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The Ghost of Paley



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Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,10:19   

Saw an interesting article here about the possible dangers of evangelical atheism. Orr takes on Dawkins:

   
Quote
H. Allen Orr is an evolutionary biologist who once called Mr. Dawkins a “professional atheist.” But now, Mr. Orr wrote in the Jan. 11 issue of The New York Review of Books, “I’m forced, after reading his new book, to conclude that he’s actually more of an amateur.”

It seems that these critics hold several odd ideas, the first being that anyone attacking theology should actually know some.

“The most disappointing feature of ‘The God Delusion,’” Mr. Orr wrote, “is Dawkins’s failure to engage religious thought in any serious way. You will find no serious examination of Christian or Jewish theology” and “no attempt to follow philosophical debates about the nature of religious propositions.”


Orr, if you recall, was one of the first scientists to critique Behe's Darwin's Black Box.

Here's some more:

   
Quote
Mr. Orr, for example, noted the contrast between Mr. Dawkins’s skepticism toward traditional proofs for God’s existence and Mr. Dawkins’s confidence that his own “Ultimate Boeing 747” proof demonstrated scientifically that God’s existence was highly improbable.

Mr. Eagleton compared Mr. Dawkins’s volubility about religion’s vast wrongs with his silence “on the horrors that science and technology have wreaked on humanity” and the good that religion has produced.

“In a book of almost 400 pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false,” Mr. Eagleton wrote. “The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.”

In Mr. Orr’s view, “No decent person can fail to be repulsed by the sins committed in the name of religion,” but atheism has to be held to the same standard: “Dawkins has a difficult time facing up to the dual fact that (1) the 20th century was an experiment in secularism; and (2) the result was secular evil, an evil that, if anything, was more spectacularly virulent than that which came before.”

Finally, these critics stubbornly rejected the idea that rational meant scientific. “The fear of religion leads too many scientifically minded atheists to cling to a defensive, world-flattening reductionism,” Mr. Nagel wrote.


Nagel echoes a fear I've always had about militantly secular societies. I've noticed that formally atheistic governments can be every bit as violent and oppressive as theocracies, and that secular societies usually replace religious with political dogma. Given that people seem to have a need to be a part of something larger than themselves, isn't it dangerous to quash the religious impulse in the human heart? And what effect, if any, does it have on society's ethics? Many people seem to need an incentive to act morally.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
Kristine



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,10:57   

An amateur is someone who does something out of love.

Origin: 1775–85; < F, MF < L amâtor lover, equiv. to amâ- (s. of amâre to love) + -tor -tor, replaced by F -teur (< L -tôr-, obl. s. of -tor); see -eur

I cannot find the link again, but I have mentioned in several forums an online interview with Dawkins in which he is asked, point blank, if atheism should be imposed upon children and society. Dawkins is so shocked at first that his mouth falls open; then he says “No.” The way that he says it and his reaction to the question assure me that he’s not Stalinesque about atheism; it didn’t even occur to him to dream of imposing this kind of world that other people accuse him of wanting.

If I find the link I shall post it. Until then, let me say that I think people are confusing Dawkins’ emphatic arguments with a kind of Soviet-style repression that they are not.

To make a parallel here, is literature “dangerous”? I would say so! I don’t hold with the American idea that literature is “good for us.” (Americans justify all sorts of impractical things by saying that it's "good for us," and then they don't follow through, anyway. Few Americans read.) Good literature is about successfully causing a change within the reader, not moral purity, and while the author’s intentions are to have and to share a deeper experience of being alive, that could lead to any kind of behavior. Think of de Sade, or Baudelaire. So let me also argue that Dawkins is also “dangerous,” yes, because life is danger, and literature is danger, and love is danger.

But that’s just me. I hate safety and security and routine – always have.

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The Ghost of Paley



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,12:33   

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Kristine. There's one point I'd like to address:

 
Quote
I cannot find the link again, but I have mentioned in several forums an online interview with Dawkins in which he is asked, point blank, if atheism should be imposed upon children and society. Dawkins is so shocked at first that his mouth falls open; then he says “No.” The way that he says it and his reaction to the question assure me that he’s not Stalinesque about atheism; it didn’t even occur to him to dream of imposing this kind of world that other people accuse him of wanting.


I agree that Dawkins does not wish to force his beliefs on others; nevertheless, he certainly wishes to persuade others that his world view should be reflected in the dominant culture. My question is, "Is an atheistic orientation healthy for society?" I suspect that atheism is fine as a personal philosophy, but it tends to hurt those societies that adopt it as a norm. One reason might be that the religious impulse doesn't go away, but is free to mutate into something else. And I'm skeptical that most of these mutations will be beneficial or even neutral, because they might be working against the historical selective forces that "chose" religious societies over nonreligious ones.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
Mr_Christopher



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,12:44   

This is simply crazy/ignorant talk:

"I suspect that atheism is fine as a personal philosophy, but it tends to hurt those societies that adopt it as a norm"

Fucking ignorant statement that.

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Uncommon Descent is a moral cesspool, a festering intellectual ghetto that intoxicates and degrades its inhabitants - Stephen Matheson

  
The Ghost of Paley



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,12:58   

Mr_Christopher:

 
Quote
This is simply crazy/ignorant talk:

"I suspect that atheism is fine as a personal philosophy, but it tends to hurt those societies that adopt it as a norm"


Why is it necessarily crazy? What's fine for the individual might not be good for society. Think about individuals who are extreme risk takers for example.

Kristine:

Quote
To make a parallel here, is literature “dangerous”? I would say so! I don’t hold with the American idea that literature is “good for us.” (Americans justify all sorts of impractical things by saying that it's "good for us," and then they don't follow through, anyway. Few Americans read.) Good literature is about successfully causing a change within the reader, not moral purity, and while the author’s intentions are to have and to share a deeper experience of being alive, that could lead to any kind of behavior. Think of de Sade, or Baudelaire. So let me also argue that Dawkins is also “dangerous,” yes, because life is danger, and literature is danger, and love is danger.

But that’s just me. I hate safety and security and routine – always have.


I forgot to address this point. Certain types of literature may be dangerous, but literature itself need not be -- in fact, literature (or oral poetry) often binds social classes together in nontechnological societies. It has passed the test of history; it has survived as a tradition. In addition, art -- like religion -- seems to satisfy a primal craving in humanity. This is why I don't find the comparison compelling.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
BWE



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,14:52   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,09:19)
Mr. Eagleton compared Mr. Dawkins’s volubility about religion’s vast wrongs with his silence “on the horrors that science and technology have wreaked on humanity” and the good that religion has produced.
Science lacks the ability to destroy. That capacity belongs to man. The horrors rendered by scientific discovery tend to be horrors consciously perpetrated on the bulk of civilisation  by financiers of corporate entities. Think Pinto, Nitrogen inputs into farming, Military industrial complex- oh, those are all the same. Right. Inthe old days, the rubes killed the boss's enemy in the name of god. Now we justify killing innocent people, poisoning Earth and lying to our children in the name of god AND country for truth, justice and the [insert country here] way. But it's a hel! of a lot harder without god. Some horrors are accidental but most are not.

Quote
“In a book of almost 400 pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false,” Mr. Eagleton wrote. “The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.”
Budda is not god. Your argument doesn't work without Buddha. In the name of god, only falsehoods driven home through indoctrination survive the test of time.

Quote
In Mr. Orr’s view, “No decent person can fail to be repulsed by the sins committed in the name of religion,” but atheism has to be held to the same standard: “Dawkins has a difficult time facing up to the dual fact that (1) the 20th century was an experiment in secularism; and (2) the result was secular evil, an evil that, if anything, was more spectacularly virulent than that which came before.”
No. Utterly wrong. First, he most lilely refers to stalin and mao, perhaps kmer rouge and some other smaller dictators. Aside from the fact that Stalin actually professed to be a christian, they were not substantially worse than christian or muslim autocrats. Think Hitler (christian) Charlemaign (Holy Roman Emperor- christian) ,[c&ped but I just closed the page and so, if you wish to find it, search the folloing in google] David Koresh, James Jones, Timothy McVeigh, Joseph Mengele, the people who brought you the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the people who firebomb school buses in northern Ireland, The Ku Klux Klan are devoutly Christian;" think about that kind of thing and see if you can use the same word to describe Priestly, Mother Theresa, Um, what was the third christian that did something good? ANyway Priestly wasn't strictly a xian unless you follow AFDave's definition. Muslim list: all the crazy bastards over there who think it's ok to stone people to death, et. al.

Quote
Finally, these critics stubbornly rejected the idea that rational meant scientific. “The fear of religion leads too many scientifically minded atheists to cling to a defensive, world-flattening reductionism,” Mr. Nagel wrote.
Because people kill for god, sex and money. Knocking the other two off the list leads to other problems.

Quote
Nagel echoes a fear I've always had about militantly secular societies. I've noticed that formally atheistic governments can be every bit as violent and oppressive as theocracies, and that secular societies usually replace religious with political dogma. Given that people seem to have a need to be a part of something larger than their own identities, isn't it dangerous to quash the religious impulse in the human heart? And what effect, if any, does it have on society's ethics? Many people seem to need an incentive to act morally.

Really? You've noticed? It sort of popped into your field of vision? Whaaaaat?  Where were you when you noticed this? Was it like noticing that the sun came out from behind a cloud? Funny, I'm not an atheist but I can't call willingly perpetuating a demostrably falsifiable idea through militant indoctrination a good thing. TYhat is what both xian and islam are. Nothing more, nothing less. It's wrong and it leads people into evil (hurting other people on purpose) without even knowing it. If you were a global warming denier, it would be because you are woefully ignorant of climate modeling science and that someone told you to follow the well-worn rut in your brain of ignoring evidence and believing your priests. Not that global warming is everything the MSM says it is either. But the SCIENCE isn't wrong. And, if you want to understand it, learn the science or ask someone who knows it. But don't then accuse the person you asked of lying. Religion -dogmatic religion anyway- intentionally carried a lie from one generation to another. THat is evil all by itself.


THere is also a meta question about relpacing one addiction with another

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Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

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The Ghost of Paley



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,16:08   

BWE:

 
Quote
Science lacks the ability to destroy. That capacity belongs to man. The horrors rendered by scientific discovery tend to be horrors consciously perpetrated on the bulk of civilisation  by financiers of corporate entities. Think Pinto, Nitrogen inputs into farming, Military industrial complex- oh, those are all the same. Right. Inthe old days, the rubes killed the boss's enemy in the name of god. Now we justify killing innocent people, poisoning Earth and lying to our children in the name of god AND country for truth, justice and the [insert country here] way. But it's a hel! of a lot harder without god. Some horrors are accidental but most are not.


Sure. Mankind's history is littered with violence, and people often misuse the fruits of scientific discovery. In fact, many inventions are driven by a need to kill or dominate other societies. No one argues this.

The question becomes, "How can we minimise harm?" I don't know the answer either, but a society predicated on an ethical, life-affirming philosophy seems like a good place to start. Take warfare for instance. Have nations fought each other for religious reasons? Certainly. But if your hypothesis was true, we should have seen a net reduction in bloodshed in the more secular 20th Century. This did not happen. In fact, the barbarity seemed to escalate until nuclear weapons provided a deterrent for large-scale conflict in Western societies.

 
Quote
 
Quote
 
“In a book of almost 400 pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false,” Mr. Eagleton wrote. “The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.”
 
Budda is not god. Your argument doesn't work without Buddha. In the name of god, only falsehoods driven home through indoctrination survive the test of time.


I don't understand what you're arguing here.

Quote
No. Utterly wrong. First, he most lilely refers to stalin and mao, perhaps kmer rouge and some other smaller dictators. Aside from the fact that Stalin actually professed to be a christian, they were not substantially worse than christian or muslim autocrats. Think Hitler (christian) Charlemaign (Holy Roman Emperor- christian) ,[c&ped but I just closed the page and so, if you wish to find it, search the folloing in google] David Koresh, James Jones, Timothy McVeigh, Joseph Mengele, the people who brought you the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition, the people who firebomb school buses in northern Ireland, The Ku Klux Klan are devoutly Christian;" think about that kind of thing and see if you can use the same word to describe Priestly, Mother Theresa, Um, what was the third christian that did something good? ANyway Priestly wasn't strictly a xian unless you follow AFDave's definition. Muslim list: all the crazy bastards over there who think it's ok to stone people to death, et. al.


First, historians are not sure that Hitler was a Christian. And I was under the impression that Stalin was an atheist when he left the seminary and never looked back. In any case, Stalin's (and to a lesser extent, Hitler's) policies were explicitly antireligious. The Jews, who had earlier endured pogroms in Christian hands, were targeted for annihilation in Nazi Germany. Apparently, subordinating the Church to an all-powerful state did not protect the Jews from physical harm, and may have removed the moral brakes provided by Christianity. And the Jews certainly learned the meaning of Stalin's catch phrase: "est chelovek, est problema, net cheloveka — net problemy." Fortunately his government's incompetence prevented another Holocaust.

Eh....out of time. Will pick up.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
GCT



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,16:19   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,12:33)
My question is, "Is an atheistic orientation healthy for society?" I suspect that atheism is fine as a personal philosophy, but it tends to hurt those societies that adopt it as a norm.

And, what examples are you basing that on?  In every one, I'll bet that it was a autocratic dictatorship style government where the ruler quashed religion as a way of eliminating his competition.

  
GCT



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,16:34   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,16:08)
The question becomes, "How can we minimise harm?" I don't know the answer either, but a society predicated on an ethical, life-affirming philosophy seems like a good place to start.

Do you know of one?  I sure don't?  The prevailing major religions of this country are borne of war gods and human sacrifices.  They are not peachful or life-affirming.

Quote
Take warfare for instance. Have nations fought each other for religious reasons? Certainly. But if your hypothesis was true, we should have seen a net reduction in bloodshed in the more secular 20th Century. This did not happen. In fact, the barbarity seemed to escalate until nuclear weapons provided a deterrent for large-scale conflict in Western societies.


To believe that religion had little to do with the conflicts of the 20th Century is to turn a blind eye to just about every conflict that occurred.

Quote
Apparently, subordinating the Church to an all-powerful state did not protect the Jews from physical harm, and may have removed the moral brakes provided by Christianity.


What moral brakes?  Those same Christians reviled the Jews and repressed them for hundreds of years.  They accused the Jews of drinking Christian blood in order to do all manner of rituals and other things.  Instead of going into detail I'll just note that Hitler could not have been successful in demonizing the Jews if the Christians had not already done so.  It was those Christian morals that did the opposite of provide brakes.  Are you really that blind?

Stalin also relied on Christian historical hatred of Jews.  Both regimes used that Christian anger and hatred in order to provide an enemy that would whip the masses up into fury and make them forget about the other attrocities or simply write them off, and it was Christian "morals" that allowed this.

  
Lou FCD



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,16:57   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,15:08)
Eh....out of time. Will pick up.

Ah, that old familiar tune...

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Linky“. ~ Steve Story, Legend

   
J. G. Cox



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,17:13   

In my younger days as an atheist, I shared Dawkins' view that religion was a major cause of evil in the world. Now, however, I disagree with him. Perhaps I have just become more cynical, but it seems to me that people will always find a reason to kill one another. If you take away religious motives (or excuses), they'll just be replaced by nationalism or some other tribal ideology. Indeed, it seems that a good number of supposedly religious conflicts were in fact motivated by more materialistic desires but merely given a religious veneer in order to help justify the killing and taking of land or wealth. If the religious veneer is not available, some other means will be found for reducing a target of aggression to something that people are willing to kill. I think that this is akin to the relationship between religion and ethics. Religion is a vehicle for ethics, but it is certainly not the only one; without religion, people find other ways to pass on their ethical views to their offspring and compatriots. In the same mien, religion is a vehicle for abhorrent behavior, but it is certainly not the only one.

That said, I can still immediately come up with two reasons why I might personally prefer a society without religion. The first is simply that I think such beliefs are wrong, and as a lover of truth, I find it upsetting to observe so many people believing something to be true that I think is indefensible. I just cannot feel comfortable with a system that is based on what I see as a profound deceit. Second, American Christianity, at least, seems very much to promote the inability to think critically. The way in which faith is instilled in American Christians seems to rely heavily on quashing doubts instead of addressing them; children are punished for asking "why?" too much, arguments are attacked not on their merit but on their consequences, etc. Having taught college kids in the Midwest for a couple of years, I have seen what the long term influence of this is: people who do not know how to think, who are influenced more by charisma than content, and who are incapable of challenging their own assumptions  when these prove insufficient for solving a real world question. Lack of critical thinking cannot be anything but bad. Remember, the full Descartes quote is 'dubito ergo cogito, cogito ergo sum'

  
"Rev Dr" Lenny Flank



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,17:29   

Trolling again, Paley . . . . ?

Overcome by the dark side again, Paley . . . . ?

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www.RedandBlackPublishers.com

  
skeptic



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,17:49   

GoP, you're a glutton for punishment my man.  Why, oh why did you ever start this one?  There is no rational conversation here.  Kristine's comment is as nice as it's going to get and, trust me, it's probably going to get really bad before it's done.  In this case, I have to agree with the Good Reverend, do you enjoy the conflict?

  
qetzal



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,18:37   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,11:33)
And I'm skeptical that most of these mutations will be beneficial or even neutral, because they might be working against the historical selective forces that "chose" religious societies over nonreligious ones.

It's not clear that religiousness was ever directly selected for. Didn't you read the recent posts on spandrels?

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007, 15:08)
The question becomes, "How can we minimise harm?" I don't know the answer either, but a society predicated on an ethical, life-affirming philosophy seems like a good place to start.


Religion is not necessarily a requirement for such a philosophy.

Quote
warfare for instance. Have nations fought each other for religious reasons? Certainly. But if your hypothesis was true, we should have seen a net reduction in bloodshed in the more secular 20th Century.

Only if you assume there were no confounding factors. That's hardly the case. Societies and technologies have both changed enormously since the 1900s. It's ludicrous to ignore those changes and only cite increased secularism.

I doubt you could ever tease out all the confounding variables, but if you were going to try, you'd do better to compare more versus less secular societies in a given time period. At least then you could attempt to control for relative wealth, technology, etc.

If you take that approach today, my guess is the more religious societies will not look so good by comparison, but I freely admit it's purely a guess.

  
Kristine



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,20:20   

Quote
That said, I can still immediately come up with two reasons why I might personally prefer a society without religion. The first is simply that I think such beliefs are wrong, and as a lover of truth, I find it upsetting to observe so many people believing something to be true that I think is indefensible. I just cannot feel comfortable with a system that is based on what I see as a profound deceit.
Precisely. The atheism that I would like to see on a large scale has never existed. However, there's always a part of me that likes to play, "What if...?" Hey, what if we actually do need religion? For that matter, what if God does exist after all? (Not holding my breath.) I'm not scared to ask that question - I just think that we'll never know the answer to our satisfaction until the world jettisons all preconceived ideas and lets observation unfold. Then we may have the opportunity to create the spirituality that has also never existed - and who knows, perhaps my ideal atheism and that spirituality will be the same thing...  As Louis Aragon (or was it Duchamp?) said, "Thank God I'm still an atheist."  
Quote
Certain types of literature may be dangerous, but literature itself need not be -- in fact, literature (or oral poetry) often binds social classes together in nontechnological societies. It has passed the test of history; it has survived as a tradition. In addition, art -- like religion -- seems to satisfy a primal craving in humanity. This is why I don't find the comparison compelling.
Well, surely there are different types of literature. I tend to prefer the edge-pushing, avant guarde lit, so I'm talking about my own concerns here. I'm not the person to make the case that, "Yes, we atheists are just like you all, middle class, cuddly family types" because that's not me. I've lived with my boyfriend for fifteen years and we're not married - no kids - I write about politics and eroticism - my favorite book of all time is Lolita - all of which is probably why I've been accused three times in three different forums of being a man's sock puppet. :) (Not very feminine I guess.) I mean, I just can't make the "it's all wholesome" argument, because I'm not interested in being a good girl - never was. (Although in person I'm pretty boring and for the most part a good girl.) So maybe I'm not the person to answer this question. However, I do believe, yes, that one can build a society on atheism, Ghost, because most of them are the bourgeois type. (And I believe in making the world a better place for other people's children, so of course I have some solid bourgeois values.)

It's just wrong to say that a society cannot be stable and atheist. No one really tried - Stalin made himself into a religion and that's not the same thing.

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"I happen to think that this prerequisite criterion of empirical evidence is itself not empirical." - Clive

"Damn you. This means a trip to the library. Again." -- fnxtr

  
The Ghost of Paley



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 12 2007,21:03   

Skeptic:

     
Quote
GoP, you're a glutton for punishment my man.  Why, oh why did you ever start this one?  There is no rational conversation here.  Kristine's comment is as nice as it's going to get and, trust me, it's probably going to get really bad before it's done.  In this case, I have to agree with the Good Reverend, do you enjoy the conflict?


Actually, most of the responses have been pretty good so far. And since I learn so much from people who disagree with me, why not take advantage of the opportunity?

BWE:

     
Quote
Really? You've noticed? It sort of popped into your field of vision? Whaaaaat?  Where were you when you noticed this? Was it like noticing that the sun came out from behind a cloud? Funny, I'm not an atheist but I can't call willingly perpetuating a demostrably falsifiable idea through militant indoctrination a good thing. TYhat is what both xian and islam are. Nothing more, nothing less. It's wrong and it leads people into evil (hurting other people on purpose) without even knowing it. If you were a global warming denier, it would be because you are woefully ignorant of climate modeling science and that someone told you to follow the well-worn rut in your brain of ignoring evidence and believing your priests. Not that global warming is everything the MSM says it is either. But the SCIENCE isn't wrong. And, if you want to understand it, learn the science or ask someone who knows it. But don't then accuse the person you asked of lying. Religion -dogmatic religion anyway- intentionally carried a lie from one generation to another. THat is evil all by itself.


If a religion makes a testable claim that conflicts with science, then it should admit the conflict or retract the claim. Anything less would be dishonest. But except for fundamentalists, most religious people shield their beliefs from falsification. In that case they're not being dishonest and no conflict arises. As you know, theists are awfully good at harmonising potentially devastating evidence, so I wouldn't characterise their dogma as lies..."wishful thinking" might be a better phrase. Is wishful thinking evil? Not if it leads to a more stable society IMHO. Of course one must weigh the benefits against the harm of this mindset.

GCT:

   
Quote
And, what examples are you basing that on?  In every one, I'll bet that it was a autocratic dictatorship style government where the ruler quashed religion as a way of eliminating his competition.


Oh sure, the worst examples were very autocratic. The problem is, many of these societies were based on lofty ideals that bear little resemblance to the ultimate product. I've been told that we haven't seen a Marxist state yet. My response is, "Probably not, and that's precisely what's wrong with it." Or look at how the French Revolution turned out, despite the fact that it was modeled in part on the relatively successful American experiment, and boasted impeccable Enlightenment values. But Jefferson didn't try to supplant Christianity with his upstart Deism like Robespierre did, and America didn't suffer from oppressive anticlerical legislation (for obvious reasons). The hostility to the dominant faith was a key difference between the two movements IMHO.

 
Quote
 
Quote
(The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,16:08)
The question becomes, "How can we minimise harm?" I don't know the answer either, but a society predicated on an ethical, life-affirming philosophy seems like a good place to start.


Do you know of one?  I sure don't?  The prevailing major religions of this country are borne of war gods and human sacrifices.  They are not peachful or life-affirming.


Nevertheless, many religions have become more temperate over time. Christianity and modern Judaism are two responses to the earlier, more "primitive", Judaism.

More tomorrow.

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The Ghost of Paley



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(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,09:41   

GCT:

Quote
What moral brakes?  Those same Christians reviled the Jews and repressed them for hundreds of years.  They accused the Jews of drinking Christian blood in order to do all manner of rituals and other things.  Instead of going into detail I'll just note that Hitler could not have been successful in demonizing the Jews if the Christians had not already done so.  It was those Christian morals that did the opposite of provide brakes.  Are you really that blind?

Stalin also relied on Christian historical hatred of Jews.  Both regimes used that Christian anger and hatred in order to provide an enemy that would whip the masses up into fury and make them forget about the other attrocities or simply write them off, and it was Christian "morals" that allowed this.


But isn't it odd that antisemitism increased when more secular governments took over? Make no mistake about it, Hitler placed the State above the Church.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
Fross



Posts: 71
Joined: Mar. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,09:58   

i find no faults with non-extremist religions, but I do think it's strange that if religion is even questioned, it's seen as an attack.  (ie James Cameron's new pseudo-scientific documentary)  I also don't like how certain aspects of it are left un-touchable by modern society.  For instance, once someone gives a religious reason/excuse of why they're doing something, we're expected to accept that without question. (a religious sect can legally do mushrooms for their ceremony, meanwhile someone dying of cancer can't smoke a blunt to relieve some pain)

If religion is to exist in modern society, it needs to take more of a rational approach to itself and cut back on most of the mysticism.

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"For everything else, there's Mastertard"

   
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,10:20   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 13 2007,08:41)
GCT:

Quote
What moral brakes?  Those same Christians reviled the Jews and repressed them for hundreds of years.  They accused the Jews of drinking Christian blood in order to do all manner of rituals and other things.  Instead of going into detail I'll just note that Hitler could not have been successful in demonizing the Jews if the Christians had not already done so.  It was those Christian morals that did the opposite of provide brakes.  Are you really that blind?

Stalin also relied on Christian historical hatred of Jews.  Both regimes used that Christian anger and hatred in order to provide an enemy that would whip the masses up into fury and make them forget about the other attrocities or simply write them off, and it was Christian "morals" that allowed this.


But isn't it odd that antisemitism increased when more secular governments took over? Make no mistake about it, Hitler placed the State above the Church.

But wait, didn't you say last year that Hitler was a Wiccan?

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"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
heddle



Posts: 124
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,11:25   

J. G. Cox,
   
Quote
Second, American Christianity, at least, seems very much to promote the inability to think critically. The way in which faith is instilled in American Christians seems to rely heavily on quashing doubts instead of addressing them; children are punished for asking "why?" too much, arguments are attacked not on their merit but on their consequences, etc.

That is unsubstantiated garbage—a generalization of such simplicity that I can only say that, if this is an example of your critical thinking, then most American Christians I know would run circles around you. For the record, of the hundreds of Christian families I know, I have never seen one case of a child being punished for asking "why?" too much.

Kristine,
   
Quote
It's just wrong to say that a society cannot be stable and atheist. No one really tried - Stalin made himself into a religion and that's not the same thing.

I agree with the first part—but I think the standard dismissal of Stalin—that he (or Soviet communism) was really a religion is just sleight of hand. Don't like certain inconvenient examples of societies based on atheism? Then simply redefine them as actually being based on religion. Cheap trick. Why not just admit—at least the possibility—that Stalinism is an example of an atheistic experiment gone bad?

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Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reason for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. --Sam Harris

  
J-Dog



Posts: 4402
Joined: Dec. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,11:46   

Quote (heddle @ Mar. 13 2007,10:25)
J. G. Cox,
     
Quote
Second, American Christianity, at least, seems very much to promote the inability to think critically. The way in which faith is instilled in American Christians seems to rely heavily on quashing doubts instead of addressing them; children are punished for asking "why?" too much, arguments are attacked not on their merit but on their consequences, etc.


That is unsubstantiated garbage—a generalization of such simplicity that I can only say that, if this is an example of your critical thinking, then most American Christians I know would run circles around you.

For the record, of the hundreds of Christian families I know, I have never seen one case of a child being punished for asking "why?" too much.

Kristine,
     
Quote
It's just wrong to say that a society cannot be stable and atheist. No one really tried - Stalin made himself into a religion and that's not the same thing.

I agree with the first part—but I think the standard dismissal of Stalin—that he (or Soviet communism) was really a religion is just sleight of hand. Don't like certain inconvenient examples of societies based on atheism? Then simply redefine them as actually being based on religion. Cheap trick. Why not just admit—at least the possibility—that Stalinism is an example of an atheistic experiment gone bad?


Jesus Christ Heddle - You are still the smarmiest poster I have ever run into. Unsubstantiated garbage"? Pot-kettle black!  

You blast poster J G Cox for "unsubstantiated garbage", then do the same thing to him, then add a little ad hominum for good measure:  "a generalization of such simplicity that I can only say that, if this is an example of your critical thinking, then most American Christians I know would run circles around you.

You continue:  "For the record, of the hundreds of Christian families I know, I have never seen one case of a child being punished for asking "why?" too much".

Heddle - Just cuz YOU say it's for the record, does NOT mean it's actually for the record, does it?

Also, your argument with Kristeine is also the same #### thing... Just cuz YOU say it's a "cheap trick" doesn't have any bearing at all about the actual truth of her argument does it?  Heddle says:  Don't like certain inconvenient examples of societies based on atheism? Then simply redefine them as actually being based on religion. Cheap trick.

Why not just admit—at least the possibility—that Stalinism is an example of an atheistic experiment gone bad?

Heddle _ Why don't YOU admit it?  You have been suckered into a belief in a figment of your underactive imagination, and you and your imaginary friend should, in the immortal words of Louis, just STFU.

So take your specious arguments and sophistry, and go play in someone else's sandbox.

--------------
Come on Tough Guy, do the little dance of ID impotence you do so well. - Louis to Joe G 2/10

Gullibility is not a virtue - Quidam on Dembski's belief in the Bible Code Faith Healers & ID 7/08

UD is an Unnatural Douchemagnet. - richardthughes 7/11

  
Alan Fox



Posts: 1552
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,11:49   

Quote
I think the standard dismissal of Stalin—that he (or Soviet communism) was really a religion is just sleight of hand. Don't like certain inconvenient examples of societies based on atheism? Then simply redefine them as actually being based on religion. Cheap trick. Why not just admit—at least the possibility—that Stalinism is an example of an atheistic experiment gone bad?


Indeed, we object when Darwinism/atheism is touted as a religion. After all there are none of the trappings of a religion, such as churches of Darwin, monuments such as Darwin's mausoleum, no rallies or parades with grand displays of Darwin's likeness, no Darwin's face on billboards, no looming concrete statues in the parks....

  
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,11:59   

Quote
Quote
Second, American Christianity, at least, seems very much to promote the inability to think critically. The way in which faith is instilled in American Christians seems to rely heavily on quashing doubts instead of addressing them; children are punished for asking "why?" too much, arguments are attacked not on their merit but on their consequences, etc.


That is unsubstantiated garbage—a generalization of such simplicity that I can only say that, if this is an example of your critical thinking, then most American Christians I know would run circles around you.


Heddle, remind me, how old did Methuselah live to be?

Quote
I agree with the first part—but I think the standard dismissal of Stalin—that he (or Soviet communism) was really a religion is just sleight of hand.


I see. Out of curiosity, do you believe that Hitler was a Christian, or that he at least believed he was one? Remember, no Scotsmen.

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"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,12:20   

A. Chatfield:

   
Quote
But wait, didn't you say last year that Hitler was a Wiccan?


My parody did (well, sorta). As to what I really think: my guess is that Hitler hated traditional Christianity because of its Jewish base, so he wished to repackage it as "Aryan" for the yokels. Hitler himself was an atheist in his personal beliefs. Obviously, I can't prove this -- Hitler's true religion (if he had one) is the ultimate black box.

Cox & Kristine & the rest.....good posts. I need to address some of them tonight.

Hello, Heddle.  :D  :D  :D

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
heddle



Posts: 124
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,12:28   

Arden,
Methusula: 969.

Hitler: He was not a Christian. It doesn't matter if he thought he was or not, and of course I have no way of knowing, although I suspect he did not. (OK, throw some Hitler quotes at me--as long as you are OK with the implied assumption that you always believe what Hitler said.) At any rate, the bible is quite clear that there are and will always be those who think they are Christians, but are not—primarily because mere intellectual assent is not what is called for.

You are are aware, by the way, of the Nuremberg project at Rutgers? New research that shows, among other things, that the Nazis had a master plan to persecute the church?

Here is a link reproducing an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the research (I have no comment about the site posting the article, it is just a convenient source for it.)

http://www.papillonsartpalace.com/endC.htm

A quote from the article, attributed to researcher Julie Mandel:

 
Quote
"A lot of people will say, 'I didn't realize that they were trying to convert Christians to a Nazi philosophy.' . . . They wanted to eliminate the Jews altogether, but they were also looking to eliminate Christianity."


Note the link to the actual research in the Inquirer article is broken, here is the current link to the research documents at Rutgers University:

http://org.law.rutgers.edu/publications/law-religion/nurinst1.shtml

--------------
Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reason for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. --Sam Harris

  
Arden Chatfield



Posts: 6657
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,12:50   

Quote

Arden,
Methusula: 969.


Then I say there is more truth to the assertion that "American Christianity, at least, seems very much to promote the inability to think critically" than you like to admit.

 
Quote

Hitler: He was not a Christian. It doesn't matter if he thought he was or not,


You know, I *had* been thinking you were smarter than I had thought you were. Now I realize I have to revise that, sadly. I'm afraid some of the harsher commenters here have a better handle on you than I thought.

Do I have your permission to consult you whenever someone says they're a Christian but I'm not sure they're 'right'? Or is there someone even better out there who's the World Authority On Who Is Or Is Not A Real Christian?

   
Quote
and of course I have no way of knowing, although I suspect he did not. (OK, throw some Hitler quotes at me--as long as you are OK with the implied assumption that you always believe what Hitler said.)


Not worth the bother, Heddle. You're so deep into your "Hitler Couldn't Have Been A Christian Because He Was Bad and By Definition No Christians Are Bad People, Therefore All Christians Are Good" mindset that you'd never change your mind. Besides, based on the way GoP ran through this rigamarole last fall, I can predict what you'll say.

Answer me this: when do you think Hitler 'quit being a Christian'?

 
Quote

You are are aware, by the way, of the Nuremberg project at Rutgers? New research that shows, among other things, that the Nazis had a master plan to persecute the church?


You're thinking very simplistically again, Heddle. That doesn't mean Hitler wasn't a Christian. Try harder.

--------------
"Rich is just mad because he thought all titties had fur on them until last week when a shorn transvestite ruined his childhood dreams by jumping out of a spider man cake and man boobing him in the face lips." - Erasmus

  
heddle



Posts: 124
Joined: Nov. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,13:19   

Arden,


No, it demonstrates you don't understand what critical thinking means. My assumption is that God created the universe. It would represent a lack of critical thinking to assume that a God who can create a universe could not sustain a man for ten centuries. That would be the type of disconnect or self-inconsistency that is indicative of a lack of critical thinking. It is not your assumptions, but whether you can defend your conclusions based on your assumptions, that is the test of critical thinking.

Why bother asking if I think Hitler was a Christian, when all you are waiting to do is pounce, yet again, with some misapplied variant of the True Scotsman argument? The bible says (1) we are to judge those who claim to be believers and (2) judge them from their deeds and (3) treat as apostate those who come up short. By those standards I judge that Hitler was not a Christian.  (Nor is Fred Phelps.) That is independent of the Rutgers work on the Nazi persecution of the church—but that work certainly helps my argument. (I note that your response to the Rutgers project, essentially that it doesn't matter, is not exactly powerful.)

By the way, I don’t think Hitler ever quit being a Christian, because I don't believe such a thing is not possible. He may have stopped thinking he was a Christian, or he may or never really believed he was, I couldn't say.

If I claim that "I am an evolutionist, I believe that God created the diversity of life by supernaturally playing the genetic engineer, causing one species to evolve into another" does that mean I am a "true" evolutionist, just as good as Darwin? Just because I claim to be? Or is there some standard by which such a claim is judged, and does that only apply to "evolutionist?" Is that the only title that is immune from the true Scotsman fallacy?

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Mysticism is a rational enterprise. Religion is not. The mystic has recognized something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion. The mystic has reason for what he believes, and these reasons are empirical. --Sam Harris

  
BWE



Posts: 1902
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,13:29   

Quote (The Ghost of Paley @ Mar. 12 2007,15:08)
BWE:

     
Quote
Science lacks the ability to destroy. That capacity belongs to man. ….

Sure. Mankind's history is littered with violence, and people often misuse the fruits of scientific discovery. In fact, many inventions are driven by a need to kill or dominate other societies. No one argues this.
Then why argue that atheism is dangerous? Not to dismiss your question because of my personal opinions about religion but this approaches the evangelical talking point (nicely summarized by afdave) that modern horror resulted from a decline in religion. Remember that Italy and Turkey (Ottoman Empire) fought with Hitler and committed equally brutal acts. Can you defend the  claim that these societies didn’t have a religious underpinning?

To say that the 20th century ushered in a new era of violence is also a straw man. The 20th century saw the fastest human population growth in the history of Earth. Percentages of people involved in warfare or killed by warfare changed negligibly. Hydrocarbons alone drove that trend. Hydrocarbons also created new deadliness in warfare. The fact that some of the despots of the 20th C. claimed no official religious affiliation at the same time that weapons grew exponentially more deadly says nothing at all about religion or atheism.  


     
Quote
The question becomes, "How can we minimise harm?" I don't know the answer either, but a society predicated on an ethical, life-affirming philosophy seems like a good place to start. Take warfare for instance. Have nations fought each other for religious reasons? Certainly. But if your hypothesis was true, we should have seen a net reduction in bloodshed in the more secular 20th Century. This did not happen. In fact, the barbarity seemed to escalate until nuclear weapons provided a deterrent for large-scale conflict in Western societies.

1. And which religion is it that has this “ethical, life-affirming philosophy”?
2. Two parts: what is my hypothesis and why would it relult in a net reduction in harm? Religion provides a ready means to control the masses but it doesn’t need to be the only means. It is simply one of a panoply of bad things. And even that is footnoted that only religious claims to truth are bad. I personally am deeply religious but since I am the conduit to god, there is no danger of me being whipped into a frenzy by an appeal to religious truths.

 
Quote
     
Quote
 
“In a book of almost 400 pages, he can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false,” Mr. Eagleton wrote. “The countless millions who have devoted their lives selflessly to the service of others in the name of Christ or Buddha or Allah are wiped from human history and this by a self-appointed crusader against bigotry.”
 
Budda is not god. Your argument doesn't work without Buddha. In the name of god, only falsehoods driven home through indoctrination survive the test of time.


I don't understand what you're arguing here. [/quote]  My Argument: without Buddhism in that story, the religious peaceful people have to go outside the mainstream of the religion to be peaceful or helpful or whatever. They are islands rather than the norm. The churches only propagate the negative parts. The fear and intolerance of outsiders feeds the power of the church. That story is wrong. They fill the pages as the exceptional few rather than the hateful norm.

   
Quote
First, historians are not sure that Hitler was a Christian. And I was under the impression that Stalin was an atheist when he left the seminary and never looked back. In any case, Stalin's (and to a lesser extent, Hitler's) policies were explicitly antireligious. The Jews, who had earlier endured pogroms in Christian hands, were targeted for annihilation in Nazi Germany. Apparently, subordinating the Church to an all-powerful state did not protect the Jews from physical harm, and may have removed the moral brakes provided by Christianity. And the Jews certainly learned the meaning of Stalin's catch phrase: "est chelovek, est problema, net cheloveka — net problemy." Fortunately his government's incompetence prevented another Holocaust.
Are you actually claiming that persecuting Jews is an anti-religious activity?

 
Quote
ARTIST: Tom Lehrer
TITLE: National Brotherhood Week
Lyrics and Chords


[ Abdim7 =   ]

Oh, the white folks hate the black folks
And the black folks hate the white folks
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule

/ E B7 / - E / E7 A / B7 EE7 /

But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
Lena Horne and Sheriff Clark
Are dancing cheek to cheek
It's fun to eulogize
The people you despise
As long as you don't let 'em in your school

/ A - / E - / B7 - / E E7 / A - / E - / B7 - EA EB7 EA EB7  /

Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks
And the rich folks hate the poor folks
All of my folks hate all of your folks
It's American as apple pie

But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans
'Cause it's very chic
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can't stand
You can tolerate him if you try

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics
And the Catholics hate the Protestants
And the Hindus hate the Moslems
And everybody hates the Jews

But during National Brotherhood Week
National Brotherhood Week
It's National Everyone-Smile-At-
One-Another-hood Week
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you
It's only for a week, so have no fear
Be grateful that it doesn't last all year!

/ A - / E - / B7 - / E E7 / A - / E - / B7 - E Abdim7 /
   / F#7 B7 E - /


--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,13:46   

BWE:

 
Quote
 
Quote
 
First, historians are not sure that Hitler was a Christian. And I was under the impression that Stalin was an atheist when he left the seminary and never looked back. In any case, Stalin's (and to a lesser extent, Hitler's) policies were explicitly antireligious. The Jews, who had earlier endured pogroms in Christian hands, were targeted for annihilation in Nazi Germany. Apparently, subordinating the Church to an all-powerful state did not protect the Jews from physical harm, and may have removed the moral brakes provided by Christianity. And the Jews certainly learned the meaning of Stalin's catch phrase: "est chelovek, est problema, net cheloveka — net problemy." Fortunately his government's incompetence prevented another Holocaust.

Are you actually claiming that persecuting Jews is an anti-religious activity?


Sorry for the unintended meaning. What I was trying to say was:

1) If antisemitism is largely a byproduct of Christianity, then we should see antisemitism decline when the influence of the Church declines. In Nazi Germany and Communist Russia (particularly under Stalin), that didn't happen. In fact, we saw serious attempts to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. It doesn't get any more antisemitic than that;

2) Antisemitism is not confined to the religious -- many atheists have been and are virulently anti-Jewish; and

3) When evaluating whether or not a certain dictator was antireligious, I put more weight on his actions than his words. (And more weight on his private speech). Based on this standard, Stalin was clearly antireligious and Hitler was somewhat antireligious. I'll be happy to back this up if you wish, but it looks like Heddle has already provided some excellent supporting evidence.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
J-Dog



Posts: 4402
Joined: Dec. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Mar. 13 2007,13:59   

Quote (heddle @ Mar. 13 2007,12:19)
No, it demonstrates you don't understand what critical thinking means.

My Irony Meter just broke....

Hedle - Anyone that believes in the Big Sky JuJu can not be jumping on anyone for a lack of critical thinking skills... Not unless they want to get laughed at!

I was happy to see that you broke with Buffalo Bill, and I expected you to be able to contribute here in a positive way, but you have reverted to the old, smarmy self that you used to be at Panda's Thumb.  Maybe your meds were changed?  Maybe you always get this way during Lent?  I do not think it is my place to make excuses for you, but you exceed the bounds of decorum in my opinion.

Maybe you could be the first poster to be banned at UD AND here?

--------------
Come on Tough Guy, do the little dance of ID impotence you do so well. - Louis to Joe G 2/10

Gullibility is not a virtue - Quidam on Dembski's belief in the Bible Code Faith Healers & ID 7/08

UD is an Unnatural Douchemagnet. - richardthughes 7/11

  
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