Joy to the World

By Sean Carroll | December 24, 2009 7:45 am

Atheists can be such uptight downers. And I say that completely seriously and non-sarcastically, despite being a card-carrying atheist myself.

The latest example appears at the Illinois State Capitol, where someone from Freedom From Religion Foundation had the genius idea of erecting this sign among the holiday displays (via PZ):

At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

Well now, there’s an uplifting and positive message. I’m sure that lots of religious folks came along to read that sign, and immediately thought “Gee, whoever wrote that sounds so much smarter and more correct than me! I will throw off my superstitious shackles and join them in the celebration of reason.”

There is a place to argue for one’s worldview — but not every single place. I happen to agree with all of the sentences on the sign above, but the decision to put in front and center in a holiday display merits a giant face-palm. (So does calling it “hate speech,” of course.) It’s like you’re introduced to someone at a party, and they immediately say “Wow, you’re ugly. And your clothes look like they were stolen off a homeless person. And you’re drinking a domestic beer, which shows a complete lack of sophistication.” I don’t know about you, but I’d be thinking — “Such taste and discernment! Here’s someone I need to get to know better.”

Until atheists learn that they don’t need to take every possible opportunity to proclaim their own rationality in the face of everyone else’s stupidity, they will have a reputation as tiresome bores. They could have put up a sign that just gave some sort of joyful, positive message. Or something light-hearted and amusing. Or they could have just left the display alone entirely, and restrained the urge to argue in favor of waiting for some more appropriate venue. (Maybe they could start a blog or something.)

Understanding how the real world works is an important skill. So is understanding human beings.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humanity, Religion
  • Xander

    Thanks for this post, the delta with PZ Myers’ of the same topic is a perfect summation of the difference in belief I have with the more aggressive atheists.

  • Joshua

    Thank you for posting this. It will be great day on earth when we can live and tolerate each other’s beliefs, and not try to shove our own beliefs down each others throats.
    I wish all of you a happy holiday, merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, happy new year, and enjoy the season however you will.

  • Victor

    Religion doesn’t harden hearts. It inspires people to give their time, money, and talents to charity in the service of others. It inspires people to help those whom society has forgotten or chooses not to pay attention to, and it inspires and motivates people to give voice to the voiceless and helpless in our society.

    And if a physicist can believe in the multiverse without there being an proof, so then a person can believe in God without there being any proof.

  • http://outsidetheinterzone.blogspot.com/ Lockwood

    Nice piece. I consider myself agnostic with an atheistic leaning. But the fact that I can’t know for certain means that I tend to be accepting of those with a strong faith, as long as they don’t try to impose that faith on the wrong things, like science or my life. Likewise I don’t try to impose my beliefs on others, I just describe and defend my position.

    Certain members of the so-called “new atheists” can be just as dogmatic and hateful as many Christians. When your belief system allows or causes you to treat others with less than respect, to actively attempt to hurt the feelings of others, or to view other as less than human, there’s a serious problem with your thinking.

    No one has a monopoly on the truth. The problems seem to start when some person or group forgets that.

  • Dromeda

    @Victor: So are you saying that without religion, nobody would give time, money or talents to charity? And that religion is the ONLY motivating factor to encourage people to help the less fortunate and forgotten?

    You underestimate humanity, I think.

  • Jason A.

    I thought being distasteful was part of the point, not everyone finds the nativity scenes tasteful, and the idea was to stir things up enough so in the future the capitol decides that, instead of putting up a whole bunch of different tasteless religious displays, they don’t put any religious displays at all.
    Personally, I would have gone with something a lot sillier.

    “And if a physicist can believe in the multiverse without there being an proof, so then a person can believe in God without there being any proof.”

    Never understood the ‘yeah, my reasoning is bad, but yours is just as bad as mine, therefore I’m right’ argument.

  • Jason A.

    Lockwood:

    “Certain members of the so-called “new atheists” can be just as dogmatic and hateful as many Christians.”

    This meme has been done to death, and it’s lame. Please point to the holy book or some other manifesto that the ‘new atheists’ are being dogmatic about by accepting as truth that cannot be questioned. Or, admit that dogmatic is utterly the wrong word, and what you mean is ‘intolerant’.

    “When your belief system allows or causes you to treat others with less than respect, to actively attempt to hurt the feelings of others, or to view other as less than human, there’s a serious problem with your thinking.”

    Like I said, intolerant. But you fail to distinguish between respect for ideas and respect for people, because you try to claim that the ‘new atheists’ are intolerant against people, and that’s wrong. Everyone has the right to exist and live their lives by any philosophy or religion they like, and be as vocal as they want about it, but they do not have the right to avoid criticism and not have their feelings hurt. Intolerance against ideas; like dishonesty, and ignorance, and arrogance, and bigotry; is not a bad thing. I’m proudly intolerant of those things. But to conflate that with intolerance against the people who embody those is disingenuous.
    Personally, I think there’s something ‘seriously wrong with your thinking’ if you imagine hurt feelings to be more important than these things, so that we must allow them to spread and harm people because we don’t want to hurt the feelings of the ones spreading them.

  • http://scienceontap.blogspot.com ARJ

    ….amen

    and Happy Festivus!!

  • Stephen P

    While I am also not very impressed by the wording of the message, it does seem to me that you have misunderstood its purpose. It is not there to convince people to renounce their religion – it is a protest against the government supporting Christianity. It is not about making small talk at a party – it is about evicting a persistent gate-crasher.

    @Victor: “Religion doesn’t harden hearts.”
    What a sheltered life you must have led.

  • http://www.johndanley.com John Danley

    Neither a nativity scene nor a solstice banner should be displayed in a government building. Showing partiality towards any belief system is not the domain of “perspicacious” local legislative employees. A secular symbol for holiday revelry would suffice.

    However, Sean’s right. Playing one-up is not going to hasten the dismantling of tawdry scenes suggesting that there was a nine-month incubational pregancy period endured by the “virgin” Mary after a supposed March impregnation by Yahweh to square the circle and make the birthday of Jesus logically consistent — even though it clearly implies the need for embryonic development whereby Jesus would be subject to the same inherent laws of biology responsible for zygotic maturation, a phylotypic stage and general chordate ontogeny.

  • Patrick Hurley

    On my front lawn this would be in your face. Putting this on a capitol lawn is a political statement. As long as branches of government fell compelled to allow religious displays – at any time for any reason – then this is a reasonable response.

    Although I agree a sillier statement might have been more effective. I would really like to see a well lit FSM — with a sign that states: “Our god is more edible than your god”

  • http://pediddle.net Peter Davis

    Thing is, there’s not too much joy to be found in the atheistic message, so it’s kind of hard to come up with a more uplifting message. Really, how can you beat “this day is in remembrance of the coming of our Lord and Savior, the one who removed the shackles of sin and death, the Lord of Peace and Love.” Sure, some Christians twist their religion until there’s not much peaceful or loving to be seen. That doesn’t change the “true meaning of Christmas”, if you’ll forgive the cliché. But to a true and faithful Christian, there literally is no more hopeful and uplifting message that could possibly be spoken! It just can’t be beat. Not much point in trying if you ask me.

    Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, I always say ;-)

  • eukaryote

    The fact that a statement may be reasonable doesn’t necessarily prevent you from being an @sshole for stating it.

  • Surferosad

    You know, way before the early church co-opted the pagan solstice celebrations, the winter solstice celebrations were, amongst other things, dedicated to Bacchus (in the Brumalia festival), the Roman version of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and intoxication.

    I just thought that some of my fellow posters would duly appreciate that entertaining bit of historical trivia.

    So happy winter solstice celebration everyone!

  • Guy

    Well said Sean.

    The new atheists probably don’t realize how they are being perceived. This is especially true with the atheist blogger(s) because they are constantly getting positive feedback from regular (fellow atheists) posters and immediately dismiss feedback from the faithful as being from ignorant kooks.

  • Jason A.

    Peter Davis:

    “Thing is, there’s not too much joy to be found in the atheistic message, so it’s kind of hard to come up with a more uplifting message.”

    Really? That’s news to this atheist-former-Christian, who’s found more beauty in a worldview that doesn’t require me to believe in a Big Brother who threatens to punish me for eternity if I don’t abide by his completely arbitrary rules. “I’d rather be a rising ape than a fallen angel” – Terry Pratchett.
    Of course I’m sure how much ‘joy’ is to be found in different views is highly dependent on the person and a lot of people are quite happy with yours. The point is, your blanketing of all atheists as unhappy (not explicitly stated, but implied) is wrong.

    “That doesn’t change the “true meaning of Christmas””

    You mean Saturnalia, right? The solstice festival of the atheistic display is far more ‘traditional’ than the Christian one.

    “to a true and faithful Christian”

    No True Scotsman fallacy. ‘Those hateful Christians aren’t REAL© Christians. Of the some 30,000 different interpretations of Christianity, you are the final authority on which is correct.

  • NewEnglandBob

    Sorry, Sean, but the holiday displays don’t belong there and are offensive to some. This sign belongs there as much as the rest.

  • http://pediddle.net Peter Davis

    Jason, notice I did not claim Christmas was anything other than an observance of Jesus’ birth, because the fact is we have no idea when it actually occurred (Springtime, maybe?). Just as good as any other day. And I’ll take my lumps on the “Real© Christian” thing…you’re right, there are countless varieties of Christians who all call themselves by the same name, some of whom I don’t agree with. In the future I’ll try to avoid blanketing all Atheists into the same category, asking in return that other folks don’t lump all Christians together either.

    But the main point of my post is responding to—and agreeing with—Sean’s point. The Illinois atheists’ message here is hopelessly ineffectual. Can atheists be happy? Sure. I believe you when you say you find more hope in the atheistic message than the Christian one, though by your citation of “arbitrary rules” and “…fallen angel” I’d argue that perhaps the message you received suffered from religious distortion. There are only two rules, “love thy God” and “love thy neighbor,” with everything else falling out of those…anything else I agree is completely arbitrary, and worse, though under the auspices of religion, is non-Christian by definition. Similarly, we don’t get to be angels. The Christian message is that we don’t need to be angels…we have a loving and personal God who offers all the hope we need. *IF* you believe that, how can any other message compare?

  • http://anotherbloggingblog.com Abber

    Sure, it’s a pretty dull statement, but provocative messages have their place and their uses.

    Happy Winter Solstice/Christmas/holidays everyone! Now forget about believing and disbelieving and get this party started.

  • rww

    “Religion” is not the problem. Belief in gods is not the problem. They are not so different really from my belief in Mother Earth, to which my ashes will joyfully return. The problem is organized religion, which is to religion as the United States Senate is to democracy.

  • http://www.gangwon.blogspot.com kwandongbrian

    I have been considering your point on my own these last few days – Whatever December 25 and the post-solstice period might have historically been, it is now Christmas and it doesn’t hurt to say, Merry Christmas.”

    The reason I am commenting, however, is that I read your blog through Google Reader and the ad inserted this post was ManifestTheSecret (dot) com offerers to teach the “law of attraction”. That has to be at least at intrusive on a skeptic’s blog as the FRFF display.

  • http://orbum.net/mark Mark

    I still don’t know how we reach the conclusion that unmeasured things cannot exist.

    Even if you want to futz with the realm of “things”.

  • Arrow

    Sean you are such an uptight downer. There are many atheists, me included, who would love to see that sign and to know that their own beliefs are also represented, that after all those years rationality finally has a chance to proclaim it’s own balanced message for those who might be interested in it.

    If you want to whine about it then whine about putting such signs there in the first place as everything you said applies equally well to each and every one of those other religious displays. Actually I am sure those other signs are much more offensive – filled with a noxious mixture of lies, propaganda and nonsense.

    The sign is great, I really enjoy seeing it and am glad somebody put it there.

    At the time of the winter solstice, let reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is just myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.

  • http://www.dorianallworthy.com daisyrose

    All smart people are of the same religion – and they never say !

  • Peter

    Religion, or the lack thereof, should be exercised with discretion. It is something not to be flaunted.

  • tacitus

    Since I am typing this from the UK at the moment (Merry Christmas everyone!) I will simply point out that the thoroughly secular Brits, including the near 50% non-believers, just carry on and celebrate Christmas as they have always done. Indeed, many of them were either in church for the Midnight service or will be there on Christmas morning — there’s nothing like blasting out a few traditional Christmas carols at full volume to get you in the mood for the festivities ahead. Most of the kids will have either watched or been in a Nativity play and they will have learned a couple of timeless religious Christmas carols at their state school, and in many of their homes there will be manger scenes on the sideboard and advent calendars on the wall with one door left to open and a final chocolate to be consumed.

    For many they are just another part of a traditional Christmas, stripped of any real religious meaning, and not worth getting all upset or overheated about. They are merely the spoils of the War on Christmas that has already been won — many years ago.

    That’s the tack I believe more American atheists should take. Nothing would infuriate the Religious Right more than if non-believers stopped giving them something to whine and complain about at this time of year and, instead, adopted the traditions for themselves and thereby stripping them of their religious significance. Christianity in Britain is dying through benign neglect. Deprive American Christians of some of their rabble rousing battles and the same thing will probably begin to happen in the US too.

  • Ray Gedaly

    I’m a secular Jew and ultra-atheist who spent a wonderfully uplifting and magical Sunday evening singing Christmas songs in New Orlean’s Jackson Square. It was as if I were in Whoville.

  • Victor

    Dromeda,
    No, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that religion can inspire and motivate many people to do so. It’s a catalyst. And I’m sure that without it, less people will want to be charitable to others. Yes, I do think less of humanity.

  • Michael Bacon

    “I’m saying that religion can inspire and motivate many people . . . It’s a catalyst. And I’m sure that without it, less people will want to be charitable to others. Yes, I do think less of humanity.”

    Sure, it can inspire people. So can other things. Anything that can inspire people is great. Things that partially inspire should be looked at closely to understand why they work that way before they are incorporated to the extent that they move people forward. Singing Xmas songs can be a wonderful experience — some of the tunes are great fun. Xmas has very little traditional meaning any more; at least I hope that’s the way it continues to develop. Among the 30,000 different interpretations of Christianity there are a multitude of good people. Sean says that “[u}ntil atheists learn that they don’t need to take every possible opportunity to proclaim their own rationality in the face of everyone else’s stupidity, they will have a reputation as tiresome bores.” I think that’s right. but really that just means that folks just shouldn’t take themselves too seriously; life if too short. Cherish the time you have and the people you love. Everybody . . . have a great holiday season!!

  • tanner

    Awesome article. I also find that athiests can go a bit far in “freeing” people from religion. I consider that that may be a symptom of being smart, but not the cause. I identify myself as a christian, although I use that loosely because I’m pretty agnostic when people talk about religion either in defense or against it. There are no absolutes in religion, embracing it won’t make you a perfect person nor will rejecting it.

  • Luke Vogel

    ~ “Understanding how the real world works is an important skill. So is understanding human beings.”

    I like.

  • paul kramarchyk

    The sign is good, necessary, and uplifting. Albeit offensive and threatening to many. Imagine you are an early 19th century person who believes slavery is wrong and you see a sign that says: “Slavery is wrong.” It’s uplifting. You feel a sense of community in that you are not alone in your belief. Or, you are a late 19th century person and you see a sign that says: “Women should have the right to vote.” It’s uplifting. You feel a sense of community in that you are not alone in your conviction. Or, you are an early 20th century person and you see a sign that says: “E = hv.” It’s uplifting. You feel a sense of community in that you are not alone in adopting the new thinking. Or, …..

  • Bhanuj

    I’m sorry, but you sir are being a hypocrite. If douches can come to my house and make me late for work by trying to convince me of the truth of the bible, if a catholic friend can tell me that the bible is the word of god, but the mahabharata and ramayana are just story books, if muslims can burn cars and proclaim death sentences for minor transgressions that they make up on the spot, how do you find this message being too in your face? The fact is that people seem to give religion some sort of special license to propagate and push their propaganda on people whether they want to or not, but the minute an atheist tries to push their agenda the slightest bit, everyone cries foul. And this isn’t propaganda, or an attempt to bludgeon people into giving up their faith, mind you. This isn’t homophobia and being anti-choice, and killing doctors who help poor women get rid of unwanted pregnancies. This is a perfectly valid political statement. Do you not agree that religion has no place in politics? Then how is it that religion can flood our collective mindspace with their insidious and bigoted propaganda, but any attempts to counter it are met with immediate proclaimations of ”ooh, don’t be a dick”?

  • http://eternal-cartesian.blogspot.com/ Cartesian

    I think something is missing here about toleration, because for example Christianity can be understood rationally, and one will be sure of it if this one reads the “Theologico-Political Treatise” by Spinoza. But a fact is what is important is the way to understand things, there are some intelligent Christians and some stupid ones, nonetheless that is the same for atheists.

  • http://lalithsuresh.wordpress.com Lalith Suresh

    If you look at the above comments, you can see how different people interpret the same thing in their own ways.

    I’m an atheist and I remember getting a few similar reactions when I raised my voice against the ‘Atheist Bus’ campaign with a post on my blog. Stuff like, “As an atheist, I was proud to see the our people speaking out” and things like that. To me, the world’s going to be a better place only when everyone keeps their beliefs to themselves, and stops using it to judge people around them. The tit-for-tat game will never end, so it’s best to be the first to stop.

    Religion is a good thing if you get inspired by the social aspect of it, things like “be good to others” for instance. And it isn’t the only catalyst for such deeds. I enjoy doing a lot of charity work myself and I didn’t need any holy book to tell me to do so.

    It’s just human nature at the end of it. I hope people become more tolerant to such nuances, because after all, it’s our differences that make us human. BTW, awesome post Sean!

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  • joel rice

    As a card carrying athiest I thank God every day that I did not grow up in the Soviet Union.
    People are just trying to make sense of why the world is the way it is, and unfortunately
    athiests have no more clue than anyone else – and are just as deluded as everyone else.
    The problem is when they get power, and then, in spite of professing morality and that
    the Golden Rule is a good thing -they do not practice what they say. They are not even
    gracious enough to give credit where credit is due.
    So I heartily recommend “The Theme is Freedom” by M. Stanton Evans, and his
    interview with Brian Lamb on c-span.

  • Arrow

    joel rice: “As a card carrying athiest [sic] I thank God [sic] every day that I did not grow up in the Soviet Union. People are just trying to make sense of why the world is the way it is, and unfortunately athiests [sic] have no [sic] more clue than anyone else – and are [sic] just as deluded as everyone else.”

    Joel, you leave me no choice but to revoke your membership. Hand over your card.

  • Tony Rotz

    God is everywhere, if you have the eyes to see.

  • http://avjewe.com Andy Jewell

    Card carrying? Where do I get my official atheist membership card?

  • Gordon

    Religion gets a free pass always—–you can criticise atheists, or anything else, but not Religion…it might upset folks, and besides, it isn’t in good taste. Bul@#H$t.
    Yes, pick your fights, but superstition=dangerous ignorance. Remember the John Lennon song.

  • Ray Gedaly

    Jewel: “Card carrying? Where do I get my official atheist membership card?”

    I got mine from AAA. But I’m not sure why it came with free towing?

  • Kristi

    Good article. Thank you for sharing.

    As a Catholic, of course I have substantial religious beliefs. One of the things we belive in is free will. Whether or not that free will is used is up to the individual.

    I do not believe in swaying people to my side of the fence. However, I do believe that I have just as much right as the person that celebrates Soltice, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, or anything else to display what I worship.

    So many times I’ve seen Atheism translated to “Anti-Christian.” It doesn’t make sense. If something is said or done against Jewish people it’s considered antisemitism. If something is done against Africa Americans celebrating Kwanzaa, then it’s racism. If something is done against Christians/Catholics, it’s encouraged.

    Granted, there are Christians that are blatantly stupid, but there are people that we all wish would be removed from the gene pool from all religions/non-religions. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to sink to their levels by posting things like that sign.

  • two cents

    My issue with the sign is that it clearly was meant to be provocative, and itself is a contradiction. A definition of religion reveals that atheism is functionally a religion in all but name, so the sign is ludicrous.

    http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion
    –noun
    1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
    2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
    3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices: a world council of religions.
    4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
    5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
    6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
    7. religions, Archaic. religious rites.
    8. Archaic. strict faithfulness; devotion: a religion to one’s vow.

  • chemicalscum

    Get out and celebrate the Holiday Season. Eat, drink and be merry. Make it a thoroughly secular holiday. While we all raise our glasses in front of the pagan phallic fir tree and steal kisses beneath the Druidic mistletoe.

    Happy whatever you want to call it. Seasons Greetings!

  • chemicalscum

    @two cents

    Reading your set of dictionary definitions of religion it is quite clear that atheism is not “functionally a religion in all but name”. Atheism – the absence of belief in a personal god, does not fall within any of those definitions.

    You are in fact as bad as those behind the sign at Illinois State Capitol. You a being provocative and trying to insult people at a time when you you should be out there promoting seasonal goodwill and encouraging everyone to have fun!

  • chemicalscum

    Finally the best and most witty Christmas sign was put up by an Anglican priest in New Zealand on a billboard outside his church. The Virgin Mary and Joseph in bed together with the caption “Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow”.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8417963.stm

    We atheists should be as witty as that with our signs. I have always had a soft spot for the more progressive elements of the Anglican Church. Hell I was even baptised one by my secular humanist parents. The sign was rapidly defaced with brown paint by a passing evangelical Christian. That’s the problem with that sort of Christian – no fun!

  • Arrow

    two cents says: atheism is functionally a religion in all but name

    If atheism is a religion then not collecting stamps is a hobby.

  • Greg

    I completely agree John, nice postage buh-dee!

  • two cents

    At scum and arrow

    be·lief (b-lf)
    n.
    1. The mental act, condition, or habit of placing trust or confidence in another: My belief in you is as strong as ever.
    2. Mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something: His explanation of what happened defies belief.
    3. Something believed or accepted as true, especially a particular tenet or a body of tenets accepted by a group of persons.

    I think you will find that “the absence of belief in a personal god” qualifies as a belief, (since there is no way to generate proof) therefore, under the definition of religion (number 2) atheism qualifies. Religion is a very general word, much like creed

    creed (krd)
    n.
    1. A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.
    2. A system of belief, principles, or opinions

    I agree there is no evidence for god; and any test I could perform would also not reveal any evidence of god. However, is that proof? Do I have at my disposal the ability to logically show that there can be no god? I still can’t prove any of you exist…so how can I prove that something doesn’t exist? By observation?

    I might be able to show that the universe doesn’t require a god to come into existence; but that still does me nothing in terms of proof.

    proof (prf)
    n.
    1. The evidence or argument that compels the mind to accept an assertion as true.
    2.
    a. The validation of a proposition by application of specified rules, as of induction or deduction, to assumptions, axioms, and sequentially derived conclusions.
    b. A statement or argument used in such a validation.
    3.
    a. Convincing or persuasive demonstration: was asked for proof of his identity; an employment history that was proof of her dependability.
    b. The state of being convinced or persuaded by consideration of evidence.
    4. Determination of the quality of something by testing; trial: put one’s beliefs to the proof.
    5. Law The result or effect of evidence; the establishment or denial of a fact by evidence.
    6. The alcoholic strength of a liquor, expressed by a number that is twice the percentage by volume of alcohol present.
    7. Printing
    a. A trial sheet of printed material that is made to be checked and corrected. Also called proof sheet.
    b. A trial impression of a plate, stone, or block taken at any of various stages in engraving.
    8.
    a. A trial photographic print.
    b. Any of a limited number of newly minted coins or medals struck as specimens and for collectors from a new die on a polished planchet.
    9. Archaic Proven impenetrability: “I was clothed in Armor of proof” (John Bunyan).

  • Kevin

    Peter Davis: “There are only two rules, “love thy God” and “love thy neighbor,” with everything else falling out of those…”
    This is technically true, but only when you use the arbitrary Biblical definition of “love,” which relies on the concepts of sin and virtue. Summarizing the Christian religion in this way only serves to disguise the objectionable and irrational elements.

    two cents: the absence of a belief is not simply another form of belief. For example, I do not believe in unicorns. Does this single statement qualify me as being in some sort of “aunicornist religion,” in your understanding?

  • Phy

    joel rice says:
    “As a card carrying athiest I thank God every day that I did not grow up in the Soviet Union..”

    A card carrying atheist should at least be able to spell “atheist.” Regardless, I understand your post, but I must reply that as an atheist who did grow up in the Soviet Union (1980s), I have fond memories and would not trade them for anything. Speaking of holidays, this time of the year in the former Soviet Union was wonderful and not very different. Everything that is associated with Christmas in the US was associated with New Year’s Day (minus Jesus and nativity scenes). Even after the collapse, people still put up decorations, trees, and give gifts for the New Year (which is by far the biggest holiday) and not Christmas. Really, it doesn’t matter what you call it or what day you celebrate it. It’s about family, celebration, and days off from work.

  • charles000

    I have no problem with a worldivew that allows for acknowledgement of a spiritual perspective. I personally have such an orientation, as do a number of longtime personal freinds and colleagues. many of whom also share such an open mind to such concepts.

    Where I part ways is in the context of rigid, inflexible religious edicts, enforced by so-called religious auhtorities who claim to be the voice of god on earth. and often use their piurported divine authority for self serving material and political agendas.

    Though I am very open to spiritual awareness of our world and its occupants, and the universe at large. I tend to see most of organized religion as a highly toxic pathology, artifacts of a severe mental disorder in some, and as a platform for instigating the vast majority of wars, depravation, and hideous examples of man’s cruelty to man over the millennia of human history of which we are currently aware.

  • two cents

    irt kevin

    I think these discussions tend to devolve into very obtuse debates about definition. Unicorns are objects that someone has defined. I think what you mean is you don’t believe in a living, breathing animal that resembles a unicorn. However, all I need to do is go to the local retailer and I can find ample evidence that unicorns do indeed exist. What compounds the absurdity of your position is that with an understanding of DNA it is entirely possible to hypothesize that a living, breathing synthetic unicorn could in fact be manufactured. If that were to happen, would you still believe that unicorns don’t exist?

  • Arrow

    Two censts, what you don’t seem to understand is that the complete absence of proof of existence makes the concept of god as convincing as aliens, ghosts, time travelers, reptilian conspiracy to take over the world, self-conscious meteorites, talking toasters, black magic, immortality potions… you get the picture.

    Proof of non-existence is never possible, that’s why a rational person does not require such proof to state that things mentioned above do not exist. Instead it is enough that there is no evidence of existence whatsoever. It is not a belief rather it is proper usage of the concept of existence.

  • Jimbo

    Sorry, Sean, the party analogy does’nt hold, since we’re not talking about the aspects of an individual, but rather an insidious & malevolent force in America that kills physicians, perverts science, corrupts judges & lawmakers, usurps our constitutional rights, pollutes our language, & has programmed children for centuries to propagate religulousness to the next generation, ad eternum. Oh, & a while farther back, burning witches….
    Similarly w/the military, there is a general reluctance to confront the christers on their sacrosanct `days’, which is precisely WHEN & WHY it must be done. If `business as usual’ is allowed to go unchallenged, its tacitly assumed: “Jesus is just alright with me” for all; by the media, the merchants, & the mainstream. It’s not.
    This is particularly apparent in Nov-Dec, when the country wallows in a multi-billion $$ orgy of materialism, the REAL reason for which is the sustenance of our economy thru the weak winter qtr.
    A mere multi-million $$ version repeats in April. Santa Claus & Easter Bunny hold hostage our national secularity, free thought/speech, and cultural freedoms 2X/year, sustaining the madness for 7 months more, until they repeat.
    Regardless of PC & holiday spirit, we atheists should not just `be mellow’ this time of year, but remind the `moral majority’ we have their number, & no more free passes.

  • two cents

    irt arrow

    although its perfectly within your prerogative to define a low threshold for the non-existence of something; it is also equally within the prerogative of others to maintain a higher standard.

    By your logic I could argue that quarks (or any elementary particle) do not exist because I have never seen one (nor will I ever see one in any “real” sense); I have satisfied your threshold. The only evidence I have for there existence is that I can represent them as eigenvectors of the cartan generators of SU(3), and by representing force carrying particles as the generators of the group, and through some clever math I can make predictions of the type of signals I’ll get out of some boxes I call detectors. That I can do this in a logically consistent fashion does provide strong evidence for the entities we call quarks; but I also know that whenever I step inside a place of worship I’ll find a very large number of people telling me god exists as well…so what makes you so special that I should listen to you over all of them?

  • Kevin

    two cents: Genetically engineering a horse with a horn on its head would not really qualify as a “true” unicorn, because they are typically presented to have other characteristics, such as only allowing the touch of virgins. However, all of that is beside the point. My point is that holding a belief is an active process, and not holding a belief is not simply another form of this process. (You misstate my position as “believing that x does not exist,” which is not equivalent to what I said.) To make a concrete analogy, calling atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.

    Also, your reply to Arrow is simply nonsensical. You’ve never seen air either, but you know that it’s there. Reducing the concept of empirical proof to the human sense of sight is completely unsupportable. Furthermore, there is nothing logically consistent in what people of faith say about God inside a place of worship; even internal logical consistency is quite lacking in major religions. The comparison of this to the existence of quarks does not hold up.

  • chemicalscum

    @49. two cents

    You just don’t get it do you. Atheism is just absence of belief in a personal god. Nothing more nothing less.

    I don’t have a belief in absence of belief, absence of belief is an existential state. The concept of god is the same as Russell’s celestial teapot. I have an absence of belief in the existence of the said teapot and think it improbable but I am willing to re-evaluate my view on the basis of evidence. I have no creed and proofs are for mathematics while in science we have to make do with evidence.

  • Arrow

    Two cents, I am not sure what you are trying to say. If you redefine existence to mean only things you can see then yes, to you quarks won’t “exist” but what’s the point?

    As for the second part you can listen to whomever you want but the fact there are believers is of course not a proof of god’s existence.

  • two cents

    irt kevin and scum

    I suppose I’ve never seen water either by your logic. You can not escape the reality that all information we can gather about the universe must ultimately be transformed into some form that can be interpreted by our senses. If it can not…e.g. there is no way to cause some interaction, then we tend to say that an object doesn’t exist.

    I think the second definition of belief is sufficient that underlying any “absence of belief” is a structure of beliefs. It is “absence of belief” itself that is an oxymoron. You can’t resort to an abstract concept such as an existential state without suggesting that you believe that such states are legitimate. Just look at the definition of philosophy

    phi·los·o·phy (f-ls-f)
    n. pl. phi·los·o·phies
    1. Love and pursuit of wisdom by intellectual means and moral self-discipline.
    2. Investigation of the nature, causes, or principles of reality, knowledge, or values, based on logical reasoning rather than empirical methods.
    3. A system of thought based on or involving such inquiry: the philosophy of Hume.
    4. The critical analysis of fundamental assumptions or beliefs.
    5. The disciplines presented in university curriculums of science and the liberal arts, except medicine, law, and theology.
    6. The discipline comprising logic, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology.
    7. A set of ideas or beliefs relating to a particular field or activity; an underlying theory: an original philosophy of advertising.
    8. A system of values by which one lives: has an unusual philosophy of life.

    That you choose to create distortions in order to avoid saying that you don’t believe in a personal god (which is a perfectly fine statement) demonstrates a tendency towards tautology and doctrine that atheists typically claim to abhor (yet another contradiction).

    If a person does good, and tells me that what motivates them to do good is a personal belief in god; should I do them a service and tell them that their belief structure is wrong? Although I would agree that many bad things have happened in the name of some religion or another, do I have a scale by which to weigh good and evil? Do you?

    Whether or not you agree with someone’s stated motives, in our day to day lives we do experience interactions with others who claim that much of what motivates them is an adherence to some belief structure. Are those interactions real? Did they happen? Did the belief system change the probabilities of the outcome?

    In the end, we all see our set of beliefs through rose-colored glasses, and atheists are no exception.

  • James

    If there is no interaction, then it doesn’t matter whether it exists or not, because it has no effect on the universe.

  • MOTO

    Good call james, of course that doesn’t account for how the person came up with the idea in the first place, but that thought isn’t nearly as obvious

  • http://tetrahedral.blogspot.com/ Steven Colyer

    One thing about Religions … they have leaders.

    One thing about Physics … currently there are only leader wannabes, mostly from Mathematicians who have faith in unprovable higher dimensions.

    Where is Niels Bohr when you need him?

    Instead, we get Kaku. Whom I give thanks to, otherwise I’d have never known Edgar Allen Poe was a Physicist.

  • http://tetrahedral.blogspot.com/2009/12/god-of-atheism.html Steven Colyer

    One thing about Religions … they have leaders.

    One thing about Physics … currently there are only leader wannabes, mostly Mathematicians posing as Physicicts who have faith in unprovable higher dimensions.

    Where is Niels Bohr when you need him?

    Instead, we get Kaku. Whom I give thanks to, otherwise I’d have never known Edgar Allen Poe was a Physicist.

  • Just Learning

    Most appropriate song for people too comfortable with their own beliefs:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rIcWxFR4uh0

    lyrics for words by missing persons:

    Do you hear me
    Do you care
    Do you hear me
    Do you care

    My lips are moving and the sound’s coming out
    The words are audible but I have my doubts
    That you realize what has been said
    You look at me as if you’re in a daze
    It’s like the feeling at the end of the page
    When you realize you don’t know what you just read

    What are words for when no one listens anymore
    What are words for when no one listens
    What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

    I might as well go up and talk to a wall
    ’cause all the words are having no effect at all
    It’s a funny thing am I all alone

    Something has to happen to change the direction
    What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression
    It’s a sorry state I say to myself

    What are words for when no one listens anymore
    What are words for when no one listens
    What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

    Do you hear me
    Do you care
    Do you hear me
    Do you care

    Let me get by
    Over your dead body
    Hope to see you soon
    When will I know
    Doors three feet wide with no locks open
    Walking always backwards in the faces of strangers
    Time could be my friend
    But it’s less than nowhere now
    Less than nowhere now
    Less than nowhere now
    Now
    Ow ow ow

    Pursue it further and another thing you’ll find
    Not only are they deaf and dumb they could be going blind and no one notices
    I think I’ll dye my hair blue

    Media overload bombarding you with action
    It’s getting near impossible to cause distraction
    Someone answer me before I pull out the plug

    What are words for when no one listens anymore
    What are words for when no one listens
    What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

    What are words for when no one listens anymore
    What are words for when no one listens
    What are words for when no one listens it’s no use talkin at all

    Do you hear me
    Do you care
    Do you hear me
    Do you care
    Tell me what are words for
    Do you hear me
    Tell me what are words for
    Do you care
    Tell me what are words for
    Do you hear me
    So tell me what are words for
    Do you care
    So tell me what are words for
    Do you hear me
    Tell me what are words for
    So tell me what are words for
    Do you care
    So tell me what are words for
    Do you hear me
    Tell me what are words for
    So tell me what are words for
    Do you care
    So tell me what are words for

  • Arrow

    No two cents, the absence of belief is not an oxymoron in any sense. Imagine a child who has never been told about god and the concept never materialized in his/her brain. This child clearly has an absence of belief in god.

    In the case of an atheist the concept of god is present but there is still the absence of belief in god. Since there is no proof of god’s existence to an atheist it follows that god does not exist. This is not a belief held rather it is a consequence of the way existence is defined and follows from evaluating the evidence, the main difference to a belief is that if evidence were to change the outcome would change without the person having to change his stance in any way.

  • Ray Gedaly

    When I die, if I then discover that there is an afterlife, I may consider switching from being an athiest to being an agnostic.

  • joel rice

    #51 – sorry – my spell checker runneth over. Glad to hear those were happy days.
    But since I got sent home on the first day of sunday school for asking embarassing
    questions it is likely that the KGB would take a dim view of my utterances. After
    reading The Unknown Lenin by Richard Pipes – about when Lenin ordered 5000
    priests to be rounded up and shot in public to make a big impression, that says it all.
    The same crap happened in Spain in the 30s. So much for atheists being nice guys.
    Does anyone in Russia read about what happened after 1917 – the secret archives ?
    So I would rather be a Bible Thumping Atheist – if people are going to believe weird
    things anyway then at least believe weird stuff that works. You can tell whether it
    works by how the society turns out. If you end up with a mass murdering totalitarian
    police state then you are probably missing something important. Where were the
    watchmen on the wall ?

  • http://vacua.blogspot.com Jim Harrison

    You often read that our biology predisposes us to religious belief, but the anguish aroused by the occasional billboard with an atheistic message suggests that modern religions are actually very fragile or at least perceive themselves to be very fragile. The faithful apparently think that the mere mention of the possibility of disbelief, like a mote of dust thrown into a supercooled liquid, could change everything in a moment. The irony is that people brought up under theological thought control often get their first inkling of the possibility of apostasy by reading polemical attacks on the atheists. Which is why atheistic signs matter. Very few people may see them, but the reaction to them leverages their power. This is a kind of homeopathy that works.

    In the 17th Century, rumors circulated about an evil book called “The Three Impostors” that denounced Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad as charlatans. Such a book eventually did surface, but it was apparently only written at the end of the Century and in response to the rumor about its own existence. Nevertheless, the book had a significant cultural effect before it came into being.

  • DaveH

    By your logic I could argue that quarks (or any elementary particle) do not exist because I have never seen one

    No, that really is your own version of “logic” at work.

  • two cents

    irt arrow

    So who was the first person to have the thought of the existence of god? Surely since all people were children, absent of any belief, then what was the progenitor of such a pernicious myth? What occasion would allow the child to develop such a wonderful fantasy? What broke the perfectly godless symmetry of the world?

    I suppose since no one knew of superman, batman or spiderman before the 20th century, then those characters have no power in the world either. What is the absence in the belief of superheros called again? I can’t imagine that anyone would dedicate their lives to collecting comic book character memorabilia…and I can’t imagine that such economic activity has an impact on other people.

    Since atheists apparently live in bubbles and are immune to the activities of others, then it would appear that a true atheist doesn’t actually interact with the world they live in. Since others have wisely pointed out that non-interaction implies non-existence then I can reasonable assume that atheists don’t exist, and those who claim to be atheists are suffering from a delusion.

    Of course I suppose animals are atheists, that much might be true. Animals exist, so I suppose atheists can exist as well. Of course, I have never had an intelligent conversation with an animal, so I can’t speak of what they may or may not believe.

    I have no doubt that ignorance of god is perfectly natural state for a person to be in; all they have to do is remember to stay away from serpents bearing magic fruit.

  • two cents

    irt DaveH

    Please tell me by what spectacular logic would allow me to see such things in an unbound state? I’m all ears.

  • John I

    I am a student of Sean’s Teaching Company course on Dark Matter and Dark Energy. To me, every word he says in the course confirms the existence of an intelligence beyond the physical facts. That he does not agree is of no concern to me. He continually makes reference in the course to that which we know, that which we surmise, and that which we do not know or do not know yet. When scientists can tell me what existed “before” existence or exactly why there was slightly more matter than anti-matter, I will credit atheism as something more than another idea. Until then, the notion that it was just a lucky chance seems a bit naive.

    I will say, though, that if I believed in the God you atheists seem to think I believe in, I wouldn’t believe in “Him” either.

    Modern physics and cosmology, it weems to me and many others, is bringing us closer to ideas and “truths” that have been taught for centuries by those who have looked deeply into the nature of existance. I am not a trained scientist, so I can only accept the ideas of those, like Sean, who can explain to me what they have proven or deduced. However, when metaphysics is the topic, those who have not studied it have no real cause to deny the discoveries of others. Both science and metaphysics have long been burdened with the misleading and the misinformed. This is not the reason to reject without test the findings of either.

    For those who are atheists I respect your position and believe that it should be respected at all times. To those who are offended by those who knock on your door to prosletyse. I agree with you. There is much nonsense and even evil promoted in the name of “God.” though as far as I know, “He” is the author of none of it.

    You have a right to be an atheist. You have a right to be a Bhuddist, a Catholic, a Wiccan, a Zoroastrian or a student of Kaballah.

    You also have the right to be a jackass. But as Sean points out, it makes you look like a fool.

  • http://civicsgeeks.blogspot.com Zach

    Atheists are respectable when they make public claims to truth. Atheists are not respectable when they insist atheism flows from superior intelligence.

    “Believe X because people who believe X are intelligent” is an argument from authority and a bad one at that. It’s arrogant and stupid, and people who are putatively intelligent should be able to provide something better.

  • Just Learning
  • http://quichemoraine.com Mike Haubrich, FCD

    We know perfectly well when we are being jackasses, which is the point of the sign, and the reason that Barker and Gaylor used this particular quote. The nativity scenes are put there as a “nice little family scene”‘ of a God who gave us free will, then we sinned and for 4004 years were totally unable to be in His presence when we died. It’s a reminder that all of those people went to Hell, and if the moderns don’t get this lesson from the little baby inside, that is the fate that awaits them.

    Christians don’t realize when they are being jackasses, they just want us to be happy that the baby Jesus was born and that in order to do that, they need to put it front and center in State Capitols and that it is a violation of the concept of the Establishment Clause. We want it to be all nice, and make children happy when they come to the Capitol and know that this is a Christian State, don’t we?

    The sign is offensive to people who will then realize, if they can get past their whining, that it is time to stop this state-sponsored prosletyzing.

  • Sputnik

    #68: Joel, no one said that Lenin and Stalin were nice guys or that Communism was or is a good system for governing. Further, it’s not like the Russian Empire wasn’t under a totalitarian-like system before 1917. The “holy” Czar was ahead of the Russian Orthodox Church and had ultimate control for centuries. With the Russian Revolution, unfortunately, Lenin and then Stalin simply replaced the Czar and brought another dogmatic form of government, which for all it’s brutality, did alleviate widespread poverty and make the country into a super power before falling apart. Regardless, life in the Soviet Union for many, specifically in the many decades after Stalin, was nowhere near as bad as it was portrayed in the West.

    As for being good guys…atheists can be good or bad like anyone else. I don’t see your point. I’ll still take reason, science, and Enlightenment values over bronze age superstition and dogma.

  • A.H

    Atheism will always be grim, there is no way around it. I make no statement about the concourse of atheist lives; but in the general sense, succumbing to the idea that you and everything around you are completely inconsequential by-products of an immense conglomerate of innumerable, interrelated chance events.. that will never be a pleasant thought. Thinking about it can be avoided, for sure, but it’s always there, always eating at you if you have the imagination to understand it. No amount of artificial decoration or joys of pretty lights and warm homes in some canvas of modern civilization can make it go away. The joy itself is an accident. Every smile, every laugh. Enzyme secretions triggered by a complicated set of processes that just happened to give you drive to continue living and reproducing. Try that for a downer.

    This is not an argument for monotheism, only a statement of reality.

    I was a very outspoken atheist. People who think they recognize an obvious truth that others don’t will always speak out. There is a certain pleasure derived from it, and it drives the religious and the anti-religious alike. The pleasure goes away slowly when you realize how little you really understand, the magnitude of the claims you make.

    Today I strongly believe in some of the things that I scorned. I am not Christian, but I celebrate with the Christians (and others) at least in spirit. You see, I have the luxury of doing that which from an atheist would be a sign of hypocrisy or madness. I have the luxury of relaxing rationalism in favor of fate.

    Sean, you want the materialists to be nice, but materialism does not know about these things.

  • Kevin

    two cents:
    “I suppose I’ve never seen water either by your logic.”
    In no way does a statement I’ve made suggest any idea even remotely similar to this, and I cannot think of any way you might reasonably interpret any statement of mine in such a way.

    “I think the second definition of belief is sufficient that underlying any “absence of belief” is a structure of beliefs.”
    No, it’s not. I do not have “mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something” because a lack of belief is not “something.” The statements “I don’t believe in God” and “I believe there is no God” simply are not equivalent. “Waterskiing” is a sport, and “not waterskiing” is not a sport.

    “Did the belief system change the probabilities of the outcome?”
    I don’t understand how that’s a relevant question when we’re discussing the unproven and often unprovable claims made by the belief system, not the existence of the belief system itself.

    “What is the absence in the belief of superheros called again? I can’t imagine that anyone would dedicate their lives to collecting comic book character memorabilia…and I can’t imagine that such economic activity has an impact on other people.”
    You continue to make irrelevant statements and miss the actual point of the conversation. The vast majority of people who collect comic book memorabilia do not, in fact, believe that superheroes actually exist. Further, no one denies the existence of churches, religions, or believers, or that they can have physical impact on the world; again, it’s their wild, unsupported claims that are questioned.

    “Since atheists apparently live in bubbles and are immune to the activities of others, then it would appear that a true atheist doesn’t actually interact with the world they live in.”
    The only thing that’s apparent here is that the world you live in has a very different form of reading comprehension from the world the rest of us inhabit.

    John I:
    “When scientists can tell me what existed “before” existence or exactly why there was slightly more matter than anti-matter, I will credit atheism as something more than another idea. Until then, the notion that it was just a lucky chance seems a bit naive.”
    This is a terribly flawed argument. Science (in particular physics, which has only existed in something resembling its modern form for a few centuries) cannot completely explain several phenomena (at least in ways that are consistent with data), so this makes the existence of God not just an equally valid explanation, but actually a more valid one? That’s absolute nonsense.

    Also, the concept of “luck” in regard to the fact of the existence of the universe in its present form does not appear in either credible scientific publications or in non-religious philosophy; it is only used by those who oppose such things and do not truly understand the concepts. For the current state of the universe to be “lucky” there would have had to have been a significant chance for it to be otherwise, and despite anthropic-principle supporters making arguments about “fine-tuning” we don’t have any real idea about what determined the fundamental constants, and therefore any argument about their “likelihoods” is pure conjecture.

    A.H:
    See my above reply about “luck.” I will add that such usage is highly typical of people who trap themselves in a false dilemma: if one believes something was not done on purpose, one “must” then believe that it was done by accident. The fallacy here is that both of these outcomes (on purpose or by accident) assume the potential for an inherently meaningful action, which implies the existence of some sort of autonomous being that could have had intentions. In fact, because atheists do not believe that such a being exists, the entire dichotomy between “purposeful” and “accidental” is not even something to consider. Someone glancing away from the road and hitting a squirrel is an accident; a star going nova just IS.

  • two cents

    I do not believe in water skiing
    I believe their is no water skiing
    I have an absence of belief in water skiing

    I suppose in some experimental lab on rhetoric you’ve won. Congrats! The first statement is a negation of belief, the second is negation of water skiing and the third is a clever nullification of the superposition of the two. Wow! What brilliance!

    (-x) +y
    x+ (-y)
    0*(x+y)

    What is also cool is that:

    [(-x) +y] + [x + (-y)] = 0*(x+y)

    So I can’t imagine where the confusion in logic originates.

    Listen, before I go any further, I have no problem if atheists want to destroy god. They can hack at it all they want. My beef with atheists is that they have consistently demonstrated that they lack the intellectual rigor to achieve their goal. Do they really think they can defeat god through rhetorical tricks?

    Their chief flaw is the assumption that religion is some sort of environmental manifestation. While they typically are okay with the notion that something like homosexuality has genetic factors (and for the record, I think there is nothing wrong with homosexuality, I am not a homosexual, but I have some good friends who are) atheists think that somehow people’s religious predilections will miraculously vanish with some simple logical rhetorical statement (or through brute force and executions…aka the communists).

    Atheists really do need to watch nature shows more often. Several years back there was an excellent documentary on the social behavior of wolves. What was rather remarkable was that wolves are apparently very spiritual…they actually mourn the death of their members.

    What surprises me is the complete utter denial of connections between hero worship and religion. What is also surprising is the lack of understanding of simple economic principles. Whether or not most people believe in a superhero is irrelevant; the value of the memorabilia is determined in the margins, and that some of those potential purchasers have a strong emotional connection to the superhero (even if it technically falls short of belief) significantly determines the price.

    The persistence and the weakness of your rebuttals, and the complete lack of comprehension of subtleties indicates that your next response will be equally inane.

  • Arrow

    two cents: “So who was the first person to have the thought of the existence of god? Surely since all people were children, absent of any belief, then what was the progenitor of such a pernicious myth? What occasion would allow the child to develop such a wonderful fantasy? What broke the perfectly godless symmetry of the world?”

    The concept of god evolved with humanity, it’s origin is the natural concept of a pack leader. Since humans evolved from pack animals they instinctively revere powerful leaders. After such powerful and successful leaders died members of their pack naturally tried to preserve their memory, wisdom and spirit in hopes that it will help them in the future. The development of speech gave them the tools needed to do it and memories of ancestors eventually lead to the cult of ancestors.

    As such cults grew and were passed from generation to generation the number of people who actually remembered each ancestor declined and the power ascribed to them kept growing. This led to ancestors being used to explain more and more of the unexplainable phenomena in the natural world slowly evolving into local deities. Some such cults spread far and wide due to conquest and as more and more people unrelated to the original tribe became worshipers the ancestor aspect was de-empathized and eventually completely lost meaning leading to polytheistic gods.

    With the advent of farming humanity began to prosper – large cities were build many trade routes were established greatly facilitating communication between cultures. The awarness of other cultures lead to a problem – how can people believe in so many different gods? If our gods are the correct ones how come others are not punished for believing in the wrong ones? This diminished the faith of believers and to counter this and the fragmentation of beliefs some enterprising individuals came up with monotheism. This new form of religion had a natural appeal of simplicity – one god, one doctrine, one rituals, etc. But it also had another important advantage – it centralized religion giving much more power to those who controlled it. This made religion an even more important tool for leaders who could leverage it to control their subjects like never before making monotheism a preferred choice for an official religion and eventually leading to it’s domination.

    This is where the concept of god comes from and each stage of it’s evolution can be easily identified in historical and archaeological records, furthermore even nowadays one could probably find tribes whose beliefs conform to each of those stages.

  • two cents

    So would you characterize the root cause as an adaptation for survival?

  • Arrow

    two cents: So would you characterize the root cause as an adaptation for survival?

    Yes, most of what humanity stands for can be traced back to that root cause.

  • joel rice

    #77 Sputnik – my point was that nobody should EVER give ANYONE that amount of power
    or let them take it. It does not seem to make much difference whether the power grabbers
    are atheists or religious. The whole case for Limited Government is that we should have
    learned from History. The problem is what to do about it. If the people are kept in a state
    of ignorance and the Czar co-opts and corrupts the clergy, or if the clergy is corrupt, then
    you get serfdom. And the Politburo kept the people in ignorance of computers for obvious
    self serving reasons. What is worse is that people internalize a serf mentality that this is
    just the way life is, and then Reason and Science and Enlightenment Values do not amount
    to much.
    #81 arrow – what a sweeping generalization. I wonder how God Given Rights fit into this
    scheme. Have a look at Sermons preached during the American revolution in case you
    think that it is all about controlling the subjects.

  • Sam Gralla

    How about a sign that says

    “Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness’ sake!”

    I read that somewhere once… I like it a lot. Conveys a similar message while not being such a downer.

  • http:leslie20.wordpress.com Leslie

    I agree about aggressive atheists. They’re as bad as those people who come knocking on your door to proscelytize about their religion or those that think they have to “save” you because you don’t believe in their God. I get irritated with the people who show up in the news because their kid refuses to say the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s pretty easy in a crowd reciting the same thing, just to not say the words rather than make a spectacle of themselves. Likewise, those who get upset because specifically religious articles are being removed from government buildings (i.e., Alabama courthouse where a representation of the 10 Commandments were removed). Especially with a court building where justice is supposed to be served, how confident can someone who is not Christian feel in the justice if there are icons of Christianity in the building?

    NPR had a guest on this past week talking about the Humanist “religion.” It was interesting to me as it more closely resembles my feeling on the topic–let’s make the most of this life here and now and not worry about the next life. That is, be good people, help others and take care of the Earth on which we depend for our existence. I’ve never been convinced there is a single creator/omnipotent being that created the universe. And unfortunately, knowing several people who think the Earth is only 6,000 years old despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, doesn’t reinforce any kind of positive view of organized religions. If we were omniscient, time would have no meaning. A day could be a billion years.

    Native Americans refer to “God” as “the Great Mystery” (Wakan Tanka), which is a great concept. Because what else is the entity that many religions call God, but a mystery? Yet they were persecuted and forced to accept a more limited Christian religion in the settlement of this country when their own was more earth-based, reverent and was expressed every day in the way they lived.

    Atheists, for the most part the ones I know, don’t buy into the God concept because if you’re only living this life to get to one that is unknown, unproven and based on many descriptions of “heaven” I’ve heard, one we wouldn’t like anyway, then you’re missing the best that this life has to offer. Focusing on the now and making this world a better place, regardless of any later “reward” is to me, a loftier goal than trying to get to “Heaven.”

    By the way, many animals mourn the deaths of companions and buddies. I’ve seen this with our dogs, cats, and horses. Mourning (grief) is not spiritual, it is emotional and exists throughout the natural world. (two cents’ post) What we don’t know is how long animals mourn and do they keep the memory of the one they lost.

  • John I

    Kevin:

    Physics has existed only for several centuries, and therefore cannot be held accountable for what it does not know. Fair enough, but…can it even attempt to know what it unknowable? What experiments or data attempt to determine the quesstions, or myriad others that I proposed such as what existed “before” the big bang (in quotes because how can time exist prior to the existance of time). Some propose that this universe is a chip off another larger universe, and that that universe is a chip off another, etc. etc. Fine, but at some point it must come back to some kind of creative intelligence.

    Man sends his consciousness and intelligence to discover principles behind the universe, and he discovers many mysterious, counter-intuitive and paradoxical things. He finds that only one substance, that he knows of, is denser in the liquid state than in the solid, and this simple contradiction makes life on earth possible. He finds that neutrons have just the tiniest more mass than protons. which allows matter to exist in its known form. He finds that electrons, the smallest particles, create solidity, or the illusion of solidity, by spinning in orbits, and yet in heavy stable elements, they never interfere with each other and can combine and exchange flawlessly, while other particles bump into each other all the time.

    Man discovers with his intelligence all of these wonders and thousands more which permit his life and consciousness to exist, and then is told to declare that his is the only intelligence, that all these things just happened, that some other alternate universe might have been very different but just as satisfactory if these “random” chances had not occurred, that man can discover these marvels but that they are not accounted for by an intelligence greater than man. You say it isn’t random, it just “is.” Yes, I agree. It just Is.

    It is either random., or it isn’t. What is the third possibility?

    Sean gives an example in his lectures (not about this subject but I think it is germane) of someone blindfolded at one end of a basketball court making a “nothing but net” shot at the other end 100 times in a row. That is what you are asking me to believe when you deny a creative intelligence. (I do not say “God” or “religion” or “dogma.” You do.)

    You note that physics in its present form has only been around for a few centuries. But mankind’s great thinkers have been contemplating his connection to higher intelligence for 10 to 20 times that long.
    And there is nothing in present science which denies the connection.
    In fact the mysteries of physics tend, in my opinion and that of many others, including Einstein as I understand him, to support (not confirm) these concepts.

    Or to paraphrase the old joke, “When I was 300 I couldn’t believe how stupid my parents were, but when I turned 600, I was amazed to discover how much they had learned in a few short years.”

  • John I

    “The concept of God evolved with humanity. It’s origin is the concept of a pack leader”

    Or maybe a big black rock descended a la Stanley Kubrick and taught all the apes how to use tools and weapons.

    Evolution, as I understand it, concerns the physical nature of species. The evolution of thought is a lot more dicey. At least until we get civilization and writing. And by that time spiritual inquiry was a long established idea.

    You don’t think you were there, but you know what happened. I think I probably was there, but frankly, I don’t remember

    Leslie:

    “Native Americans refer to ‘God’ as ‘the Great Mystery.’”

    Yes. Exactly. It has nothing to do with the rantings of fundamentalist Christians, Moslems or atheists. Jesus said “The kingdom of heaven is within you.” Not after death. Right now and forever. All the rest is commentary.

  • two cents

    irt leslie and others

    I would agree with your more general characterization, but it seems very probably that the roots of spirituality are in our ability to feel grief. I too have observed quite interesting emotional responses of critters of all sorts. Since we have agreement that religious beliefs have their roots in survival, it is seems plausible that belief in god is an evolutionary coping mechanism.

    Why feel grief? Are we defective? I know that different people respond differently to circumstances; not every one feels grief in the same manner…what is the absence of grief?

    Yes, I can understand such concepts as absence of something, but we have to define something to describe its absence, and if we can find a definition, then the thing described has some existence, even if it is not a purely materially stable one.

    I can hypothesize all sorts of interesting solutions to some of these sorts of problems. I think those doing research on our brain are probably getting closer to understanding some of this; perhaps someday we will have a purely scientific explanation…we might even have a mathematical model that can predict the emergence of emotions and feelings of spirituality—then what? What do you do with the knowledge of what configurations lead to a belief of a god?

  • Maledict

    Well, I, too, know that my concept is right. Just wanted all of you to know that.

    However, since only brain-dead fanatics will read through all the other brain-dead comments in order to read this one, those who do likely won’t be enlightened by my righteousness, either. There’s always a catch, y’know?

    Sean’s commentary sounds suspiciously similar to the “rational” reactions to 19th century women’s emancipation efforts, or a 1950′s “rational” response to that unscrupulous rabble-rouser, Martin Luther King. If a great tide of atheism catches hold in America (very unlikely, in my humble opinion) 50 years from now Sean’s commentary might wind up being quoted as an exemplar of 2010 badthink. ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.

  • Kevin

    two cents:
    “The persistence and the weakness of your rebuttals, and the complete lack of comprehension of subtleties indicates that your next response will be equally inane.”
    Are you talking to yourself here? You’re the one who is unable to comprehend the difference between “not believing in God” and “believing there is no God” (the correct portrayal of this in your over-simplified logical setup is: (-x) + y != x + (-y), which quite obviously supports my interpretation). You’re the one who is making repeated references to “economic principles” without making any effort to demonstrate how they are in any way relevant to a discussion of the truth value of religious claims.

    For the record, I have studied the psychology and biology of religion and I do understand that it is not simply an environmental manifestation. People have religious experiences that convince them of the existence of God, etc., and some people have greater or lower tendencies toward these experiences than others. I acknowledge that these experiences can be ultimately authoritative for those who have them, but they do not carry authority outside of the experiencer himself or herself. The problem is that many of those who experience them do treat them as externally authoritative, and have throughout human civilization. People’s personal choices, beliefs, etc. are their own business and in general, I couldn’t care less. However, people simply are not content to keep their personal issues personal, and they continue to try to enforce their own preferences on others. The point of treating religious claims empirically is to demonstrate that they do not have valid external authority, and therefore no general policy should be based upon them.

    John I:
    “Fine, but at some point it must come back to some kind of creative intelligence.”
    How? You offer no rationale for this insistence. The argument of the first cause was disregarded as obsolete long ago. Causality is a temporal phenomenon, and time only exists, as far as anyone knows, within the universe. Using causality as we know it in extra-universal explanations simply is not appropriate.

    Your entire discussion of “randomness” shows that you did not even try to comprehend my previous post. For something to be considered random, there must be the potential for it to have been otherwise, and there is simply no indication that that is the case for the universe. It may be that, because of factors we don’t yet understand, ours is the only possible universe. It may also be that uncountable differently-configured universes exist/have existed/will exist, and therefore ours is just one of many, its existence nothing inherently remarkable. Furthermore, any “creative intelligence” does not necessarily (or even probably) resemble a religious object. Aliens seeding the universe with amino acids or even creating new universes, though an unlikely explanation, is still infinitely simpler than any religious or spiritual claim.

    Again, the assertion that everything must either have a quality of “random” or “not random” is a false dilemma. For something to be “not random” as you intend the term to mean, there must be a possibility of a random outcome that was somehow controlled or influenced. This is not the case in the situations you discuss.

  • John I

    Kevin:

    Oh yes. I have tried. “For something to be considered random, there must be the potential for it to have been otherwise, and there is simply no indication that that is the case for the universe.”

    No indication to you, but to myself and many others, including Einstein and Newton, there is. However, you want to persist in replying to my posts from the position of your clearly superior intellect, which, according to you, I cannot or do not even try to comprehend.

    However, I think that anyone who can say regarding the universe, that it’s existence is “nothing inherently remarkable,” is probably so tied up in his own tautological underwear that further comment would be unproductive.

    “Aliens seeding the universe with amino acids or even creating new universes….is still infinitely simpler than any religious or spiritual claim.”

    WOW. I can’t wait until the rest of mankind catches up to that kind of thinking.

  • Sputnik

    #84 – “my point was that nobody should EVER give ANYONE that amount of power
    or let them take it.”
    I don’t disagree.

    “And the Politburo kept the people in ignorance of computers for obvious
    self serving reasons.”
    News to me. I had a computer in the 80s…Tetris was created in Soviet Russia, you know.

  • Janus

    “It’s like you’re introduced to someone at a party, and they immediately say “Wow, you’re ugly. And your clothes look like they were stolen off a homeless person. And you’re drinking a domestic beer, which shows a complete lack of sophistication.””

    Here’s a better analogy. It’s like you’re at a party given to honor the birth of Tom Cruise, son of Holy Xenu and Heir to the Galactic Confederacy, and some guy stands up and says, “You know guys, Tom Cruise isn’t the son of Xenu. What’s more, Xenu never existed. In fact, anybody who honestly believes in Scientology is crazy, and is supporting a destructive cult.”

    Would you condemn the guy who said this, Sean?

    Then why behave differently when the target is religion in general rather than Scientology?

  • two cents

    irt kevin

    good…my point in all this is that no one should feel so privileged as to cloak contempt for others as being some innocent statement of truth. I believe in god, but I find the behavior of many monotheists as being reprehensible (for instance, I would really like to know who the blasphemers are who keep putting up all those billboards that have messages from god on them). I fully believe the bible gives sufficient guidance that one is to practice their faith as quietly as possible. I think the bible is fairly clear that God can not be tested, so no test of God in this world would ever reveal his divine presence (so those trying to find evidence in biology are particularly interesting heretics). I do think it is interesting though to understand what leads to mankind’s apparent awareness of god…what causes the compulsion to believe?

    As far as the economics, peoples beliefs are real variables in economics; that’s all I’m getting at. People typically spend there money on the things they value most.

    Ultimately, I want to live in peace with other people, and in order to do that I have to accept people that don’t think and behave as I do. I just think that sometimes atheists tend to undermine themselves in the eyes of others when they tell people how screwed up they are.

  • Gary

    This small-a atheist is more than happy and comfortable to say Merry Christmas.

    One camp of non-testable hypothesis to another.

    Even Shawn recognizes that being rational doesn’t mean you can’t also be stupid at the same time.

  • joel rice

    #93 sputnik – i think it was 1946. Science mag had pix of blacked out articles on cybernetics
    back in the 70s. btw i have a bunch of Mir publications on QM and little green pamphlets on various math topics. Great stuff.
    #87 John I – been a while since reading Barrow & Tipler. What seems to be missing is why
    the world makes mathematical sense. Basically I’m an atheist because I ‘believe’ that complex octonion ‘arithmetic’ determines what exists. It seems to make sense of why math
    is unreasonably effective. … but more like food for thought than a theory. I figure that if everybody hates math – then it is probably true. If it deals with atoms, cells, and minds
    then what religion takes as purpose and ‘order’ is explainable in principle – and one might
    expect religion to persist until one can make sense of it. (Octonions ? Good Luck !)
    So the design of the world seems bigger and badder than God. If that worries Theists, well
    it also seems bigger and badder than Physics. Or Darwin, for that matter. So, maybe we are
    all on a bigger adventure than we think. So maybe atheists can get their act together and
    contribute something useful to civilization, rather than just complaining, like explaining
    why the world is the way it is. That ought to keep them out of trouble.

  • Ray Gedaly

    #73: John I’s argument is sometimes referred to as “the god of the gaps.”

  • James

    I saw the same sign (put up by FFRF) at the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison two days ago. It was next to Christian and Muslim religious signs, and all three were near the Christmas tree in the center of the rotunda. My impression wasn’t that they were being party poopers. I wasn’t offended at all.

  • Gordon

    God, religion is boring!

  • Ahmed

    Isn’t it funny how those who accuse the belief in God of hardening hearts, themselves need counsel on the topic?

    Monotheism hardens hearts against that which is destructive to mankind, and softens them towards that which is beautiful and whole, and so it has survived. Nobody wants reason to not prevail. But whose reasoning? One kind of “blindness” is when you refuse to believe in something despite reasonable evidence. Another kind of blindness is disregarding something staring you in the eye, because it does not come from the doors you’re expecting it to, even if it cannot fit through them.

    The first kind is sometimes alright, because the advancement of knowledge depends on skepticism of what is reasonable. It’s a fine line between stubbornness and insight. The second kind is pretty sad, because it afflicts brighter minds as well as simple ones, and leads nowhere.

  • joel rice

    #98 Ray – the God of the Gaps is the standard anti-teleological put-down. Two points are
    in order. 1) page 252 of Barrow & Tipler “The Anthropic Cosmological Principle” on Hoyle’s
    stunning quantitative predictions regarding nuclear energy levels in Carbon and Oxygen.
    2) is algebra always reductionist – says who ?

    #100 Gordon – tell that to Isaac Newton !

  • Gordon

    Joel, …don’t know what you are talking about. Of course Newton was religious—if you weren’t you had to hide it totally then or risk ostracism or death. He was a heretic, though, and not a Trinitarian, a stand he had to hide. Keynes called him the last magician. Read all of Newton’s religious exegesis and tell me it isn’t boring, and this isn’t 1680.

    If someone believes in Xenu, and Scientology, I can call him a deluded cultist. If someone has similar silly mainstream religious beliefs, I cannot do the same thing without being attacked as, at best, aggressive , impolite, and disrespectful. If one person has a delusional belief system, he is labelled “insane”. If millions have the same delusional beliefs, it is called
    Religion. As Sam Harris says, most religious people are not insane, but their core beliefs absolutely are.

  • Michael Kingsford Gray

    Sigh… Another pathetic ‘faitheist’ gets it wrong again.
    Sean, where is your profound sense of awe at the mighty universe that is exposed by science?
    (Versus the measly and shrivelled miracles offered by modern cults. You know: the best that theism can offer you today is a burnt bit of toast. Contrast that with a quasar or a laser.)
    Those are *real* miracles!

  • joel rice

    Gordon – Evidently Newton did not think it was boring. Some shrinks would have put him
    in a padded cell. How do you know that he would have done any physics without his
    religious beliefs ? Maybe he would have become a lawyer ! Delusional nonsense is not
    confined to religion anyway. Is string theory delusional ? Is Marxism delusional ? A lot
    of people respect ideas that have stood the test of time, and maybe tradition is a comfort.
    Frankly I am not all that impressed by Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens et al. Religious freedom
    makes more sense than demanding that everybody stop being delusional.
    On another note -maybe Wigner’s Unreasonable Effectiveness of Math goes beyond the
    Anthropic Principle. It is not just our physical and biological existence that must be
    possible, but that doing physics and developing technology also make sense in the
    universe. It seems to demand that the design of the world be extraordinarily well behaved
    for this to be possible -and that the development over time from a state of complete ignorance.

  • Brian137

    Some good points have been made, but we are in a small room containing a big elephant that I do not think anyone has mentioned (although I must admit to having skimmed or skipped over some of the previous 105 posts). Many have commented upon the rationality or irrationality of various points of view and even upon some possible social consequences of those views, but theism and (yes) atheism also involve our feelings. Most, or at least many, people prefer to be happy. They wake up in the morning and hope to have some fun or, at least, not suffer. Offered a choice of two eggs over easy, bacon, and toast with jam or stale bread and mud for breakfast, most would choose the former.

    Religion and atheism both address an inherent preference for contentment. As at the ages of two hours and two years so today we care about how we feel. Perhaps, a particular atheist feels a satisfaction in being intellectually “correct,” as he sees it. Religion can involve a whole melange of powerful feelings, including love, hate, fear, and reassurance. An understanding of the topics raised in the OP requires more than a dry cerebral exercise.

  • Gordon

    Joel: Of course you aren`t impressed by Dawkins et. al. I could have predicted that.
    Few irrational folks are impressed. They also are not `demanding` that people stop being delusional. Clearly, you are proof that this is impossible. Marxism and string theory are not
    positing virgin births, resurrections, transubstantiations, arks—basically your fairies in the garden stuff. As for traditional thoughts giving comfort, what wimpy, craven bs. Yes, an afterlife could be comforting to many—-too bad it is imaginary.
    Newton`s religion and obsession with alchemy most certainly interfered with his other
    scientific work, as did his obsession with the Mint. In any case, there was only one Newton.

  • joel rice

    Gordon: As Douglas Adams said – “Mostly Harmless”.
    I rather enjoyed the commentary of Richard John Neuhaus in First Things over the
    years regarding Dawkins et al. hmmm – why would a hard boiled atheist be reading
    First Things anyway ? Could you predict that ?
    You take things out of historical and social context. Claude Levi Strauss had interesting
    things to say about taboos.

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Doug Watts

    Atheists can be such uptight downers.

    As some on this thread amply demonstrate.

    Sanctimonious, also.

  • Gordon

    Funny. I thought that described the “believers”. I guess one tends to
    lose a sense of humor when confronted by pig ignorant folks. One does though
    tend to cultivate a sense of irony.

  • Gordon

    I don’t think I am taking Newton out of context at all. Read “The Baroque Cycle” –Quicksilver, The Confusion, The System of the World , by Neal Stephenson. Or Westfall’s “Never at Rest”, or Keynes’ lecture on Newton (delivered by his brother).

  • Pingback: Starlinks for the New Year

  • http://osmium.blogspot.com osmium

    I’m a scientist and an atheist, but here’s what I’m worried about now: I like domestic beer. Is that ok? I’m worried.

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Doug Watts

    Besides, an atheist putting out his point of view isn’t something to be ashamed of, especially when we just had an example of a religiously motivated terrorist trying to blow up a plane.

    What a fascinatingly logical argument.

  • bryan

    Just a few thoughts:

    1-There really is no agnosticism. You believe one thing or another-own it.
    2-Fanatics don’t need religion. It’s a relationship of convenience.
    3-Untruth does not equal no worth. Would the religion protesters think it ok to travel into a remote region and preach science to indigenous animists because they would so benefit from scientific rationality? Life doesn’t have to be truth it just needs to ultimately serve the emotional and physical well being of the liver.

  • joel rice

    Gordon: the issue is not what Newton wrote but whether he would have written
    his scientific works if he had some other religious beliefs. Nobody knows, period.

  • Gordon

    Sean: Just when I start agreeing with you on one or two things, you wimp out :)
    Atheists are not the problem. Religious kooks, particularly in the USA are. Get onside with
    Hitchens and Dawkins and be proud. I thought the bus ad was brilliant and fun. Dont let
    the ubiquitous scummy TV evangelists have the media all to themselves. To misquote the
    Bible, the meek will not inherit the earth. The proportion of born again nuts and evolution deniers in the USA should be totally alarming. It sort of undermines pointing the finger of
    irrationality at the arabs. Perhaps Bill Maher is right—Americans are stupid.

  • Liam

    “My faith is whatever makes me feel good about being alive. If your religion doesn’t make you feel good to be alive, what the hell is the point of it?”

    “The history of the Catholic Church is written on charred pages splashed with gore. It is a history of inquisitions and genocides, of purges and perversions, of ravings and razzings. Yes, but through those same bloody pages walk parades of saints playing their celestial radios and sowing their sparkles of love.”

    “A world leader who’s convinced that life is merely a trial for the more valuable and authentic afterlife is less hesitant to risk starting a nuclear holocaust. A politician or corporate executive who’s expecting the Rapture to arrive on the next flight from Jerusalem is not going to worry much about polluting oceans or destroying forests. Why should he? Thus to emphasize the afterlife is to deny life. To concentrate on heaven is to create hell.

    In their desperate longing to transcend the disorderliness, friction, and unpredictability that pesters life; in their desire for a fresh start in a tidy habitat, germ-free and secured by angels, religious multitudes are gambling the only life they may ever have on a dark horse in a race that has no finish line.”

    “A sense of humor, properly developed, is superior to any religion so far devised.”

    -Tom Robbins

  • joel rice

    Liam – ever read the Black Book of Communism ? – talk about splashed with gore
    and genocides. Let’s see – Stalin refused to give the Bomb to Mao because he thought
    Mao was crazy. Between the two of them, that is over 100,000,000 dead humans.

  • Gordon

    Yes, and it has nothing to do with atheism. Nada. Zip. Straw men.

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
    — Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion)

  • joel rice

    yes Gordon, it certainly appears that Stalin and Mao were doing their best to
    act like the God of the Old Testament – but instead of fiction they made it a reality.

  • Liam

    Joel,

    None of what I quoted advocates communism.
    What it does advocate is enjoying and focusing on life while keeping a strong sense of humor.
    Religion is pretty lousy when it comes to both of those (In the Gospel, Jesus never laughs + Christianity beleives the earth is cursed) but it has its “sparkles of love”

    I just felt like it eloquently summed up a lot of points that came up previously.

    Where did you get the idea that any of that was promoting Maoism?

  • Chris Grealy

    Ah, Christians can be such uptight downers. They really need to learn tolerance and relax a bit more.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »