Thursday, May 31, 2007

Q&A

Ok...I'm opening the floodgates. Mostly because I can't think of anything remotely interesting to write about (and I lost the e-mail file that I used to store all of the questions in (for later)). So... ask anything you've ever wanted to know about Possummomma, the possums, or life. No subjects barred.

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Ok. I thought of one "remotely interesting" thing to write about. I am now the parent of TWO Junior High Schoolers. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

33 comments:

patsy said...

I'm a Christian and read your blog. I think you'll see the light of God someday and repent. Good people are drawn to God and you seem like a good person.

If you changed your mind and became a Christian would you feel bad about leading your kids into doubt?

Psychodiva said...

Hi from England - I'm an Atheist - I love reading your blog but would like to know how you think your country will be over the next few years given that the USA appears to be heading faster and faster towards a religious war of its own?

also- how do you put up with the constant proselytising of people like the post prior to mine? we don't get so much of that **** over here :)

Minivan Mom said...

Hi - new to your blog. Haven't read more than the past few posts, so I apologize if I'm asking stuff that is "common knowledge" around here.

1. How do you let comments like those from Patsy roll of your back? I can be uber sensitive and tend to go "quiet" for a few days if something upsets me.

2. What do your kids feel about religion? Are you raising them to be atheists (no criticism or judgement - a genuine question) or are you exposing them to different beliefs and letting them decide? As a Unitarian family, that is what I am doing...I'm trying to teach them (as much as I can, at ages 7, 4 and 3!) about what different religions believe, and then I don't care if they turn out Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist - I want to empower them to decide for themselves.

NOT AT ALL saying there that's what "should" be done, just sharing what we choose to do and wondering how you approach it as an atheist. :)

Sean the Blogonaut said...

Patsy if you did read the blog you would know that PM doesn't lead her children into doubt indeed she still lets them attend church iirc - but i'll let her answer that one.

Pm - what effect do you think the Christain right will have on your country's education and future?

Vincent said...

Leading them into doubt is a good thing. It's good to doubt because it keeps you from being taken in by charlatans.

Adam H said...

how "militant" do you think we should be as athiests? should we combat religion just when it is imposed on us, or should we go on the offensive by actively discouraging the spreading of dogma?

Mari said...

Have you seen JESUS CAMP?

Thranil said...

Just to make sure you've been thorough, PM... when you were searching for god, did you make sure and look behind the couch? ;)

Matt D. said...

Patsy wrote: "I think you'll see the light of God someday and repent. Good people are drawn to God and you seem like a good person."

I promise, I'm not picking a fight with you - but I did want to point something out. You seem like a fairly kind and genuine person and I'm sure that you didn't mean to appear rude or condescending.

But there's a bit of a disconnect in your personal theology. On the one hand you claim that "good people" are drawn to god. Really? So those of us who once believed but have abandoned belief aren't good?

I'd argue that truly good people, those who can recognize when an action is good and just and not simply dogmatically asserted are drawn away from the God you believe in.

You also seem pretty sure that she'll "see the light of God someday and repent" - repent for what? I thought she was a good person?

I'm not saying that just to be argumentative. I understand what you believe, because I believed it as well (or at least similarly). My point is that a "good person" would only be able to repent for:

- original sin
- disbelieving
- incidental sins

Original sin is an unjust, immoral concept which should - on its own - demonstrate that the god of the Bible isn't moral.

Disbelieving isn't a choice - it is a state of being. You must be convinced that something is true in order to believe - it is not subject to the will... it isn't a simple matter of choice. It, therefore, cannot be a sin. The fact that the Bible characterizes it as a sin should be proof enough that the authors of the Bible lacked an understanding of human nature. The understanding was primitive, not divine, and inconsistent with reality.

The last possibility - incidental sins - is true of everyone, believer or not and repentence hardly seems to be a concern. The very notion that we should beg forgiveness for being flawed - from the very being that made us flawed...should be (you guessed it) proof enough that the Christian theology is irrational and untrue.

When you say things like "You seem like such a good person, I'm sure someday you'll repent" - it's a bit like saying "You seem like such a smart person, I'm sure some day you'll understand."

It's condescending. But, depending on the circumstances, it may also be obviously wrong.

A few weeks ago, I had Vic Stenger on the show. Dr. Stenger is retired, but spent many years studying particle physics. We had a caller who said something like "you all look like smart guys, I don't understand how you can dismiss the idea of god". Dr. Stenger gave an answer and the individual said - I kid you not - "yea, but when you get beyond the basics..."

I hung up on him. There's no quicker way to demonstrate how little you know than to pretend you have a deeper understanding around people who know better.

Terra said...

Matt,

I think your comment was a very articulate response. Thank you for that.

The story you told reminds me of
this.

"When you actually see the evidence about a boat."

HILARIOUS!!!

Maggie Rosethorn said...

Well, enjoy the kids at all ages, as you seem to. I had 2 in jr hs, then 2 in hs, and it was a lot of fun. Next 2 in for me is 2 in college..starting fall of 2008.

Russ said...

Patsy,

I hope you read the posts here as they contain many useful perspectives on your question. If you read the comments to other posts on this site, you will see that when religious people, including clergy, comment, they often contribute, at their best, dogma, and, when not at their best which is perhaps more frequently the case, they serve up lies, insults, vulgarity, and other forms of what is most easily understood as immorality.

For those of us with no inclination toward belief, we see such abuse as a hard and fast demonstration that religion - most often here Christianity, of course - provides no special insights to moral behavior, human compassion or even common courtesy. The comments shared here by the religious often constitute a strong counterargument to the claim that religion makes people more moral or caring.

Understand this Patsy: if atheists were not by and large a positive force in society, we would all be made aware of it by a media which panders to religion. Studying the media, you notice that if they want to denigrate a specific non-Christian religious group, they will often highlight the religious affiliation of the perpetrator of a crime. Further observe that this highlighting is rarely extended to Christians. Why? For the simple reason that almost all crime in the US is perpetrated by Christians. Almost all divorces, abortions, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, armed robberies, assaults, as well as other violent and non-violent crimes alike are engaged in, commtted, or performed almost entirely by Christians. Imagine how often you would hear a newscast leadin like "Christian Robs Man at Gunpoint" if religion was not being selectively used to sway viewers to a bias against non-Christian religions, and to avoid a bias against Christianity. I do not suggest that non-Christians commit no crimes, though by comparison the numbers are very small, I simply point out again that a Christian's religion makes him no less likely to commit crimes.

In the US the number of atheists is large enough that if even a small fraction of us atheists were the sociopaths or psychopaths that Christians - quite immorally I might add - make us out to be, this country would be largely unbearable to live in. Atheists have higher incomes, better educations, and greater access to and understanding of more technology than the run-of-the-mill American citizen. If atheists were not good citizens, good neighbors, and, in general, good people it would be immediately apparent. Several countries have a majority of citizens who hold themselves out as non-believers, and it is quite ironic that they are far closer to model societies concerning the care and general welfare of their citizenry than is the US which is far more religious.

Patsy, we do not share your belief in the supernatural, but you would find most of us quite likeable people, if you could see past the your religion to the real world where not everyone, including other religious people, sees the world as you do.

Minivan Mom said...

Okay, so I've been following the comments with interest, and I have an observation/question.

Let me preface this by saying that I have absolutely nothing against atheists or your/their belief systems. I'm also not a Christian.

With that being said, I have noticed that some of the comments made on here, while articulate and making excellent points, strike me as self-righteous and, well, a bit elitist. Sort of this "we as atheists are above your silly 'faith' and instead have the courage to face the world solely relying on science and fact - and as a result we're smarter and better". I worry that, as a group, you might come off sounding like the very people you are attempting to enlighten - and by that I mean judgemental and, dare I say it, holier than thou?

Again, this is in no way specifically directed at you, PM, because the entries I have read by you are awesome, and again, I'm really not anti-atheist OR pro-Christian (I actually have pissed off Christians quite a bit on my own blog!) But as an impartial observer to the debate, this is my observation. Take it with a grain of salt. :)

richie said...

P-momma

As a student of the sciences, particularly Biology, how do you respond to Einstein's words, taken from his 1954 essay, "This I Believe", aired shortly before his death.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the Mysterious - the knowledge of the existence of something unfathonable to us.....This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive....What is moral is not of the divine, but rather a purely human matter, albeit the most important of all human matters...."

richie in the sweatbox of life..

Matt D. said...

Sort of this "we as atheists are above your silly 'faith' and instead have the courage to face the world solely relying on science and fact - and as a result we're smarter and better". I worry that, as a group, you might come off sounding like the very people you are attempting to enlighten...

That's a fairly common, and seemingly valid concern.

If someone came to you and said that they have a true understanding of morality and that it was morally correct to kill your child if he/she disrespected you, what would you say? What if they added that if you would only trust your feelings instead of relying on your brain, you'd understand this too?

If someone came to you and said that they knew that the Earth was flat and that this knowledge was the result of a special understanding that transcends science, what would you do? What if they added that you're actually being misled by science and need to simply accept this on faith?

I see no good reason to pander to lunacy. I see no good reason to pretend that all ideas and all possibilities are similarly plausible. I see no good reason to support the notion that the "truth is somewhere in the middle". I see no good reason to pretend that someone may have a valid point - when they clearly do not.

I most certainly think that faith (the permission we give ourselves to believe something without sufficient justification) is more than just "silly", it's dangerous. I most certainly think that I am "above" reliance on faith.

I most certainly think that my sense of morality is superior to the one presented in the Bible. I believe that slavery is wrong - all the time. Period. I see no reason to apologize for having accepted a better morality than a roving band of rapists and thieves.

I most certainly think that people who accept this ancient immorality as some divinely revealed truth are actively hindering progress - in all areas.

I see no reason to apologize for moving out of the dark ages or for caring about whether or not my beliefs were likely to be true.

Do I think I'm smarter? Than some, yes. In some areas, yes. Do I think I'm better? Than some, yes. In some areas, yes.

For example, Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project. He may be, overall and in general, smarter than me. But when we're talking about whether or not there's sufficient justification to accept claims about a personal god - I've got him beat. I've examined his supporting arguments and identified clear and obvious fallacies. He stops being a scientist when his religious beliefs are in question.

Doesn't that make me just as arrogant and condescending as those faith-based folks? That's your call...but I see a few differences.

The first is that my beliefs are justified by reason and evidence. I make no appeals to revealed knowledge, mysteries, supernatural explanations or faith.

The other difference is that I see the potential for ALL of us to be better than some ignorant, ancient people who were doing their best to figure out the world. The difference is that I think almost ANYONE is smart enough to understand these things - if we just eliminate the dogmatic presuppositions that religion instills.

The final difference is that my mind is open to evidence and reasoned argument. I'm accepting nothing based on dogma or faith - and no idea is so sacred that it is beyond queston.

I don't tell them "you seem like such a nice person, I'm sure that someday you'll see that your beliefs are false". If anything, I say that I sincerely hope that they stop believing things without good reason to do so.

If I held a particularly ridiculous belief and it was based on faith or fallacy, I'd be thrilled that someone took the time to point this out and free my mind from fiction.

I know, because I did hold ridiculous beliefs and I'm thrilled that I managed to free my mind and to discover how precious this one shot at life actually is.

And if anything I say or do can help free another mind - I'll be even more thrilled.

Is there a risk that I'll be viewed by some as arrogant, condescending and "just like those other guys" - definitely. But the only way to avoid that is to avoid the issue entirely.

I'll be satisfied in knowing that reasonable people who care about what is actually true and what is actually at stake will realize this.

This idea that "you have your beliefs and I have mine and it's all good" - is complete bullshit. Our beliefs and understanding build who we are and the decisions we make. They affect the world we live in and the world we build for future generations.

"You have your beliefs and I have mine..." leads to stagnation, retards progress, promotes divisiveness, lends false support and credence to false idea...and simply doesn't work - if your goal is to continue to discover reality.

-Matt

Matt D. said...

Crap...all that, and an addendum?! Yeah, sorry.

I have no idea how that last post will read, but there's one final point:

There are many methods of "reaching" people. I'm not advocating confrontation and fact spewing as the one-and-only best path.

I would hope that my initial message to Patsy was much more accessible and friendly than it may have been portrayed.

She's a caring person, who (I'm virtually certain) meant no offense and may (still) see no problem with what she wrote.

It is impossible to clearly point out problems with what she wrote without risking a response like that of "minivanmom".

And minivanmom's concern may actually be correct - though that doesn't say anything about which position is more likely to be correct. :)

-Matt

aimee said...

*****STANDING OVATION******* For Russ and Matt D, well said guys!!

p.s. to Patsy and Minivan mom, everyone is born an atheist. It's just that most are forced to be whatever their parents are from that day forward without the chance to think for themselves which to me is sad and borderline abusive.

Russ said...

minivan mom,

When you make a statement like,
"I have noticed that some of the comments made on here, while articulate and making excellent points, strike me as self-righteous and, well, a bit elitist,"
it would be quite helpful if you could site specific instances of self-righteousness and elitism. There are very few comments on this thread so it should be simple to point to statements you think exemplify the offenses you note. The specificity would be helpful since elitism and self-righteousness are traits commonly ascribed to atheists in preparing the way for additional strawman characterizations.

If I may, I'd like to inquire about a couple things you said in your two comments. I don't mean any offense, and I assure you that even if I come off that way, I'm not trying to be elitist or self-righteous. I hope you understand that if you, minivan mom, have accrued knowledge and expertise over the course of your lifetime, your sharing of some of that valuable, often hard-earned, understanding with someone with who possesses understanding that may be just as valuable - albeit, perhaps quite different from yours - does not make you elitist or self-righteous. Modern society is only possible due to specialized division of labor which could be construed as each specialist being elitist or self-righteous relative to those without that expertise.

You said in your first comment,
What do your kids feel about religion? Are you raising them to be atheists (no criticism or judgement - a genuine question) or are you exposing them to different beliefs and letting them decide? As a Unitarian family, that is what I am doing...I'm trying to teach them (as much as I can, at ages 7, 4 and 3!) about what different religions believe, and then I don't care if they turn out Christian, Jewish, Buddhist or atheist - I want to empower them to decide for themselves.

My first question to you, minivan mom, is this: what exactly is the decision you think you are empowering them to make? Would you feel more comfortable if they chose a theistic religion as opposed to atheism? If that's the case are you not then hoping that you empower your children to choose their own mental straightjacket? After all, almost all religions seek to shut down much of an individual's moral decision-making skills by providing a suite of prepackaged one-size-fits-all simply fill-in-the-blank moral dictates applicable to all members of the group. Joining one of those groups - the decision it appears you hope to prepare you children to make - means abiding by the group dictates which were, of course, themselves simply made up by another person, perhaps in another place and time, but a person, nonetheless.

I'm also interested in what it is that you would counsel your children to use in making the decision to join a religious group. Would it be verifiable correctness, the clear truth of the claims of the religious leaders? Would it be the capacity of the church environment to induce the universally-human neurlogical phenomena religions have coopted under the name of spirituality? Should their choice be made based on the correct deity? If so, today in 2007, there are more than 1000 distinct deities worshipped on planet earth, with more being concocted all the time. Just listing them all is quite a chore, much less suggesting that one should research them all before choosing one.

If a person decides they can really relate to the Christian's Biblical god, Yahweh, then by what means should a child be guided to select among the approximately 34000 distinct Christian denominations to find the one that best suits him? It's a life and death decision since in Roman Catholicism contraception will land you in Hell - clearly, Catholics don't believe it since the vast majority of Catholics use contraception - but in Protestant denominations, contraception won't land you in Hell - bonus! In many Southern Baptist sects playing penny ante poker will earn you a furnace forever, while other Christian sects use it and other forms of gambling as heaven-sent vises for squeezing ever more cash from the faithful. In all earnestness, how is one to decide? Should a child be taught to decide if they like gambling or contraception before they vow to abide by someone else's man-made rules and regulations that define a specific sect?

When you say, "I want to empower them to decide for themselves," I wonder if you might be suggesting to your children the equivalent of "there are lots of religions and you must choose one just as you father and I have, otherwise your life will be meaningless, hopeless and full of despair." Further, I wonder if you ever share with them non-belief in a way that would say to them that you would actually not be offended or wounded if they made that choice. Like a shot, kids know when you're bullshittin' 'em. Do you ever share with your children interesting little atheist factoids like most of the world's top scientists are atheists? For example, more than 90 percent of the NAS(National Academy of Sciences) are atheists.

If the choice is to be theirs and if you would like them to be as well-informed as possible, would you introduce them to say, Wahhabi Islam or Scientology? Native American traditions?

minivan mom, at one point you said following your remarks about elitism,
Sort of this "we as atheists are above your silly 'faith' and instead have the courage to face the world solely relying on science and fact - and as a result we're smarter and better".

If being above believer's silly faith, let be the first commenter to go on record as saying, "I AM ABOVE YOUR SILLY FAITH." minivan mom, in my life I have personally investigated more than a thousand supernatural claims and in every single case, the claim of otherworldly influence was made on the basis of ignorance: ignorance of coincidence, randomness and statistics; ignorance of the natural world; or ignorance of the tendency of human perceptual systems to mislead. Faith, as religionists use it, counts for nothing, zip, nada, zilch. As a synonym for confidence 'faith' is a fine word; as the completely unwarranted expectation that some supernatural being is going to alter the laws of nature or probability to fulfill an individual's earnest wishes, the word 'faith' is worthless. The worthlessness of faith is easily seen in Christian Bible's New Testament Gospels. In several places it says that their god answers prayers, and it places no conditions on the asker or the request. The Bible states without reservation: Ask and it should happen. But, it never has - not even once - ever. There is no reason to pretend to believe in it or to pretend faith. The ineffectiveness of promised prayer results, should kill off faith, but the ignorances mentioned earlier, serve the clergy - frauds, one and all - exceedingly well.

If that is elitism I plead guilty.

Richie said...

A THOUGHT

A former colleague, he actually approved my employment contract, would share this thought with groups of educators and parents we would ask him to appear before. "........There is no such thing as an irrelevant question. The Creator provided us with the very free will and capacity to deny His existence. Thus, we are empowered to seek answers in every new age..." Stanley D Idzerda, PhD, co-editor of the papers of Le Marquis de Lafayette. Perhaps, a primary tenent of atheism then is this never-quenched thirst for a more enlightened answer. This is good. Einstein and Idzerda, two published scholars in their disciplines, as reviewed and acknowleded by their peers. P-momma and our blogger-gaggle sound off! Instant-messagers putting forth our thoughts and questions for whomever can find us. Published!..(as long as P-momma maintains the archive :) richie .. scratching for enlightenment.

Richie said...

Russ

Here's my morning chuckle. I circled back to your 11/2006 blog to learn more about your background. I noted the reference - "Materialist" and linked, believing I would be led to a material list - a beginning reference primer for your estabished belief system. That's what sleep deprivation will do! You can reference my background at http://myspace.com/richiedeadhead Is there a public forum, missive or web-site where neanderthals like me can learn more about you?

Minivan Mom said...

Well, there may be too much here for me to appropriately respond to - given that I do have 3 small children running around the house! :) So I'm sure I won't make my point nearly as well as I could if I had the time (or the full night's sleep) that I need to accurately represent my views on the mysteries of the universe.

First, I'm amazed (although appreciative) at the quick and obviously long thought out responses to my observations. You (the collective you that responded) are obviously as passionate about your beliefs, and convincing others that they are "right", as any Bible beater I have met (said only partly tongue in cheek).

Matt - first, there is a flaw with your argument about the world being flat as an example of something "ridiculous" that would later be disproven. For one, I DO think it's insulting to say that the belief in God is "ridiculous" (the mere history of theology and search for higher meaning lends some credence, no?) but also...I don't think you will ever be able to disprove or prove the existence of God - unlike the geography of the Earth. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I think. And again, this is from someone who is VERY open and nebulous on her own beliefs in God.

I respect your belief not to have faith or belief in a higher being. Truly - I'm cool with that! But again - I think it's insulting to say that to believe otherwise is to "pander to lunacy" as you said. I find that almost as insulting as the Christians who say I'm going to hell because I don't believe Jesus Christ was the son of God. Actually, more so, because I don't believe in hell anyway, so I just laugh! :)

Aimee - (flinching) you don't need to lump me in the same category as Patsy. I'm not looking to convert anyone to anything. I certainly have no problems with atheists raising their children to understand the points of atheism, but I also think to say that you think someone is "borderline abusive" for raising their children with faith to be...just wrong. I don't know how else to say it. I wonder if you have children? If so, do you think any other mothers you know who are raising their children as Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever as "bad mothers"? Wow. Okay, people, THERE is a perfect example of the self-righteous (and judgemental) I was speaking about!

Russ - well, first, I will say that it is more of a pervasive tone than particular comments, but sure, for the sake of argument, here's something that struck me wrong that you said -

For the simple reason that almost all crime in the US is perpetrated by Christians. Almost all divorces, abortions, domestic abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, armed robberies, assaults, as well as other violent and non-violent crimes alike are engaged in, commtted, or performed almost entirely by Christians.

Okay...I would love to see the data on this, that goes BEYOND the fact that the majority of Americans are, indeed, Christians. Simple math will indicate that, by default, a majority of these types of offenses and issues will be propagated by Christians. Again, I'm not a Christian, and most of my friends would be cracking up that I'm DEFENDING Christians, but I find this sort of statement to be so self-defeating to your cause because it just strikes me as ridiculous, and also has such a "we're the role model citizens" vibe - there, that is an example of elitist and self-righteous. But again, I was referring more to tone.

Finally (since the issue of faith is moot when my kids are waiting for me to make their waffles!) I will address your question about how I raise my children with religious beliefs. I think you presumed a lot - I say that not defensively, because you don't know me, but I feel like maybe you are so cynical or jaded with how you THINK anyone that disagrees you MUST be raising their children, that you jump to conclusions?

Do I want or feel like my children HAVE to choose a religion? No. Have I explicitly told them that some people don't believe in God or go to church? My 7 year old, yes. Did I say it without judgement and present it as a viable option? I believe yes - my sister is an atheist, and I see nothing wrong with her beliefs, or how she's raising her son (although they're raising him as a Catholic like his Dad, but whatever). I am totally fine if my children grow up and never attend church again - church does not equal morality. I don't believe the Bible is anything other than a piece of literature. So on many points, I believe we agree.

As a Unitarian, I DO think it's important to expose and teach them what different religions believe, yes I do. Unitarians are not Christians (although they can be, but there are a fair number of atheists that attend my church).
I want my children to grow up with a belief system, but I want them to make an informed and educated CHOICE, yes. Living in Texas (rolling eyes) my oldest hears a lot about heaven and hell and Jesus on the playground. He comes home and discusses this with me. And he will say "but you don't believe in hell, right mom? You believe that people come back again" (reincarnation). And I say "yes. What do YOU believe?" One week it was he believed in heaven and hell. One week he believed in reincarnation. He's 7. He can't decide on what he wants for lunch.

So I hope that answers some of your questions. For me, I live with the faith in something larger than myself. I'm not sure what it is, but I DO have faith. I have faith in a lot of things. But what I FEEL (and correct me if I'm wrong, as I know you will) that I get from the atheists commenting on here is that not only do you NOT have faith (which is fine with me) but that you look down on those who do have faith as "ridiculous" "silly" "less intelligent" "unenlightened", etc. And it is THAT atittude, not your lack of faith, that makes me sad.

Minivan Mom said...

Great quote by the Dalai Lama in today's Austin American Statesman that I thought you would all appreciate. He was interviewed for the documentary "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama" and the filmaker asked him "When do you evolve religious doctrine when faced with scientific fact?" and the Dalai Lama responded "if science disproves faith, well maybe faith should evolve"

Thought you would all appreciate that! I love the Dalai Lama - I had a chance to see him speak in person in Boston in 2004, and he was just amazing. You could feel his energy - hard to explain. I also saw the Pope perform Christmas Eve midnight mass in the Vatican in 2004...didn't feel a thing! Actually fell asleep because I didn't understand the hour of Latin droning on.

Anyway - if I had to choose an organized religion (outside of Unitarianism which is VERY loosely an organized religion) I would choose Buddhism. That most closely aligns with my faith beliefs.

erin said...

What is it like living with two junior highers? Because I work with them all day and am so happy to leave them at 2:45. I can't imagine coming home to two, although I suppose I will someday. SCARY.;)

Matt D. said...

first, there is a flaw with your argument about the world being flat as an example of something "ridiculous" that would later be disproven.

Fair enough, no analogy is perfect. So, ignore the flat Earth comment (despite the fact that there are real people who still believe - vehemently - that the Earth is flat).

Replace it with a claim that the individual believes in fairies or reincarnation.

For one, I DO think it's insulting to say that the belief in God is "ridiculous"

And flat-earthers are insulted when I say that their beliefs are ridiculous...and fairy-believers are insulted when I say that their beliefs are ridiculous, as are reincarnationists.

However, I didn't say that belief in God is ridiculous. That is a broad generalization that would be unfair. The only time I used the word ridiculous was with regard to specific beliefs - beliefs I once held.

If someone has some non-specific, "something greater" notion of God... I don't consider that ridiculous. That's a common, normal way of acknowledging the possibilities. That sort of belief isn't ridiculous, it's just unjustified.

(the mere history of theology and search for higher meaning lends some credence, no?)

No, it doesn't. The fact that we have continually looked for something - doesn't make it's existence any more likely. In fact, the fact that we are continually unable to find it - renders it less likely.

The ubiquitous nature of the search speaks to human nature only.

If I set a box on the table, people are going to be naturally curious about what's in it. The fact that they're curious tells us nothing about what is (or isn't) i the box.

but also...I don't think you will ever be able to disprove or prove the existence of God - unlike the geography of the Earth.

Fair enough, that analogy doesn't work at this level.

However, if you try to extend the inability to disprove the existence of God to claim that this is a good reason to believe - you've committed a huge fallacy. (Not that I think you meant that).

I respect your belief not to have faith or belief in a higher being. Truly - I'm cool with that! But again - I think it's insulting to say that to believe otherwise is to "pander to lunacy" as you said.

There's a difference between "I respect your belief" and "I respect your right to hold that belief". There's also a difference between respecting the right to hold a belief and publicly portraying that belief as if it's on equal footing with competing beliefs.

That is pandering to lunacy.

I find that almost as insulting as the Christians who say I'm going to hell...

So, stating that some ideas are better than others, that some are more demonstrably true or that some are less justified is just as insulting telling you you're going to hell? Ok. We disagree there.

I DO think it's important to expose and teach them what different religions believe, yes I do.

And I completely agree.

You stated that you simply believe in something larger than yourself - and also in reincarnation.

Do you have any reasonable justification for these beliefs - or are they simply extensions of your desires?

I believe that both of those positions are irrational and not supported by evidence or sound argument. It's magical thinking, supported by fallacies. Is that "insulting"?

not only do you NOT have faith (which is fine with me) but that you look down on those who do have faith as "ridiculous" "silly" "less intelligent" "unenlightened", etc. And it is THAT atittude, not your lack of faith, that makes me sad.


You're free to see it as "looking down". I prefer to look at it as honesty.

What you seem to be proposing is this "you have a belief, I have a belief, it's all good" mentality.

What if my belief is that I'm not a drug addict, and it's clear to people who care about me, that I am? Is it insulting for them to point it out? Shouldn't I just be allowed to live with my own delusion?

Beliefs aren't just fuzzy notions about possibilities. They shape us and they affect the world we live in - because we form new beliefs based on them and take actions based on them.

You may have this faith-based belief in some non-descript higher power. I don't think that's ridiculous. If I were place different beliefs on a "ridiculousness scale" yours wouldn't be anywhere near any of the orthodox views of organized religions.

In fact, I'd say your belief is "better" than those who believe in a personal deity.

What you seem to be doing is adopting a position that your belief isn't better - just different. That they're all, somehow, equally respectable.

They aren't. And it's wrong to pretend that a belief is beyond evaluation simply because we've slapped the "religion" label on it.

That's special pleading.

Seriously, if you don't think that your generic view of God is superior to the Christian view of God - then what justification do you have for rejecting their view and holding your own?

Minivan Mom said...

Matt - see, I think this dialogue demonstrates the utter frustration and ultimate inability to meet halfway - because we are arguing things that cannot be proven or disproven. :)

You brought up "justification" a couple of times - but that's the crux of faith. I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do. I can understand why you might feel that lends less credence to my beliefs...and that's okay. I don't need or want you to feel the same way (a huge problem of mine with a lot of Christianity - this whole conversion thing).

Do I think that the inability to prove God is a good reason to justify the belief in him/her/it? No...but I also don't think it's a good reason to NOT believe. You (and other atheists) seem to approach the belief in anything supernatural with an arms-crossed-eyebrows-arched attitude of "Prove it. You can't? See, it doesn't exist!" and I get that. But I don't feel the same way. I approach it from "I'm not ruling anything out"

As for my specific belief in reincarnation - I always thought it seemed like an idea that I could believe in, and then I read "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss. That confirmed my belief in reincarnation. So for that belief - yes, I can point a finger to where that came from. :) But I was open to the idea beforehand and didn't approach it with skepticism. I think some people are naturally more skeptical.

As for my reluctance to believe in the Christian type of God - I could probably address that, but I just don't have the time. :) I'm open to it, but don't necessarily commit that THAT is my God.

Finally, you said:

What you seem to be doing is adopting a position that your belief isn't better - just different. That they're all, somehow, equally respectable.

They aren't.

We will have to agree to disagree Matt. You won't win this one with me anymore than I will win this one with you. I completely agree that when people use certain aspects of religion to propagate hatred or sexism or discrimination, then THAT is not okay. But to insist that Jesus Christ is the Saviour or that Gabriel spoke to Mohammad or that Siddhartha was the first Buddha? Yes, I believe that is "separate but equal".

Matt D. said...

I think this dialogue demonstrates the utter frustration and ultimate inability to meet halfway

I guess you skipped the part where I explained that there's no good reason to think that the truth lies halfway between any two positions. The problem in reaching a common understanding is that I'm interested discovering the truth about reality - and you aren't.

I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do.

And I'm curious why you're comfortable with that - and why you aren't willing to extend that same right to people who propogate hatred? Why should they need a justification when you don't?

I don't need or want you to feel the same way (a huge problem of mine with a lot of Christianity - this whole conversion thing).

So, you either don't believe that your beliefs are an accurate representation of reality - or you don't care enough about anyone else to encourage them to embrace reality. Is there some option I'm missing?

Do I think that the inability to prove God is a good reason to justify the belief in him/her/it? No...but I also don't think it's a good reason to NOT believe.

There are only two options. Either you feel that belief is justified until the idea is proven unlikely to be true, or you feel that belief should be reserved until the idea is proven likely to be true. Which is it? You've just tried to claim both.

You (and other atheists) seem to approach the belief in anything supernatural with an arms-crossed-eyebrows-arched attitude of "Prove it. You can't? See, it doesn't exist!" and I get that.

No, you clearly don't get it. Supernatural claims have been tested, repeatedly. All claims have failed. And despite the warranted skepticism - if any single claim ever passes the test, I'll believe it.

If someone keeps telling you that they can fly, and they keep failing. How long do you keep thinking "this could be true"? And do you let them jump off of a tall building to prove it?

Your mind shouldn't be so open that your brain falls out.

I approach it from "I'm not ruling anything out"

Nonsense. You rule things out all the time...everyone does. You cannot reach any conclusions without doing so.

As for my specific belief in reincarnation - I always thought it seemed like an idea that I could believe in, and then I read "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss. That confirmed my belief in reincarnation.

Well, and this will sound condescending, you have dangerously low standards of evidence. If you applied that same standard of evidence to all claims - you'd believe everything. You really would be in a state of "not ruling anything out".

The truth is this: You believe what feels right to you - with no regard to evidence, argument, contradiction or consistency with reality. You have no interest in finding out how consistent your beliefs are with reality - you're comfortable with them, and that's good enough.

This is a stupidly dangerous way of trying to understand reality. Magical, faith-based thinking is a cop out - it's not a way to find the truth, it's a way to claim to have found the truth (or your "personal truth", for those who are really loopy) without doing any work, any verification or any thinking.

You might as well have grabbed a security blanket and crossed your fingers while reading your horoscope.

I completely agree that when people use certain aspects of religion to propagate hatred or sexism or discrimination, then THAT is not okay. But to insist that Jesus Christ is the Saviour or that Gabriel spoke to Mohammad or that Siddhartha was the first Buddha? Yes, I believe that is "separate but equal".

You're picking and choosing. You're ruling some things out (hatred/sexism)- but you're unwilling to continue the process when it gets a little uncomfortable (miracles/deities) - for fear of trampling on someone's sacred cow. You'll rule out the easy bits, but not the hard ones.

You don't care whether your beliefs are true or not. That's far sadder than any perception of elitism. Some of us actually care whether or not our beliefs are likely to be true and if that makes me arrogant in your eyes, I'm fine with that... because you've demonstrated that your eyes only see what you want them to see.

Some of us prefer to live without such tinted lenses.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Matt - see, I think this dialogue demonstrates the utter frustration and ultimate inability to meet halfway - because we are arguing things that cannot be proven or disproven. :)

I think, to a certain extent, I'd agree with you. HOWEVER, if I ask someone to "meet me halfway", I usually provide them with some evidence as to why they should do so. If I ask someone to meet me halfway and they ask, "why?", I feel as if I should give them emperical data or a solid rationale for my position. Theists are, in general, aren't providing a rationale. AND, this isn't a solution with a half way. You can't really fudge on your position.


You brought up "justification" a couple of times - but that's the crux of faith. I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do.
And...this is why you'll have a problem with most atheists (well, at least the ones who read this blog). Because, to me, it sounds like you're saying, "I don't care about reality, I just believe because I want to." By that logic, I could believe that there's a million dollars in my car...and despite any evidence you may hold that that is NOT true, I could just believe it because I wanted it to be true. I do commend you though for being honest about your beliefs.


I don't need or want you to feel the same way (a huge problem of mine with a lot of Christianity - this whole conversion thing).

This is the thing though: I don't need you to agree with me 100%. However, if I approach a Christian and say, "Respect my atheism, because I want to believe it and it makes me feel good.", what do you think the odds are that that will be a sufficient answer? Not very good odds!! Furthermore, my atheism really doesn't affect their lives. Atheists tend to vote on the information for an issue, theists will often use the codes in a 2000 year old text to sway their vote. OR, they will follow what an authority figure says. THAT effects me. Look at Missouri and stem cell bills. Do you think the population, the entire population that voted, understood the ins-and-outs of stem cell research? Or, is it more likely that they got behind a religious opposition that told them that "using embryos for research is bad"? I'm not trying to convince someone that there God doesn't exist...I'm simply asking that they use logic and reason- period. And, HOPING that they'll extend that critical thought to beliefs that they might normally put on a pedestal, beyond the reach of reason. I'm asking them to examine why their sacred cows are so sacred. :)

aimee said...

Minivan mom,
First off, I didn't lump you with patsy, I was simply addressing the both of you at the same time. If you can't see the difference there, then I don’t know what to tell you.

"Flinching", seriously? What I said was in no way hurtful or mean. What I have to say below may be mean and hurtful though.

I certainly have no problems with atheists raising their children to understand the points of atheism, but I also think to say that you think someone is "borderline abusive" for raising their children with faith to be...just wrong.

I never said to raise kids with faith is borderline abusive, you twisted my words, what is borderline abusive is ‘forcing’ kids to believe that if they question or no longer believe in god, they are going to go to hell, that the other religions out there are the crazy ones to believe what they believe.

This next example is abusive, not borderline, but flat out abuse…
Let’s take a look at the polygamist community shall we? Not only do these bastard men force young women to marry other bastard men, they force the women to have only an 8th grade education, they have babies until their bodies can't take it anymore, they have to have sex with brothers and uncles and end up having children with severe birth defects. They have no life outside of this community, no t.v., no newspapers, they are isolated. I wrote an essay on it over at Fearless Philosophy http://fpffressminds.blogspot.com/2005/03/polygamy.html
Look at Muslims, they are grooming their kids to blow themselves up for fucks sake! Those ARE ‘bad parents’.

Let’s also look at many of the other religions...
From the get go, kids are taught that if they don't believe in God, they are going to burn in hell. That is brainwashing, no two ways about it. They are taught not to question, which means they are not allowed to think for themselves, they are being groomed to be 'sheep', followers, not leaders.
If you have seen JESUS CAMP, you can see how disturbing those kids are, how scary the adults are with their brainwashing. Catholic kids are taught that sex and masturbation is wrong, "coitus" is meant for making babies, it is not meant for pleasure. I see years of therapy for some teen that either has sex and likes it, or masturbates and likes it, but is overcome with so much guilt that they are in turmoil. What if they realize they are gay? They know they will not be embraced in their church community.

That is very sad that people can't get to be who they are for fear of being shunned. Scaring and guilting children like that is pathetic. With the Jahovas, if you go against them, and you die, no other Jahova is allowed to be at your funeral. You are not allowed to support your country, if you are a female, you have to submit to the elders, fuck that! The list goes on. So yes, it is borderline abuse.

I do have children, 3 of them. My husband was raised strict Christian in a small bible belt town in Texas, so he knows what it is like. Luckily he began to think for himself and broke away from that life and is about as atheist as one can get. If our kids want to explore religion, then they can, and can do so with our help. If they have questions, we tell them what we think and what people of faith think. We don’t tell them that these people are wrong and we are right, just simply that that is our opinion. When they are old enough, they will have the tools and knowledge to figure out what path is right for them, and they will be supported, unless they go down the path that will hurt others in the process in the name of god or Mohammed, what have you.

"do you think any other mothers you know who are raising their children as Christians, Jews, Muslims, whatever as "bad mothers"?"

The only other parents I know that are raising their child christian is my brother in law who happens to be a preacher. I believe their intentions are good, but once again, this baby will have god thrown at her at every turn and be told that other religions are a waste of time to look into because those gods are not real, again with the brainwashing. They are good people and I love them, but I disagree with them on just about everything. I do not think they are 'bad parents', just misguided because they are doing the only thing they know how, which is passing on the words of god as truth.

"Wow. Okay, people, THERE is a perfect example of the self-righteous (and judgemental) I was speaking about!"

It is very funny to me that my comments out of everyone on here were the worst to you. Especially since mine was the shortest!

If believing that kids should be allowed to think for themselves, use science, use their imaginations, and read Harry Potter if they want makes me self righteous AND judgmental, then I guess I am and make no apologies for it.

Minivan Mom said...

The problem with the analogies you keep raising for why "belief" is silly is that they fall short of being analogous. Matt raised the "well if someone believes they can fly, how many times do they fail before you don't believe them". As far as I know, science has disproven that human beings can flap our arms and rise in the air like a bird. Pmomma raised the example of believing a million dollars was in her car...you can walk out to your car and see it's not there.

My whole point (and why your analogies just don't match) is that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of a higher being. If science can disprove it, that would be kind of neat, actually.

Pmomma - I totally agree with you about many Christians arguing with your statement about your atheist beliefs. It's one of the many problems I tend to have with Christianity.

What I find so interesting is that I truly have no problems with atheism. I can understand why you believe what you do (despite Matt thinking I'm too simple and obviously NOT understanding it). But I find the arguments and condescending tone on here (from Matt and Aimee in response to my commetns) to be so negative, condescending and dismissive, that it leads me to believe that to try to come to an respectful disagreement with SOME atheists (would never presume to lump all of you together) to be as futile as with a fundamentalist Christian. It seems like 2 sides of the same coin.

As my husband said after reading the comments "Christians are stupid and self-righteous. Atheists think they're geniuses and self-righteous"

I'll be checking out of this blog - not because of any sort of issues with atheism, but because of the posters!

aimee said...

Minivan mom,
You addressed what you felt was wrong with my comment, and I gave you the same respect. I went point by point and gave my reasons for the issues you brought up. I never once called you a name or said you were stupid, I never lumped you into any category. Seriously though, if you don't like the responses, then do not bring attention to others comments you do not wish to hear back from, it is that easy. All I was doing was defending my position. You asked the questions, I answered.

Matt D. said...

If science can disprove it, that would be kind of neat, actually.

You completely ignored the important question:

Do you think belief in a claim should be granted until there's a clear demonstration of its unlikelihood - or do you think that belief should be reserved until there's a clear demonstration of its likelihood?

However, that aside - you claim that it would be kinda neat if science could disprove the existence of a god.

Well, that's been done - over and over and over and over. Someone makes a claim about something, attributing an observation to a supernatural entity - and then, we later discover it has a completely natural explanation that we were previously unable to identify. Someone else makes a claim about an ability and, when tested, it is clear that this ability does not exist.

So, what happens? The proponents either redefine their god-hypothesis, adjust their claims of powers or find some other way to cling to a belief which has been demonstrated as, at a minimum, highly improbable.

You've done this. You reject specific claims about a deity while clinging to a more nebulous claim about a higher power. Your justification? Faith, personal incredulity and personal preference.

You're correct, science cannot disprove such a poorly defined claim. When you've plugged gaps in our understanding with a god, it'll just have fewer and fewer gaps to plug - but there's no fear that we'll plug them all and eliminate the notion.

The point, which you've avoided, is that there's no good reason to posit such a being in the first place.

Consider, for a moment, your belief in reincarnation. You believe this on faith, because it's something you feel comfortable believing. You also feel that it's untestable - and, on some level, it may well be.

But the real question is: what evidence is there to think that reincarnation *might* actually happen?

What makes me, me? Setting wishful thinking aside, what reason is there to think that any part of me survives death?

We don't have a full understanding of the brain - but we know enough to know that who we are is a function of the brain. Our knowledge, our hopes, our dreams, our personalities...it's all there. And we can study these things in health and unhealthy brains.

Every sort of "attribute" that was once attributed to a "soul" has been demonstrated as a function of the human brain. Individuals who suffer brain trauma have manifested memory loss (permanent, temporary, long and short term), dramatic personality shifts, shifts in comprehension, communication, emotion, intelligence, compassion - everything.

What gets reincarnated?

Now, you might side-step all of these questions (as you've already tried to do) and claim that you don't need evidence - you'll just accept it on faith - and that you have no need to convince me or anyone else. That's fine, they're your personal beliefs.

But, in doing so, you demonstrate that you do not care - at all - about whether or not your beliefs are likely to be true.

It is impossible to meet on common ground when you're accusing people of elitism, simply because they care more about understanding reality than you do.

You are enjoying your voluntary ignorance, openly embracing irrationality - and then labeling those who point out your irrationality as 'elitist'.

In that sense, I am elitist. I'm prejudiced toward truth, evidence and reason. I consider voluntary ignorance and irrationality to be, perhaps, the most dangerously stupid positions anyone can ever assume.

I understand that magical thinkers use special pleading (compartmentalism), what I don't understand is why they continue to do so after it has been exposed.

-Matt

Russ said...

Minivan Mom,

Your last post makes several points I'd like to respond to, including your siting the book "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss as providing confirmation of your belief in reincarnation. I would have responded to you sooner, but my reading of "Many Lives, Many Masters" was in the early 1990's, and I wanted my response to reflect my thoughts and impressions as I read it, so I spent a couple of hours sifting through my circa 1990 journals to find my notes. I'm sure it won't surprise you that I have nothing favorable to say about it. I'll get to the Weiss book soon enough, but I'll begin where your post begins.

You begin with a notion with which I disagree when you say, "we are arguing things that cannot be proven or disproven." My disagreement stems from our - mankind's - straightforward ability to demonstrate directly that most of those "things" which you claim "cannot be proven or disproven" are wholesale products of human imaginations: they were conceived in someone's imagination; they exist only in imaginations; and they do not leave the tangible marks on the world that substantiate that a thing does or has ever existed; or, is or ever has been real.

The human imagination is marvelous for -- figuratively -- bringing things to life, but the pure products of human creativity are not real. Known fictions with known authors serve as good examples, but so do completely manufactured metaphysical conceptions. No notion whatsoever whether animal, vegetable, mineral, idea, abstraction, pseudoscience, miracle, or snack food is blinked into existence - that is, it does not become real - simply for someone's having consciously imagined, wished, concocted, fabricated, or dreamed it. For example, no one needs to prove or disprove the existence of Dickens' Fagin, Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, Montana Wildhack, or becoming unstuck in time, or Gene Roddenberry's Tribbles: they began their conceptual existences disproven: not grounded in evidence and having no expectation of evidence cropping up in the future. We cannot hold out known inventions of mind and expect "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" to provide the basis of an inane plausibility argument. Such things were not created with evidence in mind, either existing or forthcoming. In essence, they start out disproven.

Gopoopee, the god of toddler bowel movements, perhaps worshipped, loosely, by toddler parents, is a right-this-very-instant outpouring of my creativity. I just now made it up. Is it real? No. Is there a need to prove or disprove the existence of Gopoopee? No. What if I promised that Gopoopee could almost eliminate the hassles of potty training? Nope, not then either. But still, in today's hyper-credulous world, however, I could easily round up a thousand believers. Would Gopoopee then exist? What if I could get ten thousand frustrated and anxiety-ridden potty-training parents to buy in? Would Gopoopee be real then? If not, would a million do it? No. Gopoopee would not exist, but think about this: with a million Gopoopee followers, invoking the name of Gopoopee would coincide with that longed for BM often enough that there would be thousands of testimonials to attest to the power of Gopoopee to induce the desired effect. Would Gopoopee be real then? No, no, no. Not under any circumstances did, does or will Gopoopee exist. Lies told as promises would not make Gopoopee exist; large numbers of followers won't make Gopoopee exist; relieving coincidences that make it appear as though Gopoopee is doing something won't make Gopoopee exist; and, heartfelt testimonials - no matter how sincere, no matter how seemingly trustworthy the witness - won't make Gopoopee exist. I made it up. It will never exist. It will never be real - not in this world, not in some non-apparent dimension and not in a parallel universe.

As it goes with Gopoopee, so it goes with other supernatural contrivances: they are made up. Despite religion's obscurantist efforts, despite New Ager's efforts to manufacture evidence supporting their ideas, despite freak-show faith healers using stage magic to bamboozle the gullible, despite the lies and lawsuits by psychics, and despite so many others trying to pass off bunk as evidence, one and all they have been shown to be the work of either outright charlatans or of people so ignorant of the world that they continually fool themselves. From Chopra's Quantum This and Quantum That, and Sylvia Browne's umpteenth dimension, to organized religion's long-ago origins in 100 percent non-supernatural human-created myth, legend, folklore, and just plain wishful thinking, we - mankind - have ferreted out their very human origins and now see them for what they really are: imaginary products of people's imaginations. Exactly like Gopoopee, and Montana Wildhack, since someone just made them up, they never were real; they are not now real; and, they never will be real. No manner of lie, promise, coincidence, head count, or testimonial will make them real or true or bring them into existence.

Right now, this very minute, we are all witnesses to attempts to simply blink some person's creative notions into existence. Religions put a fine point on it as they continue their accelerating proliferation. Though churchgoer numbers are down in absolute numbers, the number of distinct religions and sects grows by leaps and bounds. By way of example, in 1990 there were approximately 24000 distinct Christian sects worldwide; today there are about 34000.

I'm convinced that this escalating balkanization of all extant religions, in part, reflects people's deepening awareness that what they claim is the ultimate source of peace, morality, happiness, meaning and fulfullment, in the most favorable of terms, behaves precisely as though it flat out does not give a shit about mankind.

Additionally, it reflects the imperatives of the growing numbers of religious criminals to avoid any oversight by organized religion's audit standards: tax-free money is even more free and even less taxed when you are accountable to no one for how much there is or what happens to it beyond the collection plate.

Further, I think this fragmenting of contemporary religions and the resultant vastly distinct doctrines and dogmas, completely justify why more and more people accept the fact that no god has ever existed: since anyone - indeed everyone - can simply make up their own religion and imbue it with authoritative power by asserting its origin in divinity, there exists no reason at all - not one - to think that any religion - not one ever - has resulted from a divine source.

What's more, since each and every member of each and every sect is tagged an infidel by each and every other sect - with few exceptions - each and every person who has every lived is destined to Hades, no if's, and's, or but's; no questions asked. Since not one person on the planet can even be remotely aware of every sect around the world that will damn him to Hell, it follows that not one person on the planet can possibly comply with the myriad conflicting salvation requirements of all those sects: we're all doomed, evidently with the full foreknowledge of one god or another. Religions and their concomitant mutual damnations create a reduction to complete absurdity. Religion is, from beginning to end, pure and unequivocal farce.

Later on, Minivan Mom, you say,
Do I think that the inability to prove God is a good reason to justify the belief in him/her/it? No...but I also don't think it's a good reason to NOT believe. You (and other atheists) seem to approach the belief in anything supernatural with an arms-crossed-eyebrows-arched attitude of "Prove it. You can't? See, it doesn't exist!" and I get that. But I don't feel the same way. I approach it from "I'm not ruling anything out."

Again, minivan mom, we do not need to disprove the existence of any god, mankind has created all of them so their non-existence is a foregone conclusion: more than 700 gods from the Celtic pantheon have simply faded away, dozens more from the Nordic traditions have lapsed into oblivion, hundreds of gods from the Native American(North America alone) are no longer remembered or worshipped, hundreds of gods from Egyptian folklore have come and gone, and tens of thousands more from the world over are little more than bylines or footnotes in obscure academic texts. How have these once followed, feared, respected, revered, obeyed and worshipped gods responded to the maltreatment of forgetfulness? Did they send down their wrath as threatened, in fact, promised, against all apostates and infidels? Uh, no. Non-existent entities no matter how threatening their imagined anthropomorphic persona do nothing. Thor did zip. Jupiter followed suit. Zeus has not made good on his long-forgotten threats. They, like the Biblical god, were never there. Whatever power the idea of the god has, stems entirely from the social environment where the god is pretended to be real. All gods, as well as every other supernatural notion, have been and continue to be born of superstition, ignorance, or, as is especially true today, from the conscious intent to deceive for the express purpose of wringing money from the credulous.

Your statement that atheists,
approach the belief in anything supernatural with an arms-crossed-eyebrows-arched attitude of "Prove it. You can't? See, it doesn't exist!"

Here, minivan mom, you hit the nail right the head. I am precisely such a person. If you can't prove it, you don't know that it's real or even that it exists. Relying on the authority of some other person as an act of what you no doubt consider to be the virtue of faith is indeed an act of, as others have called it, lunacy.

Faith among some Muslims leads to the inhuman torturous act of female sexual mutilation, millions of times a year. The virtue of faith by the parent leads to the child having her clitoris and labia chopped off - often with a jagged stone or some other handy implement - and the hymen stitched up with leather which is then later ripped out during the act of marriage consummation. Note, minivan mom, should you have been born into just the right other culture, that would have been your faith-inspired fate, and, you would be planning the same for your daughters. It's faith, so it's good.

If you were Jewish and you had a son, you would have lined up a mohel to carry out your baby boy's circumcision. In some Jewish traditions, the mohel makes the cut around the foreskin and then, the mohel takes the baby's penis in his mouth to remove the foreskin with his lips and tongue. Faith, you gotta love it. If that mohel has oral herpes, like a cold sore, and transmits the virus to the baby, the baby has a very high probability of severe brain damage or death. It's unfortunate that despite all that faith counts for nothing when the infant's immune system and developing nervous system is overwhelmed by the virus. Good shit, that faith. Several baby boys were killed by the same herpes-infected mohel in New York during the 1990's. I wonder if the parents would have opted out of the faith-based male genital mutilation if they had known it was to lead to their infant son living a short seizure-racked life and dying an agonizing death. What's more, the risks due to this circumcision technique are well known in the Jewish community, so what is it that keeps a parent from verifying that the mohel is herpes-free? What's the only thing that keeps a parent from actually looking out for the interests of a truly helpless child? FAITH, that's what. As you said, minivan mom, faith needs no justification, you just do it. Regardless of consequences, you just do it. Faith, gotta love it. The virtue of faith. Let your child be killed - faith.

And, how about that Christian Science faith? Every year, several hundred children of Christian Science parents in the US, are allowed to simply die from preventable and routinely curable diseases due to faith-dictated parental neglect. Gotta love that faith. Clearly, it's a bit hard on the dead kids, but faith is after all a virtue. The parent did their duty of faithfully letting their child die. Amazing shit, that faith. Note that if those same children had been born or adopted into faiths other than Christian Science, they may have lived to be faithful themselves. Reason can't be allowed to intervene on behalf of a suffering child where the faith-based, although preventable, death has been divinely ordained. In some states, Ohio, for example, laws are in place actually stating that a Christian Science parent can simply sit and watch his or her own child die, and according to health department records many faith-packed Ohio Christian Science parents have done exact. Faith, the real deal. Lots of religious people want to ban stem cell research, and a woman's right to reproductive decision-making including contraception and abortion, out of the ironic notion of right-to-life, while at the same time they staunchly endorse the Christian Science faith-based practice of simply allowing an innocent child to die. Love that faith. If a tragedy occurred in your family, minivan mom, and your small children somehow ended up in the hands of a loving, sincere, earnestly faithful Christian Science family, they might be allowed to die from an ear infection, croup, pink eye, or tetanus. Can't question faith. Faith is good shit. "I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do." So do Christian Science types. Does this types of faith need evolving, in the light of science? I'm sure they, like you, minivan mom, are the same "I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do" types.

FAITH CAN BE WRONG, DEAD WRONG, AND, AS IN ALL THESE CASES, SOMEONE INNOCENT SUFFERS FOR THE FAITH OF ANOTHER. FAITH...THAT'S SOME GOOD SHIT, RIGHT THERE. Yes, sir, like some self-imposed psychotic episode, faith leads to the child suffering, completely unnecessarily in every case, here. Is that the real virtue of faith? You claim, minivan mom, that your faith is in something greater than yourself. I ask you does that something greater than you not care one iota for a child as long as the parent is psychotically faithful to the point of reckless child endangerment? "I don't need a justification for believing what I do...I just do."

Minivan Mom, you want to keep back the "faith" card as the ultimate in trump, a real defense against reason. Your siting the Weiss book as confirming your belief in reincarnation demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that you have a very poorly developed capacity for assessing material for plausibility much less truth. Reality really does require one to work to make sense of it. Made up shit, called faith, certainly rids one of the need to face a learning curve. Faith, all too often deadly dangerous faith, faith that victimizes children, runs interference for you; faith protects you from relying on reason, the same reason which could easily spare the children sited above from their suffering due to the actions of their faith-ravaged parents. Rather than being informed, you can, whenever intellectual heavy lifting looks like it might be required, just pop out the FAITH EXEMPTS ME FROM THOUGHT card, and that is just how you played it here.

About your belief in reincarnation, you stated,
As for my specific belief in reincarnation - I always thought it seemed like an idea that I could believe in, and then I read "Many Lives, Many Masters" by Brian Weiss. That confirmed my belief in reincarnation. So for that belief - yes, I can point a finger to where that came from. :) But I was open to the idea beforehand and didn't approach it with skepticism. I think some people are naturally more skeptical.

This book by Weiss is junk, pure and simple. Your accepting it as reliable, tells me straightaway that you do not understand that all material presented as science, as this book was intended to be construed, must be assessed for it's own internal consistency and then weighed against the backdrop of reality if one is to accept the ideas presented as being minimally plausible. If the material makes it over that hurdle, then one can begin to evaluate whether the claims made for it might be true. If it's internally contradictory, or does not correlate with reality, it cannot be true. Sorry, minivan mom, but you do not occupy a different reality than the rest of us. You may allow your credulity to more often guide you to false conclusions - like reincarnation is true - than others do, but, as unpalatable as you might consider that to be, we all - you, me, Matt, Aimee, PMomma - inhabit the one and the same reality. I know, the truth hurts, but welcome to the real world.

I'll just pass on some of the simple things you should have picked up on from "Many Lives, Many Masters" if you had been using your mind instead of acting as a faithhead and credulously absorbing it as confirmation for "an idea that I could believe in." I have no idea exactly what you mean when you say, "I always thought it seemed like an idea that I could believe in," but frankly it does not seem encouraging. Reading any material claiming to be science without intending to think or question it truly does not speak very highly for the readers critical thinking skills.

So, Weiss claims he has scientific, not anecdotal, evidence for reincarnation. Note that the book was not a peer reviewed science book; it was a popular press book. With this observation, his claim of it being science goes right out the window. If he was a scientist and he had real science supporting the idea that reincarnation really happens, that would be the stuff of great prestige. Think about it: to prove scientifically that reincarnation occurs, one would also have evidence for the religious idea of the soul. If he had the goods on real reincarnation, he would have had the material peer reviewed and published in science journals. It would have sparked an enormous research effort into it by the legitimate science community. He liberally sprinkles the book with the words "science," "proof," and "evidence" to make it seem to its target audience that it was science. It wasn't science.

Early on in the book, the woman subject, Catherine, while under hypnosis, regresses to a ancient past life during which she states the year as being 1863 BC. Certainly, no one in 1863 BC knew that it was 1863 BC, and, they would not have reckoned annual time in that way. So, here, we know she's having a pleasant hypnotic antiquarian fantasy and she's feeding it to the gullible Mr. Weiss who is swallowing it whole. It's worth noting also that at no time in the spirit of scientific inquiry does he ask her to revisit this time and place for the purpose of discerning consistency. He does not mention any historical fact-checking like clothing or foodstuffs or artifacts. Nope, like you, minvan mom, he wants confirmation, not truth. As long as she keeps saying what he thinks he has to hear to confirm his ideas, he completely abandons any hint of objectivity. This is one of those cases of being so open-minded that the brain falls out.

The woman is never identified so that there is no capacity to verify anything she was claimed to have said. She was not interviewed or assessed by others, so no independent verification of the claims. In all of her past life experiences, she offers not one verifiable fact: there is no hard evidence at all. Mr. Weiss gets himself all psychologically entangled with the "Masters" of the title and uses the subject Catherine as a medium. At the time I read it, I felt the entire book was most likely a hoax, a fraud targeting a very specific audience.

vagrant said...

Minivan mom said
"we as atheists are above your silly 'faith' and instead have the courage to face the world solely relying on science and fact - and as a result we're smarter and better"

You know what? It is true. Not in the view that we are inherently superior but we are further along the path. Wildly impolitic to say, I know, but I think we need to accept this fact. We don't have all the answers. We actually more than believers should realize that, but we are closer to being able to find the truths as we don't have to run our reality through a fantasy filter first.