Letting Go of God

By Phil Plait | November 13, 2006 10:49 pm

The woman in the picture is Julia Sweeney. You probably know her from her character Pat on Saturday Night Live a few years back. She’s an actress, comedian, writer, and blogger. She’s also an intellectual, a voracious reader, and she has an appetite for learning and knowledge that is both refreshing and delightful.

Best of all, she’s a skeptic, a critical thinker. A lot of us have stories about how we used to believe in all sorts of crap (for me: UFOs, the Bermuda Triangle, ESP) and how we eventually figured out it was, well, crap.

But Julia’s story is different. Born and raised a Catholic, she found herself disillusioned with her religion after being visited by a pair of Mormon boys a few years back. This started what can only be described as a spiritual quest. Along the way she stumbled on science and rationality, and it was there she found her answers.

I know a lot of people in this country would dismiss this as an empty and cold result, but of course readers of this blog know how truly wondrous science and reality are. Julia’s story to find this for herself is incredibly moving and beautiful. And now you can hear it for yourself! She created a one-woman show called "Letting Go of God", and it’s now available on CD. I just finished listening to it the other day, and even though I’ve heard earlier versions of it, her story still had me totally sucked in. It’s funny, it’s serious, it’s sad, it’s delightful.

In this two-CD set, the second disc is where, to me, she really shines. In my experience, when most people discover critical and skeptical thinking, it takes time to be able to apply it to all aspects of their lives. Julia, however, made sweeping changes in her thoughts, realigning what she thought she knew with what she realized really was true. That section of the monologue is so good — and so important — I wish everyone on the planet could listen to it.

I want to stress another point: so many skeptics are strident, and dismissive of "the other side" (not that I ever would be of course). But Julia’s story is wonderfully open, honest, and warm. It’s an amazingly well-done and well-crafted tale, and it’s earning very well-deserved accolades.

I’ve known Julia for years, though we met after she had already gone through this major worldview shift. In fact, it was because of it we met: I was giving a talk in LA at the Center for Inquiry West, and she is a member. She has a deep love of astronomy, and we hit it off. She’s been a regular guest at James Randi’s The Amaz!ng Meeting, where she has wowed the audience with her talks (including an earlier version of "Letting Go of God"), and I always look forward to seeing her there. She is such a sweetie! And her insatiable thirst for knowing is like a fresh gust of air in a world where so many are content to be told what’s right and wrong. Everyone at Randi’s meetings adores her, and she’s earned it.


I know I have no right to be, but still, I’m damn proud of her. Good on ya, Julia.

Comments (128)

Links to this Post

  1. Thinking Aloof - » Julia Sweeney | December 27, 2006
  1. Christian Burnham

    In the photo it looks a bit like the BA is adopting the pose that Colbert does so well.

    ‘Letting go of God’ doesn’t seem to be on iTunes yet. Is the CD just out? (Yes I’m too lazy to look this up on the Google and the internets.)

  2. Maksutov

    Only thing missing from the “Colbert” impression is the right hand index finger pointing at Julia.

    Brava, Julia Sweeney! Another hero for the Covert Nation!

    Maybe some day there will be enough of us that we will for the most part no longer need to be covert.

  3. I was visited by mormons once and all it did was to research them and find out where the bodies were buried. It never lead me to atheism. One has to remember that in all groups of people there will be bad apples. Even in the faith community it pays to be cautious about various claims.

  4. Kaptain K

    Damn BA, you know the most interesting people!

  5. Sticks, you may want to look into the role the Mormons played in Julia’s conversion, rather than making (incorrect) assumptions that they were “bad apples.”

  6. oops

    The way I read it, was that any visit from the Mormons was enough to make you an atheist.

    When I was being visited by them, (actually they were studying with a flat mat who thankfully went off to join the Pentecostals instead), and some time after, I did exactly what we are encouraged to do and critically investigate them. When I did it was suprising some of the things that were uncovered that they do not like people to know.

    Just to clarify the Mormons at the door may not be the proverbial bad apples, but the problems lie in the upper echelons of the command and control. The Mormon at the door is just as much a victim of the various lies and cover ups that have been perpetrated by those much higher up. (you may be able to find more here

  7. ATo me, the funniest part of Letting Go of God is at the end, when a second pair of missionaries visits her and she tells them how the first pair started her on the road to atheism.

    I saw her perform this at the Freedom from Religion Convention – it’s a wonderful play.

  8. Donnie B.

    Well, I’m surprised that even the Pentecostals would accept a flat mat as a member. Wouldn’t it have trouble taking the sacraments? I mean, baptism would work, but it might have a problem with communion…

    Oh, wait. Never mind.

  9. It took three years of forced attendance at a Pentecostal church to drive the point home for me and set me on the path to atheism. And it was a pretty short path from there too.

  10. Grand Lunar

    Seems I’m in good company. I wondered if my experience of ‘letting go of god’ was unique. Good to see that not only am I not alone, but also that a celebrity has shared such a story.

  11. I was brought up as a catholic (note I don’t capitalise the word any more), and during my teens and twenties I went through a long process of questioning and finally rejecting bit by bit all the nonsense that I had been taught. It wasn’t easy since it had been distilled into me from a very young age, and quite thoroughly too. But logic and sense gradually overcame indoctrination, and eventually I managed to “exorcise” every last theological lie with simple logic. Of course it helps enormously to have friends or role models to help you see through the fog, and convince you that it’s “ok to come out of the closet” and say what you *really* believe. I didn’t have any friends to help me but my role model for over 20 years has been the one and only Richard Dawkins!

    I first saw him on a BBC Horizon programme back in the 1980′s where he was having a go at creationists (yes, that long ago!) and the power and simplicity of his arguments was enough to tip the scales of my uncertainty and halt my slide into the “dark side of the force”. I have never met him but I have much to thank him for, and I am one of his ardent supporters.

    I am currently reading his book “Unweaving the Rainbow” and when I’ve finished that I’ll make a start on “The God Delusion”. Of course in my case he’s preaching to the converted (not a phrase that he would condone maybe, but it’s the only one that fits), but I see it as arming myself with all of his well thought out arguments in order to tackle the wave of rampant religion which keeps rearing its ugly head everywhere nowadays.

    As Grand Lunar said in the reply above, “Good to see that I am not alone”. I think this is the answer to the problem. I reckon a great deal of people could be encouraged to shake off their indoctrinated beliefs if they could understand that it’s “ok to do so” – in a lot of cases the whole system keeps going by the sheer momentum of peer pressure. I think this is quite common in the U.S.A. especially; not so much here in England. (Of course the situation is exactly the same in the Middle East, just with a different religion, and peer pressure is the ultimate driving force there.) There are probably millions of people who don’t necessarily believe it all, but are too scared to admit it because they are surrounded by church-going friends and family. We need to get them to understand that there is no shame in admitting your lack of faith; indeed there are plenty of people (like us) who will congratulate you for making the effort of thinking for yourself, and welcome you into our ranks with open arms!

    Sorry about the long post, but I needed to get it off my chest.

  12. Bizarly it was a BBC2 Horizon programme about the Anthropic Principal that reinforced the idea that God is. And this principal came from atheists. it was great for building faith.

    The main problem, especially with institutionalised faiths, which have a hierachical structure, such as RC, Anglicanism, Mormons, JW’s etc is that corruption tends to be covered up and systems and disciplines can be severe. Ritual and tradition elbow out spirituality and the groups becomes just machines in which we are cogs. This is a great atmosphere to drive people away.

    If you have as we do in our lot, a very decentralised strcture with no hierachy, the groups can get to act as a family in the correct sense and everyone is concerned about everyone elses welfare and they all pitch in to help their fellow group members. Here in Newcastle the church helped me completely renovate my flat, which was beyond me. One congregation has used their building to host community events and perform a valuable social function.

    If you want to see the value of faith groups to the wider community, just look at organisations like Banardos, The Samaritans, The Salvation Army and the Mission to Seamen.

  13. Gary Ansorge

    Elwood: Perhaps “carrying coals to newcastle” would be more approriate?

    That said, I read an interview with Richard, where he said he had taken part in the temporal stimulus experiment and experienced exactly nothing, nada, zip,,,
    Gee, I wish I had been able to do that, so I could compare it to my own experience which occured 16 years ago and was quite spontaneous, extremely(indescribably delicious) powerful and non replicable. I KNOW why Rumi spun around in circles. He was too ecstatic to do anything else,,,
    That said, there may be differences in cerebral structures that predispose us to an analytical rather than a visual interpretation of these experiences. From what I’ve read about the temporal lobe experiments, a predisposition to religion seems to bias our interpretation however, I’ve NEVER been a religious man, yet, while it was undeniably the most intense, spiritual experience of my life, I still don’t believe it was a literal contact with God but rather an experience of being totally alive. Yes, it leaves one with a sense of being connected with all life, all reality, which is another way of seeing we are really one thing,,,but what that one thing is, remains up for debate.
    Still, when I see the night sky, ablaze with stars, nebula and moths I feel a sense that our journey through life has barely begun. Perhaps we ARE in the process of creating something within ourselves akin to our concept of god, wherein we can worship ourselves, in the deepest sense that we’re all in this trip together. Nobody ever said this life was gonna be easy, but it is a joyful, wonderous experience. All it takes is the courage to let go of the desire to let someone else do the hard work of knowing and understanding and taking responsibility for the consequences of our actions. We’re all there is, kids. We are God,,,
    Now, anyone up for a concert under the stars?

    Gary 7

  14. peptron

    I’ve been raised as a Catholic, and oddly enough, it’s the action of some Catholics themselves that made me stop believing.

    There were religious education classes centered on Catholic Christianity where I live (Quebec, Quebec, Canada). Though those classes weren’t really the “indoctrination type” I would say. It was having more of a “Ghandi” feeling, what we were told is that we were raised Catholics because it’s the religion of the majority here, and that other religions aren’t “wrong” and are just different ways of climbing the same mountain. The classes also insisted on when a religion stops being good, and various “indoctrination” methods used by sects and less recommendable religious interpretations. It was explained that it really was all about making humanity a better place through spirituality, and to run like hell from any religion or sect that would make you think otherwise.
    There were also parts about comparative religions, and how all religions really transmit the same messages when you think of it; though there are always the dangers of fanaticism and fundamentalism.

    Oddly enough, some of my teachers in other classes than religious education were of the type that we were warned about in those same religious education classes. Like one of my teacher was “very” religious and insisted a lot on leading a “moral” life, though she completely ignored all the “love your neighboor” parts of the Bible and actively proned vengeance as a mean of solving conflicts, despite entire chapters of the Bible being devoted to absolutely condemn vengeance, even in benign cases.
    After meeting too many people that used the Bible selectively to reinforce their preconception (like “hatred = good, love = bad”, or “good = bad, bad = good”) I’ve decided to just let go of it. Heck, I once met a Christian that said that anything that tasted good was bad for the health, and anything that tasted bad was good for the health.
    I have no problems with religious people when they are of the type encouraged in my religious education classes, but I completely lose my means when faced with the type gone wrong.

    But even then, when I was born, Quebec was already very areligious, because of how the Catholic Church basically self-destructed in the 1960s because of the Duplessis Orphans scandal and the Quiet Revolution that followed. The Duplessis Orphans scandal is viewed as the biggest case of child abuse in the history of Canada, and probably of the entire North America, and is often cited as the ultimate fate of mixing politics and religion. Even the Pope Jean-Paul II said that the Church had nothing to do with it and it was just a case of corrupt priests and politicians, but the Church never recovered.

  15. Wayne

    I don’t want to get into a big debate here, but Gary 7′s post reminds me of one of the dangers of atheism. Self centered thinking (“wherein we can worship ourselves”) can lead to an overall selfish attitude, which I think it one of the biggest problems with society today. That is not to say that most religious people aren’t selfish as well (or that athiests can’t be selfless), but then as many here have noted most religious people don’t actually live what they say they believe anyway. Having a framework for taking the focus off of yourself is actually a good thing, it’s just too bad so few people actually do it.

  16. Tony

    There seems to be a theme that your are either religious or scientific, not both. I guess the cause for that is Religion and Science are polar opposites of one another. Science tells us to believe in things only when there is proof, and Religion is about believing in things that can not be proven, (having faith). So I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise.

    For me, I do look at myself as a Roman Catholic, but I also believe in the truths of Science. I believe the Earth was formed over millions of years, that humans decended from apes, and various other scientificly proven theories. I do not believe in Genesis, Intelligent design, or other theories presented by certain faiths to explain the creation of the Earth or us. I believe in the moral teachings of the Catholic Church. (This isn’t about what people who call themselves Catholics do, but rather about what it means to be Catholic.) And I think its safe to say that most people, even those who do believe in some faith, feel the same.

    The vast majority of Americans believe in some form of religion, yet, no one has successfully pushed through a Creationism agenda expect maybe in a few extremely rural areas, where the life of all people revolves around one church and exposure to the outside world is limited.

    So my question boils down to this; Does if have to be one or the other?

    I have never had a problem living with both. When presented with scenario where Science and Religion are in conflict, (Like when you watch those archeology shows that try to identify the location or period of time of a story in the Bible, and things do not line up.) I believe the proof of the science. Does that automaticly disprove or invalidate the Bible? No, because the Bible was not intended to be used as a science or history book. Anyone who uses it that way is wrong.

    It is a story book, about people who lived thousands of years ago. I believe most of the stories are based on some facts, (Example, regardless of religious affiliation, most people today believe that there was a person who lived named Jesus Christ, whom the New Testement is based on. Whether he was the Son of God or not is another matter.)

    So again, does it have to be Scientific or Religious? I don’t think so, but it just sounds like some people do.

  17. Gary Ansorge

    Wayne:
    In Tibetan Bhudism, the greeting “namaste” is a greeting to the enlightened self within the being you’re greeting. (talk about a rambling discourse). It’s a kind of selfishness, in the sense that we are centrist beings, looking outwards to the universe, but the true “self” is within,,,and it is common to all.
    The wonder we feel when observing a natural phenomenon is an internalized emotional response to perceived beauty. It’s truely in the eye(or I) of the beholder.
    Someday we may actually know what we mean by “I”, but that day is still to come. Ask me again to explain this in, say, a few hundred yeasrs or so,,,

    Peace and Namaste,

    GAry 7

  18. ozprof

    I find it interesting that the BA seems to indicate that only those who have rejected God can be skeptics and critical thinkers. This is totally incorrect. Also, despite the glee that the BA seems to have in relating this story, it should be noted that just as many people have gone the other way and accepted God as a result of critical thinking.

    I am one of those people. Raised an athesist, I bacame a Christian in my late 20′s after many years of research and study. I am also a scientist with a PhD in physics, so it is clearly possible to be both a scientist and a Christian.

    As a critical thinker, I know that some religious groups put out a lot of nonsense. However, it should not be forgotten that there is just as much from the non-religious side as well. So to use that as a arguement against religion is false, and demonstrates a certain lack of critical thinking.

  19. Tony

    Thank God for OZPROF, I’m not the only one then.

    Sorry, couldn’t pass up saying that.

  20. Irishman

    Tony, you hit on a key point with this:

    I guess the cause for that is Religion and Science are polar opposites of one another. Science tells us to believe in things only when there is proof, and Religion is about believing in things that can not be proven, (having faith).

    It is difficult for many of us to go from the mindset of validation by evidence to accepting without evidence. The two methods are diametrically opposed.

    Strictly speaking, there are plenty of people like you, who are able to reconcile their religious faith with science. Most of us don’t take strong issue with that. It’s the whole “live and let live” philosophy. You’re free to believe whatever you wish, as long as you don’t require us to comply.

    But the question that we have for you is why you’re so willing to take one mythology, one set of stories, and give it honored reverence over all the other equally silly ideas about gods, fairies, etc.

    Let me ask the question in a different manner. Let us suppose there really is some creator being, a single god who brought us into existence. Why do you think a book compiled from oral traditions by a bunch of tribal folks thousands of years ago have any special insight or connection to that creator? Why is Christianity linked to Judaism? Is there real underlying connection beyond the simple expedient of historical accident? Are we really supposed to accept that the God who sent his son to die for everyone in the world is the same God who had a “chosen people”, and advocated genocide? Are we really supposed to look at the story of Abraham and Isaac and think, “your god is noble because he didn’t require you to actually kill your son, only that you be willing to do so.”

    That’s really the point. Once we start to critically examine claims and rely upon evidence, the logic and reasoning and justifications provided by the religious claims just don’t stand up. We find the so-called morality offered to be a paltry shadow of where moral judgement stands today. We find the stories of magic as unconvincing as any of Zeus and Apollo, Hercules, Odin, Thor, and the Valkyries. We find the evidence of science in neurology and psychology to provide far more insightful for understanding the nature of being and the self.

    You ask if it has to be either one or the other. No, but for most of us (the ones you are addressing) the religious just doesn’t measure up.

  21. Chris M

    I have been raised Catholic and started having doubts during college while getting my Biology degree. My wife is a “part-time” Mormon and we have had many visits to our home by missionaries. By thinking about all the reasons I could not believe in their story of how their church got started I started to come to similar conclusions about the Catholic church and all religions in general. But do you know what really convinced me- Scientist! I work for a small company who markets nutraceuticals, (foods with health benefits). Scientist, by profession are to evaluate critically and be skeptic by nature. Two scientist in question have mislead our company with bad data, useless statistics and deleting or hiding “bad” results that indicated one of our products did not have any activity. They did this not to be deceptive or devious but because they truely believed had “faith” in the product; it must have activity. In hiding and deleting data-”The ends justify the means”. These scientist are devout Christians also. It clicked! If a scientist can disregard conclusive evidence of repeated experiments how easy is it to have faith in something with no evidence and only bad data.
    For a chuckle and insight visit positiveatheism.org

  22. A Girl with a Dream

    I was raised a Mormon for 12 years, but everything they taught was contradicting itself. o_O

    But this sounds weird though, you’re making it seem like all Christians are idiots matter what. I know BRILLIANT people who believe in a supreme being and are really great people.

  23. Ozprof

    Hi Irishman,

    “It is difficult for many of us to go from the mindset of validation by evidence to accepting without evidence. The two methods are diametrically opposed.”

    Herein is a problem, your assume that there is no evidence for Christianity. I would respectfully disagree. Rather is was the considerable evidence that convinced me to become a Christian

    “But the question that we have for you is why you’re so willing to take one mythology, one set of stories, and give it honored reverence over all the other equally silly ideas about gods, fairies, etc. ”

    You are showing your biasness here in stating that all religions and beliefs are “equally silly”. They are not. As I stated above, it was the considerable evidence for Christianity that convinced me.

  24. Tony: At the risk of sounding like a broken record (since I’ve pointed this out several times before in recent days)…

    Humans didn’t descend from apes, because we ARE apes- and there’s even a good case that we should be classed as chimps.

    Our line split off from that of other chimpanzees about 4 million years ago.

    Modern chimps, gorillas and humans all evolved from the same fairly recent common ape ancestor. Humans didn’t descend from chimps or gorillas any more than chimps or gorillas evolved from us.

    Also- the age of the Earth is in billions, not millions of years.

  25. All:

    It is evidently true that there are many smart people who are Christians, and there are also a lot of very good Christian scientists.

    It is also true that it is possible to be a good skeptic and believe in God (e.g. Martin Gardner).

    Having said that…

    There is absolutely NO evidence for the god of the Bible. The Bible contains some good moral teaching, but it also contains much which would be abhorrent to anyone today except sadists and fascists.

    The fact that some people can partition their lives into holding two completely contradictory world-views (science and religion) doesn’t lend any automatic credibility to the truth of the Bible (of any religion).

  26. Will. M

    My principle complaint with most of the world’s popular, organized religions is that, while each seems to always set itself apart from the rest by denigrating their rival’s philosophy, ALL seem to be paternalistic to one degree or another and ALL shut out females from the upper, elite levels of the hierarchy. Mohammad’s followers are only the current, most extreme example among the religions which deny women much chance at an equal footing within the greater religion. And I cannot believe that if the women in this or similarly male-oriented religions were put on an equal footing with the men, the rationalizations the women make to account for their second class status (why the women must wear burquas when it is the MEN who are lustful) would not vanish overnight.

  27. C.S.

    Irishman, I thought this was an interesting statement:

    “It is difficult for many of us to go from the mindset of validation by evidence to accepting without evidence.”

    But I must disagree that religion means accepting without evidence. It is true that the evidence for belief may be personal and unreproducable but if there were no evidence at all there would be slim chance that there would be any conversion experiences. It may also be true that the evidence that a person uses to convince themselves that God exists can’t be quantified, neither proven nor disproven, or produced on command in a laboratory which is why it is unscientific. However whatever religious or spiritual experience a person has that convinces them is their evidence after which faith comes into play to hold onto that belief despite other evidence to the contrary. Rational adults accept faith only after some evidence convinces them.

    Continuing in a faith is another matter…

  28. Gary Ansorge

    Girl with a dream:

    It’s not that Christians, Jews, Muslims are idiots, etc, it’s that SOME such reject logic and reason in favor of dogma, ie, a “set in concrete” attitude laid down as irrevocable law, mandated by a supreme being which cannot be questioned or brought to account.
    Albert Einstein apparently believed wholeheartdly in a god, one with which he tried to identify, as in, Quote:”If I were God, how would I set this(natural phenomena) up?”
    It’s one reason he believed “God would not play dice with the Universe(in discussing the indeterninancy of quantum mechanics)”.
    He believed in the absolute, while quantum mechanics says there are some things it is impossible to completely define, as in the SIMULTANEOUS measurement of position and momentum.
    This has more to do with the theoretical limits to our devices than to any mysterious entity. As in, the minimum length we can measure is about 10 to the minus 43 cm. Anything smaller than that ( like the singularity, which may or may not be smaller than that.) and we just can’t tell exactly where it is.
    People tend to compartmentalize their minds, separating contradictions so that there is no conflict between what they WISH to believe and what actually is. It doesn’t mean there’re idiots or misanthropes. It just means they’re human.

    Peace

    Gary 7

  29. Tony

    Irishman, my post wasn’t meant to be accusational or condemning, nor was it meant to imply that you should all follow a religion. For me, Religion is a personal thing. I, as an individual, have no right to say that you are wrong for not believing in God. If that’s they way it came across, my appologies. No one should have to justify their belief, or lack of belief, in a Religion. Nor, should anyone be ridiculed for the same beliefs. It just sounded like an interesting topic to discuss.

    But to answer yuor question, as many have said, I was raised Catholic, Other have totally broke because as they grew up, they no longer could validate their faith against other things in the world. I did not have that problem. Just because I no longer believe Genesis actually happen, does that mean I no longer believe in the Bible? That is, of course, just one example. I do not follow the Catholic Dogma on every single issue, so I guess some could say I am not a true Catholic. I feel it is a matter of interpretation, and on some things my interpretation differs from that of the official interpretation of the Catholic Church.

    Why Catholism over other religions? Because based on my experiences, limited as they may be, my ideals are more in line with Catholism. Now, since that was how I was raised, did my upbringing shape my ideals, or did I happen to get luck and was born to a Catholic family? I can not deny that my upbringing did indeed shaped my ideals, but at some point, when we all begin to think for ourselves, we all question what is around us.

    There is a more pratical answer too. If I am right, and I live according to my faith, then when I die I will be rewarded and go to heaven. If I am wrong, and we just disappear, then what I did while I lived, as far as the afterlife is concerned, didn’t matter, so what did I lose? My faith is not stopping me from enjoying my life, and it is not forcing me to make unintelliegnt decisions, such as refusing medical help when needed because its not in line with my faith. I look at my faith not as the way I live, but a part of the way I live. Other factors feed into it just as much as, and some even more, than religion.

  30. Darth_Bill

    As a practicing mormon and an engineer, you don’t have to be atheist to be a critical thinker. Some have just come to different conclusions and believing in God is a personal decision born of whatever experience or whatever logic someone might employ. Personally, it was born of experience, and I’m quite content that another person’s logic might exclude the existance of God. No skin off my nose.

    I also know where the bodies are buried in the mormon church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and it really doesn’t bother me. I just might not term them “bodies”. Humans do irrational things.

    Does my being a religious person somehow exclude me from the club. I believe the earth is extremely old, and as far as I know, came about the way science de jour explains. I don’t have a problem with evolution and I don’t necessarily believe in universal flood. I don’t believe in the inerrancy of the biblical record, or any record for that matter.

    Do I have to be a liberal atheist to enjoy the site? Seems that BA really wants to press that home.

  31. Bob A.

    As a long-time atheist, at one point in my life I used to look down on people of faith. I thought, “Boy, I am so much smarter than they are!”

    Now that I have gotten older and realized how difficult life can be, I’ve found that paths to happiness are manifold. Religious faith is one of these paths. While I still get upset that we have to have “debates” with those of faith regarding things like intelligent design, etc., I am more inclined than I used to be to just let it go and let them be happy.

  32. My point here was not to demonize religion or to imply that anyone who is religious is an idiot or an uncritical thinker. It was to emphasize that a personal journey to wisdom using skepticism and rational thinking can be wonderful, fulfilling, and warm. It was also to support Julia in her own journey.

    I have been getting some email from people who think I am casting aspersion on religion, and the comments here are similar. Rereading what I wrote, I can see why some would infer that.

    I have tried to be clear on this blog that it is the irrational aspects of religion that I fight against, which include things such as a 6000 year old Earth, antievolution arguments, and the like. The same is true for politics.

    Anyone who thinks I am a liberal atheist (such as the comment from Darth_Bill above) is jumping to a conclusion that is not warranted from the evidence. You have only seen a very small sliver of my political and religious leanings, and all of these are stances against antiscience and irrationality. Because I wanted to see, for example, Santorum go down in flames does not mean I am a liberal. It means I am literally a realist, and resent governmental representatives who are firmly ensconced in irrationality. You may note that many, many conservatives are unhappy with the way the Republican party has headed these past few years.

    So I will say it once again for one and for all: this is my blog, my site, and my URL. I still discuss astronomy quite frequently — it is still the topic in the vast majority of the entries here — but I also talk about skepticism, critical thinking, and whatever else tickles my fancy. I think most people can handle someone’s opinion, even if it disagrees with their own, and in fact I encourage seeking out dissension. This site is read by many schoolchildren, and I keep that in mind when I write it. I don’t swear, I don’t use ad hominems (or if I do I try to use them in a satirical way), and my whole point is learning.

    Whenever someone questions your core beliefs, it can feel threatening. That is the price of rationality, and the price of being outspoken about it. That is a price I will pay, gladly, and will continue to pay, as long as I think it will do some good.

    I consider it a down payment.

  33. DennyMo

    OK, I gotta ask: What is a “flat mat”?

    Elwood makes some interesting comments about how it’s OK to “come out of the closet” with one’s non-belief. What’s more difficult is accepting the realization that people you love and who love you have based a significant portion of their lives on a faulty belief system. Then figuring out a way to tell them that without throwing your relationships into an uproar.

  34. When I was doing my first science degree, I was living in accomodation administered by the university and there was more than one person in that accommodation. When that happens, as the accomodation was a council flat, we were therefore flatmates (The word was split into two in error)

    I hope this clears that up.

    As for the dichotomy of science and religion (alleged) please check your history of science. You will note that a lot of it was originally done by religious people who believed that studying the world was their religious duty. (See Allan Chapman’s book “God’s in the Sky” )

  35. I’d be astounded if the BA is not predominantly a ‘liberal atheist’. Liberal- in the sense that he has spoken out for civil rights, openness to new ideas and opportunity for all people. Atheist- in the sense that he eschews supernatural explanations.

    Why the coyness? What’s there to be ashamed of? Isn’t being liberal a good thing- or has the word been so debased in this country that people don’t know what liberalism means anymore?

    I guess it’s possible that the BA could be against supernatural explanations and still be religious- but religion without the supernatural stuff is not religion any more- it’s philosophy.

    I don’t buy it. I’ve been a keen reader of the BABlog since its inception- and I haven’t read anything that leads me to think the BA is not liberal or that he’s religious.

  36. Sticks, your argument is dubious.

    Just because religion is a possible motivating factor for say- studying the skies, that does not mean that religion must be compatible with science. Religion is flatly contradicted by modern astronomy and cosmology. There is no creation myth that gets even close to our modern day cosmological findings about the beginnings of the universe. (Even allowing for Biblical metaphor.)

  37. Chet

    I concur with Christian Burnham except:
    1) common ancestor of chimpanzees/human lineage about 6 million years ago: fossil evidence, found transitional fossils, DNA, etc.
    2) Our solar system 4.6 billion years old
    3) no evidence for any god nor for a specific jesus christ. What “considerable evidence” can anyone provide proving beyond any reasonable doubt that any god or a jesus christ currently exists now?
    Because it is in the “New Testament” or because of strong emotional neuro-chemical feelings?
    “We” are constantly being told of what god or jesus or allah or yhwh wants but it is only the monotheistic faithful whom are telling us what they “want to believe on faith”.
    If the evidence is so overwhelming, then why are there so many different religious faith groups (and sub-faith groups) of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Catholicism, etc.?
    Do we all have to become an extinct species over this?

  38. Chet

    Anyways, what god? What is god? Who is god? Where is god? Why a male, hominid god that seems be be a supernatural “one of us”? Does god have a penis/scrotum, anus, navel, nipples? Where did god come from? Does god have sex? Does god eat or drink or eliminate? Does god tell jokes? Does god dream? Where does god live? Is there a god of god or a goddess of god?
    So, have any of you faithful ever asked your priest, chaplain, pope, bishop, archbishop, mullah, rabbi, minister, etc., these questions?

  39. PK

    Flat mat I got. ;-) But what’s up with the bodies in the Mormon church?

  40. PK

    I agree with Christian Burnham as well on an important point. Being liberal is not at all something to be ashamed of. Au contraire: in the last century liberals have always been right in all major issues (race relations, McCarthyism, Vietnam, to name a few).

    So be proud to be a liberal! (If indeed you are.)

  41. kingnor

    make her put “letting go of god” on I-Tunes!

  42. Irishman

    Ozprof said:
    >Herein is a problem, your assume that there is no evidence for Christianity. I would respectfully disagree. Rather is was the considerable evidence that convinced me to become a Christian

    You are incorrect. I assume nothing. I have concluded there is no clear, solid, reproducible evidence for Christianity. I have further concluded that Christianity as denoted in the Bible (including the Old Testament) is full of contradictions, logical fallacies, and conflicts between the doctrine of God compared to how the world works. An example of the latter is the so-called “Problem of Evil”. It just does not add up.

    I remain open to the possibility I do not know everything. ;-) I remain open to the possibility of some sort of creator being. But psychology does a lot more for explaining to me why people would believe in supernatural beings that don’t exist than in not believing in ones that do.

    You claim that evidence led to your choice of Christianity. I have not encountered any convincing evidence.

    >>“But the question that we have for you is why you’re so willing to take one mythology, one set of stories, and give it honored reverence over all the other equally silly ideas about gods, fairies, etc. ”

    >You are showing your biasness here in stating that all religions and beliefs are “equally silly”. They are not. As I stated above, it was the considerable evidence for Christianity that convinced me.

    I am showing my biasness that all religions are equally silly. That is a true statement. Why? Because I believe they are, and I have yet to see any evidence to convince me otherwise.

  43. Daniel H.

    “OK, I gotta ask: What is a “flat mat”?”

    Presumably it was meant to be “flat mate” as in one of several people renting a house/apartment/whatever.

  44. Daniel H.

    “OK, I gotta ask: What is a “flat mat”?”

    Presumably it was meant to be “flat mate” as in one of several people renting a house/apartment/whatever.

  45. Christian, I’ll admit to being coy here. It’s because the point I am trying to make is not about my own personal stand on such issues, but what people are inferring about such things. For someone to question if they have to be a liberal atheist to read this blog is, IMO, silly. If people insist on categorizing things — especially me — they’ll get into trouble, I promise. My thoughts on these topics are not simple, and will not stay into small boxes labeled “conservative” or “liberal”. Those terms are fluid and ill-defined anyway.

  46. Squatch

    There seems to be an awful lot of confusion between God and religion. I think God sits looking at all of the religions (and anti-religions) and says “Didn’t anybody get it right?!”
    Whether God created the world with a wave of His hand or set off the Big Bang with the snap of Her fingers is irrelavent.
    The fact that religious zealots use the name of God for furthering their own personal agenda does not alone prove that It does not exist.
    Some things we can’t currently explain and some things we shouldn’t try to explain. For instance; Why we love our children. Is it strictly genetics? (If anyone knows, please don’t tell me.) Because Something cannot be proven scientifically doesn’t mean It does not exist. Wouldn’t the Thing that created science be exempt from it?
    I can’t look at my childs face and not see God. I can’t look at the night sky with wonder and not see God. I can’t watch a hawk riding the winds and not see God. I may not have proof, but I have seen enough evidence.
    Someone once said that to believe that everything in the universe turned out the way it did by chance is like believing an explosion in a type foundry would result in Webster’s Dictionary.
    Jesus himself was a skeptic and critical thinker. In reference to kosher food he said “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” Duh!
    Jesus=God? I don’t know. He seems to have some pretty good advice though.
    He also said, “Love one another.”
    I can’t prove scientifically that love exists, but I’ve seen enough evidence.

  47. Thanks BA.

    To clear up any confusion- I said you are ‘liberal’. I didn’t say you are ‘left-wing’.

    There’s a difference (I think). Most people who wish to see civil rights increased and greater tolerance for different cultures (i.e. liberals) align themselves with the political left. However, there are some who feel that aligning with the libertarian right is the best way to achieve those goals. Still others are apolitical.

    I’m pretty sure that the BA is liberal on most issues- but it’s quite possible to be both a liberal and a right-of-center conservative/libertarian. Thus- I don’t know (or care that much) whether the BA is politically to the right or the left (or up or down).

  48. There’s nothing any scientist could say or do which could invalidate your feelings- or those of anyone else.

    I personally feel pretty proud to be the result of billions of years of natural selection- having a brain consisting of an astronomical number of neuronal connections and living in a time where we can begin to understand ourselves.

    I much prefer being the result of genetics than being the creation of a supernatural God. I think the Biblical view tends to diminish the grandeur of life – not enhance it. We live in a universe much bigger and richer than anything envisioned in the Bible.

    The fact that we have evolved to love our children doesn’t invalidate that love.

  49. A lot of people think that creationists are just dumb hicks. A lot of people laugh when we say that scientists are pushing atheism down our throats but i think this sort of proves that the same people always pushing Darwinism are the ones that atheists. There is a guy outt here right now thats been pushing atheist for years and says that people who teach there kids about god are doing child abuse. this astronmy guy pushes Darwin then has his picture taken with atheists. Make me scepticle to say the least

  50. Merle,

    Creationists ARE either dumb, ignorant or liars. I’m sorry- but what else do you call people who try and ignore over a century of scientific work, which confirms evolution? What else do you call people who dispute evolution- even after the discovery of DNA?

    I suggest you read a book – pretty much any book written on evolution by a scientist to at least understand what it is that you are knocking.

    The author of this blog is not ‘pushing’ or ‘forcing’ anything on anyone- though I agree that he is tacitly endorsing atheism (which is his right!).

    If you had bothered to read the posts on this board you would have found out that there are several posts by people who accept Darwinism, but are also religious.

    I doubt that you’ll respond to these comments- and I suspect you’re just posting to annoy us and waste our time- but maybe my response will be useful to others.

  51. Darwinism is a science of the past; evolution has come such a long way since then. Naming it simply after Darwin makes light of all the work of all the scientists in the past century on it. At best, you could call it Darwin-inspired.

  52. Infophile:

    In the same way that Newtonian mechanics and optics is science from the past- but is still essentially correct- Darwin outlined the central ideas behind evolution that form the backbone of the subject to this day.

    You’re wrong if you think that today’s geneticists feel somehow slighted by the use of the name Darwin. Darwin didn’t predict DNA- but what he did get right revolutionized our understanding of the world.

    All this talk about strong and weak Darwinians in trendy books is misleading. It’s misusing the term Darwinian to imply a system of belief- not science. In a similar manner- a bad writer could use the term ‘Newtonian’ to attack someone who over rigidly adheres to deterministic solutions.

  53. The difference with Newtonian mechanics is that it’s essentially unchanged from what Newton did. We do have advanced forms of mechanics, such as relativistic and quantum, but we don’t use “Newtonian” to describe either, even though his mechanics laid the groundwork for them (though granted, Hamiltonian mechanics is closer to what’s used nowadays for quantum mechanics).

    In the end, the important point is that Evolutionary Biologists never refer to themselves as “Darwinists.” It’s a label created by Creationists and ID advocates, likely in an attempt to make it look like they’re practicing an outdated science from a century ago.

  54. Infophile:

    Hmmm… Wikipedia does mention that ‘Darwinian’ is used as a term of abuse by creationists- but that’s really neither here nor there.

    The central ideas of Darwin have withstood the test of time and have been incorporated into modern evolutionary biology without much modification. I think you’re wrong to suggest otherwise.

    Hamiltonian and Lagrangian mechanics are in some cases more elegant formulations than the original Newtonian description- but they were essentially derived using principles developed by Newton. Don’t forget that Newton (and Liebnitz) also invented calculus- without which there wouldn’t be much quantum theory.

    I think you would find that NASA engineers (for example) would be only too happy to express their debt to Newton- and similarly- modern biologists will also acknowledge the contributions of Darwin.

  55. Helga

    I have always been fascinated by the ways in which people explain their belief in the supernatural. It seems to me there are a few of basic types of believers, with many variations, of course.

    There are completely committed believers who require no evidence to support their beliefs and are not at all deterred by any evidence that could negate their beliefs.

    There are those who believe but realize that there are many logical flaws in their belief system so they come up with loopholes, like saying the stories of the Bible are for illustrative purposes and should not be interpreted literally, even though the Bible is the basis for their entire belief system. I mention the Bible here because I was raised in the U.S., which is predominantly Christian, so I am most familiar with the Christian mythos, but the same thing applies to all organized systems of religioun.

    There are some who believe (or at least say they believe – I like to think that there are many, many closet atheists) because it is the social norm and they fear, either consciously or unconsciously, being rejected by their society if they do not conform. This is quite logical and illustrates good survival instincts. If your clan kicks you out of the cave, you’ll likely freeze to death or starve, so it’s easier and in many ways, smarter, to conform.

    After begin raised Catholic, I became an atheist in my twenties. This seems to be a very common story among atheists – giving up their beliefs after they leave home and realize they can now safely decide for themselves what they really believe (or don’t).

    I am a completely committed atheist. I leave no room for the possibility of a supernatural being that created the universe. People say that is close-minded. I of course disagree. If there were no evidence whatsoever for how the universe
    was created, then I would have to allow for any possible explanation. However, there is evidence for the Big Bang and not only is there NO evidence of a supreme being, but every human religion that I have ever been aware of is riddled with logical fallacies and contradictions. And they are all either subtly or grotesquely mysoginistic, indicating strongly that these religions were created by man (I mean literally man – not the collective man referring to all humans, but those humans bearing an X and Y chromosome).

    I have no problem with people believing in the supernatural. Different personality types need different levels of reassurance and comfort to function. Someone who really fears death is going to be very relieved to think that there’s an afterlife. Someone who really needs to feel that the universe is ordered and not random will sleep better thinking their fate is controlled by a god and not random chance. Someone who can’t bear the grief of losing a loved one will be greatly comforted by believing that person has gone to a “better place”.

    I think each person’s subconscious knows just what it needs to believe to live without overwhelming fear and anxiety. But please believers, don’t condemn those of us who need very little reassurance. There are many among you who are perfectly content accepting that our lives are ruled by chance and we only have one turn at existence. Do I think I’m smarter than believers? – No. There are lots of believers who understand scientific concepts I could never grasp or can create works of art I could never even imagine. Do I think I’m more practical and self-reliant than believers? – Yes. These differences don’t make us better or worse, good or bad. They just make us different. When we stop fearing what is different this debate will cease. Unfortunately, fear of the unfamiliar is another survival instinct among all complex organisms, so the debate will probably never end. Is that pessimistic? I don’t think so. I think it’s simply realistic.

  56. Helga

    I have always been fascinated by the ways in which people explain their belief in the supernatural. It seems to me there are a few of basic types of believers, with many variations, of course.

    There are completely committed believers who require no evidence to support their beliefs and are not at all deterred by any evidence that could negate their beliefs.

    There are those who believe but realize that there are many logical flaws in their belief system so they come up with loopholes, like saying the stories of the Bible are for illustrative purposes and should not be interpreted literally, even though the Bible is the basis for their entire belief system. I mention the Bible here because I was raised in the U.S., which is predominantly Christian, so I am most familiar with the Christian mythos, but the same thing applies to all organized systems of religioun.

    There are some who believe (or at least say they believe – I like to think that there are many, many closet atheists) because it is the social norm and they fear, either consciously or unconsciously, being rejected by their society if they do not conform. This is quite logical and illustrates good survival instincts. If your clan kicks you out of the cave, you’ll likely freeze to death or starve, so it’s easier and in many ways, smarter, to conform.

    After begin raised Catholic, I became an atheist in my twenties. This seems to be a very common story among atheists – giving up their beliefs after they leave home and realize they can now safely decide for themselves what they really believe (or don’t).

    I am a completely committed atheist. I leave no room for the possibility of a supernatural being that created the universe. People say that is close-minded. I of course disagree. If there were no evidence whatsoever for how the universe
    was created, then I would have to allow for any possible explanation. However, there is evidence for the Big Bang and not only is there NO evidence of a supreme being, but every human religion that I have ever been aware of is riddled with logical fallacies and contradictions. And they are all either subtly or grotesquely mysoginistic, indicating strongly that these religions were created by man (I mean literally man – not the collective man referring to all humans, but those humans bearing an X and Y chromosome).

    I have no problem with people believing in the supernatural. Different personality types need different levels of reassurance and comfort to function. Someone who really fears death is going to be very relieved to think that there’s an afterlife. Someone who really needs to feel that the universe is ordered and not random will sleep better thinking their fate is controlled by a god and not random chance. Someone who can’t bear the grief of losing a loved one will be greatly comforted by believing that person has gone to a “better place”.

    I think each person’s subconscious knows just what it needs to believe to live without overwhelming fear and anxiety. But please believers, don’t condemn those of us who need very little reassurance. There are many among you who are perfectly content accepting that our lives are ruled by chance and we only have one turn at existence. Do I think I’m smarter than believers? – No. There are lots of believers who understand scientific concepts I could never grasp or can create works of art I could never even imagine. Do I think I’m more practical and self-reliant than believers? – Yes. These differences don’t make us better or worse, good or bad. They just make us different. When we stop fearing what is different this debate will cease. Unfortunately, fear of the unfamiliar is another survival instinct among all complex organisms, so the debate will probably never end. Is that pessimistic? Maybe – but I think it’s simply realistic.

  57. Fred S

    At November 14th, 2006 at 12:00 N, Gary Ansorge wrote, in part:

    quantum mechanics says there are some things it is impossible to completely define, as in the SIMULTANEOUS measurement of position and momentum.
    This has more to do with the theoretical limits to our devices than to any mysterious entity. As in, the minimum length we can measure is about 10 to the minus 43 cm. Anything smaller than that ( like the singularity, which may or may not be smaller than that.) and we just can’t tell exactly where it is.

    Actually, QM does say that position and momentum (along the same component), or any other canonically conjugate pair of variables, can never be simultaneously measured to better than h/(2.pi), regardless of what measuring devices are used. According to QM (namely, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle), this is a property of the universe we live in, and governs any possible measuring devices as well as any other part of the universe. The limit of 1.6×10^-35 m (the Planck length) is the smallest measurable distance, and 5.4×10^-44 sec (the Planck time) is the smallest measurable time, due to the combined effects of QM and GR (General Relativity). This is the scale at which vacuum fluctuations of the geometry of spacetime itself occur, annihilating the very notion of spacetime as a continuum below that scale. Also annihilating the concept of a geometric ‘point’ as the position of any object, and thus also the concept of a ‘point particle.’

    These are concepts that arise out of theoretical science and that challenge the ability of the human mind to comprehend. Today we find ourselves unable to reconcile the two primary pillars of physics, QM and GR. There are some promising and intriguing leads out there, but the jury is still out. Come to think of it, it hasn’t really gone to the jury yet. And I will not be the first to point out that this is very similar to the situation of a little over a century ago, in which the pillars in conflict were Galilean mechanics and the Maxwell equations governing electromagnetism, both considered rock-solid. We all know how that was resolved, in 1905 by a young upstart patent clerk with an idea we now call Special Relativity.

    This is the way science proceeds, and this is what certain forces who have a mindset that science is fundamentally antagonistic to religion seize upon to claim that science doesn’t really know anything because it can’t account for absolutely everything. They don’t (or choose not to) understand that the pursuit of science is like a team of surveyors and cartographers mapping a vast territory. The fact that the current edges of their map are uncertain, and beyond those edges, unknown, doesn’t in any way impugn the parts of the map that have already been established.

    As a skeptic, a scientist (at least by training), religiously raised Catholic, but now agnostic, only very slightly spiritual, a patriotic American who is politically a strict constructionist, but humanist, conservative, I believe that religion is in general a force for good in the world. Sure, many awful things have been done in the name of religion, but these were ultimately antireligious acts. Some of these have, for instance, been formally recognized by the Catholic Church as wrong and evil (the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, e.g.). By far the primary (though not the only) locus of such evil today is by a small misguided sector of Islam. But by the same token, don’t forget that science, too, has been the source of some pretty awful practices. Consider, e.g., eugenics, or Nazi medical experiments. Here again, these were not true science, by the same token that the Inquisition was not true religion. The existence of such transgressions in no way invalidates religion as a whole on the one hand, nor science as a whole on the other.

    But religion is ultimately an aspect of true humanity, and not at all contradictory to science. Yes, there are those who carry in their minds mutually contradictory ideas, some under the heading, ‘science,’ in conflict with others classed as ‘religion.’ But life is a journey in which we’re all in the process of sorting these things out. Some of us may never resolve our internal contradictions; others of us might succeed in resolving some, if not all of them.

    I guess I believe that religion is philosophically perpendicular to science. There is some overlap, but without conflict. The objective is to understand that lack of conflict in the particular circumstances that life throws our way.

    I do not rule God out, but I guess I’m not convinced that any of today’s religions have completed their ‘map’ yet. And I applaud Julia for applying the brainpower God gave her to life, the universe, and everything. I guess that’s one of, if not the principal duty we have in life.

    But science is not itself a religion, nor is it all-encompassing. Who (esp. on this site!) has not laid back under the stars on a warm, clear summer night and just ENJOYED the spectacular panorama of the stars? And all the while benefitting by what the science has taught us about them? And if you are religious, appreciated the Almighty that created all this?

  58. Fred S

    At November 14th, 2006 at 12:00 N, Gary Ansorge wrote, in part:

    quantum mechanics says there are some things it is impossible to completely define, as in the SIMULTANEOUS measurement of position and momentum.
    This has more to do with the theoretical limits to our devices than to any mysterious entity. As in, the minimum length we can measure is about 10 to the minus 43 cm. Anything smaller than that ( like the singularity, which may or may not be smaller than that.) and we just can’t tell exactly where it is.

    Actually, QM does say that position and momentum (along the same component), or any other canonically conjugate pair of variables, can never be simultaneously measured to better than h/(2.pi), regardless of what measuring devices are used. According to QM (namely, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle), this is a property of the universe we live in, and governs any possible measuring devices as well as any other part of the universe. The limit of 1.6×10**-35 m (the Planck length) is the smallest measurable distance, and 5.4×10**-44 sec (the Planck time) is the smallest measurable time, due to the combined effects of QM and GR (General Relativity). This is the scale at which vacuum fluctuations of the geometry of spacetime itself occur, annihilating the very notion of spacetime as a continuum below that scale. Also annihilating the concept of a geometric ‘point’ as the position of any object, and thus also the concept of a ‘point particle.’

    These are concepts that arise out of theoretical science and that challenge the ability of the human mind to comprehend. Today we find ourselves unable to reconcile the two primary pillars of physics, QM and GR. There are some promising and intriguing leads out there, but the jury is still out. Come to think of it, it hasn’t really gone to the jury yet. And I will not be the first to point out that this is very similar to the situation of a little over a century ago, in which the pillars in conflict were Galilean mechanics and the Maxwell equations governing electromagnetism, both considered rock-solid. We all know how that was resolved, in 1905 by a young upstart patent clerk with an idea we now call Special Relativity.

    This is the way science proceeds, and this is what certain forces who have a mindset that science is fundamentally antagonistic to religion seize upon to claim that science doesn’t really know anything because it can’t account for absolutely everything. They don’t (or choose not to) understand that the pursuit of science is like a team of surveyors and cartographers mapping a vast territory. The fact that the current edges of their map are uncertain, and beyond those edges, unknown, doesn’t in any way impugn the parts of the map that have already been established.

    As a skeptic, a scientist (at least by training), religiously raised Catholic, but now agnostic, only very slightly spiritual, a patriotic American who is politically a strict constructionist, but humanist, conservative, I believe that religion is in general a force for good in the world. Sure, many awful things have been done in the name of religion, but these were ultimately antireligious acts. Some of these have, for instance, been formally recognized by the Catholic Church as wrong and evil (the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution of Galileo, e.g.). By far the primary (though not the only) locus of such evil today is by a small misguided sector of Islam. But by the same token, don’t forget that science, too, has been the source of some pretty awful practices. Consider, e.g., eugenics, or Nazi medical experiments. Here again, these were not true science, by the same token that the Inquisition was not true religion. The existence of such transgressions in no way invalidates religion as a whole on the one hand, nor science as a whole on the other.

    But religion is ultimately an aspect of true humanity, and not at all contradictory to science. Yes, there are those who carry in their minds mutually contradictory ideas, some under the heading, ‘science,’ in conflict with others classed as ‘religion.’ But life is a journey in which we’re all in the process of sorting these things out. Some of us may never resolve our internal contradictions; others of us might succeed in resolving some, if not all of them.

    I guess I believe that religion is philosophically perpendicular to science. There is some overlap, but without conflict. The objective is to understand that lack of conflict in the particular circumstances that life throws our way.

    I do not rule God out, but I guess I’m not convinced that any of today’s religions have completed their ‘map’ yet. And I applaud Julia for applying the brainpower God gave her to life, the universe, and everything. I guess that’s one of, if not the principal duty we have in life.

    But science is not itself a religion, nor is it all-encompassing. Who (esp. on this site!) has not laid back under the stars on a warm, clear summer night and just ENJOYED the spectacular panorama of the stars? And all the while benefitting by what the science has taught us about them? And if you are religious, appreciated the Almighty that created all this?

  59. Two double posts in a row, is this a record?

  60. Hey, I just got a paper published calculating both the quantum momentum and position distributions of protons in ice through Feynman path-integral simulation (Journal: Physical Chemistry Chemical Physics).

    Most people know that you can’t simultaneously define the position and momentum of a particle- but did you know that you can write down a distribution function P(x,p) (The Wigner distribution fn), in which the projections Int[P,dx] gives the position distribution and Int[P,dp] gives the momentum distribution?

    It would then seem that the element P(x,p)dxdp should give the probability of the particle having position x to x+dx and momentum p to p+dp, which is in apparent violation of the idea that a particle can’t simultaneously have measured definite values for both.

    However, the function P is not +ve everywhere, and only the projections mean anything in the probabilistic sense. Maybe P(x,p) does mean something- but it’s hard to think of it as a probability- because that number is sometimes -ve. (What is a -ve probability?)

    Uh… therefore god exists.

  61. Fred S

    Phil,

    Please remove the second of my two latest posts (Nov 14, 11:55 and 11:56 pm), and then this one as well — when I sent the first one, I got a bunch of errors, leading me to believe that my post hadn’t gone out, so I sent it again with minor changes. I prefer to keep the first version of what I sent.

    Looks like the same thing musta happened to Helga just before me (11:52 and 11:53 pm); obviously, it’s your call whether to remove her second, apparently duplicate, post.

  62. Fred S.

    Of course religion contradicts science! The cosmology of the Bible is in direct contradiction to modern cosmological theory (as you no doubt know). The only way out of it is to regard religious texts as completely metaphorical and wooly- in which case I would argue that religion really doesn’t tell us much about the world.

    There are may awful acts done in the name of religion mentioned in the Bible itself. I would therefore take issue with you that modern day violence is not ‘true’ religion. Your view of religion essentially being a message of love and hope is a modern interpretation of violent pre-scientific texts and doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny.

  63. Helga,
    Though I agree with most of your post- I can’t see how you can claim that there’s no harm in people believing in an afterlife- to give one of your examples.

    Wasn’t 9-11 at least in part made possible by the afterlife concept? Even if you don’t accept that- don’t you agree that organizing your life around a reward in heaven as opposed to improving the planet for future generations is a very dangerous way for humanity to live?

  64. As predicted, Merle Jennings decided not to reply to comments after he had done posting his creationist arguments on this page.

    He accused us of referring to creationists as ‘dumb hicks’. Here’s some excerpts from his blog (that he linked to) so you can judge his non-dumbness for yourself. Enjoy:
    ———————————————–
    About Me

    merle jennings
    kansas, United States

    a true american patriot, because i love america and im a born again christian. only christians are real americans because our founding fathers were all born again christians.
    ——————————————————————-
    the liberals make me sick. they keep smearing a innocent man and good one like haggard.

    i know haggard cause i went to one of his services once. the whole church was alive and it was so wonderful. unlike the hate i feel every day from the liberals in this country there it was nothing but love. haggard is a man of love and it realy pains me to see people lieing about him like they are now. if only people could see that christians are about love.

    obviously he cant be gay and his so called friend is forgetting a commandmant about not baring false witness. a good man cant be gay cause its wrong and evil. and im not again gays actually i think they are probably good people but they the devil controls there minds. thats why we cant have gay marriage cause it means were oking evil.
    ———————————————————————–

    ive been a borriwin a computer from a friend then i forgot my password so i havent been hear for a while. i guess no one cares anyhow since only people that come here usual are negative people.

  65. Actually, I’m not totally sure that M. Jennings’ site is not meant to be satire in the mold of Borat, Ali G. and Ann Coulter.

  66. PK

    Helga says: “Different personality types need different levels of reassurance and comfort to function.”

    I think this hits the nail right on the head.

    PS1. On the subject of Darwinian vs. Newtonian: We have gone way beyond Newton, and in that sense classical mechanics would be better described as Hamiltonian or Lagrangian mechanics. I therefore think that the analogy between Newton and Darwin is very close.

    PS2. P(x,p) is another representation of the quantum state of the system, from which (classical) probability distributions can be calculated. P(x,p) is typically negative when the system exhibits strong quantum behaviour. For thermal and classical states P is positive.

  67. PK

    Phil, I still get error messages when I post a comment.

  68. I was actually worried the BA had started slipping down the proverbial slope with this blog, but reading his further comments I am glad to say I respect him even more than before

    To anybody worshiping Richard Dawkins and his caricature of religion, read my blog entry at

    http://omnologos.wordpress.com/2006/10/19/dawkins-incs-hyperrealism-myth/

    May we all learn first and foremost to respect each other! (apart than when we are TRULY silly, like that angel thingy)

  69. Maurizio,

    Did you actually read Dawkins’ book? He does quote actual scripture.

    Also, though I respect people, I don’t have an automatic respect for their often ludicrous religious beliefs. The book of Genesis, for example, carries precisely zero weight in a modern discussion on cosmology. Why should I respect the views of someone who believes this work of fiction to be true?

  70. P. K.

    Newton and Darwin were overrated huh?

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

  71. I’m going to bed! I get overexcited when religion or politics comes up for discussion.

    I just discovered though that if you click on ‘listening to it’ in the original post you get sent to Sweeny’s website which contains audio clips.

  72. Melusine

    Fred S said : But by the same token, don’t forget that science, too, has been the source of some pretty awful practices. Consider, e.g., eugenics, or Nazi medical experiments. Here again, these were not true science, by the same token that the Inquisition was not true religion. The existence of such transgressions in no way invalidates religion as a whole on the one hand, nor science as a whole on the other.

    I don’t think it’ accurate to say those things were not “true science.” One can say the atom bomb was a terrible thing that killed so many people, but the science itself was quite good. Science is just a systematized branch of study that relies on observation and accumulated facts. It doesn’t have moral value in and of itself, whereas religions do have built in moral and ethical values. It’s not the same thing. To me, “not true science” would be that which doesn’t use scientific principles and methods to arrive at some knowledge, i.e., not testing, not observing adequately, etc.

    It’s just the people who had unethical aspirations. Just a minor distinction that irks me. As atheist, I don’t adhere to SCIENCE like it’s a religion, it’s just a method/system to better apprehend the natural world. That’s all. Nothing less, nothing more.

  73. Ozprof

    Hi all,

    I have not had the time to go through all of the posts here in detail this morning. (too much grading and lectures to prepare for! :-( ), however some comments do stick out. Such things as people shouting that there is “NO evidence” for the God of the Bible, someone else claiming to know all the reasons why people accept religion, “creationists are dumb, ignorant or liers”.

    I really wonder about the people who make such comments. To me it shows how little they actually know for all their much-vaunted knowledge and intelligence. It appears that they have never ever considered that some very intelligent people actually make a very careful examination of all the evidence and come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible DOES exist. No wishful thinking, no “survival instinct”, no “comfort” requirements, no “reassurance” requirements:- just a deep examination of the evidence, both for and against, by thinking, intelligent people.

  74. In response to Chet:

    Apparently when Isaac Asimov was asked if he believed in God, he would always answer “Whose?” This is a very telling response. The more you think about it, the more you see the wisdom in his one word answer.

    The fact is that “God” means something different to practically every believer of every faith. Even within a single faith or belief system, even within the same church or mosque, even within the same family, people will still have their own internal ideas on who or what “God” is, regardless of what they might say. It is without doubt the most overworked and overloaded word in the English language. There can never be any concensus on God because there is no factual evidence. I have mentioned this to several people in the past, and of course the usual reply is “Of course we (insert belief system here) believe in the same God”, but when you question them and examine a bit closer you will find inconsistencies every time, even amongst priests.

    I personally have no problem with anyone who wishes to believe whatever they want to about any God they choose, in fact I think it is a healthy thing to examine your own beliefs (or lack of) and come to your own conclusions. Belief handed down from a higher authority is an anachronism: how can it be your belief if it is parceled up and handed to (or forced upon) you? And of course, the greatest harm is done when such a thing happens. Belief or non-belief should come from within, or it is totally invalid. And it should stay within, and never be handed round or forced upon others.

  75. Gary Ansorge

    Yeah, I sometimes get the Plank lentgh/time confused, which is why I really look forward to new/young minds coming online.

    Tanks,

    Gary 7

  76. Addendum to my previous post; I meant to add that Asimov was making the point that whenever someone asks “Do you believe in God?” what they are really asking is “Do you believe in MY god?” – to which the only truthful answer has to be “No” in accordance with the above argument. Think about it.

  77. Gary Ansorge

    Christian:I agree with your analysis of Merle. He uses some sophisticated language construction, such as,”,,,it pains me,,”and spelled Haggards name correctly. Such small inconsistencies lead me to believe he’s more than he lets on. I had an acquaintance several years ago who took pains to appear a good old dumb guy(Donny Boldman, where are you?), because, after I’d caught him in such irregularities of language, he said,”You’d be amazed how much you can learn when the people around you think you’re too dumb to understand what they’re talking about.” He had a masters degree in business administration.
    Which is why I’ve never bothered to respond directly to Merles input,,,

    Gary 7

  78. Chet

    If god existed, I would not be an Atheist!
    Fred S Says: “ I do not rule God out, but I guess I’m not convinced that any of today’s religions have completed their ‘map’ yet. And I applaud Julia for applying the brainpower God gave her to life, the universe, and everything. I guess that’s one of, if not the principal duty we have in life.”
    Perhaps you have ruled yourself out, too? You give your own god existence because you have yet to find yourself.
    The only god of this Solar System is our star, the Sun.
    Ozprof Says: “It appears that they have never ever considered that some very intelligent people actually make a very careful examination of all the evidence and come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible DOES exist. No wishful thinking, no “survival instinct”, no “comfort” requirements, no “reassurance” requirements:- just a deep examination of the evidence, both for and against, by thinking, intelligent people.”
    What evidence, Ozproof? And, which god of the Holy Bible? Biblical illiteracy! Have you included all the gods of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Babylonians, Sumerians, Vikings, Mayans, Aztecs, and the thousands of other tribal humans over the past forty thousand years? If all human tribes had all the same monotheistic god worship, perhaps, especially if there were a god on his throne in the clouds above, where? .

    Elwood: I have no disagreement with your statements. Thanks. Maybe it is perhaps because all of those believers and faithful do not actually know who they really are? All of these statements regarding a god or jesus are actually, to my own thinking, their own. Es: it is not “what jesus would do”, it is “what would I do”.

  79. Helga

    Ozprof – You cannot claim to understand the scientific process if you validate religious belief by saying that some people examine the “evidence’ and come to the conclusion that God exists or the Bible is factual. There is no evidence to be found that can stand up to scientific scrutiny or logical argument. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to the contrary, like studies of the efficacy of remote prayer.

    If the one God truly exists, why did he choose to reveal himself through scripture and by sending his son to only a very small part of the Earth? There were humans living on other continents in the time of the Old Testament, yet they never seem to have gotten the same message from God and are not mentioned in the Bible. Why is that? Because they Bible was written by men who lived in the Middle East during that time and it would have made no sense for them to include in their stories people from other parts of the world. They didn’t know there were people in other, far away parts of the world. In the framework of Christianity, should the ancient Mesoamerican natives or ancient Asian cultures be condemned for not accepting the Christian God if they never heard of him? This alone is strong evidence that the Bible is a work of man and not the word of God.

    You cannot justify your belief by saying it is the result of examining the evidence when there is no VALID evidence. You can say that you choose to believe what you do and most of the people who post to this blog will accept it. The fact that you are trying to convince all of us that your belief stands up to scrutiny once again illustrates my point. You don’t want to be seen as rejecting the values of this group – being kicked out of the cave – so you are trying to make your belief fit in a framework that the group can accept. I would say that the fact that you accepted Christianity as an adult means that there was something in that belief system that strongly appealed to you and relieved some sort of anxiety or fear or filled a need that you were probably not even aware of.

    I think that for many believers, it is impossible to accept that they believe simply because they want tobelieve. After all, to do so would necessarily negate any supernatural component of what they believe, then they’re back to square one with trying to find something to alleviate their anxiety. This is why the argument will never be resolved. Religion cannot provide what a follower needs if they truly apply scientific reason and logic to their beliefs. The believers need something that cannot be explained or proven.

    I have a personal metaphor that always comes to mind when I discuss science vs. religion. Like most children, when my daughter was 3 or 4 she was afraid of scary things in her closet. A couple of friends suggested filling an ordinary squirt bottle with colored water and telling her it was monster repellant that we could spray in her closet to keep the monsters away. I tried it because several people and parenting websites said it worked well. It didn’t really work for my daughter. She just wouldn’t accept that spraying some magical potion would get rid of whatever was in there. What did work was turning on the light, opening the closet and showing her that there was nothing inside and no way for anything to get inside without her seeing or hearing it. I was very proud of her that day.

    We all need something different to get rid of the monsters in the closet. Again I will say that whether we need a magic potion or we need to shine a harsh clear light on what scares us, we’re all just humans trying to live our lives in a way that makes existence acceptable for us.

  80. Irishman

    C.S. said:
    >Irishman, I thought this was an interesting statement:
    “It is difficult for many of us to go from the mindset of validation by evidence to accepting without evidence.”

    >But I must disagree that religion means accepting without evidence. It is true that the evidence for belief may be personal and unreproducable but if there were no evidence at all there would be slim chance that there would be any conversion experiences. It may also be true that the evidence that a person uses to convince themselves that God exists can’t be quantified, neither proven nor disproven, or produced on command in a laboratory which is why it is unscientific. However whatever religious or spiritual experience a person has that convinces them is their evidence after which faith comes into play to hold onto that belief despite other evidence to the contrary. Rational adults accept faith only after some evidence convinces them.

    Different traditions and denominations react differently. The tradition I’m most familiar with has a refrain: “Saved by Grace through Faith.” Christian tradition is loaded with reference to faith and not evidence. The Bible itself admonishes not to test God or attempt to require him to prove himself. It’s a bit hypocritical that God repeatedly asks humans to prove our commitment (Abraham and Isaac, Job, Jonah, etc), yet humans are evil for asking for a little turnabout.

    I accept that people have personal, emotional experiences that they find convincing regarding their religious beliefs. I’ve had a few of those myself. But science has shown us that subjective measures are poor tools for verifying reality. The placebo effect is probably the most familiar form, but science itself is the formulation of a process of investigating and eliminating error – wrong hypotheses, wrong data collection, wrong analysis, wrong conclusions from misleading or incomplete data, biases of opinion and desire and failure to look beyond your own favorite idea. People may find their own personal experiences convincing, but it does not measure up to the standard of evidence. Psychology and neurology tell us how we can have powerful, convincing experiences that are complete fabrications. But people in general are much more receptive to a single personal experience than a pile of objective data and analysis or logical argumentation.

    People believe in the Loch Ness monster, Bigfoot, Mothman, alien UFOs and abductions, fairies, psychic connections with the afterlife, ESP, and all sorts of nonsense on exactly the same personal, subjective experience that is used to validate religion.

    Tony said:
    >Irishman, my post wasn’t meant to be accusational or condemning, nor was it meant to imply that you should all follow a religion. For me, Religion is a personal thing. I, as an individual, have no right to say that you are wrong for not believing in God. If that’s they way it came across, my appologies. No one should have to justify their belief, or lack of belief, in a Religion. Nor, should anyone be ridiculed for the same beliefs. It just sounded like an interesting topic to discuss.

    No accusation was taken. I responded in the spirit of your question. As for justifying beliefs, if beliefs were things held but had no impact on the world, then I would agree. Unfortunately, beliefs form the backbone to actions, often providing the strongest motivations for the actions taken. Therefore, it is legitimate to question the beliefs that lead to actions. For instance, the oft-cited Inquisition. The Inquisition performed it’s vilest horrors under the belief that it was justified for the good of the torturees. One can argue that the inquisitors were in error and not true to the intent of their religion, but there arguments have an internal logic that is hard to fault. The errors were in the assumptions, not flaws in their logic, so it was the foundation of the belief that was the problem. One could fairly argue the issue as a question of interpretation of the real intent of the religion, but you run into the inability to conclusively prove the validity of one interpretation over another.

    Tony, my response to you was to agree that there were many people who shared your position on the ability to be both scientific and religious. I also wished to show why many of us find that to be an inconsistent position, of the inherent conflict that we see and why we don’t agree.

    >Why Catholism over other religions? Because based on my experiences, limited as they may be, my ideals are more in line with Catholism. Now, since that was how I was raised, did my upbringing shape my ideals, or did I happen to get luck and was born to a Catholic family? I can not deny that my upbringing did indeed shaped my ideals, but at some point, when we all begin to think for ourselves, we all question what is around us.

    Most of us question the beliefs we’re raised in to some extent as a part of learning who we are. You say your ideals are more in line with Catholicism, but I then have to wonder why not Baptist, Methodist, Pentacostal, Mormonism, Seventh Day Adventist? The Christian tradition itself is so varied and complex, just how much effort did you put into really examining the differences? You don’t really need to answer that for me, but you certainly should examine the question for yourself.

    >There is a more pratical answer too. If I am right, and I live according to my faith, then when I die I will be rewarded and go to heaven. If I am wrong, and we just disappear, then what I did while I lived, as far as the afterlife is concerned, didn’t matter, so what did I lose? My faith is not stopping me from enjoying my life, and it is not forcing me to make unintelliegnt decisions, such as refusing medical help when needed because its not in line with my faith. I look at my faith not as the way I live, but a part of the way I live. Other factors feed into it just as much as, and some even more, than religion.

    This is in essence Pascal’s wager, but personalized. As a personal argument it has a bit more validity than as a generalized argument. You say it is not stopping you from enjoying life or forcing you to make unintelligent decisions. Perhaps that is so. People have many hobbies and distractions, and if it isn’t overly constraining your behavior then it can’t be any worse than stamp collecting.

    But the risk is what I mentioned previously about actions being driven by beliefs. You say you aren’t being driven to unintelligent decisions, but judgments about morality being determined by church doctrines are having big political impacts on us right now. Now maybe you aren’t too constrained to follow the “party line” and willing to disagree with your Church leadership. If so, I praise you for your independence of thought. But you have to consider that you do agree on many doctrinal points, and if so, what is the foundation of that belief? One could argue abortion or embryonic stem cells or homosexuality or gambling or any number of hot button issues. Is your moral code defined by “Because God said so”, or by some other means of evaluating issues on their merits, as informed by the best of our knowledge? If you’re working on the latter, then I don’t really have much reason to worry about whether you believe in an invisible friend or not. If you’re working on the former, I have pause to consider how that belief leads you to act with regards to decisions that affect me. That’s ultimately the point of concern for most atheists.

  81. PK

    P. K.

    Newton and Darwin were overrated huh?

    We’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

    I didn’t say that. I am just saying that both evolution and classical mechanics has progressed since their first formulation. That does not take away anything from the achievement of Newton or Darwin.

  82. DennyMo

    Regarding double postings, I don’t know why they’re happening, but I’ve figured out one way to prevent them:

    After hitting the “Submit” button, I also usually get a screen full of error messages. When that happens, I hit the F5 (or whatever makes your browser “refresh”), then I get a “This looks like a duplicate posting” message. Then Backspace, and find my comment is still showing in the “Leave a Reply” fields. Press F5/Refresh again, and you should now find one instance of your message added to the posting.

    Hope this helps.

  83. I think the concept of God is very ego driven. I would love to hear her CD.

  84. Ozprof: Show me the evidence for God that you think I’m ignoring.

    I stand by my statement (slightly plagiarized from Dawkins) that creationists are stupid, ignorant or liars. Nothing you or anyone else has said has changed my mind on this.

    I can’t think of one creationist who I would consider to be reasonably smart and well informed. The plain truth is that these people are either not terribly bright, or they have never read any books on evolution, or they are just lying for religious reasons.

    I have said it before, but creationists are the equivalent of people who think the moon landing is a hoax. They are discounting all evidence to the contrary and are calling professional scientists liars.

  85. Ozprof

    Hi Helga,

    “You cannot justify your belief by saying it is the result of examining the evidence when there is no VALID evidence. ”

    Here you are showing your biases. Your claim is invalid. There is plenty of evidence and it was my examination of this evidence that led me to accept Christianity.

    “The fact that you are trying to convince all of us that your belief stands up to scrutiny once again illustrates my point. You don’t want to be seen as rejecting the values of this group – being kicked out of the cave – so you are trying to make your belief fit in a framework that the group can accept.”

    Absolutely not! I have no interest in the values of this group, nor do I see any need to conform to it. All I am trying to do is point out the falicacy of so much of what some people here are posting. However it would appear that many are not willing to admidt that their conclusions might not be the only ones possible.

    “I would say that the fact that you accepted Christianity as an adult means that there was something in that belief system that strongly appealed to you and relieved some sort of anxiety or fear or filled a need that you were probably not even aware of.”

    Again, absolutely not! You do not know me yet you make a nonsense statement like that. As I stated, I was raised an athesist, but later in life scientific curiosity led me to examine the Bible and its teachings. As a result of such an examination of what it said and the evidence to support it, led me to accept the God of the Bible.

    Unfortunately it would appear that some here are not willing to admidt that there is evidence. Galileo all over again.

  86. eewolf

    so, ozprof, can you share some of this evidence with us? i believe galileo did that.

  87. Irishman
  88. I doubt Ozprof will bother to show us any evidence. It’s much easier to take pot-shots at people and accuse others of ignorance.

  89. Oh, and since Ozprof is a professor-

    I hope he lets his students answer exam questions in this way…

    There’s plenty of evidence that has convinced me that 42 is the right answer- and those who disagree with my belief in this evidence are arrogant. Also- I don’t feel the need to list the evidence, but I’m sure my professor will find my reasons if he looks hard enough himself.

  90. Helga

    Ozprof – you’re not getting it! The fact that the Bible says there is one true God and Jesus Christ was his son is not evidence of anything. Yes, much of what the Bible relates is historical fact – no one has disputed that. But if that’s what you’re calling evidence you are not thinking critically. The fact that the Bible contains some historically accurate information does not validate its entire contents and the claims it makes. No, I am not willing to admit there is evidence until I have seen the evidence. A district attorney cannot go into court and tell a jury he has ample evidence to convict a defendant. He has to SHOW them either physical evidence or provide the testimony of a CREDIBLE witness. There is no evidence that God exists. I believe that’s why believers call it faith.

  91. PK

    Ozprof, please share your evidence with us and clear up this confusion.

  92. Maksutov

    Christian Burnham wrote on November 13th, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    “In the photo it looks a bit like the BA is adopting the pose that Colbert does so well.”

    You mean like this?

    Stephen and his black friend

    Then the BA should be doing this:

    Julia and Phil

    Of course only August Ferdinand Möbius could explain why Phil can do what he’s doing with his pointing hand. This clearly illustrates that he is at least twice as smart as left-handers, and four times as smart as their division-challenged counterparts.

  93. One piece of evidence I was given, although this only works for Christianity

    Jesus existance was attested to by various historians, Jewish and Roman, who were hostile to the Christians. (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Flavious Josephous)

    So what happened to his body when apparently he was ressurected?

  94. More hilarity from M. Jennings’ blog…
    (He really is much funnier than Borat. I asked and he assures me that he’s real!)

    http://merlejennings.blogspot.com/

    I went to place about space recently and left remarks there and of course the liberals call me dumb. Like they had this pic of a angel and it was clear as day it wasnt no damn bird or moth or **** like that but because they dont believe in stuff like that they rule it out rite away. I just said that to believe it was a bird took as much faith as beliving it was an angel. Thats the gospel truth. Ive been hunting for a long long time and i know what a bird looks like. Mebbe im not book smart but Im not totally stupid.

    Anyway this space page is run by a guy whose always trashing creationists and people of faith. Again were all rubes for believing the earth is not 4 trillon years. They say it just cant happen in 6000 years like the bible says. again, you have your faith and i have mine. A lot of smart people say that the earht is not that old. So i trust who i want to believe and you trust who you want to belive. It boils down to faith. I guess I just dont wanna believe in a religion that says i came from monkeys is all.

    This space guy posted a pic of him and a woman whose atheist. Again the same people who trash religious people and say they are just looking for the truth sure hang out a lot with atheists. Which if your scepticle at all you would think real hard about if these people dont have agendas.

  95. skeptigirl

    Wayne Says:… reminds me of one of the dangers of atheism. Self centered thinking (”wherein we can worship ourselves”) can lead to an overall selfish attitude, which I think it one of the biggest problems with society today.

    Nonsense! And you discount your own claim as well. Neither atheism nor theism has a causal relationship to selfishness. Your assumption we need to worship a god in order to not worship ourselves is nothing more than a version of the myth morality comes from fear of hell. Human behavior falls on a continuum from altruism to selfishness with some mixing and fluctuation in different circumstances. Jane Goodall found the same thing in Chimpanzees. It’s how we evolved socially.

    ozprof Says:…it should be noted that just as many people have gone the other way and accepted God as a result of critical thinking.

    I am one of those people. Raised an athesist, I bacame a Christian in my late 20’s after many years of research and study. I am also a scientist with a PhD in physics, so it is clearly possible to be both a scientist and a Christian….

    Herein is a problem, your assume that there is no evidence for Christianity. I would respectfully disagree. Rather is was the considerable evidence that convinced me to become a Christian…

    You are showing your biasness here in stating that all religions and beliefs are “equally silly”. They are not. As I stated above, ….. it was the considerable evidence for Christianity that convinced me.

    In addition to backing this claim with examples of evidence others have asked you for, I would add, tell us your definition of evidence.

    Being educated is no guarantee one is a critical thinker. There are some who graduate knowing well how to regurgitate knowledge and pass tests. You might want to look into the teaching research which found scores on a written test on electrical circuits did not correlate with the simple ability to light a bulb with a battery and a wire. Or the interviews with Harvard grads which found the majority couldn’t answer how seasons occur on Earth or what causes the Moon’s phases. In the latter cases the answers given were inconsistent with obvious observations.

    As for the claim Christianity isn’t equally silly… Supposedly the first humans disobeyed God. God created these people but claims to have given them choice, then is annoyed at the choice they make. That alone is silly enough.

    But now add, in order to pay for the annoying choice, this god sends his son (more nonsense if we are to believe we are all God’s children – did this god raise this child, become close to him, why is having Jesus develop as a fetus rather than from clay or dirt supposed to make us feel God’s sacrifice of his own child here?) but I digress, so this son is sent to be tortured and killed by the offending people and that makes up for having annoyed God. Why not just cancel the debt?

    Many people have suffered more than Jesus, so there is nothing special there. Many people have had their children suffer more than Jesus. There is no case made in the Bible that “His only begotten son” is any more of a sacrifice to God than any of the other horrendous fates ‘God’s children’ suffer on Earth everyday.

    Scenario: Jesus, a being in heaven somehow related to God as opposed to just being another ‘creation’ of God, said, “I’ll go to Earth and pay for your being annoyed, Dad.” And God said, “Sure. That will make me feel much better and take away my being annoyed.”

    And you don’t think that is a silly story?

    C.S. Says:… I must disagree that religion means accepting without evidence. It is true that the evidence for belief may be personal and unreproducable but if there were no evidence at all there would be slim chance that there would be any conversion experiences.

    Again, this is not consistent with the definition of scientific evidence by any stretch of the term.

  96. Squatch

    This has been a great thread!

    Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

    Creationists have been scientifically proven wrong therefore God does not exist.

    The Bible is not factual (especially the first part) therefore God does not exist.

    The Bible only concerns Jews and Christians therefore God does not exist.

    The Catholic church has deceived people for centuries therefore God does not exist.

    Atheists assume God does not exist because they haven’t seen hard proof that he does. The lack of hard proof of existence is hard proof of non-existence.

    Athiests promote and defend their ideology (religion) with all the zeal of a born-again Christian.

    Religion interferes with critical thinking by making unproven assumptions and accepting them as truths.

    Creationists and Athiests have both skewed their science by accepting unproven assumptions as truth.

    Creationist may never understand how the universe was created.

    Athiests may never understand what caused the Big Bang (I mean the very first one).

    Here are the questions I am left with:

    Why is science limited to physical evidence?
    Why is non-physical evidence considered to be non-evidence?

    The evidence I have “seen” of God is in feelings and coincidences. When I get that rush looking at something beautiful or amazing as though He/She/It is saying, “Yes! It did turn out nice, didn’t it?” When I’m a dime short for a snack in the vending machine and then find a dime on the floor. When I look into my wife’s eyes and feel totally connected. Why can’t this be evidence of God? These things happen too often to me to be dismissed as coincidence and are not likely genetic or caused by gravitational pull.

  97. Helga

    I agree with Squatch that this has been a very informative thread. I never considered that educated people would actually argue that there is legitimate evidence of the existence of a supreme being. I guess I always assumed that they understood there was no proof and were really just relying on faith, which is the foundation of religion. So far, Ozprof has failed to provide any evidence and Squatch says the evidence is the special feeling he gets when he finds loose change.

    We are now at the point where any attempt at reasonable discussion is futile. Unfortunately, this seems to be the inveitable conclusion of any debate about the existnece of God. Believers never seem satisfied to accept that there are some of us who aren’t convinced by their anecdotal evidence. Non-believers never seem able to accept that the faithful can be so easily convinced. I would say we should all just agree to disagree, but that doesn’t seem to have worked too well for the last 2,000 years.

  98. Signy Stewart

    …there is nothing new under the moon or stars…..everything that is said has been said before, in one way or the other…..some people learn how to make money from their beliefs, most don’t.

    After all has been said and done, each belief turned over millions of times, by millions of people, interpreted in more ways than can be counted, the only thing left is the mystery of faith. One has it, or not. Aetheism? yawn….

  99. Irishman

    Squatch said
    >There seems to be an awful lot of confusion between God and religion. I think God sits looking at all of the religions (and anti-religions) and says “Didn’t anybody get it right?!”
    >Whether God created the world with a wave of His hand or set off the Big Bang with the snap of Her fingers is irrelavent.
    … I can’t look at my childs face and not see God. I can’t look at the night sky with wonder and not see God. I can’t watch a hawk riding the winds and not see God.

    This raises the important but often overlooked question of what do you mean by “God”? An anthropomorphic being sitting in the clouds, snapping his fingers? A general trend toward complexity in the universe? We can’t intelligently discuss the existence of an entity without a common working definition of that entity.

    >I can’t prove scientifically that love exists, but I’ve seen enough evidence.

    Love is a difficult concept to express in words. Try to define “love”.* Try to define happiness, sadness, joy, melancholy, anger, excitement, or any other emotion. These are difficult to express without circular referrents. That is because they are experiential conditions. You may not be able to define in words and have someone who’s never experienced it understand, but it is easy to identify someone experiencing the condition and then give them the word to use for it.

    But it is erroneous to equate “prove God” with “prove love”. They are two different ontological entities. It is like equating “define happiness” and “define sandwich”. They aren’t the same thing.

    Conversely, one could argue they are the same thing, God is experiential, but then I have to wonder how you define God as an emotion.

    *Actually, Robert Heinlein gave us the most succint and useful definition for love: Love is the condition where the happiness of another person is essential to your own. Of course, it relies on the use of another experiential condition, happiness.

    Christian Burnham said:
    >You’re wrong if you think that today’s geneticists feel somehow slighted by the use of the name Darwin. Darwin didn’t predict DNA- but what he did get right revolutionized our understanding of the world.

    I don’t think anyone is arguing that biologists feel slighted at the use of Darwin’s name. But the term “Darwinism” is not a label used by biologists. It is a term strictly used by Creationists and their kin, IDers, to disparage Evolution by equating it with a personality over ideas. They want to associate it with fascination with Darwin over following Jesus. They search for flaws in The Origin of Species, as if that shows modern Evolution is faulty. They fail to comprehend the distinction between the ideas in the theory and the person behind them. This may be because of predispostion on their part to see things this way, or an intentional effort to distract their followers to view it to foster the religious conflict.

    When physicists talk about Newtonian physics, they have a particular purpose in mind. They’re either offsetting Newtonian gravity and mechanics from Relativity, or their speaking of traditional categories such as “Newtonian fluids”, where Newton listed a series of ideal assumptions about fluids in order to describe their behavior. Biologists just don’t do that. They don’t have any reason to.

  100. Irishman

    Christian Burnham said:
    >Actually, I’m not totally sure that M. Jennings’ site is not meant to be satire in the mold of Borat, Ali G. and Ann Coulter.

    Har, har! Ann Coulter as satire, it all makes sense now. She’s doing a Colbert Report of her own. ;-)

    Ozprof said:
    > “creationists are dumb, ignorant or liers”.
    … It appears that they have never ever considered that some very intelligent people actually make a very careful examination of all the evidence and come to the conclusion that the God of the Bible DOES exist.

    Regardless of whether or not an intelligent person can find evidence for the God of Christianity or not, you seem to be making another mistake. “Creationists” does not equal “Christians”. Creationism is a specific position regarding the origins and diversity of life. That specific position (whether it is young Earth or old Earth) is at odds with all the scientific evidence about the formation of the Earth and development and differentiation of life. The vocal Creationist proponents are proven liars. They explicitly and intentionally quote scientists out of context and distort the intent of the scientists’ remarks to make it look like Evolution is weak, unsupported, or flawed. This is documented. Ignorance is the lack of information – something all of us are guilty of on one topic or another. It’s hard to describe as anything but dumb someone who has studied the science of biology, geology, peleontology, astronomy, etc. and still thinks that magical appearance of life in all different forms is more consistent with the evidence than common ancestry and descent with modification over time.

    Elwood Herring said:
    >Apparently when Isaac Asimov was asked if he believed in God, he would always answer “Whose?” This is a very telling response. The more you think about it, the more you see the wisdom in his one word answer.

    >The fact is that “God” means something different to practically every believer of every faith. Even within a single faith or belief system, even within the same church or mosque, even within the same family, people will still have their own internal ideas on who or what “God” is, regardless of what they might say. It is without doubt the most overworked and overloaded word in the English language.

    Very salient points that I agree with wholeheartedly. People strive to cobble whatever their personal belief into the label of God, and assume whenever someone else uses that word it means the same thing. Witness the mental gymnastics of Pantheists.

    Sticks said:
    >Jesus existance was attested to by various historians, Jewish and Roman, who were hostile to the Christians. (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Flavious Josephous)

    This is questionable. The references are all sketchy. Also, there is reason to believe they are later insertions when the texts were recopied rather than original records. We are aware there were people calling themselves Christians and teaching of Jesus in the late first century and beyond. There is a little justification to think there was actually a historical man, but much of what is recorded in the New Testament was either created by Paul (who never met Jesus – visions on a road don’t count) or was written by authors trying to convey meaning and justify interpretations rather than factual records of a modern historical record. Note that the Gospels, the supposed stories of apostles who witnessed the events, were not written until 40 to 100 years after Jesus died. And even if there was some itenerant preacher named Jesus that formed the basis for the religion that followed, there is no evidence to the truth of any of the miracle or supernatural claims regarding his supposed Godhood. What separates a supposed Jesus from any of the street-wandering homeless street preachers claiming to be God you can find on big city street corners?

  101. Irishman wrote

    Note that the Gospels, the supposed stories of apostles who witnessed the events, were not written until 40 to 100 years after Jesus died.

    If you compare that with other ancient historical texts from aural tradition to written form, 40 years is quite good (There is an argument that the earliest may have been 30 years after Jesus death but that is a minor qubble) . Some like the Illiad had to wait about 400 years.

    The earliest fragment we have is a portion of the gospel of John, which is housed in the John Rylands University library in Manchester England and is dated to about 130 – 135CE. Again, thatt is quite good for an ancient written text, and it has to be pointed out that the John Ryland’s fragment as it is known is most likely a copy of an earlier fragment. In apologetics we point out that the earliest writings were written down starting from 30 to 40 years after the event to show how they compared favourably with the other ancient texts.

    Irishman Wrote
    or was written by authors trying to convey meaning and justify interpretations rather than factual records of a modern historical record.

    This overlooks the gospel of Luke and Acts, written by Luke who also never met Jesus face to face, but was a historian who investigated matters thoroughly. Luke himself was also put under the microscope.

    One of the most famous archaeologists of the last century was Sir William Ramsay, who disputed the accuracy of events recorded by Luke in the book of Acts. Ramsay believed those events to be little more than second-century, fictitious accounts. Yet after years of literally digging through the evidence in Asia Minor, Ramsay concluded that Luke was an exemplary historian.

    Source

    As a historian Luke was concerned with facts rather than some morality tale. In the same article it is also noted of Luke

    In Acts, Luke mentions thirty-two countries, fifty-four cities, and nine Mediterranean islands. He also mentions ninety-five persons, sixty-two of which are not named elsewhere in the New Testament. And his references, where checkable, are always correct. This is truly remarkable, in view of the fact that the political/territorial situation of his day was in a state of almost constant change.

    But leaving the veracity of Luke aside, from later historical records, from time to time various Roman authorities tried to stamp out Christianity. Since the faith is dependant on the ressurection, as Paul details in 1 Corinthians 15, all the authorities had to do was produce the body, but they didn’t A study of how the apostles died horribly, shows they did not have the body either as they would be otherwise dying for a lie. Who would?

    The absence of the body in order to kill a sect stone cold dead, is still considered the strongest proof here, since Ozprof seems to have left the field.

    I wanted to here what Ozprof had to say as well

  102. Darwinism is not a term used by creationists only. Richard Dawkins for one seems quite happy to use the term applied to himself. Anyway- it doesn’t matter whether creationists use the term or not- I’m not going to let them dictate the terms of abuse.

  103. Sticks- your ‘proof’ is questionable to say the least.

    Bodies go missing all the time. That doesn’t mean that they ascended to heaven.

  104. Squatch-

    Coincidences are not proof of God. They are inevitable, which is confirmed by probability theory.

    I can’t prove God doesn’t exist- but I can demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the God of the Bible (and every other religion I know of) doesn’t exist.

    There is not a single religious text that comes close to describing the origin of the universe as described by modern physics. Same goes for evolution. Same goes for electrons. Same goes for every discovery made after those texts were written.

    It is inconceivable that a being who creates a whole universe would not mention any of the above in a ‘Bible’. Not only do the religious texts not mention these things- they are in direct contradiction to them.

    People evade this by claiming that the Bible is not a science book. OK then, but then why does it go to the trouble of describing a whole cosmology including how animals and humans got on this planet?

  105. Signy:

    If there is indeed nothing new under the sun, then explain to me why we have planes, automobiles and quantum theory now- and we didn’t 200 years ago.

    There is such a thing as progress. Science moves on. Even religion is modified to suit contemporary mores.

  106. Irishman

    Christian Burnham quoted Merle Jennings:
    >Again the same people who trash religious people and say they are just looking for the truth sure hang out a lot with atheists. Which if your scepticle at all you would think real hard about if these people dont have agendas.

    So atheists can’t be looking for the truth? Yes, we have an agenda: finding the truth, scientific investigation, basing claims on evidence, and using good logic and reasoning. So you note a correlation between those seeking the truth and atheists. Perhaps there’s some causitive connection you’re missing?

  107. Christian Burnham wrote
    Sticks- your ‘proof’ is questionable to say the least.
    Bodies go missing all the time. That doesn’t mean that they ascended to heaven.

    No

    It was offered in the absence of Ozprof putting up his evidence. Anyone heard from him again?

    In the account given by Matthew a guard was placed on the tomb because Jesus had said he would rise from the dead and the authorities did not want the disciples stealing the body and falsley claiming he had risen from the dead. Depending if you want to give any credence to the Matthew account, the authorities knew from before day one, the body was important and therefore a guard was placed on it. (There is the quibble if it was Roman or temple guards but I digress)

    The point is TPTB at that time (TPTBATT) recognised the claims and that the body was key. It was crucial that they have a body they could produce, and given the persecution that followed, attested to in writings outside the NT, they wanted to stop this movement in it’s tracks. They were unable to, and the disciples died horrible death, something they would not had done if they had stolen the body.

    The body had gone missing, and neither TPTBATT or the disciples had it. Even if the tomb had been mis-identified by the women as they arrived TPTBAAT would still have had access to the body.

    This body was more important than any other body that may have gone “missing”, because with it TPTBATT could have killed off a movement they did not like.

    So what happened to the body?

  108. Sticks: Try using that one in court next time you’re up for a murder rap.

    “The body went missing so it must have ascended to heaven.”

    The example you’ve given is not proof of anything. We don’t have a historical account of the life of Jesus, except that given in the Bible- which is hardly an impartial work.

    Even if it were demonstrated that the body did go missing under mysterious circumstances- there are million ways that this could have happened which don’t involve supernatural events.

    After all, David Copperfield and other magicians make things disappear all the time- in front of a whole audience of onlookers and television cameras.

  109. It’s true that there will never be an agreement on whether or not some kind of God exists – but to me that isn’t the problem. As I stated before, I have no issue with anyone who wants to believe anything they like, as long as said belief doesn’t harm anyone else. Believe whatever you want to believe, but make sure it is your own honest opinion and not dogma handed down to you from anyone else. And of course in order to do that you must hear all sides of the argument, from all religions and all sciences! Make an informed decision, and be prepared always to reconsider it in the light of new information. Then once you have made it, do not force it onto anyone else, as it was not forced on you. As the great Irish comedian Dave Allen used to say, “May your God go with you.” – with emphasis on the word “your”. Keep your God to yourself; don’t try to pass or force him onto me, then everyone can live happily.

  110. Christian Burnham Wrote
    We don’t have a historical account of the life of Jesus, except that given in the Bible- which is hardly an impartial work.

    These hostile sources:

    Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (69 – 112AD)
    Cornelius Tacitus (c.. 56-117 C.E)
    Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus (Pliny The Younger) 61-113AD
    Flavius Josephus (37 – 100AD)
    Various Rabbis whilst compiling the Mishnah and Gemares, known collectively as the Talmud

    All outside of the biblical texts confirm he at least lived. As to the veracity of the New Testament, at least with Luke and Acts we have covered that one with the work by Sir William Ramsay to prove that the writer Luke was a very accurate historian.

    Has Ozprof run away, as I have trying to fill in for him here and I wondered if he was better at this than me.

  111. That’s the best you can do? Evidence that a person called Jesus might have lived? That’s a far cry from proof that the Christian God exists.

    Sorry if it sounds like I’m making fun of you, but when it comes down to it, you have to admit that there is no real evidence for the truth of the Bible.

  112. PK

    As I understand it (from Life of Brian) there were all sorts of religious troublemakers during the Roman occupation of Palestine at that time, and “Jesus” was a common name at the time. It is therefore not surprising that there was indeed a rabbi troublemaker called Jesus. This in itself proves nothing about the spiritual content of Christianity.

  113. Thanks for mentioning the Life of Brian. A hilarious film, it also had a hidden message which was right on target: “Don’t let anybody tell you what to think! You are all individuals!”

    (I’m not…)

  114. PK does have a point, Jesus was a Greek form of Joshua and in fact in one of the epistles, there is a reference to a person called “Jesus who is also called Justus. There were also trouble makers in Jerusalem. There were the Zealots who were anti Rome and the Iscariots who were like the Iraqi insurgents.

    The importance of the non-biblical hostile sources is that they describe the life of Jesus the Christ and corroborates the NT account.

  115. DennyMo

    signy and Christian, if you’re going to use Ecclesiastes as an arguing point, at least do so in context. The “nothing new under the sun” phrase in Ecc. 1:9 is a description of what you might call the “human condition”, a variation on the theme of “history repeats itself”. It says nothing about science or technological development.

  116. skeptigirl

    The evidence against there being gods is more than merely refuting Bible stories. If instead of looking for evidence to support a belief in gods, you look instead at the evidence we have regarding all religions and god beliefs and draw what conclusions the evidence supports, you don’t have anything that supports real gods as the best explanation for the evidence. What you get as the best explanation for all beliefs in gods is merely that of man-made beliefs. In other words, the best explanation for religion and beliefs in gods is that people made them up.

    There is no evidence of any gods interacting with people, with the Universe, no evidence of gods having inspired the Bible, having communicated with people, ever. There is plenty of evidence human societies developed all manner of belief systems that included supernatural explanations for how their world worked. Among the things which religion developed from were beliefs in life after death, praying and sacrificing rituals to try to affect natural events, and priests manipulated beliefs for their own personal advantages.

    Yet those who hold on to such supernatural explanations today don’t seem to recognize their religion is no different that the many religions they dismiss as myths. Christianity is a religion, but the Greeks had myths. Islam is a religion, Pele is a myth. Hinduism is a false religion because it has more than one god. There is no logic to these conclusions one can provide.

    The best explanation of the evidence is they are all myths. Now that we have better observation skills, we understand the Universe better, we no longer need mythical explanations. Lightning isn’t thrown by the hand of Zeus, it’s the result of electrical differential generated by clouds, heat, the Earth and moisture. And hurricanes are not sent as punishment by gods, they are a result of temperature and moisture variations, the geography and the spinning Earth.

    As to the confusion some here are having with what is evidence, faith is not evidence. And while you don’t have to see evidence you do have to detect it in some way. If you want to label some inner feeling you think supports your belief in gods, you’ll have to find a way to describe it, measure it, test it. For example, test if prayer has an effect in a blinded placebo controlled study. So far no one has succeeded in detecting the presence of gods in this way.

    Evidence does have a definition. You cannot just claim your gut feeling is evidence and make it so. You may not like the idea your feelings are not evidence , but they simply are not.

    However, as far as feelings themselves, you can define and measure them including love. It is a mistake often made that such things as love are intangible and unmeasurable. You have to identify which components of love you want to measure. Take infatuation, you can look at brain scans or hormones or design a survey of questions. With the survey, you have to test your instrument to verify it measures what you claim if you wish to claim any conclusions from the survey.

    For example you might determine which questions or observations correlate with staying married longer. You might have a psychological test that identifies parents who lack bonding with their children. There are many observable measurable, quantifiable bits of evidence for love. It is real, it exists.

    You cannot say the same for gods. You can find social benefits from church membership and perhaps other emotional well being measures from believing, but you cannot show those are evidence of gods. If there were gods, you should be able to detect their effect on the Universe. Yet none have been detected. All you have are myths.

  117. Mungascr

    Loved ‘Life of Brian’, a big fan of Asimov & think one of his short essays – in his memoir ‘I Asimov’(about 5 min. reading for a slow reader) – sums all this up perfectly . I also have religious (Christian, Muslim, Jain & Shinto-Zen Budhhist) friends who I get along with fine.

    Personally, I find the Norse & Greek pantheons more convincing because they are human chracters – but then so too are are smart charismatic, sincere and, arguably, truly good “prophets” like Jesus (or Issa as the Muslims call him, prob’ly most accurate form of his name was Yoshua), Muhammad, Guatama, Abraham, Kun-Fu-Tze, etc ..

    Coupla small pounts :

    Uh, Christian Burnham – Do you realise you’ve inadvertantly (?hopefully, I assume?) called ‘Sticks’ a murderer – ie. “the next time you’re up in court ..” rather than if you’re ever up in court charged with murder. Thought I’d just point that out. ;-) Valid point though…

    & Squatch, I was out with my brother, a while ago . We stopped and picked up a beer each, but he had only one stubby holder handy in the car.
    By co-incidence or divine providence, then as we were driving along about a minute later and saw a stubby holder with a pin-up girl on the side of the road … Is that Evidence of Divine approval for drinking and immodest women?

    By your “evidence” (convenient loose change, good feelings) yep!

    By my reckoning just an awesome and very convenient co-incidence that was memorable, useful and caused by nothing more than a fluke chain of events. Well probably .. ;-)

    Although I do hafta love the concept of a God that says : “Here ya go – have this at just the right moment its just what you need for drinking & viewing pleasure even though you really don’t believe in me, follow any of my 1,001 plus faiths, rituals and sacred texts or do anything for my causes ..!”

  118. Mungascr

    Case folks haven’t grokked – I’m with those who say evidence – science and logic seem to be counter-indicative of the existence of any supernatural Diety(s)

    For some people personal experience and pyschological-emotional-cultural need may over-ride this absence of verifiable, repeatable logical evidence.

    AS longas theydon’t try toimpose their fiath onothers or turn it into a means of social control thatadversely affects other individuals inour species (chimpanhuman) fair enough and goodluck to’em.

    If we can discuss these point of opinion / belief differences rationally – &, better yet, humerously so much the better. It certainly beats the alternatives of crusades, jihads and persecutions.

    Thanks again to the BA & others who’ve participated here. There’s been some interesting discussion.

  119. Mungascr

    ‘Case folks haven’t grokked – I’m with those who say evidence – science and logic seem to be counter-indicative of the existence of any supernatural Diety(s)

    For some people personal experience and pyschological-emotional-cultural need may over-ride this absence of verifiable, repeatable logical evidence.

    As long as they don’t try to impose their faith on others esp. unwilling others by force, legislation or constant pestering, or turn it into a means of social control that adversely affects other individuals in our species (chimpanhuman) then fair enough and good luck to’em.

    If we can discuss these point of opinion / belief differences rationally – &, better yet, humerously so much the better. It certainly beats the alternatives of crusades, jihads and persecutions.

    Thanks again to the BA & others who’ve participated here. There’s been some interesting discussion.

    Edited for typops aNDspacing -claritee&readability. ;-)

  120. Squatch

    Mungascr,

    Being of mostly Irish descent I have never doubted divine approval of drinking.

    Coincidence would have been finding the holder. Being able to spot it while driving pushes it a little beyond coincidence (you must have been looking for one?) Being able to spot it while DRINKING and driving pushes it way beyond coincidence. Finding it in such short order brings it closer to a blessing. Finding one with a PIN-UP GIRL (in my humble opinion) pushes the laws of probability beyond the limit. If it had been planted there by one of your friends and they told you what stretch of road it was on, I doubt you would have been able to find it on purpose!

    My God is always with me and helping me out with the most seemingly insignificant of things. I’m sorry that my lamest example (spare change) received the most attention. Your example was more along the lines of what I was looking for. Why he would have you find what you did I could only speculate. Maybe he had some angels around and was saying, “Watch me mess with this atheist!” (My God can actually be pretty funny) Or maybe he did it so I would have something to respond to in this conversation.

    Science doesn’t have to be beautiful. In it’s purest form it is simply math. Things can move and act on each other without much fanfare. You couldn’t create an original artistic masterpiece using science alone. And the more science you apply to jazz music, the worse it becomes. Improvisation provides some of the most beatiful music, the finest art and funniest comedy. I have no proof that improvisation exists. Scientifically, everything is in order, but improvisation is not.

    As a race, we are in our infancy. Historically speaking it hasn’t been that long since skeptics could honestly complain that there was absolutely no proof that the earth revolved around the sun. Every shred of evidence they had pointed otherwise. (“Just look at the sun! Don’t you see it going around?”) I think a blanket statement that something DOESN’T exist without proof is as scientifically irresponsible as saying it DOES exist without proof. If there is no proof it DOESN’T exist it is merely your belief, no different (and no more or less valid) than mine. Belief is built on evidence. I may not have proof, but I do have evidence.

  121. skeptigirl

    Squatch, science is in no way, simply math. Science is a process of determining how the Universe works, what its components are, how life interacts with the Universe. Observation, then active testing of what is observed does not become “simply math”. Math is but one tool used in the scientific process.

    As to seeing the Sun pass over head from horizon to horizon, the only “proof” that offers is the Sun appears to pass overhead. If you are looking at the scientific process, one cannot draw other conclusions from that observation. Science doesn’t like conclusions that exceed what is observable. Conclusions beyond what is implicated by the evidence are called hypotheses.

    Astronomers had much more than the Sun to examine the position and movements of the Earth, the planets, the Sun and the Moon. They had the night sky, they had observations of the Sun from different latitudes on Earth, and they eventually had the Sun’s reflected light on the Moon once they figured out that was the explanation of Moon’s phases.

    None of these observations and conclusions have any relationship to your faith in a god. I don’t have “faith” what I observe is true. I conclude that what I observe is the best explanation of the evidence I have. I know that conclusion is based on evidence which might be erroneous. I don’t need to have “faith” in the scientific process. Instead, I can observe that the results of the scientific process are valid. I can observe that the conclusions of the scientific process are valid. I can test and verify science. It isn’t a matter of “faith”.

    One might draw the wrong conclusions and have to correct those conclusions when more evidence is discovered. But one doesn’t draw scientific conclusions specifically based on faith regardless of the correctness or incorrectness of the conclusion.

    It is a fallacious argument to equate faith in the observable and measurable with faith in some supposed inner feeling that a god exists or faith in a religious text that was not based on careful systematic observation of the world.

  122. Irishman

    Squatch said:
    >I think a blanket statement that something DOESN’T exist without proof is as scientifically irresponsible as saying it DOES exist without proof. If there is no proof it DOESN’T exist it is merely your belief, no different (and no more or less valid) than mine.

    So, Squatch, do you believe in fairies, elves, goblins, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, the Sugar Plum Fairy, Zeus, Thor, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, the Boogie Man, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Om, or Diskworld? Because there’s no proof of the non-existence of any of them.

    You’re falling victim to the common fallacy of equating belief with faith. Belief is what you think you know. The difference between science and faith is not over belief – both are used to justify beliefs. The difference is the basis of justification: evidence, rational thought, and critical evaluation, or desire, emotional comfort, and “’cause that’s what I was told”.

    It is just not sensible to live your life believing in everything you’re told until you prove it doesn’t exist. We all practice filters for evaluating claims, believing in some things and not others. Most of the time we do not have evidence it doesn’t exist, we just have nothing to convince us it does. That is the skeptic position – show me some evidence or I will refrain from accepting the truth of the claim.

  123. Squatch

    Irishman,

    I can’t believe you missed leprechauns! (You’re not really Irish, are you?)

    I don’t believe in any of those things because I haven’t seen any evidence of them, just like you haven’t seen any evidence of God.

    On the other hand, I see evidence of God daily.

    This has been a great discussion and has caused me to look inward at what I truly believe. And like you, I stand by my original position.

  124. Irishman

    Squatch said:
    >I can’t believe you missed leprechauns! (You’re not really Irish, are you?)

    Not recently. ;-)

    >I don’t believe in any of those things because I haven’t seen any evidence of them, just like you haven’t seen any evidence of God. On the other hand, I see evidence of God daily.

    Again, I question your definition of “evidence”.

    >This has been a great discussion and has caused me to look inward at what I truly believe. And like you, I stand by my original position.

    Fair enough. I don’t expect you to change your beliefs. I hope I’ve provided food for thought on what constitutes evidence. I hope you can at least understand why many of us don’t agree with you on your “evidence”.

  125. I just received and listened to my copy of Letting Go of God, and want to second Phil’s review. He’s right in every particular.

  126. Merle Jennings who calls himself “True American Patriot,” is an absolute ignoramus! We all witnessed the bigoted mentality of Archie Bunker on TV’s All in The Family, and were amused because it was a TV show. But there is a real (among many, I fear) person living in Kansas named Merle Jennings who is the incarnation of Archie Bunker! Google his name, read his spewings and be endlessly amused…OMG!!!

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