anti-religious remarks belong on your own blog February 27, 2004 12:58 PM   Subscribe

It's all well and good for skallas to post his opinions on his own weblog, but couldn't he keep any anti-religious remarks out of his FPPs?
posted by VulcanMike to Etiquette/Policy at 12:58 PM (255 comments total)

And for the record, I think most of the people that watch The Passion know that crucifixion was common in those days.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:01 PM on February 27, 2004


yep, he's become another ax grinder, previously this week calling those that disagreed with him on a subtle church-and-state issue ignorant.

It's annoying and we seem to have a new fold_and_mutilate on our hands, and keep in mind I'm an atheist, and I'm getting heavily annoyed by his incessant postings.

Ax grinding is tiresome, no matter who is doing it or what it is about. Same person posting about the same subject gets old.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:04 PM on February 27, 2004


Yeah. Get your own blog, fuckwit.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:05 PM on February 27, 2004


have i mentioned my issues with george bush today?
posted by quonsar at 1:07 PM on February 27, 2004


*pats quonsar on the head*
posted by VulcanMike at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2004


It's annoying and we seem to have a new fold_and_mutilate on our hands

Whaddaya mean "new" Matt? He's been at this awhile.
posted by jonmc at 1:09 PM on February 27, 2004


I tried to make this point in an earlier thread.

There is an open bias against Christianity.

The completely hypocritical part is that these people who make the most hateful comments about Christians will condemn any remotely negative comments that deal with their beloved "PC" groups.

If a comment is made negatively about Muslims, homosexuals, women or any other group on the FPP, then there would be a VIOLENT castigation of the poster.

But if the person just says the LeFi groupthink insults against Christians, then there isn't a peep about intolerance, bias or hate.


Metafilter: We love, respect and defend anyone except those hateful, evil and worthless Christians.




There used to be a rule of civility: no talk about religion or politics.

I only wish this policy would be enforced on Metafilter.
posted by Seth at 1:15 PM on February 27, 2004


Seth, you're confusing skallas with all of metafilter.

There may be a prevalence of people mocking christianity, but most of it is usually done as jokes. A lot of it is a couple devout "Xtian" bashers though.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:18 PM on February 27, 2004


Seth, if any of the content of your above post was true, there wouldn't be a MeTa thread, would there? Yes, there are many members who are not Christians and some of that number hold Christianity in contempt, but realize there are others who have faith, or at the very least, aren't pleased with anti-Christian ax-grinding.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:20 PM on February 27, 2004


Seth, this MetaTalk post is A Good Thing. Let's not change that.
posted by yerfatma at 1:22 PM on February 27, 2004


I hate to do it, but I agree with Seth. Christians are an easy and frequent target here.

Nonetheless, that doesn't change the fact that skallas is a cock-knocker.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:23 PM on February 27, 2004


fish in barrels shouldn't complain about getting shot.
posted by quonsar at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2004


Yeah, I'm always a target.
posted by christian at 1:25 PM on February 27, 2004


To elwood's point, I'm not Christian, and I'm the one that started this thread. :-)

Would it be too petty to point out that Skallas has made 264 FPPs, most of which point to major news sites? I've made no FPPs, though, so perhaps I'm the void calling the content black.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:26 PM on February 27, 2004


Nonetheless, that doesn't change the fact that skallas is a cock-knocker.

I ::heart:: Crash Davis.

**sits back with popcorn**
posted by jonmc at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2004


Skallas abused 10,600 children.
posted by angry modem at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2004


Seth, really, let it go. Or find another flock to preach at. Seriously.

Again: Ax grinding is tiresome, no matter who is doing it or what it is about. Same person posting about the same subject gets old.
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:27 PM on February 27, 2004


put on a turban and chant at allah, see if i mock you any less.
posted by quonsar at 1:30 PM on February 27, 2004


We're drifting away from the subject, a bit. The present issue isn't Christianity and Metafilter, but Skallas and his ax-grinding.
posted by unreason at 1:31 PM on February 27, 2004


Is this merely another pick-on-skallas post, or is there some valid point to be made? Where is this "opinion" that you refer to in his FPP? Do you disagree that people who were sexually abused by Catholic priests whose crimes were then covered up by the Church are somehow not "victims"? That's all I read the post to say.
posted by rushmc at 1:32 PM on February 27, 2004


It's annoying and we seem to have a new fold_and_mutilate on our hands

y'know, it's bad enough that the rest of Mefi tosses around "fold_and_mutilate" like a cuss word, when the worst of his indiscretions are deep in the archives, but I'm surprised and disappointed to see you do it, matt. It's like the teacher picking on one of his students in front of the class.

Talk about ax grinding.
posted by jpoulos at 1:34 PM on February 27, 2004


At least q is an equal-oppurtunity mocker.
posted by jmd82 at 1:35 PM on February 27, 2004


Don't we all kind of editorialize on certain subjects around here? I'd hate to see us quit posting on politics and faith-the last few threads I have been on regarding those matters have been lively and for the most part respectful. As for Skallas, he's just Skallas, and I know what to expect from him, and he me.
posted by konolia at 1:36 PM on February 27, 2004


y'know, it's bad enough that the rest of Mefi tosses around "fold_and_mutilate" like a cuss word, when the worst of his indiscretions are deep in the archives, but I'm surprised and disappointed to see you do it, matt. It's like the teacher picking on one of his students in front of the class.

Yeah, but f&m really is pretty fucked up.
posted by angry modem at 1:37 PM on February 27, 2004


I'm not seeing it either. The post isnt a call to beat up your local religious people. There have been more than a handful of posts regarding the new gibson movie yet when I rip a headline from today regarding mass child-molestation and cover-ups then suddenly I'm a "newsfilter" poster with "an axe to grind." I've made a couple-hundred FPP posts and frankly a lot of them are controversial in ways, but I'd be more interested in seeing people address the content than just yell out "skallas." So far only one person in that thread has bothered to talk about mass-child molstation from the church, but many have posted directly about me there and here. Kind of shows you something about human nature when you can overlook 10,000 child molestation cases and a new report regarding these just because you dont like the poster or his 'tone.'

As usual, its attack the poster politics here at Metafilter.

I also take exception at my post being "anti-religious." Lots of things create victims, addressing those issues is a criticism not a "throw the bums out" call to arms.
posted by skallas at 1:40 PM on February 27, 2004


Yeah, but f&m really is pretty fucked up.

More so than, say, a certain poster whose handle contains the numeral "seven"? Really?
posted by adamgreenfield at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2004


The post was worded to imply that an entire religion was responsible for the molestation of 10,600 children. That they were the "victims" of Christianity.

Though it's not exactly comparable, I don't recall anyone outright blaming the Arab/Muslim communities for 9/11 around here.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:43 PM on February 27, 2004


Kind of shows you something about human nature when you can overlook 10,000 child molestation cases and a new report regarding these just because you dont like the poster or his 'tone.'

Your FPP said 10,600. Kind of shows you something when you're willing round the figure to arbitrary numbers. I'm sure the 600 kids that you left out would love that.
posted by angry modem at 1:44 PM on February 27, 2004


Yeah, but f&m really is pretty fucked up.
Too bad its pretty harsh for f&m to compare him to Skallas.
posted by jmd82 at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2004


Or in other words, skallas, if you want people to respond to your post instead of you, don't word the post in a way as to alienate a good portion of the people who might comment on the issue.
posted by VulcanMike at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2004


y'know, it's bad enough that the rest of Mefi tosses around "fold_and_mutilate" like a cuss word

jpoulos, foldy and skallas have both jumped over the line on a lot of occasions. They're only getting waht they asked for.

Ask, yourself this: if foldy was a rabid rightwinger, and skallas a fire-and-brimstone holy-roller, but nothing else about them changed, would you be defending them right now?

I like you, poulous, I'm not trying to pick on you. I'm just making the point that we often make excuses for peoples who's views we sympathize with, even when they act like cock-knockers. It's just human nature ultimately. But it'd be a lie not to call it bias of a sort.
posted by jonmc at 1:45 PM on February 27, 2004


"There is an open bias against Christianity."

Yep.

But most here seem more than willing to discuss these matters in a reasonable manner. And those who don't tend to get ignored by both sides. We have a closed community of mostly intelligent, responsible and educated individuals who enjoy discussing meaty topics. It would seem like this is a great place to have these matters bandied about.

I learn a lot here, largely from being exposed to ideas from people I normally would never come in contact with. Yourself for instance. I think you are usually wrong, but I enjoy hearing what you have to say. I enjoy being forced to rethink my ideas in a new context as the discussion progresses.

Sure, there's a bias. As there will be in any closed community. Don't let that stop you. We're all in this together.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:47 PM on February 27, 2004


Here's the wording:

"Perhaps we'd be better off if Mel Gibson made movies about the real victims of Xtianity"

These are victims of some Catholic priests, not of Christianity itself. There's nothing in the Bible or in the tenets of any Christian faith that says "Thou shalt molest children". Jack the Ripper was, some believe, a doctor, but you wouldn't say that his victims were "victims of the medical community". Skallas' phrasing is bigoted in the same manner as the right wingers who go on tirades about the crimes of "those terrorist Ay-rabs".
posted by unreason at 1:52 PM on February 27, 2004


konolia: maybe you really are a Christian.

And I mean that in a good way. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 1:53 PM on February 27, 2004


If fold_and_mutilate crosses a line, I fully expect everyone to jump on him. He's not here right now (so to speak) and user number one used his name perjoratively for no apparent reason. That's what I object to.

We've all crossed lines in the past, and we've all been called out on it. But I think insulting members without provocation is pretty poor style. That's all.
posted by jpoulos at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2004


" It's like the teacher picking on one of his students in front of the class."

1) It's about time.
2) Do you have a website? Do people come to your website and pull dumb crap? Do you let that all slide for fear of being a harsh disiplinarian?
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:57 PM on February 27, 2004


I like you, poulous, I'm not trying to pick on you.

And don't worry. I'm a big boy. I can take a little criticism.
posted by jpoulos at 1:58 PM on February 27, 2004


skallas, be subtle yet affecting, like kisses from the girl who bicycled by and you never spoke to, although you meant to.
posted by the fire you left me at 2:00 PM on February 27, 2004


1) It's about time.

No. It's well past time. But this thread isn't about fold_and_mutilate, or about Matt for that matter. So let's all go back to complaining about skallas over and over again.
posted by jpoulos at 2:01 PM on February 27, 2004


skallas touched my junk.
posted by quonsar at 2:02 PM on February 27, 2004


Agree with jpoulos. f&m has been annoying in the past, but not so annoying he deserves to be singled out by Matt. Would you like it if he called you out that way, y6?

I note with mild amusement that the usual Christian-bashers are earnestly assuring everyone that nobody never bashes no Christians round here, nossir, it's all good clean debate.
posted by languagehat at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2004


liberally.
posted by quonsar at 2:03 PM on February 27, 2004


"No. It's well past time."

Well, whatever. Matt has the paddle out today and is in bitch slap mode. Let the man be.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:06 PM on February 27, 2004


"Would you like it if he called you out that way, y6?"

Hell yes. The more it's about me the better.

And seriously, I think it would be great to just have Matt totally go off on 30-40 members.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:12 PM on February 27, 2004


He's not here right now (so to speak) and user number one used his name perjoratively for no apparent reason.

His name was brought up to exemplify what happens when someone with legitimate opinions consistently acts like a royal dickface to his audience, thus blurring his original message. I'd say that's reason enough to evoke foldy, a shining example of contempt-for-one's-audience if there ever was one. And you are free to accuse me of the same approach, though I've been posting cheerfully in non-political threads for years. The likes of Skallas and foldy can't be bothered to contribute to non-ax-grinding threads, and that's sad.
posted by dhoyt at 2:16 PM on February 27, 2004


"I note with mild amusement that the usual Christian-bashers are earnestly assuring everyone that nobody never bashes no Christians round here"

If you think what you see here is Christian bashing, I think you're being way naive. Just speaking for myself, I can assure you that Christians get treated with kid gloves around here.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:19 PM on February 27, 2004


Just speaking for myself, I can assure you that Christians get treated with kid gloves around here.
So I'm a Christian, and I just got lumped in with Catholic priest pedophiles. Or their victims. So yeah, "kid" gloves is probably right.
posted by brownpau at 2:24 PM on February 27, 2004


If you keep going to that big pretty building every week--the one that is run by the folks who enabled those Catholic priest pedophiles--why should you be surprised?

I don't agree with, say, President Bush and his policies, but I don't blame a little legless Iraqi boy who says "America did this to me".
posted by jpoulos at 2:28 PM on February 27, 2004


I'd posit that if Konolia were a man she would not be treated with kid gloves. Awhile back there few male Xtians who posted and were mocked to such a degree they simply don't post anymore. Too bad. And I say that as an atheist.
posted by dhoyt at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2004


There is an open bias against Christianity... these people... will condemn any remotely negative comments that deal with their beloved... Muslims, homosexuals, women...

Making a joke at the expense of a powerful majority like Christianity seems a lot different than belittling a minority group that's oppressed. (Plus, being a homosexual or a woman isn't a choice.)

Also, the Catholic church has a long history of killing, persecuting, and assimilating those that disagree with it. Christianity has been used to justify taking over native peoples, waging crusades and inquisitions, and perpetuating sexism.

That said, I do think skallas' FPP crossed the line.
posted by hyperizer at 2:33 PM on February 27, 2004


mathowie: absolute autocrat and object of worship, unless he's picking on someone you happen to like.
posted by darukaru at 2:34 PM on February 27, 2004


I'd have to agree with y6y6y6. During discussions of issues around Christian belief, folks are lauded for being "respectfully" deferential, but chided for speaking what I think is an important truth: that this is a tradition which has a lot to answer for. And furthermore, one which is the dominant, even hegemonic tendency in American political and (increasingly) social life.

There's a not-so-subtle policing going on, and I'm not so very pleased with it. I dislike expressions of rancor and hatred, I do think that a few of my nonbelievers have occasionally stooped to some pretty shabby tactics, but I will stand fast for the right to express the unvarnished belief that this religion, like many another, is as close to evil as the world knows.

It's a strong belief, and one that is exceedingly hard to square with my general ambition to express lovingkindness and compassion for all, but in trying to live a life of intellectual integrity I know of no way to avoid arriving at it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:37 PM on February 27, 2004


I'd posit that if Konolia were a man she would not be treated with kid gloves. Awhile back there few male Xtians who posted and were mocked to such a degree they simply don't post anymore. Too bad. And I say that as an atheist.
posted by dhoyt at 2:32 PM PST on February 27


What really matters is whether or not she is hot.
posted by the fire you left me at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2004


While I don't really agree that konolia is treated with kid gloves, I think the respect she gets is due to the respect she shows others, not her gender.
posted by timeistight at 2:47 PM on February 27, 2004


Agreed. But the males I was thinking of posted fairly innocuously and were still ridiculed.
posted by dhoyt at 2:50 PM on February 27, 2004


jpoulos has a point. Unlike the medical profession, the Catholic Church is an institution... and one that seems to have orchestrated a massive coverup over a period of decades... a coverup that wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't been organized, in some ways, to make the coverup possible. Thus the blame lies not only on the individual priests, but on the whole church.

skallas has a bias, true, but let ye who are without bias post the first snark.
posted by squirrel at 2:55 PM on February 27, 2004


I ♥ fold_and_mutilate & skallas!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 2:56 PM on February 27, 2004


2nd to squirrel and jpoulos: When this story first was breaking across the daily news, the bits that jumped out at me were the bishops and other higherups who blithely transferred the offenders to other parishes with no word of warning to the new set of potential victims. Even now it seems like they want to put all the blame on the molestor priests and have no changes in the system. And the laity goes along with hardly a peep except for the victims and their families.
posted by billsaysthis at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2004


Oh, and: "gay-bashing" is Mathew Shepard having the living shit beaten out of him and being left to die, but "Christian-bashing" is being the target of some impolitic and self-righteous criticism? Something is very wrong here.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2004


yeah, i always thought konolia was a reasonable guy. no wonder.

btw, i like fold_and_mutilate and skallas and enjoy their posts and comments. and hama7 too (though his comments are a little ridiculous sometimes). i don't understand the personal attacks on anyone. institutions are fair game. if you think skallas gives christianity a raw deal, explain why in the blue space.

on preview: squirrel and S@L beat me to it. i guess that's why i don't comment in the gray.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:06 PM on February 27, 2004



And seriously, I think it would be great to just have Matt totally go off on 30-40 members.


sticky and messy.
posted by quonsar at 3:17 PM on February 27, 2004


Just to be clear, I invoked F&M's name as a well-known example of someone that posted some ax grinding posts to the point that they were deleted and everyone (even those that supported the position, if not the exact message) came down on him. That was a long time ago and he's done nothing wrong recently.

I could have mentioned Postroad, who used to have a knack for finding the latest israel/palestine news tidbit that produced lots of heat and noise on the site, but no substance, which also got to the point that I was openly deleting every new one.

I'm at that point with skallas. I considered deleting today's post for the "victims of Xtian" stuff. It's akin to using the words "Asscroft" or "Dumbya" to make a point in a post to the front page, which is also delete-worthy.

Please, skallas, chill out on the religion posts and the rhetoric you use when discussing religious stuff. It's getting old.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2004


yeah, even asscroft and dumbya are getting annoyed.
posted by quonsar at 3:23 PM on February 27, 2004


Thus the blame lies not only on the individual priests, but on the whole church.

The Catholic Church ≠ Christianity. Or even "Xtianity."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2004


Why dont you name the 30-40 members you'd like matt to go off on , y6 ?
Are you wading through this site keeping a wee list of people to round up once the revolution comes ?
and i thought I had no life.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:35 PM on February 27, 2004


I do believe he was joking.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:40 PM on February 27, 2004


The Catholic Church ? Christianity. Or even "Xtianity."
posted by DevilsAdvocate


classic.
posted by quonsar at 3:45 PM on February 27, 2004


Are you wading through this site keeping a wee list of people to round up once the revolution comes ?

Oh, I think a lot of users are on some level making little enemies lists in their heads. Usually the one's who go ballistic if you dare question their superior wisdom. They are also the one's who hastening this place's slow descent into becoming a left-wing version of Free Republic.
posted by jonmc at 3:46 PM on February 27, 2004


He's not.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:48 PM on February 27, 2004


joking i mean , see the charming entry upbraiding us all on our meagre contributions to matts present.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:49 PM on February 27, 2004


*sticks fingers in ears, backs slowly away*
posted by monju_bosatsu at 3:51 PM on February 27, 2004


*follows suit*
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2004


slow descent?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:04 PM on February 27, 2004


What do you know, start talking about ax grinding and ...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 4:16 PM on February 27, 2004


If what you pick at is clearly, without doubt, a lifestyle choice and not something someone is born with or into, it's FAIR GAME.

Why?

Because if you don't like it, DON'T DO IT. :-)
posted by shepd at 4:47 PM on February 27, 2004


They are also the one's who hastening this place's slow descent into becoming a left-wing version of Free Republic.

If you don't see the difference between this place and the freepers, I don't know what to tell you, jon. Clearly, some of us are as left-thinking as the freepers are right-, but we just had a three-hundred-comment thread in which we actually debated and discussed the validity of religion. There were a number of different viewpoints expressed there. Sure, a lot of them came out against religion, but it wasn't nearly a one-sided circle-jerk like the Free Republic.
posted by jpoulos at 4:55 PM on February 27, 2004


Well, I know I'm in the minority here, but I wish skallas would stop cutting those Christian fucks so much slack. If anything, I think he's a bit of an apologist. Sometimes I wonder if he's trying to convert me.
posted by Hildago at 4:58 PM on February 27, 2004


We're not there yet. But we're on our way.
posted by jonmc at 4:59 PM on February 27, 2004


No, we're definitely a multi-sided circle jerk around here.
posted by timeistight at 5:00 PM on February 27, 2004


Or a number of separate but intersecting circle jerks (and I'm not all that happy being in the circle with quonsar and Miguel).

MetaFilter: 17,175 members, 10,600 abused.
posted by wendell at 5:17 PM on February 27, 2004


MetaFilter: let ye who are without bias post the first snark.
posted by homunculus at 5:28 PM on February 27, 2004


So is Christianity genetically predetermined, or do you choose to become a Christian?

(oh, and bukkakefilter;)
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:31 PM on February 27, 2004


10 years later:

MetaFilter: Billions and Billions abused.
posted by shepd at 5:33 PM on February 27, 2004


I note with mild amusement that the usual Christian-bashers are earnestly assuring everyone that nobody never bashes no Christians round here, nossir, it's all good clean debate.

And apparently the usual apologists are confusing open and honest debate with persecution again.
posted by rushmc at 5:40 PM on February 27, 2004


Metafilter is a circle jerk with infinite radius and a center at any point.
posted by Hildago at 5:44 PM on February 27, 2004


More so than, say, a certain poster whose handle contains the numeral "seven"? Really?
Recognition at last.
posted by johnny7 at 6:00 PM on February 27, 2004


And apparently the usual apologists are confusing open and honest debate with persecution again.

aye , matt comes on here and says these things all the time.
posted by sgt.serenity at 6:41 PM on February 27, 2004


Unlike the medical profession, the Catholic Church is an institution... and one that seems to have orchestrated a massive coverup over a period of decades... a coverup that wouldn't have been possible if they hadn't been organized

". . . who is reporting medical errors? Usually it is the patient or the patient's surviving family. If no one notices the error, it is never reported."
posted by Feisty at 6:44 PM on February 27, 2004


You people are all fucksticks. Quit acting like the world gives two shits about your opinion.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:41 PM on February 27, 2004


I'm not a fuckstick, I'm a fucknozzle.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:55 PM on February 27, 2004


Quit acting like the world gives two shits about your opinion.

been a long time, so....: imminent demise of MetaFilter predicted.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:14 PM on February 27, 2004


Hey matt, et al. What a surprise!

Thought briefly about answering the couple-a-critics in this here cool thread I just happened to randomly wander into....

....but I'm not sure how this works anymore. Do I post my responses here -- or is it now considered de rigeur, if not chivalrous, to hide them in a bunch of threads in which the critics haven't posted...or in Metatalk threads unrelated to their own posts?

Quandary. So I'll sashay on out of this thread so the critics'll feel comfortable speaking freely again. What was it all about again? Axes to grind, and double secret enemies lists?
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 3:18 AM on February 28, 2004


man, that fold_and_mutilate is quite the radical. did anyone see his latest thread? oh wow, you should really check it out. it's like all informative and stuff. and f&m is all like 'fuck you' and everyone else is like 'yeah, well fuck you too'. that guy is living on the edge for REAL.
posted by poopy at 3:45 AM on February 28, 2004


sorry but I don't think skallas' language in the FPP was particularly ugly. OK, it wasn't balanced but I thought that the "EqualTimeFilter" debate had been put to sleep once and for all.
skallas' own brand of atheism/secularism/whatever you want to call it seems to me to be perfectly appropriate for the site -- it's not exactly a 100% input of "Jesus sucks" posts, skallas is always perfectly capable of arguing a point and providing links. as a lapsed Catholic and former Catholic school student (nobody ever molested me there, I am sorry to report) who still has a lot of respect for the doctrine if not for the Church, I often disagree with uber-secular skallas (on the Free Tibet issue, too).
but I think it's wrong to argue that MeFi is overwhelmignly anti-Christian as a community. lame, juvenile anti-Jesus jokes aside, I think as a community we're mostly pro-secular and anti-theocracy, not anti-Christianity.
that's all the difference in the world.
posted by matteo at 5:33 AM on February 28, 2004


I went down to the beach and saw Kiki, she was, like, all "Ehh", And I was like, "Whatever".
Then this chick comes up to me and she's all like, "Hey, aren't you that dude?",
And I'm like, "Yeah, whatever".
So later I'm at the pool hall and this girl comes up and she's like, "Aww",
And I'm like, "Yeah, whatever".

Coz this is my United States of Whatever,
And this is my United States of Whatever,
And this is my United States of Whatever.

And then it's three AM and I'm on the corner, wearing my leather, This dude comes up and he's, like, "Hey, punk", I'm, like, "Yeah, whatever".
Then I'm throwing dice in the alley,
Officer Leroy comes up and is like, "Hey, I thought I told you..."And I'm like, "Yeah, whatever".
And then up comes Zafo, I'm like, "Yo, Zafo, what's up?"
He's like, "Nothin" and I'm like, "That's cool".

Coz this is my United States of Whatever,
And this is my United States of Whatever.
posted by johnnyboy at 5:33 AM on February 28, 2004


*steals johnnys lunch money*
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:49 AM on February 28, 2004


Quit acting like the world gives two shits about your opinion.

You may choose to believe that you are a helpless little clod, ignored by all and buffeted about at the whims of greater powers in a world in which you have no impact and which rejects your every contribution, but it is rather silly for you to expect others to share your insecurities and self-esteem issues.
posted by rushmc at 7:07 AM on February 28, 2004


matteo, it doesn't really matter whether "MeFi is overwhelmignly anti-Christian as a community"; what matters is that whenever the subject of Christianity comes up, the same group of cracker-barrel atheists feels obliged to go through the same rigmarole of tired anti-religion statements mixed in with the occasional random insult against believers. But they feel they're holding the line against a tide of militant Christianity that will crucify them if they don't muster every fiber in their body to speak out against konolia the forces of intolerance and theocracy, so I guess it's OK.
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on February 28, 2004


You may choose to believe that you are a helpless little clod, ignored by all and buffeted about at the whims of greater powers in a world in which you have no impact and which rejects your every contribution, but it is rather silly for you to expect others to share your insecurities and self-esteem issues.

Or are you in denial? Seems to me that's about the size of it for the individual in modern society. Unless you're talented or lucky enough to become rich or famous, seems to me that powerful people could quite honectly care less about you or I except as a vote, a purchasing dollar, a worker bee or cannon fodder. It's only when people band together in large like thinking groups that there's any impact and in those groups the situation replicates itself.

So, that's basically a long winded way of saying that I agree with crash: that the world could honestly give two shits about my opinion. Won't stop me from stating it though.
posted by jonmc at 7:18 AM on February 28, 2004


whenever the subject of Christianity comes up, the same group of cracker-barrel atheists feels obliged to go through the same rigmarole of tired anti-religion statements

Translation: whenever a Christian makes a questionable, irrational, or demonstrably false contention, someone has the nerve to point that out, even though such an adherence to (at the very least what they perceive to be) truth and reality might hurt said Christian's feelings.

Again, languagehat, I don't see you complaining that Democrats continue to denounce extreme conservative statements when they are made, which occurs a lot more often on the site.
posted by rushmc at 7:20 AM on February 28, 2004


Unless you're talented or lucky enough to become rich or famous, seems to me that powerful people could quite honectly care less about you or I

With all due respect, jonmc, include me out of that. I've seen the (small, even tiny, but not insignificant) impact of my work. And I'm neither rich nor famous.

There are others on here for whom the same could be said.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:40 AM on February 28, 2004


But, languagehat et al, isn't it the same group of cracker-barrel Christians who feel obligated to a) cry Christian bashing at every opportunity and b) drag Christianity into all kinds of threads in which it doesn't belong? Frankly, I get tired of the Christians-as-idiots theme, but I am equally sick of people appealing to the Bible or to dogma as if it settles the argument.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 8:12 AM on February 28, 2004


languagehat is right, imo. there really IS an awful lot of christian-bashing going on in most threads. then again, mefi is just a small online community really, but with very real members living out their very real lives in a crazy world.

this still doesn't excuse the crap that goes on though. even now, there are those who try and justify this shit with their own brand of excuses (as they so valiantly spew 'bush apologists' around in other threads) by saying that at least it's better than the other side. and... that's supposed to make it right?! wtf?

there are days (not many) when it's hard to tell the difference between lgf and mefi.
posted by poopy at 8:41 AM on February 28, 2004


This sounds more like some people grousing after they finally concluded that their position is indefensible. While at one time, politics was a subset of religion, the positions have reversed, and now religion has become a subset of politics.

This is why "religion bigot" has no force behind it since it is really saying "political bigot" which is its own slippery slope into unilateral dictatorship.
posted by mischief at 8:52 AM on February 28, 2004


I dunno about that, mischeif. I'm not even a Christian, but I don't enjoy watching generally decent people get piled on. It's schoolyard level behavior.
posted by jonmc at 8:58 AM on February 28, 2004


Talking to people who believe in magical forces is sometimes a little bit disturbing to those of us who don't believe in such things. We become frustrated when we become aware of the fact that we can't penetrate faith-based beliefs with a rational argument, no matter how cogent.
The reponse tends to be disdain for the interlocutor, or anger if those belief structures have a negative impact on our lives in some way.

However bitter it has become we're at least still engaged in a what you would have to characterise as a reasonably civil inter-group tournament. At least we're not at the point of strapping on bombs and blowing each other up (yet).
posted by snarfodox at 9:13 AM on February 28, 2004


Well, speaking for myself, I always wear a crash helmet to Metafilter, so all is well.

(and no, I don't line it with tinfoil.)
posted by konolia at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2004


But they feel they're holding the line against a tide of militant Christianity that will crucify them if they don't muster every fiber in their body to speak out against konolia the forces of intolerance and theocracy, so I guess it's OK.

As a crackerbarrel atheist, I disagree with your last statement. My own motives are rather more practical than messianic. Usually, I'm simply trying to mock and belittle something of which I am contemptuous, in order to make people with ridiculous beliefs feel, hopefully, a little more ridiculous about believing them, while at the same time kindling in my self the warm glow of smug self-righteousness. If I've read him correctly, skallas is doing something similar. The rationale being, if something is wrong, and destructive, then it is everyone's job to help end it, however small his contributions have to be.
posted by Hildago at 9:54 AM on February 28, 2004


We become frustrated when we become aware of the fact that we can't penetrate faith-based beliefs with a rational argument, no matter how cogent. The reponse tends to be disdain for the interlocutor, or anger if those belief structures have a negative impact on our lives in some way.

Well said.

I can tolerate most religionists in daily real life: it's a simple necessity when living in this society. I'm even decent to the door-to-door evangelists, politely and firmly telling them I am not interested and just closing the door. No arguing, no debates, no hysterics.

On-line it's a different scene. There is discussion, and I quite enjoy it on the whole. There are religionists who are basically non-harmful in their daily lives (they apply their religious beliefs to themselves, and not to others), and it's very satisfying to exercise both my beliefs and theirs as we explore what we get out of our respective worldviews.

I do get frustrated when a religionist shuts off their brain. This usually happens when they are challenged on some illogical belief or internal inconsistency. But, hell, whatever. By the time that happens the discussion is usually running into a dead end anyway.

I get downright irate when a religionist becomes harmful to my or others' lives. Let your faith guide your behaviour however you wish, but don't dare inflict it on me. I respect their right to have their beliefs shape their behaviour, and I demand my right to have the same.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:04 AM on February 28, 2004


Usually, I'm simply trying to mock and belittle something of which I am contemptuous, in order to make people with ridiculous beliefs feel, hopefully, a little more ridiculous about believing them, while at the same time kindling in my self the warm glow of smug self-righteousness.

You say that like it's a good thing. Sounds mean-spirited, petty, and cruel to me.
posted by jonmc at 10:20 AM on February 28, 2004


psst...jon. sarcasm detectors on.
posted by jpoulos at 10:27 AM on February 28, 2004


well, it's kinda telling that I missed his sarcasm. Because Hildago's description sounds right on target.
posted by jonmc at 10:33 AM on February 28, 2004


I actually think that Hildago's passage is pretty accurate for both of the groups that are participating in this exchange. We don't agree, we're not going to agree and nobody is swapping camps.

That said, from reading some of these posts I find that I have a better understanding of who these people are and why they think the way they do. I'll admit I find it frequently creepy and more than a little alien reading some of these opinions, but at least we can still engage with each other on some level.
posted by snarfodox at 10:49 AM on February 28, 2004


i got no problem with skallas' posts

organized religion - especially the axis of evil: christianity, judaism, and islam, and how they have been twisted by vocal minorities of their followers, on the other hand...
posted by specialk420 at 11:34 AM on February 28, 2004


specialk : P
and what about hindus and buddhists? they're sunshine and roses?
posted by amberglow at 11:48 AM on February 28, 2004


yes, sunshine and roses, respectively.
posted by rhyax at 12:07 PM on February 28, 2004


My axis of (pure) evil: the monotheisms plus Hinduism. A pox on all their houses, genocidal freaks...
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:26 PM on February 28, 2004


A pox on all their houses, genocidal freaks...

Don't forget the atheists...
posted by hama7 at 12:44 PM on February 28, 2004


I was being sarcastic, mean-spirited, petty and cruel.
posted by Hildago at 12:54 PM on February 28, 2004


Talking to people who believe in magical forces is sometimes a little bit disturbing to those of us who don't believe in such things. We become frustrated when we become aware of the fact that we can't penetrate faith-based beliefs with a rational argument, no matter how cogent.

Smug and wrong. Read The Dancing Wu Li Masters, learn a little about quantum theory, and you'll learn that atheists (all of us, basically) are operating on unsupported mentally-constructed fantasies of what's actually real, too. "Rational arguments" are fundamentally useless in understanding the universe. Get used to it.
posted by scarabic at 1:54 PM on February 28, 2004


I've got your holographic universe right here, scarabic!
posted by squirrel at 2:06 PM on February 28, 2004


hindus and buddhists have skeletons in their closets as well - but nothing compared to the axis.

what if it had been muslim imam's who were up the to garbage the catholic church and their bunch clownies have been doing for years? or buddhist monks? ... something tells me a lot of christians would be up in arms not hush hushing.
posted by specialk420 at 2:53 PM on February 28, 2004


I just get tired of atheists and science-heads pretending that they don't have a belief system of *any* kind simply because they don't employ the concept of *god* Last I checked, the basis of reality was still a mystery even to the most pointy-headed, lab-coated geeks in the world, and the more we learned about the creation and fundamental mechanics of the universe, the more "magical," a.k.a. "counter-intuitive" it appeared to be.

As Gary Zukav points out, Buddhists long ago articulated many of the principles of reality that western physicists have arrived at in the past 100 years. The human capacity for imagination and intuition has become bound up with religious doctrine and politics repeatedly, but that's no cause to remove it surgically from a discussion.

While I, too, have nothing but derision for the average smug Xtian bigot, my patience wears thin for people who believe they've got a lockdown on the objective truth, or the rhetorical means to the objective truth, whether they're religious or not.
posted by scarabic at 2:57 PM on February 28, 2004


Smug and wrong. Read The Dancing Wu Li Masters, learn a little about quantum theory, and you'll learn that atheists (all of us, basically) are operating on unsupported mentally-constructed fantasies of what's actually real, too. "Rational arguments" are fundamentally useless in understanding the universe. Get used to it.

Whoa there, you've jumped the gun. This thread isn't about epistemology, it's about dogpiling on skallas and taking matt's comments out of context. And praising konolia's ability to take one for the team. And being petty and mean-spirited. Let's stay on topic. If you want to get in a debate about who has grounds for believing what, wait until the next time such a thread appears on the front page. Tomorrow good for you?
posted by Hildago at 2:59 PM on February 28, 2004


scarabic, I practice Buddhism precisely because it doesn't require me to relinquish the empirical.

hama7, you can't excuse the evil done by believers (though I know you'd like to) by pointing out the evil done by nonbelievers. That's a bizarre kind of relativism in itself.
posted by adamgreenfield at 3:23 PM on February 28, 2004


But doesn't it prove that evil is done by everyone--not just religions, and for any reason or no reason at all?
posted by amberglow at 3:35 PM on February 28, 2004


I just get tired of atheists and science-heads pretending that they don't have a belief system of *any* kind simply because they don't employ the concept of *god* Last I checked, the basis of reality was still a mystery even to the most pointy-headed, lab-coated geeks in the world, and the more we learned about the creation and fundamental mechanics of the universe, the more "magical," a.k.a. "counter-intuitive" it appeared to be.

What does accepting that mystery have to do with a belief system? Acknowledging that there's a lot of stuff we just don't understand yet isn't the same as relinquishing the empirical (as adamgreenfield says) or having faith in the supernatural. In fact it's the exact opposite of a belief system, since most believers think it's all been explained already whereas atheists and "science heads" know that it hasn't.
posted by biscotti at 3:39 PM on February 28, 2004


Again, languagehat, I don't see you complaining that Democrats continue to denounce extreme conservative statements when they are made.

rofl! (as the good quonsar would say)

You might want to check out my comments here (to pick one example of many).
posted by languagehat at 3:55 PM on February 28, 2004


their bunch clownies

specialk420 demonstrates the way to build understanding among a mixed group having a serious discussion -- refer to your fellow members that agree with popular beliefs as "clownies."

Awesome.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:14 PM on February 28, 2004



posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:20 PM on February 28, 2004


We don't agree, we're not going to agree and nobody is swapping camps.

That's a fallacious statement that would seem to indicate a rather hidebound view of humanity. People, in fact, do swap camps, and all the time.

But doesn't it prove that evil is done by everyone--not just religions, and for any reason or no reason at all?

I don't think anyone ever disputed that rather obvious truth. The question is what groups do particular harm, beyond the base level, and why.
posted by rushmc at 5:28 PM on February 28, 2004


But doesn't it prove that evil is done by everyone--not just religions, and for any reason or no reason at all?

A cookie for amberglow!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 6:25 PM on February 28, 2004


Whoa there, you've jumped the gun. This thread isn't about epistemology

Fair enough :)

That's one of the axes I'm busy grinding. But I don't have enough information to skewer anyone here as a smug science zealot, really. Once you jump the gun, is there any way back? Like doing the limbo back under the gun?

[limbos all night long]
posted by scarabic at 7:00 PM on February 28, 2004


It's possible to jump back into the gun. All things are possible... with science!
posted by Hildago at 7:10 PM on February 28, 2004


It's not that all groups do evil. They do, or are demonstrably capable of doing so. It's that only some claim to do it in the name of love, or in the name of a benevolent, all-knowing god. That's the atrocity.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:00 PM on February 28, 2004


I practice Buddhism precisely because it doesn't require me to relinquish the empirical.

you are not a buddhist.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:03 PM on February 28, 2004


But doesn't it prove that evil is done by everyone--not just religions, and for any reason or no reason at all?

So Religion and Morality are orthogonal?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:08 PM on February 28, 2004


It's not that all groups do evil. They do, or are demonstrably capable of doing so. It's that only some claim to do it in the name of love, or in the name of a benevolent, all-knowing god. That's the atrocity.

Other groups do it in the name of an ideology or philosophy. Worse? Better? Is the philosophy to blame or the individual?
posted by jonmc at 8:08 PM on February 28, 2004


sgt. serenity, you're right: I am *not* a Buddhist. I practice Buddhism (pretty badly, admittedly). But you're absolutely correct, there is a distinction.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:28 PM on February 28, 2004


You know, what I get tired of are these blanket, unsupported generalizations. For instance: I'm a Christian (albeit one who could do better, and has varying levels of faith.) I don't mention it much, either online or IRL, mainly because it's intensely personal to me and I often don't feel like discussing it except in the abstract.

But what a lot of people, especially on MetaFilter, don't seem to realize is that my faith is my own, and can't necessarily be easily pigeonholed. Just because I'm a Christian doesn't mean I believe in or agree with everything that the Catholic Church (or Southern Baptist Convention, or my own church's national organization, or the Greek Orthodox monastery down the street) does. It doesn't mean that I agree with everything that any Christian does or has done throughout history. And it doesn't mean that I don't see the flaws in organized religion, am unsympathetic to science, or can't think things through for myself.

I don't expect every Jewish person I meet to have full and unquestioning support of everything that Israel does. Why do so many MeFites insist on seeing the religious as blindly adhering to every precept? Christianity is pretty big, and almost infinitely variable in how it is practiced. But for me, it comes back to a central message of love and forgiveness. (Typing this reminds me of Douglas Adams: ". . .nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change. . .")
posted by Vidiot at 8:44 PM on February 28, 2004


jonmc, whether you blame the philosophy or the individual, you still have to blame any institution that made it possible and conspired for decades to cover it up.
posted by squirrel at 8:52 PM on February 28, 2004


There are two distinct issues here: belief in god (particularly the Christian god), and belonging to a religious institution (particularly a Christian church). Some of us have the belief; some of accept the church. Some of us reject one or the other or both. We shouldn't conflate the two issues.
posted by jpoulos at 8:55 PM on February 28, 2004


Let your faith guide your behaviour however you wish, but don't dare inflict it on me. I respect their right to have their beliefs shape their behaviour, and I demand my right to have the same. - five fresh fish

Brilliantly well said. I second it.
posted by dejah420 at 9:05 PM on February 28, 2004


Most of the evil and stupid in the world that I can see follows on immediately from the phrase "I am a..."
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:11 PM on February 28, 2004


jonmc, whether you blame the philosophy or the individual, you still have to blame any institution that made it possible and conspired for decades to cover it up.

True enough, squirrel, but the origian FPP that brought us here used the phrase "victims of Xtianity," which is an obvious implication that Christianity is a bad thing-like say, prisoners in a Gulag were "victims of Communism," concentration camp inmates are "victims of Fascism." This is what I imagine stuck in some peoples craw, including mine. Which is why I doubt we'd call casualties of WWII "victims of Democracy," although if we follow the post's reasoning you could, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:14 PM on February 28, 2004


whatever floats your boat , thats what i say , the god things very personal for people and i've always thought that trying to change somebodys idea of that is a complete waste of time although it would be great lol .
posted by sgt.serenity at 9:16 PM on February 28, 2004


which is an obvious implication that Christianity is a bad thing

OK, since I'm here...

I would welcome any empirical evidence, that in any way at all, as a world-wide phenomenon, Christianity has been anything but a bad thing. Beggin' yer pardon and all, but honestly, history would seem to bear me out here. Leaving out -- as I am compelled to do by the simple fact that I'm not one to accept arguments on 'faith' alone -- superstitious claptrap about an extremely vicious and vengeful but nonetheless loving invisible man in the sky and all of that stuff.

No, seriously.

I reckon the God People have killed a lot more innocents than the Nazis or Stalin ever did, there, jon, if we look further back than the previous century.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2004


I'm pretty sure that if Marty McFly to travelled back in time and accidently stopped Mary and Joseph from falling in love at the Enchantment Under the Red Sea dance, and the majority of people were all worshipping Zeus and his posse, the world would still be the horrible angry place that we know and love.

Christianity or whatever religion isn't the blame or the cause of whatever grand sequence of events Human Nature has brought us to today. Also, the scene where Marty is being chased by roman guards through Bethlehem on his skateboard-like chariot is awesome.
posted by Stan Chin at 9:59 PM on February 28, 2004


Marty McFly to travelled
posted by Stan Chin at 10:01 PM on February 28, 2004


accidently stopped Mary and Joseph from falling in love at the Enchantment Under the Red Sea dance

Are you suggesting that Jesus wasn't born of a virgin?

Evil! Heretic! Die, subhuman!

*beats Stan senseless with rocks and goat jawbones, then nails him up to a bloody great tree*

Whew. That was close. Carry on.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:13 PM on February 28, 2004


I would welcome any empirical evidence

That is the thrust of the problem, define, in six words. You simply can not quantify faith. And that's what prevents most rationial folks from even bothering to argue about it. I gave it up long ago, b/c I realised that it's futile on both sides, regardless or where I stand or who I agree with.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:17 PM on February 28, 2004


In my reality, I think I'd have to make Biff Tanner as God. So imagine if God got a little too enthusiastic with Mary in the parking lot, and Joseph came up and said, "Hey God, Get Your Damn Hands Off of Her!.
posted by Stan Chin at 10:17 PM on February 28, 2004


erm, define*d*
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:18 PM on February 28, 2004


I know, Ufez. I pretty much asked it to make that very point, aware that it's not answerable. I'm an asshole that way.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on February 28, 2004


I would welcome any empirical evidence, that in any way at all, as a world-wide phenomenon, Christianity has been anything but a bad thing.

Umm, well, when I was like eight or ten, I got a free hot dog from a church picnic at the park by my house. Also, I quite like The Ecstasy of St. Theresa of Avila.

There are all sorts of examples of Christianity doing good things. There are all sorts of examples of Christianity doing bad things. The real question is, on the whole, good or bad? I say bad, but maybe this isn't the right thread for it?

Also, would like to work in this quote somehow, since I just reread Lord of Light:

His followers called him mahasamatman, and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be.
posted by Hildago at 10:26 PM on February 28, 2004


>> We don't agree, we're not going to agree and nobody is swapping camps.

> That's a fallacious statement that would seem to indicate a rather hidebound view of humanity.

Generally speaking if I'm referring to humanity you'll be able to tell because I'll use the word 'humanity'. In this case I was referring to the group having this conversation.

Quick check: have any atheists participating in this conversation converted to theism since this chat began, or, alternatively has anyone been turned into an atheist? I'm prepared to be proved wrong.

Speaking of being prepared to be proved wrong...

> I just get tired of atheists and science-heads pretending that they don't have a belief system of *any* kind simply because they don't employ the concept of *god* Last I checked, the basis of reality was still a mystery even to the most pointy-headed, lab-coated geeks in the world, and the more we learned about the creation and fundamental mechanics of the universe, the more "magical," a.k.a. "counter-intuitive" it appeared to be.

Actually I don't recall saying that "atheists and science-heads" don't have a belief system of any kind. My belief system requires me to be prepared to be proven wrong. I differ from having a 'faith' in that I require supporting evidence for my beliefs.

As a student of quantum chromodynamics I assure you that the universe isn't magical OR counter-intuitive, in fact you will find that current theories about the fundamental mechanics of the universe are in fact the most accurate predictive theories in human history.
posted by snarfodox at 10:27 PM on February 28, 2004


I know, Ufez. I pretty much asked it to make that very point, aware that it's not answerable. I'm an asshole that way.

and that point, if accepted by those on both sides, could prevent a whole lotta headaches, including this thread, which has no sustainable value. (and yeah, I figured that's where you were going).
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:31 PM on February 28, 2004


I never get mentioned in MetaTalk... I really oughta ramp it up a bit.

*sigh*
posted by silusGROK at 10:48 PM on February 28, 2004


Actually, this is an interesting point. Just because you don't understand how something works doesn't mean that it is magical (by which I assume you mean something like 'supernatural', or "not existing in nature or subject to explanation according to natural laws"). If you define counterintuitive as being contrary to 'common sense' I suppose something being counterintuitive depends on the 'common' group you draw your conclusions from.

I see a lot of people citing quantum mechanics as evidence that the universe isn't deterministic or that the universe is enormously complex. Well... yes. This doesn't mean a person can't intuit that this is the way it seems to work. The fact that people continue to contribute to quantum mechanics is evidence that certain people at least don't find it counterintuitive. The 'common sense' of that group is heavily influenced by the fact that it is having severe difficulties finding applications for quantum mechanics where it isn't spectacularly accurate. Within this group an idea that doesn't agree with quantum mechanics might seem counterintuitive, wouldn't inherit a lot of the theory's supporting evidence and would be called upon to provide stronger supporting evidence for that contention as a result.

'Counterintuitive' is a mindset issue. If you break away from your peer group's 'common sense' way of looking at the world then your world-view is likely to be considered counterintuitive. An earth that orbited the sun probably seemed counterintuitive until the evidence began to roll in.
posted by snarfodox at 11:06 PM on February 28, 2004


You simply can not quantify faith.

It is rather telling that in none of the religious discussion that has occurred on Metafilter has anyone ever been able to explain what differentiates "faith" from any other sort of delusion. All the behavioral markers are the same. If it walks like a duck....
posted by rushmc at 12:45 AM on February 29, 2004


Rush: do you believe reason is on your side when you speak your mind here? Does it seem clear to you that what you say is understandable? Does your explanation seem acceptable?

Well, faith is exactly like that: it's a belief in the existence of an explanation for the things we can't be sure of. Most of those who believe in God know exactly as much as (and respect rationality and science no less than) you do.

For people like me, the idea that rationality and science will one day be able to explain everything is a belief that's just as impossible to prove as the existence of God. I could call it a "delusion" too, if by this you mean a belief which you believe to be mistaken. But "delusion" is an insult and using it just shows that one doesn't really think it's all a matter of opinion. Which it is. Religion and atheism are strictly IMHO territories and shit happens whenever one religion (or one particular kind of rationalism, like Communism) thinks its opinion is better than others. It's the "Us/Them" dichotomy that's the killer, whatever and whoever "Us" and "Them" are. 99% of the world's problems would cease if people just stopped trying to ram their opinions down other people's throats.

If you look at the lists of believers and non-believers you'll find just as many intelligent people, strict rationalists and hardcore scientists who were or are atheists as those who believed or believe in God.

It seems very medieval and backward to simplify all these rich contradictions - which are probably, taken all together, one of the fundamental engines of civilization - into believers and non-believers, "enlightened" rationalists and "deluded" believers. It's a great deal more complicated than that, thank you. Or God. ;)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 2:05 AM on February 29, 2004


I think talking about your faith, like your sexual life, should be between you and the significant other in question.

I have grounded my complicated and purely personal belief in the divine in experience of direct contact with that divinity, which makes me something on a range between a schizophrenic and saintly on other peoples' Slide Rule of Judgement.

Which is to say : yes, Miguel, but also no. Reason, over-rated as is it by us intellekshul types, and faith, underrated as it is by the same bunch, are orthogonal in all the ways that count. They are, though, in a way that perhaps you're pointing at, founded on the same idea that 'things are, in the end, explicable'.

Of that, I'm not so sure.

It seems very medieval and backward to simplify all these rich contradictions

True words were rarely spoken, and if ever there were a candidate for a new MeFi tagline, that's it, by God.

Heh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:43 AM on February 29, 2004


I just walked into this but I will second Miguel. This extreme embrace of logic and rationalism is its own delusion. I say this as someone who adores science and mathematics and who has soaked in it.

The most intelligent people I know have always been the first to admit that, on many of the largest questions, they simply don't know. Feynman cautioned that physics could explain the 'how' but it was not prudent to use it to explain the 'why.'

Admitting that some things are beyond reason or that it is a miracle at all that we have managed, stumbling along with our mathematical and scientific methods, to make the universe understandable is ok. As Einstein said, "the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible" but that doesn't mean that we should take that comprehensibility as a postulate.

If science and reason and logic gives you a cozy feeling and helps you make sense of the world, then great. But, as snarfodox implies the only faith is that we should question everything, including, I add, how we arrive at our own beliefs.

To admit there are things beyond reason is not to abandon reason. It doesn't mean we should all suddenly start throwing dice and consulting astrological star charts. It means a basic humility before the grand thing that is creation and a realization that us, ourselves, consciousness is indeed a special thing, that our attempts to grasp what is going on are inherently limited by such things as how we approach the world, our own needs and limitations.

Ultimately, reason and faith are both boot-strapped. Neither can be shown to be more fundamental than the other. Sure, reason has great predictive power and is useful in understanding the mechanics of our world but that does not make it into a religion. You cannot use reason to undermine faith because then your assumptions imply your conclusion.

At a very fundamental level, Science is a delusion. But it is a good working delusion. It's worked so far for a few hundred years and appears to be doing quite well. So, yes, lets stick with it. It seems to be doing a good job of answering some fundamental questions, on its own terms. I agree with that.

But don't make unfounded predictions about what science will or will not do in the future. That is pure speculation and faith. It was only 100 years ago that the consensus view in physics was that everything had been tidied up, the universe ran like a clock and we understood it all. Well, there were a few details to be "cleaned up" (details which led to Quantum mechanics and relativity) but that would be taken care of soon. Pure hubris.

I'm willing to admit I don't really know whats going on. Over the years I've learned to be wary of people who believe that they have all the answers, from knocking-on-your-door jehovah's witnesses all the way to hardcore rationalists.

I rarely take a direct stab at another mefi user but, frankly, I am a bit tired of rushmc's methods. He always has to get the last word in which, to me, shows he is less interested in understanding another person's view and furthering a fruitful debate than he is in scoring points for himself and 'winning' the debate.
posted by vacapinta at 2:58 AM on February 29, 2004


True words were rarely spoken

Damn it : truer
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:00 AM on February 29, 2004


Don't you mean Damn it: are ?
posted by y2karl at 5:53 AM on February 29, 2004


> For people like me, the idea that rationality and science will one day be able to explain everything is a belief that's just as impossible to prove as the existence of God. I could call it a "delusion" too...

MiguelCardoso: Depending on what you mean by 'explain' I think we came to the conclusion (about seventy-three years ago) that for any rigidly logical system there are propositions that can be formulated that are undecidable or undemonstrable within the axioms of that system. We like that. It gives us lots to play with.

vacapinta: to admit that there are things we don't know doesn't necessarily say anything about our ability to reason. Are you talking about the same information theory issues referenced above? There are ways and means (gauge theories for one) to work within those limitations.

I would also like to point out that asking a complex systems theorist to explain 'why' is like asking Dogen why he hit you with a stick.

I'd like to turn MiguelCardoso's statement around. It isn't that I believe that rationality and science will one day be able to 'explain everything'. That kind of anselmic omniscience is explicitly denied by conventional science. Rather I would prefer to say that there isn't anything that is observable that we can't apply ourselves to explaining... which is a very different proposition.
posted by snarfodox at 5:59 AM on February 29, 2004




*thud*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:10 AM on February 29, 2004


*squirt*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:11 AM on February 29, 2004


Bravo, MiguelCardoso.

I remember some time ago that MetaFilter's dgaicun also made some similarly compelling observations. One lengthy discussion begins here, and another here.
posted by hama7 at 6:45 AM on February 29, 2004


Well, faith is exactly like that

No, I would say that faith is exactly not like that. As Bertrand Russell said, what is wanted is not the will to believe, but the wish to find out, which is the exact opposite. You argue for human fallibility and limitation—well, which group is predicated upon these things, the religious or those dedicated to inquiry, experiment, and falsification? Hint: one group claims inerrancy for what is written in a book of dubious origin and legitimacy.

Even thrown into a sea of chaos, where I could apprehend little with certainty or conviction, I would rather try to establish what I could than to embrace a known fiction.
posted by rushmc at 9:17 AM on February 29, 2004


I would welcome any empirical evidence, that in any way at all, as a world-wide phenomenon, Christianity has been anything but a bad thing

Well, I know plenty of people who've conquered addictions, removed destructive behaviors from their lives and become better people due, at least in part, to their faith. People like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jimmy Carter and many others have done good works that have helped countless people and they've publicly stated that they were guided by religious convictions.

I, of course, realize that plenty of horrible things have been done in the nameof religion as well, but you asked for evidence that it had ever been anything but a bad thing. The idea of Democracy has led to people being killed, as has Capitalism, should both of those ideas be in the dustbin of history as well?

Also, just because I believe in God dosen't mean I abandon reason. I just use the brain God gave me. Many great things are beyond reason: love, passion, spontaneity. It's all part of a balanced diet if you ask me. A life lived entirely in the realm of empiricism sounds rather dry and airless, but that's just me.
posted by jonmc at 9:47 AM on February 29, 2004


I could call it a "delusion" too, if by this you mean a belief which you believe to be mistaken.

That is not at all how I am using the term. If you think Wednesday's lottery numbers will include the number 7, that is not a delusion, though it may well prove to be inaccurate. But if you think the lottery is run by a cartel of pink squid who excrete M&Ms, that is a delusion. It doesn't do the discussion any good to water down the definition of "delusion" to "something you disagree with."
posted by rushmc at 9:53 AM on February 29, 2004


A cookie for amberglow!
*munches cookie while sitting in corner watching the heathens and godly go at it while praying to pink squid for more m&ms and healthy divine bowels, nods in agreement with jonmc and offers him some m&ms and half the cookie and pamphlet on squidism*
posted by amberglow at 10:41 AM on February 29, 2004


Mmmm. Cookies and M&Ms. Your religion is intriguing and I wish to subscribe to your god1.

> A life lived entirely in the realm of empiricism sounds rather dry and airless, but that's just me.

Indeed.

For me on the other hand people who can't appreciate the beauty to be found in formulating a description of the emergence of love, passion and spontaneity in cognitive science sound like they inhabit a rather dry, airless and restrictive intellectual niche. Just because you know where something comes from or how it works doesn't necessarily make it any less wondrous.
____________________________
1. Subscription is subject to religion involving only free cookies and M&Ms.

posted by snarfodox at 12:31 PM on February 29, 2004


1. Subscription is subject to religion involving only free cookies and M&Ms.
Well, you have to help ensure the divine regularity of the squid--otherwise the m&m supply runs out (or doesn't, actually) ; >
posted by amberglow at 12:44 PM on February 29, 2004


Jonmc, I suggest that you ignore rushmc and skallas completely. They're ideologues: they're unpleasant and argumentative and committed to the idea that their view is holy, and they will never be enticed into polite and reasonable discussion, at least not for long. For all their talk about science "being prepared to accept that it's wrong", these two individuals are simply not temperamentally inclined towards being polite, reasonable, or rational. (Well, maybe they have a more reasonable side, but in all my years here, I've never seen it from rushmc, and it's been a long while since I've seen it from skallas).

As the Imam Shafi'i reputedly said, "I never argued with an intelligent man, but that I won. I never argued with a fool, but that I lost". They're not trolls, I'll give them that, but the principle is the same: don't feed the ideologues.
posted by gd779 at 12:45 PM on February 29, 2004


10 seconds after posting that, I regretted it. I apologize, I merely made things worse with my comment.
posted by gd779 at 12:51 PM on February 29, 2004


178 Comments? Holy petri dish.
posted by VulcanMike at 2:13 PM on February 29, 2004


...I suggest that you ignore rushmc and skallas completely. They're ideologues: they're unpleasant and argumentative and committed to the idea that their view is holy...

Metafilter through the looking glass.
posted by dash_slot- at 3:25 PM on February 29, 2004


Vidiot brought up Douglas Adams before and it seems that his interview with "American atheist" is relevant here.
(it's also included in "The Salmon of Doubt")

AMERICAN ATHEISTS: Mr. Adams, you have been described as a “radical Atheist.” Is this accurate?

DNA: Yes. I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly.


There are also many more questions from this interview that relate to our topic.
posted by milovoo at 4:04 PM on February 29, 2004


Also, just because I believe in God dosen't mean I abandon reason. I just use the brain God gave me. Many great things are beyond reason: love, passion, spontaneity. It's all part of a balanced diet if you ask me. A life lived entirely in the realm of empiricism sounds rather dry and airless, but that's just me.

On the other hand, just because I don't believe in God does not mean that love, passion, spontaneity are alien too me. I think that too often what this comes down to is my fellow atheists on one side and theists on the other side arguing about stereotypes rather than how the other side really lives, thinks and works. If there is one thing about atheism that I would like to communicate, it is that all of the atheists I've met are driven by a passionate love of the universe as it is, rather than as a sign pointing to a creator.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:29 PM on February 29, 2004


Is this the part of the meeting where people gather off into polite groups and agree to make molehills out of mountains?
posted by Opus Dark at 5:30 PM on February 29, 2004


One more small self-indulgence:

Theists seem to have a difficult time understanding the intensity of atheists' frustration. Maybe this will help:

Suppose some imaginary world leader - let's call him Borge Fubbleyou Tush - were to press The Button and incinerate half of Europe. His reason? - "God told me to do it".

You are a theist. Your job, as one of the singed-and-still-smoking survivors of this event, is to convince Borge that he was mistaken about the source of his inspiration.

He gets to use all of the stuff theists use to lead all such discussions to their inevitable dead ends. You get to use the other stuff.

Good Luck!

*Not affiliated with anyone or anything, anywhere, at any time.
posted by Opus Dark at 5:55 PM on February 29, 2004


If there is one thing about atheism that I would like to communicate, it is that all of the atheists I've met are driven by a passionate love of the universe as it is, rather than as a sign pointing to a creator.

I don't doubt it. The woman I love and several of my closest freinds are decidedly atheist, and I'd definetely describe them as such. I was more defending deism than condemning atheism. My main gripe was that I'd like the favor returned. Yes acknowledge the assholes on either side, but give props to the good people too.

As David Foster Wallace put it:

"If there is a God, the question of whether or not you believe in Him/Her/It may be very low on his list of things He/She/It is interested in re:you."

Not to mention plenty of atheist, agnostics and pagans I've known have read the various texts of major religions and said that, their disbelief aside, that there's a lot of wisdom and guidance in those books.
posted by jonmc at 6:11 PM on February 29, 2004


I'll be DFW is embarrassed about writing that clunker of a sentence now. I know I would be.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:13 PM on February 29, 2004


Fuck. 'I'll bet...' is what I meant, of course. I keep missing letters these days.

Well, I know plenty of people who've conquered addictions, removed destructive behaviors from their lives and become better people due, at least in part, to their faith. People like Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Jimmy Carter and many others have done good works that have helped countless people and they've publicly stated that they were guided by religious convictions.

Of course, but that simply doesn't do it for me, jon. It smacks of the kind of evasion of responsibility for one's own actions that people who blame their parents for all their problems so often engage in, for example. The people did what they did, and they did it for reasons of their own, which may, as you suggest, have included 'faith'. But the point is that they did what they did, not their God or their church. Would they have done these things without a belief in the invisible man in the sky? There's no reason why not. The actions they took and the beliefs that spurred them are not related in any kind of causal fashion. You starting to see where I'm coming from here?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:21 PM on February 29, 2004


Suppose some imaginary world leader - let's call him Borge Fubbleyou Tush - were to press The Button and incinerate half of Europe. His reason? - "God told me to do it".

You are a theist. Your job, as one of the singed-and-still-smoking survivors of this event, is to convince Borge that he was mistaken about the source of his inspiration.


Incidentally ... kind of interesting that it would seem necessary to make up some thinly veiled slam on Bush, and ignore the existance of the actual examples ... such as:

"Suppose some real world leader - let's call him Osama bin Laden - were to send airlines hijacked by suicidal believers into the World Trade Center in New York. His reason? - "It is the will of Allah".

You are a theist. Your job, as one of the singed-and-still-smoking survivors of this event, is to convince bin Laden that he was mistaken about the source of his inspiration."

Just sayin'
posted by MidasMulligan at 7:22 PM on February 29, 2004


The actions they took and the beliefs that spurred them are not related in any kind of causal fashion.

Well, actually, they are. I want to please God, and He enables me to do so. He has and is changing me from the inside out, enabling me not just to do His will but to WANT to. There are lots of things I did as a nonbeliever that I have no desire to do now as a believer, and the only difference is the work He has done inside my heart.

My sorry efforts to try to be "good' before I gave my life to the Lord are not worth mentioning. I don't feel like sharing a lot about my personal life pre Christ but let's just say I was no choir girl.
posted by konolia at 7:28 PM on February 29, 2004


Hey guys, great job on arguing about how something that is verifiable and useful, like science and reason, is equal to or lesser than something which is utterly useless ipso facto, like blind faith. Awesome work there.
posted by Hildago at 7:31 PM on February 29, 2004


Well, stav, I can't speak for Carter, King or Gandhi, but I can tell you that several people I know have told me that they conquered their addictions/changed their lives/simply found more peice of mind through their faith in some sort of higher power and I have no reason to doubt them. And I can't speak for everyone, but I haven't heard a single one of them blame God or use him as an excuse for their shortcomings. If anything they'll say something along the lines of "I make the mistakes, God Shows me how to fix them." I don't see that as evading responsibility. I see it as humility, which almost every human in the world could use more of.

And the effects on these people are a good thing, IMHO. They use religion/faith/spirituality to find some peace in their lives. I gotta ask (in the nicest possible way) what's it to ya?
posted by jonmc at 7:35 PM on February 29, 2004


jonmc: I don't doubt it. The woman I love and several of my closest freinds are decidedly atheist, and I'd definetely describe them as such. I was more defending deism than condemning atheism. My main gripe was that I'd like the favor returned. Yes acknowledge the assholes on either side, but give props to the good people too.

True, on the other hand, the stereotype of the dispassionate dry atheist who wanders through life in some existential funk always makes an appearance in these discussions, and always dissapoints me when they do.

jonmc: And the effects on these people are a good thing, IMHO. They use religion/faith/spirituality to find some peace in their lives. I gotta ask (in the nicest possible way) what's it to ya?

I'm at a point in my life where I really don't care what someone thinks about god. What I do care about is what they think of my morality and psychology absent god.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:59 PM on February 29, 2004


[...]kind of interesting that it would seem necessary to make up some thinly veiled slam on Bush[...]

Ah, Midas - not a slam - just using neon nomenclature to attract the appropriate audience.

Your rewrite/recast is valid.
posted by Opus Dark at 8:04 PM on February 29, 2004


And by the way - this has been quite an interesting discussion. Maybe I'll kick in a couple of comments (as a prelude, I'll say that if I'm anything, I'm a neo-Platonist, whom - if he could take a single book to a desert island - would take the Stephen Mackenna translation of the Enneads of Plotinus ... so I don't have much of a vested interest for or against any particular current religion).

I guess I think trying to say that "organized religion" is "good or bad" is fairly fruitless. It is roughly akin to saying that organized government is good or bad ... really, its neither ... it is human ... and has always (and will always) serve as the foundation for everything from the noblest heights to the darkest depths of the human soul.

With that said - I've also got to say that (personally) I believe that the world is immensely richer for the existance of religion (and this has nothing to do with the metaphysical questions about whether or not a particular religion's beliefs are "right" or not). I've gotten to see all manner of religious and spiritual ceremonies and practices on this funny 'ol planet, and most of them are just fascinating. Earth would be a much less colorful place without them (part of me just can't help but see religion as a form of creative artistic expression).

I do believe that the fundamentalist, reductionist level of most religions obviously has problems ... the notion, for instance, that a being capable of creating the immensity of space and time that composes the universe would actually care whether I said "goddamit" instead of "gosh darn it" appears to be rather lacking in perspective.

By the same token, the notion that "reason", acting upon the inputs from human senses (slightly extended recently by scientific tools) ... embedded as it is in a couple of pounds of neurons, in a human being who's extension in space is 5 or 6 feet, and who's extension in time is around 70 years ... to think the human intellect is even remotely equipped to understand the bigger issues of creation and existance - appears to be equally lacking in perspective.

Ultimately ... I think religion should never be forced, but should always be permitted. This is where I part from the ACLU and the atheists ... our Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, but also delivers the freedom to practice any religion. And (in a perspective sure to piss off both Christians and atheists)I have no problem with Christianity being talked about in public schools, nor with public scholarship money going to religious students ... so long as it is all religions. Hell yes present the perspectives of Christianity to grade school kids. Alongside those of Judaism, and Buddhism, and Hinduism, and Islam, and any other religion that anyone wants.
posted by MidasMulligan at 8:10 PM on February 29, 2004


Well, actually, they are. I want to please God, and He enables me to do so.

I literally laughed out loud, there, konolia, thanks. You just keep on pleasin' God. I'm not gonna stop you, as long as you keep it out of my face.

They use religion/faith/spirituality to find some peace in their lives. I gotta ask (in the nicest possible way) what's it to ya?

I am all for people finding peace any way they can that doesn't harm others. It's when the religion is used as a smokescreen for child-abusers, or a reason to deny citizens their rights, or (...) that I start to get my back up.

I can't tell if you're completely missing my filosophizin' points here on purpose or not, jon. I was attempting to make a point about free will, and relate that to my assertion that christianity has been a malign influence in history (if not in the actual lives of some (and only some, in my experience)) of its practitioners). There is a fairly large hole in my argument, of course, and I was waiting for you to drive a truck through it so we could argue some more, but you've disappointed me by stepping back and going, in effect, 'yeah? so?'

I said upthread that 'I think talking about your faith, like your sexual life, should be between you and the significant other in question', and I meant that. My implication, which I thought was clear enough, is that the 'significant other' in the former case is your God.

I don't want to hear about konolia's god-fetish any more than I want to hear about her sex life. And I recall her telling us more than I wanted to hear about that in the past as well. The two urges to, er, witness may be related, I don't know.

Look, the fact that someone feels they are doing 'good things' is itself a Good Thing, but it's as lame and pathetic to say 'god made me do it' as it is to do evil and say 'the devil made me do it'. The net effect in the world is good works in the former case, of course, but for all the wrong reasons. If someone finds that they can only achieve peace by absolving themselves of responsibility for their actions, I can't find much to respect in that stance, but I can be thankful that they do Good Works, if indeed they do.

Good Works do not include evangelizing their faith to anyone in earshot, in my books.

[Other people are talking about sloppy wet faith and dry ascetic atheism, which is a very stupid argument, and one I'm not even paying attention, in case I've been unclear on that.]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:21 PM on February 29, 2004


There is a fairly large hole in my argument, of course, and I was waiting for you to drive a truck through it so we could argue some more, but you've disappointed me by stepping back and going, in effect, 'yeah? so?'

Well, then either my switch from beer & whiskey to Dr. Pepper and Ovaltine has dampened my taste for intellectual bloodsport or I'm nowhere near as smart as you give me credit for. Probably both.

Whatever. If there's a God, stav, I'm fairly certain taht at least some of the time, he thinks your a major league hoot.
posted by jonmc at 8:28 PM on February 29, 2004


1. Subscription is subject to religion involving only free cookies and M&Ms.

i know a god named capitalism...

posted by kaibutsu at 8:30 PM on February 29, 2004


Hey guys, great job on arguing about how something that is verifiable and useful, like science and reason, is equal to or lesser than something which is utterly useless ipso facto, like blind faith. Awesome work there.

'Reason' is not the opposite of 'faith'. Science is unrelated to both, except in the sense that both reason and faith are strata upon which science rests; reason in the actual methodologies of the doing of it, and faith that the universe is orderly and explicable.

I mentioned this upthread.

Your sarcasm is unwarranted and a little groundless, there, Hildago, if I may be so bold as to criticize.

If there's a God, stav, I'm fairly certain that at least some of the time, he thinks your a major league hoot.

And you, my friend, and you.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:35 PM on February 29, 2004


Midas: This is where I part from the ACLU and the atheists ... our Constitution forbids the establishment of a state religion, but also delivers the freedom to practice any religion.

Exactly who are you talking about here? I honestly don't know of many athiests who would say that one should not have the freedom to practice any religion. Most of us just don't care what goes on in Churches and would rather not debate the issue if it were not for the fact that religion is seen as a prerequisite for ethical pubilc life. What is "the atheists" in this context? You are aware that "atheist" does not imply much in the way of a common philosophy, only a shared skepticism regarding that thing most people call "god?" Which brings me to meta-gripe two about these discussions is that both sides ignore the fact that "theism" and "atheism" refer to only a specific position regarding a specific question.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:42 PM on February 29, 2004


"The opposite of good is good intentions. "

-Kurt Tucholsky

Skallas should have kept his disgust for the institutional secrecy that magnifies such problems. Sometimes emotions get the better of us when confronting these issues. I try and back away from the keyboard before I post sometimes and it seems to help clear the head.
posted by john at 9:03 PM on February 29, 2004


Exactly who are you talking about here? I honestly don't know of many athiests who would say that one should not have the freedom to practice any religion. Most of us just don't care what goes on in Churches and would rather not debate the issue if it were not for the fact that religion is seen as a prerequisite for ethical pubilc life. What is "the atheists" in this context? You are aware that "atheist" does not imply much in the way of a common philosophy, only a shared skepticism regarding that thing most people call "god?"

Yes ... certainly. In saying "the freedom to practice religion" I misstated what I was aiming at here. You are right to draw the distinction you're talking about. I suppose I think there are two entirely different levels of conversations that occur whenever the "theism vs. atheism" argument happens ... the first being metaphysical (does or does not God exist & etc.), and the second being socio-political (what constitues the "establishment" of a religion, etc., etc.).

I guess I would slightly dispute your statement that "atheist does not imply much in the way of a common philosophy, only a shared skepticism regarding that thing most people call "god?" ... as I guess that seems more like an agnostic ... I always thought "atheist" refered to those that definitively believe there is no God (quite a bit different than simply being skeptical about the world's current common understanding of what "God" might be - as is merely a belief ... since they can no more prove that God does not exist than theists can prove God does exist).

I suppose as far as the metaphysical side goes, I think everybody is wrong. Even though - in geological terms - humans as a race only recently even stumbled across the notion of using the brain for something other than pure survival, inventing religion, philosophy, science, the arts, government, and everything else just within the last few millenia - we do know enough to have at least a dim glimpse of how enormous the universe is in space and time. The bightest humans on earth are still little other than impossibly tiny specks of existance, alive for the briefest flash of time. To conclude that because we happened to have evolved a brain that asks stumbling questions about the larger reality, that brain is therefore even remotely capable of framing or understanding the answers is really kinda funny. In fact, it is the height of arrogance to believe that the question/answer paradigm itself is capable of leading to much. It is pretty good at getting us food, and getting us laid ... but insects (by far the most populous kingdom on earth) get along fine in both those areas also.

The socio-political aspects of atheism is a completely different story. And in this instance, well-known atheists (from Marx-Engels to Madalyn Murray O'Hair) have had definate political and social aims.

I guess I was just mentioning a sort of pet peeve of my own ... we've gotten so intense about making certain no religion gets "established" in our school systems that we're now raising generations with a huge blind spot. Its possible now to go through the full 12 years of standard public education and have virtually no idea of even the basic tenets of religions currently practiced by large numbers of the world's popultation (let alone their historical roots, or the world's current minor religions). How does a nation make a decision about the middle-east when most of its inhabitants could name even the primary distinctions between the Sunnis and Shi-ites? How do we understand China well enough to do business there if we believe Confucious is merely a guy that writes fortune cookies, has never even heard of Chuang Tzu, and the identical image comes to mind (of a robed bald man sitting in the full lotus) whether you mention Taoism, Buddhism, or Hinduism.

Anyway. Enough ranting. No one is convincing anyone here. Just expressing opinions that are (hopefully) interesting.
posted by MidasMulligan at 9:59 PM on February 29, 2004


> Hell yes present the perspectives of Christianity to grade school kids. Alongside those of Judaism, and Buddhism, and Hinduism, and Islam, and any other religion that anyone wants.

MidasMulligan: We might need to add another year or two of schooling to fit everybody in. This list should be an acceptable starting point. I'm sure that once the idea takes off many more will make themselves known.

Aum Shinri Kyo sound like they could put together a really spectacular presentation for the kids, preferably nowhere near the chemistry lab. The various Christian Identity speakers might need someone to help them clear the room of the non-white kids though.
posted by snarfodox at 10:12 PM on February 29, 2004


'Reason' is not the opposite of 'faith'. Science is unrelated to both, except in the sense that both reason and faith are strata upon which science rests; reason in the actual methodologies of the doing of it, and faith that the universe is orderly and explicable.

I'm not arguing in fundamental opposites. I am literally saying that you guys (I wave my hands to indicate the crowd) are saying that science is somehow quasi-mystical, and also that religion is this great, useful thing. Probably two separate lines of discussion, but I would like to draw them together insofar as to say that it might look to the casual observer like this thread has it ass-backwards, since religion is what's mystical, and science it's what's useful.
posted by Hildago at 10:29 PM on February 29, 2004



Your sarcasm is unwarranted and a little groundless, there, Hildago, if I may be so bold as to criticize.


Oh, and yeah, criticize all you want, it's fine by me. Fair is fair.
posted by Hildago at 10:30 PM on February 29, 2004


Midas: I guess I would slightly dispute your statement that "atheist does not imply much in the way of a common philosophy, only a shared skepticism regarding that thing most people call "god?" ... as I guess that seems more like an agnostic ... I always thought "atheist" referred to those that definitively believe there is no God (quite a bit different than simply being skeptical about the world's current common understanding of what "God" might be - as is merely a belief ... since they can no more prove that God does not exist than theists can prove God does exist).

Generally there is a distinction made between weak atheism (the claim that it reasonable to not believe in a god) and strong atheism (the claim that god does not exist.) Examples of 20th century weak atheism include Bertrand Russell who argued quite well that in the absence of evidence for a god, doubt (or lack of belief) should be the default position.

To conclude that because we happened to have evolved a brain that asks stumbling questions about the larger reality, blah blah blah. In fact, it is the height of arrogance to believe blah blah blah blah blah...

Um, what does this have to do with atheism? Atheism is simply a claim about theology.Epistemology is down the hall to the right.

(And if you want to argue epistemology, I would argue that almost everybody has pretty much come to terms with the existence of unanswerable questions, that what you are arguing against is a cartoon image of science that is no longer current, and that most contemporary atheism is quite comfortable on a position of justified reasonable doubt.)

The sociopolitical aspects of atheism is a completely different story. And in this instance, well-known atheists (from Marx-Engels to Madalyn Murray O'Hair) have had definite political and social aims.

True, but if you compare Marx-Engles and O'Hair (who is a controversial figure even among atheists) there there are some pretty radical and fundamental differences in social and political philosophy. Throw in Epicurus, Carl Sagan, Ayn Rand, John Dewey, B. F. Skinner, Bertrand Russell and E. O. Wilson into the mix and you get some pretty huge differences.

And to put it another way, we don't and should not make a sociopolitical claim regarding "theists" because even within Christianity there are some fundamental schisms in regards to social and political philosophy, and these differences are minute compared to the differences between Chistianity and Islam. For an example of how deep those schisms go between atheists, look up Rand's vicious attack on Skinner's Humanism on google.

Its possible now to go through the full 12 years of standard public education and have virtually no idea of even the basic tenets of religions currently practiced by large numbers of the world's popultation (let alone their historical roots, or the world's current minor religions). How does a nation make a decision about the middle-east when most of its inhabitants could name even the primary distinctions between the Sunnis and Shi-ites? How do we understand China well enough to do business there if we believe Confucious is merely a guy that writes fortune cookies, has never even heard of Chuang Tzu, and the identical image comes to mind (of a robed bald man sitting in the full lotus) whether you mention Taoism, Buddhism, or Hinduism.

Well, here again, I don't know of many people who argue that world religions should not be a part of social studies. In fact, I suspect that most atheists and humanists are less threatened by comparative religious studies than the groups on the other side wanting to get rid of Harry Potter for fear of witchcraft.

However, this seems to ignore the political reality that we are not seeing many fair-minded calls for comparative religious studies in classroom, but a restoration of liturgy in the classroom.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:58 PM on February 29, 2004


Nice post, KirkJobSluder.

you have to help ensure the divine regularity of the squid

That sounds distinctly unpleasant.
posted by rushmc at 11:22 PM on February 29, 2004


Hildago: I'm not arguing in fundamental opposites. I am literally saying that you guys (I wave my hands to indicate the crowd) are saying that science is somehow quasi-mystical, and also that religion is this great, useful thing. Probably two separate lines of discussion, but I would like to draw them together insofar as to say that it might look to the casual observer like this thread has it ass-backwards, since religion is what's mystical, and science it's what's useful.

I'm having trouble seeing where you are getting that. I suppose my posts could be contributing to the confusion but I suspect it has more to do with a widespread mistake that the antonym of "religion" is "science."

At least I'm not saying that science is mystical. What I am saying is that a lack of belief in a supernatural does not doom one to a dry, passionless life. I don't know of anyone who uses science when making a decision between potatoes and rice at dinner.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:28 PM on February 29, 2004


Ohh, and now I really am ranting. A part of the problem is that religion has wrapped up a bunch of really wonderful, nice, and beautiful things about being human into a box called "spirituality" or "mysticism" and sold the whole package with god (like it is difficult to buy the laptop without Windows installed.) Awe, beauty, joy, love, passion, ecstasy, curiosity, creativity, become religious experiences valued for their connection with god, rather than human experiences to be valued for their connection to the beings and the world we share them with.

If atheism fails it is not in making the case for justified doubt, but in failing to communicate how many atheists are driven by a deep and passionate love for the world in which they live. Because after all, we only get one trip to enjoy it.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:47 PM on February 29, 2004


I have no problem with Christianity being talked about in public schools, nor with public scholarship money going to religious students ... so long as it is all religions. Hell yes present the perspectives of Christianity to grade school kids. Alongside those of Judaism, and Buddhism, and Hinduism, and Islam, and any other religion that anyone wants.

Acutally, Midas, I don't see that pissing off any atheists. Sorry to disappoint. Actually, this relates to the reason that stavros should stop fucking with konolia:

As an Atheist myself (from the non-Evangelical Greater Missouri Synod), the biggest beef that I have with MeFi's "cracker barrel" atheists is that their constant speechifying betrays a silly conradiction. They claim--validly, in my opinion--that a dispassionate survey of human history provides ample justification to oppose organized religion. Yet they seem completely uninterested in even the briefest glance of the history unfolding around them. Simply put, if billions of people in the world are all devoting their lives to something, it seems curious that someone who claims a superior understanding of humanity's relationship to the universe would constantly reject data about it.

Why wouldn't you want to hear about konolia's "god fetish?" She shares it with half the freakin' world! If you can in no way understand individual or social contexts in which religion serves valid roles for some people--even if never does for you or me--than it probably because you've never tried.

If you hate religion so much, stop fucking preaching.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 1:42 AM on March 1, 2004


You're the one preaching here, son. Step the fuck back.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:57 AM on March 1, 2004


Because after all, we only get one trip to enjoy it.

Isn't that statement an article of faith?
posted by Dagobert at 2:11 AM on March 1, 2004


If you can in no way understand individual or social contexts in which religion serves valid roles for some people--even if never does for you or me--than it probably because you've never tried.

You come into what was a calm and reasonable discussion, at least up here north of 200, swinging your dick, and tell me to 'stop fucking preaching'?

How about you show me where I've been preaching, hmm?

Did you even bother to read my comments upthread? Show me where I 'claim a superior understanding of humanity's relationship to the universe'. Show me where I make it clear that I 'can in no way understand individual or social contexts in which religion serves valid roles for some people.'

Come on, show me! Or get the hell out of my face. And let konolia speak for herself, if she cares to - she's shown herself quite able to rise to the challenge in the past.

And, on the off-chance that you were not speaking to me directly : never mind. [/emily litella]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:12 AM on March 1, 2004


I must say that I enjoyed having sex last night immensely.
posted by johnnyboy at 4:59 AM on March 1, 2004


Can I pop in here and say that I really enjoy reading everyone else's views on the topic? I like knowing what the rest of you think.

and can I say that everyone has been particularly nice to me lately? Should I be worried?
posted by konolia at 5:28 AM on March 1, 2004


Isn't that statement an article of faith?

No, it is an hypothesis based on all the available data. And there is not one single piece of evidence that things might be otherwise (our ability to imagine a different reality does not translate into evidence of one).
posted by rushmc at 8:11 AM on March 1, 2004


Simply put, if billions of people in the world are all devoting their lives to something, it seems curious that someone who claims a superior understanding of humanity's relationship to the universe would constantly reject data about it.

Yeah, and fuck Galileo too, fuck him for his elitist ideas about cosmology. The truth is democratic. If people believe something, that alone counts as evidence for it. Here, here!
posted by Hildago at 9:20 AM on March 1, 2004


And, on the off-chance that you were not speaking to me directly : never mind. [/emily litella]

I wasn't really speaking directly to you, but I don't want to deny you a chance to be offended (that, and I love being insulted by stavros). If I'm totally off-base, and you've really learned all there is to know about the various religions of your fellow people, I humbly withdraw my suggestion. All I'm trying to say is that it's wierd to find atheists that so reject the notion of relativism, and the extent to which you seem absolutely sure about things is wierd for someone speaking out (what I would call "preaching") against faith. If hearing about God is so bad for you (aren't you used to it by now?), then why would others want to hear about your atheism? For my money, it's because you can learn more from people with different beliefs than from your intellectual/philosophical bedfellows. It's the complete rejection of the notion that people like konolia have anything to teach people like me--together with your ability to attack someone personally while acting like I'm the one who let the civility leak out of this balloon--that confuses me.

Look stavros, there are times--in "different company"--when I would probably make comments just like yours. I just wonder what the complete rejection of someone's point of view can bring to a reasoned discourse. It reminds me of the cultural conservatives who are afraid that "the gay" may rub off on them. I've gotta tell ya, man, that I've known and talked to religious people for years, and they've never converted me. I bet you could handle it, too.

Yeah, and fuck Galileo too, fuck him for his elitist ideas about cosmology. The truth is democratic. If people believe something, that alone counts as evidence for it. Here, here!

Let me get this straight. We need to reject religion not because of its appeal to ultimate truths, but because you've found the real ultimate truth. Yeah, faith is so alien and dumb. I'm not saying that truth is attained by consensus, just that if one is interested in understanding reality, one is wise not to ignore its primary components. Like it or not, people are religious, and we won't see a useful sociological, political or anthrolpological survey that leaves out religion entirely. If you want to understand people, you'll have to learn about religion. I'm sorry if that sucks, but don't impose a false dichotomy (either we mock konolia or we're pissing on Galileo's grave) on the situation.

I've always thought that the beauty of an empirical belief system is that one needn't freak out when it gets challenged. Basically, I say you're being uncivil, and you respond by saying that you're right. I think you're right also, so we're cool there. I just don't understand what harm is done by listening to and contextualizing the statements and beliefs of a majority of humanity. Wouldn't knowing where they where they're coming from be helpful in winning them over to reason?

Enjoy your (perfectly rational) sanctimony!
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 9:48 AM on March 1, 2004


I just wonder what the complete rejection of someone's point of view can bring to a reasoned discourse.

Nonsense gets boring after a time, that's the simple truth of it. It may prove intriguing or entertaining for a while, but in time one must return to the reasonable and the rational. Most atheists and agnostics I've encountered have investigated and studied religion and religions far more deeply than most who mindlessly embrace them because it is socially acceptable to do so, so I think this person who rejects the idea of god because he is too lazy to take the time to understand the concept is a rare bird indeed, and therefore a strawman in this argument. Also, I would imagine that there are probably a few "points of view" that you would "reject completely" with no compunction. The internet cannibal in Germany, perhaps? It might be fascinating to delve into his delusions and perversions for a while in order to understand them, but I doubt you'd want to live in his sick mind, or that you would feel a responsibility to grant his beliefs equal stature to your own moral convictions in the name of some sort of nebulous "relativism."
posted by rushmc at 10:19 AM on March 1, 2004


I think this person who rejects the idea of god because he is too lazy to take the time to understand the concept is a rare bird indeed, and therefore a strawman in this argument.

Fair enough. I guess I'm missing my own point if I bitch about how you and stav are going about making your case. Deep down, I do think that religion is dumb, but I don't think that pluralism is. If you really think that a religious perspective can never inform your own secular point of view, that's fine. In my opinion--and hey, it's probably wrong--you're denying yourself a chance at a deeper understanding of your own culture and what it is that drives your species.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:54 AM on March 1, 2004


I think this person who rejects the idea of god because he is too lazy to take the time to understand the concept is a rare bird indeed, and therefore a strawman in this argument.

You obviously never went to a private religious school where most people reject religion simply on a "its been shoved down my throat my entire life" principle. Maybe things are different down here in the south, but most people I know in college have rejected God not because they look at all the religions and see their fallacies, but rather because they're genuinely lukewarm about it. At home, they listened to mommy and daddy and trucked off to church every Sunday. Then, they go to college where apathy steps in and they just don't care. Actually, the more I think about, they're probably more agnostic than an atheist as they don't outright reject the notion of God- they just don't care about the notion of a God. I'm probably generalizing when I say this, but it seems to me most people are more agnostic than Christian and the only time God steps into their mind is when the subject is brought up by an external force, such as the gay marriage debate. To me, someone who is part of a religion is someone who centers their life around their notion of spirituality, rather than thinking about their spirituality being a circumstance such as "Oh, its Easter, I guess I'll go to Mass for one time a year and forget about God for the rest of the year."
OK, I don't even know what the hell I'm talking about anymore so I'll end there.
posted by jmd82 at 2:43 PM on March 1, 2004


Deep down, I do think that religion is dumb, but I don't think that pluralism is.

I hear you, but is "dumbness" a positive component of a healthy pluralism? This is where I take issue.

You obviously never went to a private religious school

This is true. Nevertheless I agree that there are many people who don't much care about the existence of god one way or another. I'm not sure that this is agnosticism, though.
posted by rushmc at 3:29 PM on March 1, 2004


I hear you, but is "dumbness" a positive component of a healthy pluralism?

The point is that I don't place inordinate faith in my own estimation of dumbness. If other people don't think something's dumb, it's prudent to try and learn why, I have always thought.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 3:48 PM on March 1, 2004


Actually, the more I think about, they're probably more agnostic than an atheist as they don't outright reject the notion of God- they just don't care about the notion of a God.

Apathiests?

Maybe we could have antipathiests, too: people who are very, very upset about the idea of a God. A taxonomy of athiests could be useful.
posted by namespan at 5:37 PM on March 1, 2004


most people I know in college have rejected God not because they look at all the religions and see their fallacies, but rather because they're genuinely lukewarm about it.

See, the issue with what you said, as with what Ignatius was saying, is that you're putting the burden of proof on the people who don't actively participate, as though it were wrong of them to lose interest.

If I made up some wild theory that might or might not be true, and told it to you, you would be perfectly right not to believe it unless I showed you proof.

But it has been argued by some that if you don't believe what the church and the hebrew bible say, you can't just dismiss them, you have to sort of prove your disbelief as valid, because the burden of proof is on the disbeliever.

Because no one can show evidence that a particular faith is true, what difference is there between not trusting some unproveable theory I just made up, and unproveable (faith-based) dogmas of the hebrew bible? Above, it seemed like Ignatius was saying: well, the fact that so many people believe in some religion means it is worth giving religion more consideration than just any old wild theory.

To me, (well, not just to me) this seems like a fallacy. Five billion people can be wrong just as easily as one, especially regarding something that is impossible to verify. No more credence should be given to something just because it is popular.

What you are saying sounds like: you shouldn't just call it quits on Christianity without giving it a lot of thought. And I have to wonder why, exactly? Is it only because so many people in America are believers that it is taken for granted? Or is it entirely based on numbers? If so, why shouldn't I have to give my lack of Hindu faith careful though too, perhaps even moreso than my Judeo-Christian atheism, since there are so many more Hindus in the world? What about Christianity (or, Ignatius, religion as a concept) gives it special properties that other matters of faith do not demand?
posted by Hildago at 5:54 PM on March 1, 2004


If other people don't think something's dumb, it's prudent to try and learn why, I have always thought.

And say you do examine it closely and come away more convinced than ever that it is dumb? Must you always deny your own ability to assess the matter, simply because others may disagree?
posted by rushmc at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2004


you shouldn't just call it quits on Christianity without giving it a lot of thought. And I have to wonder why, exactly?

I'd think the question is why you'd call it quits on investigating anything that deals with personal quality of life without a good deal of thought, whether it's what kind of education to pursue, where to move after you graduate, or whether or not to marry someone, or Suffi Mysticism or Bible Thumpin' Bubba.

I understand that everyone has to use some kind of heuristic, really, because the amount of material there is to digest is bigger than a lifetime, and you need a minimum of 1-2 decades of life experience beyond childhood to even understand a lot of religious teachings, so you've lost a significant chunk of life right there. So some people's heuristics include discarding as unreliable anything that can't be based on reproducible measurements expressible in terms of SI units, while others heuristics include sticking with what's familiar. I'd suggest that the former is problematic, though, if for no other reason that many of the most important aspects of an individual's life are outside of that domain, and the latter is problematic as well, because it just seems statistically unlikely that even if there were a perfect religious (or non-religious) view, you'd be born into it.

What about Christianity (or, Ignatius, religion as a concept) gives it special properties that other matters of faith do not demand?

Nothing in general -- there it has exactly the same special properties that other matters of faith demand. Faith is an important part of quality-of-life decisions. Ignoring bodies of thought where wisdom and perhaps real truth might have been collected seems more odd to me than at least investigating them enough to understand their principles, arguments and apologies and weak points before moving on.
posted by namespan at 6:57 PM on March 1, 2004


And say you do examine it closely and come away more convinced than ever that it is dumb? Must you always deny your own ability to assess the matter, simply because others may disagree?

In the end, you have to trust your own judgement... at some point, self-doubt becomes madness and I don't think anyone can fault people for an honest judgement given after due consideration. Reasonable people of good will can come up with diverging opinions (on preview, especially on anything, as namespan said, that's not measurable in SI units).

But if you don't understand something (such as a religion) as well as its proponents do, it's often not wise to render a judgement yet. I sometimes try explaining things like the Monty Hall problem or fact that the integers and the even integers have the same cardinality. Basic stuff. I get arguments all the time about it, and I win most, but in some cases, realize there's simply no point because the person I'm talking to doesn't have the initiation, the basic mental constructs to relate to the argument. With the Hall problem I often have to put someone in front of a simulation in order to get a concession -- you have to fall back on putting them into an experience rather than argument. Spiritual things are pretty much the same way... in fact, more so, because they're so much more about the state of the observer and like most emotional/experiental issues by nature anecdotal.
posted by weston at 7:16 PM on March 1, 2004


Above, it seemed like Ignatius was saying: well, the fact that so many people believe in some religion means it is worth giving religion more consideration than just any old wild theory.

Maybe not in the sense that it would ever develop personal currency for you, but if something informs the thoughts and actions of your fellow humans to the extent that religion does, it makes sense to try to understand it. Again, I'm not arguing for Christianity, and I know that it will never seem like more than superstition and outdated social dictum to me.

And say you do examine it closely and come away more convinced than ever that it is dumb? Must you always deny your own ability to assess the matter, simply because others may disagree?

It's not about denying, it's about questioning. I'm starting to think the real difference between us is not our opinions, but the level of stock we each place in our own opinions. If one believes--as I do--that there is no reason to think that his own thoughts are any better than anybody else's, then it makes sense to try to become informed by the way that people with other viewpoints make sense of the world. And from a purely partisan atheist perspective, how can we ever hope to convince the religious that their faith can be dangerous if we know nothing of its details or idioms?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 7:30 PM on March 1, 2004


Did you know that bible colleges generally carry (and require) a course on comparative religions? This includes very conservative schools.
posted by konolia at 7:31 PM on March 1, 2004


Ignoring bodies of thought where wisdom and perhaps real truth might have been collected seems more odd to me than at least investigating them enough to understand their principles, arguments and apologies and weak points before moving on.

The "perhaps real truth" part of your statement takes us back to the problematic issue of credibility. Anything might contain real truth, but let's face it, we start by looking for it in the bible as opposed to other sources, and for no good reason. This is the crux of my objection.

In the bible, the wisdom generally falls into two camps: things it is wise to do for practical reasons (cf. Proverbs), and things it is wise to do so as not to anger God (cf. Leviticus). However, the idea of wisdom leading to prosperity without the auspices of God is denounced (cf. Job) as incorrect, therefore it is, I think, theologically tenable to say that deriving secular wisdom from the Hebrew bible is a misreading in as much as it is against the spirit with which its authors wrote that wisdom down. What I'm saying is, I don't think you can just look at the bible as a storehouse of theistically neutral wisdom without somehow invalidating its premise. This is my reading, anyway.

I'd think the question is why you'd call it quits on investigating anything that deals with personal quality of life without a good deal of thought

Again, anything can deal with personal quality of life, but no book inherently does. Or every book inherently does. But no book inherently more than another. So, why the double standard? Why aren't you chiding me (not that you are) for not accepting The Best of the Borscht Belt: 101 Jokes as my personal credo without much lip chewing and soul-searching?

I want somebody to say that yes, the bible gets special treatment, and for no good reason. It would signify progress in the discussion.
posted by Hildago at 7:55 PM on March 1, 2004


I want somebody to say that yes, the bible gets special treatment, and for no good reason. It would signify progress in the discussion.

OK. Yes, the bible gets special treatment, and for no good reason. How's that? You're dead right, but saying that one can learn from religion isn't the same as justifying cultural hegemony.

What I'm saying is, I don't think you can just look at the bible as a storehouse of theistically neutral wisdom without somehow invalidating its premise.

Sure, but if you reject it's premise in the first place, why is that a problem?
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:03 PM on March 1, 2004


OK. Yes, the bible gets special treatment, and for no good reason. How's that? You're dead right, but saying that one can learn from religion isn't the same as justifying cultural hegemony.

Woohoo!

But what can one learn from religion that one couldn't learn secularly? Isn't wisdom about the human condition which doesn't involve reliance on the supernatural as a foundation called just plain old literature? But maybe that's pushing it too far.

Sure, but if you reject it's premise in the first place, why is that a problem?

Well, cause if you find truth (let's say wisdom instead) in a book, but it's not the wisdom the author put in it, whose wisdom is it?
posted by Hildago at 8:39 PM on March 1, 2004


But if you don't understand something (such as a religion) as well as its proponents do

Given my past discussions with people who identify themselves as "Christian," I question this premise. Many, many, many Christians have given their religion and religious assumptions far less study and consideration than those who reject it. Certainly there are some who are very knowledgeable about the subject, don't get me wrong, but I do not believe that they are in the majority. More often than not, when you dig for understanding from one of them, you get memorized Bible quotations recited back at you and little more.

But what can one learn from religion that one couldn't learn secularly?...if you find truth (let's say wisdom instead) in a book, but it's not the wisdom the author put in it, whose wisdom is it?

Indeed.
posted by rushmc at 9:02 PM on March 1, 2004


I just wonder what the complete rejection of someone's point of view can bring to a reasoned discourse. It reminds me of the cultural conservatives who are afraid that "the gay" may rub off on them. I've gotta tell ya, man, that I've known and talked to religious people for years, and they've never converted me. I bet you could handle it, too.

Iggy, your arrogance and your assumptions about me are both annoying and unfounded. But, as is often the way in discussions here, you know little of my personal biography, of course, so I'll share, a titch.

By the age of 22, I'd read the Old and New Testaments, repeatedly. I'd read Buddhist Sutras, the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Quran, studies mythology and anything else I could get my hands on, including Bertrand Russell's anti-christian manifestos and text on magick and stuff, too. During most of my young life, I spent a very significant portion of my mental CPU cycles thinking about religion, and about what belief and faith meant to me. I spent a year going to an evangelical church to learn as much as I could about how they thought and why. I started travelling, and in years following spent time chasing god all over the goddamned planet, talking to Islamists in Indonesia, Buddhists in Korea, and Christians everywhere (Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, whatever) about their beliefs. I spent hours and days with Gaea-worshipping shroom-popping latter-day druids up on mountains, and hours and days in cathedrals and churches and mosques and temples with the faithful. I say this not because I feel I've achieved anything, but I have been a seeker, and am one still.

One of the guiding goals of my life has been to understand and clarify my own unintermediated relationship with what I perceive to be the divine.

So, friend, you can go stick your head in a pig for saying something as arrogant and fatuous as 'I've known and talked to religious people for years, and they've never converted me. I bet you could handle it, too.' Next time listen to what I say, rather than what you assume I must be saying. Please.

Grandmother : eggsucking. Don't.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:32 PM on March 1, 2004


So, friend, you can go stick your head in a pig for saying something as arrogant and fatuous as 'I've known and talked to religious people for years, and they've never converted me. I bet you could handle it, too.' Next time listen to what I say, rather than what you assume I must be saying. Please.

First of all, I was responding to what you said. I didn't have the background knowledge that you just supplied, so it would have been hard to address it. If it is arrogant and fatuous of me to wonder why you can't stand the expression of religious viewpoints, is it downright evil of me to ask why you can't handle hearing them now, given that you've obviously entertained them before?

I don't get why I'm upsetting you so much, so I'll bow out after this comment. I don't see why I need to know your personal history (not that I have any problem with the context) to form an opinion of your behavior on this wesbite, and I don't remotely understand why it is arrogant of me to suggest that you refrain from telling other people to to shut up about their "god fetishes." It's arrongant to be nice?

It sounds like you're saying that the fact that your conclusions came about from an important personal journey somehow invalidates everyone else's journey. If someone like you had made all the god fetishizers shut up when you were a kid, you never would have had a chance to explore religion in the way you described.

Tit for tat (and an attempt to just devolve this into learning-through-antecdotes, since we're not really getting anywhere):
My experience is sort of the opposite of yours. I never asked myself the questions for which God is an answer for a lot of people, and remember seeing myself as an atheist the first time I ever encountered the concept. My Christian grandparents engineered this contrived plot when I was 13 or 14 to get me to talk to this minister they knew, who was supposed to convert me and what not. After talking to the guy for a few hours, we both realized that we had a lot to learn from the other, and he realized that trying to sell me some Jesus was a waste of his time. This old wierdo, who never after that first day told me about Jesus' desire to get his mitts on my soul, was the one way that I got any learnin' in Trailerparkistan. Yeah, he would give me photocopies of Tomas Aquinas to read, but he also introduced me to western philosophy, Secular Humanism, and pretty much all of the literature that was important to me as a teenager (Vonnegut and Camus, mostly). I met with the guy every week, my family was appeased (important for a kid), and I got an actual grounding in the life of the mind of the sort to which my shitty rural high school didn't even aspire.

The irony of the sort of mentorship I developed with him was that the biggest beef I had with the place I was growing up was the absolute lock that the idiot fundamentalists had on the culture, economy and politics of my entire region. That was the biggest reason for the me reject at prima facie the idea of being friends with him or entertaining anything he said. Today, one of my best friends is a Hindu, and another a Jew. I find the way that this tempers their perspectives to be as valid and welcome as the way that an historian or architect or artist is molded by their respective interests and endeavors.

I'm thinking that the reason I pissed you off--though this might just piss you off more, or piss off someone else--is that I focused my comments on you, and not on religious people. I don't mean to criticize your personal viewpoint--in fact, that was entirely useless and tangential--just to point out that viscerally rejecting something because of rational objections seems a little wacky. In any case, if all I've done is start a call-and-response of "You bastard! How dare you!", then I failed to effectively communicate even the single small point that caused me to enter this thread. That's enough failin' for one day.

Jesus Christ! Metafilter has now had the "two atheists arguing about religion" thread.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 11:58 PM on March 1, 2004


Well, fair enough, and it's really not worth us bashing each other about. I still fail to see where you have responded to anything I actually said (until we started butting heads). Then again, tone and nuance are pretty hard to get across (and jocularity more so, when the topic is charged), and I failed as well, I guess. I am perhaps both overly obstreperous and overly defensive at times.

OK, all the time.

Buy you a beer?
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:04 AM on March 2, 2004


If someone like you had made all the god fetishizers shut up when you were a kid, you never would have had a chance to explore religion in the way you described.

Nor the need.

viscerally rejecting something because of rational objections

Isn't that something of a contradiction?

In any case, I love interesting people. How can I get one of these beers?
posted by rushmc at 1:42 AM on March 2, 2004


*buys a round for the virtual house*
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:59 AM on March 2, 2004


How can I get one of these beers?

Simple. Invite Stavros to step on your neck, and then apologize for making him taller.
posted by Opus Dark at 2:36 AM on March 2, 2004


Stavvy, can ya add a Pepsi to the tab?
posted by konolia at 3:37 AM on March 2, 2004


Done, my dear.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:40 AM on March 2, 2004


I was born at the edges of a small village in medieval France. In the gloaming hours my mother, a pagan worshipper of the forest, would leave our yurt and attend to the gathering of sticks and moss. She would take me with her on these wanderings.

One day, a group of villagers was waiting for us on our familiar trail. They beat my mother to death with sticks and strangled her with moss, screaming that they would not suffer a witch to live.

My memories of that day are hazy, perhaps not even my own: most of my knowledge of my early life was recollected to me by the monks at the monastery where the villagers took me. In their care I spent my youth, studying the old works, quietly meditating upon Jesus' parable of the seeds while my guardians copied out texts in their beautiful hand, each letter in its way a small prayer.

I suppose that the latin of the Catholic mass could be called my first language. Ahh, I was so young.

A visiting priest from Paris one day recognized me as a biblical prodigy, and took me to the city. Experts, first thinking I was merely precocious, tested my knowledge of the bible by asking me to quote obscure passages, or discuss the differences between greek and hebrew translations of some 1st century letters written by the saints.

Ultimately the Pope heard about me, and demanded an audience. To make a long story short, he was dazzled, and he invited me to join a secret counter-heretical papal commando task force, led by himself.

Anyway, those are my qualifications.
posted by Hildago at 9:25 AM on March 2, 2004


An angel spoke to me...
posted by john at 10:16 AM on March 2, 2004


John, that was easy. It's unbiblical to kill demons in human form, and it doesn't matter if an angel told you to do it or not. That's why just cuz something is supernatural doesn't make it good.
posted by konolia at 11:30 AM on March 2, 2004


Just citing sources of unease when people claim to know the will of God. What's biblical and not is hardly the point. Though the movie makes a reference to the story of Abraham.

I would argue that the bible doesn't mean much when you main line a direct divine connection.
posted by john at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2004


Jesus kills all kinds of demons. In Mark 5 he kills a thousand demons at once by putting them into the bodies of pigs and drowning them. Or did he just kill a lot of pigs for no reason?

Incidentally, in my Mark 5, I am a demon on wheels.
posted by Hildago at 12:33 PM on March 2, 2004


Oh whoops, konolia, thought you said "it is unbiblical to kill demons in any form.

Mainly wanted to make a Speed Racer reference.
posted by Hildago at 12:35 PM on March 2, 2004


I would argue that the bible doesn't mean much when you main line a direct divine connection.

Iwould argue that THAT is when it is MOST IMPORTANT to line an experience up with the Scriptures. The spiritual realm can be a very dangerous place.
posted by konolia at 12:55 PM on March 2, 2004


"Here he comes, here comes Hildago..." : >
posted by amberglow at 1:17 PM on March 2, 2004


Hildago,

Let's race! I have to warn you. Jesus built my hotrod.

Konolia,

Granted, but I am speaking to the perspective of a hypothetical person that thinks s/he is hearing God or an Angel.
I do agree that it appears dangerous. I read a book recently by Ken Carey where he claims to have written it based on contact with Angels a.k.a. The Bird Tribe. I was collecting books at the library based on Native American history and didn't look at it too closely. I normally don't read New Age/channeling stuff. In his case, it ended up being all lovey dovey stuff-a kind of Jesus redux.

Carey has a great imagination and a kind heart, but I don't buy it. I see no difference between him and Jesus except that Jesus has been magnified through time.
posted by john at 1:22 PM on March 2, 2004


No delicious beverages for Hildago.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:53 PM on March 2, 2004


(stares open mouthed, utterly aghast)
posted by Hildago at 8:51 PM on March 2, 2004


don't forget you have a monkey, Hil
posted by amberglow at 8:59 PM on March 2, 2004


Iwould argue that THAT is when it is MOST IMPORTANT to line an experience up with the Scriptures. The spiritual realm can be a very dangerous place.

You also claimed once, in response to a question I asked, that God has spoken directly to you. That alone is proof enough that nothing will be furthered with these back and forths; really, where can one go with a conversation when one person claims to speak to god and the other is ready to prescribe you medication. At that point you're left with nothing but snarky one liners (or, as the case may be, paragraphs of them).

I have no problem with a person's spirituality, at least not to the point where I'd ever willfully oppress them for it. I do, however, have a significant problem with your president claiming god told him to attack Iraq and using it as some justification for murder and death and destruction. It's hard to separate church and state when you're too busy separating limbs from bodies.
posted by The God Complex at 9:58 PM on March 2, 2004


See, the issue with what you said, as with what Ignatius was saying, is that you're putting the burden of proof on the people who don't actively participate, as though it were wrong of them to lose interest.
Actually, I wasn't implying anything about the burden of proof (or at least I didn't mean to). I don't think its wrong or right that they choose not to participate- (or as I think about it, care) I simpy a lot of people don't care or think that much about the subject one way or the other. Judgement about that in of itself is best not left up to me.
posted by jmd82 at 10:08 PM on March 2, 2004


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