The Totalitarian Ambition of the Religious Mind

February 9, 2011

Atheists struggle with penetrating the minds of religious believers. We get exasperated by religious convictions, because it seems so obvious to us that those convictions should not satisfy any intelligent mind. But somehow those convictions are satisfying, to smart minds as intelligent as ours, to normal minds that suffer from no mental illnesses or dementias. 

Religious convictions bewilder atheists. We turn to any available explanation for such a strange phenomena, strange because we can't see how they could exist. Reason and evidence can't justify religion, so there MUST be some other explanation, some cognitive failure or emotional override happening somewhere in a religious believer's brain. Religious minds must be distinctively crippled or warped, held back by bad wiring or distorted by odd desires.

And so there is an entire atheism industry devoted to propagating explanations for religion that point to this or that deficit in rationality, or diminishment of intelligence, or dereliction of logic, in the minds of believers. This industry goes way beyond complaining, as skeptics always have, about how believers stubbornly match atheist arguments with their own. We all see how arguing about God only gets so far. But this new irrationality industry is ready to just quit. It is one thing to keep arguing with believers over reasons to believe in God; it is quite another to start assuming that believers lack enough reason to profit from debate.

Probably some religious believers do suffer from lapses in logic; we all do from time to time. But that atheist industry devoted to denigrating religious minds has accomplished little beyond inspiring tribal contempt towards believers as subhuman and unworthy of intellectual respect. Even worse, social and cognitive scientists are turning away from atheists selling that irrationality story, since good evolutionary and cultural accounts of the emergence of religion don't have to postulate any intellectual deficit. There isn't even any need to rely on a knowledge deficit, since "primitive" peoples had sufficient motivation to tell and re-tell stories of gods even if they had understood where lighting came from and what the sun was made of. No longer can responsible accounts of religion's origins start from the stupidity of the first religious people.

I suspect that atheists who are happy to throw believers into the irrationality bin are ignorant of some cognitive psychology. The human mind naturally seeks explanations so desperately that it will habitually prefer bad explanations to no explanations. The triumph of modern scientific rationality is not really about its capacity to supply knowledge -- rather, its genius rests on a novel ability to tolerate ignorance. Knowledge has been accumulated of course, thanks to modern science. But the modern scientific mind, so grateful for explanatory knowledge, is even more grateful for its liberation from the tyranny of explanation. Scientific minds are the ones which are artificially abnormal, not religious minds. In order to have a scientific mind, you have to be trained to be comfortable with not knowing everything. You have to be comfortable with small facts, dimly perceived laws, and huge explanatory gaps. You have to be comfortable with leaving unknown things unknown for a while, perhaps for a lifetime, and perhaps forever.

Claude Lévi-Strauss, the famous French anthropologist, died last year at age 100. You can read a nice survey of his work over at The Nation . I was reading his classic work, Myth and Meaning , and was struck by his version of the difference between scientific and non-scientific minds. The difference is not that one cares for evidence and explanation, while the other does not. Quite the opposite: the unscientific “primitive” mind has an intense practical obsession with every minute particle of evidence available in the environment, to a degree that makes us moderns seem blind by comparison. Rather, the difference lies in the degree to which an all-encompassing explanatory web is pursued by the mind. The primitive mind spins out mythologies in order to guarantee that all evidence enjoys some rightful place in a total unified explanation of everything.  

In Levi-Strauss’s words, the function of mythology is

“... to reach by the shortest possible means a general understanding of the universe -- and not only a general but a total understanding. That is, it is a way of thinking which must imply that if you don’t understand everything, you don’t explain anything. This is entirely in contradiction to what scientific thinking does, which is to proceed step by step, trying to give explanations for very limited phenomena, and then going on to other kinds of phenomena, and so on.... So this totalitarian ambition of the savage mind is quite different from the procedures of scientific thinking. Of course the great difference is that this ambition does not succeed. We are able, through scientific thinking, to achieve mastery over nature -- I don't need to elaborate that point, it is obvious enough -- while, of course, myth is unsuccessful in giving man more material power over the environment. However, it gives man, very importantly, the illusion that he can understand the universe and that he does understand the universe. It is, of course, only an illusion.” ( Myth and Meaning , 1995 edition, pp. 5-6)

This “totalitarian ambition of the savage mind” isn’t really “savage” (the better translation of ‘sauvage’ is “wild” or “primitive”) but only undisciplined by science’s modern ways. The foremost disciplinary lesson of science is not to seek knowledge – human minds naturally try -- but instead to restrain one’s quest for comprehensive explanation, to rest content with only firmly connecting a few strands of nature rather than entangling all of nature’s ways into one thin net. The religious mind is the more natural mind, not the less intelligent mind. The mythological ambition is everywhere; it’s not only in religious traditions, but it has persisted throughout most of philosophy as well. Aristotle’s four modes of causation and his drive to prove one First Cause of everything is a totalitarian manifestation, as is Leibniz’s principle of sufficient reason. We hear echoes of this “totalitarian ambition” in our contemporary theologians who demand explanations for everything and complain that faith in God must be preferred to science’s halting steps towards partial knowledge. We hear the mythological mind at work when religious people challenge atheists to explain the whole universe if there wasn’t a Creator.

The human mind naturally seeks explanations for everything – this is the glory and the curse of a large cortex. Religion demands, and too easily finds, “explanations” for all evidence. Science likewise demands explanations for the evidence, but finds knowledge instead of myth by demanding that a genuine explanation must demonstrate an actual natural process at work. Religion does not originate in any lack of rationality, but rather in an excess of exuberant intelligence. Science is content with partial, fallible, and revisable knowledge, while mythology offers totality, infallibility, and certainty. Finding the totalitarian mythology so satisfying to the intellect, religious believers do not understand why they should abandon their religion. When atheists complain that believers just don’t care for good explanations, believers reply that they already enjoy the best explanations. When atheists complain that believers must suffer from a rationality deficit, believers reply that the worse irrationality is to ignore a satisfying explanation when science has nothing by comparison. What looks like trivial illusion to the scientific mind actually looks like glorious reality to the mythological mind. This confrontation is not ultimately about evidence or rationality, as if one side has more of it than the other. This confrontation is about how two different kinds of intelligent minds do their work.

This stand-off between the mythological and scientific modes of intelligence cannot be overcome by more intelligence. That would be like trying to deal with an overflowing bathtub with a firehose of water. Intelligence has to be harnessed and tamed -- scientifically disciplined minds are made, not born. All the same, there is no need to give up arguing with religion, as if nothing can be done. Understanding the mythological mind does not authorize yet another hasty call to surrender the argumentative effort. Quite the opposite: atheists must try all the harder to encourage religious people to respect intelligence and science, and atheists must exemplify that respect themselves by respecting their opponents’ minds. Yes, atheists, you do have to respect religious believers’ minds even as you explain why you can’t respect their beliefs. Would atheists really demonstrate how to properly respect intelligence by first announcing that little intelligence can be found among believers? Besides, appealing to science and restrained rationality can have a real effect on religious minds, since most people nowadays have at least an acquaintance with science’s ways. And there are other ways, emotional ways, to argue with a religious person that their God can’t be quite so good as they think.

So scientific culture will have to continue to do what it always has done: instruct the young, and enlighten the old. Mythology will always be with us, but so will science. Myth cannot ultimately prevail. In the long run, mythology does not strengthen the human mind. A strong mind finds satisfying comfort in knowing what it actually does know, and knowing what it does not know.

 

Comments:

#1 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 at 6:16pm

I am deeply honored that you don’t regard me through the lens of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens. Nevertheless, I remain a savage who is at least worthy of some compassion, but still embroiled in the darkness of religious myth, rather than science.

However, I am left to wonder how is it that there have been great scientists who have also bowed to the myth. How can this be? Is religion really opposed to doing science? Is it any more scientific to believe that everything naturalistically came out of nothing rather than from an eternal Being? Or that all of the unchanging laws of physics along with all its fine-tuning arose from an explosion? Or that life just happened? Or that consciousness is just a property of matter?

I’m perplexed, but I guess that if I keep reading you educated atheists, I’ll eventually figure it all out!

#2 Daniel SChealler (Guest) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 at 6:35pm

But that atheist industry devoted to denigrating religious minds has accomplished little beyond inspiring tribal contempt towards believers as subhuman and unworthy of intellectual respect.

The intellectual respect bit seems fair enough.

But I’m not sure where you get the ‘subhuman’ from. I can’t recall a prominent atheist author that wasn’t also a passionate advocate of universal human rights, or one who didn’t firmly respect the rights of an individual to believe as they see fit, and the rights of religious people to engage in debate in the public square.

I certainly haven’t *ever* read a prominent atheist text that suggests religious people (or any people at all) are born sinners, constructed from dust or a clot of blood, to which we shall return, and we are so lowly and craven that we should be desperately grateful even for this - for to take pride in ourselves is the highest of sins.

Can’t think of a single atheist author who would suggest anything like that.

I must not have been paying attention.

#3 L.Long (Guest) on Wednesday February 09, 2011 at 7:32pm

I have never seen any big time atheist claim religious people are stupid. At least the religious leaders are not stupid as it takes fairly high intelligence to be a successful con artist.
The religious can believe anything they wish, all most atheist care about is their propensity to force their BS onto everyone else.
If they would leave everyone else alone I for one would not care what they believe.
But I know that the majority will always be religious because most people would rather life a comforting lie then live with a hard truth.  They are scared spit-less by death and what is after.  Religion gives a delusional answer so that is what they will go with.

#4 Doug Kirk (Guest) on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 6:30am

“I am deeply honored that you don’t regard me through the lens of the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens.”

Actually, it’s the Dawkinses and Hitchenses (and Dennets and Mcreights and Christinas and Harrises) of the world who tend to agree with this post.  Dawkins never plays down to religious people; expecting them to not understand what he’s talking about. He treats you as if you are capable of understanding and reason.

The people who treat religious believers with contempt and pity and bemoan their inability to understand and advocate handling all beliefs with kid’s gloves are outspoken critics of Dawkins and Myers.  They frequently tell atheists who treat believers with respect while arguing against their beliefs to stop treating believers with respect and start respecting their beliefs.

#5 Daniel mann (Guest) on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 7:04am

Doug,

In one sense I agree with you. Some of the accommodationists make believe that there isn’t some very deep-seated worldview differences, and construct artificial, non-competing zones of concern and influence in an attempt to maintain a false peace. However, the likes of Myers and Dawkins destroy any hope of peace and genuine communication with their unbalanced vitriol.

#6 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 12:27pm

It would be interesting to see religion and the religious examined with this inquiry:

What role does ego and status have among the religious?
For centuries, christians considered themselves superior to non-christians.  Christians justified and thoroughly enjoyed any number of brutal, sadistic acts through their belief.  I think one could make the case that religion allows and creates a tremendous sense of supremacy.  Supremacy allows—some would argue that it requires—the “superior” to treat the “inferior” as badly as possible.  Supremacy—to many—doesn’t seem to be satisfactory unless there is real evidence of their higher position.  The suffering of others is the greatest evidence.

To have this supremacy codified and justified by a god would be very compelling.  It allows the cruelest behavior to be not only excused, but celebrated.  If any doubt this, read some accounts of christians murdering Jews or other heretics.

I agree with the author that the religious are not religious because they are just dumb.  Religion connects to many elements of human psychology.  It has been shown that while Buddhist monks are in meditation, the area of the brain that harbors feelings of compassion is more active.  In that capacity, religion is allowing a few to expand the better qualities of humans.  However, this seems to be the exception.  My reading of history shows that religion, particularly christian and muslim religions, connects to those parts of the brain that enlarge the ego (that part of ourselves that wants to feel superior to others).

To many religious, their religion not only explains the origin of humankind, but, more important, gives them such a profound sense of supremacy that nothing else matters.  It is much like talking to a heroin addict who refuses to accept any rational information about the dangers of their drug.  The effect of the drug is too compelling to believe that it is dangerous.  Same with the religious: their psychological/social elevation is far too important to be burdened by rational information.  It is the ego that matters.

#7 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 2:09pm

REM,

Although people might have abused Christianity in the manner that you suggest, it actually represents the antithesis—Christ humbles us in order to bless us; He shows us what we are all about so that we can’t look down on others. Here’s one of Jesus’ parables that exemplifies this principle—Luke 18:9-14.

#8 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 3:00pm

Daniel,

I’m less interested in the philosophy as I am in the behavior of christians.  And the behavior of christians is what has led me to conclude that the main purpose of christian religion is to elevate the believer.  It is about status, not good morals.

All you have to do is listen to the christian traditional marriage advocates to conclude that christian’s want to elevate themselves at the expense of others.

#9 Daniel SChealler (Guest) on Thursday February 10, 2011 at 3:02pm

No True Scotsman incoming in 3… 2… 1…

#10 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Friday February 11, 2011 at 10:29am

Rem,

I’m surprised and disturbed by your perceptions, which are antithetical to the entire Christian message. We recognize that everything good that we have comes purely as an undeserved gift from God (1 Peter 1:17; 1 Cor. 4:6-7), and therefore, we are instructed to regard ourselves as “unworthy” or undeserving:

•  Luke 17:10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are UNWORTHY servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

#11 Naikaidiver on Friday February 11, 2011 at 10:35am

What a thought-provoking article!

I have observed in my studies that much of the scientific method we adhere to seems to have been developed over time by enlightened people searching for evidence of “God”.  Aristotle, Keplar, Gallileo, Copernicus were all very religious, yet methodical men pursuing the truth behind the observable, reproducable patterns in nature.  Where these men differed was what actions they took when their observations were contrary to their faith.

While I do agree that religious people seek a similar level of “understanding” of their universe, the root, basic logic within is the fundemantal barrier in reasoning with the scientific community.  That logic being “My faith teaches me (x). I have faith in (x).  I desire evidence to support (x).”  This of course is in sharp contrast to the scientific method.  “I have observed (x).  (x) has been repeated and scrutinized by peer-review.  I can accept that (x) is true until (x) is proven to be (y).”

This fundamental difference in approach is (what I believe) to be the principle point to remember when debating with the religious.  Recognizing the different in thought process while respecting convictions is the key to maintaining civility and tolerance.

#12 Jon of Kent (Guest) on Friday February 11, 2011 at 2:05pm

Bizarre - this is exactly what I’ve always thought, but exactly the other way round.  It’s always seemed to me that science is never content with saying “I don’t know”, and must always find an explanation.  And that explanation must always be “scientific”, even though it has been proven that not everything that is true can be proven.  Or perhaps I mean the popular view of science, which is that it has proven this or that, whereas the truth is actually that we just have a best hypothesis to cover the evidence.  Scientists in my experience are usually very lacking in the humility to say “I don’t know”, much less to admit the possibility that the correct explanation may be through a strictly unscientific statement (i.e. one not provable to be false).

The idea that religious people need things to be more defined than those scientists is, in my experience, just completely wrong.  But it’s always possible that my experience is unrepresentative I suppose.

#13 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday February 11, 2011 at 2:37pm

Daniel,

Before the relevancy of scripture can be entertained, you must first establish that your god idea is not logically unverifiable.  Thus, I need a way to falsify your god idea.  Second, once the idea has been deemed falsifiable, I need some sort of testable evidence that would give—at the very least—a strong suggestion that your god exists.  I’ve asked many christians for this information and have gotten a lot of dissembling.  If you can’t provide what I asked, please don’t bore me with something tangential.

The historical record, not philosophical teachings, are the best way to determine of how to view christians.  And the record is clear: christians have repeatedly used their beliefs to bully, oppress, enslave, torture, and kill those who disagree with them or those who make useful laborers.  That christians enjoyed doing this is well documented.  That christians consider themselves superior to non christians is just as well documented.  One is left to conclude, then, that the primary function of christian religion has been to inculcate and exaggerate a sense of supremacy into the christian. 

This becomes very clear when one hears christian complaints about muslims, atheists, and gays.  I stand by my earlier observation: christianity is—essentially—about status, not good morals.

I don’t expect you to change your opinions.  You have provided just what I expected: a rather angry rebuttal relying on religious abstractions rather than documented behavior.  That christians get angry when their religion is challenged doesn’t surprise me at all.  Secular values challenge the christian’s historical social supremacy.  And it is about time: to elevate someone whose belief system leads to vicious intolerance, a love of cruelty, and anti-intellectualism is counter-productive to human development.

Quoting scripture doesn’t change past actions.  And, actions are what matter.

#14 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Friday February 11, 2011 at 4:03pm

NaiKaiDiver,

While I agree with you in principle, everyone comes to the table or the laboratory with their worldviews and presuppositions, not only “religious” people (after all we’re all religious!). We all wear a lens through which we assess the data. If this is the case, the question then becomes, “which lens help bring the data into focus and which obscure?”

#15 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Friday February 11, 2011 at 4:13pm

Rem,

Far be it from me to “bore” you further. You ask for criteria by which ID (supernaturalism) can be dis-confirmed. Just give me criteria how naturalism can be invalidated, and I’ll be glad to give you mine.

//And the record is clear: christians have repeatedly used their beliefs to bully, oppress, enslave, torture, and kill those who disagree with them or those who make useful laborers.//

I don’t think that the record is as clear as you suppose, especially in light of the uniform track record of atheistic (communistic) nations. Perhaps you’d rather compare the experience of the Christian West to Islam, Spiritists or Hinduism?

You cite my “angry rebuttal,” but you don’t back it up with evidence. Instead, the record shows that it is you who are making unprovoked ad hominem attacks on Christians!

#16 Daniel Schealler (Guest) on Friday February 11, 2011 at 4:22pm

@Daniel Mann

//You ask for criteria by which ID (supernaturalism) can be dis-confirmed. Just give me criteria how naturalism can be invalidated, and I’ll be glad to give you mine.//

Demonstrable, reliable, and repeatable confirmation of communication from beyond the grave.

This isn’t as hard as it sound. Pass a secret message to someone who is about to die. Have them agree that if they do experience life after death they will do everything in their power to communicate with the living.

Once they die, find a medium that can provide the secret message.

Or perhaps better - submit a secret message to the dead via a medium. Then at a different geographical location, have that message replicated by another medium. See if the spirits of the dead can courier information reliably.

Once or twice could be subterfuge or a fluke - but if it was repeatable and reliable, that would put paid to our (or at least, my) notions of naturalism. I would be forced to acknowledge the existence of an afterlife.

I would also invest in any company that attempted to adapt this form of communication to military applications. I’m sure that reliably sending brief coded messages in situations when electronic signaling is not available would be worth a great deal to someone somewhere.

There you go. That’s one way you can invalidate naturalism.

Gosh. That was easy.

Your turn.

Also: This may get confusing. For the purposes in this thread, it would be a good idea if people refer to Daniel Mann as Daniel. I can be ‘Schealler’ or ‘Dan.S.’ or something.

#17 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday February 11, 2011 at 4:49pm

Any scientific idea can be falsified.  A rabbit in the cretaceous would disprove evolution as we know it.  An apple not falling to earth would disprove the theory of gravity.  Waiting for the same way to falsify your god idea.

If you doubt the brutality of christians, please see the PBS video, Secret Files of the Inquisition, please see the book, “The Dark Side of Christian History,” look into the early movement of Jerry Falwell where he used his religion as a defense against African American equality (once he saw he was losing that, he focused on using his religion to oppose gay rights), and any slave accounting from the 18th or 19th century will mention how atrociously christians treated Africans.  These are just a few suggestions.  I’m sure a librarian could help you find more.

As to communist states: I agree.  Communist Russia and China were just as oppressive as the very christian state of Nazi Germany.  If you doubt the christian influence of the Nazi’s, please see Steigmann-Gall’s “The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945” and Scholder’s “The Churches and the Third Reich: Preliminary History and the Time of Illusions 1918-1934.”

The historical record is pretty clear.  Secular democracies provide the individual with the greatest chance of fulfillment. 

Islam and christianity exaggerate the believer’s ego.  Hinduism exaggerates the top layer of hindu societies ego.  Totalitarianism—whether it an expression of christianity or secularism—leads to horrible crimes against humanity. 

None of my attacks were ad hominems. 

My earlier posts did not have citations because most educated people know how atrociously christians have behaved and are still behaving.  If you doubt this, google the very christian Ugandan, “Kill the Gays” bill. 

My contention has been consistent: christian religion inculcates and exaggerates the ego.  It is my observation that the appeal of christian religion is to elevate the believer and to lower the non believer.  With such a sense of superiority, christians have not only justified but celebrated their cruelty.  Public burnings of heretics, for example, was great theater and christians cheered as the flames enveloped their victims. 

The article was about not assuming that christians are christians because they are dumb.  I agree.  I suggested that looking at the ego as the source of the appeal for the belief may bear fruit.

#18 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Friday February 11, 2011 at 4:56pm

The posting above this one was directed at Daniel Mann.

#19 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 5:48am

Change a few words and references to this post and you could fit it exactly into the literature of modern antisemitism. 

The problems are so many and so obvious, in terms of evidence and logic that it would be impossible to go through them all. 

Let’s start with the idea of “the religious mind”.  There being no such thing as “the religion” that is inclusive of all thought and action that is denoted by “religious” it would appear that there are many different “religious minds”.  However, the CFI brand of atheism, being a polemical attack on all of these and being a pretty intellectually lazy and shoddy endeavor, will dishonestly lump all religious folks together and tar them all alike.

If there is a “totalitarian ambition” in the religious mind, how do you account for the provisions of the Civil Rights act of 1965, which made it illegal to discriminate against atheists and the non-religious?  That law was passed by people who professed religious, signed by a president who professed religion, maintained in law by a population that overwhelmingly is religious.

How do you account for the most notably successful totalitarian governments of the past century being mostly if not uniformly and officially atheist? 

CFI and those who founded it and its predecessor alphabet soup of organizations, make this post one of the most ironic things I’ve read on a blog.  There are few more intellectually totalitarian movements in the United States which have gained any traction in the alleged intelligentsia than yours.

#20 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 6:01am

The historical record, not philosophical teachings, are the best way to determine of how to view christians.  And the record is clear: christians have repeatedly used their beliefs to bully, oppress, enslave, torture, and kill those who disagree with them or those who make useful laborers.  That christians enjoyed doing this is well documented.  REM

You could have been more honest and replaced “christians” with “people”, though honesty isn’t any use to the promotion of bigotry.

I would like the list of early Quakers, Mennonites, Ebionites, and other Christians of that character who you can honestly add to your list of blanket condemnation.  During the period when the heroes of “scientific” atheism were promulgating depravity - Nietzsche, Thomas Huxley, for example - there were Christians who were struggling against capital punishment, war, slavery, the enslavement of workers and any number of other evils that would fall into your list.

I think that materialism is a far more potent motive for doing all of those things you blame on “christians”.  Especially when the materialist doesn’t hold that a person is just a pile of molecules that doesn’t hold inherent rights which can’t be accounted for by materialist ideology.  Looking at the products of physicists and chemists during the 20th century, most of them atheists or agnostics, I’d have to say that they have outdone the Christians of the same period in the death and destruction department.  Biologists are catching up, though.  I’d say that atheism is no more of a reliable brake on human depravity than Christianity has been, to say the least.

#21 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 12:17pm

Anthony,

I think you’re right: humans are capable of extreme cruelty.  I said as much when I commented about Communist Russia and totalitarian China.  Most institutional cruelty relies on a philosophy to justify it whether it be confucianism in imperial China, marxism in the Soviet Union, or christianity in the Papal States.

What I suggest is that the appeal of christianity isn’t about inculcating a sense of good morality (the historical record just doesn’t bear that out), but that it elevates the believer.  It exaggerates the ego.  I suggest that this elevation is a very deep.  I suggest that this elevation is how and why christians enjoy the suffering of others.

As to your short list of “good” christians, you may recall that early Quakers also owned slaves.  Yes, the Quakers ended up doing some good work, but it was a war, not the goodness of christians that ended that system.

As to your comments on materialism: realizing that a god doesn’t exist and therefore it can’t excuse, justify, or glorify murder or torture is a very good thing.  The historical record is pretty clear on this too: secular democracy has improved the human condition much more than any theocracy, kingdom, or totalitarian government has.

Anyway, all of that is an aside.  The point of my earlier comments was to suggest that into the role the ego plays in attracting christians would be productive.  Research done by Lionel Tiger and Michael McGuire strongly suggests that status is created biologically through serotonin and that religious services increase serotonin levels.  Take away the status, serotonin levels fall and more cortisol is produced, leaving the person feeling low.  That would explain why most christians get so vexed and angry when their religion is questioned: it affects their status.

It seems to me that you’re just another typical christian apologist whose status is compromised, so you cherry picked on this site and took comments out of context to make straw men arguments.  That would be another piece of evidence as to why christian religion will not improve the human condition.

Go figure.

#22 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 12:20pm

The following:

“The point of my earlier comments was to suggest that into the role the ego plays in attracting christians would be productive”

Should have been,

The point of my earlier comments was to suggest that looking into the role the ego plays in attracting christians would be productive

#23 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 1:35pm

REM, considering the selective reading of an enormously long history of an enormous number of people to stereotype “religion” or even “christianity” any “cherry picking” that I might have done is small potatoes by comparison. 

“the appeal of christianity isn’t about inculcating a sense of good morality (the historical record just doesn’t bear that out), but that it elevates the believer.  It exaggerates the ego.”  REM

Not based on what Jesus taught,  sell all you have and give the money to the poor, to save your life is to lose your life, there is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friend, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, judge not lest you be judged, etc.  By comparison the program of the materialists is rampant self-aggrandizement. 

You do know that it was Christians who instituted secular democracy in the United States and who have maintained it.  If Christians didn’t favor secular democracy, it wouldn’t have been retained and expanded throughout the history of the country.  That it is endangered today, as the “christianity” that somehow does without Jesus becomes more popular with “christians” and as fewer people are interested in trying to follow what he taught isn’t a surprise.  He is recorded as saying that his kingdom wasn’t of the earth, after all. 

While I’d like to get into what neuro-chemistry is alleged to show about this, lets just say that if God created people,  God would also have created the component materials out of which their bodies are formed.  Including proteins and enzymes and the ways in which they operate.

#24 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 2:04pm

1.  It doens’t matter what the writings say; it is behavior that matters.  And the behavior of christians over the centuries has been very poor.  Anit-semitism is a christian/muslim characteristic.  That is just one example—but a very strong one—of how christians have behaved.  Saying that this alleged Jesus would not have condoned it does not change the fact that it happened in his name.

2.  The constitution is a manifestation of the Enlightenment, not christian philosophy.  It was a large number of deists who initiated the constitution.  Jefferson, who was not a christian, was the one who insisted on the bill of rights. 

3.  The secular “New Deal” of the thirties did more to help the poor than any church did. 

4.  You wrote: “While I’d like to get into what neuro-chemistry is alleged to show about this, lets just say that if God created people,  God would also have created the component materials out of which their bodies are formed.  Including proteins and enzymes and the ways in which they operate.”

  What falsifiable, testable evidence can you adduce that even suggests—much less proves—there is a god.  Without such, bringing a god into a discussion about chemistry is ridiculous.

5.  Changing your screen name does not improve your argument.

#25 Daniel Schealler (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 6:09pm

I’m still waiting.

//You ask for criteria by which ID (supernaturalism) can be dis-confirmed. Just give me criteria how naturalism can be invalidated, and I’ll be glad to give you mine.//

I get it - we’re all busy, and probably have better things to do than natter away obscurely in the comments thread of some website.

All the same: @Daniel Mann

I showed you mine.

I’d appreciate it if you showed me yours.

^_^

#26 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 6:41pm

1. As I pointed out the things that people who call themselves Christians do is enormously varied.  You can’t honestly characterize it as you and Shook have.  As to what was said by Jesus, he’s hardly to be blamed if people using.  Antisemitism was hardly an invention of Christians, Hadrian and Antiochus certainly weren’t Christians. 

To say that what Jesus said is irrelevant in this discussion is patently absurd.  It’s only the difference between someone credibly asserting to follow him and their being a hypocrite.  I guess whether or not you find that an important issue might serve as a guide to explain some of the rest of this discussion.

2, The Constitution of the United States was written by people and adopted by legislatures which largely consisted of people who were mostly Christians and it was maintained by people who were also mostly Christians.  I believe that all of the legislative bodies which adopted the constitution, including the disestablishment and no religious test clauses,  were part of state governments with established churches, all of them Christian.  I’ve read loads of nonsense about the irreligious character of the people who wrote the Constitution, as well as people like Jefferson, but most of them were members of Christian churches.  The extent to which they actually followed the teachings of Jesus are open to discussion but unless they actually identified themselves as not being Christian.  For the record, Jefferson endorsed Joseph Priestly’s theology, and Priestly considered himself to be a Christian. 

3. Franklin Roosevelt said,  “I am a Christian and a Democrat, that’s all”.  I would tend to doubt that there were many of the people who are responsible for the New Deal who didn’t identify themselves as Christians.  You have a list of those who didn’t?  Most of its supporters were certainly Christians. The government of the United States is a secular but the New Deal and the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the one which made it illegal to discriminate against atheists and agnostic, among others, were the product of religious people, most of them Christians.

I’m not in the business of arguing the existence or not of God.  I’m in the business of rejecting bigotry and demonstrably false arguments on the basis of evidence and logic.  I also don’t happen to be a Christian.

Anthony McCarthy is my name, I stopped using a pseudonym about three years ago.

#27 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:06pm

1. You keep missing the point, probably intentionally: it doesn’t matter what this alleged Jesus allegedly said.  It is the behavior of christians that affects people.  I imagine it was little comfort to the Jews that this purported Jesus wouldn’t endorse them being burned alive, being boiled alive, or whatever sadistic torture was in style.

2.  Anti-semitism as it manifested in christian Europe was certainly a christian invention.  The Roman wars against the Jews were political, not religious.  European anti-semitism was religious.  The anonymous author known as John justified quite a bit of it.

3.  We would not have the bill of rights, which is what makes our constitution secular, had it not been for Thomas Jefferson.  You may consider Jefferson nonsense, but we wouldn’t have our secular state without him.

Further, all of those christians who were part of the constitutional convention deliberated not as christians, but as enlightenment secularists.  You may recall that the christian bible has nothing in common with our government.  If the founders had been influenced by christian sentiments we’d live in a theocracy.  So although some were christian, secular enlightenment views prevailed.

The one christian influence was the acceptance of slavery.  That is one area even Jefferson failed on.  And, yes, he should have known better.

4.  The legislation of the New Deal was done as secular law.  Roosevelt’s quote hardly detracts from that.  You might want to consider that it was the Quaker Hoover wouldn’t lift a finger to help the poor.

5.  Well Anthony your arguments sure sound like the idiocy I heard from Daniel Mann, particularly the parts about the philosophy of Jesus.  I suspect you’re lying about that.

6.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a christian.  You brought god into a discussion about chemistry.  I suspect you’re lying about being a christian anyway: you’re far too defensive to believe otherwise.

And, the point of my post, was that it would be interesting to examine the role of ego and status as the attraction of christianity.  I used the behavior of christians as examples of how an exaggerated ego with a belief in one’s own supremacy leads to the believer to engaging in what they consider justifiable cruelty.  You’re making this a discussion about something else.

Recalling the history of christians is not bigotry.  That tends to be the expertise of christians and muslims.

#28 Daniel Schealler (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:10pm

@Rem

Anthony has a history of missing the point.

#29 Daniel Schealler (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:12pm

Damn! Tried to post a link and it was stripped out.

1) the_totalitarian_ambition_of_the_religious_mind
2) where_can_science_and_religion_conflict

In the link to this page, replace 1) with 2).

#30 Daniel Schealler on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:15pm

And then I followed up with a link from the wrong bookmark. Typical.

Okay. Let’s try this again.

@Rem

Anthony has a history of missing the point.

#31 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:28pm

REM, Christians who murdered, tortured, etc. Jews are guilty of that, Christians who didn’t do that aren’t guilty of it, Christians who acted to protect Jews from bigots certainly aren’t guilty of it.  Do you think the Christians who hid Jews in places like Poland, at the risk of their own lives, are guilty of antisemitism?  You want atheists to be answerable for the people Stalin and his followers murdered?  I don’t, rejecting the idea of vicarious and group guilt. 

If you think I was lying about what Jesus said it could only be because you are entirely ignorant of the gospels.  Go read them or try googling the sayings I made reference to.  I’m wondering why you think I should take you seriously if you are that ignorant of Christianity. 

Slavery was certainly not a Christian invention, it being ubiquitous in the classical world.Though it was in countries where Christianity was prevalent that opposition to slavery first gained hold.  I believe St. Patrick might have been the first successful abolitionist, talking the Irish into giving up the practice, only to have the English reinstitute it.  You might want to look up John Woolman, for example, in the colonial period here.  Though you might not welcome what you would find out about him. If you start with him you might want to look at every major proponent of the abolition of slavery in the United States and Europe, who were largely Christians. 

I think you might be under the misapprehension that Thomas Jefferson wrote the Bill of Rights.  You might want to look up George Mason, often called “the father of The Bill of Rights, who was an Episcopalian. 

As to my “lying about being a Christian”,  why would I do that?  If I was a Christian I’d be under an obligation to own up to it, though I guess you might believe that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, which I believe isn’t allowed either.  I don’t believe in the Virgin Birth, vicarious atonement, the Trinity, or a variety of other Christian doctrines, though I’m open to the possibility that I’m wrong about them.

I’m always so interested in the empirical evidence folks who don’t seem to think they’re obliged to know the first thing about what they’re talking about.  I think the new atheism is a manifestation of the decline of education and literacy in the English speaking world.  You folks think you can read a few books by Sagan and Dawkins and you’re universal experts on everything.

#32 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 11:28am

Anthony,

You’re amazing: you’ve taken everything I wrote out of context. 

My posting began as a suggestion that looking into the role of status as the attraction to christianity would be interesting.  There is already empirical research done into the role serotonin plays in elevating the believer. 

I suggested that the role of ego and status would help explain the gruesome way christians have behaved over the centuries. 

As to slavery, I didn’t write that slavery hadn’t existed before christianity.  However, by the 18th century, ancient Roman, Greek, Egyptian, or Mesopotamian justifications or practices didn’t matter.  Christian doctrine prevailed and christian doctrine justifies and endorses slavery. Some christians opposed slavery, but their morality had evolved beyond christian philosophy because the bible is quite explicit about the legitimacy of slavery and how slaves are to act.

I did not write that Jefferson wrote the bill of rights.  I wrote that Jefferson would not agree to the constitution without them.  Now, you’re not only being disingenuous, you’re being dishonest.

As to the gospels, I’ve read the entire bible more than once.  I’ve had course work in biblical history.  The best biblical scholarship I’ve seen is Bart Ehrman’s work. 

What the killer is for me is how uniformed people like you ignore a historical fact: christian Europe was just as riddled with inequality and brutality as was the rest of the world.  For the first thousand years it was institutionally anti-intellectual and continued to be so to a lesser extent even after the Renaissance.  If this insipid religion had any moral force then why was Europe no different from Imperial China.  Scratch that, imperial China engaged in brutal acts; all kingdoms do.  But, imperial China never engaged in the anti-intellectualism that christian Europe did.  So, I guess the better question would be why was christian Europe more primitive than, say, Tang China.

There are christians who have been less horrible than others. There were some who were more sympathetic to Jews.  However, European anti-semitism is a christian manifestation.  Jews wouldn’t have needed a few (very few) decent christians to help them if the majority of them hadn’t been hell bent on oppressing, torturing, and murdering them. 

It is in anti-semistism that one sees how the elevated and exaggerated ego allows the believer to do the most gruesome of deeds and yet not only feel justified but “holy” about it.  That is what many see as the danger of religion in general and christianity specifically: belief in a god often leads to the believer justifying incredible atrocities.  It still is happening.  American evangelicals were the force behind getting a very, very christian Uganda to propose the draconian “kill the gays” bill.

As to you being interested in empirical evidence, when I cited work done by scientists looking into the role of serotonin and cortisol, you injected a god.  So don’t give me your ridiculous, smug “I’m always so interested in the empirical evidence” bullshit.  When presented with a scientific observation you brought in a supreme being.

Yes, I think you’re a christian.  You cherry pick like a christian.  You take things out of context as christians do. You defend christians based on christian writings and ignore christian behavior.  And you bring in a god when confronted with science.  These, in my experience, are all christian characteristics.  As to why you’d pretend, I’m not psychologist, so I won’t speculate.  If you need a diagnosis, I suggest you find a good shrink.

My suggestion to you is to read the post and figure out what is being said before you make knee jerk, christian, cherry picked comments to defend a religion that has justified incredible suffering.

And reading some Dawkins would do you well too.

#33 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 11:30am

@ Daniel Schealler

You wrote,

“Anthony has a history of missing the point.”

Ya think?


Cheers,
Rem

#34 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 12:12pm

CSI folk have a hundred ways to avoid information that refutes their faith.  The lexicon of pseudo-skepticism consists of nothing else.

REM, if your knowledge of biblical scholarship doesn’t include familiarity of some of the most prominent teachings of Jesus, I’m not sure that Bart Ehrman would be flattered by your endorsement.  But, then, it’s been a mainstay of pop-atheism that they always go with secondary and lower levels of information because they are uniformly lazy and superficial. 

You are not a skeptic, you are a bigot as is John Shook and pretty much the entire crew at CFI.  You are also ignorant in exactly the way that biblical fundamentalists tend to be ignorant and for exactly the same reason.  You believe you have the truth and don’t need to bother with that evidence stuff.

If you think I’m going to be bothered by the derision of people who are ignorant bigots, you are mistaken.

#35 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 1:19pm

@Daniel Mann, aka Anthony,

Seems to me that you’re the one who argues in vagueness.  I’ve given citations for most of my points.  I made it a point to cite the scientific evidence about serotonin and cortisol.  You’re the one who ignored that with a reference to a god.

And, yet again—how boring and tedious you are—I made the argument that actions are more important than the philosophy.  So, although I’m familiar with the teachings of this alleged Jesus, I doubt that was of little comfort to those who were burned alive by the adherents of christian religion.

Contrary to your rant, I have an open mind.  I specifically asked you for falsifiable, testable evidence that suggests a god exists.  You avoided my request.  Had you provided that information, I would have done what any secular humanist would have done: evaluated the merits of your claim.

However, as a secular humanist, I don’t entertain logically unverifiable ideas as true. 

If anyone has avoided evidence it is you.  (Projection is yet another christian characteristic.)

You are clearly Daniel Mann.
You are clearly a christian.
Thus, you are clearly a compulsive liar.  Add that to your pathology, which includes ignoring the original observation to argue about the merits of christians and the your frustration with secular humanists.

When you wrote the following, you were once again lying:

“If you think I’m going to be bothered by the derision of people who are ignorant bigots, you are mistaken.”

You’ve made it very clear that you care a great deal about what secular humanists think.  You’ve made it clear that you get bothered when we call you on your selective and bad argumentation.

So, rant all you want, but anyone reading this post will see that you’ve avoided the main point about the link between status, ego, and christian religion so that you could argue about what good people christians are and what bad people secular humanists are.

You christians, I’d forgotten how impossible it is to have a rational discussion that keeps on point.

#36 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 2:18pm

REM, since you thought I was lying about Jesus having said some of the most well known things he said, your ability to identify a Christian from someone who isn’t is probably not reliable. 

ACCURATELY identify what I said which you believe is a lie and I will provide corroborating evidence.  That is, if it’s something I actually said as opposed to what you’d like me to have said.

As to me being someone else, I’m rather well known on the new atheist blogs, you might say infamous. 

John Shook, you proud of your guys?  Would their level of thinking cut the mustard in in the old philosophy dept in Buffalo?

#37 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 2:26pm

You wrote,

“REM, since you thought I was lying about Jesus having said some of the most well known things he said, your ability to identify a Christian from someone who isn’t is probably not reliable.”

Where did I ever write that you lied about this alleged Jesus’s sayings.  I never discussed his sayings; I consistently—for the umpteenth time—discussed the behavior of christians. 

If you’re going to make up shit, there is no way to have a rational conversation. 

You are damaged.
Your hatred of secular humanists and John Shook compromises you.

#38 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 2:32pm

And I told you what I think is a lie:

You are clearly Daniel Mann.
You are clearly a christian.

You’ve made the same arguments—almost identical—as Mann and his posts stop where yours begin.

You’ve made the typical christian arguments and have the typical christian hatred towards secular humanists, so I think you’re a christian.

And, I think you lied about not caring about what secular humanists think of you.  You’re obsessed and you care.  That is really obvious.

And you’re extremely unbalanced.  I never said anything about what you said about this alleged Jesus.

#39 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 3:34pm

I don’t recall ever hearing of Daniel Mann before looking at this blog thread. I have been writing blog posts and commenting on blogs under my own name since 2008 and under a pseudonym before that. I have identified myself in relation to the two pseudonyms I have been posting comments under since about 2002,  I began using my own name when someone pointed out my posts were being plagiarized.  I think John Shook might remember me, as well as a number of prominent new atheist bloggers and their amazingly reiterative commentators.  For a new atheist to whine about arguments their opponents make sounding similar, it requires the invention of the classification “meta-irony”.  The original statements on the new atheist blogs are scarce enough to constitute outliers.  Though outright lies from then are tediously frequent.

I don’t care what ignorant bigots of any ideology say about me.  If there is a secular humanist who isn’t an ignorant bigot, I might care what they think of me, depending on what was said. 

Your ignorance of the most basic concepts and the history of Christianity is unusually profound even among new atheists I’ve encountered.  Not believing in vicarious atonement would be enough to disqualify me from being a Christian.  Though I’d imagine you might have to google the concept to know that.

Brights.  The original meta-irony.

#40 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 5:18pm

Rem,

You have already abundantly proved that vitriol and ad hominem attacks are your preferred weapons. I’m therefore probably foolish to respond to you at this point.

You are so adamant against the God-paradigm, that I don’t think that you are able to see the poverty of your own position, that there is absolutely no scientific support for naturalism. While we all argue that there are laws and that they operate formulaically, there is absolutely no evidence that these laws are natural, un-intelligent, undesigned, and un-supported by an unchanging Power. Instead, it makes far more sense that they all find their origin and sustenance in the Mind of God.

#41 Rem (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 5:31pm

You have completely ignored the argument and are incapable of addressing the points I made.

So, when addressing idiots, best to treat them like idiots.

Jefferson said something similar and I paraphrase: the ridiculous deserve ridicule.

I am not the only one who has noticed that you don’t keep to the point.

#42 Rem (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 5:42pm

As to your inanity about naturalism, that is a straw man.  The question needs to be, what testable, falsifiable evidence can you adduce that even remotely suggests a god exists.

Get back to me when you can provide that.

#43 Daniel Schealler on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 6:05pm

@Daniel Mann

Ah. Another comment from Daniel Mann.

Excellent.

Daniel, earlier you said this:

//You ask for criteria by which ID (supernaturalism) can be dis-confirmed. Just give me criteria how naturalism can be invalidated, and I’ll be glad to give you mine.//

I provided some criteria by which naturalism may be ‘dis-confirmed’

Are you still glad give me (us) your criteria for how ID (supernaturalism) can be ‘dis-confirmed’?

Of course, I put the term ‘dis-confirmed’ in quotes because it implies that ID or supernaturalism has been confirmed in the first place - and I do not accept that it has.

Very odd term, ‘dis-confirmed’.

#44 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 6:11pm

Jefferson said a lot of things. One of them was “I have read his Corruptions of Christianity, and Early Opinions of Jesus, over and over again; and I rest on them ... as the basis of my own faith.”

As a thorough reader. he could hardly have failed to read Priestly as he began:
Believing as all Christians do in the divine origin of Christianity and seeing at the present time The Church of Christ divided and dissected on a great number of questions, we may properly deem valuable in whatever measure contributes to lead mankind to a better knowledge of the opinions and practices of the first Christians.

Of course, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can read it yourself.

#45 Anthony McCarthy (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 6:21pm

I’m eager to see if you do any research at all.  If you or your buddies do, it will be apparent.

#46 Daniel Mann (Guest) on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 6:35pm

Rem,

You haven’t answered my question. In fact, until you learn some civility, our conversation is over.

#47 Daniel Schealler on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 6:55pm

So now Daniel Schealler, the unwitting superhero, was faced with a crucial choice.

How should he use his new-found powers of invisibility?

To fight crime?

... or for evil?

#48 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 8:48pm

@Daniel, aka Anthony,

How odd, Danthony, that Daniel’s most recent post and your most recent post are separated by mere minutes.

Danthony,

you wrote:

“there is absolutely no evidence that these laws are natural, un-intelligent, undesigned, and un-supported by an unchanging Power. Instead, it makes far more sense that they all find their origin and sustenance in the Mind of God.”

Let us understand what one another means.  Your quote assumes that a god or supreme being has designed the universe.  You assume that there is no evidence to disprove this claim. 

Let us understand what science is.  Science is the rational pursuit of understanding based on falsifiable ideas, tests that provide the same result repeated, and peer review.

As to your god idea.  You are correct: it cannot be disproved, but it can be dismissed because your idea is logically unverifiable. 

Consider the following:

Adorable, undetectable purple aliens control human governments; I know this because they whisper it to my mind.  Notice that by definition this idea cannot be disproved because the adorable purple aliens are undetectable.  Does the inability to disprove this logically unverifiable idea make the statement true?

Certainly not.  It cannot be disproved, but it must be dismissed.  All logically unverifiable ideas get dismissed.  Now substitute the word god or the words supreme being for aliens and you have the same argument and the same conclusion.

Consider, now, natural selection.  I look at the fossil record.  It shows species going extinct and new species emerging.  It shows this chronologically and it shows close resemblances between extinct species and emerging species. 

From this observation, I have an idea: I bet new species evolve from older species and that most species go extinct.  Before I continue, I ask myself, how might I falsify this idea.  Oh, if I found a human fossil in the cretaceous that would disprove my idea.  Yea!  I get to go on the the next steps of hypothesis, testing, more testing, and peer review.

Notice that there is a fundamental difference at the most basic level, the level of the idea.  God idea: logically unverifiable.  Scientific ideas, falsifiable.

Thus, whining that “there is absolutely no evidence that these laws are natural, un-intelligent, undesigned, and un-supported by an unchanging Power” is disingenuous.  The behavior of matter does not logically need an unchanging power to understand it and the idea itself can’t be falsified.  Your god idea gets dismissed. 

I suggest that after you get done pouting, you learn some basic logic.  Wishing for something certainly doesn’t make it true.

And, if you’re going to throw a tantrum because I engaged in the same kind of ad hominems as you yourself commited, then I suggest you change your tone.  I also suggest sticking to the argument at hand.

My thread was about the relationship between ego, status, and the appeal of christianity.  I certainly did not want to get into a discussion about something as basic as logically unverifiable arguments.  I would expect anyone who claims to understand logic to understand the concept.

And if you don’t want to engage me, good.  I’ve encountered your kind willfully stupid christian before and I don’t have the patience to entertain your puerile attempts to insult secular humanists.

If you can provide a falsifiable idea about your god, please let me know.  Until then, bugger off.

Best wishes,
Rem

#49 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 8:57pm

Oh, and Danthony, here are some of my favorite Jefferson quotes:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Danbury Baptist Association, CT., Jan. 1, 1802


Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814

As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurian. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.
-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, Oct. 31, 1819

 

Among the sayings and discourses imputed to him [Jesus] by his biographers, I find many passages of fine imagination, correct morality, and of the most lovely benevolence; and others again of so much ignorance, so much absurdity, so much untruth, charlatanism, and imposture, as to pronounce it impossible that such contradictions should have proceeded from the same being.

-Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Short, April 13, 1820

#50 Jim, Religion is Bullshit on Sunday February 13, 2011 at 8:59pm

@Daniel S:

You’ll have more fun and if will be more profitable to use your new found ability for evil.

Cheers,
Rem

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