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Greta Christina

AgnosticTom: You are rather missing the point here -- to the point where it seems almost deliberate.

Here is the point. For most atheists, atheism is not the absolute, 100% certainty that there is no God. For most atheists, it is the conclusion that the God hypothesis is so implausible, so contradicted by all the available evidence, so unsupported by any good evidence, that we can reject it. If we see better evidence, we'll change our mind -- but it better be darned good evidence. We are no more agnostic about any god than we are about unicorns, fairies, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that there are no unicorns, fairies, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters -- and we know, with the same degree of certainty, that there are no gods. Even though we can't absolutely prove it.

Is there some reason you have more doubt about gods than you do about unicorns, fairies, or Flying Spaghetti Monsters? Or do you also call yourself "agnostic" about unicorns, fairies, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, and anything else you have no good reason to think exists but can't absolutely disprove?

For the record, I don't actually care whether you call yourself agnostic or atheist. I just get really tired of agnostics who make arguments against a version of atheism that pretty much doesn't exist.

And why do you think it's a bad idea to persuade other people that your ideas are correct and theirs are mistaken? We do that with every other sort of idea -- science, politics, medicine, art, etc. Why should religion get a free pass? It seems that you're using the word "proselytize" to mean "any attempt that I don't approve of to persuade people of something." And that's not fair. You need to make an argument for why these particular attempts to persuade are bad, while others attempts to persuade on other subjects are fine.

Allen Dexter

Let's not split hairs. "Crazy" is a perfectly understandable term that applies. It's used every day in its colloquial application.

It's the religious, who expect to be treated with deference and respect they deny others who get all bent out of shape. I, for one, have given up trying to please them.

Greta Christina
It's the religious, who expect to be treated with deference and respect they deny others who get all bent out of shape.

Allen, if you'll read the discussion in this comment thread, you'll see that it's not just the religious who get, quote, "bent out of shape" by the colloquial use of the word "crazy." Plenty of non-believers have a problem with it. I'm still not sure what I think about this question... but I'm not going to just dismiss the people who raise it.

Eclectic

I'm very glad Jonas Salk and others like him did not buy into your assertion - "I assert that if there is no way to run an experiment to produce evidence that [whatever] exists, then it does not matter if [whatever] exists. Because it will never make the slightest difference to me."
AgnotsicTom: What on earth are you referring to? Jonas Salk in his most famous medical accomplishment (with Hilary Koprowski, and Albert Sabin, and many many others) absolutely did have clearly measurable evidence: the incidence of polio in inoculated people.

As I said, if there is any circumstance in which it will make a detectable difference, that's an experiment that can be performed, at least in principle.

What are untestable are things like a deist God, or Last Thursdayism, or the Dragon in Carl Sagan's garage.

Eclectic

Sorry about the formatting above; I hope everyone can still make it out. Greta, have I mentioned that a preview button would be very handy?

Maria

Okay, evasion of actual point of question noted. No wonder you are so "successful" in discussing with atheists...

I guess I just have to ask again:

Are you as dogmatically agnostic about ALL possible concepts the fanciful brain of the human species are able to come up with?

I'll work on the smugness thing.

Not started yet, I see.

Margo K.

@AgnosticTom

I think you missed Eclectic's point about experiments. Eclectic is not talking about whether we have the means to detect God (or the Flying Spaghetti Monster). We are talking about whether the God hypothesis can fail (which is a prerequisite for a testable hypothesis).

"Throughout history many diseases thought to be incurable were simply accepted as God's will."

If I have a hypothesis that dancing for an hour while singing 'la la la' in the presence of someone who is sick can cure any disease, this is a hypothesis I can test. Furthermore, somebody 100,000 years ago could have conceived of and tested this hypothesis as well.

A hypothesis on whether or not something can cure someone is inherently meaningful (even a silly one like my example) because the results make a difference - whether someone remains sick or is cured.

Some religious hypotheses are testable, such as the hypothesis that the Earth is only a few thousand years old (geological data can be used to test this hypothesis). However, if a hypothesis is not testable, then there is really not reason to care, because, as Eclectic said, if such a hypothesis made a difference in our lives, such a difference would be testable.

Ronald King

This came to me as I was in the shower this morning preparing to go to Mass and as you say eat the "magic cracker". By the way according to catholic belief the "magic cracker" is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ before we eat it and whether or not we believe it. However, that is not the important thing in all of this. The most important thing in all of this is love. It is love that nurtures life, it is love that gives life. Anything that forgets about love and the mystery of love looks and sounds ludicrous to those who observe it from the outside and becomes empty ritual to those who practice it on the inside. I have much more to say about this but I must go and consume my "magic cracker" which is the source of my memory to love everything in creation because it is only love which brings order to all this chaos we call "crazy".

Maria

You love everything? Even things like natural disasters and deadly diseases? And this brings... order in chaos? And to not forget this you need to eat crackers in a ritualized way?

Ah, okay, that makes perfect sense!

Ronald King

Maria, You know what I am saying if you want to know what I am saying. But, I think you have a different purpose.

Maria

Are you saying that you love things like deadly diseases? Or are they not a "part of the creation"? If not, what are they?

And no, I don't have the slightest idea what you are saying when you say that "only love brings order in chaos" and how that makes sense in regards to also having to love "everything in creation".

My purpose was to show that I think none of the things you said made much sense. Was it a lie that you said you need to eat crackers to remind you of loving everything in creation? If you actually meant something completely different than that, why didn't you say that instead then?

Ronald King

Maria, you have convinced me that what I have written does not make much sense to you. If it doesn't make sense to you then so be it. Suffering that is of human origin is different from suffering that is a natural disaster. Love responds to suffering with nurturing or with sacrifice of one's comfort and security for the sake of what is in the best interest of others and the world we inhabit.
Read once again what I wrote about what someone termed "magic crackers" and what I believe to be true as a Catholic. I do not expect you to believe it nor anyone else. I did not believe it until 2005 when I was 58. So I have no problem with disbelief. That is another story. The problem I have with myself or anyone who believes or disbelieves is the lack of love we express to one another and the harm and chaos that creates in human relationships.

Maria

It did indeed not make much sense, and you still haven't answered my questions.

Again, I repeat, you said that you should love "everything in creation." Now I asked you if you really do think you should love some pretty horrible things that, without a doubt, are part of that "creation", and you are not answering. Do you love Ebola? It's one of the most horrible deadly diseases there are, creating horrendous suffering to the poor individual who gets it. Ebola is caused by a virus. Is the Ebola virus a part of the creation? If you say it is, do you love it? If it isn't part of the creation, then what is it?

If loving "everything in creation" does not in fact include EVERY thing, then how the heck am I suppose to know which things are supposed to be included and which are not? And since you chose to express yourself in those terms how the heck am I suppose to know that these words didn't matter, and I should just know that what you really meant is that we should be nicer to each other and the world would be a better place (which I certainly agree with).

Anyway, you do believe those things, it seems, and since you did bring them up, that seemed to me a rather important question to get an answer to.

Of course there are many more questions. Such as why you think love is mysterious, and what you actually mean with "mysterious" in this case. And what you actually mean by chaos? And through which mechanisms love (as a mysterious force?) bring order in this ill-defined chaos, and how that all ties in with humans loving everything? If you just meant that humans acting out of love and care can make a difference, then that's not very mysterious, and certainly nothing to do with any religion.

If it doesn't make sense to you then so be it.

What? You brought it up! Why can't you explain these things, so that it does make sense? It's supposed to be something wrong with me that I can't understand the vague assertions you made?

"Love is a mystery"

"Uh... what does that actually mean?"

"You know what I mean; you are just trying to be silly."

"Uh... I really don't know what you mean."

"Ah, you have convinced me you cannot handle such mysteries. I shall simply leave it at that then."

"Me thinks you just can't explain these things!"

That's how it sounded to me.

Suffering that is of human origin is different from suffering that is a natural disaster.

What do you mean, and what does this has to do with anything we talked about? Are you saying you love one of these but not the other, or are you saying deadly diseases are of human origin, or... what ARE you saying??

I was asking you if you love deadly diseases, or if you don't consider them part of the creation. Or are words like "to love everything in creation" not suppose to actually be taken seriously? It's well known by those who use it that it's just "something you say that sounds nice, or something" or "Of course that only includes good things that are, like, possible to love."?? I shouldn't have taken it seriously and ask what it really would entail?

Love responds to suffering with nurturing or with sacrifice of one's comfort and security for the sake of what is in the best interest of others and the world we inhabit.

Yes, sounds good enough. I agree. How does that make love mysterious?

The problem I have with myself or anyone who believes or disbelieves is the lack of love we express to one another and the harm and chaos that creates in human relationships.

Sure, I agree. How does that make love mysterious?

Look, saying that showing more love and care for each other and our world is a great thing to say, why wouldn't I agree wholeheartedly with that? But if this is indeed the important part then why mystify it like that? It's not a mystery at all. And if you need crackers to remind you of this that's your business (though if you say things like "By the way according to catholic belief the "magic cracker" is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ before we eat it and whether or not we believe it" I have to ask things like what the cracker becomes after you've eaten it, and exactly where in the digestive system it stops being Christ, and how do you know all this anyway) but that wasn't really what you said.

Did I take you too literally? Maybe, how should I know that when you speak of love as something mysterious tied in with Catholic rituals and that it should be all-encompassing – you really mean, ‘just be nicer to each other regardless of belief or non-belief’? Now, that's something I can agree with, but if your basic message is that belief isn't even necessary for that kind of love... then why wrap that message up in that kind of language?

I do not expect you to believe it nor anyone else.

Then why bring it up at all?

Sarah

@AgnosticTom,
I encourage you to read the information at this web site for the opportunity to look at the definitions of "atheism" and "agnosticism" with a wide-angle lens. The Scope of Atheism
by George H. Smith
from his book Atheism: The Case Against God
http://www.positiveatheism.org/writ/smith.htm

"The term "agnostic" does not, in itself, indicate whether or not one believes in a god. Agnosticism can be either theistic or atheistic."

There are numerous instances in which atheists do not proselytize. Babies, for example. Implicit atheists, for another (which includes babies). Buddhists are atheists, but the absence of a belief in God is not what Buddhists who share their spirituality focus on. Are you an agnostic theist-one who "believes in the existence of god, but maintains that the nature of god is unknowable", or an agnostic atheist (I can't know, and I am without belief in any deity at this time, and if evidence of a god is presented, I will consider it with an open mind). I suppose you could believe that God could be with you and you just have no way of knowing as long as God chooses to prevent you from knowing, but that just doesn't seem like a productive thing to put a lot of thought into.

"Agnosticism is a legitimate philosophical position (although, in my opinion, it is mistaken), but it is not a third alternative or a halfway house between theism and atheism. Instead, it is a variation of either theism or atheism. The self-proclaimed agnostic must still designate whether he does or does not believe in a god -- and, in so doing, he commits himself to theism or he commits himself to atheism. But he does commit himself. Agnosticism is not the escape clause that it is commonly thought to be." George H. Smith

I'd be interested in your thoughts about what atheists and agnostics are after reading that article. You can't really pigeonhole anyone with those two words, accurately, anyway.

@Everyone This business of whether "crazy" is offensive/inappropriate/hurtful is new to me. Madonna is "crazy for you", Patsy Cline is "crazy for feeling so lonely", and Seal says "we're never gonna survive unless we go a little crazy". I have some "Jane's Krazy Mixed-Up Salt" in my spice cabinet and some Krazy glue somewhere else in the house. I went a little "crazy" for a while after my mom died, and again when I was having trouble conceiving. My personal take on it is that it's in poor taste when talking about actual mental illness, like when I had post-partum depression after having the babies and had disturbing thoughts of hurting them. I'm sensitive about having gone through that, and the word "crazy" being used to describe it and other times in which I was struggling with clinical depression makes me feel humiliated and defensive, for some reason. However, looking back on my pre-deconversion days, I sure believed in some crazy shit.

Ronald King

Maria, I cannot respond to everything you expressed today in a short com box. I apologize for the fragmentation of what I have written because it seems to have caused you distress, at least that is what I presume because I cannot see your expressions nor hear your voice.
It is very clear in my mind what I know and the problem I have is to attempt to write with clarity what has taken decades to form from being agnostic, gaining knowledge in interpersonal neurobiology, working as a psychotherapist, having developed an interest in quantum physics, and directly experiencing only what I can describe as miraculous, and somehow explain it to someone within a few paragraphs. So, if I frustrate you I am sorry. My intention was to write what I have come to believe. The responses I get are interesting to me in the sense of what may be the primary disposition of the response. What does the person feel about what I have stated, not what the person thinks about what I have stated. In other words, what is the emotional response.

Maria

Why do you think I'm distressed and frustrated? It seems to me that these responses have not been enough information for you to actually be able to draw conclusions about 'primary dispositions' from.

And that's all very impressive. Still, I can't see how simply answering some very simple questions can be so difficult.

Is the Ebola virus a part of the creation? Should you then love it?If it isn't part of the creation, what is it?

That's two easy yes or no answers there, and one that might be a few words longer. That wouldn't fit into a comment box?

Brian Killian

Of course the difference between the flying spaghetti monster and God is that the flying spaghetti monster is made up; and the existence of God is inferred or hypothesized as the best explanation of certain facts.

It's kind of a big difference.

Ronald King

Maria, It is not a simple answer of yes or no. You seem intelligent, you should know that. What is your disposition driving your questioning?

Maria

How is it not a simple question of yes or no? It is perfectly possible to answer that question with either a yes, or a no! I agree that the consequenses of answering that might be a bit more complicated question to discuss, but for now I'd be happy with a yes or a no.

Is the Ebola virus part of the creation of which you said you should love the entirety?

What is your disposition refusing to answer this simple question?

Not that you have to, if you don't want to, just say so, but please stop claiming it demands such a long and complicated answer that it's not possible to answer it here.

Ronald King

What is ebola related to? What function does it serve? I have curiosity about it, but I have more curiosity about your disposition.

Maria

Don't tell me you don't understand that Ebola is just an example, and that you don't understand what the question really is about. Don't insult the intelligence you earlier claimed you could spot.

Your refusal to answer the question is starting to become silly, as is your attempts to evade it by trying to make a sort of case study out of the people you are in a "discussion" with.

The question is up there, answer it or... don't. I am sure that at this point no one cares in the slightest which.

llewelly

Brian Killian | June 05, 2011 at 12:46 PM:


Of course the difference between the flying spaghetti monster and God is that the flying spaghetti monster is made up; and the existence of God is inferred or hypothesized as the best explanation of certain facts.

God is a terrible explanation. First, it begs the question: What made God? Second, the natural world has many features, from eyes with blindspots, appendices, recurrent laryngeal nerves, to vast expanses of empty space, which are quite difficult to explain if "God" is intelligent, but readily explained by processes neither intelligent nor all powerful.

I recommend you read Victor Stenger's God: The Failed Hypothesis for an explanation of the many kinds of evidence against "God", and the many ways it fails to explain anything.

A careful study of the natural world reveals that traditional notions of "God" do not explain the world around us any better than the Flying Spaghetti Monster; the appearance that there is a "big difference" is an illusion resulting from the human failing of granting special treatment to the familiar ideas we are brought up to accept, especially those which feed our egos.

llewelly

Ronald King | June 05, 2011 at 06:37 AM:


This came to me as I was in the shower this morning preparing to go to Mass and as you say eat the "magic cracker". By the way according to catholic belief the "magic cracker" is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ before we eat it and whether or not we believe it. However, that is not the important thing in all of this. The most important thing in all of this is love. It is love that nurtures life, it is love that gives life.

Each time you go to mass, you support an organization which attacks the essential human right of a woman to control her body. That is the opposite of love. Each time you go to mass you support an organization which attacks the essential human right to marry as one chooses. That is the opposite of love. Each time you go to mass you support an organization that spreads lies about condoms, which in turn enable the spread of AIDS, contributing to the deaths of millions in Africa. That is the opposite of love. Each time you go to mass you support an organization which has bent over backward in its efforts to prevent child rapists from being separated from potential victims.

Your words unknowingly illustrate an essential horror common to most religions; they teach people to believe that dreadfully harmful treatment of others is morally superior, even that such treatment is "love".

Maria

I suspect Ronald is a troll.

He's having a laugh at my expense in any case, that is quite clear :-)

Ronald King

Your presumption about me is wrong. You prejudge.

Lynn Wilhelm

Ronald, prove Maria wrong.

It's easy, answer her questions. Otherwise you simply prove her presumption.

I've just spent too much time in anticipation of your answers, Ronald. Crap on you for wasting my time. Typical troll.

AgnosticTom

@sarah


Thank you for the link to George Smith's essay. It was an excellent summary of atheism and agnosticism. However, about your extracted quote re agnosticism

"The self-proclaimed agnostic must still designate whether he does or does not believe in a god -- and, in so doing, he commits himself to theism or he commits himself to atheism. But he does commit himself."

Harrumph - says you, Mr.Smith!!

That's a legitimate opinion, but the fact that the Smith penned it does not make it a fact. For me it is a matter of intellectual honesty to admit the limits of what I can and do know.

Thus I much prefer Thomas Huxley's quote from the same essay
"What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by anyone else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case."

My opinion is this is the correct statement of an agnostic's postition. That I agree with Huxley and wrote almost exactly the same thing in my initial comment also does not make his or my statement true.

What you and I can agree on completely is the description of atheist as one who requires proof before belief.

Which leads me back my point about to Dr. Salk, et al.

True scientists tend not to embrace not knowing as an agnostic must. Their refusal to do so increases humantity's store of knowledge by asking, "What if....?" questions.

If scientists had taken the same attitude of Smith's "existence" atheists as opposed to agnostics (as Huxley defines them), they would have taken the postion that since the evolution of human knowledge had not progressed to the point where a proof of already vaccine existed, it would have been not only irrelevant to them (as eclectic above would have it), but also a foolish notion to remain hopeful one might someday could be found through their efforts.

And, again, that would be, in my humble opinion, a very lazy and even crazy position to take.

Knowing my limits are infinitessimal compared to giants like Salk, I must embrace not being able to know or comprehend or I would go insane. But I'm very glad people exist who don't embrace not knowing and then set out to prove what humanity thus far has not.

My complaint with religiosn is the same as everyone else's here. They neither offer nor feel any need to search for proof of their claims. They just create ridiculous stories to justify their beliefs and insult the rest of us with their arrogant judgment of anyone who disagrees with their opinions.

That's beyond crazy.

It's dangerous and does great harm. Not confronting that craziness is, as someone already mentioned in this thread, (paraphrasing liberally here) "an act of civic irresponsibility."

Tom


Indigo

AgnosticTom, I'm not totally sure I follow. Are you saying that reaching a conclusion regarding a fact about the current state of the universe (such as "there is no God") is equivalent to giving up on the possibility of creating through human endeavour some solution to an enduring problem (such as a vaccine for smallpox)?

Ronald King

Lynn, Why do you anticipate my answers? You are correct that is a waste of your time, but not my time. I haven't formulated an answer for Maria nor myself because I haven't considered ebola until Maria brought it up. The more immediate consideration for me is how human beings relate to one another and creation. I came to this site because I thought what Greta wrote was interesting and I thought I would make a statement about love which I thought was innocent enough. That is it. There is no simple yes or no about what I have written. I apologize for your distress and waste of time.

airbagmoments

I don't really see the point in declaring that they are all equally crazy. That just weakens your arg. Deists are demonstrably less crazy than young earth fundies.

Everything is on a spectrum. Yes, there's a big gray area containing many religions that are all pretty crazy, but they aren't all in there. Some forms of Buddhism are hard to even define as religion.

I'm not much of an "accomodationist", but I believe trying to make the crazier religions seem as crazy as they are can help believers move down the crazy ladder. Not everyone can just let go of belief all at once.

I also consider much religious thinking to be a form of or side effect of mental illness, so I don't mind your use of "crazy". Any word you replace it with will begin immediately to accrue negative connotations and will need to be eventually replaced as well.

AgnosticTom

You asked - Are you saying that reaching a conclusion regarding a fact about the current state of the universe (such as "there is no God") is equivalent to giving up on the possibility of creating through human endeavour some solution to an enduring problem (such as a vaccine for smallpox)?"

My answer:
Not exactly, no. What I'm saying is that I believe there is still an infinite amount of learning required to understand the universe. But everyday new knowledge is uncovered that, in the aggregate, improves humanity's fund of stored knowledge and answers questions heretofore believed to be unaswerable. Sometimes the question is so broad and requires the development of such a degree of undergirding that we can't even imagine what the characteristics of a testable hyposthesis might be.

Beating the dead horse a bit more, Salk & compatriots likely could not have come up with a vaccine for polio if not for previous generations of scientists having developed refracting lenses and then the microscope that enabled the subsequent discovery of microbes, germs, bacteria, etc. previously unseeable and, therefore, unknowable to the human senses. Yet that didn't mean they had not previously existed.

Sure, it's now an unfathomable step to suggest that at some point generations from now science may evolve further to be able to detect human and animal thoughts. Sounds too bizarre to even imagine now. Speculating about such possibilities seems ridiculous and, to some, even irrelevant to consider as a possibility. Better to leave it as the province of whimsical science fiction, they might say.

Even though I agree that such is now, in fact, largely irrevalent to the outcomes of our daily lives, I am simply unwilling to say that the march of human history cannot possibly arrive at the point where the ultimate creative source of the universe might become known.

I consider it a possibility because there's no more tangible evidence for me to rule it out than there is for me to say it will definitely happen.

If I had lived 1000 years ago and someone asked me if I believed I could be made sick by small living organisms invading my body that were so small no one had ever seen them, I would likely have not have accepted that as even a possibility either. I probably would have thought such an idea absolutely ridiculous or I might have bought into to all sorts of other ridiculous explanations for illness that had been passed down through the generations and then finally to me from people I trusted - likely my parents or other respected people in the community.

And that's the way it happens to most of us early on.

Do I live my life in accordance with a chosen set of ridiculous rules required by the religion passed down through generations of my family and then on to me by a mother I loved and respected? Yes, in fact, for about the first third of my life I did.

Then I went to college met Galileo, Copernicus, etc. all the way up to Newton then on thru to Einstein. My masters is in physics and in acquiring that degree I learned to question everything.

So it is with God.

Do I believe a God exists?

Well, I'm certainly no longer willing to live my life according to the silly rules and Southern Baptist faith I grew up wth. But neither can I declare with certainty that some elemental force of nature or some infinite intelligence that transcends everything doesn't exist.

I simply don't know and I don't believe anyone else does either.

It's one thing to prove the specific beliefs of any given religion simply are not true. Been there. Done that.

But it's a completely different matter to have declared with absolute certainty 1000 years ago that microbes and germs did not exist or to declare today using exactly the same logic as has been displayed in this "crazy religion" thread above that there is no God simply because there is no evidence one or more actually exists.

I don't have the time now to look back through the thread, but somewhere above someone said something to the effect that the non-existence of God had been proven to their satisfaction.

Reminds me of a bumper sticker I used to see. "God said it. I believe it. End of discussion."

Or of my grandfather who loved to say to anyone who would listen, "I believe in the Saint James version of the Bible. If it was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me."

Talk about bat-shit crazy!!!

Greta Christina
But it's a completely different matter to have declared with absolute certainty...

AgnosticTom, for the eighty billionth time: No atheist here has declared anything about the non-existence of god with absolute certainty. What part of that do you not understand? We are saying that, given the currently available evidence, we consider the question settled beyond any reasonable doubt. But if we see new evidence, we'll change our minds. We consider the god hypothesis so implausible that we feel comfortable rejecting it -- just like we feel comfortable rejecting the hypotheses of fairies, unicorns, Zeus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, even though we can't absolutely disprove any of these. And we will continue to reject it unless we see better evidence. If we see better evidence, we will, at that point, change our minds.

Do you have any reason to think that the god hypothesis is more plausible than fairies, unicorns, Zeus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Do you think there's any reason to have any more doubt about the non-existence of God than about the nonexistence of any of these? And if not -- do you argue that people are being unreasonable or close-minded because they've concluded -- not with absolute certainty, but with reasonable certainty -- that they don't exist?

Please, please, PLEASE, stop arguing against this straw-man version of atheism. It's divisive, and it's a total waste of time. Thank you.

Greta Christina
I haven't considered ebola until Maria brought it up.

Really, Ronald?

You've never before considered the question, "If God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good, why is there so much suffering in the natural world?" Not "Why is there human evil" -- that's a different question -- but "Why are there earthquakes, droughts, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, birth defects, pediatric cancer, terrible illnesses like ebola, and so on?"

Really? That question has never occurred to you?

I thought I would make a statement about love which I thought was innocent enough.

Actually, you did more than that. You made your statement about love -- a fairly vague one, but one which few atheists would disagree with -- in the same comment as your statement about Catholic teachings about communion. And we are arguing that those teachings are bunk. We don't simply care about what people feel. We care about what is true. If you don't care about what is true -- if you don't care about whether God really exists, or whether communion wafers really turn into the body of Christ, or any number of questions about reality -- then why should we be interested in what you have to say about it? We can all stand around in a circle and explain what we all think and how we feel about it... but if you're not interested in going beyond that and looking at which of our ideas is most likely to be true, then please don't waste our time.

And for the record: Atheists care about love. Atheist activists care about love. In fact, love is probably our primary motivator for our atheist activism. We see religion as not only a mistaken idea about the world, but one that has done a tremendous amount of harm in the world. Many of us see the very nature of religion as inherently harmful. We have compassion for the people harmed by it, we have a sense of justice for the people wronged by it, and we want to see that harm and injustice stopped. You may not be able to see the love in what we do -- but it's there.

AgnosticTom

@greta -
Wow, disappointing response.

In my defense, in each of my posts after the first, I was directly responding to other's questions. I viewed the dialog as an online conversation - not an argument.

But, hey, your site, your rules. Fair enough. I'll respect that by simply assuming your questions back to me were rhetorical and not a request for more explanation of what I have already said.

Besides, I agree it's past time to close on this topic and move on to the next one.

Thanks again for this site.

Ronald King

If she had asked the question you asked about all the suffering in the world I would have answered it. However, she asked about ebola. I've worked with suffering people my entire life and that has been the question I have explored more than you would know. I have worked with people who have been hurt by assholes in the Catholic Church and I did not return to Catholicism blindly after 40 years away and hating it all those years. I returned in the midst of revelations of sexual abuse and my desire at this point in time is to actively participate in efforts to challenge the hierarchy of the church and I began this process in 2007. I know the harm my religion has done and I am enraged by it. You think you get shit on by writing about it from the outside, well, there is a different level of being shit on from the inside. It is the extrovert who has a materialistic faith that does harm to the faith and to those outside the faith. It is the materialist who clashes with people who are different from them. It is the materialist who functions from the primitive limbic system in the brain and is influenced to feel that different is danger.
You have no idea what faith is about because your perspective is materialistic just the same as those right wing materialistic religious believers. Both of you battle on the same materialistic primitive fight or flight response and form your belief systems based on those primitive feelings without knowing that you are just the same but with different belief systems.

Greta Christina
I have worked with people who have been hurt by assholes in the Catholic Church...

Ronald, you are entirely missing the point of the question. We didn't ask, "Why is there suffering caused by people?" We asked, "Why is there suffering caused by God?" We asked, "Do you really love all of creation -- including the natural, non-human parts of creation that cause terrible suffering?" You have yet to answer this question. It is a relevant one. Crucial, even. If you're going to keep ignoring it, it seems unlikely that anyone here is going to want to keep engaging with you.

You have no idea what faith is about...

That is simply and flatly not true. I once had religious faith. I know what it's about. In fact, most atheists once had religious faith. Most of us know a lot more about religion than religious believers know about atheism. Religion is the dominant paradigm in our culture. We are very familiar with it. We're soaking in it.

It is the materialist who clashes with people who are different from them. It is the materialist who functions from the primitive limbic system in the brain and is influenced to feel that different is danger.

?????

Are you seriously arguing that atheists are more motivated by our limbic system than religious believers? That we treat people we perceive as different with more hostility than believers do?

Those are testable assertions. Do you have any evidence to back them up?

I can give you some evidence that counters this assertion. Countries with higher rates of atheism are also, on the whole, countries with higher rates of happiness, equality, social functioning, and social responsibility. They're countries where people see themselves more as a part of a larger social organism -- not less. Source: Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, by Phil Zuckerman.

Now, I'm not arguing that atheism creates this greater sense of happiness and social responsibility. In fact, I don't think so -- I think it's the other way around, that a greater level of social functioning leads a society to be less dependent on religion. But your assertion that atheists are more fearful and hostile is clearly contradicted by this evidence, and you're going to have to provide some pretty good evidence to persuade me of it.

And if you're basing that assertion on your experience getting into argument on the Internet... well, yes. People in arguments are combative. Duh.

Ronald King

Nobody asked me "Why is there suffering caused by God?" until you did. Maria asked a question about loving ebola. I guess I have to be more concrete here. I take it for granted people understand what I mean. My bad. I do not see this as suffering caused by God. I see this as the reality of living in this world with the chaos happening all around us, some apparently natural and some through humanity's stupidity and inhumanity. We are here and there is no other place than to be here and are subject to the forces that we know of and do not know of. Reality is that life is suffering and the only power we have as human beings is the power of choice. Do we choose to love and help those who suffer or do we choose to live a materialist self-serving life. If faith in God is real faith we feed the hungry, clothe the poor, love our enemies to the point they are not enemies and we see that we have created the enemy with our own false beliefs.
There is no difference between a materialist believer and a materialist non-believer. Each competes for superiority over others. I am saying that atheists are just as motivated by their limbic as the religious right are. Just as aggressive and just as egocentric. Don't be fooled by the religious right's talk of heaven. If you threaten their possessions and their beliefs you will get attacked. The same goes with the atheist. If you threaten possessions or beliefs you get attacked. That is what happens on a primitive level. With each group there is a deep rage that is projected on to others and this rage is what reinforces belief systems that are rigidly protected against the perceived threat.

Maria

Nobody asked me "Why is there suffering caused by God?" until you did. Maria asked a question about loving ebola.

Oh for goodness sake, you cannot be that dense! Is it a wonder I thought you were just fucking with me??

I do not see this as suffering caused by God.

That is why I asked you, if you say you love all of [God's] creation, you also love Ebola (or any natural occurring horror you'd prefer here, it was just an example *facepalm*) Because, if we are to go on your beliefs, who the hell else created the damn Ebola virus????? If god didn't do it, than who did? If god is then not responsible for these horrors, then who is?

I see this as the reality of living in this world

But the "reality" of your world is that it is created (presumably by your god). There's no 'that's just the way it is' in such a world. In your world, someone has to be responsible for all these horrors, and that someone is your god. If he isn't, if he's so weak he could neither stop someone else creating these horrors, or stop the horros after they were created, or even limit the damages they do, then... that's not a god, is it?

I know that's not the god Catholics usually speak of anyway!

You actually understand the real world perfectly well. Why insert a god in it at all? By your own arguments such a being is totally unnecessary!

The mystery here is why you believe in him, as he seems to add nothing to your worldview, really. And... what it all has to do with eating crackers in a ritualized way!

Jesse Weinstein

@Ronald King

You mentioned your "desire at this point in time is to actively participate in efforts to challenge the hierarchy of the church" and that you "began this process in 2007."

If you don't mind, could you expand on what actions you are taking to achieve this? And/or point me to some websites of organizations you are working with? A quick web search brings up bishop-accountability.org, catholics4change.com and VoiceOfTheFaithful.org. Are you working with any of those groups? I don't disbelieve your statement that you are working to change the church, but I'd like to know more.

Ronald King

I know of these groups Jesse. My efforts have been on an individual basis thus far with time permtting due to the time and energy consuming nature of my work and since 3/2010 I have been recovering from esophageal cancer and hope that will be complete in another 6 weeks.

Ronald King

Maria, I wish I knew how to highlight your points and bring them into the combox but that is another thing I must learn. Yes, I am that dense at times. Sometimes, I think it's the lingering effect of chemo because it is difficult for me to concentrate well enough to read, comprehend and write like I used to before treatment. I am not saying this for any pity, it's just for your info. I miss being able to connect ideas quickly from varied experiences and resources and write them immediately into a coherent statement. If you think you are frustrated with me, so am I.
Back to the God thing and the reality of all this suffering. Like I said I left Catholicism as soon as I left home in 1966 and went into the Air Force at 18. I did not believe what I had been indoctrinated into because if God loved me like they told me then why didn't I feel his love. The people who taught me this never really showed me the love they talked about, it was all about going to hell or heaven depending on what you thought or how you acted. One thing it helped me with was to be more aware of how I treated others. However, I am an introvert and therefore, I was naturally born to be sensitive to the interpersonal dynamics of human relationships in terms of doing no harm. By the way, I was an altar boy. My best friend in the AF had a degree in psychology and he was the major influence in my interest in the field. I wanted to discover why I was so fucked up. See what happens I have to fill in areas that I think are important for you to understand so you can get a clearer picture of how I got here. Started transcendental meditation in 1970 and got my BA in psych in '73. M.Ed in counseling psych in '77. Worked in the field until 3/2010. Private practice from '91 to 2010. Along the way read Krishnamurti, Ouspenski and Gurdjieff, practiced mindfullness since '74, picked up some knowledge about quantum physics especially interested in a particular theory called quantum entanglement and how that may apply to human relationships(which influences me to inquire about the subjective dispositions that influence thought and behavior), interpersonal neurobiology(great info here which destigmatizes mental illness)--as a matter of fact I have come to believe that those we label as mentally ill are the "canaries in the coal mine" who are our warning signals letting us know how we are fucking up everything before we are consciously aware of it. They do not have the filters we have developed to live in the violence of this world and are constantly inundated with the force of this violence from my understanding of quantum entanglement. See what I mean. I am tired now. More later if you do not think this is a waste of your time.

Strakh

@Ronal King:
I've watched your song and dance here quietly, but I've had enough. Now that you're pulling out the pity party of *I've been sick* as an excuse for bald-faced disingenuousness, I'm stepping in.
You want a pity party, big boy? I've had a heart attack and a stroke, results of battling an incurable nerve disease, and I'm not yet 55.
Alright, even-steven. Time to deal with you.
Don't you sound all spiritual? I mean, Ouspensky! Wow, like, I'm impressed. Let me see.... oh, yeah, that was the sleazeball who said the moon is an actual living, embryonic being sucking the *soul juice* out of us. No wonder you partake in ritualized cannibalism... need to get that *soul juice* back, eh?
And another thing: I have a degree in mathematics and physics and if I hear one more idiot misapply the word *quantum* to anything psychological, my meds won't keep me from barfing. The misuse of the term quantum entanglement is merely a cover for the new-age idiocy of applying meaning to meaningless coincidences. Get your butt back to college and get a real degree!
You are an example, Ronald, of the typical *spiritualist*: sample a little of this, a little of that, believe the stupidest crap, and become a Catholic, or a Jew, like Madonna.
If you need to eat flesh and drink blood to be reminded of the most basic of animal emotions, empathy; you haven't really learned anything in your *journey*.
You want the reason I'm sick of you and your ilk, Ronald?
You support the single most evil organization on this planet, slither onto a blog of a person dedicated to really doing good on this earth, and then vomit up some of the most disingenuous crap I've seen.
And then when you're caught in your little prevarications, you pull out the *I've been sick* excuse!
Can you slime any lower?

Strakh

@ Greta Christina:
I know you can handle someone like Ronald, but I just couldn't stand it any longer.
Apologies if my post was too strident. After so many years of listening to this stuff and never seeing any improvement, I'm pretty danged sick of it all.
I do admire your desire to continually engage people who clearly do not have the desire to learn.
And I do quote you when I dissolve into sputtering anger. Your phrasing is too good to pass up for some of these mealy-mouthed prevaricators like Ronald and AgnosticTom.
Keep up the good fight!
And, oh yeah,
Ramen!

Ronald King

I knew the rage would come and I knew writing what I did about my health would trigger such a response. You sound depressed. It is not even-steven. Your condition appears much more harmful than mine. I know there is nothing I can say to change what you believe about me. I agree with you about Ouspensky's moon bs. You do have to separate the bs from the not bs.
I have sat face to face with rage like you are expressing and I know that there is a lot of pain that the rage protects from others seeing and I know how vulnerable a person feels without that protective rage.
You will believe what you want to believe about me because it justifies your powerlessness and helplessness and distracts you for a period of time so you do not have to think about your illness.
Rage on, but, I suggest raging out loud to those who care about you and letting them in on how much you are hurting and how scared you are.
I do expect you will disagree with me. I was merely being open about my illness.

Sarah

Well, Strakh, you asked if he could slime lower. There ya go.

AgnosticTom

The venom here is truly astounding. I haven't encountered this much irrational anger and defensive closed mindedness since I left the Baptist church over 40 years ago for the same reasons I say good-bye to this site.

What you disagree with you call mealy-mouthed prevarication. How sad for you.

You guys are simply too religious and blind to it. Enjoy your closed circle.

Very disappointing waste of time.


Ronald King

I agree Tom. It wasn't a waste of time for me. I was taught once again how hard people can get in order to defend themselves from the pain of being vulnerable. An analyst named Winnicott once said, "It is a pleasure to be hidden, but a disaster not to be found." Blind hostility can be found equally on the right and left. Unresolved rage is the god of each side.

kagerato

The comments have been a little harsh to Tom and King here. That doesn't make what they've said coherent, unfortunately.

I have no real understanding of why people enter an open thread and post comments which are known to be hostile to the prevailing viewpoint, most especially when those comments are restating issues which have been addressed many times before. It doesn't make sense; you'd have to be a real masochist to enjoy something like that.

In case either of you is actually dense enough not to know why you got a hostile response, this is it: you didn't respond to what was said to you. Your "communication" is similar to talking to a wall. That does tend to have an impact on people.

There's also one other aspect to this: a lot is assumed about the tone of writing. No one can fairly claim what the intended tone of another person's statement was. In that context, I try not to read between the lines because what typically lies there is one's own bias.

Lynn Wilhelm

Both Ronald and Tom are expressing what someone recently called "Patronizing Spiritual Pity".
Ronald's 2nd to his last comment simply drips with it.

Maria

Maria, I wish I knew how to highlight your points and bring them into the combox but that is another thing I must learn.

This is an excuse.

Yes, I am that dense at times.

I simply do not believe that.

Sometimes, I think it's the lingering effect of chemo because it is difficult for me to concentrate well enough to read, comprehend and write like I used to before treatment.

You have been able to write very long comments here throughout, and seemed to be content with those explanations. It’s only when we push you about things you don’t like to answer that you bring this up.

I am not saying this for any pity, it's just for your info.

The info is irrelevant in this case. I wanted my questions answered and you seem able to write both long and short. I can’t see, in the light of what you have already done here, that this illness would make it possible for you to go on at length about just about everything else than simple answers to simple questions.

I miss being able to connect ideas quickly from varied experiences and resources and write them immediately into a coherent statement. If you think you are frustrated with me, so am I.

This kind of evasion of questions are very common among believers, it’s nothing new. Sometimes I am bored enough to give it a go anyway.

Back to the God thing and the reality of all this suffering.

You have still not addressed the “god thing” in way shape or form.

Like I said I left Catholicism as soon as I left home in 1966 and went into the Air Force at 18. I did not believe what I had been indoctrinated into because if God loved me like they told me then why didn't I feel his love. The people who taught me this never really showed me the love they talked about,

You are likewise not really showing the love here, that you talk about.

it was all about going to hell or heaven depending on what you thought or how you acted. One thing it helped me with was to be more aware of how I treated others.

The “going to hell-thing” has not changed.

You still need to work on how you treat others. It is actually rather rude to come to a blog clearly dedicated to a certain subject, make statements you know are opposite of the blog’s views, and then, when asked further questions about your statements, ignore people’s questions, evade them in the most egregious manner, and then – to top it all off – trying to “psychoanalyze” people in an obvious attempt to dismiss their very valid objections as something only born out of their emotional shortcomings. You treat people very rudely!

However, I am an introvert and therefore, I was naturally born to be sensitive to the interpersonal dynamics of human relationships in terms of doing no harm.

You are not as good at this as you think.

By the way, I was an altar boy. My best friend in the AF had a degree in psychology and he was the major influence in my interest in the field. I wanted to discover why I was so fucked up.

Still, all you do is to - not so very subtly – hinting at that everyone else is fucked up, and that’s why we can’t understand you.

See what happens I have to fill in areas that I think are important for you to understand so you can get a clearer picture of how I got here.

No, you are only trying to evade valid objections to the statements you have made here. It is fooling no one. This is not important for me. There is nothing of substance to understand. I asked some questions, answer them or not, but understand that your evasion tactics are not working.

Started transcendental meditation in 1970 and got my BA in psych in '73. M.Ed in counseling psych in '77. Worked in the field until 3/2010. Private practice from '91 to 2010. Along the way read Krishnamurti, Ouspenski and Gurdjieff, practiced mindfullness since '74, picked up some knowledge about quantum physics especially interested in a particular theory called quantum entanglement and how that may apply to human relationships(which influences me to inquire about the subjective dispositions that influence thought and behavior), interpersonal neurobiology(great info here which destigmatizes mental illness)—

So? You have a long history of dabbling in woo. We have kind of already got that.

as a matter of fact I have come to believe that those we label as mentally ill are the "canaries in the coal mine" who are our warning signals letting us know how we are fucking up everything before we are consciously aware of it.

Nonsense.

They do not have the filters we have developed to live in the violence of this world and are constantly inundated with the force of this violence from my understanding of quantum entanglement.

More nonsense.

See what I mean.

No!

I am tired now. More later if you do not think this is a waste of your time.

I believe your own time is all you really care about, and this seems to amuse you, for some weird reason. Or it's some kind of martyr- or persecution complex that you're feeding. (I can play that game too.)

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