along with abusive allegedly “moral bigotry”, against sexual minority groups or particular races!

  8. Dan

    I then woke up.

    If only all those others would…, smug cowards, all.

    I like to think of the “franchise of the suffering”. Without religion it ever widens, roping in, in fellowship, the once despised, the once derided.

  9. Alan4discussion,

    In the phrase “religious morality,” “religious” is acting as an adjective. Surely we can use adjectives to more precisely describe the nouns we are discussing, can’t we? It seems to me that “religious morality” is used to describe a certain type of morality that exists within the realm of religion, namely an objective morality that is determined for all mankind by a creator, rather than a secular morality that is defined by humans. You don’t have to agree with such a morality, but don’t we have to admit that such a morality exists?

    I am curious, how is it exactly that “ignorant dogmatists” who hold to a form of religious morality produce “life-threatening medical problems”? It seems to me that all life-threatening problems, social or medical, are a result of the biological process that has brought our species to its current state. Can’t we see “ignorant dogmatists” as a dying breed that one day be dealt with through natural selection?

  10. Hi, Jason B.

    It seems to me that “religious morality” is used to describe a certain type of morality that exists within the realm of religion, namely an objective morality that is determined for all mankind by a creator, rather than a secular morality that is defined by humans. You don’t have to agree with such a morality, but don’t we have to admit that such a morality exists?

    To answer your question, yes. We have to admit that such a morality exists. There is no evidence to support the idea that morality is determined by a creator-god; nor is there any evidence whatsoever to support the idea that a supreme, supernatural Being exists. No evidence whatsoever. We are entitled to believe what we want. But to insist that something that is believed must be objectively true is dogmatic. Not stupid or ignorant necessarily, but dogmatic. I believe in the tooth fairy. That is my right. Does that make such a belief worthy of respect? I believe that morality comes from the tooth fairy. Such a morality exists if I believe it and act upon the laws of the tooth fairy god. And no, this is not unfair. No more evidence of the existence of the Christian God than the existence of the tooth fairy.

    To be fair, some of the moral lessons in the Bible are valuable. But they do not come from God; they come from the moral mind of man. You can believe that the Bible is the word of God and that he is the author of morality. But again, this is groundless. There is no rational basis for such a preposterous and absurd proposition.

  11. “Christianity attacks us in our deepest integrity. It says we wouldn’t know what morality was, that we wouldn’t be able to derive ethical statements or actions if we didn’t have divine or supernatural permission to do so. So it essentially robs us of our responsibility and our freedom. It says that we are the objects of a design—I call it a supernatural, celestial dictatorship which shapes our ends, demands things of us, plays with us, is capricious with us, and it is mythologically based. Delusions are not good for people” – Christopher Hitchens

  12. Jason

    Can’t we see “ignorant dogmatists” as a dying breed that one day be dealt with through natural selection?

    We can see from theocracies that cultures can be very robust. The mechanisms for cultural evolution can be played by the the strong willed in a way that genetics can’t.

    The trick of cultural manipulation is to control children’s early experience. The mechanism is called over-imitation and its probably a safety device to protect the young. Uniquely humans are born with the most premature brain of any mammal. (Only 28% developed.) Evolution protects the helpless infant by making it a super copier of parents and those who appear to be parents (teachers, aunts, etc.) Kids, despite our feeling to the contrary, take most of what their parents etc. say on complete trust. They believe despite the evidence of their own eyes and reason. And early experience is the foundation of all our later interpretation of experience.

    This over-imitation is the very root of our unique aptitude for culture but it is also how dogma is preserved generation upon generation. It is how moral growth and understanding can be held off for centuries. Shielding kids from outside influence is utterly key.

    Jesuit saying: “Give me the child until seven and I will give you the man.”

    (Sounds even worse now.)

  13. Jason B. #9
    Dec 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Alan4discussion,

    In the phrase “religious morality,”
    “religious” is acting as an adjective.
    Surely we can use adjectives to more precisely describe the nouns we are discussing, can’t we?

    You could describe “black whiteness”, but that would not mean it actually exists!

    It seems to me that “religious morality” is used to describe a certain type of morality that exists within the realm of religion,

    Given the anti-social dogmas of most religions, and the prioritising of promoting god-delusions over promoting human welfare, describing religious memes as “morality”, is an oxymoron! (self-contradiction)
    “Morality” is usually considered to be a code of ethics, rather than a set of abusive procedures!

    namely an objective morality that is determined for all mankind by a creator,

    The mental image of a creator is a delusion in the believer’s brain.
    The process of accepting dogmas on faith (belief without evidence or proof), is anything bur “objective”!
    It is uncritical an unquestioning acceptance without evidence, or in the face of the evidence!
    It often has nothing to do with reciprocal altruism or of benefits to humans or human populations, and is purely about promoting a particular religion.

    rather than a secular morality that is defined by humans.

    All claimed codes of “morality” are devised and defined by humans!
    Its just that the religiously dogmatic ones quoted by believers which originated as “voices in the heads” of their human inventors of antiquity, or simply made-up to manipulate followers, are not attributed to their authors, but are claimed to be from gods!

    You don’t have to agree with such a morality, but don’t we have to admit that such a morality exists?

    We can recognise that a delusional belief in such an imagined “morality” exists and is circulated within religious organisations.

    I am curious, how is it exactly that “ignorant dogmatists” who hold to a form of religious morality produce “life-threatening medical problems”?

    The dogmatists organise theocracies and cults, which oppose medical services and medical treatments, or inflict damaging rituals, such female circumcision, murdering apostates, or conducting human sacrifices. Jehovah’s witnesses refuse their children blood transfusions, or Catholics facilitate the spread of AIDS by opposing contraception, and safe sex practices, or cause the deaths of miscarrying women by preventing abortions.

    Then there are “faith-healers'” pseudo-cures for serious illnesses, promoted in place of modern medical treatments.

    It seems to me that all life-threatening problems, social or medical, are a result of the biological process that has brought our species to its current state.

    Dogmas and doctrines, can also cause severe mental problems by indoctrinating perverse thinking processes, quack methodologies, elevating psychotic role models, and delusional pseudo-answers to real-life problems.

    Many religions make natural problems and diseases worse by imposing dogmas on followers or wider populations.

  14. Jason B. #9
    Dec 14, 2017 at 8:58 pm

    Alan4discussion,

    Can’t we see “ignorant dogmatists” as a dying breed that one day be dealt with through natural selection?

    No! If we look at the history of the spread of religions we see the enforcement of religious beliefs on children and the legal empowerment theocrats!

    In Islamic theocracies, Christians (or others) are forced to convert to Islam before they can be legally married and only children from “legitimate marriages” can inherit property!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-29932094

    But after more than three years together, they feel frustrated. They can’t marry in Egypt because Milad is a Christian, while Aya is a Muslim woman.

    Under Egyptian law, Milad would have to convert Islam, even though a Christian woman can marry a Muslim man without having to convert.

    The couple considered travelling abroad to marry and start a family. But even that would not solve their problem.

    “Even though we would sign a civil marriage document, we would not be able to come back to Egypt,” says 24-year-old Aya.

    “The authorities will never approve our marriage or register our children as Egyptians. We must then live outside Egypt until we die.”

    Ahmed Attallah says that interfaith marriage has effectively become prohibited in Egypt.

    “When a Christian woman goes to a notary to register a marriage with a Muslim man, the officials tell her that she must have a letter of approval from the Church,” he says.

    “The Egyptian Church has consistently refused to approve marriages between different Christian sects, let alone different religions.” he adds.

    This was also true of European Christian theocracies in the fairly recent past! Even today non-Catholics will be pressured to convert to Catholicism if they wish to marry a Catholic and their children will be indoctrinated into Catholicism.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastard_(law_of_England_and_Wales)

    Bastardy was not a status, like villeinage, but the fact of being a bastard had a number of legal effects on an individual. One exception to the general principle that a bastard could not inherit occurred when the eldest son (who would otherwise be heir) was born a bastard but the second son was born after the parents were married.

    The Provisions of Merton 1235 (20 Hen. 3 c. IX), otherwise known as the Special Bastardy Act 1235, provided that except in the case of real actions the fact of bastardy could be proved by trial by jury, rather than necessitating a bishop’s certificate.

  15. @OP – “I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-42334381

    There are few countries in the world that have confronted the issue of child abuse as comprehensively as Australia.

    On Friday, a royal commission inquiry submitted its final report after almost five years of investigations.

    Catholic Church 'abused 4,400 children' in Australia
    Anglican Church receives 1,115 abuse complaints
    Jehovah's Witness church 'hid 1,000 alleged abusers'

    One of the key issues raised during the commission’s work was that of mandatory reporting.

    Every state and territory in Australia has laws obliging people such as teachers and doctors to report potential abuse to authorities.

    But the royal commission has shown the way those laws have been interpreted has varied widely, leaving cracks in the system.

    It also highlighted the fact that abuse disclosed during religious confession has remained secret, under the rules of the Catholic Church.

    Some paedophile priests even took advantage of this as a way of hiding their abuse, confessing it to a colleague in the knowledge they would not be reported to police.

    Legislation to apply mandatory reporting to confession would trigger debate across the Catholic world.

    “Religious morality” is about promoting and protecting the goody-goody P.R. image of the religion. –
    Not about protecting or benefiting human populations!

  16. Here is the facade of “religious morality”!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-42361874

    The scope of the inquiry

    2559 – allegations referred to police since the inquiry began in 2013

    230 prosecutions have commenced

    41,770 calls received from members of the public

    60,000 survivors may be eligible for compensation, estimates say

    Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

    The commission also received more than 1,300 written accounts and held 57 public hearings across the nation. Allegations were raised against more than 4,000 institutions.

    Religious ministers and school teachers were the most commonly reported perpetrators, the report said.
    The greatest number were in Catholic institutions.

    The commission had previously recommended that Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they fail to report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession.

    The final report on Friday urged Australian Catholic bishops to petition the Vatican to amend canon law to allow priests to report such disclosures.

    It also said the Catholic Church should consider making celibacy voluntary for priests because while it was “not a direct cause of child sexual abuse”, it had “contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse, especially when combined with other risk factors”.

  17. Then there is this Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints “religious moral leadership”, which has fortunately eventually been held accountable by morality based, secular law!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42346118

    Lyle Jeffs admitted to orchestrating what authorities have called the nation’s largest scheme to defraud the federal food benefits programme.

    Mr Jeffs was also ordered to repay $1m (£747,000) in restitution to the US Department of Agriculture, which runs the food stamp programme.

    Prosecutors say the FLDS leadership took their followers’ food stamp benefit cards and sold them in order to pay for cars and other luxuries.

    According to court documents, “many families suffered extreme hunger, malnutrition and related health issues” after being forced to hand over their benefits to Mr Jeffs.

    “While members subsisted on meagre quantities of rice and noodles,” Mr Jeffs had a “personal chef and he regularly ate prime rib, halibut, lobster, scallops and other expensive cuisine,” prosecutors said in their pre-sentence report.

    Warren Jeffs, the former president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), was found guilty of forcing two underage girls into “spiritual marriage” and fathering a child with one of them when she was 15.

  18. @#16 – The commission had previously recommended that Catholic clerics should face criminal charges
    if they fail to report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession.

    The final report on Friday urged Australian Catholic bishops to petition the Vatican to amend canon law to allow priests to report such disclosures.

    The report said priests should report abuse confided to them, even in the secret context of the confessional.

    So of course – putting the welfare of children before secrecy to protect abusers and the church’s public image, its senior clergy would immediately take moral action to remedy the problem, and to comply with their legal duty under the secular law of the land – wouldn’t they??????

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-42370543

    The five-year inquiry’s final report said institutions had “seriously failed” to protect children.

    These institutions included the churches and the report found that
    62% of abuse cases in religious institutions were in Catholic institutions.

    Australia abuse: Archbishop rejects call to report confessions

    But the archbishop of Melbourne said any priest who broke the seal of confession would be excommunicated.

    This means they would cease to be a member of the Church and would no longer be allowed a Catholic funeral.

    The Most Rev Denis Hart said a law requiring this of priests would undermine a central tenet of Catholicism, the sacredness of the confessional.

    “The seal of the confessional, or the relationship with God that’s carried through the priest and with the person, is inviolable,” he said.

    Yep! Religious “morality” can’t go against ritual, doctrine, and dogma, just to comply with the law of the land to protect children from abusive priests or Catholic employees!

  19. Jason seems to have fled.

    I’d like to add that religion dresses itself up with a lot of pomp and circumstance. This is because it cannot stand on its own two feet. It needs all the ritual and rigmarole (incense and robes, etc.); this is a mask. Much ado about nothing. It also uses the argument of tradition, and its own history as a pseudo-indication of its legitimacy.

    Gods are no more objectively real than the tooth fairy.

  20. Alan4discussion,

    I have apparently fallen into the deep end before taking swimming lessons. I don’t understand the meaning of half the words you use, which is evidence of my own ignorance. I have only recently come across Dawkins’ writing and have found it very interesting. I think I will just read more and keep my thoughts to myself until I know what I am talking about.

  21. Hi, Jason, welcome back. Thought you had disappeared. Glad to be proven wrong.

    Don’t wait too long to post a comment. You don’t have to know everything.

    I don’t happen to think the term religious morality is an oxymoron. But I am not a theist and have come
    to regard religion as a lie and a scourge, and for good reason – and so obviously I don’t think we get our morality from God. The term religious morality itself is fine, however. You’re right about that. (Barker is what Trump would call a lightweight.)

    Yes, Dawkins is excellent. What are you reading?

  22. Jason, indeed welcome. I think knowing what you know or at least having a better idea can help us tailor a more useful response to you. Its very difficult to know how to pitch ideas sometimes. Let us know how you get on.

    One of the most interesting of Dawkins’ ideas was his illustrative one about the generality of evolution wherever there are copying entities. We might imagine little fragments of ideas that can be passed on as in cultural transmission and how too they might be considered self serving and independent of ourselves in some way. Dawkins coined the term meme (a cross of mime and gene) for these cultural replicators and you’ll find them at the end of “The Selfish Gene”.

    That idea lies behind my discussion on over-imitation and the roots of culture itself.

    Don’t be afraid to ask either. The best learning experiences come trying to explain things you thought you knew.

  23. Jason B. #20
    Dec 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    I think I will just read more and keep my thoughts to myself until I know what I am talking about.

    I wouldn’t suggest you do that!

    It is far better to raise issues and ask questions of people who can direct your enquiries to appropriate sources of information, and to engage in informative discussion.

    Even critical thinkers, often pick cultural background assumptions, which they have not really thought about! It is also easy to be misled by propaganda and disinformation circulated in the junk media, by politicians and preachers.

    I don’t understand the meaning of half the words you use,

    This could be one of them: –

    https://www.britannica.com/topic/theocracy

    Theocracy, government by divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided. In many theocracies, government leaders are members of the clergy, and the state’s legal system is based on religious law.
    Theocratic rule was typical of early civilizations. The Enlightenment marked the end of theocracy in most Western countries.
    Contemporary examples of theocracies include Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Vatican.

  24. Jason B. #20
    Dec 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Here is another example of theocratic laws which seek to impose religious beliefs and stifle debate!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-42363561

    Six carol singers have been arrested in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh after a man accused them of trying to convert him to Christianity.

    The state has some of the strictest anti-conversion laws in India.

    One of those arrested was a professor at a Catholic theological college. The group said it was only visiting villages to sing songs.

    A car used by the carol singers was also set on fire, allegedly by right-wing activists.

    Police have also filed a case against those accused of torching the car.

    In Madhya Pradesh, which is governed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, people need to give formal notice in advance to the authorities to change religion.

    Some Christians say this leaves villagers open to harassment by Hindu right-wing groups.

    In recent years, the state has seen a surge in allegations about the harassment and intimidation of religious minorities.

    There is also a further link on the BBC page:-
    Indian Muslim fear conversions to Hinduism

    While religious groups may do some good works as sweeteners for their public image, “Religious Morality” is about creating conflicts by imposing the views, doctrines, and dogmas, of particular religious groups on other people, whenever they have the power to do so!

  25. That “religiously moral venom” quickly comes out, when anyone criticises the content of religious proselyting, or religious abuses with pseudo-education substituting for objective standards in secular education!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42377179

    The head of Ofsted says she has had threats from “a mixture of Islamic extremists and the hard left” after raising concerns about faith schools.

    Amanda Spielman said she received some “pretty venomous stuff” after a report criticising some religious schools.

    Speaking to the Times, she said one message threatened “we can get you any time we want to”.

    Extra security has been drafted into an Ofsted regional office after inspectors were sent extreme Islamic literature.

    The head of the schools inspectorate recently published her annual report, which warned a rising number of conservative religious schools were undermining equality laws.

    A book discovered in one of the criticised schools was called Women Who Deserve to go to Hell.

    She claims some of the practices in religious schools were sexist and sectarian.

    In the Times, she said: “I’m not easily bruised. I don’t fall over when I see a load of nasty tweets pointed at me.

    “But there has been some pretty venomous stuff.

    “I had an email, which was the most threatening one, which was along the lines of ‘we know where you live and we can get you any time we want to'”, she added.

    Ms Spielman’s Ofsted report said that there were concerns that the multiculturalism of religious schools sometimes came “into tension with the expectation that students should be prepared for life in modern Britain”.

    The report claimed schools were deliberately choosing to not meet standards due to tensions between a school’s legal requirements for equality, and the expectations of conservative religious communities.

    She added: “If we let ourselves be intimidated out of discussing these issues, it’s children who will suffer.”

    A Department for Education spokeswoman said: “It is absolutely right that Ofsted reports on schools that fail to protect children or fail in any other way to meet the standards we expect, so that we can take action to ensure they adhere to the law.”

  26. A little background in me . . .

    I was raised in a Christian family, though not very dedicated. The church I was raised in was quite liberal. I grew to appreciate the tradition though. I see traditions, like my son and I spending time together hunting in the same place every November, as a good thing. The church I came from provided some of those traditions, so I have a difficult time equating my experience with instances of religious evil to which you are all pointing. It seems to me that lots of atheists do terrible things too (i.e. Stalin), but I don’t conclude that atheism breeds murder just because Stalin murdered people.

  27. I know what a theocracy is.

    My understanding of these words/phrases is a little fuzzy . . .

    perverse thinking processes, anti-social dogmas, reciprocal altruism, appropriate sources of information, junk media.

    I am familiar with all the nouns. It’s the adjectives that confuse me. I am sure they are clarifying for most readers on this site, but I have no idea what the intended meaning is. I don’t want you to define them for me. I am just pointing out where my confusion lies.

    Jargon aside, what is the solution to the problem of religion? If theists are delusional, it doesn’t seem like we can’t convince them with evidence. They will continue to indoctrinate their children, who will then be delusional as well. It seems to me that we either have to cut the next generation off from their parents or eliminate their parents altogether.

  28. Jason B. #26
    Dec 16, 2017 at 5:21 pm

    I was raised in a Christian family, though not very dedicated.

    I too was a Christian as a child, before I matured to more rational thinking capabilities. Many Christians are nice people with friends and neighbours – until the memes of religious tribalism kick in. My mother was raised as a Christian and her sister was an organist for two churches well into old age, although my mother became a humanist later in life.

    It seems to me that lots of atheists do terrible things too (i.e. Stalin), but I don’t conclude that atheism breeds murder just because Stalin murdered people.

    You are correct not to lump large groups of people together.
    I think you will find that when there are atheists like Stalin (who was brought up as a Christian) who are fanatics, it is because they have religious like ideologies and blindly faithful followers, akin to those in fundamentalist mega-churches.

    The fundamental flaw in religious thinking is the thinking based on “faith” in preached messages, rather than seeking scientifically checked and tested evidence. This is a flaw which is a feature of most religions, rather than being specific to a particular one, – although its intensity varies across the range from radical fundamentalists to moderate culturally religious.

    A very obvious difference is the conflicts and contrasts between THE Bible , or preached bible stories, and actual recorded history.

    Atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods or the supernatural.
    Humanism is a moral view based on relationships between humans.

    Many Christian believers have no idea who wrote or edited the various books of the bible, or when the writing and editing took place. Many are also unaware of the other gospels, which did not pass the Roman edit, or for that matter the evolution of the Old Testament god from the Canaanite pantheon of gods.
    Indeed it is likely that many Christians have never read most of the bible – but that does not stop them from holding up as endorsement of their personal views!

    I have a difficult time equating my experience with instances of religious evil to which you are all pointing.

    Churches regularly assert in preaching the “goodness” of their organisations and members, often denigrating outsiders, other religions or denominations, or non-believers.

    As with the paedophile priest cover-ups of the Catholic Church, the image of goodness is the priority, whereas the reality is often quite different. This is very evident where there are communities living together but following different religions. Catholics fighting Protestants, Muslims fighting Christians, Buddhist fighting Muslims, Muslims fighting Hindus etc.

    People who have not reasoned their way into beliefs, are usually unable to reason their way out of flawed ones! – Especially flawed ones which are constantly reasserted by preachers from pulpits.

    On this site we debate issues with the intension of reaching the correct or best available answer, using investigation, scientific and historical evidence, and reason.

  29. Jason #26

    Stalin did nothing in the name of atheism. As a good despot he didn’t want any competition.

    Try this piece to see how we view it.

    https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/10/the-atheist-atrocities-fallacy-hitler-stalin-pol-pot/

    Do you know many any ill-behaving atheists among your peers? Do they identify as Atheist or simply seem irreligious? (Oh, we did see that guy go off the deep end and murder his wife fairly recently but that was notable for its rarity.)

  30. Jason,

    I hear this argument a lot. Do you know what atheism means? “A” is Latin for without. Without a God or deity. Not a theist. That is all. Not. It isn’t a belief in something; it is the absence of belief. There are no atheist fundamentalists because there is no atheist belief system or set of rules to follow; you have good and bad people and everything in-between. Religion does not always breed murder; but it does make good and bad people commit atrocious acts because he or she thinks it is his obligation as a good Christian or Muslim or whatever to do what it says to do in the so-called holy book. You see? There are many people who think that gays and lesbians are perverts, for example (and that can lead to violence or bigotry), or that doctors who perform abortions are defying the commandment of their God. This is where the problem lies. You have a holy text and authority figures in the form of priests or what-have-you, telling you what to do. Atheists may do bad things but at least they are not doing those things because it is written down somewhere in some “holy book”.

    You speak of these traditions as though they are innocuous. Maybe for now; but what if you or someone else were to become obsessed with piety and righteousness? You could easily be brainwashed and feel compelled to commit acts of persecution in order to preserve your integrity as a god-fearing person? You pay a large potential price for your harmless tradition of being a church member. And if you are not serious about it, why do it? It’s just glorified superstition; that is not good for the mind. The mind needs space to grow and take in new ideas, and to embrace the discoveries of science. Look at all the Christians who don’t feel comfortable with evolution! Is that a good thing? Is that how you want your son to grow up? as a creationist? Can you have it both ways? Maybe so, but it doesn’t seem to be working for the world as a whole,. Too many fundamentalists out there. Too many fanatics; and religion does breed fanaticism; that you cannot deny. Atheism does not. Atheism just means without belief in a God (theism) or any man-made holy book telling them what they must do or not do! Nothing more. Nothing less.

    There’s a guy that a lot of people on this site like. His name was Hitchens. He was friends with Dawkins and has had a distinguished career as an author, columnist, essayist, orator, religious and literary critic, social critic, and journalist. I shall quote him again. By the way, check Hitchens and Sam Harris and Dawkins out on YouTube. They address this question in a very engaging and compelling way.

    “Christianity attacks us in our deepest integrity. It says we wouldn’t know what morality was, that we wouldn’t be able to derive ethical statements or actions if we didn’t have divine or supernatural permission to do so. So it essentially robs us of our responsibility and our freedom. It says that we are the objects of a design—I call it a supernatural, celestial dictatorship which shapes our ends, demands things of us, plays with us, is capricious with us, and it is mythologically based. Delusions are not good for people” – Christopher Hitchens

  31. It seems to me that we either have to cut the next generation off from their parents or eliminate their parents altogether.

    That would be inhuman. But ensuring that education in good schools was always available and that while at school children were always given the thinking tools needed to analyse evidence and think clearly about it and not told things as truth for which there was not good and corroborated evidence, then I think a child, whatever told at home by her parents, has a better range of possible choices ahead of her.

    I don’t think things will change fast and many generations of free and informed choice will be needed to bring the US back to its better senses. But the only route out can be the many routes personally chosen based on a modicum of evidence and reason.

  32. Jason B. #27
    Dec 16, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    I know what a theocracy is.

    My understanding of these words/phrases is a little fuzzy . . .

    perverse thinking processes, are irrational thinking and the use of fallacies in place of logical reasoning from evidence.

    anti-social dogmas, Anti-social dogmas – are dogmas and doctrines, which cause damage to human health, human well-being, or human social relationships.
    They are based on the mythology of interpretations of ancient holy books, rather than evidence and expert opinion on evaluated outcomes of the consequences of applying them.

    An example would be Hindus “purifying themselves” by bathing in holy rivers of human sewage and chemical effluent!

    Muslims killing people (apostates) for leaving their faith, or Catholics killing or injuring miscarrying mothers, by prohibiting doctors from carrying out abortions, – or catholic priests spreading AIDS in Africa by lying about the protective effects of condoms!

    reciprocal altruism, is I help you, and you return the favour.

    appropriate sources of information, are articles in reputable scientific journals, reputable use of verified historical documents and artefacts, statements from expert professional bodies, or reporting direct quotes from people as their views.

    junk media. – is the mass media made-up propaganda, gossip, ignorant opinion, and sensationalised hype, which is circulated on conspiracy theory websites, misleading disinformation from sponsored liars (such as global-warming deniers paid by the coal and oil industries to create false doubts about genuine scientific results) or quack remedy snake-oil salesmen, and the “rag” newspapers and magazines, which have sensationalised copy made up by posers with airs of superiority, who have no idea what they are talking about, but that is OK by them, as long as long as it sells papers and keeps their advertisers happy!

  33. I am aware of the meaning of the prefix a.

    I am very thankful for all the feedback. This is a fascinating exercise for me. You all make way too many points for me to respond to each of them. I don’t need more evidence to convince me that Stalin doesn’t represent all atheists. I stated in my original comment that I don’t conclude that he represents all atheists.

    I don’t personally know any violent atheists, but I don’t know any violent theists either. In fact, I don’t know any violent people, so I struggle to see the necessary logical connection between the beliefs held by the peaceful people around me and the atrocities committed in the name of a religion. Those logical connections could still exist. I just don’t see them.

    I still don’t see how opening gifts on Christmas morning can make me “be brainwashed and feel compelled to commit acts of persecution in order to preserve [my] integrity as a god-fearing person.” Maybe I am already brainwashed by religion. I am sure there are ways of thinking already established deep within my psyche that I don’t even realize.

    Alan refers to the obvious difference between the Bible and recorded history. Maybe this is part of my faulty thinking, but I don’t automatically discount everything that is associated with religion. I see the Bible as a collection of historical documents, written and edited by lots of people over a long period of time, and I don’t initially discount it any more than I would the gnostic gospels or Josephus. All historical documents contain errors and discrepancies, but they contain actual history as well.

    I am open to investigating all sources of information, which would include the Bible, Quran, Hadeeth, and any other religious text. Just because some people abuse those documents doesn’t mean they are of no value.

    I am open to investigating all sources of information because I am open to the idea that I could be wrong. As many have pointed out, there is no evidence for the existence of a deity. There was a time when we had no evidence of evolution either. That doesn’t mean that there was no evolution before we uncovered evidence for it. In addition, if deity is by definition immaterial, then it cannot be measured through the scientific method. Science can no more tell us whether deity exists as it can tell us whether the human soul exists. So, if there is no evidence that deity exists, then there is no evidence that deity doesn’t exist, which means I could be wrong. The odds might be astronomically small that I am wrong, but I could still be wrong. If there is a chance that I am wrong, then I am open to entertaining alternative beliefs, including religious beliefs.

  34. Jason, these arguments of yours are fallacious and there a bunch of straw-men arguments in there to boot.

    I still don’t see how opening gifts on Christmas morning can make me “be brainwashed and feel compelled to commit acts of persecution in order to preserve [my] integrity as a god-fearing person.”

    That is not what I said. I said that one’s faith and one’s traditions may seem innocuous, but there is great potential psychic risk, and the scenario I described can and does happen all too often. Read it again if you can. Atheists have this advantage over the religious. They don’t commit murder because their holy book has a set of laws that one must follow. They commit murder for other reasons. Get rid of religion and murder and crime will still exist; but we will have one less huge problem to deal with. Progress is all we can hope for. Not perfection.

    You don’t know violent people. Well there are many violent atheists and many violent religious people. But again, religion dictates, and is a widespread phenomenon. Atheism does not prescribe or command! Atheists do not kill and persecute and oppress others because they are atheists; religious people, on the other hand, do kill, persecute and oppress others precisely because their religion is exclusive and filled with rules, laws, and replete with bigotry. And it is hard to argue with what you think is God’s will. Don’t you see how pernicious this is?

    That the Bible is an historical document is all well and good. Let it remain as an historical document to be studied and critiqued by historians and anthropologists. But good history is based on verifiable evidence. Moses did not exist. Jesus probably existed. But there is no good reason to believe that a divine creator exists just because the Bible says so. And God is the center of the Bible. That leads me to this final point.

    You said that we cannot prove that God or the soul does not exist. Now listen: the burden of proof must always be on the person who is positing the existence of something; he or she must prove or demonstrate that that being exists. If you there is a man standing in the middle of a room but you had made that up out of thin air, would you ask me to prove that the man does not exist? All I can say is it is not there. The burden of proof is on you. Otherwise we can all go around creating our own reality and insisting that what we make up out of then air exists because no one can prove otherwise. That is not logical. Prove to me that superman does not exist!

    Sorry if I sound a little harsh. I am being straight with you because you sound intelligent, far too intelligent to be unamenable to reasoned analyses.

    For now, enjoy the holidays and the traditions. It is the larger picture that concerns me. If every church-going Christian was harmless and wore his religion like a loose fitting garment I wouldn’t worry so much. But this is not the case with all too many – as well know or should know, and as history has shown.

  35. Three corrections:

    Comment 34

    As we all know or should know…

    If you say there is a man standing…

    Comment 30

    “You could easily be brainwashed and feel compelled to commit acts of persecution in order to preserve your integrity as a god-fearing person?”

    Question-mark shouldn’t be there.

  36. I read your statement again, and you say that I could become brainwashed if I become obsessed with pietism. I thought the implication was that having religious traditions could lead to pietism, which could lead to brainwashing. Using inductive reasoning, I thought you were arguing that traditions could lead to brainwashing.

    I have met hundreds and hundreds of people in my life, most of them religious. I have spent considerable time in Turkey over the last fifteen years. I have lived in Jordan and travelled through Syria, Israel, Egypt, Morocco, west Africa, east Africa, China, Thailand, Russia, Ukraine, Europe, and Central America. I have met a couple violent people in the Middle East; but, hands down, the nicest people I have ever met in my life were Syrian . . . all of whom were Muslim. None of them killed me for being an infidel.

    My argument was not fallacious or built on a straw man. My argument was . . . Premise: I could be wrong. Conclusion: I should be open minded.

    I did not argue that deity exists. I only said that I can’t scientifically determine if deity exists.

    I did my undergrad and graduate work at a Christian liberal arts university. I even spent some time in a seminary. So, I am familiar with biblical scholarship. Whether Moses was a historical figure or just a mythical figure like Odysseus seems to be dependent on the dating of the Exodus. At 1200bc, there is no evidence of his existence or of the Exodus. At 1400bc, there is evidence. I am not an Egyptologist, so I can’t comment on it any further. My only point is that I don’t have all the answers and therefore ought to remain open minded.

    Josephus refers to Jesus being crucified by Pilate. I would have a hard time accepting an argument that he didn’t exist, which leaves me to conclude that some of what is contained in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles could be accurate. The historical references in the Acts (names, titles, dates, places) are all externally verified, which leads me to conclude that it contains at least some historical validity.

    As such, I like parts of the Bible. love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t cheat on your wife. It seems to me that there is value in those aspects of religion and that rejecting anything associated with theism is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  37. There are some fine things in the bible and some vile things. All too many people, who are simply devout or pious, think it is their duty to follow the teachings of the Bible. This leads to persecution and worse. Many atrocities have taken place as a direct result of literal interpretations of the Bible. This is inevitable. Holy books are dangerous. Atheists have no holy books written by ignorant scribes – some of whom were no doubt very wise – and filled with bigoted nonsense and Thou Shalts.

    Yes, being a traditional Christian and a moderate Muslim is fine. But there are many who are not that way. They are literalists. It is not their fault entirely. It is religion itself that is at fault.

    Love thy neighbor as yourself because you want to. If you do it because you have to, because God told you to, then you might as well do everything this celestial dictator tells us to do. You can take what what you want and leave the rest. Others are not so fortunate. Others can’t do that.

    There is nothing of true value in religion that cannot survive without it. We would still have morality. We can retain the fine sentiments and maxims as stated and presented in the Bible but who needs the supernatural crap? We can retain the beautiful parts. Who needs a damned holy book, for God’s sake? By coming to regard the Bible as literature, which is what it is, we will have the great advantage of not having to live with the many pitfalls and grave dangers, all of the ramifications, associated with fundamentalism and literalism; we’d be spared the many consequences that religion necessarily gives rise to.

    I have never met a Christian or a Muslim who wanted to kill me either. But to say they don’t exist makes no sense. And to argue that there would still be violence and persecution without religion may be true. But would you not want to stamp out cancer just because hearty disease would still exist? And you needn’t say that atheists are violent and oppressive too. I have already addressed that. Quite well I thought.

    Peace.

  38. You can remain open to the idea that there is a God or any idea you want That is your right. But you will never get an answer – even after death; the brain dies with the rest of the body; no consciousness after death – and so you must remain content to live with an unanswerable question. I am open too. If I witnessed a miracle I would be sorely tempted to convert. Short of that…

    The problem is that devout Christians and ignorant Jesus freaks (all over the Reds states and elsewhere) are convinced that God exists. They have no doubt. And they must do what the Bible says. That is pernicious. It is bad for society. How does one not see that? What exactly are you arguing?

  39. Most of the good stuff in the bible existed hundred of years previously in the mouths of axial age philosophers across the globe. The Golden Rule had its outing before Christ, though it would take nearly two thousand years until post Enlightenment thinkers upgraded this.

    c. 700 BC In Homer’s Odyssey, goddess Calypso tells Odysseus: “I’ll be as careful for you as I’d be for myself in like need. I know what is fair and right.”

    c. 624-546 BC First philosopher Thales, when asked how to live virtuously, reportedly replies (according to the unreliable Diogenes Laertius c. 225 AD): “By never doing ourselves what we blame in others.” A similar saying is attributed to Thales’s contemporary, Pittacus of Mytilene.

    c. 563-483 BC Buddha in India teaches compassion and shunning unhealthy desires. His golden rule says: “There is nothing dearer to man than himself; therefore, as it is the same thing that is dear to you and to others, hurt not others with what pains yourself” (Dhammapada, Northern Canon, 5:18).

    c. 551-479 BC Confucius sums up his teaching as: “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)

    c. 522 BC Maeandrius of Samos (in Greece), taking over from an evil tyrant, says (according to the historian Herodotus c. 440 BC, in his Histories 3.142): “What I condemn in another I will, if I may, avoid myself.” Xerxes of Persia c. 485 BC said something similar (Histories 7.136).

    c. 500 BC Jainism, a religion of India that promotes non-violence, compassion, and the sacredness of life, teaches the golden rule: “A monk should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Jaina Sutras, Sutrakritanga, bk. 1, 10:1-3)

    c. 500 BC Taoist Laozi says: “To those who are good to me, I am good; and to those who are not good to me, I am also good; and thus all get to receive good.” (Tao Te Ching 49) A later work says: “Regard your neighbor’s gain as your gain and your neighbor’s loss as your loss.” (T’ai-Shang Kan-Ying P’ien)

    c. 500 BC Zoroaster in Persia teaches the golden rule: “That character is best that doesn’t do to another what isn’t good for itself” and “Don’t do to others what isn’t good for you.”

    c. 479-438 BC Mo Tzu in China teaches the golden rule: “Universal love is to regard another’s state as one’s own. A person of universal love will take care of his friend as he does of himself, and take care of his friend’s parents as his own. So when he finds his friend hungry he will feed him, and when he finds him cold he will clothe him.” (Book of Mozi, ch. 4)

    c. 440 BC Socrates (c. 470-399 BC) and later Plato (c. 428-347 BC) begin the classical era of Greek philosophy. The golden rule, while not prominent in their thinking, sometimes leaves a trace. As Socrates considers whether to escape from jail, he imagines himself in the place of the state, who would be harmed (Crito). And Plato says: “I’d have no one touch my property, if I can help it, or disturb it without consent on my part; if I’m a man of reason, I must treat the property of others the same way” (Laws). (Wattles 1996: 32-6)

    c. 436-338 BC Isocrates in Greece teaches the golden rule as promoting self-interest (you do unto others so that they’ll do unto you). He says: “Don’t do to others what angers you when you experience it from others.” The golden rule then becomes common, in positive and negative forms, in Greco-Roman culture, in Sextus, Demosthenes, Xenophon, Cassius Dio, Diogenes Laertius, Ovid, and others. The golden rule has less impact on Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and early Stoics. (Meier 2009: 553f)

    c. 400 BC Hinduism has positive and negative golden rules: “One who regards all creatures as his own self, and behaves towards them as towards his own self attains happiness. One should never do to another what one regards as hurtful to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of righteousness. In happiness and misery, in the agreeable and the disagreeable, one should judge effects as if they came to one’s own self.” (Mahabharata bk. 13: Anusasana Parva, §113)

    384-322 BC Aristotle says: “As the virtuous man is to himself, he is to his friend also, for his friend is another self” (Nicomachean Ethics 9:9). Diogenes Laertius (c. 225 AD) reports Aristotle as saying that we should behave to our friends as we wish our friends to behave to us.

    c. 372-289 BC Mencius, Confucius’s follower, says (Works bk. 7, A:4): “Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.”

    c. 300 BC Sextus the Pythagorean in his Sentences expresses the golden rule positively and negatively: “As you wish your neighbors to treat you, so treat them. What you censure, do not do.” (Meier 2009: 554 & 628)

    The Platinum Rule takes a while to be adopted. Do unto others as they would wish to be done by. The fact of astonishing diversity in the species is generally not desired or approved by religious dogma that has us all made with a singularity of given purpose and made in God’s image.

    1903 George Bernard Shaw quips against the literal golden rule: “Do not do unto others as you would that they should do unto you. Their tastes may not be the same.”

    Moral thinking was ever rife, but it takes religious dogma to hobble its progress.

  40. Jason B. #36
    Dec 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    My only point is that I don’t have all the answers and therefore ought to remain open minded.

    That is an excellent basis on which to base investigations.

    Josephus refers to Jesus being crucified by Pilate.

    Actually Josephus is one of few contemporary sources which makes even a vague reference to someone resembling that name. The Romans crucified thousands, and the records of supposed adoring crowds of Jesus’ adoring followers and grand miraculous events, are notable by their absence from Roman records.

    I would have a hard time accepting an argument that he didn’t exist,

    I think he may or may not have existed as a person. It was a very common name at that time, and the whole area was over-run with itinerant preachers, so he COULD be a composite figure put together by the Athanasius and the Romans, in the same way that they combined Greek and Roman gods to consolidate religious harmony of views to reduce religious disputes.

    which leaves me to conclude that some of what is contained in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles could be accurate.

    I think Acts was authored by Saul/Paul and as a Roman, his writings are correctly attributed. The evidence is that Athanasius’ selected canonical gospels (edited in the 4th. century), and the other gospels (Gospel of Peter, Gospel of Mary, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Judas etc.), were written as recorded folk-law, decades or centuries later, by sects of followers who attached the names to their writings , to add “authority” to their tales.

    The historical references in the Acts (names, titles, dates, places) are all externally verified, which leads me to conclude that it contains at least some historical validity.

    The places existed, but the modern medical evidence suggests that Saul was epileptic, he never met the character Jesus, and his “visions” were symptoms of fits.

    As such, I like parts of the Bible. love your neighbor as yourself. Don’t cheat on your wife.

    As Phil points out, these are in no way exclusive to the Christian religion, or indeed to any religion. Furthermore, these are cherry-picked parts of the bible, and there are plenty of other “demonic” examples quoted as behaviour role models, and loads of self-contradictions in it.

    It seems to me that there is value in those aspects of religion and that rejecting anything associated with theism is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    As I pointed out, religions include moral sweeteners to enhance their image, but these are mixed with the more destructive features which promote the religion at the expense of its own followers or rival communities.

    Because of the perpetual assertion of “tribal goodness” and the cover-up, and forgiveness and the forgetting of misconduct, those within the social bubble of a particular denomination or cult, see only the projected image promoted by its leaders.

    the nicest people I have ever met in my life were Syrian . . . all of whom were Muslim. None of them killed me for being an infidel.

    My father-in-law was in Syria with the RAF during WW2 – and he confirmed that view.

    My argument was not fallacious or built on a straw man. My argument was . . . Premise: I could be wrong. Conclusion: I should be open minded.

    I did not suggest that your argument was fallacious. I stated that many religious beliefs (especially fundamentalist and biblical literalist ones), are based on fallacious arguments.

    I did not argue that deity exists. I only said that I can’t scientifically determine if deity exists.

    While we can’t determine with absolute certainty that some vague form of deity does not exist (negative proof fallacy), we can determine scientifically that many of the historical biblical claims of Abrahamic (and other) religious are false, contradict scientific evidence, or are based on forged documents. (Science can date documents, and detect later additions to texts in them.)

    We can deduce from the conflicting accounts of thousands of religions and cults past and present, that they can’t all be right! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_deities I have yet to meet an agnostic who is agnostic about ALL the conflicting religions of the world.

    What we can demonstrate scientifically, is that religious beliefs and particular gods are coincident geographically and in historical time frames, with indoctrination by the local cultures of the time!
    There were no Inca or Aztec gods in the old world, and no Abrahamic or Hindu gods in the Americas pre-Columbus!

    We can therefore conclude that the best available information, is that gods exist as imaginary images in believers’ brains, and are memetically transmitted through cultural interactions in populations, and down the generations.

    This is explained in Richard Dawkin’s book ” The God-Delusion”.

  41. Jason B. #33
    Dec 16, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    Alan refers to the obvious difference between the Bible and recorded history. Maybe this is part of my faulty thinking, but I don’t automatically discount everything that is associated with religion.

    It’s not a matter of discounting everything associated with religion, but rather analysing the stories to separate fact from fiction and logic from wish-thinking.
    Apart from preachers cherry-picking bits of the Bible/Quran etc., there is the failure of most believers to actually read all of their holy book!

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

    Dutch YouTubers disguised a Bible as Quran and filmed people’s reactions to some of the verses in it – verses about cutting off hands, not forgiving and killing.
    The vast majority was shocked when they found out that the verses actually came from the Bible.

    Then there is the issue of the historical information which is missing when the OT focus is so narrow – with the evolution of the Abrahamic monotheist god, from the Canaanite Pantheon. (El, Yahweh, Asherah, Jehovah Baal, the 70 sons of El, etc)

    I see the Bible as a collection of historical documents, written and edited by lots of people over a long period of time, and I don’t initially discount it any more than I would the gnostic gospels or Josephus. All historical documents contain errors and discrepancies, but they contain actual history as well.

    They may or may not contain actual history, but most (like the Greek myths, gods, and legends, or the “true” Robin Hood), contain fanciful enhancements, and bigging up “heroes”, by their fans and followers.

  42. I did not suggest that your argument was fallacious.

    He was addressing me. I said that some of his assertions and arguments were fallacious and straw-men.

    Examples:

    As many have pointed out, there is no evidence for the existence of a deity. There was a time when we had no evidence of evolution either. That doesn’t mean that there was no evolution before we uncovered evidence for it.

    This point is based on the illogical premise that everything is virtually equal regarding the probability of its someday being corroborated by scientific evidence, and that we should therefore treat all things the same and suspend judgment as to the possible existence of a divine creator – and, presumably, such things as miracles, magic, the supernatural, and whatever else we dream up.

    I still don’t see how opening gifts on Christmas morning can make me “be brainwashed and feel compelled to commit acts of persecution in order to preserve [my] integrity as a god-fearing person.”

    I wasn’t laying down a law without any variation. My point was not about any one individual or opening gifts; it was this: going to church may seem like an innocuous tradition; but it is impossible to prevent some, many, people from becoming what we call “extremists”. That cannot be prevented; this is really the ultimate direction of all people who regard the Bible as the word of God; and this has been demonstrated time and again.

    Just because some people abuse those documents doesn’t mean they are of no value.

    Are they abusing the texts or are they simply more pious? Are they perhaps just following the rules without discrimination as true Muslims and Christians should? As Sam Harris asked, what is the real Christianity or the real Islam? The fallacy here lies in the assumption that picking and choosing what to accept and reject is a simple matter for all people. This is by no means the case.

    So, if there is no evidence that deity exists, then there is no evidence that deity doesn’t exist, which means I could be wrong. The odds might be astronomically small that I am wrong, but I could still be wrong. If there is a chance that I am wrong, then I am open to entertaining alternative beliefs, including religious beliefs.

    This one I already addressed. Again, of course there is no evidence that God does not exist. All one can say is that there is no evidence that God does exist. Any attempt to argue this point further is the height of hubris or illogic – or both.

    Just my honest responses.

  43. Dan #42
    Dec 17, 2017 at 7:33 am

    So, if there is no evidence that deity exists, then there is no evidence that deity doesn’t exist, which means I could be wrong.

    This one I already addressed.
    Again, of course there is no evidence that God does not exist.

    What we can say, is the there is no observed instance of the physics of the universe needing any supernatural intervention in order to work.

    All one can say is that there is no evidence that God does exist.

    In fact, the evidence is that theists cannot even produce an agreed material coherent definition of this claimed deity, let alone produce evidence of its existence as an entity!
    Claims generally, are either simply refuted by science, basic gapology, or simply too vague to be logically considered.

    Actually as I point out @#40, there is abundant evidence that gods do exist as delusions in the brains of believers, and that these are geographically and temporally centred on indoctrination from particular human cultures at particular points in history.
    There is no evidence of them existing or interacting with the material world anywhere else!

    So, if there is no evidence that deity exists, then there is no evidence that deity doesn’t exist, which means I could be wrong.

    So, if there is no evidence that The Jolly Green Giant exists, then there is no evidence that The Jolly Green Giant doesn’t exist, which means I could be wrong.

    Perhaps this illustrates the point, that this is a fallacious argument which could be produced in support of any fanciful belief!

  44. Right. No concrete evidence that we haven’t been visited by aliens from another solar system this past century. So one’s belief that that did happen must be held on an equal footing with another’s learned skepticism.

    Good point about no one having a clear idea about how to define God. How could they? So even if it did exist we might not even all recognize it. How could we? (But of course it is kind of a waste time to even speculate about such things.)

    And yes, delusions do exist AS delusions. So do illusions.

  45. The problem with dogmatic assertions of faith-based “morality”, is that it is not open to evidence or reasoning. Hence its followers constantly try to re-write history and science to accommodate their made-up dogmas and doctrines.

    Here is a Roman Catholic example:-

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_and_the_Catholic_Church#Catholic_teaching_and_evolution

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994, revised 1997) on faith, evolution and science states:
    159.Faith and science: “… methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith,

    This is the fallacious mental gymnastics of pretending that religious dogmatic “moral pronouncements”, are compatible with science, and that dogma can trump and over-rule scientific evidence!

    because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (Vatican II GS 36:1)

    Nope! Honest scientific investigations do NOT begin with theological dogmatic preconceptions – and then progress in circles!
    Science follows the material evidence to logical conclusions!

    283.The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man.

    Yep!

    These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers….

    Nope! False assertion!
    Faith-thinking can take no credit for discoveries using scientific methodology!

    284.The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences.

    Nope the discoveries of science are not “beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences.” much as wish-thinkers would like them to be!

    It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin….

    Meanings and purposes are properties of human aspirations. Universes, galaxies, solar-systems and evolution do not have “purposes” or “objectives”! They simply progress through time according to the laws of physics.

    Concerning the doctrine on creation,
    Ludwig Ott in his Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma identifies the following points as essential beliefs of the Catholic faith (“De Fide”):[70]

    All that exists outside God was, in its whole substance,
    produced out of nothing by God.
    God was moved by His Goodness to create the world.
    The world was created for the Glorification of God.
    The Three Divine Persons
    are one single, common Principle of the Creation.
    God created the world free from exterior compulsion
    and inner necessity.
    God has created a good world.
    The world had a beginning in time.
    God alone created the world.
    God keeps all created things in existence.
    God, through His Providence, protects and guides
    all that He has created.

    This is not consistent with the evolution of accretion disks and planetary formation.

    Some Catholic theologians, among them Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Piet Schoonenberg, and Karl Rahner, have discussed the problem of how evolutionary theory relates to the doctrine of original sin.

    There is very little to discuss!
    The garden of Eden is a fairy tale which did not exist.
    No human Adam and Eve were directly created as humans.
    Talking snakes do not exist, original sin does not exist, so no redeemer was required to atone for this imaginary sin.
    The whole story is a bronze-age load on nonsense, which has no basis in evolutionary science, but the theologists feel compelled to shoe-horn it in, and to pervert the science somehow, to accommodate it!

  46. Alan, #40

    I think Acts was authored by Saul/Paul and as a Roman, his writings
    are correctly attributed.

    Actually, Acts is generally attributed to Luke. It is certainly believed to have been written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke, though neither that nor the Acts actually states the name of its author.

    It seems unlikely to have been Paul, though:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_the_Apostles:
    The author is not named in either volume.[8] According to Church tradition dating from the 2nd century, he was the “Luke” named as a companion of the apostle Paul in three of the letters attributed to Paul himself; this view is still sometimes advanced, but “a critical consensus emphasizes the countless contradictions between the account in Acts and the authentic Pauline letters.”[9]) (An example can be seen by comparing Acts’s accounts of Paul’s conversion (Acts 9:1–31, 22:6–21, and 26:9–23) with Paul’s own statement that he remained unknown to Christians in Judea after that event (Galatians 1:17–24).)[10][10] He admired Paul, but his theology was significantly different from Paul’s on key points and he does not (in Acts) represent Paul’s views accurately.[11]

    (Just posted for info.)

  47. Marco #46
    Dec 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    Alan, #40
    I think Acts was authored by Saul/Paul and as a Roman, his writings are correctly attributed.

    Actually, Acts is generally attributed to Luke. It is certainly believed to have been written by the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke, though neither that nor the Acts actually states the name of its author.

    It seems unlikely to have been Paul, though:

    Sorry. My error. I should have confined my attribution to those letters actually attributed to Paul.

    However my main point is that the authorship of canonical gospels is unknown, but has the sects named after disciples, attached to the oral handed down “gospel” accounts from those sects, and that there does not appear to be any reason (apart from Roman expediency in the the 4th. century) for them to be considered any more authentic than any of the the other gospels listed @#40.

    http://gnosis.org/naghamm/nhl.html

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