Specifically for Alfster and SoRB among others – you know who you are

Here’s an atheist meme I picked up on Adopt-An-Atheist  who credits The Friendly Atheist Site.  I’ve done it more because I’m interested in how others will reply than because I think you give a flying-meatball about my beliefs.  But here, for the little it’s worth is 

The Atheist Quiz

Have you ever…

  1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge? – No – but one of my favourite jokes has the punchline – “Are you kidding….?  I went there 2000 years ago, got some bird pregnant and they’re still talking about it!”  If that’s not denial of the holy spirit, what is?  My big sis said that the sin against the holy ghost is usually thought to be bestiality, but I’m not sure how they work that  out.  I’ve not notched that one up either.
  2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins,Daniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam Harris) in person? – No – but I did go to hear Richard Dawkins speak when he was plugging was “Unweaving the Rainbow”.
  3. Created an atheist blog? – Well it’s a blog and I’m an atheist…
  4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone? – No.  I’m an atheist not an evangelist.   I don’t care what you believe so long as you don’t care what I believe.
  5. Been offended when someone called you an agnostic? – Impossible to say.
  6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron? – Huh?
  7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know? – Just the one, I think.  Maybe two.   Dunno.
  8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc? – Puh-lease.  I have only one life.  Why would I spend precious time trying to prove it?
  9. Have come out as an atheist to your family? – Dunno.  Probably not.  It’s a belief-system not a lifestyle.
  10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering? – Er.  Why would I do that?
  11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization? – Surprisingly, yes, I’ve signed up to the BHA.
  12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony? – No.  But I’m thinking of becoming someone who can officiate at humanist funerals.  Not a thing to do lightly, so I’m mulling it over.
  13. Donated money to an atheist organization? – Yes, the atheist bus campaign and the BHA.  
  14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins? – No, but I do have a chair dedicated solely to … oh, I can’t be bothered.  Dawkins is eye-wateringly good on genetics, but I dislike polemics.  
  15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism? – I doubt it.  I do believe very strongly we should all be allowed to go to the devil our own way.
  16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize? – No.  Why bother?  
  17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away? – No.  I don’t foam at the mouth.
  18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc)? – No.  Or any other kind for that matter.
  19. Attended a protest that involved religion? – No
  20. Attended an atheist conference? – No
  21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel? – Who?
  22. Started an atheist group in your area or school? – No
  23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism? – I doubt it. 
  24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die? – No.  I’ve arranged to have my ashes packed into fireworks and set off at my wake.
  25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction? – No, I’m not a teenager.
  26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place? –  Heh heh.  No.  (There has to be a marian joke here, but I can’t work it out).
  27. Lost a job because of your atheism? – No.  That would be illegal.
  28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count)? – I doubt it.  You’d have to ask my friends.
  29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills? – N/A
  30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? – N/A
  31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”? – No.  And I tend to say “Bless me” rather plaintively after I sneeze.  Pavlov’s got a lot to answer for.
  32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying? – Eh?
  33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch? – N-n-no.  Though I have played follow-the-fundy on YouTube.
  34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist? – My father and great-grandfather were clergymen.  So that’ll be a ‘no’ then.
  35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant? – Oh, I don’t know.  I think I don’t list it one way or the other.
  36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service)? – No, but see #12 above.
  37. Subscribe to a freethought magazine (e.g. Free InquirySkeptic)? – Only as podcasts.
  38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism? – No
  39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God? – No.   But I did write a chunk of the Wikipedia entry on the atheist bus campaign.
  40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift? – “The Selfish Gene” doesn’t count, presumably.  Call that a “no”.
  41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public? – No.  But then I don’t wear any slogans in public.
  42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them? – No.  One and only precious lifetime.  Not going to spend it arguing about something that doesn’t exist.
  43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God? – No.
  44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants)? – No.
  45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it? – No.  I actually don’t celebrate it when I’m single, only when I’m in a relationship with someone who does.  I find it bemusing and rather sweet that people give me presents.
  46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy”? – No
  47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all? – No.  Confirmation bias and expectations theory have made me an absolutely typical Aries.  Little sheep that I am.  Baa-aaa-aaa.
  48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to?  – Do I look like someone who gives a bleep?
  49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray? – No.  I still bob to the knees when I sit down in Church.  Pavlov again.  It stops other people chatting to me and lets me focus on why I’m there – wedding, funeral, whatever.
  50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you? – Eh?

And just so you know how you fare, here’s a scale to rank yourself (adapted from Darwin’s Dagger’s suggestions):

0-10: Impressive, but not too far from agnosticism.
11-20: You are, literally, a “New Atheist.” But you now have something to strive for! Go for the full 50!
21-30: You are an atheist, but babies aren’t running away from you. Yet.
31-40: You are the 5th Horseman! Congratulations!
41-50: PZ Myers will now be taking lessons from you.

That’s 5 or so out of 50.  So not a militant then.

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52 responses to “Specifically for Alfster and SoRB among others – you know who you are

  1. Kirk Cameron is a third rate American tv actor who turned Xtian and annoyed his cast mates on the sit-com Growing Pains. More recently he was in a tv “debate” insisting that he could prove god exists.

    Interesting meme. I’m apparently in the “new atheist” category even though I was born and bred godless. When reciting the pledge of allegiance it can be useful to replace “one nation under god” with “one nation without gods.” Nobody ever pays attention anyway.

  2. Only marginally better (define better?) for me: 10/50. (I gave my brother in law “The End of Faith” for Christmas because I knew he would like that kind of thing). Also I have a cool Spaghetti Monster T-Shirt, now for the cups and coasters etc..

    I would love to go to the UK TAM event next year though… Would that then make me a New Atheist? Break out the bubbly.

  3. 16/50 I guess – but it’s way too USonian to be easily adaptable.

    When I grew up membership of the Church of Sweden was mandatory. You could escape it if your parents had another religious belief and belonged to another church. However, at 18 you could apply for liberation from the serfhood. At 17 I managed to get one of the lower ranking priests at the local parish to sign my release document.

    But the church didn’t let go so easily. When my children were born in the early and mid eighties they wrote letters and tried to persuade me and their father (who also left the church – I guess I’m to blame for that)to get them baptised.

    But my offspring is forever condemned 😉 and they escaped the serfhood. As far as I know none of them ever expressed any interest in religion. Hopefully that is a sign of ability to think and make informed decisions.

  4. OK, BEFORE I START I LIVE IN THE UK – WHICH MEANS SOME OF THESE QUESTIONS ARE IRRELEVANT (I.E. LOSING JOB DUE TO BELIEFS)

    1)Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge. – NO
    2)Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” (Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris) in person. – NO, BUT HAD E-MAIL OFF HIM..ABOUT DODGY CAMERAWORK IN ONE OF HIS TV DOCS.
    3)Created an atheist blog. – NO,NEVER CREATED ANY BLOG…PLEASE DEFINE ATHEIST BLOG?
    4)Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone. MAYBE, I TEND TO USE WINNIE THE POOH INSTEAD SO I’LL SAY NO…
    5)Gotten offended when someone called you an agnostic. NO, NOT OFFENDED I JUST CORRECT THEM…I’M NOT AN ATHIEST EITHER SO WHY I’M DOING THIS MEME…
    6)Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron. SHRUG…EH?
    7) Own more Bibles than most Christians you know. NO, DON’T OWN ONE.
    8) Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc. NO, THAT’S WHAT THE SCEPTICS ANNOTATED SITE IS FOR.
    9)Have come out as an atheist to your family. NO, THEY HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN I DON’T BELIEVE IN SUPERNATURAL BEINGS.
    10) Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering. NO, I HAVE BETTER THINGS TO DO WITH MY LIFE.
    11) Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization. NO, SEE ABOVE.
    12) Had a Humanist wedding ceremony. NO.
    13) Donated money to an atheist organization. – YES – YES TO THE ATHEIST BUS AD CAMPAIGN JUST TO SEE WHAT WILL HAPPEN.
    14) Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins. NO.
    15) Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism. NO, I HAVE MANY CHRISTIAN FRIENDS WHO KNOW ABOUT MY VIEWS.
    16) Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize. NO, DEPENDING HOW I FEEL I EITHER IGNORE THEM OR TELL THEM TO GO AWAY.
    17) Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away. NO, IN THE UK I WOULD THINK IT WOULD BE THE OTHER WAY ROUND. GOD-SQUADDER HIDING THEIR BELIEFS.
    18) Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc). NO.
    19) Attended a protest that involved religion. NO
    20) Attended an atheist conference. SEE (10)
    21) Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel. YES, BUT HE DOES GO ON A BIT SO I DON’T LISTEN TO HIM JUST SEE WHAT THE TITLES OF THE VIDEOS ARE.
    22) Started an atheist group in your area or school. NO, AS ABOVE.
    23) Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism. NO, DON;T CARE WHAT PEOPLE BELIEVE IN AS LONG AS IT DOESN’T AFFECT ME.
    24) Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die. NO, WHY IS THAT ATHEISTIC?
    25) Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction. NO, BUT I AM WAITING FOR THE RIGHT PERSON…
    26) Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place. ERRR, NO, I DON’T TALK MUCH DURING SEX…UNLESS IT’S SAY HOW MUCH EXTRA WOULD ***** COST?
    27) Lost a job because of your atheism. NO, OVER IN THE UK IT’S THE CHRISTIAN BIGOTS WHO TEND TO LOSE THEIR JOBS.
    28) Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count). NO.
    29) Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills. ENGLISH
    30) Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. ENGLISH.
    31) Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!” NO.
    32) Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying. NO…!!!
    33) Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch. NO.
    34) Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist. NO.
    35) Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant. NO.
    36) Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service). NO.
    37) Subscribe to an freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic) NO, BUT I DO LISTEN TO THEIR PODCASTS.
    38) Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism. NO.
    39) Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God. NO.
    40) Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift. NO
    41) Wear pro-atheist clothing in public. NO.
    42) Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them. NO.
    43) Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God. ENGLISH.
    44) Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants). NO
    45) Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it. NO, EVEN WHEN I HAVE ASKED FOR NONE.
    46) Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy.” NO.
    47) Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all. YES, BUT THAT’S NOTHING TO DO WITH ATHIESM THAT’S RATIONALITY.
    48) Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to… NO
    49) Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray. YES, WHEN I HAVE TO ATTEND CHURCH A WILL STAND WHEN OTHERS DO BUT OTHER THAN THAT KEEP QUIET.
    50)Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you. EH? NO.

    3 OUT OF 50. DO TRY TO REFUSE CALLING MYSELF AN ATHIEST. I AM JUST A HUMAN BEING WHO DOESN’T BELIEVE IN SUPERNATURAL BEINGS (INCLUDING GODS).

  5. Interesting meme! If you’ll forgive a Christian pedant, the sin against the Holy Spirit is to say that the Holy Spirit is Satan. ‘It is by demons that he casts out demons’. Everything else is forgivable, you’ll be glad to hear..

  6. UK resident.

    1. Participated in the Blasphemy Challenge? – Never heard of it.
    2. Met at least one of the “Four Horsemen” – No.
    3. Created an atheist blog? – No. I did oversee the h2g2 project on Creationism and Evolution, though, does that count?
    4. Used the Flying Spaghetti Monster in a religious debate with someone? – No. No need.
    5. Been offended when someone called you an agnostic? – Nope.
    6. Been unable to watch Growing Pains reruns because of Kirk Cameron? – Never heard of Growing Pains, and that’s partly because it isn’t shown here. Have heard of Kirk Cameron, but the man is a moron, not offensively ugly, and if I can still watch and enjoy Gary Glitter performances (and I can) I think I can see past that if I’m ever required to.
    7. Own more Bibles than most Christians you know? – Just one.
    8. Have at least one Bible with your personal annotations regarding contradictions, disturbing parts, etc? – Yeah. And I have a paper copy of my own entries on Wikipedia. What kind of idiot would do this when Skeptics Annotated Bible is online?
    9. Have come out as an atheist to your family? – No need.
    10. Attended a campus or off-campus atheist gathering? – No, unless the campus or off-campus gatherings I did go to were atheist by coincidence, which is possible. But none of the atheists I knew or know were bothered enough to care to mention it.
    11. Are a member of an organized atheist/Humanist/etc. organization? – No.
    12. Had a Humanist wedding ceremony? – Don’t be silly. That would require that I have a wedding ceremony. Never gonna happen.
    13. Donated money to an atheist organization? – Nope.
    14. Have a bookshelf dedicated solely to Richard Dawkins? – No. That shelf also features Daniel Dennet, Martin Gardner, Penn Jillette, Julian Jaynes, Christopher Hitchens and Charles Darwin. There are other atheists, you know.
    15. Lost the friendship of someone you know because of your non-theism? – Nope. In fact have quite a strong friendship (by my standards) with someone who explicitly doesn’t believe in evolution.
    16. Tried to argue or have a discussion with someone who stopped you on the street to proselytize? – I almost punched a Jew in the face, hard, because to my amazement he actively PURSUED my down the street, picking at my sleeve and waving pamphlets at me trying to get me to talk about how Israel was right to be bombing and shooting Palestinian civilians. The only thing that stopped me from knocking him to the ground and kicking him repeatedly was the fact that this persistent, physically invasive Zionist propagandist was about eleven years old.
    17. Had to hide your atheist beliefs on a first date because you didn’t want to scare him/her away? – Since the phrase “atheists beliefs” is an oxymoron, I shall ignore this question.
    18. Own a stockpile of atheist paraphernalia (bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, etc)? – Don’t be silly.
    19. Attended a protest that involved religion? – Not by choice. I passed through a protest that involved religion. People were throwing bricks at policemen and burning books. No prizes for guessing that the religion involved was Islam.
    20. Attended an atheist conference? – No.
    21. Subscribe to Pat Condell’s YouTube channel? – Never heard of him.
    22. Started an atheist group in your area or school? – No. Why would I?
    23. Successfully “de-converted” someone to atheism? – Don’t be silly. We only need a few rational people in the world. The rest I’m content to leave stupid. Someone has to flip the burgers and sweep the streets and if they can console themselves with faith in the Lord, excellent.
    24. Have already made plans to donate your body to science after you die? – No. I have a donor card, however.
    25. Told someone you’re an atheist only because you wanted to see the person’s reaction? – No, because I wouldn’t expect much a reaction from anyone I’d be interested in talking to.
    26. Had to think twice before screaming “Oh God!” during sex. Or you said something else in its place? – Don’t be silly. I don’t think ONCE during sex.
    27. Lost a job because of your atheism? – In what kind of fucking backward, benighted third world SHITHOLE is this even a sensible question?
    28. Formed a bond with someone specifically because of your mutual atheism (meeting this person at a local gathering or conference doesn’t count)? – Don’t be silly.
    29. Have crossed “In God We Trust” off of — or put a pro-church-state-separation stamp on — dollar bills? – Not really had occasion to.
    30. Refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance? – No. And if required to recite it in order to enter the US, say, I’d recite it. Whatever I need to do to stop the barbarians frmo shooting me. They might choose to believe it means something, poor fuckers.
    31. Said “Gesundheit!” (or nothing at all) after someone sneezed because you didn’t want to say “Bless you!”? – Oh yeah. Speak German rather than say something meaningless. This really isn’t something ENGLISH people would be likely to do, what with the whole two-world-wars-and-one-world-cup situation. Achtung, Fritz, for you the sneeze is over.
    32. Have ever chosen not to clasp your hands together out of fear someone might think you’re praying? – This is just funny.
    33. Have turned on Christian TV because you needed something entertaining to watch? – No.
    34. Are a 2nd or 3rd (or more) generation atheist? – 2nd or 3rd. None of my family have ever expressed much need for religion.
    35. Have “atheism” listed on your Facebook or dating profile — and not a euphemistic variant? – I think I put “I have no need of superstition” where it said “religion”, in order to clearly and unambiguously demonstrate I view religions on the same level as belief in astrology or fairies.
    36. Attended an atheist’s funeral (i.e. a non-religious service)? – No, but then I’ve only really been to two funerals.
    37. Subscribe to a freethought magazine (e.g. Free Inquiry, Skeptic)? – Nope, but I have bought them when I can.
    38. Have been interviewed by a reporter because of your atheism? – No.
    39. Written a letter-to-the-editor about an issue related to your non-belief in God? – No.
    40. Gave a friend or acquaintance a New Atheist book as a gift? – Nope.
    41. Wear pro-atheist clothing in public? – No. Why would I?
    42. Have invited Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses into your house specifically because you wanted to argue with them? – No. I think I was blacklisted after a particularly repellent approach from the Witnesses. I opened the door to a girl of seven or so asking me if I believed in God. I crouched down to her level and smilingly told her that God is like Santa – he doesn’t exist, and parents tell children he does to make them behave and do as they’re told. The only difference being the grownups eventually admit to you that Santa isn’t really, but they never tell you God isn’t. Her mother – who I ignored entirely, since she didn’t speak – immediately bundled her away as I stood up, still smiling. They never came back.
    43. Have been physically threatened (or beaten up) because you didn’t believe in God? – I repeat – in what kind of fucking backward, benighted third world SHITHOLE is this even a sensible question?.
    44. Receive Google Alerts on “atheism” (or variants)? – No.
    45. Received fewer Christmas presents than expected because people assumed you didn’t celebrate it? – No. Christmas has nothing to do with religion for most people I know.
    46. Visited The Creation Museum or saw Ben Stein’s Expelled just so you could keep tabs on the “enemy”? – No
    47. Refuse to tell anyone what your “sign” is… because it doesn’t matter at all? – No. Anyone who asks my sign is laughed at. Then I tell them I’m Cancer, but not Cancer the crab, Cancer the nasty insidious disease that makes one in three of us die young.
    48. Are on a mailing list for a Christian organization just so you can see what they’re up to? – DILLIGAF.
    49. Have kept your eyes open while you watched others around you pray? – Yes. I’ve also closed my eyes and dozed.
    50. Avoid even Unitarian churches because they’re too close to religion for you? – No idea what this question means.

  7. I mis-counted my total above but as I have now unsuscribed from Pat Condell because I never listen to it then we go back to 3.

    I do however subscribe to XenuTV which people should subscribe to especially in the UK to show them what wil probably happen when Scientology gets some momentum going…they already have hooks into the police service.

  8. Some additional observations…

    This whole thing, and a lot of things like it, seem to be cooked up by people labouring under the impression that “atheism” is something you DO, rather than being something you DON’T do. While I’m sure that in a backward third world theocracy espousing atheism may be a positive, radical position, from my viewpoint in the civilised world it is simply the lack of any superstitions.

    Here in the civilised world, there’s simply no need, particularly, for people who don’t believe in fairies to organise and meet each other and wear clothing and start blogs. Why would we? It’s not like the superstitious are a threat to us.

    I pity those who live in countries where the dark influence of the superstitious is such that they go in fear of discrimination or even, apparently, physical attack (!) from such cretins. I certainly wouldn’t want to live anywhere like that.

  9. I have in the past thought about having a Darwin fish on my car just to annoy others. I haven’t due to possible vandalism. I think there would be a miniscule chance as I do not live in Cardiff and hence Stephen Green wouldn’t see my car.

    Here is a link to Richard Dawkins’ site. The link is to him explaining his red A lapel pin. The important things to read are the comments from Americans who haev had their car windows smashed in for having athiest stickers on their cars.

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,3455,Richard-Dawkins-explains-his-Scarlet-A-lapel-pin—The-Out-Campaign,Richard-Dawkins

    It will be interesting to see whether there is any vandalism to the Athiest bus campaign as Green has suggested people *might* see them as targets for graffitti etc.

  10. Thanks for the explanation Village Green. 🙂

    >> More recently he was in a tv “debate” insisting that he could prove god exists.

    He’s obviously not a reader of Douglas Adams who pointed out that god requires faith and that if anyone proves god exists he will “disappear in a puff of logic”.

    European TAM Colm… Oooohhhh. Now there’s a thought!

    Good heavens, Dragonqueen. I’d always thought of Sweden as somewhere sane and liberal. That’s a really intriguing insight.

    Good point well made, Anticant. 😀

    Alfter, how can you use Winnie-the-Pooh in an atheist debate? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Julie, I like pedants! Thanks for the explanation of what the sin against the holy spirit actually is. An itch in my curiosity scratched at long last.

    Mmmm. I think the phrase “atheist beliefs” is ok SoRB, but in fact that is because technically I’m an agnostic. I believe there is no god, and know that there is no proof one way or t’other.

    Alfster, you are right, we should be feeling nervous about the scientologists.

    SoRB – your comment about DOing atheism is bang on. The underlying implication of this meme is that it’t a lifestyle choice. I think my view on atheism is best summed up with the phrase “don’t feed the trolls”. But I’ve said that elsewhere.

    Alfster, I’ve had my car vandalised three times in five years and once in the five years before then. But it’s not because of atheist stickers, because I don’t use my car like a billboard. It’s because I park in dodgy places and the world is full of bleeps. Assuming that people vandalise your car because of an atheist sticker is … irrational. I think I might go over to that conversation and say so.

    Thanks, all, for taking the time to read, answer the quiz, tot up your answers and comment.

    Aphra.

  11. I’m a big fan of the phrase “If atheism is a religion, then not playing chess is a hobby.” I’ve not been able to quickly find attribution for that wonderful comment.

    I don’t have “atheist beliefs” because as far as I can make out there’s no such thing as an “atheist belief”, any more than there are, say, “left-handed beliefs”, or “blue-eyed beliefs”.

    In fact, it’s worse, because it doesn’t even make any LOGICAL sense. One can LOGICALLY (but rather stupidly) posit “lefthanded beliefs”, in the sense of being beliefs shared by all or most lefthanded people on account of and defined by them being left handed. One such belief might be, say, the belief that scissors are designed by idiots, or that squash is an easier game than most people think.

    But “atheist beliefs” makes as much sense, to me, as the phrase “cupboard-shaped beliefs”. Do YOU have any beliefs that are shaped like a cupboard? Meaningless, isn’t it? That’s what “atheist beliefs” sounds like, to me.

  12. Winne the Pooh:

    I always use Winnie The Pooh as an example of someone who existed…you try and prove he didn’t.

    He’s a fictional character – No, he isn’t.

    AA Milne wrote the books…yes and Matthew, MArk Luke and John wrote the New Testament…your point is?

    etc etc…

  13. I get your point Alfster, but I bet Winnie the Pooh didn’t get mentioned in Tacitus..

    In a similar vein , there was a group of philosophers trying to come up with an adequate definition of what man was. They settled on the term ‘a featherless biped.’ That night someone chucked a plucked chicken over the wall..

  14. On a less flippant note Alfster, (sorry, it was an open goal and I couldn’t resist it) there are a couple of reasons why I think the Gospels are an account of a person who really existed, as opposed to someone that was just made up. The first is that compared with the style of the Old Testament, the Gospels and Paul are quite artless in their style (I would except John, but he’s writing about 20-30 years after everyone else and he was concentrating on certain aspects of belief, it’s more of an exegesis). If Jesus was a made up story, it would be a completely different style to the rather spare story telling that characterises Matthew, Mark and Luke. One interesting bit I find in this respect is the two versions of what happened to Judas after he betrayed Jesus. In Matthew, he returns to the Pharisees and says that he has betrayed innocent blood. He then goes and hangs himself, and the Pharisees use the thirty pieces of silver to buy a field to bury foreigners in, as it is blood money and they can’t put it in the treasury and they call the field, ‘The Field of Blood’. In Acts, Judas buys a field ‘and there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.’ This is the classic fate for a baddie in the Old Testament, but this is obviously made up, whereas the other story rings true.

    The other reason I believe that Jesus was a real person, is because if he didn’t exist, no one in Jewish society would have made him up. Jesus was a freak in the Jerusalem of his time; he was thirty and wasn’t married, he hung out with women and prostitutes and tax collectors and Samaritans and Romans; and he was about as far away from the picture that the Jews had of the messiah that you can get. They were looking for a military king who would toss out the Romans and establish a reign of a thousand years. They did not want someone preaching forgiveness and love and who got himself crucified by the occupying forces. Whether or not you think he is the Son of God is another matter, but I don’t think there can be any dispute about the fact that he existed and the question remains who we think he actually was.

  15. SoRB – isn’t the conviction that there is no spiritual element in or beyond the universe a belief? I’ll accept that atheists cannot really have more than one belief and that that is it. Now I happen to think that the absence of evidence for a god argues pretty powerfully that there isn’t one, but when push comes to shove I *believe* that, the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. Of course, I’m not actually an atheist, I’m an agnostic in the true sense that I think it is impossible to prove the point either way.

    Aflster – Pooh does exist – he’s in the New York Public Library: http://www.nypl.org/branch/central/dlc/dch/pooh/ 😛

    Julie – I’m not knowledgable enough about Romano-Jewish history, culture and literature to know whether the points you make are valid or not. However whether or not there was a “real” Jesus is irrelevent to the god-debate. Many Christians seem to have a bit of a blind spot there – they never suggest that the life of Siddhārtha Gautama provides evidence of reincarnation; there was a real Alice Liddle but she’s no evidence for the world through the Looking Glass either. Regarding the hisoricity of Jesus: have you come across the Jesus Project which is investigating just the questions you raise: http://www.jesus-project.com/articles_forums.htm

    Thanks all for taking the time to drop by and comment.

    Aphra.

  16. Off topic, but I thought I’d show you this, knowing you like “What not to knit.”

    Not sure how it was done, but it’s a fantastic piece of art…

    http://www.b3ta.com/board/9077129

  17. Ha! Caught by my own comment filter. That’ll larn me not to post from work, or at least not to post from work and put two links in the comment.

    Superb knitting – thanks SoRB.

    A/B

  18. Julie your following comments sums up the way in which Christian ‘works’ and tries to justify itself. Selective interpretation:

    “In Acts, Judas buys a field ‘and there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out.’ This is the classic fate for a baddie in the Old Testament, but this is obviously made up, whereas the other story rings true.”

    You say the totally absurd is obviously made up but the less absurd(somone born of a virgin, raising the dead, turning water into wine, being crucified and coming back to life a few days later) and the totally mundane stories are actually FACT.

    How do you know apart from ‘a feeling’ that they are not true? Though for Christians who ‘feel a connection’ with Jesus saying which bits of a book they think is real and not real isn;t really a big leap of ‘faith’.

    It is also irrelevant whether certain texts are written similarly to other bits of text. It isn’t difficult to copy the feel of someone elses writing.

    All you have are some books and a feeling to ‘prove’ Jesus and a god exists and that is all I have to prove that Winnie The Pooh exists. Hence if you can say Jesus and your god exists I have every right and as much evidence to prove that Winnie The Pooh exists…and anything that counteracts my belief…well, that’s obviously made up and does not prove anything.

  19. Hi Alfster,

    I know I’m not going to win this and it’s not about winning; I’m just trying to make you understand where someone like me comes from on this.

    Lets take Dawkin’s approach to this for a minute. We claim there is a god. What would Dawkins look for in way of proof?

    1. He would require God to present himself in a physical form; he would not be content with him staying up on his cloud.

    2. He would require God to perform some miracles to prove that he was godly and had control over nature, especially rising from the dead, because that is the ultimate power.

    3. It’s not enough to be powerful; he would require the god in question to be virtuous and moral and to obey his own commandments.

    4. He would require God to show solidarity with his people; to enter into human suffering and limitation as we experience it; to know what it is to be powerless and voiceless, to be small. He should be a god that is big enough to relinquish his power to do this.

    Christ ticks all these boxes. There hasn’t been anyone else like him; no one has spoken or taught like he did.

    Re proof, I think you’re being pretty disingenuous here. All the proof we have of any historical figure who isn’t alive, is the records of the time and buildings and artefacts that exist. It’s a fun argument, but Christ is just as valid a historical figure as any other dating from that time; he’s mentioned by Claudius, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger. Paul’s letters and Acts correspond with the archeological evidence of the first Christians as well. The real question is; who was Christ and how did someone as unique as him, spring from the society that he came from? Anyway, it’s always a pleasure arguing with you..

  20. Hi Aphra,

    Thanks for the links; will have a look at them. Some years ago a friend of mine became a Jehovah’s Witness and in order to defend myself, I did do a lot of reading of history of that period, and looking up religions that had similar elements to Christianity. I’m sure a few more won’t do any harm.

  21. “Lets take Dawkin’s approach to this for a minute. We claim there is a god. What would Dawkins look for in way of proof?”

    As I said above, there are other atheists. Also, how would you know what Dawkins would look for?

    Let’s take a better example, James Randi. But first, let’s follow your criteria:

    “1. He would require God to present himself in a physical form; he would not be content with him staying up on his cloud.”

    This seems reasonable, except what any reasonable atheist would actually require is that evidence for a god be measurable and at least minimally ambiguous TODAY. Which is not what you’ve got.

    “2. He would require God to perform some miracles to prove that he was godly and had control over nature, especially rising from the dead, because that is the ultimate power.”

    Ah, no, hang on. The problem you have here is that us educated 21st century people are just a little bit more sophisticated than a bunch of gullible fishermen from a time when the height whizziness was bronze.

    Jolt someone back into life in front of me, even someone who’s been dead for three days, and self-regarding little sf geek that I am I’m afraid I’ll be mostly pretty unimpressed and just ask where you got your Sufficiently Advanced Technology.

    I’m afraid that in order to qualify for me as god-like your imaginary friend would have to do something truly miraculous, like, say, rearranging the stars in the sky so that they’re recognisably the same stars (same emission spectra and red shift as those in the catalogues, so no cheating) except now, from Earth, they appear to spell out the lyrics to “Rocakafeller Skank” by Fatboy Slim. Not a big ask for an omniscient superbeing, but pretty hard to manage with any conceivable technology.

    “3. It’s not enough to be powerful; he would require the god in question to be virtuous and moral and to obey his own commandments.”

    Er… no atheist expects that of the Christian god, since that is emphatically not how the Christian god is described by his own followers in the Bible. In order for me to identify an entity as being the Christian god, it would have to demonstrate capriciousness, sadism, and an unhealthy interest in what people do with their genitals.

    “4. He would require God to show solidarity with his people; to enter into human suffering and limitation as we experience it; to know what it is to be powerless and voiceless, to be small. He should be a god that is big enough to relinquish his power to do this.”

    Again, there is simply no reason to expect this of any god, much less the Christian version of the myth.

    “Christ ticks all these boxes. There hasn’t been anyone else like him; no one has spoken or taught like he did.”

    On the contrary – if you ask around, you’ll find lots and lots of people have spoken and taught like he did, right down to the claiming to be the son of god, doing conjuring tricks and rising from the dead. Jesus just had the best PR, so far.
    —————————————————–

    Anyhoo, speculating on what Dawkins would expect for proof is a waste of time.

    As I said above, I prefer the example of James Randi, he of the Million Dollar Challenge.

    His challenge is to do with the paranormal, and the way it works is this:

    YOU, the challenger, make a claim. Ideally, it should be specific and clear. E.g. “I can detect water using dowsing rods.”

    Randi and crew then work with you to create a test protocol, with stringent success criteria. It will be designed to eliminate the possibility of cheating. This is often quite a problem, because a lot of the cranks who apply don’t really clearly describe what it is they can DO. An example of a test might be a double blinded attempt to detect which five of, say, 25 covered buckets contains water rather than dry sand. A statistician might demand four out of five as indicating a success, assuming this success rate is repeatable.

    IF you truly can detect water with dowsing rods, you will pass, and win a million dollars. If you can’t, you will fail and look, at best, pathetically deluded, and at worst, a deliberate charlatan. (In practice, deliberate charlatans never agree to be tested…)

    So here’s the question, Julie, the challenge, if you like.

    You claim your god exists.

    But what is it, precisely, that you claim he can DO?

    Or what is it that, because of him and ONLY because of him, that YOU can do?

    I.e. what is your unambiguous, clear evidence for your claim?

    Please note: reference to a book describing someone who may or may not have lived, 2000 years ago, is emphatically not in itself in any way evidence of a still-extant entity. You are claiming god exists TODAY – at least I assume you are. You therefore need evidence you can point to – TODAY. What is it?

  22. Hi sorb,

    This is going to be my last comment on this thread; I really only wanted to challenge the idea that the historacy of Jesus had the same credence as Winnie the Pooh, not get into an argument about God the universe and everything. But hey, can’t resist a challenge.

    On Dawkins, I was basing my suppositions on what he would require as proof, on his programme ‘Enemies of Reason’. Amongst other things he did the experiment with dowsers that you describe. So I’m assuming that he would do something similar with a person claiming to be God. But you’re right; it’s a waste of time to speculate what he would regard as proof; someone should ask him what his criteria are.

    Re the Christian god being a capricious sadist; Old Testament;agree. Christ and the New Testament;disagree, for all the reasons I gave earlier on about Jesus being a freak in his society. I’m a Christian; the clue’s in the name.

    Re evidence, you’re a hard man to please. If you’re not going to be impressed with someone rising from the dead, then I doubt you’re going to be impressed with my suggestion. But it’s this; have a look at the literature on miracles of Lourdes. You can get names, dates, medical records and so on. The criteria for an official miracle is very strict and it is checked by a panel of doctors that includes sceptics, and I think it would pass the James Randi test, if not yours.

    Re what my evidence is for God and what I believe he can do that noone and nothing else can, there’s several answers I could give to that. I have known someone who went to Lourdes in a wheelchair and came back walking. I also knew someone who healed a woman who was in the last stages of dying; she was in hospital and not expected to last the night and he laid hands on her and healed her. But that apart, the thing that God can do that no one else can, is heal a person inside and completely change them. Nothing else does that. And those who are people of faith, can heal other people. There’s a place I go to when I want to take a step back, a guest house run by a community of monks. You meet all sorts there, but the monks take in the most broken of people and they put them back together, piece by piece. When I see a group that does not believe in God manage this, then I will accept that there is no God; until then I will continue to believe in him.

  23. Hi Julie

    Thanks for being such a patient Daniel.

    Regarding Randi and Lourdes: I typed both names in to google and this is what I got from the James Randi Educational Foundation:

    “… church authorities [caution] that less than a hundred claims have been properly documented since the founding of the shrine, and the church has as of this date accepted only sixty-four as miracles, from the millions of cures claimed over the years.

    “Whether these sixty-four were simply remissions of various kinds or perhaps recoveries brought about by orthodox medical attention, one cannot know, since the records are so sketchy. In several cases, we have no evidence that even the ailments were real. …common sense, as well as the simple principle of parsimony, would require one to strongly doubt the miraculous nature of these events.”

    http://www.randi.org/encyclopedia/Lourdes.html

    So, unfortunately, the miracles at Lourdes do not match up to Randi’s exacting standards and we have his word for that, and to my mind, 64 out of the tens of thousands of visitors is almost lower than one would expect from simple chance.

    One thing you’ve said which resonates with me is the statement is that god can “heal a person inside and completely change them”.

    I’ve seen that, but unlike you I don’t ascribe it to god, but to the person’s belief in god. And Jesus himself claimed that it was faith that healed: http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=your+faith+has+healed+you&qs_version=31

    Unfortunately fact that belief brings about changes in habitual, addictive or neurotic behaviours doesn’t prove the existance of the thing believed in, merely that people who have an external locus of control and a strong subconscious drive for congruence will change the way they behave with input from a sufficiently authorative external source.

    Example – (I got this example from Brian Tracy and I’m afraid I’ve not tried to track it further than that) – a straight A student who achieved a 97 SAT score in the US did not realise it was a percentile (ie he had done as well or better than 97% of his peers) but believed it was an IQ (ie that he was slightly below average and therefore incapable of college level work). At college he failed his first semester, and when challenged said it was because he had a low IQ, as evidenced by his SAT results. When his professors told him (and he verified) that his SAT results showed he was remarkably bright not slightly stupid, he went back to straight As and passed out top of his class and among the highest achievers in the university as a whole.

    This is a perfect example of someone with an external locus of control acting congruently, which the mechanism I see when god “turns people’s lives around”.

    Wish it wasn’t. Truly I do.

    Anyway, thanks once again for coming by. It is refreshing to debate with intelligent, articulate, coherent and grounded theists. I do hope the debate you’ve found here has matched those standards.

    Aphra.

  24. “This is going to be my last comment on this thread”

    Ah, the courage of convictions, the strength of faith, the willingness to defend one’s fragile beliefs from the possibility of attack… or not.

    “I really only wanted to challenge the idea that the historacy of Jesus had the same credence as Winnie the Pooh”

    Fail.

    “not get into an argument about God the universe and everything. But hey, can’t resist a challenge.”

    Yeah… except, you’re not going to reply to anything I say, so it seems you can. Yay you.

    “On Dawkins, I was basing my suppositions on what he would require as proof, on his programme ‘Enemies of Reason’.”

    Not seen it. I rather read your suppositions as being what you would like him to ask for, given that you think you have evidence that satisfies it. Unfortunately, you’ve run up against me and my actual requirements. Let’s see how you did…

    “Amongst other things he did the experiment with dowsers that you describe.”

    Did their faith work? Even once?

    Don’t bother, I didn’t see the show but I know the answer. It’s no, because if it was yes, I’d have heard about everything everyone knows about the universe being wrong.

    “Re the Christian god being a capricious sadist; Old Testament;agree. Christ and the New Testament;disagree”

    Oh, sorry, I thought you were a Christian, i.e. a MONOtheist. The entire point of your religion, is it not, is that there’s just the ONE god.

    Whereas in YOUR religion, there are (at least) two – one that you agree (because you have to) is a capricious sadist, and a second, apparently DIFFERENT god, who is not. Christianity as a polytheistic religion, you heard it here first.

    “I’m a Christian; the clue’s in the name.”

    Unfortunately it gives no clues at all. All it tells me is that you call yourself a Christian. It tells me NOTHING about what you believe. In order to tell me about what you believe, you have to spend a LONG time listing things you approve or disapprove of, and which bits of the Bible you cherry pick to believe in.

    By your definition so far, *I* am a Christian, I just believe in less of the Bible than you (i.e. next to none of it).

    “Re evidence, you’re a hard man to please.”

    WHAT????

    Your god, or at least one of your gods, is OMNIPOTENT. He CREATED THE UNIVERSE, or so you would have us believe. Rather by definition, NOTHING is “hard” for this creature. Don’t you feel just a little silly for suggesting that one of your gods might find it “hard” to do ANYTHING?

    “If you’re not going to be impressed with someone rising from the dead, then I doubt you’re going to be impressed with my suggestion.”

    Why mention it then? I’ve told you what would satisfy me. Why come back and offer something weaker? (And really, very pathetically weaker at that…)

    “But it’s this; have a look at the literature on miracles of Lourdes. You can get names, dates, medical records and so on. The criteria for an official miracle is very strict and it is checked by a panel of doctors that includes sceptics, and I think it would pass the James Randi test”

    Then direct me, please to just ONE record. The record of ONE person who has successfully claimed the Randi million dollar prize.

    Oh, hang on, there’s nobody, is there? Because I’d have heard.

    “Re what my evidence is for God and what I believe he can do that noone and nothing else can, there’s several answers I could give to that.”

    Hmm…

    “I have known someone who went to Lourdes in a wheelchair and came back walking.”

    The fact that you believe that the only possible explanation for this is the existence of your specific gods only shows how little you know about medicine. “Spontaneous remission” is real, and not just for people with imaginary friends.

    “I also knew someone who healed a woman who was in the last stages of dying; she was in hospital and not expected to last the night and he laid hands on her and healed her.”

    No, he did not.

    “But that apart, the thing that God can do that no one else can, is heal a person inside and completely change them. Nothing else does that. And those who are people of faith, can heal other people.”

    No, they can’t. Sorry, but you’re just wrong.

    The “healing” you speak of seems, coincidentally, to be effective only on conditions which sometimes undergo spontaneous remission.

    You want to show me someone of faith, someone who can “heal” other people? Show me someone who can “heal” an amputee. Don’t waste my time and yours with people who can heal cancer. Demand this evidence – heal someone who has had a surgical amputation. Cause them to spontaneously grow back their limb.

    You KNOW in your heart that your “people of faith” cannot do this. You KNOW in your heart that the reason they can’t do it is because your gods don’t exist. Sorry to mention it, but you brought up “healing”, the most pernicious, vicious LIE that Christians perpetrate on others.

    “There’s a place I go to when I want to take a step back, a guest house run by a community of monks. You meet all sorts there, but the monks take in the most broken of people and they put them back together, piece by piece. When I see a group that does not believe in God manage this, then I will accept that there is no God”

    http://www.positiveatheism.org/india/lavintro.htm

    That was just the first of many I found.

    Of course, you’ll continue to believe in your gods DESPITE the evidence. That’s what “faith” is. Believing something you know isn’t true…

  25. Ooh, missed a post. Aphra said:

    “SoRB – isn’t the conviction that there is no spiritual element in or beyond the universe a belief?”

    No. Because if is, then I (and you, and everyone else) has a near infinite number of beliefs, each of which we’re not conscious of until someone asks us whether we have it or not.

    Here’s why:

    You ask me “Do you believe there is a spiritual element in or beyond the universe?”
    I say, “No. In fact, to be honest, it’s never really occurred to me to wonder, and now I think about it, it’s fairly obvious that there’s not. I’d change that belief if presented with evidence.”

    You ask me “Do you believe there is a creature in the northwestern US which is large, anthropoid and has big feet?”
    Same answer.

    You ask me “Do you believe there is bone china teapot orbitting Mars?”
    Same answer.

    You ask me “Do you believe that somewhere in the universe there’s a world which is an exact replica of our own except George Clooney is president of the US?”
    Same answer.

    I can, and given half a chance will, go on all day making up stuff that there’s simply no reason to believe in, and more to the point no reason to even wonder WHETHER you believe in until someone asks you. The list is infinite.

    I do not, however, consider myself as someone who *explicitly* “believes” there’s no Bigfoot. Not believing it exists is NOT the same as “believing” it doesn’t exist.

    I have to explain this more often than you might expect, because a lot of people (particularly theists and ex-theists) seem to get frustrated, like a small child having a tantrum. They throw their hands up and stamp their feet (metaphorically) and demand “Well you MUST believe SOMETHING!”

    To which I smile innocently and say “Why? Because YOU do? Newsflash – I’m not like you.”

    “I’ll accept that atheists cannot really have more than one belief and that that is it.”

    Huh?

    “I happen to think that the absence of evidence for a god argues pretty powerfully that there isn’t one”

    There is not merely an absence of evidence. This is what some atheists miss, I think. There is, to my mind, positive evidence against.

    First of all, one must define one’s god. Julie, for instance, worships (at least) two gods. One of them is a capricious sadist. One of them, apparently, is instead a capricious masochist, it seems, manifesting himself in human shape in order to be tortured so that he can forgive himself for something.

    Now, these gods are, according to their followers, omnipotent creators (although apparently “omnipotent” isn’t a word these followers entirely get their heads around, apparently, because it’s “hard” for an omnipotent being to rearrange approximately 0.0000001% of the mass of a galaxy in a UNIVERSE he CREATED. Which is rather tragically funny, if you ask me…)

    If you’ve an omnipotent, DESIGNING creator, there’s plenty of evidence, positive evidence, against that. I can choke to death. As an engineer I can tell you, design cock ups like that are NOT the hallmark of intelligence. Similarly, one of the worst, most egregiously ill-designed optical instruments in the world is the human eye. It’s RUBBISH.

    “when push comes to shove I *believe* that, the absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence.”

    Embrace the evidence there is. There’s no “absence” of evidence, it’s just that all the evidence we have is not to the liking of the theists, so they pretend it’s not evidence of anything.

    Once, the definition of “god” was something pretty static. Then clever people started finding proper, concrete evidence which showed the idea of “god” to be a fairy story. What did the people who believed the story do? They changed the story.

    Oh… earth is millions of years old? Well… when we say “day”, as in “created the earth in six days”, we obviously meant “metaphorically”. Although we never actually SAID that until you made us look stupid.

    And so it goes on. Over and over and over. Narrowing and narrowing the gap into which the story of “god” will fit, until it becomes a fimbly feeling that “heals people”, but only people who have things that provably go away on their own anyway sometimes. It sickens me, to be honest. What sickens me most is the giving of hope where there is none. These people KNOW, really, that their prayers are worthless magic spells, but they incant them over the sick anyway.

    I have totalitarian tendencies when it comes to religion. Any family who sends their child to a church school should first have to withdraw them from the NHS. Any health problems, they can sort with prayer. Let’s see how long religion lasts with that in place…

  26. Julie,

    Your comment: ““Re the Christian god being a capricious sadist; Old Testament;agree. Christ and the New Testament;disagree” always seems absurd to me considering your god is supposedly perfect, infallible and omnipotent.

    Time and time again he changes his mind about what the human race should do.

    OT: god nasty person. NT: his son tells everyone he’s a lovely person… until the bit when it’s indicated that he’ll destroy the world, take the believers to heaven and the unbelievers to a lake of fire…nice.

    If the OT is supposed to detail what god has done then one has to believe everything in it. You aren’t even cherry picking here you are agreeing that the OT says he’s a sadistic, fickle egotistical git but saying Jesus was actually your gods Alistair Campbell…the only unfortunate thing he doesn’t have in common with Jesus is no-one’s managed to nail him to a tree yet. He kept Labour in power which is certainly a miracle.

    I have never understood this.

  27. Julie,

    One more thing…you have my great respect for trying to save the NHS in Scotland especially Lanarkshire where my aunt lives.

    I am just trying to understand why you are sure your god can heal the sick he only seems to cure a statistically insignificant number of people. Why doesn’t he heal everyone or in fact just rid the world of all diseases and ailments rather than just have a seeming lottery on the chosen few he decides to heal. Or is it that he will only cure those who believe…and those he chooses to heal.

    Can you explain wy your god decided not to save Martin:

    http://www.cofe.anglican.org/faith/stories/story1.html

    I knew him well. Wonderful person who gave so much to people in life…but by Martins own admission *HIS* god decided to kill him…why?

  28. Oh, and I did see the ‘Enemies of Reason’ programme.

    Number 1: I would say that Dawkins would require something approaching what SoRB said. extraordinary claims and all that. Although, as I cannot read minds that is just my opinion. He would require some proof that could not be done by David Copperfield or Cris Angel. I could include Penn & Teller, Paul Daniels or Derren Brown but they don;t do those sort of tricks…though they could if they wanted to.

    I also remember the dowsing DOUBLE-BLIND tests. The dowsers failed amazingly and as usual gave the usual excuses. Hail and praise Youtube.

    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=i4MPz8h9gYY

  29. SoRB and Alfster (but mainly SoRB), this is my blog – play nicely here or don’t play at all. I appreciate your frustrations, but Julie is a guest here in my blog same as you, and I’m not willing to have a guest in my cyber-space treated that aggressively.

    I’m annoyed with myself: I posted a comment this morning before you came along with your hobnails, but because it included two links it got caught in my own spam filter. It’s been reinstated in its place in the timeline, four comments up.

    I’ll post replies to your specific remarks later because there’s some interesting stuff in them, of course. But take it from me: the elegance of an argument is undermined by sarcasm, aggression and ad feminam remarks with which they are presented.

    If your arguments hold up (which in most cases with you two they do) then they’ll hold up when presented with courtesy and good manners.

    More, later, including the missing post.

    Aphra.

  30. Hi Aphra,

    Thanks for your kind comments. I will be answering Alfster and sorb later on, if I decide to stay up late yet again.

    I do not understand the Randi article at all. The Lourdes Medical Bureau is a well established, strictly regulated outfit; they keep extensive records of all the miracle claims put before them. There are only 67 official miracles, but there are thousands of unofficial ones, like the person I mentioned. Anyway, here’s Wiki’s entry on it, which is the most comprehensive I could find

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lourdes_Medical_Bureau

    The reason there’s so few ‘official’ miracles is that the church’s criteria are such that if someone like Dawkins came along and questioned it, he would not be able to contradict it. Under those conditions, most of the ‘spontaneous re generation cases outside of Lourdes would be dismissed as well.

  31. Morning everyone – thanks for coming back Julie

    Julie – regarding Lourdes:

    The first on the list of miracles in the Wikipedia entry is … not really very convincing: “…Tubercular peritonitis with complications for seven years, extreme emaciation and oscillating fever. Comatose when brought to Lourdes, was given a tiny fragment of the Eucharist and awoke. Reported being “instantly and permanently cured” later that night while lying in her wheelchair beside the spring…” How can someone know they are “permanently” cured “later that night?” – You can only know that when they die, decades later, of something entirely unrelated.

    I’m just going to pick up on a few points here:

    SoRB – “Christianity as a polytheistic religion” – that is as maybe, but it’s pointless, unhelpful and downright rude to talk about Christianity as if it is one thing. I’ve hung around enough Christians to know that there are very many different belief-sets in Christianity. Yes I KNOW this undermines the truth of all of them, but one of the things that undermines your argument is to take the beliefs of some Christians and attack all Christians for them. In fact I blogged on this very subject: https://aphrabehn.wordpress.com/2008/10/25/if-you-are-so-critical-why-dont-you-think/ You admit the point yourself when you say “All it tells me is that you call yourself a Christian. It tells me NOTHING about what you believe.” Quite so.

    >> Because if is, then I (and you, and everyone else) has a near infinite number of beliefs, each of which we’re not conscious of until someone asks us whether we have it or not… I do not, however, consider myself as someone who *explicitly* “believes” there’s no Bigfoot.

    Yep. I don’t have a problem with that. There seems to be a difference of semantics, nuance or association in how you and I use the word “belief”. I also suspect it doesn’t matter.

    I assume that most beliefs are in fact unconscious, unconsidered and unexamined. Me, I’d call something that’s well thought through an “opinion” or a “conclusion”. Some of my beliefs are based on experience, some on logic, and some on congruence with other beliefs that are based on experience and logic. You seem to be using “belief” only to refer to something that it thought through. No wonder you find these debates so exasperating.

    >> Not believing it exists is NOT the same as “believing” it doesn’t exist.

    Ye-es. Though I don’t see why the difference matters, though it clearly matters to you. Again I wonder if this is because we have different assumptions about what constitutes a “belief”.

    >> a lot of people (particularly theists and ex-theists) … throw their hands up and stamp their feet (metaphorically) and demand “Well you MUST believe SOMETHING!”

    That’ll be me then. See above.

    >> First of all, one must define one’s god.

    Agreed. Though why you should be allowed to define other peoples gods for them and then deny them the courtesy of defining their own is beyond me.

    The only near-traditional god I can imagine is one that lit the blue touch paper and stood well back with absolutely no involvement in the universe since. The only other one I can imagine is one that is created BY and a product OF the universe, in the same way that our consciousness is created by and a product of our evolution and neurology. Neither of these gods are what the Abrahamic religion is about. I also think they are speculative, unprovable, and not particularly worth wasting either pixels or synapses on.

    >> As an engineer I can tell you, design cock ups like that are NOT the hallmark of intelligence.

    I’m always fascinated by how different specialists place themselves in this debate. I have yet to come across a neuroscientist who’s a theist. In 2007 I saw an ad (maybe in the New Scientist) for a piece in another paper asking different scientists whether they believed in god. The neuroscientists and most biologists didn’t, the social scientists were far more likely to do so, the physicists somewhere in between. The nearest I can find to the piece is this: http://www.signsofthetimes.org.au/archives/2003/november/article4.shtm

    >> What sickens me most is the giving of hope where there is none.

    Ye-es. Though it’s a slightly patronising position to hold. “I know better than that poor deluded sucker”.

    You’re pretty explicit that you assume the people giving hope (be they believers or alternative practitioners) are doing it with conscious hypocrisy. That IS sickening, and certainly appears to be true of most stage performers and miracle preachers, but in my experience in most cases of the clergy and of alternative practitioners that’s not the case. You appear to struggle with the idea that intelligent people could come to a different conclusion (about god, about homoeopathy) and from that you assume they are hypocrites. In fact it says far more about the human selectiveness with seeing and interpreting evidence contrary to our opinions, as evidenced both by their ability to believe in the efficacy of god or arnica, and your ability to blank out the existence of intelligent, competent, sane believers. Which brings us back to that book on Irrationality. (Have you read it by the way, or just looked away from the cover and enjoyed the optical illusion?)

    Besides which, I’d rather face the death of someone I love with belief in an afterlife.

    >> I have totalitarian tendencies when it comes to religion. Any family who sends their child to a church school should first have to withdraw them from the NHS. Any health problems, they can sort with prayer. Let’s see how long religion lasts with that in place…

    Why? Not all believers are Christian Scientists or Jehovah’s Witnesses. You are tarring everyone with the same brush again, and it’s peculiarly stupid of you to do that.

    Ach. The sun is shining. I’m off out for lunch.

    Aphra.

  32. “This is going to be my last comment on this thread”
    Ah, the courage of convictions, the strength of faith, the willingness to defend one’s fragile beliefs from the possibility of attack… or not.

    I had a think about this Sorb, It was frustration that made me quit the thread in the first place. When you point to three secular sources that recorded Jesus historically; Tacitus, Claudius and Pliny the Younger, and you turn round and simply say ‘Fail’ without explaining why I have failed, where does that leave me? But I think this thread has thrown up some questions for me , and hopefully for you guys as well.
    So I am going to reply and I won’t put a limit on it, if you want to debate.

    When I saw Alfster’s argument about Winnie the Pooh, I thought it was a joke. This was the kind of thing they used to use in uni to stimulate thinking. Things like, ‘If a tree falls in a forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?’ or ‘Scientifically, what is the difference between a recording of Beethoven and a recording of Schubert?’ and so on. It was to make us think about all the different criteria that apply to distinctions and descriptions of things. So, taking the Winnie the Pooh argument, it would illustrate the importance of cross referencing, and having sources other than the author to justify your position. Trying to describe the difference between Beethoven and Schubert scientifically, (which is almost impossible) would illustrate that music is a different discipline from science, and requires a different type of language to distinguish between the two. Anyway, I gave the stock smart answer to the WTP question and then an awful thought occurred to me; do these guys actually think that the historical Jesus has the same credence as Winnie the Pooh? That led me to giving my more involved answer about linguistics, culture and so on, and that’s when everything kicked off..

    I should have maybe mentioned that amongst other things that I studied at uni, I studied language, because I was doing Scot Lit, and it required it. That is how I know about things like the significance of changes in stock phrases and endings, like the example I gave of Judas. Stories that go against the culture are important and there are a whole list of those in the gospels; Jesus accepting Samaritans, who were hated by the Jews, because they’d been brought in as settlers by the Romans; Jesus accepting Levi (Matthew) the tax collector as one of his disciples, which would be like taking the local drugs dealer on your team; Jesus preaching against the Pharisees, which would have been seen as unpatriotic by a lot of Jews, and so on. Cross referencing stories within texts lends authority as well; so you have two versions of the meeting at Antioch, where the Hebrists (Jewish converts) and the Hellenists (Greek and other converts) argued it out about whether they should keep the old Jewish laws on circumcision, kosher food and so on. The sanitised version of that meeting is in Acts, which basically says, ‘After some discussion, we reached this conclusion,’; the uncut version is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, where it is obvious that there had been a huge falling out between Peter and Paul on this point.

    . But why am I telling you all this? Why did I decide to continue this thread? This is the reason why;

    “The Jesus Project- a project of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion.”

    Now that sounds good, doesn’t it? But let’s examine this. What does a ‘scientific’ examination of the historical Jesus consist of, exactly? If I wanted to study the historical Jesus, there are a number of people that I would employ. I would get myself a historian for a start. I would get a scripture scholar who knew Latin, Greek and Aramaic. I would get a classicist to compare Jesus and Christianity with the other religions of the time.I would get a Jewish scholar, to advise on cultural background. I would get an archaeologist, if there were any artefacts that I wanted examined. Would I employ a scientist? Of course I wouldn’t. There would be nothing for a scientist to do in a project like this. A scientist is not a historian, a scripture scholar, a classicist or an archaeologist. A scientist’s discipline is what science used to be called; natural philosophy. So why have these guys called themselves ‘scientific’ especially when they aren’t actually scientists (they are, as far as I can gather, mostly historians and linguists)?
    This is why. The term ‘science’ or ‘scientific’ has certain connotations. It is associated with discipline in method, full examination of the evidence, reasonableness and rationality. A fact that is a ‘scientific’ fact is therefore superior to, say, a historical fact or a linguistic fact. And by implication, subjects that are not scientific are less disciplined, less methodical, less reasonable and less rational. So adding the word ‘scientific’ to your project adds respectiblity and gives your project more credence. Any historian that tries to argue with you will be at a disadvantage because they’re just an ordinary historian; you are a scientific one. The fact that there’s nothing for a scientist to study has nothing to do with it.

    Now, who are these people? As I say, they are not scientists, but linguists and historians. In addition to that, they are sceptics. They do not believe in God, and they want to prove, as part of this, that the historical Jesus did not exist, but was a myth. Now that’s fine. It’s good to have sceptics around, because you always need someone to argue the opposite case. But does the fact that they are sceptics, automatically mean that they are better historians or linguists? Is arguing that there are similarities between Osiris and Jesus re resurrection, a better scholarly argument because it is a sceptical one? If another historian comes in and argues that Eygptian religion was polytheistic and animalistic, that Osiris’ death and resurrection was not redemptive as Jesus’ was portrayed by Christians and that Jesus is mentioned as a person in several secular texts of the time, is he a worse scholar because he is arguing in favour? And is one argument more ‘scientific’ than the other? (If you are interested, the accepted historical position on Jesus is that he existed. What people believe about him being the son of God is a different matter, but the considered position is that he did exist historically.)

    This is the uneven playing field that people like myself have to operate on. And I am bothered about it because it is becoming more prevalent,and more aggressive. I do not have a problem with people not believing in God. But I do have a problem with, for example, the church being portrayed as the enemy of science and scientific thought. So you have Galileo held up as an example of the churches’ antipathy to science, while at the same time nobody mentions that Copernicus a Polish monk was the first to put forward the idea of the earth going round the sun. You have Dawkins arguing that the churches are ‘enemies of reason’ while he sits in Oxford, which was founded by various orders of friars, and Mendel, an Augustinian friar, was the founder of his own subject, genetics. You have people arguing that if there was no religion, we would all be friends, while ignoring Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Paul Pot and others who showed that a bully doesn’t need an excuse to be a murdering bastard. But all of this is air brushed out. The church is the enemy of science, reason and rational thought according to the media, and no amount of gainsaying is going to shift it. We’re irrational, so our arguments must be irrational and not worthy of examination. One recent example of what this can lead to, is the experience of Professor Neil Scolding, who is an expert in neuroscience, and who at the moment is trying to find a cure for MS using adult stem cell technology. He was called as a witness to a House of Commons Committee, when the Human Embryology bill was in draft. There was controversy over the subject, because the bill proposed to legalise the use of hybrid embryos, and the committee wanted to establish if adult stem cell technology was a viable alternative. My own church and the Church of Scotland had taken the ethical position that it was wrong to use hybrid embryo technology and pointed out that scientifically, adult stem cell research had been far more successful in producing treatments for various diseases. Embryonic technology by contrast, had run into problems of host rejection, biological incompatibility with adult tissue and tumour production. None of the embryonic experiments had got past animal trials, whereas adult stem cell technology had already produced some 70 treatments. Here is Neil Scolding’s account of that meeting;

    “Jenny Tonge, Liberal Democrat MP and chairperson, introduced me. Her last, extraordinary sentence was,
    ‘ I should say that I will ask all the speakers, before they talk, to declare their religious faith or faith background.’

    Taken aback but unprotesting, grasping wildly and in vain for an articulate response explaining why this was an outrageous request, I lamely acceded. ‘My name is Neil and I am a Catholic.’
    There was a barely audible sigh of relief from the audience. ..Everything that I said thereafter about the successful isolation of adult stem cells, their proliferative capacity, their multipotentiality..and the ease and speed of translating bone marrow stem cell research from lab to clinical practice had been fatally torpedoed in the perception of the audience. He’d have to say all that, I could see them thinking. He’s a Catholic.”

    The human embryology bill was passed. Nobody mentioned how ineffectual embryonic technology is in the field of medicine. There was no discussion about what the implications of crossing the species barrier might be, if a medicine was ever developed from a hybrid embryo stem line. Nobody mentioned that people who get neural treaments derived from pigs are past reproductive age and are told to use a condom when having sex. And nobody seemed to pick up on the fact that the biggest proponent of the bill in Parliament was Robert Winston, who is a fertility expert and for whom a technique that involved human cloning might have other uses. And the reason that none of this was debated was that the churches opposed it, plain and simple, so it was immediately assumed that their opinion would be unscientific and irrational.

    That, guys, is where we are at just now. The churches are being persecuted just now, and you haven’t clocked it. All the things that we are accused of; being unscientific, unreasonable, sloppy in our thinking, etc, are apt descriptions of those you look on as your spokespeople. But because you have unquestioning faith in them, it continues. And it’s going to continue right up until the point that they have become the tyrant that the church once was, when it was at the peak of its strength, if you do not start to apply the same scepticism to their arguments that you apply to ours. That’s why I answered this post. And thats why I say it, welcome or not. It’s got to be said. It’s the truth.

    Alfster, I will reply on questions re suffering etc, tomorrow. This is enough for the moment.

  33. Hi Julie

    Welcome back.

    Just a couple of notes in response to your long and obviously considered post.

    The first is about the use of the word “scientific” in the Jesus Project. I suspect that the CSI chose the word “scientific” because of the axis between science and religion that has built up in the US. I am continually shocked by how pervasive and pernicious is the the opposition between religion in the US (usually in the form of New Earth creationists, but in other forms that equally barking) and anyone who actually considers an evidence-base. Ultimately the arguments appear to boil down to:

    “Scripture says…”
    “The evidence shows…”
    “Well god put that there to test your faith…”

    So I’m going to hypothesise that the CSI used the word “scientific” because that is the discipline that has found itself most frequently in opposition to relgion.

    My second comment is just a warning about the word “sceptical”. True sceptics, including many who are associated with the CSI, are open to evidence *whichever way it points them*. Unfortunately the word has been subborned and is frequently used in the way that you use it to mean – more or less – anyone who doesn’t give house-room to religion (or new age philosophys, or alternative medicine, etc) regardless of whether they’ve considered the evidence or not. There is a difference between “show me the proof” and “that’s obviously nonsense, but I can’t be bothered to engage with it”, and unfortunately “sceptical” is used by different people to mean those two different things.

    On to the Jesus project – I’ve not read much about it (because it doesn’t interest me that much) – but what I have heard suggested that it at least aims for the first sort of scepticism, and that while some of those involved might have an agenda (to prove that Jesus did not exist) others are at least talking the talk of evaluating the evidence to see what’s there. I’ve not gone into the detail to see if they walk the walk because, as I said, the question of whether or not Jesus existed has no bearing whatsoever on his putative divinity.

    >> I do have a problem with, for example, the church being portrayed as the enemy of science and scientific thought.

    Unfortunately that is exactly what many churches are becoming in the USA. Religion has had a direct impact on

    1) The teaching of life-sciences in schools
    2) The teaching of the scientific method in schools
    3) Same-sex marriages
    4) The understanding of human development in utero
    5) Medical research
    6) Climate change denial
    7) The Iraq war (sorry, but it’s true)

    And that’s just a list off the top of my head.

    Religion and the church has nothing like this amount of influence in the UK but the lunacy of the US churches is embittering the debate over this side of the pond.

    >> Dawkins arguing that the churches are ‘enemies of reason’ while he sits in Oxford, which was founded by various orders of friars

    Huh? What have the actions of 13th C religious orders, still less their putative motives, got to do with how academia is structured in the 21st C? There is nothing to say that Copernicus would have been a Christian if he knew then what physicists know now. In fact, CS Lewis’s conversion hinged on his understanding that evolution could not give rise to altruism, which must therefore (he reasoned) have come from god, and his own drive for cognitive congruence did the rest. However, Dawkins spends a considerable amount of “The Selfish Gene” demonstrating that genetics and evolution can and in some respects must give rise to altruism, so who knows whether or not Lewis would have converted if he’d known Dawkins (as he would have done if he’d been alive today). For this reason – that people believe based on the evidence available to them in their place in history – the fact that so-and-so was a Christian or such-and-such was not are completely irrelevant to the arguments about sense-making today.

    >> You have people arguing that if there was no religion, we would all be friends, while ignoring Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Paul Pot and others who showed that a bully doesn’t need an excuse to be a murdering bastard

    Agreed. I think that the problem is more to do with herd mentality, locus of control, peer-permission and deference to authority – this is something I’m thinking about rather a lot at the moment. I suspect the problem is the container (we are a genocidal species given the chance) rather than what is contained (stalinism, fascism, christianity, islam). I also suspect that it’ll be a very long time before that becomes widely accepted. It’s much harder to say “we are all of us capable of atrocity” than it is to say “it’s them – that lot over there – they’re the mad ones”.

    >> hybrid embryo technology

    I don’t think “hybrid” is a particularly helpful term, though it is one most widely used. A hybrid up until now has been the product of a combination of same-species (or related-species) nuclear dna. The technology you refer to provides mitrochondrial dna from the container cell and nuclear dna from the other species. This is a very different kettle of anchovies. For that reason I’m very wary of discussions relating to this particular debate, because I am never entirely certain that the person I’m discussing it with has understood that.

    Regarding the declaration of interest required by Jenny Tonge – I can see both sides to that one. It is entirely relevant to ask for a declaration of ontology and epistimology, but assuming that religion is a shortcut for that is … lazy.

    I must go now, I’ll be late for work if I don’t.

    Cheers

    Aphra.

  34. Aphra: OK, I’ll play nice. Sorry.

    Regarding the one word answer to comparing the historicity of Jesus vs. Winnie the Pooh – the reason for the one word answer is that you’ve looked at only your side of the question. Winnie the Pooh existed, and this is a fact. It is perhaps a frivolous observation, but it is a fact that at some point in relatively recent history, it would have been possible for a human to point at a particular object and ACCURATELY state “This is Winnie the Pooh”. (i.e. they would be able to point to A.A. Milne’s son’s teddy bear, obviously).

    And you tell me that at some point in much, much earlier history, it would have been possible to point at a particular man and accurately state that this was a preacher we refer to as Jesus. But – other than the “evidence” of the Bible – that’s all you can tell me. A preacher named Jesus existed. Hence the Pooh/Christ equivalence.

    Please respond to the point about your believing in two different and contradictory gods.

    Please respond to the point about healing of amputees.

    “I do not understand the Randi article at all.”

    It is rather simple: there are 64 “documented” miracles, and the documentation is inadequate or inconclusive. In some cases there is not adequate evidence that the person “healed” was ill in the first place, even. It is not pleasant to learn that this is the case, especially if one has something invested in believing that Lourdes “works”, but it’s not a complex concept.

    ” the church’s criteria are such that if someone like Dawkins came along and questioned it, he would not be able to contradict it”

    And yet that is precisely what we find. I would suggest, rather, that the church’s criteria are such that if an individual such as yourself, with a predisposition to accept their word and limited expertise in statistical analysis came along and questioned it, they would be satisfied.
    ——————-
    Regarding your view of science and scepticism, I think Aphra already covered it, a bit. I’ll say this: you seem to think a “sceptic” is someone who actively wants to disprove what you believe. This is understandable, because what a sceptic *actually* is, is someone who examines the available evidence and comes to the most reasonable conclusion. It makes sense that, if they come to a conclusion that conflicts with your beliefs, that you would think that they do so because they started out with the intention of coming to that conclusion. You are wrong.
    ::::::::::::::::::::
    You said: ” I do not have a problem with people not believing in God.”
    That’s nice to hear. But here’s your problem. You call yourself a Christian. Take a look at the quiz that started this thread. Whoever compiled the quiz seems to think that it is reasonable to ask an atheist whether they’ve ever
    (a) been fired from a job or
    (b) been physically attacked, simply because they don’t believe in a god. It is other people, people like you, who make that question necessary. I say “people like you” – they are “like you” in the sense that they call themselves Christians. If you have a problem with that, it’s not a problem with me.

    “I do have a problem with, for example, the church being portrayed as the enemy of science and scientific thought”

    This is just quite funny, when you consider that the Catholic Church, which like it or not is the most visible manifestation of Christianity, forgave Galileo for pointing out that the earth is not the centre of the universe… in NINETEEN NINETY TWO. For the majority of my life, OFFICIAL church opinion has been that the sun goes round the earth. Again, if you have a problem with that, I suggest you take it up with the Pope. Atheists such as myself are merely calling it as we see it, and we see it all the time.

    And so to some weak arguments:
    “you have Galileo held up as an example of the churches’ antipathy to science” – yes, you do, and no amount of mentioning Copernicus will change the ridiculousness of the church’s position on heliocentrism, a position it stuck with for over three hundred years in the teeth of the evidence.

    Dawkins: yes, he argues churches are the enemies of reason, and for good reasons. The fact that his educational establishment was founded, centuries ago, by men more ignorant than he of the facts of the universe is simply irrelevant. If a school was founded by a man who believed the moon to be made of green cheese, would the teachers be hypocrites for teaching that it’s actually made of rock? This seems a rather silly argument.

    “Mendel, an Augustinian friar, was the founder of his own subject, genetics”

    True enough. I fail to see the relevance. The laws of motion and the theory of gravitation were delineated by Isaac Newton, a genius by most people’s standards, and yet also a dedicated alchemist and student of the occult. Gravitation and the laws of motion were right (up to a point), but that doesn’t mean that by accepting them you have to accept his ideas about the Philosopher’s Stone. Again, your argument isn’t even wrong, it’s just a bit silly.

    Regarding the stem cell debate: once again, I would suggest that Dr. Scolding’s problem is not with the decision makers he was required to present to, it is rather with his co-religionists. Christians, and Catholics in particular, have a deserved reputation for irrational prejudice when it comes to reproductive ethics. That this reputation exists, and is deserved, is not the fault of the people who are aware of it. Like I said – take it up with the Pope. Or, alternatively, repudiate irrational belief. Nobody forced Dr. Scolding to be a Catholic. He chooses to thus self-identify. It is somewhat hypocritical, therefore, if he complains that he is JUDGED as a Catholic.

    “The churches are being persecuted just now”

    This is either evidence of mental illness or just funny. Seventy two percent of the British population in 2001 self-identified as Christian. SEVENTY TWO PERCENT! We also discover that at that time, the most powerful man in the country was a devout Catholic. It is this seventy two percent who are complaining of being “persecuted”. And by whom? The next largest group, the Muslims? No. The next lot, the Hindus? No. Apparently, almost three quarters of the population of Britain is being “persecuted” by a minority of something like 1%.

    I suggest this: it is only possible for a tiny, tiny minority (i.e. atheists) to “persecute” a huge, overwhelming majority if the overwhelming majority realise, when they think about it, that the minority are right.
    ===========================

    A final reminder, then, of two questions you have appeared to ignore.

    1. How many gods do you believe in? (Evidence so far suggests you believe in at least two gods which are wildly different in character)
    2. Why do your gods hate amputees?

  35. >> Aphra: OK, I’ll play nice. Sorry.

    Appreciated.

  36. Sorb,

    I will try to answer your points as best I can. But can I ask one thing; why do you keep stating that the Bible is the only evidence of Jesus having existed, when I have quoted you, not once, but twice, Tacitus, Claudius and Pliny the Younger? Have you looked them up yet? None of them were Christians, and from their comments, didn’t like them either, which again strengthens the case that it was a matter of record, not of faith.

    Re Lourdes and Randi, as I said, I don’t understand this at all. The Lourdes Medical Bureau keeps extensive medical records. It has very strict criteria; a ‘miracle’ can only be judged to have happened if the cure is physical, instantaneous, was non -responsive to medical treatment, and is permanent. It takes ten years for example, for a case of a cure of leukamia to even be considered by the panel. Again, look it up. On amputees, I didn’t say anything, because it has not been within my direct experience. A friend of mine claims that her mother saw an amputee healed; the person’s foot grew back, but as I say I didn’t mention it because I only have someone else’s word for it in this case. In the other two cases, I knew the people involved, and I am therefore at ease quoting it. Our church is pretty circumspect about reporting miracles; it does not mean that they do not happen, but you have to be within our circle to know about them and that’s a pity.

    Re The quiz question, whether you have been sacked from a job or beaten up, or threatened because you are an atheist, I noted that the answer that all of you gave to that was no. The answer is different for me. I was warned at university by a friendly lecturer that mentioning religion or Christ in an essay would get you marked down. I might add that this was an essay abou Philip Larkins ‘Whitsun Weddings’ poem which it is very hard not to mention religion in, if you read it. My parish priest was also set upon by a group of thugs because he was wearing a collar and given a kicking. This is a common occurence now, when it would have been unthinkable some years ago. The Church of England actually paid for its vicars to undergo courses in self defence. And I think the example of Michael Reiss, who was forced to resign from his position at the Royal Society for suggesting that science teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism and then show them why it is not a plausible theory, should be a wake up call. Dawkins precipitated that and then more or less said, ‘It wasn’t me, guv’ when Reiss stepped down.But I’m sure it was nothing to do with Reiss being a minister..
    If you really don’t believe that the churches are being persecuted just now, then answer this question. Do you think that if I went for a job interview, that it would be a good idea for me to wear a cross?

    Re Oxford etc, the church has everything to do with where we are now in the 21st century. For poor people who were also smart, the church was the only place that they could get an education and somewhere to study and research. I accept your point that it doesn’t mean that people should therefore accept the scriptural teachings of the church, but what I am pointing out is that the church has been a far greater friend of science than those nowadays would care to admit, and that history is being distorted. On heliocentrism, we didn’t stick with that position for three centuries. It was accepted fairly quickly after the intial scandal about it, and probably Galileo’s bookd would have been accepted if he hadn’t portrayed the Pope of the time (who was actually very friendly with Galileo) as Simplicio(ie the simpleton) in the Discourse and put the pope’s words into Simplicio’s mouth, which were ‘ If God willed something, then it would be true.’ It’s just that everyone was making such a fuss about Galileo some years ago and that the church had not officially acknowledged their mistake, that they decided to put an official stamp on things and close it.

    I will answer on your ‘two gods’ question in my next post to Alfster and if I ever get any damn sleep. You guys keep me up late; I only get time late at night to answer on these things. I should get a life..

    Aphra,

    Re Sceptics. I accept that there are two different possible meanings to the word and I used it quite consciously, to mean a religious sceptic. The point that I was trying to make, is that this group have attached the word ‘scientific’ to their title when it is not merited. (By the way, their stuff isn’t very good. I read through some of the articles and it’s mainly polemic and it’s not covering any new ground. The only person on the group that’s any good is the one studying the apocryphal gospels; I hope for her sake that she gets out of it). I was also trying to argue that in these matters, the evidence should prevail. The religious sceptic should not automatically assumed to be right, and the believer wrong; it should be decided on the evidence.

    Re Hybrid embryos. I know it’s not a great term and I do understand the distinctions between the different kinds. I did do a post on it on my own blog, if you want to look it up. I have a bee in my bonnet about this, because this debate first came to the USA, where the proponents were promising that they could find a cure for Alzheimers from embryonic technology. It was only after the Washington Post backed them into a corner about it, that they admitted that this was highly improbable because Alzheimers is a whole brain disease, affecting many types of cell and the synpapses, and it is thought that this would only ever be useful for single cell diseases. My mum has Alzheimers which is why I get so upset about it.It was a profoundly dishonest debate and at the end of it we ended up with legislation that permits full blown hybrids; not just the hollowed out cow’s egg and human sperm kind, but 50:50 cloning, and it happened because it was turned into a rational science v dumb religion debate by the media. I take the point that Neil Scolding’s religion mattered, but once it was established that he was a Catholic, the debate was over. Nobody considered that he was a neuroscientist. Nobody bothered to check if what he was actually saying was true. It was just assumed that he would be wrong.

    Things have got out of hand in the USA, but it does depend which set of Christians you are talking about. Do you remember the Pope warning America not to go into Iraq? Do you remember the pope’s very public meeting with Tariq Aziz, the Iraqi foreign minister (who incidentally is a Coptic Christian)? And do you remember the Pope giving George Bush a row in front of the entire western world, over Guantanemo bay?

    What I’m trying to say in all of this, is that I don’t like boxes and I don’t like labels. There is a cariacture of a Christian going round just now, that bears no resemblance to the majority of moderates. The moderate majority is being alienated by the media and by the behaviour of people like Dawkins. I’ve said this before, but the point I lost all respect for him was when I watched ‘Enemies of Reason’ and he picked a group of people several intellectual pegs below himself and on the fringes of religion, to push over. The only ‘Christian’ church that was shown on the programme was the Spiritualist one, which is regarded by all other Christian churches as un Christian, because it uses mediums to call up spirits of dead relatives. If the majority are alienated, Britain will end up like the USA. We don’t want to go there.

  37. http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/brunel/A44196906

    The ‘discrimination’ bit is very interesting half way down.

    Not sure whether we need a word like atheophobia though.

  38. “The moderate majority is being alienated by the media and by the behaviour of people like Dawkins. I’ve said this before, but the point I lost all respect for him was when I watched ‘Enemies of Reason’ and he picked a group of people several intellectual pegs below himself and on the fringes of religion, to push over. The only ‘Christian’ church that was shown on the programme was the Spiritualist one, which is regarded by all other Christian churches as un Christian, because it uses mediums to call up spirits of dead relatives. If the majority are alienated, Britain will end up like the USA. We don’t want to go there.”

    Actually, Dawkins really did try to go for moderate mainstream people to *try* to make it balanced(not fringe religion..certainly they might seem so compared with the ‘moderates’ in the UK but in the US etc THEY are moderates – the Christian preacher he interviewed had a hot-line to Bush and hence was definitely ‘mainstream’) . He even thought having a Muslim on who converted from Judaism would get someone on who could discuss things from two religious perspectives but what he got was a radical Muslim.

    Dawkins was disappointed that the people who he thought were moderate in their religious tolerance etc were actually rabid/agressive/close-minded/morons.

    He specifically didn’t want to go for easy targets. Indeed, the interview with the CofE vicar was with someone he has great respect for. The full interview is on the Dawkins website.

  39. Also, the title of DAwkins programme ‘The Root of All Evil’ was not his choice but the production companies. He tried to get a question mark put at hte end of it but failed.

  40. Hi Julie

    A couple of quick questions and comments while I drink my tea:

    What is “50:50 cloning”?

    Neil Scolding in an extremely interesting chap from what you say about him. I mentioned earlier that I had never come across a neuroscientist who’s also a believer, and it looks as if he’s broken that duck. I’ll have to find out more about him.

    >> it does depend which set of Christians you are talking about

    Agreed

    >> do you remember the Pope giving George Bush a row in front of the entire western world

    I don’t (and I have an atavistic fear Catholicism bred in my protestant bones, not to mention a more modern disgust to do with contraception, celebacy and pederasty so I find it hard to hear the pope with clean ears) but it kinda demonstrates that in the US the lunatics had taken over the asylum

    >> There is a cariacture of a Christian going round just now, that bears no resemblance to the majority of moderates.

    Yes. And it troubles me, because it does a disservice both to those Christians and to those who cannot accept any kind of Christianity

    >> Britain will end up like the USA. We don’t want to go there.

    Agreed.

    What I see happening is that the excessess of the US are radicalising (some) atheists in the UK which in turn is radicalising (some) christians in the UK, and that worries me.

    As I said in a previous post, I suspect that the problem is not with religion but with fundamentalism, moral absolutism and the extent to which – as a species – we let our leaders and our peers do our thinking for us.

    The thing I dislike about the abrahamic religions is the juxstaposition of right and wrong. At the risk of coming over all post-modernist, I just don’t get it. Yes – as social animals we need a moral framework – but Bush and Blair (both of whom make me wish there was a god so he could damn them to the hell they have inflicted on others) – both believe themselves to be good men. This good / evil, god / the devil, religion / science, freedom / axis of evil, the west / evil empire duality is dangerous beyond permission. That’s why I so much prefer atheist religions like Buddhism and polytheist religions like Hinduism.

    Ah well.

    Aphra.

  41. Hi Aphra,

    50:50 ain’t a great term either. What I mean is a proper hybrid; that is 50% animal material and 50% human material, that is, a sperm from a human and an egg from an animal that has not been de-nucleated. The media focused very much on cytoplasmic hybrids (cybrids) where the egg has been denucleated and therefore 99% of the material is human; but it did not mention that the bill also permitted proper hybrids.

  42. Hi Alfster,

    I’ll have a look at it. The people I saw Dawkins with were dowsers, tarot card readers,Spiritualists,and I think crystal healers. But I’ll have a look as I say.

  43. >> 50:50 ain’t a great term either. What I mean is a proper hybrid; that is 50% animal material and 50% human material, that is, a sperm from a human and an egg from an animal that has not been de-nucleated.

    Oh? Cool!

    Sorry, but that was my first reaction. To much SF at an early age, and too romantic an attitude to dolphins and elephants probably. I just think that humans are animals with a hypertrophied self-awareness and an entirely deluded belief that we think and act consciously.

    In haste.

    A/B

  44. Possibly the ‘loony’ religious people were in ‘Root of All Evil’.

    The ‘Enemies of Reason’ programme wasn’t just about the religious but dowsers etc which is irrational.

  45. Hi Alfster,

    This post is to try and sum up the most important points, especially about suffering.

    Firstly, about how mainstream Christians view the Bible and the Old Testament v the New. The basic argument is that where the Old Testament is God seen through the eyes of the prophets, the New Testament is God seen through the eyes of Christ. That results in a very different picture of God from the old one and so Christians do not accept everything in the Old Testament. We do not accept that the Messiah is a military king for example, nor do we accept kosher law. We accepted the Gentiles and did not treat them as unclean, and so on. Christianity is different from Judaism. We respect the Old Testament, but we do not believe every single word of it to be true; like all religions, sometimes God is used as an excuse to perpetrate violence on other people.

    Re hell and suffering. I’ll take each of these separately, but they have a common root; both of them are a consequence of free will.
    The god we worship isn’t an ordinary god, that commands respect simply through being powerful. He is the god of love. That means that he cannot force himself on us, and if we choose to live our lives independently of him, then he has to allow that, he can only intervene if we allow him to. And if we choose to live apart from God eternally, then he has to allow that too, and that in short is what hell is. It’s a state and a place totally apart from God, totally absent of God. If you want to know what that is like, think of the most selfish person that you know. People like that often have a lot of money and a lot of hangers on, but they are also completely alone. They are so caught up in themselves that they are completely indifferent to others; when they are loved, they do not love back. They have a soul like a steel door. They are not immoral, but amoral; they do not care what they have to do to get what they want or who they hurt in the process, nothing has any value to them, save themselves. Someone like this is totally unreachable and the state in which they exist is hell. Where is the place called hell and is it a lake of fire? I don’t know, but what I do know is this; someone like this could stand in heaven and still be in hell; it’s something you carry around with you. This kind of person is what we term as an unbeliever; we do not mean an atheist, although there are atheists like this, just as there are theists like this. Christ’s judgement is based on whether we fed the hungry and the thirsty, visited the sick and those in prison; those who do go to heaven, those who didn’t go to hell. But it is the person’s choice, not God’s. People are punished by their wrong-doing, rather than for it.

    Re suffering, again, God cannot force himself on us. If we do something wrong, he cannot just throw a big thunderbolt at us; its against the law of free will. Hence man’s inhumanity to man. But that isn’t the whole of the puzzle; the real puzzle is why God allows innocent suffering, like the case that you quoted to me. Why does he allow it? Why doesn’t he cure everyone? Doesn’t he care?

    Christ gave an answer to one part of the question. Yes, he does care. He gave up his power, walked amongst us, healed those who asked and allowed us to do what we pleased with him, which was to kill him. But he did not answer the second part of the question; why there is suffering. What he did instead was to enter into suffering with us and bring something good out of it. And that is the grim reality of being a Christian. It should not be understood as a ticket out of suffering, that your life will be easier or luckier or free from illness, or longer. What Christ does promise is that your life will be a full one and that you will become all that you are capable of being as a person. He also says that suffering has a purpose; it is not meaningless and we will understand this in the next world, when we can see the whole picture, not just part of it.

    Now, some can accept this, and some can’t. I would not fault those who can’t and I would not try to argue with them. Each person’s suffering is a journey that they take on their own; no one can take it for them. For my part, I have found in my own life that suffering has been a great teacher, and it has changed me for the better. It has taught me what is important and what is not. And that is why I am willing to trust Christ’s word on this. I have also learned that a real tragedy is not a short life, but a wasted one. I have known people who have lived short lives and done a great deal; I have also known people who have lived long lives and wasted them. The question to ask is not how long someone’s life was, but whether it was worth it.
    As I say, I would never fault someone who has rejected God on these grounds, and I am always careful with atheists, because this is usually the reason they are so inclined. And it is not something I have accepted meekly myself ; I have a list of questions the length of my arm to ask God, before I set a foot in heaven. But the thing I always come back to, is that I find the person of Christ haunting. He is not someone that I find I can ignore. Love him, yes, hate him, yes, ignore him; no. He’s like a tune you can’t get out of your head. And that is why I am a Christian.

    Aphra, thanks for allowing me all this space on your blog; I didn’t mean to clutter it up like this, but I hope it’s been worth it. Alfster, thanks for the kind comments re the health campaigning. I’m going back to my own blog for the next few days; I will keep an eye on this thread, but any replies will be shorter than what I have been doing.

  46. Julie – you are welcome. I knew when I posted this post (and called it what I did) that it would generate a lot of comments. I’m grateful for your thoughtfulness, patience and coherence.

    I disagree with you on your major points of course! But that’s because I cannot accept your premises, not because I find (most of) the arguments based on them inherently flawed.

    As an example, I’ll take a premise you mention in your previous post: free will. My problem with that is that it is something I really don’t believe in. I think we have the illusion of free will but that what actually drives us is unconscious stuff like habit, social norms, cognitive blindspots and biases, the expectations of others, the way our specific brains are wired, conditioned responses.

    The only way I’ve found to deal with this conundrum is to behave *as if* I have free will, and to question my habits and biases as ruthlessly as I can manage.

    I also find it hard to square this view (which is what the evidence indicates) with my sensation of individuality, self-determination and choice.

    Ach, it would be dull if it all made sense.

    A/B

  47. Julie:

    “why do you keep stating that the Bible is the only evidence of Jesus having existed, when I have quoted you, not once, but twice, Tacitus, Claudius and Pliny the Younger?”

    I don’t. Read again what I wrote. Nowhere did I say in my last piece that the Bible was the ONLY evidence.

    But your problem is this: you’re trying to make out that there’s more evidence for the existence of Christ than there is for Winnie the Pooh. More than one person wrote about Pooh, too. His existence is a matter of record, not of faith.

    “Re Lourdes and Randi, as I said, I don’t understand this at all.”

    Since you don’t understand it, I think it’s best we stop debating it.

    “On amputees, I didn’t say anything, because it has not been within my direct experience.”

    Neither is the physical existence of Christ, but you don’t mind quoting books on that subject.

    “A friend of mine claims that her mother saw an amputee healed; the person’s foot grew back, but as I say I didn’t mention it because I only have someone else’s word for it in this case.”

    Does it occur to you that if this had happened it would be the single most important medical news story in the last 100 years, more important than heart transplantation, in vitro fertilisation or the discovery of anti-retrovirals?

    Does it occur to you that if it was true, everything we thought we knew about the human body’s capacity to heal would have been proven wrong?

    Does it occur to you, therefore, that this friend of yours or her mother is obviously lying? Not a pleasant thought, perhaps, but blindingly obvious nevertheless.

    “In the other two cases, I knew the people involved, and I am therefore at ease quoting it. Our church is pretty circumspect about reporting miracles; it does not mean that they do not happen, but you have to be within our circle to know about them and that’s a pity.”

    That seems to me to be a very suspicious attitude. Are not Christians evangelical? Did not your messiah exhort you to spread the good news?

    It would seem to me that proof of the miraculous regrowth of an amputated limb would be precisely the kind of thing you should be shouting to the rooftops. Indeed, IF such a thing had happened, it would make atheism practically impossible. And yet you’re “circumspect”.

    I hope you can have enough self-awareness to realise how this comes across to other people. If not, let me tell you. You come across as delusional. You see things that “prove” your god exists, things that you could easily show to other people. But you don’t. And if asked, you’re “circumspect”. Again, it sounds, to an objective outside observer, like mental illness.

    “Re: The quiz question, whether you have been sacked from a job or beaten up, or threatened because you are an atheist, I noted that the answer that all of you gave to that was no.”

    You did not, because that was not the answer I gave.

    I honestly begin to have difficulty conversing with people who can’t even, apparently, read what I wrote.

    “The answer is different for me. I was warned at university by a friendly lecturer that mentioning religion or Christ in an essay would get you marked down.”

    Then, once again, the answer is not different for you. The questions are written in English. Please read them again. They refer to
    (a) being fired from a job or
    (b) being physically threatened.

    Your story is about a friendly mention about what’s appropriate to put in an essay for an educational assignment. If you can’t tell why this is not relevant to either of the questions, again, we’re going to have difficulty conversing.

    “My parish priest was also set upon by a group of thugs because he was wearing a collar and given a kicking.”

    Uh… is he an atheist?

    People beat people up for displaying outward signs of difference. A dog collar is such a sign. Beating someone up for being an atheist is a completely different concept. I don’t honestly expect you to understand why.

    “This is a common occurence now, when it would have been unthinkable some years ago.”

    Oh, how true. Christian priest never used to be persecuted… oh, hang on…

    “The Church of England actually paid for its vicars to undergo courses in self defence.”

    Advice on sensible clothing would be a better use of funds.

    “And I think the example of Michael Reiss, who was forced to resign from his position at the Royal Society for suggesting that science teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism”

    I think that was entirely proper. He brought the Royal Society into disrepute.

    “If you really don’t believe that the churches are being persecuted just now, then answer this question. Do you think that if I went for a job interview, that it would be a good idea for me to wear a cross?”

    I honestly don’t think it would make a difference. As I pointed out – over 72% of this country self-identify as Christian. If you think that you can be oppressed when you’re part of such an overwhelming majority, you come across, as I said, as slightly mentally ill.

    Of course, it would depend on the cross. If you had little cross shaped earrings, or a small necklace, I doubt it would even be noticed. If you had a large wooden crucifix on a chain, or a tattoo on your arm, expect prejudice, I guess.

    “Re Oxford etc, the church has everything to do with where we are now in the 21st century.”

    NO. It had everything to do with some of the route here. But its relevance is long past.

    “For poor people who were also smart, the church was the only place that they could get an education and somewhere to study and research.”

    When was that last true? I was poor and smart, and the church taught me NOTHING. The comprehensive school system and the university grant system educated me.

    “the church has been a far greater friend of science than those nowadays would care to admit”

    Very much in the past. No longer.

    “On heliocentrism, we didn’t stick with that position for three centuries.”

    I don’t propose to debate this. It’s a matter of record that the Pope accepted heliocentrism in 1992.

    “I will answer on your ‘two gods’ question in my next post to Alfster”

    The essence of your answer seems to be that basically if the Bible says something you don’t agree with, you ignore it.

    On that basis, I am a Christian, just like you. I just draw the line in a different place.

    Can you dispute that?

  48. Winnie The Pooh prophet writes down new stories of the bears exploits on Earth.

    Rejoice, more proof that Pooh existed.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/pooh-bear-returns-after-80year-gap-1298528.html

  49. Sorb,

    This will be my final comment on this thread whether or not you choose to have the last word, (which I’m sure you will.) I think I’ve said enough and given clear enough answers on everything that I’ve been asked, and I think I have shown courtesy towards your position which is is more than you have shown me. Everything I have written here I have also done under my own name; I have not sheltered behind a pseudonym, which you have chosen to do. Just one last suggestion; if you want to tell someone you think they’re mentally ill, do it under your own name or not at all.

  50. SoRB, one of the things that lets you down in these debates is that you create a fundamentalist-shaped box and ram all Christians in it. Then you abuse specific individuals for fundamentalist beliefs they don’t hold AND abuse them for not holding them. It weakens your argument entirely unecessarily.

    >> Are not Christians evangelical?

    No.

    Some are. Some aren’t. So what?

    >> Did not your messiah exhort you to spread the good news?

    So what? Christians respond to different parts of the biblical messages in different ways. They pick and choose. Stop generalising and get over it.

    >> I hope you can have enough self-awareness to realise how this comes across to other people

    Pot. Kettle.

    >> If you can’t tell why this is not relevant to either of the questions, again, we’re going to have difficulty conversing.

    Julie’s comment was relevent, if tangential. This is not a cross-examination in a court of law, it’s a conversation. Relevent if tangential is allowed here.

    >> >> “And I think the example of Michael Reiss, who was forced to resign from his position at the Royal Society for suggesting that science teachers should be prepared to discuss creationism”

    >> I think that was entirely proper. He brought the Royal Society into disrepute.

    I disagree with you there SoRB. From what I read about it, it seemed Reiss proposed discussing WHY creationism was not science in science lessons. Discussing what is and is not science is an entirely proper thing to do in science lessons. It is arguable that it is what science lessons are FOR. Using creationism as an example is neither here nor there in the logic of the thing, and it’s a good controlled place to tackle the debate. If anyone brought the Royal Society into disrepute it was the Royal Society itself, by reacting as it did. All of this presupposes the reporting that I read was accurate, and I’ve yet to find any that is.

    >> The essence of your answer seems to be that basically if the Bible says something you don’t agree with, you ignore it.

    Yes. Most Christians do. It makes their positions complicated, nuanced and contradictory. So what? They are not answerable to you for what they think.

    >> On that basis, I am a Christian, just like you. I just draw the line in a different place.

    >> Can you dispute that?

    I can dispute it. You don’t self-identify as Christian. I’ve known people who do self-identify as Christians who don’t believe in either the virgin birth or the resurrection, though I don’t think I’ve known any who self-identify as Christians who are also atheists.

    The thing is, I agree with you SoRB. Christianity is implausible, internally contradictory and, in some hands, dangerous. (Though no more dangerous than several secular ideologies – large groups of people driven by an ideology are dangerous per se). But by hectoring people for things they don’t believe in, and then blaming them for not believing them, is NOT the way to convince anyone of anything other than that you are an intellectual bully.

    I’ve been considering closing down this thread for a while now, but I won’t because I believe in letting these things run their course.

    A/B

    PS – Interesting about David Benedictus and the sequel to Pooh, Alfster. I wonder if he’ll manage to pull off Milne’s tone of voice.

  51. He will not be pulling off Milne’s tone at all…like Milne he will be writing what Winne The Pooh(PBUH) is transmitting to him from his throne in his next-world of honey that he now occupies. Hence, it will be exactly the same…unless Pooh(PBUH) decides that a different intonation is required just like the supposed (false) god Yaweh has done many times through his false prophets.

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