Teaching Children to Be Atheists or Critical Thinkers?

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Discussion by: godzillatemple

I recently started reading "Parenting Beyond Belief" (edited by Dale McGowan, but containing numerous essays from a wide variety of people, including Richard Dawkins).  The general consensus seems to be that parents should not actually teach their children to be atheists but should instead teach them critical thinking skills and let them make up their own minds as they see fit.  After all, the argument goes, we all know that children basically accept whatever their parents tell them, regardless of how ridiculous it may be, and if it's wrong to raise children to be Catholics, Moslems, Mormons, etc., it’s just as wrong to raise them to be atheists.  And so many atheists say that they don’t care what their children believe as adults as long as they are happy and have come to their beliefs “honestly” (i.e., as a result of careful thought and not just because they were raised to believe it).

I can’t help thinking that this is setting up a false equivalency, however.  Teaching children there is no God is different from teaching them there is a God in one important respect – only one of those views is actually true.  To me, saying “just teach kids to think for themselves and let them decide” is as bad as the creationists who want to see “Intelligent Design” presented as a viable alternative theory in schools so that kids can “make up their own mind” about the subject.  We all know that’s a bad idea since Intelligent Design is just plain wrong and has no place in a science class.

Or, to make another analogy, can you imagine a parent refusing to teach their children that smoking crack cocaine is just plain wrong and instead choosing to just explain the health risks and trust their children to make up their own minds about it?  Would any parent say they don’t mind that their kid is a crack addict as long as he is happy and made a rational, considered decision to start smoking crack?

Yes, I try very hard to teach my 8-year-old son critical thinking skills.  I try to teach him how important it is to have good evidence for something before believing it.  I try to teach him all the ways that people can be fooled (including how they can fool themselves).  I try to teach him about all the things we know about the universe that contradict the classical notions of god embraced by most world religions.  But so far I have stopped short of coming out and just telling him, “There is no God.”  Instead, I say that plenty of people believe in one sort of God or another, but I don’t believe this.  And then I try hard to explain the reasons why I don’t believe in God.  But I never just flat out teach him that there is no God, even though I know it to be true and also know it is an important thing to learn.

Partly, this is because he has lots of religious friends and family members, and I don’t want to tell him that they are all just plain wrong.  But, as with many Atheists, it’s also because I am aware of the inherent hypocrisy of wanting to teach my son what I know to be the truth while complaining about other parents teaching their children what they “know” to be true.

Perhaps I’m thinking about this too hard.  Presumably, if he does learn critical thinking skills and is shown that the evidence simply does not support the concept of a God, then he will have no choice but to reject the notion of God and all the hurtful consequences that go along with it.  The problem is that I know plenty of very smart people who have good critical thinking skills that they apply to other areas who still have let themselves become convinced that God is watching their every action and listening to every thought.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that simply telling him there is no God will accomplish anything.  But at least I’ll know that I have told him the truth.

I'm curious what other people (especially other parents) think about this matter.  Is it enough to simply teach children critical thinking skills, explain why you don't believe in God, and hope for the best?  Or should we also try hard to affirmatively teach them that there is no God (or, at least, that there is no valid reason to believe in God)?

192 COMMENTS

  1. Don’t teach anything, no atheism, no critical thinking. It may backfire when they reach the age of rebellion. Be subtle and patient. If you are from a Catholic background and they watch the Pope on TV, just say ‘so boring, what’s on the sports channel?’. If Jewish background, eat lots of pork and if you need to justify it, just say ‘but it tastes so good’. If Muslim background, be drunk most of the time. No, maybe this is not such a good idea.

  2. Excellent subject for discussion, thank you for posting !! My wife is a Catholic (albeit very ‘soft’ and probably a non-beliver deep down as she is highly educated) but she insists that our daughter goes to ‘catechism’ (French Sunday School), justifying it for ‘cultural reasons’. When my daughter returns I tell her frankly that it’s all rubbish and not to believe a word of it, but a part of me is uneasy with this as I think that I’m being as dogmatic as the fools who teach her the stuff. The catechism is very soft but also ‘sournois’ as the French would say – drawings, games and sweets making it all very cosy. However, I do feel that I am ultimately justified in telling her it’s all rubbish because I’m just defending what I consider to be an attack. Throw a ball in my direction and I’ll throw it back again, don’t throw a ball and I’ll do nothing.

  3. Teaching your kids that there is no god should not be any more controversial than teaching them the world is a sphere.

    Yes, you have to teach your kids to think for themselves, how to weigh evidence and try to sort out what makes sense for themselves, but there are many basics facts about the world that we just tell them are true: the world goes around the sun, gravity pulls masses together, look both ways when you cross the street, and all the fairy tales are just stories. As a parent I see my job as making my kids ready to be independent, healthy, productive, and happy adults. Teaching basic ethics, science, and life skills (cooking, laundry, grocery shopping, that tv commercial generally lie, basic carpentry etc…) is all part of this education.

    You would not hesitate to tell your kids other facts backed up by science; why hesitate to tell them there are no gods?

  4. I see no problem with teaching my kids that e.g. dolphins are not fish, that Aristotelian physics is wrong, or that we share a recent ancestor with chimps. When my kids, 4 and 5, ask me about god (which they occasionally hear about from friends), I tell them without hesitation that there is no such thing. I see no reason whatsoever to beat around the bush on any matter where we can be as confident as we are on this. I point out to them that the fact that somebody believes in silly things doesn’t automatically make them silly.

    Above all, I try to teach my kids sound methodology for thinking and acquiring knowledge. A can’t see how this would not be badly undermined by failing to immediately identify ridiculous nonsense for what it is.

    As for the first comment: ‘Don’t teach … critical thinking,’ what an obnoxious absurdity.

  5. “Age” is the crucial element in this situation, as a the development of the child varies greatly with each passing year. The conversation you have with your child has to be age appropriate or else you run the very same risk of doing the same as your opponents, ie indoctrination from an early age.

  6. “I’m curious what other people (especially other parents) think about this matter. Is it enough to simply teach children critical thinking skills, explain why you don’t believe in God, and hope for the best?”

    My strategy was to not make religion an issue in the first place.

    Without permission but motivated by good intentions, my nun aunt gave my daughter an illustrated New Testament Bible for her 7th birthday. I let it slide because I felt the book was age appropriate and admittedly well done. When my daughter asked me about about this Jesus she was reading from her bible, I just told her that it’s one thing to draw moral inspiration from the stories but quite another to center your life around it. And that was the end of the matter.

    • Thanks you all for the responses so far!

      In reply to #6 by Lilium:

      My strategy was to not make religion an issue in the first place.

      This is the part I have trouble with. I know that, technically at least, atheism is simply a matter of not having a belief in God. There shouldn’t need to be any affirmative teaching involved. Except that we live in a society where religion is everywhere and the default assumption is that of course you believe in God and only a fool doesn’t (or, at least, this is how it seems sometimes).

      Again, I mention the drug analogy. Simply not having drugs in the home and never mentioning drugs may not prepare my son for the real world where “all his friends” are doing drugs. Peer pressure can be a bear, you know. As a parent, I feel that I need to do more than simply set an example by not doing drugs myself; I need to actively work to convince him that addictive drugs are bad. Same with religion and a belief in God (or any other supernatural being). I don’t want to just ignore the issue and hope he’ll deal with it in a positive way if and when it comes up. I want to teach him critical reasoning skills and explain why there’s no good evidence for God’s existence, sure. But I’d also like to just flat out tell him THERE IS NO GOD, period, the same way I plan to tell him DON’T DO DRUGS, period!

      • In reply to #11 by godzillatemple:

        But I’d also like to just flat out tell him THERE IS NO GOD, period, the same way I plan to tell him DON’T DO DRUGS, period!

        Duff strategies both in my experience, especially with the latter if you happen to drink. Goodness they have to own their own lives from as early as you can manage. They knew I was atheist, but “she” didn’t want big chunks of the world shut off from her until she was good and ready. For a while she became a Buddhist, until after a while we got into reincarnation and the critical thinking about numbers kicked in. Then curious about Christianity, she asked whats the best of it and I pointed to Quakerism as its highest point for me when individuals at least became their own moral creatures tasked with resolving their own moral issues. Pointing out the best in things, meant that an obvious and huge amount was clearly less good and could be discussed at the same time also.

        Drugs as with any dangerous pastime just needs a wealth of real facts and finding the way to point out all the risks (x’s fritzed and now schizophrenic brain possibly due to oe worsened by cannabis overindulgence; the risks of being in vulnerable and helpless positions because of drug use). Watch for shutdown and come back later.

        Be honest. Discuss everything they want to any detail they want. Try really hard not to put a spin on anything. Quite separately don’t hide your own feelings. Make their freedom to choose utterly palpable.

        Finally, if anything goes wrong with the usual modest risky behaviour, worry for them first then only later take them to task for their risks. Make it easy for them to tell you anything. They already feel guilty and will admit to it all with a quiet and calm-voiced you. Instead of a five minute shout now you will win a thirty minute discussion next day. You’ll make a deal about next time and things will get better.

        I love and am proud of my kids. They are smart, moral and atheist (at present) as much but probably rather more by their own hand.

        (To be clear this is teenager strategy….)

        • In reply to #13 by phil rimmer:

          Duff strategies both in my experience, especially with the latter if you happen to drink.

          Yeah, fortunately neither my wife nor I drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs. Otherwise, I agree it would be extremely difficult (not to mention hypocritical) to teach him the dangers of such things.

  7. My Dad handled it like this. Starting about age 4 I would endlessly pepper him with questions. I would even ask the same question over again when I could not think of a new question. It was my way of spending time with him. He patiently answered my questions. It became obvious to me that he did not think there was a god. However, I knew as a child he had been forced to go to church every day. He made it clear it was the sort of thing you think through and decide for yourself based on the evidence. I was not prepared to say there was no god. Too many people seemed to think there was, and I did not know why they thought that way. Later, in my teens, I confirmed they had no reasons.

    Mom was less consistent. My Mom scoffed at the gullibility of Catholics to believe the cock and bull story Mary told to explain her pregnancy. She rejected religion but she believed in ghosts and witches and a psychic ability to get revenge. One day she terrified our next door neighbour by dressing up as a witch. The poor woman abandoned her baby and scrambled up a cliff to get away from her. She felt it a sin to commit suicide, though physician assisted suicide was OK.

    I think what you want to avoid is “There is no god. Don’t let me catch you saying otherwise. It is so, because I said so.”

    As a child I always thought of myself as fully equal intellectually to adults. It was just that I had not learned enough yet. Dad treated me that way.

  8. Critical thinking is better demonstrated by example in the early years. Make a habit of posing gentle questions that cause your offspring to think rather than issuing a lecture at every opportunity. It worked for us, anyway. I didn’t mention god at all, though stories of the Norse, Greek and Roman gods and goddesses were always a favourite.

    At some time ( you’ll know it when it comes, but it’s probably mid-teens) it’s okay to start mentioning your own views on the subject. I think it’s your right to expand once your kids are in the last years of high school.

  9. How many kids rebel against their parent’s teaching the earth is spherical? Even when there are some kooks claiming otherwise?

    Perhaps the key is passing on the information in the exact same low-key way.

    At age 4 I subscribed to the flat earth view. I had seen pictures of ships falling off the edge. The earth certainly looked flat. When I heard about the sphere theory, I wondered what stopped the Australians from falling off, and how uncomfortable it would be to be hanging upside down. I started to dig a tunnel to China to see if this was really true. I discovered to my amazement that if you got deep enough, the black topsoil disappeared, replaced by light-sandy soil. My parents got me a globe. The globe shape was not the problem, but the way gravity worked. I thought of it as an absolute universal down. It seemed inconceivable that Australians would perceive down just as we did, but in a totally different direction. I imagined life there clinging to things. I had an aunt in New Zealand. I vaguely recall asking her about this, and she reacting as if my question were absurd.

    I wondered if this was another of those Santa Claus lies parents tell. I looked for signs my father was teasing me.

    Later, when I learned to read, I discovered the full story.

  10. Teach all the skills you can and insist on just a few facts; the brevity of the pleasures of playing in traffic or with the Pit Bull next door and the fact that grownups have been known to lie, most often unintentionally, but lie they do most everyday.

    To reinforce this latter life lesson and improve their detection skills, I would lie to my kids on a fairly regular basis. “You know when you have that flying dream,” I would tell them, “That’s because you are actually floating just a few millimetres above the bed.” Then, “if you hold your thumb up at arm’s length then move it out just so, your thumbnail will disappear.” By the end of the day, if they hadn’t figured me for a liar (if I had been) they’d get enough clues until they could actually call it.

    This turned out to be pretty life changing move on my part. After over a decade of this, I am proud to say that both are now consummate liars.

  11. My experience with my children (grown now) is similar to that of others in this thread. My wife and I are both cultural Jews. (Gastric Jews, actually–the food your grandma made for the family really becomes part of you all your life, but pork and lobster are yummy too.) We simply had nothing to do with religion, that is, real religion with attending services and having faith and all that nonsense. We never talked about it one way or another. Our children observed and automatically followed the unspoken example. The subject came up with our two children only once when my daughter, age about 10, asked me out of the blue, “Do you believe in God?” I answered “No.” Sounded fine to her–she was just checking. The subject never came up again. She and her husband are now raising their own two children the same way. I grant, though, that it would not have been that simple had we been living in the bible belt, where all their friends were really believers.

  12. My experience with my children (grown now) is similar to that of others in this thread. My wife and I are both cultural Jews. (Gastric Jews, actually–the food your grandma made for the family really becomes part of you all your life, but pork and lobster are yummy too.) We simply had nothing to do with religion, that is, real religion with attending services and having faith and all that nonsense. We never talked about it one way or another. Our children observed and automatically followed the unspoken example. The subject came up with our two children only once when my daughter, age about 10, asked me out of the blue, “Do you believe in God?” I answered “No.” Sounded fine to her–she was just checking. The subject never came up again. She and her husband are now raising their own two children the same way. I grant, though, that it would not have been that simple had we been living in the bible belt, where all their friends were really believers.

  13. @OP – But so far I have stopped short of coming out and just telling him, “There is no God.”

    “No God” with a capital G is making assumptions of an erroneous default position.

    Instead, I say that plenty of people believe in one sort of God or another, but I don’t believe this.

    You need to put detail on this, and read a few fables and myths about various gods and mythical creatures. Make sure the real creatures which do exist in nature are explored with observations of real examples:- plants, farm animals, pets, rock-pools, zoos etc. That is how children learn to tell the difference between myths, cartoons and reality.

    And then I try hard to explain the reasons why I don’t believe in God.

    I would regard this a s a poor strategy. It assumes there is something to disprove. Do you explain why there is no Zeus, Aphrodite, or Ra?

    But I never just flat out teach him that there is no God, even though I know it to be true and also know it is an important thing to learn.

    So why not if you know it’s true? I would not make a big issue of it, but I would bundle gods in with fairies, dragons, and other myths.

    Partly, this is because he has lots of religious friends and family members, and I don’t want to tell him that they are all just plain wrong.

    Wrong is wrong! But you need to judge the age and level of development of the child. Infants like fantasies and fairy stories. They need to learn how to tell these from proper information with practise. They grow out of Santa Clause, believing magicians do real magic etc. as they mature.

    But, as with many Atheists, it’s also because I am aware of the inherent hypocrisy of wanting to teach my son what I know to be the truth while complaining about other parents teaching their children what they “know” to be true.

    This is a false equivalence. If someone teaches their children nonsense, that is no reason for you to avoid teaching the truth. (Who cares what the flat-Earthists think?)

    Yes, I try very hard to teach my 8-year-old son critical thinking skills. I try to teach him how important it is to have good evidence for something before believing it.

    Conducting simple experiments as a “fair test” to reach answers is a good exercise, but eight is a bit young for any formal reasoning. These links should help you understand the correct levels of development.

    Concrete Operational Stage of Cognitive Development http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/p/concreteop.htm

    Formal Operational Stage of Cognitive Development http://psychology.about.com/od/piagetstheory/p/formaloperation.htm

    A lot of early learning is copying parental and role-model examples. Things like looking for evidence and honesty between individuals are more likely to be learned from copying models than reasoned out by young children. They take a lot on trust – including learning thinking processes.

    Make sure they see good examples to copy, and avoid “fake celebrity TV images” being taken as role models.

  14. In reply to #11 by godzillatemple:

    Thanks you all for the responses so far!
    snip I don’t want to just ignore the issue and hope he’ll deal with it in a positive way if and when it comes up. snip

    I don’t see the analogy between religious vulnerability to indoctrination and drug use peer pressure as being anywhere near one and the same.

    If we keep up making analogies, I’d compare one with a toddler faceplant whose ensuing level of drama is directly correlated to his/her audience and the other depends on your child’s open hands headed for a lit stove.

    • In reply to #17 by Lilium:

      I don’t see the analogy between religious vulnerability to indoctrination and drug use peer pressure as being anywhere near one and the same.

      Really? I’d love to see where you think the analogy breaks down, since I think they are pretty similar myself.

  15. I’m sure you’ve seen this here before, but the ‘Magic of Reality’ by RD is surely one of the best ways to explain and encourage rational thinking to children of various ages?

    Various deities are covered in equal ways and exposed as myths, so you don’t have to single out any specific or locally dominant gods for discussion…. Mac.

  16. It’s probably a good idea not to be too dogmatic in passing your views to your offspring…..not for a while anyway. They have to live in their world as well, and will often encounter situations where friends are pushing a point of view very different from their own.

    My own father ( whom I loved & respected greatly, I might add), was an atheist of the extremely forthright and outspoken variety. He was the only person I knew at the time, who had read the bible from cover to cover. When visited by a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, he informed them that as they had knocked on his door and not the other way around, they were obliged to listen to him. He kept them there for hours while he demolished their arguments.

    It was a great strategy if the aim was to let off steam, though I doubt he would have won any hearts and minds on that day.

    I really think that kids will absorb the values of the family by watching parents deal with things. If they see ideas tested and analysed as a matter of course, they’re bound to adopt the procedure themselves. Relax, young people are not stupid, they’ll figure it out.

    • In reply to #19 by Nitya:
      >

      I really think that kids will absorb the values of the family by watching parents deal with things. If they see ideas tested and analysed as a matter of course, they’re bound to adopt the procedure themselves.

      Excellent!

      Relax, young people are not stupid, they’ll figure it out.

      Unless they are watching flawed parental role models who venerate astrologers, quacks, greed, shifty politicians, and priests, while disparaging scientific expertise and honest community relationships!

      • In reply to #21 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #19 by Nitya:

        “Unless they are watching flawed parental role models who venerate astrologers, quacks, greed, shifty politicians, and priests, while disparaging scientific expertise and honest community relationships!”

        I assume you’re illustrating your point, as I was referring to kids with parents who provided their kids with a good role model, ( just to clarify).

        I’ve seen examples of kids trying to struggle free from the mindset of ignorance and superstition. If the kids are intelligent they usually manage, though their innate sense of loyalty can make it very difficult.

  17. While teaching atheism and teaching religious belief are not equivalent as you say, it is still possible to indoctrinate a child into atheism. You can be an atheist for good reasons (reason and logic) or you can be an atheist for bad reasons (indoctrination, emotional trauma, feeling ‘betrayed’ by god).

    Also, I would image that those people or parents saying that they wouldn’t mind if their children were religious, probably mean to say that they wouldn’t mind if their children were say deist, or “spiritual” or Buddhist, or very liberal and non-literal christian. So long as it was for good reason and their choice as opposed to being indoctrinated. I’m sure they would have concern if their child began attending catholic mass twice every Sunday or praying to Allah five times a day, or started reading Dianetics.

    These two points combined, I would presume most parents would rather their child came to their own, informed and reasoned opinion, than be indoctrinated, whether it be indoctrination into religion or atheism.

    Although I would say that a good understanding of science and a good execution of critical thinking will lead to atheism in the vast majority of cases. I think most atheist parents are confident of this, and that’s why they say they ‘wouldn’t mind’, to appear tolerant and easy going.

  18. I don’t see the analogy between religious vulnerability to indoctrination and drug use peer pressure as being anywhere near one and the same.

    I think the peer-pressure from the dependent addicts of “the opium of the masses” is a very good analogy.

    If we keep up making analogies, I’d compare one with a toddler faceplant whose ensuing level of drama is directly correlated to his/her audience and the other depends on your child’s open hands headed for a lit stove.

    Parents with critical thinking skills use fire-guards on stoves, and child-locks on china-cabinets and cutlery drawers, when there are toddlers in the house.

    They teach children how to manage stoves and camp-fires when they are older.

  19. Let your children read fantasy and science fiction, such as Terry Pratchett’s disc world books. That is the easiest way to show that religion is simply yesterday’s fantasy.

    It is turtles, all the way down!

  20. When I would ask my dad a question regarding religion and particular beliefs…he might tell me what he believed, but he would always tell me to go figure out for myself what I believed. Teaching a child to think is way better than telling them what to think whether religious or non-religious. For instance, I have read a few of you say that it’s essentially obvious, and a FACT, that there is no God and thus it’s equivalent of telling the child that the world is round. However, this is an answer to a metaphysical question “Is there a creator?” Any answer to this question, whether yes or no, is a statement of faith and implies supernatural knowledge. It is an untestable belief that you are giving your child. An honest skeptic would be better to say, “not to my knowledge” in answer to the question.

    To put this in other terms. Carl Sagan believed in extra-terrestrials. As a skeptic of this belief myself, if I were to be asked if there were aliens…my answer, to be intellectually honest, would have to be “not to my knowledge.” I don’t have the faith that Carl Sagan had in alien-life…however, I can’t say that they don’t exist for to do so would be to claim some form of omniscience.

    Sincerely,

    One of those silly Christians.

    • In reply to #25 by kevinknelson:

      When I would ask my dad a question regarding religion and particular beliefs…he might tell me what he believed, but he would always tell me to go figure out for myself what I believed. Teaching a child to think is way better than telling them what to think whether religious or non-religious.

      I see your point. Perhaps it would be better to just explain that there is absolutely no good evidence whatsoever to support any notion of god whatsoever and further explain that some people are just deluded and/or ignorant, rather than simply telling him “there is no God.” Of course, that’s basically what I’m already doing.

      Telling him simply that I do not believe in God is useless, of course, unless I can explain exactly why I don’t believe in God. I don’t want him simply taking my word for it or disbelieving something simply because his father disbelieves it.

      • In reply to #26 by godzillatemple:

        and further explain that some people are just deluded and/or ignorant

        That, in itself, seems close to, if not, indoctrination. You are telling your child that if they choose to believe in a God that they are deluded and ignorant. That’s fine, you have a right to teach as you wish, but that is far from teaching your child to make their own determination about the existence of God.

        Atheism doesn’t have the leg-up on Theism that you propose it to have…as Carl Sagan put it:

        “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.”

        • In reply to #29 by kevinknelson:

          That, in itself, seems close to, if not, indoctrination. You are telling your child that if they choose to believe in a God that they are deluded and ignorant.

          They are going to have to choose which gods not to believe in any way! There are thousands of gods and they not only contradict each other and often claim exclusivity, but also often contradict the laws of science.

          There are no “default gods”, all require evidence and none of them have any. It is unsurprising if growing children take an unbiased view and reject all of them. Many believers are deluded and ignorant – often ignorant of their own religion and its history.

          The only actual scientific evidence of gods, is in neuro-psychology which explains where in the believers’ brains the dominating god-delusions reside.

          That’s fine, you have a right to teach as you wish, but that is far from teaching your child to make their own determination about the existence of God.

          I think you are preoccupied with some unevidenced assumed default god.

          Children reading and discussing various versions of god-mythology, in the absence of indoctrination in the “faith of a particular cult, can easily come to the conclusion that all gods, fairies, demons, dragons etc. are fictional mythology. Once they learn to use science, evidence and reasoning, the recognition of god-myths as fiction follows. I certainly did by the time I reached my teens.

          Atheism doesn’t have the leg-up on Theism that you propose it to have.

          Atheism is a lack of belief in magical gods on the basis of probability, and the absence of evidence for any god-claims.

          We are all born atheists and will remain so unless indoctrinated in “faith-thinking”. – (That is accepting mythology without evidence). All main religions make refutable claims for which they have no evidence. Absence of evidence is evidence of absence!

          I am surprised that a scientist like Carl Sagan would spout fallacious nonsense like this,

          quoting the fallacy of negative proof.:

          “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist,

          An afairyist is someone who is certain that fairies do not exist,

          someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence.

          someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of fairies. I know of no such compelling evidence.

          Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists.

          This is simply a fallacious “god of gaps” argument – hundreds of which have been refuted throughout history by science, as scientific frontiers have advanced.

          God of the gaps is one way for intelligent and scientifically literate theists to deal with their cognitive dissonance of believing in a transcendent god.

          God of the gaps is a type of theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence. The term was invented by Christian theologians not to discredit theism, but rather to point out the fallacy of relying on teleological arguments for God’s existence.[1] Some use the phrase to refer to a form of the argument from ignorance fallacy.

          To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God

          Carl Sagan does seem to be in saying certainty of the existence of a god is an extreme position, when it is the norm for believers, where as an atheist’s confidence in the absence of particular gods is based on probability (as with fairies leprchauns etc) arising from a lack of supporting evidence.

          The onus is on those making claims, to produce supporting evidence. This should be obvious. I know of no theists who ridiculously try to disprove the existence of the thousands of gods other than their own,(List of deities) which are, or have been, claimed to exist, so it seems unreasonable and fallacious to expect atheists to do so.

        • In reply to #29 by kevinknelson:

          That, in itself, seems close to, if not, indoctrination. You are telling your child that if they choose to believe in a God that they are deluded and ignorant. That’s fine, you have a right to teach as you wish, but that is far from teaching your child to make their own determination about the existence of God.

          Well, Alan4discussion pretty much answered this for me, but let me just say the following:

          • I purposely said some people who believe in God are deluded and/or ignorant, not all people. As I explained to my son last night, there are a lot of reasons why people believe in God, including family traditions, reliance on poor evidence presented well, self-delusion, lack of understanding, etc.

          • Regardless, what would you call somebody who believes in something for which there is no good evidence whatsoever and whose existence is actually contradicted in many cases? If somebody said he believes his life is controlled by invisible pixies who only come out at night when he is sleeping, or that every world government is secretly controlled by an alien race of lizard people disguised as humans, despite all evidence to the contrary, would you agree they just might be a tad deluded or, at the very least, profoundly ignorant with regard to how the world works?

          Atheism doesn’t have the leg-up on Theism that you propose it to have…as Carl Sagan put it:
          “An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence. Because God can be relegated to remote times and places and to ultimate causes, we would have to know a great deal more about the universe than we do now to be sure that no such God exists. To be certain of the existence of God and to be certain of the nonexistence of God seem to me to be the confident extremes in a subject so riddled with doubt and uncertainty as to inspire very little confidence indeed.”

          I can’t speak for Mr. Sagan, but I strongly doubt he was referring to the God of the Christian Bible or the God worshiped by any other major religion. The existence of any God for which people claim to have evidence of (in the form of supposedly infallible scriptures, miracles, prophecies, etc.) can and has been disproved repeatedly. All that’s left is the metaphysical “first cause” God of Deism which is immaterial and wholly unknowable in any sense and serves purely as an explanation for whatever it is that caused our universe to pop into being. It’s true, such a notion of “God” cannot be disproved, but that’s only because no affirmative, testable claims have been made about that sort of God. But, at the same time, such a God is wholly irrelevant to our lives. That God doesn’t provide us with a moral code, answer our prayers, offer us eternal life, perform miracles, reward the faithful or punish the sinners. It is simply a placeholder to describe our lack of understanding.

          So, yeah, there’s no way to be sure that sort of “God” doesn’t exist (although, to be honest, the idea of an immaterial being who somehow exists beyond time and space seems to be a bit self-contradictory to me). But at the same time, there’s really no good reason whatsoever to imagine that such a being does exist, either.

          • In reply to #31 by godzillatemple:

            I purposely said some people who believe in God are deluded and/or ignorant, not all people

            Ah, okay, I misunderstood…I thought you were saying that some people believe in God and those people are deluded and/or ignorant. So, with that qualification, I agree with you. However, it’s a pointless fact at that point. You might as well say some people that believe in God are blonde, because there are, also, some deluded and/or ignorant atheists (and all other groups whether religious or irreligious). That’s the problem with humanity, stupid people everywhere. However, the opposite is also true: there are some extremely bright, well-educated, non-delusional, and non-ignorant people in almost every philosophical belief. Thus, I think it’s important to avoid labeling based on belief and hear individuals out (e.g. someone on this thread got annoyed that other people thought all the “New Atheists” were science-types). Likewise, not every Christian believes in a 6000 year old earth.

            Religious people simply don’t limit themselves to an epistemological viewpoint as narrowly focused as most naturalist/materialists do. However, that does not mean that religious people don’t require evidence…just that they accept some evidence that a naturalist or materialist rejects outright. Or, as John Lennox put it:

            “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”

            What I’m aiming at is this…you may, like some atheists, hate it when Christians (or any other faith) come across with an air of moral superiority and believe you can be ignored simply because you are an atheist…as if atheists aren’t moral and that religion has a monopoly on morality. Isn’t that the point behind the organization “Non-Believers Giving Aid”? …to show that religious people aren’t the only people that care about the world? If not, why not just donate to the Red Cross like everyone else or at the very least not make a point to call it “Non-Believers Giving Aid” if the only goal is to help people? However, some atheists–as much as they might hate moral superiority from religious people–perpetuate the same problem by giving an air of intellectual superiority whenever talking to religious people. Dawkins went as far as to say to mock and ridicule Christians, and I think that is a mistake.

            Anyway, thanks for hearing me out, and I wish you the best in the child-raising…the hardest and most rewarding job in the world.

          • In reply to #37 by kevinknelson:

            Religious people simply don’t limit themselves to an epistemological viewpoint as narrowly focused as most naturalist/materialists do. However, that does not mean that religious people don’t require evidence…just that they accept some evidence that a naturalist or materialist rejects outright.

            This is an illustration of their flawed thinking. “Faith” is ” Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” – http://www.thefreedictionary.com/faith, so it is oxymoronic and disingenuous to claim that this process provides evidence.

            Scientific methodology provides the most reliable information we have. The two are in no-way equivalent.

            Or, as John Lennox put it:

            “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence…

            This is simply a dishonest denial of reality. Claiming to know, without evidence IS a leap in the dark!

            Claiming that ” FAITH – Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence“, IS evidence, is simply dishonest!

            It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule.

            This is a false claim that “faith” is based on evidenced reasoning, and is a psychological projection of his own irrational thinking, which is frequently (like this claim) deserving of ridicule.
            “Faith” IS blind – unless you want to discuss “visionary faith”, with people who have visions and voices in their heads while living in a psychiatric home!

            Those who have historical or scientific evidence, don’t need the “faith” of pretending to know information they cannot access!

            That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”

            Indeed it is his anti-intellectual asserted special pleading and psychological projection of his irrationality, with the classic asserted claim to rationality and intelligence as a false badge of authority.

            He is simply falsely claiming that others are avoiding an intelligent discussion when he is a demonstrable liar, with no honest intellectual discussion on offer!

  21. I agree with the recommendation of ‘The Magic of Reality’. But I think myths and legends have their place. I hate the idea of youngsters taking the view that because they don’t explain the science of the world, Homer, Vergil or Sturlusson don’t matter. There is more to education that science: there is literature and art and history. As an arts person, I sometimes have to argue online against religious types who try to claim that all of us so-called ‘New’ Atheists are scientists. No, we’re not.

    I think the approach I experienced has worked well. I still have the picture books I got when I was about 5 (some 43 years ago!): illustrated children’s editions of Greek Myths and Persian tales from the Shah-Nameh. I also read the Norse and Arthurian legends, and when I was 6, Dad read the whole of The Hobbit and LotR to me in installments as a bedtime story. I wasn’t really that aware of the Judaeo-Christian myths until primary school (in England, compulsory daily worship of a “broadly Christian nature” and compulsory RE were part of the 1944 Education Act), and I didn’t understand the plastic glow-in-the-dark toy my grandmother had in her bedroom. (It was a small ‘Sacred Heart’ Jesus figurine, but I just used to like to play with it by putting it under the light, then taking it into a dark cupboard to see the glow,) To me, the Judaeo-Christian stories just weren’t as much fun as the other ones, and I never really got my head around why we were supposed to take them more seriously. By my teens, I was studying History, Greek and Latin, reading Jung, Frazer and Joseph Campbell, and getting into trouble with the RE teacher for arguing in my essays that the imposition of Christianity had been a bad thing. She had words with my Dad at the Parents’ evening at my high school. Dad was highly amused and told me about it afterwards. I’ve explored and sampled different cultural traditions, generally where relevant to my studies (I counted an old Orthodox Priest as a friend), but at bottom, I regard the real-world ‘historical’ truth-claims the monotheisms make as utterly spurious. Mythology is fine, as mythology, living in the world of the imagination; but it is wrong-headed to think it is ‘true’ in the real-world sense. I still have a soft spot for the Norse, Greek and Celtic traditions, and my user-icon is a good and loveable young Greek, who could have saved us from the worst of the past 1650 years. While he believed in the gods of his world, he also understood that myths are “like a baby’s teether”, ways of imparting symbolic stories and concepts in accessible ways, that can be reworked and renewed by other writers, and that more sophisticated minds outgrow in favour of philosophy.

  22. I agree with Richard Downkins. Teach them about religions (comparative religion), and they will see that all religions have the same phenomenon.
    Teaching them to atheism is the same like teaching them to teism. Critical think is better, in my oppinion.

  23. In my life as a father of three teenage boys (19 and twins of 17 years old) I have tried to avoid, as best as I can, to indoctrinate them. Instead I have presented to them examples of people with critical thinking, as well as examples of blind herd behaviour, and then discuss what he have saw. They have come to be very resistant to the idea of God and and are more susceptible to be attracted to science and technology. They present several of the ideas that baffled most of us at some point of time; how is it that everything got started?, they wonder about Nature and its complexity, and tend to have a homocentric view. But instead of giving a strong opinion on these subjects, I tell them to be skeptical (even about me and my opinions) and to go, search from different sources and form their own opinions.

    As a father I cannot hold myself from influencing their thoughts, but at least I think that showing them the importance of critical thinking would help them to investigate and from a mind of their own.

  24. Regardless of what we teach – the children will follow our example not our warnings. If you don’t want them to smoke and drink – don’t smoke and drink. If you don’t go to church – probabilities are they won’t either. Want your child to become a critical thinker then learn critical thinking and when the child asks a religious question have a rational answer ready or know how to access one. Also don’t give or accept nonsense answers for serious questions.

  25. Or, to make another analogy, can you imagine a parent refusing to teach their children that smoking crack cocaine is just plain wrong and instead choosing to just explain the health risks and trust their children to make up their own minds about it?

    yes. “just plain wrong” is the problem here. what use are critical thinking skills if terms like “just plain wrong” are being bandied about? surely the health risks speak for themselves? the cances of a young child being exposed to crack are thankfully very slim for most, if there’s a danger of exposure a parent should address that first and foremost but assuming the first time your child is offered crack is when the’re a little older out with firends etc, which works best against peer pressure? “my mum says…” or “did you know that when you smoke crack….”

    you teach critical thinking to young children in the assumption that as long as they’re in your care they should never need call upon it but as soon as they’re not in your care, every boundary you have set will be tested.

    Teaching critical thinking skills is, to all intents and purposes the same as teaching them there’s no god. If your child decides there is a god after applying the critical thinking skills you’ve taught, you failed, unless of course they’re able to convince you there is a god

  26. Religious people simply don’t limit themselves to an epistemological viewpoint as narrowly focused as most naturalist/materialists do. However, that does not mean that religious people don’t require evidence…just that they accept some evidence that a naturalist or materialist rejects outright.

    I understand what you’re saying, but the same can be true of people who believe in fairies. Or witchcraft. Or the healing power of crystals. Or “therapeutic touch” healing. Or homeopathy. Or astrology. Most “good” Christians I know reject such things because they provide alternate explanations for things that are properly in the domain of religion (“God controls every aspect of my life, not the stars and planets!”). But if it’s wrong to reject one system of belief for a complete lack of solid, reproducible evidence, it’s utterly hypocritical to accept a different set of beliefs that equally rely on unprovable, unevidenced assumptions.

    I love, btw, how people talk about “naturalists” and “materialists” as if those were insults or in some way a bad thing. Nature encompasses the whole of reality, and everything within nature is either materialistic or the result of materialistic processes (keeping in mind that matter and energy are basically two sides of the same coin and are both part of the natural world). To claim that there is (or even might be) something “beyond nature” is as ridiculous as claiming that a computer program somehow exists wholly apart from the media on which it is stored and/or the computer upon which it is run. Naturalists/materialists do not limit their “epistemological viewpoint” in any way, since they the reality of the entirety of existence. Saying that you believe in something that doesn’t actually exist (immaterial, unknowable, outside of space and time, etc.) isn’t really a mark in your favor, to be honest. It doesn’t mean that naturalists/materialists are “too narrowly focused” as much a it means that your mind is so open that pieces of it have apparently fallen out.

  27. Telling a child the truth with facts to back it up is not wrong at any age. While telling a child to believe something with blind faith or because I or Jesus say so is. As a child enrolled in a catholic private school I remember asking questions that were sometimes answered with cause God says so. PUKE! That night I would watch Cosmos and get answers. Thank GOD for Carl :)

  28. Hi,

    Thank you for bringing this up, its something I’m worrying about myself at the moment, my daughter is not yet 3, so I’m not at this point at the moment. My Wife and I have made a huge point to my mother and in laws that we will not have her brought up in a religious belief, we have refused to even consider christening her for instance. however I sit in the same boat as you. Do I have the right to tell her that god doesn’t exist, to impose on her the meme’s of my personal belief, no matter how far backed up with evidence. Its a difficult one

    I am coming to the conclusion that its just not the same thing at all. I was brought up religious, I chose to leave and was easily able to, because whilst my mum is a lay reader in the C of E/local preacher in the Methodist circuit, she never put any level of force upon my own beliefs, and is sad, but doesn’t attack me over my lack of belief now, in fact my two bothers who were much older when my mum and I started going to church were never asked to go at all. However for most people it is not so easy, they risk completely losing friends and family etc. Whereas for an atheist, if they later decide to believe, atheists may question their logic etc, but it will never affect the relationship, unless they choose to distance themselves because of their own beliefs. Atheism is not about in-group out-group, at the end of the day, we believe in what can be shown to be true not what some preacher or holy book tells us and we believe not in divine righteousness but in the crucible of evidence therefore wars etc. will never start over differences in scientific thought.

    however on the moral obligations here, we should teach them to be critical and why we don’t believe in god in those terms, I don;t think we do have the right to say that there is conclusively no god however, that is our opinion, no matter how well reasoned. Fact is, we don;t know that for certain, beyond reasonable doubt I would say in terms of a revealed god, but never the less, its for them to draw that conclusion. The human mind is quite capable to drawing those conclusions, if we don;t fill their heads with falsehoods and instead allow them to see both the truths and falsehoods of each belief system. I would even allow that in the science classroom, if they properly taught just how unlikely the biblical beliefs are to be true, (based upon lack of expected evidence), next to the likelyhood of the science solutions being true (based on plethora of evidence). However so long as religion holds itself as it is, I think that every decent parent, should not permit their child to go to a church, but should be allowed to with rational guidance choose their own beliefs, if they choose to ignore the evidence and join a religion, that is their choice, much though I would hate it if my daughter did. The truth of science is the impression of the memes of critical thought etc, its not the current beliefs of science which are subject to change.

    • In reply to #42 by Malaidas:

      My Wife and I have made a huge point to my mother and in laws that we will not have her brought up in a religious belief, we have refused to even consider christening her for instance. however I sit in the same boat as you.
      Do I have the right to tell her that god doesn’t exist, to impose on her the meme’s of my personal belief, no matter how far backed up with evidence.

      I think this is backwards. Does anyone have the right to confuse the child with dogmatic indoctrination?
      Theists love to play the false equivalence game, pretending that scientifically derived knowledge is just the same as faith-dogma!
      It isn’t!

      Its a difficult one

      It becomes a lot less difficult once you discard the theist assumed notion, that there is some “default-god” which atheists deny.

      As I commented @30 – there are, and have been, thousands of gods ( List of deities), and it would be ridiculous to feel obligated to disprove or even consider all of these! Suggestions that a three year old has to consider all these or any particular one is also ridiculous. A sample of conflicting ones (as in “The Magic of Reality”), should suffice to illustrate the points.

      Children can have a few magical beliefs and magical stories, on which they can exercise their critical thinking skills as they mature enough to engage in critical reasoning and logic. In early childhood, learning by watching a parental example of objective testing and checking information will facilitate learning. Avoiding indoctrination by the faith deluded, should be a rationalist’s objective.

      • In reply to #47 by Alan4discussion:

        In reply to #42 by Malaidas:

        My Wife and I have made a huge point to my mother and in laws that we will not have her brought up in a religious belief, we have refused to even consider christening her for instance. however I sit in the same boat as you.
        Do I have the right to tell her that god d…

        I know there is a difference, but for me the teaching of critical thinking is probably the main thing to come from me as a parent, the authority figure. The problem of things be subject to change is perhaps not too important by itself, after-all the chances of a lot of basic science being proven wrong is very slight I agree. More to the point though is the fact that my teaching will be given greater weight than that of others by nature, I’m her dad, what if I misunderstand something, and teach it wrong, consistently. I might for instance have a deeply held viewpoint about a certain theory etc. which might be wrong, my weighting will sway my child to think in the same way, even if my idea is wrong.

        • In reply to #48 by Malaidas:

          In reply to #47 by Alan4discussion:

          I know there is a difference, but for me the teaching of critical thinking is probably the main thing to come from me as a parent, the authority figure. The problem of things be subject to change is perhaps not too important by itself, after-all the chances of a lot of basic science being proven wrong is very slight I agree. More to the point though is the fact that my teaching will be given greater weight than that of others by nature, I’m her dad, what if I misunderstand something, and teach it wrong, consistently. I might for instance have a deeply held viewpoint about a certain theory etc. which might be wrong, my weighting will sway my child to think in the same way, even if my idea is wrong.

          The problem is that you cannot credibly discuss scientific probabilities with a three year old. Children learn at levels compatible with their maturity.

          Have another look at the links on my comment 14 about stages of a child’s mental; development. At 3 to 6 children are at a stage of learning objective measuring and conservation of mass and volume. Learning through play with water sand etc helps this, but a lot of early learning is from copying parental examples. Remember they are watching you and other family role models – how you check information, how you accept responsibilities, and how you interact with others.

      • In reply to #47 by Alan4discussion:

        As I commented @30 – there are, and have been, thousands of gods ( List of deities), and it would be ridiculous to feel obligated to disprove or even consider all of these! Suggestions that a three year old has to consider all these or any particular one is also ridiculous. A sample of conflicting ones (as in “The Magic of Reality”), should suffice to illustrate the points.

        An excellent point, and I’m sorry I didn’t pick up on it earlier.

        Presumably, nobody would think it the least bit odd if I told my son that ancient civilizations made up whole pantheons of gods in order to explain the natural world around them, but today we know that Zeus, Thor, etc., are not real. Why, then, would anybody think it odd if I included the Judeo-Christian god in the list of made-up deities?

  29. I think that a blend of the two techniques would probably work the best. My father is an atheist, and my mother a “soft” Catholic who doesn’t actually believe in 98% of the church’s teachings. They taught me critical thinking from a very early age, and I think I internalized the lesson quite well. I never suspected that there might be a higher power, because there was no evidence for such a thing. It just didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t. But when I asked about religion, and why people pile into sweltering buildings on Sundays and waste a few hours, they answered my questions like good skeptics. My mum would say that everyone is allowed to believe whatever they want, but that they personally thought that going to church was lame and boring. When I asked my dad if he thought there was a god, he answered with a simple “Nope”. He explained that he personally couldn’t see any evidence for it, and that’s why he didn’t believe.

    So in summary, I think that if you teach your kid to think for themselves, and answer their questions as truthfully as you can, they’ll turn out alright. Good luck!

  30. Perhaps, rather than imposing your beliefs upon your child, you should ask him questions that stimulate his own thinking skills. For example:

    • What do you think god is?
    • If there was a god, how would we know there was a god?
    • If there was no god, what would that mean?

    You might even learn something ;)

    • In reply to #44 by TaraHanrahan:

      Perhaps, rather than imposing your beliefs upon your child, you should ask him questions that stimulate his own thinking skills. For example:

      What do you think god is?
      If there was a god, how would we know there was a god?
      If there was no god, what would that mean?
      You might even learn somethin…

      I agree with that absolutely. In fact it’s one of the biggest disagreements I have with the general tone that most people on this site take to talking with theists. The starting point is usually “how can we communicate the truth to the dumb theists?” the Bhogossian guy is especially guilty of this kind of thinking. As long as you start a conversation with someone with the attitude that you have the truth and you just need them to shut up and listen the amount you can really communicate is usually very limited.

      I always really do try to have an open mind when I have conversations like this. There are plenty of questions related to religion and God that I can’t completely answer. The scientific grounding for morality for example I think is very much an open question. So it’s not just that I’m pretending to be open minded to be a better communicator, I actually do think it’s possible to learn things from people even on topics where I am mostly right and they are mostly wrong.

      And from a standpoint of human psychology — and I’ve had a lot of experience trying to convince people of various new ideas in the business world — I’ve found that treating your audience with respect and treating the conversation as an actual dialogue rather than a lecture is always far more productive.

      • In reply to #45 by Red Dog:

        In reply to #44 by TaraHanrahan:

        The starting point is usually “how can we communicate the truth to the dumb theists?” the Bhogossian guy is especially guilty of this kind of thinking.

        I think the exact opposite re Peter Boghossian’s approach. To me, he seems to be saying that, in any debate, to get someone to reconsider their position you should mimic that behaviour. A good way to do that is to ask yourself what evidence you’d require in order to accept the others argument. I’ve tried doing that, and have gone so far as to really try and argue my “opponent’s” point of view. After all, if you can argue their case then, assuming your own case is not compatible with theirs, you’ve learned something, and need to reconsider your own position – what better outcome to a debate can you have than to lose it?

        The scientific grounding for morality for example I think is very much an open question.

        Not sure what you mean by “scientific grounds” for morality. I mean the universe was, supposedly, just a load of hydrogen atoms at one time, so good and bad did not exists, and AISI only “comes into existence” once beings capable of reflecting on the results of their own behaviour have evolved. Also, there’s no need of the existence, or belief in the existence, of some sort of ever seeing deity or of some sort of karma to ensure we act ‘morally’, what ever that means. AISI, if I go around telling lies I’m not going to be doing myself much good as others will be unable to trust me to do what I say I’ll do – thus I find it’s best not to lie. It’s similar for my behaviour in general. If I want to have a pleasant life then I think a very good way to achieve that is to help, or at least not hinder, others to have a pleasant life too. Some would call that selfish, and I agree, but does that make it not ‘moral’?

  31. Simply tell the kids “I don’t know”. Encourage them to be curious and open minded. Kids will grow up, develop their own theories and be strong and safe. Parents believe they are “protecting” children by infusing them with old beliefs. Their old beliefs.

    • In reply to #50 by StopLyingToKids:

      Simply tell the kids “I don’t know”. Encourage them to be curious and open minded. Kids will grow up, develop their own theories and be strong and safe. Parents believe they are “protecting” children by infusing them with old beliefs. Their old beliefs.

      Yeah. Except, isn’t it also a parent’s responsibility to teach children what is good, true, helpful, etc.?

      “Gee, dad — what happens if I stick a fork in the electrical outlet? My friends at school all told me it would make pretty sparks.”

      “Gosh, son — I don’t know. Some people think it will make pretty sparks, but other people think it will kill you. Nobody knows for sure, though, so you’ll just have to decide for yourself…”

  32. I guess the problem here is, again, the “-ism” in atheism. In fact it is not an “-ism” at all. It’s the null-hypothesis to an “-ism” or more accurate to superstition. Everything you teach your children may backfire when they get older, but what do you want them to be later? I want my children to be capable of constructive critical thinking. Here in Germany there is the fear that critical thinking (in general, not only in matters of religion) might lead to a standstill in the development. But critical thinking is what we need today to keep at least a glimpse of a future for us humans. Critical thinking towards religion is a part of it.
    The difference of teaching children to think critically and to teach them the own religious belief is that teaching critical thinking includes my claims. I don’t expect my child to accept everything I say unquestioned only because it was me saying that. It’s obvious, that this requires a certain age and ability of reasonable thinking of the child.
    Maybe here you see the proof for the idea of Dawkins that things like religious belief as memes carry similar characteristics with genes and can survive as “software” thoughout the time. Religious forces fear even that you tell your kid you don’t know the truth, but you know that if someone tells he knows the truth he or her must be a liar!. Luckily children in the end grow up and decide for themselves. That’s another source of change …

  33. I guess the problem here is, again, the “-ism” in atheism. In fact it is not an “-ism” at all. It’s the null-hypothesis to an “-ism” or more accurate to superstition. Everything you teach your children may backfire when they get older, but what do you want them to be later? I want my children to be capable of constructive critical thinking. Here in Germany there is the fear that critical thinking (in general, not only in matters of religion) might lead to a standstill in the development. But critical thinking is what we need today to keep at least a glimpse of a future for us humans. Critical thinking towards religion is a part of it.
    The difference of teaching children to think critically and to teach them the own religious belief is that teaching critical thinking includes my claims. I don’t expect my child to accept everything I say unquestioned only because it was me saying that. It’s obvious, that this requires a certain age and ability of reasonable thinking of the child.
    Maybe here you see the proof for the idea of Dawkins that things like religious belief as memes carry similar characteristics with genes and can survive as “software” thoughout the time. Religious forces fear even that you tell your kid you don’t know the truth, but you know that if someone tells he knows the truth he or her must be a liar!. Luckily children in the end grow up and decide for themselves. That’s another source of change …

  34. A few years ago my son (he is now 12) and I were having a discussion about the bible version of creation. Now, I know what I believe. But like yourself, I waffle on whether it’s right to present my ideas too strongly to him, not allowing him room to think. So i decided to explain the ideas behind creationsim and the theory on which evolution is based. Then I asked, “which one do YOU think makes more sense?” he answered with evolution. If fact, he even had an “are you serious?” type of look on his face as I talked about God taking a rib from Adam and making Eve, etc…

    In short answer form, I read on a comment board somewhere that unless brainwashed and indoctrinated early, the default position for most people is atheism. The only worry that I used to have is, like you mention, the social stigma of being a non-believer amongst their young friends. I have found that my son just keeps silent on the subject of religion rather than announce that he thinks it’s all a crock, which I don’t fault him for it. I tell him that politics and religion are not good conversation topics in general.

    I hope I answered your question. And maybe you are thinking too hard ;). But it’s better than the other way around!

  35. I for example am not a parent, but i do have a little sister , 9 years old , with which i am experiencing the same difficulties.
    My Mom and her boyfriend are Jewish belivers, and try to teach her to belive in the Jewish god.
    I on the other hand, am teaching her science and basic physics so she could have more knowledge to make rational dessicions with.
    I never told her that “there is no god”, because of the family matter.
    What i do allow myself to do, is to teach her Biology basics, and than show her religios parts from some kind of lecture, and let her decide on her on.
    If she asks questions, i answer her rationally.
    Thats how i see it fits in to our lifesyle.
    Good luck with your own kid :)
    Lolita

  36. Since I believe that there is no such thing as a god, a spirit, a soul, a ghost, a demon or a devil, I taught my sons the same. I did not have to teach them very hard, since the truth of that proposition is very evident in the world of facts. They became atheists.

    If you teach your children that childish superstions just might be true, you do them no service.

  37. Do you believe in free choice? If you do than it doesn’t matter what you “teach” them because ultimately its their choice… but then again if you don’t believe in free choice than it doesn’t matter what you teach them either because ultimately they will end up a product of their environment and have no choice or “say” in the matter whatsoever. But…

    If you believe that atheism will build a better world than teach them atheism… (your methods of discrediting theists seem a bit rude and unproductive as some commentators pointed out already)

      • In reply to #58 by Nitya:

        In reply to #57 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

        If you believe that atheism will build a better world than teach them atheism…

        And how does one teach atheism again, I’ve forgotten?

        Sorry, maybe I’m not understanding, is this a serious question or are you implying that atheism does not need to be taught because it is self evident to children?

        • In reply to #59 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

          Nitya said:

          And how does one teach atheism again, I’ve forgotten?

          Assumption said:

          Sorry, maybe I’m not understanding, is this a serious question or are you implying that atheism does not need to be taught because it is self evident to children?

          Mac: atheism is the default position, since all religions & faiths (as opposed to natural psychological tendencies) have to be taught through indoctrination, repetition & exposure – usually with a bunch of mental & physical threats involved.

        • In reply to #59 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

          Sorry, maybe I’m not understanding, is this a serious question or are you implying that atheism does not need to be taught because it is self evident to children?

          I was making a facetious remark because children don’t need to be taught atheism, as it’s usually a case of unlearning things that have already been taught. It has been said frequently on this site that children are a blank slate in this regard. The beliefs of the culture are taught by parents, teachers, relatives and others with an interest in having the child abide by the same set of beliefs as the members of the group.

          • In reply to #61 by Nitya:

            In reply to #59 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            I was making a facetious remark because children don’t need to be taught atheism, as…

            You say that children are often compared to a “blank slate.” This implies that they know nothing until they are “taught” something, anything. This means that if the first thing you write on their “blank slate” (concerning the matter of how humans became humans) is that it was not a god that created humans, you are in essence, “teaching them atheism.” You are “teaching” them that there is no god before they even get the chance to learn what “religion” is.

            You yourself said that’s its only “usually a case of unlearning things,” “usually” being the key word. And, is “unlearning” not also considered “teaching,” teaching them what is wrong with their current belief?

            This is what I had in mind when I said the words, “teaching atheism.”

          • In reply to #62 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Hi assumptionsaretherootofallevil. I’m going to go against the wisdom of your user name and make the assumption that you are Jewish as you spell god as G-d. (Not that it matters in addressing your argument.)

            I don’t know if you’ve had very much contact with young children, but in terms of a blank slate that’s exactly what it is. An infant gradually defines the world in which he/she lives, by using input from its senses ( hearing, touch, sight, smell, taste) and later by the things parents say and do. There is no concept of a god in the young brain. It’s not hiding in there waiting to emerge. Instead ,this concept has to be fostered by the parents. Children from cultures with no notion of a god, don’t develop this concept all by themselves.

            So…where does this leave us? Once the god concept has been established a process of de-conversion can take place. Perhaps the child or young adult will discover this by themselves. ( by this time the brain would have matured sufficiently for this reckoning to take place) . Perhaps a third party will help the child unlearn what it has learnt.

            The default position in the child’s brain is no religion. To actively teach this state would serve no purpose.

          • In reply to #63 by Nitya:

            In reply to #62 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Hi assumptionsaretherootofallevil. I’m going to go against the wisdom of your user name and make the assumption that you are Jewish as you spell god as G-d. (Not that it matters in addressing your argument.)

            I don’t know if you’ve had very much c…

            I dare say that you are not making a full assumption because by telling me that you are making an assumption about my identity, you are in essence asking me if your “assumption” is true. So, your “assumption” is more of a “question” than an assumption. Also, “assumptions” are conclusions that people reach without any evidence. Your “assumption” is not a pure “assumption” because it is backed up by evidence. Id say that you are more making an educated guess rather than an “assumption.” Anyway…

            You say that “An infant gradually defines the world in which he/she lives, by using input from its senses ( hearing, touch, sight, smell, taste)” This is true. Eventually, each at their own pace, an infant will notice (with out any ones “help”) that everything in this world has a cause. They will find that the world runs off cause and effect. An infant knows that when it smiles (cause) the adults might smile back (effect). They know that if they pick up a marker or chalk and start drawing (cause), a picture will appear (effect).

            So, without being taught, infants have a sense of cause and effect. It is therefore safe to say that an infant will eventually wonder what “caused” the sun, or a rock, or a bird… or… the world! They might ask their parents how the sun got there or, how the stars got there or, how they got here… or, how the world got here. To this question their parents can give one of two answers. One answer can be G-d, G-d created the sun, He created you and He created the world (perhaps through the big bang and evolution). Or… their parents can say that billions of years ago there was a “big bang,” which came from nothing (as opposed to coming from G-d), and then came evolution, which eventually produced the world as we know it…

            The latter is called “teaching them atheism.” You are “teaching” them how the world (an effect) was “caused.” They would not know otherwise how the world was “caused,” only that it had to be caused some how. You are therefore teaching them that the world was caused by the big bang. And by default, you are teaching them to rule out all other possibilities of what caused the world when you are teaching them that it was the big bang. So, when people try to introduce them to alternative possibilities they will not consider them, as they were taught: it was the big bang and evolution (nothing else).

            This is how you teach atheism, you teach them the cause of the world as being the big bang (or what ever other theory is currently accepted) and by default, you rule out all other possible “causes” from their mind (like G-d).

            And I dare say that a child will not understand how its possible that a painting can exist with out a painter… until you “teach” them an alternative explanation…

          • In reply to #64 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            I dare say that you are not making a full assumption because by telling me that you are making an assumption about my identity, you are in essence asking me if your “assumption” is true. So, your “assumption” is more of a “question” than an assumption. Also, “assumptions” are conclusions that people reach without any evidence. Your “assumption” is not a pure “assumption” because it is backed up by evidence. Id say that you are more making an educated guess rather than an “assumption.” Anyway…

            Ha ha! Okay, you’ve got me there….an educated guess it is, if you’d prefer.

          • In reply to #65 by Nitya:

            In reply to #64 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Ha ha! Okay, you’ve got me there….an educated guess it is, if you’d prefer.

            So long as the “wisdom” of my user name is not challenged I’m happy. Thx’s for taking the time to reply to my comments by the way, I really do appreciate it.

          • In reply to #64 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Or… their parents can say that billions of years ago there was a “big bang,” which came from nothing (as opposed to coming from G-d), and then came evolution, which eventually produced the world as we know it…>
            the latter is called teaching them atheism.

            Whoa! That’s a big leap! There are millions of Christians out there who would not see it that way!

            You’ve called upon the old uncaused cause argument, and presented it as the natural conclusion a child would come to, if allowed to reach his/her own conclusions.I doubt whether your suggestion has ever been tested. Do you have statistics supporting your claim?

            I’m of the opinion that your line of reasoning in this imaginary scenario would not be the eventual outcome. If parents and other adults do not put these concepts into the child’s mind, they don’t magically appear.

            Many people have no difficulty in accepting the possibility of the “Big Bang” and holding a belief in a deity, mutually exclusive ( though I do). So, I wouldn’t put this in the category of “teaching atheism”.

          • In reply to #67 by Nitya:

            In reply to #64 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Whoa! That’s a big leap! There are millions of Christians out there who would not see it that way!
            You’ve called upon the old uncaused cause argument, and presented it as the natural conclusion a child would come to, if allowed to reach his/her own conclusions. I doubt whether your suggestion has ever been tested. Do you have statistics supporting your claim?
            I’m of the opinion that your line of reasoning in this imaginary scenario would not be the eventual outcome. If parents and other adults do not put these concepts into the child’s mind, they don’t magically appear. Many people have no difficulty in accepting the possibility of the “Big Bang” and holding a belief in a deity, mutually exclusive ( though I do). So, I wouldn’t put this in the category of “teaching atheism”.

            If allowed to reach his/her conclusions on their own, a child would come (and does come) to the natural conclusion that we live in a world governed by cause and effect. They might not, on their own, develop a more complex theory like the uncaused cause argument but they will, on their own, develop a simple sense of cause and effect. At a very young age a child will notice that everything that happens is a result of a different happening or cause. They might notice, for example, that every time they eat a certain food they feel happy. They will, from then on, always associate the eating of that food (cause) with being happy (effect). Through trial and error a child comes to conclusions on what specific “causes” result in what specific “effects.” Don’t take my word for it though, if you look into the matter, you will find that this idea (that children discover the concept of cause and effect on their own) is widely accepted by many atheists and theists alike.

            What comes out is that all children (whether they’re parents are atheists or whether they grew up in a nunnery) have a strong sense of “cause,” not the uncaused causer but just a simple sense of cause. Trial and error helps them figure out how they can use their actions (causes) to get what they want (effects). And they go from there…

            What I’m suggesting is that this idea of “cause” that develops in a child’s mind is synonymous to the idea of G-d. For what is G-d but the Ultimate Cause of everything? (on a simple level)

            When we teach children that there is no Ultimate Cause and that the first piece of matter came into existence from nothing, we are, in effect, teaching them atheism. We are teaching them that there is one exception to the rule of “cause and effect” and that that exception is the universe… The universe had no cause, it some how came from nothing…

            Simply put, children develop a sense of cause on their own and therefore, since G-d is a “Cause,” they have a simple idea of G-d (whether they know it or not) from their own understanding of their surroundings.

          • In reply to #68 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            You’ve called upon the old uncaused cause argument, and presented it as the natural conclusion a child would come to . .

            Hello AATROAE.

            First, your username to me means more like ‘Faithist assumptions are the root of all evil’ since as a non-theist I don’t accept the existence of evil any more than I do sin or a god….

            Next, since I’m a life-long non-theist & have never had any religion or a need to ponder ‘uncaused causes’, my position is the opposite of yours – except that my reality is based on & supported by scientific evidence rather than faithist claims backed by nothing but myths & word salads.

            Most non-theists were theists & can see both sides of the discussion, whereas you can only see the ‘believers’ side, as can be seen in your posts. You can’t imagine any other position than your own since that’s all you’ve ever experienced, so your imagined ‘atheist reality’ is very faulty & easily refuted.

            Faiths were naturally evolved psychological tendencies diverted to serve the shamans & sheeple-herders for their own ends, which then evolved into religious memeplexes that helped the parasitic & viral religions themselves to survive – despite all the harm done to those infected with fearful mind-slavery…. Mac.

          • In reply to #68 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            No…this is superstitious thinking. Might I remind you of Skinner’s pigeons. In a set of experiments using pigeons as subjects it was found that superstitious behaviour would result as a response to random food rewards. The pigeons were seen to adopt the behaviour they were engaged in immediately prior to the food reward in the hope of improving their chances.

            What you’re suggesting is superstitious behaviour from children. Don’t worry, it’s not only the bird-brain that engages in this type of thinking, children and fully grown, otherwise rational adults fall for this as well.

            So much for cause and effect. If the parents buy into the self-same superstitious behaviour and give their children magical answers to honest enquiries about the workings of the world, they are going to produce a superstitious offspring instead of the type critical thinkers we need in the community.

          • In reply to #70 by Nitya:

            In reply to #68 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            No…this is superstitious thinking. Might I remind you of Skinner’s pigeons. In a set of experiments using pigeons as subjects it was found that superstitious behaviour would result as a response to random food rewards. The pigeons were seen to ad…

            Skinners pigeons noticed that while they were acting in a certain way… they got food! So, the pigeons decided that this must mean that when ever they act in that same way, they’ll get food (like it happened the first time). The pigeons however, were dead wrong. Their actions hade zero to do with their food schedule; their food schedule was completely random! Just because they happened to be doing something random when they randomly received their food, doesn’t mean there is a correlation between the two events. Through this experiment, Skinner showed us that people could develop behaviors that they believe are connected to a certain outcome but in reality, the behavior is not connected to that certain outcome at all. We call these behaviors, “superstitious.”

            There is something deeper going on here though… Why is it that Skinners pigeons had the idea, in the first place, that ANYTHING AT ALL, should possibly be connected with their food schedule (let alone their random actions)? It almost seems like they were under the impression that there must be a cause that causes their food schedule. Why didn’t the pigeons just throw up their “hands,” give up, and assume the food schedule to be completely random? Apparently, they had a natural inclination that was telling them that there must be a cause… and based on this natural inclination, the pigeons set out to find that cause so that they could get food whenever they want.

            Little did the pigeons know however, was that there was no way for them to figure out the true cause of this schedule. So, they ended up developing a false reality or cause for themselves which led to superstitious behavior… What was really happening was this:

            Cause: a man named “Skinner” sets up a random food schedule for pigeons.

            Effect: food is delivered to pigeons at random (exactly as Skinners had intended).

            So… there is a cause and effect here after all, its just that the pigeons weren’t able to figure out the true cause due to their limited resources and mental capacity. They were, however right about one thing: there was some cause that was causing their food to come. (even if the cause was to purposely set up a random effect)

            Granted, children can possibly come to wrong conclusions about what is causing or caused a specific effect. But whether they figure out the correct cause or not there is a correct cause out there and they know it. In fact, that’s precisely why their looking for a cause in the first place… like the pigeons. So they do have a correct sense, at a young age, that cause and effect power our world. And its that simple idea of “cause” in their mind that is connected with a potential Ultimate Cause.

            Are you saying that our world does not run off cause and effect? (by the way)

          • In reply to #71 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            , children can possibly come to wrong conclusions about what is causing or caused a specific effect. But whether they figure out the correct cause or not there is a correct cause out there and they know it. In fact, that’s precisely why their looking for a cause in the first place…

            Back to our pigeons…. As far as they know Skinner is their god, and at various times seems to bless them with the gift of food. They hope to please their provider by enacting the appropriate rituals. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

            Children are a different matter of course, as their reasoning skills are developing. As you said in your last comment, children are used to seeing the results of their actions. Usually the effect corresponds with the appropriate cause eg a cup is pushed off the table, is followed by it breaking on the floor. Straight forward! At other times the cause and effect are not straight forward and involve reasoning to come to a conclusion. Frequently a conclusion is reached that is not consistent with reality, eg a tooth falls out and is put in a glass of water ( or under the pillow). When the child wakes the tooth has been replaced with a coin.

            If the child is told by the parent ( whom they trust completely), that the tooth was replaced by a fairy, the child’s understanding of cause and effect is undermined. The desire to make sense of their world is still there but they have been given a magical solution by those most trusted.

            You can take this to it’s logical conclusion and apply those skills to a knowledge of the origins of the universe. Is it fair to give a trusting young person an answer that has no evidence whatsoever or simply say that you don’t know as yet, but we’re working on it. If you suggest the actions of another entity don’t be surprised if they then ask who or what caused the existence of the entity.

          • In reply to #72 by Nitya:

            Back to our pigeons…. As far as they know Skinner is their god, and at various times seems to bless them with the gift of food. They hope to please their provider by enacting the appropriate rituals. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

            Of course you know Skinner would be appalled at some of the language you and others are using in talking about his pigeons. Skinner completely ruled out any discussion of internal states as part of his theoretical framework. He would view discussions about what the pigeons think or that they view him as “God” as just meaningless babble that can have no relevance to science.

            And, and if I believed in Hell I would say it must be a cold day there for me to say what I’m about to say, I think in this case Skinner was right. Developing a theory of mind for pigeons, at least for any simple behaviors that can be studied via stimulus response models is probably not needed and hence not a legitimate part of a model of pigeon behavior. You can explain an awful lot about how pigeon’s behave without using any concepts about what the pigeon intends or how they conceptualize the world. Actually I should be clear, I don’t know much about pigeons so I could be wrong there, I’m saying at least in theory from what I know I could see explaining most and maybe all pigeon behavior via stimulus response and operant conditioning models.

            The error Skinner made is that he over generalized. Most pigeon behavior can be explained by operant conditioning and some human behavior can be explained that way but quite a lot of human behavior can’t be explained that way. Language is the most obvious example. A stimulus response model for language acquisition just doesn’t work. It doesn’t explain the empirical data and it makes predictions that are contradicted by the data we have on how humans learn and use language.

          • In reply to #73 by Red Dog:

            Of course you know Skinner would be appalled at some of the language you and others are using in talking about his pigeons. Skinner completely ruled out any discussion of internal states as part of his theoretical framework. He would view discussions about what the pigeons think or that they view him as “God” as just meaningless babble that can have no relevance to science.>

            Aaah! Red Dog, I was speaking metaphorically!! Of course I know that pigeons don’t have a theory of mind! I was trying to use the sort of comparisons that religious people use all the time! I was attempting to inject an element of humour into the discussion

          • In reply to #74 by Nitya:

            In reply to #73 by Red Dog:

            Of course you know Skinner would be appalled at some of the language you and others are using in talking about his pigeons. Skinner completely ruled out any discussion of internal states as part of his theoretical framework. He would view discussions about what the pigeo…

            I agree, pigeons probably don’t have a theory of mind and rather work on base instinct, unlike children… But, then why did you bring in the pigeons in the first place (if they don’t work the same way as children)?

            I guess I didn’t make myself clear but I also agree with you about what you said here:

            “Frequently a conclusion is reached that is not consistent with reality…” and here: “Is it fair to give a trusting young person an answer that has no evidence whatsoever or simply say that you don’t know as yet, but we’re working on it.” (your right, its not fair)

            I dare say we agree on the matter of cause and effect in that children do notice a pattern of cause and effect on their own but can still be given an answer that’s false by a trusted parent, and believe it. You, I think, are saying that its true that children might wonder about the origins of the universe but they will not come to the conclusion that it was an Ultimate Cause (G-d). You seem to be saying that this is because there is no evidence for a deity. First of all, “deism” is a world view that many physicists, astronomers, biologists, philosophers and etc have come to accept based off “evidence.” Much ink has been spilled on the subject. In fact, recently, a famous atheist by the name of Antony Garrard Newton Flew converted to deism based off evidence. There is evidence for a deity and if you’d like I’ll be happy to list off some good books on the matter. And ill end with this…

            When I was a young child I remember asking my grandfather how G-d came about; what “caused” G-d? He didn’t give me a satisfactory answer for my young mind but rather told me something like, ‘maybe when your older you’ll understand.’ The conversation did not stop there, however. I pushed it further and said something like, ‘you are old and you don’t understand it either!’ He insisted that he did… the rest of the memory is fuzzy… but I left just as confused when I came. Like most kids would though, I forgot about the incident for a while.

            Now I’ am older and I do understand… my grandfather was right after all…

            While considering the idea of an eternal universe (Aristotle) Maimonides says that, “We should perhaps have had an easier task… if we accepted this idea, than we had in explaining the anthropomorphisms in the Bible when we rejected the idea that G-d is corporeal.” (The Guide for the Perplexed, Book 2, 25)

            G-d is not corporeal. If He created time and space than He is beyond time and space. Just because G-d created the universe with all its laws (including time (cause and effect) and space) doesn’t mean that He’s restricted to or bound by what He created. Just because G-d created humans doesn’t mean that He’s a human. He’s outside of the universe. Its very hard for a creation to fully understand its creator… It is on this that our sages said, “it is impossible to communicate to mankind the stupendous immensity of the creation of the universe.” and King Solomon, “It is elusive and exceedingly deep; who can discover it?” Much ink has been spilled on this subject as well….

          • In reply to #75 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            I dare say we agree on the matter of cause and effect in that children do notice a pattern of cause and effect on their own but can still be given an answer that’s false by a trusted parent, and believe it. You, I think, are saying that its true that children might wonder about the origins of the universe but they will not come to the conclusion that it was an Ultimate Cause (G-d).

            I suspect that this is as close to agreement as we’re going to get, but I’d like you to know that I’ve enjoyed the discussion. I hope that I’ve given you something to think about or at least shed some light on what goes on in the atheist’s mind.

            BTW I brought up Skinner’s pigeons simply as an example of the way that an effect can be attributed to the wrong cause. I wasn’t comparing children with pigeons as such, but merely wished to show ( rather clumsily as it turns out) that superstitious answers crop up regularly and easily.

            PS I know that the pigeons are not thinking about the “cause” but are acting consistent with “instinct ” as you stated.

          • In reply to #76 by Nitya:

            I suspect that this is as close to agreement as we’re going to get, but I’d like you to know that I’ve enjoyed the discussion. I hope that I’ve given you something to think about or at least shed some light on what goes on in the atheist’s mind.

            Ok then… Its been real. I really enjoyed the discussion as well. I have two atheist friends who have given me a lot to “think” about in the past couple of years. Hopefully I too was able to “shed some light” on what goes on in the theist’s mind.

          • In reply to #75 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            First of all, “deism” is a world view that many physicists, astronomers, biologists, philosophers and etc have come to accept based off “evidence.” Much ink has been spilled on the subject. In fact, recently, a famous atheist by the name of Antony Garrard Newton Flew converted to deism based off evidence. There is evidence for a deity and if you’d like I’ll be happy to list off some good books on the matter. And ill end with this…

            There is no evidence for a deity. What there are, are a bunch of unsolved hard questions. One response to unsolved hard questions is to say “God did it”. For some people that feels like an answer and satisfies them. IMO a much better response to unsolved questions is to keep on trying to solve them.

          • In reply to #78 by Red Dog:

            One response to unsolved hard questions is to say “God did it”.

            And what’s wrong with that response?

          • In reply to #79 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #78 by Red Dog:

            One response to unsolved hard questions is to say “God did it”.

            And what’s wrong with that response?

            It doesn’t actually explain anything. God by definition, at least for anyone who uses this argument, is so awesome that She is beyond the comprehension of normal humans. So when you say “God did it” you are just using short hand for saying “this mysterious all powerful force that I don’t really understand and that by definition is impossible to understand did it” which is of about as much value as an explanation as saying “I don’t know” Actually as I pointed out it’s far worse than saying “I don’t know” because when you admit you don’t know you keep on looking for answers. When you settle for an unknowable mystic answer your emotional craving for an answer may be satisfied but you don’t really understand things any better.

          • In reply to #80 by Red Dog:

            It doesn’t actually explain anything. God by definition, at least for anyone who uses this argument, is so awesome t…

            But it does… Imagine a puzzle that is so amazingly complex that its world famous. People come from all corners of the earth to marvel at the puzzles beauty. Even more fascinating is that the puzzles manufacture is unknown and many pieces are missing. So people develop their different theories on the matter. Some say that the manufacture intended for there to be empty spaces, missing pieces. Others maintain that the pieces are lost, out there somewhere… Eventually the missing pieces are found and the people complete the puzzle. The world steps back and looks at a complete puzzle, more complex than ever before… A new theory develops that goes like this: now that all the pieces have been found and put in their place it must mean that there is no manufacture! A manufacture never existed…

            So it is with the universe. Even if we do fill in all the “gaps” and answer all the questions all we’ll be left with is a world in which everything works in perfect harmony. Where’d it come from though? Why is it here? Who is the “manufacture?”

            In the end of the day science can answer all the “how’s,” but “why?”

          • In reply to #81 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #80 by Red Dog:
            It doesn’t explain anything to say God did it

            But it does… Imagine a puzzle that is so amazingly complex that its world famous. People come from all corners of the earth to marvel at the puzzles…

            Just saying “but it does” isn’t much of an argument. And everything that came after was just emotional language that had nothing to do with demonstrating that God has any value as a useful explanatory construct. For a theory to have any value it has to make predictions and/or fit in with other theories. Saying God did it for anything doesn’t do any of that. I think you are confusing emotions with knowledge. The idea of God satisfies some need you have and makes you feel good. That’s OK, I mean I actually think you would ultimately be better off if you tried looking at the universe as it actually is but if you can’t or don’t want to do that I don’t really care. Just don’t claim that your emotional needs have anything to do with learning or really understanding the universe.

            So it is with the universe. Even if we do fill in all the “gaps” and answer all the questions all we’ll be left with is a world in which everything works in perfect harmony. Where’d it come from though? Why is it here? Who is the “manufacture?” In the end of the day science can answer all the “how’s,” but “why?”

            Actually, this fits right in with the discussion I was trying to have with another user on a different thread about what questions science can and can’t answer. He was giving examples similar to yours and I’ll say the same thing to you as I said to him: if you ask nonsensical questions then of course science can’t answer those and the fact that religion can answer nonsensical questions is an example of why religion isn’t a rational system to use for morals or to lead one’s life by.

            And thinking that the universe has to have a creator is an example of the kind of human hubris that has held back thought since people started thinking. Time and again the first answers that primitive humans imagined were human centric. The Earth was the center of the solar system and the whole universe. Human beings are special forms of life with all sorts of unique claims to the planet and to abuse the other animals. The universe was created by and is ruled by a big father figure in the sky who is just a bigger badder version of the kings that ruled humans when the bible was written. There is nothing profound or puzzling about these superstitions no matter what kind of flowery language you dress them up with.

          • In reply to #82 by Red Dog:

            if you ask nonsensical questions then of course science can’t answer those and the fact that religion can answer nonsensical questions is an example of why religion isn’t a rational system to use for morals or to lead one’s life by.

            Allow me to restate my question in a dry, sensible and stripped language…

            In the year 1801, a man by the name of William Paley published a book called “Natural Theology.” In this book, Paley brings the “argument from design,” an argument that dates back to Cicero before the birth of Christianity. To be concise, the argument goes like this: (to use the words of Jonathan Sacks) “The fact that a [watch] is fashioned from many different materials, precisely engineered and put together with integrated complexity tells that it was designed. it is a thing made. It bears the evidence of deliberate construction. Therefore it had a designer.” Paley suggests that the universe is like a watch and therefore must have a designer as well. But then came Darwin…

            “The old argument of design in nature, as given by Paley, which formerly seemed to me so conclusive, fails, now that the law of natural selection has been discovered.” (Darwin in “Autobiographies”)

            My question is this: Even with natural selection, the universe still seems to have been designed. It just seems to perfect to have been a mere accident or coincidence.

            I fail to see how this question is “nonsensical.” You might give me a good answer, but surly it can’t just be dismissed as “nonsensical.” I know that you atheists have a better answer than that…

            The universe was created by and is ruled by a big father figure in the sky who is just a bigger badder version of the kings that ruled humans when the bible was written.

            I challenge you to give me examples of how you figured that the G-d of the Jews is “bad.” I’m dead serious, I’ll be happy to thoroughly clear all of the misconceptions and assumptions that you might have…

          • My question is this: Even with natural selection, the universe still seems to have been designed. It just seems to perfect to have been a mere accident or coincidence.

            Fine-Tuned Universe

            In reply to #85 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #82 by Red Dog:

            if you ask nonsensical questions then of course science can’t answer those and the fact that religion can answer nonsensical questions is an example of why religion isn’t a rational system to use for morals or to lead one’s life by.

            Allow me to restate my question in a…

          • In reply to #85 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            , the universe still seems to have been designed.

            Appearance of design is not necessarily evidence of design.

          • In the year 1801, a man by the name of William Paley published a book called “Natural Theology.” In this book, Paley brings the “argument from design,” 

            And in 1776 (a great year for philosophy and politics) a man by the name of David Hume completed Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion  BTW, thanks for making me look this up to double check I always assumed Hume wrote the Dialogues as a response to Paley but I think I have that wrong and Hume actually got there first. I am a Hume, I think the kids call it  “fanboy” I think he doesn’t get enough credit for deconstructing the argument from design well before Darwin. But he does it. 

            My question is this: Even with natural selection, the universe still seems to have been designed. It just seems to perfect to have been a mere accident or coincidence.

            I agree it is a very appealing argument at first glance. But so are a lot of ideas that are eventually replaced by science. It seems intuitive that  a pound of feathers won’t fall as fast as a pound of lead but it will. Or that a ten pound weight will fall faster than a one pound weight but they don’t. 

            I fail to see how this question is “nonsensical.” You might give me a good answer, but surly it can’t just be dismissed as “nonsensical.” I know that you atheists have a better answer than that…

            I agree that argument is not nonsensical. It’s clearly wrong but it’s a reasonable question and a reasonable first attempt at an answer. The questions I was saying are nonsensical are questions such as “what is the purpose of the universe?”.  That is the kind of question that I agree with you and Markovich science can’t answer but I maintain no discipline can really answer because it’s not a well formed question. 

            I have other responses to your comment but the site but is making it difficult for me to type long posts (also, my excuse for why my comments may have a few more typos than normal) so I’m going to stop there for now and address the second part later.

          • In reply to #81 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            You’re not the first poster to suppose there needs to be an answer to the “why” question. I’m always intrigued by the possible answer. If you could answer your own question, what would it be? Why would you think that the universe exists? Why do humans exist? What purpose do we serve by living out our lives on Earth?

            I’m quite comfortable with the knowledge that there’s no grand plan. I find a satisfying answer in natural processes…in fact, I think it’s AWSOME !

          • In reply to #83 by Nitya:

            I’m quite comfortable with the knowledge that there’s no grand plan. I find a satisfying answer in natural processes…in fact, I think it’s AWSOME !

            Why do you think its “AWSOME?”

          • In reply to #86 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #83 by Nitya:

            I’m quite comfortable with the knowledge that there’s no grand plan. I find a satisfying answer in natural processes…in fact, I think it’s AWSOME !

            Why do you think its “AWSOME?”

            I don’t think it’s a good stategy to answer a question with another question. I think it runs the risk of continuing on ad infinitum.

            You are one of a long list of contributors to assert that science can only supply the how answers and not the why’s and yet to date I have not heard one credible response. As you’re the one making the observation I think it’s fair to ask for an answer to the why question. I fear you’re going to mention mysterious ways or the like, but that’s not going to satisfy me as an answer.

            I’m very grateful to be alive at this point in history because we can say with a far degree of certainty: where we are in the cosmos, how the universe came into existence, how life evolved and even the possibility of other universes! Knowing these things without resorting to myths and magical happenings is awsome!

          • In reply to #87 by Nitya:

            As you’re the one making the observation I think it’s fair to ask for an answer to the why question. I fear you’re going to mention mysterious ways or the like, but that’s not going to satisfy me as an answer.

            Our answer to the “why” question is this: “Now, what our sages of blessed memory, have taught us is that mankind was created only to take delight in “G-d,” and to benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence…” (RAMCHAL in his work, Path of the Just, translated from Hebrew)

            I know, I know, this begs for much explanation… But for now I will just tell you about a very good, yet slim book on the matter. Its called, “If You Were G-d” by A. Kaplan. (I know that you most certainly won’t read it but at least I’m telling you from where I would base all my explanations in this area of thought)

            I’m very grateful to be alive at this point in history because we can say with a far degree of certainty: where we are in the cosmos, how the universe came into existence, how life evolved and even the possibility of other universes! Knowing these things without resorting to myths and magical happenings is awsome!

            Sorry to be negative but the way I feel is this: who cares about our “knowledge?” What advantage does it give us in the end? Have you ever read Tolstoy’s, A Confession? Ecclesiastes?

            “Mankind’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both. As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over animal. everything is but a fleeting breath. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. ” (Ecclesiastes 3:19-20)

            But, if you feel otherwise than with all due respect… This kind of thing is a matter of opinion I guess.

          • In reply to #94 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #87 by Nitya:

            Our answer to the “why” question is this: “Now, what our sages of blessed memory, have taught us is that mankind was created only to take delight in “G-d,” and to benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence…” (RAMCHAL in his work, Path of the Just, translated from Hebrew) … I know, I know, this begs for much explanation… But for now I will just tell you about a very good, yet slim book on the matter. Its called, “If You Were G-d” by A. Kaplan. (I know that you most certainly won’t read it but at least I’m telling you from where I would base all my explanations in this area of thought)

            That is an example of what I mean when I say nonsensical questions can only yield nonsensical answers.

          • In reply to #96 by Red Dog:

            That is an example of what I mean when I say nonsensical questions can only yield nonsensical answers.

            Nitya asked “for an answer to the why question.” True, the answer I gave might have little to do with evidence for G-d but that, I think, was not the question. What I think was the question is this: why do you, as religious Jews, believe that your G-d created the universe? So I answered… (if you want you can respond to this but I don’t think its really an argument, its more of a clarification)

          • In reply to #94 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            . Our answer to the “why” question is this: “Now, what our sages of blessed memory, have taught us is that mankind was created only to take delight in “G-d,” and to benefit from the radiance of the Divine Presence..

            To be honest the first paragraph of your reply makes no sense to me at all. I’ve read it over and over in an effort to tease out the meaning, something I can grab onto, but the message escapes me. It sounds very much like a deepity ( a term coined by Dan Dennett ).

            When the wisdom dispensed by ancient sages who were writing in the context of their times, is compared to the insights gleaned by scientific endeavour, I find it wanting as any form of explanation. The origins of the universe conform to our expectations when we look at evidence such as the cosmic microwave background radiation and more recently the cosmic gravitational wave background.

            I think Lawrence Krauss succeeds in being able to explain complex scientific insights and hypotheses in a way that’s understandable to the layman. He has an engaging personality as well so I’d back up Mac’s suggestion and follow the You Tube links.

            who cares about our knowledge. What does it matter in the end?

            This is the tragedy of life. When one respects knowledge as such ( and I’m sure you do ), eventually we take our storehouse of accumulated knowledge with us to the grave. In some instances we are able to share some of our findings with others and they are able to build this and have even more to pass on to future generations.

            This brings me back to the original post, ( rather neatly if I do say so myself). We have the choice to pass on information that has been rigorously tested and proven or we can pass on stories changed over and over again in the course of their re-telling. It’s up to us really. I choose the reality of our existence that is supported by using the scientific method while others choose to pass on a fairy tale that becomes harder to support everyday.

          • In reply to #98 by Nita and everyone else…

            When the wisdom dispensed by ancient sages who were writing in the context of their times, is compared to the insights gleaned by scientific endeavour, I find it wanting as any form of explanation.

            I appreciate all the comments and will attempt to respond to them all with this…

            I take no issue with accepting everything you guys have said on the topic of “science.” If there is irrefutable evidence to back these claims than I have no choice but to agree. Indeed this is what Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, author of the Kuzari (1075-1141) meant when he said that “Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Torah (Jewish “bible”) to contradict that which is manifest or proved… The question of eternity and creation is obscure, whilst the arguments are evenly balanced… ” (translated from Arabic)

            In addition, the ancient Babylonian Talmud composed a blessing that we say upon seeing “one of the sages of the nations of the world.” (this includes scientists) Also, our sages said: “If someone says to you, ‘there is wisdom among the non-Jews of the world,’ believe it.”

            The sages also said, “One who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses, but does not, of him scripture says, “but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands” (Isaiah 5:12)…”

            The trouble is, there is no way to “disprove” G-d. In fact, it makes sense that G-d created a world in which He is hidden; a world in which people have the option to deny His existence. For if His existence would be clear, would we truly have free will? And if we did not have free will could we, or G-d, really credit us for our noble actions? Would G-d really be doing anyone a favor if He created a bunch of robots, programmed to be “good” no matter what? Now, there is balance. G-d’s existence is clear enough for there to be free will… but not to clear… I think that the biggest “proof” to G-d is the constant struggle, we humans have over “good” and “bad.” We feel a pull to follow our desires but through reason have a choice to go in a different way. Why did we evolve like this? Does it make us “fit” that we can kill ourselves?

            The main point is that the arguments go round and round, each side as biased as the other. Can we really be 100% certain of anything? If you say that ‘I refuse to believe what I cannot test, what I cannot subject even in principle to some kind of proof,’ what can I say… Is the “truth” not suspended until the end? Unfortunately I sense a stale mate but I want you all to know that I gained a lot from this discussion and do not see you guys as “brain washed” or “stupid.” I suspect that you will say that the idea of G-d is so absurd… that anyone who believes it… must be… But this is where we’ll disagree I guess. I think that everyone takes an equal “leap of faith” or “risk” based on their free will at some point….

          • *In reply to #100 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Hi AATROAE.
            Thanks for your contributions. We will probably never agree but you have been a very gracious opponent and I’ve really enjoyed reading your input and I feel that I’ve learnt something during our exchanges. Some of the quotes supplied were really wise. I liked the reference from Kuzari. I think we would all benefit from that piece of wisdom.

            Feel free to dip in with your ten cents worth on occasion. It’s good to have someone with a different point of view with whom to argue.

          • In reply to #100 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #98 by Nita and everyone else…
            I take no issue with accepting everything you guys have said on the topic of “science.” If there is irrefutable evidence to back these claims than I have no choice but to agree. Indeed this is what Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, author of the Kuzari (1075-1141) meant when he said that “Heaven forbid that there should be anything in the Torah (Jewish “bible”) to contradict that which is manifest or proved… The question of eternity and creation is obscure, whilst the arguments are evenly balanced… “

            Hi again AATROAE. My response to the Kuzari is: We’ve learned a few things about natural reality in the past 900 years, so the arguments aren’t close to being evenly balanced.

            In addition, the ancient Babylonian Talmud composed a blessing that we say upon seeing “one of the sages of the nations of the world.” (this includes scientists) Also, our sages said: “If someone says to you, ‘there is wisdom among the non-Jews of the world,’ believe it.”

            That’s what I do, which is accept the many facts and mechanisms of reality that have been proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’.

            The sages also said, “One who knows how to calculate the cycles and planetary courses, but does not, of him scripture says, “but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither have they considered the operation of his hands” (Isaiah 5:12)…”

            The cycles and planetary courses show no evidence for or necessity of any deity, so why muddle unbiased scientific research with wishful thinking?

            The trouble is, there is no way to “disprove” G-d.

            The reality is that we have just about shown there are no gods, through many inquiries into all aspects of reality. The evidence for any god is negligible in comparison, is always based on my-god-did-it-by-magic presuppositions, plus theologians confecting word salads to try to make it all work, if you squint just right.

            In fact, it makes sense that G-d created a world in which He is hidden; a world in which people have the option to deny His existence. For if His existence would be clear, would we truly have free will?

            It has been pretty clearly shown by neuroscience that ‘Free Will’ (religiously invented to address the problem of evil) doesn’t exist in reality.

            And if we did not have free will could we, or G-d, really credit us for our noble actions?

            We have freedom to lead our own lives, subject deterministically to everything around us, but not ‘Free Will’ as you would understand it.

            Would G-d really be doing anyone a favor if He created a bunch of robots, programmed to be “good” no matter what?

            Why not ‘create’ a ‘good’ existance – which doesn’t mean we would be unthinking or unfeeling robots.

            Now, there is balance. G-d’s existence is clear enough for there to be free will… but not too clear.

            God’s existence isn’t at all clear (any of the 1000′s of them), which is why we are discussing that assertion.

            I think that the biggest “proof” to G-d is the constant struggle, we humans have over “good” and “bad.”

            That is a constant ethical and moral struggle, which has nothing to do with any god for those of us without a ‘middle man’ to confuse matters.’

            We feel a pull to follow our desires but through reason have a choice to go in a different way.

            That’s no different for you or I, except I try to have actual reasons based in reality for my choices.

            Why did we evolve like this? Does it make us “fit” that we can kill ourselves?

            We evolved to the point where cultural evolution has mostly taken over our development, with all the evident problems that surface because nature hasn’t had any exposure to this kind of life. We still have a lot to learn and we’re not doing well in many areas, such as living lifes full of wishful-thinking and mythical commandments set up to support the faith businesses, despite the obvious problems and damage done to their fearful mind-slaves.

            The main point is that the arguments go round and round, each side as biased as the other. Can we really be 100% certain of anything?

            There are many mathematical and physical things we can be certain of, with many more things that are so supported by evidence that denial of them is perverse.

            If you say that ‘I refuse to believe what I cannot test, what I cannot subject even in principle to some kind of proof,’ what can I say.

            You could say that some people live life based on reality, despite what they’ve been told by undeserving but powerful ‘authorities.’

            Is the “truth” not suspended until the end?

            Are you presuming that we’ll all find out after we’re dead, according to all those faithist ponzi schemes?

            Unfortunately I sense a stalemate, but I want you all to know that I gained a lot from this discussion and do not see you guys as “brain washed” or “stupid.” I suspect that you will say that the idea of G-d is so absurd that anyone who believes it must be.

            I say you’re brain-washed, but not stupid, although the disabling of some brain pathways by god viruses does dull the mind to reality and logic, while creating fascinating ways to avoid or bypass the irrational, illogical and inconsistent issues that surface when trying to make reality fit into a fixated myth.

            But this is where we’ll disagree I guess. I think that everyone takes an equal “leap of faith” or “risk” based on their free will at some point.

            ‘Leaps of faith’ and ‘free will’ are religious constructs – I have never had them, but I do have the freedom to think and act for myself, depending on the circumstances I’m in, which always limit my choices…. Mac.

          • In reply to #103 by Nitya:

            In reply to #102 by CdnMacAtheist:

            And a thumbs-up for telling it like it is.

            Hi & thanx, Nitya…. 8-) It’s always a pleasure to read your Posts since you joined us – you’re a good, intelligent, rational, compassionate asset for RDFRS.

            I do try hard to ‘tell it like it is’ in simple, clear, straightforward ways, as befits my non-academic education & blue collar training, supplanted by my 63 years of exposure to sectarian enmity & violence – that I wasn’t part of but was much affected by – in my past, leading me to 50 years of trying to understand the history & methods of various religion mafias & their terrible effects on pliable children & gullible adults.

            As a lifelong non-theist, I have an outsiders viewpoint & ways of thinking that religious & ex-religious folk don’t have, so I can sometimes bring a clarity to the discussion that they can’t, especially ex-theist accomodationists & those retaining ‘belief in belief’ from infused mental habits.

            AATROAE’s faith is relatively mild & open minded, plus we don’t get many Jewish posters here, so discussing their beliefs is illuminating for me since I haven’t talked on that subject face-to-face – although I have eaten kosher, sat shiva & attended Jewish funerals.

            The thing for me is, there are as many versions of god(s) as there are religious people, so they can’t agree on anything, except maybe some bits in their sect-specific version (rev. # unknown) of their holy books – and that concensus is mainly from enforced indoctrination & repetition.

            For a freethinking secular humanist like me, or for scientists in any area, we can rationally agree fully on many things – irrespective of our society, location, language or ethnicity – which is the great thing about living in & accepting reality as we understand it so far. I’m excited to see how our conceptions of reality evolve & change with new data & knowledge, plus I’m not threatened by saying ‘I don’t know’ or afraid to say ‘you don’t know either.’

            Only by being open to changes & new challenges can we hope to survive as humans & with a lot of effort not maim our Pale Blue Dot as we strive to do better as the superficially, selfishly, probably short term, dominant life form on Earth…. Mac.

          • In reply to #104 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Hi Mac,
            Thank you very much! I’ll have to be careful now, I have an image to maintain. ;-)

            It’s funny, I’ve often wanted to comment on the fact that your career path was very similar to that of my father.( different generation, of course). He started out as a toolmaker and progressed to become a precision instrument maker. Very exacting work I believe. When my brother and I were in primary (grade) school, my father was plucked from the factory floor so to speak and given the chance to study engineering at the University of New South Wales. He attended lectures at night ( available in those days) and worked full time during the day.

            My father had a thirst for knowledge all his life. He read extensively, covering diverse topics such as history, politics as well as all the sciences. He never stopped reading and was really grateful that he lived in a country where he was able to do this. So, as you see the parallels are there, different times, different country.

            Regarding AATROE, I agree. It was interesting to hear the Jewish perspective. He seems like a very decent fellow, much better than some posters where you can almost hear the instruments of torture rattling in the background.

          • In reply to #105 by Nitya:

            In reply to #104 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Hi Mac, Thank you very much! I’ll have to be careful now, I have an image to maintain. ;-)

            It’s funny, I’ve often wanted to comment on the fact that your career path was very similar to that of my father.

            Hey Nitya…. 8-)

            Yeah, similar paths, with mine starting at 15 with a year at a new Community College doing a Pre-Apprenticeship Course, then my apprenticeship with 1 day a week at the college & 2 evenings doing ‘GCSE O-Levels’. I also worked part-time at ice cream van & taxi driving to make money to support my mum, since apprentices didn’t make much during their 44 hour minimum week.

            I left home at 21 for England, then to Canada at 24 to an arranged job in Toronto – first time since I was 11 that I only had 1 job!
            I just celebrated my 40th year in Canada (this time – my family lived here from 1951-57 before divorcing) & I think I’m going to stay on!!!

            The sectarian christian troubles on Clydeside were an impetus for me & my 3 siblings to move away & get better social lifes going. They all live in southern England & my parents passed in 2001, so my Scottish ties are more tenuous now.
            I also had 2 cousins who escaped to Australia – the other main choice for Scots emmigrants.

            Canada & Australia have similarities – small populations, natural resources & vast ‘uninhabited’ areas in your middle & our north.
            Aussies live in a strip on the coast while Canucks live in a strip along the USA border – with some similar societal results.

            Our political & religious histories also have similarities that we’re trying to deal with – as seen in many Posts here.
            We both have faith heads as Prime Ministers & too much history of religious abuses, plus on-going faithism in our schooling.
            I hope we all keep pulling together, changing the zeitgeist as the decades pass, to help our children & improve our future…. Mac.

          • In reply to #105 by Nitya:

            Regarding AATROE, I agree. It was interesting to hear the Jewish perspective. He seems like a very decent fellow, much better than some posters where you can almost hear the instruments of torture rattling in the background.

            Thanks for the compliment! It really does mean a lot to me.

          • In reply to #104 by CdnMacAtheist:

            AATROAE’s faith is relatively mild & open minded, plus we don’t get many Jewish posters here, so discussing their beliefs is illuminating for me since I haven’t talked on that subject face-to-face – although I have eaten kosher, sat shiva & attended Jewish funerals

            Thx! I’m happy that our little “discussion” is at the very least “illuminating.”

          • In reply to #111 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #104 by CdnMacAtheist: Thx! I’m happy that our little “discussion” is at the very least “illuminating.”

            Hi again. I used ‘illuminated’ carefully, since it all supports why I don’t accept any faith-based reasons or explanations for belief without evidence, or for claiming things you don’t know, plus why all the damage done by religion mafias turned me into a strong anti-theist in my youth.

            You may be a mild, sophisticated person of the Jewish faith, but your gang has done much psychological harm (relative to your small numbers) in the name of your ‘god’ – especially since the christians & muslims built off your foundations – so don’t expect any respect or accomodation from one who is opposed to anyone who enables the more aggressive &/or dangerous faithists all around the world….

          • In reply to #114 by CdnMacAtheist:

            don’t expect…

            Timing is everything…put in context with recent KC incident, ’tis a bit awkward. Just my observation.

          • In reply to #116 by bluebird:

            In reply to #114 by CdnMacAtheist: don’t expect…

            Timing is everything… put in context with recent KC incident, ’tis a bit awkward. Just my observation.

            Hello Bluebird…. 8-)

            I just looked up the ‘KC incident’, which is as horrific as these faithist nutter rampages always are. Suffice it to say that my anti-theism is in writing – social & political – but not physically threatening. It’s always a problem when folk take criminal action based on insane out-group hatreds that have holy book & theological support going back too many centuries.

            Jews have had far more than their share of subjugation at the hands of other religious cults, all of which I oppose. I’m sure though, based on history, that the Jewish faith would have much to be denounced for if it had the members & power that the Christian & Islamic gangs had. I can say that they have my condolences – if not my respect – for their suffering, enabled & perpetrated by other indoctrinated, deluded faith-heads all claiming to know things they don’t know…. Mac.

          • In reply to #103 by Nitya:

            In reply to #102 by CdnMacAtheist:

            And a thumbs-up for telling it like it is.

            Indeed, CdnMacAtheist does a superb job of “telling it like it is.” “it” is very like “it.” Ha! Does “it” not equal “it?”

            it = it

            Therefore, “it” is like “it”…. is…..

            (sorry, got a little “carried away” there)

          • In reply to #102 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Hi again AATROAE. My response to the Kuzari is: We’ve learned a few things about natural reality in the past 900 years, so the arguments aren’t close to being evenly balanced.

            Did you read the Kuzari? BTW there are modern arguments as well. Please look up a man named Gerald L. Schroeder Ph.D.

            The cycles and planetary courses show no evidence for or necessity of any deity, so why muddle unbiased scientific research with wishful thinking?

            I’m afraid you missed the point. From the sages point of view, they are not muddling scientific research with “wishful thinking.” They are “muddling” the Creater with His creations; very muddlable stuff you know. How is the idea of a Creater “wishful thinking?” There are lots of people who believe in a creator but don’t believe in an after life… How is that wishful if they don’t gain anything out of their view anyhow?

            I’m short on time but ill respond to the rest of your comments later, hopefully.

          • In reply to #108 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Mac said: My response to the Kuzari is: We’ve learned a few things about natural reality in the past 900 years, so the arguments aren’t close to being evenly balanced.

            AATROAE: Did you read the Kuzari?

            No, I was referring to your specific quote from the Kuzari, since I don’t read any religious fiction.

            BTW there are modern arguments as well. Please look up a man named Gerald L. Schroeder Ph.D.

            You mean this biblical creation apologist, who negates his scientist credentials by basing his work on religious presuppositions – not allowed in the scientific method – so his opinions are as a christian believer, not as a physicist. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/schroeder.cfm

            Mac said: The cycles and planetary courses show no evidence for or necessity of any deity, so why muddle unbiased scientific research with wishful thinking?

            I’m afraid you missed the point. From the sages point of view, they are not muddling scientific research with “wishful thinking.” They are “muddling” the Creater with His creations; very muddleable stuff you know.

            You can call it whatever you want to suit your mindset, but to me all religion is wishful thinking, enabled (or imposed) for a bunch of different reasons, whereas scientific research is independent of illogical, contradictory, unevidenced, unnecessary concepts.

            How is the idea of a Creater “wishful thinking?”

            Mac: Because belief without evidence & submission to a sky fairy dictator in the hope of favours or salvation is wishful thinking, while allowing you to remain massively ignorant of reality & to just believe indoctrinated, comforting mythtakes.

            There are lots of people who believe in a creator but don’t believe in an after life. How is that wishful if they don’t gain anything out of their view anyhow?

            I didn’t mention an afterlife, since most religions are concerned with your beliefs & submission during this life – for the purpose of maintaining the religion Ponzi Scheme itself, not about anything for your benefit, which is why the ‘Big Prize or Big Penalty’ are allegedly payable after your death.

            I recommend that you read ‘The God Virus’ – available in the RDFRS Store – for a well researched insight into why I use certain descriptions of religions & faithist behavior.

          • In reply to #113 by CdnMacAtheist:

            You mean this biblical creation apologist, who negates his scientist credentials by basing his work on religious presuppositions – not allowed in the scientific method – so his opinions are as a christian believer, not as a physicist. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/schroeder.cfm

            I followed your link. It seems like some physicist is attacking Schroeder’s understanding on physics. Unfortunately, from what I understand, you’re not a physicist and neither am I. So, we can’t pretend to understand that one side is so obviously more correct than the other (in terms of strict physics).

            Mac: Because belief without evidence & submission to a sky fairy dictator in the hope of favours or salvation is wishful thinking, while allowing you to remain massively ignorant of reality & to just believe indoctrinated, comforting mythtakes.

            Are you ignorant of the fact the many people believe in a deity that does not supply an after life and that does not help them in the least in this life either? They do not wait for salvation and they do not call this deity a “sky fairy dictator.”

          • In reply to #121 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #113 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Mac said: You mean this biblical creation apologist, who negates his scientist credentials by basing his work on religious presuppositions – not allowed in the scientific method – so his opinions are as a christian believer, not as a physicist. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/schroeder.cfm

            I followed your link. It seems like some physicist is attacking Schroeder’s understanding on physics. Unfortunately, from what I understand, you’re not a physicist and neither am I. So, we can’t pretend to understand that one side is so obviously more correct than the other (in terms of strict physics).

            Mac: We don’t have to be physicists to understand that the Scientific Method precludes the use of religious preconceptions when doing research, so I can say that Schroeder’s assertions are not scientific in physics circles, because of how much he distorts & spins his work to fit into his biblical presuppositions.

            Mac said: Because belief without evidence & submission to a sky fairy dictator in the hope of favours or salvation is wishful thinking, while allowing you to remain massively ignorant of reality & to just believe indoctrinated, comforting mythtakes.

            Are you ignorant of the fact the many people believe in a deity that does not supply an after life and that does not help them in the least in this life either? They do not wait for salvation and they do not call this deity a “sky fairy dictator.”

            Mac: I am very aware that religious beliefs are as varied as there as believers, so I don’t care how much cherry-picked interpretation is done to fit personal actions into the specific mythology one is indoctrinated into.

            As for benefits in ‘this life’, what do you call prayer, or the imposition of your religious beliefs, restrictions & punishments on out-groups for the social & political benefit of you & your religion?

            The underlying submission to one of 1000′s of ‘my-god-did-it-by-magic’ memeplexes is the problem, where faithist folk can make anything they want out of the vague, illogical & contradictory holy book texts confected, reverse-engineered & revised by many men over millenia to suit the zeitgeist & religion mafia needs of the times.

            You may be ‘offended’ by my use of ‘sky fairy dictator’ to describe monotheistic deities, but that is a supportable description from one who has no acceptance of or respect for the supposed leader of a faith cult – or the belief in assorted fables despite all the evidence, or claiming things you don’t know, on the word of other faithist power-mongers who can’t know either…. Mac.

          • In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Hi Mac, nice to hear from you again.

            The underlying submission to one of 1000′s of ‘my-god-did-it-by-magic’ memeplexes is the problem, where faithist folk can make anything they want out of the vague, illogical & contradictory holy book texts confected, reverse-engineered & revised by many men over millenia to suit the zeitgeist & religion mafia needs of the times.

            It’s all in the interpretation! This involves such convoluted, stretch-of the-imagination thinking that anything could mean anything! Black can be interpreted as white! IMO believers place far too much value on interpretations and interpreters.

          • In reply to #123 by Nitya:

            Hi Mac, nice to hear from you again.

            Yes, it is indeed always nice to hear from “a lifelong non-theist, [who has] an outsiders viewpoint & ways of thinking that religious & ex-religious folk don’t have, so can sometimes bring a clarity to the discussion that they can’t…”

            It’s all in the interpretation! This involves such convoluted, stretch-of the-imagination thinking that anything could mean anything! Black can be interpreted as white! IMO believers place far too much value on interpretations and interpreters.

            You’re right. It is all in the interpretation… The correct interpretation, that is. In order to find gold and diamonds archeologists must dig deep… it is the same with truth. And, sometimes, in the pursuit of truth, things that we thought were true before become utterly false. What we thought was black turned out, upon closer examination, to be white. What we thought was completely contradictory turned out to be perfectly harmonious. Surly you are familiar with these types of changes. This is why interpreters are so important. We need them to make sure that what we’re seeing at face value is not totally false. In fact, in the times of the Talmud, the people that were considered heretics were the ones that maintained that the Old Testament was to be interpreted literally and at face value. Ever since the birth of Judaism our Rabbi’s have fought against the idea of a literal Old Testament. Indeed, a literal Old Testament would be riddled with contradictions, grammatical errors and just plain absurdities.

            “People often perceive contradictions because they don’t look into the inside of things, but see only the surface that covers the exterior. If they would penetrate to the inside, to the soul of things, they would see that in reality there is no contradiction, there is no question and no answer; everything is one, strait and direct; it just branches out into many separate paths.” (Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira)

            In Judaism we have an annual holiday called “Purim” or “Lots” (as in the lottery). This holiday was set up by the Jewish sages in Persia, thousands of years ago. A decree on the lives of all Jews in Persia was taken back by King Ahasuerus because of a series of completely random and lucky coincidences… or so it seemed…

            So, ever since, every year, the Jews celebrate the mask of coincidence and of the seemingly random “lots” that govern our world. This is perhaps what the Old Testament means when it warned us of the power of “Amalek.”

            “Remember what Amalek perpetuated against you ON THE WAY…. When they CHANCED upon you en route struck down your appendage… You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget.”

            Amalek symbolizes our “worst enemy.” And who is our “worst enemy;” that we are supposed to obliterate from beneath the sky?

            Chance. Coincidence. Randomness. Lots.

            >

          • In reply to #126 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            I made this comment in response to another poster here today, making the same sort of interpretation based comments.

            .Interpretations and interpreters! Give me a break! Everyone with whom you’re arguing is capable of coming to his or her own conclusions without resorting to an interpretation by someone else. Why do you hand over your own capacity for judgement to another person? You can read English. Use your own critical faculties and see if this makes sense to you. Other people can do this, why do you need to rely on the word of some authority? The opinion on which you place great store could well be some crackpot living in splendid isolation in a cave somewhere.

            Could I suggest an analogy? A member of a book group is expected to give their own response to a book, not simply regurgitate the opinions of a professional reviewer. You have the capacity to evaluate source materials all by yourself. Admittedly your source material would not be in English ( Hebrew?). You’re better educated than your sages, and I would surmise, of equal intellect. You are capable of reading the translations and coming to your own conclusions as to their worth.

            To a man, theistic contributors to the posts on RDFRS rely on given interpretations. I know you respect the opinions of those who have gone before, but I think you owe it to yourself to seek your own answers.

          • In reply to #127 by Nitya:

            You have the capacity to evaluate source materials all by yourself. Admittedly your source material would not be in English ( Hebrew?). You’re better educated than your sages, and I would surmise, of equal intellect. You are capable of reading the translations and coming to your own conclusions as to their worth.

            I understand, very well, that I have the capacity to evaluate source material (in Hebrew and Aramaic) all by myself. And I do, from time to time, take a stab at it―just as all Torah Jews have been doing forever. This is what the Talmud is referring to when it tells us that there is no school of study that does not come up with a new interpretation; every day something new is revealed. So it seems that the sages themselves have given us the power to evaluate source material and come up with our own interpretations… The “government” has given weapons to its “citizens,” the weapon, in this case, being the power to question. No question is shunned by Judaism; never was and never will be. Our Torah is massive, as every generation of Jews since Sinai has added a substantial amount of “new” material to it.

            If you would learn the Talmud (30+ volumes accompanied with a massive sea of commentary) you wouldn’t be as quick to say that the sages weren’t educated or that I’m more capable than them… but even so…

            Later “sages” are not scared to directly argue with earlier sages if the opportunity arises… and I’m not either… If you’d learn the Talmud though… its basically a highly competitive debate on everything you can imagine. No detail, no matter how small, is taken for granted. And, its not only about metaphysics and religion; a large part, if not most of the Talmud is about mundane law, similar to civil law. Very tedious stuff… calculations… The Talmud looks more like a law book on crack rather than a story book.

          • In reply to #123 by Nitya:

            In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist: It’s all in the interpretation! This involves such convoluted, stretch-of the-imagination thinking that anything could mean anything! Black can be interpreted as white! IMO believers place far too much value on interpretations and interpreters.

            Hello Nitya…. 8-) We can’t expect anything else from the religious, since they have no facts, evidence, process or explanatory theory for their faith – belief despite all the evidence – & their claims to know things they don’t know….

          • In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist:

            where faithist folk can make anything they want out of the vague, illogical & contradictory holy book texts confected, reverse-engineered & revised by many men over millenia to suit the zeitgeist & religion mafia needs of the times.

            Not in my religion. Our sages (again: thousands of years ago) set up strict laws as to how we are allowed to interpret the Old Testament. These laws are, in essence, complex literary techniques. Any one that deviates from these 13 literary techniques has no voice in the law. We read these principles every day in the morning prayer: “Rabbi Yishmael says: Through 13 rules is the Old Testament elucidated…”

            1) Through a conclusion inferred from a lenient law and vice versa. (commonly known as a “fortiory”)

            2) Through tradition that similar words in different contexts are meant to clarify one another.

            3) Rules deduced from a single passage of Scripture and rules deduced from two passages.

            4) The general and the specific.

            5) The particular and the general.

            6) The general, the particular, and the general.

            7) The general which requires elucidation by the particular, and the particular which requires elucidation by the general.

            8) The particular implied in the general and excepted from it for pedagogic purposes elucidates the general as well as the particular.

            9) The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of the special regulation which corresponds in concept to the general, is thus isolated to decrease rather than to increase the rigidity of its application.

            10) The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of some other special regulation which does not correspond in concept to the general, is thus isolated either to decrease or to increase the rigidity of its application.

            11) The particular implied in the general and excepted from it on account of a new and reversed decision can be referred to the general only in case the passage under consideration makes an explicit reference to it.

            12) Deduction from the context.

            13) When two Biblical passages contradict each other the contradiction in question must be solved by reference to a third passage.

            After application this produced our “Oral Law.” And this is what we spend our whole life on… “literary analysis…”

          • In reply to #128 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil: In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Mac said: where faithist folk can make anything they want out of the vague, illogical & contradictory holy book texts confected, reverse-engineered & revised by many men over millenia to suit the zeitgeist & religion mafia needs of the times.

            Not in my religion.

            Mac: You say that your religion isn’t based on even older versions of myths & explanations of reality invented due to men’s (it’s always men, isn’t it?) massive ignorance of reality? Why do you assert that your sect of your cult is any different from any of the other 1000′s of extinct or extant religions, which all claim to hold The Truth about everything?

            Our sages (again: thousands of years ago) set up strict laws as to how we are allowed to interpret the Old Testament. These laws are, in essence, complex literary techniques. Any one that deviates from these 13 literary techniques has no voice in the law.

            So your ‘sages’ (ie religion memeplex managers) dictated what you were allowed to think about their man-made claims, assertions & opinions confected to address massive ignorance of reality & maintain their social in-group power structure over the downtrodden, persecuted, illiterate, fearful masses?

            I would agree that the Jewish faith is in some ways more sophisticated than other cults, which I think is partly due to its older age – having had more time to evolve – but also because the religion has never had enough size or finances, or the state dominance & political power to inculcate their beliefs & overpower or eliminate their competitors as various other in-groups have.

            After application this produced our “Oral Law.” And this is what we spend our whole life on… “literary analysis…”

            Your Talmudic Laws are better than some holy texts I’ve read, but they are still founded on unevidenced, unsupportable & fixated myths that have no standing in the 21st century where we have far better methods, research, knowledge & foundations for our acceptance of proven reality – as we know it so far, which is revisable & updateable after the openly, consistently & critically assessed discoveries of new evidence….

          • In reply to #132 by CdnMacAtheist:

            So your ‘sages’ (ie religion memeplex managers) dictated what you were allowed to think about their man-made claims, assertions & opinions confected to address massive ignorance of reality & maintain their social in-group power structure over the downtrodden, persecuted, illiterate, fearful masses?

            Look at comment #130

          • In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist:

            As for benefits in ‘this life’, what do you call prayer, or the imposition of your religious beliefs, restrictions & punishments on out-groups for the social & political benefit of you & your religion?

            Some people believe in a Creator but don’t pray because they believe that this Creator doesn’t care about them. I repeat: how is that “wishful?” How would you psychoanalyze that?

            And in regards to Schroeder, he’s just showing how the idea of a Creator is not completely alien. He doesn’t base on bias. In fact, the link you provided was more focused on dealing with Schroeder’s presentation of physics and other sciences rather than bashing him for his biases. The link was more like, “this physics equation is wrong because…” rather than say “this guy is not even worth it; he’s just to biased.” And it was regarding the argument in physics that you and I cant really comment on.

          • In reply to #129 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #122 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Some people believe in a Creator but don’t pray because they believe that this Creator doesn’t care about them… How would you psychoanalyze that?

            Critical thinkers would likely conclude that such theists have become disenchanted because their prayers were always ignored by the sky-fairy Creator of Genesis. My children were raised to think for themselves and would agree with my assessment of ‘persecutory delusions’ being expressed by these gullible people of the book. Raising kids to become critical thinkers inoculates them against contracting religion.

          • In reply to #102 by CdnMacAtheist:

            It has been pretty clearly shown by neuroscience that ‘Free Will’ (religiously invented to address the problem of evil) doesn’t exist in reality.

            Sam Harris wrote an excellent book on the matter. I agree, from a strictly scientific perspective, free will is an illusion. Interestingly enough though, when I introduced this idea to my atheist friend, he refused to accept it… This just seemed to be to much for him. I’m happy to see that your more honest with yourself on the issue…

            My opinion is that free will can only exist if G-d exists.

            Perhaps I will address some of your other points later…

          • In reply to #112 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Mac said: It has been pretty clearly shown by neuroscience that ‘Free Will’ (religiously invented to address the problem of evil) doesn’t exist in reality.

            Sam Harris wrote an excellent book on the matter. I agree, from a strictly scientific perspective, free will is an illusion. Interestingly enough though, when I introduced this idea to my atheist friend, he refused to accept it. This just seemed to be to much for him. I’m happy to see that your more honest with yourself on the issue. My opinion is that free will can only exist if G-d exists.

            I’ve read Harris’ books & Blogs, so I have a good understanding of his views – along with many others with complimentary & opposing opinions, including some RDF Posters. The classic theological claims about ‘free will’ are not only illogical & contradictory considering the alleged omni-powers of ‘God’, but are negated by the recent findings of neuroscience research & other explanations of how the subconscious brain & conscious mind actually operate. Read Dennett, Stenger, Shermer, Pinker, Thompson, Grayling, Ridley, etc….

  38. Part 2

    My question is this: Even with natural selection, the universe still seems to have been designed. It just seems to perfect to have been a mere accident or coincidence.

    You don’t understand evolution if you think intelligent life came about by accident or coincidence. That was the genius of Darwin was to understand how you can get the appearance of design without actually have a designer. If you read some of Dawkins books that explain evolution that is one of the first things that Dawkins does is to make very clear that it’s not just random chance. He gives examples of computer programs some that just work by chance and some that work via a mocked up version of natural selection and shows how complex structures quickly flow from the second but not the first. 

    Also, what you are doing there is an example of the Hubris that I was talking about before. You look at the universe and it’s hard to understand so you immediately resort to analogies about the world you do know and just apply those analogies to the universe. You can at least understand how complex things like watches come to be so you assume there has to be a bigger watch designer who made the universe. It’s the same kind of thinking that led people to think that the Earth had to be the center of the universe. 

    I challenge you to give me examples of how you figured that the G-d of the Jews is “bad.” I’m dead serious, I’ll be happy to thoroughly clear all of the misconceptions and assumptions that you might have…

    I try to avoid the constant mocking of religion that some people like to indulge in on this site but wow even I’m kind of at a loss as to how to reply to that in a serious way. Assuming you were serious there a lot of times people are just being sarcastic and I miss the joke and if that’s the case well done. But I suspect you are serious and if you are it’s a testimony to how much religion can warp minds that anyone could read the old testament and not see that the God portrayed there is a major jerk. Incest, rape. slavery, and genocide are all sanctioned by the OT God. 

     

    • In reply to #91 by Red Dog:

      You don’t understand evolution if you think intelligent life came about by accident or coincidence. That was the genius of Darwin was to understand how you can get the appearance of design without actually have a designer.

      Well said. I agree, evolution does indeed show how “you can get the appearance of design without actually having a designer.” This is what Richard Dawkins meant when he said that Darwin, for the first time, made it possible for an intellectually fulfilled atheist to exist. I will add, however (although this does not disprove your point), that it is fathomable to say that G-d would have purposely designed the world in the way of evolution. And, He would have done this to teach us a lesson: if you want to accomplish you must take it one step at a time, your actions must “evolve.” Anyway, I understand what your saying about the “genius” of evolution. What I don’t understand though, is how something can come from nothing. In other words, what was the “cause” of the universe? And, if you can answer another question for me, btw, what exactly did the “big bang” produce before the process of evolution started?

      But I suspect you are serious and if you are it’s a testimony to how much religion can warp minds that anyone could read the old testament and not see that the God portrayed there is a major jerk. Incest, rape. slavery, and genocide are all sanctioned by the OT God.

      Thankfully, as Jews, we don’t believe in the old testament as being its own entity. You are 100% right, not only does the old testament seem to sanction some pretty “bad” stuff, but it is also riddled with grammatical errors and other such problems. However, we believe that when G-d gave us the “old testament” it was accompanied by a very essential “partner,” called, the Oral Law. Initially, the Oral Law was meant to be passed down, generation to generation, by mere word of mouth (very strict rules were laid as to how exactly this would be done). Some time in our history however, we were forced to write the Oral Law down. Anyway, the Oral Law is there to compliment the “old testament.” The old testament can be compared to notes one takes in class; they are there only to remind one of the greater picture. Good notes can remind one of all the material taught by the instructor in class. At mnt Sinai, we were taught the Oral Law and we were given the old testament as “notes.” In fact there are “thirteen ways in which we dissect the old testament…” These are complex rules that have to do with the laws of inferences and stuff like that…

      When one goes through the Oral Law (and its massive) it becomes clear that the old testament has a very good sense of morality after all. To give one example: the old testament seems to sanction the death penalty. In reality, though, the “death penalty” is more of an idea or lesson than an actual “death penalty.” In order to actually receive this penalty, very many unlikely-to-happen details must fall into place. This is why the Talmud says: “a court of law that puts one person to death in seventy years is considered murderous and bloody.”

      • In reply to #92 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

        I that it is fathomable to say that G-d would have purposely designed the world in the way of evolution.

        Why would a benevolent creator design a universe so that it operates in a way that just about maximises the suffering of living things ?

        Michael

      • In reply to #92 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

        In reply to #91 by Red Dog:

        Thankfully, as Jews, we don’t believe in the old testament as being its own entity

        Jews don’t believe in the old testament at all. They use the Torah which overlaps a lot with the OT but is not at all identical. There are texts in the Torah that aren’t in the OT and vice versa.

  39. In reply to #92 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

    In reply to #91 by Red Dog:
    I will add, however (although this does not disprove your point), that it is fathomable to say that G-d would have purposely designed the world in the way of evolution.

    Hello again AATROAE. Your statement is superfluous because there is no evidence for any kind of god, plus evolution – primarily by natural selection – makes one unnecessary.

    What I don’t understand though, is how something can come from nothing. In other words, what was the “cause” of the universe?

    You could read the recent book ‘A Universe From Nothing’ by Lawrence Krauss for the hypothesis of how quantum physics makes ‘nothing’ (not the biblical ‘nothing’, which doesn’t exist) unstable & makes ‘something’ more likely. Browse ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ for some views on this. Here’s 2 examples:

    http://www.csicop.org/sb/show/why_is_there_something_rather_than_nothing

    http://www.amazon.ca/Universe-Nothing-There-Something-Rather/dp/1451624468

    And, if you can answer another question for me, btw, what exactly did the “big bang” produce before the process of evolution started?

    As far as we know, ~9.7 billion years of cosmic expansion, with gravitational accretion of hydrogen & helium causing star births, where fusion formed more complex atoms before ending in star deaths, which scattered matter until further generations of stars fused complex matter, almost all without biology since the universe was & is nearly all hostile to any life.

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

    Life emerged from physics & chemistry on Earth ~4 billion years ago when self-replicators and natural selection enabled evolution.

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

    The universe is not ‘perfectly tuned’ for life, but life has emerged in a unique set of planetary circumstances while barely surviving many mass extinctions, so that we may well be the only life form able to discover & contemplate our cosmic history.

    I am awed by these facts & don’t need any provincial & puny deity to give me reasons to live humanely & productively during my one short life…. Mac.

  40. In reply to #106 by CdnMacAtheist:

    Apprenticeship Course, then my apprenticeship with 1 day a week at the college & 2 evenings doing ‘GCSE A Levels’.

    Yet another parallel! Before taking up the cadetship at UNSW, my father had to matriculate ( O levels). This entailed a correspondence course from our version of a community college. When I recall scenes from my childhood, I see the kitchen table covered in calculations and Dad’s slide rule.

    Dad spent the last year of uni as a full time student. This meant that we had to survive on very little. I know what it’s like to suffer hardship, though my father never took on a second job. The lot of working class people trying to get an education is littered with obstacles. IMO an enquiring mind is the best asset you can have in life.

  41. In reply to #117 by CdnMacAtheist:

    …not physically threatening

    That goes without saying! ☺

    Twisted irony – the suspect will more than likely be charged with a ‘hate crime’, yet the victims were not Jewish. I don’t know, it all just sounds like a Twilight Zone plot; i.e., delivers a clear message that should enlighten folks.

    @OP ~

    But at least I’ll know I’ve told him the truth

    I think you are right on the money. Perhaps there will be a Student Secular Alliance in your area.

    • In reply to #118 by bluebird:

      I think you are right on the money. Perhaps there will be a Student Secular Alliance in your area.

      Probably, although he’s still got a number of years before he’ll be old enough to join one.

      I was surprised to see this topic resurrected, but it was interesting to read the most recent discussions. Even the comments by assumptionsaretherootofallevil, while not strictly on topic, were extremely illuminating into the mindset of those who firmly believe in God despite all rational evidence to the contrary and further strengthen my resolve to help my son recognize both the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking. Much like I teach him to be skeptical of just about every commercial we see on television. It’s not enough to simply say, “well, this product may or may not be a scam and some people believe it actually works.” Instead, where possible, I tell him that a particular product is a scam and back it up with the reasons why I know it to be the case.

      I keep coming back to the question of why religious beliefs somehow get a “pass” from society when any other irrational belief is fair game for ridicule. If my son asked me whether there are fairies, or whether homeopathy is really effective, or whether people really do get abducted by aliens or see ghosts, I would have no problem telling him no, plain and simple. None of this, “well, some people believe in this stuff and therefore you have to have an open mind about it.” If I tell my son that acupuncture is useless and that he should rely on western medicine to treat diseases, I’m not a bad parent for indoctrinating my son (despite what proponents of acupuncture may feel). I’m just telling him the truth. But if I tell him that there is no God (or, at least, no God actually worth worshiping)? Am I suddenly a bad parent for forcing him to become an atheist? I don’t think so.

      So, yeah. I will continue to teach my son rational thinking skills and the tools of skepticism. But I will also continue to teach him that some things are just plain wrong, regardless of how many people believe in them. And I will explain exactly how and why I know that those things are wrong instead of just saying it is so and expecting him to believe me. Again, as assumptionsaretherootofallevil has reminded me, the idea of a big sky daddy that watches over us and will reward us with eternal life is an extremely attractive one — so attractive, in fact, that people will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to find any way to justify a belief in it. I used to be one of those people, so I know first hand how an otherwise smart and rational person can allow himself to be convinced of something he really wants to believe. If I want my son to avoid catching this particular disease, I have to be willing to provide him with regular vaccinations against it.

      • In reply to #119 by godzillatemple:

        Even the comments by assumptionsaretherootofallevil, while not strictly on topic, were extremely illuminating into the mindset of those who firmly believe in God despite all rational evidence to the contrary and further strengthen my resolve to help my son recognize both the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking.

        Even the comments by…, while not strictly on topic, were extremely illuminating into the mindset of those who firmly don’t believe in God despite all rational evidence to the contrary and further strengthen my resolve to help… recognize both the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking.

        You seem to have you’re mind made up; you’re going to tell you’re son that “there is no God…” Or maybe… make him “recognize the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking…” Semantics…

        assumptionsaretherootofallevil has reminded me, the idea of a big sky daddy that watches over us and will reward us with eternal life is an extremely attractive one — so attractive, in fact, that people will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to find any way to justify a belief in it.

        …has reminded me, the idea of being free to do whatever we please, is an extremely attractive one — so attractive, in fact, that people will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to find any way to justify a belief in nothing.

        “Mental gymnastics” has always, for thousands of years, been a huge part of my religion.

        “Consequently, he who wishes to attain to human perfection must therefore first study logic, next the various branches of mathematics in their proper order, then physics, and lastly metaphysics.” (Maimonides, 1135-1204)

        There we’re no atheists in ancient times. So, when our sages would engage themselves in science, philosophy and math it was not with the intention of justifying their beliefs or of becoming “apologists.”

        If anything taught me how to “think,” it would be the Talmud. The Talmud (written by the “sages”) is massive and is riddled with the strictest forms of literary analysis, and regular analysis, possible.

        Only through learning our Torah can one develop a true appreciation for it. For does one develop a full appreciation for science before delving in to its every detail? Can one claim that any specific subject has no wisdom to it before devoting themselves to fully learning that subject?

        It is for this reason that all 70 members of the main, Jewish court, are required, by the “old testament,” to be fluent in all branches of knowledge.

        • In reply to #124 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

          In #119 godzillatemple said: Even the comments by AATROAE, while not strictly on topic, were extremely illuminating into the mindset of those who firmly believe in God despite all rational evidence to the contrary and further strengthen my resolve to help my son recognize both the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking.

          You seem to have your mind made up; you’re going to tell your son that “there is no God…” Or maybe make him “recognize the attraction and the fallacy of such thinking…” Semantics…

          Mac: There is a very basic difference between free-thinking & faithist-thinking, and that is the filters & blinkers inculcated & dictated by religions, which preclude seeing, pondering or accepting proven reality as uncovered by freethinkers & scientists.

          Godzillatemple said: AATROAE has reminded me, the idea of a big sky daddy that watches over us and will reward us with eternal life is an extremely attractive one – so attractive, in fact, that people will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to find any way to justify a belief in it.

          …has reminded me, the idea of being free to do whatever we please, is an extremely attractive one — so attractive, in fact, that people will go through all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to find any way to justify a belief in nothing.

          Mac: Your religious indoctrination precludes you from seeing that we non-theist freethinkers study, ponder, accept & understand many things, but don’t necessarily ‘believe in’ anything, since that is a faith position.

          “Mental gymnastics” has always, for thousands of years, been a huge part of my religion. “Consequently, he who wishes to attain to human perfection must therefore first study logic, next the various branches of mathematics in their proper order, then physics, and lastly metaphysics.” (Maimonides, 1135-1204)

          Mac: Except that metaphysics is unnecessary to have a full & wide-ranging comprehension of reality.

          There we’re no atheists in ancient times.

          Mac: That is an unfounded assertion, since there were many a-/non-/anti-theists in ancient times, although those were dangerous positions to hold in those (even in present) times – you Jewish folk should well understand how it feels to be persecuted for your positions.

          So, when our sages would engage themselves in science, philosophy and math it was not with the intention of justifying their beliefs or of becoming “apologists.”

          Mac: Yeah, because you – like all other types of faith-heads – knew all the TRUE answers to all questions about reality. Of course, in those days, the truth about reality was mostly unknown & secular investigations were prohibited – according to holy texts – so their ignorance & inventions of deities was understandable, but these days we should & do know better, despite the continued claims, assertions & enforced ignorance by those in the pay of, in fear of & submissive to, religion memeplexes…

          If anything taught me how to “think,” it would be the Talmud. The Talmud (written by the “sages”) is massive and is riddled with the strictest forms of literary analysis, and regular analysis, possible.

          Mac: But only if filtered through your specific preconceptions & dogmas – with suitable threats & punishments for straying from ‘The Truth.’

          Only through learning our Torah can one develop a true appreciation for it. For does one develop a full appreciation for science before delving in to its every detail? Can one claim that any specific subject has no wisdom to it before devoting themselves to fully learning that subject?

          Mac: All my study of & comprehension of reality, knowledge & science has been via non-theist freethinking – without any blinkers & filters forced on me by faith mafias to prop up their delusional versions of reality. Since you have no experience of a life free of internal religion, you cannot perceive of how & what I think, so you cannot offer rational opinions about that, can you? As a free-thinker, I have been exposed to different sects & cults during my 63 years & have seen why, what & how they think, which I reject on the grounds of lack of evidence, logic & consistency, plus all the harm done by them – including to me & my life.

          It is for this reason that all 70 members of the main, Jewish court, are required, by the “old testament,” to be fluent in all branches of knowledge.

          Mac: Only if the acquired knowledge conforms to – or is made to fit into – the fixated conclusions & dogmas of the Jewish faith.

          • In reply to #125 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Since you have no experience of a life free of internal religion, you cannot perceive of how & what I think, so you cannot offer rational opinions about that, can you?

            Is this kind of comment really productive? Instead of attacking the argument you’re attacking the arguer―a very attractive, yet a very unproductive and flawed form of arguing. For all you know I was once an atheist… or wasn’t… Maybe I do have “experience of a life free of internal religion;” how would you know?

            Secondly, on the same token, I can just as easily tell you that “you have no experience of a life with religion and therefore you can’t offer opinions on that….” But I don’t. It unproductive and not necessarily true.

            I’m sorry about your experiences with the mafia. I do not endorse any type of mafias. The sad truth is that every group will produce some bad representatives…. if you give them enough time.

          • In reply to #131 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #125 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Since you have no experience of a life free of internal religion, you cannot perceive of how & what I think, so you cannot offer rational opinions about that, can you?

            Is this kind of comment really productive? Instead of attacking the argument you’re attacking t…

            Your documents were written by men, for men in the masculine and they reflected the male values of the time. (51% of the worlds population are just chattels) They attribute those highly prized masculine values onto a god, because, a god would obviously be a great person, and great people of that time behaved like the god of the old testament.

            The books you rely on to support your argument, are clearly not based on evidence. Two quick examples. The Jews were never en mass in Egypt as a subjugated body of slaves. The Noah story is a copy of an older Babylonia tale recorded on cuneiform tablets. It’s written in black and white. (Or clay indentations) And don’t get me started on Genesis. I know you can do mental gymnastics which will satisfy your fellow travelers, but it don’t stand up in court. It doesn’t convince anyone except the adherents. I know you have a ancient history of scholarly discourse, but again, that is proof of nothing.

            Distilled down, as I have for CumbriaSmithy, there is no evidence for or against god. Your belief can only be based on faith in the absence of evidence. Which I have no problem with. But your religion, like all religions, should be practiced by consenting adults in private. A devastating example of religion intruding into the real world is, the modern political claim by the Jews of Israel, that god gave them exclusive use of a piece of land, based on your documents, that have no evidentiary support. The root of all evil is a lay down misere in this claim. The settlements are a crime against humanity.

            God’s got a universe to run. He’s a bit busy. Billions of galaxies, all containing billions squared stars, and each star has planetary systems beyond my ability with the English language to express a number high enough to comprehend. Now your assertion, based on your non evidentiary backed Torah, is that God took the time to carve out a small piece of land on a small planet orbiting a small star in a run of the mill small galaxy, and declare this is yours forever. That is what you are arguing. Deep exhale…. Phew. Give ME A BREAK.

          • In reply to #134 by David R Allen:

            Your documents were written by men, for men in the masculine and they reflected the male values of the time. (51% of the worlds population are just chattels) They attribute those highly prized masculine values onto a god, because, a god would obviously be a great person, and great people of that time behaved like the god of the old testament.

            Yes, G-d did teach Moses the Torah and then he wrote it down. So I guess you’re right, most of our documents were written by a man’s hand. All wisdom comes from the Creator though. Devorah was a prophetess and a leader of the Jews at some point in biblical times (the book of Devorah). She was a women. Also, our “documents” are splattered with great women and the lessons they taught us. Time and time again the Torah praises the Jewish women. Now, G-d is not a person! That’s made clear in the Old Testament when it forbids the use of any physical images or objects as symbolic to G-d! So no, G-d wouldn’t “obviously be a great person;” G-d wouldn’t be a person at all. G-d created the very concept of a “person.”

            The books you rely on to support your argument, are clearly not based on evidence. Two quick examples. The Jews were never en mass in Egypt as a subjugated body of slaves. The Noah story is a copy of an older Babylonia tale recorded on cuneiform tablets. It’s written in black and white. (Or clay indentations) And don’t get me started on Genesis. I know you can do mental gymnastics which will satisfy your fellow travelers, but it don’t stand up in court. It doesn’t convince anyone except the adherents. I know you have a ancient history of scholarly discourse, but again, that is proof of nothing.

            And how do you know that my people weren’t slaves in Egypt? Its been an accepted fact for thousands of years. Lack of archeological evidence in the enormous Sinai dessert doesn’t prove anything. And, would Egypt, the losers, care to record their defeat?

            If the biblical account of the flood is true then it would be very plausible to believe that an unidentified, ancient Babylonian author would tweak it and plagiarize it. The flood did take place in the very beginning of time.

            Our mental “gymnastics” has produced countless converts that were previously not “adherents” in the slightest… you know that.

            Our ancient history of “scholarly discourse” shows that we’ve started the “scholarly discourse” trend. There is something weird going on here… The small Jewish nation has made more of an impression on the world than anyone else…

          • In reply to #138 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            . And how do you know that my people weren’t slaves in Egypt? Its been an accepted fact for thousands of years. Lack of archeological evidence in the enormous Sinai dessert doesn’t prove anything. And, would Egypt, the losers, care to record their defeat?

            Au contraire, being an accepted fact for thousands of years is NO reason to treat this as evidence! ( this is a logical fallacy) Physical evidence is the safest way to determine the validity of the Exodus story ( myth). I don’t agree that Egypt would be reluctant to record a loss. Historical documents show records of defeats all the time. Take a look at Greek and Persian history; these things are recorded even though they’re given political spin by the establishment of the time.

          • In reply to #142 by Nitya:

            Au contraire, being an accepted fact for thousands of years is NO reason to treat this as evidence! ( this is a logical fallacy) Physical evidence is the safest way to determine the validity of the Exodus story ( myth). I don’t agree that Egypt would be reluctant to record a loss. Historical documents show records of defeats all the time. Take a look at Greek and Persian history; these things are recorded even though they’re given political spin by the establishment of the time.

            I guess you’re right… its no evidence. Its just interesting. Why’d it take so long to deny? I guess there’s no proof for or against the exodus, just subtle connections here and there. There’s the story of the Hyksos and some interesting archeological findings. Its all shady at this point in time, I admit. But why should we believe any ancient writings at all? It seems like some people like to pick and choose. Search google: “evidence for the exodus,” and you’ll get a bunch of interesting stuff. Even if there’s little evidence is it fair to rule the exodus out completely? Perhaps more evidence will come. I heard of some University that’s yet to publish some hieroglyphics that they found, depicting the exodus as recorded in the bible. Are you ruling it out?

          • In reply to #145 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            Search google: “evidence for the exodus,” and you’ll get a bunch of interesting stuff.

            I looked at what I consider an unbiased source, which states: “A century of research by archaeologists & Egyptologists has found no evidence which can be directly related to the Exodus captivity & the escape & travels through the wilderness, & most archaeologists have abandoned the archaeological investigation of Moses & the Exodus as “a fruitless pursuit”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exodus

            Believers would likely go to a faithist link – to support their presuppositions – but that’s the claim, not the evidence…. Mac.

          • In reply to #145 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            . I guess you’re right… its no evidence. Its just interesting.

            To your credit AATROAE you’re the first theistic poster to admit error in my time as a member of RDFRS! Usually a well reasoned argument or accurate fact is completely ignored and the discussion just moves on, or the original proposition is simply re-phrased and presented again for a second and sometimes third time. Look up the comments of CumbriaSmithy for example and you will see that this is the case.

            I acknowledge that the point of view of believers is often mocked and ridiculed ( though you have to agree with Mac, that this is nothing in comparison to penalties given for thought-crime in the past). In the case of Jewish thought-crime, it was the very recent past!

            Theists still have the numbers and they still hold political sway, so I don’t think you should be crying foul just yet. You have to develop a thick skin…..just as we do….and blot out those of ill-intent. Atheists do this a great deal of the time. We hold our tongue when it’s not prudent to make our position known and speak out when we can.

          • In reply to #153 by Nitya:

            In reply to #145 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            . I guess you’re right… its no evidence. Its just interesting.

            To your credit AATROAE you’re the first theistic poster to admit error in my time as a member of RDFRS!

            AATROAE is not just a wise name…

          • In reply to #153 by Nitya:

            I acknowledge that the point of view of believers is often mocked and ridiculed (though you have to agree with Mac, that this is nothing in comparison to penalties given for thought-crime in the past). In the case of Jewish thought-crime, it was the very recent past!

            Even more to the point, right now atheists can get the death penalty in 13 countries, while other forms of ‘thought crimes’ like apostacy & heresy have severe penalties among faithists in theocracies, never mind the enmity, wars & vendettas between rival interpretations within monotheistic faiths in many countries – most within-state violence is either sectarian or interfaith hatred.

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/10/atheists-death-penalty-_n_4417994.html

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

            http://funvax.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/current-religious-conflict-zone/

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

          • In reply to #155 by CdnMacAtheist:

            . Even more to the point, right now atheists can get the death penalty in 13 countries, while other forms of ‘thought crimes’ like apostacy & heresy have severe penalties

            Hi Mac.
            That really puts it into perspective. I feel sorry for theists because their feelings are hurt over a bit of ridicule, when atrocious things are happening across the globe. The dreadful things that happened to atheists in the past (and even those supporting the wrong brand of belief,) don’t bear thinking about! Religion is the most divisive force on the planet, and all religions are based on make believe!

          • In reply to #156 by Nitya:

            In reply to #155 by CdnMacAtheist:

            . Religions are the most divisive force on the planet, and they’re all based on make believe!

            I wasn’t so shocked to discover that underlying some of the cultural antipathy between Russians and Ukrainians in the Ukraine is religious. BBC Radio Four’s From Our Own Correspondent had a piece from their local guy interviewing ordinary folk both sides. The Russians were immediately suspicious of him and his religious convictions. He felt it best not to say that he was Atheist but that he was brought up in the Anglican tradition. This was immediately taken as an admission of moral lassitude, of women priests, gay marriage and group sex. This was precisely the problem they had with the Ukrainians, western facing, immoral, heathens.

            It is perhaps the licensing of moral judgements and accusations of moral inferiority that religion facilitates that allows most often mere conflicts to become wild cancers.

          • In reply to #157 by phil rimmer:

            It’s the endless moral judgements isn’t it. They’re always looking for some fault that we must be keeping well hidden.

            I didn’t realise there was a religious element to the current conflict in the Crimea, though I’m not surprised….there usually is. I’ll have to keep my eyes and ears open from now on. After hearing about the interviewer it has confirmed my view that the very notion of religion turns us into liars.

          • In reply to #158 by Nitya:

            In reply to #157 by phil rimmer:

            It’s the endless moral judgements isn’t it.

            Yep.

          • In reply to #159 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #158 by Nitya: It’s the endless moral judgements isn’t it.

            In reply to #157 by phil rimmer: . . . Yep.

            Hi Phil…. 8-)

            I would reword that to say: It’s the endless & hypocritical moral judgements, isn’t it?

            Of course, knowing that they represent their specific Deity Dude’s selection of his ‘Chosen Ones’ makes for a whole lot of selfish, biased, ego-stroking superiority, making their immoral revelations, dictates, restrictions & punishments seem quite reasonable – at least to themselves…. Mac.

          • In reply to #164 by CdnMacAtheist:

            I would reword that to say: It’s the endless & hypocritical moral judgements, isn’t it?>

            Hi Mac. I’m not sure that I agree with you in the use of the word “hypocritical”. It’s often hypocritical, especially with those in power, but in my experience it’s not always the case. Sometimes people are very conflicted because they want to behave ethically and when they look around at their fellow parishioners they see them acting in an extremely unethical, hateful way at times. I have a special compartment in my mind for such people. I try not to step on their toes or confuse them even more.

          • In reply to #173 by Nitya:
            * In reply to[ #164]((#comment-box-164′) by CdnMacAtheist:*

            For me it really is about the amount of judging going on. It is the meddlesome thought policing that I had in mind.

            Moral dogma can cut both ways on the hypocrisy. It clearly can reduce hypocrisy by producing consistency, given the mother and father of all sticks and carrots. It is necessarily incomplete, though, and outside of simple situations will be applied with inconsistency. RCC dogma by not allowing a lesser evil to be chosen generates harm which looks hypocritical to those of us who know there is only one life. The greatest hypocrisies also seem actively facilitated by the cuddly idea of last minute redemption. Earthly harms can accrue so long as you achieve enough genuine remorse and love for your putative forgiver, a quite likely scenario given the prospect of Hell.

          • In reply to #173 by Nitya:
            In reply to #164 by CdnMacAtheist: I would reword that to say: It’s the endless & hypocritical moral judgements, isn’t it?>

            Hi Mac. I’m not sure that I agree with you in the use of the word “hypocritical”. It’s often hypocritical, especially with those in power, but in my experience it’s not always the case. Sometimes people are very conflicted because they want to behave ethically and when they look around at their fellow parishioners they see them acting in an extremely unethical, hateful way at times. I have a special compartment in my mind for such people. I try not to step on their toes or confuse them even more.

            Hi Nitya. I agree with your empathy for some religious folk who try to be more ethical & moral than their religion calls for if their holy texts are taken literally.

            Phil’s original Comment was referring to ‘religion’, not ‘the religious’, so I was talking about the hypocrisy of the memeplexes, not how worthy & non-fundamentalist folk interpret & apply them.

            Of course, the evidence-free holy books are so vague, illogical & contradictory that everyone – from the faith managers to the laypersons – can & does interpret them in very different ways to suit their personal needs or as influenced by the zeitgeist, but always ‘in the light of’ their basic faith – unless they are in the process of losing their faith by really ‘thinking outside the book’…. Mac.

          • In reply to #176 by CdnMacAtheist:

            .Phil’s original Comment was referring to ‘religion’, not ‘the religious’, so I was talking about the hypocrisy of the memeplexes, not how worthy & non-fundamentalist folk interpret & apply them.

            Okay, in that case I agree. I’ve probably personalised the whole argument because I have a couple of friends who fit into the category I mentioned. In one case, members of the church deliberately endorse specific political candidates. My friend objects strongly to this as she is on the other side of the political spectrum ( my side, as it turns out). She also has a gay sister. Need I say more.

            You can probably see my dilemma. My views coincide with those of my friend in more areas than they diverge.

          • In reply to #153 by Nitya:

            I acknowledge that the point of view of believers is often mocked and ridiculed ( though you have to agree with Mac, that this is nothing in comparison to penalties given for thought-crime in the past). In the case of Jewish thought-crime, it was the very recent past!

            Indeed.

            Theists still have the numbers and they still hold political sway, so I don’t think you should be crying foul just yet. You have to develop a thick skin…..just as we do….and blot out those of ill-intent. Atheists do this a great deal of the time. We hold our tongue when it’s not prudent to make our position known and speak out when we can.

            I think my skin is thick. I was just commenting on the fact that the mocking and ridiculing is something that both parties are guilty of. It appeared to me that Mac was saying that only religious people try to shove their opinions down peoples throat. There are some atheists, however, that are guilty of this also. The proof to that is the mocking and ridiculing (granted, can go both ways).

          • In reply to #138 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:
            In reply to #134 by David R Allen:

            Yes, G-d did teach Moses the Torah and then he wrote it down.

            You’re claiming to know things that nobody knows, just like all the Christians, Islamics, Mayans, Mormons, Scientologists, Cargo Cults, etc, etc, etc.

            Now, G-d is not a person! That’s made clear in the Old Testament when it forbids the use of any physical images or objects as symbolic to G-d!

            Remember that holy books are just the (ordinary) claim, not the (extraordinary) evidence.

            And how do you know that my people weren’t slaves in Egypt? Its been an accepted fact for thousands of years. Lack of archeological evidence in the enormous Sinai dessert doesn’t prove anything.

            Man-made myths written in a holy book ‘doesn’t prove anything’, but years of searching by Israeli experts found nothing to support ‘the exodus’, which is good evidence for doubting the biblical story – no matter how many indoctrinated & gullible faithists believe in it.

            If the biblical account of the flood is true then it would be very plausible to believe that an unidentified, ancient Babylonian author would tweak it and plagiarize it. The flood did take place in the very beginning of time.

            There is no evidence that anything like the ‘biblical flood’ ever took place, so all the confected narratives built upon it is baseless. Also, who says that The Flood ‘took place at the very beginning of time’? I understood that there was about 1500 years of OT history preceding that story?
            https://si.lds.org/bc/seminary/content/library/student-resources/ot/old-testament-times-at-a-glance-chart_eng.pdf

            Our mental “gymnastics” has produced countless converts that were previously not “adherents” in the slightest… you know that.

            Your ‘mental gymnastics’ led to claim ‘countless converts’, which seems to be ~10,000 per year according to this link: http://judaism.about.com/library/3_askrabbi_o/bl_simmons_conversionnumbers.htm

            David said: A devastating example of religion intruding into the real world is the modern political claim by the Jews of Israel, that god gave them exclusive use of a piece of land, based on your documents, that have no evidentiary support. The settlements are a crime against humanity.

            I am not sure of what “settlements” you’re referring to but they are certainly not in the category of “crime.”

            As is common within religious in-groups, your claims are blinkered, filtered & biased in favour of your cultural history, for the benefit of your specific faith memeplex.

            There should not have been an Israeli State formed after WW2, which was post-holocaust apologetic pandering to ancient biblical myths, plus the 65 years since has been terrible for everyone in & around the area & may yet be responsible for a religiously inspired ‘armaggedon’ brought about by all 3 of the (evidently not) great monotheist faiths, which are all ego-stroking variations of your Sky Daddy Dictator, which clearly shows that ‘religion poisons everything’.

            If you are offended by my ‘telling it like it is’, well tough shit, since I’ve been far more offended & affected by all manner of faithists imposing their belief-sets on my personal life & the social & political systems in 3 countries for 63 years…. Mac.

          • In reply to #138 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #134 by David R Allen:

            Your documents were written by men, for men in the masculine and they reflected the male values of the time. (51% of the worlds population are just chattels) They attribute those highly prized masculine values onto a god, because, a god would obviously be a great…

            Genesis 1-27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

            Sounds pretty clear to me. Or do I need to do some mental gymnastics, a forward three and a half with pike to find some other meaning in these words.

            The only evidence every found in Egypt confirming the presence of Jews was small band of mercenaries who had “Strange religious practices”. It is impossible for the event described in the old testament to be factual, without leaving evidence of possession and escape recorded by the Egyptians, who scribed everything, or just one piece of archeology out of the Sinai. The story is more likely to refer to the time of slavery under Babylon, with the name changed to Egypt to dodge retaliation.

            I know this takes a high degree of difficulty of mental gymnastics, but I am gobsmacked that you make this claim. This is a gold medal winning performance.

            I’ am not sure of what “settlements” you’re referring to but they are certainly not in the category of “crime.”

            “What Settlements”. The stealth invasion and usurping of Palestinian lands by fundamentalist religious Jews who claim their own self written document as justification for this crime. Stop the settlements. Make peace with just borders.

            The flood. Nobody with any rational credibility believes the flood story. It’s an obvious plagiarism from the early Babylonian account. No geological evidence has ever been found. The amount of water required is impossible. etc etc. Read Irving Finkler’s book, The Ark Before Noah. Sound science, not mysticism.

            And as an aside, just so you know my politics on Israel. I did a three month tour of Europe with my wife. She planned it all. She would constantly ask me where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. I finally came up with three things. St Andrews golf course. The Large Hadron Collider. And Auschwitz Berkenau. I stood at the end of that railway line between the gas chambers and wept. I support the existence of the state of Israel. But of all of the peoples on the planet, surely the Jewish nation must know what it is like to be oppressed, and for Israel to behave like it does to another people of this planet is beyond tolerance. It’s time to make peace. It’s time to demolish the invasion by stealth settlements from Palestinian land. It’s time for the moderate secular Israeli’s to sideline religious fanatics like you, and become a national know for the rest of eternity as one of peace and kindness towards all peoples. And then maybe we could take the heat out of some of those Islamic religious fundamentalists, just like you, who want to blow up my Australian friends in Bali, or fly planes into buildings. I’m on Israel’s side, but I am fast running out of patience, like the rest of the non American world.

          • In reply to #152 by David R Allen:

            Genesis 1-27 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
            Sounds pretty clear to me. Or do I need to do some mental gymnastics, a forward three and a half with pike to find some other meaning in these words.

            The correct translation of the verse is this: “And thus Elokim created man in the form that was made for him. In the form of Elokim he created him, male and female, He created them.”

            The form of Elokim is Wisdom and free choice. Mans body was created with wisdom and free choice. “And thus Elokim created man (physical body) in the form that was made for him” What is that “form?” “the form of Elokim” Mans physical body was made in the form of Elokim; wisdom and free choice. The verse does not say “And thus Elokim created more Elokim’s” First it specifies “And thus… created man…” Then it says what attributes He added to man’s body…

            I know this might be considered “mental gymnastics” to you. But, if you believed that the Old Testament was Divine, would you not scrupulously analyze its every word? That’s why we do what we do… We’re dealing with the Wisdom of the Creator here… its going to require some mental effort and activity. My explanation above is just a small taste…

          • In reply to #171 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            I know this might be considered “mental gymnastics” to you. But, if you believed that the Old Testament was Divine, would you not scrupulously analyze its every word?

            No, and how dare you analyze every word of the divine. If he is out there, he is going to be mightily miffed with you attributing meaning to a phrase that “he” did not intend. This is also highly revealing in that it says that the Divine person you worship, is not a great communicator. If he’s so smart, how come he can’t write a clear sentence. If he’s so smart, why did he choose a nomadic goat herding tribe to reveal this universal truth, who had to use “Chinese whispers” to carry it forward until someone invented writing. If he’s so smart and wants all humans to read and obey his poorly written Divine scripture, why did he not “reveal” it to the Chinese scribes of that time, who had writing, and could have got it down word for word.

            Or it all could be explained by a Spoonerism in Genesis 1:27, Then god created man in his own image…. etc. It actually reads, “Then Man created God in his own image.” Once you make that correction to Genesis, the rest of the bible makes sense.

          • In reply to #183 by David R Allen:

            No, and how dare you analyze every word of the divine. If he is out there, he is going to be mightily miffed with you attributing meaning to a phrase that “he” did not intend.

            “For this commandment that I command you today―it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heaven, for you to say, ‘who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?’ Rather, the matter is very near to you―in your mouth and in your heart―to perform it.” (Deuteronomy 30:1 11-14)

            Pretty clear… “It is not in the heaven” implies that it is on earth. Now, here the bible also answers our potential question, which you asked: “How can we know, exactly, what You intend to convey in Your words?” or “Who can ascend to heaven for us and take it for us…?” In other words, “we already have what You gave us (the script), but who can ascend to heaven for us and take for us… the exact meaning… “so that we can listen to it and perform it (correctly)?”

            The answer, as provided by scripture, is, “the matter is very near to you―in your mouth and in your heart―to perform it.”

            “in your mouth” meaning, in your interpretation.

            This combined with our Oral Law, dating back to Sinai, which G-d taught to Mosses and Mosses handed down, is why were confident in our interpretations.

          • *In reply to #186 by AATROAE: In reply to #183 by David R Allen: No, and how dare you analyze every word of the divine. If he is out there, he is going to be mightily miffed with you attributing meaning to a phrase that “he” did not intend.

            “For this commandment that I command you today―it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heaven, for you to say, ‘who can ascend to the heaven for us and take it for us, so that we can listen to it and perform it?’ Rather, the matter is very near to you―in your mouth and in your heart―to perform it.” (Deuteronomy 30:1 11-14)

            It’s clear to me, recalling that bible folk believed thinking was done in the heart instead of in the head, that god was created in your brain, acting out through your body & spread by your mouth. Isn’t freethinking interpretation of old, vague, man-made, holey texts amazing?

            This combined with our Oral Law, dating back to Sinai, which G-d taught to Mosses and Mosses handed down, is why were confident in our interpretations.

            Was ‘Mosses’ a Freudian slip twice? Taken from the first sentence in this link: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/indexmag.html?http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/artjul98/jpmoss.html.

            “Mosses are quite interesting, simple plants and without roots.” I can interpret that to mean that Moses was simply a mythical ‘plant’, grown superficially on the rocky terrain of history, without any foundation…. 8-)

            That’s no more of a distortion of reality than I see from many a wholly babble foolussopher. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sophistry

            Sorry, but the still anonymous AATROAE in these last comments has fallen too far into self-serving word salads for me to remain serious…. Mac.

          • In reply to #183 by David R Allen:

            This is also highly revealing in that it says that the Divine person you worship, is not a great communicator. If he’s so smart, how come he can’t write a clear sentence. If he’s so smart, why did he choose a nomadic goat herding tribe to reveal this universal truth, who had to use “Chinese whispers” to carry it forward until someone invented writing. If he’s so smart and wants all humans to read and obey his poorly written Divine scripture, why did he not “reveal” it to the Chinese scribes of that time, who had writing, and could have got it down word for word.

            He didn’t want to hand it to us on a silver platter. Rather, it was written in a way in which we’d have to work, really hard, to acquire its true meaning. Then we’d truly feel accomplished and proud. This requires seemingly unclear passages… And this is true with everything in life; if you want to acquire something worth-it, something meaningful, you must work for it. Here’s what I wrote earlier.

            You’re right. It is all in the interpretation… The correct interpretation, that is. In order to find gold and diamonds archeologists must dig deep… it is the same with truth. And, sometimes, in the pursuit of truth, things that we thought were true before become utterly false. What we thought was black turned out, upon closer examination, to be white. What we thought was completely contradictory turned out to be perfectly harmonious. Surly you are familiar with these types of changes. This is why interpreters are so important. We need them to make sure that what we’re seeing at face value is not totally false. In fact, in the times of the Talmud, the people that were considered heretics were the ones that maintained that the Old Testament was to be interpreted literally and at face value. Ever since the birth of Judaism our Rabbi’s have fought against the idea of a literal Old Testament. Indeed, a literal Old Testament would be riddled with contradictions, grammatical errors and just plain absurdities.

            “People often perceive contradictions because they don’t look into the inside of things, but see only the surface that covers the exterior. If they would penetrate to the inside, to the soul of things, they would see that in reality there is no contradiction, there is no question and no answer; everything is one, strait and direct; it just branches out into many separate paths.” (Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira)

            In Judaism we have an annual holiday called “Purim” or “Lots” (as in the lottery). This holiday was set up by the Jewish sages in Persia, thousands of years ago. A decree on the lives of all Jews in Persia was taken back by King Ahasuerus because of a series of completely random and lucky coincidences… or so it seemed…

            So, ever since, every year, the Jews celebrate the mask of coincidence and of the seemingly random “lots” that govern our world. This is perhaps what the Old Testament means when it warned us of the power of “Amalek.”

            “Remember what Amalek perpetuated against you ON THE WAY…. When they CHANCED upon you en route struck down your appendage… You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget.”

            Amalek symbolizes our “worst enemy.” And who is our “worst enemy;” that we are supposed to obliterate from beneath the sky?

            Chance. Coincidence. Randomness. Lots.

            Our job is to work to acquire the meaning and purpose in every detail; every word and letter.

          • In reply to #187 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil:

            In reply to #183 by David R Allen:
            He didn’t want to hand it to us on a silver platter. Rather, it was written in a way in which we’d have to work, really hard, to acquire its true meaning.

            WHY.

            Mental gymnastic gold medal.

            Readers. This is a gilt edge example. AATROAE relies on the words of his holy book. That is his sole argument. He never questions the origin or the voracity of the words. He never resorts to a rational argument or cites third party corroborative evidence. Clearly the book is hand made, man made. What is more instructive from this example is that AATROAE actually believes what he writes. AATROAE will make decisions based on what he has written here, in real life. AATROAE will build settlements on Palestinian land, prolonging the conflict because his book says god gave the land to him. This is why persons of any faith or creed, fundamentalists who make decisions based on religion must be sidelined for the sake of the future of the planet. This is the justification for Dawkins original title for his book “Religion, the Root of all Evil.”

            Extend the principle AATROAE has exposed to multiple faiths. You have a room full of fundamentalists, all carrying their books, all believing without evidence or having done any due diligence, everything that is said in their book, and claiming that everybody elses book is heresy. Infidels. Unbelievers. It is about this time that the fundamentalists pulled out the Kalashnikov and bombs. Thank you AATROAE for exposing such a vivid example of religious thinking in action.

          • In reply to #134 by David R Allen:

            Distilled down, as I have for CumbriaSmithy, there is no evidence for or against god. Your belief can only be based on faith in the absence of evidence. Which I have no problem with. But your religion, like all religions, should be practiced by consenting adults in private. A devastating example of religion intruding into the real world is, the modern political claim by the Jews of Israel, that god gave them exclusive use of a piece of land, based on your documents, that have no evidentiary support. The root of all evil is a lay down misere in this claim. The settlements are a crime against humanity.

            Freedom of religion? Btw, Judaism does not encourage converts. When somebody wishes to convert the first step is to convince them not to. We only want sincere people. If they want opium they can go somewhere else for cheaper. “A crime against humanity?” The holocaust was a “crime against humanity.” Organizations like the Nazi party… Torture people to death while laughing. I’ am not sure of what “settlements” you’re referring to but they are certainly not in the category of “crime.”

          • In reply to #134 by David R Allen:

            God’s got a universe to run. He’s a bit busy. Billions of galaxies, all containing billions squared stars, and each star has planetary systems beyond my ability with the English language to express a number high enough to comprehend. Now your assertion, based on your non evidentiary backed Torah, is that God took the time to carve out a small piece of land on a small planet orbiting a small star in a run of the mill small galaxy, and declare this is yours forever. That is what you are arguing. Deep exhale…. Phew. Give ME A BREAK.

            G-d is not “busy.” G-d is G-d. Just because G-d created humans doesn’t mean G-d is a human. There has been tons of ink spilled on this topic but you’ve asked for a break… and a very reasonable request it is… When I was a kid I’d give out deep exhales and beg for a break during math class all the time… Math is genius though…

          • In reply to #131 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil: In reply to #125 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Mac said: Since you have no experience of a life free of internal religion, you cannot perceive of how & what I think, so you cannot offer rational opinions about that, can you?

            Is this kind of comment really productive? Instead of attacking the argument you’re attacking the arguer – a very attractive, yet a very unproductive and flawed form of arguing. For all you know I was once an atheist… or wasn’t… Maybe I do have “experience of a life free of internal religion;” how would you know?

            I don’t think I have been ‘attacking’ you anywhere here, but since you are here on RDFRS making claims on behalf of your faith (remember the subject of this thread) I have made known my opinion on all religious belief systems, especially about the mind-dulling indoctrination of children, which Jews certainly do both physically & mentally.

            Secondly, on the same token, I can just as easily tell you that “you have no experience of a life with religion and therefore you can’t offer opinions on that….” But I don’t. It’s unproductive and not necessarily true.

            I have had (a high statistical probability) far more exposure to & experience of both Christian & Jewish societies than you’ve had of non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution. If you have suffered from those things, it is a high likelihood that it was from other faithists & their influences & out-group enmities.

            I’m sorry about your experiences with the mafia. I do not endorse any type of mafias. The sad truth is that every group will produce some bad representatives…. if you give them enough time.

            I referred to ‘faith mafias’ – which all religions are – and if you are a willing member of & supporter of any of them, then you hold some responsibility for their influence & actions – no matter how moderate or liberal your personal interpretations are of their commandments, revelations & dogmas….

          • In reply to #136 by CdnMacAtheist:

            I have had (a high statistical probability) far more exposure to & experience of both Christian & Jewish societies than you’ve had of non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution. If you have suffered from those things, it is a high likelihood that it was from other faithists & their influences & out-group enmities.

            I didn’t know you we’re an expert on my life.

            especially about the mind-dulling indoctrination of children, which Jews certainly do both physically & mentally

            What’s the difference between physical mind dulling and mental mind dulling again? Also, that’s another example of an unproven statement. You seem to be trying to indoctrinate me…

            “This is how it is you brainwashed theist…. and don’t… don’t you dare think of anything otherwise!!!”

            How about some “old fashioned,” step by step logic?

          • *In reply to #141 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil: In reply to #136 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Mac said: I have had (a high statistical probability) far more exposure to & experience of both Christian & Jewish societies than you’ve had of non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution. If you have suffered from those things, it is a high likelihood that it was from other faithists & their influences & out-group enmities.

            I didn’t know you we’re an expert on my life.

            I’m not, that’s why I said ‘high statistical probability’ & ‘high likelihood’, but if you want to dispute my statement, then go ahead & tell me about the “non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution you have suffered from”?

            Mac said: . . . especially about the mind-dulling indoctrination of children, which Jews certainly do both physically & mentally

            What’s the difference between physical mind dulling and mental mind dulling again? Also, that’s another example of an unproven statement. You seem to be trying to indoctrinate me…

            Religious inculcation from birth is mentally mind-dulling, while circumcision, dietary & lifestyle restrictions are physically mind-dulling which – if you were an non-mind-dulled freethinker – may be enlightening to you.

            “This is how it is you brainwashed theist…. and don’t… don’t you dare think of anything otherwise!!!”

            From my non-theistic, freethinking observations over 55+ years, I can clearly see that you are a “brainwashed theist”, part of which is that you can’t see that.

            How about some “old fashioned,” step by step logic?

            That’s like what I use, but it’s “new-fashioned logic” using the best & latest evidence, without the religious blinkers & filters you see through due to your non-removable, “old fashioned” god goggles….

          • In reply to #146 by CdnMacAtheist:

            while circumcision, dietary & lifestyle restrictions are physically mind-dulling which – if you were an non-mind-dulled freethinker – may be enlightening to you.

            Lots of non-Jews get circumcised for health reasons. The kosher “diet” is big enough that we can be as healthy as we choose. There is no restriction on exercise either. So I still don’t know how we physically abuse our children. Mentally? We encourage and train our children to question everything from a young age regardless of the potential consequences…. Jews have been doing this forever.

          • *In reply to #147 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil: In reply to #146 by CdnMacAtheist:

            Mac said: . . while circumcision, dietary & lifestyle restrictions are physically mind-dulling which – if you were an non-mind-dulled freethinker – may be enlightening to you.

            Lots of non-Jews get circumcised for health reasons.

            Wrong, lots of non-Jews have their unsuspecting infants circumcised, without consent, on biased medical advice about infections which are easily avoidable with simple & easy hygene. How many infants were allowed the opportunity to give informed consent regarding what god supposedly ‘created’ perfect in all life forms?

            I was circumcised at age 28 for medical (not disease related) reasons, so from personal experience & clear evidence I wouldn’t inflict that procedure on anybody, since it is certainly both physically & mentally dulling, apart from being painful & inconvenient, which is why consenting adults very rarely chose it for themselves….

            The kosher “diet” is big enough that we can be as healthy as we choose.

            Your diet is still heavily restricted for purely theological reasons, which have been made obsolete with modern food rearing & preparation methods, so the Kosher diet is just cultural & in-group faithist enforcement for irrational reasons.

            So I still don’t know how we physically abuse our children.

            Not just the removal of body parts, but the physical restrictions entailed in attending religious classes, services, ceremonies & daily habits like Sabbath duties that force children into limiting their physical freedom to just be kids.

            Mentally we encourage and train our children to question everything from a young age regardless of the potential consequences…. Jews have been doing this forever.

            You may be able to question written or oral interpretations of dogma, but you aren’t allowed to question the existence of god, which is the life-long indoctrinated foundation for everything you think about, so you are obviously very restricted from a freethinking non-theists viewpoint.

          • In reply to #150 by CdnMacAtheist:

            How many infants were allowed the opportunity to give informed consent regarding what god supposedly ‘created’ perfect in all life forms?

            “If circumcision is what G‑d wants, why aren’t we born circumcised? G‑d created the world imperfect, and gave us the mission to perfect it. G‑d created wheat; humans make bread. G‑d created a jungle; humans create civilization. The raw materials are given to us, and we are to use our ingenuity to improve on the world that we were born into. This is symbolized by the bris—we are born uncircumcised, and it is up to us to “finish the job.” This is also true metaphorically. We each have instincts and natural tendencies that are inborn, but need to be refined. “I was born that way” does not excuse immoral behavior: we are to cut away any negative traits, no matter how innate they may seem.” (Rabbi Aron Moss)

            “The evil Roman ruler Turnus Rufus asked Rabbi Akiva why Jews perform circumcision. If God wanted men circumcised, would he have not created them that way? Rabbi Akiva answered that God provided circumcision as an act for man to improve himself, something that even God cannot do for him.[10]” (Daniel Isenberg MD quoting the Midrash Tanchuma, Tazria 5)

            http://www.healthychildren.org/english/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/pages/Circumcision.aspx?

            Come on… do we need a child’s consent for everything? Do you not agree that in the early stages its up to the parents? Its not like circumcision is damaging to health; if anything its more likely beneficial. Some non religious parents decide on circumcision as well.

          • *In reply to #167 by AATROAE: In reply to #150 by CdnMacAtheist: How many infants were allowed the opportunity to give informed consent regarding what god supposedly ‘created’ perfect in all life forms?

            “If circumcision is what G‑d wants, why aren’t we born circumcised? G‑d created the world imperfect, and gave us the mission to perfect it. Rabbi Akiva answered that God provided circumcision as an act for man to improve himself, something that even God cannot do for him

            So you agree with your religion that irreversibly mutilating the male (only?) sexual organ without permission or informed consent is an ‘improvement? I think that’s immoral & mentally sick – but not surprising within faithist in-groups, like those that mutilate females even more.

            Come on… do we need a child’s consent for everything?

            For an unnecessary & irreversible cultural mutilation of an infant’s body, I think it’s an unexcusable infringement of human rights. If an informed adult wishes to endure this habit, then let them – but we know that would hardly ever happen, right? Would you think the same way about branding a big A on an infants chest, or cutting off a finger or toe?

            Do you not agree that in the early stages it’s up to the parents?

            Parents do not own their offspring, so they have no right to mutilate them, especially based on a mythological deity confected by other humans in ancient times. Would you agree to parents sacrificing their children like the Mayans did, to satisfy their gods?

            It’s not like circumcision is damaging to health; if anything its more likely beneficial.

            Since I have personal experience with this – as I wrote earlier – I dispute your faith-biased, mind-dulled assumptions made to support the dogmas of your faith.

            Some non religious parents decide on circumcision as well.

            Any benefit to an adult is claimed based on disputed medical opinions – easily circumvented with simple, non-invasive hygene – which has nothing to do with why Jews inflict this mutilation on innocent infants who are allowed no choice in something they have to live with (or rather, without) for life. The same logic goes for habitual & enforced parental indoctrination of mythical revelations & restrictions into their offspring, which is the Topic of this Thread…. Mac.

          • In reply to #150 by CdnMacAtheist:

            You may be able to question written or oral interpretations of dogma, but you aren’t allowed to question the existence of god, which is the life-long indoctrinated foundation for everything you think about, so you are obviously very restricted from a freethinking non-theists viewpoint.

            We’re allowed to question whatever we want, even the existence of a Creator. I’ve done it.

          • *In reply to #168 by AATROAE: In reply to #150 by CdnMacAtheist: You may be able to question written or oral interpretations of dogma, but you aren’t allowed to question the existence of god . . .

            We’re allowed to question whatever we want, even the existence of a Creator. I’ve done it.

            The problem I’m having is that I know nothing about you except that you’re of the Jewish faith. It would be helpful if you fleshed out yourself, your circumstances & which flavour of religion are you, such as born-into, converted from another, cultural, secular, orthodox, ultra-orthodox, literalist, fundamentalist, creationist or whatever? A name would help too – like I use Mac, which is my actual nickname!

            My sex, age, locations, upbringing, education, careers, retirement, philosophy, ethics, morals & exposure to religions, have all been openly discussed in my comments (quite a bit on this thread) since I have nothing to hide from all the good folk I’ve debated with for 4 years. Even my Username & Avatar clearly indicate what to expect from me on most subjects.

            You can read through all my History & find that ‘what you see is what you get’, with clear, relatively simple compositions that explain my positions – not always as respectfully & submissive as faithists expect – based on much study of my extensive library, online reading & watching of many relevant videos.

            You will also see that I have been – with good reason – very hard on all religions, but I haven’t been disrespectful, mocking or ridiculing of you personally, although it’s difficult to separate the beliefs from the believers since religion all exists solely inside individual brains, however it got forced in there, which I understand & have sympathy for, until you deliberately & knowingly spread your god virus to others – especially innocent children – whether through personal, social, educational, political or legal influences.

            May I also point out that you don’t have a ‘right’ to not be offended when discussing such pervasive, invasive, important & dangerous global issues.

            I, as an a-/non-/anti-theist, may try to help others educate & free themselves from their mind-chains based on free-thinking, logic, critical analysis, rationality & evidence, but my opinions aren’t being forcibly indoctrinated into infants, children or gullible adults, nor are they infused during family & in-group ceremonies, in secular schooling, in laws or political influencing supported by massive tax-free religion business financing gathered via tax-deductable ‘voluntary’ donations.

            It is often hard to see from the inside just how pervasive the faith mafia memeplexes are in societies, but – as I said earlier – as an lifelong outsider I have seen it in operation both personally & in exposure to global news, reading, debates & history.

            In trying to influence folk to study, accept & live in reality based on all the evidence, I’m doing my bit – during my one short but awe-filled life – for humanity & other lifeforms, plus our one & only planet…. Mac.

          • In reply to #179 by CdnMacAtheist:

            It is often hard to see from the inside just how pervasive the faith mafia memeplexes are in societies, but – as I said earlier – as an lifelong outsider I have seen it in operation both personally & in exposure to global news, reading, debates & history.

            While “outsiders” can sometimes see a “big picture” that insiders might have more difficulty seeing due to their focus on the buzzing “details” around them, insiders have an important advantage. That advantage is access to the details. Outsiders don’t see the details and can therefore become overwhelmed by a seemingly disturbed “big picture.” One can’t just read the conclusion of a book and expect to write a valid review. Perhaps ideas presented in the conclusion we’re thoroughly explained in the actual book, leading to the… conclusion! Insiders have the ability to slowly gather up all the puzzle pieces that they have access to and put them together… or they can get caught up in one piece, one detail… Outsiders only have access to the finished product. They didn’t live the process and therefore don’t know the reasons for the final product.

          • *In reply to #182 by AATROAE: In reply to #179 by CdnMacAtheist:

            It is often hard to see from the inside just how pervasive the faith mafia memeplexes are in societies, but – as I said earlier – as an lifelong outsider I have seen it in operation both personally & in exposure to global news, reading, debates & history.

            While “outsiders” can sometimes see a “big picture” that insiders might have more difficulty seeing due to their focus on the buzzing “details” around them, insiders have an important advantage. That advantage is access to the details. Outsiders don’t see the details and can therefore become overwhelmed by a seemingly disturbed “big picture.”

            What I’ve seen by reading ‘the’ KJV Bible & some of ‘the’ Koran, is that to be deeply taken in by them one needs to be inculcated, taught, steeped, surrounded & regularly reinforced by sermons, singing, services, ceremonies, promises & threats until one doesn’t have enough mental functionality to assess clearly what isn’t part of or can be fitted into your foundational dogmas.

            Just try ‘unlearning’ your basic arithmetic or original language (or thinking only in metric if brought up in the imperial system, or thinking only in a new language). Even if you become very fluent, it’s hard to leave behind what you learned when very young, or not refer back to it if in difficulty or if stressed, isn’t it?

            The God Virus (read the book, by a once very religious top psychologist, if you want to see how it works) affects the growth (& later the disabling through disuse) of brain pathways & functionality – especially in innocent, helpless infants where small & very under-developed brains (necessary to allow birth through female skeletons modified by evolution for bipedalism) are extremely open to data, demonstration, copying & fixating vital learning processes.

            One can’t just read the conclusion of a book and expect to write a valid review.

            I have read some of the holy books, but I’m not limited to seeing all other information ‘in the light of those books’ by the enforced & habituated wearing of reality-filtering god goggles, as most faithists are.

            Perhaps ideas presented in the conclusion were thoroughly explained in the actual book, leading to the… conclusion!

            That’s circular reasoning, since your blinkers & filters prevent you from ‘thinking outside the book’ – just what the faith memeplex wants to protect itself from being weakened by rational, logical, consistent freethinking & actual facts, evidence, processes & explanatory theories that fully support natural reality.

            Insiders have the ability to slowly gather up all the puzzle pieces that they have access to and put them together… or they can get caught up in one piece, one detail.

            Especially if the insiders are prevented from seeing outside their dimly-lit faith cells – where enlightenment can show them better & healthier things – so all they are capable of doing is performing mental theological acrobatics within dogma-limited spaces!

            Outsiders only have access to the finished product. They didn’t live the process and therefore don’t know the reasons for the final product.

            If you were able to comprehend what I’ve already said – or if you’ve been free enough to read a lot of other literature & science – you’ll understand when I say that only well indoctrinated, mind-dulled faith slaves ‘know’ the reasons why they have firm beliefs, despite all the contradictory logic & rapidly increasing evidence.

            My interest in exploring & comprehending reality as uncovered by known facts have led me to the conclusion that all supernatural claims & assertions are both irrelevant & unnecessary to live a full, satisfying, ethical & moral life during my one time here in this universe.

            To answer another of your earlier points, there is a lot of rational physics, chemistry, mathematics, cosmology, logic & consistency in the multiverse hypothesis, based on real facts & evidence – as opposed to none of those features supporting any supernatural intelligence, deity, designer or creator, so your conflation of those two ‘explanations’ is factually baseless…. Mac.

          • In reply to #146 by CdnMacAtheist:

            I’m not, that’s why I said ‘high statistical probability’ & ‘high likelihood’, but if you want to dispute my statement, then go ahead & tell me about the “non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution you have suffered from”?

            I live in an ever growing atheist society that is constantly, publicly making fun of me. A large majority of them show no signs of even the slightest respect for their opponents. And ironically, they seem to be drilling the message in to the heads of as many people as they can: theism is a sickness, they are all biased, brainwashed, wishful and etc.

            I have two atheist friends. I’ve seen how they work.

          • *In reply to #149 by assumptionsaretherootofallevil: In reply to #146 by CdnMacAtheist:
            Mac said: I’m not, that’s why I said ‘high statistical probability’ & ‘high likelihood’, but if you want to dispute my statement, then go ahead & tell me about the “non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution you have suffered from”?

            I live in an ever growing atheist society that is constantly, publicly making fun of me. A large majority of them show no signs of even the slightest respect for their opponents.

            Wow, your evidence about the “non-theist societies, rules, laws, discrimination & persecution you have suffered from” is that you’ve verbally been made fun of…! That’s really terrifying & so horribly offensive – so much worse than all the actual harm that’s been done to Jews by other faithists over just those 2500 years.

            And ironically, they seem to be drilling the message in to the heads of as many people as they can: theism is a sickness, they are all biased, brainwashed, wishful and etc. I have two atheist friends, I’ve seen how they work.

            These evil atheists have the audacity to tell submissive faith slaves to free themselves from their mind-chains & think for themselves! That’s not very respectful to the poor folk they are verbally trying to free from religion mafia mind-slavery, is it?

            Oh, the cruel horror of it all, folk taking the time to show you better, freer ways of thinking about the wonders of reality, to show you how to save years of wasted time during your life, to save you all that money given to religion businesses & used to indoctrinate innocent children & control willingly gullible adults, or to finance political efforts to enact even more laws forcing their godless secularity on everyone in society!

            I wonder if any of them were previously religious & have any idea how safe & comforting it is to constantly submit to mythical delusions & not have to think about real things, by just following all the irrational & illogical rules of a uniquely ‘chosen’ in-group.

            Did they try to force their Atheist bible on you & recruit you into having dogmatic faith in their own mind-dulling beliefs, to submit to having their huge A branded on your chest, plus give regular & substantial financial donations to their tax-free Ponzi scheme to support their non-productive management structures?

            I bet you’re right pleased with yourself that you’re able to resist their dogmatic claims about evidence-based reality, or all those scientific facts, or the awesomeness of seeing reality without the filters of faith protecting you from heresy, apostacy or exclusion from your family & society because you dared to ‘think outside the book’ – whew, aren’t you lucky you’re protected from those unholy threats?

          • In reply to #151 by CdnMacAtheist:

            These evil atheists have the audacity to tell submissive faith slaves to free themselves from their mind-chains & think for themselves! That’s not very respectful to the poor folk they are verbally trying to free from religion mafia mind-slavery, is it?

            Convince me that there is no Creator with out calling me a “submissive faith slave” (even if you feel that’s what I’ am its just not respectful) Plenty of commentators on this site do not feel the need to use that kind of language when responding to me.

            I bet you’re right pleased with yourself that you’re able to resist their dogmatic claims about evidence-based reality

            I don’t deny the effectiveness of evidence based reality but certain things can’t be tested and are very rightfully left to the philosophers reason. For example, the idea of multiple universes is no better than the idea of a Creator. There will never be a way to bring any evidence for multiple universes because if we are able to observe another universe, does that universe not then just become an extension and part of our universe? And even though there’s no evidence for multiple universes, atheists would rather consider that than a Creator (all evidence and possible future evidence being equal).

  42. Let THEM decide. If they think Catholicism is correct, let them be Catholic. If they think Atheism is correct, let them be Atheist. Children should be raised to question, the result will be is they make their own minds up.

  43. In THE ARK BEFORE NOAH, British Museum expert Dr Irving Finkel reveals how decoding the symbols on a 4,000 year old piece of clay enable a radical new interpretation of the Noah’s Ark myth. A world authority on the period, Dr Finkel’s enthralling real-life detective story began with a most remarkable event at the British Museum – the arrival one day in 2008 of a single, modest-sized Babylonian cuneiform tablet – the palm-sized clay rectangles on which our ancestors created the first documents. It had been brought in by a member of the public and this particular tablet proved to be of quite extraordinary importance. Not only does it date from about 1850 BC, but it is a copy of the Babylonian Story of the Flood, a myth from ancient Mesopotamia revealing among other things, instructions for building a large boat to survive a flood. But Dr Finkel’s pioneering work didn’t stop there. Through another series of enthralling discoveries he has been able to decode the story of the Flood in ways which offer unanticipated revelations to readers of THE ARK BEFORE NOAH.

  44. Hi godzillatemple,

    I’m curious what other people (especially other parents) think about this matter. Is it enough to simply teach children critical thinking skills, explain why you don’t believe in God, and hope for the best?

    No it isn’t enough to simply teach the kids critical thinking. No, I would not advise teaching that I don’t believe in gods.

    For a parent to teach that they don’t believe in gods is just as bad as a parent teaching that they do believe in gods. It’s proscriptive because your parental authority will usually be taken by your child as ruling out the alternative which is the opposite of critical thinking.

    In addition, I personally did not teach that I do not believe in gods for the simple reason that – in common with Professor Dawkins – I have used my critical thinking to conclude that the only sensible conclusion is agnosticism. Like the Prof. my agnostic view is heavily leaning to the atheistic but that gives me no right to oppress children by forcing on them such a view.

    … the argument goes, … that children basically accept whatever their parents tell them, regardless of how ridiculous it may be, and if it’s wrong to raise children to be Catholics, Moslems, Mormons, etc., it’s just as wrong to raise them to be atheists.

    That is also my position, as above.

    I can’t help thinking that this is setting up a false equivalence … Teaching children there is no God is different from teaching them there is a God in one important respect – only one of those views is actually true.

    To me, saying “just teach kids to think for themselves and let them decide” is as bad as the creationists who want to see “Intelligent Design” presented as a viable alternative theory in schools so that kids can “make up their own mind” ..

    Now that really is a false equivalence.

    You’re comparing teaching a dogma as fact with teaching a skill. It’s like saying teaching that Manchester United is the World’s greatest football team is the same as teaching someone to play an excellent game of Chess. One is an opinion based on a bigoted interpretation of questionable, cherry-picked, ‘facts’ and facts. The other is a mixture of abilities including, but not limited to, mental agility and the ability to weigh and judge anything presented as evidence. Totally different. One, if successful, will produce a Man United fan, the other someone capable of applying thinking skills in a variety of settings – not just limited to playing chess.

    We all know that’s a bad idea since Intelligent Design is just plain wrong and has no place in a science class.

    Let’s be clear: The underlying reason we don’t teach ID in a science class is that it is not science. There is nothing wrong with, say, teaching ID in a class on creation myths as part of a comparative religion course.

    … imagine a parent refusing to teach their children that smoking crack cocaine is just plain wrong and instead choosing to just explain the health risks and trust their children to make up their own minds about it?

    I don’t have to imagine such a person. I am that parent. So far my adult Daughter has not smoked anything, even tobacco, and has not developed much of a taste for alcohol or even coffee. This is the direct, demonstrable, result of teaching thinking skills.

    Would any parent say they don’t mind that their kid is a crack addict as long as he is happy and made a rational, considered decision to start smoking crack?

    This is a false analogy. A lightweight belief in ‘spirituality’ is not like a weekly crack pipe.

    I try very hard to teach my 8-year-old son critical thinking skills. I try to teach him how important it is to have good evidence for something before believing it.

    I suggest the next step is: how to judge evidence. How do we know what is fact, and what is not fact?

    I try to teach him all the ways that people can be fooled (including how they can fool themselves).

    I introduced my Daughter to illusionists. It is important to know that you must remain skeptical – just because you can’t see how a trick is done doesn’t mean there is no trick. Just a suggestion.

    I try to teach him about all the things we know about the universe that contradict the classical notions of god embraced by most world religions.

    I couldn’t recommend this course of action. It is simpler, and more effective, to answer your child’s questions on why your an atheist by getting them to present what they believe to be evidence of gods and countering with another god – god versus god. The Invisible Pink Unicorn is excellent for this because she is designed (well, all gods are designed) for exactly this purpose.

    But so far I have stopped short of coming out and just telling him, “There is no God.”

    Good.

    Instead, I say that plenty of people believe in one sort of God or another …

    Comparative religion is very important. My personal view is that many people teach it too early. It’s important that some skill in critical thinking is in place first.

    I try hard to explain the reasons why I don’t believe in God.

    You’re trying too hard. People, particularly young people, need the freedom to be themselves, and that means you have to let go. This is, in effect, parenthood in microcosm – they need your support, and they need that support to become to grow into an individual, separate from you, with their own life. It’s the hard part of being a parent, the exciting part of growing up. Undermine that adventure and both of you are limiting the future.

    But I never just flat out teach him that there is no God, even though I know it to be true …

    You know more than me then.

    [My Son] has lots of religious friends and family members …

    Got that ‘T’ shirt – my Mother is a Priest.

    … and I don’t want to tell him that they are all just plain wrong.

    Good thinking.

    I am aware of the inherent hypocrisy of wanting to teach my son what I know to be the truth while complaining about other parents teaching their children what they “know” to be true.

    It’s not about hypocrisy, no matter how real that is, it’s about your Son and helping him to live a full and fulfilling life in truth.

    Perhaps I’m thinking about this too hard.

    You seem like a perfectly normal parent to me. As my Mum and Dad never stop reminding me; to them I will always be their little boy.

    Presumably, if he does learn critical thinking skills and is shown that the evidence simply does not support the concept of a God, then he will have no choice but to reject the notion of God and all the hurtful consequences that go along with it.

    Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If we do a good job of teaching our children simply to think, to seek evidence and the basics of probability and the facts of deception we will be off to a great start. There are still many other things to consider: Fear of death (pets, and animals in general, are a great help here), Desires and ambitions (support exploration, try to keep your child’s eyes on the broad horizon of their future, and the wide World, when they think of their future), Pleasure, Pain, Options, Choices, the needs and wants of others, social skills, and many other things affect their character development and their ability to see the World as it should be – their oyster.

    The problem is that I know plenty of very smart people who have good critical thinking skills that they apply to other areas who still have let themselves become convinced that God is watching their every action and listening to every thought.

    Based on that evidence I have to question your conclusion that these people have good critical thinking skills. In addition, this highlights how critical thinking, alone, is insufficient to ensure your child develops the abilities (plural because on doesn’t lead directly to the other) to identify and live a true life. Living with truth means having to accept that some of our conclusions mean we can’t just do what feels right to us as individuals. This is one reason why intelligent people like religion, they get a free pass to do what feels good – without reference to the rest of us. That’s not the whole shebang, but hopefully it’ll do to get you started.

    Of course, there’s no guarantee that simply telling him there is no God will accomplish anything.

    Dogmatic positions lead young people to either accept the presented position (typical non-critical behaviour) or to consider why other people think differently. If you want your Son to explore religion this will be the result if you have been successful at teaching him some critical thinking and presenting him with the dogma “There is no god”. What he will make of religion will depend on the level of life skills you have been able to teach him, including the level of critical thinking skills; skepticism, ability to judge and weigh evidence, skill at identifying and asking the important questions, an understanding of motivation and the skills of deception. But this, as above, is not enough. He must also be the kind of person who can stand on his own, confident and self-assured, and he needs to be at least a little worldly wise.

    He won’t get that by being wrapped up in cotton wool. Let him explore, and let him make mistakes.

    But at least I’ll know that I have told him the truth.

    Be careful not to be complacent, or one day you may come to realise that this is not enough.

    I hope that helps.

    Peace.

    • In reply to #160 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      For a parent to teach that they don’t believe in gods is just as bad as a parent teaching that they do believe in gods. It’s proscriptive because your parental authority will usually be taken by your child as ruling out the alternative which is the opposite of critical thinking.

      That is not clear to me. Absolutely no to any forcing of beliefs (masked as “teaching”) but yes to honesty about your own position if the topic is raised in a conversation. I cannot see any necessary proscription. But I can see deception.

      I think its very important right at the outset with kids that in certain things it is seen that (outside of my edicts on issues of staying safe, being kind and thoughtful and the like) my opinions are my opinions only. Facts and opinions are quite separate in character.

      No to any kind of deception. It is easy enough to state your own opinion then point to varieties of other opinions. Always give choices.

      I have frequently described to near universal indifference how I would, though, “lie” to my kids when young on a regular basis. I would say things like, you know when you have a flying dream, its because you are actually floating just a millimetre or two above the bed, or bubble gum wraps itself around your heart if you swallow it. These I’d mix in with other astonishing facts that are true. This was part of a regular game that would only last until the end of the day. It was their job to catch me out. If they hadn’t by the end of the day (they nearly always did) I would fess up to the clunker.

      Knowing that grown ups don’t always get to tell the truth, most often by simply not thinking enough like they were tasked to do, I believe better prepared them for a sceptical life. It also gave them the opportunity to argue with me with some kind of confidence.

      Recently (now in their late teens) they told me that this had been hard work. I intended it to be so and made my “lies” ever more subtle. The pay back for them is a maddening facility to shred my arguments now.

      • In reply to #161 by phil rimmer:

        In reply to #160 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

        For a parent to teach that they don’t believe in gods is just as bad as a parent teaching that they do believe in gods. It’s proscriptive because your parental authority will usually be taken by your child as ruling out the alternative which is the opposite…

        You have a very creative side to your parenting style. I think growing up in your household must have been fun! Fun and a bit confusing at times. I’ll bet your kids loved it, anyway. I could imagine the talk in the playground….”you’d never guess…..”

        • In reply to #163 by Nitya:

          In reply to #161 by phil rimmer:

          I think growing up in your household must have been fun! Fun and a bit confusing at times.

          Yes on both counts I think.

          My dad’s trick was to feign ignorance, but ask clever dumb questions. It always seemed to me that I came home from school and then got to teach my dad everything I had learned. Genius on his part. He knew the stuff but having me “teach” him made it stick in my head like glue.

          I always wanted to do that with my kids, but I could never stay schtumm and I’d spoil it by saying oh, yes, yes, so Pythagoras’s theorem gives us the formula for a circle, or whatever.

          I needed something extra. Something they could put me right on. So I hit on this. Which of the four astonishing things is the duff one? The credibility of each was tested until the tension of not knowing was relieved one way or another and the fibs identified.

          To be honest I’m very pleased with the results.

          • In reply to #165 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #163 by Nitya:

            In reply to #161 by phil rimmer:

            That sounds incredible! Marvellous! The method of my madness lay in exploring the natural world at every opportunity and by offering real explanations whenever the occasion arose. I’m pleased with the results as well. Each of my kids began a career in science though “life” intervenes at times and things don’t always work out as expected.

            Notice my use of the pronoun “I” in reference to child rearing. That’s because the bulk of the responsibility for establishing attitudes was left to me. My husband was and is a wonderful, caring father in most areas, however he is so steeped in the catholic tradition that he found it very challenging to give scientific explanations to natural events. He grew up in a world in which dogma, astrology, poltergeist, superstition etc were regarded as credible. These patterns of thinking are deeply entrenched and will probably last a lifetime.

            My father was a great example to me as well, though not in the creative way of your’s . At times the lengths he took to impart the wisdom of the world to us, were counterproductive. He insisted on teaching me calculus despite the fact that I was about ten or eleven at the time. All in all, I greatly appreciate the input of my father’s enthusiasm, even though I saw fit to modify it a bit with my own kids.

          • In reply to #166 by Nitya:

            In reply to #165 by phil rimmer:

            In reply to #163 by Nitya:

            In reply to #161 by phil rimmer:

            The method of my madness lay in exploring the natural world at every opportunity and by offering real explanations whenever the occasion arose. I’m pleased with the results as well.

            This is exactly as Richard Feynman describes his dad’s behaviour. It clearly works. Bravo!

          • In reply to #177 by phil rimmer:

            . This is exactly as Richard Feynman describes his dad’s behaviour. It clearly works. Bravo!

            Ha ha. I’ll keep my eyes open for some game changing discoveries.

    • In reply to #160 by Stephen of Wimbledon:

      Hi godzillatemple,

      I’m curious what other people (especially other parents) think about this matter. Is it enough to simply teach children critical thinking skills, explain why you don’t believe in God, and hope for the best?

      No it isn’t enough to simply teach the kids critical thinking. No, I w…

      Makes me wish I had those parenting years back again, not that I’d do things differently, I’d just be more mindful of my technique. I have a one year old grandson but you have to watch your p’s and q’s with the grandparent dynamic.

    • In reply to #170 by rzzz:

      How your child will think and behave as an adult is determined more by what their peer group thinks than by you. So choose their peer group wisely.

      I think this is exactly right for post pubertal kids. This is the phase of the second brain rewiring when individuality and separateness occurs. It does not, however, apply to pre-pubertal kids. There the most profound wiring is done forming most tastes and proclivities.

      Victoria Horner’s work on chimpanzee and human kids shows human kids will believe what an authority figure shows them above the countervailing evidence of their own eyes and reason. To an extent chimpanzee kids are cleverer and won’t be bullshitted.

      Human kids are born in effect prematurely to chimp kids. They are far more helpless. Their initial programming is to depend much much more on authority/as-if-kin figures. The rate of brain change is at its peak at 18 months after the brain has grown an astonishing 3 fold in size and a whole lot of new regions have been created that need to be variously hooked up but most of all need to be selectively disconnected. This change continues but tapers down in rate until puberty when a second phase of now competent individuation kicks off.

  45. Frankly, I couldn’t tell what an atheist upbringing would look like. Do I teach my children to pray to Atheos? Take them to mass on unholy days? Make them wear necklaces with no symbols on it? Send them to Saturday school?

    I really wouldn’t know. There is no atheist equivalence for religious behavior. Atheism is the absence of faith, not the opposite of it.

  46. Godzillatemple asks:

    Is it enough to simply teach children critical thinking skills, explain why you don’t believe in God, and hope for the best? Or should we also try hard to affirmatively teach them that there is no God (or, at least, that there is no valid reason to believe in God)?

    When my twin boys were little I obtained a number of figurines of various g-Ds, and explained the powers and proclivities of each of them, whose name you mustn’t write. They didn’t hear about the triple-headed biblegod until shortly before they attended kindergarten, by which time their reaction to anyone floating a discussion about “god” was to ask “which one”. Most theist are taken aback when a small child asks that question of them and my two little non-believers would often then enquire whether Yahweh, Jesus, or Spirit god was the deity to which they referred, or was it Osiris or Ra.

    Now grown they remain rational, non-believers, inoculated against faithism (thanks Mac) and resistant to other isms also. Additionally they renounce quackery and conspiracy theories. I recommend beating the theists to it by educating children early as to where bigotry originates. Such early education permits the child to understand prejudice and scapegoating, which is most useful these days.

    • *In reply to #189 by Len Walsh

      . anyone floating a discussion about “god” was to ask “which one”.

      I really liked the recommendation given by ACGrayling. He says that he always used the term “gods and goddesses” when speaking to his daughter as a child. After hearing this comment I decided to do the same and usually refer to “gods or goddesses” rather than singling one out for special attention. I think that framing the comment in such terms really puts the whole notion into perspective.

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