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An atheist philosopher leaves the door open to religion’s power

Philosopher Stephen Asma in 2015. Photo by Brian Wingert

CHICAGO (RNS) — Stephen Asma plays life like he plays jazz – riffing on a theme, taking up a thread of an idea, then going further, leaning in to improvisation, which means saying “yes … and … ” to whatever comes in the door.

Philosophy professor, painter, blues/jazz guitarist, author, traveler, Buddhist/agnostic reared Catholic, Asma keeps all his doors open.

At Columbia College in Chicago, where he’s taught philosophy for nearly 20 years, the door stays open to his small sunny office. He has a ninth-floor view of Lake Michigan and a schedule so busy he sometimes forgets to look out the window.

The office is just a block from Buddy Guy’s Legends, the blues club where he played in the house band after working his way to a doctorate playing gigs and touring with a blues group on bills with Guy, Bo Diddley and B.B. King. Asma quit the band when teaching and traveling and writing – 10 books now and counting – overtook his time, but he still plays with friends and his teenage son.

“Why We Need Religion” by Stephen T. Asma. Image courtesy of Oxford University Press

Now, his latest book, “Why We Need Religion,” asks that readers’ minds stay open even as he writes things that send partisans in religion vs. science debates into a tizzy, such as:

  • “Religion doesn’t need to be true to save your life.”
  • “How one feels is as vital to one’s survival as how one thinks.”
  • “We are help-seeking mammals and religiosity is built into our brains.”

The week the book was released in June, Asma also posted a related essay in The New York Times, “What Religion Gives Us (That Science Can’t).” It provoked 1,200 comments, favorable and damning, in a matter of hours.

True believers look askance at his argument that the veracity of beliefs – a creator God, salvation through Jesus, the self-erasure of Buddhist enlightenment and so on – is irrelevant. Asma argues that religion evolved as a self-protective, adaptive, supportive, therapeutic and ultimately subjective practice. It is an emotional survival toolbox that resides in the limbic brain, headquarters of human emotions as true as love, or grief or fear.

True skeptics scoff at Asma’s idea that religion’s value is in offering solace, strength or delights science cannot match.

Atheist Jerry Coyne, a frequent critic of Asma for nearly a decade, blasted the philosopher on his blog, “Why Evolution Is True,” as an anti-science sales-grubbing author who produced “Why We Need Religion” because Asma is a “canny speculator about what the American populace wants to hear.”

Asma’s gray eyes crinkle as he laughs over Coyne’s comments.

“He really doesn’t look at what I am saying or understand that I love science. He treats me like I’m a gullible New Age twit,” says Asma, who just finished an upcoming textbook on the evolution of cognition that he co-authored with a psychologist.

Stephen Asma looks at an ancient sculpture of a god, titled “Shiva With Four Faces,” a fertility symbol from Rajasthan, India, during a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago on June 18, 2018. RNS photo by Cathy Lynn Grossman

Asma, 51, grew up as a Catholic altar boy, a painter and a guitarist. He discovered Aristotle when a priest came to talk to his eighth-grade parochial school class. When it came time for college, he planned to major in painting.

He often takes the easy walk from his office to the Art Institute, where he finds inspiration for his paintings in the Asian sculpture exhibits and the museum’s collection of “naïve but intense” medieval paintings.

“It’s like the blues – you can see the artists reaching, yearning. You can see the struggle in the technique,” he says.

But for Asma, philosophy won out.

“I realized I could always draw or paint on my own but I couldn’t understand Immanuel Kant without help,” he says.

Asma slid away from Catholicism during the years he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Northern Illinois University and doctorate at the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Once he was teaching, he also began traveling to Southeast Asia and later China on a Fulbright Fellowship.

“I had been drawn into Buddhism by reading about it but I wanted to see it on the ground. I saw that it is more psychological than traditional religions that posit a God or a soul. You work out your own enlightenment. It is very compatible with science, yet filled with ornate imagery and rituals and devotions. It’s not like the dry intellectual Zen Buddhism we Americans get from reading books.”

His observations fit with his growing interest in neuroscience and psychology. And a thread began weaving through his books, such as “The Evolution of Imagination” (2017), where Asma describes the emotional mind as a framework for transmitting values and connection within a social world, providing the story framework for everything from joy to existential suffering.

“I came to see religion as one of the earliest forms of culture and I realized it needed to be addressed in a systematic way.” And that prompted him to zero in and write “Why We Need Religion.”

Even so, Asma says, leaning his tall frame back in his office chair and ticking off his points, he has no problem writing off beliefs that collapse under the eye of science. After all, he is a founder and senior fellow of Columbia College’s Research Group in Mind, Science and Culture.

“If my students say evolution didn’t happen, I will try to teach them the facts. My argument is not that any belief that makes you feel good is all right.” However, beliefs that “are out of the realm of proof” – the existence of God or the soul or free will or the prospect of an afterlife – can be respected for their emotional sustaining roles.

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine and a columnist for Scientific American, recently asked Asma why he isn’t an atheist if he operates like one who doesn’t believe in God.

Asma  replied, “You can’t know for sure but in my own life, I suspect there is no God in the personal way that the monotheisms recognize. ” And so, in classic Asma way, he leaves the door open. 

He may not kneel in prayer like the Catholic schoolboy he once was. But, he says: “Sometimes there is no help by other human beings, and your emotions go out to the universe. We evolved things such as prayer to manage that spontaneous yearning. I’m not embarrassed. I don’t think it is intellectually cowardly. Religiosity is in human nature.”

Stephen Asma, right, performs on guitar at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago in 2013. Screenshot

(Cathy Lynn Grossman has covered religion, ethics and spirituality for 20 years. This story was written with support from a Templeton Foundation grant.)

A DNA strand next to the title of the series.

 

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Cathy Lynn Grossman

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  • If religiosity was not in human nature, you would not have so many people looking for spiritual experiences. That said, I think it would be well for people to worship what might be true. Our understanding of what “might be” changes over time. For instance, holding onto what someone wrote in a supposedly sacred scripture when all available evidence contradicts the writing is not religion at all really. It is desperation. If you have to be on a mission to convince yourself and everyone else that the Tower of Babel story is literally true, you won’t really have room for much else in thought.

  • I disagree – I think we have a tendency to believe – not a tendency to religiosity.

    Religiosity is simply the result of belief being (mis)directed by those who seek to manipulate others.

    We have an evolutionary bias toward belief.

    Those who followed the instructions to “mind that cliff edge”, “don’t go in the water”, “avoid wild carnivores” etc. were more likely to pass their genes on to further generations than those who ignored such suggestions.

    Doesn’t mean that all belief is valid, simply that most humans are pre-disposed to assume that those claiming authority should be obeyed.

    – – – – – –

    “I suspect there is no God in the personal way that the monotheisms recognize.”

    That’s not “leaving the door open” – it’s agnostic atheism – the absence of belief due to the lack of evidence or rational argument supporting such belief. Most atheists are agnostic atheists.

  • Leaving the door open is what the world needs.” I will try to teach (my students) the facts” regarding evolution, is the same thing that Darwin did. The Creator is more into the science of time travel than evolution. We are going forward in time, are we not.

  • “I suspect there is no God in the personal way that the monotheisms recognize.”

    That’s not “leaving the door open” – it’s agnostic atheism – the absence of belief due to the lack of evidence or rational argument supporting such belief. Most atheists are agnostic atheists.

    Assuming by “monotheisms” he means “Abrahamic monotheisms”, then it’s only agnostic atheism if one ignores the various conceptions of “God” or “the Divine” or “the Transcendent” found in the non-Abrahamic religions.

  • OK – he hasn’t shut the door – neither do I. There is always the possibility of something that someone can regard as a deity. Since there is neither evidence nor rational argument to support such a deity, no detectable effect on this universe’s condition, the point is academic. If such a god exists it is irrelevant and the door is rightly as near closed as can be done without the latch dropping.

  • Greetings Givethedogabone, we meet again. It’s been awhile. In Luke 10:25-28, Jesus was challenged by a lawyer. Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Just as Jesus was inquiring into the lawyer’s analytical process of understanding, so I inquire into your process of thinking that brought you to the conclusion that there is no god. What convinced you that agnostic atheism is tenable? You did mention the lack of evidence, or rational argument for such a being leads you to conclude it is irrelevant to temporal life. Perhaps, in other contexts, you may have explained the matter in some detail, of which I am obviously unaware. My lacuna.
    Certainly, I, myself, conclude the matter very differently from you, yet I am curious as to the reasons behind your skepticism. Would you care to provide a few brief reasons for your skepticism. Thanks, ‘dog’. Have a great day! YRIMP.

  • “For instance, holding onto what someone wrote in a supposedly sacred scripture when all available evidence contradicts the writing is not religion at all really. It is desperation.”

    Or it is religion and your mocking it is desperation.

  • A quickie note: You say,“We have an evolutionary bias toward belief.”

    But what exactly does that sentence mean? What “evolutionary bias”? What biological or genetic evidence do you have — at all — that the Darwinian theory of materialistic, unguided evolution somehow caused humans to have and practice specific religious beliefs?

    If Asma was here in this forum, I’d ask him a similar question about his falsehood, “We evolved things such as prayer.” Where’s any evolutionary evidence, where’s the biology & genetics, to prove such a statement?

  • Actually, this forum has already seen a lot of “evidence and rational argument” presented to support the existence of God. Honestly, I’ve never had so much fun exploring the seemingly infinite Romans 1:20 (which says evidence exists for God and is readily available), as I have in my time here at the RNS forum.

    Modern science has unleashed an avalanche of evidence for God, which clearly explains why most atheists are trying to cover their backsides by conflating the labels of atheism and agnosticism.

  • So here’s a little challenge for all you RNS atheists. Show your readers what’cha GOT!!

    “Like the laws of mathematics, consciousness has no physical presence in the world; the images and thoughts in our consciousness have no measurable dimensions. Yet, our nonphysical thoughts somehow mysteriously guide the actions of our physical human bodies. This is no more scientifically explicable than the mysterious ability of nonphysical mathematical constructions to determine the workings of a separate physical world…

    “… (Atheist) Thomas Nagel, wrote in 2012 that, given the scientifically inexplicable – the “intractable” – character of human consciousness, “we will have to leave (scientific) materialism behind” as a complete basis for understanding the world of human existence.

    “As an atheist, Nagel does not offer religious belief as an alternative, but I would argue that the supernatural character of the workings of human consciousness adds grounds for raising the probability of the existence of a supernatural god.”

    — Prof. Robert H. Brown, author of “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways To Think About The Question Of A God” (2015), from The Conversation website, 05-10-2017

  • Actually, I’m still waiting for people — anybody, really — to rationally or scientifically rule out the historicity of the Tower of Babel account.

    So far, there’s nothing either in Science or Scripture that shows any such rational or historical impossibilitly.

  • “the conclusion that there is no god” – not atheism (except in the Renaissance meaning which is still used by some historians but no longer common usage).

    Atheism is the absence of belief in god(s).

    Agnostic atheism is atheism which says that whilst something that someone might call god(s) may exist outside our universe the lack of both evidence and need for such a being is so complete that the only, IMO, rational result is to discount the possibility.

    First point – it is the moral duty of those who make claims the consequences of which they wish to impose on others that they provide valid support for their claim(s). Simply saying that the claim cannot utterly be disproven is not a validation of the claim. Otherwise every crackpot idea that cannot be disproven must be true – even when they are incompatible. Every argument I have had presented in support of god(s) fails on this point.

    The degree of credulity apparent amongst those who claim to be able to “prove” is often disturbing. Yesterday I was told, by an American “Baptist” family member, of the work being done in Israel, funded by a Texan billionaire, that is uncovering archaeological sites that can be linked to sites mentioned in the Bible. Apparently this therefore validates every word in the Bible from Genesis to the Revelation. In the UK we have a city of c. 290.000 people called Nottingham and a large area near it known as Sherwood Forest. I do not infer from these two facts that the bits I choose from everything that has been written about Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck et al is factual reporting.

    Specific claims about specific god(s) are often incompatible. I grew up being told how the Holy Ghost changed people’s lives – for most the changes (if any) were merely cosmetic and in no case was a supernatural being the only, let alone the most likely, reason. The God I was taught to believe in is immoral, petty, vindictive, incompetent and absent. Until one reaches the suggestion that “god” means a vague, indescribable, spirit of goodness all gods fall short of the glory men claim for them (and the spirit of goodness seems to be limited to the goodness that is done either through coincidence or the efforts of people – religious or not).

  • You don’t/won’t understand the scientific theory of evolution. Your, or indeed my, ignorance/refusal does not invalidate said theory.

    Evolution is not unguided – variations occur which may prove useful, dangerous or irrelevant to the continuation of the species through reproductive success.

    Variations which provide the carrier with reproductive advantage are likely to spread within society, those that are dangerous tend to wither naturally. The vast majority are irrelevant at the time they arise and may continue so for many generations. Sometimes subsequent variations combine with existing, but effectively dormant, variations and consequences (positive or negative) may result.

    One of the traits that encourages reproductive success is the exercise of power. Through the development of humanity various supernatural systems (aka religions) have been invented – some providing great power to their leaders. Such power is attractive to those who don’t have personal power so some of them take advantage of the survival value of obedience spread through successful reproduction to misuse that protection and extend it into gullibility.

    Specific religious beliefs are simply, I suspect, those religious beliefs that, at the time, work. They usually use carrot and stick, denigrate the value of the individual and invent future scenarios for which they have absolutely no evidence.

  • Perhaps you could detail some of what you consider to be evidence and rational argument supporting the existence of God?

    I have asked you to do this repeatedly – you either cannot or will not. Repeating something does not impinge on its validity – let’s have something more than unsupported wishful thinking.

    As I wrote to another poster – The degree of credulity apparent amongst those who claim to be able to “prove” is often disturbing. Yesterday I was told, by an American “Baptist” family member, of the work being done in Israel, funded by a Texan billionaire, that is uncovering archaeological sites that can be linked to sites mentioned in the Bible. Apparently this therefore validates every word in the Bible from Genesis to the Revelation. In the UK we have a city of c. 290.000 people called Nottingham and a large area near it known as Sherwood Forest. I do not infer from these two facts that the bits I choose from everything that has been written about Robin Hood, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck et al is factual reporting.

  • As an aside . . .

    “The God I was taught to believe in is immoral, petty, vindictive, incompetent and absent.” And millions of people worship, praise, and glorify that God! . . . which explains why a huge majority of those same people also worship, praise, and glorify Donald Trump who is just like their god, but unlike their god, is not absent (unfortunately).

  • Rationality and science do not need to prove a claim wrong in order to assume it’s false. Those who claim something to be true have the burden of proof. That’s why we are able to rationally dismiss claims of unicorns, fairies and gods until evidence is presented to back up the claims.

  • “If religiosity was not in human nature, you would not have so many people looking for spiritual experiences.”

    You would if those people were surrounded by people who kept telling them that spiritual experiences were valuable. And guess what – there are such people everywhere.

  • Hmmm. Friendlygoat actually presented an argument to back up his claim. You’re just presenting contradiction. His argument is far more convincing.

  • Thanks Cathy for an, as usual, well-written article! It captures Asma’s view, share by many, that suggests they reality of what you believe is less important than the comfort you get from a belief or religion. While I may disagree, I value understanding his viewpoint. Thanks again, Tony

  • Yup – teach people that their future is eternal torment unless they worship a psychopath and guess what they’ll do when offered the chance to vote for one.

  • Well, that’s why I included the little snippet below from Prof. Brown. These days, you can easily see theistic ammunition freely being handed out by both atheists and theists. No wonder you are forced to “leave the door open.”

    Atheists like Thomas Nagel are chopping the legs out from under your own atheism. But that is unavoidable these days, ain’t it? Just plain too much evidence that God created you.

    So enjoy Brown’s snippet. And don’t forget the eyes and ears you’re using today. You already know Who the Bible says specifically created them (Prov. 20:12), and modern science supports THAT statement too.

  • Atheism is the absence of belief in god(s).

    Agnostic atheism is atheism due to the lack of evidence or reasoning to support such belief.

    No contradiction.

  • I think you may be getting the human desire to believe confused with survival instinct. I’m not sure that avoiding danger has as much to do with trusting authority as it does learning from experience. Most of us need to touch the stove once or twice before we’ll pay attention to Mommy telling us not to.

    That said, I do agree that there is something hardwired into the human person that makes us want to know where we came from and what it all means. In that sense, religion and science aren’t really in opposition to one another. They’re more like siblings.

  • “As an atheist, Nagel does not offer religious belief as an alternative, but I would argue that the supernatural character of the workings of human consciousness adds grounds for raising the probability of the existence of a supernatural god.””

    You’re not allowed to cherry-pick a statement that supports (sort of) your wishful thinking.

    Nagel. a philosopher, is entitled to his thoughts – they’re not supported by people who actually work in this field.

    “This lead the researchers to argue that consciousness could simply be an “emergent property” of a system that’s trying to maximise information exchange. ” Much more recent (2018) – and authored from data and peer review by scientists rather than a philosopher. https://www.sciencealert.com/human-consciousness-could-be-a-result-of-entropy-study-science

    Using science to support religion demonstrates the difference between science (our current understanding is the best we can do and may need to be updated when further evidence comes to light) as opposed to religion (we can twist this into supporting our guess – therefore it is right and I’m not going to consider the possibility that it might not be – ever). Believers, since by definition they believe, seem unable to grasp that using science always leaves them with egg on their faces.
    – – – – –

    I daren’t ask what makes you think “modern science supports THAT statement (God made eyes and ears) too” until I’ve finished my coffee.

    Firstly – one of the things a newborn human has to do is learn to synchronise auditory understanding with visual understanding (look it up – but a halfway decent god would have arranged that they were synchronised before birth). It’s why you hit the back of a vehicle if its brake lights come on and you’re within half a second of it.

    Secondly – our eyes are inefficient – the blind spot is a serious (and unnecessary) design flaw and we miss all sorts of visual data because we can’t see I/R, UV etc.

    Your god (were he real) would be exposed in many, many ways as lazy, incompetent, uncaring and ignorant. Probably takes a very special person to worship such a loser.

  • I don’t think we have a desire to believe – I think, as you say, we have a desire to survive that is hardwired and if that is strengthened (through experience or observation) by exposure to authority (real or imagined – how many “old wives tales are repeated generation to generation – and wrong) we tend to accept instructions from authority without as much questioning as we otherwise might. That leaves the very real possibility that the world is disproportionately inhabited by those with a bias to believe.

    Once such a bias exists other people can/will misuse it to their personal advancement. Religion is but one of such manipulative systems. In other words – religious belief is facilitated by a pre-existing bias to believe.

    On reflection – I don’t think that religion and science are in opposition – but I think the scientific method and supernatural belief are incompatible. Science and religion may have the same questions – but the paths to an answer are chalk and cheese – particularly since the possible answers are much more limited for religion (they must be compatible with dogma) than for science (they must be compatible with the laws of physics).

  • “taking up the thread of an idea, then going further” I got the same idea from Jonah. One day as I was asking Jonah where he was running to, for about the hundredth time, and he finally replied that he was going to the fourth generation. Lo and behold, I took the idea and ran with it, expecting it to peter out, but it did not. The idea of time travel in the Bible is a must read. Take Exodus 33:23 for instance, what comes after me in time, is my future generations. Jesus fulfilled this scripture when he met Moses on the mount. The same thing happened to Elijah.

  • You say, “Evolution is not unguided.”
    (Which tells me that you may need an, umm, refresher course.)

    “Evolution has no goal.” — evolutionist Dr. Jerry Coyne

    “A completely mindless process.” — evolutionist Dr. Douglas Futuyma

    “Natural selection is the simple result of variation, differential reproduction, and heredity — it is mindless and mechanistic. It has no goals; it’s not striving to produce “progress” or a balanced ecosystem.”

    — from “Understanding Evolution: Evolution 101”
    https://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evo_32

  • I disagree that scientific method and supernatural belief are necessarily incompatible. Scientific method and dogma may be. Certainly it’s incompatible with Biblical fundamentalism.

    But many of us who believe have no problem allowing science and metaphysics to each inhabit their own space. More to the point, we don’t live in denial of that which science clearly demonstrates just because it challenges certain religious precepts. Rather, we lean into that challenge so as to grow.

  • I can rationally rule out the Tower of Babel. Everything we know about natural history, engineering, the space where heaven is not, and——AND——decent religion—– says that the Tower of Babel story Is an erroneous fable and should be regarded as such. We don’t have and wouldn’t want a God who talks or acts like what was related in that story.

  • One of the difficulties facing atheists when talking with religious folks – many of whom are lovely, scientifically aware people is that it takes a long time to find out what it is that they actually believe. It has been suggested that there as many gods as there are believers – though my own experience suggests that a substantial number who claim to believe have little or no belief beyond “there must be something out there mustn’t there”. Go to https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2005/sep/29/comedy.religion for a comic’s take on the difficulty.

    That, inevitably I suppose, means that we(I) tend to take short cuts and make assumptions. Clearly your beliefs are not identical to some who post here. I’m not sure that I could construct a post which covered all the possible variations that would fit on the internet!

    I think that the scientific method precludes supernatural belief – ” “My practice as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world.” population geneticist J. B. S. Haldane”

    plus

    “So does that make it a realm where science and religion can come to an understanding?
    One of the meeting’s most outspoken participants, Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, says definitely not.
    “One gets the impression from a meeting like this that scientists care about God; they don’t,” he says.
    “You can’t disprove the theory of God. The power of science is uncertainty. Everything is uncertain, but science can define that uncertainty.
    That’s why science makes progress and religion doesn’t.””

    Maybe there are people who can so compartmentalise their life that religion and science exist in discrete boxes? If so is that indicative of the sibling relationship or of a capacity for mental gymnastics that I can’t undertake?

    My childhood was spent in an environment where the Bible was the WORD OF GOD. My mother believed all the impossible contradictions were somehow not contradictory and that it would all be sorted out once we were dead. My CofE priest/Anglican minister father had been to Theological College (he graduated as an LTh to add to his BA) and (privately) thought differently. When I realised that some of the Bible was not the true account some claimed it to be (12th birthday-ish) I took the view that kept my mother trapped and reversed its effect. Instead of “it must all be true because if some of it isn’t the rest is suspect” I saw “some of it is untrue – therefore all of it may be.” That, I think, was the moment religion and I became divorced.

    I understand the fundamentalist “no Garden of Eden – no Adam and no Eve – no temptation – no fall – no original sin – no
    need for redemption – no need for redemption no need for Jesus – no Jesus no blood sacrifice for sins – no need for a deity who can’t be demonstrated to exist. Perhaps, for some and worst of all, no reward/punishment – no eternal life. That I get – and, in honesty, it has a noble self-destructiveness that touches my mind. By contrast, any attempt (as is in reality done by all thinking Christians) to create a cohesive(ish) model by selecting and rejecting various texts reminds me of childhood visits to Woolworths’ pick-and-mix sweets counter. It is more pragmatic than all or nothing – but it ain’t romantic!

  • Is English your first language?

    Look – guided doesn’t mean the same as pushed. It means that there are constraints to unrestricted behaviour.

    With the scientific theory of evolution the constraint is not a goal, a pre-conceived result – it is the constraint of practicality. Simply – if the variation leads to greater reproductive success is will proliferate – if it doesn’t it won’t.

    I strongly recommend that you learn what the scientific theory of evolution is before you start trying to critique your erroneous preconceptions. Until you do you will continue to display your ignorance and appear to enjoy wallowing in what those who understand the subject may see as wretched humiliation.

  • Thanks for your reflection. I’ll share a final thought or two and move on. First, I observe that many atheists seem to have been raised in fundamentalist households, which is not surprising, I suppose. But I do think it tends to limit their understanding of religion. For many of us, faith isn’t about certainty or fervor. It’s about the values around which we pitch our tent. It’s about making a choice to dig deeply in a certain place (a particular religious tradition) so as to give our lives direction, meaning and purpose.

    I was raised in the Vatican II RC Church, which had a certain “bend but don’t break” freedom to it. It instilled within many of us a healthy metaphysical imagination that allows for a wrestling match with truth that includes such things as sign, symbol, analogy, poetry, myth and mystery. Most importantly, it allows for peaceful coexistence with those who sees things differently.

    So, unlike some others on this board, I don’t feel threatened by, or hostile to, conscientious atheists. I respect anyone who tries to follow their path with integrity and honesty. I do get testy sometimes with those who feel the need to belittle my beliefs in order to boost their own egos, but beyond that, I say live and let live.

    As I said, moving on. Enjoy your day.

  • Thank you for your magnanimity.

    Without seeking to prolong unreasonably may I suggest the Humanism (atheism with attitude?) can also supply a values-based lifestyle – one where morality and “right” feature prominently.

  • Didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I’ve known more than a few moral humanists/atheists and plenty of immoral practitioners of religion. Being one doesn’t preclude being the other.

  • Thank you, Givethedogabone, for your reply and descriptions. Your first point, providing valid support for a claim, is reasonable. The second phrase of your first point strikes me as emotionally excessive; “impose on others?” I know that there are many that are forceful or threatening. I may have been accused of that in the past. Each of us make choices. Nobody is forced into a decision.

    Your second point, an “all, or nothing” perspective strikes me as a bit extreme. Yes, there have been Archaeological discoveries that indicate ancient cultural customs that are only briefly described in the Bible. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say they validate every word in the Bible. That is neither the intention, nor the extent of its validation.

    Your third point, concerning the nature of the God of the Bible, is especially noteworthy to me. Apparently, you have had especially unpleasant experiences in your church background. Many people have somewhat similar experiences. It happens. You make an interesting reference to how the Holy Ghost changes people’s lives. Thanks for explaining some things.

    A few brief points of consideration. In Exodus 5, when Moses challenged Pharaoh, Pharaoh said, “Who is YHWH-God that I should obey him?” This is a question in search of verification. In 1 Kings 18:20-21 the Prophet Elijah challenged the large mixed audience to make a choice between the gods. Here, again, this is a strong request for verification. Finally, in Mark 2:10-12, Jesus, realizing the depth of skepticism of part of the crowd, he boldly offered demonstrable verification for his provocative claims.
    As you know, the Bible is a collection of documents arranged in multiple patterns. Very few of us read the Preface of the Bible. Even fewer of us check out the thousands of historical documents from the 2nd Century to the 14th Century of handwritten copies from which the Bible came. Many of these historical documents have been digitally scanned and posted on several websites for anyone to view and examine. While the documents themselves are in multiple languages, contents and descriptions are easily understandable to the average layperson.
    This simply comprises an inductive paradigm into the more complex history from which the Bible is assembled. Thanks, again, ‘dog.’ Have a great day!

  • “I love you Donny-boy. You are doing a great job for me and the motherlandand I want to tousle your fine fake orange hair and ride you bareback again and help you get re-erected.”

    -Vlady

    “I love you too, Pootie Baby. I want to strap my arms around your manly hairy chest and let you take me and America for another ride, a really deep one. Our love goes beyond the next erection.”
    -your grateful Donny

  • You know nothing about modern science. You support lynching gay and transgender people, Your Blackness.

  • Only to the antagonistic.

    I see by your nom de plume you’re a troll.

    Anything else before I block you?

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    The “impose on others”………………I suspect that many Christians are unaware as to the extent which the consequences of Christianity are felt by non-Christians. In the UK, as in much of the US though in differing forms, Christianity (or at least the power of people claiming/using “Christian” belief) is embedded deep within the fabric of society. This, I guess, is why many Christians believe that their religion is being persecuted when, to the rest of us, all that is happening is a modest attempt to reduce religious privilege (form the Fr. prive lege – private law – not subject to the common law).

    There are only two countries in the world where clerics occupy seats in the national legislature – as of right. Unelected. One is the UK where Bishops sit as of right and vote on laws that affect everyone, Christian or not. They don’t always vote en bloc though I read recently that they seem to support unanimously any fiscal measure which will enrich the Church of England. (The other country being Iran).

    People are using their alleged religious belief to affect the lives of others in many ways.
    Hospitals refusing to carry out some procedures – including deaths arising from dogma-derived decisions
    Women being made to undergo needless mental pain as religious extremists try to ban abortion – even pregnancy due to rape and incest or where the mother’s life is threatened.
    Religious leaders hiding abusers, protecting the religion’s assets rather than its adherents
    Shopping hours restrictions
    Try standing for public office in much of the US and not claiming to be a Christian.
    Christian ministers operating in state education, school walls plastered with indoctrination.
    – – – – – – –
    “Your second point, an “all, or nothing” perspective strikes me as a bit extreme.” Me too Wayne – me too

    “But I wouldn’t go so far as to say they validate every word in the Bible. That is neither the intention, nor the extent of its validation.”
    You wouldn’t – but many do. This was an American citizen, born in the UK but left in her late teens. Now the matriarch of two families in the US (married to a man who was raised in rural Missouri ). They are lovely people, but if their pastor tells them something they believe it. The Bible is inerrant, God delayed the rain so that they could finish a round of mini-golf in the dry, when lost she stopped the car and prayed and when she’d done she recognised a building and knew her way home – praise the Lord: Trump was less evil than Hilary. Oh and when she fell over recently God saved her from serious injury; when I opined that I’d be more impressed if he’d prevented the fall (she was bruised but the only thing broken was skin) I was told that he let her fall as a warning (she’s 80+ and has multiple serious health issues)!
    – – – – – – –
    I don’t think my atheism is the direct result of my experiences in church – rather that the realisation that what I had been taught did not match the evidence of life started the process of questioning, rejecting and replacing Christianity. I suspect that my being here is a search for verification – though the verification I seek is probably the confirmation that my early teen-age rejection of supernatural belief survives the arguments intended to destroy that rejection. That and the desire to let visitors know that there is an alternative view of the universe to the supernatural ones.

    I do, in fact, think that supernatural belief, religion/alternative medicine etc. has a baleful effect on life from the individual to the universal. That there are so many decent, honest and valuable people inside religions is an ongoing source of wonder rather than validation of their belief. I tend to the “good people do good things, bad people do bad things and one of the ways to get good people to do bad things is religion” view of humanity.

    Quoting the Bible to an atheist is not as daft as it might initially appear – but it isn’t as killer as many believers imagine. Rather like quoting Christopher Hitchens to a priest maybe? A source of mental challenge but not an authoritative tome.

  • The scientific method itself is certainly compatible with Christianity. Gen. 1:1, Prov. 20:12, Romans 1:20, it’s all a great fit with the basic scientific method (see link at end of post.) In fact I cannot think of a better way for ordinary people to explore the wonders of those three Bible verses, except by using the scientific method (but be sure to pray first, as Dr. George Washington Carver pointed out.)

    However, the Theory of Evolution has now been totally exposed as incompatible with the clear, vital, non-negotiable teachings of Christianity (and this even includes Catholic Christianity). The public level of incompatibility even reaches as high as the Gospel of Jesus Christ itself, as both Christians and non-Christians have repeatedly pointed out in print, online, and everywhere.

    It’s no longer rationally possible to gloss over the huge, multiple incompatibilities by merely calling evolution “science”, for the evolutionists themselves have openly pointed them out.

  • Hey, you may want to fill in a big gap, and visit the death-penalty thread (“Pope changes the Catechism”) and explain what atheism’s position on the death penalty is.

    (That is, please explain atheism’s position on the DP without stealing any rational, moralor ethical concepts from theism, thanks!)

  • You’re quite mistaken about Catholic teaching, which does not dismiss evolution out of hand, as long as it leaves room for belief in God as the prime mover. Catholicism does not preclude the possibility of God creating through evolution.

  • Hmm. Your usage of “guided” is fake and misleading. You’re trying to cover up for the rather unpalatable evolutionist statements that I quoted from the expert evolutionists, right?
    Sorry, but you’re not able to fix this gig. The Evolution 101 tutorial from Berkeley (which is co-sponsored by NCSE, did you know that?) has already explained the real deal.

    “Not to beat a dead horse (I think it’s still alive), but I vehemently oppose those evolutionists and accommodationists who won’t affirm that evolution is unguided and purposeless (in the sense of not being directed by a higher intelligence or teleological force). For to the best of our knowledge evolution, like all natural processes, is purposeless and unguided.”

    — evolutionist Dr. Jerry Coyne (and yes, evolutionist Dr. Larry Moran agrees with him on this.)

  • Why do you post such ignorant nonsense? Do you want everyone to think that you’re stupid or do you actually think that you know what you’re posting about and suffer from the delusion that you are very clever at laying traps?

    Dunning-Kruger effect

    In the field of psychology, the Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people of low ability have illusory superiority and mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is.

    In simple words it’s “people who are too stupid to know how stupid they are”.

  • I’d ask what your post has to do with the Theory of Evolution, but it might be better to just skip it.

  • So let’s see a few specifics, yes? Tell me something about “natural history” or “engineering principles” that would make the Tower of Babel rationally impossible as actual Earth history.

    (But do be careful, because we already have ancient human-engineered stuff for which we moderns haven’t really figured out the engineering recipe.)

  • You don’t understand grown-up English at all do you. If you did you would understand that “evolution is unguided and purposeless (in the sense of not being directed by a higher intelligence or teleological force).” is exactly what I’ve been saying – the only element of guidance is the feedback loop of reproductive success. Duh

  • Since you were bragging that “atheism with attitude” can supply a values-based lifestyle “where morality and ‘right’ feature prominently”, I just thought I’d suggest a nearby thread where you could give a hands-on demonstration of your claim. It’s okay if you find it a bit too difficult.

  • So let’s kill this dead horse. I already know about this so-called “feedback loop of reproductive success”, I’m just chuckling at your failed attempt to suggest that (unguided and mindless) higher or lower chances of reproductive success constitute any kind of “guidance” in any dictionary sense.

    You remember what evolutionist Dr. Kenneth Miller called you and me and all the other readers? “Lucky Accidents,” he called us.

    That can only be possible if the theory of evolution really IS unguided and purposeless and completely mindless, precisely as Berkeley Evolution 101, Coyne, Moran, Futuyma, and a slew of other professional evolutionists have specifically pointed out.

  • Here is the main engineering specific. We know that heaven does not physically exist in any altitudes of earth’s atmosphere. So no one was building a tower to reach unto heaven. Or, if you prefer translations other than KJV which mention sky instead of heaven, no one was building a tower to reach the sky either. The tallest brick building ever built Is around 1,000 feet (the Chrysler building) and it has a steel framework to make that possible. The alleged Babel builders had no steel.

    For natural history, humans predate the Biblical creation timeline by many tens of thousands of years. But the Babel builders by definition, do not. They were not all dispersed from one place within the last 6,000 years after having their language confounded or mixed up.

    For religion, we do not have a God who does not know what people might be capable of doing if they all spoke one language. Nor do we have one who created men and then was concerned about their capabilities after the fact to the point of needing to confound or mix up the language in the people he supposedly created.

    The story is a completely imagined falsehood. You can attempt to defend it until you pass away, but nothing about that attempt will make it true. You believe is it true because, for you, it HAS to be true.

  • I’m in general agreement with you – but evolution has long moved out of the realm of ” theory “.

    Watson & Crick et al unleashed a tsunami that has become the most incontrovertibly proven model, as compared to any other in the biological sciences.

  • It is a scientific theory, as are gravity and electricity.

    “..an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment.
    Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge”

    if I failed to preface “theory” with “scientific” – mea culpa.

  • Once again, Givethedogabone, thanks for your respect, courtesy, and personal descriptions in your reply. A bit of an explanation from me is in order for you to understand my use of Bible references. I am not using the Bible as a sledge hammer to clobber others over the head who disagree with my views. I use the Bible references, OT & NT, as parallel models of similar circumstances. In this way, how Moses handles a matter, I handle the matter similarly, adapting it to the 21st Century. Same with the Prophet Elijah, and also Jesus. How each of them handle a parallel matter, so do I, with an application to the 21st Century. So, it’s not just quoting the Bible, it is pointing out, in my dialog, where I got that idea and why. This is how Jesus did it in the Gospels. Jesus used numerous OT references and paraphrases in his dialogs to explain the “who,” “how,” and “why,” of his teachings and actions. (I saw your reply to me a little while ago, but I don’t see it anymore. Almost like it was deleted, or something. I can’t find it now. So, I’ll respond without your context. Sorry.)

    In the last several hundred years, most Christians take a dogmatic view of Scripture. We are all taught that way. Very few Christians take an educational-historical-geographical approach to Scripture. The result is strong dogmatic views and condemnation warnings to others. There is a place for this approach as Jesus demonstrated the second and third years of his Messianic Mission. But, in the first year, or year and a half of his ministry, Jesus taught the OT from the Messianic perspective, and worked numerous miracles to demonstrate his power to the skeptical crowds.

    To begin with, ‘dog,’ as I briefly stated earlier, there are thousands of hand-copied historical documents from which the Bible came. These historical documents span the centuries from the 2nd to the 14th Centuries, and across the continents. That is a lot of historical documentations and preservations of the integrity (stability) of the texts.

    With this in mind, I refer to Luke 1:1-4, which describes the historical documentations and accurate preservation of the Gospel accounts. For this reference, I refer to the historical document Codex Washingtonianus. There were many hundreds of eyewitnesses interviewed and the descriptions of their experiences with Jesus of Nazareth written out in some detail to piece together to form a Gospel narrative. Ultimately, Matthew was written to the Jewish community, Mark was written to the Roman community, Luke was written to the Greek community. Each narrative has a very different emphasis that was specific to that cultural thinking. This is why sometimes the Gospel narratives seem to be different from one another. An important part of the thinking here, often overlooked, is that numerous people of the 1st and 2nd Centuries never saw a problem with the Gospels narratives. We, in the 21st Century, think we see numerous problems in the Gospels. The early Church leaders completely accepted the Gospels as historically accurate accounts of the events.

    At any rate, ‘dog,’ these descriptions provide a bit of an explanation of how we got to this place in the 21st Century with the Bible as history. ‘Dog,’ have a great day!

  • You get off on lynching gay and trans people, Your Blackness. Just plain too much evidence that you’re a hypocrite.

  • I have learnt that when people insist on telling me that they are stupid the best response is to agree with them.

    Atheism is the absence of belief in god(s) – how can any person capable of rational thought imagine that the absence of belief can have a position on the death penalty?

    Atheists may have personal positions on the death penalty – if they do so it is probably because they have thought about the moral dilemma. Unlike many religious folks their opinion will be theirs – not a formulaic position that they are required to parrot.

  • Your understanding of English is inadequate.

    The needle playing an LP is guided by the edges of the grooves which constrain its freedom. The freedom of evolutionary progress is likewise constrained – therefore guided – by the limits imposed by the need for successful reproduction.

    I’m out. If you are genuinely unable to understand that there is no point in anyone trying to enlighten you.

  • As is your prerogative. I just object to the persistent — and obnoxious — narrative that religious parents want to encourage ignorance in their children. That is, I believe, what Patrick was trying to get across.

  • Yes – it was simplistic – but hyperbole can be a legitimate tactic.

    There are, undoubtedly, some religious parents who wish to limit their children’s education by, as they probably see it, sheltering them from “unsuitable” texts – and therefore ideas.

    Homeschooling is often a pretext for limiting the education – have you seen some of the materials used? Whilst some are undoubtedly adequate some contain religious concepts (Flood, Garden of Eden etc.) as fact and fail to even hint at scientific evidence-based alternatives.
    And it’s not just some Christians, some Muslims and and some Jews refuse to allow the teaching of the scientific theory of evolution – and in some very extreme cases the only text available is the Bible/Koran/Torah.

    the UK has a, generally minor, problem with educational establishments, from kindergarten to university, being pressured to have girls and boys segregated in classrooms because of religious beliefs.

    We have “Baptist” american relatives who homeschool – their kids are not able to compete fully in the adult world. Indeed many religious groups seek to deny education to girls beyond very basic home-making skills and even the LDS tended to discourage college attendance until recently (and still does?)

    Of course this is minority behaviour but the simple fact is that the majority generally support, if only by silence, the extremists.

  • I’m not the elected representative of every religious person in the world and I feel no need to explain or defend the various behaviors and motivations they have. Let’s keep this simple, shall we? Somebody posted a snarky message with which I took exception. I challenged it. That’s really all there is to it.

    I don’t care for over-generalizations. I don’t care for unprovoked insult. I don’t find those things helpful in fostering productive dialogue. Most of the time I ignore such things but now and then I don’t.

    Moving on. Have a nice day.

  • I am an Atheist.My father was an Atheist. My mother liked to sing and sang in the Unitarian Universalist church choir. They were well educated and felt their children should learn the basics about all religions.They taught me their values to love learning, to love to read, to love the out of doors and to love to learn all I could about it. They taught me to be polite, to know right from wrong, about morals and ethics. to respect other people and their rights, to stand up for those that can’t or won’t stand up for themselves and that to do so you sometimes have to go against the flow!

    I get really angry at those that insist that Atheists have no morals, values or ethics! Some of us have better morals, values and ethics than others!

    It isn’t what religion a person follows or whether they follow any religion the ONLY thing that matters is how we treat our fellow humans (especially those that are different from us), how we treat other livings things–plants, animals and our planet and how we treat ourselves. All the rest the doctrines, dogmas, dress codes, etc. are distractions that lead us astray.

  • I’m not sure why you’re directing your message, and presumably your anger, at me, but okay. I’ve not stated anything, either here or elsewhere, that should be construed as claiming that atheists have no morals, values or ethics.

    If I’m misinterpreting your message, I apologize.

  • Recognizing the power of religion as a sociological and psychological force is to be expected. It’s true. It has that power. It is a basic principle of social psychology that what is perceived as real, is real and its consequences. That doesn’t need to be religion. You can believe thar Mrs. Clinton is the most evil person in America. It doesn’t require evidence just belief. And it has real world consequences.

    But then, neither does religion require aught but belief. And we have evidence of each and every religion that all of the rest are wrong, even the ones that insist they are right. But that’s not the point at all.

    to claim religion is built into our brains is not true as a generalization. If it were true, there would be few to none atheists. What’s built into our brains is that we are both herd animals and capable of abstract thought. Under that scenario, religion provides COMMUNITY, a more flattering word than a pack or a herd. And people can now get their community elsewhere than the village church.

  • Why would atheism have any position, let alone an opinion, on the death penalty? The only moral guidance atheism provides is the lack of belief in a god.

    But as you and a few of your fellow travelers are showing, when compared to other people of faith, is religion actually provides no sort of moral guidance, or a position, let alone a useful opinion, on the death penalty either. And of course, YOU believe the death penalty is just ducky, something this atheist disagrees with

    So how exactly is it that religion is better than atheism for telling you anything?

    You believe in the death penalty because that is the kind of person you are? Just like I am opposed to the death penalty. Not because of atheism— at least not directly— but because of the kind of person I am. I don’t see that “Killing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong” makes the slightest bit of moral sense whatsoever.
    .

  • Atheism doesn’t seem to offer any inherent moral guidance AT ALL on a wide range of life situations, literally from womb to tomb. In every case, you (as an Atheist) gotta steal your ethics, your morals, even the rational frameworks by which you express your ethics and morals, from Theism.

    You say you’re opposed to the death penalty (or at least you’re opposed as long as the crook’s name isn’t Hitler or McVeigh, right?).

    But since your Atheism literally offers NO inherent moral guidance on this topic, it would only be a matter of me asking you to explain in specifics why (morally) you oppose the DP. From there, I would simply trace out the theistic basis of whatever you try to come up with, and it wouldn’t be difficult either.

  • I would never say that Atheists have no morals or ethics. I just point out that they’re somehow getting, borrowing — and in fact stealing — their morals from Theism. Their own chosen Atheism, honestly has nothing to offer.

    But that’s not a diss, mind you. People with morals are a LOT less dangerous than people without morals.

  • But even your own post, which inserted the important qualifier, “as long as it leaves room for belief in God as the prime mover”) is thereby totally opposed to the Theory of Evolution, which leaves NO such room for God

    “Biological theory does not require or allow any sort of divine guidance for the evolutionary process…”
    — David Olroyd, The Weekend Review (Australia), Mar. 20-21, 1993.

    “Darwinism rejects all supernatural phenomena and causations.”
    — Ernst Mayr, Scientific American, “Darwin’s Influence”, July 2000.

    “A completely mindless process.” — Douglas Futuyma, Evolution 2nd Ed, 2009.

    “With all deference to the sensibilities of religious people, the idea that man was created in the image of God can surely be put aside.” — “Evolution and the Brain”, Nature journal, June 14, 2007.

    “Natural selection is the blindest and most cruel way of evolving new species, and more and more complex and refined organisms … I am surprised that a Christian would defend the idea that this is the process which God more or less set up in order to have evolution.”
    — Jacques Monod (TV interview, June 10, 1976).

  • Sure, Patrick. That is important, I agree.
    So I am NOT referring to the god of Deism, Pantheism, Panentheism, or “the Force” from the Star Wars franchise. Also not Krishna, not Buddha, not Odin, not Zeus, not Quetzalcoatl, nor Dagon, nor Gaia, nor Allah either. NONE of them fakers are worth a Plug Nickel, or even a Plug Penny for that matter.

    I am strictly talking about the God of the Bible. THAT one, whose personal attributes and actions are specifically described in the Bible. ONLY that one. Accept no substitutes. Hit the delete button on all the fakers, and especially wipe out any and all Scam-Jobber Atheism. Get ahold of the REAL God, the only God, the Triune God of the Bible.

  • I agree. I have asked the resident atheists where they derive their moral compass from; and all I ever get is some links to websites or comments about trump.
    For being so enlightened, scientifically trained or otherwise; they sure can’t string two sentences together on that topic.

  • I see you’ve begun trolling some new religious digs.

    I hope this is an indication you’ll be doing less trolling here.

    Btw, the death penalty is not “(k)illing people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong”.

    It is the state fulfilling its duty to – to the extent possible – provide justice in a human society so that the innocent can be protected by laws which actually mean something.

    That comes from the natural law, which you disdain, which also provides the minority rights which you assert.

  • There are variations of evolution theory. It’s obvious that evolution takes place, but that doesn’t mean one has to believe it’s all unguided and random.

  • You are read Parker 12.and read Floyd Lee. Your original comment was that “faith is built around the values….” I simply point out that Atheists also build their lives around values. Were you implying that Atheists don’t build their lives around values? That is the way I took your comment!

  • I’ll repeat my response to another poster from a couple of days ago. Had you read it, you would have better understood my meaning:

    “… I’ve known more than a few moral humanists/atheists and plenty of immoral practitioners of religion. Being one doesn’t preclude being the other.”

  • Paragraph 1. Nonsense.

    Paragraph 2. Nonsense.

    Paragraph 3. Even more nonsense.

    If you need religion to tell you that killing, murdering, raping, people is wrong, then you don’t need religion, you need empathy. Because your religion can equally well tell you that killing people is all right…

    OH! WAIT! IT TELLS YOU EXACTLY THAT, DOESNT IT?!?!?!?!

  • I see you are still stalking me. Why can’t you quit me, eh?

    On BobWorld they stalk
    With all kinds of talk
    Because what passes for thought
    Is just so much crock
    And lots of bullhock-
    -Y. And so ripe for mock.

    NOW! I’m back to ignoring you,

  • Okay, sincere thanks for your response. Sorry for delay, but at least I offer a critique at this time. The Bible text is provided for readers at the end of the post.
    (1) Right off the bat, you do NOT have enough numerical data about the Tower to say that “no one was building a tower to reach the sky.” You surprisingly wiped out there.

    You are told what Babel’s builders **intended** to do, but NOT the actual height of the structure when God stopping the construction. The disobedient humans **intended** to build a structure that reached into the sky, the atmospheric heavens. (The Hebrew word “shmayim” in Gen. 11:4 allows for this.) But you don’t have to be as tall as the 1000-foot Chrysler Building in order to reach for the sky; the Great Pyramid of Giza is tall even though it’s just 450 feet. So there’s no way that you have ruled out the Tower of Babel’s historicity via engineering principles.

    (2) The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that he actually went to Babylon (called “Shinar” in the Bible), viewing and describing the unfinished Tower of Babel with his own eyes. So you’re not only up against the Scriptural testimony, you’re even up against Non-Biblical eyewitness testimony. That’s not panning out for you.

    (3) More historical statements exist.“The tower was exceedingly tall. The third part of it sank down into the ground, a second third was burned down, and the remaining third was standing until the time of the destruction of Babylon” (Rabbi Yēhānān, Sanhedhrīn, 109, 1. From Wikipedia.)

    Humans don’t predate the Biblical creation timeline at all, unless you first pre-assume that Atheism is true (a presumption that is very easily shredded by modern science & rational inference.) I don’t mind continuing on with your post, But let’s stop here, for now. The other topics can be done separately.

  • If we’re going to quote Wikipedia, I will just go with its opening sentence on the subject of the Tower of Babel: “The Tower of Babel (Hebrew: מִגְדַּל בָּבֶל‬‎, Migdal Bāḇēl) as told in Genesis 11:1-9 is an origin myth meant to explain why the world’s peoples speak different languages.”
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_Babel

    It does not factually explain that reality of course, and worse, paints God (plural in the story) as capricious and uncertain about the purposes for which He created humans. You are free to accept this, as you wish. I am free not to.

  • What “myth”? Myths can’t be seen with the naked eye and described in specific detail by Greek historians. Myths don’t remain visible to all comers until the specific time Babylon is conquered.

    By the way, Evolution can’t explain why humans have all these many many different languages all over the planet. The Bible explains the real historical reason. The Tower of Babel.

  • The myth is not that some people built or partially built a thing that other people saw. The myth is God’s alleged role in suddenly and intentionally confounding or mixing up the language of the builders because God thought his creation needed throttling. It simply did not happen. Ditto the story of a worldwide flood in which Noah supposedly saved all species.

  • Dictionaries are servants, not masters.

    Guides include, at least in English English, rails or similar which limit movement – we have guide rails on bridges to prevent people falling off the walkway. The need for reproductive success provides a guiding limit – it prevents activity outside the area within the guides.

    Just because you choose to limit the word “guide” doesn’t invalidate correct English usage (which you, if you are not English, may be unaware of).

  • You are a serial numpty aren’t you.

    Atheism does not offer moral guidance because it cannot do so. Just as belief in god(s) doesn’t explain why unicorn farts are blue.

    For your information – moral codes predate Christianity – See the Pharoic Law and the Code of Hammurabi for a couple of examples.

    It takes a peculiar kind of dumb to realise that murder, theft, slavery etc.. are wrong only after it’s been pointed out by someone claiming to be acting on behalf of a deity.

    As with anything that would get it good PR Christianity incorporated the work of earlier thinkers – and then dressed it up in expensive fancy dress.

  • This concept supports the dangerous propaganda from the current Republicans and fascists everywhere. There are no facts, my beliefs are as real as your facts. I prefer my alternative facts to yours.
    Science is based on facts that are tested until proven true. Faith has no place in science. Opinions based on faith have no place in politics. Reality does exist and provides a means for rational people to understand and cooperate with each other. Otherwise we are in La-La Land.

  • There is no logical reason to believe that there is a god or a being who is the prime mover whatever the Catholics think that is.

  • Jacques Monod is correct. Even if Intelligent Design were not silly, it would still point to an evil creator.

  • Natural selection is not random, or guided. If you remove natural selection, you eliminate the theory of evolution. There are many evolutionary hypothesis that may change or be proven or dis-proven. These changes will not be based on opinion or belief.

  • Ethics is a complex and not a uniform subject. Human moral values can be attained by indoctrination, or study, experience, or reflection. I don’t call myself an Atheist because although the evidence against a creator is overwhelming, that does not prove that a god or an afterlife doesn’t exist. I am fairly familiar with Christian and Buddhist ethics. I find Buddhist more humanistic but the ethical systems from both Greek and modern philosophers more acceptable.

    Regardless of the source, a moral individual must create their own values themselves. There is no objective source of human values. We have the responsibility to create them ourselves.

    I would never try to give you a two sentence sound bite for a moral system you should accept. That is your responsibility.

  • To know what you consider right and to act morally are different things. I thing this quote from a famous physicist is appropriate here: Good people do good things and bad people do bad things, but for good people to do evil things requires religion.

  • Atheism is not, like religion, an ideology. It does not take positions on things. Atheists do, but don’t have conformity. There is no atheist position on the death penalty. I would say that to cause suffering and death to any human or other conscious animal is wrong. This is due to my natural empathy and compassion for them. It has been shown that the death penalty doesn’t decrease crime rates. This leaves only revenge as the reason for it. Revenge, or taking satisfaction from the suffering of someone who has wronged you, is in my opinion evil.

  • Many beliefs and emotions are “hardwired in us”. This may be caused randomly, but if a change increases the number of progeny of those with this trait, natural selection will preserve it. This does not confirm that we have evolutionary bias, but it could be possible.

  • That quote (paraphrase, actually) is from Steven Weinberg, and I disagree with it. I’d say evil is almost always done by good people, both religious and otherwise.

    Rarely does a person intend to do evil, yet there’s no shortage of evil in the world. Why is that? I attribute it to human nature, which is prone to such things as arrogance and misguided certainty. These aren’t exclusively the domain of religion. Believe it or not, I’ve encountered an arrogant atheist from time to time as well.

    Don’t forget the law of unintended consequences and what the road to hell is paved with (metaphorically speaking, of course).

  • Sorry, I forgot Stephen Weinberg’s name and, yes, I did paraphrase it from memory.
    By “good people”, I think Weinberg met that those who know right from wrong and do, to the best of their ability, the right. I agree with you that such people are not very common. When such people instead follow religious doctrine they can often do what they feel to be evil because they think, or have been told, its Gods will.

  • On the contrary, I don’t believe that people who know right from wrong and try to do right are uncommon at all. I think most of us fall into that category. Unlike some on this board — both believers and nonbelievers, I might add — I believe the natural inclination of the human person is toward the good. It is our weakness that causes us, from time to time, to fail to live up to that inclination, but that doesn’t diminish our essential goodness.

    Enjoyed chatting with you. Moving on. Peace.

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