Creative Destruction

November 19, 2006

Are you religious?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Daran @ 10:53 am

I’m an atheist.

Robert, I know, is Catholic.

What about the rest of you bloggers and regular commenters?

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71 Comments »

  1. Athiest! Nothing, nothing, rah rah rah!

    Comment by Ampersand — November 19, 2006 @ 1:47 pm | Reply

  2. Deist, nominally Evangelic-Lutheran.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 19, 2006 @ 3:10 pm | Reply

  3. Atheist.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — November 19, 2006 @ 4:36 pm | Reply

  4. Amp wrote:

    Athiest! Nothing, nothing, rah rah rah!

    Is that a new word, a way of saying “more atheist than thou”?
    “You may be an atheist, but I’m the athiest of them all”?
    (I jest)

    [Edited to add: Atheist-Athier-Athiest… And more seriously, we need a “religion” category)

    Comment by Tuomas — November 19, 2006 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

  5. God doesn’t bless the spelling of the heathen.

    Comment by Robert — November 19, 2006 @ 6:38 pm | Reply

  6. There’s three of us, and only two of them.

    Let’s beat them up!

    Comment by Daran — November 19, 2006 @ 6:46 pm | Reply

  7. Yeah, but one of you is Amp.

    Comment by Robert — November 19, 2006 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  8. Exactly. And that means we got the pirates on our side.

    And everyone knows that ninjas are heathens.

    Comment by Daran — November 19, 2006 @ 7:10 pm | Reply

  9. Yes, but as soon as you start winning the fight, he’ll be tugging at your arm and saying “that’s disproportionate force!” and “but what about their civil rights?” And then it’ll turn into a quagmire, with blog posts about your awful oppression of us poor Christians and Deists.

    Trust me, you’ll be better off seeking a peaceful solution from the beginning.

    Comment by Robert — November 19, 2006 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  10. I could rob you instead. Specifically I could take your tunic, and when you give me your cloak, I could let Amp give you back your tunic, but I get to keep your cloak because you gave it to me freely.

    Comment by Daran — November 19, 2006 @ 7:29 pm | Reply

  11. Don’t make me start a crusade on you.

    Comment by Robert — November 19, 2006 @ 7:49 pm | Reply

  12. If I absolutely had to label myself anything it would be Buddhist. But Buddhism is less of a religion and more of a way of living life.

    I’m not religous.

    Comment by SmartBlkWoman — November 19, 2006 @ 9:09 pm | Reply

  13. Athiest!

    Comment by Aegis — November 20, 2006 @ 1:50 am | Reply

  14. I consider myself a general theist. Indeed, I’d still be comfortable around Christianity if, as a whole, Christians weren’t around to muck things up. Of course, the same thing applies to Judaism, Islam, and just about every other major religion. And, if you’ve seen what a large gathering of pagans can do to what would otherwise be a perfectly sensible belief system, a good chunk of minor religions as well.

    Then again, I have an altar in my apartment dedicated to the Greater Archdaemon Murphy, as well as one to his mortal foe, the Blessed Spirit Justin Case. (You know who I’m talking about… “I better save the instructions to this. You know, Justin Case, I’ll need it.”)

    But if you twisted my arm and had me pick just one of the majors, I’d go with Taoism.

    Comment by Off Colfax — November 20, 2006 @ 2:48 am | Reply

  15. Atheist of the secular humanist variety.

    Comment by ohwilleke — November 20, 2006 @ 5:53 am | Reply

  16. Raised a theist, but probably agnostic.

    Comment by toysoldier — November 20, 2006 @ 11:56 am | Reply

  17. If I want to piss off believers (which isn’t often, but when an evangelical gets in my face, it sometimes happens), I say “I’m the sole member of the Church of My Left Testicle. Would you like to join?” Or I might say that god is dead and that we killed him (all lower case).

    On normal days, I’m a garden variety atheist, meaning that I no longer care enough about it to raise a stink. However, I have given speeches on the subject to general audiences and secular humanists. So it’s not as though it’s a totally passive position or unconsidered choice for me.

    Comment by Brutus — November 20, 2006 @ 12:42 pm | Reply

  18. Indeed, I’d still be comfortable around Christianity if, as a whole, Christians weren’t around to muck things up. Of course, the same thing applies to Judaism, Islam, and just about every other major religion. And, if you’ve seen what a large gathering of pagans can do to what would otherwise be a perfectly sensible belief system, a good chunk of minor religions as well.

    And you don’t think the same could be said of atheists?

    Comment by Glaivester — November 20, 2006 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  19. Glaivester wrote:

    And you don’t think the same could be said of atheists?

    Are you aware of any atheist groups agitating and mucking things up? How about secular humanists? Or universal unitarians? As far as I can tell, none of these groups are interested in heaping scorn on “others,” labeling them as heathen, infidels, etc. and blithely condemning them to hell.

    Shoot, it’s anathema from the start for atheists to organize (though undoubtedly there are some who do — I’m just not looking for it). There is no cohesive objective. It’s merely a rejection of belief. Big deal ….

    Comment by Brutus — November 20, 2006 @ 3:34 pm | Reply

  20. I’m just a stranger dropping in but I figured I might as well chime in too. I’m a theist but I’m not exactly a complete believer in any particular religion. I guess my belief is that there is an intelligent force of some kind in the universe that occasionally steps in and tips the scales towards what is loving and compassionate in order to keep us from completely destroying ourselves.

    Comment by bint alshamsa — November 20, 2006 @ 4:13 pm | Reply

  21. Are you aware of any atheist groups agitating and mucking things up?

    Communists, for one.

    As far as I can tell, none of these groups are interested in heaping scorn on “others,” labeling them as heathen, infidels, etc. and blithely condemning them to hell.

    Obviously an atheist won’t tell someone they are going to Hell, but as far as heaping scorn on others? Absolutely.

    You don’t realize that there are tons of atheists who heap scorn on anyone who believes in any sort of God, or at least on any sort of God who is meant to be taken as literally real?

    Comment by Glaivester — November 20, 2006 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

  22. Oddly enough – and linking us to the “religious people give to charity more often” thread – although I’m an atheist, I also attend church two to four times a month, and have for the last couple of years. (Job-related).

    Our of curiosity, who of the atheists here is anti-equal-marriage rights for gays? And who of the believers here is pro-equal-marriage rights?

    (For purposes of this question, “pro-equal-marriage rights” means either being in favor of gay marriage, or in favor of “civil unions for all, leave marriage to the churches, but if we can’t have that then let the gays marry.”)

    Comment by Ampersand — November 21, 2006 @ 12:08 am | Reply

  23. I guess I’d be anti-equal marriage rights in your formulation; marriage is a bright line. But I’m all for civil unions for couples not seeking religious solemnification.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 1:12 am | Reply

  24. But I’m all for civil unions for couples not seeking religious solemnification.

    Which would also include all marriages performed by a justice of the peace or a ship’s captain, wouldn’t it? Or, for that matter, some of the drive-thru windows in Las Vegas.

    Comment by Off Colfax — November 21, 2006 @ 1:42 am | Reply

  25. As far as I understand it, no. Those are civil marriages, not religious marriages. (Unless the sea captain or JP is also a religious leader and performs the ceremony in both capacities.)

    From the religious point of view, remember (or at least a big chunk of us believe this, if not everybody), the religious marriage is what we think of as the real marriage. Civil marriage has a valuable institutional role; it serves as a formalizer of responsibilities, a social signifier of intended stability, and so forth. But it isn’t the Real Deal in our eyes.

    That seems to me to be the locus for a livable compromise on gay unions, which is to further formalize the definition of “civil marriage” as distinct from the religious union. Anybody can have a civil marriage, subject to the civil authority’s rulings. Anyone can have a religious marriage that a church is willing to bless them with.

    I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 3:04 am | Reply

  26. I’m with Robert. (We’re getting married on Friday.)

    However I don’t think agents of the State who enact civil marriages should be allowed to discriminate. They should marry anyone who meets the State’s criteria. This has implications for churches who wish their marriages to be recognised by the State.

    Comment by Daran — November 21, 2006 @ 4:06 am | Reply

  27. Not really. It just requires a procedural shift; after you get married at church, or have your commitment ceremony, or jump over a stick together, or whatever, you drop by the Office of Bureaucratic Awfulness or wherever and do the civil form separately. They’ll probably set up a website where you can do it. :)

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 4:51 am | Reply

  28. So gay and lesbian couples who have their religious marriage will then go and get their civil marriage from a civil servant, just like everyone else. This is the way it is done now, although presumably you would remove the part where the officiant of the religious ceremony can substitute for the civil servant doing so.

    I’m not sure why you structure your description as though gay and lesbian couples weren’t already getting religious marriages. Gay and lesbian couples have been getting religious marriages for decades, even though they have been forbidden from getting civil marriages. No one is ever going to force the Catholic Church to perform or religiously acknowledge same sex marriages (except for decent human beings within the church, working through the long and painfully slow machinery of the church itself), so I still don’t understand what you think is wrong with having civil marriage be available to gay and lesbian couples, and the civil marriage allowed to be officiated by a religious officiant. Your position is to allow the first half and forbid the second half, and I continue to completely fail to see what you think this achieves, other than allowing you to oppose same sex marriage as it is actually constituted anywhere in the world. The Catholic Church could institute your plan without any help from the state, simply by ordering priests to refuse to sign marriage licenses. No need to forbid UU ministers from signing marriage licenses.

    But this isn’t the thread for that, despite Amp’s derailment ;)

    I believe in the experience of the divine. I don’t believe in any sort of divinity, much less any sort of God, but I believe that experiencing the divine (both transcendently and immanantly) is a valid, important, and meaningful human experience. I think of the divine as being much like love. It exists only as a human experience or as an abstraction of a human experience, but is no less real and important for that.

    I am not very good at experiencing the immanant divine, and haven’t gotten to experience the transcendent divine very effectively for several years, so I guess I’m not very religious.

    I think this puts me somewhere between being an atheist and a pantheist.

    Comment by Charles S — November 21, 2006 @ 5:18 am | Reply

  29. I don’t care what celebrants of other faiths do vis a vis civil marriages, or whether the state permits religious agents to continue officiating at civil events as well.

    I also don’t see that I said anything at all about what other churches have done or not done vis a vis same sex unions. It’s not my problem.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 5:27 am | Reply

  30. It just requires a procedural shift; after you get married at church, or have your commitment ceremony, or jump over a stick together, or whatever, you drop by the Office of Bureaucratic Awfulness or wherever and do the civil form separately.

    That’s not a procedural shift at all. That’s pretty much the current system, for those who can legally get married. (I have some expertise in this – I’m a wedding coordinator for a living, and I’ve also legally officiated at several weddings.).

    Here’s how it works:

    1) You apply for a marriage license from the Office of Bureaucratic Awfulness, paying whatever fee or submitting whatever blood tests they demand.

    2) They give you a marriage license (either in person or via the post office).

    3) Someone officially entitled to do so witnesses your marriage vows and signs your marriage license. This person can be a priest or a rabbi or a minister or whatever, but can also be a ship captain, a county clerk, a judge, or someone else whose authority is purely secular. There is no need to involve a church at all.

    4) The marriage license is returned to the Office of Bureaucratic Awfulness for record-keeping purposes.

    The exact details vary from state to state, but quibbles aside, that’s how legal marriage works in the whole USA.

    Anybody can have a civil marriage, subject to the civil authority’s rulings. Anyone can have a religious marriage that a church is willing to bless them with.

    I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

    Because you and people like you vote to ban it. That’s why.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 21, 2006 @ 6:58 am | Reply

  31. I am tentatively pro-equal-marriage rights.
    My mother is lesbian, and has been with her partner for around ten years. They have no interest in getting married, however.

    I used to think that gay marriage was a no-brainer, but after reading Nathanson and Young’s Answering Advocates of Gay Marriage, I have been pursuaded that the issue might be more complex than I had initially thought.

    Comment by Aegis — November 21, 2006 @ 7:06 am | Reply

  32. I guess I’d be anti-equal marriage rights in your formulation; marriage is a bright line. But I’m all for civil unions for couples not seeking religious solemnification.

    This describes marriage as religious and implies that same sex couples could have civil marriage but not religious marriage, ignoring that same sex couples already have religious marriage.

    But I think your restatement makes you pro-marriage equality in Amp’s formulation. You don’t favor the officiants of your church being allowed to perform same sex marriages, but you have no problem with the state recognizing the religious marriages of same sex couples done by other churches. That looks pro-marriage equality to me.

    And this:

    That seems to me to be the locus for a livable compromise on gay unions, which is to further formalize the definition of “civil marriage” as distinct from the religious union. Anybody can have a civil marriage, subject to the civil authority’s rulings. Anyone can have a religious marriage that a church is willing to bless them with.

    Is the status quo, except for the part about having the state recognize same sex marriages. This sounds like a good compromise to me, but it also sounds like the sort of compromise the US government reached with the Japanese government shortly after the US nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m not sure what you think our side is giving up in this compromise.

    Comment by Charles S — November 21, 2006 @ 7:07 am | Reply

  33. Because you and people like you vote to ban it.

    Wait, did I miss that post? Robert, did you vote yes on Colorado’s awful anti-marriage ballot measure? If so, how on earth does that square with anything else you’ve written on this thread?

    Comment by Charles S — November 21, 2006 @ 7:47 am | Reply

  34. I’m an atheist, but I’m now going to attempt to piss off all the other atheists by pointing out that atheism is also, ultimately, faith based. Observation of the universe strongly suggests that there is no god/are no gods. However, if our ability to gather data is somehow compromised, as in Descartes’ “demon altering how I see reality” scenario, then all bets are off and there might well be any number of dieties, demons, and/or extremely powerful mad scientists running around controlling our reality. The answer to that is “so what?” If I’m really just a brain in a vat I want to be a happy brain in a vat that is humane to its hallucinations.

    Comment by Dianne — November 21, 2006 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  35. My experience is that there is really no big difference between the “othering” that religious people vs. atheists do (I’d say pretty much everyone does it, human nature). What’s more, many most fanatical adherents to non-religious ideologies tend to be atheists who are using the ideology as a kind of surrogate religion, and are just as dogmatic and prone to weed out ‘heretics’ as the worst ‘fundies’.

    I’m also curious why would an atheist (or anyone) care about someone condemning them to hell. I tend to respond to that by (depending on mood):
    1) That’s up to God, not you. (Nor is God a democracy where the faithful can vote on issues)
    2) “I condemn you to be sodomized by the Easter Bunny!”

    Comment by Tuomas — November 21, 2006 @ 11:55 am | Reply

  36. But this isn’t the thread for that, despite Amp’s derailment

    Did I miss an opportunity to bash Amp for hijacking one of my threads?

    Damn!

    Comment by Daran — November 21, 2006 @ 12:00 pm | Reply

  37. Nor is God a democracy where the faithful can vote on issues

    How do you know?

    Comment by Dianne — November 21, 2006 @ 12:18 pm | Reply

  38. Because I believe in heaven and hell, not just hell. ;)

    Belief=/=knowledge, anyway.

    Comment by Tuomas — November 21, 2006 @ 12:20 pm | Reply

  39. I am anm evangelical, by the way (denominationally a baptist).

    Comment by Glaivester — November 21, 2006 @ 1:50 pm | Reply

  40. I’m also curious why would an atheist (or anyone) care about someone condemning them to hell. I tend to respond to that by (depending on mood):

    It certainly doesn’t worry me. Says a lot about them though. Judge not, lest you be judged…

    Comment by Daran — November 21, 2006 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  41. Because you and people like you vote to ban it. That’s why.

    I’ll vote to approve it if it’s part of a package deal. In fact I did so; on the Colorado ballot there was a referendum that would create civil unions and simultaneously restrict “marriage” to one man and one woman. That’s not exactly what I’d want, but it’s close enough for government work.

    Although I’ve (sloppily) used marriage and union interchangeably here, I do not believe in marriage for gay couples; “marriage” as a word and religious sacrament should be reserved to the church. Gay couples (and other couples seeking civil privileges/rights) should have access to those rights.

    Charles, I understand that some churches have solemnized gay unions. That’s their business; I don’t think much of those churches, and I don’t see them as being representative of much. But my apologies if ignoring them has offended your sense of linguistic nicety, or something.

    As for this: I’m not sure what you think our side is giving up in this compromise.

    You’d be giving up a demand for a universal conception of marriage to which everyone is entitled. Instead there would be a civil conception of marriage to which everyone is entitled, but which a majority of the population would not view as “real” marriage, although the rights would be the same, and then private religious conceptions which, while technically powerless, would remain culturally dominant and – by and large, the Unitarian Universalists notwithstanding – inaccessible to gays.

    I also voted for the Colorado anti-gay-marriage referendum because it takes the stand to reject that universal conception (which I also reject). Then we need to add civil unions to that, and I imagine that will happen.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 3:01 pm | Reply

  42. I’m an atheist, but I’m now going to attempt to piss off all the other atheists by pointing out that atheism is also, ultimately, faith based.

    It is, at least, a falsifiable belief.

    Comment by Daran — November 21, 2006 @ 3:15 pm | Reply

  43. It is, at least, a falsifiable belief.

    You’d think. But when you explore the actual question, most atheists of my experience are reluctant to say what they’d accept as evidence. That 800-foot Jesus talking to me could be a result of a brain tumor. The upwelling of immanence and the spiritual experience I just had could be because I smoked too much dope last night. The archangel Gabriel appearing to me and telling me “repent or burn” is just a repressed memory and a cultural instillation of guilt. And so on.

    If you (general you, not Daran specifically) say “oh my belief is falsifiable”, but no evidence will ever be accepted as valid, then it isn’t really a falsifiable belief; it’s faith. And dishonest faith, at that, since an honest faith acknowledges its unmooring from questions of evidence.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

  44. Robert: Babel fish. If you find a babel fish it’d be the definitive proof of God’s existence. Or maybe of God’s non-existence.

    Comment by Dianne — November 21, 2006 @ 4:08 pm | Reply

  45. If you can’t decide beforehand which it would prove, then it ain’t evidence :)

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

  46. Actually that isn’t quite right – it’s “evidence”, it just doesn’t falsify anything.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 4:24 pm | Reply

  47. Well, ok, if you’re going to take the question seriously…IMHO, no single piece of evidence is ever completely convincing of anything. Evidence can be faked, misinterpreted, or just plain hallucinated. What I’d find convincing is the consistent and reproducible intervention of a god or gods in the world. An 800 foot Jesus seen by one person is most likely a hallucination. On the other hand, if Jesus regularly appears to heal the sick, ease the suffering of the poor, and forgive the sinners and is seen by many people, demonstrably cures incurable illness (the lepers don’t need him anymore, but his help with HIV, pancreatic cancer, and mad cow disease would be most welcome), and regularly feeds the masses that would almost certainly appear to hear him speak, that would be more convincing.

    Comment by Dianne — November 21, 2006 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

  48. Although I’ve (sloppily) used marriage and union interchangeably here,

    Please try to stop doing that; it’s created a lot of confusion in this discussion.

    I do not believe in marriage for gay couples; “marriage” as a word and religious sacrament should be reserved to the church.

    So you say. But when you get into the voting booth, what you actually favor is legal marriage being reserved exclusively for heterosexual families, including those whose marriages are never sacramentalized by any church; while same-sex couples, including those whose marriages are sacramentalized by a church, are not allowed to be legally married.

    Why is it so hard for you to admit that you think same-sex couples are second-rate citizens who shouldn’t get the same legal rights you enjoy? That’s what you voted for; that’s what you favor.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 21, 2006 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  49. I agree with Daran Dianne about evidence; I could certainly conceive of evidence that would make me believe in God. But it would have to be strong, consistent, and well-documented evidence, because the claim is fairly incredible. (Not unlike what I feel about what kind of evidence it would take to make me believe in psychic powers).

    Dianne wrote:

    I’m an atheist, but I’m now going to attempt to piss off all the other atheists by pointing out that atheism is also, ultimately, faith based.

    Well, from a strictly logical standpoint, you’re correct; it is, after all, impossible to prove a negative. So we can’t prove God doesn’t exist. And no, I’m not pissed off.

    But for me it’s like my faith that there’s no gigantic undetectable hummingbird rotating the earth opposite the moon. I can’t prove such a thing doesn’t exist; and I guess you could call my disbelief just a matter of faith. But it seems to me that the “faith” required to not believe in invisible, undetectable, unproved beings is fairly tiny.

    So although both atheism and belief in God require faith, I think atheism requires significantly less faith.

    Comment by Ampersand — November 21, 2006 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  50. Atheism:

    Well, dogmatic atheism requires faith. “My conclusion is that there isn’t a God, subject to further evidence” doesn’t require any faith at all, but it also cuts down on the opportunity for snark towards the believers, and so seems less popular among the public atheists, at any rate. (The private atheists I’ve known haven’t seemed to feel compelled to hold their believing neighbors in low regard (“ok, we believe different things. Let’s eat.”)

    When I got into the voting booth, Amp, I voted to extend the rights of marriage to something called “civil unions” which would be available to anyone. I’m not sure how that translates into me thinking gay couples are second-class citizens who don’t deserve the legal rights; I vote to extend those rights to anyone who wants them. It is specifically the religious marriage that i would deny them; nobody has a right to any religious status, other than freedom of reasonable practice without civil interference.

    Comment by Robert — November 21, 2006 @ 5:58 pm | Reply

  51. Why are we even having this conversation? If the Bible is true, then Christianity is in a sorry state. Two billion Christians on this planet, and not one mustard seed of faith between them.

    Sort yourselves out.

    Comment by Daran — November 21, 2006 @ 7:03 pm | Reply

  52. “No man can serve two masters.” Is there any meaningful distinction between theists and non-theists? Consider two people’s beliefs:

    – Joe: I pursue my own material wealth and comfort. To the extent that it is not inconsistent with the foregoing, I pursue my wife’s material wealth and comfort. To the extent that it is not inconsistent with the foregoing, I pursue my kids’ material wealth and comfort. Ditto for my more remote family. Ditto for my neighborhood, my state, my nation.

    – Bill: I share Joe’s beliefs. In addition, to the extent that it is not inconsistent with the foregoing, I practice Roman Catholicism, including believing in god.

    Which of these guys is a theist? Arguably they both are; that is, each guy has identified an object of ultimate importance: himself. If asked, Bill might well profess a belief in god. And so might Joe. But either one would profess such a belief to the extent that he regarded the statement as likely to promote his material wealth and comfort, or that of his wife or kids or whatever. Notwithstanding Bill’s professed belief in Roman Catholicism, I suspect Bill’s behavior would be indistinguishable from Joe’s. I don’t understand why anyone would find it meaningful to distinguish between Joe and Bill on the basis of theology.

    And to be blunt, which of us are not like Joe and Bill to some degree? Given that Mother Theresa is dead, I feel fairly safe posing the question.

    The theist/non-theist debate is all part of the more general Western dichotomy between the religious and the secular. I question the merit of this dichotomy. People have values, beliefs, attitudes, cultures, traditions, laws, what have you. Put another way, we all serve some master – although we might be hard pressed to summarize our values as succinctly as Joe and Bill. Whether you choose to characterize these values, etc., as religious or secular generally seems arbitrary to me.

    Comment by nobody.really — November 22, 2006 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  53. Well, I fall under the theist category and I support equal marriage “rights” for all. To me, it is completely up to God to decide whether or not gay marriage is a violation of some eternal principle. I’d venture to say that if God has a problem with gay marriage, there are probably a whole lot of hetero marriages that he disapproves of too–no one should be allowed to marry Rush Limbaugh, for instance.

    Anyway, I’ve got too many flaws of my own to work on for me to be worried about whether someone else might be committing “sins”. Since I veer towards the Christian persuasion, it’s all simple for me. Jesus never condemned gay marriage and no one else has come up with a good reason to be against it, so I’m all for it.

    Comment by bint alshamsa — November 22, 2006 @ 1:59 pm | Reply

  54. I do not believe in marriage for gay couples; “marriage” as a word and religious sacrament should be reserved to the church.

    Then let’s take the word away from the secular institution, call all state sanctioned couple pairings “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” or “bobhayescompromisewords” or whatever else you like, and make “marriage” a purely ceremonial insitution. Then each religion could decide who they wanted to provide with their ceremony and who they didn’t. Unitarians, for example, already sanctify same sex marriages and I have the vague idea that some Reform Jewish sects may as well, though I could be wrong on that. As far as I know, neopagans also allow same sex unions. If Catholics or Muslims or whomever else don’t want to allow same sex marriages in their religion, fine, they don’t have to.

    Of course, for this to work, marriage would have to be legally meaningless, unless coupled with a secular bobhayescompromiseword agreement (though one could make the law such that when two people marry religiously they also get a BHCW as well, I suppose.)

    PS: I’m straight, so if this proposal counts as “destroying marriage” you can NOT blame said destruction on gays. Put the blame/credit where it belongs, on straights who opt out.

    Comment by Dianne — November 22, 2006 @ 2:44 pm | Reply

  55. But for me it’s like my faith that there’s no gigantic undetectable hummingbird rotating the earth opposite the moon.

    You’d think one of the Apollo astronauts would have noticed it…Well, I guess if it’s an undetectible hummingbird they wouldn’t have. My atheism is based on more or less the same principle, I think: There is no evidence of any supernatural force intervening in the world in any detectible manner and it is not necessary to evoke non-naturalistic explanations to explain the universe as observed. But just because I think this sort of philosophical speculation is fun, I can give a couple of possible scenarios in which there is or are a god or gods (loosely defined) and yet this situation holds:
    1. The universe as we observe it is a complete illusion. We live in the Matrix or an evil demon is creating all that we see to deceive us or it’s all a hallucination. If one takes that as a premise then we really have no idea at all what the “real world” is like (except insofar as the simulation is probably inspired by the real world) so there could be any number of supernatural beings interacting with mortals in the real world and we’d never know it.
    2. God, for whatever reason, as a test of faith or sadism or to see what would happen, set up the universe to be deliberately deceptive. Creationists sometimes use this one, ie God planted all those fossils to test whether people would lose faith in the presence of evidence to the contrary.
    3. The dieties of the universe could care less about humans or earth or even the “universe” as we know it. They live in a different universe where the physical laws are different and allow for divinity.

    I don’t really think that any of these is any more likely than the giant hummingbird, but if any evidence to the contrary shows up I’m always willing to adjust my viewpoint. That’s one of the advantages science has over religion: In science if convincing evidence contrary to your belief shows up you just say, “oops, looks like we were wrong” and formulate a new theory. In religion that doesn’t work so well and one is left trying to force the evidence to fit the belief.

    Comment by Dianne — November 22, 2006 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  56. Anyway, I’ve got too many flaws of my own to work on for me to be worried about whether someone else might be committing “sins”

    Ding ding ding. You win a prize!

    Comment by Robert — November 22, 2006 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

  57. Then let’s take the word away from the secular institution, call all state sanctioned couple pairings “civil unions” or “domestic partnerships” or “bobhayescompromisewords” or whatever else you like, and make “marriage” a purely ceremonial insitution.

    That’s exactly what I’d like to see happen.

    Comment by Robert — November 22, 2006 @ 6:58 pm | Reply

  58. You leave off option 4, 5, and 6:

    4. God designed the universe to run on principles of natural law, and it continues to function without ongoing intervention,

    5. God designed the universe to run as a function of his will, and you can’t see “supernatural force” for the same reason that fish can’t see water.

    6. There are supernatural forces all around us, and atheists are just the people whose ability to perceive and understand those forces is tragically stunted or nonexistent.

    And OBVIOUSLY, if there were a gigantic hummingbird behind the Moon, we could detect it by its perturbations of the Moon’s orbit. DUH! :P

    Comment by Robert — November 22, 2006 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

  59. 5. God designed the universe to run as a function of his will, and you can’t see “supernatural force” for the same reason that fish can’t see water.

    An intelligent fish would be able to infer the existence of water through scientific methods, just as we infer the existence of air, atoms, and vacuum energy, none of which we can see.

    6. There are supernatural forces all around us, and atheists are just the people whose ability to perceive and understand those forces is tragically stunted or nonexistent.

    Get a mustard seed’s worth of faith of your own, before calling me stunted.

    Comment by Daran — November 23, 2006 @ 10:27 am | Reply

  60. I didn’t know you identified so closely with your spiritual faculty, Daran, to think that it and you are the same thing.

    An intelligent fish would be able to infer the existence of water through scientific methods, just as we infer the existence of air, atoms, and vacuum energy, none of which we can see.

    And you know that vacuum energy, atomic forces, and the like aren’t simply emanations of the divine because…?

    Comment by Robert — November 23, 2006 @ 2:08 pm | Reply

  61. I don’t.

    But neither do I know that they aren’t simply emanations from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Comment by Daran — November 23, 2006 @ 5:12 pm | Reply

  62. True. But that isn’t a justification for atheism; it’s a justification for agnosticism, or perhaps for an open-ended theism. (“To Whom it May Concern: Please cure my cancer.”)

    Comment by Robert — November 23, 2006 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

  63. God designed the universe to run as a function of his will, and you can’t see “supernatural force” for the same reason that fish can’t see water.

    How do you know a fish can’t see water? I would hypothesize that it is much more likely that a fish can sense, if not see, water and would know instantly if the water were removed or if its contents varied in a way that was dangerous to the fish.

    Comment by Dianne — November 27, 2006 @ 10:36 am | Reply

  64. And OBVIOUSLY, if there were a gigantic hummingbird behind the Moon, we could detect it by its perturbations of the Moon’s orbit

    But the postulate was of a giant undetectible hummingbird. So, to be undetectible, said hummingbird must have neither mass (or it would bend space and become detectible) or energy, which is easily detectible. Even if it were made of “dark energy” (whatever that turns out to be), it would cause a detectible increase in the expansion of the universe locally. So…in what sense can such a hummingbird be said to exist and why should anyone care?

    Comment by Dianne — November 27, 2006 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  65. Dianne:

    why should anyone care?

    ‘Cause you’ll BURN IN HELL if you don’t.

    Comment by Daran — November 27, 2006 @ 2:27 pm | Reply

  66. True. But that isn’t a justification for atheism; it’s a justification for agnosticism,…

    By the same reasoning, I should be agnostic about the Giant Undetectable Hummingbird.

    …or perhaps for an open-ended theism. (”To Whom it May Concern: Please cure my cancer.”)

    That appears to be a kind of Pascal’s Wager type of argument, namely that it could benefit me to believe in some kind of Deity if, in fact, a Deity exists. The problem is, how do I know that there isn’t a special place in hell for those who accept Pascal’s wager?

    As to whether prayer can help to cure cancer, I think it’s been shown that it doesn’t.

    Comment by Daran — November 27, 2006 @ 2:47 pm | Reply

  67. How do you know a fish can’t see water? I would hypothesize that it is much more likely that a fish can sense, if not see, water and would know instantly if the water were removed or if its contents varied in a way that was dangerous to the fish.

    I’m sure that fish can sense water in the same way that we can sense air.

    What is not clear to me, is whether a person of average human intelligence, but uneducated with as to the nature of air would necessarily conclude that such phenomena as wind, the swirling of smoke, the process of breathing (and the difficulty in so doing when one’s nose/mouth is blocked), suction, and the peculiar ‘rushing’ sensation I get when moving very quickly, are all manifestations with the same underlying cause.

    Comment by Daran — November 27, 2006 @ 2:59 pm | Reply

  68. As to whether prayer can help to cure cancer, I think it’s been shown that it doesn’t.

    It certainly doesn’t help and may actually hurt in cardiovascular disease.

    Comment by Dianne — November 27, 2006 @ 3:31 pm | Reply

  69. The problem is, how do I know that there isn’t a special place in hell for those who accept Pascal’s wager?

    If the Christians are right then there probably is: a person worshipping on Pascal’s wager doesn’t have true faith.

    Comment by Dianne — November 27, 2006 @ 3:37 pm | Reply

  70. The problem is, how do I know that there isn’t a special place in hell for those who accept Pascal’s wager?

    Terry Pratchett has this happen in one of his books; a philosopher standing in for Pascal believes “just in case”, and when he dies, his soul awakens to find the Discworld’s pantheon standing around him with hot pokers, and the lead deity saying “let me show you what we think of Mr. Clever Dick in these parts…”

    Comment by Robert — November 27, 2006 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

  71. BTW, Dianne, Pascal’s wager doesn’t really work for Christianity. It works fine for deism or Judaism, but for Christian salvation, it’s necessary to genuinely believe that Jesus is Lord. There’s no way to do that (that I know of, anyway) on a contingent basis.

    Comment by Robert — November 27, 2006 @ 5:30 pm | Reply


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