Thursday, June 12, 2008

An interesting response to the last post...

A reader who calls himself "J" left a comment on my last blog entry. After I finished giggling while thinking of the movie Men In Black ("All hail J! All hail J. Oh J can you see..."), I decided that J's comment should be made a topic of discussion. Here is J's comment:
J said...
Possum and Atheist Crew,You are partially correct and heavy
handed evangelization should never happen. The Lord has called Christians to
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all
that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28: 19-20) But, as Saint Francis of Assisi
once said “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary” sadly not
enough of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ heed this advice. Also, we are
taught that religion shouldn’t be a private matter that we should not be afraid
to express our love for the Lord in a society that a lot of times hates what we
stand for. The one issue I do have is Atheist evangelization. I hear it all the
time that non-believers just want to be left alone, but at the same time some
atheist have no problem pushing their “non-beliefs” on others. So while you may
not believe that Jesus was the Son of God (God himself) or that there is even a
God at all. I would at least ask that you heed his calling to “Love your
neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), I think we can all do that.Peace and God
bless,J

Here are my thoughts, J.

Possum and Atheist Crew,You are partially correct and heavy handed
evangelization should never happen.

I have an "Atheist Crew"? Sweet! :)
Partially correct? I don't think "heavy handed" evangelism should EVER happen. It's counter-productive. When there is a possibility for discussion and debate, why would anyone choose the heavy handed approach? The only reason I can think of is when their argument begins to deteriorate and they loose the desire to behave in a civil fashion.

The Lord has called Christians to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the
holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matt 28:
19-20)

I understand that this is what you feel to be true. The issue we run into, though, is that I do not believe those words are any more useful than the words in any other book in the library. I don't think they are the inspired and divine product of a supernatural deity. To me, and many others throughout the world, they're no more important than the command to preheat my over to 400 because the Good Cookbook says so. And, why obey that command and not the others? I know you're probably thinking that I'm being flip or obtuse, but I am asking out of genuine curiosity. I don't understand how you can hold up a few of the commands in the Bible, but not the others.

But, as Saint Francis of Assisi once said “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use
words if necessary” sadly not enough of my Brothers and Sisters in Christ heed
this advice.


I agree. A lot of your brethren use the command in Matt 28: 19-20 as an excuse to berate, belittle, and beat about those who have are different than themselves. When a grown man hunts down a child to give her a Bible, he uses that Matt 28: 19-20 to justify his actions. When a man sends a threatening and scary e-mail to a child, they are using that passage to justify they're actions. When a Christian missionary that I know went into a male dominated, Islamic culture and shoved a Bible into the hands of a girl she met, was she thinking about the trouble she might be bringing to that girl? Was she aware that just having a Bible, in that culture, was punishable with physical violence? Was she thinking about the fact that her Islamic fiance' to be, who was to take the girl to America so they could have a better life, might cancel the engagement? In this case, I know without doubt, that the missionary could not see these things. Her passion for spreading the Bible made her act without compassion. I asked her if she'd thought about these things, after her return, and without hesitation, she quoted Matthew 28. So, you see, that passage can be used to justify so many wrong actions that I question how a benevolent or omniscient god might have allowed someone to write that down in a religious text? You would think that an all-knowing, all powerful deity would recognize how open that command is and how prideful use of that command would justify a multitude of sins against their neighbors.

Also, we are taught that religion shouldn’t be a private matter that we should
not be afraid to express our love for the Lord in a society that a lot of times
hates what we stand for.

That is what YOU are taught. You can't speak for all Christians. It's clear that there are quite a few denominations of Christianity who would find your statement to be incorrect. If Christians are taught that religion is a private matter, then why do they want to pray in classrooms? Why do they want to teach creationism and intelligent design in public schools? If they were taught that religion is a private matter, then I fail to see how they would feel empowered to ask someone if they're "in Christ" and "What church do you go to?" within the first five minutes of making their acquaintance. I could go on, but I'll stop here. The point: you may have been taught that religion was a private matter, but I don't think everyone got the memo. Expressing your love for your faith is fine! I completely agree with you that people should have the right to feel or take comfort in their faith. Your last sentence, however, makes me wonder how much of your faith is based on self-fulfilling prophecies of persecution and projection? I don't hate Christians. I don't even hate what they stand for (most of the time). What I object to is the idea that their faith/religion should define society. I object to the legislation and politicalization of faith.

The one issue I do have is Atheist evangelization. I hear it all the time that
non-believers just want to be left alone, but at the same time some atheist have
no problem pushing their “non-beliefs” on others.

I'm going to have to ask you for examples of how atheists are "pushing their non-belief on others". And, I've never said I wanted to be left alone...in fact, that's the point of this blog: to find a like-minded group of people to build friendships and community with. Pointing out scientific fact and asking for evidence before believing in something is not "pushing non-belief". Speaking out about our atheism is not "pushing non-belief", any more so that this very e-mail you've sent is pushing your beliefs. I think it's interesting that any evangelical Christian could make the accusation that pushing a personal belief on others is wrong. They're being hypocritical. I really hope you'll show me these incidents of atheist evangelism.

So while you may not believe that Jesus was the Son of God (God himself) or that
there is even a God at all. I would at least ask that you heed his calling to
“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31), I think we can all do that


I heed that advice because it's timeless advice. It can be attributed to cultures and faiths that predate Christianity by hundreds upon hundreds of years. It's not "his" calling. It's the calling of the ancients.

"Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him." (Pittacus)[1]
"Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing." (Thales)[2]
"What you wish your neighbors to be to you, such be also to them." (Sextus the Pythagorean)[3]
"Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others." (Isocrates)[4]
"What thou avoidest suffering thyself seek not to impose on others." (Epictetus)[5]

"Putting oneself in the place of another,
one should not kill nor cause another to kill.
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other
beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter." - Buddha

"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." Analects XV.24 - Confucious
"Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you." - Muhhamed
The list goes on and on... Peace!

76 comments:

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Now what I want to know is

1) Do I roll with your Crew?
2) Do we all get to ride in the pimped up Minivan?
3) Are we going with the rapper style nicknames or with military style?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

1) Do I roll with your Crew?
2) Do we all get to ride in the pimped up Minivan?
3) Are we going with the rapper style nicknames or with military style?

1. Of course!
2. Awww yeah, boy! I've got the gold mini-van with the DVD player.
3. Yes. You're hereby to be know as Mac Daddy Sean.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Cool I have an image of the minivan bouncing down the street on its hydrolics.

Oh and in about a month I will change my name from Mac Daddy Sean to M Diddy.

Are we going with the Atheist Atom symbol bling? Or the out campaign Scalet A, silver encrusted with rubies.

Karen said...

Are we going with the Atheist Atom symbol bling? Or the out campaign Scalet A, silver encrusted with rubies.

Sean, er, I mean Mac Daddy, you're proposing defacing the Minivan. It's platinum with rubies. Honestly.

Xzanron said...

The Golden Rule, or rule of reciprocal is older even than those quotes you cite.

Quite a lot of sources suggest that:

"The earliest surviving written record of a Golden Rule statement goes back about 4,000 years–to the ancient Egyptian civilization. However, this kind of behavioral ideal would have been a human understanding long before that time, and it remains so today."

I thought I'd pick a religious site :)

http://www.scarboromissions.ca/Golden_rule/school_curriculum.php

The only place I've found that actually names a source suggests:

circa 2000 BCE "Do for one who may do for you, That you may cause him thus to do." - The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant 109-110, Ancient Egypt.

All religious texts are just plagiarised versions of older concepts. Usually perverted to serve the ends of the authors.

Enshoku said...

I hate you possum momma, you totally nerfed the power of my commentality yo jay, by writing a blog post. Your a meanie... seriously though, it was a great post. Your hypothetical proselytizing story saddened me a bit, though it does seem to be an argument from absurdity, at least in the sense that the type of proselytizing where you give a bible and walk away usually leads to no harm (and the bible may be beneficial to those who partake in the smoking of marijuana, paper is expensive), but thank you for the great post.

Bill said...

When asked what the most important commandment was, Jesus said "Love God..., love thy neighbor as thyself", that most ancient of commandments. You cannot love your neighbor if you do not know your neighbor. Therefore, to follow this most important law, from which all other law is derived, you need to listen at least as much as you speak. Then you find out things, like "they hate being proselytized" or "conversion to Christianity is punishable by death in some Islamic nations". If you know and love someone, then you are less likely to act inappropriately, regardless of religion or lack thereof. :-)

J said...

Greetings all,
I never thought my little post would start such a discussion, but then again I guess that’s the point of this whole thing in the first place. Possummomma let me first thank you for taking time out to address what I had to say, I’ll do my best to respond in kind.

Let me start with the last statement about the Golden Rule. It’s true that many religions have a similar worldview, but I would also like to stress the point that a lot of people tend to gloss over. Christianity while a fairly new religion, only being 2000 years old, is the fulfillment of a more ancient covenant. That older covenant being the Jewish religion which is about 6000 years old ("...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18). The reason you see a lot of the same moral teachings in many different religions, both ancient and new, is because God’s moral law that he has put into all of our hearts is the same no matter if you believe in him or not. Just because you don’t believe in him doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. :)

My statement of “Partially correct” had more to do with evangelism in general not heavy-handed which I agree should never be done. I also agree that conversations should be done in a civil manner and people should always be ready to admit when they don’t know something or don’t have a full understanding.

Let’s look at the Bible vs a cookbook argument. I understand that to you the words in the Bible have no more meaning that any other book, this can be said for a many number of people even some Christians. Just because someone doesn’t believe that the words written in the Bible aren’t inspired by God doesn’t mean that it’s a useless book. Using your cookbook example, if someone doesn’t follow all the instructions written in a cook book for making a chocolate cake then who knows how the cake would turn out. The cake might get burnt if the temperature is too high, it might taste bad if you used salt instead of sugar or it might come out ok, but for me I’d rather follow the instructions. As for only holding up a few certain commandments in the Bible and not others, with God’s grace I do everything I can to never do that (the same cannot be said of everyone). I think what happens and all of us are guilty of it is putting all people in a big pot and stirring. I do my best not to make broad generalizations about people because of what they believe or don’t believe and I hope that others give me the same benefit.

Missionaries, that’s a bit of a touchy subject because not all missionaries are the same. Where I come from missionary work has to do with helping others and not slamming the Word of God over people’s heads. It seems like a lot of your angst about missionaries come from Evangelicals or Fundamentalist and that’s not who I am so I can’t comment on how they run their missions. I will say that we are taught to be respectful of other people beliefs weather they are the same as our or not. No one but God knows what’s in the hearts of men and we don’t assume to know that either.

Atheist evangelization— This stems from a lot of what I read in blogs or books or see in the news. A lot of atheist, I’ve even seen it in your comment section talk about believers being illogical or uneducated. I personally take offense to this seeing as I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason. It also stems from people who raise a big fuss about things like saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school because it has the worlds “under God” in it. So these people take a whole school district to court because of their non-beliefs. This is what I mean by atheist evangelization, it’s not as in your face as some fundamentalist can be but it’s there.
I think I’ve responded to the best of my abilities and hope we can all continue this dialog.

Peace and God Bless,
J

Hound Doggy said...

J:
I have to comment on the Pledge thing. Why do I have to be forced to say this thing...to make a pledge that I do not believe in...in a public school...a school that is run by a government? We have a right of separation of church and state. That is what our founders put forward and that is what the government should uphold. This is one of the reasons that we are a separate country from England...and I for one would like to keep it that way.

There is a larger issue here anyway...it's not just the two words...it is the attitude behind them and the whole slippery slope nature of it all.

I think it is hard for believers to truly put themselves in a position of "really" understanding non-belief.
In 6th grade we went to camp...our class. My friend and I were late to eat...so when we strolled in we had to pray before we could get something to eat. So said the teacher...she was authority...what could we do..we were 12.
I'm 38 now and I am so angry with her still that I could kick her...How dare she???, to 12 year olds.
My parents let it go...because to say anything at that point would have only made it harder on me. It should not be this way...not then and not now. And there were oh so many more things that happened.

Let's take 15 mins out of every day in school for feet washing...shall we?
Would you like your kids to be involved in that and miss...um..say learning fractions. (there is nothing wrong with feet washing...I do it in the shower...you get the idea) There is enough time taken up in school with various other garbage...let's not have feet washing, or Koran reading, or Meditation, or military drills, or prayer.

What is wrong with keeping your personal religion, personal? There is so much time that the kids are not in school. Study, bible read and pray on your own time....and let me learn math in school.

Hound Doggy said...

J:

***The reason you see a lot of the same moral teachings in many different religions, both ancient and new, is because God’s moral law that he has put into all of our hearts is the same no matter if you believe in him or not.***

You see...here, I take this as...you said--

" I personally take offense to this seeing as I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason."

What this says to me is god is there..whether I admit it or not...even if I think I know...I am wrong. And you are right!

There are many things in the bible that are good thoughts...I will not deny that...but I would say that they are proven tried and true things that work for society...any society.
"thou shalt not kill"....that's a nice idea...but sticky just the same. Don't kill...except if someone breaks into your house or your country goes to war, or if someone shoots you, or if someone shoots your wife, or.....you get the idea.
But regardless...in general...a nice idea to keep a society functioning smoothly. If I go kill Joe, Steve..Joe's brother is pissed and he comes and kills me...my brother Jim is pissed so he goes and kills Steve....now Mary is mad because she liked Steve so she goes and kills Jim....etc etc etc

What you call "God’s moral law " I call Common Sense.

This little game can be done with many many things in the bible.

Just because you believe it...doesn't make it so.

Just because I believe it.....doesn't make it so.

fsmismyhero said...

J: "Using your cookbook example, if someone doesn’t follow all the instructions written in a cook book for making a chocolate cake then who knows how the cake would turn out. The cake might get burnt if the temperature is too high, it might taste bad if you used salt instead of sugar or it might come out ok, but for me I’d rather follow the instructions."

There are instructions on the internet for making bombs and nerve gas as well... do you also think we should follow those? Just because there are instructions, does not mean that it’s a good idea to follow them.

Anonomouse said...

"is because God’s moral law that he has put into all of our hearts"

Sorry, you don't get to take a commonality of all people and then tell us God put it there without proving that God exists. Otherwise, it's just noise.

"and people should always be ready to admit when they don’t know something or don’t have a full understanding."

If Evangelists were willing to do that then there wouldn't BE any Evangelists. But then the core of it is you just have to "Believe" or have "Faith"


"but for me I’d rather follow the instructions."

Just an excuse to shut your eyes and do what you always done. Never wondering that the Cake might be better if you changed a few ingredients. Fearful of getting it "Wrong" and being punished eternally.

"As for only holding up a few certain commandments in the Bible and not others, with God’s grace I do everything I can to never do that (the same cannot be said of everyone)"

Pick and choose religion. If someone is doing something you don't approve of, but its in the name of religion turn a blind eye.

"This stems from a lot of what I read in blogs or books or see in the news."

We've tried the being quiet thing, its not working.

"So these people take a whole school district to court because of their non-beliefs. This is what I mean by atheist evangelization,"

No.
What you are seeing is the atheist reaction to Evangelicals.

You're whole post can be summed up with just a few words, "Religion is good, sit down and shut up Atheist".

J said...

Anon: I think you've missed the point of my post.

Enshoku said...

Jay, in all fairness anon did cherry statement about the Golden Rule. He may not have addressed what you were saying on a large scale, but that seems relatively mysterious, or at least ambiguous.

It’s true that many religions have a similar worldview, but I would also like to stress the point that a lot of people tend to gloss over.
Christianity while a fairly new religion, only being 2000 years old, is the fulfillment of a more ancient covenant. That older covenant being the Jewish religion which is about 6000 years old ("...thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.", Leviticus 19:18).


The code of Hammurabi included a sentiment to the general mentioning of the ideal of not doing unto others as you would not wish to be done to you, and it predates Abraham religion by a fairly large size, Leviticus for instance was written around 500-550 bc, and put into the Torah around 400 bc. The code of Hammurabi's earliest two pieces date back to about 2050 bc. I wonder, which parts of the torah/bible are 6000 years old in paper?

Just because someone doesn’t believe that the words written in the Bible aren’t inspired by God doesn’t mean that it’s a useless book.

No, but it's quite a fucking good tool to use when enforcing slavery, stopping gay marriage, justifying homicide, punishment, and deception of those whom are deceived by satan. All of these have been commonly used at one time or another.
It can also justify things like turn the other cheek, love thy neighbor, showing the gospel power though action, etc. All of these have been used as well. The book is not useless in the context, but it is very ambiguous. This still has nothing to say about whether or not it is true, though.

Atheist evangelization— This stems from a lot of what I read in blogs or books or see in the news. A lot of atheist, I’ve even seen it in your comment section talk about believers being illogical or uneducated. I personally take offense to this seeing as I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason.

This I actually find very interesting, honestly J, why do you believe in your god, if you respond to anything, please let it be this.

As for the atheist evangelicals and the pledge thing, I don't think the pledge is any more constitutional than a hail to communism every morning, and I don't like to try to convince people to snap their fingers and become atheists, I just want people to think critically. If I had a choice of living in a world of 100% religious people who all thought critically, or 100% atheists who didn't, I'd undoubtedly live on the world where people preferred to examine life and didn't just assign a gap attribute to it.

Richard said...

J,

Please stick around and have a conversation. As in most public forums you will find a rather diverse group here, and while the conversation can get passionate at time, it does seem more civil than most.

Pmomma, I am confused by your response to the statement that began Also, we are taught that religion shouldn’t be a private matter.... You seem to have missed the n't on the end of shouldn't and read that J thought that religion should be private.

In fact, J, I think that this one of the key points of friction. One group of people believe that it is their duty to explain their beliefs while others don't want to be bothered. (Semi-serious question: Do you like getting telemarketing calls? Do you see why some see evangelism as telemarketing?)

As to the "atheist evangelism", you seem to see efforts to remove religious oppression as necessarily being oppressive itself. To provide a (possibly over-the-top) analogy, would you consider the ending of slavery to be the slaves forcing their point of view on their owners, or the righting of a wrong that had become ingrained in society?

-Richard

Anonomouse said...

"I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason"

You are writing code that can never be executed in the real world and talking up a complier that you can only know by conjecture and antcedote. Does that sound Logical?

Milo Johnson said...

"I personally take offense to this seeing as I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason."

---Simply amazing. You profess to be "solid" on logic and reason, yet you accept the existence of a being in control of the universe without being able to summon up a single shred of empirical evidence. Perhaps a little dictionary time is in order.

I'd also like to know where you get this "six thousand years" information. The only way you can arrive at that number is by Ussher's "begats" calculation, and if you do that, the obvious conclusion is that you also accept that the universe was created in 4004 BCE which is neither logical nor reasonable.

I'll be happy to let you enjoy your opinions about the universe, but I won't sit by and let you make claims that are unsupported by evidence without pointing out that they are baseless assertions and nothing more. How fervently you believe something has no bearing on whether it is true. Science brings evidence and testable hypotheses to the table and requires no suspension of disbelief. You don't get to present yourself as reasonable and logical because you use those disciplines in one aspect of your life. To be able to say you are logical and follow reason you must be that way in all aspects of your life. If you don't, you have only learned how to use them as tools, not as methodologies for understanding the universe.

Karen said...

Milo:
To be able to say you are logical and follow reason you must be that way in all aspects of your life. If you don't, you have only learned how to use them as tools, not as methodologies for understanding the universe.

That's the clearest way I've ever seen this idea stated. Bravo.

reVAMPed said...

Does the "crew" have some funky gang hand signs, too?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I have about twenty minutes to knock this out before I put dinner together. If I don't respond to your entire comment, J, then I will get around to it later this evening.

You're assumption is correct, J. This blog is a place where not only is discourse permitted, it's also encouraged. And, I am more than willing to hear the "other side" of the coin's thoughts and opinions. What you should understand, though, right off the bat, is that you're going to have to bring more than a personal testimony to the table.

It’s true that many religions have a similar worldview, but I would also like to stress the point that a lot of people tend to gloss over. Christianity while a fairly new religion, only being 2000 years old, is the fulfillment of a more ancient covenant.
I disagree. I've recently had this discussion, via e-mail, with a Christian friend, so if you'll excuse my copy/paste job, it will make my response move along faster.
"You say that all of these prophecies were made in the OT and fulfilled in the new. I want to ask you this: the OT *was* around at the time when the NT was created, was it not? And, the literate people who would've written the NT would've been highly familiar with the OT. Can you admit the possibility that the writers of the NT may have written the NT in a way that said Jesus fulfilled prophesies, even if it wasn't true? How can you call it a filled prophecy if the prophecy was written after the events they are referring to are already historical? If you're trying to build a new religion and your potential followers are Jewish, then you would need something that would make them follow you. Taking a few old testament prophecies and saying that Jesus fulfilled them is a great recruiting tool....but, that doesn't mean any of the incidents actually occured. It's all hearsay." This friend argued that there were "39 fulfilled prophecies". I responded:
"And, what about the prophecies that did not come to be fulfilled? Jesus may (or may not) have fulfilled the 39 prophecies you list. But, claiming a 100% success rate means you're discounting the hundreds of other prophecies that went unfulfilled. Jesus does not fill the Messianic prophecies. Jews were told that their Messiah would usher in a time of peace, build a new temple, gather Jews back in Israel, and spread a gospel that would unite all people as one. None of these happened. was too late to fulfill the Jewish prophecy that a Messiah would come before the deaths of the last prophets -- Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi. Jesus appears on the seen about three hundred years too late. The messiah was also supposed to be from the line of David. But, the Christian Jesus has no earthly, paternal line." In addition, the Torah states that the messiah will be fully human. Not half-man, half-god. The messiah was supposed to restore and KEEP the laws of the Torah. Not inspire an entirely new testament with opposing laws. In summation- the Christ you believe in was most certainly not the messiah that was discussed in the OT.

The reason you see a lot of the same moral teachings in many different religions, both ancient and new, is because God’s moral law that he has put into all of our hearts is the same no matter if you believe in him or not.
That's a cop out. For one thing, my heart is a muscle that pumps blood around my body. It is not an emotional receptacle. I would also argue that you're making statements for which you can provide absolutely no proof for. 1) You have to prove their is a God.
2) You have to prove that the deity's "moral law" is moral. Frankly, I find the Bible to be filled with a great many immoral behaviors.

Just because you don’t believe in him doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you.
That could be turned around as well; just because you believe in him doesn't mean he exists. If I were asking you to believe in something that no one had EVER presented solid evidence for, would it be fair for me to suggest that you should follow MY unprovable super power?

I also agree that conversations should be done in a civil manner and people should always be ready to admit when they don’t know something or don’t have a full understanding.

I agree. Which is why I am wondering how you could make statements about what atheism is or what atheists do (and why they do it) when you have clearly not researched the reasons atheists oppose, say, having "under God" in the pledge? Don't you think you owe it to yourself, to your stated value of saying when you may not have all the info necessary, to ask questions instead of make accusations?

Just because someone doesn’t believe that the words written in the Bible aren’t inspired by God doesn’t mean that it’s a useless book.
I don't think anyone has suggested that the Bible is a useless book. I know I said nothing of the sort. What I said is that I don't believe it's ANY MORE useful than any other book in the library. I find that there are thousands of books that have useful advice. Since we're talking about the usefulness of the Bible, I feel it's disingenuous to say that it has only ever inspired GOOD. The Bible has been used as the catalyst for horrible assaults on humanity. It's been used to justify slavery, murder, war, the oppresion of women, child abuse, and other horrible actions. Frankly, IF I were to believe in God, I would have a hard time believing that the Bible was the work of a benevolent, omniscient, perfectly just deity.

Certainly, there are people who use the Bible for good. They feel obligated to do good things for others and live great lives as Christians. That's great. All I'm saying is that you can't ignore the uninspirational messages of the Bible as it suits your argument.

The cookbook analogy was weak - I'll admit that. However, since you ran with it, I should do the same. :) I rarely, if ever, use cookbooks. I like to experiment with different flavors, recipes, adn methods of cooking. Most of the time, my meals come out great! And, when they don't, it's easy to correct my mistake the next time around. Some people do not find the threat of a badly made meal enough reason to always follow a recipe in a cook book.

As for only holding up a few certain commandments in the Bible and not others, with God’s grace I do everything I can to never do that (the same cannot be said of everyone).
So, how is it then that you follow the 10 Commandments, but toss out the rules regarding what clothing you should wear, what you should eat, and how you should discipline your unruly children?

I think what happens and all of us are guilty of it is putting all people in a big pot and stirring.
We are "guilty" of encouraging discouse between people who are different from ourselves? Why should we feel guilty about that? And, personally, I never go to Christian blogs and pop in to tell them they're wrong and throw down every piece of evidence I have that leads me to believe that there is no god. Never. Yet, at least once a week, someone comes into this blog and throws down the same arguments time and time again...and walk away never having learned something from us. Hopefully, you'll stick around.

I do my best not to make broad generalizations about people because of what they believe or don’t believe and I hope that others give me the same benefit.

Certainly. You are entitled to decide what constitutes enough evidence for your belief.

As for my "angst" about missionaries and evangelists, I think it's justified given that those examples aren't hypothetical. These are your brethren, whether you know them are not: they are using the same Bible and the same God. Are you not your brother's keeper? Do you not have a responsibility to approach those who use such tactics and witness to them about their zealotry?

Atheist evangelization— This stems from a lot of what I read in blogs or books or see in the news.
I asked you for specific examples.

A lot of atheist, I’ve even seen it in your comment section talk about believers being illogical or uneducated.
That's not atheist evangelization. Please stick to the topic at hand.

I personally take offense to this seeing as I have a Computer Science degree and consider myself pretty solid on logic and reason.
I have a post grad education in biology and history, but that doesn't seem to hold much sway with your fundamentalist Christian brothers when we're discussing the pitfalls of intelligent design.

Tell me, please, what is rational about believing in something that can't prove it's own existence and is never held to any scrutiny by it's followers? What is rational about believing in a perfectly just deity that dispenses unjust punishments? What is logical about believing that a child was born of a virgin? What is logical or rational about a dead man coming back to life and walking out of a tomb? Where is the logic in believing in talking snakes and bushes? If you're Catholic, what is logical in believing that the bread becomes the literal body of Christ through transubstantiation?
You may very well be a logical, rational person - it would appear, however, that you don't apply either to your religious beliefs.

It also stems from people who raise a big fuss about things like saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school because it has the worlds “under God” in it.
I oppose the wors "under God" in our pledge because it is divisive. Why should my children be made to pledge an allegiance to your God? And, why shouldn't we want to use the original pledge which encouraged one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all? Would you raise a fuss if I made your children pledge allegiance to the unicorns? What about Buddha or Allah?

So these people take a whole school district to court because of their non-beliefs. This is what I mean by atheist evangelization, it’s not as in your face as some fundamentalist can be but it’s there.

That's not evangelism and I think you know that. Going to court to uphold the constitutional rights of an individual is not evangelism. The plaintiff, in this case, is not trying to take your belief in God or replace that faith with their beliefs. They are attempting to uphold a clause in our constitution which says no government entity shall establish any one religion for the citizens of this country. Public schools fall into that realm. What students choose to do on their own, with regard to worship in public schools, is also protected. Your child is free to pray before tests or meals or whenever they'd like to do that (so long as it's not disrupting the academic lessons that every student is entitled to). Even the most passionate atheist would defend your child's right to pray individually or in a group, so long as they are not disturbing their classmates during school hours. Public schools were created to insure that every child received a basic education. And, I would argue that they're not even doing THAT as well as they should/could. Public schools were not established to promote religion.

Milo Johnson said...

First, thank you very much, Karen, but I'm not sure I deserve that much credit for stating the obvious!

I'd also like to add that the McCarthy-era-inspired addition of "under god" to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, long after the Pledge was written, is something that is not tolerable to me because it is a state-sponsored endorsement of the unproven notion of the existence of such a being. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the United States of America were not written to enumerate the rights of the citizenry, they were written to delineate the restrictions upon the government, among them proscribing the endorsement of any metaphysical concept over any other. Government is restricted from entering into that discussion in order that all may follow the dictates of their own conscience and cultural indoctrination without the state condemning or affirming their beliefs. Not saying "under god" is not the same as saying "there is no god." I strongly doubt you would take very kindly to being told to say "one nation with no god" and I would equally object to that kind of governmental affirmation being forced upon you. So, while my position is that government permits you your beliefs as long as they don't infringe upon me and are not something I am required to affirm, it looks like you have no problem with the government forcing me to lie about my own understanding of the universe and to publicly affirm yours.

And my crew name is MC Squared.

Enshoku said...

Possum momma, I disagree with you when you say that even the most passionate atheists would support their right to pray in schools. I know a couple atheists who outright despise religion, irrationally so. Those two probably deserve the "militant" atheist tag, but the population of atheists who act like that isn't large. Not every atheist wishes to protect the rights of others and themselves, greedy woowoo heads.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Possum momma, I disagree with you when you say that even the most passionate atheists would support their right to pray in schools.

Perhaps I should've clarified? I should've said, "even the most passionate atheists *I KNOW* would defend your child's right to pray." I can't rule out that you may be completely sincere and have run into atheists who don't give a rats patooty about other people. I suppose there are people like that in any demographic. So, I stand corrected on that. I will rephrase and re-clarify: I know a lot of passionate atheists (myself included) and they (the ones I know and respect) would defend any child who had been told they absolutely couldn't pray in school. Why? Because, private thoughts are just that - private. If a child needs to say a silent prayer to make him/her feel more comfortable, then I think that's fine. If you read the other comments in this thread, then you'll see that other passionate atheists have said the same thing. Our goal is not to turn everyone atheist or take away someone's right to believe in a deity. What we want is for theists to understand that constitutional law states that no government agency should establish a religion. Mandating prayer or recitation of the words "under god" are unconstitutional. To prove how sincere I am being when I say that I've never seen this, I would be grateful if you could link me to websites or message boards where you've seen atheists say that theist children should not have the right to say a silent personal prayer or meet with like-minded students before and/or after school to pray. Can you do that for me? Because, I want to say a few words to those atheists.

I know a couple atheists who outright despise religion, irrationally so.
Without knowing the couple you are speaking of, I can't object to or support this claim. I would, however, like to know what behaviors you've seen that suggest, to you, that they despise religion. Can you share those experiences with me?

I don't despise religion, as an atheist. There are certain churches that I have no love for, but the reasons I feel that way are due to gross mistreatment of parishoners (pedophile priests come to mind) and scamming people. I *do* despise evangelists that go on television and claim that their god demands you send them money because I think it's a scam. I *do* despise religions that forbid appropriate medical care for children. I *do* despise religions that make it acceptable for a twelve year old girl to marry an eighty year old man, as his fifteenth wife. I can't defend religions like that because it goes against my personal humanitarian values. But, those feelings don't mean I wouldn't defend little Timmy's right to bow his head before lunch and say a personal blessing. Can you see the difference?

Those two probably deserve the "militant" atheist tag, but the population of atheists who act like that isn't large.
Perhaps. As I've never run into any atheist like this, I'm guessing you're correct.

Not every atheist wishes to protect the rights of others and themselves, greedy woowoo heads.

As atheists are individuals, I can't say your point is not valid. Just as there are Christians (and other theists) who make uninformed judgements and steal from their fellow man or hurt their neighbors, I'm sure there are atheists who aren't atheists I would support without some serious explanations from them. I have to say, though, that the atheists who post here...the atheists I know...do not wish ill-will on any theist. The atheists here aren't quick to blow off the rights of any human because we know what it is like to be blown off by theists. I have never heard of an atheist following a thirteen year old to a bus stop to hand them a copy of Darwin's, "Origin of the Species". I've never heard of atheists who vandalize the homes of Christians.

Milo Johnson said...

An atheist is someone who believes in no gods or supernatural beings or events. That's all. Atheism carries no claim of moral rectitude or turpitude. It is an evidence-based, or perhaps lack-of-evidence-based perception and understanding of how the universe works. Being atheist does not make one nice, wise, friendly, moral, or any of the other qualities that ALL of the humans in the world possess, nor does it eliminate those qualities. It is simply an unbelief in any realm beyond tangible reality. However, as a result of being the most maligned and reviled group in the United States, most American atheists are far more conscious and attentive to civil rights of both themselves and others than is the average person.

Oz Atheist said...

An excellent post and some excellent responses. I haven't got anything to add, as by the time I got to read this, all J's statements have been well and truly responded to.

Does this mean I'm part of a crew? Cool!

You might need to upgrade from a mini van, you seem to be getting a bigger crew each day.
How about one of these: hummer or this Bus?

Poodles said...

'SUP Homes!!! *Throws up gang sign "A"*

I might have to try and write you a "PMomma" rap. :)

Enshoku said...

gosh darned it, I met up with the friend the BSOD as I was responding to this, and had other important stuffs unsaved as well. I'll try to rewrite my post as best I can.

Milo, I agree completely, I was just stressing that some atheists can have a very evangelical Christian attitude.

Possum Momma, I just wanted to stress a point that not all atheists are respectful to others beliefs to any extent at all, and will openly attack people on Christian chat websites. I'm talking of two people in particular, one of which is a good friend of mine. I can't give you links, if you wish to get I e-mails of them I could ask them for ya, but I just thought I'd make a point that there are actually atheists against anything religious, however unfounded their reasoning.

Now to redo stuffs, and sue the BSOD for sexism...rf

floccinaucinihilipilificator said...

Do people really ask "what church do you go to?" I have never, not once in my life, been asked that question.

I have exactly once been asked "what religion are you?" on brief introduction (as opposed to when it was relevant to an ongoing conversation that I was choosing to participate in), and that was by in kindergarden. By another child, so I can understand a limited grasp of the social niceties.

Perpetual Beginner said...

floccinaucinihilipilificator - In my experience "What church do you go to?" becomes a more common question the further south you get (in the US). I was never asked such a thing in Boston or in Arizona - maybe once or twice in rural Iowa. It's happened a few times here (KY) and in Nashville, and it was downright common in South Carolina. Basically the more homogenously religious the population, and the more they know each other, the more likely they are to ask.

In South Carolina about 80% of the local population where we were was Southern Baptist - and the rest were mostly Methodist with a tiny smattering of Episcopalian. The people there would ask you which church you went to as easily as someone elsewhere might ask what school district you were in.

J - as a theist, I object strongly to having "under God" in the Pledge of Allegience. I don't want people pledging to God who don't actually mean it. Nor do I want to force people who have no problem with pledging to the flag to either be hypocrites or skip pledging.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Do people really ask "what church do you go to?" I have never, not once in my life, been asked that question.

More often than I ever would've believed before we moved here. Californians, in general, don't tend to ask that question. Central Californians do. I suspect it's because thousands upon thousands of southerners moved here in the 30's (during the Depression/Dust Bowl Era). They brought that southern, evangelical thing with them to Bakersfield.

But, in our neighborhood, when you have more than one child, you are guaranteed to be asked three questions:
1. Are you Catholic?
2. Oh, no? Then, you're LDS right?
3. You mean you just had four kids for...
...and then their sentence trails off. It is, almost literally, unheard of (we're the soul family) to have a family of six that isn't heavily involved in a religion. Outside of the neighorhood, it's not at all uncommon for people to introduce themselves by name and religion (or church) and then ask you to reciprocate with the same information. Even where Pdaddy works, where that sort of thing should just NOT happen, students will walk in to his office and see the pics of our family and invite us to church socials.
I grew up in SoCal (on the coast) and was never, ever, ever subjected to this sort of thing.

Lea said...

Perpetual Beginner...
Apparently you picked the wrong part of Arizona. I live in the western part of the state and it's pretty common here. I work for a local college and have had students ask me what church I attend while I'm trying to register them. More than once.

Nicholas said...

Brilliant post! Can I be part of your crew?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Certainly! There's always room for one more in the minivan. You *do* have to provide your own carseat, though. ;)

Paul said...

[silentsanta, NZ]

* dreams wistfully of a minivan with sidecar. I googled the idea but I don't see any hits- is it possible I am the first to imagine this?

Maggie Rosethorn said...

Pmomma - since the minivan is getting so full, I'll just pimp up my motorcycle and ride along, either in front or in back! Just need to know what colors you are going for (the motorcycle is bright red, btw...)

Only 1 week till last child is out of high school!!

Christine said...

Quote pmomma: Outside of the neighorhood, it's not at all uncommon for people to introduce themselves by name and religion (or church) and then ask you to reciprocate with the same information.

*goggles* That's...wow... How do you answer when you get asked that? My first inclination would to say, "NOYB", but I guess that's not an accepted answer.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Lea - I'm not surprised. We were in Tucson, which is pretty cosmopolitan.

Answering can be pretty tricky, since most non-answers will be taken as evidence against you (I.e. if you belonged to an "acceptable" church, you would answer readily). Saying you don't have a church yet is fairly acceptable, but bears the almost certainty of being invited to the askers church. It's still my preferred response, since most Episcopal churches aren't terribly aggressive in their pursuit, and I can discourage other denominations by telling them I'm Episcopal.

It can backfire, though. After the birth of my second child (in a place we had just moved to - three days before I gave birth), a gaggle of very sweet, elderly Episcopal women showed up with a complete hot meal - in good dishes that had to be returned.

bill said...

Pmomma: "soul family" - was that deliberate? lol

Atheist in a mini van. said...

*goggles* That's...wow... How do you answer when you get asked that? My first inclination would to say, "NOYB", but I guess that's not an accepted answer.

It's a delicate dance. In the case of people I'm going to have to get along with, I usually say that we haven't found a church we agree with. It's no lie. I don't agree with almost every church save, maybe, the UU (Unitarian Universalists). Then, over time, as I get to know them and they get to know me and my family, I just take the position that I'm not going to lie if asked. It doesn't take long for them to figure it out.

If I'm asked by a TOTAL stranger at, say, a doctor's office (which happens), then I'll say something like, "Wow! That's a very personal question to ask a stranger." There's only been one incident where I had to get rude. About a year ago, we were playing outside after the sun went down and we saw these two ladies coming up one side of the street and two men coming down the other. Pdaddy was playing b-ball with P1 and P2. I was sitting on a blanket (just inside the garage) playing Play-doh with the little ones. So, these two women walk RIGHT in the middle of the basketball game. P2 almost tripped trying to stop them from getting bumped. They made a beeline for our blanket and said, "Your family is an example of God's beautiful creation." As she said it, she reached down to touch P4 on the head and I got a bit mother bear on her. I was like, "Do you make a habit of touching other people's children without their permission?" She stuttered and said, "Oh. I'm sorry. We didn't mean to be intrusive." Well, what the hell, lady?!? You walk THROUGH a basketball game and stroll right into the garage to pat my baby on the head?!? Grrrrrrrrrrr.

Jason said...

Greetings all,

First of all I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your lives to have this discussion; I’ll do my best to answer the questions that have been presented. Looks like I’m going to have to break this response up into different sections because there are many things that are going on. I will also copy and paste all of this and put it on my blog to make reading it a bit easier. http://digitalareopagus.blogspot.com/

Karen said...

Getting asked "what church do you go to" is something I should probably gear up for answering myself. Hub & I currently live in Urban Progressive Region, but we're looking at buying property in thinly settled Very Rural Region. It's a beautiful place, somewhere to live when retired, near a small town with very friendly people. But the church-to-resident ratio is pretty high, and I want to make friends without immediately alienating people who have a caricature notion of atheists.

Jason said...

Can I put God in a box and bring him to show and tell? Not likely, but using a bit of logic and a lot of help from people much smarter than I am I’ll do my best to show that this being called God exist.

I’m going to start off with the “Brain in a Vat” scenario. In the interest of people’s short attention spans I’ll do my best to summarize it. If you’d like to read the full article you can find it here: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0605uan.asp

Let’s start by taking a position of radical doubt. Suppose for a moment that you are not really a human being with an actual body. In reality, you are nothing more than a brain floating in a vat of fluids, with electrodes attached to various parts of your exterior that allow evil scientists to manipulate you into thinking that what you perceive is actually there, when in fact it is nothing more than an imaginary world constructed by the scientists. Right now, they are making you think that you are reading this article when in fact you are not.

1. One cannot deny one’s own existence -- Even if you’re just a brain in a vat, your own existence can be verified simply by the fact that you perceive
2. There is at least one thing that exists -- If nothing you think exists actually exists—you still must exist. Entity is the word we have for anything that exists. You exist, so you are an entity.
3. There is such a thing as existence -- As Aquinas would say, there must be an "act of being" in which all entities participate. This act of being must itself exist; it must be an entity. Thomas calls this entity esse, which is Latin for "to be" or "to exist."
4. The nature of esse is actuality. -- Now that we have established that esse is an entity, we must ask: What is the nature of this entity? What is its definition? Actuality is the fullness of existence. So, again, taking the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis, you know that you are actual, even if nothing else you perceive exists.
5. Esse is nothing but pure actuality -- Thomas argues that all entities participate in esse insofar as they are actual. Therefore, that in which they participate—esse—must be actual.
6. Esse not only does exist but must exist -- Existence itself is pure actuality, with no potentiality in it. This means that the essence of existence is nothing other than existence. Existence is its own essence. From this it follows that esse itself must exist, for if it did not, it would violate its own essence, which is impossible.
7. Esse is distinct from everything else that exists -- You can know from step 1 that you exist, and we know from step 3 that esse exists. But we also know that the two are not identical.
8. Esse must be one -- Since esse is pure actuality, it has no limitations, which means there is no distinction in esse. Therefore, there is only one esse.
9. Esse must be immutable -- Since esse is purely actual, it has no potential to change. Therefore, esse is unchanging.
10. Esse must be eternal -- Because esse does not change, it does not change from the future to the present to the past. It must be outside the realm of time, which means that there is no future, present, or past with esse. In other words, esse is non-temporal, or eternal.
11. Esse must be infinite -- Because esse is immutable, it must be outside the realm of space. It has no spatial constraints—that is, esse is infinite.
12. Esse must be omniscient -- Even if you’re a brain in a vat, you can perceive that you have the capacity to know. Because you are only partly actual, and esse is purely actual, esse must know all there is to know. That is, esse is all-knowing, or omniscient
13. Esse must be omnipotent -- You can perceive that you have the capacity to do some things that are logically possible. Since you are only partly actual, and esse is purely actual, esse must be able to do all things that are logically possible. That is, esse is all-powerful, or omnipotent.

Thus proving the existence of a being (esse) that not only does exist but must exist and is one, unchanging, eternal, infinite, omniscient, and omnipotent. This matches the definition of God.

We can conclude, then, that even if all of your sense perceptions are false, even if you are nothing but a brain in a vat being manipulated by scientists into believing that you are reading this article right now when in fact you are not, there are two things you can know with absolute, 100 percent certainty: (1) You exist, and (2) God exists.

Anonomouse said...

Jason, In your race for power and glory you forgot one small detail. You forgot to hook up the doll.

In case you were wondering, "3. There is such a thing as existence -- As Aquinas would say, there must be an "act of being" in which all entities participate. This act of being must itself exist; it must be an entity. Thomas calls this entity esse, which is Latin for "to be" or "to exist.""

This is the part where your logic broke down.

You haven't proved that this "act of being" is something that all entities participate.

Once the wheels come off, theres no point to continue with the other numbers.

Anonomouse said...

Oh my a cut and paster, my bad.

Jason said...

Well Mouse I always say if someone else can put it better than I can...

It's not my job to change your mind just to pass along a little information and to answer questions to the best of my knowledge.

Richard said...

I’ll do my best to answer the questions that have been presented.

Jason,

A post trying to prove that God exists hardly even scratches the surface of the questions presented here. I hope that you have more answers forthcoming.

For example:
Do you like getting telemarketing calls?
Do you see why some see evangelism as telemarketing?
Why do you believe that they are different?
If you believe that "atheistic evangelism" is bad, do you believe that "theistic evangelism" is equally bad?
If not, why not?

Specifically, it has been pointed out that "under God" was added to the pledge in the 1954. Is it acceptable to you to have a government mandated acknowledgment of God?
If so, which God is the right one?
Why that one?
Why should my children be made to pledge an allegiance to your God?
And, why shouldn't we want to use the original pledge which encouraged one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all?
Would you raise a fuss if I made your children pledge allegiance to the unicorns?
What about Buddha or Allah?
Why was it acceptable to add "under God" in 1954 and not before?
Why would it be unacceptable to remove it today?

Do you believe that using the courts to force government entities to follow the law when they otherwise refuse is a bad thing?
Why is using the courts to restrict a government sponsored theistic viewpoint bad?

Does undoing a long-running injustice necessarily require instigating a new injustice?

You have answered several concerns about theist behavior with "but they are individuals with whom I disagree with; they are not real theists." Do you believe that religions should be universally condemned for the actions of individuals who don't live up to your personal standards of behavior?
Do you not have a responsibility to approach those who use such tactics and witness to them about their zealotry?
Should atheism be universally condemned for the actions of individuals who don't live up to your personal standards of behavior?

Do you believe that religion should not be held accountable for the bad things that have been done in it's name by virtue of the good things that have been done in it's name?

There are instructions on the internet for making bombs and nerve gas as well... do you also think we should follow those?

Don't you think you owe it to yourself, to your stated value of saying when you may not have all the info necessary, to ask questions instead of make accusations?

So, how is it then that you follow the 10 Commandments, but toss out the rules regarding what clothing you should wear, what you should eat, and how you should discipline your unruly children?

Finally, I find it fascinating that people who view faith as one of the great virtues of religion also seem to be greatly preoccupied with "proving" their religious beliefs true.

-Richard

Anonomouse said...

"A post trying to prove that God exists hardly even scratches the surface of the questions presented here. I hope that you have more answers forthcoming."


Richard I Hope J and Jason are not the same person. This Jason person seems to be a simple cut and paster.

Jason said...

Richard, there are many questions that have been raised here and many preconceived notions about my intentions. I’d first like to address the reason I first posted in the first place. After reading through some of the comments I felt there was a lot of broad brush stroking about theist and Christians in particular. So let me address this right off the back, not all Christians are Evangelical-Fundamentalist who will tell you that you are going to hell as soon as they look at you. Not all believers are backwoods uneducated hicks and contrary to what some people might think, not all believers are out to get you because you don’t believe the same way they do or believe at all. Now on to the questions…
Do you like getting telemarketing calls?
• Nope, I dislike them very much
Do you see why some see evangelism as telemarketing?
• I do. You have to understand that as a Catholic I get just as much “Have you been saved?!” as any of you.

Why do you believe that they are different?
• I don’t, again from a Catholic perspective I feel the need to be able to answer questions when they are raised. I do not feel the need (as some people have wrongly assumed I do) to beat people over the head with my beliefs.

If you believe that "atheistic evangelism" is bad, do you believe that "theistic evangelism" is equally bad?
If not, why not?
• I believe in the proper setting, no sharing of ideas is bad.

Specifically, it has been pointed out that "under God" was added to the pledge in the 1954. Is it acceptable to you to have a government mandated acknowledgment of God?
• The founders of this nation believe in a Creator (God). See the Declaration of Independent...We are a democracy, in a democracy the majority rules and unfortunately atheist are in the minority. If I lived in a communist country where it was illegal to even believe in God under penalty of death I would still believe and take my chances.
If so, which God is the right one?
• Under God is not specific in the pledge…if the original intention was Zeus so be it. I would know in my heart what was true.

Why should my children be made to pledge an allegiance to your God?
• I don’t think that your children should be made to pledge allegiance to any God and or Gods if that’s not what you believe. If you don’t feel comfortable having your children say the pledge tell them not to say it.

And, why shouldn't we want to use the original pledge which encouraged one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all?
• That a questions for the government officials who changed it…

Would you raise a fuss if I made your children pledge allegiance to the unicorns?
What about Buddha or Allah?
• If the tables were turned and we lived in a country where the pledge included something I was not comfortable having my children say then I’d ask them not to say it.

Why was it acceptable to add "under God" in 1954 and not before?
• Good questions…

Why would it be unacceptable to remove it today?
• It wouldn’t be, if it was the will of the majority of the people.

Do you believe that using the courts to force government entities to follow the law when they otherwise refuse is a bad thing?
• I don’t see what this has to do with anything, but being Pro-Life I’ve seen pharmacist lose their jobs because they would not distribute the pill.

Why is using the courts to restrict a government sponsored theistic viewpoint bad?
• Why must the government be completely involved in all aspects of our lives?


Does undoing a long-running injustice necessarily require instigating a new injustice?
• No injustice is ever acceptable


You have answered several concerns about theist behavior with "but they are individuals with whom I disagree with; they are not real theists." Do you believe that religions should be universally condemned for the actions of individuals who don't live up to your personal standards of behavior?
• I am the judge of no man…are you?

Do you not have a responsibility to approach those who use such tactics and witness to them about their zealotry?
• I do…ask the Jehovah Witness who won’t come back to see me.

Should atheism be universally condemned for the actions of individuals who don't live up to your personal standards of behavior?
• Again I am not nor do I claim to be anyone’s judge whether they think like me or not

Do you believe that religion should not be held accountable for the bad things that have been done in it's name by virtue of the good things that have been done in it's name?
• The religion or the people? You have to make a distinction because not all religions are bad. Are there bad people that make up a church or temple or mosque? Yes, of course. Should they be held accountable? Yes, of course. But you can’t say all Christians or all Catholics or all Muslim or all Hindus are bad because of the mistakes of a few.

There are instructions on the internet for making bombs and nerve gas as well... do you also think we should follow those?
• Now that’s just silly…the original point of the question has been twisted.


Don't you think you owe it to yourself, to your stated value of saying when you may not have all the info necessary, to ask questions instead of make accusations?
• I’ve made no accusations…believe or don’t believe what you want. I simply refuse to see a whole group of people bad mouthed because they choose to believe in a deity or many deities.

So, how is it then that you follow the 10 Commandments, but toss out the rules regarding what clothing you should wear, what you should eat, and how you should discipline your unruly children?
• This is a question about Mosaic law vs. the law of the new covenant and I’ll be more than happy to address this but this space is a bit small for it.

Finally, I find it fascinating that people who view faith as one of the great virtues of religion also seem to be greatly preoccupied with "proving" their religious beliefs true.
• I’ve been asked many time in this thread to “Prove it”, I’m simply supplying an answer.

Richard said...

Jason,

I’d first like to address the reason I first posted in the first place. After reading through some of the comments I felt there was a lot of broad brush stroking about theist and Christians in particular.

I appreciate the clarification. I would also note that statements like "I hear it all the
time that non-believers just want to be left alone, but at the same time some atheists have no problem pushing their “non-beliefs” on others." also appear to be broad brush stroking as well.

It becomes hard to have a conversation about large groups of individuals without some amount of appeal to commonality because it always is possible to say, "but that person is exceptional and not representative of the group."

I will attempt to avoid over-generalizations of theists.

The founders of this nation believe in a Creator (God).
You've stated that you are Catholic. There has been much discussion about the religious beliefs of the founders, but one thing is certain: They were not Catholic. So, do you consider yourself less of an American(TM) because the founders' religion wasn't yours? Why should atheists be considered less of Americans because the founder's religion isn't theirs?

And, secondly, so what? The founders of this nation may have also thought that chocolate ice cream was much better than vanilla. What they put in the constitution, however, was "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion". The founder's specific beliefs are irrelevant.

We are a democracy, in a democracy the majority rules and unfortunately atheists are in the minority.
I disagree with this very strongly. Democracy does not mean mob rule.

I don’t think that your children should be made to pledge allegiance to any God and or Gods if that’s not what you believe.
And yet, they are. Having a government authority figure stand up and lead a group in such a recitation is doing that. I think that it is disingenuous to suggest that stating the pledge in American schools is not coercion.
Also, why does pledging allegiance to my country require pledging allegiance to a God?

Do you believe that using the courts to force government entities to follow the law when they otherwise refuse is a bad thing?
• I don’t see what this has to do with anything

This had to do with your statement that you were upset that people took school districts to court to have "under God" removed.

, but being Pro-Life I’ve seen pharmacist lose their jobs because they would not distribute the pill.

Pharmacies are not Government entities. There is a big difference. The Government is prohibited from favoring religion; private entities are not.

In this specific instance that you cite, I agree that there is a fine line between being fired for religious beliefs and being fired for refusing to perform your job because of religious beliefs.

• Why must the government be completely involved in all aspects of our lives?
Indeed, why must government be involved in any aspect of our religious lives?

Does undoing a long-running injustice necessarily require instigating a new injustice?
• No injustice is ever acceptable.

Is forcing a child to pledge to "under God" and injustice?

I am the judge of no man…are you?
Yes, absolutely. I judge people all of the time. So you do: "heavy
handed evangelization should never happen". The issue is whether my judgment (or yours) should have force of law and compel behavior. I believe not.

• I’ve been asked many time in this thread to “Prove it”, I’m simply supplying an answer.
Fair enough.

I thank you for your willingness to address specific questions directly with candid answers and without evasion.

I don't want to be accused of hijacking this thread, so if Pmomma requests, I can move this over to your place.

-Richard

Milo Johnson said...

Wow, so much for your "logical and reasonable" status. Your putative "proof" of the existence of a god or any gods is the most inflatedly verbose tautology I have ever seen. Permit me to pare away the extra words.

"Existence, therefore god."

First of all, there is no evidence there. As a wise man said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. All that you offer is the theological equivalent of stoners and the famous "what if we were like, just an atom or like a virus in a huge being that didn't even know we were here" conversation.

Evidence is that which can be measured and quantified, not self-serving and self-supporting rhetoric that completely overlooks the fundamental question. You are essentially asking "how can the universe exist" but you have not yet proven that it couldn't. How can there be nothing? What would a nonexistent universe be? You evidently don't realize that space, the great void, the emptiness of the universe ARE as much a part of the universe as are matter and energy.

If that's the best you can do, I anxiously await you dragging out the banana argument as another proof of your deity's existence. I am sorry to sound so rudely dismissive of you, but if you are going to use this kind of childish and circular argument, you deserve it.

Second, your statement "(i)t wouldn’t be, if it was the will of the majority of the people" shows that you have no understanding of the nature of a constitutional republic, which is the form of government of the United States of America. If that were true we could, for instance, vote that all African-Americans are slaves again. We could vote to override the Constitution in any way we chose. In two words: WE CAN'T. The Constitution serves the purpose of protecting minority views from the majority. Read some civics books before you throw that kind of uneducated blather around.

Third, it has been proven time and time again that the vast majority of the founders were largely free-thinkers and NOT devout christians, who if they had any religious affiliations at all adhered to a vaguely Unitarian notion that "nature's god," as a kind of a pre-New Age version of universal consciousness and was more an element of chance than an agent of daily minutiae. Where, exactly, in the Constitution of the United States of America, do you find any affirmation of the existence of any god or statement that this nation has any relationship to such? Have you ever even read the document? What proof do you have that the founders were devout christians? It certainly has not come to light in the last couple of hundred years, so it must be something that you have stumbled across that historians and biographers have never seen.

Finally, the fact that the United States of America is not a christian nation is legally enshrined in exactly those words in the Treaty of Tripoli. You might want to Google that document to see the horrible truth for yourself.

You have demonstrated yourself to be neither logical nor educated in the simplest rules of logical reasoning and high-school civics. Until you actually learn some of these things, you have lost any credibility that you may have had that you are doing anything other than arguing from your own personal convictions rather than from any evidence.

I have no doubt that you are going to be upset and feel that I have no right to judge you. Well, I'm not judging you, I'm judging your arguments and they are illogical and uninformed.

My strongest evidence for this comes from your own hand: " I would know in my heart what was true." You already have your conclusion, you are just trying to work backwards to prove it. You are not an honest broker.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

J(Jason),
I'm really disappointed. For one, you say, "I’ll do my best to answer the questions that have been presented...". Usually, when someone tells me that they're going to do THEIR best to answer questions, they don't cut and paste. The moment you cut and paste is the moment you stop having a discussion and start being completely typical of every Christian who comes here saying, "I'm very logical. Let's talk." I gave you the courtesy of responding to all of your questions on my own and with great care. Yet, you are not reciprocating. You make claims and ask questions. I answer, asking a few questions of you myself. Then, you try to edge down another slippery slope without acknowledging the problems that I've just laid down for you.

Can I put God in a box and bring him to show and tell? Not likely, but using a bit of logic and a lot of help from people much smarter than I am I’ll do my best to show that this being called God exist.

Forget that what you posted was not YOUR attempt, but the attempt of someone else who you've copied without credit (highly damaging your reputation in this blog). You failed (or, maybe I should say that the author failed?).

Jason said...

Wow...I guess everyone miss the part of my post where I said

"I’m going to start off with the “Brain in a Vat” scenario. In the interest of people’s short attention spans I’ll do my best to summarize it. If you’d like to read the full article you can find it here: http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2006/0605uan.asp"

Hey Milo...quick question...Prove to me that God doesn't exist...

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Hey Milo...quick question...Prove to me that God doesn't exist...

Hey Jason- that's not our burden to prove. You're the one making extraordinary claims, therefore it is you who is tasked with bringing forth extraordinary evidence. I believe there's a blue spotted monkey in an unreachable cave in the rainforest. Prove me that the monkey doesn't exist.
Your claim to be a logical person was officially extinguished when you asked Milo to do that.

It's interesting to me that when people start expecting you to think for yourself and answer VERY simple questions, you lose it and default to one of the most common retreat statements. You could've responded to the absense of prophecy that I spelled out against your claim. You could've shared experienes, as I asked. But, you chose not to. Very disappointing.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Yeah and while your at it Milo prove that Fairies and unicorns don't exist - neener neener

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I hit post too soon.
Wow...I guess everyone miss the part of my post where I said
No one missed it. We're just wondering why you couldn't speak for yourself? We're curious why you would copy/paste that string of logic when you can't support it in discussion? You said you'd "do your best to summarize" the information at that link, but you failed to do so.

Milo Johnson said...

Yeah, there's the usual dumbass christian I've grown to expect. Thanks for the confirmation.

Milo Johnson said...

unicorns are easy:

http://bp2.blogger.com/_8etu8odxpgo/SFbSivhE0OI/AAAAAAAAAlo/naEL6esJamc/s1600-h/unicorn.jpg

but I won't touch the obvious fairy photos...

Jason said...

Milo, that is the kind of mature comment I wouldn't have expected from people who are so much more advanced than us dumbass believers. You've proved my point that all you want is a fight. You aren't interested in dialog just a pissing contest so you can say "Look we drove another one off, we're right...he's wrong". You want my reason for believing here it is:

I was raised Catholic and lived as a not very good one for many years. I was what most people now a day’s call a Cafeteria Catholic, I picked and chose what I wanted to believe and lived a very relativistic lifestyle. Then a few years ago I had what most Evangelicals would call a “born-again” experience, what I call it is God hitting you square in the face with a 2x4 and telling you to get your shit together. So I started a two prong attack of prayer and study, I reconnected with the faith of my youth and started to develop this relationship with Jesus and his Church. I don’t know if I ever fell into thinking that God didn’t exist, but I guess I felt that as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone I could do pretty much whatever I wanted and let the chips fall where they may. What I quickly learned was that my actions were hurting people and more so they were hurting my relationship with the one person who had given up everything, even death on a cross to save me. So people ask me how can you believe in something/someone who may or may not have been who he said he was. I believe because I know him, I speak with him; I have a relationship with him. As sure as I know my wife and child exist because I love them and have a relationship with them, I know Jesus exist and is alive because he loves me, cares for me, listens to me and speaks to my heart every day.

Peace be with you...

Milo Johnson said...

Bite me. You pretend to be logical and reasonable and you demonstrate yourself to be the usual superstitious bumpkin. I don't care whether you dislike my manners or me. If the dumbass fits, wear it.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Milo, that is the kind of mature comment I wouldn't have expected from people who are so much more advanced than us dumbass believers.
Woah, woah, woah...I've allowed you to say whatever you've cared to say (because I think censorship solves nothing), but now you are flat out lying about the character of people who comment here. If you feel like you're "less advanced" or a "dumbass", then that's your insecurities speaking. No one has EVER said anything of that sort to you.
You've proved my point that all you want is a fight.
So, you came here looking for a fight? I've been nothing but gracious to you.

You aren't interested in dialog just a pissing contest so you can say "Look we drove another one off, we're right...he's wrong".
You'd better get real specific real quick because you are starting to piss me off. YOU are the one who came here and pretended to be interested in a dialogue. I have you the forum to have one and remained completely respectful until the moment when you started dismissing my friends and copy/pasting sermons. Copy/Pasting is NOT a dialogue. I provided numerous questions that could've inspired dialogue - you skipped all of them. So, don't EVEN suggest that no one here was interested in dialogue.

Jason said...

To take from Richard you are correct that statement was way to broad and I appologize that was directed at Milo only.

I also stated why I posted in the first place because I sensed a lot of hated and distrust and I was hoping to show that not all Christians are bad people. As you have seen yourself a minority of the people can cause a lot of distress in any situation. If I've caused you strife that was not my intention again I was hoping for meaningful dialog and not a pissing contest.

I do have to say that the burden of proof does in fact not rest on my shoulders because at the end of the day either you are wrong or I am wrong. If I'm wrong and I die I'll never know I'll just simply cease to exist. If you are wrong you'll know you are wrong for all eternity. That's a heck of a gamble.

Peace be with you...

Milo Johnson said...

And we close with Pascal's Wager and the customary plate full of victimhood and pompous, self-congratulatory piety. The circle of dumbassitude is complete.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Is that a non-sequitur followed by Pascal's Wager

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Damn it Milo are you sleeping here?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...
Damn it Milo are you sleeping here?

If he is, then I need to charge more. ;)

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...
Is that a non-sequitur followed by Pascal's Wager

I believe it was.

Milo Johnson said...
And we close with Pascal's Wager and the customary plate full of victimhood and pompous, self-congratulatory piety. The circle of dumbassitude is complete.

I'd hoped for better. Call me the eternal optomist.

Jason said...
To take from Richard you are correct that statement was way to broad and I appologize that was directed at Milo only.

I accept your apology. However, I find your reasons for coming here a bit suspect (and I'll clarify why in just one moment).

I also stated why I posted in the first place because I sensed a lot of hated and distrust and I was hoping to show that not all Christians are bad people.
Where were you sensing this "hatred and distrust"? On my blog? Since you've never commented here before and claim to have only recently stumbled upon my blog, I am curious what led you here. I can't answer for everyone, but I do not hate theists. I think hate is an emotion that drags you down. And, I've never known an atheist who says they "hate" thiests. What I *have* seen is theists who claim atheists hate them or god. That leads to distrust on the part of the atheist. Because, no matter what we say or do, no matter how nice we are, or no matter how much we attempt to be respectful,...there are people who have already decided we hate them.

My friend Vamp and I were talking about this via phone, earlier this evening, and we both wondered the following: How is it that we can have our blogs and never, ever go looking for Christian blogs to inject our feelings or beliefs, but it is an almost weekly occurence for some Christian to come here, uninvited, and act as if we were the ones who are in the wrong. You came looking for a fight because that's the stereotype you wanted to confirm. And, when people asked you to answer questions or think critically, you dismissed them and had the balls to act as if we came to you and were "attacking" you.

As you have seen yourself a minority of the people can cause a lot of distress in any situation. If I've caused you strife that was not my intention again I was hoping for meaningful dialog and not a pissing contest.
But, that's just it. People tried to have a meaningful dialogue with you. There were many opportunities wherein people had answered your questions and asked questions of you in return. That is what a dialogue is. Instead of participating in that, you chose to get into a pissing match.

I do have to say that the burden of proof does in fact not rest on my shoulders because at the end of the day either you are wrong or I am wrong.
You are wrong.
As has been explained, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you expect people to believe in your god, as a person of logic and reason, then you need to bring evidence that stands on it's own. It is absolutely your burden to provide evidence of that which you claim is real.
If I'm wrong and I die I'll never know I'll just simply cease to exist. If you are wrong you'll know you are wrong for all eternity. That's a heck of a gamble.
Pascal's Wager. Look it up. I'm tired of repeating it. This, Jason, is why none of us can take you seriously as a man of reason and logic. There are many ways in which you lose by believing just to avoid hell. And, are your really suggesting that your God wouldn't be able to divine who was pretending to believe versus who really believes? And, what if you're worshipping the wrong God? If you really wanted to play the odds, as you are suggesting people do, then you would believe in ALL of the possible incarnations of a deity to cover all your bases.
I hope you do some research and come back when you are ready to discuss in a genuine fashion.

Milo Johnson said...

Not sleeping, I just had to see if I was right about how this story was going to end. I was.

I have no issues with people believing whatever damned fool things they want to and I will fight for their right to do so, that is a fundamental privilege of human freedom. However, I don't have to respect WHAT THEY BELIEVE if it makes no sense and is not based on any evidence. When you tout yourself as logical and the best argument you can come up with is basically "yes, there is TOO a Santa Claus, I just know it" as you petulantly stamp your feet, I'm not going to sit there and let you claim to be logical any more. Just because you can teach a chimpanzee to work the buttons on a calculator doesn't mean he understands arithmetic. Believe what you want, but don't pretend that it's rational unless you can provide some proper evidence.

"J" or "Jason" or whatever other sockpuppets this rookie inhabits basically claimed that he could demonstrate the truth of his claims but when push came to shove, he retreated to the usual blend of drivel and condescending piety that is the wellspring of religion. He claimed he had game but in the end all he had was the same airballs that all of his ilk try to play.

And it didn't take much to get him there.

Richard said...

Jason,

I'd have to say that I'm somewhat disappointed as well.

Let me give you one piece of advice. When engaging in a conversation, stick to the substance of the topic and ignore the surrounding cruft, including slights, both real & perceived. If someone writes about points A, B, C, D, E and concludes with "... and your hair is greasy, too.", don't respond with affidavits from your beautician. I find this behavior to be handy in face-to-face interactions, but is essential in on-line forums where people don't know each other personally and it is easy to get sidetracked.

Having said that, I am also guilty of getting sidetracked. Let me explain why I got involved in this discussion.

You said:
It also stems from people who raise a big fuss about things like saying the Pledge of Allegiance in school because it has the worlds "under God” in it. So these people take a whole school district to court because of their non-beliefs. This is what I mean by atheist evangelization, it’s not as in your face as some fundamentalist can be but it’s there.

I am sure that there are people in this world who are "atheist evangelists". And yes, they can be just as annoying as theistic evangelists. However, your use of the "under God" in the pledge issue as an example of evangelism is, well, incredibly wrong-headed.

I am an unbeliever. However, I do not believe that everyone should be an unbeliever. I don't care one whit what beliefs you have. Whatever makes you a happy person is fine by me. I draw the line, though, at the point when others try to make me believe the same as them.

Imposing beliefs is what evangelism is, pretty much by definition, and why I find evangelism to be one of the greatest evils in the world.

I have no desire to change your mind about your religion. I have no desire to change your mind about whether you like me. However, I have every right to demand that the government treat me in the same manner that it treats any other citizen, regardless of whatever beliefs I or you or the government may have.

Asking for "under God" to be removed from the pledge is not asking for government to favor non-belief; it is asking that the government stop favoring belief.

Please read the above paragraph again. Do you understand the difference?

Removing "under God" is not demanding that everyone acknowledge that there is no God; it is demanding that I stop being required to acknowledge that there is a God.

I don't want to change your religious beliefs. I don't want you to stop being a Catholic. I don't want you to think of me as your best buddy. I am not evangelizing - I don't want to change your mind at all. I want to change your behavior to treat me as any other citizen.

I apologize for being obtuse before. I was hoping to lead you to these conclusions by my questions, but they got lost in the noise of other irrelevancies.

Do you understand now?

-Richard

Richard said...

PS:

I would note that the marriages which are happening today in California fall under the same not-evangelism blanket.

The change does not require people to marry partners of the same sex; it removes the prohibition preventing them from marrying partners of the same sex.

There is a big difference.

-Richard

arana-suteshi said...

Thank you, Richard!

Removing "under God" is not demanding that everyone acknowledge that there is no God; it is demanding that I stop being required to acknowledge that there is a God.

This is exactly the thing I've been trying to get through to my family and my son's school. I just don't get why it's such a hard concept for them to grasp!

I realized recently, I have never said "under god" while reciting the pledge, even when I was a Christian. I didn't learn the pledge with "under god" until I was in college, and there was a debate on whether or not the words should be there.

But my son recites the pledge every day at school, and they use "under god". It's caused some confusion for my son, because we never really talked about gods or religion at home, and in his mind, if he's pledging to a country that exists, then the god must also exist. And his teacher is religious, so when he asked her about god, she allowed the other kids to define god for him. Unfortunately, he's the kind of kid that can't accept anyone would ever lie to him (he insists one of his classmates has a two-headed uncle and another one can fly when the moon is full...) so explaining that different people have different beliefs, and just because they say it's so doesn't mean it is...It's been a struggle.

/ramble

Anonomouse said...

" If you are wrong you'll know you are wrong for all eternity. That's a heck of a gamble."

OMG you are so right!! I'll start worshipping the FSM right away!

Thanks.

Jason said...

A-Crew,

Filing this under the “Look before you leap” category…

After reviewing not only what has transpired in the past couple of days but also what Possummomma and her family have been subjected to in the past I has a better (but far from complete) understanding of what a good many of you have been subjected to. Verbal sparring aside, you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe, but I never meant for personal differences to get in the way of dialog.

I am truly sorry for the heartache that theist particularly Christians have caused you. This experience has given me a better understanding of the work that needs to be done on our side to ensure that no one is forced to take part in anything they don’t feel comfortable with. This includes our discussion about the Pledge…

I hope to be able to continue to post here to provide a counter-point to things and expect to be called out if you feel I’m wrong.

Thank you for your time and peace be with you…

Richard said...

Jason,

This experience has given me a better understanding of the work that needs to be done on our side to ensure that no one is forced to take part in anything they don’t feel comfortable with.

So, do you still consider attempts to remove government organized religion from public schools "atheist evangelism"? :)

-Richard

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jason said...

I respectfully withdraw that statement as well…

And no I don't... :)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Jason said...
Filing this under the “Look before you leap” category…


LOL

After reviewing not only what has transpired in the past couple of days but also what Possummomma and her family have been subjected to in the past I has a better (but far from complete) understanding of what a good many of you have been subjected to.
I have to give you props for going back and reading old posts. And, more props for not trying to defend the actions of people who are giving people like you a bad name. I'm not happy about the stuff my children and I have dealt with because of our philosophy, but if it opens the eyes of just one theist (and you count!), then I'm glad to have posted it.

Verbal sparring aside, you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe, but I never meant for personal differences to get in the way of dialog.

I think all of us realize how sacred religion is to some people.

I am truly sorry for the heartache that theist particularly Christians have caused you.
Thank you for your compassion.

This experience has given me a better understanding of the work that needs to be done on our side to ensure that no one is forced to take part in anything they don’t feel comfortable with.

I'm so glad to hear you say this.

This includes our discussion about the Pledge…
Wow! I'm glad we were able to help you see a different (not right, wrong, or better/worse) perspective.

I hope to be able to continue to post here to provide a counter-point to things and expect to be called out if you feel I’m wrong.
I welcome you to continue posting.

It takes decency to apologize for our words and thoughts, when they cause strife or pain or anger, so your apology is admirable. Peace be with you, as well.

Paul said...

[silentsanta, NZ]

Jason,

firstly, much respect for looking back over the old posts and trying to understand where pmomma and her 'crew are coming from.
This -to me- says you are interested in understanding people and what is important to them, and their different values and priorities.
This is a quality that is sorely lacking in much of the world; people want to argue caricatures (such as "Christians are dishonest", "Atheists decide believe in God so they can be immoral with no consequences"), instead of coming from a place of mutual respect and earnest pursuit of understanding.
Without both parties starting from an honest attempt to understand each other there is no prospect of either side learning anything.

Secondly, I applaud your condemnation of some of the acts of your peers. When I was a Christian, the things that upset me most was watching my fellow Christians refuse to criticize a member of their ranks or the action of that member (even if the action was outrageously immoral or blatantly dishonest). It was as though giving somebody a magic label "Christian" meant other Christians were obliged to ignore, downplay or silence any of their contemptible actions.

Needless to say, I found such behavior reprehensible. I couldn't understand the thinking behind what appeared to be a majority of Christians. That was some part of the reason I chose to examine more closely the reasons people believe the things they do; and I ended up studying critical thinking as a result.
While I am sure you and I disagree on a number of things, I hope you would agree that employing a measured, rational and logical approach to debating is crucial if progress is ever to be made.