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November 16, 2007

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Oh Lord...Oooh you are so big... So absolutely huge. Gosh, we're all really impressed down here I can tell you. Forgive Us, O Lord, for this dreadful toadying. And barefaced flattery. But you are so strong and, well, just so super. Fan - tastic. Amen.

*singing* Oh Lord, please don't burn us, Don't grill or toast your flock, Don't put us on the barbecue, Or simmer us in stock, Don't braise or bake or boil us, Or stir-fry us in a wok... Oh please don't lightly poach us, Or baste us with hot fat, Don't fricassee or roast us, Or boil us in a vat, And please don't stick thy servants Lord, In a Rotissomat...

I hear the Flying Spaghetti Monster is sadistic, cruel and petty.

One irony is that Georgians are praying to a deity who, according to fundamentalist "Christian" political theology, is apparently such a weenie that He needs Caesar's help.

When I was back there in seminary school, there was a person there who put forth the proposition that you can petition the Lord with prayer. Petition the Lord with prayer. You cannot petition the Lord with prayer!

Looking specifically at Georgia, praying for rain obviously assumes that God has some sort of control over the weather.

Floods, tornadoes, droughts, snowstorms, etc. are generally called "Acts of God" in insurance talk.

So, who do you trust more, Jim Morrison or Geico?

Many of the people to whom the prayer approach appeals feel that atheists are "morally deficient" because they have no "basis" for morality. Thanks, Gov. Purdue, for helping to explain exactly what that basis is.

Responsibility: It's not just a talking point -- it's a way of life.

Great post.

So, who do you trust more, Jim Morrison or Geico?

Did Geico write ever rhyme "mire", "fire", "liar" and "pyre" ?

I think not.

How many times has Val Kilmer played a Geico insurance salesman?

The answer is None.

Would Geico write a song for Mia Farrow?

Never.

When the music's over, could Geico ever break on through to the other side of the soul kitchen with a 20th century fox and her crystal ship of fools ?

Five to one, the answer is No.

drat. can't seem to find the passage in which hume says that prayer and worship proceed on the assumption that the gods are motivated by flattery and a desire for esteem, which we generally account among the basest motives in humankind.

probably can't find it because i've got the words all wrong. and because hume didn't say it.

help, ye learned? if you can find the passage i'm looking for, i'll esteem and flatter you. honest.

God is certainly a funny character in Job. He comes to Job in a whirlwind, demanding to know, "who are you that you can judge my actions?" Read these lines and imagine them read very petulantly, as though the "thous" were capitalized and sarcastic:
Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding...
Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him?

You know, Perdue's sort of action is the reason why I have sympathy for Richard Dawkins. Seriously, this tactic was tried by cave men (speaking of Geico...)--the chief would gather the tribal shamans and invoke the local deity. This is about 1 step removed from virgin sacrifice, sophistication-wise.

"And last I checked, the Big Guy ain’t on the ballot next fall."

Boy - ain't that the truth.

"And last I checked, the Big Guy ain’t on the ballot next fall."

Boy - ain't that the truth.

"And last I checked, the Big Guy ain’t on the ballot next fall."

Boy - ain't that the truth.

I am not so sure about the implications of your first point, Pub... Doncha think it's a leap to suppose that 'god' necessarily 'caused' these events? The fire department most likely didn't start the fire in your basement, but you surely will be calling them to put it out. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that leaky faucets would cause plumbers.

That there probably are no deities, notwithstanding, whether a deity can change something is not the same as whether one caused the event.

I’m sure the Catholic literature (which is much more robust and intellectual than its Protestant counterpart) has a rich history of debate on this point.

I have to disagree here. The Average American Protestant may be ignorant of the rich and diverse theologies their tradition is born in; however because of the anti-centralized character it is exactly the opposite of Roman Catholic theology and dogma.

American Protestantism is one of the widest and wildest religious traditions in the history of the West. Which makes the Fundamentalist’s claims of objective and unchanging truths the most ironic moments in Western history. (Have I made enough absolutist claims for you?)

Indeed, as people like Hitchens point out with characteristic tact, much of Christian doctrine – I now realize – assumes precisely this sort of God.

Or like Mark Twain, who said it earlier and -- well, I can't say better since I haven't read Hitchens, but I have my suspicions.

My own mainstream Protestant church told me that it wasn't really effective to use prayer to ask God for stuff, that it was actually for listening to God more than talking to Him. What Jim Morrison said. God already knows what you want to say anyway.

Huraaow! Huah! ..yeah ...

But Jim, God can claim to be a back door man.
He works, I say to thee, in strange ways and His brain, it squirms like a toad.

hey, all you people that tryin to sleep, I'm bout to make them with the midnight dream.

you men eat your dinner, eat your pork and beans. I'll eat more Perdue farms chicken any man ever seen.

The men don't know what ..... and let's leave it at that, otherwise someone down South will make a ballot issue over it.

But even if I understand where he’s coming from, it’s still strange.

As I wrote, many years ago: people are strange.

God doesn’t seem particularly worthy of our praise.

Some call him heavenly in his brilliance
Others, mean and ruthful of the Western dream. But among his many strange ways, his vain desire for worship is the main reason I canceled my subscription to the resurrection.

But, the time has come for me to go. Tomorrow we enter the town of my birth. I want to be ready.

crap! Morrison was here and i missed him!?

that'll teach me to spend so much time working really hard!

There were some Puritans, who would have argued, that a really honest Christian would thank God for the drought.

Bertrand Russell said it all, years before God created Hitchens. The "problem of evil" might be explained, Russell observed, by assuming that the world we know was in fact created by the Devil, at a moment when God wasn't looking.

Sonny Perdue doubtless stands four-square behind the "under God" bit in the Pledge of Allegiance. The deity he prays to for drought relief must, by implication, be some sort of has-been celebrity, who will cease to exist absent adequate publicity, such as a mention in the Pledge.

The God-botherers are fond of asserting that our rights "come from God, not from government". My problem is that God has never spoken to me. I only have the word of people like Sonny Perdue as to what "rights" God has endowed me with. So it seems safer to rely on democracy for my rights. You can't sue God in court, overthrow him by armed rebellion, or vote him out of office.

Oh, well, give it time. Humanity outgrew Zeus and Apollo and that crowd. It might just outlive Perdue's God, too, any millenium now.

-- TP

You do know that Perdue waited until there was rain forecast before scheduling his prayer event?

But the suckers still keep buying it. Gawd, ain't religion wonderful!

I've never understood why anyone would worship the various Christian conceptions of god, precisely for these reasons. The god of the bible, new testament or old, is a vain, petty, cruel egomaniac. Really, I can't understand why anyone would want to worship anything, because the concept of worship is just so degrading, but that's another matter; any entity that demands worship is ipso facto unworthy of it, regardless of whatever other feelings one may have about worship.

At the end of Preacher, the Saint of Killers addresses God with words something like "You got a hell of a lot to answer for, boy." I suspect I wasn't the only one to cheer at that line.

Gnostics had an answer to that issue. Simply stated, the Material World was created by a sinister god (specifically, the god of the Jews). But there is an even higher True God that exists only in the spiritual realm, didn't do squat for ages, but but eventually showed up via Jesus (technical details omitted here) as a prelude to a corrective apocalypse, which is to take place any time now (almost always within the current generation).

Amos Newcombe,

I haven't read Hitchens either, but in this case at least, the chance that he said it better than Mark Twain can safely be ignored. Consider:

If science exterminates a disease which has been working for God, it is God that gets the credit, and all the pulpits break into grateful advertising-raptures and call attention to how good he is! Yes, he has done it. Perhaps he has waited a thousand years before doing it. That is nothing; the pulpit says he was thinking about it all the time. When exasperated men rise up and sweep away an age-long tyranny and set a nation free, the first thing the delighted pulpit does is to advertise it as God's work, and invite the people to get down on their knees and pour out their thanks to him for it. And the pulpit says with admiring emotion, "Let tyrants understand that the Eye that never sleeps is upon them; and let them remember that the Lord our God will not always be patient, but will loose the whirlwinds of his wrath upon them in his appointed day."

They forget to mention that he is the slowest mover in the universe; that his Eye that never sleeps, might as well, since it takes it a century to see what any other eye would see in a week; that in all history there is not an instance where he thought of a noble deed first, but always thought of it just a little after somebody else had thought of it and done it. He arrives then, and annexes the dividend.

I woman I used to work with bought a motel at the Jersey shore. I stopped to visit her when I was nearby the summer before last. She and her husband were discussing how they came to buy the place and what a good deal they ended up getting. They attributed their success, at least in part, to their prayers. When you boil it down, they asked God, the Christian one, for money. They didn't seem to have any sense of the irony in that. It was weird. Somehow, non-religious me, as far as I could tell, understood their religion better than they. (But they are very nice people.)

Oh, and I know that's not really the same thing we're talking about, but still...

You should worship God because you want to, because you love God, because He is good and He is love. You shouldn't worship God to get stuff, or even because He wants you to. (But I'm not religious, so what do I know?)

Interesting how most posters assume the worship thing is to feed God's vanity rather than to teach us humility. Putting aside my own religious views, isn't it a bit illogical to assume one over the other?

And why do most posters assume such a fickle God? If life throws you a hardball, that means God is mean? Since most secularists tend to be governed by logic, how is that logical? Aren't many other explanations just as logical?

I guess all you parents out there make life for your children all about sugar, video games, sleep and Disneyland vacations. Otherwise, you would be such "mean" parents. What? You MAKE your kids go to school? Work? And they have to suffer consequences?

(One last aside, prayer can be therapeutic – much like meditation or reflection. This post doesn’t use prayer in that sense.)

Why do you think that praying for something to happen can't be "therapeutic" in the same sense as meditation and reflection? Praying for what you need can be an act of humility, a way to acknowledge the limits of our human ego. It may also put you in closer touch with your needs, and make you more grateful if what your praying for does occur, and more willing to accept if it does not.

I think most religious people ask for things in their prayer, for example for the health of friends or relatives. You don't have to see this kind of prayer as causing or improving the likelihood of events; it can be just an expression of faith - you're just opening yourself to God in whatever state you're in.

Maybe, in the end, it's just not all about us.

I guess all you parents out there make life for your children all about sugar, video games, sleep and Disneyland vacations.

No, we withhold water from them until they're in danger of real suffering. Like God!

Well, we are supposed to be made in god's image. How can you expect god to be great if those made in his/her image are so venal?

"No, we withhold water from them until they're in danger of real suffering. Like God!"

I'm not sure why I even engage when the level of discourse is so uncharacteristically shallow here when it comes to religion . . . (not limited to this comment :))( or was this a joke?)

My own family tradition of antitheism has its roots in the Holocaust. One rather stiff lesson of those events is that if there is a God, he either has no power to help (and is thus irrelevant, and not much of a God), or he has the power to help and chooses not to, which pretty much makes God an evil SOB.

The Christian theology that all the evil in this life is irrelevant and just a test, because it's the next life that matters, is actually a pretty good (consistent, certainly) apology for a noninterventionist God. But it's not very testable. Adherents to this belief may choose to regard even the worst of suffering as temporary and not important, but I look at it and just see ... suffering. And that's even if I charitably overlook the detail that the name you happen to cry out during your torture determines your eternal fate.

Me, I'll take atheism and the categorical imperitive, every time.

So, who do you trust more, Jim Morrison or Geico?

Morrison was the Lizard King--he could do anything. Geico, on the other hand, merely uses an animated lizard as its advertising spokescritter. So, the answer to your question is obvious to any thinking person . . .

I always liked George Carlin's question: If God is all-powerful can he make a rock so big that he himself can't lift it?

I've always wondered if the hypothetical all-powerful God could cause himself to cease to exist.

A few years back, I was discussing the Noah's Ark story with the kids, and they were speculating on where all the water went. Several unlikely theories were proposed (as an intellectual exercise, we're atheists), then I suggest that as the deity is all powerful, it was miracled away.

"Oh," said the oldest son, "well, if he gets to use magic, why didn't he just give all the sinners terminal cancer instead of flooding the planet? Seems like a lot less work, and wouldn't wipe out the ecosystem."

Stellar logic.

God can speak up for himself. Nonetheless:

A lot depends on what you take the point of prayer to be. Besides therapy -- which is too much about oneself to be a genuine form of discourse with another person, like God, prayer might be a way of asking God for what you want to badly that you couldn't be honest without asking for it, but which you nonetheless temper with the thought: if it be Your will.

If you thought of prayer this way, it would be a sort of confession that you are not -- as most of us are not -- the kinds of people who could really live by the apparently more high-minded sort of religion, in which none of us ever get so needy that we are forced to beg. Maybe saints can live that way; I don't know, never having been one. I never could, though: if I was going to be honest with myself and with God, I had to recognize that when confronted with someone who had the power to bring about X -- the X I wanted so badly -- I could not not ask for it. I never thought He was under any obligation to provide X, which was a relief: after all, He knew better than I whether X would be good, in the long run, and all things considered. But being human, sometimes I couldn't not ask.

And, I supposed, being God, who knows the human heart, He could not fail, sometimes, to have compassion on me, and allow me some tiny causal role in bringing X about. Not, I hoped, when X would be a disaster, but when it would be OK.

I don't see why this commits me to a shallow or fickle or petty God. I mean, I don't believe in any God, now, but the one I used to believe in was none of those things.

I guess all you parents out there make life for your children all about sugar, video games, sleep and Disneyland vacations. Otherwise, you would be such "mean" parents. What? You MAKE your kids go to school? Work? And they have to suffer consequences?

But parents do this because they think it is in their childrens' long-run interest. Parents who deny their children water until they beg for it are not acting in the childrens' interest. They are being abusive.

I'm sure you can multiply this example many times. So you must be arguing that God is somehow acting for our benefit when He permits droughts, plagues, hurricanes, etc. OK. What's the benefit?

You complain that discussions of religion are "uncharacteristically shallow." But the public face of religion as I observe it seems awfully shallow. Is Perdue's prayer an example of deep religious thought?

bc - Assuming your analogy is apt, how does prayer as a way of solving problems teach us responsibility?

"These are serious, life-and-death policy concerns. That’s why relying on prayer is more than a harmless aside. It distracts from the reality that fixing problems requires human effort – human political effort to be precise."

Hmmm, I've often said the same thing about relying on the UN to deal with things like genocide.

I'm also from the South and what used to annoy me was the "God was looking after me" quote everytime a tornado swept through and left one house alone and took out the one across the street. Evidently, God hated the guy across the street. How must the poor people whom God did not like have felt after hearing that?

Sebastian, are you implying that the leaders of our government are human, then?

Hmmm, I've often said the same thing about relying on the UN to deal with things like genocide.

Or relying on anyone else, apparently.

Sorry, scratch that. I mean, the same can be said for relying on anyone else as well.

Fred over at Slacktivist probably has good thoughts on this, but I want to echo Bernard Yomtov's point: what makes me angry about most American fundamentalists -- genuinely, soul-burningly angry -- is that their belief and their faith is so appallingly shallow. God is not a merchant to be haggled with, nor a tyrant to be cajoled; the Bible is not a book to be read with slavish faux-literality, nor is it a weapon to cudgel those who dare step out of line. It's offensive to God, to Christ, to Christians and to those non-believers, myself included, who respect the faith even if we don't follow it. Grrrrr.

There is a tradition within Protestantism that believes God doesn’t owe you anything, and more likely than not, will do what ever the Hell he pleases. No matter how good you think you are.

But that theology is hard to sell in a consumer society that expects to get goods and services for what it pays for.

Sorry that should read "will do what ever the Hell He pleases."

I don't get how a god thhat answers prayers can be anthing except mean and petty, given the state of the world.

The belief that god is an entitiy that assesses prayers and petitioners means that the god is conceptualized as a person, and the capriciousness of the response to prayer means that not only is god a person, but also a perosn with no discernable standards beyond whim.

Life on this planet is fueled by death. One thing stays alive for a while by killing other things. Some living things exist seemingly for no purpose except to be killed in order to feed something s else.

What kinnd of diety would create a system of life that demanded that so many sentient beings live their lives in fear before dying a painful death?

And what kind of deity would create liver flukes and guinea worms?

Petty annd mean is too mild,. Sadistic.

Nope . Don't believve in god. We''re on our own.

What kinnd of diety would create a system of life that demanded that so many sentient beings live their lives in fear before dying a painful death?

a gentle, kind, and loving fatherly one ?

I am not so sure about the implications of your first point, Pub... Doncha think it's a leap to suppose that 'god' necessarily 'caused' these events? The fire department most likely didn't start the fire in your basement, but you surely will be calling them to put it out. As a matter of fact, it appears to me that leaky faucets would cause plumbers.

If God is omnipotent, then if he didn't cause them, then at the very least he allowed them to happen. The analogy to firemen doesn't work because we don't expect fire departments to prevent fires, nor do we believe them to be all powerful and all knowing. Believers do expect that from god, however--it's implicit in the doctrine.

I think some of you under the assumption that God needs to prove something to you.

American exceptionalism isn’t only regulated to foreign policy.

He owes you nothing.

(Just sayin')

He owes you nothing.

I don't owe him anything either, frankly. Works both ways.

Ok there were complaints that this isn't testable which is course true but beside the point. If God is truly testing us to determine who gets eternal bliss and who suffers eternal torment, then any suffering or privation which happens on earth is trivial no matter how bad it sounds to us now. I think just the embarrasment might be the worst part really.

Can you imagine on the day of judgement finding out that God is real and that if only you'd paid more attention to the signs he showed and hints he gave you, that you could have been rewarded with eternal bliss?
And instead you volunteered for eternal punishment just to be stubborn?

Ouch, that would really hurt.

Great post by Hilzoy by the way. Mind if I ask why you lost your faith?

Brian- Does your life really suck that bad?

If God exists you owe God everything. Only if everything in your life means nothing to you do you owe God nothing.

Okay, I know I should pass up a Pascal's wager, but -- Frank, can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if on Judgement Day God said to all the true believers, "what kind of person would believe in me considering how little evidence there is? What, you gonna go looking for the tooth fairy next?"

If God is truly testing us to determine who gets eternal bliss and who suffers eternal torment, then any suffering or privation which happens on earth is trivial no matter how bad it sounds to us now.

If our mortal lifetimes are but a blink in the eye of eternity, how can anything we do during that blink deserve eternal punishmen

Moreover, waht could possibly be the point of such a punishment? What purpose does it serve?

To put it mundanely, how do you feel about a parent or a spouse who is always, without fail, every day, reaming you out about some damnfool thing you did years and years ago? Do you think they have your best interests in mind?

Furthermore, what's eternal bliss good for? To quote Rita Rudner, I don't even want to do something that feels good for 36 hours straight. Why would I want to feel bliss for eternity? If I have to exist for eternity - and what a horrible fate, to outlive everything, including the universe! - I'd want there to be adventure, learning, frienship, passion... I want eternity to be filled with change, not endless stasis.

Brian- Does your life really suck that bad?

If God exists you owe God everything. Only if everything in your life means nothing to you do you owe God nothing.

To the contrary. My life is pretty awesome. I have a job I love, a girlfriend who I love and with whom I'm about to hopefully start a family, a beautiful daughter who's about to graduate from high school with honors, and more. God didn't give me any of that, whether he/she/they/it exist[s] or not.

I just want you to know that I've typed and deleted a dozen lines a dozen times in order to make them fit within the guidelines of this site's commenting section, and I'm leaving it at this--your attitude toward people who see no proof of the existence of God is highly insulting, and if you were to express that to a person's face in a bar, might result in at least getting a drink spilled on you, if not some greater action. If you're a person who purports to follow the teachings of Christ--teachings I know quite well having been a full-time minister for a few years before leaving the church--then you ought to know better than to be so presumptuous. Jesus was all about humility. You'd do well to remember that.

"If God exists you owe God everything. Only if everything in your life means nothing to you do you owe God nothing."

Alternatively, if Zeus exists, you owe him everything.

Unless you owe it all to Ares.

Or maybe you owe it all to Vishnu. Or Odin. Or Baal. Perhaps Tiamat. It could be Ra that should be credited. But maybe it's Quetzalcoatl. No, it might be Amaterasu. Unless it's Morrigan.

There are at least 3,400 possibilities, but that doesn't include plenty of other imaginative possibilities.

Alternatively, there's that which is measurable, boring and restrictive as sticking to that is.

But if one doesn't, the question arises of how one might objectively determine which of the less measurable alternatives was more plausible than the others.

Failing that, there's the alternative most people go with, which is utilizing a less rational mechanism of choosing a belief, or simply going with what either their family or community believe, or going with what sounds persuasive to them at a moment in life they're looking to be persuaded.

Ya pays your money, and takes your choice.

I really don't think God,
(according to some mind you), cares...I really think we care more than God does,...

Since we have a sort of Man vs. God quasi-open thread here, I would also like to mention Dan Bern's suggestion that God does indeed hear and respond to every prayer, it's just that he works on a different scale from the rest of us. Hence the ozone hole, frinstance, occurred because some caveman prayed to the sky to send down a beam of fire to incinerate the saber-tooth that was pursuing him. I am greatly taken with the explanatory power of this conjecture.

Regardless of one’s faith, the Bible is the bedrock of the society that built what we have inherited. It is the book that Western men have turned to for guidance in times of crisis through the ages. I made the time to read it in 2002 and found it fascinating. You can compare the views of the ancients with your own observations.

As we move through the 21st Century, religion will play an increasingly important role in world events. I highly recommend reading the Bible, the Qur’an, and the Hadith.

The link is to an article in The Economist: “In God’s Name- Religion will play a big role in this centuries politics.”

http://www.economist.com/specialreports/displaystory.cfm?story_id=10015255

Gary Farber; I owe you this link about professionals leaving the socialist utopia of England. An update!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/dmpolls/results.html?in_poll_id=19428&in_page_id=770&in_question_id=18976&in_exists=N&in_answer1=59147

As 200,000 Brits leave UK each year, would YOU consider emigrating?
1. Yes: 86%
2. No: 14%


Brian I wasn't trying to insult you. In fact I changed my post to try to avoid that. Your previous post saying you owed nothing to God didn't express any question about God's existance.

If God exists then God created everything, including your daughter.

I just don't see it. Please explain to me how I have been offensive.

We should not forget that in the older parts of the Old Testament the god of the Jews did not claim to be the only one but that he was the god of his people and therefore demanded worship from them for his help (quid pro quo*). The xistence of other peoples' gods was not denied, they were simply considered inferior in power. Later the god of Israel was considered the only true god and responsible for good and evil. The devil started his life as a contractor and was only later promoted to almost co-equal status (I guess the contact with Zoroastrism in Persia had something to do with that). The Israelites had no problem to see their god as quite "human" with a very bad and short temper (Babylonian influence I think; the Mesopotamian gods were also quite vengeful and had created humans as workslaves in the first place because the lower gods complained about having to do all the work). The idea of the benevolent old men in the sky is historically quite new and lacks a lot of the inner consistency of the cycnical old view.
As to Pascal's wager (as someone indirectly already answered): Which God? And (as Pratchett put it satirically) the person doing that wager and wakes up after death is likely to find an angry deity that does not like play-it-safe smart Alecs.

*Abraham could haggle with god (though later theologians claim that god just put up the appearence of being able to be persuaded. Same with the sacrifice of Isaac: test or change of mind?)

While we are at it
One could assume that certain kinds of prayers (or the fire and brimstone rhethorics) is actually a violation of the "do not invoke My name in vain" commandment. There is also that "don't pray in public to be seen".
Btw, Segeij Eisenstein satirized a prayer-for-rain procession in his film The General Line or The Old and the New

God delivered the rain, just got the address mixed up and sent it to India in the form of a typhoon.

Regardless of one’s faith, the Bible is the bedrock of the society that built what we have inherited.

No, it isn't. If you read our founding documents and the proceedings that created them, you'd have no idea that any such book as "the Bible" ever existed.

As I had to tell my 10 year old last month, this universe is based on change, growth and evolution. There can be no free will without that. But that also demands death, because if there were no death, we'd be up to our eyebrows in cats and the new ones born would never have a place to curl up in the sun. The entire concept of free will demands that life, species and the world changes and evolves naturally. That neither demands nor precludes a God, but I chose, with every bit as much evidence as Richard Dawkins, to believe.

Atlanta is not a child. It's theoretically a mature entity that chose the path its on. My curent job is as a water management specialist for the corps of engineers and I'd be happy to give you chapter and verse of what they did wrong in pursuit of short term goals (things which are far clearer in hindsight). They are where they placed themselves. Asking for guidance or direction is different from demanding a solution and I would think those who have actually thought about the idea know that.

There are astonishingly immature people on both sides of the religion idea. I won't judge all athiests based on some of these posts if you don't judge all religious based on some ignorant people you ran across in childhood.

God is somehow acting for our benefit when He permits droughts, plagues, hurricanes, etc. OK. What's the benefit?

A believer would answer - perhaps he's sending little warning signals that we ought to take better care of our planet before he sends the big one.

Why he keeps sending such ineffective signals is another question, calling into question his understanding of humans.

the Bible is the bedrock of the society that built what we have inherited. It is the book that Western men have turned to for guidance in times of crisis through the ages.

The Bible is the dynamite that exploded European society apart, sending the lucky and the smart to the new world. It is the book that Western men have turned to for guidance on who they can safely persecute.

I have avoided commenting on this post to this point because, as is usually the case, it displays the limitations of discussion between those who believe in God (as I do) and those that don't (95 or more% of the commenters on this post).

It is always interesting to see how those that don't, however, get far more into the hostility, negativit route.

To hilzoy and femdem, excellent comments. Hilzoy's is the more remarkable simply because she is no longer a believer.

I don't know about hostility, but I'm a little unclear how one discusses one's lack of belief in a thing without some amount of negativity.

Which, incidentally, is why I usually try to keep out of these discussions.

Negativity towards the concept of a god is understandable, negativity towards those that do believe is something else.

There are some non-hostile comments above, but a larger proportion is negative and hostile both to the concept of God and those who choose to believe in the existence of God.

"Which, incidentally, is why I usually try to keep out of these discussions."

Same here, and I broke my own promise to self. I'm gone from this thread.

I still think there is a difference between not believing and atheism. To qualify as a "true" atheist in my book is the active disbelief in a higher being, while simple non-belief leaves the question open. I'd consider myself as one who does not at the moment believe in the god I "inherited" but I would also refuse to honestly sign a "there is no god" statement.
Trying to understand the history and culture of the Western World without having an at least cursory knowledge of the Bible is for me like doing a definitive work on honey without any reference to bees. Whether the influence of that book was positive or negative is a completely different question. Even if some event would remove all copies from the world any (maybe alien) historian would encounter its influence wherever he looks. The great theoreticians of atheism remarkably often had a theological background (e.g. sons of clerics). Even if the founders of the US did not reference the Bible in the text of the constitution, it seems pretty clear to me that the text would not look like it does without a "Christian" history as background (the establishment clause would quite probably not be in there, if the founder had only known animism, Buddhism and shamanism).

I should be grateful for the Huguenot persecution and the Thirty Years War. Had sanity prevailed back then, I would not be here today.

If you are willing to claim the Bible is the bedrock of Western society then you must claim that the Holocaust was a result of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Bill:

Gary Farber; I owe you this link about professionals leaving the socialist utopia of England. An update!

As 200,000 Brits leave UK each year, would YOU consider emigrating?
1. Yes: 86%
2. No: 14%

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/dmpolls/results.html?in_poll_id=194

Bill, what you asserted was that:
A large percentage of the 5,000 young English professionals that leave each week go to Australia and New Zealand.
First of all, an pnline poll, as you doubtless know, is not a "poll," polls being things with scientifically drawn samples to make them statistically valid, but is a meaningless promotional game. So in citing one at all, either you: a) think we're too dumb to know that; or b) aren't bright enough to understand the difference.

Secondly, The Daily Mail is a tabloid which is as reliable as the National Enquirer. So it's useless as a cite for anything.

Thirdly, I am not a math whiz, but last I looked, 5,000 times 52 is 26,0000, not 200,000.

I take it this inability to sort out reliable sources anmd information from unreliable sources and information is behind your general confusion, and inability to present sustained and logical arguments. If you work on making sure your information is accurate and reliable, it'll be a step forward.

But you're not interested in conversation, you use phony quotes, don't acknowledge them, switch premises (as here), link to sources such as VDARE, and otherwise can't maintain a logical argument that cites actual fact.

It's a little difficult to believe you're actually interested in anything other than randomly popping by with confused misinformation, but if you are, you need to work on actually doing something else. Like learning how to tell a credible source from a non-credible one, how to acknowledge having presented false information, and how to become credible yourself. (First step: not believing in false and incredible non-facts that play to your prejudices -- lay off believing anonymous e-mails, for one.)

If, after praying, you feel bliss for longer than four hours, please consult your physician.

Every time I pray, I find that I am talking to myself. That is how I know that God exists and that he is very close to me. Too close.

Thus my fall into agnosticism. I seemed formed exactly in God's image and I didn't like what I saw.

I once knew an angry atheist who maintained that religion was a crock. And yet, if things didn't go his way (if he stubbed his toe, for example), he would shake his fist at the sky and curse God and His mother.

Odd behavior, that.

This has been an interesting thread.

Although it’s a seemingly harmless practice, it logically implies the existence of a sadistic, cruel and petty God.

Here's a funny story.

A few years ago I was studying with a very good drummer here in the Boston area. A couple of years after I stopped studying with him, he passed away. A couple of years after that, I went back and worked again on some of the material I'd covered with him.

One night I was struggling a bit with some of the material. I thought of him, it occurred to me, I don't know why, to ask him to help me with it. So, I did.

More or less immediately, in his voice, I had this thought:

"Here are the drums, you know the material, you have the time. Why are you bothering me?".

It wasn't angry or hostile, it was more along the lines of "You know what to do, you know how to do it, get on with it".

Maybe God's non-response to Perdue's prayers are kind of like that. Look at this beautiful world you have to live in, look at the abundant resources available to you, all you need to do to solve the problem is to figure it out, get off your butt, and carry on.

My understanding, in the case of the drought in GA specifically, is that it's historically not that extreme of a drought. Again, if my understanding is correct, the issue with drinking water has at least as much to do with the fact that lots more people live in Atlanta and other big southeastern cities than used to, and they're overtaxing the infrastructure.

If that's right, maybe Perdue's prayer is like the phone call in the middle of the night from the crackhead kid, saying "Mom, send money, I'm in trouble, I promise this time I'll go to rehab, get counseling, get clean, and stop f*cking up".

Sometimes when parents get those phone calls, they just have to say, "It tears my heart out, but nothing I do is going to help you. You have to sort this out for yourself".

So, may God's non-answer to Purdue's prayers is kind of like that.

All of this, of course, assumes that there is a god, and that he, she, or it would have thoughts that would resemble thoughts we might have, or be able to understand or relate to. The first assumption is, of course, a matter of individual understanding and opinion. The second is probably highly unlikely.

So, who knows why God didn't answer Purdue's prayers. I sure don't. But it's hard to argue from that to a conclusion that god is vain, petty, or sadistic.

Sometimes it rains, sometimes it doesn't. That may be inconvenient, maybe even dangerous, for us, but we, individually and collectively, are not the only fish in the sea.

Maybe we all just need to get over ourselves and deal.

Thanks -

After re-reading the original post here, I realize I could have just written:

"What publius said".

Thanks -

Negativity towards the concept of a god is understandable, negativity towards those that do believe is something else.

To the extent that the belief in a deity, or in supernatural superstition generally, causes the people who do so believe to behave in ways that are detrimental to our culture, such hostility is not only appropriate but almost obligatory. See also, well, everything the Dobson/Falwell/Robertson wing does, Fred Phelps, "alternative" medicine, Jesus-in-a-pancake or Mary-in-a-grease-stain on the news all the damned time, etc.

Heck, I'm actually more hostile to the behaviors of many believers then I am to the "god concept" itself; although I do happen to think that, on the evidence, there isn't one, and I'm quite confident in saying that not only isn't there a deity, but that evidence to the contrary is not likely to be discovered in my lifetime. Or anyone else's.

ANd this nonsense of, "Well, most believers simply aren't like that!" is just that -- nonsense. If you think that femdem up there represents the thought process and bedrock belief of more than, I'd hazard, 5% of your garden-variety American Christians, you're crazy.

Most of the world is still operating at the level of tribes and clans. We dress up of confederations and re-organizations of these tribes and clans in names like “nation” “state” and all kinds of stuff and still act as if tribes and clans are part of “primitive societies” although it is alive and well in the “advanced” White world. Whites are fiercely tribal, and will use science, religion, economics whatever it takes to justify their brutality, in order to stay on top. White atheists are as guilty as white religionists when it comes to defending the tribe.

For me, as much as I love the Protestant tradition I come out and still embrace, but I can’t deny that White Protestants will use God and His son Christ to justify raping, killing, pillaging other tribes and when God won’t work, the latest “secular” theories concerning “democratization” and “self-defense” will do.

In the end it is the dominance of the White Tribe that trumps all else. Religion and science are only valuable as long as they can maintain their power. Anglo-Protestants have had to find alliances with Anglo-Catholics, but ethnic tribalism is more valuable than religious purity.

It is no accident that Great Britain came to Anglo-America’s defense, knowing full well, what a crock of shit Bush and the other warlords were selling. Anglo solidarity trumped religious faith and rational thought.

I am a former militant atheist, who is now simply an atheist. Well, not quite simply "simply an atheist". All my life, I have been surrounded by believers, many of whom I love, and now that I live in the U.S., and no longer among my elitist atheist-friendly (if not atheistic) friends from back home, I feel more alienated and isolated than I did before integrating to American society. This is partly why I have been trying very hard to make my peace with religion and with the religious people that surround me, but I must confess that I often lapse into self-righteousness. The problem of evil is indeed a very significant barrier for me to make my peace with believers, because I have difficulty understanding how someone can adore, love, admire, respect, a Being that has the following collection of attributes: (1) omnipotent creator of the universe; (2) detached observer of suffering--often suffering not caused by the actions of human beings, but by accidents of nature; (3) supreme moral judge of the actions of human beings.

Some religious people, like the author of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Kushner, do away with the omnipotence of God, and actively recruit God to the side of those who, like me, decry random suffering in the world and detect a great deal of sadism and horror in the ways of Mother Nature. This is a moving attitude, in my mind, and I feel more reconciled with people like that now, although it is still hard for me to reconcile that vision of God with what one reads in the Old Testament--the character God in that Book does strike me, sorry to say, as the sort of fellow Publius describes in his post.

But then there are those who do not go as far as abandoning the notion of an omnipotent God, instead professing ignorance as to His designs, and yet love Him dearly. This is a position I cannot yet find morally acceptable. If you tell me X is responsible for designing the world you live in and capable of exerting power over it to help you or sink you, I do not feel an impulse to think of X as an exemplary parental figure, and I have a hard time cutting X any slack for what happens to the most defenseless among us, through no action of their own nor of any other human being. It is, to my harsh eyes, as if some believers are morally blind in their love of such a Being, and it makes my life miserable to find myself having such harsh judgments of people I actually love and otherwise respect.

I would love to read Hilzoy's take on the problem of evil one of these days, and her insight into how to get people like me who, having no desire to be like Dawkins or, worse yet, Hitchens, still have genuine difficulties making our peace with the pious, to better understand our neighbors.

If you think that femdem up there represents the thought process and bedrock belief of more than, I'd hazard, 5% of your garden-variety American Christians, you're crazy.
What percentage do you think Fred Phelps represents, since you brought him up?

Pedro,

For some religionists (of all the traditions) would argue, that…you don’t get to use the laws that God created to judge Him. What ever f*ck*d up (or righteous) reason he may have, you are not in the position to start using His Laws to evaluate Him.

I think most folks, especially in the Capitalist West, but not just there, believe religion must be sold to them. It should have good PR and sold with great benefits (leftist civil rights, liberal universalism, right-wing nationalism, middle-class bourgeois sensibilities, extreme sports, liberation theology) thus, it would seem God created a bunch of creatures who are designed to care more about reality than He does. Trying make God responsible for his creations is futile.

Nietzsche was brilliant. When he announced “God is dead!” he wasn’t talking to the religionists, he had already done that with other work, he was also talking to the enlightened thinkers who believed they could establish absolutist beliefs with the sciences. I think God would have agreed with him.

If you’re looking for the warm embrace of a benevolent rational Father/God (or for the typical American: the warm embrace of a Patriotic American Deity) you are screwed. If you think God is going to have all the answers you are going to end up looking like a liar.

Some of the most spiritual insights come from songs many would consider heretical.

I dont want to start any blasphemous rumours
But I think that gods got a sick sense of humor
And when I die I expect to find him laughing

I think that sums it up pretty nicely.

When ever I try to figure out the people I love, pigeon hole them, try to rationalize my children and wife, try to put my mother and father in a nicely labeled box, I end up demeaning them. I never really get to understand them; I end up just revealing more about myself. However, when I feel like they are mistreating me, lying to me, abusing me, taking advantage of me, I find it useful to force them into little theories I have…it makes me feel strong.

Hey, I just placed all of the White world into a theory conserning tribes...thank God I have no massive army and many bombs or they would be in deep trouble :)

"It is no accident that Great Britain came to Anglo-America’s defense, knowing full well, what a crock of sh[*]t Bush and the other warlords were selling. Anglo solidarity trumped religious faith and rational thought."

This seems a fairly questionable proposition. For instance, Canada and Australia aren't particularly less "Anglo," and yet somehow "Anglo solidarity" didn't triumph: also "no accident"? If not, why not?

Secondly, if, say, the Liberal Democrats had been the majority, it's unlikely Britain would have joined in, either: would this mean Britain had suddenly become less "Anglo"? What if it merely had been Gordon Brown, or another Labour minister as Prime Minister in power and who chose to lead Labour to decline to participate -- a position that, as I recall, more or less a majority of Labour favoured: would Britain then have been less Anglo, and would that, too, have been, "no accident"?

And poor New Zealand: also tragically non-Anglo.

Does this claim actually hold up when we think about it for two seconds? Impassioned as it is, it's not clear to me that it strikes a blow for "rational thought."

Bernard Yomtov:

Hadn't seen the thread since yesterday. Well, now the discussion is getting out of the shallows! I agree with you on Purdue's prayer. My comments weren't aimed at that. I find televised prayer gatherings generally distasteful and have the bad effect of generating ill will among non-religious fellow citizens. Not a good thing. Wearing it way too much on the sleeve. A simple day of prayer announcement would have been much more appropriate and allowed religious citizens to put prayer to good use in the privacy of their homes/churches/synagogues etc.

I also agree that much of mainstream Christianity is shallow. That lack of depth is Christianity's fault. A lot of the criticism here from non-Christians makes valid points (I say this as a Christian) A lot of adherents don't appear to give much thought to what they believe and appear to have a religion based largely on sloganeering.

As to your other points,the "keeping water from your child" is not an appropriate extension of my analogy.We are talking about levels of "parenting" so to speak. And trying to compare physical well-being to spiritual well-being is, well, not really possible. How does any one of us know what is ultimately best for our spiritual best interest better than God?

As for the benefit of droughts, plagues, etc., that is not a simple question and is entirely dependent upon my personal belief.
Short answer for ME is that the system this life represents would not serve God's purposes if he constantly intervened in a way that is patently obvious to us, like when Jim Carrey on the Truman Show sailed into the storm because the storm was reacting to him. I think life is a test and testing conditions require non-intervention, or at least non-obvious intervention as a rule (I actually think intervention happens all the time).

A previous poster brought up the Holocaust and commented that Christian belief means that all evil is essentially meaningless. That's not an accurate portrayal of Christian belief in general and certainly not of my belief. Clearly God intends mankind to have agency and some of us are going to behave very badly. True evil. If God were stopping all the bad things from happening, we wouldn't have agency to choose the better way.

dkilmer:

My comments were aimed more at those claiming that calamities are evidence of no God and not at Purdue's public prayer (see my comments above). But prayer does cause one to think about a problem and accept that answers may not come easily, shows humility in that one doesn't have all the answers, etc.

Some of the most spiritual insights come from songs many would consider heretical.

I won't believe in heaven and hell.
No saints, no sinners,
No devil as well.
No pearly gates, no thorny crown.
You're always letting us humans down.
The wars you bring, the babes you drown.
Those lost at sea and never found,
And it's the same the whole world round.
The hurt I see helps to compound,
That the father, son and holy ghost,
Is just somebody's unholy hoax,
And if you're up there you'll perceive,
That my heart's here upon my sleeve.
If there's one thing I dont believe in...

It's you,
Dear god.

"Some of the most spiritual insights come from songs many would consider heretical."


"If I were God that's what I'd do, Heavens no

Hell yeah
Hell yeah
Hell yeah
Hell yeah

And when they nail my pimpled ass to the cross
I'll tell them I found Jesus that should throw them off
He goes by the name Jesus and steals hubcaps from cars
Oh Jesus can I borrow your crowbar?
To pry these God damn nails out they're beginning to hurt
Crucified and all I got was this lousy T-shirt
"I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" I'll sing as I'm flogged
Yeah that's what I would do if I were God
So vote for me for Savior and you'll go to Heaven
Your lame duck Lord is like Kevin Spacey in "Seven"
With creepy threats of H-E-Double-Hockey-Stick
You just can't teach an old God new tricks
But would I be a good Messiah with my low self-esteem?
If I don't believe in myself would that be blasphemy?
Just sport some crummy "holier than thou" facade
Yeah that's what I would do if I were God"

Negativity towards the concept of a god is understandable, negativity towards those that do believe is something else.

Speaking only for myself, I'd like to say that my negativity is not aimed at believers--only at believers who presume that because I don't believe, my life must suck, or that because I don't believe, I must have no moral sense, or anything along those lines. Two of my best friends--who also happen to be my co-bloggers--are believers, and I feel absolutely no negativity toward them or their beliefs, because they don't make crap assumptions about mine.

Canada is less "tribally" Anglo than the USA. Maybe it’s all of their French members and maybe Canadians do not have the same tribal impulses Anglo-Americans and Britain’s have. Australian didn't get suckered into the war, although their "tribalists" were itching to get into the war. New Zealanders certainly seem less attracted to Anglo Tribalism, it doesn't weaken my case that Anglo-Tribalist in the US convinced their "cousins" in Great Britain, that the war was essential. You know, "To get them back!"

New Zealanders, Canadians, and Australians (somewhat) didn’t get riled up like their Anglo-Imperial cousins. To their credit.

Bush is very much a tribal member of the WASP elite in the USA and I'm sure any Conservative Party member and some of the Labour elite are sensitive to a "We must stick together" kind of logic. Whatever the Liberal Party would have done is inconsequential, I think Gore would have not given into his tribal instincts like a Bush did, however Anglo-Tribalism is the foundation of right-wing politics in the US.

Brian- I didn't say your life must suck because you don't believe in God. I asked you if your life sucked because you said you owed God nothing. If God exists and created the universe you owe God thanks if, on balance you like existing.

And trying to compare physical well-being to spiritual well-being is, well, not really possible. How does any one of us know what is ultimately best for our spiritual best interest better than God?

What on earth is "spiritual well-being" and how does one determine if it's being taken care of properly or not?

What percentage do you think Fred Phelps represents, since you brought him up?

Phelps himself, or his particular package of beliefs? If the latter, I'd say maybe 1-2%. If the former, a trivial number. Robertson/Fallwell/Dobson? Easily 10-15% if not more.

"But prayer does cause one to think about a problem and accept that answers may not come easily, shows humility in that one doesn't have all the answers, etc."

Prayer does all of these, and they're all good. I am not trying to say that prayer is pointless or wrong. From the higher power of twelve-step programs to the hard realizations made in the third stage of grief, prayer proves itself to be a powerful thing. But it doesn't lead to a real sense of responsibility, in the context of your analogy or in any other context I can think of.

I'm pressing this particular point because your analogy of God as parent implied that God was teaching us responsibility rather than simply being fickle, mean, or uncaring. I agree that there's no need to assume a mean God, but the idea of prayer (supplication) as a solution doesn't support that part of your analogy.

Like Brian, I don't feel any negativity toward believers because they believe in God. I feel negativity toward people who think that I can't be properly moral because I don't believe. Because atheism has such a bad name in that respect, I think it's important to hash out the moral implications of atheism, and how they differ from those of religion.

someotherdude: "Whatever the Liberal Party would have done is inconsequential"

Particularly since it ceased to exist in 1988.

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