Well, it’s that time of year again when we are bombarded with terms like, “the war on Christmas” or “put Christ back into Christmas.” We have public displays of religion and people complaining about them and people complaining about people complaining about them.
Here in the northern hemisphere, the days are short and cold and the nights are long and even colder. You’d think in such a dreary environment that people would welcome any opportunity to give or receive wishes of love, peace and joy.
For many people, that is usually the intent behind wishing someone a “Merry Christmas.” That is also the intent behind more generic terms like “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings.” It is also the intent behind terms like “Happy Eid.”
So what’s the problem? Are these terms then interchangeable or do they each have specific meaning? Considering the uproar, I think it obvious these terms are not interchangeable. As always, words have meaning and it all comes down to meaning what you say.
Using the word Christmas isn’t always wrong. If you actually mean to say “Christmas” and not “the holidays” or “this time of year” then say Christmas. That is perfectly acceptable. There are many festivals and events going on at this time of year and Christmas is just one of them. We have Pancha Ganapati, Kwanzaa, Yule or Solstice, Bodhi and many more.
The problem arises when people use the word Christmas to refer in a broader sense to this season. Office “Christmas parties,” are one example. Not everyone in the office might be celebrating Christmas, so what is really meant is “holiday party.” Otherwise, using the term Christmas is excluding those who do not celebrate Christmas. Sure, a non-Christian can go to the party but it is clear that Christmas is what is being celebrated. If it isn’t Christmas, specifically, that is being celebrated, then do not call it a Christmas party. A generic holiday party can be perfectly inclusive. Of course, if a Christian bookstore were to have a Christmas party, that would probably be fine since presumably the whole staff would be Christian and the party would actually be about Christmas.
What is most mind boggling is that the people who complain most about the political correctness of “Happy Holidays” tend to be the same people who want to “put Christ back into Christmas.” If you want to focus on the religious side of Christmas, you have to get Christmas out of the public square. If they expect to have Christmas associated with mall Santas, they should accept that the religious meaning of Christmas will be played down for the public. Then again, if they wanted to focus on the religious aspect of Christmas, why would they want to be associated with mall Santas in the first place? Mean what you say and say what you mean. If you want Christmas to focus on the religious aspects — and it is a religious holiday — treat it as such and keep it within your religious community.
I’m not too impressed when a stranger wishes me “Merry Christmas.” I’m an atheist and I don’t celebrate Christmas. Of course, I don’t expect a stranger to know that but it is telling that the stranger is assuming or expecting I am a Christian. Often, the person just means to send wishes of joy, peace and love and they may be ignorant of their faux pas so I’ll usually just respond by saying, “have a safe and happy holiday.” However, when people insist on using the term “Merry Christmas” they are being incredibly self-centred. They don’t say it to spread wishes of joy, peace and love they say it for their own benefit. It’s almost like saying, “Happy Birthday” to everyone else when it is your birthday. If they really wanted to send wishes of joy, peace and love they would use a more appropriate term that would convey those sentiments to anyone regardless of their religion (or lack thereof.) “Merry Christmas” just doesn’t cut it.
Of course, if you see a stranger wearing a crucifix or other obvious Christian symbol, go nuts and wish them a Merry Christmas.
If you mean Christmas, say Christmas. If you don’t mean Christmas, don’t say Christmas. If you mean to send joy, peace and love then send joy, peace and love not empty Christmas rhetoric.
In closing, I’d offer you a Joyous Kwanzaa or a Happy Solstice but I’m not sure what that would mean for you. Instead, I’ll just offer love, joy and peace.
Prompted by the recent Munk debate in Toronto between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair, the blogosphere is buzzing with everyone offering their own take on the question, “is religion good?”
The audience of that debate voted a resounding ‘no’ and gave the victory to Hitchens. Leading up to the debate, there was an Ipsos-Reid poll asking, “is religion a force for good?” Mercifully, only 36% of Canadians surveyed said religion was good, compared to 65% of Americans and 92% of Saudis while only 19% of Swedes could say the same.
It’s funny. I’m assuming if you’re reading this that you already know what I think. Maybe you don’t. A couple months ago a friend of mine told me that people who go to church have better morals than people who don’t. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and as this person and I have had many conversations about religion, I couldn’t believe he would actually say something like this to me. So maybe I’m not always explicit. Maybe my criticisms are seen as being in jest or as purposeful exaggerations. Let me be clear, religion is terrible. If there was such a thing as “evil,” religion would be that.
I’ve left a few comments on various sites and blogs but this one in particular might deserve mentioning.
My first comment was this:
“Our cultural ancestors invented the idea of gods to justify attempting to live outside the “laws” of nature. The story of the fall of Adam and Eve, for example, is clearly describing the Agricultural Revolution. Pretty much all of Genesis reinforces this view. Who could possibly give us the authority to take over the world: to go forth and multiply, to have knowledge of who should live and who should die (is that not the knowledge of the gods? of good and evil?) Who could possibly have given us that kind of authority but the gods themselves. And so we invented religion to justify our behaviour. As a result, civilization was born and expanded and fuelled a population explosion. We’re now living in a time of mass extinctions at a rate not seen since the fall of the dinosaurs only this time we know we’re the ones causing it. We can no more live outside the laws of nature than spiders, salmon or sequoias can. In order to work, airplanes do not ignore the laws of gravity. Jump off a cliff and you better expect to hit the ground eventually no matter how hard you flap your arms. Eventually the law of gravity will catch up with you. In the same way, the laws of nature will eventually catch up with civilization and it will crash and crash hard. The only question is how bad is it going to be? Considering the damage we’re doing to biodiversity, there is a real danger of total collapse of the ecosystem. Why else do you think the Abrahamic religions are so eschatological? Neighbouring indigenous tribes have always known how dangerous it is to live as though you were above nature.
Let me be very clear: All the horrors of civilization — famine, drought, overpopulation, genocide, disease, etc — are enabled by religion. “Go forth and multiply” is nothing less than a declaration of war on the environment.
Of course there are other myths and false premises that civilization is based on but the god-concept is one of the big ones.
Nothing religious people do could ever make up for the kind of destruction that religion has enabled. Of course, your help in taking down civilization would certainly go a long way.”
Someone replied to me saying that Indians (sic) were religious and there was no correlation between the destruction I was talking about and religion. Of course, this is nonsense…
“Actually the gods of the indigenous peoples of the world (past and present) are very different from the gods of civilization. By and large their deities (where they have them, some tribes don’t/didn’t have any at all) are personifications of natural processes as they knew them, not some omnipotent and omniscient father figure. Consider Atira of the Pawnee who was represented earth and was considered the “Sacred Mother” of all things:
“The Pawnee were hunters. When told to abandon hunting and settle down to farming, their priest replied: “You ask me to plow the ground! Shall I take a knife and tear my mother’s bosom? Then when I die she will not take me to her bosom to rest. You ask me to dig for stone! Shall I dig under her skin for her bones? Then when I die I cannot enter her body to be born again. You ask me to cut grass and make hay and sell it, and be rich like white men! But how dare I cut off my mother’s hair? It is a bad law and my people cannot obey it.””
Even more anthropomorphic figures like Nanabozho have nothing in common with an Abrahamic god, for example. Nanabozho’s story is a living story which has been adapted to include him killing Paul Bunyan to protect the forests. That’s a far cry from some invisible, omnipotent law giver.
No, their gods are definitely not the same as our gods.
If you have any understanding of the origins of the various religions of civilization, compare that to the model for the expansion of agriculture/civilization found in Jared Diamond’s “Guns, Germs and Steel.” There is clearly a parallel. And you’d expect the Bible, for example, to have some sort of reference to the Agricultural Revolution since it happened at around the same time in about the same area as some of the other stories. Not surprisingly, it does… the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve. The story obviously doesn’t refer to the actual first humans and it would be absurd to believe so. But the development of agriculture would have been a momentous event for these people, definitely important enough to them to call it “creation.”
Even consider the symbolism of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The birth-death-rebirth cycle is a very common theme and, again, is symbolic of natural processes. The story of the Green Man has a lot of parallels with the story of Jesus. The biggest difference is that the Green Man dies and is reborn every single year. When coopting this meme, Jesus only did it once symbolizing a permanent fracture with natural processes. Of course, the story is that Jesus did it for our sins so that we could have eternal life in heaven. Who wants to die — even if your death means life for other creatures — when you can live forever with the most powerful entity imaginable when he happens to love you? Well, me, and virtually all indigenous peoples.
I’ve noticed through my activism that people tend to get just as mad when you say that we are animals as they do when you say there are no gods. Religion has everything to do with our perceived break and separation from nature.
So don’t tell me there’s no connection. It wasn’t the Pawnee or Ojibwe (or the Yanomami, Piraha, or Bushmen, etc, etc, etc) who brought us to this point. It was the sons of Adam. Agriculturalists. Civilized. Us.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about this war we’re in. No, I’m not talking about Afghanistan or Iraq. I’m not talking about North Korea or Iran. I’m not talking about the war on drugs or the war or poverty. I’m not even talking about the war against Christmas. I’m talking about the war that’s been going on for 8-10,000 years or so.
I’m talking about the war of civilization against the natural world. I’m talking about the war of belongings against belonging… the war of hierarchy against community… the war of industry against the land base. I’m talking about the war of linear logic (and spirituality) against the fundamental interconnectedness of all things. This is the war of power and control against life.
If you’re still not sure what war I’m talking about, you really need to get yourself up to speed. The belligerent aggressor is civilization itself. We, the “civilized,” have been waging a war as we’ve done our darnedest to live outside the laws of nature. We’ve invented gods and religions to enable us to think we’re somehow special. Not only are we supposedly distinct and superior to non-human animals, we’ve been commanded by the gods themselves to take over the natural world. And you thought “go forth and multiply” was just a cute little phrase in the Bible while it is clearly a declaration of war. The land is ours, screw the spiders, salmon and sequoias. As the human population has grown exponentially, we’re in the midst of a period of mass extinction not seen since the fall of the dinosaurs and we’re (we the civilized, not we humans. The Yanomami, Bushmen and Ayoreo are not only innocent in this, but also victims of this) the ones who have been causing it. We’ve been undermining the ecosystem to the point where a few species failures could very well cause the whole ecosystem to collapse. (Seriously, if diversity is good for your stock portfolio, wouldn’t biodiversity be that much more important for the ecosystem? It is infinitely more important.)
The object of this post isn’t to explain why civilization is bad. If it isn’t already evident to you, there are a number of books and authors I can direct you to. There are plenty of people who not only realize we’re at war, but have engaged on the side of the land and of nature. I’m one of those people.
I have almost finished reading Derrick Jensen’s Endgame, Vol. 2. One of the central topics of the book is to what extent are we justified in our actions to do what is necessary to take down civilization. In particular, Jensen exposes the pacifism preached by many environmentalists and activists as foolishness and folly. I didn’t need convincing.
The purpose of this post is mostly for me to record my reaction to Jensen’s argument. I feel he missed a few important points that only help his argument. I haven’t quite finished reading the book so maybe I’m the one who has missed something.
The first thing is that not only is self-defense justified, I don’t even see it as being violence. If a man tries to rape a woman and she kills him defending herself, that isn’t violence as far as I’m concerned. If you could go back in time to 1938 and kill Hitler, would you do it? Would that be violence? If you would go back and kill Hitler, why haven’t you already killed Tom Albanese, Gary Jackson, or Hugh Grant? (I’m not suggesting anyone should go kill these people.)
Actually, now that I’m writing this down, I’m wondering if Jensen doesn’t want us all to accept it would be violence to kill in self-defense so that these corporations don’t get to use the same self-defense argument to explain away their violence. I could justify using violence to kill Hitler. Maybe those CEOs could not justify the violence they use against indigenous people (or non-humans) if they were forced to considering what they do violence. (And it is violence.)
The second point I’d like to make is on the nature of war. Some form of militancy – of violence – is expected in warfare. Obviously the focus of grand strategy should be to win, but what does winning look like? B.H. Liddell Hart said that the object of war is to secure a better peace. I think this makes for an excellent watermark for us to determine our strategies and tactics. If the actions we perform help secure a better peace, then we are fighting the war strategically. If we are engaging our violent fantasies or our predilection for explosions, we are not fighting strategically. CEOs can be replaced easily enough. (See? I really wasn’t suggesting anyone kill those people.) “Critical” infrastructure on the other hand… Also, liberating rivers from dams would surely be a better peace.
The last point is also related to the object of war. Civilization doesn’t have a standing army whose defeat in the field would result in our victory. ( Not that that’s how most conventional wars are necessarily won either.) Storming Monsanto corporate headquarters won’t bring down civilization any more than the storming of the Bastille brought down hierarchy. That’s not to say these events were not (or wouldn’t be) considered victories but they were not (and will not be) the end.
As much as the physical acts of violence against the environment must stop, so too must the intellectual and emotional. There are some fundamental errors in the premises of civilization that have to be replaced. As much as rivers need to be liberated from dams, which will require explosives, we won’t see victory until those premises have been replaced. We are no more special than spiders, salmon or sequoias. The land does not belong to us, we belong to the land. This is where pies can be more effective than RPGs. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they are covered in whipped cream. It’s hard to fear someone you’re laughing at. These kinds of tactics can be useful expressions of resistance. “No, Mr Grant, I don’t even recognize your authority, let alone respect it.” Guns are probably always a challenge to authority. Sometimes that might be called for. Sometimes we probably want to project our rejection of authority.
If the object of war is to secure a better peace, we have to have some idea of what a better peace is to look like. Yes, there will be no dams so they will have to come down. But when it comes down to the epidemiology of abuse, we’ll have to treat the causes rather than the symptoms. This war will be fought with all the tools at our disposal from memes to mines.
From Yahoo! Answers:
The Bible exists. Lets take that for granted shall we?
Reading the Bible as entirely metaphorical or a simple morality play doesn’t do the Bible justice.
The Bible is a book of cultural history. A collection of stories passed on orally for generations (they were that important to those people) before finally being written down (again, they must have been considered very important.)
If you have to over-interpret the text of the Bible to make it make sense with modern theology (or scientific understanding) you are doing a great disservice to this book of cultural history.
If we are to interpret the Bible, one has to make some assumptions. The validity of our interpretations is directly related to the validity of our assumptions.
Christians tend to fall into two camps, either:
A) The Bible is the factual, literal and accurate word of God. Everything in it is exactly true. Of course, one of the assumptions is that the Christian god is real.
B) The Bible is a metaphorical expression of God’s will and love for his people. He spoke to them in a language they could understand that may not be directly translate for us now. It is full of parables and allegories giving us direction for how to live our lives. Of course, the assumption here is also that the Christian god is real but there’s also an assumption that the various interpretations are valid.
We atheists also tend to have our own assumptions. Most dismiss the Bible as fable or just quaint old stories that have no value for us today.
As an atheist, I obviously don’t believe in gods, so I don’t accept the assumption that the Bible is infallible or the word of God. However, unlike many atheists, I appreciate the cultural importance of the Bible. These were the stories that survived. They must have had importance for these people 6-8,000 years ago. The book of Genesis in particular had to be about something. It had to have importance for them. They obviously weren’t actually talking about *creation* during the story of Adam and Eve so we can dismiss the literal interpretation. Were they just talking about the dangers of sin, pride and disobeying god in a metaphorical sense?
Those who interpret the Bible literally tend to believe the earth is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old because that’s the number “Bible math” gives them. This is obviously false but do these numbers mean anything? I’ve heard so many interpretations .. of days as ages or days being longer or any number of very strange over-interpretations to make the Bible fit with our own understanding of the history of the planet. Again, this interpretation downplays the importance of these stories to the writers of the Bible. They likely wouldn’t have gone to such great lengths to discuss the chronologies if the timelines were just meant to be figurative.
So if my assumptions are the Bible is not literal history but the stories were of great importance, then what might be the important event they’re talking about when they talk about the Fall of Adam and Eve? Is there anything at all in history that could give us any clue of any important event (important enough to inspire “creation” stories) that happened in that time and in that area?
Something huge did happen in the Levant about 8,000 years ago. It’s an event we all know about but for some strange reason not many have associated it with the stories in the Bible. (Actually there are very good reasons why not many scholars or scientists or theologians will make the connection, but that’s another topic) This was an event with such far reaching consequences that it still affects us today. Actually it is the event that gave birth to civilization itself! What else could be glorified so far as to call it creation? The event I’m talking about, of course, is the Agricultural Revolution.
This is already a wall of text, so if you’d like you can read some more about how the story of the Agricultural Revolution is the story of the Fall of Adam and Eve here:
Most of the OT is the story of the spread of civilization builders. In this context almost everything makes a certain degree of sense. It is surprising how much you can actually take literally when you understand the proper context.
Of course, this is just an interpretation. It is not indisputable fact and I could be wrong. (Though what an amazing coincidence it would be for the Agricultural Revolution to be happening at the same time in the same area as this religious revolution if the two didn’t have anything to do with each other.) However, I would suggest that my assumptions are the most valid (important cultural history) and that my interpretations are the most consistent with the text as well as with history as we know it.
So the trouble with a Christian’s metaphorical interpretation is that it ignores the historical context. Without that context, and with a book as long as the Bible, you can pretty much over-interpret it to mean anything you want.
With that historical context, you’re forced to consider a number of issues:
-religion is a function of civilization, not humanity. It is cultural.
-Agricultural civilization has expanded to the point of our global population crisis. “Go forth and multiply,” indeed. Done and done and much to our detriment. Those are the most destructive four words in history.
-religion enables our culture of extraction.
If we’re going to solve these problems of overpopulation and avoid total collapse of our ecosystem, we’re going to have to understand how we got here. Our civilization is based on many myths, religion is just one of them. This whole, “God loves us and will take care of us” BS has got to go. Too many people are looking forward to eternal life in heaven that they don’t recognize the negative impact we’re having in this life today.
I can’t believe I’m actually going to respond to a post by the Discovery Institute, but this request seems genuine enough. Michael Egnor asked a number of questions about what “New Atheists” (sic) actually believe.
For starters, there isn’t some doctrine of atheism. All atheism means is not believing in gods, deities or divinities. Period. So the following is going to be what I happen to believe, know or value about the various subjects.
I’ve never understood what “new atheism” meant. Is there really a new way to not believe in gods? I think the term usually refers to people like Hitchens and Dawkins who loudly proclaim their atheism. Presumably, old atheists sit with their heads bowed at the back of church to not rock the boat or draw attention to themselves. That aside, here are my answers to the questions.
1) Why is there anything?
If this is a question about purpose, then there is no cosmic purpose. The universe is not conspiring for our benefit. We’re not that special. Why would anyone think there is a cosmic purpose?
If this is a question of mechanics, then I don’t know. I have some thoughts on the matter. We may never figure it out but undoubtedly science is the best methodology we have to try.
If this is a metaphysical question, the answer is easy. There was never a time where there was nothing. Time requires something. Of course, if there was nothing, we wouldn’t be around talking about it now would we.
2) What caused the Universe?
Stuff exists. Given time, things happen to stuff.
Perhaps I should have combined the first two questions.
3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?
Because species whose members suffer from constipation are at a disadvantage over species whose members do not.
There are two sides to this question.
What philosophers call regularity is how we describe what we observe when we are trying to make sense of (ie, to order) the natural world. It is almost as if we’re looking into a crystal ball and looking for just the right angle where we can see something we can interpret as a psychic message. There’s always magic to be found if you’re looking for magic. This is semantics and a good example of the linguistic trouble with philosophy. We conceptualize things the way we do because of our cognitive abilities and characteristics. Different languages on earth provide different ways for us to conceptualize the world (Western vs Eastern philosophy.) Imagine how different someone from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse would conceptualize the universe.
However, what is perceived as order, is not necessarily so. Stuff exists. Given time, things happen to stuff. The configuration of stuff has varying degrees of stability. Hydrogen is a relatively stable form for one proton and one electron. Diamond and graphite are stable forms of carbon and have varying degrees of stability. Etc, etc. It’s not that carbon doesn’t exist in any other way — it does, in fullerenes, for example — it’s that these forms are stable and easily formed naturally. That is not an expression of the order of the system, it is an expression of what works!
Perhaps a good example of what I mean here is organic chemistry. Is it a law or an expression of order that living things require oxygen? No and it is actually not true. It is only true for carbon-based life forms like us and virtually every other species we know of. Scientists have hypothesized life can exist with a silicon biochemistry for whom oxygen may be poisonous. Organic chemistry is what it is because it is what works here on earth, not because of some cosmic order.
4) Of the Four Causes in nature proposed by Aristotle (material, formal, efficient, and final), which of them are real? Do final causes exist?
None of them “are real.” They are ways of conceptualizing the world and ordering our thoughts about the world. They exist only in our minds in our emic (subjective) reality. Some of them, I would say, are more useful than others.
Final causes do not seem to be useful at all. To think they actually exist seems to be an expression of superdeterminism. To only consider them as constructs seems to lead to tautology or trite statements.
5) Why do we have subjective experience, and not merely objective existence?
Because we’re not omniscient?
The grey matter between my ears provides the hardware for an extremely powerful simulation engine. My eyes, ears, nose, fingers and tongue all receive stimulus which my mind interprets by building a functional model of these observations in my mind. My mind can only model what it can perceive or imagine. I can perceive only what I can see and I can imagine only what I can think.
When we began hunting, those who were able to interpret signs (ie, animal tracks) well were at a big advantage. The more complete and detailed the narrative, the more successful they were at hunting. They had no idea, objectively, where the prey was, they had to figure it out subjectively.
The closer our subjective interpretation was to the objective reality, the better off we were. This is why science is so important. The scientific method — if properly used — works because it strives for objectivity. Religion, on the other hand, is entirely subjective. Many religious adherents even suggest that subjective religious belief, like the age of the earth, should trump objective scientific understanding. That is one of the failings of religion.
6) Why is the human mind intentional, in the technical philosophical sense of aboutness, which is the referral to something besides itself? How can mental states be about something?
Not really sure where you’re going with this. Though this is definitely a conceptualization rather than an observation. I also doubt it is universal within humanity ( is this true within the Pirahã?), never mind what someone from Betelgeuse might say.
7) Does Moral Law exist in itself, or is it an artifact of nature (natural selection, etc.)
“Moral Law” does not exist at all. Mores and taboos and the rest of “morality” are merely clauses in an a social contract, metaphorically speaking, not laws. They are subject to change based on context and situation. Any expression of a “Moral Law” is an expression of unspoken agreement, not law.
8.) Why is there evil?
There is no such thing as evil. The question, as stated, is pointless. A better question would be, “why are we not all always good all the time?“ This question is quite useful.
A population consisting of people who were all always good all the time would not be stable. All it would take was one person to change the whole dynamic, just a single mutation. Suppose one person in this population decided they deserved a bigger portion of the shared meal. This person would be better fed and stronger than his more altruistic competitors. Whether this particular individual would be better at reproducing is almost besides the point at this stage since clearly his strategy (take more food) will more than likely be reproduced within this population since others can see its benefit. (See: The Invention of Lying)
This is because being all always good all the time is not an evolutionary stable strategy. It could never last as the only strategy within a population.
A population being all always bad all the time would be an evolutionary stable strategy. No alternate strategy could “invade” and provide a better payout for its adherents since an altruist would immediately be taken advantage of.
So why are we not all bad?
Because populations compete with other populations as well. A population with a more cooperative strategy would likely greatly outproduce a population of crooks.
The article starts off quite well by drawing an accurate distinction between belief and knowledge. But then….
Christians sometimes claim to be certain about spiritual matters. This can be everyday things like, “I know this new job is right where God wants me,” or more important issues like, “I know the Bible is the word of God,” or, “I know Jesus is the Son of God.”
But Christians do not have sure knowledge of these things. They believe them — deeply and sincerely, and for all sorts of reasons — but they do not know them in the same way that we know that fire will reduce a book to ashes, that there are billions of galaxies in the universe, or that gravity works. Some Christians claim this kind of knowledge, but they are wrong.
The same goes for Christians — and any religious person — who would say, “I know God exists.” No one can know that God exists in the sense of proof or logical demonstration. Rather, people of faith believe God exists for all sorts of reasons that can’t be laid out in a spreadsheet or observed through a telescope.
Atheists are in exactly the same boat.
And so the absurdity begins.
Not having a belief is not the same thing as having a belief of not. All atheism is — regardless of what any specific atheist may say — is not believing gods, deities or divinities. Any claim of knowledge is a question of gnosticism. The author is correct that the agnostic position (no claim of knowledge) is the rational position. Atheism is certainly not a gnostic position (claim of knowledge) as the author seems to be trying to imply.
If not having a belief is a belief, then not collecting stamps is a hobby.
The real question is whether the belief of theism is founded and rational. As far as I’m concerned the answer is a resounding no. It is far more likely that we invented gods than the other way around. There is no evidence for the existence of gods. None. What theists may have are reasons to believe. However, I have yet to hear one good reason that wasn’t based on baseless anecdotes, ignorance of science, logical fallacies or just plain wanting to believe. The reasons given are silly and should be immediately rejected by any rational person.
Also, all people, atheists included, believe worthwhile things for which there is no compelling evidence whatsoever. For example, many people — scientists, philosophers — believe in the principle of uniformity: what we observe now of the laws of nature happens everywhere in the universe, always has and always will.
This isn’t at all analogous. This is merely a useful assumption that helps us develop models to enhance our understanding of the universe. It is not fact or knowledge but an assumption. If we were not to have that assumption, we wouldn’t have science since we wouldn’t expect experiments to be repeatable and we wouldn’t expect electrons, planets and chemicals to behave with any consistency. That these things behave as expected reinforces the assumption of uniformity.
Believing in gods is completely different from holding an assumption of uniformity. Experiments do not reinforce god-concepts. Even philosophically, examination of god-concepts rapidly deteriorates into fallacy and tautology.
What is wrong with this picture:
If you said that the mannequin’s breasts had been hacked off because too many men we’re getting aroused from the plastic depiction of the female form, score yourself 10 points.
File this one in the “it definitely couldn’t be me so it must be you” pile. Rather than consider what their attraction to these mannequins said about themselves, Iranian clerics properly recognized these inanimate pieces of plastic were trying to seduce them. Clearly, the only viable option was to cut off the parts the men found most arousing.
The incident earned Atheist Ireland’s The really, truly True Believer™ of the Month Award.
The United States Supreme Court recently ruled that schools don’t need to officially recognize, or give official status to, student groups that discriminate.
Hopefully this closes a case where obviousness should have prevailed from the beginning. The case was brought about by the Christian Legal Society (CLS,) a student group with a chapter at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco after the college revoked official status of the CLS.
The school’s policy is that official student groups must be inclusive and not exclude potential members based on the fairly standard list of things you can’t discriminate against.
The student group “does not allow students to become voting members or to assume leadership positions unless they affirm what the group calls orthodox Christian beliefs and disavow “unrepentant participation or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle.”‘ This would include “sexual conduct outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”
While I must admit that last statement is a “cute” way of hiding homophobia beneath a layer of pious prudishness, it is still unacceptable.
As a consequence, the student group cannot use the college’s name or logo or use meeting rooms or communication vehicles the college provides for recognized groups. Not having official recognition also means the group is not eligible for other benefits — privileges — the college offers including special email access and limited financing. This is pretty standard stuff essentially ensuring the CLS cannot be seen as speaking on behalf of the college or its students.
In typical fundie fashion, Gregory Baylor, a lawyer for the CLS, said the ruling would require the organization “to allow atheists to lead its Bible studies.” Um, no. The college isn’t telling the 30 member group to change their beliefs, it is merely saying they can’t promote such discrimination and bigotry using funding from the college. The CLS can continue to meet off-campus and can raise their own funding. What they can’t do is pretend to be affiliated with the college.
If they so badly require funding from the college, they will have to follow the criteria for recognition meaning they will have to stop discriminating. That’s a far cry from a college-appointed atheist Bible study leader.
Given that this is a law school, real justice would be expelling the students who brought about this frivolous suit in the first place. Not for their beliefs, of course, but for grossly misinterpreting the law.
From Yahoo! Answers:
How do you think the creation account in Genesis would affect a Christian’s worldview?
My slightly off topic wall of text:
Which creation account?
Okay, no seriously. This is a really good question and one I’ve thought about for years.
First of all we have to try to make some sense of the stories. The easiest to understand in a historical context is, surprisingly, the fall of Adam and Eve.
So the idea of god was created by this one tribe to justify an agricultural regime that dominated neighbouring tribes and lead to the establishment and spread of civilization while this culture assimilated or destroyed all competition.
And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” -Genesis 1:28
Genesis 1 basically describes the actions of this fantastic all-powerful god who created everything. This establishes God’s authority. The story then goes on to suggest that this all-powerful being anoints us as masters of the earth. Not only are we allowed to take it over and subjugate it to our whim, it is our duty!
This is not an attitude shared by all of humanity. This arrogance is not human nature. This wouldn’t make any sense to the Kalahari Bushmen, the Yanomami or any number of other tribal peoples. This IS an attitude shared by all the Abrahamic religions. It is also an attitude shared by all the other cultural descendants of the Agricultural Revolution in the Fertile Crescent. This attitude isn’t really even shared by descendants of other agricultural regimes. There is a distinction between Eastern and Western philosophies largely because they are descended from different agricultural regimes. They certainly influenced each other and they have more in common with each other than either does with the Pirahã, for example.
It is no coincidence that the descendants of the Agricultural Revolution are the people who took over the world and the Pirahã didn’t. Read “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond. You won’t regret it. One thing the Pirahã didn’t have was a sense of entitlement or destiny.
Aspects of the justification for agriculture, an example being the creation accounts, permeate western civilization.
We have a twisted sense of entitlement and an inherent specialness that has enabled us to cause a period of mass extinction not seen since the fall of the dinosaurs. In my experience, many people, especially Christians, get visibly offended if you say that humans are animals.
Many of us, religious or not, delude ourselves into thinking that civilization IS humanity. (Islam’s concept of the pride of Adam is a clear example of this) Throughout history, civilization has expanded and conquered through assimilation or destruction. Soulless savages were considered sub-human and deserving of domination and death and that the land they lived on was free to be taken. There are countless examples of this in history and its still happening today. There’s an oil company in Peru that is starting to develop a well in a remote area of the Amazon to great controversy. Nearby lives one of the last *uncontacted* tribes in the world. This oil company is denying they even exist.
We have an economic system based on the principle of continuous growth. This is not sustainable by definition. We’re rapidly converting the world’s biomass into human biomass — us and what we like to eat, the rest of the ecosystem be damned. There will come a point when there can be no more. What then? Why are we seemingly in such a hurry to find out?
There have been Christian politicians in the US that have suggested the environment is not important because good Christians will be raptured long before it ever becomes an issue. Before? Another went so far to suggest that it was sacrilege to worry about the environment because that was admitting that God wasn’t taking care of us. I’m not saying all Christians are this ignorant. Plenty of Christians recycle and that’s great. But bandaids don’t heal decapitations and I don’t see them trying to come up with a truly sustainable economic model. I don’t see them challenging the primacy of civilization or trying to come up with something new. Instead, I see them challenging scientific concepts like evolution because evolution undermines the authority of the magic being that gives them these delusions of grandeur.
Of course its not just Christians or religious people who share these delusions. The point is the justification for this aggressive agricultural regime involves many myths and god and creation are just a few examples. Western philosophy and the Abrahamic religious traditions all share a common cultural ancestry — these early agriculturalists with their excuses.
More evidence of this is that the Abrahamic religions and Western philosophy share a certain degree of eschatology. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden and it was assumed disaster would come because of this new attitude. “Dreams of Millennium” by Mark Kingwell was a really interesting take on Millennial anxiety and examined how we’ve always been obsessed that the end times were coming soon. Of course, again this is not human nature, this wouldn’t make any sense to the Pirahã.
Sorry for the wall of text but this is obviously something I’ve thought a great deal about and believe in very important. Congratulations if you made it this far.