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Truce, is it possible?


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:22:48 PM PDT
Max Flash says:
ND: Then we knew the gods existed because, with our help, they were evident in the rain, the sun, the harvest, the change of seasons.

Max: I'm not sure what you mean by, "with our help"?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:24:49 PM PDT
Andre Lieven says:
JRD:'Are you OK with churches being fully able to enter the government arena outright, without being encumbered by any limitations imposed through the US tax code?'

That's actually two different questions: 1) Do I think it should be legal, and 2) Do I like it ?

Yes, and no, respectively. On 1), as long as they follow ALL of the rules pertaining to PACS and political lobbying groups, sure. ALL of them is the key here.

On 2), do I like it, or view it as anything other than negative, I would say that the record of religion mixing with politics is very clear as to how BAD an idea this is, every time. Never even mind Afghanistan or Iran, the record of what evangelicals want in their politics, and how MUCH it conflicts with the US Constitution is more than clear enough.
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How American fundamentalist schools are using Nessie to disprove evolution 24 June 2012 By Rachel Loxton, Reporter.
IT sounds like a plot dreamed up by the creators of Southpark, but it's all true: schoolchildren in Louisiana are to be taught that the Loch Ness monster is real in a bid by religious educators to disprove Darwin's theory of evolution.
Thousands of children in the southern state will receive publicly-funded vouchers for the next school year to attend private schools where Scotland's most famous mythological beast will be taught as a real living creature.
These private schools follow a fundamentalist curriculum including the Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) programme to teach controversial religious beliefs aimed at disproving evolution and proving creationism.
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/education/how-american-fundamentalist-schools-are-using-nessie-to-disprove-evolution.17918511
--------------------------
Did you notice that at least a part of the money going to this is PUBLIC money ? That's not JUST a tax break, that's a SUBSIDY.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:27:28 PM PDT
Harry Marks says:
Mark -
"in standard Christian theology, you go to hell for not believing in Jesus, not for being a bad person. There isn't a lot of room around that."

Well, I am part of a movement that is revising standard Christian theology. I haven't heard Hell mentioned in a sermon in 30 years, except as an outdated concept that should never have been preached in the first place.

I think Socrates and Gandhi live on in almost the same sense that Jesus does - their spirit is actively engaged in changing things even today.

Yes, there are people who shun their family members who are gay or apostate. Heck, there are still families that will disown you for marrying into a different ethnic group. If you are interested in what Christianity has to offer, it is seriously not difficult to find a church that accepts gays and welcomes atheists, these days.

I am sorry about all the ones who are trapped in their bigotry. I don't blame people who cannot stomach Christianity because of it. I hope that, even if you are one of those, you will take some hope from the more thoughtful approaches that are flowering everywhere.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:29:06 PM PDT
Andre Lieven says:
MF:'While I agree that atheism isn't a religion, there is at least one atheist church that I am aware of:
The North Texas Church of Freethought'

Yeah, that's called -Why should the god botherers get all of the tax breaks-. Or, Turn About Is Fair Play.

As long as churches get $71 BILLION a year in tax breaks and subsidies, you have no moral standing to whine about one tiny group.

As I said, tell you what: You guys give up ALL of the religious tax breaks and subsidies, and we'll not ask for any, as well.

But, trying to equate $71 BILLION a year with a few thousand, or even, lets say for the argument's sake, a hundred thou, that's a gross Fallacy of False Equivalence.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:30:57 PM PDT
Andre Lieven says:
S:'What you're saying is that you atheism is a statement of belief'

-That which is asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.-

'Dogma rears its ugly head from the mouths of atheists.'

Ibid.

It appears that you are in the midst of a three way Straw Trollop Ravishing. That's got nothing to do with anyone else, including me.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:31:09 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Max, during the pre-Axial age we were the gods helpers. It was up to us to keep things in order, through ritual and sacrifice and so on. The gods couldn't keep the world running without our help.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:34:12 PM PDT
Bubba says:
The Unitarian-Universalists could also be included. Many U-Us are atheists, although U-Us also include people from many religious traditions, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Pagans, Wiccans. I wonder if any Satanists are U-Us, there is no reason that they would be excluded.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:34:13 PM PDT
Harry Marks says:
Scientific Mind -

"What is this relationship they are having with this Jesus who died almost 2000 years ago? I mean if I went around saying "I'm having a meaningful relationship and conversations with my dead grandparents" who died in the 1960's someone would be checking me in to see a psychiatrist."

Not at all, but they might invite you to dim sum. East Asian cultures believe their ancestors are spiritually present and active. It is the same principle. I don't believe that Jesus delivers carefully worded messages to me. But I believe that he represents something, and in the same way that I could get some insight from King Lear (or at least from William Shakespeare) if I went to the play, I believe I can get some insight and guidance from Jesus' spirit by making the effort. It is approximately as simple as asking, "What would Jesus do" but practices cultivated over many years can overlay some additional sensitivity.

Do you know that teachers still discuss and practice the "Socratic method"? And the spirit of Socrates, despite Plato's arrogant overlay, still informs that process. Why is this mysterious?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:34:33 PM PDT
Max Flash says:
AL: As long as churches get $71 BILLION a year in tax breaks and subsidies, you have no moral standing to whine about one tiny group.

Max: I wasn't whining, you jump to too many false conclusions. I think it's a great thing and not for the tax breaks, but to provide a community for atheists who desire it.

AL: As I said, tell you what: You guys give up ALL of the religious tax breaks and subsidies...

Max: I am not one of the "guys" you seem to think I am.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:36:40 PM PDT
Bubba says:
It depends upon the atheist; I can bore you to tears on what to do with an Alzheimer's parent and how I disciplined my kids.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:40:22 PM PDT
Andre Lieven says:
MF:'I wasn't whining, you jump to too many false conclusions.'

You held it up as being the same, even though 1) It's not, 2) It's an exception that proves the rule and 3), even if it deducts, say, a hundred grand a year, that's not even peanuts next to the $71 BILLION a year that the churches DON'T have to pay.

That's 0-3 for you, sparky.

And as ND showed, such tax breaks can apply to CHARITABLE organisations, so if an atheist group is ALSO an actual charity, then they're getting the break NOT because they're atheists, but because they're an actual CHARITY.

Make that 0-4, then.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:45:30 PM PDT
Harry Marks says:
Rachel -

Good of you to join us. As the person who stated "atheism is about belief" by contrast with "religion is about values," I will briefly explain the jumping off point.

My contention is that atheism is a cognitive position. That is, it is a position taken on the basis of how facts fit together. Religion, according to me, is not about how facts fit together, but about what should be. Its true content is normative.

I have no idea why people find it interesting to discuss whether atheism represents a belief, or only a lack of belief. The point is that the category of issue it focuses on is cognitive, not normative.

Any help?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:51:12 PM PDT
Barely. I agree that atheism represents a cognitive process. However, you lost me with the "normative" content of religion.

I have never understood why *some* believers insist that atheism is a belief.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 3:58:58 PM PDT
Astrocat says:
Rachel, some "believers insist that atheism is a belief" because, in the first place, they simply don't understand what "belief" really means, and secondly they don't want atheists to get away with being free thinkers. They really seem to want everyone to be burdened with their own handicaps.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 4:21:53 PM PDT
It seems reasonable. It may be that they know that beliefs are ultimately indefensible, so they try to "level the playing field" by claiming that atheists rely on belief as well. One of our current "guests" keeps asserting that atheism is a religion, that atheists follow dogmatic thinking, and that atheists follow a creed, but it fits no definition of religion, there is no atheistic dogma, and there is no atheist creed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 6:43:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2012 9:38:05 PM PDT
HM:<<From this you draw the conclusion that Christianity is not about actually having any values?>>

That was what I got from you!

The point I was making, I'd hoped, was that values, however they are arrived at, are supposed to affect our behavior--hopefully in a positive, socially productive fashion. If the system you aspire to is unattainable in practice, could we at least hope for a fair approximation of it? Failing that, would it be reasonable to at least set the requirement that the system you use results in behaviors that are better than those that would be attained without any [externally imposed] value system at all?

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that Christianity (as well as other religions) can negatively impact the baseline value system which I think almost all of us share--at least, all of us here, in the west. While it is often maintained by Christians that atheists have no reason not to go around maiming, raping, murdering, stealing, and all manner of nefarious acts, the fact remains that the people who end up in jail for these sorts of crimes are disproportionately religious--or at least, believers. So even though I have 'no reason to', I find that I have an innate abhorrence for doing those kinds of things to my fellow man, [even the ones I don't much like,] and so I naturally avoid them. It is unnecessary for me to read the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, or any holy scriptures for me to feel this way, and I have a strong distrust for any philosophy that suggests that the reason I shouldn't go around killing people is because somebody told me not to, or that it was chiseled miraculously into a tablet--even if that person was God, Himself. People have a way of shifting in and out of their belief systems, and I'd hate to think that moral behavior was as ephemeral and tenuous as religious convictions are. Yet, it seems apparent that religious motivations have been enablers for people to sublimate this baseline value system, and commit heinous acts 'in the name of Allah', in the crusades, and even now in our country, in the name of God and His supposed distaste for abortion doctors and gay people.

Of course, even atheists may well find other enablers to commit their own brand of heinous acts, as is often retorted. (Stalin? Mao?) But my sense is, these regimes filled the "God-shaped hole" for these perpetrators: The tendency for people to flock together, xenophobically scapegoat some unfortunate minority caste or sect, and dehumanize, where convenient. These sorts of behaviors are what you get when group-think runs amok. Genocides are hard to implement, singlehandedly; You need a tribe of like-minded folk, a banner to march under, a system for stifling the free flow of information, and a 'savior'. [Even those who suggest that the bulk of genocides were implemented under atheist regimes like the USSR, generally seem to assume it wasn't that the atheism CAUSED it, but the lack of God-inspired morals failed to forestall these acts. That is, Stalin didn't kill all those people because he was an atheist, but rather, IF he'd been Christian, then this would've prevented such things. One doesn't go around killing people for a non-belief! Non-beliefs are inherently a-motivational. They might permit, but they don't propel.]

It would be nice if religion worked against such forces. Can that be claimed? It often is, I know... But can it be *rightfully* claimed? Or are religious organizations simply a handy method of communicating bad ideas to large segments of the populace at once, with a ready-made propensity for uncritical acceptance, and tribal uniformity of action?

In the end, my point is that atheism may not make people any better, but it also doesn't make people any worse. To do that, en masse, you need some way to get people to take on faith what would normally be rejected out of hand. You need a god, or a prophet, or a 'supreme leader' who is privileged with special knowledge or powers. In short, you need 'believers', and the believers need something to believe.

[edits in brackets]

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 9:33:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2012 9:37:52 PM PDT
HM:<<My contention is that atheism is a cognitive position. That is, it is a position taken on the basis of how facts fit together. Religion, according to me, is not about how facts fit together, but about what should be.>>

This seems like a reasonable, clear, and insightful way to contrast the two ideas. However, it might also be stated somewhat more cynically: Atheism is a position or judgment about reality; religion is wishful thinking.

Now, wishful thinking can be a good thing. We all need to imagine what isn't, yet, so that we might arrange our futures for the better. But the crucial stipulation is that those imaginings *must be* for the better--and, unfortunately, I see little reason to assume that a possible future as described by Revelation, Dominionism, and/or Wahhabism is one I'd like to inhabit.

In the back of my mind, I wonder... *Why* ought there be a god? A savior? Defense of marriage? These particular commandments? What is it about these particular desires that makes people think the world would be better off with them than without them? Is the world really improved by all these wars, 911 plots, bigotry, and xenophobia? How so? Do you, Harry, wish for the Freedom tower to also be destroyed? I trust not; Presumably, your personal beliefs count these norms as undesirable. Yet you are willing to lobby for the institution and/or preservation of an overarching structure of disparate and conflicting belief systems which allow for such outcomes... Nay, positively guarantees them! Personally, my normative orientation is for people to be more realistic, more empathetic, and less destructive.

It seems to me that religion, by being about these 'oughts', is also instrumental in the construction and promulgation of the ones which concern it. As such, it shares in both the credit AND the blame. So, the question of whether this is really the optimal system for designing normatives crops up. Aren't there other ways to do this? I mean, even atheists somehow have visions of tomorrow, maintain savings accounts, and have career goals. Are these aspirations generally better, or worse than those of Wahhabism?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 10:51:59 PM PDT
Harry Marks - "As I said earlier, it is a dialog"

The process is a dialogue with other living human beings to decide what values are important. Religion just uses Jesus (or Leviticus, depending on your church) as starting point. Fine, so far as it goes. Anything with depth can be used as a starting point to get the conversation going. Hamlet or Moby Dick or Emerson are great meaning-of-life conversation-starters.

But religion makes the mistake of turning the conversation-starter into an authority unto itself, so believers get bogged down citing verse after verse proving that their interpretation is the *true* one. Atheists too can use the Sermon on the Mount as a starting place for a dialogue. Doing so does not mean we have to adopt the religious views of believers. I'd argue that actually believing that your immortal soul hangs in the balance would be more of a hindrance than a help in honest discussion.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 10:55:40 PM PDT
Harry Marks - "That is the meaning of salvation by grace. God's love is showered on us, whether or not we behave well."

Yet he made hell. Odd. Look, I can talk about values, or I can talk about religion, but I won't act as if religion is necessary for values. If you've situated your values in a religious narrative because you find that helpful, fine, but non-believers generally don't need the narrative. We can discuss values directly.

There is a reason that Jefferson made an edited version of the Bible. He admired the values of Jesus, but thought the supernatural stuff distracted from the message and made it less credible. If I wanted to convince you that rape was wrong, it would make little sense predicating that value on a belief that leprechauns exist.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 11:16:16 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 26, 2012 11:16:37 PM PDT
Harry Marks - "My contention is that atheism is a cognitive position. That is, it is a position taken on the basis of how facts fit together"

Yes, I've cognitively evaluated arguments given for the existence of God, and found them lacking. Ergo, I don't believe in God.

" Religion, according to me, is not about how facts fit together, but about what should be. Its true content is normative"

But you've predicated your values on a belief that certain entities actually exist and certain events actually happened. You've painted yourself into a corner, because if you start doubting the historicity or literalness of the resurrection, your values fall with that faith. You should be able to explain why rape or robbery is wrong without reference to Jesus or God.

Since I have values *now*, and don't need a supernatural narrative to bolster them, of what importance would religion be to me? I don't buy the idea that non-believers don't have 'true' values, nor that believers have 'objective' values just because they base them on a particular interpretation of the Bible.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 6:50:42 AM PDT
Astrocat says:
Mark, religion also "uses" Mohammed, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Shankaracharya, Mithras, Moses, and hordes of other figures, going back to the early Greek and Roman Gods. There are more religions than the monotheistic.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 6:53:38 AM PDT
Astrocat says:
One of the beauties of Buddhism is that it is not based on the belief of a divine creator, nor on the disbelief of a divine creator. It is, essentially, agnostic - not atheistic - in that regard. The values of Buddhism are based on the Four Noble Truths and the 8-Fold Path, and are very humanistic in their application, with the added plus of the understanding of reincarnation and the path to enlightenment. In Buddhism you have it all!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 7:10:40 AM PDT
Nancy Davison - " There are more religions than the monotheistic. "

True enough. I should have been more specific.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 7:12:51 AM PDT
Astrocat says:
I didn't mean to jump on you, Mark. After reading your later posts I understood that you were not being exclusive.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 7:16:15 AM PDT
J. Harding says:
I don't see where the disconnect is. Here's your definition of dogma:

1a : something held as an established opinion; especially : a definite authoritative tenet

Why can't I have dogma that tells me that the earth isn't round, that the theory of evolution is wrong, or that god doesn't exist. Regardless of what I'm believing or disbelieving, I can do it dogmatically if I refuse to question my belief or disbelief.
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Initial post:  Jun 25, 2012
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