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My CFI dilema
Posted: 22 December 2012 11:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
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By demanding an acceptance of a number of propositions as true without any supporting evidence and enforcing same while discouraging critical enquiry by the existential threat of hellfire and eternal damnation, it is also by it’s nature both irrational and oppressive.

Am I threatening anyone with hellfire?  Have I said anything about discouraging critical enquiry?  Have I demanded the acceptance of any proposition?  I propose that religious people, and people who believe in God but do not subscribe to traditional organized religion can exist in a society that bases legislation and social policy on secular values, without being detrimental to that society.  I don’t demand anyone accept it, though, dumb Christian that I am, am don’t see how some seem to find this suggestion so problematic.

I understand that religion has been, and can be oppressive for those reasons, but please read the type of religion that I suggest.  It is religion (Christian or otherwise) chosen, on a personal level, not imposed upon anyone, with no bearing on matters of state.

Think about it in these terms.  There is no concrete evidence for the abstract concept of romantic love.  People claim to feel it.  People interpret what they see in human relationships as the affects of romantic love.  As a concept, it is largely universal across cultures.  But none of that is concrete evidence, anymore than it is concrete evidence that people claim to feel the presence of a deity, interpret the natural world or human relationships as the affects of a deity, and believe in a deity or deities across cultures.  But would you suggest that a society in which some couples claim to be inspired by romantic love, while others prefer to chalk it up to biology or more practical concerns, cannot be, as a whole, a rational society…though some aspects of individual life, experience, and internal belief may not reflect what we strictly understand as rational?

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Posted: 23 December 2012 06:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
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If people who are in love tried to teach in biology classes that a heart has the shape of a stylized heart, it would be wrong. If they insisted that only people in love are morally stable to run for presidency, it would be wrong. But they don’t. People in love keep their beliefs to themselves. Well, most of them do. There are obviously enough people who think they know who other people should be in love with.

The problem here is that when you get enough people who believe in some nonsense in one place, say, in the USA, the minority will suffer. I don’t know if the number of religious people in the US is declining, but if true, it would indeed be a good news. Hopefully one day they will become as few and powerless as are other groups of people with dangerous and primitive beliefs, such as the KKK, for example.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
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RationalBeliever? - 22 December 2012 08:32 PM

I am not suggesting a society based on religious belief.  I am suggesting a secular, constitutional government, in which religion does not dictate legislation or social policy.  I am not trying to prove the existence of God.  Dare I say, I am “rational” enough to know it would be a pointless venture to try.  The only thing I am implying is that religion or personal faith, however you wish to define it, can be practiced or maintained on a personal and individual basis in a free, secular nation.  If I am trying to prove anything, it’s that religion doesn’t need to be entirely stamped out to make room for a rational, secular society.

Sounds fine to me. I have nothing against people practicing their religious beliefs in private, so long as they don’t hurt anyone.

Of course, I may disagree with the factual content of some of those beliefs, but so too do I disagree with the factual content of some non-religious beliefs, such as 9/11 trutherism, alien UFOs, Christ-mythers, or bigfoot.

RationalBeliever? - 22 December 2012 08:32 PM

My original posting was in response to an email from the CFI I received that was suggesting it was a positive thing that the number of people in the USA with religious affiliation was declining.

I imagine they were noting this in a positive manner because they felt that a larger percentage of religiously nonaffiliated would make it easier politically to retain the sort of secular government you also accept. Though I’m not sure about the precise facts here, you will anyhow agree that many religious people in the US disagree with a real separation between church and state. Judging by your comments, you will be on the same side as CFI, or Americans United, in opposing their moves.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
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Am I threatening anyone with hellfire?  Have I said anything about discouraging critical enquiry?  Have I demanded the acceptance of any proposition?

I think you’re missing the point. I did not say that you personally do things like that or that you even want to.

The problem is that organized religions do make such threats, and do discourage critical inquiry and do demand such acceptance.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 11:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
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George - 23 December 2012 06:13 AM

1.

If people who are in love tried to teach in biology classes that a heart has the shape of a stylized heart, it would be wrong. If they insisted that only people in love are morally stable to run for presidency, it would be wrong. But they don’t. People in love keep their beliefs to themselves. Well, most of them do.

2.

There are obviously enough people who think they know who other people should be in love with.

3.

The problem here is that when you get enough people who believe in some nonsense in one place, say, in the USA, the minority will suffer. I don’t know if the number of religious people in the US is declining, but if true, it would indeed be a good news. Hopefully one day they will become as few and powerless as are other groups of people with dangerous and primitive beliefs, such as the KKK, for example.

1. I understand where you’re coming from here.  I went to a Christian high school and got one strong cringe, followed by a lot of good laughs, when I discovered an artist’s rendering of Adam riding a dinosaur in the Garden of Eden in my tenth grade Biology book.  I had to debate this issue many, many, many times in high school, so nobody understands better than I that including faith-based explanations for the origin of the universe and life in science classes would be an ideological disaster, and in public school science classes, a constitutional disaster as well.  The more lenient among my classmates, who suggested that Evolution and Creationism should be taught side by side, apparently missed the logic that if such a compromise should be made (which is obviously a paradox in itself) it would have to be made across the board to avoid favoritism, presenting every religion throughout history’s origin story, from Scientology, to ancient Egypt, to tribal Africa and beyond as though each was legitimate scientific theory.  I was never able to explain to most of them that knowing in your heart of hearts that something is true, doesn’t make it true.  And that in the case of public schools in general, and science classes in particular, scientific evidence must be the only concern.

Neither do I show religious preference when I vote.  Actually, I generally prefer politicians with secular, or moderate approaches to religion, because I believe they are more capable of making decisions without bias. 

2. In case there was any doubt, I’m not one of them.  I would just as soon keep things regulated to adult human beings, but beyond that, people can love, marry or sport with whomever they please, so long as it’s consensual.

3. If this is the case, I am suffering too.  It causes me earnest distress to see the constitution I love, the constitution that defines this Nation for me trampled on by people who tell me I am not a true American.  I do not think a majority of any one religion would be healthy for society, unless each person managed to relegate their beliefs to individual conscience and not try to impose it on a public level.  I also know that is a tall order, because while human beings, religious or otherwise, are rational as individuals, but irrational collectively.  I am a little distrustful of majorities in general.  The idea of most people thinking or believing only one thing is frightening, especially if collectively they are not capable of separating private beliefs from the public sphere.  Even among non-theist peoples, surely disagreements occur that lead to productive debate and add color to the discourse.  In the same way, I think that people who believe in God (with or without specific religious affiliation) and people who are unsure, or do not believe can exist together, having interesting and varied philosophical discussions under the protection of a free government that does not favor any one side.  This of course is only possible on the condition that the theists don’t assume their’s is the only valid doctrine and tell the non-theists they are going to hell, and the non-theists do not dismiss the theists as “children.” 

I do not think my beliefs are dangerous, because they affect only me, and I do not impose them on others.  But, as I said, I understand that religion as a collective, institutionalized force can be dangerous.

I would like to put forth that there have been some cases in which widespread religious belief has been used as a force for good…the abolitionist movement, for instance.

[ Edited: 23 December 2012 11:43 AM by RationalBeliever? ]
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Posted: 23 December 2012 02:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
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There are two types of people, skeptics and those who have faith. I would like to believe you when you say that your beliefs are not dangerous to anyone, but, well, call me a skeptic. People who believe in Adam and Eve, homeopathic stuff, UFOs or some kind of new-age God, all fall in the same category in my opinion. It is not any one specific kind of a belief I find dangerous, but rather the fact that you can have blind faith to begin with.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
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But am I a dangerous person because I have blind faith in romantic love?  Is it somehow to the detriment of society that I choose to define my relationship in terms of romantic love, in addition to what I know about the science of sexuality and human reproduction?

Has not also atheism in the extreme been known to be dangerous to societies.  I cite France during the Reign of Terror, and the Soviet Union as examples.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 04:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
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Emotions, which is what romantic love is, play an important role. They help us act quickly when we don’t have time to reason or, in situations when we have a little more time to react, they can send us on a path to which we later on add rational thought; without emotions we would all be Spocks, which in our world translates to being psychopaths. People who get married while still in love (i.e., romantic love which lasts around the first three months) usually end up divorced.

There is nothing admirable, IMO, to hold on to an emotional experience such as faith when we have the chance to follow up with rational thinking. When you get millions of people together who’s opinion of our world compares to that of a six-year-old it can be dangerous.

And the communists had their irrational beliefs as well, which is why they thought that reeducating people not to be religious would be possible.

[ Edited: 23 December 2012 04:26 PM by George ]
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Posted: 23 December 2012 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
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Has not also atheism in the extreme been known to be dangerous to societies.  I cite France during the Reign of Terror, and the Soviet Union as examples.

Nope. Nobody has even said “Die Infidel Dog For Nothing.”

People have been told “Die Dog For Allah/Jesus/Mary/The Lord Of Hosts” etc.

What you saw in the French Revolution and in the Soviet Union was essentially an economic issue coming to the fore. Both may have advocated atheism, but nobody was ever taken to the guillotine or the gulags in the name of atheism. The excuse was the ever nebulous and ill defined “Crimes Against The People” or something similar. (Did you know that the Eastern Orthodox Church actually recieved some state funding from the Soviet Union during World War Two in exchange for it’s support of the war effort?)

I would like to put forth that there have been some cases in which widespread religious belief has been used as a force for good…the abolitionist movement, for instance.

Yes, people have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the one in prison, given comfort to the sick and dying, and have looked after the widow and orphan.

They have also been behind pogroms, persecutions, inquisitions, jihads, final solutions, crusades, ethnic clensings, human sacrifices, genocides, human sacrifices, wars of agression (God is always handy to jusitify that and whip up the masses) of every stripe, witch hunts and all other forms of hysteria, and all in the name of a god or gods the existance of which cannot even be proven by any sort of evidence.

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Posted: 26 December 2012 11:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
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I lay no claim to any zealots.  As for your own, you can keep them.

SInce I’m not a big fan of zealots of any stripe who espouse a “cause” over reason I won’t keep any of them.

I suspect that if I declared I did not believe in God on an Evangelical sight, I would be confronted by responses from people either telling me I was in the wrong place, or attempting to win me over to their way of thinking.  But really I see no need for anger on either side.  I went to a Christian high school, and was told for four years that I was going to Hell because I refused to believe in God in the same way that the predominant amount of the students and staff did.  I was surrounded constantly by antigay sentiment, people who had no concept of the Constitution, and one very enthusiastic student who boldly declared in a class debate that God did not love Democrats.  I had the frequent experience of my Government teacher asking our class to divide ourselves based on our opinions of current issues of civil rights, and found myself time and time again on a side with maybe two other people facing off against twenty

You were fed xtian propaganda that you knew to be nonfactual dogma and you weren’t angry? I presume that you had no imput as to which school you would attend? Xtian schools exist to indoctrinate their students with the religious dogma of the church or institution funding them, and I have no doubt that your government teacher was attempting to lead you and your fellow classmates to a predetermined conclusion concerning current issues by filtering them through that dogma. Kudos to you for being one of three dissenters. Peer pressure can be an effective tool for a teacher wishing to cram his beliefs down your throat. It’s to be expeted by those who are hired to spread the word.

maybe two other people facing off against twenty.  I understand how frustrating it can be to face a majority that comes to a debate armed with the Bible, when you come armed with the Constitution.  That sort of debate is as fruitless as one between Creationism and Evolution, because the two sides are debating on entirely irreconcilable terms.  But this experience did not make me angry toward all Christians. I must say, to my school’s credit, that I was told by members of the wiser staff that doubt and faith were but two sides of the same coin, and it is natural to question established beliefs, and even core moral issues in the Bible…and that through this, we come to a better understanding of God


That’s precisely why we have the !st Amendment and the separation of church and state. This is the reconciliation for those who believe and those who don’t: you may have your beliefs as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of other citzens to believe or disbelieve as they choose. Both may exist in this society and are separated by LAW and not custom. And actually the understanding you come to is how to reconcile a bronze age belief system in the modern World who’s problems have virtually nothing to do with shephards and small towns. The bible is a synthesis of the belief system of a Middle Eastern culture with the infusion of Greek philosophy and while it reveals human nature, it gives the reader no emperical evidence of a divine, supernatural being. To bridge the gap from faith to reality one may use the timed honored phrase “It (the bible) is god inspired” or other philosophical arguments that all boil down to belief.

 

issues in the Bible…and that through this, we come to a better understanding of God.  There is a grand tradition of philosophical Christianity that is based on doubt, and inquiry.  It may not be what we see 9 times out of 10 on Fox News, but fundamentalism as we understand it in today’s political sphere really only dates back to Jerry Falwell.  I have spent my life questioning, doubting, looking for answers, trying to resolve the contradictions that exist in religion in general, Christianity certainly not excluded, and engaging in a continuous internal debate.  Is that not inquiry?  Is that not even the very definition of skepticism?

 


First off the fundamentalist movement began with A.C. Dixon in 1910 after writing a series of books refuting evolution. Dixon wanted to counterbalance the growing belief in evolution in the xtian community with a literal interpretation of the bible as the inerrant word of god. The movement spread throughout the xtian community and received press attention at the Scopes Monkey Trial. From there it became a movement to surpass the dominant church belief system and on to the present with Graham, Falwell and their ilk when it entered the political arena with the Cold War of the 50’s. Indoctrination was much easier when we had to fight the evil of the Communist states. America became the bastion of fundamental xtianity as crusaders for jesus. Also, at some time in their lives, almost everyone questions and doubts their beliefs and actions. That’s human nature. I can tell you that you’lll never resolve the contradictions that exist in that cobbled together collection of philosophies and folk stories unless you suspend research and “just believe”. A skeptic uses the scientific method to reach conclusions, not based on hunches or intuition, e.g. I think there is a god because the bible makes sense rather than there is no physical proof that a supernatural entity exists and intervenes on my behalf.

As for my own beliefs, I would describe myself as a Deist with beliefs largely weighted toward the Judeo-Christian model.  You cannot be both Deist and Christian you say?  Well, people managed it for a large part of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, and what’s good enough for the great minds of the Enlightenment is good enough for me.  As for the problem of my defining myself as “Christian” you could do worse than to look to early Unitarianism, or New England Transcendental philosophy for a rough model.  Let me put it in terms easier to define.  Ask me how I vote on certain key issues, and see if it lines up with your image of what it means to be a Christian in America today


I should have qualified my remark by saying you can’t be both a deist and fundamentalist xtian as a Deist had no interest in dogma relating to the supernatural. They saw god as a distant entity who set the universe in motion and left having no particular interest in mankind after that. Xtians in America today, mainline protestant sects that is align themselves with evangelical fundamentalism and would consider deism a heresy or agnosticism. New England transcendentalism aligns more with deism than mainline faith, Emerson more than Thoreau who espouses a more naturalist philosophy. Personally I lean more toward Thoreau. And my image of modern xtianity is founded on my exposure to both mainline belief and fundamentalism and research including the works of John Wesley and the history of the two Great Awakenings in the U.S. Personally, after what you have posted in response to mine and others I find it extrodinary that you consider yourself a true believer. I will caution you that the more you research religion, the less of a believer you will be.

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Posted: 24 January 2013 05:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
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George - 21 December 2012 09:33 AM
dansmith62 - 21 December 2012 09:07 AM

What a load of nonsense, George. If you valued critical thinking, you wouldn’t mock people who don’t think like you do and rather learn to debate. BTW, I think you’ve failed to realize that this is a Center for Inquiry, not a Center for Mocking.

I see no problem in valuing critical thinking and, at the same time, mocking the idea of believing that somebody who has been dead for three days can become alive again. You, OTOH, have to choose. It’s either critical thinking, in which case you would have to accept that Christ couldn’t have become alive after being dead, or it’s Christianity.

If you truly valued critical thinking, you wouldn’t copy the views of biblical literalists who prefer simplistic interpretations of “becoming alive” or “walking on water”.

So, George, are you capable of challenging some of your assumptions?

[ Edited: 24 January 2013 05:37 AM by dansmith62 ]
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Posted: 24 January 2013 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
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CuthbertJ - 21 December 2012 10:58 AM

First of all, I think most embittered atheists wouldn’t be so if the likes of Jerry Falwell had never come to such prominence in the political sphere.  Once Christians try to affect laws that regulate non-Christians all bets are off.  I don’t know about other countries but the christians in the US are the most unChrist-like I can imagine.  Therefore they deserve to be mocked. And my guess is, if Jesus were alive today he’d join the mocking, especially because of all the evil Christians have done and continue to do in his name. Also, there isn’t this silly equivalence where anything goes under the guise of “being tolerant of all belief systems”. If some group wants to believe it’s ok to kill doctors who don’t agree with their beliefs on womens choice and womens right for example, I think it’s perfectly ok to not be tolerant with such a group.

I don’t tolerate intolerant Christians. I don’t tolerate evil Christians. A significant percentage of Christian fundamentalists, especially in the US, belong in these categories. I don’t. Still, George has been mocking me from day 1, when I joined this forum. To this day he has never tried to engage in a serious debate with me.

[ Edited: 24 January 2013 06:11 AM by dansmith62 ]
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Posted: 24 January 2013 06:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 43 ]
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mid atlantic - 22 December 2012 12:37 AM

So, in other words you want non-theists to accept your Christian meta-physics - despite the fact that these meta-physics crumble under scientific investigation. And if people don’t accept them, then you’re being mocked? blank stare

No, I don’t want non-theists to accept my Christian meta-physics. I never said that. I am merely explaining my point of view. I’m fine with confronting me with counter-arguments or counter-views. In fact, I welcome this. I’m a free thinker. I’m a devout skeptic. I’m thirsty for knowledge. What I don’t like is continued mocking without ever engaging in a real debate.

A bit of irony, humor, mocking is fine. But if this is all a user can offer in a dialog, well, here’s my humor: why should I waste my time with meeting intellectual dwarfs wink ?

I have a high opinion of most atheists, but like always in life there are exceptions.

And just for the record, there is zero evidence that the explanation of the universe can also explain itself.

[ Edited: 24 January 2013 06:25 AM by dansmith62 ]
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Posted: 24 January 2013 06:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 44 ]
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dansmith62 - 24 January 2013 05:02 AM
George - 21 December 2012 09:33 AM
dansmith62 - 21 December 2012 09:07 AM

What a load of nonsense, George. If you valued critical thinking, you wouldn’t mock people who don’t think like you do and rather learn to debate. BTW, I think you’ve failed to realize that this is a Center for Inquiry, not a Center for Mocking.

I see no problem in valuing critical thinking and, at the same time, mocking the idea of believing that somebody who has been dead for three days can become alive again. You, OTOH, have to choose. It’s either critical thinking, in which case you would have to accept that Christ couldn’t have become alive after being dead, or it’s Christianity.

If you truly valued critical thinking, you wouldn’t copy the views of biblical literalists who prefer simplistic interpretations of “becoming alive” or “walking on water”.

So, George, are you capable of challenging some of your assumptions?

How far does your Biblical literalism go? I presume you don’t believe that Jesus could walk on water or that the sun stopped for Joshua, but I imagine that you think God is real and that Christ was the son of God, no? I think it is you who needs to challenge his beliefs, not me. BTW, what is the “non-simplitic interpretation” of Jesus rising from the dead?

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Posted: 24 January 2013 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 45 ]
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And just for the record, there is zero evidence that the explanation of the universe can also explain itself.

Perhaps you can explain what’s behind this comment because I have no idea what you’re talking about here.

(And just for the record, there is zero evidence that the universe has any supernatural cause behind it at all!)

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