Question of the Week: July 23, 2014

147

This week we’d like your opinion on this: How much of holding onto religion comes from familial or other traditional practice and not from “true” belief in the doctrine? Explain why on the page, and let’s talk about it! The best suggestion will get a copy of An Appetite for Wonder, by Richard Dawkins.


Winner: tomleigh

This happens to be one of my ‘pet issues’ with the main causes of blind belief being the parental influence first and foremost. As an English ‘working class’ ‘baby boomer’ I grew up in an agnostic atmosphere, a polite title for my father’s atheist stand. I watched with interest the various Christian denominations develop their antagonism with each other and the way they projected their faith. Images springs to mind of the Birmingham Boys Brigade bands and in recent history in Ireland, street battles fought by children with bricks stones and molly cocktails, all based on religion. As a local press photographer in Melbourne Australia I entered all denominational family lives on a daily basis and mentally collected the background culture within those microcosms, often from ethnic migrants with strong religious views. It seemed that all believers regardless of their faith used ‘the book’ as the main family discipline and education tool. The book had Wall the answers necessary for a parent to gain credence on a moral question instead of using their own intellect or experience to provide an answer. I came to the conclusion that religion was as equally effective as any other ‘mind altering substance’ in the hands of the all truthful parent and as much a potent danger to the developing mind as alcohol or drugs. I have frequently argued those parents who subject their preschool infants and children to a constant barrage of religious doctrine, enforced worship, compulsory prayer and church attendance are guilty of subverting the child’s natural development of critical thought. Only today whilst traveling by train, I listen to two young adult males discussing their early days as church goers. One said he didn’t like going to church at first but found the social potential to be addictive and took to his family religion with ulterior motive. This is so perverse and so prolific it seems to be the main foundation for organised religion across all faiths and all countries. Remove the children from the equation and the religion would cease to exist within a few generations. I believe Religion should be viewed in exactly the same class as alcohol and it should be made illegal to subject a child under the age of 18 to any form of religious doctrine or pamphlet due to its emotional influence on the developing brain. I was stunned when watching a TV news item a senior Israeli Jewish woman actually claimed quite categorically the state of Israel and the Jewish people were given Palestine by God and it was therefore the right of Jews to live there and the Palestinians (she didn’t use that word) should get out. She like all of those before her have been told it is their ‘God Given right’….What’s even more alarming is most of the other religions base their origins on this single Jewish fictional deity, yet they fail to see the falsehoods they share? Ban children from Religious training, its the answer.

Runners up:

Runner Up #1: David R Allen I have frequently argued those parents who subject their preschool infants and children to a constant barrage of religious doctrine, enforced worship, compulsory prayer and church attendance are guilty of subverting the child’s natural development of critical thought. And there is now science to show how it is done. As the Jesuit’s boast, “Give me the child till 8, and I will give you the man.” What the Jesuits didn’t know, and what we do now know, is that our brains are not set in stone but are quite plastic and malleable. It’s commonsense. If you practice the violin, your brain lays down extra neural networks to support this activity. A person who goes blind in middle age, there brain will atrophy in the centres that deal with sight, and grown new networks in the aural areas. Their hearing improves. The brain reacts to repetitive activity. Here is some technical information about neural plasticity. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neuroplasticity If a child from birth is subject to religious indoctrination, their brain will lay down networks to support that activity. They are in effect, brain washed. As the child grows and matures, they will find it very difficult to entertain any alternative thought except God Did It. Hitchens argues that to do this to a child before their brain has matured, before they have the ability to make rational and independent decisions, is child abuse. I support that position. That is why when I engage with some religious people in here and elsewhere, it is impossible to reach them, no matter how compelling the evidence you place before them. All religions know this but they didn’t know why it worked. They just knew they needed to grab and hold these children for long enough to perpetuate the religious dogma. And when these children grow up and have children, they inflict the same abuse on their kids. Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private.

Runner up #2: Stafford Gordon I agree with everything you say tomleigh, but I think there’s another element to it. Power, pure and simple. “And why should Caesar be a tyrant, then? Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf But that he sees the Romans are but sheep; He were no lion, were not the Romans hinds. After a great deal of consideration I’m afraid I’ve come to the conclusion that organized religions provide a veneer behind which there’s an opportunity for the venting of some very unpleasant primal human traits. How we got into this mess I’ve no idea, but the only way we’ll get out of it is by thinking rationally, and above all protecting children by teaching them to do so.

147 COMMENTS

  1. This happens to be one of my ‘pet issues’ with the main causes of blind belief being the parental influence first and foremost. As an English ‘working class’ ‘baby boomer’ I grew up in an agnostic atmosphere, a polite title for my father’s atheist stand. I watched with interest the various Christian denominations develop their antagonism with each other and the way they projected their faith. Images springs to mind of the Birmingham Boys Brigade bands and in recent history in Ireland, street battles fought by children with bricks stones and molly cocktails, all based on religion.
    As a local press photographer in Melbourne Australia I entered all denominational family lives on a daily basis and mentally collected the background culture within those microcosms, often from ethnic migrants with strong religious views. It seemed that all believers regardless of their faith used ‘the book’ as the main family discipline and education tool. The book had all the answers necessary for a parent to gain credence on a moral question instead of using their own intellect or experience to provide an answer. I came to the conclusion that religion was as equally effective as any other ‘mind altering substance’ in the hands of the all truthful parent and as much a potent danger to the developing mind as alcohol or drugs. I have frequently argued those parents who subject their preschool infants and children to a constant barrage of religious doctrine, enforced worship, compulsory prayer and church attendance are guilty of subverting the child’s natural development of critical thought.
    Only today whilst traveling by train, I listen to two young adult males discussing their early days as church goers. One said he didn’t like going to church at first but found the social potential to be addictive and took to his family religion with ulterior motive. This is so perverse and so prolific it seems to be the main foundation for organised religion across all faiths and all countries. Remove the children from the equation and the religion would cease to exist within a few generations. I believe Religion should be viewed in exactly the same class as alcohol and it should be made illegal to subject a child under the age of 18 to any form of religious doctrine or pamphlet due to its emotional influence on the developing brain.
    I was stunned when watching a TV news item a senior Israeli Jewish woman actually claimed quite categorically the state of Israel and the Jewish people were given Palestine by God and it was therefore the right of Jews to live there and the Palestinians (she didn’t use that word) should get out. She like all of those before her have been told it is their ‘God Given right’….What’s even more alarming is most of the other religions base their origins on this single Jewish fictional deity, yet they fail to see the falsehoods they share? Ban children from Religious training, its the answer.

    • tomleigh Jul 23, 2014 at 5:10 am

      It seemed that all believers regardless of their faith used ‘the book’ as the main family discipline and education tool.

      When discussions arise, it usually turns out that believers have read little or none of “The Book”, but that it has been used as a badge of authority for the views of preachers or parents. – Hence all the thousands of sects with conflicting views of what “The Book” requires them to do.

      They do know that “The Bible” is true!….. …. That is:-

      The Hebrew Bible (Torah)
      The Septuagint (Greek translation)
      The New Testament (Paul’s letters)
      Latin Vulgate Translation, (Commissioned by pope)
      Alcuin Bible, (Charlemagne)
      Paris Bible,
      Wycliffe Bible ( First English translation 1382)
      (1408 RC archbishop forbids English translations)
      Gutenburg Bible,
      Dutch scholar Erasmus translation ( Latin and Greek)
      Luther Bible,
      William Tyndale English translation 1526 (which leads to his execution),
      (Henry VIII takes over CofE from RC),
      Coverrdale Bible 1535,
      Matthew Bible 1537,
      Great Bible 1539,
      Geneva Bible 1560 (Published in English in Switzerland),
      Douai-Rheims Bible,
      King James Bible 1611,
      Wicked Bible 1631
      New English Bible 1961.
      The Net Bible 1996

      These repeatedly translated, mistranslated, and contradictory works, are all pronounced to be THE UNERRING TROOOFF! Usually by people who have never heard of them and never read them! Still that’s fundamentalism!!

      • The Hebrew Bible (Torah)
        The Septuagint (Greek translation)
        The New Testament (Paul’s letters)
        Latin Vulgate Translation, (Commissioned by pope)
        Alcuin Bible, (Charlemagne)
        Paris Bible,
        Wycliffe Bible ( First English translation 1382)
        (1408 RC archbishop forbids English translations)
        Gutenburg Bible,
        Dutch scholar Erasmus translation ( Latin and Greek)
        Luther Bible,
        William Tyndale English translation 1526 (which leads to his execution),
        (Henry VIII takes over CofE from RC),
        Coverrdale Bible 1535,
        Matthew Bible 1537,
        Great Bible 1539,
        Geneva Bible 1560 (Published in English in Switzerland),
        Douai-Rheims Bible,
        King James Bible 1611,
        Wicked Bible 1631
        New English Bible 1961.
        The Net Bible 1996

        These repeatedly translated, mistranslated, and contradictory works, are all pronounced to be THE UNERRING TROOOFF! Usually by people who have never heard of them and never read them! Still that’s fundamentalism!!

        The above, apart from the Hebrew Bible, have been translated over the years to give people a copy of the OT and, where appropriate, the NT in their own language. Since we have lots of languages in use we need at least as many translations. For example the Septuagint was a Greek translation of the OT for Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt roughly 200 BC. “The New Testament (Paul’s letters)” is incorrect. Paul’s letters make up part of the NT, but there are also other books in the NT and Paul’s letters are not a translation of anything apart from where he quotes bits. As for the rest you have mentioned translations into Latin, French(ish), English (various stages of the development of our language), German and Dutch. What’s wrong with that? The only alternative would be if, say, there were no English translations, for you to read the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek texts of the bible if you wanted to hold a reasoned discussion with a Christian about what something says in the bible.

        As for them being “mistranslated”, no translation can capture every nuance of the original language, so there must be some mistranslation, but we have that in every translation ever made, whether of the bible or any other document. Some Christians learn the original languages in order to try to better understand what they say, but far more will look at two or more translations and use commentaries to do their best to understand what stuff is being said. Having said that, there are significant numbers of Christians who don’t put much effort in and that is particularly bad if they then claim that the bible is the word of God. If they think it is, as I do, then it is surely right to put a bit of effort in in order to understand it properly.

        I’m not sure about your claim that “usually… people who have never heard of them and never read” certain translations are claimed to be unerring truth. I accept that there are some KJV-only people around who argue that the KJV is some new revelation by God, but they are very much “fringe members” of the Christian community (all communities, including this one here, having “fringe members” of whom others are a bit embarrassed).

        • Alan Jul 23, 2014 at 11:38 am

          As for them being “mistranslated”, no translation can capture every nuance of the original language, so there must be some mistranslation,

          That is the point – particularly where there have been multiple sequential re-translations and revisions.

          Given that there were no eyewitness accounts in the NT in the first place and the editing which went on around 300 AD any claims of historical accuracy are highly dubious.

          I’m not sure about your claim that “usually… people who have never heard of them and never read” certain translations are claimed to be unerring truth.

          You won’t need to stay on this forum very long, before people turn up who have “learned” all their “biblical knowledge” from fundamentalist preachers, and show no knowledge of the texts, or the origins of texts, of any of the versions of “THE BIBLE”!

          If you click on the blue link “The Book” in the comment you quote, you will see such an example in an old discussion.

    • I agree with everything you say tomleigh, but I think there’s another element to it.

      Power, pure and simple.

      “And why should Caesar be a tyrant,
      then?
      Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf
      But that he sees the Romans are but sheep;
      He were no lion, were not the Romans hinds.

      After a great deal of consideration I’m afraid I’ve come to the conclusion that organized religions provide a veneer behind which there’s an opportunity for the venting of some very unpleasant primal human traits.

      How we got into this mess I’ve no idea, but the only way we’ll get out of it is by thinking rationally, and above all protecting children by teaching them to do so.

  2. It’s culture. Not so much religion, until someone gets sick or someone dies. he he. Then it’s for a few days, then back to hum drum. However, some take it as pride of being god’s chosen. Little do they know that even if they were chosen, they are doing exactly the opposite of what they would have to do.
    Yes, I’m talking about the Jewish people, which, from my experience, many, many don’t even believe in god, but LOVE to say they’re Jewish. So, in essence they just like to brag.

    • It’s culture. Not so much religion, until someone gets sick or someone
      dies. he he. Then it’s for a few days, then back to hum drum. However,
      some take it as pride of being god’s chosen. Little do they know that
      even if they were chosen, they are doing exactly the opposite of what
      they would have to do. Yes, I’m talking about the Jewish people,
      which, from my experience, many, many don’t even believe in god, but
      LOVE to say they’re Jewish. So, in essence they just like to brag.

      Religion as a whole is usually a tradition than anything else. It’s same charade in Christianity. There are some many holier-than-thou men and women who use religion to their advantage — especially some clergy men (hardly any women). Catholics are not encouraged to read the Bible or engage in any form of Bible study.

  3. I have frequently argued those parents who subject their preschool infants and children to a constant barrage of religious doctrine, enforced worship, compulsory prayer and church attendance are guilty of subverting the child’s natural development of critical thought.

    And there is now science to show how it is done. As the Jesuit’s boast, “Give me the child till 8, and I will give you the man.” What the Jesuits didn’t know, and what we do now know, is that our brains are not set in stone but are quite plastic and malleable. It’s commonsense. If you practice the violin, your brain lays down extra neural networks to support this activity. A person who goes blind in middle age, there brain will atrophy in the centres that deal with sight, and grown new networks in the aural areas. Their hearing improves. The brain reacts to repetitive activity.

    Here is some technical information about neural plasticity.

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

    If a child from birth is subject to religious indoctrination, their brain will lay down networks to support that activity. They are in effect, brain washed. As the child grows and matures, they will find it very difficult to entertain any alternative thought except God Did It. Hitchens argues that to do this to a child before their brain has matured, before they have the ability to make rational and independent decisions, is child abuse. I support that position.

    That is why when I engage with some religious people in here and elsewhere, it is impossible to reach them, no matter how compelling the evidence you place before them.

    All religions know this but they didn’t know why it worked. They just knew they needed to grab and hold these children for long enough to perpetuate the religious dogma. And when these children grow up and have children, they inflict the same abuse on their kids.

    Religion should be practiced by consenting adults in private.

  4. I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up in a “strong*” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes. In a society which where the “done thing” is to believe there is no God, will there be peer pressure and family pressure to believe there is no God and that “material stuff” is all there is.

    As for responding to the original question, I would say that a lot of belief in most worldviews still comes about because parents/peers believe in that worldview. It is becoming less prevalent as people get more access to information from many places though.
    However, people here will be aware, I hope, that this does not affect the veracity of such beliefs. People can believe in the right thing for inadequate reasons. Thus, if Christianity is indeed true, people can believe in it for inadequate reasons. If there truly is no god/God, people can believe that for inadequate reasons as well.

    “Strong” atheism as in believing there is no god/God rather than just not believing there is a god/God.

    • Hi Alan,

      I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up in a “strong” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes.

      Anyone taking up such a position is misusing the term Atheist – which simply means not believing in a theism.

      It seems to me that anyone who absolutely declares a theistic position that there is no god is a Non-God dogmatist. From that perspective, it seems highly unlikely that a Non-Godist will act any differently to religious people of other kinds, indeed I’m forced to ask: Why would they?

      In a society … where the “done thing” is to believe there is no God …

      By moving on without qualifying your own propositions (1. that people making Nongodist statements are atheists – they’re not, as demonstrated, & 2. Atheists build societies based on atheism, or even that so-called ‘strong atheists’ build societies based on ‘strong atheism’ which, frankly, is just bizarre), you feel able to say the above.

      This is illogical. The premise that atheists build societies based on atheism is not only not proved, it is highly improbable.

      Nevertheless, I’ll bypass this error in thinking for the sake of the argument.

      [in a largely atheist society] … will there be peer pressure and family pressure to believe there is no God and that “material stuff” is all there is.

      Probably.

      I would say that a lot of belief in most worldviews still comes about because parents/peers believe in that worldview.

      Statistically speaking this seems to be an unavoidable conclusion – thus my “probably”. While most atheists claim to come to their position through reason, it’s pretty obvious that many people of all kinds hold positions that they have not thought through or, that they believe they have thought through – but someone else can see they’ve missed out some evidence or are using faulty logic.

      I’m concerned about coming across as arrogant at this point, so I really must add: I’m just as likely to make a logical error as most people, incl. many atheists.

      It is becoming less prevalent as people get more access to information from many places though.

      I agree that access to information is helping people to combat the ignorant foundation on which all dogma rests. Many schoolchildren are able to use a cellphone to counter an argument put to them while continuing the conversation (I wish I could do that). However, they’re equally unequipped to judge between spin and fact and they cannot, therefore, tell when premises are false, or fallacies are being committed, or that the logical structure of the argument is faulty, or that someone is telling a lie.

      However, people here will be aware, I hope, that this does not affect the veracity of such beliefs.

      I can’t speak for everyone here, but I think it would be fair to say the vast majority draw a connecting line between knowledge and the veracity of beliefs. Ignorance clearly flows in the opposite direction.

      People at this Site are just as likely to make mistakes [if] they’re thinking as … dogmatists.

      Agreed.

      There is, however, a big difference between not recognising that fact and ignorance are on opposite sides of the same die, while belief describes our ability to stand by either – and, like those of us who visit this Site regularly, recognising that thinking skills are at the heart of correctly applying our belief to truth by recognising the difference between fact and ignorance, or fiction.

      As Richard Feynman so rightly observed: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool”.

      Because believing in a dogma only takes faulty thinking, I’m sure I’m not alone in believing some things that are falsifiable.

      People can believe in the right thing for inadequate reasons.

      Hmmm. That is true, on the face of it – but there are several things to consider:

      People believe in things in the absence of evidence to the contrary
      People tend to trust authority figures (though this feature of society is falling off as it’s so often misused by modern media)
      People lie. Indeed, they have lied throughout history, so having it written it down is no guarantee
      People do not always have access to the facts, or may have limited access to facts
      Advocates (the Ancient Greeks loved a bit of Oratory) have always been with us. Spin is as old as lying

      I’m sure if I really put my mind to it I could come up with more reasons why this is a faulty argument. If people do believe in the right thing for inadequate reasons then it is no more than a lucky guess.

      Thus, if Christianity [or Athenism, or Freirism, or pick one of a thousand theisms ...] is indeed true, people can believe in it for inadequate reasons.

      As an atheist I am, of course, obliged to point out; that is true of 999 of the followers of ~1,000 religions that have been recorded to-date. Of course they could all still be wrong.

      I appreciate that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just give me some evidence!

      If there truly is no god/God, people can believe that for inadequate reasons as well.

      I really couldn’t say, it isn’t something I believe in.

      For my own part, I will add that my Mother and Wife are Christians.

      My Daughter is an atheist. I did not teach her any dogma – indeed I went out of my way to not teach her anything even remotely connected with religion or atheism and I let the older women in my family have their way whenever they suggested it was time for my Daughter to learn some. She attended Sunday School for, ooh, years and years but I don’t remember exactly. She was withheld from religious instruction at her usual school for two years (another guess). She took the RE exam at the end, after one year’s instruction – she got an A.

      I did teach my Daughter critical thinking skills. Don’t they say that those who can’t do should teach?

      As for me I did not attend Sunday School, as far as I remember, but I was home-schooled in religion by my pious Mother and Grandparents. My Mother later became a Priest. My Father was, if anything, even more lax about putting his atheist views forward than I was – indeed one of the few arguments that I can remember having with him involved me arguing that all religion is dogmatic while he enthusiastically argued for religion! I eventually saw the light and dropped out of confirmation classes.

      I still struggle, almost daily, to apply critical thinking and I believe that the evidence strongly supports the argument that my religious upbringing still holds me back. Decades after cutting my Mother’s apron strings I still use familial traditions and mores.

      Peace.

      • AEC: I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up
        in a “strong” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes.

        SOW: Anyone taking up such a position is misusing the term Atheist – which
        simply means not believing in a theism.

        I’m not sure I agree with you here. Though out on the street, rather than in places like this, “atheist” is often used to mean “someone who believes there is no God”, I am perfectly OK to go along with the, perhaps more accurate, meaning of “has no belief in any god/Gods”. However, there must surely be a term for someone who actually believes there is no god/God. “Strong atheist” (and “gnostic atheist”) is a term that a fair number of people seem to be using. Personally I would prefer to not use the term “gnostic atheist” as, particularly at the start of a sentence where a capital G is obligatory, “Gnostic atheist” sounds like a strange take on one of the belief systems of the 2-4th century.

        What term would you use for someone who has come to the conclusion, perhaps tentatively, that there is no god/God? Non-Godist? That doesn’t seem to be in use elsewehere.

        By moving on without qualifying your own propositions (1. that people making Nongodist statements are atheists – they’re not, as demonstrated

        Actually “people making Nongodist statements are atheists”, though not all atheists are Nongodists, but I know what you mean.

        The premise that atheists build societies based on atheism is not only not proved, it is highly improbable.

        Sorry for any confusion. I didn’t mean that as a claim. My point was about atheism being popular/widespread in some societies and there being pressure to conform to that. However, you have given a response a few lines down to that so I think we have covered that bit.

        If people do believe in the right thing for inadequate reasons then it is no more than a lucky guess.

        Oh yes, agreed, but it still doesn’t mean the thing is incorrect because someone used some duff logic to get to believing in it. We would be into “genetic fallacy” and/or “fallacy” fallacy area here if we were to argue otherwise.

        People at this Site are just as likely to make mistakes [if] they’re thinking as … dogmatists.

        Eh? I don’t think that was something I wrote.

        As an atheist I am, of course, obliged to point out; that is true of 999 of the followers of ~1,000 religions that have been recorded to-date. Of course they could all still be wrong.

        I appreciate that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Just give me some evidence!

        For the existence of God?
        1) Kalam cosmological argument?
        2) Leibnitzian cosmological argument?
        3) Existence of objective morality (as in there being at least one action which is morally right or wrong irrespective of how many people think it so)?
        4) Fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
        5) Life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (for Christianity, as opposed to other theistic worldviews, being correct)?

        You might recognise some of the above. :)

        • Hi Alan,

          [evidence] For the existence of God?

          Yep. After all, I wouldn’t be an atheist today if I hadn’t studied the so-called evidence.

          1) Kalam cosmological argument?

          Mmm, Moslem theology married to Christian theology. The word desperation springs to mind. I refuted this in one confirmation class. I was a bit older than the average 14, maybe 15. Let’s see if I can remember how it goes …

          A. Everything that begins to exist has a cause

          Why? The question why? is a human question. This premise is an attempt to sweep this inconvenient fact under the carpet.

          If we can find a way to describe a beginning we like that, it appeals to our Middle Earth, everyday life, philosophy.

          But here’s a different why? question:

          Why do humans constantly misinterpret beginnings?

          and another:

          Why is it important that the Universe is described as having a beginning?

          The obvious response to all these why? questions is the same: Because humans want them.

          If science has taught us anything it is this: Nature has no mechanism to care about what we would like it to be. True Nature is almost continually awkward, inconvenient and bothersome.

          You might want the Universe to have a beginning, and for that beginning to have an explanation. Nature doesn’t care, and doesn’t show any signs of giving you that.

          One of the most interesting things about studying almost any subject that seeks truth through evidence and study is that it quickly becomes obvious that truth is stranger than fiction.

          I repeatedly see the Sun rise in the East, but that doesn’t guarantee that it will tomorrow.

          The old philosophical argument that I used many years ago still stands. Of course these days we all marvel at quantum strangeness as well.

          B. The universe began to exist.

          I don’t agree, the evidence is not conclusive. Indeed, lately, cosmologists have been saying the jury is definitely still out on this one. As far as I know no-one is denying the Powerful Pop and the Burgeoning Baloon (which, confusingly, came after the Pop). But they are saying that singularities are funny things.

          I used to let this pass, but the arguments are stacking up.

          C. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

          Well I obviously disagree, because no one has satisfied me that these premises are sound. However, even if the two premises were sound, could we conclude this? This is an argument that attempts to leap from generalised observations to a specific conclusion. By-the-by, the opposite way to which science works.

          Even if we say, just for the fun of it, that the Universe had a cause – this doesn’t say anything about what that cause might be. For all we know it could be the result Whale sneezing in another Universe.

          D. The cause of the Universe can only be one of two things: Another entity that began to exist prior to beginning the Universe, or an entity without a cause.

          Th first option obviously leads us to an infinite regress. To some this may appear inelegant. I don’t agree, except that infinities are very difficult to observe – though numbers like Pi are fascinating. Thinking about infinities may not be helpful if we think of them as being coherent and monolithic. There may be infinities that are neither. As a possibility, I could put it no more strongly, it has merit.

          However, to think of beginnings, endings, and cause & effect is almost certainly illusory. Time is a feature of the Middle Earth that humans inhabit, and it is clear that time, as we experience it, is definitely an illusion of reality outside the Universe. Since Einstein we have known that time is a dimension – and as such interacts with those dimensions. We may see cause and effect – but it is almost certainly wrong to think of anything outside the Universe as being in a time, or timeless either.

          To imagine that monolithic infinities of beginnings populate another time before the Powerful Pop is a categorical mistake.

          What to make of the idea that, if we assume that all things must have a beginning, there may now be a set of things that do not have a beginning? Ah-ha! I hear you cry, but my god is not in a set of other things that did not begin to exist, it is in a set of one unique thing.

          If you want to believe in such a thing, something so devoid of supporting evidence, and even logical argument, to support even the idea … you’re welcome.

          From this sorry point the Kalam Cosmological Argument simply fails to hold my attention. Begging the question, illogical, devoid of fact, misinterpreting observations, logical fallacy, making it up as you go along … but hey, that’s theology for you.

          2) Leibnitzian cosmological argument?

          More succinctly, and more usually, known as: Why is there something rather than nothing?

          Oh look, another attempt by humans to ask a why? question about reality from general observations (or in Leibniz case, from his own fantasy).

          Except, of course, as above, Nature doesn’t give a fig. Humans may want sufficient reasons for things. Nature, just as clearly, does not. Existence is sufficient to explain existence if the alternative is nothing. Because nothing is … nothing.

          3) Existence of objective morality (as in there being at least one action which is morally right or wrong irrespective of how many people think it so)?

          I must confess that I don’t understand this argument.

          It sounds as if you’re saying: Some people have a sense of right and wrong which is not influenced by personal feelings or opinions?

          I hope that’s true. I certainly strive to live my life just that way.

          I see no connection between being objectively moral and a deity?

          4) Fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.

          Okay, back to humans imposing their wishes on reality.

          Any values that humans put onto any dimensions, forces or algebraic expressions of the interactions of natural phenomena are, by definition, human. They are human constructs to explain nature to ourselves. This means that they are often estimations, frequently replaced and of little, if any, value beyond our Universe. They are only our limited descriptions, they are not actually nature. it’s like trying to say that because my name is Stephen the Universe is blonde. yes, my name is Stephen and yes, I am a part of the Universe. But that does not tell you anything new about the Universe.

          Even if that we’re not so, how do you know that intelligent life cannot exist in a very different Universe?

          It seems to me that any Universe that can support evolution could give rise to intelligent life. I forget which science fiction writer once discussed an ultra-intelligent shade of green. it seemed perfectly plausible to me.

          5) Life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (for Christianity, as opposed to other theistic worldviews, being correct)?

          Fantasy literature eh? There’s just so much of it about. I have promised myself that one day I’ll pick up a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. Mind you, at 700 verses I think it’s a holiday read. But hey, 900 million readers is quite a recommendation, right?

          Of course a million flies used to eat at Joe’s Cafe … until he lost his licence. 900 million or 9 billion, makes no difference. They could all still be wrong, and, let’s face it, they don’t show many signs of applying quality thinking.

          You might recognise some of the above.

          You’re right, nothing new here. But then theology hasn’t had a new idea for centuries. That’s why I only skimmed the surface of what’s wrong with these mad ideas.

          To get a proper perspective try reading a couple of people who have really taken these ‘arguments’ apart. there are plenty on the Net.

          Peace

          • Hi Alan,

            I just realised I made a category error.

            The examples given are not, of course, evidence. They are arguments.

            What is more they are arguments which are structured in the form one would expect when they are not supported by evidence.

            Nowhere is this clearer than in Leibniz’ mental contortions to create the Principle (so called) of Sufficient Reason (PSR), namely, that nothing happens without a reason. Here is one of the root causes of theology’s attempts to constantly assert that human questions have a universalism – that they are applicable in all cases. The Real World (Universe, Nature, call it what you will) created humans. Humans create questions about the Real World, and when they attempt answers they give human answers. In both stages of this quest for knowledge the PSR assumes the human concept of causes – indeed Leibniz appears to favour intentional causes – as both relevant and applicable. Yet there is no evidence for that.

            After 4 to 5 centuries in which scientists have been free of religious proscription, prescription and pettifogging we are at last learning to ask questions in a more rational manner in that area. What a shame we don’t do this more often.

            So my appeal for evidence of the supernatural remains unanswered.

            I would still like to understand the argument from objective morality – when you have a moment.

            Peace.

    • @Alan

      . I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up in a “strong*” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes. In a society which where the “done thing” is to believe there is no God, will there be peer pressure and family pressure to believe there is no God and that “material stuff” is all there is.

      Perhaps I can give a glimpse from the other side as I was brought up in a family of atheists. I would classify my mother as a mild atheist, simply dismissing religion as being in the same category as belief in leprechauns or finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. My father on the other hand, could be categorised as a ‘strong atheist’ or perhaps an ‘anti theist’ . He saw religion as having a detrimental effect on the lives of people and watched with horror, as other men struggled to provide for their burgeoning families, ( this being 50s-60s Australia).The area that caused my father the most grief was the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. He was adamantly against the practice of political advice being delivered from the pulpit.

      Religion and politics were frequently discussed around the dinner table and we were included in such discussions. This had a profound affect on my thinking and supplied the lens through which I see the world. Fortunately I’m in agreement with these views so I’m not troubled by the cognitive dissonance that is experienced by those growing up in a world of ‘pretend’.

    • Alan Jul 23, 2014 at 5:54 am

      I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up in a “strong*” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes. In a society which where the “done thing” is to believe there is no God,

      It is a general misunderstanding of atheism to say “No God”, which is suggesting atheists deny the theist’s particular pet god, or version of a god.

      Atheists understand there is a lack of evidence for any of the thousands of gods, and that all can be refuted by scientific evidence except the vague pantheist or deist gods hidden in gapology.

      will there be peer pressure and family pressure to believe there is no God

      Except when in social contact with visibly religious people and their views, or as a background study of various cultures, the issue of gods, leprechauns, magic dragons, Harpies, etc. simply does not arise in normal humanist family life.

      and that “material stuff” is all there is.

      The material universe IS all there is, and there is no testable evidence of any supernatural forces or magic objects existing.

      It is a normal reasonable position to not believe in fairies, leprechauns, invisible dragons, monsters under the bed, etc. when there is no evidence such entities exist.

      Absence of evidence is evidence of absence, where evidence of a presence should exist, but is missing!

      “Strong” atheism as in believing there is no god/God rather than just not believing there is a god/God.

      Strong atheism is more to do with recognising the damaging effects of irrational “faith-thinking” and imposed religious dogmas, than any preoccupation with imaginary gods.

      Like atheists, Christians are not preoccupied with denying the existence of: Zeus, Thor, Woden, Mama Quilla, Neptune, Viracocha, Aphrodite, Shiva, Vishnu, or thousands of other gods, so why should the view of the absence of one more be a problem.
      Gods are simply irrelevant to life, unless their followers actions intrude.

      It is strange that those who make a big issue out of atheists recognising the imaginary nature of the god of their religion, – have no qualms in simply dismissing the thousands of other gods which have been, or are being, followed by other people, (which have doctrines contradicting their personal indoctrination).

  5. Alan Jul 23, 2014 at 5:54 am I’d be interested in people’s views about whether a child brought up in a “strong*” atheistic society would have similar pulls and pushes. In a society which where the “done thing” is to believe there is no God, will there be peer pressure and family pressure to believe there is no God and that “material stuff” is all there is.

    That’s the thing about a non belief, like atheism and many other non beliefs. There is no such thing as a “Strong” unbelief. Not believing in god is a non event. It doesn’t inspire you do do anything because nothing says do nothing.

    As for bringing up children, it’s up to the individual parent. My preferred model is to let the child explore where they wish to go, and support that curiosity. A bit like Montessori schools. Don’t teach the child what to think, but develop the child’s rational thinking skills, so that on any subject, they can make up their own mind. They can assess the evidence themselves, and form a valid and supported opinion. That might be a belief in religion. But it is up to the child, and no one else, to come to that position.

    I went to Sunday School and church and the whole rigamarole. Around 12 years old, it was agreed I didn’t need to go to Sunday School anymore because I kept asking the Sunday school teachers questions, that “Upset the rest of the class.” Clearly from an early age, I didn’t accept the whole god dogma.

    So in summary, I would be just as opposed to a child being brought up in a “Strong” atheistic home, as I would in a “Strong” religious home. Leave the kids alone. Let them look under stones and throw balls and climb trees. This appalling adults stuff should be left to adults.

    • Hiya David,
      Thanks for replying. I used the term “strong atheism” on purpose as it is a term recognised widely (though not enthusiastically by many) to mean “believe there is no god/God”. Do a Google on “strong atheism” to see some examples of people using that term in that manner. I was thinking of people who go beyond “non-belief” into thinking, with varying amounts of confidence, that there actually is no god/God.
      As to how we bring up our kids, I agree largely with what you have written. From the Christian side of things (I’m one) there is no point in indoctrination as people will see past it, particularly if they get well educated. If I were to tell my kids something without at least trying to give a good reason for thinking that way, they would soon start wondering why their dad had no good reason for trying to get them to think the same way.
      We all have our own biases, assumptions, ideals and so on, atheist, theist or whatever and want to teach our kids what is important. For me that includes being able to think things through and have tried to encourage my Christian friends to do the same, both for themselves and for their kids.
      I’m truly sorry to hear that asking such questions in your old Sunday School class got you made persona non-grata (or whatever the phrase is). At our church we try to encourage our kids to ask whatever questions they like. Heck, if we have got it wrong, hearing it from a kid might be a bit embarrassing, but as someone famous once said, “The truth will set you free”.
      Looking forward to some more chats….

      • Alan Jul 23, 2014 at 7:57 am

        Hi Alan,

        I think we are going to have to be careful with names, as some people have been replying to me using that name.

        I used the term “strong atheism” on purpose as it is a term recognised widely (though not enthusiastically by many) to mean “believe there is no god/God”.

        This is a misunderstanding, usually based on an assumption that some particular god is a default position. Atheists recognise the absence of gods (plural), not specifically a particular god or version of a god.

        Such claims are usually a projection from those with a “strong dogmatic faith” position!

        As David R Allen points out, unbelief is unbelief!

        As an analogy:-

        Do you have a strong unbelief in fairies, magic beans, or a flat Earth when asked for your views by a strong believer?

  6. As a recovering catholic I can’t speak for all religion but I don’t think such a seperation is so easy.

    I feel my indoctrination was entirely ritualistic rather than dogmatic but every bit as strict. The chain of command from pope to parent in a religion where traditionally “ordinary” people don’t relaly know anything but what they were told from their superiors, so I never got the “chapter and verse” abuse just the general message that any disobedience was felt all the way up the chain.

    The upshot of this is I grew up in a family that absolutley stuck to tradition, church every sunday and holiday (mass said every day if the family priest was staying) and a general fear of not going through the motions (the pagan aspect of christianity). Like many ex-religious atheists, I became enlightened as a result of trying to be a good christian. So I got the being nice bit, just needed to learn the bible better and before long I was far more knowledgable than my mother.

    This caused all sorts of problems. I was seeing double standards everywhere and was not rewarded for pointing out things I learned in the bible that clashed. By pointing out the “correct” dogma was not being adhered to, I was questinooing the ritual and the chain of command.

    It’s my view, althoug I’ve no way of confirming this, that the ritualistic side of religion is the driving force but is part of the dogma. living life to rituals maintains a Pavlovan response that ensures those who question or even examine the dogma will feel the pang of unpleasantness (guilt).

    I believe the dogma on its own is not enough to perpetuate religion. Maybe someone like Fred Phelps can by instilling fear in his group but for those without the incliniation towards violence, the ritual is a vital tool in controlling not people’s thoughts but the way they think

  7. Hiya SaganTheCat, hearing your story is saddening. Ritual can be useful and exciting; that’s what goes on a many football (soccer) matches each Saturday in the UK, but using it to stop questioning is wrong. It is a real shame (IMO) that your family didn’t respond more positively to your pointing out of double standards. Over the years I’ve seen a number of people lose their faith because of the hypocrisy they have seen in Christians and a number of people attracted to Christianity because of the lives of some Christians, so that doesn’t actually tell us very well whether Christianity is correct or not. Certainly it can get people interested or put them off, but Christianity stands or falls (or should do!) on whether it is true or not, whether God exists or not, whether Jesus was who the canonical gospels say he was/is and so on.

    Hope to have some more chats along the way.

    • I’m sorry you were saddenned by my story. My shift from beleiveing what I was told to beleiving what is believable was anything but a sad experience personally. Seeing family grow old and in some cases die while clinging to their dillusions is quite sad however, and you can’t blame individuals for being the way they are. They’re a product of their upbringing too.

      I have nothing against ritual either, many people find it comforting and it can help relax the mind to think of other things. In football the rituals have a beneficial affect on those who enjoy it and for much of life ritual is an important way of creating a sense of stability.

      My post was not to say there is a problem with ritual per se just that it is vital in conditioning. It’s ritual that creates efficient soldiers for example. very good or bad depending on which side of their guns you stand. The OP refers to ritual versus dogma, my point is the actual writings of religion in themselves are so far beyond what is believable or acceptable that standing alone they’d just be another set of whacky ideas by inventive but ignorant tribes, but when tied in with ritual, people actually believe them to be facts without evidence or even contrary to evidence

      • I’m sorry you were saddenned by my story. My shift from beleiveing what I was told to beleiving what is believable was anything but a sad experience personally.

        I’m not sad that you moved from believing what you were told to believe. No problem with what you did there, but I am saddened that you threw the baby out with the bathwater, i.e. rejected Christianity as a whole because of a dodgy introduction to it from your family (IMO).

        On the stuff about ritual, we are very much in agreement, but see below.

        my point is the actual writings of religion in themselves are so far beyond what is believable or acceptable that standing alone they’d just be another set of whacky ideas by inventive but ignorant tribes, but when tied in with ritual, people actually believe them to be facts without evidence or even contrary to evidence

        If someone believes something, that thing is, by definition believable (by at least some people). If, however, we are talking about “probable” or “plausible” then that may be a different matter, but even then we bring our own biases and assumptions with us and they may be significantly different to other people’s.
        The idea of Jesus being raised from the dead is often seen as being highly implausible, but if God does exist, then it does become more plausible. I do appreciate though that if we assume God’s existence to show that Jesus being raised from the dead is plausible, we (I) can’t then use Jesus’s being raised from the dead as evidence for God’s existence. Do stop me if I try that one!

        • You’re picking on my family now!?

          You have no idea how my family were introduced to their brand of wibblery, or how they introduced it to me but I belonged to a church which means I knew lots of other families and could see the same social mechanism at work.

          I see from your comments that you are a christian so i’ll try to make this simple. My introduction to religion did not result in my atheism, it was my study of religion that led to my atheism and my conclusion that the rituals of all religion are involved in social conditioning.

          My conclusions that all religions are false came through the discovery that absolutely everything in the bible, what I was told by my own church members and elders, as well as the guff that other christians like you have tried to unload on me, relies entirely on me accepting that a human, most often one long since dead, was telling a truth that can not be investigated (argument from personal revalation).

          No amount of study has led me to find genuine evidence that there was “A” Jesus, any more than there is “A” Dave. Comparrisons with pre-christian beliefs strongly suggest that christianity is paganism in a new wrapper (it’s not even monotheism, all this talk of saints and magic virgins and life after death is totally lifted from polytheism).

          That Jesus (as in a single magician) existed is unfalsifiable therefore no more believable than peter pan. to go further and to say not only was he real but all these stories that popped up about him long after any contempraries had died, that with a very extreme bit of myth-bending, somehow confirm Jewish prophecies (which in themselves were quite explicit) while appealing to existing polytheistic supersticions, and somehow accept because of something someone in some sort of authority (or long dead) said, is not the blatant and rather clumsy con-trick that it is, is rather insulting.

          But the conditioning helps stear the mind from questioning.

          As for my family, I was lucky to know very intelligent relatives, some not so intelligent. The not-so subgroup are the ones clinging to their dogma. The others either became “angry atheists” like me or the acceptable type who pretended to believe for a quiet life. Maybe the most intelligent of them all, sadly no longer with us, was a jesuit priest. it was some time ago I discovered through our corespondence he was like me only keeping quiet (this was before the clergy project otherwise I’d have made an introduction).

          Finally I’d appreciate it if you’d understand that this is a website for atheists where anyone is free to comment regardless of belief but please have the decency to avoid using this forum to try and sell your one brand of pseudo-science. You insult not only me but others if you think you have points to raise that we have not already addressed long ago and should you wish to convert I would suggest starting somewhere mmore suitible for your particular level of reasoning.

          If you decide to continue on this discussion though I would like you to concentrate on debunking the wrong religions before trying to sell the right one.

  8. I grew up as an atheist in a heavily Mormon community. Emphasis on the “heavily.”

    It’s been kind of interesting, really, living in a place where conformity and obedience are valued above all. It seems every kid has developed a fabulous testimony and spends hours studying scriptures and attending church activities in an attempt to beat their peers in the game of religious “one-uppery” going on. When I was younger, I was constantly baffled by the impression that none of my Mormon peers ever seemed to doubt, despite belonging to a ridiculous, power-hungry Church with a long history of racism, misogyny, and homophobia.

    The Mormon church is particularly fascinating because even if you don’t believe anymore, it’s nearly impossible to leave. From early on, children are discouraged from interacting with those who are “godless” (unless the interaction is composed of converting them.) They are discouraged from going out-of-state, and being “corrupted” by liberal ideas, unless it is to some campus of BYU. In fact, BYU, a school that takes pride in its advocacy of religious freedom, will kick you out if you leave the LDS church. The entire Mormon faith teaches that those who leave are committing the worst of crimes, and will literally tear their family apart for eternity.

    One of my very close friends actually confessed to me that she didn’t believe anymore. When I asked why she didn’t just leave the Church, she gave just one reason: her family was one of converts, and her ancestors had converted to Mormonism only to be disowned by their loved ones. She was afraid of the same thing happening to her.

    And in all honesty, it would have. It got me thinking–how many of these kids actually believe everything the (ludicrous) Book of Mormon throws at them? And how many stay in because they can’t leave?

    Sure there are some people who are dumb enough to take the faith. But I’m guessing the primary reason for the excessive spirituality among LDS members is fear of expressing what they really think.

    Mormon brainwashing is just an exaggerated version of the brainwashing that occurs in every religious household. But it has left me with the impression that familial and traditional belief plays an enormous role in the “faith” we see today.

    • What I can’t understand, is how Mormon’s square the circle with Joseph Smith being a convicted fraudster and the claimed method of production of the book of Mormon is obviously a scam. Most is plagiarized straight out of the old and new testaments.

      How can any human being believe this. How do mormons convince themselves this is ridgey didge.

      • Belief is overridden by brainwashing. People are not raised to seek truth, only to ‘believe’ as they are told, and when you’re too young to know any better, what chance do you have? Taken to it’s evil ends, this results in suicide bombers and countries laid waste to the tenets of barbarism and irrationality.

  9. I am an atheist now and happy for it.
    I was raised catholic in Ireland and anyone that has gone through it knows how dominant it is or should I say was when I was growing up. There was not worse thing to happen to a son or daughter that to arrive home tell your parents that you were atheist. This is not an idle statement. This is what it was like.
    No one would have come home either and told that a priest had abused them. Firstly you would not have been believed and secondly you would be taking your life in your hands if you did of receiving a beating. This is how bad it was. Married to that both church and state were all one literally. A priest had more influence that a police man.
    So for me from start it was very heavy indoctrination. It never ended either at home work or play it was always with you. State media was heavily censored. So there was no chance at all at seeing the other argument. To add to the iron like grip on the people. There was a religious based secterian war fare going on in one part of the Island. Fanned constantly by the different denominations. You could be killed depending on what christian faith you followed or what church you went to. It was total control everywhere.
    I like a prick went along with it and may have even supported it to some extent. I say this now with complete embarrassment now and shame.
    So for long time just went with the flow so to speak and it took care of one part of my life. The box was ticked I did minimum to keep myself out of hell as I thought. I was not the best but by no means was the worst. I was trying to further my career at time and as I said the box was ticked on that side of things. Until……..

    News started to break about the child rape cases. This wrung a bell or two within me. (something very wrong) I thought. Then it went quiet for a bit and every one was putting it down to few bad priests. I was not that convinced seeing the way they so called manned the denial and coverup battle ships. Then more and more were getting discovered but media at time just lightly covered it again more bells wrung in my head. But my friends were still saying that just a few bad ones I was disagreeing with them but no answers were forth coming. I had at time friends within both the police and prison service. What they told me really shocked me. To name just a few things, cover up, denial, lies, moving priest to nearly every parish exasted and abuse in every one. Records being withheld, to name just a few things and tip of shity iceberg. That was very bad but not half as bad what my friend in the prison service told me. Because of the number the housed them in a disused military prison away from normal prisoners. My friend had looked after hard criminals in his day but he told me he never looked after a more scary bunch. A normal criminal knows why he or she is there that is not an issue. They do the time and maybe learn something or get counseling to rehabilitate. He told me that ever one of the bastards believed that had done nothing wrong and nothing to answer for. They received mass and sacraments every sunday and none of them has ever been excommunicated.

    That was the end for me. I there and then gave up both church and god. For two very clear reasons. I had read the bible twice in this time and what a load of bollox and had researched the historical jesus. Big 0 on that one too. But Very anti church and religion for two further reasons. Firstly was my sons were young at the time and would not have wanted them to go through any of that. Secondly I have two friends in neighboring communities that told me about their abuse when all broke. They were ignored and one has since committed suicide.
    So now I am totally anti religion god and consider the catholic church so bad that hitler should be getting humanaterian award. His crimes were horrific and the church is on same level maybe worse. It has ruined countless lives around me here. There is no come back it has to go.

    Since my release from it I am a lot happier and in no way frightened of death. I am so lucky to be alive and have experienced what I did and had a wonderful wife and two wonderful sons. I morn the waste of my parents lives through the religion. I feel religion has held humanity back about 2000 years. We should not be having this conversation now and we should be laughing at the silly religious following of our ancestors. Now we have to use too much energy combating the nonsense when we should be trying to make this world a far better place to live. Hope fully we are not too late and what we are seeing now is the beginning of the end.

  10. As a Christian born from a very orthodox family and a resident of Mexico City which is a very Roman Catholic country i can tell you that it starts with the family, peer pressuring for the beleifs to be practiced, i personally was kicked out of my house at a very young age simply for not sharing their beliefs while my sister always was the preferred child for pretending to be a beleiver, separation was difficult, it forces you to discard the reasons for the moral values you’ve learned from religious teachings and puts you under the pressure of cutting ties with a social circle apart from the fact that you begin to question the meaning of your existance, it’s a very hard transition most people just won’t be willing to do since Christianity has become in general very flexible since the concept of the new testament was established, there are so many different branches nowadays that they most fit your state of morality rather than trying to create one, promting (as the original question stated) tradition, people don’t reject religion or cast it aside because it influences in no way the way they behave, at the end the sole pourpose is to create a state of mind of tranquility to the only question we might never be able to answer “what happens after death?”, and while most of us reading this forums have found the meaning of the beauty of life, most people are simply not willing to go through the transition of an apostasy.

  11. Holding onto a religion comes with advantages in a society where majority feel secured believing in the same God, practicing a common cult, celebrating festivals as a community etc. Reason & Science sort of isolates a person from the common lot. Also the uncertainties of life make it easier for the majority to have faith in a God and live in hope. So it becomes more of a habit to accept the indoctrination rather than question it. This is more so in the poorer regions of the world where life is a day to day challenge. And for the rich religion and God are symbolic of prosperity; a feeling of superiority, of being special creations of God!( example; God bless America!) Hence to question religion and use reason needs not only a higher mental faculty but courage and humility! That’s not very common. Is it?

  12. The question why do people turn to religion? For many years I had thought that the doctrine of the Catholic Church of, give a child for its first five years, was to blame. Latterly I have revised my opinion, I am now in my 70s and have seen several instances that have made me realise there must be other reasons. In one case I had a dear friend who had the misfortune to lose her only daughter in a horrific road accident. Previously she had been mildly religious, to the extent she would go to the Christmas midnight service simply because it was a ‘nice experience’ she never to mu knowledge took part in any other service or religious celebration. After she lost her daughter which resulted in family break up and years of anguish she began to believe in god and thinks she will see her daughter one day in heaven. I believe this believe has enabled her to come to terms with her loss and enables her to function. I am an atheist but I would not dare to try and persuade her that there is no god, how could I She makes no effort to attend church and does not talk of religious matters.
    The other person is my sister in law who comes from a totally irreligious family. She has joined the Catholic Church and it appears for no particular reason other than she was raised without much guidance for coping with life as a responsible married mother and it seems to have brought order to her life and a form of stability and routine, she regularly attends church.
    I do not think it a good idea to combat religious fundamentalism with a similar atheist zeal. It should be a slow but relentless stream of science based information that directed to intelligent thinking people will gradually become accepted as the real truth and not as an alternative to religion. Those believers in religion will slowly and relentlessly be exposed to more and more undeniable truths that many of the more extreme religious beliefs will look more and more ridiculous and irrelevant. The government must insist that the called Faith Schools are monitored to ensure of a broad based curriculum. To expect this to be adopted in deeply religious countries is foolish, it will not happen in this or maybe the next century. Atheism is a long term aim and no amount of shouting it from the roof tops will make inroads to the committed. The answer is education, education, education, the broader based the better that is where the pressure and effort and shouting from the roof tops should be applied.

  13. No one is born with religion. Someone else has to teach a person to believe that there are magical beings in the world that will look out for you/punish you/reserve a spot for you in paradise, etc. So, we have to begin by admitting that family or social networks play the first role in why a person believes. But the question of why a person goes on believing — and why they stop — is more complicated.

    Before I gave up my religion, I used it as a way to organize and make sense of my world. I was naturally curious and reflective about where I came from, what I was doing here, and where I was going. Religion seemed to offer not just immediate answers, but many texts to study and paths to explore. My family were all Catholic (of the “sit down, shut up, and don’t ask questions” variety) and so I quickly branched out from them and the Baltimore Catechism and explored other sects and traditions — and finally other religions altogether.

    Therefore, I can’t say that my continued belief in a spiritual world had much to do with my family. They certainly didn’t approve of me reading about Native American peyote rituals, nor did they appreciate my brief interest in Hinduism (inspired by George Harrison). There were many fights about how often I served Mass, went to confession, received communion, etc. There was even an attempt by my grandmother to get me to join the priesthood. But the harder they pushed me to conform to their narrow conception of religion, the harder I pushed back. Still, it’s interesting that giving up religion altogether never entered my mind in those early years.

    By high school, though I occasionally investigated other religions and traditions, I was settling down into a left-wing version of Catholicism that kept my family happy if they didn’t ask questions and satisfied my spiritual quest and need to feel independent if I didn’t think about it too much. And that’s where things stood for many years.

    What’s most interesting to me is that it took the birth of my children to finally cause me to evaluate my relationship with religion and my true attitude toward spirituality. Over time, my commitment to the rituals of the church had waned even if I still felt I was a believer. But my wife and I were pressured by my family to baptize our children for the sake of my aging father who was genuinely panicked about the state of their souls. Although we agreed to do it, it became a watershed moment for both of us. I suddenly had to ask myself if I was willing to subject my children to the same kind of indoctrination that I was put through. Did I really want to tell them things that I had no way of knowing were true? Did I want to saddle them with the guilt that comes from believing that Jesus died for their sins? Did I want to give two more girls to a tradition that regarded them as second class members? Did I trust a priesthood that had proven itself untrustworthy in the presence of innocent children? And even if we left the church, was I comfortable telling them that they needed to find a religion that explained existence and promised them an afterlife? The clear answer to all those questions was no. Furthermore, I realized that if I wasn’t comfortable passing religion and spirituality on to my kids, then I wasn’t comfortable with it, period.

    And that’s how I gave up my religion. Not in spite of my family, but because of it.

    Since then, I have read and explored just as enthusiastically — but about reason and rationality. It’s more satisfying. It makes way more sense. And I’m entirely comfortable passing it on to my children.

  14. Based on my observations, I feel that most people hold religious beliefs after childhood indoctrination and subsequently, being brought up with religion as an integral part of every day life. That’s not to say that everyday life needs to be extremely religious, or even include doctrine to have major influence over someone believing beyond any doubt in their religion. You certainly don’t need to read any doctrine to be indoctrinated as far as religion is concerned. Many people who hold even the very most basic belief in their religion (for instance that there is a god and they absolutely know who it is) have very little “factual” knowledge of their religion’s actual doctrines.

    I’m sure it’s rare, as I’ve never observed it myself, that someone with no religious upbringing becomes deeply, or even casually, religious in adulthood. Therefore, I believe it’s rare for anyone to hold true belief in doctrine without familial or traditional practice. I have observed people embracing or deepening their religious beliefs in adulthood, even after seemingly minute exposure to religion in upbringing. When this happens, I’ve noticed it usually happens after a traumatic experience. This is presumably a coping method, a comfort in the wake of a tragedy or a way to make sense of life after a chaotic experience. I think this suggests that something as seemingly insignificant as a parent simply believing in god, or a practice as miniscule as saying “christmas is jesus’s birthday”, even if a child is not indoctrinated further, plants a proverbial seed of religiousness in the mind of the child. given the right circumstances, that seed will sprout later in life. Likewise, I think a parent who tells their child that, simply, there is no god, and offers no further mention of gods or relgion, is also planting a seed.

    It’s unavoidable however, that a child will encounter nonfamilial religious influences from friends, media, books and other sources while growing up. The hope is that the parent has nurtured a healthy sense of skepticism and curiosity so that the child will analyze the information and think critically before they believe anything they’re told. In summation, I believe familial practice has a more broad influence on the beliefs someone holds than actual doctrine.

  15. Although children are not given a choice about religion when they are young a lot of young people today are looking into religion. More and more young people are discovering that what their parents like and believe in is not necessarily what they like or believe. With the explosion of information thanks to the internet young people who are interested in looking deeper into any subject can. I feel that religion is used by powerful people to keep the masses in fear and ignorant of the truth. Our feats in science have allowed us to put a powerful computer in the palm of kids hands and they know how to use it. With education comes the ability to question the church and what they say. I think we will see less and less people follow religion’s doctrine even if they want to believe in a soul and perhaps an afterlife.

  16. A good day to all from Africa.
    This will be my first, only and last comment on this topic.
    After reading the question and the following reviews thereof, it has come to my attention that most tend to react from personal experience in relation to the question.
    Whereto from here???
    I assume that we are all of similar understanding of the virtues of this web site and it’s fundamental importance in gaining a followship with which it can similarily achive global status as an alternative to the exact question proposed (in a retro way)……….. So, to get back to the question.

    “Religion” is as old as “creation” itself. Everything alive has some form of belive. Be it cranial, animal or some amoeba with a wish to purely survive, it exists.
    The “debate” in question here ( for those that wish to enter into it) though, is the ONE that we as humans have adopted with which we have caused so much unnecessary pain, war, death, rejection, appartheid, hatred, feud and whatever else with, to such an extent that it shames me to be part of such insolence.
    In one long sentence, or should I say sentance, here is my rendition on the topic in question.

    But first something else.
    A long time ago, when we reached the self proclaimed position at the top of the “food chain”( never mind the fact that we play host to 100,000,000,000,000 bacteria in our own body. How confusing does the whole senario then become{ are we their “god”}. Thats almost 15000 times more per person than all the people living on this planet) we developed an urge to increase this level attained, in the only way possible, on each other. To gain a higher position, we ( those who feel the need) have to create a senario with which ( at this point) we can earn superiority even over our own kind.

    Conscience.

    Conscience is an aptitude, faculty, intuition or judgment that assists in distinguishing right from wrong.

    SO… if you want more control, control the conscience.

    So here’s the sentence.

    This, my friends, is religion as we know it, it is the easiest way to control the masses if you’re in a position where it is necessary to do so, and if that fails, the next resort is the political way, so to answer the question…………

    Yes, we do believe, even those of us who refuse the fact that we are part of the bigger whole, we will always believe, some of us choose to belive in a man made “god” others choose to be the man made “god”, fact is, as long as there is someone out there gullible enough to to be led by a ‘GREATER UNKNOWN’, there will allways be a ‘god’ of some sort and there will always be a believer.

    I FOR ONE, THANK ‘god’ THAT I’M AN ATHEIST

  17. The majority of people (of a so called midway faith) that I’ve dealt with in regards to my true atheism have mostly stated or left me with the impression that they are kind of on the fence with the issue of god. They claim that just to be on the safe side they want to hold on to some faith just in case there is a god. AMAZING!!!

    • Denis Jul 23, 2014 at 3:31 pm

      They claim that just to be on the safe side they want to hold on to some faith just in case there is a god. AMAZING!!!

      That would bring us to the reality version of Pascal’s Wager, where far from being a 50-50 chance, theists have thousands of chances to one of being wrong!

      I am reminded of the joke about religious leaders being interrogated in the spirit world, as to their claims to have a pleasant after-life based on their service to “god”.

      A Catholic priest, an ayatollah, a rabbi, and a Brahmin – being judged by Zeus for promoting the worship of the wrong god!

  18. I think maintaining religion based on traditional/ familial bonds vs. true belief depends on the person. On a macro level, religion serves as a function for various reasons. Durkheim postulates that it promotes social cohesion while functional theorist state that is is more individual. Malinowski states that religion is used to cope with anxiety/stress and supplement areas of questioning where answers may or may not exist.

    Developmentally, we learn religion from our families and/ or communities. On a micro level, the reason for maintaining or disclaiming religion may be based on various reasons, depending on the person. I think there are a lot of variables to take into account, one being personalities. Some people may state that they keep to their religious beliefs because they like the traditions while not necessarily believing in a deity. Others, may be indoctrinated into the belief system and are true believers. As we grow, we develop our personalities through exposure to different experiences and thoughts. I think personalities come into play as to how to interpret these experiences and their affect on the individual person. For example, two people can have a traumatic experience; it may bring one person closer to believing in a deity, while changing another person’s belief system to non belief. Some peoples’ personalities lend themselves to introspection while others do not which may account for people questioning their belief systems and influences the reason for maintaining them.

    I think personalities, exposure to different events, and other variables determine if people continue their religious beliefs because they like the tradition and familial connections, they are true believers, or if they do not believe at all. I also think that the increase of conversations about other faiths and non faiths in public forums may be skewing the percentages of this question, where there may be more people who are now more comfortable challenging their familial belief systems vs those who are true believers.

  19. Assuming true belief requires knowing what it is that you’re supposed to believe, then the fact that most believers don’t know very much about their beliefs means we can probably say that the majority of believers describe themselves as such for reasons other than true belief.

    —-//—-

    I think it’s worse than that because religion’s claims to have special knowledge are false. But I’m not sure I’m up for that weird conversation e.g. what does it mean to know that human sacrifice was required for salvation? …I know I don’t want to define god. :hehe:

  20. I think that family plays a huge part in imprinting religion in to a child’s brain, but to a certain extent, and those children are led to believe that their parent’s religion is the only game in town. Therefor children who are brought up in a religious household are not given any other alternative to help them learn to understand the world. But that can only go so far. From the examples that I’ve seen in my part of the world (Jordan) Muslim families bring up their children by putting the fear of god in them. Afterwards, those children are released in to the community, and what they have learned from their parents is put to the challenge. Because the scientific method is not one of Jordan’s strong suits, and also is not very popular, the children who are brought up to believe in superstition are not faced with proper challenges that can help develop their cognitive and reasoning abilities. Instead, you find a clash of a different set of beliefs, that barely coexist.

    The most important part here is that, the parents have already planted a seed during the first years, later on the way society interacts with that child during growth, determines whether that seed will grow, eventually turning him/her in to a ticking time bomb, waiting to be exploited by the wrong people at the wrong time, and manipulated to carry out the plans of the very same people whom had their minds conditioned in the same way, or will that person depending on the company that he/she keeps will start to form their own path of personal growth, productivity, and find a constructive way for reasoning, without falling victim to mainstream religion.

    From what I’ve witnessed in Jordan; The ones who decide to adopt the extremist views, come from families that are moderate Muslims. In my opinion, the transition that a child goes from being moderate Muslim in to an extremist, is dependent on the choices that person have to make sense of every thing that goes around him/her. Any person needs to chose the best foundation that he/she can build on. I would argue that a child who’s brought up to believe that religion is the only answer to life’s questions, will chose to build on that foundation, and all his/her choices in life will be based on that.

    In my opinion, religious fanatics are people who were brought up in a community that did not give encouragement to think for them selves, to become independent. They were brought up to conform, to obey authority in scripture, that questioning the teachings of Islam is not only bad, but that it will lead to eternal damnation of their souls.

    Until science and reason finds its way in to the minds of those parents, and the community in general, there will always be a generation of religious extremists. To summarize, i would say that. Parents are passing down their fears from one generation to another. To help (future) parents get over their fear of the unknown is to eradicate extremism altogether, and the only way to do that is by scientifically understanding the source of that fear, and replacing it with the courage to investigate and not being afraid to ask questions.

    P.S. English is not my native language. I apologize if i did not get my point across.

  21. During my childhood, religion was almost entirely about culture and social life. I have fond memories of the Anglican church of my youth. God was loving and forgiving; the sermons were comfortably boring; the music was soothing; there were teas and craft sales. My mother played the organ and I sang in the junior choir. It cost no more than any other social club. All the neighborhood kids attended one of the local Protestant churches. They were all pretty innocuous. We knew nothing of fundamentalism, creationism, faith healing, tithing, hell, speaking in tongues, or judgment day.

    Other than as a Sunday morning ritual, religion played no part in our family life. I vaguely remember reciting grace at mealtimes and bedtime prayers when I was little, but both were dropped in early childhood. We owned several Bibles, but no one read them. They sat on dusty shelves, used occasionally for reference. My father mocked TV evangelists, calling them charlatans and con-artists. My parents valued education and critical thinking. I don’t remember ever believing in the literal existence of a supernatural god; the Bible stories were just too far-fetched. I viewed them as legend or allegory, and Jesus as a historical figure, but didn’t waste much time thinking about it. Looking back, I believe we attended church mainly because it was important to our (English) cultural identity.

  22. I would say the greatest majority of it comes from tradition and family.

    Would you ever believe that Santa exists if your parents never told you about him or that he exists?

    Heck no! Only a great majority would believe in such a thing as a child. The brainwashing starts at childhood and they are reared to have their brains programed that if evidence is not evidence and that faith is evidence. Its really quite terrible.

  23. I don’t know much about the bible other than the popular stuff that gets referred to over and over in popular culture.

    I remember how boring religious services were when I had to attend them. One thing I had to do was attend church when attending boarding school because of terminal cancer in the family. I couldn’t get out of that but took advantage of the rules to sample all the church services in town. That was actually interesting and educational. But as soon as I could, I stopped going.

    I always thought religion was as valid as the Emperor with no clothes. So much silliness!

    Actually the premise of this thread’s question is borne out by my experience. My old man was agnostic but believed in the social cohesiveness of communal religious service. I took off at 17 and was on my own after that. Years later my actions won my old man’s respect. I never asked for a dime except once, when I asked for $500 to go my bail and got turned down. (I wouldn’t plead guilty and served 30 days, but that’s another story!)

    I dunno’ what I’d believe if my background had been different. Today, I believe god is the operating system of reality (if reality is infinite), and enables everything that is without judging anything.

    If however reality is only as big as the universe that can be scientifically observed, a god process which isn’t infinite is absurd, chaos is king and atheism rules!

  24. We have to begin by acknowledging that MAN created GOD, not the other way around. There has absolutely never be any evidence to the contrary. Every culture since humankind got underway has at some point recognized the importance of creating an irrational metaphysical icon to answer their great mysteries, a major one of which is Death and the hereafter. Very quickly the most creative, frequently known as witchdoctors and their successors like prophets, popes and bishops realized it was in their, and the culture’s “best interest” to create such answers and ideas as gods, heaven, hell, angels, devils, sin, judgment day, etc in order to control the masses. It made good sense! And it has always worked, for better or worse. All of a sudden irrationality became virtuous at least for the masses. And has pretty much remained that way until now, in all cultures. We certainly should not allow many wonderful societal contributions in art, literature, music, etc to cover up the core irrationality. Neither should those of us who do not accept religious irrationality stay in the closet instead of calling it for what it is and how it is increasingly harming the health and critical thinking of children and minimalizing science and its achievements. After all most of us have recovered from giving up one of the strongest and most widely used irrational beliefs of all in recent history, Santa Claus! Remember that classic phrase of mind control, “You better watch out, you better not cry . . . .” It’s possible that the one who is quoted as saying, “the Sabbath was created for/by man” might well have said, “and so was god!” Say it out loud, it will make you feel so good and free and honest . . .and totally believeable Now practice it and make the world better in the process. That’s my opinion . . .and belief.

    • We have to begin by acknowledging that MAN created GOD, not the other way around. There has absolutely never be any evidence to the contrary.

      That is the fallacy of attempting to shift the burden of proof.

      Every culture since humankind got underway has at some point recognized the importance of creating an irrational metaphysical icon to answer their great mysteries,…

      That is “begging the question”/ a “straw man”.

      • Alan Jul 24, 2014 at 5:59 am

        We have to begin by acknowledging that MAN created GOD,
        not the other way around. There has absolutely never
        be any evidence to the contrary.

        That is the fallacy of attempting to shift the burden of proof.

        Nope! This is wishful reversed thinking on your part!

        “Burden of proof” or in Latin, onus probandi, is the obligation that somebody presenting a new or remarkable idea has to provide evidence to support it.

        Abuse – Often, someone will present a new idea and say that it must be accepted because it cannot be disproved. This is insufficient because without evidence there is no reason to accept an idea,

        There are no default gods.

        The burden of proof lies with those asserting the existence, and properties or actions, of their chosen gods.

        Every culture since humankind got underway has
        at some point recognized the importance of creating
        an irrational metaphysical icon to answer
        their great mysteries,…

        That is “begging the question”/ a “straw man”.

        Really? Are you disputing the history of numerous cultures? – claiming their gods were not made up, and expressing belief in all the conflicting gods which have ever been claimed to exist? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_deities

  25. I can’t imagine that anyone could truly “believe”. It’s psychological because it’s also cultural, social, and tradition passed through family.

    I remember, as a young child searching for what it appeared “belief” seemed to give people. I searched, but could never really believe any of the bible. It just did not make sense to me. Now, I have come to the atheist conclusion, and almost feel dumb for calling myself Agnostic all of my life. Now, in my 50s, after considering the facts of science and history, I see the here and now, ,

    My opinion is those who claim to have a true belief are delusional. They allow their mind to fantasize, and worse, go on to trick themselves into false hope. It’s sad. And it is scary. It is scary to think about how many people are actually delusional. The world has witnesses and suffered from mass delusion. I can hope that more people will challenge their own minds and open their minds to the idea and awakening of the truth.

    Lisa Byrd

      • Alan Jul 24, 2014 at 6:00 am

        My opinion is those who claim to have a true belief
        are delusional.

        Would that include your claim to believe that those who claim to have a true belief are delusional?

        Asserted “True”(to dogma) beliefs, which are, or can be, delusional, should not be confused with objectively evidenced viewpoints.

        Delusional beliefs can be recognised by being in conflict with other delusional beliefs, in conflict with moral codes, containing self-contradictions, or being in conflict with well evidenced science.

    • Can’t agree Lisa. Why did nineteen young men, who were neither poor, delusional, or uneducated, decide to kill themselves on 9/11? The answer is simple: they believed they would receive 72 virgins in paradise for doing so. Most people on this site simply do not know what it is really like to believe in God. Consequently, they can’t accept the idea that anyone is certain of the after-life. Suicide bombers are people who have amazing belief.

      • Well, speaking of suicidal terrorists in general (not specifically the 9/11 crowd), there’s a secular explanation as well. Many of them are indeed desperately poor, and by martyring themselves they ensure that their families back home will be financially looked after and well respected; and in the lead-up to martyrdom, they will be groomed by the leadership to feel important, perhaps experiencing self-worth for the first time in their lives. The virgins in paradise belief isn’t necessarily the primary motivation (though it certainly can’t hurt).

  26. IT seems to me that the underlying theme of ‘holding on to religion’ is based purely on fear. Children can be exceptionally susceptible, even severely damaged, if they believe they are somehow excluded from their family or peer group. Objecting to going to church or presumably the mosque is subject to censure, if not by immediate family, then certainly by religious authority.

    I spent quite some time in Northern Ireland, the demand, certainly during the 1970′s was that you must belong to one group or another. Trying to take the middle ground was not considered an option by those, who by any other standards of common decency, were at best bullies and at worst terrorists. Those who did not run to extremes, tended, as often as not, to keep their own council.

    The horrendous and vicious beating, rape, and murder [Stoning] of women by fundamentalists is intended to induce terror as a means of control. Another generation is learning to accept, live by and promote standards of behaviour that, if not labelled religion, would be instantly condemned as unacceptable in any society.

    I am not convinced that philosophical arguments, over how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or the existence/non existence of a deity are useful arguments either for or against religious bullying. Strong political, and economic sanctions combined with social and personal censure, contempt and ridicule are the only methods that will ultimately overcome fear and change the way people think and behave.

  27. My personal story I think is rather sad yet I don’t dwell on it and refuse to consider myself a victim but a survivor. I was born and raised in a fundamental Baptist Church in east Texas and still live there. I think that most of my life has occurred the way it has because of my past. I was indoctrinated and pushed through the faiths tenants at an early age and for the first half of my life it was a way of life. I was discouraged from education, although I am considered very intelligent by my peers and family. At an early age I read the entire bible and believed it literally. I could argue anything pro Christian and did so from age 8 to 18. I was super Christian and even led my bible group at school and argued my science teachers even told one of them that she was going to hell for teaching evolution. I even was suggested for seminary but I took a physics teachers word to heart. He told me “if I don’t think it’s true then look at the evidence for and against it and then come back and tell me what you think not what you believe. ” so I did. I reviewed the evidence for the age of the universe and found the evidence for a multi billion year old universe to be great and the evidence against to be weak and mostly denial tactics. I then started to look into other subjects… I disproved the first chapter of Genesis and had a serious problem on my hands. My entire community as far as I knew didn’t trust any of the evidence so I continued to act like I believed the first chapter, though I couldn’t rationally do that. I began to question other tenants and even almost gave my assistant pastor a heart attack by arguing pro slavery and anti women’s rights verse by verse from the Bible just to push through subjects I knew we cherry picked… I even told a woman of my birth church to sit down and shut up based on a verse in proverbs during a church business meeting at 19. I married a fundamental Christian the whole time fighting faith issues internally and acting irrationally through rational insanity (the only way I can put it). I finally after a weekend of arguing with my “disobedient” wife and nearly physically assaulting her I came to terms with my religion. Until I was 25 I continued to go for my mother and family, but internally I couldn’t believe again. I quit going to church and avoided the subject. And now I’m 36 I never went to college, my first wife left me cause I wouldn’t go to church. I have 3 children. I work a low brow job. I know I could of been so much more, but I didn’t because I was to worried about what people would think. I continued to let my family believe I am Christian and still don’t bother to tell them now. But my kids know. I refuse to take them to church or let them be indoctrinated. I constantly challenge them to think for themselves and the oldest wants to be physicist and is a professed atheist to the shock of his fundamental mother. My second wife was wiccan which is surprisingly easy to get along with. There’s no intolerance of my pack of belief and her practices don’t require her to proselytize me.

    I still have not told my extended family… it’s just easier to ignore the situation. But at work after 15 years with the same people I was found out… so now I’m the devil incarnate to most of my coworkers. But that’s ok. I tell them off and argue all the time now with them. And I know from my experience more about their faith then them. And at least it’s a government job and the one time they tried to threaten me, the laws of the land and policies of the agency protected me because what they did was religious persecution. Amazing Texas is so prochristian yet the laws protect the non Christian. I know many continue their faith because their family is tied to faith. But as the older generations pass away I find more and more atheist and agnostics here willing to step out. One person I know ow admitted he wouldn’t admit publicly until his mother passes away because he is afraid of what it might do to her health. I might as well be the same… publicly to friends I’m atheist but to family I just don’t discuss it.

    • @Robert

      Wow! It sounds as if you should change country, or at least your state! But, you’d do well to know that your life isn’t over yet by any means. It’s possible to rectify some of the wrongs that have held you back in the past, though now it will be harder because so much time has elapsed. Looking on the positive side, you have gained maturity ( ie, if you plan to take things further educationally). I suspect there’s a financial burden also, as your kids must be growing up and require more financial assistance.

      I really hope you have a happier tale to tell in ten years time. Good luck.

    • Hello Robert,
      I read your post with a heavy heart. My story is almost the exact opposite of yours. My mum and dad took me to church until I was about 9 years old, but stopped after an argument with the vicar and, more importantly, after a disaster here in the UK at Aberfan in Wales in 1966 when about 140 children and their teachers were killed when a coal slag tip slipped and engulfed their school. The only times we went to church after that was at Christmas for carols. Mum and Dad had promised at my baptism to encourage me to get confirmed, which they did when I was about 14. I don’t remember much about that now apart from being asked at the very end of the classes whether I had any more questions and I said, “I don’t get this Adam and Eve thing”. I never did get an answer.
      I went to Cambridge University to do Natural Sciences and got friendly with one particular Christian and went along to a discussion group. At the end of the second term there, a new non-Christian came along one evening and I was asked to tell him where we had got to. I said something like, “Last week we looked at the death and resurrection of Jesus and it seems that he did die and was raised to life.” The other non-Christian said, “Oh, so you’re a Christian too!” I said, “No!” then thought, “Oh heck.” At the end of that term I read a book called, “Basic Christianity” by John Stott and, when I got the the end, was finding it slightly harder to believe Christianity wasn’t true than to believe it was true so I thought I ought to do something about it. That was my faltering start as a (bible-believing) Christian. I appreciate this is not statistically significant, but of the six people doing Chemistry in our year at that college, one was a Christian at the start of our time there, but five were by the end. Lots of students there became Christians, with slightly more being scientist students than arty types.
      Rightly or wrongly, I’ve never had a problem with Genesis 1 (or 2 or 3). Over here in the UK, the majority of bible-believing Christians have always seen those chapters as being at least partly symbolic and the idea of reading them as teaching a literal 6 x 24 hour creation is seen as a misunderstanding of what those texts are all about. Half the early church thought that too, so it is not just some recent cop out to get round evolution. Mind you, the understanding of who God is comes out very similar as for a Young Earth Creationist (6 x 24 hour jobbers). God created the universe, including us (though not in just one week), we are made in his image, we are sinners and so on.
      I don’t know if it is still of interest to you, but one person who puts this all very well is a bloke called Eric Lucas, a baptist minister with two PhDs, one in theology and one in biochemistry (or something similar). He teaches Ancient Hebrew at a baptist theological college so it pretty up on this sort of stuff. If it is of interest to you, you can find some details, including an mp3 to listen to a talk he gave, at https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Multimedia.php (search on Lucas) and https://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/resources/Faraday%20Papers/Faraday%20Paper%2011%20Lucas_EN.pdf

      I’m particularly sorry, though not entirely surprised, to hear of the way you were treated at church. I am a bible-believing Christian and have seen lots of people try to take away stuff from the bible, i.e. say X, Y and Z are wrong, i.e. “liberal scholars” and the like. Unfortunately, sometimes some of my lot overreact and actually make out that the bible says stuff that it doesn’t actually say, e.g. Young Earth Creationists. In a church where there is a fear of liberalism, sometimes (often?) everyone retreats to a dogmatic position and anyone who disagrees is “out”.

      • Alan Jul 24, 2014 at 5:54 am

        Rightly or wrongly, I’ve never had a problem with Genesis 1 (or 2 or 3). Over here in the UK, the majority of bible-believing Christians have always seen those chapters as being at least partly symbolic and the idea of reading them as teaching a literal 6 x 24 hour creation is seen as a misunderstanding of what those texts are all about.

        That’s the problem with reinterpretation blinkers. – any text – no matter how ridiculous, self-contradictory, historically inaccurate, or cherry-picked, can be reinterpreted or compartmentalised to get rid of the inconsistencies and allow the dedicated faith-believer to consider it credible.

        Half the early church thought that too, so it is not just some recent cop out to get round evolution.

        I said, “I don’t get this Adam and Eve thing”. I never did get an answer.

        God created the universe, including us (though not in just one week), we are made in his image, we are sinners and so on.

        These three snippets spell out the fundamental urge to deny evolution!

        If, as science makes perfectly clear, the biblical Adam and Eve never existed, and never committed “original sin”, with a magic talking snake in a magic garden. There was no need for some saviour to be sacrificed on a cross to “redeem” these “sinners” and then allegedly be resurrected by magic (With no Roman records of any such monumental event – or in fact no contemporary records of any such person at all!)!

        The whole collection of myths is nonsensical to anyone not prepossessed to accept it because or indoctrination.
        Men have been making gods and myths in their own and other animal images, since the stone age.

        • That’s the problem with reinterpretation blinkers. – any text – no matter how ridiculous, self-contradictory, historically inaccurate, or cherry-picked, can be reinterpreted or compartmentalised to get rid of the inconsistencies and allow the dedicated faith-believer to consider it credible.

          When understanding any text, whether it is a newspaper ad, a poem, a historical novel or whatever, we need to understand what the text is before we can understand it, otherwise we are likely to make some bad mistakes. We need to understand whether it is meant to be taken literally or figuratively, what its genre is, who the audience was (if we can) and stuff like that. Rather than assume that a figurative understanding of the early chapters is some sort of cop out, would you please explain why you think such a view is actually wrong.

          These three snippets spell out the fundamental urge to deny evolution!

          Why? I have no urge to deny evolution. As I wrote, I’ve never seen any problem with it, so why do you think I have an urge to deny it? I don’t understand your point.

          If, as science makes perfectly clear, the biblical Adam and Eve never existed, [/quote]What is your understanding of “the biblical Adam and Eve”? A pair of humans created à la Young Earth Creationist understanding?
          and never committed “original sin”,

          No-one “committed ‘original sin’”. Original sin is understood by some Christians to mean a flaw in our nature. Someone committed “the original sin” since someone must have been the first person to sin. Don’t get to the two ideas mixed up.

          with a magic talking snake in a magic garden.

          So you do think that the Young Earth Creationist understanding of the early chapters is the most valid one then. Why?

          There was no need for some saviour to be sacrificed on a cross to “redeem” these “sinners”

          Nope, even if we toss away the whole idea of “original sin” (as opposed to “the original sin”) that still leaves you, me and the rest of mankind committing our own sins and, if Christianity is right about sinners needing a saviour, that means we need on.

          and then allegedly be resurrected by magic

          Magic? Putting in a loaded word like that is a bit naughty. Doing it twice is very naughty. Naughty step for you, my man.

          (With no Roman records of any such monumental event – or in fact no contemporary records of any such person at all!)!

          Well we do have Tacitus’ account of him being executed and the whole Christian thing starting up again. To quote Tacitus’ Annals 15.44, written somewhere around 115 AD, as quoted in Wikipedia

          “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind”.

          Which sort of Roman record were you thinking of which would have recorded Jesus being raised from the dead, please?

          As for contemporary records, all records are written sometime after the event. The nearest we still have are from the letters of Paul, with the earliest about 20 years afterwards.

          • Alan Jul 24, 2014 at 8:08 am

            That’s the problem with reinterpretation
            blinkers. – any text – no matter how
            ridiculous, self-contradictory, historically
            inaccurate, or cherry-picked, can
            be reinterpreted or compartmentalised
            to get rid of the inconsistencies and
            allow the dedicated faith-believer
            to consider it credible.

            We need to understand whether it is meant to be taken literally or figuratively, what its genre is, who the audience was (if we can) and stuff like that.

            Anything which is being presented as a historical record should be straightforward.

            Why? I have no urge to deny evolution. As I wrote, I’ve never seen any problem with it, so why do you think I have an urge to deny it? I don’t understand your point.

            I did not suggest you did, but you then support the notion of “sin” after using the reinterpretation blinkers!

            If, as science makes perfectly clear,
            the biblical Adam and Eve never existed,

            What is your understanding of “the biblical Adam and Eve”? A pair of humans created à la Young Earth Creationist understanding?
            and never committed “original sin”,

            Pure invented mythology – on which the confused notion of sin against an imaginary god is based!

            No-one “committed ‘original sin’”. Original sin is understood by some Christians to mean a flaw in our nature. Someone committed “the original sin” since someone must have been the first person to sin. Don’t get to the two ideas mixed up.

            So I keep being told by those who know the basis of the claims have been refuted, but want to cling to their earlier notions of “sin”.

            with a magic talking snake in a magic garden.

            So you do think that the Young Earth Creationist understanding of the early chapters is the most valid one then. Why?

            They are the most honest reading of the fictional words but certainly not a “valid” claim.

            There was no need for some saviour
            to be sacrificed on a cross to “redeem”
            these “sinners”

            Nope, even if we toss away the whole idea of “original sin” (as opposed to “the original sin”) that still leaves you, me and the rest of mankind committing our own sins and, if Christianity is right about sinners needing a saviour, that means we need on.

            This seems to be a circular argument – These sins (eating apples etc from the bosses garden) are asserted to be part of human nature as a retrospective attempt to hold onto a refuted Genesis claim.

            and then allegedly be resurrected by magic

            Magic? Putting in a loaded word like that is a bit naughty. Doing it twice is very naughty. Naughty step for you, my man.

            Do you have another explanation for alleged magical supernatural raising from the dead?

            (With no Roman records of any such monumental event – or in fact no contemporary records of any such person at all!)!

            Well we do have Tacitus’ account of him being executed and the whole Christian thing starting up again. To quote Tacitus’ Annals 15.44, written somewhere around 115 AD, as quoted in Wikipedia

            A vague passing mention of a common name in 115AD – is hardly “contemporary”. The Romans crucified thousands, and the place was over-run with itinerant preachers.

            “ Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.

            I did not suggest that Xtian cults did not exist in the 300 years up to the biblical revision and editing under Constantine.

            Which sort of Roman record were you thinking of which would have recorded Jesus being raised from the dead, please?

            Biblical stories make claims of great crowds and monumental events. You would have thought that the Romans, who kept meticulous records, would have noticed.

            As for contemporary records, all records are written sometime after the event.

            That’s a lame excuse for nothing recorded within decades!

            The nearest we still have are from the letters of Paul, with the earliest about 20 years afterwards.

            From the scraps of accounts available, Saul after an epileptic fit, said that he received the Gospel not from any man, but by “the revelation of Jesus Christ” – Which translated into modern understanding, says – he “made it up from voices in his head during an epileptic fit”!

          • Someone committed “the original sin” since someone must have been the first person to sin. Don’t get to the two ideas mixed up.

            Denial of a literal Adam, and “original sin” but wishing to retain biblical “sin” in a new made-up “interpretation”.

            Ideas of “sin” or misconduct in the “first” organisms in Early history of the Earth are farcical when considering a scientific understanding of evolution?

            Was LUCA the first sinner – or was it one of these?

            http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/evograms_04

            http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/0_0_0/evograms_05

            http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/malapa-fossils/lineage-graphic

  28. This ‘discussion’ of the question of the week seems rather skewed towards the atheist point of view. One person after the other telling their heart braking stories about how they were raised and bravely said goodbye to their religious upbringing.


    Here I am to offer a different insight. But first I would like to point out a – in my opinion – important difference between religion and personal belief/conviction. The first is almost always practiced in a group and is by definition detrimental to the development of a personal conviction because too many things are said to be simply so and so because in some book it says so. A personal belief however is something a person develops over time, inspired by writings and discussion with other people, believers and non-believers. It is a view on life and the world that he may share when asked, that inspires him to take certain positions in certain discussions and in general gives him/her a sense of purpose and belonging in life.

    To be more personal, I was raised in a family that beliefs in God. But I have never once felt like i was forced to believe/think stuff that didn’t make sense. Simply because it all does make sense. I’m not expecting anyone here will understand but I will try my best explaining why I feel that what I believe is truth. There you have the single most important argument I can think of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking. But don’t mistake feeling over thinking for stuff not to have to make sense anymore. The combination of intuition; listening to what wells up inside when we ask the question ‘what do i really think of this’ and critical thought are the two most powerful instruments to construct a coherent world view and in general stay our course and live life successfully and happily.

    • Andreas Jul 24, 2014 at 4:45 am

      Hello Andreas,

      This ‘discussion’ of the question of the week seems rather skewed towards the atheist point of view. One person after the other telling their heart braking stories about how they were raised and bravely said goodbye to their religious upbringing.

      Some people do have a harder struggle than others to break away from indoctrination and social pressures.

      I simply matured out of supernatural beliefs as a teenager, decades ago.

      Here I am to offer a different insight. But first I would like to point out a – in my opinion – important difference between religion and personal belief/conviction. The first is almost always practiced in a group and is by definition detrimental to the development of a personal conviction because too many things are said to be simply so and so because in some book it says so.

      You are noting the difference between a fundamentalist – literalist position, and a personal thought out position. However the boundaries of this distinction are far from clear, – hence the thousands of sects and religions, with their dogmatic conflicting views.

      A personal belief however is something a person develops over time, inspired by writings and discussion with other people, believers and non-believers.

      This is normally a move away from indoctrinated dogmatic views, as mental maturity helps understanding of evidence and reasoning, to pick out the contradictions and ancient misconceptions of religious dogmas.

      It is a view on life and the world that he may share when asked, that inspires him to take certain positions in certain discussions and in general gives him/her a sense of purpose and belonging in life.

      The need to be given a purpose in life rather than choosing one’s own purposes, is a feature of religions. The universe is notably lacking in purposes for humans. – Particularly the 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999999999% of it devoid of humans, and the 99.999999% of time the Earth was devoid of humans.

      To be more personal, I was raised in a family that beliefs in God. But I have never once felt like i was forced to believe/think stuff that didn’t make sense.

      In other words you picked up the culture of the Abrahamic God, but were sufficiently rational and more widely educated so as to recognise some of the flawed thinking and misinformation in the mythology.

      Simply because it all does make sense.

      It only makes sense if you have missed out on most the historical and scientific evidence which conflicts with the cultural assumptions you picked up from early childhood stories and observed adult role models. If you had lived in Japan, you would probably be a follower of Shinto or Buddha.

      I’m not expecting anyone here will understand but I will try my best explaining why I feel that what I believe is truth.

      Many here have been down your path before and understand it well.
      Some have retained revised versions of the gods they cannot totally be free of, while some have vague deist gods or pantheist views of a god.
      Others have recognised the utter lack of evidence for god-claims beyond the psychological images and feelings originating in parts of the electro-biochemistry of human brains, so are atheists.

      There you have the single most important argument I can think of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking.

      It may be important in deciding what personal objectives you wish for and may try to achieve, but it is utterly useless in deciding what is real or what is true. For that you need scientific methodology and logical reasoning.

      But don’t mistake feeling over thinking for stuff not to have to make sense anymore. The combination of intuition; listening to what wells up inside

      Intuition and emotional wellings can generally be regarded as the pre-dispositions of cognitive biases based on cultural or educational background and perceptions of persona vested interests. Intuitions in those lacking science education or reasoning skills, are no substitute for these skills and methods.

      when we ask the question ‘what do i really think of this’ and critical thought are the two most powerful instruments to construct a coherent world view

      Critical thought and being open to new evidence is indeed the key to objective understanding of reality.

      Intuition simply compares new concepts with collected cultural earlier concepts, which may or may not be correct, depending on the level of knowledge, understanding of evidence, and reasoning skills, at the time they were acquired.

      It is very unlikely that critical evaluations of ideas from early childhood will have been made prior to the development of critical thinking mental capabilities.
      That is why locked in early indoctrination can become “core-beliefs” and is difficult to break free from!

      and in general stay our course and live life successfully and happily.

      Many religious associate this with their religion, but atheists can be be happy and successful as I have been (except in certain cultures where they are actively discriminated against), without any need for gods.

      • Hello Allen,

        I appreciate you taking the time to comment but i have to say that you have stated some false assumptions about me that I’d like to clear up.

        In other words you picked up the culture of the Abrahamic God, but were sufficiently rational and more widely educated so as to recognise some of the flawed thinking and misinformation in the mythology.

        Don’t really know what you’re trying to say here, but just so you know: i have not read the bible, or the curan or any other religious how-to-book.

        It only makes sense if you have missed out on most the historical and scientific evidence which conflicts with the cultural assumptions you picked up from early childhood stories and observed adult role models. If you had lived in Japan, you would probably be a follower of Shinto or Buddha.


        The main thing atheists don’t seem to understand about me is that I believe in God despite knowing a thing or two about evolution or the real age of the universe and that I don’t see any conflict. I dont believe the story in genesis is a story that applies to the physical world, so naturally I don’t believe that God created the universe, or the world, or any being that lives on earth, directly that is.
        I don’t see religion as something that should step in to fill in the voids of our understanding of the natural physical world.


        And Allen, although like I said I appreciate you commenting on my little story, it has the feel of a rebuttal instead of an interested reply. Like you know more than I do and that I will or will not at some point come to the same correct realizations as you and other atheists have.

        This is not the right basis for a discussion, but since we disagree anyway. Let me point out were in my opinion lies the root of the misunderstanding between atheists and people who believe in God, at least the way I do.

        The conviction among atheists that we are only our physical bodies, that humans are merely another step in evolution and are apart from our great mental and creative capabilities not fundamentally different from other animals.

        Your closing remark is a good example of this. Priding yourself in the fact that you don’t think you need ‘ a deity or god’ in your life to have a purpose and thus be more independent and mature then your believing fellow citizens. A statement directly taken from The God Delusion, but in thinking about being human in terms of independence you take away the most important aspect of being human. Human beings should be mediators of lively power and protectors and stewards of everything that lives on earth. We are intelligent and creative for this reason.

        • Andreas Jul 24, 2014 at 9:21 am

          Hello Allen,

          I appreciate you taking the time to comment but i have to say that you have stated some false assumptions about me that I’d like to clear up.

          Excellent! – I like people to clearly state their positions. When people state they believe in “God” with a capital “G”, they are usually referring to the Abrahamic god. If a version of this one is not the one you referred to in your family background, please clarify.

          In other words you picked up the culture of the Abrahamic God, but were sufficiently rational and more widely educated so as to recognise some of the flawed thinking and misinformation in the mythology.

          Don’t really know what you’re trying to say here, but just so you know: i have not read the bible, or the curan or any other religious how-to-book.

          I have read some of them, but recognise them as mythology from a time of much ignorance. The Greeks had some good mythological yarns too.

          It only makes sense if you have missed out on most the historical and scientific evidence which conflicts with the cultural assumptions you picked up from early childhood stories and observed adult role models. If you had lived in Japan, you would probably be a follower of Shinto or Buddha.

          I was referring to the cultural sorts of sources of god-belief people acquire as children.

          The main thing atheists don’t seem to understand about me is that I believe in God despite knowing a thing or two about evolution or the real age of the universe and that I don’t see any conflict.

          That is quite common in Christians – until we start to look at details, and then it often turns out that they are referring to the pseudo-science of theistic evolution., Not Darwinian science.

          I dont believe the story in genesis is a story that applies to the physical world, so naturally I don’t believe that God created the universe, or the world, or any being that lives on earth, directly that is.
          I don’t see religion as something that should step in to fill in the voids of our understanding of the natural physical world.

          You seem to be describing a deist god, who was somehow behind the big bang. – Or maybe a pantheist god?

          And Allen, although like I said I appreciate you commenting on my little story, it has the feel of a rebuttal instead of an interested reply. Like you know more than I do and that I will or will not at some point come to the same correct realizations as you and other atheists have.

          That is quite possible, particularly if you accept scientific evidence, and the neuroscientists keep making progress on the mental generation of gods in the brain.

          When it comes to scientific reality, there is little to dispute between atheists an deists, (With the non-interfering type of god) as the areas of difference are in the unknown cosmological gaps beyond present science – until neuroscience and physics close the gaps as they have been doing for generations.

          This is not the right basis for a discussion, but since we disagree anyway.

          I would disagree. We are sorting out differences and clarifying positions. Recognising areas of agreement and difference IS the basis of a scientific discussion.

          Let me point out were in my opinion lies the root of the misunderstanding between atheists and people who believe in God, at least the way I do.

          You are fairly new to this site, so probably are not aware that deists have debated here before.

          The conviction among atheists that we are only our physical bodies, that humans are merely another step in evolution and are apart from our great mental and creative capabilities not fundamentally different from other animals.

          That is based on the scientific evidence.
          No credible evidence to the contrary or of the supernatural has ever been presented. If you are suggesting some other features in the human animal please give evidence and a clear description.

          Your closing remark is a good example of this.

          I am a scientist with a good working knowledge of planetary systems and life, so is it surprising that I hold the evidenced scientific view of life?

          Priding yourself in the fact that you don’t think you need ‘ a deity or god’ in your life to have a purpose and thus be more independent and mature then your believing fellow citizens. A statement directly taken from The God Delusion,

          I have never read “The God-Delusion” I worked that out from experience and a study of psychological papers on children’s mental development.
          People choose their own purposes consciously, or by inertial acceptance of dogmas.

          but in thinking about being human in terms of independence you take away the most important aspect of being human.

          You are confusing independence of thought, with isolation from responsible actions.

          Human beings should be mediators of lively power and protectors and stewards of everything that lives on earth.

          As an environmental biologist I can’t disagree with the need for responsible environmental management, if we care about future generations.
          However many are not responsible people, but are actively exploitative and destructive of their own, and others’ life support systems, – often through deluded thinking that some god will “provide” and protect them, from their own , greed and stupidity.

          We are intelligent and creative for this reason.

          Galaxies, Star-clusters, planets life forms and ecosystems don’t need “reasons”. Humans need reasons to help them understand how real stuff and real life works, but the universe just works the way it is.

          I can understand how some people think every mechanism needs a personal or personified controller, but nature really does work on its own. You might like to work out sometime what percentage of the mass of the universe makes up the molecules of humans – if you can find a fraction small enough!

          • Alan, were do I suggest that I don’t understand Darwinian science? I’m not saying please quiz me, although actually yeah I am! Also it is rather arrogant to assume that I don’t understand or fully grasp every implication of evolution, just because you think my worldview is incompatible with this Darwinian science as you call it. As if science has any means of investigating the stuff we are discussing here.

    • “The best suggestion will get a copy of An Appetite for Wonder, by Richard Dawkins.”

      I think your post is a major contender for the prize!

      Andreas Jul 24, 2014 at 4:45 am

      …I would like to point out a – in my opinion – important difference
      between religion and personal belief/conviction. The first is almost
      always practiced in a group and is by definition detrimental to the
      development of a personal conviction because too many things are said
      to be simply so and so because in some book it says so. A personal
      belief however is something a person develops over time, inspired by
      writings and discussion with other people, believers and
      non-believers. It is a view on life and the world that he may share
      when asked, that inspires him to take certain positions in certain
      discussions and in general gives him/her a sense of purpose and
      belonging in life…

      -

      …I will try my best explaining why I feel that what I believe is
      truth. There you have the single most important argument I can think
      of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking.
      But don’t mistake feeling over thinking for stuff not to have to make
      sense anymore. The combination of intuition; listening to what wells
      up inside when we ask the question ‘what do i really think of this’
      and critical thought are the two most powerful instruments to
      construct a coherent world view and in general stay our course and
      live life successfully and happily.

      • A couple of adjacent posts have criticized the human emotion ‘feeling’ as being of any value in reaching truth. That’s true, but discarding emotional ties when presenting a POV brings with it a built-in downside, not in determining what’s true but in communicating it.

        Case in point; what do we know? Dawkins in The God Delusion states, in his argument against agnosticism with respect to the existence of a supernatural God depicted by the masculine singular “he” (hee-hee!), that “agnosticism about God belongs in the temporary or TAP (Temporary Agnosticism in Practice) category. Either he exists or he doesn’t. It is a scientific question; one day we may know the answer, and meanwhile we can say something pretty strong about the probability.”

        Dawkins then goes on to offer a spectrum of 7 degrees of probability. (In the First Mariner Books trade paperback edition 2008 the quote and references begin on page 70.) So Dawkins states that even the existence of (a hee-hee) God cannot be known beyond even a reasonable doubt, but that (hee-hee) he’s pretty improbable!

        When presented without emotion (hee-hee!) that POV, true as it is, doesn’t fully captivate; it’s at best another boring screed. So IMHO, don’t sell an emotional POV short, but be sure to double check the facts when answering the FAQs. YMMV, as always.

        It will be educational to learn which post wins the prize, as much to ascertain the Forum’s predispositions and style preferences, as well as the poster’s POV.

    • . @Andreas. There you have the single most important argument I can think of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking. But don’t mistake feeling over thinking for stuff not to have to make sense anymore. The combination of intuition; listening to what wells up inside when we ask the question

      Feeling is probably the very worst way of coming to the truth of the matter. Imagine this scenario by way of an example. You are told that the country is being invaded from the north. Which of the following ways would confirm this as truth:

      a. Numerous eye-witness accounts filmed by unrelated sources. The clips showing clearly scenes of bombs dropping, people running, smoke fire etc. with known landmarks in the background.

      b. A few accounts from a group of people known to each other, supported by video footage showing indistinct images that could possibly be people running.

      c. A couple of closely connected people say that they know we are being invaded from the north. When pressed for a reason, they say that they had a feeling. ( no corroborating evidence).

      d. An individual had a dream that we were being invaded.

      Accounts from c and d put your argument in perspective to my way of thinking. When looking at the suggestion objectively, thoughts, feelings, intuition, gut feelings are worthless as evidence.

      • Nitya Jul 24, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        @Andreas. There you have the single most important argument I can think of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking.

        Feeling is probably the very worst way of coming to the truth of the matter.

        Yes! It has one of the poorest track records of any methods of understanding reality!

        “Feel the Force Luke!”
        Very Jedi, but pure fantasy !!

          • Oh boy,
            What is it exactly what you think I’m trying to say here? That we should abandon reason altogether and just live our lives on the whim of the most convenient but probably wrong ‘feelings’ of whoever is bold enough to state it as important to others as well?

            Off course I’m not saying here that our feeling or intuition or free will, is of any use in say the solving of a counter-intuitive mathematical problem, or the verification of whatever random statement about whatever event.


            However our feeling, our intuition is crucial in a lot of other areas, and I pity anyone who doesn’t see this. Examples are really there for the taking. How do you determine for example who to marry, do you make an extensive pro vs con list and eventually choose the woman/man with the most point in her/his favor. No! You just know you love someone, just like you know what career suits you. Although this last example is already a bit more complicated because of all the practical implications of choosing a certain careerpath, what I mean is that you know what you’re passionate about.


            Really if we would all abandon or even distrust what we feel and only think about important issues, discussions and decisions, our lives would be very poor indeed.


            But I will try to explain why this discussion is of no use. Like i said somewhere in this thread, you guys seem to think that we are only our physical bodies, that all of our consciousness is the product of our brain-activity. And indeed there is overwhelming evidence for this. However there is one important thing one should keep in mind in trying to grasp/understand and applying scientific methods to the concept of God.
            Our brains, by their very nature are incompatible with understanding, truly comprehending concepts that are outside the material realm, things that are not finite and cannot be categorized into whatever category we can think off. Our brains are a tool, that we should put to use to understand our world, to categorize, to reason about questions and come up with solutions and answers that we can use to come to constructive actions.
            However as soon as we elevate our tool to the position of the master, we are headed for trouble. We need fundamental values, and a speck on the horizon for which to strive for. These are the things for which our intuition, our capability to feel and know what we truly want, are indispensable.


            And before someone posts a reply here putting everyone of my sentences in blockquotes and elaborately explaining why I’m wrong. Please think of why people have discussions. This is not a debate where anyone with the most acute knowledge about the current economic crisis and how to get out of it can win.
            We are trying to reach a deeper understanding of each-others motives, at least I’m trying to give you some understanding of mine, maybe someday you’ll see some truth in these words..

          • @Andreas July 25 7.08

            It’s interesting that you use the choice of partner as an example of the upside in using intuition and ‘feelings’ in decision making. Considering the large percentage of marriages that end in divorce and relationships that break down over time, I would think that these were very poor examples of the point you’re trying to make.

            It is true that most people evaluate situations and make decisions based on their emotional response at the time. Advertisers know this. Marketing has been fine- tuned to such an extent that they can almost guarantee what emotional buttons need to be pushed in order to elicit an emotional purchase from the customer. It has almost become ‘the science of marketing’.

            IMO one takes all things into account when making an important decision. Our intuition probably comes first; telling us whether or not something ‘feels’ right (possibly picking up on various imperceptible, non-verbal cues). After that, our brain should kick in, especially if money is involved. If a person fails to give a reasoned response to a situation that person is going to be an easy mark for anyone with an aim to exploit them.

            Religions come into the same category as the unscrupulous profiteer to my way of thinking in that they actively discourage critical thinking. ‘Just believe!’ is the catchphrase, is it not?

          • Hi Andreas,

            I need your help.

            You seem to say that feelings/intuitions are no good for solving a mathematical problem, yet at the same time you appear to claim that our feelings/intuitions are good ways to reach truth for other problems?

            There are two things I need to get straight first. One is that, to me, intuition and feelings are different things. To me, what I feel is what I sense, and what I think about those sense experiences as I experience them. Then there is intuition, which seems very different.

            Intuition is what I use to make snap judgements when my feelings seem to be urging me to make a quick decision, to give a very simple example: How I will absorb the impact of a jump from a high place, as I fall.

            It seems likely that my intuition is probably made up of two elements. The first will be a part of me that I had from birth; instinct. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I’ll still jump if you creep up behind me and yell ’BOO!’ because my ancestors who jumped escaped predators and survived to give me life.

            The other part of my intuition is experience. I touch something glowing and hot and I learn not to do it again because it hurts to get burned – it hurts a lot. The next time a fire spits a smouldering red ember at me, I avoid it almost without thinking.

            I can see how intuition, as I have described it, would not be a good way to solve a new mathematical problem. But I don’t understand how intuition is a good way to decide anything very much.

            Even my instincts might fool me. Many people have expanded the horizons of the human race by ignoring their instincts. Most red berries are poisonous – and all animals are wary of them. Yet somebody, at some time, tested the first raspberry – they decided it was different enough (or that they were desperate enough) to eat one while their instincts must have screamed NO!

            You seem to think that examples of making decision based on what you call feelings/intuition are all around us – yet you struggle to give examples that really help people like me to understand. When I decided to marry I was, of course, partly driven by my feelings – I can be irrational, I’m human. However, anyone who marries purely on feeling is asking for trouble (as another Poster noted, the divorce rate might be an indicator). My decision involved some thinking from basic needs and wants (of both parties, I’m not that selfish), our approaches to living life and the potential down-sides. Did that involve lists? Not on paper – though the great Charles Darwin did indeed write a list! – but I do recall weighing pros and cons in my mind. I’m a pretty passionate guy, but even I wouldn’t get into that kind of commitment based just on ‘If it feels good do it’.

            Your other example was career choice. I have never, ever, chosen a lifetime career. I appreciate that if you want to be a Chartered Engineer, Veterinary Surgeon or Lawyer you need to decide early in life. But for most of us life is about grasping opportunities and that means retraining, looking out for new opportunities and being prepared for quick moves. Each time I changed my career path did I use my feelings and intuition? Yes. I would have been a bit silly to attempt an entirely new kind of work without first considering whether it felt right – would I enjoy it?, for example. But I did this only when under pressure (when the offer was on the table and the question was in the air, so to speak), otherwise I did indeed make lists and think very carefully about the pros and cons. Did I have transferrable skills, how much would I have to learn, is the extra money really worth the extra effort (the answer to this question always seemed to be yes), do I have contacts who can help me … and so on.

            In both cases I can see that my subjective feelings and my instincts played a role in making those decisions. But they were never the entire way that I made the decision – and they were not even the most important criteria (although getting married came close). Also, taking off my habitual rose-tinted glasses, did any decision that I made more on my feelings come out better than those I made more on thinking? No. For marriage I don’t have a good comparison (I’ve only been married once), so I can’t say, but for everything else the answer is definitely that the more I thought about a life decision, the better it came out.

            This leads me to a simple conclusion: My feelings are not a good way to make decisions except in rare, mostly extreme, cases. For many of the decisions I have made I am heartily glad that I questioned my feelings and did the opposite of what I felt was right – when voting for example.

            I distrust my feelings, and I’m far better off for living my life that way and, what is more, I’m convinced that the evidence shows that the whole human race would be fabulously better off if they did the same.

            You seem to be using an accusatory tone when you note that people on this Site (I assume you meant those of us who post regularly) think that humans are “only” physical bodies.

            Why “only”? Ignoring one way of looking at that statement which implies access to knowledge denied to the rest of us, you appear to mean that the human body is too simple to contain consciousness? How did you come to that view? It isn’t, as I’m sure you’re aware, a view shared by scientists. The latest estimate is that humans have approx. 86 billion neurons (and about the same number of other brain cells) and that means we have about 860 billion synapses. About 20 to 25% of this brain power is used for housekeeping but even so – where does “only” fit into that?

            That said, I agree with you that human brains are, by their very nature, not best equipped to understand anything outside our universe. Yet we have done so. Physics chemistry and biology are not part of what some of us call Middle Earth. Our ancestors learned to live and survive in a hostile world made of earth, water, plants, animals and some things which don’t immediately give us much of a clue about what they are – like the Moon and stars, disease and fire. Our brains have evolved to live in that world. Anything smaller than a grain of sand or bigger than a Mammoth was beyond their ken. Yet today most of us can at least reach a basic understanding of quantum physics if we try – it takes years of study, that’s all.

            Given that we have found out so many things, like black holes, natural selection, the dimension time and covalent bonds that are outside our normal comprehension – and which would have been, literally, incomprehensible to our human ancestors as little as two hundred years ago – how can you be so sure that humans are unable to comprehend things that are beyond the immediate physical realm in which we live? It seems to me you are simply denying a huge mountain of evidence that points in exactly the opposite direction!

            I agree, again, our brains are a tool, and we should put them to use to understand our world, to reason about it and to come up with questions and answers that expand our understanding. They are, in fact, the only tool we have available – on a person by person basis. Our feelings and our intuitions reside there too.

            Our brains are a part of what we are, and what we are is in our brains. To attempt to say that brains should be treated separately is simply an attempt to put the feelings that we have in a different category – which you label “fundamental” as if this means that you have placed it outside our ability to analyse it. Nothing could be further from the truth.

            Our success at discovering truths about the things that previous ages of human endeavour did not even reveal as possibilities makes me question your ideas.

            Attempting to place some part of human existence outside nature is simply a form of theology: human exceptionalism. The evidence is that humans are not exceptional. A recent meeting of Zoologists, Biologists, and others whose work is linked to animal intelligence concluded with an open statement that all intelligence is on a continuous scale. Humans are at one end of that scale, to be sure, but there is no reason to believe that – given the right evolutionary pressures – other species could not be as intelligent, or more.

            As soon as we set ourselves above nature we set ourselves up for trouble. We all need a fundamental education in how to think – because without that we automatically make poor decisions.

            My conclusion from all this is that our intuitions, and our capability to feel and decide using subjective and emotional criteria, are accidents waiting to happen. We should trust our intuitions up to a point – because they’ve proved their worth helping us to live in the Middle Earth world between the unimaginably large Universe of which our Earth is a tiny speck of dust and the extraordinarily bizarre and invisible (except to one very big apparatus). But when we consider anything else, particularly anything that is invisible and untouchable – justice, potential children, where the Universe ends, what foods will help us with our weight …

            ‘Wait!’, I hear you cry, ‘I can’t even use my intuition to help me decide what to eat?!’

            No. I love toast (memories of earlier times probably a factor – ask a Student). It turns out that when I cut toast out my diet my weight goes down. Every morning my intuition cries out for the loveliness of toast. It’s wrong – at least, wrong to ask every day.

            I hope that I have approached the subject in the way you requested – trying to reach a deeper [mutual] understanding of each other’s positions. You said “motives”, but I’m trying very hard to be motiveless – to be fair and balanced, and to be open to different ideas.

            You say that you pity anyone who doesn’t see how intuition can be used to make important decisions. I can live without your pity – I would much prefer to be treated as an equal, and to have your engagement.

            Peace.

    • Hi Andreas.

      I was fascinated by your comment:

      I will try my best explaining why I feel that what I believe is truth. There you have the single most important argument I can think of. >Feeling< is at least as, maybe even more important then thinking.

      I don’t understand that thinking. How do you demonstrate, to yourself, that what you feel is true?

      But don’t mistake feeling over thinking for stuff not to have to make sense anymore.

      If you can demonstrate that what you feel is true – why would you then not trust in it’s truth? Why do you have a second rule that says I normally trust in my feelings, but if I later find that isn’t true, then I change my mind. Isn’t it better to just have one rule: If I can use thinking to demonstrate truth, I can find truth.

      My Driving Instructor taught me that vehicles indicating to turn right generally turn right. Why would I add your second rule that if I intuitively feel that they might suddenly dig a hole, then to hell with indicators – that car is going to turn into a mole? I know from experience that most people’s intuitive thoughts are a waste of my time – nothing personal but, why would I listen to Mr. A’s?

      The combination of intuition; listening to what wells up inside when we ask the question ‘what do i really think of this’ and critical thought are the two most powerful instruments to construct a coherent world view.

      Why is intuition needed? In my experience it leads to truth less often than pure chance.

      … and in general stay our course and live life successfully and happily.

      Well of course your going to live more happily, in the short term, if you live in a fantasy World. I have to question whether you have evidence that people living a fantasy existence are actually more successful. Do you? Because, if you don’t, then I have to believe that you’re just making it up as you go along.

      I read about a girl who sniffed glue. She was very upset when she woke up in hospital. She told staff that she had been wandering happily in sunny fields of flowers when a dirty great big truck came right across the field and knocked her down.

      The Police reported that she had, while high and living her fantasy existence, walked into a busy road without looking. She had indeed been run over, by a real truck. She was in hospital, in real pain, for far longer than her fantasy.

      Fantasies can only exist when there is a real World to support them. The Real World tends to intrude. Living in the Real World is a guarantee of a more successful life and, ultimately, a far more enjoyable one in the long run.

      Peace.

      • @Nitya, I think all the way in the beginning of my argument I state clearly that I don’t consider religion a good thing, since it institutionalizes something that should be a personal matter, so your last remark just does not apply to me, although it feels a bit like a thinly veiled insult..

        @ Stephen
        Since when is discussion about determining wether the other person lives in a fantasy world? You think this makes it easier for me to understand your point? Also comparing my personal believe to someones delusional-drug-hallucination is not very nice.

        Now, where were we.
        Intuition doesn’t lead to truth more often than pure chance. What kind of question are we talking about here? I think if your talking about the likelihood that ‘intuition’ is going to win you some kind of guessing game, you are probably right. But I’m sure I can’t come up with an example that you can’t blow out of proportion, so that my argument makes no sense anymore.

        • Hi Andreas,

          Since when is discussion about determining wether the other person lives in a fantasy world?

          Ever since the idea was first introduced that there is a way of coming to truth without evidence … whichever century that was. Because that idea corrupts the discussion, and can only lead away from truth.

          I’m only pointing out, in my usual crack-handed way, that there is another way to think about thoughts that someone says came from their feelings/intuition.

          What we need is a way to reach truth – including the many truths that are counter-intuitive.

          How important is truth? Well, let’s take your example of deciding whether to wed. If I were the sort of person who was timid and I decided, using a technique that was worse than chance, to marry, what’s the worst that could happen?

          Two words: Domestic Violence.

          Living a lie, at best, might make you look silly. At worst it can lead to life-long misery, loneliness, tortured pain and death.

          And that’s only on a personal level. What happens when a whole society attempts to live a lie?

          North Korea?

          You think this makes it easier for me to understand your point?

          I apologise if I am ever unclear. Ask, I’m always ready to respond again and to try to be clearer.

          Also comparing my personal believe to someones delusional-drug-hallucination is not very nice.

          I apologise for not stating, in advance, that I was only using an analogy.

          I did say that I can be a passionate fellow, perhaps I did go a bit far.

          On the other hand, as above, the way in which we decide the truth, in order to – as you so intelligently worked out – make decisions is very important. I was responding to some very strong statements that you made, like:

          … our intuition, our capability to feel and know what we truly want, are indispensable

          … some understanding of [my position], maybe someday you’ll see some truth in these words

          … our intuition is crucial in a lot of other areas, and I pity anyone who doesn’t see this

          There are probably others but I don’t want to labour the point. You’re obviously a smart guy, you know you spelled out a very strong opinion.

          I was concerned about that, because believing that intuition and feelings lead to truth is highly likely to lead you into error. Feeling a sense of urgency, I did my best to put a strong, alternative, view.

          On that basis, I still believe that it was a good analogy, that the strong tone was called for and that there are many worse ways of pointing out where a future delusion might have roots.

          I understand that this challenges your thinking, and that you are therefore finding reading alternative ideas challenging. But please believe me, Andreas, when I say that this is not about trying to be hurtful or mean. The opposite is true – I want to help. I have no other motivation.

          Yes, this is about you, and I’m only concerned for your welfare, I’m not trying to score points or ‘win’ (whatever that means) … it’s not that kind of discussion.

          Intuition doesn’t lead to truth more often than pure chance. What kind of question are we talking about here? I think if your talking about the likelihood that ‘intuition’ is going to win you some kind of guessing game, you are probably right.

          No, not a guessing game. That’s too close to pure chance. Again, your own example of deciding whether, or not, to marry is an excellent example.

          As I have already covered this twice I won’t do it again. There is a lovely, old fashioned, saying that sums it up:

          “Marry in haste and repent at leisure.”

          If we allow our feelings to lead us in important decisions, we ask for future trouble. As the age of the above saying illustrates; this is not news.

          But I’m sure I can’t come up with an example that you can’t blow out of proportion, so that my argument makes no sense anymore.

          Blow out of proportion?!

          Where?

          How?

          I repeat: I’m interested in your point that feelings/intuition can lead to good decisions. I was disappointed that you only checked my over-enthusiasm. You didn’t address my comments, and you didn’t expand on your own ideas.

          Look, why don’t we park past misunderstandings and start again?

          Why not begin by explaining what you mean by feelings and intuition. Forget my definitions, do your own.

          Peace.

  29. While religious belief is foremost the rote-learning product of thought socialization via spiritual or divinity-based story teachings, exhortations, precepts and dictates, and believers’ immersion and belief reinforcement in a religious cultural environment, or religious social system, of family, peers, such schools, a congregation and place of communal worship, usually weekly for the laity, a religious leader-teacher cleric and often clergy bureaucratic hierarchy, scripture and doctrine, choir singing, chants, practices of prayer and other magical and social gestures and rituals (in Christianity, the sign of the cross, holy water sprinklings, blessings utterances, greetings and salutations, wine and wafer holy-communion consumption, and baptismal, marriage and death rites), it also in its teachings confers its adherents with an mutually affirming mass expectation of a life after bodily death and a moral code of conduct by which adherents are to live or to return to after moral lapse (a social and behavioral values system that is rarely, if ever, roundedly moral in itself or substantially moral to those of different religions or of no religion), a sense of meaning, dignity, innocence and belonging, and a group identity and a spiritual social network and spiritual community. In short, religious belief, based on belief in the supernatural and supernatural causation of things and for events, that is inconsistent with commonly shared objective, empirical reality, is founded much more on motive and psycho-social emotional needs (on strong psychological attachments) than it is on logic and disciplined reason (rational analysis) for understanding and explaining things and events. Religion panders to and exploits the human (the child’s and adult’s inner child’s) dream-state process and flight response (from reality), of psychological escape from indifferent and sometimes harsh or nightmarish reality, with fantasy scenarios of eternal life and happiness versus punishment and suffering, or good or bad karma, in the hereafter for respectively believing in the divine and submitting to the will of the divine or disbelieving in the divine or violating the will of the divine in this life, whose will is communicated by the religion, the anointed writers or authors of its scriptures of the religion and the religion’s teacher clergy and support staff. These fantasy scenarios are indoctrination and psychological seduction and intimidation incentives working together for the one common purpose of inducing and fortifying belief, even irrational belief. Perhaps most important of all, along with offering people an institution for the consecration of marriages, and, in ideal, for the fostering of marriage and the family unit and the moral upbringing of children, religious belief gives believers a relationship with a supreme-being supreme power source that they, as individuals, can imagine into existence and into their presence at any time and call upon or petition incessantly for guidance, help, protection, relief, healing, health recovery, forgiveness for wrongs, rescue intervention into the troubled lives of one’s loved ones or one’s own troubled life, good grades in school and on matriculation and advancement qualification tests, justice for transgressors, good luck, a job, a job promotion, a hit video, song or book, ample money and savings, a mate and family with children and friends, a house, nice clothes and home furnishings, a car, vacations and a happy retirement, etc., and such belief also gives one a relationships with such a power source to thank and give praise to (that is, to bow to, worship and express gratitude to) as the dispenser of the benefits and good luck (the blessings) one receives in life. Maybe most of us yearn to entreat for help and exult our gratitude as well as crave to belong, and the imaginary divine meets these needs.

  30. As the two explanations are not mutually exclusive we should expect -and we indeed find- all of the combinations; for each society and person there can be any combination of percentages (tradition% + true belief%=100% of a person’s religiosity).

    So, some people hold on both because of the familial or traditional practicing and because they truly believe (e.g. 50% tradition, 50% true belief).
    Some people are only holding on because of the tradition (e.g. 100% tradition, 0% true belief).
    Some people truly believe but they follow a religion which was not given to them by their family and society and might actually oppose them; this is admittedly the rarest case (0% tradition, 100% true belief).
    And, in general, any of the combinations can exist.

    It’s difficult to analyze it at the level of a hypothetical individual, except if we are talking about a specific individual whom we can study and then decide where he lies in the spectrum. However, at the level of societies, and sometimes communities, there are clear trends. A religious person in Switzerland or Canada, in the “Western world” in general or in a more secular community, wherever that is, is way more likely to be “traditionally” religious and not so much philosophically (e.g. 80-100% tradition + 0-20% true belief). Whereas, in more fundamental societies or communities, most likely a person is religious both traditionally and philosophically (e.g. 50-60% tradition + 50-40% true belief). This does not mean that everyone in each society will be like that, because you can find everything everywhere when it comes to individual cases.

    At the level of humanity, it is really difficult to make an estimation. Taking into consideration that there are still quite a few places of literalism and fundamentalism, my guess would be that right now we’re looking at 65-70% tradition and 35-30% true belief.

  31. While religious belief is foremost the rote-learning product of thought socialization via spiritual or divinity-based story teachings, exhortations, precepts and dictates, and believers’ immersion and belief reinforcement in a religious cultural environment, or religious social system, of family, peers, such schools, a congregation and place of communal worship, usually weekly for the laity, a religious leader-teacher cleric and often a clergy bureaucratic hierarchy, scripture and doctrine, choir singing, chants, practices of prayer and other magical and social gestures and rituals (in Christianity, the sign of the cross, holy water sprinklings, blessings utterances, greetings and salutations, wine and wafer holy-communion consumption, and baptismal, marriage and death rites), it also in its teachings confers its adherents with a mutually affirming mass expectation of a life after bodily death and a moral code of conduct by which adherents are to live or to return to after moral lapse (a social and behavioral values system that is rarely, if ever, roundedly moral in itself or substantially moral to those of different religions or of no religion), a sense of meaning, dignity, innocence and belonging, and a group identity and a spiritual social network and spiritual community. In short, religious belief, based on belief in the supernatural and supernatural causation of things and for events, that is inconsistent with commonly shared objective, empirical reality, is founded much more on motive and psycho-social emotional needs (on strong psychological attachments) than it is on logic and disciplined reason (rational analysis) for understanding and explaining things and events. Religion panders to and exploits the human (the child’s and adult’s inner child’s) dream-state process and flight response (from reality), of psychological escape from indifferent and sometimes harsh or nightmarish reality, with fantasy scenarios of eternal life and happiness versus punishment and suffering, or good or bad karma, in the hereafter for respectively believing in the divine and submitting to the will of the divine or disbelieving in the divine or violating the will of the divine in this life, whose will is communicated by the religion, the anointed writers or authors of the scriptures of the religion and the religion’s teacher clergy and support staff. These fantasy scenarios are indoctrination and psychological seduction and intimidation incentives working together for the one common purpose of inducing and fortifying religious belief, even irrational belief. Perhaps most important of all, along with offering people an institution for the consecration of marriages, and, in ideal, for the fostering of marriage and the family unit and the moral upbringing of children, religious belief gives believers a relationship with a supreme-being supreme power source that they, as individuals, can imagine into existence and into their presence at any time and call upon or petition incessantly for guidance, help, protection, relief, healing, health recovery, forgiveness for wrongs, rescue intervention into the troubled lives of one’s loved ones or one’s own troubled life, good grades in school and on matriculation and advancement qualification tests, justice for transgressors, good luck, a job, a job promotion, a hit video, song, book or fashion design, fame, success, victory, ample money and savings, a mate and family with children and friends, a house, nice clothes and home furnishings, a car, vacations and a happy retirement, etc., and such belief also gives one a relationships with such a power source to thank and give praise to (that is, to bow to, worship and express gratitude to) as the dispenser of the benefits and good luck (the blessings) one receives in life. Maybe most of us yearn to entreat for help and exult our gratitude as well as crave to belong, and the imaginary divine meets these needs.

    • While religious belief is foremost the rote-learning product of thought socialization via …

      Eh? That’s a lot of assertions you have in this post, but I don’t see any attempt to back it up with any evidence or reasoning.

      • Alan Jul 24, 2014 at 8:41 am

        While religious belief is foremost the rote-learning product of thought socialization via

        Eh? That’s a lot of assertions you have in this post, but I don’t see any attempt to back it up with any evidence or reasoning.

        Nothing that a bit of basic homework on well known religious views and activities, can’t fix!

        Let’s start with this one:-

        religious belief is foremost the rote-learning product

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apostle%27s_Creed#English_translations
        - “I believe in .. . . . . . .. .. . . .” – Rote memorisation, with no deductive evidenced reasoning involved!

  32. I was born and raised by Christian parents, and while I knew that my parents were true believers, and they held firm to their faith-I never caught on. I was driven to church every Sunday, and the only reason you stayed home was due to a severe illness-like a raging flu with a temperature of over 105. There was a time when my mother, near the end of her life, actually felt betrayed by her god. I never saw my mother question her faith before, and not like the what I witnessed. It drove her to tears. Her god’s take on devine-intervention had let her down in an hour of desperate need. And yet as a priest interred the house to consul my mother under the illusion that she was going to a better place, I noticed that when the priest left the house, he looked over his shoulder at me with a look of contempt. That look gave me a true picture of how the wool was pulled over the eyes of believing sheep, and anyone who showed any doubt was considered an agent of satan. My mother’s faith might have been briefly restored until her death, but I was given more evidence as to the fraud and deceit religion truly was. So, for my mother and father, belief in their god was real to them, not just a matter of family tradition. I for one just never found any comfort or joy in it. It never solved any of my problems or cured any of my ills. I never found myself part of the flock. I never became one of the sheep, no matter how alone I was-even in a crowd of sheep. I actually find comfort in my solitude. I hope to work my way back to that comfort zone. David Smith

  33. I’m confused. How does a priest giving you a look of contempt (wrong though he was) show you that God does not exist? How does not finding comfort or joy show you that God does not exist?

    It must have been hard to be “alone… in a crowd of sheep”, but doesn’t that tell us that your “friends” were a bad lot rather than that God does not exist?

  34. Based on my own subjective experience and anecdotal evidence, I’d have to say, a hefty majority of it. Again, this is based solely on my subjective experience, but my Mother has attended an Episcopal church every sunday of her 66 years on this planet out of a sense of duty to the memory of her father who was a devout christian and the son of an Episcopal Minster back in Ireland. She has told me several times in the past that she attends church mostly for the social aspect and that she likes Father Timothy’s sermons, but doesn’t believe that the bible is the word of god and is “unsure” about whether the christian god actually exists. (No Mom, he doesn’t.) Unfortunately, no matter how many times I try to explain to my sister that our mother’s loyalty to the church has almost nothing to do with belief in god, she attends church every sunday out of deference to my mother. The real bummer is that my sister is now indoctrinating my nephew, in a misguided attempt to please our mother. This is an entirely subjective argument and should be subverted to any argument with empirical support, but that’s my perspective.

    • Based on my own subjective experience and anecdotal evidence,

      That would be the “anecdotal” fallacy then. This doesn’t mean that your “hefty majority” is incorrect, just that you will have come to the right conclusion for the wrong reason. :)

      • Alan Jul 25, 2014 at 5:54 am

        That would be the “anecdotal” fallacy then.

        Quoting an anecdotal example which is stated as an anecdotal example, is not a fallacy!
        If you are going to “correct” others, you should do your homework first to get it right!

        • Robert wrote, “Based on my own subjective experience and anecdotal evidence, I’d have to say, a hefty majority of it.” Note the words “Based on”. Maybe I misunderstood him, but I took it to mean that he based his conclusion on an anecdotal example. If my understanding is correct, then he was basing his conclusion on, well, anecdotal evidence, which is an anecdotal fallacy or, to put it another way, he was using a statistically non-significant sample on which to base his conclusion.
          What do you think he meant by “based on”?
          Robert, help us here. Did I understand you correctly, please?

          • Alan Jul 25, 2014 at 6:49 am

            If you want to challenge an example, presenting nothing, does not make a case.

            Presenting evidence to the contrary would make a case.

            At present the balance of the argument is Robert one example, Alan nil!

            (It’s times like this when we have Alan, Allan, and David Allen commenting, that I’m pleased I used the long unambiguous posting name of Alan4discussion.)

  35. I think according to the question where religious belief comes from, we have to take into consideration how the human mind is structured. Our brain is an excellent simulator for probable future scenarios. But at the same time it is capable of realising that it might make mistakes by doing so. But mistakes tend to corrupt the system “mind” itself. So there must be a kind of safety circuit to prevent us from getting unable to act. This is the moment supernatural powers appear on the “mental scene”. We have invented these entities to fill the gaps of our knowledge about and understanding of the environment.
    But as we live in communities it was just a question of time until this tendency to insert supernatural powers when we tend to get stuck in contradictions were used by “clever” individuals to gain control over other members of their group. After thousands of years this meme has become so self-evident that today people seem to have problems to question it.
    One of the ways it gained the position of a meme was passing it to the next generation. So this is the general way to become religious. So called “true belief” is something that comes later when self-consciousness arises. This is the point when a person needs a “reason” for belief. “True belief” is a paradoxical phrase as true and false belong to the category knowledge and belief is by definition NOT knowledge (that’s why we use differentiated terms: knowledge, wishes, wantings, beliefs). But to keep up such a thing as religious belief again needs a kind of safety circuit for not getting cought up in the contradictions of real experience and the belief in the supernatural entity. By convincing themeselves (and each other in religious communities) of the “truth” of the idea of a god that has the properties that are claimed for all the known gods in history, religious people try to overcome this obvious contradiction.

    • Roedy Jul 25, 2014 at 6:54 am

      Belief in a religion is inversely proportional to how familiar one is with the alternatives. This suggests the loyalty has nothing to do with intellect but with early conditioning.

      That would describe the obsession with home-schooling, and evangelical Xtian creationist colleges, with their theistic need to substitute and exclude exposure of the students to evidence based, scientific and historical knowledge.

      If we had a penny for every creationist who has come here to defend the pathetically simplistic, only version of (pseudo)reality, they have met. … . . . . .

      • their theistic need to substitute and exclude exposure of the students to evidence based, scientific and historical knowledge.

        Do you mean that such a need is specific to theists? If so, why do you think that? I can think of a number of non-theists who seem to have this problem.

        Your post seems rather USA-centred.

    • Belief in a religion is inversely proportional to how familiar one is with the alternatives. This suggests the loyalty has nothing to do with intellect but with early conditioning.

      Anyone got any stats on what proportion of children of atheists are atheists?

      BTW, I’m not suggesting atheism is a religion!

      • Alan Jul 25, 2014 at 7:18 am
        Anyone got any stats on what proportion of children of atheists are atheists?

        I don’t think there are figures on that. All children are born atheists prior to indoctrination or picking up a local culture.

        There are however figures on US criminals!

        No matter how you cut it, atheists compose an infinitesimal fraction of the federal prison population. The question is begged: Why? Why are atheists so underrepresented in the criminal population? Given the fact that approximately 10 percent of Americans are atheists, why is only 0.07 percent in federal prison?

        And there should be little doubt that socioeconomic factors, as well as race and education, play a significant role in determining who winds up in prison.

        However, these factors alone cannot account for the numbers. It may be that atheists do the right because it’s the right thing to do, and not because of some promise of eternal reward for good behavior, or threats of eternal punishment for bad behavior.

        It may be that atheists simply have a stronger moral compass than theists. After all, for Christians, Jesus is a metaphysical get out of jail free card, confess your sins and all is forgiven.

        According to Christian doctrine, an individual can rape, kill, steal, and engage in all manner of criminal activity, and in the end all will be forgiven, as long as the criminal accepts Jesus as savior. An atheist has no such metaphysical luxury: an atheist is responsible for his or her actions, and no imaginary god can offer absolution for criminal conduct. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2014/04/atheists-compose-less-than-one-percent-of-federal-prison-population/

        And at the other end of the scale, the proportion of atheists among top scientists is high.

        Leading scientists still reject God
        Nature, Vol. 394, No. 6691, p. 313 (1998) © Macmillan Publishers Ltd. http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html
        . .

        Our chosen group of “greater” scientists were members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Our survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality).

  36. Andreas Jul 25, 2014 at 7:08 am

    Examples are really there for the taking. How do you determine for example who to marry, do you make an extensive pro vs con list and eventually choose the woman/man with the most point in her/his favor. No! You just know you love someone, just like you know what career suits you. Although this last example is already a bit more complicated because of all the practical implications of choosing a certain careerpath, what I mean is that you know what you’re passionate about.

    This sounds like the methodology which dumps the unlucky into unfortunate failing relationships and occupations.

    Really if we would all abandon or even distrust what we feel and only think about important issues, discussions and decisions, our lives would be very poor indeed.

    This seems to be a religion based assertion of no substance. Prioritising rationality and evidence, consistently proves to be more reliable than the “gut-feelings” or “intuition”, which is at best, the chancer’s gap-filler in the absence of researched knowledge.

    There are documents which explain and record how decisions were taken – “that it felt OK, so there was no need for material checks or measurements”.
    The documents are called: “ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION REPORTS”!

    But I will try to explain why this discussion is of no use.

    It will be of no use to yourself unless you are open to evidence and reasoning. Many here already understand intuitive theistic “faith-thinking” processes.

    Like i said somewhere in this thread, you guys seem to think that we are only our physical bodies, that all of our consciousness is the product of our brain-activity. And indeed there is overwhelming evidence for this.

    So apart from a mental block from previous indoctrination, and a possible wish for the fantasy of an after-life, what is your problem with accepting the overwhelming evidence?

    However there is one important thing one should keep in mind in trying to grasp/understand and applying scientific methods to the concept of God.

    Absolutely! The neuroscientists have been working on it and are making good progress in finding the locations of gods.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm
    Source:
    University of Missouri-Columbia
    Summary:
    Scientists have speculated that the human brain features a “God spot,” one distinct area of the brain responsible for spirituality. Now, researchers have completed research that indicates spirituality is a complex phenomenon, and multiple areas of the brain are responsible for the many aspects of spiritual experiences.

    Our brains, by their very nature are incompatible with understanding, truly comprehending concepts that are outside the material realm, things that are not finite and cannot be categorized into whatever category we can think off.

    This is just assertive word-salad which has no evidenced basis. It is a fantasy of rationalised denial of the evidence, wrapped up in a meaningless clustering of words asserting some “True Comprehension” of a personal fantasy realm of “immaterial nothingness”.

    Our brains are a tool, that we should put to use to understand our world, to categorize, to reason about questions and come up with solutions and answers that we can use to come to constructive actions.

    Indeed so! That would include what exists in reality, and what is pure speculative imagination or egocentric urges. Pretending there are cherry-picked aspects of reality which cannot be understood, is just gapology to dodge refutations of flawed concepts.
    The human ego may be the central focus of the individual, but neither it, nor its projected god-delusion, are the central feature of the universe.

    However as soon as we elevate our tool to the position of the master, we are headed for trouble.

    Only if you are a mind-slave intimidated and dominated by threatening imaginary gods, their priests, and followers. My brain IS the master of MY understanding, which builds clarity, not trouble!

    We need fundamental values, and a speck on the horizon for which to strive for.

    We certainly need aspirations, targets and objectives, but fundamentalist values from the ancient ages of ignorance, are a poor source for these. The wonders of scientific discoveries, give a much clearer and extensive range of options.

    These are the things for which our intuition, our capability to feel and know what we truly want, are indispensable.

    Or so indoctrinated people have regularly drummed into them to by constant re-affirmation of creeds, and their religious leaders.

    It is indispensable to them because they have never learned to think out their own objectives and progress freely on their own. They will fall over if their spoon-fed “values” and the crutch of god-belief, are suddenly taken away.

    That is why those whose mental development into free rational thinkers has been held back by indoctrination and threats, sit in god-dependent denial, hiding gods in real or imaginary gaps in present knowledge. They have difficulty in understanding scientific atheism, which recognises the absence of gods in the wider material universe, but finds them dominating their hosts brains , in the believers’ imaginations.

    And before someone posts a reply here putting everyone of my sentences in blockquotes and elaborately explaining why I’m wrong. Please think of why people have discussions.

    Scientific discussions are about carrying out a detailed analysis point by point, to check the reasoning and validity of claims. They produce accurate evidenced understanding of how stuff and living relationships work in the real world, how they historically worked in the past, and what opportunities new discoveries open up for the future. .

    Preaching dogma, or believing whatever you would like to believe, is something totally different.

    Once you move the topic to emotional feelings, hormones, drugs, biases, and fantasy beliefs, that moves the science into the areas biology, neuroscience and psychology.
    Pretending other people who have spent time on investigations and study can’t understand subjects, of which you show strong denial and no understanding, is a very poor argument, particularly when you have offered no evidence for your claims.

  37. To answer Alan’s question about god’s existence. Nothing can prove the existence of a diety unless that being comes down to Earth himself or itself for all to see-show off it’s super powers to the whole earth’s population at the same time.
    All that priest did was to confirm what I felt long before I gave up on Santa Claus. Reinforcing dogma with words doesn’t conjure up any magic, supernatural powers or prove that god exists. It just keeps reinforcing the same backward, superstitious belief among believers. Keep the existing sheep corralled and bring in new sheep to keep the con going. David Smith

    • To answer Alan’s question about god’s existence. Nothing can prove the existence of a diety unless that being comes down to Earth himself or itself for all to see-show off it’s super powers to the whole earth’s population at the same time.

      Why?

      Reinforcing dogma with words doesn’t conjure up any magic, supernatural powers or prove that god exists.

      That looks rather like a straw man to me.

          • Google is your friend!
            http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Argument_from_incredulity

            Something seems to have gone wrong with the Reply mechanism here. This is a reply to Alan4discussion’s post.

            When I asked, “What personal incredulity?” I didn’t ask, “What is personal incredulity?” I am aware of a person’s personal incredulity being a fallacious argument against something. I was asking why you posted, “Personal incredulity is not an evidenced answer!” in response to my post that your previous post of “Reinforcing dogma with words doesn’t conjure up any magic, supernatural powers or prove that god exists.” looks like a straw man. The reason I asked is that, as far as I can tell, no-one here is “Reinforcing dogma with words in an attempt to conjure up any magic, supernatural powers or prove that god exists”. I was asking why you posted about personal incredulity when no-one was expressing personal incredulity.

        • David gave a clear statement: -

          david smith Jul 25, 2014 at 10:23 am – To answer Alan’s question about god’s existence. Nothing can prove the existence of a diety unless that being comes down to Earth himself or itself for all to see-show off it’s super powers

          That if there was a deity (and particularly a Xtian style interfering on Earth deity), proof would be some unambiguous observable evidence of its activity.

          Alan E. Jul 27, 2014 at 4:27 am

          “Reinforcing dogma with words doesn’t conjure up any magic, supernatural powers or prove that god exists.” looks like a straw man.

          Not in the slightest, when it is taken in conjunction with the other part of David’s original comment. If you are going to make fallacy claims on a site specialising in reasoning, you need to do your homework on what the fallacies are!

          I was asking why you posted,

          “Personal incredulity is not an evidenced answer!”

          I posted it because of your disputing David’s comment on the basis of failing to understand and include the part you had disregarded, and had then made an erroneous “strawman” claim about a cherry-picked part of the comment.

          Too many of your comments are assertions of a lack of evidence, or gratuitous contradictions of available evidenced information, which you then ignore when it is produced and linked

          As I said, Google is your friend, – and it should be used, rather than asking other posters to explain simple matters which are readily available on line.

  38. The first and most important factor in this question is, does we have a conclusive definition of religion on which we can discuss further. In the absence of such a definition all discussions are equally right or wrong.

    For a discussion I present a description of religion as base for discussion.

    FOR WHAT IS RELIGION BUT ENLIGHTENED CONDUCT? AND WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY BUT THE TRIUMPH OVER THE UNRULY TENDENCIES OF THE MIND?
    BUT TRUE RELIGION CANNOT BE FORMULATED; IT IS PURITY OF MIND, A LOVING HEART, A SOUL AT PEACE WITH THE WORLD. IT NEED NOT BE DEFENDED, FOR IT IS BEING AND DOING AND LIVING.
    A MAN BEGINS TO PRACTICE RELIGION WHEN HE BEGINS TO CONTROL HIMSELF.
    James Allen.

    The second factor is the word “Belief”. Is it a THOUGHT or a FEELING? A human being is aware of the difference between the two, the thought and an emotion. He can distinguish between the two is doubtless.
    We cannot neglect a fundamental fact in this factor, thought or emotion, is that, in both cases it is known by an individual alone. It is only an assumption or presumption by all others, from the expressed words and deeds by the individual.
    It is scientifically proven that a human being can express only 40% of his thoughts or emotion to others by words and deeds, which he alone is aware and conscious of.
    Under this circumstance how much we can generalise the Belief on Religion is a big question.
    A belief is always unstable. According to the necessaries fulfilled the belief is changed from one to another. If there is no necessity we can believe or disbelieve in anything and everything.
    Then the pertinent question, WHY ONE NEED TO BELIVE IN RELIGION OR SOMETHING ELSE? What is that compels a human being to search for a principle on which he can believe and…… the purpose is one and the same for everybody, searching for an emotional condition that suits the individual.

    Thanks and regards
    Vasudev Nair

    • Vasudev Jul 25, 2014 at 11:50 am

      The first and most important factor in this question is, does we have a conclusive definition of religion on which we can discuss further.

      You are absolutely correct. No rational discussion can be conducted in vague undefined terms.

      In the absence of such a definition all discussions are equally right or wrong.

      I would say they were neither right nor wrong, but were simply too vague to intelligible.

      For a discussion I present a description of religion as base for discussion.

      We would need to have a specific named religion with its beliefs documented, in order to do any meaningful analysis.

      FOR WHAT IS RELIGION BUT ENLIGHTENED CONDUCT? AND WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY BUT THE TRIUMPH OVER THE UNRULY TENDENCIES OF THE MIND?

      This is a list of question begging questions, not details.

      BUT **TRUE RELIGION* CANNOT BE FORMULATED; IT IS PURITY OF MIND,

      Ah the shifting sands of “unformulated belief” of the “asserted truth” of the”TRUE RELIGION” category – allegedly “correct” under the negative proof fallacy, as it is too vague for refutation.
      Obviously, if it cannot be formulated, it cannot be coherent enough to be true (or false).

  39. Theists seem to consistently rely on their “feeling” of a personal relationship with Jesus, or Allah, or some other bogus spirit.

    How about MY FEELING, that the natural world we see around us requires no supernatural spirits or gods. Is that not equally valid ? If not,why not.

  40. It seems to me that what was asked by the question can only be responded to in an anecdotal fashion in as much as the issue is the holding onto of religion, not the implanting of the seed. Now there well may be famous and widely accepted studies on this point but other than the commonly practiced and discredited tactic of enshrining belief above knowledge, they or it is not known to me. Andreas brought to the discussion feeling as a defense of continued belief in religion. By that I suspect he means some personal and profound intuition that falls outside of the observable, as though sensed by some undetected sensor. I sense that I am much, much older than Andreas and have grappled with this phenomena though not in this religious permutation and I feel that time and tide will afford a reconciliation before facts and data can grind down to our human truth. I appreciate his apparent earnestness in bringing this to this forum.
    My own case history is less common I think than others here retold. I was born into a Catholic clan in a small mid-western town in America just before the end of WWII. I attended a Catholic primary school and my life was as that of my whole extended family centered around the church. For those unfamiliar, the church offered up almost daily ‘obligations’ and for children there was relentless instruction. In this, I was dutiful. First Confession, Confirmation, celebrations for Uncles and cousins who achieved their umpteenth degree in The Knights of Columbus, Ladies Rosary Society functions, Stations of The Cross to be endured on Wednesday nights, catechism class on Saturday….just as the US military now defines itself, Total Spectrum Domination. I was not contrarian to participating in all this mumbo-jumbo, I just accepted it as the price to be paid for remaining beloved in the family and clan. The only fly in the ointment was I did not believe. As a child it is difficult to assess abstract concepts. We were reminded that Jesus is the source of love, Jesus loves everybody, Jesus was everywhere. Indeed he was, in paintings, statues, embossments, frescoes, everyplace your eye might fall. He was even glowing in the dark via some iridescent plastic miracle all night long in my bedroom. Well love isn’t abstract. I knew I loved my mother, my family, my brother. I knew I loved many people. I knew that is where you learn how to love. I guess I just couldn’t connect with that bleeding, tortured mind reading Jesus. I finally came to honesty thanks to the Russians. When I was in my early teens the Russians got a satellite called Sputnik into orbit. There was fear and outrage aplenty and a newly recognized need for action. The Catholic Church, well at least our parish priest, was not going to sit still while godless atheism spread to outer space. The sermon the following Sunday exhorted the congregation to come to terms with the likelihood that now that the doorway to the heavens had been cast open strange and alien beings would be found there. It would be the duty of all Catholics in the days and years to come to bring these creatures to the Holy Church providing that they were not already of the Catholic faith. Now dear readers you might find this to be beyond credulous-that such a preposterous message had been sent out from the pulpit but I can only assure you by my word and affirmation that it is entirely true. Well, at that moment I believed that was the most idiotic thing I had ever heard, and mind you by this time we had been watching the TV for several years. For me it was an opportunity, I began agitating for an exemption from the rigors of Catholic life. There was much drama and confrontation. Appeals were made to me by my father and assorted Uncles and Aunts to continue in the observation of my birth faith, if not for the salvation of my own soul, then for the comfort and serenity of my mother and beloved grandmother and to be sure I did some accommodating there. By the time I was in University, the family had acclimated themselves to this peculiarity of mine and had decided it was the result of misapprehension due to education. To their credit no actions or even reproach has ever been directed towards me although there has long been an expressed desire by many that I return to the church. My reply is I cannot return to where I have never been. Of course the intervening decades have cast us far and wide. I have not even lived in America for many years and the those kin that nurtured me are long departed but their successors still believe in tolerance towards individuals and indifference to the primacy of dogma. Yet, for the most part they remain as Catholic as the pope.

  41. Hi Alan (as in just Alan… not Alan4Discussion etc.),

    I am curious. You sound like a reasonably articulate person and apparently well-educated; I too did a NatSci degree at Cambridge and, based on my experience, I am surprised that you came through with any religiosity remaining… we must have moved in very different circles! (Tongue in cheek: though you did study chemistry… chemists are happy to stop their “questioning” at the level of the atom… on the other hand physicists can never stop delving deeper!)

    So, I am hoping you might do me the honour of satisfying my curiosity (which is generally insatiable)… could you explain what “your god” is. You have made a lot of comments regarding peoples’ statements concerning aethiesm, but have made relatively few defining comments about your Christianity (except that the bible is “obviously” not taken literally by any “true” Christian – I paraphrase).

    it’s just that the last time I saw someone posting relatively reasoned comments about their religion on this site, they were so reasonable about it that they backed themselves into a corner where they defined their religious belief out of existence i.e. “The bible is simply allegorical with some good stories.”… “No one believes that God actually answers prayers, they are for self reflection etc.” and by the end of it, there was effectively no difference between their stated position and aetheism.

    I am curious as to whether you can come up with a statement of your “religiosity” that I and others here, haven’t heard before, or whether you would end up doing the same thing as that other relatively reasonable poster?

    Best Regards

      • And Polkinghorne is a prominent example of being a physicist who is also an ordained priest… all these examples surprise the heck out of me :-) Given the critical analysis one should be applying to be a successful scientist, I can only assume they must compartmentalize their thinking i.e. “I’m at work as a scientist so I will think this way.” Now I am doing religiousy stuff so I will shut-down the thinking I was doing at work and now I will think completely differently. I mean… hey… people “switch-off” from work in terms of kicking back and watching a movie, playing with the kids etc. but personally, I can’t grasp this compartmentalization of thinking process.

        • I can only assume they must compartmentalize their thinking

          That, dear sir, seems to be an example of rather lazy thinking. Assuming? Are you really happy to leave it at that?
          How about Simon Conway-Morris, Francis Collins and all the other scientists who are Christians and well-respected for their scientific knowledge? Have they all compartmentalized their thinking.
          Have a butchers at a few more at http://www.faraday.st-edmunds.cam.ac.uk/Multimedia.php

          On a slightly less grand scale, my current vicar was a COBOL programmer, my previous vicar had a PhD in metallurgy, the head of the training team for my Reader training had a PhD in physics and five out of six people doing chemistry in my 3rd in my college were Christians. There were more scientists in our college Christian Union than arty types.

          • Alien Jul 27, 2014 at 11:32 am

            I can only assume they must compartmentalize their thinking

            That, dear sir, seems to be an example of rather lazy thinking.

            Nope! It is a well noted objective observation.

            Assuming? Are you really happy to leave it at that?
            How about Simon Conway-Morris, Francis Collins and all the other scientists who are Christians and well-respected for their scientific knowledge? Have they all compartmentalized their thinking.

            Yep! Science and reasoning in one box, supernatural faith-thinking woo-ology in a separate one. – Can’t mix them, or the pseudo-science gets into the real science and tangles up all the practical stuff in the real world!

    • Hiya Theo H,
      Alan here. I’m a bit confused about how this site quotes people’s names. I put my first name in the first name box and my surname in the surname box and the site seems a bit too chummy just identifying me as “Alan”. I think I’ll change my first name to “Alien”, a nickname I had at work because, 1) it sounds a bit like Alan and 2) I got that name when I came from another part of the company which seemed a bit strange to most other people.

      Anyway…. “What is my god?” rather than “Who is my God?”? He is all powerful (but doesn’t/can’t do things against his nature), he is loving, he is merciful, he is holy. He is Trinity, he is the God of the bible. He is the God who does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his way and live. Is that the sort of thing you mean?

      May I correct one misunderstanding though. In your paraphrase of “my Christianity” you paraphrased me as arguing that ‘that the bible is “obviously” not taken literally by any “true” Christian’. That is actually quite incorrect, though I can see how you came to that conclusion since much of what I had been posting about was about the early chapters of Genesis. Here is my basic take on the Bible.
      I am more than happy to argue that the Bible is true in the normal sense of that word. I am (very) happy to be known an evangelical Christian. I subscribe to the view that the bible contains everything necessary to be known to get saved. I am also happy to work with other Christians who aren’t quite prepared to say all that though. I’m actually a Reader in the Church of England (aka Licensed Lay Minister aka Lay Minister).
      The Bible is 66 separate books rather than just one book. It has some books which are all poetry, e.g. the Psalms. I has other books which have some poetry in them. Some books are nigh on completely symbolic, e.g. Revelation. The Gospels are similar to Greco-Roman biographies. Unlike modern biographies which tend to take the reader through a person’s life from birth to death in a totally chronological order, they contain only a selection of things from their life and some of the stuff is ordered thematically rather than chronologically.
      As with any other text, we need to understand what the text (or the bit we are looking at) is (to the best of our ability) in order to best understand it. Is it meant figuratively or literally? What genre is it (we should read crime novels differently from ads in the local paper and both differently from a book of poems by Wilfred Owen)? Who was the audience (and how would they have understood this when they heard it read to them)? Stuff like that.
      So it is not a case of saying that we should not read the bible literally. Absolutely no-one I have ever come across reads the bible from beginning to end literally. The problem seems to come in deciding which bits are to be read in what manner. I spoke to someone the other week who said they thought that there really was a Good Samaritan, that Jesus was recounting the story of something which had actually happened. That made me smile. I had never thought that anyone would think that and they had not thought that anyone thought it hadn’t actually happened.
      Anyway, got to go. As for you being a physicist, I did physics in my first year there (and maths crystalline materials because I could find no other subject), then chemistry and maths in the 2nd year then just chemistry in the third year. I didn’t set the place alight, particularly in the 3rd year having met a certain young lady back in Norwich at the end of the 2nd year and getting a bit distracted. I do go back with friends sometimes for a visit, usually with a punt. Last year I bumped into my old chemistry tutor there from 34 years ago and he remembered me, including where I lived. Flipping heck! Anyway, chemistry is a better subject than physics as chemists see the bigger picture better than physicists. :)
      I’d be delighted to carry on discussing with you. I do find it a bit hard to find posts here though. I usually hang out over at reglionandethics.co.uk where I am Black Dwarf (a nickname that Athanasisus is reputed to have had but almost certainly didn’t have), but am having a bit of a break from there. I’ll probably trundle back off to there in the next few days as I have some questions I need to reply to. I suppose it depends on the quality of the discussions here.

      • Alien Jul 27, 2014 at 4:55 am – Alan here.

        Anyway…. “What is my god?” rather than “Who is my God?”?

        A person who is assumed to exist?

        He is all powerful (but doesn’t/can’t do things against his nature), he is loving,

        A male person – with a fallacious self contradiction of being – “all powerful”, but restrained in some areas by unspecified “things”.

        he is merciful,

        Not the genocidal god of the Old Testament then!

        he is holy. He is Trinity, he is the God of the bible.

        Clearly not the god of the OT.

        He is the God who does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his way and live.

        You have still offered no evidence of existence, or why these contradictory passages can be any more use than ink-blots as a source of information.

        As you have previous said you do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve, You would also need some coherent definitions of “sin”. (Original or otherwise), evidence of when it originated, and during evolution, in which species it occurs.

        Is that the sort of thing you mean?

        It is better than nothing, but far from clear.

        May I correct one misunderstanding though. In your paraphrase of “my Christianity” you paraphrased me as arguing that ‘that the bible is “obviously” not taken literally by any “true” Christian’. That is actually quite incorrect, though I can see how you came to that conclusion since much of what I had been posting about was about the early chapters of Genesis.

        There is no end of semantic shuffling and mental contortions, to try to square the circular triangles, of theistic “interpretation” of biblical self contradictions, contradictions of scientific evidence, historical evidence or contradiction from those other “true Christians” who use the same type of “faith-thinking” to come up with contradictory answers.

        Here is my basic take on the Bible. I am more than happy to argue that the Bible is true in the normal sense of that word.

        That sounds like the wobbly fallacious definition of “true” as in the “true believer” steeped in “faith” and “faith-thinking”, rather than accurate definition of “true”, as in mathematics, in science, or in court!

        • AC-Anyway…. “What is my god?” rather than “Who is my God?”?
          A4D-A person who is assumed to exist?

          For the purpose of Theo H’s question, yes. He didn’t ask me to prove his existence.

          AC-He is all powerful (but doesn’t/can’t do things against his nature), he is loving,
          A4D-A male person – with a fallacious self contradiction of being – “all powerful”, but restrained in some areas by unspecified “things”.

          No, not a “fallacious self-contradiction (what is the difference between a self-contradiction and a fallacious self contradiction?). It is part of the definition of “all powerful” as used by Christians.

          AC-he is merciful,
          A4D-Not the genocidal god of the Old Testament then!

          Which “genocidal god of the Old Testament”? Molech? Baal?

          AC- he is holy. He is Trinity, he is the God of the bible.
          A4D-Clearly not the god of the OT.

          The OT is part of the bible.

          AC-He is the God who does not desire the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his way and live.
          A4D-You have still offered no evidence of existence, or why these contradictory passages can be any more use than ink-blots as a source of information.

          That would be because no-one asked for one.

          As you have previous said you do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve,

          No, I didn’t. It is possible to have symbolic language about a literal person.

          You would also need some coherent definitions of “sin”. (Original or otherwise),

          Why? Theo H didn’t ask for any. However, I would say that a quick and dirty definition is “going against God’s will”.

          evidence of when it originated,

          A long time ago. 10,000-20,000 years ago-ish. At least that is when humans seem to have first sinned.

          and during evolution, in which species it occurs.

          Homo sapiens.

          Is that the sort of thing you mean?
          It is better than nothing, but far from clear.

          I was asking Theo H.

          AC-May I correct one misunderstanding though. In your paraphrase of “my Christianity” you paraphrased me as arguing that ‘that the bible is “obviously” not taken literally by any “true” Christian’. That is actually quite incorrect, though I can see how you came to that conclusion since much of what I had been posting about was about the early chapters of Genesis.
          A4D-There is no end of semantic shuffling and mental contortions, to try to square the circular triangles, of theistic “interpretation” of biblical self contradictions, contradictions of scientific evidence, historical evidence or contradiction from those other “true Christians” who use the same type of “faith-thinking” to come up with contradictory answers.

          If you say so.

          AC-Here is my basic take on the Bible. I am more than happy to argue that the Bible is true in the normal sense of that word.
          A4D-That sounds like the wobbly fallacious definition of “true” as in the “true believer” steeped in “faith” and “faith-thinking”, rather than accurate definition of “true”, as in mathematics, in science, or in court!

          Why?

          • Alien Jul 27, 2014 at 11:20 am

            AC-He is all powerful (but doesn’t/can’t do
            things against his nature), he is loving,

            A4D-A male person – with a fallacious self contradiction of being – “all powerful”, but restrained in some areas by unspecified “things”.

            No, not a “fallacious self-contradiction . It is part of the definition of “all powerful” as used by Christians.

            “Restrained” and “all powerful” ARE contradictions, regardless of your denial! I know self contradictory fallacious definitions, and shifting meanings of words are used by Xtians to “square triangular circles”!

            AC-he is merciful,

            A4D-Not the genocidal god of the Old Testament then!

            Which “genocidal god of the Old Testament”? Molech? Baal?

            I really should not have to be explaining the alleged OT activities of YAHWEH to someone who says he is a Xtian preacher.

            AC- he is holy. He is Trinity, he is the
            God of the bible.

            A4D-Clearly not the god of the OT.

            The OT is part of the bible.

            And it contradicts the trinity.

            As you have previous said you do not believe in a literal Adam and Eve,

            No, I didn’t. It is possible to have symbolic language about a literal person.

            Literal people have parents and grandparents, whatever contorted language is used.

            You would also need some coherent definitions of “sin”. (Original or otherwise),

            I would say that a quick and dirty definition is “going against God’s will”.

            So Adam’s mum, dad, and grandparents, great-grand-parents etc were “without sin” perhaps because of the absence of gods? Cavemen committed no wrongs against others??

            evidence of when it [sin] originated,

            A long time ago. 10,000-20,000 years ago-ish. At least that is when humans seem to have first sinned.

            How would you know? Human ancestors go a lot further back than that!
            http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/malapa-fossils/lineage-graphic
            It does rather look as if you are making this up as you go along!

            and during evolution, in which species it occurs.

            Homo sapiens.

            Why and how?
            Why not Homo erectus, Homo habilis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo heielbergensis, Australopithecus sediba, Pan paniscus, Tiktaalik roseae?

            AC-Here is my basic take on the Bible. I am more than happy to argue that the Bible is true in the normal sense of that word.

            A4D-That sounds like the wobbly fallacious definition of “true” as in the “true believer” steeped in “faith” and “faith-thinking”, rather than accurate definition of “true”, as in mathematics, in science, or in court!

            Why?

            Because that’ exactly what it is – the fallacious use of “true”.

  42. Now down to the Question of the Week:

    Perhaps someone can elucidate the question further… I am finding it hard to go beyond the basic facts that the vast majority of religious people hold the religion of their parents, and the number of those who take up a religion that is not of their parents… is relatively tiny.

    This would seem to put the concept of “true belief” into question. Is there any other definition of “true belief” (used in this context) beyond someone unfailingly and unerringly holding on to the belief system that has been passed down from their parents? In this sense the term “true belief” is simply referring to a particular subset of “holding onto religion [due to] familial or other traditional practice”… a subset of people who simply hold on very tightly!

    Though clearly there is the issue of the start of a religion which does not fit into the above. If no one holds a particular religion in the first place and/or there is a small number of adherents to a particular religion, then to generate a large scale religion there must be a lot of people who did not simply become part of that religious group due to familial practice. However, the explosive period of the growth of a religion is rather unusual (think of the number of “major” religions in the world) and relates to things like Muhammed’s conquering subjugation that started Islam, or the spread of Christianity via the pre-existing Imperial structures of Rome. This period of religious growth falls under the general area of Napoleon’s quote “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” (apologies to any historians if he didn’t actually say this… as is too often the case with famous quotes!)… off the cuff I would change it to something like “Religion is what keeps the influential in power and the masses from overrunning the privileged few.”… though I am sure some posters here could come up with a whole variety of better versions.

  43. Faith is a highly persistent, powerful cultural construct. Its high degree of persistence is due to many factors, the most prominent being a) the character of virtue that is unquestionably granted to religious faith and b) the illusion that faith is absolutely essential to morality. Those two popular beliefs are by themselves enough for the faith virus to keep propagating across the ages.

    But as if that weren’t enough, there are several other factors: widespread ignorance and wishful thinking, the combination of which usually lead an individual right into the hands of irrational beliefs. Also peer pressure (the fear of being perceived as a “bad person”), and let’s not forget, fear of death and eternal suffering. That’s the infernal stick.

    Now, just add the celestial carrot to the mix: the prospect of eternal bliss, being re-united with your loved ones, being rid of all your physical flaws and psychological weaknesses, etc… and you have just come up with the most effective, abject form of blackmail one could ever devise. The divine offer from the heavenly mob one simply cannot refuse.

    So I think “mainstream” religious belief is acquired from familial cultural roots at a young age and “true belief” (fundamentalism) comes at a later age. Either from sustained indoctrination by the subject’s family or his/her teachers, leaders and social circle. The longer the indoctrination lasts and the older the subject gets, the harder it becomes for the indoctrinated to escape this mental Gulag.

  44. “How much of holding onto religion comes from familial or other traditional practice and not from “true” belief in the doctrine?”
    All of it! The reasoning is obvious. We ‘truly’ believe that a car speeding towards us will result in serious injury or death if we fail to act appropriately. This is so basic that there is no need to think it through. We simply act on impulse because the danger is self evident. ‘True’ belief in anything at all is by definition a belief with no trace of doubt and so is of the same order. Therefore, when the stakes are infinitely higher – as in eternal heaven versus eternal hell – any ‘true’ believers would NEVER sin. Ergo, in a world in which everyone appears guilty of sin (as religiously defined), there is no such thing as TRUE belief in religious doctrine.
    Of course this is not to say that there is no such thing as a belief in true belief. That is demonstrated by the many answers to this week’s question… with the exception of this one.

  45. If one remembers that religions are a form of non-reason/non-evidence based insanity, and the fact that centuries of human investment (including lives sacrificed, all forms), the investment is simply too large to, how to say it, let go. The same insanity, protected by what science now identifies as “cognitive dissonance,” passed on by whatever means and or cause, blocks facts, truth, and reality from having a chance, except in few circumstances. Just imagine how much is invested with ever prayer uttered and dollars collected. There are also the professional cons, as old as the first form of religion, and it matters not the extreme depth of belief the con actually holds (self-conning) to any particular “faith,” it remains a con job and the product of the conning. Yep, it is that simple. It is also why you never hear any minister mention that professional archaeologists from Israel announced that the story of Moses and the Exodus is nothing but a myth; no Moses, then, no Pentateuch written by Moses, and no foundation for any of the Abrahamic religions!

  46. Religions, using the word loosely, have been around for as long as spoken language. These belief systems have evolved as we have evolved, and our social structures have evolved, and they have been adapted to fit the world, or any one particular part of it, throughout our known human history. It would seem logical that given this fact, that the perpetuation of religion is not so much based solely on blind adherence to traditions passed on to us by our family. The particular beliefs of a family, community, region, or ethnic group, may largely be influenced by familial traditions or other group which we may be a part of. But that does not explain how or why religious belief, in so many variations and forms, continues to be a social foundation of our world no matter where you live. Yes, there are places where religious belief is not prominent in daily life. But historically, there is no place on earth that is not or has not ever held belief in some sort of religion or belief system.
    As to “true belief”, there are numerous conditions, by design or circumstance, that may lead to true belief. There are also countless examples of these throughout history and the world today. Generally stated, true belief, in anything that is not substantiated with factual evidence, exists where there is a vacuum, or at minimum repression of, information and knowledge.
    It would seem to me there is a hard wired need in our current evolved state to believe in something greater than ourselves. The guiding hand if you would. This may have even been a product of natural selection over time.
    Wherein our parental, social, or ethnic environment may influence exactly what we believe, or how we apply that to our individual lives, there seems to be something underneath this need to believe. Similarly, I would suggest that in most cases of “true belief”, regardless of what the belief is, and this true belief is in something that is not substantiated by any known fact, it exists in an environment that is void of or has limited access to information and knowledge of anything outside that belief.
    There are numerous tools used by organized religions around the world to insure the allegiance of children to the faith. These are not exclusive to religion. Just think about North Korea and their devotion to the “Supreme Leader” that is nurtured form birth. We can cite countless other examples. The parallels between these regimes and many religious doctrines and practices are staggering.
    I agree with a previous poster in this forum that it would be an interesting scientific experiment to have a control group of children that have no exposure to any sort of religious belief while at the same time were schooled in science, critical thought, general philosophy, and a non-religious view of religious history in an effort to learn from our past.
    In closing, I believe we humans will evolve past this state of having a need for a belief in anything. However, changing killing anything that is this big and has so many forms is going to take a long time.

  47. Alien, you might start your reading (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Evidence_for_the_Exodus) concerning Israel’s several years of searching the Sinai Desert for any evidence of Moses/the Exodus and somewhere around 2.5 million Jews (based on scriptural numbers) wandering the desert for 40 years, starting after the ’67 Arab Israeli War and continuing until the late ’70s and the Egyptian/Israeli Peace Treaty. Plus, the continued search in Egypt after the treaty at the invitation of the Egyptian archaeologists. Their findings can be labeled as zero evidence.
    Then you questioned the following, “If one remembers that religions are a form of non-reason/non-evidence based insanity…” I would recommend you read the works of Martin Luther and John Calvin and look for their opinion of/on “reason” and “evidence based facts.” I did! Then you will or should understand my fact based “assertion.” Good hunting! I have spent close to a half century doing so, and I am beginning to tire. Oh yeah, the findings shot to hell the Jewish claim of a divine title to the Land Of Israel.

  48. In my experience, it meant not one whit whether or not my parents were religious. They rarely spoke to us about anything other than what our duties and responsibilities were. For all I knew, they could have been closeted clowns or CIA agents – we were never privy to anything.

    And therein lies the rub: it’s not so much what influence your parents had on you, it was the type of parents (or family life, if any) you had.

  49. @chainwords: Oh yeah, the findings shot to hell the Jewish claim of a divine title to the Land Of Israel.

    Can you imagine the response if the Nordic people claimed that their land was promised to them by Thor? It’s all equally ridiculous in my eyes. No special status for one set of fanciful notions over another.

  50. This map would be grey if an individual’s “true” belief in the doctrine were the real driver of individual belief. It is, of course, mostly parents, pressured by their communities, who wire their kids’ brains.

    As we’ve seen on another thread about how kids treat fantastical literature, parents have done this rewiring job handsomely by age 6. Kids will learn to create generalised rules from fantastical stories if these fantasy worlds are set “close enough by”.

    One explanation for these findings may be that children are sensitive to the proximity of
    the story world to reality, or the similarity of the causal structure of the fictional world to the real
    world, when deciding whether to generalize. This hypothesis is based upon Gerrig’s (1993)
    proposal that fictional worlds vary in their “distance” from reality.

    In a religious community the real world is presented to kids to seem contiguous with bible narratives. Though they never get to witness real live miracles, these are reported to have happened by friends and relatives and the local news all the time. Biblical stuff happens everyday to friends of friends of the family. The Lord speaks to those around you.

    Kids are effortlessly trained out of their natural philosophical mindsets by a sufficiency of early enough lies. All the details can be spoon-fed to them afterwards in comparative leisure.

  51. How much of holding onto religion comes from familial or other traditional practice and not from “true” belief in the doctrine?

    It seems quite obvious to me that those things are not mutually exclusive, and that indeed they very often coincide.

    My parents believe that there is no god, and they have taught me that. Now, do I “truly believe” there is no god, or are am merely repeating a familial “meme”? And why would I repeat a familial “meme” if I didn’t (truely) believe in it? And were I to be accused by some faithful of blindly continuing a familial tradition, how would I disprove them?

    I do think that this “question of the week” is meaningless.

  52. Anyone taking up such a position is misusing the term Atheist – which
    simply means not believing in a theism.

    It seems to me that anyone who absolutely declares a theistic position
    that there is no god is a Non-God dogmatist. From that perspective, it
    seems highly unlikely that a Non-Godist will act any differently to
    religious people of other kinds, indeed I’m forced to ask: Why would
    they?

    Having been an atheist for about half a century, I do think that your use of the word “atheism” is the wrong one. What you describe as “atheism” is merely agnosticism, which is close but actually quite different.

    In my view, it is simply impossible to “simply not believe” in gods. Not believing in gods requires a positive belief in alternative explanations for the existence of the universe. Otherwise we end up with a quite wishy-washy position that cannot properly confront religious beliefs.

    Atheism is not a mere lack of belief in the existence of gods, it is an active belief in the inexistence of gods, or more broadly, of any “supernatural” realm.

  53. Luis Henrique Jul 27, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Anyone taking up such a position is misusing the term Atheist – which
    simply means not believing in a theism.

    It seems to me that anyone who absolutely declares a theistic position
    that there is no god is a Non-God dogmatist. From that perspective,

    Having been an atheist for about half a century, I do think that your use of the word “atheism” is the wrong one. What you describe as “atheism” is merely agnosticism, which is close but actually quite different.

    It has been debated here before, but it is possible to be fully atheistic about certain gods which have quite clear properties described by their followers, while being agnostic about the exceedingly remote possibility that some vague deistic thingummy with unspecified and unknown properties may exist.

    it seems highly unlikely that a Non-Godist will act any differently to religious people of other kinds, indeed I’m forced to ask: Why would they?

    It is always a give-away of a theist mirror-image viewpoint of atheism based on “faith”, when some Xtian talks about vague obscure deities, and the puts “Non-Godist” with a capital “G” for god. You are waiting for the the faith-thinkers pseudo-logic of:- “You can’t DISPROVE and rule out, my vaguest chance of my deistic thingummy at the bigbang, THEREFORE Jesus is magic, – and the bible is trooooo!”

    In my view, it is simply impossible to “simply not believe” in gods. Not believing in gods requires a positive belief in alternative explanations for the existence of the universe.

    Known science provides evidenced (but not complete) alternatives, – including the neuro-psychology of a believers egocentric, geocentric need to view as themselves and their god-delusion being the central feature of the universe.
    On an astronomical scale map, the Earth or Solar-System, is not even one pixel on a map of our galaxy, let alone in the billions of galaxies of the universe. Most theist god-views trying to navigate the universe are totally lost even before they get half-way out of the Solar-System, but that does not seem to inhibit them from pontificating on “beyond space and time”!

    Otherwise we end up with a quite wishy-washy position that cannot properly confront religious beliefs.

    Theists make god-of-gaps assertions about things they cannot possibly know. Science is prepared to admit there are things unknown at present, but that in no-way invalidates the high probability information it does have. Theist arguments often hinge on the inability to distinguish, – and hence falsely equate, 99.999999999% probability with 0.00000000000000001% probability!

    Atheism is not a mere lack of belief in the existence of gods, it is an active belief in the inexistence of gods, or more broadly, of any “supernatural” realm.

    That is certainly so to very high levels of probability. I have however seen theists make a big issue of an admission of science accepts that there can be tiny (infinitesimal?) uncertainties open to new evidence, due to gaps in knowledge, so they triumphantly claim they have “won the argument”, on the basis of the fallacy of negative proof! – (You can’t disprove my well hidden fantasy so it’s troooo!)

    Rational atheists also have the additional disadvantage in debating and persuding fundamentalists, as their basic indoctrination inhibits any learning of evidence-based logic, with many arriving primed with circular thinking and the mental contortions of a near full set of fallacies!

    • It has been debated here before, but it is possible to be fully
      atheistic about certain gods which have quite clear properties
      described by their followers, while being agnostic about the
      exceedingly remote possibility that some vague deistic thingummy with
      unspecified and unknown properties may exist.

      We can’t be “fully atheistic” about certain gods and not “fully atheistic” about other gods. If we are atheists, we believe that there are no gods. If we merely think that the question cannot be answered with the data we have, or that it is meaningless, or unimportant, or that it is not a question at all, then we are agnostics, not atheists. If we disbelieve one given deity, we are not “atheistic” about it: Christians are not “atheistic about Zeus”, and Classic Pagans are not “atheistic about Abraham’s God”.

      Of course, theists try to trade unspecified deities for their own mythologies. It has always been like that; all theological arguments seek to prove the existence of an unspecified deity and then conclude that Jesus died for our sins. But this is a theist problem.

      Our problem is whether we reject the existence of a supernatural realm or are open to the possibility, however remote, of its existence. If the former, we are atheists; if the latter, we are agnostics, not atheists.

      Known science provides evidenced (but not complete) alternatives, –
      including the neuro-psychology of a believers egocentric, geocentric,
      need to view as themselves and their god-delusion being the central
      feature of the universe. On an astronomical scale map, the Earth or
      Solar-System, is not even one pixel on a map of our galaxy, let alone
      in the billions of galaxies of the universe. Most theist god-views
      trying to navigate the universe are totally lost even before they get
      half-way out of the Solar-System, but that does not seem to inhibit
      them from pontificating on “beyond space and time”!

      The psychology of the believers doesn’t tell us anything about the structure of the universe (and the argument is an ad hominem indeed: “people who believe there is a god are foolish or ignorant, therefore there is no god”. Conversely, “people who don’t believe in god are immoral, therefore there is a God”).

      The point is, if I don’t believe in god, I must believe that things do not necessarily have to be created by someone. This isn’t a “natural state” of human beings, in which we all dwell until being taught otherwise. Much on the contrary, all common evidence points to things existing because they are created. My computer exists because it was manufactured by people, my home exists because it was built by people, etc. To avoid the conclusion that the stars and our planet exist because they were created by someone, we need to be taught to think in a quite sophisticated way. This being the reason why primitive societies are and were never atheistic.

      Theists make god-of-gaps assertions about things they cannot possibly
      know. Science is prepared to admit there are things unknown at
      present, but that in no-way invalidates the high probability
      information it does have. Theist arguments often hinge on the
      inability to distinguish, – and hence falsely equate, 99.999999999%
      probability with 0.00000000000000001% probability!

      How do we measure “probabilities” of such things? The probability of two dice summing 12 is 1 in 36, and this can be mathematically proved. What is the probability of the existence of any unspecified god? One in two, one in one million, one in ten thousand trillions? How do you calculate that? Theist arguments don’t hinge on the inability to distinguish 99% from 1% probabilities, they hinge on the disonest assumption that if one cannot give a comprehensive explanation of how something works, then one has to accept any explanation given by another person, no matter how full of gaps and holes such alternative explanation is. No, I don’t know how the world came into existence; and yes, I know it is not possible that it was created 6,000 years ago, by a personal god who was omnipotent and good and jealous. There isn’t a 0.0000000000000000000000001% probability of such account of events being true; there is a 0% percent probability, even if I cannot decide between Big Bang and constant state theories.

      Rational atheists also have the additional disadvantage in debating
      and persuding fundamentalists, as their basic indoctrination inhibits
      any learning of evidence-based logic, with many arriving primed with
      circular thinking and the mental contortions of a near full set of
      fallacies!

      I don’t think we should debate fundamentalists to persuade them. We should debate them only for the sake of persuading people who might be in doubt on whether the fundamentalist’s ideas may or may not be true or reasonable.

      • Luis Henrique Jul 28, 2014 at 9:23 am

        It has been debated here before, but it is possible to be fully
        atheistic about certain gods which have quite clear properties
        described by their followers, while being agnostic about the
        exceedingly remote possibility that some vague deistic thingummy with unspecified and unknown properties may exist.

        We can’t be “fully atheistic” about certain gods and not “fully atheistic” about other gods.

        While this is largely a matter semantics and definitions, I would say you can be atheistic about certain theist versions of gods with backing of scientific evidence. Other gods concocted to be irrefutable, by theologist-pseudo-philosophers, are just self-contradictory jumbles of incoherent, postmodernist style, word-salad, which are too vague to describe or refute.

        If we are atheists, we believe that there are no gods. If we merely think that the question cannot be answered with the data we have, or that it is meaningless, or unimportant, or that it is not a question at all, then we are agnostics, not atheists.

        Science is open to new evidence, so I cannot say with certainty that our universe was not exploded into existence by some alien technology or alien laboratory accident. I can say it seems extremely unlikely and that that would be grossly out of line with Occam in terms of excessive elaborate complexity, and there would also be the infinite regression problem. (Where did the aliens come from?)

        One of my pet quips to gapologists to illustrate their use of the fallacious argument from ignorance, is;- “Yeah! we are not 100% certain, so the big-bang must have been triggered by an exploding Klingon warp-drive!” – Disprove that if you can!

        If we disbelieve one given deity, we are not “atheistic” about it: Christians are not “atheistic about Zeus”, and Classic Pagans are not “atheistic about Abraham’s God”.

        A lot depends on semantics and interpretations of “atheistic”! “Atheistic towards specified theist gods”, makes for clarity in an argument. It highlights the theists’ usual casual dismissal of gods other than their own.

        Science is prepared to admit there are things unknown at
        present, but that in no-way invalidates the high probability
        information it does have. Theist arguments often hinge on the
        inability to distinguish, – and hence falsely equate, 99.999999999%
        probability with 0.00000000000000001% probability!

        I know it is not possible that it was created 6,000 years ago, by a personal god who was omnipotent and good and jealous. There isn’t a 0.0000000000000000000000001% probability of such account of events being true; there is a 0% percent probability, even if I cannot decide between Big Bang and constant state theories.

        On topics like a god-of gaps being substituted for the big-bang, I agree with you, but on many other issues, there can be rough estimates of new evidence turning up. Newton’s physics was splendid at low velocities, but there are small modifications in the calculations, increasing as relative velocities rise.
        Likewise when disputing faith-interpretation-blinker, biblical claims, we need to consider possible new discoveries in archaeology etc. Rational scientists do consider probability and possibilities, whereas fundamentalists for example: will simply deny the carbon dating which refutes a fake “historical” relic or document.

        The psychology of the believers doesn’t tell us anything about the structure of the universe (and the argument is an ad hominem indeed: “people who believe there is a god are foolish or ignorant, therefore there is no god”.

        Looking at the psychology is important.

        I do believe that gods (or at least god-delusions) exist, and I will be watching this sort of evidence to map their exact locations!

        http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419091223.htm

        “We have found a neuropsychological basis for spirituality, but it’s not isolated to one specific area of the brain,” said Brick Johnstone, professor of health psychology in the School of Health Professions. “Spirituality is a much more dynamic concept that uses many parts of the brain. Certain parts of the brain play more predominant roles, but they all work together to facilitate individuals’ spiritual experiences.”

  54. It is known that young children will believe as fact anything that an adult authority tells them; santa, tooth fairy, etc. Their brains have not developed the necessary skills to judge false from true. But interesting enough even some adults lack that ability or the tools (science) to separate fact from friction. Traditional learning both at home or school, even without religious background, fail in one important aspect: teaching how to investigate, to ask, to discent.
    We as secular parents, even knowing better, keep telling our children false truths until they suddenly discover mom or dad are behind those gifts under the tree.
    Born under a mixed religious and secular background (atheist dad, protestant mom, catholic cousins, jew brothers in law, etc) i found myself early in life asking the question; WHO IS RIGHT?…and well, i found the truth inside history, religious (bible) and scientific literature.
    Yesterday interesting enough while on vacation with mi kids and their cousins most of them in their early teens and 20s, i did ask them what were their religious beliefs, to my surprise, most of them were at least agnostics, that thought the bible is in part a fable, that church is a corrupt institution and that science and knowlege in general should shape the future of their own beliefs.
    But one important factor in how they perceive the existance of GOD as necessary is in how they “feel” about themselves. The concept of soul, the fear of death, the wish of afterlife, all those influence their minds into thinking there should be a god, either as a thinking entity or as a “force” in the universe.
    So there is a basic need for “spirituality” as Brick Johnstone found, that is based on basic instincts and in the wishfull thinking of the continuity of our existance. And Religion fits the bill (irrationally) explaining where we came from and where are we going. It is easier to be thought what to think, than to learn how to think

  55. I begin with the premise that God is created in the image of Man. The paradigm for God is often associated with the parent, the patriarchal Father and/or the matriarchal Mother. The child is “created” by the mother and father and reflects their image through shared DNA. Parents perform the seminal functions of theism from infancy throughout childhood. From a child’s viewpoint parents constitute the ultimate command authority for conduct and concepts of what is good and what is bad.; they care for and protect the child, they take a friendly proactive role in the child’s health, education, welfare and success. They are the indispensable source of of love in the child’s life. (Parents also impose harsh, sometimes arbitrary, punishment, corporal or otherwise, on the naughty child who “displeases” them.) Not surprisingly, a persistent archetype for religious devotion is ancestor worship. Even today it is not unusual for an African tribesman or pious Chinese to sit graveside and “talk” to the spirit of departed parents or other ancestors in order to receive blessings, good luck or specific “advice” on how to handle pressing problems.

    From the the seminal parent-child relationship, the child’s experience expands to interaction with extended family members and beyond to others in society, or more nuanced, to a community. Though less compelling today than in traditional societies, evolving communal religions provided the predominate force for identity, bonding and unity.

    Today “GOD” writ large still conforms to the Father [Mother] paradigm. The myths that describe the origins of the natural and social world still frame the ultimate powers of the Godhead as those exercised by a benevolent or punitive parent.

    In modern times, religious commitment retains much of its traditional power over the majority of world population for the reasons cited. People bond with various concepts of God because they are socialized from infancy to bond with beloved (and feared) parents. (There are, of course, other causes for the origin of religions which cannot be discussed here because of limited space). The bonding moves progressively outward to include extended family, ethnic group, community, homogenous society and often the nation state itself. The religious attribute the affection, love, compassion, understanding and compatibility they feel toward others within a community to the presence of God. They are trapped in a loop that humanizes God and deifies humans. When the holistic process of socialization is shared -say during collective prayers and pledges; religious services or church social functions- an identity becomes so deeply ingrained over time that rational argument is unlikely to uproot it.

    But optimism nonetheless emerges as the wave of a theology-free future. The supernatural fantasies fabricated in prescientific eras have begun to erode at an accelerating pace with the passing of old generations and the ascendance of new generations. Scientific discoveries have progressively
    composed a clear convincing picture, based on abundantly growing evidence, of a purely naturalistic cosmos devoid of supernatural entities, origins or interventions. With the exponential growth of higher education and a scientific/secular consensus distributed instantly to all corners of the world by the internet augmented with an array of electronic media platforms, we can reasonably expect the revolution to be accomplished within several generations.

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