Letters from a Skeptic – Letter 1 – 3 of 30

In the first letter, the father raises the issues of historic church crimes – Inquisition, Crusades, Supporting or Ignoring the Holocaust, whichever interpretation you prefer.

Now, the letters were exchanged in the early 1990’s – and the father did not touch on the systemic raping of children and the administrative cover ups that followed over decades and in every country where the Catholic Church operates.

Nor does the father raise the issues around characters like Mother Teresa, who socialized with the worst dictators, never publically accounted for the massive amount of donations, which were not evident in her hostile warehousing of sick and dying, suffering people who were not treated by doctors or nurses or with medications, but were cared for by nuns – the sole purpose of the warehousing the ill was to concentrate suffering so that Mother Teresa could feel close to a god that she no longer felt but was carrying on as if were real.

This fetishistic view of suffering is part of what’s psychological kinky about religious belief. The contradiction between our drives to live with creature comforts and spend our time in pleasurable pursuits and our succumbing to advertising pressures that play on our insecurities and fears – as religion does.

Because really, if advertising can convince you that you are an incomplete person unless you buy their branded product – what mental defenses can we have against religion, ingrained into tradition over centuries, sleazes into our premises about ourselves and our value, that says we can’t even be good people unless we brand ourselves with the correct religion.

Whew, okay, step back from the brink and return to the book.

Basically, the father is disconnected and discounting religion – but from my reading of his letters, the father is not a skeptic in the same sense of skeptic as I am. His analysis of religion is not deep, it’s vague and easily countered as a result.

Specific objects are not easily brushed aside, as Dr Boyd does with his father’s vague disgruntlements the Free Will Dodge and a variant on the No True Christian fallacy.

Letter 2.

The father isn’t totally convinced by the Free Will answer to why people can commit evil – and the original question of why would a loving god not do something when humans chose to do evil under the banner of god’s will, is not answered.

Because there isn’t an answer to the charge that if god is real, and is a compassionate and loving god, then it makes no sense that each of our own free will would allow a person to arise through the social power structure and then slaughter millions of people in their god’s name.

At the very least, it’s not good PR for god – it’s hard to sell a loving image over the sounds and sights of genocides and the systemic sexual exploitation of children over decades and spanning nations.

Which doesn’t mean that there’s not an attempt to sweep these concerns aside with blanditudes.

The Free Will Dodge, used to explain why people get to be or do evil is then applied across society. By adding personal responsibility to the Free Will, the apologist attempts to avoid getting god splashed with the evil of humans individually and collectively.

As an aside, there’s a certain tone in the book – and I realize that the correspondence was between a man and his 70 year old father, so there was a lifetime of familiarity – but also a reminder that these letters were edited for publication to an unknown degree – which is not to cast any doubt on the sincerity, the obvious caring and love or the father’s eventual conversion.

I maintain that the father was more a disgruntled customer who was able to be soothed back into the fold, than a person who grounded themselves in natural reality and rejected a religious reality.

But what I found particular cloying was the tone of the son’s letters, all the hallmarks of active listening when you are trying to lead someone down the garden path – positive feedback, compliments that step outside of the discussion so provides a pat on the head patronizing tone within the warm fuzzy feelings and fuzzier logic – that anyone lacking a grounding in naturalist reality would probably not detect. Because anyone existing in a reality were the religion is deemed real or may be real, isn’t seeing the apologist reality with an outside of that reality perspective.

It gets back to being socially capable – being able to take a block of information and compare and contrast it to other blocks of information.

The discussion between father and son is within the realm that the religion may be or is real. The son is a christian, the father has lapsed – but while he rejects the religion for himself, his allowing that it might be real and his acceptance of it as real is dependent on it being made palatable.

Not dependent on religion being credible, logical or consistent with world history and reality as people who are socially capable of coexisting with diversity understand reality.

But on the religion being made palatable and blameless for the harms and evil it causes in the world – by separating the actions of people from their religious motivation for their actions – and claiming that’s where Free Will puts the responsibility on people for bringing about genocide or systemic sexual abuse of children while protecting the priestly molesters. Indeed, sending them from one parish to another until they could find a parish who were willing to offer their children as sacrifices to the priests or be promoted up the ranks to protect those perverts who came after them.

Funny how they want to love the sinner and hate the sin, as if it is possible to separate sexuality from personal identity in the case of gays and lesbians. Worse, acting as if sexuality is no different than criminality as a behaviour.

As a final dodge, the son waves the patriot flag – we have to tolerate evil or else be nothing more than programmed brainbots – and what is in it for god – even an all knowing god – if we just go around as he programmed us.

Without any realization that forcing people to adhere to rigid gender roles or a moral code that’s handed down from on high and leaves a lot of wrongs on the table, like slavery, women as chattel, child molesting, and all the other stuff in the bible like wholesale genocide save for one family not drowned in the flood.

Apparently, we have to want to act as if we are programmed to show how good and deserving we are – our lives are supposed to be some emptying our will to follow the unknowable will of god, unknowable except for all the representatives on earth who tell us god’s will, without a thought to how nicely it is that god’s will allows these leaders to live in luxury and material wealth while most followers have to scrape and scratch to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

The battle is one of whether you live your life how you think god wants to you live, based in what you’re told by authority figures and what’s tolerable to you, vs what you have to struggle to accept.

It seems to me that the battle is within the religion, keeping the fold folded and so occupied with rituals and rules that they never take the time to ever think about what they are being told and asked – especially when asked to live in a way that is not consistent with your own desires or understanding of the world and your place in it.

It’s what I kept coming back to while reading AJ Jacobs, the Year of Living Biblically.

There were so many rules to juggle and follow that there was no time to really live, it hadn’t been for modern infrastructure and on top of adhering to the daily religious routine, AJ had to deal with crops and livestock and property and household management, the slaves unionizing and the wife spending longer and longer periods of time in the menstrual tent with the other unclean wives….there would have been no book at the end, because his whole life was consumed with the necessities of life and worship.

The father calls the son with this argument that I summarize as “evil being the cost of free will not an acceptable answer”

But the father’s skepticism and world view is not large enough to pull the son into the natural world for debate, and is instead, sucked into the false reality discussion wherein there are only two possible answers – “religion is real” and “you continue to resist reality.”

Surely an all knowing god would know what the risk of free will and allowing a few people to cause suffering on the scale of millions in the modern world – numbers not even guessed at at the time of the original followers.

Which is part of the natural world understanding – the world of the bible was a geographically small one with a handful of player nations.

That the world is so much larger and more complex than the bible would have us beleive, because the bible occurs in a very small geographical region in very few countries – the universe of the bible is but a subset of the universe that we have available.

It’s like saying of all the books that have been published, I am going to only read one and assume it contains everything that I will ever need to know.

Which is fine if you live in a world that the book describes – but we do not anymore.

Our world is vastly more complex than the world of the people who wrote the texts, who edited the texts, translated the texts and eventually compiled the texts, re-edited and distributed the texts so people could not read them and be told what they contained.

The answers that made sense 100, 500, 3000 years ago, are unlikely to make sense now, with the facts on the ground as we can and do know them.

The reality is that the cost of freedom is that evil will and can occur – but it’s not freedom that’s bestowed upon us that we have to prove ourselves worthy of through the quality of our obedience and conformity.

Freedom and Free Will are mutually exclusive with religion predicated on worship of a deity – if the cost of using your free will to determine morality based in your rational mind and socio-cultural context is to be punished with eternal damnation, then you may as well have no will at all.

Obey or suffer consequences, is not loving or compassionate, is not allowing freedom, it’s forcing a choice – submit or die.

This is the basis for the crusades, the inquisition and the spread of religion by the word or the sword.

Submit or die is not the basis of a complex, multinational, multicultural coexistence.

We have to be able to coexist – we have to chose to coexist on a daily on-going basis as individuals and as nations.

Because if we cannot respect that each of us has a right to exist just because we were born, a right to exist without fear of being murdered for a cause or belief we do not subscribe to, a right to exist without fear of being abducted, harmed, killed by strangers because they physically can without consideration for legality or morality, if we cannot agree that human rights are the rights that we allow for each other in order to peacefully coexist – which is why the withholding of equality is as an attack on a population group.

If we can’t agree in principle that we are going to coexist with all the diversity that humans are capable of, then existence will continue to be pointless and plagued with evil, corruption and waste.

The cost of not changing is the continued destruction of habitat and lives from one person up to whole populations of people.

So, if we are going to have the discussions, we need to be having the same discussions.

Religionists and Naturalists are not speaking the same language and are not having the same discussions. We need to not be having discussions inside religious realities – leave those for those who beleive.

The discussions we need to have are in our shared reality, grounded in facts on the ground and dealing with the world as a natural world in a natural universe.

Because even with the whole of human history, all religions have the same evidence to support their supernatural agent claims – that is no evidence at all.

Just so religionists don’t feel alone, if we’re going to save the health care system, it needs a facts on the ground shake up too – and any treatment that doesn’t end in a measurable health improvement and who’s impact is not empirically quantifiable or explainable and is never ending – needs to not be deemed a medical treatment.

This means chiropractic, homeopathic, anything that’s been invented by one person who is unschooled in biology, medicine, chemistry, genetics whatever, is not funded by employer offered medical plans or  government in the case of universal health care.

If there’s no basis for it, don’t fund it from taxes – let users pay for unproven and unscientific treatments and give them no sheen of credibility – by acting as if they might be real or that the false comfort and false hopes they engender are worth being defrauded for placebos.

If ever there’s a product or service that should be decided by the impersonal marketplace, it’s the fraudulent ones.

Which, religion is a placebo for the brain, it’s something that people find comfort in, to accept the small and large injustice in the world, to think that They Will Get Theirs in the end – because if we miss the bad guy, then god will get them.

So perhaps the real harm and evil of religion is that it allows people to tolerate injustice and unfairness – because it allows believers to be intolerant and unjust, excusing it with sincerity of belief to be sorted out in the afterlife.

Not a comforting thought to those of us who don’t accept the premise of an afterlife and who do not find it so easy to tolerate injustice and unfairness – especially when we see how much of it is created by or in the name of, religion.

27 thoughts on “Letters from a Skeptic – Letter 1 – 3 of 30

  1. I am not sure what you mean by duality in my thinking – I think like a relationship database, not duality, that’s too simplified.

    but from what I am understanding from your post, Amy, is that you are assuming things about my position based in experience of other people’s debating and not what I am saying.

    We don’t know everything, we might not ever know everything. but there’s no rush to know everything, technology has to continue to advance, and people have to continue to evolve in ways that support social and technological advances – and religion is one of the social brakes that upholds the status quo – which isn’t working for more people than ever before

    So, we use naturalism (science) to explain what we can and leave everything that we can’t explain as a question without an answer at present.

    There is nothing inconsistent with saying “don’t know”

    the problem is that religion is often jammed into or covered over the “don’t know” and then people act as if that’s real when it is absolutely not.

    I do not presume to know what’s out there, but what I do know is that we have learned a lot and we will continue to learn a lot – so until we can find an answer through human efforts, we leave it blank.

    and put aside religion and all the supernatural agency stuff and deal with each other with everyone’s head grounded in naturalism.

    people can have whatever beliefs they want, god, ghosts, unicorns – but we don’t make government policy or elect politicians on whether you could have a beer and talk about your shared love of unicorns.

    what I post in my blog may be disturbing to people who are religious, because I feel no burden to coddle religious sensibilities. If you don’t want people to laugh at your beliefs, then maybe you should consider having less funny beliefs, or keeping them to yourself and not invite the commentary.

    but we can’t run a secular nation on the religious ideas of dominate groups, because government is in the secular civic business and ensuring equality of everyone just fore being citizens.

    and religious people who say that athiests shouldn’t be citizens are demonstrating that they are not socially capable people who can function in a modern secular society, because they don’t understand the law of the land because of their religious goggles obscuring reality.

  2. I have to state, after thinking about this, and writing for another purpose on this same subject, I have to say that I was wrong in saying anyone kills in the name of Atheism. Atheism is not the name of anything. Atheism is a lack of, a void, a disbelief, a negative, thus you can do nothing in the name of Atheism. Nor can you do anything in he name of an “ism”. To do something in the name of woud imply that you are acting on behalf of a person (as one can only do something in the name of something to which a name can be ascribed). You can however, do something as one inspired to act by the lack of belief. When I say that one commits attrocities in the Name of Atheism, this is false. However, you can say, that one can claim to commit both good and evil in the name of God, as God is one which a name can be ascribed. However, I would argue, again, that thier statement that they (including Peter the Hermit, Fred Phelps, Pope Leo X, David Koresh, the Knights Templar, etc) are twisting the commands of God. Darwin’s own son attempted to spread the idea of Eugenics as being in the name of his father, or at the behest of his father. Charles sued his son over this, because it was untrue.
    This does not change my arguement, but does change the words I use. Instead of saying that attrocities or murders have been committed in the name of Atheism. I will say that they have been driven by one’s lack of belief in divinity.

  3. It would seem that your “world view” of naturalism does indeed shape these discussions, as it should. You, as a naturalist belive only what can be observed, is that correct? I as a theist, believe there is a spritual side to our existance which cannot be observed. Well, I suppose we could end there.
    However, you have made accusations that go beyond this. In that you claim to that be a theists is to be prone towards committing attrocities. I argue that it is not religion that makes one prone to committing such things, but humanity. Can we assume that a society without religion will be void of such attrocietes? History does not support this.
    I must argue against this. If communist dictators did not kill in the name of Atheism, when they killed religious folks for practicing thier religion, what was it? These dictators were not their own religion as some have said. They in no way saw themselves or taught that they were divine, but that there were mere political leaders, attempting to set up an equal society devoid of the evils of religion. So they killed the religious. While I belive it was indeed in the name of Atheism as they killed people for the fact they believed in a God, I do believe that it was a twisting of such views (or lack of views).
    When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold asked their victims if they were Christian, were they not killing in the name of Atheism. Yes, but thier version, was twisted by their humanity.
    And yet you seem to be trying to get your readers to see Christians and the religious as people who should be hated. You will not accept arguements as to their goodness, as it would seem you will only accept opinions which fall into said anger and hatred. At some point in an poorly conducted arguement you have to resort to emotion. In your quest to spread the “truth” of Atheism, you have seemingly, moved form information and truth, to moving people to give up thier religion out of hatred. Look, this was a trick right out of the books of the religious, and it always ends poorly.
    Look people are bad, people are good. Its just people. Thier politics, their family structure, their religion will always be twisted to fit thier won morality or immorality. Thus you cannot blame religion for the stupid things people do.
    I say this as the end of this conversation. I belived that you were open to discussion, but in your last statement you said that you do not want to hear any arguements or appologetics as it would not further your own opinions. This is the death of a great discussion. When one party says they will only listen to that which supports their world view (and yes I continue to use world view as now we have moved from being and Atheist to a Naturalist. Naturalism is most certainly a word view).
    You then said that you only wanted to talk about Naturalism. In essence you will criticize religion, but will not accept any conversations or discussion about Religion, only naturalism.
    So this conversation is not worth having. I would like you, however, to understand, that I as the Christian, am willing to hear your point of view, and have enjoyed it, and learned from it thus far. The majority of us, contrary to popular Atheist thought, are of the same oppionion. In fact most of us tune our philosophical thought to the methodilogical doubt of Descartes (A Christian) or the self arguments of Thomas Acquinas. We welcome different oppinions! I would hope to hear the same form an open minded Atheist.

  4. It is not trying to get someone to believe that Christians are loving. It is trying to get people to realize that humanity is humanity, whether Atheist or Christian. There seeems to be this arguement on both sides that one is someone morally superior to the other. As a christian, as a BIBLE believing christian, I don’t believe this to be true. Moraly we all have an equal tendency towards evil, towards screwing up.
    It is not because one is religious. In the case of Christianity, one should actually behave in a more accepting manner, as most of us do. The ones you notice however are the ones who have not hear the call of 1 John which says “God is love, if you dont know God you dont know love.”
    No, but the real evil, in most people’s mind is that we could possibly accept something we cannot see. This seems to be what really ticks people off, no matter how good, no matter ho productive, the real hatred is towards those who would believe in something larger than themselves. Am I right?

    • no, you’re not right.

      it’s okay to beleive in something larger than yourself – after all – that’s what Patriotism is, being a fan of some sports team – it’s connecting yourself to something larger.

      it’s when people beleive they are part of something larger when there is nothing to support said larger thing existing.

      That is known as delusional, acting as if the world was as you would wish it to be – versus how it collectively and actually is.

  5. I’ll give you a reason not to hate religion. You seem very well educated, and as such I am sure you are familiar with the idea of nihilism, both in the individual sense and within the greater society. Nietzsche said that humanity needs to believe that this all means something. That there is some kind of plan. That our lives have a purpose. Without this sense of purpose, society would fall into a sense of meaninglessness and plunge into a kind of moral lawlessness in which nothing matters so why care? He was not advocating religion, but he did believe that it fulfilled that deep need within humanity. The brilliant Stephen Hawkings, an agnostic, said that he would gladly believe in any book which might grant him even a remote possibility of a blissfull eternal life, if only he knew which book to believe in. Intersestingly, his wife Jane Wilde, testified, “Without my faith in God, I wouldn’t have been able to live in this situation(her husband’s condition); I would not have been able to marry Stephen in the first place because I wouldn’t have had the optimism to carry me through and I wouldn’t have been able to carry on with it” Hawkings credits the love of his wife with helping him to find meaning in putting forth the effort to live and work.

    Nietzsche says that without religion, we must as a society, for sanity, move from nihilism to amor fati, or “the love of fate,” a state in which we can find a sense of purpose and happiness in a “what ever will be, will be” kind of senario. I suggest to you that this kind of evolution beyond nihilism in the face of hopelessness is simply not possible for most people. I have read some of your posts. I would put money on the fact that you have a very high IQ. So did Nietzsche and Hawkings. What seems clear to them I would argue, is not clear to most.

    It is interesting that most people with a high IQ are agnostic. The average human IQ is 100. When an individual is operating with an IQ of 70, we suggest that they follow the advice of their non-deficient caretakers when they are not sure about what is right or wrong. If you have an IQ of even 130, you have a set of tools in your pocket that the average individual does not have access to. I would suggest that although religion may simply be a mechanism created by humanity to maintain order amidst chaos and to give the masses a sense of purpose, it does its job well and is the best option humanity has to date.

    Hawkings also said that religion …”is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” Is that really so wrong? Are we not in some way obligated not to take that comfort away from them? I for one, am not about to jump from the agnostic bandwagon over to the athiest one for one big reason. I want to believe that the Lock Ness monster, or Bigfoot may actually exist and that there may in fact be a such thing as magic. After all even though as you say, those behind religion are responsible for much wrong in the world, wrong has existed in societies without it. As another poster stated, it is part of humanity. The world without religion would still be the same. Look at Rome. Conversly, religion has been responsible for much good in the world too. Much charity today is backed by religious organizations set on “saving” the world. It seems short sighted to completely discount religion or those who practice it. Leave them to it. Maybe they need it.

    • False hope/comfort combined with wishful thinking is not a sufficient offset against the harms of religion that are occurring in secular democratic nations with the religious driven denial of equality and that being the same reason for previous so called minorities to have to fight to be granted what white land owners could from the beginning, combined with the poverty in public education from coddling religious sensibilities or waste of money in fighting them and the Christian Taliban’s infiltration of government policies and all that

      no, these are not all logical or rational acceptable trade offs

      religion is archaic and is as useful to modern coexistence as Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun – we do not need a warlord mentality in a global world of 7 billion.

      And while those philosophers you mention where smart, they are limited to their observations of the world that they knew – and we know a lot more about the world and how varied the ways are to be in said world.

      You also misunderstand, I don’t have the energy or interest to waste in hate in general or on religion specifically.

      And I don’t have interest in conversations based in that kind of emotional accusatory assumptions.

      • In order to move forward in this I would like it very much if you would speak to specifics as to the harms of religion occuring in secular democratic nations.
        Please note that I am not saying they don’t exist, they most certianly do, and are most certianly obvious. But for the sake of discussion, which harms come to mind. I would like to address those issues.
        You seem to be still stuck on the idea that evil in Atheists is cause by their humanity, but this does not translate to evil in religious folks, for you seem to believe that it is their religiousity that cuases them to do evil things. I would venture to say that it is their humanity, and the evil that already exists in them, that causes them to turn to certian religions. For example, in Norway there have been a rash of Church burnings by so called “Satanists”. Are these folks influenced by the “teachings” of this religion, or are they moved by something previously existing in the psychy such as mental illness, anger, issues with violence, etc, to embrace “Satanism” in order to have an excuse to release whatever it is that is going on in side of them?

        I would like to know a couple things. Here for example you are saying this poster is “emotionally accusatory”, am I correct? Please tell me how if this is correct, if not please advise.

        Also in your post to me you say that I am living in a small framework and you in a larger one. Please explain, I think this would be a great place to start a very interesting discussion. I would appreciate that discussion very much.

        I also appreciate this posters point of view, however I believe it is minimizing to both sides of this discussion. I believe that the author has a point in saying that the goodness cannot offset the harm. As the author knows my point would be the source of the evil and the source of the goodness, which should be in question.
        I would also like you to cite the information about the IQ scores.
        I am a bit concerned that you just relegated spiritual beliefs to mental deficiency. Which, while I understand the general point you are trying to make, does make the religous among us cringe. I do not have a low IQ, and yet I still believe, how is this to be true?

        Thanks, this is turning out to be a good conversation.

        • You have it backwards – religion is the mechanism by which the harm that people would do as a result of their existing bias and prejudice is justified and carried out

          religion is anti-education because religion purports to answer all the questions about the universe and how to be in it

          when science has demonstrated that religion taught us nothing useful about the world

          we learned to farm using irrigation and our own and animal and then machine labour

          no sacrificing virgins to bring in the crops

          I am a naturalist, this being the case, I live in natural universe with natural causes and no need for magical or primative thinking and what I do not know, I leave as blank as it is and do not spackle over it with superstition.

          I am interested in explaining that humans are evolving away from the need for such superstition

          but it’s not me who has to explain why I’ve evolved, but you who need to explain why you continue to cling to the past and how it understood the limited part of the world that it did

          I am not interested in a discussion where you think that you can adequately apologize for religion, it simply serves no useful purpose for people, it holds us back in ways that you can’t understand as long as you cling to religion

          and getting into a discussion of why I dropped religion, isn’t interesting to me, I dropped religion 31 years ago and am not into looking back – and as pleasant as my own religious experiences were, that was childhood – both literally and symbolically – I look forward, not back, for life

          so if you want to discussion naturalism – curious compassion – I’m for that

          but I honestly don’t have time to gear down for a religion’s greatest misses parade

        • You are right. Having looked back over my post I can see how it would sound as though I am stating that believers are mentally deficient. I did not intend to imply this. Let me try to rephrase. What I was trying to say was that often, with hightened intelligence comes a greater focus on the use of scientific logic and reasoning to explain things leading one to question everything. I do not believe that this “logic” puts one at an advantage, but rather, at a disadvantage much of the time. It is my opinion that one should never give up on the possibility of the existence of magic. My point was that this “logic” is a falacy. Some of the greatest minds throughout history have said as much. Scientists “believed” in the existence of black holes long before they could be proven, much as they do with black matter today. The laws of physics are not as finite as the blogger here wishes to “believe.” Laws are frequently modified or overturned when new information becomes available, such as the laws of gravity and currently, the law of relativity. To adhere so vehemently as this blogger does to her naturalism is almost athiestic. I have heard Athiesm described as true belief in nothingness. Now that takes a lot of nerve, to assume that you know enough to presume that you can quantify answers about the great beyond? Wow. Athiesm is true faith. She seems to believe that nothing is real unless it can be quantified and verified scientifically. I was trying to say that such intelligence can be a stumbling stone, tripping up a person so that they cannot move past what is seen. 70% of the universe is made up of dark matter. We know this and yet we have no idea what it is or what it means. We cant see it and yet it is there just as real as you and I. Or is it? Based on highly complex mathmatical models, scientists now are postulating that our entire universe exists within a supermassive black hole, the contents of which are projected two dimensionally on its surface. They “believe” that what we know as three dimensional reality is something like a holographic projection of a reality that is two dimensional…on a side note. What I was trying to say was that just because you are smart, does not make you right about everything. Some of the brightest minds of our time, and consequently of times past which, i beg to differ with the blogger, have much relevance for today, say that the more they learn, the more they know the less they know. If we must dismiss all of history as irrelavent and obsolete, then humanity has become nothing more than a sad empty shell of its former self.
          I agree with you poster, that this blogger seems to be shaping her “rules” of reality to suit her own needs. There is a duality in her logic that is unsettling. If you were in a formal debate, you would currently be in the lead.
          Oh, and one more thing, not to burst the bloggers bubble, but the bible dismisses “religion” as evil too. The practice of religion and that of Christianity are two very different things. Religion is about rules. Christianity is about purity of heart and true faith.

          • Thank you Amy. In the past year I have been studying the history of “the renaissance man”. I have found that folks like Davinci, Galileo, Kepler, Descartes, rarely exist today. These are people whose understanding and wisdom was varied. They were able to look at the world from the perspective, of the poet, artist, scientist, philosopher, religious, skeptic, labourer, mathematician, etc. Today, our world view is shaped by the path of knowledge we are to learn. This is why our world view is now shaped purely by the focus of our education. For many, who have been raised in today’s education system, without philosophy, religion, art, statistics, rhetoric, etc, our view is limited to science and math. Or for those raised in Christian educational systems, our view tends to be only through a spiritual lens. We have learned throughout history that this is more to the created world than meets the eye.
            Christianity, does not speak to religion. The Bible is a story, which is why it is the account of many different authors, of this same story. The purpose of the Bible is to inspire faith in the truth of this story. The Christian Bible is indeed not about rules. However, Christians are called to be religious. But even religion is defined by Scriptures. It is unfortunate that many, claiming the “religion” of Christianity have given it a bad name, for they have often forgotten that the religion which is acceptable to God is pure and faultless is to “look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27).

            Given what religion has become to many who claim to be of its ranks, and what it has been accused of being by those who despise it, I would say this is a redeeming definition. Given this definition, I gladly call myself “religious”.

  6. I have not claimed that the Atheist “world view” has caused Atheists to do bad things! I feel as if you are responding to what you think I am saying, and what you want me to say. I have said several times in my last post, that Atheists do bad things becuase they are HUMAN (note the capitals in this and the last comment) not becuase they are Atheist.
    I am trying to get you to understand that this is the case accross the board, whether for Atheists, deists, buddhists, muslims, Christians, pegans, wiccaans, whatever, they do bad things becuase they are bad people, bad HUMANS!!!!!!!!!!
    People do indeed make up religion to suit whatever their evil needs require. Believers and non believers do this (as non believers like to paint a picture of their most hated religion by painting it as completely without good, this is not true of any group of people or adherance to any belief or lack of). Pope Leo the X th is a good one to research. Was he really a Christian? Or was, as did those in the eugenics movement did with Darwinism, what he did a twisting of scriptures? The inquistion was mostly about this very thing. The catholic religion at the time was a made up religion, a twisting of the origional. We had investitures which said that people could by power and office in the Catholic Church which, of course, led to bad people, power hungry people, wanting office. In thier power they did awful things.
    The inquistion was a way for this made up religion of made up authority to suppress anyone who would defy their authority, mostly REAL Christians! They killed Christians for not believing in the authority of the pope. And yes they killed everyone else too! Becuase they were bad people, bad HUMANS. No where in the New Testament will you find a call do act in such a way.
    This is what I am trying to get accross to you. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_Inquisition http://www.summerlands.com/crossroads/remembrance/inquisti.htm).

    I would like you to elaborate more on “whereas religion is a world view that people act upon as if it is true that’s why religions with deities leads to evil actions against non-followers”. Please make that link with logic and reason, citing specific examples. Please, as I am arguing for the sake of one religion, specify your comments to that religion: Christianity. It would seem that you believe all religion is the same so this should be easy.

    What gets me is the tone of this conversation. You said “I think if there was more of that in the public discussion, we’d have a very different world.” Then you said “I think that the difference in the discussion between you and I is striking compared to the other poster who commented.”
    I would have hoped that a real conversation, a public discussion, would be one in which you would understand would include other view points. The difference between your discussion with the other poster and me, is that the other poster agreed with you and thus the discussion was over.

    Your right the tone of this discussion is different. One respondant used this to set the tone “and given your apologist whacka doodle hit parade of twisted logic”. I am not sure why in an intelligent conversation you would need to resort to that.

    • No, you and I are each have a dialog at each other, we are not sharing the one conversions – we are talking a cross purposes because you are living in a small framework and I am in a big picture framework at diametrially opposed corners of the conversation cube and the details aren’t what’s interesting to me as much as data relationships.

      I am trying to have particular conversations – and that’s a very different thing and what you are interpreting as me getting along with the other poster, Jenny – it’s not at all the case that she and I agree – it’s just that she and I have an agreement about the framework of our conversation, and I have no framework with you, so we are not in a relationship conversation – you are talking to me and I am deciding if I want to bring into into relationship conversation and so far, I haven’t picked out a vibe from you to teasle out.

  7. Yes, there is indeed discrimination against Atheists when it comes to voting. Perhaps that is becuase the majority of those who vote are Christians and would like to see likeminded folks in office. That is a natural HUMAN inclination, just as you, by bringing up the subject acknowledge that you would like to see more Atheists in power. Again a HUMAN inclination, not caused by your Atheism, but your desire to be governed by like minded people.
    The new testament preaches that we are to be respectful and follow or leaders no matter what thier faith (as was the case when it was written).
    Again, look, at how many Christians are in power in largely Atheist nations. Why becuase the majority votes the way the majority thinks!
    There is no conspiracy, it is HUMAN nature.
    That is the point I am trying to make, and I am not sure that if you were talking to anyone else but a religious person that you would disagree.
    I don’t blame Atheists for evil, I blame HUMANS!!!! Don’t you agree that it is not their Atheism that causes Lennin and Stallin, and Leonard Darwin to act the way they did? Why cannot this not be said for Christians?

    • because atheism is only the rejection of religion and nothing else
      so it cannot inform or inspire anything

      whereas religion is a world view that people act upon as if it is true
      that’s why religions with deities leads to evil actions against non-followers

      and, if you are honest and can understand history
      you will understand that people beleive whatever suits their purpose and provide a rational for their evil conduct of slaughtering or oppressing whatever groups they don’t like

      be it a religious or a political context

      but atheism is not a world view, it is not a philosophy and not a moral guide

      the sum total of atheism fits on a bumper sticker – “no belief in gods”

      not believing in gods does not cause or inspire or rationalize any behaviours people subsequently engage in

      because if you think atheism is anything else than a simple rejection of deities and the religious context they generate
      , you are wrong.

      and confusing political ideology with atheism is intellectually dishonest so you can claim that “atheism” has caused deaths, when those deaths are caused by a dictator – hardly the most stable of personalities to begin with – who are eliminating their competitors (which are usually religious groups, to be sure, but also intellectuals, educated people, depending on the region and political flavours)

      dictators generally think that they are gods, and this is not atheism, that’s delusional combined with narcissistic personality disorder and unlimited power with no checks and balances.

  8. Perfect I agree with you completely. Eugenics is a perversion of what Darwin had intended he made that clear in later writings and even brough a law suit against his son, one of the founders of the eugenics movements who claimed that this program was inspired by his father’s workds. (Check out the citations on this site: http://creation.com/eugenics-a-darwin-family-business.
    http://www.newoxfordreview.org/reviews.jsp?did=0908-gardiner )

    People use Darwinism and Atheism (as in the case of the Colombine killers, persecution of Christians in China, Vietnam, North Korea, etc, as a basis for their actions). Neither Darwinism nor Atheism should move a person to do awful things. Nor does Christianity.

    I cannot speak for other religion, but knowing what I know, many other religions do tell people to commit awful attrocities.

    Christianity, the belief and adherance to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, does not command the committing of atrocieties. It does lead one to a more conservative outlook, but that in itself is not lead to evil actions either. That would be like saying liberalism leads to eugenics! I dont believe it.

    You seem to state that while some christians have shown love, all Christians are currently hateful. This is not the case. Study, for example, the movement of the Presbyterian Church USA (one of the Largest American Denominations) on the ordination of women or homosexuals, or gay marriage. Or the Episcapal church, or the disciples of Christ, or the Quakers. Or many other main line denominations (which make up the bulk of American Christians).

    I do not believe there is an inquisition. Please note the history of “inquisition”. No one is being thrown out of office, tortured, killed, or interogated for their beliefs. If you want to talk about “inquisition” please, again, note what Christians are going through in China or North Korea.

    I find this conversation interesting. Being as I am being told that I am unloving and intollerant based on my religious beliefs. In fact in my origional comment I gave Atheists the benifit of the doubt by saying that I did not believe that Aethists who have acted in an evil way were acting becuase of their atheism, but that they were acting the way their human nature, their own evil led them to act.

    I have not said anything “whakadoodle” as you claim, only that humans have a tendancy towards evil no matter what their religious or non religions bent.

    It is interesting that the conversation should go this way. Your last comment, the last few paragraphs in your last comment to me, show that I am not the closed minded one. You said I was blaming Atheists for evils. When what I was clearly stateing is that I blame the evil that is inherently in them wich is caused neither by Atheism nor by religion.

    I am asking for the same understanding. That while Eugenics is a twisting of Darwin, so to is hatred, arrogance, violence, biggotry, etc, a perversion of the teachings of Christ.

    As the one who is supposed to be hateful, I would like you to consider you words to me, in calling me whackadoodle and twisted, and look back to see in what way I resorted to name calling and anger. Did I?

    • Saying your ideas were a particular way is a different thing than saying you are a particular way. I don’t know you well enough to comment about your person – just the quality of your ideas.

      And you do not agree with me completely, because you are taking what I said and altering the context when you pull it back into your religious framework.

      I cannot talk to you inside that framework, I do not share it and do not respect it.

      I understand what words like Inquisition mean and I used that word intentionally – the American Inquisition is not being carried out in the same open way that the Spanish Inquisition did, because Christians do not yet have the control over American society that would allow them to torture and slaughter those who will not convert. Yet.

      It is the case that athiests have no hope of obtaining office if they are honest about themselves – and in a nation where there’s not supposed to be a religious test for office – yet, voters do vote based on the stated religion of the candidates – and candidates are running on religious platforms, not secular ones.

      The religiously motivated anti-education masquerading as anti-elitism that is currently pervading American society is the antithesis of what America’s promise was – the individual as the social unit of consequence, equality for all with the freedom to take liberties with whatever made you happy.

      So this religious obsession with what other people are doing that makes them happy is obscene and anti-American.

    • tobeforgiven,

      Someone who has personally not experienced love from Christians is going to be hard to convince that Christians are loving, no matter how many examples you throw out there.

      “You seem to state that while some christians have shown love, all Christians are currently hateful. This is not the case. Study, for example, the movement of the Presbyterian Church USA (one of the Largest American Denominations) on the ordination of women or homosexuals, or gay marriage. Or the Episcapal church, or the disciples of Christ, or the Quakers. Or many other main line denominations (which make up the bulk of American Christians). “

  9. Pingback: Living in a closed society? « A Religious Experiment

  10. Hi Nina!
    I don’t know how far you are into the book, but a lot of what you talk about here, is addressed later in the book, I believe. It’s very interesting to me to get your feedback on this as we are reading it from two completely different viewpoints. I do want to comment on just one thing right now…you say:

    “Which, religion is a placebo for the brain, it’s something that people find comfort in, to accept the small and large injustice in the world, to think that They Will Get Theirs in the end – because if we miss the bad guy, then god will get them.
    So perhaps the real harm and evil of religion is that it allows people to tolerate injustice and unfairness – because it allows believers to be intolerant and unjust, excusing it with sincerity of belief to be sorted out in the afterlife.
    Not a comforting thought to those of us who don’t accept the premise of an afterlife and who do not find it so easy to tolerate injustice and unfairness – especially when we see how much of it is created by or in the name of, religion.”

    I actually don’t relate to this statement at all. I think this is a misunderstanding or perhaps a view held by few, but in no way do I accept the injustice of the world. I would love justice all over this world, no one deserves to live in an intolerable environment whether sorted out in “afterlife” or not. I am speaking of the self-proclaimed Christians also who make this life intolerable for many. There is absolutely no excuse for the hell that Christians have put people through for what we/they interpret to be right.

    • Jenny, I really want to thank you for being so willing to play with me.

      I don’t think that I can express to you the significance of our discussion.

      Even though the letters book is short, and I could read it in a single sitting, I don’t think that that is the best way to really understand it.

      I have only so far written about one aspect of the book and I think that something that I realized might surprise you – since it surprised me.

      I only ever experienced Christianity as a child and my adult experiences with Christianity have been largely in the social battle for equality and with human rights equality – which, religion is an impediment to – not just christian versions, but any religion with a deity – so I am exempting the eastern forces of nature, no personified deities.

      So, one thing that struck me that I haven’t talked about with the book, is what beautiful, compact and poetic language and truly resonating emotions are able to be expressed within Christianity

      and I think if there was more of that in the public discussion, we’d have a very different world.

  11. Pingback: https://ntrygg.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/letters-from-a-skeptic-letter-1-3-of-30/ « A Religious Experiment

  12. Humanity, it is humanity, not religion or lack of that causes people to do evil things.
    If not than it could be said that the eugenics practicioners and supporters were evil becuase of their adherance to Darwinism, not their human arrogance, ignorance, and racism. Would you say then that the crimes commited by the social Darwinists, were in the name of Darwin?
    Or those who embraced Marx’s atheism such as Lennin, Stalin, Zedong, Pol Pot, etc, who killed vast amounts of religious folks, were they acting in the name of Atheism?
    I don’t believe so. They were acting according to their fallen humanity. Somthing which Christianity recognizes.
    I recognize that Christians have done awful things, but again, not becuase they are Christian but becuase they are human.
    You might claim that we are commanded to commit such attrocities. If we understand the scriptures as the consisting only of the Old Covenant given to Abraham this would be true. However, Christinity, involves the New Covenant, the covenant in which denies the need or command for murder, anger, hate, seperatism, etc.
    Please read Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, James, 1 John.
    Also in response to your comment about the Crusades please “God’s Battalions” by Rodney Stark.

    • Eugenics have nothing to do with Darwinist thinking.

      Darwin observed and wrote about natural and sexual selection – there is nothing natural about Eugenics – it a a process by which people pervert science for political, religious and other bigotries to justify genocide.

      As for so called Social Darwinists, those are a mythical creature that even Richard Dawkins has said that darwinist ideas shouldn’t be extracted to human society.

      Nature is red in tooth and claw, but humans have the capacity to choose.

      You are right in that the evils that have been imposed upon people are down to people, not the gods they worship because those are not real – humans invent the gods that they need in order to justify the hatred they already have in their hearts and they leverage the power of their religious or political positions to bring about the evil that they have justified already.

      It is very easily to think of anyone who doesn’t look like you or beleive or behave as you do as lower humans, animals even. Once you consider groups of people as less then you, you’re already halfway to genocide, because the permission to do what you want to animals, is enshrined in your religion.

      As is spreading by the word or the sword to let your god sort out any errors or omissions.

      So if you want to convince me that Christians are about love – then it’s not the history that needs to be addressed, but the current situation where Christians are being very hateful to gays and lesbians, athiests and non-Christians right now.

      America’s secular government is being hijacked by a Christian Inquisition and the foundational laws of that land are eroded slowly and being turned into a theocracy.

      I am not seeing love from Christians with their focus on my family instead of their own.

    • No one has ever killed for atheism.

      No one has ever strapped on a bomb, walked into a crowd and screamed for nothing.

      Atheists, not having an afterlife spot to secure, do not kill to get Martyr Seating in the afterlife.

      Dictators of whatever political stripe tend to not be tolerant to anything that competes for control of the masses – thus political dictators natural enemy is whatever religion is part of the culture, which holds a compelling place in people’s minds – and dictators, not being the most stable of folks to start with, are not willing to share that head space with religion.

      So you are calling them athiests to mean whatever it is you think that it means (and given your apologist whacka doodle hit parade of twisted logic, you don’t know what atheism is, because if you did, you’d understand that it’s just a rejection of religious claims with no replacement – so no ideology to impose violently on people arise from atheism)

      and blaming atheism when you should blame the dictator personally.

      So, then, you might ask, how is it that I hold religious people responsible for what’s done in the name of religion?

      Because people make up religion and interpret it to suit whatever it is they already are inclined to do – a closed logic loop to take a person from being merely unsocial to being Hitler or Stalin or any Pope and cause the deaths of untold numbers of people.

      Because you’re god’s rep or a god yourself and no one can stop you because you’d used religion to sell everyone on the need to be rid of whoever the current or historic scapegoat is.

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