My sincere apologies (and how I hope to overcome the culture war)

I made quite a few people angry due to a silly sentence I wrote in my last post.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2012/02/08/opinion/08campaign-stops-image/08campaign-stops-image-blog480.jpg

Crude wrote this as a response to me on his blog.

 

A “Progressive” Problem, and an unfortunate decision

 

By political and intellectual temperament, I’m broadly conservative. I’m against gay marriage. I favor small government. I prefer charity over government welfare. I believe illegal immigrants should largely be sent back to their country of origin. I oppose abortion. I oppose racial preferences in work or school. The list goes on. I argue with conservatives often, and many times I come to conservative conclusions through a different intellectual route than many others do – but at the end of the day, I’m largely an economic and social conservative with some caveats.

But I also reject clannish mentalities. Just as the fact that I’m Catholic doesn’t mean I can’t find common ground with many protestants, jews and otherwise, the fact that I’m conservative doesn’t mean I don’t try to find common ground with liberals. I can’t prove this to anyone – I can point at some past conversations here and there where I talked with liberals and kept cool, just as I can point at many friendly atheist conversations – but it’s never going to be beyond dispute. All I can tell you is that I have – for many years now – tried to find common ground. I’ve tried to keep in mind that the socialist-inclined person may well be acting out of a sincere concern for the poor, and if they are Christian, this may ultimately be rooted in their faith. I’ve tried to keep ultimately benevolent motivations in mind for everything from the agitation for gay marriage to the demands to grant mass amnesty to illegal immigrants to otherwise. This has been a point of pride for me, I will say outright – instead of going right to the conservative or, God forbid, GOP clan behavior, I try to remain calm and cool. I do not want, especially among Christians, yet another bit of pointless fracturing.

I am fast starting to come around to the view, however, that this approach – indeed, this mentality – is flawed. No, more than just flawed. I’m beginning to think that it’s counter-productive, pointlessly idyllic, and ultimately dangerous to regard any self-described “progressive” as anything but, intellectually, a hostile individual.

Pardon me if this post is more about my own experiences and psychology than the broad topics I normally deal with, even if flippantly, but I feel it must be said.


I wrote recently about the worry I have with “progressive” Christians: that the only reason they even stand in opposition to the New Atheists is because the Cultists of Gnu are openly hostile to them, and that this is actually a relatively recent intellectual development. Prior to the New Atheists, atheists and “progressive” Christians were, more often than not, social and political allies. They both favored very liberal cultures. They both despised conservative culture and politics, and wanted them wiped out. They voted the same way, thought the same way about many issues, and even rejected much of the same religion. The only reason they are not working hand in hand anymore is because the atheists have gotten aggressive and decided they don’t need the “progressives” anymore, and that it’s a net liability to work with them. You can see this in Richard Dawkins’ own writings, among others.

Now, I’ve thought about this for a while – but I classified it merely as a worry, intellectually. A possibility, something to pay attention to but which I wasn’t quite willing to invest myself in as accepting as true. But I’ve finally been forced to realize… in each and every situation where I have encountered a self-identified “progressive” – not necessarily a “liberal” (which is fast becoming a word for a certain kind of older generation of thinker), but a “progressive” – I have found a person who was keenly interested in building bridges with atheists, and wiping conservatives off the map. I don’t merely mean disagreeing with social conservatives and arguing against them. I mean thinking up ways to pass laws to make it, quite literally, in practice illegal to even have (particularly socially) conservative beliefs, much less to act on or spread them.

I have seen the “progressives” defend laws that force Christians to take part in gay weddings – knowing full well that these Christians will be targeted by activists and forced to compromise their principles. They do it with glee, smiling happily and feeling all warm at the thought that somewhere out there a person who disapproves of gay marriage is going to have their feet put to the fire, and that if they don’t do as they’re fucking told, the government will step in and punish them severely. I see these “progressives” cheering when someone is fired from their job when they’re outed as having supported Proposition 8 in California, or if they disapprove of gay marriage. I do not consider these minor issues. These are situations where government – the men with guns and the power to take your property, your children, your livelihood – are being used as the tool of choice to advance a political agenda that ultimately comes down to requiring people to give their active blessing to any and all sexual acts deemed ‘good’ by the morality police. The “progressive” Christians know this. They embrace it. They say “Civil Rights!” and that’s all that needs to be said, as far as they’re concerned, no matter how goddamn inane it is to try and extend civil rights to a sexual act.

And before someone says “not every “progressive” Christian is like that”, all I’ll say is – if there are ones who oppose such things, they are apparently so small in number as to be considered functionally irrelevant.

That’s only the tip of the iceberg on the broad political front. The problem is, the personal front has not been any better – the “progressive” Christians I’ve met and interacted with. I documented my exchange with James McGrath, where he tried every which-way to justify his little hate campaign, complete with fellow “progressive” allies. I’ve watched “progressive” Christians I know of pipe up in conversations about gay marriage, subtly presenting themselves as opponents of gay marriage but whimpering that ‘we’re losing the younger generation by pushing this’ and how we should temporarily be quiet about it ‘so we can save more souls’, when the reality was they were lockstep in favor of gay marriage and were just doing their part to encourage dissent (and in this case I knew, because I saw them argue as much elsewhere). In each and every encounter I’ve had with a “progressive” Christian, I have ultimately lost respect for them – not because they differ with me on various issues, but because of their tactics of choice, because of their focus. It became obvious to me that if they had to choose between a fellow Christian becoming an atheist who was in favor of liberal politics, or remaining a Christian with conservative leanings, they would push for atheism every time. And before anyone acts offended that I would infer this about them, now’s a good time to mention I really don’t give a shit who’s offended by this. It’s the impression I’ve gotten, and I’m speaking frankly.

But I think the last straw for me – the final blow – was when I went to Lothar’s blog recently, and read the following:

I agree with anti-theist Richard Dawkins that stressing this to small kids is a form of child abuse and that this damnable doctrine ought to be jettisoned.

I want to stress something here. When Lothar embraces this kind of anti-scientific, unfounded (save for a very interesting case of philosophical and metaphysical commitment) view, he is saying something along the lines of the following: Take a parent who teaches their children that some people are sent to hell for eternity. Put them alongside a father who fingered his son’s anus, and a mother who punched her daughter so hard she knocked a tooth out. These three people are all, in a broad sense, guilty of the same general crime, and should be treated accordingly.

Let me highlight this point: if someone claims that teaching a child about hell is child abuse, they have been put in the following dilemma: they must either believe some forms of child abuse should be legal, or they must believe that children with parents who teach them this belief should be punished and have their children taken away from them by the state. The fact of it is, it’s not a fucking minor point, nor is it a game. To make that commitment – to decide that your personal preference about religious doctrine should be enforced by the arm of the state – is not just a bridge too far. It is a country too far. And, I will note, this kind of “progressive” Christian talk never gets directed at atheists. Show me the “progressive” who believes that teaching children naturalist or atheist beliefs about death and even existence – and these are not ‘pretty’ or ‘encouraging’ things – constitutes child abuse. They are nowhere to be found.

I do not say this lightly. I’ve liked Lothar. He’s interacted with me pleasantly, considerately. He has done me, personally, no wrong. But I can’t turn a blind eye to this sort of thing anymore and convince myself that we are in any real sense on the ‘same side’. I’m tired of watching the New Atheists, a collection of people which included actual marxists and certainly very loud left-wingers, being cast as ‘a right-wing hate group’. I am tired of watching ‘conservative’ evangelicals come in for a repeated beating as the people who are somehow doing the most the harm Christianity, when the fact is that if someone ever tries to persuade you that Christianity is true then 9 out of 10 times it’s probably a conservative, because “progressives” largely think belief in Christianity is near-irrelevant anyway and would find such preaching mortally embarrassing. I am tired of watching the agitation for every sect of Christianity in the world to quickly start ordaining women because it’s just so damn important and no dissent is ever to be tolerated on that issue either. I am tired of every passage in the bible that involves God saying or doing something a “progressive” does not automatically approve of being jettisoned with the ‘well the bible isn’t inerrant so we’ll just interpret God as meaning something else’ line – and treating dissent or disagreement on this topic as itself damnable. I am tired of the mental gymnastics where the only real and clear sins someone can engage in are to believe the earth is young, to vote against universal health care, or to oppose gay marriage, feminism, global warming initiatives or whatever else is trendiest this week.

But most of all, I am tired of trying to ignore the fact that in practically every one of these cases, the “progressives” are not only venomously hostile to dissent, but they openly agitate for their opponents to be squelched, crushed, persecuted, fined and even jailed. And I’m tired of having to pretend that such people are not, put simply, monsters.

This is not specific to Lothar. It is, in my personal experience, near universal among “progressives”, Christian or not. But I will say one thing. Lothar has written critically about France’s historical attempts to purge the german language from their country, in the interests of having a nice, unified french-speaking nation. He has called this cultural genocide. But the fact is, cultural genocide is exactly what he ultimately endorses with regards to conservative Christians, more or less across the board. I say it with a heavy heart – it is hard to criticize someone who has been consistently considerate with me like this. But the idea of having common ground with “progressives” now truly appears to me as little more than the grounds for a work of fiction, one that is particularly fantastical – and it was that hope for common ground that drove a lot of my silence and hesitancy previously. The hope is gone.

So, I suppose, this little blog post in the middle of nowhere can stand as a testimonial on behalf of one broadly conservative, Catholic individual. If you are a Christian conservative who has thought that maybe a shared belief in God or Christ can build some bridges between conservative and progressive Christians, take it from someone who has talked with a number of them, watched them, and thought about this for years: they do not want cooperation. They want you, and anyone who thinks like you, converted or pushed to the absolute margins of society. They would sooner have you be a “progressive” atheist than a conservative Christian if the option were available. They are engaged in a war of cultural genocide against you, and they are not above carrying this war out through any means necessary, from having you fired to making it illegal to even raise your children with your values and beliefs in mind.

Behave accordingly.”

 

I responded there

Okay Crude, I recognize this was an (incredibly) silly sentence, I should have said that “traumatizing a kid with hell CAN be a true child abuse”.

After all, my own parents are nominal Catholics (and nominal secular Christians) and they taught me that evil people would suffer eternally, yet this didn’t terrorize me by any means.

I have a very impulsive personality (having ADHD) which leads me all to often to “shoot from the hip” while regretting it in hindsight.

 

I further recognize that instead of fostering a dialog between people with different views (as my blog is all about) I have all too often myself used an emotional rhetoric sometimes even bordering on bullying.

I have failed my Conservative readers in many respects by NOT fairly and impartially analyzing their arguments and motives, resorting instead to rhetoric tricks.

 

Don’t get me wrong: my view that many Conservative Christian dogmas are harmful for both the society and the Church hasn’t changed.

But there are many good conservative ideas as well as many arguments they use which are not as easy to dismiss as many liberals think they are.

I sincerely apologize to all my Conservative readers for not having fairly represented their strongest arguments and most rational positions.

 

It is my hope they will forgive  me and still comment on my blog because I want to foster a true dialog where people disagree in a spirit of mutual respect.

 

Promoting a really tolerant and open society

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Crude is entirely right that too many liberal Christians have an intolerant mindset and want to impose their ideas by any means.

I am, unfortunately, not always an exception.

 

I think that rational arguments should be employed for promoting our progressive convictions.

Firing someone just because he does not accept gay marriage is an ignoble act.

I will soon blog about this phenomenon and explain why it strongly INCREASES homophobia instead of combating it, as it can be observed in France.

 

I don’t want to DESTROY Conservative Christianity as a whole and have many Conservative Christian friends with whom I agree to disagree.

What I want to defeat is the bigotry one can find in many American Conservative lobbies.

But now I also want to destroy the very same intolerance which is conspicuous on the left side of the Kulturkampf.

 

My (unattainable) dream would be to live in society where being for or against gay marriage has no repercussion in terms of employments, friendships and relationships and where people really strive for mutual understanding instead of yelling at each others.

I obviously still far short in that respect.

 

Homepage of Lotharlorraine: link here
(List of topics and posts)

My other controversial blog: Shards of Magonia (link here)

 

Hauptseite von Lotharlorraine: Link hier
(Liste von Themen und Posten).

Mein anderer umstrittener Blog: Scherben von Magonia.

 

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143 responses to “My sincere apologies (and how I hope to overcome the culture war)”

  1. tildeb says :

    Poor old Crude; he wants his religious privilege maintained and protected by law and whines when those he thought were allies dare to pull their support for this legal discrimination.

    Boo hoo.

    The irony is that New Atheists and progressive religious folk are both strong allies in supporting his legal equality to believe whatever – religious or political or social or economic and so on – he wants and acting on them in his private life (as long as these action don;t deny others the same legal equality) but he thinks these allies are in fact enemies deserving of a war for daring to insist all – including his children – deserve the same legal equality he utilizes to maintain his beliefs! For this sin, those who disagree with his belief that he thinks deserve legal privileging are therefore condemned.

    What I don’t understand is why anyone in their right mind would apologize to such a person for taking a contrary principled stand to his beliefs on merit. The arguments put forth by Crude and like-minded people deserve – at the very least – marginalization because they stand incompatible in principle with enlightenment values like equality rights; in this specific case, his beliefs (that rely on equality rights for expression) stand incompatible with building any “society where being for or against gay marriage has no repercussion in terms of employments, friendships and relationships and where people really strive for mutual understanding instead of yelling at each others.” His beliefs are incompatible because he would gladly deny others the rights he expects and utilizes for himself. He doesn’t deserve any apologies; he deserves sustained criticism for holding and promoting anti-enlightenment values.

    • Crude says :

      Thanks, tildeb, for providing me with evidence to back up the points I’m making here! People like yourself – proud members of militant hate-groups – make my job easier.

      I’ll skip over your usual job of butchering and failing to understand what I say – clearly you’re petrified of even reading what I write and reporting on it accurately, because you know your arguments and criticisms can’t stand up to my words as they’re written – but let’s focus on this.

      The irony is that New Atheists and progressive religious folk are both strong allies

      Indeed they are. Which is precisely why “progressive Christians” can no longer be surprised, or act hurt, when conservatives treat them accordingly.

      Petty little wannabe-Stalinists like yourself, tildeb, deserve to be pointed out for what you are. You defend people being fired and persecuted for failing to wholeheartedly accept and celebrate gay marriage. Your anti-enlightenment attitude is one of intellectual totalitarianism – you oppose free thought, you oppose dissent, and you believe people guilty of thought crimes should be punished in their private lives and by state action.

      Every “progressive” Christian should take a look at you, the person who claims to be their ally. That may well suffice to stir some of them to strongly consider their attitudes in this world. I’m sure some will accept it. Perhaps some will wake up and realize what your endorsement means.

      • tildeb says :

        Ha! It took exactly one comment from you to start misrepresenting what I said. Way to stay true to form, Crude. What I said was, New Atheists and progressive religious folk are both strong allies in supporting his (Crude’s) legal equality to believe whatever – religious or political or social or economic and so on – he wants and acting on them in his private life (as long as these action don’t deny others the same legal equality)

        As is typical, you do a nice hatchet job of reading comprehension. But then, I’d expect no less from someone of your intellectual integrity.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb, why are you allowed to publicly legislate your ideas, while Crude must only private practice his ideas? What gives you the right? Do you think that religious belief is restricted to the supernatural, instead of also centered around a conception of ‘the good’, both public goods and private goods? It seems that you think that you are in a position to say what the public goods are, and that Crude is not. For, what you believe ain’t religious, while what Crude does, is. Somehow I just don’t buy this.

      • tildeb says :

        why are you allowed to publicly legislate your ideas, while Crude must only private practice his ideas?

        Poor comprehension.

        Equality law is a fundamental principle of our form of government that empowers it (I won;t go into all that here). It’s not ‘my’ ideas legislated; it’s equality for everyone in law… me, you, Crude, and everyone else (with specific and equivalent exceptional discriminations based on public good). Undermine the principle of equality by supporting privilege, undermine the right to believe what each of us chooses to believe. I can practice whatever beliefs I choose just as Crude can just as you can… with the caveat that we do not harm others. This is not synonymous with me imposing my beliefs on you and excusing harm in the name of piousness. Try to grasp the essential difference. And that difference is that I don’t impose privilege to me by withholding it from you as Crude wants to do. There is no privilege in supporting your right to believe as you wish equivalent mine. These are not equivalent ideas and if you spend more than a reflexive moment thinking rather than misrepresenting, you’ll find yourself in agreement not to support Stalin (as Crude so loves to use) but to protect the rights both of share.

      • labreuer says :

        Equality law is a fundamental principle of our form of government

        Equality law… for those you define as ‘persons’. Let’s not forget that; let’s not forget Peter Singer’s remarkably consistent application of morality which led him to endorse infanticide; I respect him for not shying away from following his ideas to their logical conclusions.

        I can practice whatever beliefs I choose just as Crude can just as you can… with the caveat that we do not harm others.

        And when you require me to support beliefs of yours I find unacceptable? The consumer can choose not to purchase from certain companies, but must companies cater to every consumer? It is a tricky issue; white-only restaurants ought to always haunt our consciences. Must my business serve your religious ceremony (e.g. marriage)? And let’s not fool ourselves by falsely restricting the application of “religious ceremony”.

        These are not equivalent ideas and if you spend more than a reflexive moment thinking rather than misrepresenting

        Please explain in more detail, with quotations, how I am misrepresenting you, instead of forcing your ideas onto a consistent, logical framework. You might call this “misrepresenting”, but I call it “refusing to let someone defend an inconsistent set of ideas and then impose them on me, deciding when to apply the various inconsistent parts”.

        Ought Mozilla CEO resignation raises free-speech issues have happened?

      • tildeb says :

        The marriage issue is about equality rights. Supporting religious privilege (in the form of the religious definition of marriage to hold status in law) is not just supporting discrimination without cause in order to maintain religious privilege but, it turns out, bad for business.

      • labreuer says :

        Ehhh, I think that we should separate civil and religious. Obviously both want to use the term ‘marriage’. Well, whatever. Maybe it’s Civil-Marriage vs. Christian-Marriage. Whatever it is, the government must not force me to support your religion. Performativity makes it clear that words are powerful. Thus, the fight over who gets to use the term ‘marriage’ ought not be surprising.

      • Crude says :

        New Atheists and progressive religious folk are both strong allies in supporting his (Crude’s) legal equality to believe whatever – religious or political or social or economic and so on – he wants and acting on them in his private life (as long as these action don’t deny others the same legal equality)

        More dishonesty. The “progressives” are on-record as supporting the firing of people who so much as disagree with them about things like gay marriage, up to and including using the state to fine, harass and penalize people for not taking part in their little fake ceremonies. The Cultists of Gnu want to brand religious belief as mental illness that should be cured by the state. Nothing new – the militant atheists of the past had the same urges.

        But hey, your anti-enlightenment thinking is nothing new, nor is your opposition to free thinking.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude, @tildeb:

        More dishonesty. The “progressives” are on-record as supporting the firing of people who so much as disagree with them about things like gay marriage

        Mozilla CEO resignation raises free-speech issues:

        SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — The resignation of Mozilla’s CEO amid outrage that he supported an anti-gay marriage campaign is prompting concerns about how Silicon Valley’s strongly liberal culture might quash the very openness that is at the region’s foundation.

        Well said, Crude. Many liberals and many skeptics only care about the evidence if it’s on their side. Very sad, but very understandable—shedding one’s religion or other thinking doesn’t actually tend to change much about one’s beliefs or way of forming beliefs. It’s almost as if religious belief is only a small piece of the puzzle, instead of The Cause of All Evil in the World.

    • labreuer says :

      @tildeb, what do you think of Dawkins’ claim that religious teaching of children ought to be considered “child abuse”? The New Atheists are only arguing for “legal equality to believe” after a certain point—indeed, after children have been inculcated against religious belief.

      • tildeb says :

        …after children have been inculcated against religious belief.

        Not so. Children should be taught to think critically and creatively, true, but not indoctrinated against religious belief. I don;t know where you get this idea… certainly not from New Atheists who are very strong supporters of secular rights. What Dawkins talks about is why it’s harmful to impose the parents’ identity on children and mentions economics and politics by analogy. We usually don’t identify children by their parent’s ideologies… except when it comes to religion. And because of the demonstrable harm done to children taught to believe in a divine thought police officer and an eternal prison of hell awaiting them for stray thoughts, this kind of indoctrination really is (arguably) abuse.

        I don;t know why so many people can’t accept the notion that each of us can believe what we want based on our own choices but exempt children from this equivalent consideration and give parents social approval for indoctrinating them with a very specific doctrinal denomination.

      • labreuer says :

        Children should be taught to think critically and creatively, true, but not indoctrinated against religious belief.

        Yep, it’s just a coincidence that many New Atheists’ conceptions of “think critically” would inculcate against religious belief. Just a coincidence, yup… Are children going to be taught that evolution is predicated upon events known to be random, instead of predicated upon events which could be random for all we know—that the current state of the theory doesn’t require further order, but that perhaps it will in later forms? Probably not. Inculcation. You just don’t want to call it that. Because you believe it, through and through. I hope I’m wrong, for all our sakes.

        And because of the demonstrable harm done to children taught to believe in a divine thought police officer and an eternal prison of hell awaiting them for stray thoughts, this kind of indoctrination really is (arguably) abuse.

        Where’s your evidence of this “demonstrable harm”? Is there even a single peer-reviewed article you can point to, published in a reputable journal? Even a single one?

        I don;t know why so many people can’t accept the notion that each of us can believe what we want based on our own choices but exempt children from this equivalent consideration and give parents social approval for indoctrinating them with a very specific doctrinal denomination.

        Because you’re imposing your private beliefs on how I raise my children. That you don’t see this is just insane.

  2. Andy Schueler says :

    My (unattainable) dream would be to live in society where being for or against gay marriage has no repercussion in terms of employments, friendships and relationships and where people really strive for mutual understanding instead of yelling at each others.

    Well, you are right that this cannot possibly work in practice, but why would you even desire this? If you were in love with an african woman and wanted to marry her, and I would support legislation that does not allow you to marry someone from a different ethnic background than your own and would personally believe that such relationships are a testimony of an intriniscally disordered mindset, would you then still want to be my friend?

    • Crude says :

      Well, thank you for this post, Lothar. And I want to stress some points here, about just what my criticisms are.

      My problem here is not with a person who supports same-sex marriage, nor is it with a person who tries to convince others same-sex marriage is legitimate, etc. My problem is with a person who treats any indication of present or past opposition to gay marriage as an offense worthy of being fired from one’s job, of being fined by the state, or otherwise.

      If someone is given the example of a baker – really, a baker who would happily supply a cake for a gay man or woman for their birthday, for a party, for anything else – but who would not want to supply a cake for a gay wedding, and you feel completely comfortable with the idea that an LGBT activist could target them purposefully to supply said cake, and if they refuse to do so they could be fined and imprisoned? If even this specific situation is something someone say ‘Yep, that’s a good thing, this should happen’ in response to, then yep, I think that person is pretty well a monster.

      Likewise, if someone is angling to have raising their child as Catholic treated as a crime that is ‘child abuse’, and think this is a great way to advance atheism in society or even “progressive” Christianity, they are monsters. More than that, they are monsters who end up unintentionally justifying equally monstrous acts in turn, because at that point the stakes are clear.

      My point was that a “progressive” Christian who crosses these lines – who cheers on people being fired from their jobs for opposition to gay marriage, who cheers on Christians being fined for not providing a service for a same-sex wedding even when they’re happy to supply services to any gay woman or man – can no longer be said to have much “common ground” with other Christians, particularly conservatives. Likewise for someone who would treat ‘being raised as an orthodox Catholic’ child abuse. Hit those points – which notice, emphasize state action and dire personal attacks, not mere disagreement or belief – and we’re done. There’s no more ‘well let’s still sit at the table and try to focus on what we agree on! :)’ to be had. At that point I walk.

      As I said, tildeb – who, let’s face it, is a member of not only of what just about any Christian can see is a modern hate movement, and is actually kind of nuts besides – is there talking about the great allies “progressive” Christians have with the New Atheists. That may not suffice to show their position on this topic is wrong – but it damn well should at least give them a moment’s pause.

      • Crude says :

        Whoops, went in the response column. I’ll just repost this where it should be.

      • Andy Schueler says :

        If someone is given the example of a baker – really, a baker who would happily supply a cake for a gay man or woman for their birthday, for a party, for anything else – but who would not want to supply a cake for a gay wedding, and you feel completely comfortable with the idea that an LGBT activist could target them purposefully to supply said cake, and if they refuse to do so they could be fined and imprisoned? If even this specific situation is something someone say ‘Yep, that’s a good thing, this should happen’ in response to, then yep, I think that person is pretty well a monster.

        So, if I would be fine with you being a Catholic, and would supply a cake for your birthday, or a party, or whatever, as long as I don´t have to supply a cake for your Catholic wedding, you´d still want to be my friend?

      • Crude says :

        So, if I would be fine with you being a Catholic, and would supply a cake for your birthday, or a party, or whatever, as long as I don´t have to supply a cake for your Catholic wedding, you´d still want to be my friend?

        Of course. Why in the world would I not? Am I so fragile that unless you actively celebrate and participate in every aspect of my life, or if you have a disagreement with me, that I must no longer be your friend?

        I’ve befriended Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past. Those guys won’t even take part in a toast at a party. Oops, what, I better cast him into the far reaches of my world because that’s just a bridge too far?

      • labreuer says :

        @Andy

        So, if I would be fine with you being a Catholic, and would supply a cake for your birthday, or a party, or whatever, as long as I don´t have to supply a cake for your Catholic wedding, you´d still want to be my friend?

        The solution is easy: make civil union separate from marriage, make marriage religious, and allow freedom of choice of both consumer and business when it comes to providing for religious events. There is no compulsion in religion. (That’s Muslim, despite all apparent ironies or contradictions.)

        If you can’t be ok with someone else who has a different religion from you which actually impacts how he/she behaves, then you’re intolerant. But we can agree to have a neutral ground where all religious beliefs must match each other in the beliefs generated: the secular part of reality. But how much reality must be secular? I think this is a question worth asking. It seems that the most important thing is the peace be maintained? Or is there something more important?

      • Andy Schueler says :

        Of course. Why in the world would I not? Am I so fragile that unless you actively celebrate and participate in every aspect of my life, or if you have a disagreement with me, that I must no longer be your friend?

        Cool. So what is your problem with Peter Boghossian? All he does is saying that religious beliefs, like Catholicism, are mental disorders, that shouldn´t be an obstacle to you having a friendship with him, right? I mean, why should he celebrate every aspect of your life?

      • Crude says :

        Andy,

        Cool. So what is your problem with Peter Boghossian? All he does is saying that religious beliefs, like Catholicism, are mental disorders, that shouldn´t be an obstacle to you having a friendship with him, right? I mean, why should he celebrate every aspect of your life?

        I have to ask – does this sort of jump sound convincing, even to you? Where you don’t see the difference between ‘I disagree with this particular thing you are doing and I don’t want to materially take part in it, even if I’m still your friend’ and ‘I think your view should be classified as a mental illness by a formal state-backed medical bodies and the state should endeavor to find ways to ‘cure’ you, even without your consent, along with other state-sanctioned restrictions’ are on the same level?

        Actually, no need to answer. Instead, let me mirror it back at you: “Okay Andy, clearly you don’t think there’s anything wrong with anal sex. So of course you don’t think a father should be punished for having anal sex with his 8 year old son. He’s still a good dad according to you, right? After all, he did nothing wrong.”

        Wait, no. That comparison is obvious lunacy, and if I were to make it on those terms alone it would indicate I’m having trouble even having a rational conversation about this topic.

        Anyway, I’m not too concerned with your reply – at this point, it’s pretty clear you’re intellectually crippled on this topic, and in this specific engagement with me. You tried a bit of reasoning which didn’t work for reasons I pointed out, and instead of saying ‘Okay, sure, you can still be friends with a person even if they don’t want to materially take part in something you do that they disagree with or goes against their beliefs, let me try another angle…’ you dove for a comparison that smacks of desperation and “having serious trouble even thinking about this reasonably” than anything else.

        I’ll talk with Lothar and some others here. Tildeb, I’ll have a little fun with. You? You need to just turn the computer off, sit down, and ask yourself “What the hell am I, Andy Schueler, doing? Is this really how I should think about these topics, how I should engage in discussion? What’s going on here?” So pardon me if I ignore your comments henceforth – I need reason and respect to converse. You have none to offer me, and a this point, I have none to offer you.

      • Crude says :

        You have none to offer me, and a this point, I have none to offer you.

        Oh, and just to head off the obvious eye-roll-worthy reply – I have plenty of reason to offer you, but given a response like what you just gave, I have every reason to believe you won’t be able to grasp it. Respect for you, however? Yeah, that’s in low reserve.

      • Andy Schueler says :

        Awww, so we can´t be fwends? :-|

  3. Ross says :

    Dear Lotharson.

    Although a truly fully open and tolerant society is a nice ideal, I think it is just that, an ideal and ultimately impossible. There will always be conflicts in a diverse society, so some limits need to be brought in, which means all societies have to be intolerant. Where we can have some movement is the points at which this intolerance comes in.

    For instance, we recently had issues in the UK where current politicians were attacked for being tenuously linked to an organisation which wanted to normalise sex with children. “Why not” said the paedophiles “this was fine in ancient civilisation”. This movement was accepted, up to a point, in the 60s and 70s when “sexual liberation” was a strong movement, but now that we have different views and more knowledge the acceptance has vanished.

    This may be an extreme case but there will always be areas where we will need to prevent bad things happening, where some people don’t view things as bad. Or we will need to limit other things which are not even seen as “bad”. For instance some of us will say that everyone should have a minimum wage to prevent exploitation and give a dignified standard of living, and that welfare should be available for everyone. To this someone may point out that this could lead to economic collapse and it’s true that in the UK we have massive problems supporting the “welfare state”.

    On the gay marriage issue, tolerance of what was wrong, I.e. intolerance, hatred and acted out abuse of gay people has now lead to intolerance of anyone who disagrees with homosexuality. On this issue it seems that it is impossible to have a broad agreed diversity of opinion. Maybe on a theoretical level it could work but in practice it doesn’t seem to. The initial ideal was to tolerate something which was previously “in-tolerated” however the general view now is that homosexuality cannot be “tolerated”, it must be accepted, tolerance itself cannot be tolerated. Things must be accepted or not accepted.

    I’m not sure if a purely Christian mindset is better suited to “tolerance”, but it seems that a “modern secular” mindset is not always suited to tolerance. In the same way that some very conservative Christians appear to say that “everyone must follow x,y and z, beliefs”, there appears to be a secular group that says “everyone must follow a, b and c”.

    In terms of Crude’s comments, I think I’d probably end up being in the “progressive camp”, which he is so critical of. I know a few “Conservative Christians” who would say I am in danger of “unbelief” or am probably amongst the “unsaved or enemy”. (I can’t say this for sure of Crude, but I get a feeling he might think this of me). At the same time I may well be critical of his position, maybe unfairly. I admit to being very wary and critical of at least some “Conservative Christians”.

    The biggest shame I find is that there is this big split within those who call themselves Christians as we cannot seem to find ways of dealing with our own diversity. This I think is a bad witness to those who know little of Christianity and particularly to those who attack it.

    There are a couple of problems I see that contribute a lot to this situation, one is that we are often separated by doctrine and dogma, the other is that, as Jesus says “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” I.e. Christians, often stupidly disagree and cause hurt to ourselves and others and not everyone who professes to be a “Christian”, is what should really be meant by that. It seems to be impossible to discern the reality of which of these is the case and impossible to resolve either.

    I personally would love to see a unified, but diverse Christendom showing the magnificent reality of Jesus, God’s intervention in this World to the lost, but I despair of that actually happening.

    I would agree with Crude in that there is a danger of being too liberal and harming God’s work, but at the same time I think that there is also danger in some Conservatives doing the same. This I would relate to Jesus criticism of the Pharisees (and I think he was rhetorically being overly general, as I think there were probably many good people amongst this group). I can’t currently think of a similar metaphor for the liberals.

    It would be interesting if we could all agree on a minimum of essentials for us to believe in to share a unified faith and message and wonder if you, Crude, I and anyone else could reach agreement on any of these. My current list is;

    Jesus came and lived amongst us, was crucified and rose again. This is recorded in the New Testament. In some way manner and form he was also God, as testified to by the Israelites in the Old Testament. The generally accepted Canon of Christian Scripture is “inspired” and of unique importance in leading us to God. It is important to be accepted by God and of dire consequence to not be. We of our own free will can reject or accept God’s gift. This is a deep and profound mystery and man alone cannot explain it in full and complete detail, but he can understand it in whatever form God reveals it to each individual. We need to actively follow Jesus and in what-ever way is possible and should attempt to show to others that this way is essential and desirable for them too.

    I would add that each of these statements is not intended to be a complete or full “dogma” or “doctrine”, is to some extent weak, but also deliberately vague. Personally I would not use adherence to any of these or denial of them to “prove” or “disprove” an active relationship to God.

  4. labreuer says :

    I should have said that “traumatizing a kid with hell CAN be a true child abuse”.

    But what is the force of this claim? Could teaching kids about Santa Claus be child abuse? I’m sure I can imagine up some psychology which is traumatized by Santa Claus. Marc, where is your evidence? C’mon, now.

    • lotharson says :

      I should not have given the impression that I believe that teaching eternal conscious torment is always child abuse.

      It would be egregiously scandalous to assert this as a general rule .

      However, I think that a good case can be made that fundamentalists traumatizing their children with hell are abusing them.

      True enough, I am not aware of any scientific study carried out about this.

      But imagine a father going to his daughter’s bed before she falls asleep, and whispering to her:
      “Anna, you know Jesus loves you. But if you don’t accept Him into your heart you are going to hell where you will not suffer for one, two or three but for the whole eternity. Therefore please, make a decision for Christ before it becomes too late.”

      Don’t you think this would be abusive?
      Why many moderate Conservative Evangelicals would not teach hell in this way, this is what is going on in many fundamentalist households.

      I know countless such cases, Jonny Scaramanga who I interview is one of them, and he wrote that he still experience now and then corresponding nightmares.

      Many folks are DebunkingChristianity are so irrationally angry because of this trauma.

      Luke, I am in a very awkward position. I want to be fair towards anyone but also clearly expose what I can only view as evil.
      I don’t want to hurt anyone but I do want to combat injustices.

      Yet my first purpose is always to build up a human relationship rather than winning an argument.

      I feel really depressed about the culture war and the loveless manner people treat each other.

      • Crude says :

        Lothar,

        But imagine a father going to his daughter’s bed before she falls asleep, and whispering to her:
        “Anna, you know Jesus loves you. But if you don’t accept Him into your heart you are going to hell where you will not suffer for one, two or three but for the whole eternity. Therefore please, make a decision for Christ before it becomes too late.”

        Don’t you think this would be abusive?

        The problem is, you’re giving an example that’s almost comedic. As I said on my blog, you can easily come up with examples where the ‘naturalist’ or ‘atheist’ upbringing is far worse than this.

        To mirror your example:

        Imagine a father going to his daughter’s bed before she falls asleep and whispering to her,

        “Anna, remember… you don’t even have a self. You’re really just a soulless automaton, a meat robot. Your every supposed “choice” is just the unintended result of mindless physical properties – just like my love for you, which is really just a survival mechanism programmed by evolution. And when you die, you’re altogether gone and will never come back… just like everyone you love. Well, everyone you think you love – there is no you. Nighty night.”

      • Crude says :

        By the way, Lothar.

        I’m not sure this is intentional, but I’m on Chrome, and for a while now coming to your blog immediately and only displays ‘My Very Bests Posts’ and the comments to it, rather than the latest post.

      • lotharson says :

        Yeah, it is intentional because I think these posts are worth being read.

        I haven’t (alas) find another way to make this page accessible to all than making it the welcome page.

        Well my Internet skills aren’t always very high :-)

        Thanks for your remark anyway.

      • Ross says :

        Dear Lotharson.

        I sympathise with your final comment here. The culture war is something I find depressing too, deeply depressing. However I find that this is just yet another example of what it means to live in a World of darkness.

        Paradoxically there seems to be some way that although the darkness is everywhere, this is not ultimately a reason to fall into total despair. Jesus was the light and he came into the darkness and it seemed that the darkness won by killing him off. However this was a victory over the darkness! Don’t ask me how this makes sense, but it’s the truth.

        If you despair at the darkness and at the loveless manner people treat each other, at least you are sharing Jesus’ anguish.

        I don’t know if this is helpful, or can lift your mood, but you are not alone in feeling this way.

      • lotharson says :

        The confusion also begins with ourselves and how to determine what is right and what is wrong.

        I think that bullying a nice person is always wrong, whatever her beliefs might be.

        Unfortunately this is what people on BOTH sides of the “Kulturkampf” keep doing.

      • labreuer says :

        @lotharson,

        However, I think that a good case can be made that fundamentalists traumatizing their children with hell are abusing them.

        Then present the case, and all attendant evidence? Surely you have some? If not, why on earth are you saying that “a good case can be made”? You’re making an extremely strong claim, here! I don’t think the evidence you provide in this post is nearly enough to merit the strength of your claims.

        Don’t you think this would be abusive?

        What I think is largely irrelevant, because I don’t count myself as a good simulator of children, being 29. One of my friends was having discussions with his mother about how the Germans willingly participated in the Holocaust; the purpose was to empathize with them, not condemn them. He was four years old at the time. Was his mother abusing him, in exposing him to such horrors?

        I know countless such cases, Jonny Scaramanga who I interview is one of them, and he wrote that he still experience now and then corresponding nightmares.

        And if we found out that this was countervailed by this fear preventing crimes? There is a deep logic to fear being used on children and reason being used with adults. 1 John 4:18 says that “perfect love casts out fear”. But good grief I want my children to be scared of cars until they can intelligently manage themselves around them when they’re being driven 40mph.

        You’re picking out a smaller number of instances where people trace psychological damage to a location, assuming they’re correct (contra The Unreliability of Naive Introspection), ignoring any other changes that would happen by legislating a change in how children are taught, and making a declaration. This is very arrogant; to do; do you realize this?

        I feel really depressed about the culture war and the loveless manner people treat each other.

        You will not change things for the better via making statements like you are. Instead, comprehensively analyze the problem, gain the requisite knowledge to propose a realistic solution, point to similar situations which worked, and then start advocating. But you aren’t doing this, Marc. You’re shooting from the hip. This does not ameliorate culture wars, it inflames them!

  5. joseph palazzo says :

    I’m not sure what your point is? Are in favor of Female Genital Mutilation? If not, you are intolerant. Are you in favor of giving equal teaching times to astrology as with astronomy? If not, you are intolerant. If your fear is that you will be accused of being intolerant against… (fill in the blank) then you will be paralysed, and everything is equally permitted. What kind of society would that get us? Now you favor that our rules and regulations – or more aptly, morality- should be based on some principles – in your case, the bible – but the universe will not rearrange itself just to please you. Society is made up of a diversity of opinions. There will always be winners and losers. For a long time, christians were no doubt the winners. Now they see the carpet being pulled off their feet. And so they whine, whine, whine. Especially against the New Atheists – what a farce that is. You’ve invented a bogeyman that only exists in your imagination. What’s going on is that we are making progress in every field of endeavor, and matching with that, technological innovation. In my own lifetime, I went from 78 to 45 to LP’s to cassettes to CD’s, and now itunes. And who knows what’s next!The world is changing, and it ain’t going to stop. And every belief we had in the past will be scrutinized under the microscope.

    • labreuer says :

      Joseph, it’s not clear what your point is. Criticize nothing, except for criticism? Is it wrong to point out that New Atheists are manifesting some of the very behavior they deplore in others? What is the difference between ‘criticizing’ and ‘whining’? Perhaps criticizing lead toward better futures, while whining just makes oneself feel good while doing nothing positive in the world?

  6. rdmiksa says :

    Dear Marc,

    If you at all interested, I replied to your post here:

    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.ca/2014/04/external-link-hyphenated-christians.html

    Take care,

    RD Miksa

  7. Crude says :

    Well, thank you for this post, Lothar. And I want to stress some points here, about just what my criticisms are.

    My problem here is not with a person who supports same-sex marriage, nor is it with a person who tries to convince others same-sex marriage is legitimate, etc. My problem is with a person who treats any indication of present or past opposition to gay marriage as an offense worthy of being fired from one’s job, of being fined by the state, or otherwise.

    If someone is given the example of a baker – really, a baker who would happily supply a cake for a gay man or woman for their birthday, for a party, for anything else – but who would not want to supply a cake for a gay wedding, and you feel completely comfortable with the idea that an LGBT activist could target them purposefully to supply said cake, and if they refuse to do so they could be fined and imprisoned? If even this specific situation is something someone say ‘Yep, that’s a good thing, this should happen’ in response to, then yep, I think that person is pretty well a monster.

    Likewise, if someone is angling to have raising their child as Catholic treated as a crime that is ‘child abuse’, and think this is a great way to advance atheism in society or even “progressive” Christianity, they are monsters. More than that, they are monsters who end up unintentionally justifying equally monstrous acts in turn, because at that point the stakes are clear.

    My point was that a “progressive” Christian who crosses these lines – who cheers on people being fired from their jobs for opposition to gay marriage, who cheers on Christians being fined for not providing a service for a same-sex wedding even when they’re happy to supply services to any gay woman or man – can no longer be said to have much “common ground” with other Christians, particularly conservatives. Likewise for someone who would treat ‘being raised as an orthodox Catholic’ child abuse. Hit those points – which notice, emphasize state action and dire personal attacks, not mere disagreement or belief – and we’re done. There’s no more ‘well let’s still sit at the table and try to focus on what we agree on! :)’ to be had. At that point I walk.

    As I said, tildeb – who, let’s face it, is a member of not only of what just about any Christian can see is a modern hate movement, and is actually kind of nuts besides – is there talking about the great allies “progressive” Christians have with the New Atheists. That may not suffice to show their position on this topic is wrong – but it damn well should at least give them a moment’s pause.

    Pardon the double post, I originally put this in the wrong reply column.

  8. joseph palazzo says :

    @labreuer

    Which part of, “Society is made up of a diversity of opinions. There will always be winners and losers. For a long time, christians were no doubt the winners. Now they see the carpet being pulled off their feet” don’t you understand?

    • Crude says :

      Alright, what you’re saying is clear.

      In other words, the fact that atheists are considered terrorists now under Saudi law shouldn’t merit any criticism from Christians. There are winners and losers, and right now in some parts of the world, atheists are losers. What’s more, the Saudis – who are, I recall, overwhelmingly religious – are being rational in treating atheists so, since if the shoe was on the other foot, atheists should be expected to persecute muslims, etc.

      Thanks for the clarification.

    • labreuer says :

      That’s a descriptive statement, not a normative statement. Are you saying that the fall of Rome and “dark ages” which followed were good, because they came later? Might does not make right, does it? As to this, from your other post (you failed to properly reply to the thread):

      What’s going on is that we are making progress in every field of endeavor, and matching with that, technological innovation.

      You really need to check out Myth of Progress. Take a look at public education in the US and UK and tell me if it is really “progress”. No, we’re headed toward a two-tiered society. Public school will prepare the plebes to work for the rich who can afford private schools. If all society has to do is give you toys (“78 to 45 to LP’s to cassettes to CD’s, and now itunes”), you will just play along like a good little citizen.

  9. joseph palazzo says :

    I don’t live in Saudi Arabia. However when we look at the US, what do we see? The christians are fighting on many fronts: they want to restore prayers in the schools, they want creationism to be taught in the science class on equal I don’t live in Saudi Arabia. However when we look at the US, what do we see? The christians are fighting on many fronts: they want to restore prayers in the schools, they want creationism to be taught in the science class on equal footing with evolution, they want abortion clinics to be closed and deny women the right to make their own decision about their bodies, they are against Obamacare because firms must provide insurance that include coverage of contraceptives, they are against gay rights and gay marriage, they are against stem cell research, and for many, they are totally anti-science to the point that they deny not only evolution but climate change due to human activities, of which 95% of scientists have shown that it is happening right now. If atheists are on the opposite side of christians on these issues, it’s because we want to move forward. The christians are on the wrong side of history.

    • Crude says :

      I don’t live in Saudi Arabia.

      Oh, of course. So it really doesn’t matter at all.

      they want to restore prayers in the schools,

      Who? Where? Hell, homeschooling is growing more and more with Christians.

      they want creationism to be taught in the science class on equal footing with evolution

      Not really – they gave that up a while ago. They’ve moved on to ID and the like, and even there, they settle for it not being taught and instead teaching outstanding problems/limitations with the theory. Which, apparently, is now ‘creationism’.

      they want abortion clinics to be closed

      Yep, they have this whole ‘innocent human beings shouldn’t be slaughtered at a whim’ thing going on. Which you don’t share – see your Saudi quote.

      they are against Obamacare because firms must provide insurance that include coverage of contraceptives

      This is precious. Mostly because you apparently think most Christians oppose contraceptive use.

      they are against gay rights and gay marriage,

      Oh, they’re in favor of plenty of gay rights – merely not special, new ones. Many oppose same-sex marriage, others favor it. I disagree with them, but they do exist.

      You just… really have no idea of the actual makeup of Christians and their beliefs in the US, do you?

      they are totally anti-science to the point that they deny not only evolution but climate change due to human activities

      Same problem as before. And, you equate ‘disagreeing with you’ or even ‘disagreeing with scientists’ with being ‘anti-science’ – which, ironically, is what is really anti-science.

      It’s not ‘anti-science’ to be honestly mistaken.

      of which 95% of scientists have shown that it is happening right now

      You don’t even understand ‘95% agreement’ isn’t ‘95% have shown’, and that ‘agreement’ isn’t a demonstration. Now, some research and experiments may strongly indicate one thing or another, but uh.. you don’t seem like someone who can grasp such things.

      The christians are on the wrong side of history.

      ‘You’re on the wrong side of history…!’

      Said the nazis.
      Said the stalinists.
      Said the romans.
      Said the japanese.
      Said the scientologists.
      Said the French.
      Said the British.
      Said the Russians.
      Said the Spanish.
      Said…

      • labreuer says :

        Hey Crude, do you have thoughts on separating ‘marriage’ from ‘civil union’, so that ‘marriage’ is 100% a religious affair with no civil benefits attached (no power of attorney, no inheritance, none of that)? I’m becoming increasingly enamored of that approach, especially after listening to Randal Rauser’s podcast David Goa on Religion in the Public Square. What religion you get married under could actually mean something, in that a religion could establish various requirements for divorce (eliminating no-fault divorce), oaths could be respected instead of words being denigrated (“for life” = “for however long I feel like it”), etc. Some religions could require premarital counseling, while others would just rubber-stamp marriage. I haven’t discussed this idea extensively, so I don’t have too strongly formed of an opinion.

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        To be perfectly honest, I am all over the map on this argument – it depends on if you’re asking me about the ideal, what I think is practically demanded, etc. I can say I find what you’re discussing interesting, but at that point I’d like ‘civil union’ expanded to include absolutely any number of people or inanimate objects or even animals, with sexual expectation and association entirely stripped from the agreement conceptually.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude, it seems that this would be a good thing. Sex and cohabitation would no longer be equivalent to ‘marriage'; marriage would mean much more than just monogamous sex and maybe kids (most of them aborted). As to which types of civil union receive government subsidies, that’s an issue that would need to be settled on in a democratic way.

        Christians would have this thing called ‘marriage’, and claim that restricting sex to it makes it much more valuable. Others would be welcome to disagree. The ultimate test would be to compare the children who grow up within Christian marriages, and those who grow up otherwise. People can talk until they’re blue in the face about what would be good. The evidence speaks more authoritatively, to me. Let society turn into Corinth, with Christians holding other Christians to higher standards. A greater contrast between Christians and non-Christians can only serve Christianity better, right? It’s when Christians start cutting corners and deciding that maybe its truths don’t have to be believed quite so strongly, that one gets slow decay. But when there are very clear consequences of living in “alternative lifestyles”—if indeed there are such consequences—dogma starts being a bit clearer.

        P.S. Have you read Os Guinness’ The Gravedigger File, or The Last Christian on Earth? The latter is a 2010 update of the 1983 former. They’re great; they’re attack-the-Church versions of Screwtape Letters.

      • Crude says :

        I haven’t read them, but I’ll give ‘em look. Thanks for the recommendations. :)

    • labreuer says :

      @joseph, when atheists like Peter Boghossian want religious belief to be classified as a mental disease, do you agree with him? I’m not sure how you’ll answer this, based on the posts of yours I’ve seen.

  10. joseph palazzo says :

    @crude

    My post was not meant to mean that christians form a monolith group, which you did by just looking at your reply. There’s no point in answering such a dishonest premise.

    @labreuer

    I haven’t read Boghosian and have no inclination to read his books, and so I cannot respond directly to your question.

    • labreuer says :

      @joseph

      I haven’t read Boghosian and have no inclination to read his books, and so I cannot respond directly to your question.

      Randal Rauser excerpted the relevant bits:

      “There is perhaps no greater contribution one could make to contain and perhaps even cure faith than removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness. The removal of religious exemptions from the DSM would enable academicians and clinicians to bring considerable resources to bear on the problem of treating faith, as well as on the ethical issues surrounding faith-based interventions. In the long term, once these treatments and this body of research is refined, results could then be used to inform public health policies designed to contain and ultimately eradicate faith.” Peter Boghossian A Manual for Creating Atheists (Kindle Locations 3551-3555).

      So, is Boghossian right, in your opinion? Ought religious belief be considered a mental illness?

      • tildeb says :

        Again, reading comprehension seems difficult for you. Let me help by highlighting the important word in this sentence:

        …removing the exemption that prohibits classifying religious delusions as mental illness.

        Boghossian is talking about the insertion of a special exemption in the DSM for delusional thinking.. if it is religious. You assume he’s talking about religious belief to be a mental illness. He’s not (although sometimes it is). He’s talking about mental illness receiving an exemption if it is religious and that we can’t learn more about or treat delusional thinking garbed in religious belief if we allow such an exemption by fiat. He’s saying delusional thinking deserving of treatment is delusional thinking deserving of treatment even if it IS garbed in religious belief.

      • labreuer says :

        Boghossian is talking about the insertion of a special exemption in the DSM for delusional thinking.. if it is religious.

        Yeah, ok. It’s not like he thinks that “religious delusions” constitutes anything based on ‘faith’, which he defines:

        1. Belief without evidence. (23)

        2. Pretending to know things you don’t know. (24)

        So yeah, I’m sure some “religious thinking” doesn’t depend on faith. So strictly thinking, not all “religious thinking” would get classified as “religious delusions”. Guess what? This is irrelevant. Your response is a giant red herring.

      • tildeb says :

        No, your selected quotation does not say what you want it to say. Pointing this fact out is not a ‘red herring’ but a correction. Deal with it.

      • labreuer says :

        Ahh yes, because once I quote a single section of a book, I am not allowed to clarify by introducing other thoughts by the author which clarify. That just isn’t acceptable!

        You just don’t want to accept that some of the popular New Atheists want an eradication of religion, and at least one is willing to call any interesting religious thought “delusional”, and get such people placed in mental institutions. That’s precisely what happened in the USSR, only then the only sin one had to commit was to object to the ruling party—no ‘faith’ required!

      • lotharson says :

        I prefer anti-theists who clearly and unambiguously recognize the fascistic character of their plans.
        (Sam harris: Tolerance will drive us into the abyss).

      • labreuer says :

        Heh. Although, the quote by Harris is not necessarily insane. Peter L. Berger, in A Far Glory, argues that tolerance of cannibals would shatter society. There is no such thing as tolerance of everything, and tolerance of everything which is tolerant is a paradigmatic example of Russell’s paradox: if I am intolerant of something, am I a tolerant or intolerant individual? This whole discussion of ‘tolerance’ is mumbo-jumbo for merely accepting certain types of behavior and not others. We are not tolerant of rapists—at least, I hope we aren’t!

        The word ‘tolerance’ really is meaningless in the final analysis. Instead, we ought to talk about what is acceptable in the secular sphere and what is not. The inculcation of hatred is not… unless perhaps it is hatred of those who are intolerant? See this analysis of the new Mozilla CEO’s resignation. That analysis, by the way, is written by a homosexual. And he thinks the social pressure which cased Brendan Eich to resign was terrible.

        Marc, you really, really need to think solidly through your stance on ‘tolerance’. What, precisely do you mean by it? All people must be ‘nice’? Hopefully that isn’t it, because such a stance lets hatred brew on the inside until it erupts into violence. I would be willing to wager that history is littered with such brewing and the resultant explosions.

        I suggest we switch from ‘tolerance’ to talking about the inalienable value of the human being, and precisely what we should civilly legislate and what must remain in the sphere of micro-cultural decisions. Does the State decide what human thriving is and impose that conception on the populace, or does it create an environment in which various individuals and societies can research what they think human thriving is? Consider the Amish: ought they be allowed to do what they do? Or perhaps the State will impose radical individualism on everyone.

        This discussion of ‘tolerance’ serves only to obfuscate. It doesn’t mean anything solid. Is it ‘tolerance’ to drive a CEO out of his post through social pressure because of what he used to say? Is it ‘tolerance’ to fine a Canadian pastor who reads what Leviticus has to say about homosexuality? And so forth. Let us speak plainly, as Jesus urged.

      • lotharson says :

        I agree.

        BUT Harris meant that even tolerance towards religious moderate folks will usher us into our end.

        There should be no tolerance at all, ALL religions ought to disappear.

      • labreuer says :

        Yeah, well, religion is a powerful force that can back conceptions of ‘the good’. If Sam Harris is to impose his conception of ‘the good’ on the rest of the world, he needs to rid the battlefield of opponents who could put up a serious fight. And so he caricatures religion and tries to rid us of it. Loftus did the same in OTF, where he said that religion stands in the way of “global political unity” or something like that. All these people are following in the path of BF Skinner: they want to become lords over the masses, the rabble. To do this, they must get rid of religion, or at least those religions which threaten any earthly authority: the great monotheisms. Buddhism is probably ok, as it doesn’t threaten earthly authorities. Surprise surprise, Harris isn’t against Buddhism—he likes it!

      • tildeb says :

        Again, you’re just making stuff up and assigning it to those who say stuff you don’t like.

        Harris’ conception of ‘the good’ is about human well-being as the metric for comparing and contrasting various ethical and moral behaviours evaluated by reasons informed by compelling evidence from reality to accomplish this. What a totalitarian creep for thinking human well-being is more important than actions that harm people but supposedly please some god.

        Come on.

        The use of conflicting and incompatible systems of faith-based belief is the worst possible metric to use if one seeks to improve human well-being but one that we find currently in play and influentially so throughout much of the world. Religion is a single strand of faith-based belief and it is important to recall that it demonstrably produces no knowledge about the real world (and what constitutes improvements and reductions of human well-being arbitrated by reality) any more than alternative therapies add knowledge to medicine or anti-vaxers add knowledge to pharmacology.

        Faith-based beliefs are not informed by compelling evidence adduced from reality but are imposed on it… at the expense of real harm done to real people in real life. This is the common method we find in all faith-based beliefs. It is privileging this method in the public domain that earns universal condemnation from New Atheists and not the rights and freedoms and dignity of people who utilize it. Of course, those who are used to the privilege will insist that its criticism and (hopefully) removal from the public domain is a ‘war’ of ‘intolerance’. In their defense of supporting religious privilege, many theists of the right kind should be able to reduce the rights of others on the basis of their religious beliefs (and call it ‘freedom of religion) and anything less than tolerating this privilege is a totalitarian plot to take over the world. It doesn’t matter what religious faith we’re talking about, of course; the same methodological approach is used by all. Labreuer, you don’t disappoint. In fact you are typical.

      • labreuer says :

        What a totalitarian creep for thinking human well-being is more important than actions that harm people but supposedly please some god.

        You’ve drunk the Kool-aid: you appear to think [most] Christianity advocates for behaviors which (a) harm people; and (b) supposedly please God. Or do you not actually believe this?

        Religion is a single strand of faith-based belief and it is important to recall that it demonstrably produces no knowledge about the real world (and what constitutes improvements and reductions of human well-being arbitrated by reality) any more than alternative therapies add knowledge to medicine or anti-vaxers add knowledge to pharmacology.

        You simply do not know what you’re talking about. Early Islam was an improvement in women’s rights. The Apostle Paul has his famous neither male nor female passage, and Jesus said that instead of hating your enemy, you are to love your enemy. People still think that command is insane, today. When it comes up, I routinely hear it described as something like “sociopolitical suicide”. And perhaps it is; Jesus certain got crucified for his actions.

        The following is from acclaimed sociologist Peter L. Berger’s A Far Glory:

        For Western individualism, like no other worldview in human history, has proposed (I would say discovered) the irreplaceable worth of every individual, regardless of race, nation, gender, age, physical or mental handicap, belief system, or any other collective ascription. Every human culture recognizes certain rights belonging to an individual by virtue of his membership in a community. Only Western individualism has brought about the recognition of an individual’s rights apart from his community and, if necessary, against it. These rights are closely linked to a perception of the individual as a free and responsible being, indeed a solitary being—and not just an agent of some communal entity. (101-2)

        Compare Aristotle on slavery to Paul:

        There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)

        Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Col 3:11)

        These were revolutionary. The idea that male and female and mankind in general are made in the image of God was also revolutionary; compare this to contemporary cultures, which had only the kings and emperors being divine image-bearers, with the rest being their slaves, or something like it. Go read Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Justice: Rights and Wrongs, and see where the idea of rights really came from, instead of trusting in your mythology.

        Faith-based beliefs are not informed by compelling evidence adduced from reality

        If you think that religion was ever meant to produce scientific knowledge, you are in dire need of… evidence. For example, Keith Ward’s The Case for Religion:

        One immediate result of such an inquiry [figuring out how modern religious adherents would describe 'religion'] would surely be to suggest that people are not primarily interested in trying to explain why events happen, and their practice is not primarily intended to make things happen as they wish. The contemporary Christian does not go to church to find out how televisions or transistors work, or to make sure that she gets a good job. Appeal to God is so far from explaining anything that it is more often a puzzle than a clarification. The query, ‘Why does God allow suffering?’ never explains it; it intensifies the problem. So it seems very odd to suggest that the motivation for belief in God is a desire for explanation. Similarly, Christians are usually castigated by preachers for trying to use religion as a means to worldly success. Abandonment to the divine will is more often recommended than attempts to get God to do what one wants. Of course, in prayer people often do ask God to do what they would like to see. But it again seems very odd to suggest that this is the primary reason for their practice, when it is so frequently and vehemently criticized by most Christian teachers as mislocating the primary importance of the adoration of God as being of supreme value. (46)

        You appear to believe in fairy tales, tildeb. You seem to think that doctrine is like insisting that F = ma is correct, in the face of GR. No. It’s more like this, as Timothy Ware explains in The Orthodox Church:

        The life of the Church in the earlier Byzantine period is dominated by the seven general councils. These councils fulfilled a double task. First, they clarified and articulated the visible organization of the Church, crystallizing the position of the five great sees or Patriarchates, as they came to be known. Secondly, and most important, the councils defined once and for all the Church’s teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith—the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as ‘mysteries’ which lie beyond human understanding and language. The bishops, when they drew up definitions at the councils, did not imagine that they had explained the mystery; they merely sought to exclude certain false ways of speaking and thinking about it. To prevent people from deviating into error and heresy, they drew a fence around the mystery; that was all. (20)

        Stop believing mythology that isn’t supported by the evidence, tildbe. Stop drinking the Kool-aid. Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and the late Christopher Hitchens may have gotten a few things right, but they got a lot wrong. They thought it was ok to speak about things that they did not understand—as if this is ever acceptable in science—and they did what always happens when one speaks thusly: they got a lot wrong. But because they knew a bit more than the average guy, their ideas caught on like wildfire. But all they did was really appeal to the mob. Don’t be on of the mob. They aren’t thinking. They don’t test their ideas against the evidence.

  11. joseph palazzo says :

    crude said: “The “progressives” are on-record as supporting the firing of people who so much as disagree with them about things like gay marriage, up to and including using the state to fine, harass and penalize people for not taking part in their little fake ceremonies.”

    Tell me crude, if someone’s religion is against divorce and he runs a restaurant, does that owner have a right to refuse the divorced person on religious grounds?

    Where does it stop when you have 40,000+ christian denominations, each of those have different beliefs?

  12. sheila0405 says :

    Hey tildeb, you said: “Religion is a single strand of faith-based belief and it is important to recall that it demonstrably produces no knowledge about the real world…”

    Well, there is Gregor Mendel, who was an Augustinian friar. I think he produced some knowledge about inherited traits, did he not?

    • tildeb says :

      Yes… by doing science. His religious beliefs did not.

      Lots of religious people do excellent science but the science itself isn’t produced by applying religious doctrine and imposing one’s beliefs on reality. It’s the other way around… except religion doesn’t like to admit its special methodology doesn’t work to produce knowledge (which is why it requires faith and insists – unlike every other avenue of inquiry that correctly identifies it as a vice – that it is a virtue).

      • lotharson says :

        “Lots of religious people do excellent science but the science itself isn’t produced by applying religious doctrine and imposing one’s beliefs on reality.”

        Lots of atheistic people do excellent science but the science itself isn’t produced by applying their Atheological doctrine and imposing one’s beliefs on reality :-)

      • tildeb says :

        Come on, Lotharson. How does one apply non belief in gods or god to science? The same way one applies non belief in faeries to changing a tire.

        It’s a very silly notion because there’s no such doctrine as “atheological” that can be ‘applied’.

      • sheila0405 says :

        Okay, thanks for the clarification. I thought you meant that no religious person could ever contribute to science. I misread your comment. Sorry.

      • tildeb says :

        No apology necessary. It’s refreshing to come across someone for whom a clarification is understood. Anyone who knows anything about the history of science knows that many great minds allowed room for religious belief and many were motivated to do science to better understand what they assumed was God’s creation. In this sense, there is no incompatibility. The incompatibility between religion and science only surfaces when the method of inquiry used to justify religious belief (revelation, scriptural authority, personal interpretation, faith) is used in place of or imposed into the method of science… specifically in claims for how reality operates. Paying plumbers to exorcize the supernatural elements that supposedly cause problems with how pipes function will eventually undermine what the profession is supposed to accomplish: fixing plumbing problems so that they work. Inserting religious methodology into science will eventually undermine what the profession is supposed to accomplish: gain knowledge on how reality works. That’s why it’s important to understand why the percentage of those who claim religious affiliation decreases with higher levels of education and scientific expertise. In the biological sciences, for example, the percentage falls below one in five and in evolutionary biology below one in twenty. At elite levels, this percentage falls to about one in 40. That’s why we are often are told to interpret this as evidence that doing science produces atheists. My interpretation is that people doing science – especially really fine science – begin to really appreciate the value of Laplace’s comment to Napoleon about his not mentioning God in his Nebular Hypothesis, that they find no need for that hypothesis.

      • labreuer says :

        The incompatibility between religion and science only surfaces when the method of inquiry used to justify religious belief (revelation, scriptural authority, personal interpretation, faith) is used in place of or imposed into the method of science… specifically in claims for how reality operates.

        If religious belief led to a working theory of quantum gravity, it would be accepted even though it came from an unorthodox source. This is undeniably true. What is the case is that usually, religion is focused on less tangible parts of life, such as ‘the good’ and relationships.

      • tildeb says :

        And as such, it can make for interesting readings. No harm, no foul.

        Where I get annoyed is where religious belief is used to justify confidence in claims about reality without allowing reality to arbitrate them. And the same is true for ethical and moral considerations where belief – again – is used to justify confidence in making the impact of holding certain positions more than intangible. I don’t much trust using an intangible metric for evaluating tangible effects.

      • labreuer says :

        Where I get annoyed is where religious belief is used to justify confidence in claims about reality without allowing reality to arbitrate them.

        Funnily, enough, this is a human characteristic, not a religious one! For example, you claimed:

        And because of the demonstrable harm done to children taught to believe in a divine thought police officer and an eternal prison of hell awaiting them for stray thoughts, this kind of indoctrination really is (arguably) abuse.

        I responded, asking for evidence. You never replied. There are two other claims that I routinely hear. One is that history would look better had religion been excised. Whenever I ask for empirical evidence of this, the airwaves go silent. Another is that religion’s primary goal is to do the things science now does. Keith Ward destroys this idea in The Case for Religion, where he does actual empirical research on the matter, and finds that hey, religion generally isn’t concerned with explaining things nearly as much as they are concerned with relating to the supernatural, having good relationships, etc. (46)

        So I will agree with this stupidity of imposing strongly-held, but weakly-supported claims on other people, but only if the “religious belief” qualifier is stripped out of the accusation and sent through a paper shredder.

        The Bible routinely speaks for humility and against arrogance. The fact that Jews and Christians so often failed to be humble (know how confidently you know what you know) is not so surprising when we realize that humans so often fail to be humble. Consider Max Planck’s oft-quoted quip: “Science advances one funeral at a time.” I’m married to a scientist and my best man has been faculty at a prestigious university for thirty years. Planck was correct.

        Stop scapegoating religion. Maybe you aren’t, maybe you were just specifying “religious belief” because of the context, but I suspect you think that religion makes one more likely to be dogmatic. If you believe this, where’s your evidence?

      • tildeb says :

        Don’t mistake my lack of addressing your question for an absence of evidence of the point I made, that there is demonstrable harm done to children taught to believe in a divine thought police officer and an eternal prison of hell awaiting them for stray thoughts, this kind of indoctrination really is (arguably) abuse.

        I have two questions for you in this regard:

        1) what kind of evidence would you like me to provide (because there is such a wealth of evidence to choose from), and

        2) would it make any difference to you?

        You can do this research as well as I, and you can read tens of thousands of testimonials if you wish from across the religious spectrum. You can look at scholarly papers and read about the effects on child psychological well being from reputable sources (some positive, some negative). You can investigate the long term effects from psychological trauma in childhood. What you can’t do is pretend that my lack of an answer is due to there being no compelling evidence in support of my claim. Just go RDF’s convert corner, or Leaving Fundamentalism, or Leaving Christianity, or any of the hundreds of sites that deal with the lasting effects from this issue.

        That you don’t have enough curiosity to follow up on your own is more of an indictment of your desire to find out what’s true than it is any indication of a lack of compelling evidence for the claim I made.

      • labreuer says :

        I have two questions for you in this regard:

        1) what kind of evidence would you like me to provide (because there is such a wealth of evidence to choose from), and

        2) would it make any difference to you?

        I don’t know what kind is available for 1). As to 2), I hope it will! I actually hesitate to even have kids, because of how tangled this issue is! My current view of hell is that humans make it. That makes the most sense to me logically and empirically. In my own upbringing, my father routinely compared “the world’s way” to “God’s way”, challenging me to do the comparisons myself and come up with my thoughts. But I’ve only scratched the surface of this issue.

        I would be interested in something in addition to testimonials, given The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. I am too well-acquainted with people wrongly attributing psychological damage—I do it myself! How, for example, can you balance psychological damage caused by religious beliefs taught in childhood, and psychological protection from religious beliefs taught in childhood? What about damage/protection from non-religious beliefs taught in childhood? Let’s not be partial!

        You can do this research as well as I, and you can read tens of thousands of testimonials if you wish from across the religious spectrum.

        You appear to have already done the research, and thus you’ll be able to spend less total time to provide this thread with it. Furthermore, it is generally the case that the person who makes a claim bears the burden of proof to back it up.

        That you don’t have enough curiosity to follow up on your own is more of an indictment of your desire to find out what’s true than it is any indication of a lack of compelling evidence for the claim I made.

        This is manipulative and I reject it.

      • tildeb says :

        Really? You’re going to reject all first person accounts of personal harm because you attribute each and every one to naive introspection?

        Ha! That’s a good one… if you like irony… especially coming from a believer!

        What would it take for me to back up the claim “that there is demonstrable harm done to children taught to believe in a divine thought police officer and an eternal prison of hell”?

        Well, from where I sit, I think that those who have lived it (a good piece here) can offer us some insight into its deleterious and pernicious effects. Unlike you, I’m not going to reject this unending source of reference.

        But the evidence goes from the individual to societal. It demonstrable harm is ubiquitous by the effects of its implementation, by the way it used as justification for decisions, conclusions, policies, and even governance based on belief in hell and belief in impure, ungodly thoughts. These effects can be shown to cause real people real harm in real life. Just check out today;s news. The very latest is the legal implementation of a new blasphemy law based on policing our thoughts in Saudi Arabia that declares atheists to be terrorists!

        My point is that the lack of a response to your question is not an indication of a lack of compelling evidence as you later presented it to be. Quite the opposite: the evidence is so overwhelming that there is no need to respond to take such a question seriously enough when, as I suspected, no answer – no amount of evidence, no matter what reality has to say in the arbitration of the claim, will ever suffice. I suspect that you’re going to believe in heaven and hell come hell or high water regardless of how well I answer the question.

      • labreuer says :

        Really? You’re going to reject all first person accounts of personal harm because you attribute each and every one to naive introspection?

        Ha! That’s a good one… if you like irony… especially coming from a believer!

        False dichotomy. And you’ve actually made my case for me: unless you wanted to accept all self-reported religious experiences as veridical, you’d also want evidence in addition to self-reported experiences.

        Well, from where I sit, I think that those who have lived it (a good piece here) can offer us some insight into its deleterious and pernicious effects. Unlike you, I’m not going to reject this unending source of reference.

        Ahh, the reference you make is to Catholic guilt. My wife has told me about her experiences growing up Catholic, and the effect said guilt has had on her, as well as her cousin. Guess what: that’s not the only way that Christianity is taught! I think it would be absolutely fascinating to do an extensive study on the results of Catholic guilt—both positive and negative—and see what comes out of it. Tell me, @tildeb, do you expect to have a biased, or unbiased sampling of the effects of teaching doctrine X to children, in the way you’ve done your research? If you mostly just pay attention to blog articles, I can virtually guarantee you that it will be very biased sampling, indeed.

        It demonstrable harm is ubiquitous by the effects of its implementation, by the way it used as justification for decisions, conclusions, policies, and even governance based on belief in hell and belief in impure, ungodly thoughts.

        And what is “It”? Oh, it turns out that you changed the referent:

        Just check out today;s news. The very latest is the legal implementation of a new blasphemy law based on policing our thoughts in Saudi Arabia that declares atheists to be terrorists!

        You’re comparing Catholic guilt to this? Seriously? We’ve moved from a very real psychologcial pressure to capital punishment for saying the wrong things. Seriously?

        Quite the opposite: the evidence is so overwhelming that there is no need to respond to take such a question seriously enough

        This is precisely what was said to atheists hundreds of years ago. It was a terrible justification then and it is a terrible justification now. For example: you’re cherry-picking certain doctrine taught by a subset of religious believers, as if you’ve (a) identified precisely which doctrines cause harm; (b) identified precisely which doctrines cause more harm than good. You haven’t. You’re spouting propaganda, @tildeb.

      • tildeb says :

        You asked me for evidence that belief in hell and a divine thought police caused harm. I pointed out many people report harm. You dismiss all of these by fiat of them being first person accounts. But the harm isn;t only in the accounts themselves but the effects that have had on these people in real life. This was explained in the one link I provided… an account you then assume refers only to Catholicism. It doesn’t. It refers to every religion that claims some future life consequence based on belief in hell and/or a divine thought police.

        I point out that public polices that are based on this belief (I didn’t change the antecedent one iota) do cause real harm to real people and show that with the government of Saudi Arabia legislating on behalf of the divine thought police to condemn those who don’t believe in the divine thought police to be redefined as terrorists. This is a logical conclusion from allowing such belief power in the legislative public domain. It causes harm… whether you want to admit it or not. And that’s why I asked up front if anything I provided would be meaningful to you. The answer you gave is revealed by your ease of dismissing anything that supports it… as if the problem of meeting your unreasonable expectations is mine.

        When I’m dealing with a child devastated by the notion of eternal torment for breaking a commandment (with cause), your flippant dismissal of that harm on some airy philosophical ground is not just repugnant to me but creates an artificial barrier for direct empathy with a suffering child and replaces it with the aloofness of smug piousness, as if the notion of hell itself and belief in its reality cannot possibly be directly responsible for the emotional devastation unfolding before me… all for a trivial infraction of non-pious behaviour. And this has played out dozens of times with me, dozens of times with each and every teacher I know, with dozens of families I have relationships with, multiplied by the hundreds of thousands into the millions across the globe. Yet none of it is of any concern of your because you can rationalize it all away, leaving me to try my best to reassemble the damaged child.

        Gee, thanks. That’s very…. christian…. of you.

      • labreuer says :

        with the government of Saudi Arabia legislating on behalf of the divine thought police to condemn those who don’t believe in the divine thought police to be redefined as terrorists. This is a logical conclusion from allowing such belief power in the legislative public domain.

        What? We’re talking about what parents are allowed to teach in their homes, and what churches are allowed to teach in Sunday School, not funded by the government. How does this compare to “the legislative public domain”? In this case, it is you who wants action to happen in “the legislative public domain”.

        When I’m dealing with a child devastated by the notion of eternal torment for breaking a commandment (with cause), your flippant dismissal of that harm on some airy philosophical ground is not just repugnant to me but creates an artificial barrier for direct empathy with a suffering child and replaces it with the aloofness of smug piousness, as if the notion of hell itself and belief in its reality cannot possibly be directly responsible for the emotional devastation unfolding before me… all for a trivial infraction of non-pious behaviour.

        This misrepresents my position. Let me repeat myself:

        I would be interested in something in addition to testimonials, given The Unreliability of Naive Introspection. I am too well-acquainted with people wrongly attributing psychological damage—I do it myself! How, for example, can you balance psychological damage caused by religious beliefs taught in childhood, and psychological protection from religious beliefs taught in childhood? What about damage/protection from non-religious beliefs taught in childhood? Let’s not be partial!

        You didn’t actually respond to the whole of this paragraph. Therefore, I’ll break out some questions:

        1. Do people ever wrongly attribute what caused them harm?
        2. Is it reasonable to ask for more than just self-reported experiences?
        3. Can you expect, via how you get exposed to self-reported experiences, to hear positive aspects of religious teaching?

        I’d also like an answer to this question:

        4. Why aren’t religious experiences allowed as bona fide evidence, in your book?

        Given WP: Catholic guilt, which @Crude nicely linked, I think I am fully justified in being skeptical of anecdotal accounts. Is this wrong?

      • tildeb says :

        4. Why aren’t religious experiences allowed as bona fide evidence, in your book?

        In both cases, we’re talking about self reporting. That’s fine when it comes to feelings. This belief causes me to feel good; this belief causes me to fell bad. Fine. This belief is caused by an external agency that is interactive in the world. Not fine. Do you see the difference?

        Regarding the other questions and the potential positive aspect of religious belief, as soon as one attributes them to be reflective of reality, the border is crossed between subjective understanding (which is fine) and imposing the belief in place of reality’s arbitration of it (which is not fine). What I pointed out was that belief hell (and a divine thought police to adjudicate who gets sent there) as existing independently of our beliefs in reality causes demonstrable harm. That’s not to say it does so all of the time, without fail, to everyone, but it does so often enough to present us compelling correlational evidence that it happens and that dependent children are particularly susceptible to crossing this border because they don’t yet appreciate the difference between a belief based on subjective understanding and a belief based on reality’s arbitration of it. Teaching children that these beliefs are reflective of reality when there is no evidence from reality to support it is not education but indoctrination… an indoctrination that can and does cause a great deal of harm according to many of those so taught. Why aren’t more of listening and stop doing this? Well, because I think people are confused that there really is a difference in the quality of our beliefs based on the methods we use to justify them.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        What I pointed out was that belief hell (and a divine thought police to adjudicate who gets sent there) as existing independently of our beliefs in reality causes demonstrable harm.

        No, we do not know this. Why? Because you haven’t put any qualifiers in place. Here’s a version that is true:

        What I pointed out was that some beliefs in hell (and some beliefs in a divine thought police to adjudicate who gets sent there) as existing independently of our beliefs in reality sometimes is self-reported as causing demonstrable harm.

        These are very different statements! I realize that you qualified your statement in the next sentence, but I’m not actually sure you really believe in that qualified version! More precisely, it is not clear you would change your beliefs or proposed actions, were you to believe in the unqualified version instead of the qualified version. It is just not clear what you think the qualifications mean. Perhaps they’re actually meaningless! Perhaps the social policy which you believe ought to be imposed on religious people would be the same, cum-qualifications or sans-qualifications. Care to comment?

        Moreover, you appear to be assuming that all harm is bad, which is not necessarily true! Or more properly, if belief in ultimate justice “causes demonstrable harm”, we must ask whether that is because it is right to feel bad about being unjust! Simply assuming that all harm is bad is a very, very dangerous thing to do. You jump very quickly from alleged evaluative statements to strong, normative statements, @tildeb. Suppose, for example, that harm comes from both bad teachings about justice, and from good teachings about justice. That is, some people believe in a “just God” who executes crappy justice during the Final Judgment, while some people believe in a “just God” who executes excellent justice during the Final Judgment. It seems to me that harm that comes from believing in the former version of ‘just’ is bad, while the harm that comes from believing in the latter form of ‘just’ is acceptable. Do you disagree? Perhaps you think this dichotomy is irrelevant?

      • lotharson says :

        Crude and Labreuer: thank you so much for turning my post into a book :-)

        You are wonderful guys ;-)

      • labreuer says :

        Remember that many great philosophers, and Jesus, seemed to only speak in dialogues. There’s something special about them, over and above monologues. It’s like creating a world with the other person—a very relational act and possibly very wonderful. Just building a world yourself and trying to get other people to check it out just seems mundane in comparison. Does this make sense?

      • lotharson says :

        You should really write a book, Luke.

        You have clearly a passion for writing much in a short time span.

      • labreuer says :

        I prefer dialogue over monologue.

      • lotharson says :

        Yeah but you could invent an anti-Luke who argues with you :-)

      • labreuer says :

        I prefer real people, as well as a real God. :-p

      • lotharson says :

        Oh yeah, and arguing against the Almighty Himself isn’t necessarily a good thing, right?

      • labreuer says :

        Well, sometimes he seems to make himself more available for argument than other times. I think he wants us to relate to other beings, and not just him.

      • lotharson says :

        “relate to other beings”

        I’ll write two fictional dialogs.

        One between a progressive Christian and an anti-theist, the other between a progressive Christian and a respectful atheist.

        In the second one, gray aliens will play some role :-)

      • tildeb says :

        Well of course the ‘some’ is understood… or, at least, I presumed as much, or I would have used the term ‘all’. And that would be silly because many people who believe in hell, like many people who smoke, do not suffer any overt and permanent debilitating harm. But, like smoking, I suspect belief in hell – as a real place one is constantly in danger of finding one’s immortal soul enslaved there – still produces some level of harm. Note the word ‘suspect’. I don’t think one can hold belief in the actuality of such a terror without some causal effect harming one’s ability to cope honestly and therefore accurately with reality as it really is. Perhaps ‘harm’ is too blunt a term here for these cases; maybe ‘negatively affect’ or ‘make more difficult’ would be more accurate phrases.

        Once corporal punishment was studied in any depth, the level of harm was clearly established in all kinds of ways making the level of benefit relatively insignificant in comparison. The same kind strong evidence was found for a lack of any structured discipline. Time and additional study has only tilted this knowledge towards net harm in an astonishing number of ways.

        I suspect that an equivalent amount of study would reveal the same trend with belief in hell overseen by some supernatural thought police. I would be especially interested in the neuropathy and how such belief affects brain development and function and how much work would be required later to rewire that brain to eliminate the negative effects… presuming, of course, that such effects (and what range of different rates) bear out. Or maybe no harm whatsoever at any time by anyone anywhere would be concluded. Doubtful. Personal harm, like pain, is not quantifiable except by subjective interpretation and we are both aware of how much confidence first person testimonials deserve without independent backing. We know nerves are active and that pain receptors function, but some people can interpret this input – through various filters such as attributing arousal to be pleasure (with a strong correlation to childhood emotional abuse) – as pleasurable rather than pain (welcome to the world of S&M). Anyway, my point is that the brain is a remarkable organ shaping how we interpret reality, which is why results that can be obtained without reliance on this interpretation is so valuable. I will be surprised if presenting such beliefs to children as if factual doesn’t cause a host of negative effects.

        Because nothing I say to Crude is taken at face value and comprehended as such but reworked in his mind to be something else entirely and then presented intentionally as a gross caricature badly misrepresented of what I’ve written, the only reason he comments about or to me is to continue his quest to vilify atheists, I don’t respond to him. I don’t even read his comments because it’s a waste of my time. He lies on purpose. He distorts intentionally. He has shown repeatedly that he doesn’t respect what’s true and even after multiple attempts at correction demonstrates no care at all to fix his misrepresentation so I feel no need to respect anything he says. That’s why I commented to lotharson that apologizing to him is like apologizing to the mass murderer for having to arrest the felon. The only reasonable approach I can take is to ignore his presence entirely. He’s doesn’t want to communicate; he wants to pontificate on the alter of his straw men in order to continue spewing his venom at atheists. He has amply demonstrated time and again that he simply doesn’t care if anything he says is true so long as he can try to get a response to further heap scorn and derision based on lies and distortion on atheists. To me, that’s the very definition of a troll and I won’t feed him.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb, then I shall ask you myself: how comprehensively have you ‘swept’ for beliefs which cause harm, like you suspect the teaching of hell to cause harm? Convince me you aren’t just targeting religious belief, but all belief.

      • tildeb says :

        I have always targeted my criticism towards any and all forms of claims that rely on faith-based belief to inform them. Religion is the flagship because it is the most influential (pernicious) in causing effect in the public domain and has by far the most socially imbedded defenders. But its not alone. We see the same method used to promote anti-science positions like alternative medicine, anti-vaccine, anti-climate change, global conspiracies, dowsing, future reading tarot cards, tea leaves, palms, etc), and in promotion of misogyny, child abuse, paternalism, and legal discrimination of all kinds. This method of faith-based belief extended into reality is essential for any and all kinds of claims of causal effects by those who believe their belief justifies evidence for unknown, unseen, untestable supernatural agencies otherwise known collectively as ‘woo’ and ‘Oogity Boogity’ by the skeptical community. Reiki, homeopathy, chiropracty, naturopathy, all require an element of woo in their explanations… an element that is simply worthless in any other area of inquiry into how reality works and a known element that when believed causes the acquisition of knowledge about the real world we share to be impeded. More people in the US believe in the reality of demons and angels than they do the process of evolution. The breadth and scope of faith-based belief methodology really does deeply affect the public domain in many demonstrable ways. By the most conservative of estimates, for example, religious exemption in taxation costs the US in excess of $72 billion a year. But the reasoning for that exemption is the same one used to exempt people who act on religious beliefs from taking on the responsibility for them.. in everything from paying taxes to killing children. Faith-based beliefs when extended into reality are always unjustified and worthy of our collective criticism. (Evidence for my attempts over time to do this can be seen on my own blog.)

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        I have always targeted my criticism towards any and all forms of claims that rely on faith-based belief to inform them.

        But you yourself rely on faith-based belief, as I pointed out in a recent comment. You have faith (according to your definition of that term, not mine) that, just like corporal punishment, while the peer-reviewed empirical research currently says that Christian beliefs in the afterlife bring about more good than harm, that further research will reverse this conclusion.

        Religion is the flagship because it is the most influential (pernicious) in causing effect in the public domain and has by far the most socially imbedded defenders.

        Is this claim based on empirical evidence (if so, please cite it!), or on Boghossian-faith (“pretending to know what you do not know”)?

        promote anti-science positions

        As you are demonstrably doing? You trust non-scientific gathering of evidence, from the hospice service at which your wife works, over and above scientific research.

        By the most conservative of estimates, for example, religious exemption in taxation costs the US in excess of $72 billion a year.

        What’s your source? Furthermore, you’ve implied a counterfactual: if religious exemption (501(c)(3) status) were taken away, the result would be a better United States. But this ignores any and all benefit which said religious exemption might bring! And I’ve given you scientific research to show that Christianity is beneficial along at least one dimension. You are in need of some Jesus teaching, @tildeb:

        “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:1-5)

        You have a faith-log in your eye, and are seeing a faith-speck in others’ eyes. And by ‘faith’ here, I mean Boghossian-faith. “Pretending to know what you do not know.”

      • tildeb says :

        I feel bad you are determined to assign my belief – which I freely admit is not knowledge – to be faith. It’s not. It’s arbitrated by reality and allows me to inform my beliefs by it rather than me empowering my beliefs to be imposed on it. I am quite willing to change my beliefs should better information come along. Your study does not do this because there is ALSO compelling evidence against its use to be broadly construed as reflective of reality – as you seem determined to maintain in spite of this compelling evidence. This is a tactic to defend a shrinking idea rather than a means to broaden one’s understanding and account for contrary data.

        You seem to me to want to find some kind of Gotcha! moment in this extensive interchange as if that will magically comport with supporting your faith-based beliefs and justify its broken methodology. That’s a very poor strategy but one that might earn cheers from the Crudites who think image matters more than substance, belief more than knowledge, distortion more than honesty, and vitriol more than integrity. I’m not going to play that game.

      • labreuer says :

        Your study does not do this because there is ALSO compelling evidence against its use to be broadly construed as reflective of reality – as you seem determined to maintain in spite of this compelling evidence.

        Suffice it to say that I have cited multiple peer-reviewed scientific articles in this thread, while you have cited none (or did I miss any?). You have lauded science, while not respecting it. This is the pattern of your commenting on this page.

        You seem to me to want to find some kind of Gotcha! moment

        Nope. If that were the case, I would have omitted the sections of The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach that said not all the evidence points the same way.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        Because nothing I say to Crude is taken at face value and comprehended as such but reworked in his mind to be something else entirely and then presented intentionally as a gross caricature badly misrepresented of what I’ve written, the only reason he comments about or to me is to continue his quest to vilify atheists, I don’t respond to him. I don’t even read his comments because it’s a waste of my time. He lies on purpose. He distorts intentionally. He has shown repeatedly that he doesn’t respect what’s true and even after multiple attempts at correction demonstrates no care at all to fix his misrepresentation so I feel no need to respect anything he says. That’s why I commented to lotharson that apologizing to him is like apologizing to the mass murderer for having to arrest the felon. The only reasonable approach I can take is to ignore his presence entirely. He’s doesn’t want to communicate; he wants to pontificate on the alter of his straw men in order to continue spewing his venom at atheists. He has amply demonstrated time and again that he simply doesn’t care if anything he says is true so long as he can try to get a response to further heap scorn and derision based on lies and distortion on atheists. To me, that’s the very definition of a troll and I won’t feed him.

        This is an interesting take on Crude, because he and I have had a successful conversation, even though I have disagreed with him on multiple points. I wonder if this is because there’s just too much distance in beliefs or ways you’re willing to talk to each other? Again and again, I see intentional language used to describe misrepresentation—you even used the term “intentionally”. Is this true? I recently got accused of intentionally misrepresenting an atheist’s position on another site, when I was just trying to understand it. If you have sufficiently different views from the other guy, the mere attempt to restate his/her words in your own words can sound seem like misrepresentation.

        You do realize that not all people can productively talk to each other without an intermediary, right? One might even ask if God let this be a limitation of his for some reason. :-)

        @tildeb, I’m actually a bit annoyed that you seem overly focused on religious beliefs being harmful, instead of removing the ‘religious’, and just enumerated all beliefs that are harmful—that is, beliefs taught to children. It kind of seems like you have it out for religion and maybe even Christianity, in general. Is this the case?

      • tildeb says :

        Just as a side note (with relevance), my spouse is a care coordinator (and has been for many years) for this city’s hospice service (for a half million people) and the primary indicator of coping ability in what is described as healthy life-affirming means after the death of a family member (after diagnosed for palliative care ending in death) his inversely proportional to the level of belief in an afterlife… especially involving hell-as-a-real-place/consequence. Perhaps surprisingly, those who cope best are atheists and have the lowest rates of complex grief; the most deeply pious (especially very pious Catholics) produce the highest rate of complex grief.

        Now, this is not the product of a scientifically valid study. This may seem to be anecdotal evidence of harm (or ‘proper’ concern… if one shares the same belief) derived from belief-in-hell, but I can assure you the stats are there, kept in-house, and are used in part for funding appropriate staff levels. The religious, in this case, require far more services… which I am assigning the term ‘harm’ because the amount of suffering from grief is of a higher rate (and longevity) than those who do not share this belief. Children, in particular, are most deeply affected and, again, the services (wholly inadequate in my opinion) that are required to cope with grief (that is often debilitating) exceeds all other costs/client models.

        The problem with directly linking causal effect to belief is tenuous and complex. But the correlational evidence – at least in hospice cases – is unquestionable.

        Food for thought, I hope.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        The religious, in this case, require far more services…

        Very interesting. Something you’ll need to note, however, is that aside from any and all methodological defects that may exist with the collection of the data you’ve described: this merely covers one tiny fraction of religion. There is a lot of variety in religion, including within the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the local culture will deeply color the expression of any given religion. So the data you describe could be locally accurate, and this would still not mean a whole lot, unless your geographical area is representative of the entire world. It probably is not.

        There is also a question as to what the normative results of these data are. If there really is an afterlife, is it wrong to try and think and feel accurately about it?

        Here’s another angle. If the religious are reviewing both the tapes of their beloved’s actions through life, and the tapes of how they have treated the beloved through life, what does it mean for [complex?] grief to come from this review process? In general, my impression (which could be wrong) is that religious folks are held to a kind of integrated, unified life, where you cannot magic away sections of life as if they didn’t matter. Harm done is harm done, unless and until the right things are done about the harm. Perhaps it is easier for atheists to appeal to the fundamental randomness of the universe as a kind of “eraser”? This wouldn’t make atheists terrible people, but it would allow them to think differently after doing the “review” process I described.

        Suppose we want to do something about the results. Surely you aren’t just saying, “Get rid of all guilt and all afterlife teachings!” ?? It seems that only through proper studies would we get the kind of confidence needed to legislate. Or am I wrong?

      • tildeb says :

        In spite of Crude’s insistence of my totalitarian bent, I have zero desire to try to legislate away faith-based beliefs or impose my beliefs in their stead by use of the state and its organs. Each of us has the right to believe as we wish but none of us has the right to impose these on others. But I do want to support a better understanding of the distinction in quality between faith-based premises/ a priori beliefs and evidence-adduced conclusions and a posterior knowledge when granting confidence to these often conflicting positions. Disappointing to Crude will be the fact that I do not support any atheist gulag system for believers. I also think parents should allow their kids to be free of their support of such beliefs until they are old enough to choose for themselves. Hard to do, I know, but indoctrinating children is a very selfish act done more for the benefit of the parents than the child’s emotional welfare.

        I understand and appreciate the concerns you raise, which is why I said the relationship between rates of complex grief and religious belief in an afterlife that contains a hell (including a lower form reincarnation) is only correlational in this neck of the woods. Another factor is cultural, where public services can be next to zero within certain cultural practices (thus the rates not representing these folk) as well as economic (where privately paid for services again keep these folk from being represented by the rates). Nevertheless, the rates are what they are…

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        In spite of Crude’s insistence of my totalitarian bent, I have zero desire to try to legislate away faith-based beliefs or impose my beliefs in their stead by use of the state and its organs.

        It’s actually not quite clear what you’re desiring. For example, much might depend on your precise definition of ‘belief’. See the following.

        Each of us has the right to believe as we wish but none of us has the right to impose these on others.

        Are you trying to get me to believe this? I’m 100% serious, here. While I don’t agree with all of Legislating Morality, and I agreed with it even less the last time I skimmed it, I think it has some points. How does one avoid imposing beliefs on others? Are you very carefully defining ‘belief’, to be something that has zero, or insufficient, evidential base? If so, who decides what constitutes “sufficient evidential base”?

        I also think parents should allow their kids to be free of their support of such beliefs until they are old enough to choose for themselves.

        Do you (a) think or (b) believe this? I sense the two might be different for you.

        Hard to do, I know, but indoctrinating children is a very selfish act done more for the benefit of the parents than the child’s emotional welfare.

        Who defines “indoctrinating”? Was it “indoctrinating” for my father to teach my Sunday School classes via laying out “what the world says” and “what the Bible says”, and asking me to compare between them and choose? Clearly he could have gotten either wrong, intentionally or unintentionally. Perhaps his method was ok, since he gave me a choice? (I recognize that it is possible to de facto eliminate that choice via propaganda and such; I do not think my father did that to me.)

      • sheila0405 says :

        I actually do understand why inserting religion into science drives atheists crazy. I also think it’s not necessary to believe in any god to do good science. I’m just not sure that a religious person is unable to do good science, that’s all. There is a difference between what one can observe directly and what one cannot. I have always believed that there is no way to scientifically prove the existence of any god. That upsets some of my fellow believers in God. I’m quite happy to hold that opinion, though, because I’d never try to convince anyone about the existence of any god.

      • Crude says :

        labreur,

        I find it hilarious that the Cultist of Gnu in this conversation is the one who wants to draw dire and certain conclusions – up to the point of flat out policy recommendations and violating people’s rights to think, study, and believe what they choose – from anecdotes, second hand data and the power of his frenzied imagination, while you’re the one saying, gee, maybe we should do some research on this before being so decisive about it.

        Regardless, I direct you to this wikipedia entry, from which I’ll copy and paste liberally:

        Guilt is an important factor in perpetuating Obsessive–compulsive disorder symptoms.[13] Research is mixed on the possible connection between Catholicism and obsessive-compulsive symptoms. A study of 165 individuals by the University of Parma found that religious individuals scored higher on measures of control of thoughts and overimportance of thoughts, and that these measures were associated with obsessive-compulsive symptoms only in the religious participants.[14] Another study noted a link between intrinsic religiosity and obsessive-compulsive cognitions/behaviors only among Catholic participants.[15] However, a study from Boston University found that no particular religion was more common among OCD patients, and that OCD patients were no more religious than other subjects with anxiety. Religious obsessions were connected to the participants’ religiosity, but sexual and aggressive symptoms were not. Greater religious devotion among OCD patients was correlated with increased guilt.[16]
        A study in American Behavioral Scientist analyzed interviews with participants from Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant backgrounds. The author reported that most participants “eagerly described an experience of guilt.” [17]
        University of Ulster students participated in a study that found a slightly higher level of collective guilt among the Catholic students than the Protestant students.[18]
        Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and from the University of Notre Dame examined the concept of Catholic guilt among U.S. teenagers. The authors found no evidence of Catholic guilt in this population, noting that Catholicism both caused and relieved less guilt than other religious traditions. The authors found no evidence that Catholic teenagers experience more guilt than non-Catholic teenagers. The authors did not find that more observant Catholics feel guiltier than less observant Catholics. The study also noted no difference in the effect of guilt-inducing behaviors on Catholic versus non-Catholic participants.[19]
        A study from Hofstra University reported no difference in total guilt among religions, although religiosity itself was connected to guilt.[20]
        Guilt can be viewed in terms of constructiveness versus destructiveness: “constructive guilt” is focused on forgiving one’s ethical lapses and changing one’s behavior, while “destructive guilt” remains mired in self-loathing and does not emphasize learning from one’s wrongdoings and moving ahead with life. A study in Psychology of Religion found that Catholic participants demonstrated a higher level of constructive guilt reactions than other groups.[21]

        In other words, based on this summary… there’s nothing much that’s shocking here. What’s more, the ‘guilt’ associated with Catholicism is not a crippling fear of hell that makes one cry their eyes out in fear every night at the thought of eternal torment. It is the guilt of sin – which includes things like lying, cheating, stealing, having an affair, and other things. Now, someone can argue that X shouldn’t be considered a sin or that Y should – but who here is going to argue that feeling guilty, period, full stop, is some kind of wretched thing?

        It’s doubly amusing since Tildeb – completely unarmed with regards to actual data beyond anecdotes, which can be balanced with anecdotes about positive experiences about a religious upbringing – is trying so desperately to guilt people for doubting him and, you know.. asking for evidence for his claims. You dare doubt his conclusions, largely pulled from his rear? You point out his evidence is lacking? How DARE you! You should feel ashamed! You monster!

        All while he’s advocating monstrous suppressions of free thinking, of people thinking about and making decisions about what they believe, what they think the evidence on balance illustrates for this claim or that claim, and walking the road that historically has ended up with children being pistol whipped by beaten bloody agents of the glorious right-thinking atheist state.

        But that is okay, comrade, because they only wish to help you. ;)

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        So it turns out, to be fair, @tildeb had a bit more than just anecdotes: extended data from a city hospice service. That’s certainly better than random blog entries on the internet. However, as I pointed out in my response, a lot of work has to be done before those observations (and more observations) can be used to inform policy decisions. @tildeb has snuck in normative claims, some of which you’ve rightly pointed out as such.

        Regardless, I direct you to this wikipedia entry, from which I’ll copy and paste liberally:

        Woah, neato! Yeah, my biggest criticism would be that not all guilt is bad. And those might be fighting words: I am aware of some lines of thought that want to say all guilt is bad. People should never feel guilty. This is insane speak. And you know what, I think some of the same people might just claim that “all you need is empathy”, like John Loftus’ little blog entry, The Basis for Morality is Empathy. Yeah, right. Empirical evidence, please!

        What’s more, the ‘guilt’ associated with Catholicism is not a crippling fear of hell that makes one cry their eyes out in fear every night at the thought of eternal torment. It is the guilt of sin – which includes things like lying, cheating, stealing, having an affair, and other things.

        Did you listen to Randal Rauser’s Robin Parry on Universal Salvation? Around 22:30, Parry mentioned Douglas Earl, who apparently showed that extremely few sermons and speeches during the Crusades referenced the book of Joshua. Same theme: atheists and skeptics love to claim that some Church doctrine or text will cause bad stuff, never basing this on anything close to unbiased observations. It’s Boghossian-faith: (1) “Belief without evidence.” (2) “Pretending to know things you don’t know.” For another great criticism of Boghossian’s definition of ‘faith’, see ‘A Manual for Creating Atheists’ Part 5.2: Foundationalism and Faith over at aRemonstrant’sRamblings. I like the stormtrooper image. :-) But I digress.

        But that is okay, comrade, because they only wish to help you. ;)

        You don’t understand: the people who make up the government are better people than the populace. You are not allowed to ask how that happens, it just does. So trust these people to tell you how to educate your children. Everything will be all right, no need to panic.

      • tildeb says :

        An analogy often bandied about by those who claim harm from the effects of their childhood religious indoctrination to believe in the reality of hell overseen by the divine thought police is that our current understanding about the long term effects from teaching these beliefs is where our understanding of the long term effects of corporal punishment was a hundred years ago. The lack of good research hinders arriving at a definitive knowledge-adduced conclusion, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t strong correlational evidence today for harm (which lends strength to the claim that teaching such beliefs to children is a form of child abuse).

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb, would you please offer a firm, definitive response to @Crude?:

        And I can’t help but notice you won’t bite the bullet and tell me that if atheism, materialism, naturalism, etc are found to ‘harm’ child – aka, reportedly cause distress or negative feelings or the like – then we should consider that child abuse.

        I’m also skeptical of some of the results of “the long term effects of corporal punishment”. How much of the research tries to explicitly find out under what conditions it has a net neutral or positive benefit? It strikes me that this is a dangerous, politically incorrect question to ask, and yet it is a very important one. Likewise, we could ask which teachings about hell cause psychological damage, and which do not. But you don’t seem interested in doing this kind of research! Instead, you want to damn all non-subjective teachings about hell. This, I find to be extremely dogmatic and narrow minded—even bigoted. Much harm has been caused in reality by predicating actions on correlation ⇒ causation. And while you continually note that we only have correlative evidence so far, you make normative claims that depend on it being causative. Why do you do this? And is it ok for religious people to use the same lines of reasoning? I doubt you would be ok with this!

        You seem to be adhering to double standards, @tildeb.

        P.S. My apologies for sometimes saying @tildbe instead of @tildeb.

      • sheila0405 says :

        Don’t underestimate the anecdotal evidence. I think I tried to direct you to some sites that were also suggested by tildeb, but I was dismissed. Here is an example of real harm to children by religious zealots–10,000 child sponsorships lost over a two day period at World Vision when it (briefly) changed its hiring practice to include legally married gay couples. That’s a loss of $350,000 in two days. Had the bleeding continued, WV USA would have been bankrupted. How’s that for harming kids?

      • labreuer says :

        @sheila0405

        Don’t underestimate the anecdotal evidence.

        The problem with anecdotal evidence is that there is zero protection against sampling bias. It’s lies, damned lies, and statistics, but worse. Can’t you see this? If you go by anecdotal evidence, propaganda screws you over in no time flat.

        Had the bleeding continued, WV USA would have been bankrupted. How’s that for harming kids?

        Do you think that said money wouldn’t have gone to another organization which helped kids? What if we compare this to e.g. charitable giving by Russians at the USSR’s zenith? It seems to me that this is an awfully narrow way to analyze.

      • sheila0405 says :

        Money going to other children does not minimize the harm done to the children hurt by the WV debacle. And, it was more than money–it was relationships with those children that were lost. As for anecdotal evidence, it isn’t the only reliable source out there, that’s for sure, but anecdotal evidence isn’t to be completely thrown under the bus, either. Just look at the debate over the merits of Obamacare. There are many people who will benefit from the program, while at the same time, many are suffering real financial pain. Just because there are anecdotes presented, that does not mean that those people who submit those stories are not somehow harmed (or helped). I think it’s beneficial to look at the vast numbers of people who have been hurt by fundamentalist theology, and at least admit that it can be a disaster to those folks. That’s all I’m saying. Dismissing someone’s pain is callous.

        And, now, I’m done with this post and the threads. I don’t like zealots with blinders on at either extreme.

      • Crude says :

        This may seem to be anecdotal evidence of harm (or ‘proper’ concern… if one shares the same belief) derived from belief-in-hell, but I can assure you the stats are there, kept in-house, and are used in part for funding appropriate staff levels.

        What it is, tildeb, is a singular anecdote from a stranger on the internet who is head-over-heels hostile to religion on a political, social and emotional level. If I provide anecdotes about relatives I have who work in psychology or hospitals and who can report that their consistent experience and vague ‘internal data’ shows that the atheists they encounter are typically far more fragile, more bitter, more resentful, more altogether hateful than the religious (even deeply, ‘evangelically’ religious), how much value would you assign it? How much value should you assign it, by your own standards?

        Which is part of the problem here. You – and typically, Gnus in generally – switch between allegations of the unreliability of testimony and personal perception versus science and research and hard data, and then anecdotal experiences like this – where suddenly it’s A-OK to rely on personal impressions about complicated, broad topics from a biased point of view. You’re inconsistent, and the where and when and hows of your inconsistency seems to correlate closely with the spin that would be most convenient with you at the given moment.

        I linked to examinations of ‘Catholic Guilt’. Granted, it’s just wikipedia and some summaries of research. But it turns out that “Catholic Guilt” is associated not with hell, but of guilt over wrongdoing, of actions, of behaviors. And when we start talking about what kind of “guilt” that covers – guilt over lying, or cheating, or harming someone – then suddenly talking about how “Catholics have a sense of guilt!” doesn’t seem like a harmful notion at all. Instead it seems as if what the religious upbringing typically imparts to its members is a focus on their conscience – and that means that when a person does something they regard as bad or harmful, they may feel bad about it. Yes, that can include sexual sins – ‘I screwed that dog over there’ – but you know what? Maybe some guilt when we do something wrong is a healthy thing to experience. Maybe the person who lies and feels no guilt isn’t the healthier specimen.

        See, the proper response here is to recognize that ‘belief in hell’ itself is a wide-ranging concept. What ‘hell’ is conceived of varies heavily from person to person – sometimes, it’s eternal miserable torment. Other times, it’s a sense of loss, a feeling of separation. Still other times it’s about internal perspective, an embraced sinfulness that is primarily an act on the part of the individual, rather than a state imposed by an external agent. Other times it’s believed in, but not really a focal point of concern.

        Then you have people’s personalities to factor in – individual variation in how they react to and cope with certain beliefs, certain knowledge. Are you dealing with a person who has emotional problems and would have them regardless of their religious beliefs? If they obsess about hell, is that because their upbringing was horrifying (and if it was, was it merely because of the teaching about hell?), or do they just have an imbalance, or a million other factors? All of these factors – far from exhaustive – combined with the fact that the available evidence, the actual research done, doesn’t exactly support your view… that should be giving you pause before you start screaming with certainty that such and such religious doctrine – the mere belief in it – is harming so many lives.

        But that’s the problem, isn’t it? Because recognizing all of that doesn’t get you where you’d like to go. The whole point of this conversation isn’t ‘let’s discuss these teachings, the impact, what we know, what we don’t’. It’s to play as a big Atheist Preacher and the goal is to try and connection “religion” to SOMEthing evil and yell and wail and rend your clothes and hope no one actually, you know, asks for evidence, asks for arguments and justifications, or picks up on the fact that personal anecdotes are not science. (Which matters principally because ‘Science!’ is what’s perpetually offered up as the Gnu standard with regards to accepting such and such claim.) Recognizing that the studies on hand don’t favor your view, that the anecdotes are weak and countered by other anecdotes, that the whole field of human psychology is a tremendously complicated messy affair.. that’s the reasonable thing, but it doesn’t advance your goal, so we’d best avert our eyes from it.

        That’s not the rational way to approach this subject. But man, is it ever the Gnu approach.

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Suppose we want to do something about the results. Surely you aren’t just saying, “Get rid of all guilt and all afterlife teachings!” ?? It seems that only through proper studies would we get the kind of confidence needed to legislate. Or am I wrong?

        You didn’t direct this towards me, but let me point out anyway.

        At the end of the day, I think you’re wrong, but for a different reason that others may say. Your view implies that there is a point at which it becomes acceptable to ‘legislate’ against this or that upbringing, this or that sincerely held belief or imparting of knowledge or otherwise.

        First and foremost, I think such a thing is wrong entirely on fundamental grounds. Who here is going to argue that for beliefs and knowledge that statistically have the potential to cause emotional or psychological stress, said beliefs/teaching should be barred? Now, this is making the assumption for the moment that studies can meaningfully show this, but really – if that’s the case, then it makes no sense to single out ‘religious beliefs’, as if only religious beliefs can cause harm. Let’s add materialism to the list. Atheism. Progressivism. Let’s see if people are willing to put their own beliefs on the chopping block – or if that situation is something that can suffice to open some people’s eyes and realize that no, it’s pretty inane to even begin this conversation, because even the judgment of ‘harm’ is going to ultimately come down to philosophical views and beliefs in large part.

        Second, the mistake is to think the social sciences – the weakest, flimsiest of the science – can definitely show some kind of cause-effect link between ‘this thought’ and ‘this psychological issue’. Take a look at how long we’ve been studying links between ‘video games’ and ‘violence’. To this day you can still find psychologists arguing that video games absolutely do lead to violence, or that they don’t – and there’s no science to settle it, because the science shifts depending on the focus. Are violent video games the cause of this or that outburst? Was an unhealthy attitude towards the games the cause? Does it only work on particular people with certain mental makeups and inclinations? Does it have the OPPOSITE effect on people with other mental makeups? Important questions all, and in each and every case you’re dealing with the complexity of human minds, filled with all kinds of influences and factors to the point where you can’t even isolate all or even a major portion of those relevant, pertinent influences in a single mind, much less in many.

        Third, we have the fundamental fact that what does and does not constitute harm – particularly psychological harm – gets pretty damn messy, and tremendously philosophical and metaphysical, once we get into cases of ‘belief’ and such. Are people who are terrified of guns, who think guns are dangerous and want them banned, banned, banned irrational and thus have a mental problem? Are people who like guns and engage in recreational shooting, even hunting, engaged in a wrong – are they broken, in some way – on those terms alone? Is a white person who feels tremendously guilty about things his ancestors did and which he had no control over in need of therapy? How about a black person who’s very, very angry about the history of slavery in America, even if he never experienced it – even if he was born into an upper class family?

        Human beings are – and this is obvious even to materialists – not simple beings for which we can say ‘Let’s do a study on whether or not this is harmful and science will objectively settle the matter for us once and for all!’ We are not asking questions about the average height of humans in America, their average weight, the variance, the median. We’re dealing with thoughts which by their nature have a perhaps infinite number of ways of being conceptualized, considered, interacting with other beliefs and attitudes, and otherwise. Empirical investigation can, at best – and largely at the fringes – give us some information we can act on, take account of, and so on. But it can’t settle the matter in the way these conversations fundamentally require it to be settled – and that’s due to both practical limitations as well as fundamental limitations just by the nature of the subject.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude, you’re always welcome to respond to things I didn’t say to you. :-) You routinely think things through, and I always welcome the views of those who do this!

        Your view implies that there is a point at which it becomes acceptable to ‘legislate’ against this or that upbringing, this or that sincerely held belief or imparting of knowledge or otherwise.

        I did leave that door open, intentionally. For example, should it be ok to teach kids to be extremely racist? It seems to me that parents who do this share in the guilt of any later racism crimes that such children commit. Also, I had not thought through the issue nearly as well as you have. I was being lazy, and you have rewarded my laziness. :-p

        Now, I think you’re absolutely correct that it is wrong to single out religious beliefs. Indeed, surely there is at least one non-religious belief, which actually exists in some statistically significant quantity, which should get banned right along with hell or whatever. If my interlocutor cannot point out such a belief, then my suspicion meter will go off the scale. This is a very useful test!

        Take a look at how long we’ve been studying links between ‘video games’ and ‘violence’. To this day you can still find psychologists arguing that video games absolutely do lead to violence, or that they don’t – and there’s no science to settle it, because the science shifts depending on the focus.

        This is an excellent point! I wonder if my racism example can stand up to the standards that you [rightly] say should be met, in order for anything to be legislated. @tildeb should tell us what the standard of evidence ought to be, before legislation ought to be conscienced.

        Third, we have the fundamental fact that what does and does not constitute harm – particularly psychological harm – gets pretty damn messy, and tremendously philosophical and metaphysical, once we get into cases of ‘belief’ and such.

        Agree 100%. I started getting into this with @tildbe (or you?), about whether all guilt is bad, only some guilt is bad, etc. I think there’s a real danger of the State attempting to greatly limit what we’re allowed to “try out” as to our conception of ‘the good’. Because, of course, the State knows best. Autonomy for citizens will turn into having sex however you like with consenting adults and buying whatever you want to buy from corporations. Piss-poor freedom, I would say!

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Thanks for the reply and consideration.

        Indeed, surely there is at least one non-religious belief, which actually exists in some statistically significant quantity, which should get banned right along with hell or whatever.

        As for me, I think I’d be after something more broad: the concession that it’s open season on ‘atheism’ or ‘materialism’ or ‘progressivism’ or the like if we can infer that such beliefs are harmful to people, particularly children.

        That still leaves things open ended – it’s a blessing to ask a question and potentially take a certain response to such beliefs if they are judged to be “harmful”, with “harm” being ‘feeling guilty, feeling scared, feeling worthless, etc’.

        I think it may be partly the modern sense that any Bad Feeling or Negative Feeling is (with some exception) a terrible thing, a kind of illness in fact.

        Clinical depression is, I think, a real thing. Sometimes people have an imbalance, a real problem. But you know what? Sometimes some depression is normal – even positive, in a way. It’s a perspective, a focus. The person who can lose his wife and children to a rampaging machete-swinging monster without so much as blinking an eye – he’s fine, he’s upbeat, he’s happy, he’ll be at work tomorrow morning bright and early and looking forward to facing the day – is this person obviously NOT damaged?

        Agree 100%. I started getting into this with @tildbe (or you?), about whether all guilt is bad, only some guilt is bad, etc. I think there’s a real danger of the State attempting to greatly limit what we’re allowed to “try out” as to our conception of ‘the good’. Because, of course, the State knows best.

        And the state certainly doesn’t have a habit of exaggerating the harm of X or underreporting the harm of Y based on prevailing interests and feelings and political/social goals at the time too, as we both know. The unreliability of the state is another aspect to this.

        People seem to have serious trouble grappling with the idea that people may disagree with them even deeply and they may be convinced that they are wrong, but that’s that – the way to change their minds and beliefs is through reasonable conversation and willful discuss and the lack of or grave unlikelihood of success does not therefore mean ‘time to authorize the men with guns to solve this problem.’

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        As for me, I think I’d be after something more broad: the concession that it’s open season on ‘atheism’ or ‘materialism’ or ‘progressivism’ or the like if we can infer that such beliefs are harmful to people, particularly children.

        Baby steps. :-p

        I think it may be partly the modern sense that any Bad Feeling or Negative Feeling is (with some exception) a terrible thing, a kind of illness in fact.

        I have been noticing this sentiment, here and there. I haven’t really been able to pin it down in any systematic fashion though; have you? I’d love to read some collected thoughts on the matter. My father, having grown up a farmer even though he runs a medium sized software company now, would just laugh at the idea of all pain being terrible. I’m not sure I know of a single solid person who has not gone through quite a bit of pain and suffering. Maybe there’s a way to shape character without pain and suffering, but if there is, we humans haven’t found it yet. Indeed, two of my closest friends have experienced unbelievable trauma in their lives. One saw his mother shoot herself in the head at age 5, start screaming, fall down a set of stairs, and die on a stretcher. The horror didn’t end there. The other was emotionally manipulated while growing up, and is a Christian, hated and persecuted by Christians, to this day. For now, it is possible to learn a tremendous amount from pain and suffering and become a much better person from it.

        Clinical depression is, I think, a real thing.

        It helps to believe that regardless of how our bodies and minds came to be as they are—evolution or some kind of special creation—they actually operate in various ways for reasons. Like a belief in a rational reality helped scientists discover the rationality of reality, belief in a rational human body and mind helps one understand rationality therein. Fancy that!

        is this person obviously NOT damaged?

        The answer will probably, sadly, depend on the day you ask it. Some day soon, maybe people will take pharmaceuticals to eliminate grief. Maybe at some point it will be socially unacceptable to refuse the pharmaceuticals. Yay for dystopian fiction. :-)

        And the state certainly doesn’t have a habit of exaggerating the harm of X or underreporting the harm of Y based on prevailing interests and feelings and political/social goals at the time too, as we both know. The unreliability of the state is another aspect to this.

        Yep, and to add another factor, race-based IQ studies have been taboo, even though they would likely greatly help us understand things, like Blacks in America tending to have environmental factors which set their children up to not do as well as other children. Truth-seeking is a fragile thing, it turns out. Perhaps the thing I find most misunderstood, though, is people thinking the government is made out of better people than the common citizen. This is insane, and yet many believe it.

        People seem to have serious trouble grappling with the idea that people may disagree with them even deeply and they may be convinced that they are wrong, but that’s that – the way to change their minds and beliefs is through reasonable conversation and willful discuss and the lack of or grave unlikelihood of success does not therefore mean ‘time to authorize the men with guns to solve this problem.’

        The trick is that sometimes this is legit, like with battered woman syndrome, racism, etc. The failure to properly recognize spousal rape for so long is just terrible. The way I see it, Christians have so screwed up on this matter that they’ve blurred the line between acceptable ways for the men with guns to step in, and when it isn’t. :-(

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Baby steps. :-p

        Well, I save those for babies. When I’m dealing with frantic people talking openly about the need to have someone point a gun at a mother and father and take their child away by force because, State Forbid, they were teaching the boy that there are things called “sins”, I’m pulling no punches.

        I have been noticing this sentiment, here and there. I haven’t really been able to pin it down in any systematic fashion though; have you? I’d love to read some collected thoughts on the matter.

        Nothing systematic, though I’d intuit there’s an obvious cause behind it at root: people typically search for the easiest solution. Instead of coping with stress and steeling oneself to it, take a pill that makes it go away if that’s available. Worry about the problems later.

        It helps to believe that regardless of how our bodies and minds came to be as they are—evolution or some kind of special creation—they actually operate in various ways for reasons. Like a belief in a rational reality helped scientists discover the rationality of reality, belief in a rational human body and mind helps one understand rationality therein. Fancy that!

        The answer will probably, sadly, depend on the day you ask it. Some day soon, maybe people will take pharmaceuticals to eliminate grief. Maybe at some point it will be socially unacceptable to refuse the pharmaceuticals. Yay for dystopian fiction. :-)

        Well, I suppose there will be no argument about upbringings then. Thoughts of hell causing you a little distress? That’s a pill problem!

        Yep, and to add another factor, race-based IQ studies have been taboo, even though they would likely greatly help us understand things, like Blacks in America tending to have environmental factors which set their children up to not do as well as other children. Truth-seeking is a fragile thing, it turns out. Perhaps the thing I find most misunderstood, though, is people thinking the government is made out of better people than the common citizen. This is insane, and yet many believe it.

        What I find amazing is that people have a situational blind spot when it comes to government and all things secular. I think at this point people believe that there was slavery in the US owing entirely to biblical interpretations, as if people thought ‘Damn, it’s my duty to get a bunch of slaves and beat the crap out of them and force them to work’, and that there were no secular or government influences at work there.

        The trick is that sometimes this is legit, like with battered woman syndrome, racism, etc. The failure to properly recognize spousal rape for so long is just terrible. The way I see it, Christians have so screwed up on this matter that they’ve blurred the line between acceptable ways for the men with guns to step in, and when it isn’t. :-(

        I no longer think that. Insofar as there have been failings, I think they have often been cultural rather than ‘Christian’ – and I think the ‘Christian’ failings are all too often overblown and exaggerated. I am not going to (to use an example) apologize for Galileo and tear my clothing for the purported crimes of Christianity against science when the state atheist Soviet Union’s suppression of science and thought was more far reaching than anything the Catholic Church even so much as dreamed of engaging in.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        Well, I save those for babies.

        Actually, I was quite serious. If you require someone to make too big of a leap in logic at a time, you’ll lose them. I find it is often easy to drive a small wedge in before getting to the really big stuff. This isn’t manipulation, this is more learning 101. It’s how to be more effective in communicating ideas. Take a person from where they’re at, to where you want them to be, in sufficiently small steps.

        Nothing systematic, though I’d intuit there’s an obvious cause behind it at root: people typically search for the easiest solution. Instead of coping with stress and steeling oneself to it, take a pill that makes it go away if that’s available. Worry about the problems later.

        While this may be true of some people, it smells like a caricature of others. For example, how many have a proper understanding of how to do it the hard way that avoids future problems? I often have a hard enough time convincing Christians that Mt 5:23-24, Mt 18:15-20, Eph 4:25-27 mean what they say they mean—that resolving interpersonal conflict is ultra-high priority according to both Jesus and Paul. Excuses abound! Some of them are even legit—there are many wrong ways to do a thing, and if you don’t know enough to do it the right way, exploring can hurt quite a lot.

        I think at this point people believe that there was slavery in the US owing entirely to biblical interpretations, as if people thought ‘Damn, it’s my duty to get a bunch of slaves and beat the crap out of them and force them to work’, and that there were no secular or government influences at work there.

        Ehhh, I think a lot of people know that $$$ was a big driver. The question seems more along the lines of, “Why didn’t Christianity serve as more of an abolitionary force?” We have characters like William Wilberforce, but why didn’t more Christians in the Americas stand up against slavery?

        I no longer think that. Insofar as there have been failings, I think they have often been cultural rather than ‘Christian’ – and I think the ‘Christian’ failings are all too often overblown and exaggerated.

        Os Guinness would partially agree with you in The Gravedigger File (updated version: The Last Christian on Earth). But in Gravedigger, he criticizes Christians for failing to do the Romans 12:1-2 thing, of being “in the world but not of the world”. Isn’t it fair to ask why Christians haven’t been more of a light to society, doing more of what Jesus said he came to do?:

        The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
            because the LORD has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor;
            he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
        to proclaim liberty to the captives,
            and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
        to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,
            and the day of vengeance of our God; [not in Luke 4]
            to comfort all who mourn;
        (Isaiah 61:1-2)

        The more you blame “cultural rather than ‘Christian'”, the less powerful you admit Christianity being, it seems?

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Actually, I was quite serious. If you require someone to make too big of a leap in logic at a time, you’ll lose them. I find it is often easy to drive a small wedge in before getting to the really big stuff. This isn’t manipulation, this is more learning 101. It’s how to be more effective in communicating ideas. Take a person from where they’re at, to where you want them to be, in sufficiently small steps.

        Where we differ is that I don’t think some people are really in the position of being persuaded by reason or logic whatsoever, at least as they’re initially contacted, and the person I’m discussing things with isn’t always the central audience. I think there is tremendously little hope for progress with most Gnus, and I regard the perception of them (and not just them) as being primarily animated by reason, to say nothing of science, as mistaken. How much reason was at work in the Cult of Reason? Name aside, not very much, it would seem.

        While this may be true of some people, it smells like a caricature of others. For example, how many have a proper understanding of how to do it the hard way that avoids future problems?

        It’s a tremendous oversimplification of the situation in totality, but I see it less as a comprehensive explanation and more as a summary of one overriding cause. Even for people who know ‘the hard way’, how many people want to take it? Most people know ‘the hard way’ to lose weight. How popular is it? Especially if there’s an easy way on offer, even if it’s only “easy” to a point?

        Ehhh, I think a lot of people know that $$$ was a big driver. The question seems more along the lines of, “Why didn’t Christianity serve as more of an abolitionary force?” We have characters like William Wilberforce, but why didn’t more Christians in the Americas stand up against slavery?

        Given the war and the abolitionist movement, it seems plenty did.

        And, you say you think a lot of people know money was the big driver, but my experience is that that factor is almost entirely left out of the analysis. Christians of the era are presented as simply and sincerely wrongly interpreting the Bible on this point. The idea that they were, you know – rather intentionally bullshitting (even themselves) often gets airbrushed out.

        Want to have fun? Call civil war slavery a secular institution driven by secular motivations. Maybe you encounter a different crowd of evangelical atheist than I do, but when I’ve done it it leads to teeth-grinding. Many people are very guarded of the word ‘secular’ – people will call a priest embezzling money a religious crime because a priest was involved, but many would sooner choke than call rape a secular crime.

        The more you blame “cultural rather than ‘Christian’”, the less powerful you admit Christianity being, it seems?

        Not really. This kind of thinking about Christianity is a bit alien to me – this idea that Christianity is supposed to be (pardon, I’m reading quite a lot into your words here) wholly transformative, such that calling yourself or becoming a Christian is supposed to, almost in and of itself, lead to moral perfection. And then we’re supposed to open our eyes with shock that Larry Flynt didn’t experience much change when he purportedly became a Christian for a while. It’s doubly odd given the New Testament context – am I the only one who noticed that the Apostles tended to be fairly unreliable jerks at times?

        I suppose you could say, this says less about Christianity than it does about people. People are complicated. Not that Christianity isn’t, but still.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        the person I’m discussing things with isn’t always the central audience.

        Hmmm. I’m not sure how in favor I am of this technique; it seems awfully like using the other person as a means to an end, no?

        How much reason was at work in the Cult of Reason?

        Heh, I had forgotten about it. Per Wikipedia, I like the required grave inscription: “Death is an eternal sleep.” I can’t escape the idea that people who say this are scared of receiving true justice in the afterlife. That justice simply could be, “If you were to live forever, could you live in community, or would you ultimately drive everyone away?” Hell would be a simple giving to someone of what his actions dictated that he most wanted. It would be a “snapping to logical coherence” of the soul. Does all the remaining evil pop off during said snapping, or does all the remaining good pop off? Nah, better to insist that there is no afterlife!

        Even for people who know ‘the hard way’, how many people want to take it? Most people know ‘the hard way’ to lose weight. How popular is it? Especially if there’s an easy way on offer, even if it’s only “easy” to a point?

        Heh, my wife and I discussed this yesterday or the day before. My response is that the deepest, strongest desire is winning out in what choice is ultimately made. I think people are rational for not choosing health for health’s sake. Have you seen what happens to people who just want to be healthy? Welcome the vitamins, the crazy diets, etc. Instead, I claim that you must want something by which health is a means, not an end. But how many people both (a) want such a thing; (b) have the hope of attaining such a thing? It seems to me that failure in the (b)-department ought to be investigated more.

        Given the war and the abolitionist movement, it seems plenty did.

        Granted, Christianity did ultimately have something to do with abolitionism. Although I am told that some pretty liberal and seemingly heretical Christians were some of the main players? I need to research that further. And separately, there’s still the question of why abolitionism took so damn long. Have you thoughts on this matter? Back then, Christians dehumanized Negroes. Now, many are dehumanizing pre-birth humans. The pendulum swings…

        And, you say you think a lot of people know money was the big driver, but my experience is that that factor is almost entirely left out of the analysis. Christians of the era are presented as simply and sincerely wrongly interpreting the Bible on this point.

        Hmmm, I’ll have to pay more attention in the future. It’s easy to pull out the Cornerstone Speech and show how it slaughters the Bible, cherry-picking left and right. When I ask atheists and skeptics why the Southerners weren’t obeying the no-return-of-fugitive-slaves in Deut 23:15, often the conversation dies down very quickly.

        Sometimes the discussion then shifts to why the Bible would provide any support whatsoever for slavery. Why not “protect” it from such heinous interpretation? I can think of several responses (such as it being a Rorschach test, per Heb 4:12-13), but you and Robin Parry have given me a new one: the atheist/skeptic’s model of how the Bible was actually interpreted is just wrong. (If you recall, Robin Parry on his recent podcast with Randal Rauser said that virtually none of the sermonizing in the Crusades used the book of Josha, contra many atheist/skeptic models of how terrible it is that said book exists in the Bible.)

        Many people are very guarded of the word ‘secular’ – people will call a priest embezzling money a religious crime because a priest was involved, but many would sooner choke than call rape a secular crime.

        Heh, I’ll have to try that out. One of my biggest critiques is that people never seem to look at child abuse in scenarios similar to those experienced by boys with Catholic priests. They expect Christians to be perfect, instead of desperately striving to become better than they were previously, through the power of Jesus. So often, critiques of Christians apply equally to people in general. And you know what? Christians have a great resource for self-critique and a guarantee they aren’t perfect, which is something the atheist/skeptic often doesn’t have. So many atheists and skeptics I’ve encountered are unwilling to ever apologize or admit a mistake. Sigh.

        This kind of thinking about Christianity is a bit alien to me – this idea that Christianity is supposed to be (pardon, I’m reading quite a lot into your words here) wholly transformative, such that calling yourself or becoming a Christian is supposed to, almost in and of itself, lead to moral perfection.

        Ahh, but there is a range, from 0% transformative to 100% transformative. The closer Christianity seems to 0% transformative, the more it seems entirely false. And honestly, it is hard to see it as very transformative, these days. Where are the [Christian] politicians willing to take a hit to stand up for what is right, when it really matters? Etc.

      • Crude says :

        In spite of Crude’s insistence of my totalitarian bent, I have zero desire to try to legislate away faith-based beliefs or impose my beliefs in their stead by use of the state and its organs. Each of us has the right to believe as we wish but none of us has the right to impose these on others.

        The fact that you say ‘I’m not a totalitarian!’ then turn right around and say ‘Parents shouldn’t be able to communicate their ideas to their children if those ideas are not stringently approved by the state! It’s a form of child abuse!’ is just a beautiful case of cognitive dissonance. Especially when you have, in the past, fully endorsed Peter Boghossian’s ‘religious belief as a mental illness’ position, complete with his desire to have it formally treated as such – once again, by the state and its organs. If merely saying “I’m not a totalitarian!” were sufficient to show a person was not a totalitarian, we’d likely have no examples of them throughout history. The state atheists of the past and present would have sworn and would swear up and down that they were simply acting out of concern for the public’s well being and individual health when they processed them for thought crimes.

        And I can’t help but notice you won’t bite the bullet and tell me that if atheism, materialism, naturalism, etc are found to ‘harm’ child – aka, reportedly cause distress or negative feelings or the like – then we should consider that child abuse. Hits a little too close to home, doesn’t it?

        Hard to do, I know, but indoctrinating children is a very selfish act done more for the benefit of the parents than the child’s emotional welfare.

        And you say this based on what evidence? More pulled out of thin air? Parents raise their children in their religious beliefs because they want to impart what they regard as truth or likely truth – indeed, very important truth – to people they care about. It will be trivial to find evidence of this, especially since you count testimony as evidence, however inconsistently. But wait! This can’t be allowed because it would indicate that religious people are acting on an otherwise positive desire when they spread their religion – and the last thing we can ever admit to is anything that indicates religious people being well-motivated, right?

        Nevertheless, the rates are what they are…

        What rates? You haven’t even supplied these. You’ve made vague allusions to rates you’ve seen secondhand through someone you know. Do you realize that if this counts as evidence, you’re pretty much done here – because it won’t be hard to find Christians working in those kinds of services giving anecdotal evidence about the harsh effects of atheism on human psyches they’ve seen first hand?

        Even the evidence you referred to was largely a vague statement about how religious believers ‘require more services’ when coping with loss. On the surface it seems obvious why they would be – they’d likely want contact with clergy and religious services in the event of a loss.

        In both cases, we’re talking about self reporting. That’s fine when it comes to feelings. This belief causes me to feel good; this belief causes me to fell bad. Fine. This belief is caused by an external agency that is interactive in the world. Not fine. Do you see the difference?

        No, no, no.

        The central concern here is not ‘does or doesn’t this belief make me feel good or bad’. It’s ‘I had this or that kind of upbringing, these or these kinds of ill psychological effects that persist, and the root cause of it was this experience’. A person who says that the reason they’re having trouble sleeping at night and have a history of alcohol abuse is because their parents taught them that atheism was true when they were a child and the effects still haunt them to this day aren’t merely self-reporting about their feelings – they’re talking about historical root causes and reasons for current experiences.

        What I pointed out was that belief hell (and a divine thought police to adjudicate who gets sent there) as existing independently of our beliefs in reality causes demonstrable harm.

        You did not point this out. You asserted it, and the only evidence you’ve been able to pull is testimonial evidence from atheist websites. Not exactly riveting stuff, and if it were, then the testimonial evidence from Christian websites would gut it.

        That’s not to say it does so all of the time, without fail, to everyone, but it does so often enough to present us compelling correlational evidence that it happens

        No, it doesn’t. And once again, we’re seeing the inconsistency of the standard Gnu view. You talk about science, science, science – until we start dealing with an issue of importance to you for which scientific research doesn’t exist, or actually runs contrary to what you’re saying. Then science is actually irrelevant and we’re able to make decisions based on testimonials and gut feelings. But if testimonials and gut feelings suffice, then the testimonies that run CONTRARY to your claims have to be dealt with too – and they’re going to be sufficient to nullify your claims.

        Teaching children that these beliefs are reflective of reality when there is no evidence from reality to support it

        Except there IS evidence from reality to support their views. What you dispute is whether that evidence is sufficient, and frankly your arguments that it’s not sufficient range between ‘non-existent’ and ‘not exactly encouraging’. At the end of the day it typically comes down to the fact that you just plain don’t like them so they should be stamped out – or you start asserting, with minimal evidence, that it’s ‘abuse’, ignoring that the ‘abuse’ charge can be levelled at atheistic beliefs with greater ease.

        And a great irony here is that by repeatedly asserting the near-certainty of ‘harmfulness’ of teaching children this or that belief based almost exclusively on anecdotes which run up against other anecdotes is a picture-perfect example of ‘pretending to know what you do not know’.

      • lotharson says :

        “And I can’t help but notice you won’t bite the bullet and tell me that if atheism, materialism, naturalism, etc are found to ‘harm’ child – aka, reportedly cause distress or negative feelings or the like – then we should consider that child abuse.”

        As I told you, I believe there are way to present the hopelessness and nihilism of atheism to kids which can be abusive , given certain circumstances.

        I shall also in the future write a post exploring this aspect, and showing that both religious fundies and hardcore atheists can cause a tremendous psychological harm to their child.

      • labreuer says :

        @lotharson

        I shall also in the future write a post exploring this aspect, and showing that both religious fundies and hardcore atheists can cause a tremendous psychological harm to their child.

        Is it useful to pigeonhole people like this? Or is it actually possible that anyone “can cause a tremendous psychological harm to their child.”?

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Hmmm. I’m not sure how in favor I am of this technique; it seems awfully like using the other person as a means to an end, no?

        Not at all. If a person is preaching to an audience something wrong and I answer them, it may well be that they are entirely incapable of being persuaded at that moment. But by answering their claims, I can at the same time be setting things straight for the onlookers – and for them, later on, if their psychology changes and they remember the conversation. And many times that’s going to ultimately mean I answer the claims of someone pathologically incapable of changing their mind at the time. (If I want to get uppity, I’ll note that Christ apparently made use of this approach. How many times did he answer people knowing his answer wouldn’t satisfy them, but it may well be better communicated to the crowd?)

        One danger of ‘baby steps’ kind of approaches is that it can give the false impression that the mistake in a person’s reasoning is ultimately some tiny error, perhaps one that’s largely inconsequential in terms of their greater views and claims, when in reality their mistakes or their inconsistencies are pretty huge. It’s also one reason why I absolutely reject the common Christian practice of responding to angry, hateful, incendiary Gnus with a smile and politeness – because it has the unintended effect of justifying that kind of behavior and establishing it as socially acceptable.

        Instead, I claim that you must want something by which health is a means, not an end. But how many people both (a) want such a thing; (b) have the hope of attaining such a thing? It seems to me that failure in the (b)-department ought to be investigated more.

        I think we have different views of ‘health’. I don’t see it as something walled off from, say, morality and spiritual wellbeing, etc.

        Granted, Christianity did ultimately have something to do with abolitionism. Although I am told that some pretty liberal and seemingly heretical Christians were some of the main players?

        Depends on what’s meant by ‘liberal’ and ‘heretical’ I imagine. More below.

        And separately, there’s still the question of why abolitionism took so damn long. Have you thoughts on this matter? Back then, Christians dehumanized Negroes. Now, many are dehumanizing pre-birth humans. The pendulum swings…

        This is a misunderstanding of history as I’ve read it. First, ‘abolitionism’ in the sense of opposing slavery and dehumanization didn’t suddenly come about in the 1800s or the like. Opposition to slavery, particularly the ferocious kind of slavery seen in the 1800s, was longstanding and pretty consistent throughout the church’s history – it’s not as if you couldn’t go back centuries and see this. Not a perfect track record, but it’s certainly scores better than what I think you’re suggesting.

        Likewise, what’s this ‘Christians dehumanized negroes’ thing? You put it like that and you make it sound as if this was some kind of long-standing doctrine throughout Christendom, rather than a rather local and isolated view (partly spurred, by the way, by then-‘scientific’ views) that had an awful lot to do with economic incentives at the time. Come to think of it, those Christians dehumanizing pre-birth humans nowadays tend to have a bit more baggage at work as well.

        Sometimes the discussion then shifts to why the Bible would provide any support whatsoever for slavery. Why not “protect” it from such heinous interpretation?

        Frankly, I think that ‘slavery’ is more complicated than people let on. Whenever you have imprisonment and forced labor, whenever you have situations where people’s options are basically ‘work’ or ‘die/suffer tremendously’, you’ve got slavery. Granted there is a tremendous difference between the man who has to work 10 hour shifts 6 days a week to feed his family or himself and the person literally kidnapped, beaten, and forced to work for gruel, but if the latter was the only thing that qualified as slavery we’d be forced to recognize there’s vastly less of it in history.

        They expect Christians to be perfect, instead of desperately striving to become better than they were previously, through the power of Jesus.

        Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems facing Christianity today is this expectation that ‘Christian’ means ‘You never, ever, ever sin and if you did you’re just some kind of liar and fraud’. It’s as if (for Catholics) the sacrament of confession is entirely pointless because to need it is to be dishonest about being Christian at all.

        Ahh, but there is a range, from 0% transformative to 100% transformative. The closer Christianity seems to 0% transformative, the more it seems entirely false. And honestly, it is hard to see it as very transformative, these days. Where are the [Christian] politicians willing to take a hit to stand up for what is right, when it really matters? Etc.

        I think that’s a terrible example, in part because you have to ask yourself what kind of people are on the whole likely to end up being successful politicians to begin with. I’d also have to ask you what you mean about ‘what is right’ and ‘what really matters’, and more than that, how in the world they could be expected to stand up for it if you’re talking about a religious sense, in a secular government.

        And again, I question evaluating how ‘transformative’ Christianity is on the basis of people self-reporting as Christians and.. what, judging statistics about them? What’s supposed to be transformative about Christianity? Someone calling themselves Christian? Going to Sunday school?

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude, This is fun. :-)

        One danger of ‘baby steps’ kind of approaches is that it can give the false impression that the mistake in a person’s reasoning is ultimately some tiny error, perhaps one that’s largely inconsequential in terms of their greater views and claims, when in reality their mistakes or their inconsistencies are pretty huge.

        In my experience, often you cannot convince a person if you start out by portraying them as terribly wrong. I’m not sure how much to care about said “false impressions”. If people are going to make assumptions about my views based on my method of responding instead of my clearly-stated views, need I worry? Let people assume what they may; the ones interested in chasing ideas to their logical conclusions will not be so-deceived.

        It’s also one reason why I absolutely reject the common Christian practice of responding to angry, hateful, incendiary Gnus with a smile and politeness – because it has the unintended effect of justifying that kind of behavior and establishing it as socially acceptable.

        Does it mark it as “socially acceptable”? On quite a few occasions now, people have privately contacted me and thanked me for my level-headedness and respect of others in online discusiosns, despite how my interlocutors have treated me. People really do notice when there is a distinct difference in tactics between two sides of a discussion. I think people deeply want responses to be “polite”. Although I think I’d prefer to use the term “loving”, in the agape sense: seeking to build the other person up.

        P.S. When atheists get all angry and emotional, I love asking them how they think doing so advances rational discussion. I love asking them if they’re actually trying to manipulate me through nonrational means. This is usually just met with silence, haha. I’ve actually been accused of being a robot, in part because of how incredibly hard it is to bait me these days. The irony is delicious, as perfect rationality kind of seems to imply being a robot…

        I think we have different views of ‘health’. I don’t see it as something walled off from, say, morality and spiritual wellbeing, etc.

        I’m not so sure. Instead, I think many people generally feel used by others; in this event, becoming more healthy merely allows them to be better tools for others. Letting one’s health (in any or all senses) degrade is a kind of passive resistance. At the very least, I want to try on the hypothesis that many people want to be “fully human”, but have little hope of it actually being possible. The less hope one has, the less one tries.

        Opposition to slavery, particularly the ferocious kind of slavery seen in the 1800s, was longstanding and pretty consistent throughout the church’s history – it’s not as if you couldn’t go back centuries and see this.

        I’ve read (or at least skimmed) the relevant bits in Rodney Stark’s For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery; IIRC he said the RCC Pope issued an anti-slavery edict in something like the 1500s. But this still begs the question as to why the abolitionists didn’t seem very effective until the Civil War. Why did it seem so ineffective? I hesitate to say anything like, “There weren’t enough True Christians.” I generally don’t find the term “True Christian” useful; indeed, it is often damaging to any conversation into which it is inserted.

        Likewise, what’s this ‘Christians dehumanized negroes’ thing? You put it like that and you make it sound as if this was some kind of long-standing doctrine throughout Christendom, rather than a rather local and isolated view (partly spurred, by the way, by then-’scientific’ views) that had an awful lot to do with economic incentives at the time.

        Nope, I didn’t mean to make it sound that way. It’s more that enough of the right Christians in the American South managed to dehumanize Negroes, such that slavery became an established institution. How, for example, did people who called themselves ‘Christian’ approve of the kidnap of slaves? Kidnapping a person had the death penalty by OT standards. If economic incentives could so dominate their faith, one questions what force their faith had. This may actually largely be the answer, but it gets a little too close to the “True Christian” idea for my comfort. But my comfort doesn’t have any rights, so… :-)

        A general question, throughout discussions like these, is: What power does Christian belief really have, when history is examined in aggregate? I think [some] atheists and skeptics truly want to believe that it can have significant power, but find it hard to be convinced of this. Jesus’ disciples radically changed after Jesus’ resurrection; why do so few Christians seem to want to even question societal norms, as Rom 12:1-2 seems to indicate they ought? Maybe this is just the distribution of human willing in society, along the lines of “The path is narrow and few find it.” But I’d rather be convinced of that, not just accept it. I want to hope the best I can for humans, while still being grounded in reality.

        Whenever you have imprisonment and forced labor, whenever you have situations where people’s options are basically ‘work’ or ‘die/suffer tremendously’, you’ve got slavery.

        This is one of my strategies. A friend of mine insists that we should restrict the word ‘slavery’ to apply to when people are treated as property, but I’m not yet convinced. Regardless of whether we change e.g. “wage slavery” to “wage servitude”, the point is the same: it is possible to restrict the freedom of some humans and expand the freedom of others. A mere biblical condemnation of ‘slavery’ would not work to thwart this similar situation. Indeed, for those who dehumanized Negroes, such a condemnation would not even apply! Only a deep respect for all humans being made in the image of God will work, and the Bible does this, both in Genesis and Paul in two places. (I forget how clearly Jesus gets this idea across himself.)

        Yeah, I think one of the biggest problems facing Christianity today is this expectation that ‘Christian’ means ‘You never, ever, ever sin and if you did you’re just some kind of liar and fraud’.

        I’m just not sure this is true. I mean, maybe a small subset of atheists and skeptics believe this, but how many really do? Instead, it seems that they want to see something—anything—different in Christians, other than e.g. homophobia. Granted, ‘homophobia’ is a deceitful term (compare the Merriam-Webster definition “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against” to the Oxford definition “An extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.”). But it does seem that many Christians are more interested in imposing their morality on others, than doing things that others see as up-building—such as fighting for social justice. Now, it’s important to note the ‘seem’, here: perception is not reality, and there are many things which distort perception, like the news media wanting only to publish sensational and controversial news, instead of the news. But if we dig under the distortion, are Christians in general truly trying to love their fellow man in the way that Jesus did? To quote Paul: “For who sees anything different in you?”

        I think that’s a terrible example, in part because you have to ask yourself what kind of people are on the whole likely to end up being successful politicians to begin with.

        My father is quite involved in politics in his state, although he’s primarily the CEO of a medium-sized software company. So I know quite a bit about how the political enterprise selects for people of little to no character. But I still see Christians as having a responsibility to be a light in the world of politics. Perhaps you do not? I could see a rejection of my position coming out of Is 42:4, although I’d want more than just that one verse.

        I’d also have to ask you what you mean about ‘what is right’ and ‘what really matters’, and more than that, how in the world they could be expected to stand up for it if you’re talking about a religious sense, in a secular government.

        That which promotes being truly human, in the imago dei sense, but without compulsion, which is antithetical to love, per 1 Cor 13:5.

        And again, I question evaluating how ‘transformative’ Christianity is on the basis of people self-reporting as Christians and.. what, judging statistics about them? What’s supposed to be transformative about Christianity? Someone calling themselves Christian? Going to Sunday school?

        I’m open to suggestions. Clearly “calling themselves Christian” is out. Heh, perhaps one can work with a sports analogy. “I’m a serious football player!” “Ok, what do you do to train, how do you define ‘success’, with whom do you play, what are your stats, etc.?” There is an honest question here: “Where can I go to see truly transformative Christianity?” Such a question doesn’t need to divide between “True Christians” and others, because the answer doesn’t need to be exhaustive. Continuing the sports analogy, one can talk about the need to train rigorously, and the need to trust someone else on how to train, even when what they say doesn’t seem to make sense at the time.

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Yep, a pleasant conversation.

        In my experience, often you cannot convince a person if you start out by portraying them as terribly wrong. I’m not sure how much to care about said “false impressions”. If people are going to make assumptions about my views based on my method of responding instead of my clearly-stated views, need I worry?

        Well, we have different priorities and views of the state of the culture and the situations we find ourselves in, even about the role of communication. I care deeply about those false impressions, about promoting better and proper attitudes and respect even indirectly, because I consider communication to be a more holistic process than you seem to – which is fine, because I know I’m in the minority on that. I don’t consider what I consciously communicate to be limited to ‘my arguments alone and the logical conclusions which can be derived from them’. I also have to account for my tone, my attitude, what these things communicate to the people I keep in mind. The short of it is, I care about what ideas I communicate, and communication goes beyond the strict boundaries of arguments alone.

        Does it mark it as “socially acceptable”? On quite a few occasions now, people have privately contacted me and

        I used to get similar. I used to find it a sign I did something right. But there’s a problem.

        Why did they contact you in private, Labreuer?

        Private compliments aren’t good enough for me anymore. If people only feel comfortable contacting me in private many times, then something is wrong. I want people to feel comfortable showing their support for what I say – or for what other theists say – in public. Let the people who advocate monstrous views towards (among other people and things) Christians only receive compliments, few and scattered, in private.

        Not that I think I’m changing the world over here. I’m a nobody with a low-traffic blog who doesn’t post regularly, and who only gets into deep conversations like these now and then. But in my tiny sliver of the world, I try to act how I think is best. I fail at times even then, but I do what I can.

        I love asking them if they’re actually trying to manipulate me through nonrational means.

        I’ve seen some atheists endorse exactly this, openly. I think Loftus did it once, saying as much to Reppert – basically ‘whatever gets more atheist converts.’ Again, for all that talk of the love of science and reason, I see very little evidence that these are the actual driving forces.

        But this still begs the question as to why the abolitionists didn’t seem very effective until the Civil War. Why did it seem so ineffective? I hesitate to say anything like, “There weren’t enough True Christians.”

        But they were. Or at least, anti-slavery attitudes were present since Christ, and chattel slavery in particular was targeted. Now, there were still justifications of slavery – but slaves were also seen as persons, not just property. Owners had a right to their work, not to them as people, so to speak. It was a complicated issue then, but then again it’s a complicated issue now too.

        It’s more that enough of the right Christians in the American South managed to dehumanize Negroes, such that slavery became an established institution. How, for example, did people who called themselves ‘Christian’ approve of the kidnap of slaves?

        I suppose for the same reason Peter denied Christ – lack of resolve when push comes to shove. I wouldn’t say such people “aren’t true Christians” but I think it’s trivial, and always has been trivial, to show the incompatibility of southern slavery with Christianity. People bullshit themselves. Even cultures bullshit themselves. But I really think often people realize it, in the shadows, in their private moments. The public and private faces of persons can be pretty different things.

        I’m just not sure this is true. I mean, maybe a small subset of atheists and skeptics believe this, but how many really do?

        I think it is prevalent, if largely as a psychological crutch and an easy out. I suspect you think humans are far more rational, logical beings than I do – I get the impression you think almost intentionally lazy thinking and inconsistency are things most people strive to avoid. I’m a bit more cynical.

        But it does seem that many Christians are more interested in imposing their morality on others, than doing things that others see as up-building—such as fighting for social justice.

        All I can say here is that complaining about ‘imposing morality on others’ in the same sentence as lauding ‘fighting for social justice’ causes me to grin.

        But I still see Christians as having a responsibility to be a light in the world of politics. Perhaps you do not?

        It’s not that I don’t think Christians have major responsibilities. It’s that I think people shirk their responsibilities all the time, so it’s not a surprise to me when they do – even where Christianity is concerned. Soloflexes are transformative in a sense too, but would you be surprised to find out most people who own soloflexes are out of shape? Do we conclude their soloflexes are all broken?

        I think Christianity can be transformative even in the more mundane cases. It sounds like you’re looking for like.. complete transformations. Wealthy billionaire CEO gives it all up, joins a monastery. What about a loud, drinking asshole who finds Christ and strives to live a better life? What if in a year he’s better than he was, but still flawed? Is that transformative? What if it continues?

      • labreuer says :

        Well, we have different priorities and views of the state of the culture and the situations we find ourselves in, even about the role of communication. I care deeply about those false impressions, about promoting better and proper attitudes and respect even indirectly, because I consider communication to be a more holistic process than you seem to – which is fine, because I know I’m in the minority on that. I don’t consider what I consciously communicate to be limited to ‘my arguments alone and the logical conclusions which can be derived from them’. I also have to account for my tone, my attitude, what these things communicate to the people I keep in mind. The short of it is, I care about what ideas I communicate, and communication goes beyond the strict boundaries of arguments alone.

        My root problem with this is that many people have treated me this way, and it made me feel like shit, time and again. I was used as a means to an end, with little care given to whether I benefited from the discussion. As a result, I have a very hard time viewing this in any way other than as a shitty way to treat people. It just seems dehumanizing. It certainly feels dehumanizing. It turns a person with whom you are discussing, into a position which you are criticizing. Can you convince me that this is not what you’re doing, or that it’s ok? I’m having a hard time seeing it as ok. :-(

        Now, I certainly get that atheists/skeptics often treat other people as things and not people. Indeed, being a Christian and having spent much time talking to atheists and skeptics online, I know this quite well. But it is crucial to not return evil for evil, and I find it hard to see dehumanizing as anything other than evil. Did Jesus ever do what I’m describing as “dehumanizing”, in how he interacted with people? Perhaps “dehumanizing” is the wrong word to use.

        I’d also be interested in hearing about your ideas on “the role of communication”. FYI, I definitely understand that what I mean to communicate is not always what is heard; on multiple occasions I have pointed folks to Unknowable and Incommunicable, as well as The Lost Art of Listening. Many times, interlocutors accuse the other of intentionally misrepresenting when it was merely an attempt to rephrase the other person’s position in one’s own words. When the two positions are vastly different, mistakes are not infrequent. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an instance where attributing these mistakes to malice accomplished anything positive.

        Why did they contact you in private, Labreuer?

        Because they realize that culture can be quite evil, a point the Bible makes over and over again. Sometimes public contact would be tantamount to throwing pearls before swine.

        Private compliments aren’t good enough for me anymore. If people only feel comfortable contacting me in private many times, then something is wrong.

        Even on the internet? I can see your point being well-established in person, but with the anonymity of the internet? With the tendency of Christians to demonize anger, the internet is sometimes the only place that people can express anger without being castigated. I say let them be angry, while I respond calmly. This in and of itself speaks very loudly. I will get angry and display it if I see a reason for it, but often I don’t, and I know that anger in response to anger only inflames it. But perhaps I am conflating issues in this paragraph, so I’ll stop here.

        I’ve seen some atheists endorse exactly this, openly. I think Loftus did it once, saying as much to Reppert – basically ‘whatever gets more atheist converts.’ Again, for all that talk of the love of science and reason, I see very little evidence that these are the actual driving forces.

        Yeah well, Loftus and Boghossian… I agree that often atheists and skeptics have zero advantage in any area that matters in life, but that doesn’t mean they often have valid criticisms. It is much easier to criticize than offer a workable solution. And people in a very different place than you can often give you criticisms you are otherwise blind to—enculturation is a powerful force.

        I think it’s trivial, and always has been trivial, to show the incompatibility of southern slavery with Christianity.

        Agree 100%. Deuteronomy 23:15 is great on this matter. I just found this defense, in a book published in 2009. It is very sad. One of the reviewers of that book is scary: “It’s heartbreaking to think of all the love that existed between master and slave that was lost to the heartless industrial north due to Lincoln’s war for money.” Holy crap.

        I still think there might be a valid point behind the accusation that Christianity should have been more powerful, as a source of abolitionism. There is of course the question, “more powerful than what“—there is implicit question-begging going on as to how much more powerful Christians must be over non-Christians, for Christianity to count as “transformative”. How much have you studied abolitionism? I know that AD 50-300 Christianity allegedly did a lot of slave-freeing and such, but I would like to dig into primary sources there, as well.

        People bullshit themselves. Even cultures bullshit themselves. But I really think often people realize it, in the shadows, in their private moments.

        I’d be interested in hearing more about this. The concept is recognizable to me, but how do you actually talk about it with other people?

        I suspect you think humans are far more rational, logical beings than I do – I get the impression you think almost intentionally lazy thinking and inconsistency are things most people strive to avoid. I’m a bit more cynical.

        Well, I do like to think the best of people; that sometimes actually helps them be better people. People live up to as well as down to expectations! But in terms of my view of people, it’s pretty dim. For a while, I was routinely linking to the Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, and The Third Wave. It’s run to see how terrible the predictions of the Milgram results were, by psychologist and psychiatry students. It makes you realize that all those scientists cheering “progress via science!” pre-WWI were just plain stupid when it comes to human nature. This is actually one of the big reasons I think all that violence and nastiness in the OT needs to be there—lest we forget how barbaric humans can be!

        All I can say here is that complaining about ‘imposing morality on others’ in the same sentence as lauding ‘fighting for social justice’ causes me to grin.

        Well ok, I’ve read Legislating Morality. Is there no appreciable difference though, between working toward social justice and making anti-sodomy laws? Is there no way to divide those into two different natural kinds? There seems to be an argument for not legislating behavior that will not directly harm other humans who didn’t choose to be harmed. This of course gets dicey: should an alcoholic parent be punishable for imbibing alcohol while he/she has children? Etc.

        Soloflexes are transformative in a sense too, but would you be surprised to find out most people who own soloflexes are out of shape? Do we conclude their soloflexes are all broken?

        Of course not, but the question becomes, where are people who properly use their soloflexes?

        It sounds like you’re looking for like.. complete transformations.

        Nope. I just want transformations which can be pointed at and recognized as such. Is this not reasonable?

        What about a loud, drinking asshole who finds Christ and strives to live a better life? What if in a year he’s better than he was, but still flawed? Is that transformative? What if it continues?

        Such an example would have to compete with instances where the same thing happened, sans “finds Christ and”. I think I would prefer though, an example of spiritual sin being overcome, as that is clearly much more damaging in the long-run than carnal sin.

      • Crude says :

        But, like smoking, I suspect belief in hell – as a real place one is constantly in danger of finding one’s immortal soul enslaved there – still produces some level of harm. Note the word ‘suspect’.

        Fantastic. Just one problem – the near complete lack of evidence beyond anecdotes and vague references to studies you kinda-sorta have seen. You’re not hammering us with science, with studies, or even with much in the way of argument. Funny how the confident declarations about the harm of hell has melted and shriveled, until now we’re at ‘well, I suspect that science would show…!’

        Once corporal punishment was studied in any depth, the level of harm was clearly established in all kinds of ways making the level of benefit relatively insignificant in comparison.

        So you say. Meanwhile, video games’ purported link to violence have been subject to study for years and the ultimate results and interpretation of those studies is still up in the air and subject to debate. Plenty of people once felt really strongly that tabletop gaming reliably led to perversion, suicide and worse – that seems to have petered out.

        The funny thing is, you’re just illustrating the dangers of a particular variety of atheist mindset – you’re so convinced about the harm of religious upbringings re: hell that you’ve called it child abuse, harmful, and worse. When asked to provide evidence to back up your claims, you expressed outrage at people wanting science, rather than anecdotes… and now we’re down to ‘Well, I think it’d turn out this way if it was studied. I mean other things turned out to be as true as people thought after they were studied so it makes sense!’

        Because nothing I say to Crude is taken at face value and comprehended as such but reworked in his mind to be something else entirely and then presented intentionally as a gross caricature badly misrepresented of what I’ve written

        Now, what you say to Crude is checked against your past responses and inconsistencies are pointed out. Hence when you endorse Peter Boghossian’s talk about treating ‘faith’ and religious belief as a mental illness that should be treated by professionals, when you talk cavalierly about how teaching children this or that doctrine is ‘child abuse’ when the only evidence you have are anecdotes from largely atheist websites and an intuition (sans science), and then tell me that you’ve got not a totalitarian bone in your body, I point out the problems with squaring away your claim.

        He lies on purpose.

        Complete dishonesty. Anyone can read this thread and see the arguments I’ve presented to you as well as the observations. Funny how what I get out of you is accusations that I lie, never a demonstration – because what you really mean is ‘I wanted to portray myself as a defender of free thinking, but Crude pointed out how my positions, behavior and attitudes are hostile to it. That’s mean of him!’

        That’s why I commented to lotharson that apologizing to him is like apologizing to the mass murderer for having to arrest the felon.

        No “wow, that’s kind of crazy” flags being set off there, no sir. Comparing me to a mass murderer because I make you feel bad when I dismantle your arguments in a blog conversation sure seems sane to me.

        He’s doesn’t want to communicate; he wants to pontificate on the alter of his straw men in order to continue spewing his venom at atheists.

        “Altar”. And I spew no venom at atheists – I point out the hate campaign and intolerance display by a very particular subsection of atheists, the Gnus. At most I engage in a bit of fun-making at times. Considering Peter Boghossian, who you defend, endorses treating ‘faith’ as a mental illness, and you won’t condemn Richard “Make religious believers the butt of contempt! Sharpen your barbs until you really hurt them!” Dawkins, you’re quite the hypocrite.

        Oh, by the by: displaying naked contempt to religious believers. Do you think that causes them any psychological harm? Is that abuse?

        To me, that’s the very definition of a troll and I won’t feed him.

        Tildeb, you don’t need to respond to me. You feed me with your every post – because pretty much everything you say is subject to analysis, argumentation, and dismantling by myself and others.

        Please – I am no troll. I am merely someone you are afraid of, because you feel outgunned.

        Which is why you won’t bite the bullet and say that if teaching a children about atheism, materialism, naturalism etc causes them harm or distress, that it is child abuse and therefore should be discouraged. You can’t think of a way to justify a double standard on that front that isn’t laughable, and it’s trivial to think of ways those beliefs can cause someone psychological harm, scare them, worry them, etc.

        Sorry your dreams of being an “Epistemic Knight” go in the toilet once your methods and arguments are actually analyzed. If you’d stop pretending to know things you don’t know, you’d be in better shape.

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        Do you think that said money wouldn’t have gone to another organization which helped kids? What if we compare this to e.g. charitable giving by Russians at the USSR’s zenith? It seems to me that this is an awfully narrow way to analyze.

        I’d further ask…

        If World Vision knew there’d likely be a negative response for changing their stance on same-sex couples, does going through with it anyway count as “harming kids”?

        I recall a Google executive quit WV’s board in protest. Is he ‘harming kids’?

        It’s a spin game, and a transparent one.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        It’s a spin game, and a transparent one.

        It’s more than that, it’s a demeaning or even zeroing of everyone not in the cross hairs: in this case, the hungry kids. Yeah, let’s not respect people’s free-will choices to pick legal hiring practices, or pick which charities to fund. No, no, we have taxes which do the compulsory thing. Voluntary, charitable giving is precisely that. Let’s actually respect people’s freedom and liberty; enough people have died to protect it. I’d be glad for Gnus and liberal Christians and so forth to try and apply social pressure, pick which companies they buy from, etc. But to attempt to use the power of the State against me? No way!

      • Crude says :

        As for anecdotal evidence, it isn’t the only reliable source out there, that’s for sure, but anecdotal evidence isn’t to be completely thrown under the bus, either.

        Nor have I advocated throwing it under the bus. I have simply pointed out that A) anecdotal evidence is not science, and B) if anecdotal evidence counts, then we’ve also got quite a lot of it affirming the opposite as well. For a group of people who typically enshrine the singular, almost sole, power of science to inform us about truth, to suddenly drop down to advocating considerable and threatening policies based on some anecdotes and an intuition is worth pointing out.

        I think it’s beneficial to look at the vast numbers of people who have been hurt by fundamentalist theology, and at least admit that it can be a disaster to those folks. That’s all I’m saying. Dismissing someone’s pain is callous.

        Sure – so long as we can admit there’s also vast numbers of people who have been helped by it, apparently. There’s vast numbers of people harmed by LGBT culture, and vast numbers who say they’ve been helped by it. That’s the thing: testimony and anecdote doesn’t only go in a single direction.

        And, now, I’m done with this post and the threads. I don’t like zealots with blinders on at either extreme.

        Behold me in my ferocious and zealous glory, armed with the weapons of a fanatic: arguments, evidence, critical thinking and a sense of humor.

      • Crude says :

        labreuer,

        It’s more than that, it’s a demeaning or even zeroing of everyone not in the cross hairs: in this case, the hungry kids. Yeah, let’s not respect people’s free-will choices to pick legal hiring practices, or pick which charities to fund. No, no, we have taxes which do the compulsory thing. Voluntary, charitable giving is precisely that. Let’s actually respect people’s freedom and liberty; enough people have died to protect it. I’d be glad for Gnus and liberal Christians and so forth to try and apply social pressure, pick which companies they buy from, etc. But to attempt to use the power of the State against me? No way!

        I do admit, it’s an interesting way of weaponizing charities. I wonder if the people who’d say that the people who pulled donations from WV are bad would have said so for, say, pulling them from that breast cancer company that nudged towards a pro-life approach, or the entire debacle with the Boy Scouts.

      • labreuer says :

        @Crude

        I do admit, it’s an interesting way of weaponizing charities. I wonder if the people who’d say that the people who pulled donations from WV are bad would have said so for, say, pulling them from that breast cancer company that nudged towards a pro-life approach, or the entire debacle with the Boy Scouts.

        I’m glad you’re collecting these! After a while, I can imagine you writing your own “A Modest Proposal”, loaded with ammunition. :-)

      • lotharson says :

        It was rather late in America as you posted this, am I correct?

        Don’t worry, I am a late bird too ;-)

      • labreuer says :

        It’s only 0:20 right now in California. :-)

      • lotharson says :

        My geography is terrible, Luke. Shame on me.

  13. sheila0405 says :

    Lothar, you have nothing to apologize for. This is your blog, and you are permitted to speak your mind about whatever you choose. I understand Crude’s frustration, however. I think it is wrong to go after someone’s livelihood because that person disagrees with your point of view. What’s not being reported enough about the Mozilla kerfuffle is the fact that the IRS leaked his tax return. That’s a clear violation of the law, but no one will be held accountable. (IMHO)

    I am in favor of gay marriage. But I visited Chik-Fil-A on “CFA Day” because it is wrong to try to destroy a man’s business over his personal political views. If someone on the Right tried to destroy Starbucks, I’d waste my money on its overpriced coffee to show my support for its right to support gay marriage.

    No one on either the Right or the Left ought to be targeted for total destruction because of a personal opinion.

    This nation is about freedom. It gets messy when diametrically opposed civil liberties clash. But no one should seek the destruction of, or the power of the government against, another person based on political views. It’s abhorrent.

    • lotharson says :

      Great comment Sheila! I’ll quote you as an example of a progressive Christian not accepting firing people on the grounds of their opposition to gay marriage.

    • tildeb says :

      It’s not about the right to hold beliefs or even enunciate them… it’s about denying legal equality rights to others (for really poor reasons) by actively supporting measures that block them. Such actions deserve an equivalent response.

      • sheila0405 says :

        Then the logical question would be why gays didn’t pull their support of President Obama in 2012. At least then, they would have been consistent. There were plenty of other parties from which to choose, not merely GOP or Democrat. You either stand consistently on your convictions, or you don’t. And, where is the outrage regarding the illegal leaking of tax returns? That is still being lost in the debate.

        As to your own argument, that people deserve an equivalent response from those who support measures that would block their own rights, I do not subscribe to that at all. There are gays who seek to force churches to perform gay marriages, which I believe violates the First Amendment, but I would never wish harm on them. I would not support a move to punish them by getting them fired, for sure.

        I have been a customer at Chik-Fil-A and at Starbucks. If the company provides me with a good product, and is not engaged in illegal activity, I’ll give that company my support. Donating to Prop 8 was not illegal.

      • tildeb says :

        Yes, Prop 8 was not illegal but what it advocated was. That’s why it was struck down. Those who support legal discrimination I think are deserving of consequences that are also legal. You may think it’s unfair, but why not treat people the way they wish to treat others? Isn’t that Basic Reciprocity 101, the Golden Rule in action?

        I think to privilege people to, on the the one hand, advocate for legal discrimination while, on the other, claim protection from legal discrimination by special privilege is hypocrisy… the kind of hypocrisy all to often imbedded in religious tactics to pretend to be the real ‘victim’ of their targeted intrusion into the lives of others to their legal detriment in the name of piousness.

      • sheila0405 says :

        “…why not treat people the way they wish to treat others? Isn’t that Basic Reciprocity 101, the Golden Rule in action?”

        Because I generally choose to stay out of the gutter where my enemies live.

      • sheila0405 says :

        Oh, and I’ll add that I do not support those who would seek to retaliate against Mozilla by blocking Firefox, either.

  14. labreuer says :

    @tildeb, @Crude: I’ve just uploaded a few pages from Hood, Hill, and Spilka’s 2009 The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach. The section is called “Religion and Anxiety about Death and Dying”. See the full section at the link; here are a few choice quotes:

    Certain difficulties attend this research. First, the domains of religiona nd of death fear/anxiety have been confounded by measures from obth areas containing similar items (e.g., belief in an afterlife). Second, various deficiencies have been identified: poor experimental designs, weak measures, inadequate controls, inappropriate statistical analyses, and the use of questionable samples (Lester, 1967, 1972; Martin & Wrightsman, 1964). (191)

    Despite a minority of discrepant findings, our overview of this literature suggests that the more exacting research argues for the reduction of death anxiety when religious commitment increases. (191)

    Though there is some disagreement in the rather large number of studies in this area, the dominant finding is that religion and spirituality can counter death anxiety and depression. This may be due to the promise of faith regarding an afterlife and entrance into the realm of the deity. (192)

    @tildeb, what do you think about this? This empirical, peer-reviewed research would seem to contradict some of your seemingly deeply held beliefs. I have to return this library book soon (I may keep it one extra day and incur a small fine); I hadn’t gotten a chance to read through it until I thought to look for sections relevant to our discussion. @tildeb, will you respond to the empirical evidence? If so, how? What you seem to be suggesting as social policy, would appear to actually make the world a worse place. Do you acknowledge this, or will you find a way to still be right?

    • tildeb says :

      Yeah, like corporal punishment, the argument about net effect is one of harm vs benefit. The analysis is then quite dependent on the selected data and criteria to determine it. I’ve admitted that this is very difficult to do and comes with all kinds of problems. But to reiterate, what I said was that there is demonstrable harm caused by belief in hell and accepting a divine thought police as its gate keeper. This is not to say that there is always demonstrable harm and never any benefit; it is to say that I think this this harm relegates the benefit to be an insufficient justification. I believe the same is true for corporal punishment, in that that the benefits are not justified by the cost in harm. In fact, the same benefits (in the case of corporal punishment) can usually be obtained and the harm eliminated by changing the method of implementation. In other words, if I lay out my goals as justification for the punishment I am willing to inflict and can be shown a better way of obtaining these goals to a higher degree of success without using any corporal punishment whatsoever, then what effect does this have on the original cost/harm analysis? It reduces the harm from corporal punishment entirely. In the same way, what are the goals being sought that are used to justify the indoctrinating of children with this particular belief in hell overseen by some divine thought police? Can these same goals be achieved (can the benefits be obtained) by changing the method of implementation? (Is there a better way to gain the benefit and reduce the harm?) I think there is… by eliminating the belief as a legitimate way to achieve the goals and, by doing so, eliminate the harm component entirely.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb, @Crude

        But to reiterate, what I said was that there is demonstrable harm caused by belief in hell and accepting a divine thought police as its gate keeper.

        Why does this matter? There is a demonstrable harm to allowing people to drive cars.

        This is not to say that there is always demonstrable harm and never any benefit; it is to say that I think this this harm relegates the benefit to be an insufficient justification.

        On what basis? The peer-reviewed research says that more good than harm comes out of belief in the afterlife. Who are you to declare that this is actually wrong, that actually more harm than good comes out? You’ve set yourself up as a little autonomous god, deciding what reality is, despite the evidence—or to use Richard Dawkins’ term, “in the teeth of the evidence”.

        I believe

        Yes, yes you do.

        I think there is… by eliminating the belief as a legitimate way to achieve the goals and, by doing so, eliminate the harm component entirely.

        Yes, eliminating that belief you just indicated likely would make the world a better place, as it isn’t based on the evidence.

      • tildeb says :

        Why does this matter? Because if there’s abetter way that successfully achieves the results without causing harm, why not do it? If there’s a better way to be transported to achieve the same results without harm, why not do it? Good grief, labreuer, but do I need to even ask these questions?

        The study you quoted talks about reducing anxiety around death and dying when religious commitment increases – presumably of those thinking about their own death or thinking about the death of others, perhaps. This may well be the case, although the quotations you offered also reiterate the problems of such studies. The hospice data is about grieving… those who are not dying but have to cope with the death of loved ones, and in this case the rates would appear to be reversed. Religious commitment tends to indicate a correlation with a higher degree of complexity of grief. Why this seems to be the case is not known but we can speculate based on self-reports. This isn’t ‘ignoring’ the evidence (that’s a Crudism in action, BTW) but taking it into consideration. Why and how increased commitment to religion mitigates anxiety is something interesting; can we find what the variable really is? I don’t know, but I’m not ruling it out simply because it’s related to religious beliefs. Improving the human condition is, I think, a worthwhile endeavor but it has to measured against harm, too.

        When we step back and look at larger populations to better grasp the cost/benefit ratio of increased religiosity, do we find that the benefit claimed to be greater than its costs demonstrated in lower rates of this kind of stuff? Well, no. We find the opposite: there seem to be much higher rates of all kinds of negative correlates that should not be present if the the benefits outweighed the costs. The reason for this is not straightforward and I have yet to find any slam-dunk evidence to lay at the feet of religion. The correlate seems to be positively related to economics: the lower the income disparity, the lower the rates of all kinds of stuff… including religious commitment! This, too, is interesting in the sense that one would think the truth value of religious belief should outweigh these kinds of correlates… but they don’t. What we find is that all kinds of negative social behaviours (and some positive) are inversely related to the degree of religious commitment. Not only is the supposed benefit claimed to be real absent where they are claimed to be present (in which case the social behaviour should be positively correlated to religious commitment) it isn’t even equivalent (in which case the correlate should be absent in that social behaviour should be found equally positive and negative regardless of religious commitment). Neither is the case. What we find is actually the worst case scenario for the idea that religious commitment imports a net social benefit by improving social behaviours of the religious. The rates don;t bear this out. Most of these behaviours are negative, meaning there are higher rates correlated to higher levels of religious commitment. That is diametrically opposed to the assertion that religious commitment is a net benefit. In fact, it seems to be a net harm.

        In part, this is why I believe (yes, yes I do believe because I do not claim this to be knowledge) that reducing the rates of religious commitment would reduce the rates of harm from it. That’s why I spend this kind of time online expressing my reasons for my beliefs in the hope that it affects others enough who follow it to have cause to grant less confidence to their religious beliefs and more confidence in the legitimacy of further questioning and criticizing its claims. I’m under no delusion of my effectiveness; I simply do what I can.

      • labreuer says :

        @tildeb

        Why does this matter? Because if there’s abetter way that successfully achieves the results without causing harm, why not do it?

        Where is the empirical evidence that you have found a better way? Please, provide it! I’ve provided empirical evidence to you. Now, will you reply in kind? Or will you keep spreading dogma?

        The hospice data is about grieving… those who are not dying but have to cope with the death of loved ones, and in this case the rates would appear to be reversed.

        Ok, I’ll quote from “Religion, Grief, and Bereavement” in The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach:

            The central issue is “making sense” of the loss, and religion is commonly the main source of meaning available to the survivors. Regardless of who dies, religious/spiritual commitments, doctrines, and ideas offer meanings that reduce symptoms of distress and engender hope (Dahl, 1999, Golsworthy & Coyle, 1999).
            Though the majority of research on religion and bereavement points to the beneficial role of faith in such circumstances, it should be noted that not all work in this area supports such inferences (Sanders, 1979–1980). This is indeed an involved realm—one that requires more sensitivity to theory and the possibility of confounding factors. (198)

        With respect to death and bereavement, one salient aspect of a religious schema might be belief in an afterlife. Apparently such belief is “associated with greater recovery from bereavement regardless of the cause of death” (Smith et al., 1991–1992, p. 222). In contrast, bereaved persons with little belief in an afterlife evidence less well-being in general, and poorer recovery from the bereavement in particular. Such people also make greater efforts to avoid thinking about the death in question. (199)

        That last sentence, which I have bolded, has the possibility of utterly destroying your hospice data. Why? Well, people are able to go into denial for a while. This is a well-understood fact of human psychology. And I would suppose that the more one beliefs there is an actually possible resolution to a problem, the more they’re willing to talk about it right away. This would explain why religious folks exhibit the observed behavior you describe in your wife’s hospice service.

        Why and how increased commitment to religion mitigates anxiety is something interesting; can we find what the variable really is?

        What evidence have you, @tildeb, given, that you are actually engaged in such research, such “find[ing]“? I have seen zero. Instead, you just utter suppositions based on a tiny fraction of data, with no guarantee that it is comprehensive in any way, shape or form.

        When we step back and look at larger populations to better grasp the cost/benefit ratio of increased religiosity, do we find that the benefit claimed to be greater than its costs demonstrated in lower rates of this kind of stuff? Well, no. We find the opposite: there seem to be much higher rates of all kinds of negative correlates that should not be present if the the benefits outweighed the costs.

        Where on earth did you get this idea? Let me provide you empirical research, once again, from the same textbook:

            Serious defects that often stemmed from antireligious perspectives exist in many early studies of relationships between religion and psychopathology. The more modern view is that religion functions largely as a means of countering rather than contributing to psychopathology, though severe forms of unhealthy religion will probably have serious psychological and perhaps even physical consequences. In most instances, faith buttresses people’s sense of control and self-esteem, offers meanings that oppose anxiety, provides hope, sanctions socially facilitating behavior, enhances personal well-being, and promotes social integration. Probably the most hopeful sign is the increasing recognition by both clinicians and religionists of the potential benefits each group has to contribute. Awareness of the need for a spiritual perspective has opened new and more constructive possibilities for working with mentally disturbed individuals and resolving adaptive issues.
            A central theme throughout this book is that religion “works” because it offers people meaning and control, and brings them together with like-thinking others who provide social support. This theme is probably nowhere better represented than in the section of this chapter on how people use religious and spiritual resources to cope. Religious beliefs, experiences, and practices appear to constitute a system of meanings that can be applied to virtually every situation a person may encounter. People are loath to rely on chance. Fate and luck are poor referents for understanding, but religion in all its possible manifestations can fill the void of meaninglessness admirably. There is always a place for one’s God—simply watching, guiding, supporting, or actively solving a problem. In other words, when people need to gain a greater measure of control over life events, the deity is there to provide the help they require. (476)

        What we find is that all kinds of negative social behaviours (and some positive) are inversely related to the degree of religious commitment.

        Evidence, please. Stop making unevidence assertions, @tildeb, on pain of everyone seeing you as being full of Boghossian-faith: “Pretending to know what you do not know.”

        In part, this is why I believe (yes, yes I do believe because I do not claim this to be knowledge) that reducing the rates of religious commitment would reduce the rates of harm from it. That’s why I spend this kind of time online expressing my reasons for my beliefs in the hope that it affects others enough who follow it to have cause to grant less confidence to their religious beliefs and more confidence in the legitimacy of further questioning and criticizing its claims.

        Why don’t you spend more time investigating the evidence? Go check out The Psychology of Religion, Fourth Edition: An Empirical Approach from your local public library (or interlibrary loan system), or buy it, if this issue is so important to you. If you care so much about this stuff, and respect science so highly, you ought to be citing peer-reviewed evidential support for your positions, left and right. But you don’t do this. Why???

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